The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Family Project

Reflections on Life, Family and Community

Category Archives: Arrow Lakes, BC, Canada

Natural Splendour of the Arrow Lake

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Wednesday’s Photos

Curves and Undulations in Ice and Snow

Today’s theme helped me find objects on this chilly winter day, which I would have missed to capture with my camera. I believe I mentioned it before, how important it is to have a theme in your mind before going out to take pictures. It gives you the focus needed to see things, which you would otherwise miss. In the following images the focus was on the many ways Nature expresses itself in curves and undulations. Enjoy.

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THE MINING ERA OF THE CANADIAN COLUMBIA by Bill Laux – Chapter 13

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SILVER ON KOOTENAY LAKE

The placer miners of the 1860s had noted in may places the presence of gold and silver in hard rock veins but had been obliged to pass them by. Lode deposits required money and machinery to develop. Tunnels and shafts would have to be dug, and the ore crushed by powerful machines. Lode mining was for capitalists; the ordinary prospector had but his pan and his shovel, and needed a gravel bar with gold at the bottom of it.

For the silver and copper showings, a smelter would be required to extract the metal, and none existed in the North American West in the early Sixties. Transportation was again the deciding factor.  Without an economical means to bring in heavy machinery and to move the ore out to a smelter, investors would not risk their money on lode mines.

However, that lead deposit on Kootenay Lake continued to attract attention. In 1868, American prospector Henry Doan investigated the surface showings of galena, on which he staked a claim.  In 1873,  he sent a very rich sample of ore which he said was from his claim (it was not) to some San Francisco investors who were impressed. They bonded the claim for $10,000, paying Doan $1000 in advance.  They then sent mining engineer, George Hearst, to examine the deposit and advise them if it was worth buying. Hearst came north from San Francisco by boat to Portland, by steamer to Walulla, and stage coach to Colville.   At Marcus, Hearst and Doan engaged Captain Albert Pingston, now without a steamer, but with serviceable rowboat, to take them up the Columbia, and then to portage around the falls and rapids of the Kootenay River to reach Kootenay Lake. On the portage Doan suggested to Captain Pingston that he “lose” the assay outfit that Engineer Hearst had brought along. Pingston indignantly refused.  At the lake Pingston rowed them across to the peninsula with the huge iron stain on the bluff overlooking the lake. Here was Doan’s claim. Hearst tested the surface showings and apparently built a small furnace of stones where he smelted  some of the ore over charcoal to test its lead and silver content.   Hearst’s assays revealed a low grade deposit with  6% lead, 8% zinc, and 2.8 oz. of silver to the ton. True, there was a lot of it, and it was on the surface, but it was nothing like the bonanza silver-lead ore Doan had sent him.

Furious at having been duped by the false sample, and having come all this way at considerable expense, Hearst, who had hired the boat, refused to let prospector back into it for the return trip. Captain Pingston protested to Hearst, “You can go and thrash him if you like but you cannot leave him there to starve and you must let him come back in the boat to where he can get something to eat.”   Presumably well thrashed, Doan was allowed back in the boat to return to Colville, though a still furious Hearst may have kicked him out at Fort Shepherd. It was supposed by prospectors around Colville, that the sample Doan had sent to San Francisco was specimen silver ore from one of the Colorado mines.

For the remainder of the Seventies, the Big Ledge of lead-silver ore on the east side of Kootenay lake remained undisturbed, except perhaps by Kootenais and Sinixt Indians casting balls for their Hudson’s Bay Company trade muskets..

There was a Canadian Pacific Railway promised to British Columbia by the Dominion government as part of the terms of union in 1870.   But it was virtually in limbo, as the result of a political scandal concerned with its financing.   The Conservative Party, which supported it, was out of power as a result of the CPR scandal, and the Liberals were offering money instead, and a government dry dock to the new Province to try to get out of the very costly railway promise.

In the 1880s with CPR, still unbuilt, it was the Northern Pacific Railroad, building from Duluth on Lake Superior, to Tacoma on Puget Sound, that revived mining interest in the Kootenays.   The Northern Pacific was to run down the Clark Fork River in western Montana to Pend Orielle Lake and Sandpoint, Washington.   This would put it just 30 miles from Bonner’s Ferry by that easy valley bottom route of the Walla Walla trail.   Suddenly, that low grade lead and silver deposit Henry Doan had tried to sell George (now Senator) Hearst was going to be within reach of a railroad.

  Robert Sproul, an American from Kennebec County, Maine, was in the Washington Territory in the 1870s prospecting for coal to supply the Northern Pacific Railroad which was under construction.   He was accused of claim jumping by another coal prospector, John Stone of Puyallup, and apparently framed by Stone or some other for a barn burning.   He was released by the Puyallup magistrate, who could find no evidence he was the culprit, and he quickly put the Cascade Mountain between himself and his adversary. 

In 1880 he turned up in Colville, and was befriended by the Jacob Meyers family.  In the spring of 1881 he was in Bonner’s Ferry helping the Fry brothers, Richard and Martin build a scow with which they intended to begin a transportation service down the river to Kootenay Lake.   The Frys, who as trappers and traders, knew the lake well, told him of the big galena outcrop on the east shore of that lake.  The next summer he obtained a grubstake from a Colonel Hudnut of Sandpoint, and with his friends, Jesse Hunley, and Jacob Meyers from Colville, borrowed a rowboat from the Frys to go down the river and prospect Kootenay Lake.   With the map the Frys had drawn for them, the three men found the place.   Sproul staked the Bluebell, and, believing himself to be the discoverer, staked an extra claim, the Comfort, for Col. Hudnut.   Hunley staked the Kootenay Chief, and Meyers staked the Ruby.   The mining law in effect in British Columbia at that time had been drawn up for placer miners working their claims though the summer season.   It required the claimant to remain on his claim throughout the season, June 1 – Oct. 31, not leaving it for more than 72 hours at a time.   This was intended to prevent disputes in which one miner might mine another’s gold in his absence.   It had no real relevance to lode mines, few of which had been staked in the Province up until this time.  It was amended to accommodate lode mining the following year.   But the law in effect in 1881 also required the claim to be registered at the nearest mining recorder’s office, which at that time was William Fernie at Wild Horse Creek, a difficult journey back to Bonner’s Ferry and up the old Wild Horse trail which could not possibly be accomplished in 72 hours.

Sproul, Meyers and Hunley were not the only prospectors interested in Kootenay Lake that summer.   By this time the Northern Pacific crews building from Wallula on the Columbia had laid rails as far as Sandpoint.   This brought the Ainsworths of Portland back into the boundary country.   They had put two steamers on Pend Orielle Lake and the Clark Fork River to supply the Northern Pacific contractors, and now an Ainsworth prospecting party came up the just completed line to Sandpoint.    With the rails a scant 30 miles from Bonner’s Ferry and navigable water to Kootenay Lake,  Kootenay minerals could have the transportation that had so long been lacking.   The Ainsworth syndicate’s party comprised Captain John C’s son, George; Enoch Blaisdel; the Englishman, Thomas Hammil; a man named Maxwell; and New York journalist, A. Y. Woodbury.   They were to investigate mining possibilities on Kootenay Lake.   The provision of bringing along a New York journalist ensured that any mines the expedition might discover would be reported in the American press and so generate investor interest.  With wise forethought, Woodbury wrote William Fernie, the mining recorder at Wild Horse, asking him to come to Kootenay Lake to give legal sanction to their mining enterprise, and record what claims they might stake.   All of this careful planning suggests that the Ainsworths had advance knowledge that there was mineral on Kootenay Lake and even where it was to be found.

William Fernie, who may well have been the source of the Ainsworth’s information as he knew the Lake region well, did come and met the Ainsworth party.   Sproul was able to record his Bluebell claim with Fernie on July 31, 1882.

Hunley and Meyers did not stay the full season, as required by the law, to hold their claims.  They probably did not think low grade lead worth the trouble, since Sproul had been unable to sell a half interest in his Bluebell to Fernie.   Fernie doubtless informed them that their discoveries had been recorded and abandoned several times previously, and in his opinion were not worth much.   Sproul, though,  stayed on, developing his claim and building a stone powder house.   It seems clear he intended to mine it if he could not sell it.   But on October 25 he tacked a note stating he was ill and out of food to one of his claim stakes, and set off in the Fry’s boat to row to Bonner’s Ferry.

  Upon his departure, Hammil and Woodbury came to the Bluebell camp and jumped Sproul’s, Hunley’s and Meyer’s claims.   This, under the law, was technically legal, as the men had left before the end of the season.    William Fernie was right there to record Sproul’s Bluebell for Thomas Hammil, Hudnut’s Comfort and Meyer’s Ruby for Woodbury, and Meyer’s Kootenay Chief in the name of Enoch Blaisdel.   Fernie’s actions in so openly favouring the Ainsworth party are open to question.    He had told Sproul that he was not the discoverer of the east shore galena deposits, and therefore not entitled to a second claim, though recording a claim in the name of a friend was a common American practice and sanctioned by most miners.   But it was clearly not proper for Fernie to record two claims for Woodbury.   Jumping claims, even under the color of a legal technicality, was a despicable act in the view of the miners of the Eighties, and William Fernie’s actions strongly suggests that he had been co-opted by the Ainsworths.

On the other side of the lake, the Ainsworth party set up their camp at the hot springs where they filed a townsite claim for 160 acres around the spring to be called Ainsworth.   As well, they located other mineral claims on the west shore in the area of their townsite.  This was obviously no speculative prospecting expedition; the Ainsworths intended to become the dominant influence on the lake.

The following spring Sproul and Hammill  returned to Kootenay Lake.    Robert Sproul  found the Ainsworths had jumped his claims, and Thomas Hammill was setting up camp at the Big Ledge as it was called, a few hundred yards from the disputed claims.  Sproul filed a lawsuit against Hammill, but since the decline of the Wild Horse diggings there was no experienced civil servant assigned to the Kootenays as magistrate.   Instead, a well liked but largely ineffectual local storekeeper at St Eugene Mission on Moyie Lake, the elderly Edward Kelly, had been  appointed Justice of the Peace.

At the end of August, 1883 Judge Kelly came to Kootenay Lake to hear the lawsuit.  Hammill had wanted to bring in a prominent lawyer from the Coast, but the man either could not or would not make the arduous trip. Sproul engaged the English sportsman, W.A. Bailie-Grohman, to speak for him. This was probably a bad choice, since Baillie-Grohman was a notorious meddler, more interested in the figure he cut in the wild Kootenays, than concerned for his client.   The trial was a choice morsel for the book of Western Adventures, Baillie Grohman was writing.

Baillie-Grhoman’s description of the trial, probably somewhat embellished for his English audience,  follows.

“…Judge Kelly, a genial old timer, whose silvery locks and quaint Irish humour soon gained him the respect of all concerned, arrived in due time.   It was a somewhat memorable scene.   The canoe bringing him had been sighted from the enemy’s camp,  for the little cove in in which it lay, faced south.   Forgetting for the moment all the dire threats exchanged by both camps, Winchesters and six shooters were laid aside, and the inmates of both camps streamed down to the shore to receive the representative of the law.   We were a motley little crowd, six or seven for our side, for some necessary witnesses had arrived, and twice that number in Hammil’s party…  It became unavoidable that Judge Kelly should take up his quarters in one or the other of the rival camps.   ‘Now boys,’he addressed the crowd, ‘I think it would be fair to both camps if I grub in the one and sleep in the other, so just let me know which has the better grub outfit.’   A hasty exchange of information concerning our respective culinary possessions…left no doubt that the enemy’s grub box was far better stocked then ours.   Molasses, onions, and canned stuff, of which we had none, decided the question in which camp the judge would take his meals.   Every morning and evening he was escorted to and from from one camp to the other by one of his late hosts, the distance being a few hundred yards…  

The largest of the three shanties in the two camps was selected as the courthouse where the trial took place… The court opened on Aug. 31, and the first thing Judge Kelly insisted on was that all revolvers were to be deposited in a box at his side so long as the court sat… The litigation had resolved itself into four distinct cases,  for each of the two parties had taken up the same four claims on the Big Ledge.  As several important witnesses were absent, two or three short adjournments became necessary, and it was only on October 16, 1883, that Judge Kelly gave his last judgment.   All four were decided in our favour!   Judge Kelly was an old miner himself, and knew little of  law; hence he took the view which from the first I had recognized as the saving of our case, namely the common sense interpretation of the actions of men, who, from causes beyond their control, could not possibly comply with the strict letter of the mining regulations…”

Thomas Hammil had the resources of the Ainsworth Syndicate behind him, and at once appealed Judge Kelly’s decision to the B.C. Supreme Court.   Justice Begbie heard the appeal

in March, 1884. His decision reversed Judge Kelly in respect of  Hunley and Meyers.   They had in fact abandoned their claims, Begbie decided, and forfeited them. But Robert Sproul had made a genuine effort to stay with his discovery until the end of the season, so he was entitled to a leave of absence, being ill, and could retain his Bluebell claim.   Justice Begbie made it clear that he considered Thomas Hammill a despicable claim jumper and Baillie-Grohman a meddlesome obfuscater.   

Sproul, who had meantime secured an appointment as Road Commissioner for the Third District of Kootenai County, Idaho, organized a  company to construct and operate a 32 mile toll road from Mud Slough, near the Northern Pacific’s Kootenai Station, to a spot he called Galena Landing on the Kootenai River near Bonner’s Ferry.    Having lost his associates’ claims to the Hammill-Ainsworth party, he intended to control their access to the Lake.    In 1883 Sproul had assigned a 1/3 interest in his Bluebell claim to Col. Hudnut, but the Colonel refused to pay the court costs of the transfer. To settle the debt the 1/3 interest was put up for sale. It was bought, to Sproul’s fury, by Thomas Hammill.   The fact that neither Sproul nor his partners bid on the 1/3 interest suggests possible collusion between the court and the Ainsworth interests.

  In June, 1884, Sproul met Dr. Wilbur A. Hendryx of Grand Rapids, Michigan in Sandpoint.   Dr. Hendryx was representing a brass fabricating company in Connecticut owned by himself, his brother, and Edwin W. Herrick of Minnesota.   Sproul took Dr. Hendryx to inspect the Bluebell claim at the Big Ledge Camp on Kootenay Lake, and convinced the would-be mining entrepreneur of its value. He also pointed out to the Doctor that he held a toll road franchise for the route Bluebell ore would have to travel to reach the Northern Pacific at Kootenai Station. Sproul sold Dr. Hendryx a half interest in his toll road franchise and transferred his interest in the Bluebell claim to the doctor in exchange for shares in the Hendryx brothers’ Kootenay Mining and Smelting Company of New Haven, Connecticut. Once the toll road was built, the Hendryx brothers intended to mine the Bluebell ore and bring it out to the Northern Pacific for shipment to a Missouri smelter. 

Now the Kootenay Lake region became the focus of two rival groups of American capitalists grasping for control. The meddlesome Baillie-Grohman was fortunately distracted, getting up a Mountain Goat hunt with the future American President, Theodore Roosevelt.   Looking down from the high mountains on the wide bottomlands of the Kootenay River near present Creston, Baillie-Grohman conceived the idea of draining the marshy lands to reclaim them for farming. He had the idea that if he went to the Rocky Mountain Trench in the East Kootenay north of Wild Horse, he could divert the Kootenay River into the Columbia, a scant five miles away. Then the lowered flow down the Kootenay would leave the bottomlands dry and farmable. Roosevelt refused to become involved in such a visionary scheme, but did make inquiries about mines which might be for sale before returning to the U.S. Baillie-Grohman, infatuated with his idea, approached one of the construction engineers for the Northern Pacific, then building through Sandpoint. He brought the engineer to the flooded lands and took him over to the site of his proposed canal, and asked for his professional opinion on the scheme. The engineer pronounced the thing possible, and Baillie-Grohman lost no time in forwarding the engineer’s report to his English friends, soliciting their funds for his Kootenay Lands Reclamation Company.

What Baillie-Grohman apparently did not know was that the Ainsworths were deeply involved in the Northern Pacific Company, and the NP engineer dutifully reported Baillie Grohman’s scheme to George Ainsworth. Ainsworth in turn set up his own Kootenay Lands Reclamation Company, and the dispute as to who was to get or drain the drowned lands went into the courts.  The incident demonstrates that the Ainsworth Syndicate’s intent was to dominate the Kootenay region, in mining, agriculture and whatever other possibilities might surface, shutting  all others out. 

Baillie-Grohman’s schemes, though well financed from Britain, came to nothing. He built his canal with Indian labor, but it presently silted up with debris from the spring runoff, and became useless.  The Ainsworth’s stronger rivals, the Hendryx group, proposed to ship Kootenay Lake ore via boat or scow up the Kootenay River to Bonner’s Ferry, and then wagon haul it down their toll road to Kootenai Station and the Northern Pacific Railroad where the Hendryx brothers had set up their headquarters.

  The Ainsworth group’s plan was revealed to be even more ambitious. They intended a portage railroad from the outlet of Kootenay Lake (Balfour), around the falls and rapids, 40 miles to the Columbia, and from there via one of the Ainsworth’s sternwheel steamers to Portland. Captain John C. Ainsworth had commissioned Captain Pingston and his rowboat to survey the Columbia from the Canadian line down to the then head of navigation at Priest Rapids to determine if it could be worked by steamboats.   Captain Pingston reported that with several short portages, at Priest Rapids, and  Rock Island Rapids, the river could be run for “2/3 of the season.”   However a 15 mile portage railroad would be required from Rickey’s Rapids around the 20 foot Kettle Falls, to Marcus.  

Captain Ainsworth then began lobbying the U.S. congress for the improvements  Pingston had recommended. Congress in turn sent out the Army’s Lieut. Symons to repeat Pingston’s survey and report precisely what engineering works would be required to allow U.S. steamers to reach Canada. The services of journalist Woodbury were next used to plant alarming stories in the B.C. newspapers about a supposed Northern Pacific invasion of the Kootenay district with a branch line from its Kootenai Station.   Once the fear of losing a potential Kootenay trade had gripped the Victoria and New Westminster merchants, Captain Ainsworth presented himself at the Legislature to request a charter for his portage railroad.

  Posing as a friend of British Columbia, and concealing his connection to the Northern Pacific Railroad, he painted a picture of a wagon road to be built from Shuswap Lake, navigable from Kamloops, across the low Eagle Pass to Farwell’s (Revelstoke) on the Columbia.   From there, he told them, his steamers would carry merchandise down through the Arrow Lakes to the mouth of the Kootenay where his railroad would connect to Kootenay Lake.   The ore from the Kootenay Mines would come out via the same route and the trade would be preserved for B.C., defeating the Northern Pacific’s plan to build a branch to Bonner’s Ferry. The B.C. Board of Trade and the Provincial legislators were enthusiastic about this scheme.  They  gave the Captain his charter in 1883, and let a contract to G.B. Wright, who represented the Ainsworth’s Syndicate in B.C., to build the Eagle Pass wagon road. To finance the costly and isolated piece of track, they set aside a strip of Kootenay Land from which Captain Ainsworth might choose any 750,000 acres for his Syndicate.

All of this, and especially the generous land grant, aroused opposition, particularly in Victoria where the huge grant of some of the Island’s best land to the CPR to build the Esquimault and Nanaimo Railway was being  bitterly opposed.   Handing his choice of Kootenay lands to this American for a mere promise of a distant railway to an even more distant bluff of lead, was held to be scandalous. However, before he could build his railway and claim his grant the Captain had to obtain Federal Charter as well. In Ottawa, apparently for the first time, someone actually consulted a map.  While Captain Ainsworth had concealed his backing for the sternwheeler, Forty Nine which had stolen the trade of the Big Bend for the Colville merchants in the Sixties, it was perfectly obvious to the Federal Minister of Railways and Canals that an Ainsworth steamer could just as easily connect the Columbia terminus of his proposed railway from Kootenay lake to Marcus, Washington Territory, as to Farwell’s and the proposed wagon road to Shuswap Lake.   The hated “traders out of Colville” could then use the railway to steal the Kootenay Lake trade, and Ainsworth’s Columbia and Kootenay railway would become a feeder to the Northern Pacific at Spokane Falls. Accordingly, the Dominion government disallowed the B. C. legislation, which brought on another crisis between B.C. and Canada.   In British Columbia, it was thought wicked enough for the Federal Government to intervene in Provincial matters, nullifying its legislation, but the worse insult was that in doing so it exposed an egregious B.C. blunder.   

The matter went into the courts for the next seven years, the Ainsworth’s with the backing of B.C.. trying to get back their charter and land grant, the Federal Government blocking them in favour of the nearly bankrupt CPR which was making its halting way toward the Kootenays, where it, and not the Portland merchants, could profit from a portage railway around the Lower Kootenay River rapids and falls.  The tragic events of 1885 were to be the result of this bitter struggle between the Eastern Hendryxs and the Portland Ainsworths for control of the Kootenay mines and commerce.

As the mining season of 1885 opened, Robert Sproul, now an officer of the Kootenay Mining and Smelting Company, hired three miners in Sandpoint, Charles Howes, from Shoshone County, Idaho, and the two Wolfe brothers, Adam and Charles, part Indians, from the Palouse.  The four arrived at the Big Ledge on May 29.   The Hammill party of six miners, was camped at the Ainsworth townsite across the lake.     On the 31st both the Sproul party and the Hammill party were working their adjacent claims.   A rifle shot was heard in the forenoon and at noon, miner Velnoweth of the Hammill party found Thomas Hammill lying on the ground, alive, but shot through the pelvis and spine.   Hammill was carried to his cabin where he died without being able to say who shot him.

Constable Anderson was summoned from the Ainsworth camp across the lake.  On questioning the other members of the Sproul party, he learned that Sproul had set off in a rowboat, for Bonner’s Ferry.   The Constable swore in a posse, and pursued Sproul in another boat.   Picking up a pair of Indian paddlers at the Outlet (Balfour), Anderson rowed furiously up the lake.   Sproul’s boat was shortly found abandoned on the lakeshore, but no trace of the miner was found.   Anderson had his men men row on up the Kootenay River to the boundary where the Boundary Commission’s 100 foot swath cut through the timber twenty years before, formed an open corridor down which anyone trying to cross into the U.S. could be spotted.   It was crucial for Anderson to intercept Sproul here, since if he managed to cross into the U.S. he could not be arrested.   

Three days later Sproul was spotted, walking out of the timber, and arrested for the murder of Hammill.   He was bound over for trial at Victoria before Judge Grey.   Adam Wolfe’s rifle was established as the murder weapon, and the defence did its best to implicate the two Indians. But Sproul was the only person at the Big Ledge that day with a motive for killing Hammill, and had been heard to make threats to him. He was found guilty and sentenced to hang.   The fact that only circumstantial evidence linked Sproul with the murder, and the repudiation by the two Indians, Adam and Charles Wolfe of their testimony raised a cry in the press for commutation to life imprisonment. The case went through appeals, up to the Supreme Court of Canada, with the Americans, and the Hendryx party protesting Sproul’s innocence, but judgment was eventually upheld.   Sproul was hanged at Victoria, still claiming to be innocent, on October 29, 1886. 

The controversy surrounding Sproul’s guilt or innocence brought general opposition to  the Ainsworth’s Kootenay projects. It was noted that the Ainsworth’s employee, the victim, Thomas Hammill, had been cited as a despised claim jumper by Justice Begbie. Miners in particular, sympathetic to a man who may have shot such a hated figure, began to oppose the Ainsworths.  For their part, the Ainsworths shunned publicity, while labouring quietly in Ottawa to reverse the Federal Government’s decision.     

With the Ainsworths in self imposed eclipse, Dr. Hendryx staked the Silver King claim along the shore of Kootenay Lake just west of the Bluebell.  From this spot he began tunnelling toward the Bluebell, intending to intersect the Bluebell glory hole at depth and bring out the ore though the tunnel.  In 1885 he bought a 31 foot screw propeller steamer named “Surprise” in Chicago, and had her shipped by rail out to Kootenai Station, where she was hauled by sled  to Bonner’s Ferry over the toll road, and launched. Pushing a scow ahead of her, the Surprise brought the Bluebell ore to Bonner’s Ferry where it was wagon hauled to the railroad and shipped to an eastern smelter.  In 1888 she was replaced by the larger twin screw steamer, Galena, built at Bonner’s ferry and capable of taking two scows on her trips to and from the Kootenay Lake mines, serving both the Hendryx and Ainsworth camps. Over on the Columbia in 1884, Captain Pingston bought a tiny steam launch, the Alpha, built in Hong Kong, and used it to barge supplies up to the CPR railroad camp at Farwells, for the Canadian Pacific Railway crews were  now across the Rockies, and would reach the Columbia river in 1885.

Natural Splendour of the Arrow Lake

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Wednesday’s Photos

Anatomy of an Old Tree Trunk

On one of our recent walks along the shoreline of the Arrow Lake my wife and I came across an old trunk of a tree that had been cut down more than 50 years ago. That mighty tree together with thousands of others had to go in order to clear the area for the flooding of the valley. It was a sad time for the many people, who were expropriated and driven off their land by this gigantic BC Hydro project. The venerable old tree trunk I am presenting here today has not lost its  beauty over so many years and I decided to devote the entire post to the natural splendour of  its individual parts. Enjoy.

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Well Rooted and Anchored to Last Hundreds of Years

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Its Centre Root Washed Free by the Changing Lake Level

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Elegantly Shaped Lateral Roots

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Its Centre Providing a Frame for a View

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Artistic Lines Leading to the Top

THE MINING ERA OF THE CANADIAN COLUMBIA by Bill Laux – Chapter 12

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THE PLACER MINERS

The placer miners who worked the gravel bars on the Columbia, the Fraser and Thompson, in the Cariboo, Wild Horse and Big Bend were participating on one of the last  occupations open to a healthy single man without resources.   A placer miner needed only a supply of provisions, a gold pan, shovel and axe.   He would learn of the discovery of gold bearing creeks or rivers from newspapers or from saloon cronies.   He would set off alone or with a a partner with perhaps a burro or a mule to carry his tent and provisions, or often with just a pack on his back.   He expected, once he arrived at the diggings, to find enough gold to purchase his needs at whatever store he would find there.    

The placer miner was not an immigrant; he intended to make his pile, and then to go home, buy a farm, a business, a hotel or saloon, and live a settled life.   Most placer miners in British Columbia went back south to San Francisco, or Portland, Walla Walla, or Colville for the winter, then headed back to the diggings in the spring.   Some few would stay on the grounds all winter, building crude log cabins and taking advantage of the low water season in the rivers to test bars submerged in the summer.   The supplies brought in by the last pack train in the fall would have to last the little community of miners until the first pack train of the following  spring.  In the more remote camps, as Wild Horse and Big Bend, this could lead to near starvation conditions in March and April.   

Only the Chinese placer miners planted gardens; the Americans and British with the pride of men with gold in their purses, made a point of buying their necessities.   They would shoot game if it were available; they would buy salmon from the local Indians; they might purchase vegetables from the Chinese camp if one were near, but they thought of themselves as gold miners, not gardeners, and the gold they washed from the gravels was to spend, not to hoard.

A placer camp was an unstable community.   No matter what the gavels were yielding, every miner had a vision of a fabulous creek, somewhere back in the everlasting mountains where the gold nuggets lay on the stream bottom thick as pumpkin seeds, and a man could scoop up a thousand dollars a day.    All it took, in a placer camp, was a rumour of a rich location somewhere “over yonder” and the whole body of men would down shovels and stampede to the supposed bonanza.   Nine times out of ten they would be back in two weeks, starving and ragged, with nothing to show for it.    But let another rumour start, and they would instantly be off again.

Should the new creek show promise, the miners would stake their claims, hurry back to the old camp, dismantle everything movable: doors, windows, furniture and wheelbarrow them to the new camp.   Claims in the old camp would be sold to the Chinese who were not allowed to work virgin ground, and the place would be abandoned.    

The relatively easy availability of large amounts of gold led to a kind of “Hurrah Camp” excitability among the miners.   Fantastic and unlawful acts would be committed by excited men who normally have been peaceable and sober minded.   Reinhart provides some examples.

“I was standing on the sidewalk (at The Dalles), outside a saloon, a man rode up on a fine mule. Dismounting, he untied a long rope from his saddle, fastened one end to the mule, took the other and disappeared into the saloon.   I noticed that he jerked the rope at intervals. Presently from within came a man who cut the rope, tied it to a post, got on the mule with its silver mounted saddle and bridle and rode away.   The rope was till jerked occasionally, while the man at the other end continued,  presumably to eat and drink and be merry.   At last he came out, sized up the situation at a glance and demanded of me if I had seen anyone cut the rope and ride the mule away.   I told him what I had seen and the sheriff was soon in hot pursuit.”    

“I crossed the street to a saddle shop where a man was putting on a fine roan a new and elegantly stamped saddle.   After cinching it securely,  he said to Mr. Gordon, the proprietor, ‘I will try the saddle to see if I like it.   Gordon replied, ‘Certainly.’   The man mounted and rode towards a rock bluff which he started to descend at a good pace.   One of the bystanders remarked, ‘That man does not intend to come back.   Look out for your saddle.   Search was made for the sheriff, but he was busily engaged hunting the mule and no officer could be found to go after the saddle thief. 

“Another time I noticed a man riding up on a beautiful sorrel horse.   Old Bill Howard, proprietor of the Mt. Hood Saloon (the one I had looked in at), said to the crowd, ‘That man rides a stolen horse.   Watch me get him.’   As the rider was passing, Howard, in a voice like a trumpet, sang out, ‘That is my horse.   Get off double quick and drop the reins or the daylight goes through you!’   The man jumped and lit running, nor did he stop or look back till he was out of sight.”

As most of the placer miners were townsmen or farmers, amateurs, their knowledge of geology was but rudimentary.    In California the gold bars increased in richness as one went upstream toward the mountain slopes where the gold had originally come from.   In B.C. they expected the same situation to hold, and were frequently wrong.   The richest bar on the Fraser, was Hill’s Bar, near the downstream end of the gold district.   On the Columbia and Kootenay Rivers, the best grounds turned out to be on the tributary creeks.   The neophyte placer miner learned to identify gold and distinguish it from flakes of mica which sparkled when wet, but became dull when dry.    Fools Gold, iron pyrites, were distinguished by a brassy color and tiny striations on the always cubical crystals.   Silver was almost never found as the native metal in streams, and was not searched for.   In the Tulameen District, on Granite Creek, platinum nuggets were found, but thought to be an unknown form of silver and usually thrown away.    Deposits of sparkling black galena were often found in the Kootenays, but passed by; placer miners had no use for heavy and relatively cheap lead.

     If a miner was successful and came out of the goldfields with a sack of nuggets and grains of gold, he would take them to a bank or a store where they were weighed and paid for at the going rate for the gold of the area.    As all placer gold contained more or less silver, sometimes copper, the rate he was paid in the 1850s and 1860s depended on its purity.   Pure gold was worth $18 per ounce, gold alloyed with silver, as that from Cherry Creek which was half silver, might bring as little as $10.   The determination of purity was by the method of Pythagoras who found in the Fifth century BC, that the ratio of the weight of the gold to the amount of water it displaced, could be used to assess its purity.  The separation of gold from silver or other contaminants was done at the Mint, by metallurgical experts.

When, by shovelling and panning, a good deposit of placer gold had been located, the placer miner built or bought himself a “rocker.”    This was wooden frame work containing screens to reject the gravel and short, cleated sluices to catch the heavy gold.   While one placer

miner shovelled gravel into the top, the other poured in water from a dipper while rocking the device on curved supports to agitate the mixture of sand, gravel and the occasional nugget.   Two men could process several yards of dirt this way in a day, a considerable advance on panning.

Small scale placer mining has always attracted number of jobless men during periods of depression.    The first of these was in the 1890s with the demonization of silver in the U.S.

Thousands of displaced men were attracted to placer mining as a makeshift livelihood.   The great rush of Americans to the Klondike had much to do with the stagnant economy in the U.S. at that time.    The great depression of the Thirties as well, sent thousands into the woods of the Sierra in California in search of gold overlooked by the miners of 1848 – 1850.   And in B.C. placering was resumed in a small way on the Fraser, the Thompson and the Columbia.   Fifty cents a day was an average take, and a single man could live on that.

If a larger deposit were located, a number of men, from three to six or more, would work together to construct a long tom.    This was a sluice of rough boards on sloping ground, perhaps 20 to 100 feet long.     A constant stream of water was diverted into its upper end and men alongside shovelled in rocks, boulders and gold bearing gravel.     The water current in a long tom tumbled the rocks and gravel a considerable distance and rejected them at the lower end.   Cleats nailed to the bottom board caught to gold as the material passed through.   Many yards of dirt could be processed daily in a long tom.

In some cases, as on the Kettle River bars, the gold was very fine, a flour gold which was very difficult to save.    In these cases copper plates covered with a thin film of mercury were placed in the sluices where the fine sand and cold would pass across them.    The fine gold would amalgamate with the mercury and be saved.   By heating the amalgamation plate red hot, the mercury would be driven off as a dangerously poisonous vapour and the gold recovered. 

When stream banks  and elevated stream terraces were found above the level of the creeks, hydraulic mining was the next development of the placer miners.    A long ditch, often several miles long, would be dug to bring water from upstream.   A large diameter riveted sheet iron pile would bring this water down to the face of the gold bearing bank, and a nozzle, called a monitor, would direct the stream at the bank, washing it down into a long tom.    Once the ditch was in place, often dug by hired Chinese labour, one or two men could operate the monitor and roll large boulders to one side, while the running water did the work.   It was, until the development of gold dredges, the most efficient method of recovering placer gold, but hugely destructive to the land.

In some cases it was discovered that ancient stream channels lay buried beneath tens or hundreds of feet of barren overburden.  In these cases tunnels were dug along the bedrock to intersect these ancient channels and the gold bearing gravels removed by wheelbarrow, or in more elaborate installations, by powered scrapers pulled by underground winches powered by compressed air.

The gold dredges of the 1900s were floating barges, assembled on the spot, which dug with a dipper bucket or more commonly with an endless chain of buckets and passed the material through a perforated, revolving trommel with the gold being caught in riffles underneath and the waste elevated for disposal at the end of a long, endless belt on a movable boom.    These dredges worked the deep gravels of river and creek bottoms, constructing a pond which they continually moved up stream with them.   These enormously efficient gold dredges worked in the 20th Century in the Cariboo, in the Monashees, and in the East Kootenay with varying success.  They were, after 1905, the chief method of gold recovery in the Klondike. 

  A few small hobby operations of placer mining still continue in southern  B.C. today.

In the north, on Pine Creek east of Atlin, and in the Yukon, placer miners with bulldozers and powered trommels operate commercially.

Natural Splendour of the Arrow Lake

35

Wednesday’s Photos

Sunny January Morning at the Arrow Lake

The lake level is dropping to make room for the annual spring run-off. This means that a strip of shoreline was without snow. My wife and I took this as an invitation for a walk on the stony beach section at our favourite place, which never fails to charge up our internal batteries. A strong wind earlier in the morning had whipped up considerable surf action.  I captured the waves by lying on my belly very much to the amusement to my wife. Enjoy.

THE MINING ERA OF THE CANADIAN COLUMBIA by Bill Laux – Chapter 11

8

THE ‘SQUAWMEN’

Throughout the era of the fur trade on the Columbia, the first half of the Nineteenth Century, the traders and factors comprised the small group of men who were the intermediaries between the Europeans and the Aboriginals.   They knew the Indian languages, many of them had married Indian wives, and were instrumental in keeping relations between the races peaceable.   With the withdrawal of the HBC north of the line of 1846, their place as traders, trail guides, and interpreters went by default to those American frontiersmen who had come north from the California gold fields to participate in the Fraser-Thompson gold rush and who remained after it subsided.   Their more squeamish and racist fellow Americans used the ugly name of “squawmen” to refer to them.  With their Indian wives, their living in a state of boozy intimacy with the Aboriginals, and their habit of extravagant boasting, they were deplored by the “better classes.”    Still, these knowledgeable men were essential as intermediaries with the aboriginals, doing what they had learned to keep the peace permitting unhindered settlement of the great Columbia Plain and the river valleys running northward into British territory.

Each of these men had a similar history.   All had participated in each of the gold rushes as they had occurred, Rock Creek, Similkameen, Colville, Fraser-Thompson rivers, Cariboo, Wild Horse and Big Bend.   All had learned on the placer grounds that while a very few might strike it rich and go home wealthy men, most would return from the gold fields with very little more than it had cost him to outfit himself for the expedition.   Those who had packed in provisions to the camps and sold them for a huge profit, did consistently go home with most of the miners’ gold.

Money, and lots of it, was dependably to be made in packing in supplies and selling them to the hungry miners.  These “squawmen” quickly learned these economics of the gold rush.   Then,   usually with a few Indian relations as helpers, they turned to profitably guiding parties of miners to the gold bars, to packing in supplies, and to operating improvised stores at the camps.

When the gold bars were exhausted and the miners went home, the “squawmen” took up ranches along the creeks in the Columbia Basin or opened small stores along the boundaries of the Indian Reservations to trade with the Aboriginals.

  Dancing Bill Latham, who had led a company in that bloody passage to the Thompson,  operated his “Eureke” ferry at the site of present Bridgeport.   Tenas George Runnels was a man of some education.    He had his Indian marriage to Skocom Analix confirmed by U.S. law in 1872.   He was the author of poems and ballads, and was stockman, storekeeper, as well as a successful prospector.   He located the rich Mountain Lion claim in the Republic Camp in 1896.   In 1904 he kept a store and horse ranch at Keller and was involved in the silver mines there.   His best claim he called the Iconoclast, a clue to the man and his cronies.    Most of these rough “squawmen” were self exiled refugees of conscience from the moral hypocrisy of a society that preached rectitude while practicing  greed.   No doubt many had fled prosecutions they felt unjust, and had taken their pseudonyms for the sake of anonymity in the west.

Since much of the settlement of the Columbia Basin in the hands of these “squawmen” from 1859 until the coming of the railroad in 1883, it will be of interest to describe the life of one of them in some detail

Samuel Wilbur Condit (Wild Goose Bill) was born in Orange, New Jersey in 1835.    No formal education is recorded, and Samuel left home at the age of 17 for the gold fields of California.   His departure may possibly have been a necessary flight, for on arriving in California, he changed his name to “Bill Condon,” and was known by that name from then on in the west.   The family records in New Jersey state: “Lost at sea en route from British Columbia to California.”    This is distinctly odd.   In 1852, the year of his arrival in California, “British Columbia” did not exist.    The family must have received a mistaken report of Samuel’s demise some years later.   Possibly from Samuel himself, if he had had compelling reasons for leaving home and wished to discourage inquiries.

Samuel, “Bill Condon,” came north to the Washington Territory about 1860.    After blowing two gold mining stakes on high living in San Francisco, he had joined the thousands heading for the Thompson-Fraser rush by the inland route.   In 1861, with Dancing Bill Latham, Tenas George Runnels, and others he was in the first party of miners to ascend the Columbia in British Columbia to the Big Bend gold fields.   After that boom subsided, he took a job packing supplies to the mining camps for a merchant in Walla Walla.    On a trip with his pack train, probably in 1864 or 1865, into the Wild Horse camp he found the stores there already amply stocked with the very supplies he was carrying.   Rather than sell at a loss, he started west with his train on the Dewdney Trail for Okanagan Lake where, he had been told, there were many Chinese on the gold creeks.    This could have been at Mission Creek or Cherry Creek. or possibly Fairview.   Accompanied by his Indian helper, Little Jimmy, he reached the Chinese miners, sold his goods, and then headed south for the Washington Territory.   On the way, still in British Columbia, he came on a small pond with a flock of geese, and began shooting them for provisions.   But the fowls proved to be domestic geese, or wing clipped wild geese, and their owner, a very angry woman, came storming after him, demanding compensation.    From that time on Bill Condon was known everywhere in the Columbia Basin as “Wild Goose Bill.”

On his trip back to Walla Walla he came across the well watered valley of upper Goose Creek at present Wilbur, Washington, and noted it as a spot in this arid Columbia Plateau where farming could succeed.    He took up land there and when the gold rushes tailed off, and there was little demand for pack outfits, he sold his, and began farming in that little valley at Goose Creek in 1875.

Owen Wister, the author of The Virginian, put Wild Goose Bill in a story published in Harper’s Magazine in April, 1894, called The Promised Land.  It was based on what his friend, Guy Waring, told him of Wild Goose Bill at whose ranch on Goose Creek he had stayed in 1884.     Waring had there listened to Bill Condon’s extravagantly embellished stories of his exploits during  the gold rush days,and passed them on to Owen Wister.   In Wister’s story Bill Condon appears as “Wild Goose Jake,” depicted as a lurid character who lived by selling  liquor to the Indians.    There is no record of Wild Goose Bill having done so, but the use of liquor to promote  trading transactions with the Indians was common enough during the period.   It had been standard practice for a drink of whiskey to seal a trade deal during HBC days, and the Aboriginals frequently asked for the traditional drink in later days before they would begin to trade.

Owen Wister’s tale was probably not familiar to the settlers moving into the Big Bend region in the 1880s and 1890s, but its sensational depiction of the “squawmen” as drunken, lawless scoundrels must have influenced Midwest opinion of the Frontiersmen they might meet in the West.   And the farmers moving into the Big Bend after the completion of the NP Railroad, were almost all Midwesterners. 

When the Northern Pacific Railroad was completed in 1883, Sprague became the shipping point for the Big Bend and Okanagan country.   Gold had been discovered at Conconnully and silver at Ruby City; miners were bound for those points.   The trail from Sprague to the Okanagan passed through Wild Goose Bill’s ranch.   He saw a chance here to improve it to a wagon road, set up a toll ferry on the Columbia, and build a store there to supply miners, reservation Indians from across the river, and farmers entering the region. 

In 1885 he constructed his ferry across the Columbia at Alameda Flat at the foot of what is now Strahl Canyon Road.   He had a boat big enough to carry one team and wagon built at Layton and Wolford’s sawmill on Hawk Creek and floated down to his site.   This first ferry was propelled by oars and took the traveler across to Saddle Horse flat on the north bank.   From there the Indian trail went up past Omak Lake to the settlement of Omak on the Okanagan River, and from there up the Salmon River to Conconnully and the mines.   The next year Condon improved his ferry by bringing a steel cable up the trail from Sprague and stringing it across the river.   A larger scow was built at Hawk Creek and hung on this cable, as a reaction ferry, using

the current of the river, to push it across.

In the summers of 1887 and 1888, Henry Bair, Gerhart Jurgensen and Frank Robinson, apparently working for Condon, made improvements to the trail to make it usable for heavy freight wagons.    With the mining excitement at Conconnully and Ruby City, a new county, Okanagan, came into existence, and Bill Condon’s road and ferry were the shortest route from the railroad.   No road existed up the Columbia at that time, the many rock bluffs plunging steeply into the river made one impractical.   There was the old Hudson’s Bay Company fur brigade trail from White Bluffs through Moses Lake, and Soap Lake and over the Big Bend plateau to Foster Creek which was followed to the Columbia at present Bridgeport, where Dancing  Bill  Latham, operated his “Eureke” ferry, but Bill Condon’s was by far the shorter route.    

Merchandise for his store on the south bank of the Columbia and for the miners at Conconully, was offloaded from the NP trains at Sprague and put on two ton four horse freight wagons.   It was 107 miles from there to Condon’s Ferry.   The first day’s travel brought them to Coffee Pot Lake, west of present Harrington, approximately along the route of todays’s highway 23 and Coffeepot Road.    On the second day they would reach Wild Goose Bill’s ranch (Wilbur), and on the third day, to Park Springs in Northrup Canyon, descending into Grand Coulee.   The fourth day would take them across the Grand Coulee and out following Wallace Canyon (named for Robert V. Wallace who drove freight teams on this route for Bill Condon), and turning north at Wilson Butte to follow Strahl Creek down to the River and Bill Condon’s ferry and store.

Condon charged $30 per ton for merchandise shipped over this road and paid his teamsters $35 a month, good wages for the time.    His store stocked items for the Indians on the Colville Reservation across the river.   As regulations forbade non-Indian businesses from operating on the Reservation, Condon’s store was well sited to capture their trade, just a ferry ride across the river.  He stocked the usual flour, beans, tea, sugar, bacon, overalls , utensils, farm implements, blankets, calicoes, and other articles required by the Aboriginals.   The Indians seldom had any money with which to buy, but the Indian Department which controlled them, permitted them to sell livestock that they had raised from herds introduced by the Government.   By taking these cattle in trade for merchandise, Bill Condon would increase his herd at his ranch.   Far from being a drunken brawler, as depicted by the sensationalist Owen Wister, Wild Goose Bill had become an astute businessman.

Bill had married Julia, a Coeur d’Alene Indian woman, and they had two sons, George and Billy.   Julia eventually left him, the circumstances unknown, and he married again, this time Mary Ann, from Chief Moses’ band across the river.   They had one child, Charlie, tragically  disabled in body and mind from an accident in infancy.   Those who knew him all said Bill was very fond of the boy and gave him all the consideration and care he was capable of.     This union with a relative of Chief Moses was of inestimable value in his trade with the Reservation Indians.   

The Northern Pacific Railroad began building its Washington Central branch line into the Big Bend country from Cheney in 1888.   The next year the rails reached Bill Condon’s ranch on Goose Creek.   Instead of calling the town which was to grow there “Goosetown,” the surveyors chose  “Wilbur” at the urgent suggestion of J. H. Robertson who had located there as a blacksmith in 1887.   This was taken from the name Bill Condon used on his land titles, “Samuel Wilbur Condit.”    Though uneducated, Bill Condon knew that the use of any but his legal given name on a land title could invalidate it.

The Columbia Townsite and Investment Company, a land holding subsidiary of the Northern Pacific Railroad,  concluded an agreement with Bill Condon, the owner of the land,  by which for his gift of half the lots in the Wilbur townsite, they would guarantee a railroad station, graded streets, and the management of the new town.  It was a standard, railroad contract, probably identical to those negotiated with the other towns on the line, Reardan, Almira, Hartline and Coulee City.    These railroad townsite contracts were a continuing scandal in the west.   Instead of following the engineered survey across the Big Bend country with its nearly level grades, the Washington Central management zigged and zagged its line, up hill and down, to connect those sites, like Bill Condon’s “Goosetown , where the railroad’s townsite company would receive the land gratis from its owner, having only to grant him title to the odd numbered lots.    If the owner of a site along the surveyed grade demanded to be paid for his land, the railroad would bypass him, routing its line to a more amenable land owner, and establishing the townsite there.   The present line, operated by the Palouse and Coulee City Railroad, is still considered a difficult operation by its train crews.   With its roller-coaster profile required to connect the cooperating townsites, it requires four or five diesel units to haul freights of less than fifty cars.

At this time, Bill Condon divided his time between his ranch and the Ferry at Alameda Flat.   When he was in Wilbur,  Mary Ann or her younger sister, Christina, looked after the ferry and store.   With the arrival of the railroad, new people were moving into the Wilbur area to take up farms.    They were socially conservative Midwesterners, frosty Methodists and Presbyterians.   As such, they had scant toleration for the notorious “squawmen,” having no understanding at all of pioneer conditions in that previous Indian country.    Now, with whites outnumbering Indians, the inevitable reversal took place.   The Aboriginals, previously essential participants in the fur trade, and later valued packers, and horse and cattle raisers, were becoming  a minority, and as an Aboriginal minority, despised by the newcomers.   The old timers, who had married Indian women and raised families with them, were regarded henceforth as dangerous and uncouth men, assumed to be lawless and guilty of various past crimes.       

One of these women told historian, Celon Kingston,

My husband brought Bill (Condon) home to dinner one day and before we were ready to sit down Bill pulled up his chair and began to take what he liked from the various dishes.   He seemed so out of  place that I asked my husband not to bring him to dinner again.   I  knew he had his good qualities, but he surely lacked good manners.”

Bad table manners, a fondness for whiskey, an Indian wife, and a presumably lurid past made the “squawmen” socially unacceptable in the newly transplanted Midwest small town society.

Out on the isolated ranches there were other opinions.   Robert Wallace relates,

“It was about the first of December, 1886, while I was working for Bill Condon that I was caught with a heavily loaded four-horse team in a snowstorm some ten miles from Bill’s ranch.  The sun had gone down and the wind blew violently in my face; the air was full of rain, sleet and snow.   I had no blankets and I knew I had to find some sort of shelter.   There was only one settler, a man named Brown in the country round about and I wasn’t acquainted with him but when I finally reached his place I asked them if they could take me in for the night.   I was refused at first because they didn’t have room in their little barn for my four-horse team but when they learned I was working for Wild Goose Bill, their attitude completely changed.   They turned their own stock out into the storm and put my horses into the barn.   Then I was taken to the house, given a good supper, and they made up a bed for me.

“Mrs. Brown told me why they felt they had to do this for me.  ‘This last summer,’ she said, ‘after we moved over here my husband fell sick and for a long time he was unable to do anything.   Our supply of provisions got lower and lower until there was almost nothing in the house left to eat and I didn’t know what to do.   Then one day  very rough looking man came up to the house.  I didn’t know who he was but he said he was Wild Goose Bill and that he had heard we had a sick man in the house.  He    came in and talked with us and soon found out how things stood.    He told us that we could have anything we wanted over at his place.   We had no money but that didn’t make any difference.   We got     flour, meat, sugar, beans, and coffee, etc., and after a while my husband got well again and we were on our feet once more.   That’s why we will always do anything we can for Wild Goose Bill or any of  his outfit.’”

Other men who knew Wild Goose Bill described him as they knew him.   Major Gwydir, Indian Agent on the Colville Reservation from 1887 -1890, remembered,

“Tall, gaunt and slightly stooped, invariably wearing a red bandanna knotted loosely around his neck, and a slouch hat… Impulsive and generous, warm in his friendships and bitter in his enmities, quick to anger but ever ready to acknowledge errors and to make reparation — these were the characteristics of William Condon, or as he was familiarly known, Wild Goose Bill.”

Holgar Jurgensen, another acquaintance,  said,

“Bill was a very good friend and a very bad enemy.   He was not a very large man– I think he weighed about 160 pounds — but he was sinewy and quick.   I wouldn’t call Bill a drinking man because he never got drunk — still he used to drink a good deal.”

In 1894 for some reason unrecorded, Bill Condon’s wife, Mary Ann, left him.   Bill persuaded a young woman of 25, Mrs. Millie Dunn, whose family had moved into the area,  to go to the ferry and look after the housekeeping and his crippled and mentally deficient son, Charlie.   Mrs. Dunn had a six year old son, James, by her first marriage which had ended in divorce.   At this time she was separated from her second husband and was suing him for divorce.   Bill Condon, a man of 60, fell in love with this young woman and proposed that she marry him as soon as her divorce should be granted.    But Millie Dunn had no wish to marry old Bill Condon and spend lonely months at the ferry looking after the incompetent Charlie whom she thought to be, with his brain damage, an unfit companion for her own son James.   Instead, once Bill Condon had left the ferry for Wilbur,  she decamped,  going to live with a cowboy, Jack Bratton, in his cabin on the Hollis-King horse ranch.   With Bratton in the cabin lived Barton Park, a young man of 19, from Lorene, Washington.   

When Bill Condon returned to the ferry to find that Millie Dunn had left him, the desperate love of an old man for a seductive young woman threw him back on that obsolete frontier code he had so long lived by.    He wrote out his will, providing for the crippled Charlie and his other two sons.   He then started out for Jack Bratton’s cabin accompanied by his friend Bert Woodin who was married to Millie’s sister.    Woodin’s wife had gone to Jack Bratton’s cabin to warn her sister that Bill Condon was coming for her,  and that he was an impulsive and  determined man.   She wanted Millie to come back with her to Wilbur where she would be safe.

However, Millie, an equally determined woman, felt that the lovesick Condon would not hurt her and she would be able to talk him out of anything desperate.

Jack Bratton, the cowboy,  had none of Millie’s bravery.   He left the cabin to hide out until the affair should be concluded.   The young Jack Parks, however, stayed, and told Millie Dunn he would protect her.   He lay hidden in a curtained bunk with a rifle and revolver and waited.   The young boy, James, was playing on the cabin floor.    

Condon and Woodin drove up in a cutter.  Bill Condon got out at once and burst into the cabin without knocking.   He picked up the boy, James and set him on a box, asking him if he would like to come back and live with him, giving the boy some candy.   Then he told the boy to get behind the iron cookstove so he wouldn’t get hurt when he went over to talk to Millie Dunn.

Condon asked Millie if she was going to marry him.   Millie told him firmly, “No.”

According to the boy, James, Bill Condon then said, “All right, then, damn you, I’ll kill you!” and fired.   Millie threw up her arm to protect her face and received the bullet in her forearm.   At that moment Jack Parks sprang out of his bunk where he had been concealed, and began firing at Bill Condon.   Condon fired back, backing out of the door, but was hit, and fell out into the snow, dead.    Parks, badly wounded, went to the door, and with Millie Dunn standing beside him,  fired at Bert Woodin who was some distance away, hitting Woodin in the heel.    Parks then collapsed, kneeling beside his bunk saying to  Millie  “I’ve done all in this world I can for you.”   He then died, his head on his arms. 

Millie Dunn, though wounded in the arm, wrapped up her boy, and carried him on foot through the snow to the nearest neighbours two miles away.   From there they were taken to Wilbur where the veterinarian, George Wilson, dressed her wound which healed satisfactorily.   Jack Bratton returned after the affray and spent the night in his cabin with the two corpses.   When asked by a neighbour if that was not a fearful thing to do, Bratton is said to have replied, “I would rather stay with Condon dead than alive.”

One wishes for a photo of Millie Dunn; she must have been a remarkably captivating woman to cause two men to die for her.   Condon’s will left the ferry to his first son George, and the sum of $5.50 to his second son, Willey.   The remainder of his estate was to go to the crippled and feeble-minded Charlie with provision that on the death of Charlie, the remainder was to pass to the school fund of Wilbur.   When Charlie died four years later the provision that the Condon estate should pass to the School Fund was contested by Charlie’s mother, Mary Ann.   The Superior Court ruled in favour of the School Fund but the Washington Supreme Court reversed the ruling, holding that Bill Condon’s will had not specifically stated that Charlie’s inheritance was limited to his lifetime, and for that reason his nearest kin should inherit Charlie’s property.   This reversal of what the ex-Midwestern Wilbur residents felt was a good and generous intent, was deeply resented, with the lawyers and a Indian woman being the beneficiaries rather than public education in Lincoln County.

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Curious soul...and it makes me wanna take the back roads!

MaritimeMac

Go Explore

Inspire me

Love, Relationship, Lifestyle, Purpose, Marriage & Family

Travelling around the world

Traveller, photography

Intrepid Venture

Exploring the realms of the arts, sciences and politics

sandsoftime10

A peek into Megha's mind

natureliteratureculturejournal

This is a journal about the things that inspire me: a beautiful landscape, a good book, a fascinating museum.

Candid Chicana

Chicano Culture, Self-Development & More

Frank Solanki

If you want to be a hero well just follow me

Plants and Beyond

Green Plants Based Living and Gardening

Zimmerbitch

age is just a (biggish) number

Think Ahead

Des' Online Journal

witlessdatingafterfifty

Relationships reveal our hearts.

Wondering and Wandering

"How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live! Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move my thoughts begin to flow..." --Henry David Thoreau, August 19, 1851

Frau Stich-Schlinge

handGemachtes & allerlei Tüddellütt

Stella, oh, Stella

Garten - Reisen - Lesen - Musik - Handarbeiten - Motorbike no more! - Wandern ...

My Fragmented Narrative

rants and ramblings freshly served

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