Posts tagged #prospecting

Robert Ayre Blackmore

Riverboat captain, Robert Blackmore, date unknown.

Riverboat captain, Robert Blackmore, date unknown.

Dates: b. England 1867 d. 17 September 1944

Cemetery Location: Block A, Row 14, Plot 14

Profile:

English-born Robert H. Blackmore spent most of his life in the Big Bend country. He was a river guide on the Columbia River for 50 years.

In the early years, the Columbia was an important transport route for fur traders, but with the arrival of the railways, the use of the river for this purpose declined. Bob Blackmore, however, kept the route alive for timber cruisers, hunters and prospectors, guiding them through the treacherous waters of the Big Bend.

Tragically, in September 1944, the veteran voyager went missing, presumed drowned, on the Columbia River; his boat was recovered 16 kilometers south of Revelstoke. His friends believe he stumbled when making a landing somewhere along the river and lost his balance, falling into the water.

Robert Blackmore, Walter Nelson and unknown woman booming logs, Big Eddy, 1920. 

Robert Blackmore, Walter Nelson and unknown woman booming logs, Big Eddy, 1920. 

Andrew Kitson

Andy Kitson at Birch Creek Lodge, September 1938.

Andy Kitson at Birch Creek Lodge, September 1938.

Dates: b. Belfast, Ireland, 20 May 1877 d. 2 April 1955

Cemetery Location: Block G, Row 3, Plot 22

 Profile:

Irish-born Andrew (Andy) Kitson arrived in Revelstoke in 1903, where he became one of the area’s most renowned prospectors, venturing up and down the Columbia River to mines up the Big Bend. The writer Lewis Freeman described him in his book, Down the Columbia, as:

“a big Husky North-of-Irelander,” who was “deliberate and sparing of speech most of the time, but with a fine reserve vocabulary for emergency use.”

Andy worked for Ed Bradley on his prospecting claims at French Creek and took part in the construction of the Big Bend and Standard Basin trails. Later, he prospected at Standard Basin and then Carnes Creek in partnership with Elijah McBean, and between 1911 and 1919 took over the operation of the pack train in the Big Bend from George Laforme, in partnership with Jim Shields.

Andy continued working his Carnes Creek claims for many years, and died at the age of 78 in Kamloops, on 2 April 1955.

Andy Kitson's pack horses on Victoria Road, Revelstoke.

Andy Kitson's pack horses on Victoria Road, Revelstoke.

George Laforme

George Laforme, c.1940.

George Laforme, c.1940.

Dates: b. 1861 d. 30 December 1939

Cemetery Location: Block C, Row 8, Plot 35

Profile:

A key figure in the early mining days of Revelstoke, George Laforme left his home in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, to follow the Canadian Pacific Railway construction westward.

In May 1885 he arrived in Revelstoke and began prospecting, establishing his famous pack train business in 1889, which provided supplies to miners and trappers in the Big Bend area for 16 years.

A disastrous trip in November 1896 – which cost him $1,500 and the lives of 27 pack animals in treacherous weather conditions – was legendary. On another occasion, 24 mules and 11 horses had to be put down to prevent the animals – stranded in deep snow and ice – from starvation.

George acquired his well-known farm near the Revelstoke Golf Course around 1896, growing cherries and strawberries for the prairie and local markets.

At the time of his death in 1939, aged 78, George left behind his wife, Gertie, and son, George.

George Laforme's pack train on Front Street.

George Laforme's pack train on Front Street.

Andrew (Ole) Rupert Westerberg

Ole Westerberg on his Big Bend mail run, c.1920.

Ole Westerberg on his Big Bend mail run, c.1920.

Dates: b. Sweden, 8 May 1879 d. Kamloops, May 1963

Cemetery location: Block G, Row 8, Plot 18

Profile:

Andrew Rupert Westerlund came to Canada as a young man, settling first on a homestead at Wetaskiwin, Alberta. He was given the nickname “Ole” (a common nickname given to Scandinavians) and at some point changed his last name to Westerberg.

On his way to Vancouver in 1900, Ole met two miners travelling to their claims on the Big Bend. When they offered him work Ole couldn't refuse, and Revelstoke was where he would spend the rest of his life.

Ole spent the next few years prospecting, trapping and hunting, and in 1909 married Annie Kate Olson from Norway. The Westerbergs built a large house on 40 acres, roughly six kilometers south of Revelstoke, where they raised their seven children.

In 1914, Ole won the contract to carry His Majesty’s mail up the Big Bend to French Creek. The agreement stipulated he was to make two trips a month over the three summer months and one trip a month for the rest of the year. The pay would be $45 per trip, but when the highway became drivable as far as Goldstream, this rate was cut to $25.

Ole used snowshoes and skies to cover his mail route, and in the summer, he used packhorses. In the early days of delivery, there were around 1,500 men in the Big Bend area and a round trip normally took six to seven days.

Ole maintained trap lines along his mail route, selling furs to merchants in Revelstoke and Vancouver. In 1916, he was making about four to five dollars per beaver and the same for marten. Weasels brought in about 25 cents each.

It was said that over the 35 years he delivered mail, Ole never missed a trip, and the stories generated on his mail run were legendary.

One particular story hit the international newspapers, and told how Ole saved the life of a starving horse stranded in the bush on his route. Ole fashioned snowshoes for its feet, and after successfully walking the horse into town, tethered the animal outside the Union Hotel; the horse in snowshoes drawing crowds of spectators who couldn’t believe what they were seeing.

There are several versions of the story of how Ole earned the name “Ole the Bear”, but the most dramatic told of a surprise encounter with a grizzly bear while he was bent over with the weight of his pack. Ole thought he was dead when the bear attacked, slashing his clothing.  Fortunately, when they both lost their footing on a steep slope, Ole was quick with his rifle and when the bear landed on him, it was dead.

Another story involves a bear and an axe. When Albert Stone at the Oriental Hotel asked Ole for a bear hide, he set a trap nine kilometers south of Revelstoke and quickly caught a bear. Ole didn’t have a rifle with him at the time so he used a hand axe to kill the animal, skinning it and bringing the hide into the hotel the same night.

Andrew “Ole the Bear” Westerberg died in May 1963, at the age of 84 at Royal Inland Hospital, Kamloops.