Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Collins Telegraph Trail

James Mackenzie Anderson was the son of James Anderson, Alexander Caulfield Anderson's older brother who had also joined the fur trade.
He was born at the HBC Nipigon Post on 12th August 1845.
He grew up at Fort Simpson, in the Northwest Territories, in a post managed by his father.
His father retired from the fur trade to Georgina, a township in York County.
About 1863, James Anderson and others went to British Columbia to work for the Collins Overland Telegraph Company, a company that planned to build a telegraph line from British Columbia to Russia across the Bering Sea.
James was 18 years old at the time.
He travelled by train to New York City, then by sailboat from New York to Nicaragua, walked across the peninsula to the Pacific, and sailed to San Francisco.
There the crew and passengers were jailed on suspicion of piracy.
Once he was released, James and his party went on to Victoria, where James visited his uncle Alexander Caulfield Anderson.
While he was working on the Collins Telegraph Trail, James Anderson acted as axeman to George Mercer Dawson, geologist and surveyor.
George Mercer Dawson had also known James' uncle, Alexander Caulfield Anderson.
The telegraph project was abandoned when the Atlantic cable was laid, and James Anderson and his party joined the gold rush to the Cariboo.
When the gold rush petered out, James returned to Sutton, Ontario.
I suspect that he actually visited his uncle at this time, after working on the Telegraph Trail, and that is why the trail is marked on Alexander Caulfield Anderson's 1867 map of British Columbia.

On his return to Sutton, Ontario, James Mackenzie Anderson took over the operation of the general store which sold everything from whiskey to frozen carcasses of pigs in wintertime.
James built a house called Riverside, in Sutton, presumably before he married.
It is rumoured that in 1885 James was a spy for the Canadian government during the Riel Rebellion; he was in Red River and took part in a Red River jig -- a Metis dance.
Of course, as son of a gentleman of the fur trade, James Anderson did not consider himself a Metis.
He may also be the James Anderson mentioned alongside his other uncle, William Anderson, in the "Frontier World of Edgar Dewdney."
James died 18th May 1932, in York, Ontario.

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