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The Cariboo trail : a chronicle of the gold-fields of British Columbia Laut, Agnes C., 1871-1936 1916

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Part I
By Stephen Leacock.
By Stephen Leacock.
Part ii
By Charles W. Colby.
By Thomas Guthrie Marquis.
By William Bennett Munro.
By Thomas Chapais,
By Charles W. Colby.
By William Wood,
By Arthur G. Doughty.
By William Wood.
By William Wood.
By W. Stewart Wallace.
By William Wood.
Part IV
By Thomas Guthrie Marquis.
By Louis Aubrey Wood.
By Ethel T. Raymond.
By Agnes C. Laut.
By Lawrence J. Burpee.
By Stephen Leacock.
By Louis Aubrey Wood.
By Agnes C. Laut.
By Agnes C. Laut.
By W, Stewart Wallace.
By Alfred D. DeCelles.
By William Lawson Grant.
By Archibald MacMechan.
By A. H. U. Colquhoun.
By Sir Joseph Pope.
By Oscar D. Skelton.
By William Wood.
By Oscar D. Skelton.
A Chronicle of the Gold-fields
of British Columbia
1916 Copyright in all Countries subscribing to
the Berne Convention CONTENTS
III. CARIBOO    ....
VANCOUVER ISLAND        . . .        Frontispiece
After a photograph.
THE CARIBOO COUNTRY . . .   Facing page  x
Map by Bartholomew.
SIR JAMES DOUGLAS       .... „        10
From a portrait by Savannah.
From a photograph by Maynard.
IN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS   ... „        28
From a photograph.
From a photograph by Maynard.
From a portrait by Savannah.
A RED RIVER CART . ,,        58
From a photograph.
From a photograph. vili THE CARIBOO TRAIL
IN THE YELLOWHEAD PASS   . . .   Facing pagefy
From a photograph.
UPPER M'LEOD RIVER   . * . . ,,66
From a photograph.
THE CARIBOO ROAD       . . . ,,      ioo
From a photograph.
From a photograph.  Bartholomew, Edin^  CHAPTER I
Early in 1849 the sleepy quiet of Victoria,
Vancouver "Island, was disturbed by the
arrival of straggling groups of ragged nondescript wanderers, who were neither trappers
nor settlers. They carried blanket packs on
their backs and leather bags belted securely
round the waist close to their pistols. They
did not wear moccasins after the fashion of
trappers, but heavy, knee-high, hobnailed
boots. In place of guns over their shoulders,
they had picks and hammers and such stout
sticks as mountaineers use in climbing. They
did not forgather with the Indians. They
shunned the Indians and had little to say
to any one. They volunteered little information as to whence they had come or whither
they were going. They sought out Roderick
Finlayson, chief trader for the Hudson's Bay
Company. They wanted provisions from the
company—yes—rice, flour, ham, salt, pepper,
sugar, and tobacco ;   and at the smithy they
demanded shovels, picks, iron ladles, and wire
screens. It was only when they came to pay
that Finlayson felt sure of what he had already
guessed. They unstrapped those little leather
bags round under their cartridge belts and
produced in tiny gold nuggets the price of
what they had bought.
Finlayson did not know exactly what to
do. The fur-trader hated the miner. The
miner, wherever he went, sounded the knell
of fur-trading ; and the trapper did not like
to have his game preserve overrun by fellows
who scared off all animals from traps, set fire
going to clear away underbrush, and owned
responsibility to no authority. No doubt
these men were ' argonauts - drifted up from
the gold diggings of California ; no doubt they
were searching for new mines ; but who had
ever heard of gold in Vancouver Island, or in
New Caledonia, as the mainland was named ?
If there had been gold, would not the company
have found it ? Finlayson probably thought
the easiest way to get rid of the unwelcome
visitors was to let them go on into the dangers
of the wilds and then spread the news of the
disappointment bound to be theirs.
He handled their nuggets doubtfully. Who
knew for a certainty that it was gold anyhow ? 1
They bade him lay it on the smith's anvil and
strike it with a hammer. Finlayson, smiling
sceptically, did as he was told. The nuggets
flattened to a yellow leaf as fine and flexible
as silk. Finlayson took the nuggets at eleven
dollars an ounce and sent the gold down to
San Francisco, very doubtful what the real
value would prove. It proved sixteen dollars
to the ounce.
For seven or eight years afterwards rumours
kept floating in to the company's forts of finds
of gold. Many of the company's servants
drifted away to California in the wake of the
* Forty-Miners,' and the company found it
hard to keep its trappers from deserting all up
and down the Pacific Coast. The quest for
gold had become a sort of yellow-fever madness. Men flung certainty to the winds and
trekked recklessly to California, to Oregon, to
the hinterland of the country round Colville
and Okanagan. Yet nothing occurred to
cause any excitement in Victoria. There was
a short-lived flurry over the discovery in
Queen Charlotte Islands of a nugget valued
at six hundred dollars and a vein of gold-bearing quartz. But the nugget was an isolated
freak ; the quartz could not be worked at a
profit; and the movement suddenly died out. 4 THE CARIBOO TRAIL
There were, however, signs of what was to
follow. The chief trader at the little fur-post
of Yale reported that when he rinsed sand
round in his camp frying-pan, fine flakes and
scales of yellow could be seen at the bottom.1
But gold in such minute particles would not
satisfy the men who were hunting nuggets.
It required treatment by quicksilver. Though
Maclean, the chief factor at Kamloops, kept
all the specks and flakes brought to his post
as samples from 1852 to 1856, he had less
than would fill a half-pint bottle. If a half-
pint is counted as a half-pound and the gold
at the company's price of eleven dollars an
ounce, it will be seen why four years of such
discoveries did not set Victoria on fire.
It has been so with every discovery of gold
in the history of the world. The silent,
shaggy, ragged first scouts of the gold stampede wander houseless for years from hill to
hill, from gully to gully, up rivers, up stream
beds, up dry watercourses, seeking the source
of those yellow specks seen far down the mountains near the sea. Precipice, rapids, avalanche,
winter storm, take their toll of dead. Corpses
are washed down in the spring floods ; or the
1 The same, of course, may be done to-day, with a like result,
at many places along the Fraser and even on the Saskatchewan. THE « ARGONAUTS ' 5
thaw reveals a prospector's shack smashed by
a snowslide under which lie two dead ' pard-
ners.' Then, by and by, when everybody has
forgotten about it, a shaggy man comes out
of the wilds with a leather bag ; the bag goes
to the mint;  and the world goes mad.
Victoria went to sleep again. When men
drifted in to trade dust and nuggets for picks
and flour, the fur-traders smiled, and rightly
surmised that the California diggings were
playing out.
Though Vancouver Island was nominally
a crown colony, it was still, with New Caledonia, practically a fief of the Hudson's Bay
Company. James Douglas was governor. He
was assisted in the administration by a council
of three, nominated by himself—John Tod,
James Cooper, and Roderick Finlayson. In
1856 a colonial legislature was elected and met
at Victoria in August for the first time.1    But,
1 This was the first Legislative Assembly to meet west of Upper
Canada in what is now the Canadian Dominion. It consisted
of seven members, as follows: J. D. Pemberton, James Yates,
E. E. Langford, J. S. Helmcken, Thomas J. Skinner, John
Muir, and J. F. Kennedy. Langford, however, retired almost
immediately after the election and J. W. M'Kay was elected in
his stead. The portraits of five of the members are preserved in
the group which appears as the frontispiece to this volume. The
photograph was probably taken at a later period; at any rate,
two of the members, Muir and Kennedy, are missing. 6 THE CARIBOO TRAIL
in fact, the company owned the colony, and
its will was supreme in the government. John
Work was the company's chief factor at Victoria and Finlayson was chief trader.
Because California and Oregon had gone
American, some small British warships lay at
Esquimalt harbour. The little fort had expanded beyond the stockade. The governor's
house was to the east of the stockade. A
new church had been built, and the Rev.
Edward Cridge, afterwards known as Bishop
Cridge, was the rector. Two schools had been
built. Inside the fort were perhaps forty-five
employees. Inside and outside lived some
eight hundred people. But grass grew in the
roads. There was no noise but the church
bell or the fort bell, or the flapping of a sail
while a ship came to anchor. Three hundred
acres about the fort were worked by the company as a farm, which gave employment to
about two dozen workmen, and on which were
perhaps a hundred cattle and a score of brood
mares. The company also had a saw-mill.
Buildings of huge, squared timbers flanked
three sides of the inner stockades—the dining-
hall, the cook-house, the bunk-house, the store,
the trader's house. There were two bastions,
and from each cannon pointed.    Close to the THE < ARGONAUTS > 7
wicket at the main entrance stood the post-
office. Only a fringe of settlement went beyond the company's farm. The fort was
sound asleep, secure in an eternal certainty
that the domain which it guarded would never
be overrun by American settlers as California
and Oregon had been. The little Admiralty
cruisers which lay at Esquimalt were guarantee
that New Caledonia should never be stampeded into a republic by an inrush of aliens.
Then, as now, it was Victoria's boast that it
was more English than England.
So passed Christmas of '57 with plum-pudding and a roasted ox and toasts to the crown
and the company, though we cannot be quite
sure that the company was not put before the
crown in the souls of the fur-traders.
Then, in March 1858, just when Victoria
felt most secure as the capital of a perpetual
fur realm, something happened. A few Yankee
prospectors had gone down on the Hudson's
Bay steamer Otter to San Francisco in February
with gold dust and nuggets from New Caledonia to exchange for money at the mint. The
Hudson's Bay men had thought nothing of
this. Other treasure-seekers had come to New
Caledonia before and had gone back to San
Francisco disappointed.    But, in March, these 8 THE CARIBOO TRAIL
men returned to Victoria. And with them
came a mad rabble of gold-crazy prospectors.
A city of tents sprang up overnight round
Victoria. The smithy was besieged for picks,
for shovels, for iron ladles. Men stood in long
lines for their turn at the trading-store. By
canoe, by dugout, by pack-horse, and on foot,
they planned to ascend the Fraser, and they
mobbed the company for passage to Langley
by the first steamer out from Victoria. Goods
were paid for in cash. Before Finlayson could
believe his own eyes, he had two million dollars
in his safe, some of it for purchases, some of it
on deposit for safe keeping. Though the company gave no guarantee to the depositors and
simply sealed each man's leather pouch as
it was placed in the safe, no complaint was
ever made against it of dishonesty or unfair
Without waiting instructions from England
and with poignant memory of Oregon, Governor
Douglas at once clapped on a licence of twenty-
one shillings a month for mining privileges
under the British crown. Thus he obtained
a rough registration of the men going to the
up-country ; but thousands passed Victoria
altogether and went in by pack-train from
Okanagan or rafted across from Puget Sound. THE I ARGONAUTS ! 9
The month of March had not ended when the
first band of gold hunters arrived and settled
down a mile and a half below Yale. Another
boat-load of eight hundred and fifty came in
April. In four months sixty-seven vessels,
carrying from a hundred to a thousand men
each, had come up from San Francisco to
Victoria. Crews deserted their ships, clerks
deserted the company, trappers turned miners
and took to the gold-bars. Before Victoria
awoke to what it was all about, twenty
thousand people were camped under tents
outside the stockade, and the air was full of
the wildest rumours of fabulous gold finds.
The snowfall had been heavy in '58. In the
spring the Fraser rolled to the sea a swollen
flood. Against the turbid current worked
tipsy rafts towed by wheezy steamers or leaky
old sailing craft, and rickety row-boats raced
cockle-shell canoes for the gold-bars above.
Ashore, the banks of the river were lined with
foot passengers toiling under heavy packs,
wagons to which clung human forms on every
foot of space, and long rows of pack-horses
bogged in the flood of the overflowing river.
By September ten thousand men were rocking
and washing for gold round Yale.
As in the late Kootenay and in the still later
Klondike stampede, American cities at the
coast benefited most. Victoria was a ten-
hour trip from the mainland. Whatcom and
Townsend, on the American side, advertised
the advantages of the Washington route to the
Fraser river gold-mines. A mushroom boom
in town lots had sprung up at these points
before Victoria was well awake. By the time
speculators reached Victoria the best lots in
that place had already been bought by the
company's men ; and some of the substantial
fortunes of Victoria date from this period.
Though the river was so high that the richest
bars could not be worked till late in August,
five hundred thousand dollars in gold was
taken from the bed of the Fraser during the
first six months of '58. This amount, divided
among the ten thousand men who were on the
bars around Yale, would not average as much
as they could have earned as junior clerks
with the fur company, or as peanut pedlars in
San Francisco ; but not so does the mind of
the miner work. Here was gold to be scooped
up for nothing by the first comer; and more
vessels ploughed their way up the Fraser,
though Governor Douglas sought to catch
those who came by Puget Sound and evaded
licence by charging six dollars toll each for all n
From a portrait by Savanna! LL n
canoes on the Fraser and twelve dollars for
each vessel with decks. Later these tolls were
disallowed by the home authorities. The
prompt action of Douglas, however, had the
effect of keeping the mining movement in hand.
Though the miners were of the same class as
the * argonauts' of California, they never
broke into the lawlessness that compelled
vigilance committees in San Francisco.
Judge Howay gives the letter of a treasure-
seeker who reached the Fraser in April, the
substance of which is as follows :
We 're now located thirty miles above the junction
of the Fraser and the Thompson on Fraser River. . . »
About a fourth of the canoes that attempt to come
up are lost in the rapids which extend from Fort
Yale nearly to the Forks. A few days ago six men
were drowned by their canoe upsetting. There is
more danger going down than coming up. There
can be no doubt about this country being immensely
rich in gold. Almost every bar on the river from
Yale up will pay from three dollars to seven dollars
a day to the man at the present stage of water.
When the river gets low, which will be about August,
the bars will pay very well. One hundred and ninety-
six dollars was taken out by one man last winter in
a few hours, but the water was then at its lowest
stage. The gold on the bars is all very fine and hard
to save in a rocker, but with quicksilver properly 12 THE CARIBOO TRAIL
managed, good wages can be made almost anywhere
on the river as long as the bars are actually covered
with water. We have not yet been able to find a
place where we can work anything but rockers. If
we could get a sluice to work, we could make from
twelve dollars to sixteen dollars a day each. We
only commenced work yesterday and we are satisfied
that when we get fully under way we can make from
five dollars to seven dollars a day each. The prospect
is better as we go up the river on the bars. The
gold is not any coarser, but there is more of it.
There are also in that region diggings of coarser gold
on small streams that empty into the main river. A
few men have been there and proved the existence
of rich diggings by bringing specimens back with
them. The Indians all along the river have gold in
their possession that they say they dug themselves, but
they will not tell where they get it, nor allow small
parties to go up after it. I have seen pieces in
their possession weighing two pounds. The Indians
above are disposed to be troublesome and went into
a camp twenty miles above us and forcibly took
provisions and arms from a party of four men and
cut two severely with their knives. They came to
our camp the same day and insisted that we should
trade with them or leave the country. We design
to remain here until we can get a hundred men
together, when we will move up above the falls and
do just what we please without regard to the Indians.
We are at present the highest up of any white men
on the river, and we must go higher to be satisfied.
m   I
I don't apprehend any danger from the Indians at
present, but there will be hell to pay after a while.
There is a pack-trail from Hope, but it cannot be
travelled till the snow is off the mountains.
The prices of provisions are as follows : flour
I thirty-five dollars per hundred-weight, pork a dollar
a pound, beans fifty cents a pound, and other things
in proportion. Every party that starts from the
Sound should have their own supplies to last them
three or four months, and they should bring the
largest size chinook canoes, as small ones are very
liable to swamp in the rapids. Each canoe should
be provided with thirty fathoms of strong line for
towing over swift water, and every man well armed.
The Indians here can beat anything alive stealing.
They will soon be able to steal a man's food after he
has eaten it.
Within two miles of Yale eighty Indians
and thirty white men were working the gold-
bars ; and log boarding-houses and saloons
sprang up along the river-bank as if by magic.
Naturally, the last comers of '58 were too late
to get a place on the gold-bars, and they went
back to the coast in disgust, calling the gold
stampede ' the Fraser River humbug.' Nevertheless, men were washing, sluicing, rocking,
and digging gold as far as Lillooet. Often the
day's yield ran as high as eight hundred dollars
a man; and the higher up the treasure-seekers 14 THE CARIBOO TRAIL
pushed their way, the coarser grew the gold
flakes and grains. Would the golden lure
lead finally to the mother lode of all the yellow
washings ? That is the hope that draws the
prospector from river to stream, from stream
to dry gully bed, from dry gully to precipice
edge, and often over the edge to death or
Exactly fifty-six years from the first rush
of '58 in the month of April, I sat on the banks
of the Fraser at Yale and punted across the
rapids in a flat-bottomed boat and swirled in
and out among the eddies of the famous bars.
A Siwash family lived there by fishing with
clumsy wicker baskets. Higher up could be
seen some Chinamen, but whether they were
fishing or washing we could not tell. Two
transcontinental railroads skirted the canyon,
one on each side, and the tents of a thousand
construction workers stood where once were
the camps of the gold-seekers banded together
for protection. When we came back across
the river an old, old man met us and sat talking to us on the bank. He had come to the
Fraser in that first rush of '58. He had been
one of the leaders against the murderous bands
of Indians. Then, he had pushed on up the
river to Cariboo, travelling, as he told us, by THE j ARGONAUTS » 15
the Indian trails over ' Jacob's ladders '—
wicker and pole swings to serve as bridges
across chasms—wherever the ' float' or sign
of mineral might lead him. Both on the
Fraser and in Cariboo he had found his share
of luck and ill luck ; and he plainly regretted
the passing of that golden age of danger and
adventure. * But,' he said, pointing his trembling old hands at the two railways, J if we
prospectors hadn't blazed the trail of the
canyon, you wouldn't have your railroads here
to-day. They only followed the trail we first
cut and then built. We followed the " float"
up and they followed us.'
What the trapper was to the fur trade, the
prospector was to the mining era that ushered
civilization into the wilds with a blare of dance-
halls and wine and wassail and greed. Ragged,
poor, roofless, grubstaked by ' pardner ' or
outfitter on a basis of half profit, the prospector
stands as the eternal type of the trail-maker
for finance. CHAPTER II
By September, when mountain rivers are at
their lowest, every bar on the Fraser from Yale
to the forks of the Thompson was occupied.
The Hudson's Bay steamer Otter made regular
trips up the Fraser to Fort Langley ; and
from the fort an American steamer called the
Enterprise, owned by Captain Tom Wright,
breasted the waters as far as the swift current
at Yale. At Yale was a city of tents and
hungry men. Walter Moberly tells how,
when he ascended the Fraser with Wright in
the autumn of '58, the generous Yankee captain was mobbed by penniless and destitute
men for return passage to the coast. Many
a broken treasure-seeker owed his life to Tom
Wright's free passage. Fortunately, there was
always good fishing on the Fraser ; but salt
was a dollar twenty-five a pound, butter a
dollar twenty-five a pound, and flour rarer
than nuggets.    So hard up were some of the
miners for pans to wash their gold, that one
desperate fellow went to a log shack called
a grocery store, and after paying a dollar for
the privilege of using a grindstone, bought
an empty butter vat at the pound price of
butter—twelve dollars for an empty butter
tub ! Half a dollar was the smallest coin used,
and clothing was so scarce that when a Chinaman's pig chewed up Walter Moberly's boots
while the surveyor lay asleep in his shack,
Mr Moberly had to foot it twenty-five miles
before he could find another pair of boots.
Saloons occupied every second shack at Yale
and Hope ; revolvers were in all belts and
each man was his own sheriff; yet there was
little lawlessness.
With claims filed on all gold-bearing bars,
what were the ten thousand men to do camped
for fifty miles beyond Yale ? Those who had
no provisions and could not induce any storekeeper to grubstake them for a winter's prospecting, quit the country in disgust; and the
price of land dropped in the boom towns of
the Fraser as swiftly as it had been ballooned
up. Prospecting during the winter in a
country of heavy snowfall did not seem a sane
project. And yet the eternal question urged
the miners on :   from what mother lode are i8
these flakes and nuggets washed down to the
sand-bars of the Fraser ? Gold had also been
found in cracks in the rock along the river.
Whence had it come ? The man farthest upstream in spring would be on the ground first
for the great find that was bound to make
some seeker's fortune. So all stayed who
could. Fortunately, the winter of ,58-'59 was
mild, the autumn late, the snowfall light, and
the spring very early. Fate, as usual, favoured
the dauntless.
In parties of twos and tens and twenties,
and even as many as five hundred, the miners
began moving up the river prospecting. Those
with horses had literally to cut the way with
their axes over windfall, over steep banks, and
round precipitous cliffs. Where rivers had to
be crossed, the men built rude rafts and poled
themselves over, with their pack-horses swimming behind. Those who had oxen killed the
oxen and sold the beef. Others breasted the
mill-race of the Fraser in canoes and dugouts.
Governor Douglas estimated that before April
of '59 as many as three hundred boats with
five men in each had ascended the Fraser.
Sometimes the amazing spectacle was seen of
canoes lashed together in the fashion of pontoon bridges, with wagons full of provisions THE PROSPECTOR 19
braced across the canoes. These travellers
naturally did not attempt Fraser Canyon.
Before Christmas of '59 prospectors had
spread into Lillooet and up the river as high as
Chilcotin, Soda Creek, Alexandria, Cottonwood Canyon, Quesnel, and Fort George. It
was safer to ascend such wild streams than to
run with the current, though countless canoes
and their occupants were never heard of after
leaving Yale. Where the turbid yellow flood
began to rise and ' collect'—a boatman's
phrase—the men would scramble ashore, and,
by means of a long tump-line tied—not to the
prow, which would send her sidling—to the
middle of the first thwart, would tow their
craft slowly up-stream. I have passed up
and down Fraser Canyon too often to count
the times, and have canoed one wild rapid
twice, but never without wondering how those
first gold-seekers managed the ascent in that
winter of '59.
There was no Cariboo Road then. There
was only the narrow footpath of the trapper
and the fisherman close down to the water;
and when the rocks broke off in sheer precipice, an unsteady bridge of poles and willows
spanned the abyss. A ' Jacob's ladder' a
hundred feet above a roaring whirlpool without THE CARIBOO T&AIL
handhold on either side was one thing for the
Indian moccasin and quite another thing for
the miner's hobnailed boot. The men used
to strip at these places and attempt the rock
walls barefoot; or else they cached their
canoe in a tree, or hid it under moss, lashed
what provisions they could to a dog's back,
and, with a pack strapped to their own back,
proceeded along the bank on foot. The
trapper carries his pack with a strap round his
forehead. The miner ropes his round under
his shoulders. He wants hands and neck free
for climbing. Usually the prospectors would
appoint a rendezvous. There, provisions would
be slung in the trees above the reach of marauding beasts, and the party would disperse at
daybreak, each to search in a different direction, blazing trees as he went ahead so that
he could find the way back at night to the
camp. Distress or a find was to be signalled
by a gunshot or by heliograph of sunlight on
a pocket mirror; but many a man strayed
beyond rescue of signal and never returned
to his waiting ' pardners.' Some were caught
in snowslides, only to be dug out years later.
Many signs guided the experienced prospector. Streams clear as crystal came, he knew,
from upper snows.    Those swollen at midday THE PROSPECTOR 21
came from near-by snowfields. Streams milky
or blue or peacock green came from glaciers-
ice grinding over rock.
Heavy mists often added to the dangers.
I stood at the level of eight thousand feet in
this region once with one of the oldest prospectors of the canyon. He had been a great
hunter in his day. A cloud came through a
defile of the peaks heavy as a blanket. Though
we were on a well-cut bridle-trail, he bade us
pause, as one side of the trail had a sheer
drop of four thousand feet in places. - Before
there were any trails, how did you make your
way here to hunt the mountain goat when
this kind of fog caught you ? '  I asked.
' Threw chips of stone ahead and listened/
he answered, i and let me tell you that only
the greenest kind of tenderfoot ever takes risks
on a precipice.'
And nine men out of ten were such green,
tenderfoots that winter of ,58-'59, when five
thousand prospectors overran the wild canyons
and precipices of the Fraser. Two or three
things the prospector always carried with
him—matches, a knife, a gun, rice, flour,
bacon, and a little mallet-shaped hammer to
test the ' float.' What was the ' float' ? A
sandy chunk of gravel perhaps flaked with
%/ 22
yellow specks the size of a pin-head. He
wanted to know where that chunk rolled down
from. He knocked it open with his mallet.
If it had a shiny yellow pebble inside only the
size of a pea, the miner would stay on that
bank and begin bench diggings into the dry
bank. By the spring of '59 dry bench diggings
had extended back fifty miles from the river.
If the chunk revealed only tiny yellow specks,
perhaps mixed with white quartz, the miner
would try to find where it rolled from and
would ascend the gully, or mountain torrent,
or precipice. Queer stories are told of how
during that winter almost bankrupt grocers
grubstaked prospectors with bacon and flour
and received a half-interest in a mine that
yielded five or six hundred dollars a day in
But for one who found a mine a thousand
found nothing. The sensations of the lucky
one beggared description. * Was it luck or
was it perseverance ? ' I asked £he man who
found one of the richest silver-mines in the
Big Bend of the Columbia. ' Both and mostly
dogged,' he answered. 1 Take our party as
a type of prospectors from '59 to '89, the thirty
years when the most of the mining country
was  exploited.   We had  come  up,  eleven THE PROSPECTOR 23
green kids and one old man, from Washington.
We had roughed it in East and West Kootenay
and were working south to leave the country
dead broke. We had found " float " in plenty,
and had followed it up ridges and over divides
across three ranges of mountains. Our horses
were plumb played out. We had camped on
a ridge to let them fatten up enough to beat
it out of British Columbia for ever. Well, we
found some galena " floats " in a dry gully on
the other side of the valley. We had provisions left for only eleven days. Some of the
boys said they would go out and shoot enough
deer to last us for meat till we could get out
of the country. Old Sandy and I thought we
would try our luck for just one day. We followed that '' float'' clear across the valley. We
found more up the bed of a raging mountain
torrent ; but the trouble was that the stream
came over a rock sheer as the wall of a house.
I was afraid we 'd lose the direction if we left
the stream bed, but I could see high up the
precipice where it widened out in a bench.
You couldn't reach it from below, but you
could from above, so we blazed the trees below
to keep our direction and started up round
the hog's back to drop to the bank under.
By now it was nightfall, and we hadn't had 24 THE CARIBOO TRAIL
anything to eat since six that morning. Old
Sandy wanted to go back, but I wouldn't let
him. He was trembling like an aspen leaf.
It is so often just the one pace more that wins
or loses the race. We laboured up that slope
and reached the bench just at dark. We were
so tired we had hauled ourselves up by trees,
brushwood branches, anything. I looked over
the edge of the rock. It dropped to that shelf
we had seen from the gully below. It was too
dark to do anything more; we knew the
fellows back at the camp on the ridge would
be alarmed, but we were too far to signal.'
1 How far ? ' I asked.
' About twenty-two miles. We threw ourselves down to sleep. It was terribly cold.
We were high up and the fall frosts were icy,
I tell you ! I woke aching at daybreak. Old
Sandy was still sleeping. I thought I would
let myself down over the ledge and see what
was below, for there were no mineral signs
where we were. I crawled over the ledge, and
by sticking my fingers ana toes in the rocks
got down to about fifteen feet from the drop
to a soft grassy level. I looked, hung for a
moment, let go, and " lit " on all fours. Then
I looked up ! The sun had just come over that
east ridge and hit the rocks.    I can't talk THE PROSPECTOR 25
about it yet! I went mad ! I laughed ! I
cried ! I howled ! There wasn't an ache left
in my bones. I forgot that my knees knocked
from weakness and that we had not had a bite
for twenty-four hours. I yelled at Old Sandy
to wake the dead. He came crawling over
the ledge and peeked down. " What 's the
matter?" says he. "Matter," I yelled. "Wake
up, you old son of a gun; we are millionaires!"
There, sticking right out of the rock, was the
ledge where " float " had been breaking and
washing for hundreds of years; so you see,
only eleven days from the time we were going
to give up, we made our find. That mine paid
from the first load of ore sent out by pack-
Other mines were found in a less spectacular
way. The * float' lost itself in a rounded
knoll in the lap of a dozen peaks; and the
miners had to decide which of the benches to
tunnel. They might have to bring the stream
from miles distant to sluice out the gravel;
and the largest nuggets might not be found
till hundreds of feet had been washed out;
but always the ' float,' the pebbles, the specks
that shone in the sun, lured them with promise. Even for those who found no mine the
search was not without reward.   There was 26 THE CARIBOO TRAIL
the care-free outdoor life. There was the lure
of hope edging every sunrise. There was the
fresh-washed ozone fragrant with the resinous
exudations of the great trees of the forest.
There was the healing regeneration to body
and soul. Amid the dance-halls and saloons
the miner with money becomes a sot. Out in
the wilds he becomes a child of nature, simple
and clean and elemental as the trees around
him or the stars above him.
I think of one prospector whose range was
at the headwaters of the Athabaska. In the
dance-halls he had married a cheap variety
actress. When the money of his first find
had been dissipated she refused to live with
him, and tried to extort high alimony by claiming their two-year-old son. The penniless prospector knew that he was no equal for law
courts and sheriffs and lawyers ; so he made
him a raft, got a local trader to outfit him, and
plunged with his baby boy into the wilderness,
where no sheriff could track him. I asked
him why he did not use pack-horses. He said
dogs could have tracked them, but ' the water
didn't leave no smell.' In the heart of the
wilderness west of Mounts Brown and Hooker
he built him a log cabin with a fireplace. In
that cabin he daily hobbled his little son, so THE PROSPECTOR 27
that the child could not fall in the fire. He set
his traps round the mountains and hunted
till the snow cleared. By the time he could
go prospecting in spring he had seven hundred
dollars' worth of furs to sell ; and he kept
the child with him in the wilds till his wife
danced herself across the boundary. Then
he brought the boy down and sent him to
school. When the Canadian Pacific Railway
crossed the Rockies, that man became one of
the famous guides. He was the first guide I
ever employed in the mountains.
Up-stream, then, headed the prospectors on yy
the Fraser in that autumn of '58. The miner's
train of pack-horses is a study in nature.
There is always the wise old bell-mare leading
the way. There is always the lazy packer
that has to be nipped by the horse behind him.
There are always the shanky colts who bolt to
stampede where the trail widens ; but even
shanky-legged colts learn to keep in line in the
wilds. At every steep ascent the pack-train
halts, girths are tightened, and sly old hprses
blow out their sides to deceive the driver. At
first colts try to rub packs off on every passing
tree, but a few tumbles heels over head down
a bank cure them of that trick.
Always the course in new territory is accord- 28 THE CARIBOO TRAIL
ing to the slope of the ground. River-bank is
followed where possible ; but where windfall
or precipice drives back from the bed of the
river over the mountain spurs, the pathfinder
takes his bearings from countless signs. Moss
is on the north side of tree-trunks. A steep
slope compels a zigzag, corkscrew ascent, but
the slope of the ground guides the climber
as to the way to go ; for slope means valley ;
and in valleys are streams ; and in the stream
is the' float,' which is to the prospector the one
shining signal to be followed. Timber-line is
passed till the forests below look like dank
banks of moss. Cloud-line is passed till the
clouds lie underneath in grey lakes and pools.
A * fool hen ' or mountain grouse comes out
and bobbles her head at the passing pack-
train. A whistling marmot pops up from the
rocks and pierces the stillness. Redwings and
waxbills pick crumbs from every camp meal;
and occasionally a bald-headed eagle utters a
lonely raucous cry from solitary perch of dead
branch or high rock.
Naturally enough, the pack-train unconsciously follows the game-trail of deer and goat
and cougar and bear across the slope to the
watering-places where springs gush out from
the rocks.    One has only to look close enough HE ROCKY MOUNTAINS
From a photograph  THE PROSPECTOR 29
to see the little cleft footprint of the deer round
these springs. To the miners, penetrating the
wilds north of the Fraser, the caribou proved
a godsend during that lean first winter. The
miners spelled it ■ cariboo,' and thus gave the
great gold area its name.
The population of Yale that winter consisted of some eight hundred people, housed in
tents and log shacks roofed with canvas. Between Yale and Hope remained two thousand
miners during the winter. Meals cost a dollar,
served on tin plates to diners standing in long
rows waiting turn at the counter. The regular
menu at all meals was bacon, salmon, bread,
and coffee. Of butter there was little ; of
milk, none. Wherever a sand-bar gave signs
of mineral, it was tested with the primitive
frying-pan. If the pan showed a deposit, the
miner rigged up a rocker—a contraption resembling a cradle with rockers below, about
four feet from end to end, two feet across, and
two deep. The sides converged to bottom.
At the head was a perforated sheet-iron bottom
like a housewife's colander. Into this box the
gravel was shovelled by one miner. The
man's * pardner' poured in water and rocked
the cradle—cradled the sand. The water ran
through the perforated bottom to a second 30
floor of quicksilver or copperplate or woolly
blanket which caught the gold. On a larger
scale, when streams were directed through
wooden boxes, the gold was sluiced ; on a still
larger scale, the process was hydraulic mining,
though the same in principle. In fact, in huge
free milling works, where hydraulic machinery
crushes the gold-bearing quartz and screens it
to fineness before catching the gold on delicate
sieves, the process is only a complex refinement
of the bar-washer cradling his gold.
Fires had not yet cleared the giant hemlock
forests, as they have to-day along the Cariboo
Trail, and prospectors found their way through
a chartless sea of windfall—hemlocks crisscrossed the height of a house with branches
interlaced like wire. Cataracts fell over lofty
ledges in wind-blown spray. Spanish moss,
grey-green and feathery, hung from branch to
branch of the huge Douglas firs. Sometimes
the trail would lead for miles round the edge
of some precipices beyond which could be
glimpsed the eternal snows. Sometimes an
avalanche slid over a slope with the distant
appearance of a great white waterfall and the
echo of muffled thunder. Where the mountain was swept as by a mighty besom, the
pack-train kept an anxious eye on the snow THE PROSPECTOR 31
amid the valleys of the upper peaks; for, in
an instant, the snowslide might come over the
edge of the upper valley to sweep down the
slope, carrying away forests, rocks, trail, pack-
train and all. The story is told of one slide
seen by the guide at the head of a long pack-
train. He had judged it to be ten miles away ;
but out from the upper valley it came coiling
like a long white snake, and before he could
turn, it had caught him. In a slide death was
almost certain, from suffocation if not from
the crush of falling trees and rocks. Miners
have been taken from their cabins dead in the
trail of a snowslide that swept the shack to the
bottom of the valley without so much as a
hair of their heads being injured. Though the
logs were twisted and warped, the dead bodies
were not even bruised.
When a hushed whisper came through the
trees, travellers looked for some waterfall. At
midday, when the thaw was at its full, all the
mountain torrents became vocal with the glee
of disimprisoned life running a race of gladness
to the sea. The sun sets early in the mountains with a gradual hushing of the voice of
glad waters and a red glow as of wine on the
encircling peaks. Camp for the night was
always near water for the horses;  and every 32 THE CARIBOO TRAIL
star was etched in replica in river or lake.
Sunrise steals in silence among the mountain
peaks. There is none of that stir of song and
vague rustling of animal life such as are heard
at lower levels. Nor does the light gradually
rise above the eastern horizon. The walled
peaks cut off the skyline in mid-heaven. The
stars pale. Trees and crags are mirrored in
the lake so clearly that one can barely tell
which is real and which is reflection. Then
the water-lines shorten and the rocks emerge
from the belts and wisps of mist; and all the
sunset colours of the night before repeat themselves across the changing scene. As you
look, the clouds lift. The cook shouts \ breakfast !'    And it is another day.
Such was the trail and the life of the prospector who beat his way by pack-train and
canoe up the canyons of the Fraser to learn
whence came the wash of gold flake and nugget
which he found in the sand-bars below. CHAPTER III
Indian unrest was probably first among the
causes which led the miners to organize themselves into leagues for protection. The Indians
of the Fraser were no more friendly to newcomers now than they had been in the days
of Alexander Mackenzie and Simon Fraser.1
They now professed great alarm for their fishing-grounds. Men on the gold-bars were
jostled and hustled, and pegs marking limits
were pulled up. A danger lay in the rows of
saloons along the water-front—the well-known
danger of liquor to the Indian. So the miners
at Yale formed a vigilance committee and
established self-made laws. The saloons should
be abolished, they decreed. Sale of liquor to
any person whomsoever was forbidden. All
liquor, wherever found, was ordered spilled.
Any one selling liquor to an Indian should be
seized and whipped thirty-nine lashes on the
1 See Pioneers of the Pacific Coast in this Series.
bare back. A standing committee of twelve
was appointed to enforce the law till the
regular government should be organized.
It was July '58 when the miners on the
river-bars formed their committee. And they
formed it none too soon, for the Indians were
on the war-path in Washington and the unrest had spread to New Gale/Ionia. Young
McLoughlin,son of the famousj ohnM'Loughlin
of Oregon, coming up the Columbia overland
from Okanagan to Kamloops with a hundred
and sixty men, four hundred pack-horses and
a drove of oxen, had three men sniped off by
Indians in ambush and many cattle stolen.
At Big Canyon on the Fraser two Frenchmen
were found murdered. When word came of
this murder the vigilance committee of Yale
formed a rifle company of forty, which in
August started up to the forks at Lytton. At
Spuzzum there was a fight. Indians barred
the way ; but they were routed and seven of
them killed in a running fire, and Indian villages along the river were burned. Meanwhile
a hundred and sixty volunteers at Yale formed
a company to go up the river under Captain
Snyder. The company's trader at Yale was
reluctant to supply arms, for the company's
policy had ever been to conciliate the Indians. CARIBOO 35
But, when a rabble of two thousand angry
miners gathered round the store, the rifles
were handed over on condition that forty of
the worst fire-eaters in the band should remain
behind. Snyder then led his men up the
river and joined the first company at Spuzzum.
At China Bar five miners were found hiding
in a hole in the bank. With a number of companions they had been driven down-stream
from the Thompson by Indians and had been
sniped all the way for forty miles. Man after
man had fallen, and the five survivors in the
bank were all wounded.
When the Indians saw the company of
armed men under Snyder, they fled to the
hills. Flags of truce were displayed on both
sides and a peace was patched up till Governor
Douglas could come up from the coast. Not,
however, before there occurred an unfortunate
incident. At Long Bar, when an Indian chief
came with a flag of truce, two of the white men
snatched it from him and trampled it in the
mud. On the instant the Indians shot both
the white men where they stood.
Douglas had been up as far as Yale in June,
but was now back in Victoria, where couriers
brought him word of the open fight in August.
He   promptly   organized   a   force   of   Royal 36
Engineers and marines and set out for the
scene of the disorders. Royal Engineers to
the number of a hundred and fifty-six and their
families had come out from England for the
boundary survey ; and their presence must
have seemed providential to Douglas, now
that the miners were forming vigilance committees of their own and the Indians were on
the war-path. He went up the river in a
small cruiser and reached Hope on the ist of
September. Salutes were fired as he landed.
Douglas knew how to use all the pomp of regimentals and formality to impress the Indians.
He opened a solemn powwow with the chiefs
of the Fraser. As usual, the white man's
fire-water was found to be the chief cause of
the trouble. Without waiting for legislative
authority, Douglas issued a royal proclamation against the sale of liquor and left a mining
recorder to register claims. He also appointed
a justice of the peace. Then he went on to
Yale. At Yale he considered the price of
provisions too high, and by arbitrarily reducing the price at the company's stores, he broke
the ring of the petty dealers. This won him
the friendship of the miners. Within a week
he had allayed all irritation between white man
and Indian.     In a quarrel over a claim a   1
white man had been murdered on one of the
bars. Douglas appointed magistrates to try
the case. The trial was of course illegal, for
colonial government had not been formally
inaugurated in New Caledonia or British
Columbia, as it was soon to be known, and
Douglas's authority as governor did not extend
beyond Vancouver Island. But so, for that
matter, were illegal all his actions on this
journey ; yet by an odd inconsistency of fact
against law, they restored peace and order on
the river.
It was not long, however, before the formal
organization of the new colony took place.
Hardly had Douglas returned to Victoria when
ships from England arrived bringing his commission as governor of British Columbia.
Arrived, also, Matthew Baillie Begbie, ' a
Judge in our Colony of British Columbia,' and
a detachment of Royal Engineers under command of Colonel Moody. At Fort Langley,
on November 19, 1858, the colony of British
Columbia was proclaimed under the laws of
Then, in January, just as Douglas and the
officers of his government had again settled
down comfortably at Victoria, came word of
more riots at Yale, led by a notorious desperado 38
and deposed judge of California named Ned
M'Gowan. The possibility of American occupation had become an obsession at Victoria.
There were undoubtedly those among the
American miners who made wild boasts.
Douglas gathered up all his panoply of war
and law. Along went Colonel Moody, with a
company of his Royal Engineers, Lieutenant
Mayne of the Imperial Navy with a hundred
bluejackets, and Judge Matthew Begbie, to
deal out justice to the offenders. Douglas
remembered the cry ' fifty-four forty or fight,'
and he remembered what had happened to his
chief, M'Loughlin, in Oregon when the American settlers there had set up vigilance committees. He would take no chances. The
party carried along a small cannon. Lieutenant Mayne could not take his cruiser the
Plumper higher than Langley ; and there the
forces were transferred to Tom Wright's stern-
wheeler, the Enterprise. But, when they
arrived at Hope, the whole affair looked like
semi-comic vaudeville. Yale, too, was as
quiet as a church prayer-meeting ; and Colonel
Moody preached a sermon on Sunday to a
congregation of forty in the court-house—the
first church service ever held on the mainland
of British Columbia.
From a portrait by Savannah  CARIBOO 39
The trouble had happened in this way.
Christmas Day had been celebrated hilariously. At Yale a miner of Hill's Bar, some
miles down the river, had beaten up a negro.
The Yale magistrate had issued a warrant for
the miner's arrest—poor magistrate, he had
found little to do since his appointment in
September! The miner, now sobered, fled
back to his bar. The warrant was sent after
him to the local peace officer for execution,
but this officer had already issued a warrant
for the arrest of the negro at Yale; so there
it stood — each fighter making complaint
against the other and the two magistrates
in lordly contempt of each other ! The man
who tried to arrest the negro was insolent
and was jailed by the Yale magistrate. Ned
M'Gowan, the Californian down on the bar,
then came up to Yale with a posse of twenty
men to arrest the magistrate for arresting the
man who had been sent to arrest the negro.
Bursting with rage, the astonished dignitary
at Yale was bundled into a canoe. He was
fined fifty dollars for contempt of court.
It was at this stage of the comedy of errors
that Moody, Begbie, and Mayne came on the
scene. At first M'Gowan showed truculence
and assailed Moody ;   but when he saw the 40
force of engineers and bluejackets and saw the
big gun hoisted ashore, he apologized, paid his
fine for the assault, and invited the officers
to a champagne dinner on Hill's Bar. Both
sides to the quarrel cooled down and the riots
ended. The army stayed only to see the
miners wash the gold and then put back to
Victoria. The miners had learned that an
English judge and a field force could be put
on the ground in a week. September had
settled disorder among the Indians. January
settled disorder among the whites.
In the wild remote regions of the up-country
there was much * claim jumping.' A man
lost his claim if he stopped mining for seventy-
two hours, and when the place of registration
was far from the find, ! pardners ' camped on
the spot in dugouts or in lean-tos of logs and
moss along the river-bank. There were fights
and there was killing, and sometimes the river
cast up its dead. The marvel is that there
were not more crimes. In every camp is a
species of human vulture living off other men's
risk. Whenever a lone man came in from the
hills and paid for his purchase in nuggets, such
vultures would trail him back to his claim and
make what they could out of his discovery.
So, by pack-train and canoe, the miners CARIBOO 41
worked up to Alexandria, to Quesnel, to Fort
George. Towards spring, when the prospectors had succeeded in packing in more provisions, they began striking back east from the
main river, following creeks to their sources,
and from their sources over the watershed to
the sources of creeks flowing in an opposite
direction. Late in '59 men reached Quesnel
Lake and Cariboo Lake. Binding saplings
together with withes, the prospectors poled
laboriously round these alpine lagoons, and
where they found creeks pouring down from
the upper peaks, they followed these creeks up
to their sources. Pockets of gravel in the
banks of both lakes yielded as much as two
hundred dollars a day. On Horse Fly Creek
up from Quesnel Lake five men washed out
in primitive rockers a hundred ounces of
nuggets in a week. The gold-fever, which had
subsided when all the bars of the Fraser were
occupied, mounted again. Great rumours
began to float out from the up-country. Bank
facings seemed to indicate that the richest pay-
dirt lay at bed-rock. This kind of mining
required sluicing, and long ditches were constructed to bring the water to the dry diggings.
By the autumn of '59 a thousand miners were
at work round Quesnel Lake.    By the spring THE CARIBOO TRAIL
of '60 Yale and Hope were almost deserted.
Men on the upper diggings were making from
sixty to a hundred dollars a day. Only Chinamen remained on the lower bars.
It was in the autumn of the year '60 that
Doc Keithley, John Rose, Sandy MacDonald,
and George Weaver set out from Keithley
Creek, which flows into Cariboo Lake, to explore the cup-like valley amid the great peaks
which seemed to feed this lake. They toiled
up the creek five miles, then followed signs up
a dry ravine seven miles farther. Reaching
the divide at last, they came on an open parklike ridge, bounded north and east by lofty
shining peaks. Deer and caribou tracks were
everywhere. It was now that the region became known as Cariboo. They camped on the
ridge, cooked supper, and slept under the
stars. Should they go on, or back ? This was
far above the benches of wash-gravel. Going
up one of the nameless peaks, they stepped out
on a ledge and viewed the white, silent mountain-world. Marmots stabbed the lonely solitude with echoing whistle. Wind came up
from the valley in the sibilant sigh of a sea.
It was doubtful if even Indians had ever
hunted this ground. The game was so tame,
it did not know enough to be afraid.    The men CARIBOO 43
could see another creek shining in the sunrise
on the other side of the ridge. It seemed to go
down to a valley benched by gravel flanks.
They began wandering down that creek and
testing the gravel. Before they had gone far
their eyes shone like the wet pebbles in their
hands. The gravel was pitted with little yellow
stones. Where rain and spring-wash had swept
off the gravel to naked rock, little nuggets lay
exposed. The men began washing the gravel.
The first pan gave an ounce ; the second pan
gave nuggets to the weight of a quarter of a
pound. The excited prospectors forgot time.
Dark was falling. They slept under their
blankets and awoke at daybreak below twelve
inches of snow.
They were out of provisions. Somebody
had to go back down to Cariboo Lake for food.
Each man staked out a claim. And, while two
built a log cabin, the other two set off over the
hills for food. There was some sort of a log
store down at Cariboo Lake. The one thing
these prospectors were determined on was
secrecy till they could get their claims registered. Bands of nondescript men hung round
the provision-store of Cariboo Lake awaiting
a breath to fan their flaming hopes of fortune.
What let the secret out at the store is not 44
known. Perhaps too great an air of secrecy.
Perhaps too strenuous denials. Perhaps the
payment of provisions in nuggets. But when
these two packed back over the hills on snow-
shoes, they were trailed. Followers came in
with a whoop behind them on Antler Creek.
Claims were staked faster than they could be
recorded. The same claims were staked over
and over, the corner of one overlapping another.
When the gold commissioner came hurriedly
across the country in March, he found the
MacDonald-Rose party living in a cabin and
the rest of the camp holding down their claims
by living in holes which they had dug in the
This was the spring of '61 ; and Antler
Creek proved only the beginning of the rush
to Cariboo. Over the divide in mad stampede
rushed the gold-seekers northward and eastward. Ed Stout and Billy Deitz and two
others found signs that seemed very poor on a
creek which they named William's after Deitz.
The gold did not pan a dollar a wash ; but in
wild haste came the rush to William's Creek.
Crossing a creek one party of prospectors was
overtaken by a terrific thunderstorm, with
rock-shattering flashes of lightning. Shivering
in the canyon, but afraid to stand under trees
or near rocks, with the gravel shelving down
all round them, one of the men exclaimed sardonically, ' Well, boys, this is lightning.' The
stream became known as Lightning Creek and
proved one of the richest in Cariboo. William's
Creek was panning poorer and poorer and was
being called * Humbug Creek,' when miners
staked near by decided to see what they could
find beneath the blue clay. It took forty-eight
hours to dig down. The reward was a thousand dollars' worth of wash-gravel. Back
surged the miners to William's Creek. They
put shafts and tunnels through the clay and
sluiced in more water for hydraulic work.
Claims on William's Creek produced as high
as forty pounds of gold in a day. From another creek, only four hundred feet long, fifty
thousand dollars' worth of gold was washed
within a space of six weeks. Lightning Creek
yielded a hundred thousand dollars in three
weeks. In one year gold to the value of two
and a half million dollars was shipped from
Millions were not so plentiful in those days,
and the reports which reached the outside
world sounded like the Arabian Nights or some
fairy-tale. The whole world took fire. Cariboo
was on every man's lips, as were Transvaal THE CARIBOO TRAIL
and Klondike half a century later. The New
England States, Canada, the Maritime Provinces, the British Isles—all were set agog by
the reports of the new gold-camps where it was
only necessary to dig to find nuggets. By way
of Panama, by way of San Francisco, by way of
Spokane, by way of Victoria, by way of Winnipeg and Edmonton came the gold-seekers, indifferent alike to perils of sea and perils of
mountain. Men who had never seen a mountain
thought airily that they could climb a watershed in a day's walk. Men who did not know
a canoe from a row-boat essayed to run the
maddest rapids in America. People without
provisions started blindly from Winnipeg across
the width of half a continent. In the mad rush
were clerks who had never seen 'float,' English
school-teachers whose only knowledge of gold
was that it was yellow, and dance-hall girls with
very little possession of anything on earth but
recklessness and slippers; and the recklessness
and the slippers danced them into Cariboo,
while many a solemn wight went to his death in
rockslide or rapids. By the opening of '62 six
thousand miners were in Cariboo, and Barkerville had become the central camp. How these
people ever gained access to the centre of the
wilderness before the famous Cariboo Road had CARIBOO 47
been built is a mystery. Some arrived by pack-
train, some by canoe, but the majority afoot.
Governor Douglas could not regulate prices
here, and they jumped to war level. Flour was
three hundred dollars a barrel. Dried apples
brought two dollars and fifty cents a pound ;
and for lack of fruit many miners died from
scurvy. Where gold-seekers tramped six hundred miles over a rocky trail, it is not surprising
that boots commanded fifty dollars a pair.
Of the disappointed, countless numbers filled
unknown graves, and thousands tramped their
way out starving and begging a meal from the
procession of incomers.
The places of the gold deposits were freakish
and unaccountable. Sometimes the best diggings were a mother lode at the head of a
creek. Sometimes they were found fifty feet
under clay at the foot of a creek where the
dashing waters swerved round some rocky
point into a river. Old miners now retired at
Yale and Hope say that the most ignorant
prospector could guess the place of the gold
as well as the geologist. Billy Barker, after
whom Barkerville was named, struck it rich
by going fifty feet below the surface down the
canyon. Cariboo Cameron, the luckiest of
all the miners and not originally a prospector, 48
found his wealth by going still lower on the
watercourse to a vertical depth of eighty feet.
For seven miles along William's Creek
worked four thousand men. Cariboo Cameron
took a hundred and fifty thousand out of his
claim in three months. In six months of '63
William's Creek yielded a million and a half
dollars, and this was only one of many rich
creeks. From '59 to '71 came twenty-five
million dollars in gold from the Cariboo country. By '65 hydraulic machinery was coming
in and the prospectors were flocking out ; but
to this day the Cariboo mines have remained
a freakish gamble. Mines for which capitalists
have paid hundreds of thousands have suddenly ended in barren rock. Diggings from
which nuggets worth five hundred dollars have
been taken have petered out after a few hundred feet. Even where the gravel merged to
whitish gold quartz, the most expert engineer
in the camp could not tell when the vein would
fault and cease as entirely as if cut off. And
the explanation of this is entirely theoretical.
The theory is that the place of the gold was
the gravel bed of an old stream, an old stream
antedating the petrified forests of the Southwest, and that, when vast alluvial deposits
were carried over a great part of the conti-
nent by inland lakes and seas, the gold settled
to the bottom and was buried beneath the
deposits of countless centuries. Then convulsive changes shook the earth's surface.
Mountains heaved up where had been sea
bottom and swamp and watery plain. In the
upheaval these subterranean creek beds were
hoisted and thrown towards the surface.
Floods from the eternal snows then grooved
out watercourses down the scarred mountainsides. Frost and rain split away loose debris.
And man found gold in these prehistoric, perhaps preglacial, creek beds. However this
may be, there was no possible scientific way
of knowing how the gold-bearing area would
run. A fortune might come out of one claim
of a hundred feet and its next-door neighbour
might not yield an atom of gold. Only the
genii of the hidden earth held the secret; and
modern science derides the invisible pixies of
superstition, just as these invisible spirits of
the earth seem to laugh at man's best efforts
to ferret out their secrets.
What became of the lucky prospectors ? I
have talked with some of them on the lower
reaches of the Cariboo Road. They are old
and poor to-day, and the memory of their fortune is as a dream.    Have they not lived at
i So
Hope and Yale and Lytton for fifty years and
seen their trail crumble into the canyon, with
not a dozen pack-trains a year passing to the
upper country ? John Rose, who was one
of the men to find Cariboo, set out in the spring
of '63 to prospect the Bear River country. He
set out alone and was never again seen alive.
Cariboo Cameron, a c man from Glengarry,'
went back to Glengarry by the Ottawa and
established something like a baronial estate;
but he lost his money in various investments
and died in 1888 in Cariboo a poor man. Billy
Deitz, after whom a famous creek was named,
died penniless in Victoria ; and the Scottish
miner who rhymed the songs of Cariboo died
unwept and unknown to history.
The romance of the trail is almost incredible
to us, who may travel by motor from Ashcroft
to Barkerville. In October '62 a Mr Ireland
and a party were on the trail when snow began
falling so heavily that it was unsafe to proceed. They halted at a negro's cabin. Out
of the heavy snowfall came another party
struggling like themselves. Then a packer
emerged from the storm with word that five
women and twenty-six men were snowbound
half a mile ahead. Ireland and his party set
out to the rescue; but they lost the trail and CARIBOO 51
could only find the cabin again by means of
the gunshots that the others kept firing as a
signal. Two dozen people slept that night in
the log shack ; and when dawn came, four feet
of snow lay on the ground and the great evergreens looked like huge sugar-cones. On
snowshoes Ireland and three others set out
to find the lost men and women on the lower
trail. They found them at sundown camped
in a ravine beside a rock, with their blankets
up to keep off the wind, thawing themselves
out before a fire. A high wind was blowing
and it was bitterly cold. The lost people had
not eaten for three days. Twenty men from
the cabin dug a way through the drifts with
their snowshoes and brought horses to carry
the women back to the coloured man's roof.
But it was not of the perils of the trail that
the outside wcrld heard. The outside world
heard of claims which any man might find
and from which gold to the value of a hundred
and fifty thousand dollars could be dug and
washed in three months. The outside world
thought that gold could be picked up amid
the rocks of British Columbia. Necessity is
the mother of invention. She is also the hard
foster-mother of desperation and folly.  Times 52
were very hard in Canada. The East was hard
up. Farming did not pay. All eyes turned
towards Cariboo ; and no wonder! Many of
the treasure-seekers holding the richest claims
had gone to Cariboo owning nothing but the
clothes on their backs. A season's adventure
in a no-man's-land of bear and deer, above
cloud-line and amid wild mountain torrents,
had sent them out to the world laden with
wealth. Some ran the wild canyons of the
Fraser in frail canoes and crazy rafts with their
gold strapped to their backs or packed in buckskin sacks and carpet-bags. And some who
had won fortune and were bringing it home
went to their graves in Fraser Canyon. CHAPTER IV
When the Cariboo fever reached the East,
the public there had heard neither of the
Indian massacres in Oregon nor that the
Sioux were on the war-path in Dakota.
Promoters who had never set foot west of
Buffalo launched wild-cat mining companies
and parcel express devices and stages by
routes that went up sheer walls and crossed
unbridged rivers. To such frauds there could
be no certain check ; for it took six months
to get word in and out of Cariboo. Eastern
papers were full of advertisements of easy
routes to the gold-diggings. Far-off fields
look green. Far-off gold glittered the brighter
for the distance. Cariboo became in popular
imagination a land where nuggets grew on
the side of the road and could be picked
by the bushel-basket. Besides, times were
so hard in the East that the majority of the
youthful adventurers who were caught by the
fever had nothing to lose except their lives. 54
A group of threescore young men from
different parts of Canada, from Kingston,
Niagara, and Montreal, having noticed advertisements of an easy stage-route from St Paul,
set out for the gold-diggings in May 1862.
Tickets could be purchased in London, England, as well as in Canada, for when these
young Canadians reached St Paul, they found
eighteen young men from England, like themselves, diligently searching the whereabouts
of the stage-route. That was their first
inkling that fraudulent practices were being
carried on and that they had been deceived,
that there was, in fact, no stage-route from St
Paul to Cariboo. A few of them turned back,
but the majority, by ox-cart and rickety stagecoach, pushed on to the Red River and went
up to a point near the boundary of modern
Manitoba, where lay the first steamboat to
navigate that river, about to start on her
maiden trip. On this steamboat, the little
International, afterwards famous for running
into sand-banks and mud-bars, the troops of
Overlanders took passage, and stowed themselves away wherever they could, some in the
cook's galley and some among the cordwood
piled in the engine-room.
The Sioux were on a rampage in Minnesota THE OVERLANDERS 55
and Dakota, but Alexander Dallas, governor of
Rupert's Land for the Hudson's Bay Company,
and Mgr Tache, bishop of St Boniface, were
aboard, and their presence afforded protection. On the way to the vessel some of the
Overlanders had narrowly escaped a massacre.
The story is told that as they slowly made
their way in ox-carts up the river-bank, a
band of horsemen swept over the horizon, and
the travellers found themselves surrounded by
Sioux warriors. The old plainsman who acted
as guide bethought him of a ruse: he hoisted a
flag of the Hudson's Bay Company and waved
it in the face of the Sioux without speaking.
The painted warriors drew together and conferred. The oxen stood complacently chewing the cud. Indians never molested British
fur-traders. Presently the raiders went off
over the horizon as swiftly as they had come,
and the gold-seekers drove on, little realizing
the fate from which they had been delivered.
There had been heavy rains that spring on
the prairie, and trees came jouncing down the
muddy flood of the Red River. The little
International, like a panicky bicycle rider,
steered straight for every tree, and hit one
with such impact that her smokestack came
toppling down.    At another place she pushed
J 56
her nose so deep in the soft mud of the river-
bank that it required all the crew and most of
the passengers to shove her off. But everybody was jubilant. This was the first navigation of the Red River by steam. The
Queen's Birthday, the 24th of May, was celebrated on board the vessel pottle-deep to the
tune of the bagpipes played by the governor's
Scottish piper. But the governor's wife was
heard to lament to Bishop Tache that the
Internationals menu consisted only of pork
and beans alternated with beans and pork,
that the service was on tin plates, and that
the dining-room chairs were backless benches.
The arrival of the steamer at Fort Garry
(Winnipeg) was celebrated with great rejoicing. Indians ran along the river-bank firing off
rifles in welcome, and opposite the flats where
the fort gate opened, on what is now Main
Street, the company's men came out and fired
a royal salute. The people bound for Cariboo
camped on the flats outside Fort Garry. Here
was a strange world indeed. Two-wheeled
ox-carts, made wholly of wood, without iron
or bolt, wound up to the fort from St Paul in
processions a mile long, with fat squaws and
whole Indian families sitting squat inside the
crib-like structure of the cart.    Men and boys THE OVERLANDERS 57
loped ahead and abreast on sinewy ponies,
riding bareback or on home-made saddles.
Only a few stores stood along what is now
Main Street, which ran northward towards
the Selkirk Settlement. With the Indians,
who were camped everywhere in the woods
along the Assiniboine, the Overlanders began
to barter for carts, oxen, ponies, and dried
deer-meat or pemmican. An ox and cart cost
from forty to fifty dollars. Ponies sold at
twenty-five dollars. Pemmican cost sixteen
cents a pound, and a pair of duffel Hudson's
Bay blankets cost eight or ten dollars. Instead of blankets, many of the travellers
bought the cheaper buffalo robes. These sold
as low as a dollar each.
John Black, the Presbyterian c apostle of
the Red River,' preached special sermons on
Sunday for the miners. And on a beautiful
June afternoon the Overlanders headed towards the setting sun in a procession of almost
a hundred ox-carts ; and the fort waved them
farewell. One wonders whether, as the last
ox-cart creaked into the distance, the fur-
traders realized that the miner heralded the
settler, and that the settler would fence off
the hunter's game preserve into farms and
cities.    A rare glamour lay over the plains 58 THE CARIBOO TRAIL
that June, not the less rare because hope
beckoned the travellers. The unfenced prairie
billowed to the horizon a sea of green, diversified by the sky-blue waters of slough and
lake, and decked with the hues of gorgeous
flowers—the prairie rose, fragrant, tender,
elusive, and fragile as the English primrose;
the blood-red tiger-lily; the brown wind-
flower with its corn-tassel; the heavy wax
cups of the sedgy water-lily, growing where
wild duck flackered unafraid. Game was
superabundant. Prairie chickens nestled along
the single-file trail. Deer bounded from the
poplar thickets and shy coyotes barked all
night in the offing. Night in June on the
northern prairie is but the shadowy twilight
between two long days. The sun sets between
nine and ten, and rises between three and
four, and the moonlight is clear enough on
cloudless nights for campers to see the time
on their watches.
The trail followed was the old path of the
fur-trader from fort to fort i the plains across'
to the Rockies. From the Assiniboine the
road ran northerly to Forts Ellice and Carlton
and Pitt and Edmonton.1    Thomas M'Micking
1 See the map in The Adventurers of England on Hudson Bay in
this Series.   THE OVERLANDERS 59
of Niagara acted as captain and eight others
as lieutenants. A scout preceded the marchers,
and at sundown camp was formed in a big
triangle with the carts as a stockade, the
animals tethered or hobbled inside. Tents
were pitched outside with six men doing sentry
duty all night. At two in the morning a
halloo roused camp. An hour was permitted
for harnessing and breaking camp, and then
the carts creaked out in line. They halted
at six for breakfast and marched again at
seven. Dinner was at two, supper at six, and
tents were seldom pitched before nine at night.
On Sunday the procession rested and some
one read divine service. The oxen and ponies
foraged for themselves. By limiting camp to
five hours, in spite of the slow pace of the
oxen, forty to fifty miles a day could be made
on a good trail in fair weather. While the
scout led the way, the captain and his lieutenants kept the long procession in line ; and
the travellers for the most part dozed lazily
in their carts, dreaming of the fortunes awaiting them in Cariboo. Some nights, when the
captain permitted a longer halt than usual and
when camp-fires blazed before the tents, men
played the violin and sang and danced. Each
man was his own cook.   Three or four occupied 60 THE CARIBOO TRAIL
each tent. In the company was one woman,
with two children. She was an Irishwoman ;
but she bore the name of Shubert, from which
we may infer that her husband was not an
Sunday having intervened, the travellers did
not reach Portage la Prairie until the fourth
day out. Another week passed before they
arrived at Fort Ellice. Heavy rains came on
now, and James M'Kay, chief trader at Fort
Ellice, opened his doors to the gold-seekers.
Harness and carts repaired and more pemmican
bought, the travellers crossed the Qu'Appelle
river in a Hudson's Bay scow, paying toll of
fifty cents a cart. From the Qu'Appelle westward the journey grew more arduous. The
weather became oppressively hot and mosquitoes swarmed from the sloughs. At Carlton
and at Fort Pitt the fur-traders'' string band '
—husky-dogs in wolfish packs—surrounded
the camp of the Overlanders and stole pemmican from under the tent-flaps. From Fort
Pitt westward the trail crossed a rough,
wooded country, and there were no more scows
to take the ox-carts across the rivers. Eleven
days of continuous rain had flooded the sloughs
into swamps ; and in three days as many as
eight corduroy bridges had to be built.    Two THE OVERLANDERS 61
long trees were felled parallel and light poles
were laid across the floating trees. Where the
trees swerved to the current, some one would
swim out and anchor them with ropes till the
hundred carts had passed safely to the other
It was the 21st of July when the travellers
came out on the high banks of the North
Saskatchewan, flowing broad and swift, opposite Fort Edmonton. There had been floods
and all the company's rafts had been carried
away. But the ox-carts were poled across by
means of a big York boat; and the travellers
were welcomed inside the fort.
The arrival of the Overlanders is remembered at Edmonton by some old-timers even
to this day. Salvoes of welcome were fired
from the fort cannon by a half-breed shooting
his musket into the touch-hole of the big gun.
Concerts were given, with bagpipes, concertinas, flutes, drums, and fiddles, in honour of
the far-travellers. Pemmican-bags were replenished from the company's stores.
Miners often uttered loud complaints against
the charges made by the fur-traders for provisions, forgetting what it cost to pack these
provisions in by dog-train and canoe. If the
Hudson's  Bay  officials  at  Fort  Garry  and 62 THE CARIBOO TRAIL
Edmonton had withheld their help, the Overlanders would have perished before they
reached the Rockies. Though the miner did
everything to destroy the fur trade—started
fires which ravaged the hunter's forest haunts,
put up saloons which demoralized the Indians,
built wagon-roads where aforetime wandered
only the shy creatures of the wilds—though
the miner heralded the doom of the fur trade
—yet with an unvarying courtesy, from Fort
Garry to the Rockies, the Hudson's Bay men
helped the Overlanders.
The majority of the travellers now changed
oxen and carts for pack-horses and travois,
contrivances consisting of two poles, within
which the horses were attached, and a rude
sledge. A few continued with oxen, and these
oxen were to save their lives in the mountains.
The farther the Overlanders now plunged
into the wilderness, the more they were pestered by the husky-dogs that roamed in howling hordes round the outskirts of the forts.
The story is told of several prospectors of this
time, who slept soundly in their tent after a
day's exhausting tramp, and awoke to find
that their boots, bacon, rope, and clothes had
been devoured by the ravenous dogs.    They O     g' tyj THE OVERLANDERS 63
asked the trader's permission to sleep inside
the fort.
' Why ? ' asked the amused trader. \ Why,
now, when the huskies have chewed all you
own but your instruments ? You are locking
the stable door after your horse has been
' No,' answered the prospectors. ' If those
husky-dogs last night could devour all our
camp kit without disturbing us, to-night they
might swallow us before we 'd waken.'
The next pause was at St Albert, one of
Father Lacombe's missions. What surprised
the Overlanders as they advanced was the
amazing fertility of the soil. At Fort Garry,
at Pitt, at Edmonton, at St Albert, at St Ann,
they saw great fields of wheat, barley, and
potatoes. Afterwards many who failed in the
mines drifted back to the plains and became
farmers. The same thing had happened in
California, and was repeated at a later day in
the rush to the Klondike. Great seams of coal,
too, were seen projecting from the banks of
the Saskatchewan. Here some of the men
began washing for gold, and, finding yellow
specks the size of pin-heads in the fine sand,
a number of them knocked up cabins for
themselves and remained west of Edmonton 64 THE CARIBOO TRAIL
to try their luck. Later, when these belated
Overlanders decided to follow on to Cariboo,
they suffered terrible hardships.
The Overlanders were to enter the Rockies
by the Yellowhead Pass, which had been discovered long ago by Jasper Hawse, of the
Hudson's Bay Company. This section of their
trail is visible to the modern traveller from
the windows of a Grand Trunk Pacific Railway
train, just as the lower sections of the Cariboo
Trail in the Fraser Canyon are to be seen from
the trains of the Canadian Pacific and the
Canadian Northern. First came the fur-
trader, seeking adventure through these passes,
pursuing the little beaver. The miner came
next, fevered to delirium, lured by the siren of
an elusive yellow goddess. The settler came
third, prosaic and plodding, but dauntless too.
And then came the railroad, following the
trail which had been beaten hard by the
stumbling feet of pioneers.
At St Ann a guide was engaged to lead the
long train of pack-horses through the pass
from Jasper House on the east to Yellowhead
Lake on the west. Colin Fraser, son of the
famous piper for Sir George Simpson of the
Hudson's Bay Company, danced a Highland
fling  at the  gate of  the fort to speed the   THE OVERLANDERS 65
departing guests. And to the skirl of the bagpipes the procession wound away westward
bound for the mountains.
Instead of the thirty miles a day which they
had made farther east, the travellers were now
glad to cover ten miles a day. Fallen trees
lay across the trail in impassable ramparts and
floods filled the gullies. Scouts went ahead
blazing trees to show the way. Bushwhackers
followed, cutting away windfall and throwing
logs into sloughs. Horses sank to their withers
in seemingly bottomless muskegs,1 so that
packs had to be cut off and the unlucky
bronchos pulled out by all hands straining on
a rope.
Somewhere between the rivers Pembina and
M'Leod the travellers were amazed to see
what the wise ones in the party thought a
volcano—a continuous and self-fed fire burning on the crown of a hill.    Science of a later
1 Perhaps the distinction should be made here between the
muskeg and the slough. The slough was simply any depression
in the ground filled with mud and water. The muskeg was
permanent wet ground resting on soft mud, covered over on the
top with most deceiving soft green moss which looked solid, but
which quaked to every step and gave to the slightest weight.
Many muskegs west of Edmonton have been formed by beavers
damming the natural drainage of a small river for so many
centuries that the silt and humus washed down from the mountains
have formed a surface of deep black muck.
CT. E 66
day pronounced this a gas well burning above
some subterranean coal seam.
At length the Overlanders were ascending
the banks of the M'Leod, whose torrential
current warned them of rising ground. Three
times in one day windfall and swamp forced
the party to ford the stream for passage on the
opposite side. The oxen swam and the oxcarts floated and the packs came up the bank
dripping. For eleven days in August every
soul of the company, including Mrs Shubert's
babies, travelled wet to the skin. At night
great log fires were kindled and the Overlanders sat round trying to dry themselves
out. Then the trail lifted to the foothills.
And on the evening of the 15th of August
there pierced through the clouds the snowy,
shining, serrated peaks of the Rockies.
A cheer broke from the ragged band. Just
beyond the shining mountains lay—Fortune.
What cared these argonauts, who had tramped
across the width of the continent, that the
lofty mountains raised a sheer wall between
them and their treasure ? Cheer on cheer
rang from the encampment. Men with clothes
in tatters pitched caps in air, proud that they
had proved themselves kings of their own fate.
It is, perhaps, well that we have to climb our  m* THE OVERLANDERS 67
mountains step by step; else would many
turn back. But there were no faint-hearts in
the camp that night. Even the Irishwoman's
two little children came out and gazed at what
they could not understand.
The party now crossed a ravine to the main
stream of the Athabaska. It was necessary
to camp here for a week. A huge raft was
built of pine saplings bound together by withes.
To the stern of this was attached a tree, the
branch end dipping in the water, as a sweep
and rudder to keep the craft to its course. On
this the Overlanders were ferried across the
Athabaska. And so they entered the Yellowhead Pass.
Like many lowland dwellers, the Overlanders
had thought of a pass as a door opening through
a rock wall. What they found was a forested
slope flanked on both sides by mighty precipices down which poured cataracts with the
sound of the voice of many waters. Huge
hemlocks lay criss-crossed on the slope. Above
could be seen the green edge of a glacier, and
still higher the eternal snows of the far
peaks. The tang of ice was in the air; but in
the valleys was all the gorgeous bloom of
midsummer—the gaudy painter's brush, the
shy harebell, the tasselled windflower, and a
few belated mountain roses. Long-stemmed,
slender cornflowers and bluebells held up their
faces to the sun, blue as the sky above them.
Everywhere was an odour as of incense, the
fragrance of the great hemlocks, of grasses frost-
touched at night and sunburnt by day, of the
unpolluted earth-mould of a thousand years. CROSSING THE MOUNTAINS      69
Where was the trail ? None was visible!
The captain led the way, following blazes
chipped in the bark of the trees, zigzagging up
the slope from right to left, from left to right,
hanging to the horse's mane to lift weight
from the saddle, with a rest for breathing at
each turn as they climbed ; and, when the
ridge of the foothill was surmounted, a world
of peacock-blue lakes lay below, fringed by
forests. The cataracts looked like wind-blown
ribbons of silver. Instead of dipping down,
the trail led to the rolling flank of another
great foothill, and yet another, round sharp
saddlebacks connecting the mountains. Here,
ox-carts were dangerous and had to be abandoned. It was with difficulty that the oxen
could be driven along the narrow ledges.
Jasper House, Whitefish Lake, the ruins of
Henry House, they saw from the height of the
pass. One foaming stream they forded eight
times in three hours, driven from side to side
by precipice and windfall; and in places they
could advance only by ascending the stream
bed. This was risky work on a fractious pony,
and some of the riders preferred wading to
riding. At noon on the 22nd of August the
riders crossed a small stream and set up their
tents on the border of a sedgy lake.   Then 70 THE CARIBOO TRAIL
somebody noticed that the lake emptied west,
not east; and a wild halloo split the welkin.
They had crossed the Divide. They were on
the headwaters of the Fraser, where a man
could stand astride the stream; and the
Fraser led to the Cariboo gold-diggings. They
still had four hundred miles to travel. Their
boots were in shreds and their clothes in
tatters ; but what were four hundred miles to
men who had tramped almost three thousand ?
But their progress had been so slow that the
provisions were running short. The first snow
of the mountains falls in September, and it
was already near the end of August. There
was not a moment to lose in resting. What
had been a lure of hope now became a goad of
desperation. So it is with all life's highest
emprises. We plunge in led by hope. We
plunge on spurred by fate. When the reward
is won, only God and our own souls know
that, even if we would, we could not have
done otherwise than go on.
Those travellers who had insisted on bringing oxen had now to kill them for meat. Chipmunks were shot for food. So were many
worn-out horses. Hides were used to resole
boots and make mitts. Not far from Moose
Lake the last bag of pemmican was eaten. CROSSING THE MOUNTAINS      71
Perhaps it was a good thing at this time that
the band of Overlanders began to spread out
and scatter along the trail; for hungry men
in large groups are a tragic danger to themselves. Those of the advance-party were now
some ten days ahead of their companions in
the rear. Mrs MacNaughton, whose husband
was with the rear party, of which we shall
hear more anon, relates the story of a young
fellow so ravenous that he fried the deer-
thong he had bought for a tump-line back at
one of the company's forts. Fortunately,
somewhere west of Moose Lake, the travellers
came on a band of Shuswap Indians who
traded for matches and powder enough salmon
and cranberry cakes to stave off actual famine.
Trees with chipped bark pointed the way
down the Fraser. For three days the party
followed the little stream that had come out
of the lake hardly wider than the span of a
man's stride. With each mile its waters
swelled and grew wilder. On the third day
windfall and precipice drove the riders back
from the river bed into the heavy hemlock
forest, where festoons of Spanish moss overhead almost shut out the light of the sun and
all sense of direction. And when they came
back to the bank of the stream they saw a 72
wild cataract cutting its way through a dark
canyon. There was no mistake. This was
the Fraser, and it was living up to its reputation.
And yet the Overlanders were sorely puzzled.
There were no more blazes on the trees to
point the way ; and, if this was the Fraser, it
seemed to flow almost due north. Where was
Cariboo ? Mr M'Micking, who was acting as
captain, tried to find out from the Indians.
They made him a drawing showing that if he
crossed another watershed he would come on
a white man's wide pack-road. That must
lead to Cariboo; but the snow lay already a
foot deep on this road ; and unless the Overlanders hastened they would be snowbound
for the winter. On the other hand, if the
white men continued to follow the wild river
canyon north, it would bring them to Fort
^George on the main Fraser in ten days. There
was no time to waste on chance travelling.
The Overlanders knew that somewhere south
from Moose Lake must lie the headwaters of
the Thompson, which would bring them to
Kamloops. Was that what the Indians meant
by their drawings of a white man's road ? If
that were true, between Moose Lake and the
Thompson must lie the land of their desire, CROSSING THE MOUNTAINS      73
Cariboo; but to cross another unknown
divide in winter seemed risky. To follow the
bend of the Fraser north might be the long
way round, but it was sure.
It was decided to let the party separate.
Let those with provisions still remaining try
to push overland to Cariboo. If they failed
to find it, they could build cabins and winter
on their pack animals. Twenty men joined
this group. The rest decided to stick to the
river. Behind were straggling a score more
of the travellers, who were left to follow as
they could. Mrs Shubert with her children
joined the band going overland to find the
The Indians traded canoes for horses and
showed the Overlanders how to put rafts together to run the Fraser. Axes had been worn
almost to the haft. Cutting the huge trees
and splitting them into suitable timbers was
slow work. It was September before the rafts
were ready to be launched. There were four.
Each had a heavy railing round it like that of
a ferry, with some flat stones on which fires
could be lighted to cook meals without pausing to land. When we recall the experiences
of Mackenzie and Fraser on this river, it seems
almost incredible that these landsmen made 74 THE CARIBOO TRAIL
the descent on rafts with their few remaining
ponies and oxen tied to the railings ; yet so
they did. If we imagine rafts, with horses and
oxen tied to the railings, trying to run the
whirlpool below Niagara, we shall have some
conception of what this meant.
The canoes sheered out of the way and the
rafts were unmoored. The Scarborough raft,
with men from Whitby and Scarborough, near
Toronto, swirled out to midstream on the
afternoon of the ist of September. * Poor,
poor white men,' sighed the Indians; * no
more see white men ' ; but the men in the
canoes rapped the gunnels with their paddles
and uttered rousing cheers. Then the Ottawa
and the Niagara and the Huntingdon rafts
slipped out on the current. All went well for
four days. Sweeps made of trees with the
branch ends turned down and long, slim poles
kept the rafts in mid-current. Meals were
cooked as the unwieldy craft glided along the
river-bank. Two or three men kept guard at
night, so that the rafts were delayed for only
a few hours during the darkest part of the
night. The sun shone hot at midday and
there were hard frosts at night; but the rest
in this sort of travel was wonderfully refreshing
after four months of toil across prairie and
mountain. But on the afternoon of the 5th
of September the rafts began to bounce and
swirl. The banks raced to the rear, and before
the crews realized it, a noise as of breaking seas
filled the air, and the Scarborough was riding
her first rapid. Luckily, the water was deep
and the rocks well submerged. The Scarborough ran the rapid without mishap and the
other rafts followed. On the next day, however, the waters ' collected ' and began running in leaps and throwing back spume. Some
one shouted ' Breakers ! head ashore ! ' and
the galloping rafts bumped on the bank of the
river. The banks here were steep for portaging ; and the Scarborough boys, brought up
on the lake-front, east of Toronto, decided,
come what might, to run the rapids. They
let go the mooring-rope and went churning
into a whirlpool of yeasty spray. All hands
bent their strength to the poles. The raft
dipped out of sight, but was presently seen
riding safely and calmly below the rapids.
Those watching the Scarborough from the
bank breathed freely again and plucked up
heart; but the worst was yet ahead. The oily
calm below the first rapid dropped into another
maelstrom of angry waters. Into this the
Scarborough was drawn by the terrible under- 76 THE CARIBOO TRAIL
tow. For a moment the watchers on the bank
could see nothing but the horns of the bellowing, frightened oxen tied to the railing. Then
the raft was mounting the waves again. The
seaworthiness of a raft is, of course, well known.
It may dip under water, or even split, but it
seldom upsets and never swamps or sinks.
Before the other rafts ran the rapids, two of
them were first lightened of their loads. The
men preferred to pack their provisions over
the precipices rather than take the risk of
losing them in the rapid. Nor was the
packing child's play. There was a narrow
portage-trail along the ledges of the rocks, and
where the slabs of granite had split off Indians
had laid rickety poles across. Over these
frail bridges the packers, with great difficulty,
carded the loads of the two rafts. Fortunately
most of them had long since discarded boots
for moccasins.
All the rafts came through safely. The
canoes were not so fortunate. When the
Scarborough reached a sand-bar at the foot of
the rapids, the men were surprised to find
three of their Toronto friends, who had gone
ahead in a canoe, now stranded high and dry.
The canoe had sidled to the waves, swamped,
and sunk with everything the Toronto men CROSSING THE MOUNTAINS      77
owned, including their coats, tents, and boots.
For two days they had been awaiting the
coming of the rafts. They were almost dead
from exposure and hunger.
Nine canoes in all were wrecked at this spot.
One split on the reef. Another was caught in
the backwater. Others sank in the whirlpool
below the rapids. Others went under at the
first leap into the cataract. Two of the
canoes had foolishly been lashed abreast.
They sidled, shipped a billow, and sank. All
the men clung to the gunnels ; but one who
was a powerful swimmer struck out for the
shore. The canoes stranded on the shore
below and the clinging men saved themselves.
When they looked for their friend who had
struck out for the shore, he was no longer to
be seen. These men were all from Goderich,
brought up on the banks of Lake Huron.
A similar fate befell a crew of four men from
Toronto. Two of them undertook to portage
provisions along the bank of the canyon,
while the other two, named Carpenter and
Alexander, tried to run the canoe down the
rapids. The episode has some interest for
students of psychology. Carpenter walked
down the bank of the canyon a short distance
to reconnoitre the different channels of the 78
rapids. He was seen to take out his notebook and write an entry. He then put the
note-book in the inner pocket of his coat, took
off the coat, and slung it in a tree on the bank.
When he came back to the canoe, he seemed
preoccupied. The canoe ripped on a rock in
midstream, flattened, and sank. Carpenter
went down insensible as though his head had
struck and he had been stunned. Alexander
was washed ashore. He found himself on the
side of the bank opposite the rest of the party.
Going below to calmer waters, he swam across.
Carpenter's coat hung on the trees. In the
pocket was the note-book, in which Alexander
read the astounding words: * Arrived at
Grand Canyon. Ran the canyon and was
drowned.' Carpenter left a wife and child in
Toronto, for whom, evidently, he had written
the message. But if he was of sound mind,
desiring to live, and so certain of death that
he was able to write his own fate in the past
tense, why did he attempt the rapids ? His
friends had no explanation of the curious
There is another gruesome story of a sandbar in the very middle of this raging canyon.
It will be remembered that some of the Overlanders had straggled far to the rear.    Some CROSSING THE MOUNTAINS      79
time before spring a party of them attempted
to run this canyon. They were never again
seen alive. Some treasure-seekers who came
over the trail in spring stranded on this sandbar. They found the bodies of the missing
men. All but one had been torn and partly
devoured. It need not be told here that no
wild beast could have stemmed the rapids
from either side. Unless wolves or cougars
had accidentally been washed to the sand-bar,
and washed away again, the wild solitude
must have witnessed a horror too terrible to
be told ; for the body of the man who had
apparently died last was fully clothed and
unmolested. As absolutely nothing more is
known of what happened than has been set
down here, it seems well that there is no record
of the names of these castaways. CHAPTER VI
The walls of the river lowered and widened,
the current slackened, and the surviving canoes
and rafts were presently gliding peacefully
down a smooth stream. That night the Overlanders slept dead with weariness; but a fearful
depression rested on the company. Gold had
begun to collect its toll, and the price appalled
every soul. Who would be the next? How soon
would the unknown river turn west and south ?
Where was Fort George ? What perils yet lay
between the fort and the gold camp ?
As the heavy mists lifted at daybreak, the
travellers observed that the river was narrowing again and that the wooded banks had
begun to fly past very swiftly. There was no
mistaking the signs. They were approaching
more rapids. But the trick of guiding the
craft down rapids had now been learned ; so
the flotilla rode the furious waters unharmed
for fifteen miles.
It was almost dark when canoes and rafts
swung round a curve in the river and saw a
flag waving above the little walled fur-post of
Fort George. The tired wanderers were welcomed in by clerks too amazed to speak, while
a howling chorus of husky-dogs set up their
serenade. A young Englishman, who had
joined the Overlanders at St Paul, died from
the effects of exposure a few minutes after
being carried into the fort. Next morning the
body was rolled in blankets, placed in a canoe,
and buried under a rude wooden cross, with
stones piled above the grave to prevent the
ravaging of huskies and wolves.
The chief factor was away, but the young
clerks in charge sent Indians along to pilot the
Overlanders through the rapids below Fort
George, known as the most dangerous on the
Fraser. These rapids, it will be recalled, had
wrecked Alexander Mackenzie and had almost
cost Simon Fraser his life. But the treasure-
seekers did not have to go as far south as
Alexandria, where Mackenzie had turned back.
With guides who knew the waters, they ran
the rapids below Fort George safely, and
moored at Quesnel, the entrance to Cariboo,
on the nth of September—four months after
they had left Canada.
Quesnel was at this time a rude settlement
of perhaps a dozen log shacks—chiefly bunk-
houses and provision-stores. North of Yale
the Cariboo Road had not yet been opened,
and all provisions had been brought in from
the lower Fraser by pack-horse and dog-
train at enormous cost and risk. Food sold
at extortionate prices. A meal cost two
dollars and fifty cents, for beans, bacon, and
coffee. Salmon, of course, was cheap. Fortunately, there was little whisky ; so, though
tattered miners were everywhere in the woods,
order was maintained without vigilance committees. On one spectacle the far-travelled
ragged Overlanders feasted their tired eyes.
They saw miners everywhere along the banks
of creeks washing gold. But there were more
gold-seekers than claims, and those without
claims were full of complaints and fears for the
winter. They declared the country was overrated and a humbug. The question was how
' to get out' to Victoria. Overlanders, who
had tramped across the breadth of a continent,
did not relish the prospect, as one Yankee
miner described it, of ! hoofing it five hundred
miles farther.' Some of the disappointed Overlanders floated on down to Alexandria, where
they sold their rafts and took jobs on the QUESNEL AND KAMLOOPS        83
government road which was being constructed
along the canyon. This ensured them safety
from starvation for the winter at least.
Other Overlanders followed these first
pioneers ' the plains across.' And we have
seen that some of those who had crossed the
prairie with the first party had fallen behind.
These stragglers did not reach Yellowhead
Pass till the first week of September. They
were entirely out of food; but they had
matches, and each box of fifty bought a huge
salmon from the Shuswaps.
Some of the men pushed ahead, built a raft,
and launched it on the Fraser. The raft
ripped on a rock in midstream and stuck there
at an angle of forty-five degrees. Money,
tools, food, and clothing slithered into the tow
of the rapids, while the men clung in desperation to the upper railing of the wreck. One
man let go and dropped into the water. Swimming and drifting and rolling over and over,
he gained the shore, and hurried back to the
pass with word of the accident. Friends,
accompanied by Indians, came in canoes to
the rescue, and, by means of ropes, every man
was brought off the wrecked raft alive.
But the party now stood in a more desperate
predicament than ever, for lack of food and THE CARIBOO TRAIL
clothing. The Shuswaps saved the whites
from starvation. They took the white men
to a pool in the Fraser, where salmon, exhausted from the long run up the river, could
be speared or clubbed by the boat-load. And
while some of the men chopped down trees to
build dugout canoes, others speared, cleaned,
and dried the salmon. Night and day they
worked, and forgot sleep in their desperate
haste. At length they launched their craft on
the Fraser. On the way down the dangerous
canyon they saw the wrecked canoes of those
who had gone before. The tenth day after
leaving Yellowhead Pass they reached Fort
George. Their story has been told by Mrs
MacNaughton, whose husband was of the
party. They arrived at Fort George mostly
barefoot, coatless, and trousers and shirts in
tatters. Their hair and beards were long and
unkempt. It is supposed that they must have
lost the salmon in some of the rapids, or else
the supply was insufficient; for they were so
weak from hunger that they had to be carried
into the fort. They arrived at Quesnel a
month after the first Overlanders, when the
snow was too deep in the mountains for prospecting or mining. The majority of this
party also took work on the government road. QUESNEL AND KAMLOOPS        85
Meanwhile, how had fared that band of the
Overlanders who had gone over the hills south
from the pass in search of the upper branches
of the Thompson ? A Shuswap accompanied
them as guide, and for a few days there was
a well-defined game-trail. Then the trail
meandered off into a dense forest of hemlock
and windfall, which had to be cut almost every
mile of the way. They did not average six
miles a day; but they finally came to the
steep bank of a wild river flowing south which
they judged must be a branch of the Thompson.
The mountains were so steep that it was impossible to proceed farther with horses and
oxen ; so they abandoned these in the woods,
and cut trees for rafts. For seven days they
ran rapid after rapid. One of the rafts
stranded on a rock and remained for two
days before companions came to the rescue.
At another point a canoe was smashed in
midstream. The crew struggled to a slippery
rock and hung to the ledge. A man named
Strachan attempted to swim ashore to signal
distress to those above. They saw him ride
the waves. Then a roll of angry waters
swept over him and he passed out of sight.
His companions clung to the rock till another
canoe came shooting down-stream, when lines 86
were hoisted to the castaways, and they were
hauled ashore.
Where the Clearwater comes into the
Thompson they found the fur-trader's horse-
trail and tramped the remaining hundred
miles overland south to Kamloops. On the
last lap of their terrible march all were so exhausted they could scarcely drag themselves
forward. Some would lie down and sleep,
then creep on a few miles. About twenty
miles from the mouth of the Thompson they
came to a field of potatoes planted by some
rancher of Kamloops. The starving Overlanders could scarcely credit their eyes. No
one occupied the windowless log cabin ; but
there was the potato patch—an oasis of food
in a desert of starvation. They paused long
enough at the cabin to boil a great kettleful
and to feast ravenously. This gave them
strength to tramp on to Kamloops. We saw
that the Irish mother, Mrs Shubert, with her
two children, accompanied this party. The
day after reaching Kamloops she gave birth
to a child.
Did the Overlanders find the gold which
each man's rainbow hopes had dreamed ?
They had followed the rainbow over the ends
of earth.   Was the pot of gold at the end of QUESNEL AND KAMLOOPS        87
the rainbow? You will find an occasional
Overlander passing the sunset of his days in
quiet retreat at Yale or Hope or Quesnel or
Barkerville. He does not wear evidence of
great earthly possessions, though he may refer
wistfully to the golden age of those long-past
adventurous days. The leaders who survived became honoured citizens of British
Columbia. Few came back to the East. They
passed their lives in the wild, free, new land
that had given them such harsh experiences. CHAPTER VII
Fortunately, in that winter of y62-63, there
was a great deal of work to be done in the
mining country, and men were in high demand.
The ordinary wage was ten dollars a day, and
men who could be trusted, and who were brave
enough to pack the gold out to the coast, received twenty and even as high as fifty dollars
a day. There is a letter, written by Sir
Matthew Begbie, describing how the mountain
trails were infested that winter by desperadoes
lying in wait for the miners who came staggering over the trail literally weighted down with
gold. The miners found what the great banks
have always found, that the presence of unused gold is a nuisance and a curse. They had
to lug the gold in leather sacks with them to
their work, and back with them to their shacks,
and they always carried firearms ready for use.
There was very little shooting at the mines,
but if a bad man * turned up missing,' no one LIFE AT THE MINES 89
asked whether he had ' hoofed ' it down the
trail, or whether he hung as a sign of warning
from a pole set horizontally at a proper height
between two trees. In a mining camp there
is no mercy for the crook. If the trail could
have told tales, there would have been many
a story of dead men washed up on the bars,
of sneak-thieves given thirty-nine lashes and
like the scapegoat turned out into the mountain wilds—a rough-and-ready justice administered without judge or jury.
But a woman was as safe on the trail as in
her own home—a thing that civilization never
understands about a wild mining camp. Mrs
Cameron, wife of the famous Cariboo Cameron,
lived with her husband on his claim till she
died, and many other women lived in the
camps with their husbands. When the road
opened, there was a rush of hurdy-gurdy girls
for dance-halls ; but that did not modify the
rough chivalry of an unwritten law. These
hurdy-gurdy girls, who tiptoed to the concertina, the fiddle, and the hand-organ, were
German ; and if we may believe the poet
of Cariboo, they were something like the
Glasgow girls described by Wolfe as * cold
to everything but a bagpipe—I wrong them
—there is not one that does not melt away !        If:
at the sound of money.'    Sings the poet of
They danced a' nicht in dresses licht
Fra' late until the early, O !
But O, their hearts were hard as flint,
Which vexed the laddies sairly, O!
The dollar was their only love,
And that they loved fir* dearly, O 1
They dinna care a flea for men,
Let them court hooe'er sincerely, O!
Cariboo was what the miners call a ( he-
camp.' Not unnaturally, the j she-camps'
heard ' the call from Macedonia.' The bishop
of Oxford, the bishop of London, the lord
mayor of London, and a colonial society in
England gathered up some industrious young
women as suitable wives for the British
Columbia miners. Alack the day, there was
no poet to send letters to the outside world
on this handling of Cupid's bow and arrow!
The comedy was pushed in the most businesslike fashion. Threescore young girls came out
under the auspices of the society and the
Church, carefully shepherded by a clergyman
and a stern matron. They reached Victoria
in September of '62 and were housed in the
barracks. Miners camped on every inch of
ground from which the barracks could be LIFE AT THE MINES 91
watched ; and when the girls passed to and
from their temporary lodging, their progress
was like a royal procession through a silent,
gaping, but most respectful lane of whiskered
faces. A man looking anything but respect
would have been knocked down on the spot.
We laugh now ! Victoria did not laugh then.
It was all taken very seriously. On the
instant, every girl was offered some kind of
situation, which she voluntarily and almost
immediately exchanged for matrimony. In
all, some ninety girls came out under these
auspices in '62-'63- The respectable girls
fitted in where they belonged. The disreputable also found their own places. And the
mining camp began to take on an appearance
of domesticity and home.
Matthew Begbie, later, like Douglas, given
a title for his services to the Empire, had, as
we have seen, first come out under direct
appointment by the crown ; and when parliamentary government was organized in British
Columbia his position was confirmed as chief
justice. He had less regard for red tape than
most chief justices. Like Douglas, he first
maintained law and order and then looked up
to see if he had any authority for it. No man
ever did more for a mining camp than Sir 92 THE CARIBOO TRAIL
Matthew Begbie. He stood for the rights of
the poorest miner. In private life he was
fond of music, art, and literature; but in
public life he was autocratic as a czar and
sternly righteous as a prophet. He was a
vigilance committee in himself through sheer
force of personality. Crime did not flourish
where Begbie went. Chinaman or Indian
could be as sure of justice as the richest miner
in Cariboo. From hating and fearing him, the
camp came almost to worship him.
Many are the stories of his circuits. Once
a jury persisted in bringing in a verdict of manslaughter in place of murder.
j Prisoner,' thundered Begbie, \ it is not a
pleasant duty to me to sentence you only to
prison for life. You deserve to be hanged.
Had the jury performed their duty, I might
have the painful satisfaction of condemning
you to death. You, gentlemen of the jury,
permit me to say that it would give me great
pleasure to sentence you to be hanged each
and every one of you, for bringing in a murderer guilty only of manslaughter.'
On another occasion, when an American
had 'accidentally' shot an Indian, the coroner
rendered a verdict ' worried to death by a
dog.'    Begbie ordered another inquest.    This LIFE AT THE MINES 93
time the coroner returned a finding that the
Indian ' had been killed by falling over a cliff.'
Begbie on his own authority ordered the
American seized and taken down to Victoria.
On his way down the prisoner escaped from
the constable. This type of hair-trigger gunmen at once fled the country when Begbie
Mr Alexander, one of the Overlanders of '62,
tells how * Begbie's decisions may not have
been good law, but they were first-class justice.'
His c doctrine was that if a man were killed,
some one had to be hanged for it;   and the
effect was salutary.'    A man had been sandbagged in a Victoria saloon and thrown out
to  die.    His companion in the saloon was
arrested and tried.    The circumstantial evidence was strong, and the judge so charged the
jury.    But the jury acquitted the prisoner.
Dead   silence  fell  in  the  court-room.    The
prisoner's counsel arose and requested the discharge of the man.   Begbie whirled: 'Prisoner
at the bar, the jury have said you are not
guilty.    You can go, and I devoutly hope the
next man you sandbag will be one of the jury.'
On another occasion a man was found stabbed
on the Cariboo Road.    The man with whom
the dead  miner had been  quarrelling was 94 THE CARIBOO TRAIL
arrested, tried, and, in spite of strong evidence
against him, acquitted. Begbie adjourned the
court with the pious wish that the murderer
should go out and cut the throats of the
But, in spite of his harsh manner towards the
wrong-doer,' the old man,' as the miners affectionately called him, kept law and order. In
the early days gold commissioners not only
settled all mining disputes, but acted as judge
and jury. Against any decision of the gold
commissioners Begbie was the sole appeal, and
in all the long years of his administration no
decision of his was ever challenged.
The effect of sudden wealth on some of the
hungry, ragged horde who infested Cariboo
was of a sort to discount fiction. One man
took out forty thousand dollars in gold nuggets.
A lunatic escaped from a madhouse could not
have been more foolish. He came to the best
saloon of Barkerville. He called in guests
from the highways and byways and treated
them to champagne which cost thirty dollars
and fifty dollars a bottle. When the rabble
could drink no more champagne, he ordered
every glass filled and placed on the bar. With
one magnificent drunken gesture of vainglory
he swept the glasses in a clattering crash to the LIFE AT THE MINES
floor. There was still a basket of champagne
left. He danced the hurdy-gurdy on that
basket till he cut his feet. The champagne
was all gone, but he still had some gold nuggets.
There was a mirror in the bar-room valued at
hundreds of dollars. The miner stood and
proudly surveyed his own figure in the glass.
Had he not won his dearest desire and conquered all things in conquering fortune ? He
gathered his last nuggets and hurled them in
handfuls at the mirror, shattering it in countless pieces. Then he went out in the night to
sleep under the stars, penniless. He settled
down to work for the rest of his life in other
men's mines.
The staid Overlanders, who had risked their
lives to reach this wild land of desire, who had
come from such church-going hamlets as
Whitby, such Scottish-Presbyterian centres as
Toronto and Montreal, hardly knew whether
they were dreaming or living in a country of
crazy pixies who delved in mud and water all
day and weltered in champagne all night. The
Cariboo poet sang their sentiments in these
I ken a body made a strike.
He looked a little lord.
He had a clan o' followers
Amang a needy horde. $6 THE CARIBOO TRAIL
Whane'er he 'd enter a saloon,
You 'd see the barkeep smile—
His lordship's humble servant he
Wi'out a thought o' guile!
A twalmonth passed an* a' is gane,
Baith freends and brandy bottle!
An' noo the puir soul's left alane
Wi' nocht to weet his throttle!
In Barkerville, which became the centre of
Cariboo, saloons and dance-halls grew up overnight. Pianos were packed in on mules at a
rate of a dollar a pound from Quesnel. Champagne in pint bottles sold at two ounces of
gold. Potatoes retailed at ninety dollars a
hundredweight. Nails were cheap at a dollar
a pound. Milk was retailed frozen at a dollar
a pound. Boots still cost fifty dollars. Such
luxuries as mirrors and stoves cost as high as
seven hundred dollars each. The hurdy-gurdy
girls with true German thrift charged ten
dollars or more a dance—not the stately
waltz, but a wild fling to shake the rafters
and tire out the stoutest miners.
A newspaper was published in Barkerville. And it was in it that James Anderson
of Scotland first issued Jeames's Letters to
Your letter cam' by the express,
Eight shillin's carriage, naethin' less I LIFE AT THE MINES 97
You maybe like to ken what pay
Miners get here for ilka day ?
Jus' twa poond sterling, sure as death—
It should be four, between us baith—
For gin ye coont the cost o' livin',
There's naethin' left to gang an' come on.
Sawney, had ye yer taters here
And neeps and carrots—dinna speer
What price; though I might tell ye weel,
Ye 'd ainly think me a leein' chiel.
The first twa years I spent out here
Werena sae ill ava';
But hoo I 've lived syne; my freend,
There's little need to blaw.
Like fitba' knockit back and fore,
That's lang in reachin' goal,
Or feather blown by ilka wind
That whistles 'tween each pole—
E'en sae my mining life has been
For mony a weary day.
Later, when the dance-hall became the
theatre of Barkerville, James Anderson used
to sing his rhymes to the stentorious shouting and loud stamping of the shirt-sleeved
He thinks his pile is made,
An' he's goin' hame this fall,
To join his dear auld mither,
His farther, freends, and all.
His heart e'en jumps wi' joy
At the thocht o' bein' there,
An' mony a happy minute
He's biggin' castles in the air 1
But hopes that promised high
In the springtime o' the year,
Like leaves o' autumn fa'
When the frost o' winter's near.
Sae his biggin' tumbles doon,
Wi' ilka blast o' care,
Till there's no stane astandin'
O' his castles in the air. CHAPTER VIII
When the railway first went through the
Fraser Canyon, passengers looking out of the
windows anywhere from Yale to Ashcroft were
amazed to see something like a Jacob's ladder
up and down the mountains, appearing in
places to hang almost in mid-air. Between
Yale and Lytton it hugged the mountain-side
on what looked like a shelf of rock directly
above the wildest water of the canyon. Crib-
work of huge trees, resembling in the distance
the woven pattern of a willow basket, projected out over the ledges like a bird's nest
hung from some mountain eyrie. The traveller almost expected to see the thing sway and
swing to the wind. Then the train would
sweep through a tunnel, or swing round a sharp
bend, and far up among the summits might be
seen a mule-team or a string of pack-horses
winding round the shoulders of the rock. It
seemed impossible that any man-made high- <
way could climb such perpendicular walls and
drop down precipitous cliffs and follow a trail
apparently secure only for a mountain goat.
The first impression was that the thing must
be an old Indian war-path, along which no
enemy could pursue. But when the train
paused at a water tank, and the traveller
made inquiry, he was told that this was nothing less than the famous Cariboo Road, one
of the wonders of the world.
As long as the discovery of gold was confined to the Fraser river-bars, the important
matter of transportation gave the government
no difficulty. Hudson's Bay steamers crossed
from Victoria to Langley on the Fraser, which
was a large fort and well equipped as a base of
supplies for the workers in the wilderness.
Stern-wheelers, canoes, and miscellaneous craft
could, with care, creep up from Langley to
Hope and Yale; and the fares charged afforded
a good revenue to the Hudson's Bay Company.
Even when prospectors struck above Yale,
on up to Harrison Lake and across to Lillooet,
or from the Okanagan to the Thompson, the
difficulties of transportation were soon surmounted. A road was shortly opened from
Harrison Lake to Lillooet, built by the miners
themselves, under the direction of the Royal THE CARIBOO ROAD
From a photograph  THE CARIBOO ROAD 101
Engineers; and, as to the Thompson, there
was the well-worn trail of the fur-traders, who
had been going overland to Kamloops for
fifty years.
It was when gold was discovered higher up
on the Fraser and in Cariboo, after the colony
of British Columbia had taken its place on the
political map, that Governor Douglas was put
to the task of building a great road. Henceforth, for a few years at least, the miners
would be the backbone, if not the whole body,
of the new colony. How could the administration be carried on if the government had
no road into the mining region ?
And so the governor of British Columbia
entered on the boldest undertaking in road-
building ever launched by any community of
twenty thousand people. The Cariboo Road
became to British Columbia what the Appian
Way was to Rome. It was eighteen feet wide
and over four hundred and eighty miles long.
It was one of the finest roads ever built in the
world. Yet it cost the country only two
thousand dollars a mile, as against the forty
thousand dollars a mile which the two transcontinental railways spent later on their roadbeds along the canyon. It was Sir James
Douglas's greatest monument. 102 THE CARIBOO TRAIL
Five hundred volunteer mine-workers built
the road from Harrison Lake to Lillooet in
1858 at the rate of ten miles a day ; and when
the road was opened in September, packers'
charges fell from a dollar to forty-eight cents
and finally to eighteen cents a pound. But
presently the trend of travel drew away from
Harrison Lake to the line of the Fraser. At
first there was nothing but a mule-trail hacked
out of the rock from Yale to Spuzzum; but
miners went voluntarily to work and widened
the bridle-path above the shelving waters.
From Spuzzum to Lytton the river ledges
seemed almost impassable for pack animals;
yet a cable ferry was rigged up at Spuzzum
and mules were sent over the ledges to draw
it up the river. When the water rose so high
that the lower ledges were unsafe, the packers
ascended the mountains eight hundred feet
above the roaring canyon. Where cliffs broke
off, they sent the animals across an Indian
bridge. The marvel is not that many a poor
beast fell headlong eight hundred feet down
the precipice. The marvel is that any pack
animal could cross such a trail at all. ' A
traveller must trust his hands as much as his
feet,' wrote Begbie, after his first experience
of this trail. J  THE CARIBOO ROAD 103
But by 1862 cutting and blasting and bridge-
building had begun under the direction of the
Royal Engineers ; and before 1865 the great
road was completed into the heart of the
mining country at Barkerville. Henceforth
passengers went in by stage-coach drawn by
six horses. Road-houses along the way provided relays of fresh horses. Freight went
in by bull-team, but pack-horses and mules
were still used to carry miners' provisions to
the camps in the hills which lay off the main
road. It was while the road was still building
that an enterprising packer brought twenty-
one camels on the trail. They were not a success and caused countless stampedes. Horses
and mules took fright at the slightest whiff
of them. The camels themselves could stand
neither the climate nor the hard rock road.
They were turned adrift on the Thompson
river, where the last of them died in 1905.
There was something highly romantic in the
stage-coach travel of this halcyon era. The
driver was always a crack whip, a man who
called himself an ' old-timer,' though often his
years numbered fewer than twenty. Most of
the drivers, however, knew the trail from
having packed in on shanks's mare and camped
under the stars.    At the log taverns known THE CARIBOO TRAIL
as road-houses travellers could sleep for the
night and obtain meals.
On the down trip bags were piled on the roof
with a couple of frontiersmen armed with
rifles to guard them. Many were the devices
of a returning miner for concealing the gold
which he had won. A fat hurdy-gurdy girl
—or sometimes a squaw—would climb to a
place in the stage. And when the stage, with
a crack of the whip and a prance of the six
horses, came rattling across the bridge and
rolling into Yale, the fat girl would be the first
to deposit her ample person at the bank or the
express office, whence gold could safely be
sent on down to Victoria. And when she
emerged half an hour later she would have
thinned perceptibly. Then the rough miner,
who had not addressed a word to her on the
way down, for fear of a confidence man aboard,
would presentj Susy ' with a handsome reward
in the form of a gaudy dress or a year's provisions.
Start from a road-house was made at dawn,
when the clouds still hung heavy on the mountains and the peaks were all reflected in the
glacial waters. The passengers tumbled dishevelled from log-walled rooms where the beds
were bench berths,  and ate breakfast in a
dining-hall where the seats were hewn logs.
The fare consisted of ham fried in slabs, eggs
ancient and transformed to leather in lard,
slapjacks, known as ' Rocky Mountain dead
shot,' in maple syrup that never saw a maple
tree and was black as a pot, and potatoes in
soggy pyramids. Yet so keen was the mountain air, so stimulating the ozone of the resinous hemlock forests, that the most fastidious
traveller felt he had fared sumptuously, and
gaily paid the two-fifty for the meal. Perhaps
there was time to wash in the common tin basin
at the door, where the towel always bore evidence of patronage ; perhaps not; anyhow, no
matter. Washing was only a trivial incident
of mountain travel in those days.
The passenger jumped for a place in the
coach ; the long whip cracked. The horses
sprang forward; and away the stage rattled
round curves where a hind wheel would try to
go over the edge—only the driver didn't let it;
down embankments where any normal wagon
would have upset, but this one didn't; up
sharp grades where no horses ought to be
driven at a trot, but where the six persisted
in going at a gallop ! The passenger didn't
mind the jolting that almost dislocated his
spine.    He didn't mind the negro who sat on io6
! iul
one side of him or the fat squaw who sat on
the other. He was thankful not to be held
up by highwaymen, or dumped into the wild
cataract of waters below. Outside was a
changing panorama of mountain and canyon,
with a world of forests and lakes. Inside was
a drama of human nature to outdo any curtain-
raiser he had ever witnessed—a baronet who
had lost in the game and was going home
penniless, perhaps earning his way by helping
with the horses ; an outworn actress who had
been trying her luck at the dance-halls ; a
gambler pretending that he was a millionaire ;
a saloon-keeper with a few thousands in his
pockets and a diamond in his shirt the size of
a pebble ; a tenderfoot rigged out as a veteran,
with buckskin coat, a belt full of artillery,
fearfully and wonderfully made new high-
boots, and a devil-may-care air that deceived
no one but himself ,* a few Shuswaps and
Siwashes, fat, ill-smelling, insolent, and plainly
highly amused in their beady, watchful, black,
ferret eyes at the mad ways of this white
race; a still more ill-smelling Chinaman ; and
a taciturn, grizzled, ragged fellow, paying no
attention to the fat squaw, keeping his observations and his thoughts inside his high-boots,
but likely as not to turn out the man who
would conduct the squaw to the bank or the
express office at Yale.
If one could get a seat outside with the
guards and the driver—one who knew how to
unlock the lore of these sons of the hills—he
was lucky ; for he would learn who made his
strike there, who was murdered at another
place, how the sneak-thief trailed the tenderfoot somewhere else—all of it romance, much
of it fiction, much of it fact, but no fiction half
so marvellous as the fact.
Bull-teams of twenty yokes, long lines of
pack-horses led by a bell-mare, mule-teams
with a tinkling of bells and singing of the
drivers, met the stage and passed with happy
salute. At nightfall the camp-fires of foot
travellers could be seen down at the water's
edge. And there was always danger enough
to add zest to the journey. Wherever there
are hordes of hungry, adventurous men, there
will be desperadoes. In spite of Begbie's justice, robberies occurred on the road and not a
few murders. The time going in and out
varied ; but the journey could be made in five
days and was often made in four.
The building of the Cariboo Road had an
important influence on the camp that its
builders could not foresee.    The unknown El 108 THE CARIBOO TRAIL
Dorado is always invested with a fabulous
glamour that draws to ruin the reckless and
the unfit. Before the road was built adventurers had arrived in Cariboo expecting to pick
up pails of nuggets at the bottom of a rainbow.
Their disillusionment came ; but there was
an easy way back to the world. They did not
stay to breed crime and lawlessness in the
camp. * The walking '—as Begbie expressed
it—c was all down hill and the road was good,
especially for thugs.' While there were ten
thousand men in Cariboo in the winter of '62
and perhaps twenty thousand in the winter
©£ 963, there were less than five thousand
in '71.
This does not mean that the camp had collapsed. It had simply changed from a poor
man's camp to a camp for a capitalist or a
company. It will be remembered that the
miners first found the gold in flakes, then
farther up in nuggets, then that the nuggets
had to be pursued to pay-dirt beneath gravel
and clay. This meant shafts, tunnels, hydraulic machinery, stamp-mills. Later, when
the pay-dirt showed signs of merging into
quartz, there passed away for ever the day of
the penniless prospector seeking the golden
fleece  of the  hills  as his  predecessor,  the
trapper,  had  sought  the  pelt  of the  little
All unwittingly, the miner, as well as the
trapper, was an instrument in the hands of
destiny, an instrument for shaping empire ; for
it was the inrush of miners which gave birth
to the colony of British Columbia. Federation with the Canadian Dominion followed
in 1871 ; the railway and the settler came;
and the man with the pick and his eyes on
the ■ float' gave place to the man with the
plough. !■
The episode of Cariboo is so recent that the
bibliography on it is not very complete. British
Columbia, by Judge Ho way and E. O. S. Schole-
field, provincial librarian, is the last and most
accurate word on the history of that province,
though one could wish that the authors had given
more human-document records in the biographical
section. In a very few years there will be no
old-timers of the trail left; and, after all, it is the
human document that gives colour and life to
history. It was my privilege to know some of
the Overlanders intimately. One of the companies
who rafted down the Fraser came from the county
where I was born; and though they preceded my
day, their terrible experiences were a household
word. With others I have poled the Fraser on
those very tempestuous waters that took such
toll of life in '62. Others have been my hosts. I
have gone up and down the Arrow Lakes in a
Steamer as a guest of the man who came through
the worst experiences of the Overlanders. Chance
conversations are shifty guides on dates and place-
names. For these, regarding the Overlanders,
I have relied on Mrs MacNaughton's Cariboo. BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE        in
Gosnell's British Columbia Year Book and Hubert
Howe Bancroft's British Columbia are very full on
this era. Walter Moberly's pamphlets on the
building of the trail and Mr Alexander's casual
addresses are excellent. Old files of the Kamloops
Sentinel and the Victoria Colonist are full of
scattered data. Anderson's Hand Book of 1858;
Begbie's Report to the London Geographical
Society, 1861; Begg's British Columbia; Fraser's
Journal; Mayne's British Columbia, 1862; Milton
and Cheadle's North West Passage, 1865; Palliser's
Report, 1859; Waddington's Fraser River Mines—
all afford sidelights on this adventurous era. On
the prospector's daily life there is no book. That
must be learned from him on the trail; and on
many camp trips in the Rockies, with prospectors
for guides, I have picked up such facts as I could.  INDEX
Alexander, Mr, his tragic experience on the Fraser, 77-8;
quoted, 93, in.
Anderson, James, the Scottish
miner poet, 50, 90, 95-8.
Antler Creek, 44.
Barker, Billy, 47.
Barkerville, 46 ; life in, 94-8;
the Cariboo Road terminus,
Begbie, Sir Matthew Baillie,
chief justice of British Columbia, 37, 38, 39, 88; his
popularity with the miners,
91-4, 102, 108, in.
Big Canyon, 34.
Black, John, Presbyterian
'apostle of the Red River,' 57.
British Columbia, proclaimed
a crown colony, 37 ; and the
building of the Cariboo Road,
100-1 ; and the miners, 109.
See Cariboo, Fraser river,
Cameron, Cariboo, 47-8, 50.
Cameron, Mrs, 89.
Cariboo, prospecting in, 41-5;
the mad rush for, 45-6, 51-2,
53-4; the mines a freakish
gamble, 47-8; changes in,
107-9. See Barkerville and
Cariboo Road, 19; the building
of the, 82, 99-103; its effect
on the mines, 107-9 ; stagecoach travel on, 103-7.
Cariboo Trail, perils of the, 50-
51; evolution of, 64. See
Cariboo Road.
China Bar, 35.
Cridge, Rev. Edward, 6.
Dallas, Alexander, governor of
Rupert's Land, 55.
Deitz, Billy, 44, 50.
Douglas, Sir James, governor
of Vancouver Island, 5, 8,10;
quells disturbances on the
Fraser, 35-7, 37-8 ; governor
of British Columbia, 37, 38 ;
builds the Cariboo Road, 101.
Edmonton, the Overlanders at,
Finlayson, Roderick, chief
trader at Victoria, 1-3, 5, 6,
Fort George, the Overlanders
at, 81, 84.
Fort Langley, British Columbia proclaimed at, 37, 100.
Fraser, Colin, and the Overlanders, 64-5.
Fraser, Simon, explorer, 81.
Fraser Canyon, 14, 19, 64. H4
Fraser river, the quest for gold
on, 8-9, io, n-22,27-32,51-2;
disturbances among the Indians, 33-5; and the whites,
37-40; the Overlanders on,
70, 71-2. See Gold-fields,
Gold, prospecting for, 17-18,20-
21, 27-8 ; the lure of the' float,'
21-2, 23-5, 25-6, 28; mining
for, 29-30. See Gold-fields,
Gold-fields, the price of commodities in. 13, 16-17, 29, 47,
96, 105 ; ' claim jumping,' 40 ;
unused gold a curse, 88-9,
104; hurdy-gurdy girls, 89-
90, 96, 104.
Hope, 29, 36. 38. 42.
Horse Fly Creek, 41.
Howay, Judge, quoted, 11, no.
Hudson's Bay Company, and
the quest for gold, 1-4; and
Vancouver Island, 5-6 ; and
the diggings on the Fraser,
16,100; and the Indians, 34-5;
and the Overlanders, 55, 57,
60, 61-3.
Indians of the Fraser, and the
quest for gold, 12-13; their
hostility, 33-6; and the Overlanders, 81.   See Shuswaps.
Ireland, Mr, his rescue party,
Keithley, Doc, 42-4.
Langley, 37, 100.
Lightning Creek, 45.
Long Bar, 35.
MacDonald, Sandy, 42-4.
M'Gowan, Ned, his affair on
the Fraser, 37-40.
M'Kay, James, chief trader at
Fort Ellice, 60.
Mackenzie, Alexander, explorer, 81.
Maclean, chief factor at Kamloops, 4.
M'Lougnlin, John, 34.
M'Micking, Thomas, captain
of the Overlanders, 58-9, 69,
MacNaughton, Mrs, quoted,
71, 84, no.
Mayne, Lieutenant, and the
Yale riots, 38, 39, m.
Miners, in the wilds, 26; disappointed gold-seekers, 13,
16; some lucky prospectors,
22-5, 47-51; the miner and
his boy, 26-7; their pack-
horses, 27, 103; form vigilance committees, 33-5; their
rough-and-ready justice, 89;
their chivalry, 89, 91: the
effect of sudden wealth on,
94-6 ; a device for concealing
gold, 104, 106-7» an instrument for shaping empire, 109.
See Fraser river, Gold,
Moberly, Walter, his experiences on the Fraser, 16, 17,
Moody, Colonel, and the Yale
riots, 37-9.
Muskeg and slough, the difference between, 65 n.
Overlanders, the, at St Paul,
54; their meeting with the
Sioux warriors, 55; on the
Red River steamer, 54, 55-6; INDEX
and the Hudson's Bay Company, 55, 57, 6o, 61-3; at
Winnipeg, 56-7; on the trail
to Edmonton, 57-61; and the
husky-dogs, 60, 62-3; reach
Yellowhead Pass, 62, 63-7;
cross the Divide and reach
the Fraser, 68-72; the party
separate, 71, 73; on the
Fraser, 73-81, 83-4; a question for psychologists, 77-8;
a gruesome story, 78-9; reach
Quesnel, 81, 84; Kamloops,
Prospecting for gold on the
Fraser, 17-22, 25-6, 27-9, 30-
32, 40; some lucky prospectors and their fate, 47-
51; theory regarding gold
deposits, 48-9.
Psychology, a question of, 77-8.
Queen Charlotte Islands, discovery of gold in, 3.
Quesnel, 81-3, 84.
Quesnel Lake, 41.
Red River, the first steamer
on, 54-6; Red River carts,
Rose, John, 42-4, 50.
Saskatchewan, the quest for
gold on the, 63-4.
Shubert, Mrs, with the Overlanders, 60, 66, 67, 73, 86.
Shuswaps, the, and the Overlanders, 71, 72, 73, 74, 83, 84.
Sioux, the, 54-5.
Snyder, Captain, leads attack
on the Indians, 34-5.
Spuzzum, a fight with Indians
at, 34-5-
Stout, Ed, 44.
Tache, Mgr, bishop of St
Boniface, 55, 56.
Vancouver Island, the first
Council and Legislative Assembly of, 5 and note. See
Victoria, and the quest for gold,
1, 5, 6-7; and the rush for
the Fraser, 7-8, 9, 10; and
the matrimonial scheme, 90-
91.   See Vancouver Island.
Weaver, George, 42-4.
William's Creek, 44, 45, 48.
Winnipeg, 56-7.
Work,   John,  chief factor  at
Victoria, 6.
Wright,    Captain    Tom,    a
Yankee    skipper    on    the
Fraser, 16, 38.
Yale, 9, 13, 16, 29, 33, 34, 36,
37-40, 42.
Yellowhead Pass, 64, 67, 68.
Printed by T. and A. Constable, Printers to His Majesty
at the Edinburgh University Press   , Purchased ^^^£M^?1
of Purc
hase _^fd^yitx
c:. z. 


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