Contributed by Sherrilyn Jahrig
Catherine O’Hare was the youngest of nine children in a family of flax-weavers living near Rathfriland, County Down, Ireland. As a young girl she survived the potato famine, then an attempted kidnapping, and carried on as a young teen to train as a housemaid. Seeking her fortune in America in 1850, she bid her family farewell, promising to send money back home, then boarded a ship for the long, miserable voyage.
Catherine was hired as domestic help in Springfield, Massachusetts where, in the home’s great library, she was able to foster her passion for literacy and education. In 1855, Catherine met Augustus Schubert, age 29, a carpenter who had immigrated from Dresden, Saxony ten years earlier. They married and moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, where Augustus built a home and tavern near Fort Snelling. Catherine managed the household and bore three children: Augustus II (1855), Mary Jane (1858), and James (1860). The early stages of civil war and conflict between the Sioux people and the U.S. government caused much fear and violence, culminating for the Schuberts in a break-in and attempted kidnapping of James from his crib.
Thinking it wise to flee north, they made short work of the 700 kilometres to Red River Settlement in Rupert’s Land, taking only a few belongings. Despite being robbed of their weapons and supplies along the way, they arrived unharmed. They started up a farm and liquor store only to be submerged to their rooftop by spring flooding, losing almost everything. This forced a relocation across the river from St. Boniface to Fort Garry, present day Winnipeg. Months later, they were robbed of their newly acquired household goods.
JOURNEY OF 1862 TO THE GOLDFIELDS OF BRITISH COLUMBIA
In 1862, London newspapers advertised a two-month, pleasant stagecoach trip ‘via Canada’ to the goldfields of the Cariboo, bypassing the longer route via the Panama Canal or Cape Horn. On arrival by steamboat at Fort Garry, the hundreds of fortune-seekers realized, with no small bitterness, that comfortable transport did not exist. Only a few fur-trading trails remained usable due to high-water. Scores of men stayed in the east or returned home. The actual journey for those remaining took about four months; first a westward struggle in Red River carts across pest-ridden prairies; then a treacherous hike leading horses across the slopes of the Rocky Mountains via Yellowhead Pass. The journey, and many lives, ended with the Fraser and North Thompson river voyages.
Catherine O’Hare-Schubert’s unwavering determination to keep her family of five together resulted in the uncommon allowance of herself and the children, Augustus (6), Mary Jane (4) and Jimmy (2), plus their two farmhands, to join Thomas McMicking’s leading company of 137 men. Catherine was five months pregnant, a secret well-kept until late in the journey. Her husband now had much more at stake to turn his gold-filled dream into a safe reality. Catherine rode her buckskin horse with Gus and Mary Jane behind her in panniers. Augustus and the farmhands managed Jimmy and a four- wheeled wagon pulled by livestock. Camp was made with carts and tents set in triangle formation around the animals. Military-like rules and regiments were quickly established. Wolves, ambushes or raids by warring nations, even fights among the men, were constant threats. Indigenous encounters were few and largely friendly. Goods were traded for food such as mountain sheep, salmon, berry cakes and pemmican.
Through beautiful tall-grass prairie, arduous swampland and daringly engineered river crossings, extremes of weather added to hardships. Briefly stopping at Forts Ellice, Carlton, and Pitt they reached Fort Edmonton on 21 July, exhausted and drenched after eleven straight days of downpour. Warned of dense spruce bog beyond Lac St. Anne they traded most oxen and carts for horses. While 25 men stayed at Edmonton, the rest, spurred on by the ’gold-fever’ suffered the worst terrain of the journey. On 13 August the weather cleared, and the rugged ranges of mountain peaks glistened like clouds on the western horizon. Spirits lifted. They faced icy crossings and a narrow pass but the vertical glory of the Rockies was awe-inspiring.
Catherine, seven months pregnant, had to edge along cliff sides that horses had already fallen over, coaxing her children to crawl on their stomachs at several points. She carried Mary Jane on her back most of the way. Reaching Tete Jaune Cache by September, choices were made about which river to navigate. The Schuberts took the Thompson, others the Fraser to Quesnel. A trail had to be blazed through unguided wilderness to reach the Thompson. Most livestock met their heart-rending end at ‘Slaughter Camp’. Rafts were constructed repeatedly as they broke apart in rapids. Provisions, horses and even men were swept away by currents, some perishing.
It took the Schubert party 40 days of portaging and rafting to reach their destination of Kamloops. Starvation had set in. Potatoes dug from a garden at an abandoned Secwepemc village (stricken by smallpox) and some rosehips found along the riverbank, staved off certain death. Incredibly, when Catherine’s baby could wait no more, they pulled ashore and Secwepemc women helped deliver her fourth baby, Rose Anna, on 14 October. Rose was named after the indispensable survival food, rosehips.
PIONEER LIFE IN THE INTERIOR OF B.C.
As the fort was being rebuilt, the Schuberts overwintered in Kamloops working as carpenter and cook. The next spring, they travelled to Lillooet, the start of the wagon road to Quesnel. While Augustus headed on to the goldfields, Catherine operated the small farm and roadhouse, also starting a school in her home. Augustus returned each winter. In 1867, Catherine hitched up her wagon and moved her family 400 steep and winding kilometers to Quesnel, 11 year old Gus driving three cows ahead of them. In Quesnel, the ratio of miners to gold-strikes was unforgiving. Many were destitute and desperate. After two years of operating a roadhouse in a rowdy town, Catherine returned to Lillooet, bearing two more children, Charles and Nora. Augustus continued to prospect but few lucky stars shone on his efforts. From this point onward, Catherine dedicated her efforts to education, establishing a school in Lillooet. Mary Jane, at age 15, became the first teacher, then married and eventually moved back to Winnipeg.
In 1877, Catherine was delighted to accept the offer to become the new matron of Cache Creek boarding school and teach domestic science. Augustus and his son Augustus II joined fellow Overlander, Alexander Fortune, purchasing and clearing land in the Spallumcheen Valley. In 1883 Catherine and her children joined them on 320 acres at Round Prairie starting up a dairy farm and growing fruit trees. At Catherine’s insistence, Augustus agreed to donate land from their Round Prairie property and build a school. Thomas Leduc, soon to be married to Rose Schubert, was its first teacher. In 1888 the Schuberts acquired 320 acres later known as the Gumboot Ranch where Augustus II built his home. The brothers bought and operated a mail-route stagecoach line. In 1891 James built the Schubert Block in Vernon and was also proprietor of the Vernon Hotel and a furniture store.
In 1902 James bought out the Kirby and Hind General Store and moved it down to Hedley. Here, his large department store and post office burned down in 1914. James was postmaster in Penticton (1905-11) and opened J.A. Schubert’s General Store. Catherine also raised two of her grandchildren, James’ son Bert, and Rose’s daughter Rene (Kathrina) Leduc, when circumstances called upon her loving care. In 1908 Augustus fell from the rafters of his barn and died soon after. During the First World War many of the Schubert grandchildren served overseas including James’ son, Bertram Augustus (killed in the war), and Charles’ son, James Tabor Schubert.
The small but comfortable home bought for Catherine to spend her final years in, is now the Brown Derby Café, Armstrong. Catherine O’Hare Schubert was revered by the community in which she served as a skilled educator, baker and midwife. Catherine passed away peacefully in 1918. In 1926, citizens erected a large granite memorial to her in Armstrong’s Memorial Park.
Catherine and Augustus’s children Augustus II, Mary Jane, James, Rose, Nora, and Charles all married and had children of their own. Mary Jane moved to Winnipeg but died soon afterward from tuberculosis. Charles Tabor Schubert (1870-1936) served as an alderman for the Municipality of Spallumcheen. Augustus II and Mary Elizabeth Fulton married and raised six girls and one son, Augustus III.
Many of the great-grandchildren chose to serve in the Second World War. Lance Corporal Bertram Augustus Frank Schubert (1920-1945) was killed in action during the Italian Campaign. Trevor Earl Schubert (1922-2010) engaged in missions overseas with the RCAF. He married Jean Emeny of Enderby and had three children: Carol (Pat Cooney) living in Armstrong; Marian (John Kinch), Torksey, England; and Ken Schubert (Shelley) of Calgary, Alberta. Trevor later became a key family historian, residing first in Vernon, then Kamloops (1954). Shirley Schubert (b. 1923) trained as a nurse during the war, then married Hugh Ehlers, settling in Salmon Arm. They had three children: Brenda (John Rogers) living in Vancouver; Diane (John Fleming), Coldstream; Glenn Ehlers (Lydia) of Bridge Lake. Shirley continued her work at the hospital until her retirement. Audrey Doreen Schubert (1924-2015) served as an RCAF wireless operator in the war.
Afterward Audrey moved to Montreal and Toronto where she worked as a model and fashion designer; then married Richard Alcock (1927- 2006) and had three children: Patricia Gaye Alcott, living in Vancouver; Sherrilyn Jahrig, Edmonton; and Greg Alcock (Angelica) of North Vancouver. Audrey was dedicated to her full-time work in the radiology department at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver. Norma Beryl Schubert (b. 1931) lived with parents Augustus III and Gladys Emily (Timberlake) Schubert on the farm. Norma married Ralph Tupper and had four children: Lennie Tupper living in Victoria; Bev Levis (Budge Winters), Kelowna; Kathryn Peterson (Larry Cooke), Armstrong; and Randal Peterson, Edmonton, Alberta. Ralph was stationed with the RCAF in Greenwood, Nova Scotia and Cold Lake, Alberta. After Ralph’s passing in 1967, Norma married Harold Peterson and they remained in Vernon. Norma was a beloved worker at a bank in Vernon until her retirement.
Richard and Audrey (Schubert) Alcock raised their three children in Vancouver (Burnaby) B.C. They had a passion for music and the children excelled in performance and competitions. After a prodigious concert career as a young pianist (Patricia) Gaye Alcott taught at Capilano University and studios in Vancouver and Hawaii; beloved by her students and well-recognized as an adjudicator and performer. Gaye’s son James lives in Chilliwack; daughter Melanie in Port Moody; and Natalie’s family live in Penticton, B.C.
Sherrilyn Jahrig has worked as an arts and science director and an astronomy educator, helping to establish some of the first Dark Sky Preserves in Canada including the Beaver Hills (Elk Island) and Jasper Dark Sky Preserves. Sherrilyn’s sons Jordan and Jesse currently make Edmonton, Alberta, their home; and daughter Klara lives on the Mayan coast in Mexico. Greg Leighton Alcock has enjoyed an adventurous career as an accomplished pianist performing around the world; recording and composing. Greg lives with his wife Angelica and son, Brandon, in North Vancouver. There are hundreds of other O’Hare-Schubert descendants all over the globe from Ireland to New Zealand; but many have kept the legacy of a home nestled in the mountains, valleys and farmlands of Canada, especially in B.C. Spectacular natural beauty and wilderness still inspire wonder and the ever-changing cities and towns present bright futures, rendering the first quest for shining gold as rather pale.
Sherrilyn Jahrig, great-great-granddaughter of Catherine O’Hare and Francis Augustus Schubert .