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Travel Synoptic - Manitoba Circuit 1880 and Western Canada 1932

Manitoba Pageant, Spring 1969, Volume 14, Number 3

This article was published originally in Manitoba Pageant by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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Manitoba Circuit

Henry Rose, father of Mrs. Ed. J. Brown of Minnedosa, (a long-time member of the Manitoba Historical Society), homesteaded in April 1879 near the present town of Minnedosa. In that same year he accepted work as a lay preacher and worker in the Methodist Church, a calling he followed during all his years in Manitoba. From his base at Rossburn, North West Territory, he plied his circuit, visiting mission stations at several places, and it was from Rossburn that he left early in the spring of 1880 to attend a "District Meeting" of his church in Winnipeg.

Many years later, he put down an account of this trip, and here it is as preserved by his daughter and submitted to Manitoba Pageant:

It meant something to travel in those days. The District meeting was in Winnipeg in the First Grace Church, built by Dr. Young. I was at Rossburn, two hundred miles away and had no horse. My charge was Rossburn, Birdtail, and Shoal Lake (at The Narrows). I left Shoal Lake on March 3rd with a Mounted Police-man, driving a toboggan for him, and arrived at the Little Saskatchewan [Minnedosa River] in p.m. next day and spent Sunday with my brother at home.

Western Canada

Being a personal experience as re-corded hereunder by Mr. Clifford R. McFadden (66), 1028 Garfield St. N., Winnipeg 3.

This episode which I am about to relate was the result of an advertisement in the Winnipeg Free Press in the Spring of 1932. The advertisement had been inserted by a man by the name of Cross. It stated that he was going placer mining and for twenty-five dollars would take anyone who wished to go along.

He owned two old Cadillacs and a Hudson car. Jobs were hard to come by in 1932 and as a result he received more applications than he was able to accommodate. So to satisfy the large number of applicants he bought a 1921 model T Ford from my cousin, Lawrence Kinley, who had bought it from me in 1930. Lawrence did not receive any cash for the car but got a free trip and a month's board.

As there were now about twenty people, it was thought that a syndicate should be formed. This was done, and a mine on Cedar Creek near the town of Likely, British Columbia, was rented from a man by the name of Atkinson. We also agreed to pool fifteen dollars a month for board. There was to be a cook and a helper. The rest would work in the mine. Mr. Cross was to be the boss. We were all to share in the profits.

In Kootenay Country, 1932.

On the 9th I walked to Mr. Craw-ford's at Salisbury, twenty-two miles, where I joined the Reverend Thomas Lawson and drove to High Bluff with him - seventy-seven miles - calling to see Reverend M. R. Morrison at Glad-stone on the way. Spent Sunday at High Bluff where I preached for the Reverend J. M. Harrison. Then we went on to Winnipeg where I stayed with old friends (Wm. Code's).

District Meeting, March 17 & 18, Rev. J. F. German, chairman. Present were Ministers: Rev's. J. W. Bell, W. R. Morrison, Thos. Lawson, Wm. Halstead, a young man named Mearing and myself.

Returned with the Rev. Morrison. Drove to Henderson's, two miles from Portage la Prairie on Saturday, 19th - over sixty miles - and stayed at a Mr. Mooney's home. Preached on Sunday at Squirrel Creek at 10:30 a.m., Pine Creek at 2:30 and Glad-stone at 6:30 p.m. for Mr. Morrison. Walked from there home [Minnedosa] on the 24th where I stayed until the 28th. Walked to Shoal Lake on 29th and 30th, where I was supposed to be by the 28th, but stormy weather prevented. Was delayed by storms and snowblindness from being at Birtle on April 4th, as expected. Reached Rossburn on the 6th.

Five Sundays [away] from work. Rode three hundred and sixteen miles and walked one hundred and eighteen. The snow was very deep and the road like a turnpike, packed hard with snow three to six feet deep and in many places in small bluffs it was ten to fifteen feet deep. On my return it was six feet deep on the level, with many banks still showing on the first of May. Such was travel and such was the Spring of 1880.

There never was a group of men who knew less about mining than we did. All arrangements being made, we left Winnipeg on a beautiful morning, Monday, the 9th of May, and headed west to make our fortunes.

My cousin Lawrence Kinley, Hubert Anderson, a young man whose name I do not remember, and myself, rode in the Ford. At that time the roads were gravelled and in a good many places they were washboardy. Periodically the car would take a notion to shimmy. A combination of poor roads and hard [high pressure] tires made it a pretty rough trip.

We planned to cook our meals beside the road and sleep in a tent, thus cutting down the expenses. However, I cannot recall putting up the tent until we reached Lethbridge. We went through Brandon, Regina, and Moose Jaw, where we picked up Mrs. Cross, then on to Swift Current and Medicine Hat.

I remember a town west of The Hat named Seven Persons. I think some of them must have been on vacation, as I did not see seven people there. At Seven Persons we cooked supper at a camp site, using natural gas. Gas was so cheap in that part of the country at the time that it was burned night and day.

We went on to Lethbridge that night where we slept under the C.P.R. bridge. So far the weather had been good, but during the night it turned very cold. We broke camp early and on to McLeod where we had a break-fast of bacon and eggs. This was the first real meal we had had since leaving Winnipeg. West of Pincher Creek, we ran into about ten miles of dirt road. Ironically, we struck this piece of road both going and coming back just after or while it was raining. Our old car managed to get through, but the larger cars became stuck in the mud.

The weather was still very miser-able and snow began to fall before we reached the mountains. The snow was now coming down in chunks and we could only see a few feet in front of us, as there was no windshield wiper on the Ford. We should have stopped but kept on and very nearly had an accident involving another car, but were fortunate to get off with a dent in a can of oil which we had strapped to the running board.

All's well that ends well. We proceeded on our way through the Crow's Nest Pass, where we saw the place called the Great Divide. The snow had turned to rain and so we got a look at the mountains for the first time.

So far we had been going up hill but now we started to go down, passing through Fernie and Cranbrook where we stayed the night in a motel. It was very cold and during the night I thought it advisable to drain the radiator. This added to our problems as the rad. started to leak, so we had to have it repaired. However, in spite of our troubles, we enjoyed the beauty and perfume from the fruit trees that could be seen and smelled for miles.

From here we followed the Kootenay Lake as far north as Gray Creek, where we saw the ferry just pulling away from the dock. This necessitated our staying there all day. At this point Mr. Cross, whom we had not seen since we left Moose Jaw, caught up to us. He had been delayed be-cause of the muddy roads.

That night we boarded the ferry for Nelson. This ferry was propelled by a large waterwheel at the stern. We arrived in Nelson just in time to miss a nude parade being staged by the Doukabours. The Mounted Police had them in a large building, something like a skating rink. However, we did see a few of them the next day working on their farms.

The next day's journey took us through Trail to Rossland. Between these two places we struck the only piece of hard-topped highway, except for the larger cities. At Rossland we learned that the road over the Cascade Range, known as the Hump, was closed because of the snow. Thus we were forced to turn southwest and take a mountain trail, which an intelligent goat would not have attempted. It was the only time I was really scared and I think my hair stood on end all the way. On one turn we would have skidded onto the canyon but for a log barrier at the edge of the so-called road. That was as close a call as I ever had anywhere.

Following a necessary detour into the U.S.A. at Laurier we returned to Canadian Territory and more steep hills, up some of which the Ford car had to be driven backwards in order for the fuel to flow into the carburetor!

We slowly made our way through such places as Osoyoos, Penticton and Kelowna to Salmon Arm. At Cache Creek we turned north on the Caribou "Highway", which ran through open ranching country. Towns were few and far between, with stopping places at 70 Mile House, 100 Mile House and 150 Mile House.

Our destination was about two miles from the small town of Likely. When we reached the site of our rented claim we immediately named it "Unlikely" as the only water available was a quarter of a mile away, mostly straight up. We moved on a few miles north to Spanish Creek. Here I saw my first (and practically only) flake of gold. Two days later we lost all desire for placer mining. Instead of meeting our demand for a refund of board money, Mr. Cross gave us the Ford. He went back east with the bigger cars for more passengers.

After a short jaunt to Keithly Creek, Andy and I were employed for a couple of weeks clearing the way for a 7-mile flume. We netted $2.00 a day on the job, which gave us a few dollars for brake linings and other expenses.

With all this money in our pockets we set out to see Vancouver. Following the Fraser river, there were no tunnels and bridges such as one will encounter today. When we came to a stream running into the Fraser we drove up one side till we came to a small bridge and then travelled back on the other side. Thus we travelled about twice as far as people do now.

The roads were very treacherous, as the shale sides were only shored up with logs and could have given away at any time. We crossed over the Fraser on a bridge built by the Royal Canadian Engineers years before. We also saw where the C.P.R. and the C.N.R. bridges crossed the Fraser one underneath the other. At Spuzzum the toll-keeper took a dollar from us for a road tax.

On arriving at Vancouver we rented a light housekeeping room and spent about a week sightseeing, on foot mostly, as we were afraid to drive the old car in the city. Like all large centres at that time there were many unemployed and no jobs available, so we got in the Ford and headed back to the prairie, hoping to get harvest work.

This time we went over the hump (I believe that this road is closed now) to Rossland. We had let the oil get low as going uphill the car didn't require that it be kept full, but going downhill was a different matter and as a result we wore out the brake linings again. The repairs could not be obtained at Trail, so we took our lives in our hands and went on to Nelson. Here a garageman was kind enough to loan us some tools to do the job.

The trip from Nelson, B.C. to Gull Lake, Saskatchewan, was uneventful. Here we parted with the old Ford for ten dollars and went harvesting.

By about October 1st we had obtained a little cash, and as the weather was quite cold, we took the train to Regina. There we made a deal with a man who was going to Winnipeg by car.

At Virden we ran into a snow storm and by the time we reached Brandon the country looked somewhat like it did after the 4th of March blizzard in 1966. We continued on our way the next morning. We still had plenty of trouble but by travelling through fields where the snow wasn't so deep we were able to reach Portage la Prairie where the snow had dissolved into slush. Winnipeg had only a light rain.

These incidents comprise some of the trials, tribulations and pleasures of our gold mining venture and motoring during the depression, thirty - seven eventful years ago.

Lawrence Kinley since has acquired a wife and hardware store at McBride, B.C. Hubert Anderson, too is married, working for Westinghouse in Hamilton, Ontario, after serving as an officer in the R.C.A.F. I had a stint in the army, ending up with Eaton's in Winnipeg.

I am now retired and taking things easy. As for the rest of the gang who left Winnipeg with us, I cannot recall ever seeing or hearing of them after we left Likely, B.C.

Page revised: 19 July 2009

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