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Stock, Lox and Barrels – From the Hard Winter of 1862

January 23, 2015

Thirteen inches of ice on Fraser River

The Fraser River was frozen at New Westminster for the longest time in January and February of 1862. Corporal Leech reported that floating ice rendered the Fraser River unnavigable on January 4, and by January 9 the river was frozen over.  It was March 11 before steamers could navigate from the mouth of the Fraser River to New Westminster, and another month before the river was free enough from ice for boats to reach Yale,  on April 12, 1862.
The minimum temperature  — taken at the standard time of 9:30 a.m.—  occurred on the 15th of January when it was 2 degrees Fahrenheit.

On January 31 the ice on Fraser River was 9.5 inches thick.

"Sleighs were running from Langley to several miles below New Westminster, and persons walked from Hope to the latter place, a distance of 80 miles, on the ice, at the end of January."

The ice thickened to  a maximum depth of 13 inches on February 12, 1862, measured in the channel between Sapperton and Herring’s Point.

In addition to freezing cold, further up the valley the snow lay deep on the ground. At Hope and Yale it was reported 4 to 8 feet deep, and over the roofs of the houses.

Taking Stock – The city’s food supply

With the Fraser River frozen and impassable to steamers, the main route for bringing supplies to New Westminster was cut off. The British Columbian newspaper noted that—

"The matter of supplying this Colony with stock of all kinds is every day assuming more important proportions."

James Kennedy considered his new trail to be the savior of the city when imported cattle were driven over the Kennedy Trail from Mud Bay to the Fraser River.

However, there were local sources of beef. Hugh McRoberts had cattle grazing at Sumas, some of which succumbed to the cold and deep snow in January. McRoberts brought in more than 100 head to establish a new farm on Lulu Island. Meanwhile,  S Moody & Company had landed 70 head of cattle on the north shore of Mud Bay where the company had purchased an extensive range of land.

Others besides stock-raisers were taking an interest in Mud Bay, less than ten miles from the city via Kennedy’s road.

Frost-bite and foresight – Alex Annandale’s hunting trip

In January of 1862 a  rescue party of Royal Engineers, accompanied by the staff Surgeon,  was sent over to Mud Bay in aid of a "Mr. Annandale,"  whose hands and feet had been "severely frozen" while out on a hunting excursion.

For whatever pains Alexander Annandale suffered on his hunting trip, he had acquired some knowledge of the locality at the mouths of the two small rivers emptying into Mud Bay.

In August 1864,  Alexander Annandale preempted 100 acres on Mud Bay at the mouth of the Nicomekl River on the point now known as Blackie’s Spit.  FW Laing cited Provincial Archivist, Dr Kaye Lamb, in offering the opinion that the area of land is "entirely unsuited for agriculture" and "must have been obtained for purposes other than those connected with farming."  (Lamb was a local boy, having attended Mud Bay school.)

Indeed, Mr  Annandale who had come to British Columbia for the mining, had something else in mind.

Annandale establishes commercial fishing industry

1864 12 09 telegraph line and Annandale fishery at Mud BayIn June of 1864, Alexander Annandale was reported as having "recently established fishing stations on the Fraser River," and "intends opening a salt water fishing station in Mud Bay, below the mouth of the Fraser."

In 1863 Annandale had  advertised in Scottish newspapers for men interested in taking charge of a fishing station in British Columbia. He had taken samples of Fraser River salmon to England and returned with orders for several thousand barrels of salt salmon.

While aboriginal fisheries had existed for millennia, and the Hudson Bay Company had been exporting salt salmon for decades, Annandale is credited with starting the Fraser River commercial fishing industry of the modern era.

Alexander Ewen, who became a giant in the cannery business, arrived in BC in January 1864, one of those attracted by Annandale’s Scottish advertisement.

In July 1864, it was reported  that Annandale, having prepared 600 barrels for the season,

"has sold out his interest in the fishery opposite this city to his partner Mr Inglefield, who will carry on the business vigorously."


"has commenced a new station at Mud Bay, between Point Roberts and Semiahmoo Bay. He is erecting buildings and making every preparation to go to work immediately. The location is very favorable for a fishing station, being on a long sand spit at the entrance of one of the mouths of the Fraser,and allowing good facilities for hauling his nets."

Annandale's Smoked Salmon in StockIn December of 1864, two winters since  Annandale was rescued in that district,  John Murray of the Family Grocery at New Westminster advertised:

"In Stock – A superior article of Smoked Salmon from Annandale’s fishery, Mud Bay."

In May of 1865 William E Cormack,  an ardent advocate of the British Columbia fishing industry, acted as agent for the sale of the fishery opposite New Westminster. Built up in just a year, it was an investment of some considerable worth.

"Salmon Fishery! For Sale, An establishment on the South Bank of the Fraser River, opposite New Westminster, including the Plant and Materials for carrying on the Salmon Fishery upon an extensive scale. The Buildings consist of Cooperage, 100 x 20 ft.; a Room for Barrels; Buildings for the accommodation of 16 men; Private Residence of 4 Rooms; a convenient Wharf, %c."

Supplies included nets, twine, 16 tons of salt and 1,000 barrels.

Note: The map detail of the telegraph routes in 1864, indicating location of Annandale fishery at Mud Bay, is oriented to the south. The complete map can be  found in the British Columbia Historical Atlas by Derek Hayes.

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