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Richter Pass


by Katie Lacey

(Excerpts published in the Osoyoos Times, Thursday, July 7, 1965, as "Colorful History of Richter Pass Road," p. 2)


With the discovery of gold at Rock Creek, Governor Douglas commissioned Edgar Dewdney, in 1860, to build a pack-trail from Fort Hope to Vermillion Forks, now Princeton. In 1862, gold was discovered at Wild Horse Creek, in the Kootenays and Dewdney was commissioned to continue the trail on to there, which he did in 1865. And in 1865 a contract was given by him to Benjamin McDonald and Buckskin John Utz to build a bridge at the Narrows, as the crossing at Sooyoos was called. This bridge was not to be over 5 ft wide, of split rails, loosely laid down. At high water they were removed and travellers walked the stringers, swimming their animals. Because of the establishing of the Boundary Line and the outbreak of Indian wars, the Hudson Bay Fur Brigades that had originally gone from Fort Shepherd and Fort Colville to Fort Okanogan, at the confluence of the Okanogan and Columbia rivers and then by boat to Fort Vancouver at the mouth of the Columbia river, now came from Fort Shepherd to Fort Hope by way of Sooyoos House and the Keremeos Post. Sooyoos House was established by Roderick Finlayson for the Hudson's Bay Company in 1866 and the brigades travelled over the Hope Trail by way of "the Pass." When the Hudson's Bay Company closed Sooyoos House and the Keremeos Post in 1872 for lack of business, Theodore Kruger bought the Sooyoos store and acquired the bridge which he repaired with pieces of packing boxes and charged a toll to use it. For many years this was the main trail to the interior and many important people of that day used it, as well as the pack trains.

In 1868 Judge Haynes married Charlotte Moresby and brought her over the Hope Trail to her new home in Sooyoos where she was the only white woman in any direction for 100 miles. Although only 18 years of age, she died shortly after the birth of their son in 1871.

In 1873 Theodore Kruger married Christenza Saur at Victoria and brought his bride to Sooyoos over the Hope Trail and in 1875 Judge Haynes was married again to Emily Josephine Pittendrigh and brought her to Sooyoos over the Hope Trail .

In 1883 General William Tecumseh Sherman with a military escort of 60 men passed through Osoyoos on his way to Tacoma by way of the Hope Trail to Fort Hope, river boat to Victoria and sailing ship to Tacoma. At Osoyoos he crossed at the Narrows. Apparently, as a courtesy to such a distinguished company, Mr. Kruger did not charge the General the customary tolls and General Sherman reciprocated by buying drinks for every one. "Mine host" was reported to have made considerably more on the deal then if he had charged tolls on the bridge. General Sherman and party proceeded on to Fort Hope over the Hope Trail.

In 1885 Frank Richter sold his ranch at the site of present day Cawston to R. L. Cawston and moved to the Lower Ranch as the place near the American Border came to be known, and its location – Boundary Valley – a name still used by many of the early settlers. The late Hans Richter was told of how his father had the "Trail" widened by hand, especially past the Armstrong Bluffs where the trail went over the top, through shale rock, to allow him to travel to the Lower Ranch with an ox-team and homemade wagon with solid wooden wheels. In 1887 the big 7-room house was built on the Lower Ranch and most of the supplies for this house were brought in over the Hope Trail by pack-train.

It was about this time that the first four-wheel vehicle went all the way over the Pass, when the Haynes family went to call on the Cawstons in a homemade buckboard. Joe Bertrand who ran a ferry about where Nighthawk is now is credited with taking the first wagon over. Pack-trails were made wider than ordinary trails to allow heavily laden animals to travel without danger to their packs and easy grades and switch backs were made for their benefit so that in most places the narrow gauge wagons could follow the trails.

In 1888 Judge Haynes died suddenly at Allisons (Princeton). His body was brought down the river in a canoe to about where the Max Kohler ranch is now by John Bromley and Edgar Allison. The buckboard was brought from the home ranch and the body taken back on it. There happened to be a large gathering of Indians camped at this place on the river and they accompanied the buckboard back to the ranch. Judge Haynes had been a good friend to the Indians and they were saddened at his sudden passing.

About 1890 the hills were swarming with prospectors and many rich claims were being staked. Roads became a necessity, as mining men from all parts were travelling by stage and machinery was being brought in. Babe Kruger has told how his father hired a man with pick and shovel and wheel barrow to make it passable for teams and wagons or stages to travel around the rock point that was just south of the present Oroville Drive-In. In 1891-92 Harry Rose had a contract to build a bridge at Osoyoos, the first wagon bridge. Theodore Kruger was customs Collector from 1890-99. Tom Stanton was advertising his newly-organized stage line from Loomis via Oroville, in Washington, to meet the boat at Penticton and save a day and a half on the trip to St. Paul's. The late Sam McCurdy drove a four-horse stage from Upper Keremeos to Oroville over Richter Pass for Robert Hall, down one day and back the next, reporting to Kruger each way. Apparently as the road became more travelled the name Richter Pass came into use and the name Hope Trail was dropped.

From 1900 to 1920 settlers came in, Kruger Mountain was settled and Richter Pass was the access road to get there. At Spotted Lake, a gang of Chinamen were employed taking out the Epsom salts which were supposed to be almost pure. They shovelled the salts into wheel-barrows and wheeled them ashore where the salt was loaded into large trucks and hauled to Orville, Wash.  Here it was transferred into boxcars and shipped east where it was used in the manufacture of explosives.

About the year 1919 the Loomis, Wash., bank was held up. It so happened there were several cars belonging to local people on the street who immediately gave chase, catching up with the robbers in Richter Pass. The two of them decided to make a stand on the mountain to the southwest (Black Mountain). Crossing the meadow one of them was hit in the ankle with a bullet, but they made it to the shelter of the rocks and trees and in the darkness got away. The driver was caught without much trouble. The other two were eventually caught.

Spotted Lake in the summer of 1940.
Photo: Osoyoos Museum


When, at the end of the First World War prohibition became law in the USA, Richter Pass saw much activity as the bootleggers found it an easy access to the American backroads. One man, known to have had a load on his car was heading for the American side when he received word that his mother was close to death at Wenatchee. Caching his load in Richter Pass he raced for Wenatchee but a short ways below Oroville a stray horse jumped off the side of the road onto his car, killing him instantly and with him went the secret of where the whiskey was cached. It was the object of continuous search until a member of a road crew found it while clearing out some brush – seven cases of Johnny Walker, 1870, Scotch Whiskey – just below a big rock cut and below where the new highway crosses the old road is what has since been known as Whiskey Point. In 1928, considerable money was allotted to Richter Pass road for improvements, some of which has stood until the new grade has covered it up. The controversial rock point was to be removed but a change of government occurred before that part was reached and all road work ceased the next day.

Opening of the Hope-Princeton Highway, November 2, 1949.
Photo: Osoyoos Museum

A small creek that rises in the north east slopes of Kroger Mountain and crosses the present road south of the nuisance grounds has been known for many years as Jerry Jarvis Creek because of the murder of an American cowboy by that name that took place there. The party who shot him was cleared on "grounds of self-defence." A little further south is Strawberry Creek, named by the Haynes and Kruger children for the quantities of wild strawberries found there.

To those people who called Osoyoos home when there was only the Hope Trail and horse and pack-train travel they used to watch for the dust rising along the eastern slope and by Strawberry Creek which would herald the approach of an expected traveller returning or of the long-awaited pack-train, for supplies only came in from Hope once a year. At any rate the dust rising always gave warning that someone was on the way.

Following the various mining booms throughout the Interior there were numerous Chinamen who were successful cleaning up after the regular miners had moved on to richer fields. Once a year a pack-train would come through from the Coast over the Hope Trail gathering up the bodies of those Chinamen who had died, to ship them back to their native land for it was their belief that the bones must rest with those of their ancestors.


Two miles out of Osoyoos is this section of the modern Richter Pass highway with its gentle slope and graceful curves. This picture is just above the point where the road leaves the flat bench land and starts the climb along the mountain. [...] From this vantage there is a panoramic view of Osoyoos Lake, orchards and surrounding countryside.
Photo: J.J. Eklenboom
Osoyoos Times, July 7, 1965.

This broad new highway with its easy grades and curves is something the packers and freighters never dreamed of. As we leave the beautiful valley of the Similkameen, beautiful at any time, but most spectacular in the fall when the river bottoms are ablaze with colour, across the Barbour flat where the road branches to the Customs and the American side, by a limpid lake and by the meadows where the hold-up men and angry citizens of Loomis staged a battle, past Richter Lake, renowned for the quantity and quality of Kamloops trout caught there. Many of those who have fished there find it hard to believe that in the very dry twenties this lake bed was sown to grain and raised fair crops of grain hay. Climbing from the lake and the home buildings of the Richter ranch we climb to what appears to be the summit, xxx ft as compared to xxx ft on the old road. The highway then gradually drops down past an old abandoned cabin, all that is left of the neat little ranch owned by Tom Conifry, a real son of Old Erin. He and his pinto horse, Keno, were familiar figures along the Pass some 30-40 years ago, past Spotted Lake that some day may come into its own as a health resort; across Green's Flat where the road to Kilpoola Lake turns off, and more good fishing, above Whiskey Point and Venner's Flat, pre-empted many years ago by Constable Venners and planted to fruit trees, the seedling of which has persisted to grow these many years; across Jerry Jarvis Creek and its sinister memories and so to Strawberry Creek, where, till a few years back the remains of the framework where much of the lumber for early Osoyoos was whip-sawed was to be found on its higher reaches, and eventually to join Highway 97.  It is more than a road to those who have waited many years for its fulfillment for it is full of memories.