Just cruising Cariboo’s back-trails

Yesterday I started telling the story about our trip along the Yank’s Peak trail, and how I was wondering who the “yank,” after whom the peak was named, was.

Let’s continue from where I left off.

We stopped for lunch at a beautiful spot next to the Cariboo River, just downriver from the Lower Cariboo Falls. A few of the guys tried fishing but didn’t catch anything of significance.

After lunch we took a different route back to where our vehicles were parked – up past Little Snowshoe Creek, one of the myriad of creeks that course through the Cariboo back country. It was these gold-carrying streams that drew many fortune-seekers to the area in the 1860s. One of those was William “The Live Yank” Luce, who was originally from either Maine or Massachusetts (depending on which history book you read) but had participated in the California gold rush.

There are two versions as to how Luce got his nickname. The first is that he got it from his first claim in the Cariboo, “The Live Yank” at Harvey Creek. The second is that he was given the nickname by a reporter from Barkerville’s Cariboo Sentinel, who visited him several times to write about his mining and hunting exploits.

In 1866 the reporter wrote, “The Live Yankee has every faith in his old quartz lead on Snowshoe and intends to resume work on it as soon as he makes a little money.”

Over the years Luce staked several claims in the area, including one on Little Snowshoe Creek, where he built himself a cabin. With so many people travelling through the area on their way to and from the Cariboo goldfields, Luce eventually turned his cabin into a makeshift hotel. It seems as if Luce made most of his money from this “hotel”.

One of the funnier stories attributed to the Live Yank’s Hotel was louse racing. The story goes that the hotel’s patrons would place lice or bedbugs (which were plentiful) on plates and bet on which would be the first to cross from one side of the plate to the other. Sometimes the plates would be heated to encourage the little critters to run faster, allowing more “races” to be run each evening.

Despite the fact that gold mining in the area started tailing off by the 1870s, Luce remained at Snowshoe Creek. In May 1881 The Live Yank died of heart failure at the ripe young age of 60. There is both a creek and a peak named after him, and we even discovered the cemetery where he was buried – a few hundred metres up from a random cabin, Tom Kinvig’s cabin.

Tom Kinvig’s cabin was the site of a gold-rush era general dealer, Borland’s Store (I believe it was called). I read somewhere that Tom’s daughter mined from her father’s cabin for many years. But we didn’t stay long enough to find out who was staying there now, what with laundry hanging on a makeshift line, and a mosquito coil burning in the corner. It had been a long day and we were anxious to get back to our vehicles.

It was a long, 10-hour day in the saddle (in a manner of speaking) and well worth it!


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