Barry Sale photo

Haphazard History: Rich history behind the ‘Evans place’ near Williams Lake

All that is left now is the weathered old main house

Barry Sale

Smart 55

On the highway going north to Quesnel, just at the junction with the Mountain House Road in the area known as Deep Creek, you can see the remains of an old homestead.

The locals know it as the Evans Place, and all that is left now is the weathered old main house and a couple of badly deteriorating outbuildings.

Every time I drove by this place I wondered if it had a history to it and, as it turns out, it does.

George Evans was a Welshman and a goldseeker during the great Cariboo Gold Rush. He was one of the many who was not at all successful in the goldfields.

He arrived in the Williams Lake area, probably in the fall of 1862, and found work cowboying and doing odd jobs on the local ranches.

He was also a fairly good rider. On one occasion he was contracted to take the mail up to Barkerville, a long and arduous overland trip, when the regular postal service was unable to deliver (the postmaster, Philip Nind, had a major problem with alcohol, and was unable to perform this duty).

George made a successful delivery, but it took more than six months and a lot of angry correspondence before he was paid, resulting in a major mistrust of any dealings with the government.

Shortly after his arrival, George took a “country wife,” Lucy Tomah, a Secwepemc woman from the Williams Lake First Nation.

Lucy and George had one son, George Jr., born in 1864.

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Shortly after his son’s birth, as the story goes, George Sr. came home and told Lucy that if anyone asked, she was to say that she hadn’t seen him and didn’t know where he was.

He left, and was never seen again.

After his departure it was noticed that horses were missing from ranches at Williams Lake and all the way down through the Okanagan.

About two months later, a body matching George’s description was found near the U.S. border.

The cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head.

The rumour was that George had fallen in with a group of American horse thieves. He helped them rustle a few horses from each of the ranches that they passed on their way to the border.

The agreement was that George would be paid when they got there and they would part company so he could return home.

Either George was double crossed or there was an argument over the money, but the result was the same: George was shot dead.

Lucy was left a widow with a young son to look after.

For a while, she struggled to make ends meet but, then, in 1865, William Lyne took up with her.

Lyne was in partnership with William Pinchbeck and was a major landholder in the area.

Together Lucy and William had three children, William Jr. (Billy, 1866), Ellen (1868) who died in infancy, and John (Johnny, 1869).

Lucy remained with Lyne until 1875 or so, when the relationship broke up. She then moved to Soda Creek, where she married Chief Peeps and had another family.

She remained at Soda Creek for the rest of her life, and died there in 1936.

George Jr. attended school at the Mission for a brief period of time, but he did not stay long.

As soon as he could, he left school for good and went to work on the Comer (Pinchbeck) ranch in the dairy fields area of Williams Lake.

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In December of 1903, when he was 39 years of age, he married Mary Augusta Tappage. She was the daughter of a Soda Creek Xat’sull woman and a H.B.C. French Canadian fur trader.

His last name was De Page, but over the years the name had evolved to Tappage. When George and Augusta were married by the Catholic priest, Father Thomas, in the little church at Soda Creek, she was only 15 years old.

At first, George and Augusta lived with her parents while George worked at the Lyne ranch (now known as the Lyne Creek ranch).

Then they decided to pre-empt a place of their own, and in 1905, they took on 166 acres which bordered on Hawkes Creek (known to the locals as Deep Creek) just to the south of the Lyne ranch.

They had three years to pay off the purchase and they did so.

George was a hard worker and a good teamster. He saved the money he made working on the ranch and he did road work with his team of horses and worked off the cost of the taxes.

A son, Joe, arrived, then a daughter who died in infancy.

Then came a second son, George, and finally a second daughter, who also died at birth.

Augusta and George had quite a successful farming and ranching operation.

They also fished and hunted. Augusta preserved foods, looked after a small dairy herd, grew crops in a large garden, and hand made all the family’s clothes.

She also home schooled both boys, who grew up to be proficient ranch hands like their father.

In 1931, George died at the age of 67 years. He had been ill for a considerable time with cancer, and when he did go down to Vancouver for an operation, it was too late.

He was buried at St. Joseph’s Mission. Augusta was still a relatively young woman of 43.

She never remarried, saying once was enough.

In the late 1930s Joe preempted some land about six miles north of the home place at Deep Creek.

It was above the Soda Creek Reserve, and from it, one could look down the river benches to the Fraser River.

Augusta divided her time between the two places. In 1946, Joe built a new log house on the place.

Then, tragically, the following year, he was killed in a fall from his horse.

He was working for the Springhouse Ranch and was out looking for cattle one morning when his horse threw him and he hit his head on a rock.

Augusta found him lying in the field and he was taken to the hospital, but he died that evening.

He, too, was buried at St. Joseph’s Mission.

After Joe’s death, Augusta stayed on at his place, which was closer to her roots at Soda Creek. Her other son, George, operated the place at Deep Creek, and he raised his own family there.

For years, Augusta worked in homes in the Soda Creek area cooking, cleaning and being a nanny.

She also worked at Huston’s store at the Soda Creek townsite. She had a real feeling for children who needed care and attention, and she raised a number of foster children.

In her later years, Augusta moved back to the old homestead at Deep Creek where she lived with her son’s family until her death at age 90 in 1978.

She was buried in the cemetery on the Soda Creek Indian Reserve.

A book of her memoirs and stories entitled “Days of Augusta” was compiled by Jean Speare and published in 1973.

The Evans place is still in the family, but has not been inhabited for several years.

Those old buildings hold many untold memories of tragedy and triumph.

My appreciation to Jim Rankin for his help on this one.


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