Guillod, Henry - Journal of a Trip to Cariboo
Journal of a Trip to Cariboo
B.C. Archives Manuscript
Call No. E B G94A
Author: Guillod, Henry
Title: Journal of a Trip to Cariboo
The only merit that is claimed for the following pages, is that they are a faithful and unvarnished record of the arduous journey which they describe. It may however be well to mention, what however will be evident to the reader as he proceeds, that they are not written by a grumbler or disappointed man, but by one who met the difficulties and hardships of the undertaking with cheerful courage.
That he was not disheartened by the unprofitableness of last year's season and the roughnesses of a winter at Victoria where stone breaking was the only work to be obtained by one who was not a mechanic and that only as a favour, is shewn by this that he has gone up again to Cariboo and we may hope is now reaping a golden harvest in the claim at Van Winkle.
No doubt there are thousands of our city youths who would as readily leave the comforts of a quiet home and face the hardships of a mountain journey bad food and short commons, hail and rain and storm, and mosquitoes and sand flies with as good a heart and as patient an endurance, shewing the sterling qualities of the Saxon race; but there are also thousands who would not be able to do so; and it will be well for every one who is tempted by the glittering prizes which are held out by Cariboo and its rival Goldfields, to consider deeply whether they have got the right stuff in them and will be able to bivouac in wet blankets and cook a pancake in a hailstorm, without regretting the snug featherbed and comfortable chophouse of the West end and the City.
*The right half of the top margin has been torn away
Sunday Oct 19th 1862
Here I am again in Victoria! Have seen the "Elephant" as Cariboo is called here; bought into a claim on Lightning Creek, got "played out" and arrived here per Steamer yesterday evening in the remnants of my clothes and without a cent in my pocket. I had to leave my watch in deposit for my Steamboat fare, and as I left Cariboo without a change of clothes, here I am without a shirt to my back; what remains being only a collar and the tattered front; in a dilapidated coat and with one boot between two feet, and all things considered in a pretty respectable plight to present myself at Church; in fact having rather a wild appearance for beside my rags my hair as not been cut since I left England in May.
The Steamer did not get in till half past six, being too late to get letters, clothes or money, so I had to ask the proprietor of the Hotel to trust me till Monday, the rule being to pay everything beforehand. I have had my breakfast and walked out a mile or so, to the place where we camped in July; and am now dotting this down as I ruminate on my future prospects which I confess at present look not very bright, but I guess I'll fall on my legs somehow. There is great difficulty in getting employment anywhere here, and I am in a state of uncertainty with regard to George1 who came down a month before me. If he has gone to California which is not improbable I would rather follow him.
It is now between nine and ten o'clock here and I reckon you are at dinner: I often picture to myself what you are all doing at home; and many a time when I have been cold, hungry, wet and tired, my thoughts have centered on a quiet cup of tea at Paddington; to walk in and see you all just then would have been the highest pinnacle of happiness; of course to make it complete it must be in the short days with closed curtains and a comfortable fire and then to my idea there is something superlatively cosy about it.
My health has been firstrate, and in spite of my feet being constantly wet in the first part of my journey, my spirits were not at all damped. Today is a charming day and as I hear the bells going for Church I will close this introductory chapter and begin with my diary after, but I am afraid you will find it very dull, as I only found time to jot down a line or so each day.
Saturday June 28th 1862.
We got on board the Oregon at San Francisco and after a quiet passage arrived at Esquimault on Wednesday July 2nd finishing our sea voyage which you may be sure we were glad of. I could hardly realize that we were indeed in sight of Vancouver's Island. It is a pretty harbour at Esquimault rather than a fine one, consisting of a collection of small pieces of water opening into each other. In passing across to Victoria we saw several plants which put us in mind of home; blackberries - the same kind of plant as our own but different in leaf and flavour, - and several of our wild flowers: it was a winding road through tangled underwood; here a turn brought us in view of the bay there, we went round a large moss covered stone, or a fallen tree overgrown with grey lichens, contrasting with the green foliage of the trees and the red leaves of the underwood.
We crossed a wooden bridge to reach Victoria, which as you approach looks like a pretty English village; the Church or as I found out afterwards the Methodist Chapel with its little spire being the principal object in the landscape, a little bit of a lake and the bridge being in the foreground - how much prettier the slanting roofs are than the flat paste-boardy ones of San Francisco!
A pony cart took our luggage across with some others for which we paid $1 ¼. We stopped at the Royal Hotel that night paying $½ for our bed and the same for each meal. The next morning we packed up and got some of our goods stored; taking what we wanted with us down to the camping ground, where George and I found our first experience of life out of doors. We bought a tent of some men on the ground for five dollars. We had very fine weather while here and found provisions, good fresh meat and fish pretty cheap; bread was dearer than at home we paid $½ for five small loaves.
Saturday J----2 went into town with an old fellow Mr. A---- had recommended to him and bought a horse afterwards named "Old Moke". We had him home on Sunday evening intending to start for Cariboo the next morning when we found he had a sand crack on his fore hoof and was weak on the legs altogether, making him walk a little lame; so we deferred starting and went down to try and make a better bargain; however the dealer would have nothing to do with him "it wasn't his horse and he'd just sent the money along to the owner"; so we had no help for it, and decided to start with him and take our chance. The fact was J---- did not give enough to have a decent horse and was deluded (by the help of his friend) into buying him without having him out of the stable. I went with him and ought to have stayed but we were to meet Captn. J---- at the stable and I got tired of waiting and left and when I came back, the deed was done.
A good many of our companions on the voyage were camping on the same ground with ourselves; all much discouraged by the news from Cariboo, which was very unfavorable: more men coming down than going up giving dismal accounts of the dearness of provisions everything being a dollar a pound; continued wet and consequent mud; bad roads, horrid mosquitoes, &c. &c.
It seems to me that those who had gone up earlier were too soon, as from all accounts there is nothing to be done in the way of prospecting till July or August. Many of those coming back had never been to Cariboo, but finding the roads wretched, provisions scarce and dear and their money failing, had turned back either discouraged or from necessity and a queer looking set of fellows they are; rough and dirty, many having thrown away their things or otherwise get rid of them to lighten their swags.
I seemed to have very little time here, what with chopping wood, going backwards and forwards to town and cooking the days seemed to go very quickly. We laid in a small supply of provisions - Barley for horse: 15 lb of Flour, 10 lb sugar, a ham, 8 lb cheese, 10 lb Biscuits, 5 lb dried Apples, 2 lb Coffee, 4 lb Tea, a bottle of Curry, salt &c. Our whole expenses since leaving England up to this date, reckoning horse, pack saddle, saddlebags, provisions and extra money paid for our fare from San Francisco is £50. We have deposited £100 at Selim Franklin and Co. at 1 pr. Cent pr. Month which is not bad interest; and take £50 apiece up the country.
We took as small a supply of clothes as possible and were off on Tuesday, July 8th getting on board the Enterprize at three o'clock, leaving a letter in our way with all information up to this date.3
When we went to embark, George took charge of the horse which we were entirely out of conceit with; and as we had to wait near and hour before he could be received on board, you must imagine the figure George cut with his lanky legs, dressed in a jersey and no cost walking about with this disconsolate-looking animal, who when his turn came to proceed on board, took it into his head to back, so there was George pulling one way and the horse most determinedly the other, till some fellow behind put the whip into him when he stepped the plank. I was on board with the luggage watching the proceedings.
We steamed up the channel with Vancouver's Island on one side and the Oregon snow-capped mountains visible over the islands on the other and going up the Frazer in the night arrived at New Westminster the next morning July 9th. We found an eligible spot and pitched our tent as we were told that there was no boat up the river till the next morning. New Westminster has one principle street with a hotel or two, a couple of dozen stores, a church and some pretty cottages along the bank of the river, among them a model Swiss Cottage; the military station is about a mile from the wharf, and quite enclosed by the forest which is being gradually cleared from around the town. There were Indians squatted on some swampy ground by the side of the river and we heard that the small-pox was bad among them; I saw one little wretch who was just getting over it, down by the water, where we went to have a bathe. As we returned a steamer came in and on enquiry we found she left again at 7 for Douglas; so we got some sausage and bread for dinner, packed up in all haste, and went on board the "Governor Douglas, a queer-looking steamer, having the paddle wheels, minus boxes, in the stern. The passage up the river was beautiful, the banks being densely wooded down to the water's edge on either side, while now and then a snow capped mountain, towered high over us. Just as it was getting dark we passed a burning forest, a tract of land being cleared as we supposed; after which we rolled ourselves up in our blankets and went to sleep on the floor of the cabin. I was roused several times in the night by the noise made on board, for it being foggy, they had a job to find the way and kept sounding the whistle.
The last part of the river was very narrow, quite closed in with bushes which grew in the water; and we ran into the sides several times; once a tree caught some boxes of bacon and turned them over on the deck, smashing one of the number; we had also to pass through a lot of drift wood, which was slow work it having to be pushed out of the way with long poles. We spoke with another steamer and took on board three or four chaps who had come with us in the Shannon from Southampton; they were going to Yale to get work, having been disgusted with the accounts from Cariboo which they had had heard at Douglas.
As we approached the town, we were struck with an Indian burying ground, which had the appearance of being hung with banners; the blankets and clothes of the deceased being hoisted on long poles.
We arrived at Douglas at 9:30; there is nothing pretty in the town which is merely a row of log huts in a small clearing surrounded by the forest, with the road to the diggings perceptible up the hill behind. On landing we found the horse had cut his hind hock against a bit of sharp wood on board the steamer, and while waiting on the wharf, several fellows came up and gave their remarks, free of cash upon our noble quadruped. One horse dealer looked at his leg and said it was an old sore, and found far more faults in the beast, than you would have thought possible to be concentrated in one animal; declaring that it would not take us five miles from Douglas, and wanting to sell us another, from, of course perfectly disinterested motives. I wished the creature at the bottom of the sea, or that he would give up altogether, as then we should have been not afford to pitch him into the river; so we got off as soon as we could, made three miles and then stopped to have dinner.
Before we left the wharf we had a close view of a party of Indians, a man who had been up country being in the act of selling off some of his traps to them. A journey out here soon destroys all romantic illusions with regard to the Indians; instead of anything noble they are dirty, immoral and fond of tawdry finery: here are our illustrations. Take that old woman and the little girl who is playing with a baby in the woman's arms; the dress of the latter is a very dirty cotton gown shewing her form to perfection, ornamented with a bead necklace about an inch and a half deep; the papoose has on an apology for a shirt which I suppose has once been white; (I am not very clear on the subject of its clothing, but I remember it was as little as possible and very dirty:) the girl, who I suppose was the daughter of a Tyce of chief, had armlets and anklets of plain brass, like twisted stair-rods and a very dirty blanket twisted round her. The favorite dress of the men seems to be a common cap with a band of tinsel paper round it a rusty black coat, cast off trousers of any colour and boots. When they want to be swellish, they streak their faces with vermillion and put on one of the wonderful large necklaces, the cloth coat with these additions making a "tout ensemble" difficult to imagine. The women are mostly in old gowns or dirty blankets; the more fortunate with an ornamentation of red paint and some even wear crinoline for I have seen them here and farther up with that adornment. The generality of them men and women are very ugly though you do occasionally see a respectable looking woman and on one of the boats there was an old man a chief with half a dozen squaws and some young men who was better looking than the majority, but put one in mind of a well favoured supernannuated washerwoman. Formerly they wore their hair hanging in tangled masses down to their waists but they have now so far advanced in civilizatioin, as to cut it above their shoulders and comb it, and some I should say use real Indian Macassar. As for the grace of the "Child of the Forest" I'm afraid I've not got eyes for it.
We did eight miles more after dinner, making eleven from Douglas, and stopped at 8:30 in a deep thickly-wooded valley, with huge mountains on each side. Our road had been very stony and up and down hill. It was a fine night so we did not pitch our tent; but we thought it necessary to keep watch which we did in three turns from 10:30 to 1.0, 1.0 to 3:30 and 3.30 to 6:0. I was very sleepy in my watch, although it was a very moantic spot. The moon rose and shone out over the top of the mountains, giving a beautiful appearance to the trees, and throwing streaks of light across our camping ground; while the noise of the streamlets rushing and spraying down from the neighbouring hills had a lulling effect on the senses. The night passed withough any adventure.
We started at 8:30 and had proceeded on our road about six miles, when as George was walking a-head of the horse, I being behind, the "Old Moke" took it into his head to roll over in the road, catching his foot at the same time in the halter. George was going on without the slightest idea of what had happened till I bawled out. The animal was not a bit hurt, but we had to unpack him and therefore stopped and had dinner. We started again at 2.0: The road was principally up and down hill, in deep vallies between the mountains: sometimes we were down so low among tall trees that the sun was entirely hid, and then the trail would lead for a little while through woods on level ground. We reached the Lake at 8.0 having made eighteen miles. We camped on a bit of open ground that had been cleared close to the Lake partly occupied by a few log huts: here we made a good fire and kept watch as before. The tarpaulin we took with us from Unite's was very useful to lie on, quite excluding the damp and the night being again fine, we were too lazy to pitch our tent. In the night we made some coffee which was very jolly
J---- and I went down with our baggage to take the boat at 10:30; sending George along the trail with our nag and packsaddle. We had to wait some time before the boat started; and when it did move it was very slow, for it was a large river boat filled with freight which they had to row against stream and wind and in one place we had a stoppage to pass some rapids, so that we did not get out of the boat till four o'clock, the distance being about six miles; we found the sun very hot as we laid in the boat. When we got out we had to walk a mile to reach another lake and steamer; there we found a Restaurant and made a jolly meal of fresh meat &c for which we paid a dollar each. I put a piece of bread and meat in my pocket for George who was on the other side of the lake; he got there in two hours and had to wait till six o'clock when we took him up on the steamer; we was nearly famished, as he had no means of getting anything to eat, we having all the provisions with us, not thinking he would have been so much before us. Here we had our first experience of mosquitoes which was not very agreeable.
We reached Pemberton at eleven at night and slept in a house: At all eating-houses on the road, there is a room where you may roll yourself up in a blanket and sleep free of charge. We tied up the horse outside and here I must relate an adventure which befel him after dark on board the Steamer; one of the oxen offended him, I suppose, and he kicked him overboard, and the poor beast was drowned. George heard this from the captain. I was surprized at his showing so much spirit, as he looks awfully quite.
We had breakfast in the house, and went on only about five miles, it being Sunday, to a good camping ground. On leaving I was so bothered with mosquitoes that I left my pocket knife behind, finding it out to my great regret when it was too late to go back. We had very little peace and J--- nearly went wild, for we were eaten with mosquitoes, they were perfectly dreadful and I could never have believed that anything of the sort could be so bad. We had bought netting at Victoria, but it was of little use as we had not broad-brimmed hats to keep it off the face and wherever it touched they bit through we have no domestic pests in England to be compared with these.
Here our horse had another adventure. I had tied the wretch to a stone which was in the road to give him the benefit of some hay left there by a team; we were having our meal when, looking round suddenly, we discovered that "the Old Moke" had made off, having slipped his halter from the stone; as this had evidently been dragged forwards on the road, I supposed that he had gone that way, so started off, and a mile or so on, luckily found some chaps who had caught him and put their packs on his back; they had found him going at a smart pace toward Lilooett and supposed he was running away. When I got back I found that J--- had started back to Pemberton to look for him and he did not get back till 10:30. We got scarcely any sleep that night because of the mosquitoes, and they seemed to bother J--- more even than us, which we wondered at, as he had made their acquaintance in Australia.
We were glad to be off early at 6:30, and made two journeys in the day, doing eighteen miles. We amused ourselves with the gun on the way; I shot a squirrel-my first shot with that gun; and George got several small birds and missed more. We camped and cooked the squirrel, which we did not find anything extraordinary. We did not set up our tent, and just as we laid down it began to rain, and although we were under the trees, we got a pretty considerable sprinkling. I did not like my watch at all, having to grope about in the rain and darkness for wood to keep the fire up; in doing this I dropped my spectacles in the bush and had a rare job to feel for them.
We now came to another lake, with a steamer to take us over; we had some bread and cheese and went on board at twelve o'clock; there were several English chaps on the other side returning; we went on to Lilooett. It was quite dark when we got in; the last part of our journey was across a level plain and as it came on to rain hard, you may suppose it was not very jolly; for my part I was miserable enough. However on reaching the town we found a house to lie down in which quite set us up; we tied the old horse up in the rain, and turned in and slept very well.
A man and his horse accompanied us this part of the way, he belonged to a party which went up earlier, and had been particularly unfortunate. One of them had shot himself in drawing a loaded gun out of a tent. They had gone up with three horses which this man had taken back for a fresh supply of provisions, but two had died from over-driving; so that while they were expecting him with three loads, he was going up with only one. Besides this he was taking up to another of the party news of his brother's death, so that altogether he was very down in the mouth.
The road up thus far had been through deep valleys with snowcapped mountains towering above the trees in the distance; every mile or two we came to a swift running stream of deliciously cold water from the mountains, dashing and spraying over the stones; or we crossed a rough bridge of pinetrees over a cascade which bounded over the rocks farbelow; then would come a level road through pine forests for a few miles; again we went up hill round the side of a mountain, only to descend again far down into the valley, shut in by large trees and cool even in the heat of the day, but never out of sight of huge mountains, principally covered with fir. George said it put him in mind of the Highland scenery, but altogether on a larger and grander scale.
Wednesday July 16th
We had a good breakfast, only short of vegetables, and paid a dollar apeice for it. We gave the old horse a feed of hay and went down to the ferry which here crosses the Fraser. The river has a rapid stream, and a rocky descending shore with a few bushes scattered here and there. We saw some Chinamen washing for gold; for there is some gold to be found along the whole course of the river, but not in paying quantities; the good Fraser River diggings having been worked out.
I and J--- went on to the store to buy provisions, and obtained 50lb each of Flour and Beans; 10 lb of Sugar; 6 lb of Corn Meal, 5 lb of Salt and 23 lb of Bacon, which cost us about £10: 0: 0. George came across with the horse about twelve o'clock; he had to sit in the boat holding the bridle while the horse swam; the Old Moke did it well. We went up to the store and loaded him. We left a few things at Lilooett and packed swag to carry on our backs. Our journey today was over a pretty even trail; we made nine miles camping in a turn of the road with a creek running close by.
We made two journeys doing about seventeen miles. Soon after starting the saddle shifted, and we were obliged to pack again, a thing which requires some practice to do properly, so that the man who was travelling with us went on and left us behind. We passed a horse left by the roadside in a dying condition. J--- and I went on before leaving George trying to shoot some birds; J--- was going forwards with the horse, when in some unaccountable manner we missed the road, and took a foot trail which led us down a very steep track into a valley and then we had to get up the other side which was a "burster"; when we had gone half way up, the steepness of the ascent shifted the saddle right on to our beast's hind quarters; so we had to unpack in a great hurry, take the animal up first and afterwards the goods which was no joke. We packed again and found George a little ahead, as he had gone by the right road and so passed us.
Here we met with a middle-aged lady whom we had seen at Esquimault; she had come out with her husband, who looked sirty, to open a house of refreshment at Cariboo; they were going up with a pack train, but she had started on before by herself to reach the next house, having got tired of waiting for the rest, rather a courageous "old gal" wasn't she? When we caught her up she was trudging along leading her mule, shewing a very fine pair of legs, red petticoat &c though minus crinoline, which I need scarcely say, doesn't answer for riding; a hat and feather completed her costume. She was complaining that her mule was very lazy, and she had to keep whacking him to make him go; she walked a little way with us and then made off.
We camped by a small stream, and as we had picked a lot of blueberries along the road, we mixed them with flour and water and frying in our bacon fat made very jolly fritters
After dinner we went on up the Pavilion Mountain, by a good road winding right and left up the face of the hill which was very steep: the only objection to this zigzay was that we had to go so far to get a little way forward: after this we wandered on along a track which was hardly distinguishable from the grass and could not find any water. It was quite dark and we were very tired, when we saw the welcome glow of a fire in the distance, and soon came to a capital camping ground, where we found our former fellow-traveller and the lady as well, and had a jolly night here. No mosquitoes.
The first part of today's walk was very pleasant although it rained, and it was thoroughly English looking; we were up among the hills on a large undulating plain with here and there a clump of trees or range of bushes and the whole covered with good green grass, which is very scarce here, the generality of the grass which covers the hills being yellow, dry and coarse. We then came to a beautiful spot; there was a stream winding along the side of our path, hidden among long grass and rushes and a literal bed of roses of all shades; they were growing on low bushes, and after the shower everything looked so fresh and smelt so sweet that it was quite a treat and afforded me as much pleasure as any garden I ever saw in England.
Roses are plentiful all over the country, right up to Cariboo in the plains woods and hedges; and the hips must form the principal food of the birds in winter; but I did not meet with any so full of buds and blossoms in all their delicious stages as here.
The nag went on with J--- and the other man and horse George and I stopping behind to try and bag some game, in which we were not very successful, only hitting two small birds. When we started on we came upon a very nasty bit of road through a wood; it was uphill and very greasy and slippery and as it came on very wet it was awful work. The trees here, especially those that fall, get covered with a beautiful greenish yellow
[The original MS was presented to the Archives in 1955 by Mrs. B.J. Beckerleg of Victoria, H.G.'s daughter. Transcript checked with original, February 1958, by D.B.S., Published in BCHQ, vol. 19, 1955}