Alexander Caulfield Anderson’s 1867 Map of British Columbia

Coquihalla Mountain from Anderson's 1867 Map

This is a section of Alexander Caulfield Anderson’s 1867 Map of the Colony of British Columbia, CM/F9, courtesty of Royal BC Museum, BC Archives. Detail of original map

This, shown above, is a portion of Alexander Caulfield Anderson’s 1867 Map of a Portion of the Colony of British Columbia, compiled from various sources, including Original Notes from Personal Exploration between the years 1832 and 1851; CM/F9, used with the permission of the Royal British Columbia Museum and the British Columbia Archives.

This is an amazing map, and one of fourteen Anderson maps in the British Columbia Archives collection. This map was drawn by Anderson in the years leading up to 1867. It is massive: it measures 4.5 by 6 feet (126 centimeters by 177 centimeters) and is drawn at a scale of approximately 10 miles per inch. It shows all of modern-day British Columbia south of Fort St. James; it extends eastward as far as the HBC’s Edmonton House and shows the route Anderson’s party took through Leather Pass in the winter of 1835. When he drew the area around Fort Colvile, Anderson indicated his interest in NWC explorer David Thompson’s earlier presence in the area when he drew in “David Thompson’s River,” and the location of his Saleesh House.

In all his finished maps, Anderson used good-quality paper that aged to a warm cream color. The black ink contained iron that rusted to a rich reddish-brown. He used watercolors to paint the larger bodies of water blue, and in red ink indicated the many trails the fur traders of his time traveled. His signature appears everywhere. Handwritten notes on the map indicate events in his personal life such as his journey from Fort Colvile to Kamloops in the winter of 1842. At times he recorded information he obtained from post journals that no longer exist, as when he drew the route of a trading party led by Fraser’s Lake clerk John McDonnell to Salmon (Dean) River in 1828. Probably the most interesting section of this map is the area south of the Coquihalla (shown above), which shows a portion of his 1846 exploration from Fort Langley to Kamloops. Anderson’s Outram Lake is clearly indicated as part of the Sumallo River system, and — though it can no longer exist — Anderson’s Tree stands guard on the plateau above.

I have personally viewed this map on two occasions. It is not often that people get to see it; it is hidden away in the B.C. Archives Vault. When Map Curator Derek Swallow first showed me the map he raved about its importance to British Columbians. In writing he said that “the map.. is of huge significance to the province and the people of B.C. so we (the B.C.Archives) have put a great deal of resources into preserving it and storing it in conditions that will guarantee its longevity. If exhibited, the map would be subject to strict handling, environmental conditions, lighting, and security.”

Alexander Caulfield Anderson drew this magnificent map in the years leading up to 1867. He lost it when he could not pay the taxes on his property in North Saanich. The colonial government asked that Anderson pay the taxes in full, and Anderson offered his map as payment. Though his offer was accepted, the officials argued about the map’s value and in the end paid nothing for it. Nor did they give him credit for it, arguing that the matter of his debt and the purchase of his map must be kept separate.

The map was in four pieces when the British Columbia archives received it, presumably from Lands and Titles who had taken it from Anderson in the first place. The Archives’ Conversation Department treated it, put it together again, and mounted it on an acid-free background. Then they encapsulated the map between two sheets of Mylar — a type of plastic that does not break down over time, as other plastics do.

Once the all important conservation work was done, the map was mounted on a vertical rack to prevent stress on it when people came to view. To prevent light damage, the front of the map is kept covered with heavy black plastic so when staff turn on the overhead lights the map will not be illuminated. This is critical because many of the First Nations territorial boundaries and some of the written inscriptions were done in coloured, light-sensitive, “fugitive” ink. In other words, light would fade the colours. To mitigate fading when they do occasionally show the map, the fluorescent lights in the room are low UV yield and the tubes covered in secondary UV filters — UV being the primary source of colour fading. In addition to all this, the environment RH and temperature in the vault is very good for paper and linen based materials.

You will probably never be allowed to see the original map. The images I am posting are not of the original, but of the only scan that the Archives has done of it. Therefore the portions of the map I will display will have a blue cast everywhere, and in the eastern part of the map the cast is quite heavy. There is nothing we can do about it. Even Derek Hayes, who featured this map in his new book, British Columbia: A New Historical Atlas, used the scan that the B.C. Archives provided, rather than  photographs of the original map.

But blue cast or not, the original information shows. Enjoy the stories that will come from this map.

Copyright, Nancy Marguerite Anderson, 2014. All rights reserved.

2 thoughts on “Alexander Caulfield Anderson’s 1867 Map of British Columbia

  1. Richard Anderson

    Thanks for this very interesting entry… fascinating details, such as Anderson’s tree… have written more on this elsewhere? Why was it so special?

    Outram Lake was wiped out by the slide back in 199? And I presume you mean the tree was, too?

    Hope you are well…


    1. Nancy Marguerite Anderson Post author

      Hi, Richard (also a descendant of A.C. Anderson) The Anderson Tree post will be coming soon, when he reaches the place in my Twitter feed. No, the tree wasn’t wiped out; it was elsewhere. But its probably dead by now, of old age.