The Pathfinder

A.C. Anderson’s Journeys in the West

ISBN 9781926936826
Softcover | Publication Date: November 10, 2011
Book Dimensions: 6 in x 9 in
240 Pages

About the Book

Fifteen years before the 1858 Fraser River gold rush, a Hudson’s Bay Company clerk named Alexander Caulfield Anderson threaded his way through mountain passes and down rapids-filled rivers in search of a safe all-British route through the mountains that separated the HBC fort at Kamloops from Fort Langley on the Pacific coast. Eventually, Anderson discovered four routes, succeeding where Alexander Mackenzie and Simon Fraser before him had failed. Without his explorations, historian Derek Pethick once wrote, British Columbia may never have come into being or become a part of the Dominion of Canada.

For Anderson, the cross-country expeditions he undertook were welcome antidotes to a fur-trade life that wasn’t quite what he’d expected it to be. By the time he joined, in 1831, the fur trade was in fact a tightly controlled business that was very different from the adventurous trade that had inspired him. But though he may not have had his dream life, his spirit of adventure kept him going. As explorer, map-maker, artist and writer, he created a wealth of information to guide those of his time and far beyond, and his work—first in the fur trade, then in the communities in which he lived, and finally as Fisheries Inspector and Indian Reserve Commissioner for British Columbia—was always aimed at improving the future of the people he lived among.

About the Author(s)

Nancy Marguerite Anderson studied art, sailed the west coast, worked for the government, managed and owned a delicatessen and sold products for a natural-health company before discovering her love for writing and researching. As a descendent of fur traders who worked for the North West Company and the later Hudson's Bay Company, she is especially interested in discovering the stories of her heritage. Anderson has dedicated many years to writing this book about her great-grandfather, the fur trader and explorer Alexander Caulfield Anderson. She is descended from A.C. Anderson through his youngest son, Arthur Beattie Anderson, born in 1864. Anderson lives in Victoria, BC.


“A.C. Anderson was truly a maker of British Columbia. This well-researched, highly readable account of his remarkable, multi-faceted career as fur trader, explorer, civil servant and pioneer settler of Vancouver Island will help to give him the recognition he deserves. This book is a 'must read' for anyone interested in the fascinating history of the Pacific North West in the 19th century.” —Sylvia Van Kirk, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto, fur-trade historian and author of Many Tender Ties: Women in Fur Trade Society, 1670-1870
“A biography of Alexander Caulfield Anderson has been needed for many years. In The Pathfinder, Nancy Anderson deftly reconstructs the main stages and episodes of her ancestor's important career as fur trader, explorer, trail-maker, customs and fisheries officer, farmer, Indian Reserve commissioner, cartographer, scholar and historian. This engrossing biography of A.C. Anderson is what we've been waiting for.” —Richard Somerset Mackie, author of Trading Beyond the Mountains and Mountain Timber
“Nancy Anderson has plumbed the archives on two continents to produce a meticulously researched, unflinching account of A.C. Anderson. His life, and this book, open a window onto the Pacific Northwest’s restless transition from fur trade fiefdom into the place we know today.” —Jack Nisbet, author of Sources of the River and The Collector: David Douglas and the Natural History of the Northwest
“A long-overdue comprehensive account of one of British Columbia’s pioneering but often overlooked explorers, a mapmaker par excellence, who in his time probably knew more about the geography of British Columbia than any other.” —Derek Hayes, author of Historical Atlas of the North American Railroad
“He [A.C. Anderson] has a rightful place in our history books for all of the work he did for the company, the colony and the province. His knowledge of B.C. geography was probably unsurpassed in his day, and he worked hard to share that information with others. Nancy Marguerite Anderson's The Pathfinder helps us to remember all that he accomplished on our behalf.” —Dave Obee, Times Colonist
“Nancy Anderson and Heritage House publishers of Canada have done A.C. proud with their book . . . It’s a fully-realized biography that erases all boundaries of politics, economics, and race as it follows one wiry, active, keenly intelligent man across a landscape that was changing under his feet.” —Jack Nisbet, North Columbia Monthly