Tag Archives: Overlanders

William Hind – gold rush artist

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.

William Hind - gold rush artist

William Hind – gold rush artist

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.

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Pemmican and Berries in the BC gold rush

What did gold miners eat in the gold rush?  Many brought flour, salt pork and beans, but they soon saw value in the edible plants that were found growing near the trails such as ‘miner’s lettuce’. Vitamin-rich plants were often identified by names in the Chinook trading language. Here are just a few:

salmonberry

salmonberry

Olallie: salmonberry
Amote: wild strawberry
Camas: ‘sweet’ starchy bulb

Miners in the Cariboo gold rush would often stop to eat wild strawberries on their way to the gold diggings. Harry Jones recalled in his diary that he spent almost an afternoon eating his fill of strawberries while some others even became lost in their pursuit of the tasty berry.

Overlanders travelling through the Prairies would have purchased or traded for pemmican. The word ‘pemmican’ comes from the Cree language: pimii ‘fat’ + kan ‘prepared’.

Buffalo meat was dried and then braised over a fire. After, it was laid out on buffalo skin and pounded with stone mallets until it was tenderized. At this stage it was called ‘beat meat’. Bags made of buffalo skin, called taureaux or parflèches by fur traders, were sewn up and half-filled with ‘beat meat’ then buffalo fat was poured into the bag.  Dried berries such as chokecherries, saskatoonberries or golden currants were added.

Each bag was stirred before being sewn tight. Then it was rotated every so often to prevent the fat from settling to the bottom. Pemmican had a long shelf life and the bags even withstood being dumped overboard from a canoe.

‘Rubbaboo’ was a soup made by chopping pemmican, some wild onions, a few roots of prairie turnip and a chunk of salt pork. Some flour could have been added to make it the consistency of a stew.

The name ‘rubbaboo’ was derived from a combination of words from various languages: the Ojibwa and Cree words for soup, ‘nempup’ and ‘apu’; the Alongquin word for the meat that has been pounded (the first stage of the pemmican making process) ‘ruhiggan’; and finally a word from 18th Century naval slang, ‘burgoo’ which referred to oatmeal gruel eaten by sailors.

James Carnegie, who travelled across the Prairies in 1859 wrote about pemmican in his journal which was later published, “Saskatchewan and The Rocky Mountains: A Diary and Narrative of Travel.”

Pemmican is most endurable when uncooked. My men used to fry it with grease, sometimes stirring in flour, and making a flabby mess, called ‘rubbaboo’ which I found most uneatable. Carefully made pemmican, such as that flavoured with the Saskootoom berries…or the sheep-pemmican given us by the Rocky Mountain hunters, is nearly good—but, in two senses, a little of it goes a long way.

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Overlanders of 1862

heading west I sketched an ox
as it ploughed forward
pulling the red river cart
without effort passing buffalo
bones piled high we bagged ducks
on the trail trading for bison and berries
the days were long I lingered
over the pages drawing, observing
along undulating hills
thirsty under the hot
sun wandering off
in search of water
I remember the moment
the ox tried to run away
from its cart scattering goods, breaking
its harness after crossing marshes, mudholes and creeks
crossing the Assiniboine on a scow
no grass to eat on the other side
oxen left behind at Fort Edmonton for mules and pack horses
men in mud to their waist with shoulders
to wheels of mired wagons rough sketches
hauling on lines to prevent carts and animals
from running down steep embankments
roasted skunk, food gone guns, ammunition, belts traded
for salmon at Tête Jaune Cache gold pans and pick axes
unwanted two months passed I put away my sketchbook
the group divided, unsure swift
with rafts and canoes along the Fraser
or along the North Thompson River
each trying to get to Fort George
lives lost horses killed
for food I cannot sketch the pain

_____ “Overlanders” was the name given to large organized groups who headed overland from Fort Garry, across the prairies and over the Rocky Mountains to the Cariboo where gold had been discovered in 1862.  One of the leaders of a large group of Overlanders, Thomas McMicking of Queenston, Canada West (Ontario) submitted his trip diary to the British Columbian newspaper which published it in November, 1862.

William George Richardson Hind (1833-1889) was an artist and Overlander. His drawings and watercolours of this crossing helped historians to understand and appreciate this unique part of Canadian history. You can view Hind’s sketchbook online at the Public Archives of Canada. Previously, his brother, Henry Youle Hind, who was a surveyor and academic, had led government exploring expeditions to the Labrador region and the prairies.

 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 M. L. Poncelet

Overlanders of 1862

heading west I sketched
an ox as it ploughed forward
pulling the red river cart
without effort
passing buffalo bones piled high
we bagged ducks on the trail
trading for bison and berries
the days were long
I lingered over the pages
drawing, observing
along undulating hills
thirsty under the hot sun
wandering off in search of water

I remember the moment
the ox tried to run away from its cart
scattering goods, breaking
its harness
after crossing marshes, mudholes and creeks

crossing the Assiniboine on a scow
no grass to eat on the other side
oxen left behind
at Fort Edmonton
for mules and pack horses

men in mud to their waist
with shoulders to wheels of mired wagons
rough sketches
hauling on lines to prevent
carts and animals from running
down steep embankments

roasted skunk, food gone
guns, ammunition, belts
traded for salmon
at Tête Jaune Cache
gold pans and pick axes unwanted
two months passed
I put away my sketchbook

the group divided, unsure
swift with rafts and canoes
along the Fraser or along the
North Thompson River
each trying to get to Fort George
lives lost
horses killed for food
I cannot sketch the pain

_____
“Overlanders” was the name given to large organized groups who headed overland from Fort Garry, across the prairies and over the Rocky Mountains to the Cariboo where gold had been discovered in 1862.  One of the leaders of a large group of Overlanders, Thomas McMicking of Queenston, Canada West (Ontario) submitted his trip diary to the British Columbian newspaper which published it in November, 1862.

William George Richardson Hind (1833-1889) was an artist and Overlander. His drawings and watercolours of this crossing helped historians to understand and appreciate this unique part of Canadian history. You can view Hind’s sketchbook online at the Public Archives of Canada. Previously, his brother, Henry Youle Hind, who was a surveyor and academic, had led government exploring expeditions to the Labrador region and the prairies.

 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 M. L. Poncelet