Alexander Caulfield Anderson

Alexander Caulfield Anderson was born to Robert Anderson and Eliza Charlotte Simpson in India on March 10, 1814. He was raised in Essex, England before joining the Hudson’s Bay company in March 1831 with his brother James and sailing to Canada. He remained with the HBC from 1832 to 1854 where he worked for Peter Skene Ogden, was appointed to numerous forts in New Caledonia and what is now Washington State. In 1837 he married Eliza Birnie, daughter of an HBC clerk, with whom he had 13 children. He was based at Fort Alexandria on the Fraser River from 1841-1848 and from there led three expeditions to explore trade routes from Kamloops to Fort Langley. These expeditions, with the assistance of a Native guide “Blackeye”, resulted in the path via the Coquihalla and Tulameen rivers that was used as the brigade trail from 1849 to 1860. He had the charge of Fort Colville until 1851 when he was stationed at Fort Vancouver. He retired from the HBC on 1 June 1854, age 40, to Clamath Washington near his wife’s family.

At the start of the gold rush in 1858 Douglas requested that he modify this HBC brigade trail for use by the miners and it became known as the “Douglas Trail”. He then moved to Victoria Vancouver Island where he became the first Collector of Customs. His dealings in Victoria include part owner of Victoria Steam and Navigation Company, and Dominion inspector of fisheries for BC. In 1876 Anderson was the first commissioner appointed to the Joint Indian Reserve Commission representing the Dominion Government along with Archibald McKinlay and Gilbert M. Sproat. In each meeting with Native leaders he would deliver the address from the Dominion government. He was involved, with McKinlay and Sproat in the negotiating the dissolution of a Secwepemc/Okanagan Confederacy in 1877 which possibly prevented a war in the interior. He completed two circuits with the JIRC before disagreements between the provincial and Dominion governments and budget concerns saw the commission reduced to Sproat as a single commissioner in early 1878. He shared many of the same sentiments as Sproat and was frustrated the by province’s attempts to impede the commission and impose a settler-supportive agenda.

Anderson had numerous publications as an author on BC topics, some of his publications include a guide for gold-miners in 1858 Hand-book and map to the gold region of Frazer’s and Thompson’s rivers; an award winning essay in 1871 “The dominion at the west; a brief description of the province of British Columbia”; A brief account of the province of British Columbia, its climate and resources; an appendix to the British Columbia directory, 1882–83; and he contributed a manuscript to Hubert Howe Bancroft’s History of British Columbia titled “History of the northwest coast.” Bancroft considered him to be the “most scholarly” in all the HBC. He died May 8, 1884 in Saanich BC. Anderson Lake, Anderson River and Anderson Island in Puget Sound Anderson were named after him.


  1. Bancroft, H. H. History of British Columbia, 1792–1887. San Francisco, 1887.
  2. Creech, E.P. “Similkameen trails, 1846–61,” BCHQ, 5 (1941): pp 256–62.
  3. Fisher, Robin. “An exercise in futility: the joint commission on Indian land in British Columbia, 1875-1880,” CHA, Hist. Papers, 1975: pp 79–94.
  4. Goodfellow, J. C. “Fur and gold in Similkameen,” BCHQ, 2 (1938): pp 72–76.
  5. Harris, Cole. Making Native Space. UBC Press: Vancouver, 2002.
  6. Hatfield. H. R. “On the brigade trail,” Beaver, outfit 305 (summer 1974): pp 38–43.
  7. Lamb, Kaye W. “Alexander Caulfield Anderson” Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. University of Toronto, Universite Laval.