Can you make the 108 connection between the three parts of this photo?
If you go back only 50 years, the 108 was just a part of the 105 Mile Ranch. What Block Bros. purchased from Monical & Sons was actually the 105 Mile Ranch, which was 26,000 acres from just north of 100 Mile to just south of Lac La Hache. The main background photo here shows the 105 Mile Ranch taken after the Block Bros. purchase in 1969. As you drove north, you could see the sign atop Monical’s barn proudly announcing the ‘108 Recreational Ranch’. Changes to Highway 97 required the removal of this 105 pioneer home and Block Bros. donated it to the Historical Society in 1979 when it was moved to its present location at the 108. (top left). Thank you to those many people and groups who had a hand in making this signature home available to our 108 Heritage Site.
That brings us to the third photo of Benjamin H. McNeil and his wife to be, Laura (nee Blackwell), pictured in front of their 105 Road House in 1905. Benjamin had come to the Cariboo in 1893 with his brother Lester, both originally from Minnesota, then Washington. Their original plan was to mine in the Barkerville area, but they decided to stop over for winter in the 105 Mile area and never moved on. They were both broke after the vigorous journey north, but they were survivors, hard as nails. So in order to make a go of it they tried numerous projects, including trapping, farming, the butter business, and the hauling of freight, all with some success. Their first building at the 105 burned down, but they got busy at the turn of the century and built the second 105 Mile House building we see today. Benjamin and Laura, the Lac La Hache school teacher, had two children, Benjie and Herbie, both born while at the 105. In about 1916, they sold their 105 property to Lord Edgerton and moved with their two boys to develop a ranch at the far end of Canim Lake. A dream location, if you don’t mind back breaking hard work.
Young Benjie and Herbie grew up to a life of grit and hard work, ranching in an area almost completely isolated. In 1934, Benjie married Florence Bachman and a few years later they struck out on their own, developing land and building a beautiful 13 room guest lodge on their 700 acre site at Mahood Lake. The Lodge, at the campground end of the lake, burned down in 1962 after the McNeils had moved back to the 100 Mile area. Benjie and Florence had 7 children, two of whom, John and Dean, continue to live in this area. Herbie and his wife, Joan had two children and continued developing the ranch on Canim Lake.
If you haven’t already, you should explore the inside of the McNeil 105 roadhouse at our Heritage Site. It was built using hand-hewn logs, with an embossed metal ceiling so that hot air from the wood heaters would reflect back into the room. Doors, windows, siding, and metal ceilings were hauled in by wagon trains. The building style is late Victorian Classical Revival, which was not typical in the Cariboo.