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Robert "Bob" Ridley


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Sometimes I come across a guy that just looks interesting,
and I think Mr. Robert Ridley is one of them.
A true Pioneer of the Coast of BC, USA and Mexico.
Mariner, Miner, Trader, Packer, he had done it all.

Because he travelled through where I live,
on the Skeena River, I included him in my history pages.

I accidentally found him, looking for information
on where the name Ridley Island came from.
Bishop Ridley, was credited with that.
But then in the Times Colonist I found 3 or 4 articles
on this guy, that got me hooked.
From those I looked up a few other sources
to complete his story, as best as I can.

Robert "Bob" Ridley

"aka: Old Bob Ridley"
b- Oct 24, 1818 in Bristol England
d- Dec 7, 1898, 9am, at his home on Herald St. in Victoria BC,
age 80, of heart failure.

His funeral was held Dec 9, 1898, at Christ Church Cathedral, Victoria,
and he was buried in Ross Bay Cemetery, Victoria

He left England with 480 other passengers,
and his father as Captain of the ship,
heading to Australia, in 1837.
Instead of staying there, he boarded the ship "Gilbert Anderson"
and sailed to San Francisco.
Their ship was wrecked off shore, May 10, 1838,
but all crew and passengers were able to make it to
a mission which was located where San Francisco is today.

May 10, 1838 he arrived in San Francisco,
or Yerba Buena as it was called then,
when there was only 50 houses there.
His house was number 32 ! 
Imagine 50 houses in San Francisco today!

He then boarded a Spanish ship to the East Indies.
This same ship entered the Opium trade to China.
He left this ship in Singapore, and joined the British Navy.
He sailed on the HMS Dido, an 18 gun Corvette, launched in 1836.
It was built by Symonds, and launched at Pembroke.
It was Captained by Sir Henry Keppel.
Robert Ridley was present when the British Men-of-War issued
their famous declaration of war on China.
He fought on this ship in the Anglo-Chinese War, aka Opium War with China.
The British were trying to force China to open its ports to the western world.
HMS Dido went into the Borneo-Malaysian waters, to suppress Piracy there.
At Sarawak, they joined Sir James Brook, an Englishman,
to fight piracy, where Sir James Brooke K.C.B.
became the First White, Rajah of Sarawak VI,
The HMS Dido returned to Singapore,
where he got his discharge, and he returned to California in 1840.
He operated his own schooner along the California
and Mexico Coast, doing trading, and transporting goods.
He even ran pack trains to interior points delivering goods.
He learned the waters, and interior routes from this business.
He was then hired by the US Government to guide troops
to Las Pas Mexico.  The New York Volunteers, were
involved with the war with Mexico at this point.
He was also used as a Pilot in the US Navy.
Making his way back through Mexico, he married,
and they both returned to San Francisco.
Soon gold was discovered on the Sacramento River,
and this started the gold frenzy.
After hearing the news away he went up the river.
He hunted gold for 10 years all over the State of California 
Hearing of the gold find in the Fraser River,
he headed north to BC.
He arrived in Victoria on Aug 2, 1858
He brought his wife with him at this point.
He made and lost fortunes along the way.
He returned to Victoria from the Fraser River, and in 1861
organized an expedition to the headwaters of the Fraser.
With him, 3 (one article says 4) ex sailor partners with him.
They hired 20 canoes, with Natives to paddle them.
After many accidents and disasters,
they reached their destination, with only 2 canoes.
Running short of provisions, he had to return back to Victoria.

In 1862 he went to the Cariboo country,
and in 1863 he operated a pack train
from Victoria to the Leach River.

1868- Address shown as Pandora St., Victoria

1869- Address shown as Fisgard St, Victoria

In 1871 he got gold fever again,
and joined the rush to the Omineca Country.
I found an article dates Jan 1870, showing
Bob Ridley Co. had got into good pay on Antler Creek
Same article talked about Billy Barker of Barkerville fame.

He went up the Skeena, to the rich mines around Manson Creek.
Here he traded and mined and did very well.

Fall of 1872 Ridley left the headwaters of the Skeena,
with a canoe full of gold, valuable furs and personal gear.
He also had a note listing names of miners
that went into the same area, in Sept 1872, but never came out.
It was assumed they all had died.
Ridley's group left Skeena Forks (
Old Hazelton) Oct 25, 1872,
and about 12 miles from the Forks,
they put into an Eddy to avoid bad water.
This would have been around Kitsequecla Canyon.
The Canoe Swung around and knocked its stem off.
Two of the men, Ridley and Breen made it to shore,
and five (six?) men jumped into the water.
The canoe flipped and Edward Tailor was gone.
Ridley passed a canoe handle to John Neal,
and he used this to save himself.
McCaffrey, Jackson and Collins, three of the men in the water,
managed to get on the bottom of the canoe
which was then taken downstream.
Downey swam down the river, but soon sunk.
Coming down the river the canoe upset,
and he lost the entire load, including the note.
Amazing enough the note was found later, and returned to him,
which he brought down to Victoria with him.
8 men were in the canoe, and 3 died.
2 men drowned, and the 3rd Mr. Collins, died of exhaustion and exposure.
The 3rd man was one of 3 that hung on to the canoe for 2 1/2 miles.

Three Deceased Oct 25, 1872 were:
 Edward Tailor, age 36, of Ohio, USA
(Faler, Failer in newspapers)
Michael Collins, age 36, of Ireland,
 (papers said his first name was John)
and William R. Downey, age 34, of Olympia, WA., USA

The Five Miners that survived:
Robert "Bob" Ridley
James Brinn (Breen?)(Braan?),
 James Jackson,
John Neal (Neil?)
James MacCafferty (McCaffrey?)(McCaffry?)

They made their way down river, with virtually no clothes on.
Now this was no short distance, approx 130 miles,
no railroad to follow, or roads as we know them today.
And they had nothing.  And this was October.  These guys were tough!

They arrived at Port Essington, and were taken in and cared for there,
by an old friend Morris Moss, and other old friends and miners he knew.
McCaffrey barely survived.
Collins body was taken back to the Forks,
and buried there by the miners.
Their loss was estimated to be $5000
They lost an estimated 250 oz of gold, over $270,000 today.
Mar 28, 1873 it was rumoured the blankets
and gold dust was found.  They offered $100 reward for it.

The kindness of William Patrick "Billy" Farron,
 John Mitchell,
William Henry Woodcock,
Morris Moss and "Dancing Bill" helped them out.
Mr. Woodcock clothed the men, and kept the party
at Port Essington at no charge.
They were allowed to leave to Victoria by the steamer Otter
with the kindness of Captain Lewis.
Over $150,000.00 in gold, came down to Victoria on the Otter that trip.
He and the other 4, arrived home penniless.

He settled down finally in Victoria, giving up mining and prospecting.
He worked on the Government Dredger in the harbour, for a time.

1887 shown as a labourer, Chatham St.
Mrs. Robert Ridley shown on Chatham St, above Gov't St.

He went to work for Joseph Spratt at the Albion Iron Works in Victoria,
until Mr. Spratt died, Jan 12,1888 in San Jose CA. age 55.
Spratt was a machinist / engineer, born in 1834 in London England
he started "Albion Iron Works" in Victoria, May 4, 1863
Couple of other sources say 1861, but I think 1863 is the date.
After Spratt died, his company merged,
and name changed to "Victoria Machinery Depot".

1889 and 1890- shown as a Labourer, Res: 47 Chatham St.

1891- shown Sail Making, Res: 47 Chatham St.

He was appointed caretaker of the Pioneer Hall, (Pioneer Society)
at 28 Broad St, in Victoria, which became his last job.

1892 and 1894- shown as Janitor of the Pioneer Hall, Res: 51 Chatham

1895- shown as Caretaker of the Pioneer Hall, Res: 51 Chatham.

A few weeks before he died he was sent to the
Jubilee Hospital, where he was expected to die,
but he survived, and was returned home,
where he died a few weeks later,
while his wife prepared him breakfast.

He was a Charter Member of the Pioneer Society in Victoria.

He kept a scrapbook of his life,
now that would be neat to see!
The Scrapbook would be 150 years old+ now.
Where did it end up?

His wife came to Victoria in 1858 with him.

He married Christina "Christine" Pasquala Saes,
alt-Pasquilla Sayes,
alt- Pascua Sayes
alt- Pasqulita Ridley
alt- unreadable? P. Seyes, marriage reg of daughter
alt- Christina Ridley ( in 1881 census, age 43)
Married in Peru in one article, and in Mexico, per article transcribed above.
Last article I found says she was Castilian, who emigrated to Peru.
b- ca 1834 in Chile (age 69 in 1891 census)
d- May 9, 1900 in Jubilee Hospital in Victoria, age 66
buried in Ross Bay Cemetery in Victoria BC
both her parents born in Chile per 1891 census

they had a daughter Mrs. C. H. Smith, of Montana
She was telegraphed and came to Victoria to handle the arrangements
of her mothers death.

They had 3 daughters:

daughter- Mary Amelia Ridley
b- ca 1855, in Eureka, MO, USA,  (age 19 in 1874 when she married)
d- bef Nov 1877
married August Reiss, age 26, born in Cröff, Prussia (Germany)
married Aug 15, 1874 in Victoria BC
occupation= Porter.
son of Peter Reis and Maria "Mary" Schötter
They had a son Charles August Reiss,
b- bef Nov 1877, Victoria

daughter- Martha Ridley
b- ca 1860, in Victoria BC, age 17 when married
baptized in Victoria BC
married August Reis, age 29, her sister's widow, born in Cröff, Prussia (Germany)
married Nov 3, 1877 in Victoria BC
occupation= Porter.
son of Peter Reis and Maria "Mary" Schötter
August Reiss committed suicide in Butte Montana ca mar 1882
he was a Porter in the Janion & Rhodes Warehouse in Butte.

daughter- Charlotte Ridley
b- baptized in Victoria
I would assume she married C. H. Smith as shown above
and lived somewhere in Montana

Bios / Genealogy, from Men listed above

Dancing Bill
His real name was
Thomas Latham
b- ca 1817/18 in Rhode Island
d- Oct 1880, age 62-63 on his way up from Deloue river, Cassiar.
"he died of sheer exhaustion and a broken down constitution"
per a fellow from Wrangel at that time.
He was with another miner, Ned Bray, when he died.
His last words, "He did not mind dying
but regretted that he could not outlive Black Jack" his old partner.
Dancing Bill was another legendary BC Miner
Came to BC in 1858, same as Ridley
He also went up the Fraser in 158, and the then on to the Cariboo.
He had a claim at Quesnel with "Black Jack" another well known miner in 1859.
Dancing Bill appeared again at
Thibert Creek
during the Cassiar rush.
Dancing Bill was packing between
Telegraph Creek and
the head of Dease lake for about a year.
Then he went mining in the Dease and
McDame area.
1873 he was wintering his pack train
and the animals belonging to the Hudson Bay at Kitwanga.
He wintered in Wrangel, where he kept a dance hall.
Strange, but he didn't get his nickname from that.
He was given the name right from a boy.
He loved to dance especially tap dance.
He was a wagon-maker/ wheelwright by trade.
He ran away from home, with a circus as a boy.
He ended up in California with a partner and a pack Train.
His partner was killed by Indians, and they stole his pack train.
Those that knew him, bought him another train
and away he went again.
Again he lost this pack train through misfortune.
He wasn't known to  fight or cause any trouble.
He had a brother George Latham,
who worked on a ship around Africa at one point,
but lived in California, or on the Coast somewhere,
when Dancing Bill died.

William Patrick "Billy" Farron
b- ca 1838, Ireland
d- bef July 1, 1877, drowned after falling from the steamer Grappler
while he was returning to his diggings.
He had a rich gold mine on Williams Creek at one point.
Occupation shown as Sea Captain when his daughter married
he was also a saloon keeper.

He was in partnership with John Mitchell
under the name Farron & Mitchell,
at the Skeena Forks (Hazelton), until Apr 14, 1873

In May 1874 he was in partnership with a Mr. Walsh
at the forks.  Only 2 stores there at that time.
Cunningham & Hankin, and Farron & Walsh

married Anastasia "Anna, Annie" Frances Murray from Victoria.
b- 1848 in Ireland
d- 1921
they had a daughter Margaret Louisa Farron,
 b- Victoria
She was a piano teacher when she married
she married Henry Edward Redmond Hamilton,
married  June 1, 1915, in Vancouver BC

son- Thomas George Farron,
b- 1870, Victoria baptized Nov 9, 1870
d- Dec 8, 1905, in Vancouver, BC,  age 34

John Mitchell
b- ca 1838-41 in England,
age 53 in 1891, age 40 in 1881 census

1870 he prospected on the Skeena for many months
with little success.

He was in partnership with Billy Farron
under the Company name "Farron & Mitchell",
at the Skeena Forks (
Old Hazelton), until Apr 14, 1873

Sept 1872 their company was doing business in "Old" Hazelton
At that time there was 10 large stores and houses,
besides some small dwelling houses.
They sold Clothing, Groceries, Provisions,
and Complete Outfits, for the Omineca miner.

They advertized free canoe service from the
mouth of the Skeena to Skeena Forks.
They offered Pack Train service for goods forwarded inland.
In Mar 1872 they had 20,000 lbs of bacon for sale at the Forks.

July 1871 they were General Traders, offering a large fireproof cellar
to store perishable provisions.
Their ad claimed they had the only storehouse on the river.


Morris Moss
b- May 31, 1842, London England
He came from a well to do, Jewish family in London.
d- May 1896 in Denver CO. in one source,
d- Apr 10, 1897, in San Francisco, USA, age 48, per San Fran paper

Mar 1877, his partnership with Charles T. Millard in Glenora,
in the firm of Millard & Moss was dissolved.
Morris Moss continued his business in Glenora,
 under just his name.
He found the Hebrew Mine near Bella Bella.
He was a member of the Pioneer Society,
and the Hebrew Congregation in Victoria.
Apr 1893 he was seen in Denver Colorado,
after disappearing in Victoria.
He was confronted in Denver, and claimed he was a different person.
He was known as a Victoria Capitalist, and he just disappeared.
June 25, 1892 he left, never to return.
Private investigators went looking for him.
He had a wealthy brother in Australia at the time
and there was rumours he went there.
Aug 1898, there is an advertisement for claims to his Estate.
J. Stuart Yates was the administrator.
Morris Moss owned the schooner "Mary Ellen"
It sunk on a sealing trip, July 28, 1890,
under Captain Daniel McLean.
It left San Francisco Dec 27, 1889.
Morris Moss was a well known seal fur buyer in Victoria.
link below to his bio
He was married to Hattie Bornstein, in Mar, 1883 in San Francisco.
b- June 16, 1858 in Germany per 1901 census
b- 1863 in Victoria in other sources
age 22 when she married, makes her born in 1861?
d- 1911 in Vancouver BC
Immigrated in 1870 per 1901 census
she was the daughter of Herman Bornstein.
b- Apr 1824 in Germany
Immigrated in 1876
retired Merchant in Victoria in 1901
and Bertha Bornstein
b- Feb 1827 in Germany
He was another Victoria fur Trader
with interests in San Francisco.
The Bornsteins were a Pioneer Jewish family in Victoria,
who came from California.
Morris and Hattie had a son, Alexander Moss,
b- Sept 19, 1884 in Victoria, BC.
d- Feb 26, 1968 in Vancouver General Hospital, Vancouver BC, age 83
He died a bachelor
They had a daughter Annie Moss who died shortly after birth.


Nehemiah T. Smith
aka: "Black Jack"
b- ca 1818 in a small town in Maryland USA (age 62 in 1880)
d- aft 1883, probably in Victoria BC

As a young boy he moved, with his family to Ohio.

His mother died when he was 12,
and his father remarried.
He didn't like his new mother,

so at age 14, he left to go to sea.

In 1858 he heard of the gold rush on the Fraser,
and left the sea to go mining.

He met his buddy Dancing Bill at Lillooet in 1859.
They mined a claim and made $3500 together.

in 1860 he went to Keithley Creek with Dancing Bill.
Here they made over $10,000 in one year.

After this he mined with Dancing Bill and 3 other miners
at Nelson Creek, where they made $16,000 in 6 weeks.

He had a claim at Quesnel with "Dancing Bill", shown above.

He owned the Black Jack Hill Mine.

Imagine Black Jack Gulch in the Omineca was named after this man.

In 1880- Black Jack Mine near Barkerville yielded $21 per ton in gold.

Black Jack estimated he made $70,000 in his career mining.
but only spent around $1600 of it.
The rest he loaned to miners, and never got it back,
or lost it in other ways.

He split up with Dancing Bill over a woman.
Dancing Bill went to the Columbia River,
and Black Jack went to Williams Creek.
There he mined and made $1,000 a ft in digging.

Nov 1880 he was in a hospital in Victoria
suffering from
Sydenham's chorea or chorea minor,
or Saint Vitus Dance, back then.
A disorder with jerking movements.

EXT Links
Found this link after I did the story above,
so it appears there is a living relative of this man.
I read they found some of the same stories I found.

Now this link has a story on a Bob Ridley in early San Francisco
that is possibly this Bob Ridley, or not.
will let you read it and decide.

I have found other books on this Ridley, but as it turns out
I read in one of the books, this guy died age 32 at Mission Dolores
so now it appears we have 2 Bob Ridley`s in early San Francisco.
None of the articles above said this Riley owned a saloon etc.

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