We do not know his name: Klatsassin and the Chilcotin War

Road Building Culture

[ Cariboo gold nugget, Unknown, BCA A-05577 ]

In 1862, the race was on to build a road to the goldfields of the Cariboo. James Douglas, who was governor of both the colonies (Vancouver Island and British Columbia), invited business people to build a road and then charge tolls to the users. Four competing routes emerged, each vying to be the first, the shortest, and the fastest route to the gold. Two started from the Fraser River up from New Westminster, the capital of the colony of British Columbia; two were started up the coast by business people from Victoria, the capital of the neighbouring colony of Vancouver Island. Not only would a successful road make the businessmen rich, but each city had a lot at stake. If one of the up-coast routes became the favourite, Victoria would supply the mines and New Westminster would be bypassed. If a route from New Westminster prospered, that city, not Victoria, would be enriched by the mines, or so it was thought.

The Fraser River routes included what came to be called the Cariboo Road, which started at Yale, the farthest point a steamer could go up the Fraser before it hit an impassable canyon. Another, the Harrison-Lillooet Route, bypassed the canyon by a series of lakes and portages to join the Cariboo Road at Lillooet.

The proposed up-coast roads included Lt. Palmer’s route, an ancient aboriginal route from Bella Coola at the end of Bentinck Arm, along the Chilcotin Plateau to Fort Alexandria near the goldfields on the Fraser River. The other, proposed by a Victoria businessman, Alfred Waddington, started at a townsite he named after himself at the end of Bute Inlet. It was the shortest overland route, following the Homathco River through the Coast Mountain Range to Fort Alexandria. Lt. Palmer went to survey the Bentinck Arm route and Waddington’s road crew left Victoria to start construction just as smallpox was erupting in spring 1862. Both up-coast routes crossed the territory of the Tsilhqot’in people.

By 1864 the Cariboo Road was closing in on Barkerville, giving the edge to New Westminster, whose interests were promoted by a new governor. When James Douglas retired in 1864, Governor Kennedy was appointed to the colony of Vancouver Island and Governor Seymour to British Columbia, and the rivalry between the two colonies increased.

Palmer's Trail


Newspaper or Magazine Articles

Waddington's Road


Colonial Correspondence

Journal Articles

Newspaper or Magazine Articles

Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History