1977 >> August >> The McMicking Insulator  

The McMicking Insulator
by John Werstuik

Reprinted from "INSULATORS - Crown Jewels of the Wire", August 1977, page 10

In the spring of 1862 some two hundred and fifty pioneers attracted by the news of gold discoverie British Columbia gathered at Winnipeg, Manitoba (then known as Fort Gary) from England, the U.S. and the remainder from Ontario and Quebec. 

In the party were two brothers, Thomas and Robert Burns McMicking, Thomas being chosen leader of the party. 

This historical party is referred to as the "Overlanders of '62", honored each year in the city of Kamloops by celebrating Kami-Overlander Days. 

Upon arriving at the gold fields of Cariboo in central B.C. it was found that the area was pretty well staked out, leaving the members no choice but to find occupations suitable to previous experiences. 

Some established homesteads, became involved politically; others involved themselves in a number of ventures laying the bases for growth in the infant days of this province. 

Robert Burns McMicking
(at age 19, the year he came out west)

Robert Burns McMicking was one of those foundation builders. Born July 7th, 1843, in Ontario, Mr. McMicking went to work for the Montreal Telegraph Company at the young age of thirteen under the then western superintendent, H. P. Dwight (insulators being named after him as well). After coming west and working at various jobs, Mr. McMicking was employed by the Collins Overland Telegraph Company in November 1865 until sometime in 1866. After a short stint with the Western Union Telegraph Company, he became superintendent of the government taken over telegraph system in 1870, headquartered in Yale, B.C. It was there that the first two telephones in B.C. were introduced, one in Mr. McMicking's home, and the other in his office. 

During the period of Mr. McMicking's employ with the government telegraph system he was involved in promoting lines throughout B.C. during the years 1870 to 1880. 

One of these lines, it appears, was let out to a contractor by the name of F. J. Barnard, to run up the North Thompson River from Kamloops to Tete Jeun Cache. In 1875 materials of wire, insulators and side blocks were taken up the river by the stern-wheeler, The S.S. Martens. Mr. Barnard then cached these materials six miles south of the little town of Avola, the spot being known as Wire Cache. For some reason the contract was not carried out, and these materials were abandoned. 

It was at this spot last summer that I found several McMicking insulators, as well as some mule shoes. It was also interesting to note that some of the homesteads in the vicinity had old telegraph wire strung up for fence, and that the Forest Service had used some of these insulators for stringing up a line to a lookout near the area.

Resigning from the government run telegraph company in 1880, Mr. McMicking was responsible for the establishment of the first telephone company in B.C., The Victoria and Esquimalt Telephone Company. He also introduced the electric light to B.C. in 1883. 

With a full and varied life, Mr. Robert Burns McMicking passed away on November 27th, 1915. 

Varied speculations have been made as to where these insulators were made. One strong point, which may be an indication, is that the Tillitson insulator has been found in the same areas as the McMicking. It is just a hunch, and maybe someone reading this may be able to shed more light as to where these insulators were manufactured. 

I, for one, take my hat off to Mr. McMicking for his fine contribution to this province of British Columbia, and for the contribution that even yet prevails in the interests of insulator collectors everywhere

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