Armstrong-based historian and author Ken Mather is set to release his latest book, Stagecoach North: A History of Barnard’s Express, in May 2020. (Contributed)

Armstrong historian sets record straight about BX in new book

Author Ken Mather to release new title covering tale of Barnard’s Express this month

An Armstrong-based historian and author aims to set the record straight about one of the region’s most successful early businessmen.

In Ken Mather’s latest book, Stagecoach North: A History of Barnard’s Express, the tale of Francis Jones Barnard and his stagecoach line, or simply the BX, unfolds.

Mather’s is no stranger to this topic as he has penned several books on British Columbia’s ranching history — his last book, Trail North: The Okanagan Trail of 1858-68 won second place in the 2019 British Columbia Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Historical Writing.

But Barnard’s story was of particular interest as it has picked up several inaccuracies in its retellings.

“Over the past hundred years, Barnard’s story has been told many times, raising it to the level of myth,” Mather said. “Unfortunately, errors of fact have rendered that myth seriously flawed.”

Barnard’s BX formed a vital transportation link between the Lower Mainland and Cariboo that was widely used for more than 50 years. The Quebec native arrived in the region in 1859 with little resources.

The man is renowned for his achievements in business and politics that contributed to the development of British Columbia as a colony and later a province.

He went on to become an elected member of the legislative council where he lobbied for reform of the British-controlled system of colonial government and played a key role in bringing the colony’s union with Canada in 1871.

Mather said he was first made familiar with the intricacies of Barnard’s story when he was asked to write an article about the BX Ranch, where he raised his stagecoach horses.

While researching the company, Mather noticed several instances in which “the accepted history had no basis in the facts as revealed in the primary documents.”

One example Mather pointed to is the unfounded story of Barnard travelling from Yale to Bakerville and back, a distance of more than 1,200 kilometres, on foot, with the mail on his back.

Mather said there is no evidence in any material from the period to support this claim, yet it is recited again and again in nearly every biography.

Instead, Mather hopes his book — the first full-length history of the BX and its successor, the British Columbia Express Company — will provide a more factual portrayal of the man’s struggles and achievements as an entrepreneur.

Mather’s Stagecoach North: A History of Barnard’s Express is to be released later this month from Heritage House.

READ MORE: COVID-19: Reopened Armstrong parks ‘used responsibly’ over long weekend

READ MORE: North Okanagan author launches new book on Okanagan Trail


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Lake Country mine makes way for industrial project

Council holds a special meeting to rezone property

Water floods Vernon skate park, playground

Polson Park remains closed following Tuesday storms

Lumby man gives back for Canada Day

Food packages given away to those living on the streets in Vernon

Fond farewell to retiring Vernon teachers

Special socially-distant ceremony thanks St. James teachers

Exploring the BX Ranch Trail near Vernon

There’s a new trail in town waiting for you to check out!… Continue reading

‘This year is unlike any other’: Trudeau delivers Canada day address

Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and the Prime Minister release video celebrating the national holiday

Dog rescued from rocky ledge in Summerland

Penticton Search and Rescue members perform high angle rescue

PHOTOS: Dual rallies take over Legislature lawn on Canada Day

Resist Canada 153 highlighted colonization and genocide, Unify the People called COVID a hoax

Gov. General honours Canadians for bravery, volunteer service

Five categories of winners presented on Canada Day

COVID-19: Should non-medical masks be mandatory in Canada?

New poll shows Canadians are divided on the rules around mandatory masks

In photos and video: Colourful Canada Day parade rolls through Sicamous

Patriotic procession allows community to celebrate together while maintaining distance

Northbound lane of Coquihalla closed after vehicle incident near Hope

A northbound lane is closed just north of the Great Bear Snowshed, according to DriveBC

Two rescued from tipped sailboat in Okanagan Lake near Kelowna

The two men were quickly brought to shore by a marine rescue crew

Most Read