Jacko The Apeman
On 4 July 1884 an article entitled ‘What Is It? A Strange Creature Captured Above Yale’ was published in the Victoria Daily Colonist. The article reproduced below detailed the capture of an apeman they called Jacko during the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway rail through Fraser Canyon which began in the 1880s and consists of around thirty tunnels.
WHAT IS IT?
A STRANGE CREATURE CAPTURED ABOVE YALE
A British Columbia Gorilla
(Correspondence of The Colonist)
Yale, B.C. , July 3rd , 1882 . ( stet)
In the immediate vicinity of No. 4 tunnel situated some twenty miles above this village, are bluffs of rock which have hither to been unsurmountable, but on Monday morning last were, successfully scaled by Mr. Onderdonk’s* employees on the regular train from Lytton. Assisted by Mr. Costerton, the British Columbia Express Company’s messenger, and a number of gentlemen from Lytton and points east of that place, who, after considerable trouble and perilous climbing, succeeded in capturing a creature which may truly be called half man and half beast. “Jacko,” as the creature has been called by his capturers, is something of the gorilla type standing about four feet seven inches in height and weighing 127 pounds. He has long, black, strong hair and resembles a human being with one exception, his entire body, excepting his hands, (or paws) and feet are covered with glossy hair about one inch long. His forearm is much longer than a man’s forearm, and he possesses extraordinary strength, as he will take hold of a stick and break it by wrenching or twisting it, which no man living could ‘break in the same way. Since his capture he is very reticent, only occasionally uttering a noise which is half bark and half growl. He is, however, becoming daily more attached to his keeper, Mr. George Tilbury, of this place, who proposes shortly starting for London, England, to exhibit him. His favorite food so far is berries, and he drinks fresh milk with evident relish. By advice of Dr. Hannington raw meats have been withheld from Jacko, as the doctor thinks it would have a tendency to make him savage. The mode of capture was as follows: Ned Austin, the engineer, on coming in sight of the bluff at the eastern end of No. 4 tunnel saw what he supposed to be a man lying asleep in close proximity to the track, and as quick as thought blew the signal to apply the brakes. The brakes were instantly applied, and in a few seconds the train was brought to a standstill. At this moment the supposed man sprang up, and uttering a sharp quick bark began to climb the steep bluff. Conductor R.J. Craig and Express Messenger Costerton, followed by the baggageman and brakemen, jumped from the train and knowing they were some twenty minutes ahead of time immediately gave chase. After five minutes of perilous climbing the then supposed demented Indian was corralled on a projecting shelf of rock where he could neither ascend or descend. The query now was how to capture him alive, which was quickly decided by Mr. Craig, who crawled on his hands and knees until he was about forty feet above the creature. Taking a small piece of loose, rock he let it fall and it had the desired effect of rendering poor Jacko incapable of resistance for a time at least. The bell rope was then brought up and Jacko was now lowered to terra firma. After firmly binding him and placing him in the baggage car “off brakes” was sounded and the train started for Yale. At the station a large crowd who had heard of the capture by telephone from Spuzzum Flat were assembled, each one anxious to have, the first look at the monstrosity, but they were disappointed, as Jacko had been taken off at the machine shops and placed in charge of his present keeper.
The question naturally arises, how came the creature where it was first seen by Mr.. Austin? From bruises about its head and body, and apparent soreness since its cap-ture, it is supposed that Jacko ventured too near the edge of the bluff, slipped, fell and lay where found until the sound of the rushing train aroused him. Mr. Thos. White and Mr. Gouin, C.E., as well as Mr. Major, who kept a small store about a half a mile west of the tunnel during the past two years, have mentioned having seen a curious creature at different points between Camps 13 and 17, but no attention was paid to their remarks as people came to the conclusion that they had either seen a bear or stray Indian dog. Who can unravel the mystery that now surrounds Jacko? Does he belong to a species ‘hitherto unknown in this part of the continent, or is he really what the train men first thought he was, a crazy Indian?
The article was reprinted in The Columbian on 5 July. Before that final question in the article could be answered, Jacko disappeared. There are statements from people in Yale that remembered the excitement around the ape being captured but further articles cast doubt on the episode and make it sound more like a hoax.
The “WHAT IS IT” Is the subject of conversation in town this evening. How the story originated, and by whom, it is hard for one to conjecture. Absurdity is written on the face of it. The fact of the matter is, that no such animal was caught, and how the “Colonist” was duped in such a manner and by such a story, is strange; and stranger still, when the “Columbian” reproduced it in that paper. The “train” of circumstances connected with the discovery of “Jacko” and the disposal of the same was and still is, a mystery. Yale, B.C. July 7, 1884. [Mainland Guardian, New Westminster, Britsig Columbia, 9 July 1884]
The captured ape generated much interest and on 12 July the Columbian reported that the Wildman had been moved the gaol and was available for people to see. Two hundred visited the Skookum house begging admission but “The only wild man visible was Mr: Moresby, governor of the gaol, who completely exhausted his patience answering enquiries from the sold visitors.”
* Andrew Onderdonk (30 August 1848 – 21 June 1905) construction contractor.