Thursday, December 24, 2015

Finding the Cariboo Women, Installment 2

Finding the women who helped open the Cariboo Country has been difficult for one main reason; most of those involved, including the women, didn’t rate their efforts as being important. Personally I think that attitude is a mistake, but even as late as the mid 1950s the majority of women would say the same thing.
For those researching and writing about the nineteenth century information about the women is very difficult to find. It is necessary to cross-reference several sources such as census records, birth and marriage records, business licenses and newspaper accounts.
When information is discovered in one source the next can prove the first inaccurate. Census records, for example may not have been filled out by a household or if they were, (particularly in the case of prospectors or trappers) perhaps they left immediately after recording their presence. Many births were not recorded until many years after the event and sometimes not at all. When Mary Pioneer’s name appeared on a mining claim was that because she worked the claim (sometimes the case) or was it because her husband Sam Pioneer wanted a claim twice the size of what he was allowed under his own name?(often the case).  Many women had their names on mining licenses and some, such as Margaret Cusheon and Eliza Ord actively worked a claim.
Records from newspapers require particular mention and attention. Richard Wright (writer of the previously mentioned “Barkerville and Cariboo Goldfields”) mentions two excerpts/quotes from the Cariboo Sentinel; from June 18, 1866, “Birth, at Barkerville, 15 inst., wife of William A. Meacham, a son.” and from Nov. 27, 1869, “Mr. Fick, proprietor of the New England Bakery has returned with his wife.” Perhaps the Sentinel was keeping up with local news but definitely short on information.
Richard Wright is responsible for much of what I’m about to quote here. I have some of the numbers from other sources such as the Barkerville archives (marvelous resource) but a couple I have found in no other location.
Wright has, for example compiled the names of 400 women who appeared in the Cariboo between 1862 and 1882. He also assures us that during the first full summer of mining along Williams Creek, 1862, nine prostitutes patrolled the canyon and women opened saloons, boarding houses and restaurants.
Here is a list of residents that comes directly from a count made in the spring of 1869. Keep in mind that this is after the Great Fire (Sept. 16, 1868) and before everyone had arrived for “the season”.
919 white males
69 white females
720 Chinese males
6 Chinese females
27 “colored” males
4 “colored” females

The first time I saw this list two things surprised me. I didn’t think there would be that many Chinese females since very few (perhaps 1 in 500 males) came to North America (or the “Shining Mountain”) in those years. Second, considering the number of free African-Americans who came to BC from California I would have thought 10 or 12 “colored” females would have been more likely.
One of those four women was Rebecca Gibbs who operated a laundry in Cameronton and who had arrived on Williams Creek by herself. With such a separation in the numbers of males and females (and undoubtedly due to her industry) she didn’t stay single.
With such a large difference in the numbers few women, unless they were particularly unsavory stayed single for long. Jennifer Morris came to Cariboo with her husband and they ran a general merchandise until he died. The Victorian “period of mourning” which was a year had barely passed when she became Mrs. Allan. Actually, through out her name changes she was well known and recorded as “Scotch Jennie” because she was famous for her administrations to the ill and injured. This was also true of prostitute Joanna Maguire who as a member of the oldest profession usually meant mention - only when necessary - by first name alone.
A small clue as to the class distinction that existed in the Cariboo in the 1860s; prostitutes and hurdy gurdy girls are known by their first names and businesswomen – including madams – are know by their lasts names.
Despite the presence of a doctor early on and more than one in the later part of the 1860s (and a hospital) illness was a continual problem in the mining towns of the Cariboo. In Barkerville and Cameronton, for example, those mine shafts which proved unproductive became toilets. The water which flowed down Williams Creek and under it also flowed through those old shafts. Typhoid and cholera were a continuing problem and one of the seven women who stayed over that first winter of 1862 – ’63 Sophia Cameron, (wife of John or Cariboo Cameron) died that winter. John’s promise to see she was buried at home (Eastern Canada) led to a two year long trip and contributed to several stories.
Those seven women from the winter of 1862 where;
Rosa Donnelly – miner’s wife
Anna Cameron – hotel keeper (Richard Cameron)
Elizabeth (Lizzy) Roddy (Anna Cameron’s sister, later Mrs. A.D. McInnes).
Sophia Cameron, wife of John Cameron (who, as mentioned, died that winter of typhoid.)
Mrs. Janet Allan (aka Scotch Jenny), merchants wife.
Mary Winnard (blacksmith William Winnard)
I was not aware of the seventh woman but R. Wright identifies her as an “unnamed French woman.”
Anna Cameron gave birth to the first child, Allan Richfield Cameron on October 26, 1862 in the Pioneer Hotel in Cameronton.
This last, the birth of a child is the type of information I’m looking for when I want background around which I can write my novel. This is a human event, as is the need for a hospital, food and some understanding of hygiene.
Although, considering the era, rudimentary understanding of germs (or more accurately non-existent) and wilderness conditions about all one could expect is some degree of cleanliness.
However, if we all keep a full set of records perhaps novelists a hundred years from now will be able to write fiction that can deliver a more enlightening understanding of today’s conditions and attitudes.
Remember, thousands came to the gold fields for gold but few found enough to be considered rich. Those that didn’t find riches left. Those few who did find riches most spent it and died broke. Of that small number who did find a gold an even smaller number held onto it long enough to put it to their own use but by that time they had left the Cariboo.

The women who followed the men did not, in most cases, leave their names. But they did, with their businesses and their children, build a country.
No, I have no idea who these women are but they are representative of the era.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Finding the Cariboo women

“The Making of Jake McTavish” is the forth novel where bits of my imagination have escaped out into view of the general public.
I don’t believe any of those escapees will hurt anyone and hopefully they will be entertaining and even informative.
I know I’m tired of seeing how Western Canada’s police officers of the 19th century where all paragons of virtue and/or the “geeks” or “nerds” of that age. I’m sure (and research supports my idea) that they were men (in all cases that part is 100% true) with good and bad qualities who were looking for a regular place to bunk and, in later years, a small pension.
There have been a few writers who have tried to portray the pioneers of Western Canada as people with “warts and all”. Those that come to mind are Guy Vanderhaeghe and Bill Gallaher. Years ago I read some mountain man tales that included some mention of travel through those mountains that are now within Canada but much of what I read and view today about Canada’s pioneer days carries the danger of inciting diabetes due to the excessive sweetness.
The reason I was thinking of this was the research that I’m doing for another novel I’m working on. I may have mentioned in an earlier post that a few readers have contacted me through the connection on this blog and on the street asking what might have become of the five men who became partners in the novel “Partners”. With the intent of creating an answer to that question I’ve started a story that begins the spring after the events of “Partners” come to a close.
What I’m saying is that I really don’t have an answer to the question but will by the time I finish writing the story. One thing I want to happen is for at least four of the “Partners” to find mates. What I’ve written so far includes the marriage of one of the partners and his temporary move to Victoria. I also have lady friends for two more of the partners and was looking for more information of females of the time and era.
I decided, while writing the first few chapters of what I am, at this point, calling “Underbelly” that it would be good to include some information about the real people who worked and lived in Barkerville back in the late 1860s.
For instance these facts from a few sources I’ve found about the first gold discoveries in BC.
The first indication of gold was through a collection made by Hudson’s Bay factors in the Colony of British Columbia who had accepted gold in payment for goods. The HBC did not encourage information on such trade to be made public since they expected (and were proven correct) that such information would interfere with their fur trade. However, after several trades the accumulated gold had to be reported and banked.
In a letter written by the Chief Factor for HBC, James Douglas on April 16,1856 he reported to the British Colonial Secretary that “gold has been discovered on the Upper Columbia.”
On December 28, 1857 Chief Factor Douglas issued a proclamation instituting a system of licenses for prospectors at a fee of 10 shillings or 5 US dollars.
On July 1, 1858 Factor Douglas, after 37 years with the HBC became an employee of the British government and Governor of both the Colony of British Columbia and the Colony of Vancouver Island. He exercised his management duties primarily from Fort Victoria but did make a few trips to Fort Langley.
Through out 1858 and ’59 both colonial capitals, Victoria and Langley grew. Victoria from a relatively stable population of around 600 to an estimate (but violently fluctuation according to season) of five or six thousand to a winter low of around 2000. Fort Langley also grew but not as large and unlike Victoria the town of Langley was not on the site of the original trading post.
The big finds on Williams Creek (named after “Dutch Bill” or William Dietz), the location of Barkerville did not take place until 1862 and only after several other discoveries. First, the thousands of gold seekers who descended on the colonies panned the sand bars of the Fraser River where the gold proved to be very fine and hard to separate from the gravel. By the fall (end of season) of 1860 they where working the tributaries of the Quesnelle River such as Keithley, Harvey and Cunningham Creeks (named after men who found gold on the creeks). In the spring of 1861 there were 1200 men on Antler Creek. Also in the spring of 1861 was when Williams Creek was discovered five men traveling the country together.
The day the partners discovered the gold each of the five was successful in their efforts. Dutch Bill however retrieved the most with an average of $1.25 per pan. It is because of his larger return that the creek is named for him. Despite the actual discover in 1861 the five claims where not registered until March 22, 1862.
During that first winter there were only 90 men and 7 women who stayed on the creek for the winter. By the time the first claims were registered however there where thousands on the trails to the Cariboo Country and to Williams Creek. By the fall of 1862 several “towns” had been formed and many had disappeared. Horsefly Landing, Likely, and Quesnelle are still around from that era but up on Williams Creek those that still exist (thanks to great efforts by many volunteers) are Richfield and Barkerville.
In 1862 Billy Barker (“English Bill”) after chasing the elusive yellow metal for 16 years took on eight partners. On August 17, 1862 they found the lead and took 124 ounces from their shaft in 10 hours.
Now, what I was originally looking for was some of the actual people who developed Williams Creek, Barkerville, Richfield, Cameronton and Marysville. I’m particularly interested in are the women but they are very hard to find since few recorded any information about them.
With the help of several writers and researchers, most notably R.T. Wright and his book, “Barkerville and the Cariboo Goldfields” I’ve found info on some of those women. I’ll get to that in my next posting.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

What is “The Making of Jake McTavish” about?

Before I get up on my soap box, here are videos for four novels, the latest, (and best one) first … and they didn’t spell my name wrong as they did with “Liquor War.”

Available in print now and in several formats as an ebook by mid-December.

“Jake McTavish” is about a man waking up to the need to look after himself.
It’s about the responsibility all of us have in making our homes safe not only for those close to us and ourselves but, having accomplished that, for our neighbors.
Yes, we have hired people to care for our safety, but sometimes it isn’t possible for them to ensure that task can be completed. Sometimes, and probably most often, they can’t carry out their assigned tasks to a successful conclusion because of timing; they just aren’t on-site when the support is needed. Sometimes it’s because a law can not be enforced because to do so will conflict with another one, or perhaps more than one.

If our society begins to deteriorate – or is deteriorating - it will be because those who make up that society – each one of us – did not live up to our responsibility.
Yes, that includes the large destructive actions made by groups such as the Canadian Government and the RCMP in Winnipeg in 1919 (actually still the North West M.P at that time), in Estevan in 1933 and Regina in 1935.
Actions I don’t think either body is sufficiently ashamed of.
Or the refusal of the Western World to allow the many Jewish refugee ships to dock during their attempt to escape from Nazi Germany in 1939.
Actions I don’t think any of the countries (primarily England, USA, and Canada) involved have realized how disgusting that was.
If everyone actually did realize how many deaths were the ultimate results of those actions of 1939, perhaps the response to world events in the late months of 2015 would be a little different.
Immigration has always created work for those already within the country accepting the immigrants. In the latter years of the 1950s for example Canada accepted refugees from Hungary which resulted in growth in the early years of the ‘60s.
This is partly due to an increase in jobs and a slight decrease (as a percentage) in those trained for some jobs. However it also pulls dollars out of government bodies that are holding OWR money for their pet projects (many of which we don’t think they should be involved in) and spending it in areas that don’t do the general populous much good.

Can someone tell me why we spend millions of dollars each year for pension plans for retired politicians, non of whom did anything that would entitle them to any more consideration (often less) than any other citizen?
I’ll stop right there. If I don’t I’ll be into the mistreatment of veterans and those in retirement homes and many other subjects that will just increase my blood-pressure and be off topic.

So, what is “The Making of Jake McTavish” about? It’s about doing your job. If someone isn’t doing their job, you may have to step up and take part (or all) of that job as well. If some of the rules you are expected to live by prove to interfere with a moral responsibility perhaps some of those rules will have to be bent a little.
Yes, I did and still do in small ways such as writing this. However, I’ve put in enough years and effort that it is now your turn.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Press Release for The Making of Jake McTavish

I've just recieved a copy of the new press release with a link to the video trailer

Contact: Ellen Green, Press Manager, Strategic Book Group -
Western Forges a New Man in ‘The Making of Jake McTavish’
In 1890s Canada, Jake McTavish learns what he is
made of when his world falls apart.
Jake left his home in central Canada in his early
teens. After working ships on the Great Lakes,
feeding cattle, and shooting wolves on the prairie, he
starts his own cattle operation out West, where he
meets Anna, his life-long partner. Jake and Anna are
happily married for three years when everything
comes crashing down. Anna is raped and murdered,
the image of which haunts Jake. To escape the vision
of his butchered wife and all that he lost, Jake travels
deep into the mountains and becomes a mountain
man, spending three years trapping and panning for
When two outlaws try to rob him and leave him for
dead, Jake finally wakes up from the stupor he’s
been in and starts to fight back. The time has come to
face his past and find his wife’s killer. Maybe then
he can finally escape the images in his head. But to
find the killer, he comes across even more surprises.

D. M. McGowan has hit a bullseye with The Making of Jake McTavish.

Watch the video at:

About the Author: After a variety of work experiences, D. M. McGowan
has now returned to work as a commercial driver and lives near Mile “0” of
the world-famous Alaska Highway. His books bring Canadian history to
life. This is his fourth published book.

“This intense novel will not only hook fans of Westerns, but everyone who
loves a story of redemption. We are most pleased to announce its release,”
said Robert Fletcher, CEO of Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Agency.
THE MAKING OF JAKE MCTAVISH (ISBN: 978-1-68181-088-1) is now available for $15
and can be ordered through the publisher’s website: or at or
WHOLESALERS: This book is distributed by Ingram Books and other wholesale distributors.
Contact your representative with the ISBN for purchase. Wholesale purchase for retailers,
universities, libraries, and other organizations is also available through the publisher; please email
Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co, LLC
ABOUT: Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co, LLC provides book publishing, book marketing, and e-Book services to over
10,000 writers around the world. Our books are available through Ingram, the largest book distributor in the world, as well as in
bookstores, through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all online channels. Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co, LLC attends
and exhibits at the major book expositions in London, New York, China, and Germany each year.

Monday, December 7, 2015

David Milton McGowan: A few more weapons from Canada's past

David Milton McGowan: A few more weapons from Canada's past: In an earlier post I mention the Adams revolver that the North West Mounted Police were originally issued and that they eventually wound u...

A few more weapons from Canada's past

In an earlier post I mention the Adams revolver that the North West Mounted Police were originally issued and that they eventually wound up with the Colt SA Army but over the years they have been subject to a variety of “issue” weapons.

My “Cattle Business” story which might see release in 2016 and tells a story from 1896 (yes, as usual there are some historical aspects) mentions several weapons. Within that story is mention of the British military and the Enfield revolver they issued (and used by some NWMP officers). The Adams and Enfield were replaced by the Colt SA Army and within a few years by the Colt Double Action Army. The first issue of the DA Army was in .44-40 to offer continuance of cartridge but then the .38 Smith & Wesson Special or .38 Special became popular and later Colt DAAs were in that cartridge. Eventually the Smith & Wesson Model 10 became the standard for many police forces.
Enfield Mk II .476
Replaced by the Colt Frontier Double Action (Model 1895)
Replaced by the S&W Model 10

In 1885 the Remington – Lee was being sold in .45 – 70 Government in North America and in at least two other calibers world wide. It has been called the first “modern military” rifle and was supplanted by another weapon with the James Lee magazine, the Lee Enfield, primarily in .303 British.

The armorers who train and advise the RC Mounted Police come from a variety of backgrounds. Their training and what they attempt to pass on to police officers is unsurpassed. However they are subject to pressure from politicians looking for votes and caring little for practical requirements and find themselves issuing weapons that at best are only marginal for the task.
Such is the case with a weapon chambered for either a .38 S&W Special or 9mm; a perfectly adequate cartridge for a trained officer in an urban setting but outclassed by several other cartridges in a rural setting.
I mentioned Elmer Keith in an earlier post and his attachment to both the .357 Magnum and the .44 Magnum. Keith was a prospector, cowboy, guide and hunter who over-loaded .38 Special brass back in the late 1920s which resulted in the development of the .357 cartridge and the discovery that it was by far the caliber best suited for most rural police forces. Later Keith overloaded .44 Special cartridges in his Colt SA Army for the hunting of Elk and deer.
That is to say, several Colt SAAs since his hot loads tended to break the top strap at the front of the cylinder and destroy the weapon even though he was successful most years with his hand-gun hunting.
Keith went to several companies attempting to have them design a .44 brass slightly longer than the .44 Special and eventually Remington agreed to do so. Then he went to S&W and convinced them to make the S&W Model 29 in .44 Magnum which they did. However, Bill Ruger heard about the impending release of the new pistol cartridge intended for hunting and released the Ruger Super Blackhawk before the S&W Model 29 made it to sales.
A stainless steel Ruger Blackhawk .357 M
A nickled (except for the cylinder) Ruger Super Blackhawk in .44M
Note the heavy top straps.