Horsefly: Its Early History 1859 - 1915

Third Edition; by the Horsefly Historical Society

The first publication of the Early History was printed in May 1975 and revised in February 1981.

 

At the Turn of the Century

By the 1890's, the town of Horsefly which had served iterant miners, perhaps since the first gold strike in 1859, had grown and the establishment of the of the three mines in the area (see mining in Horsefly) attracted many miners, some of whom began to bring their families.
Also attracted to the country in the 90's were ranchers who were coming in ever larger numbers.

Although the winters were extremely cold and people really suffered in their flimsy cabins, the lure of gold and possible riches kept the miners in the area working hard and long in the mines. It is said that the houses were so cold in the winter that a boiling kettle on the stove would have its handle covered with frost.

Some people might have been discouraged also by the many, many horseflies and mosquitoes. Both were so numerous that horses and men were forced to wear hoods of cloth over their heads in the early days of Horsefly. But even this did not appear to discourage the miners and early ranchers and they continued to come into the area.
Horsefly was at first a town of bachelors until about 1883-1884, and was a typical mining town where men worked hard and played hard.

In 1896, a hotel was established by Alex Meiss and the following year Harry Walters also built a hotel, which included a Post Office. The two hotels, which had a goodly number of rooms, were often filled to capacity with the many men who came to work in the mines. Saloons were an important part of the hotels and it is said that there was a continual poker game going in Horsefly in the nineties.

The Store played a large role in the early life of Horsefly. It was the nerve centre of the town and involved many of the early settlers of Horsefly.

In about 1910, the Store was operated by J.P. Patenaude, who continued with it until about 1916. Mr. Patenaude was also Justice of the Peace.

In 1921, the Store was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Al Campbell the former Alva Walters), who ran it until 1942. The Campbell's also operated a store at Quesnelle Dam (now called Likely). While they ran this latter store, the Horsefly Store was operated for them by Capt. W. McDougall, brother-in-law of Mr. Campbell.

The first cemetery in Horsefly was on the Harper Lease, near the Ward Mine (See Map). Some Chinese as well as white miners were buried there. There were possibly only 8 men laid to rest there, and they are:

Dan McCallum, owner of the Discovery Mine which he sold to Hobson in 1892. He may be the first one buried in that place.
Jimmy Smith, an Englishman, who was drowned in a beaver pond in Beaver Valley.
Dan McLeod, who drowned in the Horsefly River.
Rory Hagen, who was killed in the collapse of the Miocene Mine shaft about July, 1899.
Wm. H.G. Thomson, who came from Canboro, Ontario and worked a small claim just past Hobson's Mine.
J.L Murray, a rancher near Horsefly.
Robert Oliver Lowrey, who died from grippe, and Nordal Dalby.
The Chinese who were buried there were later disinterred and their bones were sent back to China, in accordance with their custom. This was accomplished by "coffin ships" which came from China with spices for Vancouver. On its return trip, the ship was loaded with bodies of the dead Chinese.

The Roman Catholic Cemetery was on the river bank in the centre of Horsefly. Mrs. Rebecca Mykol, grandmother of Hazel Gibbons, was buried there on her death in 1907. She had not been a Catholic too long, but seemed to find comfort in it at the last.
Mr. Alex Meiss, hotel operator, was buried there in November, 1928. His wife, the former Matilda Gaspard, died and was buried in this cemetery in 1942. No one else was ever buried there.

The present Horsefly Cemetery was established in 1920 and amoung Mr. Wm. Skene, Francis Webber and Douglas Patenaude were amoung the first to be buried in it.
Horsefly's first school was an "assisted" school and started in 1910. It was a refurbished bunk house on the Walter's Hotel property (See map). 

The first school teacher was Annie Moore, later Mrs. Albert Patenaude, who was hired by the first School Board, John Wawn, Alex Meiss and Harry Walters in 1910.

In 1911, the teacher was Rena Chandler, who later married Bryson Patenaude, son of Ernest. In 1912, the teacher was Roy Jones, who was followed to the area in a few years by his brother, Frank.

In 1919, the second school was built - a log cabin on the hill across from the first school (See map).

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