Why Clement Cornwall wanted Hat Creek Valley

The lush fields of bunchgrass in Hat Creek valley was a significant source of food for wintering herds of cattle destined for the Cariboo. Situated between the Fraser and Thompson Rivers, it was a much sought after piece of land by ranchers, packers and drovers.

First Peoples

map of Hat Creek Valley

map of Hat Creek Valley (not to scale)

This area is home to the Stuctwesemc (pronounced Stluck-TOW-uh-sem) also known as Bonaparte. Adjoining them is the Pavilion band or Ts’kw’aylaxw First Nation (pronounced ts-KWHY-lux).

Berries, pinenuts, roots and game were widely available. Elk and mule deer grazed in the valley and medicinal plants were found along some of the smaller creeks that fed into Hat Creek.

Over the millenia, Natives painted drawings on nearby limestone canyon walls with locally sourced red ochre.

Fur Traders to Ranchers

The name Hat Creek comes from Hudson’s Bay Company french speaking fur traders who originally called it Rivière au Chapeau.

Former HBC trader Donald McLean realized the importance of this rich fertile valley in 1860. He  established a ranch near the confluence of the Bonaparte and Hat Creek rivers.

In 1861, McLean advised American cattlemen to winter their herds in the Hat Creek valley. More cattle dealers arrived to overwinter their herds the following year.

1862 marked the greatest population influx into the Cariboo and the demand for beef soared. That year roughly 6,000 cattle entered the mainland colony of British Columbia.

Smallpox Epidemic of 1862-63

During the winter of 1862-63, smallpox killed thousands of Indigenous Peoples.  Fifteen Secwepemc (pronounced suh-Wep-muhc) bands were completely wiped out, and others like the Bonaparte, barely hung on.  Game was scarce and many starved to death.

Grazing Cattle

Between 1862 and 1865, most of the Cariboo mining population left the region for the winter months. Cattle was left to graze in the Thompson, Bonaparte and Hat Creek Valleys.

The Cornwall brothers owned a large ranch “Hibernia” and roadhouse “Ashcroft Manor” on the Cariboo Wagon Road in the Bonaparte Valley. Clement Cornwall described the area as “beautifully grassed throughout”. Some said the bunchgrass was as high as a horse’s belly.

Ashcroft Manor

Ashcroft Manor roadhouse

It wasn’t long before the Cornwall brothers set their sights on the grassy areas of Upper Hat Creek Valley which was occupied, for at least part of the year, by cattle drovers and packers who ran a few hundred head of cattle.

No Trespassing

Clement Cornwall was elected in 1864 for the Hope-Yale-Lytton District, one of five members representing the colony of British Columbia. The following year, Clement attempted to use his political position to his advantage.

In August 1865 one of the Hat Creek packers received the following notice:

“It is hereby notified that C.F. Cornwall and H.P. Cornwall have applied to the Government for a lease of land for pastoral purposes on Hat Creek Valley. The range embraces fifteen thousand acres, extending from Marble Gap, fifteen miles above McLean’s, for a distance of eleven miles up the valley, being an average width of two miles. Persons are warned not to turn their animals on this land or otherwise interfere with the grass.”
(signed) Philip Henry Nind, Land Commissioner

The Cariboo Sentinel published the notice on August 12th with the following comment:

“Three or four men can, if this holds good, monopolize the whole country, and packers will have to cross the Rocky mountains to get a square meal for their mules, besides cattle dealers will be held in check on the 49th parallel instead of coming into the country with their stock.”

At first the lease application was denied but the Cornwall brothers applied again for 6,000 acres of grazing land and won. Another grant was given to their former roadhouse employee, Philip Parke, who established the Bonaparte Ranch.

The Lillooet Fire of 1866

The Lillooet Fire of 1866 was significant because the town lost all three bakeries. How did the fire start?

The night was damp and cool and everyone was staying warm either at a saloon or in their own log cabin. Mr. Defoe’s bakery was just another dark shadow on the street. Inside, Mr. Defoe was just closing the door to his kitchen where he had spent several hours baking pies, cakes and bread for sale the next day. His tin stove was hot but he didn’t notice anything unusual before he treated himself to a glass of whiskey courtesy of Spellman’s saloon and went to his room out the back.

Half past midnight on March 19th, a Chinese fellow was walking home from a night of playing fan tan. He walked the familiar road thinking about his Bridge River claim. There was more gold there he was sure of it. Something out of the corner of his eye caught his attention as he walked past Defoe’s bakery. He turned and looked but didn’t see anything. There it was again. An orange spark flew out. He ran around the back where the baker lived and banged on the door. But there was no answer.

He kicked the door open. Defoe was lying on his bed. The air was thick with smoke. Coughing, he grabbed Defoe and yanked him to the floor. The impact woke up the baker.

Fire! Get out!

He dragged Defoe stumbling to his feet and out the door before Defoe had a chance to  get dressed and grab his shoes.

Seconds later fire shot through the roof and it collapsed over the spot where he’d been sleeping. For a brief few seconds Defoe stood stunned while everything he had worked for went up in flames.

Lillooet Fire of 1866

Lillooet Fire

The explosion sent a rush of people onto the street. Among them was the town’s doctor and surgeon H.F. Featherstone who recorded the following for The British Columbian newspaper:

As usual in such cases, there was neither water, hooks nor ladders, otherwise it might have been arrested at the second building, which was a log house; the next was a Balloon building, and the boards full of pitch, which was entirely consumed in ten minutes; the fourth and last was fortunately an extensive old log house, which took some time to get into flames. Fortunately there was eighty or ninety feet space between the next.

Blankets and water were freely applied which saved it. Great credit is due to the native citizens for the great agility they displayed in fetching water in barrels; they seemed to try to  [outdo] each other. The flames were visible at the Fountain, a distance of eight miles. Many parties put their goods into the middle of the street; but had both sides caught [fire], they would have all been consumed. Everyone lent a willing hand. The chief of the contents were saved.

After the fire was extinguished everyone who had fought the blaze were given liquors and cigars at Parker & Spellman’s saloon.  The surgeon was quick to point out that although “many of the boys got jolly”, the morning broke without anyone needing his attention from fights with pistols or knives.

No Bread The Next Day

Mr. Defoe [was] seen busily engaged clearing away the rubbish from around his oven ready to go bread-baking again. Messrs. Sproat & Baily displayed equal energy, rented a building, and were ready at early dawn, with smiling faces, to supply their friends and the public generally with gin slings, cocktails, etc.; tonight they propose having a great ball and supper…

Strange to say, three of the houses destroyed were Bakeries, and the only ones in town, so that at breakfast we were without bread, and had to introduce the old original slap-jack, or frying pan bread

The names of the sufferers are Mon. Defoe, baker and whiskey saloon restaurant; Messrs. Martin & Co., bakery and whiskey saloon; Messrs. Sproat & Bailey, saloon and dancing academy; and Mr. Casper Herber, bakery…

Estimated loss by the Lillooet fire was $7,500.

From Barter to Tartar: A boatload of cash arrives in 1861

What brought the battle weary warship HMS Tartar to Esquimalt in 1861?

Before the Fraser River gold rush, the Colony of British Columbia did not exist and money rarely changed hands; most of the trade done at the forts was done by barter.

All that changed in the Spring of 1858 when gold seekers stopped at Fort Langley for provisions and $5 mining licences. Miners paid with cash — thus beginning the trend away from a barter-based economy.  This was great news for the Hudson’s Bay Company as James Douglas reported in 1858:

“A considerable cash business is now carried on at Fort Langley, the sales are averaging about $1500 a day. The articles sold are principally Flour, Bacon and Beans, and mining tools which we import from San Francisco, together with blankets and woollen clothing …”

The need for currency

Most merchants accepted gold dust as a means of payment for goods but they preferred cash.

Bank Exchange Saloon advertisement in Daily Colonist Nov 8, 1860

It was difficult to assess just how fine the gold was and to agree upon its worth. Both miners and merchants were often cheated. In addition, when it came time for merchants to restock their goods, transactions were being hampered by the lack of currency.

Many gold seekers left to take their gold to the San Francisco Mint to get money in return. This was another loss for merchants in British Columbia as well.

HMS Tartar arrives

As early as April 25, 1859 the Colonial Treasurer Captain William Gosset (of the Royal Engineers) informed Governor Douglas that something should be done about the lack of coins in circulation. He proposed that the Colony of British Columbia import £100,000 worth of coin and sovereigns to be repaid in gold bullion.

Almost exactly two years later, in April, 1861, HMS Tartar brought florins amounting in value to £4,000, shillings amounting to £2,000, sixpences amounting to £800, and threepenny pieces amounting to £100; total, £6,900. The Daily Colonist made a brief note of its arrival from Britain, mentioning that the ship brought a “large amount of silver coin but no copper currency” [small denominations were made of solid copper until 1860]. A week later, The British Columbian newspaper anticipated a warm welcome for the arrival of the coins.

Scarcity of Coin

When these coins were finally brought over there still wasn’t enough to satisfy the demands of the merchants. The lack of a circulating currency continued to be a problem.

On November 7, 1861 the New Westminster paper in an editorial said:—

“Owing to the scarcity of coin in the Treasury here and in the banking-houses in Victoria, miners are compelled to go to San Francisco for the purpose of having their golddust turned into coin. . . . If the coin question is so seriously felt now, to what alarming dimensions will it attain next year with a mining population at least fivefold what it is now, and a corresponding increase in the yield of our mines.”

Later the government offered a premium on sovereigns imported from California, but even that wasn’t enough.

1859 Everyone drank Arthur Bunster beer

Arthur Bunster started one of the first breweries during the Fraser River gold rush. At a time when grog shops were sprouting up on trails north, Bunster was advertising in the British Colonist newspaper. His notices were catchy and unforgettable always ending with BUNSTER in all caps.

Island Ale Island Barley and Island Hops

In 1859, Arthur Bunster,an Irishman from County Tipperary, established the Colonial Brewery in Victoria.

In 1865, Bunster leased the 700 acre Saanich Hall Farm to supply hops and barley for his own brewery. Growing food on Vancouver Island was considered a major breakthrough.

Some of those ‘Island Casks’ must have been made by the Victoria cooper F.G. Odin who claimed to be the fastest anywhere. In 1860 Odin issued a $500 challenge that he could make more barrels per month than any other cooper in British Columbia.

Principal Manufacturer of Ale on Vancouver Island

Under an editorial titled “Imports for 1865”, the British Colonist declared “…our dependence on foreign countries for the necessaries of life is gradually getting smaller…our market is surely, however slowly, being supplied by Island farmers…”

Arthur Bunster, brewer, farmer and buy local champion

As the Cariboo gold rush winded down, there was an economic slump. On top of that the government considered an import tax on barley. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to grow his own as Arthur Bunster revealed in his March 18, 1867 letter to Governor Seymour:

“Being the principal manufacturer on Vancouver Island of Ale and having been the means of proving that British Columbia is second to none for Brewing. I beg to call your attention to how ruinous it will be to have a Tax levied on Barley to the Brewing Industry of thirty cents per 100 lbs in as much as there is not land enough on the whole of Vancouver’s Island to supply me for Six Months under cultivation and as a Further Proof of what I say the People have to import from the United States there Chicken Feed.

Navy at Esquimalt large consumers of Ale

Her Majesty’s Navy laying at Esquimalt are large consumers of Ale brewed by me and if the present only are insisted on it will compel an Inferior Article to be produced which will Injure the reputation of the colony at large particularly when we think of how proud England is of her Brewers and there is no reason that we should not make ourselves equally felt in time in proportion to our Population provided you will give a fair open field for to work agains(t) the California & Oregon Brewers as well as the English so that we can Export to Ports on the Pacific the Population here not being sufficient to support a Brewery of any capacity and I have lately added a large Malt House a Boiler & Engine and double the size of my brewery with a view of doing an Export Trade.

I would further state that no brewery can live successfully on the local trade as a proof of what I state I can shot that there has been ($120,000) one hundred & twenty thousand dollars lost in the Business in this Colony. I am not asking to have the duty on Barley to be take(n) off without well knowing how ruinous it will be to the Brewing Interest from the fact that I was carrying on the largest Farm on the Island for the last two years give me a chance to know positively that there never will be Quarter enough Barley raised on the Island to supply a Brewery…

Whaleboats down the Fraser River

How many American gold seekers drowned while trying to cross the Strait of Georgia or in the Fraser River? Getting to the gold diggings on the Fraser River was not easy. It took two days of paddling from Victoria just to reach the Fraser River. Some used canoes, rafts and even whaleboats. Once they made it to the mainland, there were several dangerous rapids to run on Fraser River.

Dangerous rapids

Governor Douglas wrote in a May 19, 1858 despatch to Lord Stanley, the Colonial Secretary in London: “Many accidents have happened in the dangerous rapids of that [Fraser] river, a great number of canoes having been dashed to pieces and their cargoes swept away by the impetuous stream, while of the ill-fared adventurers who accompanied them, many have been swept into eternity.”

What happened to the 8,000 men who didn’t return?

The Alta California newspaper reported that 27,534 people sailed directly to Victoria from San Francisco between April 1, 1858 and March 31, 1860, and 19,051 returned during that same period. What happened to the 8,483 persons who did not sail back? Did they return by another route, did they settle in Washington Territory or did they lose their lives by accident?

The Alta California article, printed on May 26, 1860, went on to say that the free port of Victoria was still importing large amounts of American goods yet  “the white population of Victoria and British Columbia” was no more than 6,000. Clearly they weren’t counting all the blacks who emigrated!

Whaleboats down the Fraser River

L. F. Bodkin was one of the American miners who struck it rich on Island Bar north of Spuzzum in 1858. He stayed and worked through the winter then in March 1859, he prepared to head back east with about $2,000 worth of gold dust.  He canoed down the Fraser River and at Fort Hope he embarked in a whaleboat along with several other miners. They had just rowed past  the mouth of the Harrison River when the whaleboat hit a snag and flipped over. Everyone made it out alive, but Bodkin lost his gold.


Just the previous month, Captain Brock of the ‘Gold Hunter’ found the body of a fifty year old man from San Francisco in the same vicinity and buried him “on the point of the first riffle above the Harrison River”.

Immediately after that disaster, Bodkin returned back to the bar and worked it for another year and a half, this time accumulating about $4,000 in gold dust. This time though, he wasn’t so lucky.

On August 15, 1860 Bodkin attempted to canoe down the Fraser River with his gold dust and a load of fresh beef to Boston Bar. He was just four miles from his destination when he attempted to run a “small but dangerous riffle” and the canoe capsized. Two others, “an Indian and Chinaman” managed to hang onto the overturned canoe until they were rescued by some miners three miles downstream.

Bodkin, his beef, and all his gold were gone.

Fraser Canyon War and the Nlaka’pamux villages

Before the Fraser River gold rush, there were several Nlaka’pamux villages occupying the flat land along the Fraser Canyon. Trails led through the forests from winter village areas to food-gathering and hunting areas; every peak, every lake, every clearing was known to someone.

One of these villages was Tuckkwiowhum (Tuck-we-ohm) meaning ‘great berry picking place’. For thousands of years, people lived at the spot where Anderson River meets the Fraser River. People stopped here on their travels to and from Klickumcheen (Lytton).

The ancient village of Kopchitchin was directly across the Fraser River.

Fraser Canyon War

The summer of 1858 was a brutal one for First Nations who sought to protect their territories. The American army was engaged in a full out war against several First Nations from Fort Simcoe to Fort Okanagan.

Steamboats plowed the waters up to Yale, unloading hundreds of miners at a time. Natives blamed the boats for preventing the salmon from their migration. Foreign goldseekers set up camps on every bar that could be seen, crowding out Natives who were also panning for gold.

Then the freshet came and goldseekers were impatient to head further north into Nlaka’pamux territory.

The walls of the Fraser Canyon echoed with gunshot as goldseekers attempted to gain ground above Hell’s Gate. The Nlaka’pamux responded with poison-tipped arrows.

Hudson’s Bay Company in the middle

Without any legal authority, the Hudson’s Bay Company’s chief factor of Fort Yale was powerless to stop the carnage except to appeal for peace. What could a handful of HBC clerks do against several thousand miners?

Fort Yale Chief factor Ovid Allard wrote to James Douglas:

The Miners have abused the Indians in many instances particularly at what is called New York Bar by insulting their women after they had voluntarily given up their arms. I understand that the same thing has also occurred at “Quayome”. From what I can learn I have reason to believe that some 15 or 20 Indians have lost there lives and three or four whites.

At Yale, goldseekers armed with percussion revolvers and breech loading rifles formed into at least five American-style militia groups.

Villages Burned

In August 1858, these militia forces completely burned the villages of Kopchitchin and Tuckkwiowhum.

In all, the militias burned five ‘rancheries’; three above the Big Cañon and two below. The militias destroyed all their provisions including salmon and dried berries.

Lake House: a strategic stopover in the Fraser River gold rush

Lake House was a popular stopping place during the Fraser River gold rush. It only stood for two years between 1858 and 1860 yet it was an important site on the trail between Hope and Lytton.  How did Lake House come to be? And what brought about it’s demise?

A.C. Anderson’s dilemma

Years before the Fraser River gold rush in 1858, the Hudson’s Bay Company made several attempts at forging a trail up the Fraser Canyon. After the Oregon Treaty of 1846, the Company found itself required to pay American duties on goods shipped by way of Fort Vancouver. The Company’s mapmaker, A.C. Anderson was pressured to find ‘an all British route’ that could be used by men and horses loaded with bales of furs travelling from Fort Alexandria or Fort Kamloops down to Fort Langley.

Lake House – a notorious roadhouse (approximate location of trail)

The short life of Fort Yale

Anderson figured on a route down the Fraser Canyon but it was exceedingly challenging and furthermore, their intrusion into Nlaka’pamux territory was unwelcome. Despite the problems of the route, a small fort was constructed at Yale and another wayside hut, called Simon’s House, was erected near the First Nations village of Spo’zum (Spuzzum) near where a brigade could cross the Fraser River and up the steep slope on the other side. There was a long climb up to the top of Lake Mountain and down the other side to the Coquiome (Anderson) River. Considering the length of time it took to reach their destination, there would have been frequent camping spots along the way.

Eventually, the HBC came to use another route to Fort Kamloops following the Coquihalla River  which resulted in the abandonment of Fort Yale and the establishment of Fort Hope.


Anderson’s old route up the Fraser Canyon came to be used again. In 1858, a couple of miners arrived at Fort Yale and swapped their boat for an old horse which they loaded with coffee and whiskey. They followed the former HBC trail up Lake Mountain and rigged up a canvas tent on the plateau within view of the lake.

A goldseeker who wrote to the San Francisco Bulletin in the fall of 1858 described Lake House as “nothing more than a large round tent, wherein you can get a good cup of coffee and beans adlibitum for one dollar…”

From tent to wood hut

With more and more miners passing by, a wood cabin was built to accommodate overnight visitors. Robert Frost, a judge in Olympia, Washington, recalled his stay at Lake House some time later:

“We made Boston Bar that afternoon, beached the canoe as we could not take it through the canyon, we started up the mountain; night overtook us and we had to sleep in the snow. About nine o’clock next morning we made the Lake House on the trail, a mere shack; where the proprietor got us up a breakfast at $1.00 each. It consisted of hard tack, bacon,and beans with a raw onion. I thought at the time that it was about the best meal I had ever eaten.”

A.R. Lempriere and his group of Royal Engineers stayed overnight at this location on August 8 of 1859:

“Left Boston Bar having procured 4 horses the day before and in the evening reached the Lake House situated on the top of a mountain. As it was very cold our men being tired we rushed to stay there the night: There was only one room in which we all slept with a lot of miners, Indians etc., in all numbering about 14 or 15: Bunks were arranged in three tiers all round the room, for the accommodation of travelers. I cannot say it was particularly agreeable.”

Burnt down under orders

The following year, a judge in Yale sent an officer to burn down Lake House because liquor was being illegally sold to Natives. Upon hearing the news, one of the owners, W.H. Weatherhill, protested the razing. Weatherhill claimed that he was away operating the ferry at Boston Bar and that the fellow responsible for selling the liquor had moved in without his consent.

A new route to Boston Bar

In the fall of 1860, a new trail was carved out by contractors Power and McRoberts at a cost of $62,000. This new trail which opened in April 1861 went directly from Chapman’s Bar to Boston Bar. The trail climbed along the rocky ledge about 800 feet above the Fraser River through what was known then as the ‘Big Cañon’.

Gold rush history unearthed

Lake House literally faded into the ground until it was unearthed by student archaeologists from Kwantlen Polytechnic University in 2013. It turned out to be a treasure trove of Fraser River gold rush history with almost 300 items uncovered. Among the artifacts identified were solder seam cans, footwear, mule shoes, machine-cut square nails, American militia buttons, a Chilean coin marked 1845, ceramic pipes, coins, a three pronged fork and spent ammunition.

Hike into the past

Today you can hike this same trail that was used thousands of years ago by Nlaka’pamux who gathered cedar bark, followed by HBC fur traders and goldseekers over 160 years ago. Opened in 2012 after a massive volunteer effort, the trail past Lake House is now called the Tikwalus Heritage Trail, after a Native village that once stood near the trailhead.

Quicksilver: Trapping gold with mercury

How did goldseekers wash out the gravel from their pans without losing any specks of gold? The answer is liquid mercury, known in the 1800s as quicksilver.


ad for Quicksilver July 28, 1860

Imagine a gold miner at the water’s edge filling a gold pan with water and then shaking it around in a circular motion. It takes several dips of the pan to get the gravel out. Then the smaller pebbles have to be picked out by hand until all that’s left is black sand (iron ore).  With some more water added to the pan there might be some yellow ‘colour’ in the pan. How to quickly retrieve most of the gold? To solve that problem miners would pour a few ounces of quicksilver (liquid mercury) into the pan before they started. In a few minutes the ‘quicksilver’ would engulf all the fine gold fragments and form a solid mixture (amalgam).

How much quicksilver was used?

How much quicksilver was used during the Fraser River gold rush or the Cariboo gold rush? No one knows for sure. It was easy to use but extremely dangerous to handle.

Quicksilver was poured along the riffles in rocker boxes and sluice boxes. The high density of mercury allowed gold and gold-mercury amalgam to sink while sand and gravel passed over the mercury and through the sluice. Large volumes of turbulent water flowing through the sluice caused many of the finer gold and mercury particles to wash through and out of the sluice before they could settle.

Gravel and rocks that entered the sluice at high speed caused the mercury to break into tiny particles. These tiny mercury particles became airborne. In the meantime, more mercury would be added to the sluice boxes. The bottoms of some sluice boxes eventually became coated with mercury.

Working a claim at Emory Bar

Some mercury was lost from the sluice, either by leaking into underlying soils and bedrock or being transported downstream with the placer tailings. If it was too cold, the mercury was ineffective.

The Daily Colonist published a letter February 12, 1859 from a miner working a claim on Emory Bar who wrote “…the coldness of the water thickens the quicksilver so much as to prevent a full half of the fine gold from being taken up or amalgamated as it would when the weather is warm.”

Dissolving the mercury

Some miners would take their amalgam down to Victoria where an assayer would dissolve the mercury under intense heat.

Did you know? Mercury is made by  roasting crushed cinnabar ore (HgS) in a furnace. Cinnabar  is mined in only a few places in the world. The New Idria Quicksilver Mining Company in central California started operation in 1854 and closed in 1972; the town of Idria was abandoned as a result.

Fort Langley feeds the gold seekers

What food did the Hudson’s Bay Company sell to the Fraser River gold rush miners?

The Farm at Fort Langley

Every Hudson’s Bay Company post was encouraged to be self-sufficient. The sites of HBC forts were chosen to include the most fertile land as well as to be near a transportation route. When the first site for Fort Langley was chosen in 1832, a handful of cows were brought over. Seven years later, it was decided to move Fort Langley further up the Fraser River. Another group of livestock was delivered and sent out to graze on the Langley Prairie about 11 km away.

Spanish Longhorns

Spanish longhorns

Spanish longhorns

Among the animals that stepped off the Beaver (HBC steamer) were a bunch of “Wild California Cows.” These Spanish longhorns were a tough and wild breed descended from a group that had been brought to Mexico in the 1600s.

In Oregon, cattle were bred by the HBC subsidiary,  Puget Sound Agricultural Company (PSAC). Its original mandate was to provide beef to the Russian-American Fur Company.  PSAC raised a mix Spanish longhorns and British short-horns. The British breeds had been bred from cattle that had made the long journey along the Oregon Trail from the eastern United States. These cattle were much larger than the Spanish and more docile.

In a few short years, Fort Langley was growing a variety of crops, and raising herds of beef cattle for export. In addition, the fort took advantage of its location to trade for salmon and cranberries with the tribes that gathered to fish on the Fraser River.

Fort Langley Beef

Fort Langley Corned Beef

Fort Langley Corned Beef – ad in the New Westminster Times

Some historians have said that the farm at Fort Langley faltered during the Fraser River gold rush for lack of leadership. Some of this can be attributed to the fact that the HBC’s future was in question and that for so long they never had any competition. Nevertheless, the farm kept producing. This advertisement was printed in the New Westminster Times January 21, 1860. “For Sale. 100 Barrels of British Columbia Fresh CORNED BEEF, first quality (grown on the Company’s Farm), and preserved with great care. To be delivered at Langley. Apply to F.V. Lee, Hotel de France.”

The Meat Tariff

As more miners were heading up to the Cariboo in 1859, Governor James Douglas established a 10% tariff on meat imports, based on the purchase cost. Douglas thought that this tax would provide revenue to the colony but not everyone paid their dues. Victoria had been declared a ‘free port’ meaning that American livestock coming there weren’t subject to the 10% tariff.

Despite the cost the overland route to the BC Interior was increasingly used by packers and drovers as the gold seekers went further north. Considering the vast profits to be made, many packers paid their dues, but many did not and slipped over the border unnoticed.

Under public pressure, James Douglas abandoned the 10% tariff the following year, and instead applied heavier customs duties on all goods and animals entering British territory through the Southern Interior.

Urgent need for beef

Six thousand cattle entered the mainland colony in 1861-1862, but that still wasn’t enough to satisfy the demand. It was reported in June 1861 that bacon was selling for 40 cents a pound at Lillooet and 75 cents a pound at Keithley Creek.

By 1862, the need for American meat at the Cariboo mines had become so urgent that the governor directed the Gold Commissioner at Rock Creek to encourage the importation of 2,000 to 3,000 live cattle duty free.

The man who built Trounce Alley

How did Trounce Alley in Victoria B.C., get its name?

Thomas Trounce

Thomas Trounce

Thomas Trounce was a gold rush miner and a builder, originally from Cornwall, England. He moved to London as a young man and later with his wife Jane, moved to New Zealand where he worked as a carpenter and joiner. When the California gold rush broke out, they sailed for San Francisco. With all the fires that occurred in San Francisco, Trounce had steady work as a builder. Then, in 1858, news of the Fraser River gold rush reached his ears and Trounce got on a ship bound for Victoria.

He first lived in a tent on Government Street while he worked as a builder. He was able to buy a property not long later. The only issue was that the right of way to his property belonged to the Hudson’s Bay Company and this they sold. What was he to do? Trounce was hardly discouraged, instead he established his own thoroughfare between Government and Broad Streets which became known as Trounce Alley.

Tregew ‘The Flourishing Place’

In 1860, Trounce built his house in James Bay which he named Tregew, Cornish for ‘the flourishing place’. It lived up to that name with all the fruit he grew there.

Many buildings in Esquimalt were built by Trounce thanks to his good business dealings with Admiral Hastings and Paymaster Sidney Spark. It was discovered later that the paymaster had overlooked the requirement to get other tenders.

Trounce, who advertised himself as an architect and builder was able to take advantage of both roles. He built several brick buildings around Victoria and was the contractor for the construction of the St. Nicholas Hotel.

In later years, Trounce served as alderman on Victoria City Council and he became a Grand Master of Masons. Apples that were grown at Tregew earned him a prize at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition. Shortly after his wife Jane died in 1888, Trounce married again to Emma Richards, a widow 27 years younger. He was 76.

A hundred and seven years after it was built, Tregew was demolished to make way for an apartment building.