Tag Archives: Outram Lake

A. C. Anderson’s cousins: famous and infamous

Good morning everyone — though it might not be morning when you open up this blogpost.


Thank you.

Anyway, I have told you about Alexander Caulfield Anderson’s uncles and aunts, some of them quite notable. Now I will tell you about his cousins. Some were famous, many heroic, and some downright failures as human beings. You will be surprised who I include in the latter section.

I do not think I will cover all of them in this post — there are too many heroes!

Here is the first, both heroic and famous. His name was Alexander Seton and he was the eldest son of Alexander Anderson-Seton (later Seton) of Mounie — A. C. Anderson’s eldest uncle and head of the family. Though he was never in the colony of British Columbia nor even in the fur trade, his name is written large in British Columbia history. [This is Anderson Lake, British Columbia, looking west towards the coast].

Anderson Lake

Alexander Seton was born at Tottenham, Middlesex, on October 4, 1818, and he was the eldest surviving son of Alexander Seton. In November 1832 Alexander Seton purchased a commission as Second-Lieutenant in the Royal North British Fusiliers, and served in the British Army in Tasmania and India with his regiment.

In 1847 Seton was made Captain and was transferred to the 74th Highlanders, stationed in England and Ireland.  In 1852, as Lieutenant-Colonel, Alexander Seton took command of the drafts of raw recruits destined for the Cape of Good Hope, where his own regiment was already involved in the Kaffir War. Seton was 38-years-old when the paddle-wheeled iron troopship Birkenhead sailed from Ireland on January 7, 1852.

At two o’clock in the morning of February 26, the Birkenhead struck a rock in False Bay, 20 miles southeast of Cape Town, and foundered. In spite of the urgency of the situation, Seton issued his orders with perfect calm — “Women and Children First!” The crew prepared the ship’s boats and loaded the soldiers’ families into them, while the solders themselves stood at attention on the Birkenhead‘s sloping decks. The soldiers knew they were doomed, that there were not enough boats to carry them ashore and the distance was too far to swim. What was worse: there were sharks. Seton made his way to the stern of the sinking ship where he admitted to another officer he could not swim. One of Seton’s two horses made it to shore. A survivor reported that Seton had been killed by the fall of the Birkenhead‘s mast. [This is Seton Lake, looking eastward toward the Fraser River].

Seton Lake

Why is this story important to British Columbia? In 1846 Anderson explored the lakes later named Anderson and Seton Lake. In 1858 he was asked to name the two lakes. Anderson Lake he named for his own family, and Seton Lake for his cousin, Alexander Seton. The portage between the two lakes he named Birkenhead Portage — today it carries the name of Seton Portage.

So there is one Anderson-Seton hero whose name is carved into British Columbia’s history. Here is another:  his name is General Sir James Outram, the ‘Bayard of India.’ Like his Seton cousin, Outram’s name used to grace a lake in British Columbia — but Outram Lake was buried under the massive Hope Slide in 1965. Did A.C. Anderson name this lake? Yes he did. Was the lake buried by the Hope Slide the same lake that Anderson called Outram Lake? No, it wasn’t.

James Outram, son of Benjamin Outram and eccentric Margaret Anderson mentioned in a previous post, was born in 1803 and was much older than his many Anderson cousins. With the huge difference in age, A.C. Anderson could hardly have known his cousin personally, but he knew who he was. In 1845, when Anderson mentioned his cousin’s exploits in a letter to Governor Simpson of the HBC, Outram was already famous in London and India.

His childhood was probably unhappy. It was most likely toxic: his mother accused both her Outram brother-in-law and her own brother, Alexander Seton, of not supporting her family after her husband’s early death. The accusations appear false, as both supported her through the many difficult years, and Seton paid for the two boys’ education in good schools. Francis, the eldest boy, recognized his uncles’ support and thanked them: James believed his mother and cut himself off from the Anderson family entirely.

In 1819 James joined the East India Company’s Bengal Army as ensign in the 4th Native Infantry, and sailed for India on the ship York. He joined his regiment at Poona but was quickly transferred to the 12th Native Infantry and accompanied his regiment to Baroda. In December he fell sick; in Feb. 1822 he rejoined his regiment but had a narrow escape when a native boat in which he was traveling was blown up by the fireworks that Outram carried with him.

Outram performed many heroic deeds: he served in Kittur and seized the hill forts of Meywar and Joshpur.  Outram’s measures in war were always violent, but the reproofs he received were softened by compliments on his military genius, energy and sound judgment.  In other words, he was not a nice man, but he got away with it because he was always successful.

In 1836 he married his first cousin Margaret Anderson, sister of James Anderson B, HBC, but immediately rushed away to another war in India. He was made brevet major after a dangerous tour through Afghanistan when he rode through Afghanistan (never the safest place) in disguise, accompanied by only a servant and his guide, to deliver a dispatch to the Governor of Bombay. He was made Resident at Baroda, near Bombay — Residents were an important and powerful part of the political system  forced on India by the Honorable East India Company.

In 1857 Outram was back in England where the King knighted him. Shortly after he reached India again, the Indian Mutiny broke out. The mutineers massacred the British residents at the Residency of Cawnpore and besieged the Residency of Lucknow. With General Havelock, General Sir James Outram fought his way into the Lucknow Residency to relieve it from its siege, only to be besieged himself. The conditions that existed inside the Residency were horrific, with dysentery and many other diseases killing the men and women trapped there, and snipers outside the walls picking off anyone who ventured outdoors.

The second relief of Lucknow came in October 1857, and Outram finally led everyone to the safety of nearby Fort Alumbagh.

Outram was not a nice man. He disrespected his wife as much as he disrespected his Anderson cousins, and traveled India with another woman. When his cousins, half native children of Captain William Anderson (now deceased), came to him for help, he turned them away so cruelly that one committed suicide.  Though Outram said he was not in command of the expedition to Lucknow he fought every decision that General Havelock made. He was, perhaps, a bully — a natural consequence of his insecure and toxic childhood, perhaps.

To finish Outram’s story, and that of British Columbia’s Outram Lake, we again introduce fur trader and explorer, Alexander Caulfield Anderson, into the story. In Anderson’s second exploration of 1846, he paddled up the Fraser River east of Fort Langley, and followed the Coquihalla River east. [This is the Coquihalla River, immediately behind Hope, B.C.]

coquihalla river 6

Anderson and his men lunched on the banks of a river where the Coquihalla turned sharply northward, and another river — the Nicolum — flowed in from the east. They followed the Nicolum up its narrow valley, and Anderson saw that the river banks offered a soft surface for the brigade horses’ hooves. At that day’s end, he expressed his optimism that this trail might become the new route into the interior that he was looking for.

The explorers continued to follow the stream the following day, climbing over a height of land to arrive on the shore of a little lake nestled in a mountain valley. Here the country was fine and clear, with groves of large cedars and soft, mossy ground. The lakes were unnamed in Anderson’s journal of that time, nor do they appear on his 1858 map. But by the time he drew his 1867 map, Anderson had heard of his cousin’s death in France, and he named the little lake on the Sumallo River system for General Sir James Outram.

I have a lovely picture of this lake, but can’t find it. I will add it when I do. But the Outram name that Anderson gave the lake in 1867, was later transferred to the first lake that Anderson found on the Nicolum River [also called Beaver Lake]. The mountain that loomed over that lake and its valley was called Outram Mountain.  Mount Outram proved as treacherous as its namesake, General Sir James Outram. In the early morning of Saturday, January 9th, 1965, a small earthquake in the valley jiggled seismographs  throughout the Pacific Northwest. At 7 o’clock am. a second tremor hit, and a slab of rock tumbled off the northside Jackson Peak and rumbled its way into the valley below, bringing 100 million tons of debris and snow with it. It slashed across the highway burying four vehicles with passengers, and pushed hundreds of feet up the side of Mount Coulter on the valley’s south side. A gigantic wave of broken trees, mud and rocks fell down Mount Coulter into the valley, and fanning out again, buried another vehicle. When the main slide came down a Greyhound driver backed his bus madly down the valley road, saving the lives of all his passengers. 

And so two of Alexander Caulfield Anderson’s cousins made waves in British Columbia, though they were never here. The first road into the goldfields above the canyons of the Fraser River passed through Anderson and Seton Lakes, following the route that Anderson explored in 1846; a second but modern highway and its namesake lake was buried by Mount Outram and Outram Creek that tumbled down the side of the mountain. Both of these were named, indirectly, for the second Anderson cousin. There are more cousins, and some of them are very interesting. But none are so well known in British Columbia as these two. Still, I will tell you about them, in stages, as I find room for these interesting and heroic men of the Anderson-Seton family.