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Osoyoos and District Museum and Archives - Osoyoos as a Customs Port

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Osoyoos as a Customs Port

Customs Business at Osoyoos Prior to 1900

by Katie Lacey


(as published in the Okanagan Historical Society's 22nd Report, 1958, pp. 30-38)

Since the first fur-brigades travelled up and down the Okanagan Valley, Osoyoos has been of strategic importance to those who used its trails and wagon roads, and later, its broad highways. From 1812 when David Stuart established Fort Kamloops for the Astorians (who sold out the next year to the North-West Fur Traders, and they in turn sold out to the Hudson's Bay Company), the fur brigades travelled the trails from Fort Alexandria to Fort 0kanogan and back each year till 1846, and all the trade and commerce of what is now British Columbia and Washington went over this trail. All the great men of that time, Ogden, Dease, Connoly, McLoughlin, the first Black Robes, all used the Brigade Trail. Thecustoms37 meadows at the head of Osoyoos Lake gave feed for the hundreds of horses in the brigade trains, making it an ideal rendez-vous along the trail.

With the outbreak of the Cayuse Indian war in 1846 the trail became unsafe and it fell into disuse till the discovery of gold on the Fraser in 1858, and at Rock Creek and on the Similkameen in 1859, sent miners swarming through the country. Soon large numbers of horses and cattle, as well as men and pack trains with supplies for the miners, moved over the trail again.

The Government moved quickly to establish a Customs port, and appoint a Collector of Customs. In the Third Report of the Okanagan Historical Society, Leonard Norris writes: "The importation of livestock on which duty was paid at Osoyoos during the years 1861 and 1862 while Cariboo was at is height are given below": (1)

Horses Cattle Mules Sheep
Jan. 1st - Oct 19th, 1861 356 625 92 0
Oct. 19th - April 30th, 1862 172 250 0 0
May, 1862 962 681 203 0
June, 1862 1065 988 135 0
July, 1862 461 1532 238 400
August, 1862 141 163 82 646
September, 1862 172 958 6 0
October, 1862 54 53 0 325
November, 1862 0 67 19 0
December, 1862 12 0 3 0
TOTALS 3396 4817 778 1371

(1) OHS 3, pp. 21-23, "W G. Cox and His Times."

In his book, Ka-Mi-Akin, A. J. Splawn of Yakima, Washington, tells of many drives that went from that country over the old Brigade Trail to the Cariboo. He went, himself, in 1861, 1863, and again in 1868, with drives to the Cariboo. He states that by 1870 there were thousands of horses and cattle in the Yakima country, and that the British Columbia mines were their chief, and for a time, only market. But in the 1870's, settlers began to arrive bringing small herds with them. Such people as Judge Haynes, W. T. Lowe, Thomas Ellis, F. Richter, M. Barcelo, J. F. Allison, as well as the local Indians, started building large herds. They were followed by the Cawstons and Lowes, the Dalys and Manerys and others on the Similkameen. It was estimated that by 1890 there were 20,000 head of cattle on the lower Okanagan and Similkameen ranges.

A letter from C. D. Bash to C. L. Thompson, Collector of Customs at Oroville, in 1934, tells of his arrival at Osoyoos Lake, August 7, 1881. His territory was any place along the trail from the Cascade Mountains, through Spokane Falls, to Bonner's Ferry, but his headquarters were at Osoyoos Lake. His cabin was on Nine-Mile Creek, on the east side, near the foot of Osoyoos Lake.

Just twenty years before, the flow of cattle had all been north. Although he does not give the year, it would be before death of Judge Haynes in 1888. Bash states that while collections were generally small, one year he collected over $5,000.00 on Judge Haynes' beef cattle, which were sold to Willis Clark of Yakima Valley, Washington.

He goes on to tell that in the years he was in office, great herds of range horses were brought down from British Columbia to be driven over what was then the Colville reservation, through Spokane Falls to Alberta, passing out of the U.S. again at Bonner's Ferry, Idaho. They were driven from Okanagan River to near Omak thence to the Columbia River. He would send a convoy with each herd, who was to receive $4.00 per day and living expenses, going and returning from Bonner's Ferry. There were some cattle entered during his term which were on the free list.

In contrast to the above figures we find the book for Osoyoos from July 15, 1890, to September 30, 1896, a total of 1,555 horses, 12,593 sheep, 37 mules, 183 cattle, 5 small pigs and 132 settlers including families; and a total of $15,995,46 duty was collected. The entries in this book shed some interesting light on the activities of that period. On the other hand the repetition of articles declared would indicate monotony compared with present day entries, The list of entries can be summed up quickly:  horses; settlers' effects, which included horses, wagons, cattle and household effects; mining and milling equipment; sawmill equipment; prospectors' supplies; groceries, hardware, and wearing apparel, in small quantities. In the years 1895 and 1896, large quantities of fresh fruit and vegetables (in season), bacon, eggs and butter were brought in by peddlers for the mining camp. The year 1893 seems to have been the busiest year when 50 settlers, including families, 200 horses, 1805 sheep, 10 mules and 43 cattle passed through this port of entry, the total receipts amounting to $3,667.97.

On June 27, 1893, eight families from the U.S. cleared the port of Osoyoos as new settlers.

In "From Ranches to Orchards"(2),  F. M. Buckland tells of several families of Missourians who had homesteaded in Idaho and then decided to move on. They had travelled with their wagons through the mountains to the Okanagan Valley. At Penticton the trail had ended and they had loaded their wagons and livestock on the S.S. Aberdeen, headed for the new town of Kelowna where they staked homesteads on the fringe of Mission Valley settlement at Black Mountain and the head of Mill Creek. (2) OHS 12, pp. 89-98.

In the same report Mrs. M. E. Mawhinney in "Black Mountain School Days"(3) tells of the first school there: "The Whites were the only Canadians there, the other families having come from across the line, taking up pre-emptions on Black Mountain." (3) OHS 12, pp. 112-114.

Mr. Buckland gives the date as 1892, but the Customs entry shows that these eight families all came through on the same day in 1893. A roll call of the names appearing in the book for this date include W. H. Rice, Daniel Prather, A. Howard, J. J. Rice, George McLurr, A. J. Sproule, P. T. Brown, and J. Clark. Unfortunately, it does not give any information as to wives and children, which appears with most of the other settlers that entered. Possibly it involved too much book-keeping for one day. A total of eight wagons, 41 horses and colts and two mules, settlers' effects and three sewing machines are listed, and while each settler had horses and settlers' effects some had two or three wagons each, while others had none.

Interesting comparisons with present day prices and marketing practices can be made from the following extracts taken at random over the period 1895-1896, when there was apparently a ready market at the mining camps for produce of all kinds, and this seems to have been supplied by peddlers.

Such names as L. J. Snyder, a well-known freighter, John Potts, T. A. Butter, E.D. Nash, D.M. Boone, A. Ward, appear most often. Most of these declarations were for the years 1895 and 1896 and there seems to have been no fruit brought in before then.

Value Duty
Strawberries 100 lbs. $10.00 $2.00 (2 c lb.)
Gooseberries 240 lbs. 9 4.8 (2 c lb.)
Rhubarb 125 lbs. 1 0.2
Currants 20 lbs. 4 1.6
Apricots 160 lbs. 3 0.6
Cherries 45 lbs. 2 0.9 (2 c lb.)
Grapes 216 lbs. 4 4.32
Peaches 350 lbs. 5 3.5 (1 c lb.)
Pears 450 lbs. 9 1.8
Nectarines 130 lbs 3 0.6 (20%)
Prunes 143 lbs. 2 1.43 (1 c lb.)
Crabapples 1 barrel 2 0.4
Melons 100 lbs. 4 1 (25%)
Apples 2 barrels 4 0.8
Cucumbers 50 lbs. 1 0.25 (25%)
Tomatoes 2 ½ bus. 3 0.77 (20 c bus. & 10%)
Potatoes 94 bus. 56 14.1 (15c)
Onions 240 lbs. 2 0.5 (25%)
Beans 7 bus. 6 1.05 (15c bus.)
Apricots, dried 257 lbs. 24 6.75 (25%)
Corn, dessicated 120 lbs. 12 2.4 (20%)
Cabbage (salted) 2 bls. 30 7.4 (25%)
Piefruit, canned 280 lbs. 16 6.3
Cabbage 400 lbs. 4 1 (25%)
Wheat 6 bus. 4 1 (25%)
Oats 250 bus. 85 25 (10c bus.)
Poultry 3 doz. 8 0.8 (20%)
Eggs 90 doz. 9 2.7
Ham 370 lbs. 35 7.4
Bacon 85 lbs. 9 1.7
Lard 50 lbs. 5 1
Hay 2 tons 14 4
Salmon, 2 kegs 200 lbs. 14 2
Mackerel, 1 keg 100 lbs. 11.5 1
Dried Meat 440 lbs. 44 8.8
Salted Meat 327 lbs 23 6.54
Onion Plants 1200 3 0.6

Prices on staples will also bear comparisons:

Value Duty
3 lbs. Arbuckle Coffee $1.00 0.16
300 lbs. Beef 12 9
60 tons flour 220 45
240 sacks 12 2.4
340 lbs. Butter 68 13.6
300 lbs. Sugar 15 3.42

In 1890, 100 lbs. of sugar was worth $8.00 and the duty was $4.60; a 60 lb. keg of butter was worth $15.00 - $2.40 duty; 10 gals. Coal Oil $2.90 - duty $0.75; 4 lbs. Price's baking powder $1.80 - duty $0.24; 3 lbs. tea $1.25 - duty $0.125; 15 lbs. lard $1.20 - duty $0.45; 200 lbs. B.C. Powder (blasting) $40.00 - duty $18.00; 1,000 ft. Fuse $6.00 - duty $1.20.

In 1892 the wholesale prices on men's clothing were:

Value Duty
1 doz. Gloves $3.00 $1.05
1 doz. caps 2.00 .60
1 doz. suspenders 5.00 1.05
1/2 doz. wool undershirts 3.00 1.35
1/2 doz. shoes 6.00 1.50
2 pr. overalls 2.00 .70
1/2 doz. pants 4.00 1.40
2 Mackinaw coats 4.00 1.40
1/2 doz. blue jumpers 2.00 .70
4 doz. cotton hose 1.50 .85

In 1890, we find Lumden Bros. imported 200 mares, 75 colts, and 19 saddle horses free; L. W. Armstrong, 30 small wild horses, value $400.00- duty $80.00 (20%).

In 1891 Thos. Daly (Keremeos), one pedigreed American Angus bull; F. Richter, 1 pedigreed Galloway bull ($212.00), 2 Angus bulls, 4 Angus cows, $800.00, 1 Percheron stallion $1500.00; George McWha, 1 Clydesdale stallion $1500.00; R. L. Cawston for the British Columbia Cattle Company imported:

Value Duty
3300 Mutton Sheep $8250.00 30% @ 2.50 = $2475.00
3000 Yearlings 6000.00 30% @ 2.00 = $1800.00
2200 lambs 2200 30% @ 1.00 = $660.00
TOTALS $16,450.00 $4,935.00

Value Duty
1 light farm wagon 75.00 20% & 15.00 = 30.00
1 light buckboard 50.00 20% & 15.00 = 25.00
2 blue horses 100.00 20% = 25.00
2 bay horses 175.00 20% = 35.00
1 grey horse 30.00 20% = 6.00
1 bay gelding 25.00 20% = 5.00
2 sets Harness 60.00 35% = 25.00
TOTALS 515.00 140.00

The same year F. Harvey brought in 2232 sheep and lambs, duty $1449.00. Other entries were Lucian and Thomas Tedrow, settlers, who later homesteaded near Sidley; Joseph Christian, 1 purebred Percheron stallion, "Frank," value $700.00, free.

In 1892 Evan Morris, who ran the "Miner's Rest" at Fairview, had this entry: 1 sewing machine $15.00 (6.00), 1 box Soda Biscuits, $5.00 (1.00), 2 cant hooks valued at $5.00 (1.25).  F.R. Kline, 2 cant hooks valued at $5.00 (1.25). F. R. Kline, who built the original Golden Gate Hotel at Fairview, in 1892 imported one saw, and 2 16-lb. wedges, probably preparatory to getting out the logs for the building, and in December of that year also imported:

Value Duty
8,000 shingles $30.00 $6.00
9 windows 18.00 5.40
6 windows 10.00 3.00
3 doors 5.00 1.75
7 doors 7.00 3.85

5 lb. Seal of North Carolina plug tobacco was worth $3.00 (duty 2.38), 3 lb. Star plug tobacco $1.00 (duty $1.43).

In 1893 we find the well-known name of Steve Mangott first mentioned. Further entries were D. M. McDougal, wife and 1 child, settler; John McCuddy and family, settler. He also imported general merchandise for resale on which he paid $563.76 duty. Wm. Snodgrass, settler, and Hiram Ingle's name appear. A. R. L. Thompson, imported a pleasure cart, value $20.00 ($14.00 duty), 1 set harness, $10.00. The trek of American settlers to the Black Mountain district at Kelowna took place in 1893 as well. D. M. Boone declared 50 doz. eggs, value $20.00 (duty $2.00), 50 lbs. butter $16.00 (duty $1.00).  In November of the same year, T. M. Murray imported a large quantity of fruit trees and berry bushes, as follows:

Value Duty
1589 apple trees $248.35 $47.67
112 pear 22.40 3.36
91 apricots 18.20 2.73
197 plums 39.40 5.91
194 peaches 38.50 5.82
8 quinces 1.60 .20
90 currants 9.00 1.80
650 strawberry plants 13.00 2.60
180 dewberries 18.00 3.60
125 raspberries 3.00 .60
90 gooseberries 11.00 2.20

Also, C. Pittendrigh, 5 chairs $15.00, duty $5.25.

In 1894, D. A. Carmichael imported 1427 ft. lumber 119 pieces, $29.00, duty $5.80; 5246 ft., 371 pieces $105.00, duty $21.00. Wm. Snodgrass paid $71.33 duty on 59 items wholesale hardware.

C. Melville, settler, wife and four children; G. W. Gillespie, settler. J. Monahan of the Cariboo Mine at Camp McKinney brought in:

Value Duty
1 steam engine and boiler complete $800.00 $220.00
1 10 stamp and assay outfit complete 2200.00 660.00
TOTALS $3000.00 $880.00

This was the mill on which the duty was delayed by permission of the Deputy Collector of Customs (See "Camp Gold Brick Robbery", by Arthur Cosens, O.H.S. Report No. 7.) The horses and equipment with which the stamp mill was hauled, together with large quantities of mining supplies, horse feed, and cook house supplies, brought the total amount of duties levied up to well over $1000.00. N. J. Lambert, 9 mares and horses $360.00, duty $72.00. A. W. Carlin, 11 mares and horses $88.00, duty $17.60.

F. E. Zuelke and James Goodyear, settlers to Anarchist Mountain. Del Hart, 10 barrels of flour, and 40 sacks. Del Hart was, for many years, a prominent real estate man in Oroville, Washington.

Wm. McMynn, large quantity grocery, hardware, and household goods. Ah Kee, a long list of groceries and sundries, including one pair of corsets. Later the same year, we find the Cariboo Mining and Milling Company imported, along with large mining equipment and other supplies, 10 gal. gasoline, worth $3.00, duty $0.60. This is the only mention of gasoline in the entire record, and is possibly the first importation of gasoline through the port of Osoyoos. We also note the following prices on pipe:

Value Duty
90 ft. 3" pipe $31.00 $1.85
1 elbow 6.60 2.31
1 3" T fittings .75 .26 1/4
1 3" Glove valve 5.25 1.57 1/2
2 3" flanges .95 .26
1 3-2" reducer .50 .14 3/4

C.D.B. Green appears for the first time, also John Prather and Wm. Roland, settlers to Anarchist Mountain.

Following a financial panic in the U.S., many settlers lost their homesteads, or could not find a market for what they were raising. In 1893 there were only four ranchers between Osoyoos and Rock Creek. They were R. Sidley , on Nine-Mile Creek; C. Pittendrigh, who had staked the Pittendrigh Meadows; McBride Brothers on Baker Creek, and a man named Johnson on what is now known as Johnson Creek. He was the first to take up land in that area. Shortly after, however, new settlers, mostly from the Big Bend country, came from across the line and from the Fraser valley, over the Hope Trail in 1894 and 1895 and there was a rush for land where the soil was so rich and black, and the grass so abundant. Furthermore, with the mining boom in the Boundary country, Camp McKinney and Fairview, there appeared to be a profitable market for all they could raise. This is why the Customs Book for that time shows so many new settlers bound for Anarchist Mountain.

Further extracts from the Customs' book follow: 1895: Harvey and Calvin W. Garrison, settlers; Martin Kirby, 1 thoroughbred Percheron stallion, "Rousel," value $450.00; Manuel Barcelo, 7 barrels of flour; George Menil and J.C. Louark, settlers to Anarchist Mountain; F. Struve, settler to Kettle River; Thomas Culling, settler to Anarchist Mountain; George Shurson (Similkameen) 1 home-made carpet value $9.00 ($2.70); Mrs. A.J. Sroufe, to Ashcroft, household goods $50.00, books, Bible, and song books for children $12.00; C. Coss , 1 old mowing machine $15.00; R.D. Beecher, settler, to Anarchist Mountain. Large quantities of supplies were brought through from 1894 to 1896 by Wm. Hughes, who with his wife, ran the cook house at the Cariboo Mine at Camp McKinney. D.C. Runnals, 44 mares and colt $215.00 ($43.00); Luke Gibson, Princeton, Percheron stallion, "Denmark"; R. Sidley, 2 small pigs, $4.00, duty .30. Duty was 1 1/2c per pound which would make them very small pigs.

The 1896 record ends with September. Most of the business transacted for that year was with the peddlers who have been mentioned. Wrn. Tippie, settler for Anarchist Mountain, had two pigs included in his settler's effects and stock, the only one to do so; F. B. Boone, settler, James M. Bozarth, settler for Anarchist Mountain, (settled on One-Eyed Mountain); L. A. Huff, to Greenwood, settler, G. A. Ford, settler, to Greenwood City, settler's effects and 1 bathtub and fittings, value $40.00.

C.Y. Coss & Co.:

Value Duty
2 Winchester rifles $19.00 $3.80
18 boxes W. Cartridges 7.00 2.10
9 doz. steel traps 8.00 2.21
1 pr. Ind. rubber boots 5.00 1.50
1 pr. leather shoes 2.00 .40
9 Indian horses and mares 51.00 10.20
3 riding saddles 10.00 3.00
6 pack saddles 18.00 5.40
2 Bear traps 8.00 2.20

Another interesting item was for September, 1893: S. A. Halberg and sons, settlers, to Fort Edmonton, N.W.T.


At present, 1957, an acute shortage of hay in the Cariboo is responsible for the ranchers there disposing of many of their cattle, and the flow is now going back across the line again, not in big drives, as they did in the 1800's, but in huge cattle trucks and trailers over smooth paved roads, and it takes only a few days to move the same amount of cattle that it took months to move in earlier days.