Is it a Brigade Trail?


A detail from a Larry Hunter mural in Summerland, showing the men along the Brigade Trail, from

This is a detail from the Larry Hunter mural in downtown Summerland, showing the Brigades in the bench-lands above the modern city of Summerland.

There are a number of old horse trails around the province of British Columbia — but are they all brigade trails? I don’t know if I can answer this question, but let’s give it a try.

The first Brigade Trail I am going to describe is, once again, in the Grand Prairie region, just north of Okanagan Lake. Here is information that a Grand Prairie resident (who lives in Falkland) sent me some time ago, and I put it in a file folder and forgot about it — Thanks, Ruth, for the story! It comes from an article written by local historian Sandra Pringle, but as it has been transcribed twice over it may not accurately include every word that was in the article that appeared in the local newspaper. This is what it says:

For many years the trail left Okanagan Lake and came through a pass past Pinaus Lake, and down Mountain Creek (now Ingram Creek), to the Salmon River, and up over the saddle on the west side of the Valley (Monte Creek etc.)

Today the hydro line right away on the west side follows closely on the brigade trail (through Monte Lake, etc.) Later the brigade trail came up to the head of Okanagan Lake and turned to pass through present day Falkland. Campment du Poulin was near Duck Lake, two miles north of Monte Lake.

(Duck Lake is now called Duck Meadows, as its waters dried up some time ago.)

So, north of Okanagan Lake, the incoming Brigade Trail of this early time travelled north west instead of due North, and instead of camping at Round Lake, the brigadiers must have made their way to modern-day Pinaus Lake. Pinaus Lake was more or less due west of Round Lake, but still to the south side of the Grand Prairie. Then the Brigades followed what is now called Ingram Creek and Pinaus Lake Road, to the south banks of the Salmon River near the town of Westwold itself. So while the Brigade Trail through or past Falkland travelled north, the trail that led to the pass, and Pinaus Lake, lay to the northwest. 

In 1826, when William Connolly’s Brigade went out, his journal was unclear on which route he used between the Salmon River and Great Okanagan Lake, and it is actually possible that he used the Pinaus Lake route as a Brigade Trail. “Proceeded from four until eleven o’clock AM when we reached the Salmon River, when a heavy Shower of rain detained us for five hours. We then went on until Dark, when we Encamped at the Entrance of Okanagan Lake.” On his return journey, however, his Brigade clearly took the Round Lake route: “A Heavy Shower overtook us at Lac en Rond [Round Lake] where where it detained us for four Hours. The weather after that became Settled, and we proceeded on to the entrance of the Grand Prairie, where we encamped.”

In 1831, Peter Warren Dease “put up for the night at the river where we leave the South bank of the Thompson’s River [Monte Creek?] to strike across for the Columbia.” The next day his Brigades “put up at Salmon River east end of Grand Prairie — Afternoon passed the Strong Woods [Falkland?], recrossed the river, and put up for the night at the beginning of the hills.” I can’t tell which of the two routes he used, though a local might know. On his return journey, however, he stopped at Round Lake.

The interesting word in the second to last quote is “recrossed.” Why did he recross the Salmon River, when normally he would only have crossed it once? I have no answer to this question, especially as by both routes he would probably have only had to cross the Salmon River once. 

So, it seems possible that the early HBC Brigades took the Pinaus Lake Route out, and the Lac Rond Route in? But who really knows. And there were Brigades in 1827, 1828, 1829, and 1830, with no journals that have survived to reach the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives. They could all have travelled through Grand Prairie by the Pinaus Lake trail.

There were earlier Brigades, of course, but they were different than the HBC Brigades that carried the furs out, and the trade goods in — this is what is normally called a Brigade or a Brigade Trail. The North West Company ran provisioning brigades through this territory, and they may well have used the Pinaus Lake route. But could they be called Brigades, if they made their way to Fort George [Astoria] light, and returned with food items that had been shipped from London? In the 18-teens and twenties, all the furs went out by the Peace River, and none were delivered by horse to the ships that delivered provisions to Fort George [Astoria].

To find the answer to these questions, I peeked into The Fur Trade Gamble: North West Company on the Pacific Slopes 1800-1820, by Lloyd Keith and John C. Jackson. These two well-known and well-respected historians researched and wrote the history of the North West Company in what is now Washington State, so they know exactly when the New Caledonia NWC employees turned up at Fort George [Astoria]. This is what I wrote in my manuscript:

The HBC men were not the first to travel from New Caledonia to the mouth of the Columbia River. In 1813, provisions were sent by ship to the Columbia, and Nor’Wester John Stuart led a Brigade from Stuart’s  Lake to collect these supplies. He travelled light, with nine men in two canoes. Somewhere around the future location of Fort Alexandria (built on the Fraser River in 1821, south of what is now the city of Quesnel) he hired Secwepemc men to guide him to the NWC post on the Thompson River. His route is unknown but it does not appear that he travelled over the Thompson Plateau to the North Thompson River. In 1817, fur trader Alexander Ross described the North Thompson River valley as “a large tract of wild country never before trod on by the foot of any white man….”

It was not until 1820 that the NWC again brought provisions to New Caledonia from the Columbia. Hugh Faries began his journey home from Fort George [Astoria] in June, 1820, reaching Stuart’s Lake on October 20 with an enormous load of provisions.

In 1821, Stuart started off in February using dogs and sledges until he got to Fort Okanogan. We don’t know when he arrived at the mouth of the Columbia, but he departed Fort George heading north on June 7, and reached Stuart’s Lake on October 12, 1821. Later that year the NWC men learned that their company had been absorbed by the Hudson’s Bay Company but no immediate changes were made. The next year Hugh Faries left Stuart’s Lake for the Columbia on May 1, and his Brigade returned to Stuart’s Lake in early October, 1822.

This was the fastest journey yet but it was also the last of the provisioning Brigades.

So there we are: the North West Company men went out to Fort George three times — in 1813 (with return journey in 1814); 1820; 1821; and 1822 (while representing the HBC). To this list you might add 1826, when Connolly could have taken the Pinaus Lake route (there were no known Brigades to the Columbia in the years between 1823 and 1825.) I am presuming that the provisioning brigades used horses for the most part, and it doesn’t take many passes over a trail with a small herd of horses to mark the bed of the trail forever.

But, on top of this: there were many reasons for other men to use this trail: First Nations people were certainly familiar with it; and the employees of the two forts in the region might have used these trails while travelling between the Thompson’s River post and Fort Okanogan. I am not sure that the HBC men had many horses at all; what horses they had may have been located at the Kamloops post, but as Fort Alexandria did not yet exist there were no horses available for their use up there — unless they were borrowed from the First Nations who showed them their trail. And, of course, Dog sledges over snow would probably not leave any sign of the trail once the snow melted. 

So that is one brigade trail covered and discussed, but there is another that few know about. It is on Vancouver Island, which might interest some local residents. It is the historic Horne Lake Trail, which ran from the west coast of Vancouver Island, to the area around Port Alberni (east of Tofino and Ucluelet). There were logging camps there, even in the early history of British Columbia.

So, here is the man after whom this Brigade Trail (if Brigade Trail it was) is named:

Adam Grant Horne, born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1829.

“Adam Grant Horne, an impressive looking six foot, three inch two hundred pound Scot, was recruited by Edward Clouston in Orkney, to sign up with the HBC in 1851 as a labourer… In March 1853 he and five others were sent to Nanaimo on the Recovery, to begin work at the Nanaimo coal mines, although Grant may have begun to work at the HBC store at this time. In 1855-56 he volunteered for expeditions from Nanaimo. For example, he went to Qualicum, where he witnessed the massacre of some local natives by marauding Haida, and to the head of Alberni Inlet, initiating HBC trade with the local Nuu-chal-nulth there. For the next six years he ran the HBC store in Nanaimo, until the HBC sold out…. In 1865 he rejoined the HBC and ran the Port Simpson trading post for a number of years, and subsequently ran the Comox post until it closed. [Source: Bruce Watson, Lives Lived West of the Divide]

So, the brigade trail I mentioned: It still exists and is called the Horne Lake wagon road. The trail starts at Cowichan Bay, and links that place with Alberni, on the west coast of Vancouver Island. This trail had been used by generations of First Nations people as a route between what is now Alberni and Cowichan, and they were quite willing to guide Horne over it. The lake which everyone walked by was called “Ennoksasant” by the First Nations of the region, but it was eventually changed to Horne Lake. 

Later that year, the Colonial Government sent surveyor Joseph Pemberton to document the trail, and Pemberton’s map is probably the map that can be found in the British Columbia Archives. In 1872 the then Government developed the trail into a wagon road and maintained it, and for a long time it was the only road from the east coast of Vancouver Island, to the west. The original trail took a different path than the later Tofino road, and so they are not the same roads at all!

So was it ever a Brigade Trail? I don”t know. Did Adam Horne merely follow and mark the trail, or did he ride over it with supplies for the First Nations who lived on the west coast? It doesn’t seem he did, but other later HBC men might have done. Years ago, when I was talking with the man who did all the research, we discussed that,  and I don’t see that it is labeled a Brigade Trail today. Nevertheless, it still exists. It is a historic old trail or road; a remnant of our west coast fur trade. It is protected; and it is probably a good trail to hike if you are into hiking historic trails. So think about it when you are looking for your new hiking path, and maybe you will actually reach modern-day Port Alberni by this road.  

Copyright, Nancy Marguerite Anderson, 2023. All rights reserved.