MCNAUGHTON, Margaret




Author Tags: 1850-1900, Cariboo, Essentials 2010, Gold, Women

QUICK REFERENCE ENTRY:

Scottish-born Margaret McNaughton’s (neé Peebles) narrative Overland to the Cariboo: An Eventful Journey of Canadian Pioneers to the Gold-Fields of British Columbia in 1862 (1896) was the second non-fiction book published by a B.C. woman. She did not participate in the trek herself.

(Althea Moody published a non-fiction title anonymously in 1894. Before her, in 1865, Caroline C. Leighton and her husband left New York to travel to San Francisco. During the next 14 years, Leighton explored California and parts of the Pacific Northwest. Her travelogue, Life at Puget Sound: With Sketches of Travel in Washington Territory, British Columbia, Oregon, and California, published in Boston in 1884, is one of the first accounts of the region voiced from a woman’s perspective but Leighton was not a B.C. resident.)

Overland to the Cariboo summarizes the unprecedented journey of Thomas McMicking and his approximately 150 companions in a caravan from Fort Garry (later called Winnipeg) to the goldfields of British Columbia. Thousands of gold seekers reached the Cariboo goldfields by sea; only a few hundred risked travelling by land from eastern Canada.

Among the youngest of the overlanders was Archibald McNaughton, from Montreal, who became Margaret McNaughton’s husband. She was his second wife, after he had first married his cousin who died in 1887. Born in Montreal, and well-educated, he was appointed assessor and collector for the District of Cariboo on the 7th of March, 1884, and thereafter had much involvement in Cariboo mining. In October, 1884, he entered the service of the Hudson's Bay Company; in 1887, was appointed manager for that Company in the Cariboo District as well as postmaster for Quesnelle Mouth, Cariboo. Margaret married Archibald on September 17, 1890, in New Westminster District. He left the HBC in October, 1894, when he was stricken by paralysis. For the rest of his life he was nursed by his wife as an invalid. She attended to much of his duties as a postmaster until he died on June 21, 1900. His tombstone is in the Quesnel cemetery.

Margaret McNaughton was born in Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland, as Margaret Peebles, daughter of Thomas Peebles and his wife, Jane (Murie) Peebles. She came to New
Westminster in 1888, where she was married in Holy Trinity cathedral, by Archdeacon Woods. She was described in her era as "a woman of decided ability along literary lines." Churchgoing, she participated efforts to relieve the sufferings of "the poor and afflicted, being widely known for her charity and womanly helpfulness." She was elected a lady associate of the Royal Colonial Institute of London, England, a quite unusual honor, and also served as vice-regent of the Pauline Johnson Chapter of the Daughters of the Empire. She was a member of the Canadian Women's Press Club, a director of the Scientific, Art and Historical Association, a member of the Woman's Canadian Club "and other institutions of like prominence." Margaret McNaughton wrote for newspapers since 1890 and was officially honoured for her contributions to preserving B.C. history. Her one son died in childhood.

Her concise account of the Overlanders is not eyewitness reportage. Augmented by details provided by her husband, the text followed a serialized narrative that McMicking had published in 14 instalments in the British Columbian from November 29, 1862, to January 23rd, 1863, after Archibald McMicking had befriended John Robson, editor of the British Columbian, in New Westminster. (McMicking drowned in the Fraser River in 1886 during an unsuccessful attempt to save his six-year-old son.)

The main party of gold seekers departed on July 5th from Long Lake, just west of Fort Garry, and reached Fort Edmonton on July 21st. McMicking’s caravan consisted entirely of men with the exception of Irish-born Catherine Schubert, who travelled in a horse and buggy with her German-born husband Augustus Schubert and their three children. McMicking crossed the Rockies via the Yellowhead Pass to reach the upper Fraser River and Tête Jaune Cache where a band of Secwepemcs saved them from starvation. McMicking later wrote, “We found the red men of the prairies to be our best friends.” A splinter group proceeded via the North Thompson River, where two travellers drowned. Assisted by a First Nations midwife, Catherine Schubert gave birth to her fourth child, Rose, the first “white girl” born in the B.C. Interior, at Thompson’s River Post (later called Kamloops) in October. Everyone arrived too late for the gold rush, and few of the adventurers ever staked a claim.

McNaughton’s account of the five-and-a-half-month expedition across a terra incognita is even-handed like a ship’s log: “The average rate of speed was two-and-a-half miles an hour and ten hours’ was accomplished each time.” These were God-fearing, courageous people who ventured into a vast unknown where “they had bound themselves to rest on the Sabbath, and the rule was scrupulously observed.” Along the way, McNaughton does provide a few deft sentences as a storyteller: “The mosquitoes swarmed in myriads, causing both man and beast the utmost torture.”

Two years after McNaughton's first edition appeared, published from Ontario, Julia Wilmotte Henshaw, British Columbia's first female novelist, published her first novel, Hypnotized (1898). McNaughton’s version of events was republished in 1973 as one of the early titles from J.J. Douglas Ltd., a company that would grow into Douglas & McIntyre, Western Canada’s largest publishing company.

FULL ENTRY:

One of the first female authors of B.C. was Margaret McNaughton whose historical narrative Overland to the Cariboo: An Eventful Journey of Canadian Pioneers to the Gold Fields of British Columbia in 1862, (1896) summarizes the unprecedented journey of Thomas McMicking and his approximately 150 companions in a caravan from Fort Garry (later called Winnipeg) to the gold fields of British Columbia. Thousands of gold-seekers reached the Cariboo gold fields by sea, only a few hundred risked doing so by land from Eastern Canada.

Among the Overlanders was Archibald McNaughton, from Montreal, who became Margaret McNaughton’s husband. Her concise account is not eyewitness reportage; augmented by details provided by her husband, it’s based largely on a serialized narrative that McMicking published in fourteen instalments in the British Columbian from November 29, 1862 to January 23rd, 1863, after McMicking had befriended John Robson, editor of the British Columbian, in New Westminster. McMicking later drowned in the Fraser River in 1886 during an unsuccessful attempt to save his six-year-old son.

The main party of gold seekers departed on July 5th from Long Lake, just west of Fort Garry, and reached Fort Edmonton on July 21st. McMicking’s caravan consisted entirely of men with the exception of Irish-born Catherine Schubert who travelled in a horse and buggy with her German husband Augustus Schubert and their three children. McMicking crossed the Rockies via Yellowhead Pass to reach the upper Fraser River and Tete Jaune Cache where a band of Shuswaps saved them from starvation. McMicking later wrote, “We found the red men of the prairies to be our best friends.” A splinter group proceeded via the North Thompson River, where two travellers drowned. Assisted by a First Nations midwife, Catherine Schubert gave birth to her fourth child, Rose, the first “white girl” born in the B.C. Interior, at Thompson’s River Post (later called Kamloops) in October. Everyone arrived too late for the gold rush, and few adventurers ever staked a claim.

McNaughton’s account of the five-and-a-half month expedition across a terra incognita is essentially a literary achievement in editing. Her treatment of the subject matter is even-handed, like a ship’s log: “The average rate of speed was two-and-a-half miles an hour and ten hours’ was accomplished each time.” These were God-fearing, courageous people who ventured into a vast unknown where “they had bound themselves to rest on the Sabbath, and the rule was scrupulously observed.” Along the way, McNaughton does provide a few deft sentences with poetic license. “The mosquitoes swarmed in myriads, causing both man and beast the utmost torture.”

McNaughton’s Reader’s Digest-like version of events was republished in 1973 as one of the early titles from J.J. Douglas Ltd., a company that would grow into Douglas & McIntyre, Western Canada’s largest publishing company.

Two years after McNaughton's first edition appeared, published from Ontario, Julia Wilmotte Henshaw, British Columbia's first female novelist, published her first novel, Hypnotized (1898).

BOOKS:

Overland to the Cariboo (Toronto: William Briggs, 1896. Also published, Montreal: S.W. Coates, 1896; New York: Argonaut Press, 1966. Republished as Overland to the Cariboo: An Eventful Journey of Canadian Pioneers to the Gold Fields of British Columbia in 1862. Vancouver; J.J. Douglas Ltd., 1973)

[BCBW 2016]