If you are just joining us, be sure to scroll down a few posts to find parts one and two of this true, Peace Country story.
It was two years later that Garrioch again ran into the Vinings, this time near Edmonton. Lily had grown a little bigger and was prettier than ever. One day, when Garrioch was visiting their camp, the child had a splinter in her foot. Garrioch, used to doctoring, had a look, noting a curious mark on her second toe that resembled a scar. Remembering that Jean had told him that the raft baby had had a similar mark, Garrioch had a long talk with Mr. Vining. They would both be making inquiries.
Back in the Peace Country, Garrioch met an experienced woodsman named Louis Sizerman. He, too, had heard the story of the raft baby from Jean and told Garrioch that he had seen evidence of white trappers in the area where the Armsons were supposed to have wintered. Sizerman was also keen to discover new information about the Armsons and the floating baby and offered to search the area more carefully next time he was there.
Garrioch’s new assistant, James Valentine, knew the Armson’s from the mining camp in Fort St. John back in 1871. He remembered how Mrs. Armson split her toe with a hatchet one day. The injury healed, but of course it left a long scar. As Jean had said, the Armsons had left the camp that autumn in a dugout canoe, heading into the bush to trap for the winter before moving on to Saskatchewan. As far as Valentine knew, no word had been heard from the couple since.
He had heard the tale of the baby floating down the Peace River on a tiny raft and he had also seen a little white girl with a Sikanni family on a branch of the Finlay River several years before. The child would have been about 3 years old. Valentine was told that the girl had been given to them by a Blackfoot man who had found her floating on a raft in the Peace River. They were to deliver the girl to a trader from the coast who would adopt her. The trader’s name was Nelson.
Was Nelson the name of the free trader who had given Lily to the Vinings in Edmonton? Surely Garrioch had gotten the name from the Vinings before he set out to find out more about Lily. However, the way the story is recorded in his autobiography, it seems Garrioch had to meet with the family again before he heard their entire story.
The Raft Baby, Part Four will be coming up soon.