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Vancouver's Island. Survey of the districts of Nanaimo and Cowichan Valley 1859

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1859.  The Emigration Commissioners have been directed to
print, with a view to make public, the following Reports of
survey of land around the Nanaimo River, and in the
Cowichan Valley in Vancouver's Island, which have recently
been received from the Governor, by the Secretary of State
for the Colonies.
The Surveys were made under the directions of Mr. Pern-
berton the Colonial Surveyor, and extend over the three
districts of Mountain, Cedar, and Cranberry, round the
Nanaimo, comprising together about 30,000 acres,-—and
over the five districts of Shawnigan, Cowichan, Comiaken,
Quamicham, and Somenos in the Cowichan Valley,—comprising together about 57,600 acres.
Each district, unless where broken by the coast, contains
16 square blocks of 1,000 acres each, and each block is
again subdivided into 100-acre sections.
Mr. Pemberton expresses his dissent from certain remarks
of Mr. Wells who surveyed the Cowichan district respecting
the insecurity of Cowichan Harbour (page 13); and, from
his estimate of the number of the Indian population in the
district (page 14). Mr. Pemberton states that the harbour
appeared to him to be well sheltered by islands off its
entrance,—and he considered the number of Indians to be
under-estimated at 1,100 souls, as large bodies were absent
at the herring fisheries when Mr. Wells made his report.
By order of the Commissioners,
Government Emigration Board,
8, Park Street, Westminster, S,W,
October 185&.
a 2
t0) I
Report op Engineer in charge op Survey.
To Joseph D. Pemberton, Esq., Colonial Surveyor, &c. &c.
Sir,—I have the honour to report, for your information,
some observations made whilst engaged in the survey around
Nanaimo, comprising the Mountain, Cedar, and Cranberry
These districts are situated immediately around and abutting upon the Nanaimo district, which is bounded on the
east by Nanaimo Harbour, and has a large mining town,
containing about 200 inhabitants, chiefly labourers at work
in the coal mines, who afford a ready market for all kinds of
farm produce; the harbour is of large size, and well sheltered at every point from wind, with good anchorage and
every natural advantage. The distance from Victoria is
about 70 miles, and the average passage (for 18 months) of a
schooner of 20 tons, trading between the two places, was two
days, which included her discharge and loading at either
Fish, chiefly salmon, are very abundant in the harbour and
up the Nanaimo or Quamquamqua River. In the fall of the
year the salmon ascend the river in large shoals, when they
may be readily speared, or shot, or caught in nets in any
quantity ; they are very rich and fat, and equal in all respects to the finest salmon of England. Halibut and cod
are caught on the sand banks not far from Nanaimo.
The general character of this district is broken and undulating, but often perfectly flat, especially up the River
Millstone and about Diver Lake, where the timber is for the
most part open, and the fern, which is of three distinct
kinds, grows to an unusual height.
The timber is chiefly pine, of the species known as
Douglas and white, with some spruce, and is generally of
large size; occasional patches of saalal (which bears an
exceedingly nice berry), and poor ground occur, but they
are the exception. The mean height would, probably, be
60 or 70 feet above the sea.   The richest land, however, lies
As a
from Victoria.
district. —-
Timber. Millstone
Area of
Access to
along the banks of the Millstone River, which winds for the
greater part through pretty plains covered with rich fern
and grass; and at an average distance of a quarter of a mile
to the north is a continuous bluff from 70 to 120 feet in
height, and sloping gradually from the top to the north-east.
The greater part of this district is occupied by Wakesiah,
or, according to the Indians, Tai-took-tan Mountain, which
is only remarkable for the fine quality and large growth of
the timber at the base of it.
This district is well watered by fine streams, some of
them being tributaries of the Millstone, and everywhere are
indications of water obtainable by sinking wells.
It was not thought advisable to survey the south-eastern
part of the district, as the soil is poor and stony, and little
fitted for agricultural purposes; but the grazing is excellent,
and the timber, both large and small, of the best possible
quality; trees, adapted either for spars or fence poles, being
abundant even a considerable distance up the spur of the
above-mentioned mountain, which is probably above 1,100
feet above the level pf the sea.
There is every probability that the south-east part of this
district, though unfitted for any purpose but grazing, is rich
in coal, as the coal crops out in a seam 72 inches thick on
Chase River, a distance of only a quarter of a mile from the
eastern boundary of the district, and this assumption is
strengthened from the broken and 1 faulty" appearance of
the surrounding country.
The whole district contains 1.6,000 acres, and is bounded
on the east by the Nanaimo district, and on the south-east
by the Cranberry district. It is distant from Colviletown,
in the Nanaimo district, one and a half miles, to which there
is an excellent waggon road.
The north-eastern part of the district is accessible by the
exit passage from Nanaimo Harbour, being only a quarter of
a mile inland.
The climate very nearly resembles that of Victoria, the
general character of the summer being warm with little or
no rain, but heavy dews, and that of the winter mild, with
an average of ten days snow; the frosts, though not severe,
are of longer continuance. Rain falls in large quantities in
the spring of the year, and it is generally thought that the
average exceeds that of England. No fevers or epidemics
of any kind are known among the white population.
The Indians, though numerous, are perfectly peaceful, and
are made use of by the whites as ploughmen, servants,
voyagers, in fact, labourers of all kinds of work.    Their pay and rations amount to little, and, if kindly treated and properly superintended, the results of their labour are profitable
to the employer.
Game is abundant, consisting of elk, deer, bear, grouse, Game,
partridge, wild fowl, crane, and pigeons.
Cranberry District. €
This district contains 15,500 acres, and is bounded on the Content.
north by the Nanaimo district, and on the east by the Cedar Bounds,
district, and to the north is within a quarter of a mile of the
head of the Nanaimo Harbour, and through it flows nearly
the whole navigable portion of the Nanaimo or Quamquam-
qua River.
A large portion of the north-west part is fitted only for North-west
grazing purposes, as the soil is very shallow, and rests on part*
the  sandstone  rock;   many of the bottoms, however, are
fertile, and produce rich vegetation.
The same applies to the south-west and westerly parts.       South-west
This  district takes  its  name  from  the berry which is PartsW
abundant in the swamps and around the lakes. Origin of
The  north-easterly  and easterly parts  lying  along  the name.
banks of the Nanaimo River are those best suited for farm- Northing purposes. easterly
The soil is sandy, but covered with the most luxuriantan(*  j
vegetation ; fern, wild fruit bushes and trees, among which parts. 1
may be noted the crab apple and cherry, are everywhere found; Soil.
the woods are for the most part open and free from brush
and fallen timber, and present quite a tropical appearance.
The principal timber is the cedar, pine, maple, and poplar, Timber.
all of which grow to a gigantic size; the pines rising to the
height of 100 feet, without a branch, and having many distinct and separate tops; the branches of the cedars grow to
the verv ground. Some of these trees measured 27 feet in
circumference, and are all perfectly sound; the maple and
poplar trees are very tall and straight, and average 10 feet
in circumference.
The banks are low and accessible to boats and canoes; Nanaimo
and for a distance of 60 yards on either side there are indi- or Quam-
cations of floods; the banks occasionally rise to a height of ^^?ua
25 feet above the level of the river.
The  river is  navigable for  about nine  miles   for flat- Naviga-
bottomed boats and canoes, of a light draught of water, with Dility»
perfect safety; the current is rapid and always descending,
the tide running in but a short distance, even at springs,
which, however, always back up, and consequently increase
" ^—*- ■ ^^_ -^BP™""" 5
Effect of
the depth of water in the river for a distance of about five
miles from the mouth.
Capability Much improvement in the depth of water and diminution
of improve- of the force of the current might doubtless be effected by
the judicious outlay of a small sum of money, in removing
the fallen trees and drift wood, which not only form shoals
in the river, but actually choke up the channel, in places
rendering the navigation both difficult and dangerous.
The melting of the snows likewise affects the river, generally during the night; the greatest rise, however, observed
from this cause was one foot in a night. The river appears
to offer considerable advantages to the settler, for floating
down spars (one cargo of which would more than pay the
price of the land,)—as well as a highway for sending his
produce to market.
Some excellent "prospects" were obtained along the river
at many points.
These plains contain 900 or 1,000 acres; the south portion
consists of rich vegetable soil of great depth, with a subsoil
of muddy clay or loam, the deposit of ages. The north
portion is apparently subject at long intervals to floods, but
it is nevertheless admirably suited for a stock or grazing
farm, or rather farms, bearing a long rich grass, which the
Indians annually cut and sell to the settlers at Colviletown.
Cedar District.
Cedar district contains about 11,000 acres. It is bounded
on the north by Northumberland Channel, on the east by
the Haro Strait, and on the west by Cranberry district.
Nearly the whole whole of this district, except the extreme
northern sections and southern sections, is available for cultivation, with little labour. 1 The north-eastern part on the
strait is composed of open land, with a few scattered pines
and maple. The soil is very fertile, and of a good depth,
with a clay subsoil, and abounds with springs of beautiful
water, especially along the coast, which probably are caused
by the drainage from the large lakes in the interior. These
lakes, with the exception of. the Trois-bras, have no known
This lake is beautifully situated in a vast natural basin,
and its borders are open, and gradually sloping to the water's
edge, presenting everywhere fine sites for building. The
south-eastern part of this district is also filled with large
lakes, though  the land generally is poor or rocky around 0       ~
them; but the timber, consisting of pine, cedar, and maple, is
all of the largest and finest kind. The lakes are full of
trout, and the surrounding country abounds with all kinds of
game before mentioned.
In the south-west corner of the district are two small Small
plains of the richest possible description.     The northern one plains,
is  situated  on a small, rapid river, which  falls  into  the
Nanaimo River about half a mile below.
I have, &c,
B. W. Pearse.
Land Office, Victoria,
Van Couver Island,
June 11, 1859. 	
^^^^^^^^^^^^^M (
Survey of the Districts Shawnigan, Cowichan,
Eree from
Deep soils.
Composition of
Absorb and
Absorb and
retain heat.
To Joseph D. Pemberton, Esq., Colonial Surveyor, &c.
Sir,—In closing my returns of surveys in the Cowichan
Valley, I would respectfully submit the following summary
of the capabilities of the country laid out.
The character of each district has already been reported
to you upon the completion of each survey.
The valley may be fairly considered as about 15 miles
wide upon the sea coast, but narrows rapidly as we ascend
the river, insomuch that upon the westerly limit of the
survey (11 miles from the coast) it has only a width of about
six miles. It is well watered by the Cowichan River and
its numerous tributaries.
High ranges of mountains, believed to be of secondary
formation, with calcareous freestone or carbonate of lime,
form almost impassible barriers towards the north and south,
and the whole subsidence of land between these mountains
is evidently a deposit borne down by the waters.
The surface throughout is either uniformly level or in
gentle swells, and until the mountain sides are attained
scarcely any rocks or boulders are to be found.
The distinctive nature of the soils throughout the Cowichan Valley is calcareous, seemingly formed by the composition of limestone rock, for while the other principles occur in
different degrees, the properties of the carbonate of lime
almost invariably predominate. There is usually a good
depth of 2 or 3 feet resting upon a sufficiently retentive
subsoil of blue clay or gravel.
The earths, chiefly light, very porous, and composed of
due proportions of clay, sand, carbonate of lime, and vegetable remains, are well constituted for absorbing and retaining
moisture; and the general colour, from brown to black, with
the entire absence of chalky or white earths, would likewise
indicate a favourable soil for receiving and retaining heat.
Samples taken from the | Somenos rains 1 were found by —
experiment to absorb water sufficient to increase the column
of soil from one-eighth to one-fifth its whole bulk.
The low grounds shown upon the plans of survey, are
good, and would be easily brought into a state fit for cultivation. The only exceptions are those lying immediately at
the foot of Mount Prevost and Quamichan Mountains, where
the soil resting on massive rock, has been converted into a
spongy wet pabulum, bearing sub-aquatic plants and good
for nothing.
Much of the river bottom is a clay loam of a brown colour,
and an excellent soil for wheat, beans, turnips, and red
clover. The alluvial deposits of the valley is, however, far
from being all of a clayey nature; in many parts, chiefly on
the southerly side, the mould rests upon a gravelly and even
a sandy deposit. This is likewise a rich soil, as may be
seen from the abundant crops of potatoes (among the most
exhausting plants), raised by the Indians upon the same
patches of land for a series of years.
The plain lands have soils, either gavelly, or sandy and
gravelly loams, eligible for barley, oats, rye, buckwheat,
beans, peas, and the root and leaf crops, potatoes, turnips,
carrots, with the usual garden vegetables. The humidity of
the atmosphere may prove a barrier to the culture of Indian
corn. I am unable to say, but believe, that this grain will
one day form a staple., as it will assuredly be a profitable,
commodity both of consumption and export.
Wheat may likewise be successfully raised upon most of
the soils in their natural state, and, by proper tillage, upon
all; and I am firmly persuaded, that under a common
judicious system of farming, as good returns can be obtained
from these lands as in any part of the continent of America.
The climate, it may be noted, is one especially adapted to
the pursuits of agriculture,—not being subject to the heats
and droughts of California, or to the colds of the other British
American provinces and the eastern United States.
The loamy soils everywhere possessing a depth of two or
three feet, and containing a large proportion of the calcareous
principle, are especially eligible for fruit culture. The river
lands would be easily fitted to bear varieties of the plum and
the pear; and the oak plains around the Somenos and
Quamicham lakes, with a sandy clay subsoil so dry that it
could be worked immediately after a rain of several hours,
are exceedingly well adapted for garden or orchard purposes.
On this land, I am confident, that apples, pears, plums,
cherries, and all our hardy fruits, may be grown to perfection.
It is believed that the filbert and the hardy grape vine
would likewise be easily and successfully cultivated.
eligible for
river land.
upon sandy
Rich soil.
Rain lands.
eligible for
plain lands.
adapted to
Descriptions of
fruit on
river lands.
Descriptions of
fruit on
plain lands.
Eilbert and
grape vine.
— 12
fruits for
Enumeration of
of plants.
Eern and
for commerce in
List of
trees and
Ores of
Water privileges for
mills and
Of sufficient
Among the native fruits, the blackberry, mulberry, raspberry, strawberry, gooseberry, currant, and high bush
cranberry, would require little pains or culture to produce
luxuriantly. The strawberry, it may be mentioned, grows
on the plain lands nearly of the same size as the garden
The varieties and species of plants are very numerous,—
a few only were noted growing in the plain and meadow
lands, among which are the following :■—Wild pea (five to
six seeded), wild bean, ground nut, clover (species of white
clover), field strawberry, wild oats, cut grass, wild timothy,
reed meadow grass, long spear grass, sweet grass, high
ostrich fern, cowslip, crowfoot, winter cress, partridge berry,
wild sunflower, marigold, wild lettuce, nettles, wild angelica,
wild lily (white and yellow), broad-leaved rush, and reed
rush. The fern attains an enormous height of from six to
eight feet, and the grasses have all a most vigorous growth.
The chief economic woods met with are the pine and the
oak. The pine attains a large size in places, but many
other parts o& the island afford far better inducements for
the cutting and exporting of lumber than can be had in the
Cowichan Valley.
The following are some of the trees and shrubs:—
Oak, red or swamp maple, alder, trailing arbutus, bois
de fleche, crab apple, hazel nut, willowy balsam, poplar, pitch
pine, and various other species, balsam fir, cedar, barberry,
wild red cherry, wild blackberry, yellow plum, choke cherry,
black and red raspberry, white raspberry, prickly purple
raspberry, swamp rose, prickly gooseberry, swamp gooseberry, currants, bear berries, red elder, mooseberry, snow-
berry, blueberry, bilberry, cranberry, whortleberry, red and
white mulberry.
It is believed that the country surveyed will prove rich in
the economic minerals, sufficiently so to justify the Government in causing an investigation to be made at the proper
time. Lime and freestones are abundant, with granular
marble, and both the bog and mountain ores of iron. Indications of gold were remarked by the party upon the southerly
slope of Mount Prevost, but no value was attached to these.
Water privileges, for the purposes of mills and machinery,
are not frequent along the coast, although the region abounds
with large rivers and small streams. Several good falls
exist a short distance above the mouth of the Mill Creek in
the Shawnigan district, and this creek has likewise facilities
for mills at various other points. Other streams afford a
sufficient extent of water privileges to answer the require- 13
ments of a large population, but these are all inland, at a distance of several miles from the coast.
The salmon is abundant, both unon the coast and in the Fisheries,
rivers, and with the herring fisheries will unquestionably Abundant*
prove a lucrative branch of employment to a proportion of
the future population.    Codfish and numerous other kinds
kinds are also taken in quantities by the Indians.
In  traversing the country several descriptions of game Wild game,
were met with,—among which were the elk, deer, grouse, Varieties.
partridge; wild pigeon, ducks, and wild geese; from my own
observations and from the supplies constantly brought to us
by the Indians, it was inferred that the country is plentifully
stocked with most kinds of game.
The Cowichan Bay is exposed to raking winds from the Harbour
east and south-east, and is a somewhat insecure harbour.        insecure.
The small bay running up in the 6-rango of the Cowichan Small
district would form a very secure anchorage and harbour for harbour-
a certain amount of small and even of large craft, and a
reservation of the  sections  upon this harbour might  be
Access to the Cowichan Valley by water is at all times Access,
easy, the distance from Victoria being only about 35 miles.
By land the communication will be somewhat more difficult. Communi-
Passing a road from Victoria bv the head of the Saanich catl?n with
Inlet, and along its westerly side, the distance would probably be about 40  miles;  but it would  appear  that  no Roads,
natural obstacles will be found to render the undertaking a facilities
very expensive  one.    On  reaching  the Cowichan Valley ^han
roads will be opened with the greatest ease, and at a small Valley,
expenditure, the land being favourable.
Communication with the Fraser River and British Co- CJ<2a^miji
lumbia would likewise be had in about half a day's sail; but British
the natural market for the products of the Cowichan region Columbia,
will undoubtedly be at Victoria, for which it will form a rich Victoria,
" back country/' t       n^r^ural
The site for the Government reservations requires the c
consideration of the department.    The land is sufficiently ment
favourable at almost any locality on the southerly side of the reserves.
Cowichan Bay, though the shoal waters will be an obstacle Shoal
to cheap landings or wharves. waters.
The whole area of the tract surveyed is 57,658 acres, of Whole
which about 45,000 acres of plain and prairie lands may be area subset down as superior agricultural districts, the remaining
12,600 acres  being either  open  or  thickly wooded land,
partly arable; will likewise ultimately be chiefly occupied.
There is thence a sufficient extent of good land laid out in 14 I
this valley to provide farms for a population of from 500 to
600 families, at an average of about 100 acres each.
Indian Along the rivers there are nine Indian villages, as fol-
population. ]ows: —three Clemclemaluts, two Comiaken, one Taitka, one
Quamicham, one Somenos, and one Kokesailah.   The number
of families, after careful investigation, has been set down
at 250, and the whole population at about 1,000 to 1,100
Friendly    souls.     The Indians have  shown  throughout  a  perfectly
disposed,    friendly disposition, and a strong desire to see the white
men settled  among them.     Their  services  may prove of
utility to the early settler by way of cheap labour.
I have &c.,
< '   ". |      (Signed)       Oliver Wells.
!' lifc:   ttf«i
?<§• ££
F3H  V*   Pvc: LONDON:
Printed by George E. Eyee and William Spottiswoojde,
Printers to the Queen's most Excellent Majesty.
Por Her Majesty's Stationery Office.


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