108 History Quiz #15

These early photos show the 108 Mile Roadhouse. Do you know or want to know about the adventurous and hardy people who lived there, back in those wondrous days of yore?


The top building, which was the original 108 Roadhouse, was located on the east side of Highway 97 across from the Heritage Site. Keep in mind that many of the dates used here are close to accurate, but different sources often show slight variations.  However, there is clear evidence that this 108 property known as DL 76 was pre-empted by William James Roper in 1863. Roper was an adventurous Englishman from Dorsetshire and had a business moving freight along the gold trail between Lillooet and Barkerville.  When he first saw the 108 property he was reminded of home, so he made a claim to purchase it. He also considered this to be a wise business decision as this property was well located for miners stopping over on their way to recent gold discoveries in the Horsefly river. However, Roper was not successful with his 108 property plans and in 1886 returned to the freight business and sold the 108 Roadhouse property to Charles M. Beak.  Beak, also an Englishman, originally landed in California and found his way to the Cariboo by driving cattle and later sheep north into B.C.  Along the way he met and married a young girl, Marie Johnson of Glencoe, Oregon.  By this time Beak had some financial means and with his new wife was able to purchase the 108 Mile House and get involved in several other local business enterprises. They operated the Roadhouse, ran cattle, dairy cows and shipped a large amount of butter to Barkerville, where there was a substantial market. For a while, he also owned a butcher shop in Barkerville and had a share in other roadhouses along the way, so he was a very busy and energetic fellow. At some stage, perhaps after a tough winter, Beak concluded that the Cariboo was not well suited to raising beef, so by 1878 the Beaks had moved to the Nicola Valley, near Kamloops.  While the exact dates are a little vague, it is about this time that the nefarious illegal activities of Agnus MacVee and her brother-in-law Al Riley were alleged to have taken place, at what was then known as the ‘108 Hotel’. Now that is whole other story!

According to Lac La Hache post office records, William Walker was the owner and operator of the 108 telegraph permit in 1883, and probably bought the 108 earlier. There is not much information on Walker, although he and his wife Emily seem to have been busy entrepreneurs, operating the store, a blacksmith shop, a stock and dairy operation, the telegraph office and acting as an agent caring for horses for Bernard Express. Many have concluded that our Walker Valley was named after this gentleman.

Around 1890, Walker sold out to Stephen Tingley, owner of BC Express Company, for $2500. Tingley, born in New Brunswick, had come to B.C. in 1861 looking for gold, but had no luck. He took a job as a stage coach driver for the Bernard Express and became known as the “Whip of the Cariboo” for driving stage coaches over the then hazardous roads.  Eventually and somehow, he became the sole owner of the express company and later created a barn service in places like the 108 where he could rest, and rotate the horses used to pull the stage coaches. Tingley installed his son Clarence on the 108 property to run the store and act as agent for the company. In 1892 they tore down the Roper roadhouse/hotel and erected a number of new buildings (post office, log barns, bunk house, and blacksmith shop) on the west side of the road next to the 108 Lake. 

In 1903, the property, now 1000 acres, was sold to Captain Geoffrey L. Watson, a wealthy English army officer. Watson discontinued the 108 as a roadhouse and turned it into a ranch where he bred purebred Clydesdale horses and ran cattle.  During the very early 1900s, the impressive Clydesdale Barn was built for Watson as well as the majestic Watson Mansion.  (For more information about the Watson Mansion see question #1.)

Sadly, Captain Watson was killed in the First War and his estate sold his 108 properties to Lord Egerton in 1917.