Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Cowichan Valley … the settling and opening up: Blessings be to the Major … part 4




That man, Major JFL MacFarlane from Victoria bought his Mill Bay farm in the Cowichan Valley sight unseen: which perhaps was a buyer beware mistake … but he was another of those intrepid explorers …


Major JFL MacFarlane


… MacFarlane understandably wanted to see the farm … what he hadn’t realised was … there was no easy easterly route to Mill Bay over or around the monstrous Malahat mountain … there was an 1861 trail, adequate for driving livestock, but useless for wagons …







Some of the sort of granite to be surveyed


… the government had undertaken to build a wagon road in 1877, but within a year had abandoned it.  





The dizzy views available on a clear day ... 
A road with steep grades and tortuous curves, was eventually completed in 1884, which still made it undesirable for heavy traffic … as the Major found out …




Here - the car had arrived ... must have been in the
early 1910s ...




… he and seller toiled off towards the summit (the road today is over 1,150 feet) but had to resort to walking as soon as the ground started to rise …





Red River ox cart - used in mid Canada:
the Red River area



… at the top finally - now for a rest – well no! … it was much too steep … having no brake on the wagon – the wheels were tied together, the men held on and “by degrees” descended towards the Valley (the way they say that the lawyers get to heaven).






An iphone photo from the blurb
at the rest site at the top of the
Malahat.  The easterly route is the
one we use today, skirting the
Saanich Peninsula.  The dotted line
depicts the original 1861 trail;
the railway and westerly routes
are shown too




MacFarlane at this point was informed there was no other route if he wanted to use his wagons … he had been in India, so this self-taught surveyor armed with a hand-compass and an aneroid barometer mapped out a route from the Cowichan Valley to the Goldstream lowlands on the outskirts of what is now Victoria …









… he’d had to do something … he was fed up with taking the three-day westerly wagon trip to get his produce to market …  so down on his hands and knees, crawling through the undergrowth … searching every nook and cranny … he went …



Overlooking the Saanich Peninsula and right across to
Mount Baker in the US - its sun capped top shining through
… at times he had revised his view-point by sailing his sloop up and down the Saanich inlet, and, where logical, taking the railway tricycle to determine a viable route.  The railway in 1886 went inland through to the valley …




iphone photo of Kinsol Trestle
part of the railway route
… this took three summers, without payment, locating a new route … Frank Verdier, a respected local woodsman, supported his venture, which ultimately swayed the government …


Those government men were wrong – and they were going to be proved to be wrong – a more coastal route could be built up and over the Malahat … connecting Victoria with the sheltered fertile eastern side of Vancouver Island and his farm …





A narrow, mostly single lane, road was built – precipitously clinging to the sides of the mountainous heap … no guard rails … was hacked through and opened just before Christmas 1911 … guess who hanseled it …





Apologies for the vandalised photo - but shows
the precipitous route

… that Major with a bottle of his favourite Burke’s whisky to hand and the road gang … had found a way through, where the Government surveyors and engineers had for decades dismissed the possibility of a road …





I want to call him the galloping major – but can’t … he must be something else – the Blessed Major … opening up the trading route linking the capital, Victoria, to the very fertile Cowichan Valley.



From what was that original route ... transformed into a
view point and/or rest area - where my other photos
were taken from ... 


We are indebted to him and the persistent efforts of succeeding generations in achieving a route through, and in the present improvements that are being made to the road … not easy, even today, blasting through that exceedingly difficult granite terraine …




… which leads us to six inches of ice … part 5

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

34 comments:

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari Om
yeeeeccchhh, having travelled similar roads in the Himalayas myself, I can see why the major thought this entirely possible and proved it! Nerves of steel; and whisky! YAM xx

Jz said...

That was one determined man!
They don't make 'em like that anymore, more's the pity. ;-)

B Pradeep Nair said...

Amazing the way he figured out the routes!

Chatty Crone said...

Now that man was a TRUE pioneer. Some people are just smart and brave and willing to do things others wouldn't even consider or think of.

Liz A. said...

Wow. That was hard. Some places were so hard to get to. They only opened up with the determination of those who wanted them opened up.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

He was determined. Not sure I'd want to take that single lane road.

Elsie Amata said...

I have to hand it to him. It seems like nothing was going to stop him from getting what he wanted. That drive served him well! Amazing. Thank you for sharing this part of his story with us.

Elsie

Linda said...

That is what determination will get you! By the way, I would not use that road...just saying.

Sherry Ellis said...

That's a great example of persistence! And I think it paid off!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Yam - yes I can imagine the roads in the Himalayas are similar, but probably worse with the drops either side. As you so rightly state - nerves of steel and Irish whisky ...

@ Jz - yes he was one determined man ... there are a few around - but few, and yes more's the pity ...

@ Pradeep - it must have taken some determination that's for sure ...

@ Sandie - he was one determined individual ... he might not have been a pioneer exactly but he wanted to make the lives of those who had come before him to settle ... better: with easier wagon and road transport ...

@ Liz - it must have been quite horrendous ... but these guys were made of stern stuff ... and an iron will to succeed ...

@ Diane - on occasions I haven't wanted to go down roads in England, Europe and in South Africa ... now they've all been improved. Here with two of the sight-seeing/rest stops today's travellers can see and understand more easily what was at stake ...

@ Elsie - yes he wasn't going to let one small mountain (in his eyes) get in the way of what he and his fellow settlers wanted ... that original shock set him to find a better way through ...

@ Linda - it certainly was dogged determination - and I guess those early drivers were equally determined to see new areas ... but can see what you're saying about you not wanting to travel it ...

@ Sherry - persistence: great word for his work in establishing the route across ... well today I'm glad it's there - though even more that it's being improved!

Thanks so much for the comments - Major MacFarlane even today is making our route through to Victoria easier ... cheers Hilary

Lisa said...

Talk about true determination! The major sounds like an inspired guy. I love these kinds of stories...

Out on the prairie said...

Really amazing feat to achieve, I liked the roping the wheels to have control.

Sandra Cox said...

Never give up.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

The ingenuity and stubbornness of those early settlers is humbling. I would not be comfortable driving on that road even in modern times with guard rails.

Arlee Bird said...

Life was a real adventure back in those days. They don't make many like old Major anymore. That's some beautiful country in BC.


Arlee Bird
Tossing It Out

Susan Kane said...

Major persisted, incredibly. Nothing was easy then, but he continued. What an amazing man. Looking forward to #5.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I can't imagine the sinking feeling realizing that the farm I'd purchased, sight-unseen, was so difficult to reach! He sounds like quite a character.

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

Wow what an amazing man

Joanne said...

I just don't think folks these days have the fortitude for that kind of persistence and vision. A couple of bottles of whiskey and a lot of gumption - that's what opened the doors to what we have today.
What a character! Good post

Nilanjana Bose said...

A true explorer! Don't make them like that anymore...well, mostly.

Mark Koopmans said...

Hi Helen :)

Talk about a man on a mission. The major could be an inspiration for many a writer faced with the granite wall of insecurity!

Thanks for sharing, that was a fun read, and cheers right back at you!

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

A stubborn old coot, wasn't he? HA! Seriously, it took an amazing amount of grit and determination for him to keep going when he encountered those kinds of obstacles. His refusal to give up, no matter what others said about the impossibility of his quest, is inspirational. People like him left huge ripples in the world.

Cheers! Here's to a terrific weekend, Hilary.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Lisa - the 'old boy' wasn't going to get beaten was he ... yes they're great stories ... just glad I wasn't out there with him!

@ Steve - I tried to find a photo with the wheels tied together ... but couldn't ... still it shows what they had to do to hold on ...

@ Sandra - yes never give up ...

@ Susan - you're right ... incredible bravery just setting out ... and what was worse ... that road was gravel until 1940 or so ...

@ Lee - adventurous or just plain drudgery for most people ... this lot were certainly exploring what the world had for them ...

@ Susan - he was persistent that's definite. He lived til he was 95 so can't have done himself any harm with all these wanderings ...

@ Elizabeth - I know he must have been horrified to have to walk up the Malahat, and then walk down the otherside ... it's daunting driving now! Must have been a full of life man ... as you say.

@ Jo-Anne - yes he was some courageous chap ...

@ Joanne - you're right about opening the doors to what we have today ... and then they seemed to be able to down whiskey by the glass and carry on. Gumption - great word to describe him ...

@ Nila - he was just determined not to be beaten by a rather large lump of granite - that's still causing the surveyors of today some trouble ...

@ Mark - thanks, good to see you ... he was determined to have his route through to his property on the east coast. Glad you enjoyed it ... and if it helps anyone's writing wall of insecurity to read this - then I'm very pleased.

@ Susan - yes stubborn old coot is a good way to describe him - he lived to 95 being one! It always amazes me at how these early settlers found out how to do things ... as you say the impossibility of his quest. He wasn't going to be held back ...

Susan - men like him did leave huge ripples - the benefits we're lucky to have today ...

Thanks so much for all your comments - lovely to see you ... cheers Hilary

Patsy said...

We kind of take it for granted now that we can get wherever we wish to go, don't we? Easy to forget the hard work which went into creating even the 'easiest' of roads.

Deborah Barker said...

That early road looks terrifying! It just goes to prove that where there is a will there is a way...be it ever so narrow. Great tale Hilary. :-)

DMS said...

Talk about perseverance! Wow! He did not give up. I can't even imagine what he went through nor how scary it was to travel that are before the road (and even after- no guardrails- yikes). Thanks for sharing. :)
~Jess

Nick Wilford said...

Sounds like a fascinating and very persistent man. Definitely a major undertaking to carve out those mountainous routes, especially in those times.

Keith's Ramblings said...

Very few people would want to carry out such a journey these days - I get weary walking to the newsagents!

Sandra Cox said...

It's hard to find that kind of determination these days. It was probably hard to find back then too:)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Patsy - we do tend to take things for granted - as you say ... it's all too easy for us - and it was only 110 years ago that this road was built.

@ Deborah - if he'd been getting roads through the mountains in India - I guess he was an ideal subject for sorting a route through from Victoria to the Valley - it made life so much easier for the Valley residents ... even now!

@ Jess - he most certainly didn't give up did he - the terrain is pretty challenging even today ... I guess on two feet, back then, you're probably safer than four wheels! But as you say ... he had perseverance and wasn't prepared to give up ...

@ Nick - I've learnt a bit more since ... it's such an interesting story. Planning the route must have been difficult enough - then the clearing of the growth begins ...

@ Keith - I do see people walking distances here, but more likely cycling ... though most of us take the easy route - and wandering down to the local newsagents can be a pain sometimes ... I so agree.

@ Sandra - he was determined ... and finding people to work wasn't easy ... they'd move on - as the work was so transient ..

Thanks so much - it's strange to remember the first major sale of cars was in 1899 by the Benz organisation in Germany ... Ford's major sales to the masses was in 1908 in the USA ... tarmac was patented in 1902 - we've come a long way since then ...

Cheers to you all - Hilary

Vallypee said...

I read these stories of these intrepid folk with so much admiration. They were just so determined, and the good major more than most. I love all the photos and pictures. It's wonderful there are these types of records available. A fascinating piece of history and I'll look forward to the 6 inches of ice. Thanks Hilary!

retirementreflections said...

Hi, Hilary - I am greatly enjoying this series. Thank you for sharing this history and bringing the past of Vancouver Island back to life!

Hels said...

I note that the road was not finished until 1884 yet the railway went inland through to the valley in 1886!!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Val - oh I know ... I think 'would I have coped?' - I doubt it ... but I was tougher when I was much younger. Now I've put up the post about the ice - but forgot it was 6 inches ... just added it in ... thanks for the reminder ...

There's a lot of history here - which has been recorded, or is being recorded for posterity ... which does make it really interesting ...

@ Donna - delighted you are relating to the series, seeing as you live just the other side of Nanaimo (I think) ... glad that the posts on local history are appreciated ...

@ Hels - thanks for your note re the road and railway ... as I mention in the next post - it's quite difficult to explain how everything came together ... and I learn something new or extra everytime I write about something else ...

Thanks so much for your comments and for being interested - it's always a pleasure replying to everyone's comments ... cheers Hilary