Overlanders of 1862

Guts, grit and determination.

overlanders - cariboo goldGold was discovered in the late 1850s in the Cariboo Region of British Columbia’s southern interior, stretching from Cache Creek in the south to Quesnel in the north. When the first discovery was announced, people flocked to the area to stake their claims.

Before the torrent of excited miners arrived, British Columbia’s total population was 7,000 people. By July of 1859, approximately 33,000 miners had arrived in the area, eager to take home their portion of the profits.

Searching for a better life, a large group of Canadians left their Ontario homes to strike it rich in British Columbia’s gold fields. This group of 150* men, one woman (Mrs. August Schubert**) and her three children travelled for months across Canada until they reached Fort Edmonton (now Edmonton, Alberta) in 1862. Here, they restocked their supplies and prepared for the arduous journey across the Rocky Mountains.

overlanders - red river cartThe Overlanders travelled as far as they could with carts, oxen and horses carrying their supplies, but by Lac St. Anne, they had to abandon the last of their carts and continue onward carrying their supplies in heavy packs. The large group was soon spread thinly across 300 kilometres (186 miles) of the western prairies.

After the lead group of Overlanders crossed Yellowhead Pass, they camped at Cow Dung Lake, now known as Yellowhead Lake. This group was fighting starvation and while a few hunters in the group brought back squirrels and small birds, the group had to sacrifice some oxen and horses for the meat. Forging on with supplies of meat dried from their pack animals, this first group of Overlanders reached the Shuswap salmon-fishing camp at Tête Jaune Cache on August 27th. Here they traded much of their remaining ammunition, clothing, needles and thread, for much needed sustenance: salmon, huckleberries, saskatoons (berries) and pemmican.

On September 7, a second party of Overlanders passed Yellowhead Lake. Pausing there as well to replenish their supplies, they became trapped on an island by rapidly rising floodwaters. When the final group of Overlanders reached them, a few days later, the stranded party was nearing starvation. With the help of the new arrivals, everyone managed to get off the island and continue their trek. The final group of travellers reached Tête Jaune Cache on September 16.

Trials and Tribulations

overlanders - crossing swampFrom Tête Jaune Cache, the group divided again, choosing to take different routes to the lucrative Cariboo gold fields. The larger group decided to take the Fraser River to Fort George and then head south to Quesnel. They made canoes for their trip from hollowed-out cottonwood logs and ox hides and travelled down the first stretch of the Fraser quite easily. When they reached the Grand Canyon of the Fraser, a short gorge about 30 kilometres (18 miles) upstream from the confluence of the Bowron River, disaster struck. Caught in the tumultuous Scow Rapids, canoes were overturned and torn apart. Four men died from drowning or hypothermia and many supplies were lost. Worn down and badly beaten by the day’s events, the group pressed on, reaching Fort George on October 8.

overlanders - rapids on fraserA smaller group of Overlanders left Tête Jaune Cache and travelled overland up the McLennan River, which flows north into the Fraser River. Thinking they could make the trek to the gold fields by land, they purchased over 100 head of cattle and horses. Soon, the travellers discovered they would be forced to take the Thompson downriver to reach their destination. In preparation, they slaughtered their cattle and turned their horses loose. They constructed rafts and began their journey down the Thompson River to Fort Kamloops. This second group ran into trouble in the Murchison rapids and Hells Gate where two men died. The rest of the group arrived in Fort Kamloops in October of 1862.

While both groups suffered great losses, the majority of the travellers survived the epic journey and went on to take part in the Cariboo Gold Rush. The hardships they experienced and the perils they encountered, especially between Jasper and Tête Jaune Cache and in the canyons and rapids of the Fraser and North Thompson rivers, make their journey one of the most impressive events in Canadian travel history.

*This number varies from 150 – 200+.

**Mrs. Schubert gave birth to her fourth child the day after their arrival at Fort Kamloops.

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Expulsion of the Acadians

expulsion

The historical boundaries of Acadia included most of what is now Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island (then called Île Royale), New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island (then called Île St-Jean). Under the Treaty of Utrecht, 1713, mainland Acadia was ceded to Britain. The treaty made provision for the resettlement of the Acadians, but, for a number of reasons, this never occurred.

As subjects of the British Empire, Acadians were expected to swear allegiance to the British monarch. Acadians offered to swear an oath of neutrality, which was accepted by the British governor of the day, Richard Philips. For the most part, the Acadians enjoyed a period of prosperity after becoming subjects of Great Britain.

After the mid 1840s, however, Acadia was of growing strategic interest and was to become the battleground for British and French expansion on the eastern seaboard of North America. Tensions between the British in Nova Scotia and the French on Île Royale and Île St-Jean rose dramatically after the arrival of 7000 British colonists in the area.

In the face of increasing military preparations and other fighting in North America, the new governor of Nova Scotia, Charles Lawrence, demanded an unconditional oath of allegiance to ensure that the Acadians would not take up arms against the British.

expulsion of the acadiansThe Acadians at first refused as they were concerned about possible retaliation from the French should they swear allegiance to Britain. Later, they reluctantly agreed. This was not convincing enough for Governor Lawrence, who ordered the expulsion to begin.

In July 1755, the deportations began. The total Acadian population at the time was around 12 000 and it is estimated that as many as 10 000 were expelled. The British seized farms, goods, livestock and pillaged and ruined Acadian homesteads to ensure that they would not return. This continued until 1762.

When the British won control of most French possessions in North America under the Treaty of Paris, 1763, French settlers on Île Royale and Île St-Jean were also expelled. Those on the islands were returned to France, and from there many of them re-settled in French territory of Louisiana (later purchased by United States) to become the “Cajuns” of today.

Source: http://www.canadiana.ca/citm/specifique/deportation_e.html.

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Fire on the water – the burning of the SS Noronic.

noronicAbout 2:30 a.m. on the morning of September 17th, 1949, a passenger discovered a small fire in a linen closet. Attempts to extinguish the fire proved futile and the flames spread quickly through the wood interior of the ship. Within 10 minutes, the Noronic was a raging inferno. Passengers, most of whom were sleeping, were roused from their beds, but with the corridors filled with smoke and choked with people, many found it impossible to escape the chaos. As fire raced through the cabins and corridors, some passengers jumped into Toronto Harbour in a desperate attempt to save their lives. The Toronto Fire Department arrived on the scene in minutes and rescued as many people as possible, but they could do nothing for the Noronic. By 5 a.m., the “Queen of the Great Lakes” was a smoldering ruin, a victim of a devastating fire that left over one hundred dead and scores injured.

noronic fireThe death toll from the Noronic disaster was never precisely determined. It ranges anywhere from 118 to 139 deaths. Most died from either suffocation or burns. Some died from being trampled or from leaping off the upper decks onto the pier. Only one person drowned. To the anger of many, all of those killed were passengers.

A Federal inquiry was formed by Canada’s House of Commons to investigate the accident. The fire was determined to have started in the linen closet on C-deck, but the cause was never discovered. It was deemed likely that a cigarette was carelessly dropped by a member of the laundry staff.

The high death toll was blamed largely on the ineptitude and cowardice of the crew. Too few crew members were on duty at the time of the fire, and none attempted to wake the passengers. Also, many crew members fled the ship at the first alarm, and no member of the crew ever called the fire department. Passengers had never been informed of evacuation routes or procedures.

noronic aftermatchThe design and construction of the 36-year-old ship were also found to be at fault. The interiors had been lined with oiled wood instead of fireproof material. Exits were only located on one deck instead of all five. None of the ship’s fire hoses were in working order.

Captain Taylor was hailed as a hero in the weeks after the fire. He was among the last of the crew to leave the Noronic. During the fire, he broke windows, pulling trapped passengers from their rooms. He was even said to have carried an unconscious woman from a smoke-filled passageway and lowered her by rope to rescuers on the pier below. Despite Taylor’s courage, his licence was suspended for a year.

The ship, which settled to the bottom in shallow water, was partially taken apart at the scene. The upper decks were cut away, and the hull was re-floated on November 29, 1949. It was towed to Hamilton, Ontario, where it was scrapped.

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As an odd footnote, it is standard practice to sound the horn one long blast, three short blasts and another long blast – to signal a fire on board – but in the case of the Noronic the horn emitted a bone-chilling shriek that pierced the air without a pause, as if setting the pace for the rest of the night – the Noronic’s “death-cry,” not soon forgotten by those who heard it.

Before the whistle blew, the night watchman for Pier 9, Harper, had his back to the ship, but noticed an orange glow on the walls in front of him. As he turned to look at the ship, the whistle began to blow. Harper was situated on the Starboard side of the ship, and it was evident that the fire, having begun on the Port side, had now progressed to the danger point.

Source: The World History Project – http://worldhistoryproject.org/1949/9/17/ss-noronic-fire

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My list of of interesting books about Canada (to date). You can add your favourites, too. Just send me a note with your choice, title and author, to gerrybbooks@yahoo.ca

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If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

      

Cougar Annie

cougar annie - photo

Ada Annie Rae-Arthur, later Ada Annie Lawson but better known as Cougar Annie, (June 19, 1888 – April 28, 1985) was a pioneer who settled near Hesquiat Harbour at Boat Basin in Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Canada.

Born Ada Annie Jordan in SacramentoCalifornia, she moved to the land where she was to live for more than 65 years from VancouverBritish Columbia in 1915 after having lived in EnglandSouth Africa and the Canadian Prairies as a child. She arrived with the first of her four husbands to save him from an opium addiction and ensure that the remittance cheques that came from his family in Scotland would continue to arrive. At the time she and her husband settled on the coast, they had three small children. She gave birth to eight more children in this remote location. She acquired her nickname because of her famed marksmanship. She shot dozens of cougars during her long life.

After the death of her first husband Willie Rae-Arthur in 1936, she advertised in The Western Producer saying “BC Widow with Nursery and orchard wishes partner. Widower preferred. Object matrimony.” [1] The new husband she chose from several candidates died at their home in 1944 of an accidental gunshot wound to the leg. The story goes he was cleaning his gun and didn’t realize that there was a cartridge still in the chamber. Her third husband was produced by the same advertisement, and after his death of Pneumonia in 1955, she ran another ad, this time seeking a widower with young children. Her own children having grown and moved off, she found a companion who stayed on with his children for a number of months before the remoteness of life in Boat Basin drove him away. However they did remain in contact for many years to come. (This previous statement has never been verified by the family.) In 1961 Annie married for the fourth and last time. It was an unsuccessful marriage to a man, 12 years her junior, who drank, stole from the store and sometimes beat her. This man tried to run Annie off a cliff to get the farm but she was wilier than he was and ran him off with her shotgun. When he left never to return around 1967, he was not missed.

In 1942 the lighthouse at Estevan Point was shelled by a Japanese submarine. Annie claimed to have seen the submarine surface in the harbour before the lighthouse was shelled and to have found a shell on the beach in front of her land.

cougar annie's gardenWith little help, Annie cleared 5 acres (20,000 m2) of her land and planted a sprawling garden. The garden was a source of income throughout her life, as she sold bulbs and plants by mail. She also operated a general store and post office from her plot of land. Another source of income over the years was a bounty offered for Cougars that ranged from $10 to $40. The numbers of cats that she claimed to have killed continued to increase into her old age but in 1955 she received bounties for 10 cats. At that time she claimed to have killed 62 cougars and about 80 bears. Killing cougars and bears was necessary because they preyed on the goats and chickens that she raised.

Her livelihood depended upon the regular visits of the Canadian Pacific Steamships Line Princess Maquinna that arrived every 10 days in Hesquiat Harbour from 1913 to 1952 on her rounds fromVictoria to Port Alice.

Annie rarely left the property where she lived until well into her nineties. Ailing and mostly blind, she was removed to Port Alberni, where she died at the age of 97.

[Source: Wikipedia]

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Interesting characters…

“Kootenai” Brown, Canada’s earliest conservationist…

kootnai brownJohn George Brown (10 October 1839 – 18 July 1916), better known as “Kootenai” Brown, was an Irish-born Canadian polymath, soldier, trader and conservation advocate.

Born in Ennistymon, Ireland, and educated at Eton and Oxford, Brown was commissioned as a British Army officer in 1857 “without purchase” (a reference to the practice then common of wealthy Britons purchasing officers’ commissions), joining the 8th Regiment as an ensign.

After serving in India in 1858 and 1859, in 1862 he sold his commission and joined the flood of prospectors joining the Cariboo Gold Rush (British Columbia). He proved unsuccessful as a prospector, turning to trapping and then briefly policing, serving as constable in Wild Horse Creek, BC (now gone).

In 1865, he moved on, to Waterton Lakes , being wounded by a Blackfoot Indian on his way to Fort Garry (now Winnipeg), where he settled and became a whiskey trader.

Subsequent to that, he worked briefly for a company delivering mail to the United States Army until 1874, during which time he was captured and nearly killed by Sitting Bull in 1869.

“Sitting Bull ordered us to get off our horses and when we did he had us stripped as naked as the day we were born. They took everything, dispatches, mail, guns, horses, clothes … Some of the young bucks began yelling ‘Kash-ga, Kash-ga,’ meaning kill them. Sitting Bull raised his hand and shouted ‘Don’t be in a hurry, we’ll make a fire and have some fun with them.’ We understood every word they said, of course, and we knew that Sitting Bull meant some playful mode of torture.”

When a dispute arose over some horses, Brown and his friend Joe rolled into a coulee and sprinted for a nearby lake. “We were standing in water up to our necks with Indians running up and down the shore firing at random into the weeds … It was blowing a regular hurricane and pouring down torrents of rain and this is probably what saved us. Finally, half dead with cold, we stole quietly out in the pitch darkness and scrambling up the banks took to our heels.”

He then went on to serve as a constable in the gold rush town of Wild Horse Creek. In the summer of 1865 while travelling with four companions, he passed though the Waterton Lakes area and wrote, “This is what I have seen in my dreams, this is the country for me.” He would return twelve years later to play a pivotal role in the development and history of this area which so impressed him.

Those twelve years would see Koonenai wounded in the back by a Blackfoot arrow (it is said that he pulled the arrow out himself and treated the wound with turpentine), spend time as a Pony Express rider, endure capture by Sitting Bull and a band of Sioux, and then subsequently escape. By 1877, with the buffalo rapidly disappearing he turned to hunting wolves. Brown was then accused of murder in Fort Benton, Montana and after his acquittal crossed the border with his family to settle in his chosen area.

Although he worked as a trapper and a guide, Brown also worked tirelessly for the establishment of a park at Waterton (now Waterton Lakes National Park). He was appointed Fishery Officer and Forest Ranger in 1895, and became the first Superintendent in 1911. At the age of 74 he was still making his rounds on snowshoes, travelling 20 miles in -36C (-32F) weather. He is buried in the park on the west side of Knight Lake.

Waterton park

My list of of interesting books about Canada (to date). You can add your favourites, too. Just send me a note with your choice, title and author, to gerrybbooks@yahoo.ca

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If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

      

 

Vince Coleman (1847 – December 6, 1917). Hero!

Vince Colemen (1874 – Dec. 6, 1917). Hero!

Vince Coleman (1)The death toll of the Halifax Explosion on December 6, 1917 would have been higher if not for the efforts of a dispatcher with the Intercolonial Railway.  On the day of the explosion, the 45-year-old Vince Coleman was one of two railway dispatchers working in the Richmond train station, where they were responsible for controlling train traffic on the main line into Halifax.  The train-line ran along the western shore of Bedford Basin from Rockingham Station, past the Richmond Station, to the city’s passenger terminal at the North Street Station at Barrington and North Streets.  The Richmond station was only a few hundred feet from the Mont-Blanc, the French cargo ship which had caught fire and drifted towards shore after a collision with the Imo, a Belgian relief ship. 

Coleman and his co-worker learned of the imminent danger from sailors sent ashore to warn people that theMont-Blanc was full of explosives. Coleman returned to the station’s telegraph office to send urgent telegraph messages to stop trains inbound for Halifax.  Coleman’s message, sent in Morse Code, was “Stop trains. Munitions ship on fire.  Approaching Pier 6. Goodbye.”

The trains were stopped all along the line. The closest train to Halifax, an overnight passenger train from Saint John, New Brunswick carrying approximately 300 passengers, is said to have stopped at the Rockingham Station, just 6 kilometres from the downtown terminal.  The train was later used to carry injured and homeless survivors to Truro, Nova Scotia.

Coleman’s message passed word of the disaster to the rest of Canada. The railway quickly mobilized aid, sending a dozen relief trains from towns in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick on the day of the disaster, followed two days later by help from other parts of Canada as well as the United States, most notably Boston.

halifax explosion - news

halifax explosion - wreckage

halifax explosion - graphiic

In praise of Canada’s bush pilots….

bush pilots photo

“When Doctor Ronald Shemenski awoke the pain was still there. Grimacing as he rose slowly from his bunk he made up his mind. He couldn’t wait any longer.

In April 2001, Antarctica was plunged into perpetual sub-zero darkness of the southern winter. The -60 degree Celsius (-76 Fahrenheit) winds had swirled around the Amundsen Scott South Pole Station for days, imprisoning the 50 scientists and workers at the National Science Foundation research station in a tomb-like world.

Days earlier Doctor Shemenski had passed a gallstone but was now suffering from a pancreatic inflammation. It was a potentially dangerous condition requiring lifesaving surgery. As the only doctor at the research station, he transmitted an ultrasound image by satellite to a medical centre in Denver, Colorado. Shemenski’s diagnosis was confirmed by staff stateside, and they concurred that an evacuation was critical.

Distress calls to McMurdo, the nearest Antarctic base where giant Hercules transports could evacuate the doctor, disclosed the grim news that the freezing temperatures and darkness would prevent a rescue. In the winter the transports’ hydraulic fluid would congeal into a thick gel and electrical cables would snap.

A rescue had never been attempted at the height of an Antarctic winter, yet Sean Loutitt, an Alberta bush pilot working for Ken Borek Air, thought he could make it. Flying a rugged (Canadian built) twin-engined de Havilland Twin Otter, Loutitt, with co-pilot Mark Cary and flight engineer Norm Wong, flew out of Chile where he had picked up Doctor Betty Carlisle, Shermenski’s replacement, staging from Rothera, the British base on Adelaide Island near the western tip of Antarctica

When cautioned about his chances for success, Loutitt remarked that, like bush pilots before him, “We go places no one has ever been before.” – True-Life Adventures of Canada’s Bush Pilots‘ by Bill Zuk

And he did! Rescue accomplished.

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See the original publication (click on image).

bush pilots coverBush pilots haul cargo to remote reserves along the West Coast of Canada. They ferry big-game hunters to base camps and fly-in fishermen to remote lodges. They take nature photographers to scenic vistas and archaeological explorers to their latest dig.Bush pilots and the planes they have flown are an exciting part of Canada’s aviation history. In his latest book Bill Zuk brings their exploits and adventures alive. With detailed descriptions of their planes, and stories of their daring and their bravery, he evokes our admiration for these enterprising men who have contributed so colourfully to the fabric of Canadian life.