Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Speech at Hope, British Columbia

I have been quiet for a while, partly because speeches take time to write, edit and time, and power-point.
For this talk I had a number of maps to show so that people could follow the story -- and they worked. They showed to the back of the room and everyone could see them!
That is an improvement over my talk at Victoria Historical Society, where Anderson's maps did not show well beyond the front row.
I have said many times that this whole experience is a learning experience, and learning what works on Power Point is part of the learning experience.

As you may or may not know, the original talk was scheduled for last week -- but we had snow.
We thought that we would never make it to the ferry and even if we did, how would we be able to drive up the Fraser Valley?
Well, the talk was postponed: Hope got a ton of snow that buried them and the upper Fraser Valley was also inundated.
This week the weather was fine, and the journey up the valley really easy.

The talk was held at the Blue Moose Cafe, and we set up the maps on easels so people could see them, and posted a copy (not the good copy) of Anderson's 1867 Map of British Columbia on the wall at the back of the room.
The lighting wasn't wonderful, but it did give people an opportunity to see some of his maps.

We began on time at 7pm., and the room was pretty full, but people kept coming in until the room was jammed. I think all the chairs were filled and staff brought out a few more chairs from the back.
So here is what I said:

"Thank you, I am glad to be amongst a group of people who know who Alexander Caulfield anderson was, and what part he played in your history.
He has been forgotten by many, and when I started to write this book some ten years ago, my reason for putting his story together was to have him remembered -- to tell his story.
Over the years my reasons changed, and when I was finished I realized that I wanted to know who he was -- what kind of man he was.
It had become a very personal project.

"I will try to show a little of who he was in this talk, but for the most part I will be talking about what he and the other fur traders did. You will have to read the book to find out what kind of man I discovered."

The image I showed at this time was Alexander Caulfield Anderson at the age of 60 some-odd years old. As I wrote the book this was the image I had in my head, and I always had to correct the image because when he was exploring the Fraser River, or riding over the brigade trails, he was a little over thirty years of age.

"Historians have always known who AC was -- he is the Hudson's Bay Company fur trader who, in the mid-1840's, threaded his way through mountain passes and down rapid filled rivers in search of a horse-friendly trail through the rugged country that separated the Kamloops fort from Fort Langley, on the lower Fraser River.
He uncovered two rough trails, both of which might be made suitable as a horse trail, to be used in a few years time and after a great deal of work was done to improve the trail bed.

"However, unbeknownst to the fur traders -- at the same time Anderson was exploring for a new route, a creeping illness sickened the Natives all along the lower Columbia River.
"The presence of this pestilence would, without warning, change the fur trade and force the traders to bring out their furs by one of Anderson's unimproved trails.

"The 1848 brigade over the first of Anderson's trails was an impossibly difficult journey, and that of 1849 little better. However, they attempted Anderson's second trail on their return journey and, to everyone's surprise, the trail worked reasonably well.
With a lot of work, that trail became the first good road into the interior of what would eventually become British Columbia -- as you know I am speaking of the Coquihalla brigade trail that runs east of Hope over the range of mountains behind us.

"In this talk I am going to tell you some of the stories of these difficult years, beginning with Anderson's cross-country expeditions in 1846 and 1847, and ending with the establishment of Fort Hope in winter, 1848, and the construction of the brigade trail you are so familiar with.

"The fur trade had an annual cycle that centered around the brigades, when furs gathered every winter were carried out to their headquarters on the coast -- that is, Fort Vancouver (Vancouver, WA) -- to be shipped to London and sold.
Every year between 1824 and 1860, the New Caledonia men brought out their furs by canoe of boat -- beginning at Fort St. James and coming downriver through Fort George [Prince George] to Fort Alexandria, on the Fraser River north of Williams Lake.
At Fort Alexandria the men paused to load their ninety pound packs of furs onto packhorses and crossed the rugged Thompson plateau to the North Thompson River. Crossing that river to its east bank, they rode south to their fort at Kamloops.

"South of Kamloops their trail led over the hills to Monte Lake, the north end of Okanagan Lake, down the west shore of that lake to the Okanagan River. It passed west of Osooyos Lake and down the American Okanogan valley, reaching the Columbia River at Fort Okanogan. This section of the trail was first used two hundred years ago, and remained in regular use until 1848 -- when everything changed.

"At Fort Okanogan, the fur traders loaded their furs into boats and headed downriver. Their first stop was at Fort Nez Perce [Walla Walla]. East of Fort Nez Perce was Waiilatpu -- a mission set up by American missionaries amongst the Natives. In 1848, the Waiilatpu Mission would play an important role in the history of the brigade trails.

"From Fort Nez Perce the fur traders continued south and west to their headquarters at Fort Vancouver, reaching it in early June. They departed in July for Fort Okanogan, carrying their trade goods into the interior forts. By August they approached Fort Alexandria and everyone rushed out of the fort to help them the last miles home. In September they reached Fort St. James, where they had begun their journey five months earlier.

"In 1842, Anderson entered New Caledonia for a second time, to take charge of Fort Alexandria, on the Fraser River. He travelled north over a newly opened trail that cut off the rocky traverse over the Thompson plateau.
The trail led from the Kamloops fort, across the north shore of the lake to Copper Creek, over various ridges to the Deadman River, and -- avoiding the bogs along the Bonaparte River -- continued north west to the north end of Loon Lake and the south end of Green Lake."

At this point I should have paused to explain that the illustrations I was showing were taken from Anderson's 1867 Map of British Columbia, and were not geographically accurate. Lakes appeared larger or smaller than they actually were, and streams might have flowed in different places that they actually ran. But I think it did not matter too much....

"Somewhere east off Lac la Hache it joined the old brigade trail that led west to Fort Alexandria. In 1842 Anderson might have been the first gentleman to ride the trail, and in 1843 he led the two hundred horses of the brigade out over the new trail to Kamloops.

"Now that we have covered the background of the trails, I will tell you of Anderson's four cross-country expeditions in 1846 and 1847, and explain the international forces that caused the fur traders such anxiety over these years.
Long before 1840, the boundary line between the United States and British territories had been established from Canada, along the 49th parallel to the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains.
Now the British and American governments were negotiating the placement of the line west of the Rockies -- between what they called the Oregon Territory and the so-called British territory occupied by the fur traders [and Natives].
The HBC men hoped the line would follow the Columbia River to the Pacific, leaving everything north of the river in Hudson's Bay Company hands.

"Even at isolated Fort Alexandria, Anderson heard the rumours; he thought the line might continue to follow the 49th parallel west, and if it did, he knew the fur traders would eventually require a trail to Fort Langley, on the lower Fraser, from whence they could ship their furs to London.
He wrote a letter to the Governor of the Company offering to explore for a new route, and the Governor immediately accepted his offer.

"It was 1846. The fur traders already knew they could not reach Fort Langley by boat through the two rapid-filled canyons (Hell's Gate and Black Canyon) that blocked the Fraser River between Kamloops and Fort Langley.
But they also knew that the Natives from above Hell's Gate traded at Fort Langley, and that the Sto:lo on the lower Fraser travelled north past those canyons -- there must therefore be a trail around the two canyons, and Anderson was expected to find it.

"The fur traders had certain requirements for their trails. The country must provide good grass and water for the horses, and the trail bed must be solid enough underfoot that two hundred heavily laden packhorses could pass over in safety both ways. Switchbacks were needed on steep slopes to allow the horses to clamber safety up and down, and safe fords or bridges must be provided if the horses crossed deep creeks in the high waters of early summer. Nor can horses travel through deep snow -- though Anderson probably thought he would not have to worry about that problem this summer!

"In 1846 Anderson left Kamloops and followed well known Native trails to Marble Canyon, the Fraser River, and down the Fraser to the north side of Fountain Ridge. He left his horses behind at the Fountain and crossed the Fraser, walking down its west bank to the mouth of Seton River. He and his men followed the north shores of Seton and Anderson Lakes and crossed various heights of land until they reached Lillooet River, where they hired Native canoemen to bring him and his men downriver to Fort Langley.

"An anthropologist who does research among the Lil'wat people who live on today's Lillooet River, collected a story from one woman, who said her many-times-great-grandmother, as a child, had been hidden away by her parents because "strangers were coming downriver." He figured out the generations and thought the story had taken place about 1850 -- close enough to 1846 for it to have possibly been Anderson's descent of the Lillooet River."

The image I then was a photograph of the Coquihalla mountains from Fort Langley. "Picture, if you will, Chief Trader James Murray Yale, and Alexander Caulfield Anderson, standing on the edge of the Fraser and discussing a Native trail that ran through or around this range of mountains, ending in the area around the river that the fur traders called the Similkameen [the Tulameen River]. Within a day or so, Yale's guide led Anderson upriver to the mouth of the Coquihalla.

None of Anderson's maps show well on power point, and so I showed a map, which I drew, taken from the map in A.C. Anderson's original Journal of Exploration. "The red line leading from the left up the Coquihalla and Nicolum Rivers is Anderson's path.
From the mouth of the Coquihalla River, Anderson and his men followed the river east, up "a broad valley watered by a considerable stream, which we keep upon our right... pasture about the banks of the main river: wild pea, prele, etc., in moderate sufficiency for the temporary sojourn of the brigade. Burnt woods as we proceed; two small lakes...."

"Where the Coquihalla turned north they crossed the river on a logjam of driftwood, and followed the Nicolum east. He wrote: "The opposite mountains which bound the valley approach very closely here, and the Indian track (scarcely perceptible by the way) is very bad, though with a good deal of labour it might be rendered available..." Late in the day: "Fine pasture for horses and abundant... our Progress meanwhile very slow owing to the miserable travelling of our Indian assistants... the country from our encampment to this point has been very favourable for a horse-road; and since breakfast remarkably so for a woody country."

"In the Summalo River valley he wrote: "Fall in at the last crossing with an Indian from the Forks of Thompson's River who is hunting Beaver in this neighbourhood. As he appears to possess a knowledge of the country superior to our other pseudo-guides, who are miserably at a loss, I have engaged him under the promise of some ammunition and tobacco to accompany us for a day or two."

"Two days later they reached the place where the Thompson's River Native had indicated his trail up the mountain: "Breakfast at 6, at the spot where the Indian track from the lake [Council's Punch Bowl Lake] .. . descends. It is said to be very short and must evidently be so, but is at present thickly covered with snow, and the ascent appears, moreover, to be too steep for horses to go up with loads. A beautiful Rhododendron, with splendid crimson flowers now in bloom abounds in this vicinity..."

"They have reached the northernmost grove of the California Rhododendron, at Rhododendron Flats in Manning Park -- the only place in British Columbia where these flowers grow wild. When I was writing this part of the story I pictured a clump or clumps of garden-type rhododendron growing on an open mountainside slope, in the sunshine! You can imagine my surprise when I walked into the woods at Rhododendron Flats. Within short order I found a sort of salal-like plant growing quite tall and spindly, and eventually I realized that these bushes were the rhododendron I was looking for. It was early June when I was there, and the last few petals were still clinging to the branches -- when Anderson passed through this grove the flowers were still in full bloom.

"The place became even more magical when, out of curiosity, I sent an image of one of the pages of Anderson's Latin Bible, to see if my naturalist friend could identify the leaves that Anderson had stored in that Bible. The naturalist lived in Washington State, and he sent it on to other naturalist friends, and together they suggested that the leaves belonged to the rhododendron -- their state flower. None of these people had any idea that Anderson, in 1846, had walked through the northernmost grove of the California Rhododendron at Rhododendron Flats.

"I haven't been able to DNA test the leaves to confirm they are California Rhododendron, but I believe they are. I am confident that Anderson carried his Latin Bible with him everywhere -- and certainly on his 1846 exploration through Rhododendron Flats. I also believe that photographing all the flowers and leaves in his Bible might be an interesting project -- another chapter in the next book I will write about Alexander Caulfield Anderson.

"From somewhere near Rhododendron Flats, Anderson and his men climbed the south side of Coquihalla. Anderson's journal says this:
"We here leave the river; strike up East, bending round northward towards the height of land. The name of the little stream we have left is Sk-haist; implying, it is said, "A peak standing between two ridges." [He wrote this at the top of the mountains, after they left the stream they had followed up the wide mountain pass.]
"At noon reached the summit of the mountain pass. The ascent is very gentle, and perfectly clear of impediment throughout the greater part; frequent fires having destroyed the timber that heretofore encumbered the ground. Upon nearing the summit of the pass, a few occasional snowdrifts witnessed or elevated position, but up to that point there was nothing of the kind to impeded the passage of horses. But alas! On reaching the summit a dreary prospect met the view. The whole surface of the valley, as well as of the confining mountains, was white with accumulated snow...."

"The men stopped on the shoreline of a little lake they found there -- a lake Anderson named Council's Punch Bowl. All the time I was looking at Anderson's maps, I did not know what Anderson's Tree was -- and yet Anderson's Tree [southeast of Council's Punch Bowl Lake] appeared on three of his maps. James, his son, also commented on the tree in his Memoirs -- when he wrote that the lake called Council's Punch Bowl was commemorated by a marked tree.

"Then I picked up Carolyn Poduchny's book, "Making the Voyageur Wold: Travelers and Traders in the North American Fur Trade." In this book, I ran across a section on Maypole Trees, sometimes called lobsticks. This is what the book says:

""Theatre and Maypoles -- the quotation that begins this chapter illustrates a striking performance of the master and servant relationship in the fur trade... Voyageurs selected a tall tree standing out on a lake, "lobbed" off all its branches except for those at the very top, carved into the trunk's base the name of the bourgeois, clerk, or passenger to be honoured, and gathered round the maypoles to cheer and fire muskets. The honouree then provided regales, or treats, to all the brigade.

"From this I came to realize that Anderson's Tree might be a Maypole tree. This was an honor granted to very few men west of the mountains; and no fur trader ever saw Anderson's Tree after he and his men walked away from it. But Anderson knew it was there, and I believe he marked the tree on his maps so that he, if no one else, would remember the honor."

At the end of the evening or in the break one gentleman told me that the fur traders often marked a height of land with a squared tree -- that is the bottom part of the tree blazed or hacked into a square. That might also be what Anderson's Tree is. We will never know because the tree is long dead, but it changes little. It is a variety of a maypole tree. I wonder if the Hope Mountain group has found squared trees on the top of the mountain????

"From Council's Punch Bowl Lake, the men left the height of land and encamped on the east bank of the stream which Anderson thought was a tributary of the Similkameen. From Anderson's journal: "The river bends round very gradually towards East, receiving several tributaries of some magnitude from left side; others of inferior consideration upon that on which we are travelling. Upon most of these we find drift trees to serve out purpose; but have occasionally to fell a tree for a bridge."

"Eventually they crossed the mainstream of the Tulameen on another logjam, and Anderson wrote: "Altogether our bridge was a tremulous and marvellously unsteady affair; and my mind was relieved of no small degree of anxiety when I saw the whole party safely across. The old proverb tells us to 'bless the bridge which carries us safe over,' and I say not do less than this, our friend in need, however dubious its pretension to security."

"From the north base of the Coquihalla, the party proceeded about six miles when the met "Old Blackeye, the Similkameen, and his son in law, on their way to visit their deer snares." Blackeye told Anderson of a Native trail that led across the mountains to the meadows where the Rhododendron grew -- or at least that is what Anderson understood. "He states that it is a wide and good road, with plenty of pasturage at the proper season; and that but for the depth of the snow we could not have missed seeing it after crossing the height of lands..."

"Anderson returned to Kamloops and Fort Alexandria. Early the next spring, Peter Skene Ogden sent clerk, Montrose McGillivray, north with a message for Anderson, and instructions to explore the banks of the Fraser River for a snow-free trail between Kamloops and Fort Langley.

"When he left Kamloops, Anderson already knew about the newly opened Similkameen trail from the Fraser River to the Nicola Valley; it had been arranged that Blackeye show him the trail. [We are not talking about the trail up the Coquihalla -- this was a different Similkameen trail.] Anderson had also viewed Sam Black's 1835 map of the Thompson's River district at Kamloops, and noted that Black had marked the range of hills the trail was supposed to cross, with the words: "Terrible Mountains all over Hereabouts."

"From the Nicola Valley, Anderson rode to the mouth of the Nicola River and, leaving his horses behind, crossed the river in borrowed canoes. He and his men walked down the south bank of the Thompson River toward modern-day Lytton, where they met their Sto:lo guide, Pahallak.

"Pahallak guided Anderson's party down the east bank of the Fraer, and one day later they reached the Native settlement that Anderson called Squa-zowm, about where Boston Bar stands today. This was where the newly opened Similkameen trail was supposed to begin, and Blackeye's son joined Anderson's party there (if he hadn't joined them earlier), and showed the fur traders his new trail up the mountains behind Squa-zowm.

"Somewhere up the mountainside, at a place suddenly familiar to two of Anderson's men, they paused. Anderson's employees assured him that, from this place, there already existed a trail that would take them all the way to the Nicola Valley.

"Now Anderson had only to find his way south to Fort Langley, past Hell's Gate and Black Canyons and the miles of rapid-filled river north of modern day Yale. From the mainstream of the Squa-zowm River, the Natives led Anderson's party up a cliff climbing trail that took them to the top of Lake Mountain, where another long sloping trail led them southward to a Native village called Kequeloose, on the Fraser River south of the two canyons.

"From there they crossed the Fraser and made their way downriver -- with some difficulties -- until they were able to borrow canoes to bring them to Fort Langley. Anderson's party of fur traders and Native guides immediately returned up the canyons bringing two unloaded boats to Kequeloose -- again with some difficulties -- and he followed his Natives guides up over Lake Mountain and up the trail to the Nicola Valley, on foot.

"As they reached the open grasslands of Nicola Valley, Anderson wrote a letter of instruction to Montrose McGillivray: "The chief part of our survey being now completed, I propose entrusting to your care the further charge of the party.... Therefore you will proceed to [Fort] Okanagan with the horses, accompanied by the men herein named -- Fallardeau, Lacourse, and Desautel remain with you. Also Nkwala's nephew, Blackeye's son, and Laronetumleun -- the last as interpreter.""

At this point I put up the colour image of Tsilaxitsa, which is black and white in the book. I don't know if anyone else enjoys this portrait as much as I do, but I think he is beautiful.

"In later years Anderson wrote that he rode many miles with Nkwala's nephew, Tsilaxitsa, who was to become the most prominent Okanagan chief of his time. Both Tsilaxitsa and Blackeye's son were on Anderson's expedition up and down the Fraser River to Fort Langley; and I suspect that both these Native men, and others who remain forever unnamed, regularly worked for the fur traders -- helping them to take out their furs and to bring in the trade goods.

[pause] "About the time Anderson was making his 1847 exploration down and up the Fraser River, measles, which had come north with Natives who traded for horses in California, began to spread through the district around Fort Nez Perce on the lower Columbia River. Measles is an illness that spreads in crowded conditions, and Natives gathered in large numbers around the Waiilatpu Mission, east of Fort Nez Perce. Many Natives died -- so many that the Cayuse chiefs became convinced that the missionary was intentionally killing them with poison.

"When the missionary failed a test they set for him, the Cayuse swarmed into the mission house, slaughtering fourteen residents and taking many hostages.

"When news of the massacre reached Fort Vancouver, Peter Skene Ogden travelled east up the Columbia River to purchase the hostages and settle the tribes. The end result of the massacre at Waiilatpu was the Cayuse Wars that erupted up and down the Columbia River, making it no longer safe for travel. The gentlemen at Fort Vancouver and Fort Victoria instructed the men of New Caledonia, Kamloops and Fort Colvile (on the Columbia River near Spokane) to bring out their furs by one of Anderson's unimproved trails.

"It was 1848, and the trail they chose to use was the Squa-zowm River trail over Lake Mountain (through Sam Black's "Terrible Mountains all over Hereabouts"). James Douglas travelled to the Fraser to assess how easy it would be to travel downriver to the new Fort Yale. He was horrified by the river rapids, and discovering a rough passage that led through a rift in the rocks on the west side of the river, he ordered that a good road be built through it. This was the Douglas portage, north of modern day Yale. [I imagine the modern-day highway runs, more or less, through the old Douglas portage.]

"Before 1848, a typical brigade consisted of about 200 horses. The gentlemen rode at the head of the column, and behind them came the many individual brigades of heavily laden pack horses. In normal years, each string, or brigade, of seven to nine horses was in the care of two men responsible both for the horses and the loads they carried.

"But in 1848, close to four hundred horses -- including many unbroken animals -- came out in the hands of fifty men, many of whom would not be returning with the brigades. The outgoing brigade left Kamloops in late May and travelled over the hills south of the fort before following the Coldwater River west. They crossed the plateau and rounded the range of hills before dropping down the west side of the ridge to the Squa-zowm River, which they now called Anderson's River.

"Then up the cliffs to the top of Lake Mountain where they passed Hell's Gate and Black Canyon -- down the long sloping trail to the village at Kequeloose and downriver to Spuzzum Creek, where they crossed their loads in "barges" that were difficult to handle and drowned some of their horses. They arrived at Fort Yale in early June, and Anderson wrote: "It is needless to enumerate the difficulties which we had to encounter and surmount; suffice it to say that we continued to reach Fort Yale, which had meanwhile been established, and thence ran down speedily to Langley."

"The outgoing brigades had carried out packs of furs and castoreum -- the incoming brigades would now carry in trade goods such as packs of iron goods and axe heads, balls and black powder and flints for flintlock guns, salt, and tobacco in 90 pound rolls or in carrots.

"The brigades would also return with fewer men -- nine men sent out with the Fort Colvile crew returned to Fort Vancouver and three or more men deserted at Fort Langley. But a young gentleman named Henry Newsham Peers joined the brigade as Donald Manson's clerk, and he kept a journal of the trip in."

Peers' journal is full of information about the incoming brigade and quite delightful to read; it is found in the BC Archives somewhere. I inherited my copy from my uncle, Elton Anderson, one of the two people to whom this book is dedicated -- before he died Elton did a tremendous amount of research on his grandfather, A.C. Anderson, which I inherited. I guess that is what started me off on this project.....

"They started off from Fort Langley, and Anderson travelled in the first cluster of four boats, with five more to come under Donald Manson's command. Anderson later described the up-river journey to Yale: "Hitherto, bateaux of about three burthern have been employed by the Hudson's Bay Company, for transport below the Falls [at Yale] -- a slow method when the water is high, as the ascent can then be effected only by warping along shore, with the aid of Indian canoes to pass the lines. By this tedious process, an ascent was made during the freshet of 1848, to the foot of the Falls, in eight days; under ordinary circumstances, it would occupy five."

"From Peers' journal, on passing over the Douglas portage north of Fort Yale: "I and Mr. Manson left Ft. Yale on the 2nd August with the last trip 30 horses to rejoin Mr. Anderson at the other end; We got on very well on the portage with the exception of a couple of horses falling in the ascent of the big hill & some little confusion in a swampy part of the road rendered worse than its original state by the frequent passing & repassing of horses. There is a pretty gradual ascent (one stiff hill intervening) as far as Douglas' River where there is a steep descent of about 700 feet to a bridge & and somewhat steeper though shorter ascent on the opposite side of this ravine, thence a level road till within a miles of Spuzzum River or Simon's House where the road descends pretty gradually to that place -- we were about three hours coming across & encamped on the south side of the Fraser River."

"Peers tells us that they remained about three days at Simon's House, crossing horses and loads to the east bank of the Fraser. Then they started north, "with some 500 & upwards pieces of goods in 15 brigades, each brigade having 18 & some a greater number of horses to 2 men." [A normal brigade has seven to nine horses to two men.]

"They travelled about six miles up the banks of the Fraser and, as Peers says, "encamped at the foot of Big Hill where the road leaves Fraser River, many of brigades only arriving when pitch dark and consequently great confusion from horses straying with their loads and so fort; several fell down a steep hill on nearing the encampment... from weakness, threw their loads & a bale was swept off in the river before it could be seized & one animal killed." This was at Kequeloose, at the bottom of the big hill that led them up Lake Mountain.

"Peers' journal continues the next day: "Rainy weather -- this morning Jacob Ballenden was found dead near the encampment with his gun discharged by his side, shot through the heart. It is supposed he committed suicide. The day was spent in collecting strayed horses with their loads and all found but 6 pieces and another horse killed. A war party of the Chute Indians against those of Anderson's River passed the camp and created some little alarm... Nothing I may say here for the horses to feed on."

"The brigades climbed Lake Mountain and descended the cliffs on the other side to Anderson's River, and Peers records: "Some of the rear brigades got on very badly and 80 pieces were found deficient... Remained here today till the lost pieces should be brought in all of which were rendered but 2 bales."

"They began the climb from Anderson's River to the top of the hills via Utzlius Creek, eventually reaching "a small patch of thinly wooded ground in which had been constructed a miserable horse-park. Two or three of the rear brigades arrived when quite dark and many horses necessarily strayed away before they could be freed from their loads, passing the night with the rest in the woods under a heavy thunder storm with little or nothing to eat."

"Peers also makes mention of the work the Natives did, in helping the fur traders bring in their supplies: "The pieces all but two or three were recovered after much searching and order was again restored. The Indians who had been employed for the last four days in searching for and bringing lost goods to the camp were paid off and seemed satisfied although there is some doubt as to their honesty."

"The next day the fur traders camped five miles from the top of the hill, and men in the latter brigades went without supper [the provisioning brigades were at the head of the brigade]. On the following day Anderson rode ahead, while Manson sent Natives out to search for more packs. At the end of the day the fur traders found they were still missing: "six bags salt, two bags of ball and two rolls of Tobacco." [from this list you can perhaps understand the fur traders' suspicions, above] Each of these bags and rolls weighed ninety pounds.

"Anderson sent fresh horses back to Manson and Peers, and Peers reported that "the early part of today was devoted to catching and loading young horses, about which some time was wasted." The next afternoon Manson and Peers caught up to Anderson's brigades on the Coldwater River. They reached Kamloops on August 22nd, and the gentlemen held a meeting to discuss the trail.

"The hot-tempered Manson reported: "We have tested [the trail's] advantages and disadvantages thoroughly, and I have no hesitation in declaring it utterly impracticable for a large brigade such as ours. The rugged, rocky mountainous and thickly wooded country which lies between Fraser River and the plains, ... is, in my opinion, sufficient in itself to condemn this route." [I mentioned that there was a Donald Manson descendant in the room, who was probably enjoying this description of his bad-tempered ancestor.]

"This route was far too difficult, and the gentlemen agreed that the snow-covered trail over the Coquihalla must be tried. they sent Henry Peers with Edouard Montigny, one of Anderson's men, to Blackeye's camp, to ask that he show them his trail to the top of the Coquihalla.

"Historians have spent a lot of time puzzling over how Henry Newsham Peers chose the trail across the plateau, especially as it in no way followed Anderson's 1846 exploration. Anderson himself expected that Blackeye's trail would end up on the south side of the mountain, at Rhododendron Flats. But it did not.

"Peers' actual guide was Blackeye's son, who took them up his father's trail to the top of the plateau, and then guided them due west, across the mountaintop, to a stream he called So-aqua. He point out his trail down the west side of the mountain, by streams that immediately came to be called Peers' Creek and the Coquihalla River. Peers and Montigny followed the streams to the Fraser, where they borrowed canoes from the Natives and made their way to Fort Langley.

"In October 1848, James Douglas wrote to John Tod of Kamloops: "In consequence of the very unfavourable report we have received from Messrs. Manson and Anderson of their last Summer's route, we have come to the determination of opening a New Road recommended by Mr. Peers after a very careful survey. Leaving Fraser's River, it follows successively the valleys of the Quequealla, Peers and the Soaqua Rivers, from thence crossing the dividing ridge into the Similkameen valley, where it falls upon Mr. Anderson's track of 1846 and follows it to Thompson's River.

"Mr. Peers will be despatched with ten men in a few days hence to commence operations at the mouth of the Quequealla, where we intend to establish a small Post for the convenience of parties passing to and from Thompson's River and at the same time he will proceed in opening the road with the assistance of all the Indians that can be mustered, and we hope to have it made as far as the snowy region before the Winter sets in.... He is particularly desirous that Blackeye's son, the Indian who accompanied him a part of the way on his late Journey to this place and left him at the head of the Soaqua, should be sent to meet him at that point, as without such assistance he will not be able to find his way into the Similkameen Valley... With that Indian you will please despatch Montigny and as many whites and Indians as you can muster to open the road from the plains of the Similkameen to the Soaqua Valley, following the line of road Mr. Peers pointed out to Montigny as being the best adapted for horse-transport, as early in the spring as the snow will admit...."

"You will notice that Edouard Montigny is already on the north side of the mountain; I am also amused to notice that Peers, a relative newcomer to the fur trade, says he pointed out to the experienced Montigny the road "best adapted for horse-transport." Peers had almost no wilderness experience, having worked at Fort Vancouver in the mill and for a short time in charge at Fort George [Astoria].

"Peers was placed in charge of building Fort Hope, and the fort did get built. But no work was done on the trail over the winter of 1848-49, though that was not Peers' fault. Snow began to fall early in the season and it kept falling and the trail up the Coquihalla River was buried under deep drifts of snow and remained that way all winter. The heavy snow fell on the forts in the interior, too -- at Kamloops and Fort Colvile at least. Though the snowfall was good news for the fur trade, it killed so many horses in the interior that the fur traders now worried about having enough animals to carry out their furs in the spring. Still, the furs must go out -- but because the fur traders had no idea how much snow might lie on the top of the Coquihalla, they decided to go out, once more, by the Anderson River trail they had used in summer 1848.

"Alexander Caulfield Anderson was now in charge at Fort Colvile, and he rode north to Kamloops -- not through the Similkameen as I said in the book -- but by the old brigade trail up Okanagan Lake and through Monte Lake. As he waited for the brigades to load at Kamloops, he sat on the hilltop above the fort and sketched the unfinished watercolour and pencil drawing of Kamloops, contained in the book.

"From Kamloops, the combined brigades came out, once again, by the Anderson River trail, and it took them ten days to reach Fort Langley. At the fort, Anderson quickly loaded his goods into the boats and pushed his men upriver to Fort Hope, to begin work on the new trail.

"On their way downriver, Donald Manson had asked Anderson to remain behind at Fort Hope to open the trail, but Anderson had refused to do so. Now, when the packhorses that had been sent over the mountain from Kamloops finally arrived at Fort Hope, Anderson told Manson of his decision to leave Fort Hope with his men and horses, without doing any more work to improve the trail. The two gentlemen exchanged "high words."

"The Fort Colvile men found the passage over the mountain easy even though the trail was unfinished; they continued their journey to Fort Colvile via the Similkameen Valley, Osoyoos Lake, Anarchist Mountain and the Kettle River, which they followed south to reach the Columbia River a few miles from Fort Colvile.

"I believe Anderson had already considered the possibility that he could cross the mountains a second time that summer, and that is why he left Fort Hope as soon as he could. From Fort Colvile, Anderson sent his men back for the remainder of his goods, left behind because of the shortage of horses. Because Fort St. James was so far north, Donald Manson did not have that option, and could not make a second journey to Hope. He left much of his supplies behind, and the shortage of trade goods plagued him the entire year afterwards.

"A few weeks after Anderson left Fort Colvile, reports of his argument with Manson reached the ears of Peter Skene Ogden at Fort Vancouver, who arranged that the Fort Colvile brigades, and those from New Caledonia, arrive at Fort Hope separately. Every year, James Douglas travelled to Fort Langley to supervise the brigades' arrival, because, as Peter Skene Ogden wrote, "without a conductor the gentlemen are not competent to conduct their own affairs, trifling as they are, and a separation is absolutely necessary as Pugilistic affairs between the two leaders is not exactly the proper mode of conduct in Brigades in the presence of the Company's servants."

Neither Manson nor Anderson would have called their affairs "trifling." Their return journey over the mountains were at all times difficult. Stress levels were high, the work was hard and there were sometimes heavy losses, and the pay was low. They worried about having enough men to do the work the fur trade demanded -- fewer good men were joining the fur trade and the quality and quantity of men that reached the Columbia district and New Caledonia was in constant decline. Moreover, at Fort Langley, many voyageurs attempted to desert the fur trade and make their way south to the California gold fields now in full swing.

"I found a good description of the trail over the Coquihalla, written that year by the acting-Governor for the HBC, Eden Colvile, who rode over it a few months after the brigade had crossed it. Among other things he suggested, "It will be necessary to send a party of men from each end of the road to cut all the fallen timber, as it is very fatiguing to the loaded horses to be continually stepping over these fallen trees, & thirdly, ditches should be cut through the swamps, & where requisite, logs & brush laid over them, so as to afford firm footing for the horses."

"When the brigades came out in the summer of 1850 they found the trails much improved. From Campement des Femmes at the base of the mountain on its north side, the Fort Colvile brigades followed Blackeye's Trail twelve miles up to Lodestone Lake. Another twelve miles or so brought them to Horseguards Camp on the Tulameen River at Podunk Creek -- where Anderson's exploration of 1846 crossed the brigade trail that resulted from that exploration.

"The next day they camped at Deer Camp, and nineteen miles further on reached Manson's Camp, at the head of Peers' creek. fifteen more miles brought them down Peers Creek and the Coquihalla River into Fort Hope, where they loaded their goods into boats and drifted downriver to Fort Langley.

"In August of that year, James Douglas reported: "I have been to Fort Langley, where the Brigades from the interior arrived safely with the furs between the 15th and 19th July. They crossed the Frasers River ridge without difficulty, the snow being compact enough to support the loaded horses, and Mr. Manson is of the opinion that the passage may be made ten days earlier in the season with perfect safety... The Colvile people reached Fort Langley in seventeen days moderate travelling, and the other Brigades took ten days from Kamloops. The woods have been partially cleared by fire, and grass seed sown at Fort Hope and other points on this road, which will in a short time furnish a sufficiency of food for the horses."

"I will try to give you a little picture of the brigades arriving at Fort Hope, and packing up to leave again: About 1860, a very young Susan Allison saw the horses and described them as "splendid animals, hardy and enduring, with lots of good horse sense." Her description of the brigades' arrival follows: "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...."

"From a Royal Engineer's description of the brigades leaving Fort Colvile in the early 1860's -- these quotes come from John Keast Lord's book, "At Home in the Wilderness: What to Do and How to Do it," published in London some years after he returned home.

""This journey from Colvile to Hope occupies nearly three months for its accomplishment. About the beginning of June preparations commence at Fort Colvile for the Brigade. The horses..., in number about 120 to 150, are brought ... to a spot called the 'Horse guard,' about three miles from the fort, where there is an abundance of succulent grass and a good stream of water.

""Here the animals are taken care of by the trustworthy Indians until their equipment or 'rigging' is ready, which process is at the same time going on at the fort. Here some thirty or forty savages may be seen squatting round the door of the fur-room; some of them are stitching pads and cushions into the wooden frames of the pack-saddles; others are mending the broken frames; a third group is cutting long thongs of raw hide to serve as girths, or to act in lieu of ropes for lashing and tying; and a fourth is making the peltries up into bales, by the aid of a powerful lever press.

""Each bale is the weigh about sixty pounds [I think actually ninety], and the contents to be secured from wet by a wrapper of buffalo-hide, the skin side outermost. This package is then provided with two very strong loops, made from raw hides, for the purpose of suspending it from what are called the 'horns' of the pack-saddle. Two of these bales hung up [one] each side of a horse is a load, and a horse so provided is said to be packed....

"They use no halters, but simply throw a lasso round the animal's neck, with which it is held whilst being packed... Let us imagine a horse lassoed up awaiting the operation of packing. First a sheep or goat's skin, or a piece of buffalo 'robe,' ... called an 'appichimo,' is placed on its back, with the fur or hair next to that of the horse, and is intended to prevent galling.

""Next the pack-saddle is put on... This miserable affair with its two little pillows or pads, tied into the cross trees of woodwork, is girthed with a narrow strap of hide, which often, from the swaying of the load, cuts a regular gash into the poor animal's belly. Next a bale is hung on either side, and the two are loosely fastened together underneath the horse by a strap of raw hide... When all the animals are packed, each of the hands who are to accompany this cavalcade mounts his steed; then waving their lassoos round their heads, and vociferating like demons, they collect the band of packed animals, and drive the lot before them as shepherds do a flock of sheep. The principal trader, as a general rule, takes command of the brigade, the journey being anticipated by both the master and his men as a kind of yearly recurring jubilee."

"To John Keist Lord, an Englishman, the fur trade employees appeared to be Native (and some might have been). By this time many fur trade employees were descendants of the first French Canadian voyageurs and their Native wives. When I researched the men mentioned in Anderson's Fort Alexandria journals, I was amazed to find how many of them were not French Canadian, but Metis. In a later manuscript, Anderson remarked that: "a mixed generation... had sprung up, embodying in a marked degree the paternal characteristics of their origin; and these native voyageurs became at an early period a very useful class."

"By 1850 the new brigade trail was established and successful, though there were still hiccups. Even when the Native wars along the Columbia River quieted and the Fort Colvile men went downriver by boat to Fort Vancouver, the New Caledonia fur traders continued to come out to Fort Hope. There was a reason for this: if they had returned to their old trail down the Columbia River they would have entered American territory and their goods would have been heavily taxed. They had no option: they had to make this trail work for them.

"And the trail did work quite well for them, though the shortage of horses in the interior remained a problem, and June 10th appeared to be the earliest day in the year they could begin their journey over the Coquihalla trail.

"In 1851, "A party of ten men, under the direction of Mr. Peter Ogden [Peter Skene Ogden's son], were employed upon the new road for nearly two months ..., and made many substantial improvements. They cleared the points of wood on the whole route between [Fort] Alexandria and Fort Hope, and from the Shimilcomin River they increased the general breadth of road, shortened the bends, levelled or relined the steep ascents by inclined planes, and bridged about 300 yards of boggy ground."

"While I was researching Anderson's part in this trail, I found no mention of the difficulties that Manson's Mountain gave the fur-traders. But in the Fort Victoria letters for the years after 1854, I am finding the fur traders spent anxious years trying to find an alternative piece of trail for the part that descended Manson's Mountain. The first mention is in august 1854, when James Douglas wrote to Paul Fraser: "I am happy to hear that there is a prospect of finding a better road than the present one through Manson's Mountain, and I trust you have succeeded with Mr. Manson's assistance in getting it opened for the passage of the Brigades."

"That new trail was apparently never opened, and a later route that went up the Chilwayook valley was much talked of for a few years, but abandoned when it was finally realized that, "the Chilwayook Lake was enclosed by precipitous rocky hills, apparently inaccessible to horses either in a direct line across their summit or by following the margin of the Lake. We are therefore now about to direct all our strength to improve the existing road by Fort Hope."

"But all of this happened after 1852, when Anderson was no longer riding over the trail, and could not suggest an alternative route -- his pathway down the wide valley that led up the south side of the mountain from the Sumallo River and Rhododendron flats. I don't know if it would have worked as a horse trail: As you know he mentioned in one spot in his journal that the trail appeared too steep for loaded horses, although he later appears to have overcome that objection.

"By 1854, Anderson had retired from the fur trade. He would pop up again in 1858, when he came to Fort Victoria and opened the first highway into the interior over the route of his first exploration via the Lillooet River and Anderson and Seton Lakes (which he then named). By this trail, thousands of eager gold miners accessed the Fraser River gold fields north of the same canyons that had confounded the fur traders in 1848.

"In 1860, the soldiers and engineers of the Columbia Detachment of the Royal Engineers substantially widened the Harrison trail and turned it into a good wagon road. Then the Royal Engineers carved a good road out of the cliff faces between Yale and Boston Bar, above the rapids that had so troubled the brigades in 1848 and 1849. By autumn 1862 their road reached Lytton, and in 1863 the first Alexandra bridge crossed the Fraser River north of Spuzzum, its eastern end resting near the place where Anderson's men had buried Jacob Ballenden in 1848.

"Also in your part of the world, there are two early trails: the short-lived Whatcom Trail to the goldfields up Snass Creek, and the Dewdney Trail, constructed in 1860 by the Royal Engineers, with the part time help of engineer Edgar Dewdney.

"All of these are important roads, one way or another -- however the most important road was the one that finally brought the fur traders from Kamloops to Fort Hope. What is the fur traders had failed to find a road over these mountains and were never to reach Fort Langley in safety? What impact would that have had on the importance of Fort Victoria and Fort Langley, and how would that have impacted British Columbia's history?

"Historians agree with me. In 1975, our first local historian, Derek Pethic, wrote that Anderson's "discovery of a practical, all-British artery for the fur trade was to have a profound effect on the history of not only British Columbia, but also of Canada itself."

"When I spoke in front of the Victoria Historical Society in November, one of the questions I was asked at the end was -- were these trails now open? Could people hike these trails? I was able to tell them about your organization and the work you were doing in opening these trails. It gave me great pleasure to tell them about your uncovering some of the 150 year old hash-marks the original fur traders had used to mark the trail.

"I want to thank this group -- Hope Mountain Centre -- for the work you have done in preserving our important history. I hope that Hope Mountain continues this work for a long, long time, and that these trails remain open and accessible through the coming years. The American writer William Faulkner, wrote, "The past is never dead. It is not even past." I think that phrase is especially suitable when we are speaking of the Coquihalla brigade trail -- this trail created your town and it is now a part of your future. As a descendant of one of the men who rode over the trail, I want to thank you for your important work."

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  1. This blog-post has been updated and the first part is found at
    Four other parts follow.