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Four Years in British Columbia and Vancouver Island
Chapter VII

July, 1859. — The Boundary Commissioners had been all this while working to little effect. The treaty concluded in 1844 between the English and American Governments was, as I have before said, somewhat vague. It set forth clearly enough that the boundary-line should follow the parallel of 49° north latitude, to the centre of the Gulf of Georgia; but it was at this point, as the reader may remember, that the difficulties attending its interpretation began. Thence the treaty stipulated that the line should pass southward through the channel which separates the continent from Vancouver Island to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The channel. But there were three. Were the most eastward of these meant, such a construction would give possession of all the islands of the Gulf to Great Britain. On the other hand, should the line, as the American Commissioners contended, be taken to pass down the Haro Strait, these islands would pertain to them. Reasons, which I have previously given, exist which prevent my making any remarks upon the merits of the matters in dispute between the Commissioners of Great Britain and the United States, or the results which followed them. I may only say, that it was at this time, while the question had been referred by the Commissioners to their respective Governments, that General Harney, who had lately been appointed to the command of the United States troops in the territories of Oregon and Washington, without any notice, landed soldiers upon the island of San Juna, who still remain there.

The same reasons which keep me silent upon this proceeding of the American General prevent my doing more than allude to the angry excitement which it caused in the colonies and at home. The events of that period will still he fresh in their memory of my readers. It will, therefore, be remembered how nearly war between the two countries was approached, and by what judicious and timely arrangements it was-averted. I will merely remark, in conclusion, that, during the present domestic troubles of the American people, this dispute is temporarily shelved. San Juan is at present held by equal bodies of troops of Great Britain and America, and the question remains open for settlement at some future period.

August 5th.—The flagship arrived, with divers on board, who, upon examining the ‘Plumper,’ found that she had received so much damage that it was determined, so soon as the coming winter-work was finished, to proceed to San Francisco, where the necessary repairs could be made.

August 19th.—A report reaching the Governor of some settlers in Burrard Inlet having been seized and detained by the Indians, wo were despatched thither to investigate this matter, but, upon our arrival, we found the report untrue.

I will take the present opportunity of giving a short and general description of the more important of those long arms of the sea, or inlets, which, as a glance at the map will show the reader, stretch at comparatively small intervals inland along the coast of British Columbia. Some of these were not surveyed until a period considerably later than the time of which I am now writing, while others are still unexplored. It must be many years before these shores can be of any value to the new colony; and it is mainly with the hope of discovering, from the head of one of them, a more direct route or routes to the gold-fields on the Upper Fraser than that afforded by the river, that exploring parties have been, and still are, busy examining them.

All these inlets possess certain general characteristics. They run up between steep mountains three or four thousand feet in height; the water is deep, and anchorages far from plentiful; while they terminate, almost without exception, in valleys,—occasionally large and wide, at other times mere gorges,—through which one or more rivers struggle into the sea. They may be said, indeed, to resemble large fissures in the coast more than anything else. In the days of Vancouver these arms of the sea were diligently searched in the hope of discovering through one of them the long looked-for passage that should connect the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. It was not indeed until after many successive disappointments that Vancouver seems to have relinquished this hope; and although of course some inaccuracies have been found in his charts of these parts, their general correctness, together with the amount of labour they must have cost him, and the patience and perseverance with which he forced his vessels through intricate passages difficult and dangerous even to steamers, deserve more credit than he ever obtained.

The southernmost, and as yet the most important, of the inlets of British Columbia was named, by Vancouver, “Burrard,” after a friend of that name in the Royal Navy. This inlet differs from most of the others in possessing several good anchorages. It is divided into three distinct harbours, which are separated from each other by narrows, through which the tide rushes, with such velocity as to render them impassable by any but powerful steamers except, at slack-water or with the tide.

The entrance of Burrard Inlet lies 14 miles from the sand-heads of the Fraser River. English Bay is the anchorage immediately inside the entrance on the south side and is of considerable importance to vessels entering at night, or when the tide is running out through the narrows, affording them an anchorage where they can wait comfortably until morning or turn of tide, instead of drifting about the place. Two miles inside the first narrows is Coal Harbour, where coal has been found in considerable quantities and of good quality, although the demand is not yet sufficient to induce speculators to work it in opposition to the already established mines at Nanaimo. Six miles above Coal Harbour, the inlet divides again into two arms; one of which runs inland about ten miles, the other opening into Port Moody, which forms the head of the southern arm. Port Moody is a very snug harbour, three miles long, and averaging half-a-mile wide, though only 400 yards across at the entrance. It is the possession of this port, with its proximity by land to New Westminster upon the Fraser River, from which place it is distant but five miles, which gives to Burrard Inlet its present importance. During the winter the Lower Fraser is sometimes frozen up, and the only access to British Columbia then open is by the way of Burrard Inlet and Port Moody. Hither the steamers have to take their passengers, mails, and cargo; whence, by a short, good road, they are conveyed to New Westminster. During last winter (1861-62), winch was unusually severe, the Fraser was entirely blocked up; and this way, and an out-of-the-way, inconvenient trail of seven miles from Mud Bay, inside Point Roberts, were the only routes by which the interior of British Columbia could for some considerable time be reached.

Immediately north of Burrard Inlet is Howe Sound, the north point of the former forming the south shore of the latter. This sound runs inland for about 20 miles, and is wider than the other inlets, having a breadth at its entrance of six miles. At its head is a wide, extensive valley, the soil of which is very good, and through which several rivers run into the inlet: the largest of these, the Squawmisht, is navigable for 20 miles for canoes. From this point, which, however— so tortuous is the river — is only distant ten miles from the head of the sound, a road might, with no great difficulty, be cut to Port Pemberton, on the north end of the Lilloett Lake, the distance being only 40 or 50 miles. I examined this route in 1860, and found it perfectly practicable; but as a road between Port Douglas, at the head of Harrison Lake, and the south end of the Lilloett Lake had already been constructed, it was not thought advisable to make another so near it. Had this route met the Fraser above instead of below Cayoosh, it would have been worth cutting at any expense; but coming out where it does, its construction would not have been of sufficient benefit to the colony to have justified the great outlay which must have been incurred in making it.

Next to Howe Sound is Jervis Inlet, a narrow arm running inland 45 miles. Vancouver appears to have thought this the most promising of all the inlets he had explored for the great object of his search ; and experienced great disappointment when, after sailing up it for several days, he reached its head. It seems strange that such an experienced explorer should have expected that so narrow a passage—its greatest breadth after the first ten miles being but two— would be found to divide the American continent from shore to shore.

It was for some time thought that a highway to British Columbia would be found to exist up this inlet; and, with the view of ascertaining its practicability, I was instructed to start from the head of Jervis Inlet, and make my way to the Fraser Kiver. An account of this journey and its unsuccessful issue will follow in its place. Whilst making it, I constantly interrogated the Indians who accompanied me as to the probability of a way existing from the head of Toba or Bute Inlets, which run up from Desolation Sound, and arc the two next inlets northward of Jervis. From their answers,

I was for some time under the impression that Bute Inlet was the place whence a start might be made for the Fraser with every prospect of success. But upon returning to Victoria, and submitting the accounts of my informants to the scrutiny of an interpreter, and making them map out in their own way the route that they suggested, I came to the conclusion that the route they spoke of led, not to the Fraser Fiver, but to Lake Anderson.

It may seem strange that Indians living at Jervis Inlet should know the country about Desolation Sound so well, seeing that the two arms of the sea are distant from each other 60 miles, and that the inhabitants of each inlet are constantly at war. The tribe, however, to which my guides belonged, although in the summer dwelling by the coast, were settled really at Lake Anderson, from which neighbourhood they migrated to Howe Sound, Jervis, Bute, and Toba Inlets, to fish, and were, therefore, likely to be well acquainted with the country through which at such times they must pass on their way to the coast. They were called Loquilts, the proper Indians of Jervis Inlet being named Sechelts.

From these Indians I ascertained that the Bridge River, one—the north—branch of the Lilloett, together with the Sqiiawmisht and the Clahoose Kivers, which empty into Desolation Sound, all take their rise in three or four small lakes lying in a mountain basin some 50 or 60 miles from the coast due north of Jervis Inlet. Mr. Downie, when exploring Bute Inlet with a view to a way from the coast inland, went four or five miles up the Clahoose River, which he described as large and broad, running in a north-east direction. “The Indians,” he wrote, “told me it would take five days to get to the head of it. Judging from the way a canoe goes up such rivers, the distance would be about sixty miles, and it must be a long way above the Quamish (Squawmisht), and not far from the Lilloett. The Indians have gone this route to the head of Bridge River, and it may prove to be the best route to try. It is very evident there is a pass in the coast-range here that will make it preferable to Jarvis Inlet or Howe Sound. If a route can be got through, it will lead direct to Bridge River.”

It is now three years since Mr. Downie made the above statement; and I think it is probable that he has long since changed the opinion he then expressed as to the route to the Bridge River being the most practicable and best of those proposed to the Upper Fraser. So little, however, is known of this valley—and that little comes from Indian information —that the route advocated by Mr. Downie may yet be found to equal his expectations of it. Since my return from the colony it has been again examined and adopted by a company, who propose at once to open it up. It is asserted by them that this way is nearly twenty miles shorter than the Bentinck Arm route to Alexandria, and that no serious obstacles intervene to prevent striking the Fraser at a point where steamers can be put on to ply on the Upper River. The right to construct this route, and to collect tolls on the pack-trail for five years, at 1J cents per lb., and 50 cents for animals—with, should a waggon-road be constructed, 5 cents per lb. toll—has been conceded to them. In their prospectus the distance of the route proposed is set down as 241 miles, of which 83 miles are river and lake navigation, and 158 land-carriage, offering an advantage over the rival route by Bentinck Arm, which has a longer land-carriage. Before this summer is out, the question of superiority will in all probability be settled. '

The next inlet, north of Bute, is Loughborough. Beyond are Knight Inlet and Fife Sound, of which comparatively little is known. In 1861 Mr. Downie went up Knight Inlet and discovered plumbago, which, when tested, did not prove to be so rich as he at first sight thought it.

The entrance to Fife Sound is marked by a magnificent mountain on its north side, which Vancouver named “Stephens,” after the then First Lord of the Admiralty.

Above this point up to our coast boundary, in 54° 40' north latitude, is a succession of inlets known only to the Indians who inhabit them, and some of the Hudson Bay Company’s employes. One of these, through which it is thought by many that the much-desired road to the interior of the country will be found to lie, “ Deans Canal,” has recently attracted considerable notice. The entrance to this inlet is about 80 miles from the north end of Vancouver Island; it runs inland some 50 miles, under the name of Burke Channel, and then divides into three arms: one, Deans Canal, running nearly north for 25 miles; the others, called the North and South Bentinck Arms, pursuing north-easterly and southeasterly directions. By one or other of these channels it is pretty confidently expected that a good available route to the interior will be found to exist. No doubt attention was drawn to this spot not a little from the fact, that years ago Sir Alexander McKenzie did actually penetrate from the interior to the sea here. Subsequently it was known that a Mr. McDonald had found his way from Fort Fraser to the coast, coming out at Deans Canal, and, it was said, making the journey with ease and expedition; while later, letters were conveyed more than once by some such route, by Indian messengers, from the Hudson Bay Company’s steamer 'Beaver,’ lying in the Bentinck Arm, to the officer in charge of Fort Alexandria, high up the Fraser River.

When Sir Alexander McKenzie explored this part of the country, he appears to have ascended the West-road River from the Fraser, and then, crossing the ridge forming the watershed, to have descended to the sea. His route has never been exactly followed; but in 1860 Mr. Colin McKenzie crossed from Alexandria to the same place on the coast, viz., Baseals’ Village, or Bell-houla Bay, in thirteen days by way of Chilcotin Lake. His party travelled the greater portion of the way on horseback: Mr. McKenzie told me that they might have taken their animals all the way by changing the route a little. On their way back, indeed, they did so. The ascent to the watershed was, he said, so gradual, that they only knew they had passed the summit by finding that the streams ran west, instead of east. Since that time another gentleman, Mr. Barnston, has travelled by much the same route. His journey is described in a letter which he wrote to Mr. P. Nind, Gold Commissioner at Cariboo, in July, 1861, and which, as illustrating the character of the country and the obstacles met with in the construction of trails, I am enabled, by the kind permission of that gentleman, to give to the reader:—

“We left Alexandria on the 24th May last, and after the loss of several days from accidental causes, such as missing trail, &c., arrived at Lake Anawhim on the 8th June. We left this place on the 10th. On the 12th we camped in the Coast Range. On the 13th we descended into the valley of Atanaioh, or Bell-houla River, and camped a few miles down. Here we left our horses with Pearson and Ritchie. On the evening of the 17th McDonald and I, accompanied by Tomkins, started on foot for the coast. We arrived at the Bell-houla village, Nout-chaoff, early on the morning of the 19th. Here we obtained a canoe and descended to Kougotis, the head of the Bell-houla (North Bentinck Arm), in six hours. The cause of our horses being left behind was the swollen state of the mountain-torrents running into the Bell-houla River. These streams are, however, quite small and narrow, and could be bridged at little expense. On the 24th we left Kous-otis to return in the same canoe, and arrived at Nout-chaoff on the 25th. The trail between the two villages is good. From Nout-chaoff to camp it took us two days, a distance usually travelled by Indians with packs in one. On the 30th we broke up camp on Bell-houla River, and arrived in Alexandria on the 10th, travelling moderately with packed animals. The Bell-houla River could be made navigable for light-draught steamers as far up as Nout-chaoff, and perhaps above. From thence pack-trains could make Alexandria, or the mouth of Canal River, if a trail were made there, easily in 14 or 15 days. The trail to Canal River would probably have to diverge from the Alexandria trail at Chisikut Lake about 75 miles from Alexandria. The trail runs the whole distance from Alexandria to Coast Range on a kind of table-land, which is studded in every direction with lakes and meadows: feed is plentiful. The streams are numerous, but small and shallow; in fact, mere creeks. There are some swamps, which require corduroying. There is plenty of fallen timber; but it is light and could easily be cleared. There is also a kind of red earth, which is in places very miry; the cause of this is I think, want of drainage. This miry ground and the swamps are the greatest objections that can be urged against the road. The swamps, however, have one advantage over such places generally,—that is, in their foundation, which is rocky and strong. The trail might be shortened in some places, but not a great deal. We made the distance from our camp on Bell-houla River to Alexandria easily enough in 11 days with packed horses. The trail is, with the exception of the descent of the Coast Range, comparatively level, and could easily be made a good practicable road. The descent on to the Bell-houla River is not by any means steep, with the exception of a slide, down which we, however, took our horses. This slide might be avoided, or could be easily overcome by a zigzag trail. The trail would have to be considerably improved before pack-trains could pass over it. When the Coast Range is passed there is no perceptible ascent.

“From the place where you first strike the Bell-houla River in the Coast Range, the trail runs along its bank through a deep gorge or pass in the mountains the whole way to the coast. There is, however, another road from Lake Anawhim, which strikes the river at Nout-chaoff, which the Indians informed Us was the better road. They also told us that if we had taken this road we could have reached Nout-chaoff with our horses, as we should have thereby avoided the worst part of the other road and the torrents. Kougotis, the head of the inlet, would be the head of navigation for sea-going vessels.

“We think that if a road were made from the Bell-houla Inlet, to strike the Fraser somewhere about the mouth of the Quesnelle River, and from thence into the Cariboo, &c., a considerable saving in the cost of transportation would be effected. We can hardly make an approximate estimate even of what it would cost to make the trail passable; but it would not cost much considering the distance and style of country, and could easily be made available for next summer’s operations.”

If The reader will follow on the map the line between the Bentinck Arm (Bell-houla) and Alexandria, he will see that it runs straight east and west between the two places for 160 miles. This is the route to the gold-fields, south of that taken by Sir A. McKenzie, which is proposed to be adopted, and to open up which another company, in opposition to the Bute Inlet scheme, has been organised. It is affirmed that the road becomes open and practicable for animals in the beginning of April, and that the snow at Bell-houla and the main plateau above it disappears early in the year. At present and for some time to come no accommodation for travellers can be expected along this route; but in reply to this objection it is urged that the journey is comparatively short, and may be walked without a pack in seven days; and that the Indians of the various tribes through which it will be necessary to pass are not only friendly but seem anxious for white settlers to come, inquiring constantly when the Boston and King George men may be expected, and looking forward to remunerative employment in packing to the mines.

The following account of this route has also been given by one of its projectors, who assumes to speak from personal experience:—“My suggestion would be, let a man take up sufficient provisions for the road; or if he wishes to avoid the heavy outlay which a poor miner must experience before he has struck a claim, let him take sufficient to last him three or four weeks, and pack one, two, or three Indians, as the case may be. I assure him he will find no difficulty in procuring Indians. Nootlioch (an Indian lodge) is 30 miles up the river; for 15 miles above this goods can be taken in small canoes. Narcoontloon is 30 miles; a good road with the exception of one bad hill. Here there is another Indian lodge, from which it is 50 miles to Chilcotin; good trail, perfectly level. From there it is 60 miles to Alexandria, or about 70 to the mouth of Quesnelle River. The trail from the top of the Nootlioch hill is for foot-passengers as good the whole way as any part of the Brigade Trail, with the exception of one or two places, where there is a little fallen timber. The trail follows a chain of lakes, and could consequently, if taken straight, be made much shorter, and also avoid much soft ground. Game and fish are abundant on the road: I caught several trout with a string and a small hook and a grasshopper on my way down. The Aunghim and Chilcotin Indians have a good many horses, which might be turned to use for packing.”

Alexandria, however, which is the proposed terminus in this route from Bell-houla, is some 50 or 60 miles south of those diggings, which are now the most profitable in the country, and which, under the general name of the Cariboo gold-fields, extend from the lake of that name to Bear River, and are likely to extend still farther north, should the opinion of many of the miners that the richest diggings still remain to be found on the Peace River, northward of that spur of the Rocky Mountains, which turns the course of the Fraser southward, prove correct. It seems, therefore, likely that the line of route proposed by other adventurers, running from Dean’s Canal, in a north-easterly direction, to the Nachuten Lakes, and along the river of the same name to Fort Fraser, may bear off the palm, particularly if, as is very probable, Stuart River be found navigable for steamers from that place to Fort George, where it meets the Fraser.

In the summer of 1859 Mr. Downie explored a still more northward route from Fort Essington, by a river called by him the Skena, but which must be the same as that known inland as the Simpson or Babine, and which flows from Lake Babine. This route is less direct than any of the others, and is so far north as to be unavailable for the greater part of the year. Mr. Downie’s interesting account of this journey will be found in the Appendix. It will be seen that he reports the country through which he travelled to be auriferous, that ho found evidence of most extensive deposits of coal of a quality superior to any specimen of that mineral which he had previously seen in British Columbia and Vancouver Island, and that the land generally seemed excellent and well adapted for agricultural purposes.

Forty miles north of Port Essington, and 240 from the north end of Vancouver Island, Fort Simpson is reached, which is situated as nearly as possible upon the line of boundary between Great Britain and Russia. This post has been established for many years, and is surrounded somewhat thickly by Indians, among whom Mr. Duncan; the missionary teacher, of whose self-denying life and valuable labours I shall hereafter have occasion to speak at greater length, works with such singular success.

From the 25th August to the 30th September we were employed among the inner channels between Nanaimo and Victoria, and in putting down a set of buoys on the sands at the entrance of the Fraser River. On the islands in these inner channels there are now several agricultural settlements, the principal one being on Admiral Island, an island fourteen miles long by four or five wide, having two or three excellent harbours, and containing much good land. On this island there are saltsprings.

Admiral Island is next to Vancouver, from which it is separated by a narrow strait, called Sausum Narrows, which at its narrowest part is little more than half-a-mile Avide.

Four miles west of the south part of Admiral Island, Cape Keppel, is Cowitchin Harbour. As a harbour this is not worth much; but it will be of importance when the Cowitchin Valley, which runs back from it, becomes settled. This valley is the most extensive yet discovered on the island, and is reported by the colonial officers who surveyed it to contain 30,000 or 40,000 acres of good land. It is peopled by the Cowitchin tribe of Indians, who, as I have mentioned, are considered a badly-disposed set, and have shown no favour to those settlers who have visited them valley. Although it has been surveyed it cannot yet be settled, as the Indians are unwilling to sell, still less to be ousted from their land. Through this valley runs the Cowitchin River, which comes from a large lake of the same name, and 24 miles inland, and empties itself into the head of Cowitchin Harbour. It is navigable for several miles for canoes. Between Cowitchin and Nanaimo there is a considerable quantity of good land, Avhicli has been surveyed and is called the Chemanos district.

Immediately south of Cowitchin Harbour is the Saanich Inlet, a deep indentation running 14 miles in a south-south-east direction, carrying deep water to 'its head, and terminating in a narrow creek within four miles of Esquimalt Harbour. This inlet forms a peninsula of the south-east portion of Vancouver Island of about 20 miles in a north-north-wesl and south-south-east direction, and varying in breadth from eight miles at its southern part to three at its northern. On the southern coast of this peninsula are the harbours of Esquimalt and Victoria, in the neighbourhood of which for some five miles the country is pretty thickly wooded—its prevailing features lake and mountain—with, however, some considerable tracts of clear and fertile land. The northern portion for about ten miles contains some of the best agricultural land in Vancouver Island. The coast here, as everywhere else, is fringed with pine; but in the centre it is clear prairie or oak-land, most of it now under cultivation. Seams of coal have also been found here. On the eastern or peninsular side of the inlet are some good anchorages, the centre being for the most part deep. A mile and a half from the head of the inlet is a large lake, called Langford Lake, which is very likely to be called into requisition some day to supply the ships in Esquimalt Harbour, from which it is two miles and a half distant, with water. Outside the Saanich peninsula is Cordova Channel, extending to Discovery Island, seven miles from Victoria. Like all these inner passages, this one is quite safe for steamers, but, from the varying currents, dangerous for sailing vessels. As several farms have been established along the shore of the island here, looking out on the Haro Strait, and the land is much more clear than usual, this is one of the prettiest parts of the island.

On the 30th September the Admiral (Sir R. L. Baynes, K.C.B.), came on board, and we took him to Nanaimo and Burrard Inlet, returning to Esquimalt on the 4th October. From this time until the 28th we continued working northward from Nanaimo, when, having been drenched to the skin nearly every day for a month, the captain determined to close the season’s operations, and we made for Nanaimo. Here we found—what was not unfrequently the case—that the Indians were all more or less drunk, owing to a grand feast which had been given by the chief of the tribe a few days before, and that they would not get the coal out of the pit for us: we had, therefore, to help ourselves.

On the 10th of February, 1860, having brought our winter duties to an end, we started for San Francisco, and anchored that night in Neali Bay, of which I have spoken in describing the Strait of Fuca. Next morning we proceeded out of the Strait, passing several vessels on their way in. The sight of these vessels could scarcely fail to remind us of the colony which had sprung into existence since we had rounded Cape Flattery and entered that Strait three years before, when we might have steamed up and down it for a week without meeting more than a few vessels, and those bound to American ports. In the passage between San Francisco and Vancouver Island there is nothing worthy of particular notice, except the change from the everlasting pine-trees which friDge all our shore, to the almost treeless coast of California. One cannot help feeling that Nature has been unfair in its distribution of timber in these regions. California, comparatively speaking, may be said to have none, all their plank being supplied from the saw-mills before spoken of as being at work in Puget Sound and Admiralty Inlet. It was with considerable difficulty and at great expense that they managed to get sufficient wood to build a small steamer, ordered by the Federal Government to be constructed at Mare Island, the dockyard of San Francisco. The coast all the way down is well lighted, but there are no good harbours; San Francisco, indeed, is the only good one between the Strait of Fuca and Acapulco, which is 1500 miles below it, on the coast of Mexico, although there are several open anchorages. The distance from Cape Flattery to the Golden Gate, as the entrance of San Francisco harbour is called, is 700 miles, and the mail-steamers make the passage generally in three days and a half to five days. We, however, were under sail much of our time, and did not make it until seven days after leaving Esquimalt. On the morning of the 17th we sighted the noble head, the name of which has been changed from “Punta de Los Reyes”—the grand name the old Spaniards had given it—to “Point Reyes”—and crossing the bar, entered the harbour at four in the afternoon. .

Nothing can be finer than the entrance to this magnificent harbour; and, considering also the country of which it is the only port, its name of “Golden Gate” is very appropriate, although the name was given to it long before the discovery of gold in California. It had reference, no doubt, to the beauty of the country generally, and to the golden appearance it wears in spring, before the parching summer sun has scorched its verdure.

Fifteen miles off the harbour is a group of rocky islands, called the Farrallones, on the southern of which is a lighthouse. Off the entrance of the harbour is the “Bar,” on which the surf is generally rough. This bar, however, serves to let the mariner know he is off the entrance if he is trying to make the harbour in a fog; which, as they prevail constantly from May till October, he is very likely to do. The current in the entrance varies from two to five knots. There are two lighthouses at the mouth of the harbour, and on the hill above, on each side, is a telegraph-station. The constant fogs make this of little use, as ships are always slipping in and out without their arrival or departure being known. When we went in H.M.S. ‘ Hecate/ in October, 1861, nobody knew anything of our arrival till some of the officers appeared at the club. Generally speaking, however, vessels arriving are seen as they pass Alcatraz Island, which lies in the middle of the harbour, and is a military station. Although some attempt has been made to fortify San Francisco, it is still very imperfect in this respect. The only defensive works as yet existing are, a brick fort on the south side of the entrance, intended to carry 140 guns, in three tiers of casemates, and one tier en barbette. A battery, intended to mount eleven heavy guns, is being constructed on the hill above this fort. Alcatraz Island, in the middle of the harbour, is partially fortified; and as the guns on this island are 150 feet above the sea, it would be an awkward place to attack with ships. This island is about three miles and a half from Fort Point; it is a small place, about 550 yards long, by 150 yards wide. Their guns are all en barbette, and number about 100. There is no water on the island, and they have to supply it from Saucehto Bay, five or six miles distant, and keep it in a large tank, said to hold 50,000 gallons.

I had last visited San Francisco in 1849, when the gold-fever was at its height, and there were only a dozen houses in the place, the 5000 or 6000 inhabitants being scattered about in tents. At that time the site of the present magnificent city was a bare sand-hill. In those days the harbour was filled with merchant-ships, as now; but although they entered in great numbers, few went out, both officers and men deserting the ships for the diggings as soon as the anchors were let go, and leaving their cargoes to be unloaded by others. Where these vessels used then to be anchored fine streets have been erected, for all the lower part of San Francisco is built out over the harbour. Many accidents are constantly occurring from the insecure way in which these streets are left. It is dangerous to go down to the wharves after dark, from the large holes left exposed, through which many poor fellows have fallen and been killed. Constant actions are being brought against the Town Council on this account. Greenhow, the American historian, was killed by falling through one of these places, and his widow brought an action against the Town Council, recovering the sum of 10,000 dollars for her loss.

San Francisco has been twice burnt down in the twelve years during which it has been in existence. These fires have been most beneficial to the town, as most of the wooden buildings which were destroyed have been replaced by very fine brick ones. Montgomery Street, the principal thoroughfare in the town, is now almost as fine a street as any European capital can boast of; equal, indeed, in the size of the buildings and magnificence of the shops, to the best thoroughfares of London. No city in the world has, I imagine, a history so short and wonderful as San Francisco. In February, 1849, the population was about 2000: in the middle of the same year it had risen to 5000; while it is stated that from April, 1849, to January, 1850, nearly 40,000 emigrants arrived, of which only 1500 were women. By the year 1860, the population had risen to 66,000. In addition to these, thousands went to the mines direct, many crossing the continent and the Sierra Nevada, where hundreds left their bones to bleach among the mountains.

Among the thousands who hurried to California from every part of the world, it may be imagined there were many of the very dregs of society. Convicted felons from our penal colonies—every one, indeed, whose own country was too hot for him, hastened hither. Murders, incendiarisms, and every kind of crime were being daily perpetrated; no decent man dared to walk the streets after dark, and no property was safe. Law there was not; and where two-thirds of the population were scoundrels, it may be imagined what class of public officials would be elected under the system of universal suffrage. What, therefore, between the weakness or partiality of the judges, the technicalities of the law, the dishonesty of the juries, and the dread of witnesses to tender their evidence, San Francisco, in 1851, was suffering from anarchy unparalleled in modern history. It was this social condition of the city that caused the organisation of that most remarkable society, the “Vigilance Committee,” to which I have had occasion to allude in a former chapter.

This association was formed in June, 1851, “for the protection of the lives and property of citizens resident in the city of San Francisco.” A council was appointed and a place of meeting fixed, while the tolling of the bell of the Monumental Fire Engine Company was the signal for assembly. Although the “Vigilance Committee” has for several years now allowed the law of the land to take its course, it still exists, and is ready to assemble whenever the signal may be given. “What has become of your Vigilance Committee,” I asked one of them when I was in San Francisco in October last. “Toll the bell, Sir, and you will see,” was the reply. “Oh, then you are still under orders?” “Always ready at the signal, Sir. If it were now given, you would see thousands at the meeting-place before the bell had ceased to sound.”

There is no doubt that this strange organisation exercised, and still exercises, a most wholesome restraint over a society that, but a few years since, elected a miner to be chief judge of the State, and whose two principal judges now go by the significant sobriquets of “Mammon” and “Gammon.” The first proceeding of the committee in the summer of 1851 was to arrest, try, and hang four men, three of whom confessed their crimes, while the fourth was, I believe, undoubtedly guilty. The moral effect of this proceeding was wonderful. All the other towns, which were rising all over the State, formed Vigilance Committees of their own. Many known ruffians, whose crimes could not be brought home to them, were ordered to leave the State; while others were kept in surveillance, and reported from Committee to Committee as they traversed the country. For years after this California was almost free of crime. Although by the greater number of the people the Vigilance Committee was held in favour, the officials and some others denounced it, and to this day stigmatise its existence as a disgrace to California. These termed themselves the “Law and Order ” party; but upon many occasions their weakness to restrain the mixed and dangerous population of San Francisco was made apparent.

I have entered more fully into the history of San Francisco than I otherwise should have done, since I think a valuable and fair comparison may be drawn between these scenes and the peaceable course of British Columbia since the discovery of gold there five years ago. The reader unacquainted with the past history of California, would scarcely credit the fearful scenes through which she has reached her present growth.

If San Francisco were the only city in California, its dimensions would not, perhaps, be so surprising; but it is only one of many, almost as large and equally beautiful, in the State. Sacramento, the seat of government, Stockton, and others, vie with it in size, while Marysville, Benicia, Los Angelos, &c., are far more beautifully situated.

After a few days’ stay off San Francisco, we proceeded to Mare Island, where the Government dockyard is established. Mare Island is 23 miles from San Francisco, across San Pablo Bay, and at the mouth of the Sacramento. Here we were received by the American naval officers, and immediately put on the dock.

It may be interesting to some of my readers if I here say something of a Sectional Dock, such as that we were now placed upon, and which, though generally used in America, is very little known, and still less liked, in this country. In a new country where there is plenty of timber, this kind of dock has one great advantage, in its cheapness and facility of construction, compared with the ordinary stone docks. But in California, where, as I have before said, there is very little timber, a stone dock might have been constructed almost as cheaply. The dock of which I am speaking had to be built at Pensacola, and then taken to pieces, and sent out to California at an expense, I was there told, of about 70,000 dollars (15,000l.)

The Sectional Dock is composed of a series of sections, or iron tanks, each being fitted with a complete pumping-apparatus, elevated on a framework 60 or 80 feet above the top of the tank. These tanks are fitted with gates, like the caissons used in English docks, so that they can be filled, sunk, or again puruped out at pleasure. A number of these sections, varying according to the weight and length of the ship to be lifted, are securely chained together, and the whole is moored in water sufficiently deep to allow of their being sunk beneath the vessel’s keel. They are generally kept level with the water’s edge; but when a vessel is to be docked, they are sunk low enough to allow her to come over the blocks which are placed along the centre. The vessel is then hauled over the blocks, the pumps started, and, as she rises, shores from the sides of the tanks, and from the frames of the pump-houses, are placed under her and against her sides, and she is gradually raised till her keel is out of the water. If proper care is taken, these docks are quite safe, but the ship must be placed cautiously on the blocks, or an accident is very likely to happen. In 1860 H.M.S. ‘Termagant’ was allowed to fall over in this dock, and was for some time in great danger. Her stern was allowed to rest on the edge of one of the sections, which, as her weight came upon it, rose up and turned over. This canted the ship, and she fell with her masts against the pump-houses. Fortunately she had only been raised a little way; had she been further out of the water, she would probably have broken down the pump-houses, and very likely sunk. One advantage possessed by these docks is, that the ship being, as it were, raised into the air, there is better light for working at her bottom than in a stone dock.

While at San Francisco we had, of course, many opportunities of remarking those peculiar habits of manner and phraseology indulged in by the Americans. At Victoria, peopled as it is by Americans, we had been made familiar with them; but here they were more commonly and glaringly used. Certainly, they justify anything that Mr. Dickens or other English satirists have written of them. Americans all say—not, however, with perfect truth—that these eccentricities belong only to the lower orders of society. I have the pleasure of knowing both American gentlemen and ladies quite free from their use; but still I have met many others, holding good positions in society, thoroughly “Yankee” in tone and expression. These Americanisms must lose much of their ludicrous effect by being written, as it is impossible to give the tone and peculiar emphasis of the speaker. Words are often used by them to convey a sense entirely different to that which we apply to them. Thus, “I’ll happen in directly” is considered rather a good expression for a contemplated visit. So, “clever” does not imply any talent in the individual of whom it is spoken, but is said of a good-natured, gentlemanly man generally; while “smart” answers for our “clever.” Speaking to an American naval officer, just before leaving Victoria for San Francisco, he said, “Well, sir, I guess you’ll have quite an elegant time down there. Elegant place, sir, San Francisco.” A very pretty young lady, living in Puget Sound, and happening to be on board the ‘Plumper,’ said to one of the officers: “Well, sir, if you come over to Steilacoom, I guess you shall have a tall horseback rideby which form of expression she meant to imply, not that the horse should be longer in the legs than is usual, but that care should be taken that the ride should be more than ordinarily agreeable. In a book on Americanisms, published last year, a Baltimore young lady is represented as jumping up from her seat on being asked to dance, and saying, “Yes, sirree; for I have sot, and sot, and sot, till I’ve nigh tuk root!” I cannot say I have heard anything quite equal to this; but I very well remember that at a party given on board one of the ships at Esquimalt, a young lady declined to dance a “fancy” dance, upon the plea, “I’d rather not, sir; I guess I’m not fixed up for waltzing—an expression the particular meaning of which must be left to readers of her own sex to decide. An English young lady, who was staying at one of the houses at Mare Island, when we were there, happened one evening, when we were visiting her friends, to be confined to her room with a headache. Upon our arrival, the young daughter of our host—a girl of about twelve—went lip to her to try to persuade her to come down. “Well,” she said, “I’m real sorry you’re so poorly. You’d better come, for there are some almighty swells down there!” A lady, speaking of the same person, said, “Her hair, sir, took my fancy right away.” Again, several of us were one day talking to a tall, slight young lady about the then new-fashioned crinoline which she was wearing. After a little banter, she said, “I guess, Captain, if you were to take my hoops off, you might draw me through the eye of a needle!”

Perhaps one of the most whimsical of these curiosities of expression, combining freedom of manner with that of speech, was made use of to Captain Richards by a master-caulker. He had been vainly endeavouring to persuade the Captain that the ship required caulking, and at last he said in disgust, “You may be liberal as a private citizen, Captain, but you’re mean to an almighty pump-tack! ”—in his official capacity, of course. Again, an American gentleman on board one of our mail packets was trying to recall to the recollection of the mail agent a lady who had been fellow-passenger with them on a former occasion. “ She sat opposite you at table all the voyage,” he said. “Oh, I think I remember her; she ate a great deal, did she not?” “Eat, sir!” was the reply, “she was a perfect gastronomic filibuster!” One more example, and I have done with a subject upon which I might enlarge for pages. The boys at the school at Victoria were being-examined in Scripture, and the question was asked, “In what way did Hiram assist Solomon in the building of the Temple?” It passed two or three boys, when at last one sharp little fellow triumphantly exclaimed, “Please, sir, he donated him the lumber.”

Hardly less remarkable than their peculiarities of language is their habit of taking drinks with remarkable names from morning till night. No bargain can be made, no friendship cemented—in fact, no meeting can take place—without “liquoring up.” The morning is commenced with a brandy, or champagne, cocktail, not infrequently taken in bed. This is continued, at short intervals, until bedtime again, and no excuse will avail you unless you can say you are a “dashaway,” which is their name for a total abstainer. This habit, I must say, does not extend so high in the social scale as the other; it is, however, the great social failing of the Western States.

The repairs of the ship were finished, and on the 9th March we left San Francisco to return to our work; little thinking that in scarcely more than a year we should revisit it again with another ship in a worse state than we had brought the ‘Plumper.’

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