From Regina To the Yukon

WILLIAM WHITE June 15 1935

From Regina To the Yukon

WILLIAM WHITE June 15 1935

From Regina To the Yukon


Editor’s Note: This is the second of a series of articles by Mr. White.

I HAVE OFTEN been asked why Wascana River was originally called “Pile of Bones’’ and what was the origin of the latter name. A few miles down the river from Regina there is a knoll or butte which commands a wide view of the Regina plain. In the early days when the buffalo ranged the country in vast numbers, Indian hunters constructed a pound adjacent to this knoll, into which, from time to time, they decoyed the buffalo for slaughter. After skinning the carcases and distributing the meat among the many redskins who, with their squaws and families, were camped close by in their tepees, the bones were deposited on the knoll, which in time assumed huge proportions. Hence the name Pile of Bones was given to the river.

These buffalo hunts were an annual affair, and similar pounds were built in many parts of the Territories. The Cree name for “bones” is oskana, and from this word is derived “Wascana.”

These buffalo bones, after years of exposure to the weather, became bleached and in that condition constituted a somewhat lucrative article of commerce. In the early days of settlement, alter the railway line had been constructed, halfbreeds with their Red River Carts did a thriving business collecting these bleached bones from all parts of the Territories and bringing them to the railway stations, stacking them up in huge piles along the sidings like corded firewood. The breeds received payment at so much per cartload on delivery. In due time these bones were shipped to the United States, where they were used as fertilizer and in sugar refineries. In Regina alone as much as $1,500 was paid out to the breeds for them, and right across the prairie wherever a railway siding was situated they were to be seen stacked up awaiting shipment.

The Lady Bootlegger

IN THE autumn of 1882 I decided to begin the practice of law. Before opening an office on my own I met D. L. Scott, who had lately arrived from Winnipeg where he had been a partner in the firm of Bain & Blanchard, and I was offered, and accepted, a partnership with him. This connection lasted until the starting of the North West Rebellion of 1885 and was in every respect a pleasant one. It was dissolved on my going into active service with the North West Field Force.

A client of some interest was a Mrs. Hoburg, an American, who kept a boarding-house for section men working on the railway. She was getting into trouble with the North West Mounted Police frequently for smuggling whisky in from the United States. She was a very amusing person, “tough as you make them,” and whenever she called at the office to retain one of us to attend the police court on her behalf, she always had a new story, risque, of course, to tell us. She usually addressed me as “White,” never “Mr. White.” One day she called and said:

“White, I’m going across the line, and when I come back next week you must come over to the shack.”

Of course I suspected she was going to smuggle in whisky.

When she left for the trip she weighed, I should say, about 100 pounds and “flat as a board.” In a week she came into the office, and what a change in her appearance !

I at once remarked on it, saying it was very sudden. She laughed one of her breezy laughs and said:

“It’s all right, White. Come over to the shack tonight; some of the boys are coming over.”

As she was a good client and I was curious to see if my suspicion was to be realized, I went over. Half a dozen fellows were there when I arrived. Mrs. Hoburg brought out the glasses, set them up in a row, pulled up her skirt, detached a rubber tube which was attached to a round rubber bag strapped about her waist and, turning on a tap, poured out a horn of American rye whisky into each glass. Others came in later, and I heard afterward that before morning her “delivery” was complete ! Eventually a fine of $200 and costs put a stop to her smuggling.

In the year 1885 there entered our office, first as office boy, later on as student-at-law, Hugh A. Robson, son of Scottish parents, who had arrived in Regina from Scotland in 1883 and who was destined to make his mark in the civic, legislative and judicial life of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Called to the Bar of the N. W. T. in 1892, he became a partner of Mr. (now Sir) Frederick Haultain, was appointed Deputy Attorney-General of the Territories in 1896, and in 1899 was allied to the Bar of Manitoba, elevated to the Bench of that province in 1902, and is now one of the Justices of the Appeal Court there, after in the meantime holding the positions of Chief Commissioner of the Board of Commerce of Canada and Leader of the Opposition in the Legislature of Manitoba.

Saskatoon vs. Regina

IN A COUPLE of years after its birth, Regina began to take on the appearance of a town of some importance. The streets u’ere graded, sidewalks laid, tent stores and residences passed out and were replaced by substantial brick and frame buildings, church edifices of no mean appearance were erected, hotels also, and the population by the end of 1883 numbered between 3,000 and 4,000 souls.

I never saw a town which had so many men’s names represented by colors as had Regina in those early days. One day I was walking down South Railway Street with Brown when we met Bob Green, who was in the employ of the LieutenantGovernor, and stopjxid him for a chat, when who should come along but Tom Gray, just in town from his farm. We also stopix*d him. We then had four colors—if White can be considered as a color. A few doors from where we were standing Jack Scarlett came out of his store and the five of us went to Charlie Black’s stationery store, then the six of us went over to the Red House for refreshments. The house was not only painted red but the proprietor and his whole family were red-headed. This Red House was the scene of many a festive evening during the winter of 1882-83.

Although Regina was looked upon by everyone as the future capital, the matter was not decided for some years after 1882. Another competitor had entered the lists. Saskatoon, with its ideal location on the banks of the South Saskatchewan, considered itself as much entitled to the

honors as Regina, and was bringing great influence to bear to secure the prize. When stopping off at Regina about this time on a visit, I attended a banquet of the Western Boards of Trade. During the evening the Saskatoon Board extended an invitation to all the delegates to make a threedays visit to Saskatoon as their guests, all expenses to be paid by Saskatoon. Of course, this was done in order to solicit the influence of these commercial centres represented at the convention on behalf of Saskatoon to be chosen as the Capital.

The question had to be decided that year, as an appropriation for erection of Court House and Parliament Buildings at the Capital had been made and work was to be started in a short time. Several delegates accepted and I joined the party. Three days of great hospitality were put in, but Regina won out in the end. I believe that had Saskatoon been on the main line of the C.P.R. it would have been selected because the other advantages were preponderantly in its favor. While there, three of us purchased 500 feet of frontage on what later turned out to be the main business street of the town, for $10,(XX) cash. Within three months I sold my one-third interest to my two partners in the deal for a handsome profit. They in turn sold their interests for a larger profit, and at the top of the boom in real estate which had the whole of Western Canada in its grip, those 500 feet were selling at the rate of $1,500 per foot, which means the sum of $750,000 for the whole property. I cite this incident merely to show what extravagant prices speculators were willing to pay for town lots. The street referred to is now covered by banks and large commercial establishments.

Rebellion !

AS SOON as the rebellion broke out the whole country ■ became excited and alarmed, as rumors had reached Regina that many Indians were joining Riel and his halfbreeds. Immediately Ottawa was requisitioned for the necessary authority to enlist volunteers under the provisions of the Militia Act, and the Minister of Militia. Sir A. P. Caron, issued instructions to proceed with the mobilization,

my partner being given the command as Lieutenant-Colonel. 1 promptly joined, and in a very short time seventy-five volunteers were enrolled and took the prescribed oath. We were called the “Regina Blazers”—not having uniforms, each man wore a red bandana handkerchief as a scarf, hence the name—and on the twenty-first of April the "Blazers” were called out for active service.

By this time troops from Winnipeg and Eastern Canada began to arrive. General Middleton was G.O.C. and established his headquarters at Qu’Appelle, this being the main column. The Battleford column was at Swift Current with Major-General Laurie in command at the base, and the Alberta column was in command of Major-General Strange. I received the appointment of Transport Officer for the Battleford column with the rank of major, and at once dissolved my partnership and left for Swift Current to take up my duties there on General Laurie’s staff. That great Canadian, Colonel R. W. Leonard, also joined General Laurie’s staff with the rank of major. Colonel Otter had just left with his command lor Battleford, where the Indians under Poundmaker had broken out and joined the halfbreeds.

My duties consisted of the forwarding of men and supplies to Colonel Otter's command. I also established a pony mail service between Swift Current and Battleford by stationary camps every twenty miles between those points, with a man and pony at each ready to receive the mail bag and proceed at once to the next station, and so on to cover the 200 miles. I was thus able to deliver a daily mail to the colonel ! Horses and oxen were used in transacting supplies to the front, twenty teams in each party. One day I received a wire from the colonel announcing that Poundmaker’s Indians had captured twenty teams with supplies and teamsters, and had carried them off.

Visions of all sorts of torture or even massacre by the Indians, who had just been in battle with Otter and had lost some of their braves, flashed through my mind, and I certainly spent some unhappy days of worry. However, the teamsters were treated well, thanks to a Roman Catholic priest who interceded for them, and they duly arrived in Battleford none the worse for their experiences. Their teams, wagons and supplies had been confiscated.

Cause of the Rebellion

TN 1883 a statute was passed by the Dominion Parliament

giving popular representation in the North West Council, which at that time was the governing body, both legislative

and executive, of the N.W.T. Prior to this date the North West Council was composed of only appointed members, among whom were the names of such men as Hon. Donald A. Smith, later Lord Strathcona; Hon. Justices Richardson, Macleod and Rouleau; Pascal Breland, representing the halfbreed population; Col. Irvine, N.W.M.P.; and Hayter Reed, Deputy Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs. The Council was presided over by His Honor Edgar Dewdney, Lieutenant-Governor of the N.W.T. The election came on in the summer of 1883, and on account of the assistance rendered by me to the early settlers in establishing their claims for entry as homesteaders in the “Mile Belt,” they requested me to allow my name to be placed in nomination for Regina District, to which I consented. I had two opponents, one of them being Edward Carss, a farmer in a large way, who had some pedigree shorthorn cattle with a thoroughbred Durham bull. My other opponent was W. J. Bourchier, Dominion Lands Inspector.

Election Day arrived and I was successful. After this the North West Council consisted of six apjxjinted and seven elected members, and its business was conducted on the same lines as the Legislatures of the older provinces. The term for which Members were elected was three years. The first session was held in the fall of 1883.

A subject of paramount imix>rtance was brought to the Council’s notice at its first session by petition of the halfbreed settlers, in which was set out in lull the grievances they had been suffering from for many years. These were popularly known as the Halfbreed Grievances.

One of the chief of these was their objection to the shape of the land as surveyed. They wanted their holdings in the form of long narrow strips facing on the river and running back, so that their homes would be near to one another, a system adopted in the Province of Quebec. By this arrangement families could visit one another more conveniently than if their lands were surveyed in the rectangular shape which obtained in the Territories. As a whole, I must confess there was much to be said in favor of the strip mode of survey. Anyone sailing down the St. Lawrence River past the homes of the habitants will at once realize the advantage; and what people in Canada are happier and more contented with their lot than the peasantry of the Province of Quebec?

The first petition was to the Old Council away back in 1878 under the Presidency of Lieutenant-Governor Laird, and a strong memorial asking for speedy redress was then forwarded to the Governor-General in Council at Ottawa. But nothing was done, and now, in 188*1, the matter came up in a more insistent demand. Rumblings had been heard of the great discontent broadcast among the breeds, and there were even threats of serious trouble if their grievances were not at once righted. The Council debated the question thoroughly and forwarded to Ottawa a very strong memorial, using the following language:

“That the scrips and land grants to the halfbreeds in the Territories who have not participated in the arrangements to extinguish the halfbreeds’ claims in Manitoba, should be at once brought to an issue. That at the time treaties were made with the various tribes ol Indians within these Territories, material assistance was afforded by the hallbreeds, as they depended on the good faith of the Government to settle their claims, and this feeling of confidence in the good faith of the Government was increased when they were authoritatively informed that their legitimate demands would receive prompt recognition. This Council cannot too strongly impress upon Your Excellency’s Government the

urgent necessity of the immediate settlement of this question.”

A further paragraph respecting river frontage lots also asked for redress.

Ottawa’s Inaction

AS A RESULT of the Council’s action, not a thing was 4*. done at Ottawa. The then Minister of the Interior in whose Department the memorial was lodged, was that elderly statesman, Sir D. L. MacPherson, if I remember aright. It might as well have been thrown into the wastepaper basket for all the attention it received at the hands of the Department.

In the meantime the halfbreeds were getting ugly and began to make threats, all of which was duly reported to Ottawa, but still there wa« nothing done. Matters gradually got so serious that the people of Prince Albert became frightened and organized a volunteer company, the most

prominent citizens being sworn in. The halfbreeds had no one of any prominence among them to whom they could look for guidance, and in their desperation appealed to Louis Riel, who had led the breeds in Manitoba in the first rebellion of 1869, to come to their assistance.

Riel was then in Montana, to which State he had fled after his brutal murder of Thomas Scott. Riel was not a halfbreed but only one-eighth Indian. His father, Louis, was born at Island LaCrosse, N.W.T. His grandfather, was a French-Canadian, his grandmother a Metis (halfbreed). His father was in the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Archbishop Tache early took an interest in young Louis Riel and superintended his education.

Riel lost no time in coming over, and at once took command of the situation. The main body of the discontented breeds was situated between Prince Albert and Batoche, principally in the vicinity of Duck Lake. They composed quite a settlement, engaged in hunting, farming, trapping, etc. Lepine, who was Riel’s lieutenant in the first rebellion and also was a fugitive from justice, came with him from Montana, and they two laid out the plan for active hostilities against the Government of Canada.

The first act of rebellion was the attack by the breeds on a store at Duck Lake, where they confiscated the contents. The Mounted Police at Fort Carleton were at once notified, and the news was immediately telegraphed to Police Headquarters at Regina.

I was dining one evening in March at the barracks with Colonel Irvine, Commissioner of the N.W.M.P., and just as we got settled down after dinner for a smoke, the telegram was handed in from the superintendent in command of the detachment at Fort Carleton announcing the breeds’ attack on the store at Duck Lake and the looting of its merchandise. This act was the starting point of the North West Rebellion of 1885!

Into the Yukon

\ yfRWHITE moved to Moosomin in 1886 and practised law there until 1897, when he went to Slocan City, B.C., and thence to Revelstoke. On a visit to England, he ivas retained by The Trading and Exploring Company to look after its affairs in the Yukon. He continues:

I had instructions to proceed forthwith, first of all to Washington, D.C., in order to arrange for title to a wharf at St. Michaels at the mouth of the Yukon River for use of the company’s vessels plying between there and Dawson City, a distance of 1,800 miles. Next I was to proceed to San Francisco, where a stern-wheel steamer for the Yukon was in course of construction and difficulties had arisen with the contractors; also to arrange certain matters, principally financial, with wholesale merchants who had been furnishing merchandise to the company for their wholesale business in Dawson City; next, to go to Seattle to perform a similar service with a wholesale house there; then on to Victoria, B.C., where I had to straighten out the title to the steamer, Yukoner, owned there and at that time frozen up in the Yukon River with a full cargo of merchandise. Then I was to start for Dawson City in the middle of the winter of 1898-99, picking up a team of five dogs and sled at Skagway, which was in charge of a Belgian in the employ of the company, and with them 1 was to travel into the Klondyke over snow and ice, on lake and river, a distance of over 500 miles !

On my trip to San Francisco via The Canadian Pacific Railway, I met my old college friend, C. C. McCaul, Q.C., at Calgary and offered him a partnership with me in Dawson City, as I had more work in prospect with these three companies than I could attend to alone. He joined me the following summer. After fulfilling my mission at the above-mentioned places, I took ship from Victoria for Skagway, Alaska, the jumping-off place for the Yukon goldfields.

At Skagway I took over the dog team and the Belgian, and prepared for our trip to Dawson City. We got together supplies consisting of frozen salmon and raw bacon, with a small supply of oatmeal. The daily ration for each dog was oatmeal porridge and a pound of fish or bacon, fed to it each night after the day’s work, nothing more during the day. At that time the White Pass and Yukon Railway was only built for twelve miles up the White Pass to the summit, where a Canadian Customs officer was located. We entrained as far as that, and afterward hit the trail to the first stopping place, twenty-five miles farther on. This was a log building with some bunks arranged in tiers around a large room, and any overflow of travellers had to take to the floor as a bed. These stopping places were located every twenty-five or thirty miles along the entire route to Dawson.

Our dog team consisted of a big St. Bernard as leader and four Malamutes, which are a cross between a husky and a wolf. To our surprise the St. Bernard played out before we had gone fifteen miles, and as luck would have it we were able to exchange it for a Scotch collie, which was worked in as leader and made an excellent one. The sled was big enough to carry our dunnage, buffalo robe, blankets, dogfeed and one person.

The cold was at times fierce, frequently forty degrees

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Continued, from page 24

below zero. Each day, on reaching our stopping place we turned the dogs out for a roll, there being no fear of them running away, and within the hour, fed them. They always slept out; they couldn’t stand sleeping in a warm room. Sometimes on our route a spot of blood would be noticed on the snow, coming from the foot of one of the team. On these occasions we invariably stopped, found out which dog’s foot was bleeding, caused by the hard snow, and put a moccasin on it which we had provided for that necessity. Also, toward spring when the sun got strong and the snow began to melt on the trail, we had to watch the leet of the dogs to keep them from being balled up with soft snow, causing lameness. The Belgian trotted behind the sled or stood on the footboard at the rear of the sleigh when tired. I riding in it most of the way unless I wanted exercise, when I got out and took it.

Quite a number of dog teams were on the trail at the same time as ourselves, and often we struck a house which hadn’t bunks, in which case we all slept curled up in our fur robes on the floor. I have seen as many as sixteen men sleeping at one time in this manner, huddled up like sardines in a can, and with the windows closed the atmosphere was vile.

A Weird Experience

ONE DAY, when we got about halfway to Dawson, we were eating our lunch and the dogs were resting for an hour, when, on looking back at the trail, we saw a dog team with only one man in charge, and on his sled a peculiar looking object covered by canvas. He stopped alongside us for lunch, and on enquiring we were informed that the thing under canvas was the corpse of a man who had died the fall before when on his way back to his home in Pittsburgh. His name was Charlie Phillips, and the man in charge was commissioned by Charlie’s father to dig him up from where he had been buried a few miles back, take him to Dawson and send the body out after the river had broken up the following spring. Charlie had had typhoid fever the summer before, and when convalescent had started for home by a river steamer, which ran out of fuel and tied up to the river bank to take on wood when three days out. At this wood camp there was a kitchen garden. The passengers adjourned to this garden and began eating the raw vegetables, Charlie selecting a turnip. Next day he died from perforation of the bowels, caused by eating the turnip, and was buried on shore. The undertaker

and Charlie attached themselves to our party and travelled with us the balance of the trip. At night we used to take turns shovelling snow on Charlie to protect him from the malamutes and stray coyotes, as he always slept in the open.

Nothing to vary the deadly monotony of the trip occurred until our arrival at Dawson after “mushing”—as driving a dog team is called—eighteen days at the average rate of thirty-three miles per day. During the latter part of the trip the sun grew stronger, beating down on the snow and burning our faces so that we couldn’t shave, and when we got in to Dawson I was hardly recognizable. We parted with Charlie for a time. He was put in an airtight casket, then in a shell which was placed in the undertaker’s quarters at the comer of the main street. It remained there throughout the summer. The door was usually open when I passed the building on the way to mess, and I would just nod to Charlie and go by. The undertaker took Charlie out by the last boat going up river, and I went outside at the same time. When we reached White Horse we had to portage around the rapids, a distance of about six miles. This was done by a string of trucks on a track. The one Charlie was put on happened to be the very one my baggage had been loaded on, so that we rode together to the next steamboat going to the head of the lake, where we entrained for Skagway, only to part company when our tickets were bought for Vancouver. Thus ended a weird experience.

Editor’s Note: Mr. White’s third article will appear in an early issue.

Food Faddists

FOOD faddists—“the vegetarians, the meat eaters, the drinkers of buttermilk, the gnawers of apples”—insult reason and menace health. Deploring the magnifying of half truths, Dr. Martin E. Rehfuss recently told the American Dietetic Association: “Diet faddists have reached a point where they are a positive menace to the health of the community and an insult to the reasoning of intelligent men and women.” People have become food conscious to a superlative degree, Dr. Rehfuss declared.

Men and women in early stages of tuberculosis, cancer, and other diseases may be found today seeking relief in diet fads, he said, and meanwhile losing valuable time in getting treatment.—Science Service.