Sunday, July 18, 2010

A comment on Blackeye's Trail

A gentleman named Brock has commented on my brigade trail post, telling me that he hiked over the trail I called Blackeye's Trail in 1981 and found it completely overgrown.
It took his party a week of tough slogging over trails that were wet in places, and sometimes very steep.
But he also said that a hiker and writer named Murphy Shewchuk had left blazes on enough trees that they could find the trail.
Murphy Shewchuk is a writer of hiking books; I own at least one of his older books (which I cannot at the moment find) and have borrowed others from the library.
The Shewchuk book that covers the Coquihalla brigade trail is called "Coquihalla Country; A guide to the North Cascade Mountains and the Nicola Valley," (2nd edition, Merritt, B.C.: Sonotek Publishing Ltd., date?).
You can purchase his publications online at
They are excellent guides to British Columbia trails old and new, and the publications include information on a number of the brigade trails.

Another book you might find in a second hand book-store is Bob Harris' "The Best of B.C.'s Hiking Trails; Twenty Great Hikes by Bob Harris," (Maclean Hunter, 1986).
It, too, contains information on portions of the brigade trails, but not necessarily up-to-date information.

It is true that when these trails are not regularly used and maintained, they quickly disappear.
In order to make these trails suitable for the hundreds of horses of the New Caledonia and Fort Colvile brigades, the fur traders had to build safe fords, or sometimes actual bridges, over the many mudholes, creeks, and rivers they had to cross.
If the ground was too soft, the passage of as many as 400 horses would turn the trail into a quagmire that later horses could not cross.
Gradient was important, but the fur traders could accept a steep slope if the hillside allowed room for switchbacks.
But that meant that employees at the local forts, and Native employees, took hoes and axes and carved trail up and down the steep hills.
In his journal of his 1847 expedition (A/B/40/An3.1, PABC), Upward Journey, Anderson wrote: "Today, not being decided as to the line to be adopted we merely chipped the road, the Indians undertaking to finish it, under the superintendence of Pahallak. Having had proof of their willingness & capacity in this line, I have no hesitation in confiding the matter to them, more especially as the distance to be cut is short, the chief portion lying over bare hills."
Pahallak was Anderson's Native guide, a Sto:lo chief from Chilliwack area, upriver from Fort Langley on the lower Fraser River.
A few days later Anderson wrote: "Settled with the Indians who had assisted us, paying them with ammunition, tobacco, knives, &c. I have lent 3 axes to the chief of Squa-zoum [the village near Boston Bar, B.C.], 3 axes to Pahallak, and 1 axe & 1 hoe to the old man of the Spuzzum [at the mouth of the Spuzzum River north of Yale, BC] for the purpose of making further improvements, where necessary, in the road, for which they are to be compensated upon our passage in the spring."
In these quotes Anderson is speaking of the the Anderson River trail the brigades travelled in 1848.
But the same applied in 1849, when Donald Manson reported to Governor Simpson that he had hired a strong party of Natives to open the new trail over the Coquihalla.

By 1849, Anderson was in charge of Fort Colvile, on the Columbia River.
Because of the American Indian uprising along the Columbia River, the Fort Colvile brigades brought out their furs by the brigade trail over the Coquihalla mountain to Fort Hope.
When Anderson's brigaders rode out of Fort Colvile in June 1850, no one knew whether the new road over the mountains could be crossed with horses so early in the season.
From the base of the Coquihalla at Campement des Femmes, near modern-day Tulameen, the men and horses of the Fort Colvile brigade began their journey up the narrow river valley to the top of the mountains.
Everyone was prepared for the worst.
Their fears were confirmed when they discovered that snow lay everywhere on the rough mountain plateau.
But the snow crust was hard enough to support the loaded horses, and they crossed with little difficulty.

This description of the part of the Coquihalla trail comes from the book, "A Pioneer Gentlewoman in British Columbia; the Recollections of Susan Allison," Edited by Margaret A. Ormsby (Vancouver: UBC Press, 1976) pp. 9-10.
At the time of Susan's recollections, she is a young woman newly arrived at Hope and not yet married to John Fall Allison, early settler in the Similkameen and Princeton area.

"From the doorway of our shack we could see the Hudson's Bay Company's Post and watch the pack trains come in from Colvile, Keremeos and other places. Sometimes there would be a grand stampede and the pack trains would disrupt. Horses and men could be seen through a misty cloud of dust, madly dashing all over the Hope flat, lassos flying, dogs barking, hens flying for safety anywhere. Suddenly the tempest would subside as fast as it had arisen, the pack boys would emerge from the clouds of dust leading the ring leaders in the stampede. Those Hudson's Bay Company horses, though called 'cayooses,' were most of them splendid animals, hardy and enduring, with lots of good horse sense. Mr. McKay told me that they really were descended from the Spanish Barb brought to America over three hundred years ago by the Spaniards and left to run wild had spread all over the continent. It is possibly quite true. They were quick, hardy, and enduring.

"In the early days we had no roads, only rough trails mostly those used by the Hudson's Bay Company and Indians -- with no attempt at grades. In crossing the Hope Mountains the Hudson's Bay Company Brigade always took twice as many horses as were needed and went well armed. The horses were taken to enable them to negotiate "The Slide" on Mansen's [Manson's] Mountain where they invariably lost half their horses. There was no road, the trail ended at the top of the Slide and the horses were driven over the bank and once started had to go on sliding to the bottom. A few of the horses who had been used before had learned to brace themselves and went without being forced to go, and usually came through with accident. Coming back it was easier on them...." [One paragraph omitted].

"I shall never forget my first sight of a Hudson's Bay Company Brigade train coming in from Colvile. I had gone for a stroll on the Hope-Similkameen trail. There were still a few berries and I was getting a "feed" when I heard bells tinkling and looking up saw a light cloud of dust from which emerged a solitary horseman, the most picturesque figure I had ever seen. He rode a superb chestnut horse, satiny and well groomed, untired and full of life in spite of the dust. He himself wore a beautifully embroidered buckskin shirt with tags and fringes, buckskin pants, embroidered leggings and soft cowboy hat. He was as surprised to see me as I was to see him, for he abruptly reined in his horse and stared down at me, while I equally astonished stared at him. Then, as the Bell Boy and other horses rode up, he lifted his hat and passed on. I never met him again, but was told he was a Hudson's Bay officer in charge of the Colvile train and that he said he was never more surprised in his life than to see a white girl on the trail -- he had lived so long without seeing anyone except Indians."

This was in summer, 1860. In the introduction of the book the editor writes that "Susan Moir [her maiden name] never forgot the sight of Chief Factor Angus McDonald, dressed in buckskin garments and beaded leggings, leading the Colvile brigade in 1860 down the last stretch of the trail..."
Angus McDonald was Anderson's clerk while he was in charge of Fort Colvile, and he took over Anderson's position when Anderson retired in 1852.
I will have plenty to say about McDonald when I get to Fort Colvile; he was a well loved character and Anderson's son, James, had plenty to say about him.

As for the Coquihalla brigade trail, it has been re-discovered many times in the years after the fur traders stopped using it.
I have an unsourced note that tells me the last fur brigades came out over their trail in 1863.
There was no need to use a rough trail that damaged valuable horses when perfectly good wagon roads, such as the Dewdney Trail and the Cariboo Road, took people wherever they wanted to go in safety.

Sometime in the 1980's I discovered that old Forest Service maps showed Blackeye's Trail and the brigade trail.
However, when I purchased my own copy of the Hope Princeton sheet in 1993, I found that the trail had been erased from their maps; probably again overgrown.
If you visit the archives you can view (and even request a copy of) a 1939 B.C. Lands and Forests Topographic Map which shows Blackeye's Trail and the Coquihalla Brigade trail, amongst others of historic value.
This map is identified by the number CM/C724, BC Archives.
In the bottom left hand corner it contains the information about the many trails shown on the map -- Blackeye's Trail; Brigade Trails, including Anderson's River and the Coquihalla Trail; the Whatcom Trail [1858-9]; and the Dewdney or Hope Trail built in 1860 and widened to a wagon road in 1861.
Blackeye's Trail is the route by which Anderson crossed the Coquihalla in 1846 and correctly bears the name of Blackeye's Trail.
When Blackeye told Anderson about his trail, he said that it descended the mountain to arrive at the place where the rhododendrons bloomed (Rhododendron Flats, Manning Park).
But when Blackeye's son showed Henry Newsham Peers over the trail I have sometimes (in error) called Blackeye's Trail -- that is, the trail that became the brigade trail over the Coquihalla -- he showed him a trail that crossed Blackeye's trail and descended the mountains to the Coquihalla River to the west, by a creek later named Peers Creek.
Perhaps this trail should be called Blackeye's son's trail.

There still exist a number of articles written in years past about these brigade trails, by men who actually re-explored the trails and wrote about their adventures.
I will list them below; most issues of Okanagan Historical journals can be found in your local library.

In the 1930's: J.C. Goodfellow, "Fur and Gold in Similkameen," British Columbia Historical Quarterly, April 1938, pp. 67-8.
In the 1940's: E.P. Creech, "Similkameen Trails, 1946-61," British Columbia Historical Quarterly, October 1941, pp. 255-267.
In the 1950's: E.P. Creech, "Brigade Trails of B.C.," The Beaver, March 1953, pp. 10-15.

In the 1970's:
Harley R. Hatfield, "Brigade Trail, Fort Hope to Campement des Femmes," 36th Report of Okanagan Historical Society, 1972, pp. 37-48.
Harley R. Hatfield, "Hope-Tulameen Brigade Trail [introduction to following article]," Thirty-sixth report of Okanagan Historical Society, November 1 1972, pp. 14-15.
Lieutenant H. Spencer Palmer, Royal Engineers, "Report of the Country Between Fort Hope and the Similkameen," Thirty-sixth report of Okanagan Historical Society, 1972, pp. 16-25.
"From the Journal of Arthur Thomas Bushby," Thirty-sixth report of Okanagan Historical Society, 1972, pp. 26-29.
"HBC Trek -- July 31 to August 8, 1971; Victor Wilson's Journal," Thirty-sixth report of Okanagan Historical Society, 1972, pp. 29-37.
Harley R. Hatfield, "Brigade Trail Fort Hope to Campement des Femmes," Thirty-sixth Report of Okanagan Historical Society, 1972.
Harley R. Hatfield, "A Report on the Preservation and Exploration of Fur Brigade Trails, May 1972 to May 1973," and "Hudson's Bay Brigade Trail, Summary of Events on and about the Hudsons Bay Brigade Trail, Fort Hope to Campement des Femmes, for 1972 to date," and "A Report, Hudson's Bay Brigade Trail -- Hope to Tulameen," Thirty-seventh Report of Okanagan Historical Society, Nov. 1, 1973, pp. 13-20.
Harley R. Hatfield, "On the Brigade Trail," The Beaver, Summer 1974, pp. 38-43.
R.C. Harris, "Old Trails and Routes in British Columbia; Blackeye's and 1849 HBC Trail," B.C. Historical News, Vol. 12, #1, November 1978, pp. 15-17.
R.C. Harris, "The HBC 1849 Brigade Trail, Fort Hope to Kamloops -- Collins Gulch Section," B.C. Historical News, Vol. 12, #4, Summer 1979, pp. 22-26.

In the 1980's:
Harley R. Hatfield, "The Proposed Cascade Wilderness," Forty-Fourth Annual Report of the Okanagan Historical Society, 1980, pp. 9-18, contains a lot of information about the history of the Coquihalla trail.
R.C. Harris, "The Hope-Nicola Trail, 1875-1913," B.C. Historical News, Vol. 14, #1, Fall 1980, pp. 18-24, contains a little about the early history.
R.C. Harris, "A Good Mule Road to Semilkameen; Later known as the Canyon, or Dewdney, Trail," B.C. Historical News, Vol. 14, #3, Spring 1981.
Harley R. Hatfield, "The Brigade Trail; Nicola Lake to Kamloops," B.C. Historical News, Vol. 16, No. 3, Winter 1983, pp. 13-17.
Harley R. Hatfield, "Blackeye's Trail," Okanagan History; 51st Report of the Okanagan Historical Society, 1987, pp. 99-104.

Many years ago an article about Harley R. Hatfield appeared in our local newspaper, The Daily Colonist, Sunday May 23, 1976.
It was titled "A Pathfinder," and written by Eric Sismey.
It begins with, "About 10 years ago he [Hatfield] began, after enlisting one or two history-minded friends, to trace century old Hudson's Bay Fur Brigade trails; one from Hope to Tulameen, the other through the Okanagan Valley...
"The first 60-mile eight-day hike from Tulameen to Hope was made in 1971 by a troop of Venture Scouts under the leadership of Mr. Hatfield and his trail blazer friend Eric Jacobson of Princeton."
The article went on to tell how Mr. Hatfield was attempting to to press the Provincial Government into extending certain boundaries of Manning Park to include sections of the old trail, preventing logging on the trail.
He was unsuccessful but, in spite of that, Harley Hatfield "made an indelible mark that can never be erased from the history of British Columbia."
Without Hatfield's many articles in various historical journals, I could never have written about the brigade trails with any expertise at all.
Thank you, Mr. Hatfield, and all the other men who tramped these trails with you.


  1. Hi nancy
    I really enjoyed reading your website articles.
    I have been working on historical trails in the northern cascades for the past 5 years. Much of my information has been from the Hatfield collection.Harley's children and his good friend harvie Walker have attended some of the trail re-opening has been quite a journey.I think you would love to hear more about the trail and its present condition. I
    just wanted to pass on this website for more information. We have been working on the restoration and promotion of the HBC 1849 Brigade trail from Hope to Tulameen.
    Kind regards,

    kelley Cook. Princeton, BC

  2. Hi, Kelley. I am hiking a piece of the brigade trail on weekend of August 27th, perhaps will see you there. Nancy