History of Thompson Country, British Columbia

That the Fur Traders were the first white men to take up permanent residence in the wilds of the unknown Interior land lying between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, is common knowledge, but, with that, error creeps in and with the very phrase "The Fur Traders" is associated the idea that by it is meant the Hudson's Bay Company, an idea at once prevalent and erroneous. Established by Royal Charter in 1670, the Hudson's Bay Company gradually extended their field of operations westward, but it was the North West Company, formed in 1787, that first pushed their way west of the Rockies. These rival companies swept the North, the South being harvested by a later concern known as the Mackina Company. Then came the founding of the American Fur Company by John Jacob Astor, of New York, in 1809, and his aborption of the Mackina Company two years later. With the whole South field in his control, Mr. Astor turned his eyes Westward, beyond the Rockies, to the Oregon or Columbia River, and formed the Pacific Fur Company, with headquarters at Astoria, afterwards Fort George when the Nor' Westers secured possession, at the mouth of that great waterway. Thence traders branched out Northward even as the Nor' Westers made their way South. That both these companies should reach what is now Kamloops about the same time, is, therefore, scarcely a matter for wonder, and when the vigorous Northerners devoured the Pacific Fur Co., the farther West, rich in the coveted pelts, was theirs alone, and so remained, so far as the Interior was concerned, until the amalgamation of the Hudson's Bay and North West Companies.

This little volume is the outcome of an article published in 1905 dealing, in the main, with the early history of Kamloops. To this has been added new matter and this narrative, with its many imperfections and shortcomings, is the result. It is not presented as a complete history of that section of the country embraced in the title, but merely as a contribution throwing some light on the past. It may per chance serve others engaged in historical research as a beacon; to warn from what should be avoided and to guide whither there lies safety and knowledge.

Table of Contents

Aboriginal Times
The Coming of the White Man
Superstition and Tragedy
The Reign of John Tod
A New Outlet
Dawn of a New Era
The Search for Gold
The Coming of the Railway
From Fort to City

Source: Wade, Mark Sweeten. The Thompson country: being notes on the history of southern British Columbia, and particularly of the city of Kamloops, formerly Fort Thompson. Kamloops, British Columbia: Inland Sentinel Print, 1907.

"A few weeks later, being at Alexandria on a dark night in February, a French-Canadian showing the traces of a hard journey, entered the fort and said: 'Air. Black is murdered and all the men at Kamloops fort have fled in different directions.'

"I may anticipate a little by stating here the facts of this tragic occurrence, as these have been wrongly described in the book of his journey round the world in 1841-2, by the Governor, Sir George Simpson, who was at Fort Vancouver, on the Columbia river, in the middle of 1841, several months after it happened, and also described wrongly by other writers.

"A chief named Tranquille, of an Indian tribe near the fort, had died lately, and the widow, in her grief and concern for the departed, had told her son, a fine youth of 18, well disposed and quiet, that the father's spirit should be accompanied by the spirit of some chief of equal rank. This was urged daily until the youth, worn by importunity and a supposed sense of duty to his deceased father, seized his gun and sat himself down moodily in the hall of the Kamloops fort. Something in his appearance caused a servant to remark to Mr. Black that the Indian looked dangerous, but the latter said that probably the boy was ailing. Soon afterward, on Mr. Black crossing the hall from one room toward another, the Indian suddenly rose and fired at his back, and the bullet passed through the victim's heart and body and lodged in the wall.

"But to return. On hearing the French-Canadian's report, I directed him and two other men to start with me at dawn on horseback, with relays, from Alexandria for Kamloops. There were two feet of snow on the ground during the first part of our trip of 270 miles, and after a long week of almost incessant travel, or 'march,' as the word was, we reached our destination, to find Fort Kamloops abandoned save for the widow and children still weeping over Mr. Black's frozen body, lying where it fell. An Indian named Lolo, but, as a 'mission' In-dian, who preached about St. Paul, commonly called 'Paul,' who had been occasionally employed at the fort, appeared soon to sympathize with us, and, possibly, to report proceedings to the Indians, whose neighboring camp was silent.

"After examining as far as might be the course of the bullet, we buried the body, ascertained the murderer's name from Lolo, and then began to make an inventory of the goods at the fort. These seemed to be intact.

"Several days were thus occupied, during which an armed Hudson's Bay Company party arrived from Fort Colville, and later another armed party from Fort Vancouver (to which southern place some of the men fleeing from the fort had gone), the expectation being that the Indians would be found in possession of the Kamloops fort. As my own station at Alexandria demanded my care, I returned thither at once in these circumstances, but the end was not yet.

"The party from headquarters at Fort Vancouver began to terrorize the Indians within reach of Kamloops as a means of enforcing delivery of the murderer. Horses were seized, property destroyed, and, practically, short of killing men, war against the people was undertaken. The result of this ill-judged action, of course, was nil, except in causing bitterness, and, after a time, the company's forces were recalled to Fort Vancouver and Colville. A council held at the former fort, at which, as I said, the governor-in-chief was present, then decided on the policy to be adopted.

"Obviously with hostile Indians intervening, the year's pack of furs from the interior of New Caledonia, which required a cavalcade of 400 laden horses, could not reach the shipping depot at Fort Vancouver, nor could the posts receive thence their goods for next year's trade. Accordingly a temporising policy was approved.

"I was transferred from Alexandria to succeed Mr. Black at Kamloops, with instructions to try to continue trading and the business of the district as usual, and with the intimation that toward the end of the year a well armed force would be sent to aid me in 'prosecuting hostilities.'

"As the above policy of the authorities seemed to me unnecessary and also dangerously provocative, in view of the number and boldness of the Indians, though not all of them had guns or much ammunition, or the where-withal to purchase warlike equipment, I asked for, and was given rather grudgingly, more or less a free hand in the circumstances, and I shall now relate what took place, not for self-praise, but to illustrate how not to make an Indian war.

"Despatching Lolo, the Indian already mentioned (he was a man of birth and undoubted courage, but I never fully trusted him), to the different camps and tribes, I ascertained what horses had been taken from each and what property had been destroyed by the punitive expeditions, and I returned the horses from the bands at the fort and paid for the property in every case that was substantiated. Then I offered a pile of 'goods' to anyone who would show me or my agents where the murderer was; I desired no other help.

"On the third night after this notification an Indian called me up to say that his friends had decided to permit him to act as a guide, but he was to take no pay, in goods or otherwise. The murderer was far away in a valley covered with prickly pears, encamped there near a stream and guarded by twelve warriors. His information proved to be correct, for on my sending, with a guide, a small party of three men (advisedly small in pursuance of my own policy of regarding the matter as individual and not tribal) the place was reached, but though the guards and the murderer's wife and two child girls were there, he himself, unwitting of the present pursuit, had visited the Fraser river to buy salmon. Indiscreetly, as I considered, the party seized one of the children and brought her back to the Kamloops fort, whither they returned for supplies and further orders. I caused the child to be dressed prettily from goods in the store, supplied with a bag of toys, and immediately conveyed back to her mother by a special messenger on horseback.

"The latter remained a day at the camp, to which the murderer had not returned, and before departing homeward was told by the 'guards' that they would protect the man no longer, but would go home. Thus the youth became an outcast among his own people, with his doom fixed and the avenger on his track, but it was not until four or five months after this that he was run down and killed, as I shall now relate.

"The pursuers, guided by the informant, came to the crest of a hill and looked down on a small encampment on the opposite side of a river in the valley. The guide said: "There is his place and the ford is in front of the camp." Accordingly, when night fell, creeping to the river side, they crossed, the guide a little ahead, when he stopped to whisper, "Hush! they are talking in the lodge two men's voices one man, the man we want, is telling of his dream that the white men were hanging him.'

"In the rush one inmate of the lodge was seized by the throat; the other inmate dashed through the doorway, escaping the clutch of the foreman of the pursuers on his hair, as it had been cut short, but the foreman, a swift Scotchman, overtook and knocked him down with the butt of a gun. This fugitive was the murderer.

"Quickly he was taken across the ford in the river, tied securely on a horse, and the party traveled home-ward on their four days' march, and finally reached a ferry on the Thompson river, which would save a round of several miles. A pipe was there smoked, and the foreman pondered over the risk of putting the prisoner in a canoe finally he sent an armed man to the other side, and placed in the canoe one paddler in the stern, another in the bow. and the prisoner in the middle, not tying the hands of the latter. About the middle of the stream the prisoner upset the canoe, and, after diving, swam to the opposite side. The guard there, with leveled gun, ordered him to go back. 'Let me land,' pleaded the murderer 'If they had killed me at the time of the deed it would have been well; now I wish to live,' where-upon the guard fired, wounding him in the hand. He wailed and turned into the water, and the current took him down stream within short gun range of the foreman and another man at a point, or spit, of gravel, from which they shot and killed him, he crying out before he sank that he did not wish his death avenged."

It is stated by a grandson of the murdered trader that Black was buried at the fort, the body being wrapped in a horse hide and enclosed in a box made of hewn boards. When the next brigade set out for the trip south, it was decided to send Black's body with it to the Dalles. Early in the journey it became necessary to convey the furs, and Black's body, across a stream on foot, a tree felled across it serving as a bridge. While making the passage over this narrow footway with the heavy and cumbersome box containing the body, one of the Indians bearing it slipped and Indians and box fell into the stream. Before it was extracted, the water had penetrated every portion of the interior and had such an effect as to render it impossible to carry out the original determination to convey the remains to headquarters and the unfortunate body was again buried, this time at Ducks, where it has since rested undisturbed.