We do not know his name: Klatsassin and the Chilcotin War

Alexander McDonald

Alexander McDonald was in charge of the pack train that was attacked by Tsilhqot'in warriors on May 17, 1864. McDonald had vested some interest in the trail since he owned a ranch in partnership with William Manning near Puntzeen Lake, situated at the junction of the Bute Inlet and Bentinck Arm trails.

McDonald's pack train was composed of seven white men, many of whom were en route to the Cariboo gold fields, a number of aboriginals, 28 loaded pack animals, and numerous unloaded animals. The pack train likely departed Victoria on April 20 toward Bute Inlet via the Bentinck Arm trail. Their cargo was intended to re-supply Waddington's road crew.

A Tsilhqot'in woman, said to be Peter McDougall's wife, had learned about the impending attack on the road crew and the plot to attack the pack train. She warned McDonald and advised him to turn back. Refusing to turn around, McDonald stopped the pack train at Towdystan and built an entrenched camp where he and his party remained for several days. He received a second warning about an ambush from Ach-pic-er-mous, an Indian from Nancootloon, who also advised that he remain there until Tsilhqot'in Chief Anaheim returned from Bella Coola. McDonald decided to reverse his course and head for Bella Coola. The pack train was attacked by Klatsassin and other Tsilhqot'in warriors shortly thereafter.

McDonal's horse was killed under him before he was shot three times. Five white men survived the attack and made their way to Victoria where a rumour was circulating that the pack train had been attacked. The rumour was confirmed on June 1, 1864, the same day an "emergency meeting" was held to form a volunteer force.

Secondary Sources

Hewlett, Edward S. "The Chilcotin Uprising: A Study of Indian-European Relations in Nineteenth Century British Columbia." MA Thesis, UBC, 1972.

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Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History