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Barkerville formed in 1862 around the Barker Company mine on Williams Creek in the Cariboo District of British Columbia. In its 100 plus years there is a wealth of evidence of its inhabitants and the impact that they have made in the Cariboo.


Jack Crawford Poems

Life Sketch of the Author

Captain John W. Crawford the writer of the following pages, has been an eventful and chequered career. He was born of mixed Irish and Scotch parentage in the County Donegal Ireland, his mother being a lineal descendant of Sir William Wallace: but some political troubles, in which his father got involved soon afterwards broke up the family home, leaving the hero of this sketch compelled to provide for himself almost from infancy. His father, who was a tailor by trade, found means of escaping to New York, from whence he proceeded to Pennsylvania, and seeing a business opening at Minersville in that State, soon established himself in a lucrative position. Here his unfortunate taste for strong drink got the better of his manhood, and it was four years before the suffering, striving family at home heard of his whereabouts. At length he wrote, asking his wife to join him, and by the assistance of friends she soon did so. A temporary reformation on the part of the one, and a year of hard and saving labour by the other, enabled them to get enough money together to send for their children.

The lust of liquor, however, in the elder Crawford was too strong to be repressed, and the new home was a most unhappy one for the wife and children. It was this experience of the terrible effects of intemperance that inspired Jack Crawford with the determination never, under any circumstances to expose himself to the clutch of the Demon, and to war against the Monster with all his might and strength as long as God would give him breath.

The following incident, which took place during Custer’s campaign on the Yellowstone shows how fixedly he kept to his resolution:

It was at the close of a hard day’s March and the command had toiled through long miles of rough country, in the midst of a rain storm such as is known only in the Rocky Mountains. The officers were seated around the camp-fire trying to extract some warmth from the smouldering buffalo chips, when one of them produced from his saddle-bag a Canteen of whisky, and taking a long draught, with the remark, “Thank you Captain but I never drink”

When his mother was on her deathbed, holding out her thin white hand asked me to promise in the presence of my brothers and sisters and the invisible presence of God, that my lips should never touch the destroyer – and I have kept it, etc. etc.

He was one of the pioneers of the Black Hills, chief of their scouts, and one of the founders of Custer City, Deadwood, Crook, Gayville and Spearfish. During the Indian campaign of 1876, Capt. Jack was second in Command of General Crooks Scouts, and superseded Buffalo Bill as chief, on the 24th of Aug. of the same year.

Much of his poetry is after the style of Bret Harte, but there is not an unreal character in any one of his poems. Every verse in these pages contains descriptions of real incidents in the life of the author or some of his comrades; hence, as he says himself, his verses are more truthful than poetic. Jack has never allowed his name to be used in connection with dime novel literature. “If “ said he, “I cannot make a reputation upon my own merits, I shall never endeavour to do so through false representations. I am simply Jack Crawford, boy soldier, rustic poet, scout, bad actor, etc.

Among the Peaks
Oh, gentle breeze, from sunny South,
Bald Mountain
Cariboo, B. C., Aug. 8, 1878 Lines composed while on prospecting tour with some Cariboo pioneers, to whom these lines are respectfully dedicated.
Birds of the Hudsons Bay
Every day when I open the door
I’m Sad To-night
Lines suggested by the following remark from a young lady at a Christmas party “Captain, you seem happy always”.
To the man of intellect. These verses were written in answer to an anonymous letter written by some one in Victoria, B. C. telling me to desist from imposing my doggerel on an intelligent newspaper public.
My Birthday
My birthday! Yet ‘twas accidental
My Ideas
While in Barkerville, B.C. a certain California expert condemned the quartz, and said we had no ledges. I wrote the following verses, which I recited to the miners at the Theatre Royal amid great applause.
Ode to Cariboo friends
At last I must leave you, dear home in the Mountains
Our Jack
Lines written on the death of John Bilsland, who was killed by a slide of snow while attempting to get it off the shaft house on Burns’ Creek, Cariboo, March 13, 1879.
Our Prospect
There’s a bonny wee spat in the mountains I love.
The dead and the living
To Mrs. N.
The Old Miner
To the boys of Cariboo –
Those eyes
Written in Cariboo, B.C. on looking at the photo of an old Sweetheart.
Under the Snow
in Memoriam (Lines on the death of T.R. Pattullo.)

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