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. 

Chapter 10

THE BIG BEND RUSH

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

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

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

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

“Comissioner Cox – Sir

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 11

THE ‘SQUAWMEN’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the current of the river, to push it across.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of these women told historian, Celon Kingston,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holgar Jurgensen, another acquaintance,  said,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Chapter 12

THE PLACER MINERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 13

SILVER ON KOOTENAY LAKE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 14

POLITICS AND RAILROADS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 15

BONANZAS BEHIND THE MOUNTAINS

It was the completion of the Northern Pacific Railway in 1883 that finally opened the Kootenays to commerce and settlement.   Its mineral resources had been known for forty years, but its isolation behind the mountains had been broken only by brief rushes up its rivers to wash out gold which a man could carry out on his back.   The Canadian Pacific was labouring toward the Columbia, it was true, but over a difficult pair of passes, and having difficulty paying its contractors.   For Canadians the Kootenays remained a hinterland, the land behind all those glaciers and mountains, moated by a pair of swift rivers that encircled it in their icy arms.   

Approached from the east, the Kootenays lay somewhere back of the  Rockies, accessible only by a few Indian trails.  From Victoria and rest of B.C. the Kootenays were a hinterland,  a few hundred Americans and the same number of Chinese, at the end of the infamous Dewdney Trail.   Each attempt to establish a line of communication had proved a ruinous chimera to the Province; no one was ready to throw more money at another ten week bonanza.    And it was all Americans, anyway; no one from the Coast had ever done well in the Kootenays, unlike the wonderful Cariboo that had made Victoria and New Westminster rich.

From the South, from Washington State, however, the mountains ranges, beginning north of the Spokane River, looming blue against the sky and rising steadily higher as one crossed the line into British Columbia, were welcoming arms stretched out southward, sheltering long, north trending valleys.   Up those valleys easy trails and navigable rivers led into the Kootenay mineral country.   Nearly every old timer had been up those rivers and those valley trails in the Fifties and Sixties panning gold for a season or two below those distant peaks where a half-comical little Englishman and his constable had kept the camps orderly and peaceable, and taken fifty cents tax out of every ounce of gold.   There was more mineral in those B.C. mountains; everyone was sure of that, and any young man would be keen to go and find it if someone would only stake him.

With practical transportation for mineral ores via the Northern Pacific Railway which skirted the southern reaches of Kootenay, now possible, three experienced and well financed  American entrepreneurs reached for control of the Kootenays and its mines.    They were Captain John C. Ainsworth, Portland transportation magnate; Daniel Chase Corbin of Spokane Falls who had built a narrow gauge line into the Coeur D’Alene mines to connect them to the Northern Pacific, and begin the Coeur D’Alene mining boom;  and the young Butte copper millionaire, Augustus Heinze, who would enter in the 1890s when a rich copper-gold deposit would be found close to the Columbia River.   The British Columbia capitalists, badly stung by the Big Bend fiasco, had turned their backs on Kootenay, a virtually uninhabited  place, impossible to reach, and, they believed, of dubious value.

The Ainsworths had sold their Oregon Steam Navigation company to the Northern Pacific Railway as soon as it was clear that railways, not steamers, were the future on the  American Columbia.    As major stockholders allied to the NP, they devised a scheme to control  the new silver-lead mining  district on Kootenay Lake.    The B.C. Board of Trade was sick with frustration at the thought that the NP might build  a spur line to Bonner’s Ferry and via steamboats take the Kootenay Lake trade for Portland and itself.   They were wholly unaware that John C. Ainsworth had been the owner of the sternwheeler, Forty Nine, which had stolen the Big Bend Trade in the 1860s, and were apparently unaware of his connection with the NP.    The Ainsworth Syndicate, Captain John C., his son. George, and Enoch Blaisdel, working through their B.C. agent, road builder Gustavus Wright and the B.C. Board of Trade, proposed a counter to the supposed NP threat.    In 1883 it was generally believed that the CPR was bankrupt, and would not complete its transcontinental line.   It was not even yet certain what by what route that line would enter B.C.   A northern route via Yellowhead Pass was favoured by Vancouver Island people, reaching the Pacific at Bute Inlet with some sort of monstrous bridge to their Island.   

The Ainsworths proposed to the B.C. legislature that Wright would  build a wagon road over Eagle Pass, linking the steamers from Kamloops running up the South Thomson and into Shuswap Lake with the Columbia at Big Eddy.   The Ainsworths would then put a steamer on the Columbia and institute a service to the mouth of the Kootenay River.   Here, they would build a 40 mile portage railway around the rapids and falls of the lower Kootenay River to Kootenay Lake.   With this all-Canadian link, Kamloops to the Kootenay mines, the ores could come out to Victoria via the Cariboo Road, and British Columbia merchants would provision the mines.   In exchange, the Ainsworths asked for a grant of 750,000 acres of land of their choosing in the Kootenays.     In 1883 the B.C. Legislature passed a bill incorporating the Columbia and Kootenay Railway and Transportation Company authorizing the railway and the connecting steamer services.    At the same time Gustavus Wright, who was running a store at Farwells, (now Revelstoke) was given the contract to build  the Eagle Pass road. The government of B.C. was making one more attempt to reach the distant Kootenays, but this time economically using the Amercans’ money and handing them Kootenay land in exchange.

The CPR, though in serious financial difficulties, saw the Ainsworth’s scheme for what it was, a deliberate move to shut the CPR out of the Kootenays before it could reach them, and to establish NP dominance there.   As well, the land grant was deemed by many British Columbians, to be excessive,  a scandalous giveaway to American interests.   By the terms of the bill, the Ainsworths could pick and choose, 3/4 of a million acres of the best land in the Kootenays, farm lands, mineral lands, potential townsites, and potential transportation corridors.   With CPR urging, the Dominion Government disallowed the C&K bill as an American incursion contrary to Canadian interests.   The Dominion Inspector of Railways pointed out something which should have been obvious to B.C. Legislators, but was not.   The Ainsworth’s wagon, steamer and rail corridor could deliver American goods to Kamloops and drain all the trade southward to Portland. It all depended on how you looked at the map.    From Kamloops the Ainsworth’s route looked like a connection to the Kootenays; from Bonner’s Ferry it looked like an American route to Interior B. C.

The Ainsworths began a seven year battle in Ottawa and in the courts to get their  bill reinstated, joined by many British Columbians who bitterly resented the Dominion government’s nullification of their legislation.   It may have been a bad bill, but it was intolerable to be dictated to by a senior government which was still in violation of its pledged word to build the Pacific Railway.   As the struggle continued, it became clear that the huge land grant was the plum, the portage railroad around the falls, a minor consideration.   Whoever promised to build the railway could have the grant, and various groups with no interest in the railroad,  but greedy for that huge grant,  came forward volunteering to take over the Ainsworth’s plan. 

  Against all expectation, the CPR managed to get Dominion government backing for its railway bonds, and with new financing was finishing its track twisting over the Rockies and Selkirks and down to the Coumbia at Farwells in 1884.    The Ainsworths, shipping the ore from their Kootenay Lake mines out through Bonner’s Ferry to the NP at Kootenai Station, though blocked in their grand plan by the CPR in Ottawa, shipped the small steam launch Alpha up the Northern Pacific to Spokane Falls, and then wagon hauled it to Marcus, where it was launched on the Columbia.   Captain Pingston was promoted from his rowboat, and given command of the Alpha.   The Ainsworths put it to work hauling provisions up the Columbia and through the Arrow Lakes for the CPR construction camp at Farwells.   Although the rival railway was laying track on Gustavus Wright’s wagon road over Eagle Pass, the Ainsworths contracted to supply its camps with provisions.

The Alpha was too small, or the Ainsworth’s rates were excessive, for the next year the American contracting firm of Henderson and Mc Cartney who were building portions of the CPR through the Columbia region, built the sternwheeler, Kootenai, at Little Dalles, where a wagon road connected with the NP at Spokane Falls.   Materials for the railway construction were shipped west on the NP, wagon hauled to Little Dalles and put aboard the Kootenai under Captain Lindeman, for the construction camp at Farwells.   The Kootenai was a big, ugly work boat, powerful, but with few amenities for passengers.    She was 140 feet long, by 25 feet wide with 14 x 72 inch cylinders and 557 gross tons.    In 1885 she ran on a rock and was towed to Nakusp for repairs.    By the time she had been patched up, the CPR had been completed, and with no work for the Kootenai, she was beached at Little Dalles, awaiting a call to service.

  William Brown, merchant and ferryman of Marcus, Washington had had his business reduced by the collapse of the Big Bend and the financial panic of 1873.   In the 1880s he was supplying  just 200 Chinese who still worked the bars of the Columbia and Pend Orielle.   There had been a short boom supplying the CPR camp at Farwells via the Kootenai , but now, that too was over.   Like other merchants in the Colville Valley he hoped for another mining rush and the return of boom times.    Selling salt, sugar,and tea to Indians and farmers was a dull trade.   Miners, though, were always free spenders and paid in gold nuggets, not credit, not barter.   

In an effort to get something going in 1886, Brown grubstaked a party of local men to go north, cross the border and search more untested Canadian creeks for gold.   The party consisted of the Hall brothers, Winslow and Osner, with Winslow’s five sons, Osner’s adopted son, three men of the Oakes family, Charles Brown, William White and two Indians, Dauncy Williams and Narcisse Downing.   Numbers of versions of the story exist, as in later years each member of the party told the tale the way he remembered it with his own embellishments.    The following account seems the most probable.

The fifteen men crossed the mountains to the northeast of Colville on the old Kalispel Indian trail to the Pend Orielle River.    They then went down river, cutting a trail as they went,  to cross the border into British Columbia.   At Jolly Jack Thornton’s old placer claim on the Pend Orielle, they turned up the Salmo River and moved slowly upstream, cutting trail, and testing the creeks on both sides.   It is odd that they missed Ymir Creek which was to prove such a rich source of lode gold in later years.   Possibly, a pan taken from some barren spot and washed out, discouraged them, and they passed it by.

By the time the party got to what is now Hall Creek, they were low on food, and nothing of worth had been found.   The discouraged party decided to give up the search and return to Colville.   The boys were sent up into the alpine meadows to bring in the horses which had been turned loose to forage.   While hunting the horses in that alpine country, the boys found chunks of brightly coloured peacock ore.   The Hall brothers recognized copper and suspected silver.   In haste they staked four claims: The Silver King, the Koo-in-oor, American Flag, and Kootenay Bonanza.   There was no one to record their claims nearer than Revelstoke, a 150 mile trip up the Columbia.    So, with their carefully collected samples, they returned to Colville.

There, Colonel Nelson Lindsley assayed their find, and told them it was insignificant; the copper was not worth packing out of such a remote spot.   But he questioned them so persistently about just where they had found those valueless rocks, that the Halls became  suspicious: they had heard of assayers giving low values to uneducated prospectors like themselves, in hopes that they would abandon their claim, allowing the assayer to claim it for himself.   They then took their ore to another assayer, Jake Cobaugh, who found high silver values in it..   Since the Halls had not been able to record their claim, they took Cobaugh into the venture to purchase his silence.    Although the Halls refused to divulge any information about what they had found, the secret did leak out.   In the spring of 1887 they were closely watched by all in Colville to see which route they would take out of town when they headed for their discovery. 

The Hall party departed, this time rowing up the Columbia, and followed discreetly by other parties of Colville prospectors.   At Beaver Creek, the Halls pulled in to shore, cached their boats and supplies and hid in the bush until the following prospectors rowed by, some continuing up river, some ascending Beaver Creek on the old Dewdney Trail.   When all had passed, the Halls rowed back to Marcus and took the road to Colville, now emptied of prospectors.   From Colville they took the Kalispel Trail again to the Pend Orielle River and the trail they had cut the year before to Hall Creek on the Salmo.   They then cut a trail up onto what  they called “Mineral Mountain” and their discoveries, all undetected.   By September of that year, their location was known, probably from the Halls making trips out for supplies.   Just where and with whom they recorded their claims is undiscoverable.   Alfred Wheeler at the Ainsworths’ Hot Springs Camp is a likely guess.    Although he was an American citizen and not eligible to be named Mining Recorder, he may have arranged to make records of the locations and forward them to the recorder at Fort Steele (Wild Horse.)    In view of subsequent developments, the recording of the Halls’ Mineral Mountain claims may have been deliberately muddied by interested parties.

The Colville merchant, Charles Montgomery, went in to the discovery that year, and found 30 men at work.   Other prospectors were present as well.   The Americans, Ben Thomas, Charlie Townsend, J.R. Cooke, James Fox, Newlin Hoover, and  A.H. Kelly were staking other locations on what was called Mineral Mountain, or by some, Toad Mountain.   The first shipment of the Halls’ ore was packed out to Colville, and from there sent by wagon to Spokane Falls and put on the Northern Pacific for one of the Montana smelters.    It returned $7000 after paying shipping and smelting charges amounting to $80 per ton.    This first ore assayed $3.03 per ton in silver, $2.50 in gold, and an extraordinary 28% copper content.   This news galvanized the whole Northwest.   Prospectors and miners from the Coeur d’Alene mines, broke camp, bought maps and  supplies, and headed for the new strike.

The high cost of shipping the Hall’s ore was substantially reduced when Joe Wilson from Colville, cut a trail from Toad Mountain north down Cottonwood Creek to the West Arm of Kootenay Lake where the Hendryx Company’s new steamer, the Galena, could forward scows loaded with Hall brothers ore to Bonner’s Ferry, and then over Herndryx’ toll road to the Northern Pacific at Kootenai Station.

In this year, 1887, four railroad towns existed in Kootenay: Field, Golden, Donald and Farwell’s/Revelstoke.    Beyond the CPR line, were only Wild Horse, (now called Fort Steele), the Ainsworth’s Hot Springs mining camp, and  cluster of cabins on Toad Mountain around the Hall’s Silver King mine.   All the non railroad towns got their supplies from Spokane or Colville by pack train or boat on the Kootenay Lake and river.

    At Farwell’s Landing on the Columbia, the CPR was unwilling to purchase lots in the townsite for its station and shops.   Instead, it platted a townsite a half mile to the east, to be called Revelstoke.    Since the new Revelstoke had the railway station, the hotels, eating houses and commercial establishments quickly moved east to the CPR site.   This procedure would be standard for the CPR, and indeed, for all major railways in North America.   Existing towns would be invited to donate lands to the railway for its use; if they refused, the railway would preempt a townsite at some other location, and the businesses would be obliged to pick up and follow.   Once the tracks had arrived, the railway station would become the centre of the settlement, the place where arriving visitors could be solicited for accommodation, the place where mail was dispatched, and where all goods from the outside arrived. 

Like the Halls in 1887, other American prospectors were opening silver mines in the Kootenays.   When the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed, Revelstoke became a new centre of mining enterprise for the silver-lead deposits found up the Illecillewat River.    Daniel Chase Corbin, a mining and railway entrepreneur of Spokane, with J. P Kennedy, bought the Jumbo Mine, and with the CPR nearby, were able to ship its ores to England for smelting.  The generous returns from the Jumbo convinced road builder, G.B. Wright, the Ainsworth’s agent in British Columbia, to form the Selkirk Mining Company and buy the Lanark mine for the Ainsworth syndicate.   The Lanark and the other Ainsworth mines shipped 237 tons of ore to England by the CPR in 1887 for a return of $17,000. 

  Silver needed smelting to release it from its ores, and to promote a smelting industry the British Columbia legislature passed the 1886 “Act to Encourage the Erection of Smelting Works” which would pay a bonus of $2 per ton of ore smelted.   A smelter was built in Vancouver in 1888 by an English company, and George De Wolfe bought the Monarch mine near Field and shipped 600 tons of ore over the CPR to the Vancouver works.   The Vancouver smelter proved to be a failure, probably because of inexperienced management.   At its first run the metal hood over the blast furnace connecting to the stack overheated and the furnace had to be shut down.    The metal hood was replaced by a brick flue and the furnace fired up again.   This time, after about two hours of running, the slag in the furnace froze and the furnace had to be shut down again.   The difficulty was thought to be an excess of lime and sulphur, which should have been removed by preparatory roasting.   But the investors were not willing to spend more money and the smelter was closed down.

  The smelting of ores is a highly  complex process, a fact not appreciated by early mining men in the Northwest.   They had the naive idea that one simply cooked the rocks in a big iron pot until the silver and lead ran out in gratifying streams with the government subsidy cheques arriving in the mail.   The B.C. government subsidy encouraged other investors to put up lead-silver smelting works in the Kootenays in the 80s and 90s, all but one of which failed.   Again, inexperience was the cause, together with the fact that the subsidy was paid on ore smelted, whether the smelting was sucessful or not.   It was not a program which encouraged careful management.

As 1888 opened the activity in the Kootenay Lake mines became a rush and the British Columbians, once the American had demonstrated its value, made a determined, if frugal effort to get in on it.   Bob Lemon, who ran a store in Revelstoke, built a scow in May and loaded it with goods for the Toad Mountain mines.  George Owen Buchanan, lumberman,  recorded his first trip. 

“I made my first visit to Kootenay Lake in May of 1888.   R.E.. Lemon constructed a scow at Farwell of 20 tons capacity, loaded it with merchandise and with the help of one half dozen men navigated it to Sproat’s Landing.   I went along as a passenger.   Several American outfits were camped on the banks of the Columbia.   Lemon pitched a tent, opened out his stock, and continued to do business there….  then walked to Nelson, the principal feature of which was John Ward’s tent hotel.   The trail extended out from Sproat’s Landing 8 miles only.   Beyond this we walked on windfalls and tore our way through thickets of willows and rose bushes… We ran down the Slocan River  on a raft of our own construction and crossed the Kootenay, narrowly escaping the descent of the rapids below the junction. We reached Kootenay Lake in 2 days, and the next day went to the Hall mine.   A snowstorm was raging and we found the Halls in their cabin.”

  The rush of American prospectors warranted appointing surveyor Henry Anderson (who had laid out that first trail over the Cascades) mining recorder for the new district and sending him in.   Anderson laid out a townsite he called Salisbury, on the lakeshore where the ore from the Silver King was transferred to the Galena to be forwarded to Bonner’s Ferry.  Later in 1888 Gold Commissioner, Gilbert Malcom Sproat, a pompous Englishman, contemptuous of every opinion but his own, arrived, and curtly began wielding his authority without reference to local sentiment.   He officially renamed “Mineral Mountain,” “Toad Mountain,” and with a short piece of rope began laying our lots along “Vernon Street” in the townsite he called “Stanley,” about which he boasted , “…could we but keep out newspapers and lawyers, the town of all towns for civilized habitation. ”   Both Anderson and Sproat were stubborn, self important men, and the lakeshore camp continued to be known as “Salisbury” by the Mining Recorder, and “Stanley,” by the Gold Commissioner.   It was not until it applied for a Post Office as “Stanley,”  that the name was changed again, a “Stanley” Post Office being already in existence.    The new and final name was “Nelson.”

Up on Toad Mountain the Americans had built some 25 log cabins, and called their camp “Fredrickton,” with an office building for the new mining companies, a sawmill, a school, and the “Grandview Hotel.”   Down on the lakeshore in cabins, tents, and shacks “Salisbury” or “Stanley” was being built along Ward Creek by Americans from Bonner’s Ferry and Spokane Falls, and British Columbians coming  in from the railroad towns of Donald and Revelstoke.   Denny and Devine, from Spokane Falls operated their American store; Bob Lemon from Farewells was building his Canadian store.    

The isolation of the Nelson camp and the lack of a decent trail to Sproat’s Landing meant that mail went out with U.S. stamps on the Galena to Bonner’s Ferry and the U.S. Post Office system.   Even when the Canadian Post Office was authorized  and a man contracted to carry the mail on his back to Sproat’s landing, the U.S. route was quicker and cheaper.   For its first two years, a third of the stamps sold in the Canadian Post Office were American.

In far off Victoria the B.C. Board of Trade was disturbed that once again the Americans had the trade of the miners in the Kootenays.   They wanted the Hall brothers’ ore to go out by an All-Canadian route via the Columbia River to the CPR at Revelstoke and be smelted in B.C.   However, as against the easy boat and wagon haul to the NP at Kootenai Station, there was only the crudest prospector’s trail from Toad Mountain, down 49 Creek to the Kootenay River and along it, scrambling over bluffs to the Columbia.   And from there some means must be found to get it upstream 160 miles to the railway.   Clearly, this was uncompetitve.

Gold Commissioner Gilbert Sproat was consulted as to how the trade of the Toad Mountain camp might be saved for B.C.   He recommended that the CPR be urged to build that Ainsworth portage railway to connect Kootenay Lake with the Columbia, and that a steamboat service be established from Revelstoke to his new townsite of Sproat’s Landing he had laid out with his knotted rope at the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia.   He further urged, that until the railway were built, an all-weather trail be built from Sproat’s Landing to the Toad Mountain mines, and ferry franchises be granted for the two river crossings required.   In a typical bad-tempered reversal, he then observed that the U.S. government did not spend money on miners’ trails, but left that to the gumption of the citizens involved.   The American miners, he thought, (for there were few Canadians at the Toad Mountain camp), should build the trail  themselves.

His advice on the latter was not taken; at the urging of the Board of Trade, the B.C. legislature appropriated money for a government trail along the right bank of the Kootenay River.

A ferry franchise was granted to Frank Fitzgerald for a crossing of the Slocan River near its mouth, and to “Long Tom” Ward for a ferry across the Kootenay at Big Pool.   The trail was then to run up 49 Creek to the Toad  Mountain camp.   No provision was made for a link to Nelson, for that settlement, like Ainsworth and Bluebell, was an American camp on the U.S. route to Bonner’s Ferry, the NP railway and Spokane, and the B.C. legislature did not choose to further it.   L. Macquarrie took the contract, and with a crew of Indians, set to work building the government trail.   1000 tons of ore lay on the Silver King dump and the Halls waited to see which route would give them the best rates.

As soon as the appropriation for the government trail was passed,  three Revelstoke  merchants, J. Fred Hume, William Cowan and Captain Robert Sanderson found the confidence and funds to build the steamer, Despatch, and put her on the run from the CPR connection at Revelstoke to Sloat’s landing, from which the government trail led to the Toad Mountain mines.

The Despatch was a 54 foot catamaran sternwheeler  of 37 gross tons  with 2  8 x 24 inch cylinders.   She was reportedly a cranky vessel, difficult to steer, but with shallow draft.    Except for a crude cabin at the stern containing a galley and a few bunks, she was enclosed with nothing but canvas, and offered a single chair on the roof from which a passenger might admire the scenery.    With the Kootenai beached at Little Dalles, it was the Despatch that hauled Silver King ore packed out by Joe Wilson to Sloat’s landing, to the CPR at Farwells.   The Canadians had at last, and very modestly entered the Kootenay trade.

The Hall brothers were uneducated men, and their method of running a mine was to dig the ore in sight, sort it, and send it down to the lake by Joe Wilson’s pack train.   When the receipts arrived from the Montana smelters, they would head to town to spend them somewhat extravagantly, and when the money was gone,  go back to dig more ore.   The Halls were typical “good ole’ boys,” and refused to accumulate working capital for a professional development of the mine.   They had found their dream, a fine, rich mine from which they could at need dig out a shipment of ore, have it packed  down to the lakeshore and wait for the cheque from the smelter.   They spent the money on whiskey, tobacco, horses, and fine living, and were wonderfully content.

Professional miners and businessmen were sure the Silver King  could be operated much more efficiently and productively.   Richard Day Atkins, an Irishman who had mining experience in South Africa, and his partner, E.  Ramsey, a Montana mining engineer, visited the Hall’s mines in July, 1888, coming in via the government trail.  They were impressed and offered to buy the Halls out.  The Halls scorned Atkin’s nominal offer.   They had no wish to sell, they told him, and put their price at a contemptuous $1 million.   Another investor, M.S. Davys offered them $350,000 but was also premptorily refused.

  Atkins located in Nelson and continued his efforts to buy the mine.   He offered the Halls a $20,000 loan, and took a mortgage for that amount on the property.   However, instead of using the money to develop the mine, the Halls spent it.  Money was money in their view, and it was best spent in good living.   Atkins loaned them more money, took more mortgages.   In a year, the Hall brothers were deeply in debt to Atkins.

Atkins then took advantage of the uncertainty regarding the staking of the Hall claims.   Secretly, he hired three men from Victoria to jump the Hall brother’s claims and file suit in court for possession.   Atkins, as an educated man, was now able to convince the Hall brothers that they would probably lose their mine in a court fight and be ruined.   He, however, would be willing to fight the case for them and cancel the mortgages he held, if they would make over a half  interest in their properties to him.   The Halls, facing the loss of all their claims, panicked and agreed.  Atkins then by means unknown, had all legal proceedings stopped, perhaps by persuading the claim jumpers to withdraw their suit.   But now the half owner of the enormously rich Silver King Mines, Richard Atkins never profited from his skullduggery.   On August 17, 1890, he died of pneumonia in the Nelson House hotel. 

  All this time the Ainsworths C&K bill continued to wind its way through a succession of court battles.   With the new silver excitement in the Kootenays, some resolution was obviously  essential; a railway to connect Kootenay Lake with the Columbia was needed, and it must be a Canadian enterprise.    It was finally, the CPR’s Superintendent of its Pacific Division, Harry Abbot, who put together the Columbia and Kootenay Railway and Navigation Company to do under the CPR flag what the Ainsworths had proposed.   The B.C. Legislature was convinced this was the way to resolve the issue.   In 1890 they passed a bill authorizing the Harry Abbot’s C&K Company to build the portage railroad, and operate a steamer service on the Columbia and Kootenay Lake.   The land  grant, however, was reduced to 200,000 acres.   The Dominion Parliament then kicked in a cash subsidy of $3,200 per mile, and declared the work to be “For the general advantage of Canada.”   At once the CPR leased Henry Abbot’s  C&K for 999 years, and began building the railway themselves in 1890.   The American contractors, brought the Kootenai off the beach at Little Dalles and used her to haul rails, timbers and supplies from Little Dalles to the construction crews.

Up at Revelstoke,  British investors, counting on the easy availability of the Monarch and Lanark ores, organized the Kootenay Smelting and Trading Syndicate in 1889, and built a smelter on the banks of the Columbia at Revelstoke, south of the present High School.   The lessons of the Vancouver smelter had been heeded and a reverberatory furnace was installed ahead of the blast furnace to roast the feed to reduce its sulphur content.  It was blown in on July 20, 1891, and appears to have operated successfully using coke fuel imported from the U.S. and a much cheaper, locally produced charcoal.   This time an experienced smelter man was in charge, and had laid in supplies of the various fluxes required  for the different ores received.

Lead bullion was produced and sent to the U.S. for refining and silver-gold recovery.  This was the first successful Canadian lead smelter.    However a continuous source of zinc free galena ore was not available.   The smelter could not efficiently operate on intermittent shipments from the local mines, nor could it successfully smelt the zinc-rich Monarch ores.    After a year’s operation was closed down.   A foolish dispute with the Provincial Government over who was responsible for the Columbia River undermining the clay bank beneath the smelter led to a stubborn refusal to act on the part of the owners, and eventually the smelter was washed away by high water in the Columbia, probably in the flood year of 1894.         

A second company, the Galena Mining and Smelting Company went after those tempting Monarch ores –the mine being located just yards from the CPR tracks a few miles east of Field.    A smelter was erected at Golden .  But the zinc content of the Monarch ores again proved refractory to smelting.    In melting, the zinc would alloy with the lead, forming a eutectic with a higher melting point than either led or zinc, and the whole mass would “freeze up” in the crucible and have to be laboriously chiseled out by hand.   In the Revelstoke smelter apparently, the zinc-rich Monarch ores were carefully diluted with enough of the straight galena ores from the Illecillewat mines to overcome the problem.   At Golden, not enough of the zinc-free ores were available, and after a few unsuccessful runs, the smelter was closed.

A third smelter was erected at Woodbury on Kootenay Lake to treat the Ainsworth District ores (and collect the Provincial subsidy).   However, its crucible cracked at the first firing and its inexperienced operators gave up.

Despite the failures of the Kootenay smelters, the presence of numerous deposits of silver-lead deposits, some of them very rich, and the profitable Silver King, silver-copper mine, continued to attract investor attention.    Kootenai Station on the NP was established as the American railhead for the Kootenay district.   Dr. Hendryx’ 35 mile wagon road led to Dick Fry’s camp at Bonner’s Ferry, and then from there the Kootenay River was navigable to Kootenay Lake except when closed by ice in winter.   The steam tugs, Bluebell, Galena, Halys, Midge, Idaho, and Surprise operated during the Eighties bringing ore out and provisions into Dr. Hendryx’ Bluebell Camp, the Ainsworth’s camp across the lake, Nelson and the Silver King mine on Toad Mountain.   The Canadian connection operated via the Despatch from Revelstoke, and the pack trail to Toad Mountain with the C&K under construction.

  But a new and second American reach for the Kootenay mines was underway.   In Spokane Falls, Daniel Corbin who had invested in a number of B.C. mines, was putting together financing to build a railway running northwesterly from the Northern Pacific at Spokane Falls to the Columbia River, and on to Kootenay Lake to compete for that Silver King and Ainsworth ore.

Chapter 16

BLUEBELL

Over on the east shore of Kootenay Lake at Big Ledge Dr. Wilbur Hendryx had cleared the titles to the Sproul and Hammil claims in 1887.   With Thomas Hammil dead, his heirs in England neglected his 1/3 interest in the Bluebell Claim, acquired when Colonel Hudnut refused to pay the court costs.   When Hammil’s heirs failed to have the required yearly assessment work done on the claim, it reverted to the Crown, from which Dr. Hendeyx bought it.   He now owned 100% of the Bluebell claim, and obtained a Crown Grant and title to it in 1888.    Two years later, he was able to buy the Comfort and Kooteany Chief claims from the Ainsworths for $100,000 resolving the last of the claim conflicts on the Big Ledge.

On the ground a three year program of mine development was begun in 1887 with a  crew of twenty men.    A wharf was built out into Bluebell Bay from which to transfer the ore to barges, and on shore, ore bins, accommodations, and mine buildings were erected.   A tunnel was begun to intersect the ore body below the surface, and an 18 inch gauge tramline was built to bring the ore down to the wharf.   There remained the problem of the $30 per ton tariff on lead

ores entering the U.S. at Porthill.   To make the Bluebell profitable, a smelter would have to be erected on Kootenay Lake, and the ores processed there before shipment to the U.S.    Down at Pilot Bay, some 15 miles south of the Bluebell, Davies and Sayward, B.C. businessmen, had erected a sawmill and were furnishing lumber to the Kootenay Lake camps.    This was an ideal location for a custom smelter to treat all the ores from Kootenay Lake mines.    It had a good, sheltered bay at the central point of the lake where the three arms converged. 

  Dr. Hendryx reorganized his companies to bring the B.C. sawmill investors with their capital into the syndicate.   A B.C. company was established, the Kootenay Mining and Smelting Company, with Edwin Herrick of Minneapolis, the Hendryx’ partner, as president; Robert Rithet, steamship magnate of Victoria, Vice President; Andrew Hendryx of New Haven, Connecticut, as Treasurer.    All of the other directors, Baker, Chapman, Davies, Ellis and Hutchinson were from Victoria.   Dr. Wilbur Hendryx remained as resident mine manager.   The Kootenay Mining and Smelting Company represented the first  substantial B.C. investment in what had been up until then a wholly American mining industry in the Kootenays.    At the Pilot Bay site in 1892, a crew of 200 men began erecting a smelter with an ore concentrator, a sampler, roaster, engine room, boiler room, machine and blacksmith shop, carpenter shop, assay and general offices.   It was a first class operation for the time, with two boilers of 100 horsepower each, the concentrator had two  9” x 15” crushers, six  jigs, two slime tables and two Frue Vanners.   The roast building had four  17’ x 65’ reverberatory furnaces of 12 tons capacity each, and the smelter was a single 100 ton water jacketed blast furnace.   The engine house contained a 150 horsepower Corliss engine running the concentrator and sampling works with a rope drive. An 85 horsepower blower engine furnished air under pressure for the blast furnace, and a 30 horsepower engine turned a dynamo to light the works.  The whole expensive complex cost the company $650,000.   Smelter capacity was expected to be 100 tons of ore per day, with the Bluebell mine capable of furnishing 220 tons daily.   By the time the works was completed, 52,000 tons or ore was on site ready to be processed.    In March  1895 the smelter was blown in and processing begun.    Fuel was charcoal, locally produced in two beehive kilns, and coal barged in from Bonner’s Ferry where the Great Northern Railway had arrived in 1892.    By the end of the year 3,220 tons of silver- lead bullion had been produced and shipped to markets in the U.S.

A town of about 200 sprang up around the rim of Pilot Bay with the Galena Trading Company’s general store, two Hotels, a butcher shop and a boarding house.    As Dr. Hendryx wanted to run a model community, brothels were banned, but prospector Henry Rose built a number of small houseboats, and anchored them in the bay to serve this purpose, beyond the authority of Dr. Hendryx. 

Limestone flux was barged in from Big Ledge and iron oxide from the U.S.  Ores from other Kootenay Lake mines were purchased, 2,500 tons in 1895, but the bulk of  the smelter feed consisted of the Bluebell ore, and problems with it developed at once.   All the Kootenay lead ores were sulphide ores requiring a preliminary roasting to remove as much sulphur as possible before charging it as lead oxide, into the blast furnace along with coal, coke or charcoal, limestone and iron oxide.   If all went well, the limestone and iron oxide would form a molten slag which would absorb the impurities and earthy matter, and the carbon in the coal or charcoal would react with the lead oxide to form carbon dioxide which went up the stack, while molten lead containing the silver, was tapped out at the bottom of the crucible.   But at Pilot Bay too many things went wrong.   The roasting did not always remove all the sulphur,  and the resulting matte would have to be re-smelted at an increased consumption of fuel.   In normal smelting practice “dry” lead carbonate or lead oxide ores would be mixed with the “wet” or high sulphur ores to dilute the sulphur in the mix and allow its removal in a single pass.    But in the Kootenays, dry ores were not available.   The zinc content of the Bluebell ores also caused problems.  Zinc boils (vaporizes) at 907º C.   This is below the melting point of silver.   If the furnace was run hot enough to recover the silver, the zinc would be lost up the stack as a fine dust.    A metallurgist, Robert Hedley was brought in to manage them smelting operation, but he was unable to convince the stubborn Dr. Hendryx that the Bluebell ore was too refractory to smelt without the addition of dry ores.   The Hendryx company would have to bring in dry lead ores (they were available in Stevens County, Washington) from the U.S. if the smelter was to run at a profit.    Hendryx refused, Hedley departed, and in 1896 the smelter was closed for “reconstruction.”

Throughout the summer a crew of men made bricks for an extension of the smelter’s chimney and laboured at other improvements, while Dr. Hendryx went east to to try raise more capital.   However, in September, his brother, Andrew Hendryx arrived with a grim face.   The works were closed, all employees were discharged except for one watchman; the Hendryx brothers were pulling out.   

The Bank of Montreal foreclosed on the Kooteany Mining and Milling Company, and leased the property to Braden Brothers who shipped their ore from the Ainsworth and Slocan properties to Pilot Bay and ran them through the concentrator.   The concentrator was worked sporadically for the next ten years on local ores, but the smelter was never fired again.  There were hopes that a promised CPR rail line through Crowsnest Pass would bring in cheaper coal and coke, and make the smelter economic.  But the CPR , unwilling to build track until it got government subsidies, did not arrive until 1899.   By that time a new Hall smelter was in operation in Nelson.   The Sawmill closed in 1903, and Pilot Bay temporarily became a ghost town with only a few residents remaining, hoping for a revival.

Chapter 17

DANIEL CHASE CORBIN

Daniel Corbin had invested in the Jumbo mine in the Illecillewat district in the 1880s.  He had built a narrow gauge railway line in 1886 to tap the Coeur D’Alene mines in Idaho, which had been an instant success.   The mining men of Stevens County, Washington, wanted a rail connection to the NP for their ores, and to bring in coke and coal for their smelter near Chewelah.   Several Northwest lines had expressed interest in building to Colville.   The Klickitat and Golden was interested, but had no money.   The Seattle, Lakeshore and Eastern, locally called “The Seattle and Elsewhere” for the unconnected bits of lines it had commenced in various parts of the State, was drawing lines of track on its maps.    Even a Victoria group had proposed a narrow gauge line from Little Dalles on the Columbia to the mines at Chewelah.    The Stevens County people were prepared to accept any but a Canadian Pacific line.    The CPR was out of favour because of its high rates and monopoly tactics, insisting on guarantees it would be the sole railroad permitted in the area before it would build.

A consortium to build a line from Spokane to Colville was formed by Helena banker, James Monaghan, and James Golver, A.A. Newberry and Frank Moore.   Daniel Corbin was brought in by his friend Monaghan as the man to construct the line.   Corbin was a man with Kootenay mining properties, and had learned from his profitable little narrow gauge in Idaho that mining railroads were as good as gold mines.    General William J. Palmer, who had built more mining railroad mileage than anyone in North America put it, “A population engaged in mining is by far the most profitable of any to a railway.   A hundred miners, from their wandering habits and many wants, are better customers than four times that number otherwise employed.”     Corbin saw farther than Colville.  He wanted a line to Kootenay Lake to serve those profitable miners and to seize the ore and trade for Spokane.   The first link would be a line from a NP connection at Spokane to a steamer landing on the Columbia.   If he could link the CPR at Revelstoke with the NP at Spokane by a rail-boat service he could offer shippers of ore the option to ship via either line for the best rates.    This would introduce the first freight rate competition into the Kootenays, and it won him the enthusiastic support of both Canadians and American shippers frustrated at the monopoly rates of both transcontinentals.   

The Spokane investors were unable to raise the financing necessary to begin the line, and they were displaced by New York financier, Horace Thurber, who was able to place $2,500,000 in bonds for the line.   Eastern investors were beginning to hear the name, Kootenay, and were willing to risk their money in a railroad line which, if the mines prospered, would find a ready sale to the Northern Pacific.

  Corbin agreed to build the line himself for $40,000 per mile to be paid by Thurman in half shares and half bonds.   He  hired, E. J. Roberts, who had been Chief Engineer for Jim Hill’s Great Northern extension from Minot, North Dakota to Great Falls, Montana, to be his engineer and to build the line as quickly and cheaply as possible.    When the country was settled up, there would be time to upgrade the track.   Meantime, he said, the trains would run slowly and carefully.    Roberts agreed, saying, “I’ll build it cheap, and you run it cheap.”    

Construction of the Spokane Falls and Northern  got underway in 1889.   Roberts laid out a sinuous line avoiding all difficult rock work, and reportedly going around big trees rather than digging out their stumps.    He claimed to have saved Corbin $1000 per mile by this means.    

The SF&N climbed from Spokane at 1900 feet to cross the low Huckleberry Mountains at 2432 feet and then descended down the valley of the Colville River to Colville at 1500 feet.  Two Baldwin 2-6-0 Mogul locomotives arrived in April to operate the line, and by October 18, 1889, the first train arrived in Colville.   It was a remarkable feat, to have built 100 miles of railroad in a single season.   

Colville the seat of Stevens County, had already a population of miners and prospectors working the silver-lead mines in the region and prospecting for more.   The Old Dominion mine and the Mutual Smelting Company were the chief operations.    From its beginning Colville had been a somewhat rowdy place.   The Silver Crown Hotel, described as “a bar that had a hotel attached,” erected a veranda out front so that patrons could watch the street brawls from the comfort of armchairs and not need to muddy their feet.   

The next year the track reached the Columbia at Marcus with the first train arriving on the river on April 20.    Work was underway to extend the line to the ghost town of Little Dalles to bypass navigational hazards in the river, and Corbin now sought a steamer connection with the CPR at Revelstoke.    The trio of Hume, Cowin and Sanderson with their cranky Dispatch, did not have the financing to build new boats and  provide a scheduled service to Corbin’s railroad, so a new company was formed to take over the old one, with substantial backing from men long in the B.C. transportation business.   These were Captain John Irving, son of the famous Fraser River boat owner;  Member of Parliament, J.A. Mara, a Kamloops businessman, who had run the old HBC Marten on the Thompson; and Frank S. Barnard whose father had founded the B.C. Express Company with its service to the Cariboo.    These men had steamboat experience, political influence, and the funds to expand the Columbia River service.    The new company, the Columbia and Kootenay Steam Navigation Company (CKSN), was funded with $100,000 to build and operate steamers on both the Columbia and Kootenay Lake.

  In July, 1890, in Victoria,  Daniel Corbin signed an agreement with the new CKSN for a through service connecting the two transcontinental railways via the Columbia River and his SF&N stump dodging railway.  It was a superb coup.   At one stroke, Corbin had put the growing railroad town of Spokane,with its population of 7,000, in a position to control the trade both of the new mining districts in Stevens County, Washington, and of the Kootenays of British Columbia.   

The total cost of building the SF&N had been $1,297,842.    By agreement with its owners, who were to pay Corbin $40,000 per mile in bonds and shares, he received $3,524,000 worth; this made him the nominal owner.   The SF&N, with E.J. Roberts’ pioneer construction methods, had cost him but $8,604,50 per mile to build.    It was an extremely profitable method Corbin was to use successfully in subsequent railroad construction: contracting to build for an inflated sum in bonds and shares per mile, thus earning equity in the road he built as cheaply as possible.   Passengers were to curse Corbin’s jerry-built constructions when in later years, they had to be strapped into their sleeping car bunks to keep them from tumbling out into the aisles on his rough and crooked  track.

Now, with the substantial profit he had made, D.C. Corbin was ready to extend his line.

The engineer, John F. Stevens, another graduate of the CPR’s Selkirk crossing, was hired by Roberts in 1889 to survey a possible line to Metalline Falls where extensive silver-lead ore bodies had been found.   This was never built.  Another undefined right of way was applied for to cross the Columbia at Marcus and run up the Kettle river through both countries, to cross into the Okanagan and run to the new silver mines being opened at Ruby City in Washington.   But it was Kootenay Lake that was Corbin’s immediate goal.   To cross the border with his line he would have to obtain a B.C. and a Dominion Government charter.

At the same time the CKSN let a contract to the shipbuilder Alexander Watson of Victoria, to build a first class passenger and freight sternwheel steamer at Revelstoke for the Columbia River run.   While she was under construction, the syndicate bought the old Kootenai for $10,000.    The Kootenai was at once put to work hauling materials and supplies for the American contractor building the Ainsworth’s portage railway, now the CPR’s Columbia and Kootenay Railway, from Sloat’s Landing to Nelson on Kootenay Lake.    These supplies and provisions, of course, came up Daniel Corbin’s SF&N line from Spokane.    His gamble was proving profitable from the very beginning.

At Revelstoke, the new sternwheeler, Lytton, was launched in May, 1890.  She was 131 feet long, by 25 feet wide, 284 gross tons, and drew but 19 inches of water light.   With a load of cargo she drew but 2 feet, ideal for the narrow, twisting channel of the Columbia.    She was powered by two 16 x 62 inch cylinders, a powerful engine for her size, and giving her a speed of 12 miles per hour.    She had cost $38,000, and with a good depth of water in the river, could crowd on board 200 passengers and 125 tons of freight.

Her first trip began on July 2, 1890 with Captain Frank Odin in command..  Aboard at Revelstoke were 65 tons of railroad rails and iron fittings for the new Columbia and Kootenay Railway.    Among the passengers were owners Frank Barnard and J. A. Mara, joined by CPR president William Van Horne and Director R. B. Angus who were on their way to inspect the work on the C&K.   Departure was delayed by a crowd of excited prospectors anxious to get to the new gold-copper strike at Red Mountain.   

Sproat’s Landing, at the confluence of the Kootenay an Columbia Rivers,  was reached the following day where the men of substance took horses to inspect the C&K construction.    Sproat’s Landing, a townsite laid out by Gilbert Sproat and managed by his brother, consisted of the Genelle sawmill with cabins for its employees, a depot for the railway under construction, an express office, Lemon’s General Store, a drug store, a government building with a post office, the Kootenay House hotel, and three restaurants.    A few frame houses and a number of tents and log cabins plus Joe Wilson’s corral for his pack stock, completed the town.    Today it is altogether gone.

The Lytton, like all the river steamers at this time, burned wood, and each trip up or down the lakes required a number of stops to “wood up” where men under contract were clearing land and piling cordwood on the beach for the steamers.    On August 15, the SF&N was complete to Little Dalles, which was enjoying an unlikely second boom, and Corbin ran a special train to meet the Lytton and inaugurate through service from the NP in Spokane to the CPR in Revelstoke.    The first published timetable listed departures from Revelstoke on Monday and Thursday with arrival in Little Dalles on Tuesdays and Fridays.    The one way, combined fare from Revelstoke to Spokane was $13.50.

  J.A. Mara was amply satisfied with the progress of the new company and recorded,

“Business has been good, fully up to our expectations, although the river did not open as early as usual.   We have taken to date, passengers, 1325, animals 63, tons of freight, 1275.   Future prospects are

encouraging.”

The 1325 passengers carried by the two boats, Kootenai and Lytton, exceeded the entire population of the Kootenays at that time, and his remark about the late opening of the Columbia was to be prophetic of future problems.    Winter ice on the Columbia would disrupt schedules and enforce cancellations of steamer runs from their beginning in 1890 until the end in 1954.

In 1891 the CKSN launched their Kootenay Lake sternwheeler, the Nelson, at that town. She was a near duplicate of the Lytton, at 131 feet and 496 gross tons.  She had the old engines of the Skuzzy II, and SkuzzyI, not quite as powerful as those of the Lytton, but adequate for the lake and the slow waters of the Kootenay River.    She made her maiden voyage in August and was put on a schedule leaving Nelson every Monday at 8:00 AM for Pilot Bay, Ainsworth and Kaslo and return.   On Tuesdays and Fridays she left Nelson at 3:00 AM for Pilot Bay, Ainsworth and up the Kootenay River into the U.S. for Bonner’s Ferry.   On Wednesdays and Saturdays, leaving Bonner’s Ferry at 3:00 AM for Pilot Bay, Ainsworth and Nelson.   With its two new boats the CKSN controlled both the Canadian gateway to the Kootenays  via Revelstoke down the Columbia, and the American gateway via Bonner’s Ferry, to Kootenay Lake and Nelson, while the CPR’s subsidiary, the C& K railway hustled passengers and freight from lake to river down its 28 miles of track.   

A unique and isolated community was now forming in the Kootenay mountains, centred on Nelson and almost exclusively busied with mining.    The ore came down from the mountainside mines in sacks carried on horses, and was piled on the wharfs at Ainsworth, Bluebell, Crawford Bay and Nelson.   The Nelson on her twice weekly rounds, would pick up these sacks and take them to Bonner’s Ferry and the wagon haul to the NP at Kootenai Station, bringing back provisions, liquor, tools and miner’s supplies from Spokane.     Over on the Columbia at Revelstoke the CPR dropped off passengers and freight for the Lytton which took them down the Arrow Lakes to Sloat’s Landing and the C&K cars to Nelson. 

The Revelstoke route was suspended in winter when low water and ice closed the Columbia and Arrow Lakes.   The Bonner’s Ferry route operated most of the winter, sometimes having to be suspended when ice formed in the shallow West Arm of Kootenay Lake.

   

Daniel Corbin had gone to Victoria in 1889 while his graders were beginning his line out of Spokane, to petition the Legislature to grant him a charter for a Canadian railway from Waneta at the border to Nelson, B.C.    A railway needed a government charter to give it the power to expropriate rights of way across private property in cases where the owner refused to sell at a reasonable price.   The court would set a price and the graders could then enter private property to build the line.   Just as important, was a grant of public land to the railway, in addition to the the right of way, which the Legislature might be persuaded to give.   Few men, and certainly not Daniel Corbin, would build a railroad with their own money.   A grant of public lands could be used to back the bonds issued by the company to raise construction money.     These lands could be chosen by the railway officials; they did not have to be adjacent to the track.   Then, when the track was laid and inspected by the government, the lands would be transferred as a bulk grant.

It was the responsibility of the grantee to have them surveyed and measured.  When this had been done, title could be issued.   These grants of Crown Land were the necessary inducement to financiers to build railways into empty country where costs could only be recouped if the land could be sold to settlers.

Corbin’s proposed Nelson line would ascend Beaver Creek from the Columbia and alongside the Dewdney Trail run through an easy pass to the Salmo River and follow that stream to its source.   From there, it would descend Cottonwood Creek on a 2 per cent grade, reaching  Kootenay Lake at Five Mile Point.   Here it would reverse and run back along the lakeshore to Nelson.   Corbin knew the objections  British Columbians had to an American railroad entering the Kootenays and draining its traffic south to Spokane.    So he sweetened his proposal with a second charter request for a “Coast to Kootenay” railway which would run from Vancouver eastward to the Okanagan and then over the Monashee Range to the Kettle Valley and connect to his line at Marcus Washington.   This was the line coastal merchants had been soliciting the CPR to build.   Perhaps this American’s proposal, some thought,  was just what was needed to goad the CPR into action.   

Corbin was very vague about the route of this “Coast to Kootenay” line; he did not have a survey to present.   He said only that the Nelson line and the line to Vancouver “…would form one continuous line of railway from the south (sic) end of Kootenay Lake to the Coast, with a short detour into American territory, rendered necessary by the difficulties of penetrating the chain of mountains on the west bank of the Columbia River.” 

The people of Nelson and the Kootenays generally, a majority of whom were Americans pursuing their fortunes in the mines, were strongly in favour of Corbin’s lines.   Any railroad, by whomever built, with dollar a ton rates on ore and coal would boom Kootenay commerce and mining.   But the merchants of the Coast remembered Captain Ainsworth; this appeared to be just another plan to divert B.C. Interior trade to the U. S.   Corbin already controlled the Columbia trade with his railhead at Little Dalles; the new line would put him on Kootenay Lake and with his ally, the CKSN which was building a sternwheeler for that trade, he would control commerce there as well.

The distrust of the coastal merchants convinced Corbin that he needed a Canadian ally to front for him.    The ally presented himself in the person of Colonel James Baker, member of the Legislature for East Kootenay.   Colonel Baker was a flamboyant personality, the brother of the famous British Imperial official, “Pasha Baker.”   Baker had extensive claims to the coal lands of the Crowsnest Pass region and needed a railroad to develop them.   He proposed his own paper railroad, the B.C. Southern, to run from the town he was promoting, Cranbrook, to the Coast, but he lacked the funds to build it.   He was willing to trade his political influence in the legislature for Corbin’s financing of his B.C. Southern.   Corbin accepted, but when he saw the railway bill Colonel Baker had introduced, which gave the land grants to Baker, while Corbin was to build the line, he quickly backed out.   Without B.C. backing, Corbin’s two charter proposals were voted down.

CPR President, William Van Horne, had been giving consideration to a line entering the Kootenays from the east through Crowsnest Pass in the Rockies but would not begin  construction until government subsidies and land grants could be obtained.   On the 20 August, 1890, the Dominion Cabinet authorized the CPR to lease the Columbia and Kootenay Railway for 999 years, just as Daniel Corbin was signing his agreement with the CKSN for joint rail, steamer service from Rovelstoke to Spokane.   Some writers have thought that if Corbin chose to abandon his plans to build across the border into B.C. he might have negotiated use of the Columbia and Kootenay Railway to reach Kootenay Lake with a steamer connection from Sloat’s Landing to Little Dalles.    This would most probably have resulted in the CPR leasing or buying the SF&N.  The Canadian Pacific, as future developments were to show, was not willing to share the Kootenay trade with any other railway.    The CPR began construction of the C&K in 1890, and Corbin went to Ottawa to present his dual charter petitions to the Dominion government.  The Coastal B.C. opposition followed him.   Premier Robson, deeply suspicious of American schemes telegraphed the parliamentary Railway Committee insisting that the charters, if granted should insist that both railways be built simultaneously.   The City of Vancouver opposed Corbin’s charters as well, suggesting that the vague “Coast to Kootenay” line was merely bait to get the lucrative Nelson to Spokane line.   Finally President Van Horne of the CPR weighed in and promised that if Corbin’s charters were rejected, the CPR would build its own line into the Kootenays from Lethbridge.   This was what most parliamentarians wanted, and many admitted they had entertained Corbin’s proposals only to force the CPR to commit itself to build the Crowsnest Line.

Back in Nelson, the residents, mostly Americans, were outraged at loosing a potential rail connection to the outside and vented their anger by boycotting Canadian goods, and continuing to send their mail out via the U.S.A.

Corbin now called on his partners in the CKSN, John Mara, Frank Barnard, and Captain Irving.   If he could get rails to Kootenay Lake, they would be able with the boats they planned to put on Kootenay Lake, to move ore to his railhead, rather than to Bonner’s Ferry and the wagon haul to the NP.   This steamer-rail route with no wagon haul, would mean a lower rate for ore moving out and coal moving in.   

Again the B.C. legislature was asked for a charter for a Nelson and Fort Shepherd Railway.   This time, however, it was presented by five well respected British Columbians as a British Columbian line.   Very cleverly, Daniel Corbin presented his Marcus to Vancouver charter application at the very same time.  The legislators were so righteously preoccupied with turning down the American’s charter flat, that they granted the Nelson charter to the five British Columbians without a thought.

  The next year, 1892, Corbin bought the N&FS charter from his CKSN allies and got the legislature to give it a land grant of  10,240 acres per mile.   The year following, he persuaded the Dominion parliament to add a federal cash subsidy of $3,200 per mile, and permit it to connect to the American rails of his SF&N at the border.   This seeming reversal of policy by the B.C. and Ottawa legislators reflected the fact that the CPR had completed the Columbia and Kootenay line in 1891 to serve Nelson from Revelstoke via boat and rail;  Corbin’s line was welcomed as a desirable competition to break a CPR monopoly and keep rates down.   The same thing happened all over the Canadian west:  the Canadian Pacific would be lobbied to build a line into a district, but no sooner was it in place than the agitation began for a competing railway to come in and force down the CPR’s monopolistic rates.

Corbin had located his own townsite seven miles north of Little Dalles, called it Northport, and extended his rails to it in 1892.   This was now his wholly owned Columbia River Port and gateway to British Columbia.   Without telling Washington D.C., he had the Little Dalles Post Office, put onto a flat car and hauled to Northport and set out there with its new name lettered on.    As Little Dalles, without a steamer connection, collapsed, a ghost town for the second time, the Washington D.C. government recognized  reality, and Northport, Washington was in business.     

With his way cleared into Canada, Daniel Corbin pushed his rails from Northport to the border at Waneta and let a contract to Peter Larsen and Patrick Welch of Helena, Montana to grade his line to Nelson.    Chief Engineer Roberts, reported indignantly that each morning when  his steam shovel crossed the border to begin making grade, the Canadian Customs agent demanded he pay duty on it.   This problem was eliminated by moving the construction camp to Sayward, across the border into Canada.    To avoid paying duty on American rails for the line, Corbin had English rails shipped as ballast in empty grain ships to Portland.   These, in bond, were allowed across the line into Canada.    Speedy construction was essential, the charter required completion by the end of 1893.   The steep, 2 per cent grade down to Kootenay Lake was put on trestles for much of its length to eliminate the need for time consuming and costly drilling and blasting of the rock bluffs.  However, when the graders reached the lakeshore, they found their way blocked by the CPR.

Van Horne had not forgotten his promise to the Dominion parliament.   He was determined to shut Corbin out of southern B.C. and monopolize its trade for the CPR.   He sent out surveyors to discover whether the much discussed, “Coast to Kootenay” railway was feasible, and what route it might take.    They reported, that though costly, such a line was possible.  The C&K portage railway would be its center segment.  A line in from Lethbridge, Alberta over Crowsnest Pass would join it at Nelson, and from its terminus at Sloat’s Landing on the Columbia, a line could be built west to the Okanagan and on west to rejoin the CPR main line at Hope.   To block Corbin, Van Horne, working through Harry Abbott in Vancouver, presented his proposed line to the B.C. legislators and got them to establish a “CPR Railway Reserve” on the lands covered by the route.   This reserve now covered the south shore of Kootenay Lake from its head to Nelson, and E. J. Roberts, who had intended his line to run back to Nelson from Five Mile Point, found the lakeshore preempted and was obliged to end his railway at the water’s edge.   However, an arrangement was made for the CKSN’s new sternwheeler, Nelson, to meet all trains at Five Mile Point and transfer freight and passengers to the Nelson dock.   With a daily train service to Spokane on Corbin’s line, the run up the river to Bonner’s Ferry was discontinued.  The old charge on ore for the smelters had been $30.00 per ton, largely owing to that awkward wagon haul from Bonner’s Ferry to Kootenai Station.  Now Daniel Corbin offered a $9.00 per ton charge on ore from Nelson all the way to the Tacoma Smelter.   This rate meant that lower grades of ore were now suddenly commercial.   No longer did the output of each mine have to be sorted by hand to pick out the high grade which would pay its transportation to the smelter.   Since now fifteen dollar ore would return a profit, investors from Spokane took the train to the Kootenay mines to buy properties that previously were too low grade to mine.

That first winter of N&FS operation, 1893, the Columbia froze solid from Revelstoke down the Arrow Lakes, severing the CPR’s Canadian connection until May, while Corbin’s trains ran daily to Spokane.   With nothing moving on the Columbia, the C&K line with its one locomotive and 19 cars, shut down operations until Spring.   Mail had to got out via the U.S. and a letter to Revelstoke travelled to Spokane, Tacoma, Vancouver (by water) and back to Revelstoke, 10 days in all .   The CPR’s water route into the Kootenays had proved an admirable  tourist attraction, a delightful trip in the summer, but not dependable, year round transportation.  That severe winter, and Corbin’s railway, rough and crooked as it was, definitively attached the Kootenays to Spokane.   

The Kootenay Lake silver-lead mines were not the only beneficiaries of Corbin’s line with its new, lower freight rates.   With rail transportation now a reality, the prospectors in Colville were taking another look at other mining discoveries that had been neglected in the pack horse era.   Newlin Hoover, of Toad Mountain, and Oliver Bordeaux of Colville in the enthusiasm of the railway’s arrival in Colville in 1889 restaked a claim that had been abandoned along the Dewdney Trail west of the Columbia, believing its ore might now be commercial.   It was an act that would have enormous consequences for all of Northeast Washington and the Kootenays of B.C.

Chapter 18

RED MOUNTAIN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 19

COLONEL TOPPING

Colonel Eugene Sayre Topping was born on Long Island, New York State in 1844.   He acquired a fairly good education before going to sea at the age of twelve.   After eleven years at sea and on the Great Lakes, (exactly as Joe Moris was to do twenty years later), he went west in 1868.  He worked as a tie contractor for the Union Pacific building west through the Wyoming territory.   When that transcontinental was completed he headed north to the Yellowstone River country in Montana.   Here he prospected, mined, guided tourist parties to the newly discovered Yellowstone region, and  by his own testimony, he worked as a “wolfer,” one who puts out poisoned baits for wolves and retrieves their carcasses for the pelts which were in demand.    He located in Bozeman, and tried various other enterprises, meeting personally many of the Montana pioneers whose stories he told in his popular book, Chronicles of the Yellowstone, published in 1884.

He acquired his title of Colonel probably by being of service to the Territorial Governor, in some way unrevealed.   Among North Americans in the 1880s and 1890s, a military title conferred a certain social and commercial status on a western gentleman, particularly in the mining field.   Technically, these Colonelcies conferred the command of a non-existent regiment of State or Territorial Militia supposed to be ready to spring into action in case of Indian troubles.

“Colonel” Lowery, one of the pioneer newspapermen of the Kootenays, was bluntly accurate when he referred to his own title modestly as “More millinery than military.”

  Colonel Topping’s newspaper articles, occasional poetry, and his book display a terse, energetic style, entirely free from the tedious pedantries of most writers of the period.   His book is a good read, a chronicle of twenty years of Indian fights in Montana and North Dakota.  His Indians are always treacherous, evil and cruel, as the popular belief of the time ran, though he does make a qualified exception for the Nez Perce.   His prospectors and ranchers are always noble and heroic.   His first Yellowstone Park tourists are uniformly inept greenhorns, a considerable burden to their guides, of which he was one of the first.  His version of the Custer massacre has been superseded by later research, though he does fault Custer for his folly in attacking a force whose strength he did not know.

In later years, Topping made the claim that he furnished Hubert Howe Bancroft with much Wyoming and Montana material for his histories of those states.   In short, he was an educated man of conventional beliefs, and an amateur historian of events he had witnessed and men he had known.

However, once the Northern Pacific came through Bozeman and brought the trappings and settled amenities of civilization, Colonel Topping moved west, just as he had moved north into unknown country when the Union Pacific had been completed.    In 1888 he was on the frontier again in the Coeur d’Alene mines, when he heard of the rich Toad Mountain strike in British Columbia.    He set off at once for this newest mining frontier, hoping to get there before all the good ground had been staked.   

From the Coeur D’Alene mines he would have taken Dan Corbin’s narrow gauge train to the boat dock at Mission and there boarded Corbin’s sternwheel steamer, Coeur d’ Alene  for Coeur d’Alene City at the dock at the foot of Third Street.   The next morning he would have taken the NP train into Spokane Falls and outfitted himself for a prospecting expedition into British Columbia.   At 3:00 AM the NP eastbound express would have picked him up and let him off on a cold, grey morning on the muddy single street of Kootenai Station, gateway to the Kootenay mines.    A rough, all day stage ride up Dr. Hendryx’ toll road would have brought him to Bonner’s Ferry on the Kootenay River.   There he would doubtless have watched with interest as sacks of high grade silver-copper ore were unloaded from the small, twin screw steamer, Idaho.   This was Hall brothers’ ore from their already famous Silver King.

Although the fare to Kootenay Lake points was an outrageous $20, about the same as an NP ticket to Portland, Colonel Topping paid, and took passage for the steamer landing at “Stanley/ Salisbury.”   Two days later he was stepping ashore on the West Arm of Kootenay Lake at the start of Joe Wilson’s pack trail to the Toad Mountain mines.   William Cockle, who operated the even smaller, steamer, Midge, describes the point of disembarkation.

“At Stanley we pushed the nose of the Midge ashore, or as near shore as the mud would allow, and  disembarked our six passengers, who evinced remarkable agility in negotiating leaps from rock to rock or

the balancing acts required to negotiate the round (logs) with which some of the intervening spaces were filled.   These (logs) had the bad manners to sink when an undue weight was placed upon them, or to slide out sideways when (one’s) balance was improperly adjusted by the shifting of a quid (of tobacco) from one cheek to the other; the adhering mud only adding variety to the landscape.   The landing was made about the foot of (what was later to be) Hall street.   There faced us as we looked ashore a steep bank on which three or four log shacks had been erected…   Fire had left nothing of the heavy growth of timber that had previously covered the ground, but a profusion of blackened logs lay everywhere, through which a trail had been cleared from the ‘steamboat landing’ along what is now known as Ward Street.

“Adjoining this trail were located two tents, the first being occupied as a general store which was

owned  by Messers. J. Fred Hume and Bob Lemon.    The other tent served as a primitive hotel, under the management of John Ward.   It was provided with a stock of both solid and liquid refreshments without which no self-respecting mining town could ever start business.   As everybody packed his own blankets in those days, linen was not furnished with the sleeping accommodations.

“A little to the west of this trail near where the provincial jail now stands was a shake shanty occupied by the Spokane mining promotion firm of Denny, Devine & Co., dealers in evrthing a prospector

could ask for or desire.   It sure was a “bum looking layout…”    

Scraping mud from his boots and trousers, Colonel Topping climbed the clay bank and entered the burnt over, “bum looking  layout” which called itself Stanley or Salisbury, the American gateway to the Toad Moutain mines.   The fire had not been accidental.   It had been set to burn off the townsite so that the the two surveyors could lay out their streets and lots.   The accepted view of forests at that time was that they were to be got rid of as quickly as possible to make way for farms and cities.   

  Advertising his presence as a gentleman prospector, the Colonel made a quick tour of the camp, Denny & Devine’s outfitting store, Hume and Lemon’s establishment, and John and Josephine Ward’s hotel, a three room tent.  In the days following, he introduced himself to most of the inhabitants including Nick Moon, Tom Collins, Dr. Labau, Ike Naile, Charley Malley, Ike Loughheed, John Commerford, Cy Johns, and Bart Henderson.  Most of these men were prospectors or miners working up on Toad Mountain for the Hall brothers.

Topping shortly became friendly with the American couple, Frank and Mary Jane Hanna in their snug log cabin.   Frank was the camp blacksmith, and Mary Jane was willing to board the Colonel who found her meals superior to any in the camp.   He found a cabin to share with another gold seeker and began prospecting at once.

As winter came on, most of the prospecting community took passage on the twice weekly trips of Richard Fry’s 37 foot steamer Idaho for the steam heated hotels and settled amenities of Spokane, Colville or Walla Walla.   Colonel Topping, however, decided to stay the winter, one of just a handful of men who chose to do so.   He was doubtless encouraged in this by his friendship with the Hanna family.   Mary Jane in particular earned his regard as the first white woman to spend the winter on the shores of Kootenay Lake with its legendary snowfalls.

As the first snow of winter came sifting down through the grey October skies, the Wards

folded up their tent hotel and with others, boarded  the tiny six ton Idaho.   Captain Fry whistled a final farewell to the tiny camp, and churned out into the choppy waters of the West Arm heading for Bonner’s Ferry where he would lay up his boat for the winter.   He would not be back until Spring.

The winter isolation of the tiny camp that was to be Nelson is difficult to imagine today.

Once the snows fell, the trails would be closed until the surface crusted in February.   Ice formed on the West Arm during those winters, colder than ours today, and passage by boat or canoe was risky.    Some game might be shot, a few fish might be caught, but supplies of tea, sugar and flour and dried apples would have to last until the Dick Fry brought the Idaho back in late April.   If a man had a prospect, he could spend the winter lengthening his tunnel or deepening his shaft.   That was lonely work.   When the lake was open or when a hard crust had formed on the snow, miners from the Ainsworth camp and 49 Creek would make the trip to Nelson, just to have someone to talk to.    Hume and Lemon’s store would be called upon for tobacco, bottle goods, and tinned delicacies, and a feast would be held in one of the smoky cabins where the talk would go on all night, perhaps two.   When the weather looked suitable, the miner would shoulder his supplies and head back to his mine and his solitary cabin.  It was a brutal life, but the confidence that each one of them would shortly become very rich, kept them at it.    That and the dreams of a life of ease and boozy pleasure once the big bonanza had been struck.

The next May, the one eyed newspaperman, Randall H. Kemp made the trip from Spokane to visit the Kootenay Lake camps and reported to his readers,

By sundown we touched at the principal camp on the lake, Hot Springs, known since that year

(1889) as “Ainsworth.”   About 200 miners and prospectors were at the landing to greet our steamer…   After discharging passengers and freight, the little boat crossed the lake to the Bluebell mine, as in the absence of wharves,  that was the safest place to tie up for the night.  As there were no hotel accommodations at Hot Springs, I remained on the boat, and … slept in my blankets under the dining table at the cabin of the Bluebell mine…

“A portion of the next day was spent in looking over the famous and historic Bluebell mine.   I went through the cross-cut (tunnel) which showed a very low grade (deposit) of 86 feet and nine inches in width at a depth of 86 feet from the surface.    Evidences of Hudson’s Bay mining to secure lead for their flint lock muskets were to be seen.   Also the ruins of an old Scotch hearth furnace which George Hearst of California (constructed) about twenty years before, and also the dump on which Thomas Hammil stood in June, 1885 when a bullet ended his earthly career…  In the evening … I crossed the lake in a row boat to the Hot Springs.

“Major Gus B. Wright was at that time working the Number One mine under bond.   Between the Major, Josiah Fletcher, and General John Adair of Astoria Oregon, I was royally entertained while at the camp.   They had a cook tent presided over by Earnest Harrop, now a prosperous merchant and mine owner of the Slocan, as their chef, while for a bed I had a section of the floor in Fltecher & Co’s log cabin store, the first mercantile establishment on Kooteany Lake…

“…it became necessary for me to go to Nelson so as to examine the budding bonanzas of Toad Mountain.   The Cockle brothers… were running a small stream launch called the Mud Hen (Midge) which towed a large skiff between Hot Springs and Nelson…   To size up the town was not a difficult job…   John F. Ward… had a huge tent which covered dining room, sleeping apartment and bar.   In fact, it was the only hotel in this part of West Kooteany.   J. Fred Hume… had a small stock of merchandise in a log cabin.   E.S. Topping… was the clerk, generalissimo, and walking encyclopedia of the camp.   Mr. Topping was a U. S. subject, but he had been interim mining recorder pending arrival of Mr. F. H. Griffin…  I called on Mr.Griffin…I can scarcely recall the first Government House of Southern Kootenay, but the following description is not far wrong: The building was about 10’ x12.’  Its floor was composed of native dirt, the sides and roof of split cedar shakes and very wide cracks.  A hewn plank along on side made a substitute for a desk on which were piled the record books and archives of this portion of Her Majesty’s domain.   In one corner was a bed of poles, and the walls were embellished with handcuffs, leg irons etc. as a menace to would-be evildoers.

“A track through the wilderness had been cut from the Columbia River to Nelson, a distance of  twenty-eight miles, which by courtesy was called a trail… I stuck out along this path, my objective being the Poorman Gold Mine, six miles below Nelson.   I found “Ike” Naile, one of the owners, in the cabin; his partner, P.J. McDougal was across the river hunting caribou… 

“Next steamer day Ike and I went up to Nelson.  Among the incoming passengers were James F. Wardner and John C. Davenport, both after the Poorman gold mine, but neither aware of the other’s intentions.   When they did find out, however, a game of Seven-Up played on a log in front of Ward’s tent hotel, and won by Davenport, caused him to purchase the claim for something like $35,000…

“About the time of my advent in the future capital of Kootenay, there appeared upon the scene the first two real pioneers of their class, but a sample of  the unfortunates found in all mining camps, two women of a class utterly degenerate and lost to any feeling of decency.   These frail sisters of the world had walked over the trail mentioned above (twenty-eight miles!) from the Columbia River.   One was young and fair as the lily and a fair sample of the Caucasian race; her companion was aged and of  the Afro-American-Canadian style, black as the festive crow.

Mr. Wardner… and myself had decided we would visit Hot Springs Camp in company, and on a Sunday afternoon were awaiting the arrival of Dick Fry’s small steam tug, Idaho, which towed a barge, to come down the outlet (West Arm) and we would take passage on her return trip.   A white engineer and pilot were on the tug, but the scow was mangled by a swash (Indian) crew.   Jim (Wardner) and I went rustling for provisions for the trip and managed to raise a two-pound box of soda crackers, a can of Bartlett pears, and a quart bottle of Canadian Rye.   When we went aboard the boat we found the two females mentioned and about twenty prospectors had preceded us.   Soon we were steaming up the outlet, Jim and I intent on watching an aged Swash in the rear end of the scow making preparations for supper.   When the meal, consisting of bannocks, potatoes, bacon and tea was ready, the cook picked up the gangplank over which barefoot Indians and hobnailed miners had been trampling and placed an end on each guard rail on the sides of the scow.   On this were placed the food, tin plates, tin cups and iron knives and forks.   We were at our evening meal around this festive board, and if we didn’t enjoy the edibles, we did he novelty of he surroundings.

“As there happened to be rough water out in the main lake, Jack Adler who was purser and master of ceremonies in the scow, decided to land the outfit and camp for the night.   Accordingly we made a landing…  On the down trip of the boat a considerable quantity of baled hay had been unloaded at Balfour,  destined for Hot Springs camp.  Several of these bales were opened  and the hay distribute over the floor of the scow for bedding purposes… The remembrance of that night on Dick Fry’s scow will never be effaced.  It is amusing …to meet one of the whites who was there at the time; they generally say, ‘You remember that night on Dick Fry’s scow!’”

Colonel Topping remained in Nelson acting as its de facto postmaster which meant laying in a supply of American stamps, since all the mail went out by the Fry’s tug to Bonner’s Ferry in the Washington Territory.   As well, he seems to have been constable, clerk in Hume and Lemon’s store, and becoming deputy mining recorder when the Government Agent, Terence Griffin, found other duties taking up all his time.   But chiefly he prospected, hunting for that elusive gold mine that all the Nelson residents believed would make them rich and independent some day.     On one of his prospecting expeditions Colonel Topping accidentally shot himself in the wrist and was disabled from active gold hunting for a time.   The Kaslo neswpaperman, Colonel Lowery, gave his own version of the accident.

Colonel Topping…instead of prudently drinking from a bottle like the rest of us, stooped to a creek to slake his thirst when his .44 dropped out of his pocket and opened a crosscut on his wrist.”

This was the situation when Bourgeois and Moris found him nursing his bad wrist in Hume and Lemon’s store and persuaded him to take one of their claims in exchange for paying the recording fees for the other four.   A few days after receiving the Le Wise claim from Moris and Bourgeois, he set off, bad wrist and all with his friend, Frank Hanna, a strong, hearty  man with two good arms and ready to dig, to have a look at his new claim which he had renamed the Le Roi.   The route they took was the connecting trail over Granite Mountain to the government trail to Sloat’s Landing.   This Nelson link was in such bad shape that travellers, extricating themselves from treacherous bogs and slipping from improvised steam crossings, had hung hand lettered signs at every outrage expressing their ferocious opinions of the contractors.    The Reverend Mr. Cameron, travelling this trail in 1888, reported primly to the Kamloops Inland Sentinel, “Some of the notices put up by the bums are most profane.”

Probably expressing some profanity of their own, Topping and Hanna  reached “Long Tom”  Ward’s ferry over the Kootenay River, and on the far bank had some stretches of the  unfinished  grade of the Columbia & Kootenay Railway to hike on.  At Sproats they awaited the arrival of the Kootenai which was hauling supplies from the railhead at Little Dalles for the C&K contractors.

The partners took passage on the Kootenai and 30 mile downstream disembarked at Trail Creek.   Here they found a crowd of prospectors already on the ground.  The news of Moris’ and Bourgeois’ strike had gotten out, probably spread by the Nelson assayer, and Red Mountain was beginning to draw a crowd.  A tent restaurant was already in operation on the beach, and was crowded with prospectors spitting on chucks of ore brought down from the mountain and showing them to their cronies.   Eugene Topping must have felt very lucky; here a mining rush was developing and he already owned one of the discovery claims.

The next morning Topping and Hanna rolled out of their blankets, gobbled down a quick breakfast of flapjacks and scalding tea at the tent restaurant, and hurried up the old Dewdney Trail.   Short of the pass, they bore to the right to the red mountain on the northwest horizon.   There they found Bourgeois and Moris who led them to the Le Wise, now the Le Roi.   Frank Hanna with his two good arms pounded and chiselled out some ore samples for assay.   A few hundred feet away Moris and Bourgeois were putting down a pit on their best claim, the Centre Star.   The rock, to Topping’s eye, appeared to get richer a few feet down, so he encouraged Frank to go deeper on the Le Roi and take samples at depth.

They were back at the river the next day, and Eugene Topping, taking a walk around the little flat at the mouth of  Trail Creek, observed that this would make a perfect townsite.   If paying mines should be developed up on Red Mountain, all supplies and passengers would have to be unloaded from the steamers here.   Miners would need meals and a night’s sleep before heading up the trail.   Returning from the diggings to celebrate or advertise their claims for sale, they would need the bottled cheer of a bar.    Topping and Hanna decided that as soon as they could get back to Nelson with their samples for assay, they would file with the Government Agent, Terence Griffin, for 300 acres at the mouth of Trail Creek for a townsite.   The sale of town lots, Colonel Topping  hoped, would pay for the development of his Le Roi.

Back in Nelson, the new assays decided the Colonel and Hanna.   Their specimens assayed $398 in gold per ton, plus two ounces of silver.   This was with gold at $18 per ounce.  If we convert this to the current gold price it would amount to some $8,000 for something like a pickup load of rock.    Colonel Topping applied to Victoria for Canadian citizenship so that he could take up the township claim, a procedure restricted to British subjects.

As other prospectors brought in their samples and got similar assays, the whole Northwest broke wide open with a serious attack of gold fever, and came scrambling to the Columbia for transportation to the new camp.  Within a few days Trail Creek Landing became an instant mining camp, as men from Washington, Idaho and Oregon piled off the Kootenai and the brand new Lytton onto the beach.  Colonel Lowery, who put out his newspaper in a succession of mining camps describes such a settlement,

“The camp was new and short of frills, boiled shirts, parsons, lawyers, and prohibition orators. It had plenty of whiskey, a few canaries and other birds (prostitutes are meant) and several pianos.   All the rest of the population were mule skinners, packers, trail blazers, remittance men, and producers, with only a slight trace of tenderfeet.   The police slept only in the daytime.”

On the 14th of August, their townsite filed for, Colonel Topping, Frank and Mary Jane Hanna, and their four children, packed up their belongings and left Nelson, starting down the unfinished railroad grade to Sproats, their goods on twenty of Joe Wilson’s pack horses.   At the Columbia they had to wait for a steamer.   The Lytton had been mobbed at Revelstoke by miners with their tents, horses, mules, tools and boxes of provisions, all trying to get on board.   Departure was delayed and it did not get to Sproats’ until the 16th.   Topping and the Hannas

pushed their way on board, piling their possessions on the deck as the cargo space was full.

At their arrival at Trail Creek they watched the eager miners mobbing the tent restaurant and swarming up the Dewdney Trail.   Once they had their property on shore, Frank and the Colonel set about choosing a site for Trail Creek Landing’s first hotel.  They picked a creekside location on the left bank, about where the Civic Centre now stands.   Frank Hanna got out his axe and began felling trees.

Back in Nelson in July Bob Lemon’s curiosity had been roused by he sudden decamping of his store manager.   In a bonanza crazy town, the unannounced departure of a resident, bag and baggage, was thoughtfully noted.   Topping must be onto a good thing, Bob Lemon decided, and it would bear investigating.   He quickly gathered a few supplies and saddled his horse.   At Sproats he was assured that the Colonel and Frank Hanna had indeed taken passage for Trail Creek.   Bob Lemon followed on the next trip of the Lytton.   Arrived at the chaotic camp on the riverbank, he too climbed the steep eight miles to Red Mountain, and staked the Josie claim just above the Colonel’s Le Roi.   Lemon at once hired men to begin digging on the Josie and piling the rusty looking ore on the dump.  Just below, at the Le Roi, Colonel Topping was doing the same, hiring men with the first proceeds from his lot sales.     Down at the Columbia Frank Hanna was building a log hotel.   In a few weeks it was opened as “Trail House,” with Mary Jane running the bar, and providing meal service with her children waiting tables.   Ordered from Spokane, on Dan Corbin’s railroad and shipped upstream on the Lytton, was a supply of picks, shovels and miner’s candles for sale under a tree.   Frank worked out back, hauling in logs to build himself a blacksmith’s shop.

When he learned that Topping had already filed on the Trail Creek delta as a townsite, Bob Lemon crossed the river and staked out 200 acres on the east bank for his townsite.   If it were approved, he planned to erect a store there.  Meanwhile, he got himself back up to the Josie and began hand sorting and sacking the best ore coming out of his claim.

As soon as pack stock became available, Bon Lemon and Eugene Topping loaded their best ore on the animals for the steep trip down to the river.   On its next trip north, the Lytton carried this first Red Mountain ore to the Revelstoke lead smelter.   However, the smelter men at Revelstoke were unfamiliar with copper smelting.   Topping’s and Lemon’s ore contained $300 – $400 of gold in every ton but the Revelstoke operators were unable to recover a minor percentage of it.    The rest was dumped on the riverbank to harden into a black, refractory mass.

Topping was deeply disappointed.   He had rich ore in the Le Roi, but more than half its value was being rejected as unworkable by the unskillful smelter men at Revelstoke.   It would be necessary to ship the Le Roi ore all the way to the Butte, Montana copper smelters to realize its full value.   There was a company there, the Montana Ore Purchasing Company, that would accept small lots of ore from mine owners and custom smelt them.   It was managed by an aggressive young American named Frederick Augustus Heinze. 

Only the best of the Red Mounain ore would pay its way to Butte.   It had to be sorted out by hand at the mine, sacked and shipped down to the steamer landing on pack animals, then loaded onto the Lytton for the trip to Little Dalles, where it would put on the SF&N for Spokane and forwarded to Butte by the NP.   This left the bulk of the ore from Topping’s and the the other mines on the dumps at Red Mountain.   It was good, commercial ore, but not rich enough to pay for that expensive haul to Butte.   What was needed, everyone saw, was a copper smelter, right here at the mines.   But the cost of such a works was far above the capacity of the still small community of Trail Creek.   Men of wealth would have to become involved.    Now that the pre-emption of his townsite had been approved and the land was his, Colonel Topping needed money to begin clearing streets of stumps, laying out lots and installing a water system.   He would have to raise the money by putting up a portion of his Le Roi mine for purchase.

  With that in mind, Colonel Topping took samples of his very best ore and boarded the Lytton on one of its Tuesday and Friday trips down the Columbia to Little Dalles.  There, getting on the cars of the Spokane Falls and Northern, he headed for Spokane where investors were to be found.

On the trip south he met two Spokane lawyers, George Forster and Colonel W. N. Ridpath.   Forster and Ridpath had been inspecting the Dead Medicine mine in Stevens County as a potential investment, and Topping was extremely lucky to encounter them in a mood to buy.

Forster and Colonel Ridpath were impressed by his samples.   In Spokane they introduced him to other potential investors they knew, including Colonel W. W. Turner and Colonel I. N. Peyton.

Topping, a Colonel among Colonels, was able to convince the group to take a bond on 16 thirtieths of his Le Roi.   This bond obliged the Colonels to spend at least $3,000 sinking a shaft and gave them the option, but not the obligation, to buy the 16 thirtieths by June 1, 1891 for $16,000.    Forming a syndicate were Colonels W.W. Turner, W. N. Ridpath, I. N. Peyton, and Major Armstrong, plus the civilians George Turner, Alexander Tarbet and Frank Graves.   With them was the experienced mining man, Oliver Durant.   And, since all of the syndicate owed considerable back rent and board to their host, hotel owner W. S. Harris, they took him in as a settlement of their accounts.

“Bonding” a mining property was the usual means of development at the time.  For an agreement to buy at a specified price, the mine or a certain interest in it, by a specified date, the prospective purchaser got the right to work the mine and sell the ore developed.  There was usually a down payment on the purchase price to seal the agreement and sometimes monthly instalments to be paid.   At the expiry of  the time period, usually six months, the purchasers ad the right to “throw up the bond.” and walk away without further payment or liability.   Or they could pay the remainder owning on the purchase price, and the mine or the fractional interest in it was theirs.   The system was a good one.  It allowed a prospector without funds, to have others open his mine for him for sale if it proved valuable, while investors were able to discover a mine’s worth without being obliged to buy a possibly barren property. 

Oliver Durant and Bill Harris of the Colonels’ syndicate, set out that winter with Durant’s mining foreman, Ed Kellie, to inspect the Le Roi on Red Mountain.   The steamer service of the CKSN had been withdrawn because of ice and low water.   The men had to make their way over the crusted snow from Little Dalles to Trail Creek.   There, they did not stop overnight at Trail House with Colonel Topping, but camped in a shelter up on the bench where the Trail Smelter stands today.   Most probably they did not want to advertise their presence.   Oliver Durant was a well known mining man, and Trail was now crowded with Americans who knew him at sight.   His appearance in Trail would give rise to speculations that would have instantly inflated the asking price of every property on Red Mountain.   And as it turned out, Oliver Durant was not merely making the trip for a look at the Le Roi; he intended so see if he might pick up an adjacent claim for himself.

The next morning the three set out early on the hard crusted snow for Red Mountain, 8 miles up the creek.   Durant examined the amateurish Le Roi workings, climbed down into Colonel Topping’ shallow shaft and was satisfied with what he found.   He instructed Ed Kellie to hire four men and begin sinking a proper shaft at once on the main Le Roi vein.   He also told Kellie to send him weekly samples of the ore he encountered.   Then Durant went over to look at the War Eagle and Centre Star to see if perhaps they were worth bonding.

By the spring of 1891, Ed Kellie had the shaft down 35 feet on the Le Roi and had ten tons of good ore on the dump awaiting shipment.   With a good cover of snow on the ground it was rawhided down to the Columbia.   Rawhiding was the preferred means of transporting ore in the winter.   The sacks were wrapped in a green cowhide, hair side out, and dragged by a horse down the trail over the snow.   A packhorse could carry on its back but 400 pounds of ore, but pulling a rawhide bundle, it could easily move 1500 pounds.   The especially tough hides of old  Texas Longhorn cattle were favoured for this service.  A triangular block of wood was fitted into the neck hole and the hide nailed securely to it.   On the point of the block a clevis was inserted and the singletree hooked to it.   Eyelets were let into the edges of the hide for lacing up. with rope.  A good prepared rawhide ready to pull cost about $28. 

Winter rawhiding was by far the cheapest means of moving ore off Red Mountain until a wagon road should be built.  The winter trails had to be prepared by hauling light loads to make a trough down the center of the track.   With multiple use, the trails often iced up and means had to be found to brake the loads.   This was done with a “rough lock,” a heavy chain slung under the hide to bite into the ice and retard the load.   Should the load get away from the driver on a steep slope, it would ride up onto the horses’ legs.   In such cases an experienced animal would simply sit back on the rawhide and steer himself with his front feet.   As well, a rawhide was the safest way to bring an injured man down from a mine to the doctor, as long as the horse did not sit on him.   Rawhiding cost from $2.50 to $ 3.50 per ton down to the river.   Packing on horses in the summer, was $5.00 to $8.50.  Most mine owners stockpiled their sacked ore on the dump, waiting for winter to rawhide it down to the river. 

The smelter returns from that first shipment to Montana in 1891 were $70 in gold,, $2 in silver and 5% copper in every ton.   Delighted with these returns, the Colonels’ syndicate  took up the bond on June First, and paid Colonel Topping the $16,000 agreed on.   For another $16,000 they then bought his remaining 14 thirtieths and became sole owners of the Le Roi mine. What the Red Mountain miners were digging on was the rim of an Eocene volcanic crater.

All of the discoveries lay in a wide arc from Monte Cristo mountain the northeast to Red Mountain and  Deer Park Mountain to the north and west, and including the Lily May on the Southwest rim to the Tiger and the Lookout Mountain mines to the south.   Trail Creek had eroded away the core and east rim and it is possible that the gold found on the Columbia River bars by teamster Morell in 1854 had eroded originally from Red Mountain.

Now along the south facing slope in what had once been the crater of the volcano, a collection of log huts and tents sprang up, just below the mines.   Joe Moris and Ross Thompson from Great Falls, Montana, built the first cabins, and in the evenings the men working the mines would assemble in one of the cabins and smoke or play cards in the light of a coal oil lantern.

Down at Trail Landing Colonel Topping began laying out a water system and building a new three story frame building to take the place of the old, log Trail House.   From his office, he sold lots, offered mining claims on Lookout Mountain, and planned an up to date town to include an Opera house, a Post Office, and a when a line could be brought in, a telephone office.   Mary Jane Hanna was to get a house of her own, and as Developer, Builder and Hotel Manager, the three companions began to thrive as Trail grew up around them.

Chapter 20

THE SPOKANE COLONELS

The Spokane Colonels formed a Washington company, The Le Roi Mining and Smelting Company and issued 500,000 shares at $5.   George Forster was elected president with W. Williams as Sectretary, and the nine original members became directors of the new company.  A hundred thousand shares were held in the treasury and the rest put on the market.   Results were disappointing.   The shares traded at around fifty cents on the Spokane exchange.   Frank Graves was successful in bringing in some Illinois investors on a trip to his home, but could get no more than 25 cents per share.   Reports from Red Mountain continued encouraging.   An inclined shaft, following the vein, was down 60 feet, and numerous open cuts had been made on the surface to open other veins.  Assays of the best ore ran from five to twenty percent copper, with three to ten ounces of silver, and gold from $48 to $470 per ton.    But with pack train transportation to the river costing $12 per ton, the ore was stockpiled at the mine awaiting winter and rawhiding.    The cost of sinking the Le Roi shaft was $20 per foot, blasting powder was 25¢ per pound, drill steel, 20¢ a pound, miner’s candles, $7 for a 40 pound box, and rough logs for bracing, $15.00 per thousand feet.   Miner’s wages were $3.50 per 10 hour day.   To meet these expenses it was necessary to put the remaining 100,000 shares on the market.   Money came in slowly, and the Colonels were unable to hire a larger crew. 

Down in Colville, Newlin Hoover and Oliver Bordeaux, encouraged by the rich ore the Le Roi was encountering, sent a crew of men in to develop the Lily May.   At Red Mountain, Moris and Bourgeois bonded their Centre Star and Idaho claims to Oliver Durant and Alexander Tarbett of the Colonels’ syndicate for $25,000.   However, few experienced miners were available; most of the men on Red Mountain were prospectors and scorned mining as long as there was good ground available to locate.   The Centre Star development proceeded haltingly.    Durant and Tarbett gave it up, sold their Le Roi stock for cash, and tried the War Eagle, bonding it from Moris and Bourgeois for $15,000, $1,000 to be paid in cash at once and $6,000 more in 6 months.    They were unsuccessful in finding any rich ore in the War Eagle as well, and failed to pay the $6,000 in the appointed time.   Moris and Bourgeois re-bonded the War Eagle to Captain Burbridge, for $17,500, $1,750 downa nd $6,000 in 6 months.   The Captain also failed and threw up the bond.   

Meanwhile the Centre Star was bonded to the Pyritic Smelting Company of San Francisco.   They sent in their own expert who condemned the mine, the camp and the whole boom as a fraud, and that bond too, was thrown up.   Finally, Moris and Bourgeois bond their War Eagle to Engineer, E. J. Roberts, W.J. C.Wakefield of Spokane and Austin Corbin of the SF&N Railroad.   These men were joined by Patsy Clark and John A. Finch, experienced mining men from the Coeur d’Alenes, and they opened a new vein which proved productive.    They took up the bond, and the mine was theirs.    By 1895 the Centre Star Mining and Smelting Company was organized by Spokane investors under P. A. Langly, and serious work began in it as well.

Still, with nothing but mules and winter rawhiding for transportation, most of the ore was piling up on the mine dumps awaiting a wagon road to Daniel Corbin’s railroad at Northport.

At this time all the Red Mountain mining was done by hand.   The ore was found in a bewildering network of nearly vertical veins, the fissures and cracks in the walls of the ancient volcano.   The veins ran in all directions, intersecting one another and changing direction unpredictably, which accounted for many of the early failures.   The ore bodies, when found, proved to be lens-shaped pods from 25 to 50 feet wide, and generally about 250 feet long.  The mining procedure was to extend a tunnel horizontally from the shaft, following the vein until a pod of commercial ore was encountered.   Then this pod, would be “stoped,” worked upward, with the ore blasted down into the tunnel to be hand shovelled into small mine cars on 18 or 24 inch gauge track.    When miners working at the bottom of a stope could no longer reach the ore above them with their drills, a framework of squared timbers would be built in the mined-out space and a heavy wooden floor nailed on top.   The miners would work on this floor, shovelling the loose ore to a square hole left in the floor.   The ore fell through the hole into the mine car on the tracks below.   When this level had been extracted another timber framework would go up and a higher floor erected.   This process was continued, building upward, until the top of the ore body was reached.   The ore below the track level would be sent down a chute to the next track level below, usually 100 feet.   This “overhand” mining could be quite efficient, with the ore falling by gravity into the cars, eliminating the need for “muckers” (shovelers) to hand-shovel it into the cars.

This method of “Square set timbering” was slow and costly with a huge consumption of timbers and a force of carpenters constantly at work.   Mining costs at Red Mountain at this period ran around $12.00 per ton of ore hoisted to the surface.   This put a bottom limit on the grade of ore worth mining.

At first the loaded ore cars were pushed singly by hand to the hoisting shaft where they were brought to the surface in a cage.   Later, as the mines became bigger, the ore cars were hauled in trains of six, by mules with “headlights,” a candle, or later a carbide miner’s lamp in a jam tin, hung around the animal’s neck.   Horses did not work well underground.   On encountering a low beam or projecting rock with his ears, a horse would instinctively rear his head, cracking his skull on the tunnel ceiling.   In the same situation, the more placid mule would duck his head and pass under.  The mules were stabled down in the level on which they worked, and feed sent down to them.   The presence of feed grain in the mine brought in rats, and each mine had its cat which prowled the underground, often passing from mine to mine through ventilation tunnels.    Some more compassionate mine owners, would have their mules hoisted to the surface on Sundays to give them one day of sunlight a week.   But Monday morning, it was back down underground.   The sagacity of these mine mules was much admired by their teamsters.   The mules had evidently learned to count the jerks, one for each car, when starting an ore train out of a stope.    If there were a seventh car attached, the mule would feel the seventh jerk and refuse to pull until the extra car was detached.    One mule in the Slocan, working without a driver, was reported to have learned to blow out his headlight when tired, and then rest quietly in the dark until someone came along and lit his lamp again.   Mules worked the Red Mountain mines until the coming of electricity in 1898 when small electric locomotives called “Mules” replaced them on the rails. 

In 1892 the Spokane Colonels, with an ample supply of commercial ore on the Le Roi dump, built a steep wagon road out through the pass into Little Sheep Creek and down its valley to the border at Patterson’s.   From there it was a fairly easy run to the Columbia River opposite Daniel Corbin’s huge freight shed at Northport.  A small reaction ferry carried the traffic across the river.   The Colonels ordered forty, extra heavy, five ton freight wagons from a Chicago builder and put them on this run, hauling Le Roi ore to the railroad and provisions and supplies back up to the Rossland Camp.    In 1893 the Le Roi shipped 700 tons (140 wagonloads) of ore down the Little Sheep Creek Road and from there on the railroads to whichever smelter bid highest for the ore.

In January, 1892, Ross Thompson from Great Falls, Montana, applied for a 160 acre townsite just below the mines.   Two years later his application was approved, and for a payment of one dollar per acre, the land was granted to his Townsite Company.   He wanted to call his town ,“Thompson,” but as there was already a Post Office with that name,  he settled for “Rossland.”    Rossland was in the opening years of the decade a very speculative promotion.

Some few mines were shipping high grade hand sorted ore, but with only a pack trail for transportation, the bulk of the ore remained on the dump.   The completion of the wagon road to Northport and a stage service to the railway, made Rossland an American settlement, just across the border in Canada.   Its investors were Americans, largely from Spokane; most of its miners were from the Coeur d’Alenes in Idaho, where a labor dispute had closed the lead- silver mines.   Its merchants drew their supplies from Spokane wholesalers via the railway and the wagon road.

It was still all very chancy; no one counted on a long run for these mines so distant from the smelters.

Down on the Columbia, Trail was still a largely Canadian town, linked to Canada and to the U.S. by the twice weekly trips by the CKSN steamers.   In 1891 the CKSN had a new and larger steamer built at Little Dalles, at a cost of $75,000, the Columbia.   She was registered as an American vessel, and was 152’ long by 28’ wide, 534 gross tons, with  two 18” x 72’ cylinders powering her sternwheel.   She was the most powerful steamer yet launched on the inland lakes and rivers, and took over the passenger run.    Under Captain Gore, she left Revelstoke on Mondays and Thursdays at 5:00 AM with passengers and freight off the CPR for Arrow Lake points, reaching Nakusp at 10:00 AM.   At 6:00 PM she tied up at Robson,  new steamer landing to which the C&K track had been extended.   The old Sloat’s Landing had been unsatisfactory for docking large sternwheelers, as the shifting sandbars at the mouth of the Kootenay River resulted in numerous groundings.   At Robson, the water was deep and steamers could dock at any season of the year.    Discharging her Nelson-bound passengers and freight at Robson, the Columbia tied up for the night.   It was too  risky to try to make the tricky run down the shallow and twisting river to Trail at night, since the Columbia had no electric generator and no searchlights.    But at 5:00 AM on Tuesdays and Fridays, Captain Gore guided his vessel down the treacherous riffles of the river for an 8:00 AM arrival at the new Trail townsite, and then on down across the border for a 10:00 AM arrival at Northport.   This schedule could be maintained only in the summer and fall months.   In the winter and early spring low water limited the tonnage boats could carry from Robson downstream, and the smaller Lytton would have to be used on this part of the run.   At extreme low water in March and April, runs would have to be cancelled.    In cold winters, the shallow parts of the lakes and the river at Burton and between Arrowhead and Revelstoke would freeze solid and steamer service would be suspended until the ice went out.

The CKSN captains did everything possible to extend the profitable river service during low water.   At Rock Island Rapids, below Trail, and at Cottonwood Narrows at Burton, iron ringbolts were set into the rock bluffs and the crew would splash through the shallow water hauling a cable to hook into the ringbolt.   Then using a steam capstan on her foredeck, the vessel would winch her way across the gravel bars or up the Rock Island Rapids into deeper water.

When the boat would ground on a bar and no ringbolts were available, a more heroic method called “Grasshoppering” could be resorted to.    In “Grasshoppering,” the large 8 x 8 sheers bolted to the sides of the vessel are lowered and pivoted to the gunwales so that their submerged ends, pointing slightly forward,are slightly below the keel of the boat.   The boat was then run at the bar or winched over it with the capstan with the “Grasshopper Legs” raising the hull just the few inches necessary to clear the bar.   “Jumping” the boat in this way, though it delighted the passengers, shortened the life of the steamer considerably.   River sternwheelers were worked hard, expected to pay for themselves in the first season, and not calculated to have long lives.   In order to operate in very shallow water, they were built with very little depth to the hull which gave them little rigidity.    With the heavy boiler in the bow and the engines at the stern, putting  the cargo space in the middle, an unladen steamer would tend to ride low at bow and stern and high in the center.   A system of posts and steel cable “hoglines” was supposed to create a truss to hold the nearly flat-bottomed vessel to its proper shape.    But with constant boarding and disembarking of cargo, the hoglines would loosen and the hull would become as flexible as an old shoe.   When a boat was in this state, “hogged,” its boiler and machinery would be removed and placed in a new hull with the old one converted into a scow.     Most sternwheel engines went through two or three vessels in their lives.

With the Le Roi Company’s wagon road to Northport carrying the largest share of the business from the mines and the Rossland Camp, the citizens of Trail lobbied the B. C. legislature for funds with which to build a wagon road of their own to connect the Red Mountain mines to their own landing on the Columbia.   The legislators, still wary of Kootenay golden chimeras, appropriated the money but instructed the Minister of Finance not to release it until the Red Mountain mines proved that they were a substantial investment.   The next year,1893, after a strike of very rich ore in the Le Roi, the funds were released, and the Canadian road was built, 11 feet wide and 9 miles long.

With wagon haulage, the cost to the mine owners for ore down the Little Sheep Creek road to the railroad at Northport was $4.00 per ton.   With a  mining cost of $12.00 per ton, plus rail and smelter charges of another $12.00, this means that $30.00 ore could  be smelted at a profit.   On the Canadian route down Trail Creek, across the Columbia by ferry and down the east bank of the river to Daniel Corbin’s rail siding at Waneta, the cost was $4.25 per ton.   Probably, with  mine owners having to pay toll on the Le Roi road, the two routes were equal in cost.  In the winter, sleighs were substituted for wagons and “roughlock” chains were wrapped around their runners to hold them back descending the steep grades.    Passengers preferred the comfort of going by stage to Trail and steamer to Northport.   A through ticket, Northport to Red Mountain was $2.00.

The CKSN steamer Columbia caught fire and burned in 1894 and had to be replaced on the Northport run by the Lytton.   For the run down the lakes from Revelstoke a new steamer, the Nakusp, was built in Nakusp in 1895, with the most powerful engines on the Canadian Columbia, two 20 x 72 inch cylinders.   She was a big, luxurious vessel, 171’ by 33.5 ft, of 1083 gross tons, and drawing 6.3 ft of water, too much to allow her to run downstream of Robson.    The Nakusp was equipped with a steam driven electric dynamo and a pair of electric searchlights for loading cargo and navigating at night.   Still, all freight and passengers transferred at Robson to the smaller Lytton for the run down the river to Trail and Northport.   

The Trail – Northport business boomed in 1895 with new discoveries of rich ore in the major Red Mountain mines.    To handle the traffic the Lytton was put on a daily schedule, leaving Trail every morning at 8:00 AM, arriving at Waneta, the border point, at 9:00  and Northport at 10:00.   At 1:00 PM she left Northport taking two full hours to churn up the swift waters to Waneta, and not getting back to Trail until 4:30 PM.   Two hours for the downstream run, and  three and a half with the sternwheel flailing at its top speed of 22 rpm. to climb the 75 vertical feet of swift water to Trail. 

Although the wagon haul had enabled the mine owners to ship more of the ore from their dumps, it was not enough.   Their miners were worming their way through the dark underground galleries searching for those pockets of bonanza ore that would make their employers rich.   But in this expensive exploration they have to pass up vast tonnages of low grade ore that will not pay its way to a smelter.   A railroad at the mine mouth that would haul their ore for something like $1.00 a ton would allow those vast low grade deposits to be mined at a profit.

It is not just the prospect of hauling ore to the smelters that catches the interest of the railroad men.   Moving ore is a one way traffic.  There is no profit in hauling empty cars back to the mines.   The major traffic of all mining railroads was coal.   At that time a ton of ore required roughly a half ton of coal to mine and smelt it.   As the Rossland mines had gone deeper, hand windlasses and horse whims were replaced by large steam powered hoists.   Steam pumps had to be installed to drain the deep workings.   Steam powered air compressors were required when the new air drills were installed to replace hand drilling.   In the beginning, all this steam was generated in wood fired boilers.   The mountains around Rossland became denuded of trees as the woodcutters move farther and farther out for fuel, and its cost increased with the length of haul.    A producing mine at that time would have had a 60 or 80 horsepower boiler supplying the steam for operations.   The Le Roi, at the height of its production, had three 200 horsepower boilers, two of which were fired night and day.    An 80 horsepower boiler at that time burned 2 pounds of coal (1Kg) per horsepower per hour, roughly 2 tons per day.   To keep the pumps running, the boiler has to supply steam 24 hours a day.   Two tons a day, for a modest mine like the Iron Mask, means a carload every two weeks.   A large mine like the Le Roi or the War Eagle will consume ten carloads a month.   With more than a dozen mines developing at Rossland, some thirty to forty carloads of coal will be required each month for the mines alone; double that if a smelter were to be built.

The profit to be made hauling cars of coal up to the mines, and then filling them with ore for the downhill trip was making railroad men eager for this business and willing to build extensive branches to serve these Kootenay mines.

  As early as 1887, the coal mine owners of the Nicola Valley persuaded the Kamloops Board of Trade to hire J.A. Coryell to survey a railroad route from their coal mines via the Salmon River to Vernon and over Monashee Pass to Lower Arrow lake at Edgewood.   From there the coal was to move on barges and the promised portage railway to the Nelson and Kootenay Lake mines.    Coryell ran his survey and reported that a practical line could be had.   But B.C. investors were unwilling to risk their money in the distant Kootenays, and potential eastern investors were discouraged by the powerful CPR.   It had its own coal route to protect.   CPR coal went from the Vancouver Island mines by rail to tidewater, by ship to Vancouver, by CP rail to Revelstoke, by barge to Robson, and via the C&K (after 1890 ) to Nelson.   This long, tortuous, and costly route made coal $22.00 per ton laid down in the Kootenays, most of it freight charges by the CPR.   As long as any shorter and competing route can be blocked, this extremely profitable traffic would belong to the CPR.   As the Kootenay and Boundary mines expanded in the succeeding years, the Nicola to Kootenay project would be revived by one group or another.   Each time, it would be buried by the opposition of the CPR.

The coal traffic to Kootenay Lake was already making a profit for Daniel  Corbin and his SF&N lines.   The Northern Pacific had opened coal mines at Roslyn, west of Ellensburg, and coal could move via the NP and SF&N to Five Mile Point on Kootenay Lake to be barged to the Pilot Bay Smelter, and the new wagon road to the Silver King mine above Nelson.   

In 1892 Daniel  Corbin and his Chief Engineer, E. J. Roberts bought the Yellowjacket and Standard claims on Red Mountain, and his son, Austin joined the War Eagle Mining Company.  As well, Peter Larsen, a contractor of Helena, Montana, who had built the N&FS line for Corbin, had a look at Red Mountain, bought the Iron Horse claim, and set a crew of men to opening it.    The next year Corbin chartered the Red Mountain Railway in B.C. to run from Rossland down Little Sheep Creek, the route of the Le Roi wagon road, to the border at Patterson’s.    B.C. legislators were favourable to the application, feeling that by letting Corbin in, the CPR would be prodded into building its promised Crowsnest line.  At the same time Corbin got a U.S. charter for the Columbia and Red Mountain Railway which would build the U.S. section from Patterson to Northport with a bridge over the Columbia River.    He sent E.J. Roberts to survey an inexpensive route.    The cheapest way to bridge the Columbia was at the narrow defile at Little Dalles, but this would require 6 miles of track on the right bank duplicating the SF&N on the left bank.   Corbin opted for a longer and more costly bridge at Northport to shorten the line.   He directed Roberts to run his survey up Big Sheep Creek and include Sheep Creek Falls in the right of way to make its water power potential available to further developments.    Corbin proposed to build this new line exactly as he did his previous railways:  he would take $20,000 of stock and bonds of the Red Mountain Railway for each mile built, plus a cash grant of $115,000 for the Columbia River bridge.

There was one serious obstacle to be overcome before construction could start.  The right of way from the Columbia River to the Canadian border lay within the Colville Indian Reservation, and only the U.S. Congress could  give permission for Corbin to cross it with a railroad.    Daniel Corbin made application to the Congress and awaited its approval.

Corbin’s move was seen as a disaster for Colonel Topping’s Trail.   If the Red Mountain Railway were built, all the Rossland ores would go out via Northport to the U.S. A.   Rossland would become he mining centre of the Kootenays with a direct rail link to the Northern Pacific at Spokane, and Trail would wither to a dusty steamer landing on the Columbia, a ghost town like Little Dalles.   A few residents began to sell out and move to Northport to be in on the coming boom.   Almost desperately, Colonel Topping advertised his Trail House in 1894 as “a homy atmosphere for those satiated with the turmoil of Rossland city life.   One of the proprietors will drink and the other will smoke with every guest.”   Yankee Topping  was writing letters to B.C. newspapers opposing the Red Mountain Railway as a Yankee grab for Kootenay trade.   The editor of the Nelson Tribune disagreed; Corbin’s line will bring in the CPR, he believed, and that would be the making of Nelson.

Although the American Congress had still not acted on Daniel Corbin’s application to cross the Colville Indian Reservation, the year 1895 was the making of Rossland.  First the War Eagle struck bonanza ore and on the First of February, began paying dividends.   Next the Centre Star hit high grade ore, and within a few weeks rich strikes were reported in the Black Bear, the Josie, the Nickel Plate, the Iron Mask and others.   Dividend paying mines were irresistible to the investing public.   Funds flowed in, more miners were hired, larger machinery was ordered.   Rossland’s population which had stood at 75 on January 1, jumped to 3000, mostly Americans, by the end of the year.   It was suddenly the fifth largest city in B.C., surpassing Nelson, and Revelstoke, and Vernon, and as long as the rich veins persisted and dividends were posted, its future would be secure.

Down in Trail Colonel Topping was attempting to interest American investors in building a smelter for Trail.  Three smelters maintained offices in Spokane at that time to buy ore, Montana Smelting of Great Falls, Omaha and Grant of Helena, and the Helena Works of Denver.

Topping had talked to all of them regarding a smelter for his Trail townsite.  In 1894 Frederick Heinze of the Montana Ore Purchasing Company in Butte had quietly come to examine the Rossland mines.   He was convinced that there was an opportunity for a local smelter, and had attempted to buy the Le Roi mine.    But when he could not produce the substantial cash down payment the Colonels insisted on,  the deal collapsed.

Helena contractor, Peter Larsen, now the  owner of the Iron Horse mine, was also interested.   He was at that time engaged in standard gauging the Great Falls and Canada Railway  line which  supplied coal to the Great Falls smelter from Lethbridge.    He had taken up the old 28 pound narrow gauge rails and had shipped a quantity of them to Trail with the idea of building a light horse drawn tramway up to his mine.    On June 1, 1895 he announced he had obtained a Federal charter for his Trail Creek and Columbia Railway.   However, the rails remained on the beach, and nothing was done. 

Then Martin King and A.E. Humphries, the latter a mining promoter from Duluth, proposed an aerial tramway to bring the Red Mountain ores down to the river.   Again, nothing was done. 

It was the success of the Kootenay mines, and nothing else, that eventually brought in the railways.   In the 19th century the district had nothing to offer the agriculturalist but a few small coves along the lakes and rivers and some farming acreage at Creston.   But without the miners there was no market at all for farm products.   Had the Kootenays been barren of minerals, no railroad would have entered until the lumbermen moved in about the time of WWI. 

With the success of the Toad Mountain, Slocan, and Red Mountain mines, a population supporting those mines, merchants, hoteliers, farmers, established itself.   Miners, all of them optimists, and making the best wages in the Northwest, demanded the best — they had the gold and silver to pay for it.   Mining towns, responding to the optimism and free spending habits of the miners, were among the most progressive in the west.   The first street railway west of Winnipeg was opened in Nelson in 1899, the Nelson Electric Tramway Company.   Nelsonites “rode the cars” to work and home at night, while Vancouver, and Victoria residents still slogged through their muddy streets.   It constructed a dam on the Kootenay River and generated its own municipal electricity.    Most of its merchants dealt with the Spokane wholesalers, and until the end of the Nineteenth Century, Nelson, Trail and Rossland were firmly within what Spokane boosters chose to call the “Inland Empire.”

In Vancouver, Victoria, the merchants seethed at this bright, prosperous society growing up behind those formidable mountain ranges, an American dependency they had neglected for so long.   They projected a wonderful paper railway to somehow follow that Dewdney Trail and bring the commerce, the profit to the Coast.   But who was to build it?   Daniel Corbin from Spokane?   That was the problem.    No one but the grasping Americans were willing to risk their money in such a costly undertaking.    And the Americans, of course, were thinking in terms of  tying Vancouver to Spokane, not the Kootenays to Vancouver.   It was a dilemma that would agitate politics and commerce in British Columbia from 1890 until 1915.

Please note this is the last chapter of the late author, artist and castle builder Bill Laux. The hitherto unpublished book ‘THE MINING ERA OF THE CANADIAN COLUMBIA’ is now located at the Arrow Lakes Historical Society in Nakusp, BC.

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