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BC Historical Books

Biography of Roderick Finlayson Finlayson, Roderick 1891

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OF RODERICK FINLAYSON        Roderick Finlayson, now (1891) of Victoria, Vancouver Island, was born in the year 1818, in Ross-shire,
North Britain, and educated there, the son of a sheep and
other stock farmer in the same county.
Sailed from Glasgow for New York in a passenger sailing ship, in July, 1837, reached New York after a tedious
passage of forty days, early in September. New York was
then not much larger than Victoria is now, business
depressed, money scarce, the principal currency being small
paper notes from a quarter of a dollar upwards, which could
not be exchanged for coin except at a heavy discount.
At New York I accidentally met a kind relative, by
whose influence I received an appointment in the service of
the Hudson's Bay Company, as apprentice clerk, and proceeded to my destination to the head office of the Company
in Canada, took passage in a steamer up the Hudson River
to Albany, thence by stage to White-Hall, thence by boat, on
a canal, drawn by horses to Lake Champlain, where I took
passage by steamer to St. John, and thence by the first railway then in the Dominion to Laprairie, where I crossed the
St. Lawrence by ferry to Montreal, from Montreal I took a
caleche to Lachine on the St. Lawrence, the head office of
the Company, my destination. I was there employed at the
desk for sometime, when a vacancy took place at a station on
the Ottawa River named Fort Coulonge and was directed to
proceed thither in a birch bark canoe, with three men, passed
the town of By-Town on my way, now the City of Ottawa,
which was then but a small place, consisting of a saw-mill with several small log cabins around occupied by the men
employed. Both banks of the Ottawa River were then
thickly wooded, with clearances in some places formed by
the early settlers thus hewing farms for themselves out of
the thick forest. Reached my destination safely after hard
work paddlin gour canoe up stream, I was placed in a store
to trade with the natives and lumber men there on the river
and thus initiated into the mode of trade carried on by the
I remained at this station (Fort Coulonge) during the
winter of 1837-8 and the country being then in a state of
rebellion with lawless people roaming about the country. I
was appointed in the summer of 1838 to the charge of Fort
William, another station belonging to the Company, farther
up the Ottawa, with twelve men. There I was one day
attacked by one of these brigands, when defending myself
against him attempting to break into the store. I got badly
hurt in the encounter but managed to keen him and others
who joined him at bay until my men came to the rescue
when the robbers escaped into the woods. After this until
the end of the rebellion the men at the Company's station
had to be drilled into the use of fire-arms, and kept on watch
regularly night and day.
In the spring of 1839 I was directed by the Govenor to
hold myself in readiness at four hours notice to join a brigade
of four large bark canoes on the way up from Lachine^ the
head office, with officers and men, appointed to proceed to
the Columbia District on the west of the Rocky Mountains,
in order to take possession of part of the Russian Territory rT
on the North Pacific for Trade purposes,  that was leased
from the Russian American Fur Co., by the Hudson Bay
Co. in  London.    I then had to leave  Fort William with
much regret, to a successor appointed, and joined the party
for the West.    We proceeded up the Ottawa with four large
birch bark canoes,  the party consisting of forty men and
officers, to Lake Nipising, thence down the French River to
Lake Huron, up Lake Huron to Lake Superior, along the
north shore of which we paddled our way to what is now
Port Arthur, changed our  canoes here for smaller ones and
pursued our way up the Kaministiquia River to the height
of land, where the canoes and luggage had to be carried by
the men until we reached the water leading into The Lake of
the Woods, paddled our canoes through the lake to the river
Rainy River) that falls into Lake Winnipeg, paddled along
the  north  shore   of  Lake   Winnipeg   to   Norway   House,
another station of the Company's,  on the north of the lake,
where we remained  about a week.    There we met a large
number  of officers and men from  the Interior, with their
annual collection of furs, bound for York Factory, there to
deliver their furs and receive their annual outfits for the next
year.    From Norway House we continued our way down the
river   (Nelson) which leads to York Factory on   Hudson's
Bay, the head depot there which we reached in due time and
where we remained about a fortnight, replenishing our stock
of provisions, etc., for the westward journey.    Here I had a
first view of the sea since leaving New York.
Having received our equipment for the western journey
at this  place we parted with our friends at the Factory and
B*agi 6
left under the command of Dr. John McLoughlen then the
Chief Factor in charge of the Columbia District, with many
hearty cheers from our friends at the Factory, and proceeded
up  the  Nelson   River to Norway   House  again,   here we
exchanged our birch bark canoes for batteaux for navigating
Lake Winnipeg and the Saskatchewan River, from Norway
House we coasted along the northwest end of the lake to the
mouth  of the Saskatchewan  River up which we proceeded,
calling  at   the  stations   of   Fort  Carleton,   Fort  Pitt and
Edmonton,   on   the   river.    At   the  last  place,   the   Chief
Station of the Saskatchewan District, we  left our batteaux
and took horses across the plains to the Athabasca River, to
Fort Assiniboine, where we ao-ain took birch bark canoes and
paddled up the Athabaska  River  to Jasper's House,  in the
Rocky Mountains, from this place we aorain took horses and
crossed the  Rocky Mountains  to  the   head   waters   of  the
Columbia River where we found batteaux again waiting for
us, and passed down the Columbia River calling at Fort Col-
ville, Okanagan,   Walla  Walla,   stations  belonging  to the
Company, and reached Fort Vancouver on the Columbia, the
head station of the Company in the Columbia District, which
we reached about the middle of November, being six months
since I left Fort William on the Ottawa.    Shortly after my
arrival here I was placed in  charge of a saw and grist mill,
about five miles above the Fort, on the river, where I had a
gancr of twenty-four men to look after at both   mills and
shipping lumber and spars in ships to the Sandwich Islands,
Fort Vancouver being situated at the head of navigation for
large ships coming up the river from sea. In the spring of 1840 the party to which I belonged
left again in boats down the Columbia to the Cowlitz River,
up which we ascended to a farm on the Cowlitz Plain where
we took  horses to Nisqually, a fort at the head of Puget
Sound kept there for the fur trade and sheep farming.    At
this place we found the steamer "Beaver | waiting for us, on
board of which we took our passage along the Coast, passing
Vancouver   Island   on  our  left,   the  mountains   of   which
arjpeared plain to the westward.    I little thought then when
looking at the island that it would ultimately be my home.
On the way north, in the " Beaver," we called at Fort Lang-
ley, Fort McLaughlin, Fort Simpson, stations belonging to
the Company, the last on 54 D, the boundary between British
and Russian Territory.    From Fort Simpson we proceeded
to Fort  Stickeen, one of the Russian  Forts  on the coast,
which was manned by thirty-two men and  a gnn  brig for
defence.    According  to   agreement  we   took   possession of
Fort  Stickeen, which the Russians evacuated and left us, an
officer with eighteen men, in charge,  to  carry on  the  trade
and defend themselves against the wild natives then on the
coast.    It was not my lot to remain here then, after settling
matters at Fort Stickeen the rest of the party under command
of Chief Factor Douglas, proceeded in the "Beaver'' to Sitka,
the head  station of the Russian Amerian Company on the
the coast.    Here matters were settled between Mr. Douglas
and the  Russian Governor at Sitka, we were received most
cordially by the Russian officers, had a salute of 9 guns fired
in  our honor by the ships of war in the harbor, which was
returned from the " Beaver '   guns in grand style.    After
remaining  about ten days at Sitka, settling various matters 

relative to  our future trade with the Russian Company, the
party left in the  u Beaver " (having been saluted as before
and returned from the | Beaver ") to the  Gulf of Taco and
River, for the purpose of establishing a fort there for trading purposes,  we ascended the river in boats for about 30
miles looking for a place to  build  but found none on the
river and selected a place about  50 miles, in a land locked
harbor, where  we  built a fort on  the usual plan, called it
Fort Durham  in honor of the Governor General of Canada.
It took some time to build  this fort and make it  defensible
against the warlike Indians in the vicinity.    When it was
considered   in   a  proper   state  for  defence,   with   bastions
erected at the angles of the stockade, a party was left to take
possession consisting of eighteen men and two officers, of
whom I was  one,  second  in command.    Mr. Douglas then
left for the south in the | Beaver," when we were left to our
own resources to make  the best of our circumstances.    It
was  now late in October and the fort built on Taco harbor
surrounded with high  mountains as dismal a place as could
possibly be imagined,  the rain pouring down in  torrents
adding to our other discomforts.    The journal kept at this
place   showed rain  and  snow for nine  months out of  the
twelve.    We opened trade with the natives, a wild turbulent
race so that we only allowed a few of them at a time to enter
the fort gate for trade.    A few years before this an American
vessel from Boston came to trade in the  neighborhood and
had a quarrel with the  natives in which a large number of
them were killed, and, supposing Ave Avere Americans, they
tried to take revenge for this by attempting to take the fort
and murder us all.    With this view a warrior of the tribe 9
attempted to force his way in at the gate, where a number
of others were watching the gatekeeper a Sandwich Islander
did all he could to keep the man out, but failed, when I
went to the rescue, having pistols in my belt, and forced the
fellow out, in  doing so I was struck by a bludgeon  and in
the heat of passion I went outside the gate where I was laid
hold of by a party  of the wild savages and  forced away
to   a distance from   the gate, when I   called  out  to   open
blank  cartridges   from   the  cannonades  in  the  bastion to
frighten them.    In the meantime I managed to get my back
to a tree drew my pistols from  my  belt and  threatened to
kill the first man that attempted to lay hold of me, my faco
was  covered with blood and otherwise badly hurt.    The firing from  the bastion  frightened the  fellows off so I was
enabled to return to the fort.    After this we were besieged
for several days,  preparing  ourselves   for   action and   the
natives finding trade  suspended, came to a parley, when it
was arranged that on payment  of the insult to me, who was
not a Boston, as  the Americans  were called,  explained to
them, they agreed to pay in furs, a large bundle  of which
were brought as payment and accepted, peace declared and
trade resumed.    I then passed a dismal winter at Fort Durham.    In the autumn of 1841   a  young  gentleman   from
England arrived in the ship taking  our  supplies, who  took
my place at Taco,  when I was directed to proceed to Fort
Stikeen (now Wrangel) and much pleased to be relieved of
my duty at Taco.   On reaching Fort Stikeen I was placed in
the  trade  shop there which I found a much more pbasant
place than Taco.    From Fort Stikeen, in the spring of 1842,
I was directed to go to Fort Simpson to relieve a clerk there p
who left on sick leave, and placed in the trade  shop there.
About this  time it was  found that the  steamer | Beaver '
with a trader on board could do all the trade carried on at
Fort Durham and Stikeen, with that at Fort McLauorhlin on
Millbank Sound, so that it wa^ decided at headquarters to
abandon  this place, concentrate the forces  there  with  the
supplies and remove them  to  the south end of Vancouver
Island, where a new fort  was ordered to be built.    I was in
consequence removed  from Fort Simpson, which I found a
comfortable pleasant place, embarked on board the "Beaver"
which with a schooner called the | Cadboro " had the Stikeen
and Taeo parties  on  board on the way south.    In passing
Millbank Sound,  Fort McLaughlin was dismantled and its
inhabitants taken  on  board.    Mr. Douglas, late Sir James,
had  command of  the whole party, we proceeded south and
reached  Victoria Harbor (selected  in the spring as the fort
site)  landed there on the  1st June, 1843,  and commenced
building the fort with the forces *£rom the abandoned stations
named,  consisting of about 50 men  and 3 officers, one   of
whom, a Mr. C. Ross, a trader, was appointed to the charge
with myself as second in command, the " Beaver " and "Cadboro "  remaining as guard vessels until the fort was built.
The weather being fine and pleasant the operations of building went on rapidly with 50 men employed.    At this time
there was a dense forest along the water on the harbor and
Camoosin Inlet, as the " Arm " was then called.    Where the
fort was built  there was an open glade with  oak trees of
large size, where a space of 150 yards was measured off, each
way when the fort was built.    The natives for some time after
our arrival kept aloof and would   not  come near.    After- 11
wards some of them came  round gradually,   and,   finding
them inclined  to steal anything they could get a watch was
kept night and  day, while  we lived  in tents before houses
could be built.    The natives however soon got rid of their
shyness began to remove from the village on Oadboro Bay
and erect homes for themselves along the bank of the harbor
as far as the present site of Johnson Street.    Their houses
consisted of wide cedar boards placed on poles stuck in the
ground, with cross-beams, over which the boards were placed.
In the autumn Mr.  Douglas left us,  taking the " Beaver,:
and " Cadboro " away, when he considered the place defen^
sible.    As 'Second in  command it became my duty to look
after the men  in building  and   thus  became   the   pioneer
builder of houses on  the  Island of Vancouver on civilized
plans.    After the fort was built, consisting of cedar pickets
18 feet high, round a space of 150 yards square, with houses
and  stores  within,  and two large block houses, bastion at
two angles armed with 9 pounder cannonade blunderbusses,
cutlasses, &c, taken from the dismantled forts named, with
ammunition, some of the men  were  employed   clearing the
land around to raise vegetables and cereals for the use of the
place, in these operations we gradually got some of the young
natives to assist, paying them in goods, and found them verv
useful as  ox drivers  in  ploughing the land.    Horses and
cattle were imported from the station at Nisqually, on Puget
Sound, to enable us to open a farm here.    In the spring of
1844 poor Mr. Ross who was left in charge by Mr. Douglas
was  in poor health when  he  arrived here and died, much
regretted,  in   March,   and was  buried in   the  old  burying
ground near the  gully,  on Johnson  Street  now.    On the 12
death of Mr. Ross being advised to headquarters at Vancouver on the Columbia River, I was appointed to the
charge of Victoria, with his son John Ross as my assistant.
In 1844 matters went on for some time smoothly enough
after Mr. Ross died, when it was found that the natives
killed some of our oxen feeding in the open spaces. I then
questioned the Songees chief about this and demanded payment, as we could not allow our cattle to be killed in this
way with impunity. He went away in a rage, assembled
some Cowichan Indians to his village and the next move I
found on their part was a shower of bullets fired at the fort,
with a great noise and demonstration on the part of the
crowd assembled, threatening death and devastation to all
the whites. I had then to gather up our forces and man the
bastions, and did not allow any of our men outside the fort
until I could settle the matter with the Indians. Noticing
the chief's lodge the largest among the others I directed the
interpreter, a  half-breed, to  go outside, to pretend he had
deserted from  us, and to tell them  as from himself that I
was going to fire on the chief's lodge and to see that all in-
mates had left it in order to prevent bloodshed, and to make
a sign  to me,  at the  same time watching matters from the
bastion,  by twisting his handkerchief round, that all was
vacant,  which he did.     I then fired  a nine pounder with
grape in, and pointed  the gun to the lodge, which flew into
the air in splinters like a bombshell, after this there was such
howling that I thought a number were killed, and was quite
relieved when the interpreter teame round and told me none
were killed but much frightened, not knowing we had such
destructive arms.    The chief with some of his men, shortly Mk
after this, came to the gate and asked to see me, I went and
assumed  a warlike attitude and  mentioned that unless the
cattle killed were paid  for I would demolish  all their  huts
and drive them  from the place.    The  reply  was  that  he
would pay and asked  the price, which  was named, and the
next day payment in full in furs was made, when peace was
restored and hand shaking took place I mentioned to them,
throucrh the interpreter, that we came here to trade peaceably
with them,  and did not want war unless we were forced to,
so ended this disagreeable affair.    At this time I knew our
guns would bring them to their senses, as they had no idea
of their power.    Had I permitted our men to fire on them the
result would have been unfortunate.    Sometime after this the
belt of thick wood  between the fort and Johnson Street in
front of which the lodges were placed, took fire and we had
some difficulty in extinguishing it as it was gainino- towards
the fort, and this fire having  been caused by the Indians I
wanted them to remove to the other side of the harbor which
they at first declined to do, saying the land was theirs  and
after a great deal of angry parleying on both sides, it was
agreed that if  I  allowed our men to assist them to remove
they would go, to which I consented.   This was the origin of
the present Indian Reserve.    In the Spring of 1845, a party
of natives came from Bellingham Bay to trade with us, and
traded a large quantity of furs, for which we gave them the
goods  they wanted in  exchange.    On leaving  the fort in
their canoes, they were waylaid about Clover Point by a party
of Songees and robbed of their goods, after which they came
back to the fort and complained of their treatment and asked
to be allowed to pass the night within  the fort as they were
afraid of their lives.    This was a clear case in which I was
bound to interfere to protect friendly Indians coming to trade
with us.    I then sent the interpreter to get   them to restore
the goods they took from these friendly  Indians,  as  otherwise I would have to take action on their behalf, as they came
to trade with us.    After considering the matter for a time
these robbers came to the fort and delivered up the goods;
the Bellingham  Bay Indians then  left with their property,
contented, and to prevent further trouble, sent a party of our
men, armed, to Trial Island, to see   them safely homewards.
Thus   these wild   savages   were  taught   to   respect British
justice.    The chief asked me  one day what those iron balls
were for that he noticed at the Bastion.    I told  him if he
would place an old canoe he did not want in the harbor, opposite the bastion, he would see the use of them.    He did so
and I loaded one of our guns with one,  pointed the gun at
the old canoe in the harbor and fired, the ball going through
and bounded to the opposite side.    Now, said I, you can see
what we can do with our guns and iron  balls, when  we are
attacked, as you did before.
In the Spring of 1845 the barque Vancouver, one of the
Company's ships, sailed into the harbor direct from England,
with our goods, being the first of the Company's vessels
which came direct here—havino- been ordered here, as it was
the Company's intention gradually to make this the head depot and remove from the Columbia River, as the Americans
claimed that country. In the Summer of this year, H. M.
frigate America, Capt. the Hon. John Gordon, arrived off
the harbor and sent one of his boats for me to go on board,
which I did, and asked where he could anchor.    I mentioned 15
Esquimalt harbor, to which he objected as it was not on the
chart as a harbor.    He then proceeded to Port Discovery, on
the other side of the Straits, taking me along with him, after-
I had made arrangements  with  my  second in  command to
take charge of the fort until my return.    At Port Discovery,
we sent two of his officers, with a boat crew, to the head of
Puget Sound with directions for them to  proceed to the Columbia River, and to give  a full  report  of the  country on
their return.    After this he ordered his long boat manned,
in which he crossed  the Straits  with  some  of his  officers,
taking me along with him to Victoria,  where they remained
for about two weeks, until the party  from  the Columbia returned.    Here we made several excursions in the district on
horseback, and in the vicinity of  Cedar Hill  fell in with a
band of deer, which we pursued until they got into a thicket
and were thus disappointed in the hunt   Capt. Gordon, being
a noted deer stalker in the Scottish Highlands, got much disappointed at not getting at the deer, and on our return, riding
through an open, fine country, with   the native  grass up to
the horses' knees, I happened to make the remark, " What a
fine country this is," to which he replied that he " would not
give one of the barren hills of Scotland for all he saw around
him."    Another day he was preparing his fishing rod to fish
for salmon with the fly, when I +old him  the  salmon would
not take the fly, but were fished here with bait.    I then prepared fishing tackle with bait for him, after which he went in
a boat to the mouth, of the harbor, and fished several fine
salmon with the bait.    His  exclamation  on his return was :
" What a country, where the  salmon  will not take the fly."
I may here mention that Capt. Gordon was the brother of the 16
Earl of Aberdeen, then Prime Minister of England, and that
his mission here was  to  examine and give a report of the
country, both here and on the other  side of the Straits.    In
consequence of an agreement entered into  several years before by the Hudson Bay Co. and the Russian Fur Co. on the
coast to supply them with goods from England, with cereals,
beef, butter and other farm produce, from  Puget Sound, the
Columbia, and this part of the country,  farms  were directed
to be opened at the Company's stations.    With this in view,
a force of men and Indians were employed here to clear land
and cultivate it, and a large number  of horned, cattle were
imported here from Puget Sound from  the farm there, and
three large dairies were formed  here—one at a place below
Church Hill; one at  Gonzales,  now Pemberton's; and  the
other at the North  Dairy Farm—each with  seventy milch
cows, in charge of dairymen, which produced seventy kegs of
butter each in the season, while  oats,   barley, peas, potatoes,
etc.,   were  raised  on  the  different farms and  exported to
settlers.    The large wooden building now to be seen on the
LIudson Bay Wharf was used as a  granary, where the grain
was stored for shipment from  the  Columbia, Puget Sound,
Langley and other places.     This produce was  shipped  to
Sitka, both in Russian vessels, sent here for the purpose, and
the  Company's   vessels.    Our farms  here consisted of the
Fort Farm, on the fiat where the city is now; Beckly Farm,
at the south of James Bay, and the North Dairy Farm, as
high as forty bushels of wheat to the acre,  was raised here,
each bushel weighing sixty-three pounds,  and  sold to  the
Russians at 4s. 2d. per bushel, paid by bills on St. Petersburg.
Labor was cheap in those days, hence the facility with which 17
those operations were carried on.
In the Spring of 1846 I was directed to go to the Island
of San Juan and plant  stakes  therein from south to north,
marked " British Possessions,"  at certain points.    A sheep
farm and salmon fishery were established there shortly after-
ward and continued until the difficulty arose with the United
States authority.    The barque Columbia, one of  the Company's vessels, arrived in  the Spring with goods and grain
from the Columbia River.  The goods were landed, and grain
and other produce shipped, with which the vessel proceeded
to Sitka.    This Summer, also, II. M.  ship Constance,  Capt.
Courtney, arrived and anchored in  Esquimalt, a frigate with
500 men and officers.    Capt.  Courteny landed and  asked if
he could be of any service to me,  to  which I. replied that I
was   situated  here   surrounded by treacherous  Indians, and
that if he would he kind enough to land some of his men for
exercise in the use of arms, to show the Inelians what a man
of war was, to which he consented,  and landed a large force
of marines and blue jackets  next day, with  an armed long
boat, who performed various evolutions, such as is customary
on parade ground, and  at the  close of the day the Captain
asked the chief, through an  interpreter, what they thought
of the men of war.    The reply was :    "Is that the way the
whites  fight, killing each   other in  the  open?     We  fight
behind the trees and rocks and kill our enemies in this way."
The Captain was not at all pleased at the savage's reply.
The chief, not losing a chance to beg,  asked the Captain for
a present, when, he was told to goon board for one.    The
next day he appeared among his people,   quite proud, with a
large  white   jacket   on,   with   "thief,"   marked   in   large
wnsiemegta. 18
letters in front, and "liar," on the back, which his people
much admired—its meaning they were, of course, kept ignorant of. This display of arms from the Constance had a good
effect on the. natives, as they were evidently afraid to pick
any quarrels with us for some time afterward.
In this year the frigate Fisgard, Captain Duntze, also
arrived, and remained some time here, and afterward went up
Puget Sound and anchored in Nisqually Roads, where she
remained the most of the Summer. Captain Duntze, also,
while here, exercised his men on shore, and showed the
natives that we always had men of war to protect us here.
In the Spring of 1847, two surveying ships arrived—
the Herald and Pandora, the former under command of Capt.
Hellott, aud the latter under Commander Wood. Both
vessels were employed surveying the Straits of De Fuca,
Esquimalt Harbor, Victoria, and the Canal de Haro, and
other places, taking notes, etc., and correcting the charts.
While these vessels were here, several other ships of war
arrived from the south and anchored in Esquimalt, awaiting
orders as to whether the country north of the Columbia
River were" taken possession of or not, as British Territory.
When the question was settled with the American government that the 49 th parallel was to be the boundary, they left
for the south. At this time our farming operations were
carried on extensively, so that we were able to supply these
vessels with all the beef and vegetables they wanted. The
beef was sold to them at 8c. per pound, which paid us well
in those days, with vegetables and flour equally cheap. At
this time a grist and saw mill were in working order at Es- 19
quimalt, where the flour was manufactured and the lumber
required for building, also, prepared, both run by water
A chartered ship . arrived from England this year with
goods, by which a chaplain and his wife arrived—a Mr. R.
J. Stains—who performed service on Sundays, at the Fort.
Mr. and Mrs. Stains kept a school for the children of the
officers of the Hudson Bay Co. then in the country.
Owing to the contract with the Russian America Co.,
three barques—the Columbia, Vancouver and Cowlitz—belonging to the Company, with occasional chartered ships,
were kept on the line between this and England and Sitka,
carrying goods from England to Sitka, and transporting
grain, beef, etc., from the Columbia  River and this place to
Sitka.    As the 49th degree was fixed upon  as the boundar
line, the Company were preparing, now, gradually, to abandon their stations south of the 49th degree in Oregon and
Washington Territories, and remove north, this place being
the objective point, where the head depot was to be established, and the required buildings were being ereeted here for
the purpose. Instead of the annual ships, with the fur returns of the country leaving the head depot at Vancouver, on
the Columbia River, they were, since last year, clearino- from
this place direct for England with the returns, and coming
direct here with the supplies.
In 1848, the farming and other operations with this
trade, started here in 1843, continued to assume large proportions, and became the centre of the Company's trade wTest 20
of the Rocky Mountains. The cattle increased so that it
became difficult to herd them all, as they wandered into the
woods. In this way Ave lost a large number, which were
found afterward by hunters in the interior of the island
This year the brigades of horses, with the fur returns from
the interior, instead of going to the Columbia by way of
Kamloops and Okanagan, came across the Cascade Mountains
from Kamloops to Fort Hope, on the Fraser River, through
Avhich a trail was cut out for the purpose, thus avoiding
American territory. The furs were boated down from
Hope to Langley and then to this place-
About this time I may mention that the lease which the
Company held of the country Avest of  the Rocky Mountains
from the Crown, Avas becoming of little or no use to them by
reason of American and other vessels coming to the coast to
trade, and interferino* with their exclusive rights, and in case
of any of them being seized, which the Company could easily
do, as their vessels Avere then armed and manned like men of
Avar, they, the Company, applied to the British Government for
protection. The Minister of the day's answer^was, that they
could not send men of war around the Horn for the purpose,
and said the Company might protect themselves. The Company's answer Avas that in case of seizing any vessel, there
was no legal court of justice to try such cases short of Montreal, 3,000 miles away, when it was-arranged to turn Vancouver Island into a Crown Colony, and that a Governor
would be sent out, and that the Company Avould bind themselves to colonize it by granting them the island in fee simple
for the purpose, which was carried  into effect the following 21
year.    This was the first step and cause of Vancouver Island
being made a crown colony on this western coast.
In the Spring of 1849 a vessel appeared in the harbor,
the crewT of which Avore red flannel shirts, and when they
landed Ave took them to be pirates. I ordered the men to
the guns, manned the bastions and made ready for defence.
1 then interviewed the men, from the gate, who told me they
were peaceable traders, come from San Francisco, with gold,
to trade for goods, as this was the only station on the northern coast where they could get the goods they wanted.
Having satisfied myself that they were what they represented
themselves to be, I let them in, and they then told me that
gold had been discovered in California in large quantities the
previous Fall, and that they had gold nuggets which they
would gladly exchange for goods. They produced several
nugo-ets, the value of which I  at first sight felt doubtful of,
©O © '
but brought one of the nuggets to  the blacksmith's shop,
© &© jT "
and told him and his assistant to hammer it on the anvil,
which they did, and flattened it out satisfactorily. I then
referred to my book on minerals, and found that the
specimens appeared to me to be genuine. I then
offered them $11 per ounce for their gold, Avhich they
accepted without a murmur, and having thus mentioned my
price and received no objections, I felt doubtful but concluded to accept it, and the traele went on. They then took
in exchange such goods as were not required for our own
trade, such as old pots of iron, sea boots, blankets, baize, etc.,
for which I got satisfactory prices. I thus traded a considerable sum in gold nuggets,. the amount of which I cannot
now'call to mind, but, being doubtful as to the value I put
on the gold, I dispatched a canoe with eight hands, to Puget
Sound, and thence to the head depot at Vancouver, with
specimens of my trade, and asking whether I was right or
wrong.    The  answer was that  I was right,  and that more
o ©
goods would be sent me to carry on the trade. Afterward
another vessel came to trade in the' same way, when one of
the traders offered me $1,000 per month if I would go and
take charge of his store in San Francisco, as clerks vvere
scarce there. Then my reply was that I declined with thanks,
when he mentioned " I guess you must be pretty well paid
here." I, at the same time, had a salary of £100 per annum
from the Company, which, of course, I did not tell him. I
was, however, under an engagement Avith the Company to
give twelve months' notice before quitting the service, so I
remained at my post. This, and several other vessels came
from California to trade, from which considerable quantities
of gold was received in trade. After this our operations
here got considerably disarranged, by numbers of our men
leaving for the California diggings, including the sailors from
© O©      ©   ' G
our ships, when pay had to be considerably increased to induce them to remain. We had to employ Indians as sailors
to replace our seamen in the ships and labourers on land.
This year, 1849, the late Sir James Douglas, then Mr.
C. F. Douglas, removed with his family from the depot on
the Columbia River to this place, as by this time the principal business of the department was carried on here. I was
thus relieved of the onerous duties I had to perform here,
since I built the fort and carried on business here since June, 23
1843. Mr. Douglas having taken the superintendence of the
business in hand, I Avas placed in the office as head accountant, which I held until the year 1862. The Company now,
this year, 1849, having taken in hand the colonization of the
Island, having received it in fee simple from the British
Government on certain conditions, a Governor, a Mr. Blanch -
ard, Avas appointed in England to come out as Governor, and
arrived here in a frigate  from  Panama,  in 1850, the Sum-
mer of the following year.   On his arrival the inmates of the
© j
fort were assembled in our old mess room to hear the proclamation read, as well as the Governor's commission. The
employees of the Company were then the only settlers, and
after having heard the Governor's commission read, which
was done by Captain Gordon, of H. M. ship Cormorant,
then in the harbor, Ave gave three British cheers for the Governor, and then dispersed. There being, then, no government House, the Governor took up his abode in the Fort, in
a room provided for him. The Governor, according to his
instructions, formed a Legislative Council of three members,
old, retired secants of the Company, induced to settle on the
island. One of the conditions of settling the island was that
the Company would import settlers from England, sell them
land there in England at £1 per acre and take out laborers
with them, pay their expenses out, and a map having been
prepared for the purpose and exhibited in the Hudson Ray
House iu London, on whi?h they Avere to select their loca-
i tions. Only one settler, a Captain Grant, took up land in
this way, selected a location on Sooke Harbor, took out eight
men with him and paid their expenses. On his arrival he
found the country different from what he expected, being m
thickly wooded and very expensive to clear, and before he
could establish himself properly, paying all preliminary expenses, he found his funds gone and gave up the attempt as
impracticable. At this time the Company had reserved all
the land within ten miles of the fort for themselves, so that
incoming settlers had to go beyond this area for locations.
As a matter of course, no one knowing the circumstances,
witn wild savages to contend with, would take up land for
settlement. The agents of the Company on tne spot seeing
this, aud knowing the Company would forfeit the grant of
the island unless they would form settlements on it satisfac-
tory to the government, within five years represented the
state of affairs to the Company in London. An order was
then sent to sell land in Victoria, Esquimalt. Saanich and
Metchosin Districts, only reserving certain farms then in
cultivation in Victoria and Esquimalt districts, and no
settlers with the former reservation taken off, could be found
to take up land when it Avas offered on the American side
for one dollar per acre.
The Company, in order to preserve the grant of the
island from the Crown, induced their officers to purchase
land and establish fnrms by getting laborers to work them on
half shares. In this way Mr. Douglas, myself, the late Mr-
Work, and several others, bought land at $5 per acre, as near
the fort as the reservations would permit, and in this way
settlements were formed and the conditions of the grant of
the island from the CroAvn complied with.
In 1851, the Company sent out  two ships with laborers
to work farms  they had established in Victoria and Esqui- 25
malt Districts, with bailiffs to carry them on. The most of
these laborers on arrival having taken the California gold
fever, as it was called, deserted thither, and the consequence
was that farming dragged it  slow length along for years.
© ©© © o «/
Governor Blanchard this year finding but   few  people   to
govern except the Company's people, who looked more to the
Company's officers, with whom they had to  deal, than to the
Governor,, the latter got disgusted with the  state of affairs
and left for England, leaving Mr. Douglas, then senior member of the Legislative  Council,  to act as Governor.      Mr.
Douglas was then appointed  Governor of the island by the
Home Government, and I was appointed by him a member
of the Legislative Council, my commission  as such having
been signed by the Queen, this year.   In 1850 I received my
commission as  Chief   Trader,  after thirteen years of   hard
service, AA'hich added considerably to rny income, and in 1859
received my commission  as  Chief  Factor.    In  1849,  I got
married here by the Rev.  Mr.  Stairs, our  Chaplain.    Now
that I have brought the principal occurrences here formed
from the establishment of the fort to this  date, the rest can
be gleaned from the public records at the Government offices.
The Company, about  this time,  got  a portion  of   the farm
round the  fort  surveyed by  Mr   Pemberton, the surveyor,
into town lots, which were sold from time to time to various
purcasers at $50 per lot, until  the Fraser River Gold excitement took place, in 1858, when the price was raised considerably,   according  to   location,   and   thus    commenced   the
building of the City of Victoria in earnest, previous to this,
people felt doubtful about its permanency.    Since  1852, I
have added to my land purchases, and having cleared, fenced,
drained and improved it, I have been eaabled to lease it to
various parties, and received some returns from my outlay on
it. In 1861 I got leave of absence from the Company to
visit my parents, and found them alive and well, after an
absence of twenty-five years from them, and the following
year I Avas informed of their death. On my return here, I
was appointed, at my own request, in 1862, to superintend
the Company's affairs in the interior of the country, and re
mained in this position until 1872, when I retired from the
service and since then remained at home, looking after my
private affairs.
Such is a brief history of my career since,I began to
work out my own way in life. I Adsited my native country,
Scotland, four different times, and took some members of
my family with me to see the old country, and made several
trips to Eastern Canada since my retirement from, active
service with the Hudson Bay Company. 27
In the year 1811, Fort Astoria Avas built by the party
sent out from New York by John Jacob Astor to carry on
the fur trade on the Coast.
In the year 181Jf, or 1813 Fort Astoria was given up
to the North West Company of Montreal, Avhich was sold by
Aster's agent to the agents of that Company.
In the year 1831, a coalition was formed between the
North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company
which Avent under the name of  the Hudson's Bay Company,
Avhose agents reside at Astoria.
In the year 1833, the Depot of the Company on the
coast was removed from Astoria to Fort Vancouver on the
Columbia River. Astoria then became an outpost. Then a
large farm was commenced at Fort Vancouver.
In the year 183 J^, Fort Langley Avas built on the Fraser
River for trading purposes, where a farm was also opened.   .
In the year 183-3, old Fort Simpson was built on the
Naas River on the coast, afterwards removed* to its present
site on the Chimsean Peninsula in 1834.
In the yeur 183h, Fort McLoughlin was built for trading purposes, on Millbank Sound.
In 1839 or 1830, Fort Nisqually was built at the head
of Puget Sound, where a large farm was also opened.
The foregoing were the places occupied and settled upon
for trading and farming purposes, in British Territory,
before Vanconver Island was made a colony in 1849.


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