The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Family Project

Reflections on Life, Family and Community

THE MINING ERA ON THE CANADIAN COLUMBIA


One must take the trouble to find out what is peculiar in each nation; and do it without being infected by its greed.   One must stand apart, a devotee of none, but profoundly and honestly interested in all of them.” 

Elias Canetti

INTRODUCTION

The Columbia River and it tributaries drain the mountainous southeast corner of British Columbia, an area roughly the size of Nova Scotia or the state of Maine.   This triangular region, of some 26,000 square miles, comprising the present East and West Kootenay districts plus the Boundary District, is closed off by the Rocky Mountains on the east and the Monashee Mountains on the west and north. Only to the south, along the international boundary, does the Kootenay-Boundary region lie open to easy entry up the river valleys which drain its mountain slopes.    Within this great triangle, moated by the encircling Kootenay and Columbia Rivers, the space is wholly filled by closely spaced, north-south trending mountain ranges, from east to west the Selkirks, the Purcells, the Valhallas, and the Rossland and Boundary Ranges of the Monashees, with their intervening lakes and river valleys.    It is a folded and crumpled landscape of high, forested mountains, and deep, narrow valleys with but very few riparian strips suitable for farming.     With scant agricultural potential, and formidably difficult of access, except from the U.S., it has always been one of the hinterlands of British Columbia.   Indeed, it should have remained as empty as the Omineca, but for one circumstance it contained rich deposits of valuable minerals.

Had it not been for the presence of gold, silver, copper, and coal in quantity, costly mountain railways would never have been built into Kootenay-Boundary.   Nor would the Americans have been interested in entering this isolated region to prospect and mine.   Without the mineral wealth which brought the railways, there would have been no settlement at all, save for perhaps a few ranchers shipping cattle into the Spokane market.      

The Mining Era on the Canadian Columbia, the period from 1854 until 1929, was largely  American inspired, American financed and supplied.   The mineral deposits of the Kootenay and Boundary Districts were close to the border, in some cases straddling it.   They were relatively easy of access by American trails, roads, steamer routes, and railroads from the growing inland entrepot of Spokane.    Capital to open and develop the mines was available in Spokane at a time when the coastal merchants of British Columbia had turned their backs on the Kootenays after two unfortunate experiences.   For them it was a district too isolated behind its mountains, and too dominated by Spokane interests to make it a worthwhile risk for their capital.

Only when Canadian railroads and steamer lines penetrated this mountain-ringed fastness did Canadian and British investors enter to buy back its mining assets from the Americans who had been first on the scene.

The period of American incursion and the great mining boom left its mark on the Kootenay-Boundary.   As the automobile era began in 1920, Interior British Columbians were driving on the right hand side of the road, as did the Americans, while motorists in Vancouver and Victoria drove on the left.   Kootenay and Boundary families did their Christmas shopping in Spokane, a few hours away by train or down easy roads, rather than take the longer train trip  to Vancouver.   If an auto trip to the Coast was necessary, one crossed the border, and used the U.S. highways.   There was no road connection at all between the Interior and the Coast until 1927.      

The easy entry into Interior British Columbia from the U.S., and the commercial aggressiveness of the Americans had always been a matter of anxiety to British Columbia governments, both Colonial and Provincial.    From the year the first group of Oregon-bound settlers laboured across the summit of the Blue Mountains in 1820 into the vast basin of the Columbia River, the Colonial officials of the British lands in the Northwest began to fear an American invasion and possible annexation.    These armed and often unruly American settlers were steeped in the doctrines of Republicanism, self government, and, especially dangerous in the British view, “Manifest Destiny,” the assertion that Americans alone had some special, quasi-divine right to rule and enlighten the entire North American continent, from the North Pole to Panama, and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific.     In the mouths of their jingoistic politicians, “Manifest Destiny” became an incitement to military conquest, and a continuing nightmare to the rulers of British North America.

Had the British reflected, they might have seen that “Manifest Destiny” was simply the American version of their own Imperial Doctrine, which held that the English, by virtue of their uniquely stable government, and supposed talent for wise rule, were favoured  by God as the prime civilizers and most capable administrators of the globe.

The lands that became the Colony and later the Province of British Columbia never suffered the feared American invasion, but were subject to successive incursions of preponderant numbers of  Americans with a single object in view the availability of gold, silver, and copper to the man who would dig it.     These sudden rushes of armed and populist Americans across the line, mouthing the slogans of greed, and ruthless exploitation,  changed the culture and customs of British Columbia.    From a lethargic Crown Colony, with a British Naval Base, ruled and dominated by a single London trading corporation, autocratic, class bound, and unashamedly monopolistic, British Columbia was suddenly plunged into a wild, fast-profit mining economy.   Its citizens,  influenced by the get rich quick values of San Francisco, became fierce exploiters of the hinterlands, grasping for huge, unrepeatable profits in minerals, fish, timber and ranch lands.  The province, for its first fifty years was a turbulent, unruly, scarcely governable region of unrestrained private plunder and  official corruption, obsessed by a piratical fever to rush in, seize the resource, and get out swiftly with the gains.

The Colonial Governments were obliged to bend their laws, and even to recast them to accommodate wishes of the overwhelming number of American miners moving onto their soil.        Imperial mining laws were revised to conform with those in the U.S.    In all but one of the the rushes, Americans outnumbered  British fifty to one, and were accustomed to making their own law as they had in California.   The Colonials had to accede or risk a confrontation with a superior force.   To the horror of the Colonial Office in London, coins were minted of miners’ gold in American denominations.    American dollars were the universal medium of commercial exchange, only the Government and the Hudson’s Bay Company kept their accounts in pounds sterling.     Further, as the merchants found their own bonanzas in provisioning the successive gold rushes, they actively catered to them, subsidizing ship passage for gold seekers, circulating handbills and advertisements in California and Oregon cities to solicit placer miners, and promising easy and well traveled routes to the gold fields.    To accommodate the miners and the B.C. merchants’ efforts to supply them, the government built roads and trails to the mines, and an armed Gold Escort service was maintained to transport the miner’s bullion to the B.C. mint.     

The scarcity of arable land and the severe disincentives put in the way of independent agricultural immigration by the Colonial Government prevented the Nineteenth Century province from developing a typically Canadian political base of independent farmers, stable and conservative.    Instead, a wholly exploitive society of speculators evolved, not seeking land, but rather its plunderable resources.   Miners, gamblers in their souls, later fishers, mining the coastal waters,  ranchers, exploiting ever larger acreages of public grasslands, and lumbermen, stripping the mountains of their forests, created the buccaneer values of this isolated Province, values which still dominate its turbulent and murky politics.

The first Colonial Governors had apprehended an American attempt to seize their Colony by force, and discouraged by restrictive legislation, any American immigration which they feared might lead to annexation.   The later Governors and Premiers sought to cash in on the gold rushes by advertising them in the manner of a World Fair.   Miners, they learned with relief,  seldom settled, and could be counted on to safely leave when the gold ran out.   Meanwhile they could be provisioned at great profit.    This continuing obsession with easy riches, with the high stakes gambles of mining, fishing, and lumbering, left an unacknowledged  mark, a looter’s mark, on the consciousness of British Columbians.

In the great railway building era from 1896 until 1916, the Provincial politicians dangled railway charters with huge land grants to entice Americans and Canadians alike to build a railway network into the southeast of the Province to develop the mineral potential there.    It became a somewhat cynical game, baiting with grants of cash and lands the American companies to build the lines which would force Canada’s reluctant national railway to extend its own competing tracks into the area.   The always commercially aggressive Americans built quickly; the more deliberate Canadian Pacific was forced to respond with tracks of its own.

  In the Kootenay-Boundary districts, the American incursion and the inauguration of the mining industry by American capital was chauvinistically forgotten as British and Canadian financiers after 1895 bought back the industry from the Americans, and with the exodus of U.S. mine owners, Kootenay-Boundary society became, for the first time, Canadian, only its distinctively U.S. architecture betraying its origin.

The mining era had brought in the costly railroads to move the ores out and coal and merchandise in.    With the decline of mining, the presence of this rail network on the ground encouraged the development of a forest industry utilizing these easy export routes to U.S. markets.     In a reversal of mining history, the major forest enterprises begun by Canadians in the 1920s were acquired by American firms in the 1950 – 1990 period.    When, as is bound to happen, the profitable timber is gone and the American firms, like their mining companies, leave, the Kootenay- Boundary will likely become another Yukon, living on seasonal tourist catering, and romanticized versions of its past for the entertainment of visitors.

It was the exploitation of minerals, and nothing else, that brought the railways, the population, and supported the tiny pockets of agriculture in this sea of mountains.   How that mining era began, flourished and declined, and the changes it wrought along the Columbia, the Kootenay and the Kettle Rivers is the subject of this work.

 

Chapter 1

BEFORE THE EUROPEANS

THE GEOLOGY

British Columbia’s attachment to Canada has always been tenuous.    Not just politically and socially,  but geographically as well.   In the almost inconceivable reaches of geological time, some billion years ago, whatever continent existed in the western hemisphere of our globe split apart somewhere west of where the Rocky Mountains are now.   In the Northwest, the split ran through what is now the extreme eastern parts of Washington State and British Columbia.   Whatever land existed west of that split was rafted off on the fiery mantle of the globe as a tectonic plate, much as a lump of butter skids across a hot griddle.    It is believed to have skidded off somewhere to the northwest, and probably became part of Siberia and northern China.  We believe that because rocks in eastern Siberia and Northeast China exactly match the rocks of western Canada of the same age, while the present rocks of  Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia are a total mismatch with the rest of North America.

After the western continent lost its western portion in this way, the Pacific Ocean, or whatever ocean was out there, lapped at a broad coastal plain where the Rockies are now,  probably looking similar to the Atlantic coastal plain of today.   For about 800 million years nothing happened, at least nothing we know about.   But roughly 200 million years ago, things began to move.    The Atlantic Ocean opened, splitting the existing  land mass into Europe and North America.    The opening of the Atlantic Ocean created the continent of North America and pushed it westward.   As the Atlantic Ocean opened, shoving North America west, the Pacific Ocean shrank, and old ocean floor was pushed down under the edge of the westward advancing continent.

When ocean floors are driven down into the hot mantle of the earth, they melt.    Ocean floors are composed of all the sand, gravel, and silt that eroded from the hills and mountains, ran down the rivers, and formed beds of sediment under the seas.    Along with the sand, clay and silt were the minerals contained in the original mountains, ground fine by their long tumble to the ocean.   When these old sea floors were shoved down into the mantle and melted, they were lighter than the surrounding rock since they contained water, oxygen, and carbon dioxide.   This lighter melt rose through the surrounding heavier rock as lava.   The water it contained, at several thousand degrees Centigrade, dissolved the mineral grains, and carried them along with the rock to the surface in plumes of mineral-rich superheated liquid.     This boiling soup of water and minerals cooled, and deposited those minerals in fractures of the surrounding rock..    If the surrounding  rock were limestone, it acted as a sponge and soaked up the mineral soup.  If it were impermeable granite, the minerals were laid down in thin veins.   If the rising mineral bearing plume encountered a lake or swamp at the surface, it flattened out and spread as a horizontal bed of mineral enriched lake bottom sediment which, heated from below, slowly turned to stone.   In time these new, mineral-rich rocks would be shoved up as mountains.   And in time these mountains would in their turn be eroded away, and tumbled down the rivers to form new seabeds.    Such beds would, in the fullness of geologic time, be shoved under another  moving tectonic plate, and melted, recycling the minerals again into ascending columns of superheated  water.     The earth constantly recycles its constituents in this way, and will continue to do so.    In distant time our junk-choked land fills will be worn away, tumbled into rivers, and the old bottles, tin cans, and  wrecked cars distributed as tiny grains of mineral in sea floor sediments.   And those grains will eventually be melted and dissolved to plume upward into the surface rocks to be mined all over again by whatever or whomever does the mining, some hundreds of million years from now.

In our area of B.C. and Washington, 200 million years ago, with the swallowing of old sea floors, the western coastal plain was crumpled up and forced against the continent.   All its sedimentary rocks now form what is known as the Kootenay Arc, a tightly folded belt of limestone and sandy rocks that marks the former western edge of North America.    Underneath, the molten ocean floor with its water and minerals rose toward the surface, forming volcanic vents and bulging up huge masses of granite lying below the old smashed up coastal plain.    The great Nelson batholith which underlies most of the central Kootenay, was one of those rising bulges of old ocean crust.

As North America continued to be pushed westward across the globe it encountered whatever islands happened to be in the eastern Pacific at that time.   Some were large islands on the order of the size of Japan or Borneo or New Zealand.   The collision was very slow, a few inches a year, but the force was immense, so great that these small island continents welded themselves onto North America.   The first was the Okanagan micro-continent which welded onto the Kootenay Arc some 100 million years ago.  The melting of its basement rocks in the mantle formed a chain of volcanoes which erupted about 50 miles inland all along what are now the Okanagan Highlands and Monashee mountains.   A new west coast was formed approximately down the line of the Okanagan Valley and the Columbia River into Oregon.

Fifty million years ago the Cascades micro-continent, was encountered and welded itself onto that Okanagan Coast.  Its chain of Cascaded volcanoes, again about 50 miles from the  new coast, are still occasionally active today.    The next micro-continent to collide, is the present Vancouver Island, moving inexorably toward the mainland at 2 inches a year.   Some millions of years onward, when it is welded onto us, it will have its own chain of volcanoes down its spine as well.     

It is evident, that geologically considered, British Columbia does not belong to Canada, or even North America, at all.   Our land is a collage of large, Pacific Islands, assembled haphazardly onto the continent by welds of once molten rock.

THE PEOPLE

Spookily, our human history reflects the geological record.   Isolated in deep and narrow valleys between the old volcano chains, human communication had always been difficult.   The  Aboriginals, living in their mountain-divided domains, developed some forty different dialects of seven main language groups, a greater diversity than in any other North American region, a mark of the isolation in which they developed.

And we Ex-Europeans of the B. C. Interior today, dotted in small settlements along winding valleys remote from the centers of culture and power, exist, in some ways not unlike aboriginal societies, culturally self sufficient and socially self absorbed, almost as though these were the still wild Pacific Islands, uncertainly joined to an unknown continent.   In the depth of winter, even today, with the mountain passes closed or rendered dangerous by snow and avalanches, we inhabit, in our tiny, fragmented colonies, the ancient Pacific night.

At the time of the first European contact with the Aboriginals, the best estimates are that  there were perhaps 100,000 Indians living in what is now British Columbia, and perhaps another 100,000 in what now comprise Washington and Oregon.   The more northerly forest peoples lived in mountain valleys and pockets of grasslands along the rivers.   All these northern  Indians subsisted on the plentiful salmon of the rivers and the game of the grasslands.   Trails and river corridors permitted trade during the summers with the Indians of the Coast.   Winter brought total isolation, and a dependence on stored food.

South of approximately the 48th parallel of latitude, the dense fir and cedar forest gave way to open grassy plains of the semi-arid Columbia Plateau.   The grasslands Indians living here had all acquired horses by the end of the Eighteenth Century.   The horses of the Mexicans had been spread northwards by persistent Indian trading and theft, and a semi-nomadic horse culture, similar to that of the Great Plains east of the Rockies, was adopted by the Columbia Basin Indians.   The ownership of horses allowed annual treks over the Rockies to kill buffalo, the meat being packed  back on horses for winter food.    North of the 48th parallel, only the Kootenay Indians had horses, as they had extensive grasslands in the East Kootenay to pasture them.   Ownership of horses permitted much more trading and intercourse between bands, and the Salish language, with its many dialects, prevailed as the means of communication.    By the time of the arrival of the Europeans, the grasslands Indians ranged over the entire Columbia – Snake Basin and were allied by marriage with their neighbours.    North of 48 the Indians lived in isolated pockets of grassland, and only in summer were in communication with their neighbours.    The forest trails and mountain passes were the summer links between the Kootenais and the Lakes (Sinixt) Indians, the Shuswaps and Okanagans.   As well, the passes though the Bitterroot and southern Rocky Mountains linked the Kootenais with the Flatheads and were used each fall by the buffalo hunters coming and going.

Today our annual auto trips, always dreading snow,  across the succession of mountain passes to visit relatives in Calgary or Vancouver, or to consult some obdurate government bureau in Victoria, duplicate exactly the family treks of the Aboriginals two centuries before.   In British Columbia, more than in any other province, our geography determines our customs, just as it always had those of the First Nations.   Their borrowed horse culture made these trips possible for them; the automobile makes it possible for us.   The Columbia Basin Indians counted their wealth in horses; we count ours in automobiles, and deface our homes with two and three car garages. 

Chapter 2

THE EUROPEAN EXPLORERS

The Aboriginals first contact with the Europeans came in 1744 when the Spanish mariner, Juan Perez made a landfall on the Queen Charlotte Islands, and met the Haida who came out in canoes to trade.   Spain claimed the entire Northwest under the Bull of Pope Alexander VI of 1493 which divided the New World lands between Spain and Portugal.    It had come to the ears of the Spanish King, Carlos II, that the Russians had been sending out parties to begin a sea otter trade with the Aboriginals of Alaska.   The Viceroy of Mexico was instructed to send out expeditions to establish a Spanish claim to the Northwest Coast, and seek for the supposed  Strait of Ainan that was believed, on the basis of fictitious maps, to connect the Pacific Coast with Hudson’s Bay.

Perez was sent north in the frigate, Santiago, from Monterey in Alta California in 1774, to sail north to latitude 60º north to investigate what other Europeans might be doing in those waters, to make contact with the natives, and on his return voyage to make “Acts of Possession” at suitable places.   The voyage was only a partial success.   Dangerous shoal waters, cold, and contrary winds, and sickness among the crew, were all reasons Perez gave on his return for failing to make a landing and turning around at latitude 55º N.   The truth probably is that Perez was scared.   The precipitous mountains, densely forested, descending to the shore, all empty of human habitation, the fjord-like inlets shrouded in perpetual fogs and beset with hazardous rocks daunted this seaman.   To be cast away by misadventure on such an inhospitable shore would mean certain death by starvation to a European.   His ship’s carpenters dismantled the wooden cross they had made with a message claiming the land for Spain, and Perez sailed for sunny California and home.

But on his way back, on the 18th of July, sailing past the Queen Charlotte Islands, he was sighted by the Haida Indians.   Those aboard the Santiago saw a series of fires lighted along the coast to signal their presence as they sailed past.   On the 20th large Haida canoes came out, almost as long as the tiny Santiago.   The cautious Haida refused to come aboard the Santiago; the prudent Spaniards refused to go ashore.   Some trade ensued with the sailors letting down knives and trinkets from the ship by rope, and pulling up furs and Chilkat blankets.   They saw that one of the Indians had a harpoon with an iron head.   This may have come from the Russians; alternatively, it may have come from Aboriginal Siberian ironworkers by repeated trades down the Alaska coast.   Further south, at Nootka Sound, Perez encountered more natives, and these apparently came aboard his tiny ship, for in the lively trading, one of them lifted some silver spoons from Jose Martinez, the second officer.

The Spanish Viceroy was understandably dissatisfied with this timid expedition.   He demoted Perez and sent the Santiago north again in 1775, commanded by Bruno Heceta, along with the even smaller (at 36 feet) Sonora under Bodega y Quadra.   This was to overcome the mariners’ objection that all would perish should the Santago be wrecked on one of those hostile shores.   Heceta was ordered to sail north to Latitude 65º and make the Act of Possession.

But Heceta, even more cautious than Perez, turned around at the southern tip of Vancouver Island and sailed back to Monterrey.   Bodega y Quadra however, in Sonora, not larger than a Haida canoe, went as far north as 57º and there made the symbolic Act of Possession.   That seemed to satisfy the Viceroy for the time being, since no more northern expeditions were sent out.

The British, too, had heard of Russian activities on the Northwest Coast, and of the secretive Spanish expeditions in that area.   In 1776, the master mariner, Captain James Cook was sent out at his own insistence to explore this unknown Coast for the shadowy Straits of Ainan, which, if they existed, the Admiralty was determined, should be firmly held in British hands as an All British route to the Far East. 

Cook, sailing around the Horn, came up through the South Pacific Islands to “discover” Hawaii, whose inhabitants, competent seafarers in their own right, thought they needed no “discovery” by anyone.   Cook reached the Oregon Coast in March, 1778, but stormy weather prevented a landing.   By 29 March he was in Nootka Sound, greeted by the Indians in their canoes, eager to trade, among other things, the same silver spoons purloined from Jose Martinez four years previous.

Unlike the Spanish, Cook came ashore, sent his men into forest to cut spars and spare masts.   He replenished the Resolution’s water casks and brewed spruce beer from the local spruce needles as a remedy against scurvy.   Cook again sailed north at the end of April getting his ship into the Aleutian Islands and returning to Hawaii for the winter where he was killed in February 1779 in a skirmish with the locals.   

His second in command, Charles Clerke, took over, and entered the Bering Sea, sailing north until he was blocked by ice.   Clerke died of tuberculosis in August 1779, and Lieutenant Gore took over to sail the expedition south to Canton, where to their surprise, the crew discovered that the sea otter pelts they had traded for with the Indians, brought amazingly high prices.  They sailed back to England with the news, which, like the Russians and the Spanish, the British tried to keep secret.   But crew members let it out.   John Ledyard, deserting to America published his account of the voyage in 1783, telling the world that “skins which did not cost the purchaser six pence sterling, sold in China for 100 dollars.”

The news that these bleak lands, as hostile as the Norwegian Fjords, would support a trade in furs to China more valuable than anyone had dreamed, brought the commercial world to the Northwest.   For the next seventy years the Northwest, that dark and mythic land, would see a great commercial struggle for domination of its trade while distant governments fumbled toward a solution to its sovereignty.

 

Chapter 3

THE FUR TRADE INTERLUDE

The significance of the Fur Trade Era to later mining development on the Columbia was the establishment of the first permanent European settlements in the Northwest, and the improvement of the Aboriginals’ trails for use by pack stock, and on the Columbia Plateau by wagon.    Not less important, the question of sovereignty was finally resolved, and a border was surveyed and monumented, dividing the Northwest into American territory and British.

In September, 1805, in an eerie coincidence, the Columbia drainage was being entered by two parties almost simultaneously.   The Canadian fur traders, under Simon Fraser of the Northwest Company of Montreal, were entering  through Howse Pass in the Rockies, while five hundred miles to the south, Lewis and Clark were crossing Lehmi Pass to enter the Salmon River watershed for the Americans.    The Americans returned east the following year to report to their government, but the Northwesters under Fraser and James Thompson stayed, establishing  year-round trading posts from Fort St James in the north to Kullyspell in Montana and Spokan House in present Washington.

The immense distances the furs had to be transported on mens’ backs across the Rockies and by canoe down the rivers and lakes to Lake Superior at Fort William, prompted the Canadian company to find an outlet to the Pacific where furs might be carried back to Montreal in ships and supplies sent out.   In 1811, David Thompson, for the Northwest Company, set out to find that route to the Pacific.   In June 1811, he left Kootenai House near lake Windermere on the Canadian Upper Columbia, and traveled south along the great Rocky Mountain Trench and the Kootenay River to where Jennings, Montana is today.  From there the party took the Flathead Indian  trail south to Saleesh House on the Clark Fork River.   Spokan House was reached in a few days, and from there Thompson and his men took the Indian trail to Kettle Falls on the Columbia River.   They paused there to build  a boat, embarked and descended the Columbia to the Pacific.    At the river’s mouth they found the fort of John Astor’s American Pacific Fur Company which had been established from the sea from New York. 

The question of sovereignty was ticklish.   The Europeans coveted land anywhere, aboriginally occupied or not.   Spain claimed as far north as the Russian settlements at latitude 57º North.   The British claimed on the basis of Captains Cook and Vancouver’s explorations of the coast and Lieutenant Boughton’s ascent of the Columbia as far as present Vancouver, Washington.    The American expansionists cited the explorations of Lewis and Clark and the discovery of the mouth of the Columbia by the American Captain Gray. 

  On the ground, at Fort Astoria, the two parties, David Thompson for the Canadians, and David Stuart (also a Canadian in the employ of Astor) for the American company, being both practical men rather than political zealots, sensibly decided to cooperate and trade jointly.

Stuart moved up the Columbia with his men that year, trading as they went.    They found the Indians well disposed and eager to trade.   At the mouth of the Wenatchee River they traded one yard of calico and two yards of ribbon for four horses, and found Chief Sop eager to trade even more horses.   Stuart founded Fort Okanogan two miles above the confluence of the Okanagan and Columbia rivers and left trader Ross there.   With the rest of his men he ascended the Okanagan, and crossed over the low divide to the South Thompson.   At the confluence of the north and south Thompson rivers he established a post, calling it Fort Kamloops.   A few weeks later a party of Northwesters established their Fort Kamloops close nearby.   Sending most of his party back to Astoria, Stuart and Montigny wintered at Kamloops, Ross at Okanagan.     Trading was brisk and enormously profitable.  In the 188 days Ross remained at Fort Okanagan, he took in 1550 beaver skins worth $12,000 at the Canton, China market at a cost in trade goods of $175.     The Northwest fur trade, the Astorians discovered, was hugely profitable and worth a contest with the Northwest Company.    

David Thompson returned up the Columbia to the Snake River and ascended it to the mouth of the Palouse.   From there he took the Indian trail to the Spokane River and turned west again to Kettle Falls, reaching it on August 28.    Finan Mc Donald had been up the Columbia from Kettle Falls as far as present Revelstoke, but there was still that stretch of the river from the Illecillewat River to Boat Encampment to be explored.   On September 2, Thompson, with 8 canoes of Sinixt Indians began the last leg of his journey.   The first night the party camped somewhere above the site of present Northport, Washington .  On the next day they got as far as Murphy Creek in B.C.   On September 5 they camped at present Castlegar, getting as far as Deer Park the next day.   On the 7th they entered Lower Arrow Lake, and paddled to a campsite somewhere below Edgewood.   All of Thompson’s campsites were most probably the established camps of the Indians in his party.  The Sinixt Indian families had long established summer fishing grounds and camps along the Arrow Lakes.   September 8 the party camped in “the Narrows,” possibly Burton or Mosquito Creek.   Thompson and his men entered Upper Arrow Lake on the next day and got as far as Halcyon.   One the 10th they cleared the Upper Lake and camped somewhere along the river above Arrowhead.   On the next day they reached the Illecillewat at present Revelstoke.   The river above Revelstoke had rapids and white water, and their progress was slowed.   Probably they lined the canoes through the worst of the water.  They camped somewhere near Eight Mile Creek.   On the 13th Thompson reported “a hard day,”making 12 miles, passing through Steamboat Rapids, and camping near Carnes Creek. The next day they passed Downie Creek at noon and then had to ascend or line through Death Rapids (Thompson says negotiating it with “care and safety”) where so many voyageurs and miners would be drowned in succeeding years.   By September 18 they were back at Boat Encampment and Thompson made a short exploratory trip up the Canoe River to examine the country for its fur potential.   Then it was time to head back on foot across the Rockies for supplies and trading goods.

The pragmatic cooperation between the Northwest Company men and Astor’s traders was destroyed the very next year by the news that the War of 1812 had broken out between the British and the Americans.   With war, the men at Astoria felt threatened.  The British had warships in the Pacific, the Americans none.   British naval ships could blockade any American post, preventing  furs from being shipped.   If that happened,. the Astorians were ready to abandon the Fort, and try to take what furs they had back across the Rockies on foot.

The Northwest Company, taking advantage of the state of war, had sent out its ship the Isaac Todd, armed with cannon as a privateer, to sail around the Horn and capture Fort Astoria.

At the same time, the Northwester, John Stuart, came down the Columbia with 70 men to camp

opposite Fort Astoria and wait for the Isaac Todd with her guns.   With the Northwesters at their gates, and the Isaac Todd expected any week, the Astorians, most of whom were Canadians recruited from the Northwest Company, considered a third option.   On the 16th of October, 1813, the men of the American Pacific Fur Company sold Fort Astoria with all of its furs and supplies to the Northwesters for $80,000 in credit notes.    Most of its men then promptly joined their former employer, the Northwest Company.  Astoria was promptly renamed, “Fort George,” and became a Northwest Company post.

This pragmatic solution was to be shortly undone by a glory-seeking British Navy Captain.  Captain Black sailed his frigate, HMS Raccoon, into the mouth of the Columbia two weeks later to “capture” Fort Astoria.   What he found was disappointing to a glory-hungry Naval Captain; a shabby log fort, already British, squatting in the mud at the edge of an impenetrable forest.   “Why I could batter it down with my guns in two hours,” he wrote.   Nevertheless, he came ashore with his marines, took formal possession in the King’s name, raised a flagpole, hoisted the Union Jack, fired a salute, and broke a bottle of wine against the pole.    This was supposed to solemnize the occasion, but the thoughts of the thirsty

Northwesters as they saw the precious wine trickling into the mud could scarcely have been  solemn.

This formal act of Captain Black converted a simple commercial transaction into a “seizure,” an “Act of War,” and was to have serious consequences.    The Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812, provided for “Status quo ante;”  all military conquests were to be returned to their original owners, and the Americans prodded by Jacob Astor, were insistent on having Astoria restored to them.    Thus, the British lost the only post south of the Columbia, and with it, any claims to territory south of the river.

THE COMPANY WAR

The Northwest Company had been formed in Montreal in 1763 to take over the French  Quebecers’ fur trade which had fallen into disarray after the French defeat at the Plains of Abraham.   Its principals were Scots Jacobite noblemen obliged to flee their homeland after their defeat at the battle of Culloden in 1745.   Many were Catholic; all bitterly hated the British.     The rival London based Hudson’s Bay Company had a Royal Charter awarding it a monopoly on trade in all lands draining into Hudson’s Bay.   The Northwesters had begun by moving legally  into those areas south of the Height of Land where the HBC had no exclusive rights.    Gradually, following the beaver, the Northwesters began to invade the territory the HBC considered it own, and set up rival posts.   The HBC countered by sending its trappers south to the Missouri river and west to the Rockies, at that time claimed by Spain.   

The HBC was a trading company on the model of the East India Company, caste-bound and exclusively British.   Its traders had to be white, gentlemen, and of good family.    All others, French, Metis, Iroquois, were the company’s indentured servants, and could never rise to the rank of Trader.    The Northwesters, on the other hand, were a more egalitarian group, each one of whom was a shareholder in the company and partook of its profits.    A young man, even one of mixed blood, could enter as a clerk and rise by diligence to the the rank of Trader.    The Northwesters to a man hated the English, and by sharp trading, and physical harassment, tried to drive the HBC posts out of the areas they coveted.   The HBC responded by encouraging the Aboriginals, who had some reason to resent the Northwester’s sharp trading practices, to raid their fur brigades and steal their furs, which the HBC would then buy.   In the lands between Lake Superior and the Rockies a kind of post-Jacobite war between Scots and English continued, with no government in place to put a stop to it.   

West of the Rockies was peace.  This was Northwest Company’s preserve; the HBC had no posts on the Pacific Slope.    The furs from “New Caledonia,” the lands north of the Thompson River, went out across Athabaska Pass over the Rockies, and by canoe down the rivers through HBC territory to Fort William on Lake Superior.   From there, large boats carried them down the lakes to Montreal.   

Furs from “Columbia,” the lands south of the Thompson, went down the Columbia River to Fort George (Astoria) where they were loaded on the Isaac Todd.   It was the Isaac Todd on one of her supply trips to Fort George that brought the first white woman to the Northwest.    Jane Barnes was an adventurous barmaid from Portsmouth, England, seeking a well to do husband.   In this endeavour, she shipped aboard one of the supply voyages of the Isaac Todd as the mistress of one of its officers.    At Fort George, however,  she found herself scorned by the Northwesters who found her pretensions to be a great lady simply because she was the only lady, ridiculous.   The pragmatic Northwesters much preferred to take Indian wives who conferred valuable trading alliances to various tribes in the area.   Finding the Fort George Scots more concerned with the trading advantages of a marriage than romance, the indignant Miss Barnes left Fort George with the Isaac Todd, to disembark in Hong Kong where she married a wealthy Englishman.

The Isaac Todd circled the globe on every voyage.   Leaving Montreal with a cargo of provisions and trader’s goods, she called at Fort George to resupply the traders and take on the year’s harvest of furs.   She then sailed to Hong Kong and Canton where the best and showiest furs could be traded for tea and porcelain ware.    From China, the Isaac Todd sailed to England to disembark the remainder of her furs and take on a cargo of trade goods, a good deal of alcohol included.    At Montreal she loaded up with provisions, potatoes, flour, dried cod,and set out again for Fort George.

In the Boundary Treaty of 1819, the Americans and the British, neither feeling strong enough to oust the other, agreed on a dual sovereignty for the Northwest, with citizens of both nations free to enter and to trade.    The Aboriginals, essential parties to this trade, were not, of course, consulted.    With this treaty the  Spanish claims were settled.   It fixed the northern boundary of Mexico from the Pacific to the Rockies at latitude 42º North, the present northern boundary of California, Nevada and Utah.

This anomalous situation of dual sovereignty with non interference in Aboriginal affairs continued without the shadow of a government presence by either country, and was broken only by rare visits of naval vessels along the coast, “showing the flag.”   Peace was kept and a sort of rude order maintained by dialogs between the traders and the chiefs of the various Indian nations.

Troubles erupted only along the coastline where the Northwest Company had no presence, and where American independent trading vessels (“The Bostons,” as the Indians called them) were guilty of depredations among the coastal Indians.   Their practice was to demand that the Indians trade; if they refused, they were harassed and their villages burned under the cannon of the trading ships.   From these abuses, a pervasive Indian hostility toward the “Boston Men” developed that was to last well into the mining era. 

East of the Rockies, a virtual civil war between the two companies had developed, Scots against Englishmen, with the British under Lord Selkirk settling Scots farmers in the Red River Colony.   As the Colony with its fort, blocked the Northwester’s supply route from Fort William, open warfare broke out.   Lord Selkirk’s Colony was attacked, burnt and destroyed by the Northwesters.   It was reoccupied and rebuilt by the Britishers, only to be sacked again.   The Governor General of the Canadas was obliged to send in British troops to arrest the leaders on both sides.   To compel peace, the Colonial Office in 1821 required the two companies to unite.   The Northwest Company was folded into the HBC with each Northwester receiving one HBC share.   The new HBC was then given official warrant to extend its operations to the Pacific.

The reason the HBC was selected to take over the Northwest Company was the British distrust of the Montreallers. The Colonial Office could see that in the Northwest, the sovereignty issue with the Americans was bound to come to a head.   It felt that it was essential that a London company, wholly British controlled, should be the commercial entity in this contentious region. The Montreallers were not trusted by the British; they shipped their furs to New York, not London.    Many of them had built mansions in New York with their profits, and all were on excellent terms with the Americans.   It was feared in London that the Northwest Company might well, for commercial reasons, make common cause with the Americans and lose the Northwest to the Yankees.    Therefore they had to be brought under direct British supervision.  Whether this might have happened is unclear; the point was the British thought it might, and an alliance between disaffected Scots and Americans would be dangerous for all of Canada in the British view.

The augmented HBC chose George Simpson to be its Governor in Chief in North America.   Simpson was a cold, harsh man, unpleasant in person, but a whirlwind of energy.    He at once made a tour of the Northwest and instituted thoroughgoing changes.    Some posts that had not been productive were closed, new ones in promising territory were opened, and a first  program of agriculture begun.   The posts were now to grow their own food and not depend on costly foodstuffs shipped out from Britain or Montreal on the Isaac Todd.   

In the 1830s the American expansionists were clamoring for the annexation of the Oregon Territory, as they called the entire Northwest.    Governor Simpson, along with his London  masters, foresaw that in any division of territory, the lands south of the Columbia would most likely fall to the Americans.   He therefore closed the indefensible Fort George (though returned to the Americans, Jacob Astor chose not to reopen it as a trading post, and the British had continued their trade out of an American post) on the south bank of the river, and founded a new headquarters for the Columbia Department at Fort Vancouver, 50 miles upstream and on the north bank, opposite the mouth of the Willamette.   The Columbia Department was placed in charge of the Canadian born, former Northwester, Dr. John Mc Loughlin.    Archibald Mc Donald took over at Fort Colvile on the upper Columbia where the Basin grasslands gave way to the northern forests.     William Connolly was in charge of the New Caledonia Department at Fort St James.  All these former Northwesters who liked to live well, had to be chivvied and verbally harassed by Governor Simpson to bring their establishments into line with the much more frugal and self sufficient style of the HBC.

Simpson also had to deal with the American trappers who were now beginning to cross the Rockies and take furs from that same Northwest territory which was by agreement, open to both nations.   Governor Simpson conceived the plan of trapping out the western slope of the Rockies, to render it bare of furs, thus discouraging American entry.   To undertake this dangerous and ticklish task of trapping out the headwaters of the Snake River and the western slopes of the Rockies under the harassment of the Americans, Simpson chose wild Peter Ogden, a Northwester who had skipped west across the Rockies in 1821 to avoid a murder warrant.   “That dangerous fellow, Ogden,” was sent on five successive expeditions to create a beaverless strip around the eastern and southern reaches of the Northwest.   Such expeditions were not without great danger; the American trappers were encountered, and chose to believe the Northwest was American soil, regardless of international conventions.   An uneasy hostility resulted, but both groups were restrained by the presence of superior numbers of Indians.   In a pinch, the whites would stick together. 

Simpson’s scheme worked.   After a few years the American fur traders were discouraged; the HBC bought their Fort Hall (near Pocotello) from them in 1837.    However, a rush of land hungry settlers was something Governor Simpson had not counted on.   Over the trails blazed by Peter Ogden and the American fur traders (“The Oregon Trail”), they came, to settle in the Willamette Valley, south of the Columbia.    The HBC tried to counter this by sending out its own  party of French Canadian settlers, company employees.   But the French Canadians quickly had enough of the autocratic Governor Simpson and the class-conscious  British.   They threw in their lot with the Americans, and settled in the Willamette Valley, south of the Columbia.

The new American settlers at once petitioned their government to annex Oregon.   Jingoist politicians in the East and Midwest took up the cry, and demanded all the lands up to the Russian line at 57º North.    President Polk, elected on an expansionist platform, declared American title to the Northwest was “clear and unquestionable.”   This stunning repudiation of the treaty of 1819 left the British thunderstruck.   Negotiations over a division of the Northwest between the Americans and the British government began in 1846.    The HBC had proposed in 1825 a line that ran down the Rockies from the 49th parallel, cut east through Missoula to headwaters of the Clearwater River, then down to the Snake and Columbia.   In 1846 the British were willing to settle for less, a line along the 49th parallel to the Columbia River, and down the Columbia to the Pacific.   This was reasonable; it placed all of the British occupied and administered area with Britain, and the American settled areas with the Americans.    The Americans, however, insisted on a port on Puget Sound.   They threatened war, and demanded the 49th parallel straight to the Pacific, cutting  Vancouver Island in two.

On the ground the American position was weak.   Their “war hawks” had dragged them that year into a war with Mexico.    Their Army was then in Mexico, their navy in the Gulf of Mexico, while a  British naval squadron cruised the North Pacific facing no opposition.   Had the British stood firm, it is likely they would have got their border down the Columbia. 

However, the British Foreign Secretary at this time was a pacifist idealist, Lord Aberdeen, determined, like Neville Chamberlain a century later, to appease the belligerent Americans with territory he chose to believe was of no importance to Britain.     Aberdeen got the Americans to draw their line around the southern tip of Vancouver Island and then gave them their boundary and everything north of the Columbia up to 49º north.    The day the news that treaty was signed in Washington, the British Government fell.   The supine Aberdeen was replaced by a spirited Palmerston who would have certainly gone to war rather than concede British occupied and administered territory.    But the deed was done and a furious Governor Simpson, would have to live with it.

With the drawing of the line, the HBC moved its headquarters and depot to a new Fort Victoria on Vancouver Island.   By the treaty the HBC was empowered to continue to operate its posts and to own land in the new Oregon Territory.    The Fur Trade, however was diminishing., demand for beaver was down.    In 1844, some Florentine hatters produced the first black silk top hat.   It was an instant success.  Silk hats were the fashion all over Europe, and the beaver hat became gradually obsolete.   Vagaries in fashion, as well as politics, were determining the future of the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Beginning with Governor Simpson’s decrees that each HBC post should become self sufficient in food, the company was now developing an agricultural enterprise.    HBC produced grain, potatoes, dried salmon, cattle, horse, coal, and lumber.    Simpson had noted the absence of refrigeration in San Francisco and beef rotting before it could be sold.   With characteristic energy, he chartered a number of ships and sent them north to the Gulf of Alaska where the seamen chopped loads of ice from the glaciers and icebergs.   The HBC sold this ice to San Francisco butchers.

  In 1848 the HBC set up the first sawmill in Victoria to supply local needs.   Captain Grant and others were beginning an export trade in Douglas Fir logs for spars and masts.   The British Admiralty had tested a shipment of Douglas Fir in 1847 for naval use and found the new species superior to any available in Europe.   In 1860 the Anderson Mill was set up at the head of Alberni Inlet, producing Douglas Fir lumber exclusively for export.   In order to offset the $1 per thousand board feet duty the Americans imposed, the HBC, controlling all resources, lowered its royalty on timber accordingly to allow the Anderson mill to compete in the U.S. market.   This would set the future pattern for the export oriented timber industry in British Columbia; to this day American import regulations determine timber royalties for the B.C. government.   

These HBC products found eager markets in Hawaii, San Francisco, and with the new American settlements on Puget Sound.   All this mercantile trade was kept as a monopoly by the HBC, however, under its amended charter of 1821.   Actually, quite illegally, since the HBC monopoly by proclamation extended only to trade with the Aboriginals.   

With all of Governor Simpson’s energy, and following him, the vigour and determination of Governor James Douglas, the HBC never quite fully converted itself to a mercantile establishment.   Its traders and officials all felt themselves a kind of British Proconsuls charged with bringing orderly rule to a wild and distant land.   Customers in want of supplies, might come to the HBC posts where their wants would be accommodated, but no HBC man would stoop to deliberately soliciting their trade; that was Yankee pushiness, and beneath the dignity of a Royally chartered institution.    

The new government in Britain realized that the ambiguous situation of the lands north of the 49th parallel  continued to make them vulnerable to the American doctrine of “Manifest Destiny” and the U.S. political expansionists.    These lands were not politically organized parts of the empire, but merely British claims, “possessions.”  Accordingly, in 1849, Vancouver Island, but not the mainland, was created a British Crown Colony.   At the same time, so as not to make it a drain on the British Exchequer, it was granted entirely to the Hudson’s Bay Company on the condition that the company establish a settlement of British colonists.   All the island land became HBC property to sell or lease.    In this way the Empire gained a colony but left the expense of its maintenance and administration to a private corporation.    It was a cheap solution, but ultimately unwise.    In those first ten years of its existence, the Colony of Vancouver Island, poor and isolated, with its handful of HBC officers and servants, functioned in fact as a hinterland of San Francisco which was its principal commercial partner.

  All that was to change in September, 1854.    While Peter Ogden, that wildest and most intrepid of the Northwesters, lay dying in his Oregon home where he had deliberately retired out of British control, an HBC teamster, Joseph Morell and his companions at the Fort Colvile HBC post, found gold in the gravel bars along the Columbia River. 

 

Chapter 4

THE ORIGINS OF WESTERN MINING

Although a few of the Americans moving west in the 1840s had seen gold panning practiced along the the mountain streams of North Carolina and Georgia, it was the Mexicans who were the first miners in the west.    A great silver rush began in Mexico in 1543, and in the next ten years more silver was produced than had been seized in the Spanish Conquest.   Mexico had a school of mines from 1792, while up until 1849 the United States had not a single public assayer.

In the European monarchical tradition, gold and silver were “Royal Metals,” belonging to the Crown.   Miners might be licensed to extract them, but the Crown would then take from them  its “Royal Fifth.”   This seizure was bitterly resented, and miners sought to evade it in whatever way they could.   Within the settled parts of Mexico, a discovery of mineral had to be “denounced” to the local authorities, the equivalent of staking a claim.    And from that moment the miners were subject to close supervision to ensure that the “Quinto,” or “Royal Fifth” did not escape the Crown.    A wealthy or well connected mine owner might induce the authorities to look the other way by judicious bribery, but poor miners with no influence at the Vice Regal Court were  subject to harassing  exactions by local authorities as well as the forfeiture of the “Quinto.”    They had but one recourse.   

The Court of Spain had drawn the “Rim of Christendom” at the boundary of Arizona and New Mexico with Sonora and Chihuahua.    The lands north of that line were declared to be “in partibus infidelorum,” the lands of the infidels.    These lands were to be entered only with military escort to protect the traveler from hostile Aboriginals, and in the case of miners, to seize their “Quinto” for the Crown. 

To evade these forfeitures, a system of clandestine mining in the frontier regions evolved.

Each spring, quiet groups of Mexican miners would set out from their wintering places at Sonora or Chihuahua City to slip over the “Rim of Christendom” without escort, and once in the Indian lands, would hire Apache Indians as guides and interpreters to secure peaceful passage through the Aboriginal lands.    These clandestine Mexican miners moved surreptitiously, avoided contact with the American fur trappers, and mined in total secrecy, closing their workings at the end of each season, so that others would not find them.    Old Spanish/Mexican workings have been found in all of the Southwest states as far north as Utah and Wyoming.

When the gold seekers of 1849 entered California they found the Mexicans already in place, washing the gold from the gravel bars of the Sierra.   James Marshall is credited with the “discovery” of gold in California, but the clandestine Mexican miners had been quietly removing California gold for some time.  The same was true in Colorado in the 1870s; the Mexican miners were already on the silver deposits when the Americans arrived, and were the only ones who knew how to extract silver bullion from its ores.     The Americans learned their mining techniques from the Mexicans, but it was not in their nature to adopt the characteristic Mexican secrecy about their work.    There was no “Quinto” in America; minerals found in the earth could be claimed in full by the man who dug them.   In the absence of existing regulations, the California miners made their own “Miners Law,” establishing number and size of claims permitted each man, days of work — Sunday was sacrosanct — and the means whereby claims might be held, sold or leased. 

When the California miners heard the news of a gold strike in British Columbia and headed north, they were to cross, at the 49th Parallel, another rim, the “Rim of Republican Institutions,” and enter into a British possession, where the Monarchical Doctrine still held: gold and silver were “Royal Metals,” and belonged absolutely to the Crown.

The tiny Colony of Vancouver Island was then ruled by “Old Squaretoes,” Chief  Factor James Douglas, of the  Hudson’s Bay Company, which operated the only stores Governor Douglas permitted to exist.    As well, he was Agent Manager for the Puget Sound Agricultural Company which operated the HBC farms and ranches.  Further, as Land Agent for the HBC, he was the sole seller of lands in the Colony.   The Colonial Office had sent out Richard Blanshard as Colonial Governor, but poor Blanshard had found that there was no Governor’s house for him; he had to board and room at the HBC post.   As he was not an employee of the HBC he had to pay the full 300% markup on any purchased.    As well, Governor Blanshard found he had no servants, no police, no judge, nothing whatever with which to set up an administration.   After an ineffectual year in which he was barely tolerated by the HBC, and without a private fortune,  he acknowledged defeat and went back to England.    James Douglas, “Old Squaretoes,” was then named Governor by default.   Thus, with all the economic power in the colony absolutely in his hands, Chief Factor Douglas now had all political power delivered to him as well.    He ruled with a legislative council he had appointed, consisting of himself, John Tod, former HBC Chief Trader at Fort Kamloops, and Captain James Cooper who had begun farming with some Kanaka labourers brought from Hawaii.   There was also a single immigrant in the colony, Captain Grant, who began farming outside Victoria.

It was tight little company Colony, 3000 miles from Hong Kong, the nearest British base, and 2000 miles from Canada over a wilderness which had only foot trails and canoe routes for communication.    San Francisco was its market for hides, dried fish, potatoes and livestock, and the Colony functioned as an economic satellite of California, only politically British. 

There was scant immigration.   Governor Douglas, and the Colonial Office, fearing American annexation, if U.S. settlers poured in to set up their own government as they had in Oregon, framed the immigration rules specifically to keep out Americans.   To discourage them, the price of land was set at £1 (appx. $5) per acre, with a minimum purchase of 20 acres.   For every hundred acres purchased, the settler must bring with him at his own expense “five single men or three married couples” to work the land.   It was a Squire and Tenant society that the Governor Douglas sought to reproduce in his colony, a little England.   But at the same time, any English freedman could step across the 49th parallel, become naturalized as an American, and select land in Oregon or Washington for 25¢ per acre.   And this was what many HBC employees, having completed their term of service, chose to do.   There was no profit in freedmen farming Vancouver Island; the HBC’s Puget Sound Agricultural Company was furnishing all the local market could absorb; an independent farmer had no market unless he exported his produce to the U.S. or Hawaii.

  The HBC indentured labourers on the Company’s farms and mills earned £17 per year (about $85), while the going rate for free labor was £70 ($350) per year.  As a result, many of them deserted to the American Territories.   The Colony was loosing as many immigrants as it gained; the immigration policy was a failure.   “Old Squaretoes” apparently liked it that way.    He was absolutely in charge, and was determined his Colony should stay as it was: British, orderly, and respectful of its betters.    Only one factor could change that, the Americans, and Governor Douglas feared and hated them.

GOLD

  To the south, in California  by 1850, were tens of thousands of restless miners whose claims were no longer yielding “an ounce a day,” the minimum deemed sufficient to support one man.   They were beginning to filter north, seeking new gold fields.    There had been reports of gold finds in the Queen Charlotte Islands, north of the Colony.   On August 18, 1850, the unfortunate Governor Blanshard had written to Colonial Secretary, Earl Grey,

“I have seen a very rich specimen of gold ore, said to have been brought by the Indians of Queen Charlotte’s Islands.”

The HBC officers at Fort Simpson had got hold of some California nuggets and had asked the Indians if they had seen anything similar.   The Indians said that they had, and some weeks later an old Indian woman came in with a 21 ounce specimen of gold in quartz.   The next year, following the Haida Indians’ directions, the HBC men found at Mitchell Harbour on the west coast of Moresby Island, a vein, 6 inches wide in quartz, striking northwest, parallel with the coast.   The HBC men had come prepared with powder and chisels and blasted out the vein.  But the Haida Indians, quite naturally supposing themselves to be the owners of the mineral, would rush in after each blast, pick up all the gold they could, and carry it off with cries of triumph.   They defended their right to do so with drawn knives, and harassed the HBC men at their work.    The handful of company men felt this work was proving to be too hazardous, and after sone days work, fearing bloodshed, they withdrew.

However, the news of gold on the Queen Charlottes leaked out and in 1851 two ships set out from Puget sound with 60 American miners headed for the Queen Charlotte discovery.

The Queen Charlotte Islands were not part of the Vancouver Island Colony.   They were claimed by the British and the HBC had the exclusive right to trade with the Haida who lived there, but beyond that, Douglas had no legal authority.   The Puget Sound miners found small pockets of placer gold, but harassed by the warlike Haidas, and disappointed by their meagre takings, gave up.

The following year Governor Douglas learned that six ships had set sail from San Francisco with 500 men bound for the Queen Charlottes.   He communicated his anxiety to the Colonial Secretary in London,

“These vessels are chartered by large bodies of American adventurers, who are proceeding thither for the purpose of digging gold; and if they succeed in that object, it is said to be their intention to colonize the island, and establish an independent government, until by force or fraud, they become annexed to the U.S.”   

The six ships were real and bound for the Charlottes, but any plan to colonize the island was most probably Governor Douglas’ hostile fantasy.   Placer gold miners have very seldom been colonists.    The Californians’ object was to find gold, to dig it, and to take it back to San Francisco to spend in high living.   The idea that they might try to colonize a wilderness of islands where there was not a thing to buy with their gold, was absurd.    Governor Douglas obviously wanted to exclude all foreigners from the gold fields, and he was angling with the Colonial Office for authority to do so.

          The Colonial Office, not wishing to anger the Americans by excluding them, but concerned that some authority be placed over these nomadic miners, made “Old Squaretoes” Lieutenant Governor of all the British lands west of the Rockies, but it specifically required him to treat all nationals equally with the British.   With this new authority, Governor Douglas hastily imported a set of Australian mining regulations and proclaimed them for the Queen Charlotte Islands.   The doctrine of the “Royal Fifth” had lapsed in England, but precious metals were still the property of the Crown and could be mined only by licence from the Queen’s representative.

The Australian regulations now proclaimed for the Colony, the islands, and the mainland, required a miner to pay the government $3.00 per month for a license to mine gold, and claims could be no greater than 12 ft. by 12 ft., one to a man.

To further discourage the Americans, Governor Douglas recruited HBC men to go north at once, establish themselves on the vein and face down the Haidas.   When the U.S. ships arrived they found the one vein of gold taken over by the HBC men, and unable to find any other deposits, they sailed for home, not bothering to put in at Victoria to pay their licence fees.   The danger past, Governor  Douglas and his tight little colony lapsed back into the accustomed somnolence of English colonial gentlemen.

Chapter 5

GOLD ON THE COLUMBIA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 6

THE THOMPSON AND FRASER RUSH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A GOLD RUSH THROUGH A WAR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Colville Indians, Sinixt (Lakes), and Kootenais tribes had traditionally traveled up the Columbia and other rivers in the summer to hunt and fish in the Lakes and rivers of the Kootenay District.   They wintered in the drier and sunnier grasslands around Colville.  

 

 

After the rushes of 1855 and 1858, the miners followed their example.   The Pacific Tribune (Olympia) of July 8, 1865 reported of Pinkney City,

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

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

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

Chapter 7

ROCK CREEK, CARIBOO, AND TRAILS TO THE INTERIOR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE ROCK CREEK RUSH

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

          THE BEST NEWS YET

                  ROCK CREEK A SUCCESS

          From $20 to $ 200 per day to the hand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE CARIBOO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 8

ROCK CREEK, CARIBOO, AND TRAILS TO THE INTERIOR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

soldier than a Sapper or a Miner or Engineer would answer our purposes better.”

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

THE ROCK CREEK RUSH

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

          THE BEST NEWS YET

                  ROCK CREEK A SUCCESS

          From $20 to $ 200 per day to the hand

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

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

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

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

The contract for this trail, which would follow Skiyou’s route, was given to Edgar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We found gold on the south fork (the Tulameen).  Father built two rockers, and for the next two months we kept busy.   At the end of that time our supplies were running very short.   I was (15) years old, and father decided I was old enough  to assume responsibility, so he sent me to Fort Hope to secure supplies.   “There was only an Indian trail, but I  knew the general direction.   I had to ford streams and cross rivers, but  I had learned to swim when I was 8 years old, so that didn’t bother me.   As we were short of provisions, I took only two sandwiches, thinking I could make the 140 miles in two days.  I had a good riding horse, and I was going to ride from daylight to dark.   I had not gone over 20 miles when a rather hard character in that country called “Big Jim” met me in the trail.   He stopped me and said, “Have you got anything to eat?’   I told him I had only two sandwiches.   He said, ‘I haven’t had anything to eat in two days.   Hand me those sandwiches.’   I looked at him and concluded it was safest to give him the sandwiches.   He bolted them down, and grumbled because I had no more.   He was on his way out to Fort Hope but his horse was almost worn out.   I wanted to go by, but he wouldn’t let me.   He said, ‘Oh, no you don’t – we will stay together for company.   Your horse is a good deal fresher than mine and I may need him.’

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

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

THE CARIBOO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Fenian threat and the extremely modest forces available to counter it: the British naval vessels, a tiny Island militia and, east of the Cascades, only a few hundred scattered miners and ranchers, once again made clear how vulnerable to invasion from the south the Colony

was.   In the following twenty years the American expansionists would take Alaska, the Hawaiian Islands, Cuba (for a time), and the Philippines into their empire.   The distraction of the Civil war and the lack of a U.S. naval base on the Pacific, probably saved British Columbia from annexation.

Chapter 9

THE WILD HORSE RUSH

The Two Boundary Commissions, British and American, arrived on the Columbia in 1860, to build their barracks, the Americans at Pinckney City next to the U.S. Army camp, the British just north of the HBC post at Fort Colvile on the Columbia. Sections of boundary were assigned alternately to British and American surveying crews, and in 1861 they went to work.

The British Boundary Surveyors were the first to report finding gold. When they returned to their barracks in the fall of 1862 they brought specimens of gold in quartz which they had obtained from from the upper Kootenay River Indians.   Once again, it was the Aboriginals  who produced the gold for the Europeans to “discover.” 

When these samples were displayed in Colville, the prospector’s hotels emptied into the streets at once. A throng of wildly excited men demanded information.The gold was examined, the surveyors repeatedly questioned as to where it had been found.   Partnerships were instantly formed, parties organized to exploit the new strike in the spring. Prospectors sought grubstakes from local merchants, a grant of supplies for the coming season, with the merchant to receive half of what might be found. The larger parties were organized with a leader and regulations as to what size of claim was to be allowed, the days of work (Sunday was universally established as a day of rest), and the duties of each member on the trail and at the diggings. Merchants sent off orders for provisions and supplies to come up from Portland by boat to White Bluffs (opposite the present Hanford Nuclear Site) and from there up the wagon road to Colville. The town took on a look of excited prosperity, all based on what the miners hoped to find the next summer.

When the snows melted off the mountains in April of 1863,  Robert. L. Dore led the first party out of Colville up the wagon road to Pend Oreille where an old HBC trail led north.  Five hundred men, from Colville and from Walla Walla, were on the trails that spring, and the Wild Horse rush was on. The route was across the open grasslands to Pend Orielle Lake.   From there the miners went up the Pack River, crossed the low divide to the Kootenay River where rafts or crude boats had to be made to effect a crossing.   One of the men, Edwin L. Bonner, bought a piece of land at the crossing from Chief Abraham, established Bonner’s Ferry, and settled down to collect tolls.   

Once across the Kootenay the trail crossed Serviceberry Hill to the Moyie River, and over the height of land to Joseph Prairie (present Cranbrook). From there open grasslands led down to the Upper Kootenay River where John Galbraith saw his chance and built a ferry to carry miners across.  Wild Horse Creek was a few miles farther on, up river.

It should not be thought that all on the trails were miners.   Many were merchants who were veterans of other rushes and had seen what extraordinary prices provisions could command in an isolated mining camp.   Daniel Drumheller tells of his trek to Wild Horse.   

“…we were receiving flattering reports of the rich placer discoveries on Wild Horse Creek in the East Kootenays of British Columbia.   I bought a half interest in a pack train from Charley Allenberg… we bought our goods, packed our animals and started for Wild Horse Creek…. When we reached the Kootenay River… I met E.L. Bonner, R.A. Eddy, Dick Rackett, and John Walton, all old friends of mine… when they reached the Kootenay River they saw a chance to make some money by building a ferry boat.   They had a whip saw with them and were engaged in sawing lumber to build the boat… Bonner and Eddy both accumulated large fortunes.   

“We finally reached our destination, Wild Horse Creek, B.C., June 15, 1864… and found about 1,500 miners already on the ground,and about 200 straggling miners arriving daily.   We built a little   shack of logs a few rounds high and covered it with canvas and then opened up a little store.   My partner, Charlie Allenberg, was more merchant than packer, so he took charge of the store.   I sold out little pack train and then devoted myself to prospecting and mining.

“When I was ready to go prospecting I met an old California placer miner by the name of Steve Babcock.   I asked Mr. Babcock what he thought of the camp.   He said he had done some prospecting, but found nothing, and believed the diggings were going to prove quite limited.   The camp was on the widest part of a high flat or bar.    This bar as about one mile in length and its widest place was 300 yards.   The creek running along this side of the bar was the richest ground in camp.

“One morning Babcock and I took our mining tools and what grub we could pack on our backs and started to go out about six miles to prospect a stream called Stony creek.   We had only proceeded a hundred yards when we stopped to arrange our packs.   We were then near the upper end of the bar on which the camp was built.   When we had our packs arranged, I said to Bab:

“’I’m a poor packhorse and why not prospect this bar before going further.’

“Bab consented and said he had several times in mind to sink a hole in this bar.   Without further ceremony we went to work.   The bar at this point was perhaps 330 feet wide.   We put down five prospect holes to bedrock across this bar about 50 feet apart.   It was from four to six feet to bedrock.   We found but very little gravel in any of our prospect holes even on the bedrock and no gold.

“The bedrock was of slate formation, craggy and checkered with deep seams.   Neither Bob nor I had any experience of mining on that kind of bedrock.   After finishing our fifth hole we went out and prospected Stony Creek, but found no gold.   We were gone about 10 days, and on returning to camp, when we came in sight of our five prospect holes, hundreds of men were standing around then.    I said to Babcock that very likely some drunk had fallen into one of our prospect holes and broken his neck.   When we approached these men I asked one of them I know what was causing all the excitement.   He said:

“”Haven’t you heard the news?”’  I said, ‘No.’   When this man was able to speak again he said:

“”This morning Jobe Harvey, the barkeeper, was looking down into one of your old prospect holes and saw something glittering  in a deep crevice in the bedrock.   When he got it out it proved to be a nugget of gold weighing $56.’

“We were too late to secure a location.   This bar produced more gold than all the balance of the camp.”

On arriving, the Colville prospectors fanned out, checking all the creeks in the vicinity.   They found they were not the first on the ground.   A party of  lawless Montana men were already present.  They had come in via the trail from Flathead Lake and the Tobacco Plains.   Many of these were violent men who had been ordered out of Montana by the various “Vigilance Committees.”  While they had been wintering at Frenchtown, near present Missoula, a mixed breed Indian from the Findlay band in the East Kootenay came to visit the French settlement.   With him he had some gold nuggets he said he had picked up out of seams in the bedrock in a small stream flowing into the Kootenay River 40 miles above present Fort Steele.

The prospectors hired this Indian to lead them to the place, leaving Frenchtown the First of March.   When the men reached Wild Horse Creek they left their exhausted horses with three of their men, Pat Moran, Mike Brennan and Jim Reynolds.   The rest walked upriver to Findlay Creek but found little gold.   In their absence, the three men left behind with the stock began prospecting on the open sections of Wild Horse creek.   Four miles upstream in a box canyon they struck rich ground.    At once they held a miner’s meeting and drew up laws to govern size of claims and the means to hold them.   “Uncle Dan Drumheller,” tells what happened next,

“There had been a great feud existing between the miners from the east of the Rockies and those from the west… and there was a free-for-all fight in a saloon.   One man, Tommy Waker, was killed.   Overland Bob was hit over the head with a big hand spike and a fellow by the name of Kelly was stabbed with a knife in the back.  “A mob was quickly raised by the friends of Tommy Walker for the purpose of hanging Overland  Bob and East Powder Bill.   Then a law and order organization numbering about 1000 miners, of which I was a member, assembled.   It was the purpose of our organization to order a miners’ court and give all concerned a fair (hearing).   The next morning  we appointed a lawyer by the name of A. J. Gregory as trial judge and John Mc Clellan sheriff, with authority to appoint as many deputies as he wished.   That was the condition of things when Judge Haynes, the British Columbia (Gold) commissioner,  rode into camp.

“’Fifteen hundred men under arms in the queen’s dominion.   A dastardly usurpation of authority, don’t cher know,’ remarked Judge Haynes.   But that one little English constable with knee breeches, red cap, cane in his hand, riding a jockey (English) saddle and mounted on  a  bob-tailed horse, quelled that mob in 15 minutes.”    

This “English constable” was John Carmichael Haynes, rancher at Lake Osoyoos, appointed Gold Commissioner for southern British Columbia and sent 300 miles east via a long detour into Washington territory to Wild Horse to issue miners’ licences, register claims, collect duties and the gold export tax.   In his report to the Governor he confirmed a thousand men on Wild Horse and Findlay Creeks.   As “Uncle Dan” reported, they had drawn up the mining laws of the district to regulate the work and avoid disputes.   These were accepted by  Haynes and enforced by his constable.   But however cooperative the miners were in matters of mining and criminal law, they were extremely reticent about the amount of their takings, since they wished to evade, if possible, the export tax on gold.     Governor Douglas had imposed a tax of 50 cents per ounce on exporting gold in a vain effort to compel the miners to sell their dust and nuggets to the HBC post at Tobacco Plains for forwarding to New Westminster.   

Again as had happened on the Fraser, the miners, in absence of local authority, drew up their own laws and appointed their own officials.   But once a self-assured representative of Colonial authority manifested himself and demonstrated probity, and ability to keep the peace, the Americans were quite willing to accept his rule.    Except, of course, in that matter of the “un-American” gold export tax.   On that, the Magistrates and Gold Commissioners had to accept the pragmatic dictum that only those laws can be enforced, which the citizens are willing to have enforced.

In the fall all but a few of the men headed back down the trails to the Washington Territory to share their take with the merchants who had grub staked them, pay their hotel bills, and find a warm room for the winter.   For the few that stayed on the placer grounds, the winter was trying.   Flour cost $2.50 per pound, tobacco was $15, and opium, quite legal, and the widely used remedy for “cabin fever,” went for $12 an ounce, nearly as much as gold.   The two supply trails, one to Colville, the other running southeast across the Tobacco Plains into Montana and east to Fort Benton, the head of navigation on the Missouri River, were open during good weather in the winter as the dryer Rocky Mountain Trench was spared the deep and impassible snowfalls of the Columbia and Kootenay Lake districts.   By the end of May supplies were being packed in at $.28 per pound.   As well, the previous year’s miners were returning to take up their claims and locate new ones. 

Good locations the summer of 1864 were paying $60 per day.   With the news out and pack trains coming in from both Montana and Colville, food was plentiful.      Haynes, named Magistrate in 1864, through his constable, issued twenty-two traders’ licences, twelve liquor licences,and over six-hundred miners’ licences.   In the month of August alone, the revenues amounted to over $11,000, of which more than half was customs duties.   By fall, a sawmill had been packed in pieces and assembled to saw flume and cabin lumber.    Several sluice companies had dug ditches, and built flumes to bring the water to the best locations.   These  companies, with five to twenty-five men, each, were taking out from $300 to $1000 per day.  The gold was remarkably pure, going for $18 per ounce.   A town called Fisherville had spring up, then had to be moved the next year, as gold was discovered underneath it. 

The Colonial Secretary, A. N. Birch was sent (via Washington Territory)  by Governor Douglas to investigate.   On his return he carried the Government receipts, seventy-five pounds of gold, to New Westminster.

More miners stayed over the second winter, but the food situation again became difficult.   The B.C. constable stationed there wrote Judge Haynes at Osoyoos on Dec. 1,

“Provisions are becoming scarce already.   Flour is $65 per hundred pounds, and little left.”

The winter of 1864 – ‘65 was severe, and the remote camp at Wild Horse was not prepared for it.   The Colonial official wrote,

“There are no more than 300 men remaining here.   I  yesterday recorded 12 claims on a creek called “Canyon, ” about 200 (miles) from here.   Many have returned after much hardship, not one of whom succeeded in reaching the new diggings.”

By spring the situation was serious.   The constable wrote on April 1,

“The winter is one of unusual length and severity.   Mr. Linklater of the Hudson’s Bay Company reports more snow than for twelve years previously in residence at Tobacco Plains.   Upwards of 200 head of cattle have perished there and many packers have lost their trains.   We now have 500 men in camp.   No breaches of the peace.    Mr. Waldron reports that of two men starting before him (on the Walla Walla trail) one died from frost-bite, and the other will probably lose his legs.   Money is scarce; provisions scarcer.  In another week, not a pound of food can be purchased at any price; $100 would not purchase a sack of flour today.   The last flour sold at $1 per lb.   All that is left is a little bacon at $1.25 a pound.   Some twenty pounds of  H.B. rope tobacco brought in today was sold in twenty minutes at $12 per pound, a hundred more would fetch the same.”

At these prices merchants were eager to get in a pack train of supplies and set up a log store.   The profits to be made from a mining camp exceeded any other sort of enterprise and no digging was involved.   It was especially galling for Victoria and New Westminster merchants to read these reports from the Kootenay country where men desperate for provisions were being supplied entirely and at huge profit from the Montana and Washington Territories.

A few weeks after the above report, the first miners of the new season arrived.   The Wild Horse official wrote Commissioner  Haynes,

“Four men from Flathead Lake (Montana) arriving yesterday tell me of a train of goods there waiting to get in.   The goods were brought from Fort Benton on the Missouri to Flathead.   If they do not arrive, and with beef cattle, in the  promised  twelve or fourteen days… we shall suffer semi-starvation. Many are now reduced to bacon and beans without flour, and not a few are without food of any kind.”

It may be wondered, that these hardy men in the midst of a country, plentiful in game and fish, should face starvation.   This was typical of all the gold camps.   In their obsession with gold, miners gave every waking hour to pick, shovel and pan, washing out the gold.   When creeks froze in winter, they would be out whipsawing lumber to construct flumes to bring the runoff water in the spring to their claims to flush the gold bearing gravels into their sluices.   Miners were not “mountain men,” living off the country.   Almost all of them were townsmen, accustomed, winter and summer, to living off purchased provisions.   Fish and game they would buy from the Indians when they brought them to the camps, but sparing time to grow a garden or to hunt or fish, while their fellows might get a lead on them in digging the bars, was unthinkable.   The miner with lard buckets full of gold dust and nuggets under his bed, considered himself a rich man, purchasing his provisions, and scorned those who produced them.   It was the madness of greed, and was repeated in every gold camp in the West.

The cool heads, of course, observed all this, took note of the fact that while a few miners came out in the Fall rich, most, like Uncle Dan Drumheller, lost money on their prospecting expedition, spending every ounce of gold they panned on costly provisions. A merchant with a pack train of supplies and particularly liquor, could not lose money in a gold rush; most prospective miners did.

In 1865, with the Cariboo District on the decline, Gold Commissioner O’Reilly was sent to Wild Horse instead of Barkerville.   Fisherville became a town of 120 houses and some 1500 to 2000 men were in the district.   The Victoria Ditch was completed at  cost of $125,000 to bring water to 100 dry claims, and shafts were being sunk through the gravel as much a 80 feet to reach the bedrock where the gold lay.   

1865 was the banner year for Wild Horse.   Government revenues reached $75,000.   The New Westminster Government under its new Governor Seymour, prodded by the merchants who wanted to get in on the trade, sent out two parties to locate an all-British route to Wild Horse.    One party, led by George Turner, former Royal Engineer, started from Kamloops, and went up the South Thompson River to Shuswap Lake.   They then took the old HBC trail from Seymour Arm to Death Rapids, just below the Big Bend of the Columbia River.  The intention was to brush out the old HBC trail up the Columbia past Windermere Lake and down the Kootenay to Wild Horse.   However, the party ran out supplies at Big Bend and had to turn back, noting that local Indians were finding a little gold near the mouth of the Canoe River.

The other party had better luck.  Led by J. J. Jenkins, they took the Dewdney Trail from Hope to Similkameen, visited Judge Haynes at his Osoyoos Ranch, climbed Anarchist Mountain and descended to the now largely deserted diggings at Rock Creek.   Almost all of its miners had moved on, either to the Cariboo or Wild Horse.   Jenkins and his men pushed on over the Boundary Range, down into the Kettle River Valley, past Christina Lake and over the Rossland Range to the Columbia at Fort Shepherd.  Their route tip-toed just north of the border, in many places using the swathes cleared through the timber by the Boundary Surveys.    From Fort Shepherd, they crossed the Columbia, ascended Beaver Creek and crossed the high Kootenay Pass to the Kootenay River Flats.    The river came across the border from the U.S., so they were obliged to climb the mountains again and cross to the Moyie River where they struck the miner’s Colville – Wild Horse trail.

Jenkin’s route was adopted by Governor Seymour, and money was appropriated  to have Edgar Dewdney extend his Hope to Osoyoos trail to Wild Horse, four feet wide and 400 miles long.   But as a counter to the American routes, this extended  Dewdney Trail was a laborious grind.  Climbing the Cascades out of Hope it crossed Hope Pass at an elevation of 5900 feet.(1799 meters).    Obliged to stay north of the border, the trail crossed the Okanagan Range at 4000 feet ( 1220 meters), the Boundary Range at 4200 feet (1281 meters), the Rossland Range at 5300 feet (1616 meters), and the Kootenay Pass over the Bonnington Range at 6000 feet (1830 meters).  This meant that the trail was closed by snow most of the year, really only usable from July through October.   American trails, running up the river valleys from the Washington Territory crossed nothing higher than the gentle 3400 foot (1037 meter) height of land between Moyie Lake and Joseph’s Prairie.   This gave the American pack trains an 8 month’s season as against a four month’s season on the Dewdney Trail.   On the Dewdney trail from Fort Shepherd to Wild Horse one of the the HBC pack trains was 14 days on the trail and lost six horses on the way.   Its use was practically limited to HBC supply trains for the Tobacco Plains post and the comings and goings of Colonial Officers.    The Americans had the river crossings on the Colville and Walla Walla trails covered by ferries.  None existed on the Similkameen, Okanagan, Kettle, Columbia or Lower Kootenay on the British route.  To cross, an Indian had to be found and his canoe hired.   The Dewdney trail did, in a laborious fashion, link New Westminster to the Columbia and Kootenay regions, but it is doubtful that any but a few Magistrates and Constables ever took it twice.    And the Kootenays, as before wide open to the  American merchants, remained connected to the Coast, the government, and the British commercial establishments only by a 400 mile horse trail.

In a vain effort to keep miners supplies and provisions from coming in via the Washington and Montana trails, the Colonial Government sent in Constables to collect the customs duties and gold export tax.   At Osoyoos, Magistrate Haynes, a local rancher, had two constables and a collector of customs to intercept pack trains on the old HBC trail from Fort Okanogan.   At Fort Shepherd on the Columbia, one constable was stationed.   At Rykerts, on the Kootenay River north of Bonner’s Ferry, one constable.  At Wild Horse, a magistrate, two constables and a collector.   At Galbraith’s ferry, on the Colville/Walla Wall trail, one constable.  At Tobacco Plains, watching the Montana trail, one constable.    These twelve men were expected to guard and area the size of Ohio, plus 300 miles of border.   Remarkably, they did, keeping order and collecting at least some of the duties as required.    A letter to the Colonial Secretary praises their  vigilance, but of course, that is what they wished their superiors to hear. 

“In fact it is almost impossible to evade duties, as there are but three trails by which goods can be imported (to Wild Horse) — one by Tobacco Plains, one by the junction on the Moyie, and one from Colville to Fort Shepherd, all of which converge about twenty miles from the mines.  The long, low stretches of land on the Kootenay, flooded during the summer months, and the unbridged and unfordable Kettle, Goat and Salmon (Salmo) Rivers render the (Dewdney) trail almost impassible, and travelers and pack trains are obliged to make a detour of 160 miles through American territory, by Colville, Spokane Prairie and the Pend d’Orielle (sic), meeting the Fort Shepherd (Dewdney) trail at the Junction on the Moyie River, about sixty miles from the mines. Until this detour is made unnecessary, colonial merchants, on account of the increased pack distance charges and the American bond system, cannot establish mine branches (stores at the mines) and compete with Walla Walla.   These obstacles prevent the unfortunate people here from having any regular mail system.   There is no communication of any kind in winter, and even in summer they receive an Express but four times.    

There were urgings to the Colonial Government to attempt to keep the Dewdney Trail open in winter, at least from Hope to Osoyoos.   Post houses were recommended every ten miles, to shelter the traveler and his animals.   However, the Colony had assumed a crushing debt in building the Cariboo Road, and had no wish to spend money on another rush which might prove short-lived.   The Dewdney Trail remained a fair weather route, and dubious even then.    Judge Haynes wrote from Fort Shepherd on May 3, 1866,

“The trail between this place and Kootenay (Wild Horse) is, owing to snow, impassible for animals and by all accounts it will, in its present unfinished state,  be more so by high water.   Dewdney’s Trail; between this and Boundary Creek (the section from Rock Creak to the Columbia) is as yet impassible owing to snow.”

Notwithstanding the presence of some 5,000 armed miners, rabid with gold fever, all reports attest to the lawful behaviour of the men once a magistrate and his two constables were sent in.   To the south, Montana was in the throes of vigilante justice, with murders and extralegal executions frequent.    The Buffalo Hump camps in Idaho were unruly and murderous, and only the Army, it seemed, was keeping the peace in eastern Washington.   Still, when Colonial Secretary A. N. Birch arrived on  tour of inspection in 1864 he found,

“…the mining laws of the Colony in full force, all customs duties paid, no pistols to be seen, and everything quiet and orderly.”

Magistrate O’Reilly in 1865 was obliged to arrest three Americans for bringing in and circulating counterfeit gold dust, but he reported in his summary  for the year,

“It is gratifying to be able to state that not an instance of serious crime occurred during the past season, and this is perhaps the more remarkable if we take into consideration the class of men usually attracted to new gold fields and the close proximity if the Southern Boundary, affording at all times great facilities for escape from justice.”   

O’Reilly did, however, admit in his report that he had received but $6,900 in export duties on gold, which he suggested represented but a fifth of the gold actually taken out.   The conclusion is, that although the Americans were perfectly willing to submit to a fair and incorruptible administration of the criminal law by men they respected, they reserved to themselves the right to evade laws which had no counterpart in the U.S.    The American placer miners on the Columbia, the Thompson, the Fraser, and the Wild Horse, were willing to have the criminal laws and their own mining regulations enforced by British authority, but when it came to a charge on their gold,  a relict of that ancient “Quinto,” they, like the Mexicans, probably like miners worldwide, would evade it if they possibly could.  

At Wild Horse a final irony was to come.    As the Indian labourers under foreman William Fernie, were completed the final section of the extended Dewdney Trail from Joseph’s Prairie to Wild Horse in 1865, they found an almost deserted camp.   The Wild Horse miners had decamped to a new bonanza.    The Big Bend Rush was on.    The Dewdney Trail, a hopeful artery of commerce on paper, had been an utter failure on the ground. 

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