Sapper

Philip Jackman

Philip Jackman was born in Devonshire 12 April 1835.  Worked as a farm labourer until 21 years old then joined the RE at Chatham, enlisting for a period of 7 years.

He volunteered for service in British Columbia with the Columbia Detachment.  Jackman traveled on board the Thames City with the main body of the troops, arriving in BC in April of 1859.

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

On April 12, 1859, the Thames City arrived at Esquimalt and Jackman was selected as a member of a party of 20 of the strongest in the Detachment, which was to construct a wharf on the Fraser River

"The drowning of three members of the Sappers and Miners' Corps, recently sent up to improve the Harrison River Rapids, while attempting to return in a canoe to the camp from the mouth of the river on Saturday evening last.  On making a crossing about half a mile below the camp (a terrible gale blowing at the time) the boat capsized and three out of four occupants were hurried into eternity."

--The Colonist
March 24, 1860

"Three of our Sappers were drowned one night on the Harrison  River.  Four went down to the whiskey house at the junction.  A wind came up and upset their canoe and three were drowned.

--Philip Jackman interview, 1925.

In 1863, the Columbia Detachment was assembled and informed that it was to be disbanded.  Jackman recalls the experience in these words--

"When we were disbanded, you know, the people thought they would get lots of work.  Thousands of people had come out.  The sappers were practically running the government and everything.  These people all wanted jobs and we had them.

The biggest part of us was upcountry.  Some people around New Westminster were digging the foundation for Government House and they did well on it.  In '63 they sent a petition to the old Governor asking for our withdrawal and this was just what he wanted.  We were up at Spence's Bridge then and we came down.

We were getting $1.00 a day Colonial pay as well as regimental pay and one morning the Colonel said, "I'll have to knock off the colonial pay, boys."  But he said, "I'll give you leave till you get your discharge."  The old Governor, he got discharged himself (he chuckled boyishly).

After we were discharged some of our men got jobs in the government, like Wolfenden as King's Printer...  The rest of us had to clear out and work for a living.

But only about twenty went home.  I caught gold fever too.  With the Sappers I did the best work of my life.  I was with them 7 years and 21 days.  I am now 89 and I have 21 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren."

--Jackman interview, 1925,
with Winnifred Hall.

Jackman was discharged from the RE on the 22nd October 1863, and remained in the Colony when the Detachment disbanded.  On 19 March 1863, Jackman was married to a Miss Sarah Lovegrove, of England, at Holy Trinity Church in New Westminster; she had arrived in BC in 1862.  As Jackman mentions above, he did "catch gold Fever" and made his way to the Cariboo diggings in 1864.

According to Frances Woodward, Jackman then became a constable in New Westminster for 9 years.

On the 20th of February, 1872, Jackman received Crown Grant for Lot 266, Group 1, New Westminster District of 150-acre military grant.

In 1872, Jackman takes on a position in Walter Moberly's "S" survey party for the CPR.  There he makes the acquaintance of some of his comrades in the Columbia Detachment, including Robert Rylatt.

25 February 1872 - ...There are 7 or 8 roughs in our midst who are bully's of the first water, and would as leif cut a throat as a purse I take it, as however, is very frequently the case with bully's, they are, I am certain, cowards at heart, for so I proved them to be...Finding I bore their taunts, and that they could not incite me to retaliate, they waxed bolder, and as I always take my meals after they have left the table, today they collected in a body around the cook house door: Roberts, the ringleader, big Reilly, Jackman, Reynolds, Rainier (a Greek), Keating and Joe Reuff (a Bavarian).  They were evidently waiting for me, and I knew things had about come to open rupture...They told me I had best look out for myself, as they had a heavy score to settle with me.  I told them I didn't care for their threats, I'd do my duty, did the devil himself stand in the way.  I passed into the cookhouse, when Jack Cox, the cook, an old Sapper like myself, told me big Reilly had snatched the fry pan off the fire and thrown my steak out of doors.  I asked the great ruffian what he did it for?  He answered, damned if you shall eat unless you let us go through the Store (room), and see for ourselves (what is there).  I told him I'd see about that, and told Cox to dish me up some Beans and bread: he went to comply, when Reilly tried to stop him; I snatched up a hatchet, and told him if he didn't stand back, I'd brain him: he glared at me, but thought it safer to keep off.  Cox placed my plate on the table, when Roberts said, there are 7 of us and we will see you damned but you shall not have it, and he thrust his hand for ward to take the plate.  I was thoroughly roused now -- down came the hatchet, and he left portions of his fingers on the table: I guess I aimed for the whole hand, but he was too quick, yet not quick enough, the hatchet passed through them clean, and buried its edge in the pine board, such was the blow I dealt.  I now rushed for Reilly, hatchet raised but the whole cowardly crew escaped to the door.  Roberts they led away crying like a big boy, while they threatened me with some choice oaths.  I ate my breakfast, and taking the Hatchet with me, left for my hut: after an hour or so they came down in a body and told me Roberts had lost much blood, was very weak, and asked me for medicine and bandages.  I gave them what they wanted, when they asked me to go and dress his hands, I told them they should leave that to them, he was one of their gang, I wasn't!  Reilly had an axe in his hand, and as it appeared their object was to get me out of the way, he said, come boys, let's smash the store door in! if he won't open it.  I jumped back, got hold of my Henry Rifle, and as Reilly was then at the store door (not 15 yards away) I leveled the piece, covered him, and told him to throw down the axe instantly, or I would shoot him dead, and God help me, I would have done it.  He took in his chances at once and threw down the axe.  I told them I had stood it as long as I could and that the next of their number who insulted me, or used threats to me, I'd have his blood on my hands.  They knew I was a sure shot, having seen me shoot Duck in the river with this same rifle and they concluded I meant it.  They left slowly taking their hang-dog countenances out of my sight...I subsequently found out that the man Reilly had served a term in the chain gang at Victoria, BC and that Roberts had been a convict in Australia.

June 29 1872 - The goods being now all brought forward from the last camp, the same was vacated, save by four of the worst of the malcontents, to wit, Reilly, Roberts, Reynolds and Jackman.  Moberly told them he would take them no further.  That sufficient food would be left them to suffice until the trail was cut through the bottom, and the mule trains were in and ready to return.  They would then be sent on to Wild Horse Creek and turned adrift, that the pay of Roberts and Reilly would cease from the date of their breaking out into Mutiny; that of Reynolds and Jackman from the present date.  In the case of the first named, I felt only that it served them right.  For the other two, I felt sorry - sorry they should have been so foolish.  Reynolds was quite useless anyway, but he was getting on in years, and Jackman had been an old Sapper and had a wife and family.

--From Rylatt's Journal

After losing his position on the CPR survey, Jackman becomes a fishery guardian on the Fraser river for the next 14 years.

"There was no official cemetery at Brockton Point; it was just a place where they buried people.  I went over there in the spring of 1878 or 1879 to attend the funeral of a child belonging to Peter Plant.  We had no parson with us, but there was in the group, in those days, a bull puncher, Jack Jackman, ox teamster I suppose you'd call him.  There was no minister so he read the burial service.  The grave was just a hole in the ground in the bush, and as near as I can remember there were other graves there.  I was just a young fellow, and I was surprised when the bull puncher read the burial service; he was just a rough bull puncher.  Just when they were going to put the child in the ground he said - there was no minister - "Is no one going to say anything." and somebody said "no." they were just going to put the child in the ground, and he said "If you will allow me, I will."  He had a book in his pocket, and I was surprised to see a rough bull puncher pull it out, and read the burial service out of the prayer book."

--Memorandum of conversation with John Murray,
son of Sapper John Murray RE.
Saturday, 20 August 1938

From about 1884 on, Jackman took a variety of jobs including farmer and owning a shop in Aldergrove, BC.

From 1895 to 1897, Jackman was the Reeve of Fort Langley.

Philip Jackman
circa 1894
Philip Jackman
1909

On the left we have Jackman from a larger picture taken at the 1909 Royal Engineer Reunion.

Mrs. Jackman died in February 1917.

Enderby, BC, 4th Nov. 1924

Dear Mr. Jackman,

Remembering you in the past and having seen in the last Saturday's "Daily Province" with pleasure that you are still living in BC and thinking that you may not have forgotten an old friend -- my late husband then Lieut. H.S. Palmer RE, who came out with you all round "Cape Horn" in the Thames City.

I am remembering to write this letter hoping the address will find you no doubt you may also remember having known Archdeacon and Mrs. Wright's family who lived in Sapperton at the Rectory -- well the writer of this letter is the Miss Wright of old -- their eldest daughter -- who ever remembered the 7th of October 1863 when one and all of the dear RE's did their very best to make that happy wedding day the very brightest one for the Bride and her dear husband.  Which could be wished.

It would be a great pleasure to Mrs. Palmer to hear from Mr. Jackman.  She greatly enjoyed reading the account of his life.  Indeed a most interesting one she thought.

She only wishes she could have a chat with him one of these good old days in New Westminster.  The Rectory is still standing and she went over it when last ion New Westminster and a short time of there were two old trees of olden days there!  Mrs. Palmer believes she is the only one living of the ex-officers and their wives!

She has been trying to get information of Mr. Edwards or his family but all she can hear of them is that Emily, his daughter, was school mistress for some time in the Royal City. 

Mrs. Bushby, Gov. Douglas' daughter is living in Cheltenham, England, doing good.  church work.

The Mails are now being called for Mrs. Palmer.

Much said this letter

With her best wishes.

Addressee would like from Mr. Jackman in reply.

--From Mrs. Palmer to Philip Jackman

Philip Jackman died in 1927 and was survived by 3 of his 6 children.

He was the last survivor of the Columbia Detachment of 1858.

THE LAST ENGINEER
music & lyrics by Bruce Coughlan (SOCAN)

In 1927 Philip Jackman passed away
And with him passed a legacy that can still be felt today
When Victoria was sovereign
Britannia ruled the waves
And the dreams of an empire were borne on the sapper's spade

Here's to the last of those fine, gallant men
And sad, of their likes we shall not see again
Raise up your glass for all those we hold deer
For we've seen the last of the Royal Engineers

A boyish man from Devonshire, he came across the brine
With the corp. of the Royal Engineers in 1859
True men of sense & purpose, new frontiers to explore
They built a British Colony on the North Pacific shore

He'd built the roads & highways, and he'd dredged the channels through
Been a cop in New Westminster, worked the CP Survey Crew
Homesteaded quarter section where he raised a family too
He'd marked his place in history when he passed at ninety-two

Here's to the last of those fine, gallant men
And sad, of their likes we shall not see again
Raise up your glass to all those we hold deer
Here's to the last of the Royal Engineers

For years he'd watched the shadows as around, the men he'd known
Death touched their lips with silence, he'd draped them one by one
He would drink a toast in silence, "to the builders of the west"
Long life to the hearts still beating, and peace to the hearts at rest"

Here's to the last of those fine, gallant men
And sad, of their likes we shall not see again
Raise up your glass to all those we hold deer
Here's to the last of the Royal Engineers

 

--From Tiller's Folly