Clement Cornwall, owner of the Ashcroft roadhouse on the Cariboo Wagon Road, was also a politician.
Cornwall was one of fourteen children born to Reverend Alan Gardner Cornwall and Caroline Kingscote in Gloucestershire, England. When Clement was just an infant, the woollen cloth trade had collapsed and the town’s only employer went bankrupt. Faced with an uncertain future, Cornwall’s father sought help from his wife’s relatives.
Eventually the family built a home, ‘Ashcroft House’ next to the Kingscote estate in England. Clement and his brother Henry were educated at private schools and earned degrees from Cambridge. Afterward, Clement went on to article in law and was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1862.
On April 17, 1862, the Cornwall brothers waved goodbye to their family and set sail from Southampton, England bound for Victoria by way of Panama and San Francisco. They stayed in San Francisco for a few days where they purchased a packhorse for $75 dollars. Their ship docked at Esquimalt on June 2, 1862 and within a few days they travelled by steamship to Port Douglas. With their packhorse they hiked up the Douglas-Lillooet trail averaging thirteen miles a day. Arriving in Lillooet on June 20th, they heard that the prospects of finding gold weren’t as great as had been reported.
On the Cariboo Wagon Road
Considering the time was favourable for acquiring land they scouted around and settled on a strategic place on the packhorse trail in the Bonaparte River Valley that they heard was going to be widened into the Cariboo Wagon Road. On this spot the brothers hired two men to whipsaw timber into useable planks for a roadhouse. It took the workers five months to carry out this gruelling task from January to June of 1863 for four cents per foot plus their food.
On September 24, 1863, the Royal Engineers completed the Cariboo Road past the newly completed roadhouse, named ‘Ashcroft’.
As the ranch and roadhouse prospered, Clement Cornwall’s influence grew. Well-known government officials stayed there including Judge Begbie, Walter Moberly, and Gold Commissioner Peter O’Reilly.
Cornwall was elected in 1864 as the representative for the Hope-Yale-Lytton District—one of five members representing the colony of British Columbia. They met in the Legislative Hall, formerly the main barracks of the Royal Engineers’ camp in New Westminster. The following year Cornwall was awarded the role of postmaster and then as magistrate of Thompson River District in 1867.
Three years later Clement married Charlotte Pemberton of Kensal Green, London, England. Shortly thereafter, Clement was elected to the 8th Legislative Council in 1871. This was an exciting time when the politicians were working out the details of joining Canada. In the summer of 1871, British Columbia joined Confederation and became a province.
Clement Cornwall left his position in the Senate to become Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia in 1881.