The Creation of the Brigade Trails, 1846-48, part two

Alexander Caulfield Anderson made four explorations across or around the Coquihalla Mountain, but because this is the talk that I gave in Hope, British Columbia, it is mostly concentrating on the brigade trail that ended up at Fort Hope in 1849.

So let us continue:

I ended my last post with Anderson and his party settling in for the night, at Council’s Punch Bowl Lake.

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

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

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

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

“It was now May, 1847. When he left Kamloops, Anderson already knew about the newly opened Similkameen trail from the Nicola Valley to the Fraser River — ending where Boston Bar now stands.  [We are not talking about the trail up the Coquihalla — this was a different and newly discovered trail]. Anderson had also viewed Sam Black’s 1835 map of the Thompson’s River district at Kamloops, and noted that Black had marked the ranged of hills the trail was supposed to cross, with the words: “Terrible Mountains all over Hereabouts!”

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


“Pahallak guided Anderson’s party down the east bank of the Fraser, and one day later they reached the Native settlement that Anderson called ‘Squa-zowm,’ about where Boston Bar stands today. This was where the newly opened Similkameen trail was supposed to begin, and Blackeye’s son joined Anderson’s party there. Blackeye and his close relative, Tsilaxitsa, showed the fur traders their new trail up the mountains behind Squa-zowm.

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

“When news of the massacre reached Fort Vancouver [Vancouver, WA], Peter Skene Ogden traveled east up the Columbia River to purchase the hostages and settle the tribes. He succeeded, but the end result of this massacre was the Cayuse wars that erupted up and down the Columbia River, making it no longer safe for travel. The gentlemen at Fort Vancouver instructed the men of New Caledonia, Kamloops and Fort Colvile [on the Columbia River near Spokane], to bring out their furs by one of Anderson’s unimproved trails.

“It was 1848, and the trail they chose to use was the Squa-zowm River trail, through Sam Black’s “Terrible Mountains all over Hereabouts” and over Lake Mountain. James Douglas traveled to the Fraser River to asses how easy it would be to travel downriver to the new Fort Yale. He was horrified by the river rapids, and discovering a rough passage that led through a rift in the rocks on the west side of the river, he ordered that a good road be built through it. This was the Douglas Portage, north of modern day Yale.

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

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

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


We are looking north up the Fraser River, and that point of land on the right side is Kequeloose. Just beyond you can see the modern day Alexandra Bridge. The mountains on the right hand side are the mountains the fur traders had to clamber over with their horses and loads, to reach Anderson’s River at Boston Bar, and the Nicola Valley. As you can see, this is not a gentle country!

To continue: “The outgoing brigades had carried out packs of furs and castoreum — the incoming brigades would now carry in trade goods such as packs of iron goods and axe heads, balls and black powder and flints for flintlocks guns, salt, and tobacco in 90 rolls or in carrots.

“The brigades would also return with fewer men — nine men sent out with the Fort Colvile crew returned to Fort Vancouver, and three or more men deserted at Fort Langley. But a young gentleman named Henry Newsham Peers had come out with the brigades, and he would be returning home with them. As Donald Manson’s clerk, he was instructed to keep a journal of the trip in!”

This is probably a good place to stop until next week — next week’s post will be full of the disasters and excitement that occurred on the incoming brigade journey to Kamloops from Fort Langley, as the fur traders and their employees make their way upriver to tiny Fort Yale, and beyond. If you are from British Columbia, you will shake your head at the fact they even tried to take horses over the mountains that separated the two forts…. but all this really happened!

For your further information, I have a website coming, but it will be a few weeks before it shows up. My blog post will also be a little more decorated — as you can probably see I am still learning how to manage WordPress, which I find quite a challenge. 

But be patient, it will happen.



My name is Nancy Marguerite Anderson, and I am the author of the book, The Pathfinder: A. C. Anderson’s Journeys in the West [Victoria, BC: Heritage House Publ, 2011]

Anderson’s full name (and one he almost always used) was Alexander Caulfield Anderson. He was the Hudson’s Bay Company fur trader who, in the mid-1840’s, threaded his way through mountain passes and down rapid-filled rivers in search of a horse-friendly trail through the rugged country that separated the Kamloops fort, from Fort Langley, on the lower Fraser River.

Victoria’s first local historian Derek Pethick, noted that without Anderson’s explorations, British Columbia could hardly have come into being. “His discovery of an all-British artery for the fur trade was to have a profound effect on the history of not only British Columbia, but also of Canada itself.” (Source: Men of British Columbia, Hancock House Press, 1975).

Alexander Caulfield Anderson was my great-grandfather, and I wanted to know who he was. It took me ten years to research his story; I accessed archives in Australia, in Scotland, and across the North American continent.

As I wrote the book, I learned things that threatened to destroy the historic and heroic fur trade figure that lived inside my head.

There were occasions when I flinched — but those flinches transformed Anderson into a man, with quirks and flaws and character and kindness and a poetic courtesy — an extraordinary human being.

I loved the long journey of uncovering Alexander Caulfield Anderson, the man. I hope that you, too, will discover this complex, intelligent, and talented man for yourself — that you too will take pleasure in plumbing the depths of this man’s story, which is also British Columbia’s history.

Thank you.


Creation of the Brigade Trails, overview and 1846, part one of several parts

I do travel to give speeches (I would rather call them talks) and one of the talks I gave was in front of the people who are preserving all of the HBC brigade trails that run between Kamloops and Fort Langley.

This group works under the name Hope Mountain Centre, and you will find them on the web at:

The gathering was held at the Blue Moose Cafe, and the room began to fill up pretty quickly. Even after I started talking, people kept coming in.

This is what I said on that occasion, and I might divide this up into two [or more] posts, as the talk was one and a half hours long!


“Good evening everyone, and I am glad to be amongst a group of people who know exactly who Alexander Caulfield Anderson was, and what part he played in your history.

“He has been forgotten by many, and when I started to write this book some ten years ago, my reason for putting his story on paper was to have him remembered — to tell his story. Over the years my reasons changed of course, and when I was more or less finished I realized I wanted to know who he was and what kind of man he was. This had become a very personal project.

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

The image I showed at that time was Alexander Caulfield Anderson at the age of 60 some-odd years — see above. As I wrote the book this was the image I had in my head, and I always struggled to remember that when he was exploring the Fraser River canyons, and riding over the brigade trails, he was a little more than thirty years of age.

“Historians have always known who A. C. Anderson was — he is the Hudson’s Bay Company fur trader who, in the mid-1840’s, threaded his way through mountain passes and down rapid filled rivers in search of a horse-friendly trail through the rugged country that separated the Kamloops fort from Fort Langley, on the lower Fraser River.

“He uncovered two rough trails, both of which might be made suitable as a horse trail, to be used in a few years time and after a great deal of work was done to improve the trail bed.

“However, unbeknownst to the fur traders — at the same time Anderson was exploring for a new route, a creeping illness sickened the Natives along the Columbia River. The presence of this pestilence would, without warning, change the fur trade and force the traders to bring out their furs by one of Anderson’s unimproved trails. The first traverse over one of Anderson’s trails was an impossibly difficult journey, and that a year later little better. However on their return journey they tried Anderson’s second trail, and to everyone’s surprise, it worked reasonably well.

“With a lot of work, that trail became the first good road into the interior of what would eventually become British Columbia — as you who live in Hope know, I am speaking of the Coquihalla brigade trail that runs east of Hope over the range of mountains behind us.

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

“But first I have to explain a few things, so you understand better what is going on.

“The fur traders had an annual cycle that centered around the brigades, when furs gathered every winter were carried out to their headquarters on the coast — that is, Fort Vancouver (Vancouver, WA) — to be shipped to London and sold. Every year between 1824 and 1845, the New Caledonia men brought out their furs by canoe or boat — beginning their journey at Fort St. James and coming downriver through Fort George [Prince George, BC] to Fort Alexandria, on the Fraser River north of Williams Lake.

“At Fort Alexandria the men paused to load their ninety pound packs of furs onto packhorses and crossed the rugged Thompson plateau to the North Thompson River. Fording that river to its east bank [at Little Fort, BC], they rode south to their fort at Kamloops.

“South of Kamloops their trail led over the hills to Monte Lake, the north end of Okanagan Lake, down the west shore of the lake to the Okanagan River. It passed west of Osooyos Lake and down the American Okanogan Valley, reaching the Columbia River at Fort Okanogan. 

“At Fort Okanagan, the fur traders loaded their furs into boats and headed downriver. Their first stop was at Fort Nez Perces [Walla Walla]. East of Fort Nez Perces was Waillatpu — a mission set up by American missionaries among the Natives. In 1848, the Waillatpu Mission would play an important role in the history of the brigade trails.

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

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

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

“So now that I have told you of the background of the trails, I will talk of Anderson’s four cross country expeditions in 1846 and 1847, and explain the international forces that caused the fur traders such anxiety over these years.

“Long before 1840, the boundary line between the United States and British territories had been established from Canada [Ontario and Quebec], along the 49th parallel to the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains.  Now the British and American governments were negotiating the placement of the line west of the Rockies — between what they called the Oregon Territory and the so-called British territory occupied by HBC fur traders and the Natives they traded with.

“The HBC hoped the line would follow the Columbia River to the Pacific, leaving everything north of the Columbia River in Hudson’s Bay Company hands.

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

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

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

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

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

The powerpoint image I put up then was of the Coquihalla Mountain as seen from Fort Langley. “Picture, if you will, Chief Trader James Murray Yale, and Alexander Caufield Anderson, standing on the bank of the Fraser and discussing a Native trail that ran through or around this range of mountains, ending in the area around the river that the fur traders called the Similkameen [the Tulameen River]. Within a day or two, Yale’s guide led Anderson upriver to the mouth of the Coquihalla.

“From the mouth of the river, Anderson’s party followed the river east, up “a broad valley watered by a considerable stream, which we keep upon our right… pasture about the banks of the main river: wild pea, prele [horsetail], etc., in moderate sufficiency for the temporary sojourn of the brigade. Burnt woods as we proceed; two small lakes…”

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

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

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

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

“This place became every more magical when, out of curiosity, I sent an image of one of the pages of Anderson’s Latin Bible, to see if my naturalist friend could identify the leaves that Anderson had stored in that Bible. The naturalist lived in Washington State, and he sent it on to other naturalist friends and together they suggested that the leaves belonging to the California Rhododendron — Washington’s state flower. None of these people had any idea that Anderson had walked through Rhododendron Flats in 1846.

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

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

“Then I picked up Carolyn Podruchny’s book, “Making the Voyageur World: Travelers and Traders in the North American Fur Trade.” In this book she wrote about the traditional Maypole Trees, sometimes called lobsticks. This is what she said:

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

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

I will pause here, and let you rest — this is a long talk.

Next week I will continue with his descent of the north side of the Coquihalla Mountain via the Tulameen River, and his meeting with Blackeye, the Similkameen.

Blackeye and his son will prove to be very important characters in Alexander Caulfield Anderson’s fur trade story.

Flintlock and Percussion Guns


Alexander Caulfield Anderson was always fond of his guns — when he joined the fur trade in 1831, he purchased the best flintlock gun he could find in London. A few months later, at York Factory, he purchased a pair of flintlock pistols. And in 1833, at isolated Fort McLoughlin. he had an opportunity to use them.

At this North West Coast fort, Chief Trader Donald Manson had taken a tribal chief hostage and held him hostage inside the fort, hoping for the return of a deserter. Naturally the fur traders expected trouble. Anderson noted that : “Everything remained quiet and undisturbed for a few days, yet I could not but suspect the untoward tranquility that reigned around…

“Evening came on, and the men asked permission to go outside for water. I myself went out, having my pistols upon me, and leaving my other arms where they were easily accessible, for I had my misgivings, and they were very shortly realized.

“I advanced to the edge of the bank and was looking around when suddenly, within a few paces of me, I saw darting through the bushes a host of armed Indians. I turned at once, gave the alarm, and retreating to the fort was speedily prepared to defend the entrance.”

The scuffle was soon over and only one fur trader was injured, but a Native or two lost their lives. This was a common situation in the fur trade: there were times when fur traders needed to defend themselves when they were faced with a crowd of Natives who far outnumbered them. For Anderson, the second occasion occurred in 1846, when his exploring party stumbled on “a camp of Indians; the inmates of which upon our approach rushed out tumultuously with their arms, yelling very vociferously.”

The fur traders had left the fort with their guns prepared for firing, but now took off the canvas covers that protected the gunpowder from moisture, and waited for instruction from Anderson himself. For reasons you will see below, no man wanted to be the first to fire his gun!

As leader, Anderson took charge of the situation: “Judging, as it proved correctly, that their hostile demonstrations were not intentionally directed towards ourselves, I rode up and enquired their meaning. The tumult forthwith subsided; and the leader of the party, a one-eyed blackguard who is known as the Batailleur, excused himself….” and the tense situation was defused.

So why does the flintlock gun play such an important role in the situations the fur traders found themselves in? The fur traders’ guns needed to be cleaned, primed and loaded on a regular basis, especially when the explorers or traders rode through country inhabited by Natives who far outnumbered them.

Flintlocks got their name because they used flint, a hard, silicized-quartz found naturally almost everywhere, and used for thousands of years to light fires. The gun-owner knapped a small piece of flint from the larger stone, and inserted it into the gun where it would be driven by the force of the striker against the frizzen.

The flint was hard enough to knock a piece of steel off the frizzen and cause a spark, but the flint lost a bit of itself as well and would eventually need to be replaced.

The Natives used flints they picked up anywhere, but the fur traders imported the best flints from England — they were probably gathered at the base of Dover’s white cliffs.

“Lock, stock & Barrel” — a phrase familiar to all of us! The stock of the flintlock is the part that the fur trader held to his shoulder, and it remains today on modern day rifles.

The barrel is the metal part that the bullet travels down, similar to modern day rifles.

The lock is the metal part in the middle, where the gun workings are — the chambers for bullets or balls and the various working parts including the trigger. This part differs markedly from the modern day rifle.

The flintlocks were all smooth-bored muzzle loaders. To load the gun, the fur trader poured black powder into a measure he carried with him, and that might have formed a part of his powder-horn. He poured the measure of powder down the barrel of the firearm and, with a sharp tap of the gun stock on the ground, he knocked the black powder all the way to the lock where it would be ignited by the flash of gunpowder in the pan.

Next the fur trader wrapped a ball in a piece of tallow-soaked cloth, and inserted ball and cloth into the mouth of the barrel. He cut away the extra cloth with a knife he always carried with him and, removing the ramrod from the holder where it traveled as part of the gun, he rammed the ball all the way to the lock where the black powder lay.

Next the fur trader primed his gun by tipping a little black powder into the pan of the gun and snapping the steel frizzen over it — the pan and frizzen are on the outside of the lock, and a tube carries the spark into the gun where it ignites the gunpowder. When powder and ball is inside the lock, and gunpowder and frizzen outside but separated, the gun is ready to fire.However, it will not fire until the hammer is fully cocked, and released from its sprung position by a strong pull on the trigger.

These firearms were accurate, and at 80 yards the fur traders could put their shot into a target about the size of a saucer! But once fired — or if the gun misfired — it took an experienced man a full twenty seconds to reload his gun with powder and ball and make it ready for the second shot. In a confrontation with the Natives, who carried similar guns, the fur trader would always chose to negotiate, holding fire until it became absolutely necessary to shoot.

The Natives carried flintlocks, too, but the guns the fur traders sold to them were not as well built as their own guns. The Trade Guns, too, were always decorated with a brass serpent on the side, and a seated fox engraved on the back of the lock. These animals had a spiritual significance for the Natives, who also believed the symbols would bring them good luck in the hunt.

While he was still a young man at Fort McLoughlin, Alexander Anderson had test-fired William Tolmie’s percussion pistols: ten years later Anderson ordered his own percussion gun from London. With the incoming 1846 brigade, he received his new 23-gauge, double-barreled percussion gun with stout barrels, bullet moulds, nipple keys, and cleaning rods.

Percussion guns were quite different from the flintlocks, which used flint and steel to ignite gunpowder stored in the barrel of the gun. In both guns the explosion of the gunpowder powered the bullet: but in the percussion gun the flint and steel was replaced with a nipple, cap, and tube. The cap contained fulminate of mercury, an explosive chemical made of mercury, nitric acid and alcohol — the nipple accepted the cap, and the tube led the flame to the gunpowder in the barrel.

If you ever want to see these guns in action, attend one of the fur trade celebrations at Fort Langley or elsewhere, where it is likely they will have re-enactors who will demonstrate the guns and answer any questions you may have.

And one more little thing, relative to my last weeks’ post about salmon: In the papers of James Anderson, A.C.’s son, I found a note that said his father “was amazed to learn that Natives who fished at the salmon weir on Fraser Lake [and at Fort Alexandria] also killed fish by submerging the barrel of a flintlock gun up to the breach in the water, and pulling the trigger. The resulting explosion stunned the fish, which floated to the surface, and the gun never burst as it would have done if only the muzzle was submerged.”

The Salmon, from Alexander Caulfield Anderson’s manuscripts

Alexander Caulfield Anderson was many things: he was a fur trader; a historian; and a writer. Among historians he is known for his work; and today they read his manuscripts for the historical information those writings contain.

However, Anderson has many different manuscripts, both published and unpublished, for the most part hidden away in the British Columbia archives. and sometimes, in other places as well. It takes years of research to find all his works, and I still have four or more missing manuscripts to find.

So from three manuscripts easily accessible in the British Columbia archives and elsewhere, I have taken his writings about the Salmon, and mashed all the information together to make a completed manuscript. Here it is, as it stands today:

“The Salmon has been since time immemorial the chief, and frequently the sole, dependence of the aboriginal races bordering on the interior of the Coast range, for the sustenance of life. For many years, too, the European traders and their employees, has this resource alone to trust to the staple article of food — eked out, it is true, by various other products in both cases; the beasts of the chase, the minor fisheries, the wild-fowl, and the hare — but still, for their winter dependence, the Salmon was the chief and most valued.

“And here, if in a practical essay such as I am supposed to be engaged upon, I may be permitted to deviate momentarily from the dull monotony of description, I would vain direct the attention of the Reader to the beautiful concatenation of circumstances through which the ascent of the salmon is made practicable.

“From the rising ocean vapors, to their condensation in their interior ranges; the melting of the mountain snows; the consequent rising of the rivers, whereby eddies are formed, and the abruptness of waterfalls, else impracticable to the salmon, is modified — all these circumstances, coincident as they are with the natural causes which impel the shoals of salmon to ascend, compose one more line in the chain of evidences design.

“The various tributaries both of Fraser River and the Columbia, with rare exceptions, are the resort of vast shoals of Salmon at the proper season. Of these exceptions, upon the latter mentioned stream, the Similkameen is one: an effect proceeding apparently from local obstructions to their ascent not far above the junction of the stream with the Okinagan (Okanogan River).

“To these spawning grounds, following the instinct of their race, the various shoals generated originally upon each direct their course with undeviating precision — to those conversant with the habits of the European salmon it is superfluous to mention that each shoal as it ascends strives perseveringly and with unerring instinct to reach, for its spawning-ground, the spot where itself was generated. The natives employ various devices for catching them, according as the stream be clear or turbid; the same means not being generally applicable to both.

“For clearness sake, I shall confine my remarks chiefly to two principal varieties, called by the lower Indians (at Fort Langley) Saw-quai and Suck-kai, by the upper Indians Kase [Chinook] and Ta-lo [Sockeye]; by which latter names I shall distinguish them. The first, equal in size and quality to the large Salmon in Europe, enter the Fraser in May; the latter, a very much smaller and not so rich a fish, arrived a month or so later. In the lower part of the river the natives secure them in large quantities by means of drift nets. Higher up scoop-nets are chiefly used, which are wrought from stages suspended from the rocks bordering on rapid currents; and above Alexandria the Ta-cully [Dakelh] tribe construct ingenious weirs for their capture. 

“There are two varieties of the Kase, differing very little in their characteristics, but one shoal, perhaps a little smaller in size, entering the Fraser somewhat earlier than the second; this first shoal, as nearly as I could ascertain, resorts to the West Road River [Blackwater river]. The Kase arrive at the mouth of the Fraser River somewhat earlier than the Ta-lo, in May, and are caught at Alexandria in the beginning of July. The course of the Kase, apart from the minor shoals which may diverge to their native tributaries by the way, may thus be indicated from the Forks of Thle-et-leh [Prince George, BC]. A division of the grand shoal here takes place; one detachment ascending the eastern, or Great Fork, or Tete Jaune Branch, and some individual fish attaining as before stated as far as Tete Jaune’s Cache, where an abrupt overfall debars all further progress.

“The other division strikes up the Stuart’s Lake Branch, as high as the point called the Forks of Chinlac, 60 miles above Thle-et-leh. A further subdivision here takes place; one portion continuing to ascend the Stuart Branch nearly to Stuart’s Lake which, however, they do not enter — instead ceasing at the Rapid a short distance below the issue of the Lake. The other detachment ascends the Fraser Lake branch, and turning off about a mile below the outlet of the lake, continues their course towards the Nechaotin lands, up the river Neja-coh, on which its spawning grounds are situated. This is a stream which on the other hand the Ta-lo do not enter.

“The Ta-lo, its vanguard reaching Thle-et-leh in company with the rearguard of the Kase, strike up the Stuarts Lake Branch, not frequenting the main river heading to Tete Jaune’s Cache. They continue undeviatingly up to the forks of Chinlac, before mentioned, where a separation takes place. They divide; one shoal ascending to Stuart’s Lake, passing through it, and continuing up its chief feeding tributary towards Lake Tat-la. the other division, passing the Naja-coh unnoticed, proceeds directly to Fraser’s Lake; continues through it and pursues its route by the tributary stream issuing at the village of Stella, ascending it towards the Lac des Francaise on the inner verge of the Coast Range, and opposite to the Southern heads of the Skeena.

“It will thus be seen that the laws which govern the ascent of these fish are fixed and undeviating. The knowledge of their habits, therefore, which long experience has taught them, enables the Indians to prepare devices for their capture, in the full certainty that, when the fish do arrive, their preparations will not have been made in vain: in these various devices much ingenuity is displayed, but in different portions of the river, and by different tribes, various methods are practiced.

“Before the salmon enter the Fraser they are readily caught in the adjacent straits and inlets with baited hooks, frequently affixed to long lines fastened to a canoe, which is then paddled briskly through the water. the bait used in this system of trolling is a small fish, or some other substance, even a piece of old cloth.

“The lower Indians of the Fraser use small drift nets which are plied from their canoes. Higher up they erect scaffolds on rocky projections where the current is strong. From these scaffolds bag-nets distended by light frames, nearly similar to the drift-nets, are plied by the fishermen. This system continues as far as the borders of the Ta-cully tribe near Alexandria [just north of Soda Creek, BC].

“The Ta-cully, who are particularly expert in preparing various devices for fishing and the snaring of beasts of chase, construct weirs for catching the Salmon. A close fence of light hurdles, supported by strong stakes driven into the bottom, is projected some forty or fifty feet into the stream, where the current is swift and the bottom gradually shelving. Another fence is run downstream; then at a right angle six feet or so towards the bank, and again upwards nearly to the first transverse fence. The ascending fish thus intercepted in their progress by the upper fence, seek in vain to round the obstacles and, after a while, enter a large cylindrical basket which is sunk at the angle where the descending fence is formed, with slender rods converging inwards like the entrance of a wire mouse-trap. Great numbers are thus caught.

“This is the plan adopted on the mainstream where, as before stated, the water is turbid. In the clear tributaries the submerged basket is not found to answer, except where the stream can be fenced from side to side. Elsewhere the natives substitute an open basket, in the same position as the other but sunk only a few inches below the surface, above which the top of the basket projects. An opening is left in the top of the fence opposite to the basket through which the water rushes. The salmon leap this tiny fall and drop unsuspectingly into the trap prepared for them. At the discharge of Fraser’s and Stuart’s Lake the stream is fenced across, and the sunken basket is used; immense numbers are thus caught in ordinary years. The fence, however, is rarely so secure but that the main portion of the shoal contrives to force a passage, and even admitting it were perfectly close, the natives have an understanding that the fish shall be allowed to pass towards their neighbours further inland, who in turn do not seek to intercept the main body from the spawning grounds.

“The spear cannot be used save in the tributaries when the water is clear. At Alexandria I used to amuse myself at times with the scoop net, and have thus secured fifty or sixty fish in an evening.

“I will now advert to a peculiarity in their fate, which, strange as it may appear, distinguishes the majority from all other known varieties of the genus. There seems to be no question that the shoals resorting to the smaller streams debouching upon the Coast return, after performing their procreative functions, to the sea, as elsewhere. But as regards the main body, resorting to the distant head-waters of those great rivers, it may be incontestably asserted that they never return to the sea. At first incredulous of this asserted fact, subversive of all my preconceptions on the subject, it was only after the observation of years, under circumstances which seem to preclude the possibility of error, that I was constrained to arrive at the same conclusion. Without prolonging my notes by entering on the particulars of these observations, I may confidently repeat the assertion that, the function of spawning over the fish, still struggling upwards, die of exhaustion. Upon the main, or Eastern, branch of the Fraser, which as I have said is frequented only by the large variety of Kase, the strongest of these fish attain as high as Tete Jaune’s Cache between 700 or 800 miles from the sea: there their further progress is arrested by a steep fall. At the foot of this fall, and elsewhere below, the stream swarms in September with dead and dying fish. The once brilliant Salmon, no longer recognizable save from its general form, may here be seen, the function of spawning completed, almost torpid from exhaustion; its nose in many instances worn to the bone, its tail and fins in tatters, nay its very flesh in a state of half-animated decay, either helplessly floating in the eddies or with momentary exertion still struggling to ascend. In no case is the smallest disposition to descend perceptible: its course is still onwards, until dying at last, it floats with myriads of others to be cast upon the beach, attracting to a hideous banquet a multitude of Bears and other carnivorous beasts from the adjacent mountains.”

Alexander Caulfield Anderson; the Man behind the History

This is the talk I gave in front of a small group of people who came to the Heritage Week event at the Saanich Centennial Library, in Victoria, to celebrate “The Good Neighbour.”

Small group, perhaps, but interested! One man even took notes.

So here we go, beginning with an introduction that is common to all my talks, when I must introduce this man to people who do not know who he was. 

“Good evening, everyone, and thank you for coming tonight. I am Nancy Marguerite Anderson, the author of the book, The Pathfinder: A.C. Anderson’s Journeys in the West.

“Anderson’s full name was Alexander Caulfield Anderson. He was the Hudson’s Bay Company fur trader who, in the mid-1840’s, threaded his way through mountain passes and down rapid-filled rivers in search of a horse-friendly trail through the mountainous country that separated the Hudson’s Bay Company fort at Kamloops, from Fort Langley on the lower Fraser River. He made four explorations between the two forts, and discovered two possible horse trails — both of which by-passed the canyons and rapids of the Fraser River.

“These were exciting times! At this time, the fur traders’ traditional route to their headquarters was down the Columbia River to Fort Vancouver, which stood only one hundred miles from the mouth of the river [near Portland, OR]. However, only a few months after Anderson returned home from his second set of explorations, Native uprisings along the lower Columbia River forced the fur traders to abandon any attempt to come down the Columbia River with their furs.

“The furs must come out, however, and the trade goods must travel in. The HBC men decided to  bring the furs out to Fort Langley from Kamloops, by one of Anderson’s untested horse trails through the mountains.

“The journey out was chaotic disaster — the return journey to Kamloops no better. Horses fell from clifftops carrying valuable trade goods with them and frustrated fur traders had fist fights while French-Canadian voyageurs deserted for the California gold fields, and one man took his own life rather than tackle the return journey home.

“Anderson lived and worked through those turbulent times and the difficult years that followed. Because he played such an important role in those pivotal years — when the whole history of what would become British Columbia and Washington state was changing — he is considered by historians to be one of the most significant figures in British Columbia’s history.

“But Alexander Caulfield Anderson was my great grandfather, and I wanted to know who he was. As I researched his story, I learned things that threatened to destroy the historic and heroic fur trader who lived inside my head.

“In the end, what I learned about my ancestor transformed him from a distant historic figure, into a man, with quirks and flaws and character and kindness and courtesy — an extraordinary human being.

“And this is the man I am going to tell you about today — not the fur trader and explorer whose work changed our history, but the man who cared for others. The man who helped others, be they man or woman: Native or white man or mixed-blood; British colonists or American gold-miners or Royal Engineers.

“I will begin with a story of potato crops growing wild in the fur traders’ New Caledonia, not far from Fort Alexandria where Anderson did his most important work. New Caledonia was the area of north central British Columbia around Fort St. James, and Fort Alexandria was the southern-most post in that fur trade department. The point of land on which the fort once stood is on the Fraser River just north of Williams Lake and south of Quesnel.

“Potatoes were a staple of the fur trade, and every post grew them in their gardens. In fur trade journals there is always one French-Canadian employee who camps on the fort’s potato fields to prevent theft — because Natives, too, understood that potatoes were good food. But though the Natives ate the potatoes they stole, they did not usually grow them — or at least, not at Fort Alexandria.

“Anderson was in charge of this post from 1842 to 1848. The post was far enough north that no one could depend on their wheat crops, though it grew more reliably at Anderson’s post than anywhere else in the territory. Barley grew well at some posts, and turnips and potatoes were generally grown at all.

“But none of these crops fed the Native population, who depended on their annual root harvests, and the salmon that swam up the Fraser River by the hundreds of thousands every summer. In years when the salmon did not arrive, the Natives seemed to starve…. From The Pathfinder: “When winter finally fell and the cycle of fishing was finished, the Company men could assess whether the Natives had enough food to allow them to enjoy a good hunting season. In 1844, it seemed they did not, especially when a storm blew in at the end of October with snow and freezing temperatures. Anderson wrote of his worry about the Natives’ starving condition and what he saw as their miserable circumstances, in comparison to his relative comfort in the fort:

“”Would I could predict with honest Sir Hugh that there are pippins & cheese to come — but alas! I fear cold fingers and hunger will be the more probable lot of many in the interior, and we, who are comparatively in comfort, have reason to be thankful that we are so…. T’is a glorious privilege to be able to write nonsense now & then, when there is no censor of the press, or rather of the pen, to check one — Enough! A good fire, a warm house, & divers acceptable concomitants, with a foot of snow around one, are circumstances that may well occasion a momentary glimpse of contentment in a mind not always swayed  by cheerful emotions.”

“Honest Sir Hugh was a character in Charles Dickens, and pippins are apples. Anderson made this journal entry shortly after he watched the Alexandria Natives return to their winter houses in an early snow storm. He knew the salmon run that year had been poor and the Natives would starve. Their hunts would suffer as a result — it was not entirely sympathy for the Natives that made Anderson take his next step. In the Fort Alexandria journals of April 1846, I found that Anderson, without clearly saying so, was intentionally taking steps to teach his Native neighbours to grow their own food — something that was, for the most part, foreign to them. “Eleven Indians [are] working the soil [at our] suggestion, and I have promised to supply them seed potatoes.”

“I haven’t found this sort of thing in any other fur trade journal, but I have discovered that this one story might continue today. One of the readers of my Blogspot blog [also called Fur Trade Family History] told me the story of a patch of potatoes that grew wild in the interior at a place only fifty miles from old Fort Alexandria. They were known to have been growing wild at this spot before the gold miners arrived there in 1859 or so.

“So where did these potatoes come from? Are they descendants of the seed potatoes that Anderson gave the Alexandria Natives in 1846, so they could grow their own food every year? They could come from potatoes the early Spanish explorers dropped off among the coastal Natives, that might have worked their way into the interior via the Grease Trails. I passed the information on to the people at the Royal British Columbia Museum (one of whom was growing Nootka potatoes in his backyard) and they are trying to figure out what kind of potatoes they are, and how they got there.

“We all know the stories of the 1858 Fraser River gold rush — Anderson played an important role in this story, too. At the time the gold rush began Anderson was already retired from the fur trade and living in Cathlamet, Washington Territory. He had set up a store-keeping business like his father-in-law, James Birnie, had done. The Americans had been coming west for some years now and were settling in large numbers around Portland and Oregon City. Business would have been good, had it been allowed to happen.

“But this is a unique time in American history: the new settlers were driven west by a notion they called “Manifest Destiny.” They already owned Louisiana Territory; they had wrested Texas from the Mexicans; now they believed it was their destiny to occupy the entire North American continent, and Oregon Territory and California was theirs for the taking. Some individuals pursued their goals aggressively, and for anyone who was of British ancestry, like Anderson, life in the new Washington Territory became “uncongenial.” 

“But that was not the worst of it. In addition to the Americans’ bad treatment of the British fur traders, their treatment of the American Indians who lived here sparked one war after another, and Anderson saw his plans to build a store-keeping enterprise evaporate.

“However, one surprising opportunity did present itself — the California gold rush died down and in 1855 miners began to find gold in Eastern Washington, around modern day Spokane. Only a few years later, Americans were finding gold on the Thompson River near Kamloops. Of course, on their return they told stories of the wealth of gold found in British territories, and more gold miners clamoured for a route to these northern gold fields. 

“Anderson was the only person in the area around Portland who was known to have been to those places. So many Americans came to him for information that he wrote a book, called Guide to the Goldfields of the Fraser’s and Thompson’s River, which included a map.

“This map was printed off by the thousands and sold to all the American gold miners who flooded north and east towards Spokane House and Thompson’s River. In late 1857 gold was rumoured to be found on the Fraser, and in spring 1858 thousands of San Francisco gold miners sailed north to Fort Victoria. However, because of the seasonally high water along the Fraser River north of Yale, none of the miners could make their way into the gold fields north of the Fraser River canyons.

“Thousands of miners were stuck in Victoria, and the poor fur traders had no idea what to do with them. They thought of Anderson; John Work wrote a letter that tempted Anderson north, and when he arrived there, James Douglas put him to work.

“Anderson suggested that a good trail could be built over the route of his first expedition of 1846 — the route he had been guided over could never have worked for the fur traders who needed either a good horse road, or a safe river route. However, Anderson judged that his trail would work well for the gold miners, who would reach the Fraser River north of its barrier of rapids and falls [Hell’s Gate & Black Canyons] and who could pack in their supplies and provisions.

“So Governor James Douglas put Anderson to work supervising the building of the first trail into the gold fields of the upper Fraser River. Note: this was not the Fraser Canyon road: the Harrison Lillooet Trail led up the Fraser River to Harrison River & Lake, and the lake’s north end where the new town of Port Douglas sprang up.

“So, Anderson’s map brought thousands of gold miners north to British Territory, and his trail took them over the mountains that separated Fort Langley from the upper Fraser River. At this same time the walls of old Fort Victoria were still standing, but the first government officials were coming from England to run the two new colonies — Vancouver’s Island, and the separate colony of British Columbia being set up across the water, with its headquarters at New Westminster.

“For a few months, Anderson was acting-Collector for the Colony of British Columbia, in the absence of the official Collector. He had kept no separate set of books for British Columbia, and so all of Anderson’s records for the two colonies were handed to the new British Columbia Collector, Wymond Hamley…

“From The Pathfinder: “With limited means and no experience as an accountant, Anderson had set up the Customs House books by himself, and they had worked efficiently during the first busy months. However, Anderson had learned his bookkeeping in the fur trade, where no money existed to tempt men to steal. His system did not allow for dishonesty, but Hamley’s examination of the books revealed that eight permits issued by the Deputy Collector Charles Angelo had not been entered in the Customs House books, and the money had disappeared.”

“All hell broke loose among the new arrived British colonists! Angelo was arrested and thrown in jail and Anderson was reported to be responsible for the mess. He was removed from office, but before that was done he arranged with lawyer Henry Crease [later Judge Crease] that One hundred and fifty dollars be paid from the Custom House funds to Angelo’s wife, who was now penniless and could not feed her children. “I do this on my own responsibility,” Anderson said, “and to satisfy my own scruples on the score of humanity, for it has been intimated to me that for any payment made under present circumstances I shall be held responsible.”

“He was held responsible. This payment — much of which was owed to Mrs. Angelo — would return to haunt him many times over the years. The fur traders no longer ran the colony; the new immigrants from England did. Anderson lost his job and there was no other employment he would have considered. He was a partner in a new shipbuilding enterprise and owned farmland in North Saanich on which he was having a new house built. He made plans to move out to that remote region in the spring; in the meantime he imported a herd of 60 cattle from Oregon and put them out on the grasslands of his farm to feed.

“Anderson kept himself busy trying to make a living, but he took time out of his busy schedule to work with his Saanich neighbours clearing land for the church they would construct in the spring. He would not, however, take part in the building of St. Stephens Church. The winter of 1861-62 blew in early with frigid temperatures and deep snow that covered the ground until spring. No one in the area was well enough established to have grown a crop of hay to sell. Cows do not forage under snow for feed, and at the end of the long winter only a few head of cattle remained alive.

“This was not all. The same cold winter weather froze the waters of the Fraser River all the way from Yale to the river mouth, and by the time the ice melted, Anderson’s steamship business was dead; his large, beautiful warehouse on Wharf Street gone. He was in crisis, with no job, no business, and now no income. The fur trade had not made him wealthy. He owned property in North Saanich on which he had a large mortgage, but no livestock and no way to support himself.

“He wrote for a living, though it brought him little money. At this time the government held writing contests for essays that encouraged immigration to the new colonies. 

“At the same time, the Royal Engineers were arriving in Victoria, and they needed information on the interior of the country where they were supposed to be building roads and bridges. They were sent to Anderson for that information, and he gave it to them. He took his old travelling maps and turned them into finished maps — for example, his old travelling map of the route up the Columbia River from Fort Colvile to Boat Encampment, was transformed into the beautiful finished map of the Columbia River and Athabasca Pass. 

“In North Saanich, Anderson became the representative of the people who lived there and in South Saanich, which was then the community along Mount Newton Crossroad and in Saanichton. Good roads had been a promise made by the Government of the time, and they were now reneging on that promise. There are many letters from Anderson in the records of the Lands and Works Department [BCA] wherein he asks for repairs to the rough roads and better bridges across the many deep creeks that flowed through the area. In The Pathfinder, I describe the road as a morass of tree roots and mudholes, and his son, Walter, later described West Saanich Road. 

“”The West Road to Victoria was slowly improving, though still a very bad road as roads go. At intervals along the road were wayside inns, it being an unwritten law that a stop should be made at each one of these and a little refreshment partaken of. The most northerly of these houses was Henry Wain’s, then after a seven mile drive came the Mt. Newton Hotel, at the junction of the Mt. Newton Crossroad…. Then came the Royal Oak at the junction of the West and East roads. Beyond that the road, instead of coming in Quadra Street, as now, diverged at the far side of Christmas Hill and skirted the shore of Swan Lake, at the far corner of which stood the Swan Lake Hotel, kept by a sister of Henry Wain, and her husband…. It may seem strange to many people in this age that stops should be made at all of these places, but I can assure them that it was a boon to be able to get a glass of wine or beer, or something stronger, and very comforting to warm oneself at the big log fire on a cold winter’s day while on a long wearying drive over rough roads such as we had then.”

“From The Pathfinder: “Even while he worked as a gentleman farmer in North Saanich, Anderson continued to contribute to Victoria organizations. In 1862, members of the Immigration Committee, which encouraged settlement in British Columbia, named Anderson to its committee… In 1864 he was appointed justice of the peace and acted as coroner for the district, investigating murders and accidental deaths for the colonial government. In 1865 Anderson was called as a witness for the British government in the British and American Joint Boundary Commission hearings held in Victoria, where he gave his occupation as “gentleman.” In 1866 the new editor of the Colonist newspaper approached Anderson for information on the route to the Big Bend gold fields which were then making the news — Anderson was one of the few people in Victoria known to have been to that out-of-the-way-place.

“I can add to this paragraph that he was one of the Saanich settlers who helped to organize the Saanich Agricultural Fair, which still runs today.

“In 1866, the Colonies of Vancouver’s Island and British Columbia merged, using the name “British Columbia.” In 1871, the province became a part of the Dominion of Canada, which now called for representatives to the House of Commons. Alexander Anderson announced his intention to run for office.

“One of his competitors was local brewer Arthur Bunster. The election itself took place in Harry Wain’s roadhouse with Anderson’s 10-year-old son, Walter, acting as returning officer. On election day, Bunster distributed free beer outside the hall while Anderson watched as the tide of voters turned against him. When one of his strongest supporters entered the hall to cast his vote for Bunster, Anderson stood up and, looking the man sternly in his eye, said, “And you, too, Mr. Blank?”

“”I had never properly grasped the significance of Caesar’s dying reproachful question till that moment,” young Walter later observed. “Well, the election was over, and Bunster’s beer won the day.”

“While he resided in North Saanich from 1862 to 1876, Anderson worked on improving the lives of the Natives who lived nearby, just as he had done when he was a fur trader. For many years he was their self-appointed Doctor. He encouraged the residents of the nearby Tseycum Reserve to cultivate their clayey soil, and some soon raised pigs and cattle or farmed smaller sections of richer soil. Anderson had a particularly strong interest in grafting fruit trees, and a few of his Native neighbours even learned this agricultural craft from him, and now owned small thriving orchards.

“Anderson’s son, James, said that: “In his management of the Indians he was singularly successful, always firm in his dealing with them, he was ever ready to accede to all their just demands, while sternly refusing to abate one jot of the rights of the whites, as understood by the then rulers of the land…. Often called upon to relieve sickness or distress he was ever willing to sacrifice his time to the wants of the Natives, and so endeared himself to them so that years after he had left the scene of his active life he was remembered and spoken of in affectionate terms, even by the younger generation who only knew him by tradition. Naturally it gives me a melancholy satisfaction to bear this testimony in the memory of my father.”

“The Natives in the Interior also remembered Anderson, the fur trader. In 1876 Alexander Anderson was appointed the Dominion Representative of the Indian Reserve Commission sett up that year to settle Indian Reserves on the Coast and in the interior. The other members of the Commission were Archibald McKinlay, retired fur trader now cattle rancher, and Gilbert Malcolm Sproat, an immigrant from England. The three Commissioners work the last part of 1876 on the coast, and in the spring of 1877 the Provincial Government hustled them into the interior to settle the tribes around Kamloops, who were reported to be almost in a state of war.

“When the Commissioners arrived in Kamloops, they found the Natives all over the region were threatening to go to war. The American Indians across the border were already battling the United States Army, and Native chiefs rode north from the Spokane area to incite their Okanagan cousins to join them in their insurgency!

The Image I then showed is in my book — a coloured version of the picture of Tsilaxitsa, on page 203. “As nephew of the powerful Chief Nkwala, after whom the Nicola Valley is named, Tsilaxitsa had by 1877 become the most prominent Okanagan chief of his time. A few days after the three man Commission’s arrival in Kamloops, Anderson reported that:

“”Tsilaxitsa, the chief of the Okanagans, who when a young man travelled with me a good deal…. visited our camp to pay his respects to the Commissioners. He afterwards visited me privately at my tent, and after a good deal of conversation imparted to me the [news] … of what has recently transpired among the natives at the General Councils that have been held… He said that, in talking to me thus privately, he wished to forewarn me, for old friendship’s sake, that an unsatisfactory feeling was abroad, but that he would address the Commissioners, as a body, only after we should have visited his lands…

“”Tsilaxitsa is a man of much influence. Like the rest he is astute, and his words must be accepted with caution. Nevertheless, under the influence of an old friendship, he had probably been as frank with me, privately, as his nature will admit.”

“The private conversation between Tsilaxitsa and Anderson infuriated the third Commissioner, Sproat. But, as Anderson said, he had known Tsilaxitsa for many years. Thirty years earlier (in 1847) Tsilaxitsa and a Native I believe is his close relative, the son of Similkameen chief Blackeye, had been Anderson’s guides over what Anderson called the Similkameen Trail, up the mountainside east of modern day Boston Bar and across the plateau to the Nicola Valley. In later years it is likely that both these young chiefs acted as Anderson’s Native guides over the Coquihalla Brigade trail — as their uncle Nkwala had done for the fur traders who rode up and down the old Okanagan Trail. This was, after all, one of the long-standing traditions of the fur trade.

“The Indian Reserve Commissioners returned to Victoria at the end of 1877, and Anderson, who had two jobs for the Dominion Government, continued his work as Fisheries Inspector, travelling up and down the coast from the Nass River to the new canneries set up at the mouth of the Fraser River. In his work, Anderson protected both the fish resources, and the fishermen themselves — including the Natives and their traditional fisheries.

“Here is an example of his work: One year the canneries received so many fish they could not can them all, and the excess fish were discarded on the beach and left to rot. To prevent such waste in future years, Anderson arranged that if the canneries again had an excess of fish delivered to them, they would give the extra salmon to their Native neighbours to smoke and preserve for their winter supply.

“Anderson also collected and shipped to London, England, samples of cans of salmon now produced in British Columbia, and many pieces of Native art, canoes, and fishing gear. All items that survived the watery journey to England were exhibited in the massive International Fisheries Exhibition held in London in 1883. This Exhibition provided a tremendous boost for the British Columbia salmon canning industry, and the minister of the Canadian Marine & Fisheries Department reported to Anderson on the many gold awards the province won:

“”Some specimens certainly received much attention,” the Minister wrote. “The salmon for their huge size — the tinned salmon for the fine display made by the Government…. and the Indian fishing gear for its grotesque appearance. Our Indian from New Brunswick who has his birch bark canoe did not like the fancy cedar canoe you sent. I put him in it one day in his pond and he came near upsetting and could not paddle it like his own birch. He soon came ashore and said, “Only damn fool Indian use that kind of canoe.”

“How many of you from Victoria like to walk in Beacon Hill Park? Did you know that Alexander Anderson is one of the men responsible for preserving the park as it is — a non-commercial park? In 1883 Judge Matthew Baillie Begbie wrote the trust that outlined the rules for the use of the park, a trust which prohibited profit making activities, including the erection of sponsorship signs.

“Anderson’s son, James, said this about his father: “He was always in the front rank in raising his voice against any invasion of the rights of the public. Just prior to his death he warmly opposed the erection of an Agricultural Hall in Beacon Hill Park, which was being advocated by some ill-advised people, and he took up the question with the government.” On April 10th, 1884, the Daily Colonist published Anderson’s letter: In it he declared that constructing an agricultural hall in the park was “a barbarous proposal” that “will be strenuously opposed by many who have the improvement of the city and the conservation of its natural attractions sincerely at heart.”

“However, not everyone is happy about this today. I have an article from a 2005 newspaper titled: “The Land that Fun Forgot.” Again, a modern group is fuming because they cannot raise funds in the public park… So thank Judge Matthew Baillie Begbie, who drew up the original trust, and Alexander Caulfield Anderson, for keeping Beacon Hill Park a park. this is history: I have said this many times over. History does not just happen and go away: it’s always here. We are surrounded by it.

“I told you at the beginning that Alexander Caulfield Anderson was my great grandfather, and I wanted to know who he was. One of the questions I often asked was — was he a drunk? 

“You will remember the story of Anderson stopping at every road house for a restorative drink on his way into town from North Saanich. I have another that didn’t make it into the book, where Anderson tripped and fell on one of the rough boardwalks that Victoria had at the time. He suffered a bad cut on his face, and bystanders picked him up and carried him into a drinking house. Did he trip because he drank?

“I considered that because of his fur trade past, Anderson probably drank more than most of us today consider reasonable. Perhaps more than the new English immigrants considered wise — after all, Indian Reserve Commissioner Gilbert Malcolm Sproat criticized both McKinlay and Anderson for “being drunk in front of the Indians they represented” at Savona’s Ferry in 1877.

In the story that follows, I found the answer to that question. In the late 1870’s San Francisco historian Hubert Howe Bancroft came to Victoria to research the history of the territory, and interviewed many retired HBC men. Bancroft wrote of his Victoria visit later, and said of Anderson:

“”But more than to any other in Victoria, I feel myself indebted to Mr. A. C. Anderson, a man not only of fine education, but of marked literary ability, of poetic temperament, chivalrous in thought as well as in carriage, of acute observation and retentive memory he proved to be the chief and standard authority on all things relating to the country. He had published several works of value and interest, and was universally regarded as the most valuable living witness of the past. Tall, symmetrical, and very erect, with a long narrow face, ample forehead, well brushed white hair, side whiskers, and keen, light blue eyes, he looked the scholar he was. Scarcely allowing himself an interruption, he devoted nearly two weeks to my work with such warm cheerful and gentlemanly courtesy as to win our hearts… He took luncheon with us every day, smoked incessantly, and drank brandy and soda temperately.”

“It was my project to discover who Alexander Caulfield Anderson was, and I think I accomplished this. I found a man who cared for his Native neighbours, by ensuring they could grow food, such as potatoes, to support them when the salmon fisheries failed.

“As to the gold rush — his map brought the gold miners north and his trail took them into the gold fields, more or less in safety. Anderson ensured that a woman, whose husband was in jail and whose children would have starved without his interference, received money that was owed to her — enough money that would support her and her family if she were careful.

“In Saanich he helped to clear the land to build the local church, and acted for his Saanich neighbours in getting roads improved and burned out bridges replaced. He helped the Royal Engineers by drawing maps that led them into the interior that he knew well, and where they would build their roads and bridges. His later maps took a new batch of gold miners to the mines in the Omineca, or on the Big Bend of the Columbia River.

“He tried, unsuccessfully, to represent Vancouver Island district in Ottawa. I think he would have made a very good representative.

“As we know, relations between the Natives of today are not so friendly as they used to be, when the fur traders were in the Interior. Tsilaxitsa considered Anderson a friend — as far as it was possible for a Native man of his time to be friends with a white man that represented a government that was trying to take the land from his people. Anderson’s final neighbourly act still lives today in his defense of keeping Beacon Hill Park a park, rather than allowing agricultural buildings to be constructed in it. He died 129 years ago, only a month or so after he wrote this letter. He had no personal interest in whether or not Beacon Hill Park remained a park, and he would probably never walk through it again. But if you live in Victoria, you do — and you can remember that Alexander Caulfield Anderson helped to keep this park safe for you.


The Pathfinder, book cover

This is the book cover of The Pathfinder: A.C. Anderson’s journeys in the West.
The publisher used a favorite family photograph, and placed Anderson’s figure in front of a portion of his famous 1867 Map of a Portion of British Columbia.
The completed book cover has on its front Jacket Jack Nisbet’s cover quote, which reads:
“A meticulously researched, unflinching account … a window onto the Pacific Northwest’s restless transition from fur trade fiefdom into the place we know today.”
Jack Nisbet is the author of many books about David Thompson’s fur trade, including Sources of the River, and The Mapmaker’s Eye.