BORLAND, ROBERT, businessman and miner; b. 28 Aug. 1839 near Bowmanville, Upper Canada, son of Hiram Borland and Ann Frank; m. 23 Feb. 1898 Christina Glassey in Clinton, B.C.; they had no children; d. 22 Jan. 1923 in Quesnel, B.C.
William Borland, Robert Borland’s ancestor, came to Upper Canada from New Hampshire with his wife and family in 1799, settled in Durham County, and served with the 1st Durham Militia during the War of 1812. Nothing is known of Robert’s early life except that he did not stay long on the family farm in Durham, near Bowmanville. He arrived in British Columbia about 1862 and took part in the Cariboo gold rush and in 1867 in the short-lived rush on Cedar Creek at Quesnel Lake.
In 1869 Borland formed a partnership with George Adolphus Vieth, a Halifax native, and together they purchased Willow Ranch, on the Keithley Creek delta at Cariboo Lake. Located on the pack-trail linking the Cariboo wagon road and Barkerville [see William Barker*], the ranch had been an important stopping place during the gold rush. It produced grain for pack-train animals and large quantities of vegetables, and, under Vieth and Borland’s management, it became the social and commercial centre of the east Cariboo region. The post office, saloon, store, and hotel established at Keithley Creek served a population of 100 to 200 miners. With a third partner, Robert McNab, Vieth and Borland opened a second store, at the junction of Little Snowshoe and Keithley creeks on the trail to Barkerville. At both stores miners paid with gold dust or with furs in winter. To help some of them over rough times, Vieth and Borland often held mortgages on their claims. In this way the two merchants, who also worked the Grotto and Onward mines on Keithley Creek, acquired a number of lucrative claims on Little Snowshoe.
About 1884 Vieth and Borland purchased the 150 Mile stopping-house on the Cariboo Road from Gavin Hamilton, a former Hudson’s Bay Company factor. Here they raised cattle, harvested grain, and operated a post office, saloon, and hotel. Known for their social involvement, they took their turn in the round of winter festivities by hosting “Batchelor Balls.” As well, they cared for a number of gold-rush old-timers at both Keithley Creek and 150 Mile House, keeping them employed chopping wood and carrying out other chores. Another pioneer, Martha Hutch, a native woman who supervised the laundry at Keithley Creek, was looked after until her death.
In 1888 Vieth and Borland contracted with the HBC to pack freight from Hazelton to Babine Lake at two cents per pound for 200,000 pounds. That same year Borland, who occasionally went along on trips, accompanied the train from Quesnel to Hazelton on the Skeena River. Arriving at the time of the affair sparked by the shooting of a Gitksan Indian, he was considered neutral and given passage down the Skeena to Port Essington, where he caught a boat to Victoria. Striding into a sitting of the provincial legislature, he startled the members with the announcement, “Gentlemen, do you know there is a war on?”
As a result of the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway, a hydraulic-mining boom took place in east Cariboo between 1890 and 1910. Vieth and Borland held shares in the South Fork Hydraulic Mining Company, which worked a site two miles above Quesnel Forks on the South Fork (Quesnel) River. Privately acquired in 1894 by a group of CPR directors and renamed the Cariboo Hydraulic Mining Company (later Consolidated Cariboo Hydraulic Mining), it employed over 200 men at the Bullion Pit mine. Vieth and Borland drove in cattle from their 150 Mile ranch to supply this camp. The partners, in fact, advertised 150 Mile House in the Ashcroft Journal as “the distributing point for all the hydraulic mines at Horse Fly, North and South Forks and main Quesnelle River, also the stock ranges of Chilcoten and Beaver Lake Valley.” The mining boom led as well to the survey of Quesnel Forks into town lots in 1892. Vieth and Borland purchased two and opened another hotel, store, and saloon.
It appears from their correspondence and ledgers that Vieth was the accountant during their long partnership, which would last until Vieth’s death in 1906. But Borland was also astute, especially in land purchases. By signing countless petitions and visiting government representatives in Victoria, the two men gained improvements to trails and wagon roads. On one occasion they took matters into their own hands by clearing a pack-trail near the Frypan Mountains in the Omineca region and then requesting reimbursement. Their only competition was Peter Curran Dunlevy, a native of Pittsburgh who owned a hotel at Soda Creek, invested in mines at Barkerville, real estate in Vancouver, and a railway and quarry on Vancouver Island, and transported supplies into the Cassiar region. Vieth and Borland were more localized than Dunlevy: except for their wide-ranging packing business, they concentrated on east Cariboo and the Cariboo Road.
In 1898 Vieth and Borland sold their pack-train business, once valued at $4,800 and consisting of 60 pack-mules, 5 riding mules, 8 four-year-old mules (halter-broken), and 1 bell-mare. Borland personally delivered the train to Glenora, in northwestern British Columbia. Following the sale of 150 Mile House in 1899, he acquired the William Pinchbeck ranch on nearby Williams Lake on his own. Under his management, this ranch, which he named Kinlochaline, was known as “one of the best fodder producing farms in the district.” He sold the land to the provincial government about 1913; it became the Pacific Great Eastern Railway terminus in 1919 and the town-site of Williams Lake.
Following George Vieth’s death, Borland had taken on responsibility for managing Willow Ranch as well as Kinlochaline. After the latter’s sale, he spent his remaining years at Willow Ranch. Despite his apparent good fortune, his personal life may not have been altogether happy. His marriage in 1898 to 21-year-old Chryssie Glassey ended in divorce after she spent a lot of his money and then left him. Robert Borland was described in the Vancouver Daily Province in 1923 as “powerfully built, very strong, resourceful and dependable and generally well liked by all those whom he served.” Few could match his kindness and generosity. He had provided eight double teams for the funeral of Beaver valley pioneer Frank Guy, for example, and had deferred the grocery charges of ailing miner John (Aurora Jack) Edwards. In contrast to the boom-and-bust nature of so much mining activity, Vieth and Borland’s investment in the Cariboo demonstrates their long-term commitment to the region. Borland died in January 1923 in Quesnel and was buried at Keithley Creek; he left his estate to a niece, Mabel Borland. Borland Creek at 150 Mile House, Borland Street in Williams Lake, and Mount Borland near Cariboo Lake are named for this popular merchant and miner.
Information on Robert Borland was obtained by the author from Gary O. Borland, a second cousin of the subject, in February 1999. The Jack Lynn Memorial Museum (Horsefly, B.C.) has an invitation to one of the Batchelor Balls given by Vieth and Borland on display in its collection.
AM, HBCA, B.290/e/1-3. AO, RG 22-191, no.1237. BCA, GR-0216, vol.33; GR-1052; GR-1440, 1815/89, 4649/92, 2234/95; GR-1676, vol.1/72a; MS-2561. LAC, RG 1, L3, 48: B14/230; 85: B leases, 1802-18/148; 86: B leases, 1816-37/152; RG 31, C1, 1871, Darlington Township, Ont., div.1: 10. Ashcroft Journal (Ashcroft, B.C.), 1896, 5 Feb. 1898, 26 July 1902. Daily Colonist (Victoria), 15 Oct. 1890. Vancouver Daily Province, 23 Jan. 1923. J. A. Roberts, Cariboo chronicles: Williams Lake golden jubilee, 1929-1979 ([n.p., 1979]).