At 150 Mile House, beside Highway 97 and close to the bridge over Borland Creek, you can see a decaying old building sitting up on blocks. That building dates from the late 1800s and it is one of the few remaining structures from the time when 150 Mile was the centre of governance and commerce for the Cariboo region. It is known as the Rose House, and it has quite an interesting history.
That history begins in San Juan, Argentina in 1840 when a boy, Frederico Rosa, was born to a high ranking army officer and his wife. Not much is known about Frederico’s early life, but as a twenty-something-year-old young man, he heard tales about the fabulous wealth and the gold nuggets just waiting to be picked out of the creeks of the Cariboo region of British Columbia. Like so many other young men from around the world Frederico headed out to seek his fortune, travelling overland to Santiago, Chile, then by ship to San Francisco and north to Victoria.
By 1866, he had arrived in Barkerville, only to find that every square inch of gold-bearing ground had already been staked. Frederico was a big, strong, rawboned man and not afraid of work. He found jobs in the diggings and along the way, he Anglicized his name to Frederick Rose. It did not take him very long to see that a far more profitable line of work was in the saloon business, so as soon as he could afford it, he opened up a drinking establishment in Barkerville.
In the latter half of the 1860s, Barkerville was at the zenith. Among the people visiting the town was a troupe of hurdy-gurdy girls, young women from the Hesse region of Germany who earned money by socializing and dancing with the miners. Fred Rose met one such woman, 19-year-old Emma Hautmiller, and began courting her. They were married on August 20, 1869. Emma was one of the very few hurdy girls who married and remained in the Cariboo, and theirs was the first such marriage.
Together, Fred and Emma opened a hotel on Stout’s gulch which they operated for a brief time before they moved on to Lightning Creek and then to Stanley, just west of Barkerville. There they owned and operated a saloon and hotel for several years.
Seven children were born to them in Stanley, with one, a baby daughter, dying of whooping cough at the age of three months. Emma not only cooked and helped run the hotel while raising her family, she was also a well-respected and capable midwife.
In the early 1880s, Fred sold his hotel in Stanley and moved to the 150 Mile area, where he pre-empted 160 acres of land at Jones Creek, just south of the town. There, he took up ranching, raising cattle for shipment to the goldfields. He became involved in the politics of the area, and at the time there was considerable concern that 150 Mile had no law enforcement officer. The nearest constables were located at Quesnel Forks and at Soda Creek, and they seldom visited the ’50.
As a result, the town folk petitioned the provincial government in Victoria for a member of the B.C. Provincial Police force to be stationed there on a permanent basis.
Victoria was not very receptive, in effect letting the community know that they could have a police constable if the town was willing to look after all of the costs involved.
A vote was taken, a decision was made, and in 1882, Fred Rose found himself in his new role as B.C. Constable at 150 Mile House, a position he held until he died.
That fall, Rose purchased Lot #141 on the Cariboo Wagon Road (where the 150 Mile mobile home park is currently located), and in the spring of 1893, he began building the Rose house.
It had family quarters upstairs with a large parlour which could be used as a courtroom if needed. There were two small and separate adjoining rooms, one for a telegraph office and the other to be used as a government agents office.
Downstairs in the basement were two jail cells. No provisions were made for supplying food to the prisoners, so meals were brought over from the hotel.
However, for those incarcerated men who were considered to be trustworthy, they were allowed to walk over to the hotel twice a day to eat and return on their own. This also conveniently provided them with their daily exercise.
There’s a story about one such prisoner, a First Nations man by the name of Moiese. A rancher named Frank Nelson was on his way home with a fully loaded wagon when it broke down on a hill on the road to Horsefly.
Moiese happened along and offered to help, and soon the two men had the rig repaired. To thank him, Frank gave Moiese a bottle of liquor, a highly illegal thing to do in those days.
By the time Moiese made it back to 150 Mile, the bottle was empty, and he quite disorderly and loud. Naturally, Fred Rose took the appropriate action and escorted Moiese to jail for the mandatory sentence of 30 days.
The following day, an offer was made to suspend the sentence if Moiese would name the person who supplied the booze, but he refused to do so.
About two-thirds of the way through the sentence, while Moiese was in the hotel eating his lunch, Frank Nelson came in. Frank was completely unaware of what had happened and the resulting jail time.
He felt really bad, so to make amends, he told Moiese that he would leave another bottle in the ditch along the road between the jail and the hotel.
So, Moiese completed his sentence on the “one sip per trip” exercise program. Somehow, Fred Rose found out about the second bottle, and when Moiese’s release date came, Fred told him “Out you go this time, Moiese, but make sure you tell Frank Nelson that the next time I catch you, I’ll lock him up instead.”
Emma Rose passed away in 1897 and was buried in New Westminster. Fred died in 1906, still the constable of 150 Mile House. He was buried at St. Joseph’s Mission. The Rose family remained in the area, and Rose Lake is named after them.
After Fred’s death, the Rose house continued to serve the community as the government offices, the telegraph office, the post office, and the jail.
In the mid 1920s when the new courthouse was built in Williams Lake, it was converted back into a private residence and was used as such until the late 1960s when it was abandoned.
A little more than 10 years ago, after Highway 97 was upgrade and widened, the Rose house was moved over to its present location. It was already badly neglected, but it was jacked up and placed on temporary footings with the windows and doors boarded up in the hope that funding and volunteer labour could be found to restore it.
Unfortunately, that has not happened and yet another piece of our early history continues to decay slowly into oblivion.
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