Tag Archives: Fort Yale

Creation of the Brigade Trails, 1848, part three

I ended the last chapter, or blog post, with the introduction of many of the new characters in this fur trade adventure — and one of them was the interesting young clerk named Henry Newsham Peers. Sometime after I finished this book I learned that Peers did not only go in with the return brigade — he came out from Fort Colvile and Kamloops, with the outcoming brigade! He appears first in Thomas Lowe’s “Journal of a Trip from Vancouver to York Factory, March 24-Oct 19, 1848,” in which Lowe delivers him and seven or eight other Fort Vancouver men to Fort Colvile, to help those men bring their furs across the new Anderson’s River trail to Fort Langley.

Peers may have kept a journal of the outward journey, but if he did it was lost — probably in the crossing of Fraser River at Spuzzum. It does not matter: his outgoing journal did survive, and is found in the British Columbia archives. I inherited my copy from my uncle, Elton Anderson, one of the two people to whom I dedicated my book. Before he died, Elton did a tremendous amount of research on his grandfather, A. C. Anderson, which I inherited … and I guess that is what started me off on this project.

We will rejoin the brigade as it begins from Fort Langley on its inward journey to Kamloops. “They started off from Fort Langley, and Anderson traveled in the first cluster of four boats, with five more to come under Donald Manson’s command. Anderson later described the upriver journey to the new fort at Yale: ‘Hitherto, bateaux of about three ton burthern have been employed by the Hudson’s Bay Company, for transport below the Falls [at Yale] — a slow method when the water is high, as the ascent can then be effected only by warping along shore, with the aid of Indian canoes to pass the lines. By this tedious process, an ascent was made during the freshet of 1848, to the foot of the Falls, in eight days; under ordinary circumstances it would occupy five.’

“From Peers’ journal, on passing over the Douglas portage north of Fort Yale: ‘I and Mr. [Donald] Manson left Ft. Yale on the 2nd August with the last trip 30 horses to rejoin Mr. Anderson at the other end. We got on very well on the portage with the exception of a couple of horses falling in the ascent of the Big Hill & some little confusion in a swampy part of the road rendered worse than its original state by the frequent passing & repassing of horses. There is a pretty gradual ascent (one stiff hill intervening) as far as Douglas’ River [probably Sawmill Creek], where there is a steep descent of about 700 feet to a bridge & a somewhat steeper though shorter ascent on the opposite side of this ravine, thence a level road till within a mile of Spuzzum River or Simon’s House where the road descends pretty gradually to that place — we were about three hours coming across & encamped on the south side of the Fraser River.’

“Peers tells us that they remained about three days at Simon’s House, crossing horses and loads to the east bank of the Fraser. Then they started north, ‘with some 500 & upwards pieces goods in 15 brigades, each brigade having 18 & some a greater number of horses to 2 men.” A normal brigade has seven to nine horses to two men.

“They traveled about six miles up the banks of the Fraser River, as Peers says, ‘encamped at the foot of Big Hill where the road leaves Fraser River, many of brigades only arriving when pitch dark and consequently great confusion from horses straying with their loads and so forth: several fell down a steep hill on nearing the encampment… from weakness, threw their loads & a bale was swept off in the river before it could be seized & one animal killed.’ This was at Kequeloose, at the bottom of the big hill that led them over Lake Mountain.

“Peers’ journal continues the next day. ‘Rainy weather — this morning Jacob Ballenden was found dead near the encampment with his gun discharged by his side, shot through the heart. It is supposed he committed suicide. the day was spent in collecting strayed horses with their loads and all found but 6 pieces and another horse killed. A war party of the Chute Indians against those of Anderson’s River passed the camp and created some little alarm… Nothing I may say here for the horses to feed on.’

Jacob Ballenden’s grave still exists in this historic graveyard near Alexandra Lodge, at the east end of Alexandra Bridge!

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“The brigades climbed Lake Mountain and descended the cliffs on the other side to Anderson’s river, and Peers records: ‘Some of the rear brigades got on very badly and 80 pieces were found deficient… Remained here today till the lost pieces should be brought in all of which were rendered but 2 bales.’

Below we have an image of the Fraser River and its east bank, taken across the river from the town of Boston Bar. Anderson River flows down that dip in the middle of the picture — the the right is Lake Mountain (the mountain the brigades clambered over to avoid Hell’s Gate Canyon, which of course is just around the corner of the river). The the left is the hill behind Boston Bar, where the fur traders clambered up Utzlius Creek to the top of the hills and crossed the plateau behind. As I have said before, this is not horse-friendly country as you can see!

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“They began the climb from Anderson’s River to the top of the hills via Utzlius Creek, eventually reaching ‘a small patch of thinly wooded ground in which had been constructed a miserable horse-park. Two or three of the rear brigades arrived when quite dark and many horses necessarily strayed away before they could be freed from their loads, passing the night with the rest in the woods under a heavy thunder storm with little or nothing to eat.’

“Peers also makes mention of the work the Natives did, in helping the fur traders bring in their supplies. ‘The pieces all but two or three were recovered after much searching and order was again restored. The Indians who had been employed for the last four days in searching for and bringing lost goods to the camp were paid off and seemed satisfied although there is some doubt as to their honesty.’

“The next day the fur traders camped five miles from the top of the hill, and men in the latter brigades went without supper [the provisioning brigades were at the head of the brigade]. On the following day Anderson rode ahead, while Manson sent Natives out to search for more packs. At the end of the day the fur traders found they were still missing: ‘six bags salt, two bags of ball and two rolls of Tobacco.’ Each of these bags and rolls weighed ninety pounds.

“From the top of the hill, Anderson sent fresh horses back to Manson and Peers, and Peers reported that ‘the early part of today was devoted to catching and loading young horses, about which some time was wasted.’ The next afternoon Manson and Peers rode across the wide plateau, and finally caught up to Anderson’s brigades in the Coldwater River valley. They reached Kamloops on August 22nd, and the gentlemen held a meeting to discuss the trail.” The image below is of the Coldwater River valley … a beautiful spot! Anderson and the men of the brigade rode over the plateau beyond the valley, and then down the steep hills to the Fraser River in the far distance.

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“Hot-tempered Donald Manson reported: ‘We have tested [the trail’s] advantages and disadvantages thoroughly, and I have no hesitation in declaring it utterly impracticable for a large brigade such as ours. The rugged, rocky mountainous and thickly wooded country which lies between Fraser River and the plains, … is, in my opinion, sufficient in itself to condemn this route. [I mentioned at this point that there was a Donald Manson descendant in the room, who was clearly enjoying my description of his bad-tempered ancestor].

“This route was far too difficult, and the gentlemen all agreed that the snow covered trail over the Coquihalla must be tried. They sent Henry Peers with Edouard Montigny, one of Anderson’s men, to Blackeye’s camp, to ask that he show them his trail to the top of the Coquihalla.

“Historians have puzzled over how Henry Newsham Peers chose the trail across the plateau, especially as it in no way followed Anderson’s 1846 exploration. Anderson himself expected that Blackeye’s trail would end up on the south side of the mountain, at Rhododendron Flats. But it did not.

Peers’ actual guide was Blackeye’s son, who took them up his father’s trail to the top of the plateau, and then guided them due west, across the mountaintop, to a stream he called Soaqua. He pointed out his trail down the west side of the mountain, by streams that immediately came to be called Peers’ Creek and the Coquihalla River. Peers and Montigny followed the stream to the Fraser River, where they borrowed canoes from the Natives and made their way to Fort Langley.” Below, is the Coquihalla River at Hope, BC.

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“In October, 1848, James Douglas wrote to John Tod of Kamloops: ‘In consequence of the very unfavourable report we have received from Messrs. Manson and Anderson of their last Summer’s route, we have come to the determination of opening a New Road recommended by Mr. Peers after a very careful survey. Leaving Fraser’s River, it follows successively the valleys of the Quequealla, Peers and the Soaqua Rivers, from thence crossing the dividing ridge into the Similkameen valley, where it falls upon Mr. Anderson’s track of 1846 and follows it to Thompson’s River.

“‘Mr. Peers will be despatched with ten men in a few days hence to commence operations at the mouth of the Quequealla, where we intend to establish a small Post for the convenience of parties passing to and from Thompson’s River [Kamloops] and at the same time he will proceed in opening the road with the assistance of all the Indians that can be mustered, and we hope to have it made as far as the snowy region before the Winter sets in …. He is particularly desirous that Blackeye’s son, the Indian who accompanied him a part of the way on his late journey to this place and left him at the head of the Soaqua, should be sent to meet him at that point, as without such assistance he will not be able to find his way into the Similkameen Valley… With that Indian you will please despatch Montigny and as many whites and Indians as you can muster to open the road from the plains of the Similkameen to the Soaqua Valley, following the line of road Mr. Peers pointed out to Montigny as being the best adapted for horse-transport, as early in the spring as the snow will admit….’

“Peers was placed in charge of building Fort Hope, and the fort did get built. But no work was done on the trail over the winter of 1848-49, though that was not Peers’ fault. Snow began to fall early in the season and it kept falling and the trail up the Coquihalla River was buried under deep drifts of snow and remained that way all winter. The heavy snow fell on the forts in the interior, too — at Kamloops and Fort Colvile at least. Though the snowfall 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.”

This is a good place to pause — next week we can talk about the fistfights and desertions that occurred at Fort Langley in 1849, and the stressful return over the mountains. Anderson would now be called Fort Colvile home, as in spring 1848 he had ridden away from Fort Alexandria for the last time.

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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.