Books: B.C. 1887

Preamble: I’m taking a a break on regular posts from January through March, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t interesting things to read!
In lieu of regular content, I’m highlighting some of my favorite primary source materials from the last three years. Read a little, read a lot, skip through and look at the photos, it’s up to you! These are all online, so you don’t even have to venture outside.
Regular posts will resume in April.

First up is B.C. 1887, a long-time classic in early B.C. travel literature, particularly for those interested in reading about the East Kootenays.

The title page for B.C. 1887: follow the link to read the full book:

B.C. 1887 documents the 1887 travels of authors James Arthur Lees and Walter J Clutterbuck up the Columbia River from Golden, down into the Cranbrook area, over up the Elk River, and down into the States along the Mooyie [sic] trail. The two had previously published a well received book titled Three in Norway by Two of Them (1882), and Clutterbuck would go on to write About Ceylon and Borneo (1891).

On this B.C. trip, Lees and Clutterbuck are joined by Lees’ younger brother, Joseph (throughout the book Clutterbuck is referred to as Skipper, Lees as Jim, and Joseph as Cardie). All three are wealthy young men more or less looking for adventure, but also (purportedly) evaluating the area for its potential for emigration by “the public-school and university young men,” of England.1

After landing in Halifax and journeying across the country, they land in Golden, leaving south via the (recently sunk and re-floated) steamboat Duchess on 17 August 1887. They get off the boat near Canyon Creek (10 km south of Golden) and enjoy a miserable encounter with mosquitoes before deciding that the boat wasn’t too bad after all (there’s an “Ode to the Mosquito”, complete with smashed mosquitoes, which really captures the mood). From there it’s on to Windermere, then up Sinclair Creek for a bit, before proceeding south to Fairmont and then through Canal Flats (this being before work on the canal had begun).

The only photo we have of the original steamboat the Duchess comes from B.C. 1887, pictured here shortly following her unfortunate sinking. She was raised from the waters, but still looked somewhat bedraggled. Lees and Clutterbuck, B.C 1887, p 96.

Lees and Clutterbuck’s journey occurred immediately following the trip south made by the North West Mounted Police under Sam Steele to what became Fort Steele, and part of the backdrop of B.C. 1887 is the social tensions and settler fears at that time regarding an “Indian uprising”. I would strongly recommend taking a look at my post about Body Creek (Deadmans Creek) for further context here.

Observations and photos from B.C. 1887 are invaluable as a detailed snapshot of the area from the perspective of a group of visitors. The book as a whole is entertaining (if sometimes wreaking of private school education), so if you’ve never given it a browse, I recommend it. Their description of Golden is unlikely to please the Goldenites, but the rest of us are welcome to be amused.

B.C. 1887 is available to read for free on the Internet Archive:

Also, for the curious: there are two mountains located up at the head of Findlay Creek – Mt Lees and Mt Clutterbuck – that were named in 1931 after the authors of B.C. 1887.

This book appears in the following posts:
Canal Flats
Body Creek


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