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General Sherman's Visit

by George Fraser

 

(as published in The Story of Osoyoos, 1952)


General William Tecumseh Sherman, who became famous during the American Civil War and subsequently became Commander of the American army, was doubtless the most distinguished person to visit Osoyoos in the early days.

Mrs. Theodore Kruger in her story of early days at Osoyoos, published in the third Okanagan Historical Report and reproduced in the sixth, referring to the visit of the General says that there had been trouble with the Nez Pierces Indians and that the General had been sent in with a troop of cavalry to quell any disturbances that might arise and also to report on conditions pertaining in this section of the west.  Mrs. Kruger also reports that the U.S. government had at one time considered the erection of a fort at Oroville but nothing is said of the General having to report on the matter.  The cavalry arrived several days in advance of the General and his party and pitched their camp on or close to the ranch of that well-known pioneer, Okanogan Smith, a little over a mile south of the border.

Mrs. Kruger tells of a visit of Bishop and Mrs. Sillitoe of New Westminster to Osoyoos at the time Sherman’s troops were in camp and of the Bishop holding service there on the Sunday they spent in the district.  All of the few residents of Osoyoos accompanied the Bishop to the service and the trip to and fro was made in rowboats or canoes.  The soldiers having had previous notice of the proposed service entered with enthusiasm into making preparations for it.  There being no place in which to hold worship, they erected a sort of booth and an altar with evergreens, to which was the final touch an arched entrance of evergreens.  The problem of seating was solved by placing rows of sacked oats in front of the booth.  Mrs. Kruger reported about 250 soldiers present and that they reverently stood grouped around the booth as the Bishop read the Church of England service and they joined in the singing, one of the soldiers singing a solo while the offertory was being taken.

Mr. Cullen B. Bach, who was Customs Officer on the American side at the time of the General’s visit, in a letter to Mr. C.L. Thompson, U.S. Customs Chief at Oroville, writes, “I piloted him across the border to the Canadian Customs House which was in charge of Judge. J.C. Haynes, to whom I introduced the General and his chief lieutenants and thence we proceeded across the narrows between the twin lakes to Theodore Kruger’s store and residence.

In Sherman’s party were General Miles of the U.S. Army, Judge White of the Supreme Court, Major Jackson as Commander of the Cavalry, and Lieutenant Mallory, the executive officer who paid the bills.  I introduced the officers to the Krugers and the General was invited to their home.”

One traveler a Mr. Bach, who happened to be in Osoyoos at the same time as the General and his troops, recalls the following.

“The bridge over which we passed was a privately owned toll bridge built by Kruger and the price for crossing was $1.25 for a man and $ .75 for pack horses or loose animals.  Just below the bridge was a ford that I knew of, and I offered to guide the party over it.  Although Kruger had notices up at the bridge that he would not be responsible for any accidents, upon my assurance that the narrow bridge, without railings, was strong and that if troopers would dismount and lead their horses there would be little danger.  The General said we must not try to save money by dodging the first thing we encounter in a foreign land, and so he gave the order to take the bridge.  As there were nearly one hundred horsemen and about as many pack animals, Kruger received a large sum for the crossing of the American troops.”

The following excerpt is from the official narrative of the General’s visit.

“About two miles beyond the international border we came to the residence of Judge J. C. Haynes, the British Collector of Customs.  Unlike the Custom House on the other side to the line, this is a neat comfortable frame building with brick chimneys and broad piazzas.  It occupies a beautiful site on the shore of the lake which here has a clean and sandy beach.  Judge Haynes received us most hospitably.  His wife and family were absent at New Westminster.

At this point is a narrow place in the lake, making it practically two lakes.  Over this neck is a crude bridge built and kept by Mr. Kruger, a German living on the opposite side.”

It is of interest to note here that Mrs. Haynes was at New Westminster in expectation of the birth of a child.  A son was born and in honor of the General’s visit he was christened John Sherman Haynes.  The General was so pleased over the newborn Osoyoosian being named for him that he sent him a copy of his memoirs, elaborately bound.

The General left Osoyoos with an escort of about twenty-five men, bound for Hope over the historical Dewdney Trail, known for the past eighty years or more as the Hope-Princeton.  At Hope he was entertained by Andrew Onderdonk, a prominent contractor who was building a section of the C.P.R. transcontinental.  His escort returned from Hope to camp via Osoyoos and the toll bridge, while the General proceeded to Victoria via the Fraser on the steamer “Western Slope”.

The date of the General’s visit to Osoyoos was August 13, 1883.