By the summer of 1863 the Cariboo Wagon Road was completed well past Deep Creek.
The road veered to the north at 150 Mile House then swung over to Mountain House, then proceeded east through Deep Creek, avoiding Williams Lake altogether.
Some 1,400 acres of good growing land was purchased at Deep Creek by the road contractor, G.B. Wright, and a partner, Franklin Way.
At the 164 Mile post they built a substantial, two-storey log stopping house, which became known as 164 Mile House or Deep Creek House.
Frank Way was a true character. He had a reputation as a crude, practical joker and an incurable loudmouth.
He was also out to make a buck in any way he could, legal or not.
Originally, he had operated a stopping house (the California House at Spuzzum) from 1858 to 1862.
During the early years of the gold rush he made all sorts of money ferrying miners and their possessions across the Fraser River for 50 cents per head.
Often in a day he would fill a tin bucket with silver and gold.
On one occasion his boat capsized and everyone but Frank drowned.
The local newspaper reporter was interviewing him after the incident and Frank was asked: “Was there much loss?”
Frank replied: “Oh, no. I always collect the fares in advance!”
Deep Creek House was never known for its hospitality and its accommodations received mixed reviews.
Frank fed the travellers well. He raised his own beef, sheep, potatoes, turnips, greens and a wide variety of vegetables, and he had 150 acres of wheat. But, he did not keep the rooms very clean and he seldom washed the tablecloths, linen or bedding.
One group of travellers who had stopped for the evening did not like the meal being served on a food-stained, greasy tablecloth.
They called Frank over to complain.
“What’s the matter with it?” asked Frank.
“Why, it’s as black as ink.” said one of the travellers.
“Look here, cap,” said Frank. “You should be thankful you’re eating off a tablecloth. Six or 700 other men have eaten off it, and you’re the first to complain!”
But it could never be said that Frank did not listen to his customers. The next day he swapped the offending tablecloth with one of the bed sheets that had also not been washed for quite some time, but did not have as many grease spots on it.
The stagecoach passengers usually rented the rooms that had beds in them, while the miners and gold seekers would just bed down on the floor in front of the fireplace in the main parlour.
This could lead to problems when others were drinking heavily and/or were into a lively card game.
In a journal, one miner wrote about looking forward to a good night’s rest, but Frank and a group of gamblers were drinking, swearing and generally having a rousing time.
On several occasions, one or more of the other guests pleaded with them to quiet down.
Frank finally responded: “If you don’t like the ways of Way, why then you can be on your merry way!” and kept right on partying.
In 1864, the Western Union Telegraph Co. was putting a line through to the north.
They wanted to winter their horses there at Deep Creek and they decided to purchase grain from Frank Way.
There were lots of back and forth negotiations, but finally a price of eight cents per pound for the grain was agreed upon.
Frank suggested that large boxes, four feet by four feet by two feet deep with projecting handles be filled, weighed and used as a standard measure for the grain.
The company reps agreed, so a box was built, then weighed empty.
Then, Frank’s hired hands began shovelling grain into it.
– This edition of Haphazard History will be continued in next month’s Smart 55.