Monday, 25 February 2013

More of the 1850's Gold Rush

There was a lot of poverty in Europe when the Gold Rushes started in California and the Cariboo and then the Yukon.   Famines and political unrest sent folk off to emigrate on long and arduous journeys.   Most people were hoping for a better life and many were hoping to strike it rich so they came to British Columbia on sea routes.  Some landed on the East Coast of North America and travelled across the continent down the St. Lawrence River and around the Great Lakes. 
(see map above)      Their goal was to get to the Gold Fields before all the gold was gone.  
Not many became rich but those intrepid travelers did open up this country and begin farms, ranches, mines, sawmills, stores, transport companies and small village businesses.  They built the first schools and churches in each small community.  

We owe those pioneers a deep gratitude.   After coming around the Cape of South America they would stop off at San Francisco to board ships heading to Victoria on Vancouver Island, eager to take steamers up the Fraser River to Yale and then hike or take a stage up the trail to Barkerville.  Above is an old picto-map of the route up river to Barkerville.Some went further up the coast to Bella Coola and trekked inland from there.  We did that trip last Spring.  We were glamping (glamorous camping) but even so ended up with a great respect for those first settlers.  You had to be tough and clever to survive.  Too many of them met swift ends due to disease or accidents.

Some came along the trail north on land from the United States to find the Fraser River at Yale (bottom right #14).
Above are the two most common routes taken.  Our ancestors took the eastern (green) route north shown below,

battling north up the Mighty Muddy Fraser River.
Not many got rich but most stayed to make a living in their new surroundings.  Old Man's family became ranchers and ran a road house, The Grange,  at the next stop towards Lillooet from this one at Hat Creek.

The First Nations folk must have puzzled over these strange intruders.  All they wanted to do was dig up soft rocks that you couldn't eat.  Wild onions or carrots would make sense, but rocks????They were very willing to be helpful though, and did not cause the clashes that happened in the middle and western States as that country was opened up.  (They did conduct their own internal and inter-tribal clashes and had slaves stolen from tribes as far away as the USA)  They became excellent game guides, trail guides and cowboys on the ranches.  Their skills were valued.  The Scots and the French knew how to work well with them and that is where most of our Metis (may-tee)  folk come from. They also knew a lot about ethno-botany and cures or medicines to aid many ills.  But mostly they knew the best places to camp and the shortest routes to use.  They also were great trappers, so the Hudson's Bay Company was willing to support their industries.

Gold panning in the rivers and streams of British Columbia can still be a profitable hobby.

The work and contributions of the Chinese laborers who were brought from China to build roads and railways deserves more books written about them. Their descendants are now our engineers and doctors and entrepreneurs, but they had to work extra hard and battle racism to succeed. 

This has been a delight, refreshing my knowledge of these times and searching for new pictures.  I did not get around to mentioning the contributions of other immigrants like the Swedes and the Italians.  

I have blathered on long enough.  Good night, and don't let the bed bugs bite, as they did in the olden days.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Gold Rush stagecoaches of BC/ Ashcroft

Barnard's Express, later known as the British Columbia Express Company or BX, was a pioneer transportation company that served the Cariboo and Fraser Fort George regions in British Columbia, Canada from 1861 until 1921.

The company's beginnings date back to the peak of the Cariboo Gold Rush when hordes of adventurers were descending on the Cariboo region. There was a great demand for transportation of passengers to and from the goldfields, as well as the delivery of mining equipment, food supplies and mail between Victoria and Barkerville.  Barkerville has been  restored and is now a great tourist attraction in the summer/warmer months.

Barnard's Express Office in Barkerville 1865
The first express service offered on the Cariboo Road was operated by William Ballou in 1858. Others soon followed, usually one or two man operations where the proprietor himself packed the express goods, either on his back or with the help of a trusty mule.

BC Express sleigh at Quesnel
In 1863-64, additions like the use of sleighs in the winter were used instead of wagons. The year of 1864 saw the start of a 14 passenger four-horse stage. Later, with increase of business, the stage was enlarged to a six-horse coach.

This was taken two blocks from where we are spending the winter in the village of Ashcroft.

    It is now a private home.
In 1884, the bridge across from the Fraser was opened, and trains came to Lytton. Tingley made his final move to Ashcroft and drove continuously until 1897 when he sold the company to a group of Toronto lawyers headed by Charles Vance Millar. In 1903, Willis West became General Manager, a position he held until the company demise in 1921.

 The stages

Dufferin coach at Barkerville
The BC Express Company had a wide variety of stagecoaches. Some only required two horses and were called a "jerky", while others were pulled by four or six horses. Some had closed-in carriages and others were open. For winter travel, the stagecoaches were replaced by sleighs of all sizes, including some that could carry fifteen passengers. Many of the later stagecoaches were Concord stages, built with shock absorbers made from leather springs which made for a more comfortable ride.   I beg your pardon but I have ridden in them and it is very rough travelling.

In 1876, the company had a stagecoach built in California specifically for the visit of the Governor General, Lord and Lady Dufferin, who rode in it from Yale to Kamloops and back. The coach was painted in the bright red and yellow BX colours and had the Canadian coat of arms on its front panels. It cost $50 a day to ride in this famous coach, but many visiting diplomats and English aristocracy rode in the Dufferin when they went hunting in the Cariboo.

 The horses

They  leaped and reared at the start of a trip, but settled into a smooth trot once they were underway. The whip rarely had to be used to encourage them, as they knew the next station meant a good feed and a warm stable.
The stations were approximately 18 miles apart and the teams were changed at each one. The hostlers at the stations took pride in taking care of the company's horses, often competing to see who kept the teams in the best condition. One rule that was strictly followed was that each horse had its own harness, which was cleaned every time it was taken off. To ensure that the horses always had proper shoes, traveling horseshoers with portable forges visited the stage stations regularly.

BC Express stage at Clinton

An average trip from Yale to Barkerville can be broken down into sections. The custom was at first to drive from Yale to Spences Bridge (80 miles), the first day - six or seven miles an hour; then the next day from Spence's Bridge to Clinton (50 miles).
The best time ever made was by special conveyance from Yale to Barkerville. The 380 miles from Yale to Barkerville was covered in 30 hours of continuous driving. The usual stage time for the same distance was four days.
After the company's headquarters moved to Ashcoft in 1886, the main stageline extended from Ascroft to Barkerville, a distance of 280 miles. Other branch lines led to mining camps and settlements all over the Cariboo.

The strange thing is that it costs about the same today to take a Greyhound bus coach along the same route, but would only take about 8 hours on paved roads.  However $60 in those days was worth a lot more than $60 now.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013



I have always been fascinated by birds ever since my father came home with a huge tome of Audubon's picture plates.  I was in Kindergarten.  I would flop on the carpet and turn the pages and examine all the different birds.
 One spectacular painting showed a snake crawling up the tree towards a target bird.  That was before TV and when we were still taught to treat any book with great respect.  Now I scribble and highlight in them, even my bible has notes all over the margins.  It took me a long time to be able to do that without guilt.  That would make my great-grandmother pass out.  Such blasphemy.  But at one time books were rare objects to own.  They were treated like the jewels they were.  I wonder where that huge Audubon tome with all the pictures/drawings is now?  We used to have a clock much like this in our back yard.  I always knew it was 5:00 and Happy Hour when the Tufted Titmouse sang.  For years I tallied the feathered visitors to our winter bird feeders for the USA's Cornell University's Ornithology Lab which collaborated on data collected with Canada Bird Studies.             
I will join again when we are settled into a more-permanent home.  But still when we are camping I keep my reference books and binoculars close by.

What set that thought in motion was some pictures sent on the Internet of my grand-daughters in Ontario.  They were out in the woods and were delighted to be able to feed the chickadees and get them to land on them. (on the hand of the youngest and head of the elder).
For years I was too interested in riding horses and ranching and food gardens but came back to birds for my old age.  It is a simple, satisfying and peaceful hobby.  I am always learning something new.

Our elder grand-daughter has been stressed about a coming trip to the dentist as she needs to have a needle.  As she loves acting like royalty and having tea parties with tiaras, I sent her these two pictures of Katherine to show what happens if you don't take care of your teeth.  I told her the other choice was to have them all pulled out and get false ones, like grandad's, that scared her last fall when he let them drop out onto his chin.  I hope these pictures don't make the problem worse.     

Monday, 18 February 2013

New background

I suddenly felt the need for a new background.  The last one seemed too much like a bloody crime scene when it came up today.  Lent means 'springtime' so I wanted something reflecting more freedom as we head toward Easter.  Doves fluttering off the top of the page works for me.  

I would like about 8 more contacts on this site.  How do I go about doing that?  Some of my contacts/folk who came over from Multiply just don't post here at Blogger, although they read my blogs and leave wee comments.  I am looking for people who are more inter-active.  Mind you, I am retired so have time to blog, although I seem to only be doing one every 5 days or so, as we are in the same spot at this B/B in a small village.  Life trundles along here and not much is new to write about.  It is easier when we are travelling and seeing new sites every day to write about my daily impressions.

Yesterday a friend and I sat on the back steps after a wee walk and had tea in the sun.  The heat felt so good and we noticed grass emerging.  I also noticed irises and daylilies and wee bulbs poking their tips up to the sun.  But today it was snowing by the afternoon and is still snowing so we may wake up to a magical fairyland in the morning.  I love watching the snow coming down under the street lamps.  I can't wait to see real daffodils in real time, not off the internet like this photo.  These spring flowers after the winter make my heart sing.  Even the photos do.

I am getting into some of the history of the area though and plan to write about the stagecoach that went through here to the Gold fields in the late 1800's soon. 


Thursday, 14 February 2013

Ash Wednesday

Last night after the raucous feast for Shrove Tuesday, and all the western and/or Gospel music, we had a small meeting to start the study of the history of Anglicanism and the Bible.  It is being taught by an American Episcopalian theologian, and we are doing the course on-line.  It is really, really interesting for something that sounds very dull.  I had thought the King James Bible just happened after the King decreed that the common people needed a book of scriptures written in the vernacular.  I knew King James had ordered a crew of scholars to write the English version of 1611.  Actually there were hundreds of years of arguments and quibbles before that enlightenment.  The final KJV  was like a British Christmas Fruitcake, with influences in it from Geneva and Lutherans, and Jewish scholars, and the RC Vulgate scholars and the Great Bible and ...and.... and..... Don't forget Gutenburg or Queen Elizabeth 1.                                                                                                             
 Anne Bolyne had a big influence too.  Where is her head buried?

I was amused that Humanists, who weren't even Christians necessarily, but were fantastic scholars and linguists,  helped translate from the Hebrew and Greek and Latin versions.   Cranmer would be shocked or maybe delighted at this advertisement asking for more funding for bible translations in many common languages.

As a child, I used to think God wrote the bible one day out in the desert of Sinai or somewhere "over there" on the other side of the world.   He was having a kind of picnic with a lot of recording/journalling, so as to tell us how to behave.  Maybe I was partly right.  It is enlightening to find out about the struggles that happened over the centuries and the influences from the rest of the world that helped to birth the KJV.   It is also liberating to realize that this great literature and precious scripture, is a living entity that grows and adapts and is by no means static.  Its' thoughts and mandates can not be boxed in forever in one spot.   They are too BIG for small minds.  OOPs time to get off of my soap box.  But I really am looking forward to more readings and discussions.  Thank you King James for your part in the long journey of scriptural awareness.

Lent did start today.  The mood in the world is quieter in our village but also friendlier, but that may have been because the sun was shining and folk were out getting an airing.  There were more handicapped out in the sunshine using the sidewalks today, and I was included.

I managed to get in 3 walks today as I also had to go over to the church for the Ash Wednesday evening gathering.  What a difference there was in the tone as compared to the raucous talking and music last night at the Fat Tuesday dinner.  I didn't manage to get all the way home without smudging my forehead cross, made of last year's burned left-overs from palm leaves given out at Palm Sunday 2012.  

The presider mixes the ashes with olive oil.

This was an evening for quiet contemplation and 'being still'.  

Lent is the season of daily

1. prayer/meditation  
2.  fasting   
3. alms-giving.  

But in these modern days fasting can take the form of even talking more softly to everybody during Lent.  As a child we gave up candy or movies, but now we try to better our relationships.  What I learned from the reflection tonight was that if you give up anything for a few minutes to spend time with God, it is a form of fasting.  If you CHOOSE to not smoke/not drink/ not e-mail/ not do a pity-party/ not order fast food or not use a sharp tongue ..... and pray instead for 3 minutes or less/more,  then that is fasting for you.  Giving up anything that distracts you during Lent is a form of fasting, even for a minute that will bring you into communion with God.  That was a new concept to me.  It can also mean supporting folk emotionally, but not necessarily giving money as in alms as we thought of Lent in the Middle Ages.  We are a diverse people that GOD created.  Lent has never been so much fun.  The fun is in the learning component.