Freight Wagon drivers on the Cariboo Road

If you were on the Cariboo Road during the time of the gold rush, chances are you would have seen a few freight wagons and their crews of swampers and skinners.

Swampers were apprentices in the teaming business and they were responsible for looking after the horses, including rounding them up early in the morning. They did other chores as well to assist the freight driver, known as a teamster.

Teamsters, or ‘skinners’ as they were known, had the job of driving teams of horses. They wore a stiff-brimmed hat, similar to a cowboy hat, but with a narrower brim. Their boots were high-topped calfskin with low flat heels. Their pants were worn over their boots.

“If you drove two horses, you turned the bottoms of your pants up one roll, if you drove four horses you were entitled to two rolls…”

Teamsters would often drive teams of six horses. In this case a “jerk-line” was used. This was a single line connected to the bridles of the lead horses. The leading horses would turn left or right according to the number of jerks on the line.

One of the most important pieces of equipment freight wagons carried was a single piece of board called a “jack”. It was used to help unload heavy objects and for getting wagons out of mudholes.

Freight wagons travelled north on the Cariboo Road as late as 1915, with Ashcroft serving as the supply depot.