was something for every member of the family at Cottonwood House
on Fathers’ Day.
The historic roadhouse hosted two demonstrations
from the Royal Engineers Living History Group as well as showing
off their traditional displays.
Mrs. Mary McMurphy, also known as Sandee
MacKinnon, walked spectators through the extremely involved
process of dressing a lady in 1860.
McMurphy dressed an obliging Kayla Plamondon in
split drawers, chemise, corset, under-petticoat, hoop skirt,
over-petticoat, dress, gloves, bonnet and of course, reticule,
which some observers might recognize as a purse.
Plamondon actually got off easy, considering that
McMurphy told the gathered crowd a woman of that era might
actually wear up to 12 layers of petticoats under their dress, in
pursuit of the much-coveted bell shape.
All of the clothing was sewn by McMurphy herself,
who estimated a single dress, not including undergarments,
required more than 30 hours of work.
Following her demonstration, guests took some time
to enjoy the first Cottonwood House wagon rides of the season as
well as a quick meal and some games of croquet.
After lunch, Serjeant Jock McMurphy of the Royal
Engineers, also known as Todd Birch, produced a dozen different
firearms that would have been seen in the Cariboo between 1858 and
“I have shot every one of these,” McMurphy told
his rapt audience.
“In fact, the last three game animals I shot, a
moose and two black bears, were with period pieces.”
McMurphy’s demonstration followed both local
history and the evolution of firearms, as ever-improving weapons
found their way to the Cariboo in the hands of American miners,
British soldiers and the Overlanders.
“Anyone who arrived here during that period would
be armed to the teeth,” McMurphy said.
The original Jock McMurphy was a heavily decorated
veteran of several British colonial conflicts before arriving in
the Cariboo with the Columbia Detachment of the Royal Engineers.
“They were tasked with building the infrastructure
of the colony: bridges, roads, canals and so forth. They
left their boot-tracks just about everywhere.”