The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Family Project

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Tag Archives: Bill Laux





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


                  ROCK CREEK A SUCCESS

          From $20 to $ 200 per day to the hand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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.


  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.




My apologies for having missed publishing Bill’s introduction to his book: The Mining Era on the Canadian Columbia. It is a part of Bill’s work and should be published before I continue with Chapter 2.


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


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.    





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.


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. 

Introducing Bill Laux, Late Local Artist, Writer and Castle Builder

1960A051Bill Laux

Bill Laux: Writer, Artist and Castle Builder

From the Obituary Column of the Arrow Lakes News

The Arrow Lakes lost another of its World War II veterans. William Arlington Laux, age 79, resident of Fauquier for 42 years died of cancer in the Arrow Lakes Hospital on October 7, 2004. He is survived by one brother, Jim Laux, in Florida, USA as well as three nephews. Bill’s wife, Adele predeceased him in 1967. Bill was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin, on February 28, 1925. He entered the US Army in 1943 and served with the Allied Army troops that crossed France and northern Germany ending World War II in 1945. After the war Bill studied English at university, but chose not to be an academic. Instead he worked outdoors. First with the Forest Service, then the California Park Service and finally as grounds superintendent at Yosemite National Park. While at Yosemite he met and married his wife, Adele Osborne. Bill and Adele immigrated to Canada in late 1962, where they were apprentices to Jack and Janie Ise of Vaki Batiks who moved their business from Mexico to Cedar Springs Farm, south of Fauquier on the lakeshore. A couple of years later, the Wises sold the business to the Laux’s who continued making and selling batiks, an enterprise Bill continued for many years after Adele’s death. In the early 1980s Bill started a new career as historian searching out the stories and locations of the early mines and railways of the West Kootenays and eastern Washington state. He published many magazine articles, though his books are unpublished. Bill is known for his endeavours as an artist, a writer, a builder of buildings made of mud-cement bricks, a small hydroelectric plant operator, as well as an exotic evergreen tree nurseryman.

When looking through the archives at the Fauquier Communication Centre, where Bill Laux’s unpublished works are located, I came across a few old floppy disks that contained among other documents two of his major unpublished books on the railroad and mining history in the Kootenays. The data that I found were recorded in the ancient Apple format. It took me considerable time and effort to have these data decoded. As I publish them one chapter at a time, I will also make them available to the Arrow Lakes Historical Society headquartered in Nakusp. In doing so I hope to pay homage to a great local artist, writer and castle builder, who died too soon to see his historical research published. The book that I published last year was on the colourful history of the railroads . The second book focuses on the era of the mining industry in the Kootenays. Both railroads and mining are intimately connected with each other, as one could not exist without the other.


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handGemachtes & allerlei Tüddellütt

Stella, oh, Stella

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

My Fragmented Narrative

rants and ramblings freshly served


comfort and joy from my home to yours

mommermom moms journey

Find Your Middle Ground

"Life is a series of highs and lows. Be grateful for the highs. Be graceful in the lows. Enjoy life fully and find contentment in your Middle Ground" Val Boyko

This Much I Know

exploring life now that our small people have all grown up

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