Spittal Creek

Feature type: Creek (1)
Province: British Columbia
Location: Flows SW into Fraser River, W of Tête Jaune Cache
Latitude: 53°00’00”
Longitude: 119°32’00”
NTS map: 83D/13
Official name listed at BC Geographical Names

Bill Spittal was “a big, regular old-time mountain-man, six foot two and he weighed about 240 pounds,” said Angus MacDonald. “He had the kind of face that makes you grab tight hold of your wallet,” said Ervin MacDonald.

The MacDonalds met Spittal in 1907, while they were on their way west through the Yellowhead Pass to look for land in British Columbia. They ran into Spittal and “two young Irishmen name of Monohan” while rafting across the MacLeod River. “Spittal had got this Irish company to grubstake him, as he had told them some tales about hitting good placer claims on a big creek about 10 or 12 miles west of Tête Jaune Cache,” Ervin said. The MacDonalds accompanied the prospectors to Spittal’s creek. For three days, nobody could find any color. “Finally Spittal got worked up about it, and lost his temper and says, ‘Darn it, there ought to be gold here because I put it here!’ This blew the prospecting party all to hell,” MacDonald said.

The MacDonalds went on to settle in the Cariboo. “Two years later we heard of Spittal,” said Angus. “Some Indians came into the 70 Mile House with a story about white men starving up in the Clearwater country, and the police came through our ranch to look for them. Apparently Spittal had got hold of some ore samples and showed them to people claiming they were from a mine he had found up there. They paid him money to take them to it in the fall and got snowed in. The only thing that saved them from starvation was shooting one of their horses.”

According to another version of the story, Spittal had convinced three partners to head up the Goat River trail from Barkerville. When an expected cache of supplies at the Fraser River was missing, Spittal’s party went to the cabin of two trappers, Steinhoff and Bogardus. The trappers offered enough grub for the prospectors to return to Barkerville. Two of the partners, Baker and McCurdie, accepted and headed back. They took a wrong turn up Macleod Creek and froze to death. Spittle and the remaining partner raided Steinhoff and Bogardus’s cabin and headed for the Shuswap Indian village at Tête Jaune Cache. There they stayed until spring, when the police came in. Spittal, an American citizen who had been in trouble for smuggling Chinese aliens, was deported.

References:

  • MacDonald, Ervin Austin. The rainbow chasers. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1982
  • Wright, Richard. “Tales of a trail [Goat River].” BC Outdoors (1985).
  • Yellowhead Pass and its people. Valemount, B.C.: Valemount Historic Society, 1984

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