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BC Historical Books

BC Historical Books

Historical papers : session 1907-8 Art, Historical and Scientific Association 1908

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SESSION 1907-8 

-F. C. WADE, K.C. 
VANCOUVER B.C.  Art, Historical and Scientific 
Session 1907-8.

Historical Papers : 
F. C. WADE, K.C. 
	 (§f&mB of Art, ijtst0nrai m\h
S    Btxmtxfxt AsHnriaifatu
F. C. WADE, K.C., President
MRS. H. A. MELLON,  1st Vice-President
DR. G. W. BOGGS, 2nd Vice-President
H. J. DeFOREST, Secretary
MRS. J. M. WHITEHEAD,  Treasurer
HE earliest
discoveries on
both the Pacific
and Atlantic
seaboards are to some
extent shrouded in mystery. 'The true sources
of history," says Prof.
Wrong, "lie somewhere
in the wonderland of myth
and tradition. Canadian
history seems to have its
proper beginning in that
vague atmosphere, colored
with adventure and romance, which surrounds
the westward voyagings
of the Northmen." Is it
true that when Harold
Harfager in the ninth century undertook to feudalise
Norway, the Vikings fled
to the Faroes and Iceland,
and that finally about 986
A. D., Eric the Red established a great colony
in Greenland ? Is it true
that Beorn was swept
from Greenland far to the west and south till he sighted unknown shores ?
Is it true that Leif Erickson was impelled by Beorn's talk to undertake the
expedition about 1 000 A. D. which landed him at Stoneland, Bush-
land and Vineland in succession, and are these places represented to-day
by Labrador, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia or Massachusetts?
There are the Icelandic sagas recording the adventures of Eric, and
Leif and Thorfin, but after them, all is silent for nearly five centuries
Similarly on the Pacific seaboard, it is difficult to separate history and
tradition.    An Arab merchant named Sulaiman, who visited China in EARLY NAVIGATORS OF THE PACIFIC.
the ninth century, declared that he had sailed upon the new ocean.
During the 13th and 14th centuries, Marco Polo and his successors
sailed for the East and discovered an ocean of unknown extent which
they partially explored. All is uncertain with regard to Sulaiman, and
there is not much that is definite with regard to Marco Polo and his
successors. However uncertain these early stories of discovery may be,
they are always interesting as well as perplexing in view of the events
which followed.
In the Middle Ages the eyes of the world were turned towards
the East.    All commerce and enterprise tended towards India.    It was
to find a safer and shorter sea route to India that the Spanish Court
in 1492 equipped Columbus with a fleet to explore the Atlantic Ocean.
When John Cabot sailed to Alexandria  for spices,  he made up his
mind to find out where these came from.     He pushed on to Mecca,
only to find that the caravans there had been loaded from other caravans
from further east* and those from others coming from remoter regions.
He decided to face about and go the other way, confident that the east
coast of Asia could best be reached by a voyage from England across
the Western Ocean.    In the Summer of 1 493, word came to England
that Columbus, with three Spanish ships, had reached the Indies.    On
June 24th, 1497, Cabot reached the most easterly point of Cape Breton
Island  and took possession in the name of  King Henry VII.     Like
Columbus, he believed he had landed on the coast of Asia, and on his
second voyage he determined to go further down the coast to Cipango,
where would be found the source of the spices  and precious  stones
brought by the caravans to Mecca.    Columbus soon found that he had
discovered, not an archipelago as he had at first thought, but a vast
continent.    It was not Asia, however.    On 29th September,  1513, the
Spaniard  Balboa,  while  exploring  the   Isthmus  of   Panama,   got  his
first glimpse of the great ocean lying to the west,  and on the 27th
November, 1 520, Magellan turned the southern point of South America
and sailed through the straits now called after him and out on to the
bosom of the Mar Pacifico, the Peaceful Sea, the Pacific Ocean.    Likf
Balboa, Sir Francis Drake saw the great new ocean from the Isthmus
of Panama, and was the first Englishman to sail upon its waters, which
he did in September, 1577.    In 1592, Apostolos Valerianos, or Juan
de Fuca, a Greek navigator in the service of Spain, sailed far up the
west  coast  and  claimed  to  have  discovered  a  passage  between  the
Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, a claim which gave a name to the Straits
of Juan de Fuca.    With the story of Juan de Fuca begins the history of
the  search   for  the  northwest  passage   between  the   Pacific   and   the
Atlantic, which continued during nearly three centuries, and was only
solved when Sir John Franklin found that the channel existed to the
far North, where Polar ice made it commercially useless.
The portion of the New World bordering on the North Pacific
Ocean was discovered much later than any other part of the North
American torrid and temperate zones. It was much more remote from
Europe and could be reached only by doubling Cape Horn or the
Cape of Good Hope.     By 1 697, however, the Russians had crossed EARLY NAVIGATORS OF THE PACIFIC.
Siberia and reached Kamschatka. In 1 728-29, Behring was able to
prove the separation of the continents as high as 67 degrees on the coast
of Asia. Next year he struck out for land to the eastward, but after
sa'ling 50 leagues east, gave up the attempt, and returned to Okhotsk,
and afterwards to St. Petersburg. In June, 1741, Behring and
TchirikofF set sail in two vessels, and the former finally came in sight
of land in 58 degrees 28 minutes north latitude, and the latter in latitude
56 degrees. It is not clear that either Behring or Tchirikoff reached the
Mainland. Behring had been sent out by the Empress Anne of Russia,
and with him were the academicians, Delile de la Crayere, Muller,
the historian of the expedition, and others. He discovered the
strait which bears his name as well as numerous islands, and also
sighted Cape or Mount St. Elias, which he so named from having discovered it on the day of the feast of the saint. It is claimed by Muller
that Tchirikoff reached the Mainland, but as Muller's map shows no
islands, it is supposed that he had landed on an island, mistaking it for
the Mainland.
Private expeditions followed as early as 1745. From 1741 to
1 748, many Russian voyages were made to the Aleutian, Fox and
Andreanovski Islands, and the Alaskan Peninsula. In 1 763 Glottof, a
trader, reached Kadiack Island. In 1 764 to 1 768, Synd, a lieutenant
of the Russian navy sailed up the coast to Behring Strait. "If,"
exclaims the Chevalier de Poletica in a letter to the Secretary of State
at Washington, February 28th, 1 822, "the Imperial Government had
at the time published the discoveries made by the Russian navigators
after Behring and Tchirikoff, viz.: Chlodiloff, Serebreanicoff, Krasehm-
coff, Paycoff, Pouscareff, LazerefF, Medivedeff, Solowief, Lewasheff,
Kremstein, and others, no one could refuse to Russia the right of first discovery, nor could anyone deny her that of first occupation." It will,
perhaps, occur to most of us that the publication of the names alone
without the exploits of the discoverers is sufficiently severe.
The victories of Cortez in Mexico in 1 520 and Pizarro's conquest
of Peru in 1 526, firmly established Spain on the shores of the Pacific,
and it would have been strange if Spain had passed unnoticed the extension of Russian influences along the northwest coast. In 1 774 Perez
was despatched from Mexico on a voyage of exploration and reached
the southern coast of Alaska. It was the contention by Martinez that
Perez, long before Cook, was the first to anchor in Nootka Sound, that
caused the dispute which afterwards led to the Nootka affair. In the
following year, 1775, Heceta, instructed by the Viceroy of Mexico,
explored the coast as far north as the 57th or 58th degree of latitude,
taking possession of that part of the continent in the name of Spain.
It is at this stage, 1 778, that we first encounter the name of
Captain Cook in the Pacific Coast history. The circumstances under
which Captain Cook was persuaded to undertake his third voyage or
discovery are described by Mr. Ernest Rhys, the editor of "Everyman's
Library."    Some of the most distinguished naval characters were invited EARLY NAVIGATORS OF THE PACIFIC.
to meet Captain Cook at the house of Lord Sandwich, who then
presided over the Board of Admiralty. Captain Cook was then
invested with the command. His instructions were to proceed to the
Pacific Ocean, and thence make his way into the Atlantic, along the
northern coast of America, in whatever latitude the passage might be
found to lie. A reward of £20,000 was offered by Parliament for the
discovery of such passage northward of the 52nd degree of north
The "Resolution and "Discovery" were at once equipped anri
placed at Captain Cook's disposal. Setting sail on June 25 th,
1776, and after some time spent in the South Pacific, he commenced his northern expedition in January, 1 778, and sighted the
coast of America in March of that year. He first reached the west
coast in latitude 44 degree 55 minutes, north, longitude 135 degrees
54 minutes east, near a point he called Cape Fairweather, on Saturday,
March 7th. Proceeding north he, on Sunday, March 22nd, reached
and named Cape Flattery at the entrance to the Straits of Juan de Fuca.
On March 29th he reached a sound on the western boundary of British
Columbia, and of Vancouver Island, which he named King George's
Sound, but which he afterwards found was called Nootka Sound by the
"natives. He anchored in eighty-five fathoms of water, so near the shore
as to reach it with a hawser. Next morning he looked for a suitable
harbor, and found one in the northwest of the arm he was then in.
Here he remained till the 1 8th of the following month of April, interviewing Indians, repairing his ships and securing wood and water as
well as grass for his cattle. He then made a series of excursions among
the people on the island, first going to the west point where he found a
large village. Finding that his ship was anchored in the lee of an island,
he proceeded to the north of the island and visited the mainland. Next
day with Captain A. M. Clerke he again visited the village at this west
point of the sound. On the afternoon of April 26th, after nearly a
month spent at Nootka Sound and on the shores of British Columbia
adjoining, during which time he made a careful study of the country
and the conditions existing in it, as well as of the inhabitants themselves,
he again put to sea and continued his course to the north. In the account
of the voyage a full and very detailed description is given of the appearance, customs and habits of the nat.ves and a general description is
furnished of "the land bordering upon the sea coast as well as that within
the Sound." The native trees are partially enumerated. A list of
quadrupeds is made up from the skins which the natives brought to sell.
The sea animals are also described, as well as the fish and birds of the
Returning to winter at the Sandwich Islands, in order to continue
his explorations of the Northern Pacific in the following Summer, he
met with his tragic death there on February 14th, 1 779.
Captain Cook was, therefore, the first British subject to set foot
on the shores of British Columbia. He was the first to explore the coast
from 40 of north latitude as far as the region of Prince William Sound.
Under his expedition and for the first time the main outlines of the north-
west coast of America were correctly traced. He was the first to take
possession of what is now British Columbia in the name of England,
and as has already been pointed out, he was the first to observe the
country and its inhabitants, and was our original geographer and historian.
As his description of Nootka Sound, the adjoining coast, and the
native Indians contains the first words with reference to British Columbia
and its aborigines ever uttered in the English language, it must be read
with peculiar interest by every inhabitant of this Province; it is in part
as follows:
"On the 2d of February we stood away to the northward, and
without meeting with anything memorable, on the 7th of March the
long-looked for coast of *New Albion was seen, extending from N. E.
to S. E., distant ten or twelve leagues. The land appeared to be of a
moderate height, diversified with hills and valleys, and almost everywhere covered with wood.
"After coasting along and combating contrary winds, on the 29th
we anchored in eight-five fathoms water, so near the shore as to reach
it with a hawser.
'We no sooner drew near the inlet than we found the coast to be
inhabited, and three canoes came off to the ship. In one of these were
two men, in another six, and in the third ten. Having come pretty near
us, a person in one of the two last stood up and made a long harangue,
inviting us to land, as we guessed by his gestures. At the same time
he kept strewing handfuls of feathers towards us, and some of his companions threw handfuls of red dust or powder in the same manner. The
person who performed the office of orator wore the skin of some animal,
and held in each hand something which rattled as he kept shaking it.
After the tumultuous oration had ceased, one of them sung a very agreeable air, with a degree of softness and melody which we could not have
expected. In a short time the canoes began to come off in great numbers; and we had at one time thirty-two of them near the ship, carrying
from three to seven or eight persons each, both men and women. Several
of these stood up in their canoes haranguing and making gestures, after
the manner of our first visitors. One canoe was remarkable for a
singular head, which had a bird's eye and bill of an enormous size
painted on it, who seemed to be a chief, was no less remarkable for his
uncommon appearance, having many feathers hanging from his head,
and being painted in an extraordinary manner. He held in his hands a
carved bird of wood, as large as a pigeon, with which he rattled, as the
person first mentioned had done; and was no less vociferous in his
harangue, which was attended with some expressive gestures."
In 1 779 Spain sent another expedition under Arteaga and Quadra
to explore the coast north of 55 and westward to Mount St. Elias.
In 1 783 the first attempt was made to establish a Russian trading
post at Prince William Sound on the American mainland.
In  1 748 Shelikoff reached Unalaska and Kadiak Island.
In 1 785 and 1 786 Captain Hanna entered into the trade between .EARLY NAVIGATORS OF THE PACIFIC.
the northwest coast and China for which Captain Cook had prepared"
the way.
He was followed by the expedition of Captain Peters in the same
year. Portlock and Dixon in 1786, Barclay in 1787, Meares in
1 787, 1 788 and 1 789, and Vancouver in 1 792-4. Portlock and
D:xon visited many ports now in the coast line of British Columbia, and
in 1 788 at Nootka Meares built for use in the fur trade the "North-
West America," the first vessel ever constructed on the coast of the
northwest part of America.
Bancroft, in his history of Alaska, thus describes the events of
the trip: 'The events of 1 787-88 must have been puzzling to the
natives of Prince William Sound. Englishmen under the English flag,
Englishmen under the Portuguese flag, Spaniards and Russians were
cruising about, often within a few miles of each other, taking possession
for one nation or the other of all the land in sight."
In 1 789 at least twelve vessels were trading on the Northwest
Coast. All were in search of skins. In 1 792 quite twenty-eight vessels
were reported on the coast, half of them in the fur trade. Vancouver
gives a list of twenty-one vessels for that year, made up as follows:
English, six; East Indies, two; China, three; United States, seven;
Portugal, two; France, one.
We now come to 1 791 and the explorations of Post Captain
George Vancouver, R. N.
Captan Vancouver was born in 1 758. Captain Cook appointed
him to the "Resolution" in the Autumn of 1771. He also accompanied
Captain Cook in his second (1772-74) and third (1776-79) voyages
of discovery, and was his midshipman on his third and last voyage,
when Nootka was visited and British Columbia discovered. In December, 1 790, he was made commander of the "Discovery" and despatched
to Nootka Sound "to receive back in form the territory which the
Spaniards had seized," and to continue the search for a northwest
passage. He was specially instructed to ascertain whether the Strait
of Juan de Fuca really was a strait. Accompanied by Lieutenant
Broughton he left Falmouth on April 1st, 1791. He sighted the
American Coast at 39 degrees 27 minutes north latitude (California)
on April 1 8th, 1 792, and proceeded with his examination and survey
of the Coast and also of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. His discoveries,
after passing up the Strait of Juan de Fuca and through King George's
Sound, are particularly interesting to citizens of Vancouver. On June
13th he reached a point, which out of compliment to his friend Captain
Grey, of the Navy, he called Point Grey, about three leagues from
Point Roberts. The same day and the next in the boats of the
"Discovery" he proceeded to an examination of what are now the First
Narrows and Burrard Inlet. The narrative (Voyages, Vol. 1, pp.
300 et seq.) is as follows:
"From Point Grey we proceeded first up the Eastern branch of the
Sound, where,  about a league within its entrance, we passed to the EARLY NAVIGATORS OF THE PACIFIC.
northward of an island which nearly terminated its extent, forming a
passage from 10 to 7 fathoms deep, not more than a cable's length m
width. This island lying exactly across the canal appeared to form a
similar passage to the south of it, with a smaller island lying before it.
From these islands, the canal, in width about half a mile, continued its
direction about east. Here we were met by about fifty Indians in their
canoes, who conducted themselves with the greatest decorum and civility,
presenting us with several fish cooked and undressed, of the sort already
mentioned as resembling the smelt. These good people finding we were
inclined to make some return for their hospitality, showed much understanding in preferring iron to copper.
"For the sake of the company of our new friends, we stood under
easy sail, which encouraged them to attend us some little distance up
the arm. The major part of the canoes twice paddled forward,
assembled before us, and each time a conference was held. Our visit
and appearance were most likely the objects of their consultation, as our
motions on these occasions seemed to engage the whole of their attention.
The subject matters which remained a profound secret to us, did not
appear of an unfriendly nature to us, as they soon returned, and, if
possible, expressed additional cordiality and respect.
"We landed for the night about half a league from the head of
the inlet and about three leagues from its entrance. Our Indian visitors
remained with us until by signs we gave them to understand we were
going to rest, and after receiving some acceptable articles they retired,
and by means of the same language promised an abundant supply of fish
the next morning.
"A great desire was manifested by these people to imitate our
actions, especially in firing a musket. * * | They minutely
attended to all our actions, and examined the color of our skins with
infinite curiosity. They possessed no European commodities or trinkets,
except some rude ornaments apparently made from sheet copper; this
circumstance and the general tenor of their behavior, gave us reason
to conclude that we were the first people from a civilized country they
had yet seen.
"The shores in this situation were formed by steep, rocky cliffs, that
afforded no convenient space for pitching our tent, which compelled us
to sleep in the boat.
"Tuesday 1 4th.—Perfectly satisfied with our researches in this
branch of the sound, at four the next morning we retraced our passage
in, leaving on the northern shore a small opening extending to the northwest with two little islets before it of little importance.
"As we passed the situation from whence the Indians had first
visited us (note—Capilano Creek) the preceding day, which is a small
border of low marshy land on the northern shore, intersected with several
creeks of fresh water, we were in expectation of their company, but
were disappointed, owing to our travelling so early in the morning.
* * . * Two canoes came off as we passed the island, but our
boats being under full sail, with a favorable breeze, I was not inclined
*This canal after Sir Harry Burrard of the Navy I have distinguished by the name of 'Burrard's Canal.'
I make no apology for quoting this portion "of the narrative in
full, as it contans the first words ever printed in the English tongue
descriptive of the beautiful inlet upon the shores of which our noble
City of Vancouver has grown up.
It is unnecessary, perhaps, to refer more elaborately to the work
of Captain Vancouver. In 1 792 he examined the coast northward to
Fitz Hugh Sound, returning to the Sandwich Islands for the Winter.
In 1 793, from Cape Mendocino he proceeded to Nootka, where he
had formerly visited with Captain Cook in February, 1 778, fifteen years
before, and thence north to Fitz Hugh Sound, exploring the southeastern
portion of Alaska. In 1 794 he explored Cook's Inlet, Prince William
Sound, Kadiak, and the Coast extending to Yakutat Bay. He took
possession of the coast southward from Cross Sound (latitude 58
degrees) in the name of Great Britain. Returning to England he died
in 1 798 and is buried in the churchyard of the quaint little St. Peter's,
Petersham, Surrey. On contemplating the view from Petersham Hill
earlier in the same year he had exclaimed: "In all my travels, I never
clapt eyes on a more beautiful spot than this! Here would I live, and
here would I die."
It will not be amiss to quote from the "Lines on the View from
Petersham Hill" by W. H. Oxley and E. Kirk, particularly the reference to the Church of St. Peter's:
"Would ye the spreading cedars see?
Magnolias, or the tulip tree
And shrubs of other clime?
Or quaff a goblet from the spring?
Or to the jaded memory bring
A church of olden time?
Then through the wood, the hill descend,
And kindly your attention lend
To view this old world spot,
The Beadle, in his robes of state,
Awaite your advent at the gate
Which guards this hallowed plot.
Here courtiers, statesmen, cavaliers,
The Perms, Vancouver, Berrys, peers,
And peasants long since dead,
With Indians from some far off shore
Proud Lauderdale, and many more
Rest in their quiet bed."
It is unnecessary to carry the narrative further. By Vancouver's
time the Pacific had already become a more or less frequented highway.
Those who came after him can scarcely be included in the list of early
After completing the long procession of explorers from Balboa to
Vancouver (Portuguese, Spaniards, Russians, French, Americans and
British) our attention is drawn chiefly to Captain Cook and Captain
Vancouver. This is not because they were prior to all others in the
discovery of British Columbia and Burrard Inlet. If Juan de Fuca's
claim is well founded, he sailed as far north as Vancouver Island and
the Straits now called after him, in 1592, nearly two centuries before
Captain Cook. Vancouver utterly rejected the de Fuca "tradition," as
he called it, and Mr. George Davidson, editor of the Pacific Coast
"Pilot," stigmatizes the whole story as a fabrication. If Juan de Fuca
did not find such a strait, he certainly made a shrewd guess when he
located it within a degree of where it actually exists to-day. The
Juan de Fuca puzzle has gone through centuries without solution, and
will no doubt continue to be an interesting problem for centuries to come.
Then there is the further Spanish claim that in 1 774, four years before
the arrival of Captain Cook in these northern waters, Juan Perez sailing
from Monterey in the "Santiago," sighted a harbor at 49.35 degrees, to
which he gave the name of San Lorenzo, and which afterwards became
known as San Lorenzo de Nootka, or Nootka. The word Nootka is
an Indian addition, and is the only name by which the harbor is known
to-day. In his narrative Captain Vancouver quite ignores Juan Perez,
and as has been before pointed out, it was the claim for Perez put
forward by Martinez which led to the dispute followed by the Nootka
seizures in 1789. Whatever the Spanish claims may amount to,
Captain Cook was certainly the first Britisher to discover the shores of
British Columbia and take possession of them in the name of England.
He was the first British subject who conversed with her original
inhabitants and studied her conditions. He was our first geographer
and historian. Captain Vancouver appears just as certainly to have
been the first discoverer of Burrard Inlet. Apart from all their well
earned fame as navigators and discoverers, to them is due the fact that
the great and glorious Province of British Columbia is a portion of the
British Empire.
But this is not the only reason why we owe a great debt of gratitude to Captain Cook. He was with that great Empire builder, General Wolfe at Quebec, and was selected to make the soundings of
the St. Lawrence opposite the French Camp at Montmorency and
Beauport. The work had to be done at night and was attended with
great difficulty and danger. How completely and heroically he performed it is well known. It was he also who made the soundings of
the St. Lawrence below Quebec and prepared a complete chart of the
river. In • 1 762 he took part in the recapture of Newfoundland. In
1 763 he surveyed St. Pierre and Miquelon, and in 1 764 as Marine
Surveyor of Newfoundland and Labrador, he surveyed their coasts.
Later on he explored the interior of Newfoundland.
As British Columbia represents the British Pacific Coast, it is
peculiarly appropriate that any recognition of the famous services of
these two great British explorers should receive the fullest support of
the people of this Province. In August, 1903, the Washington University State Historical Society erected a granite monument at Friendly 12 EARLY NAVIGATORS OF THE PACIFIC.
Cove, Nootka, to mark the spot where Vancouver and Quadra met
in August, 1 792, under the treaty between Spain and Great Britain
of October, 1 790. In this event the Canadian people participated to
the extent of foregoing the duty on the monolith. Lord Grey in a
recent address stated that he was surprised to find in Canada a disposition to neglect, or at any rate, not to perpetuate in permanent form
the memories of our heroes. It is only necessary to look to the field
of Waterloo and some other places to be convinced that the fault
is perhaps not Canadian so much as it is a fault of the race. Wolfe
made a British Empire on this continent possible, but there is not as
much as a tablet from Canada over his grave at Greenwich, to show
that his memory is treasured in the hearts of our people. Cook and
Vancouver made the British Empire possible on the Pacific Coast, but
what have we done to honor their illustrious memories? The tercentenary of the arrival of Champlain in Quebec will be celebrated
shortly by the consecration of the Plains of Abraham on which General Wolfe won his immortal victory. The project has been taken
hold of by the Governor-General of Canada, is enthusiastically supported by His Majesty the King, and will be advanced in every way
by the Dominion Government, and doubtless by the various Provinces
of Canada. But there are other victories than those gained by the
sword, and the exploits of Captain Cook and Captain Vancouver were
bloodless conquests of the unknown sea and land which gave to Canada
7,000 miles of coast line on the Pacific Ocean and this the most
beautiful of the sisters in Confederation. Considerably over a century
has gone by since these great events were enacted. There is a monument to Vancouver surmounting the dome of the Parliament Buildings
at Victoria, but no recognition of Captain Cook who discovered the
island which bears Vancouver's name. Outside of this there is the
monolith erected to Vancouver and Quadra at Nootka by United
States citizens, and a mountain near Port Mulgrave called Mount
Cook by the United States Coast Survey. There was a street in Victoria called after Captain Cook, but some time ago a petition was got
up by some enlightened citizens to change its name.
From time to time it has been proposed that steps should be taken
to immortalize the memories of Captain Cook and Captain Vancouver.
The Canadian Club strongly favors some such project and at the last
meeting of the directors of the Art Historical and Scientific Society, it
was proposed and unanimously resolved that the object could best be
carried out by the erection of a building of classical design which
would serve as a museum and art gallery, and would also contain rooms
for lectures and demonstrations of interest and utility to the public.
The suggestion is that it should be called the Cook-Vancouver Museum
and Art Gallery, or by some name which would forever keep green
the exploits of these great navigators. Monuments or a monument to the
great explorers should also, it is thought, be erected either in a public
square before such a building or elsewhere if thought advisable. The
project may at first sight seem an ambitious one. It need not, however, cost as much as a bridge .or an unimportant public work. It is
because in a new country our expenditures are all in the direction of EARLY NAVIGATORS OF THE PACIFIC. 13
construction and development that any moderate amount expended
otherwise than on actual necessities seems extravagant. In older countries even small towns do not hesitate over a considerable expenditure
for patriotic or artistic purposes. From even the most practical point
of view, though, it can be easily demonstrated that money so expended
is rapidly returned many times over. The city which contains something to arrest the attention of the tourist and traveller possesses a far
greater earning power than the one which scorns beauty and adornment. A museum well supplied and comfortably housed and a picture
gallery of moderate pretensions would prolong the stay of everyone
who comes here a day or so at least. I was told by a celebrated
English artist this summer that Canadian pictures have a character
and atmosphere of their own that render them very valuable, and that
he was astonished to find so little appreciation of their value in the
Dominion. Away off in Northern Germany I have seen a collection
of Indian work and curiosities from our own coast here a thousand
times superior to anything existing in Canada. At Ottawa they have
at last realized the importance of a great national museum, which is
now in course of construction. The activity in the Archives Department shows a tardy appreciation of the historical side of our development. A commission has also been appointed with power to select
and purchase from time to time pictures for the nation. If the Provincial Government, the City and the various public-spirited organizations, as well as citizens, could be got to actively undertake the proposed museum and picture gallery, what better way could be devised for
celebrating the memories of our great navigators, Cook and Vancouver?  ^
t ? raseir
^   ^   ^
WO   great
desires compelled the explorers of northern America during the
1 7 th and 18th centuries
—to discover the Northwest   Passage   and   the
Great River of the West.
The    search   for   these
weaves itself into the history of British Columbia;
indeed, that search is for
many years its history.
From the earliest times,
vague rumors of the existence of a great river
rising in the east and
vanishing into the sunset
are recorded by successive
explorers. In 1673, when
Pere Marquette and Sieur
Joliet, first of Europeans,
floated down the Mississippi, they were assured
by the natives that beyond
the sources of the Riviere des Missouris, there existed a large river which
flowed into the Western Sea. This is the first reference to the River of
the West Although that river proved to be the Columbia, the search
for it is interesting, as in groping for it the Fraser was discovered.
As this search progresses, we find truth and fiction skilfully combined, gross exaggeration, and pure romance. For example, La Hon-
tan tells us that in travelling up the "Long River" (which no one has
since seen) he met four Indians, who told him of the River of the
West. He states that, "All they could say was that the great river
of that nation runs along westward, and that the salt lake into which
it flows is three hundred league in circumference and thirty in breadth,
its mouth stretching a great way southward." This is manifestly fiction, pure and simple.
In 1 742, Pierre Gauthier de Varennes, Sieur de la Varendrye,
the most energetic of the French explorers, heard of this river from
the natives he met near the Shining Mountains. From their reports
he believed that the sea was visible from the mountains' summits, and
that the course of the Great River must therefore be quite short. We
are prone to forget that while the Hudson's Bay Company clung to
shores of their inland sea, this great Frenchman carried the name and
the flag of France even to the base of the Rocky Mountains.
For almost a hundred years the river so anxiously sought was
known simply as the Great River of the West, but in 1 766 Capt.
Jonathan Carver, of Connecticut, spent some months in the neighborhood of what is now St. Paul, among the Dacotah Indians, by him
called the Naudowessie. From them, "together with my own observations," he says, "I have learned that the four most capital rivers on
the continent of North America, viz., the St. Lawrence, the Mississippi,
the River Bourbon and the Oregon or River of the West, have, their
sources in the same neighborhood. ' Henceforward the river is called
the Oregon.
I pause to remark that not only the brave captain's information,
but his observation also, was much at fault.
The spirit of trade rivalry between the Hudson's Bay Company
and the North-West Company of Montreal caused the latter to seek
new territory, to whose exclusive trade its opponents could not by any
possible construction of its elastic but much-attacked charter, lay claim.
The story of the Oregon was known to the Nor' Westers, who saw in
it a possibility of avoiding the thousands of miles of inland travel which
so increased both the cost and the danger of transport.
After Alexander Mackenzie, one of their bourgeois, had made
his celebrated voyage to the Arctic Ocean, and opened up trade possibilities in that direction, it was agreed at the annual meeting of the
company at Fort William that he should be sent westward to explore
the country and report on the opportunities for traffic with the natives.
Early in May, 1 793, Mackenzie started from Fort Fork, on Peace
River, where he had spent the winter. He pursued his journey up the
Peace to its source, crossed over a divide 81 7 paces in length and found
himself on a small stream flowing westward. Following this, Bad
River as he named it, he on the 1 7th of June, 1 793, saw the river
we now call Fraser. He says: "At length we enjoyed after all our
toil and anxiety the inexpressible satisfaction of finding ourselves on
the bank of a navigable river on the west side of the first great range
of mountains."
In his narrative Mackenzie at first simply calls this river the
Great River; later on he speaks of it as the Tacoutche Tesse, which
the Rev. Father Morice suggests is his reproduction of the Carrier word
Lhtha-khoh; at other times he calls it the Columbia. On his map
it is shown as the Columbia. In his journal he says: "The more I
heard of the river the more I was convinced that it could not empty
into the ocean north of what is called the River of the West, so that
with its windings the distance must be very great." THE SEARCH FOR THE ERASER BY SEA AND LAND. 17
It nevertheless did flow into the ocean two hundred miles north
of the Columbia or River of the West.
From the 1 7th to the 23rd June, 1 793, he continued to descend
the river, and had reached a point near Alexandria when, owing to
the distance to the sea by following the river, the dangers and difficulties
of navigation as described by the natives, and the scarcity of provisions,
he concluded to retrace his course to the Blackwater, or Westroad
River, as he called it, and proceed up that river to the ocean. Pursuing this plan, Mackenzie on 22nd July, 1 793, reached the Pacific
at Bentinck Arm, just about a month after Vancouver and Broughton
in the Discovery and the Chatham had been exploring that very
In 1804 Thomas Jefferson, then president of the United States,
at the urgent solicitation of John Ledyard, who had been with Capt.
Cook at Nootka in 1778, formed and sent forth as a government
undertaking an exploring party under the command of Captains Lewis
and Clark. It is not intended to deal with their work, as it was confined, so far as the North-West coast was concerned, to an examination of the Columbia and its immediate vicinity. In their travels they
saw and noted a large river flowing into the Columbia from the northward. This we now know as the main body of the Columbia; but
when the expedition returned in 1 806, without having traced this to its
source, many regarded it as the same river that Mackenzie had discovered in 1 793. It remained for Simon Fraser to follow to its mouth
the Great River of Mackenzie and show to the world that it formed
no part of the Columbia.
Simon Fraser, like Mackenzie and Thompson, and all other co-
temporaries whose names are prominent as explorers in this province,
was in the employ of the North-West Company. He it was who
proceeded to take possession of the territory west of the Rockies, henceforward to be known among the fur traders as New Caledonia. Late
in 1 805 he built Fort McLeod, on McLeod Lake, the first permanent
trading post in British Columbia, or New Caledonia, as it was then
called. The next spring he followed Mackenzie's route up the Parsnip,
across the same carrying place and down the Bad River to the Great
River" of Mackenzie. On the 10th of July, 1806, Simon Fraser
first saw the mighty river that now bears his name. It is fitting that
his remarks on that occasion should be transcribed here. In his first
journal, he says: "At 1 0 a. m. we arrived at the large river opposite
an island, without encountering any other difficulty than cutting several
trees that laid across the channel, and we were most happy at having
exempted the long and bad carrying place, and seeing ourselves once
more on the banks of a fine and navigable river." In July, 1806,
Fraser founded Fort St. James, on Stuart Lake; later in the same year
he built Fort Fraser on Fraser Lake; and in the fall of 1 80 7 he established Fort George at the confluence of the Nechaco and the "Great
By the "Brigade" from Fort Chipewyan arriving in the fall of
1807, Fraser received instructions from the North-West Company to 18 THE SEARCH FOR THE FRASER BY SEA AND LAND.
explore to its mouth the "Great River," supposed by everyone, himself
included, to be the Columbia. Accordingly, in the following spring
preparations were made for the thorough examination of this mysterious
river, which had hitherto baffled all attempts by land and sea to discover its secret. The expedition consisted of four canoes manned by
twenty-one men. Fraser was in supreme command, with Quesnelle and
Stuart as lieutenants.
On the 22nd of May, 1 808, the explorer started on what Dr.
Bryce very truly calls his "terrific voyage." The "round, unvarnished
tale" of that awful trip as told from day to day in his journal, is to
be found in Masson's Les Bourgeois du Nord-Ouest. Some doubt
exists as to whether the expedition started from the newly-founded Fort
George or from Fort St. James. Rev. Father Morice inclines to the
opinion that the latter was the starting point; according to him, Fraser
left Fort St. James on the 22nd of May, and arriving at Fort George,
did not commence the descent of the Fraser itself until the 28th of
May. The journal is silent on the point, but the internal evidence
afforded by the dates and positions seem to support Rev. Father
Morice's view.
At the outset, one of his canoes was almost wrecked in the Fort
George canyon, being driven "against a precipice which forms the
right bank of the river." On Sunday, the 29th of May, having lightened the canoes, he ran them down the Cottonwood River Canyon.
That night he camped at the mouth of the Quesnelle River, where now
stands the town of Quesnelle.
The next day he had reached* a point near Soda Creek, when
the apparent hostility of the natives and their sending couriers to their
neighbors for reinforcements, caused him to delay his journey and spend
some time in explaining his purpose and in conciliating them. Finally
a good understanding was reached, and they then endeavored to dissuade him from journeying down the river. They informed him quite
truly, that "the river below was but a succession of falls and cascades,
which we would find impossible to pass, not only on account of the
difficulties of the channel, but from the extreme ruggedness and the
mountainous character of the surrounding country." Seeing he was
determined to proceed, they told him of a slave at the next camp, who,
having been to the sea, nrght possibly be obtained as a guide.
Starting early on the morning of May 31 st, Fraser soon arrived at
the camp to which he had been referred. After some difficulty he
found the slave, but soon discovered that his stock of knowledge was
very slender indeed; yet the explorer could readily see even from his
meagre details that the dangers of the way had not been exaggerated.
"This tribe," he says, "is extremely fond of smoking, and were very
troublesome, always plaguing us for our pipes. They make use in lieu
of tobacco, of a kind of weed mixed with fat."
Pursuing his journey he arrived on June 1 st at a rapid two
miles long, with high and steep banks which in some places contracted
the channel to forty or fifty yards. The water rushing through this
canyon "in a turbulent manner, forming numerous gulfs and cascades, THE SEARCH FOR THE FRASER BY SEA AND LAND. 19
and making a tremendous noise had an awful and forbidding appearance." However, passage by land appearing even worse, the explorer
resolved to venture down this dangerous pass. One canoe with five
of the best men was ordered to run it, but becoming unmanageable in
the awful whirl of waters, was driven against a rock, upon which the
occupants hastily debarked. To rescue them from this perilous situation, a descent of the precipitous bank of the canyon was, with difficulty, made. This was so steep that Fraser tells us: 'We had to
plunge our daggers into the ground to check our speed, as otherwise
we were exposed to slide into the river." Cutting steps in the declivity,
they with much toil, succeeded in getting men and canoe to the top.
No means was now left of going forward except carrying over "the
immense high hills." The goods and three of the canoes were accordingly transported, but the labor was so great that, the remaining canoe
was abandoned at this place. Incidentally we are informed that "the
river had risen eight feet within these twenty-four hours."
The expedition was delayed here two days, which gives some idea
of the difficulty of carrying over this spot. From these Indians he
learned that "white men had lately passed down the first large river
to the left; these we took to be some of our friends from the Fort des
Prairies." As a matter of fact they referred to Thompson's journey
in 1807-8, down the Columbia River.
Henceforward the record of each day is almost a repetition of the
earlier ones. Canyons, rapids, cascades follow each other in quick
succession. Constantly the choice is before him of journeying by well-
nigh impassible land or even more dangerous water. The Indian continually advise him to leave the river and journey to the eastward
where beyond the mountains that line the gorge in which the river
flows, they assure him he will find pleasant travelling. But his answer
is always the same. As he records it: "Going to the sea by an
indirect way was not the object of the undertaking; I therefore would
not deviate and continued our route according to my original intention."
Persisting in this course in spite of difficulties which become truly awful
the further he proceeds, running canyons never before or since attempted so far as any record shows, carrying canoes and cargoes up
high hills and down dangerous descents, Fraser makes his way slowly
towards the ocean.
Even at the risk of being tiresome, I cannot refrain fiom quoting
the explorer's simple yet vivid description of a canyon near Kelly
Creek which he ran on June 9th. "Here the channel," he says, "contracts to about forty yards, and is enclosed by two precipices of immense height, which, bending towards each other, make it narrower
above than below. The water which rolls down this extraordinary
passage in tumultuous waves and great velocity had a frightful appearance. However, it being absolutely impossible to carry the canoes by
land, all hands without hesitation embarked as it were a corps perdu
upon the mercy of this awful tide.* Once engaged the die was cast, our
great difficulty consisted in keeping the canoes within the medium or
fil d'eau, that is, clear of the precipice on one side and from the gulfs
formed by the waves on the other. Thus skimming along as fast
as lightning, the crews, cool and determined, followed each other in
awful silence, and when we arrived at the end, we stood gazing at
each other in silent congratulation at our narrow escape from total
destruction." This rapid was run in the morning, and in the afternoon
the navigation, if it might be so called, became worse. The journal
states: 'This afternoon the rapids were very bad, two in particular
were worse, if possible, than any we had hitherto met with, being a
continual series of cascades intercepted with rocks and bounded by
precipices and mountains that seemed at rimes to have no end. I
scarcely saw anything so dreary and dangerous in any country and at
present while writing this, whatever way I turn my eyes, mountains
upon mountains whose summits are crowned with eternal snow close
the gloomy scene."
The party had now reached a point a short distance above
Pavilion Creek; the natives here represented the remainder of the river
as a "dreadful chain of insurmountable difficulties." A careful examination of the next few miles satisfied both Fraser and his lieutenants
that the statements of the Indians were correct and that they had now
reached a portion of the stream which was actually impassable. Here
the canoes were left and such provisions cached as they did not require
on the downward trip; and the party commenced to travel by Indian
paths along the sides of the impending mountains. This travelling,
though toilsome and fatiguing, was not so dangerous as had been
On June 12th, while camped a few miles above Bridge River,
Fraser met an old Indian who had traveled and seen the sea and the
"great canoes" of the white men. This garrulous old fellow thought,
says Fraser, that the white men were "very proud, for, continued he,
getting up and clapping his two hands upon his hips, then striding
about the place with an air of importance, 'this is the way they go.'
On June 14th, Fraser came into the territory of a tribe who
wore "coats of mail," whom he calls Askettihs, apparently the Lillooet
Indians; and on the next day he reached their chief village near
Lillooet, which he described as "a fortification 100 feet by 24 surrounded by a palisade eighteen feet high, slanting inwards and lined
with a shorter row which supports a shade, covered with bark, constituting theif dwellings." He noticed amongst them a copper tea kettle
and a large gun, seemingly of Russian manufacture.
Continuing his journey, mostly by land, but where possible by
water, in canoes hired from the Indians, and feasting occasionally with
their chiefs on salmon and roots, while his vayogeurs revelled in dog
meat, always a favorite dish among them, he, on June 20th, reached
Lytton, called by the Indians Camchin. Here he obtained canoes and
the whole party trusted themselves to the unknown and turbulent waters
once more. At Cisco Rapids, near the present cantilever bridge on
the C. P. R., he was forced to leave the water and make a portage
over what he calls, "a very steep hill"; it was so steep indeed that
one of his men dropp'ng a kettle it bounded into the river and was lost THE SEARCH FOR THE FRASER BY SEA AND LAND. 21
Some of his voyageurs finding the portage too long and the
canoes too heavy (for they were wooden, of course, while those they
had been accustomed to were bark), essayed the canyon. Once launched on that raging current these practiced men were helpless; the
canoes, whirled and tossed by the angry waters, were unmanageable as
corks; one of them filled and overturned—its occupants only escaping
death by a miracle. After this experience, all preferred the rough
land travel to the more exciting but infinitely more dangerous water
journey through the canyon. It must not be forgotten that this occurred during freshet time; this canyon has often been run since at a
low stage of the water in the fall; but I am not aware of its ever having
been successfully run when at its mid-June height.
At Boston Bar, the Indians who had accompanied the expedition
from Lytton, left it, and as a token of his appreciation of their services,
Fraser presented to their chief a large silver brooch. The happy recipient did not know just where he should attach it to his person, so
the Journal tells us he fixed it on his head and seemed exceedingly
well pleased with the arrangement.
Leaving Boston Bar, Fraser soon reached that frightful portion
of the river known as the Big Canyon, or the Black Canyon of the
Fraser. Of course he was now travelling by land, and certainly that
was bad enough. At one point, "where the ascent was perfectly
perpendicular," he tells us, "one of the Indans climbed to the summit
and by means of a long pole drew us up, one after another. This
work took three hours, then we continued our course," says the Journal,
"up and down hills and along the steep declivities of mountains where
hanging rocks and projecting cliffs, at the edge of the bank of the river,
made the passage so small as to render it at times difficult even for
one person to pass sideways."
Alternately journeying by land and water, Fraser, on June 26th,
reached Hell Gate, in the Big Canyon, about twenty miles above Yale.
Mr. Stuart examined it, and "reported that the navigation was absolutely impracticable." No way of advance remained but by land, and
that was so difficult that it was well-nigh impossible. But let the explorer himself speak: "We could scarcely make our way even w:th
only our guns," he says. "I have been for a long period among
the Rocky Mountains, but have never seen anything like this country.
It is so wild that I cannot find words to describe our situation at times.
We had to pass where no human being should venture; yet in these
places there is a regular footpath impressed or rather indented upon
the very rocks by frequent travelling. Besides this, steps which are
formed like a ladder or the shrouds of a ship, by poles hanging to
one another and crossed at certain distances with twigs, the whole
suspended from the top to the foot of immense precipices and fastened
at both extremities to stones and trees, furnish a safe and convenient
passage to the natives; but we, who had not had the advantage of their
education and experience were often in imminent danger when obliged
to follow their example." 22 THE SEARCH FOR THE FRASER BY SEA AND LAND.
The next day Fraser reached Spuzzum, even then known by
that name. Here he visited a burying place of the Salish race. The
tombs, he says, were superior to anything of the kind he had ever
seen among savages. Their mortuary columns attracted his attention.
"Upon the boards and posts are beasts and birds carved in a curious
but rude manner, yet pretty well proportioned." Eight miles more
of water travel brought the adventurer to the Little Canyon, where he
again left his canoes, and journeying overland reached a point near
Yale late in the afternoon of June 30th. _ From the natives he learned
that the river was navigable for the remainder of the journey to the sea.
Obtaining canoes here, Fraser re-embarked on June 29th, and
that night camped near a large village which was situate at what we
now call Ruby Creek. Amongst these people he tells us that he found
"a large copper kettle shaped like a jar, and a large English hatchet,
stamped 'Sargaret' with the figure of a crown." The river at this
point, he says, is more than two miles broad, and is interspersed with
islands. Starting early the following day, he met an Indian who told
him he might be able to see the salt water the next day. That afternoon
he passed Chilliwack. "Here," he informs us, "we saw seals and a
large river coming in from the left, and a round mountain ahead which
the Indians called 'Stremotch.' This mountain, it is manifest, is
Sumas. The chief here made him a present of "a coat of mail to
make shoes" (moccasins) ; this is one of the few well authenticated
cases of beating spears into pruning hooks.
He had now reached tidal water, for he tells us that on July
1st,  1808, the tide rose two and a half feet."
On Sunday, July 2nd, his difficulties with the Indians commenced.
They stole a smoking bag; and refused to. let him have a canoe which
they had promised. However, by a show of force, he got it and
proceeded on his way. This must have occurred at the mouth of the
Coquitlam River, a short distance above the city of New Westminster,
for his Journal states that from this place "proceeding on for two
miles, we arrived at a place where the river divides into several channels." No other spot in the vicinity answers this description. Here he
was pursued by the Indians in canoes and "armed with bows and
arrows, spears and clubs, singing war songs, beating time with their
paddles on the sides of the canoes and making signs and gestures highly
It has been stated by many, including the historian, Hubert Howe
Bancroft, that Fraser did not reach the mouth of the river, but turned
back at a point near New Westminster. Indeed, Malcolm McLeod,
the editor of a brochure: "Peace River; a Canoe Voyage from Hudson's Bay to the Pacific by the late Sir George Simpson, in 1828,"
claims that Fraser did not "navigate it within over 250 miles of its
mouth." But such ideas are erroneous, and likely arise from the fact
that the complete Journal of Fraser's trip down the river in 1 808, was
supposed to be lost, and was not given to the world until Senator
Masson reproduced it in 1889.
Under the date, July 2nd, 1 808, this entry appears in the Journal: "We continued and at last we came in sight of a gulf or bay
of the sea; this the Indians call 'Pas-hil-roe.' It runs in a southwest
and northeast direction. In this bay are several high and rocky islands,
whose summits were covered with snow." This in itself proves conclusively that he had reached the mouth of the river. But the Journal
also shows more than this; not only did he reach the mouth of the
river, but he reached it by the North Arm. For we find it stated
that "on the right shore we noticed a village called by the Indians
'Misquiame'; we directed our course towards it." Surely this is the
place we now know as the Musqueam Indian Reserve, at the entrance
to the North Arm of the Fraser River. If any doubt remain it is
dissipated by the further statement that through the village called
'Misquiame,' Fraser found a stream of water running. That stream
runs through the village of Musqueam today just as it did on that
July morning when the first white man saw it. Here he found what
he calls a fort, which was 1 500 feet in length and 90 feet in breadth.
After examining it he attempted to re-embark, but was astonished to see
his canoes left high and dry by the receding tide. The Indians seeing
his position became quite warlike. In the language of the Journal,
"They began to make their appearance from every direction, dressed
in their coats of mail, and howling like so many wolves and brandishing
their war clubs." The Musqueams were evidently living up to their
reputation; Fraser had been warned repeatedly of their savage dispositions.
Re-embarking he still proceeded, desiring, as he says, to reach
the main ocean, but being short of provisions and the natives (that is,
the Musqueams) pursuing the party manifesting further hostilities and
adopting threatening attitudes in an endeavor to prevent his further
progress he was reluctantly compelled to abandon his desire to reach
the Pacific. In his Journal under date of July 3rd, he writes: "Here
I must again acknowledge my great disappointment in not seeing the
main ocean, having gone so near it as to be almost within view; besides,
we wished very much to settle the situation by an observation for the
longitude. The latitude is 49 degrees, nearly, while that of the
entrance of the Columbia is 46 degrees 20 minutes. The river is
therefore not the Columbia; if I had been convinced of this when I
left my canoes I would certainly have returned.
The return journey was begun that day; but it is not intended
to trace in detail its difficulties and dangers. In addition to the perilous
navigation, and the hostility of some of the native tribes, Fraser had
to contend with the threatened desertion of a number of his voyageurs.
On July 8th he had arrived at Yale; on the 1 4th he passed Lytton;
on the 20th he reached the spot near Pavilion Creek where he had left
his canoes and cached his provisions on the downward way; the Chilcoten
River was reached on the 25 th, and on August 6th he was again at Fort
George. It appears therefore that the descent of the river occupied 35
days and the ascent 34 days. 24       THE SEARCH FOR THE FRASER BY SEA AND LAND.
To those who have seen the Fraser at mid-freshet leaping and
boiling through the canyons above Yale; who have seen its angry
water whirling and swirling around China Bluff; who, looking through
Hell's Gate, have watched those tawny waters lash themselves into
a white foam at the impediment it makes; who, climbing Jackass Mountain, have gazed from its heights upon the mere ribbon of seething waters
below; to these some idea of the labors and difficulties of the journey
may be present. To them the simple unassuming narrative of the fur
trader will appeal as the story of a man inured to dangers, who recounts
the incidents of his travel in the plainest and most uncolored manner
apparently quite oblivious of the fact that he has done anything unusual or extraordinary.
Yet this exploration, of which I have given the most fragmentary
summary, is one which Bancroft, who never loses a chance to sneer
at Fraser, calls an "easy and pleasant service." Dr. Bryce, speaking
on the same subject, says more truly: "How difficult it is to distinguish small from great actions! Here was a man making fame for
all time and the idea of the greatness of his work had not dawned upon
him." In spite of Bancroft's professional sneer, we can feel confident
that Fraser's name will in the opinion of all thinking people be enrolled
on the banner of Britain's heroic explorers to whom we who reap the
benefits of their labors owe honor and love and veneration. He is one
of those of whom Captain Butler says: 'They are the old soldiers
of an army passed from the world, and when Time sums up the record
of their service here below it will be but to hand up the roll with the
endorsement of a favorable judgment to the Tribunal of the Future."
New Westminster, B. C, March 9th, 1908.
I ^
^   ^
S British Columbia has now
taken a very
prominent place
in* the great Canadian
nation, and as its various
attractive features are
drawing to it large numbers of those seeking a
pleasant, salubrious and
healthy climate, combined
with charming and grand
scenery, and as its wealth
in minerals, timber, fish,
etc., affords unlimited
business possibilities, for
they are almost inexhaustible in extent, unless
wastefully and injudiciously destroyed, it will doubtless be interesting to a great
many of the people now residing in British Columbia,
as well as to the succeeding generations whose
destiny it may be to live
in, or visit, this country, to
have a short history of the
great trunk wagon road—generally known as "The Yale-Cariboo Wagon
Road"—that, during the period embracing the earlier years of the then Crown
Colony of British Columbia, was the principal thoroughfare through its
interior, and thus opened the country in such a substantial manner that,
with the exception of some occasional set-backs that were due principally,
I regret to say, to the incompetency of some of those then controlling
public affairs, its progress has been during the half-century of its political
existence, such that British Columbians may justly be proud of.
I now propose to give you briefly the history of how the promotion
was brought about and how the building of the "Old Cariboo Wagon
Road" was effected. 26 HISTORY OF CARIBOO WAGON ROAD.
When I had the honor, on the 1 3th of March, 1907, of addressing
the members of the Canadian Club of Vancouver on the subject of
"Early Pathfinding in the Mountains of British Columbia, or the Discovery of the Northwest Passage by Land," I gave a general outline of
how I became in the years 1855-56-57 the original promoter of
Canada's first great Transcontinental Railway—"The Canadian Pacific
Railway"—and how, for a series of years the active steps I took, by
making extensive explorations through the mountains of British Columbia,
established beyond doubt that a practicable route for such a railway
existed between the magnificent harbor of Burrard Inlet and the extensive prairie region east of the Rocky Mountains.
In the address alluded to I described how I first explored, during
the winter of 1858-1859, the route by way of Harrison Lake and the
different portages between that lake and via the present town of Lillooet,
as far as Pavilion Muontain. As I found this route was not favorable
for the construction of the westerly section of the transcontinental railway, I projected, in the early part of the year 1859 I explored the
formidable canyons of the Fraser River between Yale and Lytton, and
later in the year, after founding the city of New Westminster, I explored from the head of Howe Sound up the valleys of the Squamish
and Jeackamins Rivers, etc.
I may here mention a rather amusing circumstance that happened
to me when exploring the great canyon of the Fraser River. On my
way down from Boston Bar the first night I reached a camp where a
few Chinese were mining. It was situated on a narrow shelf of rock
about six feet in width and twenty feet in length. The Chinamen
received me kindly and made me some tea and mixed some flour and
water and made thin cakes of dough which they cut in strips about
an inch in width and boiled. They had no other provisions, but were
looking forward to the spring run of salmon which were then on their
way up the river. I left my kind friends early the following morning
and after a terribly fatiguing journey over hot rocks along the precipitous mountain side I reached Chapman's Bar in the evening. I was
very tired and dreadfully thirsty. When I entered a little store which
was a log hut about 15x25 feet in size, I spied some Dublin stout
porter, with which I at once regaled myself and then had a good meal of
slap-jacks, bacon and coffee. „ I then went into a partly constructed
new log building without door, windows or flooring, and seeing a
stretcher made out of gunny sacks, etc., I threw myself on it and at
once fell fast asleep, leaving my boots near my bedside. The unusual
sound of a pig's grunting awoke me at daylight. This pig continued
to make his researches around me until he came close to my bedside,
where I lay half asleep. I sprang up to drive him off, but only in time
to see him making off with one of my boots. I made chase, but the
pig with the boot got away into the woods and I never saw anything
of either of them again. The loss of my boot was a serious calamity.
I still had about 25 miles to walk over a very rough and rocky trail
before reaching Yale. I managed to find the worn out foot of a
miner's discarded boot which I appropriated, but as it was much too HISTORY OF CARIBOO WAGON ROAD. 27
big I packed moss and leaves around my foot, and after a day's journey, suffering intolerable agony as the skin was nearly rubbed off my
foot, I readied Yale, where I repaired damages.
During the years 1860-61 I was engaged in constructing a trail
for pack animals and a portion of a wagon road between Fort Hope
and Princeton, on the Similkameen River. I also made extensive explorations during those years of the country between Hope and Osoyoos
Lake, and made a second and very careful examination of the canyons
of the Fraser and Thompson Rivers to Kamloops Lake, to satisfy
myself on all points regarding the construction of a wagon road along
those rugged valleys.
It was in the years 1 860-61 that the existence of a very extensive and extremely rich auriferous portion of the Crown Colony was
discovered to be situated in that part of it now generally known as the
Cariboo section of the country, and owing to the circumstances I mentioned in my former address to the Canadian Club, I decided, for the
time being, to defer my further explorations for a transcontinental railway and devote myself to the undertaking of constructing a great
arterial highway through the central portion of the colony that would
open up and develop its resources in the most effective and substantial
My various explorations heretofore made, through the different
sections of the colony I had visited now convinced me that the best
route to adopt for the great wagon road I projected was by the valleys
of the Fraser and Thompson Rivers, although the formidable canyons
along the valleys of those rivers presented natural obstructions that, for
a country having a very small revenue, were most uninviting and appeared to be almost insurmountable. From careful observations I also
felt confident the great mineral region of the country would be in the
belt immediately West of the Rocky Mountains. I was also satisfied it
was by the valleys of the Fraser and Thompson Rivers that the mountain section of Canada's first and greatest transcontinental railway
should reach the coast and have its west terminus on the mainland
at the spacious and magnificent harbor that Burrard Inlet would afford
to the largest class of sea-going vessels, and where the sites for future
cities on both sides of the Inlet, and also on the shores of English
Bay, could hardly be excelled, as they presented in their topographical
and other features all the requisites to ensure everything needed for a
great commercial city, for its drainage would be perfect, which would
make it very healthy to reside in; its supply of the best quality of
water, by gravitation, plentiful; and the scenery in its immediate neighborhood both grand and beautiful, which together with its fine sea
bathing beaches would be inestimable to its inhabitants and prove a
very attractive feature to bring people from all quarters of the globe
to visit a city so well endowed by nature; and that has within easy
reach of it, both by land and water, many charming resorts, where
residences can be constructed where its citizens or others can have
picturesque dwellings outside the turmoil of a large city. 28 .HISTORY OF CARIBOO WAGON ROAD.
Ever since the arrival of the corps of Royal Engineers, under
the command of the late Major-General Richard Clement Moody, sent
out by the Imperial government in the year 1 858, to maintain law and
order, and to generally supervise and control all such measures and
works needed to establish the colony on a firm and lasting basis, I had
been on the most intimate terms with Colonel Moody. I had fully
explained to him my views regarding the construction of a Canadian
transcontinental railway, and also my belief that the great wagon road
to develop the colony should be built through the canyons of the Fraser
River, etc. I also had many conversations with the late Sir James
Douglas, who was the first governor of the mainland of British
Columbia, but Sir James considered the physical difficulties presented
by the canyons of the Fraser and Thompson Rivers of too formidable
a nature, and for that reason he had caused to be undertaken the
construction of a wagon road over the different portages between Lake
Harrison and the present town of Lillooet, on the Fraser River. This
route was a broken land and water one that necessitated much handling
of the freight passing over it, and was not at all likely to be able to
accommodate and meet the coming needs and prospective commercial
demands of the country.
The rich discoveries of gold in Cariboo afforded me the opportunity of pushing forward my project of building the great arterial highway by the valleys of the Fraser and Thompson Rivers, etc. I saw
Colonel Moody and we proceeded together to make a careful examination of the canyons, and before we parted he was as convinced as
myself that it was the route to adopt for the great highway. We arranged to meet the following winter in Victoria and press our views
on Governor Douglas.
The discoveries of gold mentioned induced prominent citizens of
Victoria to combine in the endeavor to get roads constructed from
the heads of Bute Inlet and Bentinck Arm direct to Quesnelle mouth, in
order to draw the trade of the Cariboo districts away from the Fraser
River route and center it in Victoria. These projects I opposed and
then commenced the long struggle between the people of Victoria and
those of the mainland to capture the trade of the Cariboo districts.
When I arrived in Victoria in the early part of the year 1862 I
found that Colonel Moody had preceded me, and that the whole
people of that place were much excited about the gold fields of Cariboo,
and the projected roads from Bute Inlet and Bentmck Arm, and tha\
Governor Douglas was greatly in favor of subsidizing a wagon road,
projected by the late Mr. Alfred Waddington, from the head of
Bute Inlet to Quesnelle mouth, and that the governor was also about
to grant a charter to Mr. Gustavus Blinn Wright to construct a toll
road, assisted by a subsidy from the government, from Lillooet to Fort
Alexandra, from where Mr. Wright proposed to continue the connection on to Quesnelle mouth by means of a stern-wheel steamer he
was about to build for that purpose* HISTORY OF CARIBOO WAGON ROAD. 29
My project for building the Yale Cariboo wagon road looked
very unpromising. I saw both Mr. Waddington and Mr. Green, the
latter gentleman being at the head of the project of getting a road
from Bentinck Arm, whilst Mr. Waddington, as before mentioned,
was at the head of the Bute Inlet project. I proposed to them that
they should abandon their projects, and all of us combine and get a
charter for a toll road to be constructed over the Yale-Cariboo route.
They were too sanguine of their prospects to entertain my proposition,
and as they considered my proposed undertaking of getting a wagon road
built through the canyons of the Fraser River, etc., which they thought
was impracticable, they therefore declined my proposition.
After Colonel Moody and myself had several interviews with
Governor Douglas we managed to convince him that the Yale-Cariboo
route was the best to adopt for the general development of the country,
and that it was imperative that its construction should be undertaken
at once.
At this time I met Mr. Charles Oppenheimer, who was at that
time at the head of the great mercantile firm of Oppenheimer Bros.,
having their establishments at Yale and Lytton, where they carried
on a very large and lucrative business. Mr. Oppenheimer and a friend
of his, Mr. T B. Lewis, proposed to join with me in obtaining a
charter for the building of this wagon road, provided we could obtain
the right to collect very remunerative tolls for a series of years and a
large money subsidy from the government to assist in defraying the
cost of its construction. We therefore entered into an agreement for
that purpose under the firm name of Oppenheimer, Moberly & Lewis,
and Mr. Oppenheimer withdrew from his firm in order to devote his
whole attention to the work we proposed to undertake, and shortly
afterwards, on the governor's granting us the charter, which empowered
us to collect very remunerative tolls and also to be paid a large cash
subsidy as the work of construction progressed, we proceeded to the
mainland to commence the work. Governor Douglas at this time
fully expected to obtain a large loan from the Imperial Government, for
which he had applied.
The manner in which the different sections of this road was to
be constructed were as follows:
Captain G. M. Grant, with a force of sappers and miners, together with a large force of civilian labor, was to construct the section
extending from Yale to Chapman's Bar.
The late Sir Joseph Wm. Trutch was, by contract, to construct
the section from Chapman's Bar to Boston Bar.
The late Mr. Thomas Spence was to construct the section from
Boston Bar to Lytton.
The firm of Oppenheimer, Moberly & Lewis was to construct
the section from Lytton until the road formed a junction with the
wagon road to be built by Mr. G. B. Wright from Lytton to Fort
My department in this undertaking was to locate the road and
supervise its construction. Mr. Lewis was to keep the books and accounts, and Mr. Oppenheimer was to look after the purchasing and
forwarding of the supplies and the finances.
When we arrived at Yale a large number of men seeking employment on our work could not get beyond that point, as they were without
money, food, clothing and boots, and as they had to walk from Yale
to Lytton along the pack trail we were obliged to make them advances
of all those articles. I had already paid the fares of a large number
of men from New Westminster to Yale, which cost me between $2,000
and $3,000.
Mr. Oppenheimer had arranged before he left Victoria to have
large quantities of supplies and tools forwarded to Yale, and I also sent
a quantity of the same things that I had on hand to the same place.
We now began to experence our first difficulties, as the pack trail
between Yale and Lytton was only partially completed, which necessitated all freight between those places being conveyed partly by water
through the dangerous canons and partly by pack trains, which caused
very heavy transportation charges and losses of supplies. Some idea
may be formed of the cost of transportation in those days when in many
instances it cost us as much as fifty-five cents a pound to convey our
supplies from Yale to Lytton. There were not enough boats on the river
to meet the demands for transportation, and the number of pack animals
was altogether inadequate as the greater number of those engaged in
packing were employed in the very lucrative business of conveying
freight through to Cariboo, and therefore did not find it so profitable
to convey it for us over a comparatively short distance to our works.
We had to employ large numbers of Indians to pack supplies on their
backs and the high prices they charged enriched them. When Mr.
Lewis and myself travelled from Yale to Lytton we were compelled to
walk, as we were unable to get saddle animals. This journey we
accomplished in two days, but owing to the extremely rough trail our
feet were blistered and very sore.
At Lytton I made my headquarters in the Court House, which
Captain H M. Ball, who was the gold commissioner, sheriff, etc., of
the district, very kindly placed at my disposal.
I now established my first road camp a short distance out of Lytton,
and as the men arrived I set them at work. A few days afterwards
I established another camp at Nicomin, a small stream about twelve
miles from Lytton, and shortly afterwards a road camp a few miles
above Cook's ferry, which was a short distance below where Spence's
bridge was afterwards built.
By this time the work was going on at a great rate, but as I could
not get a sufficient number of white men I was obliged to let a contract
for the construction of the road from a "slide" a short distance above
Nicomin to Cook's ferry to a body of Chinese, with the exception of
that portion around a rock bluff below Cook's ferry. HISTORY OF CARIBOO WAGON ROAD. 31
I had now been at work some time, and by the terms of our chartei
there was a large amount of money overdue and but a very small sum
had been paid by the government, which hampered me very much in
carrying on the work in the most efficient manner, and necessarily caused
heavy and unlooked for expenses being incurred. By borrowing considerable sums of money on my personal credit I managed to keep the
work going on, and at the end of the third month after the charter was
signed, paid all the men their wages in full. As soon as I pad these
wages, a very large number of the men, entirely disregarding the terms
of their contract with me to work for the whole season, and nearly all
of them indebted for clothes and other necessaries I had furnished them
with, when they were in destitute condition, left the work, and I lost
the value of what I had advanced to them. Th:s contemptible proceeding on the part of these men, which was brought about by the
reports of fabulously rich deposits of gold having been discovered on
Antler and other creeks in Cariboo, reduced the force of men needed to
ensure the prosecution of the work in accordance with our contract with
the Government, and compelled me to employ, much against my wishes,
a large force of Chinese laborers. It will thus be seen that the bad
faith and unscrupulous conduct of the white laborers was the cause
of the employment of Chinese labor in constructing the Cariboo wagon
road. All the other contractors on this road experienced the same
treatment from their white laborers that befell me.
I found all the Chinese employed worked most industriously and
faithfully, and gave no trouble. I may here mention an amusing incident that occurred in connection with these Chinese. One day when I
was on my way from Cook's ferry to Lytton I stopped at the large
Chinese camp, when they told me they were anxious to celebrate some
festival, and asked me to try and get them some live pigs when I was
in Lytton. I found that the only pigs that had been brought so far into
the interior were two small animals owned by a man who was mining
on the opposite side of the Fraser River. He asked an exorbitant price,
and if I remember correctly it was $200.00 each, so I did not buy them,
and on my return to the Chinese camp told them the reason why. They
were bound to have the pigs at any cost. I gave them an order to get
the pigs, and as I was so pleased with the way they did their work, at
the same time I gave them an order to get, at my expense, two kegs of
the fiery whisky they drink, which cost me as much as the pgs cost them.
On the day they had the celebration I went to their camp and was
at once surrounded by the Chinamen, who provided me with a meal in
which roast pork was the principal dish, which I enjoyed, but on the
other hand, I had to take many drinks of the abominable whisky with
which, in tin cups, they held all around and pressed upon me, and would
take no refusal.
Time passed on and unpaid for work continued to be done, when
at last Mr. Oppenheimer returned. He had succeeded in getting a considerable sum of money from the Government, but nothing like what
should have been paid. Mr. Lewis got discouraged and disgusted and
was of the opinion that we could not depend upon the Government, and HISTORY OF CARIBOO WAGON ROAD.
wished me to stop the works. I therefore bought out Mr. Lewis' interest
in the charter. It was arranged betwen Mr. Oppenheimer and myself
that he should at once return to Victoria and endeavor to get some more
money from the Government, and that I should put matters in as satisfactory a shape as possible with the money he had brought, and then
be guided by circumstances as to my future proceedings.
I had now got large camps of men at Nicomen, and at a point
between that place and Cook's ferry, another establ shed a few miles
above Cook's ferry, and one near Ashcroft Creek, and as it was
imperative that it should be decided where the Yale-Cariboo road should
be located in order to obtain the best line to form a junction with the
wagon road then in course of construction from Lillooet over Pavilion
mountain, I took a splendid horse I had, a blanket and what provisions
I could cram into my saddle bags and started alone to explore through
Maiden Creek Valley to where the town of Clinton is now built, and
also the valley of the Bonaparte River to the Second Crossing, which
was so named as the old pack trail to Cariboo, over the Loon Lake
Mountain, crossed the Bonaparte River the second time at that point.
I proceeded from Clinton by way of a small stream that falls into
the Bonaparte, and thence passing along the foot of Castle Mountain,
which was so named from its resemblance to a vast feudal castle of
the Middle Ages. I finally reached the Second Crossing of the Bonaparte, where I fully expected to recruit for a day at the wayside house
that in the early days had been built there.
The weather for the last few days during my journey had been
very ra'ny, the mosquitoes and horseflies in swarms and sleeping, or
rather trying to sleep, on the wet ground, made matters exceedingly
unpleasant, and as I had only my horse for a companion I felt very
lonely. My provisions were all. gone and as I was very hungry
I was anticipating how much I would enjoy a good meal of bacon and
beans and some hot coffee, and possibly bread. I was woefully disappointed, for when I arrived at the Second Crossing I found that the
house and other buildings had been burned down and the place was
completely deserted. Finding a few half-grown onions in what had been
a garden, I devoured them, and then building a good fire I dozed
through a miserable night, very much pestered by mosquitoes and
drenched with rain.
A short examination of the topographical features of the surrounding country convinced me that the better route to adopt for the wagon
road would be the valley of Maiden Creek, and that the junction of the
Yale-Cariboo wagon road with the road being built from Lillooet over
the Pavilion mountain should be where it is, at Clinton.
Having accomplished the object of my explorations I decided to
return by the trail over the Loon Lake Mountain, as I had learned from
different packers that there was an abundance of good grass around
Loon Lake, which is situated on a plateau near the top of the mountain.
I therefore ascended the steep mountan by an execrable trail through the
woods, and as the heavy rains had made the trail a ditch, full of stones HISTORY OF CARIBOO WAGON ROAD. 33
and boulders, and the flies being indefatigable in their persecutions,
travelling up this mountain was most unpleasant. After weary hours I
at last emerged out of the forest, and came on a prairie covered with
green grass, when just as I was about to unsaddle my horse to let him
have a good feed, I espied a column of smoke at the far end of the
prairie, and soon made out a large train of pack animals and packers that
were encamped there. I instantly remounted and cantered joyfully for
the fire, and on approaching it was hailed by a well-known voice in
these words: "Hello, Moberly, is that you?" to which I answered:
'Yes, Mac, have you got anything to eat in your camp?" to which the
answer was: 'Yes and plenty to drinkljtoo; come on old man and
regale yourself. What the devil brings you here?" My friend was
the late Captain Allan Macdonald. He was the son of one of the
former prominent officers of the Hon. Hudson's Bay Company, and
was born at Fort Colvile.
I had a very sumptuous meal of the staple food of the country—
bacon and beans—and an unlimited supply of the grand old creamy
Hudson's Bay rum. I had made Mr. Macdonald's acquaintance on
the steamer Panama, in 1858, when I was on my way from San
Francisco to Victoria. The next time I met Captain Macdonald was
many years afterwards when he was stationed at Fort Osborne in
Winnipeg, with the military force under the command of the late Colonel
Osborne Smith, and the last time I saw him was some years ago, when
on his way to the Narrows of Lake Manitoba, where as Indian agent of
that district, he resided.
I remained over the day at this place, and as the afternoon was
fine we found that the small stream which flows out of Loon Lake
abounded with brook trout, so we improvised a sort of drag net out of
an old horse blanket and managed to catch a plentiful supply of large
trout, upon which we feasted.
The following day I resumed my journey along the trail, which
has a very steep descent, on the southwesterly side of the mountain, to
the First Crossing of the Bonaparte River. At this point there was a
small log hut very extensively known through the colony at that period
as "Scotty's," the owner of it being a rather quaint Orkneyman, who
kept a few cows and was supposed to furnish meals to travellers. I
here met one of my packers, whom I had instructed to be at this point
in order that I could tell hm where I proposed to establish another
large camp of workmen to push forward the construction of the road
along the valley of the Bonaparte, etc.
Being very hungry I requested "Scotty" to provide us with a meal,
whereuvon he produced a frying pan full of stale flap-jacks and a pan
of milk. Each flap-jack was about three inches in diameter and half an
inch in thickness. Having demolished as many of the unsavory cakes
as were necessary to appease our hunger, and drank several cups of
milk, I asked "Scotty" what I had to pay, when he demanded fifty
cents for each cake and fifty cents for each cup of milk. This exorbitant
charge so enraged my packer, who talked in such forcible language to u History of cariboo wagon iIoad.
'Scotty," that I had great difficulty in preventing a personal encounter
between them. We left this miserable hut as soon as possible, my
packer vowing that he would get even with "Scotty" some day.
In one of Sir James Douglas' trips in the interior of the colony I
had the pleasure of accompanying him, when he told me of the origin
of some of the names of different places in the colony, and the following
is the Indan legend he related regarding Maiden Creek, through the
valley of which I had decided the wagon road should go.
"At some time in the misty past there lived at the mouth of Maiden
Cieek a very beautiful Indian girl, who had a lover living at Cache
Creek, to whom she was engaged to be married. The lover proved false
and married another woman, which so distracted the poor girl that she
died of a broken heart, and was buried near the mouth of Maiden
Creek, and out of her breasts grew the two rounded hillocks that are
to be seen at that place and resemble a woman's breasts."
It was in the year 1 862 that the smallpox swept away great numbers of the Coast Indians and had been, during the Summer,
gradually extending its ravages into the interior of the colony. A few
days before I left my camp at Nicomin to make the long exploratory
trip before mentioned, as I was standing at my tent, which was on the
opposite side of that little stream to where the large camp of my employees
was situated, and who were just on the point of sitting down to supper,
I noticed an Indian leading a horse on which another Indian was seated
who had a veil over his face, and after crossing the stream were evidently
intending to camp about fifty feet from my tent. I walked over to the
Indians, and, being suspicious that something was wrong, lifted the veil
from the face of the Indian wearing it and saw that the poor fellow was
badly smitten with the smallpox. I instantly told them that they could
not stay there in the vicinity of my men and told them to return to Lytton
where the Government had a doctor appointed to vaccinate the Indians.
They told me they were without money and had not any food, so I
went to my store tent and filled a large sack with provisions, which I
gave them together with a letter to the doctor to have them properly
attended to, and then compelled them to go. When I was on my way
to Bonaparte River I learnt from the man in charge of Cook's ferry
that these two Ind'ans, instead of returning to Lytton had come to his
house and gone on to the mouth of the Nicola River, at which place
there was an Indian village from which I had procured a number of
Indians with their little horses to pack supplies between the camps above
Cook's ferry. These Indians camped in a little bay on the Thompson
River about a nrle below my largest road camp. On my way down
from Ashcroft Creek to this camp, which I did not reach until some
hours after dark, I heard the dismal wailing of Indian women on die
mountain side above the trail I rode along, which was a certain indication of death having visited their community. On arriving at the camp
I learnt that none of the Indians from the little bay had been up for
several days and it was supposed the smallpox had reached their encampment. ^HISTORY OF CARIBOO WAGON ROAD. 35
The next day I proceeded on my way to Nicomin, and as I rode
along the mountain side I saw several Indian horses grazing on the
"bunch grass" that then grew in profusion in the valley of the Thompson
River, and in the little bay below me the tents of the Indians, but I saw
no signs of human life about the tents. I therefore dismounted and
went to the tents, where I discovered the horrible sight of the putrefying
bodies of the Indians, some in the tents and others among the rocks that
lined the river bank, through which they had evidently tried to drag
themselves to the river to assuage their burning thirst or to plunge into
the river. All the Indians in that encampment had been dead several
I now proceeded to the Ferry and went to the Indian village at the
mouth of the Nicola River where the same melancholy and disgusting
sight was met that a few hours before I had seen at the little bay on the
Thompson River, for all the Indians were dead. I hurried on to my
camp at Nicomin fearing that the smallpox had broken out among my
men, but was greatly relieved to find such was not the case.
During my absence very good progress had been made in the work
of construction, but as I received no news from either Victoria or New
Westminster, and as my men were getting clamorous for their wages,
I demanded certificates from the Government official who was in charge
of the supervision of the work, which he declined to give, and on my
pressing him for them to enable me to draw the money now overdue,
and telling him if he would not grant them I should be compelled to stop
the works, he shewed me a written order he had received from headquarters instructing him on no account to grant certificates until further
This peculiar order appeared to me to be tantamount to an effort
on the part of the Government to force me into such a position that the
Government could claim that the charter was forfeited, and enable
them to take immediate possession of the road. I afterwards found out
that it was owing to the Imperial Government refusing to grant the loan
to the colony that Governor Douglas had applied for and the Government had not any money to pay the amounts that any certificates it
granted would call for.
I now felt certain that there was something seriously wrong at the
seat of government about financial matters. I therefore started on horseback for Yale, leaving Lytton in the afternoon and arriving the following morning at Yale, where I only stopped long enough to hire a canoe
and six Indians to convey me to New Westminster, where I arrived
at 8:00 o'clock the following morning. As soon as Colonel Moody's
office opened I sought an interview with him, when I learnt that Governor
Douglas was at his house and that I would have to see him, as Colonel
Moody declared he was altogether irresponsible for the non-payment
of the different sums of money as they became due, or for the order
with which the Government superintendent over my work had been furnished, instructing him not to grant me any certificates. 36 HISTORY OF CARIBOO WAGON ROAD
I saw Governor Douglas and made a new arrangement by which
the sum of fifty thousand dollars was to be paid to me in a few days.
This money he could get from the Bank of British Columbia which was
then commencing business in British Columbia. I also made arrangements for future payments, and then, knowing how important it was that
I should be back at my works as soon as possible, I got the Governor
to let me have on account the few thousand dollars then in the treasury
at New Westminster and in the collectorate at Yale, amounting in all
to six thousand dollars, and then having very unfortunately left a general
instead of a specific power of attorney with the Attorney-General to
sign for me for the balance of the fifty thousand dollars, I left by
steamer to return to the road camps.
When I reached Yale I was surprised to meet a large number of
my men who had engaged to work the whole season, and others who
had only engaged by the month. They had heard of my going down
from Lytton in a great hurry, and some irresponsible creature had circulated a report that I had left the country. My return rather astonished these men. They were desperately hungry, so I took them to a
restaurant and ordered a good meal and told them to meet me after
breakfast at the office of the Gold Commissioner. On their arrival I
paid off all those who had worked the full time for which they had
engaged, and after well rating those who had left the work before the
term for which they had engaged expired, and by which action on their
part forfeited all wages coming to them, I paid them half their wages
and obtained employment for them for the rest of the season with
Captain Grant, who with the Royal Engineers and a body of civilian
laborers was then constructing the first section of the wagon road between
Yale and Chapman's bar.
The next day I proceeded on my way to the road camps which,
after my arrival, I re-organized and then returned to Lytton as I
expected the $44,000 agreed to be forwarded to be by express would
have arrived. I reached Lytton on a Saturday evening and found the
mail and express had not arrived, but I received a letter from a friend,
sent by a special messenger, to inform me the Government would not
send me the money, and that the day after his messenger arrived at
Lytton a capias would reach that town by mail instructing Captain Ball,
the sheriff, to arrest me for the amount of an account due for some
supplies furnished by a party in Victoria, and that a writ had been
obtained owing to a notice emanating from the Attorney-General that
the charter, out of which I could easily have cleared $100,000 if the
Government had acted in good faith, had been forfeited as the work
was not going on properly.
The letter I received from my friend also informed me that Captain Grant had been instructed to proceed to Lytton regarding the steps
to be taken by the Government about my works. The unfortunate
general power of attorney I had given the Attorney-General, by a
breach of faith on his part, placed it in his power to act as he did, and
that power of attorney was used by him for a very different purpose
to that intended when I gave it to him. HISTORY OF CARIBOO WAGON ROAD. 37
This unscrupulous act on the part of the Government I afterwards
found out was owing to the refusal of the Imperial Government to grant
a large loan to the colony upon which Governor Douglas relied for
building the Yale-Cariboo road and the extension of the Harrison-
Lillooet road northerly from Lillooet, and as I was the one to whom the
largest amount would have to be paid it was decided to sacrifice me
and carry the other contractors through, especially as the Government
would gain a large and very expensive portion of the constructed road
I had built without paying anything for it, which was a very convenient and profitable thing for them, but it was a disgraceful and dishonest transaction on their part.
The day when the capias would arrive in Lytton would be a
Sunday. I therefore knew it could not be served upon me until the
following morning. On Sunday morning I had breakfast with Captain
Ball, the sheriff, and as we sat at that meal his mail arrived and I
saw him open a letter which I felt convinced contained the ominous
document, but he said nothing nor did I.
I was now thoroughly disgusted with the bad faith I had met with
from the Government, and the duplicity of the Attorney-General, and
felt certain I could not struggle any longer against such adverse circumstances; but as I knew what vast importance it was to the colony to
get this road completed as soon as possible, I decided to take a course
that would prevent the stoppage of the work and let my personal interest
be sacrificed and the general interests of the country be protected, particularly as I had been the principal cause of leading Governor Douglas
to undertake this great work which had placed him in a very serious
The following morning I went down to breakfast with the sheriff,
when he served me with the writ, and was rather surprised when I read
the letter I had received the previous Saturday by private express,
advising me about the capias. He said: 'Why did you not get on
your horse and cross the southern boundary into the United States?"
My answer to him was: "That I had been the promoter of the Yale-
Cariboo wagon road and I intended to stick to it until it was an accomplished work, no matter what obstacles had to be overcome."
I was now hourly expecting the arrival of Captain Grant, whom
I knew would be sent up by the Government to act in the matter, and
immediately on his arrival I borrowed a few hundred dollars from a
friend and paid the amount off for which I had been arrested, and
called upon Captain Grant, when we discussed the whole matter over in
the most friendly manner, and I gave him in writing my relinquishment
of all my charter rights, and also the surrender of all the supplies, tents,
tools, etc., on the works which had cost me upwards of $6,000), for
the benefit of the Government, and simply requested him to do his utmost
to have the wages of all my men paid and also the sub-contracts
I had let, to which he cordially assented and afterwards compelled the
Government, much against their intentions, to have faithfully carried
out. i
Captain Grant and myself now proceeded to my different road
camps of which I put him in full possession, and when everything was
out of my hands Captain Grant proposed that he should appoint me to
carry on the works for the Government for the rest of the season. This
proposition I was glad to accept for I had not a dollar left, and then
Captain Grant told the men that from that time they would be paid their
wages by the Government and that I was in full charge of the works,
and furthermore that he would do his utmost to get their back wages
paid, but he could not absolutely promise more as that matter rested
with Governor Douglas. Those wages were ultimately paid in full;
they amounted to about $ 1 9,000.
When this business was closed up at the end of the year, the
country had gained a large and most expensive portion of the Cariboo
wagon road built, which cost them nothing, but it left me a ruined man,
with heavy personal liabilities, which took all the money I could make
during eight subsequent years to finally pay off.
As soon as Mr. Charles Oppenheimer heard of my arrest he left
the country to avoid a similar fate and did not return for some years.
He had to settle all the then outstanding liabilities of our old firm before
he came back, which cost him a large sum of money.
The following year, 1863, a Mr. William Hood, from Santa
Clara, California, undertook the contract to complete the unfinished
portion of the road between the big rock bluff above Cook's ferry and
Clinton, and he employed me to superintend the work for him.
This same year Captain Grant, Mr. Trutch and Mr. Spence
finished the section of the road between Yale and Lytton, and Mr.
Trutch built the suspension bridge across the Fraser River.
In 1864 I was employed by the Colonial Government as their
eng neer to go to Cariboo and locate the northerly portion of the wagon
road from Fort Alexandria (to which latter point Mr. G. B. Wright
had built the road the previous year) to Richfield, and to look after its
construction between Quesnelle mouth, and Cottonwood river which was
then built by Mr. G. B. Wright. I constructed a temporary sleigh
road from Fort Alexandria to Quesnelle mouth, and another from Cottonwood River to Richfield via Lightning Creek. I also located a line
for a wagon road from Cottonwood River via Willow River as far as
Richfield, and I supervised the construction of a branch road into the
valley of the Horse-fly River, then known as "Captain Mitchell's road."
I also explored a line for a proposed branch wagon road into the valley
of William's Lake.
At the end of the year 1 864, having been requested by the people
of Cariboo to represent them in the Legislative Council about to meet
at New Westminster, I resigned my position as Government engineer
and was duly elected to represent the above-mentioned constituency.
On the 13th of March, 1907, I had the honor of addressing the
Canadian Club of Vancouver on the subject of "Early Pathnnding in
the Mountains of British Columbia, or The Discovery of the Northwest
Passage by Land." In that address I related how I managed, during
the session above-mentioned, to get the money granted that enabled me
to complete by the end of the year 1865, discoveries that, in connection
with extensive explorations I made from the year 1855 between Lake
Simcoe and those made of the extensive central portion of Canada by
the expedition under the command of Captain Palletier, insured a practicable route for a great Canadian transcontinental, terminating in the
City of Vancouver, and as I have now given you a brief history of the
Cariboo wagon road, you will be enabled to form an idea of the great
difficulties that had to be overcome to bring about the development and
present prosperous condition of British Columbia.
•^^|     WALTER  MOBERLY, |;||||1
Civil Engineer.
Vancouver, B. C, March 5th, 1908.   


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