Serjeant William McColl volunteered for
Service with the Columbia Detachment and sailed on board the La Plata
with Captain Parsons' party, arriving in the Colony the 29th October,
The RE, as surveyors,
marked out the Lots to be sold at auction. Many of the members of the
Detachment invested in the Colony early. McColl, a surveyor, was no exception.
The Detachment served not only as
military and Civil Engineers but would also bear a hand in Police
activities. McColl appears to have had to play constable once in 1859.
An Indian, suspected
of the murder of an old Irishman, escaped from his sapper guard to
flee for his life, his pursuers firing upon him with their
revolvers as he ran.
One man, an Indian,
named Tsilpeyman, known to be a bad character, hated and feared by
his tribe, and suspected by them of having been implicated in the
murder, was given up by a party of the Musquioms across the river
into our hands. He was kept somewhat loosely guarded at the
Camp, a young sapper named Meade
being specially told off to watch him. During the afternoon
he managed to divest himself of his clothing and sat with only a
blanket wrapped round him.
In the evening he
watched his opportunity and darted away from his guard. They
were armed with revolvers, and rushed after him firing. But
the revolvers had been loaded for some time and hung fire.
Young Meade had sprung towards him as he started off; but
the Indian cleverly threw his blanket over Meade, and sped
away down the bank towards the river. It was then quite
dark, and for some time eager search was made with lanterns in the
water, and out of the water among the stores and sheds.
I was going my rounds
at the time, visiting families of the sappers, and wondered what
the shouting and firing could mean. The poor fellow had
indeed leapt into the river, which was rushing along filled with
floes of ice at about freezing temperature, to swim for his life.
A Serjeant, Jock
M'Clure, a knowing, cool-headed Scotchman, guessing what had
happened, and knowing that there was a spit of sand some few
hundreds of yards lower down the river round which the tide would
be sweeping -for he was one of those men who notice everything-
quietly ran down to the spit and waited for what he believed would
come to pass. It was pitch dark, and he could see nothing
except the waters rushing swiftly by. Listening, however,
intently, he heard a sound which he knew, a choking sound and a
faint cry, and then all was still.
The Indian was heard
of no more, and after a little while his tribe recognized the fact
he was dead. His kloochman wept for him, and his blankets
were given away.
the Journals of Reverend Sheepshanks
In February, McColl asked Colonel
Moody to intervene on his behalf to bring his wife and children over
from England to the Colony.
2nd February, 1860
I have the honor to submit for your most favorable
consideration, an application which I have received from
Serjeant McColl RE, requesting me to obtain for him from the
proper Authorities, some assistance to enable him to send to
England for his wife and family of four children (Ages - 8, 6,
4, and 2 years).
He states that when he left England with Captain Parsons in
September 1858, his wife's health was such as to preclude her
possibility of her accompanying him, and so it continued up to the
date of the last Detachment leaving that country.
To Your Excellency, Serjeant McColl is personally known, which
occasions me to say little at the present time of the high opinion
that I entertain of his Integrity.
He has been more than 18 1/2 years in the Service, during the
whole of which period he has conducted himself in a most exemplary
manner and it was only by the last Mail that I had the satisfaction of
bringing his case to the notice of Assistant Adjutant General, Royal
Engineers, for "Good Conduct medal and Gratuity", to which he is so
Should the assistance now or any encouragement to him be
given, it is the intention of Serjeant McColl after the termination of
his Service to remain in the Colony and I doubt not that he will prove
himself to be a valuable settler.
I have the honor to be, etc.,
Later in the Spring,
the Men of the Detachment petitioned Colonel Moody, that now that the
Camp was settled, they would like to bring their wives and sweethearts
from England to join them in the Colony.
Names of Men belonging to the Columbia Detachment of Royal
Engineers, who have petitioned me to obtain for them such
assistance in the transport of their wives, families, etc. as
the Government may be willing to afford. To accompany my letter
(No. 2401) to His Excellency the Governor of British Columbia
dated 29th March 1860.
Serjt. W. McColl - Mrs. W. McColl; 4 Childen - 8, 6, 4,
New Street, Daventry, Northamptonshire.
Sapper R. Goskirk - Mrs. Goskirk -
Inverleithen, Peableshire, N.B.
Sapper H. Holroyd (enlisted under the name Dransfield) - Mary
Anne Holroyd; 2 children - 6, 4.
Clayton Heights, West Bradford, Yorkshire.
Sapper John Laffrey - Catherine May.
Acrise Village, Etham, West Canterbury, Kent.
Sapper W. Franklin - Jane Bingley
22 South St., Thurlor Square, Brompton, London
2nd Corp. Geo. Hand - Sarah Jane Crossland.
Care of E. Norris, Esq., Trafford Old Hall, Old Trafford,
2nd Corp. James Flux - Sarah Gill
"The Roebuck", Saint Margarets, Rochester, Kent
Colonel Richard C. Moody
The wheels of the Army
turned slowly and months later the proper department responded to
14th November 1860
With reference to your letter of the 14th August and 1st October
last directing us to provide passages (via Cape Horn) to British
Columbia, for the wives and families of the 7 men belonging to
the Detachment of Royal Engineers stationed in that Colony, I
have to report for the information of the Secretary of State
that the "Marcella" in which Vessel passages were engaged as
mentioned in Mr. Malcott's letter of the 20th ultimo, sailed on
the 12th instant from Gravesend for Vancouver's Island having on
board the 3 women and 4 children named in the margin (Sarah J.
Crossland, Sarah Gill, Mrs. McColl and her 4 children).
All the women comprised in the list which accompanied your
letter of the 14th August last except Mrs. Holroyd (who stated
that she preferred to remain where she was a little longer)
accepted the offer of a passage when made to them - but
subsequently Mrs. Goskirk, Jane Bingley and Catherine May
declined to proceed - the first alleging that she had not the
means to travel from Scotland to London to join the Vessel, the
second that she had been informed that she was to go out as an
Emigrant and not as a passenger and the last because she was an
Indoor patient at the Dover Hospital with little prospect of
A passage warrant was sent to Mrs. Goskirk to enable her to
reach London without expense - and the nature of the
arrangements were explained to Jane Bingley but in neither case
with any change in the result.
Bingley and May appear to be young women who were probably going
out to be married to the men who sent for them.
The Secretary of State may perhaps deem it advisable to notify
to Colonel Moody the sailing of the "Marcella", and the reasons
why Catherine May, Mrs. Holroyd, Mrs. Goskirk and Jane Bingley
have not proceeded in her.
As the two former gave us notice of their intentions to remain
at home, before the preparations for their accomadation on board
the ship were completed, we forfeit for their passages, but in
the cases of Mrs. Goskirk and Jane Bingley we shall have in
justice to the ship owner, to pay the usual forfeit of half the
passage money, as their change of mind was not communicated
until all the expense of fittings and provisioning had been
I have the honor to be etc
Many years later, the
Vancouver City Archivist wrote to one of the living members of the
McColl Family, asking about how they arrived in the Colony.
Kelowna, 28th June, 1947
Dear Major Matthews,
Thank you very much
for sending me the Richmond paper ("Marpole Richmond Review",
18th June, 1947), which I presume you did, as it came from the
I was very sorry not to be at
the ceremony, nor my sister (Mrs. Annie Helena Grant of New
Westminster) as she has been ill in bed for the past 7 weeks.
There is one little correction I would like to make. Alex
(Alex Boyd) was the 3rd Child, another brother Willie in
Winnipeg was the eldest and Fanny, next, who is keeping house
now for her mother. And my eldest sister (Mrs. Hugh Boyd) did
not come out on the "Thames City" as my Mother brought her
family of four out later to join her husband.
She also came around the Horn in a small sailing vessel.
Again Thanking you,
Kindest regards from my husband,
Serjeant McColl with another detachment of the Engineers located the
trail from Hope towards the Similkameen as far as the summit of Punch-bowl,
carrying it over an elevation of 4,000 feet with no greater single
gradient than 1 foot in 12. Later that summer, the Hon. Edgar
Dewdney built along this route the first trail from Hope to the
On June 26,
1860, the party staked by Governor James Douglas and led by John Fall
Allison set out from Hope for the Similkameen to prospect. Douglas went on a lengthy inspection of the interior including Lytton,
Fort Kamloops, the Nicola Valley, the Similkameen Valley, and the
southern part of the Okanagan which made him enthusiastic about the
prospects for agriculture. He ordered Peter O'Reilly to lay out
a townsite at the Vermilion Forks--the junction of the Tulameen and
the Similkameen. Then, when he returned, Douglas made
preparations to have the Queen's Trail, as he called it--a mule trail
70 miles long--blazed from Hope to Vermilion Forks. Edgar
Dewdney and Walter Moberly obtained the contract. That October,
McColl surveyed the trail route from Punch Bowl Pass on the Brigade
Trail down Whipsaw Creek to Princeton (which Douglas had just
named). It had a much better gradiant than the Brigade Trail.
Source: A Pioneer
Gentlewoman, page xix.
BRIDGING THE FRASER
Sergeant McCaul and party leave here on Monday on a tour of
observation, with instructions to select a site for the proposed
bridge. Its probable locality will be at Hell's gate, the
narrowest span in the Big Canyon. The prosecution of this work
in connection with the wagon roads, will give employment to
about six hundred men during the coming winter.
-- 28th September 1861
The British Columbian
the completion of the Cariboo Road, the first Alexandra Bridge was
begun on June 16, 1862 and completed September 1, 1863. Sergeant
McColl surveyed the site at the narrows between Spuzzum and Chapman's
Bar. Joseph Trutch, a civil engineer who had been in the colony
since 1859, obtained the contract to built the structure; A. S.
Hallide of San Francisco built the iron bridge itself.
McColl was asked by Sir James Douglas to mark off "all lands
claimed by the Indians". Douglas' instructions stated that
in no case was McColl to lay off a reserve under 100 acres. Unfortunately after McColl finished his work he died and Douglas
retired. Settlers in Chilliwack complained that the reserves
were too large and their irregular pre-emptions should be
recognized. Police Superintendent Chartres Brew was dispatched to the area and set up reserves based on ten acres per person, a
considerable reduction from the acreage proposed by Douglas.
Although the settlers pre-emptions "failed to comply with
government requirements" they were recognized.
Source: A Pioneer
Gentlewoman, page xix.
Regimental Pay per Diem would have been 2s. 10 1/2d. plus
Working Pay per Diem 3s. to 5s.
"William McColl lived only 2 years after discharge.
A competent surveyor, he had explored for the route for the wagon road
between Yale and Boston Bar and for the Dewdney Trail, and, with his
friend Sapper George Turner, advertised for work as a Land Surveyor in
1863. Perhaps there were too many surveyors in 1863, for McColl was
working as a toll collector at the Alexandra Bridge at the time of his
death. he left his wife Ann (Baseley) and 6 children."
-- Pg. 128 - Sappers: The RE in BC", Beth Hill
In 1868, George Turner
married Mrs. Ann McColl and this union produced three more children.
In 1873, the Tuner family moved to
Hazelbrae and there the Turner-McColl children played with the MacLure
children. Later Susan MacLure married William McColl.