Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Journey

The Journey: The Overlander’s quest for gold
by Bill Gallaher
ISBN 978-1-894898-99-7
Touch Wood Editions

As I have mentioned in earlier posts, gold was found early on in the fur trade days of what is now Canada’s west coast. However the first publicized “discovery” was in 1850 on Haida Gwaii and that on the lower Fraser River in 1858. By the time the Cariboo Country was producing (Williams Creek or Barkerville discovery, spring 1861) those in Upper and Lower Canada (Ontario and Quebec respectively) had already given some consideration to expending effort toward a new future. Since those areas and most of the world where suffering what we call today, “a serious depression” many of those with an adventurous bent thought nothing could be worse than what they where going through.
The next problem was how to get to the gold fields. Those already involved in prospecting and mining, primarily from the Western US, Australia and South Africa, if they had a few ounces from their existing claim, bought passage by ship to Victoria. Those in Europe who might have Pounds or Deutschmarks and a reason to leave home might also sail to British Columbia. Very few if any of those in Eastern Canada had such an option so they faced the prospect of crossing more than three thousand miles of country of which they knew nothing.
Those three thousand miles were not the whole trip. First they had to get to Fort Garry (Winnipeg).
Thus became the “Overlanders”.
Bill Gallaher’s novel “The Journey” does a marvelous entertaining job of following the largest of these groups. Through extensive research from diaries and publications he has been able to show some of the trials they suffered from the land, the climate and personal differences. There where those who left the group along the way and some who died. He even included some of the problems suffered by the lone woman, Catherine Shubert (a real Overlander) and the birth of her fourth child, Rosa while on the journey.

Catherine Shubert in later life
Actor and educator Christine Pilgrim has represented Mrs. Shubert and recounted her life story. More information can be found at
A few of the Overlanders returned to their lives in the East, some stayed in Fort Edmonton, a few went south to Calgary and Montana but about a hundred stayed and became developing pioneers in the building of British Columbia. John Pinkerton, Sam Rogers, William Rennie and John Bowen operated businesses in the Barkerville area. John Jessup founded the New Westminster Times and was the first superintendent of education. Robert McMicking was instrumental in the development of the BC Telephone Co. Overlanders where involved in many businesses throughout the province and in the legislature.
Altogether an interesting piece of history.

At the end of my novel "Partners" the main characters are in Barkerville and their past catches up with them. I'm working on a continuation of these characters' story and intend to include some of the less than uplifting aspects of human character and pioneer development.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

An Excerpt from The Great Liquor War.


            For many years I have been writing and telling stories about people I’ve known, places I’ve been, experiences I’ve had and the country I have spent time in or passed through. I have found that my experience with people, places and events sometimes clashes violently with those scenes depicted in Canadian history books. As a result I enjoy taking historical events and weaving them into my own stories.
            My first attempt at publishing, “The Great Liquor War” was done in the “traditional” manner with the printing of 600 copies in 1998. A fine thing to start I thought, but within three months all copies were gone.
            Since then “Partners” was released in 2008 and “Homesteader: Finding Sharon” in 2009.
            “Homesteader” is a sequel to “The Great Liquor War”
            This release of “Liquor War” is in Print on Demand which should keep copies available for a long time to come. There have been a few slight changes in the manuscript for this release but it still remains loyal to the original.
            My usual notes on the history that might pertain to this story can be found at the end but in addition you will find excerpts from some upcoming releases. You can also find, on those occasions when I get enough breathing space to post, excerpts and short stories on my blog at  You can also make comments and email from there.
            There are also connections on this site to my author web page
author facebook page ( and the few videos that are out there. Of course, there is also and then search for D. M. McGowan.


          I rode beside a carriage built to carry no more than six people but holding eight. We only intended to go as far as the Farwell train station, so the rested team would easily handle the load, despite their light weight. Some of the men might have been able to run to the station almost as fast as they were being carried, but the sight of policemen running down the street would have created much more unwanted attention than the overloaded carriage. Besides, at that point they were all desperate to maintain a dignified appearance.
          The crowded conditions also forced them into a unity that they would soon need to survive and had not practiced recently. True, they were all peace officers with similar views of the world that develop with folks who have their occupation in common. However, three of them were British Columbia Policemen and the others wore the dress uniform of the North West Mounted Police. Their respective superiors had recently managed to force these men into a situation where they had been pointing their pistols at each other.
          Even though I rode with them, I was not a policeman, had no intention of being one, and wasn’t looking forward to the meeting we were about to have. We were riding toward a situation where we might all be shot, and I wasn’t at all happy about being put in that kind of danger. I hadn’t actually volunteered to go along, it wasn’t my job to face down thieves, and yet I wasn’t really being forced to join them. I was with them because one of the B.C. Constables, Jack Kirkup, had done me a favor a year and a half before. True, that favor had resulted in my enjoying success, but I didn’t think I needed to be shot and killed to pay for it.
          Almost everyone can remember at least one person or event that changed the course of their life. Sometimes these people and events come together causing far more than a simple upset. There have been more twists and turns in my life than you’d find in a mountain stream, but the first important one that I remember was the combination of Jack Kirkup and what I think of as the Great Liquor War.
          It was a fellow by the name of Jerry Hill who had the booze that started it all, but he had almost nothing to do with the war. It was the North West Mounted Police and the British Columbia Police that fought over it. And it was guys like Jerry Hill and I that had our lives torn apart because of it. Of course, my own involvement would have been far less if it hadn’t been for the debt I believed I owed Jack Kirkup.
          It was a year before the Liquor War that I met Jack in Rossland. I came up to the country the fall before with the idea of making my fortune by panning for gold.
          Actually, that’s not exactly true. I returned to the brand new country of Canada that year. I was born some place north of Fort York in Upper Canada one month before Daddy moved to Kansas. He wanted to move to Oregon but he ran out of steam in Kansas and we stayed there until the drought ran us out in 83.
          I always found that part of my family history real interesting. We moved to Kansas right after the Civil War and right into the middle of bad feelings between those who supported the Union and those for the South. We lasted through raids by outlaws from both sides - with relatives in both groups - and protected our home from Indian raids. We handled everything that man could throw at us, but we couldn’t beat Mother Nature. And after the sun dried the land and finished our crops, we finished the move to Oregon that had been interrupted eighteen years before.
          When we got to the end of that trail, I tried to talk Paw into trying something new. He had always had trouble feeding his family from farming, and it sure wasn’t from lack of trying. He just wasn’t a great farmer. The land he chose in Kansas was too dry to grow crops and it looked like what he picked in Oregon was too wet.
          “You’re a fool, boy,” he said. “All I ever done is farm. I don’t know nothin bout loggin r fishin. Family’d starve, I went t’ doin’ somethin’ else.”
          I looked around at my brothers, my sister, and at my mother. I was sure Paw had used up the little cash money he had managed to put in his pocket before we left Kansas. I knew there wasn’t much to put into the cupboards that hadn’t been built yet. I decided that my mouth was just another one to be fed from a farm that couldn’t feed those that needed it. I lit out on my own.
          A year later - the spring of ‘84 - I was on my own gold claim near Rossland, British Columbia. It was about then that I realized all the good gold claims were gone and I wasn’t doing much more than making a living on mine. I was trying to decide if I should keep it up, look for a new claim, or look for a new way to make my fortune. While I was doing all this thinking I was shoveling gravel into my rocker and washing it down for the gold.
          Not that I wasn’t seeing lots of color. Every time I worked that rocker I’d find at least some gold in it. I was making a living on that claim, and there were lots of folks that didn’t do that. But there was no way I was gonna get rich on that piece of ground, and I knew it.
          I think it might have been the country that got to me. Not that it ain’t pretty, for it surely is. But it was a might on the dry side, at least that year, and tended to remind me of Kansas during the drought.
          Mind, the land kind of rolls in Kansas, but it doesn’t have those pretty hills and mountains. I guess it was just the dryness that made me think of the hard times that drove us out of a nice place that I still think of as home, even after all these years.
          While I was rolling all manner of things through my mind, and washing dirt from the dirt, a fellow rode down the creek and told me there was gonna be a big prize fight in town. It had been several months since I’d had any entertainment and weeks since I’d been off the claim. Watching a fight seemed like a good idea, and I figured I could make my decision just as well from ringside as I could from creek side.
          When I got into town I found a good place to camp on the edge of town, up on a ledge covered with aspen and surrounded by spruce. I stripped the pack and saddles from my horses, picketed them, and set about to cook some supper.
          About the time I started the fire another fellow with just a riding horse came into the grove, dismounted and began to make camp. In those days it was a good idea to be careful who you invited into your camp, for not only did others judge you by the company you kept, but sometimes the company you kept wasn’t against taking things without asking: maybe your life. I kept an eye on him for a bit, decided he wasn’t a danger I couldn’t handle, and called him over.
          “Might as well join the fire,” I called out. “No sense two of us heatin’ up the night.”
          He waved at me and a few minutes later came over with his plate, cup, and a slab of bacon. He was a well set up man just a little older than me, wearing laced miner’s boots that were in pretty good shape. His pants were made of canvas, a lot like what we call jeans now only they hadn’t been dyed blue, and his jacket looked like it had been made for him as part of a suit, although it was startin’ to show some wear. Like me he wore a bushy moustache that hung down both sides of his mouth, but unlike me, his side burns were also bushy and extended down to the corner of his jaw.
          Now his hat was of special note. It was one of them round, hard things with a reverse curl brim. I think they call them a derby. There were places them days where a hat like that would get you in a fight.
          Not that folks didn’t wear derby hats back then. There were all kinds of head gear in the country, but most had been beaten and smashed about and generally made into part of the landscape. Most of the underground miners would take a beat up hat, maybe a derby, and shellac it until it was almost as hard as the rocks that might fall on their even harder heads. I always wore a Stetson and the one I was wearing then had held water for my horses more than once. His headgear looked like it had been brushed regular and was the property of some city swell. The point is, he was pretty well fixed up in comparison to the way most folks had to dress at the place and time.
          Take my own rig for example. On my feet was a pair of moccasins, one of several pair I had made from the hide of the elk whose meat had been keeping me alive through the winter. I had two pair of bib-coveralls, and the ones I wore only had one small patch on the seat, and one seam stitched up at the hip, so they were my good ones. The blue flannel shirt I wore had been new six months before, so it wasn’t faded too bad, but it was the only one I owned. I had a good sheep skin vest, but the hide on the outside hadn’t been white for a long time, and the coat in my pack had been made from the hide of a bear who had out worn it before me. I had one pair of long johns, which had been washed before I headed for town, and I already mentioned my hat.
          There were many men carrying pistols in those days, usually in a pocket, or behind the waist band of their pants and hooked in a suspender, but I wore a gun belt. I took it from the body of a man my Maw shot on the trail from Kansas. While Paw and I were rounding up the stock one morning, this gentleman decided that Maw and my sister would be easy pickings. He was wrong. It was a nice, wide belt, with an Army Colt in the holster, and, on the other side, a 15 inch Bowie knife. Later I had made a sheath to hang next to it and hold a 4 inch skinning knife.
          After he set his things down by the fire, he straightened and stuck out his hand.
          “Jerry Hill,” he said. “Pleased to have somebody else cook, for a change.”
          Now I hadn’t said anything about cooking, just that I’d share the fire, but I didn’t object, considering that he offered the first smoked side meat I’d seen in a couple of months.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Opening the West - Quest for GOLD

How important was the Cariboo Road? What would be the state of development for Western Canada today if that road had not been forced through where a road could not go a century and a half ago? Without the force created by the scramble for gold would it have been built at all?
There had been trappers in the British Columbia Mountains for decades. Many indigenous people and a few of European heritage had traded furs with the Hudson’s Bay Company and the American Fur Company for decades. As a result there was transportation up as far as was navigable by stern-wheeler to Hope and sometimes Yale down stream on the Fraser from Hell’s Gate Canyon.
A view of a small piece of Hell's Gate demonstrating why shipping did not attempt to go further up-river. There are several miles of this and worse.

The HB Company’s steamer SS Beaver was the first having entered Pacific waters in 1835. She supplied trade goods to the various posts – Fort Langley, Hope and Fort Victoria for example – and carried furs away for transport to England. With the news of gold and the edict by Governor Douglas that none but those ships under British flag would be allowed up the Fraser some American ships were newly registered at Victoria and new ships were built in the colony.
Steamer "Onward" near Hope BC

Those who participated in the initial rush of 1858 could travel up the Fraser to Yale or up the “Lakes Route” (Harrison Lake & Port Douglas) to Lillooet. After that, they walked.
There were horses in the Chilcotin Country (west of the Fraser) raised and trained by at least two of the tribes in that district. However, they were prized processions of those peoples and not about to be turned over to strangers for a few shiny yellow stones. Therefore, those miners who made it to the various gold bearing areas – Quesnelle River, Antler Creek, Keithly Creek, etc. – did so on their own two feet.
This is a very large and extremely rugged country. To reach any of those creeks mentioned one must travel over mountains, through desert and back into mountains. By the time prospectors made it and panned some gold they had often exhausted their supplies even though augmented with venison, elk and anything else edible.
It wasn’t until 1862 that any horses or mules appeared along Williams Creek. Not until the Cariboo Road was completed in 1865 did those numbers become significant enough to make a difference in the cost and availability of supplies. Supplies did come up through the Okanagan country to Kamloops but the supply was too small to have an effect on the cost of goods a weeks travel to the north. Besides, the HBC posts along that route already needed the supplies and the available transport.

For instance, along Williams Creek (Barkerville) a pair of rubber boots carried in on someone’s back would sell for about $75.00 in 1863 and in 1866, transported on a pack train or freight wagon for about $25.00. Even the latter figure was a little high since the equivalent in 2015 would be about $500.00. Gold was fairly stable throughout the 1800s at about $21.00 per ounce unless turned in at the HBC store or such commercial venture. Most charged 3% to pay for transport, etc. bringing the value down to around $16.50. To buy the same amount of goods in 2015 as the $16.50 would buy in 1870 one would need about $310.00.
The Cariboo Road was paid for by the miners with licensing fees and royalties demanded on the mineral they took from the colony. In later years there was an import duty on the cattle brought in from Oregon Territory and California.

Here are a couple of pictures of the road where it goes through Hell's Gate. Not only does it show the timbers used to hold a road but also demonstrates why a pleasant 6 week walk to the gold fields did not include strolling along the pine clad river banks of the gurgling mountain stream. 

The road was built in sections by several contractors. Those contractors employed men of varying backgrounds including one crew made up chiefly of Chinese laborers from California. Some of these men stayed and turned to mining, raising livestock or farming the land. Some of those who came for gold opened businesses including the road houses that served travelers on the road. Some of those laborers, teamsters, drovers, engineers, miners, blacksmiths, tinsmiths, wheelwrights, coopers – people from every trade, profession, or aspect of life became the populace of the Colony and later Province of British Columbia.
Without the force exerted by the “need” for gold was there any reason for someone from California to walk for weeks into the cold north over mountains and streams? Without this same force and the resultant funding who would want to take the time to build a wagon road along a sheer cliff face, across a “water-less waste” or through a bottomless bog? With no road to lead them into the lush mountain valleys and plateaus who would consider such beauty could be found or that such fertility could be planted and reaped in the lands beyond those canyons and crags?
Cottonwood House, one of the many road houses serving travelers, freighters and stage coaches. Today it is a historic site and museum for those going into Barkerville from Quesnell.
Wright's Ranch or 127 Mile House another stop for the BX Stage, a stop for travelers, a holding ground for beef cattle and a source for milk and pork.

108 Mile House.

Ninety seven years after the Cariboo Road was completed to Barkerville my father moved his family to BC’s Peace River Country. Without that Cariboo Road much of the resultant development of the province would have been slowed and may not have happened. As a result I might be living in Ontario having just retired from some factory job.

Now that is a downright terrifying thought!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Wild Fires and Special Help

During the first weeks of April, 2016 as the result of a winter with very little snow followed by early, hot, dry weather, several hundred fires sprang up in British Columbia and Alberta. Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes and thousands lost those homes. Most notable where those living north of Fort St. John, Buick Creek, Goodlow, Stoddard Creek, Cecil Lake BC, but the worst destruction was in Fort McMurray, AB. The last report I heard concerning the Fort McMurray fire stated that 20% of the houses in that town no longer exist. I’m sure there will be many more homes and businesses that will be severely damaged.
Here is a picture of Fort Mac before the fire.

Several individuals and companies performed magnificently and few are or will ever be recognized for their commitment and support of their fellow humans.
As an example, here is a Facebook post from Tom Grande

Getting No Credit, Getting No Coverage.
ms that some of the companies that are providing huge contributions are getting no credit. Companies like Syncrude and Suncor, they have opened up their camps and are housing and feeding 25,000 people. That is a huge number to house and feed. To put that into perspective, that would be like having all the hotels in Edmonton and Calgary, offering free rooms and food to 25,000 people. It took an entire country to offer accommodations for 25,000 refugees and in Ft Mac a handful of oil companies are doing the same and have not received any credit or coverage for it in the media. My hats off to the generosity and humble giving from these oil companies. They have sent their workers home so they could take care of the evacuees. They have quietly been giving more than any of us realize. To make it clear I am not affiliated or work for any of these companies just want to give a shout out of thanks to all of them.
Here is a picture of one of those camps.

What Tom posted here is mostly true, although I did hear a mention of the camp use on CBC FM and Satellite radio. I also heard of the two tankers that Shell had positioned along the highway south to Edmonton which fueled the vehicles of those escaping the fires - free of charge.

Thousands of Canadians stepped up to help. Thousands of firefighters, water bomber and helicopter pilots worked passed the point of exhaustion.
On Mother’s Day, May 8, 2016 it rained in Fort McMurray.
Support from citizens was exceptional.
Support from Mother Nature was in the nick of time.
Support from Ministry of Forests and employees was exceptional

Support from most elected officials and government bodies were sorely inadequate