Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Petroleum Production and Building a Future

I had intended my next post, this one, to be more information on the Cariboo Road and how its construction sped up further development of British Columbia and I will do that soon. However, another subject has raised its head and demands a statement from everyone who believes in development of both homo sapiens and where they live.
For several years now I’ve been listening to reports that paint the petroleum production industry as being evil or at the least a “bad boy.” Since there is no evidence to support this attitude, only words from those looking to increase their own importance I have tended to be only saddened or sometimes disgusted by such rhetoric. However, listening to a CBC interview with an NDP person (perhaps he was in Bella Bella?) I found myself getting extremely angry.
There seems to be a belief in some circles that global warming has been accepted by all.
It hasn’t been!
I believe that perhaps 40% of Canadians have accepted the apocalyptic idea that is being presented. Another 30% do not believe there is ANY global warming but do believe it is all a scam to increase the importance of undeserving people and a method of extracting more money from over taxed citizens. The remaining 30%, including myself, believe that there may be some truth to a problem with our atmosphere created by those on the planet but it has been blown way out of proportion.
Do we need to make changes in our methods of creating power and production? I believe so and we have been doing a great job of that with the improvements in alternative power for automobiles and in the efficiency of solar panels. I believe we should have tens of thousands more wind farms and tide power generation and we will.
However, to transport goods across this extensive land mass we call North America we WILL be using petroleum products for the next 30 years and in a somewhat reduced capacity for the next 30 years after that. It can not be avoided.
We have nothing that is both more economical and cleaner burning than natural gas. Why have we not already started piping it to customers and loading facilities? It is the best if not at this point the ONLY solution for world improvement.
Yes, the prices of crude oil have been too high. However that is the product of world demand and stock markets and even 100 million electric cars will have little effect on that price.
If you have billions of dollars to work the various stock market prices of crude oil perhaps you can bring the price of a barrel of crude down to under $40. However, that won’t have more than a few cents effect on the price of a liter of gasoline. It will also put some production companies out of business.
Besides, those with billions usually want more billions and thus reducing the price of crude is counter-productive for them.
Is it better to support that high price by buying crude from the middle east (which we do) or would it be better to supply Canada (and North America) with our own oil, which we can do for decades to come?
Crude is dirty? Compared to what? True, the refinement of crude creates more air quality questions than the development of natural gas but it is far cleaner, both for production and use than is coal. The production of an automobile creates more environmental problems than does the extraction, refinement and use of the gas that car will burn during the next 5 years.
We don’t want oil tankers on the west coast? Who doesn’t? I sure do and I believe there are 10 million Canadians who, if they had TRUE information would also want them. Besides, those tankers are out there right now; they are just delivering to us instead of buying from us.
It is time to start BUILDING this country instead of doing our best to destroy it.
Dave McGowan

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Cariboo Wagon Road

With the small gold discovery on the west coast of Moresby Island in 1850 the man who was the Chief Factor for the Hudson’s Bay Company, James Douglas knew that preparations should be made for a serious invasion of “non-British.” By the time that invasion actually took place, in 1858 he had made some preparations and had been the HBC governor of their Colony of Vancouver Island for seven years. When the British government took over the colony they appointed Douglas the first Governor of the Crown Colony of Vancouver Island.
With information from earlier gold rushes (California, Australia and South Africa) Douglas implemented control measures for security and artfully disguised taxes to fund infrastructure. Those expecting to register a gold claim were required to report to Victoria to acquire a mining license for five pounds or ten dollars. Then in 1857 he learned that American miners where already working the Thompson River. In the early weeks of 1858 Douglas had Captain James Prevost of the Boundary Commission station his gunboat in the mouth of the Fraser to issue and collect such licenses. Earlier in ’57 he had sent for policemen and magistrates to maintain security and implement import duties.
As a result of his pre-planning funding for the rapid expansion of facilities was not long in being implemented although it never did catch up to actual expenditures. Those who wished to convert their gold to cash or take gold out of the colony where required to pay a royalty. Gold Commissioners in every area of gold discovery kept records of finds, claims and their owners, production and conversion. When drovers began bringing livestock into the colonies (originally Vancouver Island and British Columbia and later amalgamated into one colony) there was a charge of a dollar a head. The law was written in such a way that ten years later, after Douglas had returned to Scotland, those taking livestock out of the colony to the US or Alberta also had to pay a dollar a head.
The point is there was some money in the government coffers.
The first year, 1858, 25,000 miners worked the banks and bars of the Fraser. Because the gold was so fine (a few large nuggets were found but it was mostly dust), because security was so strict (enforced by Royal Marines and Royal Engineers that year) many miners decided to try their luck in Colorado or Montana. The Fraser Valley War which cost the lives of at least 28 miners and several natives was also not helpful in attracting return visits.
Those who did return wanted to go inland looking for the more course gold or the “mother lode.” Due to the terrain and the lack of horses or mules this exploration was accomplished by walking and carrying a pack. If the colony was going to grow and find the gold that was surely there a road must be built. If the merchants (and by 1859 there where many) in Victoria and the new town of New Westminster expected to sell their wares they needed to get them to the customer and thus a road was required. If settlement was to be established, which was the long term goal of the British Colonial Office, road construction must begin.
The first civil engineer for the colony was Walter Moberly. He suggested a route that was eventually used but Governor Douglas insisted the lower portions should make use of existing waterways.

Walter Moberly in later life

So what do you do when the boss ignores your arguments?
For the first few years the route to the interior was north from the Fraser at Harrison Lake to Port Douglas.Off the river boat and take the trail along the east of the lake to “29 Mile House” where a river boat was supposed to take you to Port Pemberton. From there another road led to Port Anderson where another boat would ferry you to the east end of Lake Anderson and Lilooet.
As the colonies civil engineer had expected, this route proved to be a problem in many areas and particularly between 29 Mile House and Port Pemberton which is actually two lakes of different levels. Attempts to change the water levels didn’t work for very long.
In 1861 Walter Moberly formed a partnership with Charles Oppenheimer and T.B. Lewis, merchants with business in Lytton and Yale. This partnership controlled the financing and the distribution of contractors over various assigned sections. Construction began in 1862 and the road went into Williams Creek in 1864 using the north end of the old “Overland” trail from 1859. The following year (1865) the new section from Soda Creek to the present site of Quesnelle and east to Barkerville was completed. This was similar to today’s highway except the road turned south at Van Winkle (don’t bother looking for it, the town is long gone.) then east and north through Richfield into Barkerville. The section through Devil’s Canyon and into Wells from the North West wasn’t done until much later, I believe in the 1880s.
A BC Express ("The BX") stage on the Cariboo Road on a dry day

A wagon train on the Cariboo Road

A famous view, since it was a postcard of the Cariboo Road and a freight wagon 

Completion of the Cariboo Wagon Road created a big change for everyone in the colony. For the miner along Williams Creek a pair of rubber boots carried in on someone’s back would cost him $75.00 in 1864 and he might not get them until the following year. Most removed their boots and panned the ice cold streams in bare feet. A year later in 1865 there was freight arriving every week or two and those same rubber boots where priced at $25.00. By 1870 freight arrived almost every day and the boots were $9.00.
(Keep in mind that the relative worth of $9.00 is about $160.00 in today’s cash)
The merchants were all happy with the opening of the road. Those at the various gold fields could get items faster and cheaper. Those distributing from New Westminster or Hope could send more items faster and with less damage.
The government also achieved their primary goals and established new traditions. They had more people going into the interior taking more minerals and paying for the privilege. They had many more settlers established, the first building roadhouses to serve travelers, settlement being the long term goal. They also established a long standing tradition of not paying the full price as had been agreed in the initial contracts. According to Walter Moberly’s writings his partners broke even on their efforts to establish the road but he took the brunt of the over cost which took him eight years to pay.  Oppenheimer and Lewis might not have done so well had they not stayed the coarse and collected tolls once the road was open.
Wright's Ranch at 127 Mile House

Deep Creek 161 Mile House

As for gold production that is still going on in BC. There are several companies taking minerals of all description from BC Mountains. There is even a relatively new company, Barkerville Mining Ltd. that is trading at about .35¢.
Mr. & Mrs. John Bowron

John Bowron was one of the “Overlanders” who walked to the Cariboo from Upper Canada (Ontario) in 1862. His group traveled by rail, river boat and on foot to Fort Garry (Winnipeg) then walked west through Fort Edmonton, the Yellowhead Pass and by raft on the Fraser or Thompson. He prospected and panned several creeks in and around Barkerville and became the BC Gold Commissioner for the area in the early 1870s. He estimated in 1895, supported by existing records that $19.5 million had been extracted from Williams Creek alone. The buying power of that in 2015 would be about $520 billion.
For a very comprehensive study of the Cariboo gold rushes look for “Barkerville and the Cariboo Goldfields” by Richard Thomas Wright.
For a novelized but extremely well researched coverage of the “Overlanders” check out Bill Gallaher’s “The Journey: The Overlanders’ Quest for Gold.”

Sunday, March 20, 2016

NW Mounted Police or BC Provincial Post Fort St. John

The Old Fort Jail
            From the first week of June through September of 1964 I worked on the “Penalty Ranch” which was owned by an excellent horse trainer and rodeo bronk rider by the name of René Dhenin. He had called it the “Penalty” since that was what was offered if you dropped paper or garbage on the ground or left a gate open. The penalty, stipulated by René would be something like cleaning out the horse barn, one of the calving barns or hoeing the garden.
            I did clean the horse barn that summer but not as a penalty. No one received any penalties that summer and being the new hand ----
            The ranch was (is) located on the south bank of the Peace River and south of Fort St. John, BC. The city is now on the high ground a few miles from the river but the Hudson’s Bay trading post of that name, built in 1858 is on the north bank of the river across from the ranch. There were several other trading posts and supply sites along the river, the first being Alexander Mackenzie’s “Rocky Mountain Fort” upriver from the mouth of the Pine River but called the Sinew River at the time (1794).
            There is argument about the location of Rocky Mountain Fort but I’m going with Lloyd Cushway’s research presented in “River of Controversy”. Not only does it make sense but I’ve seen some of the things he mentions in his book during my own limited travels.

 This is a picture of the "Old" Fort St. John started by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1858 on the North bank of the Peace from 1875. This is the Fort mentioned in "The Making of Jake McTavish".
            There is also argument about the building of the police barracks at the old fort. René and John Brown both told me it was built by the North West Mounted Police in 1898. Many others state that it was built by two local men for the British Columbia Provincial Police when they began policing the region in 1910. In the early ‘60s someone who supported the BC Police version spray painted “1910” on the front of the old barracks/jail. This version is also displayed on the plaque in front of the copy of the barrack built for the Fort St. John museum. In my novel “The Making of Jake McTavish” I use the NWMP version.

This is the copy of the Police building built and displayed at the Fort. St. John museum. Where it sat on the Penalty Ranch the main door faced south with the back of the building/lean-to facing the trading post across the river. The addition facing us in this picture did not exist by 1964 but there was a porch across the length of the south side.

For those wondering about the veracity of the sources of my information René Dhenin came to the area in 1924 and John Brown in 1898. The NWMP have in their records the reports of Inspector Moodie and four officers looking for an overland route to the Klondike gold fields in 1897-‘98. They apparently spent November ‘97 building something on the south bank of the Peace, left one officer there and continued on to Fort Graham where they wintered. There are also records stating that the officer left in Fort St. John was relieved and replaced. That is the extent of my recorded and verbal information.
In other words, I don’t know but I do know that either version makes a good story.
René used the old jail for storage. During those four months in 1964 and while spending a few days or weeks on the ranch in subsequent years I was in the building many times.
On entering the front door there was an office type complex to the left. A hall way about three feet wide led off to the immediate right giving access to two jail cells separated and surrounded by log walls. Each cell was entered through a four inch thick plank door with a window about two feet square and barred by one inch steel rod set in between the two layers of two inch plank. The back of each cell had a small barred window the height (and width) of one of the logs or about eight inches.
Standing back at the door and facing the back of the office area there was a stair way leading up the back wall and starting at the far corner to the left. This stair led to a loft arrangement in front of the stair and to a bunk area above the two cells. An officer jumping out of one of those bunks in the morning would not want to stand up too fast or too straight for he would jamb his head into the roof.
The explanation on the plaque for the rebuilt jail at the Fort St. John museum situates the cells in the lean-to outside the building. Sorry, not so. The lean-to held firewood, tack for both horse and dog teams and any other storage. I have read somewhere of a murder victim’s corpse being returned (by the BC Police as I recall) and being stored in the woodshed during the winter’s cold. I can’t remember the location of that story and am not going to look it up right now.

Might cause quite a shock to a stranger being sent for an armload of wood.
When I was on the Penalty the jail sat in a sixty acre hay field about 400 yards from the river bank. Frank Beaton (son of the HBC factor for many years) said that during the heavy trading days in the spring the "Jail Field" would be covered with shelters of all types - tee pees and tents - with overflow onto the field to the south. The police building would be surrounded by this encampment.
Frank and his father are also mentioned in "The Making of Jake McTavish".
The "Old" Fort is situated on the North bank about where the "P" in Peace River is on this map. The Penalty Ranch buildings are west of the "C". The river entering SW of Taylor is the Pine or what was called the "Sinew River" in the early 1800s
This picture of the Catholic Mission at the Old Fort was probably taken in the 1960s

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Rocky Mountain Rangers of 1885

Today the Rocky Mountain Rangers are a reserve infantry regiment of the Canadian Army headquartered in Kamloops, BC. However, in 1885 the Rocky Mountain Rangers was a volunteer militia charged with ensuring the safety of the range between the Cypress Hills and the Rocky Mountains.
North of the Cypress Hills in that part of the Northwest Territories which is now Saskatchewan lived a few thousand Métis who were being ignored by government officials. The offspring of Hudson’s Bay Company and Northwest Company employees, primarily of French and Scottish ancestry who had lived with Cree, Ojibwa and Salteaux the Métis where those who actually made the fur trade work. After the Hudson’s Bay Company turned Rupert’s Land over to the new country of Canada and the fur trade became a very different business from what it had been the harsh life of the Métis became even rougher. At the same time the plains buffalo or Bison, the “prairie larder” had been virtually wiped out. They did not have a treaty such as the full blood peoples of the plains and had to eek out a living through methods they knew nothing about.
Those people with treaties where also not fairing very well. Dishonest Indian agents issued short rations or damaged goods and sometimes both. Primarily this was due to racism or ignorance on the part of government officials but it was also aggravated by the fact that the Federal Government didn’t have any money in their coffers. There are several instances recorded both officially and unofficially of the North West Mounted Police securing provisions for a starving community. It wasn’t their job but they where on the ground seeing the devastation.
Whatever the reason, in 1885 the Métis, led by Louis Riel (political leader) and Gabriel Dumont (military leader) demanded better. High handed and insulting responses from government agents (including NWMP officers) resulted in violence. In a very short time the Métis were joined by some Cree and Assiniboine. It has been called the Second Riel Rebellion, the Métis War and other names but in recent years it appears we have settled on the Northwest Rebellion.
There have been countless essays and books written on the subject with views from both sides and including far more details than will be found here. No one has reached a definitive understanding but it is apparent that several people died and both sides were wrong.
With many peoples represented in the rebel forces the white settlers, farmers and ranchers were afraid that the violence would spread. For most of the five month duration of hostilities it was feared the members of the Blackfoot Confederacy would join although that never happened due primarily to their treatment by the NWMP and the agents who served their locations. To heighten everyone’s fears a contingent of Mounted Police were sent to assist the Canadian soldiers in quelling the uprising thus reducing an already undermanned force.
To counter this threat the Rocky Mountain Rangers were formed, a militia made up of volunteers. They were primarily ranchers and cowboys with some of them being retired Mounted Policemen. The General Order creating them called for them to “guard the two hundred mile frontier between Lethbridge and the Cypress Hills; protect the cattle herds from thieves and rustlers; and act as a buffer to keep warlike American Indians from surging north to join their Canadian cousins.” There were 114 members led by a Major John Stewart. The members were to supply their own mounts, tack and sidearms but since this last resulted in a variety of questionable weapons Major Stewart arranged for the issuance of some NWMP rifles including a few of the obsolete single shot Snider-Enfield .577 and forty of the new 1876 .45-75 Winchesters. As for sidearms they might have anything as can be seen in the accompanying pictures.

Rocky Mountain Ranger Major John Stewart
with what appears to be a Smith & Wesson Model #3
Rocky Mountain Ranger Jack Clark 
w 1873 Winchester
RM Ranger Henry Boyle, brother of
Richard (Lord) Boyle who Captained one of the troops.

            Divided into three troops the Rangers patrolled their designated area. They had three major confrontations, border crossing Indians rustling horses near the Cypress Hills, outlaws near Medicine Hat and a rustler ring near High River.

 R M Ranger patrol near Medicine Hat
R M Ranger patrol in the Cypress Hills

            After three months service the Northwest Rebellion had been quelled and those NWM Policemen on war service had been returned to their original duties. The Rocky Mountain Rangers were ordered back to Fort Macleod and disbanded on July 17, 1885. Major Stewart arranged for them to receive the North West Canada Medal and they were eligible for 320 acres of homestead or eighty dollars.

For a more comprehensive study of the RM Rangers go to and look for The Cowboy Cavalry: The Story of the Rocky Mountain Rangers by Gordon E. Tolton 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Changing times, changing the image

Clarence E. Mulford created a character he named Bill (Hopalong) Cassidy and the first novel was released in 1906. I’ve read that Mulford’s idea was that his character had been injured in one of the many disasters that can change the life of a horse-bound farm laborer working around and on top of wild animals. The result of this accident was a broken leg set out on the land the other non-medical personnel present and resulting in a distinctive gate resulting in the nickname.
The character was very popular and 29 novels featuring Hopalong appeared between 1906 and 1941.
In 1935 a movie entitled “Hop-along Cassidy” and staring William Boyd in the title role was released. It was eventually re-released and re-titled as “Hopalong Cassidy Enters”. Thus the hyphenated nickname disappeared and the broken leg was now the result of damage from a gun-shot.

Over the years Hopalong’s outfits became fancier and cleaner. In the first movies he wore many of the trappings that a working cowhand would use but as time passed there was less worn leather and more silver showing. By the early ‘40s Boyd had developed the Hopalong Cassidy “brand” that was black, white and silver mounted.

 On the left is Mulford's vision for Hop-along and on the left is Boyd's version.
It may be that Mulford was unhappy with what had been made of his original creation or it could be that he was too busy with other projects but whatever the case when more stories were needed he wouldn’t write them and others had to found. One of those who wrote four Hopalong novels under the pseudo name Tex Burns was Louis L’Amour.

They can be found at the Louis L’Amour trading post

Monday, March 7, 2016

New Praise for "Partners"

Here is a review from Tracy Lynn of one of my earlier novels, “Partners” a short explanation of which I posted not many days ago. (That is, scroll down and take a look)
Tracy has been to Diamond Willow a couple of times and performed many of the songs she has written (along with a few “covers”) and she does a great job not only as an entertainer but as a song writer.
Take a look at Tracy Lynn on Facebook or at Sound Waves Lesson Studio also on FB.
Which reminds me, if you are any where in the Courtenay, BC area (mid Vancouver Island) and are looking for music lessons, give her a call.
Guitar Instructor at SOUND WAVES Lesson Studio
Tracy also has a couple of CDs which are awesome.

Review of “Partners” by Tracy Lynn

'Swinging around in the saddle to check the loads on his two pack horses, he thought of that other life.' Those words could not have met my eyes at more timely juncture in my own life. I turned the overhead light on and commenced reading Dave's  book Partners. As the plane rumbled around me I was taken back through time to experience the unlikely partnership of Tom and Frank. Dave's attention to detail left me drawing my shoulders up close to my ears as I  sneaked through the bushes behind level headed Tom...hoping I wouldn't be spotted! Frank's feisty inquisitive character made me chuckle aloud as Dave articulates the young man's youth and inexperience as well as his education through many hard knocks. The conversations between this pair are believable. Their exchanges build a unique and respectful relationship that made me laugh and sometimes shake my head! Dave's knowledge of guns, the outdoors, hours in the saddle and his subjects in general make for a very interesting read. The story unfolds and introduces new characters at just the right time, all integral. Partners is a keeper for my library. I enjoyed every word on every page. I look forward to reading more of Dave's work.  Tracy Lynn

Follow the song in your heart.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Paying the price for rape and murder

Paying the price for rape and murder

“The Making of Jake McTavish”

This is the fourth published novel and in it I managed to include some stories I had heard from pioneers to the Peace River Country. True I changed them a great deal to fit my story line but those stores where what started me on this yarn in the first place.
And then the story took over and lead me places I had not intention of going.
As with most of my novels there are some weapons mentioned, most notably the Cold New Army "Sheriff's Model", the Colt Navy .36 and the Remington .41 rim-fire deringer.
I hope the reader enjoys how Jake uses a Winchester to quell rudeness.
By the way, if it was made by Derringer (who made some early small arms) it is spelled with two r's. If it was made by someone else (such as Remington) it has one r; I expect to get around any infringement problems.
Remington .41 rim-fire
At the end of "The Making of Jake McTavish" there are the usual notes about what actual history is in the yarn but there is also an excerpt from another work I have ready that, so far is entitled "Red Serge to Cattle Business." However, it will be some months before that one is available.

“The Making of Jake McTavish”

Jake’s wife is raped and murdered. A lazy Mountie accuses Jake of the crimes. Angry, in shock and trying to erase the vision of his wife’s body Jake runs into the mountains.
But running away did not erase the vision. Hiding alone and the passage of time did not decrease – and may have increased – his anger. When two renegades try to kill him and steal his furs Jake realizes that he needs to face the vision from the past. To erase it he needs to hunt it down, find out who killed her and see they pay.
First he has to survive.

From the same vault that holds the work of William Johnstone, Matt Braun, Max Brand, and Louis L’Amour.

Watch a video trailer for “The Making of Jake McTavish” at

Praise for “The Making of Jake McTavish”

From Cold Coffee Press:
Well-developed characters and true to life settings with descriptive writing put the reader into the story … incredible story telling.

And here is a free sample of the ebook version of “The Making of Jake McTavish”.