Angelique and Billy Lyne circa 1910. Photo courtesy of Angelique’s great grandson, Jim Rankin.

Angelique Dussault – A Pioneer Woman of the Cariboo

Barry Sale’s Haphazard History offering explores the life of Angelique Dussault – A Pioneer Woman of the Cariboo

Angelique was born on April 14, 1867 at Dog Creek. She was the daughter of a former Hudson’s Bay company fur trader, Joseph Dussault, a French Canadian, and his Shuswap wife Helene. When she grew old enough, Angelique attended school at St. Joseph’s Mission, where she proved to be very intelligent. She became greatly interested in medicine but in those days, women of mixed blood were not accepted into nursing, and only men could become doctors. Thus, Angelique was held back from her life’s ambition, but she continued to study and read every book she could find on the topic.

Angelique grew into a tall, attractive clever woman. She had big brown eyes and long hair, and she stood 5 ft. 10 inches tall. She took a job as the nursemaid for Peter Dunlevy’s children in Soda Creek, and there she met Billy Lyne, the son of William Lyne, who had co-founded Williams Lake with Williams Pinchbeck. Her employer, Peter Dunlevy, was one of the first discoverers of gold in the area, and was now a very successful rancher, roadhouse operator, and businessman.

Angelique and Billy were married in January of 1886. He was 19 and she was 18. They moved to Pinchbeck’s upper ranch (where the Williams Lake dairy fields are now), and Angelique ran the store there while Billy worked on the ranch. Their first daughter, Vivian, was born there late in 1886. Billy was a blacksmith, among other trades, and he wanted to strike out on his own, so in the early spring of 1887, the young family relocated to Quesnel, where, for 2 years, Billy worked as a blacksmith in partnership with a man named Robert Middleton. Although the business prospered and the family did well, Billy and Angelique did not like the “town life,” and they looked for a chance to find some rural land of their own.

So it was that in the spring of 1889, Billy moved his family (now two daughters – Vivian and Edith) and his blacksmithing business to Nine Mile Creek (now called Lyne Creek), just south of Soda Creek, where the wagon road passed through a large area of open grassland. Billy preempted 160 acres of land and Nine Mile Creek became a stopping place for the big freight wagons, which moved up and down the Cariboo Wagon Road. Billy’s blacksmithing talents were much appreciated by the teamsters and his reputation spread, so much so that he had to call his brother John to help him with the work. At first, they were so busy that they didn’t have time to build a blacksmith shop on the new ranch and the work was done out of tents. Billy’s family also lived in a tent until Christmas of 1890, when they finally moved into a small log cabin near the creek.

By the summer of 1891, a building program started in earnest. Billy’s preemption included a large stand of fir trees, and these provided the lumber first for a 15 horse barn, then for a bunkhouse for the freight drivers, then for a large blacksmith shop. Finally, in 1893, a roadhouse was begun – a large two-and-a-half storey squared log building. A fifth (and last) child, Evelyn was born in this new house in 1896, but it wasn’t really completed for another 10 years!

At first, Angelique had no intention of starting or running a roadhouse, but as the business grew it just happened.

Angelique kept the books for the blacksmith business, the sawmilling jobs, and the roadhouse. She also became the cook, the cleaner, and the administrator. A huge kitchen was built across the back of the house, and Lyne’s 170 Mile Roadhouse, as it came to be known, did a booming business. Billy focused on blacksmithing, carpentry work, and sawmilling, while Angelique ran the stopping house and looked after the family.

By 1897, the business was too much for her, and extra help was needed. Cooks and maids were hired. Usually, the cooks were Chinese, but sometimes their methods were more than Angelique could stand. On one occasion, Angelique walked into the kitchen when the cook was glazing pies. He was doing this by filling his mouth with milk and spraying it over the pie tops. Angelique fired him on the spot.

Angelique continued her lifelong interest in medicine. She became the local midwife, assisted doctors in their operations when they were called out, and took on the role of local first aid person. She studied medical texts regularly, and all through her life she put her knowledge to use to help others.

In the roadhouse, Angelique allowed no alcohol to be consumed. It was a “dry” house, without the saloon, which was found in most other stopping houses along the Cariboo Wagon Road. The men still drank in the bunkhouse, but if they were too inebriated, they were not allowed into the roadhouse for a meal. Since the meals were so good, very few teamsters would risk drinking so much that they were refused admittance.

Angelique, being of mixed blood, had experienced racial prejudice, and was determined that in the roadhouse, everyone was treated as equal. In the dining area was a large table that seated 14 people. On one occasion, some wealthy American women came to the roadhouse accompanied by their black maids. At dinner, the maids were told to eat in the kitchen. Angelique refused. She told the women that the maids would either eat at the main table or the women could forego the meal altogether. The maids were included at the main table.

Although Billy was a very hard worker and a good provider, he was also given to periods of wanderlust and alcohol fueled erratic behavior. In 1898, for example, he dropped everything and headed off to the Klondike Gold Rush, leaving Angelique with the responsibility of the roadhouse, the farm, and the care of her 5 children. Fortunately, Angelique had many friends, and they, along with family and neighbours stepped in to help until Billy returned some 18 months later, after having wired home for enough money to get back.

In 1903, Billy got the contract to build the Soda Creek jailhouse (which is the last structure still standing there today). He completed it and received his payment, which he promptly spent on a binge at the local saloons. He proceeded to become so drunk and disorderly that he ended up being the new jail’s first customer! After a couple of days of sobering up, he was released and meekly returned to 170 Mile.

The ranch and its businesses continued to grow and prosper. The building of the Grand Trunk Railway was attracting thousands of settlers to the north. There was a huge construction boom going on, with an insatiable market for lumber. Billy went into the logging and sawmilling business full time, and by 1912, the mill was cutting over 12,000 feet of lumber each day and it employed up to 15 men. The BX riverboat, built at Soda Creek, was constructed of timber and boards cut at Lyne’s sawmill.

Another large 2-and-a-half storey house was built to accommodate the sawmill crew as well as the freight drivers. But Billy still had his demons with alcohol. He would get drunk, go off on trips, taking significant amounts of cash, then return broke. In 1914, he took $2000 from the office safe and ended up in Vancouver. Three weeks later, he phoned home to get the money to enable him to return home. When he got back, driving a brand new car, he and Angelique had a huge argument. It ended up with Billy moving into the new house permanently and he lived there for the rest of his life.

There was another brief boom in construction in the early 1920’s during the construction of the Pacific Great Eastern Railway, but gradually, the economy slowed down and the common use of cars and trucks replaced the old freight wagons. The 170 Mile focused now mainly on cattle ranching. Billy eventually gave up drinking, but he and Angelique never reconciled. They continued to live in separate houses and to have very little to do with each other. Billy turned the ranch over to his son, David, in the mid 1930’s. He died at home in December of 1949 at the age of 83 years.

Angelique cared for her aging mother for a number of years. Helene Dussault was almost 100 years old when she passed away. Angelique lived to be 90 years old and died in February of 1957.

David Lyne died suddenly in June of 1960, and the ranch was sold to Charles and Verna Groundwater. Today the 170 Mile is commonly called the “Groundwater Ranch.” The Groundwater family set aside land for a Lyne family graveyard on a knoll overlooking the ranch buildings and hayfields. It is maintained by the descendents of Angelique and Billy, and it contains all the original members of their family as well as a number of other relatives.

Angelique (Dussault) Lyne was a pioneer woman whose strength, determination, and resourcefulness was remarkable in a time when women were considered to be the “weaker sex.”

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