BIG LAKERANCH AND ROADHOUSE, 1896
Lot 461, G.1., Cariboo
Land at Big Lake, a sizeable body of water located twenty-four miles northeast of the 150 Mile House, was first settled by A. Anderson, William Nicholl, and George Agard, who pre-empted 480 acres there in June 1862. The lack of further development at this site indicates that the pre-emption was made on the assumption that the wagon road to the goldfields would pass this way. When the road was built via Soda Creek and Quesnelle Mouth instead, the property was abandoned.
Thirty-four years later, in October 1896, William Parker, a quiet, well-mannered young man from Wisconsin, applied for 343 acres of land situated “on the north shore of Big Lake, near the road to the 150 Mile House.” 19 Having established his own stage line and obtained the mail contract, Parker and his associates built a large stopping house, barns, and cowsheds on the north end of the lake. An article in the BC Mining Journal of 4 July 1895 stated: “Mr. Parker was for many years a trusted employee of the BC Express Co., and drove from Quesnelle to the 83 Mile House and back, for several years, and is now in the employ of the government, as a special policeman.” 20 His appointment as special policeman was to ensure the safe delivery of gold bullion, via Parker’s Stage Line, from Hobson’s mine on the Quesnel River to Ashcroft.
The Big Lake stopping house, a large, squared-log building operated by Parker’s housekeeper, Mrs. McNutt, was a lively place during the early 1900’s. With a post office located in the roadhouse, and a constant flow of overnight guests travelling on Parker’s Stage Line, Mrs. McNutt was a busy woman. A 1900 advertisement in the Ashcroft Journal read:
Parker’s Stage Line
Leaving Ashcroft every Monday for Clinton, 150 Mile, Quesnelle Forks, Cariboo Mine, and Horsefly. Stage will connect with steamer “Charlotte” at Soda Creek for Quesnelle, Barkerville, and other northern points. 21
While most ranches in the area raised only cattle, William Parker also kept flocks of sheep, which were butchered and sold to the mines. As he grew older, he became very hard of hearing, finally resorting to carrying scraps of paper on which people wrote messages. While he was never ill a day in his life, Bill Parker died in his sleep on 16 September 1927 due to high blood pressure.
The Big Lake Ranch and lodge was purchased in 1939 by Paddy Harrison (nee Patricia F. Wynn Johnson) and her husband “Pack” of Alkali Lake. When Pack died a year later, Paddy carried on until her marriage to Harold Cripps, an employee of the Wynn Johnsons at Alkali. During this time, a Mrs. Clegg ran the Big Lake Lodge. In 1954, shortly after the Big Lake Ranch was sold, the old house burned down.
19. GR 112, Cariboo Pre-Emptions, BCARS. William Parker Big Lake, BC.
20. BC Mining Journal 4 July 1895.
21. Ashcroft Journal, 19 May 190
This article is from the book entitled: “Trails to Gold: Volume Two”