The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Family Project

Reflections on Life, Family and Community

Category Archives: Canada

The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Chapter XXVII


The Voyage

There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.



Theatre in Giessen – Photo Credit:

Travel Preparations and a  Farewell Speech on a Vinyl Record

The day after Biene had returned home, Adolf took my sister Eka and me on a whirlwind tour to Berlin, where we saw for the last time Aunt Alma and her family. On the way back we dropped in at the apartment of our brother Karl in Braunschweig, where he had recently embarked on a banking career at a local bank. There in the beautiful apartment we spent a few days with our brother, his wife Ingrid and their little baby daughter Annekatrin.


Adolf Standing in front of the Giessen Travel Agency

Back at home we directed our attention to the task of getting our belongings packed and ready. Our tickets for the voyage to Canada included the shipping charges for the wooden crates that contained all our personal effects. Almost too late we found out that we were responsible for moving them to the travel agency in Giessen. Almost instantly arose a heated argument among the hot-tempered siblings, myself included, as to whose fault it was for having overlooked such an obvious problem. Accusations were flying back and forth. It seemed that each one of us was on a faultfinding mission. Of course, no matter how hotly we debated the issue, the heat of the arguments would not move our big, heavy crates to Giessen.


Problems Worked out over a Mug of Beer

Fortunately our cousin Jürgen arrived just at the right time and helped diffuse a potentially explosive situation. He suggested a cooling-off period for the enraged brothers. In Giessen we dropped in at the ‘Vienna Forest, a popular restaurant, where they served us grilled chicken and beer. Tension and lingering hostility abated quickly at the same rate as our stomachs filled with delicious food and copious amounts of beer. Now we were ready to tackle the shipping in a more amiable environment. Jürgen had just made the acquaintance of a fellow student, who would be willing to provide his old and dilapidated VW bus for the crates. After a few more drinks at a roadside fast food outlet we were going to announce the good news at home. However, the pub, ‘The New Homeland’, was still open in Watzenborn. We thought a few more beers would not hurt and would definitely clear away the last little bit of rancour, before going home. So we finally arrived in a fairly boisterous mood. Everybody had already gone to bed. But this did not prevent us from loudly announcing to Eka that we had found a solution to the shipping problem. We all withdrew into the furnace room, which with its excellent sound-proofed walls offered a modicum of protection against the noise. Befuddled by all that beer I played the guitar rather poorly often missing the correct fret, while Adolf sang the song merrily out of tune with the chords I was playing. In the meantime  Jürgen and Eka had an animated discussion on the poor timing of our nocturnal arrival. Not receiving the appreciative reception that we were expecting, we decided to spend the night at Jürgen’s place in Giessen and slept for want of something more accommodating all three in one bed, but not before having a taste from the bottle of whiskey that happened to be there for this crazy occasion. Next morning (or was it noon?) Adolf and I, feeling somewhat remorseful for our rambunctious behaviour the night before, drove home quite willing to accept any criticism with a repentant heart and to make amends by getting the crates ready for shipment.


In the turmoil of the endless visits of well-meaning relatives and friends, who all came to say good-bye, I still managed to keep up the correspondence with Biene, although it was almost impossible to find a quiet corner in the house. I had  made a recording of a few simple classical guitar pieces that I felt were good enough for her to listen to. In addition, I recorded a farewell message on tape and mailed it together with the music to a company in France to have it pressed onto a vinyl record. A few days before our departure date the record arrived, which I embellished with some pretty labels and redirected it to Biene’s home address. It so happened that on the very day we boarded the Canada bound vessel, the ‘Ryndam’, she received my gift.

The recording sounds a bit scratchy. But what do you expect from a 50-year old vinyl record?

Farewell to Germany


Papa Panknin with Daughter Biene and Son Walter 1965

Career planning for his daughter was on Papa Panknin’s mind, when he asked Biene to have a serious talk with him. He was not fond of seeing her becoming a teacher. He felt that it would be too stressful for her.  Sitting endless hours in lecture rooms, bending over and studying textbooks would lead to even getting more stressed out, when after her university training Biene would enter again the educational treadmill. In his opinion the best thing for her to do would be to get a job and earn money as quickly as possible. Being a little tightfisted and in control of the family purse strings, he may also have been thinking of the expenses, which a prolonged period of university training for his daughter would incur. In contrast to North American practice German law required that parents were at least in part financially responsible for their children’s post-secondary education. In addition, there was probably on his mind his son Walter, Biene’s twin brother, who was embarking on a six-year program at the Institute of Engineering at the University of Hanover. Biene, with her eyes firmly set on getting married, agreed to a compromise that her father had proposed. She would start immediately her teacher’s training at the university of Wuppertal, but at the same time apply at the German airline Lufthansa to enter a training program to become a stewardess at the age of twenty-one. In my eyes this was a good plan. I really wanted her to become a teacher. So I took comfort in the fact that thousands of young girls were dreaming about becoming a stewardess and only a few had their applications accepted every year. Therefore, I had no difficulty of sending my wholehearted approval and let Biene romanticize about working for Lufthansa and flying to Calgary, where she could visit me on her stopover flights to Western Canada.


Adolf and Eka in the Waiting Room at the Rotterdam Terminal Station

          At last, the day arrived when Adolf, Eka and I were on our way to Rotterdam, where we would board the passenger ship Ryndam that was to carry us to Canada. Mother woke us at 3 a.m. to make sure we would have ample time to enjoy a solid breakfast before we parted. One hour later we sat at the breakfast table. Aunt Mieze read from her devotional booklet and included us in her morning prayers, with which she had been greeting the day for as long as I can remember. The outside world was still shrouded in darkness, which put us all into a somber mood. The thought that we would not be seeing Mother and all the other dear relatives for a very long time was weighing heavily on our mind. Later on, we were occupied loading Jürgen’s car with our possessions, five suitcases, my tape recorder, guitar and a gigantic duffel bag with personal belongings too valuable to be trusted to the wooden crates. The heavy work made us forget a little the pain of leaving home. We even managed to put on a cheerful face, when we said our good-byes adding comforting words like ‘We’ll meet again in beautiful Canada!’


The Ryndam that brought us to Canada – Anchored at Rotterdam Harbour

          The Trans European Express train (TEE) was racing at an incredible speed towards the Dutch border stopping only at major urban centres. At Wesel, my previous hometown, which had grown into a city of almost 50,000, the train did not stop either. Shortly after noon we arrived in Rotterdam, where a taxi took us to the harbour, which was and still is one of the biggest and busiest ports in the world. There our ship was waiting for her passengers to come on board. In the harbour inn Adolf and I sat and drank beer, while Eka had a coffee to perk up with after such a long train ride. We were quite annoyed at the delay of our departure caused by the much larger sister vessel of the Holland-America line bound for New York, which happened to leave port on the same day. Finally we were allowed to embark. Before heading out into the Atlantic Ocean, the Ryndam, for the next ten days our home, hotel, restaurant, and entertainment centre, had to make two ports of call, Le Havre and Southampton. From England I mailed Biene my first letter written at sea.

Two Letters and a Poem


Meal Time on the Ryndam – Adolf, Eka and Peter at the Back

April 28th, 1965 Le Havre

           My dear Biene,

           We just left Le Havre and are heading towards England. Thousands of impressions hit me all at once. I feel as if I had already been on board  for a very long time. It is like paradise. Yet, I am restless, because you cannot experience all this with me. I’d like describe to you how a typical day is panning out for us travelers. The tinkling of bells wakes us up in the morning. It is also reminds us in this gentle way to show up for breakfast soon. Then I climb down the ladder. For I sleep in the upper bunk, while Adolf sleeps below. We can shower or take a bath for as long as we like.  Then we march off to the dining room. Never before have I seen a greater variety of food. When we return to our cabin, the steward has already made our beds. The cabin is very small, and if one had to share it with a stranger, that would definitely not be a pleasant experience. We all have our own peculiar habits, which someone else would have to get used to.


Shuffle Board on the Sun Bathed Deck

          The entertainment program is so rich and varied that one does not know which item to choose first. You can watch English movies, go to the library, play all kinds of games. The big hit here is Shuffleboard. After lunch you can attend a concert, go dancing in the evening or have a beer in the bar. And now I experience all this without you! That makes me a little sad and pensive. When I turn melancholic, I gladly withdraw from all these fun activities and write in my travelogue.

          Oh this heavenly weather! People are presently sun bathing and there is no rough sea, not even a trace of a swell. I wanted to experience a real storm. But my brother said that it would come soon enough, if I were really that keen on getting seasick.


Peter Strumming on his Guitar

          Your picture stands on my little desk. When at night I look down to you from my bed, I feel infinitely happy. I wished I could do the voyage all over again with you, when I have enough money to pick you up in Germany.

In a few days you will begin your studies, whereas I while away the time here doing nothing. Tackle your academic work as if you never applied for the stewardess program and as if you pursued a life’s career. You should know that you can help me also as a trained teacher, perhaps later assist me for a little while, in case my own studies should be dragging on.

          What would I give to be able to kiss you now! Until next time greetings to you and your parents!

          Your Peter

           On the same day Biene also wrote me a letter, which of course I was unable to read, until I arrived at my brother’s place in Calgary. I only included excerpts here to avoid breaking the chronological order of the family history.

April 28th, 1965 Velbert

           My dear Peter,

           Again you have made me cry. But don’t you worry, Peter. I did not have to cry out of sorrow (it was only lingering at the back of my mind), but from an overwhelming feeling of joy, happiness and unfathomable love. I listened to your guitar music  and to your voice on the record you had sent me. I could not grasp it! I just sat there, and tears were streaming down my cheeks. I once read that only a few people really understand how to say good-bye, and you knew how, Peter. Never will I forget this!

Dear Peter, now you have been on board for one day and with every minute you are getting closer to your destination. And when you read this letter, the long sea voyage and the road trip across Canada will already be behind you. Tell me Peter, isn’t it an incomprehensible feeling to be on the high seas and to experience the vastness and beauty of the ocean? When I experienced the sea for the first time, I was deeply moved. It was in the year we had met. My family and I were spending our vacation on the island of Corsica. Toward evening we had landed on the island. It was night, when we reached after an adventurous trip through the mountains our vacation village at the sea. Completely exhausted we immediately fell into a deep sleep, from which I awoke unusually early in the morning. In eager anticipation to finally cast my eyes onto the sea, I quietly sneaked out, because my brother Walter was still fast asleep. Outside the air was cool and still. The sun had just risen above the horizon. The beach spread before me still completely untouched. I went a few steps down the slope and then I took in the full view of the sea! Somehow I was like in trance and could not move another step forward. Although the view was overwhelmingly beautiful, the infinite vastness also instilled in me a little bit of fear. I sat down very quietly in the sand and remained there, until the first beach guests, who frolicked in the water, broke the charm that had kept me spellbound. You alone, dear Peter, would not have dispelled the magic atmosphere.

          Inspired by her memories Biene wrote the following poem and entered it into the Book of Dreams.

The Sea

 I will forever love the sea,

Even when the gulls scream

Above thousands of storm-tossed waves.

I love the play of colors in the surf,

The billowing clouds, the sun, the warm sand, …

Oh Peter!

How much would I like to sit with you

On a lonely beach, at the sea

With its music

Rather than being

Separated from you

So infinitely far away

On the other side of the ocean.

On board of the Ryndam I also romanticized the sea as if in response of her letter that I had not even read yet.

Gale Force 7 in the North Atlantic


The calm sea and the sunshine are deceiving (my sister and I relaxing on deck of the Ryndam)

After a few days of calm and sunny weather a violent storm broke out, which put an end to the leisurely lounging on deck and made most passengers withdraw into their cabins. I entered into my travelogue:

“ Today is an especially stormy day. Most passengers don’t dare to come on deck. They play cards instead or while away the long hours in some other way. But outside awaits the intrepid traveler an indescribable experience. I believe, if you fellow travelers were not afraid of becoming seasick, you would, like my brother and I, be eager to see what a storm Poseidon can whip up for you. At the stern of the ship we view how one of the most awesome spectacles are playing out in front of our eyes. Presently we have wind force 7 on the Beaufort scale, and the waves are piling up high threatening to engulf the Ryndam. In the dark all this takes on an all the more eerie appearance. The waves are bedecked with white foam. And it seethes and hisses like in a witch’s cauldron. When the crests reach a certain height, they seem to lose by the sheer wind force their support and dissolve into sheets of spray, which drift like blowing snow up against us. Feeling the mighty wind and tasting salt in our mouth, we are invigorated in body and soul. A great sea voyage turns into an inner experience.”


Giant Wave – Photo Credit:

World literature is replete with fascinating stories dealing with violent storms at sea. Confronted with the raw unbridled forces of Mother Nature man seems so small, so weak and insignificant. In the early days of exploration sailing ships were being tossed about like little nutshells by mountainous waves and hurricane-force strong winds. In ballads, short stories and novels the authors extol the indomitable human spirit that pushed man beyond what was thought to be possible. Standing with Adolf at the stern, hanging onto the safety ropes, and leaning against the wind that threatened to knock us down, we caught a glimpse of what it must have been like to be a sailor on a small sailing ship. On the other hand the Ryndam passengers hardly noticed the storm that was howling on the outside of the steel hull. The 200 m long vessel pitched and rolled just a little. None of the entertainment programs were cancelled. Most passengers continued to play cards, watch movies, danced, or sipped whiskey in the bar. They all missed out on the adventure of a lifetime.

          It was Sunday. I attended the church service provided by a Dutch minister in a large stateroom that served as church on this particular day. It was only a few months ago that I had bought a New Testament book in Latin with the twofold purpose of reading its message and keeping my ancient language skills alive. For similar reasons I felt attracted to the religious service. I wanted to hear God’s word and at the same time reinforce my English that had been getting rusty from lack of practice, since I graduated form high school. Was I ever into a treat on both counts! The minister spoke with a strong Dutch accent but very clearly. He explained how the Jews were devastated, after the Romans had utterly destroyed their temple in 70 AD. They believed that God had lost his dwelling place on earth and therefore could no longer live among them. The pastor emphasized that God had never lived in a temple. No man-made structure would be adequate to contain the glory of God. Instead he lives in the hearts of those who are seeking His presence and accept His Son Jesus as their personal savior. Hearing these words it felt like water was being poured on the parched soil of my impoverished soul and the seed that was once planted had just received the spiritual nourishment to grow and develop in the New World that I was about to enter.

          A Mysterious Thing Called Love


The Ryndam Approaching Canada

      We had already set back our time on board by three hours, which meant that we had covered more than half of the total distance of our route to Canada. Like a giant magnet the approaching American continent channeled and directed my thoughts and feelings towards it as to make me feel at home before we even arrived at the port of entry. At Adolf’s portable radio, which he had bought on board at the duty-free shop, we picked up the first Canadian stations and eagerly listened to music and news from the island province of Newfoundland. Yet, in spite of my joyful anticipation of soon setting foot on my new homeland, there were also moments, when being alone in our cabin I began to examine in a critical manner my motives for leaving Germany.

     For my brother Adolf the voyage was simply a return to where he belonged after the successful completion of his journeyman program as a machinist. My sister Erika, a fully trained and certified nurse, wanted to escape the deplorable working conditions in the German hospitals, where she was overworked and underpaid.


My Brother Adolf Chatting with a Butcher’s Couple

       But what about me? Wasn’t I a fool to leave Germany, where I could have enrolled in any of the post-secondary programs leading to a diploma in my favourite field in high frequency technology? The words of the kind army major at the basic training camp were still ringing in my ears and entered my thoughts about a great opportunity I may have missed. He had urged me to consider a career in teaching at the technical army schools as a high-ranking and well-paid officer. I could have also gone into teaching with excellent prospects in Germany. Seeing all these real opportunities I realized the painful irony of my situation. Even though I had never met Biene’s parents except for a brief encounter at the Baldeney campground, I was unknowingly sharing their conservative – we would say old-fashioned today – expectations for their future son-in-law. I felt like they did that to be acceptable to marry their daughter I would have to be able to support her. To achieve this goal, I needed a minimum of six years at a German university in order to become a high school teacher or an engineer in electronics. At the time of my immigration to Canada, there existed a two-years teachers’ training program. This would have been a crash course, which upon successful completion allowed the student to go out and teach as long as he or she was willing to put in the extra course work in summer sessions to complete the diploma requirements. So the main reason for me to emigrate was not to seek better jobs, to enjoy a greater sense of freedom, or to experience the grandeur of the Canadian wilderness, albeit very appealing in and of themselves, but that it was a means to an end, i.e. to get married to Biene as soon as possible. It was truly paradoxical that in order to be close to Biene in the future, I had to be far away from her, At this point in time we couldn’t even dream of meeting in the next couple of years.


Adolf in his Tiny, but Cozy Bunk

          It is a strange thing about love. We feel its power, yet we cannot describe it. It has no physical location, even though we assert we feel it in our hearts. It has no substance, yet we say metaphorically love is in the air. However, we know it exists whenever we are in it and feel its tug at our heartstrings. We begin to see things associated with our beloved that we did not see before. So it was the case with Biene and me. I was on my way to Canada. All of a sudden this relatively unknown country from a German perspective had taken on an entirely new meaning for Biene. If love had not established a connection to this alluring country across the Atlantic, she would not have cared much about it, when her sister Elsbeth in Gotha romanticized about Canada and the wonderful things she had seen on TV. But now the floodgate of associations was wide open. Anything that had even remotely to do with Canada filled her heart with joyous anticipation. Somehow its name had taken on an auspicious meaning for her. She bought travel books on this second largest country in the world. Soon she described herself tongue-in-cheek as an expert on Canadian affairs. Whenever something related to this country came up on the radio, she perked up and eagerly listened to the news. On her daily trip to the teacher’s college in Wuppertal she walked by a large clock that indicated also the times in many other locations in the world. Of course, she would be interested in knowing the time in Calgary, where I would soon arrive by car with Adolf. When a seminar with slide presentation on travels in North America was offered to the general public at a community college, Biene attended the session. The presenter Martin Winter had traveled across all the Americas. He showed his slides of the Canadian wilderness, the majestic Rocky Mountains, serene lakes and raging rivers. When he talked about Calgary and the Stampede, the greatest rodeo spectacle on earth, Biene was so thrilled, she went to see him after the presentation and told him that her fiancé was just then on his way to Canada. ‘One day’, she wrote me in her enthusiasm for this wild and beautiful country, ‘you must take me camping to one of these glorious mountain lakes.’

         Arriving in Canada in our Sleep

Iceberg – Photo Credit:

In the meantime on board of the Ryndam we could tell that we were approaching Canada’s territorial waters. The storm that had been stirring up the ocean moved on eastward and made room for sunny sky and calm conditions. The temperature plunged to 2° C. On deck we had to wrap ourselves in woolen blankets to enjoy a short sunbathing session in the cold air. The Ryndam seemed to have reduced her speed although there were hardly any waves. Suddenly we heard a message over the intercom speakers to alert us to an iceberg that was floating by less than one km to the right. As we were coming closer, we marvelled at the beauty of the mountainous object that glittered in the bright sunshine like a diamond of gigantic size. Knowing that ninety percent of an iceberg is submerged and invisibly spreads into all directions, we now understood why the captain had decided on a slower pace. Fifty-five years ago about the same time and in the same waters a single iceberg had sent the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic in less than three hours to the bottom of the sea.

The First Seagulls

The next morning three fishing vessels were slowly passing by on starboard, a sure sign that we were not far from land. Seagulls suddenly appeared as if from nowhere and trailed our ship at the stern expecting to find scraps of food that someone might have thrown overboard. Then the first offshore islands emerged from the hazy horizon. They looked desolate and uninhabited. They were all covered in snow. The icebergs, the snow on the islands and the chill in the air made us feel that spring had not yet come in this part of Canada.

The First Off-Shore Islands

My sister suffered from a sore throat and decided not to accompany us in the car to travel across the continent, but to take the train instead. In the evening Adolf and I went into the bar that was more crowded than usual to say good-bye to our friends and table companions. At three in the morning, I am not sure after how many shots of whiskey and how many glasses of beer, we were finally done with saying our good-byes. After getting only a few winks of sleep, we awoke this time not by the familiar tinkling of the breakfast bell, but by an eerie quietness. Still groggy from all the partying the night before we however managed to jump into our clothes at lightning speed and rushed on board. We were anxious to find out what kind of calamity the Ryndam had gotten itself into. Perhaps the engines had broken down. Or did those dreadful icebergs surround us? What a pleasant surprise was unfolding before our eyes! The Ryndam peacefully lay securely tied to the pier posts at the Quebec Harbor. What a shame! While sleeping we had arrived in Canada.

Quebec Harbor – May 1965

After breakfast Erika and I with all the other immigrants walked over the gangway past large cargo and shipping facilities to the federal office building. There a friendly bilingual customs and immigration official greeted us and carefully examined our passports and the flimsy unassuming piece of paper we had received from the Canadian embassy in Cologne. The terrorists of today would be laughing at the simple document of fifty years ago. A photocopy on ordinary paper would have sufficed to let them slip by our border checkpoints. While we were waiting to get our documents stamped and approved, a charitable organization offered us our first cup of coffee on Canadian soil. It turned out to be a typical brew as offered then in most American coffee shops, so weak and bland you could be drinking it all day without any adverse effect, as some people were in the habit of doing. A Catholic priest asked us about our plans and provided us with useful information on Alberta, British Columbia and the other provinces of Canada. Then quite relieved that we had successfully jumped the first hurdle and had officially become a member of the Canadian society with all its rights and responsibilities except for the right to vote, we returned to our ship to reconnect with Adolf. The French-Canadian officials at the pier smiled, when I played the German folk song ‘Muss i denn, muss i denn zum Städtele hinaus’ on the harmonica. Elvis Presley sang this lovely tune while with the American Armed Forces in Germany. Wooden Heart was its English title. The sentimental Germans who themselves were beginning to forget and to neglect their very own folk songs liked the Elvis version so much that the song maintained the number one position on the German record charts for several weeks in a row.

First Impressions

Picturesque Quebec City – May 1965

Now we were at liberty to visit Quebec City. Adolf, who as Canadian citizen did not have to go through the immigration procedure, joined us to explore the only walled city in all of North America. We took a taxi to the city centre. We traveled past wooden houses painted in bright, sometimes garish-looking colors offering a bewildering sight for the new immigrants from the Old Country. When my sister and I noticed the ugly power poles often leaning at a precarious angle in the back alleys with wires seemingly helter-skelter stretching out in all directions, we broke out in irreverent fits of laughter. Adolf was quite annoyed, as we had touched a sensitive nerve. After all it was his home country that we were insulting with our disrespectful conduct.

City Hall Quebec City

We got out of the taxi at the statue of Samuel de Champlain, the French explorer, founder and first governor of Quebec. There Adolf and I decided to separate from Erika and her companion Beate, as they were more interested in shopping. We two brothers, however, wanted to have a good look at the ramparts and fortifications of this historically rich city. So we took a tour of the classical 17th century defense systems with its mighty walls, which unfortunately in the end did not prevent the British redcoats from taking over all the French colonial possessions in North America.

Samuel Champlain – French Explorer and First Governor of Quebec

When hunger pangs reminded us that it was time to have lunch, we dropped in at one of the many restaurants catering to the tourists that were flocking to Quebec City by the tens of thousands every year. We ordered steaks, large enough to fill out the entire plate and at $2.00 a bargain even at the then current dismal German Canadian currency exchange rate of four marks to one dollar. I had trouble communicating with the waiter with my Parisian school French. So I could not figure out, why they could not serve us any beer, which would have complemented nicely the fabulous meat dish. To quench our thirst, it felt odd that we had to move on in search of a beer parlor. To call it a pub would have definitely been a misnomer. The place was filled with dense cigarette smoke wafting above oversized round tables, the jabbering of hundreds of people echoing from the bare walls gave more the impression of a large waiting hall at a German railroad station than that of a cozy inn, like the one where Biene and I had spent a romantic afternoon on Mount Vogelsberg. These beer parlors had been built based on the mistaken belief that their grotesque ugliness would deter people from gathering and drinking beer. Great was my amazement to watch the clients order half a dozen glasses of beer all at once, not caring about their drink getting stale. Some even sprinkled salt on their brew or ate heavily salted peanuts to increase their thirst for more. Adolf was quite used to this custom, which seemed to me a relic of the past. It was a bit of a culture shock to me and I was happy when we returned to the Ryndam, where we enjoyed the sumptuous farewell dinner that the cooks had prepared for us, truly a culinary experience par excellence.

Cannons and Fortifications – My Brother Adolf on the Left

There were many last times on this floating hotel and entertainment centre that had safely carried us across the Atlantic, the last dinner with our table companions, the last game of chess with a Yugoslav doctor, the last card game of Mau Mau, the last visit to the bar, the last time I climbed up to my upper bunk, a last glance from above on Biene’s portrait on the cabin’s tiny desk, the last time the little room bell tinkled and called us for the last breakfast on board of the Ryndam. My heart filled with a sense of nostalgia and bittersweet feelings of regret. I had to leave this wonderful ship with her dedicated staff behind. I felt sad that I had not been able to share all these memorable experiences of the eight days on board with Biene.






British Columbia has from the beginning understood itself in quasi-Colonial terms.   It built a commercial and political centre located in its lower left hand corner, the Island and the flood plain of the Fraser River.  Behind this was a great, largely empty hinterland behind the formidable barrier of the Cascade Mountains, still today called, in the Colonial usage, “The Interior.”    Only the Fraser penetrates that barrier, through an unnavigable canyon so precipitous that the original Indian foot trail required the traveler to find hand holds on rocks and shrubs to keep him from slipping down the cliffs to the tumbling waters below.   Horse passage was impossible, a canoe was almost certain death unless lined through with ropes.

But beyond the great, green wall of the Cascades lay a vast land of wet and dry valleys, of rolling grasslands and of the boreal forests of the North.   This land, nine parts of the Province, lay open to entry and exploitation from the South, from the Washington Territory, up the easy river valleys of the Columbia and its tributaries, the Okanagan, the Kettle and the Kootenay.   The Hudson’s Bay Company, until cut off by the treaty of 1846 and the loss of the lands south of “49,” transported its furs and provisions, by pack train and freight canoe down these river valleys to the Pacific.   

After the boundary was drawn, the HBC sent A.C. Anderson in 1846 to find a wholly British pack route from Fort Kamloops to the new depot at Fort Langley on the lower Fraser.    Anderson explored a number of possible routes for a Brigade Trail.   He went up Harrison Lake and through the Seton Lakes to Lillouette on the Fraser.    On his return to Kamloops he went up the Coquihalla River and explored the possibilities of a Nicolum Creek, Sumallow Creek, and Skagit River route for a crossing to the Tulameen River.    However that route crossed Punchbowl Pass at 5300 feet and would be closed by snow most of the year.

Anderson settled on a year round route from  Kamloops to Nicola Lake, and down the Coldwater River to Spences Bridge; this bypassed Kamloops Lake where perpendicular granite bluffs precluded a lakeside trail.    From Spences Bridge his trail ran down the Thompson to the Fraser, and down its left bank as far as Boston Bar.   As the canyon below that point was impassible, he ran his trail up the Anderson River on the east to a point where he could cross the ridge between the Anderson and Fraser and regain the big river opposite Spuzzum.   From there a horse trail could be built along the river bank to Ft. Langley.    This Anderson River Trail was used by three brigades in June, 1848, one from New Caledonia, one from Kamloops, and one from Fort Colvile, when the outbreak of the Cayuse war made the old trail down the Columbia unsafe.  However, their passage was a difficult one and the brigades lost 70 horses and 25 packs of merchandise on the precipitous slopes.

In 1848, Henry N. Peers built Fort Hope for the HBC, and explored up the Coquihalla for a shorter route to Kamloops which had been suggested to him by an Indian, “Old Blackeye”.    Blackeye’s trail went up the river past Nicolum Creek and turned up Peers creek about 4 miles further up the Coquihalla.   From the headwaters of Peers Creek it crossed Manson Mountain at 5600 ft., a steep scramble.    The trail  ran along Manson Ridge, then dropped into Soaqua Creek  and through the alpine meadows Peers called “The Garden of Eden” to a low pass into Vuich Creek, and down it to the Tulameen River.   Blackeye’s trail cut across the bend of the Tulameen via Lodestone peak and came out at Otter Creek, and up that creek, which at its upper end opened out into the rolling country of the Fairweather Hills.   An easy grade led down to Nicola Lake and Anderson’s trail to Kamloops.

Although this trail was a summer only trail with its high passes, it avoided the tricky ledges of treacherous shale rock above the Thompson River where so many horses had plunged to their death.   Peers had not finished brushing out Old Blackeye’s trail in 1849, so the Fur Brigades from the Interior used the Anderson River trail on the way down and returned by way of Peer’s and Old Blackeye’s trail, completing the work on it as they passed through.   There was now a practical all-British summer route, but a winter and spring communication between the Coastal communities and the Interior could only be had via the treacherous Anderson River trail or by going through the U.S.

In 1859 a gold discovery was reported on the Similkameen River, and another by Canadian Adam Beam at Rock Creek.   To the fury of Colonel Moody of the Royal Engineers, Governor Douglas directed that the Indian, “Skyyou,” a famous bear hunter, should explore the mountains back of Hope for a reputed new pass direct to the Similkameen.    On the fifth of June Douglas went himself to Hope to question the bear hunter who impressed Douglas by drawing a very creditable map of the region showing rivers, mountains, passes, and the buildings of the whites.   There was already an HBC Brigade trail from Hope to the Similkameen which crossed Hope Pass, but this route included the westbound  scramble down Manson Mountain with loaded pack horses, and according to Susan Allison who met one of these Brigades on the trail, was a most hazardous crossing.  It was the practice of the HBC to bring twice as many horses as needed, in the expectation that many would be lost on the way.   Lieutenant Palmer in 1860 reported the slope of Manson Mountain was still littered with horse bones.   

The Governor was criticized in the press for entrusting the exploration to an Indian,

“It is a notorious fact that when a road is to be located or a district explored, a magistrate, a constable, a Hudson’s Bay servant,  or peradventure, an Indian, is sent out to explore and report on the same, and after the location is decided upon, the Chief Commissioner with his staff or Royal Engineers is instructed to make the road.”

Governor Douglas’ opinion on the Royal Engineers was given by his friend, Donald Fraser in the London Times,

“…At the rate they have hitherto progressed it would take 50 years to complete the road they have begun…  The fact is that soldiers cannot be expected to do this sort of work.   The impedimentia they carry with them, the costliness of their provisions and of their transport, the loss of time in drilling and squaring them, make them the most expensive of laborers.   They do their work well, it is true, better than civilians; but for all that it is a mistake to set them at it   Soldiers we want and must have, but a cheaper soldier than a Sapper or a Miner or Engineer would answer our purposes better.”

After reviewing all that Skiyou could tell him of the mountains between Hope and the Similkameen, Governor Douglas offered to grubstake a mining party to prospect the Canadian Similkameen.    John F. Allison, a California miner led the expedition which departed from Hope on June 26, 1860 on Skiyou’s trail which crossed Hope Pass and descended Whipsaw Creek to the Rouge (Upper Similkameen) River.   Allison reported  to Douglas a month later that they explored 12 miles up the Tulameen River and found diggings yielding $6 per day to the hand.   When this news was received at Hope three new parties of would-be miners were formed and left for the Similkameen on August 6. 


In 1859 gold was discovered, both on the Similkameen, south of 49 by a member of the U.S. Boundary Commission and at Rock Creek, just two miles north of the border, by Adam Beam, a Canadian in October.   A small rush of Americans from Walla Walla and The Dalles came up the Columbia and Okanagan Valleys to these camps.   Since the end of the Fraser rush Victoria business had been stagnant.   Their newspapers hopefully seized on this new discovery as another Fraser River boom.


                  ROCK CREEK A SUCCESS

          From $20 to $ 200 per day to the hand

At once Governor Douglas got complaints from the Victoria merchants that the Yankee traders were provisioning these men, and a direct supply route was needed.   Rock Creek was but two miles from the boundary which was totally ignored by the American miners and merchants who paid no customs duty.   Indeed, there was no official nearer than Kamloops to collect the sums due.

Governor Douglas appointed Peter O’Reilly Gold Commissioner and sent him to Rock Creek to enforce the Colonial law.   The Rock Creek miners, however, knowing that they were just a short hike from American soil, ignored O’Reilly.   When he demanded that they take out miners’ licences and file their claims with him, they showered him with verbal abuse and pelted him with stones.   At this, O’Reilly prudently retreated to Victoria via Kamloops, Lillooet and Harrison Lake and reported a “Rock Creek War.”   Governor Douglas, who was learning how to deal with the turbulent Americans, put Rock Creek on his itinerary for his Fall tour of the Interior. 

He left on August 28 and travelled by way of the Harrison Lake – Lillooet trail to  Lytton, the Nicola River, to Vermillion Forks which he renamed “Princetown,” and then on to the trouble spot, Rock Creek.   What he saw alarmed him; the whole of the Southern Interior was wide open to American exploitation, and U.S. ranchers were moving across the border to graze their cattle on British grass.   He appointed John Carmichael Haynes from Yale as Magistrate for the area and ordered that a customs post be set up at the north end of Osoyoos Lake.   Then  he crossed Anarchist Mountain to the trouble spot of Rock Creek.   

The Governor came into camp in full uniform accompanied by a new Gold Commissioner, William George Cox, and clerk, Arthur Busby.    He found a full mining camp with stores, saloons and a hotel in operation, all supplied by pack trains from The Dalles.   Three hundred American miners assembled in a saloon to hear what he would say.   Governor Douglas began with good news.   He promised a wagon road would be built to the camp from Hope and that the Kettle river would be bridged.   After the cheers subsided, he delivered a warning: they must now  comply with British law, take out miners’ licences from Commissioner Cox, and pay duty on all provisions brought in from the U.S.   If they failed to do this he would return with 500 British Navy marines and compel their submission.   Then he asked them to make way for him to the door where he wished to shake each of them  by the hand as they filed out of the saloon .   This gesture met the instant approval of the miners and the Governor was applauded to the door.  As the Governor returned  via the HBC Trail from Similkameen to Hope he met Edgar Dewdney working on the new Hope – Princetown trail, and asked what it would cost to convert it to a wagon road.   To connect the mines with the Coast, Douglas proposed a “Queen’s Trail”, 70 miles long, be blazed and brushed out from Hope to Vermillion Forks (Princeton.) 

The contract for this trail, which would follow Skiyou’s route, was given to Edgar Dewdney and Walter Moberly, both trained surveyors.   Again, Col. Moody was furious that the contract had not been given to his Royal Engineers, and the hostility between himself and Governor Douglas increased.   To mollify Moody, and yet not reduce the speed of trail building to the methodical, if thoroughgoing pace of the Engineers, Sgt. Mc Coll was assigned to supervise the actual construction of the trail.   His work was superb; at no point did the grade exceed 8 per cent (eight feet of rise per 100 feet of distance) a slope exceeded today by many Provincial Highway mountain crossings.   However, whether owing to Sgt. Mc Coll’s diligence or Dewdney and Moberly’s inexperience in the west, the money ran out while they were still only part way down Whipsaw Creek.    Moody assuaged his anger at Governor Douglas by hurrying over the trail to preempt 200 acres west of Vermillion Forks.   Four other Royal Engineers also filed land preemptions in the expectation that Vermillion Forks would become the centre of a prosperous mining district.    

John Allison, who had begun ranching in the Similkameen, was disgusted with the slow progress of Dewdney, Moberly and Sgt. Mc Coll.  He informed Governor Douglas that he had found a new and lower pass over the Cascades.    Douglas authorized him to blaze a trail over this pass.   Allison reported he cleared 36 miles of trail in 4 days, nearly half the distance.  This was the Allison Pass trail, (called “Skatchet [Skagit] Pass” by Gustavus Epner in his 1862 map).

Another Cascade crossing had been established in 1859 by the American merchants in Bellingham.    To eliminate the dangers the California miners were running in crossing the Strait of Georgia from Victoria to the Fraser River in Indian canoes and homemade boats, they hired Captain W.W. De Lacey to construct a trail on American soil (so far as possible) to the Fraser and Thompson River diggings.    This Whatcom Trail, ran from Bellingham through Lynden, then up the Vedder and Chilliwack Rivers to Chilliwack Lake.   At the time this was supposed to be in American Territory; the boundary was not yet surveyed.   But even after the boundary was monumented, the customs officers were stationed at Langley, some miles distant, and miners using the Whatcom Trail would not encounter them.   Liquor and provisions could thus be sent to the mines free of the 10% duty Governor Douglas had imposed.   However, Captain De Lacy, in continuing the trail up the Chilliwack River was obliged to ascend Brush Creek to cross Whatcom Pass at 5000 feet to reach the Skagit River.   His trail then ran up the Skagit ( back into British Columbia as it turned out).   He ran out of money somewhere near Nepopkum Creek, and turned back to Bellingham in failure.   There he found offered for sale to the miners, the map that A.C. Anderson had published in 1858 showing miner’s routes to the Fraser Diggings.   On that map De Lacy discovered that just a few miles from the end of his work, he would encounter Anderson’s 1849 Brigade trail running to the Thompson River.    He rushed back with fresh supplies and tied in his trail with Anderson’s    The Bellingham Bay merchants then advertised their Whatcom Trail to the Thompson and Fraser Rivers via the Skagit and circumventing British Customs.    But in spite of their efforts, it was Hope, not Bellingham, that became the gateway to the mines and the Whatcom trail received little use.   No doubt a good many miners heading back to San Francisco with their gold took the route from Hope up the Similkameen trail to its intersection with the Whatcom Trail, and that route to Bellingham to avoid the export tax on gold.

In 1863, De Lacy turned up in Wyoming exploring  the South Snake River.

Captain W. P. Grey leaves us an account of crossing the Cascades, probably on the HBC trail.

“When I was 13 years old we moved to British Columbia.  This was in 1858.

“In the summer of 1860 we crossed the Mountains to the Similkameen River to prospect for gold.

We found gold on the south fork (the Tulameen).  Father built two rockers, and for the next two months we kept busy.   At the end of that time our supplies were running very short.   I was (15) years old, and father decided I was old enough  to assume responsibility, so he sent me to Fort Hope to secure supplies.   

“There was only an Indian trail, but I  knew the general direction.   I had to ford streams and cross rivers, but  I had learned to swim when I was 8 years old, so that didn’t bother me.   As we were short of provisions, I took only two sandwiches, thinking I could make the 140 miles in two days.  I had a good riding horse, and I was going to ride from daylight to dark.   I had not gone over 20 miles when a rather hard character in that country called “Big Jim” met me in the trail.   He stopped me and said, “Have you got anything to eat?’   I told him I had only two sandwiches.   He said, ‘I haven’t had anything to eat in two days.  Hand me those sandwiches.’   I looked at him and concluded it was safest to give him the sandwiches.   He bolted them down, and grumbled because I had no more.   He was on his way out to Fort Hope but his horse was almost worn out. I wanted to go by, but he wouldn’t let me.   He said, ‘Oh, no you don’t – we will stay together for company.   Your horse is a good deal fresher than mine and I may need him.’

“As we made our way across a high cliff his horse lost its balance and fell, striking the rocks more than 200 feet below.   He made me get off my horse and mounted mine.   We rode and tied from there on in to Fort Hope.   It took us four and half days, and all we had to eat during that time was a fool hen he knocked down.  My clothes were almost torn to shreds.

“When I got home, I went in the back door.   My mother saw me.   She raised her hands above her head and said, ‘Oh Willie, what has ahappened to your father?’   I told her my father was all right, but I was nearly starved.   I secured two horses and loaded them with bacon and beans, rice and other supplies, and started back for our camp.   When some prospectors in town learned that we were making $10 a day to the man, they followed me to our camp. 


As the rich bars of the Fraser and Thompson became exhausted, the miners who had done well headed back to California, while others who had not found success worked their way slowly upriver, testing the creeks and bars.  They found small returns, but not enough to keep them from continuing up river.    By 1860 they were 400 miles north of Yale at the mouth of the Quesnel, and still finding workable bars.    But following the Quesnel upstream and over a low divide, they came on Williams, Lightning, and Antler creeks, and all turned out to be spectacularly rich in placer gold.    Takings of $20 per day were reported;  the news went out,  and a new rush was on.

When the bulk of the American miners on the lower Fraser had left the two colonies for San Francisco in 1859, the boom deflated and business stagnated.   The merchants had full warehouses in Victoria and New Westminster but no buyers.    When the news of the Cariboo strike came, there was an instant determination to profit from it and revive the economy.     Governor Douglas directed that a wagon road be constructed to the new diggings and gave it the highest priority.    The detachment of Royal Engineers under Col. Moody were then at work out of Hope converting  the Similkameen trail to a wagon road as the Governor had promised the miners to Rock Creek.   Now they were pulled off and sent to Yale to  construct the formidably difficult sections of the new Cariboo Road from Yale to Boston Bar, and along the Fraser past Spence’s Bridge.    This was some of the most difficult road construction ever undertaken in North America.   A 18 foot right of way had be blasted out of sheer bluffs and supported on log cribbing and trestle work over ravines and steep bedrock declivities.

An early traveler remarked of this section, ”No mud between Yale and Spence’s Bridge.   Nothing to make mud..”   Civilian contractors took contracts for the remainder of the work which could be done by ordinary hand labor.   Construction began in 1860 and was complete to Barkerville, the mining center of the Cariboo by 1866.    At Spuzzum, Joseph Truch called on Andrew Hallidie who built the San Francisco cable car system, to come to B.C. and build the Alexandra suspension bridge across the Fraser for him.    Truch collected tolls on this and the Spence’s Bridge, becoming both a rich man and Commissioner of Lands and Works of British Columbia.

  From Spences Bridge Gustvus Blin Wright built the next 280 miles to Soda Creek where a steamer connection was made.   From Quesnelmouth another section of  road was run into the mining district, again built by G.B. Wright.   The tolls on the Cariboo Road were $3.00 per ton on leaving New Westminster, plus $7.40 per ton to cross the Alexandra Bridge, $44.80 per ton collected at Lytton and another $7.40 to cross Spence’s bridge across the Thompson, a total of $62.60 per ton.   On small shipments the charge was 30¢ per pound, which was dropped in 1864 to 15¢. 

With the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861 American miners enlisted or were drafted; few came north.   This made the Cariboo Rush the first truly Canadian gold rush.   For the first time large numbers of Canadians came west to take the road up to Cariboo and learn the techniques of placer mining.

The California and Oregon miners swept up in the draft for the Union forces were usually sent to the western frontier posts as “Volunteers,”to replace the trained regular troops who were wanted on the battlefields of the east.    In succeeding years, these drafted American miners, bored with the monotony of frontier duty, were prone to desert and head north into British Columbia whenever a new strike was announced.   These deserters made up the largest part of the American contingent in Cariboo.

The Cariboo road, though virtually bankrupting the cash starved colony, was an immediate success.    A fast stagecoach service was provided by  Barnard’s Express, and a government run Gold Escort with armed men was instituted to bring out the miner’s gold safely and deposit it in a colonial bank.  Most miners saw this, however, as an HBC sponsored scheme and preferred to send their gold out by Barnard who was able to transfer it directly to San Francisco banks.   Ox drawn wagons carried the freight at a slow walking pace.    On the steep and narrow section blasted out of rock, with a three ton limit on Joseph Truch’s Alexandra Bridge, wagons were hitched singly.    When they reached Boston Bar they were doubled up on the 22 foot road surface and pulled in tandem the the rest of the way.   

The richness of the Cariboo, far surpassing the Fraser-Thompson diggings, attracted American capitalists as well.   The Portland, Oregon triumviate of Captain John C. Ainsworth, Simeon Reed, and Robert Thompson, who dominated  the lower Columbia with their Oregon Steam Navigation Company, determined to get in on the Cariboo as well.   Captain Ainsworth had already taken over Fraser River transportation in 1859 with his fast and powerful boats.   Now the OSN Company put their sternwheeler, Colonel Wright, on the run from Celillo, at the head of the Dalles rapids on the Columbia, to White Bluffs, where the old HBC trail, now used to supply the Army post at Fort Colville, terminated.   But was it possible to get across the line  into British Columbia with boat transportation?   Captain Ainsworth proposed to follow the gold seekers north, and establish an all-water route from Portland, Oregon to Kamloops, B.C.   From Kamloops a steamer could connect on Kamloops Lake to Savona’s Landing and a good wagon road led from there to the Great Cariboo Road.   If he could get boats to Kamloops, Captain Ainsworth proposed, he could seize the Cariboo trade for Portland.

The gold discoveries on the Similkameen and at Rock Creek were encouraging to the Ainsworth  Syndicate.   As well, small diggings were opened on Mission, Cherry, White Man and Harris Creeks in the Okanagan.   In the winter of 1860 the Ainsworth Syndicate had Captain W. H. Gray began construction of a boat on Osoyoos Lake, just south of the boundary line.   Trees were felled and pit sawed by hand into lumber which was hauled to the lake.   The vessel was 91 feet long with a 12 foot beam and built wholly with hand tools: saws, hatchets and chisels.   The hull was caulked with wild flax (Linum lewisi) mixed with yellow pine pitch.    She was launched on May 10, 1861, and used on the Okanagan river to supply the Rock Creek and Similkameen miners. The Ainsworths planned to install locks at Okanagan Falls to pass the boat through into Dog (Skaha) Lake and on into Okanagan Lake.   From the head of Okanagan Lake a canal and locks were to lift the boat over the low height of land into the Shuswap River at Enderby.   A run down the Shuswap and Thompson Rivers would bring it to Kamloops.

With the nearest railroad a thousand miles away at St. Joseph, Missouri, the thinking in the Northwest was still fixed on water transport.   No one was sure a rail line could be financed and built to the Pacific Coast.    The U.S. Congress was being lobbied by the Portlanders for canals and locks around the obstructions in the Middle Columbia at Bonneville and Celillo, and  the Army Engineers were examining the feasibility of clearing the Upper Columbia for steamboats.   In British Columbia the Ainsworths could not expect government assistance to build canals and locks that would siphon off the trade to the U.S.   If the Okanagan boom developed into a major rush, the Portlanders intended to construct the works themselves.   The Okanagan Rush, however, was over quickly, with no major goldfields found.   Except for Rock Creek, the miners moved on, and the small steamer was brought down the Okanagan and Columbia Rivers, passing all the rapids successfully, to Cellilo.   Her machinery was removed there and she served as a sailing craft for many years after on the run between Walulla and Celillo.   The name of this vessel has unfortunately been lost.

The Cariboo was the richest of the gold fields with perhaps 22 millions taken out in comparison to the million and a half taken out of the Fraser-Thompson.   Again a sawmill, Baylor’s, was packed into the gold fields in pieces and set in up at Antler to supply flume boards.   With only wagon transport to the Coast, sawmilling in the interior depended on the local miners’ market.   As at Yale when the mines closed, the sawmill shut down.  The immense timber resource of B.C. save that on tidewater, awaited cheap rail transportation to foreign markets.   To the coastal merchants Cariboo, and the road that had plunged the Colonies so deeply into debt, symbolized the Interior for years, as the source of wealth and speculation for Victoria and New Westminster.

The small strikes on Similkameen and at Rock Creek, Mission and Cherry Creek in the Okanagan were ignored as trivial, and while a branch was built off the Cariboo Road to serve Kamloops, the Cascade trails remained unimproved and the wagon road never reached more then fifteen miles out of Hope.  The promising townsite of Princetown was abandoned and filed on as a cattle ranch.   American ranchers drove herds of cattle and horse up the Okanagan to sell in Cariboo.  Judge Haynes collected duties at the border and kept the peace with a constable at Osoyoos, and Gold Commissioner Cox issued miner’s licences at Rock Creek, but that was all. Southeast B.C. was wide open for exploitation by the Americans whenever they should return from their war.     

  When the veterans did return from the war in 1865 there was great agitation among the Irish ex-soldiers to join the Fenian Brotherhood and invade British North America as a blow against the British and a means of calling attention to the Irish grievances.    In 1866 a report reached Victoria that 40,000 Fenians in San Francisco were preparing to invade British Columbia.

In response the Colony of Vancouver Island raised a militia of 180 men.   Fortunately the San Francisco Irish, though they paraded and cheered bellicose speeches by William D’ Arcy, let it go at that and the Vancouver Island militia was never tested.    In 1868 the Fenians were marching again and the British Admiralty notified Rear Admiral Hastings at Esquimalt of a suspected Fenian attack on Vancouver Island with the object of abducting Governor Seymour and holding him for hostage in exchange for Fenian prisoners in Irish jails.    Another group in Butte Montana was to invade the Kootenays and seize the gold of the Big Bend.   Neither of these threats materialized, and the Big Bend gold was long gone, most of it already in the United States. 

The Fenian threat and the extremely modest forces available to counter it: the British naval vessels, a tiny Island militia and, east of the Cascades, only a few hundred scattered miners and ranchers, once again made clear how vulnerable to invasion from the south the Colony was.   In the following twenty years the American expansionists would take Alaska, the Hawaiian Islands, Cuba (for a time), and the Phillipines into their empire.   The distraction of the Civil war and the lack of a U.S. naval base on the Pacific, probably saved British Columbia from annexation.




Contrary to popular opinion which centres all B.C. history on the Europeans of the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, the Fraser River rush began with a discovery by an Indian on the Thompson River.  Governor Douglas wrote to Colonial Secretary Labouchere in 1856,

“Gold was first found by an Indian on the Thompson River 1 mile below the Nicomen.   He is since dead.   The Indian was taking a drink out of the river.   Having no vessel he was quaffing from the stream when he perceived a shining pebble which he picked up and it proved to be gold.   The whole tribe forthwith began to collect the glittering metal”

William Peon, the chief of the Fraser Band, set his people to work gathering the gold, and took $500 worth of flakes and nuggets he had found to Chief Trader Mc Lean at Ft. Kamloops.   Mc Lean, a brutal man who hated Indians, refused to buy the gold declaring he had no means to weigh such small quantities.   On his reporting the find, however,  Governor Douglas ordered him to buy all gold brought in, and sent him a supply of long handled iron spoons to enable the Indians to extract the nuggets from the underwater crevices.

Chief Peon, on being rebuffed by Mc Lean, took the tribe’s gold to Ft. Colvile, in the Washington Territory, and presented it at the general store operated by Francis Wolff, a discharged American soldier, some miles southeast of the HBC post   The fact that Chief Peon took his gold all the way to Colvile, an 800 mile round trip,  rather than the 80 miles down the Fraser to the HBC post at Hope is instructive.   Chief Peon had learned that the Americans, in this case, Wolff and his partner J. T. Demers, would pay more for gold than the stingy HBC’s $12 per ounce.   

The Columbia and Pend Orielle placers were by that year nearing exhaustion and being sold to the industrious Chinese who would work patiently for another ten years.    Wolff and Demers, excited by Chief Peon’s new find, recruited 18 prospective miners from their cronies, outfitted them with supplies from their store, and set out for the Thompson River country where Chief Peon had said he had found his gold.   The party took the old Indian trail that led from Kettle Falls on the Columbia, up the Kettle River valley past Rock Creek.   At the forks they continued up the West Kettle River to Kettle Bar, near what is now the Spruce Grove Cafe on the Monashee Highway.    Crossing into the Shuswap drainage past Mc Intyre Lake, they descended Cherry Creek to the Shuswap River which led them to the Thompson and Ft.Kamloops.    At least one other packer and another party of miners followed the same route, and were on the Thompson with Wolff and his men that year. 

The Thompson River Indians opposed the American miners’ attempts to take over their placer grounds.   Governor Douglas, who preferred that the mining be done by Indians, wanted no Americans at all on the Thompson.   The danger of annexation exercised his mind.   He “..admire(d) the wisdom and foresight of the Indians” and instructed Mc Lean at Kamloops to restrain the Indians (from violence)  and discourage the Americans.   More than this he could not do, as the British had set up no government at all for the mainland territory; no one had legal powers there.    Wolff’s party persevered, and in the spring of 1858 Wolff was in The Dalles with $5,000 of gold he had recovered from the Thompson.    Governor Douglas, for the HBC, had sent in February 800 ounces of gold to the San Francisco mint.  The arrival of that gold spread the news in California and a rush began.2    

In California, by 1858, the placer mines were nearly exhausted, and the miners, unable to make the “ounce a day” which was considered by them a decent return, were restless and bored.   The stagnant situation at the Mother Lode mines was much as Mark Twain described in his The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calveras County.   The men of ‘48 and ‘49 who had struck it rich had gone home to buy farms and businesses.   The remainder who had drunk or gambled away their stakes, or never achieved much at all, were at the dead point of betting on frogs or how many flies would settle on a dead dog.   

When the news broke of the strike on the Thompson and Fraser, it generated wild excitement; here was a second chance for the unsuccessful and the improvident.   The irrational “gold fever” struck at once.   Newspapers reported a general exodus, stage coaches crowded with miners headed for the Fraser although the roads ran only to Chico and Red Bluff.   Some went via San Francisco and chartered vessels for Victoria.   Others hoping to avoid the British customs duties, chose the inland route.  One paper recorded 250 miners bound for the Fraser on foot by the inland route passing  through Oroville, California  on the way north, moving at “… a perfect rush, whooping and yelling as they pass along the road…”    A party of 500 French Crimean War veterans, mounted and armed, and divided into companies in military fashion, were on the road north via Shasta, Klamath Lake and Peter Ogden’s old route to The Dalles on the Columbia.   

It could not have happened at a worse time for the Indians.    During that summer Governor Stevens of the new Washington Territory had held a Council at Walla Walla where he had met with the Columbia Basin Chiefs, and maneuvered them into signing a series of treaties which ceded certain Indian lands to the government, and set aside certain large tracts as Indian homelands or reservations from which whites were barred.   But even as the ink on the treaties dried, armed and bellicose miners, hurrying north from California and Oregon to join the Thompson rush, entered those lands now closed to them.   They arrogantly dug up the creeks for gold, shot the Aborignals’ game, and abused the Indian women.    Finding that the signing of the treaties was followed by even greater incursions and depredations than before, the Chiefs lost all trust in the promises of the whites, closed their lands, and prepared for war.


Invading miners were shot by Indians in the Yakima Valley, and the U.S. troops sent to punish them were defeated by the Indians at Toppenish.   Open warfare began.   General Wool, commanding the army’s Department of the Pacific had issued an order in 1855 closing the lands east of the Cascades to white settlers, 

“No emigrants or other whites, except the Hudson (sic) Bay Company, or persons having ceded right from the Indians, will be permitted to settle or remain in the Indian country, or on land not ceded by treaty, confirmed by the Senate and approved by the President of the United States.

“These orders are not, however, to apply to the miners engaged in collecting gold at the Colville mines.   The miners will, however, be notified that should they interfere with the Indians, or their squaws, they will be punished or sent out of the country.”

The exemption of the miners probably had a shaky basis on remarks made in 1853 to General Alvord at the Dalles by the Chiefs of Yakimas, Cayuses, and Walla Wallas, that,

“They always liked to have gentlemen, Hudson(sic) Bay Company men or officers of the army or engineers pass through their country, to whom they would extend every token of hospitality.   They did not object to persons merely hunting, or those wearing swords, but they dreaded the approach of whites with ploughs, axes, and shovels in their hands.”

These chiefs of 1853 had never seen the bellicose California miners in full cry; they soon would.    Possibly General Wool chose to identify the miners as “gentlemen.”    From his post in San Francisco, he should have known better.    

  In 1858, with white settlement still forbidden, and the war in progress, The Dalles was the main outfitting centre for the inland route.   It was reached from Portland and the Pacific by sternwheel steamer with a short portage at Cascade, and from inland California by trail from Shasta via Klamath Falls.    At The Dalles, a regular  “hurrah camp,” as Charles Frush called it, pack trains and wagon trains prepared to strike out into the largely unknown and now definitely hostile country of the Columbia Basin.   To the end of May, 300 men were estimated to have passed through The Dalles headed north, and another 400 to 500 were fitting out for the trip.  Bands of Cayuse and Nez Perce Indians had brought herds of horses, and were offering them for sale at The Dalles to the miners.   Then the news came that Colonel Steptoe and his men had been defeated by the Indians in the Palouse country to the east.    The army was attempting to quell the Indian hostilities that had begun with the depredations of the Columbia River rush in 1855; at the same time armed Californians were forming into bands at The Dalles, preparing to move into the Indian lands, even though a war was in progress.    

  The Indian’s changed attitude of 1858 was reported by a party of miners who encountered them at the mouth of the Yakima River.   They were told that the important Indian chiefs had met, and decided that the soldiers and “Bostons” (Americans in the Chinook jargon, a trade language) should not pass, but that the French and the Hudson Bay men could.     The years of cultivation of fair and friendly relations with the Aboriginals by the Hudson’s Bay Company and their French-Canadian employees were evident here, as were the outrages and sorry history of pillage and rape by the Americans, individualism’s dark side.

While some of the miners turned back at the news of Col. Steptoe’s defeat, and the determination of the Indians to block them, most pressed on grouped in armed companies, usually with an Indian or an ex- HBC man as guide.    The passage of the Mc Loughlin party to the Thompson was perhaps the most difficult.

It was led by David Mc Loughlin, son of Dr. John Mc Loughlin the former Chief Factor at Ft. Vancouver, 36 years of age, and one who had known the Columbia country intimately from his years with the HBC.   The McLoughlin Brigade consisted of 150 to 185 men, with 400 horses and mules carrying provisions for three months.   They had among them, 90 to 100 rifles and 20 to 25 other “heavy arms.”    Most were from California and included Oregonians, Frenchmen, Metis, and “camp followers,” as in any quasi military expedition.

They left The Dalles on July 5, and reached Walulla, or old Fort Walla Walla, after several days march along the river.  But even before reaching Walulla, stealthy Indians had managed to drive off some of their horses.   This  horse stealing by night had been a recognized practice among the Northwest tribes for more than a century.   Horses would be stolen from the whites or from other Indians, and then sold back to their owners as a regular thing.   Then, if possible, the horses would be stolen again, and again resold.   Among the Indians it was a recognized honourable vocation, a means of acquiring wealth and prestige.   The HBC custom was to mount guard on their horses at night, pursue any thieves, and insist on restitution which was generally forthcoming.   The American fur traders had done the same.   The miners, however, too intent on getting to the gold fields in the quickest possible time, seldom pursued thieves; rather they frequently shot any lone Indians as presumed thieves, violating the traditional ethics of the Aboriginal Northwest.    Thus, for the Americans, once the miners entered the west, implacable Indian hostility would result, and the U.S. Army would have to be be called upon to quell the outraged Indians.

On July 13, the Mc Loughlin party left Walulla to head north on the old HBC trail David Mc Loughlin knew so well.    They kept to the right bank of the Columbia, hired the local Indians to ferry them across the Snake river at its confluence with the Columbia, and continued along the shore to the White Bluffs landing.   From there they took the HBC trail northeast to Scootenay Springs, and headed north, around the eastern nose of the Saddle Mountains to Moses Lake, a route that afforded grazing for the horses and mules. 

The HBC trails were well marked,  some miles of them still survive along the benches back of Okanagan Lake in British Columbia.    The trails were about four feet wide, pounded into the ground  by the hooves of thousands of horses and pack mules for half a century.   Each trail had several diverging routes for use in different seasons.   The fall and  winter routes were the shortest, along the river and lakesides.   The Spring and Summer routes had to avoid the soft, marshy ground and the swollen creek mouths carrying the runoff from the high mountains behind.   They were located higher up on the gravel benches on dryer ground, and where the creeks afforded easier crossings.    Crucially important were the grazing meadows.    A Hudson Bay Fur Brigade of 400 or so horses and mules, could strip the forage from the grasslands in a single  passage.  Campsites and trail detours were therefore arranged to access the best and deepest meadows along the route.  As well, springs that might be flowing in June and July, would frequently be dry by September, and detours would have to be made to permanent water sources for campsites.

For the Mc Laughlin party, the trail from Moses Lake struck across the plain to Soap Lake, the south entrance to the Grand  Coulee.   They followed the chain of lakes and marshes up the Coulee, being spied on by fifty Sinkiuse Indians under Qual- chan, hoping to give battle or steal the miner’s horses.   The Indians found the Mc Loughlin party too large to attack, but followed, hoping for an opportunity to steal some horses.    In the account they gave later on, the Indians observed one persistent straggler, a Mr. Hillburn, in the party, lagging behind the main body each day.    They decided not to kill him hoping that if the party saw that one of their members could follow behind in safety, they would relax their vigilance.    David Mc Loughlin, however, was too experienced to allow any slackening of discipline; the horses were well guarded, and the Indians gave up.  As an expression of their frustration, before they turned away they crept up behind the party and shot the straggler at what is now Dead Man’s Spring, just south of present Coulee City.   As it was determined by the Indians that Qual-chan’s bullet killed the Californian, he was entitled to the scalp, the man’s horse, and his equipment.

While the Mc Louglin party made their way up the Grand Coulee, the chiefs of the Chelan, Sinkiuse and Okanogan Indians conferred and decided to join all their forces to do battle with the miners.   They agreed to meet at the mouth of the Okanogan River to spy on the party and decide on a place to ambush it.   The HBC trail climbed  out of the Grand Coulee by Barker Canyon and led across the rolling tableland of the Columbia Plateau to Foster Creek and down to the Columbia a short way upstream from Fort Okanogan and the mouth of the Okanogan River.   Here Chief Moses and his Indians met them in parley.    Moses was in a vengeful mood since his brother Quil-ten-e-nock had been killed by miners turned back earlier that spring near the mouth of the Wenatchee River.   He now chose to believe that the killers were in the Mc Loughlin party.   

A parley was held lasting all night with Mc Loughlin, the canny trader, offering to pay the Indians to ferry his men across the the river to the fort.   Finally Moses agreed, but stipulated, that once across the river the miners would be subject to attack and killed.

The next day the miners were ferried over, while the packstock swam the Columbia, some few being swept away and seized by the Indians.    Now in imminent danger, Mc Loughlin formed an  advance and a rear guard of 25 heavily armed men each.   The entire party stretched out for a mile on the HBC trail north.   The Okanogan river flows through a narrow canyon between present Riverside and the rail siding of Janis.   There, at the mouth of Tunk Creek, the Indians set up their ambush.   They felled trees across the trail and piled up rocks for a breastworks on the bluffs above the river.   Francis Wolff, who was in the party, recounts what happened,

“We entered the mouth (of the canyon) with the guard in advance and had proceeded about 100 yards when one of the men noticed some wilted bushes and thinking strange of it went to examine them when the Indians behind it suspecting that we had noticed their ambush, fired.   Then shots came from the sides and rear of us, evidently trying to drive us into the Canyon.   Men threw themselves from their horses and those not killed or wounded retuned the fire.

My horse on which I had my cantenas (a money box) with $2000 gold dust … got away from me and ran up the canyon about 75 yards toward the Indians.  I went for him, and got him and returned to our line.”

The miners were trapped by the Indians in the narrow canyon, and spent an anxious night.   The Indians made an attempt to burn them out by setting fire to the grass and brush, but the miners made rafts and ferried their baggage across to the west bank of the river where they could climb the canyon wall and escape.  The horses on the following day we led to a ford downriver and brought across, and the party proceeded for a couple of miles and camped.    While some made litters for the five wounded, others returned to the canyon to find the Indian positions abandoned.   They buried their three dead and returned to camp. 

On the following day, the party made another ten miles north and camped, making a protective circle of packs around them.   Again the Indians returned to try to stampede the horses, but only succeeded in running off a few.   A parley with the war chiefs was held and  Mc Loughlin arranged a  kind of treaty.   Tobacco, blankets and other gifts were given to the chiefs who promised no more shooting., and the party was given permission to pass.    Still, the Chiefs could not promise to control some of their more eager warriors.  The next night more shooting broke out, and the Indians made another attempt to drive off horses.   Francis Wolff had arranged with his partner at Colville that a band of cattle would be driven over the Colville Trail to join  the McLoughlin party at Osooyos Lake to supply meat for the miners.   When they were but four miles from meeting,  the Indians stampeded the cattle and drove them off.    Miners of the Mc Loughlin party, testing the Similkameen River for gold, found some of the Indians drying meat from the stolen cattle and captured them.    One, however, escaped and told the other Indians that the captives were to be hung.  Another conflict seemed inevitable, when Chief Trader Angus Mac Donald, from Ft. Colvile, arrived with an HBC party, taking furs to Ft. Hope.   Mac Donald had been told  by the Indians that his party would be attacked and two “Bostons” killed if the captive Indians were not released.   Again the Indians were specifically targeting the Americans in the party, not the French or British.   It was the Americans who had been identified by the Sinkiuse as malefactors and murderers.    American bad behaviour in the Washington Territory probably resulted from the large percentage of Mexican War veterans among them.   In California, the Americans had only to intimidate the Indians there who had been demoralized and made dependent on a white society by decades of Mission indoctrination.    Only in the Shasta country, beyond the reach of the Mexicans, had the Americans encountered armed resistance by the Indians.   For most of the miners this fierce opposition by the Sinkiuse and Yakimas acting as Nations and owners of the land, was a shock and an outrage.   They attempted to intimidate what they believed was a degenerate society; the Indians, to their consternation, fought back.   

Mac Donald who had the respect of the Sinkiuse who knew him well, promised that if the Americans would release the Indian captives, he would accompany the party to the Thompson and ensure their safe passage.   This was done, the captives were let go,and the party reached the Thompson River unmolested.   The Americans later complained, that all through the trip, the French packers and the Metis had kept almost entirely out of the fighting.   Of course.    Steeped in the traditions of the HBC, they could see that it was the belligerent Americans who had outraged the Indians, and the American Army which was conducting a war against them.     The most prudent course was to not ally oneself with this Yankee policy of intimidation and conquest. 

Another party of miners on the same route left an inexcusable trail of blood and destruction behind them.   Herman Francis Reinhart recalled that after crossing into British territory about the beginning of July in 1858,

For a few days we traveled along with great care, constantly on the lookout for an Indian attack.

We crossed several nice streams and fine looking farming and grazing land, and got to the British line…   In a few days we got to Okanogan Lake.   Our advanced guards saw some Indians just leaving their camp and cross the lake in their canoes in fear of us.   The boys saw a couple of their dogs at their old camp ground, and shot them down, and they saw some old huts where the Indians had stored a lot of berries for the winter, blackberries and nuts, fifty or a hundred bushels.    They helped themselfs to the berries and nuts, filling several sacks to take along, and the balance they just emptied into the lake, destroying them so that the Indians would not have them for provision  for winter.   I and a great many others, expressed the opinion that it was very imprudent and uncalled for, and no doubt the Indians would retaliate.   But they only laughed and thought it great fun to to kill their dogs and destroy and rob them of their provisions.   Most everyone but those who had done it disapproved of the whole affair.

“The next night we camped on the bank of Lake Okanogan, which is about 150 miles long and from one to six miles wide.   Next morning a man named White, of Company B, could not find his horse.  Some of his friends helped hunt for it, but as the train went on the men were coming down the hill, and someone fired a shot at White, and some men above him on the hill saw some Indians trying to cut White

off from his companions.   The men called to White to go down as the Indians were after him.   So they gave up the horse, and did not look any more for the train had already started on.

“We traveled along the lake all day and camped on the banks at night.   Every morning after we left camp some Indians would come across the lake in canoes and look over our camp grounds to look if we had left or thrown away anything (sometimes we threw away old clothes, hats, shoes, shirts, or old blankets or crusts of bread or meat, and they would come and get them after we left…  That morning the advance guard planned to punish the Indians if they should come to camp a usual after we left. So right after breakfast some 25 men concealed themselves in a gulch close to camp, and the train went on as usual.  We were passing along a high trail close to the lake and we soon saw three or four canoes start to come across from the other side, with seven or eight Indians in each canoe, to go to our camping place.   I  had gone with the train some one and one fourth to one and one half miles, when we heard some shooting.    I stopped to listen and counted over fifty shots.  In course of  half an hour our advance guard that had formed the ambush came up to us and related how they were all lying down in the gulch, to be out of sight, and they got talking to each other and forgot about the Indians to be ambushed, and they were surprised as well as the Indians, for the Indians had landed and were coming toward camp right where the white men lay concealed.   They had no idea of danger from the whites, so some whites happened to raise up to see if the Indians had landed yet, when behold! the Indians were within eight or ten feet from him, and they did not see the whites till they all raised and made a rush for the Indians with their guns and pistols all ready to    shoot.   As soon as the Indians saw the whites, they were so frightened that some turned back and ran towards their boat, some fell down on their knees and begged for (them) not to shoot, as they had no arms at all, and they threw up their hands and arms to show that they had nothing.   But the whites all commenced to fire and shoot at them, and ran out to the lake after those who were getting in their canoes, and kept shooting till the few that had got into the canoes got out of the reach of their guns and rifles.   And lots jumped into the lake was not in the water before they could swim out of reach of their murderers- for they were nothing else, for it was a great slaughter or massacre of what was killed,  for they never made an effort to resist or fired a shot, either gun or pistol, or bows and arrows, and the men were not touched, no more than if they had shot at birds or fish.   It was brutal affair, but the perpetrators of the outrage thought they were heroes, and were the victors in some well-fought battle.   The Indians were completely dumfounded to see a lot of armed men when they expected no one, and ran toward their canoes to get away, and the Indians knelt down and begged for life, saying they were friends.   There must have been 10 or 12 killed and that many wounded, for very few got away unhurt.   Some must have got drowned, and as I said before, it was like killing chickens or dogs or hogs, and a deed Californians should ever be ashamed of, without counting the after consequence.   We traveled on, but many of us expected some revengeful attack.

“We could hear Indians, nights, and saw smoke and signals of lights and smoke on every hill and in every direction to each other in the mountains some forty or fifty miles away.  About a week after the Indian slaughter, in the night ( the guard had seen Indian tracks in the evening close to camp) the guard brought in two Indians.   A mass meeting was called and the Indians were questioned by an interpreter.   They were friendly Shuswap lake, British Columbia, Indians on their way to Colville, in Washington Territory (one of their wives lived there)  and with the permission of the old chief Nick at the Fort   Kamloops or Thompson on Shuswap Lake.   He was on his way to visit his wife; they had walked into camp without fear or evil intention.   They said they had been at the Hudson Bay store at Fort Thompson and old Nick’s tribe were friends to the English, French and scotch living there, trapping and many were married to Indian squaws.  At first our men were for taking them out and shooting them right off for spies, expecting we would be attacked, but they kept denying , and said they were good, peaceable Indians…

At last we came to the conclusion to take them back with us as prisoners to Shuswap Lake, and took their arms from them and always kept guard over them.

“One morning Company F (Dancing Bill’s) took leave and went ahead.    They said we did not travel fast enough for them.   Next day a part of the French company started on ahead.   They thought they would do better by not traveling with the bloodthirsty Americans.   They understood the Indians better than us, and by their intermarriage with the Indians, expected the Indians on and around the Thompson River would favor them with what they knew of the locality of the gold. 

“Some new discoveries had been made north of the Canoe Country, or above the forks of the Fraser river..  Sidolia, the Italian, wanted me to go; he still had all three of our horses.   I told him to go on, and after I got to the Fraser River, I could come up to where he was.   Next night the French company had only gained about one and one half miles, and after they had camped an old Frenchman that had traveled with us a day or two in the Cascade mountains…had left a partner in our train, Company B, and he concluded to come back to his partner, stay all night, and catch up to the balance of is company early in the morning before they packed up, and then go on with them again.   So at break of day he started ahead to catch up to the part of the French company he was going with, but after going about half  way the Indians intercepted him and killed and shot him through the head, three or four shots, and his body was all shot full of holes.  They stripped him and rolled him out of the trail into a gulch alongside of the trail.   He had a shotgun; they took that, and no one, it seems, heard the firing at either ours or his camp.  We started after breakfast and some of our advance guard saw the blood in the road, and Indian footprints or tracks, came to look close, and followed the blood.   A few yards below, they found the body, still quite warm he could not have been dead twenty minutes.  So the train stopped and we loaded his body, naked, across a riding saddle, and some men led the horse, and other held on the body, went over the point of the hill where he was killed.

“When we saw the body, we knew the old Frenchman and sent some horseback men ahead to hurry and stop the French train or company to bury their man.   It took us three or four miles to catch up to where they had stopped, and we all stopped and dug a grave and buried him.   He was perfectly helpless and harmless.    

“We kept on till we came to Fort Thompson.   The Indians kept on the hills and making smoke signals all night, and kept speaking to each other in their own language.   Our two prisoners said they were Okanogan Lake Indians, and had been following us ever since the slaughter of the Indians at the Lake.   They had killed the old Frenchman and were trying to get the Indians on the Thompson River to help them kill us all, but the Indians around the Fort were a sort of civilized, and under old Nicholas, and he was a good Catholic, and Capt. Mc Lean of the Hudson Bay Company Fort was his friend   The friendly Indians were all Catholics and had priests at the fort.

“The next day at noon we camped right opposite the fort.   There were lots of houses, the first we had seen after leaving Fort Okanogan.   It made us feel more cheerful and more like civilization, and here the French Company parted from us.   We kept down the Thompson River to [Kamloops] Lake , where we had to cross over with rafts and canoes, and swim the horses and mules.   Some would have to be held up by the the heads and out of the canoes.   It was a wide, rough place to cross.   Some ten or twelve head of horses were drowned and strangled by not being held up properly at the crossing of the lake.

“Old Nicholas the head chief of the Indians around that country, came to see us about the two prisoners we had brought back from Lake Okanogan.   He was an old man about 65 or 70 years old, wore a stove pipe hat and citizen’s clothes, and had a lot of medals of good character and official vouchers of good conduct for many years.   He was quite angry and said he was surprised to see 300 men take two Indian prisoners and bring them back two or three hundred miles because we thought they were spies, and it was mighty little in us and did not show great bravery.   And about the Okanogan Lake massacre, that it was brutal, and he could not think much of the Bostons, or Americans, that would do the like.   Some of our boys were awful ashamed and some angry to hear an old man tell them so many truths, and some were mad enough to kill him for his boldness in his expressions to us all.   But it was fact none could deny, and Maj. Robinson (Maj. Mortimer Robertson) let the to prisoners go.   I think some of the men gave them some clothing and provisions, with some money to satisfy them for their loss of time and trouble.”

“Major” Robertson (there is no record of his title in any of the Territorial militias) was, like Francis Wolff, making a business of leading parties to the Fraser mines.   In addition to his fee for leadership, he used the armed parties he recruited as an escort to guard the provisions he was taking to the placer grounds.   On arriving at the Fraser, he disbanded the company and set up a store to sell his supplies to the miners at starvation prices.     

In the summer of 1858, as the miner’s brigades were passing north to the Thompson, the U.S. Army received reinforcements and a double campaign as mounted to end Indian hostilities.  Major Garnett with 350 men left fort Simcoe (near present Goldendale) and  moved through the Yakima and Wenatchee River valleys up the west side of the Columbia to fort Okanogan.   Of the 25 Indians wanted for attacking miner’s parties, Garnett’s men “executed” ten and reported the rest had fled either north to the British Possessions or east to the Blackfoot country across the Bitteroots.

Colonel Wright’s men at the same time moved north out of Fort Walla Walla with 700 men into the Palouse defeating the Indians in battles at  Four Lakes and Spokane Plains.   Capturing the Indians’ horses in these battles, Col Wright had some 700 animals shot, depriving the Indians of their ability to steal them back, and reducing them to moving on foot.   Qual-chan, and others who had come into Wright’s camp to parley with him were seized as leaders of the “insurrection” and immediately hung.   

Some eight to ten thousand miners went up the inland trails to the Thompson and Fraser Rivers that summer, by contemporary accounts.    And most returned down the same route in late Fall, to spend the winter in Walla Walla, Portand or the Dalles.   The cost of provisions, packed in over the trails, was just too great to make over wintering on the placer grounds practical.  The U.S. Government was petitioned by the miners to provide Army protection along the trail to the Thompson south of “Forty Nine.”    In response, the Army sent Major Pickney Lugenbeel with two companies of infantry to establish a fort in the Colvile area to protect the miners and the American Boundary Commission which was to arrive the following year to survey and monument the border.   The fort, originally, “Harney’s Depot,” became known as “Pinkney City” and later, “Fort Colville.”    As with “Okanogan,”  and  “Kootenai,” the Americans chose to deliberately adopt a non-British spelling,  symbolic of the closing of the border between British and American soil.   The British Boundary Commission, when they arrived, set up a headquarters and barracks on the banks of the Columbia, four miles north of the HBC post, Fort Colvile.   This, after their departure, would be named Marcus, after the merchant who supplied them, Marcus Oppenheimer.        

The Colville Indians, Sinixt (Lakes), and Kootenais tribes had traditionally traveled up the Columbia and other rivers in the summer to hunt and fish in the Lakes and rivers of the Kootenay District.   They wintered in the drier and sunnier grasslands around Colville.   After the rushes of 1855 and 1858, the miners followed their example.   The Pacific Tribune (Olympia) of July 8, 1865 reported of Pinkney City,

“The permanent population of the place consists of about ten whites, ten Indians, the same number of Chinamen, and from seventy-five to one hundred Cayuse horses.   During the winter, however, it is usually the headquarters of quite a mining population from the Kootenai and Columbia, at which time it is said to be very lively.”

Thus the American miners and prospectors in the Northwest duplicated exactly the Mexican miner’s technique of wintering in warm and sunny Chihuahua, and moving north across the border in the spring to explore the empty lands for gold.   The town of Colville which was to grow up next to the American Army post and replace Pinkney City, became their Chihuahua City, with comfortable and steam heated hotels as a wintering haven.   The more primitive mining camp hotels would heat only two rooms in the winter: the lobby and the bar.   Guest rooms were for sleeping only, with the blankets piled on thickly in winter.   Upon arising, residents would hurry downstairs to claim a chair in front of one of the two roaring wood stoves.   It made for a long and cramped winter.

  Successful miners turned their gold into small hotels like these in the wintering towns, Colville, Spokane Falls, Walla Walla, installed steam heating plants, and put up their cronies for the long winter  season, often on credit.   The lodging and board bills would be redeemed by the transfer of a mining claim or a portion of it to the hotel owner.   In this way Eastern Washington businessmen would gradually became unintentional investors in mines as they were being discovered in Stevens County and across the line in British Columbia.    The presence of bored and idle miners and prospectors throughout the Washington Territory winters ensured, as had the Mexican miners in Chihuahua City, a lively time.

Natural Splendour of the Arrow Lakes


Wednesday’s Photos

Mushroom Fever in the Fall


The mushroom season is over now. The local buyers have closed their shops. It has been a good year. The Pine mushrooms have been bountiful in spite of the extremely dry conditions in the summer and early fall. In the basket you see a very fine collection of No. 1 rated mushrooms (buttons) that were selling this year for about $20 a pound. It always brings excitement and joy to us after Gertrud (Biene) has been combing the local forests for these precious fungi. To highlight the season I wrote this poem a few years ago. Enjoy.





The first report of a mineral occurrence in the Upper Columbia Basin was that of British naturalist, David Douglas.   While accompanying an HBC trading party in 1825, he reached Kootenay Lake and either observed, or more likely was shown, the prominent outcrops of “chicamon rocks” by the local Indians.    British Columbia historians have assumed that the Hudson’s Bay men had shown the local Indians how to break off chunks of the galena outcrop above the lake on the Riondel peninsula, and melt them in a fire to cast bullets for their muskets.    It may have been that the Sinixt and Kootenay Indians had shown the HBC men.   The fact that the Indians had mined galena from outcrops east of Northport, WA before they were “discovered” by American miners, suggests that it was the aboriginals, rather than the HBC men who began the mining of galena in a small way.   All of these deposits of galena (lead sulfide), they called “Dead Medicine,” their term for musket balls.

The chief factor at Fort Colvile from 1833 – 1844 was the educated and energetic Archibald Mc Donald.   Learning of the Kootenay Lake lead deposit from his men, he visited it personally in September, 1844 to determine its value.   He drew a map of the location, collected  a number of samples, and sent them down the river to Dr. John McLaughlin at Fort Vancouver to be forwarded to England for assay.   In his letter to HBC Governor James Douglas,  he describes the location.

“The ore is picked up on the 2nd eminence of the Presque-Isle at “A”, about 100 feet high.   There is something of a crater at top, and ‘tis from the debris or heaving up of old, covering the land side of  the conical hill that the ore is found in loose lumps among the earth…I cut my initial in a large tree along side…”

Chief Factor McLoughlin forwarded the samples to Archibald Barclay, the Secretary of the Company, in London with his observations in a letter of November 23, 1844.

From a small portion of the metal tested here, a considerable  quantity of very fine soft lead was obtained; but our mode of analysis was not sufficiently accurate to detect the traces of any more precious metal.   

“It is not probable that mining operations could be carried on to advantage at Flat Bow (Kootenay) Lake,  the distance being about 600 miles from the sea coast, and the water navigation so difficult and dangerous that the metal would have to be transported with pack horses more than half the distance by land.   The mine is also on the south side of the Columbia River, and will therefore, in all probability, eventually fall within the limits of the United States Territory, and, if the reported mineral wealth of that part of the country becomes known to the Americans, it will raise its value, and may become an additional motive with their Government to make good their claims.”

Several things are clear from this letter.   Mc Loughlin, if not Governor Simpson and the  HBC, already accepted that the British would eventually have to cede the land south of the Columbia to the Americans.   But as long as the status of dual sovereignty endured, it would be best to keep knowledge of any mineral deposits in the District of Columbia confidential, lest it arouse the cupidity of the Americans.   

A source of lead for musket balls was a significant find in the Northwest.   All HBC lead was coming from England by ship, and a local source would be a source of considerable profit for the company.    But the letter also indicates the impracticability of exploiting the deposit since the Bonnington Falls and rapids of the Lower Kootenay River blocked the usual HBC transport by bateaux, and a portage of about 30 miles by pack animals would be required around these obstructions. 

A discovery of lead might be kept confidential within the Company, but gold was a different matter.   The news of the rich gold strikes in California was being discussed all over the Northwest in the 1850s.   Dozens of HBC employees deserted to join the parties of men heading south for the California diggings.   A few, still loyal to the company, or unwilling to leave their families and ranches in the Washington Territory,  wondered.   Was it worth heading south to join the rush, or might there be gold on the Columbia or its tributaries?   The HBC posts in the Interior had been supplied with small sample of gold nuggets from the California diggings.  These were shown to employees and Indians and the question asked:  Had they ever seen anything like this?  The possibility induced Fort Colvile teamster Joseph Morel, who was gathering driftwood on the shore of the Columbia in 1854, to experimentally wash out a few pans of gravel.    

In the Northwest 1854 was one of those years when one era comes to a close and new one opens.   In that year the fur trade in the Northwest was dwindling owing to a reduced demand for beaver pelts.  The HBC was more and more turning to its farms, coal mines, and sawmills to try to develop a trade in flour, coal and lumber with the growing market of Americans to the south.    Two events in the same month metaphorically signalled the change.   On September 27, in Oregon City, that most intrepid of all the HBC fur traders, Peter Skene Ogden slowly slipped from life.    In the same month, HBC teamster Joseph Morel and his fellows found placer gold in the gravel bars and rock crevices of the Columbia River near Ft. Colvile.   

Placer gold consists of the particles and nuggets eroded out of the quartz ledges in the mountains by glacial and water erosion.    They are carried downstream by any fast running current of water, but being heavier than sand or rock, are dropped to the bottom whenever the current slows down.   What had been found in the California rivers in 1848 were the accumulated nuggets and grains of gold that had been caught in rock crevices on the bottoms of the river, and underneath gravel bars on the insweep of curves of the river where the water runs more slowly than on the outsweeps.    This was what Morel and his fellow miners were looking for in the late summer of 1854 as they probed the rock crevices of the Columbia during low water and and dug into the gravel bars at the river bends.

  The first few flakes of gold shining up from the HBC men’s pans were enormously and immediately consequential for the region.   A gold strike could not be hidden, no matter what the HBC policy might be.   Gold miners (the secretive Mexicans aside) cannot be silenced; they will pour out their take for the day on the saloon bar to impress their cronies.    All that fall, excited men from Fort Colvile dug into the Columbia river bars, working slowly upstream.   The treaty of 1846 had set the British – American boundary at the Forty-Ninth Parallel.   Exactly where that line intersected the Columbia was a matter of guesswork.   The crude instruments available to Colvile Chief Factor, Angus Mc Donald suggested that border would fall somewhere close to the confluence of the Pend Orielle and the Columbia, but a precise determination would have to await the arrival of the Boundary Commission surveyors.   Meanwhile, a man named Walker, part Indian, found gold on the Pend Orielle, a large tributary of the Columbia.    The swift running Pend Orielle, on joining the Columbia, slows down to the rate of the larger river, and drops its gold.   Here the richest bars were found.   Men digging these gravels were making  $4 to $10 per day, better than a month’s wages for most.  Two hundred ounces were taken from the Columbia that season.   It was bought by Chief Factor Angus Mc Donald at Ft. Colvile for $12 per ounce.   That autumn it was discreetly sent overland by pack train on the 1849 HBC trail to Ft. Hope, and on to Victoria the next year.    As it turned out, the Pend Orielle diggings were a bare half mile inside British territory, and became the first mining entry into the Canadian portion of the Upper Columbia Basin.     Just across the Columbia from these rich diggings and a quarter mile upstream, the HBC men began construction of a new post, Fort Shepherd, in 1856, on British soil, from which they hoped to control any commercial entry into the British Columbia.        

The post was needed at once.  The news was out: there was placer gold on the Upper Columbia.   Men rushed north from Walla Walla and from the exhausted diggings in California, and in the spring of 1855 the first Colvile Gold Rush was underway.   That year the Columbia, the Pend Orielle, and their tributaries were lined with men, almost all Americans, digging the gravels for the gold that lay along the bedrock.  The mining era on the Upper Columbia  had begun.

   But this Columbia mining was being carried out by a largely American force, in an area chiefly served by American merchants whose merchandise came up the easy military wagon roads from Walla Walla and White Bluffs on the navigable Middle Columbia.    The isolated HBC Fort Colvile (and after 1856, Ft. Shepherd), were linked to Victoria only by the old HBC Brigade trails over the rugged Cascades, one from Osoyoos Lake and the other from Kamloops.   These were crude horse trails with no bridges, no easy switchback gradients, and dangerous in the extreme.   The fur brigades and special expresses always took extra horses along; it was not uncommon to lose half their stock on the terrible mountain descents which were taken by the Indian packers straight down in a wild slide.   Until some dependable, year round, link with the Coast could be established, the Columbia mines would remain largely an American operation.

The Pend Orielle diggings were located approximately where the boundary was believed to be located, as the river ran east from its mouth on the Columbia and no one possessed an instrument capable of accurately establishing latitude within a few hundred yards.    However, in 1859, British Army Captain John Palliser’s “British North American Exploring Expedition” was making its way west into British Columbia with the intention of reuniting its scattered parties at HBC Fort Colvile.  Captain Palliser himself came down the Kootenay River from Kootenay Lake to the Columbia.   Traveling down river he stopped at Fort Shepherd where he was asked by the HBC men at the fort and the miners from the Pend Orielle to take an observation to determine definitively whether the Fort and the placer grounds were actually in British territory as supposed.   Palliser took his observation and finding Fort Shepherd to be 3/4 of a mile ( 1.2 Km) within British Columbia, reported,

“While I was observing, a circle of Scotchmen, Americans, and Indians, surrounded me, anxiously awaiting my decision as to whether the diggings were in American territory or not; strange to say, the Americans were quite as much pleased at my pronouncing in favour of Her Majesty, as the Scotchmen, and the Indians began cheering for King George.”

George III had been dead thirty-nine years, but was still fixed in the Indian imagination as their protector against the “Bostons.”    The Americans’ gratification had much to do with the fact that many of the Pend Orielle miners were deserters from the U.S. army.   The long tradition of the Kootenays as a refuge for disaffected Americans begins with the Pend Orielle miners in 1859. 

Natural Splendour of the Arrow Lakes


Wednesday’s Photo

Fall Poem

A couple of years ago I wrote a poem inspired by the splendour of fall just within our own yard, which represents a microcosmos of the wonderful world of the Arrow Lakes. I embedded the poem two lines at a time into the video that captured the autumnal mood. Enjoy.

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