Stagecoach North

A History of Barnard’s Express

Reviewed by Beverley Tallon

Posted September 22, 2021

Entrepreneurs seized opportunities to make their fame and fortune during British Columbia’s Cariboo Gold Rush of 1861 to 1867. In Stagecoach North, author Ken Mather introduces us to one of them, a latecomer to the express business who arrived in British Columbia in 1858, a few years before the gold rush.

Originally from Quebec City, Francis Jones “Frank” Barnard held a succession of jobs on the west coast before earning enough money to send for his wife and family, who had stayed back in Toronto. Together they set up their home base in Yale, B.C., in 1861.

Barnard then seized the opportunity to create an express line that moved mail, gold, passengers, and supplies from Yale. With the knowledge that a wagon road from Yale and Lillooet to the Cariboo area was imminent, he seized the opportunity to establish Barnard’s Express & Stage Line, moving mail, gold, passengers, and supplies between Yale and the goldfields. Barnard bought out competitor William Jaffray & Company and took over William “Billy” Ballou’s mail service. He was soon afterwards awarded the mail contract that American-born Ballou had sought but was denied due to the colonial politics of the time.

The company was incorporated as British Columbia Express Company, or BX, in 1878. Barnard resigned in 1888, but the company operated until 1921.

In Stagecoach North, which includes maps, illustrations, and rare photos, Mather mixes scholarly research with interesting facts. His book is peppered with anecdotes and conveys the risks Barnard and others undertook over the rugged trails of south-central British Columbia.

Buy this book from Chapters-Indigo

This article originally appeared in the October-November 2021 issue of Canada’s History.

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