William Hind was an artist and an ‘Overlander’—the name given to those gold seekers who trekked over the prairies to the Cariboo gold fields. Hind kept a sketchbook on his journey from Fort Garry and documented the struggles that the party of nearly 200 endured. With their Métis guides, the Overlanders set out with red river carts, traded for pemmican and hunted for food along the way.
Hind was born in England in 1833 and emigrated to Canada West in 1851 where his older brother, Henry Youle Hind, had established himself as a noted geologist.
When Henry was assigned to go on an exploration trip, he took William along to document the plants and landscapes as well as the First Nations they encountered.
With the discovery of gold on the Fraser River in 1858, the brothers
put together a travel guide publication, “A sketch of an overland route to British Columbia”, with a map and
guidebook on how to organize a trip, what dress, food and supplies to bring, how to pack, financial costs, topography, distances between points and included descriptive
information on the five major passes through the Rocky Mountains.
Henry encouraged his brother William to join the Overlanders on their journey. For the 1862 trip William brought along his artist materials which included papers, painting materials, an
easel and a pocket-size, leatherbound sketchbook. William sketched almost daily, and was a keen observer of his surroundings which he portrayed almost scientifically.
Hind tried to keep an objective viewpoint, even when emotions were running high as they were during the Overlander expedition of 1862. The journey was far different from what William had envisioned and had laid out in their guidebook.
By the end of the journey, Hind had stopped sketching. When they arrived in the Cariboo, the Overlanders were starving, disillusioned and traumatized by what they had endured.
Hind went to Victoria and made vividly realistic watercolour paintings based on his sketches. He lived there for a few years and advertised his services as a sign painter.