Category Archives: Short Stories

Historical short stories that take place in British Columbia

Posing for Mrs. Maynard

Hannah Maynard left her board and batten house on Johnson Street and walked down the dirt road that was just wide enough for two carriages to pass.  Her children were still asleep and would likely not awake until the cook arrived.  She observed the people walking past; some people kept their heads down as they scurried along, some kicked their feet out beneath them or leaned from side to side. As she took in her surroundings, she thought about what she would contribute to the photography journal. She wanted something unique; a photograph that would show her latest experiments setting multiple images on a glass plate.

She smiled at the two Songhees women sitting outside her business, Mrs. R. Maynard’s Photographic Gallery, selling fish and clams from elaborately woven cedar baskets. She nodded her head in recognition and politely declined their offers.  She had photographed them before for her cartes de visite collection and was pleased to see them selling well.

Maynard had a busy day in front of her, she noted. There was an appointment with one of the prominent Victoria families, the Hucklebees.   Maynard told her that there were many props in here studio and most importantly she could be assured of a good likeness.

There was just one problem. Maynard had one painted background.

She pulled the long drapes to let more light into the room. The morning was turning out to be dull and cloudy. The studio camera which sat on a heavy frame with wheels on the bottom would have to be moved further back. She had to be careful as she rolled it backward so that her long skirt didn’t get caught.  As well,the rug needed to be whacked free of dust she noted.

Maynard arranged two chairs and a plain tea set as she thought about how she could artfully arrange the group.

As soon as Hucklebee entered with her similarly but beautifully dressed children, she had an immediate reaction to the painted backdrop.

“What is that?”

“It’s a balcony. Sort of like a trompe l’oeil.”

“What about some drapes?” Hucklebee said. “I don’t want to have the same background as someone else, at least one that isn’t so recognizable.”

Maynard looked from the children to the drapes. “I could do that yes, but I do think that a lighter background would provide for more contrast.”

After agreeing on a plain wall, they spent several more minutes moving props around. In the end, Hucklebee and the children stood solemn faced.

Maynard adjusted the box, expanding the bellows under the dark cloth while Hucklebee corrected the children.  “Look at the box, now. No laughing or giggling.” Maynard looked through the lens and saw Hucklebee’s firm hand on both children’s shoulders as they looked straight ahead. After several minutes Maynard came from behind the camera with a smile on her face. Their likeness had been taken.

________

Hannah and her husband Richard Maynard emigrated from Cornwall, England and sailed to Canada in 1852. They settled in the town of Bowmanville in Canada West where Richard was a bootmaker. In 1858, Richard left for the Fraser River Gold Rush while Hannah learned photography at ‘R & H O’Hara Photographers, Booksellers and Insurance Agents.’ The Maynards and their children sailed west to Victoria in 1862. Hannah opened Mrs. R. Maynard’s Photographic Gallery later that same year.

For an in-depth look at one of Victoria’s first photographers, check out Hannah Maynard’s photography.

Barber Moses’ Hair Invigorator in Barkerville

Wellington D. Moses' ad (Cariboo Sentinel newspaper 1865)

Wellington Moses knew something was up when he saw Fanny Bendixon come down the boardwalk in a hurry.  It was supper time for most people and Moses was standing outside his barber shop, taking in the view up the main street in Barkerville crowded with signs and flags of every nationality.

Bendixon was about six inches taller than he was. Moses couldn’t figure out if it was her shoes or her black hair piled high on her head that gave her the most height. He’d heard the story of how she had carried her own belongings on her back from Antler to Barkerville and could well believe it. He first met her when she was running a hotel in Victoria and he was just setting up his barber shop there.

“I ordered some dresses from Victoria and it doesn’t look like they will arrive in time.  Friday is going to be their last show. Mr. Loring wants me to cancel the draft but the bank is shut closed. They put up a sign saying that they’re waiting for some money to arrive from Victoria.” Bendixon said with a frown.

Moses raised his eyebrows. “Those hurdy durdies have their last show already? I thought they were going to be around all summer.”

“Three weeks is plenty enough for me. Between mending their costumes and keeping them clean, I’m too busy to do anything else. “

“Bisbee is going to miss the extra business,” Moses said.  Bisbee’s saloon was one of three in town and everybody always seemed surprised that each of them managed to make a brisk business, but mining for gold pushed men to drink.

After she walked away, Moses spotted a gold nugget cufflink on the boardwalk.  Where had that come from? He never noticed it before and it was the size of Wake Up Jake’s tokens.  He couldn’t recall seeing someone wearing something like that. It was an unusual colour for one, more of a deeper yellow and not as bright as the gold found in Williams Creek.  Moses put it in his pocket.

Beside his cot in the back of his barbershop lay his grandfather’s violin. Moses picked it up and lightly swept the bow across the taut strings. His foot kept time as he started to play a familiar tune. He wondered if Bendixon could hear the music. It was nine o’clock when he decided he was tired enough to sleep and the sun hadn’t even set.

The next couple of days were busy for Moses. He had advertised his hair invigorator for balding or thinning hair in the Cariboo Sentinel and several gold miners were taking him up on his offer.  He didn’t tell anyone about finding the gold cufflink;  he figured if it was a customer of his they would come back and if the person had left town, he probably wouldn’t bother returning just for the sake of a cuff link.

On Thursday morning, the gambler Sweet Apples insisted Moses “choose his lucky ticket.” He ended up buying two lottery tickets from him.

Shortly afterward, his friend Ah Jung came by and picked up his laundry. “I need a clean shirt and pants by Friday,” he told him. It wasn’t until he was cutting someone’s hair and the conversation turned to the colour of gold that he remembered the gold cufflink.  Jung would find it.

Later that afternoon, Moses started hearing rumours about the Macdonald Bank down the road in Richfield.  Some people were saying that they had heard the bank in Victoria had been robbed or a stagecoach had been held up. Either way, the anticipated delivery of gold and money to the bank didn’t arrive when it was supposed to and the miners were getting edgy.  Every time a BX stagecoach was heard coming down the street all heads would turn in anticipation, but it always turned out that it was for something else.

On Friday morning Moses woke up to the sound of feet scuffing along the gravel and the familiar plunk of his laundry basket.  There was the gold cufflink sitting on top. It shouldn’t matter who owned the cufflink but Moses figured he should find the owner now that Jung had returned it. After he had shaved and put on one of his clean shirts, Moses put on his boots and went out.  He took his image seriously; after all he was his own advertisement.

Everywhere he walked people were talking about the same thing. The Macdonald Bank in Richfield was going under.  It was official, there had been a robbery in Victoria and Mr. Macdonald himself had just arrived in town with the keys to the bank. Forgetting about the gold nugget cufflink, Moses had to find out what was going on. He joined the crowd of miners making their way up the road, some of them stopping occasionally to spread the news to the others who were just beginning to emerge from their morning routines.

Racetrack in the Wilderness

July 1861

The last finishing touches were made to the grassy field that had been measured and cut as evenly as possible with men using hand scythes.  It was four furlongs long and there were three high-strung race horses watching from the stable at the sidelines, steam rising from their flared nostrils.  Also watching from the sidelines was I.B. Nason, owner of the local sawmill and Chester Cootes, one half of Cootes and Company and one of the most prosperous gold miners on Antler Creek.

“I wish we had some proper jockeys to ride them,” Nason said.

Cootes chuckled at the thought. “At least we have the horses.  When you consider what a time we had getting them up here.”

Jake Brown eavesdropped on the conversation as the two strolled about inspecting the freshly cut bunch grass.  Every stump, twig and rock had been carefully moved or rolled out of the way, even so Nason called Brown over to move a small handful of rocks he’d noticed.

Brown picked them up one by one until they all rested in the palm of his meaty hand and then disposed of them in the same manner under Nason’s watchful eye.

As one of Nason’s sawmill employees, Brown was one of the few who volunteered to spend the time to prepare the racetrack for the event.

Cootes was about to put some chewing tobacco in his mouth and thought better of it.

“If it weren’t for that British Colonist newspaper, the governor wouldn’t have found out how well we’re doing up here. Why in that last edition, they claimed that my company is prospering 400 dollars a day. ”

“They’re bound to have found out soon enough. Mr. Barnard always gets his word out to the paper,” Nason said as he kicked a pebble with his foot.

“Who’s this person ‘Argus’?  Why hide behind a stump and report on gossip anonymously? I don’t like it.”

“Did you hear if Cameron got his money?” Nason asked.

“I doubt it. Whoever robbed him has gone for good.  I told him not to mention anything to the Governor when he arrives.”

Later that evening, Brown sat down on a log behind the stable and wrote out all the details he could remember about the racetrack. He was used to keeping numbers and details in his head for such a long time that he never felt the need to write anything down.  As a result, most people figured he couldn’t write. In fact he had taught himself to write in a plain, blocky style; not the cursive writing like the sawmill’s accountant. As a side note he also wrote about the robbery at Cameron’s Golden Age Saloon.  He hadn’t heard that two of Cameron’s prized pistols had been taken along with $130 worth of gold dust, but if Nason said it, Brown took it to be fact.  He took the letter and folded it into thirds pressing hard on each crease before inserting it into the paid envelope in the box for Barnard’s Express bound for the British Colonist newspaper in Victoria.

The next couple of days saw an increase of activity. Several shopkeepers were sweeping the dirt from the entrances and card games which were normally held around an empty barrel were moved elsewhere.   If someone had never been to Antler, they would be surprised at the little town in the wilderness.  Just a year before the town didn’t even exist.  George Weaver and W.R. “Doc” Keithley discovered gold in Antler Creek barely a year before. They never told anyone that they had discovered gold but when you start purchasing enough provisions to last a couple of months, rumours start to fly on their own.  By the time they had built a rough lean-to cabin, gold seekers were darting out from between the trees, fanning all along the distance between Quesnel Forks and Antler Creek.

Now there were shops and businesses with goods you couldn’t get anywhere else except in New Westminster.

The next day after his shift was finished at the sawmill Brown got the gossip from J.C. Beedy who ran the general store.  Beedy was pulling weeds from his vegetable patch out the back when Brown sauntered around.  There was a strong smell of manure coming from a wheelbarrow.

“How’s the racetrack coming along?” Beedy asked.

“There are no rocks to be found. I swept it again today and couldn’t find one.”

Beedy chuckled, “I don’t know which is more excited, Nason or the horses.”

Brown pulled a young carrot out of the ground. “Did you hear Cameron is planning to talk with the Governor about the crime here?”

“Cameron?  Of all the topics, I doubt he would mention that. Don’t forget he’s bringing all that liquor in without paying a cent in customs.  He’s got an order for a dozen bottles of champagne at $12 a bottle for champagne plus he’s got more kegs of beer coming up in the next day or so. “

“What’s the story with the pistols?”

“Pistols?”

“I heard he was robbed of two of his pistols,” Brown said as he bit down on the carrot.

“Nah, never heard of it. Where’d you hear of that?”

Brown felt his neck flush.  “Must be a rumour.” He stood up.

“That’s right. You can’t rely on rumours or gossip.  I could use some help spreading this manure though,” Beedy said with a smile.

What happened to Sapper James Duffy

Billy Ballou's Express

Billy Ballou's Fraser River Express

Every time Billy Ballou came to Victoria, he stopped by the British Colonist newspaper and had a chat with the publisher and editor, Amor de Cosmos.  Ballou didn’t care how or why someone would make up a name.  He was more concerned in getting his message across.  Cosmos relied on him for word on what was going on in the gold diggings and Ballou saw an opportunity to get his own message out and air his grievances.  They both disliked the current government.

Even though it was about ten degrees warmer in Victoria, Ballou still wore his thick coat. He looked around taking in the changes. New streets had cropped up where there used to be houses.  As if to prove the point, he spied a family carting their possessions followed by a couple of men rolling their house along.

The floor boards squeaked with each step he took.  Ballou sat down in front of Cosmos’ desk covered in printing paper. Cosmos wearing a heavy apron, yelled hello from around the corner.

“How is Rock Creek?” Cosmos asked as he took off his apron and settled down at his desk.

“It’s still the richest gold diggings in the colony.  Dunbar has been having a rough time of the road though, and he tells me that he’s about had enough.  I told him his contract is for one trip a month and he said he won’t do it. Not unless he’s paid more, but the governor won’t budge.”

“Hmm. How is the road?”

“It’s in rough shape according to Dunbar. He says if it weren’t for him and his mule train going back and forth, no one would know where it went.  But the snow is deep, almost thirty feet in some places, so I don’t blame him for wanting a respite from the delivery.”

“What about the government mail service?”

“It won’t be running.  I did the last Express run for January.  It’s too icy to get anywhere or do anything.  Any miner that’s got himself stuck there probably is saving his money for food and liquor.  Provisions are high at Similkameen and Rock Creek and just as scarce. Mail has to be the last thing on their minds. What does the governor want us to do – get killed falling through the ice? Rock Creek is completely frozen and you can only go so far on the Similkameen without encountering blocks of ice. It’s one of the fiercest winters I’ve lived through.  Just as I was heading down the whole regiment was carrying one of their own down to New Westminster. Froze to death on the Harrison trail.”

Cosmos eyes widened. “One of the Royal Engineers?”

“A sapper named Duffy from the Columbia detachment.  Someone said he was sent down there for supplies in the middle of a snowstorm.” Ballou shook his head, “it’s a helluva way to go. They probably would have buried him there had it not been for his wife, Alice I think her name was. She put the boots to old Moody.”

Cosmos furrowed his brow. “What about the others in his party?”

“It’s all hush hush. But I can tell you there are some rumours flying around.  One of my packers heard that the others had left Duffey on the trail to stay with the equipment or supplies while the others went ahead for help.  He had lost his rank as Corporal over some new trail he surveyed for the Governor along Cayoosh Creek last fall.  His superiors claimed they didn’t know a thing about it when Colonel Moody got the report and exploded. I doubt Duffy’s superiors were in the dark but they blamed the whole thing on him and demoted him to Sapper.”

Cosmos scratched out some notes. “It sounds as though Mr. Douglas wanted to undermine the authority of Colonel Moody.  I was present at a Royal Engineers gathering at the Fort and I can tell you it was a relief when one or both was absent; such was the tension between the two of them.  The next time I have the opportunity, I will ask the Governor of his role in all this.”

Ballou stood up from his chair, “I’ll be looking forward to reading about it. You can tell him Ballou never lost a packer.  I deliver the mail but not at the expense of someone’s life.”

Ballou left and strolled down the street.   He knew he would have to let someone in government know about the undeliverable mail, but it could wait knowing he had done the right thing.  He opened the door to the American Saloon and stepped inside.

Sapper James Duffy and the Cayoosh Creek Trail (from royalengineers.ca)

Cattle Drive to the Cariboo

Cattle Drive (photo from Klondike Cattle Drive by Norman Lee)

July 1861

Patrick Gannon set out north with almost a hundred head of cattle.  He had lost five since he had wintered the herd in the valley near Walla Walla and each loss was a painful reminder of the risk he had undertaken.  Everything he had was invested in these cattle. Things were so dire in Oregon that he had to just walk away from his ranch; the beef prices were so low that it wasn’t even possible to make ends meet.

Originally, there were three others with Gannon on his first cattle drive north, but after a few days, one of them left the group.  He wanted to get paid, but Gannon couldn’t afford to pay anybody until they reached the Cariboo, a place that wasn’t on any map, but where the gold seekers were hitting pay dirt and willing to pay at least fifty cents a pound for beef.  There was Jake the cook, Phil, and Gannon.  As the cook, Jake’s job was to set up camp and get the meal started so by the time the rest of the group arrived, all they had to do was take care of the horses and find some feed for the cattle to graze on.

Some days they could go ten miles a day and others twelve.  The challenge was keeping all the animals going in a straight line, otherwise if the first one started to stray from the path, the rest would follow along.  After leaving Walla Walla, they had to cross the Snake River which took two days of going back and forth. Cattle couldn’t swim like horses.  Jake rode out in front and the rest of them followed along the trail through the Grand Coulee then crossed the Columbia River.  As luck would have it, he came across a group of miners, mostly former militia men, who volunteered to accompany them as they headed north.  The miners were well armed against any possible attack; Gannon had himself witnessed the carnage around Yakima. After the miners left them, he was advised to keep following the brigade trail – once carved out by the Hudson’s Bay Company and still well-worn.

While they were on the trail, they ran into Manuel who said he used to be a packer with the Hudson’s Bay Company and he knew the trail well.  Gannon welcomed him to join the group.  It was hard to know how long the others were willing to stay travelling with the cattle. Gannon figured it was only a matter of time before they got bit by the gold bug.

Gannon figured Jake was taking a few side excursions to pan for gold in the rivers, barely just setting up camp in time for the rest of the crew as the cattle came lumbering along.  When the others were out of earshot, Gannon said a few words.

“I notice the horse is foaming at the mouth. Must’ve been quite the ride.”

Jake shrugged his shoulders, “he just got excited, there was a bear coming out of the bush a ways ahead. I tried to shoot it but I missed and it ran off.”

“Speaking of bushes, I sent Manuel ahead to pick some berries.”

Jake grumbled around and set about making his regular meal which he called ‘flapjacks’ and beans.

Things went smoothly as they went into the Okanagan Valley. The bunch grass was plentiful there and it wasn’t difficult to find water for the cattle.

Once they left the Okanagan, good grass wasn’t easily found.  Gannon sent Phil and Manuel to scout some decent bunch grass within a reasonable distance of their camp and many times they returned with grim faces.  There were plenty of nights were the cows went hungry and when this happened, they became restless.  Gannon could see they were getting thin, but the best bunch grass had already been eaten by previous cattle. Some of them strayed into the woods and couldn’t be found. Another he found with its hooves in the air after eating a poisonous plant he hadn’t seen before.

Along the way, he encountered gold seekers, some of whom who offered some flour for a “side of beef.”  Gannon shook his head.  “Not unless one of them comes up lame.”

After a supper of flapjacks, Gannon and Manuel went to count the cattle and make sure the surviving ones were there while Phil hobbled the horses and removed their packs while Jake cleaned up.  Sometimes other miners would join their camp in the evening and Jake would shuffle out some cards and start a card game which occasionally led to an argument.  Gannon stayed out of the games, especially the ones where they would gamble their money on.

Gannon enjoyed talking to the gold seekers and find out any news they had heard about.

“Where are you headed?” Gannon asked one of the miners.

“I’m going to try my luck at the Bonaparte River then Big Bar.”

“Where’s Big Bar?”

“Around Lillooet. Lots of gold seekers are doing well there.”

By the time they reached Fort Kamloops, Gannon had lost seven more cattle and the horses were too weak to ride.   When he inquired at the fort, he was told he could let his cattle graze for a dollar per head.  It was a lot more than he could afford so he was forced to hand over three of his heifers.  The HBC clerk commented on how thin they were, “but we’ll have them fattened up in no time.”

They stayed for a full day and two evenings.  They all joined the clerks for some Hudson’s Bay rum but Gannon returned soon after to keep an eye on the cattle.  There was no fence to keep them in and he didn’t want to have to spend hours searching for them the next day.

As it turned out, everybody was too drunk from the night before to get going until mid-day.  Gannon had to ask Phil twice to remove the hobbles from the horses but it was too much for him to bend over so Gannon had to do it himself.  Then he took each one and tossed them onto the ashes of the campfire.  Nobody said a word until they were ready to set out on the trail and Jake couldn’t find his Colt revolver and had to look for it.

Jake was adamant.  “I have to find it. It’s been with me ever since I left Missouri.  I’m not going any further in this country until I find it.”

Nobody wanted to take on the role of cook, so it was a relief when they ran into Jules Barry at Savona’ s ferry crossing . Barry was from Texas and he said he had spent some time in California, working on a ranch.

Barry surprised Gannon by telling him he could make more money selling his herd to a rancher.

“I know of a few people who are thinking of setting up a ranch up here. I could make some inquiries while I’m on the trail. It’s almost September, do you think you can honestly make it to the Cariboo before winter?”

Manuel was doubtful and Phil was irate.  Both had counted on their share of the profits, but it was apparent to anybody that the cattle were getting thin after the constant walking.

Gannon’s only concern was finding good grassland.  Manuel told him about an area he recalled near a place called Hat Creek.

“Donald McLean retired last year and he’s started a ranch there.”

Surprisingly, Phil and Barry both argued to keep going until Lillooet.  What if the ranch wasn’t there?  Manuel conceded that he had heard about some good grazing land to the north, but the question was, would the cattle make it there? They were getting thin and every day was hard on them.   Even the horses were wearing out.

Gannon sided with Manuel, “we’ll follow the Bonaparte River and stop at the Hat Creek Ranch.”

Following the Bonaparte River turned out to be a much slower process than Manuel had anticipated, as he had travelled several years before by canoe.  The nights were getting cooler and the leaves on the popular trees were turning yellow.  Their relief came when they came across a much smaller river which Manuel called Rivière de la Cache.  There was ample bunch grass for the animals and Gannon made sure they well fed and rested before they continued again.

In another fifteen days, they arrived at Hat Creek.

______________

During the years from 1858 until 1868 over 22,000 head of cattle crossed the border at Osooyos Lake and were driven up the Brigade Trail into the interior. The Colonial Government of British Columbia was aware of this inland route and its potential for revenue. A customs duty of one dollar per head was established and, in 1859, William George Cox was dispatched to Fort Kamloops to intercept livestock and merchandise and charge appropriate duties. (from livinglandscapes.bc.ca)

Simon Fraser and the Red Capote

Simon Fraser

The Fraser River is named for Simon Fraser

Years after he explored the Fraser River in 1808 and the Upper Canada rebellion had left him injured, Simon Fraser became a farmer in Cornwall.

“They found gold on the Fraser!” John shouted to his father working in the field.  He ran up to his father and showed him the headline on the Cornwall Freeholder.  Gold Rush on Frazer’s River.

Simon held the paper at arm’s length and shook his head, “unbelievable.”

“All those years you said no one would find a use for that river and now look! Thousands of gold miners are making their way up the river to seek their fortune.”

“I never said that river was useless, it was a force to be reckoned with.  It’s nothing like the rivers around here,” he said, handing the newspaper back to him.

“I want to go – this is an opportunity of a lifetime.”

“What about your studies?”

“I want to go and explore places like you did.”

Simon wiped his brow. “Let’s go in and talk about it.”

Father and son sat at the heavy wooden table in the kitchen while the sun streamed in through the window.

Simon put on his spectacles and scanned over the map that John had provided.  He shook his head, “published in San Francisco! What would they know about the Cariboo?  Where is Fort George? They left that off the map!”

Simon pushed back from the table and winced from the pain in his knee.  “I’ll go find my own map that I drew up, back then.  Just a minute.”

John wanted to go to the gold diggings in the Cariboo – the place where they said ‘Doc’ Keithley had struck gold.

Simon came back to the table with a bundle of papers held together by a string.

“I kept my rough notes.  These are the ones I nearly lost in the river, had it not been for Jules Quesnel who got them back for me.”

They were fragile like dried maple leaves and just as discoloured.  Still, it was possible to read Simon’s handwriting.

“Fort George – this is where it should be,” Simon said.  They discussed John’s travel plans throughout the week as he made arrangements.  So much had changed since Simon had made his way with several hardened coureurs du bois carrying maize and pemmican.  A lot had changed since Simon first went west of the Rockies fifty years previous.

“I always say, respect the river and its people.  I remember the time when we’d spent the better half of the day carrying our load like a bunch of billy goats within inches of the edge of the canyon with the river roaring and boiling a mile below. We had entered a rapide couvert  –  the river was completely enclosed by cliffs.  Just when I thought my legs couldn’t walk straight, one of our native guides led us around a bluff and the next thing we were on a plateau and there was the chief waiting for us! To this day I still can’t figure out how he found out we were coming.”

His father looked out the window as a robin landed on a branch outside with Rivière aux Raisins in the distance.  They watched the bird watching them and for a while nothing was said.

On the day John was to leave, Simon Fraser handed his son the bundle of papers, “everything you’ll want to know is going to be in there.”

His father had suggested that he travel to Victoria first and visit with a family acquaintance who lived there, named Dr. Powell.

Powell was very interested in his father’s papers.

“I can’t believe that no one would be interested in publishing your father’s notes!  This is all so fascinating.”

“I could edit them myself and publish them perhaps as a guide for adventurers,” John said.

Powell shook his head. “This needs the experienced hand of an academic, a geographer perhaps.” He stood up. “Leave the papers with me for safekeeping.  Goodness knows what kind of bush tent you’ll find to stay in while you’re up scavenging for gold.”

John left on the steamship the next morning and consoled himself that at least his father’s notes would be safe.

After spending the night in Fort Yale, he started on foot along the newly opened Cariboo Waggon Road. There were hundreds of people, some young, some old – each of them heading north towards in their quest for gold.

He quickly learned that most of the bars had been worked and re-worked.  Texas Bar, Emory Bar, Kanaka Bar, the list went on.  Soon enough, he succumbed to the “gold bug” and every hour drifted seamlessly into the next as he washed pan after pan of gravel.  As the days and the weeks wore on, he lost weight and he gained muscles from carrying his load of supplies and the constant walking.

When he came to Soda Creek he asked how far it was to Stuart Lake.

“Why would you want to go there?” A couple of heads turned in his direction, wanting to know if he heard about gold.  As soon as they heard him talk about his father, the famous Nor’wester, they lost interest.

Unfazed, John carried on, taking a steamer first to Quesnel then by canoe up the Fraser River past Fort George through the Grand Canyon, north along the Nechako River, then up the Stuart River.  The weather was cooperative and the trip wasn’t without its challenges, but he couldn’t help but be in awe at the grandness of it all.

After several weeks he came to a small village where he could smell smoke.  There was an odd feeling about the place, as if something was terribly wrong.

His father had met a man here named Chief Kw’ah.  “He saved our lives. We had run out of food days before and we were almost delirious with hunger.  He had his people bring us salmon while we rested. Everything we could possibly want was brought to us. I was totally indebted to him, but I had nothing to give.  John Stuart had an idea to cut up my old red capote which was in a bad state. He cut a large piece out of the capote with his knife and managed somehow to get it looking decent, like a sort of flag.  I presented this to the Chief as a way of thanks.”

John inquired after Chief Kw’ah. “I’m the son of Simon Fraser,” he said.  He saw a few people standing back a distance with pocked and swollen faces.  After a time, a middle aged man came forward and introduced himself as Bob, the Yu-ka-guse medicine man.

They shook hands.  “I remember your father well,” he said.  “Have you come for his canoe?” Bob led John around to a small stream where the Perseverance was tied up.  He could see the marks on the canoe where it had been battered by the rocks. How amazed would his father be, to know that his canoe was still here?

Later, Bob showed him the red cloth.  John held it in both hands.

“Our people are suffering from smallpox.  Before many people would touch the red cloth, now I keep it in a box.”

So much had changed in fifty years.

_____________

For all that he accomplished, Simon Fraser (1776-1862) passed away into relative obscurity. It wasn’t until the 1920s that a group of individuals from BC arranged to have a cairn erected at his unmarked gravesite in Cornwall, Ontario. His son John died in 1865.  Dr. Powell eventually returned the bundle of papers to Fraser’s descendants in Eastern Canada. Some years later Simon Fraser’s granddaughter sold them through an Ottawa dealer. Simon Fraser’s original rough notes were never seen again. Chief Kw’ah’s descendant Peter Erickson presented the red cloth to the Canadian government in 1997.

The Barter

Thomas Hibben leaves San Francisco

Thomas Hibben, a stationer from San Francisco, came north for the gold rush never thinking he would be relying on his tried and true negotiating skills.

Hibben, like so many others before him, thought he would strike it rich on the banks of the Fraser River but by the time he got word of the gold rush, the steamers were packed with gold seekers. He had packed up his belongings in a hurry and dissolved his partnership in the Noisy Carriers’ Book and Stationery Company. There was no turning back.

The unfortunate thing was he had gambled every last cent on finding gold nuggets or at least some fine grains. Would his luck hold out until then? He was running out of money. He figured merchants would need experienced men like him to help get their consigned goods to the gold fields.  He told one of them about his stationery store in San Francisco and was quite surprised when he discovered that there was no such thing in Fort Victoria.

As he travelled with his pack and gold pan, Hibben made notes on the Chinook jargon and the scenery, adding places to his roughly sketched map. He might as well make the most of his trip, he figured.

At the foot of Kamloops Lake, he ran into a former Hudson’s Bay Company employee named François Savona.  He seemed like a no-nonsense man, emphasized by his downturned moustache.

“I can get you across here for two bits,” Savona said. “There are some spots farther up you can try but the best is on the other side.  The Bonaparte River I hear is good too.”

Hibben nodded.  “I’ll pay you when I arrive on the other side.”  He climbed on board the raft and held the rudder steady while Savona pulled on the cable and the raft inched its way to the other side.

Once they were safely across and Savona was catching his breath, Hibben went through his pockets. All he had were just a few American coins and a silver token he had picked up from a card game he had won.

Savona held the token by the tips of his rough fingers, and turned it over. He was apprehensive about taking it but Hibben convinced there was enough silver in there to make it worth something.

Relieved, Hibben carried on his way.  Why couldn’t he find any gold like the others?  He’d been so foolish to leave the store like that.

In due course, he encountered a bearded fellow who was sitting in a field gathering strawberries.

“This is worth more than gold,” the miner said holding up a strawberry.

Hibben popped a strawberry into his mouth and his eyebrows shot up. “This is just what I needed!  What flavour.”

“Aye, I need these bad. My legs have gone all rheumy and I’ve got gout, my feet hurt.  Too many days of hard tack, pork, and beans.  What I would do for a piece of bread!”

“That sounds dreadful. I’ll tell you what; I’ll use my frying pan and gather up some strawberries for you.”

The man sat down on the ground and Hibben, true to his word, nearly filled his frying pan with strawberries.

As the miner was listing all his aches and pains, Hibben couldn’t help but notice a cylinder shaped rock that had fallen into the long grass.

Hibben picked it up, surprised it was polished bone, and very light weight.  He could hear something rattle inside.

Elk horn purse with string of dentalium shells

“That was some elk horn trinket someone gave me.”

There was a slit in the middle, just wide enough for Hibben to insert his finger and pull out a string with unusual shaped stones on it.

“How about if I made some pancakes in exchange for this?” Hibben asked.

The miner agreed. After they were sitting around eating pancakes, Hibben asked him about the best gold panning sites. “Probably the Bonaparte, near Lacache.”

“Is that far from here?”

He took some tobacco out of a tin case and stuffed it in his cheek.

“It’ll take you a few days.  I was heading back when I ran into some of those Royal Engineers so I thought better pack it in before one of them sticks a gun up my nose and demands another licence.  Nothing like the old ’49 rush.”

Hibben cheerfully waved goodbye just as the miner started listing his aches and pains.

Over the next few days, Hibben hiked on, through the arid scrub, grateful for the food from the last miner. He was feeling cheerful and optimistic about his prospects at Lacache Creek. “Look for the big canyon,” the miner had told him.

Sure enough, in the distance, he could see large mountains.

Eventually, he came across two men who were setting up an interesting piece of equipment. Curious, Hibben stopped and asked what they were doing.

“Surveying a route from Fort Kamloops to Pavilion,” said the man with the long beard. Later he found out he was Lieutenant Mayne and the other fellow was Jean Baptiste Lolo.

They talked about telescopes and the hikes so far. Hibben told them about his adventures so far.

“Interesting.  And you say that you ran a stationery store in San Francisco? You should set one up in Fort Victoria. I can assure you that a great many of us Royal Engineers are most keen to write home on a decent piece of paper.  Speaking of which, you don’t happen to have any paper with you?”

Hibben riffled through his pack and found several pieces of paper.  He also pulled out his own map. “How much farther to Lacache Creek?”

“Baptiste? What do you think?”

Baptiste frowned as he looked at the paper and then turned it around.  “Pavilion Mountain is northwest of Lacache.  You’ll want to follow the Bonaparte River, then you’ll come to Lacache.”

As he was speaking, Hibben noticed he held the paper to a tattoo on the inside of his forearm.  It was a single line with marks at various intervals.

“It comes in handy sometimes now and then. Originally I got it when I was younger and I was counting out money.” Baptiste described in detail, small shells which were threaded onto a string. Each one was worth something.

Hibben showed him the elk horn pouch and pulled out the string of tiny shells. He watched Baptiste’s eyes light up as he measured the length of it against his tattoo.

Lieutenant Mayne inspected the shells under a magnifying glass. “If there’s anything you want to know about trade goods, our interpreter and guide, Baptiste knows everything.”

Hibben followed them along the trail for the next day, often losing sight of them as they kept up a blistering pace.  He was so used to seeing low lying sagebrush and bunch grass he didn’t really notice the trees until they rounded the corner and he was standing at the edge of a limestone canyon with bands of colour painted across its length. Tucked in at the bottom was a narrow lake. On the opposite side was a wall of green evergreens.

Baptiste shouted and gestured for Hibben to come down to their camp below. The aroma of fish edged him on down the slope.  Mayne was smoking his pipe while chopping more firewood. There was plenty of fish and large berries.  They ate and told some stories until Mayne fell asleep. Baptiste asked him some questions every now and then about the string of shells. As the last embers of the campfire had gone out Baptiste offered him a deal.

Hibben was doubtful at first but Baptiste’s enthusiasm won him over. In exchange for the shells, Baptiste would help him compile the first Chinook dictionary.

______________

Thomas N. Hibben established the first stationery store in Victoria and in 1862 he published the “Dictionary of Indian Tongues, Containing Most of the Words and Terms Used in the Tshimpsean, Hydah, & Chinook, With Their Meaning or Equivalent in the English Language.”

Jean-Baptiste Lolo (Leolo) was an HBC employee, trader, and interpreter. Born in 1798 of Iroquois and French parents, he entered the fur trade and was listed as working at many forts around New Caledonia. He was as an unofficial liaison officer between the company and the Indians of all the interior Salish tribes. Respected by both, Lolo helped maintain the balance of power between them with remarkable dexterity. He was also given the honorific title of “Chief” by the HBC and others called him “St. Paul.” His restored house still survives as part of the Kamloops Museum.

In 1856 Lieutenant Richard Mayne was attached to the Nautical Survey of Vancouver Island and British Columbia. Later, he was assigned the exploration and mapping of hitherto unknown parts of the colony. Mayne Island in the Gulf Islands is named after him. He returned to England in 1860.

Bitten at Sumas Lake

The Royal Engineers, a corps from the British Army, came to the British Colony of New Caledonia in 1857.  “Sappers” as they were commonly known, were initially responsible for establishing the international boundary between British Columbia and Washington.

Charles Wilson Royal Engineer

Lieutenant Charles Wilson, RE (BC Archives)

June, 1858

There was chaos in the Moody household.  Mary Moody and her children had just moved from Esquimalt to New Westminster into the newly built house.  Along with all her other trunks of supplies and possessions her husband Colonel Moody had arranged for the delivery of two thousand loaves of  baked bread from Victoria.

Two thousand loaves!  It made her shake her head. What was he thinking?  Bread was meant to be eaten fresh, and besides what they really needed were buildings to house people.  As it was there were several Sappers living in brush tents between the fallen trees and stumps.

Mary did not mention her opinions on the bread loaves to her husband , but she insisted that they accommodate some of the Sappers and their families who were showing the ill effects of living in a brush tent in the rain.  It was crowded in the house as a result.

Stepping around everybody, lying on cots and on pillows on the floor, Mary was reminded of her own four-month voyage to Vancouver Island.  The close quarters were exactly like being on the ship, she mused.  After a while one became accustomed to being stuck to living in one end of the ship.  It was the first time she and the other women on board were encouraged to remove the hoops in their dresses.  Now, she was so used to being without them that she wondered how she managed to sit at all.

She went into the study and found her husband Colonel Richard Moody, sleeping with his legs hanging over the edge of the small sofa.  He opened his eyes as she pulled up a chair to the desk and sat down.

“You’re up early.”

“I am going to write a letter  to my mother.”

“That reminds me,” Richard said as he swung his legs onto the ground, “I’m expecting the arrival of the Zenith telescope.”

Within a few minutes, everyone in the household was up, including the youngest of the sleepy-eyed children and the noise of domestic activity could be heard through the front door as Charles Wilson knocked.

“Wilson,” said the Colonel, “I want you to set out to Chilukweyuk with the others.”

“Certainly, sir. What about the bread loaves that we were in the midst of unloading?”

“Never mind, gather the supplies for the group – sextants, spyglasses, chronometers and aneroids.”

Charles had breakfast with the others in the large tent outside and afterwards gathered the supplies while the others prepared the horses for travel.  Camping outdoors required a uniform of its own. Each one of the Sappers wore a soft cloth hat, a red serge shirt with pockets, a blue serge pair of trousers tied under the knee, stockings and moccasins.

They weren’t expected to reach far the first day in their travels before they set up camp.  John Keast Lord decided on a spot at which to set up the telescope and from there to examine the position of the stars.

“There is a large lake out there we’ll have to work around.”  The group was split up into groups of two or three sappers, each responsible for different tasks such as trail making and recording astronomical measurements.

Sumas Lake

Sumas Lake (panorama by Leonard Frank, 1922)

With another day’s travel, Charles and John arrived at the edge of Sumas Lake.  It was large, very large, hemmed in by mountains on one side and swampy prairie on the other.

“This must be the lake that Simon Fraser mentioned when he came down here fifty years ago,” Charles said.

He slapped a mosquito that had landed on his chin and continued preparing to make some dampers – flattened dough cakes.

John was sitting across from him, feverishly writing notes.

“I’m going to write all these things for a book,” John said.  “Just think what a valuable resource it will be, especially if our fellow countrymen should want to venture into the woods as we have done.  Take for example that frying pan you’re holding there, that is probably the most important utensil one could carry – you can cook and bake in it without ever putting your food near the fire.  Can you imagine, some people would consider baking a Damper amongst the ashes of a fire?”

Charles swatted a few more mosquitoes.  “These crazy things don’t seem to mind the smoke, do they?”

“Try puffing on a pipe, it seems to do the trick for me.”

“It’s more like they can’t penetrate your beard.”  John’s beard hung down to his chest and started somewhere just below his eyes.

John picked up a deceased mosquito, “They’re quite large and fat, unlike the ones I’ve seen before.  I should imagine they’ll be a tasty meal for someone.”

Charles had a reaction to the mosquito bites, because the next day, he wouldn’t stop scratching and his skin started to swell. Even still, more bites followed.

“Here, try rubbing some bacon grease on your face,” John said.

Charles did as he was told but still his condition did not improve. His hands were so stiff and swollen from the mosquito bites he resorted to wrapping them in wet cloths until he could move his fingers again.

While Charles was left guiding the horses around the edge of the swampy lake, John told him he was going to stay with the natives who were currently camped on platforms towards the middle of the lake.  From a distance, Charles could see the scaffolding, suspended above the lake by poles, reached by ladders. Fleets of canoes were moored to the poles.

Luckily, they had also packed gauze netting which Charles tied around his head while preparing a small dinner of pork, beans, and stale tasting bread.  He puffed on his pipe but it only seemed to make the mosquitoes more determined.  The gauze was hardly any help at all. Even his horse was showing signs of discomfort; flinching and shaking its tail.  Charles rearranged the horse’s blanket, but they hadn’t packed any salve for the horse’s wounds either and it was clear the horse was suffering.

About four o’clock the next morning, when the sky was beginning to lighten, Charles had had enough.  There was at least one mosquito in the tent and he wasn’t getting any sleep. In half an hour, he had everything packed and ready to go.  John would have to catch up later.  Frustrated and angry, he envisioned John patting his well-fed belly and nodding off to a restful sleep.

It was a relief to have some wind in his hair and as the horse trotted on, shaking its head he was filled with a sense of calm and drowsiness.  Other than heading east, he hardly knew where he was going.  Around six o’clock, he came across a native family who were sitting by the beach, eating.

His face was so swollen from the mosquito bites that it was painful to move his lips, let alone smile.  His horse was shaking in discomfort.  As soon as he dismounted, the horse headed off in a brisk trot. Charles couldn’t blame him for wanting to be rid of a company who had failed him.

A woman about the same age as his mother, got up and without saying a word, she motioned him to follow her.  There was a small hut nearby and he sat down while she mixed a pot of red powder with some grease, then using her fingertips, she lightly applied the mixture all over his face.  He closed his eyes and he felt relaxed, as the mixture was like a soothing tonic on his skin.  Then she examined his hands and repeated the process.

Afterwards, he sat down and shared their meal of freshly baked duck and some other vegetables.  In a few words, they explained he had been camped near the swamp of the lake.  They pointed to a dark cloud in the distance and he watched as the cloud came closer, changing its shape into a narrow line.  Short bursts of sound filled the air as hundreds of birds, their wings flapping slowly and with great effort, descended onto the lake.

__________

Chilukweyuk later became known as Chilliwack. The red pot of powder was vermilion, a much traded mineral found near the confluence of the Tulameen and Similkameen rivers.

After the 1913-1916 McKenna-McBride Provincial-Federal Joint Commission on Native Lands, the reserve was reduced and Sumas Lake and surrounding area was sold in 1920 to the Soldier Settlement Board which provided farmland for returning war veterans. Sumas Lake, an area of almost 90 m2, was drained in 1922 as part of a “reclamation” project by the provincial government to provide more land for agricultural purposes.

For further reading, check out “Disappearing a Lake” which also includes photographs and audio recordings.

Disputed Claim part 2

Judge Begbie

Judge Begbie was in his hotel room when he heard a clattering noise on the street below and Billy’s familiar shout to the horses as the stagecoach stopped in front of the hotel. Begbie parted the drapes to look out the window.

“I don’t believe it,” he muttered to himself.  It was almost seven o’clock in the evening although it was deceptively bright outside, given the northern latitude of the gold rush town, Van Winkle.

Billy had just stepped down from his seat by the time Begbie made his way outside.

“I got delayed, your honour,” Billy said.

“There is no need to point out the obvious.  See me tomorrow morning at breakfast.”

“Thank you, sir. The horses won’t forgive me unless I get them settled down.  I could use a nose bag myself.”

Begbie patted him on the shoulder and then strode off in the direction of the Fairburn Hotel where his dinner guest was waiting for him.

Dud Moreland, land speculator and mining investor, shook Begbie’s hand and they settled down for dinner which consisted of venison, several glasses of wine, and sponge cake.

There were a few other tables occupied by other diners, but they were far enough away that conversation was possible without being overheard.

“Are you still living in that old HBC tent when you’re on the trail?”

Begbie stretched out his legs, “it’s a matter of necessity. There are only so many roadhouses and most of them are accommodating miners, not justices.”

Moreland nodded, “of course I was just thinking of while you are up here in the Cariboo, you would want a house of your own so you could have your own library and your valuables wouldn’t get damaged by the rain.”

“That is true, it was only yesterday that the stagecoach driver was delayed and as a result I didn’t have access to my seals.  He only just arrived in town.” He declined to add that he had sent a messenger on a fruitless journey to get the Assistant Gold Commissioner, William Cox to affix the seal.

“Terrible! I’m sure your seals are in safe hands with Billy. What did you say these seals look like?”

“They’re brass or some similar kind of metal, why do you ask?” Begbie furrowed his eyebrows at the thought that his judgement hadn’t been made official.

Moreland clasped his hands together, “I’m quite sure they’ve arrived safe and sound.” He smiled.

“I have twenty acres in the Cottonwood District that I’ve been considering selling…”

John Robson, publisher of the British Columbian, sat at the nearby table and was so desperately trying to eavesdrop, he stopped chewing. He was certain that he heard Moreland mention the paltry fee of two bits1 per acre. Two bits! Absurd that land in such a coveted area would be selling so cheaply.  And what was this business of the court seals?

After his dinner and while Begbie and Moreland had moved on to stronger spirits, Robson slipped out of the hotel and went to find Miles and Frederick, the two miners with whom he had interviewed earlier that day .

Stagecoach Driver Billy heard the sound of footsteps near the barn where he was resting after hanging up the reins and harness. He opened one eye and watched a man in a wrinkled suit come around the front of the stagecoach to where the boot was kept.

Billy approached the man from behind just as he put a hand on the leather straps which held the boot together.

“Get off!” Billy shouted.

The man started for a moment. “Mr. Billy. I’m Frederick Malone, the new assistant gold commissioner. Mr. Begbie requested his documents for the next case.”

Billy shook his head, “I can’t give them out. If Judge Begbie wants to give them to you, he’d have done so himself. I won’t do it.”

The man offered him some money, but Billy wouldn’t take it. It wasn’t that he didn’t have a need for money it was a matter that taking it would bring trouble eventually.

“You bring Judge Begbie around,” Billy said.

The man turned as if to walk away and then out of nowhere Billy felt a blow to his head from behind.

_____

1 Two bits equalled twenty-five cents.

Disputed Gold Rush Claim

Notice for Miners Meeting

Notice for Public Meeting (Cariboo Sentinel newspaper, 1866)

Two miners, Miles and Frederick, entered the office of the  Gold Commissioner in Richfield and sat down opposite William Cox, Assistant Gold Commissioner.

“Begbie overturned the jury’s decision,” Miles said bitterly.  “If he had gone with their decision at least we would get half, now who knows?”

William Cox nodded, “so I heard.” They were a rough and ragged bunch but Cox respected them; he never questioned their intelligence or their qualities as being less than his own.

“Your paperwork is still here. I agreed with you in the beginning and I still do now. But  with this new Gold Act, I don’t have the authority to bring some common sense resolution,” Cox said.

“Begbie said he will hold a trial next Tuesday to make his decision and I can hardly think it will be in our favour. We expected that the law would protect our interests, after all we were the ones who recorded our claim and paid all our dues and obligations. Doesn’t that account for anything?” Frederick said.

“We’ve invested all our money, plus we still owe money to Macdonald Bank, not to mention the labour.  I can’t believe that all our work is going to be tossed out,” Miles said.

“You could try appealing it in Chancery court,” Cox said, trying to sound hopeful.

“How is a miner supposed to operate in the Cariboo when the odds are stacked against him? This is the third time that Borealis has done this dirty trick – coming in as soon as someone hits bedrock, they file a complaint in court saying that they recorded something somewhere,” Frederick said.

Cox agreed. Disputed claims were a common occurrence in the Cariboo.  In the first year, there was enough gold to fill your pan even if someone else came alongside. Eventually, though the obvious nuggets got plucked and miners had to work harder to get the same results.

Assistant gold commissioner, William Cox, reminisced about the days early on in the gold rush when he could resolve mining disputes in simple terms like the time he got the miners to run from the Richfield courthouse to the disputed claim – winner take all.

Now they had Judge Begbie to overrule anything that was decided in the Mining Courts.  When Cox had first arrived in the Colony, there was the Court of British Columbia, then it became the Supreme Court of Civil Justice of British Columbia which oversaw all civil and criminal cases. Small Debts Courts came later and then sprouted up County Courts and Chancery Court.

Judge Begbie was well-educated but he had never sat before in a court room when he was appointed the Chief Justice of British Columbia. Cox had heard rumours that Begbie was a distant cousin of Governor Douglas; nothing would surprise him there.  Most of Douglas’ inner circle was related in one way or another.

The day after Begbie overturned the jury’s decision in the case of Borealis vs. Frederick & Company, six hundred miners and residents gathered in front of the Richfield courthouse to discuss the administration of the Colony’s mining laws. Some of the miners were among those who had been involved in the gold rush in California and many were familiar with the style of these miner meetings where their resolutions were in effect the first types of laws for miners.

Speakers stood on the steps and the others in the audience let them know their opinion.

“Judge Begbie set aside the jury’s decision and by doing so he is telling each one of you that you don’t have the intelligence or the common sense to judge your peers! We want justice but we want it done impartially.”

“The law has destroyed confidence and is driving out labour, capital and enterprise out of the Colony!”

“There is no way that someone can get a proper redress in a court system without an appeal process. We need a Court of Appeal!  Judge Begbie is partial and dictatorial. He can’t be allowed to have the final say!”

The crowd carried on for several hours until they came up with a couple of resolutions included among them that they wanted a Court of Appeal to be established.

Matthew Baillie Begbie would rather ride his horse along the Cariboo Waggon Road all the way to Lillooet than suffer through the slow ride of the stagecoach, which in his opinion was far too slow and cumbersome.  There were certain things that he carried at all times and this included his robes and a bible necessary for swearing someone before his impromptu court which could occur anywhere, wherever he felt it was necessary.  His luggage, reference books, papers and the court seals followed behind in the stagecoach, usually arriving about two or three hours later.

At Bridge River, stagecoach driver Billy was easing the horses along the narrow, precipitous trail when his eye caught some movement just beyond a rock bluff ahead.

Two men stood in the path, blocking the horses.

Pulling the reins, Billy brought the horses to a halt. Everything was silent except for the sound of rushing water below.

“What do you want?” Billy yelled out gruffly. “Nothing here!” he shouted as he pulled out his musket and levelled it at them.

“We need to talk to you.” One of them replied as they kept walking towards the horses.

Billy cocked his gun. He knew he couldn’t shoot without spooking the horses, but if he got down from his seat, they could overtake him and leave him stranded or worse.

____

Judge Begbie stood outside the back of the court house wearing his judicial robes. Where was his stagecoach? Luckily he had read the particulars of the case the night before so his memory was still fresh, but there were no notes to reference once he got started.

Everyone rose as Begbie entered the room, carrying with him some blank sheets of paper on which to make notes.  He sat down and banged the gavel, “Gavan Company vs. Tiller Company”  was in session.

There were five people in the court room, including a lawyer who rose on behalf of Gavan Company, whom he recognised from Victoria.

Of all the cases, this one had to include a lawyer, he mused.

The lawyer blustered on for almost half an hour without referencing a single piece of evidence for which Begbie was grateful while the frowns on the faces of the miners representing themselves stretched downward with every passing minute.

While Begbie managed to scratch out some notes with the small pot of ink that was thick like molasses, one of the miners approached the stand.

The miner who called himself ‘Lightning’ Frank Underhill, passed along various sheets of paper, several of which had been filed by the Assistant Gold Commissioner, William Cox.

Begbie looked at the names on the claim. “Who is ‘Tinker’ Brown? I think that Mr. Cox should have put your proper names on the form, rather than your nicknames.  I award the disputed claim to Gavan Company.”

The lawyer bowed slightly as Begbie banged the gavel, announcing the court was adjourned.

Afterward, Begbie sent a messenger from Barnard’s Express with the papers. “Instruct Mr. Cox to affix his seal to this judgement.”

Leaving in a cloud of dust, the messenger rode the horse at a fast clip all the way to Richfield.

William Cox refused and handed back the paper. “Judge Begbie will have to find his own seals.  Why would I use my own seals to give credence to this ruling when it overrides my own recording? I object.”

With that, the messenger was on his way back.

(to be continued)