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THE MINING ERA OF THE CANADIAN COLUMBIA by Bill Laux – Chapter 18

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RED MOUNTAIN

At the same time the Hall brothers had been opening their Silver King mine in 1887, a  pair of prospectors, George Leyson and George Brohman were toiling over the Dewdney trail.   They had left their their exhausted diggings on Rock Creek to have a look at the new silver-copper discoveries at Toad Mountain mines.    After climbing the long set of switchbacks out of Little Sheep Creek, they were on top of the divide looking down the headwaters of Trail Creek about a mile and a half north of the boundary.    As they halted for a short rest, they noticed some dull grey quartz outcrops beside the trail.   They examined these and suspected silver.

Leyson and Brohman were hard rock miners, and they knew that quartz sometimes carried gold.   Although they were simple miners without resources, they knew how to make a crude field test for minerals.   Gold bearing quartz, they knew, was most often a clear white or a rusty brown.   Quartz with silver, they had heard, was dingy grey, an oyster colour, or sometimes almost black.   The field prospector’s first test was to knock off a small piece of promising rock and lick it with his tongue.  This was long established procedure.   Every prospector had a tongue, and it was his first tool of assay.   The mining camp saloons of Rock Creek, of Colville and Ainsworth, were full of men displaying specimens of ore to their cronies, who would at once apply their tongues, and then examine spit-shiny surface with the hand lens each carried.   The saliva — water would do as well — made any flecks of mineral shiny and more visible.   A quick gulp of whiskey took away the foul metallic taste if the mineral were copper or lead.

Leyson and Brohman, up on the Trail Creek Divide, licked their samples and held them to the sunlight, peering at them through their hand lenses.   What they saw were thin, spidery dark blue lines running through the quartz, possibly carrying gold or silver.   They had no commercial assay outfit such as that George Hearst had carried.   However, they knew a few tricks.   They knew that a piece of rock barren of mineral and the size of a small egg, should weigh two ounces, more or less.   They hammered out an egg sized chunk of the quartz they had found.   They carried no scale, or set of weights.   But they had knives and a shot glass from a saloon.   They whittled out a stick, notched its ends and balanced it on the edge of a shovel.   Two identical tin cups were hung from its ends.   The egg sized chunk of quartz was placed in one cup; in the other they poured two shot glasses of water.   If two ounces of water failed to balance the rock, some heavy mineral must be contained in it.   The rock in the cup refused to rise: they had mineral.

Next, they crushed the rock to powder by pounding it with an axe head in their frying pan.   They then carefully poured  the  powdered rock into their “matrass.”   Every knowledgeable prospector carried his “matrass.”   A “matrass” is a test tube.   The word is Arabic, coming from the very first Mediterranean miners.   It went into Spanish, and the Mexican miners in the Southwest taught it to the American miners along with these ancient techniques.

To the powdered sample in their matrass they added mercury, which every miner carried in a small bottle to amalgamate small fleck of gold too tiny to separate by washing.   Salt and soda from their food supply were added , and the tube was filled with water, shaken well, and boiled.   A tiny, pinhead button formed in the bottom of the tube.   This was an amalgam of mercury with some metallic mineral.   The button was carefully removed, washed, and placed on a shovel which was held over the fire to vaporize the mercury.   A very tiny pellet of sponge gold was left.   Their sample contained gold.   The discovery was worth staking.

The field test for silver was more complex.   We do not know if Leyson and Brohman carried nitric acid with them.   If they did, they would have added nitric acid and salt to some of the pulverized rock and gently heated the mixture in their matrass.   If any silver was present it would form a thick, white cloud of silver chloride in the bottom of the tube.   If this were held up to bright sunlight, the white cloud would quickly turn a purply black, an infallible sign of silver.   If the sunlight refused to darken the cloud, they had lead.   If they suspected copper, they could add ammonia.   If then, the white cloud turned blue, copper was confirmed.   Or, lacking ammonia, a knife blade could be dipped into the mixture, and if copper were present it would be deposited on the knife as a reddish stain.

Whatever tests Leyson and Brohman made, they convinced themselves sufficiently to set up camp there on the divide and begin digging on the showing with hand tools.   They staked the location as the Lily May, and worked on it all summer, with picks, sledges, rock drills and shovels, putting down a pit some eighteen feet deep.   They hauled  several tons of ore out of the pit and piled them beside it.   They took samples of this ore to the nearest assayer, probably in Colville.    He reported that the ore ran $4.00 in gold and 29 ounces of silver ( at 90¢ per ounce)  to the ton.   This was not enough to pay for packing the ore to the Columbia for boat transport to a smelter.   Leyson and Brohman therefore abandoned the Lily May, leaving the ore on the dump until such time as the politicians made good on their promise to improve the Dewdney Trail to a wagon road.

In 1889 Newlin Hoover and Oliver Bordeaux  restaked the Lily May.   With E. J. Roberts  laying Daniel Corbin’s track toward Colville at a blistering pace, and intending to push it to the Columbia in the next season, abandoned claims were being restaked all over Stevens Country and across the line in B. C.   Ore that had been too low in grade to pay for packing and wagon haul to Spokane, now might turn out to be commercial with cheap rail transport..

Wintering in Colville, as many prospectors did, was Joe Moris, a French Canadian miner.   In the Spring of 1890, he was hired by Hoover and Bordeaux to go north with Oliver Bordeaux, cross into Canada and do the assessment work on the Lily May.    

Even though snow still covered the ground around Colville on March 17, 1890, Bordeaux and Moris left by sleigh for the Columbia.   Hoover remained behind.   He had claims on Toad Mountain to visit and planned to meet them in Nelson later that Spring.   March was much too early in the season for prospecting, but Bordeaux and Moris wanted to be the first on Trail Creek Divide that spring to scout the ground and to locate claims before the less zealous arrived.  They would then be in a position to sell locations to newcomers.   But packing into the Kootenay mountains over the snow was a brutal proposition; only the strongest and most determined of men could hope to succeed. 

In later years Joe Moris was taught to read and write by his wife, and left this account of that 1890 expedition.

“We left Colville on the seventeenth day of March, 1890, and went as far as Little Dalles by sleigh, and there Mr. Bordeaux hired a boat and two men to help us up the river to the mouth of Trail Creek.  Here Mr. Bordeaux expected to have horses to do the packing from the river to the claim, but we found too much snow on the Trail so we could not use horse for packing.   So Mr. Bordeaux and I had to pack everything on our backs and as I remember it now, it was hard work as we had to travel over five feet of snow, and in the afternoon (when the sun would have softened the crust on the snow) it was impossible to get over it at all. It was not until we were very nearly through with the assessment work that the snow had gone off enough so I could see some bare patches of ground on the south slope of Red Mountain, which showed the surface to be very red and which attracted my attention at once.

“As we were about through with the work, Mr. Bordeaux informed me that he did not have any money to pay me there but he said he had some in Nelson, and I would have to go there for it.   I did not mind that as I had to go somewhere for supplies so I could come back and prospect.   

“We got through with the work at noon on the 18th day of  April, and in the afternoon I started across the country with the intention of going to Red Mountain, but on my way I found a good looking cropping and I stopped right there and located the Home Stake mineral claim and went back to camp.

  “The next morning we left for Nelson.   When we got there Mr. Bordeaux said he would leave the money for me in a day or two.   However, after some four or five days’ waiting, he told me that he had no money and could not pay me.   So I had to look for work.   I went up to the Silver King mine on Toad Mountain and got employment.   I worked there seventeen and one half shifts.

“Then I went down to Nelson and bought what little supplies I could pack on my back and started down the river (on the Government Trail to Sloat’s Landing) for Trail Creek.   But when I got there I found the weather was too bad to prospect so I went to work on the Home Stake and continued that work until Mr. Bourgeois and partner made their appearance.   They started to prospect together and I began prospecting also.   But it was only three days after they got there that Pat, who was Mr. Bourgeois’ partner (but his surname I cannot remember) had enough of the country and quit prospecting in disgust.

“It was then the Mr. Bourgoeis and I began prospecting together and on the second of July, 1890 we located the following claims: Centre Star, War Eagle, Idaho and Virginia, and I put two stakes on the extension of the Centre Star and called it Le Wise.

“We did not stake this claim with the intention of holding it, but just to secure the ground until we could get back from Nelson in case someone came in while we were gone — and also in case we might be able to do something with it.   We could not hold the ground ourselves as we had two claims apiece and that was all we were allowed according to the mining laws of British Columbia.   So we could not hold it even if we wanted to.”   (Evidently, Joe Moris had dropped the Home Stake claim.)

“The next morning, the third of July, we left for Nelson.   We arrived there on the fourth of July, 

the next day.”   (Moris and Bourgeois must have caught the steamer to Sloat’s Landing and made a very quick hike over the 24 mile trail to do this.)   “We had our samples assayed and out of ten samples the best was $3.25 and six of them showed no trace.   So as a natural consequence we were not very much excited over our find, in fact Mr. Bourgeois said he would not go back as the claims were not worth recording.  I thought better of it and told Mr. Bougeois that we had better have the claims put on record and go back and do some work on them, and see if we could not find some ore that had more value.   He consented to do that but he said he did not feel like paying out money to to have traces put on record.   Mr. Bourgeois said he knew Mr. E.S. Topping, who was Deputy Recorder at Nelson at that time, and if I did not mind it, he would go and see Mr. Topping and show him the ore and tell him how much we had of it.   And if he would pay for recording our four claims we would put him on a good extension on the west end of the Centre Star claim, which was as good as any one of our four locations.   This proposition was at once taken up and on the seventeenth of July we started for Trail Creek — and went to work on the Centre Star claim.”

Little Joe Moris was born Joseph Maurice, the fifth of ten childen in a Quebec family in 1864.   He left home at age 11 to work as a galley boy on board a boat on the Great Lakes.   He left the boat for kitchen work in a hotel.   When the Canadian Pacific Railwwy was building west, Moris with a partner joined a CPR construction crew, whipsawing lumber.   When three of the crew were killed by Indians, Moris decided he had enough of railroad construction and struck off alone.   With a small donkey carrying his possessions, he showed up in Colville, Washington around 1885 and sought work at the Old Dominion mine.    Moris recalled in a Spokesman-Review story in 1928, that Big Jack Hanley was looking for someone to wriggle into a narrow vein and mine out the high grade silver ore without wasting effort dealing with the waste rock.  Small Joe Moris was just the man he wanted, and hired him on the spot.  For the next five years Moris would work off and on at the Old Dominion, earning enough for a grubstake, then taking off into the mountains with his burro for some amateur prospecting on his own.   He was known as an honest and hard worker, uneducated, but could find work mining whenever he needed funds. Prospecting in the open air, rather than underground mining, was his life and his chosen vocation.  He continued this life of winter mining and summer prospecting until the trip to the Trail Creek Divide with Oliver Bordeaux in 1890.

After the Red Mountain discovery, Moris worked at opening up his and Bourgeois’ claims on Red Mountain until they were able to sell them.   With money in his pocket, Moris then went to Spokane to renew his acquaintance with Miss Rebecca Trego, a schoolteacher from Kansas City.   The pair were married in California  in 1894, and Mrs. Moris taught her husband to read and write. 

For a time the couple lived in Rossland where Moris worked at the Le Roi Mine whose manager, Colonel Peyton, took a liking to him and hired a tutor to help him complete his education.   Moris farmed for a while near Spokane, but prospecting drew him back to Canada.   He joined the Klondike Rush in 1898 and worked and prospected there.   He continued prospecting trips with his wife by air into the Big Bear Lake country of the Northwest Territories, and to camps in Utah, Montana, Idaho and Nevada.   His last prospecting trip was in 1938.   This tough and honest little man died in Spokane Feb. 7, 1964, just short of his 100th birthday.

   

  

Albert Schweitzer – Seminar #16

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Die Geschichte vom „Tierheim“ in Lambarene

Albert Schweitzer liebte nicht nur die Menschen, sondern auch die Tiere und die Pflanzen. Ihm war alles Leben heilig. Kein Wunder, dass er sich in seinem Krankenhaus nicht nur um kranke Menschen, sondern auch um kranke Tiere kümmerte. Bei ihren Arbeiten im Urwald, am Fluss oder im Gemüsegarten fanden die Leute oftmals kranke oder verlassene Tiere. Sie hatten vom Doktor gelernt, dass man solchen Tieren helfen muss und sie nicht im Stich lassen darf. Einmal brachten die Männer, die im Wald gearbeitet hatten, eine kleine Antilope an. die ihre Mutter verloren hatte. Antilopen sehen aus wie Rehe. Alberts Helferin Emma Hausknecht nahm eine Babyflasche, füllte Büchsenmilch hinein und gab sie der kleinen Antilope zum Trinken. So wuchs das Tier heran und war so zahm, dass sie den Menschen aus der Hand fraß. Sie ging auch in das Arbeitszimmer des Doktors und knabberte dort das Schreibpapier an. Deshalb musste er die beschriebenen Seiten an einen Nagel an der Wand aufhängen. Einmal hatte die kleine Antilope sogar alle seine Briefmarken aufgefressen, die auf dem Tisch gelegen hatten.

Ein anderes Mal grunzte es plötzlich vor dem Doktorhaus. Als Albert Schweitzer heraus sah, erblickte er eine Frau mit einem kleinen Wildschein auf dem Arm. Sie wollte es dem Doktor verkaufen, weil sie Geld brauchte.

Dem Doktor taten sowohl die Frau als auch das Schweinchen leid, und so kaufte er es der Frau ab. Seiner Frau Helene gefiel das ganz und gar nicht. Schließlich gab es schon genug zu tun im Hospital. Aber Albert baute einen kleinen Käfig, sperrte das Schwein dort ein und ging zu seinen Kranken. Als er zurückkam, war das Schwein verschwunden. Es hatte sich unter dem Zaun des Käfigs durchgewühlt, war zum Doktorhaus gelaufen und hatte sich gemütlich vor die Tür gelegt. Es sah den Doktor freundlich an, als wollte es zu ihm sagen: „Hier bin ich wieder. Du brauchst mich nicht einzusperren, ich laufe dir nicht weg!“ Albert ließ es auch laufen und gab ihm den Namen Josephine. Das Tier war ein richtiger kleiner Schlingel. Einmal hatte es sich im Schlamm gewälzt. Dann rannte es in die Kirche, wo gerade Gottesdienst war. Es drängte sich zwischen die Reihen und beschmierte alle Kleider und Hosen der Gläubigen mit seinem Schlamm. Dann legte es sich hin und schlief einfach ein.

Ein anderes Tier war ein Pelikan. Er war verletzt und musste am Flügel operiert werden. Auch er war für die Hilfe dankbar, fühlte sich im Hospital wohl und flog nicht mehr weg, nachdem er wieder gesund geworden war. Er war auch ein kleiner Schlingel, denn er zwickte mit seinem langen Schnabel andere Tiere, aber auch die Menschen in die Beine. Über ihn hat Albert Schweitzer ein kleines Buch geschrieben. Es heißt: „Ein Pelikan erzählt aus seinem Leben“. Aus diesem Buch werden wir später vorlesen. So kamen mit der Zeit noch viele andere Tiere in das Hospital. Es waren Affen, Papageien, Hunde, Katzen, Schafe, Igel und Eulen. Lambarene war nicht ein Krankenhaus für Menschen, sondern eigentlich auch ein kleines Tierheim. Jedes Tier bekam einen „Paten“, der sich um sein Wohl kümmerte, es fütterte und beaufsichtigte. Albert Schweitzer sagte immer: „Tierschutz erzieht zur Menschlichkeit“.

Albert Schweitzer – Seminar #15

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AS01

 

Wie Albert Schweitzer einem Kranken erklärt, warum er nach Lambarene kam

Als alle Bretter und Pfähle aus dem Sägewerk angekommen waren, konnte der Bau der Baracken beginnen. Dazu wurden Flächen eingeebnet und glatt geharkt. Dann zog der Doktor lange Striche in den Boden, wo die Baracken stehen sollten. Zuerst wurden Pfähle eingegraben, auf denen die Häuschen stehen sollten. Beim Ausgraben der Löcher für die Pfähle achtete Albert darauf, dass keine Käfer oder Würmer hineingefallen waren. Wenn das doch passiert war, kniete er sich hin und hob die Tierchen aus dem Loch, damit sie nicht sterben mussten. Die Pfähle waren für die Häuser wichtig, damit beim Regen nicht das Wasser in die Räume floss und damit auch keine Schlangen hineinkriechen konnten. In den Räumen wurden breite Betten aufgestellt, welche die Angehörigen für ihre Kranken bauen mussten. Auch hierfür hat ihnen Albert Schweitzer alles gezeigt. Dabei hat er sich an die Tischler in seinem Heimatdorf Günsbach erinnert, denen er als Kind immer bei der Arbeit zugesehen hatte. In den Betten lag trockenes Gras, das als Matratze diente.

Da sie keine Dachziegeln hatten, deckten sie die Dächer mit Palmenblättern ab. Auch sie hielten den Regen ab und spendeten Schatten. Glasfenster gab es nicht, sondern nur offene Türen, durch die die Luft hindurchziehen konnte. Dann war es nicht zu heiß.

Es gab auch einen großen Raum in einer Baracke. Der diente als Operationssaal. Nun hatten Albert, Helene und Joseph genügend Platz zum Operieren. Aber sie hatten noch kein elektrisches Licht, sondern mussten sich mit Öllampen begnügen. Das erschwerte ihre Arbeit sehr, denn man konnte nur schlecht sehen.

Einmal wurde ein kranker Mann in das Hospital gebracht. Er hatte einen eingeklemmten Bruch am Bauch. Seine Bauchwand war aufgerissen und der Darm trat hervor. Das schmerzte sehr und der Mann stöhnte und weinte. Albert legte ihm die Hand auf die Stirn und tröstete ihn: „Du brauchst keine Angst zu haben. Du wirst gleich einschlafen und wenn du wieder aufwachst, hast du keine Schmerzen mehr!“ Der Kranke wurde auf den Operationstisch gelegt, und Helene gab ihm die Narkose. So schlief er schnell und fest ein. Dann reichte Joseph dem Doktor das Operationsmesser, mit dem er den Bauch aufschnitt und den eingeklemmten Darm wieder in die Bauchhöhle drückte.

Schließlich nähte er die Bauchwand wieder zu. Als der Kranke wieder aus der Narkose erwachte, rief er aus: „Ich habe nicht mehr weh!“ Er ergriff die Hand des Doktors und dankte ihm. Doch Albert sagte ihm: „Mir brauchst du nicht zu danken! Mich hat Jesus geschickt und hat gesagt, dass ich dir und anderen Menschen helfen soll. Und viele weiße Menschen in Europa und Amerika haben Geld gespendet, damit ich Medizin kaufen kann.“ Das hat der operierte schwarze Mann verstanden. So saßen der weiße Albert und der schwarze Afrikaner beieinander und erkannten: Wir alle sind Brüder!

albert

THE MINING ERA OF THE CANADIAN COLUMBIA by Bill Laux – Chapter 14

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POLITICS AND RAILROADS

Canada had come into existence in 1867 as a confederation of the Eastern Colonies, independent of Britain, although its citizens remained British subjects.   Union with the new Canada was seen as one solution to the depressed economy in British Columbia.   Once the miners had departed from the Cariboo, Wild Horse and Big Bend, the flow of gold ceased, and many of the businesses supplying the miners failed.   There was a net out-migration from the Colony.

Protectionist sentiment in the U.S. had imposed a 10 per cent duty on imports from B.C., and the lumbermen, farmers and fishers of Oregon and the new Washington Territory were supplanting British Columbia in the California markets.   In 1854  the San Francisco lumber firm of Pope and Talbot had come north to set up the first steam sawmill in the American Northwest at Port Gamble on Puget Sound.   To allow B.C. lumbermen to compete in the U.S. market, the government’s royalty on timber was lowered, beginning a practice which continues to this day: letting U.S. market conditions determine the price British Columbia loggers pay for trees.

As well, the Colonial status was now seen as a hindrance to progress, an obsolete and inefficient form of government unrepresentative of the people’s wishes.   It was absurd to have all political decisions subject to ratification by London and the 6 months it took to get a question to the Colonial Office and a reply back.  The great trade centres of British North America were on the Atlantic seaboard; B.C. customers were in the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii, still an independent kingdom), Hong Kong, 5000 miles to the west and the modest settlements of Oregon and the Washington Territory.   If a wagon road could be built to link British Columbia with Lake Superior, B.C. merchants believed they could then enter into partnerships with the great eastern houses.   Walter Moberly was given the job in 1864 of surveying a route for a coach road over the Selkirk and Rocky Mountains and east toward the new nation of Canada.  In 1868, Joseph Truch, Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works for the Colony, presented a Minute to the Colonial Assembly, An Overland Coach Road to Canada.  In it he outlined three possible routes and recommended one that would go by the Cariboo Road  to Cache Creek, its branch to Savona’s; by sternwheel steamer to Eagle Pass Landing (Sicamous); over the Eagle Pass to Farwell’s (Revelstoke); up the Columbia around Big Bend and over Howse Pass to the navigable North Saskatchewan River.   From there sternwheel steamer would be used down the North Saskatchewan and Saskachewan Rivers to Lake Winnipeg, and by the Red River cart road from Fort Garry to Fort William on Lake Superior where lake boats connected to Toronto and Montreal.   Truch thought of the project as a coach road only, as the many transfers from wagon to boat and back to wagon would make the shipment of freight uneconomic; it could better be sent by ship around the Horn.   

The chief sentiments animated those British Columbians who sought union with the Canada were the wish for representative government, and the hope of profitable trading partnerships with the east.   Above all, it was essential that a union with Canada “must be to the material and pecuniary advantage of this Colony,” Dr. Helmken insisted in the Legislature.  Amor de Cosmos, representing the populist view, envisioned a more radical kind of democracy,

“I would not object to a little revolution now and again in British Columbia, after Confederation,

if we were treated unfairly; for I am one of those who believes that political hatreds attest to the vitality of the state.”

Among the opponents of Confederation with Canada were those who would lose their Colonial appointments.   Judge Haynes, speaking for the appointed officials asked that some means be found to place them “…in safety, in view of the changes likely to take place on this Colony entering Confederation.”   The officials of the Hudson’s Bay Company, as well, were opposed to union, reluctant to lose their commercial ascendancy.    They would, however, make no common cause with the other anti-confederationists, whom they regarded as effete and snobbish drones.   There was also, among most British Columbians, a disdain for and dislike of  Canadians, who were found to be joyless and heavy Methodists, grasping and materialist.   To be obliged to accept these crude social inferiors as the Senior government, and lose their direct contact with Her Majesty and her Ministers was an intolerable thought for Anglophiles.   

With opinion divided in British Columbia, Governor Musgrave, who had succeeded Governor Seymour, suggested to the Colonial Secretary in London that, “If a railway would be promised, scarcely any other question would be allowed to be a difficulty.”   Like the idea of the Great Coach Road, a Railway from Montreal to the Pacific was to politicians but a line on a map, something that could be casually turned over to the Engineers for execution.    This was serious politics, and no one questioned the expense, the formidable mountains to be crossed, the availability of financing.   How sincere was this promise of a railway remains an unanswered question.   The suggestion seems to be that, should British Columbians appear likely to reject the terms of union with Canada, the promise of a railway, that red line on a map, would swing the vote in favour of confederation.   Once B.C. was in, the question of actual construction of such a work could be addressed, and its practicality and timing considered.   

In British Columbia, however, the railway was seen as real, an actual timber and steel line of unbroken track, a functioning link with the commercial centres of the east.  The railway, infinitely more than political union with the despised Methodists, would link its merchants with prosperous Eastern houses, and rescue the Colony from bankruptcy which now loomed since the gold diggers had departed.    

The terms of union were agreed on by the British Columbia and the Canadian delegations, and the proposal went to Parliament in Ottawa for ratification.   The terms provided that the Dominion of Canada would assume the Colony’s debt, and that the new Province of British Columbia would be granted an annual subsidy of $216,000.   Half of this sum was supposed to be a payment for a Provincial grant of a “Railway Belt,” 40 miles wide, along the route of the proposed track.   The future sale of these  Railway Belt lands were to pay for the construction of the line.   The railway construction was to be begun within two years, and be completed by ten.   Further, Canada would pay the salaries of the Lieutenant Governor, the judges, would maintain a postal service, a telegraph service, customs, militia, a penitentiary, and a geological survey.  Those Colonial officials who would be displaced would receive Canadian pensions, and the new province was to introduce responsible government whenever that might be desired by the inhabitants.

South of the border, however,  another railway was being projected for the Northwest, the American Northern Pacific line which was to run from Lake Superior to Puget Sound.   In the deliberations of the U.S. Congress the Northern Pacific was seen as a line which would open the Northwest of British North America to American annexation.   In  July, 1866, before the Confederation of the Canadian Colonies, Congressman, General N.P. Banks, introduced his Northern Pacific railroad bill to provide for, “…the States (sic) of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Canada East and Canada West, and the territories of Selkirk, Saskatchewan and Columbia (sic) are constituted and admitted as States and Territories of the United States.” On December 9, 1868 Senator Ramsey of Minnesota moved a resolution that asked, “ That Canada, with the consent of Great Britain, shall cede to the United States the districts of North America west of Longitude 90º on the conditions following…”

     Senator Ramsey proposed that the U.S. should pay the HBC $6,000,000 for its claims and rights.   The U.S. would also assume the debt of British Columbia to the amount of $2,000,000, and that the Northwest Territory should be organized into three territories with the same rights and privileges and government as the Montana Territory.    Further, the U.S. government should guarantee dividends of 5% on the stock of the Northern Pacific Railroad.   It is obvious that in the American mind the Northern Pacific Railroad was to be built to exploit the British as well as the American Northwest.  The resolution was passed and sent to the Railroad Committee for detailed consideration.   In their report, released in February 1869 the Committee noted that:

“The line of the North Pacific (sic) runs for 1500 miles near the British possessions and when built will drain the agricultural products of the rich Saskatchewan and Red River Districts east of the mountains, and the gold country of the Fraser, Thompson and Kootenay Rivers west of the mountains…  The opening by us of a North Pacific Railroad seals the destiny of the British possessions west of the 91st Meridian.   They will become so strongly Americanized in interest and feelings that they will be in effect severed from the new Dominion and the question of their annexation will be but a question of time.”

It was the view of politicians in the U.S. that the Northern Pacific Railroad was to Americanize the Canadians, while to the Canadians, the proposed Canadian Pacific Railway was to Canadianize those difficult British Columbians.   It is not at all evident that the Canadians in Ottawa followed the railway debates in the U.S. Congress.   From whatever they thought of the proposed Northern Pacific Railway, they seemed to suppose that Great Britain would not permit it to enter British Columbia.

But from the beginning, doubts were expressed, both in Ottawa and B.C., that the railway promise was sincere.   Building the railway would require a country of but 3 million to build two thousand miles of track to link up with only 10,000 Europeans and perhaps 30,000 Aboriginals.  It seemed to the hard headed, and the Canadians were certainly these, that it was a mad enterprise.   Nevertheless, south of the border, on February 15, 1870, the Northern Pacific began building  west from the head of Lake Superior headed for Puget Sound.   The next month debate on the motion for Union with Canada.   In the British Columbia Assembly Dr. Helmken expressed his deep misgivings, and suggested that if the Canadian railway were not in place in ten years, the Province would demand compensation and have good cause to secede.    He may well have been thinking that the Northern Pacific would be completed by then and ready to extend its tracks across the border into British Columbia.     

In Ottawa Parliamentary ratification of the terms of union was not automatic as had been assumed at the start.  Debate began on April 1, 1871.   Two weeks previous the Northern Pacific began construction on the western end of their line, by grading north from Kalama on the Columbia toward Puget Sound.   Whatever the Canadian parliament decided, the American railway would soon be in place to capture B.C. trade.   In Ottawa the opposition Liberals argued that the railway promise would bankrupt the country if built.   The governing Tories were unwilling to be bound by that ten year promise.  Debate began on April 1, 1871, and the government found itself in difficulty with its own members at once over that promise to begin construction in two years and complete it by ten.   Joseph Truch, who was a member of the Legislative Council of B.C. proposed to win over the recalcitrant  government members by softening the promise.   He apparently told the caucus that the people of B.C. would not hold them precisely to their promise, a statement which he had no authorization whatever to make.  Publicly he produced a masterful equivocation: British Columbians, he said, were a reasonable people and it would be a fallacy to assume that they would demand the railway promise “ to be carried out in the exact interpretation of the words themselves, regardless of all expectation.”   Truch was a British Colonial Officer, and these words reflected the genteel mendacity with which the British had for a century been administering their colonies.

Back in British Columbia, however, Truch’s statement was considered treasonous.   He had sided with the hated Ontarians, and betrayed B.C.   But the weasel words had worked.   The Union was approved, Truch was rewarded by being appointed Lieutenant Governor of the new Province of British Columbia in place of Amor De Cosmos who would have been the popular choice.

By betraying B.C. aspirations, Truch had accomplished two things, he had achieved union, and he had kept the populist leader from power in Victoria.    He had done the will of Great Britain and the Ontarians.   As Lieutenant Governor, Truch represented the members of the old HBC hegemony in British Columbia, and he attempted to govern it in the manner of the old Colonial despots, Simpson and Douglas.   He used his power as Lieutenant Governor to pick an utter non-entity, John McCreight as Provincial Premier, when again, the choice should have gone by popular will, to Amor De Cosmos.   And in a further perversion of his powers, Truch insisted on sitting in on all Cabinet meetings.    This would not be tolerated in Britain, nor anywhere else, and it was a bad beginning to a Provincial government which was to perpetuate in future legislatures, a tyranny of the government over the opposition.

In choosing union with Canada, the majority of British Columbians had opted for political change, for representative government.   What they had gotten, thanks to Joseph Truch’s betrayal, was the old Colonial system of appointed officials domineering over elective representatives.   The force for change, however, was stronger than Truch expected.   At the end of 1872, the ineffective Mc Creight was forced out, and Truch had to grit his teeth and call on De Cosmos, the only candidate with the confidence of the Legislative Assembly, to form a government.   De Cosmos took over and refused absolutely to hold a cabinet meeting with the Lieutenant Governor in the room.   Truch was obliged to distance himself, and finally, painfully, representative government was allowed to begin functioning in British Columbia.

Interior B.C. was, except for the old Colonial officers, quite untouched by the union with Canada.   The Langevin Report for 1870 stated that the Kootenays had 103 white males, 5 white females, 2 coloured males, 139 Chinese males, no Chinese females.   Aboriginals were not recorded. Of these 249 persons, 6 were employed in agriculture, none in manufacturing, 20 in trading, and 222 in mining.   The occupation of the one missing person is not recorded; perhaps this was the magistrate.     The HBC traders at Fort Shepherd and Tobacco Plains, the miners, some thousand or so Indians, and a judge comprised the population, the majority of which was Chinese.   Probably most of them had not heard of the Union.

  The Union was a fact, however, and the District of Yale-Kootenay was to send one member to the Dominion Parliament.   No one but Captain Houghton could be bothered.   Now, in 1871, he made his way to Yale on horseback to the nomination convention.   But astonishingly, there could be found but two eligible voters in Yale willing and able to participate. Nor was there any other candidate.   Captain Houghton was nominated by a vote of 2 to 0, and elected by acclamation.   It is doubtful if anyone in Kootenay, knew or cared.     

The Provincial Legislature continued a contentious body.   There were no political parties in British Columbia at this time.   In the Colonial Administration the Colonial Council had divided always into the majority of appointed members, representing the Governor, and the minority of elected members, the opposition.   Now, with a fully elected house, the members broke into local factions, which carried on the old quarrel between the two colonies, the Vancouver Island members opposing the Mainland members.   Those few from the Interior opposed both Coastal interests.    

In Ottawa B.C’s six members had no party affiliation, but were bound to support Prime Minister Mc Donald whose government had promised the railroad.   By the terms of Union, railroad construction was to begin by 1873.  The year came; there was no sign of construction.   Amor De Cosmos, who had promoted Union, and fought for it so vigorously, was now in trouble.   He went to Ottawa to lobby for the promised railway.   But the problem for Mc Donald and his Conservatives was to find someone to finance this extremely costly undertaking.   The efforts to put together a syndicate of wealthy men resulted in a corruption scandal that brought down the government.  The new Liberal government under Mc Kenzie was firmly set against building the railway until it could be afforded.   He suggested to a desperate De Cosmos that the terms of union be renegotiated with the railway time clause eliminated.    De Cosmos was devastated; he was now the man who had led B.C. into a union with a government which was refusing to honour its promises.    The best De Cosmos could get from Mc Kenzie was an immediate $1 million cash loan, and a further cash grant in lieu of the promised drydock.    But for these he had to agree to let the Dominion government indefinitely postpone the railway.

De Cosmos returned to B.C. to find a Legislature and a people wholly opposed to any changes whatsoever in the terms of union until Mackenzie should publicly and unequivocally promise the railway.   Now one of those salutary little revolutions that De Cosmos had previously favoured, took place.   A mob, insistent on presenting their demands for a referendum on any changes to the terms of union, stormed the legislature chanting, “We’ll hang old De Cosmos on a sour apple tree.”   Disorder followed.   Clubs were brandished, guns were drawn, the Legislature was thrown into tumult.   Although no blood was spilled, De Cosmos was obliged to lock himself in his room for safety, and the Speaker hastily adjourned the house and fled the assembly.

A victim of the “political hatreds attesting to the vitality” of British Columbians, De Cosmos resigned his seat in the legislature, but kept his seat as a Dominion member of parliament, and fled east to orderly Ottawa.    When the B.C. Legislature met again, it acknowledged the wishes of the people that the mob had represented, and passed a resolution that no change could be made in the terms of Union without the consent of the electorate.

With De Cosmos’ departure, Anthony Walkem became Premier and spokesman for the forces against the mendacity of Ottawa.   However, a split appeared in the pro railway forces, whether innocent or manipulated cannot be determined.    As the province was spilt politically between the Island and the Mainland, the railway supporters split as well.   Two routes for the Railway had been proposed, one would be a northerly route, reaching salt water at Bute Inlet, cross by boat (or improbably by a very long bridge) to Vancouver Island, and proceed by rail down the Island to Victoria.    The other route, equally formidable, would come down the Fraser canyon and reach tidewater at Burrard Inlet with a ferry connection to Victoria.  Premier Walkem chose the Bute Inlet route, since that would make Victoria the terminus of this transcontinental railway, while the Fraser Canyon route would put the terminus and its port on the Mainland.

The Imperial Government, which was responsible for introduction of the railway promise into the terms of union, now feared that separation was a real possibility if something substantial were not offered the disaffected Canadians of British Columbia.   It certainly did not wish to reassume the financial burden of the bankrupt Colony.    A compromise was proposed.   An immediate start was to be made on a railway to link the two Island cities, Victoria and Nanaimo, and railway surveys were to begin on the mainland.   A wagon road and a telegraph line were to be built from the Red River to the Pacific.   It was promised that $2,000,000 were to be spent annually on railway construction, but no firm completion date was mentioned.   These were the Carnarvon Terms from London.

This compromise could have been accepted by both parties in Ottawa and would have got the Dominion government out of an embarrassing spot.  For, if B.C. separated from Canada, the Americans stood ready to purchase her with their own Northern Pacific railway line which, delayed by mismanagement and failure of financing, was slowly creeping toward completion. In 1874 its trains were running from Portland to Tacoma, although the line through the Rockies was still to be built.  In Ottawa the influential Liberal, Eward Blake was implacably opposed to any subsidies whatever to the Pacific Province, and was quite willing to see it secede if that would preserve financial prudence.   Blake’s opposition tied MacKenzie’s hands and the Carnarvon Terms were rejected by the Dominion Senate. 

As a shamefaced sop to B.C. Mackenzie and Blake offered a cash payment of $750,000 as compensation for delay in beginning the railway.   This offer was greeted with intense suspicion by British Columbians and the Walkem government.   The cash offer could be interpreted as a payment for future as well as past delay.  Accepting it could be seen as releasing the Dominion government from its promise.   Standing on these principles, the offer was rejected in 1876, and a resolution was passed calling for secession from Canada.   The then situation in B.C. was intolerable; in joining Canada the province had been obliged to give up its chief sources of revenue, the Customs and Excise collections, to the Dominion government.  Without a revenue, B.C. was reduced to subsisting on humiliating handouts from Ottawa.   Without the railway there was no hope of integration into the Canadian economy which could have saved it.

With B.C.’s rejection of the cash grant and its threat of separation, the Liberal Government in Ottawa lost its nerve and dithered.   De Cosmos angrily attempted to insert an amendment into an unrelated bill calling for work on the Esquimalt to Nanaimo railway to begin at once.   Only six eastern members joined the British Columbians in voting for the amendment.   This vote made it clear to B.C. citizens just how little regarded they were in central Canada.   Their threat of separation had been met with casual indifference.   The Walkem government was  disgraced and driven from office.  It had stood on principle and refused the cash offer.   It had threatened separation, and Canada had not cared.   

Andrew Elliot, a former Colonial magistrate, took over as Premier.   His government was as ineffectual as Walkem’s.   The citizens of British Columbia were in a foul and angry mood and ready to lash out at anyone.    The Government in London had the Dominion Governor General  make a Viceregal tour in the old Imperial way, with smashed wine bottles and flag raisings.   The populist faction of the citizenry were unimpressed.   They erected the traditional arches festooned with fir boughs to welcome the Marquess of Dufferin, but pointedly hung signs on them threatening secession if the railway were not commenced at once.   His Excellency, equally pointedly, refused to pass under any arches so placarded.   Amid all this archaic symbolism, the situation worsened.   In 1878, De Cosmos rose in parliament to utter a new threat.  If the railway were not begun at once, British Columbia would have no other alternative but to seek annexation to the United States.   De Cosmos hated Americans from his time in California.   He made the threat, which only spite would have made him carry out, to try to make parliament understand the depth of feeling and legitimate anger of his constituents.   Parliament’s response was little more than a yawn.

In British Columbia the feeble Elliot government fell, and Walkem came back, promising to solve the railway impasse.   British Columbia had but one card to play, that of secession.   On August 9, 1878 Walkem moved an address to the Queen, asking Her Majesty, in light of the broken promises of the Dominion Government, to grant British Columbia the right to withdraw from the union and receive compensation for the defaulted pledges.   The motion passed, 14 to 9.

But at this point Walkem lost his nerve.    Instead of sending the message to London where it would have elicited some sort of action, he weaseled and sent it to the Dominion Secretary of State in Ottawa for forwarding to Her Majesty.   This made it clear to the MacKenzie government that the message was just one more threat directed at it, and not a serious move to separate.   MacKenzie’s government simply “mislaid” the Address to the Queen, and it was never transmitted.   Shortly after, MacKenzie’s government was defeated and Mac Donald was back with his Conservatives and a new National Policy in which the Railway to the Pacific was a major plank. 

The decade of political turmoil and mendacity of the 1870s had all been quite absurd.   The Province of British Columbia had for six years begged, cajoled, threatened and gone to the brink of secession over the railroad with the Dominion government.   Now, with a simple election, the railroad was to be built.  It should not be thought that the MacDonald had announced  his railway policy to mollify British Columbians, or to redeem the promise of 1870 as the residents of the Pacific Province believed.  Mc Donald had cleverly annouced the railway as a  National Project that would project the commercial interests of Ontario and Quebec onto the Pacific Coast so that they might enter the lucrative Asian trade.   This was the Conservatives’s railway policy, an expansion of Central Canada’s power to the Pacific; the wishes of 10,000 British Columbians were quite insignificant in Ottawa.

Amor De Cosmos, who had been politically destroyed by the railway issue, rose in bitter anger in the house in April of 1879 to excoriate the members of both parties for five years of hostility to British Columbia.   In wild sarcasm he challenged them to do in fact what for five years they had done by indifference, moving a motion to exclude B.C. from Canada.    British Columbia, he said, “has been called an excrescence, and incubus, has been accused of endeavouring to gain something from this Dominion without any equivalent.   I ask the honourable members who say they wish to get rid of this province, to second the motion.”   The house was silent.   Not even one of the five other B.C. members would second De Cosmos’ motion.   He concluded with the angrily prophetic  statement,  “The people of British Columbia have as little faith in one side (party) as they had in the other.”    De Cosmos, now eclipsed, had expressed the bitter judgment of the people of B.C.: the Dominion government, under whatever party, would never be trustworthy.    They wanted a Canadian commercial front on the Pacific, but they would never be willing to pay the price for the union of British Columbia.   It is a distrust of the Ottawa government, and an anger at central Canada that subsists in B.C. to this day, and is regularly exploited by Provincial politicians of all parties.     

The actual construction of the long promised railway was, if anything, even more difficult and frustrating than the five years of political wrangling over whether it was to be built at all.   First, the Dominion government had to find that syndicate of wealthy men able to raise the funds for 1900 miles of construction through an uninhabited country, four mountain ranges and six hundred miles of solid and barren rock north of Lake Superior.   Sir Sanford Flemming, who had surveyed the route through the tumultuous Seventies, had estimated it would cost $100 million, an astronomical sum for a country of but four million.

The wealthy banker George Stephen, whom MacDonald had with difficulty persuaded to lead the syndicate to built the CPR, held out for concessions without which he absolutely refused to undertake the project.   

First, was a monopoly clause in the contract, prohibiting any other railway from building between the CPR and and the U.S. border.   This was directed at the Northern Pacific Railway which had been completed in 1883 and had become the de facto link between British Columbia and Canada.   One took a steamer from Victoria or New Westminster to Tacoma, rode the Northern Pacific to St Paul, the Milwaukee Railroad to Chicago and the Grand Trunk to Toronto, Ottawa or Montreal.  All freight went in bond via this route as well and U.S. line was planning an extension north up the Red River Valley to Winnipeg.    The Dominion Government could enforce this prohibition in the empty Northwest Territory where it had sole authority.   In Ontario and British Columbia, MacDonald promised to have the Dominion Government disallow any Provincial Railway charter for a line in this CPR claimed territory.    This promise was redeemed  in 1883 when the B. C. legislature authorized the American Ainsworth Syndicate with mines on Kootenay Lake, to build a 40 mile portage railway around the falls and rapids on the Lower Kootenay River.   The Dominion Government found the Ainsworth’s railway to be essentially an entry of the Northern Pacific into the lands promised the CPR as its exclusive territory.

Second, the syndicate insisted on a cash subsidy of  $25 million and a land grant of 25 million acres along the right of way.

Third, that whoever built the railway should “run it forever.”

Fourth, that the syndicate would receive those portions of the railway already built or contracted for by the government.

These were enormous gifts, but the undertaking was even more enormous.   By its completion in 1885, it would very nearly bankrupt the syndicate, and nearly defeat the government as more and more loan guarantees had to be made to keep the work from collapsing.

No one knows to this day what it cost; $150 millions is a probably a good guess.

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

8

THE ‘SQUAWMEN’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the current of the river, to push it across.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of these women told historian, Celon Kingston,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holgar Jurgensen, another acquaintance,  said,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE MINING ERA OF THE CANADIAN COLUMBIA by Bill Laux – Chapter 10

5

THE BIG BEND RUSH

By the end of 1864 the placer grounds on the creeks flowing into the upper Kootenay were becoming exhausted.   The miners of the day reckoned that $10 per man per day was a decent return.   Anything less was termed “not white men’s diggings” and was sold to the patient Chinese who had been entering British Columbia from the first Colonial days.   These Chinese, working in groups, would pay from $2,000 to $7,000 for a good claim, and work it for years down to barren rock.   A few companies were formed by Montana or Washington merchants with the resources to bring in and build water wheels and machinery, particularly on Perry Creek, and continued extensive work through the Seventies.   But the single, restless miner was eager to move on whenever a rich strike might be reported. 

In 1861 those Colville miners working the Columbia and Pend Orielle bars were finding their returns diminishing, and proposed an expedition to ascend the Columbia to prospect for further gold occurrences.   However, the Kootenais and Sinixt (Lakes) Indians who had been told that the boundary line then being surveyed across the mountains would keep “the Bostons”  from crossing into their lands, were hostile.   Skirmishes had already occurred on the Pend Orielle.  The Indians told the miners that any attempt to move farther up the Columbia would be opposed by force.

On September 14, 1861, Gold Commissioner William George Cox, at Rock Creek, received the following letter, reproduced in the original orthography,

September 6, 1861, Dominick Flat – 12 miles above Ft. Colvile

“Comissioner Cox – Sir

“We the undersigned miners at this river is anxious to prospect the upper Columbia River – the Indians are oppose to miners going high up than Pen De O’Reelle River – What the miners wishes is for you to come on to the river and make some arrangement with the Indians so that miners can go up the river in safety – We are perfectly satisfide that withan the power that is vested in you it will be impossible to do any mining to any advantage untille some arrangement is made with the Indians – Hoping that you will view the matter in the same light that we do we sign ourselves yours respectfully”

The letter was signed by seventy miners including Jolly Jack Thornton, Dancing Bill (Latham, of the murderous Okanagan Company in 1859), and Dutch Charley,  Tenas (little) George (Runnels), Whistling Bill, Wild Goose Bill (Wilbur Condit or Condon).   These were all Americans from near present Brewster, Washington.   They were contemptuously called squaw men by the farmers and ranchers of the Territory for having taken Indian wives and living in a state of boozy intimacy with the aboriginals along the Columbia.   These men had participated in each of the gold rushes as they had occurred, Rock Creek, Similkameen, Colville, Fraser-Thompson rivers, Cariboo.   Dancing Bill operated a ferry at the site of present Bridgeport.   Tenas George Runnels was a man of some education and had his Indian marriage to Skocom Analix confirmed by U.S. law in 1872.   He was the author of poems and ballads and was stockman, storekeeper, as well as a prospector, and located the Mountain Lion claim in the Republic Camp in 1896.   In 1904 he kept a store and horse ranch at Keller and was involved in the silver mines there.   His best claim he called the Iconoclast, a clue to character of the man and his cronies.    Many of these squaw men were self exiled refugees of conscience from the moral hypocrisy of a society that preached rectitude and practiced greed.  No doubt many had fled prosecutions they chose to feel unjust, and had taken their pseudonyms for the sake of anonymity in the west. 

Cox had dealt with such men before.   In 1861 a Indian at Rock Creek had murdered a French Canadian, Pierre Chebart, and as a Colonial Official. It was Cox’s duty to seize the culprit and take him to New Westminster to be tried, 200 miles distant by crude horse trail.   The  Indian had confessed to his Chief who turned him over to Cox.   In a quandary, and with no one to assist him, Cox pushed him over the border at Osoyoos where the squawmen, acting as vigilantes, promptly marched him to a pine tree and hung him, relieving the Gold Commissioner of a difficult case.

  Now the men who had rendered such rude service some months before were asking his assistance.    Cox at once went to Fort Shepherd where the miners met him, and put their case.   He reproached them for their efforts to push the Indians off the Pend Orielle by force, and pointed out that in that case six Indians with nothing but bows and arrows had driven them from their claims.   If they attempted to ascend the Columbia they would have to use the most conciliatory behaviour with the Indians they might meet.   As well, any depredations they might commit would be rigorously dealt with by a British Magistrate as soon as one could be appointed for the district.

He then traveled to Kootenay Flats (below present Creston) to meet the Kootenais and Sinixts, and enjoin them to keep the peace.   The miners and the Indians would have equal government protection, he promised, but the Indians must refrain from liquor, and “do not steal, no matter how tempting the opportunity may be.”   He also urged the Indians to disregard the harsh language the Americans used, “they sometimes speak so to me.”

On the Ninth of October 26 miners in seven boats left Fort Shepherd for the upper Columbia, accompanied by the Sinixt  Indians, Mocklain and Qui-Qui-lasket, as observers to report any misbehaviour.    Cox then went down river to Marcus where another group of miners met him in Wheelock’s Restaurant and questioned him closely on what arrangement had been made with the Indians.    Cox made the same speech that he had to the Pend Orielle miners, cautioning them strongly, and then returned via the Kettle River to his station at Rock Creek.   On the 19th of October, he heard from the Kootenais Indian, Teneese, that coarse gold had been discovered some miles above Boat Encampment at Big Bend.

  After his report was read in Victoria,  Cox was sharply reprimanded by Governor Douglas for seeming to bind the government to protect the Americans.   Old Squaretoes, still apprehensive of annexation, feared that should the miners be attacked by the Sinixt Indians, the Americans would take it as evidence that the Colonial Government was unable to protect U.S. citizens in its territory and might send in a military force from Fort Colville to guard the miners and police the region.    Since this was precisely what had been happening in the many gold fields south of the line for twenty years, the Governor’s anxiety had some basis.

The Colville miners went up the Columbia that fall, followed, on Nov. 20 by William Fernie and eleven others.    This second group was halted by ice on the Columbia on December 15.   They then proceeded on foot to within 3 miles of present Revelstoke, and wintered there.    Their ascent of the river so late in the year was deliberate.    Extreme low water in the Columbia comes in March and April when the gravel bars are exposed and placering can take place.   By June the river is in flood, the bars underwater, and only lesser creeks can be worked.   By going in late in the year, they would be on the bars when the water went down.

In succeeding years a few Colville men continued to prospect the Big Bend country with inconclusive results.     However, when the British Boundary Surveyors brought in their specimens of gold from the Upper Kootenay River in the fall of 1862, all thought of the Columbia was abandoned, and the rush the next spring was to Wildhorse.    Wildhorse boomed, but not everyone was successful.   By 1864 Wild Horse miners were returning to those previous discoveries on the Big Bend.   There, in that year, placer ground, richer than previously discovered, was found, and when the miners came out in the fall, the news was spread.   Colville and Marcus merchants ordered in new stock and prepared for a new stampede.    In September, these merchants had a six wagon train on the road from Wallulla with 50,000 pounds of merchandise, costing them 15¢ per pound for haulage. 

The Cariboo Rush had passed its peak in 1864.   Men were leaving the diggings, and the merchants’ warehouses of Victoria and New Westminster were overstocked with goods.   The news from the Big Bend filled the small Colony with hope.   The difficulties of packing over the Dewdney Trail, “An unbroken chain of horrors,” as one traveler had termed it, had not captured the trade of Wild Horse.   But transportation into the Big Bend would not require the use of that dreadful Dewdney Trail.   Supplies could go by steamer to Yale, on the Fraser, and then up the Cariboo Wagon Road to Cache Creek where there was a branch road leading to Savona’s on Kamloops Lake.   From Savona’s boats could carry men and supplies up through Kamloops Lake and up the South Thompson River to Shuswap Lake.   At Seymour Arm on the lake there was that old HBC trail that George Turner’s party had followed, across the mountains to the Big Bend .   This could be brushed out, and an All-British route would be ready for the miners.

In the Okanagan a feckless idler, the British Captain Houghton, had taken advantage of his army discharge to take up a veteran’s land grant at the head of Okanagan Lake.   Charles Frederick Houghton was born at Castle Glasshare, Kilkenny, Ireland.   When his cousin, Lord Houghton was killed in the Crimean War, Charles inherited his commission.   He went into the army and rose to the rank of Captain, never getting to the Crimea, before being mustered out in 1863.   Along with his two friends, Forbes and Charles Vernon, he emigrated to British Columbia to stake out the military grant of land he was entitled to as a discharged soldier.    The three friends liked the look of the country at the head of Okanagan Lake and Captain Houghton staked his grant along Coldstream Creek.   He then went to Victoria to record his claim.    When Houghton had left England the Emigration Commission had advertised that a grant of 1440 acres of Crown Land would be available to officers.   But by Governor Douglas’ proclamation of January 1, 1863, which was not published in England, military settler’s grants in British Columbia had been reduced to 300 acres.  Believing he was entitled to the grant he expected to receive on leaving England, Captian Houghton wrote the Duke of Cambridge in England asking that his claim be put before the Foreign Office for resolution.    In his letter he cited the great expense he had gone to in hiring labourers and packers to carry his belongings and provisions, including furniture and farm implements up the Cariboo Road and  by pack train from Cache Creek to Kamloops and Okanagan Lake.   Apparently, pressure brought from England influenced the B.C. Legislative Council, and in 1864 it recommended to Governor Douglas that Captain Houghton’s original grant, now grown to 1500 acres, be approved.    However, his going over the Governor’s head to friends in England did not please James Douglas.   When, in February 1864, Captain Houghton found a stake on his land set by Gold Commissioner W. G. Cox in 1861 marking the corner of the Kalamalka Indian Reserve, he wrote the Colonial Secretary urging that the reserve be done away with stating it was “too valuable to be left as such.”    Governor Douglas left a handwritten note on this letter directing that the reserve be maintained as such.   

Clearly, Captain Houghton needed to ingratiate himself with the Governor to acquire title to his full 1500 acres.   When the Big Bend news broke in 1864 he proposed to the Governor that he be funded to lead an expedition to explore a route from the Okanagan cattle ranches to the Big Bend so that local ranchers could get in on the demand for fresh meat.   In August 1864, the inept Captain Houghton set out with his neighbour, Vincent Duteau, and spent two months “exploring” before returning without having found “the gold diggings.”   There was a fairly straightforward route via Cherryville, Mable Lake and a broad, low pass to Three Valley Gap leading to the Columbia at Revelstoke, which Walter Moberly’s party examined in the following year as a possible route for the Great Coach Road to the Red River Settlement, but the Captain did not seem to have been able to find it.

In April of 1865 he was off again with Vincent Duteau and another neighbour on his search.     This time it seems that he was trying to find the Indian trail that Gold Commissioner Cox had reported existed up Cherry Creek to the Columbia.   But while Commissioner Cox, who had excellent relations with the Indians, would likely have had no trouble locating the trail, Captain Houghton dismissed his Indian packer at the Monashee Silver mine, and pressed on with his neighbours.   By his letter to Governor Douglas he claimed to have reached the ridge running southwest from Monashee Mountain, where he was obliged to take shelter from a late April snowstorm.    His report asserted that he could see both Okanagan Lake and Lower Arrow Lake from his viewpoint, a complete impossibility.     Further, he claimed he could see the sought-for pass directly below him.    However, alleging frozen feet, he then turned back, having seen a route, but not tested it.   

Judge Haynes, writing from Fort Shepherd in 1865 where he was laying out town lots, mentions that Turnbull and Homan of Walter Moberly’s party seeking a route for Coach Road from the Pacific to Lake Superior, had stopped with Captain Houghton at the head of Okanagan Lake and took directions from him to reach the pass he had seen from Monashee Mountain.  Turnbull and Homan crossed the Monashee then via Cherry Creek, the Indian trail, and the Captain’s pass, reaching the Columbia, and travelling down it to Fort Shepherd to replenish their supplies. 

The persistent Captain Houghton got up a third expedition in 1866, this time actually finding his pass, and blazing the trail to Lower Arrow Lake.   He named his trail head on the beach “Killarney” to honour his birthplace.   But like the Dewdney Trail, reaching Wild Horse as its miners were leaving, Col. Houghton was too late.   By 1867 the Big Bend was over, and there is no record of a single cow making the crossing in the Sixties or Seventies.   One conclusion could be that Captain Houghton and his neighbours, Vincent and Nelson Duteau, were  simply prospecting for gold at government expense.

In the spring of 1865, 200 miners who had worked the Wild Horse the summer previous, and believed its placers to be worked out, made their way north from Walla Walla to the HBC Fort Colvile.    Encouraged by Chief Trader Angus Mc Donald, they bought boats, and paddled their way up the Columbia, testing the creeks on both sides on their way.   Gold showings were found at Joseph Morell’s diggings at the mouth of the Pend Orielle, on the Salmon (Salmo)

River, the Slocan River, the Incomappleaux (Fish) River, and particularly on all of the Columbia River bars above the Illecillewat River (Revelstoke).   At Death Rapids, 65 miles above present Revelstoke,  bars were found paying 25¢ to $1 per pan, and skillful panners were making $100 a day.   These were termed “poor man’s diggings,” as the gold was close to the surface and the bars could be worked with pick and shovel.

This news got out quickly as men returned to Colville to replenish supplies.   Except for the few rich mines, the remaining Wild Horse miners deserted to the Big Bend country of the Columbia that summer, and soon there were 5000 men working its creeks and bars.   Going and coming, the Columbia and Arrow Lakes were full of rafts, canoes, home made boats, looking almost like the Fraser seven years before.   The excitement was so great that the entire garrison at the U.S. Army’s Fort Colville deserted, taking their weapons with them with which they fired a triumphal salute when they reached the diggings.    These desertions across the border were common during the years of the American Civil War.    The Regular Army troops that had manned the western posts had been sent to the battlefields of the East and their places taken by reluctant “Terrotorial Volunteers,” mostly idlers and petty thieves drafted in the western territories.    Unhappy with military life and without the stimulus of battle, desertions across the line were frequent.

Both Colonies made preparations for the rush of men expected in the spring of 1866.   Having learned from the Fraser rush of 1858, and the Wild Horse Rush of 1864, which had enriched American merchants, but found most of the Island and Mainland merchants unprepared,  they this time made elaborate preparations to cash in.   B.C. and Victoria merchants that winter flashily advertised the Big Bend in San Francisco as “The Greatest Gold Field Yet!,” and two vessels were subsidized to run miners up from San Francisco to Victoria  where they would catch one of Captain Irving’s or Captain Moore’s steamers for Yale and the Cariboo Road.   Funds were appropriated to improve the wagon road from Cache Creek to Savona’s, and the HBC built the small steamer, Marten, at Chase’s Ranch (now Chase, B.C.) on the South Thompson River where boat timber was available.   When she was launched, she was taken down to Savona’s on Kamloops Lake and her machinery installed.   On May 26 she made her maiden run under Captain William Mouat, from Savona’s to Seymour City at the head of the Seymour Arm of Shuswap Lake.    She arrived at Seymour City on the 27th.   Already, in anticipation of the miner’s rush, a growing town with six saloons, thirteen stores, five bakeries, three restaurants, eleven shoemakers, two breweries, and a coffee and doughnut stand, all awaited the free spending miners.   When, at sunset, the Marten came in sight with the first load of gold seekers, the entire population abandoned their suppers and crowded to the dock to cheer the miners.   Blacksmiths fired continuous anvil salutes, and a cask of  HBC rum was broached with free drinks for all.       Contracts were let to brush out the old HBC trail from there to the Columbia.   Billboards were erected to advertise the route, newspaper reporters were briefed; all was ready for a business-managed and orderly Gold Rush in the best British manner.

All of these preparations were calculated to draw the Americans to the carefully prepared British route, in place of the unruly and improvised rush up the Columbia from Walla Walla of the year before.  If all went well, the incoming miners would find British stores and British merchants on the diggings, ready to provision them when they arrived.   

When spring came, the miners came with it, thousands of them.   Many arrived much too early before the snows had melted, and crossed Kamloops Lake on the ice.   “Thousand Dog Joe” made a small fortune hauling supplies with his dog sleds up the frozen river and lakes to Seymour Landing.    In April Walter Moberly, a man more dependable by far then the inept Captain Houghton, got to Seymour to brush out the old HBC trail and construct bridges over its creeks.   He found the place full of men impatient to cross the Monashees to the Columbia.   “Old Bill Ladner” had gone on ahead on the snow, cutting his own trail, and arriving first at Big Bend with a sledge load of supplies which he sold to the overwintering miners there at starvation prices.

However, the Americans were not going to let the British Columbians have this rush to themselves.    In Portland, Captain John C. Ainsworth was closely following the news from British Columbia, and hoped to repeat the profits his company had made in 1858-59 with their boats on the Fraser.   His  Oregon Steam Navigation Company made preparations in early 1865 to be ready with its own American route to the new diggings.   In late Spring, once the snow had gone, Ainsworth  sent Captain Leonard White who had been running boats on the Upper Snake, to Colville to build a steamer to serve the new rush.   In August, 1865, the keel of the sternwheeler Forty Nine, was laid in Marcus, the settlement that had grown up around the British Boundary Commission barracks.    Captain Ainsworth took the boiler and engines with 12” x 48” cylinders out of his beached Willamette. River steamer, Jennie Clark, and sent them by ox drawn wagons from the landing at Wallulla to Marcus, where they were installed in the Forty Nine.   The light, shallow draft western river steamers were expected to pay off their construction in three trips to the bonanza camps.   In rough service they were not expected to have long lives.    When they were beached, the boiler, engines and steam capstan would be removed and installed in another steamer.    The same set of engines would over their lifetime propel some three or four different steamers.   The Forty Nine with its second hand machinery, was 96 feet long by 18 wide, 219 gross tons, and had engines for a boat twice her size.   News of her construction reached Fort Shepherd and the magistrate there anxiously wrote the Colonial Secretary,

“A steamer is now being built near Ft.Colvile by a company represented by one, Captain White, which will, I am told, be ready to start in about six weeks.   I would beg for instructions as regards U.S. steamers running up here.”     

          On  December 9, 1865, Captain Leonard White,  First Mate Albert Pingston, Purser Charles Briggs, and Engineer Washington Eldridge, began the sternwheel steamer era on the Upper Columbia by winching their boat with her steam powered capstan through the Little Dalles Rapids.   A cable was run out and made fast to a big yellow pine on the cliff.   Then steam was fed to the capstan engine and the boat winched her way up through the turbulent water.    Loaded with miners eager to get to the diggings in style, the Forty Nine crossed the border into British Columbia the next day and proceeded upstream.    

In the low water of December, Captain White had to line the Forty Nine through Rock Island and Tincup rapids with the capstan.   Passing the mouth of the Kootenay River, he took his boat into the broad waters of Lower Arrow Lake.   Up the past forest clad mountains plunging steeply into the water, they steamed, entirely alone in this mountain fastness.  However, when they reached the narrows between Upper and Lower Arrow Lakes, (present Burton) Captain White found his passage locked by early winter ice.   Again the miners wanted to be on the placer grounds during the April low water so they unloaded their supplies and put them on improvised sleds.   They then set off on foot, pulling their sleds up the river ice to make the rest of the 150 miles, and winter on the placer grounds. .   Captain White turned the Forty Nine downstream, and beached his boat for the winter at Little Dalles, a few miles above Marcus.

As soon as the ice went out in the spring of 1866, Captain White set out again with the Forty Nine and a full load of 73 miners, merchants, and their freight on April 15.   Among the passengers were Dan McCulloch, James May, George Weaver, D. Carley, Old Man Minnetto, Hauser (for whom the town of Howser was named), Downie (of Downie Creek), the merchant Marcus Oppenheimer with his stock of goods, Neuberger, Ben Bergunder, William Fernie (who had been foreman on the Dewdney Trail), and Nels Demars (later to settle at Nakusp).   In addition, the Colville packers, Wade and Gardiner were aboard with their pack string to take the freight from the landing at La Porte to French Creek, charging 40¢ per pound.   Passage on the Forty Nine cost $50, with freight carried at $200 per ton.  The passengers were fed, but the sleeping accommodations were extremely primitive.    Stipendary Magistrate H. M. Ball, inspecting the boat as it cleared customs at Fort Shepherd, described it to his superiors, as “a mere shell with powerful engines”   

Moving cautiously up the uncharted river and lakes, it took Captain White ten days to steam as far as La Porte, at the foot of Death Rapids, 60 miles above present Revelstoke.    Except for Old Bill Ladner, they were the first men in.   The HBC trail from Seymour was still blocked by snow, with Walter Moberly and his crew still at work on it.

Captain White discharged his passengers and freight, and returned down river at once to board more waiting miners.   Most of those passengers on that first trip up the Canadian Columbia did well.   Dan Mc Culloch, picked a creek, gave it his name and took $27,000 out of it.   Downie named his creek, and it proved to be one of the richest in the Big Bend.   Ben Bergunder set up his store in a tent and was soon joined by R. Lamphere.   These Colville merchants, resupplying themselves by subsequent trips of the Forty Nine, dominated the Big Bend trade with the largest stocks, the best prices.   When the HBC trail over the Monashees was finally opened, the New Westminster and Victoria merchants, with more costly transportation, proved to be ineffective competitors.    

On her second trip to the Big Bend, the Forty Nine carried 87 men and 25 tons of freight.  Charges for merchandise from Portland to the the mines were 21¢ per pound: 3¢ Portland to Walla Walla, 8¢ Walla Walla to Little Dalles, and 10¢ Little Dalles to Death Rapids.  The Forty Nine paid for herself that first season, but by late summer the number of penniless miners wanting passage out began to outnumber those going in.   The Big Bend, which had looked so promising was proving a bust.   The placer deposits, while rich, were shallow, and most of the gold was lodged in crevices on the bedrock.   The bedrock in the Big Bend creeks was vertical and its crevices could only be opened by hard rock mining techniques and the use of steam pumps to keep the holes pumped dry.     The simple placer miner with his pan, had to find a good gravel bar or give up.  It was Captain White’s absolute policy not to carry any man upstream who did not have  sufficient supplies to carry him through the season, but he also took downstream gratis any man going out broke.  It became the rule on the isolated Canadian Columbia that you did not abandon a penniless miner on the beach.

Alerted by the reports of the men of 1865, the Colonial Government sent in Magistrate O’Reilly to take charge.   He came in across the snows on the Seymour City trail to find that the Forty Nine had delivered her first passengers and freight a few days earlier.   Some 1200 men were already on the various creeks.   When he tried to hire a constable, Magistrate O’Reilly found that the $2.75 daily pay allowed a constable by the Colonial Government was less than the cost of a single meal in the Big Bend camps.    Nevertheless, O’Reilly found his new district,

“…perfectly quiet and free from outrage of any sort.”

By the end of that 1866 season it was clear that except for some closely held diggings on Downie, Gold  and French Creeks, the Big Bend was bust.   About three quarters of the men leaving the diggings as the first snows came in November, could not pay their fares on the Forty Nine to Little Dalles.   The Forty Nine Company (named for the steamer) and a few other companies had the resources to bring in pumps and boilers to run them, and sink shafts below the rivers to mine out the gold bearing bedrock.   But the average placer miner could not afford such an operation, and headed back to the diggings at Wild Horse, or reputed new easy diggings in Idaho and Montana.

The year following, the Forty Nine made fewer trips to Downie Creek, but a new strike on the lower Kootenay River’s Forty Nine Creek (again, named for the steamer), a few miles west of present Nelson, brought a demand for passage to the mouth of the Kootenay, and a trail was cut to the new diggings.    Richard Fry, one of the early miners on Forty Nine Creek reported that for the next three years,the creek was paying $4 to $5 per man per day.    Not a bonanza, like some of the best spots on the Big Bend, but enough to hold a small group of miners and induce further prospecting in the area.

Although, the Big Bend failed to support a scheduled boat service on the Canadian Columbia for the Americans, the British Columbians failed dismally to cash in on even the glory days of the boom.   The trip from Victoria or New Westminster was costly, long and arduous by boat, stagecoach, steamer and pack horse.    Little trade went by that route; the wagon road from Walla Walla to Colville and Little Dalles and the Steamer Forty Nine took the biggest share.   The townsite of Seymour City, laid out at government expense as a trading centre for the Kootenays, was abandoned in 1867.   The Hudson’s Bay Company post closed, boarded up its windows and doors, and took all its stock back to Kamloops.  In a few years the encroaching forest had covered the site, leaving scarcely a trace.   Today, hikers on the Seymour trail are amazed to find near the summit,  a pile of polished slate slabs.    They were intended for a pair of billiard tables to be set up at one of the Big Bend camps.   The packers, taking them over the trail on their mules, had been met by miners coming out with the news that the Big Bend was a bust.   The packers dumped their slates there and then, and turned around.

With little business for the HBC steamer Marten, she was sold to the Kamloops merchants J.A. Mara and W. B. Wilson who ran her on the North and South Thompson delivering supplies to the settlers.   In 1879 she was wrecked on a rock and sunk.

  Governor Seymour had done his best to save the Big Bend trade for the British Columbia merchants, but for the second time, Kootenay geography had worked against him.   The elaborate preparations were largely wasted, the money invested in the townsite and commercial establishments lost.   A depression seized  Vancouver Island, businesses closed, people were “blue with consternation.”    As a money saving measure the two nearly bankrupt colonies were united.  The two bitter disappointments at Wild Horse and Big Bend were to prejudice the mercantile community and the government against the Kootenays for the next forty-five years.    The Cariboo, all the coastal businessmen remembered, had made them rich, Wild Horse and the Big Bend had been borrasca.    They would take out their frustration by turning their backs on Kootenay, leaving it to the merchants of Colville and Spokane Falls to risk their money there.   

This was probably shortsighted, for while the population of the Kootenays was declining precipitately in the Seventies, that of Northeastern Washington was increasing.   In 1860 Northeast Washington Territory claimed 279 persons, plus Chinese, Indians, the men of the Boundary Commission and the Military Road builders.   By 1870, that number had doubled to 519, and to ten times that by 1880 with 5,507 residents.  By comparison in 1875 the Kootenay district cast but 32 votes in the Provincial Election, and in 1878 there were only 47 names on its voter’s list.   These numbers reflect only British Subjects in Kootenay; there were probably twice as many Americans present, plus several hundred Chinese still working the bars of the Columbia and the Wild Horse Creeks.

When the two colonies of Vancouver Island in British Columbia were united in 1867 as a money-saving measure Peter O’ Reilly was appointed magistrate for the Kootenay district and R.T. Smith appointed  member of the Legislative Council which was supposed to advise Governor Seymour.   In 1868 voting “No” on an address to the Queen to join British Columbia to Canada were all three Kootenay officials, O Reilly, Cox, and Smith.    As educated colonial civil servants, they would have lost their positions if  B.C. joined Canada, and been replaced, they feared, by coarse Upper Canada Methodists.    

In December 1868 Edgar Dewdney was selected to represent the district.   However either by negligence or the badness of the trails, Dewdney was not notified of his appointment until late 1869, missing the entire year of council sessions.   It probably made little difference.    Once the Big Bend excitement was over, the Kootenays were off the Colonial agendas.

When British Columbia was united with Canada in 1870, an elective  Legislative Assembly was convened.  In the first elections in 1871, John A. Mara, businessman of Kamloops,  and Charles Todd were chosen to represent Kootenay, serving until 1875.   From 1875 until 1878 Arthur W. Vowell and Charles Gallagher sat for Kootenay.   From 1878 until 1882 it was Gallagher, and Robert L. T. Galbraith of the Wild Horse ferry. 

From 1866 until 1868, Captain White kept the Forty Nine running up the Columbia to service the well financed mines on Downie and French Creek.  But by 1869 most of the miners had left the Columbia and the Forty Nine made but two trips that season.   Broken in health and weakened by disappointment, Captain White beached his boat and left for the Coast to die.

His mate, Albert L. Pingston, took over the boat and operated her whenever a call came for a load of supplies and machinery to be delivered up to the Downie Creek mines which were still in operation.   On one of those trips in 1869, he had the misfortune to run her onto a rock below Downie Creek (thereafter known as Steamboat Rock.) and smash a hole in her light hull.   Pingston beached the boat in a shallow backwater below present Revelstoke, and sent to Captain Ainsworth in Portland for instructions.

For Captain John Ainsworth the Big Bend boom was over, and the Forty Nine, which had more than paid for herself, was now a liability.   He wrote Captain Pingston,

“…as far as our interest in the boat is concerned, we are willing to dispose of it, or do most anything in reason that would enable the boat to be raised, except it be to pay out any money…”

But Captain Pingston, not so easily discouraged, patched up the Forty Nine with his own resources, relaunched her, and continued to make trips whenever cargo or passengers offered. His first trip in 1871 carried but seven passengers, six of whom were Chinese; clearly, the Americans had abandoned all but two of the creeks to the more industrious Orientals.   On another trip that year, the Forty Nine was hired to carry supplies up the Columbia to Walter Moberly’s survey party which was seeking a route for the Canadian Pacific Railway.   But these hired trips became more and more infrequent.   From the point of view of the Oregon Steam Navigation Company, the Forty Nine’s machinery was idle except for a few weeks of the year.    Since it could be profitably used on the Snake River where the gold camps on the Clearwater were in need of service, the Forty Nine was dismantled at Little Dalles in 1879, and her boiler and engines hauled off in wagons to the Snake River to be installed in another steamer.

Nothing whatever remains of Marcus or Little Dalles today.   Both are submerged under the Franklin D. Roosevelt Reservoir behind Grand Coulee Dam.   A financial panic in 1873 dried up the source of capital with to develop mines.   The Kootenays emptied of miners except for a few small parties of Chinese.   Brush grew over the trails, the creek bridges collapsed or were washed away by the spring runoff.   When British Columbia entered Confederation in 1870, the Yale – Kootenay district was allowed to sent one member to Parliament in Ottawa.   The nomination convention was held in Yale in 1871.   Captain Houghton, the inept explorer, came over from Vernon to stand for election.   Only two registered voters could be found; the miners had not heard or could not be bothered to attend.  With two votes cast, Captain Houghton took the nomination and was elected by acclamation.   

Some sense of what that remote and empty region was like in the Seventies can be found in Lieutenant Symon’s report to Congress of 1881.

“The Little Dalles is situated by river fifteen miles south of the point where the Columbia crosses the British line, and about twenty-six miles above Kettle Falls.   The cañon of the Columbia is here deep and narrow, and no bottom lands lie along the river.   The Dalles are caused by a contraction of the channel, the limestone bluffs from which the banks of the river are formed projecting into the stream, and damming back the water into a deep, quiet stretch above.    The fall here is inconsiderable, and I believe the place could be improved for navigation during the low and medium stages of the river by clearing away some of the projecting  points of the bluffs and small rick islands in the stream.

Sounding almost like a contemporary nostalgia piece, Lieutenant Symons continues, (remember, this is 1881):

“Years ago, when the excitement about the gold mines on the upper waters of the Columbia and Fraser Rivers was at its height,  a steamer was built here (actually at Marcus, there was not yet a wagon road to Little Dalles) and ran from the Little Dalles up the rive for a distance of about 225 miles to Death Rapids, transporting supplies and carrying passengers.   This steamer, the “49,”  during low stages of the water, used at times to be taken down to Kettle Falls, going through the Little Dalles, and being lined back over them.   The tree was pointed out to me which she used to make fast in ascending the rapids.

“A good portage road now exists around these Little Dalles.

“The road to the Little Dalles leaves Fort Colville and follows down (up is meant) the valley of Mill Creek to its junction with Echo Valley, up which it goes as far as Bruce’s ranch.   From this latter point it bears westward through a gap in the hills and reaches the Columbia River by an easy descent, and follows along its left bank to the rapids.   During the old mining excitement (i.e. 1864- 1866) quite a town was started here, which has been completely destroyed by fire, the principal vestige of its former grandeur being the numerous signs still remaining along the road telling travellers where to buy their merchandise.   

“The road is very good all the way, the principal travellers over it being the Chinamen who are

engaged in mining on the upper river and who go to Colville for their supplies…

“The country through which the navigable portion (of the Columbia) flows is mountainous as a

general thing.   There are, however, large areas of rather level ground especially along the enlargements of the river known as the Arrow Lakes.   I have been informed that along these Arrow Lakes lies one of the finest belts of timber known to man — cedar, white pine and fir of large size and of the most excellent quality growing in abundance…

“Concerning the interior of the country away from the river in this extreme upper portion very little is known.”    

While Lieutenant Symons was musing on Northeast Washington’s first ghost town, the absent miners had been drawn to new camps in Idaho and Montana.   Two or three successful and well funded operations continued hydraulic mining in the Wild Horse region, and the Chinese worked the scantily yielding creeks and bars of the Big Bend abandoned by the Americans.   With the Forty Nine dismantled on the beach at Little Dalles, it is believed that the Chinese rowed their way each spring up the Columbia 260 miles to their diggings, captained by Albert Pingston.   But for these summer incursions, the great empty land was once again as the fur traders had found it in 1805, remote, densely forested, hemmed in by high mountains, and once snow had closed the trails, and ice the lakes and rivers, a formidably difficult place to winter.

The Colonial Government, having spent so much to access the Wild Horse and Big Bend mines, and to so little effect, was content to leave the Kootenays to its Indians.   In 1870, the Kootenays, which had briefly supported a population of 5,000 during the mining rushes of the ‘60s,  comprised in the words of the Langevin Report, only “103 white males, 5 white females, 2 coloured males, 139 Chinese males.”    Of these 6 were in agriculture, none in manufacturing, 20 in trading, and 222 in mining.   By numbers, if anything , it was a Chinese district.

All through those empty Seventies, snows smashed the deserted miner’s cabins, bears and coyotes scavenged the abandoned campsites, the ubiquitous devil’s club, alder and snowberry reclaimed the laboriously cleared ground, we had our first ghost town at Seymour City, Washington had its at Little Dalles, and the Kootenays were once more virtual wilderness that the Fur traders had found in 1811.

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