1865 was going to be a banner year for Jonathan Scott, he was sure of it. Row upon row of his tobacco plants were growing tall under the hot Lillooet sun. Every acre of the six hundred that he had purchased on the benchland they called Parsonsville was worth every penny he had paid. The soil was rich and fertile. In time he had built two drying sheds and a press. Each bunch of leaves was picked and sorted and dried. He had some help but he was the one to do most of the work; spinning and rolling the tobacco into a rope.
At first there were a few trials and many errors but on the occasion that a miner complained about one of his plugs, he handed over a new one. The miners let it be known they wanted something to chew on the trail that would provide enough saliva for a good string of spit. His plugs were good and his pouches of loose leaf didn’t have any stems or sticks and they weren’t like chewing on grass. The taste was good and the spit was even better.
Chewing tobacco was his staple product but he wanted to start his own brand of cigars. He hadn’t thought of a name for it but something to remind him of his Kentucky heritage and his new home in the west.
One day in June, a middle aged man knocked on the door looking for work. His said his name was Hugh Nolan and he walked with a slight limp. Men with limps weren’t an uncommon sight; there were so many suffering from pains in their legs on account of their bad diet.
“I could use some help with fixing up this barn. This tobacco is going to be flue-cured, so I’m going to need some small fire pits built on the floor.”
“You provide the saw and hammer and consider it done,” Nolan said with a tip of his hat. He wore high-topped calfskin boots with a low heel like a lot of stagecoach drivers and Scott wondered what happened that he would be willing to labour in a tobacco field.
For the next few weeks, Nolan occupied himself with fixing the barn. He was friendly with most of the people in town and when he wasn’t working on the shed, Nolan was playing cards with some of the stagecoach drivers from the BX Express. His limp didn’t improve much.
Scott concentrated on making pouches to take with him to Barkerville. He had built a press which he used to pack down several bunches of tobacco leaves. Several times a day he checked in at the barn to see how the repairs were coming along and the fires were burning. From there he removed any stems and sticks that were still around. He put his nose to one of the bags and breathed in the earthy aroma. Each bag smelled a bit different but they were all pleasant to the senses.
He experimented with blending some leaves from a couple of wild tobacco plants with his own Burley variety to see if that resulted in a better taste.
Scott told Nolan of his plans to head to Barkerville. Nolan in turn surprised him by asking for his money and making a hasty exit. For a man with a limp, he travelled quickly.
Luckily, Kemble the bootmaker offered to keep an eye on the tobacco leaves. Scott had given him lots of business considering he had one foot larger than the other, besides he figured the tobacco leaves were dry enough that he didn’t need the smouldering fires anymore.
In the evening, Scott looked at his ledger for the second time that day. Despite the gold rush he had several accounts outstanding and he could name at least three druggists and two saloons that behind on paying despite their requests for more tobacco. Only one of them had responded to his letter requesting payment informing him that they were now ‘importing fine segars’ and would not be ordering his chewing tobacco in the future.
Scott left Lillooet early the next morning and began a four day journey to Barkerville by stagecoach. After the constant swaying of the coach it was a relief to lie down on a solid bed.
At Cottonwood roadhouse, Scott read the Cariboo Sentinel from cover to cover. There was an odd notice about an escaped convict from Portland who may or may not be using crutches. Above that was a letter to the editor which he read twice:
Sir, The Cariboo mining season is fast drawing to a close, and it behooves all who have accounts outstanding to have them collected. The merchants generally on this creek it will be admitted have aided to perhaps an indiscreet extent the miners by giving them credit, and as the time for payment to the lower country merchant is at hand it becomes absolutely necessary for the merchants here to get in their bills from this community. I regret to say that they find this no easy matter, not from the want of ability on the miners to pay, but simply from there being an unwillingness on the part of the County Court Judge to enforce payment of the money due merchants. I would be the last to urge anything like harsh measures towards any part of the community, but merchants should be protected and assisted by the Judiciary of the country instead of thwarted. Even when we get a judgment from the Judge we cannot get an execution, and then we are set at defiance by men who have the money and won’t pay. I think, sir, in cases where it can be shown that men are able to pay there should be no false delicacy manifested by the Judge to protect the trader, without whom this country never would have been prospected. It is only justice to the “honest” miner to make the “dishonest” meet their liabilities, for the moment merchants are prevented recovering their just debts from that moment they will shut down on all alike. I trust, sir, that the ventilation of this subject will have a good effect in stimulating our very highly esteemed Judge to protect the merchants, and thus prevent them all going into bankruptcy.
Yours, A Merchant
Scott closed the paper and pulled at the ends of his moustache. This wasn’t good. He had been counting on getting money so he could hire more pickers as his business expanded.
A ringing sound could be heard from outside the window. He stood at the window with his hands in his pockets and looked out at the mule pack train horses, some with bells around their necks, waiting to be relieved of their large sacks of cargo. He wondered how much gold was in them. Of all the wealth leaving the gold diggings, it was a shame to see that the merchants were having so much trouble collecting.
Just as he was about to drift off to sleep he heard a commotion in the hallway and someone banging on his door. Scott jumped out of bed and opened the door to see a uniformed constable.
“Are you Scott?”
“You’re an American, I can tell. Do you have crutches? Ever used them?”
Scott shook his head. “What is this about?”
“We’re going to send you back to Portland, Mr. Scott.”
Scott used all his powers of persuasion to convince the constable that he was not the escaped convict he assumed him to be.
As proof of that, the officer asked to see Scott’s boots.
“They were made by Mr. Kemble the bootmaker in Lillooet.”
This seemed to spark a further round of questions until the constable was satisfied and left. It was useless trying to get any sleep after that. The next morning at breakfast, one of his fellow stagecoach passengers asked him about the incident.
The answer struck him then. The constable had asked about Kemble the bootmaker and if he had made any riding boots with a low flat heel. He could think of one person that dragged a low flat-heeled riding boot and that was the man who called himself Nolan.
When they discovered gold in Wild Horse Creek, it was kept such a secret that it was just a rumour at first.
The Hudson’s Bay Company knew about it because the Kootenay tribe had traded gold nuggets at the fort as early as 1857 when the honourable Company expressed interest in acquiring gold. Like any secret, it attracted interest and as other gold bearing streams in Idaho and Washington became more challenging, gold seekers like John Galbraith set their eyes on the area north of the border.
Gold seekers followed the Kootenay River north to where the rumours swirled around at Wild Horse Creek. By the summer of 1863, hundreds of American prospectors were following the river north.
By the time John Galbraith arrived, there was a town called Fisherville. It wasn’t a town in the proper sense; quite unlike some of the towns in eastern Canada where he was from. There were shanties from logs, shakes and bark or whatever else was lying around but everything looked like it could be dismantled with a good kick. There were two saloons that could withstand a strong wind and a hotel that was operated by a woman they called Axe Handle Bertha.
He handed over his money to Bertha who showed him a room that looked as though it had been used that same day. He stayed one sleepless night at the hotel listening to doors slamming and drunken men arguing. He woke up early the next morning and ate lukewarm bacon and boiled cabbage. Then he gathered his belongings and set out with his gold pan.
Galbraith spent the better part of the morning walking along a well-worn trail beside Wild Horse Creek. There were men with gold pans and some with shovels full of gravel they put into rockers.
“Where can you stake a claim?” he asked one of the miners.
“Not around here.”
Galbraith trudged on with his gold pan tucked under his arm. There were a handful of men on either side, some with guns at the ready, eyeing him warily.
As he walked by he caught snippets of conversation.
“stolen in the middle of the night.”
“there’s going to be hell to pay – a real western necktie party.”
Galbraith shuddered at the thought of a lynching. At one point in the river there weren’t many people about and none of them seemed vigilant. He got out his pan at the river’s edge and rested it just under the water and shook it vigorously with a slight circular motion. His eyes focussed on the bits of gravel as he raised and lowered the lip of the pan into the water. Just as he thought he spotted some coarse yellow grains in his pan, he felt a tap on his shoulder.
“You see that point up there by the boulder at the bend? That’s our claim from here to there.”
Galbraith turned around to see who was talking, a gruff bull-headed man with a large droopy moustache.
He looked to see where the man was pointing to but it all seemed very hazy.
“Yeast Powder Bill has the point beyond that to the boulder about a mile up.”
Galbraith shook his head, “I don’t see a stake in the ground. Do you have a record of it with the gold commissioner?”
The man gave a sharp laugh, “there doesn’t need to be. That’s the way it is.”
Galbraith trudged back to town empty handed. There were two saloons on the street and he stepped inside one of them. There was an Irish flag nailed to the exposed log behind the bartender and a ceramic figure with a Gaellic expression underneath. There were several men playing a lively game of cards on an overturned keg.
“C’mere and close the door behind you. Those damn flies like my beer too much.”
Galbraith drank some beer and asked about the man who had ordered him off the river.
“That would be Overland Bob, or so he calls himself. He and Yeast Powder Bill and his group have laid claim to just about every square inch of the river. It isn’t right I tell you, there’s nothing but Americans here. They want to see us starve out and now they’re accusing our Tom Walker of going through their damn rockers and picking out the gold!” The bartender slammed his fist down on the counter.
Galbraith commiserated as the bartender, Crowley, ranted and told him the story of how he had paid every penny he had to take one of the ‘Ghost Ships’ to the new world and worked his way west. Crowley had been to every gold rush camp along the way and met quite a few unsavoury characters but none as bad as Yeast Powder Bill.
“He’s ruling this place like a feudal lord here in this fly infested swamp ridden bush nowhere near civilization. It’s a good thing we have a lively group of friends here, we make sure we stick together.”
“Friends of Ireland?” Galbraith asked. He had heard about these clubs from his brother Robert who had said that the Fenians as they were known, were stirring up trouble and harassing government officials in Canada East.
The conversation was interrupted by Tom Walker, who was one of the young men playing cards. He had made friends with some of the Kootenays, he said and they had allowed him and a couple of others to pan for gold but there was still a simmering conflict with Yeast Powder Bill.
Galbraith figured as long as there as gold in Wild Horse Creek then gold seekers would be willing to pay good money to see that their horses or mules were safely transported across the Kootenay River just below where Wild Horse Creek empties into it. He wrote a letter asking for permission to set up a cable ferry and in the meantime, he set to work building a wooden raft and then making rope with bark, hemp and any other fibre he could find.
One sunny afternoon in August, he heard someone had found a nugget that weighed 36 ounces. There was a lot of talk and excitement at first. It was hot and the air didn’t move an inch even when the sun turned down onto the horizon and the liquor was flowing, the heat didn’t dissipate. Crowley was irritable and sweaty as were all the miners swatting flies. It didn’t take long before fights broke out.
Galbraith took a shortcut past the back of the hotel where he saw Gunpowder Sue fanning herself. “It’s so hot you would think there has to be thunder somewhere,” she said.
“There are some clouds over there, but I don’t think –“
Suddenly gunshots exploded and people yelled and shouted. Galbraith peered around the corner and saw Yeast Powder Bill and Overland Bob being chased down the street while Crowley leaned over Tom Walker who was lying on the ground, his shirt ripped and bloodied from gunshot wounds.
Edgar Dewdney official portrait as Lieutenant Governor (Govt of BC)
Edgar Dewdney wouldn’t back down. He was the one with the contract he argued, they were there to do the work. No amount of reasoning or yelling would get the Sappers to budge. They stood there with their shovels and axes, waiting for word from their commander, Lieutenant McColl.
“We have a vast knowledge of building roads,” McColl said. “It’s far better to bring the route further away from the river, as I had previously suggested. You have chosen to ignore my good advice and the result is your own doing.”
“I will take this issue to the Governor.”
When he arrived at Fort Victoria, he outlined his story to Douglas’ clerk who gave him some advice on how to present his case to the Governor. “Emphasize the fact that the Royal Engineers won’t work with you at all.”
After modifying the events, Dewdney explained the dramatic story of his harrowing escape to Governor Douglas who sat impassively behind his desk.
“You’re still under a contract to finish the road. If you cannot complete the road, then you will have to forfeit all the monies plus interest.”
There was silence for a moment while the gravity of the situation hit home. “I have every intention of fulfilling my obligations.”
“Good. Then you will get back to work.”
Dewdney made his way to the Union Hotel and drank several glasses of spirits as he thought about a solution to his woes. What was he to do? He couldn’t work with the Royal Engineers and yet what he really needed was enough money to be able to hire some men to work under him. He could write home and ask his father to arrange for a bank draft, but it was a route he’d rather not take. On the other hand he could see if he could find someone who would want to enter a partnership.
Just as the thought began to take shape in his mind, he heard a loud clattering noise. Someone had thrown some gold nuggets at the large mirror that hung behind the bar.
“I can’t hawk this gold for nuthin’” the miner yelled out to nobody in particular.
“Why not?” Dewdney asked. He was curious despite the man being obviously drunk.
“Why? They’re charging four lousy percent to get a dollar.”
“I’m sure someone could do better than that, do you have any more gold dust?”
The miner leaned away from him and laughed. “You can get some yourself at Rock Creek, that’s where I’ve just been.”
“Rock Creek? I have the contract to build a road from Fort Hope to Rock Creek,” Dewdney said proudly.
“Could’ve used a good road when I first came, I don’t know if it makes too much of a difference now that most of us are heading out.”
The miner’s words affected him over the course of the next few days and his appetite diminished with worry. He placed an advertisement in the newspaper but there was no response from anybody.
“Most of the folks are coming here to find gold,” the bartender said sympathetically.
As the days wore on, Dewdney realized that the Royal Engineers had withheld his payment and he went to see James Douglas.
“I can’t finish the project until I receive the money,” he said. He was expecting Douglas to go into a tirade but he was preoccupied with a report to E.B. Lytton concerning his shares in the Hudson’s Bay Company that he had yet to relinquish.
“I’ll grant you some time off from completing this road if you can be of some assistance to me in this matter,” Douglas said.
Dewdney was more than glad for the opportunity and over the course over the next few months he made use of his father’s political contacts while earning enough money to keep him at a comfortable lodging.
Almost a year to the day he had abandoned the trail, he received a message from Douglas’ clerk that there was a railroad engineer who had stopped by looking for a government job. His name was Walter Moberly.
Dewdney went over the plans and talked about his contract while Moberly listened with intense interest. He didn’t tell him about the Royal Engineers and how they had taken over; he didn’t know himself how far they had developed the road.
It was the end of May by the time everything was arranged and a work crew was hired. The Royal Engineers had built the trail as far as Princeton and beyond that a large valley spread out ahead of them. Eventually a routine was settled on and everyone was ready to start grading and shovelling five o’clock every morning.
By the end of July, all was well until they encountered the first large mountain that rose abruptly from the lake below. A couple of the workers decided they’d had enough and abruptly left. When the other workers were out of earshot, Moberly said to Dewdney, “let’s forget wasting time with making sure the road is wide enough, we’ve got to finish this thing before everyone else quits and heads to the Cariboo.”
Dewdney thought about this. James Douglas had already made a trip to Rock Creek; how likely was it that he would come again? On the other hand, if all the workers left to go to the gold diggings then the trail wouldn’t get finished and he would be on the hook.
They encountered few miners as they headed eastward but Dewdney was so preoccupied with mapping the trail and getting the coordinates just right that he didn’t put it into perspective. Moberly was becoming more and more restless as the trail wore on and the others in the work crew were becoming dissatisfied with the same fare of hard tack and canned beef. Dewdney himself reminisced about wearing a clean shirt that hadn’t been boiled to the texture of tough canvas.
At the end of August, they came along the Kettle Valley to Rock Creek and they walked past one empty cabin and then another. There was nobody in sight. The rush was indeed over.
“Here’s the end of the road,” Moberly said and fired his shotgun in the air.
“My father is a close friend of Charles Kerneys-Tynte, who as you know is a respected Member of Parliament. Subsequently, he introduced me to the Colonial Secretary E.B. Lytton. So here I am,” Dewdney gave a half smile.
“We are a new colony and there is much to do in the way of town planning which the Royal Engineers are busying themselves with,” Douglas scratched his chin thoughtfully. “Perhaps you could be the Colonial contribution to the planning of our newest settlement at New Westminster. It would be good to have someone who could report to me what those Royal Engineers are up to.”
Pleased with himself, Dewdney went back to his hotel and with the help of one of Douglas’ staff, he procured an outfit similar to the one worn by the Sappers consisting of serge trousers and a serge shirt with pockets.
The next day, Douglas brought him to the wharf where Colonel Moody was about to board the steamship for the Fraser River. Moody barely looked at Douglas while he introduced Dewdney. On the ship, Moody told Dewdney to meet him after supper.
“I understand that Mr. Douglas wants you to help with the town’s layout,” Moody said without preamble. “This is all very good you understand, but seeing as you’re a civilian, you will be paid as such. Furthermore, you will report to me as your commander, not Mr. Douglas.”
“What salary will that be?”
Moody’s eyes flickered for an instant. “It depends on many factors, our budget for one. I will let you know soon enough.”
He didn’t see Moody for the next three days so Dewdney took it upon himself to start surveying. He didn’t have any equipment with him other than his sextant so he borrowed a telescope from one of the Royal Engineers.
He was hammering a wooden post into the ground when one of the engineers came around with Moody.
“I see you’re keeping yourself busy,” Moody said.
Dewdney stood up. “This would make a great road, don’t you agree?”
Moody looked around. “It’s too close to the Fraser River at this point. The river is known to rise precipitously with the summer freshets. If you care to look at this draft, I believe this would make an excellent seaside park.”
Dewdney looked the two soldiers up and down.
“I believe the Governor’s instructions were to plan roads and that is what I intend to do. Look at this mess!” He gestured with his arm at the jagged stumps and fallen trees lying as far as the eye could see. The first opportunity he had, he wrote a note to Governor Douglas, requesting to have better accommodation.
Within a couple of days, he received an encouraging reply asking for more information. Over the course of the next few weeks, Dewdney proceeded with his own plans and submitted them to the governor’s office for approval.
Several letters were exchanged back and forth and he noticed that Moody and his men left him to do his own planning without any further interference. One morning, in the middle of June when the sun was shining after several days of rain, Dewdney was summoned to the main house for a meeting with the colonel and his lieutenants.
They were all silent when Dewdney arrived and none of them offered any greeting of any sort. Moody looked like he hadn’t slept in a while.
Moody surprised him by being conciliatory and commending him for his work so far. “The governor has been so pleased with your plans that he has officially approved them.”
Dewdney smiled, “I’m very pleased to hear that sir.”
“I’m also offering you a proposition. As you know we are in need of hay for the horses and I understand that there is excellent hay to be had from the valley east of here. We are quite willing to increase your salary substantially.”
Dewdney nodded as he listened to the terms of this offer. The pay was substantially more than what he was currently earning as an engineer and he couldn’t help wondering if this was just a scheme to get him out of the way.
At the end of August, Dewdney was told the contract for hay had finished and he was no longer needed. He took the next steamer to Victoria and asked to speak with the Governor. He was told the Governor was busy and after walking around the house several times, he spotted Douglas puffing on his pipe in the garden, with his brows firmly crossed.
Normally, he would have waited for a more opportune moment, but Dewdney hadn’t heard from the Governor and he was getting anxious.
Unlike Moody, Douglas didn’t mind small talk and he wasn’t immune to flattery so Dewdney used both.
“I’ve just come back from Rock Creek,” Douglas said after a time. “We can’t be having all these gold seekers travelling back to the American side of the border with all that gold dust. There’s a need for a good road there from Fort Hope. Do you think you could commit to it? I’m considering putting it out to tender.”
“Yes! I would be very eager to embark on such a project, your Excellency.”
“The Royal Engineers will be doing the bulk of the work of course. I don’t have much use for them but at least England is paying for them. Everybody keeps saying there is so much gold out there but we’re not collecting revenues like we should.”
“If I were granted the tender, could I hire my own workers?”
“There is no guarantee that you will receive it, but if you think you can afford to do so, go ahead.”
The conversation left him doubtful, and on the advice of one of Douglas’ clerks, Dewdney submitted a proposal with the lowest possible bid.
He had pictured in his mind a road 12 feet wide, bridged and graded to allow wagon travel. He didn’t know then that it would be the worst months of his life.
Not all the money was forthcoming as he had hoped; instead he was given a much smaller portion that would hardly cover his own needs rather than the supplies for a project of this scope. At Fort Hope he met some of the Sappers he was assigned to oversee. Several of them had been with the border commission and brought along various types of astrological equipment.
Beyond Fort Hope was a river that cut through the mountains. Dewdney proposed they follow this river. The idea seemed straight forward enough until it was realized the plateau above the river soon became a series of ledges.
Hannah Maynard left her board and batten house on Johnson Street and walked down the dirt road that was just wide enough for two carriages to pass. Her children were still asleep and would likely not awake until the cook arrived. She observed the people walking past; some people kept their heads down as they scurried along, some kicked their feet out beneath them or leaned from side to side. As she took in her surroundings, she thought about what she would contribute to the photography journal. She wanted something unique; a photograph that would show her latest experiments setting multiple images on a glass plate.
She smiled at the two Songhees women sitting outside her business, Mrs. R. Maynard’s Photographic Gallery, selling fish and clams from elaborately woven cedar baskets. She nodded her head in recognition and politely declined their offers. She had photographed them before for her cartes de visite collection and was pleased to see them selling well.
Maynard had a busy day in front of her, she noted. There was an appointment with one of the prominent Victoria families, the Hucklebees. Maynard told her that there were many props in here studio and most importantly she could be assured of a good likeness.
There was just one problem. Maynard had one painted background.
She pulled the long drapes to let more light into the room. The morning was turning out to be dull and cloudy. The studio camera which sat on a heavy frame with wheels on the bottom would have to be moved further back. She had to be careful as she rolled it backward so that her long skirt didn’t get caught. As well,the rug needed to be whacked free of dust she noted.
Maynard arranged two chairs and a plain tea set as she thought about how she could artfully arrange the group.
As soon as Hucklebee entered with her similarly but beautifully dressed children, she had an immediate reaction to the painted backdrop.
“What is that?”
“It’s a balcony. Sort of like a trompe l’oeil.”
“What about some drapes?” Hucklebee said. “I don’t want to have the same background as someone else, at least one that isn’t so recognizable.”
Maynard looked from the children to the drapes. “I could do that yes, but I do think that a lighter background would provide for more contrast.”
After agreeing on a plain wall, they spent several more minutes moving props around. In the end, Hucklebee and the children stood solemn faced.
Maynard adjusted the box, expanding the bellows under the dark cloth while Hucklebee corrected the children. “Look at the box, now. No laughing or giggling.” Maynard looked through the lens and saw Hucklebee’s firm hand on both children’s shoulders as they looked straight ahead. After several minutes Maynard came from behind the camera with a smile on her face. Their likeness had been taken.
Hannah and her husband Richard Maynard emigrated from Cornwall, England and sailed to Canada in 1852. They settled in the town of Bowmanville in Canada West where Richard was a bootmaker. In 1858, Richard left for the Fraser River Gold Rush while Hannah learned photography at ‘R & H O’Hara Photographers, Booksellers and Insurance Agents.’ The Maynards and their children sailed west to Victoria in 1862. Hannah opened Mrs. R. Maynard’s Photographic Gallery later that same year.
Wellington D. Moses' ad (Cariboo Sentinel newspaper 1865)
Wellington Moses knew something was up when he saw Fanny Bendixon come down the boardwalk in a hurry. It was supper time for most people and Moses was standing outside his barber shop, taking in the view up the main street in Barkerville crowded with signs and flags of every nationality.
Bendixon was about six inches taller than he was. Moses couldn’t figure out if it was her shoes or her black hair piled high on her head that gave her the most height. He’d heard the story of how she had carried her own belongings on her back from Antler to Barkerville and could well believe it. He first met her when she was running a hotel in Victoria and he was just setting up his barber shop there.
“I ordered some dresses from Victoria and it doesn’t look like they will arrive in time. Friday is going to be their last show. Mr. Loring wants me to cancel the draft but the bank is shut closed. They put up a sign saying that they’re waiting for some money to arrive from Victoria.” Bendixon said with a frown.
Moses raised his eyebrows. “Those hurdy durdies have their last show already? I thought they were going to be around all summer.”
“Three weeks is plenty enough for me. Between mending their costumes and keeping them clean, I’m too busy to do anything else. “
“Bisbee is going to miss the extra business,” Moses said. Bisbee’s saloon was one of three in town and everybody always seemed surprised that each of them managed to make a brisk business, but mining for gold pushed men to drink.
After she walked away, Moses spotted a gold nugget cufflink on the boardwalk. Where had that come from? He never noticed it before and it was the size of Wake Up Jake’s tokens. He couldn’t recall seeing someone wearing something like that. It was an unusual colour for one, more of a deeper yellow and not as bright as the gold found in Williams Creek. Moses put it in his pocket.
Beside his cot in the back of his barbershop lay his grandfather’s violin. Moses picked it up and lightly swept the bow across the taut strings. His foot kept time as he started to play a familiar tune. He wondered if Bendixon could hear the music. It was nine o’clock when he decided he was tired enough to sleep and the sun hadn’t even set.
The next couple of days were busy for Moses. He had advertised his hair invigorator for balding or thinning hair in the Cariboo Sentinel and several gold miners were taking him up on his offer. He didn’t tell anyone about finding the gold cufflink; he figured if it was a customer of his they would come back and if the person had left town, he probably wouldn’t bother returning just for the sake of a cuff link.
On Thursday morning, the gambler Sweet Apples insisted Moses “choose his lucky ticket.” He ended up buying two lottery tickets from him.
Shortly afterward, his friend Ah Jung came by and picked up his laundry. “I need a clean shirt and pants by Friday,” he told him. It wasn’t until he was cutting someone’s hair and the conversation turned to the colour of gold that he remembered the gold cufflink. Jung would find it.
Later that afternoon, Moses started hearing rumours about the Macdonald Bank down the road in Richfield. Some people were saying that they had heard the bank in Victoria had been robbed or a stagecoach had been held up. Either way, the anticipated delivery of gold and money to the bank didn’t arrive when it was supposed to and the miners were getting edgy. Every time a BX stagecoach was heard coming down the street all heads would turn in anticipation, but it always turned out that it was for something else.
On Friday morning Moses woke up to the sound of feet scuffing along the gravel and the familiar plunk of his laundry basket. There was the gold cufflink sitting on top. It shouldn’t matter who owned the cufflink but Moses figured he should find the owner now that Jung had returned it. After he had shaved and put on one of his clean shirts, Moses put on his boots and went out. He took his image seriously; after all he was his own advertisement.
Everywhere he walked people were talking about the same thing. The Macdonald Bank in Richfield was going under. It was official, there had been a robbery in Victoria and Mr. Macdonald himself had just arrived in town with the keys to the bank. Forgetting about the gold nugget cufflink, Moses had to find out what was going on. He joined the crowd of miners making their way up the road, some of them stopping occasionally to spread the news to the others who were just beginning to emerge from their morning routines.
The last finishing touches were made to the grassy field that had been measured and cut as evenly as possible with men using hand scythes. It was four furlongs long and there were three high-strung race horses watching from the stable at the sidelines, steam rising from their flared nostrils. Also watching from the sidelines was I.B. Nason, owner of the local sawmill and Chester Cootes, one half of Cootes and Company and one of the most prosperous gold miners on Antler Creek.
“I wish we had some proper jockeys to ride them,” Nason said.
Cootes chuckled at the thought. “At least we have the horses. When you consider what a time we had getting them up here.”
Jake Brown eavesdropped on the conversation as the two strolled about inspecting the freshly cut bunch grass. Every stump, twig and rock had been carefully moved or rolled out of the way, even so Nason called Brown over to move a small handful of rocks he’d noticed.
Brown picked them up one by one until they all rested in the palm of his meaty hand and then disposed of them in the same manner under Nason’s watchful eye.
As one of Nason’s sawmill employees, Brown was one of the few who volunteered to spend the time to prepare the racetrack for the event.
Cootes was about to put some chewing tobacco in his mouth and thought better of it.
“If it weren’t for that British Colonist newspaper, the governor wouldn’t have found out how well we’re doing up here. Why in that last edition, they claimed that my company is prospering 400 dollars a day. ”
“They’re bound to have found out soon enough. Mr. Barnard always gets his word out to the paper,” Nason said as he kicked a pebble with his foot.
“Who’s this person ‘Argus’? Why hide behind a stump and report on gossip anonymously? I don’t like it.”
“Did you hear if Cameron got his money?” Nason asked.
“I doubt it. Whoever robbed him has gone for good. I told him not to mention anything to the Governor when he arrives.”
Later that evening, Brown sat down on a log behind the stable and wrote out all the details he could remember about the racetrack. He was used to keeping numbers and details in his head for such a long time that he never felt the need to write anything down. As a result, most people figured he couldn’t write. In fact he had taught himself to write in a plain, blocky style; not the cursive writing like the sawmill’s accountant. As a side note he also wrote about the robbery at Cameron’s Golden Age Saloon. He hadn’t heard that two of Cameron’s prized pistols had been taken along with $130 worth of gold dust, but if Nason said it, Brown took it to be fact. He took the letter and folded it into thirds pressing hard on each crease before inserting it into the paid envelope in the box for Barnard’s Express bound for the British Colonist newspaper in Victoria.
The next couple of days saw an increase of activity. Several shopkeepers were sweeping the dirt from the entrances and card games which were normally held around an empty barrel were moved elsewhere. If someone had never been to Antler, they would be surprised at the little town in the wilderness. Just a year before the town didn’t even exist. George Weaver and W.R. “Doc” Keithley discovered gold in Antler Creek barely a year before. They never told anyone that they had discovered gold but when you start purchasing enough provisions to last a couple of months, rumours start to fly on their own. By the time they had built a rough lean-to cabin, gold seekers were darting out from between the trees, fanning all along the distance between Quesnel Forks and Antler Creek.
Now there were shops and businesses with goods you couldn’t get anywhere else except in New Westminster.
The next day after his shift was finished at the sawmill Brown got the gossip from J.C. Beedy who ran the general store. Beedy was pulling weeds from his vegetable patch out the back when Brown sauntered around. There was a strong smell of manure coming from a wheelbarrow.
“How’s the racetrack coming along?” Beedy asked.
“There are no rocks to be found. I swept it again today and couldn’t find one.”
Beedy chuckled, “I don’t know which is more excited, Nason or the horses.”
Brown pulled a young carrot out of the ground. “Did you hear Cameron is planning to talk with the Governor about the crime here?”
“Cameron? Of all the topics, I doubt he would mention that. Don’t forget he’s bringing all that liquor in without paying a cent in customs. He’s got an order for a dozen bottles of champagne at $12 a bottle for champagne plus he’s got more kegs of beer coming up in the next day or so. “
“What’s the story with the pistols?”
“I heard he was robbed of two of his pistols,” Brown said as he bit down on the carrot.
“Nah, never heard of it. Where’d you hear of that?”
Brown felt his neck flush. “Must be a rumour.” He stood up.
“That’s right. You can’t rely on rumours or gossip. I could use some help spreading this manure though,” Beedy said with a smile.
Every time Billy Ballou came to Victoria, he stopped by the British Colonist newspaper and had a chat with the publisher and editor, Amor de Cosmos. Ballou didn’t care how or why someone would make up a name. He was more concerned in getting his message across. Cosmos relied on him for word on what was going on in the gold diggings and Ballou saw an opportunity to get his own message out and air his grievances. They both disliked the current government.
Even though it was about ten degrees warmer in Victoria, Ballou still wore his thick coat. He looked around taking in the changes. New streets had cropped up where there used to be houses. As if to prove the point, he spied a family carting their possessions followed by a couple of men rolling their house along.
The floor boards squeaked with each step he took. Ballou sat down in front of Cosmos’ desk covered in printing paper. Cosmos wearing a heavy apron, yelled hello from around the corner.
“How is Rock Creek?” Cosmos asked as he took off his apron and settled down at his desk.
“It’s still the richest gold diggings in the colony. Dunbar has been having a rough time of the road though, and he tells me that he’s about had enough. I told him his contract is for one trip a month and he said he won’t do it. Not unless he’s paid more, but the governor won’t budge.”
“Hmm. How is the road?”
“It’s in rough shape according to Dunbar. He says if it weren’t for him and his mule train going back and forth, no one would know where it went. But the snow is deep, almost thirty feet in some places, so I don’t blame him for wanting a respite from the delivery.”
“What about the government mail service?”
“It won’t be running. I did the last Express run for January. It’s too icy to get anywhere or do anything. Any miner that’s got himself stuck there probably is saving his money for food and liquor. Provisions are high at Similkameen and Rock Creek and just as scarce. Mail has to be the last thing on their minds. What does the governor want us to do – get killed falling through the ice? Rock Creek is completely frozen and you can only go so far on the Similkameen without encountering blocks of ice. It’s one of the fiercest winters I’ve lived through. Just as I was heading down the whole regiment was carrying one of their own down to New Westminster. Froze to death on the Harrison trail.”
Cosmos eyes widened. “One of the Royal Engineers?”
“A sapper named Duffy from the Columbia detachment. Someone said he was sent down there for supplies in the middle of a snowstorm.” Ballou shook his head, “it’s a helluva way to go. They probably would have buried him there had it not been for his wife, Alice I think her name was. She put the boots to old Moody.”
Cosmos furrowed his brow. “What about the others in his party?”
“It’s all hush hush. But I can tell you there are some rumours flying around. One of my packers heard that the others had left Duffey on the trail to stay with the equipment or supplies while the others went ahead for help. He had lost his rank as Corporal over some new trail he surveyed for the Governor along Cayoosh Creek last fall. His superiors claimed they didn’t know a thing about it when Colonel Moody got the report and exploded. I doubt Duffy’s superiors were in the dark but they blamed the whole thing on him and demoted him to Sapper.”
Cosmos scratched out some notes. “It sounds as though Mr. Douglas wanted to undermine the authority of Colonel Moody. I was present at a Royal Engineers gathering at the Fort and I can tell you it was a relief when one or both was absent; such was the tension between the two of them. The next time I have the opportunity, I will ask the Governor of his role in all this.”
Ballou stood up from his chair, “I’ll be looking forward to reading about it. You can tell him Ballou never lost a packer. I deliver the mail but not at the expense of someone’s life.”
Ballou left and strolled down the street. He knew he would have to let someone in government know about the undeliverable mail, but it could wait knowing he had done the right thing. He opened the door to the American Saloon and stepped inside.
Sapper James Duffy and the Cayoosh Creek Trail (from royalengineers.ca)
Cattle Drive (photo from Klondike Cattle Drive by Norman Lee)
Patrick Gannon set out north with almost a hundred head of cattle. He had lost five since he had wintered the herd in the valley near Walla Walla and each loss was a painful reminder of the risk he had undertaken. Everything he had was invested in these cattle. Things were so dire in Oregon that he had to just walk away from his ranch; the beef prices were so low that it wasn’t even possible to make ends meet.
Originally, there were three others with Gannon on his first cattle drive north, but after a few days, one of them left the group. He wanted to get paid, but Gannon couldn’t afford to pay anybody until they reached the Cariboo, a place that wasn’t on any map, but where the gold seekers were hitting pay dirt and willing to pay at least fifty cents a pound for beef. There was Jake the cook, Phil, and Gannon. As the cook, Jake’s job was to set up camp and get the meal started so by the time the rest of the group arrived, all they had to do was take care of the horses and find some feed for the cattle to graze on.
Some days they could go ten miles a day and others twelve. The challenge was keeping all the animals going in a straight line, otherwise if the first one started to stray from the path, the rest would follow along. After leaving Walla Walla, they had to cross the Snake River which took two days of going back and forth. Cattle couldn’t swim like horses. Jake rode out in front and the rest of them followed along the trail through the Grand Coulee then crossed the Columbia River. As luck would have it, he came across a group of miners, mostly former militia men, who volunteered to accompany them as they headed north. The miners were well armed against any possible attack; Gannon had himself witnessed the carnage around Yakima. After the miners left them, he was advised to keep following the brigade trail – once carved out by the Hudson’s Bay Company and still well-worn.
While they were on the trail, they ran into Manuel who said he used to be a packer with the Hudson’s Bay Company and he knew the trail well. Gannon welcomed him to join the group. It was hard to know how long the others were willing to stay travelling with the cattle. Gannon figured it was only a matter of time before they got bit by the gold bug.
Gannon figured Jake was taking a few side excursions to pan for gold in the rivers, barely just setting up camp in time for the rest of the crew as the cattle came lumbering along. When the others were out of earshot, Gannon said a few words.
“I notice the horse is foaming at the mouth. Must’ve been quite the ride.”
Jake shrugged his shoulders, “he just got excited, there was a bear coming out of the bush a ways ahead. I tried to shoot it but I missed and it ran off.”
“Speaking of bushes, I sent Manuel ahead to pick some berries.”
Jake grumbled around and set about making his regular meal which he called ‘flapjacks’ and beans.
Things went smoothly as they went into the Okanagan Valley. The bunch grass was plentiful there and it wasn’t difficult to find water for the cattle.
Once they left the Okanagan, good grass wasn’t easily found. Gannon sent Phil and Manuel to scout some decent bunch grass within a reasonable distance of their camp and many times they returned with grim faces. There were plenty of nights were the cows went hungry and when this happened, they became restless. Gannon could see they were getting thin, but the best bunch grass had already been eaten by previous cattle. Some of them strayed into the woods and couldn’t be found. Another he found with its hooves in the air after eating a poisonous plant he hadn’t seen before.
Along the way, he encountered gold seekers, some of whom who offered some flour for a “side of beef.” Gannon shook his head. “Not unless one of them comes up lame.”
After a supper of flapjacks, Gannon and Manuel went to count the cattle and make sure the surviving ones were there while Phil hobbled the horses and removed their packs while Jake cleaned up. Sometimes other miners would join their camp in the evening and Jake would shuffle out some cards and start a card game which occasionally led to an argument. Gannon stayed out of the games, especially the ones where they would gamble their money on.
Gannon enjoyed talking to the gold seekers and find out any news they had heard about.
“Where are you headed?” Gannon asked one of the miners.
“I’m going to try my luck at the Bonaparte River then Big Bar.”
“Where’s Big Bar?”
“Around Lillooet. Lots of gold seekers are doing well there.”
By the time they reached Fort Kamloops, Gannon had lost seven more cattle and the horses were too weak to ride. When he inquired at the fort, he was told he could let his cattle graze for a dollar per head. It was a lot more than he could afford so he was forced to hand over three of his heifers. The HBC clerk commented on how thin they were, “but we’ll have them fattened up in no time.”
They stayed for a full day and two evenings. They all joined the clerks for some Hudson’s Bay rum but Gannon returned soon after to keep an eye on the cattle. There was no fence to keep them in and he didn’t want to have to spend hours searching for them the next day.
As it turned out, everybody was too drunk from the night before to get going until mid-day. Gannon had to ask Phil twice to remove the hobbles from the horses but it was too much for him to bend over so Gannon had to do it himself. Then he took each one and tossed them onto the ashes of the campfire. Nobody said a word until they were ready to set out on the trail and Jake couldn’t find his Colt revolver and had to look for it.
Jake was adamant. “I have to find it. It’s been with me ever since I left Missouri. I’m not going any further in this country until I find it.”
Nobody wanted to take on the role of cook, so it was a relief when they ran into Jules Barry at Savona’ s ferry crossing . Barry was from Texas and he said he had spent some time in California, working on a ranch.
Barry surprised Gannon by telling him he could make more money selling his herd to a rancher.
“I know of a few people who are thinking of setting up a ranch up here. I could make some inquiries while I’m on the trail. It’s almost September, do you think you can honestly make it to the Cariboo before winter?”
Manuel was doubtful and Phil was irate. Both had counted on their share of the profits, but it was apparent to anybody that the cattle were getting thin after the constant walking.
Gannon’s only concern was finding good grassland. Manuel told him about an area he recalled near a place called Hat Creek.
“Donald McLean retired last year and he’s started a ranch there.”
Surprisingly, Phil and Barry both argued to keep going until Lillooet. What if the ranch wasn’t there? Manuel conceded that he had heard about some good grazing land to the north, but the question was, would the cattle make it there? They were getting thin and every day was hard on them. Even the horses were wearing out.
Gannon sided with Manuel, “we’ll follow the Bonaparte River and stop at the Hat Creek Ranch.”
Following the Bonaparte River turned out to be a much slower process than Manuel had anticipated, as he had travelled several years before by canoe. The nights were getting cooler and the leaves on the popular trees were turning yellow. Their relief came when they came across a much smaller river which Manuel called Rivière de la Cache. There was ample bunch grass for the animals and Gannon made sure they well fed and rested before they continued again.
In another fifteen days, they arrived at Hat Creek.
During the years from 1858 until 1868 over 22,000 head of cattle crossed the border at Osooyos Lake and were driven up the Brigade Trail into the interior. The Colonial Government of British Columbia was aware of this inland route and its potential for revenue. A customs duty of one dollar per head was established and, in 1859, William George Cox was dispatched to Fort Kamloops to intercept livestock and merchandise and charge appropriate duties. (from livinglandscapes.bc.ca)