Tag Archives: Hudson’s Bay Company

Amor de Cosmos: gold rush publisher and politician

Amor de Cosmos

Amor de Cosmos

Amor de Cosmos was one of the most influential people of the Fraser River gold rush.

Born in Windsor, Nova Scotia on August 20, 1825, Amor de Cosmos changed his name from William Alexander Smith years later while living in California. Cosmos came to Victoria as soon as the Fraser River gold rush began in 1858.

At that time, there was only a pro-government publication located on the Hudson’s Bay Company Fort grounds called the Victoria Gazette, later known as the Daily Victoria Gazette, run by two publishers from California.

Cosmos started the British Colonist in December 1858 “to be published every Saturday.”

We intend…to make the “British Colonist” an independent paper, the organ of no clique nor party – a true index of public opinion.

Cosmos was very clear on his opinions and was critical of Governor Douglas’ administration and referred to the competing interests of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s dominance over Victoria as “exclusive”, “anti-British” and “belonging to a past age.” It wasn’t long before the opinions of the British Colonist gained interested readers. Six months later, the British Colonist was being printed three times a week.

Cosmos sold the newspaper to David Higgins in 1863 and campaigned unsuccessfully for a seat in the Legislature of Vancouver Island. Afterward, Cosmos lead the Confederation League which saw British Columbia become a province of the Dominion of Canada in 1871.

Cosmos served as the second premier of British Columbia from December 1872 until February 1874, when he was ousted after trying to change the terms of union. He continued as a Member of Legislative Assembly for Victoria until 1882.

Cox’s gold rush in the Monashee Mountains

The gold rush on Cherry Creek in 1862 in the Monashee Mountains of British Columbia started as a result of a request to find a route through the mountains. It was probably the only one promoted by a gold commissioner.

Early in 1862, W. George Cox was instructed to find out if there were any routes through the mountains between the Okanagan and the Columbia valleys. The purpose was to find an all British route to the gold diggings on the eastern part of the colony.

Spruce Grove
Cox followed Douglas’ instructions and in July 1862 he went to the northern end of Okanagan Lake where there was an Indian community that the Okanagan’s called Nkama’peleks which means  “Head of the Lake”. When the early French Canadian fur traders arrived at Nkama’peleks they discovered a cluster of spruce trees near Tsin-th-le-kap-a-lax (Cayote) Creek, known as Irish Creek. To the fur traders the presence of spruce trees at this low elevation was very unusual and for this reason they called the place Taillis or Talle d’Epinette’s a name which translates into English as Spruce Grove.

In his report to Young, Cox states that he left “Talle d’Epinette’s” on July 17th for the purpose of exploring the road to the Columbia River. He had engaged two Okanagan Indians from Nkama’peleks as his guides and each guide brought one of his sons along. Cox wrote that these men were the only people in the country familiar with the route and their last trip to the Arrow Lakes was made three years earlier.

Highway 6 follows the trail
Between Vernon and Lumby, Highway 6 follows the same path of the old Indian trail as it does from Lumby to the old bridge site, below Shuswap Falls on the Shuswap River. On the left hand side of the map, Cox identified the “Head of Okanagan Lake” and three trails starting at or near the Lake, all of which pass through Vernon. All three trails combined to form a single trail just before crossing Coldstream Creek.

From Vernon to Lumby, Cox noted that the trail passed through “a rich fertile valley.” At Lumby, he indicated that a large swampy area covered the land to the hills in the south and up into the lower reaches of Creighton Valley. From Lumby to Shuswap Falls the trail passed along the north side of Rawlings Lake. Cox states that the standing and fallen timber east of Lumby made traveling difficult and in places the trail was “completely obliterated”.

William Peon finds gold
From his Indian guides, Cox learned that a former Hudson’s Bay Company fur trader named William Peon had discovered gold in 1859 near the northwest shore of Sugar Lake. William Peon was the guide for Father Pandosy and his group of settlers when they walked into the Okanagan from Colville, Washington in the fall of 1859.

Cox put his hand into the bank at Cherry Creek (also known Monashee Creek) and noted that “…fine scale gold was visible amongst the sand that I took out.” In his report he states that he took four handfuls of sand from the creek and washed it in his frying pan. He enclosed the gold dust from his washing with his map and covering letter to the Colonial Secretary.

On his return trip to Rock Creek as gold commissioner, Cox told some miners of his discovery. These miners immediately left for Cherry Creek, named after the wild choke cherries that grew along the banks of the creek. This news sparked a gold rush on Cherry Creek.

Early Log Buildings of the BC gold rush

log cabin

a gold miner’s log cabin

From the 1820s to 1860s, the most common form of log construction in British Columbia was the “pièce sur pièce” style which the Hudson’s Bay Company used. All the HBC forts were constructed in this way. Considering the vast area controlled by the HBC, it helps to explain how the pièce sur pièce method was largely spread throughout the west.

Prior to the Fraser River gold rush, the first St. Ann’s schoolhouse, built in the mid-1840s, and the John S. Helmcken House, built in 1852, were both constructed in this style and covered with shingle siding to add a veneer of “refinement.”

The pièce sur pièce style also influenced the construction of roadhouses in the Cariboo during the gold rush. First nation pit houses with their sod roof design was another influence. Sod roofs were characteristic of Cariboo log buildings and served to keep out heat in the summer and prevent heat loss in the winter. The roofs were gently pitched to avoid erosion. Examples of sod-roofed buildings can be found at Hat Creek Ranch Historic Site, including a root cellar and two poultry houses, built during the 1860s.

The log buildings constructed by early settlers can be further divided into “permanent” and “temporary” structures. Permanent log buildings often have squared logs with tight-fitting dovetailed or lap-jointed corners, while temporary log structures often have round logs with simple saddle-notched corners.

Donovan Clemson’s book Living with Logs: British Columbia’s Log Buildings and Rail Fences (1974) remains the only published source entirely devoted to the subject.

Homes built by Chinese gold miners used a combination of construction styles. The Chee Kung Tong building in Barkerville, consists of a central frame building with two later log additions. Both log additions have round logs with squared dovetailed corners, a feature shared by a number of other log buildings in Barkerville.