Details of expedition, winter is setting in

[Trade Journal]

Publication: The Telegrapher

New York, NY, United States



The following is a copy of a letter from our correspondent "Electron," who seems to have forgotten us, in his far-away home:



November 7th, 1865.


DEAR : Your letter of July came duly to hand a day or two since, and was gladly received, you may believe. Although our nearest post-office is over four hundred miles, and only two houses between here and there, our letters come through with considerable regularity. A large mail for myself and party from San Francisco was lost on the wreck of the Brother Jonathan, as well as two operators coming to New-Westminster. We generally send our mails by some stray Indian, going through the wilderness, who is pretty sure to deliver them safely, for he knows he will get a potlatch of tobacco.

We are in winter quarters now, although the season hasn't set in yet for good, and the lake is not yet frozen over. There is some snow on the ground, and any quantity of it on the mountains in all directions. Our station (Bulkley House) is at the north end of Lake Tatla, sixteen hundred miles from San Francisco. Nearest houses are Fort Connoly, sixty miles north, and Fort St. James, one hundred and twenty miles south. There are hardly any Indians in the country. Once a month or so a stray one happens along, but doesn't stop long.

Lake Tatla is about sixty miles long, and has a tremendous range of mountains on each side of it. The country around the house is well timbered and level, and the view from our front door extends thirty miles down the lake. It is a very beautiful place (our house is about as large as the kitchen part of the house at home) and has two rooms, the office and the kitchen, each with a fire-place. I think that the prospects are we shall have pretty weather here, and short days this winter, as it is not light here mornings till 8 o'clock now, and is dark a few minutes after four. In midwinter I don't imagine we shall see very much of the sun. I have seven men here with me for the winter, and plenty of provisions to last, until next June. I am sure we shall have a very pleasant winter.

I have just returned from an exploring expedition north to Fort Connoly, which was no small job, I can tell you. It is about sixty miles from here, and two men went with me. We had to carry our blankets, provisions, axes, frying-pans, guns and forty other traps on our backs, and the whole forest, from here to there, has been burnt and has all blown down, and the logs are piled up "cross-cross" in every direction, several feet high, like a pile of matches thrown on the floor! It was nice work climbing over sixty miles of that stuff with the load we had. Then we had to wade a river, nearly twice as large as the Housatonic, about daylight one morning, with the ice running down. That was snug and comfortable! To add to the beauties of the situation we got snowed in up in the mountains, and had to stay there till all our "grub" was eaten up, and when we finally got out had to travel all the way back (sixty miles) again with nothing for three of us to cat except two dried woodchucks and four dried fish. We used to scramble over the logs all day and sit down at night and eat our piece of dried woodchucks about as big as a plug of tobacco, and a good deal tougher than gutta-percha, with first-rate appetites. O yes, and we had tea, too; made it out of a plant that grows here in the swamps which makes first-rate tea. We used to pick that and boil it in our tin-pups. We had no end of fun on the trip, though.

One thing astonished me, and that was to see a lot of Indian children running around in the snow naked, and snowballing each other, never seeming to care about the cold, when the north wind blew enough to nip your nose off! This was at the wigwam where we got the dried woodchucks.

Probably you folks at home would be interested to know how we live and what we live on here; and I can assure you that there's many a hotel in the Eastern States not so well kept as Bulkley House. I have a cook who takes care of the house, chops the wood, and runs the establishment. We have plenty of good bread, bacon, beans and dried salmon; tea, coffee, chocolate and sugar; also dried apples and rice once or twice a week.

When we are on a trip we live on bread and bacon with tea and sugar. We get a good many ducks an partridges, and some fresh fish once in a while. Fresh woodchucks are excellent, and we have them often.   I have got to be about as good a cook as anybody now, having to look out for myself on our exploring tours. I can write you very little from here, as everything goes on exactly the same from day to day. I am running the survey line for the telegraph, for which I make occasional excursions, and the men follow the line and cut a road. I have sent back the largest part of my men, so as to not eat me out of house and home. The health of myself and the entire party is excellent.

I expect now to get away from here next June, and return home, overland, in the early fall.


Keywords:Collins Overland Telegraph
Researcher notes: 
Supplemental information: 
Researcher:Bob Stahr
Date completed:December 18, 2005 by: Elton Gish;