Dead Horse on the Tulameen

Settler Verse from BC’s Similkameen Valley

A drill makes the music that rings in his ears
But a candle’s the charmer to drive away fears,
Down deep underground where grim shadows are thick–
Here’s to you always, my old candlestick!

Dead Horse on the Tulameen, Settler Verse from BC's Similkameen Valley

So said an underground miner in the Similkameen valley back in 1900. This book brings the abandoned mines and ghost towns of southwestern BC back to life as voices from the grave tell their stories in verse. These voices lay silent for decades until Jon Bartlett and Rika Ruebsaat discovered them. Like prospectors panning for gold, Bartlett and Ruebsaat sifted through the fragile pages of old newspapers in the Princeton Archives until they hit “paydirt” in the form of poems about daily life in the Similkameen valley ~ how did it feel to leave the fields and hedgerows of England and come to the BC wilderness? What tools did our early miners use? Why did it take so long for the railway to come to the Similkameen?

The poems in this book together with extensive archival photographs as well as Bartlett and Ruebsaat’s historical narrative paint a vivid picture of pioneer life in BC’s Similkameen valley.

Table of Contents
Preface . . . 3
1. Popular Song and Verse Traditions of the Early 20th Century . . . 8
2. The Settlement of the Similkameen . . . 14
3. Boosterism . . . 54
4. The Weekly Press . . . 68
5. Sports . . . 87
6. Mining . . . 99
7. To the Coast . . . 110
8. The Coming of the Car . . . 128
9. The Valley and the War . . . 140
10. Prohibition . . . 151
11. Making Ends Meet . . . 157
12. The Second World War . . . 176
13. A Pot Pourri of Topical Verses . . . 190
14. Earning a Living . . . 225
15. The Natural World . . . 237
16. Just for Fun . . . 252
17. The Dead Horse Transformed . . . 260
Notes . . . 271
Sources . . . 277
Index . . . 278
Published in 2011 by
Canada Folk Workshop
Box 2451
Princeton BC Canada V0X 1W0
Book Design: Ginger Erskine
Cover: “Gold Panning” Princeton Museum

About the Authors

Jon Bartlett and Rika Ruebsaat are singers and cultural historians. Their love of song, their love of the landscape and BC history, and their experiences and skills as historians and educators make them uniquely qualified to produce this book. They have been singing together since 1975, focusing especially on the songs of British Columbia made by settlers, loggers, miners, and fishers.
Chris Corrigan, musician and community facilitator, says of them, “In carrying forward the songs of our home places, Jon and Rika inspire us to learn and sing and make the songs of our communities. They challenge us to know who we are and where we come from. They are not merely performers and artists, but they are community builders and advocates for a participatory culture.”
Jon Bartlett and Rika Ruebsaat have produced four CDs of Canadian songs, one of which, Now It’s Called Princeton, features songs and poems from the Similkameen valley.


293 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9877255-0-9

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