At my last blog posting, we paused in mid winter, 1848, when deep snow covered the entire territory west of the Rocky mountains. This snow prevented Henry Newsham Peers from constructing a new brigade trail between Fort Hope, on the lower Fraser River, and Kamloops.
“Though the snow fall was good news for the fur trade, it killed so many horses in the interior that the fur traders now worried about having enough animals to carry out their furs in the spring. Still, the furs must go out — but because the fur traders had no idea how much snow might lie on the top of the Coquihalla, they decided to go out, once more, by the Anderson River trail they had used in summer 1848.
“Alexander Caulfield Anderson was now in charge at Fort Colvile, and he rode north to Kamloops by the old brigade trail up the west side of Okanagan Lake and through Monte Lake. As he waited for the brigades to load at Kamloops, he sat on the hilltop above the fort, and sketched the unfinished watercolor and pencil drawing of the new Thompson River post contained in my book.
“From Kamloops, the combined brigades came out, once again, by the Anderson River trail, and it took them ten days to reach Fort Langley. At the fort, Anderson quickly loaded his goods into the boats and pushed his men upriver to Fort Hope, to begin work on the new trail.
“As they came downriver Manson asked Anderson to remain behind at Fort Hope to open the trail, but Anderson refused to do so. Now, when the packhorses that had been sent over the mountain from Kamloops arrived at Fort Hope, Anderson told Manson of his decision to leave Fort Hope with his men and horses, without doing any more work to improve the trail. The two gentlemen exchanged “high words.”
“The Fort Colvile men found the passage over the mountain easy even though the trail was unfinished; they continued their journey on to Fort Colvile via the Similkameen Valley, Osoyoos Lake, Anarchist Mountain and the Kettle River, which they followed south to reach the Columbia River a few miles from Fort Colvile. I strongly suspect that their guide over this new route (base of the Coquihalla at Tulameen, to the Similkameen Valley and over the hump of land to Osoyoos Lake) was a young Native man we only know as “Blackeye’s Son.”
“I believe that Anderson had already considered the possibility that he could cross the mountain a second time that summer, and that is why he left Fort Hope as soon as he could. From Fort Colvile, Anderson sent his men back for the remainder of his goods, left behind because of the shortage of horses. Because Fort St. James was so far north, Donald Manson did not have that option, and could not make a second journey to Hope. He left much of his supplies behind, and the shortage of trade goods plagued him the entire year that followed.
“A few weeks after Anderson left Hope for Fort Colvile, reports of his argument with Manson reached the ears of Peter Skene Ogden at Fort Vancouver. Ogden arranged that the Fort Colvile brigades, and those from New Caledonia, arrived at Fort Hope separately. Every year afterward, Fort Victoria’s James Douglas travelled to Fort Langley to supervise the brigades’ arrivals, because, as Peter Skene Ogden wrote, “without a conductor the gentlemen are not competent to conduct their own affairs, trifling as they are, and a separation is absolutely necessary as Pugilistic affairs between the two leaders is not exactly the proper mode of conduct in Brigades in the presence of the Company’s servants.”
“Neither Manson nor Anderson would have called their affairs “trifling.” Their return journey over the mountains were at all times difficult. Stress levels were high, the work was hard and there were sometimes heavy losses of essential trade goods. They worried about having enough men to do the work the fur trade demanded — fewer good men were joining the trade and the quality and quantity of men that reached the Columbia district and New Caledonia was in constant decline. Moreover, at Fort Langley, many voyageurs attempted to desert the fur trade and make their way south to the California gold fields, now in full swing.
“I found a good description of the trail over the Coquihalla Mountain behind Hope, written that year by the acting-Governor for the HBC, Eden Colvile, who rode over it a few months after the brigade had crossed. Among other things he suggested, “It will be necessary to send a party of men from each end of the road to cut all the fallen timber, as it is very fatiguing to the loaded horses to be continually stepping over these fallen trees, & thirdly, ditches should be cut through the swamps, & where requisite, logs & brush laid over them, so as to afford firm footing for the horses.”
“The work was done. When the brigades came out in the summer of 1850, they found the trails much improved. From Campement des Femmes at the foot of the mountains on its north side, the Fort Colvile brigades followed the brigade trail twelve miles up to Lodestone Lake. Another twelve miles or so brought them to Horseguards Camp on the Tulameen River at Podunk Creek — where Alexander Caulfield Anderson’s exploration of 1846 crossed the brigade trail that resulted from that exploration.
“The next day they stopped at Campement du Chevreuil or Deer Camp, and nineteen miles further on reached Manson’s Camp, at the head of Peers’ Creek. Fifteen more miles brought them down Peers Creek and the Coquihalla River into Fort Hope, where they loaded their goods into boats and drifted downriver to Fort Langley.
“In August of that year, James Douglas reported to Governor Simpson: ‘I have been to Fort Langley, where the Brigades from the interior arrived safely with the furs between the 15th and 19th July. They crossed the Frasers’ River ridge [Coquihalla] without difficulty, the snow being compact enough to support the loaded horses, and Mr. Manson is of the opinion that the passage may be made ten days earlier in the season in perfect safety… the Fort Colvile people reached Fort Langley in seventeen days moderate travelling, and the other Brigades took ten days from Kamloops. The woods have been partially cleared by fire, and grass seed sown at Fort Hope and other points on this road, which will in a short time furnish a sufficiency of food for the horses.'”
Next week I will give you descriptions of the brigades arrivals at Fort Hope, written by people who lived outside the fur trade. Further work was done on the trail, as well, and I can tell you the story of the men who worked on the trail. And for those of you who are interested in hiking these trails, know this: For the most part, these trails — both Anderson’s River trail and the brigade trail over the Coquihalla — are in good condition and can be hiked at any time. Parts of the Anderson River trail have been logged and the trail bed lost, but Native trails take their place. For more information, go to http://www.hopemountain.org