I was a child when my parents traded me to a Canadian trapper for two mules that could pull their wagon on the Oregon Trail. The trade was called a marriage but, for me, it just meant that my childhood had to end at the tender age of twelve years. My mother, with shameful tears in her eyes, gave me her bible to remember her by. Then she got on the wagon with my father and two brothers to join a wagon train headed west. My “husband”, though, was headed for Trapper’s Paradise… Canada. So I never saw my family again. I was now a trapper’s wife, a Canadian pioneer woman. Life would never be the same.
So started the letter found by a Northwest Mounted Police constable at the Sager Trapping Station after the deadly winter of 1897. Sally Sager, one of Canada’s unsung heroines, had not survived to see her forty-seventh birthday. She would be greatly missed.
Or would she?
Have you ever heard of Sally Sager? She is in the history books as the first person to operate a successful commercial fur farm. With a steel will and an unbridled tenacity Sally Sager overcame one obstacle after another that would have stopped most men. Her last letter only hints at the life she led.
My husband’s name was Walter, though I never gave him the dignity of calling him by that name. I called him Furface. It was far more, though, than his beard that I loathed. It didn’t matter to him… not as long as I did the work he required. It didn’t take long to learn the business of trapping. It’s an easy business to learn. If something has fur, kill it. If you kill it, skin it. If you skin it, tan it. If you tan it, sell it. Simple. What was harder for me was finding time to read my precious bible. I wouldn’t have survived those early years if it hadn’t been for God’s Word comforting me each step of the way.
After thirteen years of forced marriage, life changed again for Sally when Furface died of a badger wound. Sally could finally go home, but in her words:
I see no future for me in trying to recapture what I could have had if my parents had not needed mules. That life is gone. I don’t even know where my family settled… or if they even survived the trip. But I do know how to survive as a trapper. Come to think of it, I have lived as a Canadian woman for more years than I was an American child. Why would I even think of leaving?
So Sally stayed. For a few years she continued trapping as she had learned from Furface, but it didn’t take long for her to start thinking of new ways to make her work easier.
Trapping is back breaking work but I don’t mind the hard work. I may have found an easier way, though. A pair of minks have taken to eating crumbs I drop in the snow outside my bedroom window. My first thought was to set a trap, but I rather enjoyed their presence, so I continued feeding them through the winter. Surprisingly, when the spring flowers bloomed the minks chose not to leave their easy feeding ground. They had become quite tame, even allowing me to hold them occasionally. That is when I got the idea of raising tamed animals on a farm instead of the time consuming “trapper’s rounds” I was used to doing. I started with my two minks and soon added several other small breeds. Of course, in the early years I also had to trap. The missionary work came later after the commercial fur farm became successful.
After establishing her commercial fur farm, Sally found herself with more money earned in less time than with traditional trapping. She spent that extra time studying her bible and soon began sharing God’s Word with other trappers. That is when her true work began as a wilderness missionary. Her last words were:
I am not sorry my life has been hard. God taught me all the while. I am pleased that He allowed me to teach others as well.
To learn more about this amazing woman, go to www.sagertrappingstation/wildernessmissionary.com.
(Author’s note: Please DO NOT try to go to this web site. The Legend of Sally Sager is totally fiction. Nothing you just read is real.)
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