Category Archives: Food and Drink

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.

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…

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.

Water Troubles in Victoria

In the early days of the Fraser River gold rush, drinking water was expensive. Every saloon charged “one bit” (12 cents and one half penny) for a glass of water. Some even charged as much as 15 cents. In comparison, you could buy a cocktail for two bits (25 cents).

water for sale - September 28, 1859
water for sale – September 28, 1859

Why was water so expensive? There was no sewer system back then, only open drains which contaminated the local streams. John Muir, one of the early settlers of nearby Sooke, recalled that to navigate Wharf Street one had to wear boots at least 32 inches high. Given that and the overall stench, it is no wonder that the citizens of Victoria didn’t trust to drink or even bathe in water unless it was purchased from a water carrier. If they were short of water they washed themselves in the ocean or used rainwater they collected.

Every day, water carriers took their horse drawn wagons to a place outside of town known as “The Springs” and filled their barrels free of charge.

Victoria’s water source sold

Governor Douglas had declared The Springs to be public property in August 1858, however the lands belonged to the Hudson’s Bay Company. After the HBC was officially removed from its control of Vancouver Island, it began to sell its properties. In March 1861, an area surrounding The Springs was auctioned off.

The sale of Victoria’s water source escaped public knowledge until the new owners fenced off the area and hired a guard to keep out trespassers. A notice was put up at the gate informing the new price of water. A water carrier was caught trying to break down the fence and was arrested and hauled off to police court. As soon as people read about it, they were outraged. The Water Case as it became known, received extensive coverage in the Daily Colonist:

Editorial: The British Colonist (1861-04-26) p 2 “The Water Stoppage”
Editorial: The British Colonist (1861-04-26) p 2 “The Water Stoppage”

“The rightful owner of the Springs is the public. We have unquestionable authority for stating that Gov. Douglas declared them, in 1858, a public reserve; and, as Chief Factor of the Hudson Bay Company, empowered to dispose of their lands, he refused to do so, on the ground that they were wholly reserved for the uses of the town. Under the Grant of the Island to the Company [Hudson’s Bay Company], he had the right to reserve any land for public purposes. Besides, the Company had no right to sell a public reserve. Having acted in good faith with the public in 1858 in respect to the Springs, how is it that faith has been broken? How is it that the Company has been allowed to sell them? On Mr. Pemberton’s new official map we find no public reserve marked at the Springs…”

Barrels of Beans and Square Meals in the BC Gold Rush

What is a square meal? A square meal in the gold rush was one that kept gold seekers full all day and gave them enough energy so they could hike the long trails to the gold diggings. The term ‘square meal’ was a common term with Americans as the term square meant ‘right’ or ‘proper’.

The ad below from Hardie’s Hotel in New Westminster advertised ‘square meals’ for 50 cents.

square meal

square meal

Beans and bacon were considered food staples back then. A goldseeker remarked:

“At the inn here we enjoyed what our Yankee companions called a ‘square meal,’ of the generally characteristic fare of the colony, bacon and beans; the latter are abundantly imported in barrels from the States. Here also, after our toilsome march, we indulged in a good wash, the only really cheap comfort obtainable in British Columbia.”

From pipes to puncheons – barrels of food and liquor

barrel

barrel

Most of the food that made up a ‘square meal’ was brought by ship in wooden casks and barrels. These barrels ranged in size depending on what they were containing.

Salted beef and pork came in wooden casks called ‘tierces’ which contained 42 gallons.

Liquor was imported in different types of wooden barrels.

A ‘hogshead’  typically contained 63 old wine gallons or 54 old beer gallons. A ‘pipe’ contained twice as much.

Rum and whiskey came in ‘puncheons’ and each puncheon typically held about 84 gallons.

Here is a list of some other types of food that were imported:

crushed sugar
Golden Gate Flour
Hope Butter
Rio Coffee
J & H Lard
black Tea
Turk’s Island salt
mats of China Rice
boxes of Macy’s candles
Harvey’s Scotch Whiskey in puncheons
Holland Gin in pipes
Champagne cider in barrels and kegs
Edinburgh Ale in stone jugs or bulk
bottled porter
India Pale Ale in pints and quarts
dried apples
hot whiskey punches
barley
bran

Looking for a ‘square meal’

A ‘square meal’ was nearly impossible to find in the Cariboo as Viscount Milton and Dr. Cheadle discovered when they stayed at J.D. Cusheon’s hotel in 1863:

“Our quarters at Cusheon’s Hotel were vile. A blanket spread on the floor of a loft was our bedroom, but the swarms of lice which infested the place rendered sleep almost impossible, and made us think with regret on the soft turf of the prairie, or a mossy couch in the woods. The fare, limited to beefsteaks, bread and dried apples, was wretchedly cooked and frightfully expensive. Beef was worth fifty cents or two shillings a pound, flour the same, a “drink” of anything except water was half a dollar, nor could the smallest article, even a box of matches, be bought for less than a “quarter” -one shilling. Before we reached Williams Creek we paid a dollar and a quarter, or five shillings, for a single pint bottle of stout.”

Flour Sacks in the Gold Rush

Flour sacks were very useful  long after they had been emptied of flour.  They were made from tough woven fabric and could be sewn together for a sheet or a quilt to keep out the chill in a drafty log cabin.

In the early days of British Columbia’s settler history, it was a challenge to find a flour sack. Thousands of sacks of ‘Golden Gate Flour’ and ‘Self Rising Flour’ were imported, but they disappeared just as quickly as they arrived.

Flour was traditionally shipped in barrels, but because of the need to transport to the gold fields, it was much easier if the flour was put into sacks. The size of the sack was made in comparison to the same amount of flour that would fit into a barrel. One barrel held 196 pounds of flour, a half barrel was 49 pounds. For example, ‘Olympia’ flour was shipped in quarter sacks.

Gold seekers lost their lives in their efforts to save their precious sacks of flour. Consider this brief entry in the Daily Colonist on May 7, 1859:

A canoe was picked up floating down the [Fraser] river. In it was found a sack of flour. [The canoe] is supposed to have been capsized and those drowned who were working it up the river.

Cayoosh, BC November 4, 1859

We require a storekeeper with plenty of goods and capital; we have the greatest difficulty to keep a sack of flour in town; everything leaves for Fort Alexander, where there are some very rich mines…The great drawback all the way up and down the river is the scarcity of provisions. Hundreds of men have left this neighborhood for fear of starvation…Anyone opening a store here can make money rapidly next spring…

The invention of the sewing machine in the mid 1800s and improvements in spinning and weaving cotton made the use of flour sacks more cost effective than wooden barrels by the late 1800s.


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Drink-miners not worth a shirt

A “drink-miner” was a gold rush term for a miner who was indebted to a grog shop or saloon-keeper.

Advice to would-be miners was given in a booklet titled “Cariboo, the Newly Discovered Gold Fields of British Columbia, Fully Described by a Returned Digger Who Has Made His Own Fortune There and Advises Others To Go and Do Likewise” published in London, England in 1862.

Like many promotional pieces of the day it portrayed the gold diggings in British Columbia in glowing terms. Interestingly, the ‘returned digger’ said that the most important qualification to be a miner was temperance.

“Don’t suppose I am a teetotal [non-drinker] digger. I am nothing of the kind, but I tell you plainly there is nothing so pulls a man back at gold digging as spirits. They take all the strength out of him; they unman him for a time, and the expense is so great, spirits (especially the good) costing an enormous figure at all gold settlements, that I really think that the man who picks up half an ounce a day, and doesn’t spend a grain of it in drink, makes, in reality , more by the end of the month that the miner who picks up four ounces a day, and drinks when it pleases him. As a proof of the truth of what I am saying, I may declare that the owners of spirit stores are always safe to make fortunes.

This warning is worth something, for candidly I tell you that the temptation to drink is very great. Whether it is the excitement natural to a gold digger’s life, or whether it is the desire to be luxurious and dashing, I know not, but this is certain, that an enormous percentage of gold diggers…drink extravagantly of spirits.

These diggers who “drink their gold,” as they say in Australia, never are worth anything, and they generally die in ditches, unless men more temperate than they have been give them hut or tent-room.

…those who take much spirits are unable to bear the roughing of a miner’s life, and the consequence is that they are ready at any moment to take any disease which many be common, and not unfrequently, in fever times, they fall down in scores, and never get up again.

…the excitement of a miner’s life is so great that not one in six who takes a “little drop” will stick there, and if he goes beyond he becomes just what I warn you against- a fellow who digs for the spirit-store keeper, and who is never worth more than the shirt about him. Nay, I have seen a “drink-miner” as I have heard them called, not even worth a shirt.

…For my part I drank nothing but water and tea all the while I was at the diggings, and I was there long enough to feather my nest warm.”

The Old Red Shirt

In between washing clothes and repairing them, Rebecca Gibbs wrote poetry which was sometimes published in the local Barkerville newspaper. Her poem “The Old Red Shirt” tells of a thin miner who showed up at her cabin door in old dirty clothes, asking her if she could repair a threadbare red shirt.

…His cheeks were thin, and furrow’d his brow,
His eyes they were sunk in his head;
He said that he had got work to do,
To be able to earn his bread.

He said that the “old red shirt” was torn
And asked me to give it a stitch;
But it was threadbare, and sorely worn,
Which show’d he was far from rich.

O! miners with good paying claims,
O! traders who wish to do good,
Have pity on men who earn your wealth,
Grudge not the poor miner his food….

1860: How to make butter without a churn

New bread and fresh butter was something worth travelling for in the Fraser River gold rush. How rare was butter?

On July 3, 1858 the Daily Alta California reported:

“At Fort Yale there is little or nothing to be had for love or money. Mining and cooking utensils are very scarce, and enormous prices are obtained for them. The Hudson’s Bay Company had seized the mining implements of some miners on Hill’s Bar, for violating the law in regard to trafficking, which excited considerable indignation among the miners.”

For those who could afford the luxury of butter it was imported by ship in cases from California and Minnesota.

By the time gold miners were heading north to the Cariboo, roadhouses began advertising butter.

Peter Dunlevy and Jim Sellers bought a roadhouse in 1861 from two packers who had built it a year before near Horsefly. Generous meals of fresh beef, mutton, lake trout, churned butter, and locally grown vegetables earned their roadhouse a reputation as the best stopping house in the Cariboo.

Many gold miners made their own bread and some even attempted to make their own butter. When they got together many discussed bush cookery and shared tips with each other.

Occasionally, the British Colonist printed “receipts” based on the old French word for recipes.

Here is one printed in February 1860 on how to make butter without a churn:

How to make butter

How to make butter

“After straining the milk, set it away for about twelve hours, for the cream to rise. (Milk dishes ought to have good strong handles to lift them by.) After standing as above, set the milk without disturbing it, on the stove, let it remain until you observe the coating of cream on the surface assume a wrinkled appearance, but be careful it does not boil, as should this be the case, the cream will mix with the milk and cannot again be collected.”

“Now set it away till quite cold, and then skim off the cream, mixing it with as little milk as possible. When sufficient cream is collected proceed to make it into butter as follows:

Take a wooden bowl or any suitable vessel, and having first scalded and then rinsed it with cold spring water, place the cream into it.

Now let the operator hold his hand in water as hot as can be borne for a few seconds, then plunge it into cold water for about a minute, and at once commence to agitate the cream by a gentle circular motion.In five minutes, or less, the butter will have come, when of course, it must be washed and salted according to taste, and our correspondent guarantees that no better butter can be made by the best churn invented.”

George Blair wrote in his diary that his friend “Bill rolled up his sleeves and went at making bread and Kelsie Oregon Butter which I mean to teach the Canadian Ladies to make when I go home as it tasted first rate.”

Ship stories: how passengers travelled to BC in the gold rush

How did most people come to British Columbia during the gold rush? They came by ship.

Tynemouth 1862

In 1862, Charles Redfern, a passenger on the Tynemouth wrote about some of the problems on board the 1500 ton steamship. They ran into a storm not long after they left England which saw  a cow and several pigs get washed overboard by a big wave. Then the coal passers who had been complaining of bad conditions stopped working altogether. The ship’s captain put them in irons and instructed the travellers to fuel the engines. For an entire month, the male passengers took turns filling wheelbarrows with coal, pushing them to the bunkers while another mutiny erupted and more were put in irons. By this time the ship was in the South Pacific with good trade winds. The steam was shut off and volunteers were called to man the sails.

Just before the ship sailed into the Falkland Islands, she ran into another storm and several large stacks of railway ties and iron tanks broke free of their moorings.

The Tynemouth docked at Esquimalt on September 17, 1862.

Passenger Contract

Everyone on board the Tynemouth was given a ‘passenger contract’ which said that each passenger would be given three quarts of water daily and a weekly allowance of provisions:

5 ¼ lb. Biscuit
½ lb. Soup
1 lb. Preserved Meat
1 ½ lb. Indian beef
½ lb. Preserved & Salt Fish
2 lb. Flour
1 lb. Oatmeal
6 oz. Suet
½ lb. Rice
½ lb. Raisins & Currants
2/3 pint Peas
½ lb. Preserved Potato
1 lb. Raw sugar
1 3/4 lb. Tea
3 ½ lb. Coffee
6 oz. butter
2 oz. salt
½ oz. mustard
¼ oz. pepper
1 gill vinegar*
6 oz. lime juice
21 qts. water

“When Fresh Beef is issued, 1 lb. to each Adult per day will be allowed; there will be no Flour, Raisins, Peas, Suet or Vinegar, during the issue of Fresh Meat. 1 lb. of Fresh Potatoes may be substituted for ¼ lb. Preserved Potatoes.”

Third class passengers were given rations and they were expected to prepare their own meals. They were allowed to cook their meal in the galley. The cook supplied hot water for tea, coffee, or drinking purposes.

Thames City 1858

The clipper ship, Thames City, carried 118 Sappers (Royal Engineers), 31 women and 34 children on board. The Thames City had a better voyage (no mutinies and no one in irons) but it was still arduous. This group of Royal Engineers and their families left England on October 10, 1858 and arrived in Esquimalt via Cape Horn on April 12, 1859 after a voyage lasting 187 days. They formed a band and held plays on board. They also brought with them a printing press used to produce a weekly publication, “The Emigrant Soldier’s Gazette and Cape Horn Chronicle” read aloud each Saturday evening.

The final edition of the Gazette included a “Farewell Ditty” that described conditions on board:

Farewell thick biscuits and thin pea soup,
Farewell the suet, grog, and junk,
One was weak, the other stunk.
Farewell to the hen coop, and lonely duck,
Farewell to Longboat Square and muck,
Farewell to Laundry Lane and Galleys,
We’ll cook our grub in glades and valleys…

Farewell to hammocks, farewell to the clews,
Farewell to the would-be Irish stews,
Farewell to the cockroaches and thieving cats,
And a long farewell to those horrible rats.


Note: a “gill” (pronounced jill) is a quarter of a pint. See my post on grog (a mixture of rum and water). “Junk” refers to salt beef or meat. “Clews” are the cords by which hammocks are suspended.

Cariboo Miner remembers Quesnel Forks at Christmas

It took six days by horseback to get to Quesnel Forks from Lillooet. The town of Quesnel Forks, located where the Cariboo River meets the Quesnel River,  was laid out by the Royal Engineers in 1861. Quesnel Forks was known then as Quesnelle Forks or “the Forks”. It was a supply centre for the many camps in the area including the large camp at Antler Creek.

Quesnel Forks saw some famous people include William “Dutch Bill” Dietz, (Williams Creek is named for him), W. R. “Doc” Keithley of Keithley Creek and Antler Creek fame, Billy Barker of Barkerville, John Rose, and James May.

Andrew Jackson Abbott and T. S. Handley ran a restaurant and hotel in Quesnel Forks. A Cariboo miner recalled Abbott’s restaurant at Christmas:

“It was a small one room wooden shack. The furniture was all homemade…In the centre of the restaurant was a six-legged table constructed of whip-sawn pine…The culinary utensils were few and far between, but a roaring fire blazed on the hearth and made us feel happy.

Pork and beans was our chief dish, but not our only one; for we had some frozen beef, boiled, roasted, stewed and fried. The boiling pieces were knocked off with an axe, as were those intended for the stew pan, but the steaks were cut with a saw. [The meat was so frozen ] that we could scarcely tell whether we were working through bones or flesh until the frost thawed out. Then we had plum duff without the plums; plainduff we called it. Next came slapjacks or pancakes, tea and coffee, whisky hot and whisky cold, brandy neat and two tins of sardines…

The chairman of the evening was friend Mike Brown… seated on an empty biscuit box supported by a nail keg…The cook of the pork and beans was complimented by the fellow who looked after the slapjacks, who in turn, had a good word to say for the plainduff man. Then Tom Barry put in a claim for his whisky hot, which was duly acknowledged by the boss of the stew and all the rest of us…

1861 Christmas at the Abbott Hotel and Restaurant in Quesnel Forks – one big table