Every time the rope from which the criminal was pen dant was thrown over
the branch and drawn into the air, the friction removed some of the bark
in a circular manner and left its count."
The year 1857 found Ned Stout and some members of 'his' party engaged in
mining in various creeks and streams of the El Dorado county in California.
Among those with Stout at the time, and who later accompanied him to the
north to the Fraser, were Alexander Coultee and John Oppenheimer, both of
whom had crossed the plains with him in '49.
It had been eight years since the discovery of gold in the American West
and the easy pickins' were long cleaned out. Mining companies had been formed
to pool resources and retrieve gold that was beyond the means of the individual
prospector. It was during this 'time of transition' in California that rumours
of rich diggings on Fraser's River hit the depressed region.
Ned Stout, one among many, was struck by 'gold fever' and he made up his
mind to travel to San Francisco, which he did. Once there, he and several
others made a bargain with the captain of a schooner to take them north.
The captain charged them a sum of $2,000, which included the transportation
of supplies and a
"sufficiency of timber to build two large boats with..."
- Ned Stout
The schooner dropped off its cargo and passengers in Bellingham Bay in March
"We were the only vessel in that spacious har bour. Whatcom, at
that time, consisted of two or three houses, or cabins..." - Ned
Using the lumber they had acquired in Frisco, the men built two flat-bottomed
scows and headed north for the mouth of Fraser's River. When they arrived
on May 2, 1858, there was not a living soul could to be seen, nor the mark
of an ax on a single tree. At Fort Langley they saw one white man and at
Fort Hope they saw only two.
"After a long struggle of eighteen days we arrived opposite the
present town of Yale. Of course it had no name at that time." -
"...two miners ...had been ambushed and murdered by hostile Indians"
It was at Yale that gold had been first discovered on the Fraser, but by
the time Stout's party arrived the place was deserted. It was later learned
that the two miners who had been working the bars around Yale had gone south
to Port Townsend for supplies and during their return to the Fraser had
been ambushed and murdered by hostile Indians. Just how hostile the local
population was had yet to be discovered...
In company of Stout at that time was James McClennan, Archie McDonald and
"Old Texas", all Californian miners. Accounts state that McClennan
led the party up the Fraser until they reached the present site of Lytton
where the Thompson joins the Fraser. They left the Fraser canyon and followed
the course of the Thompson until they reached what would later be called
the Nicomen River. During their travel they had met a young Indian woman
who had become enamoured of James McClennan after he had given her some
of his clothes to wear. She would follow him throughout the day and insist
on carrying his pack while at night she would retire with another native
fellow to a spot outside the miner's camp. One night, in the middle of July,
she suddenly appeared at the fire of the miners and warned them that
'Before sun up you white men go. Go back in the stick, far, far, then
you back to salt chuck. Indian kill all white men in canyon, by-by he come
kill you all. Tomorrow he come. Go now, go quick.'
McClennan took this to mean that the Indians had killed all the whites in
the lower canyon and that they must immediately return to Fort Yale or risk
the same fate.