One of the more colorful stories of this regions’s past happened in 1862 in the “Grand Canyon of the Fraser” up river of Prince George. The story differs slightly depending on the source but the theme of “Cannibalism” is in all of them.
In the year spring of 1862 five men started a journey from London, Ontario to the goldfields of Barkerville in hopes of striking it rich! The group consisted of three brothers with the last name Rennie and two others named Helstone and Wright. Their journey had been going according to plan as they made their way across the country. The arrived in Tete Jaune Cache in the October and bought two canoes to make the trip down the Fraser River to Ft George and then off to Quesnel and then Barkerville.
They paddled the relatively easy flowing Fraser River until they got to the infamous “Grand Canyon”. Seeing the start of an impressive canyon and rapids they decided to lash their two canoes together for extra security. They ventured downriver but it quickly became apparent that their lashed canoes were no match for the raging and turbulent waters of the canyon. They swamped the canoes near the bottom of the first canyon and ended up on a island/bar in the middle of the river.
This is where the stories differ but this is the version I believe to be true. Only two of the men could swim (two of the Rennie Brothers) so they swam across the river and started making their 28 day trek to Fort George. Meanwhile the other three were stranded with no food and it didn’t take long before they turned on each other and specifically the lone “Rennie” brother as Helstone and Wright killed the Rennie brother and were seen by local first nations ( who had come to help them) eating everything but the legs of Rennie. The First Nations attempted to help the remaining two but they pulled their revolvers and scared the off. In the spring the local First Nations returned to find that the second man had been killed and eaten. The third man was found to have died but had not been eaten and that is the story of “Cannibal Island”.
On our “Ghost Towns of the East Line” tour we jet boat past the infamous island and always on the lookout for a bone or two that might be buried in the gravel! We will be doing this tour again on May 11, 2019!