Royal Engineers to visit Quesnel

Aug. 8-9, Quesnel Museum is hosting the Royal Engineers and Associations Living History Group in LeBourdais Park

The Royal Engineers are heading to the Gold Pan City this upcoming weekend.

Aug.  8 and  Aug. 9  at the Quesnel Museum is hosting an encampment of the Royal Engineers and Associates Living History Group in LeBourdais Park.

They are an informal group of history enthusiasts, dedicated to keeping alive the memory of the Royal Engineers and a period of history when the province of British Columbia was in a formative stage.

Using period clothing and equipment, they bring alive the daily life of the late 1850s and early 1860s. Each member researches and takes on the character of a real historic person, demonstrating the skills they would have needed to survive in the colony of British Columbia 150 years ago, sharing the gossip of the Cariboo Road and amusing themselves with the songs, stories and games of the time.

Their members come from Vancouver Island, lower mainland and Washington State and include Judy Anderson of Quesnel. They have performed at Fort Langley and Rodd Hill National Historic Sites, Barkerville Historic Town and San Juan Island National Historic Park. This is the first time that they have camped in Quesnel.

Ten to twelve members of the group are expected to arrive Thursday night so that they can set up their camp and be ready to receive visitors by 9 am Friday morning.  Visitors can tour through the camp and interact with the time travellers, who will be happy to explain their current task, and the equipment they are using.

Spinning, weaving and rope-making are among the craft skills that will be demonstrated. Judy Anderson is an accomplished seamstress and will have examples of period clothing available for inspection and, if you are lucky enough to fit, to try on. Another of the reenactors specializes in First Nations History and is a skilled storyteller.   Very little is scripted or scheduled, so if you show an interest you are liable to be treated to an impromptu concert or challenged to a game of quoits (ring toss) or croquet.

There are just a few scheduled events. Brandee Schutz from the Quesnel Museum will be leading a tour of the Quesnel Pioneer Cemetery for the entertainment of the “off duty” Royal Engineers at 7 p.m. on Friday evening. Members of the public are welcome to join them.

Meet at the Carson St. entrance to the cemetery. Donations would be greatly appreciated and printed guide books cost $1 and $2.  Afternoon tea will be served on Saturday afternoon between 2 and 4 pm at a cost of $5 per person. There will be no charge to enter the Royal Engineers Camp and participate in the activities. The Museum and Heritage commission will have a donation box out and will greatly appreciate any contributions to help offset the cost of this event.

They also suggest that you visit the well- stocked Museum gift shop, explaining that any profits from the gift shop are placed in a museum reserve to help finance museum improvements, special programs and new exhibits.

The Royal Engineers and Associates were invited to Quesnel to help celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the completion of the Cariboo Wagon Road. The last sections of the road from Soda Creek to Quesnel and from Cottonwood to Barkerville were commissioned and built in 1865.  (The stretch between Soda Creek and Quesnel had initially been covered only by sternwheeler.)

The Royal Engineers played an important role in the founding of the City of Quesnel.  Lieutenant Palmer explored a number of possible routes to the Cariboo Gold Fields and recommended, what was called the “Western” Fraser River Route, which passed through Alexandria and the mouth of the Quesnel River.  Colonel Moody selected this route, issued tenders for the construction of the road and sent Sergeant William McColl to Quesnel to reserve land for a town site. McColl completed his survey, laying out lots of one chain by two chains, from June 3 to June 22nd 1863. The first lot was sold in August and the community grew rapidly for several years.

The Royal Engineers and Associates will pack up Saturday night at 6 pm and continue their journey down the Cariboo Wagon Road to camp at Barkerville for the remainder of the weekend.

The Quesnel Museum and Heritage Commission and Friends of the Museum appreciates the groups contribution to ensuring that a vital period  of B.C. history is kept alive and gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Province of British Columbia.

For more information contact the Quesnel Museum 250-992-9580 or email, ehunter@quesnel.ca