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Canada's great highway : from the first stake to the last spike Secretan, J. H. E. (James Henry Edward), 1852- 1924

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SPIKE.        J. H. eSeCRETAN 'sevyy^dm
i/net /mtwentefe
SPIKE.   By J. H. E. SECRETAN, ce.
With 16 Illustrations from Photographs
OTTAWA:   THORBURN   AND   ABBOTT. First Published in 1924
This book is not intended to be a serious
history of the evolution of the Canadian
Pacific Railway, which has so often been
written by more fluent fountain pens than
mine. Nor is it a collection of dry statistics,
extracted from official blue books, with a
series of quotations from other people's diaries,
such as I have often read ; but rather is it
meant to be a true narrative of my own
personal adventures and experiences as an
engineer from the driving of the first stake
in 1871 to the driving of the last spike in
1885. And, with all its faults, it has at
least the audacity to be authentic.  CONTENTS
sir John A. macdonald        - Frontispiece
SIR  SANDFORD  FLEMING    -                 - 2
LORD  MOUNT  STEPHEN                - -                   88
SIR WILLIAM  VAN  HORNE                    - 96
AUTHOR CAUGHT IN THE  ACT -                 136
RED  RIVER CART                   - 150
MODERN  LOCOMOTIVE                    - -                 l6o
MR.  E.  W.  BEATTY,  K.C.            - -                244
THE traveller of the present day is
whirled swiftly along over the smooth
shining surface of ioo-pound steel rails, housed
in palatial vestibuled cars by day and night
behind a big 220-ton iron horse. The track
over which he glides is carefully patrolled,
and all dangerous spots well watched and
guarded. He will find the most modern
railway equipment and civil and even courteous attendants on all the trains. These
luxuries are provided by the Canadian Pacific
Railway Company, now no doubt the greatest
transportation Company in the wide, wide
Such perfection was not attained in fifteen
years without great cost, much suffering and
misery, and with the loss of many a brave
man's life, as I shall attempt to describe,
from my own personal experience.
I must hark back to 1871, when, a beardless
boy, I first joined the C.P.R. as an Assistant
Engineer. As Artemas Ward said, I Them
was the halcyon days of youth ! | Sir Sand-
ford Fleming, then Mr. Sandford Fleming,
was the Chief Engineer of the original Government surveys and I had the honour to serve
under him for ten years. The grand idea
of a great railway line from ocean to ocean,
through an unknown wilderness, across hundreds of miles of undulating plains that were
inhabited only by Indians and buffaloes,
thence piercing the rocky fortresses of many
chains of lofty mountains, was first conceived
by Sir John A. Macdonald, but it was Sir
Sandford Fleming who had to plan the
actual work. He was a Scotchman of the
.finest type, handsome, rugged as a block of
his native granite, determined and sometimes
obstinate, but of a kindly disposition to his
subordinates and first, last and always, a
[ 2 ]   EARLY  DAYS
gentleman. The task imposed upon him as
pathfinder for this tremendous trans-continental trail would have overawed most men,
but it did not daunt Sir Sandford. He
quickly surrounded himself with a large staff,
efficient and otherwise, and proceeded to
organize the original surveys.
The offices of the Headquarters Staff were
located in the old Imperial Barracks on Parliament Hill (totally destroyed by fire in
1874), where the Victoria Monument now
stands. Two District Engineers were appointed, Mr. Marcus Smith, m.i.c.e., and
Mr. James H. Rowan, ce., in charge of the
Western and Eastern Districts respectively.
Few people, as they lazily and comfortably recline in the luxurious day cars, and
sleep peacefully in their snug staterooms at
night after a splendid meal in the gorgeous
dining cars, can realize what had to be done
in those fifteen years before all this was " un
fait accompli,"—a phrase that I am told is
excellent French in the Province of Quebec.
Think for a moment of putting a handful of
men into the bush to hack their way through
an impenetrable forest,—these men to pack
all their supplies and equipment on their
backs for many months, far away from all
civilization or help. Sickness and often death
occurred that could not be reported until
some communication could be established
with the outside world by an Indian messenger, generally unreliable, or by the appearance
of some officer of the Commissariat with
fresh supplies. But Sir Sandford was not
the kind of man to be easily discouraged or
dismayed. He proceeded to organize, and
intricate organization apparently came naturally to him.    He was built that way.
We were formed up in Divisions from A
to Z, from East to West, in order to distinguish the different survey parties. The Divisional Engineers received printed instructions signed by the Chief Engineer and also
a form of Church Service, I remember, for
Sundays, put together specially by many
learned divines of different denominations
so that it would suit any old religion, and
anybody could worship with anybody else
unless he was busy patching his overalls or
doing a week's washing.
Like Worthy Captain Reece, r.n.
" He was adored by all his men."
I was appointed by my old friend, the Hon.
John Henry Pope, who somehow had taken
a sort of fancy to me, partly I believe because
I used to amuse him by making a fourth at
euchre in his quarters at the old Russell House
Room No. 78. I can just remember the Hon.
Peter Mitchell often being one of the party
and some others, mostly old enough to be
my grandfather.
I always looked upon | John Henry " with
awe and admiration and invariably considered
him to be the Abe Lincoln of Canada, another
of my heroes whose life I had devoured with
great gusto. [Abe and Mark Twain, I still
[5 ] b r
believe to be the greatest men America has
produced. I hate to offend Chauncey Depew,
but he may never know it.]
The repellent rocky shore of Lake Superior
was not considered at first in the search for
a practicable route for the great overland
highway, but a more northerly line was to
be explored with lighter work and easier
gradients. Thus it was that I found myself, one bright Spring day, en route from
Collingwood to Red Rock, Nipigon Bay, on
board one of the old-time side-wheelers, armed
with a brand new little English Dumpy level
on my shoulder, a full fledged Leveller of
Division H under a nice old gentleman named
Johnson, with orders to run from some point
about twenty miles North of the North end
of Lake Nipigon in an Easterly direction to
meet Division G, under an Engineer named
Armstrong, running West, to link up our
line with his and return home unless otherwise ordered.
So far all was sunshine and happiness. My
immediate senior officer was a long lank Nova
Scotian named Schurman, whose duty it was
to take charge of the crew, run the transit
and make the observations—subsequently
I made a few myself!
I remember we had a splendid time at Red
Rock on the Nipigon River, about thirty odd
miles from Lake Nipigon, with many heartbreaking portages, some of them many miles
in length. The Hudson's Bay Company had
a post at Red Rock in charge of Mr. Crawford,
the Factor, and there we were camped several
days waiting for boats to arrive for what
little navigation there was on the Nipigon
River. These came up in the shape of
Ottawa River Lumberman's Batteaux, and
they were forty or fifty feet long if I remember
rightly, and I do remember that they were
heavy enough when we commenced to drag
them over the numerous portages.
Arrived at the Lake, we transhipped into
a big sailing boat, thirty-eight men and a
dog, and headed for the head of the Lake,
seventy miles distant. "Standing room only"
was the sign on that boat, and for some reason
or other we never went ashore until we
reached our destination.
There was a certain amount of novelty
about this trip and there was, too, quite a
lot of discomfort, but all's well that ends
well, and at last we reached our initial point.
Here we blazed the first tree that had ever
been blazed in that locality and certainly
planted one of the first stakes ever planted
marked zero, of that particular Division for
the future line of the great C.P.R.
The regular routine of a survey party
would probably not interest my readers, and
it is enough to say that we turned out very
early in the grey morn, worked hard all day
in all weathers, ate three times a day regularly (on the principle of Josh Billings, who
wrote to his wife, " Enclose please find ten
dollars, if you can ! ") and then slept the tired
and dreamless sleep of the weary. Every
day was precisely the same, and the routine
was the same for months on end.
The country assigned to us was most uninteresting, consisting, as it did, of a series
of muskegs occasionally intersected by high
rocky ridges ; the timber was small scrub
spruce of a most funereal aspect with long
pendant weepers of black crepe—no birds,
no beasts, no fish, no life, no nothing!
Millions of poisonous black flies by day and
mosquitoes at night. It seemed to me that
a convention of all the flies in the world
was being held there.
We were no doubt the first human bipeds
that had ever traversed that God-forsaken
country,—although perhaps we didn't fully
realize the honour and glory of all this at
that time. Wading knee-deep through muskegs all day and fighting mosquitoes all
night, and living on salt pork of the Crimean
period and beans, with dried apples for
dessert, was our daily routine, until at last
early morning frosts warned us that October
had arrived. We were nearly one hundred
miles from our starting point and supplies
were almost exhausted. Our pack animals,
mostly French half-breeds, had returned from
the base with the fatal announcement that
no fresh supplies had arrived. Well, here
we were, thirty-eight men and one dog, about
two hundred miles from where we knew there
was plenty, | Flat Rock Portage," on the
shores of Lake Nipigon.
So the nice old gentleman, previously mentioned, our Chieftain, in the proverbial language of the prize ring, | threw up the
sponge," dressed himself up in a long black
coat, put on a black necktie, and resigned
himself to his horrible fate.
The elongated Schurman and I now had a
committee meeting of two and decided that
something had to be done, and that quick
action was absolutely necessary. One of us
should take the crew out over our line, now
about no miles long and the other take his
chance of meeting the party that was supposed
to be coming from the East, finding his way
through the bush on a compass bearing as
well as he could.
We tossed up for it. I don't think there
was much choice. Anyhow, he won and
decided to take an Indian boy and go East
to try to find Armstrong of Division G, while
I was to take the men down over our line in
the hope of meeting relief or at least of
finding it in the shape of supplies at our
initial point.
We shook hands and parted next morning,
he with a compass and a few pounds of split
peas, and I with thirty-eight men and a dog,
about half a day's rations of flour but nothing
else except the hope that " springs eternal
in the human heart." I cached everything
that weighed anything, and without tents,
blankets or grub, we started our long tramp
back over the hated muskegs and rocky
ridges. It was getting cold at night as we
huddled round our fire, but during the bright
frosty October days, the sun shone on us
and took the frost out of our clothes and put
some warmth into our hearts.
The only luck we had was finding any
amount of the little buds that grow on rose
[ ii ] bushes, full of seeds, which washed down
with plenty of swamp water kept life in us
and enabled us to do nearly thirty miles a
day between daylight and dark.
About four days and nights after I parted
with the lengthy Nova Scotian, we arrived
at last at our starting point and found—
nothing ! There were a few foot-sore stragglers, whom I sent back for next day.
At noon a bunch of Cree Indians stole softly
down the river in their canoes and were much
surprised to discover my ragged and hungry
mob of white men. We had money, but they
did not seem to understand the rate of
But they had white fish, and we had undershirts of a gorgeous scarlet hue which appealed
to their simple tastes just as the fish appealed
to ours, so exchanges were rapidly effected.
After much haggling, we also secured a few
of their birch-bark canoes and proceeded down
[ 12 ] EARLY  DAYS
stream to the head of the lake, where I pictured a magnificent depot of supplies and in
my mind's eye, goaded on by the promptings
and suggestions of an empty stomach, I saw
vast hoards of succulent provisions, the much
despised iron-bound barrels of Crimean pork
in the front row, flanked by barrels of flour
and other luxuries.
It did not take long to discover that a
busy but inefficient Commissariat Department had been conscientiously transporting
hundreds of barrels of sugar all summer.
And that was what we found—but nothing
At this stage of my disappointment, I
suggested to the aged Chieftain before-mentioned that somebody had better try to reach
the known depot at Flat Rock, where stores
must be found, and modestly volunteered for
the venture.
So I left that night in a fathom and a half
bark canoe with one half-breed boy in the
bow. Nipigon Lake has a number of deep
bays  many  of  them ten  or  fifteen  miles
across from point to point, impossible for
my little craft in rough weather. So wearily
we tightened up our dinner straps and paddled
round these bays as far off the land as we
dare. After a couple of days and nights of
this work, I remember, we landed on a rocky
shore and my " crew " proceeded to fell a
tall, stately dry ram pike to make a fire, as
the nights were not too sultry.
With a crash about thirty feet of the
stately old pine top came down and went
through the bottom of our last hope, the
little canoe, which had been hauled up on
the flat rock. This looked like disaster, if
not death, but we had done so well and got
so far without meeting the grim Reaper face
to face, so we simply looked at each other
and then proceeded to look for gum and
birch-bark, also cedar for ribs. We found all
these necessary materials before daylight and
began shipbuilding.
About noon we sighted an ancient aborigine
of the female sex, who, after much waving
of shirts as S.O.S. signals on our part, bash-
fully came within hailing distance and informed us we were only six miles from Flat
Rock Portage !
Our troubles, at least for the present, were
It did not take long that morning to paddle
our little patchwork round to Flat Rock
Portage, where we found a big camp or
depot full of supplies and my party, all now
well fed and happy, they having been rescued
by the Commissariat boats busily transporting more barrels of sugar to the head
of the Lake.
I was joyously received, having been reported as missing.
Next day our outfit moved down stream
to Red Rock on Lake Superior to await a
home-going steamer.
But what about my friend Schurman ?
His experience was perhaps worse than mine,
although he chose what he considered the
easiest way out.
In a few days the old steamboat Cumberland hove in sight, bound up to Port Arthur
and then home to Collingwood, and the first
man to come ashore was my long lean friend
Schurman, looking leaner than ever. He
soon told me his adventures since we parted.
As I said before, he left me with one Indian
boy, a bag of split peas and a pocket compass.
The first day he travelled through the bush
in an Easterly direction, hoping every hour
to get some tidings of the on-coming party
under Armstrong, but without finding any
sign of them. The second day he was rather
exhausted from lack of food, and as there
was still no sign of a human being at night,
he began to fear he might be travelling either
North or South of, and parallel to, Armstrong's line. On the afternoon of the third
day he struck a big lake right across his
course and then began to despair and abandon
all hope of ever being rescued.
In this cheerful frame  of mind he  was
considering the  desirability of blowing his
brains out when towards evening he saw a
canoe containing an ancient squaw who was
[ 16 ] EARLY  DAYS
out fishing. The Indian boy, nearly crazy
with fear at first and now delighted, soon
attracted her attention, and before dark the
old squaw had taken them to Armstrong's
camp on the Pic River where, very weak and
exhausted, they were nursed back to life
and later taken down to Lake Superior and
so on to Red Rock, where we met. It
appeared that Armstrong had run out of
supplies and was on his way to civilization,
having been unable . to finish his line and
join up with us.
Thus ended my first experience on a very
small link of the great chain stretching
across this vast continent.
During that winter in Ottawa, I had the
honour of shaking hands with Sir Sandford
Fleming, who kindly enquired whether I had
not had " a rather hard summer " ? When
I told him we were four days without being
troubled with food, he simply said, " And
were there no squirrels you could shoot ? "
THE organization of survey parties to
run trial lines through the wilderness
was now in full swing.
The Headquarters Staff was increased and
even the highly inefficient Commissariat Department was attended to and there was less
shortage of the necessaries of life. Main
depots of supplies were established at all
principal points accessible by water. Thunder
Bay, on Lake Superior, was a great distributing point, and Fort Garry, on the Red
River, was another important place where
provisions could be obtained from the Hudson's Bay Company. The Headquarters of
this vast organization, as I previously remarked, were established up on the hill in
the old stone barracks overlooking the Ottawa
River, and it was from there that the master
mind issued his orders.
I must now pay a tribute to the Divisional
Engineers and all their officers and men
engaged on these surveys. In my humble
opinion, based upon many years of service
in various capacities, there was never known
a more loyal, conscientious, thorough-going
set of men than those on the Engineering
Staff of the C.P.R. Far removed from the
watchful eye of their chief, only occasionally
inspected by the District Engineers whose
duties extended over enormous areas, these
men conscientiously performed the work allotted to them, keeping a daily record of
events, always striving to reach the goal to
which they were ordered, often under most
hazardous and heartrending conditions. Patiently enduring sickness, often on short
rations, exposed to every known kind of
weather, conscientiously giving a man's work
for a poor day's pay, keeping regular hours
with no holidays except Sundays (and not
even those for the officers), they religiously
plodded along through Summer's heat and
Winter's icy blast till the line was finished
and they were ordered home.
I merely point this out to show how easy
it would have been for a " slacker," hundreds
of miles from his base, to have taken things
easily and loafed on the job, allowing his
men to idle, himself enjoying any fishing or
shooting there might happen to be in the
vicinity. Instead of which these men, with
truly loyal instincts, followed a deadly dull
daily routine of duty day after day, week
after week, month after month, until they
once more reported at Headquarters on the
What was there to prevent one of these
men, isolated as he was from the outside
world for many months, with no check on
his movements, from leisurely taking his
own time, turning out when he felt like it
in the morning and knocking off whenever
he chose at night ? He could falsify his
daily diary, fudge his observations and then,
like the celebrated Doctor Cook, return home
a hero and declare he had been to the North
Pole.   There was no Peary to discredit him.
It was in 1873, I think, that I went out
with a jolly old Irishman as second officer.
His name was Henry Carre, ce., a well-
known engineer from the Inter-Colonial Railway. My immediate senior officer was good
old Horatio F. Forrest, a man much older
than myself, of particularly precise and correct habits and extremely methodical; he
neither smoked, swore nor drank, which was
somewhat of a novelty in our profession,
besides which, I believe, he was a devoted
Christian and used to say his prayers before
turning in.
As we were running through a heavily
timbered country I had an easy time and did
not have to turn out in the mornings with
Forrest, but waited till he had some line cut
through the woods when I could easily catch
up with the levels.
I remember how Horatio used to annoy
me in the dull grey mornings, when I would
feign extreme fatigue and sleepiness and take
some time to wake up. At last, goaded to
desperation, I perpetrated the following
" Pome," addressed to Horatio:
The Summer's sun was rising fast
O'er lakes and rivers of the past,
When H.F.F., the transit man,
Sprang from his couch and thus began:
" Oh, Secretan, turn out, I pray,
" And don't lie sleeping all the day,
" Tis half-past five :  You say, * What bosh ! f
H Come, come !    Get up and take a wash,
" For breakfast now will soon appear,
" The sound of knives and forks I hear."
The cook sings out in accents clear,
Which grate on my awakening ear.
And yet that transit man still cries:
" Oh, Secretan, arise !   arise ! "
I peep from out my blankets green, .
Sit up, and on one elbow lean;
At my warm bed take one fond look
Then make a bee-line for the brook,
Where quickly I my head immerse
And everything in general curse,
Murmuring the while at my hard life
Wishing I'd never left my wife
Or little ones who looked at me
And clung so fondly round my knee,
It may be right, it may be wrong,
There's no redress at Nipigon.
So as I sing this plaintive lay
The time is up, I must away;
The sun darts down his fiercest ray,
Those awful flies commence to play
Beginning thus—Another day !
This much amused old Henry Carre, whose
soul was not without some poetry, which—
alas!—was totally absent from the soul of
Horatio, who looked at me more in sorrow
than in anger and wondered what would be
the ultimate fate of such a promising and
yet frivolous young man. I suppose he
thought that I was destined to be hanged
some day and no doubt prayed for me that
night accordingly, while the jolly old boss
and I were having a good game of cribbage
until the early hours.
While we were " doing our bit," many
other Divisions were distributed from the
head waters of the Ottawa River West, (the
District under James H. Rowan, ce.), towards Fort Garry on the Red River, now the
great City of Winnipeg. In the Rocky Moun-
tains, I believe, about that time, my old friend
Walter Moberly, ce., belonging to a distinguished family of engineers, was prowling
round examining many different alleged passes
some to be commended and considered, and
others condemned and rejected. The old
Moberly log-huts where he wintered on the
Columbia River, somewhere near Golden,
are, I believe, still in existence. On the
Pacific Coast, harbours were being examined
with regard to their suitability for a Western
Terminus. Engineers' offices were opened
in Victoria, B.C., about 1873 or 1874, for
these parties from the Coast. All the Eastern
Divisions reported to Headquarters in Ottawa
—except those that were kept in the field
all Winter, which often occurred, as in many
districts Winter was a favourable season for
making rapid explorations, dog-sleds being
used for transportation or toboggans hauled
by men.
Those of us who were lucky enough to
get home in the Winter came to Ottawa and
worked on the plans showing our Summer's
work, until navigation opened in the Spring.
These plans and profiles were very elaborate
and thorough, the ordinary working plan
being 400-feet to an inch, while a small
scale general plan of 4,000-feet to an inch
was made showing the whole line.
In 1874, the old Barracks were burned
down one cold Winter's night, and when I
arrived at my office next morning I found
nothing but icicles and firemen. Most of
these valuable plans were destroyed, but
some few were saved and with the help of
notes, diaries and memory, we started to
make new ones in temporary quarters apportioned to us in the Senate and Commons.
The Capital in those days was exceedingly
gay, and young husky returned engineers
were always in great demand at balls and
f£tes, having no difficulty in competing with
the pallid yet persevering bank clerk for the
favours of the fair sex in the mazy waltz.
IT was in 1874 when the first regular large
survey parties were sent out to British
Columbia. It was also the ambition of most
of us to be ordered to that unknown country,
and a place on the staff of a B.C. Division was
considered quite an honour.
Very few people appreciate the enormous
distance we had to travel before arriving at
the starting point of our work, and to give
my readers an idea of this, I will relate my
experience in 1874. It was my good fortune
to be appointed first officer or transit man
under H. P. Bell, m.i.c.e., (another Inter-
Colonial Engineer), on Division W, bound for
the wilds of British Columbia to run an exploratory line from the vicinity of Fort George
towards Tete Jaune Cache, on the Upper
waters of the Great Fraser River.
In those days we had to travel over the
Grand Trunk to Chicago, then by the Union
Pacific and Central Pacific to San Francisco,
via Omaha and Salt Lake City, a delightful
journey, with ever varying scenery and
The distance would be approximately as
Ottawa to San Francisco - 3000 miles.
San Francisco to Victoria, B.C. 800
Victoria to New Westminster - 100
New Westminster to Yale -     100
Yale to Quesnelle - -     300
Quesnelle to Fort George -     100
-   4400 miles,
Therefore, it wiU be seen, we travelled
four thousand four hundred miles before even
grinding our axes to sharpen the first stake
to be planted on the line that we were ordered
to run, with a short Summer before us and
often a first-rate fighting chance of being
caught by the Winter before we could return
to civilization.
From San Francisco at that time there was
uncertain communication with Victoria by
a line of ghastly old hulks called by courtesy
steamers. It was not a very enjoyable passage even in a real ship. There are no harbours of refuge in case of accident and along
that Coast you often wonder who had the
audacity to call such an ocean | Pacific."
The first ancient scow I had the pleasure
of sailing in was called the Prince Albert and
was commanded by a sausage-eating skipper
with an unpronounceable Teutonic name
which sounded like " Von Hammaneggs-
burgher." After borrowing enough life-boats
and accessories from other ships sufficient to
pass the supposed steamboat regulations, and
returning them immediately the Customs
Officer had gone ashore, he would glide
through the Golden Gate headed for the
far North—wind, waves and weather permitting.
In those days, I took a whole lot of interest
in navigation, it being a branch of our profession, but this was really too simple. When
we got outside, the dear old German pirate
in command merely set a course for Cape
Flattery Light at the entrance to the Straits
of San Juan de Fuca, whispering in a sort of
gin and fog voice to the wheel-man, and
then he retired to his cabin, turned into his
berth and pulled down the blind. He was
never seen again until, by the grace of God,
we arrived four days later, when the wheelman, I suspect, woke him up with the information,—" a beeg light it iss right in der
vay." Then all he had to do, so far as I
could make out, was to cover up his fights,
to save pilotage, stagger up the Straits and
bump up against the dock at Victoria as
gently as possible without being discovered
by the police. God knows what would have
happened if we had ever met anything.
" Ye gentlemen of Ottawa who sit at home at ease,
How little do ye think upon the danger of the
I sailed in many of these tramps, which
all went to the bottom eventually. Perhaps
the most painful and saddest disaster was
that of the Pacific, an old side-wheel tub
plying between Victoria and San Francisco.
I had come up one Spring in that antiquated
ark and that Fall we were ordered home in
her. I well remember going down to the
shipping office of Welsh Rithet & Co. to buy
the tickets and being told the ship was " full
up," much to my delight; but the agents
offered to make up beds on the saloon tables
to accommodate our party. We mutinied at
this and absolutely refused to go in the ill-
fated vessel, which was to sail next day, and
we decided to wait for the next one, which
would also give us three weeks more to enjoy
the hospitalities of the Victorians.
I knew a great many passengers going on
the Pacific, anxious to get home. Amongst
others, there was one Sullivan, Gold Commissioner of Cassiar, a jovial Irishman who had
not been out of the mountains for twenty
years and was looking forward to the trip.
That night I dined with a family whose
eldest daughter, a beautiful young girl, was
sailing on the morrow to join a married sister
in 'Frisco. We were a merry party and I
promised to be on hand in the morning to
take the young lady on board. We drove
down to the dock and having introduced the
lady to the Captain and put her in his charge,
I said goodbye to poor old Sullivan and many
other friends.
Amidst tears, cheers and the waving of
many handkerchiefs, the wretched old coffin
steamed slowly out of the harbour in a lopsided sort of way as her hundreds of doomed
passengers lined the rail. It was then about
noon, and before ten o'clock that night, the
Pacific was at the bottom of the ocean after
which she was named. News came slowly
in those days but I think there must have
been a cable from Seattle or somewhere across
the Sound, as we got the appalling news of
the horrible disaster in the small hours next
morning. m Ship foundered with all hands
off Cape Flattery," but no details, of course.
We could not believe it.
It seemed so short a time ago, less than
twelve hours, that we had chatted with our
many friends and wished them I bon voyage,'
and now to think they were all in a watery
It was too horrible.
At last the fatal details of the disaster
began to filter in. To sum it up shortly from
subsequent reports, it appears that the
wretched rotten old tub came to her fate by
being run down by a sailing ship, which
struck her amidships, and in less than ten
minutes she collapsed and went to the bottom
with all her human freight. There was no
time even to launch a life-boat, always supposing she had one.
There were but two survivors out of over
three hundred souls. One was a C.P.R.
survey man whose home was in St. Thomas,
Ont., by the name of Jelly, and the other
was a hardy Scot named Macdonald, one of
the ship's quartermasters.
The people of Victoria who nearly all had
either friends or relatives on board were at
first stunned and dumbfounded, but soon got
to work and next day tugs, revenue cutters
and other craft, both American and British,
flocked to the scene, where midst wreckage
of all kinds, the dead bodies of men, women
and children, together with many horses,
were found floating about. The bodies were
all brought up to Victoria and reverently laid
out in the City Hall for identification.
It was a sad sight—women with sea-weed
entangled in their hair, some of them dressed
and others only half clothed, and some whose
features were unrecognizable owing to their
mutilation by voracious fish. Think of the
feelings of the bereaved parents and friends
as they gazed upon their dead who but a few
hours before had smilingly kissed them goodbye !
This ghastly horror has no doubt been long
since forgotten, but not by me. The two
survivors were, of course, subjected to much
cross-questioning when they were brought up
to the Driard House at Victoria. I talked to
them both. At first, our man Jelly, who was
not a sailor, was incoherent and wandering,
but gradually we managed to extract particulars of all he knew about the catastrophe.
Being warmed and fed, about the second day
after his rescue, he said he thought it was
about nine o'clock on a perfectly clear moonlight night when the sailing ship hit them.
There appears to have been still time to burn
some blue lights and send up a rocket or two,
when he said he thought her engines fell
through the side and in a minute all was consternation and panic. Many of the female
passengers were either undressing or undressed on their way to bed. Most of the
returning miners, of whom there were many,
were drinking and generally helpless. After
a few awful moments the end came and the
wretched ill-fated old hulk sank out of sight
for ever, leaving her hundreds of passengers
struggling in the water. Jelly said he found
himself at first on a section of the deck
planking which had broken away, but subsequently, several hours after, he thought,
as daylight was appearing, he managed to
collect the roof of the pilot house as it floated
past, and pulled up a drunken miner on it
to keep him company. This man had several
thousand dollars in gold dust tied round
his waist.
In the morning light, Jelly was horrified
to find that the man he had rescued was dead.
He had lashed him securely on to the roof
of the pilot house ; but now he cut the lashings and the poor chap sank like a stone.
We all naturally asked with one breath
why he didn't take the g dust." " Ah," he
said with a sad sigh, " I wasn't thinking of
no money that day." Next we interviewed
the little Scottish quartermaster, who had
never lost his nerve or his memory. He, it
appeared, had got some sort of a raft together
out of the wreckage with a dry goods box
which he managed to secure and then crawl
into. He floated away from the wreck and
went out on the ebb tide, keeping well hidden
in his box out of the wind and weather,
popping his curly red head out now and again
[ 35 ] r
to see if there were any signs of rescue. He
told me that he went in and out with the tide,
he didn't know how many times, but was
very often in sight of Flattery Lighthouse, and
then out he went to sea again on his frail
little raft. He must have been drifting about
for forty-eight hours without food or water
and was much scorched by the sun, when
they found him, more by good luck than
anything else. A Yankee revenue cutter
was just about giving up the search on the
second day after the wreck, when they saw
this piece of flotsam, but thought nothing of
it until a head bobbed up out of the box. So
the poor little quartermaster was rescued
when the tide was turning and he was certainly making his last trip seaward. His
account of the wreck tallied pretty well with
Jelly's, but was given in sailor man's language
and was full of nautical terms.
We heard afterwards that an Enquiry was
held, when it was discovered that the master
of the sailing ship was trying deliberately
to wreck his vessel for the insurance, counting
upon the fact that if he ran her into a steamer
he and his crew would surely be rescued.
His reckoning was wrong, however, as he
proved to have the stauncher ship* and so
sank the steamer.
I must not forget to relate as a sequel to
this sad tragedy of the sea that the body of
my poor little friend whom I had taken on
board that morning was washed up on the
shores of San Juan Island seventy miles from
the scene of the wreck.
VICTORIA is a lovely spot to live and
die in. It is also a delightful place to
be quartered in even temporarily. I will
not go into rhapsodies over its heavenly climate and describe how it lies so peacefully,
sleepily basking in the sunlight, overshadowed
by the icy peak of Mount Baker sixty miles
away, because this has been so often done
by other more gifted scribes.
In 1874, British Columbia, but especially
the Capital, had scarcely awakened to the fact
that she had been taken into the matronly
bosom of Confederation. She still fancied
herself as a British Crown Colony and rather
resented the first invasion of the Eastern
Canadianism. This meant us to a great extent. The inhabitants of Victoria were nearly
all British or of British extraction, old Hudson
Bay officers and their families, like the Warks
and Finlaysons, etc.; half-pay officers-^-Navy
and Army—who loved the mild climate, so
much like some parts of England, the fishing
and shooting to be had on the Island and the
flowers that bloomed all the year round.
There were a few Americans from across the
Sound who had drifted in with an eye to
business, but they were barely tolerated.
Anything in the shape of a " hustler " was
The dolce far niente methods of the ordinary
Victorian shopkeeper were unique and most
confiding, for they hated to be bothered with
business, especially if there was a cricket
match on, and they would all shut up shop
in the event of a horse race.
I remember quite well going once into one
of the principal shops to buy a hat when
the proprietor and some of his assistants were
busy playing a game of cards in the back
office and were not to be disturbed. I made
my wants known, but the boss merely looked
over his shoulder with a yawn and told me
to ft see if I could find one that fitted me."
I heard of an occasion when a very busy
deputation of Yankees came across with the
idea of establishing a great shoe factory in
the heart of the city, and having submitted
the proposition, most likely to the Town
Council or some other civic body, and represented its huge financial advantages to the
dear sleepy old town, the thousands of men
they would employ, and the enormous pay
roll this industry would involve, etc., etc.,
they were simply asked if they couldn't go
away and hunt up some other place for their
darned old factory and leave the Victorians
alone in peace.
Theirs was a happy, peaceful, somnolent
community, bathed in sunshine midst the
fragrance of flowers, when we first rudely
disturbed the serenity of their slumbers.
They had one of the best hotels in America
but I don't think they ever knew it.    The
old Driard House was a perfect hostelry in
those days, and was presided over by my
friend Louis Ridon, an ex-Parisien chef of
wonderful ability. The food and cooking
were sublime. You had only to give your
order for dinner to Louis and then to leave
the rest to him :—fresh salmon, small coppery
oysters like English natives, a few hours out
of the sea, English pheasant, beautifully
cooked, splendid crabs, every known vegetable, a real masterpiece of a sweet by Louis
himself, all washed down by the very finest
vintages that ever came " round the Horn,"
and then such cigars and such coffee ! There
never was anything like the dear old Driard!
It was here we were quartered for a week or
so while busily engaged all day signing on
our crew. This took some time as every
man was medically inspected.
The Commissariat Department was busy
getting the supplies together and the merry
hum at the C.P.R. offices was the loudest
noise to be heard in the land.
Our next move was on board the steamer
Enterprise, which plied between Victoria and
New Westminster, near the mouth of the
[4i] f
Great Fraser River. From there we were
transported up the river to Yale, on board a
stern-wheeler, a flat-bottomed craft in command of the well-known Captain Johnnie
Irving, who was a celebrated character in
those days and the best of pilots, and who is,
I believe, still living.
From Yale we took to the land once more,
bound for Quesnelle mouth, 303 miles distant, by the celebrated " B.X." line (Barnard's Express). The stage line was owned
by F. J. Barnard, a Canadian, who came into
the country in the early days and evidently
had enough foresight to see the necessity
of rapid transportation as well as the possible
profit in moving miners up country to the
diggings and bringing them back with their
nuggets. It was a great stage line running
over a wonderful waggon road and was
excellently managed.
They had a splendid equipment of Concord
Coaches which ran regularly from Yale to
Baskerville, in charge of skilful whips, who,
strange to say, all hailed from New Brunswick.
There was Steve Tingley, the pioneer and
prince of them all, and Jim and Johnny
Hamilton and Bill Johnson. It was a delight
to see these artists handle the ribbons. Two,
four, five or six horses in a team were all
the same to them, and the wilder the better.
" B.X. " had large horse ranches somewhere near Kamloops for breeding purposes,
possibly a thousand head, mares and stallions
running wild together and getting fat on
the succulent " bunch grass " that grew there
then. Periodically these were rounded up
and many members of this happy equine
family cut out, broken, or about half broken
and brought down to be hitched up on the
stages. It was quite current gossip amongst
the stage drivers that when they had a team
of extra wild horses they always | tried"
'em on them engineers.
The late Mr. Barnard had two sons and a
daughter, the latter the wife of the late
Senator Mara. The two sons are both living,
Sir Frank, who was Lieut.-Governor of British
Columbia, and Harry, who is now a Senator.
The road from Yale to Barkerville, about
400 miles long and some fourteen feet wide,
was constructed by the Imperial Government,
during the exciting times of the gold rush
to Cariboo. It was a gigantic undertaking
in those days. The lower part, up the Fraser
Canyons, being blasted out of the solid rock,
is sometimes a mere shelf with an overhanging roof The grades were steep to
avoid extra heavy cuttings and at one place,
a local summit was reached called " Jackass
Mountain," where the narrow path of the
waggon road hung on the edge of a precipice
1,300-feet above the rushing, roaring white
waters of the Fraser River.
We were ordered to disembark before approaching this grade by the curt remark of
the humorous driver: "Now, boys, git out
and push ! "
Many long forgotten good stories were
told about these stage drivers.
When the Canadian " tenderfeet" began
to immigrate into the country they were not
particularly welcome ; their ideas were too
•small and parochial to suit the man in the
mountains, whose ideas were vast and soared
away up in the clouds like the peaks of his
mighty mountains. He could not understand them at first. The smallest coin in
the country then was a twenty-five cent
piece, which was known as " two bits " ;
half a dollar was " four bits," and nobody
had ever heard of anything so small as five
or ten cents until the Canadians arrived, and
so I suppose these lordly pioneers looked down
in pity on the lowly emigrants when they
mentioned such currency, and called them
" North American Chinamen." They thought
them mean.
One fine day Jim Hamilton was driving a
party of Canadians up the road, when they
piassed through a grove of huge Douglas fir
trees.   The bark of these trees was stripped
off for about twenty or thirty feet from the
ground, the work of the Indians, who, when
they make a cache of salmon, dry in the
branches to prevent squirrels and other
animals from getting at the fish. This was
quite a common thing along the Fraser but
was a novelty to the f Chee-chakos," or new
" Hullo ! " said one of the tourists, I What
did that to them trees ? "
Old Jim Hamilton, without a smile on his
weatherbeaten face, replied: "I drove a
Canadian outfit up here last week and that's
the place where they had lunch ! |
The road in the most dangerous places was
very narrow and there was scarcely room
for two teams to pass, but the " Royal Mail "
always had the right of way, although we
frequently met many 1 bull teams" and
mule teams, the former often consisting of
twelve to fourteen and sixteen yoke of oxen,
and the latter of ten or twelve pairs of mules,
guided by one Mexican, riding the leading
nigh mule. They were always made to take
the outside, overlooking the scenery below.
One enterprising firm tried a string of camels
as pack animals, but the experiment failed
as they scared all the other quadrupeds off
the road. These bull punchers did about
sixteen miles a day and camped wherever
they found a flat place and feed for their
animals. They were a fairly happy set, and
after supper gathered round their fire and
generally gambled half the night. I heard
a good story of hard luck that was related
by one of them. He said he had been playing
very unluckily last trip and had lost all the
ready money he had: " Then," said heA
" I put up my mules and lost them ; after
a bit, I put up the harness and lost it; then
I bet the cargo and lost it; I had nothing left
but the waggons and I lost them. The last
thing I did was to put up my wife, when all
of a sudden my luck changed and J lost her I "
Often when I think of some of the appalling
precipitous places we had to pass, it reminds
me of a very original observation made by a
weary worn-looking Yankee packer from
Seattle when I was crossing the Chilcoat Pass
on my way to the Yukon in '97. I had read
many heartrending descriptions of this Pass
and asked him on his return trip what it
was really like. He had a tired drawn thin
face and said with a sigh : 1 Wal, Capting,
I was ftre-paxed for it to be ^>£f-pendicular,
but by God, Sir, I never thought it would
lean back ! "
I retailed this conversation in my book,
Klondyke and Back, and amongst the many
newspaper reviews the book received in
England, generally quite flattering, nearly
every one of them quoted this incident.
Some of the more sedate papers, the Manchester Guardian, and others, preached quite
a jolly little sermon, with this as a text,
pointing out that intending English prospectors would find out that most things
would " lean back" in the wilds of that
"inhospitable region," and so on and so forth.
Arrived at Quesnelle mouth, we were still
one hundred miles from Fort George on the
Fraser River, our initial point. A pack
train of about eighty mules was assembled
at Quesnelle, and about fourteen head of
fat cattle were to be driven along and executed when required for food. I took charge
of this outfit because after swimming our
animals across the Fraser there was a trail
to be cut to Fort George. My boss was to
join me at the Fort later on.
This job was interesting but arduous. A
good deal of the country had been burned
over and there were many bad swampy spots
that had to be bridged in a rough primitive
fashion in order to get the pack train over.
I first tried a sort of "Corduroy" with
four logs abreast laid longitudinally and
securely pinned down, but soon discovered
that the mentality of the pack-mule did not
rise to this elaborate causeway. He or she
invariably preferred to walk on one or other
of the outside logs, and were sometimes
successful, but if not they went over into
the swamp, pack and all (about 200 to 250
pounds) and so delayed the rest of the proceedings until we dug them out.
I then adopted a two-log system and found
that the mules, in their native cussedness,
could do the balancing act much better on this,
always selecting the smallest log to walk on.
After deep thought, I concluded that one
log would have pleased them even better.
They seemed to despise my precautions for
their safety, such, I suppose, being the independent nature of the mule.
My chief was now H. P. Bell, m.i.c.e.,
another Irishman (Trinity College, Dublin),
an eccentric, original and very clever engineer. He too, like Carre, had been on
the construction of the Inter-Colonial.
He had many peculiarities and one of his
weaknesses was that he lacked judgment
in ordinary matters, but he was a well-read
man, highly educated and a master of his
profession. I remember he had many fads,
and when I was engaging the men in Victoria,
although he did not interfere in the proceedings he told me he could always tell a
good man by looking at his eye. He brought
a man into the office one day and advised
[ 5o ] ifMi
me to hire him as he had looked into his
steel-blue eyes and knew he was a first-class
trustworthy man, so I signed him on at
When we were on the trail-cutting job to
Fort George, my crew continually reported
the losses of personal effects such as clothes,
boots, tobacco, and other valuables. So one
fine day when there was no one in camp
but the cooks I played the Sherlock Holmes
and had the men's kits searched, discovering
the missing articles amongst the belongings
of the gentleman with the cold steel-blue
honest optics. I paraded him next morning
and handed him his walking ticket for Victoria. Yes, little bright eyes was the culprit and had the swag right enough, and he
turned out to be a lately discharged convict.
So much for Bell's " eye test."
It reminded me of that ancient yarn of
the man who said he could hypnotize wild
animals by staring them fixedly in the eye.
One day a bad tempered bull-dog got hold
of him from behind and was tearing the
[5i] «-
seat out of his trousers, when a pal who
did not believe in the optical illusion sung
out, " Fix him with your eye, Bill! Fix
him with your eye! "
Bell was undoubtedly a faddist in many
ways, but he was always original and hated
to do things in the old stereotyped manner
in which we had been more or less all brought
up. When in 'Frisco he bought two ships'
chronometers and mysteriously announced
to me (he was always darkly mysterious)
that he was going to have things run this
trip on a nautical basis, and that it was up
to me to work on these lines, taking the
latitude daily by solar observations and the
longtitude by keeping those old chronometers
set on Greenwich time, checked up occasionally with an elaborate observation known
as " clearing the lunar distance." This, no
doubt, was all very interesting to Bell, but
it would have kept me out of bed all night
shivering behind a big astronomical transit,
with pages and pages of foolscap fool calculations next day.
However, this fad, like many others, failed
to work out in practice, as, en route to Fort
George one day, a most considerate she-
mule, with no respect for ships' chronometers,
fell over a rather precipitous cliff and rolled
down a couple of hundred feet. It was she,
luckily, who had the honour of carrying
those precious chronometers in her pack, and
a chronometer is a very delicate instrument
and apt to go wrong if it loses its balance,
so that this sudden trip down the cliff did
not improve those chronometers, and they
soon degenerated into an unreliable cook's
clock and I was saved from sitting up all
night to f clear the lunar distance."
At Fort George there was nothing but a
Hudson Bay Post. Bell joined the party
here, mounted upon a good little mare, an
Irish hunter which he had picked up somewhere. He was very fond of showing off
her jumping powers over the fences round
the Fort and fallen logs, etc., but it was a
poor place for a thoroughbred and she just
had to follow along the trail in the wake
of  the  unsophisticated  homely  mule,   who
looked upon her with suspicion.
After establishing the latitude, and altitude above sea-level by a series of boiling
point thermometrical experiments, we planted
our initial zero stake and started next morning to hack our way through the gloomy
forest in the direction of Tete Jaune Cache.
The country was heavily timbered, principally with big Douglas Fir and Cedar,
and I think it rained there night and day
continuously—until it snowed. I remember
quite well that our blankets and spare clothes
were mildewed from constant moisture. There
was also a charming novelty in the shape
of underbrush known as f Devil's Club."
This huge cabbage, when in its prime, grows
to be ten or twelve feet high, the muscular
stalks and the under side of its immense
leaves being armed with formidable spikes.
After slashing your way through a mile or
two of these all day, you generally sit up
all night picking the festering spikes out
of yoiir knees—an innocent amusement but
very painful. There are many people, I
suppose, in Canada who have never heard
of this interesting vegetable.
And now I was at work with the new
skipper whose mind was obsessed with ideas
of nautical navigation to be applied on dry
land, bound for Tete Jaune Cache on the
Upper Fraser River. As I have said, this
country was generally heavily timbered down
to the water's edge ; graceful little saplings
from eight to twelve feet in diameter and a
couple of hundred feet high decorated the
landscape. There were few open spaces. We
had not only to cut out the line but also a
trail for the pack-train.
We reached the Willow River, which flows
through a delightful valley, before entering
the Fraser, and as it had a fine pasture of
grass and pea vine for our animals, we halted
there for several days. Our mules improved
and the cattle simply rolled in fat.
A pack-train of mules is real society and
most entertaining. We had seventy-five or
eighty of them, including the saddle animals
and a few horses. It took only four men to
handle this bunch, a " cargador," who is
the boss, and three assistants with a cook.
Our I Cargador" was an Irishman (which
is unusual) named McAvoy, and the others
were Mexicans.
The methods of these experts are most
interesting. No matter how many mules
there may be, they are all christened, and
it was often a puzzle to me how they could
possibly be distinguished by their names,
as all mules looked alike to me " ; but so
it was, and it seemed to come quite easy to
the men, and also to the mules, who appeared
to answer quickly when addressed by their
proper name. They seemed to be nearly all
named after the Apostles. I remember there
was Saint Paul, Peter, Matthew, Mark, Luke
and John, with quite a number of Spanish
notables, mostly saints, in our train. The
Mexican gent who officiated as first mate
to the | Cargador," whose official title I
forget, rejoiced in the name of " Jesus
Merino." The daily proceedings when on
the move were weird and wonderful.
The usual march was never more than
sixteen miles, but long before daylight, the
" Matador " whose duty it was to round up
the mules sleepily arose and disappeared in
the morning mist, returning in an hour or
two with the whole band. They always
have a " bell mare " which is ridden at the
head of the column, and the others religiously
follow, jealously pushing and shoving each
other in their frantic endeavours to reach
the tinkling bell. So the first thing to do in
the morning is to catch the " bell mare "
and ride her into camp, when all the rest
follow like  sheep,   which  makes it  easy.
The " aparajos " or pack saddles are always
formed up into a large circle, upon arriving
at camp, and the cargo neatly piled in the
centre. When the train was rounded up
in the morning, each and every mule seemed
to know his own place instinctively and
solemnly faced his own particular " aparajo "
on the outside of the circle, when all were
linked together with a " hackamore," a kind
of rope halter. Then Saint Paul would be
led into the centre of the ring, blindfolded
with a small board hitched behind his long
ears, and loaded with a couple of one hundred
pound sacks of flour on either side, topped
off perhaps with a chest of tea for luck.
The mysteries of the " diamond hitch"
were then swiftly performed by a couple of
packers, when Saint Paul, tightly sinched
up until his stomach looked like an hourglass, grunted, and was dismissed with a
kick, and another victim selected to take
his place. All this was done with bewildering rapidity, amidst a few cursory remarks
from the Mexican packers, such as, ? Come
here, Saint Peter! Ho, Pete! You lop-
eared descendent of an apostolic son of a
wall-eyed  ancestor! Hey,   Luke!    You
miserable offspring of a female coyote, where
in hell do you think you are going, to San
Francisco ? " or words to that effect but
more picturesque, until at last they were all
" packed." The bell mare, generally ridden
by the cook, jingled gaily away on the lead,
and the whole train followed, flanked on
either side by the Mexicans, well mounted
on pet mules, while the lordly " Cargador,"
smoking a cigarette, brought up the rear.
Day after day this might go on, and it is
still a mystery to me, after all these years,
how on earth those men knew one mule
from another, and how the mules knew their
apostolic names.
A mule is certainly a wonderful study
when you are intimately associated with
him for any length of time. He is absolutely
unlike a horse. He is not properly constructed ; his ears are too large and his feet
are too small, consequently when he attempts
to cross soft places he invariably sinks out
of sight and nothing saves him but his ears,
but if he tries to swim, his small feet are
against him, and if he gets any water in
his ears he gives up all hope and generally
drowns. Thus the mule is severely handicapped. I often wondered if they understood the remarks made to them by the
packers and sometimes thought that I
detected a furtive smile on the apostolic
countenance of the poor beast of burden, as
the blind was removed from one end and
he received a parting kick from the supercargo at the other.
After leaving the Willow River valley, the
line of course naturally followed up the
Fraser, sometimes quite close to the water,
at others cutting off points when practicable,
but always in the shadow of the forest of
giant trees and rank undergrowth. It was
useless stopping because of wet weather and
so we were absolutely soaked to the skin all
day long, as we hacked our way through
the wilderness.
The pack-train was used to transport our
supplies so long as feed could be found for
the animals, but after several days browsing
on boughs and leaves, and when some of
them began to gnaw the succulent bark of
the trees and did not hesitate to chew up
the gunny sacks that had contained bacon,
it was time to send them back where the
grass grew, and after that we had to use boats
and" canoes for transportation. A large sail
boat which had been hired at the Stewart
River, near Fort George, was being slowly
% tracked up " the river for the return of
our party in the Fall.
Sometimes we were short of men from sickness, desertion and other causes, and late in
the season sent out to Cariboo and engaged
four miners as axemen at $100 a month.
These old miners are a splendid type of manhood, inured to hardship all their lives, full
of ingenuity and initiative, sturdy and reliable.
We found these four men ready for any sort
of hard work, willing, self-reliant, very independent, and none too tractable, but they
were equal to eight ordinary men and could
do almost anything, especially with an axe.
They had all been more or less wealthy
in their day and often spoke of past experiences, quite innocently and modestly
relating the history of their better days.
They always worked together, and one morning I remember hearing a tremendous crash
ahead on the line they were cutting and
upon going forward found one poor devil
lying there speechless with the trunk of a
mighty Douglas Fir pinning him to the
earth. He and his three pals had felled the
tree, which had " lodged," and in releasing
it poor Bill Heron had failed to get out of
the way quickly enough and had been caught.
I sent to the camp at once for brandy,
and when my messenger returned they had
cut the branches away that held down the
fallen man and had him sitting up, but in
terrible pain. They thought his back was
broken. We opened his mouth with some
difficulty and I poured half a bottle of
S Three Star " down his throat.
He soon revived and looking me in the
face, opened his eyes, and winking with one
of them, said in a low, weary voice, | Old
Jim Hennessy's the boy, you bet! "
He was afterwards sent down by boat to
a Victorian hospital, but I do not think he
ever recovered.
Poor Bill Heron was said to have cleaned
up eighty thousand dollars in the Cariboo
diggings, but like many another miner, he
[62] 1
was reported to have patiently occupied the
bar-room of the most popular hotel for about
a year, treating all comers promiscuously
but equally until he had squandered the
whole of it. Champagne was only about
ten dollars a bottle !
The richest man we heard of was, of course,
% Cariboo Cameron," who hailed from somewhere near Cornwall, Ont. It is said that
when his wife died up at the mines he packed
her body down to Yale on a mule over that
long weary trail, and also had ten or twelve
other mules loaded with golden nuggets.
In a few more weeks we reached our objective and connected lines with the other
party under E. W. Jarvis, m.i.c.e. (another
old Inter-Colonial man). I remember they
were nearly out of " grub " but had plenty
to drink, while matters were exactly the
reverse in our case. We fraternized overnight with | Three Star" Brandy, besides
taking an observation of | Polaris," the
North Star, to get a meridian.
Next day, the Jarvis party left in boats
[ 63 ] p*
built by themselves. We had the big boat
from Stewart River with carrying capacity
for our whole outfit.
There were two alleged pilots, one an old
French Canadian, who thought he knew the
river and the other a one-eyed Indian (I
christened him " Cyclops") who was sure
he did not. At the mercy of these two
beauties we were to make a start next day
which was Sunday, but my Chief, Bell, who
was not entirely without superstition, refused to sail on the Sabbath because he considered it unlucky. However, I eventually
prevailed upon him to risk it, and when we
arrived at the head of the I Grand Canyon,"
Mr. Bell thought he would walk and allow
me to take the boat through, as I was making
a " track survey " of our route going down.
This was what they call a " Box " canyon,
i.e., it had perpendicular walls, perhaps
eighty or one hundred feet high, but although
very swift I did not consider the water at
all dangerous. There was, I think, about a
mile and a half of it. About half way it
developed a right angle and at this juncture,
a young half-breed, who had been told off
to assist the ancient pilot in the steering,
suddenly fell overboard and was never seen
afterwards, nothing but his cap floating down
to tell the sad story. When we arrived and
tied up at the flats below to take Bell on
board, I was greeted with that well-worn
old remark, " I told you so." He was
thoroughly convinced that sailing on Sunday
was the cause of the disaster.
We floated down peacefully upon our
homeward way toward Fort George without
any further exciting adventures until we
struck the " Giscombe Postage Rapids " and
here our ancient mariner was indeed " at
sea." He could not remember the channel
although it was less than forty years since
he was there before.
The river here seemed to be miles wide
and the rapids about ten miles long. With
Cyclops in the bow and poor old Methuselah
at the stern sweep, we rushed into the foaming angry current and soon discovered an
enormous boulder about the size of a house,
and upon this we perched for five or six
anxious minutes with much swearing in
French, English and Indian by both pilots.
Eventually we got off by good luck and
after much pumping reached the vicinity
of Fort George and there we camped.
That night it blew a hurricane and my
little leveller, McLellan, a cautious Scotchman, who slept in my tent, when the tops
of the tall cottonwoods were snapping off
all round us, beseeched me with tears of
fright in his eyes to go down and sleep on
the boat, which he himself subsequently did,
but as I was fairly comfortable in my blankets
I told him that in my humble opinion if
Providence was really interested in us that
day there was a better chance to have made
an end of us in the Giscombe Portage Rapids
than by falling a tree on us; so I remained
where I was and slept the sleep of the innocent.
Next day my worthy chieftain proposed
that I should take the boat on down to
Quesnelle, running the Fort George and
Cottonwood Canyons, but I declined the
honour with thanks, preferring the U hurricane deck " of the harmless mule.
Our Summer's work was over and we were
now bound for home. I cannot help reflecting upon the thorough, accurate and
complete manner in which all the surveys
were made for the great Canadian highway.
No matter how remote and inaccessible the
district to which we were sent, the procedure
was just the same. The regulations laid
down by Sir Sandford Fleming were always
religiously observed to the letter by his
District Engineers, Divisional Engineers and
their subordinates. Sometimes there would
be a lonely explorer with a compass and
aneroid and a couple of Indians, to determine
the height of a reported feasible pass, and
then these would be followed perhaps by a
survey party, running a trial fine, with continuous sea-levels, and the next year by a
locating party, who would finally locate the
Une, running in the curves, etc.
Many of these lines were of course aban-
^1 ■m
doned when the final decision was made,
but I am certain that absolutely nothing was
neglected by Sir Sandford Fleming during
his career as Chief Engineer, and when the
time came to hand things over to the C.P.R.
Company, in 1880, the immense volume of
information collected by him was absolutely
accurate. Nearly everything was known and
very little had been left undone.
To test the truth of this assertion we have
only to look at subsequent events. The
C.P.R. Company changed the location of the
line from Winnipeg West for reasons which
I shall attempt to explain later on, but the
Yellow Head Pass selected by the Government, upon the recommendation of Sir Sandford Fleming, was afterwards adopted by
the other two Transcontinental lines, the
Canadian Northern and the Grand Trunk
Pacific, many years afterwards, and both of
them, as I happen to know, ran over our
old original stakes in many places.
This ought to establish the fact that Sir
Sandford's judgment was sound and his foresight remarkable.
In order to emphasize these opinions of
mine I must not forget to remark that in
the Fall of 1874, when on my way home,
passing through Quesnelle, I shook hands
with E. W. Jarvis and C. F. Hanington and
wished them good luck. They were fitting
out for a winter trip through the Smoky
River Pass, which had been reported as
They had got together some Indians and
about thirteen dogs of different denominations. Although suffering untold hardships
they accomplished that long trek across those
icy barriers and having eaten their last dog
arrived at Edmonton in the Spring of 1875,
very emaciated but alive. And I have no
doubt the report of these gentlemen eventually found its way into the blue books of
Canada, but their personal loyalty and bravery can never be over-estimated.
MY next appointment was as first officer
under a gentleman named Gamsby
who came from Perth, Ontario. Our destination was Waddington Harbour, at the head
of Bute Inlet, and our orders were to run a
line up the Homathko River which breaks
through the Cascade Range of Mountains
and empties itself into the sea at the head
of Bute Inlet. This was no child's pastime,
I can assure you, but a real man's job. The
summit of the Cascade Ridge is in many
places within thirty or forty miles from the
sea and therefore the descent is naturally
very abrupt and the waters a roaring torrent,
rushing madly through many a dangerous
[ 70 ] BUTE  INLET
The history of the first explorer of this
picturesque region, Alfred Waddington, a
surveyor, has long since been forgotten, but
we found traces of his work. It seems he
was engaged in the construction of a waggon
road and did actually blast out some of the
rock and build some crib work round the
bluffs, etc. We found evidences of this,
also the tracks of his mules down on the
The story told in those days (1875) related
how Waddington's men very unwisely fraternized with the Indians and their wives
rather too familiarly, the result being that
thirteen of them were massacred in one
night. The work then seems to have been
abandoned. Waddington came to Ottawa
and died of the smallpox. A strong posse
ef British Columbia Police went after the
murderers and about a dozen of them were
strung up at Kamloops after trial. Thus the
legend goes. We actually had one of the
murderers with us. He rejoiced in the name
of " Cult us Jim," which in Chinook means
absolutely useless, good-for-nothing. Managing to prove an alibi, this gentleman was
fortunate enough to escape the general hanging, and was quite proud of it, and often
related to us the bloodthirsty doings of the
others and how near he came to " Klatawa
Kopa Sagaalie Illahie," which is Chinook for
going up to Heaven—in English, for being
hanged. He was a picturesque scoundrel,
but an excellent pack animal.
These Homathco Canyons were very difficult to negotiate and many a time I was
slung up with a line under my armpits laboriously trying to find room for the tripod of a
transit on a narrow ledge of projecting rock
often many hundred feet above the foaming
whirling white waters of the stream below.
I spent two years on this route, and the last
season we actually located the line, carefully
running in all the curves, sometimes a very
hazardous occupation, accomplishing only
about forty miles of line.
I think it was in 1876, when we returned to
dear old Victoria and were enjoying the
generous hospitalities of the inhabitants of
that charming city, when a wretched attach6
of the Government Staff, in the shape of a
photographer named " Horetzky," burst upon
the scene in Ottawa and announced that he
had discovered a low practicable pass through
the Cascade Range and a fine harbour at
Gardner's Inlet, many hundreds, perhaps a
thousand miles, north of what is now
We were the only party available and were
ordered out on February 3rd to proceed
North in a little Government Lighthouse
Tender called the Sir James Douglas, to
Gardner's Inlet, to explore this imaginary
This was no picnic at that time of the
year and many were  the  prognostications
of disaster by experienced old Hudson Bay
officers, sea captains and others;  first, that
[ 73 ] r
we would never get there ;   and secondly,
that, if we did, we should never get back.
We were supposed to make a rapid reconnaissance and return in about six weeks. The
little steamer was loaded down to the rails
with a deck-load of coal for the trip, packed
in sacks, and when a sea came on board and
filtered through the coal, it was far from
pleasant in the little saloon below. After
bucking up against wintry northerly gales
and crossing Queen Charlotte Sound, and
then taking the wonderful inside passage,
now so well known, we arrived at last at
the Mouth of Gardner's Inlet, which, like
most of those Fiords, was about fifty miles
long and some eight or ten miles wide, its
sides  being  absolutely  perpendicular.
Twenty-five miles from the entrance we
struck ice, right across, good solid ice about
two feet thick. This settled it, the little
ship could go no further. We w toggled"
on to the ice that night, but before morning,
a gale of wind sprung up and cut us adrift,
attached to a few acres of ice, and we had
to hunt for a harbour.
Captain Morrison, our skipper, nosed into
a sheltered bay and we were soon snugly at
anchor. I thought I had seen it snow before
then but I found I had been mistaken. We
lay at anchor in that unknown bay for
twenty-one days, and it snowed, really snowed,
all day and all night, I remember, for the
whole of our enforced stay.
It was a good thing in one way, for it
provided exercise for the men, who shovelled
the decks clear, night and morning. We
were quite close to the rocky shore and every
night there was a wonderful orchestra provided by a pack of wolverines who lined up
like a nigger minstrel troupe and howled
out their welcome to us, keeping up the
ghastly chorus all night and disappearing
in the morning.
We passed the time as best we could,
waiting for the weather to moderate and the
drifting ice flows to get out of our way.
We lost one anchor, chain and all, sawed off
one night by incoming fields of ice two feet
[75] F
At last, one fine morning, we pulled up
our remaining hook and once more steamed
up to the edge of the ice barrier. There we
unloaded men and supplies and took to our
We made a rapid survey on the ice up the
river to its source. I had charge of the party
and my leveller was T. H. White, ce., who
has been for many years past the Chief
Engineer of the Canadian Northern Railway.
It did not take long to discover that the
alleged pass was impracticable. The river
we were following up suddenly developed
into a perfect cascade, coming pouring out
of the mountain side. I stopped the survey,
and three of us proceeded to explore this
waterfall, which, after some strenuous climbing, we found came from a lake a mile or
two in length surrounded by mountains, nine
or ten thousand feet high. The snow up
there was by actual measurement twenty-one
feet deep on the level shores of the lake
where we camped that night without tents
or other shelter.
Terrific avalanches had occurred and were
still in progress, not only reaching across
the lake, probably a mile wide, carrying
immense timber, huge boulders and everything else before them, but actually f backing up " when they struck the other side
and leaving perpendicular walls of snow and
ice forty or fifty feet high. The scene was
a perfect inferno and  defies  description.
In the morning, our huge fire of enormous
green logs had sunk out of sight and we
frizzled our bacon on the end of poles twenty
feet long.
After taking barometrical observations for
altitude, next day, and establishing the position of this awful proposed pass for the main
line of the Canadian Pacific Railway, I was
glad to escape alive and next night rejoin
my party on the main river. It was quite
evident that the photographer had been
deceived, and that this particular pass was
impossible ; and yet, as I said before, no
stone was left unturned to examine any
suggested problematical route.
Our duty done, it was our business to get
home. We did not know where our ship
was, but hoped when we again reached the
head of the Inlet we should find the ice all
gone and perhaps our little vessel lying
there waiting for us. But—alas !—although
it was now about the first of May, there were
no signs of a ship and except for a mile of
open water the ice was still there.
A few native Indians at the mouth of the
river furnished a few canoes and at i.o a.m.
one dark and gloomy morning, saluted by
the howling farewell of their half-bred husky
dogs, we embarked in the canoes, paddling
in the open water and dragging them over
the ice when we came to it. The ice by this
time was very rotten, and dozens of times
that day, when hauling the canoes over it,
the men would break through, until at last
about dark, we came to open water and saw
the most welcome sight I can ever remember,
the lights of our little ship.
Soaked through and tired after our twenty-
five miles alternately swimming and tramp-*
[ 78 ] BUTE   INLET
ing, scorched by the May sun, many half
snow-blind, as we wearily climbed up the
ladder over the side we were welcomed and
congratulated by the good old skipper, and
soon forgot our troubles and felt rewarded
for all our hardship and suffering, under the
benign influence of a good tot of Hudson
Bay Rum. The next day we weighed anchor
and, with no particular adventures, followed
the comparative calm of the " Inside Passage " and arrived at last safely in dear sunny
sleepy old Victoria on May 16th, three
months and thirteen days since we sailed.
We reported " all present," and then heard
for the first time that we were supposed to
be lost. Two Hudson Bay steamers, the
Otter and the old Beaver had been sent out
to] look for us, also H.M. Gunboat Boxer,
and we also had the honour of being prayed
for in the Episcopal Churches. A tired and
weather-beaten band was once more let loose on
a long-suffering yet sympathetic community.
The " Inside Channel " which I have mentioned was a remarkable piece of navigation in
those days. UnHghted and unbuoyed, sometimes very narrow, but always protected
from the sweep of the billows of the broad
Pacific Ocean, it was a pleasant passage up
I often wondered how these mariners
managed it, especially at night. There was
an ancient pilot I once sailed with, old
Captain George, who had been about twenty
odd years on that route, and once I ventured
to make enquiries about his methods of
navigation. He was a hard-faced, weather-
beaten old Englishman, very morose and
decidedly averse to conversation.
One night on board the Mexico, an American ship he was taking up to Inneau, Alaska,
the other pilot being " Dutch Bill," I waited
till midnight when old man George relieved
his mate, and being much interested in this
navigation business and thirsting for real
reliable information at first hand, I ventured
to interrogate him at the door of the pilot
house, just as | Dutch Bill" was retiring,
remarking to old George as he passed in a
kind of sotto voce, " Noath Ease bease arf
I said : " Captain, tell me how you navigate these narrow straits at night, without
any lights. Is it entirely by compass bearings, and time courses ? How else can you
do it ? " He glowered at me and evidently
did not like being bothered with such idiotic
questions. Then he condescended to say:
f Oh, you want to know that, eh ? Well,
I'll tell you. You know down in Victoria,
there's a whole lot of people, some on 'em
is blacksmiths, some on 'em is watchmakers,
some on 'em is parsons and the balance is
Pilots ! "
He then went into the wheel-house and
I retired below to meditate.
[81] ONE more survey in British Columbia
ended my experience in that Province.
In 1877, I was sent w^h Charles E. Perry,
ce. (son of the old City Engineer of Ottawa)
to locate about one hundred miles of line
down the North Thompson River to Kamloops. We split the party, Perry running
the trial line ahead, while I took charge of
the location.
This was the one and only soft job
I ever had in the Service. Everything went
smoothly. It was not a very difficult matter
to pick out a line down the valley of a river,
and we made rapid time, arriving at Kamloops much sooner than we were expected.
George Brunei, ce., of Ottawa, was coming
up from Savonna's Ferry to join lines with
us and when that was completed we returned
to Victoria in the Fall.
Having applied for a month's leave, Perry
and I with a young Scotchman, an Assistant
Engineer named Wallace, returned home via
Panama and New York. Arriving at San
Francisco from Victoria, we took passage on
the good ship Grenada, Captain Connolly,
bound for Panama. We put into a few ports
en route including Manzanilla and Mazatlan
on the Mexican Coast. The skipper was a
good little fellow and he and I became quite
friendly on the long hot passage of twenty
days down the coast; in fact, so friendly
that he made what I thought quite a favourable bargain with me, agreeing to furnish all
the whiskey on the trip, if I would provide
the ice and limes. This sounded reasonable
to my unsophisticated soul and I promptly
jumped at it.
I found out later, however, that whiskey
was comparatively cheap, whereas my ice
bill was $22.50 the very first week, as they
charged $1.00 a pound for that commodity.
He had me there.
However, I scored on the lime question.
We were in a sweltering hot, land-locked
Mexican harbour one day, when I was told
we were running short of limes. There were
dozens of big canoes filled with natives round
the ship and with the aid of a silver Mexican
dollar, worth about forty cents, I chartered
a whole family with their fleet to supply me
with limes for the rest of the passage. They
had literally filled my state-room to the roof
when the first officer interfered and said the
ship was getting too much of a " list" to
starboard.    All for forty cents in our money !
The landing at Panama was picturesque
and unique in those days ; the ships lay off
about five miles, then the passengers took
to the boats and, upon getting into the coral
shoals, were transferred to canoes, the last
stage of all being on the broad back of a
big nigger arrayed as one of " Nature's noblemen," which was quite embarrassing to the
Phew! It was hot and humid in Panama.
There was a war or a revolution going on,
we were told, and we saw a few nigger regiments parading the streets. We inspected
the oldest cathedral in America, the gaol,
lind the Botanical Gardens during our short
stay, and then crossed the Isthmus on the
dinky little railway, forty-two miles long,
for Colon, where we found a ship awaiting
us bound for New York and soon got cooled
off as we neared Cape Hatteras, where it
always seems to blow.
The following Spring I was sent up to Fort
Garry (now Winnipeg) on the first one hundred miles West. It was not yet a city and
I think contained only about 750 people,
including the Indians. I went up with Wm.
Murdock, C.E., and subsequently had charge
of parties under Marcus Smith, m.i.ce.,
District Engineer. The main line of the
C.P.R. was ori^
finally intended to cross the CANADA'S   GREAT   HIGHWAY
Red River at Selkirk, twenty-four miles below
the present site of the City of Winnipeg.
Thence the course was directly West and
North-West, South of Lake Manitoba, heading for Edmonton and the Yellow Head Pass
in the Rockies. The location and construction of % The First One Hundred Miles West "
had been constantly delayed and postponed
by political pressure and other influences.
Eventually the line was deflected from Selkirk to Winnipeg, directly South, and thence
West to Portage la Prairie which became
the main line of our great railway.
This narrative so far has consisted of preliminary surveys, adventures by " flood and
field," interspersed with anecdotes, but let
it be understood that during the last few
years construction under Government supervision had been proceeding steadily if not
rapidly. Contracts had been let from the
Great Lakes at Fort William to Manitoba,
Contracts 14 and 15, Sections A and B and
Contract 42, covering a distance of about
four hundred miles.
The heaviest rock work was on Section A
and B. Macdonaid and Isbester were the
Contractors, and the explosion of Nitro-
Glycerine and giant powder was now echoing
through the primeval forest, blowing out a
pathway for the great Transcontinental trains.
Contract 15 was in the hands of Joseph Whitehead, a sturdy old Englishman, who it was
said in his young days had the honour of
" firing up I Stephenson's first locomotive
in England. A contract of one hundred miles
East from Yale, up the Fraser River Canyons,
had been let to Andrew Onderdonk, and was
undoubtedly the heaviest piece of work on
the whole line.
IN 1881, after many negotiations with the
Government of the day, sometimes, I
have heard, of a most heartrending nature,
conducted by Lord (then Sir George) Mount
Stephen, the present C.P.R. Company was
The first Chief Engineer of the Company
that I served under was General Thomas L.
Rosser, a distinguished Southerner, and a
most lovable man. He was a tall, handsome,
swarthy Southern gentleman of the real old
type, had fought in the I late unpleasantness," a Colonel of the Guerilla Confederate
Cavalry Force, and at one time, he told me,
was opposed to his old college chum, General
Custer. They were at West Point together.
[ 88 ] 1
In one engagement, both Rosser and Custer,
together with their wives, were staying in the
same hotel, such were the peculiarities of
that war, and Custer frequently warned his
old class mate to be more careful and not
expose himself so much to the Northern fire.
General Rosser had been Chief Engineer of
the Northern Pacific and possibly on that
account was selected for his present position.
I had the luck to be appointed by him to
take charge of the location of the Western
lines of the C.P.R. I shall never forget my
first introduction and interview with the
General in his office at Winnipeg. After
asking me several questions with regard to
the geography generally, he waved his hand
across a map of the Continent and said in
that most charming Southern drawl of his,
" I want you to go out and develop this
Western Country."
This was quite a large order but it was
about the only one I ever had from him.
For several days we discussed " ways and
means " and he was kind enough to generally
fall in with my views as to men and equipment, but when it came to transport, I found
he was violently opposed to the use of the
horses and carts to which we were accustomed in that country.
" No, suh! he had too much experience
on the Northern Pacific," as he used to find
himself going into Winter quarters with a
thousand horses on hand, eating their heads
off, etc.
No horses for him. What then ? Oxen
and prairie schooners!
I shuddered at the idea of making a rapid
survey with such transport, as I knew nothing
of their management or their habits. We
argued the point until lunch time. The
reason he favoured oxen was that if you
were short of provisions you could always
eat them—and could always sell them after
the survey was over. I contended, but in
vain, that a Red River % Cayuse " was just
about as succulent and far handier.
It ended in my first party being outfitted
with ox teams, but it did not last long. The
[90] THE   C.P.R.   COMPANY,   1881
flies nearly drove them mad, they strayed
away for miles, delayed the work, and were
generally a nuisance, until at last General
Rosser saw the error of his way.
The Chief also refused me any saddle
horses, which I thought queer for a cavalryman and a good one, too,—but I bought
one for myself. I was on foot and met a
half-breed mounted on a decent looking black
mare about eight or ten year old. I asked
him, " How much for the lot ? "—horse,
saddle, bridle and blanket. He hesitated
and said that this was his Buffalo runner,
much prized by them, and then dismounted
and asked me to try her, which I did and
after a short gallop asked him again, " How
much ? "
He seemed puzzled about currency and
replied, " Nine hundred dollars." I had $180
in new bills which I promptly flashed before
his astonished eyes. I do not believe he
had ever seen so much money all at once.
He promptly accepted the roll and dismounted. Here was a horse, which I much
needed in my business and a real good
Mexican saddle and bridle, so I lengthened
out the stirrups, tightened up the sinch and
got on board.
Just before I started, while he was counting
his money, he looked up sorrowfully, patted
the mare's head, and said | Au re voir," but
catching sight of a short piece of rope hanging round her neck he said, " You don't
get the rope," so I willingly gave it up and
rode away, leaving him a pathetic little
black dot on that vast plain. I rode that
Buffalo runner hard all that year and she
died within a few hundred yards of where
I bought her, when I was returning in the
Fall, but we had run over four hundred miles
of trial line for the C.P.R.
The name of the French half-breed was
Jerome St. Luc and I subsequently hired
him to go on my party. This turned out
to be a good stroke of business on my part,
for Jerome was almost priceless. He had
been one of Riel's lieutenants in the 1870-
1871 Red River Rebellion, but was now
[92] THE   C.P.R.   COMPANY,   1881
converted. He was a perfect guide, could
track buffalo, or any other wild animal,
spoke English, French and a few Indian
languages. Give him an axe and an auger
and he could make a cart, wheels and all.
He was with me for about three years
and although sometimes excitable and very
hot-tempered with others, was always absolutely faithful and loyal to me. Going West
upon one occasion, the end of the track being
near Brandon, the train conductor came back
and told me that one of my men forward
was ■ fighting drunk " and raising a disturbance. I asked him " Why he did not stop
the train and put him off," which he finally
did, the pugnacious gentleman being deposited in the ditch.
We arrived that night, and the next
evening my friend Jerome presented himself
at the door of my tent. He never " Mistered " me, it was always " Sekkertan." He
appeared to be much annoyed about something and said in an aggrieved voice, shaken
with passion : " Sekkertan, who give l'ordre
for put me off de train las night ? "
I looked up and remarked, " J did."
He simply said, " Oh, ver well, dats all
right if it was you ! "
After a few hours5 sleep in the ditch, with
the whiskey all gone, he had arisen and
walked over forty-two miles to the camp !
I put all the other half-breeds under
Jerome and gave him charge of the transport,
and only once had any trouble.
We were many hundred miles West when,
late one night, these fellows were making
too much noise, fiddling and singing down
at their camp, while I was vainly trying to
write a report. I ordered their lights out,
which offended my friend Jerome, as he was
perhaps the chief offender, and next morning
he announced his resignation and wanted to
be paid off. I refused this arrangement, at
which he threatened to take one of the horses
and desert.
I had a brand new Smith & Wesson revolver that somebody had presented me with,
lying on the table, so I told him that if he
took one of my horses I would shoot him
[94] THE   C.P.R.   COMPANY,   1881
as I would a " train dog." He refused to
believe this at first, but after thinking it
over, he said, " Sekkertan, every tarn you
tole me someting, you do it, and by God !
I tink you do it now! "
The matter ended there, and Jerome was,
if possible, more faithful than ever. They
have a great respect for a man who always
keeps his word.
I found the French half-breed the most
useful man in that Western Country, but
you must handle him gingerly and often
let him have his own way in little things. He
resents discipline, but if he likes you, will
follow you faithfully as a dog follows his
master. He cannot endure the monotony
of continuous work and requires to be humoured by an occasional holiday. Jerome,
who was perfectly at home on the plains,
had the greatest admiration for me because
I could find my way with the aid of a compass, which to him was always a most marvellous mystery.
NOW bursts upon the scene the bulky
form of W. C. Van Home, "The
noblest Roman of them aH "—the Czar of
the C.P.R.
This great magician was a true railway
magnate. His biography has already been
ably written by Vaughan, but knowing him
intimately " on the work," I cannot help
contributing my little quota of admiration
for so remarkable a person. He was the
most versatile man I have ever encountered.
There was hardly any subject upon which
he was not well informed. He had a sharp
piercing eye and very little escaped his
notice. His manner was very abrupt and
his methods peculiar, but everything was
to the point. The word [ cannot' did not
exist in his dictionary. He was a born
artist and often when he was talking to me,
made sketches on his blotting pad, well
worth framing, but which he tore up as fast
as he drew them. His oil-paintings and
water-colours were numerous and of no mean
repute, and he was, too, a wonderful black
and white artist.
He was a lover of Art and a great judge
of ancient pottery, china and all things
beautiful. He could tell you their history,
and how, when and where they were made.
And, it goes without saying, if there was
anything about a railroad that he did not
know, it was not worth knowing. What
always puzzled me was how in the world,
in one lifetime, he had managed to accumulate
so much information upon so many subjects. One way I accounted for it was that
he never seemed to require any sleep. He
used to say to me, " Why do you want to
go to bed, it's a waste of time ; besides, you
don't know what's going on." He knew
every game of cards and played them all
well. I can remember after an all-night
session of poker, when the rest of us were
" dead to the world," at 7-0 a.m., Van Home
simply rubbed his eyes and went down to
the office, to begin a long day's hard work.
He had an iron constitution and did not
seem to require any rest. It appeared to
me that he was unacquainted with sickness
of any kind and could not understand it
in others. He was a tremendous worker
and expected everybody else to be the same.
Although he was always busy, he appeared
to have lots of leisure time, but I suppose a
perfect organization was the secret of this.
He detested all sycophants, and people who
were afraid of him; and when it came to
engineers, he rather admired the man who
had an opinion of his own and the courage
to give his reasons for daring to have it,
when he appeared before him " on the
Van Home always resented our " professional "  interference  when it  happened to
clash with his dictatorship, and upon one
occasion, after some discussion about the
location, he said, "If I could only teach
a section man how to run a transit I wouldn't
have a single damned engineer on the road."
The first year, under General Rosser, I had
about four hundred miles of preliminary line
run, as far as Moose Jaw Creek, when Van
Horne sent for me and announced in a most
autocratic manner that he wanted " The
shortest possible commercial line" between
Winnipeg and Vancouver, also that he intended to build five hundred miles that Summer, lay the track, and have trains running
over it. In discussing the projected location
I pointed out that such a Une would often
run through an infertile country, and made
many other objections ; but he was adamant
and said he did not care what it ran through.
He was evidently bound to get there. This
determination was no doubt the reason for
the more southerly route being adopted,
through the Kicking Horse Pass, which afterwards turned out to be so expensive though
[ 99 ]
no doubt of great scenic value. I doubted
if he could possibly construct five hundred
miles in a short Summer (it was then probably
about April), but he scowled at me fiercely,
and before I left " the presence " he informed
me that " nothing was impossible and if
I could show him the road it was all he
wanted and if I couldnt he would have my
scalp." Thus ended a short but characteristic interview with the great magician ! As
a matter of fact he did lay about four hundred
and eighty miles of track that Summer.
I could almost fill a book with different
amusing anecdotes of Van Home during his
reign in the West but will only relate two
or three, so eminently characteristic of the
They had a Purchasing Agent named Burdock from St. Paul, who came into my office
one day unannounced in his shirt-sleeves.
He had a fountain pen and three or four
pencils in one waistcoat pocket and a toothbrush in the other. In his hand he had a
sheaf of my requisitions for our Summer's
[ ioo ] SIR   WILLIAM   VAN   H0RNE
supply of provisions. In his mouth he had
a blue pencil and part of a plug of tobacco.
He rapidly checked over my long list of
supplies for three large survey parties for
six months, blue pencilling everything he
did not approve of, murmuring the while
sotto voce—" Beans, 3,000 pounds : 2,000
plenty." " Bacon, 2,000 pounds : Nonsense,
1,000 enough." " Butter, never heard of such
a thing," and so on down the list. When he
had finished he remarked, " There ye are,
Mister, I have cut that down about a ton
and a half." When this gentleman seemed
to be satisfied with the improvements he had
made in my menu, I calmly ventured to ask
who he was. He replied that he was the
chief Purchasing Agent for the Western District. I then enquired on what standard
he based the late rapid calculations ? He
said I he figured 'em out according to the
J7-nited States Army rations." I remarked
that we had no warriors of the United States'
Army on the C.P.R. surveys.
After a short discussion I suggested that
if that was the way my men were to be fed,
perhaps Mr. Burdock would go out and take
charge of them, but to this he objected,
saying " I aint no engineer "—I offered to
overcome his modest scruples by teaching
him all the engineering necessary in about
twenty-five minutes, if he could spare the
time. This suggestion seemed to puzzle him
and he gathered up his papers and hastily
withdrew. A few days later I met Van Home
in the corridor who asked when I was going
to start West ? I told him that I understood
a Mr. Burdock was going to replace me and
take charge of the location. At first he did
not see it, but after I had described Burdock's
visit, he said, " Where is that fellow, send
him to me, you clear out to-morrow morning
and I will attend to him." I went West
next day and it was several months after
when I heard the sequel.
The supplies we received that Summer were
never better ;  every luxury kept coming up,
and one fine day I met a man driving a pair
of horses and a brand new buckboard who
[ 102 ] SIR   WILLIAM   VAN   H0RNE
stopped me and asked for Secretan's camp.
I told him who I was and took him to the
camp nearby. He got down and without a
word hauled out all the latest English illustrated papers, two boxes of prime cigars
and a keg of old Hudson Bay Rum, which he
deposited on the floor of my tent. Then he
said, " Oh, you are Secretan, eh ? " (I hadn't
changed much) " My name is Burdock. Well,
how did you find the supplies this Summer ? "
" Everything very satisfactory," said I. He
took a good look at me and then, heaving a
heavy sigh, he said, " Wal, you are the man
that got me the gol darndest settin out I ever
had in my life. That man Van Home sent for
me and he said, ' Are you the God-forsaken
idiot who buys the provisions ? If so, I'll
just give you till six o'clock to-night to ship
a car-load of the very best stuff you can find
up to Secretan, the engineer at the front;
and see here, you can come back at six
o'clock and tell me you have shipped it,
you understand, but if you have not,
you need not come back at all, but just
go back to wherever you came from.' "
Van Home was always lucky and often
blundered into the right thing by sheer bull-
headed luck, when everything seemed against
him. I remember an instance of this when
one day he sent for me to his office in Winnipeg and rapidly revolving his chair squinted
at me over the top of his pince-nez, at the
same time unrolling a profile about one
hundred miles at a time, saying, " Look here,
some damned fool of an engineer has put in
a tunnel up there, and I want you to go and
take it out ! " I asked if I might be permitted
to see where the objectionable tunnel was.
He kept rolling and unrolling the profile
till he came to the fatal spike which showed
a mud tunnel about 900-feet long—somewhere on the Bow River at mileage 942. I
mildly suggested that the engineer, whoever
he was, had not put the tunnel in for fun.
He didn't care what the engineer did it for,
but they were not going to build it and delay
the rest of the work. " How long do you
think it would take to build the cursed
thing ? " he asked. I guessed about twelve
or fourteen months. That settled it. He
was not there to build fool tunnels to please
a lot of engineers. So perfectly satisfied that
the matter was settled and done with, he
whirled round to his desk and went on with
something  else,   simply  remarking,   " Mind
you go up there yourself and take that d d
tunnel out.    Don't send anybody else."
I asked for the profile, and when I reached
the door, paused for a minute and said,
" While I'm up there hadn't I better move
some of those mountains back, as I think
they are too close to the river." The " old
man " looked up for a second, said nothing,
but I could see the generous proportions of
his corporation shaking like a jelly. He was
convulsed with laughter.
Not being a wizard in the art of changing
the topography of the country, I did not
even leave Winnipeg, but wired up the particulars of the offensive tunnel to one of my
Divisional Engineers who was almost on
the spot, and personally, I took care to
avoid Van Home. I found the engineer
who had located that fatal tunnel and asked
him if it was possible to avoid it or if there
was any alternative line. I put many leading
questions to him but he was very certain of
his facts and assured me that there was no
possibility of taking out the tunnel, and
ended up by offering to bet his year's pay
against mine that neither I nor anybody else
could shift his line.
After this interview, it looked rather hopeless, until a week or two later I got a report
from my Engineer on the ground, describing
how on the previous Sunday, while smoking
his pipe and sunning himself on the side hill,
he thought he saw a little silvery cascade
coming into the Bow River about half a mile
below. He explored this crack in the foothills, followed the little creek, found it opened
up into quite a decent valley, sent for his
leveller, ran a hasty trial line over the summit,
found the grade was practicable, so kept on
till he rejoined the Bow River further up
and not only took out the objectionable
tunnel but shortened the  main line  some
mile  and  a half.    Such was Van Home's
[ 107 ] CHAPTER IX
DURING the Van Home epoch we were
frequently troubled with Mr. Lo, the
poor Indian. I don't mean the more Easterly aborigines—that wretched old unsanitary insect repository, who trailed along after
us through the woods, picking up the crumbs
that fell from the White man's table—but
the more picturesque scoundrel who flourished
on the plains in those days, Horse Indians—
Sarcees, Blackfeet, Bloods, Pagans, Stonies,
etc. Not only had we to contend with these
in our own country, but also we had a legacy
left by " Sitting Bull " Indians who wandered about in little war parties North of
the line seeking what they might devour,
including any poor little engineers' party
[io8 1 INDIANS
that they might happen to come across.
I had some rather interesting experiences
with these dusky children of nature.
I was running a rapid trial line West from
Moose Jaw, when it was reported to me that
Mr. Dewdney, the Indian Commissioner, had
taken it into his head to transfer a band of
Cree Indians, numbering about six hundred,
from their reserve at Cypress Hills, where
they were perfectly happy and content, to
the vicinity of Qu'Appelle, which they hated.
This procession was in charge of a couple
of mounted policemen. The Indian Chieftain rejoiced in the name of " Pi-a-pot,"
and when I heard they were passing Eastward a few miles South of me, I sent for the
old savage chief, who presented himself next
day with a wife or two and some of his court.
The usual interview occurred. After much
mis-interpreting I managed to explain to
this ancient mendicant what we were doing
there, asking him as a personal favour to
keep his ragged rabble away from my line
and not use my stakes for firewood, etc.
After much ceremony, which always used
to make me tired, but was often effective,
pipes of peace, presents of tobacco, tea,
sugar, and beads for the ladies, this noble
old wall-eyed warrior shook hands and solemnly promised to do everything I had
asked and not to allow his young men and
maidens to disturb the little wooden monuments of the future great Transcontinental
Not many days after this, a red-hot
mounted courier arrived in my camp with
frantic messages from Headquarters wanting
to know where in God's name the main line
of the C.P.R. had gone to. Construction
engineers and contractors' grading outfits
arrived hourly on the ground, but no line!
I then discovered that those wretched
ill-conditioned, lying sons of aborigines had
calmly pulled up about forty miles of my
line to show their contempt for the white
brother, and incidentally had taken a bite
out of the hand that fed them.
I had, of course, to back up and re-locate
[ no ] INDIANS
all this line and explain to the powers afterwards, offering to shoot all Indians on sight
in future if necessary and save the Government the expense of feeding them. My letter
to Dewdney, the Indian Commissioner, produced a decided sensation, and was duly
numbered and went through different Departments, thereby giving Civil Service clerks
something to do. No end of correspondence
ensued. Eventually it arrived at Riviere
du Loup, where Sir John Macdonald was
staying,  with his secretary,  Fred White.
I was looked upon by the Indian Department as a desperate murderer and not fit
to be trusted to command anything, all of
which was solemnly put on file with many
annotations, not very favourable to me, and
reported to Sir John Macdonald. I knew
nothing of this tempest in a Civil Service
tea-cup until months afterwards, when I
wrote Van Home that unfortunately " Dewd-
ney's only experience of Indians had been
derived from the calm contemplation of that
wooden image outside Roos's Cigar Store on
Sparks Street,  Ottawa."
One remark I remember on the margin
of the report by some wiseacre in the Indian
Office was this : " The threat to murder the
Indians if they destroy any wooden pickets
is simply atrocious. It is this spirit amongst
the white men which has caused the numerous
Indian wars in the United States and it
must not be allowed to show itself in Canada."
Oh dear, poor old boy!—how he must
have warmed up that office stool! Dewdney
used to describe his Indians to the Government as harmless agriculturists. I often
wondered why they wore a couple of bandoliers of 144 cartridges during their farming
My friend Pi-a-pot ended his career in
the Stony Mountain Penitentiary where he
died while serving a term after the Rebellion
in 1885.
We came across better types of Indians
than this old vagrant. The best type of
the noble red man that is left is the plain
Horse Indian. I struck some of them, to
my horror, once when I was on the Souris
[ 112 ] INDIANS
Plains. We had just escaped the tail end
of a mountain cyclone and all my tents had
been blown down and a few of my waggons
had been blown into a lake that was nearby.
It calmed down in the night and we got
straightened up a bit. Next morning as
I was indulging in dreams of home and
beauty, I was awakened by a subtle perfume
which emanated from a pipe at the end of
which was a right noble handsome red man,
who, squatting on the floor of my tent, was
quietly waiting for me to wake up. They
are sometimes quite polite, even if they are
going to murder you. I sniffed, and soon
awoke, sent for a half-breed Sarcee interpreter and ordered the haughty warrior to
get outside. Soon afterwards I was informed
that this distinguished visitor was no less
than " Rising Sun," closely related to " Sitting Bull," who requested an audience with
his eminent white brother. This was granted
and the usual silly Indian Pow-wow had to
be endured. This Chieftain was a tall, statuesque figure, clothed mostly in his right
mind with a few simple emblems tattoed
on his manly chest, over which a buffalo
robe was coyly slung.
He simply remarked through the interpreter that I had no business in that country
and would probably spoil his Fall shooting,
and he would much prefer me to get along
and go somewhere else where the game was
not so plentiful.
I invited the handsome old humbug to
breakfast and then having stuffed him full,
told him to fill his pipe and listen to the
words of wisdom which were about to fall
from the lips of probably the greatest white
chieftain in this hemisphere. I was certain
he did not know what that meant. I then
proceeded to tell this uninvited potentate
what I thought of him generally, though the
interpreter embroidered the text, with many
grins ; I said I was intimately related to
the great white mother, who possessed more
red-coated soldiers than his old dog did
fleas and who would not hesitate to blow
him off the map if he was not good. With
[ ii4 ] INDIANS
these assurances of my everlasting, undying
love for him and all his tribe, I wished him
good-bye, saying I never wanted to see his
ugly face again.
Having presented him with much flour,
tobacco, tea and sugar as a peace-offering,
I was much gratified to see him depart with
a haughty stride, mount his cayuse and ride
slowly away. I was congratulated by the
smiling half-breeds upon the diplomatic manner in which I had got rid of the noble chieftain, but—alas for all human calculations—
when one comes to dealing with the wandering nomad of the plains. The next morning
at dawn I awoke to find this gentlemanly
savage once more squatting by my bedside.
This time I was excessively peeved, but
discretion triumphed and sending for my
interpreter I first denounced him as the
greatest unwashed, hand-painted, lying im-
poster on the American continent, including
Texas and Mexico, telling him he had broken
our sacred contract by daring to show his
forbidding countenance again. I also remarked, with, I hope, judicial dignity, befitting one so closely related to the Royal
family, that the great white mother would
be greatly distressed at the wayward manners
of her red-skinned children and would probably disinherit the whole bunch, etc.
This speech, being interpreted to him with
any amount of half-breed embroidery, seemed
to have a soothing effect at first, but after
thinking it over carefully, with many grunts
he told the interpreter that he, too, came
of a proud and haughty race and was not
nearly such a rotter as I had depicted. He
did not want any favours from me, and what
was more, would not accept them, in fact
he did not admire my style anyway and much
preferred his own.
All he sought was permission to bring the
ladies of his harem into camp that they
might gaze upon the classic features of the
Caucasian ere we departed.
This being granted, that same afternoon a
loud jingling of spurs mixed with suppressed
giggling announced the arrival of the female
element in 8 Rising Sun's " entourage.
For feminine curiosity, they could give
their fairer sisters cards and spades and then
beat them at their own game. They poked
their noses into everything, chattered continuously and asked all sorts of fool questions.
I suppose that many of the younger damsels
had never gazed upon the fair features of a
white man before. They were particularly
interested in the culinary department, and
after being fed, hung about the cooks' tents
examining every detail.
A particularly beautiful bean-pot struck
the fancy of one old fat chaperone, who came
over to my quarters accompanied by her
sixteen year old daughter, who was attired
in one single garment, generally advertised
by the Department Stores as " white wear."
After manifesting much anxiety and making
many violent gesticulations, the old horror
had her daughter in one hand and the bean-
pot in the other, and so I gave my consent
to anything for a quiet life, and at sundown
they departed, bean-pot and all.
Imagine my—well, consternation—upon returning to my tent later to discover that the
wretched old russet-coloured chaperone had
missed her count and had forgotten the
dusky daughter, who, seated upon the ground,
appeared to be perfectly satisfied with the
proceedings. My young interpreter, in broken English punctuated with many grins,
informed me that marriage contracts in that
particular tribe were often entered into
through the medium of some such wedding
present and in my case even a measly bean-
pot would be considered quite legal.
Here was I hooked up for life to a dark
damsel whom I had never seen before, whose
language I did not understand and to whose
family I had not even been introduced, and
what was more embarrassing, the Chief Engineer was expected any day. What a predicament for a modest, innocent, unassuming
church member to find himself in. There
was my wild, unkempt, picturesque bridelet,
the untaught daughter of a savage race of
warriors, coyly enjoying every moment of
[ n8 ] INDIANS
my consternation, while I could only explain
the awkward situation to her through an
This gentleman was immediately despatched to the Indian camp and came back
with a brother of the maiden, who was then
returned to the paternal " Tepee " with my
compliments and regrets.
In the early days of the C.P.R. surveys,
through forests, across plains and over mountains, the Aborigine was always a factor to
be reckoned with and sometimes a serious
one. The harmless Eastern brand of Indians
had been reduced to a tribe of mendicants.
When they were not too lazy to breathe, an
occasional muskrat or mink skin gave them
a precarious existence, and when the white
man came along, the crumbs that fell from
his table were not despised by his red brothers,
who would often camp alongside of him and
laboriously move with him. With their well-
known instincts of true gallantry they would
kindly permit the squaws and a small retinue
of dogs, never absent, to carry heavy loads of
their belongings, while the haughty Chieftain
strode along in the van with nothing heavier
to carry than an old musket.
Of course, this class of Aborigine, principally of the Cree tribe, " cut no ice." He was
simply regarded as an indolent, improvident,
dirty, unreliable, lying son of the forest. All
Cooper's fairy tales fade into oblivion when
you encounter the real child of nature, so
different from the tall, lordly savage portrayed by the novelist, marching along,
arrayed in a bunch of feathers and a coat of
red paint, with his lovely consort by his side,
whose simple toilet, inexpensive, but effective, consists of a string of beads, a coiffure
made up with the aid of bacon grease, buckskin leggings and embroidered mocassins.
Alas !  how all is changed.
On the Western plains, of course, different
tribes are encountered, and Horse Indians
are invariably superior to the other decaying
specimens. Many a fine, tall, straight, upstanding, unreliable savage have I encountered, clothed simply in his right mind and
[  120 ] INDIANS
mounted upon the self-supporting little walleyed cayuse. The " Stonies " inhabited the
Rocky Mountain ranges and seldom if ever
came East of Swift Current Creek j then there
were " Sarcees," " Blackfeet," " Bloods,"
" Pagans " and many other hardy varieties.
According to the old Missionaries' and traders' stories, many fights have taken place
between the rival tribes. I remember well
some years ago, when camped at Swift
Current Creek, where I had just finished the
location of the C.P.R. main line, discovering
three or four bodies of Cree Indians recently
murdered and scalped by some hostile tribe.
A particularly perfect skull struck my fancy,
and as I was returning East next day I
annexed it for a souvenir. When the cook
had cleaned and sand-papered this headpiece, I scribbled the following verse upon
the dome of thought and put it under the
seat of my buckboard :
" Long have I roamed these dreary plains,
I've used up horses, men and brains;
And, oft from virtue's path I've strayed
To find a fifty-two foot grade.
But now, thank God, I'll take a rest,
Content, I've done my level best;
To this green Earth I'll say farewell
And run a Railway line through Hell."
That night there was an alarm of " Indians
Coming," and upon turning out we found a
bunch of Crees crawling through the long
grass into camp, all thoroughly scared by
" Blood " and " Stonies " who they said
were chasing them. They asked for our
protection, which was afforded, and the
whole cavalcade, men, women and children,
moved down next day with my party. We
saw nothing of the hostile tribes.
Being anxious to get down to the end of
the track as soon as possible (about 250
miles), I took one man and several spare
horses and jogged along ahead of my transport, making between sixty and seventy
miles a day. The second day out I met a
stranger, a typical down-East Yankee trader,
a long-haired, lantern-jawed specimen, driving an express waggon, piled up with all sorts
[ 122 ] INDIANS
of merchandise to trade with the dusky
savages. He was driving two ponies and
leading four others.
He stopped me and fired a volley of questions at me at once. He enquired particularly about the Indians, wanted to know if
I had seen any, whereabouts would he meet
them, if they were bad, etc. I told him that
they began to get real bad at Swift Current
and that they had killed several Crees at
that point to my certain knowledge.
This was the spot he was heading for.
He then wanted my opinion as to what
the probabilities were in his particular case.
I told him that according to their usual
destructive habits they would probably first
of all annex his ponies, then divide the spoils
on the waggon amongst them and most likely
take a few pot-shots at him as they rode off.
He seemed to be reflecting deeply, and a
change of mind appeared imminent, but a
thought struck him, and with his unmistakable New England accent, he drawled, " Wa'al
stranger, you come by there safe, how is it
they didn't do nothing to you ? " " Oh,"
said I, putting on a real cunning look and
at the same time reaching down under the
seat and hooking my finger into the grinning
skull of the late lamented: " Here is the
last son of a dog that interfered with me."
He tipped his old felt hat back, scratched his
shaggy red mane reflectively and said, " I
guess I could dew most as well with that
stuff back to Moose Jaw," then turning slowly
round, he trotted along behind me Eastward
[ 124 ] 1
THE location of a prairie town is often
more or less a case of luck, accident
or mystery. Sometimes a lonely squatter
attracts a few more agriculturalists to adjoining quarter sections and their solitary
shacks are the only little dots to be seen
on the landscape, when along comes the
busy little land grabbers with a bag full of
money, buys out the hayseeds, taking a
chance that the railway line will run through
" Somewhere's near," and proceeds to lay
out the land in streets, avenues and town
lots. In many cases he is magnificently
rewarded by the sale thereof, or else, if the
situation happens to suit the Railway Company, he is bought out by them and so reaps
the reward of his shrewdness or luck.
The two or three little shacks are soon
joined by enterprising pioneer hotel men and
storekeepers who at first stick up tents, to
be succeeded by brick or wooden buildings,
so that in a few short months the bare patch
of prairie assumes the appearance of a village,
rapidly blossoms into a town, with hotels,
churches, banks and stores, etc., and finally
aspires to be a city with street cars and all
the other luxuries of modern civilization.
Then the C.P.R. builds it a fine station,
and if the mileage suits, the place is made
a Divisional Point and receives the honour
of a name on the timetable.
The birth of Brandon was rather different
and is most interesting and not generally
General Rosser, Chief Engineer: John
MacTavish, Land Commissioner, and myself,
were driving West, one starry Spring night,
in search of a suitable place for the first
Divisional Point West of Winnipeg. We were
well ahead of the surveyed line and stopped
that night at a farmhouse on the North side
of the Assiniboine River. I forget the farmer's name, but he had been settled there
for some years and had about 320 acres. It
was an ideal site for a Divisional Point about
132 miles West of Winnipeg. The officials
had a long talk with the farmer, which lasted
nearly all night, until I understood an offer
was made on behalf of the C.P.R. Company
of fifty thousand dollars for the farm.
I fully believe that this honest son of the
soil had never even read about so much
money in books. The discussion proceeded
and some " wise guys " of neighbours and
relations were called in and consulted, till
at last, towards dawn, our genial host was
egged on to demand " Sixty thousand dollars,"
no doubt thinking that if his farm was worth
so much money he might as well get a lot
more.   The General thought otherwise.
I think the farmer was astonished and I
hope disappointed when the General ordered
me to have the horses hitched up. We ferried
across the Assiniboine River and after driving
a mile or two came upon the future site of
the City of Brandon on the South side of
that placid stream basking in the sun. I
received orders to return to the end of the
track and continue the location of the main
line, establishing the first Divisional Point
at Brandon.
The proposed City of Calgary received a
similar fate. Originally located on the East
side of the Elbow River by a syndicate which
had secured many acres, they failed to come
to a satisfactory agreement with the Railway Company, and although the track was
actually laid through their property, and
many town lots were sold, the speculation
was a failure, as the Railway people located
the station on the other side of the little
Elbow River and started a town of their
own which is now the City of Calgary.
The manipulations of the land grabbers
and town site boomers were not always
successful, and if they did make a lucky
selection, it seemed to me that their best
plan was to divide up with the Railway
Company. If not, they often found them-
selves a mile or two away from the station
and their town was either soon deserted
or became only a suburb of the real town
owned by the C.P.R.
He was young, handsome, English and
unsophisticated. It was in the early days
and I was bound West on top of a load of
horse feed to locate the main line from
Brandon West. The end of the track was
then Winnipeg. The roads were worse than
awful, waggons went axle deep in the rich
black alluvial soil, which was destined to
produce millions of bushels of golden grain
that in turn filled the coffers of the farmers
with golden dollars.
It took a week with heavy loads to make
the first town, Portage La Prairie, only sixty
miles. I was pulling out early one morning
when he appeared, armed with a double-
barrelled gun, a Winchester rifle, fishing rod,
tennis racquet and other agricultural implements. He informed me that he wanted
[ 129 ] fw
to be a farmer and asked me if I would take
him West. I told him to climb on board.
He went back to the little tavern where we
had stayed over night and reappeared with
a tooth brush that seemed to be the extent
of his baggage.
He was a gentle youth, yet garrulous withal
and prattled amiably as my four horses
struggled Westward through the mud.
Seventy-five miles more brought us to the
Assiniboine River, and the site of what is
now the City of Brandon where my engineering operations were to begin. My young
passenger was anxious to start his agricultural career at once, but as I had more important things to do, I introduced him to
an old-timer whom I met by accident and
told the gentle youth he must now shift
for himself, like Adam and Eve in the garden,
" the world was all before him where to
My camp was the only sign of human
habitation on these vast prairies. There was
the virgin soil waiting for the plough of the
[ 130 ] THE   BIRTH   OF   BRANDON
husbandman, millions of acres to be had for
the asking, nicely divided by the Government into 160-acre parcels called quarter
sections. The guileless would-be farmer was
generously instructed by the old-timer, who
no doubt relieved him of some of his impedimenta, not actually required for farming.
He was told that all that the regulations
required was that he should put up a small
hencoop on the homestead, made with a
few boards and plough a few furrows round
it, when he would immediately become a
bona fide settler and in due time, having
complied with a few more formalities, the
proud possessor of the land. Before I left
there he paid me a visit one night and all
seemed well with him. I departed in the
morning to run the preliminary line for the
great Transcontinental Highway.
It was perhaps about three months later,
when I had run out several hundred miles,
that the Chief Engineer came to the front
to pay me a visit, and asked me to drive
back with him over the line, a journey that
took several days.
Upon my return to the spot where I had
left my young tenderfoot, I was astounded
to find a flourishing town growing up and
the iron horse rapidly approaching Brandon.
Hundreds of tents lined what were afterwards
to be streets and avenues; hotels and
restaurants were going up as if by magic.
Steamers ran on the Assiniboine in those
days and several of them were rapidly unloading their passengers and merchandise.
All kinds of stores were opening up business
and the daily increase in the population
showed one plainly that this bare prairie
that I had left only a few months before,
was soon to become " quite a place."
I naturally thought of my friend whose
modest hencoop was located well in the
centre of this thriving business centre, and
after many enquiries and no end of trouble,
I ran across a stranger in a nondescript sort
of canvas edifice, part saloon, part billiard
room and part restaurant. Here I learned
from the stranger that my prot6g6 had
wearied of his lonely life and had sold out
to some land-shark his valuable location for
one piebald pony, one meerschaum pipe
(second hand), one german silver watch (out
of order) and seven dollars and a quarter
That night the embryo farmer paid me a
visit and began the conversation by saying :
u I suppose you think I am a d d ass.
Everybody else does."
I assured him that if what I had heard was
true, I was with the majority every time.
He then told me the particulars and I volunteered to try and get his homestead back for
him as no transfer papers had been executed.
I sent for the sharp gentleman who had tried
to take advantage of the guileless youth,
and after much bluffing on my part, the
pony and the other valuables were returned
to the disgusted owner and once more my
young hero was " Monarch of all he surveyed," or at least 160 acres of it.
I presented him with a choice collection
of very bad novels and advised him to sit
tight for the  next  few  months,   read the
[ 133 ] k
books and for recreation try to smoke himself to death with cigarettes, all of which
he promised to do, thanking me for my
It was about Christmas when I returned
for the second time, en route to Headquarters
at Winnipeg. The rails had crept Westward many miles past Brandon and when
I arrived at my initial point a real live town
was in full swing, good hotels, stores, churches,
graded streets, sidewalks, and all the many
evidences of a prosperous Western town.
Busses were running from the neat, white
brick station (which before was an ancient
box car), to the " Langham Hotel," no less,
and midst all this scurry and bustle it seemed
as if it would be quite a trick to find that
I searched in vain for the enterprising
proprietor, at first in vain, but later on discovered the original " Old Timer " in some
gilded saloon, who after partaking of a few
stimulants told me the cold, cruel facts.
It appeared that the young homesteader, a
short time after I left grew homesick, and
receiving a favourable offer it proved too
much for him, and he sold out, I lock, stock
and barrel' for three pairs of navy blue
socks (quite new), a second-hand concertina,
six packages of cigarettes, eighteen dollars
in real money and a steerage passage to
Thus ended the husbandman's chance of
a lifetime. Not very long ago after he got
cold feet, I happened to hear casually that
that same little pasture of his fetched over
eighty thousand dollars!
And thus was the City of Brandon born.
THE station surnamed " Secretan " did
not have a very distinguished career.
It was entirely neglected by the artful land-
shark and left alone in its glory, as I predicted it would be.
It happened in this way. Van Home said
to me one day in his usual impulsive manner
while rolling and unrolling many yards of
profile, " Where do you want a station named
after you ? " I modestly declined the honour
at first, but I think they had run out of
names, as they had been busy christening
Pullman cars, so I eventually selected the
most God-forsaken spot I could think of
to be named after me.
It is situated upon the summit of what
is known as the " Missouri Coteau" or
" Dirt Hills," a ridge 6oo~feet high and
forty miles wide, which extended across our
course and obstructed the passage of the
great national highway. This ridge had given
me a great deal of trouble in the location,
and necessitated, as my professional readers
will understand, a continuous maximum grade
of one per cent, for nearly twelve miles,
which was strongly objected to by the Company, but eventually adopted.
It was a barren wilderness, probably a
spur of the great American desert, full of
little alkali ponds and lakes, and covered
with " spear grass." I remember, in reporting upon the agricultural prospects of
this section, I said : "A desert, but might
be suitable for sheep." The next day, after
the report had gone in, one of my men, a
farmer by trade, told me " That there spear
grass is death to sheep." So I wired down :
" I take back the sheep." It was a difficult matter to find a line through there, and
I eventually followed the Buffalo trails and
[ i37 1 rzm
these wise, though wild, animals led me to
the lowest summit where the railway now
Van Home suggested some more attractive location for my station, and wondered
why I should pick out such a place. I told
him because it had given me so much trouble
and I felt sure would never amount to anything, and if anybody ever got on or off a
train at that station they would break their
And I actually remember reading in a
paper one day that a man while attempting
to board a train at Secretan, slipped and
had his leg cut off.
This is many years ago, but I understand
that my namesake still consists of a sidetrack and a water tank, surrounded by
scenery and several old tomato cans. Such
is fame ! But I suppose the honour of being
mentioned in the timetable ought to be
After many years, searching for a better
line, they reduced the grades by making
very deep cuttings at an enormous expense.
Before that there was hardly a locomotive
engineer on the road, when he had to cut
his train in half in order to get up that grade,
who did not sincerely curse Secretan. And
I do not think there will ever be a town
there until all the other places are used up.
BEING an Englishman myself, I hope it
will not break the hearts of any of my
English readers if I mention some of the
peculiarities of my countrymen.
I have met all sorts, particularly in the
West, and many of that genus homo known
as the " greenhorn" : thousands of first
class, well born, well educated, well inten-
tioned manly men, but absolutely useless in
a new country, also hundreds of " rotters,"
no use in any country. Then there was
the " Remittance man," usually a younger
son, without any prospects, a harmless casual
creature, who thoroughly enjoyed himself
every time the remittance arrived and was
no doubt horribly miserable while waiting
for the next.
Sometimes the Remittance men herded
together and made a " Jack Pot" of it,
when there would be a keg of rum and a
glorious jollification. Generally somebody
had some sort of a " shack " where the others
trailed along in and visited, and they did
what they pleased to call their own cooking,
and when the plates and dishes came to
an end they would have a general " wash
up " on Sunday, in which all hands participated, and start fresh again on Monday
morning if there was anything to eat. Somebody always had a saddle horse, or a cricket
bat and tennis racquets, and I think they
enjoyed themselves somehow while waiting
for the regular remittance. One of them
would dress up in most immaculate English
toggery and ride into the nearest town,
bringing out the mail, when they would all
devour the latest English sporting and illustrated papers. They were a care-free, happy
lot in those days, but seem now to have
I once had the luck incidentally to save
[ 141 ]
the lives of two helpless Englishmen who
would otherwise have starved or been frozen
to death. It happened in this way. I was
on my way East after a very hard summer,
locating the main line, when in passing near
a Hudson Bay Post at Qu'Appelle, I foolishly went in to get my letters, and there
found an order from General Rosser to go
to the mouth of Red Deer River on the
South Saskatchewan to discover what had
become of an engineer who had been sent
there to examine a river crossing and from
whom nothing had since been heard. It
was very late in the Fall and quite impossible
to take my whole outfit, particularly as the
prairie for 150 miles had all been burned
over and there was no wood or water. So
I decided to make a rapid attempt at it,
with a few horses and only one man. I sent
my party home to Winnipeg and with Jerome
St. Luc, described elsewhere in these memoirs,
a couple of carts and about half a dozen ponies,
started for Red Deer, via Moose Jaw, 150
miles distant. Forage and water were hard
to find the whole way, but these native
ponies are hardy and can live on next to
nothing and find it themselves. There were
occasional patches of snow in the gulches
that were useful in the absence of water,
and in four or five days we arrived at the
mouth of Red Deer River, which falls into
the South Saskatchewan.
I made a rapid examination of the topography and learned that the missing engineer
had trekked for Edmonton, as the Winter
was approaching. There were a handful of
land-sharks camped here, amongst whom
I found my two greenhorns, who had been
decoyed there that Summer in the belief
that the main line of the C.P.R. would probably cross the Saskatchewan at that point,
and they would make a fortune in town lots.
Hearing that I was about to go East next
morning they asked if they might come
down with  me.
I knew it was a tough proposition and at
first demurred, knowing that my methods
of travelling, to which they were unaccus-
tomed, were hard and rough—but at last
I consented to take them along. They had
two gaunt Canadian horses, with very little
grain to feed them on, and a spring waggon.
I started next morning at three o'clock,
an hour to which they strenuously objected,
wondering why I did not wait till the sun
rose ; but as it was getting well on to November, I had to make long drives, being about
six hundred miles from home.
My only rations consisted of Pemmican
and Hudson Bay Rum, with biscuits and tea
for a change in the menu. I remember
passing round a tin cup with a tot of rum
at four a.m., to the utter horror of my two
poor pilgrims who would have none of it.
They wondered what " my people " would
think of me for drinking "raw spirits" at
four o'clock in the morning. I reminded
them that they were not in London now.
Pemmican is undoubtedly the most portable
and sustaining food on earth. It was made
by the half-breeds in those good old days
when Buffalo were plentiful:—the meat is
cut in strips, dried in the sun, then pounded
into dust, mixed with the tallow, flavoured
with a few berries and tightly sewn up in
fifty-pound bags made out of Buffalo hide.
When frozen, you hack off a chunk with
an axe and either eat it raw, when on a
" trek," or fry it when in camp. This was
all a terrible novelty to my two tender-
feet, one of whom was an ex-professor of
Oxford and the other a retired naval
After running into a bad blizzard in crossing
the Salt Plains, I at last landed my countrymen at the Hudson Bay Post at Tonch-
wood Hills, and heaved a sigh of great relief
as I handed them over to the tender mercy
of the old Scotch Factor with my compliments, but not before one of those gaunt
giraffes of theirs had dropped dead in harness, for which they blamed me, although
we had only made about forty or fifty miles
a day. Having got them safely under cover,
I left the same night for Fort Qu'Appelle
where I got a couple of sleds or jumpers as
the snow had come, and hit the end of the
track soon after and all the comforts of the
Superintendent's private car.
A real jolly bunch of Englishmen once hit
Montreal in the early days of the gold rush
to the Klondyke and interviewed Van Home
at the C.P.R. Head Office. They were a
typical group of four ex-officers from Merrie
England, a colonel, a major, and two captains. The wealth of the Golden Klondyke
had attracted their fancy, and it did not
take long to assemble the necessary capital
for the venture, so that one fine day four
well-groomed Englishmen set sail for New
York and put up at the " Waldorf." After
many consultations over the walnuts and
wine, the overland route via Edmonton was
selected. Nothing like discipline, " deah boy,
dontcherknow." So our brave heroes divided
up into departments. The colonel took command, which was a sinecure. The major
had charge of the purchasing department.
One captain acted as supply officer, and the
other as director of transport. After having
sampled the hospitalities of the " Waldorf "
for several days, the commanding officer
notified his staff that they were now in
America; the supply officer, who was furnished with a list of the necessities required,
notified the purchasing department that under
the head of " S," he had come across " Stove,
cooking, American," hence, since they had
arrived in America, this was the place to
purchase the stove. So, at a well-known
hardware store, a magnificent cooking range,
guaranteed real American, was secured
(weighing something over a ton) at a fabulous
price, and shipped by the transport officer
to Montreal, " a town on the C.P.R. in
This being considered sufficient exertion
for one day, the quartette adjourned to their
hotel and sampled many curious cocktails
indigenous to the soil. The supplies for the
expedition had been purchased in London,
and although the expenditure was most
lavish, the outfit, no doubt, was generally
unsuitable. Money will do almost anything,
but a little experience mixes well with it
when you are going into almost a " terra
incognita" in quest of fortune.
However, here were our four heroes, safe
across the ocean. They weathered the perils
of New York, and departed for Montreal, the
metropolis of Canada. The portly magnate
of a great railway corporation sat in his
office at Montreal, behind a long black cigar ;
ever and anon he pressed a button that
summoned a trusty henchman to his side,
who would receive an order and depart as
silently as he came. Four visiting cards
announced the arrival of our Englishmen,
who were promptly ushered into the presence
of the great mogul.
He scanned the cards sharply, and swinging
around in his revolving chair, quickly scrutinized the visitors with a practised eye.
" Sit down, gentlemen ; glad to meet you.
Now what can I do for you ? " said the man
behind the cigar.
" Oh, really you are awfully good, but I
don't think there is anything you can do
for us. We've got everything we want.
Just thought we'd drop in and pay our
respects as we were passing through to
The colonel was spokesman for the party
of intrepid explorers.
" Oh, indeed, and so you are all off for
the Klondyke ? And what route are you
going to take ? "
% Oh, we are going by the C.P.R."
" Well, gentlemen, I may be of some
assistance to you in this. For instance, as
a matter of fact, it might interest you to
know that the C.P.R. does not go to the
" Ah, just so. Now, Charlie," turning to
the director of transport, " that's what I
always maintained. We have to change
carriages at some bally place—can't remember
now whether its Winnipeg or Quebec."
Charles thought it might possibly be Calgary. The other two distinguished officers
gave it up. The railway magnate came to
the rescue, and explained that the C.P.R.
[ 149 ] * ,-»
would be only too proud to carry them as
far as Edmonton, which was the end of
that branch.
" How do you propose going on from
there ? "   asked the great man seriously.
" Oh, that's easy enough. We're going
to get a lot of horses and snowshoes and
things. By the way, do you think snow-
shoes are better than those other Indian
arrangements ? You know, Harry, that
Canadian chappie we met on the ship told
us about; those, what's his names ? Mocassins, don't-cherknow ? We've ordered a
whole lot of tents, too."
The magnate, becoming interested, enquired whether they were well provisioned
for their proposed long and hazardous trip.
" Oh, rather," observed the commanding
officer, gaily, turning to the supply department. " George, just show him what we
are taking with us." Whereupon George
produced a small lozenge out of his waistcoat pocket, about the size of a pea, and
proudly handed it to the railway chief.
% Now, then," said the spokesman, " you
can't guess what that is," and in the same
breath excitedly, "That's a mutton chop !
Eh, what ? When we go into camp, you
know, just drop that harmless-looking little
thing into a cup of hot water, and in two
minutes it swells up and there you have a
mutton chop."
The magnate was much interested by the
enthusiasm of these misguided argonauts
with their condensed luxuries, but ventured
to ask how they would provide forage for
their numerous horses.
" Ah, simple enough. Show him one of
those other things, George." When, sure
enough, another lozenge was exhibited, this
time as large as a bean. " Now, then, sir,
what's that? Ah! ha! That's oil cake,
you know! Put one of those on a horse's
tongue, close his mouth, and in a few minutes
it swells into a good-sized ration of oil cake
—very fattening, and much better than oats,
you know. Saves carrying hay and grain,
too. One man can carry enough food for
twenty horses for a month in his waistcoat
pocket. Good idea, rather, eh, what ? Awful smart! Johnnie invented that. He'll
make all sorts of I oof' out of it."
Before leaving the head man of the greatest
railway corporation on earth, they got some
good-advice. He suggested that they should
proceed to Edmonton, where there was a
nice comfortable Hudson Bay Fort, then
pitch their camp some six or eight miles
ahead, and start in on the condensed mutton
chop tablets. Then practise walking in to
the Fort and back every day for several
weeks ; but by no means to get too far away
from headquarters and human help.
I was told that, after doing Montreal
thoroughly, the purchasing department being
in great demand, this joyful, guileless quartette arrived safely at Edmonton, where
carloads of English supplies awaited them.
Amongst other luxuries unheard of in those
latitudes were several dozen cases of champagne, also many hundred bottles of pickles
and sauces. The winter having set in, these
congealable commodities, of course, all burst,
except, perhaps, a few frappe cocktails saved
out of the general wreck. They did not
forget the advice of the Montreal magnate,
and having pitched their camp some distance
from the Fort, they took it in turns, sleeping
in a tent. Three of them would stay inside
the Fort, while the other poor devil who had
lost the toss would camp outside. This was
supposed to accustom them to camp life,
and with the aid of the homoeopathic chop,
inure them to the hardships of the trail.
What eventually became of these pioneers
I never heard. A good story was told of
their many eccentricities, for it appears that
when one of these intrepid adventurers tried
to put snowshoes on the after feet of a mule,
the animal objected and the operator had
several ribs stoved in. I suppose that the
party eventually broke up and meandered
back to England. They certainly never got
anywhere near the golden goal, although the
expedition cost many thousand good old
golden British sovereigns.
There was another rather pathetic case
that I recollect in Manitoba. He was a
retired British General who took up about
a square mile or so of land for farming purposes. The land was very stony with many
acres of boulders, which I heard he considered
a great advantage as the pirate who sold it
to him had told him that " there was stone
enough on it to build a house, barn and
stable " |  and he actually did build them.
This noble ex-warrior had some very original ideas about the general principles of
farming, and when it came to planting
potatoes, he developed an amazing inventive
genius that was calculated to revolutionize
the ancient methods then still in vogue.
He took a cart and had sharp spikes affixed
to the broad tyres of the wheels, just eighteen
inches apart. He then cut up a large number
of potatoes and, sitting in the cart, proceeded to arm each deadly spike with a
section of potato, the theory being that
this method would mean mathematical precision in the planting and a great saving
of labour and backache. All went even
merrier than the proverbial marriage bell,
as the General drove gaily down the ploughed
potato patch, followed by the giggling multitude of open-mouthed villagers.
That year they say the General's potato
crop was a marvel, and most miraculously
distributed; sometimes a magnificent plant
appeared, then an interval of ten or twelve
feet with nothing in sight, then a whole
bunch of vegetables and so on. It was not
what one would call a success from an agricultural point of view. The seed impaled
by the old General on the spikes sometimes
failed to come off at all or else half a dozen
concluded to come off at once. However,
he managed to dot the landscape with
flowering potato plants in a highly picturesque
and original manner, and gave his more
practical neighbours food for laughter, which
is something to be thankful for on a lonely
prairie farm.
On another occasion, he decided to paint
the bam red, but not by the old laborious
process of brush and paint-pot—Oh, dear
no !—that was far too slow—he would show
them. He mixed up several barrels of bright
scarlet paint and attached a hose with a
strong pressure behind it, then, armed with
a long brass nozzle, he proceeded to attack
the enemy.
But he must have been out of practice,
for his marksmanship was extraordinarily bad.
Occasionally he hit that barn right in the
midriff with gallons of the bright mixture,
and some of it stuck, but a good deal rebounded and painted the General himself
a bright scarlet. The surrounding crops also
received a generous coating and after the
engagement was over and the General ordered
the " Cease fire," the entire complexion of
the landscape was changed and decidedly
rubicund ; green cabbages blushed and yellow
corn was now of a ruddy hue. He painted
two or three of the dogs who failed to get
out of the way, and a few ponies who also
got under fire. All the trees within gunshot
received their dose, and when the General
had finished the whole farm looked like a
beautiful sunset.
In spite of all their peculiarities and ignorance, however, there were many hardy English pioneers in the early days who settled
in Canada and " made good" under most
disheartening circumstances. This is particularly true of the Settlers in the Eastern
parts, long before the " Wild and Woolly
West" was discovered, who had to clear
the land by cutting down the primeval
forest with an axe they had never seen
before ;—they probably called it " felling
the trees with a chopper." The descendants
of those emigrants from England are now
some of the very best American citizens,
and may well be proud of the deeds of their
ancestors who conquered the Canadian forest,
boldly faced the cruel winter, and made a
smiling home for their children.
Last, and least, we have, of course, the
"rotter," who never assimilates " with the
Colonials, dontcherknow," who knows it all
&nd   continually   reminds   everybody   that
" that isn't the way we do it at 'ome."
He is not a success here or anywhere else.
He is simply a nuisance. . . .
WE came across some extraordinary
characters in those days. I remember once meeting an amateur highwayman
who had been most successful in plundering
a stage coach.
He was certainly not a typical Dick Turpin.
He was an ordinary, smooth shaved, pale
faced, undersized cadaverous-looking, insignificant robber, the day I first saw him, but
he evidently had some nerve concealed about
his person. He was coupled up to a stalwart
Royal Northwest Mounted Policeman on a
C.P.R. train, bound East and he was about
to pay a fifteen year visit to the Stony Mountain Penetentiary.
I learned that he was a highwayman, and
discovered incidentally the facts relating to
his crime. His name sounded something
like Matthew MacGillicuddy, but of this
I am not positive, and they said he came of
a good family, being the son of an Archdeacon of the Church. He had served as
a private in the i Midland Regiment " during
the 1885 rebellion and subsequently took to
the more precarious occupation in which
we now find him. One fine Summer morning he rode over the Salt Plains on his
" Cayuse " and when near the western extremity of that desolate region, came across
the lonely camp of a respectable old Hudson
Bay officer. This gentleman having refreshed himself with the good things of civilization, not neglecting to pay his respects
at the shrine of old Bacchus during his short
stay in Winnipeg, was en route to his post
at Edmonton, accompanied by a faithful
servitor in the person of a French-Canadian
half-breed, and no doubt accompanied too
by a small keg of good old Jamaica Rum.
These two worthies after many miles of
[ 160 ]   DICK   TURPIN
travel, a good supper of Buffalo Pemmican,
several pipes and a few " night caps," slumbered peacefully beneath their blankets, sheltered by their little white tent sticking up
above the horizon, the only object upon the
Up comes my bold highwayman. Bang!
Bank ! Bang ! He fires three shots through
the tent, dismounts, opens the flap, and
demands the accumulated earnings of a hard
life-time. The much astonished Hudson Bay
Factor awakes, alarms his faithful henchman,
and after much search manages to unearth
two dollars, which the robber promptly rejects with scorn, cursing their impecuniosity.
The old Factor (of Scottish descent) then
offers a cheque on the Bank of Montreal,
which is of course refused, and the bold
highwayman gallops off, leaving the two
half-fuddled travellers to rest in peace.
Success  attended  our  hero  in  his  next
venture.    He crossed the bleak Salt Plains
and at daylight arrived at the Western end
where little groves of poplars are dotted over
[161] M
the prairie. The sun is about to illuminate
the landscape when he remembers that the
Prince Albert stage is due to pass that way,
and hies him to an adjacent bush. He has
not long to wait before the day breaks and
soon he hears the creaking of the wheels and
the hoof-beats of four horses. Behind his
cover he counts five men on the waggon, but
undismayed, out rides our bold warrior,
points his gun at the driver and commands
him to " Halt! " and to hold up his hands,
which the man does at once. He then orders
the passengers, four in number, to dismount,
and at the point of the pistol makes them
stand up in a row.
He then proceeds to tie their hands behind
their backs all the time talking to imaginary
accomplices, " Keep that fellow covered,
Charlie," " Never mind the driver, Bill, I've
got him," " Stay there, Ned, don't shout
till I tell you," " Keep your gun on that
chap, Harry, if he moves," etc., etc.
By this time our highwayman had impressed these poor citizens with the idea that
[ 162 ] DICK   TURPIN
the woods were full of desperadoes. He
then announced that he wanted a knife to
open the mail bags ; the gentleman on the
extreme right of the line had a knife, but
could not well get at it, as it was securely
tied up. He also had a wad of six hundred
dollars in the same pocket, but no doubt
being much impressed by the nervy little
robber and thoroughly scared to death he
weakly indicated his right hand trousers
In extracting the knife, the gentlemanly
footpad inadvertently pulled out the six
hundred dollars, which he immediately replaced, remarking : " I don't want any of
your money." He then proceeded to slash
open the mail bags and went through the
registered letters. He took a bottle of
whiskey from under the seat, gave all his
helpless victims a drink, took one himself,
and gaily trotted away, leaving them to
untie themselves as best they could.
He was caught a year afterwards and
arrested. Strange to say the person who
recognized and identified him was the very
man whose money had been returned.
I saw the prisoner when he was serving
his sentence in the Stony Mountain Penitentiary. The Warden of that Institution
being a particular friend of mine, I suggested
that he should introduce me to Number 149,
whom by this time I could not help regarding
as a modern hero, and, if not a leader, certainly a controller of men. He was somewhat paler than when I had seen him before,
although his ashen grey complexion, nearly
always so noticeable amongst convicts, only
seemed to emphasize his clear-cut Napoleonic
features. His glittering steel-blue eyes
seemed as calm, steady and fearless as ever,
and as he related the details of that memorable morning, when one little man held up
five of his fellows single-handed at the point
of the gun, I could not but admire his consummate coolness and courage, particularly
when at the close of his recitation he casually
remarked : " And, Mister, I don't mind telling you a remarkable thing, that gun I had
wasn't even loaded."
WRITING on the subject of strange
incidents in that vast Western Country, I am reminded of a cruel murder that
happened up North before the railway was
Not many years ago a broken-down Western American adventurer, an erstwhile cowboy, prospector, gambler, and tramp, ran
across a young Englishman who had a little
ready money and was game for anything.
It did not take long to convince this young
tenderfoot that up North in Canada there
awaited him untold riches in the shape of
mineral wealth.
The joyous free life of " the Prospector,"
was skilfully depicted, and after many libations a partnership was soon formed. The
American gentleman was to furnish the
experience, while the Englishman provided
the necessary capital. Edmonton was selected as the objective point, where a good
outfit could be obtained, then hey, for the
Rocky Mountains, where riches rivalling King
Solomon's awaited their pick and shovel!
The eager Englishman, delighted at his
good fortune in securing such a valuable
partner, was only too anxious to depart for
the scene of operations. So the pair lost
no time in buying a handsome outfit and a
couple of pack horses with the Britisher's
money, and were soon on their way to tempt
the fickle goddess.
Mile after mile was negotiated, over vast
prairies and muskegs, climbing hills, plunging
into deep valleys, swimming rapid rivers, and
battling against black flies by day and mosquitoes by night, and at last the partners
arrived at the foot hills of the great snowcapped range. With the exception of a few
straggling Indians, they did not meet a living
soul on their journey. The young English-
[ 166 ]   THE   MURDER
man was gay and garrulous, and after supper,
when their little tent was pitched, horses
hobbled, and a good fire built, he would
chatter away to his new-found friend, telling
him the history of his childhood and school
days in old England. The son of a parson
who was blessed with the usual " quiver full,"
he soon had to leave the parental roof-tree,
and, like many others, had picked out
America as the promised land of fortune.
This wholesome English boy, brought up
in gentle surroundings, young, strong, and
artless, had taken quite a fancy to this partner
of his, who was a much older man. Reticent
to a degree, he offered no confidences to his
English friend, but when the day's work was
done would listen patiently to the joyous
anticipations of the other, occasionally interjecting a remark on subjects quite beyond
the range of his more cultured but less experienced companion. He taught the Englishman many strange things in woodcraft,
how to swing an axe, set a trap, and throw a
diamond hitch, and so the weeks wore on
harmoniously enough as they wended their
way towards the land of wealth.
The long, cold, dreary Winter is past, the
white mantle of the snow is slowly disappearing from the foot hills, the welcome
Spring has come at last. Vast flocks of
noisy geese are swiftly making their way
North in great V-shaped formations, all day
and night the loud " Honk-honk ! " of their
leaders can be heard announcing their return
to northern feeding grounds. Green blades
of grass timidly poke their heads through
"the ice-encrusted plains. Birds twitter in
the sunlight, tiny streams begin to trickle
towards the great rivers, now starting to
break loose with a mighty roar, and Nature
seems to awaken from her long deep sleep,
stretch herself, and smile.
At the Fort all is bustle and excitement.
This is the season when " traders yawn and
the noble redman gives up his furs." In
groups of three and four the Indians congregate at their great annual bargain-counter.
Stealthily a tall aborigine approaches the
[ 168 ] THE  MURDER
counter in the Hudson Bay store, and to
the uninitiated, only accustomed to the
business methods of civilization, he looks for
all the world like a burglar about to secure
the family plate. Just watch him as he
silently stalks the company's clerk, who,
knowing full well the artful little ways and
manners of the noble savage, keeps his back
carefully  turned  towards  him.
The Indian, after a cautious look round,
puts his hand under his blanket and quietly
separates himself from a large beaver skin,
which he lays on the counter with a pronounced grunt, pointing up at the shelves
for something that takes his fancy.
If it is a dry goods transaction, the old
lady will most likely take a hand in it, and
when the urbane clerk has snipped off a
dozen yards of dress goods, she will contribute a couple more grunts to the general
conversation. The clerk then throws the
dress goods at the warrior and chucks the
beaver skin under the counter. This may
go on for a week or more. The clerk does
[169] mmam.
not say: " What can I show you next,
madam ? " or " This shade is very much
worn this Spring." He generally waits patiently with his back to the counter in the
most indifferent manner that he can assume,
apparently with the design of impressing the
native with the idea that he, the clerk, is
doing him a great favour by giving thirty
cents, worth of red flannel for a four-dollar
beaver skin.
Long lines of traders' carts are now to be
seen leaving the Fort, their wooden axles
screeching, as they wend their way eastward, heavily loaded with rich furs, destined
soon to grace the fair shoulders of many a
haughty dame, for, after all, nowadays it is
not a far cry from Red River to Regent
Languidly resting, with one elbow on the
counter, is a tall weather-stained stranger,
who seems to take but little interest in his
surroundings and hardly deigns to notice
the motley group of Indians, half-breeds,
and traders, passing and repassing him con-
[ 170 ] THE  MURDER
tinually. His unkempt beard, long hair, and
patched clothes show him to be a prospector
newly arrived from the mountains. He is
uncommunicative and alone.
For a day or two the stranger loafs round
the Fort buying a few necessities and trimming himself, as is customary upon reaching
the outposts of civilization, before setting
out on the long journey East. There were
no railways in those days out there. But
fate had decreed that he should not make
that journey, for even then the mysterious
hand of Providence, call it what you will,
was upon the collar of that lonely stranger.
The historian tells us that an old reliable
employee of the wonderful Hudson Bay
Company, possessed of all the instincts of
the trapper, thought he recognized the
stranger, and in his own mind identified him
as the partner of our young English friend
who passed through there not many months
before in search of gold. This garrulous old
gentleman communicated his belief to the
sergeant of police on duty at the Fort, who
in turn paid a visit to the stranger and subjected him to the " Third Degree," with the
result that the sergeant reported to his
superior officer that there were mysterious
circumstances surrounding the stranger's appearance in their midst, and that he had
consequently detained him. The stranger
was subjected to a series of cross-examinations, and acknowledged his identity with
the man who had gone North with the young
He said that after being together many
months, they had quarrelled and eventually
separated, the Englishman deciding to seek
his fortune alone, while his former partner
determined to return to civilization. While
these enquiries were being prosecuted by
the Mounted Police, a small band of Indians
travelling South came upon the signs of a
deserted camp, and noticed the remains of
a camp fire, much larger than usual. In
poking through the ashes they discovered
several metal buttons. There was a poplar
tree overspreading the spot, and one wise
[ 172 ] THE   MURDER
old squaw, looking up at the leaves on the
tree, sagely observed that " they had been
cooking much meat here," as she could detect
grease upon the under side of the leaves.
These circumstances were duly reported to
the police, and a couple of men were sent up
to examine the place, taking with them some
of the Indians.
It was an ideal spot for a camp, a poplar
glade, near a shallow pond or " slough."
There were the remnants of the camp fire
where the tell-tale buttons had been unearthed by the Indians. The ashes were
carefully raked away, and very soon the
charred remains of human bones were disclosed. The little pond was next dragged
and a sheath knife brought to the surface.
The police then utilized the services of the
Indians in draining the miniature pond, with
startling results. A small sovereign purse
was discovered, and this it was that told so
eloquently the dreadful tale of base ingratitude and murder. Swift justice followed.
The stranger in the guard room, although con-
fronted with these damning details, stuck to
his guns and denied his guilt. The circumstantial evidence was too strong. He was
tried, convicted, and sentenced to be hanged.
Then when the Springtime gradually melted
into glorious Summer, when warmth and
gladness smiled upon that Far Northern
country, just as the golden sun rose over the
distant foothills, a lonely, friendless, wretched,
pinioned murderer slowly mounted the scaffold, gazed heavenward for a moment, and
without a single word paid the awful penalty
decreed by British law.
I REMEMBER once travelling West with
William White, General Superintendent
of the Western Division in his car on an
inspection trip. When we arrived at Golden,
B.C., being rather tired of our own society,
I suggested that I should introduce the
sheriff of British Columbia, who was a well-
known character to me and everybody else
out there, for the amusement of Mr. White,
who was a stolid serious Scotchman, but had
a real sense of humour somewhere concealed
about his person. He was a fine type of
the old Railway man and had worked up
to his present position on the C.P.R. from a
Station Agent on the old Grand Trunk.
I had no trouble in collecting the sheriff
[ 175 ] gBgSBB^T^y^^^
and produced him after dinner to enjoy the
hospitality of the General Superintendent's
car. I remember him well; I can almost
see him now, a trim-built, grey haired man,
with a florid complexion, sharp steel-blue
eyes, who was always alert and resourceful,
a brilliant conversationalist, and ever ready
to give you the benefit of his marvellous and
numerous experiences. He had Baron Munchausen " skinned to death," and upon the
slightest provocation, this distant relative
of Ananias would reel off the most astounding
recollections. He had been a Mounted Police
officer in Australia, a Prospector, Miner,
Soldier, Sailor, Farmer and now held the
proud position of Sheriff, presiding over a
country with an area of many thousand miles.
He would talk by the hour and when pipes
were lighted and Fort Benton Benzine circulated freely he would paralyze the " tender
foot " with weird tales in which he was invariably the unscathed hero. He generally
addressed himself apparently to some imaginary Chairman and when the denouement of
[ 176 ] THE   SHERIFF
some blood-curdling lie had been reached, he
would look round the gaping audience with
a look of defiance in his steel-blue glittering
eye and with one hand on the hilt of his six-
shooter would glare at his astonished victims,
plainly saying, " Let some one of you fellows
dare to deny what I said."
It was in the heart of the Rocky Mountains
and wild animals were in fashion that evening.
Grizzly Bears had the floor. " Talking of
bears, Gentlemen," said the modern Munchausen, looking threateningly round upon
the assembled Company, " reminds me, as
you probably all know, when riding through
these hills I generally use a Mexican saddle
and always carry a horse-hair lariat on the
horn of my saddle. Well, sir, I was coming
along the trail the other day, not thinking
of anything special, when, sir, what do you
suppose I saw ahead of me ? A grizzly, sir,
yes, sir, the largest bear I ever saw in my
life ; on account of the roaring of the river
I suppose he never heard me coming ; well,
sir, it didn't take me a minute. I just
whipped off my lariat, and quicker than you
could say knife I had roped that bear. Now,
sir, what happened ? (Glaring round for the
least sign of unbelief) I found the lariat
tightening up, and, sir, looking down I found
myself horse and all^ sir, where ? Why, fifty
feet off the ground. Yes, sir, that bear had
climbed one of those tall Douglas Fir trees
and there I was. Well, sir, what did I do ?
(Pause, giving time for murmurs of wonder).
Well, sir, I just whipped out my sheath knife,
cut the lariat and dropped to the ground."
The old gentleman invariably told all his
marvellous yarns in the same fashion, asking
the phantom Chairman questions and answering them promptly himself. If any greenhorn ventured to hazard a guess at the sequel,
he would wither him up with one swift indignant scowling glance, and say: " No, sir,
I did nothing of the kind, I knew better "
and then wind up the oft-told barefaced
abomination in a blaze of glory.
One of his favourites, easily led up to
by any of the boys who had many a time
[ 178 ] THE  SHERIFF
and oft suffered under his bewildering romances, related to his experiences in Australia.
Apropos of nothing, the old prevaricator
would burst forth suddenly. " Well, sir,
when I was in the Mounted Police at Ballarat,
I had to take seven prisoners down country,
a matter of two or three thousand miles.
I only had a sergeant and two men with me.
Well, sir, after sixteen days and nights hard
riding, no sleep, mind you, sir, we were absolutely done out. My men couldn't stand it
any longer. Well, sir, what did I do ?
When we camped that night, I said, ' Give
me a shovel.' We dug seven holes, put the
prisoners in, buried to their necks, tamped
the earth round them, and then we had
supper and turned in; never had such a
delicious rest;—slept till daylight. Turned
out, sir, no prisoners to be seen, not a single
head—Wolves,  sir.    Yes,  sir,  wolves."
Another favourite one he used to tell was
about the early mining days. I think the
old Ananias must have been a " forty-
niner." " Well, sir, when I was a young
man trying to make my way up to the mines
in Australia, we never carried any tents,
the heat was awful and we simply threw
ourselves down under a gum tree at night.
We used a sheep-skin to sleep on. Well,
sir, I had a beauty, it must have been off
a freshly skinned sheep, but, sir, although
the wool was thick, the ground was hard,
and at first I couldn't sleep. I tossed restlessly about till nearly dawn, when gradually
I felt my bed getting softer, and softer,
quite springy, like a wire mattress. I fell
into a delightful slumber and when I awoke
the sun was high in the heavens, bursting
through the foliage of the enormous Blue
Gum tree and scorching my face. I looked
down and found that I was at least four
feet above the hard baked ground. Well,
sir, what was the reason ? Maggots, sir.
Yes, sir, millions of maggots ! "
A sigh of approval escaped from the interested gallery, and then the old Past Master
of the United Order of Independent Liars
would go on to remark :   " Well, sir, I was
[ 180 ] THE   SHERIFF
once up in the Caribou Gold Mines in the
early days, and after working our claim all
summer, somebody had to take the gold
down to the Mint. I was selected for the
job. It was just the beginning of winter,
but the snow was already very deep, so I
started alone on snowshoes with over sixty
thousand dollars in dust and nuggets on my
back. (The cheerful old prevaricator evidently forgot that amount of gold would
weigh over three hundred pounds). I made
good time, as I was a young mail in those
days, and soon arrived at the head of Kamloops Lake, fifty miles long, yes, sir, fifty.
What did I find ? The snow had disappeared
and the lake was glare ice. It was sixty
below zero. Well, sir, what did I do ?
Took off my snow-shoes and put on my
skates, started down that lake, sir, going
over twenty miles an hour. When I was
half way down I heard a noise behind me
like dogs barking, took a look over my shoulder—what did I see ? A pack of wolves, yes,
sir, wolves, over fifty of them coming after
me like mad, their eyes staring out of their
heads and shining brightly and their red
tongues just as plain as I see you. In a
second I knew what to do. I suppose I was
fully five miles off the land, but I could distinguish the figure of a man working in a
garden near the shore. I turned and skated
like a man will skate with a pack of hungry
wolves after him, and getting closer every
minute, too. Got there just in time, sir,
I could almost feel their hot breath on the
back of my neck. The man was hoeing
potatoes. Threw down my pack, pushed
the man over, seized his hoe, and faced the
wolves—killed over thirty of them, sir. Yes,
sir, over thirty, I said, and the rest ran away."
Mr. William White's solemn Presbyterian
countenance, after holding its own during
the recitation of this procession of bare-faced
lies, which I had often suffered under, now
broke out into a bewildered smile. I do
not think he had ever encountered such a
finished Munchausen. The Sheriff was invited to have a drink and another cigar and
[ 182 ] THE   SHERIFF
escorted to the platform. We said farewell
to the Prince of Prevaricators and were on
qut return journey before morning.
THIS gifted engineer came suddenly
into the limelight in 1881.
He was imported by Van Home and left
his native lair at Minneapolis to explore the
Selkirk and Rocky Mountain ranges to find
a pass for the great Trans-Continental highway. Strange as it may seem, nearly every
pass had been already discovered by Sir
Sandford Fleming's engineers, but this fact
did not deter the indefatigable Major, who
proceeded to discover them again. The Kicking Horse Pass in the Rockies had been well-
known since Palliser's time, and the pass
through the Selkirks, now known as the
Rogers' Pass, had been explored and condemned by Walter Moberly, C.E., who also
[ 184 ]  ' MAJOR   ROGERS
turned down the Kicking Horse Pass, before
the gallant Major was ever heard of. The
current story of the Kicking Horse discovery
by the Major was to the effect that upon one
of his scouting expeditions he wandered up
the Kicking Horse River armed with his
favourite compass and aneroid barometer,
and having travelled up stream to within
four miles of the summit, he returned to
the Columbia River and reported that a
two per cent, grade was feasible all the way
down the Kicking Horse. But, alas !—from
the point where the Major turned about, the
stream rose 1,100-feet in four miles and a
half, which put his two per cent, grade out
of business.
If he had gone on a few miles further he
would have found this out. When we attempted to locate the line in the Spring on
a two per cent, grade, it was of course found
to be impossible, the result being that a
temporary grade of four and a half per cent,
for over four miles was constructed and
operated, with three safety switches, and
with the heaviest engines on either end of the
trains, for many years, until the line was
eventually lengthened by putting in a double
loup and two long tunnels at enormous expense, thus reducing the grade to two per
The Kicking Horse Pass was adopted, in
spite of this heavy grade from the summit
down, we are told, because, when the Major
wired his report of a feasible grade, the name
of " Kicking Horse" was cabled over to
London, got on the English Stock Exchange,
and stuck, so the Directors made the best of
it and with the permission of the Government
operated that almost impracticable grade for
many years. The Rogers' Pass in the Selkirks was another expensive luxury necessitating many miles of snowsheds, but now all
that is changed by the construction of the
Connaught tunnel, over five miles in length,
which cost the Company many million dollars.
I only met the little man once, and that was
under rather peculiar circumstances.
He was what we called a " rough and
[ 186 ] MAJOR   ROGERS
ready " engineer—or rather " pathfinder.''
A short, sharp, snappy little chap with long
Dundreary whiskers. He was a master of
picturesque profanity, who continually
chewed tobacco and was an artist in expectoration. He wore overalls with pockets
behind, and had a plug of tobacco in one
pocket and a sea biscuit in the other, which
was his idea of a season's provisions for an
His scientific equipment consisted of a
compass and an aneroid slung round his
neck. Thus was he arrayed when I met
him, but minus the biscuit. I was winding
up the season's work very late in the Fall
and was camped on the high banks of the
South Saskatchewan River, near what is
now known as " Medicine Hat." I had a
good, up-to-date engineer's location camp
with plenty of horses and waggons and the
best of tents and other equipment. I always
believed in cleanliness, order and discipline
When possible, and my camps were generally
kept neat and tidy. A day or two before
I met the subject of this chapter the ice had
formed on the South Saskatchewan River,
and one fine afternoon it was reported to me
that a rabble of ragamuffins had been sighted,
trying to cross the thin ice.
This party of starving scarecrows was
finally identified as the van of the distinguished Major's survey party, in fact, I think
the remains of them, trying to get home.
They were hungry and in rags, and were
headed by the Major himself, the worst
looking long-haired ruffian of them all.
When I discovered who he was, I introduced myself and of course took the weary
wanderers in to camp, gave up the best and
newest blankets to them, fed them all on
the fat of the land and entertained them for
two or three days till they were rested, and
then sent them East in four-horse teams,
During the time I was camped on the
Saskatchewan, awaiting orders, I had employed the men, for sanitary reasons, in
leaning up the camp. The sand used to
blow into the tents, so I utilized old gunny
sacks, which, when sewn together made
excellent carpets. I also did a little shooting
on my own account, and our larder was well
stocked with fat Mallard ducks, prairie chickens, geese, crane and other delicacies. So
when the noble Major arrived, half starved,
I was able to surprise his stomach.
Shortly after he left, I received orders to
return to Winnipeg, and when I got down,
General Rosser, the Chief Engineer, told me
that Major Rogers had given me a very bad
reputation. He told the General (who fortunately was my friend and didn't believe
him) that he had stayed at my camp and that
I was living like the Czar of Russia and would
absolutely ruin any Railway Corporation in
the world. He said I had all my tents carpeted with Brussels carpet, that I lived upon
roast turkeys and geese and many other expensive luxuries, unheard of in the cuisine
of a poor unsophisticated engineer, etc., etc.
Thus did the Major bite the hand that fed
him! Rosser and I had a good laugh over
his ingratitude, and I forgave him because
I imagined that the poor little man had never
seen such palatial splendour as my tents
with the gunny sack carpets, swept out
daily, and my mess tent with a real table
and wholesome, well-cooked food upon it.
He still had the plug of tobacco and biscuit
idea. I explained to General Rosser that
the expensive game which I was able to
offer my distinguished guest was all shot by
myself with my own gun and ammunition,
thus saving the Company untold wealth by
neglecting to eat their bacon and beans.
I clip from a newspaper the following extracts from an article headed:
" Major Rogers and his Time."
This is decorated with illustrations showing:
(i) " The house Major Rogers lived in."
(2) " Watch presented to Major Rogers, of
Rogers' Pass fame, about 1885."
* Major A. B. Rogers, who discovered the
Rogers'   Pass,   the   first   feasible  route
through the Rockies to the Pacific Coast."
The article begins thus :
[ 190 ]
" One of the most difficult tasks in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway
was to discover a way through the Rocky
Mountains. A number of explorers had made
attempts to find a way, but it remained for
Major A. B. Rogers to discover the most
feasible route, the route that was chosen and
is now known as Rogers' Pass."
Then follows a lengthy eulogy of the many
wonders performed by the renowned Major,
probably written for some local paper in
the place the hero was born. Of course, the
fact that the so-called Rogers' Pass is not
either in or anywhere near the Rocky Mountains did not enter the writer's head. The
paper goes on to say that in recognition of
the valuable work done by Major Rogers,
the directors of the Canadian Pacific Railway
presented him with a cheque for $5,000 and
a watch flatteringly inscribed.
Furthermore it says :
" Evidently Major Rogers was of a more
poetical than financial temperament, for he
carried the cheque in his pocket for several
[ 191 ]
years, and he only cashed it when his friends
of the Canadian Pacific insisted that he should
do so."
Some are born rich, some inherit wealth,
while others have riches thrust upon them!
A good story is told about the Major and
Van Home. The Major had a horrible reputation for being very niggardly in supplying
his survey parties, the old " biscuit and plug
of tobacco " habit being ever present, and
there were many complaints and frequent
Van Home said: " Look here, Major,
I hear your men won't stay with you, they
say you starve them."
" Taint so, Van."
" Well, I'm told you feed 'em on soup
made out of hot water flavoured with old
ham canvas covers."
" Taint so, Van. I didn't never have
no hams!"
So much for Major Rogers and his two
well-discovered mountain passes.
THE three most important executive
officers of the Canadian Pacific Railway at this time were W. C. Van Home,
general boss of everything and everybody :
T, G. Shaughnessy (now Lord Shaughnessy)
general Purchasing Agent, destined to be
President, and I. G. Ogden, Auditor. Ogden
was the man behind the pencil, who manipulated figures and dealt in millions without
turning a hair. Incidentally, I might mention that Mr. Ogden was an ambidextrous
marvel and could write with both hands at
the same time, I believe, and could also add
up a couple of columns of figures simultaneously. They were a wonderful trio, difficult
to match.
The firm of Langdon & Sheppard, of St.
Paul, Minnesota, had the contract for the
construction of some eight hundred miles
of the main line. Langdon was an old
stonemason of Scottish descent, and Sheppard
was an engineer, not a bad team to build a
railway. They sublet most of the grading
and covered the ground so rapidly it was
difficult to get out of their way, with Van
Home everlastingly driving them forward
in his ambitious determination to finish five
hundred miles that year.
I have heard grading outfits passing my
camp in the night before the line was actually
located. Everything was on the rush from
morning till night and all night long. We
had never seen the like in Canada before.
Long lines of heavily loaded waggons wearily
pursued their Western way with supplies
for sub-contractors.
The organization of this great contracting
firm was almost perfect. They sent in supplies for their subs in a most lavish manner,
as they well knew that without the sinews
of war the battle could not proceed. Hundreds of camps strung along for hundreds
of miles, thousands of men, mules and horses.
Everybody busy, lots of work for all. About
this time, my chief, General Rosser, resigned
and was succeeded by Mr. James, late of the
old Grand Trunk Railway, an Englishman.
James was a long, lean, goodnatured fellow,
a thorough Britisher and a true sportsman.
He and old Langdon used to make periodical
trips to the front, which I suspect was their
only holiday. They always had the latest
sporting weapons and shot everything in
sight from a gopher to an antelope. Often
they got lost in trying to chase some beast,
but when they found my camp, after a long
drive, from the end of the steel, they were
like two school-boys and exhibited the bag
they had collected on the way up with great
pride. James would produce a couple of
prairie chicken, alongside of which Langdon
would solemnly lay down an owl; then
James would extract a few fat duck that
Langdon would cap with a gopher and a
couple of wretched badgers or a poor little
coyote that had fallen a victim to his prowess.
Nothing escaped them if they could hit it.
One day James and I were alone, Langdon
having gone ahead in another waggon. I
sighted an antelope skimming along on a
ridge quite a long distance off, and pointed
him out to my enthusiastic sportsman. He
had a Henry rifle, and promptly jumped out
of the waggon, loaded, and adjusted the
sight. I think it must have been at least
five hundred yards, and although the poor
animal was on the dead run, having noticed
us, to my surprise he dropped it. It was, of
course, a pure accident. We drove over to
where it lay and found it was shot plumb
through the head, breaking the base of his
horns. This spelt victory for the Chief Engineer, for when old Langdon came along
with a few prairie chickens, all James did
was to point proudly to the carcase of the
antelope and offer to present him with the
head as a souvenir to take back to his home
at St. Paul.
They were a brace of good old sportsmen.
The line was now covered with graders,
and contractors' camps were strung out for
hundreds of miles. Tracklaying swiftly followed, and though in those days they had
no tracklaying machines, the rapidity with
which it was done was astonishing.
Grant, a seven foot giant, was in charge of
this work with a gang of about 125 men.
Winnipeg was the base of supplies, and construction trains ran on a regular schedule.
Each train contained material for exactly
one mile of tracks, so many cars of rails
and fastenings, ties, telegraph poles, and
bridge material when required. It all worked
like clockwork. These trains, loaded in the
Winnipeg yards, came up to the front regularly on time, were rapidly unloaded. The
empty train backed out, and the ties were
pitched on the prairie and loaded on the
waggons which were waiting for them at
the end of the track. They were then distributed by hand, rails were handed along
by the men with the iron car, followed by
the spiking gang ; and in less time than you
could possibly imagine another mile of the
great railway was completed. While all this
was taking place on the plains, work was also
proceeding in the mountains. A tote road
was built through the Kicking Horse Pass
to bring in supplies, and contracts were let
for the heavy rock excavation and tunnels.
Along the bleak North shore of Lake Superior the heaviest kind of work was also
being rushed to completion.
I was often amused during the track laying
on the plains at the sight of the Indians
who would arrive apparently from nowhere,
simply   appearing. Squatted   on   their
haunches in double rows, they would take
in the proceedings, only occasionally emitting
a grunt of half-concealed surprise and admiration as the " Fire waggons" as they
called the engines, slowly pushed the steel
rails to the front. I often wondered what
thoughts penetrated the dusky domes of the
savage warriors as they saw those two little
bands of steel slowly but surely creeping
westward across their old hunting grounds.
They would sit for hours patiently watching
the wonders of the paleface, and then when
evening came, they would fade away, in
the dusk, and go home to relate to their
families that they had seen thousands of
white men, springing up like blades of grass
on the prairie. And what puzzled them
most was that these white men had no squaws
and papooses with them.
The regularity of the arrival of these construction trains at the front, upon which so
much depended, showed the perfect organization of the operating department at the
base, which was then under Mr. Egan,
General Superintendent. The number of
miles of track laid in one day varied, but I
believe old Donald Grant once accomplished
close upon five miles, which was said to be a
record. And so the shiny steel snake wiggled
its way across the old home of the Bison
whose bones lay bleaching in its path.
When we were on survey and location
before this army of graders and tracklayers
arrived, we had good sport of all kinds.
There was plenty of game, both big and little,
from a buffalo to a badger. The last buffalo
I shot was at Swift Curreht, some six hundred
miles West of Winnipeg, probably about the
last left in Canada. There were three cows
calmly grazing on the opposite banks of the
Creek, and I got two out of the three, the
other one ambling away. It was not at all
exciting and more like shooting domestic
cattle in a barnyard, but we needed the
the lost dog and a bear hunt
UPON one occasion during my explorations, I had a curious adventure with
a strange dog.
I was often alone, riding ahead of the line
(we were several hundred miles West of
nowhere) and this day, right ahead of me,
I spotted a good sized dog, also alone. He
had his nose to the ground and seemed to be
intent upon scenting some North and South
trail. He was some sort of mongrel, but
quite a decent looking dog. As I rode up
he wagged his bushy tail and fraternized
with my horse in quite a friendly manner.
I knew there was not a single living human
being within a radius of a hundred miles
or so from where I encountered that lonely
looking dog. I rode on and he followed
me and seemed delighted at his discovery.
When I returned to my main camp he proceeded to make himself very much at home
and after I had fed him, curled himself up
comfortably at the foot of my bed. Some
of the men tried to pet him, but in vain, he
would have none of it, in fact resented their
friendly attentions with a growl. He took
no notice of anybody but myself, and followed
me day after day.
One day, while exploring the shores of
" Old Wives' Lake," accompanied as usual
by my faithful unknown canine friend, I
sighted a herd of antelope in the near distance. I had always believed that no dog
ever known could catch an antelope, but
nevertheless I decided to try the unknown
wanderer. I dismounted and getting hold
of him between my knees tried hard to point
his muzzle in the direction of the grazing
herd, but instead of joyfully pursuing and
catching them as I fondly hoped, to prove
or break the theory, he refused to look in
[ 202 ] THE   LOST   DOG   AND   A   BEAR   HUNT
their direction and did nothing but whine
and try to lick my face.
I was disgusted with his want of sporting
instincts and cursed him for a base-born
mongrel, but at last, after pointing his nose
towards the unsuspecting antelope, I gave
him a swift kick, at which he disappeared
like an arrow shot out of a bow pointing for
those antelope. I mounted my old pony
and leisurely followed the frightened herd,
now being pursued by their strange enemy.
Within less than a mile I caught up with
my friend. He was mounting guard over
his victim, a fine buck antelope with a
broken hind leg, a neat piece of work, thereby
disposing of the theory that a dog could not
catch an antelope.
I soon despatched the poor animal and
we had antelope steak for breakfast next
morning. A week or so after this event,
while riding ahead as usual, followed by my
unknown friend, I noticed that he seemed
to be much troubled in his mind about
something, continually sniffing and looking
about him, while running ahead of me.
Suddenly he stopped dead, then, with his
nose to the ground, gazed for a minute due
North and with his tail up and ears laid
back trotted off in that direction.
I whistled and shouted in vain. He never
even looked round and disappeared into
space as mysteriously as he had arrived.
" Where he goes or how he fares
Nobody knows and nobody cares."
The dread monotony of survey life was
occasionally relieved by the unexpected. One
day when riding alone ahead of the transport,
I sighted an object which at first I mistook
for a harmless domestic cow, but of course,
upon reflection, I realized that this was impossible, as we were not near civilization of
any sort.
I soon discovered by the snort of my little
" cayuse" that the object in front of us
was a large-sized black bear. This gentleman seemed to be amusing himself by going
round and round in a circle, and before he
had noticed my approach, I turned about
and retreated towards the head of the transport cavalcade now approaching. It did not
take me long to gallop back and stop that
noisy procession.
I took my finest revolver and two reliable
half-breeds, one armed with a shot gun and
the other with a puny little pistol that he
fancied, and the three of us started ahead
in pursuit of Bruin, well mounted and eager
for the fray.
We found the gentleman still revolving,
until he sighted us, when he decided to escape.
I had no idea that a bear could run so quickly.
The enormous leaps he made were wonderful
and it was all we could do with our ponies
to keep up with him. I emptied my revolver
at close quarters, the others did likewise,
but still the animal plunged ahead across the
open prairie apparently unhurt, until he
struck a poplar bluff, or small thicket, which
we of course surrounded. This gave us and
our horses a breathing space, until our friend
suddenly appeared again and headed far
across the prairie to another small patch of
poplar. Here we rested for a few minutes,
thinking he was not hurt and would soon
come out and resume his wild career, but as
he did not reappear I went into the little
clump of trees on foot, and following the
blood-stains on the dried leaves soon discovered the gentleman, who had given us
such good sport, in sad distress, standing
on his hind legs with his back against a tree
and with his mouth wide open.
It did not take long to despatch him, and
signalling for my two half-breeds, we dragged
out the carcass. Unfortunately, we did not
reckon on the attitude of our horses, which
had been left outside and were quietly grazing.
If there is anything those horses are afraid
of, it is a pig and a bear, so that when we
arrived with our prize, two of our saddle-
horses stamieded at once.
I had th) luck to catch mine and rode
back for a cart in which we transported Mr.
Bruin,   to  the  great  glee  of  the  grinning
half-breeds.    One of my officers pretended
[ 206 ] THE   LOST  DOG  AND   A   BEAR   HUNT
to be very fond of wild untamed meat, and
so I was able to recommend a bear steak
that night for dinner, but after being chased
for over an hour, I fear that steak was not
a success.   I certainly did not touch it.
That animal took a lot of killing and when
he was skinned, the fact was disclosed that
he had been hit in about a dozen places,
so that the hide was entirely ruined, for it
was riddled with bullet holes. He was shot
almost everywhere but that did not seem
to stop his speed. He weighed over four
hundred pounds.
I WAS once asked to deliver a lecture upon
the subject of the 1885 Rebellion, but
failed to face the music. Instead, I wrote
up my personal recollections of a few incidents
which I thought might amuse the audience,
incidents that occurred during the latest
Canadian Civil War in the North-West,
where I had the honour to serve on the Staff
of the late Major-General Sir Fred Middleton,
as Second-in-Command of the Transport.
This regrettable disturbance began in the
month of March, 1885. I was in the Stony
Mountain Penitentiary at the time (not a
resident but a guest of my friend the Warden,
Colonel Bedson), when the news arrived that
Mr. Riel had declared war against the Cana-
[ 208 ] 1
dian Government, and had succeeded in
inciting the half-breeds, by most marvellous
promises, resulting in the first shot being
fired at a skirmish which took place at Duck
Lake, a small trading post quite near Fort
Carlton, where a detachment of the North-
West Mounted Police were stationed. Major
Crozier was in command, and with a handful
of men, and a few civilian Volunteers, was
attacked while endeavouring to remove some
supplies to Fort Carlton.
I forget the actual number of casualties,
but they were very serious, and I remember
my friend, Major Moore, of Prince Albert,
lost his leg, and several of the Prince Albert
Volunteers were killed.
Major Crozier then retired on Fort Carlton,
and Mr. Riel and his half-breeds returned to
Batoche. This was the news we got at
Stony Mountain, and I immediately drove
into Winnipeg where the news was confirmed.
All was excitement in Winnipeg, and everybody wanted to enlist in something. My
friend, Major Jarvis, was in command of the
Winnipeg Field Battery, and I promptly
" took the shilling." By nightfall I was a
full-fledged Gunner, although the only uniform I managed to get was a forage cap
about the size of half a dollar. I may say
that my experience in the Canadian Militia,
with the exception of a few annual camps,
has been " Active Service." I joined the
58th Regiment many years ago, and after
a few training picnics was promoted to be
four different Staff-Sergeants, drawing about
a dollar a day more than the Colonel.
There were no muster parades in those
days, which accounts for this overlooked
irregularity. I had the luck to serve with
this Regiment—in one of my numerous
capacities—during the Fenian Raid (of, I
hate to believe it, 1871), and was present at
Eccles Hill, or Trout River, or some such
Frontier place, where our forces succeeded
in killing a real Fenian, everybody under
arms that day claiming the honour. However, after the enemy was buried, and a
cairn of boulders erected over his remains,
his mother arrived the next day and took
him away.
But let us get back to Winnipeg, in March,
1885. General Middleton arrived and put
up at Government House. The Hon. John
Schultz was the Lieutenant-Governor. The
90th were called out, the Winnipeg Field
Battery, and I think some cavalry, in fact,
all the Militia Corps available. Gunner Secretan, with his little forage cap on, was being
daily drilled between drinks. The day of
Middleton's arrival I received a telephone
message from my friend Colonel Bedson to
meet him at Government House, to consult
with the General about the organization of
the Transport, and after discussing the matter
several hours, Colonel Bedson agreed to take
charge, if I would go with him as Assistant
Transport Officer. But here was a dilemma !
I forgot to tell them that I had been sworn
in as a Gunner, and was naturally expected
to swab out guns. Between them they got
over this difficulty. I got my discharge that
afternoon, and while we were on the train
with the General, before daylight I was
promoted and gazetted in " Field Orders "
as a full-fledged " Major."
We arrived early in the morning at Qu'
Appelle, which was the railroad base of
supplies for our Column, and began at once
the organization of the Transport, by securing
all the horses in the country fit for service,
waggons, forage, etc., establishing Depots
along the line of march as far as the South
Saskatchewan, and in I think less than three
days the Column was able to advance.
The Depots were established ten miles
apart, and named generally after some prominent officers, telegraphic communication
was secured, the transport waggons told off
in divisions of ten, under a head teamster,
and a head waggon master appointed, with
four assistants. The Column advanced in
good order, Scouts, Cavalry, Artillery and
Infantry, making the astonishing marching
average of a fraction over twenty-two miles
a day, which was considered quite remarkable
even   for   regulars.      Indeed,   the   late   Sir
Adolphe Caron, who was then Minister of
Militia, told me that when he was in London,
after the Rebellion was over, Lord Wolseley
was much surprised at the endurance of the
men and considered the performance almost
marvellous, particularly in the bad condition
of the trails, which we must recollect at that
season (early Spring) were in an awful state
—ice, snow-drifts, lakes of ice-cold water
to go round or wade through, mud, and every
conceivable obstacle.
However, the Column pushed along and
at night we managed to have the Transport
up, and there was not one single night on
the march that the Column was without
tents, blankets and regular rations. Every
day soon after the noon halt, a waggon
master rode ahead with a camp quartermaster and selected the site of the camp.
The ground was quickly staked out by the
Engineer Officer, and when the troops
marched in at night each arm knew exactly
where to go. A zareba was formed by the
waggons, directed by the Transport Officer,
and this usually took about twenty minutes,
and then the cooks got busy, tents were
pitched, picquets posted, guards mounted and
the day's work was over.
This daily routine continued till we arrived
at Humboldt, over two hundred miles out.
Here we halted for one day for a breather,
and here it was that I first made the acquaintance of Captain Haig de Haig. The
Headquarters camp was always pitched in a
square, and this fine afternoon, being busy
in my tent, I heard the merry jingle of chains
and spurs, the present arms of the Sentry
outside, and, unannounced, my bold Haig de
Haig burst into my tent.
The first thing he did was to produce a
little red note book and introduce himself
as Captain Haig de Haig, of the Royal Engineers, of Halifax. He then proceeded to
inform me that England in the past had invariably lost all her wars through the damned
stupidity of Transport Officers, that the way
we were carrying on was Suicidal, Suicidal,
Suicidal! I ! He was a rather nervous, pale-
faced looking duck and seemed much excited.
He said the first thing to be done was to
corduroy the Salt Plains. This little piece
of landscape is about forty-two miles across,
and as there were no trees in the vicinity,
I did not condescend to discuss the insane
But he said, " If you don't do it at once
you will not be able to get any supplies
hauled up, and the troops will all starve to
He then catechized me about the weight
with which my waggons were loaded. I said,
after consulting last night's telegraphic report, " 1800 pounds." " Ah," said he, " Now
I want to know what you would do if two
horses couldn't possibly haul it ? " I suggested reduce it to 1,000. " Very good,"
said he, " but if they couldn't move 1,000
pounds ? " " Well, cut it in two." " Well,
supposing you found that could not be
moved ? " " Thipk I would try four horses."
"Ah I now this is where I have you. What
would you do if four horses couldn't haul
500 pounds ? " " Well, I think I'd shoot
'em! "
He stared at me in a half-dazed puzzled
sort of way, and buckling on his belts said
suddenly : " Where's the General ? Where's
the General ?    Where's the General ? "
I looked as solemn as an owl and said :
" I don't know." " What! do you mean
to tell me, Sir, you don't know where the
General is ? "
I assured him that I was afraid the General
was acquiring bad habits, subversive to all
discipline, as lately he had got into the way
of going out without asking my permission.
Then he knew that I was insane, and
starting madly for his horse, galloped off,
followed by his orderly.
He found the General and told him he
had been talking to one of his Transport
Officers, who was evidently a lunatic, but
he had explained the seriousness of the situation to him and told him what had to be
done. The General, however, advised him
to throw his little red book in the first river
he came to, and to leave the Transport
Officers alone. As the old Gentleman very
properly observed : "Haig, they have brought
me over two hundred miles so far, I don't
know how they did it, and I don't intend to
ask them ; but this I do know, when I say
" March" they march, and when I say
" Halt " it's halt, and damn me, Sir, I don't
want to know the details."
Next morning we were on the march for
Clarke's Crossing, South Saskatchewan River.
It was my custom to stay behind to drive
up the stragglers for the first hour or two,
and I met Haig riding down the long line
of teams. He said, " Do you know I've
been talking to your men, telling them how
important it is to keep closed up ; as we are
now in the enemy's country, etc., etc., and
do you know I find they are quite intelligent."
I said, " Could you point him out ? Because, if any of them show the slightest signs
of intellect, out he goes. That is why I wear
these orange striped riding breeches, we have
to do the thinking for the whole bunch."
He looked puzzled again.
Another thing I said: "I am sorry you
have been talking to them, because every
man has printed instructions pasted in his
hat, to take no notice of anybody except a
Transport  Officer."
He said he had never seen such a queer
Service in all his life, and galloped wildly
to the front, remarking:
" You don't seem to realize that you are
in the enemy's country." To which I replied :
" My dear Haig, I know the enemy, he is a
personal friend of mine and would not think
of attacking my Transport without consulting me." This sort of thing went on
Eventually we arrived at Clarke's Crossing.
The river is 1,000-feet wide at this point,
and a cable scow ferry had calmly operated
this crossing for years. But the rebels had
cut the cable and the scow had disappeared.
One night at mess the General decided to
separate his Column and send a force under
Lord Melgund, his Chief of Staff, down the
West side of the River. I think it was I who
suggested that Captain Haig was the right
man to cross this detachment, being an
Engineer Officer. The genial old General
fell at once into this idea and gave the necessary orders.
Haig always applied for two hundred men
as a fatigue party on the slightest provocation, and accordingly always got them. Unfortunately he had never seen a Cable Ferry
operated, and as the Rebels had cut the cable
and let go the scow, he was up against a
rather novel difficulty. The ice was rushing
madly through the river and the prospects
were certainly not inviting for a mad, married,
or Methodist Royal Engineer. However, he
ordered his two hundred fatigue party, and
undertook the job.
Poor old Haig !—He reported it " Impossible ! "
The General appealed to his old Transport
standby, and we rose to the occasion, and
upon the condition that Haig and his men
should be removed, we actually guaranteed
to cross the General's forces before daylight
next morning.
The cable having been cut by the Rebels,
we had to pick up the slack and make fast
to an improvised " dead men " or " post " ;
then we had to get hold of the scow six miles
below and tow her up to the crossing, when
it was an easy job to ferry the General's
half column (under Lord Melgund) across,
including the guns, much to the surprise
of Captain Haig de Haig.
After the events at Fish Creek, where we
had fifty or sixty casualties, it was necessary
to re-ferry the command, and as usual,
Captain Haig was requisitioned. He reported
an " impenetrable forest." I may say that
my old Canadian teamsters slashed it down
in three hours, and after fixing the same old
cable again on two trees, we once more
brought the Column together.
After the main trouble was over, and the
General with  a handful  of infantry,   some
scouts and cavalry, moved up to Fort Pitt,
our old friend Haig was still on deck.    I had
several River Steamers requisitioned, and in
command of the Transport. It was quite a
problem to transport this whole force safely
down to Selkirk and Winnipeg, and then
East to their respective Headquarters. We
decided to make arrangements with the Lake
Winnipeg Navigation Company to place their
boats and scows at our service. We had
several steamboats of sorts at Port Pitt, and
in spite of our friend the A.Q.M.G., managed
to accommodate all the troops, barring Boul-
ton's Scouts and some cavalry horses, which
went overland.
We took them from Fort Pitt down the
North Saskatchewan, via Cedar Lake to
Grand Rapids, and from there on board flat
bottomed scows, towed by the Lake Winnipeg
steamers to Selkirk, where many Eastern
Regiments were disembarked and transhipped
to their homes, the rest going to Winnipeg.
It was in March, 1885, when our little war
broke out and then, as ever, the great Transportation Corporation came to the front.
The line was far from complete, especially
along the North shore of Lake Superior where
many gaps existed, but this did not deter
Van Home from going up to Ottawa and
offering to transport the Eastern troops
which had been ordered out over the gaps.
This was done with rapidity, but with some
hardship. Many sleighs were provided and
the troops driven over the ice where the
gaps in the line occurred, to be transferred
to the waiting trains West of Winnipeg.
Regular trains were of course running and
the soldiers were taken in comfort as far
West as Qu'Appelle, which was the military
Supply trains were constantly on the move
taking provisions up to the front with wonderful regularity, hence we suffered no hardship from want of rations. As before remarked, I was Assistant Transport Officer
to Sir Frederick Middleton, who commanded
the force. We first struck the rebellious half-
breeds and Indians at Fish Creek on the South
Saskatchewan River, where they gave us a
hot reception for three or four hours, being
concealed in rifle pits dug in the steep banks
of Fish Creek. Our casualties that day were
about fifty-two killed and wounded. In the
afternoon the enemy retired to Batoche, a
small village down the river, leaving behind
a few dead men and about fifty dead ponies.
Our hospital arrangements were rather primitive, but the doctors performed numerous
difficult amputations on the field with great
skill, considering the means at their disposal.
This delayed the advance of the Columns
until we could arrange to send the wounded
down to the base hospital, when we continued
the advance on Batoche, where, after three
or four days' fighting, the enemy surrendered
and we captured Mr. Riel, their leader, who
was afterwards tried, convicted and hanged
at Regina.
We then proceeded to the relief of Prince
Albert, a town on the North Saskatchewan
River, where the residents were in a great
state of excitement and fear and very glad
to see the soldier boys. The next point we
headed for up the River was Battleford,
where the Indians had been very threatening
and troublesome, burning houses and generally pillaging the community, most of the
inhabitants being gathered into the barracks
by the Mounted Police.
The next danger was expected to come
from a brave Indian chief who rejoiced in
the name of " Poundmaker," whose reserve
was some forty miles from Battleford. But
Middleton frustrated this warrior's intentions by sending a courier to his reserve with
a curt message notifying him to present
himself with all his minor chiefs at Battleford, informing him that if he did not comply in a given time, he, Middleton, would
march on the reserve, and blow him and his
whole tribe off the map. This had the desired
The surrender of " Poundmaker " was most
picturesque. A few days after he received
the General's message, the old warrior and
his whole retinue appeared and an audience
with Middleton was arranged. He was a
splendid specimen of an Indian, a little over
[ 224 ] *
six feet, and straight as an arrow, handsome
and dignified, every inch a typical Indian
It was a glorious summer day. The old
General with an interpreter at his side,
surrounded by his staff officers, all in full
uniform, more or less weather-beaten, after
a six months' campaign, was seated in the
only chair we could find, while the Indian
Chief arrayed in full war paint and decorated
with feathers, a gaudy coloured blanket
loosely thrown over his shoulders, faced him,
squatting on his haunches, Indian fashion.
On each side of him were many young Indians,
arranged in a semi-circle, all squatting on
the ground.
The Pow-wow lasted for an hour or two ;
murderous deeds committed by the tribe
were related by different witnesses, which
seemed to amuse the younger Indians immensely, even the murderers themselves, who
grinned and giggled when they listened to
the interpretation of some of their devilish
deeds. They had killed several of my drivers
and stolen their horses. I recovered several
of these horses, and remember a pair of white
horses they had stampeded which were
painted a brilliant scarlet when we got them
As the palaver drew to a close, " Pound-
maker " arose and in a most dignified and
lordly manner stalked solemnly over to the
General and offered his hand, which, of course,
the General refused, practically telling him
he could not shake hands with such a murderous old scoundrel, or words to that effect.
A short sharp command from a Police officer
and the whole batch of Indians were under
arrest, handcuffed and marched to the Barracks, headed by their noble Chieftain, much
to their surprise. They all had a puzzled
look and it seemed to me as if they had
expected to be rewarded instead of punished.
This practically broke the back of the
rebellion. " Poundmaker " was tried for sedition or some such offence and sentenced to
two years in Stony Mountain Penitentiary,
where I often saw him afterwards. The
young murderers were all sentenced to be
hanged and about a dozen were executed
together at Battleford, all in a row. They
approached the scaffold, laughing and singing
and smoking cigarettes.
General Middleton now moved up the
River with a small Column to Fort Pitt,
where an Indian Chief called " Big Bear "
had been amusing himself at the expense
of the Hudson Bay Company and a few
scattered white settlers. Some of this tribe
had murdered two French Catholic priests,
and then had turned their attention to the
Hudson Bay Company's store, which they
sacked and partially destroyed. " Big Bear "
sent word to the Factor, Mr. W. J. McLean,
to bring his wife and family into camp or
they would all be killed. McLean could not
defend himself and wait till we came to his
relief so he had no alternative but to join
the savages, which he promptly did. 1 Big
Bear," fearing the arrival of the troops, then
took to the woods, dragging his wretched
prisoners with him—men, women and little
children. They tramped for many weeks
through the bush, occasionally dropping most
pathetic messages of help along the broad
trail they were making, as there were nearly
a thousand of them altogether.
Soon after the Battleford episode, the
General went up to Fort Pitt, and sizing up
the situation, at once started with a small
force in pursuit of " Big Bear" who was
heading due North into a most impossible
country full of lakes and swamps and heavily
timbered. We followed the old scoundrel
for over fifty miles, but had to give it up
and return to Fort Pitt.
The crafty Chieftain, knowing we were on
his trail, at last changed his course and
turned South-East, and when attempting to
cross the river at Fort Carlton, he was caught
by the Police and like his confrere, got two
years in the Stony Mountain Penitentiary,
where he died. " Poundmaker " served his
sentence or nearly so and went back to his
reserve, where they gave him such a gorgeous
reception, including a roast dog banquet,
that he died of acute indigestion.
The condition of " Big Bear's " prisoners
was most pitiable when we rescued them
after they had been abandoned by the Indians,
especially the women and young girls. For
weeks they had been forced to tramp with
these savages through the wilderness, eating
what they were given and sleeping at night
in the smoky Indian " teepees" with the
squaws. Their clothes were in rags, many
of them had no stockings and were barefoot,
unkempt, unwashed—they were a sorry lot
of scarecrows. McLean, the Hudson Bay
officer, his wife and a big family, mostly
daughters, were amongst them and I knew
them all well.
With the arrest of " Big Bear " the rebellion ended.
t 229 ] CHAPTER XX
THE formation of this magnificent force,
modelled somewhat upon the lines of
the Royal Irish Constabulary, was due to
Sir John A. Macdonald's Government. For
many years it has protected the Western
country, patrolling the vast plains and even
penetrating the sombre solitudes of the Arctic
Circle. A small force originally carefully
recruited from a high class of men, now
largely increased, it has never been allowed
to deteriorate, either in physique or efficiency.
There are many gentlemen, particularly Englishmen, in the ranks, the wild Western life,
in the early days, no doubt inducing them to
join in search of adventure. Splendidly uniformed in scarlet, well horsed and equipped,
fearless and resourceful, this grand Police
force has ever been the terror to evil doers
and bad Indians. It has been truly said
that they always " get their man."
For a good many years now this remarkable
force has been the only protection for the
squatter, farmer, ranchman, miner, sportsman, trader and everybody else in the West.
The enormous area of territory over which
the Mounted Policemen preside and administer law and justice is almost incalculable.
Long before these vast Western plains were
divided into Provinces, the Mounted Police
controlled this wonderful country, destined
to be the home of millions of settlers and
the greatest granary in the world. He was
there when the Buffalo in countless thousands
roamed at will and is there now when the
busy hum of the steam thresher is heard in
the land, and there is nought but the bleaching bones of the lordly buffalo to remind
him of the past.
Whenever a new mining territory was discovered, who followed upon the footsteps
of the prospecting pioneer ? The Mounted
Police. Did the noble red man become
troublesome to the settler, who was it that
went after the savage, recaptured the stolen
horses and restored them to the owner ?
The ubiquitous Mounted Police.
Many a good story is told of the intrepid
policeman taking his prisoners single-handed
out of a bunch of hostile Indians. They were
often called upon to do detective work and
there have been many cases when through
individual shrewdness, combined with good
judgment and much common horse sense,
mysterious crimes have been unearthed and
the criminals brought to the gallows.
I cannot do better than relate a case
which happened at Dawson, in the early
days of the well known Klondyke boom.
It was a cold night at Dawson City. The
bulbs in the mercurial thermometers were
down and out, and the spirit thermometers
were working overtime. The dreary military
routine of barrack life, with the briefest of
days and longest of nights, seemed interminable.
The Commandment sat in his office after
dinner smoking a cigar, reading the latest
papers, some six weeks old, when a visitor
was announced by the Sergeant on duty,
who said the man wanted particularly to
see the Colonel on business of great importance. This was at least a welcome break
in the dull monotony, and the stranger was
ushered into the office at once. A long,
lean, lantern-jawed specimen of humanity,
with an air of mystery, appeared ; he seemed
to be overburdened with the weight of a
secret, and proceeded to unbosom himself
at once. " Colonel, I have something to
tell you which I believe will be of great
interest to you. The other night I attended
one of them Methodist revival meetings and
I got converted. I listened to them praying
and singing and I  sure got religion."
f Well, get along with your story," said
the Colonel.
" Well, Sir, not many days ago, I happened
to fall in with two men down to the Red
Dog Saloon and they made a proposition
to me—you know the stopping place kept
by Slim Pete at the Forks ? Well, he's got
a store too and a safe in it, and most of the
miners up the creeks has been depositing
their dust with Pete, him being considered
quite honest, and at times there is as much
as two hundred thousand dollars or more
in the safe. Well, Sir, these 'ere two men
proposed to me that we three should go
into partnership, and some night take a
dog-train, go up to the Forks and get the
dust out of that safe. We talked it over,
and it seemed quite a likely proposition, and
profitable at that, but after a discussing of
it near all night they concluded it was too
much of a trick to try and get that much
weight out of the country, and a better plan
would be for us to go up the river on the
ice, cache ourselves in the bush somewheres
this side of the summit and wait for the
miners to come out, which they generally
does in twos and threes, a-packing of their
dust, all the way from two to ten thousand
dollars, when we could kill them first and
rob them afterwards, cut a hole in the ice,
shove their bodies in and wait for some
" The first man argued that they never
would be missed till after the ice went out
in May or June, and long before that time
we would be out and down to ' Frisco enjoying ourselves with the boodle. Being out
of a job and dead broke, I agreed to the
scheme, but before we was ready to start
I happened into this here Church meeting
and as I say got religion, and Colonel, I
tell you straight I've got it bad and it's
come to stay. Therefore, I takes the first
opportunity to come right here and after
it gets plumb dark to tell you the whole
thing. The head man is real desperate, he
is an ugly customer, strong, and determined,
a middle-sized, thick-set gent with a short
black beard. His partner is much younger
and seems more innocent like, but is controlled by the other man and will do what
he's told. They's got one black dog with
[ 235 ] -5P
The Commandant scratched his chin
thoughtfully and told the informer to go
away just then, but to return the following
night; meanwhile the town should be
searched for these would-be murderers. Next
day all the well-known haunts of crooks and
toughs were searched but no one answering
the description could be found. However,
it was ascertained by the Police that two
men, accompanied by a solitary black dog,
were known to have left town that morning
going up the river on the ice. The Police
were communicated with by wire at the
different points as far as the summit, but
no suspicious characters had passed that
Towards Spring a man who answered to
the description given by the " convert"
was arrested by the indefatigable Police.
He had in his possession a black dog and a
large amount of money, amongst which was
a rather uncommon ten dollar bill on a
bank in Texas. This bill was submitted to
the Trading Company at Dawson and as
luck would have it, recognized as having
been paid to a certain miner who was missing,
having gone out that winter and never been
seen afterwards. The organizer of the murderous expedition was held at Fort Selkirk
Barracks till Spring, when, as the Police
officer grimly observed, the Yukon invariably
gave up its dead.
At last the enormous field of ice began to
move out slowly and the bodies of three men
came to the surface. One was identified as
the bad man's pardner, and the other two
as miners who had gone out during the
Winter, one being recognized as the owner
of the ten dollar bill.
Upon this circumstantial evidence, although always strongly protesting his innocence, the bad man was convicted and
eventually hanged at Dawson City. It was
a terrible execution. The wretched prisoner
acted like a raving maniac as he approached
the scaffold and died with curses on his lips
for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
There have not been many Commanding
[ 237 ]
Officers of this most remarkable Force since
its formation and I have had the honour of
knowing them all—French (who organized
it), McLeod, Irvine, Herchmer, Perry, and at
present, Starnes, all fine, staunch, loyal
officers, who have served this country truly
and well often under very trying and hazardous circumstances in the vast lone land.
Far removed from every comfort of civilization, they never faltered, ever faithful to
their duty, to the British Flag and the gallant
Force they so ably commanded. Canada
may indeed be proud of such officers and men
who compose this unique Force known as :
" The Royal Canadian Mounted Police."
YEARS ago when I was camped a mile
below what is now Dawson City, when
the Arctic Summer with its monotonous daylight was about drawing to a close, a terrific
thunderstorm came along one night; the
wind blew a hurricane, shifted all around
the compass many times, lashed the river
into foam and snapped off the trees round
the camp like carrots. The Hghtning was
close to us and very vivid; the thunder
roared and re-echoed again and again far
away in the mountains. It was appalling,
and the timid ones were almost induced to
register a temporary vow to lead a better
life in future.
A few days after these fireworks I was
visited one evening by a huge giant, a typical
prospector and as fine a specimen of a man
as you could hope to come across in an
ordinary lifetime. Handsome of face, bright-
eyed, tall, straight-limbed, broad in the chest,
spare in the flank, this magnificent creature
came crashing through the under-bush like
a moose. After the manner of his kind he
nodded at me, sat down, then slowly filled
his pipe and proceeded to unburden himself
of his tale of woe.
" Pardner," said he, " You ain't afraid
of ghosts, be yer ? " As it was considered
infra dig in that country to be afraid of
anything, I assured him that I was the
proud possessor of unlimited courage, and
had more nerve than I could conveniently
" Well, Pardner, it's like this ; I've brought
a dead man down here to stay with yer
awhile; I've got him in a boat; I've tied
him up down under them bushes, and if
yer don't mind I'll leave him there for a
bit." I assured him that any friend of his
was most welcome, dead or alive, but ventured to suggest that as the weather was
still warm, perhaps a funeral would be appropriate. " Pardner, yer needn't be the least
mite skeered. John will keep all right—
why, he's guaranteed for thirty days." Then
came the particulars of the tragedy. It
appeared the deceased and my newly found
friend were, as he remarked, " sort of side
pardners," and were prospecting away up
the Eldorado Gulch.
On the night of the big storm they were
sleeping together under a sort of make-shift
" lean-to," when a tree was blown down,
instantly killing the young man by smashing
in his skull. There was no help nearby and
after cutting away the tree my giant discovered that his little " side Pardner " had
done with prospecting in this world for ever.
Taking him on his back, as he innocently
observed (he always referred to the departed
as " him"), he actually packed the body
twenty-five miles down to Dawson.
" I had him in the Company's warehouse,"
he said simply, " till yesterday, but the
Captain told me I had to take him away,
as the orthorities won't allow him to stop
in town."
I again suggested a funeral when the giant
looked serious and explained his reason for
delaying the final operation. It seemed that
the dead man had a brother who was prospecting away up some distant creek, and he
had been sent for, as they thought it the
proper thing for him to officiate as chief
mourner, so they decided to keep the late
lamented above ground till the arrival of
the brother. In addition, my friend was
anxious to prove that there had been no
foul play.
With these ideas, a number of old " sour
dough" miners, with the aid of a retired
tinsmith and many tomato tins, had actually
managed to can him in a sort of home-made
casket, so that he would keep. And there
he was in the bottom of the boat that was
moored to the bank, a bright shining object,
a quiet, well behaved, and at present inoffensive neighbour.
" Good-night, pardner," said my visitor,
and then looking over his shoulder before
he slowly disappeared into the bush, " keep
an eye on him, will yer ? Yer see, some of
the boys might take an notion to play a
\ josh' on me and come and cut the line and
let him go downstream."
Nothing happened for the next few days,
and the faithful giant used to come down
every morning and take a look at his silent
armour-plated friend, till at last he came
one day arrayed in all the trappings of woe,
including a collar and an immense black
necktie. He proudly announced that the
brother had arrived, and the funeral was
ordered for two o'clock that afternoon. The
regular old miner dearly loves a funeral.
To him it is an occasion not to be neglected.
The   sad  event   is   announced  by  crude
notices posted on trees in conspicuous places,
and the solemnity of the occasion is highly
appreciated and most impressive.    The vir-
tues of the deceased are generally discussed
in low tones and his many good qualities
often exaggerated. On the day of this funeral
I was formally invited to be present at the
obsequies, but was obliged to decline. The
giant prospector, who by this time I had
christened " Gabriel Conroy," then suggested
that I should send a couple of my men in
canoes to follow the boat containing the
canned gentleman, remarking quite pathetically, " I think, Pardner, that will make a
kind of a nice little ^fcession like, don't
you ? "
The ceremony came off exactly as planned
and was a great success. I saw Gabriel once
or twice afterwards, when he thanked me
profusely for my share in the proceedings,
which consisted principally in not being
scared of ghosts, and taking care of him.
The heaven-born prospector, i.e., the
genuine article, is the most hopeful and the
most confident creature in the Universe.
Failure simply whets his appetite and encourages him to seek fresh fields. The most
[ 244 ] £
appalling obstacles only increase his desire
to penetrate the inaccessible on the merest
chance of discovering the hiding place of
the precious metal. Inured to hardships all
his life and anticipating nothing better, he
religiously follows his strange and varied
calling without a murmur.
Theories born of long experience are constantly exploded, which makes no difference
to him ; he patiently plods along, working
hard to discover the great secret of nature,
living a hard life and often dying a hard
death, " unwept, unhonoured and unsung."
Once I asked Gabriel how it was that having
prospected all over the Continent, he had
never become rich. He quickly assured me
that once he had discovered a mine in Colorado and " sold her for forty-seven thousand
dollars cash." I wondered why he did not
hang on to it and retire, to which he replied
with childish innocence: " Well, pardner,
I. jest tell yer exactly how it is with us prospectors ; the time I sold that there mine
and got all that money, I thought I was a
[ 245 ] * ■■*■
son of a gun, but I wanted to be a
big son of a gun, so I took that money and
blowed it all in a quartz lode in Idaho, which
warn't wuth a cuss, so I lose the whole pile."
I HAVE often been asked why the C.P.R.
went through the " Kicking Horse Pass "
instead of the " Yellow Head," the latter
being well known to have moderate gradients
and being far easier for construction. I can
only say, as I have attempted to explain in
this book, that the rumoured reasons seem
to have been because Van Home put his
finger on the map, and, Czar-like, demanded
the " shortest possible commercial fine,"
which no doubt he got; then, as I have also
mentioned, Major Rogers reported favourably
of the " Kicking Horse," and finally, it
seemed, this euphonious name appealed to
the sporting instinct of the London Stock
Exchange and the English controllers of the
money market who were handling the C.P.R.
Stock. Be this as it may, the prairie section
was rushed to completion heading for what
is now the City of Calgary on the Bow River,
the fat was in the fire, and it was " Kicking
Horse " or bust.
Thousands of men, mules and horses, from
morning till night, were busily digging up
the rich alluvial soil, constructing a road-bed
for the future Transcontinental trains. Grading machines and scrapers covered the plains
for hundreds of miles, following close upon
the heels of the locating engineers, and almost
before the ink on the last plans and profiles
was dry, the snort of the Iron Horse could be
heard in the distance.
Sir John A. Macdonald is reported to have
said upon one occasion in the House of
Commons, when making a speech upon the
subject of the Canadian Pacific Railway:
" Mr. Speaker, although I may not live to
see the completion of this great Transcontinental highway, I hope I may someday look
down and see the two oceans united by a
[ 248 ] THE  LAST   SPIKE
band of steel."    Mr. Alexander Mackenzie,
then the leader of the opposition, interjected the remark: " Perhaps the Right
Honourable gentleman will be looking up."
However, Macdonald did live to see the
consummation of his great project, as he
did not die until m^oi.
All honour to that grand old Statesman
whose brain conceived the magnificent idea
of binding the East and West together in
bonds of steel, and all honour to the officers
and men of the Canadian Pacific Railway,
who carried to success this wonderful undertaking in the face of every known danger
and difficulty from " The driving of the
first Stake to the driving of the last Spike."
Wise old David Harum once sagely remarked :
" A reasonable amount of fleas is good for
a dog, they keep him from broodin' on bein'
a dog." And so it is I think with a book,
for if it is short and at all amusing, it will
keep people from brooding over their troubles,
but if too long drawn out it becomes wearisome, and would make them wish they had
been born a dog, fleas and all, so that then
they could never have read it.
The last act in the great drama of building
a great Continental Railway was performed
by Sir Donald Alexander Smith (afterwards
Lord Strathcona). It occurred at a place
now called Craigellachie in the Eagle Pass-
November 7th, 1885, at nine a-m-
I once read in the work of some fiction
monger that the golden spike used upon this
occasion was afterwards withdrawn and presented to Mrs. Alexander Mackenzie, the wife
of the Premier of Canada, and that he had
often seen her wearing it in Ottawa as a
pendant to her necklace. I regret to throw
any doubt upon this romantic " pipe dream,"
but in the first place I do not believe there
ever was a golden spike ; secondly, I know
that Mrs. Alexander Mackenzie was not the
wife of the Premier of Canada in 1885, who
happened to be the Right Hon. Sir John
A. Macdonald, and thirdly, if there had been
a golden spike, the weight of it, if worn on
a pendant would have broken the poor old
lady's neck.
[250]   THE  LAST   SPIKE
Not having been present at the performance
assigned to the late Lord Strathcona, in
driving the last Spike, I cannot do better
than to quote a few descriptive fines from
Mr. Lawrence Burpee's most excellent book
on the life of Sandford Fleming. He says:
" Early on the morning of the 7th, the junction was verging to completion and at nine
o'clock the last rail was laid in its place.
All that remained to finish the work was to
drive home one spike. By common consent
the duty of performing the task was assigned
to one of the four Directors present, the
senior in years and influence, whose high
character placed him in prominence—Sir
Donald Alexander Smith. No one could on
such an occasion more worthily represent
the Company or more appropriately give
the finishing blows, which in a National
sense, were to complete the gigantic undertaking. Sir Donald Smith braced himself
to the task and he wielded the by no
means light spike-hammer with as good a
will as a professional tracklayer. The work
was carried on in silence—nothing was heard
but the reverberation of his blows."
There was evidently no ceremony. In the
picture you can single out Van Home quite
easily, and also Sandford Fleming, looking
highly respectable in a tall hat. Thus came
to an end this great struggle, without any
music or firing of guns, and when Sir Donald
Smith had assaulted the head of that last
spike several times, uniting the two oceans
with a band of steel, the great Continent was
spanned at last, and a voice in the crowd
was heard, in the most prosaic tones, to sing
out:    "All aboard for the Pacific ! "
[ 252 ]   LBIt>
r I
i?6SC <5-7l 


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