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Ten Thousand Miles Through Canada
Chapter XI

British Columbia—Mineral products—Dr. Dawson’s report —Development—Gold—Vicissitudes of mining—Copper and zinc—Percentages—The “Lucky Jim”—Marble quarries— Portland cement—Petroleum—Demand for a government— — Constitution — The Kootenay district—Lumbering — Yale district—Railway extension—Lillooet—The climate—Through the Yellow Head Pass—The Athabasca River—Brule Lake— Roche Miette and Roche Suette—Sulphur springs—Pyramid Mountains — Geikie — Moose River — Sehvyn and Rainbow Mountains—The premier of the Rockies—Lake Helena—A steamboat on the rapids—The Naas Valley—The Skeena Valley—Vancouver Island—Comox district—Minerals and timber—Saw mills—Homesteads—Land Clearing and Irrigation Companies—Gold medal award—Fruit.

THE area of British Columbia is estimated at 285,000 square miles. There are four chains of mountains traversing the country in a northerly direction with extensive valleys between. It is proved that each of these ranges is rich in minerals, whilst the valleys immediately to the west of the Rocky Mountains contain gold, which in some places is being worked with prosperous results.

The Rockies seem to the traveller to be the presiding deity of the place. Around, above, beneath, they are ever to be seen frowning, smiling, raging and sighing by turn. If wealth be power, who shall approximately reckon the force of the treasure that lies slumbering in its breast? The creator of the fabled Aladdin might well have had his imagination fired in the heart of these wondrous ranges.

The late Dr. George M. Dawson, Director of the Geological Survey of Canada, has reported that gold is so generally distributed over the whole of British Columbia that there are few streams of any importance in which “colours” may not be found. Up to the present only 20 per cent, of the province is really known, and not half that portion has been sufficiently examined to ascertain its real value. What has been ascertained is that 300,000 square miles of country is extensively mineralized.

Development has been slow, owing to want of railway and road communication. For six years previous to 1893, the lode mines had only yielded about £12,000 annually, but in that year the output reached £60,000. This has been bettered in 1909, by amounting to £984,818. The geographical position of the province was in the past a hindrance to rapid development, and the markets for mineral wealth had been practically confined to the Atlantic shores. All this has been changed, and along the Pacific coast the complete progress of manufacture from the rough ore to the finished article is taking place, saving time and the expense of freightage.

The value of placer gold in 1909 amounted to £95,400, a falling off from the previous year. The decrease was attributed to unfavourable weather, which affects the gold harvest as well as the wheat. The mining of placer gold is controlled by the supply of water, depending at one time on the snowfall of the previous winter, at another on the rainfall of the spring. There is another factor, however ; the more easily available deposits have been largely worked out, and others requiring larger capital and plant must be exploited. Again, fresh plant has to be reconstructed to meet new requirements, and an idle period intervenes. The bursting of a dam, which causes flooding and suspends work, defers the expected returns for periods more or less prolonged.

As might be expected, the vicissitudes of this kind of mining have to be coped with, and speculation has uncertain results. At times the excitement over a “find” is by no means justified by experience, at others hopes are realized beyond the dream of avarice.

The total amount of silver produced in British Columbia in 1909 was 2,532,742 ozs., valued at £247,854. The four divisions of the Slocan district produced about 50 per cent, of the total. The Fort Steele mining division contributed 23 per cent. Most of the silver is found associated with lead, the rest in copper-silver ores.

The lead comes chiefly from the Fort Steele division, the remainder from the three divisions of Slocan district, the Nelson mining division and a few others. In 1910, the production amounted to 44.396,346 lbs.

The principal copper districts are the following: Yale, (Boundary division) Yale, (Kamloops) Ross-land, Cassiar, Nelson, and the Coast. The amount produced in 1909 was 45,597,245 lbs., all fine copper, valued at £1,183,104. This, however, showed a decrease on the previous year of 1,677,369 lbs., or in money value £64,345.

The zinc industry has not been neglected, although the output is small compared with other minerals. The total amount produced in 1909 was 10,000 tons of ore, yielding from 38 to 48 per cent, of zinc.

The chief zinc mining district in British Columbia is at the “Lucky Jim” in Slocan mining division.

Platinum is found in many alluvial gold workings as a by-product. The process, however, involves so much labour that it has not been considered profitable.

An abundance of building stone of various sorts is to be found in almost every part of British Columbia. It is so plentiful and widely distributed that quarrying has not become much of an industry, except in the vicinity of large cities. A marble quarry has been opened in the neighbourhood of Lardo-Trout Lake Railway in the interior. In 1909 blocks which were excavated and sawed into slabs, amounted to £6000 value. The Marble and Granite Co. used to ship the rough blocks for dressing. Works have since been established which supply the marble in the finished state.

Large lime-kilns are in operation in the neighbourhood of Victoria. This industry has been extended to Saanich Inlet and Texada Island, where the limestone used is of exceptional quality.

Portland cement has demanded the formation of a company at Vancouver. The works are about twelve miles from Victoria, at Tod Inlet on the Saanich arm. In 1909 the output was valued at £72,000.

Petroleum is still in the speculative state. The oil has been found in East Kootenay and in Vancouver Island, but it has not been sufficiently worked to form a clear notion of its value.

Concrete is so much in demand on the coast, that quarries have been opened and companies formed with extensive plant for crushing rocks and supplying washed sand and gravel.

This brief epitome of the natural resources of British Columbia is sufficient to show its importance as a province of the Dominion. Geographically it is the largest, prospectively it is without doubt the wealthiest.

Fifty years ago it was unexplored territory, unknown, except to its Indian inhabitants and a few


fur traders. When gold was discovered on the Fraser River in 1857, people began to pour into this hitherto isolated world. The demand for the establishment of some form of government control naturally arose. Accordingly the mainland west of the Rockies became a Crown colony and took the name of British Columbia. In 1871 it was constituted a province of Canada, on condition that it should be connected with the eastern territories by railway. The Canadian Pacific was completed in 1885, which opened up direct communication between the Atlantic and Pacific shores. A lieutenant-governor is at the head of the Provincial administration, appointed by the Dominion Parliament. There is an Executive Council of five who are members of the Legislative Assembly, forty-two in number, who are chosen by the Provincial constituencies.

The Kootenay district lies in the south-eastern portion of the province, west of the Rockies, and within the region of the Kootenay and Columbia rivers. In consequence of its more advanced development, civic life is rapidly spreading. The population has more than doubled within the last ten years. Next to the mineral industries comes that of lumbering. The timber is floated down the small unnavigable streams, which also supply power for electric works, mills, etc. West of Kootenay, lies Yale district, rich in arable land and at the same time mineral wealth and timber. Within its limits are the fertile valleys of Okanagan, Nicola, Similkameen, Kettle and Thomson rivers.

The Canadian Pacific runs through the heart of the district. A branch railway and lake route communicate with the south, whilst new lines are in progress, giving access to further undeveloped agricultural and mining districts.

Lillooet requires the advantages of railway transport; nothing else is needed to develop its natural resources, which are potentially great.

Westminster has the finest soil for cultivation in the province. It possesses all the advantages of irrigation from the Lower Fraser, which courses through its valley, stimulating its fruitfulness, as well as creating an extensive lumbering industry. A considerable portion of the Fraser Valley has been dyked, so supplying a still larger area for cultivation. The climate is mild, and there is a plentiful rainfall during the winter months.

Going north, the districts of Cariboo and Cassiar are traversed. Apart from the track of the great rivers the whole region is practically unexplored. Cassiar lies in the Peace River country between latitudes 64° and 6o°. North and south of the river there is an extensive agricultural region. The southern area is principally prairie and poplar copse, with good soil. Early autumn frosts prevail. Cassiar has already yielded samples of good wheat, and there is every

reason to expect that a large population can be sustained by its natural products. The climate is good and adapted to the needs of successful agriculture. The wheat season is short, but certain in its harvest.

An agreement has been made with the Dominion Government for the laying down of railways in Cassiar. Three and a half million acres were ceded for this purpose. The completion of the Grand Trunk Railway, now in progress, and the laying down of good roads will hasten development, and the great hopes and possibilities of this hitherto trackless wilderness will be practically fulfilled. The route is via Edmonton, and extends to Prince Rupert on the British Columbia coast. It exploits a new territory, and opens a fresh volume in the sublimity and grandeur of the Rocky Mountains. It traverses the Yellow Head Pass.

Between Edmonton and the mountains, a distance of 125 miles, the survey shows grassy plains interspersed with wooded slopes. The line skirts the south side of the Athabasca River, which broadens from twenty feet at McKay, to nearly three hundred feet at Prairie Creek. Mountains 7000 feet high come into view at that point, and Jasper Park is touched, where the Dominion Government has formed a 5000 square mile reserve for the preservation of the magnificent specimens of flora and fauna life in primitive wildness.

Two hundred miles from Edmonton, Brule Lake is reached. It is an expansion of the Athabasca, and acts like a dock to the river, broadening it two miles wide further on. The mountains rise on each side of this waterway, culminating in the peaks of Roche Miette and Roche Suette. Snow-capped eminences are sighted further on, known as the Fiddle Range.

A peculiarity of atmospheric conditions attests the presence of sulphur springs. The odour can be detected half a mile from its source. Analysis has ascertained that these springs are from hi0 to 1270 Fahrenheit, and are said to possess important medicinal properties.

The Pyramid range of mountains, 9700 feet high, Jasper Lake, Fish Lake and Rocky River are within easy reach. The magnificent peaks rise in silent guardianship, and cast dark shadows over the water. The scenery is further varied by deep canons with precipitous walls.

Two hundred and forty miles from Edmonton, the ranges of the Rockies are reached. Geikie is one of the principal, and marks the parting of the ways between the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. At Yellow Head Pass, the great Fraser River is sighted with its numerous affluents. Born amongst the glaciers, it extends through the province of British Columbia, a distance of nearly 1000 miles. The Moose River debouches into it east of Moose Lake, and the railway crosses it by means of a bridge.

Sixty miles further on, the Selwyn range of mountains is skirted north of Moose Lake. Its base is thickly wooded, its summit set in snow. Red and yellow colouring, the. characteristic markings of the Rainbow Mountains, are easily recognized in that locality. But all these ranges are surpassed by the peaks of Mount Robson, which reach a height of 13,700 feet above sea-level. It not only holds the premier place in the Rockies, but is unequalled throughout the American continent. This mountain finds a fitting auxiliary to its grandeur in Lake Helena, silent in its depths as the towering peaks above. From Tete Jaune, Fort George can be reached by canoe. A steamboat made the reverse passage in July 1910 for the first time. It took six days to do the 80 miles’ journey, owing to the force of the current. Below this point, the mountains give place to hills and wide fertile plains suitable for fruit growing and dairy farming.

From Fort George the proposed line stretches through Bulkley Valley to Hazelton, and thence to Prince Rupert.

The Naas River Valley is abundant in timber such as spruce and hemlock. It is navigable for forty miles, and at the point where this route ends, there is a ten-mile wagon road. A forward movement awaits only better transportation and more roads in the Skeena Valley. Its fruit-growing capacity has already been established. The Grand Trunk system is projected to run along its banks towards Prince Rupert and also intersects Bulkley Valley, which has pasture land round Aldermere Lake of a light nature, good for vegetables and fruit. Other parts of this extensive valley contain resources for industry that in the near future will be developed.

Vancouver Island possesses all the natural resources in more or less degree that are distributed over the entire province. These include coal mining, copper smelting, quartz mining, lumbering, fishing, and such like. The railway of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Co. runs from Victoria to Wellington through scenery as rich in beauty as in intrinsic worth. The Canadian Northern Railway, already on its way to British Columbia, has included amongst its extension a track through the island.

The agricultural regions are so thickly timbered that the railway company has arranged for the clearing of large tracks. The island is eminently adapted for the growing of grain, vegetables and the choicest fruits. The latter flourish best in the south.

In Vancouver and some of the smaller islands extensive deposits of iron have been discovered. The largest quantities contained in the province are found there, and the ore is said to be entirely free from sulphur and phosphorus.

The Comox district occupies the northern territory of Vancouver, as well as a part of the mainland. There is a stretch of thirty-five miles of fine


productive soil between Campbell River and Comox Bay. Minerals abound in this locality as well as timber. The latter consists of Douglas fir, cedar and western hemlock, probably unexcelled by anything in the world.

The Douglas fir takes the first place, and grows as far as 510 north, where it gives place to cedar, hemlock, cypress and spruce. The firs along the coast grow to the height of 300 feet, with a circumference of 30 to 50 feet at the base. This timber is of high commercial value and to it may be added white pine, tamarack, balsam, maple and cottonwood.

There are about 160 sawmills in British Columbia, and close upon £4,000,000 of capital invested in the trade. It has been increasing year by year. The demand for cutting timber has become so great that the Government have discontinued the granting of licences.

Pulpwood which is found along the ocean border supplies material for paper manufacture, and mills have sprung up for working it. Their position on the coast facilitates export trade with Asia and Australia. It is predicted that British Columbia will be in a position to furnish half the civilized world with paper in its numerous forms. It must not be thought that the vastness of British Columbia precludes the more concentrated human element in its industries. There are charming details in the form of pretty sheltered homesteads which might well recall the agricultural conditions of Somersetshire and Hampshire in the days of the Stuarts—golden fields and ripe fruit alternating with the springing corn, and the blossoming orchards. The great difference, perhaps, that would strike the old-time English farmer, were his eyes to open on such scenes, would be the majestic mountains in the background over which the sun climbs at daybreak, and at evening

“Casts a lingering look of fond regret,
Back to the hills where it has played all day.”

But he would also distinguish the common denominator of all farm life, the lowing cattle, the browsing sheep, and nearer home the clucking of the conceited hen over her maternal efforts, and the gurgling squeak of the well-nourished porker.

Fertile valleys lie between the mountains throughout the province, containing the necessary elements for farm produce. A practical knowledge of irrigation enables the farmer to cultivate on a diversified scale. He can study the needs of the locality and adjust his products accordingly. There is neither excess in rainfall nor drought to handicap him.

General farming comprises grain growing, dairying, cattle and poultry raising, fruit and vegetable cultivation. Clover grows like a weed in this province, west of the coast range, and is a valuable fodder. The great ledges and terraces of the mountain-sides provide good pasture for cattle, and


horses can sleep in the natural shelters these localities afford.

Wheat is cultivated chiefly in the vicinity of the Fraser valley: Okanagan, Spallumcheen and in the Thompson River valley round Kamloops. So far oats is the grain most cultivated.

Root crops are prolific, especially at Chiliwack, and in the Okanagan district. These districts, together with Agassiz, are adapted to hop growing. The crop is disposed of for the most part in the British market. A new market is rapidly opening up in New Zealand, in consequence of the fine specimens sent to the international exhibitions in that colony.

Fodder crops chiefly consist of red clover, timothy, alfalfa, alsike, sainfoin and brome grass. All these thrive vigorously, and some of them yield three crops in the season. Hay gives on an average about 1½ tons to the acre. Tobacco grows freely in the south. It often realizes 7½d. a pound.

The success of flowering bulbs in the vicinity of Victoria, which is peculiarly adapted to this form of horticulture, has resulted in the establishment of a large business there. The profits recorded amount to as much as £400 per acre. Bee-keeping is naturally associated with horticulture. It is becoming an important branch of farming, as honey finds a ready market. It is evident that where flowers will grow in such luxuriant profusion, bees will thrive.

Two problems which heavily handicapped early settlers are now being practically solved. The land-clearing difficulty, which entailed much labour, and postponed the fruit of the soil, can now be effected by contract. Companies have been formed for this purpose. The cost per acre is considerably reduced by the disposal of the timber. The other question has been that of irrigation and dyking. There are several low-lying districts in the province which contain rich alluvial soil, but until an adequate dyking system has been established these lands are unworkable. In the Fraser Valley 100,000 acres have been reclaimed by the Government, and are now ready for cultivation. In West Kootenay there is another tract of 40,000 acres, partly reclaimed, and already rewarding outlay.

In the higher grounds of the southern interior, irrigation on the part of individuals is well-nigh impossible. But a large portion of these lands has been taken up by companies who are parcelling them out and constructing reservoirs to ensure a constant water-supply. The result is satisfactory, and land is being quickly disposed of and cultivated to advantage. There remain yet many thousands of acres waiting to be reclaimed and turned into orchards and farms.

In cattle-rearing there are comparatively few of the very large ranches of earlier times. The modern method has greatly improved the quality of the stock. A Dairymen’s and Live Stock Association imports


and sells well-bred stock to its members, and cattle raising, even on a small scale, is remunerative.

The southern half of the province contains at least 1,000,000 acres of land suitable for fruit growing. The Royal Horticultural Society’s gold medal was awarded for a small exhibit in 1904. In 1905, British Columbian fruit took the first prize in London, besides winning medals. Strawberries yielded large crops, 4 acres producing as much as 28,126 lbs. Tokay grapes grow in the open, averaging 4 lbs. to a bunch. Plums, cherries, peaches, tomatoes, all do well. A cherry tree at Agassiz yielded 1000 lbs. of fruit. I know of strawberries being sold in the city of Vancouver last year at 6d. per pound.

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