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Four Years in British Columbia and Vancouver Island
Chapter III

The first duty which devolved upon Captain Richards on the ‘Plumper’ reaching these waters was the determination of the exact spot where the parallel of 49° north latitude met the sea. This was known approximately, but it was necessary now to determine it accurately as a starting-point for the Commission which was to carry the line across the continent, and also for the purposes of the Naval Commission to which Captain Richards belonged, and whose business it was to determine the channel by which it was intended, by the Treaty of 1844, that the boundary-line should pass to the Strait of Fuca.

Accordingly, after a short stay in Esquimalt Harbour, Captain Richards decided to accomplish this part of his mission at once. The Commissioners of the United States had already made their observations, and, having encamped upon a spot of the mainland near the computed line of parallel, awaited the ‘ Plumper’s ’ coming to confirm them. So on the 18th of November we steamed up the Haro Strait and across the Gulf of Georgia, to Semiahmoo Bay.

It would be unjust to the scenery of these channels to describe it as we then saw it in the depth of winter. Although the weather was open, and there was hardly any snow upon the ground, both the shores of Vancouver and the numerous other islands that we passed wore that dull, sombre hue common to northern countries at such a season.

At all times, indeed, the scenery of these islands, with that of the shores of the mainland, is little attractive, covered as they are with pine-trees to the water’s edge, through which knobs of trap show in places, but in winter it is peculiarly uninviting.

Semiahmoo or Boundary Bay, is an extensive sheet of water, some eight miles wide, flowing inland towards the Fraser River, from the south bank of which it is only divided by a flat and narrow delta three miles across.

As the parallel of 49° north latitude meets the sea in this bay, it will be well to give a short description of it. It lies between Birch Bay, one of Vancouver’s anchorages, on the east, and Point Roberts on the west, the tip of which latter point falls south of 49°. The distance between the east and west points is 8 miles, and the length of the bay northerly is 7 miles, though at low water it dries off from the head for 3 miles.

There is anchorage in 7 to 15 fathoms nearly all over the bay, though the western and southern parts of it are exposed to southerly winds, which send in a considerable sea. In the eastern part there is good anchorage, except with a southwest gale.

The south bluff terminates at its east end in a long, low spit, more than a mile long, covered with grass, drift-timber, and a few pines. This spit was afterwards, for a short time in the summer of 1858, the site of “Semiahmoo City,” and it forms a small but snug nook called Drayton Harbour, which affords shelter from the south-west gales when the outer anchorage is not safe.

Here we stayed until the 16tli December, making the necessary observations, when, on Captain Richards proceeding to mark the spot where he considered the parallel met the sea, it was found to differ only eight feet from that fixed upon by the American Commissioners. Whilst here, of course, we were thrown a good deal in the way of the officers of the American Boundary Commission. Their party consisted of Mr. Campbell, the Commissioner; Lieutenant Parke, of the United States Topographical Engineers, astronomer; two or three assistant astronomers, a doctor, naturalist, botanist, and a captain and subaltern in command of the military escort, which consisted of about 70 men. They had been here nearly a year, and were able to form some idea of the work that lay before them. Some of the party were veterans at the work, having been engaged upon the Mexican Boundary Commission. Their instruments were admirably packed for travelling, and of very superior make and workmanship. Until recently, the Americans were obliged to come to our English manufacturers for their scientific instruments; and I think it was with some natural gratification on their part that our attention was drawn to the fact that these were made by Mr. Worde-man, an American, at Washington, who began life as a repairer of Troughton’s instruments.

Their estimate of the probable expense of settling this boundary question rather surprised us, and showed us at once that the cost of a clearing on this side of the continent could not be calculated by the expense of a similar undertaking east of the Pocky Mountains. Colonel Estcourt, whose opinion was asked, and formed upon his experience of cutting a line thirty feet wide from Lake Superior to the Lake of Woods, had estimated the whole expense of continuing it on this side to the sea at 32,000l; but Mr. Campbell, the American Commissioner, told us that he had asked for an annual appropriation of 45,000l. for three years. Although he did not get this, it was much nearer the requisite sum than the other, and the issue proved the correctness of his judgment.

Our work over at Semiahmoo, it was decided to return to Esquimalt until the weather should be fine enough to enable us to commence om* surveying work. Before making that harbour, however, we visited Nanaimo, a settlement 75 miles north of Victoria, for the purpose of coaling.

Nanaimo is the only spot in the island where the coal is worked, although it appears in several other places. The harbour is good, and there is no difficulty in making it.

A small island lies off the entrance, which is admirably adapted for a lighthouse when the harbour becomes of more importance. The town, such as it is, stands upon a singular promontory, which seems to have been severed from the mainland by some violent volcanic eruption which twisted the strata of which it is composed most curiously. Along the shore are the colliery buildings, and about a dozen remarkably sooty houses, inhabited by the miners and the few Hudson Bay Company’s officers here. There is a resident doctor in the place, who inhabits one of these houses, and to the left of them stands the Company’s old bastion, on which are mounted the four or five honeycombed 12-pounders, with which the great Fur Company have been wont to awe the neighbouring Indians into becoming respect and submission.

The coal obtained at Nanaimo, although it burns rapidly, and is excessively dirty, answers sufficiently well for steaming purposes, and is not likely to be soon exhausted. It has been found at several other places besides this promontory of Nanaimo. On Newcastle Island which, with Protection Island, form the shelter of the harbour, coal has been worked to a considerable extent, and found good. It has also been discovered cropping out on the Chase River, a few miles up the country, and further inland at a spot known as Pemberton’s Camp. As yet the resources of Nanaimo and its neighbourhood have not been fairly developed. The appliances for delivering the coal, for instance, were so faulty that a ship had to lie there often for three or four weeks before she could take in a load. There can be no doubt that with a more liberal outlay of capital, under judicious and enterprising management, Nanaimo might drive a very flourishing trade at home and with California, where coal might be delivered at 12 to 15 dollars a ton, which would

be almost as desirable as the Welsh coal, which is seldom below 20, and sometimes fetches as much as 30 dollars a ton. For domestic consumption, and for use in the factories, I believe the coal of Nanaimo to be almost equal to that brought at such au immense expense and labour from the Welsh mines. Indeed, when I happened to be at San Francisco, I was informed by one of the leading iron-manufacturers there, that they preferred mixing Nanaimo with Welsh coal when they were able to obtain it.

One decided drawback to Nanaimo as a harbour is the existence there of a species of augur-worm (Teredo navalis). It is remarkable that, although this insect infests Nanaimo to such an extent that a new pier, built there shortly before our first visit, has since given way to its ravages, we never found it elsew here on the coasts of the island or mainland. Of course there are many inlets and harbours still so little known that no positive opinion on the subject can be entertained, but Esquimalt and Victoria, among many others, are certainly free from it.

January 1st, 1858.—A novel feature in marine merrymaking was introduced by the ‘Satellite’s’ crew, who invited our men to a dinner on board their ship. I do not imagine that such an entertainment was ever witnessed before. It was capitally managed, and the crews of both ships behaved remarkably well. The upper deck of the 'Satellite’ was covered in with flags, under which tables were laid down the whole length of the port side, at which about sixty of our men dined with the £ Satellite’s.’ Of course we all went to look on. The sergeant of the £ Satellite’s ’ marines took the chair, proposing the toasts with introductory speeches that none of us need have been ashamed of.

February 10.—After spending six weeks in Esquimalt Harbour, we sailed this day to Port Townsend for the mails, Victoria at that time being too insignificant a place for the American mail-steamers running between San Francisco and the Sound to put in at. Indeed, just then the letters of the £ Satellite ’ and £ Plumper ’ formed nearly the whole contents of the English mail-bags. Upon our way a party was dropped at San Juan Island to commence surveying operations. Here we—for I formed one of them—remained until the 27th, when we returned to Esquimalt. The weather we experienced convinced us that the middle or end of March was quite early enough to commence work with any hope of success. Out of the seventeen days we spent there six only could be called fine, and at the best the cold was so severe and the fogs so frequent as to render boat-work extremely dangerous, particularly in channels so full of tide-rips and over-falls. Upon one occasion, during our stay, the 'Shark’—as the 'Plumper’s’ pinnace after being raised and half-decked had been christened—was a subject of great anxiety to us. In crossing from San Juan to Esquimalt she missed her port, and having drifted during the night past the Race Rocks—it might just as well have been upon them—picked herself up in Sooke Inlet, twenty miles below Esquimalt. Upon another occasion, the £ Shark ’ was caught in a storm of wind and snow, of the violence of which the accompanying sketch may enable the reader to form some idea. She is there depicted dragging her anchor and drifting on shore, the men on board of her signalling to us for assistance that we were utterly unable to give them. I may mention in connection with this sketch that the hill on which we were standing watching the 'Shark’s’ danger was that upon which the Americans afterwards, upon taking possession of the island, planted their battery, and near which, although the battery has disappeared, their camp now stands.

The few weeks of mid-winter which we had spent in Esquimalt had been of necessity somewhat idle. However, as the colony was new to ns, time did not hang at all heavy on our hands. Directly the weather would permit, it was intended to commence surveying operations. The plan of our campaign was to spend the summer at this work, returning to Esquimalt as winter set in again. With some interruptions, this plan was adhered to, and the winter months of each year were spent ashore at our office, making up the past and preparing for the future summer’s work.

March 16.—We left Esquimalt to commence in earnest our surveying work. I have said that Captain Richard’s first duty on arrival was to determine exactly where the parallel of of 49° N. met the sea. This was done in the winter, and we now commenced that part of our work next in importance, viz. to make an accurate chart of all the disputed islands and channels. As the whole summer of 1858 was taken up with this work, I will here give a description of these islands; the name of one at least of which—San Juan —has since become familiar to every one.

The American territory which joins British Columbia on the south is called “Washington Territory,” and between this and the south-east shore of Vancouver Island lie the group of islands I am about to describe, all of which are included in the Haro Archipelago.

In the first chapter I have said that Captains Prevost and Richards were sent out to endeavour to adjust the rival claims of our Government and that of the United States to the possession of these islands; the wording of the treaty of 1844 being so vague as to leave the right to them in doubt.

The treaty appears to have been made under the impression that there was only one channel between Vancouver Island and the continent, and in ignorance that any islands existed there at all. Practically at that time there was only one channel, for the eastern, or Canal de Rosario, was the only one about which anything was known, and had been used by all the navigators who had entered the Gulf of Georgia.

The Canal de Haro had, it is true, been marked on the maps by the Spaniards, but it was only when the Hudson Hay Company established their head-quarters at Victoria that this passage became used, and even then their vessels generally went up the Rosario Strait, which, being more familiar with, they preferred.

Of the rights and wrongs of this question, which is as unsettled now as it was then, my official position in the survey prevents my entering into a discussion, and obliges me to refrain from anything like a detailed account of the “San Juan difficulty,” which, in the year following that of which I am now mating, caused so much excitement both in the colony and in England.

To return to the islands: the distance between the two above-named channels is about twenty miles, and their length the same, thus making a space of four hundred square miles full of islands, varying in size from ten or twelve miles long to a mere heap of trap with two or three pines on them. The group consists of the three important islands of San Juan, Orcas, and Lopez, and about thirty smaller ones. Of these Orcas, the most northern, is the largest, and contains the finest harbours. It is mountainous, and in most parts thickly wooded, although in the valleys there is much land available for farming. On the east side of the island Mount Constitution rises nearly five thousand feet, and is a very conspicuous object from all parts of the Gulf of Georgia. Deer abound more in Orcas than in any other of the islands. During our stay of about a fortnight in East Orcas Sound, upwards of thirty were shot.

San Juan, the best known by name, and in size the second of these islands, is eleven miles long, by an average of three miles wide. There is more land available for agriculture here than on any other of the group; and of this the Hudson Bay Company took advantage some years ago, and established a sheep-farm upon it. This farm has ever since its establishment been in charge of Mr. Griffin, a gentleman whose kindness and hospitality render him every one’s friend. It is situated on a beautiful prairie at the south-east end of the island, which, rising 140 feet above the water, looks most attractive to the emigrant passing onward towards the Fraser. I have never seen wild flowers elsewhere grow with the beauty and luxuriance they possess here. Perhaps I cannot illustrate the attractions of San Juan better, than by saying that it was the spot selected by his Excellency the Governor’s daughter aud niece in which to spend their honeymoon.

At one time I believe the Company had as many as 3000 sheep on the island, distributed at various stations, all under Mr. Griffin’s charge. His house, which is very pleasantly situated, looks out on the Strait of Fuca, and commands a magnificent view up Admiralty Inlet. Directly in front of it lies a bank, which is a very favourite fishing-station of the Indians, where they catch a large number of salmon and halibut. This spot was, in 1859, the scene of a double murder, which excited no little speculation that will never be satisfied in this world.

Mr. Griffin told the story thus. He was sitting in his balcony one summer afternoon, watching a vessel working her way up the Strait, when he saw two boats, each containing one man, pull past in the direction of Victoria. He was rather surprised at seeing them thus single-handed, but at that time, when the gold-fever was raging fiercely, every sort of boat was employed to cross the Strait, and he concluded that they were two Americans, making their way from Bellingham Bay to Victoria. They had hardly rounded the point, just beyond the farm, and passed out of his sight, when a small canoe with a single Indian shot past in the same direction. There was nothing in all this to attract particular notice, and Mr. Griffin was surprised when, an hour or so later, two boats, which he at once recognised as those that had so lately passed, drifted into view', floating back, to all appearance, empty. A canoe was at once sent out to them, when one was found empty, and in the other lay the body of a white man, shot, but not pillaged,—even the provisions that were in his boat being untouched. Who shall say who his murderer was? Had his white companion shot him, landed, and pushed off his boat?—for, except in the boat in which the murdered man lay, not a drop of blood could be seen. Or had the Indian killed him, and had his companion, on seeing the fatal- shot fired, leapt overboard, and been drowned? If so, it was in revenge, for nothing was taken from the boats; perhaps in performance of that duty which is still considered “sacred”—if one may use the word—among the Indians—of taking a life for a life.

Lopez Island is lower and more swampy than the others. It forms the south-east end of the group, and is nine miles long by three wide. The other islets are, as I have said, mere masses of rock covered with pines, and too insignificant to claim especial notice.

Thus of the whole group San Juan is the only island worth anything for purposes of colonisation, while it only contains a few thousand acres of good land. To allege, therefore, that an island of such paltry extent is of any real value in this respect, either to a country possessing the adjacent island of Vancouver and territory of British Columbia,—or still more to one possessing the hundreds of miles of fertile prairie contained in Washington Territory, Oregon, and California,—is manifestly absurd. A study of the chart—which we were then preparing—however, will show quite clearly why the country that holds Vancouver Island and British Columbia must also hold San Juan Island, or give up the right of way to her own possessions. It will be seen at once that the party that holds this island commands the Canal de Haro. The narrowest part of the channel from shore to shore is five miles. This distance from San Juan can certainly be kept by steamers, but they must be thoroughly acquainted with the navigation to do so, as they must pass inside several reefs, and west of Sydney Island. To go up the centre of the channel—as big ships should do—San Juan must be passed at two miles’ distance; as must Henry and Stuart Islands also, both of which would belong to the nation holding the east side of the Canal de Haro.

San Juan can be of no use to any country but Great Britain, except for offensive purposes; and, on the other hand, it cannot be of any use to her but for defensive purposes, as its eastern shore in no way controls or affects the Rosario Strait, from the western side of which it is eight miles distant at the nearest point, with Lopez Island between.

The same argument might be used against our holding possession of the islands which form the western side of the Rosario Strait, but here Nature befriends us; for during our survey we found there was a middle channel passing eastward of San Juan and a small island north of it, called “Waldron Island,” which channel, though not so wide as either of the others, is quite safe for steam navigation. A boundary-line, therefore, passing down the middle channel would give to the nations on either side a road to their dominions perfectly free of interruption, and well out of shot of each other, for some years to come at least; and this certainly appears the simplest and best solution of the difficulty.

I will not weary the reader by describing all the lesser channels, inlets, and harbours which were discovered and surveyed, and of which the accompanying map is too small to give an adequate idea. Any one who feels an interest in such matters should obtain the large charts now published, which show the extraordinary shape of the outline of this coast and its islands: deep channels and inlets, with more shallow bays and harbours running in every possible direction, sometimes between lmge crags, and elsewhere through or into low level land; the whole forming islands, promontories, and peninsulas of most grotesque shape, and bearing more plainly than I have seen in any other country the evidence of volcanic action. Two features, and two only, are constant everywhere—the everlasting pine-trees and the igneous rocks.

We remained among these islands till the 16th of May, when we returned to Esquimalt, to find that during our absence that most infectious of all maladies—a gold-fever— had broken out, and had seized every man, woman, and child there and in Victoria. The existence of gold on the mainland of British Columbia, had been proved incontestably; and everyone whom a few weeks ago we had left engaged steadily in pursuits from which they were reaping a slow sure profit, seemed to have gone gold-mad.

The story of the discovery of the precious metal in British Columbia should have taken no one by surprise; the only wonder was that years before, its existence in quantities large enough to attract gold-seekers had not been discovered. Its existence had been known, indeed, to a few people for many years, but it was only quite recently that attention had been called to the subject, and that Mr. Douglas, who had a very accurate prescience of what was likely to happen, had drawn the attention of the Home Government to this fact. Common report says, however, that the Hudson Bay Company had been in the habit of getting it from the Indians for years; and if this be so, Mr. Douglas’s prescience was not very remarkable.

Mr. Anderson, a chief factor in the service of the Hudson Bay Company, and a well-known explorer, had some time since been despatched to the mainland, with instructions to examine into its resources generally. His expedition proved of value, resulting as it did in the discovery of the Harrison-Lilloett route, by which, as I shall have occasion to show, the worst obstacles of the ascent of the Fraser River have been overcome; but he threw little, if any, light upon the main object of his search. The Company’s brig ‘Una’ had also been despatched to Queen

Charlotte Island, and succeeded in blasting gold in quartz, at a place called Gold Harbour. But owing in part to the fierceness of the natives, and still more, perhaps, to the mechanical difficulties attending the working of the blasts, the Company shortly gave up this as an unprofitable speculation.

Now, however, time had brought to notice what the little search made had failed to find, and the excitement of Victoria was indescribable. To any one who had known San Francisco or Melbourne under similar circumstances, the condition of Victoria was not surprising; but to those hitherto unacquainted with the earliest febrile symptoms attending the discovery of gold, the change in its aspect and prospects might well seem magical. The value of land was raised immensely, and the impulse given to its sale was, of course, very great, although the fluctuations in its price, as contradictory reports came down from the mines, made dealing with it a somewhat hazardous speculation. All the available Government lands had been snapped up by far-seeing speculators when the first drops of the golden shower descended. Lots in Victoria and Esquimalt, that a few months ago had gone begging at their upset price of 1l. an acre, sold now for 100l. an acre, and soon for more. Merchants’ stores were rising in every direction. On the shore of the harbour, wharves were being planted; and, as if there were something magnetic in the demand that at once attracted a supply, sailing-ships, laden with every description of articles which a migratory population could, and in many cases

could not, want, flowed into the harbour. Victoria appeared to have leapt at once from the site of a promising settlement into a full-grown town. Its future had not, previous to this, looked by any means bright; and we had been in the habit of regarding the map of the town of Victoria, kept in the land-office, as an amusing effort of the surveyor’s imagination. But now the promise seemed likely of fulfilment. Here was actually a street, and there were not wanting indications the most palpable that in a short time there would be two, even three erected. Several of the old settlers had already made enough by the sudden rise in the value of their lands to be thinking how they might spend the rest of their lives easily, even luxuriously. Expectation was written in every face, which before had been placid, even stolid; for with occasional visits from Her Majesty’s ships of war, the great event of Victoria had been the advent of the ‘Princess Royal ’ once a year, with the latest fashions of the Old World and fresh supplies, human and material, for the Honourable Company’s service. Now, with vessels arriving and leaving constantly, with thousands pouring into the port, and “sensation” news from the Fraser daily, a new mind seemed to have taken possession of Victoria; and whether the ‘Princess Royal’ arrived or foundered on her way, was one and the same thing to the excited people, who had hitherto looked upon her coming as the one event of the otherwise uneventful year.

That road, too, from Esquimalt to Victoria, about which so much has since been said in and out of the Colonial Assembly, was changed, with the rest, almost beyond recognition. Only a few months before, we used to flounder through the mud without meeting a single soul; now it was covered with pedestrians toiling along, with the step and air of men whose minds are occupied with thoughts of business; crowded with well-laden carts and vans, with Wells Fargo’s, or Freeman’s “Expresses,” and with strangers of every tongue and country, in every variety of attire. Day after day on they came to Victoria, on their way to the Fraser; the greater part of them with no property but the bundle they carried, and with “dollars, dollars, dollars!” stamped on every face. Miners, indeed are always ready for change. However good the. prospects of to-day may be, the idea of better will tempt them to exchange them without a moment’s hesitation. The merest whisper of a new find is enough to unsettle a whole neighbourhood, and send hundreds into the wilds “prospecting.” It frequently occurs at San Francisco that individuals who happen to possess land speculate for a rise by setting afloat some cleverly-planned rumour that a great find has been made in their locality. The greedy miners and speculators, whose experience has taught them to discredit no account however wild, hasten to buy the land in question at fabulous prices. I remember when I happened to be in San Francisco in I860 that a place in the Washoe country was reported to have been found full of silver,—a rumour which was confirmed by some very rich specimens of that metal which were exhibited as having been found there. Upon the strength of this, Washoe land was being bought by feet, and even inches, and nothing else was talked about at the dinner-tables or in the streets of San Francisco from morning until night.

The excitement in Victoria reached its climax, I think, in July. On the 27th of the previous month, the ‘Republic’ steamed into Esquimalt harbour from San Francisco with 800 passengers; on the 1st of July, the ‘Sierra Nevada’ landed 1900 more; on the 8th of the same month, the ‘Orizaba’ and the ‘Cortez’ together brought 2800 ; and they all reported that thousands waited to follow. The sufferings of the passengers upon this voyage, short as it is, must have been great, for the steamers carried it least double their complement of passengers. Of course Victoria could not shelter this incursion of immigrants, although great efforts were made, and soon a large town of tents sprung up along the harbour side. Wherever time and material were handy for building, a wooden house was erected, and in this respect Victoria had greatly the advantage of San Francisco under similar circumstances, from the ease and comparative cheapness with which building timber and planks could be obtained from the American saw-mills in Puget Sound. Of course these buildings were run up without much regard to the previous architectural arrangement of the town. But this was of little consequence. Wooden houses in a new settlement in America are always built witb an eye to their removal, -if necessary, the side supports being morticed into the flooring; so that, should the surveyor run a new, or determine to carry out the design of an old, street through them, their owners make no demur, but mounting them on wheels transport them to their proper position. It is by no means unusual to see a family residence moved from one street to another, a distance, perhaps, of a quarter of a mile, in this way. It happens not unfrequently that a lot which was bought by the settler upon his arrival, and upon which he has built himself a house, becomes in course of time the Bond or Regent Street of the place. Some speculator then offers him a handsome price, not for his little house, which would be useless to him, but for its site, on which he intends building some handsome store. The bargain struck, the house is forthwith mounted upon rollers, and wheeled into some back street, whence perhaps in time it may be called upon to move again; and this plan was carried out in Victoria.

In the mean time the gold-seekers had, as they arrived in Victoria, provided themselves with such necessaries as they required for their adventure; and, by every means of conveyance at their disposal—by steamer, sailing-vessel, canoe, and boat—were making their way across the Strait of Georgia to the mouth of the Eraser River. For this passage steamers had already been brought up from the Sacramento River at great expense and trouble. Too frail to bear an ocean passage, it was necessary to construct an enormous skow or lighter for each steamer. The lighter was decked over and fitted with pumps, like a caisson. It was then sunk under the steamer in shoal water, built up at the bow and stern, so as to completely cover her hull, and pumped out, a mast being stepped through the deck and bottom of the steamer on to the lighter’s kelson. The whole was then taken in tow by an ocean steamship, some sort of sail being fitted to the mast above-mentioned, so that, if she should break adrift from the consort, or it should be found necessary from stress of weather to cast her off, the two or three men who made the voyage in her should not be left altogether at the mercy of the waves.

A good story, illustrative of that American “cufeness” about which so much has been heard, was told me by one of themselves, relative to a steamer that had been bought to ply upon the Fraser. She had been purchased of an American company, which had secured the monopoly of the Sacramento Fiver steam-navigation, by the process of buying up all the vessels started to oppose them. These they sold occasionally for use on other rivers, with the one stipulation that they should never be brought back to the Sacramento. The Fraser River season being over, the stipulation stood very much in the way of the Yankee owners of one of these boats, who were prevented from making the only profitable use of it that was then open to them. A way, however, to keep the letter, if not the spirit, of the bond they had entered into, was found. They exchanged their steamer for another that was then plying on the Fraser, and, putting her on the lighter that had brought the other up, took her to San Francisco, where the monopolising company had to buy her off at the owners’ own price.

The most glowing accounts of the successes of the miners reached Victoria, and, stripped of the exaggeration natural to the subject, enough remained to prove that the mineral resources of the country had not been over-estimated by those who were most likely to be acquainted with them. The miners had, during the first few months after their arrival at the month of the Fraser, pushed far up it, finding gold still more and more abundant. I shall have in due time, and of my own experience, to speak of this route through a wild and rocky country to the valleys indenting the minor ranges that rib the country west of the Rocky Mountains, although, travelling with the aid of men and means that the miners first in the field could not command, my difficulties were not to be compared to the dangers of life and limb that beset them. The voyage alone across the gulf from Victoria to the mouth of the Fraser was fraught with peril to many who, too impatient or too poor to wait until they could take passage in the ordinary steamer or sailing-vessel, fitted up a crazy boat or old canoe, and committed themselves to the mercy of one of the swiftest and most capricious channels in the world. Several, no doubt, of whom no record was taken or left lost their lives in this adventure; more, perhaps, in the perils of the Fraser, or from exposure, want, and hard living at the mines. But these were few in comparison to the hundreds lost in trying to cross the continent to California in 1849, whose bones, are now bleaching in the Sierra Nevada.

Those who were then disposed to blame Governor Douglas for many of the calamities that occurred, could scarcely have reflected upou, or made due allowance for, the difficulties of his position. Roads to the interior there were none, if I except that most dangerous path from Fort Hope across Manson Mountain, in which the Hudson Bay Company’s brigade, experienced as they were, yearly lost a number of horses. The “freshets” had commenced; as the snow melted, the river rose so that its navigation above Yale was impossible, as several found to the cost of their lives. Added to this, the only vessels upon the river were two belonging to the Company, the ‘Otter’ and ‘Beaver,’ whose draught of water prevented their going above Langley, whence the journey to Yale had to be made in boats and rafts extemporised oil the spot, or in canoes navigated by Indians. Half despising, and more than half fearing these Indian auxiliaries, as the miners do, they frequently treated them with a degree of cowardly cruelty that in many cases cost them dear. The only way to travel safely with Indians is to trust them, or affect to do so, implicitly, and, above all, to show no fear. I have frequently travelled alone with them, and slept alone among them, and had the greatest care taken of my life and property, whereas when travelling in a party nothing is safe from their thievish hands.

It must be remembered also that as yet the colony had no revenue to work with. Except the small amount realised by the sale of lands, the sole source of revenue then existing was the licence of five dollars from every miner ascending the Fraser. However, despite these difficulties, the Governor determined to make an effort to open up a route to the upper country, by which the miners might journey with comparative safety, and supplies be conveyed to them; and a body of about 600 men was organised to cut a way from lake to lake along the route explored and recommended by Mr. Anderson, and since known as the Harrison-Lilloett trail.

The difficulties of this work can scarcely be estimated by any one who has not seen British Columbian bush. Some idea may be formed of it, if I state that I have travelled for days in this country where we scarcely advanced at the rate of one mile an hour.

By the middle of the summer, however, the Fraser had been taken possession of unmistakeably. The banks between Forts Hope and Yale were being worked productively, and some of the miners liad forced their way as far up as Lilloett, or Cayoush as it was first called, about 220 miles from the mouth of the river. A few had settled at the forks of the Thompson and Fraser Bivers, 160 miles from the mouth of the latter, and their group of huts had been dignified with the name of the then Colonial Secretary—“Lytton.”

When the rush to the river began, it was resolved, as I have said, that a gold licence of five dollars should be charged to every man ascending the river. Of course considerable difficulty was found in enforcing this tax, and numbers evaded it. Even now, I believe, the cost of its collection is so great in the out-of-the-way places, that the Colonial Exchequer is little, if at all, benefited by its imposition. Captain Prevost was at this time requested by the Governor to undertake the enforcement of this tax, by placing the ‘ Satellite ’ at the river’s mouth, and stopping all miners who refused payment. This was done, and she remained there until the middle of the summer, when a small schooner named the ‘Recovery,’ formerly belonging to the Hudson Bay Company, was bought, armed, and stationed in the Fraser River for this purpose.

12th July. — H.M.S. ‘Havannah’ arrived this day at Esquimalt, bringing from Panama a commission under Major (now Colonel) Hawkins, R.N., who had been appointed to determine and mark the 49th parallel in conjunction with the United States Commission, of which I have before spoken, from the coast at Semiahmoo Bay to the Rocky Mountains. It was then thought probable also that this commission would cross the Rocky Mountains and carry on their observations to the west side of the Lake of the Woods, to the east of which it had already been completed by the late General Estcourt. This was not carried out, however, and the party have now returned from the westward, having gone as far as the summit of the Rocky Mountains.

This party was composed much as the American Commission with which it had to work in concert was, and consisted of Captain Haig, R.A., astronomer, and two officers of Engineers, Lieutenants Dahrer and Wilson, with a naturalist, geologist, and botanist; the latter office being undertaken, as I have before said, by Hr. Lyall of the ‘Plumper.’

Upon his arrival, Major Hawkins was naturally anxious to commence work, and accordingly the ‘Plumper’ took him to Semiahmoo Bay for a few days, that he might see the nature of the task that lay before him and meet the American Commission. We found that the spirit of emulation had seized upon Semiahmoo and Point Roberts. Since our last visit the greater part of the spits and all the level land at the extreme of Point Roberts had been “Pre-empted,” half-a-dozen wooden huts had been built on each, and called respectively Semiahmoo and Roberts “City.” My English readers who know only the “cities” of the Old World should be informed that, in such a rapidly progressing country as America, any spot whereon a liquor-store and a post-office, with two or three huts about them, are built, is immediately named a “city.” All over the country these “Bogus” cities, as the more staid Americans call them, are to be found. Many, of course, to use their own phrase, “cave in,” and this was the fate of Roberts and Semiahmoo Cities, for in less than six months they were deserted.

A few days after our return from Semiahmoo, on the 29th July, the quiet tenor of our life in Esquimalt Harbour was disturbed by a messenger from the Governor, with a requisition that an armed force should be at once despatched to Victoria to quell an imminent disturbance in that city of wood and canvas. Steam was with all haste got up, and embarking the engineers of the Boundary party, we started for Victoria. Things had for some time been critical there, and it had been thought more than once that it would be necessary for the Governor to make an exhibition of force at least, that should effectually tame the more unruly of the strange, heterogeneous population that had placed themselves under his rule. The new-found mineral wealth of British Columbia had attracted from California some of the most reckless rascals that gold has ever given birth to. Strolling about the canvas streets of Victoria might be seen men whose names were in the black book of the Vigilance Committee of San Francisco, and whose necks would not, if they ventured them in that city, have been worth an hour’s pm-chase. Aware of this, and that the police force had only just been established, and consisted of some dozen untrained men, while it was well known that no naval or military auxiliaries were nearer at hand than Esquimalt, it may easily be conceived that we were not much surprised to receive the Governor’s message, and while we steamed round to Victoria thought it advisable to prepare ourselves for what might possibly be a grave encounter with the lawless spirits of California. Many a subsequent laugh have the recollections of that night’s work excited. Upon the quarter-deck, small-arm companies were having ammunition served out to them; forward, the ship’s blacksmith was casting bullets by the score; while our doctor was spreading out his cold, shining instruments upon the ward-room table, and making arrangements for the most painful surgical operations with that grave, business sang-froid, which is no doubt caused by a benevolent desire to show the fighting men what is in the opposite scale to honour and glory.

Directly the ship anchored outside the harbour, we were landed and marched into the Fort square, where we were left under arms, while Captain Richards waited upon the Governor. Whatever disturbance there had been had now evidently ceased, and his Excellency was found going or gone to bed. However, upon being informed of our arrival, he turned out, thanked and dismissed the troops, and our evening, begun so fiercely, wound up with a supper in the fort. The fact proved to be that the police, in endeavouring to arrest a drunken rioter, had been prevented by some of his companions, by whose aid he had been got on board a schooner lying in the harbour. Under the escort of one of our boats, the police now felt themselves strong enough to effect his capture; and the schooner in question being boarded, a harmless, sleepy, drunken miner was dragged out of the hold and lugged ashore, where on the morrow, no doubt, he was soundly rated and fined. And so ended the first and only difficulty which has ever threatened the peace of Victoria from its white population.

Few men could perhaps have been selected better adapted for dealing with the strange, heterogeneous population of Victoria than Mr. Douglas. Many stories are rife in Victoria of his coolness and readiness, when without these valuable qualities dangerous consequences might have ensued. I remember one, which, however, loses much of its point to those who are not familiar with the man, and his slow, deliberate action and utterance. Many years ago, when white men were fewer in these regions, and Indians less cowed than they have now become, Mr. Douglas was in command of one of the Company’s trading stations. His subordinate officer was alarmed upon one occasion by the Indians, who had for some time past showed symptoms of insubordination, becoming more violent than usual, and forcing their way in large, unruly numbers into the Fort square. Hushing to Mr. Douglas in an excited tone and manner, he reported that the Indians were in possession of the Fort, and desired to know whether he should turn the men out and man the bastion, &c. He was not a little surprised to hear his senior say in his measured, deliberate fashion of utterance, “Give them a little bread and treacle, Mr. ; give them a little bread and treacle.”

And indeed the specific completely soothed the excited multitude, which probably no force they could command would have done. Another annecdote of the same kind occurred while we were out there. A blustering Yankee went to the Governor apparently with the notion of bullying him, and began by asking permission for a number of citizens of the United States to settle on some particular spots of land. They would be required, he was informed, to take the oaths of allegiance.

“Well,” said he, “but suppose we came there and squatted?”

“You would be turned off.”

“But if several hundred came prepared to resist, what would you do?”

“We should cut them to mince-meat, Mr.; we should cut them to mince-meat.”

From this time until the 8th October, we were engaged at intervals among the islands of the Haro Archipelago surveying. On that day ended our outdoor work for 1858.

21st November.—Work over for the year, we proceeded to Nanaimo, where the ‘Plumper’ was beached in Commercial Creek, for the purpose of repairing the mischief she had done herself by running ashore. And a very moist, unpleasant business it was.

The low water was at night between the hours of 9 p.m. and 1 a.m.; it froze all the while, and the mud on which the si lip lay was so soft that half the working time was taken up in keeping the trench, which had to be dug under her, open, so that the injured false keel and forefoot could be got at. At last, however, the carpenters got their work done, and on the 9th December we returned to Esquimalt for the winter.

On Christmas-day the packet arrived, bringing Colonel Moody, R.E., the Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works; Mrs. Moody; Captain Gosset, R.E., Treasurer of British Columbia, and his wife; and the Rev. B. Crickener, now chaplain at Yale. The arrival of any officials from England was welcomed as a sort of connecting link with home, and a practical acknowledgment of the colony’s existence.

By this time the gold-fever had subsided, and something-very like a reaction had set in. Many declared that British Columbia was a bubble that would soon burst, if, indeed, it had not burst already. Victoria now was full of miners, who had come down the Fraser, and were as eager to get back to San Francisco as they had been to leave it in the spring. And although they all spoke well of the bars, brought much gold with them, and talked confidently of returning directly the winter was over, Victoria was uneasy at their departure, and would not believe in then’ return. The exodus, indeed, was startling, but not without a cause. To winter at the mines was scarcely suited to the tastes of men the majority of whom, accustomed to the climate of California, where snow is never seen, were ill adapted to endure the severity of a British Columbian winter. Such of the miners, principally Canadians and Englishmen, who passed the winter season up the river, suffered severely. The weather, which, with the ordinary comforts of civilization, might be easily borne, told heavily upon men poorly clad and housed, and obliged, from the exorbitant price of provisions, to live hardly. Indeed, more than once no little fear was felt lest, from the difficulty of getting supplies up the country to them, the inland population might be starved outright. At that time, and subsequently, a great number of the Indians who, in the hunt for gold had neglected to store fish and roots, and otherwise to prepare for the winter’s coming, did die of sheer starvation.

The task of transporting provisions to the bars high up the river was, indeed, great. The Harrison-Lilloett trail had, it is true, been cut, but as yet it was impassable for mule-trains, so that the only way of transporting things from lake to lake was by Indian packing. The snow, too, had blocked up many of the trails, the navigation of the Fraser itself was impeded by ice, so that it cannot be wondered at that such of the miners as had the hardihood to pass the winter near their claims were paying as much as 6s. a lb. for flour, and os. for bacon.

The old miners of California and Australia, men whose lives had made them impatient of hardship, except in the immediate pursuit of their darling object, and whose rapid gains provoked and permitted the utmost licence and extravagance, were little likely to remain up-country, with the comforts and vices of Victoria and San Francisco within their reach. But the people of Victoria did not then understand this; and when they saw their friends and customers of the summer depart southward, and heard accounts of the gold-bars being comparatively deserted, it required more faith than they possessed to enable them to believe that the tide of immigration would ever reflow, and that it was better for the country that these dubious Californians should leave and be replaced by a more steady and plodding population.

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