The Land on Which We Live

Life on the Cariboo Plateau: 70 Mile House to Bridge Lake

Barbara MacPherson

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The romantic backwoods landscape known as the North Bonaparte, stretches east from 70 Mile House to Bridge Lake and is full of small remote ranches, hidden abandoned homesteads, and rutted roads leading to graves in forgotten meadows. High on the Cariboo Plateau, the land was once the domain of the Secwepemc people who hunted and fished throughout the region. White settlers began to arrive in 1891 and discovered the land they chose was tough and challenging. Winters were long with frost in July and September, the soil was inhospitable, the location remote from any amenities. Those who made it their home had to be tough, resourceful and resilient in order to thrive. This is the story of those people: colourful, hard-working, hard-playing individualists. Tales of well-known pioneers such as Bill and Mary Boyd and the Saul brothers of the 70 Mile House, the McDonald family of The Rainbow Chasers, and Jack Dubois, the famous rustler and horse breeder of Outlaws of Western Canada are among those included in the book. Barbara MacPherson’s The Land on Which We Live fully captures a life that depended on tenacity, skillfulness, and on the kindness and help of neighbours and friends.

“A treasure trove of early photographs, painstaking research and most of all, marvelous accounts of feckless wanderers and resolute settlers, roadhouse operators, and ranchers in the South Cariboo–tough cookies, bad apples and flashy dudes included! This well-written book shows how luck, land and the climate, good but often bad, solid homesteading skills or a complete lack of them, and the kindness and generosity among neighbours shaped all who lived here, for just a few years or for generations.”
—Caroline Woodward, author of Light Years: Memoir of a Modern Lighthouse Keeper

“Most local histories—particularly those focused on the ‘pioneering’ settler phrase—are romantic, relentlessly positive and sometimes heroic. The truth is more complex and often far less successful. Barbara MacPherson has accomplished something truly rare here: a settler-era history that keeps precariousness at its centre.”
—John Douglas Belshaw (Thompson River University), author of Becoming British Columbia: A Population History and Colonization and Community: the Vancouver Island Coalfield and the Making of British Columbia Working-Class

“What a fine piece of work […] I would recommend this book for compulsory reading in schools, as it would show the younger generation that people actually did survive without running water, electricity and cellphones.”
Pat Ferguson, author of Gone Huntin’Gone Huntin’ Again, as well as Cowboys, Good Times and Wrecks.

“The arrival of this book in the year of a resurgent Indigenous culture is timely. It’s arrival during the tragedy of wild fire is propitious, as it covers the period of early fire suppression that helped to exclude the Tsq’escenemc from the land and laid down the primary conditions for those fires. It is an invaluable document.”
—Harold Rhenisch, The Ormsby Review

“Whether you live in the area or not, if you like history and stories of our fore-founders, this book is a must read. I thought it would be a tough read at first, the detail was like looking through a library book for a school history essay, but the more I read the more interested I became … and the history and the facts in this book are amazing.”
—Mark McMillan, President of the BC Cowboy Hall of Fame

“In its exploration of life on the Cariboo Plateau, Barbara MacPherson’s The Land on Which We Live offers an important and welcome addition to the existing historiography. […] MacPherson complements the text with photographs from the time, and integrates extensive primary source material, including excerpts from memoirs of, and interviews with, people who lived in the region.”
—Tina Block, BC Studies, no. 203 (Autumn 2019)