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.


First Families in Horsefly

A town is, of course, the sum total of its people, and many of the early residents of Horsefly were very colorful and did much for the growing community.

The first of the families to come to Horsefly was that of Mr. W.P. Hall, a miner, who brought his wife and stepdaughter with him from Iowa. They traveled by way of Wyoming (where he worked for Buffalo Bill Cody), Montana and Golden, B.C., arriving in 150 Mile House in 1893. After a period of catering at the old 150 Mile House Hotel, the mines in Horsefly drew the family, and Mrs. Hall and her daughter, Miss Alva Youngker, were the first white women to come to Horsefly.

Also in Horsefly in 1893 amoung the many miners was a man named Harry Walters. Mr. Walters had been the first white child born in the Cariboo at 83 Mile House in 1865. Harry's father owned several of the stopping places on the old Cariboo Road - namely Lac La Hache Ranch, 105 Mile House, 83 Mile House, and 122 Mile House. About 1871, Harry's parents returned to the Niagra Peninsula in Ontario, where Mr. Walters did some fruit-growing, although he was semi-retired by that time.

Harry Walters returned to the Cariboo in 1885. As a trained book-keeper, he had no trouble finding work in Clinton and at the Canim Lake Store. In 1891, he arrived in Horsefly and began his employment with John B. Hobson as a ditch walker and mail carrier. Mail was then taken on horseback, (horse-drawn stage a little later), to Lac La Hache via the 108 Mile Road, a trip that took 3 or 4 days. Sometimes Harry carried the bullion by pack horse on the 108 Road, alone, while the stage that supposedly carried the gold had an armed guard and went at a different time.

On Sept. 4, 1895, Harry Walters and Alva Youngker were married in Clinton. Hazel Walters Gibbons was born on July 19, 1896, the first of their eight children and the first white child born in Horsefly. A locket of gold mined at the Horsefly Hydraulic Mining Co. was presented to Hazel by J.B Hobson, Manager, and the men employed there, as a memento. It was inscribed "Presented to Minnie Hazel Walters, first white child born in Horsefly, B.C., July 19, 1896, by her well-wishers."

As the years went on, Mr. Walters continued his employment with Mr. Hobson as postmaster, fire warden and telegraph operator. In 1897, he established a hotel, including a Post Office, in Horsefly and ran it for many years. Business was good while the mines were operating, but Mr. Walters preferred to leave the management of the hotel to Wm. McRae and David Fitzgerald.

After the death of Mr. Walters in 1918, Mrs. Walters married Al Campbell. The Campbell's sons took over the store in Horsefly as well as one in Quesnelle Dam (Likely) and ran it for many years. Alva died in 1953. Of the eight Walters children, Hazel and Glenn have made their homes in Horsefly for a number of years.

The Patenaude family was also amoung the first families in Horsefly. Albert, son of Joseph Phillip, came west from Lachute, Quebec, sometime before 1890, when he was about 17 years of age. He worked in Vancouver and then went to Clinton where he worked at Robertson's Store.

Albert's family followed him West and settled at 150 Mile House about 1891. Joseph, Albert's father, was employed as Postmaster and Storekeeper of the Veith and Borland Store there. In the family at the time were Ernest, Albert's brother, and Ida, his sister. They were children of Joseph's marriage to Catherine. At her death, he had married Maria Bradshaw, who bore him one son, Hope, born in 1886, who was also in the home.
In addition to operating the Store at 150 Mile, Joseph did some farming and grew wheat on the Borland Ranch, now the townsite of Williams Lake. When Joseph brought his family to Horsefly, they lived at the Woodjam Ranch.

About 1910, Joseph took over the Horsefly Store and operated it for 6 or 7 years. The Store bought miner's gold, trapper's furs, and also shipped goods to the mines.
In the B.C. Directory for 1901-02, Albert is listed as a rancher, Ernest as a miller, and Joseph, their father, as a rancher and Justice of the Peace.

In 1911, Albert married Miss Annie Moore, who had come to Horsefly in 1910 as the town's first school teacher. Five children were born of this marriage. Albert Jr., Ida, Harold, Wilfred and Phillip.
Albert and Annie lived for many years at Marten Creek. Annie taught at the Horsefly School several different times and also opened the first school at Black Creek.

When Alex Meiss came to Horsefly in 1896, he obtained land in what is now the centre of town and built a cabin - one large room and two smaller ones. Here he operated a small store and served meals to the miners too.

It is believed that he came from Victoria B.C. and was a butcher by trade. While still a young man, his knee was shattered by a bullet while he was cleaning a gun. His leg was amputated by Dr. Sanson, and recuperation took place at the parental home of Molly Barton Forbes in Clinton.

Alex fixed himself a wooded leg, or peg leg, and on this, he courted Matilda Gaspard from Dog Creek, marrying her in 1898.

Soon Mr. Meiss added a large dining room and kitchen, presided over by a Chinese cook. A saloon was a part of the large dining room. With the additional rooms, Mr. Meiss was able to provide a boarding place for the miners. Bunk houses were also built back of his hotel.
In 1904, although some of the mines had closed by that time, Mr. Meiss built a three-story hotel of 14 rooms which he operated for many years.

Alex never allowed his peg leg to interfere with his activities, although it probably caused him discomfort. He was a good horseman and also learned to drive a car. He had the first automobile in Horsefly (June 1910), believed to be a McLaughlin. In this car, he would take people, mostly children, from Harper's Camp (Horsefly) to Stuart's Pitch, now Poplar Grove Cafe, at a charge of 25, no small sum at the time.

Across from the Hotel was a large barn and blacksmith shop. For a time, Mr. Meiss was stage driver and postmaster. After he acquired a car, he used it to carry the mail, but the roads were so bad that he was often stuck in the mud for hours.

In 1912, he enlisted the help of Romeo MacEachern and William Bent to build a bridge across the Horsefly River. Although the bridge was very rustic, people were glad to have it and quite willing to pay the 25 toll. Prior to this the river was forded at a low point.

Following the death of Mr. Meiss in 1928, Mrs. Meiss continued to operate a stopping place until her death in 1942. The couple are buried in the Roman Catholic Cemetery in Horsefly.

The first B.C. Directory to list Horsefly and Harper's Camp was that of 1898 and reads as follows:

Harper's Camp - 6 miles from Horsefly P.O.

Postmaster Henry L. Walters, rancher
Thomas H. Walters, rancher

Horsefly - a mining camp on the Cariboo Road

Postmaster Andrew Green
W.P. Hall, miner
Horsefly Gold Mining Co., R.T. Ward, Supt.
Horsefly Hydraulic Mining Co., John B. Hobson, Supt.
Romeo Harrison MacEachern, baker
Alexander Meiss, Hotel
Miocene Gravel Mining Co. Ltd. of Cariboo, Sen. R.H. Campbell, Supt.
Wm. H.G. Thomson, miner

The listing is confusing because some of the mining companies listed under "Horsefly" were located at "Harper's Camp". Both "towns" are included in the list because at the time there were two post offices. The Horsefly Post Office was at the Hobson Mine, 5 miles downriver. The Harper's Camp Post Office was at the Walters' Horsefly Hotel, in the center of what is now Horsefly.

The post office at the Horsefly Mine closed in 1908. The townspeople voted about 1930, to change the name of Harper's Camp to Horsefly, by which name it has been known ever since.

We have chronicled the above, the Walters, Patenaude and Meiss families at some length. (For some reason, the Patenaude's are not included in the above listing, but were definitely in the area in 1898.)

William H.G. Thomson was a miner who came from Canboro, Ontario. He worked a claim with Eugene Claytor, which was downriver from Hobson's Mine, where the Horsefly River makes an S curve. He is buried in the oldest cemetery, on what is known as the Harper Lease.

Mr. R.T. Ward, Supt. of the Horsefly Gold Mining Co., resided in Horsefly from about 1898 to 1918. His wife Rosa, and children, Albert and Roberta, usually came up from California in the summer to be with him.

Senator R.H. Campbell, Supt. of the Miocene Gravel Mining Co., was from San Francisco, California, and lived in Horsefly from about 1898 to 1904. He also had three children. He and his company financed most of this ill-fated mine from which nothing was ever realized.

Romeo Harrison MacEachern, baker, was a bachelor for many years, but in about 1918 he married Mrs. Minnie Sample Thygasen, Julius Thygasen's mother.

Several others, known to be in Horsefly, were not mentioned in the above listing. These are Robert Anderson, an accountant from Eastern Canada, who homesteaded in Beaver Valley, and Philip Fraser, a miner with the above mentioned Miocene Mine, who also worked at Fraser Creek which was named for him. He finally returned to Nova Scotia.

Another not mentioned is Tommy Peterson, who was born in Christianna, Norway, in 1858. He first lived in Beaver Valley and later moved into Horsefly on land purchased from A.B. Campbell. A small house was built on this land in 1902 and is still standing, the oldest building still in existence in Horsefly.

Still another is Bill Reid, Sr., who came to Horsefly from Boston about 1898. He was originally from Ireland. He worked at the Miocene Mine until the shaft collapsed, after which he ranched and later became a game guide. He married Bessie Hockley in 1925. Their daughter, Alice, was born in 1926, and Billy Jr., still a resident of Horsefly, was born in 1930, a week after his father had passed on. Mr. Reid Sr., is buried in Mountain View Cemetery.

Chesley Bell and his sister Lena arrived in Horsefly from Texas about 1896. Mr. Bell, 20 years older than his sister, dreamed of coming West to be a cowboy and apparently realized his dream as he was one of the first men to travel over the Chisholm Trail, from Texas to Kansas to the railroad. In his early days, he also fought against Geronimo, the famous Apache chief. Mr. Bell was a rancher and homesteaded at various locations - Fish Lake, near Miocene, and later near Gravel Creek. At one time, the Bells lived at the dam across Moffat Creek where Mr. Bell acted as "water man" - the one who turned water into a ditch for sluicing at the Hobson Mine 10 miles away.

In 1913, they opened a store in one room of the Walters' hotel. Later they rented a house which had been built by A.B. Campbell in the center of Horsefly. After this, the Bells bought a large bunkhouse from the Hobson Mine and moved it into Horsefly on land they purchased from Ed West, where they operated a store. Mr. Bell is buried in the Horsefly Cemetery.
Mrs. Bell sold the property after Chesley's death in 1936, and moved to Williams Lake in 1936 and moved to Williams Lake, where she died in 1943.

John Wawn arrived in Horsefly from Lillooet in 1904, accompanied by Joe Williams, 12 years of age, who had come up to visit his father, John Williams, then working at hte Ward Mine. Joe Williams soon went back to Lillooet, but later returned to Horsefly in 1911.

As a young man, Mr. Wawn had sailed on master ships all over the world. All his life he enjoyed singing the sea chanteys he had learned as a sailor and entertained at many gatherings in Horsefly.

Mr. Wawn homesteaded in many places taking his cabin with him each time, first dismantling it and then reconstructing it on the new site. One of the places he lived was near Lemon Creek and Wawn Lake near there was named for him. In 1910, Mr. Wawn was made a member of the School Board in Horsefly, along with Harry Walters and Alex Meiss. He remained on the School Board for many years and was also a Justice of the Peace. Later he opened a shoe repair shop in Horsefly about where the Jack Lynn Memorial Museum now stands. Mr. Wawn died in Kamloops at his brother's home.

Berhardt (Ben) Gruhs and his son, Ben Jr. made their way into Horsefly in the Spring of 1910. Originally from Germany, the family had lived in Iowa and then in Lewiston, Idaho.
Bound for Fort George (Prince George) to homestead, Ben Sr. and Jr. were advised to look over the Harper's Camp (Horsefly) area first. This they did, and, accompanied by the Ulysses Chambers family, arrived from Soda Creek that Spring. A homestead was found across the Horsefly River from the town and father and son built a log cabin there.

Mrs. Gruhs and Agnes, Charlie, and Frank, who had remained in Ashcroft, were sent for and, accompanied by Pete Bell, made their trip to Horsefly in a covered wagon, a journey of two weeks. Another child, George, was born later in Horsefly.

Mr. Gruhs, Sr. was a carpenter and cabinet maker and he and Ben Jr. built several of the homes still standing in Horsefly. Ben Jr. homesteaded an adjoining quarter of the land in 1914, and in 1930, he and Esther Larson, a school teacher in Horsefly, were married. Their son, Ernie, attended school in Horsefly.

Alex, Neil and Robert Robertson arrived about 1912 from Scotland. Neil was a carpenter and many homes around Horsefly are beautiful examples of the Scotch cottage type of cabin which he built. Annie, their sister, arrived in 1914. Alex, who worked as a rancher, later died in Williams Lake. Robert had six children, many of whom still live in the Cariboo. Neil also married and had several children.

Thomas Oscar Hooker arrived in the Chilcotin area in 1911 from Oregon. He learned of Horsefly and came north to see it in 1912. First settling on land near Harper's Lake, he later built a large log cabin on property just north of Horsefly. He was a boilermaker and found work in the mines, which operated sporadically during this period. He turned then to guiding and built a hunting lodge at Horsefly Bay on Quesnel Lake.

Mr. Hooker married Laura Beatrice Herman and six children were born of this marriage, several of whom have continued to live in Horsefly. About 1915, the family, including 2 daughters and a son, bought the Harper Lease, where the Ward Mine had been located,.
Thomas Hooker died in 1935, and is buried in Mountain View Cemetery.

Capt. Arthur P. Dogherty and his family came from Eastern Canada to Soda Creek in about 1914. The Captain had been a navigator on river streamlets in the Yukon and later on the Fraser River from Soda Creek to Quesnel and Prince George.

Dolly Dogherty, one of the daughters, Married B. Hooker, Thomas Hooker's son. Another daughter, Frances, married Lloyd Walters, son of Harry Walters. Unfortunately, the young ladies died when they were both quite young, each leaving several small children.
Capt. and Mrs. Dogherty and a younger daughter, Norma, later moved to Chilliwack.

James Wiggins and his wife Mabel and daughter, Mabel, came to Horsefly about 1905 when Mr. Wiggins worked as a caretaker at the Hobson Mine. They remained in the area a few years and then moved to Miocene where they established a large ranch.

Eddy Isham West, with his wife Dorothy, and son, Leroy, came into Horsefly about 1909 and investigated the possibility of operating the Hobson Mine which had closed in 1902.
Operations were begun there in 1910 and Mr. West was quite successful at this location until about 1916, when the family returned to California to live. They sold their property in the town of Horsefly to the Bells, who opened a large store there. Mr. West visited the area several times until about 1919 when he left permanently.

Bill Boswell was living in San Francisco at the time of the earthquake there in 1906. After operating a horse-drawn street car there for a time, he drifted North to Seattle and thence to Horsefly, arriving on 1908 with Billy Waddell.
He worked at Wards Mine for a time and, with Bob Campbell, A.B. Campbell and George Finlayson, fixed up the Delair house and called it the Bull Moose Club.
These men also prospected in the upper Horsefly area in the summer and in winter trapped in the Crooked Lake Country.
Mr. Boswell died in Horsefly and is buried in the Mountain View Cemetery.

John R. Williams was born in 1840 in Ontario. About 1860, he is believed to have come up the Cariboo Wagon Road with the miners at the time the camel trains were running.
He apparently went to the Barkerville area and was probably one of the founders of Richfield, one of the little mining towns in the area. He was also connected with the Island Mountain Mine in Wells.

In Horsefly later, John purchased the Harper Lease which R.T. Ward had taken over from the Harpers and was mining about 1892-1902. John was also said to be connected with Hobson's venture at the Bullion Mine in Likely.

Married to Matilda Mueller, he fathered 3 girls and 3 boys, one of whom Joe Williams, has lived in Horsefly since 1911. John sold the Harper Lease in 1915 to Capt. Dogherty and it was known for many years after that as Dogherty Flats.
John returned to Lillooet, where his wife had lived for several years and was later connected with the Bralorne Mine. He died there in 1933.

When Joe came to Horsefly in 1911, he worked as a logger and as a miner as well as a rancher. He homesteaded the ranch at the intersection of the Horsefly Lake Road and Black Creek Road. On Jan. 14 1914, he married Agnes Gruhs, whose family had come to Horsefly in 1910. Their children attended school in Horsefly, but none of them remained in the area.

Roy Jones was hired in 1912 to teach school in Horsefly. He later homesteaded on the upper Horsefly River, leaving the area in 1923.
Roy's brother, Frank, followed him to Horsefly in 1914, where he remained for many years working as a rancher. In 1960, he left the Horsefly area and moved to Kelowna and thence to Williams Lake.

About 1913, Alex Nicol arrived in Horsefly where he worked with Hector McKenzie at Woodjam Ranch. Sometime later, Mr. Nicol went overseas during the First World War.
Five children were born to the Nicols, one of whom, Shelley, makes his home at the ranch in Beaver Valley.

North Dakota had been the home of the Thygasens, who arrived in Horsefly about 1914. Julius, better known as Lance, and his brother, Orval came with their father and stepmother. Lance's mother also came to Horsefly about 1916 and subsequently married Romeo MacEachern who had been a resident of Horsefly for many years.

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