Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Stone and Silt... and the real-life town of Fort Yale

In the mid-1800s, the future province of British Columbia was changed forever by the allure of gold.

Nowhere was this felt more than the small settlement of Fort Yale, perched within the sharp canyon walls of the Fraser River. A community of native peoples since ancient times, Fort Yale was established as a trading post for the Hudson's Bay Company in 1848.

Ten years later, a remarkable pivot-point in North American history occurred. American miners dug up gold at Hill's Bar, a half day's trek north of Fort Yale. Word of the discovery spread quickly - across the colony and worldwide. The northernmost point of boatable waters on the Fraser, Fort Yale instantly became a nexus for incoming miners, as their northward journeys transitioned from river boats to wagons.

The newcomers and fortune-seekers were not all miners. Suppliers, wagon-train drivers, barkeepers, hotel owners, and government men swarmed like ants to Fort Yale. Along with the well-intentioned, the newcomers included an assortment of outcasts, outlaws, and prostitutes. 

The novel Stone and Silt takes you into this raucous swirl, and imagines a daughter born to a quiet native Indian mother. The father, a caring Welshman, had left his livelihood as a trapper in Lytton, in favor of the more domestic trade of wagon repair. It was an occupation well-matched to his patient ways and skilled hands. They named the girl Nikaia, after a glaciated mountain beloved to her mother's people.

The map below, courtesy of the excellent B.C. Heritage website, shows Yale in 1859... three years before the events in Stone and Silt take place. The yellow lots are the saloons and gaming houses of Front Street. Chinatown is marked in the light orange color, and the native Indian reserve is in green.

Stone and Silt is scheduled to be released Fall 2013.


  1. I love it already - the next Michener in the making! And I get to say I knew you when...

    1. My sights are not set quite that high! But thank you, Sharon! :)