Tag Archives: Yale

The Trial of Justice Nuttall: Trouble at the Saloon

Here is part 2 of my story “Trial of Justice Nuttall” from my book Mayhem at Rock Creek and More Gold Rush Stories


SaloonIt was the beginning of December and the miners were getting restless. The temperatures had dipped below freezing and the sluice boxes were full of ice.

George Allsop entered Foster’s Saloon and demanded a drink. Foster asked for money up front because his tab was unpaid. Allsop flew into a rage and drew his gun. Instantly, Foster took out his own gun from behind the counter and shot Allsop dead. Nobody was really concerned at first. Anywhere else, Foster could have claimed self-defence, but not here in the British colony.

The next day, Justice Nuttall was back in Marvin’s barber chair gloating over his new decision.

“I’m closing all the saloons that haven’t been properly registered.”

Marvin paused with his scissors above Nuttall’s head. “You closed all of them?!”

“I have to show who is in charge in this town, Marvin. The Foster Saloon was unlicensed as are the other twelve. Gold commissioner Ricketts has been too long at the helm, profiting from all of these illegal saloons. This is an opportunity which fell into my lap and I intend to take advantage of it.”

Marvin started cutting Nuttall’s hair. He’d already heard about Foster’s escape to Hill’s Bar but he asked Nuttall about it anyway.

“Foster wasn’t there when I went to make my arrest but to guarantee that he doesn’t stray too far I arrested his assistant.”

Marvin furrowed his brow, “what does Foster need him for? Foster probably left the saloon with his money and headed to Hill’s Bar. He’s one of Scranton’s ‘Law and Order’ men.”

Nuttall clenched his hands into fists, “Scranton again! I’m going to see to it that both he and Foster are arrested!”

There was no use in telling Nuttall that by closing all of the saloons, there would be more trouble in a town where people were already agitated and restless. The saloons were still closed on December 24, 1858 when the Christmas dance was held.

Marvin went there wearing his best suit and a clean pair of boots. Marvin was dancing when he heard shouts in his direction. It seemed two men were determined that Marvin was not going to be a happy man.

Marvin told them to go elsewhere. “You’re in British Columbia and I’ve got every right to be here.”

The two men took that as a taunt and a scuffle ensued. Marvin was tossed outside and onto the hard snow. Marvin’s head hurt but he got to his feet and yelled at the closed door. He was angry and upset. How could those two throw him out like that?

The next morning he dropped by Nuttall’s hut and found him standing by the fire. Marvin took off his hat and pointed at his wrapped head.

“Sir, I want to file a complaint against two of Scranton’s ruffians.”

Nuttall stepped forward, a look of concern on his face. “Who are they? I’ll have them arrested at once, especially if they’re friends of Scranton’s.”

“Green and Biggs are their names. You’ll find them at Hill’s Bar.”

“Leave it with me Marvin. In the meantime, do you need the services of Dr. Kilburn?”

“No thank you, sir. I’ve got years of practice helping injured folks.”

After Marvin left, Nuttall sent for Constable Trimble.

“Trimble, go to Hill’s Bar and arrest Green and Biggs for the assault of Walter Marvin.”

Constable Trimble found Green and Biggs playing cards with Andrew Scranton at the Hill’s Bar Saloon.

Scranton waved the constable away. “I’ll go talk to Nuttall.”

An hour later, Scranton knocked on Nuttall’s door and entered. The furnishings were minimal he noted. There was only one small table and upon this Scranton dropped a small bag of gold dust.

“I’ve come to talk to you about Green and Biggs,” Scranton began.

“And who are you to be barging in here? You’re not a constable!”

Scranton stood at his full height. “A reasonable man would be interested in bargaining. What’s to be gained by arresting these two men?”

“Take your gold dust and leave,” Nuttall said through clenched teeth. “I won’t be bribed.”

Story Sunday: Sweet Pickles and Fine Wine

This is the second half of the story, “Trouble in Fort Yale”


The following week, the Ricketts hosted a dinner for the Nuttalls and Edwin McCreight, the new Chief Inspector of Police.

TableFoodThe small wooden table was filled with hot dishes and Ricketts went to great lengths to have a wide selection of desserts, jellies and puddings as well as expensive wine brought up by his good friend King. Edwin McCreight ate heartily while Margaret Nuttall and Sarah kept up a pleasant banter. Ricketts distrust of Nuttall was unchanged and the smiles and forced laughs did nothing to diminish their mutual dislike.

McCreight recounted the sinking of the ship that was to bring him to North America and his tale of survival with only the clothes on his back.

“I am quite out of money at the moment so I am grateful for your excellent meal.”

Nuttall chuckled, “you know where to come if you want sweet pickles and fine wine.”

Ricketts ignored the remark. “Getting adequate funds from the Governor is quite a difficult task, but one must persist. Did the Governor inform you as to your new duties?”

McCreight nodded agreeably. “By the way, the Governor gave me a letter which I was instructed to pass on to you. It concerns your lot.”

“My lot?” Ricketts fought to maintain his composure.

“Yes, it seems that there is no record of your having purchased a lot.”

Ricketts could feel his neck redden. Nuttall smiled as McCreight handed him the letter.

Ricketts had no sooner finished reading the Governor’s familiar signature, when there was a knock on the door. It was one of King’s saloon keepers with an urgent message. All eyes were on Ricketts as he rose up from his chair and followed the man outside.

“King needs to see you sir, said it was urgent. By the usual spot.”

The dinner finished shortly thereafter with various parties making a hasty retreat to the door.

Ricketts put on his hat and headed to Moore’s Saloon where King kept his office. He had a good idea what King wanted to discuss. One of King’s trusted couriers had been arrested in Lytton by the Justice of the Peace, James Flott for shooting another man. All of the liquor was confiscated. This would have dire consequences on King’s profits.

Nuttall followed at a distance, keeping close to the buildings. He watched the side door of the saloon open as Ricketts approached.

King’s eyes darted around as he beckoned Ricketts inside and shut the door.

“I thought you said you could release Bole? He’s in jail and Justice Flott has all of my liquor.”

Ricketts scowled, “Why didn’t you bring up the issue with Flott? Lytton is in his jurisdiction and there is no oversight in his area unlike here where every miner who isn’t busy prospecting has made themselves busy writing complaints to the Governor!”

“Flott was lying on the floor, drunk. There wasn’t much point in dealing with him then, was there? I didn’t have all day to wait for him to become sober. He’s got two or three men who do his bidding and they wouldn’t let me get past.”

Ricketts shook his head, “I’m afraid at this time I cannot afford to do such a thing. McCreight is about to take over the jail as part of his duties and he’s already arranged for a constable to travel. I can’t release the man without raising the ire of Nuttall.”

“I saw Nuttall skulking around earlier. I hope he won’t put another dent in my profits. The saloons have had a steady business up to this point but I can’t guarantee you’ll get your share unless I can recover that liquor.”

Ricketts wasn’t swayed. “McCreight is sharing a room with the jailer for lack of decent accommodation. Bole will be travelling with the constable soon enough. There is plenty of wilderness between here and New Westminster to get lost in. I’m heading up to Lytton next week. I’ll talk to Flott then.”

King offered him a bottle of fine whisky and Ricketts took it. He knew he shouldn’t; it only increased King’s expectations, but it was there for the taking.

Ricketts kept glancing over his shoulder as he walked back, sensing a pair of eyes watching him.


excerpt from Mayhem at Rock Creek and more Gold Rush Stories

The Boatmen of the Fraser River

In the early days of the gold rush, there was no wagon road from Yale to Lytton. Sternwheelers could only reach as far as Hope; none of them could overcome the strong current of the Fraser River from that point north.

As a result, ‘boatmen’ like Ned Stout and James Moore carried freight for gold seekers in four ton canoes through the canyons of the Fraser River. Moore wrote:

“When coming to very strong water the crew of each boat would double up and take one boat over at a time; that would leave the boatmen independent of help from the other boats. We generally made the round trip (Yale – Lytton) in nine days and very often three trips before the river commenced to rise. With eight tons of freight in two canoes, we would clear $1,000 a trip over and above expenses.”

Ned “the boatman” Stout, was known to stick to his boat even through the rapids of Hell’s Gate. He was considered the only boatman on the river who made the trips without portaging.

The boatmen were able to navigate the treacherous waters of the Fraser River, but they were unable to avoid the half-a-cent tax:

“The boatmen carrying goods through the canyon this winter (1860) are growling very much about having to pay half-a-cent per pound for their goods. They think it is rather hard that they should have to pay that amount to the Government to work against their own interests. They say they cannot run their boats when animals can pack, and therefore cannot interfere with packing.”

David Higgins gold rush reporter

David Higgins

David Higgins – gold rush reporter

David Higgins was a journalist in Fort Yale at the height of the Fraser River gold rush. While working as an agent for Billy Ballou’s Express Co., Higgins submitted news reports to a San Francisco newspaper.

Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Higgins’ family moved to New York when he was young. He became an apprentice in the printing trades at age 13 and subsequently was a journeyman printer. In 1856, Higgins moved to California and when gold was discovered in the Fraser River, Higgins moved to Fort Yale.

He reported on the troubles of Ned McGowan and was probably not unsympathetic to his disputes with Fort Yale’s Justice of the Peace P.B. Whannell.

Higgins wrote two books, The Mystic Spring, and The Passing of a Race. His short fictional story, A Fugitive From Justice takes place in Fort Yale in 1858 and gives an excellent account of life during the gold rush. Here is an excerpt:

“Who’s there?” I demanded.

The deep voice of Lawyer Kelly responded in a hoarse whisper, “Let me come in, quick, by the back door.”

I didn’t like the proposition a bit. There had been several murderous assaults and robberies in town quite recently. I wasn’t afraid of Kelly, of course; but suppose the person now seeking admittance should prove not to be Kelly? What if one of the many desperadoes with whom Yale was infested at that time had assumed his voice and under that guise should gain admittance, and finding me unarmed and off my guard should slay and rob me? I lighted a match and searched till I found a “black-jack,” with which a New Zealand miner had presented me a while before, and then groped my way to the back door and opened it.

The role of gold commissioners

In 1858, after news of the Fraser River gold rush had reached the British Parliament, the Colonial Secretary E.B. Lytton wrote:

“…it would seem desirable to appoint if you have not already done so Gold Commissioners armed with the powers of Magistrates.”

Gold commissioners were expected to act as the district’s land recorder, coroner, postmaster, justice of the peace, Indian agent, and revenue officer, as well as its stipendiary magistrate.  Gold Commissioner Richard Hicks recalled:

I came to Fort Yale when great excitement existed … the population amounted to upwards of five thousand and included some of the worst California could produce . . . I had to perform every office and work – even to grave digger. My hands were full night and days.  I worked hard.

Scandals broke out when it was discovered that some of the gold commissioners, including Richard Hicks, had profited from their position. In 1859, Chartres Brew, who was the Chief of Police, was also given the title of Chief Gold Commissioner. At the time, Governor James Douglas wrote:

“Matters were becoming complicated from the want of an active and intelligent Chief to supervise and instruct the Assistant Gold Commissioners. I was hampered by not having trustworthy and capable men at my disposal…”

Poisonous Potato

The gold miner
prepares to bake
potatoes
removing some
yellow flesh
and replacing it with a blob
greyish, putty
mixes with black sand
over the flame of the campfire
he cooks them
turning them over, then
opens them
like oysters
with pearls of gold
he walks away
leaving broken halves

“Dr. Fifer!”
Sara is sick
only eight years old
Dr. Fifer tries to guess
what is happening?
the little girl’s life slips
through his fingers
he is helpless without knowing
her mother knocks his glasses
off his nose and onto the floor
Ah Chung picks them up
before her feet can crush them

Going for a walk to clear his mind
he comes across a campfire of
smouldering ashes and potatoes
and sees little teeth marks
he smells the potato with his eyes shut
then he opens them again and sees
Robert Wall, one of his patients
cooking mercury in the potatoes
he explains
wire that holds them together

Fifer throws down the potato in disgust
and turns his back to Wall
in two years Fifer will be dead
not from mercury
from an explosion of lead in his chest
from Wall himself

______
When the Fraser River gold rush began in the spring of 1858, Governor James Douglas sent Hudson’s Bay Company employee Ovid Allard to reopen Fort Yale, which had been abandoned on the completion of Fort Hope nearly ten years before. Allard remained at Yale until 1864. Sara was his youngest daughter.

Dr. William Fifer came to Yale during the height of the gold rush from California with his assistant, Ah Chung. He served as the town’s doctor as well as president of the Town’s council. He was killed by Robert Wall, a gold miner, July 5, 1861.

Mercury (or quicksilver) is a heavy, liquid metal, silvery-white in colour, with a very low melting point. It was commonly used to recover gold in the 1860s.

A note on the artist: Sarah Crease painted a series of watercolours depicting the Hudson’s Bay Company fort and the town of Victoria. In 1862 she sketched landscapes of New Westminster, Hope, Yale, and the Fraser River.

Billy Ballou’s Canoe

1860

William “Billy” Ballou sank back in the leather chair opposite his future boss, Mr. Morgan from the Freeman Company. Ballou had eaten too much for dinner and his quench for spirits was over indulged. They were sitting in the newly built “American Hotel” in Fort Victoria.

“You’ll be our sole agent up here.” Morgan said, waving his cigar in the air for emphasis.  Ballou heard the words “contracts” and “a significant commission.”

With a handshake the deal was settled. He would regret it later, but his normal wariness had been dulled.   Ballou was now the chief agent for Freeman and Company. He didn’t get an office, but it didn’t matter to Ballou; he would rather be spending most of his time outdoors getting the job done.

New Westminster

New Westminster in the early days (BC Archives)

A few days later, Ballou departed for New Westminster and was sitting in the Highlander Saloon with a pint glass of porter in his hand at Steamboat wharf.  Marshall, the proprietor, came around to give advice.

“Talk to the ones that are heading to Fort Victoria,”  Marshall said. “Spot the ones with the frowns on their faces and their clothes torn to shreds.” As if to emphasize the point, he held up the latest editorial cartoon from one of the papers which showed a man in nice clothes and hat ready for gold digging adventure and then the same man, this time bedraggled and hagard, heading back with no pockets or bags to carry any gold.

The first miner that Ballou spoke with seemed enthusiastic enough, until Ballou realized that he was just picking his brain for ideas on how to run an express company.  Ballou told him stories about how he started his company, “Ballou’s Express” as soon as he came to Victoria in the spring of 1858.

“I couldn’t afford to hire anyone at first, I bought a canoe for forty dollars and followed everyone else up the Fraser River.  Later, when the money came through, I could hire some native packers.  These days, it’s not really possible to start doing a one man operation; a lot has changed in just a few years.”

The man was enthusiastic at first until Ballou told him how much he could earn. Then he declined.

After about the third miner came and went, Marshall came over to his table. “There’s a young fellow who’s been doing odd jobs around here for the last week or so. Give him a try.”

The chap Marshall was referring to was tall but looked too young to be handling the responsibility of transporting gold dust, but as a helper.

Ballou was drinking porter.  The young man sat down and said his name was Hamilton.

“How old are you John?”

“Almost fifteen. I’ve been looking after horses all my life,” Hamilton said. “I know how to manouever a canoe too.”

“The most important thing is you have to keep track of everything. If someone gives you gold dust, you have to write it down.  It’s not enough to keep numbers in your head, I give a lot of people credit if they can do that, but you’ve got to write it down.  How are you with numbers?”

“I can add numbers. Back at my uncle’s farm I sold eggs and cheese,”  John said.

Out of the corner of his eye, Ballou caught sight of Horace Muldoon with both elbows on the bar.

“Good enough for me,” Ballou said. “I need someone to go from Lillooet to Yale. I’m setting out tomorrow for the Cariboo, what do you say?”

Hamilton agreed and Ballou walked him down to where he had his canoe tied up.  Marten the wharfinger was there untying the rope.

Ad for Steamers Colonel Moody
Ad for Steamboats (Victoria 1860 directory)

“You might save me the trouble of moving this beast along. We’ve got a new steamer coming in today and they don’t want anything in the way.”

Ballou handed the rope to Hamilton. “Your first assignment.”

He was impressed at the ease with which Hamilton hauled the canoe. He hovered over him giving instructions on how to tie it up.

“Be here first thing in the morning. I’ll be leaving at five sharp.”

Ballou wandered back to the Highlander. Muldoon was standing near the doorway with his coat open despite the wet cold. His eyes were blood-shot.

“Nice canoe,” Muldoon said. “I could use a ride myself.”

“I don’t take passengers. Try the steamboat.”

“Figured you’d say something like that, a scoundrel like you. If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t have two legs to stand on. You beetled out of California and left me owing money on that grubstake!”

A few miners stumbled out of the doorway and one of them jostled Muldoon, who pushed him back.

Ballou focused on Muldoon. “I don’t owe you for anything. You were the one who insisted on making the claim. When we were in business I told you that I wanted to stick to the Express. If you owed money, that’s your problem.”

Muldoon’s eyes went from pink to red. “You’re going to pay for this, Ballou!”

After that argument, Ballou kept a watch on his canoe.  He asked Marshall if he could keep an eye out if Muldoon returned.

Ballou found some lodging and woke up in the early hours the next morning, having slept soundly.  Then he remembered his canoe. With some trepidation, Ballou made his way to the wharf and in the moonlight saw that the rope they had secured was still there. Peering over the edge of the wharf he could see the canoe was there alright, except there was someone in it.

Bending over, Ballou smelled the stench of liquor. Muldoon.

Acting on an impulse, Ballou yanked on the rope and the canoe flipped on its side, sending Muldoon into the inky depths of the Fraser River.  Ballou expected to hear Muldoon cough and sputter at any moment. There was nothing. All was quiet.

___
William T. “Billy” Ballou 1830-1878 carried mail and freight on the Fraser River from 1858-1861. Before he came to BC, Billy had an express company in California at the height of the gold rush there.

Molasses in the Gold Rush

Fort Langley - 1858

William Henry Bevis was the Revenue Officer at Fort Langley.  He was in charge of collecting fees for liquor, timber cutting and mining licences.

“I don’t see why I should be paying you money!” the man shouted.

William Bevis stood his ground. “I am the Revenue Officer here at Fort Langley and you will have to pay a fee for the timber you have cut.  These are the rules.”

“But whose rules are they?” the man challenged. “I don’t see a flag hanging above this shack.”

As the gold seeker stomped away, Bevis had to agree.  Other than his title, he had nothing to identify him as working for any government. There was no flag.  The shack the man referred to consisted of one room where he was to handle business, sleep and eat.  His wife Mattilda  didn’t complain much but the cramped quarters and lack of household amenities were taking its toll and her enigmatic smile had been replaced with a perpetual frown. Of course he did write to James Douglas in Fort Victoria, and his replies were not definitive.

There was a growing occupation of tents and lean-to shacks much like his own about a quarter-mile down river from Fort Langley.  Bevis had an idea that liquor and supplies were being sold, contravening all fees that were posted.

Most of the supplies were coming in from the Semiahmoo Trail up from Washington State.  While the Satellite and the Recovery patrolled the Fraser River, watching for contraband liquor and supplies, it was up to Bevis to watch the people coming up from the Semiahmoo Trail.

In addition to tracking people down and kindly asking if they would pay the custom tariffs, Bevis was also given the addition of Postmaster.

“Perhaps this would be a good way to intercept some of the smugglers,” Mattilda said.

Bevis raised one eyebrow. “Do you honestly think someone would be so daft to write to say that they were coming with a large shipment?”

“Why not?  It’s not like you can do much to stop them!”

Bevis gritted his teeth, “I suppose not. But I certainly am not going to waste time nosing about people’s letters either!”

“I will then.”

“You? Do you plan on reading through the mail?”

She sat up straighter and shook her head, “not every single letter of course, but just the ones I think are suspicious.”

Bevis considered it for a minute before he realized that his wife was smiling.  He agreed; he got paid out of the revenue collected and he received a commission based on the value of the goods seized and the licences issued.

As weeks past, nothing seemed to improve.  “The present state of Langley is getting worse. There are muggings, constant firing of guns and pistols, gambling and theft of boats,” Bevis wrote to Douglas.

There was a campsite about fifteen miles south of Fort Langley where most of the smugglers took their break.  When Bevis spotted them on horseback, they claimed that they were with the Boundary Commission and that they had every right to be on the Semiahmoo Trail.

“What are those boxes?” he asked, pointing to the wooden crates strapped to either side of the mule.

“Those are molasses,” said the man.

“Destination?”

“Yale.”

“Where are your custom papers?”

To Bevis’ surprise, the man pulled out a piece of paper from his jacket while at the same time showing the grip of a large gun he was carrying.

Sure enough, the much handled paper contained the signature of A. C. Anderson, the chief customs officer in Victoria.

Disappointed, Bevis let him pass.  He doubted the boxes contained molasses but being outnumbered and outgunned, he had no choice.

While he was manning the Semiahmoo Trail, Mattilda kept a watch outside their little hut and observed the new arrivals and the ones that had set up shop.

“I saw that box of so-called molasses,” she said one day after Bevis arrived back from a five-hour canoe trip.

He was in no mood to pursue the matter, but she insisted he do something and he had to agree.  After a meager meal of hard bread and watery tea, Bevis ventured out to the tent she indicated and discovered the box of molasses already pried open. He reached in and lifted a bottle of liquor.

“You’re wanting to make a deal, Mr. Bevis?”

Bevis turned around and found himself facing down the barrel of a gun. He looked at Baxter, the well-known liquor seller, who was smirking.

“I don’t make deals. I collect payments. If you don’t wish to pay, then I will have to confiscate your box of liquor.”

After several more minutes of talking, Bevis left empty-handed and with a headache.  He could have used some liquor to calm his own nerves.

The following day brought good news:  assistant Revenue Officer Charles Wylde arrived.

At first Bevis was enthralled by this well-connected man. He seemed genuinely concerned about the present state and was full of ideas as how to bring order to the situation.

Bevis showed Wylde his letters to Douglas regarding the need for patrols on the Semiahmoo Trail.

“I report directly to the Colonial Secretary,” Wylde told him. “I can make a difference.”

Following the meeting, Bevis noticed that Mattilda was frowning once again.  She said that she was concerned about him.  “He seems too full of ambition.  How much is he going to earn from the revenue? What will be your commission?”

Bevis didn’t have the answer to her questions and he didn’t think anything of them at first. He was just glad to have someone else to share the responsibilities of collecting revenue.

A few days after his arrival and Bevis began to hear rumours of Wylde already penning long rambling letters to Douglas’ office claiming he single-handedly stopped canoes full of liquor, sometimes wading out into water under the threat of gunfire.

Bevis occasionally asked Wylde how things were doing and Wylde insisted everything was fine. It wasn’t until one of the other Fort employees complained that Bevis realized he had a problem on his hands.

As was his habit, he brought the mail back to his outpost and let Mattilda go through it.  Surprisingly enough, there was a large amount of mail this time so it was taking longer to go through it all. She was sitting at their table  with the mail piled on top, when there was a knock on the door.

“Well, what was I supposed to do?” She told Bevis later.

“Wylde demanded to know what I was doing with the mail. I told him I was helping you with your postmaster duties.  He told me that I was breaking the law and I told him that on the contrary, I was being helpful and at least I wasn’t concocting stories!”

Bevis bent down and started retrieving some notes, most of which were tied with string or twine.  Some of them had been sealed.

“What do you suppose this is?”

Bevis looked at the paper and something trilled in his brain.  “It does look unusual. Why on earth –”

His own thoughts jumbled over each other in excitement.  “These are original customs papers being brought down from Fort Yale ready to be used again.  Clever!  Now I know why we can’t collect any revenue! ”

Bevis looked at the destination.  It read simply Baxter at Fort Langley.

______________

The American Boundary Commission, headed by Archibald Campbell as chief Commissioner, set up a camp on the Canadian side of Semiahmoo Bay in 1857.  This camp was there from 1857 to 1859.  The British conducted their own boundary survey.  To learn more about Camp Semiahmoo and the American Boundary Commission, see http://www.surreyhistory.ca/campsemi.html

The Canyon War

August 19, 1858

Running hard, David didn’t have time to admire the natural beauty of the trees and the small creeks that lay before him. He viewed each one as an obstacle; something someone had passed before him. If he stopped, he could hear his stomach rumbling.

“Follow the trail,” Captain Snyder had said as he passed David a piece of paper, folded into quarters.

“You must get word to Chief Spintlum that we must meet and make peace.”

Snyder watched as David took the piece of paper and tucked it inside his coat. Then David turned and headed off jogging along the HBC Brigade Trail.

It was narrow and in parts, winding, obvious in same places and obscure and hidden in others. According to Snyder, it was forty miles from here to the “Forks” where the Thompson River merged with the Fraser River. That was the seat of Chief CexpentlEm.

David respected Captain Snyder even though he, like most of the miners who had volunteered to join the “Pike Guards” militia were just doing so in order to defend their mining claims.

There was a small creek to his right and David stopped to bend down and drink. The water was refreshingly cool and he splashed the water against his face and neck. He should have noticed the basket in the water but he didn’t. He didn’t see the smoked salmon flung against the rocks. He smelled something. A burnt smell that was seemingly at odds with the rest of the surroundings. Then he looked again and saw the charred remains of a cache of food. He groped around and picked up some smoked salmon, dusting it off with his fingers. It wasn’t tough like he thought it would be, it tasted good.

Someone had come along and destroyed this place. Underneath a pile of charred wood was some more smoked salmon and other food. What a waste! And to think of how hungry he had been. Who would have done such a thing?

He was from Minnesota originally and through a series of adventures, he had found himself in Washington State near Yakima when he first heard about gold being discovered in the Fraser Canyon.

He’d never been this far north before and he wasn’t sure he wanted to stay in this foreboding place.

When he had arrived in Yale a scant three weeks before he was thinking he ought to turn around. It was a lawless place where arguments turned ugly in an instant. The only thing more plentiful than gold was liquor and there was lots of it.

Going through the rapids in the Fraser Canyon

The narrow confines of the Fraser Canyon made the mining dangerous. There was only one way out and one way in. The rise and fall of the Fraser was unwelcome as it was unpredictable. Miners scrambled and fought over the exposed gravel bars while the rush of water smashed fully loaded canoes against the rocks.

Everyone like him had a story to tell of near misses and losses. You had to find a lot of gold to make it worthwhile to even afford food and supplies. Everyone was supposed to only buy supplies from the HBC but there wasn’t enough of anything to go around so merchants were coming up selling anything for whatever price they could get away with.

One night, things came to a head. Someone had come around and nearly killed Chief Kowpelst down by the river.

The Hudson Bay Company said that they were taking the side of the natives but it was clear they didn’t have the clout to do much. What could a handful of HBC clerks do against several thousand miners?

It was no wonder then that some of the chiefs started taking matters into their own hands. They started kicking the miners off their claims and blocking the canyon.

Several militia groups were formed to retaliate. As far as the miners were concerned, they were there to make money from finding gold. Besides, whose country did this area belong? One of the journalists from San Francisco, raised the point that the Hudson Bay Company had been given a decree to run its business here but that didn’t give it moral authority to create laws by which the miners had to abide.

Not everyone wanted to live in a lawless place like Yale; Snyder appealed for miners to join his milita, the Pike Guards and make peace. David was one of them.  There were other men like him too; they just wanted to make some money and bring it home, wherever that was.

David turned and ran, tripping over a tree root. Picking himself up, David found himself looking into the eyes of a young man, about the same age as himself.

“CexspentlEm” David said. “Captain Snyder wants to meet with him.”

The young man seemed somewhat perplexed, so David took out the white flag Captain Snyder had given him and offered it to the young man. He shook his head and took a step backward.

“CexspentlEm,” David repeated.

The young man disappeared into the bush and David looked around, seeing no one. If he’d known then that the Nlaka’pamux considered the white flag to be a sign of death, not truce, then he would have given up showing it.

As it was, he encountered a few other natives along the way and they all had the same wary reaction.
———-

Richard Willoughby

Richard Willoughby and his militia had come over from Yakima through the Okanagan Canyon. There were over a hundred volunteers with Willoughby and if they didn’t come with their own breech loading rifle then they were loading and firing.

The natives with their HBC issued muskets didn’t stand a chance and Willoughby could hear the shots reverberate across the canyon. His group hardly suffered any casualties.

Willoughby decided that the group should travel up the Thompson River. There was some arguing about this but Willoughby was determined to stick to solid ground. At Okanagan Lake, there was plenty of food for the taking and Willoughby and his men took what they needed.

He knew that it was mostly fear that stuck them together. It was too risky for a couple of miners to go off on their own and start panning for gold.

He would gather them around and draw lines in the dirt.

“This here is the Nicola River, that’s the one we’re going to follow up to Fort Kamloops and then from there we’re going to travel west along the Thompson River.”

No one knew what lay before them but they didn’t need any reminders of what lay behind them. Nightmares, carnage.

Fort Kamloops came and went and then Willoughby and his crew were pushing east along the Thompson River, up the Bonaparte River for a while.

The gold wasn’t so plentiful and the men were eager to get to the Fraser Canyon.

“We want to go where the gold is!” they said.

Willoughby caved in. He wanted to get rich just as much as they did and frankly he was getting tired of their company anyway. He hadn’t come up north to run his own army. He wanted to find gold and lots of it.
___
David woke up at the first glimmer of light and started on foot again. His feet were sore in his shoes and one of the soles was becoming loose. He had eaten the rest of the smoked salmon the night before and this morning there was nothing but he was supposed to be close to Kamsheen, where the Thompson River met the Fraser.

It was early, probably before five in the morning when he ran past a group of sleeping miners. Guns were everywhere. Were these the ones Snyder had mentioned? Or were they a new group?

A twig snapped beneath his feet and someone stirred. David heard someone yell and he pulled out his white flag. Suddenly a shot was fired just missing his arm. The bullet blasted a hole through the cloth. He dropped it.

He ran faster now, crashing through the bush. He was off the trail now but he had to hide.
David held his breath even as his chest heaved. He knew the rifles, knew how far the bullets could travel.

He came to the edge of the bush and was about to keep going forward when he realized the earth had come to an end. Looking below he saw the winding ribbon of a river. There was no way down except to jump and he wasn’t prepared to do that.

Crawling along the edge, David scrambled forward as the the bushes tore at his clothes. He listened for more shots. There were none.

It was too early in the morning and he could imagine them sitting around eating some grub. It made him angry.

Where was the trail? It was too far west. He would have to somehow get back to it before they started.

Setting off again, David realized he would have to run up an embankment and around. It was a risky venture, of being exposed, but then there was nothing else to do. The earth was drier here he noticed and his footprints easily marked. He took off his shoes and dropped them into the bush.

There was a small trail that kept winding around and he followed it. At least it was going in the right direction.

He never heard anything until he had turned the corner and there sitting on a couple of flat rocks were three native men.

Two of them stood with legs apart and arms at their sides.

David swallowed hard and said, “CexpentlEm?”

The man sitting got up and looked at him inquisitively.

“Captain Snyder wants to meet CexpentlEm to make peace.” David said as he pulled out the piece of paper that the interpretor had given out.

The chief turned the paper over in his hands and read it. Then he folded the piece of paper and gave it back to David. “The soldiers, they were shooting at you?”

“Yes.”

Chief Cunamista talked with the others and then turned to David. “Come with us. We will take you to meet him. First we will wait.”

He followed them into a small scrubby area and crouched down as they indicated. Through the leaves, David could see below, the militia men were marching.
___
(A few days later, Captain Snyder met with CexpentlEm and on August 21, 1858, they signed an understanding of peace and CexpentlEm sent sons of chiefs to accompany the militia as it went down the Fraser Canyon back to Yale, thus ending the Canyon War).

Gold Bar in the Fraser Canyon (Part 2)

(In part 1 of “Gold Bar in the Fraser Canyon” assistant gold commissioner McLennan realizes that Ned McGowan and his criminal gang have gained influence and control over gold commissioner Hicks based in Yale, British Columbia)

Steamboat Heading to Yale

The captain of S.S. Watertown was relieved to see the town of Yale, but not nearly as relieved as the passengers.  It had been a long and arduous trip up the Fraser River as the boat slowly made its way against the waters that were pushing their way in the opposite direction to the coast.

McLennan was relieved to finally catch sight of the steamboat and looked around for the James Douglas representative, the one whose job it was to oversee Hicks.  It was starting to drizzle, a Scotch mist, he would have called it.  Nobody on the wharf seemed to be paying attention to it; the rain never lasted in the interior up here, unlike the coast.

McLennan could have waited elsewhere but he was determined to speak to someone in higher authority about his horrible boss. He thought about what he would say and he went over and over in his mind exactly the points he would bring up and in what order.

After a time, the steamboat came to a rest and the passengers disembarked, some more quickly than others.

Where was he? McLennan’s hand went to his snuff box by habit, his fingers cold from anxious waiting, but this wasn’t the time to indulge himself.  For a brief moment he thought of his wife; the silver box had been a gift from her father.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw one of McGowan’s goons leaning against a hitching post.  McLennan looked back at the dispersed crowd and all the people walking on unsteady legs carrying their belongings, some in carts, others on their backs.

Representatives of the Colony always had an assistant with them to help carry their belongings. Looking around he didn’t see anyone that he recognized.  The goon was still there, if he was waiting for someone he didn’t let on.  Finally McLennan spotted James Douglas talking to the captain who was carrying Douglas’ baggage.  McLennan was so relieved he nearly cried.

Chief Spintlum and about six hundred of his best riders and warriors had made the trip from Lytton to Yale without any events along the way.  There were a few surprised looks from some of the miners they encountered, but most kept out of the way.  Spintlum organized a camp to be set up about fifteen minutes ride outside of Yale, far enough away that they didn’t have to listen to the gunshots.

Hicks woke up with a severe headache.  He’d drunk too much the night before and all he could hear was hoofbeats.  He put his hands to his head in the hopes the sound would stop but it didn’t.  His door was shaking.  Squinting his eyes, he thought he could see it moving from side to side.  With one hand he felt around on the floor for his glasses.  He couldn’t see a damn thing without them, but just moving his arm gave him a sharp pain in the head.

McLennan and Douglas were heading along the road in an open carriage when they heard the murmurs on the street that a group of natives was about to arrive.  McLennan heard their horses coming down the main street, several of them side by side with their riders standing straight and tall. What were they doing here? He wondered.

Douglas ordered the carriage driver to halt and by habit, McLennan tipped his hat at the riders in acknowledgement.  None of them recognized Douglas, but they stopped and one of them asked “where is Hicks?”

McLennan stalled for a moment as he looked to Douglas.  “I’m afraid I don’t know at this present moment, but allow me to introduce myself, Archie McLennan, assistant gold commissioner.”  McLennan offered his hand and the man looked at him for a moment then he proceeded to dismount slowly and carefully as if suffering from some injury.

“I am Cexpe’nthlam, head chief of the Nlaka’pamux.  I came here because my people have been falsely accused of a massacre.”

“Chief Spintlum?”

The chief nodded, evidently he had heard many pronunciations of his name.

James Douglas rose from the carriage and removed his hat, introducing himself.  It was precisely at that moment something happened which McLennan would never forget.

With one suspender holding up his pants and his shirt on backwards, Hicks came running out of the gold commissioner’s office with a pistol extended from a shaking hand in the direction of McLennan, “he stole my gold dust!” he screamed.

Before McLennan had a chance to open his jaw, a gunshot rang out and Hicks flopped forward in a pile of mud.  Nobody moved.  McLennan glanced around but he couldn’t see who had shot Hicks.  He saw people dipping into the recesses and shadows of the buildings. It was eerily quiet.

After a couple of minutes, Douglas put a handkerchief to his forehead and said to McLennan, “we have much to discuss, but first let us have some tea.”