Tag Archives: Alexander Caulfield Anderson

Anderson’s 1846 expedition from Kamloops to Fort Langley

A paragraph or two from The Pathfinder: A.C. Anderson’s Journeys in the West, will introduce you to the reason why Alexander Caulfield Anderson made his four expeditions between Kamloops and Fort Langley — two in 1846 and two in 1847. [The image is of the Thompson River west of the outlet of the Nicola River, and looking east.]

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Thompson River

“In 1846, the British and American governments began to negotiate the placement of the American border through traditional Hudson’s Bay Company lands west of the Rocky Mountains. Some Company men optimistically expected the new boundary to pass south of the Columbia River, leaving all the territory to the north in Company hands. Americans hoped the boundary might be placed as far north as the bottom of the Russian territories [the Alaska panhandle], which meant that much of New Caledonia would fall into American hands. Wherever the boundary ultimately ran, it was certain to interfere with the business of the fur trade. The nervous Company men planned to enlarge the new post at Fort Victoria, on the south end of Vancouver’s Island. Fort Langley was already serviced by the HBC ships, but no one knew how the rich furs of New Caledonia would reach the lower Fraser River. The impassable Fraser River Canyon and a rough, unexplored range of mountains lay between New Caledonia and Fort Langley.

“In 1845 Anderson wrote to Governor Simpson [of the HBC] to volunteer himself for the job of finding a new brigade route across the mountains from Kamloops to Fort Langley, on the lower Fraser. The letter reached Simpson at Norway House, and he discussed the issue with Peter Skene Ogden, who happened to be there at the time. In October 1845, Ogden wrote from Fort Colvile [Spokane area], giving Anderson instructions to confer with John Tod of Kamloops before exploring potential routes between Kamloops and Fort Langley. At the same time, Ogden wrote to Tod, suggesting that the most feasible route might be “starting from Thompson’s River, across land to the Nicoutimine Country, and from thence to Harrison’s River then with canoes nothing can intervene to prevent reaching Fort Langley.”

Anderson did follow Ogden’s suggested route, but the roughness of the Lillooet River made him decide against using this as a brigade trail. This was no country for horses, nor for boats!

But Anderson was not the only man to go on this expedition — he took five employees with him: Edouard Montigny, Jean Baptiste Vautrin, Abraham Charbonneau, Theodore Lacourse, and William Davis. So here I go with whatever information I have about these men:

Edouard Montigny: No one is sure where Edouard Montigny comes from, but he is Metis. He might have been the mixed-blood son of Ovid de Montigny, who is quite famous in the fur trade of Washington State as a long time employee of the ill-fated Pacific Fur Company, the North West Company, and finally the HBC. Ovid’s supposed son Edouard was one of Alexander Caulfield Anderson’s most trusted employees at Fort Alexandria, and he was Anderson’s interpreter — he translated the Natives’ languages so that Anderson could communicate with them.

Edouard first appears in the fur trade at Thompson’s River in 1833, when he was probably 17 years old. I think it was Edouard who led Anderson to Fort Alexandria in mid-winter 1842, over the new brigade trail north of Kamloops. He remained at Fort Alexandria the entire time Anderson was there, then returned to Kamloops. He had a brother who also worked at Fort Alexandria, but who deserted in 1844. Anderson wrote, “I suspect the scamp has let some of our horses stray off, and is afraid of his brother’s anger.”

Jean Baptiste Vautrin: I have written a lot about Jean Baptiste, and he has plenty of descendants in the area. He was French Canadian, born in Lower Canada in 1813, and he died at the Grand Ronde Reservation in Oregon in 1893. He spent most of his fur-trade career in the New Caledonia area, and was at Fort Alexandria when Anderson arrived there. He must have been sent off to man the new Thleuz-cuz post, because in November 1844, Anderson wrote: “Today to my very great surprise, Vautrin cast up from Thleuz-cuz, having a letter from Mr. Todd… notifying that the fall fishery failed, that he had killed a horse (Rapide) some time previously for food…”

Vautrin is regularly at the fort in 1846, On the 31st of October, “Vautrin (who has been sick during the greater part of the week) commenced yesterday the care of a coal furnace previously built & fired by Gendron.” On Monday 9th: “Yesterday evening the wife of J. Bte Vautrin (a daughter of Lolo’s) was taken ill, and shortly after gave birth to a still born child. She afterwards fell into a state of exhaustion, and I was applied to for assistance. I accordingly administered, with proper caution, some wine & water & a little laudanum, which had a salutary effect, and on my going to bed a little after midnight, the woman was much better & breathed with freedom. Towards morning, however, I was again summoned, and found her in a dying state. It appears that after sleeping tranquilly some time, she awoke and conversed a little, but ere long again relapsed. Internal flooding I suspect to have been the cause of the poor woman’s death; for little appeared externally..”

On Tuesday, December 8th, 1846, Anderson reported that “I have to record that today I was under the disagreeable necessity of chastising one of the servants under my command — the more disagreeable to me, I may add, since it is the first occasion of my having to do so for some years past; and the only one since my sojourn in New Caledonia. Having occasion to reprimand J. Bte Vautrin for disrespectful language, which I did quietly in my sitting room, the man replied in so improper a manner that I was compelled to strike him a couple of blows, in order to maintain that authority without the possession of which one’s efficiency in this country is more than doubtful.” The last mention of Vautrin comes when he leaves Fort Alexandria, in march 1847. “today Pere Nobili set out for Kamloops, accompanied by his man & Baptiste Lolo, together with Vautrin. The last, whose time was expired & who was on his way out, had my sanction to make an arrangement to accompany Mr. Nobili till the spring, when he will be disposable for the summer Brigade. He has therefor renewed his agreement with HBC for another year…”

Abraham Charbonneau: Charbonneau was French-Canadian, born about 1815 in Quebec. For a few years he was in the Snake district, and came to New Caledonia via Fort Colvile. At the end of his contract he returned to Fort Colvile and hoped to go out with the York Factory express. He did not, because of illness. He eventually rejoined the trade at Fort Vancouver because of shortage of men, but deserted the place for the California gold fields, where he disappeared. He was first mentioned in the Fort Alexandria journals in spring, 1846, “They will be forwarded at Kamloops by Charbonneau, Lacourse & Touin, whom I left there in passant.” In January 1847 Anderson wrote, “Vautrin returned from Fort George, having left two men [Charbonneau & Desautels] on the way — the former being sick & unable to travel. Three days after these men cast up, they have their feet frozen and altogether are in dismal plight.” Because of his many illnesses, I think that Charbonneau had an unidentified chronic disease that, on occasion, sickened him.

Theodore Lacourse: Lacourse or LaCroix was French Canadian, born about 1823. By 1840 he was in New Caledonia and accompanied Anderson on both his expeditions across the mountains. In April 1846 Anderson wrote: “Linneard, Vautrin & Lacourse having prepared the ploughs, made a beginning to plough this evening in the home field.” His brother Pierre was also in New Caledonia, and Anderson “received a note from Mr. [Donald] Manson stating the desertion of two men, Pierre & Theodore Lacourse. I have commissioned the Indians to search for these men & if they discover them to give me notice. I have also sent down word to the same effect to the Rapid, with directions to the Indians to steal their horses & bring them back to me with prompt intelligence.” The Lacourse brothers were returned to Fort Alexandria and Theodore finished out his contract and left the country in Thomas Lowe’s 1848 York Factory Express.

William Davis: Davis was born in Lower Canada [Quebec] about 1827 and joined the fur trade on a three year contract. He was another who deserted Donald Manson’s brigade but was taken back with the threat of capital punishment were he to do it again. He resigned his contract in 1848 and returned to Canada, in the same York Factory express as Theodore Lacourse.

There are the five or so men who accompanied Anderson across the mountains in summer, 1846. They traveled via Fraser River to Seton and Anderson Lake and crossed the height of land to the Lillooet River, which they then followed down to Fort Langley. On their return journey they walked up the Coquihalla River and then crossed the massive Coquihalla plateau — on foot. These men were tough, but they were also young. I have to remember that A.C. Anderson himself was only thirty years old — a difficult feat when the photographs show him as a seventy year old.

The Anderson-Seton family, part one

Fur trader Alexander Caulfield Anderson was a member of the Anderson-Seton family — that is, a descendant of tenant farmer Dr.  James Anderson, LLD (1739-1808), and his noble wife, Margaret Seton. It was a close relationship: Dr. James Anderson and his wife, Margaret Seton, were Alexander Caulfield Anderson’s paternal grandparents.

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Dr. James Anderson began his life as a child of tenant farmers near Edinburgh, and took over his parents’ two farms at their death. This was a time when Scottish farmers studied agricultural science at local universities, and James attended Professor Cullen’s lectures on chemistry. Eventually Anderson sold his parents’ farms and took over uncultivated lands in Aberdeenshire, quickly making them profitable.

In 1768 James met and married the heiress of the Setons of Mounies in Aberdeenshire, who lived nearby. Margaret Seton was the daughter of George Seton of Mounie and grand-daughter of the intellectual lawyer of Sir Alexander Seton, Lord Pitmedden; she was descended from generations of noble Seton men who fought and died for their kings. She could have chosen any nobleman in the country as her husband, but she foolishly chose James Anderson.

To marry into the Seton family, Anderson had to take on the Seton name, which he did briefly and unwillingly. Margaret gave birth to the first of their many children at Monkshill, while Anderson wrote his many knowledgeable articles on farming and agriculture — so many that the University of Aberdeen granted him the degree of Doctor of Law. He was a brilliant agriculturalist, but an indifferent husband and father. Margaret inherited the estates of Mounie and the family resided in the turreted house for a short time. But in 1783, James moved his family into a rundown farmhouse at Leith, Edinburgh’s port city, to be closer to his intellectual friends. Margaret sickened and died, and their children grew up in their father’s indifferent care.

James Anderson’s unloving and neglectful care affected all the children in different ways. The children knew themselves to be gentlemen and gentlewomen descended from the fine Seton family, but all were somehow cursed by their poverty-stricken upbringing and their father’s emotional detachment.

A note here: The Anderson-Setons might have inherited a tendency to manic-depressiveness — something that appears to be a manic-depressive disorder pops up in various generations that follow, and Margaret appears to have inherited her father’s property at Mounie because her older brother was institutionalized. But we don’t know…

To continue: The eldest son, Alexander, inherited Mounie, and as he was required to take on the Seton name to inherit, he changed his name by deed poll to avoid the confusion of his having two names. He was an honorable and hardworking man who supported all the younger members of his family financially until his personal fortune was almost depleted. But, as a partner in the Wedderburn/Colvile firm in London, who traded sugar and rum from their plantations in the West Indies, he was also involved in defending the slavery upon which their personal fortunes were dependent. These are, by the way, the same Wedderburn/Colviles who were directors in the fur trade of the HBC, and Governor George Simpson (another member of that firm) knew Alexander Seton well.

The third Anderson-Seton son, John Anderson, apprenticed as an engraver under the artist Thomas Bewick. Although John learned the trade quickly and showed great promise as an artist and illustrator, he refused to do his work well, if at all, and was fired from his apprenticeship. John then set up shop in London. His work received much acclaim, but his business fell into disarray and he escaped his debts by sailing to Australia. He abandoned his vessel in South America, and died in Africa in 1807.

The fifth son, James, was a grain-merchant who owned a good sized house and sometimes consulted a craniologist, not unusual in those days. After his brother Alexander he was the most successful businessman in the family and retired well off. Despite his apparent success, James, too, sometimes borrowed money from Alexander Seton and never repaid it.

An Anderson daughter, Margaret, married civil engineer Benjamin Outram who gave her five children but died suddenly without leaving her any money to raise them. Margaret, an eccentric in her own right, accepted the legal help and money that Alexander Seton gave her. Although Seton supported her family for years and put her children through school, Margaret complained to her sons that Seton had entirely neglected her.

Henry Anderson joined the army of the East India Company and, as a Captain, led his men through a series of grueling military campaigns, including the disastrous Monson’s Retreat of 1804. In this battle the East Indian Company’s army attacked a Maratha leader they considered a robber-chief, and were forced into a two-month retreat to the safety of the city of Agra, all the while fighting off their well-armed enemy. Only a few hundred of Monson’s original force of 10,000 soldiers survived the long march, and it is probable that the appalling conditions of that running battle caused Henry’s early death. Henry was buried on his brother Robert’s indigo plantation, and a son of Henry’s came to England with Robert Anderson’s family.

The man who became Alexander Caulfield Anderson’s father was Robert, born in 1781 at his father’s farm in Monkshill. In 1799 Robert sailed for India to join the East India Company’s army, but jumped ship in Calcutta. A year later he was acting-midshipman on a Calcutta-based trading ship that sailed between India, China and Australia — a ship captained by his elder brother William. The sea did not suit Robert, and on his arrival in Australia in 1800, Captain William Anderson paid for Robert’s commission as ensign in the New South Wales Corps of the British Army.

Robert Anderson served at Port Jackson on Norfolk Island, at that time a place of confinement for the worst criminals the British Government exported to Australia. In 1804, he was reassigned to Port Dalrymple in northern van Diemen’s Land [Tasmania], where his commander sent him on a short exploration up the Anderson River — a creek which still bears his name. A short time later Anderson defended the impertinent behavior of a female convict he called his woman. In doing so, he contradicted his superior officer, who immediately sent him to Port Jackson in disgrace. Ensign Anderson promptly sold his commission and, abandoning the convict woman, sailed for India with his seafaring brother William.

By 1809, Robert had married Eliza Charlotte Simpson, daughter of a high-ranking East Indian Company civil servant who managed the Salsette mint near Bombay. By 1810 Robert owned part of an indigo plantation near Ruttanpoor, north of Calcutta. He and his business partner, Alexander Caulfield, had already produced a great deal of indigo. The demand for Bengal indigo varied, but after 1810 most indigo dye imported into England came from India rather than the West Indies. Anderson and Caulfield made their fortunes and, in 1817, Robert brought his wife and three sons home to London. Alexander Caulfield Anderson was then three years old.

We know little about Captain William Anderson who sailed an East India ship between India, China and Australia. It was probable he was smuggling opium into China (something the East India Company did] and this could have caused him some problems had he been caught. Perhaps he was caught… he died aboard his ship of liver disease while still a young man. He left behind two or more mixed-blood children in India, who carry the name Seton-Tait.  If you are a Seton-Tait in India, you are also an Anderson-Seton: talk to me.

Robert Anderson is not an uncommon name, and there were two ensigns named Robert Anderson in Australia at this time. Historians sometimes mix them up. There were also two John Andersons who were engravers in Scotland at the same time, but letters in the Mounie archives confirm the information I have about these two Anderson-Seton family members. Anderson is a very common name, which sometimes makes it difficult to research and confirm information received.

Next week I will tell you about the sons of these Anderson-Seton brothers and sisters, and you will see for yourself what astonishingly famous (or infamous) men many of them became. In this family, some of our heroes are truly heroes, and some are scoundrels. Their history takes us to India, of course, to Australia, to South Africa — and to Canada. There are a surprising number of Anderson-Seton family members in both Australia and Canada. If you are one, contact me — we share our information and stories.

Sources for much of the above information comes from:

Mary Frances Outram, Margaret Outram, 1778-1863, Mother of the Bayard of India (London, John Murray, undated)

“Sketch of the Life of Dr. James Anderson,” Gentlemen’s Magazine, December 1808, p. 1051-2

With much thanks to our English cousin (descendant of James Anderson of Bridgend, Brechin) who researched and shared much of the above information. I did not do this alone.

Creation of the Brigade Trails, 1848-1849 and beyond, part four

I am sorry, I am a little late in posting this section of the “Creation of the Brigade Trails.” But here it is now.

I left you at the severe winter of 1848-1849, when deep snow buried the fut trade posts in New Caledonia and the Columbia, killing thousands of horses and cattle.

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“Alexander Caulfield Anderson had left Fort Alexandria in summer 1848, and was now in charge at Fort Colvile, on the Columbia River just north of present day Spokane. He rode north from Fort Colvile with his men — not as I said in the book by the Similkameen River valley, but by the old brigade trail west 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 watercolour and pencil drawing of Kamloops contained in my book.

Kamloops watercolour

“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 trade goods into the boats and pushed his men upriver to Fort Hope, to begin work on the new trail over the Coquihalla Mountain.

“On their way downriver, Donald Manson of Fort St. James had asked Anderson to remain behind at Fort Hope to open the trail, but Anderson had refused to do so. Now, when the packhorses that had been sent over the mountain from Kamloops finally 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 to Fort Colvile via the Similkameen Valley, Osoyoos Lake, Anarchist Mountain and the Kettle Valley. They followed the Kettle River south to reach the Columbia River a few miles from Fort Colvile. This image is of the Kettle River Valley.

Kettle River 3

“I believe Anderson had already considered the possibility that he could cross the mountains 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 afterwards.

“A few weeks after Anderson left Fort Hope, reports of his argument with Manson reached the ears of Peter Skene Ogden at Fort Vancouver, who arranged that the Fort Colvile brigades, and those from New Caledonia, arrived at Fort Hope separately. Every year, James Douglas travelled to Fort Langley to supervise the brigades’ arrivals and departures, 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 journeys over the mountains were at all times difficult. Stress levels were high, the work was hard and there were sometimes heavy losses, and the pay was low. They worried about having enough men to do the work the fur trade demanded — fewer good men were joining the fur 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 very good description of the trail over the Coquihalla, written that year by the acting-Governor for the HBC, Eden Colvile, who rode over it a few months after the brigade had crossed it. From the place the fur traders called Campement des Femmes, at the north side of the Coquihalla [Tulameen/Coalmont area] — “we commenced the ascent of the first range of Mountains & encamped on the top of the hill about 5 pm. As we were going nearly the whole time this mountain must be very high. The following morning we again descended to a branch of the Similkameen [Tulameen River] & followed the valley for some miles; we, on leaving this, again climbed a hill of considerable elevation to the Campement de Chevreuil. From this place to Fort Hope, a distance of nearly thirty miles there is no grass to be found for the horses & I started at 6 am hoping to reach the Fort. Soon after leaving the Campement de Chevreuil the road descends into the Sa, anqua [sic] River, & at the bottom of this hill the chief difficulty of this route first presents itself, viz. the “boue biers” or to use the american phrase “Mud holes,” which are very numerous, of great depth, & exceedingly fatiguing to loaded horses. These swamps are found at intervals, between the hill just mentioned & the top of another & the last considerable elevation which we reached about 2 pm. From this the road descends to Peer’s River, which is crossed five times, & at which the tired state of our horses compelled us to encamp. The next morning we crossed & recrossed the Quaquialla River & arrived at the Fort at 10 am….”

“When the brigades came out in the summer of 1850 they found the trails much improved. From Campement des Femmes at the base of the mountain on its north side, the Fort Colvile brigades followed Blackeye’s 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 Anderson’s exploration of 1846 crossed the brigade trail that resulted from that exploration.

Brigade Trail 2

“The next day they camped at Deer Camp or Campement de Chevreuil, 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 furs into boats and drifted downriver to Fort Langley.

“In August of that year, James Douglas reported: “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 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 with perfect safety… The 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.”

“I will try to give you a picture of the brigades arriving at Fort Hope, and packing up to leave again. About 1860, a very young Susan Allison saw the horses and described them as “splendid animals, hardy and enduring, with lots of good horse sense.” Her description of the brigades’ arrival follows: “Sometimes there would be a grand stampede and the pack trains would disrupt. Horses and men could be seen through a misty cloud of dust, madly dashing all over the Hope flat, lassos flying, dogs barking, hens flying for safety anywhere. Suddenly the tempest would subside as fast as it had arisen, the pack boys would emerge from the clouds of dust leading the ring leaders in the stampede….”

“So by 1850, the new brigade trail was established and successful, though there were still hiccups. In 1851, a “party of ten men, under the direction of Mr. Peter Ogden, were employed upon the new road for nearly two months… and made many substantial improvements. They cleared the points of wood on the whole route between [Fort] Alexandria and Fort Hope, and from the Similkameen River they increased the general breadth of road, shortened the bends, leveled or relined the steep ascents by inclined planes, and bridged about 300 yards of boggy ground.”

More changes were made to the road later, but all this happened after Alexander Caulfield Anderson was no longer riding over the trail. By 1854, Anderson was retired from the fur trade. He would pop up again in 1858, when he came to Fort Victoria and opened the first highway into the interior over the route of his first exploration via the Lillooet River and Anderson and Seton Lakes [which he then named]. By this trail, thousands of eager gold miners accessed the Fraser River gold fields north of the same canyons that had confounded the fur traders in 1848.

“In 1860, the soldiers and engineers of the Columbia Detachment of Royal Engineers substantially widened the Harrison trail and turned it into a good wagon road. Then the Royal Engineers carved a good road out of the cliff faces between Yale and Boston Bar, above the rapids that had so troubled the brigades in 1848 and 1849. By autumn 1862 their road reached Lytton, and in 1863 the first Alexandra bridge crossed the Fraser River north of Spuzzum, its eastern end resting near the place where Anderson’s men had buried Jacob Ballenden in 1848.

“T British Columbians, the brigade trail faded from view. However — to British Columbians — it was the most important road. The brigade trails were the roads that brought the fur traders out to the coast and Fort Langley. What if they had failed to find a road over these mountains and were never to reach Fort Langley? What impact would that have had on the importance of Fort Victoria and Fort Langley. How would that have impacted British Columbia’s history?

“Historians agree with me. In 1975, our first local historian, Derek Pethic, wrote the Anderson’s ‘discovery of a practical, 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.”

When I spoke in front of the Victoria Historical Society in November, 2011, one of the questions I was asked at the end was — were these trails now open? Could people hike these trails? I was able to tell them about the Hope Mountain Centre and the work the people who were listening to my talk were doing in opening these trails. It gave me great pleasure to tell them about these volunteers uncovering some of the 150 year old hash marks the original fur traders had used to mark the trail.

I then thanked the group I was speaking to — the Hope Mountain Centre — for the work they had done in preserving our important history. The American writer William Faulkner wrote, “The Past is never dead; it is not even past…” I think that phrase is especially suitable when we are speaking of the Coquihalla and Anderson River brigade trails. These trail created the town of Hope, and now they are part of Hope’s future. As a descendant of one of the men who rode over this trail, I want to thank Hope Mountain Centre for their important work.

Thank you.

The 1849 Brigade to Fort Langley, Part 4 of Creation of Brigade Trails

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.

Image

“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

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.

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“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.’

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“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.’

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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.

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: http://www.hopemountain.org

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!

ACAnderson

“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

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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.”