Mount Robson

Feature Type:Mount - Variation of Mountain: Mass of land prominently elevated above the surrounding terrain, bounded by steep slopes and rising to a summit and/or peaks. ["Mount" preceding the name usually indicates that the feature is named after a person.]
Status:
Name Authority: BC Geographical Names Office
Relative Location: S side of Berg Lake at the N end of Mount Robson Provincial Park, N of Valemount, Cariboo Land District
Latitude-Longitude: 53°06'38''N, 119°09'23''W at the approximate centre of this feature.
Datum: NAD83
NTS Map: 83E/3

Origin Notes and History:

Adopted 2 April 1912 as submitted 22 January 1912 by Burlington Northern Railway Company; a long-established name (Ottawa file OBF 0238).

Source: BC place name cards, or correspondence to/from BC's Chief Geographer or BC Geographical Names Office

This is the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies, and the 2nd highest mountain ENTIRELY within BC, after Mount Waddington. Elevation identified as 13,068 feet on A.O. Wheeler's 1911 map "Mount Robson & Vicinity," published in CAJ vol IV, 1912. Elevation identified as 13,068 feet in James White's "Altitudes in Canada," Ottawa, 1915, p 527. Elevation identified as 12,972 feet by BC-Alberta Boundary Commission, August 1924 (boundary atlas sheet # 32) Elevation identified as 3954 metres, or 12,973 feet on "Peakfinder" website (June 2005) http://www.peakfinder.com/

Source: BC place name cards, or correspondence to/from BC's Chief Geographer or BC Geographical Names Office

First ascent credited to W.W. Foster and A.H. MacCarthy, guided by Conrad Kain, 31 July 1913 (see Kain's description in Canadian Alpine Journal vol VI, 1914-15, pp.19-28). Four years earlier, in August 1909, Rev. George Kinney and Donald "Curlie" Phillips" had reached the cornices along the crest of the peak, but "...In the absence of conclusive proof, mountain historians have debated if the peak was really climbed to the absolute summit on this date. Over the next four years, there were several other attempts, but it wasn't until the official Alpine Club of Canada camp of 1913 that the peak was climbed for certain." (www.bivouac.com)

Source: BC place name cards, or correspondence to/from BC's Chief Geographer or BC Geographical Names Office

"It is interesting to note that in a paper read before the Royal Society of Canada by Dr. G.M. Dawson**, the following paragraph occurs: '...The Kamloops Indians affirm that the very highest mountain they know is on the north side of the valley of Tête-Jaune Cache, about ten miles from the valley. This is named Yuh-hai-has-kun, from the appearance of a spiral road running up it...' The mountain referred to is undoubtedly Robson Peak, as it is only 15 miles north from the valley at Tête-Jaune Cache. The spiral road is probably an Indian's imperfect description of the horizontal lines on the face of the mountain." (James McEvoy's 1899 report to Geological Survey of Canada, excerpted in Canadian Alpine Journal, Vol IV, 1912, p.2). [** Dawson's paper was published in Transactions, Royal Society of Canada, Vol IX, Sec II, Ottawa, 1891.]

Source: included with note

"As far as I have always heard, the origin of the name given to Mount Robson was as follows: Years before the Hudson's Bay Company and the Nor'West Company joined (1821), it was the custom for the Nor'West Company to outfit a party for a two years' trip, hunting and trading. They went west and north, and even as far as the border of California. One party, some two hundred men, chiefly Iroquois and French Canadians, was under the charge of Peter S. Ogden. When west of the Rockies he scattered his hunters in different parties under the charge of a foreman to hunt for the season. One of his camps, while under the charge of a man named Robson, was somewhere in the vicinity of this mountain, and it was the rallying point where all other parties came together for their return east." (31 May 1912 letter from H.J. Moberly, HBC chief factor, to A.O. Wheeler; reprinted in Victoria Colonist letters to the editor, 12 July 1913). [note: H.J. Moberly was Walter Moberly's brother]. "Mr. R.B. McMicking, the well-known pioneer of Victoria, was a member of a party which travelled through this section of the country in 1862, but no member of the party could trace the origin of the name." (Canadian Alpine Journal, vol VI, 1914-15, p.166)

Source: included with note

"Probably named after Colin Robertson (1783-1842) prominent Hudsons Bay Company man and leader in hostilities with the North West Company prior to coalition [of the two companies] in 1821; elected MP in first parliament of the united Upper and Lower Canada, 1841-42. In 1820 while in charge at St. Mary's, Peace River, [Robertson] sent a party of free Iroquois fur hunters under Ignace Giasson, with Pierre Hatsinaton ("Tête Jaune"), Iroquois, as guide, up Smoky River and across the Rocky Mountains to the forks of the Fraser River - passing nearby this mountain - the first HBC party to cross the mountains into New Caledonia. They probably named the mountain." The first written reference to the name is by George McDougall, a fur trader, in his diary of 1827.

Source: Provincial Archives of BC "Place Names File" compiled 1945-1950 by A.G. Harvey from various sources, with subsequent additions

"The only name given by Milton and Cheadle for which I am unable even to suggest a definite derivation is...Mount Robson. On the other hand the evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of the theory that the peak was named by them. Of the 14 names in this area, it has been practically demonstrated that 13 were given by them. On November 28, 1864, Viscount Milton read before the Royal Geographical Society, a paper on his trip across the Rockies: "This grand fork of the Fraser is at the foot of a very high mountain, which has received the name of 'Robson's Peak' and is the original Tête Jaune's Cache. It was the highest peak they had hitherto seen. The place at present called Tête Jaune's Cache they did not reach until three days' afterwards." Bearing in mind that the whole paper is in the third person, the foregoing is practically a statement that Milton and Cheadle named the peak. Being convinced that Robson Peak was named by Milton or Cheadle, I communicated with his son, the present Earl Fitzwilliam, who replied that he was unable to suggest any derivation. Dr. Cheadle's recent death debars investigation in that quarter... Respecting Mr. Moberly's theory, it is unacceptable if only for the fact that, as the Yellowhead Pass was not discovered until 1826, it could hardly have been a rendezvous of the Northwest Company "years before" the union in 1821. When all the evidence points in one direction only, namely Milton and Cheadle, it is a mystery to me why practically eveyone else seems determined to accredit the naming to the Hudson's Bay Company, particularly when absolutely no evidence indicating such naming, other that pure assumption, has yet been adduced."("Place Names in Vicinity of Yellowhead Pass" by James White, Canadian Alpine Journal, vol VI, 1914-15, pp.143-158) with the following addendum by the Editor: "In their book, "The Northwest Passage by Land", Milton and Cheadle make one reference only to Mount Robson (p.257). It consists of fourteen lines and reads as follows: "On every side the snowy heads of mighty hills crowded round, whilst, immediately behind us, a giant among giants and immeasurably supreme rose Robson's peak..." The rest of the reference is a description of the mountain as it appeared when they saw it. Mt. Robson is the highest peak of the Canadian Rockies and one of the most spectacular. Surely had they named so striking a peak, they would have said something to that effect; moreover, their use of the possessive case, "Robson's Peak" points to previous ownership. The Hudson's Bay Co's Chief Factor, Henry J. Moberly, states in a letter to the writer of this note, quoted elsewhere in this Journal, that he had always heard that the peak was named after a foreman, one Robson, who was in charge of the company's hunting parties in the locality. If Milton and Cheadle first named it, who did they name it for? A number of names, as for instance "Tête Jaune Cache," were in use before the advent of Milton and Cheadle, then why not "Robson" ? (Editor, Canadian Alpine Journal, vol VI, 1914-15, pp.157-158).

Source: included with note

"The earliest known description of the mountain is found in the journal of John M. Sellar, one of a party of gold-seekers bound for the Cariboo, who passed the peak on August 28, 1862. The entry reads as follows: 'At 4 P.M. we passed Snow or Cloud Cap Mountain which is the highest and finest on the whole Leather [Yellowhead] Pass. It is 9000 feet above the level of the valley at its base, and the guide told us that out of 29 times that he had passed it he had only seen the top once before.' There can be no doubt as to the identity of the mountain here described, and as the guide knew the locality well, the inference is that the name Mount Robson was not well known, if it had been bestowed, at that time." ("The Mystery of Mount Robson" by A.G. Harvey, published in BC Historical Quarterly, October 1937)

Source: included with note

A major problem in the study of BC place names: The name "Robson's Peak" was already in use when Milton and Cheadle saw it in 1863, a fact which makes unlikely the theory that the mountain was named after John Robson who became premier of BC in 1889. Some questionable evidence indicates that the mountain may have been referred to as "Mount Robinson" as early as 1827. Actually both Robinson and Robertson were often given the slurred pronunciation of "Robson."

Source: Akrigg, Helen B. and Akrigg, G.P.V; 1001 British Columbia Place Names; Discovery Press, Vancouver 1969, 1970, 1973.

Mrs. Florence H. Osborne, Englehart, Ontario, claims to be the granddaughter of the man after whom Mount Robson was named. The family's story of the origin of the name was published in the Toronto Daily Telegram sometime after November 1915, at the time that Mt. Edith Cavell was named (26 November 1959 advice from Mrs. Roy Hargreaves, longtime Robson Valley resident, relaying the gist of a meeting she'd had many years earlier with Mrs. Osborne). [note that Alberta's Mount Edith Cavell was named in March 1916, presumably narrowing the publication date of the aforementioned Mount Robson newspaper article to the weeks between November 1915, when Cavell died, and March 1916 when the Alberta feature was named after her. If anyone locates the c1916 Toronto Daily Telegram article, please send us a copy so the contents can be included here!]

Source: BC place name cards, or correspondence to/from BC's Chief Geographer or BC Geographical Names Office