Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Click here to learn more about MyHeritage and get free genealogy resources

Four Years in British Columbia and Vancouver Island
Chapter IX

We remained at Esquimalt till the 26th, when we went into Victoria Harbour to assist in intimidating the Indians from the north, who had shown symptoms of mutiny. Some of them had raised difficulties about camping in the right places, and a chief, called Captain John, was to be arrested, upon which occasion it was thought likely there would be a disturbance. Accordingly, it was decided that we should go into Victoria, and, upon the Governor’s coming on board, fire as much blank cartridge as possible ; and that all the Marines, small-arm men, and field-pieces of the ships at Esquimalt should be paraded ostentatiously on Beacon Hill. The chief was to be arrested while they were all there, so that any disturbance which might arise could be easily quelled. The individual on whose behalf this entertainment was provided allowed himself to be arrested quietly; but, some time afterwards, he attempted to stab the policeman who was conducting him into court, and was shot by him on the spot in self-defence. We remained at Victoria over the Coronation Hay, to give the Indians the benefit of a little more powder and noise, and started that evening (28th) for Xanaimo. Here 1 prepared for the most arduous trip I made in British Columbia, the object of which was to find a valley along which a road might be made from the head of Jervis Inlet to the Upper Eraser about Chilcotin.

We left Nanaimo on the 2nd of July, and reached the head of the Inlet the same night. Here we managed to find a spot close under the rocks, where we could anchor in twenty fathoms, and as it fortunately remained calm we were able to hold on. Nest morning I managed to induce five Indians to accompany me. It came on to blow so hard that the ship could not possibly remain there, and I had to go on shore with our travelling-gear, and the five natives, Dr. Wood being again my travelling companion. As soon as we were on the beach, the ship steamed away, leaving us with water in front of us, and the thickest, most impenetrable bush I have ever had to travel through behind us. As there was no village near, however, we soon got the party off, and made our way into the bush, with the feeling, common on such occasions, of vague hope that we should come out again' somewhere and somehow. The valley through which our way lay was narrow at the entrance, and the hills on each side very precipitous. After a hard walk of about five miles wre halted, camping early to let things settle into their places.

Next morning, after we had travelled about a mile, we came to the Laalcine River, which runs into the head of the inlet we had left. When we reached this stream, the Indians told me we should not be able to accomplish the object of our journey, as they knew from the height of the water there that we should be unable to ford the river higher up ; and further, that even if we succeeded in fording this, the Squawmisht and Lilloett Rivers—both of which we- should have to cross before we could reach the Fraser—Avouhl be up to our necks at the fords. Having on former occasions, however, experienced similar discouragements on the part of the natives, whose laziness and disinclination to start upon a journey I have before mentioned, we did not pay much attention to them, and pushed on. We had to cross and recross the stream three times during the day, owing to the mountains at those places rising perpendicularly out of the vater; and each time it was a task of greater difficulty, as the stream became more rapid and deeper as we advanced, while for a considerable distance we had to walk along in the river up to our waists. This did not look promising, but still we hoped it might improve, until at 4 o’clock we came to a dead stop. At this spot, if we decided to continue our journey, it was necessary for us again to cross the river, as before us lay an impenetrable morass. The only apparent means of crossing was on a single log, about 120 feet long, which was two feet under water, and over which the stream was rushing in a torrent. It was quite evident that the packs could not be got across; and an opinion which had grown upon us during the day, that the gorge through which we were advancing could never be made available as a roadway, forced itself still more powerfully upon our minds. We were, however, unwilling as yet to return; and set about making a better bridge by felling a tree across the current. After some search, one was found that was long enough for the purpose, if we could get it to fall directly across; and we set to work upon it. An hour’s hacking and chopping brought us to the critical moment. What ropes we had were got upon it to guide it the right way, the last chop, upon which our fate depended, was given, and down came the tree with a crash that for the moment drowned the roar of the water. But it fell short of the opposite bank, and the next moment we saw our only hope flying down the river. The failure of this attempt, coupled with the conviction that no perseverance on our part would be rewarded, decided us upon retracing our steps to the Inlet. It was too late, however, to move that night, and I did not tell the Indians of my intention till next morning, when I delighted them with the intelligence that we were going back. All the arguments they had used ou the previous day to prevent our proceeding were repeated with additional emphasis now. “The water would keep on rising all the summer, as it had commenced much earlier than usual,” they said; “we should never have got across the other rivers, even if we had crossed here, as this river was not to be compared with them. Our provisions would have been exhausted long before we could have reached the Fraser, if we ever did reach it; and what would be the good of exploring this way after all, when they were certain mules could never pass it?” These and many similar arguments were brought forward to confirm our purpose of returning, and justly too; ’'for our way hitherto, when we had not been walking on the bed of the river, had been through swamp in which we sank nearly up to our knees, and where a mule would undoubtedly have gone up to his girths. I say nothing of the undergrowth of willow and wild raspberry-bushes, which formed a thick network, through which we had to force our path, but which in constructing the trail would of course be cleared away. The Indians, in their eagerness to return, had told me that they knew a way by which we could cross from Jervis Inlet to Howe Sound, and thence to Port Pemberton, and I now determined to make them take this route. Accordingly, we retraced our steps to the Inlet, and, sleeping at our first night’s camping-place, reached it by nine next morning.

Having got safely out of the bush, the Indians showed the greatest reluctance to making another start, and urged all kinds of fresh and startling difficulties. Recourse to very strong expressions was found necessary; and they were threatened with the undying wrath of Mr. Douglas, whose name always acts as a talisman with them. It was vividly set forth how that gentleman would call them “cultus” (useless), if they did not go, and how they would all receive muskets, blankets, and praise if they did. These arguments, accompanied with the taunt which I have before mentioned as proving very effectual with them, that they were woman-hearted, induced them to yield and promise to go if I would consent to take them to their village in the Arm for that night, that they might report their safe return to their squaws and replenish their stock. It cost us, as I have said, no little difficulty to persuade them to make a fresh start, and in our extremity I remember using the powerful argument that not only would Mr. Douglas when he heard of it exclaim that the Sechelt and Loquilt Indians were women, but that Queen Victoria and all the world would from the moment I reported the circumstance, regard their tribe as unworthy of their consideration.

Much as I dislike sleeping at an Indian village, I thought it wise to yield to their wish so far, and accordingly we paddled down the inlet to it. On our way we met our pinnace, which had been left with two other boats to survey the inlet, and I was very glad to go on board her for an hour or so. We slept at the village, however, as I knew if I once lost sight of the Indians I should never get them away from home. Next morning, the 7th July, we started with less troubje than I had ever experienced in leaving a village. My chief guide I could not help pitying, as he was leaving a young and pretty wife with a child in her arms, who cried bitterly when we started. He seemed very fond of her, and constantly on the journey said he wanted to hurry back to his “Papoose,” as he called her.

We paddled down to a bay called “Deserted Bay,” 15 miles from the head of the inlet, and here met Pender, who was in charge of the surveying party, and Gowland in the pinnace. I spent a few hours with them, and at three we got away, Pender and Gowland bearing us company to the edge of the bush, and there leaving us with good wishes,—congratulating themselves, as they afterwards told us, that their way lay no further inland. We camped a few miles in by the side of a river which runs into one of the southern arms of the inlet, and which is called by the natives the “Tzoonye.” This stream, they say, flows from a lake not far north of this spot. Directly facing us was a ridge of mountains, which must be crossed on the following day. Had we then known the height of this ridge and the difficulty we should experience in making the ascent, these facts would certainly have decided us to turn back at once, as they render the pass quite unavailable for any practical purpose.

Next morning we commenced the ascent and toiled for twelve hours up it and along its summit before we could find a spot clear enough of snow to camp in. From the time we started it cost us a struggle of about nine hours up an angle of thirty to thirty-six degrees to reach its summit. Here we found the snow lying three or four feet deep, but sufficiently hard on the surface to prevent our sinking more than six or eight inches at each step. Our camp that night lay, by the barometer, 4000 feet above that of the night before, and we had ascended from a very comfortable temperature to one intensely cold. The view was certainly very fine, though it scarcely compensated for the discomforts of our situation. We were up among snow-peaks which reared their heads 1000 feet or more above us, and which we recognised as old friends seen frequently from the Gulf of Georgia. Before us lay the valley along which we must pass, and at its far end 20 or 30 miles off, on the opposite side of the Squawmisht River, was seen another range of snow-clad hills. All this when lighted up by the moon and stars, which shone out brightly as we sat by our camp-fire smoking our last pipe before turning in for the night, was very beautiful.

Next morning the way became even more difficult. It took us three days to descend the valley to the Squawmisht River, which we reached and crossed about 10 miles above the head of Howe Sound on the 12th. It will give some idea of the nature of the country to say that the distance was only about 25 miles, and that we travelled each day more than ten hours and usually twelve, making therefore an average speed of little more than three-quarters of a mile an hour. A stream, for which the Indians had no name, runs through this valley, and down to its bed the mountains, 3000 or 4000 feet high, slope at all sorts of angles. The ground on which we walked the whole way was either smooth, slippery, rocky, or swampy; while nearly everywhere the thickest growth of alder, willow, and wild raspberry I have ever seen, formed a complete network across our path. A few days of travelling such as this may well weary the strength and patience of the strongest and most enduring, and my companion, after struggling manfully against its fatigues and discomforts, was obliged at last to give in. The way before us lay through the thick bush I have described,—now over swamp in which we sank at every step, sometimes knee-deep,—then over rock covered with green slippery moss, on which a fall every few minutes was certain. Add to this the constant plague of mosquitoes, and it need not be wondered at that my companion, on reaching the Squawmisht village, said it was no use his trying to go any farther. Accordingly he arranged with the Indians to take him in a canoe down Howe Sound and up the Fraser to Westminster, which he reached the following day. Used as I am to the smell of an Indian lodge, this village of Elaawho was more than I could stand, and there was no other place to pitch the tent, except in the midst of the long rank nettles, which thrive so well in the vicinity of all Indian villages. Accordingly I said good-bye to the Doctor, and having engaged two canoes to take us about a mile up the river, started about three in the afternoon of the same day, and soon camped for the night.

The valley at the northern extremity of which this village is situated, and which lies at the head of Howe Sound, is of considerable extent, and contains much good land. Two large rivers flow through it: the one on which I was, the Squawmisht, on the west side; and the Tseearkamisht on the east. Into these rivers several smaller ones run. When I met Dr. Wood on my return to Esquimalt, he described the lower part of the Squawmisht as very winding and the distance from the village to the head of Howe Sound as so much farther than I thought it could be, that afterwards when I came down from Fort Rupert in one of the ship’s boats, I ascended it in a canoe to the village to get observations there.

I was most fortunate in finding the chief, whom I had met at Elaawlio, at the mouth of the river, and he took me up in his canoe most willingly. I then found that the river had two mouths, and that through the western and larger one stern-wheel steamers might pass and ascend for several miles. How far they might be able to go is very doubtful, and cannot be determined till they are tried, as it frequently happens that those places which appear most narrow and dangerous are the easiest to pass; while in a place which appears to an explorer, walking along the bank or pushing up the stream close in-shore, perfectly clear, there is some snag or bank which forms an effectual block to steam-navigation. On returning down the river, however, we kept mid-stream, and saw nothing dangerous; and the Indians said it was all deep. The chief, who had been several times on the Fraser, frequently confirmed them, saying that “Boston steamers” could go up his river; and though we passed several banks and snags, I saw no place so bad as the Umatilla snag on the Fraser River, which I have before described, while the current did not appear more rapid than I have seen it at Sea Bird Bar and opposite Fort Hope. We saw several small villages along the river’s bank, where the Indians were all engaged in salmon-fishing. The Tseearkamisht joins the Squawmisht before reaching Howe Sound; but the constant silting-up has made the mouth of the former so shallow as to be quite unnavigable. The chief said there were a great many Indians living in different parts of the valley, and many potato grounds; and lie described tlie soil as being very rich. There is no trail to his village from the Sound, as they always use the river; but as the ground is quite level and in many parts clear, one could be easily constructed. The only ascent which would have to be made between this and Port Pemberton is to the summit of a spur which separates the Tseearkamisht and Squawmisht Rivers, and which we crossed the day after I left the village. From this summit the whole way is by a gradual descent. There would be no difficulty in carrying a road over this at an easy grade. From the description of Mr. McKay, an Hudson Bay Company’s officer, who traversed the other side of this spur up the valley of the Tseearkamisht, that route would seem to be even easier than the one I passed over.

For about 400 feet perhaps the path we took was rather steep; but, from the general appearance of the ground, I am confident a more easy grade could be found. We reached the summit by noon; and for the whole of the rest of the day our path lay through a gorge by the side of a stream, till, about six o’clock, we passed round a small hill, and came to a little lake, called by Mr. McKay, Daisy Lake. Here we camped for the night. Some of the ground over which we had passed during the day was rather rough; but after the travelling we had experienced between Jervis Inlet and Howe Sound, it was pleasant enough; and, as I was by tins time beginning to feel veiy much fatigued, the prospect of an easy journey to Pemberton, in which I was not disappointed, was very agreeable.

Next morning (14th) we crossed a low ridge, and immediately came upon the Tseearkamisht River, which flows on the other side of it. This river here runs through a large basin, which appeared as if it had been lately inundated; and indeed had it not been for the dead trees still standing in it, I should have taken it for the bed of a lake from which the water had lately receded. Though the river itself was here 50 yards wide, the number of dead trees, which completely blocked it up at this point, made a capital floating bridge, and enabled us to cross quite easily. We then walked along the basin, which we found to be composed of sand covered with boulders of trap and granite for two miles, when we came to that part where the river still overflowed its banks. The appearance of the country here was most remarkable. The trees were many of them very large, and the water, though lower than it had been, still stood six or eight feet up their trunks, giving them the appearance of a forest growing in water. As we advanced, a still more curious sight presented itself, for the trees having been burned by one of those fires so common in the bush, stood up all black and charred in the flood, looking as if there had been a struggle between fire and water for the mastery, in which both might claim a victory. AVhile speaking of fire in the bush, 1 may mention that in former years—for it decreases yearly as the trees are cut down—these fires were so common along the coast as to cause a smoke all over the Straits that had the effect of a fog, and made them as difficult of navigation as in the thickest winter weather.

From this point to our journey’s end the way had been travelled previously by Mr. McKay, an officer of the Hudson Bay Company, whose name I have already mentioned. He had, however, gone the opposite way to that which I took, having started at Port Pemberton and from the Daisy Lake, following the Tseearkamisht down, while I had come up the Squawmisht. He consequently reached Howe Sound by the east side of the large valley mentioned at its head, while I went up the west; and as, on comparing notes with him, I found he thought the side he took to be as good as mine, there can be little doubt of the favourable quality of the land there.

After proceeding along the east bank of the river for six miles we came to a small canon; and about two miles beyond this again crossed the river on dead trees, and camped. This canon could be easily avoided by a bridge built a little below it: it is of very small extent, the river being narrow, and the bank on the opposite side low and level.

A five-mile walk next morning brought us to a lake which we fonnd to extend, with an average breadth of one mile, about 10 miles in a north-easterly direction. Finding the Indians knew no name for it, I called it “Green Lake,” from the remarkably green colour of the water. This was a very pleasant spot; and coming upon a shady tree, with good grass growing beneath it, we halted for breakfast, and waited till noon to get a latitude. We then kept along its west bank to the head where there was a small patch of swamp, and crossing this, we came upon a fine beaten trail leading through a pleasant valley, which we kept till night.

During the night we experienced one of the heaviest thunderstorms I ever heard in the bush. It was raining a little when we turned in, but there were no very threatening indications of storm, although, doubtless, had we been in the open instead of among very large trees, where we could hardly see any sky, we should have been more prepared for it. As it was, about midnight we were awakened by a crash like the falling of an immense number of large trees, although the bright flash which almost instantly shot across the door of the tent showed us its cause. My poor crew suffered badly this night. The rain fell in torrents, putting out their fire, and drenching them thoroughly; and though I soon dozed off again, their idea of supernatural agency in thunder and lightning, which I have mentioned when speaking of Indians generally, kept them awake all night; and whenever I was roused by a particularly loud clap or a brighter flash than usual, I heard their shouts of terror or excitement mingling with the thunder’s reverberation. In the forest depths a storm of this kind is certainly a most awful and imposing spectacle. The clap of the thunder rings so much more than in an open space, while the reverberation continues through the forest with a succession of loud, sharp cracks like a number of distinct reports of cannon. A storm, too, appears so much nearer to you in the depth of a forest than when you see it on the plain. I have often stepped suddenly back into my tent when I have been watching it, fancying for the moment that the fork would strike the very spot on which I was standing, so vividly has the jagged line of light flashed across my face. The expression of fear on the Indians’ faces on these occasions is beyond description; they almost grow white through the coating of dirt on their skies; and you can never get them to move about alone while the storm continues.

Next day we continued our march in no very comfortable plight, every one and every thing wet through. As the sun rose, however, bright, clear, and warm, the past night appeared like a dream, for, except a few freshly-fallen trees and broken branches, no traces of the wild disturbance of the elements were seen. Our course all this day lay along the centre of a thickly-timbered valley 'with two or three small hills in it. Ascending one of these, about nine o’clock we saw the Lilloett River four or five miles off, coming in from the westward between very high precipitous mountains, and beyond these appeared the snow-capped peaks, which, according to the Indians, surround the mountain lakes, in which, as I have said, the Lilloett, Squawmisht, Clahoose, Bridge, and other rivers take their rise. They describe it as a basin, very high up, containing four or five small lakes, in which rise all the larger rivers watering this part of the country.

We soon came upon the Lilloett River, and followed its right bank till night, when we crossed one arm of it by an Indian bridge made over a fall of 200 or 300 feet, and there camped. We had crossed two or three steep mountain-shoulders during the latter part of the day, as this course shortened the distance, and was preferable to keeping the valley on account of the density of the bush there. A traveller will find that Indians always prefer the mountain-side to traversing a valley, so that, in examining with them a line of country for a road, you hardly ever pass over the exact "round thousand" which it would be carried. This should always be borne in mind in considering an Indian’s report of any route, as, except where it crosses high mountains or rivers, his description would not convey to a road-cutter a very good idea of the work before him.

It afforded me no small gratification when we halted that night to feel that it was our last out for this trip, and that we should be at Port Pemberton in good time next day. The way, after passing the Squawmisht, was certainly much easier than before; but travelling without a white companion is always very dull work; and for the last day and a half the mosquitos had become almost intolerable, worse indeed than I had ever before known them to be even in British Columbia. Fortunately I had a small mosquito-net, which the Doctor had wisely insisted upon bringing, or I do not know what I should have done. Whenever we halted I hung this on cross sticks, and, getting inside, tucked it about me. When tea was ready, it was handed in to me under the net, watch being kept that none of the enemy entered with it. The poor Indians suffered terribly, though they coated themselves with a mixture of oil and mud. At starting they had warned us that the “quileemuck” (mosquitoes) would kill us all when we got to the Lilloett; and they certainly did their best to effect that purpose. Before we left the ship we had head-bags made of crape, and these were the only things that kept us from being devoured while, we were walking. These were long veils which were fastened round the top of our straw hats, and tied in at the neck. We even went so far as to have small cane hoops inserted in them to keep them off the face. But these only answered in clear land, of which we found very little on this trip. In the hush the hoops were always catching the boughs of trees and tearing. The moment the bag touched your face you were bitten through it: the mosquitoes making nothing of any such trifling obstruction as the net of which it is composed. Indeed it was said by some of the officers engaged on the Boundary expeditions, that the mosquitoes were known to bite through two blankets! It should be said, however, that these plagues are only met with in these woods and on the Lower Fraser. The country above Fort Hope, for instance, is free, or almost free from them. And wherever the country is cleared they disappear. At Westminster, for example, they have become much less troublesome since the site of the town was cleared, although their disappearance cannot be looked for until the thick bush, which still hedges in the city closely, shall have yielded to the axes of the settlers. In Vancouver Island they are almost unknown.

An hour’s walk on the following morning brought us to the top of a hill from which we looked down on the Lilloett Meadows. A small lake, at certain seasons nearly dry, lay at our feet, and before us, for some miles east and west, dotted at long intervals with log huts—the ripe corn surrounding them, and the long hay which grew all over the plain sending up a delicious perfume—lay the Lilloett Meadows. Through them flowed the river, which came from the high rugged mountains in the east, where the fertile country ended. It was lovely weather, calm and bright as July mornings always are here, and the scene was most attractive and beautiful. Our sense of its charms was not a little heightened perhaps by the few signs of civilization before us, and the sight far off of the thin white smoke which told where the huts which constitute the important city of Pemberton, whither we were bound, lay.

Descending to the little lake, we obtained a canoe from a hut on the opposite side, and paddled across it, and for about a couple of miles down the main stream of the Lilloett. From this we walked four or five miles across the meadows, passing on our way several settlers gathering in their harvest, until we came to the river again. Obtaining another canoe there, we paddled down to Pemberton, which we reached at noon. The settlers whom I saw on the Lilloett Meadows spoke very highly of the soil, and the crops looked extremely fine. All were very busy building huts, sawing timber, and gathering in their summer crops.

At Port Pemberton I found little or no alteration since I was there a year before. True it was somewhat startling, when I made inquiries for a boat that crossed the lake, to be told that the steamer had gone over that morning, and would not return till the following day. I was unwilling, however, to await its arrival; and, having my own crew of Indians, I obtained the loan of a canoe, and we paddled across the lake, leaving our boat to be towed back by the steamer in the morning.

The steamer was certainly not an imposing craft, being a mere wretched little tub 40 or 50 feet long, with no attempt at fittings. However, it was a great thing to find a steamer there at all; and I have no doubt she answered the purpose for which she was intended very well. Since that time steamers have been placed upon the other lakes of the Harrison-Lilloett route, and a considerable saving of time and expense in the journey to the Upper Fraser has been thus effected. .

We camped at the north end of the Little Lilloett, or Tenass, Lake, and next morning, as I heard the Engineers’ camp was only a few miles further, I determined to push on there, in hopes of getting some change of diet, being rather tired of the bacon and dampers, of which, moreover, we had been on short allowance for two or three days before reaching Port Pemberton. I should have mentioned before—as a very favourable trait of the Indians who were with me—that when we ran short of flour, as we did during the last day or so of our journey, they would not eat any of the dampers, saying that I needed them, and that they could live quite as well on berries. Fortunately there was plenty of tea, and when we reached Pemberton, I was careful to recompense them for their unselfish thought of me.

Reaching the Engineers’ camp, I was at once provided with a bed, and a good breakfast of bread-and-butter and mutton-chops, which I ate with a relish which must remain unknown to those to whom fortune denies the preliminary discipline of rusty bacon and dampers. After breakfast I started for Port Douglas, the doctor from the camp accompanying me. Here the change was, indeed, great since my last visit. Then the traveller scrambled over this portage by a wretched trail, carried, quite unnecessarily, over the steepest hills and roughest places. Now, however, we were journeying along a waggon-road which would be no discredit to many parts of England. This had been, however, a work of great expense, costing at least 5001. a mile. A contract was afterwards entered into for the cutting of the succeeding portage from Port Pemberton to Anderson Lake, at 2501. per mile; but the contractor failed completely.

Upon this fine hard road—a rare treat after the walking we had lately had—the Indians were no match for us, and when we reached the four-mile house from Douglas, they were so far in the rear, and it was getting so late, that we decided to halt there for the night. Next morning we crossed “Sevastopol,” as the steep hill which lies behind Douglas is named, and reached the port. Douglas, too, had improved somewhat within the year which had elapsed since I had seen it. The restaurants were decidedly better, and things generally cheaper. The saw-mill in the gully leading down the mountain was finished, and had been at work for some time, while the mule-trains were larger and more numerous. Except, however, as a resting-place, or point of arrival and departure, Douglas does not promise to become of much consequence, as the site is very limited, and there is little if any land adapted for agricultural purposes in the neighbourhood.

At Douglas we had to wait a day for the steamer; travelling by her to Hope, we stayed the night there, reaching New Westminster by the noon, and Esquimalt by the evening of the day following.

Rejoining Dr. Wood on board the ‘Plumper,’ I found that after he left me it had taken him a day and a half to reach New Westminster, and that he arrived just in time to see the 'Plumper’ steaming out of the harbour. This was on the 14th July, when the ship had gone to Puget Sound to make a series of observations on the eclipse which occurred on the night of the 16th and 17th, and of which they had an excellent view. The congratulations upon the success of their mission, which they received from the American officer in charge of the troops there, were couched in very characteristic language. He remained with them while the observations were being made, standing the while at a respectful distance. When they were finished he advanced, and, taking off his hat, said, “I congratulate the world generally, and science in particular, on the result of your labours, gentlemen.”

On the 12th of the month H.M.S. ‘Termagant’ arrived with the two gunboats, Forward and Grappler, which she had convoyed from England, and on the 30th our old companion, the 'Satellite,’ left for home. She had been nearly four years in commission, three of which had been spent at this place. Her departure could scarcely fail to remind us of the change that had taken place since she had entered Esquimalt Harbour three years back. It was the first time that its waters had ever been disturbed by a steamship of such a size; and now, as she steamed out from the changed and busy port, homeward bound, she gave back the hearty cheers of two of Her Majesty’s frigates, two sloops, and as many gunboats.

On the 31st we left for Burrard Inlet and Nanaimo, in company with the ‘Termagant’ and ‘Alert.’ As we steamed through the ‘Plumper,’ now ‘Active,’ Pass, the ‘Termagant’ met with an accident which well nigh turned out seriously for her. In rounding the point in the middle of the passage the current caught her bow, and she would not answer her helm. For a moment she appeared to be going stem on to the rocks, when she suddenly veered a little round, but not in time to clear them altogether. The rocky bank against which she grazed was, fortunately, sheer and steep, so that, although she heeled over so much that those watching her thought she must have capsized, she shot back into the middle of the stream, tearing up a tree with her foreyard, and throwing it over the yardarm, as though it had been a broomstick. Fortunately, although she leaked a good deal, she was able to go on, and we anchored in Burrard Inlet that night. Next morning we picked up the boats which had been at Jervis Inlet, and proceeded to Nanaimo. Here the damage done to the ‘Termagant’s’ hull was found to be too low to be reached by heeling her over, and we went to Esquimalt to bring back the divers to examine her. Returning with them on the 5th, we remained at Nanaimo until the 8th, when the ‘Termagant’ being sufficiently repaired, we started to convoy the ‘Alert’ to Rupert, whence, after assisting us in quelling a reported disturbance among the Indians of that place, she was to proceed to Sitka. Anchoring the first night in Tribune Bay, Hornby Island, by the next evening we reached Knox Bay, in Johnstone Straits. Upon passing Cape Mudge this time we found that the stockaded village which, upon our previous visits had been empty, was inhabited, the Strait being now full of fish. This habit among the Indians of changing their places of residence, not at any particular season, but as the fish and game shift their quarters, appears to have misled Vancouver, who, in passing, concluded all villages which he found uninhabited to have been deserted altogether by their people.

Next day we went through Johnstone Strait, sounding all the way, and reached Port Harvey at night. Weighing anchor next morning, we got outside, when a thick fog came on, and, as we could not see any sounding-marks, we bore up again for the port. Here we experienced one of the curious atmospheric phenomena which are common to these parts. In the Strait a strong breeze was blowing from the northwest, bringing down with it a thick fog, while inside the harbour it was a dead calm, and perfectly clear. I have noticed this and similar peculiarities frequently in this Strait. The northerly wind appears always to bring the fog down from the Russian coast, and it will remain in the Strait until a southerly breeze springs up, while, curiously enough, the large harbours at either side of the passage are wholly unaffected by it.

On Monday morning we left Port Harvey, reaching Cormorant Bay at 10 a.m. Here I was left with two boats to continue the survey, while the ships proceeded to Rupert. Arriving there they found the Indians recovering from a debauch, consequent on their having paid a visit to Victoria, from which place they had returned with an abundant supply of spirits. Then- conduct had, according to the report of Mr. Weynton, the officer of the Hudson Bay Company in charge of the station, been more furious than on any previous occasion, and as some of Iris men had joined in the debauch, he became rather alarmed for the safety of the fort. The Indian population had, it appeared, been much excited by the murder of A-kush-ma, one of their chiefs, by a Songhies

Indian, when they were leaving Victoria, and they were now planning a campaign to the southward to avenge his death. Upon their way up they had had a brush with the Indians at Nanaimo and carried off a woman, named Hu-saw-i, whose husband had appealed to the authorities for redress. Captain Richards had visited Rupert for the purpose, among other things, of recovering her; but he saw that in their present excited state caution was necessary: so word was sent to the chiefs, who were somewhat impressed by the show of force made, that he desired to have a “war-war” (speech) with them upon several important matters next day.

Accordingly on the following morning he landed with several officers and proceeded to the fort. Judging, however, from the conduct which they would most probably pursue in such a case, the Indians, suspecting treachery, steadfastly refused to enter the gates of the fort, so the palaver was held outside in front of their lodges. In his address to them Captain Richards explained, through Mr. Hunt—who was one of the employes of the Hudson Bay Company and who speake their language— that the time had come when it would not do for them to take the law into their own hands; that Mr. Douglas, who had been informed of their conduct, was very angry with them, and was determined to punish them if they did not behave better; that they must no longer kill in retaliation, but be satisfied that all murderers would be duly tried by law, and if found guilty, executed. At tliis moment the brother of the murdered chief interposed, and nearly brought the meeting to a close in some confusion by jumping up and announcing his intention of going at once with all the men he could get to revenge his brother’s death. This was mere bravado, however, and he was soon pacified. At last, after a great deal of violent language and action, the chiefs said they were quite willing to give up their custom of killing and making slaves, if the other tribes of the island would amend their ways also. One old chief at this juncture was very eloquent upon the neglect of liis tribe by the missionaries. “Why,” he asked, “was no one sent to teach their young men what was right? It was very well for us to assert that what they (the Indians) had learned from their forefathers was wrong, but why was not care taken to explain this, and to teach them better ways? "They felt ashamed,” he said, “before the Tsimsheans, whose young men were learning to read and write, and knew so much more than they did. Why was Mr. Duncan sent past Eupert to Fort Simpson, and no one sent to them?” He was assured that the desire of his people for instruction should be made known to Mr. Douglas, and that no doubt teachers would shortly visit them. At last, therefore, they handed one of their poles over to Captain Richards in token of the palaver having ended amicably and of their assent to his wishes, and gave their promise that they would not go on the intended foray southward.

After this followed the slave question. They had somehow got wind of our purpose, and, suspecting that she would be claimed of them, had on the previous night sent their captive across to the mainland. At first they refused to give her up for less ransom than 100 blankets, and then seeing this would not be submitted to, they asserted that she had left them and was three days’ journey away. Captain Richards, therefore, gave them three days’ time to bring her on board, saying that he should remain there with both ships, and use force if she were not forthcoming at the end of that period. Feeling convinced at last that it was of no use holding out longer, they said that they would send at once for her, and asked for some payment for the men who should be despatched. This was promised, and she was brought on board two days later.

Had it not been for the presence of the ‘Alert,’ we should probably have had great difficulty in inducing them to give up this slave. The stand they made in the presence of so much force was very significant of the attachment with which they cling to this among other habits of their restless, predatory lives. The old chief’s questions, however, about Mr. Duncan, showed a desire to learn, which the old men among the Indians certainly feel for their children’s sakes, hut for which they do not generally get credit. There is no doubt that men of Mr. Duncan’s stamp, who will in a frank, manly spirit go among them diffusing the blessings of religion and education, will meet with a cordial reception and an abundant reward. But without any desire to disparage or dishearten others, I must say that Mr. Duncan impressed us as a man of ten thousand, possessing, with abundant energy and zeal, that talent for acquiring the confidence and love of his fellow-creatures, which all who came in his way, were they whites or Indians, could not fail to acknowledge and feel subject to.

The ‘Alert’ proceeded on her voyage on the 17th, and on the 18th the ‘Otter’ arrived with our mails, and having Mr. Duncan on board and with him the Bev. Mr. Tugwell, who it was intended should take his place at Fort Simpson while he (Mr. Duncan) went to Victoria to establish schools there. The following extract from Mr. Duncan’s Journal, descriptive of his interview with Captain Richards, who was just then much impressed by the desire expressed by the Indians to receive European teachers, wall no doubt be read with interest:—

“Aug. 19.—This evening we arrived at Fort Rupert and found H.M.S. ‘Plumper’ in the harbour. Went on board and was warmly greeted by Captain Richards, who astonished me by saying he had just been writing about me to the Admiral. I read his despatch. It stated that he had had some trouble with the Indians of that place, and at a large meeting they had asked him why Mr. Duncan was not sent to teach them, and then insisted on the injustice of my being sent over their heads to the Tsimshean Indians. During my conversation with Captain Richards, he said the business he had just had with the Indians convinced him that it was not our ships of war that were wanted up the coast, but missionaries. The Indian’s ignorance of our power and strong confidence in his own, in addition to his natural savage temper, render him unfit to be dealt with at present by stern and unyielding men of war, unless his destruction be contemplated, which of course is not. ‘Then,’ asked the captain, ‘why do not more men come out, since your mission has been so successful; or, if the missionary societies cannot afford them, why does not Government send out fifty, and place them up the coast at once? Surely it would not be difficult to find fifty good men in England willing to engage in such a work? and their expenses would be almost nothing compared with the cost which the country must sustain to subdue the Indians by force of arms.’ Such are the earnest sentiments of one of Her Majesty’s naval captains while among the Indians.” And such, I may add, are the sentiments of myself—in common, I believe, with all my brother officers—after nearly five years’ constant and close intercourse with the natives of Vancouver Island and the coast of British Columbia.

Bejoining the ‘Plumper’ on the 20th, I found the rescued slave Hu-saw-i in full possession of the after cockpit. There is no accounting for tastes, of course; but it was fortunate for Husaw-i that her husband esteemed her more than we did, or I fear she would have been left to the tender mercies of her captors. She was one of the ugliest, dirtiest specimens of an old squaw I have ever had the pleasure of meeting; and during the ten days we had her on board, she excited, I fear, anything but sympathy among us. She was turned over to the charge of the serjeant-major, a dress being made for her of printed calico, which, with sundry other garments, she was desired to wear, besides being told to make herself as decent and clean as her habits would permit. The first thing to be done was to induce her to give up possession of her filthy blanket and to take a bath, to both of which proceedings she expressed decided repugnance. The sergeant, who was a most strict-service man, treated all men and women as stores put under his charge, and for which he was responsible till relieved by his commanding officer. He could not speak a word to Hu-saw-i, and his endeavours—crowned I should add with perfect success—to get her to do what was ordered, were most amusing. First he was told that she was to be cleaned and dressed. Receiving the order just as he would have done one to “cane a boy,” or put any one in the Black List, he carried it out to the letter, and then came with a military salute and reported “Old woman cleaned, sir.” As punctiliously he took her food to her or saw that she got it, while he used to visit her like a prisoner three or four times a-day to make sure that she was all right. The poor old creature was all this while in a great fright, and I have no doubt in her heart wished herself back among her enemies. All day long she would stand at the fore end of the passage which went round our chart-room, and every time we turned to walk aft along the quarter-deck would begin to wave her hand and cry “Ah! Tyee, Tyee!” (Ah! chief, chief!) in the most piteous voice imaginable, till we were fairly driven off deck. On the 27th, however, much to our delight, we got rid of her, sending her in the 'Shark’ (our decked pinnace), to catch the ‘Otter’ on her way down to Victoria. The sergeant accompanied her to the last, seeing her on board, and reporting, with the utmost gravity, “Old woman’s in the boat, sir.”

This sergeant was the source of much amusement to us. llis notions of service were of the strictest and most laughable kind. One of his company having lost a thumb, he applied persistently to the Captain for a certificate of the accident, and was most uncomfortable at his refusal, regarding it in precisely the same light as the loss of a knapsack or rifle. He argued that the man having left the "division” with two thumbs, he, the sergeant, was responsible for his being returned into store with only one, and must show that its loss was correct, and not owing to any negligence on his, the sergeant’s, part. I remember, when the 'Plumper’ was actually heaving up her anchor, homeward bound, and we were just leaving the ship, he came up to me, and begged me to speak to Captain Einhards about it, “as he was still without a certificate for that man’s thumb, and really ought to have one to satisfy his Colonel! ”

On the 21st the ship went on to Shueartie, a bay 20 miles northward of Fort Eupert, where we experienced very foggy and rainy weather, which made our observations most uncertain and otherwise delayed our work. Winds from the northwest prevailed here; with them, as I before said, comes the fog, and, so troublesome did we find it, that not more than one day in three was available for working purposes.

On the 27th we went on to Bull Harbour, in Hope Island, opposite the northern extreme of Vancouver Island, where we remained till Monday the 3rd of September, when it was determined to make a start to the southward, the ship going outside Vancouver Island, -while I went down inside with two boats to finish off some work and go up the Squawmisht River. The weather at this time, though still very pleasant at Victoria, begins to be very bad at the north end of the island ; rain, fog, and strong north-westerly winds prevailing, while the nights, though usually calm and clear, are cold. Wild-fowl also began to make their appearance in large quantities from the northward, reminding us unpleasantly of the near approach of winter. We were not sorry, therefore, to receive orders to move southwards.

On the morning of the 3rd, I started with the gig and ‘Shark,’ the latter carrying the provisions, &c., for which we had no room in the boat. Our cruise was to extend over 350 miles, and, as there was a good deal to be done on the way, we made preparations for a cruise of at least a month. The ship towed us out of the harbour, and then turned northward, while we kept down the channel to the south. Having fair wind and tide we reached Fort Rupert by noon, where we remained all night to wait for the ‘Shark,’ which had some work to do by the way. At Rupert we laid in a great stock of vegetables, which lasted us nearly all our cruise; and proceeding on our journey next morning, reached Beaver Cove, in which neighbourhood we remained for two days. I have not yet, I think, described camp-life when away with boats; and as it differs somewhat from camp-life in the bush, I will now attempt it. To begin with, it is much pleasanter work than roughing it in the bush; for, instead of cutting down everything to the smallest possible limit, you are able to carry many comforts with you. A large bell-tent accommodates the men, and, if you have a roomy boat, you wall probably take a small tent for yourself also. In addition to these, a canteen, a box, fitted for holding cups, plates, knives, and forks; tins for tea and coffee, and bottles for grog, if you take any, are requisite. The same stock of clothes for boat and bush excursion is necessary, the crew -washing theirs on Sunday. Objections are sometimes made to this work being done on that day, and Saturday evening is recommended for the purpose,—when the men are likely to be so tired as to neglect the task. The bush, however, is so thick ordinarily, that it rarely happens that the tent is pitched in a spot where the men can get a walk on the Sunday morning; and I think this employment before prayer-time very useful.

The daily routine of life in the boats differs, of course, very much. from that in the bush. Instead of working before breakfast the day begins with that meal. Breakfast over, the boats are launched or unmoored, and operations begun for the day at an hour depending a great deal upon the work to be got through, and ranging generally from 6 to 8. About noon—or as near to that time as an appropriate spot for the meal was reached—we halted for dinner, and, resting for an hour, continued our work until the evening, taking care, however, to get our tent pitched and boats moored before dark. It was always necessary to keep a watch all night, as some Indians were pretty sure to be lurk in a- about in the neighbourhood on the look-out for a chance of thieving. When among the northern tribes, also, there was always some fear, more or less, of their attacking us. I remember, when we first began work in 1S5S, paying for my neglect of watch-keeping with the loss of a double-barrelled fowling-piece. We were in the American territory, on the east side of the Bellingham Channel. When we camped we had not seen any Indians near, and, having a dog with us, I did not think it worth setting a watch. We had been some time away from the ship, and, having used all my powder and shot, instead of taking my gun into the tent as usual, I left it in the boat, which was hauled up on the beach. About the middle of the night we were awakened by the dog barking violently, but, running out of the tent, could see nothing. The dog was soon quiet, and we attributed the disturbance to a deer, and went to sleep again. In the morning, the coxswain said to me, “That was a deer last night, sir; here are his tracks all round the tent.” I thought no more about it, till walking down to a station close by I saw a marten, and, knowing I had one barrel of my gun still loaded, called for it. The coxswain went to the boat to fetch it, when it was found to have disappeared, and there could be no doubt that it had been taken during the night. Close behind the tent was a deep ditch, into which the thief must have jumped when the dog heard him, and so escaped.

On Saturdays we usually camped a little earlier than on other days, so that the boats might be cleaned out, Ac. Sundays were always spent in camp; Church-service being read in the forenoon.

Such was our surveying life. The men generally managed to procure salmon, venison, potatoes, &c., from the natives; so that, as a rule, we did not fare badly, although sometimes we had what the seamen called very hungry cruises. On the whole, it was a happy life enough, and the time passed pleasantly and swiftly.

On Monday the 10th we proceeded down the Strait and reached Point Chatham on the 13th, the only thing we had to complain of being the weather. It rained constantly, and at such short intervals that there was no time to get our things dry between the showers. In going down Johnstone Strait we met Mr. Downie, in his schooner, on his way to Knight Inlet. He had shortly before discovered plumbago there, and was on his way for a cargo of it, which was, ho hoped, to make his fortune. He gave us some newspapers and a supply of apples, which were by no means unacceptable. We passed Cape Mudge on the 15th, and reached the little island of Mittlenatch, which lies six or eight miles off it, by night, and there spent our second Sunday. The ‘Shark’ had not been able to reach the island, and had been obliged to seek shelter elsewhere, from which, however, she was subsequently driven by a gale that sprang up. We picked her up on Monday; and having put a mark on Savary Island, we proceeded together to Texhada Island, which Ave reached the same evening, remaining here all Tuesday (18th), and reaching the entrance of Howe Sound on Wednesday. Leaving the ‘Shark’ to take soundings about the entrance, I started for its head, being desirous, if I could get a canoe, to ascend the Squawmisht River, and reach the village which we had visited when on the way from Jervis Inlet to Port Pemberton. Reaching the mouth of the river on the morning of the 20th, we found the village there deserted by all save one old man and a little boy. I was beginning to despair of getting up the river, when to my great delight, Peter, the chief of the village I washed to go to, made his appearance. He had heard of our arrival, and had dropped doen the stream from his temporary village about two miles up, where he vras fishing, to see who we were. He immediately recognised me and agreed to take me lip on the following day. Accordingly, having selected a good place to leave the boat in, I started next morning with Peter and three other Indians up the river. As I have spoken of this river in the beginning of the chapter, I will only say now that we reached the village that evening; and as it poured with rain all night and not a star showed itself in the heavens, I was glad to sleep in Peter’s lodge and wait for the sun next day. Here I experienced the hospitality I have always received from Indians when alone with them. They cleared everything out of one end of the large hut, and put a barrier across, so that no children or dogs could come near me, and kept my fire alight all night. The children certainly were models of quietness; for although there were no fewer than 30 or 40 in the lodge, I hardly heard a sound all night. Altogether there were 50 or 60 men, women, and children in the place; but, except an occasional bark by one of the dozen dogs who slept under the same roof, and who was probably chasing a deer in his dreams, not a sound disturbed me.

Dropping down the river next day, and rejoining the boat at 6 p.m. on the following morning, we started down the Sound, and after a few days’ cruise—which, with the boat-trip altogether, would have been pleasant enough but for the constant rain—reached Esquimalt.

Remaining some time in harbour—during which several changes among the other vessels took place, and we hoisted the garland 2 for the second time during our cruise, in honour of the marriage of our first lieutenant—we started on the 13th for our last cruise in the old ‘Plumper’ to Howe Sound. We remained here, struggling against the rain and wind that did its best to convince us that the time had arrived for giving up work for the winter, until the 28th, when we went to New Westminster, where we remained until the 1st of November. Crossing the Gulf to Nanaimo for coal, we proceeded to Esquimalt, where we commenced our winter chart-work and made preparations for turning over to the ‘Hecate,’ which we knew had left England in June last, and might arrive at any moment.

On the 14th we were much shocked by the sudden death of poor Bull, our master and senior assistant-surveyor. His death was quite unexpected, and cast a gloom over us all. It was but ten months since he had been married, and had built himself a house near the harbour, where he died without the slightest warning or previous illness. On the day previous to his death he had been working with us all at the office.

On the 12th of December a requisition was sent by the Governor for a vessel to go to Nootka Sound, to see what assistance could be rendered to a Peruvian brigantine which was on shore there, a message having been sent by the crew that they expected hourly to be killed by the natives. As almost invariably happens in these cases, it proved that the white men had provoked an attack—one of them threatening to chop an Indian down with his axe. At the same time we heard that one or two other vessels had been lost on the coast in the heavy gales which had prevailed since the beginning of November. Accordingly on the 16th, the ‘Forward’ was sent out to hunt up the wreck, Browning, one of our second masters, going in her as pilot.

On the 23rd of December H.M.S. ‘Hecate’ made her appearance, and it may be fancied how eagerly we all hurried on board to see what our new home was like. We were greatly delighted with the change, for though possessing no external beauty, she was very roomy and comfortable within—my new cabin alone being nearly as large as our mess-room of the ‘Plumper.’ It was decided that we were to take possession of the new skip on the 1st of the coming year, all of us joining her except Mori arty, the 1st Lieutenant, who was to go home with the ‘Plumper.’ Our fourth Christmas was spent in the usual way, finishing with a dinner at the Captain’s house.

Return to Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.