Open Collections

BC Historical Books

BC Historical Books

BC Historical Books

Early Explorations in British Columbia for the Canadian Pacific Railway Palmer, Howard 1918

Item Metadata


JSON: bcbooks-1.0347351.json
JSON-LD: bcbooks-1.0347351-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): bcbooks-1.0347351-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: bcbooks-1.0347351-rdf.json
Turtle: bcbooks-1.0347351-turtle.txt
N-Triples: bcbooks-1.0347351-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: bcbooks-1.0347351-source.json
Full Text

Full Text

Howard Palmer.
[Reprinted from The Bulletin of the Geographical Society of Philadelphia,
Vol. XVI. No. 3. July. 1918.]   ter s.9/0  H mwM
te ft mw
gBHIj [Reprinted from The Bulletin of the Geograi
Vol. XIV, No. 3, July,
Howard Palmer.
The first definite step towards the creation of the Canadian
Pacific Railway as it exists today may be said to have been taken in
1869. In that year the Colonial- Secretary of the Dominion of Canada addressed a dispatch to the Governor of British Columbia on
the matter of uniting the latter with the rest of British North
America. An essential condition of the union obviously would be
the development of some easy and certain means of communication
across the continent, so it is not surprising that when on July 1,
1871, British Columbia finally entered the Dominion, the immediate
construction of a railway was provided for. It was expressly stipulated that within two years the Dominion of Canada should commence work on a line to connect the seaboard of British Columbia
with the existing railway system of Canada and that it should complete the same within ten years. Thus were crystallized the vague
dreams of a generation of explorers—dreams such as had inspired
Alexander Mackenzie, John MacLeod, David Thompson and many
others in their arduous journeys to find an overland route that would
facilitate intercourse with China and the East.
The decision to build a railway having been made, there at once
arose the question of its proper location in the immense wilderness
of the Northwest Territory. Little was known about the region
save its general character and most of it had never been surveyed.
It is true that the Hudson's Bay Company had long maintained
fortified posts within it for carrying on the fur trade, and regular
■ communication had been kept up between them over well-established
trails and lines of water travel; then too, there were available a
number of published descriptions of the country from the pens of
capable travelers. Nevertheless, in such a vast undertaking, information of this character could not be expected to do more than
define the field for preliminary investigations and many people in
75 2 Early Explorations for Canadian Pacific Rail-way.
Canada condemned the scheme as visionary and productive of certain disaster.
Commencement of Surveying Operations.—On the very day of
the union, July i, 1871, surveying operations commenced under the
direction of the late Sir Sandford Fleming as engineer-in-chief.
Twenty-one parties, numbering 800 men, were organized and distributed in divisions all the way from Ottawa to the Pacific.
In British Columbia, three parties had the work in charge. One,
Party Q, under Mr. Roderick McLennan, starting from Kamloops,
was to survey a route via the North Thomson River, Albreda Pass
and Cranberry Lake to Tête Jaune Cache and the Yellowhead Pass ;
while two others, designated as Party S and Pa*rty T, under Mr.
Walter Moberly, were to select a suitable line between Kamloops and
Howse Pass. Especially strong and well-organized were the Moberly
parties, for Howse Pass appeared to afford the most promising route
across the Rocky Mountains and it was of prime importance to select
a pass through them at the earliest moment, owing to its control of
so much of the railway on both sides of the chain.
Moberly had already, in 1865, discovered Eagle Pass in the Gold
range and Party T, now starting from Kamloops under Mr. Edward
Mohoun, was charged with the task of running an instrumental
survey through it to the Big Eddy on the Columbia River near where
Revelstoke stands today. The other, Party S, under Mr. D. C. Gillette, travelling easterly from Hope, on the Fraser River, to Wild
Horse Creek, was to proceed thence northerly through the Columbia-
Kootenay valley to the mouth of Blaeberry River, which is the
westerly exit from Howse Pass. Here a base camp was established
and operations began.
By the end of November, 1871, the party had completed the
profile of a trial line from the Columbia up the Blaeberry to the
. summit of Howse Pass. Unfortunately, a heavy snowstorm overtook the party on the pass and prevented it from making a trial location survey down through the critical portion of the way—the steep-
descent of the first three or four miles. However, it was ascertained beyond a doubt that a line could be obtained, so Moberly prepared to return to civilization in order to make a report to the engineer-in-chief.
As no apprehensions had been entertained about the practicabil-
76 Howard Palmer. 3
ity of bringing the railway up to Howse Pass from the plains on
the east by way of the North Saskatchewan River, Moberly realized
that except for the obstruction offered by the Selkirk Mountains, one
good route, at least, for the railway, was a certainty. It is typical of
his dauntless and energetic character that, even in the teeth of rigorous winter conditions, he should seek an immediate solution of this
final riddle by returning directly through this unexplored range.
Since the trip appears to be the first recorded passage of the Selkirks,
the following extracts from Mr. Moberly's writings are presented:1
First Crossing of the Selkirks.—"Accompanied by [six of] my
ever-faithful Indians [as packers] and the late Honorable Mr. Todd,
I started for a long snow-shoe walk to New Westminster [It took
them 54 days] and proceeded down the Columbia River [on the ice]
to the latitude of Gold [or Bushay] River in order to see if I could
get a line through the Selkirks by a high pass between the headwaters of Gold River and those of Gold Creek [the Gold Stream of
today] or if it would be possible to connect those valleys by a tunnel.
If I could get a line this way, it would very materially shorten the
distance between Revelstoke and Howse Pass.
I After a very fatiguing journey through the Selkirk Mountains
by this high pass in which we were very nearly buried beneath an
immense avalanche that came roaring down the steep mountainside
when we were near the summit, we reached the almost deserted mining town on French Creek that I had before visited in the year 1866
when I constructed a trail between it and the Seymour Arm of
Lake Shuswap.
" I here met several old acquaintances and the following afternoon went on to McCullock's Creek which was entirely deserted and
the remains of the few buildings still standing were in a very dilapidated condition. Two more days' travel against a strong head wind,
which was excessively cold, brought us to Mr. Mohoun's winter
quarters at the Big Eddy just before Christmas Day.
" I spent a few days with Mr. Mohoun's party waiting for the
plan and profile of the line surveyed through the Eagle Pass which
I found showed that a very good location could be obtained, and
1 From a recent address by Walter Moberly before the Art, Historical,
and Scientific Association of Vancouver, B. C, entitled " The Early History
of the Canadian Pacific Railway," and published in its reports. The brackets
are inserted by the present writer from information obtained elsewhere.
77 4 Early Explorations for Canadian Pacific Railway.
then having arranged with Mr. Mohoun to push forward the survey
through the Selkirk Range by the valley of the Illecillewaet River
and the pass by its southeasterly fork, which was discovered, as before mentioned, by my assistant, Mr. Albert Perry in 1866 and was
subsequently very improperly named Rogers Pass, I resumed my way
westerly through the Eagle Pass to the Great Shuswap Lake."
The Adoption of Yellowhead Pass.—The examination of the
other route (Kamloops to Yellowhead Pass) was also completed in
1871 so that the first season's work enabled the engineer-in-chief to
compare the gradients, distances and relative.merits generally of the
two proposed lines through British Columbia.
On April 2, 1872, the government, by an order-in-council, adopted
Yellowhead Pass. Favorable grades in the" approaches and elsewhere were the leading reasons assigned by the engineer-in-chief.
The mileage was not greater than via Howse Pass and a cheaper
and a better line could be obtained. The Yellowhead Pass would
be available no matter what harbor was eventually selected on the
Pacific coast, whereas the Howse Pass would serve only if Bute or
Burrard Inlets were chosen. Further, Moberly's failure to find a
good pass across the Selkirks inured to the advantage of the Yellowhead, for a direct line across the Selkirks would have made the
Howse route decidedly shorter than its rival.2   As a result of this de-
2 By way of comparison, the distances between Winnipeg and Kamloops
via the different routes discussed in the paper are given below :
1. Via Edmonton, Howse Pass, Big Ëend and Revelstoke (a close
approximation)      1377
2. Via Edmonton, Yellowhead Pass and Albreda Pass  (Canadian
Northern R. R. mileage)     1346
3. Via   Edmonton,   Howse   Pass,   Rogers   Pass   and   Revelstoke
(Canadian Pacific R. R. mileage from Donald)   1290
4. Via Calgary, Kicking Horse Pass, Rogers Pass and Revelstoke
(Canadian Pacific R. R. mileage)  1224
The distance by way of the Columbia River around the Big Bend is about
150 miles in round numbers. Between the same points directly across the
Selkirks via Rogers Pass it is 63 miles. Consequently the latter way saves
about 87 miles and it will be noticed that Route (3) would have stood an
excellent chance of being chosen, had the Selkirk pass been known when the
choice of Route (2) was made in the spring of. 1872. Route (4), excepting
Rogers Pass, was also well known at that time (as a result of the Palliser
Expedition of the Fifties) but for some reason, not at all clear, was ignored. Moberly Pass across the Selkirk Mouk
Photograph by Howard Palmer.
A Typical View of the Selkirk Moun'
Photograph by Howard Palmer. r Howard Palmer. 5
cision all surveying operations at the Howse and Eagle Passes were
discontinued and orders given to transfer the parties elsewhere.
To one conversant with the history of the railway project during the next decade, the situation produced by this decision affords
most interesting food for thought. Throughout all the time between
1872 and 1880 exploratory activities were devoted to the Yellowhead region and related routes, yet fifteen years after the decision
was made the railway was actually operating across the Selkirks and
through the Eagle Pass over much of the very line thus abandoned
after the first year's surveys ! All the work done in the meantime
at an expense of some $3,100,000 was therefore thrown away.
Howse Pass, it is true, was not utilized, but the Kicking Horse Pass
which actually takes the line over the continental divide is a near
neighbor and was a foregone conclusion when it was decided to enter
the mountains by way of the Bow Valley from the latitude of Calgary instead of by the North Saskatchewan from the latitude of
In the light of these extraordinary facts certain queries quite
naturally suggest themselves. If Moberly had found a good pass on
his winter journey of 1871 across the Selkirks, would not Howse
Pass have been preferred to the Yellowhead ? And if so, would not
the road have been built at once? And again, if the Yellowhead
was so manifestly superior, why was construction not begun on the
route that the engineer-in-chief described as satisfactory in 1872,
namely, that via Albreda Pass and the North Thompson River (now
occupied by the Canadian Northern Railway), instead of carrying
on ten years of additional explorations and surveys on the mere
chance that it might be bettered ?
Very likely it is idle to indulge one's fancy over these matters
so many years after the chief actors have departed, but on the face
of it, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the southern route was
3 Possibly the earliest suggestion of the route across the mountains now
followed by the Canadian Pacific Railway is that made by a map " To illustrate a Paper on the means of communication with the Pacific Ocean by
Capt. M. H. Synge, R. E," drawn by John Arrowsmith and published for the
Royal Geographical Society by John Murray, 1852. The route follows the
Bow River, which is named, and goes around the Big Bend of the Columbia,
crossing the Gold Range north of Shuswap Lake and following down the
Fraser.   For the map, see Proceedings R. G. S., Vol. 22, p. 174, 1852.
79 6 Early Explorations for Canadian Pacific Railway.
dismissed prematurely in 1872. The lack of passes in the Selkirks
was too easily taken for granted and upon this the whale decision
appears really to have hinged. One unsuccessful attempt to secure
a good pass by no means demonstrated the impassability of the
range as a whole. Moberly in 1871 knew of the present Rogers
Pass, and although he may have doubted its utility (as seems likely
from the fact that he chose to try another way in making his winter
journey to Victoria) he did, nevertheless, expect to examine it in
1872. Even though the pass should turn out to be useless, only a
short-sighted policy could have permitted it to be ignored, with the
necessary men and supplies almost on the spot.
Before leaving the subject, it should be added that still other
reasons may have been influential in the selection of the Yellowhead
Pass besides those above discussed, although they are taken from
official reports or government documents. Mr. Henry J. Camfoie
who was associated with the railway in construction days has suggested that the line to the Yellowhead from Winnipeg ran all the
way through what was then known as the " fertile belt," the country
to the south on the approach to Howse Pass being considered barren
or nearly so ; furthermore, that it was more remote from the American boundary than the other passes and, consequently, there would
be less difficulty in borrowing money for its construction as a military road.
Be this as it may, exploring activity for the next decade centered
upon the Yellowhead district, and it is to this that we may now advert. From the pass itself, two courses only were open for the road :
one in a northwesterly direction by the valley of the Fraser, the .
other due south by the Albreda and Thompson Rivers. By either of
these, the lofty and defiant Cariboo Mountains, which barred a
direct westerly course, as the Selkirks did at the Howse Pass, might
be flanked and the great interior plateau reached. From this central
plateau, eleven different routes diverged through depressions in the
formidable Cascade range to seven distinct harbors on the Pacific
coast. When it is stated that all of these were more or les/5 carefully surveyed, not to mention certain variant lines, some idea of
the magnitude of the operations may be obtained.
Space will not permit reference to this immense network of
routes, nor to the arduous labors and perils undergone by the sur- Howard Palmer. 7
veyors. Some day, no doubt, the stories will be rescued from the
oblivion of the government reports and well worth the telling they
will be. Here it is merely proposed to call attention to some little
known journeys by Walter Moberly and others in the region of the
Columbia and Fraser watersheds, which present points of especial
geographical interest.
Trip over Athabaska Pass.—In accordance with his instructions,
Moberly began in the spring of 1872 to transfer Party S from the
outlet of Blaeberry River, where it had occupied winter quarters, to
the Yellowhead Pass by way of the Columbia valley and the Atha-
baska Pass. It was indeed a formidable undertaking. The entire
one hundred and fifty miles of the route lay through an untravelled
country obstructed by thick forests of immense trees, tangled undergrowth, fallen timber, canyons and dangerous rapids, unnavigable
for boats even going down stream.
For a small light party the trip would not have been out of the
ordinary. It was the large outfit of pack animals and great quantity
of supplies that gave the enterprise its serious character. For the
passage of the pack animals, a trail had to be constructed the entire
distance, first along the Columbia to Wood River and then along the
latter to Athabaska Pass. As it turned out, they found that 'boats
could only be employed as far as the foot of Kinbasket Lake, some
sixty miles from the starting point, so that the pack-horses freighted
the supplies over the remaining distance. To reach the foot of this
lake consumed over ten weeks (June 16 to August 27).*
In order to prospect personally the ensuing portion of the route
as well as to meet the engineer-in-chief, who was making a transcontinental tour of inspection, Moberly decided to leave the party and
to set out across country directly for the Yellowhead Pass. Taking
three Indians and very light packs, he started on August 27 from the
foot of Kinbasket Lake, striking straight up the mountain-side in the
direction of Athabaska Pass in order to reach the valley of Wood
River without going'around by way of the Boat Encampment
"The steep ascent of this mountain-side from Kinbasket Lake
was extremely toilsome, and we suffered dreadfully for want of
water.   The exposed, scantily timbered, rocky face of the mountain,
* Canadian Pacific Railway: Report of Progress on Explorations and
Surveys,  Ottawa,  1874, Appendix  G by Walter Moberly,  CE., pages  164 8 Early Explorations for Canadian Pacific Railway.
with the sun beating down on us and making the rocks hot, combined with myriads of black flies, rendered this climb trying in the
" When we got high up the mountain, and just before entering a
very elevated pass, we had a magnificent view over the northerly portion of the Selkirk range, and also of the easterly side of the Gold,
and the westerly side of the Rocky Mountains, and as the sun was
shining brightly, the sky blue and the atmosphere clear, the innumerable peaks covered with snow and glaciers, glittering in places, together with the deep green forests clothing the lower portions of the
mountain ranges, and the Columbia River, like a silver ribbon, wending its way through the deep, narrow gorge far below us, impressed
me with what stupendous grandeur primeval nature is endowed.
" We camped on the bank of a lo
vely stream in a park-like valley
through the mountain spur, at an ele
vation above the sea of probably
six thousand feet.    The following
morning we pursued our way
for some distance through this valle
y, and then reached the north-
erly steep declivity of the mountain,
down which we went, following
the dry bed of a water-course.
" On reaching the bottom of the
valley of Wood River we had
to wade for some distance through
stagnant water containing some
reddish-brown substance—probably
decomposed iron ore—of a dis-
agreeable nature, so that when we
got to Wood River itself we
plunged in to free ourselves of the nauseous substance which painted
us. We continued along the south bank of the river for some distance and then constructed a raft and crossed to the north bank,
which we followed until we reached the foot of Mount Brown and
found the trail of the old fur traders going up the steep mountain.
Here we camped and cooked a porcupine."8
Moberly reports the angle of ascent to Athabaska Pass to be upwards of 750 at one place. They rested on the pass for a few days
to make new moccasins out of caribou hides and to smoke the meat
for the remainder of their journey.
Discovery of the Source of the Fraser River.—Upon resuming
their way, instead of descending the Whirlpool River by the usual
route, they traversed along the easterly side of Mt. Brown towards
B Quoted from Moberly's address before the Art, Historical and Scientific  Association  of  Vancouver,   already  cited.    The  extract  is  slightly Howard Palmer. 9
the north, and then by means of a gap (elevation 6,500 feet) crossed
a range of mountains forming "the northerly boundary of a pass,
immediately north of Mt. Brown, connecting the valleys of the
Whirlpool and (probably) Canoe Rivers." They found themselves
near some small ponds at the head of " a beautiful valley surrounded
with grand and magnificent scenery." These ponds later proved to
be the true source of the Fraser River. The torrent flows about N.
500 W. (mag.) for some thirty miles and joins the smaller stream
from Yellowhead Lake a short distance below it. Moberly describes
the upper twenty miles of its course as " a fine valley with grassy
slopes and picturesque groves of fir trees," fairly easy to travel
through. Lower down, however, it narrows and the river is confined in canyons and gorges.6
As far as the writer is aware, Moberly's report presents the first
description of the source of the Fraser River.7 Apparently it has
been entirely lost sight of at the present time for a large sign at the
outlet of Moose Lake informs the passing traveller on the Grand
Trunk Pacific Railway that the source of the Fraser is at that point.
The remainder of Moberly's movements can be summarized
briefly. He arrived at Yellowhead Lake on September 6, nine and
one half days from Kinbasket Lake—a truly remarkable tour-deforce, when it is considered that the air-line distance is not less than
75 miles. After remaining in the vicinity of Yellowhead Pass for a
fortnight, he set out upon his return journey from Henry House,
taking horses and adopting the route via the Athabaska and Whirlpool valleys. It took four days' travelling to reach the " Committee's
Punch Bowl," the historic tarn on Athabaska Pass, where the snow
lay four inches deep. He was much concerned to encounter swampy
ground for fifteen miles along the north side of the pass, for two
hundred and fifty horses and all the supplies which were in process
of being transported from the Columbia valley would have to pass
over it on the way to winter quarters at Henry House.
6.Report of Progress, 1874, already cited, Appendix G, p. 166.
7 Moberly's account is substantiated by James McEvoy, of the Geological
Survey of Canada, who climbed Yellowhead Mountain in 1898 and reported
" a good view is obtained up the Fraser River and it is seen to take its rise,
as its muddy waters indicate, in glaciers on high mountains some twenty
miles to the south." Annual Reports Geological Survey of Canada, Vol.
XI, Part D (1900).
83 io Early Explorations for Canadian Pacific Railway.
Moberly writes: "I went on and early in the morning of the
third day from the Committee's Punch Bowl, having waded almost-
endless fords and dragged and jumped the horses through and over
thick woods, underbrush, rocks and fallen timber, reached the camp
of Party S which was on the south bank of Wood or Portage River
about two miles above the Boat Encampment, it having been exactly
a month since I left the party at Kinbasket Lake. I; told the party
it was my determination to push forward with the supplies and animals across the Rocky Mountains to the Athabaska River, where I
had instructed Mr. McCord to build a depot, and also to finish the
survey through that range to its easterly base before closing work
for the season ; I gave those afraid of undertaking the trip the opportunity of leaving, which only a few availed themselves of, and
the rest of the party went to work with a most praiseworthy will,
working both week days and Sundays, through rain, snow and cold,
without knocking off for an hour until the trail was opened and the
survey party reached the Athabaska depot."8
Moberly passed the winter of 1872-3 at his depot near Henry
House east of the Yellowhead Pass. The early part of 1873 he was
engaged in surveys easterly towards Edmonton. On July 30 he
received orders to return .with his party through the Yellowhead
Pass, to make surveys westerly towards Albreda Pass and then to
explore the headwaters of the North Thompson and Canoe Rivers
for a good route across the divide of the Cariboo Mountains towards
the Clearwater and Quesnelle basins.
He writes : " Taking my three Indians with me, I proceeded to
explore the country at the headquarters of the Canoe River, and very
soon found there was no pass in that direction. I then (October
14) went to the forks of the Albreda and North Thompson Rivers,
and up the valley of the latter (twenty-three miles). I found the
country densely timbered and difficult to travel through until we
reached a high elevation. I pursued my way until, at a very high
elevation, I was surrounded by high snow-capped peaks and glaciers
that presented an impenetrable wall of rock, snow and ice."9
On October 21 near a pass leading to the Clearwater basin he
8 Quoted from Appendix G, already cited, p. 167.
9 Quoted from Moberly's address before the Art, Historical, and Scientific Association of Vancouver, already cited.   See also Report of Progress,   ■
1874. Appendix H by Marcus Smith, CE., p. 186.
84 Howard Palmer. n
encountered a heavy snow-storm which put an end to further work.
He retraced his steps as he had come and then descended the Thompson River to Kamloops by raft. This terminated Moberly's mountain investigations in British Columbia.10
Explorations in the Cariboo Mountains.—Even a cursory account
of the explorations of the Seventies should not omit reference to the
efforts made to pierce the fastnesses of this forbidding snow-clad
range which has succeeded better perhaps than any other one of the
inland mountain systems of British Columbia in repelling human intrusion. Today it is commonly held to be entirely unexplored, but
in the report11 of the engineer-in-chief for .1877, we find that:
" Many fruitless attempts have been made to carry the railway
line through the colossal wall of mountains which presents so imposing a barrier to its westerly course for so many miles north and south
of Tête Jaune Cache. So far as known every depression has been
examined and every indentation explored without success. The few
lateral valleys which at wide intervals exist immediately terminate
in gorges, again to disappear in glacial sources at high altitudes."
In view of the prominence that the Cariboos will soon attain by
reason of the recent completion of the Canadian Northern and Grand
Trunk Pacific Railroads, from both of which they are in full view,
the following notes concerning the early investigations may be found
of interest.
Perhaps the most ambitious expedition was that under Mr. James
A. Mahood (Party R), which left Barkerville on the twenty-third
10 Although the name of Walter Moberly is not a familiar one on the
roll of explorers of western Canada, it does, as a matter of fact, deserve a
leading place there. In addition to the achievements mentioned in this paper,
he played a prominent part in promoting the famous Cariboo Road, later
being associated with its construction, was a member of the Provincial Legislature and for a time was I Surveyor-General of British Columbia. He
founded the city of New Westminster, and, after Captain Vancouver, was one
of the first white men to land on the site of the present city of Vancouver.
In his many years of travel and exploration devoted to developing routes of
communication, he covered substantially all of the rugged, difficult country
of southern British Columbia, and his detailed knowledge of its geography
thus acquired was probably unsurpassed. Moberly was born in 1832 in Oxfordshire, England, and died in Vancouver in 1915.
11 Canadian Pacific Railway: Report of Progress, etc., by Sandford Fleming, Engineer-in-Chief, Ottawa, 1877, p. 31.
85 12 Early Explorations for Canadian Pacific Railway.
of August, 1871, twenty-two men and some fifty horses strong.
They were to seek a passage directly east to Tête Jaune Cache.
The route pursued was : Barkerville to Bear Lake, thence to Indian
Point Lake, thence around the north and east sides of Isaac Lake to
its outlet, thence up Swamp River to and through " Dominion Pass."
This conducted them over the crest of the range to the headwaters of
Castle River which is tributary to the Fraser near McBride station
on the Grand Trunk Pacific. As this region is blank on the latest
provincial map, the route cannot be more definitely described.
Dominion Pass.—The account of the crossing of the pass reads
as follows:12 "Pushing along, despite the innumerable difficulties
that beset the way, the party reached the hoped-for pass, which high
and glacier capped, towered up in front of them, as if to crush out
hope and defy further progress. For the animals, a passage over
it had to be cut out with picks and axes, and on the twenty-ninth of
September, the party emerged from Dominion Pass. At this point
the packers became afraid of being cut off by snows and threatened to desert the stores and return to Cariboo. Fortunately they
were persuaded to remain, otherwise the effort to reach the valley
of the Fraser must have been abandoned."
Between the fifth and tenth of October, continuous snow-storms
were encountered in the upper Castle River valley, but the Fraser
was gained November 20 and the party encamped for the winter.
On the fourth of December, Mahood started back (apparently by
the same route) for Barkerville, which he reached twelve days later,
after covering one hundred miles.
Owing to the gradients and the summit glacier, this pass was out
of the question for a railway. The country traversed was found to
be very rough with scanty feed, so that a large number of the animals perished. During the winter the party searched both northerly
and southerly from their camp for some opening through the Cariboo
range that would lead back westerly towards the Cariboo country
whence they had originally come, but in vain. Eventually they
moved up the valley, joining Party Q at Cranberry Lake, and in the
spring of 1872 went down the Thompson and surveyed westerly
from Clearwater River under Mr. Mahood.
"Report of Progress, 1872, already cited, Appendix IV by Roderick
McLennan, p. 47. The Cariboo Mountains.   Photograph by E. W. D. Holwa;  Howard Palmer. 13
This seems to be the only record of importance having to do with
the highest part of the Cariboo range which is embraced within the
one hundred miles between Albreda Pass and Goat River.13
Party Q under Mr. McLennan, which during the autumn of
1871 had worked its way up the Thompson River in the face of
immense difficulties, arrived at Cranberry Lake early in October
and went into winter quarters. In the course of the winter they
" tried by several valleys for about twenty to twenty-five miles westerly, one or two places that seemed to promise an outlet," but they
were eventually compelled to abandon the task as hopeless. This
would appear to have occurred in the section near the headwaters of
the present McLennan River.14 The country hereabouts must be of
exceptionally difficult character.15
Moberly's attempt to pierce the range at the head of Canoe
River in the fall of 1873 has already been mentioned. The section
here and at the head of the North Thompson was a critical locality
" for the railway, since lengthy detours would be saved if a direct westerly line could be obtained. Accordingly operations were continued
in 1874. As soon as the season opened, Mr. E. W. Jarvis led a small
party up the Clearwater River to the head of Lake Clearwater and
thence easterly across a spur of the Cariboo range into the valley of
the North Thompson, the latter portion of the journey very nearly
coinciding with Moberly's reconnaissance of the preceding year.   He
IB I» Un. Vergue to " IWdo H&m&j oanoo vo/ago Ironf Hudjon'j Day U
by Amos Bowman, Geological Survey of Canada, Vol. Ill, page 6C, 1887-
1888. " Between the upper Fraser (Tête Jaune Cache) and the well-known
Cariboo mining country—the distance is only fifty miles ; yet very few prospectors or explorers besides Mahood of the railway exploration party in
1872 and Isaacs' prospecting party in 1886 have been through it."
"Report of the Royal Commission on the Canadian Pacific Railway,
Ottawa, 1882, pp. 1530-32.
15 In the preface to " Peace River ; a canoe voyage, from Hudson Bay to
the Pacific in 1828," by Archibald McDonald, edited by Malcolm McLeod, the
latter alludes thus to this journey of R. McLennan's: "It is a region which
has hitherto been impenetrable, even, I believe, to the Indians," and adds
that his father (Factor John McLeod, who had charge of the Thompson
River District for the Hudson's Bay Co.) stated that up to 1823 his predecessors, who had been men of keen intelligence and great energy (including
even Chief Factor Peter Skene Ogden), had failed in every effort to enter
that region for trade. 14 Early Explorations for Canadian Pacific Railway.
found that the divide at the lowest place was 7,000 feet above sea-
level and was occupied by an immense glacier.16
From, the foregoing it will be seen that while ah immense amount
of exploration was accomplished, it was mainly of a negative character. The topographical information obtained was only scantily
transferred to maps and therefore has in great measure been lost.
Had these surveyors also acted as topographers, the present maps
would be far more adequate. During the two score years that have
passed since their activities closed, very little more has been learned
about the Cariboos, so that today they are essentially terra incognita, yet on the score of scenery, they comprise one of the finest
areas of virgin territory remaining in British Columbia. The
glaciers are numerous, intricate and of large size, and the peaks are
lofty, several attaining an elevation of 11,000 feet. The area occupied by the highest mountains is about one hundred miles long and
thirty miles wide, extending roughly from Albreda Pass and the
head of the North Thompson northwesterly towards the great northerly bend of the Fraser.
Railway Progress.—Returning now to the story of the railway,
in 1876, notwithstanding the great surveying and exploratory activities already referred to, the question of the route was still an
open one, the terminal harbor on the Pacific had not been selected,
nor had construction in British Columbia been begun. The terms
of the Dominion Government's agreement to begin work in two
years had been broken, therefore, and grave dissatisfaction was rife
throughout the Province. This was not diminished by the apparent
indifference exhibited by the Ottawa Government to its representations in the matter. So serious was the situation that the withdrawal
of British Columbia from the Dominion was but narrowly averted
by commencement of construction work in 1877.
There is no occasion to allude to the vicissitudes attending the
railway enterprise during the years 1877-1880. It is enough to state
that it became the foot-ball of politics and that its affairs were dictated mainly by the interests of the party in power. Finally the situation became intolerable and outraged public opinion demanded a
thorough investigation. Accordingly, in June, 1880, a Royal Commission was sent from London with full inquisitorial powers.    Its
16 Report of Progress, Ottawa, 1877, already cited, p. 118. Howard Palmer. 15
sittings extended through more than a year and in 1882 its findings
were made public in three large volumes. Almost two thousand
pages of testimony from scores of witnesses are set forth in extenso.
The operations and results of the different surveying parties in
British Columbia are fully described by the engineers in charge,
Walter Moberly, Marcus Smith, Edward Mohoun, Roderick McLennan, etc. From the viewpoint- of the historian or geographer
it presents a record of unique interest.
The presence of the commission did not by any means obstruct
the progress of the railway project, for it was during its sittings
(Feb. 1881) that a private corporation—the Canadian Pacific Railway Co.—was chartered and the whole enterprise transferred to it.
By the terms of the transfer, the company undertook to construct
the line between Red River and Kamloops, crossing the mountains
by the Yellowhead Pass and the line already located, while the government was to build the section from Kamloops to Port Moody.
Subject to the approval of the Governor-in-Council, the company
had the right to locate the line of railway as they might see fit be-'
tween Red River and Kamloops, which were fixed definitely as
terminal points.
Notwithstanding the terms of the contract respecting Yellowhead
Pass, that question was by no means considered settled, for in the
report of the engineer-in-chief17 covering the operations to November 1, 1881, he says : " In the Rocky Mountains a large staff of engineers has been employed all the summer in examining the several,
passes to the south of the Yellowhead, with a view to finding a more
favorable passage than the line already located, but so far I have
not learned that their efforts have been entirely successful." However, only seven weeks later he wrote Sir Charles Tupper, Minister
of Railways and Canals, " There is a great probability that a passage
through the Rocky Mountains will be discovered which will afford
a much more direct and shorter communication with Kamloops than
via the Yellowhead Pass." Eventually this prospect was. realized
and the present course of the railway through the Kicking Horse
Pass determined, the charter of the railway being changed by an act
of Parliament in 1882, to authorize the construction "by way of
17 In June, 1880, Mr. Collingwood Schreiber replaced Mr. Sandford
Fleming as engineer-in-chief and at about the same time Major A. B. Rogers
was selected as engineer of the mountain division. 16 Early Explorations for Canadian Pacific Railway.
some pass other than the Yellowhead Pass provided it be not less
than ioo miles from the United States boundary."
The Kicking Horse and Rogers Passes.—Events now succeeded
each other with remarkable rapidity. On July 24, 1882, Major
Rogers discovered the practicability of the pass, now bearing his
name, across the summit of the Selkirks, effecting a junction from
the east with his investigations of the previous year up the Illecille-
waet River. By the sixth of August he had returned to his base on
the Columbia River. On September 15 the secretary of the company
addressed a letter to Sir Charles Tupper requesting that the route
via Kicking Horse Creek and across the Selkirk range via Beaver
Creek be approved by His Excellency in Council. On September
26 the engineer-in-chief wrote as follows in his report to the Department of Railways and Canals :
"From Moose Jaw Creek to Fort Calgary . . . the company,
I am informed, have made a location with a view to passing through
the Kicking Horse Pass. This location has not been approved but
the company apparently have great faith in the existence of a feasible
way through the mountains in the direction indicated, having commenced construction of a line on this location. I presume they have
assumed the responsibility, not desiring to check their unprece-
dentedly rapid construction and feeling assured by information
already obtained from their engineers that they will succeed in finding a favorable passage via Kicking Horse Pass. Several parties of
engineers under Major Rogers have been busily engaged during the
summer in surveying this pass ; and the company informs us that
they expect reports from him which will, they believe, definitely
settle the route."
The real reasons underlying the abandonment of the Yellowhead
Pass route, despite the great efforts and sums lavished upon it, have
never been disclosed. It has been hinted that considerations of political expediency made it unwise for the new government, recently
ushered into power, to become associated with a scheme about which
such unsavory memories clung. A new plan, a fresh start and a
different line were therefore important desiderata. Other considerations of undoubted influence were favorable reports on the fertility of the soil and the extent of grazing lands along the Bow River
which previously had been considered of a barren character. Again
90 g the N atural Features controlling the location of certain Railway
The present Canadian Northern Railway is built upon the  Howard Palmer. 17
the decided shortening of the line by the utilization of the Selkirk
pass (about 120 miles) must have been an important factor.
By the end of 1882 the final location was completed from the
Kicking Horse Pass easterly along the Bow River for forty miles,
and westerly down the steep grade towards Field for eight mi(les.
The following February the final location was extended to Calgary
and in September the line was actually in operation for forty miles
to the west of that place. More than 25,000 men were employed in
1883. By November the location had been perfected down through
the Kicking Horse Canyon along the Columbia River and thence to
the summit of the Selkirks, whilst a preliminary survey had been
extended as far as the present town of Revelstoke.
Thus the end came in sight, for from the latter place Westerly,
surveys had long since been perfected. It only remains to allude
to the closing scene of the great drama—the final meeting of the
rails at Craigellachie near Eagle Pass. This occurred on November
7, 1885, and the first through train went forward to the Pacific on
that day. It was not until the following year, however, that regular
trans-continental service was begun. On June 28 the first passenger
train left Montreal for Port Moody, where it arrived July 4 on
schedule time.  ■g  —         Pie
t' y e  r     f
^ O^^
e^1a~\    PU
W-* ^S?   ,
*/a r  IB /•
Or j
v           °             »
N*                           |§pl            J
>U                     ° \      •/
K /.     ■
NORTHertN     /t.*./
•'                EDMONTON."Q^"*
dL *.*»
■HwSSm    <   <hcv
^v_^\_!Jk<f"2Mr           V      PASS.     \        ^
*      1
^^»    1    ^"^  ^ALBREDA             \                  v£V
ô           1
^^   Vi.      \ « PASS \       \     w   >^
i    /^
r      $      °   *V*N£«
\ v i
/eon- «•*■ Ai        ** -At*     V?^aç
/^    KICKIN8.H0
«./•'            /              *,v\         \^
1      /~
§ J/u         jr ssuswApg a                    |i    ^a
jjfc.        G
\        *-^Hiil
•I                    A               ^-^B       v£^v »ig*'vREVEl-STOlk
^vr*    p
E             v
h IP
i-V               /ic"^»  JET??-               \      "7
a              <JVr
^fTZrSSr^dfc          ?fV  /               08                    IT
\w «y^
•      P        I ^1/         V,V
V"    ^r^T
L  f   ' }
71 V
\f           '
OKAKA6AN    0                                                                J
LAKE    Jj                                /                       X?
*)        /
* ) !
J)                p  z     |     S
3 KOOTENA y        ^"cgï™
\                         /                 H         ^
7      v
^.    rl
B                       /       © '     «
(   ^
3 ^;
ta    /
-n           T            ;           V *
Q^^Hop.           __J
>v                            V                                     /                                           ^^'    -«>
/ -H
C    A   . A*J
—\   /            /        rn %.        '  f
—u—K^A— v
1        tied           \    /
T       A   \
l»»w'    •
 1 i—£.—
Diagram of Southern British Columbia, showing the N atural Features controlling the location of certain Railway
Routes, and particularly that of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The present Canadian Northern Railway is built upon the
route favored in 1872 for the Canadian Pacific Railway.


Citation Scheme:


Citations by CSL (citeproc-js)

Usage Statistics



Customize your widget with the following options, then copy and paste the code below into the HTML of your page to embed this item in your website.
                            <div id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidgetDisplay">
                            <script id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidget"
                            async >
IIIF logo Our image viewer uses the IIIF 2.0 standard. To load this item in other compatible viewers, use this url:


Related Items