Building the Cariboo Wagon Road proved to be an insurmountable challenge to Walter Moberly and Charles Oppenheimer.
As I mentioned in my previous post, Smallpox on the Cariboo Wagon Road, Moberly and Oppenheimer had been awarded the contract to build a section of road between Lytton City and Cook’s Ferry.
The first obstacle they faced was finding willing people to help construct the road, then smallpox spread, killing most of their work crews. The second and most damaging obstacle they encountered was a lack of money to complete the project.
The colonial government withheld payment for the work that Moberly and his crew had made so far. The remaining workers clamoured for their pay while Moberly went down the Fraser River in a canoe to New Westminster. There he met with Colonel Moody of the Royal Engineers and later Governor Douglas who set up a new arrangement where Moberly and his group would receive a lump sum of $50,000. The Governor handed over $6,000 and said that the remaining $44,000 would be forthcoming, to be handled by the attorney general.
In the meantime, Moberly headed back to Yale where he made arrangements to pay his workers as well as other merchants who were owed. The six thousand dollars quickly ran out and the remainder of the money never came. Instead, Moberly was arrested by the sheriff, Captain Ball, because of the money he owed on supplies to a company in Victoria. As if matters weren’t bad enough, news came that Captain Grant of the Royal Engineers was on his way to Lytton to sever the road building contract.
Moberly borrowed a few hundred dollars from a friend and gave the money to the sheriff to pay the outstanding debt. Free from jail, Moberly then went to discuss the state of the project with Captain Grant,
“we discussed the whole matter over in the most friendly manner, and I gave him in writing, my relinquishment of all my charter rights, and also the surrender of all the supplies, tents, tools, etc….and when everything was out of my hands, Captain Grant proposed that he should appoint me to carry on the works for the government for the rest of the season. This proposition I was glad to accept for I had not a dollar left…”