Thursday, February 11, 2016

Who is responsible?


As parents, responsible parents at least we try to teach our children values that will result in their realizing sustainable development, longevity, productivity and happiness. A study of history, even a short history of perhaps half a lifetime will show that a moral approach to life is the most promising way to achieve those goals. More extensive study of generations, eras or eons will show that those following such teachings constantly enjoy better long term results than those who are cheating, lying, stealing, and generally destroying.
So is that what we, as a society, do? Do we support those who espouse morality, truth, brotherly love and charity?
No, not in any significant way.
Oh sure, a few of us get together because we are embarrassed by a general response and we see that someone who has made significant contributions to our community receive at least some recognition. We all know of someone who has given unselfishly of themselves by volunteering, raising foster kids, and generally stressing their own well-being for the betterment of others. These efforts are recognized by an article in the local newspaper or perhaps on a blog like this one that a few people take time to read.
Why is so much accomplished through volunteer efforts? Why is there no money for decent military pensions? What about the workers out there, the equipment operators, warehousemen, computer techs, nurses, why don’t they receive livable pensions on retirement?
The news media has also upset me more than once. Too often I see coverage of killers, rapist, terrorist, and other slightly less despicable low-lifes continued on for hours, days or weeks when all they deserve is a nameless mention in order to warm other potential victims. The lives of the victims, who should be made into societal heroes are the ones not mentioned.
I could continue in this vein but I’m getting depressed ….
The answer to all those questions is that we throw money at many things, places and people that don’t deserve it and didn’t earn it. Some one has done little (or anything) productive is whining and complaining that “life isn’t fair” so we throw money at them – which they don’t fully appreciate and eventually want more.
So now we come to why I write the stories that I do.
Sure the primary reason is because I enjoy it, but I also enjoy having the “good guys” win. The characters sometimes do things that can be called questionable, but on the whole they are trying to do the “right” thing and because of that they defeat their opponents who often don’t care about right or wrong.
I find it comforting and entertaining when the people who should win do. I hope it relieves stress for readers.
Yes, it isn’t just the media, bureaucracy, or government that is responsible.
We all are including this writer of historical fiction despite my intentions.


Monday, January 25, 2016

MURPHY'S OTHER 15 LAWS

MURPHY'S OTHER 15 LAWS

1. Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

2. A fine is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well.

3. He who laughs last, thinks slowest.


4. A day without sunshine is like, well, night.

5. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

6. Those who live by the sword get shot by those who don't.

7. Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

8. The 50-50-90 rule: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there's a 90% probability you'll get it wrong.

9. It is said that if you line up all the cars in the world end-to-end, someone from
California would be stupid enough to try to pass them.

10. If the shoe fits, get another one just like it.

11. The things that come to those who wait, may be the things left by those who got there first.

12. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will sit in a boat all day drinking beer.

13. Flashlight: A case for holding dead batteries.

14. God gave you toes as a device for finding furniture in the dark.

15. When you go into court, you are putting yourself in the hands of twelve people, who weren't smart enough to get out of jury duty.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Duels In Canada

Duels in Canada – a short and very incomplete history.
A set of dueling pistols made in about 1823

There was a time in Canada when duels were not uncommon. Various military bodies were ordered to the land to establish “sovereignty” – in “New France” and later in “British North America” – and actual or imagined slights could lead to duels with sword or pistol. Members of fur brigades fought duels among themselves or with members of competing brigades using either knife or pistol, again for little reason or for control of a given fur-bearing area.
Sometimes there was something approaching a reason for these duels such as future power or money or continued freedom. On most occasions the “reason” was no more important than the outcome of a grade school soccer match.
Some several months ago I wrote and posted that the last recorded duel held in Canada took place in Ontario in 1833 thirty four years before there was a Canada or a province of Ontario. I have since learned that another instance – of some 300 in a time frame spanning 300 years - holds the distinction of being the last fatal, recorded duel.

The particulars of this second last duel are as follows.

The participants were Robert Lyon and John Wilson accompanied by their respective seconds, Henri Lelievre (probably Lel-ee-vray) and Simon Robertson respectively. The focus of the confrontation was a school teacher Elizabeth Hughes.
Robert Lyon was born in Inverurie, Scotland on December 30, 1812. Along with his family he moved to Canada in 1829.
John Wilson was born February 5, 1807 in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland and came to “the colonies” with his family in Perth, Upper Canada about 1823. In 1833 he was studying law under James Boulton.
In early June of 1833 Lyon, also a law student, made disparaging remarks about Elizabeth Hughes. John Wilson heard these remarks and, since he had begun a relationship with the young school teacher, demanded that Lyon retract the remarks which at the instant he did.
Most of us are aware how the passage of a few minutes which then become hours can change the view one might have of events. Apparently this happened with Robert Lyon for, at the urging of a “friend” Henri Lelievre, he challenged Wilson. Due to an ordinance which had recently been passed in one county they arranged for the duel to take place across the Tay River in another jurisdiction.
It was June 13, 1833. The two combatants paced off the distance, turned and fired. Both missed.

Everyone is satisfied, right?

No, not for Lelievre. He insisted that satisfaction had not been achieved and demanded a reload; the pistols where recharged and re-primed.
When they where fired this time Lyon fell. He was rowed back across the river to Perth where he died a short time later.
 Wilson and his second, Simon Robertson where arrested by the Sheriff and tried in Brockville for murder … and acquitted.
 Robert Lyon, Dec. 30, 1812  June 13, 1833.
 John Wilson, Feb. 5, 1807  June 3, 1869.

The last duel took place five years later on May 2, 1838 in what was then Lower Canada in Verdun a suburb of Montreal. Again, the attentions toward a woman became the stated reason. Major Henry Warde of the First Regiment of Foot (the “Royals” of the British “regular” army) sent a letter to a female member of the household of lawyer and Canadian militia Colonel Robert Sweeney. We don’t know at this late date, with any assurance at least, who the expectant recipient of the letter was to be but upon interception Sweeney took extreme exception and challenged Warde.
When the black powder smoke cleared Major Warde was down. He was carried to a local tavern but soon died.
During the subsequent inquest and trial it was determined that Warde died due to “a gunshot wound administered by persons unknown”. The shooter was in the court and known to all but no one apparently had witnessed the duel despite the large crowd that had been in attendance. With the identity of the shooter unknown to the court, Sweeney went free.
In 1844 at the insistence of Queen Victoria British Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel managed changes to the Articles of War which removed any semblance of support for dueling and initiated penalties not only for dueling but for suborning or acting as second in a duel.

So this, I believe is the last official duel but not the last gun battle. There seems to be one every few months, usually in an urban area between gang members or with one of the police forces involved.
Most of the gun battles within the confines of Canada, at least those recorded in the late 1800s where between groups with several shooters on each side. Some of the confrontations were exaggerated with the telling and some became, "oh, nothing worth talking about."
One that was not exaggerated was the one in the Cypress Hills between wolfers and buffalo hunters opposing a group of M├ętis and Assiniboine. This battle helped to speed up the deployment of the North West Mounted Police in Western Canada. It also served as the climax for a great historical novel (and movie) by Guy Vanderhaeghe, “The Englishman’s Boy.”
By the way, any idea why the British police are referred to as “Bobbies” or “Peelers”?





Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Tools NOT in my novels!

Tools not mentioned in my novels? Well, there are some tools needed to change the cylinders in some weapons in "Partners" but they are not actually mentioned.
What I'm referring to is two earlier posts where I mention some of the firearms (tools) but I found this, an email that someone sent me some time ago and I found to be quite humorous.
Enjoy!
  
Tools Explained
DRILL PRESS: A tall upright machine useful for suddenly snatching flat metal bar stock out of your hands so that it smacks you in the chest and flings your beer across the room, denting the freshly-painted project which you had carefully set in the corner where nothing could get to it.
WIRE WHEEL: Cleans paint off bolts and then throws them somewhere under the workbench with the speed of light. Also removes fingerprints and hard-earned calluses from fingers in about the time it takes you to say, 'Oh sh--!'
SKIL SAW: A portable cutting tool used to make studs too short.

 
PLIERS: Used to round off bolt heads. Sometimes used in the creation of blood-blisters.
BELT SANDER: An electric sanding tool commonly used to convert minor touch-up jobs into major refinishing jobs.
HACKSAW: One of a family of cutting tools built on the Ouija board principle... It transforms human energy into a crooked, unpredictable motion, and the more you attempt to influence its course, the more dismal your future becomes.
VISE-GRIPS: Generally used after pliers to completely round off bolt heads. If nothing else is available, they can also be used to transfer intense welding heat to the palm of your hand.
OXYACETYLENE TORCH: Used almost entirely for lighting various flammable objects in your shop on fire. Also handy for igniting the grease inside the wheel hub out of which you want to remove a bearing race.
TABLE SAW: A large stationary power tool commonly used to launch wood projectiles for testing wall integrity.
HYDRAULIC FLOOR JACK: Used for lowering an automobile to the ground after you have installed your new brake shoes , trapping the jack handle firmly under the bumper.
BAND SAW: A large stationary power saw primarily used by most shops to cut good aluminum sheet into smaller pieces that more easily fit into the trash can after you cut on the inside of the line instead of the outside edge.
TWO-TON ENGINE HOIST: A tool for testing the maximum tensile strength of everything you forgot to disconnect.
PHILLIPS SCREWDRIVER: Normally used to stab the vacuum seals under lids or for opening old-style paper-and-tin oil cans and splashing oil on your shirt; but can also be used, as the name implies, to strip out Phillips screw heads.
STRAIGHT SCREWDRIVER: A tool for opening paint cans. Sometimes used to convert common slotted screws into non-removable screws and butchering your palms.
PRY BAR: A tool used to crumple the metal surrounding that clip or bracket you needed to remove in order to replace a 50 cent part.
HOSE CUTTER: A tool used to make hoses too short.
HAMMER: Originally employed as a weapon of war, the hammer nowadays is used as a kind of divining rod to locate the most expensive parts adjacent the object we are trying to hit.
UTILITY KNIFE: Used to open and slice through the contents of cardboard cartons delivered to your front door; works particularly well on contents such as seats, vinyl records, liquids in plastic bottles, collector magazines, refund checks, and rubber or plastic parts. Especially useful for slicing work clothes, but only while in use.
SON-OF-A-BITCH TOOL: (A personal favorite!) Any handy tool that you grab and throw across the garage while yelling 'SON-OF-A-BITCH!' at the top of your lungs. It is also, most often, the next tool that you will need.
Hope you found this informative.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

A snippet from the Battle of Britain

I met him in 1974 and we became good friends. He played guitar and sang in a weekend band I was part of and we spent many Sunday mornings punching holes in pieces of paper from a variety of distances. The following story is one he related but I've changed all the names, including his. He was either 20 or 21 when this happened and older by a year or two than those in his "wing" including the Lieutenant, or as his would have said at that time and place "Leftenant."
He walked away from flying in 1945 but, seeing the new versions of the "Great Lakes" byplane in the 1970s he worked at attaining his licence and took a solo flight in one before he passed away.

Deacon
Before men in planes with black crosses started shooting at him with 7.92 mm bullets Harry Burnside had been a singer. He stood in front of fifteen, twenty and sometimes thirty man orchestras and sang the Dorsey, Kenton, or Ellington songs or whatever else the crowd in front and the band behind wanted to hear. He had worked his magic in Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and his home town, Windsor, Ontario. Harry thought it was only right to use his natural talent, his voice to make at least part of his living. It had also been a great way to start a young life and learn the music and entertainment business from professionals. It was only incidental that it was the perfect place for a teenager to learn from the masters how to party.
Sometimes horrendous events are necessary to save a young man from himself. In Harry’s case it was the war in Europe that brought a young man’s party life to a close, at least temporarily. Of course it also accelerated the danger in that life.
Not that Harry rushed to a recruiting station in the autumn of 1939. Some of his young friends and even the older men he worked with certainly did. It was one of the older musicians who convinced him signing up for service was the thing to do.
“Folks ‘r sayin’ this here war is gonna be over in no time,” Marvin, a trumpet player said. “They is sorely mistaken. I bin readin’ up on these here Germans an’ they got ‘em an army. British ain’t got nothin’ an’ they’s gonna get whacked.”
“Are you suggesting we Canadian boys should go over there and get whacked, as you say, right along with them?” Harry asked.
“First off, I ain’t a Canuk, I’m a southern boy,” Marvin said. “Second, when things get tough they’ll be comin’ for us anyway. Might as well sign up for somethin’ you want t’ do instead o’ somethin’ the government thinks you’d be good at.”
“You’re country isn’t in it,” Harry pointed out.
“Not yet,” Marvin responded. “Now, you’ve been workin’ here an’ there along with singin’. I don’t got no income but my trumpet. A man signs up he’ll get three squares a day an’ a cot.”
Harry took a drink of his whiskey and water and cast his gaze around the musicians gathered in the late night or, to those who were not musicians, early morning booze hall.
“You know, Marv, I’ve always wanted to learn to fly a plan,” Harry said.
Marvin clapped him on the shoulder. “Now you’re talkin’, boy. Royal Canadian Air Force. What say we go sign up first thing in the mornin’?”
Harry looked at his watch. “Might I suggest early this afternoon? I might be awake by then.”

Somewhere between Windsor, Ontario and Ashford, Kent, Harry lost touch with Marvin, but not with men from the southern States. Almost half the men stationed on the airfield were Americans who had travelled north to Canada and signed on with the RCAF.
Though they wore Canadian uniforms and insignia they were technically in Royal Air Force squadrons. Their squadron commander was a British major, and Harry’s wing commander a Canadian Lieutenant. The other two Canadian pilots presently assigned to their understaffed wing were actually from Arkansas. In the two man barracks enjoyed by RAF pilots one of those southerners, Otis Tyler was Harry’s bunk mate.
“Ah hear we all getting’ new radios next month,” Otis said as the two pilots walked down the hall one early morning in late August.
Harry shrugged with one shoulder as he held the door open with the other hand and let Otis out into the humid dawn. “Be fine if they’re better than the T9. But if they aren’t, well, I’m starting to get used to being up there all by myself.”
“Mighty handy fur tellin’ somebody where you’s ‘bout t’ crash,” Otis noted.
“As long as they work and you’re no more than a mile away” Harry countered. “The T9 is good for about that far. You’re probably better off depending on a farmer seeing you go down.”
Otis chuckled.
As they approached the mess hall their wing leader, Lieutenant Mapes reached the door and opened it for them.
“Good news chaps,” the officer said as the two non-coms passed through the door he held open for them. “Just spoke with the CO. We stand down today.”
“Excellent!” Harry said. “Now I can have some real breakfast and more than one cup of coffee.”
“Yuh all worry too much ‘bout that coffee thing,” Otis said.
“Quite good policy,” the Lieutenant said.
“Nothin’ to it,” Otis responded. “Yuh all just take a cola bottle up with yuh.”
“I say, old boy, a bit hard to pee in a bottle when one is trying to avoid the 109 that is glued to your tail. Not to mention that bottle flying around loose in the cockpit.”
“Yuh all make sure yuh strap it in so it don’ fly ‘round,” Otis said. “As fur takin’ a leak when Gerry’s on muh tail an fillin’ my magic carpet full o’ holes, why ‘bout then I don’ have no trouble passin’ water.”
Lieutenant Mapes laughed. Harry grinned and shook his head in resignation.
“Since we aren’t going up to be shot at, perhaps we could talk about something else?” Harry suggested.
“Our Calm Colonial boy is right once again,” Mapes said. “We have a day to repair gear.”
“And talk about new radios,” Harry suggested.
“There isn’t anything to talk about,” Mapes said. “I’ve heard the same rumours as you men. However, I haven’t heard anything from the Old Man and I haven’t seen any radios. Other than the 9 in my Spit that quit working entirely the last time I was up.”

Later that day, Otis asked Harry to join him and some other airmen to study and review the local ladies and pubs. However, Harry had grown out of the need to wake up with a pounding hangover. He had already had years of partying. Besides, bringing in bullet scarred Spitfires had made the drinking bouts seem very unimportant. His mates, usually a year younger and sometimes more still asked him even though he seldom went with them.
An hour after the other pilots had gone into town Harry walked off the base and caught a ride into Ashford. He walked the streets for awhile admiring the buildings and the history.
Occasionally a Junkers 88 would fly across the English Channel very close to the water, start a steep climb to miss the Cliffs of Dover and release a bomb mounted to its belly at the end of that climb. The speed of the bomber combined with the force of the climb would cast that bomb for a very long way and it would land wherever the laws of physics, geology, and aerodynamics might decide and no man could say. On that beautiful day in late August, 1940 a building Harry had admired moments before and at that moment was no more than a block and a half away, disappeared in a cloud of dust, smoke and noise.
Harry Burnside had been flying over Britain for three months. He had been as far as France on a half dozen occasions. He had no idea how many dog fights he had been in but had shot down three Me 109s and crash landed twice. He had landed successfully in Spitfires that probably should have quit flying several minutes before. He had been scared out of his mind on those occasions but had worked his way through it.
That day, on the streets of Ashford, after the completely random bombing of a very historic building, Harry Burnside could not control the choking fear.
Looking around he saw the sign for a pub, the Anvil and Hammer. He stepped through the door and saw ale glasses stacked on the bar. He turned the pint glass over and said to the barman, “Whiskey.”
The barman could see by the look on Harry’s face that discussion might be dangerous. He poured a shot into the ale glass.
“Fill it,” Harry ordered.
The inn keeper complied.
Harry downed the whiskey and noticed only in passing that it was a smooth, single malt.
          He put the glass back down on the bar and said, “Again.”
          Once it was full, he downed the second glass.
          He remembered opening the door to his barrack, but very little after that.
          Much later Otis Tyler returned to find his bunk mate, the man who usually refused to go drinking with his mates, passed out on the floor.
          “Burnside,” he said, as he picked Harry up and placed him on the bunk, “yuh all just like them travelin’ preachers back t’ home; Preachin’ hell fire an’ brimstone then next thing yuh got some farmer’s daughter out behind the tent.”
          And that is how Sergeant Pilot Harold Burnside became known as “Deacon.”






Thursday, December 24, 2015

Finding the Cariboo Women, Installment 2

Finding the women who helped open the Cariboo Country has been difficult for one main reason; most of those involved, including the women, didn’t rate their efforts as being important. Personally I think that attitude is a mistake, but even as late as the mid 1950s the majority of women would say the same thing.
For those researching and writing about the nineteenth century information about the women is very difficult to find. It is necessary to cross-reference several sources such as census records, birth and marriage records, business licenses and newspaper accounts.
When information is discovered in one source the next can prove the first inaccurate. Census records, for example may not have been filled out by a household or if they were, (particularly in the case of prospectors or trappers) perhaps they left immediately after recording their presence. Many births were not recorded until many years after the event and sometimes not at all. When Mary Pioneer’s name appeared on a mining claim was that because she worked the claim (sometimes the case) or was it because her husband Sam Pioneer wanted a claim twice the size of what he was allowed under his own name?(often the case).  Many women had their names on mining licenses and some, such as Margaret Cusheon and Eliza Ord actively worked a claim.
Records from newspapers require particular mention and attention. Richard Wright (writer of the previously mentioned “Barkerville and Cariboo Goldfields”) mentions two excerpts/quotes from the Cariboo Sentinel; from June 18, 1866, “Birth, at Barkerville, 15 inst., wife of William A. Meacham, a son.” and from Nov. 27, 1869, “Mr. Fick, proprietor of the New England Bakery has returned with his wife.” Perhaps the Sentinel was keeping up with local news but definitely short on information.
Richard Wright is responsible for much of what I’m about to quote here. I have some of the numbers from other sources such as the Barkerville archives (marvelous resource) but a couple I have found in no other location.
Wright has, for example compiled the names of 400 women who appeared in the Cariboo between 1862 and 1882. He also assures us that during the first full summer of mining along Williams Creek, 1862, nine prostitutes patrolled the canyon and women opened saloons, boarding houses and restaurants.
Here is a list of residents that comes directly from a count made in the spring of 1869. Keep in mind that this is after the Great Fire (Sept. 16, 1868) and before everyone had arrived for “the season”.
919 white males
69 white females
720 Chinese males
6 Chinese females
27 “colored” males
4 “colored” females

The first time I saw this list two things surprised me. I didn’t think there would be that many Chinese females since very few (perhaps 1 in 500 males) came to North America (or the “Shining Mountain”) in those years. Second, considering the number of free African-Americans who came to BC from California I would have thought 10 or 12 “colored” females would have been more likely.
One of those four women was Rebecca Gibbs who operated a laundry in Cameronton and who had arrived on Williams Creek by herself. With such a separation in the numbers of males and females (and undoubtedly due to her industry) she didn’t stay single.
With such a large difference in the numbers few women, unless they were particularly unsavory stayed single for long. Jennifer Morris came to Cariboo with her husband and they ran a general merchandise until he died. The Victorian “period of mourning” which was a year had barely passed when she became Mrs. Allan. Actually, through out her name changes she was well known and recorded as “Scotch Jennie” because she was famous for her administrations to the ill and injured. This was also true of prostitute Joanna Maguire who as a member of the oldest profession usually meant mention - only when necessary - by first name alone.
A small clue as to the class distinction that existed in the Cariboo in the 1860s; prostitutes and hurdy gurdy girls are known by their first names and businesswomen – including madams – are know by their lasts names.
Despite the presence of a doctor early on and more than one in the later part of the 1860s (and a hospital) illness was a continual problem in the mining towns of the Cariboo. In Barkerville and Cameronton, for example, those mine shafts which proved unproductive became toilets. The water which flowed down Williams Creek and under it also flowed through those old shafts. Typhoid and cholera were a continuing problem and one of the seven women who stayed over that first winter of 1862 – ’63 Sophia Cameron, (wife of John or Cariboo Cameron) died that winter. John’s promise to see she was buried at home (Eastern Canada) led to a two year long trip and contributed to several stories.
Those seven women from the winter of 1862 where;
Rosa Donnelly – miner’s wife
Anna Cameron – hotel keeper (Richard Cameron)
Elizabeth (Lizzy) Roddy (Anna Cameron’s sister, later Mrs. A.D. McInnes).
Sophia Cameron, wife of John Cameron (who, as mentioned, died that winter of typhoid.)
Mrs. Janet Allan (aka Scotch Jenny), merchants wife.
Mary Winnard (blacksmith William Winnard)
I was not aware of the seventh woman but R. Wright identifies her as an “unnamed French woman.”
Anna Cameron gave birth to the first child, Allan Richfield Cameron on October 26, 1862 in the Pioneer Hotel in Cameronton.
This last, the birth of a child is the type of information I’m looking for when I want background around which I can write my novel. This is a human event, as is the need for a hospital, food and some understanding of hygiene.
Although, considering the era, rudimentary understanding of germs (or more accurately non-existent) and wilderness conditions about all one could expect is some degree of cleanliness.
However, if we all keep a full set of records perhaps novelists a hundred years from now will be able to write fiction that can deliver a more enlightening understanding of today’s conditions and attitudes.
Remember, thousands came to the gold fields for gold but few found enough to be considered rich. Those that didn’t find riches left. Those few who did find riches most spent it and died broke. Of that small number who did find a gold an even smaller number held onto it long enough to put it to their own use but by that time they had left the Cariboo.

The women who followed the men did not, in most cases, leave their names. But they did, with their businesses and their children, build a country.
No, I have no idea who these women are but they are representative of the era.



Saturday, December 19, 2015

Finding the Cariboo women



“The Making of Jake McTavish” is the forth novel where bits of my imagination have escaped out into view of the general public.
I don’t believe any of those escapees will hurt anyone and hopefully they will be entertaining and even informative.
I know I’m tired of seeing how Western Canada’s police officers of the 19th century where all paragons of virtue and/or the “geeks” or “nerds” of that age. I’m sure (and research supports my idea) that they were men (in all cases that part is 100% true) with good and bad qualities who were looking for a regular place to bunk and, in later years, a small pension.
There have been a few writers who have tried to portray the pioneers of Western Canada as people with “warts and all”. Those that come to mind are Guy Vanderhaeghe and Bill Gallaher. Years ago I read some mountain man tales that included some mention of travel through those mountains that are now within Canada but much of what I read and view today about Canada’s pioneer days carries the danger of inciting diabetes due to the excessive sweetness.
The reason I was thinking of this was the research that I’m doing for another novel I’m working on. I may have mentioned in an earlier post that a few readers have contacted me through the connection on this blog and on the street asking what might have become of the five men who became partners in the novel “Partners”. With the intent of creating an answer to that question I’ve started a story that begins the spring after the events of “Partners” come to a close.
What I’m saying is that I really don’t have an answer to the question but will by the time I finish writing the story. One thing I want to happen is for at least four of the “Partners” to find mates. What I’ve written so far includes the marriage of one of the partners and his temporary move to Victoria. I also have lady friends for two more of the partners and was looking for more information of females of the time and era.
I decided, while writing the first few chapters of what I am, at this point, calling “Underbelly” that it would be good to include some information about the real people who worked and lived in Barkerville back in the late 1860s.
For instance these facts from a few sources I’ve found about the first gold discoveries in BC.
The first indication of gold was through a collection made by Hudson’s Bay factors in the Colony of British Columbia who had accepted gold in payment for goods. The HBC did not encourage information on such trade to be made public since they expected (and were proven correct) that such information would interfere with their fur trade. However, after several trades the accumulated gold had to be reported and banked.
In a letter written by the Chief Factor for HBC, James Douglas on April 16,1856 he reported to the British Colonial Secretary that “gold has been discovered on the Upper Columbia.”
On December 28, 1857 Chief Factor Douglas issued a proclamation instituting a system of licenses for prospectors at a fee of 10 shillings or 5 US dollars.
On July 1, 1858 Factor Douglas, after 37 years with the HBC became an employee of the British government and Governor of both the Colony of British Columbia and the Colony of Vancouver Island. He exercised his management duties primarily from Fort Victoria but did make a few trips to Fort Langley.
Through out 1858 and ’59 both colonial capitals, Victoria and Langley grew. Victoria from a relatively stable population of around 600 to an estimate (but violently fluctuation according to season) of five or six thousand to a winter low of around 2000. Fort Langley also grew but not as large and unlike Victoria the town of Langley was not on the site of the original trading post.
The big finds on Williams Creek (named after “Dutch Bill” or William Dietz), the location of Barkerville did not take place until 1862 and only after several other discoveries. First, the thousands of gold seekers who descended on the colonies panned the sand bars of the Fraser River where the gold proved to be very fine and hard to separate from the gravel. By the fall (end of season) of 1860 they where working the tributaries of the Quesnelle River such as Keithley, Harvey and Cunningham Creeks (named after men who found gold on the creeks). In the spring of 1861 there were 1200 men on Antler Creek. Also in the spring of 1861 was when Williams Creek was discovered five men traveling the country together.
The day the partners discovered the gold each of the five was successful in their efforts. Dutch Bill however retrieved the most with an average of $1.25 per pan. It is because of his larger return that the creek is named for him. Despite the actual discover in 1861 the five claims where not registered until March 22, 1862.
During that first winter there were only 90 men and 7 women who stayed on the creek for the winter. By the time the first claims were registered however there where thousands on the trails to the Cariboo Country and to Williams Creek. By the fall of 1862 several “towns” had been formed and many had disappeared. Horsefly Landing, Likely, and Quesnelle are still around from that era but up on Williams Creek those that still exist (thanks to great efforts by many volunteers) are Richfield and Barkerville.
In 1862 Billy Barker (“English Bill”) after chasing the elusive yellow metal for 16 years took on eight partners. On August 17, 1862 they found the lead and took 124 ounces from their shaft in 10 hours.
Now, what I was originally looking for was some of the actual people who developed Williams Creek, Barkerville, Richfield, Cameronton and Marysville. I’m particularly interested in are the women but they are very hard to find since few recorded any information about them.
With the help of several writers and researchers, most notably R.T. Wright and his book, “Barkerville and the Cariboo Goldfields” I’ve found info on some of those women. I’ll get to that in my next posting.