In 1846 and 1847, Alexander Caulfield Anderson made two explorations across the mountains that separated the HBC fort at Kamloops, from Fort Langley on the lower Fraser River. Discussions about the placement of the boundary line between Oregon Territory and British Territory were ongoing, and the HBC’s Governor Simpson agreed it would be best if they were prepared, should the boundary line follow the 49th parallel west.
Even after the boundary line was declared in 1846, the fur traders were allowed to remain in American territory along the Columbia River. Eventually they would be evicted, and would have to bring out their furs to the coast in British Territory. There was, however, no trail that led to the coast, and Simpson himself knew that travelling down the Fraser River was too dangerous for boats and canoes.
Anderson’s first trail took him south and west by Seton, Anderson, and Harrison Lakes to Fort Langley, but he declared it an impractical route. His return journey took him via the Coquihalla and Nicolum River to Rhododendron Flats, where he climbed over the Coquihalla Mountain and reached the fur traders’ “Similkameen” district at Tulameen, B.C. Because of summer snow on top of the Coquihalla Plateau he did not consider this a good route for the heavily loaded pack horses of the brigades.
In 1847 Anderson set out again, following the Thompson River west to its junction with the Fraser. His party then walked down the banks of the Fraser to the river that was later named for him: Anderson’s River. There his Native guides (Tsilaxitsa and Blackeye’s Son) showed him their newly opened trail that would take them over the mountains behind Boston Bar, to the Coldwater River and Nicola Valley. Then Pahallak showed him the route from Anderson’s River to Kequeloose, a Secwepemc village on the banks of the Fraser River south of Hell’s Gate Canyon. Anderson and his men considered this route rugged, but with a lot of work they thought it would be safe for the many horses of the outgoing brigade.
In November 1847, the massacre of the missionaries at Waiilatpu Mission, near Fort Nez Perces, threw the entire Columbia district into war. The Gentlemen at Fort Vancouver ordered the Fort St. James, Kamloops, and Fort Colvile men to come out to Fort Langley over Anderson’s unimproved trail via Anderson’s River, and Pahallak’s trail, to Fort Yale. This brigade was twice as large as normal, and four hundred horses came out over this mountainous route that year. It was not an easy journey, and no one kept a journal. However, on the return journey from Fort Langley to Kamloops, clerk Henry Newsham Peers kept a journal. It is found in the B.C. Archives: its old number is E/A/P34A (but it might be stored under a new number by now).
“Started from Fort Langley on the 17th July with 5 Batteaux and two river boats manned by Indians, all deeply laden, 4 Batteaux loads having been taken up before in charge of Mr. Anderson. The water was low for the season but still we had much trouble in warping up, along steep and bushy banks precluding the possibility of poling, and the current too swift to use the oar….”
“We reached Fort Yale on the 24th (8 days). We remained here till the 2nd August (9 days) during which time half the goods were being carried over the river portage by 80 Indians in three or 4 trips under the superintendence of Messrs. Anderson & Simpson and the remainder sent across Douglas Portage on horseback in 4 trips of some 35 horses…”
The horses were starved because of shortage of grass and many were too sick to pack 180 pounds of goods across the trail. As a result the fur traders used only the healthy horses. “We were about three hours coming across [the portage] & encamped on the south side of Fraser River. Remained at this encampment three days crossing Baggage & horses etc.”
They then traveled up the east bank of Fraser River past the rapids, over a horse trail freshly cut into the woods by the Fort Langley men. The image below shows the roughness of the country. This is not a horse-friendly country.
“We encamped at the foot of the Big Hill where the road leaves Fraser River, many of Brigades only arriving when pitch dark & consequently great confusion from horses straying with their loads and so forth; several fell down a steep hill on nearing the encampment (the only bad hill on the road) from weakness, threw their loads and a bale was swept off in the river before it could be seized and one animal killed. Deynette slept here to take care of the aforesaid pieces.”
The next post in this series is found here: http://nancymargueriteanderson.com/kequeloose-brigade-trail/
This story, and many others, is told in my first book, The Pathfinder: A.C. Anderson’s Journeys in the West. It now seems to be out of print. If you want a copy of it, I have a few left and you can order it from me, via the Contact Sheet. It will cost you $20.00 Canadian, plus shipping.
You may Order my next book, “The York Factory Express,” through my publisher, here: http://ronsdalepress.com/york-factory-express-the/ This book tells the story of the HBC men who journey to Hudson Bay and return every year, in the York Factory Express and the Saskatchewan Brigades.
All of the stories that were in “The Pathfinder” will be in the book that follows, “The Brigades.” Well, most of them. Thanks for your interest, and for following me around the province of British Columbia. Enjoy!
Copyright Nancy Marguerite Anderson, 2014. [Updated 2020]. All rights reserved.
- Chief Trader Alexander Caulfield Anderson
- London Ship to York Factory