“We would like to thank the town of Ashcroft for displaying and taking care of Sam McDonald’s wagon,” a family of his descendants recently wrote to the Ashcroft Museum. “It is a great part of a history which we are proud of. Sam was born Nov. 11, 1827 and died Feb. 8, 1908 at Nicomen Island, where the family farm is. He had one son, William, born Oct. 1, 1863 and died June 15, 1932. William had five children. He was also known as ‘Billy McDonald.
We would also like to thank the museum staff, Kathy and Regan, for their help and information – you made our day!!”
The wagon’s history after leaving its owner’s employment is recorded in “Out of the Sagebrush,” a publication issued by the Village of Ashcroft many years ago: Standing like an old warrior at the entrance to the bridge into Ashcroft, this heavy freight wagon is a fitting symbol of the town’s earliest history, and that of the vast area of the Cariboo to the North. Sam McDonald’s outfit was one of the earliest on the Cariboo Wagon Road to Barkerville in the early 1860s, and carried its last freight in the fall of 1895. From that time on the wagon was parked behind a blacksmith’s shop. While exposure to the weather took its toll, and some parts disappeared, it was not beyond repair, and in the 1920s a new lease on life was in sight as the Ashcroft Journal spearheaded a drive to raise both an interest in our history and money to build a protective shed over the old wagon. This was finally accomplished by people who cared and eventually wagon and shed were settled into present location. In 1979, an application of T.L.C. by blacksmith Don Bundus brought Sam McDonald’s veteran freighter to its present state of respectability – very reasonable for its 120 odd years. R.D. Cumming, editor of The Ashcroft Journal was to a large extent responsible for the preservation of this tangible reminder of a past era, as he was for so much of the town’s earliest records and artifacts. R.D was a many-sided man who, besides being an editor (among other things) wrote and had published both fiction and poetry.
The wagon was moved to it’s present location in the 1990’s. Refurbishing done by Dan Boss of the Historic Hat Creek Ranch.
Museum hours are 9 am – 5 pm weekdays, and noon – 8 pm weekends until Sept. 18. The Museum closes for the season Oct. 28.