James Duffy

James Duffy volunteered for service with the Columbia Detachment.  He was trained as a surveyor.

He sailed with Captain Parsons' party which arrived in November of 1858.

As a Sapper Duffy's Regimental Pay per Diem would have been 1s. 2 1/2d. plus Working Pay per Diem of 1s. to 4s.

Duffy was stationed in Derby until the arrival of the bulk of the Detachment on the 12th April, 1859.

"In 1860, the Harrison-Lillooet route, which required four separate trips by land interspersed with three voyages by lake steamer, was being inproved.  The mule trails (two to 3 1/2 metres wide) were being widened into wagon roads (four to five metres wide).  Duffy was working that summer, in Cayoosh, laying out the townsite (Later Lillooet) so that lots could be sold to settlers.

On the 7th September, 1860, Governor Douglas came riding in, inspecting the trail.  To be sure that the best route for the Second Portage had been chosen, from Lillooet Lake to Cayoosh, Douglas wanted someone to explore an alternative pass, up Cayoosh Creek.  When he called for volunteers, Duffy diffident but eager, stepped forward.

On the 10th September, 1860, Duffy was on his way with a party of Indians, following an Indian trail at a steady eight miles per day, reaching Lillooet Lake on the 16th September and returning by a different route.  He sent his report to Lt. Palmer at Pemberton.  He submitted notes and sketch maps and his opinion that a wagon road was feasible, the greatest obstacle being the rapid drop of 1,000 feet to Lillooet Lake, which could be descended by zigzagging.  Having submitted his report, he returned to triangulating with a 5 inch theodolite at Cayoosh, and there found a terse letter awaiting him."

--Pg.76, "Sappers: The RE in BC" by Beth Hill.

26th September, 1860

"...Sapper James Duffy, RE, is desired to explain how it is that he has proceeded upon another service than the one he was upon without reporting the circumstances to Headquarters...

No report has been received as to whether he had completed the duty ordered by Captain Grant, RE, ...before volunteering his services to His Excellency the Governor."

HRLuard, Captain RE

Beth Hill continues her narrative.

Governor Douglas had in fact written to Colonel Moody on the 8th September from Cayoosh, telling him that,

"I have appointed Corporal Duffy, who very handsomely came forward and volunteered his services, to head the party and report their proceedings.  Corporal Duffy, whose conduct on the occasion deserves my thanks, especially looking to the great importance of ascertaining whether this route may not be preferable to the one now in use."

Duffy, in his reply to Captain Luard, on the 6th October, explained that,

"I did not then imagine I was acting wrong in obeying His Excellency".

However, the breach of discipline was pursued and Duffy was demoted to Sapper.

-- Pg.77, "Sappers: The RE in BC" by Beth Hill

In January of 1861, Duffy was still on the Harrison-Lillooet trail.

"A sapper froze to death on the long portage between Douglas and Cayoosh.  His name was James Duffy."

--18th January, 1861
The British Colonist.

Two years later, in 1863, Colonel Moody writes to the Attorny-General of the Colony, Henry Crease.

New Westminster, 5th March, 1863

My dear Crease,

Will you do me the kindness to make out the particulars of instructions in writing so that Alice Duffy, widow, resident at the village of "garrison" Enniskillen, Ireland (It is about 20 miles from Enniskillen) could execute at home a deed of Conveyance to me of Lot 8, Block 1, Suburban Lot, near New Westminster purchased by the late James Duffy, RE, from the Crown - Area of Lot Nineteen Acres more or less (it was supposed to be twenty acres and has always been called twenty acres.)

Alice Duffy was James Duffy's Mother and inherited as next of kin - you were mentioning it was quite practicable to do it all at Home by her going before a Notary etc. and that you would write instructions.

Perhaps you will be good enough to make out the "Conveyance" to me at once ready for her to sign and transmit it all with a letter from yourself to my solicitors Messrs Boys and Tweedie, No. 6, Ely Place, London.  It might be safest to send the document and letter through Wells Fargo (I don't mind the expense in this matter).  Messrs Boys and Tweedie are acquainted with the matter and are in correspondence with Alice Duffy and are authorized to pay the money down.  I said Fifty Pounds so please put that down in Pencil in the Conveyance, they could fill it up I suppose.

The fact is it is not the value of the trumpery property, but it is slap in the middle of all of my land and that is such a nuisance I wish to settle the whole affair as quickly as I possibly can, so forgive my pressing the matter.

Yours, Ever Faithfully,

RC Moody.

This appears to end matter finally for Duffy, but 111 years later...

On the Duffy Lake Road, there are two plaques on a monument.  The top one reads:


The lower plaque reads:


But the incredible part is that neither the first plaque nor the second from 1971 are in the right place.  Duffy was not buried in there -- he was buried in New Westminster.

 From "British Columbia Historical News" Vol.14, No.2 Winter 1980 by R.C. Harris

Sapper Duffy’s Exploration
Cayoosh Creek To Lillooet, 1860.

In the summer of 1860, a small party of Royal Engineer surveyors was laying out town and suburban lots at Cayoosh (now the town of Lillooet).1  The lots were needed by the colonial government for sale by auction to anxious settlers.  Field notes in the Surveyor General’s office show Sapper Duffy was triangulating the principal features of the district with a five inch theodolite, while Sapper Breakenridge was booking the readings.

During the survey, His Excellency Governor James Douglas came into town on Friday, 07 September, 1860, via “the Horse-way”, formed in 1858.2  He was inspecting the Harrison-Lillooet (Lake) route to the goldfields, with a view to converting it to a wagon road.  Douglas wanted to be sure he had the best location for the Second Portage, which ran from Lillooet Lake to the town of Cayoosh on Fraser’s River.

Before reaching his decision, he required the exploration of an alternative3 Indian pass to Lillooet Lake via Cayoosh Creek.  He called for a qualified volunteer to lead the exploration.  With some diffidence, Sapper James Duffy stepped forward (and made his name immortal), but was soon reprimanded4 by his military superiors for leaving his regular surveying duty without authority.

Duffy was one of the group of military surveyors who arrived in British Columbia in 1858, under Captain R.M. Parsons, R.E., as part of the Columbia Detachment of Royal Engineers.  This detachment was separate from the North American Boundary Commission whose members arrived earlier, under Captain J.S. Hawkins, R.E. to survey and mark the boundary along the 49th parallel.

On the morning of Monday, 10 September, 1860, Duffy started up the Cayoosh trail with several experienced Indians.  He had received written instructions5 from Cayoosh magistrate Thomas Elwyn, who sent a second letter to Lieutenant H.S. Palmer, R.E., at Port Pemberton, asking Palmer to meet Duffy “on Lillooet Lake with a supply of provisions.”

Duffy traveled an estimated 56 miles to Lillooet Lake at a steady eight miles per day, descending steeply to the lake on Sunday, 16 September, 1860 at what is now Joffre Creek.  His route, mostly on the Indian trail, ran up the left (north) bank of Cayoosh Creek past a long lake7, then over the divide and down the right (north) bank of Joffre Creek.  He did not return by the same route, but went three miles north up Lillooet Lake to report to Lt. Palmer in Port Pemberton, at the mouth of Birkenhead River.

click on the above thumbnail to see a 600x800 pixel image of this map

Duffy’s report of exploration is dated Wednesday, 19 September, 1860, R.E. Camp, Harrison Road.  His notes8 and sketch maps9 give an adequate description of the route.  (See extracts concerning natural history collected at Appendix A. and a map compiled from his report at Appendix B.)  Duffy mentioned having received verbal instructions from the Governor to look for gold en route, and records washing eight specs of gold from a shovel full of dirt, at mile 18.

Regarding the prospects for a wagon road, Duffy says, “The line of road is generally pretty good – as far as I can judge practicable for a wagon road…The greatest obstacle is at the Lillooet Lake end where there is a very rapid fall of about 1,000 feet to the lake.  I think a wagon road could be made up this portion by zigzagging.”

On his one mile to one inch strip map, Duffy names the long lake between his camps 4 and 5 as Lake Melvin.  We do not know who Duffy was honouring, and the lake was actually named “L Duffy” on the map10 of British Columbia later completed by his colleagues11 in New Westminster as they were disbanding in October 1863.  The name remains to this day.

Duffy’s “Lake Melvin” was accommodated later by a later Surveyor General who named a small Melvin Lake and Creek about five miles east of Duffey Lake.  Duffey shows Joffre Creek as Sunday River, for the day he descended its right bank to Lillooet Lake.  It was, however, shown as Duffey Creek on provincial maps until 1914, when it was renamed in honour of another soldier, Marshall J.J.C. Joffre, Commander in Chief of the French Army.12

Following his report of exploration, which he handed to Lt. Palmer, Duffy returned to his duties at Cayoosh town, where he found a questionnaire13 demanding an explanation for his absence from duty.   He answered with commendable forthrightness.

The town plan of “Kayoosch” was soon completed, and the lots sold.  The manuscript is filed by the Surveyor General as 9, 10T2, Townsites: and tracings by Corporal J.C. White will be found in 2 Locker 13H

We have not traced Duffy’s movements for the remainder of 1860, but he was back on the Harrison-Lillooet trail early in 1861.  The British Colonist and the New Westminster Times reported14 he was found frozen to death in the snow on the first, or long, portage between Douglas (head of navigation on Harrison Lake) and Lillooet Lake.  With some difficulty, his body was returned to New Westminster where he was escorted to his grave by the whole detachment of Royal Engineers on Sunday, 19 January.  His widow, Alice, was enquiring about her inheritance in the Fall of 1862.

Duffy’s name has been recorded three ways.  Governor Douglas used “Duffie” in his diary and when reporting15 the intended exploration to his Grace the Duke of Newcastle, Colonial Secretary in London.  Army records in England show “James Duffy” enlisted 02 October 1848 and was assigned Regimental Number 2146.  His was the only death in the Columbia Detachment in 1861; the date is recorded as 09 January.

Duffy and his colleagues used Duffy and Duffey almost indiscriminately; there was a slight preference for Duffy, though it is recorded as Lake Duffey on the last Royal Engineer map of British Columbia.  This inconsistency of spelling continues today, when both spellings may be found on one page16.

The Gazetteer of Canada has adopted “Duffey” , possibly to distinguish it from the Duffy Creek and Lake south of Kamloops Lake, which was named for Patrick Duffy the pre-emptor of Lot 824, (near the mouth of the creek), 27 August 1896.

A century after Duffy’s exploration, a forestry road was completed over Duffy’s Cayoosh Creek route to Lillooet Lake.  It is now (1980) a provincial highway, connection Pemberton, and Lillooet Lake, with Lillooet town.  A new bridge over the Fraser River near Lillooet town will handle traffic from the “Duffy” highway.


 1.  Moody to Assistant Commissioner of Lands, Lillooet. 19 June 1961 “…the Governor desires that the town sometimes known as Kayoosh should be known by its original Indian name of Lillooet.” PABC C/AB/30.7/2

 2.  Despatch No. 13, 09 October 1860, Douglas to Newcastle, para. 21.

 3.  Douglas to Moody, 08 September 1860, reporting having found the Indian who knew a road direct from this place to Lillooet Lake, PABC F485c/4.

 4.  PABC F495a/2. Luard to Duffy, 26 September 1860, New Westminster; Duffy to Luard, 06 October 1860, Cayoosh.

 5.  Elwyn to Duffy, 10 September 1860, Original not found, but copies identified below at 6, 7.

 6.  Duffy’s long strip map of the exploration at 1 inch = 1 mile. PABC 8500 A61 {A note to our visitors: though this endnote appears in the original essay, there was no footnote listed in the text of the essay.}

 7.  The first record of this lake’s existence is on: “Sketch of Part of British Columbia by Lt. R.C. Mayne, R.N. of HMS Plumper, 1859. Approximate scale ¼ inch = 1 nautic mile.” On the line of what is now Cayoosh Creek is noted: “from Cayoosh lake, exact position unknown.” Surveyor General of B.C.: 33 T1 (Large) Original Maps.

 8.  Duffy to Palmer, R.E. Camp, Harrison Road, 19 September 1860, Report of ten pages, including copy of instructions Elwyn to Duffy, 10 September 1860. PABC F495 a/2.

 9.  Duffy’s general sketch map showing old and new routes to Lillooet Lake, with a second copy of instructions Elwyn to Duffy, 10 September 1960. PABC 8500 A60. See note 6.

10.  Map: (part of) “British Columbia,” ten miles to one inch, sheets 2 and 5 joined. “Prepared under the direction of Capt. Parsons, R.E., New Westminster, September 1863. Reduced and drawn by (Corporal) J. Conroy, R.E. Lithographed by (Sapper) W. Oldham, R.E.” Received by the Royal Geographical Society, London, 04 November 1867. RGS call no. D52.

11.  Parsons to Moody, 13 October 1863. PABC F1313/10 “I enclose the Lithograph of Sheet 2…it will be in our power to produce the sheet north of it, No.5,…in ten days if I be permitted to retain Corporal Conroy for that period and Sapper Oldham for a few days to print the copies.”

12.  Dept. of Lands, map 2B: “New Westminster and Yale (Districts), 1914, four miles to one inch” shows “Joffre (Duffey) Creek.” Surveyor General, B.C. Plan 1T6 Lillooet Indian Reserves, also shows “Joffre (Duffey) Creek.”

13.  PABC F495a/2.

14.  The British Colonist, 18 January 1861; New Westminster Times. 26 January 1861.

15.  Despatch No. 13, 09 October 1860, Douglas to Newcastle. “Three exploratory parties were dispatched, during my stay, from Cayoosh: the first under the charge of Sapper Duffy, had orders to examine a route by the Cayoosh River from Port Anderson to Lake Lillooet, reported by natives to be more direct and in many respects more convenient than the present route by Anderson Lake; the second under Sapper Breakenridge,…”

16.  Beautiful British Columbia, Summer 1980, p.3.


Appendix A
Items of natural history, sampled from Duffy’s report
16  Cedar, Cottonwood, Poplar
Caught 36 trout (up to ½ lb.) in an hour, with a fly
 High bush cranberries very plentiful.
18 Gold found here, 8 specs in a shovel full of dirt.
19 Slide – Marble blocks
27 Good grass and Indian wapatos (potatoes).
27 ¼ Indian camping ground.
30 Berries of several kinds, very plentiful
Bear ponds.
30 ¼ High bush cranberries very plentiful
33 Blazed trees and an Indian camp – good soil.
36 Several large black bears seen here.
37 ½ Ground hogs (marmots, from Duffy’s description) and sheep.
Bear pools.
Great quantities of goose and raspberries.
47 ½  Good soil.
Bilberries are plentiful.
48  Grouse plentiful.