Barkerville, B.C. – A Grave History

Written by: Megan Kopp

At its peak in the 1860s, the gold mining town of Barkerville, B.C. was the biggest thing west of Chicago and north of San Francisco.

The ghost town today sees a mere fraction of the number of people that once clomped along the wooden sidewalks off Williams Creek in the foothills of the Cariboo Mountains. Past glories have become faded memories. Stories of what life was like back in the goldrush era need to be carefully curated and fleshed out by historians. One surprising way to uncover life is to look at death. Cemeteries are devoted to remembering lives, and the historic Barkerville Cemetery is no exception.

Walking Back in Time

We tromped along with a small group on a guided tour, passing the site of the Royal Cariboo Hospital before arriving at the hillside resting place for miners and soldiers, surveyors and shopkeepers, doctors and lawyers. Most came from Canada and the United States. Others travelled to Barkerville from as far away as Wales, England, Ireland, Scotland, Sweden and Germany.

Grave marker for Peter Gibson – the first person buried in the Barkerville Cemetery. (Photo: Brad Kopp)

31, 21, 32, 24, 25 – many people died young in the goldfields. Peter Gibson was the first soul to be laid to rest on July 24th, 1863 in what was then known as the Cameronton Cemetery. Peter, 31, died of typhoid fever. He worked for John ‘Cariboo’ Cameron before his early demise.

Cariboo Cameron was a miner who struck it rich with a claim on Williams Creek. A small township grew up around his strike. Not surprisingly, it was dubbed Cameronton. Cameron himself died on November 7th, 1888. At the age of 68, Cameron is one of the oldest people buried in the cemetery.

Sidenote: Although Cameron was a noteworthy citizen, it’s the tale of his first wife – who is not actually buried in the Barkerville cemetery – that is even more memorable. Seriously, who has “two caskets, three funerals and four burials?”

By 1866, the Barkerville Cemetery had 27 graves. There were no Chinese or Native burials in this graveyard – a reflection of the time. Most of the burials were men – a reflection of the population demographics during the goldrush.

Women of the Goldrush

One notable woman buried in the Barkerville Cemetery is Janet Allan. The marker on her grave reads:

Sacred
to the 
memory of
Janet Allan

The Beloved Wife of
William Allan
Native of Fireshire
Scotland

Who departed this life
September 1870

Aged 42 years

Sometimes I wish we could rewrite these tributes. There’s an interpretive sign just outside of the town of Barkerville that tells so much more of Janet’s story.

“…dressed like a man, drank like a man, and died like a man…”

Janet was actually better known as ‘Scotch Jenny’ – a well-respected woman who showed kindness for the sick. Apparently this store keeper’s wife also dressed like a man, drank like a man, and died like a man (when the carriage she was driving plunged over a bank into William’s Creek on September 7th, 1870).

Costumed tour guides lead regular hikes to the Barkerville Cemetery. (Photo: Brad Kopp)

Today, our journey to see Scotch Jenny’s final resting place was less of a hike and more of a stroll up the 750 metre (1/2 mile) long, accessible trail from St Saviour’s Anglican Church – along a portion of the old Cariboo Wagon Road. Guided tours to the Baskerville Cemetery run on a regular basis, departing from the church.

Go ahead, take a walk and discover life through death with Barkerville’s fascinating grave history.

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Hiking the Chilkoot Trail: Historic Gear Checklists

WRITTEN BY: MEGAN KOPP

Posted in one of the cooking shelters at Sheep Camp, we found a sheet of paper with historic packing list suggestions for men and women planning to hike the Chilkoot Trail through Alaska, British Columbia and the Yukon.

Read the lists below and – after you research to learn that oakum is tarred fibre used to plug cracks, that mackinaw is a water-repellent woolen cloth and you stop laughing at the fact that women were advised to bring both house and knitted slippers – you will appreciate why the Chilkoot Trail became the world’s longest museum of discarded gear!

Gear for Men – as listed by Pierre Berton in his book, Klondike, p. 245

  • Three suits of heavy underwear
  • A mackinaw suit
  • Two pairs of mackinaw trousers
  • A heavy rubber-lined coat
  •  A dozen pairs of wool socks
  • Half a dozen pairs of mittens
  • Two over shirts
  • Two pairs of snag-proof rubber boots
  • Two pairs of shoes
  • Two pairs of blankets
  • Four towels
  • Two pairs of overall
  • A suit of oilskin clothing
  • Five yards of mosquito netting

Groceries:

  • 400 lbs flour
  • 50 lbs cornmeal
  • 50 lbs oatmeal
  • 35 lbs rice
  • 100 lbs beans
  • 40 lbs candles
  • 100 lbs granulated sugar
  • 8 lbs baking powder
  • 200 lbs bacon
  • 2 lbs soda
  • 36 yeast cakes
  • 15 lbs salt
  • 1 lb pepper
  • ½ lb mustard
  • ¼ lb ginger
  • 25 lbs evaporated apples
  • 25 lbs evaporated peaches
  • 25 lbs evaporated apricots
  • 25 lbs fish
  • 10 lbs pitted plums
  • 50 lbs evaporated onions
  • 50 lbs evaporated potatoes
  • 24 lbs coffee
  • 5 lbs tea
  • 4 dozen tins condensed milk
  • 5 bars laundry soap
  • 60 boxes matches
  • 15 lbs soup vegetables
  • 25 cans butter

In addition, one must bring these items: steel stove, gold pan, three nest of granite buckets, a cup, plate, knife, fork, two spoons, two frying pans, coffeepot, pick, hand saw, whipsaw, whetstone, hatchet, two shovels, three files, draw-knife, axe, three chisels, twenty pounds of nails, butcher knife, hammer, compass, jackplane, square, Yukon sled, two hundred feet of rope, fifteen pounds of pitch, ten pounds of oakum, and a canvas tent.

Our gang geared up at the bottom of the pass. (Photo: Brad Kopp)

Gear for Women – as suggested by Annie Hall Strong in The Skagway News on December 31, 1897

  • 1 pair house slippers
  • 1 pair knitted slippers
  • 1 pair heavy-soled walking shoes
  • 1 pair arctics
  • 1 pair felt boots
  • 1 pair German socks
  • 1 pair heavy gum boots
  • 3 heavy all-wool stockings
  • 3 pair summer stockings
  • 2 pair summer stockings
  • Moccasins can be purchased here of the Indians. The tall bicycle shoe with extra sole would make an excellent walking shoe. In the way of wearing apparel, a woman can comfortably get along with:
  • 1 good dress
  • 1 suit heavy Mackinaw, waist and bloomers
  • 1 summer suit
  • 3 short skirts of heavy duck or denim, to wear over bloomers
  • 3 suits winter underwear
  • 3 suits summer underwear
  • 1 chamois undervest
  • 1 long sack nightdress, make of eiderdown or flannel
  • 1 cotton nightdress
  • 2 pair arctic mittens
  • 1 pair heavy wool gloves
  • 1 cap
  • 1 arctic hood
  • 1 hat with brim broad enough to hold the mosquito-netting away from the face
  • 1 summer dress
  • 3 aprons
  • 2 wrappers
  • 2 shirtwaists
  • some sort of gloves for summer wear; to protect hands from mosquitoes

Bedding:

  • 1 piece of canvas, 5 ft x 14 ft
  • 1 rubber blanket
  • 2 pair, better 4 pair, all wool blankets
  • 1 feather pillow
  •  A ready-sewed tick will be very nice to have, for it can be filled with dried moss and makes a good pioneer mattress.

“An old miner would no doubt laugh me to scorn for suggesting a little satchel or handbag, but the comfort derived from the hundred and one little extras a woman can deftly stow away in it will doubly repay the bother of carrying it.” – Annie Hall Strong

Yup, I always take a little handbag… of course mine is called a backpack.

What’s the most favorite piece of gear on your backpacking checklist?

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Hiking the Chilkoot Trail: Dyea to Lindeman Lake Section

WRITTEN BY: MEGAN KOPP

It was dubbed the World’s Longest Museum.

Overloaded and frantic to reach the goldfields near Dawson City in the Yukon, Canada, the stampeders of 1897-98 abandoned much of their gear along the Chilkoot Trail – especially during the first 41 km (26 mi) of the trail from Dyea, Alaska to Lindeman Lake, British Columbia.

Time and nature have had a lot of time to remove all traces of this crazy rush. Will there be much left to discover as we wander along the stampeders trail close to 120 years later?

They Called Them Cheechakos

Many of goldseekers taking the Chilkoot Trail from Dyea to Lindeman Lake and beyond were ill-prepared. They struggled get themselves and their gear up the trail, over Chllkoot Pass and down to Lindeman Lake where they could build a boat to go a little further. Old-timers called them Cheechakos. Cheechako is a Tlingit word for greenhorn.

Each stampeder was required to haul one ton of goods up to the scales at Chilkoot Pass. It took the average stampeder three to four weeks to pack his goods from the water’s edge at Dyea to shores of Lake Lindeman.

Interpretive signs warn that “your load may be lighter, but you face some of the same hazards. Weather can be extreme, especially on Chilkoot Pass. Start this hike only if prepared for severe conditions.”

Luckily, we’ve done this outdoor camping and adventure thing once or twice before – nobody’s calling us Cheechakos!

First camp for the Stampeders: Finnegan’s Point

Boggy sections still exist along the Chilkoot Trail today! (Photo: Brad Kopp)

In 1897, Pat Finnegan and his two sons established a ferry service. They later built a corduroy road – a road made of tree trunks laid down side by side – through the boggy areas approaching the Point and operated it as a toll road.

In the summer, this point eight kilometres (5 miles) from Dyea was the northern terminus of the wagon road. In the winter, stampeders could pull their sleds up the frozen riverbed. Finnegan’s Point was a convenient place to cache their gear and go back for another load. Our loads were lighter and we weren’t ready to stop for the night. We continued down the muddy trail to Canyon City.

Canyon City

Suspension bridge crossing the Talya River to the Canyon City ruins. (Photo: Brad Kopp)

Hundreds of tents crowded this ravine in 1897. It was the first major stop for most stampeders. Canyon City was a good place to cache goods before the steep climb out of the canyon. By spring 1898, two freight companies were building power houses for aerial tramways and stripping hillside to fuel boilers and build log houses.

Wood stove left behind in Canyon City. (Photo: Brad Kopp)

Within a year Canyon City would vanish. Before heading on to Sheep Camp, we took the spur trail across the swinging bridge to see signs remaining from the site of all the 1897 action. Rusted chunks of metal, pieces of glass bottles, decaying cabin logs and the rusting hulk of a boiler were found.

Old steam boiler used to power a tramway for hauling gear up to Chilkoot Pass. (Photo: Brad Kopp)

This tramway – which only ran during the last few months of the gold rush – was powered by the 50-horsepower steam boiler that was too heavy to take out when Canyon City died out. If you could afford the 7 ½ cents per pound freight charge, you could send your supplies over Chilkoot Pass via a tram. Most stampeders had to carry their loads from cache to cache.

Tripping Along From Pleasant Camp to Sheep Camp

Steep, rocky climbs are par for the course on the Chilkoot Trail. (Photo: Brad Kopp)

The trail from Canyon City to Pleasant Camp was described by one stampeder as “the worst piece of trail on the route, fairly muddy, with many boulders and with some short, steep ascents and descents in and out of small gulches.” For us, it was a little less muddy than the first day’s slog, but it did climb!

From Pleasant to Sheep – it was a transition from rock to muddy puddles for our crew.

Sheep Camp to the Scales to the Pass

The tramways that carried the wealthier stampeders’ supplies from Canyon City to Crater Lake paralleled the stream of men who had to shuttle loads on their backs. The brush has long since grown back around Sheep Camp, probably hiding a wealth of discarded supplies, but the occasional piece of rusted metal can still be seen. Tumbled piles of wood – the remains of the tram towers – can still be spotted on the hillsides.

Wooden remains of a historic tramway. (Photo: Brad Kopp)

A distinct change comes about at the scales near the foot of the climb up to Chilkoot Pass. It was here that stampeders re-weighed their goods. Professional packers could be hired to carry loads up to the pass, but they would sometimes charge up to a dollar a pound. Every ounce made a difference. As a result, the area became littered with excess gear.

Rusted metal artifacts below the pass. (Photo: Megan Kopp)

It took forty, 50-pound trips to carry the required ton of goods to the top of the pass. Climb up, unload, slide back down, reload, and wait. At times it took up to half an hour to break into the human chain of stampeders inching their way up the slope. With our single loads, most weighing under 50 pounds, it seemed relatively easy to pick our way through the boulder field to the summit.

After the pass and the final tram station above Crater Lake, the flotsam and jetsam of the goldrush era dwindles. The downhill leg of the journey on the Canadian side of the pass was little less punishing that the climb up.

The downhill hike towards Crater Lake. (Photo: Megan Kopp)

 

 

If You Go:

Read a little more about the trail description from the Parks Canada Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site.

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Exploring the Past at Mount Robson Provincial Park

WRITTEN BY: MEGAN KOPP

It’s Canada’s 150th in 2017. What better time to celebrate our country’s past than now?

British Columbia’s Mount Robson is a blast to my past.

Whitehorn Ranger Cabin, Mt. Robson Provincial Park.

Many years ago – who’s counting? –  I spent a summer working on a youth crew in Mount Robson Provincial Park, B.C.. We did a little trail work and hiked a lot. We sang along with the soundtrack from “Grease“, packed external frame packs badly, jogged down for morning polar bear dips in Moose Lake and became park advocates and history buffs.

What’s in a Name?

Mount Robson Provincial Park is the second oldest park in British Columbia’s park system (formed two years after Strathcona Provincial Park). The park was named for the peak. Mount Robson is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies at 3,954 metres (12,972 feet).

Until the arrival of European trappers and explorers, the peak was known as “Yuh-hai-has-kun” or the “Mountain of the Spiral Road”  –  a name given to it by the Texqakallt, the earliest known inhabitants of the upper reaches of the Fraser River. The named refers to the mountain’s many layered appearance.

How it came to be named “Mount Robson” is a little vague.  In the earlier part of the 19th century, the North West Company sent hunters and trappers into this same area. One of these people was Colin Robertson, who worked for both the North West Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company. Robertson camped near the peak in about 1815. This spot became the campsite for subsequent hunting parties and the peak was named – or sort of named – after him.

Fur trader George McDougall is credited with the first written reference in his journal. He called the peak “Mt. Robinson” in his journal in 1827. Explorers crossing the Yellowhead Pass in 1863 referred to the peak in their journals as “Robson” and “Robson’s” Peak.

Climb On!

The first attempt to climb Mount Robson was in 1907, but it wasn’t until 1913 that W.W. Foster, and Albert H. McCarthy summited the peak with their guide, Conrad Kain.

More than just a big peak waiting to be conquered, Mount Robson Provincial Park is the headwaters of the mighty Fraser River. It borders the renowned Jasper National Park. Mount Robson Provincial Park is more than 100 years old. It was established on March 11, 1913. The park was designated as a part of the Canadian Rocky Mountains World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1990.

History – you don’t always have to hike too far to find it, even in this relatively “young” country.

What is your favourite Canadian historic hike?

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A Journey Close to Home: Glenbow Ranch

WRITTEN BY: MEGAN KOPP

“A wise traveler never despises his own country.”
Carlo Goldoni

Some historical journeys are shorter than others. Just off the highway near our home town, down a winding gravel road, is a piece of the past called Glenbow Ranch. In a meadow beside a river called the Bow is a weathered grey building. You can’t drive up to it. You have to purposefully travel down a path, back down in time, to a place that now only spirits call home. The ramshackle building, once a post office and school, is all that remains from a townsite that was home to 150 people in the early 1900s.

Glenbow Ranch
Visiting the Past

The closer you look at the site from a perch up on one of the hills at Glenbow Ranch, the more you see. Scanning the fescue grasslands it becomes easy to visualize herds of bison moving through as they grazed the prairie. Look closer and you’ll see tipi camps of the native tribes that depended on the bison for their survival. This land has a history dating back thousands, not just hundreds of years.

Settle in and you will see a change. The bison are gone and cattle from the historic Cochrane Ranche have taken their place. Move ahead slightly in time and watch as a ribbon of wood and steel is built through the valley bottom. By 1891, Glenbow became a water stop for the Canadian Pacific Railway’s steam engines. Twelve years later, a CPR station would be be built here.

Becoming a Townsite

Glenbow Post Office Stamp (Source: Photo of Interpretive Panel)

Take your gaze up on to the hillsides and you’ll see remnants of another era. In 1907, the sounds of quarrying rang out across the valley. Sandstone blocks, hewn from these hills  were used in the construction of Alberta’s Legislature Building in Edmonton. A growing population meant a demand for a postal service and in 1909, the post office building was open for business.

Glenbow postmaster Cecil Edwards and his family in 1916. (Source: Photo of Interpretive Panel)

When the quarry closed in 1912, a brick-making plant was opened and soon 100,000 bricks a day were being manufactured. The wooden frame of the post office building was originally painted green and then faced with brick. Glenbow bricks – still visible in a few of the older homes in the nearby town of Cochrane – were yellowy-orange to red in colour.

End of an Era

Unfortunately, these bricks tended to crumble easily over time and the brick plant had a short lifespan. In 1914, the brick-making plant was closed. The post office and store stayed in business in 1920 before shutting down forever. The last Glenbow residents moved away in 1927.

The property became part of Eric Harvie’s ranch in 1934. Glenbow Ranch remained a private ranch for over 70 years until the park was established.

Isn’t it amazing what you can see when you look back in time? Some historical journeys are shorter than others; some are found in our own backyards.

If You Go:


Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, established in 2008, is one of Alberta’s newest parks. You can find a park map and directions online.

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A Writer, A Club, and a Hut

WRITTEN BY: MEGAN KOPP

One of our favourite Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) Huts is the Elizabeth Parker Hut – a little log cabin in a pristine meadow near Lake O’Hara, British Columbia.

IMG_7072
Elizabeth Parker Hut. (Photo: B. Kopp)

A Jewel of a Hut

With an unsurpassed setting, piles of the white stuff, and stellar night skies – Elizabeth Parker Hut stands out as a jewel in the crown of ACC Huts.

The hut was originally built in 1919 by the Canadian Pacific Railway and taken over by the Alpine Club in early 1930s.

So who was Elizabeth Parker?

She was an outspoken journalist working for the Manitoba Free Press (now Winnipeg Free Press) in the early 1900s.

Arthur Wheeler wrote a letter to the newspaper in 1905 promoting the idea of a Canadian chapter of the American Alpine Club. When this letter crossed Elizabeth Parker’s desk, she lambasted him for his “lack of patriotism.”

Wheeler said that his original plan was a truly Canadian club, but he couldn’t drum up enough support for the idea. He wondered if she might help him achieve that goal.

With Mrs. Parker’s indomitable writing skills and the Manitoba Free Press behind the plan, the Alpine Club of Canada received the support it needed.

The ACC was established in March of 1906.

The club showed their appreciation for Elizabeth Parker’s work by naming this hut after her in 1931.

A faded photo tacked on the wall of EP's hut, showing the lady of the day with the other founding members of the ACC.
A  photo tacked on the wall of EP’s hut. Elizabeth is front, and almost center, of founding ACC members.

If You Go:
Whether you’re a writer seeking inspiration, a skier looking for an overnight getaway, or a family wanting to spend some quality time together, Elizabeth Parker Hut is a must-visit.

It’s a 12 km ski (one way) to the hut in winter months. Reservations and permits are required for overnight stays at the Elizabeth Parker Hut. Visit the ACC webpage for further details.

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