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Gold Rush Days


In 1859 gold was discovered at Rock Creek, thirty miles east of Osoyoos, and a great rush of miners and supplies came through from the United States. W. G. Cox of the Provincial Constabulary was sent in to keep law and order. He was made Gold Commissioner in 1860, which gave him jurisdiction over most of southern British Columbia. J. C. Haynes, another police official, was then sent to assist him. A Customs Port of Entry was established in 1860 and Haynes was put in charge as Deputy Collector. In 1862 a combined house and Customs Building was built near the head of Osoyoos Lake close to the present cemetery, the site being now marked by a monument. This building was moved to a place on the present Highway 97 on high ground overlooking the narrows, but it burned down in 1877. A Customs House and corrals were then put up close to the present bridge where there is now a fruit stand, and eventually buildings were placed on the actual boundary.

J.C. Haynes

jc haynesJ.C. HaynesHowever, the Rock Creek discoveries were not extensive and the Cariboo gold rush of 1861 drew the miners away. In 1862 over a thousand of them made their way up the old Fur Brigade Trail as they headed for Williams Creek. Cox was appointed elsewhere, and Haynes succeeded him as Gold Commissioner, as well as remaining Customs Collector. The post entailed his being in charge of all law and order, officiating as magistrate and coroner, issuing miners' licenses, looking after the upkeep of roads and trails, and even settling the boundaries of Indian lands. Later he was appointed a member of the Legislative Council of British Columbia and County Court judge.

Once when riding back from an official trip to the Kootenays, he was so much attracted by the beauty of the lake with its evening shadows and reflections that he decided to acquire land and make Sooyoos his home. Eventually he had a large house built on the east side of the lake, with hand-cut tamarack logs from the mountain for foundation beams and walls. The lumber came from a sawmill north of Kelowna at Postill, and was floated down the waterways on a big raft with a sweep and two sails.

Haynes Creek and Haynes Park, the provincial campsite, are named for him, and the meadows at the head of the lake are called Haynes Meadows.

Haynes died suddenly in 1888 while returning from a trip to the coast. His body was brought to Sooyoos and was buried on his favourite piece of land, a grove of aspens on the hillside just above the present Osoyoos Irrigation District's pump house. Many years later the coffin was removed by his family to Osoyoos Cemetery.

The long official trips over mountain trails were, of course, made on horseback. The early families owned numbers of fine riding horses. The first Mrs. Haynes came on her honeymoon over the Dewdney Trail in 1868, and often accompanied her husband. Indeed, she made an epic journey from the Kootenays to New Westminster in the late fall of 1871, but unfortunately died soon after her son was born there in the February of 1872. The second Mrs. Haynes was also a very good horsewoman, and Mrs. Kruger, who arrived in 1873 as a bride of sixteen, said that she was never lonely, for she went riding every day. When her children were small, she had a little carrier made, papoose-style, and rode along with the baby on her back.

The mail came in twice a year, brought from Hope by a man named James Wardle. He travelled on horseback or snowshoes according to the season. His "run" was from Hope to the Kootenays.

These people, and particularly the women, were not at all unusual. The Anglican Bishop Sillitoe of New Westminster rode in over the Dewdney Trail in 1880 with his wife. They went up the valley after visiting Osoyoos. They had three Indians with them, one as guide and the others in charge of the horses and camp equipment. The Bishop observed as he looked at the Haynes garden that the soil seemed barren but could produce remarkable vegetables, if water were supplied. The Sillitoes made a second visit in 1882 by a different route. Mrs. Sillitoe's diary states that it took them ten and a half hours to ride down from Penticton on August 31.

Great distances bothered no one. The French-Indian midwife who attended Mrs. Haynes had to come from Colville, Washington, a distance of 150 miles, and once in December it snowed so much that this woman of seventy-five had to return on snowshoes.