Turning Back the Pages: A journey up the Valley, around 100 years ago

By Colleen Palumbo

It’s not often that we have the opportunity to have a firsthand account of something here in the Valley that took place 100 or more years ago, but I came across this article written by Basil Hamilton, which describes a trip down the Valley and the places along the way.

FROM GOLDEN TO THE BOUNDARY, VIA FORT STEELE, AND OUT BY CROW’S NEST PASS. By BASIL, G. HAMILTON.

Twenty-two miles from the main line there is a modest little log building at the roadside, with outbuildings of the same, and some enclosed land. It is a farm owned by a merchant in the Town, and bears the name of Hog Ranch. It received this in the days of railway construction, when it served the purpose of a place for drinking for men employed in the building of the railway. Being 22 miles away, it was barely outside of the line in which the sale of liquor is prohibited under the Public Works Act, while a large undertaking such as the building of a road is being carried on. The way it secured the name illustrates in a manner the extent to which it was patronized. It is related that a man—a stranger in the neighborhood—found it suited his convenience to flop at this humble-looking log house for the night. Coming in the next day to Golden, he was asked where he had passed the night. He described the building, said he knew nothing of its name, but that it might be called Hog Ranch, for that a most tremendous amount of grunting, groaning, with peculiar noises, went on in the surrounding bushes the night through. It has stuck to it ever since. It was then connected to the line with a pack trail which ran from a point in Montana on the south to Golden in the north.

For the next few miles to the south, after leaving the Hog Ranch, farms are fairly thick long the way. Then succeeds a stretch of at least 15 miles of rolling country, which looks to be as good as that passed, but in which there is not a settler. The ground is often covered with low scrub, though in places it’s high, open, with a fair growth of scattered big trees. The species referred to is the Douglas spruce (otherwise called Douglas pine, and commercially Oregon pine), a well known tree. It is straight (rough coarse grained, exceedingly tough, rigid), and bears great transverse strain. For lumber of all sizes and planks it is in great demand.

Few woods equal it for frames, bridges, ties, and strong work generally, and for shipbuilding its strength, straightness, and length especially lit it for masts and floors. The British Columbia cedar also grows in patches over the lower ground.

Frequently, the road runs in among the foothills of the mountains. At other parts, the foothills break oil into hogbacks and deep gullies, extending clear to the river. After 15 miles is passed, farms are again met with. Forty-two miles from Golden is one of the farms of Mr. T. Jones, an old prospector and mining man of the mountains, who has turned his attention to farming.

For a long time, there was a stopping house kept on it called the Spillimacheen House, taking its name from a river of considerable size that enters the Columbia at a point nearly opposite. For a distance, the settlement is comparatively thick: farm follows farm, all of them in good shape. One of the prettiest amongst them is that of Mr. George McMillan. It is pleasant to look upon, having a gentle slope of fields towards the river. Not far from McMillan’s ranch there has been erected a neat little building of logs, which is used as a church by the members of the Presbyterian body.

The broken country continues for a stretch of another eight miles, the distance being 50 in all from Golden. The climate of the Valley up to this point is much like that which prevails in Northwestern Ontario. It is good and steady in winter, with the thermometre often going below zero, with splendid sleighing from start to finish. In Summer the heat is never excessive, and the nights are comparatively cool.

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