Monday, 12 July 2010
My Town Monday - Samuel B. Steele - Kicking Horse Pass
[1 - Kicking Horse Pass - click to enlarge]
In 1885, the work on the Canadian Pacific Railroad was being made to reach the first crossing of the Columbia River, about 70 miles west of Laggan (Lake Louise)
[2 - Lake Louise train station today]
[3 - Laggan train station - 1889] link to photohere
to a place now known as Donald (named after Lord Strathcona. Donald is in the Rocky Mountain Trench near Marl Creek Provincial Park, B.C.).
[4 - Road in Kicking Horse Pass in 1920s - click to enlarge]
Samuel Steele was to ensure that the Mounted Police were in detachments along the CPR line during its construction. The railroad had constructed a Tote road to assist those working for the CPR to transport their supplies carried by horse and mule teams. Storage areas had been made at convenient distances which were overseen by a CPR employee. From these stores the contractors obtained what they needed for their contracts.
[5 - Tote Road (Eagle Pass Wagon Road 1885)]
The Tote road was cut out of solid rock near the Columbia River several hundred feet above. An exception to this was the Kicking Horse Flats near the Beaverfoot Pass.
[6 - Kicking Horse River Flats - click to enlarge]
The Kicking Horse Pass was named by Dr. James Hector, who had accompanied Captain Palliser during the exploration of western Canada in the 1850s. Hector explored the pass accompanied by a party of First Nations. At one of his camps he was kicked by a horse he had been trying to put a pack saddle on, breaking several of his ribs and knocking him unconscious. The natives thought he was dead, dug a grave and placed him in it. When they saw signs of life they removed him from the grave.
The Tote road near Golden was dangerous at any given point, especially at the highest being more than a thousand feet above the raging torrent of Kicking Horse River. Any horse that tended to shy or is too excitable in nature was considered not suitable for such a trip. Steele found that horses were unafraid of the precipice, but those horses that shied regularly would keep themselves well away from the rocky wall. On one trip Steele took one of the horses sent to the NWMP to Laggan from Calgary. At the most dangerous part of the Tote road Steele “met an Italian navvy with his bundle of blankets, and he, as was then the custom, instead of going to the right, planted himself against the wall of rock furthest from the precipice. At the sight of the extraordinary object, my horse, crazed with fright, whirled about, and I just saved myself and the horse by hurling myself on to the road.”
Steele, known for his strength, managed to keep hold of reins and bridle of the horse, whose hindquarters were over the precipice and its body resting on the edge. Steele's companion on a steady horse assisted in getting the horse back on the road. Steele sent the horse back to Calgary with a letter to the O.C. to send only horses accustomed to working in the mountains and not horses raised on the plains.
For other participants for My Town Monday go here.
TO BE CONTINUED
For previous posts on this series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9.
Sources: Forty Years in Canada (1914) by Col. S.B. Steele, pp. 188-190
Photo Credits: -Matthew Klassen CC=nc-nd-flickr, -Rachelw123 CC=nc-nd-flickr, -Glenbow Archives, =Sherlock77 (James) CC=nc-nd-flickr, -Wikipedia, -babyonborg CC=nc-nd-flickr.