British Columbia History

British Columbia Historical Quarterly Jan 1, 1938

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JANUARY, 1938 We
Published by the Archives of British Columbia
in co-operation with the
British Columbia Historical Association.
W. Kaye Lamb.
J. C. Goodfellow, Pi F. W. Howay, A' duster.
Robie L. Reid, Vancot T. A. Rickahd, Victoria.
W. N. Sage, Vancouver.
Editorial communications should be addressed to the Editor, Provincial
Archives, Parliament Buildings, Victoria, B.C.
Subscriptions should be sent to the Provincial Archives, Parliament Buildings, Victoria, B.C. Price, 50c the copy, or ?2 the year. Members of the
British Columbia Historical Association in good standing receive the
Quarterly without further charge.
Neither the Provincial Archives nor the British Columbia Historical
Association assumes any responsibility for statements made by contributors
to the magazine. THE
Published by the Archives of British Columbia in co-operation with the
British Columbia Historical Association. EDITOR.
W. Kaye Lamb.
J. C. Goodfellow, Princeton. F. W. Howay, New Westminster.
Robie L. Reid, Vancouver. T. A. Rickard, Victoria.
W. N. Sage, Vancouver.
All communications should be addressed to the Editor, Provincial
Archives, Parliament Buildings, Victoria, B.C. CONTENTS OF VOLUME II.
Articles : Page.
Indian Participation in the Gold Discoveries.
By T. A. Rickard 3
The Fur Trade and the Fur Cycle: 1825-1857.
By Ian McTaggart Cowan_  19
Early Lumbering on Vancouver Island.   Parti.: 1844-1855.
By W. Kaye Lamb 31
A Note on the Change in Title of Fort St. James.
By W. N. Sage 55
Fur and Gold in Similkameen.
By J. C. Goodfellow-    67
In Memory of David Douglas.
By John Goldie 89
Early Lumbering on Vancouver Island.   Part II.: 1855-1866.
By W. Kaye Lamb 95
Some Pioneers of Light and Power.
By George Green . 145
The Advent of the " Beaver."
By W. Kaye Lamb 163
My Days Aboard the " Beaver."
By John Fullerton 185
Captain Evans of Cariboo.
By Robie L. Reid    233
Education before the Gold Rush.
By D. L. MacLaurin 247
Documents :
Coal from the Northwest Coast, 1848-1850.
By John Haskell Kemble 123
Sir George Simpson at the Department of State.
By Frank E. Ross ». 131
The Journal of Jacinto Caamano.
Edited with an introduction and notes by Henry R. Wagner
and W. A. Newcombe 189, 265
Notes and Comments 57, 137, 303
The Northwest Bookshelf:
Campbell:  Captain James Cook; Holmes: Introduction to the
Bibliography of Captain James Cook.    By V. L. Denton 61
Raley: Monograph of the Totem-Poles in Stanley Park.
By J. C. Goodfellow    62
McCurdy:  By Juan de Fuca's Strait.
By W. Kaye Lamb. 63
Wagner:  The Cartography of the Northwest Coast of America
to the Year 1800.    Review article by F. W. Howay  223 The Northwest Bookshelf—Continued. Page.
Wickersham:  Old Yukon.
By T. A. Rickard 305
Curtin:  Yukon Voyage.
By W. Kaye Lamb 307
Shorter Notices  64, 308
Index 309 We
" Any country worthy of a future
should be interested in its past."
Vol. II. Victoria, B.C., January, 1938. No. 1
Indian Participation in the Gold Discoveries.
By T. A. Rickard	
The Fur Trade and the Fur Cycle: 1825-1857.
By Ian McTaggart Cowan 19
Early Lumbering on Vancouver Island.   Parti.: 1844-1855.
By W. Kaye Lamb 31
A Note on the Change in Title of Fort St. James.
By W. N. Sage 55
Notes and Comments 57
The Northwest Bookshelf:
Campbell: Captain James Cook;  Holmes: Introduction to the Bibliography of Captain James Cook.
By V. L. Denton 61
Raley:  Monograph of the Totem-Poles in Stanley Park.
By J. C. Goodfellow 62
McCurdy:  By Juan de Fuca's Strait.
By W. Kaye Lamb 63
Numerous descriptions of the early gold discoveries in
British Columbia have made the story familiar to those interested
in the subject. No episode in the history of the American Northwest has been recounted so often, because its romantic aspect
has appealed irresistibly to our people. Nevertheless there
remains an important feature of the gold-rush in 1858 that has
been overlooked, namely, the part played by the indigenes of
the region, the Indians, in the discovery of the gold and in the
mining operations that ensued.
The search for gold in our Province was incited by the successful exploitation of auriferous river-beds in California. The
critical discovery, by James W. Marshall, at Coloma, on January
24, 1848, caused a tremendous rush to the diggings along the
western slope of the Sierra Nevada, and aroused the belief that
other rich deposits of gravel might be found elsewhere in the
region adjacent to the Pacific Coast. It is interesting, therefore,
to note how the extensive occurrence of gold-bearing alluvium
was signalized by successive discoveries that served to link the
productive diggings at Coloma, on the south fork of the American River, with those on the Thompson and Fraser Rivers in
British Columbia. The first advance was to Oroville, on the
Feather River, in 1848; then to Reading's Bar on the Trinity
River in 1849; next came Scott's Bar on the Klamath in 1850.
Gold was found in the sea-beach off Gold Bluff in the same year,
and in the sand at the mouth of the Coquille River, in southern
Oregon, in 1853. Meanwhile the diggings on Jackson Creek,
also in Oregon, marked another step northward. In 1853 George
McClellan found gold plentifully when engaged in surveying a
military road in what is now northern Washington, through the
Cascade Mountains from Walla Walla to Fort Steilacoom, on the
coast near Admiralty Inlet. Gold was discovered also at that
time during the exploration of a route for the Northern Pacific
Railway, on the Similkameen River, which rises not far from
Hope, on the Fraser River, and joins the Okanagan at the Inter- 4 T. A. Rickard. January
national Boundary. Then, in 1855, gold was found by a " servant " of the Hudson's Bay Company near Fort Colville,1 in the
valley of the Columbia River, just south of the Canadian border.
James Cooper, testifying before the select comittee on the
Hudson's Bay Company, in London, in 1857, linked this discovery
of gold at Fort Colville with the subsequent finding of it on
Thompson's River.2 George M. Dawson, the distinguished Canadian geologist, was of the same opinion. Writing in 1889, he
says: " It seems certain that the epoch-making discovery of gold
in British Columbia, was the direct result of the Colville excitement. Indians from Thompson River, visiting a woman of their
tribe who was married to a French Canadian at Walla Walla,
spread the report that gold, like that found at Colville occurred
also in their country, and in the summer or autumn of 1857,
four or five Canadians and half-breeds crossed over to the
Thompson, and succeeded in finding workable placers at Nico-
amen, on that river, nine miles above its mouth. On the return
of these prospectors the news of the discovery of gold spread
Thus it is evident that information derived from the Indians
lured the prospectors northward into British Columbia; but
before proceeding with the sequential story of gold discovery in
our Province it must be noted that an unheralded find of gold
was made by the famous botanist, David Douglas, at a date long
precedent to the epochal discoveries in California and Australia,
in 1848 and 1851, respectively. Captain W. Colquhoun Grant,
of Sooke, in a paper presented to the Royal Geographical Society
in 1859, says: " There can be little doubt that it [gold] exists
in the mountains of New Caledonia, to the northward of where
men are now looking for it, and also a little to the southward,
where several years ago David Douglass [sic], the eminent botanist, found enough whereof to make a seal.    This occurred on the
(1) Formerly spelled Colvile, after Andrew Colvile, a Governor of the
Hudson's Bay Company.
(2) Report from the Select Committee on the Hudson's Bay Company,
London, 1857, pp. 205, 207.
(3) George  M.  Dawson:    The Mineral  Wealth  of British  Columbia,
Montreal, 1889, p. 18R (Geological Survey of Canada). 1938    Indian Participation in the Gold Discoveries. 5
shores of Lake Okanagan . . ."4 No doubt the discovery
was made at the mouth of a creek that entered the lake. Douglas was there in 1833.5 He was killed in July of 1834, when in
the Hawaiian Islands, and, as he did not go to England during
the interval, no word of the discovery reached the outside world.
At that date, moreover, even to a scientist such as Douglas, the
finding of gold would not suggest the portentous consequences
that might ensue from the successful development of profitable
mines. The same inability to foresee such consequences was
shown by officials in California and Australia when the finding
of gold was made known in those regions several years before
the discoveries that started the world-wide stampedes to the
The earliest gold discovery in British Columbia that aroused
public interest was made by an Indian on one of the Queen
Charlotte Islands. Richard Blanshard, the first Governor of
Vancouver Island, reported to Earl Grey, the Colonial Secretary,
in August of 1850, that he had seen " a very rich speciman of
gold ore, said to have been brought by the Indians of Queen
Charlotte's Island."6 In the following year, 1851, an Indian
woman found a nugget on the beach of Moresby Island. After
a part of it had been cut off, it was taken to Fort Simpson, where
it passed by trade into the hands of the Hudson's Bay factor at
that place. The nugget, as received, weighed about 5 ounces.
Later it was sent to the headquarters of the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Victoria. On March 29, 1851, Governor Blanshard
informed Earl Grey: " I have heard that fresh specimens of
gold have been obtained from the Queen Charlotte islanders; I
have not seen them myself, but they are reported to be very
rich."7 The Hudson's Bay Company sent the ship Huron to
Mitchell Harbour for the purpose of investigation. Some gold-
quartz was brought back to Fort Victoria and stimulated further
interest in the discovery.    In July and again in October, 1851,
(4) W. C. Grant: " Remarks on Vancouver Island," Journal of the
Royal Geographical Society, XXXI. (1861), p. 213.
(5) Oregon Historical Quarterly, VI. (1905), p. 309.
(6) Correspondence relative to the Discovery of Gold in Queen Charlotte's Island, London, 1853, p. 1. (Cited hereafter as Queen Charlotte's
Island Paper8.)
(7) Ibid. 6 T. A. Rickard. January
the brigantine Una was sent thither by the Hudson's Bay Company and returned with information concerning a quartz vein
that was 7 inches wide and traceable for 80 feet. It was reported
to contain " twenty-five per cent, of gold in some places,"8
which indicates specimen stuff, goodly to look upon. Some of
this quartz was blasted and then shipped, despite the interference
of the Indians. The Una was lost on her second return voyage.
Then the Orbit, an American ship, which was on the rocks off
Esquimalt, was bought by the Company, repaired, and renamed
the Recovery. She was sent north with thirty miners in addition to her crew, these miners having agreed to share their luck.
Three months were spent in getting a cargo of ore, which was
taken to England and eventually yielded a sum of money giving
the miners $30 per month for their labour.
When these facts were noised abroad, not only at Fort Victoria but at San Francisco, several vessels sailed from that Cali-
fornian port for Mitchell Harbour. The deposit had been nearly
exhausted and the Americans soon left, disappointed. Later
the American ship Susan Sturges arrived and the captain collected some of the ore discarded by the Una expedition. This
shipment was sold for $1,400 at San Francisco. A second
voyage by the same ship ended in disaster, for she was captured
and the crew made prisoners by the Indians at Masset, on Graham Island. The American gold-seekers were rescued by a
party sent thither on the Hudson's Bay Company's steamer
Beaver. Altogether about $20,000 was taken from the little
quartz vein at Mitchell Harbour, known also as Gold Harbour
and Mitchell Inlet.9
We have seen how soon the miniature rush to these northern
islands came to a dismal end, because but little gold was found
and the occurrence of the precious metal proved to be extremely
patchy; nevertheless, the event is of historic importance because
it made the few people then on our western coast aware of the
possibility of developing profitable mines. It made them gold-
conscious. Moreover, it was the means of establishing an
important precedent, for, in 1853, James Douglas, the second
Governor of Vancouver Island, asserted the regalian right to any
(8) Dawson, op. cit., p. 17R.
gold deposits that might be discovered. This action on his part
proved deeply significant.
The regalian right, or royal claim, to deposits of precious
metal is traditional; it is a kingly perquisite that comes from the
days of the Roman emperors. In the sixteenth century the
Spanish king's share was fixed at a fifth of the gold or silver
obtained by his subjects, chiefly in Mexico and Peru. In England the doctrine of fodinae regales, or mines royal, was revived
by Henry III. (1216-1272) and was well established in the reign
of Queen Elizabeth. It is sustained by Blackstone in his Commentaries, under date of 1765.10 In modern days, the regalian
right was asserted when gold was discovered in Australia, and
was therefore well fortified by precedent when invoked by Governor Douglas.
At that time James Douglas had become the Governor of
Vancouver Island while still the Chief Factor, at Victoria, of
the Hudson's Bay Company. The proclamation in 1853, which
asserted the rights of the Crown and exacted a licence fee from
the gold-miners, was instigated by Sir John Pakington, the Colonial Secretary in London. He, in September, 1852, instructed
Douglas " to take immediate steps for the protection of British
interests against the depredations of Indians, or the unwarranted intrusions of foreigners, on the territory of the Queen,"11
and forthwith issued a commission making Douglas Lieutenant-
Governor of the Queen Charlotte Islands. Whereupon, in March
of 1853, Governor Douglas issued the proclamation asserting the
right of the Crown to any gold found in " the Colony of Queen
Charlotte's Island," and followed this action in April by fixing
a miner's licence fee of ten shillings per month, payable in
advance, and to be obtained only at Fort Victoria.
We may note that the earliest gold to come within the cognizance of the Hudson's Bay officers was brought to them by the
Indians. This is not surprising. Gold was usually the first
metal to become known to primitive man. He saw the shining
substance on the edge of the river-beds that were his highways
through the wilderness. Gold does not corrode or tarnish, it is
beautiful, and it is so soft as readily to be shaped by hammering
(10) T. A. Rickard:  Man and Metals, New York, 1932, pp. 606, 617.
(11) Queen Charlotte's Island Papers, p. 13. 8 T. A. Rickard. January
with a stone. Primitive man at an early stage of his existence
began to use the metal for making ornaments, such as ear-plugs
and bangles. When the European came among the Indians on
our western coast, he wore rings and watch-chains, his women
wore ear-rings and bracelets, all made of gold; the natives
therefore saw readily that the white people set a high value on
gold, and they inferred correctly that if they brought it to the
trader he would be willing to barter his goods for the precious
metal. This led the Indians to search for it and to bring it
to the Hudson's Bay Company's posts. Moreover, the natives
resented the trespass upon their domain, strange as it may seem
to some people, and annoyed the gold-seekers that came to the
Queen Charlotte discovery; they stole the tools of the miners,
and the gold as well. Chief Trader W. H. McNeill, who accompanied the Una expedition, reported to Douglas:—
I am sorry to inform you that we were obliged to leave off blasting, and
quit the place for Fort Simpson, on account of the annoyance we experienced from the natives. They arrived in large numbers, say 30 canoes,
and were much pleased to see us on our first arrival. When they saw us
blasting and turning out the gold in such large quantities, they became
excited and commenced depredations on us, stealing the tools, and taking
at least one-half of the gold that was thrown out by the blast. They would
lie concealed until the report was heard, and then make a rush for the
gold; a regular scramble between them and our men would then take
place; they would take our men by the legs, and hold them "away from
the gold. Some blows were struck on these occasions. The Indians drew
their knives on our men often. The men who were at work at the vein
became completely tired and disgusted at their proceedings, and came to
me on three different occasions and told me that they would not remain
any longer to work the gold; that their time was lost to them, as the
natives took one-half of the gold thrown out by the blast, and blood would
be shed if they continued to work at the digging; that our force was not
strong or large enough to work and fight also. They were aware they
could not work on shore after hostility had commenced, therefore I made
up my mind to leave the place, and proceed to this place [Fort Simpson],
The natives were very jealous of us when they saw that we could
obtain gold by blasting; they had no idea that so much could be found
below the surface; they said that it was not good that we should take all
the gold away; if we did so, that they would not have anything to trade
with other vessels should any arrive.   In fact, they told us to be off.12
McNeill had with him only eleven men, a force much too
small to discipline the Indians;  moreover, it was the policy of
(12) Ibid., second series, London, 1853, p. 8. 1938      INDIAN PARTICIPATION IN THE GOLD DlSCOVERBBS. 9
the Hudson's Bay Company not to antagonize the natives, with
whom they traded for furs. Therefore any sort of lethal contest
was avoided.
The discoveries of gold on the mainland, like the one made on
Moresby Island, must be credited to the Indians; it was they,
and not any canny Scot or enterprising American, that first
found the gold on the Thompson and Fraser Rivers, or first
proceeded to gather it for the purpose of trade. The Hudson's
Bay agent at Kamloops, on the Thompson River, obtained gold
dust from the Indians as early as 1852, and similar gold came, in
course of trade with the natives, to other posts of the fur company. In the records of the fur trade, as kept at Fort Victoria,
it is stated that 3% ounces of gold were included in the takings
at Fort Kamloops in 1856.13 " Gold," says Douglas in his memoranda under date of 1860, " was first found on Thompson's River
by an Indian, a quarter of a mile below Nicoamen. He is since
dead. The Indian was taking a drink out of the river. Having
no vessel he was quaffing from the stream when he perceived
a shining pebble which he picked up and it proved to be gold.
The whole tribe forthwith began to collect the glittering metal."14
This probably was in 1852. Roderick Finlayson, Chief Factor
at Fort Victoria, says that gold was discovered by the Indians
in crevices of the rocks on the banks of the Thompson. Donald
McLean, the trader in charge at Kamloops, inspected the gold-
bearing ground and then sent down to Victoria for some iron
spoons to be used by the Indians for the purpose of extricating
the nuggets from the crevices in the rocky beds of the creeks.
The spoons were sent, as requested, and McLean was instructed
to encourage the natives in searching for gold and using it for
News of the important discovery at Colville reached Douglas
in the spring of 1856. He was not at all secretive about the finding of gold, and on April 16 reported to the Colonial Secretary
as follows:   " I hasten to communicate for the information of
(13) Columbia District and New Caledonia Fur Trade Returns (MS. in
Archives of B.C.).
(14) James Douglas:  Private Papers, First Series, p. 78 (transcript in
Archives of B.C.).
(15) Roderick Finlayson:  History of Vancouver Island and the Northwest Coast, p. 43 (transcript in Archives of B.C.). 10 T. A. Rickard. January
her Majesty's Government a discovery of much importance,
made known to me by Mr. Angus McDonald, Clerk in charge of
Fort Colvile, one of the Hudson's Bay Company's Trading
Posts on the Upper Columbia District. That gentleman reports,
in a letter dated on the 1st of March last, that gold has been
found in considerable quantities within the British territory, on
the Upper Columbia, and that he is moreover of opinion that
valuable deposits of gold will be found in many other parts of
the country; he also states that the daily earnings of persons
then employed in digging gold were ranging from _2 to £8 [$10 to
$40] for each man. . . . Several interesting experiments in
gold washing have been lately made in this colony, with a degree
of success that will no doubt lead to further attempts' for the
discovery of the precious metal."16 In October, 1856, Douglas
reported further that the extent of the gold deposits was as yet
undetermined, but that he took a sanguine view of their possible
value. The amount of gold produced was not known, but some
220 ounces had been received at Victoria from the Upper
Definite information was still lacking in the summer of 1857;
but by that date mining operations on the Thompson River, as
on the Queen Charlotte Islands, had led to friction with the
Indians. In a dispatch to the Colonial Secretary dated July 15,
1857, Douglas reports:—
A new element of difficulty in exploring the gold country has been interposed through the opposition of the native Indian tribes of Thompson's
River, who have lately taken the high-handed, though probably not unwise
course, of expelling all the parties of gold diggers, composed chiefly of
persons from the American territories, who had forced an entrance into
their country. They have also openly expressed a determination to resist
all attempts at working gold in any of the streams flowing into Thompson's
River, both from a desire to monopolize the precious metal for their own
benefit, and from a well-founded impression that the shoals of salmon which
annually ascend those rivers and furnish the principal food of the inhabitants, will be driven off, and prevented from making their annual migrations from the sea.!8
(16) Correspondence relative to the Discovery of Gold in the Fraser's
River District, London, 1858, p. 5. (Cited hereafter as Gold Discovery
(17) Ibid., p. 6.
Later dispatches indicate that for a considerable time the
Indians retained a virtual mining monopoly in the Couteau, or
Thompson, River region. Thus on December 29, 1857, Douglas
described conditions, as reported to him by correspondents resident there, as follows:—
It appears from their reports that the auriferous character of the country
is becoming daily more extensively developed, through the exertions of the
native Indian tribes, who, having tasted the sweets of gold finding, are
devoting much of their time and attention to that pursuit.
They are, however, at present almost destitute of tools for moving the
soil, and of washing implements for separating the gold from the earthy
matrix, and have therefore to pick it out with knives, or to use their fingers
for that purpose; a circumstance which in some measure accounts for the
small products of gold up to the present time, the export being only about
300 ounces since the 6th of last October.1^
Even in the spring of 1858 white miners were few and far
between; and on April 6 Douglas reported at some length upon
this aspect of the situation:—
The search for gold and " prospecting " of the country, had, up to the
last dates from the interior, been carried on almost exclusively by the native
Indian population, who have discovered the productive beds, and put out
almost all the gold, about eight hundred ounces, which has been hitherto
exported from the country, and who are moreover extremely jealous of the
whites, and strongly opposed to their digging the soil for gold.
The few white men who passed the winter at the diggings, chiefly
retired servants of the Hudson's Bay Company, though well acquainted with
Indian character, were obstructed by the natives in all their attempts to
search for gold. They were on all occasions narrowly watched, and in every
instance when they did succeed in removing the surface and excavating to
the depth of the auriferous stratum, they were quietly hustled and crowded
by the natives, who, having by that means obtained possession of the spot,
then proceeded to reap the fruits of their labours.
Such conduct was unwarrantable and exceedingly trying to the temper
of spirited men, but the savages were far too numerous for resistance, and
they had to submit to their dictation. It is, however, worthy of remark,
and a circumstance highly honourable to the character of those savages,
that they have on all occasions scrupulously respected the persons and property of their white visitors, at the same time that they have expressed a
determination to reserve the gold for their own benefit.20
Douglas was well aware that this state of affairs could not
continue. Already, on December 29, he had warned the Colonial
Secretary that a rush to the diggings was impending:—
(19) Ibid., p. 8.
(20) Ibid., p. 10. 12 T. A. Rickard. January
The reputed wealth of the Couteau mines is causing much excitement
among the population of the United States territories of Washington and
Oregon, and I have no doubt that a great number of people from those
territories will be attracted thither with the return of the fine weather in
The menace inherent in this coming stampede was twofold.
In the first place, it was obvious that most of the miners would-
be Americans, and their arrival might well threaten British
sovereignty over what is now the southern mainland of British
Columbia. In the second place, Douglas was convinced that, in
the event of a sudden influx of miners, " difficulties between the
natives and whites " would occur frequently, and that, unless
preventive measures were taken, the country would " soon
become the scene of lawless misrule."22
The manner in which Douglas warded off the first danger
need not be considered in detail. It is sufficient to record that
he acted promptly, and in December, 1857, issued a proclamation and accompanying regulations, in his capacity as Governor
of Vancouver Island, which declared " all mines of gold, and all
gold in its natural place of deposit, within the district of Fraser's
River and of Thompson's River" to be the property of the
Crown, and imposed a licence fee of ten shillings per month,
payable in advance, upon all gold-miners. The wording of this
proclamation follows closely the text of that issued by Douglas
in 1853, at the time of the Queen Charlotte Islands excitement;
and it is clear that he regarded the first proclamation, which
had met with approval in London, as indicative of the policy
that the authorities would expect him to follow when an anala-
gous situation arose on the mainland. Owing to the fact that
Douglas had no legal jurisdiction over the mainland until late
in 1858, and other circumstances, certain of his acts and declarations were disallowed by the Colonial Office; but there is no
doubt that his prompt assumption of authority on behalf of the
Crown, as well as of the Hudson's Bay Company, was chiefly
responsible for the fact that the question of sovereignty never
became a serious issue.
On April 25, the steamship Commodore arrived at Victoria
with 450 miners on board.   The overwhelming character of the
(21) Ibid., p. 8.
(22) Ibid. 1938    Indian Participation in the Gold Discoveries.       13
immigration which followed will be appreciated when it is stated
that with the arrival of her passengers the white population of
Vancouver Island was almost doubled. Scores of ships followed
in the wake of the Commodore, and it is estimated that as many
as 30,000 persons flocked to the Fraser River mines during the
late spring and early summer of 1858.
In the latter part of May, before this immigration reached
its peak, Douglas paid a visit to the gold diggings in the vicinity
of Hope and Yale, the district to which the majority of the
newcomers had gone. His diary of the journey has survived
and many entries therein refer to the mining activities of the
Indians, and the possibility of trouble between them and the
white miners. Amongst other news, Douglas notes that he is
informed from Fort Hope that " the Indians are getting plenty
of gold and trading with the Americans." That means that
they were bartering their gold, probably for tobacco, with the
newcomers. The same informant stated that " Indian wages
are from three to four dollars a day." This indicates that the
natives were employed by the American miners. The same
thing happened in the early operations on the American River
in California, where also the Indians were employed by the
diggers. At Hill's Bar, on the Fraser, Douglas was informed
that " 80 Indians and 30 white men are employed. It is impossible [for the Hudson's Bay Company] to get Indian labor at
present, as they are all busy mining, and make between two and
three dollars a day each man."23
It was at Hill's Bar, too, that Douglas became aware of dangerous friction between the Indians and the whites, as he had
all along anticipated would result from the gold-rush. The
Americans, who had suffered from Indian attacks when crossing
the plains to California, were inclined to think that the only
good Indian was a dead one. They had fought with the natives
when coming northward through the Oregon country, and they
had therefore no patience with the Indian desire to monopolize
the gathering of the gold. Naturally they were overbearing in
their attitude to the natives, who, in return, resented their
aggression, and resented also their maltreatment of the squaws.
(23) Private Papers, First Series, p. 58. 14 T. A. Rickard. January
In a dispatch to the Colonial Secretary dated June 15, 1858,
Douglas described the conflict, and the steps he had taken to
deal with it, as follows:—
On the arrival of our party at " Hill's Bar," the white miners were in a
state of great alarm on account of a serious affray which had just occurred
with the native Indians, who mustered under arms in a tumultuous manner,
and threatened to make a clean sweep of the whole body of miners assembled
The quarrel arose out of a series of provocations on both sides, and from
the jealousy of the savages, who naturally felt annoyed at the large quantities of gold taken from their country by the white miners.
I lectured them soundly about their conduct on that occasion, and took
the leader in the affray, an Indian highly connected in their way, and of
great influence, resolution, and energy of character, into the Government
service, and found him exceedingly useful in settling other Indian difficulties.
Douglas " also spoke with great plainness of speech to the
white miners " and warned them " that no abuses would be tolerated ; and that the laws would protect the rights of the Indian,
no less than those of the white man."24 Some sort of order was
restored, but Douglas returned to Victoria in a pessimistic mood,
due in part to the news that a detachment of United States troops
had been defeated recently by the Indians in Oregon. This victory had " greatly increased the natural audacity of the savage,
and the difficulty of managing them," and he feared that it would
require " the nicest tact to avoid a disastrous Indian war."2t
He was correct in his opinion that the Indian problem was
not yet solved. Friction with the white miners continued; and
a German traveller mentions the interference of the Indians as
noted by him near the junction of the Fraser and the Thompson,
somewhat later in 1858:—
When ... a few adventurers from Oregon went into the District
of Great Forks and began washing gold, the Couteau Indians, who lived in
the vicinity, soon followed their example. But when larger numbers of gold
miners arrived in the land in 1858 trouble began between the natives and
the new arrivals. The Indians took their tools away from the newly arrived
miners declaring that they would not permit any further invasion of their
(24) Papers relative to the Affairs of British Columbia, Part I., London,
1859, p. 16.
(25) Ibid., p. 17. 1938    Indian Participation in the Gold Discoveries.       15
country;   but the new comers streamed into the country in such numbers
that there could be no longer any question of resistance.26
It was too much to expect that this change from Indian to
white domination would be entirely peaceful. In the Fraser
Canyon region tension rose in July, as the number of miners
and others crowding to the diggings reached its peak, and August
saw the outbreak of actual hostilities. Numerous small affrays
had occurred previously; but on the 14th a pitched battle took
place near Boston Bar in which about 150 whites participated.
At least seven Indians were killed, and the natives were completely routed. It is significant that the letter which brought
this news to Victoria criticized the Government severely. " It
is very singular," the writer observed, " that after Gov. Douglas
has taken from each miner five dollars for a license, he does not
give those paying it the least protection."27 In actual fact,
causes beyond Douglas's control, at least for the time being,
were aggravating the situation. For one thing, an age-old hostility separated the Indians dwelling below the canyon of the
Fraser from those above it; and when the white miners sought
to ascend the river the Indians tried to stop them, and several
fights ensued. Moreover, the difficulty of maintaining good relations with the Indians was increased greatly when " ardent
spirits " were sold to them by certain of the diggers. On July
27, a public meeting held at Fort Yale voted to prohibit the sale
of spirituous liquors to the Indians, but this was more easily
said than done. In addition, the Chinese were accused of being
in league with the natives, and of supplying them with arms
and ammunition.28
The progress of events can be traced in the columns of the
Victoria Gazette. By the middle of the month it was estimated
that 500 miners had deserted their diggings above the canyon
and descended the river to Yale and Hope, where they felt secure
against attack from the Indians. On August 17, Captain H. M.
Snyder organized a punitive force of 167 men, all well armed,
and started up the Fraser from Yale.    He was prepared to fight
(26) Dr. Carl Freisach: Excursion through British Columbia, 1858,
Graz, 1875. The quotation is from a manuscript English translation in
the library of Dr. R. L. Reid, who also possesses a copy of the book.
(27) Victoria Gazette, August 24, 1858.
(28) Ibid., August 4 and 10. 16 T. A. Rickard. January
if necessary, but hoped that a resolute display of force would
suffice to bring the natives to terms. This proved to be the case,
and, thanks to his moderation, the advance to the junction of the
Fraser and Thompson, where he arrived on August 22, was
marked by a series of parleys and peace treaties with the natives
instead of the bloody battle that might easily have ensued.
Meanwhile, in his absence, and before the fate of his expedition
was known down the river, an appeal was sent to Governor
Douglas by the residents at Fort Hope, begging him to take
steps to maintain order in the mining district. At Victoria the
force of this appeal was increased tenfold by a report, circulated
on August 25, that forty-two miners had been massacred by
the Indians. It was known within twenty-four hours that the
rumour was untrue, and that only two men had been killed;
but Douglas left for the mainland on August 29, accompanied by
the only military force he could muster, which consisted of
thirty-five sappers and marines recruited from the troops accompanying the Boundary Commission, and from H.M.S. Satellite.
Douglas arrived at Hope on September 1. Captain Snyder
had returned to Yale on August 25, and all was quiet in the
Fraser Canyon region. The pause in hostilities might well have
been only momentary, however, and Douglas set about placing
it upon a permanent basis. His report to the Colonial Secretary,
dated October 12, is illuminating:—
My first attention was devoted to the state of the Indian population.
I found them much incensed against the miners; heard all their complaints,
and was irresistibly led to the conclusion that the improper use of spirituous
liquors had caused many of the evils complained of.
I thereupon issued a proclamation, of which I have transmitted a copy,
warning all persons against the practice, and declaring the sale or gift of
spirituous liquors to Indians a penal offence, and I feel satisfied that the
rigid enforcement of the proclamation will be of great advantage both to
the whites and Indians.
I also received at Fort Hope visits from the Chiefs of Thompson's River,
to whom I communicated the wishes of Her Majesty's Government on their
behalf, and gave them much useful advice for their guidance in the altered
state of the country. I also distributed presents of clothing to the principal
men as a token of regard.29
(29) Papers relative to the Affairs of British Columbia, Part II., London,
1859, p. 4. 1938    Indian Participation in the Gold Discoveries.       17
More interesting, because it shows the consideration with
which Douglas treated the Indians, is the following paragraph,
descriptive of his parley with the natives at Hope:—
The Indians were assembled, and made no secret of their dislike to their
white visitors. They had many complaints of maltreatment, and in all cases
where redress was possible it was granted without delay. One small party
of those natives laid claim to a particular part of the river, which they
wished to be reserved for their own purposes, a request which was immediately granted, the space staked off, and the miners who had taken claims
there were immediately removed, and public notice given that the place was
reserved for the Indians, and that no one would be allowed to occupy it
without their consent.8«
Undoubtedly there were two sides to the controversy; and
an American pointed this out, indicating several of the grievances suffered by the Indians, in a letter written to the Victoria
Gazette from Yale, several days before Douglas arrived there.81
The settlement made between Douglas and the Indians in
September, 1858, virtually ended the threat of war between the
natives and the miners. Isolated clashes and murders did occur
thereafter, but for the most part peace and a new sense of
security reigned on the Fraser. Difficulty with the Indians continued to a somewhat later date on what is known as the Harri-
son-Lillooet route to the upper Fraser and Thompson. The
contemporary letter from C. C. Gardiner that was published in
a recent issue of this Quarterly describes the manner in which
he and his comrades were robbed and bullied by the natives near
Anderson Lake, 1858.32 Items in the newspapers show that
trouble was still experienced by travellers there even at the end
of the year; but here, as on the Fraser, danger of a serious
clash decreased rapidly.
There were a number of reasons for the coming of peace.
In the first place, the Indians saw that the whites had come to
stay, and realized that they had become too numerous and well
entrenched to be dislodged even temporarily, let alone to be
driven from the country. Secondly, the Crown Colony of British
Columbia was formally proclaimed in November, with Douglas
(30) Ibid., p. 5.
(31) Victoria Gazette, September 1, 1858. On the general course of
events see ibid., August 20, 24, 25, 26, 31; September 3, 7, 14, 16, and 28,
(32) British Columbia Historical Quarterly, I. (1937), pp. 250, 251.
2 18 T. A. Rickard. January
as Governor, and the new government, though still consisting of
little more than a skeleton crew of magistrates and gold commissioners, was nevertheless making its authority felt. This
authority was greatly strengthened at the end of the year by
the arrival of a detachment of Royal Engineers under the command of Colonel Moody. It is probable, too, that the pressure
of the whites upon the Indians decreased after the month of
September in a number of ways, owing to the fact that many
disappointed miners left the country.
There can be no possible doubt, however, that the dominant
influence was the character and ability of Governor Douglas.
The American miners, and Captain Snyder in particular, deserve
commendation for their moderation; but it seems obvious that
their attitude was determined to a large extent by the law-
abiding and orderly atmosphere which Douglas, in spite of the
slender resources at his command when the rush to the mines
commenced, somehow managed from the first to create upon the
mainland. Quite as significant was the fact that he had risen
to a post of high responsibility in the service of the Hudson's
Bay Company. Legally, Douglas may have exceeded his powers
upon occasion, and the controversy as to whether he placed
the service of the Crown below or above that of the Company
will doubtless be revived from generation to generation. But
even the barest outline of the part played by the Indians in the
gold-rush, such as it has been possible to give in this paper,
makes it clear that it was a happy circumstance for Crown and
Company alike that, when the great immigration of 1858 swept
up the Fraser, a man with his great knowledge of Indian character, and long experience in dealing with the natives, was
responsible for the administration of the country.
T. A. Rickard.
It has long been realized by those interested in the history of
the fur trade that the number of furs reaching the fur sales from
year to year varied considerably. Much interesting light is shed
upon these fluctuations by the note-book, now in the Provincial
Archives, in which James Douglas, with characteristic thoroughness and care, tabulated year by year, from 1825 to 1857, the fur
returns of the posts and trading districts in the area west of the
Rocky Mountains.
Besides the summarized returns from New Caledonia (roughly
the area now known as the Omineca district, northern British
Columbia), the Columbia district, and the Northern Department,
there are detailed figures from Fort Langley, Fort Victoria, Fort
Vancouver, Fort McLoughlin, Fort Rupert, Thompson's River
(Kamloops), Fort Colville, Fort Nez Perces, Fort Nisqually, Fort
Simpson, Fort Durham, and Stikine, as well as a statement of the
furs collected by the steamship Beaver along the coast of what
is now British Columbia, and the results of the Snake River
Due to unsettled conditions in the West, many of the returns
are not complete throughout the full period mentioned. Several
of the posts, such as Fort Victoria and Fort Rupert, were founded
subsequent to 1825; while others were only maintained for a
short time and then for various reasons abandoned and dismantled. Of those for which the longest unbroken series of
records are available, I have summarized the figures from Forts
Nez Perces, Colville, Thompson's River (included in New Caledonia subsequent to 1841), Fort Vancouver, Fort Langley, and
New Caledonia. From these data the accompanying graphs have
been prepared.
With certain minor exceptions, we are probably safe in assuming that the fur traded at each of these posts was drawn, for the
most part, from a more or less circumscribed area in its vicinity.
Few have given much thought to the cause of these fluctuations. Some have accepted them as a matter of course and not
paused to analyse.    Others have perhaps blamed changes in per- 20
Ian McTaggart Cowan.
/ 5
o O o ^
/           Is
Fig. 1.
Graphs illustrating abundance of fox, marten, and lynx, animals which exhibit
the 9-10 year periodicity. 1938 The Fur Trade and the Fur Cycle. 21
sonnel within the Hudson's Bay Company, rising or falling fur
prices, the dictates of fashion, or perhaps abnormally severe or
open winters, for the rise or fall in the tide of furs reaching the
metropolitan centres of the world. While it is doubtless true
that these factors did exert an influence of sorts, the fundamental
mechanism rests in the animals themselves.
In so far as the fur returns have been the only records kept
of the abundance of any kind of North American mammal over
a period of years, we are more cognizant of the features of the
pulse of abundance in fur-bearing animals than in other types.
However, precisely the same phenomena are found in almost all,
if not all, of the mammals inhabiting the temperate regions of
the world, from the mouse to the moose. In fact, to the casual
observer the alternating periods of scarcity and abundance are
oftentimes much more evident in the case of certain of the smaller
types of animals than in the larger, more elusive fur-bearers.
Any orchardist in the rural districts can vividly recall certain
winters in which the field-mice existed in hordes, and did considerable damage to his fruit trees by removing the bark around the
butts. Similarly, any one familiar with the region generally
referred to as the Great Northern Forest—which, to be specific,
extends south in our Province well into the Cariboo district—
will tell you of years in which rabbits were everywhere, of years
in which rabbits were completely absent.
In 1932, for instance, in 4 miles along the Cariboo Highway
a few miles north of Quesnel, I counted upwards of 150 rabbits
feeding on the edge of the road, and these conditions obtained
throughout the entire northern section of the Province. Two
years later, in the same district, not a rabbit was to be seen.
Four years later a week's trapping produced but four individuals.
The casual observer, trusting to his memory alone, does not
appreciate the periodicity involved in these fluctuations. To the
biologist, however, it is well known that mice, especially of the
group generally known as the voles or field-mice, reach a period
of abundance on the average about every 4 years. It so happens
that rabbit conditions have been recorded over a period of 174
years in Canada; and it has been shown by R. Macfarlane, D. A.
MacLulich, Ernest Thompson Seton, C. G. Hewitt, and others, 22 Ian McTaggart Cowan. January
that they reach a period of abundance on the average every 9.7
The basic mechanism of this rhythm of periodic abundance
and scarcity is simple. Animals increase in geometrical progression. A pair of snowshoe rabbits, for instance, having two litters of 4 young each per year will, in 5 years, have increased to
31,250 individuals—neglecting deaths in the meantime. Actually
the number of young per litter may be double that we have postulated, with corresponding effect on the rapidity of increase of the
Both environmental factors and others within the animal are
involved in this cycle. For instance, it has been shown by
Hamilton2 that, in field-mice, with numerical increase the litters
come more frequently, the litters become larger, and the breeding
season is prolonged. Favourable weather conditions may also
contribute by eliminating the heavy winter-kill, or by reducing
the juvenile death-rate which may result from wet weather when
the young are very small. All these factors serve to build up, in
a short space of time, the vast hordes of animals we have
remarked upon.
Under the conditions of acute overcrowding attendant upon
this saturation point, disease spreads rapidly, and in the short
space of a few months the animal may become almost absent.
No single disease accomplishes this cataclysmic decrease. In the
rabbit, tularaemia has been identified as one cause of death; there
is a high incidence of infection with the pus bacillus Staphylococcus aureus, which, accompanied by almost complete absence of
Staphylococcus antitoxin in the blood of the snowshoe rabbit,
often becomes fatal; and there is frequently heavy infestation
with tapeworms of at least two species—notably Multiceps
serialis.    MacLulich finds that the most serious parasite is a
(1) Macfarlane, R.: "Notes on mammals collected and observed in the
northern Mackenzie River district, etc.," Proceedings, U.S. National
Museum, XXVIII. (1905), pp. 673-764. Seton, Ernest Thompson: The
Arctic Prairies, New York, 1911. Hewitt, C. G.: The Conservation of Wild
Life in Canada, New York, 1921. MacLulich, D. A.: " Sunspots and abundance of animals," Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada,
XXX.  (1936), pp. 233-246.
(2) Hamilton, W. J., jr.: "The Biology of Microtine Cycles," Journal
of Agricultural Research, Vol. 54, No. 10, May 15, 1937, pp. 779-790. 1938 The Fur Trade and the Fur Cycle. 23
threadworm, probably Obeliscoides, which lives in the stomach
by sucking blood.8 These worms were the apparent cause of
death in six out of seven captive animals that died of " natural
The rabbit-tick Haemaphysalis leporis-palustris and the wood-
tick Dermacentor andersoni are often extremely abundant on the
head, neck, and ears of the rabbits, and probably act as vehicles
for the spread of some diseases. In mouse plagues, mouse septicaemia (Bacillus murisepticus) and a toxoplasm infection of the
brain have been found to be the most important, if not the sole
diseases responsible. Similar ailments may yet be found in rabbits, as the story is as yet largely untold.
Some authors have sought to establish correlation between
periodicity in the rabbits and lynx with periodicity in sun-spots.
A recent examination by MacLulich of the records of these mammals for a term of 174 years has conclusively shown that no such
correlation exists. Between 1751 and 1925 there were 18 rabbit
cycles, averaging 9.7 years, and in the same years 1514 sun-_pot
cycles, averaging 11.1 years. Even if fortuitous coincidence had
suggested correlation between these cycles, the 3- to 4-year cycle
of smaller rodents, such as the field-mouse, would remain to be
Inasmuch as the smaller mammals, such as mice, squirrels,
and rabbits, between them supply the bulk of the food of our carnivorous fur-bearers—and all the Canadian fur-bearers except
the beaver and muskrat fall into this class—it is only to be
expected that such great increases would have an effect on the
numbers of the fur-bearers dependent upon them.
Such has been shown to be the case by Seton, Hewitt, and
many others. During periods of abundance of rabbits, food is
easily obtained and the carnivores are well fed, have larger litters
of young, avoid the trappers' baits, and do not succumb to starvation during the winter. Their numbers show a corresponding
annual increase. However, when the rabbits disappear in one
of the periodic epidemics, which kills them by the million, the
predator fur-bearers are hard put. Those most closely dependent upon a particular food source are of course the first to
(3) MacLulich, D. A.:   "Fluctuations in the number of snowshoe rabbits," Univ. of Toronto, Forestry Chronicle, 1935, pp. 283-286. 24
Ian McTaggart Cowan.
s$ \
Fig. 2.
Graphs illustrating abundance of the badger, grizzly bear, and black bear.    The first exhibits
a 4-5 year periodicity, the two latter show no periodicity. 1938 The Fur Trade and the Fur Cycle. 25
suffer. The more adaptable, more omnivorous types will be
affected later or not at all. The dependent species wander
widely, and often migrate to new territory in search of food. In
the meantime many of them die of starvation, many others
fall victim to the trappers' baits. Those that survive are ill-
nourished and either fail to breed, or at best produce very much
smaller litters. In many of the fur-bearers, then, an increase in
the fur returns indicates not merely a larger animal population,
but also an acute food shortage which makes the animals easier
to trap.
It follows that the rapidity of onset of this shortage, subsequent to the disappearance of the rabbit, will naturally indicate
the extent of the dependence of any carnivorous fur-bearer upon
the rabbit for its food supply. Proof of this is seen in the fact
that the marten and lynx have been shown to be the most closely
dependent upon the rabbit for food; and fluctuations in the numbers of these animals follow most closely those of the rabbit.
All the biologists above mentioned, in studying the fluctuations in numbers of fur-bearers, have worked with figures compiled at the fur sales. These figures comprise the returns for
Canada as a whole, and represent accordingly but average conditions over the thousands of square miles of terrain involved.
Inasmuch as the furs came from varying distances under widely
different conditions of transportation, those appearing in one
sale not only represented in many instances the fur-catch of two
winters back, but often included furs resulting from two or more
trapping seasons, and the figures have to be discounted accordingly. Therein lies the value of Douglas's note-book. To my
knowledge this is the first instance in which authentic annual
returns for specific forts over a more or less homogeneous area
have been available for study. It is consequently of interest to
examine these, not alone for evidence of the basic truths already
outlined, but also to investigate the local nature of the attendant
Unfortunately there are no figures available representing
the rabbit years in our region. However, as there is conclusive
evidence that a close association exists between these and the
fluctuations of lynx and marten, we can approximate the dates
of such with a fair degree of accuracy.   Judging by the lynx 26 Ian McTaggart Cowan. January
and marten returns, it is safe to assume that rabbit peaks
occurred in British Columbia in or near 1827, 1835, 1845, and
Having derived our rabbit years thus, it is of little avail to
compare them with the years of abundance of lynx and marten.
Suffice it to say that the lynx was most abundant in 1828, 1836,
1846, and 1855 in British Columbia as a whole. However, the
Hudson's Bay Company returns did not distinguish between the
true lynx (Lynx canadensis) and the bobcat (Lynx fasciatus),
two animals which live under totally different conditions. The
lynx, a dweller in the northern forest, is closely dependent on
the rabbit. The bobcat, a southerner frequenting the heavy
coastal forests and the sage-brush plains alike, lives on rabbit-
when such are abundant, but has a variety of alternative food
sources to fall back upon. It is not surprising, therefore, to
find that the returns from Fort Langley and Fort Vancouver,
where " lynx " would be largely bobcat, shows a different series
of peaks than those of New Caledonia; viz., 1831, 1840, 1850,
and 1856 at Langley, and 1833 and 1854 at Fort Vancouver.
In these two localities the rabbits never undergo the extreme
fluctuations in numbers characteristic of the north. Correspondingly, we note that the lynx population is more stable,
ranging from a low of 2 in 1833 to a high of 46 in 1845 at Fort
Vancouver, and a low of 8 and a high of 423 at Fort Langley,
in contrast with a low of 43 and a high of 4,246 in New Caledonia. This same series of figures illustrates nicely the change
that takes place as one proceeds from the colder to the warmer
regions, progressing as one does so from the violently fluctuating populations of the north (where lynx increase 100 time3
from lowest ebb to highest), through an intermediate increase
of 50 times in the intermediate latitude of Langley to a relatively stable population (an increase of but 20 times) at Fort
Vancouver, 300 miles farther south.
In Canada as" a whole it has been found that the marten does
not respond to a period of rabbit scarcity as rapidly as does the
lynx, which indicates that the marten is a more versatile hunter.
Yet for some reason, over the short period of years covered by
the present returns, there is a closer correlation between marten
and rabbit than between lynx and rabbit.   In other words, the 1938 The Fur Trade and the Fur Cycle. 27
highest number of marten were trapped in the winter prior to
that in which the greatest number of lynx were trapped, i.e.,
in 1826, 1836, 1845,1853. The intervals between peaks are here
10, 9, and 8 years, with an average of 9 years duration.
With the disappearance of rabbits in the northern woods, the
marten, as do the lynx, undertake extensive mass movements.
That these are motivated by lack of food can hardly be controverted. In the case of the lynx, the earlier lean years of each
rabbit depression are often marked by their appearance in
territory not usually inhabited by them. It is of passing interest
to note that the " no-rabbit" years see a wave of horned owls
and goshawks sweeping out of the north over the rest of North
America, birds which under better food conditions would have
wintered in the boreal forests.
Though the mink feeds aquatically to a greater or less degree,
depending on local conditions, the parallelism between its peak
years, 1825-26, 1837 (as the mean of two minor peaks), 1845,
and 1855, and those of the marten already given, would suggest
a common dependence on a single food source—the rabbit. The
above peaks for mink show an average interval of 9.7 years—
precisely that demonstrated for the rabbit.
The fur returns from Fort Victoria, while including a small
percentage of furs from the mainland, as evinced by the presence
on the list of fisher, fox, lynx, and badger, species not occurring
on Vancouver Island, are no doubt largely indicative of conditions on this extensive and effectively isolated island.
We have here the opportunity of examining the pulse of
abundance in mink and marten independent of the influence of
rabbit fluctuations, as Vancouver Island has these fur-bearers
but no indigenous rabbit population. Fort Victoria returns show
marten peaks in 1842, 1852, 1855, and 1857, a rhythm entirely
independent of that on the adjoining mainland. The fluctuations in the number of marten on Vancouver Island are very
possibly correlated with corresponding changes in abundance
of mice and squirrels, their chief food. Though figures are
lacking, it is well known that these forms of mammal life undergo
waves of increase and decrease similar to those of the snowshoe
rabbit, but with a shorter period, averaging about 4 years. On
the other hand, the mink on Vancouver Island is largely an 28 Ian McTaggart Cowan. January
aquatic feeder, so that parallelism between the mink and marten
suggests something more abstruse than mere fluctuation of food
supply as the controlling agent.
The red fox, with its colour phases, the cross-fox and silver
fox, undergoes marked periodic fluctuations. Though the fox
feeds on almost any animal matter, and even under certain
conditions eats quantities of berries and other vegetation, it is
dependent upon the rabbit to a sufficient degree that its cyclic
behaviour parallels that of the rabbit. Periods of maximum
abundance appear in 1829, 1838, 1846, and 1857 — average
periods of a little over 9 years.
The fisher is one of the largest of the weasel family, and is
of particular interest to the fur-trader because it possesses the
most highly valued pelt within that family. It is never as
abundant as its smaller relative, the marten, and by reason of
its larger size and certain special psychological adaptations, it
has a wider choice of food. For instance, this animal is famed
as one of the few daring regularly to kill and eat the lowly
porcupine. As a result of its scarcity, the fisher did not display
the pronounced fluctuations seen in the more abundant species.
Nevertheless, 1829, 1838, and 1847 appear in the fur returns
as years of greatest abundance. These, it will be noticed, display
a 2- to 3-year lag when compared with our computed rabbit
years of 1827, 1835, and 1845. Hewitt, comparing the records
over a much longer period, found 9.7 years to be the cyclic period
for the fisher, running 4 years after the peak rabbit years. He
thought that this indicated a rhythm independent of that of the
rabbit, and consequently an inherent periodicity quite apart from
any food source; but this has yet to be demonstrated in any of
our carnivores. It is more logical to conclude that the fisher
represents the maximum lag of any animal sufficiently dependent
upon the rabbit to be affected by its disappearance. It takes
from 2 to 4 years for the fisher to deplete the other available
food sources, and the effect of the rabbit depression is therefore
deferred rather than immediately operative.
The food of such animals as the wolf, wolverine, and bear
may include large numbers of rabbits during peak years; but
no relation can be traced between fluctuations in their numbers
and the rabbit cycle.    They feed upon rabbits simply because 1938 The Fur Trade and the Fur Cycle. 29
the latter are easily obtainable, but are so omnivorous that other
food sources are adequate to tide them over the lean period
between " rabbit years " without material decrease in their numbers. It is true that more wolves and wolverine are taken in
the " no-rabbit" years than at other times; but that is largely
because, in their search for alternative food, they take the trappers' bait more readily.
The returns covering black, brown, and grizzly bear are of
interest, not because they exhibit periodicity, for they do not,
but because of the extraordinary degree of correspondence between the number of black and brown bear taken, and the number
of grizzlies taken in the same years. It is hard to visualize the
co-ordinating mechanism of such a correspondence between
animals of such entirely different habits. It may simply be a
reflection of weather conditions as they influence hunting conditions.
Living as it does for the most part on ground-squirrels, mice,
and insects, the 5-year cycle of abundance of the badger (peak
years 1832, 1837, 1841, 1846) may quite plausibly be regarded
as governed by the periods of maximum and minimum abundance
of the small rodents which provide the mainstay of its existence.
In the muskrat we encounter quite a different rhythm of
abundance. This marsh-dwelling rodent is very much at the
mercy of weather conditions—low water in the fall accompanied
by little snowfall and hard frosts, or extensive spring floods,
decimate the muskrat colonies. Nevertheless, there does seem
to be an indication of periodicity in its numerical fluctuation.
Records show years of abundance to have been 1827, 1833, 1838,
1842, 1845, and 1852. Periods of 6, 5, 4, 3, and 7 years, averaging 5 years, are suggestive of the 3- to 4-year cycle characteristic
of many of the smaller rodents.
The record of beaver trapped depicts a sad story of extermination1—so much so that any normal periodicity which might
have been reflected in the fur returns was completely eliminated.
In the high year of 1832, 21,290 beaver were trapped. From
that year, however, the take fell steadily downward to a low
point in 1840, when but 4,474 pelts were traded in the entire
area now comprising British Columbia, Washington, and parts
of the Yukon Territory and Oregon. 30 Ian McTaggart Cowan. January
My data for otter and racoon give no indication of periodicity. This is only to be expected. The otter, largely an aquatic
feeder, has a constant and more or less assured food supply.
Especially is this the case on the coast. The racoon, like the
bear, is an omnivorous feeder, and as such is not calculated to
exhibit a periodicity activated by any one food supply.
I have examined the present data carefully for any evidence
of a regular sequence in the succession of peak years associated
with geographic location. By reason of the varied nature of
the fauna and flora in the region under consideration, the marten and the mink are the only fur-bearers which are found
throughout the area, and which at the same time exhibit a 9- to
10-year periodicity. In these two animals there is a tendency
for the maximum to be reached one to two years earlier in the
northern' interior than in the Great Basin. Except in this
instance there seems to be no regular sequence.
To conclude, it is evident from the fur returns recorded by
Douglas that at least three main types of biological influence
were involved in the early fur trade. In the first place, there
was the influence of certain rodents, some of which themselves
yielded furs of considerable value, which fluctuated violently in
numbers, with a periodicity of about 4 years in some species,
about 10 years in others. Secondly, associated with these were
dependent flesh-eaters, whose numbers fluctuated in response to
the scarcity and abundance of their rodent prey. Lastly, there
were other fur-bearers, whose diet, while preferably carnivorous,
nevertheless was flexible enough to make them independent of
any one source of food. The latter underwent numerical fluctuations from year to year, but these did not conform to any
regular cycle.
Though much undoubtedly depended upon the skill and industry of the individual fur-trader and trapper, it is thus clear
that fundamental biological factors, beyond man's control, did
much to determine the success or failure of their enterprise.
Ian McTaggart Cowan.
Provincial Museum,
PART I.: 1844-1855.
So far as is known, Captain Cook was the first European to
make use of the timber on Vancouver Island. His two ships,
the Resolution and Discovery, were badly in need of repairs
when they reached the shelter of Nootka Sound in March of
1778, and a number of new masts and spars were fashioned
and fitted during the four weeks they remained there.
■Cook's men cut these spars for their own use, and not for
sale; and almost all the exploring and trading ships which
swarmed to the coast in later years made good their storm
damage, and ordinary wear and tear, in the same way. Very
early in the history of the maritime fur trade, however, there
developed a supplementary trade in spars and timber. Even a
rich cargo of furs occupied relatively small space, and the
traders were therefore interested in other products which would
fill their holds and which could be disposed of to advantage
elsewhere. Thus the instructions which Captain John Meares
received from his Merchant Proprietors in December, 1787,
before he sailed from China on his second trading voyage across
the Pacific, included the following note: " Spars, of every
denomination, are constantly in demand here:—Bring as many
of those as you can conveniently stow."1 Meares, in turn, gave
the following instructions to Captain Douglas, who commanded
the second of the two ships comprising the expedition: " During
the time you remain in port, your carpenters may be employed
in cutting down spars, and sawing plank; particularly boats'
knees and timbers,—all which bear a good price in China."2 So
far as spars were concerned, Meares's account of the departure
of the Felice from Nootka in September, 1788, shows both that
these instructions were carried out, and that Meares was im-
* The revised text of the presidential address to the British Columbia
Historical Association, October 8, 1937.
(1) John Meares:   Voyages Made in the Years 1788 and 1789, from
China to the North West Coast of America, London, 1790.    Appendix.
(2) Ibid. 32 W. Kaye Lamb. January
pressed by the possible future of this trade. " We also took on
board a considerable quantity of fine spars," he states, " fit for
top-masts, for the Chinese market, where they are very much
wanted, and, of course, proportionably dear. Indeed the woods
of this part of America are capable of supplying, with there
[sic] valuable materials, all the navies of Europe."8
No doubt other fur-traders followed Meares's example, but
it is not possible even to estimate the extent of these early
timber exports. Their volume was certainly not great, and
there was no such thing as a timber trade for its own sake.
Prospects for the latter seemed to brighten in 1837, when the
British Admiralty established a Pacific Station, based upon
Valparaiso. As British commercial and colonial interests in
the North Pacific developed, and the ships of the Pacific squadron
spent more and more of their time there, it seemed only logical
that they should secure their masts and spars on British territory; and the obvious source of supply was the remarkable
stand of timber on Vancouver Island.
In 1847, while Rear-Admiral Sir G. F. Seymour was in command of the Pacific Station, sample spars and timber were
secured from the Island and sent to England in the ship Pali-
nurus. In December, tests were carried out at the Portsmouth
dockyard to determine the comparative strength of Vancouver
Island and Riga spars—the latter being those in common use
in the British Navy at the time. Test pieces of wood 7 feet
long and 2 inches square were used, and it was found that the
mean breaking weight of the Vancouver Island samples was 747
pounds, whereas that of the Riga samples was only 715 pounds.
Moreover, the latter broke off short, whereas the former broke
(3) Ibid., pp. 223, 224.—In 1816 the owners of the ship Mentor suggested, in their instructions to her captain, that " When leaving the coast
it would be well to take a large number of spars between decks, which will
find a good market in China. . . ." Judge Howay states that this is
" the earliest reference that has been met, to the export of spars from the
coast since the days of John Meares, thirty years before; the next mention
of spars is in 1819, when the ship Arab, Lewis master, sailed from the
Hawaiian Islands to the coast to obtain them for the Chilean market."
See Judge F. W. Howay: " A List of Trading Vessels in the Maritime Fur
Trade, 1815-1819," Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, Third
Series, Section II., XXVII. (1933), pp. 121, 122. 1938 Early Lumbering on Vancouver Island. 33
in long splinters. " It hence appears," the report on the tests
stated, " that in so far as strength is concerned the Pine [fir]
from Vancouver's Island, is the superior Wood,—its durability
must be decided by experience."4
Captain William Brotcheg.
As early as 1844 a Captain E. Swinton, of London, had written to the Admiralty upon the subject of purchasing spars; and
on April 23 of that year the Storekeeper-General informed him
in reply that the Lords Commissioners " would be disposed to
give the prices mentioned in the enclosed statement for Spars
from the North West Coast of America if of approved quality
for Top Masts." The prices quoted varied from £45 for a 62-
foot spar 20 inches in diameter to as high as £100 for a 74-foot
spar 23 inches in diameter.6 At this point negotiations seem to
have languished, for it was not until June 10, 1847, that the
Admiralty finally agreed to receive a cargo of spars of specified
sizes and prices from Swinton. The original contract required
delivery by December 31, 1849; but in December, 1848, this time
limit was extended to December 31, 1851.6
In 1849 steps were taken to fulfil this contract, and on March
23 the ship Albion sailed from London, in command of Captain
Richard 0. Hinderwell. She went first to Sydney, Australia,
and from there proceeded to the North Pacific.7 As supercargo
she carried Captain William Brotchie, who knew the coast well,
as he had served aboard the Dryad, owned by the Hudson's Bay
Company. In spite of this the Albion early encountered misfortune, for late in the year she struck the reef which has been
known ever since as Brotchie's ledge.8 Brotchie himself had
secured licences both from the Admiralty and the Hudson's Bay
Company to cut spars on Vancouver Island; but in spite of this
the Albion crossed the Straits of Juan de Fuca and on January
5, 1850, anchored off New Dungeness, in American waters.    For
(4) Report dated Portsmouth Yard, December 27, 1847.    The original
or a copy of all official correspondence quoted is in the Provincial Archives.
(5) Storekeeper-General to E. Swinton, April 23, 1844.
(6) Storekeeper-General to Rear-Admiral David Price, October 24, 1854.
(7) Captain Hinderwell to Governor Blanshard, May 21, 1850.
(8) John T. Walbran, British Columbia Coast Names, Ottawa, 1909,
p. 64. 34 W. Kaye Lamb. January
the next three months her crew were busy felling trees and
cutting and loading spars. Meanwhile news of her presence
reached the United States customs officials at Astoria, and as
she had neither reported to them nor secured any authorization
to cut timber, she was seized on April 22 and taken to Steila-
coom.9 By that time she had " cut forty-two spars, from sixty
to ninety-six feet in length, and from eighteen to twenty-six
inches square at the but [sic~\, part of which were on board the
vessel, and the others were lying by her side."10 At Admiralty
prices her cargo was probably worth £3,000.
In an effort to save his ship, Captain Hinderwell appealed
to Richard Blanshard, who had recently been proclaimed Governor of the new Crown Colony of Vancouver Island. He contended that he had not known that a United States customs
house or port of entry existed in the region; but Blanshard
replied that Brotchie, his supercargo, was well acquainted with
the coast and must have known that he was trespassing on
American territory and that, in any event, the matter was
beyond his jurisdiction.11 John Lidgett, owner of the Albion,
carried an appeal to Washington, where he was able to enlist
the support of the British ambassador. The latter's intervention was successful; and in January, 1851, the Secretary of the
Treasury instructed the Collector of Customs at Astoria to
restore the Albion to her owner, complete with " such timber
as she may have had on board at the time of the seizure," providing the costs of the seizure were paid and she had not been
condemned and sold before these instructions arrived.12 Unfortunately the Albion had been sold in the autumn of 1850; but
the matter was referred eventually to the Commission of Claims
set up under the convention of February, 1853, and the referee
awarded the sum of $20,000 to Lidgett " on account of the hardship of the case."13 That the customs officers' had acted legally
but with undue severity seems clear to-day.   The period of joint
(9) Hinderwell to Blanshard, May 21, 1850.
(10) Report of Decisions of the Commission of Claims under the convention of February 8, 1858    .    .    .   Washington, 1856, pp. 376, 377.
(11) Blanshard to Hinderwell, June 15, 1850.
(12) F.O. 115, Vol. 117 (transcript in Provincial Archives).
(13) Report of Decisions, p. 381. 1938 Early Lumbering on Vancouver Island. 35
occupation of the Northwest Coast had ended as recently as
1846, and both British and American vessels had long been
accustomed to resort to all parts of the region without formality.
Even ships of the Royal Navy had anchored regularly in Port
Discovery, near Port Townsend, on the south shore of the Straits,
and it was not until 1848 that the first British man-of-war
entered the harbour of Esquimalt.
In spite of the loss of the Albion, Brotchie did not abandon
hope of selling spars to the Admiralty. Taking advantage of
his licence from the Hudson's Bay Company, he went to Fort
Rupert, at the northern end of Vancouver Island, and began
cutting timber there. Though Indian labour only was available,
he made remarkable progress, as is shown by a report submitted
to Rear-Admiral Moresby, then in command of the Pacific Station, by Captain Kuper, of H.M.S. Thetis, which called at Fort
Rupert in 1852. " I went with the Master to examine the
spars," Kuper wrote, " and can confidently bear testimony to
their superior quality. Mr. Brotchie deserves great credit for
the patience and perseverence he has displayed in teaching the
Indians to square and trim spars of such large dimensions, and
it is much to be regretted that having exhausted all his means,
he has not been left in a position to enable him to get them conveyed to England in completion of his contract with the Admiralty, as I feel satisfied that the introduction of spars from Vancouver's Island for the purposes of Her Majesty's Navy would
be most desirable."14 Kuper enclosed a letter from Brotchie
dated June 26, and particulars of 107 spars which were then
ready for shipment at Fort Rupert and Nimkees-.
This was1 only the first of a whole series of appeals made
to various authorities on Brotchie's behalf. In August, 1852,
Governor Douglas, when reporting to the Secretary of State for
(14) Kuper to Moresby, June 20, 1852, Hudson's Bay Papers, Colonial
Office, Vol. 726, p. 57 (transcript in Provincial Archives). In this connection the following quotation is of interest: " At the end of January, 1853,
our stay of eight months at Vancouver came to an end. We left for San
Francisco, taking with us some immense spars to be sold there for the benefit of the ship's fund; and a goodly sum they brought, for the city was
mainly one of wood in those days, and timber precious." Two Admirals, by
Admiral John Moresby, London, 1913, p. 114. Moresby was then gunnery
lieutenant of the Thetis. 36 W. Kaye Lamb. January
the Colonies upon the export trade of Vancouver Island, pointed
out that the award of a new spar contract to Brotchie by the
Admiralty, " besides rescuing a worthy and enterprising man
from ruin would give an impulse to industry and be the means
of calling into exercise a branch of trade which may lead to
very important results, as concerns the future interest of the
Colony."15 In May, 1853, Captain Prevost visited Fort Rupert
in H.M.S. Virago, and reported to Admiral Moresby regarding
Brotchie's spars as Captain Kuper had done the year before.
" I can only add my testimony to that of others, already transmitted to the authorities at home in praise of these spars," he
wrote; "the longest I measured was 116 feet long to the first
branch without a knot, 30 inches square at the root to 20 inches
at the head, a Menzies Pine, none of which have yet been
imported to England."16 When it is remembered that the longest spar ever used by the Royal Navy measured 106 feet, the
unusual quality of Brotchie's cut becomes apparent.17
Brotchie told Prevost that " he had contracted with a company at Liverpool about to send a ship in February next [i.e.,
in 1854], and that it was their Intention to offer them [the
spars] to the Government when they arrived."18 But no ship
came; and Brotchie found himself once again without any means
of transporting his spars to Europe. In 1855 he went to San
Francisco in an effort to dispose of them, and while there wrote
to Rear-Admiral Bruce, who had succeeded Moresby on the
Pacific Station, giving him particulars of 193 spars ready for
shipment, and asking if any of Her Majesty's ships could make
(15) Douglas to Sir John Pakington, August 2, 1852.
(16) Prevost to Moresby, June 7, 1853.
(17) The spar was secured from Port Gamble, Washington, for H.M.S.
Tribune, in 1859. " This magnificent spar of 106 ft. length (the finished
mast 101) and 32 inches diameter, faultless, and virtually knotless, was the
longest mast of a single spar ever seen in the British Navy; so exceptionally
beautiful indeed was it, that on our arrival at Portsmouth even the dockyard
people acknowledged its merits, although it was not of their workmanship,
and kept it as a ' show mast' in the sheds, where it lay for years, visited and
admired by thousands." Commander F. M. Norman: " Martello Tower " in
China and The Pacific in H.M.S. " Tribune," 1856-60, London, 1902, p. 258.
I am indebted to Major F. V. Longstaff for this quotation.
(18) Prevost to Moresby, June 7, 1853. 1938 Early Lumbering on Vancouver Island. 37
use of or transport a portion of them.19 Roderick Finlayson,
Chief Factor for the Hudson's Bay Company at Victoria,
endeavoured to assist Brotchie by writing to Commander Curtis,
of H.M.S. Brisk, and Curtis duly forwarded the letter to Rear-
Admiral Bruce.20 In September, 1855, the latter reported to the
Admiralty upon the whole question of Vancouver Island spars
for the Navy, and expressed the opinion that they could be
secured there to great advantage both to the Service and the
Colony.21 The previous month Governor Douglas, who was making every effort to interest the Admiralty in Esquimalt, had
renewed his appeal for a spar contract through the Colonial
Secretary.22 As late as September, 1856, Brotchie once again
went to San Francisco in an unsuccessful attempt to sell his
spars, and in November Admiral Bruce again sent full particulars to London.23 This second dispatch at length elicited a reply
from the Admiralty, dated February 28, 1857, which stated that
the Lords Commissioners deemed it " unnecessary at present to
make any arrangement for the supply of Spars from Vancouver's
Island, the Store of Spars in the several Dock Yards, being
ample."24 Six weeks before, the Lords Commissioners had
decided not to establish a depot on Vancouver Island, and had
instructed Admiral Bruce to enter into contracts for supplies in
San Francisco and the Sandwich Islands instead; and their
decision on the spar question merely reflected this larger policy.
For Brotchie this decision meant ruin, for he was never able
to raise sufficient money to charter a ship. The very size of his
spars proved a disadvantage, for it made them difficult to handle;
and so far as is known none of them ever reached a market.
Captain Brotchie himself was appointed harbourmaster for Vancouver Island by Douglas in 1858; but his health failed and he
died at Victoria on February 28, 1859, aged 60.25
(19) Brotchie to Bruce, July 30, 1856.
(20) Roderick Finlayson to Commander A. J. Curtis, July 31, 1855.
(21) Bruce to Storekeeper-General, September 5, 1855.
(22) Douglas to Lord John Russell, August 21, 1855;  also the succeeding dispatch, dated September 13, 1855.
(23) Bruce to Storekeeper-General, November 28, 1856.
(24) Storekeeper-General to Bruce, February 28, 1857.
(25) Victoria Gazette, March 1,1859. 38 W. Kaye Lamb. January
Though it is a tale of frustration and failure, Brotchie's
story has a place in the history of the lumbering industry, for
his was the first definite attempt to start an export trade from
Vancouver Island.
The Hudson's Bay Company.
The historic report in which James Douglas informed Dr.
McLoughlin, in July of 1842, that he had selected the " port of
Camosack " as the site for the new post to be established on
Vancouver Island, indicates that the Hudson's Bay Company
intended to erect a sawmill there, and enter the timber trade.
" As a harbour," the report states, " it is equally safe and accessible, and abundance of timber grows near it for home consumption and exportation. There being no fresh-water stream of
sufficient power, flour or saw-mills may be erected on the canal
of Camosack [i.e., on Victoria Harbour], at a point where the
channel is contracted to a breadth of 47 feet by two narrow
ridges of granite projecting from either bank into the canal,
through which the tide rushes out and in with a degree of force
and velocity capable of driving the most powerful machinery,
if guided and applied by mechanical skill."26 The reference is,
of course, to the spot which has been known as the Gorge for
many years. Later in his report Douglas returns to the point:
" I mentioned in a former part of this letter that I proposed to
erect any machinery required for the establishment at the narrows of this canal, about two miles distant from the site of the
fort, where there is a boundless water power, which our two
millwrights, Crate and Fenton, think might, at a moderate
expense, be applied to that object. A fresh-water river would
certainly be in many respects more convenient, as the moving
power could be made to act with greater regularity, and be
applied to machinery at probably less labour and expense than
a tide power; . . . But I saw no stream that would fully
answer these purposes    .    .    ."27
Fort Victoria was built in 1843, upon the spot Douglas had
selected the preceding year;  but when construction of a saw-
(26) Vancouver Island. Copy of Correspondence between the Chairman
of the Hudson's Bay Company and the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
.    .    .    [Return, British House of Commons.]    London, 1848, p. 5.
(27) Ibid., p. 7. 1938 Early Lumbering on Vancouver Island. 39
mill was planned, in 1847, the site chosen was not at the Gorge,
but on Millstream, at the head of Esquimalt Harbour, about a
quarter of a mile above the present Parsons Bridge. According
to notes compiled many years ago from the Fort Victoria Journal,
this location was selected in August, 1847, and construction of
the mill—the first sawmill ever erected in what is now British
Columbia—commenced in January, 1848. No doubt the inconvenience of tide-power and lack of experience in its use led to
this change of plans; but rivers, too, can pose problems, and
it was disconcerting to discover, when the mill was completed,
that there was insufficient water in Millstream to operate it.
There had been plenty of water the preceding August, when
the site was chosen, possibly because the previous winter had
been unusually severe; but all through the summer of 1848 the
new mill stood idle. In September, Roderick Finlayson, then
in charge of Fort Victoria, and Fenton, the millwright, made a
survey of the surrounding country in an effort to find a river
or lake which could either be diverted into Millstream or furnish
a more satisfactory mill-site, but none could be found.
At long last autumn rains made operation possible and on
November 24 the first lumber was sawn. It is said to have
been used to build a threshing floor in a barn at the North
dairy farm. On April 27, 1849, a shipment consisting of 8,238
feet was sent to Fort Langley—the first lumber to be sent to
the Mainland, so far as we know. The same month Fenton,
the millwright, left to seek his fortune in the gold-rush in California. His place was taken presently by Parsons, after whom
the bridge across Millstream was named. The small plant on
Millstream was not intended to engage in the export trade, but
owing to the gold-rush, and the pressing demand for lumber in
which it resulted, some shipments were sent abroad. In October,
1849, the American brig Coloney carried a pioneer shipment of
42,270 feet to San Francisco. In January, 1850, the brig Cayuga
arrived at Esquimalt to load the second cargo of lumber sent
to California. The price paid was $80 per thousand feet, and
the captain deposited $7,000 in gold dust as security.
Stray items and entries indicate that a considerable number
of shipments were sent to San Francisco and also to Hawaii
during the next few years.    Then in 1854-55 a freshet washed 40 W. Kaye Lamb. January
out the water-wheel and did serious damage both to the sawmill
and to a grist-mill which had been erected beside it. The wheel
was replaced, and Bancroft states that remains of it were still
visible when he visited Vancouver Island in 1878.28 A number
of iron bars and eyes inserted in the rock to anchor the sawmill
survive to-day.
A second sawmill was built by the Hudson's Bay Company
at Nanaimo. It was driven by water-power and the site chosen
was on the Salt Spring River, about 600 yards from the original
location of the bastion. Construction had commenced when
Captain Prevost visited Nanaimo in May of 1853.29 A few
months later, water in the mines made the installation of a pump
and engine necessary, and J. W. McKay, the officer in charge,
suggested that the latter might be made to serve two purposes.
" A circular saw," he wrote to Douglas, " may be worked by the
steam engine with apparently very little extra trouble . . .
As a great deal of Lumber is required for building, the circular
saw would be a great acquisition, the more so as our sawyers with
three pit saws,30 are barely able to supply the increasing demand
for sawn lumber in the coal mines."31 Douglas approved of the
suggestion,32 but for some reason it was not carried out.
The water-power mill was completed in October, 1854, and
oxen were brought from Victoria to haul logs. Judging from
an entry in the post journal, most of the latter were supplied
by the natives. " The Nanaimo Indians," it reads, " bring us
large quantities of saw logs—none less than fifteen inches in
diameter at the small end and fifteen feet long, at the tariff of
eight for a blanket delivered at highwater mark where required.
(28) H. H. Bancroft: History of British Columbia, San Francisco, 1887,
p. 251.   James Deans: Vancouver Island (transcript in Provincial Archives).
(29) Captain Prevost to Rear-Admiral Moresby, June 7, 1853.
(30) Before sawmills were built sawn lumber was obtained by whip-
sawing. A staging was built, sufficiently high for a person to walk under,
and a log, two sides of which had been flattened with a broad-axe, was
lashed to this. Boards were sawn from the log by two men, one on top of
the staging and the other underneath (i.e., in the "pit"), who operated a
long saw with handles at both ends.
(31) Nanaimo Correspondence (Provincial Archives), McKay to Douglas, September 24, 1853.
(32) Ibid., Douglas to McKay, September 27, 1853. 1938 Early Lumbering on Vancouver Island. 41
If an occasional one arrives under that size it is bought by us
at the tariff of sixteen for a Blanket."33 The mill was stopped
occasionally by lack of water or logs, but the need for lumber
was so great that it was kept running with as few interruptions
as possible, and upon occasions ran night and day.34
About this time the Hudson's Bay Company contemplated
entering the spar trade. Governor Simpson submitted the suggestion to the Governor and Committee in London, and in reply
received a dispatch dated April 5, 1854, containing the following
passage: " The importation of Spars from Fort Rupert, noticed
in your 13th paragraph, would we think be a profitable branch
of trade provided outward cargo could be obtained for the vessel
sent to bring them home, but at present we see no prospect of
that—With the view however of testing the market here, and of
being prepared for operations on a large scale should that be
deemed expedient, we have, in constructing the Princess Royal,
which is to replace the Norman Morison [as an annual supply
and fur ship sailing between England and Vancouver Island]
made provision for her taking in spars of a large size, with which
we intend that any room there may be over and above that
required for the furs shall be filled up."35 The objection was
well taken, and the project was not carried further.
The Vancouver's Island Steam Sawing Mill and
Agricultural Company.
Though the Vancouver's Island Steam Sawing Mill and Agricultural Company accomplished nothing, it deserves passing
notice because it advanced the first plan under which it was
proposed to apply steam-power to lumbering on the Island, and
develop the industry upon a considerable scale. The only document concerning it at hand is a prospectus dated London, June
10, 1850, intended for the consideration of the Board of Trade.
The first two paragraphs read as follows:—
(33) Nanaimo Journal, August 29, 1855.
(34) Ibid., August 8, November 1, 1855; November 21, 1856; February
24, 1857.
(35) H.B. Archives, A.6/31. p. 5. This and all subsequent references
from the Hudson's Bay Archives are quoted by kind permission of the
Governor and Committee. 42 W. Kaye Lamb. January
This Company has been established under the sanction of the Hudson's
Bay Company [to which the Island had been granted in January, 1849]
with a view to carry out the desire of the Government, that Vancouvers
Island should be colonized, and it is their intention (should it meet with the
sanction of the Legislature) to form a large trading establishment there.
It may, here, be proper to mention that the design originated in a report
which has been furnished to the Promoters, by a Captain Cooper who has
been some time engaged under the Hudson's Bay Co. & who has within the
last few weeks only arrived in this Country from Vancouvers Island, & it
is intended by the Co. to entrust the full carrying out of the design to that
Gentleman but the distance & consequent difficulty of communication renders
it imperatively necessary that the persons here forming the Company &
who are almost without exception connected in business or otherwise with
the Hudsons Bay Co. should be limited in their responsibility it is therefore
proposed that a Company should be formed with a Capital (to commence
with) of £10,000 to be raised by shares of £250 each, with a power to
increase the Capital to £15 or even £20,000 provided the scheme should
become a prosperous one.
The object of the Co. will be in the first instance to purchase in this
Country of large & expensive Machinery consisting of a Steam Engine &
the other necessary Machinery of Saw Mills for the purpose of being transmitted to Vancouvers Island to enable the Company to carry out their Trade
in Sawing Timber (of which there is great abundance) for exportation.86
More will be heard of Captain Cooper, but the Company dis-'
appears from sight;  and, in spite of the similarity of name, it
seems to have had no connection whatsoever with the Vancouver's Island Steam Saw Mill Company, whose fortunes we must
next consider.
Vancouver's Island Steam Saw Mill Company.37
This Company was a private venture, and was in no way
connected with the Hudson's Bay Company, although the latter
acted as its bankers, and all those who subscribed its initial
capital were Hudson's Bay employees. The decision to form it
was made at a meeting held in Victoria on December 28, 1851.
It was agreed that the capital should be £2,000, in £100 shares.
The original subscription list has survived, and it indicates that
(36) The prospectus is printed in full in the Report of the Provincial
Archives Department    .    .    .    1918, Victoria, 1914, p. 79.
(37) Unless otherwise noted, documents and details relating to this
Company are quoted by permission from the original minute and record
book, which is preserved in the Archives of the Hudson's Bay Company
(H.B.C. Arch. Old No. 136). 1938 Early Lumbering on Vancouver Island. 43
James Douglas, David D. Wishart, J. D. Pemberton, and Roderick
Finlayson took two shares each, while one share each was taken
by Charles Dodd, John Work, W. F. Tolmie, John F. Kennedy,
J. W. McKay, George Simpson, jr., W. H. McNeill, W. A. Mouat,
Robert Clouston, and James Sangster. Dr. Helmcken attended
the first meeting and was expected to subscribe, but failed to
do so. Sea captains took a prominent part in early lumbering
on Vancouver Island, and it is interesting to note that the
fourteen subscribers included five shipmasters.
No time was lost in completing preliminaries, and on January
17,1852, Roderick Finlayson, as Vice-Chairman, wrote to Messrs.
Albert Pelly & Company, of London, appointing them agents of
the new Company and asking them to purchase the machinery
required for a mill. They were also requested to engage a man
capable both of building a sawmill and supervising its operation
when completed.
Late in the spring of 1852 the Hudson's Bay ship Norman
Morison reached England. Her master, Captain Wishart, was
one of the shareholders in the Company; and he was distressed
to find upon his arrival that no order for the machinery had
yet been placed. Though the record does not so state, there can
be no doubt that the Company hoped to profit from the boom
arising from the California gold-rush; and Wishart impressed
upon Pelly & Company the need for immediate action. The
consequence was that on July 6, 1852, the latter reported to the
Vancouver's Island Steam Saw Mill Company as follows:—
. . . Capt. Wishart having explained to us the great importance that
no time should be lost ... we have been actively engaged in enquiring
about & inspecting such Saw frames as might be for sale ready made either
new or slightly used.—We have succeeded in procuring a Saw frame efficient,
strong and well made (not highly finished) which has been hardly at all
used, which we think will quite do the work you require. The price delivered
alongside the " Norman Morison " is £450—in addition to which there will
be the cost of a few duplicates & extras which we thought necessary.
We have likewise purchased a new portable 20 horse power steam engine
complete to work the saw mill for the sum of £250 and a circular saw frame
for the sum of £20. We are now having a few alterations made in the
drums &c. to allow of its being applied to haul timber from the Water.
This engine as well as the Saw Mill has been carefully examined by a
practical engineer of high standing who pronounces them perfectly efficient
and well suited for the purposes for which they are intended. 44 W. Kaye Lamb. January
The saw-frames, the engine, and a boiler were on board the
Norman Morison when she sailed from London in August, 1852.
Her passengers included John Hall, who had undertaken to serve
the Vancouver's Island Company for five years as millwright,
engineer, and sawyer.
The vessel arrived at Victoria on January 16, 1853, and from
that date troubles crowded upon the Company. The original
site chosen for the mill was on Cordova Bay; but before the
Norman Morison arrived this had been rejected in favour of the
north shore of the lagoon at Albert Head. When the machinery
was landed there, it was found that part of it had been damaged.
The Company claimed compensation and Douglas duly submitted
their case to the Governor and Committee in a letter dated May
19, 1853. But to the facts of the case he added the following
significant comment: ". . . I may however observe, that the
Steam Saw Mill Company have so far been unfortunate in their
affairs, in consequence of the want of proper superintendance
the shareholders being all engaged in the [Hudson's Bay] Company's service, and having no opportunity of attending to the
business of the Saw Mill, which is left to the Engineer Hall, who
has shewn neither zeal nor uprightness in serving them."38 In
August, the shareholders met and decided to discharge John Hall.
Giles Ford was chosen as his successor, and Captain James
Sangster was urged to take up residence at Albert Head and
assume sole charge of the mill. Whether Sangster did so does
not appear.
In January, 1854, the shareholders met to consider their
financial troubles. The original capital had proven to be insufficient " to set the Mill going," and most of them agreed to
advance further sums to the Company. Giles Ford was sent
to San Francisco to purchase an additional boiler and other
equipment, which was secured at a cost of $1,852.46; but matters"
did not improve. In March Douglas reported that the Company
was " a most signal failure " which had " not made a penny of
return."39 In January, 1856, the shareholders were again called
upon to advance funds to meet a debt of £579 due the Hudson's
(38) H.B.C. Arch. B. 226/b/6.
(39) Douglas to the H.B. Co., London, March 16, 1854.    (H.B.C. Arch.
B. 226/b/ll.) 1938 Early Lumbering on Vancouver Island. 45
Bay Company; but instead of complying they decided instead
" that the Mill & premises appertaining thereto [should] be sold
by public auction in order thereby to recover the Debts owed by
the same." For some reason this resolution was not acted upon;
and the last entry in the old minute book of the Company is an
incomplete record of a second resolution, passed at a meeting
of the shareholders held in March, 1857, apparently empowering
Roderick Finlayson to sell the mill.40
In any event, later in the year the mill was sold to James
Duncan, of Victoria, for whom James Yates went security. The
price was £2,000, which was to be paid in four instalments.
Duncan claimed later that " the machinery having been out of
order, it prevented him from fulfilling all the terms of his agreement."41 He stated further that he had expended $3,712 upon
improvements to the plant.42 But his payments fell in arrears,
and in June, 1858, the matter was taken to court. The jury
found for the defendant, but the case was put in Chancery and
remained unsettled for several years. Meanwhile, on August
29,1859, the mill was burned to the ground. " The fire," according to the Victoria Gazette, " is supposed to have originated in
the spontaneous combustion of a heap of sawdust lying at the
works. Another report is that a party of Indians who encamped
there recently, had caused the conflagration by their camp
fires."43 This excerpt has a certain interest, because the reference to the " heap of sawdust" is the only evidence which has
come to light which proves that Vancouver Island's first steam
sawmill ever produced a foot of lumber.
The case in Chancery was finally settled in March of 1862,
when there was nothing left of the mill but its ruins and site.44
Duncan regained possession of the latter, only to lose it again
in 1863, when payments due the Government fell in arrears.46
Meanwhile the £579 owing to the Hudson's Company was being
(40) This concludes the portion of the text based upon the old minute
(41) Victoria Press, March 21, 1862.   An account of the settlement of
the case in Chancery which gives its history in some detail.
(42) James Duncan to Colonial Secretary, August 20, 1863.
(43) Victoria Gazette, September 3, 1859.
(44) Victoria Press, March 21, 1862.
(45) Duncan to Colonial Secretary, August 20, 1863. 46 W. Kaye Lamb." January
repaid by degrees. The Grand Ledgers show that it was partly
paid off in 1858 and 1859, but it was not settled finally until as
late as April, 1864.46
The Lumber Market:  1849-1855.
It may be well to consider next the general character and
extent of the lumber trade of which the pioneer mills were endeavouring to secure a share.
At first the local demand for lumber on Vancouver Island,
and the British portion of the Mainland, was very limited. Even
in 1854 the population of Victoria was only 300, and that of
Nanaimo 125. So far as this local market was concerned, the
fact that the Hudson's Bay Company erected two small water-
power mills merely indicated that the requirements of the Company's posts had risen above the modest level at which they could
be supplied efficiently by whip-sawing.
The gold-rush in California changed the situation completely.
It not only provided a highly profitable market for the surplus
product of the Hudson's Bay mills, but led to the organization of
the unfortunate Vancouver's Island Steam Saw Mill Company,
and the initiation of other happier enterprises. What happened
on Vancouver Island, however, only reflected what was taking
place on a much larger scale across the Straits, in the Puget
Sound area. Though the first mill on the Sound was built in
1847, before the gold-rush, it was the boom market in California
which led to the rapid growth of the industry. Some ten mills
seem to have been in operation in 1853, and by 1855 the number
had risen to sixteen, with a normal daily capacity of 85,000 feet.47
In 1858 the Port Gamble mill alone could cut 50,000 feet in
twenty-four hours.48
The Puget Sound mills thus far outstripped the Vancouver
Island plants in size and importance; and in addition the latter
were handicapped by the 20-per-cent. duty levied upon all lumber
(46) H.B.C. Arch. A. 14/51, f. 26;  A. 14/58, f. 62;  A. 14/64, f. 94.
(47) Report of the Superintendent of the Coast Survey . . . 1856,
Washington, 1856, p. 293.
(48) Iva L. Buchanan: " Lumbering and Logging in the Puget Sound
Region in Territorial Days," Pacific Northwest Quarterly, XXVII. (1936),
p. 39. See also the valuable notes in Bancroft's History of Washington,
San Francisco, 1890, pp. 337-339. 1938 Early Lumbering on Vancouver Island. 47
imported into the United States. When the negotiations which
resulted in the reciprocity treaty of 1854 between Canada and the
United States were in progress, Governor Douglas did his best to
convince the Colonial Office that Vancouver Island should be
included in the agreement. In dispatch after dispatch he pointed
out how much free access to the San Francisco market would
mean to the Colony, but his representations were disregarded.
The part played in the lumber export trade by the Hudson's
Bay Company has already been noted. Its first shipment was
made in October, 1849, and others followed in 1850 and later
years. In 1852 a new participant entered the trade in the person
of Captain James Cooper. Cooper had been in the service of the
Hudson's Bay Company, as master of one or other of their annual
supply ships, from 1844 to 1850. In the latter year it will be
recalled that he was associated with the group of London capitalists who attempted unsuccessfully to organize the first Vancouver's Island Steam Sawing Mill and Agricultural Company.
When this scheme was abandoned, Cooper decided to emigrate to
Vancouver Island as an independent settler, and sailed from
London in the ship Tory in September, 1850. He formed a partnership with a fellow-passenger, Thomas Blinkhorn, and when
they reached Victoria, in May, 1851, they took up land at Met-
chosin. Cooper intended to be a trader as well as a farmer, and
had brought with him, in sections, a small iron schooner which
he assembled at Victoria. She was the first vessel registered
there, and the certificate of examination states that she was of
45 tons burthen and had " One deck, Two Masts, Standing Bowsprit, Shield Head & Iron Built."49 In spite of her small size,
the Alice, as she was christened, ventured as far afield as San
Francisco and the Hawaiian Islands. Cooper and Blinkhorn
were both active and enterprising, and they traded in all manner
of goods, from coal on the one hand to potatoes and cranberries
on the other. Of more immediate interest is the fact that they
also traded in piles, spars, and squared timbers, most of which
seem to have been secured in the vicinity of Sooke for the California market.
(49) Dated January 7, 1852;   signed by Charles  Dodd and William
Mitchell (original in Provincial Archives). 48 W. Kaye Lamb. January
The association of Sooke with lumbering goes back as far
as 1849, when the original settler there, Captain W. C. Grant,
arrived and took up land. About 1850 Captain Grant installed
a small water-power sawmill at the mouth of a stream at the
north-east end of Sooke Basin—the second mill to be built on
Vancouver Island. In 1853 he left the Colony, after having disposed of his property to John Muir and his sons. The Muirs
were coal-miners, who had been brought out in 1849 by the Hudson's Bay Company to develop the coal deposits at Fort Rupert.
Later they were at Nanaimo for a time, when the mines were
being opened there; and John Muir, sr., first went to Sooke to
test a seam of coal for the Hudson's Bay Company. In 1852,
however, the Muirs secured a contract to supply piles, which
were then in great demand in San Francisco. Thereafter the
sons devoted all their time to the lumber trade and the farms at
Sooke; though John Muir, sr., retained his position as foreman
of the miners at Nanaimo for some time.
The year 1853 saw the California boom reach its height; and
it was in this same year that lumber exports from Vancouver
Island first became of some importance. Late in 1852 Douglas
appointed a collector of customs, whose chief duty was the entering and clearance of ships which visited the Island; and in May,
1853, he reported at some length to the Hudson's Bay Company
upon the prospects of the Colony's export trade. The passage
upon the lumber business, and the difficulties and competition
which it was facing, reads as follows: " The export of timber to
California, is now beginning to attract attention, several American vessels having lately called here for cargoes of Piles—i.e.,
round and hewn timber, for the California market, a branch of
trade which requires careful nursing, as the timber at Nisqually
[at the southern end of Puget Sound], is of fully better quality,
than that of this Island, but the advantage gained by loading
here, is a great saving of time, equal to the voyage to and from
Nisqually, which seldom occupies less than 15 days; that advantage is in some measure counterbalanced by the duty of 20 per
cent, charged in the Ports of the United States on foreign timber . . . "60   A sentence in a second letter to London, written
(50)  James Douglas to Archibald Barclay, May 16, 1853. 1938 Early Lumbering on Vancouver Island. 49
two months later, shows that this trade was having its effect upon
general conditions in the Colony: " There is at present a great
demand, for squared and round timber in California which
affords highly remunerative employment to the labouring classes,
and adds both to the scarcity and price of labour, as a good axeman can make from 4 to 6 dollars a day in that line."51
Neither Captain Cooper nor the Muirs possessed sufficient
capital to develop their business upon a large scale; but their
prospects were sufficiently promising to attract the notice of a
Mr. Webster, whom Douglas described as " a crafty American
Adventurer, who was striving to secure a monopoly of the timber
exports from Soke District."62 In June, 1853, by taking advantage of the incompetence of a Justice, Webster managed to secure
the arrest of two ships which were then loading spars at Sooke,
and their masters were forbidden, in the Queen's name, to receive
any further timber on board. The latter appealed to Governor
Douglas, who at once ordered the vessels released from custody;
but in September Webster brought an action against the Muirs
and was awarded damages to the sum of $2,213 and costs.
Douglas's response to this second assault was prompt and drastic.
He decided that the time had come when something more than a
Justices' Court was essential in the Colony, and on September 23
the Legislative Council met, established a Court of Common
Pleas, and appointed David Cameron its first Judge. It is significant, as Douglas informed the Colonial Secretary with obvious
satisfaction, that " after that addition to the bench, Mr. Webster
decamped " and never returned to Vancouver Island.63 At the
same session, the Legislative Council took the further precaution
of passing a series of timber regulations, the important provisions of which were two in number. In the first place, a duty
of tenpence per load of 50 cubic feet was imposed upon all timber
cut on the public lands; and section 3 provided " That no person,
not being a subject of Her Majesty the Queen and a resident of
Vancouver's Island, shall cut timber on the public lands under
(51) Douglas to Barclay, July 12, 1953.
(52) Douglas to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, December 11,
(53) Ibid. 50
W. Kaye Lamb.
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a penalty not exceeding £20."64 When reporting this legislation
to the Colonial Secretary, Douglas explained that its purpose was
" altogether protective, it being thereby intended to prevent the
waste and destruction of timber on the public Lands, and to throw
the timber trade, as much as possible into the hands of the actual
The original registers of the port of Victoria, dating back to
November, 1852, are still in existence; and from this and other
sources, notably Captain Grant's well-known Description of Vancouver Island,56 the accompanying list of lumber ships which
sailed from Victoria or Sooke in 1853 has been compiled. Of the
nineteen sailings, the most interesting is the first, that of the
Chilean bark Aurelia, which left Sooke for Valparaiso on January 13, laden with spars secured from the Muirs. This is the
earliest known shipment of any size to be sent to South America.
Grant states that the total lumber exports from Vancouver
Island in 1853 were as follows: Piles, 128,800 running feet;
squared timber, 16,500 cubic feet; spars, 22,000 running feet;
sawed lumber, 10,000 superficial feet.57 Unfortunately it seems
impossible to reduce these figures to a single total expressed in
terms of board-feet. Most of this timber came from limits owned
by the Muirs and others. Douglas notes in a revenue statement
dated October 24, 1853, that duty had then been paid upon 563
loads of timber, but adds: " That return shews the quantity of
timber only which was cut for exportation, on the public lands,
but a far greater quantity has been exported by persons who
have purchased tracts of wood land, on which no duty is levied."68
Few details are available regarding the lumber trade in 1854
and 1855. An old entry states that in the latter year the brig
Recovery, owned by the Hudson's Bay Company, made four voyages to Hawaii, with full cargoes which included 18,000 feet of
(54) Minutes of the Council of Vancouver Island (Archives Memoir
No. II.), Victoria, 1918, p. 22.
(55) Douglas to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, January 7,1854.
(56) Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, XXVII. (1857), pp.
268-320. The shipping list, which is on pp. 312, 313, was apparently compiled in great part from the port register. The latter is in the Provincial
(57) Ibid., p. 313.
(58) Douglas to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, October 24,1853. 52 W. Kaye Lamb. January
lumber and 421,000 shingles. No doubt the latter were what we
know to-day as shakes.59 By the summer of 1855 Captain Cooper
had cut a total of 1,200 spars for the San Francisco market,60 and
a statement by John Muir, sr., summarizes the business done by
the Muirs up to July, 1855, as follows: " I beg to state that for
the last two years I have been engaged in the Spar trade in which
time I have loaded fourteen vessels (four of the said vessels
belonging to Messrs. Barrows & Sons, San Francisco.) carrying
from 200 to 800 Tons and shipped to the San Francisco, Valparaiso, and China Markets, the said Spars being allowed by
competent Judges to be superior to the New Zealand Spars the
largest ones yet shipped are 32 inches in Diameter at the partners & 93 ft long, down to studding Sail Booms . . . "61 To this
may be appended Michael Muir's statement to Bancroft, in 1878,
that " Sooke was the first place from which piles and spars were
exported. San Francisco, Shanghai, Australia, Hong Kong,
Sandwich Islands, South America, and England, were points of
Grant states that piles were " sold to the shipping at six cents
per foot, squared timber at twelve cents," presumably in 1853.68
The profit to the ship-owner at the height of the gold-rush boom
must have been great, as Bancroft notes that "skippers paid
eight cents a foot for piles delivered alongside the vessel, and
sold them in S[an] F[rancisco] for a dollar a foot."64 In 1855,
John Muir, in speaking of his trade in spars, stated that he had
received three shillings per foot for the large ones, "and the
smaller ones in proportion delivered afloat." At this rate the
price of an 80-foot spar would be £12; and at the same date
Captain Brotchie, despairing of finding a market for the mag-
(59) Incidentally the Recovery has a place in lumbering history, as she
was originally the American brig Orbit, and carried the first cargo of lumber ever exported from Puget Sound. Bancroft: History of Washington,
p. 15.
(60) Rear-Admiral Bruce to Storekeeper-General, Admiralty, September 5, 1855.
(61) John Muid to Commander A. J. Curtis, July 30, 1855.
(62) Bancroft:   History of British Columbia, p. 255.
(63) Grant, op. cit., p. 311. He also states that spars were sold at 12
cents a foot, but this must surely be an error.
(64) Bancroft:  History of Washington, p. 337. 1938 Early Lumbering on Vancouver Island. 53
nificent spars lying at Fort Rupert, was prepared to supply a
similar spar for as little as £ Comparison with the prices
originally quoted by the Admiralty to Captain Swinton indicates
the determining influence which remoteness from markets, and
dependence upon vessels owned by other interests, exercised upon
the cash return actually secured by the exporter of timber on
Vancouver Island in early days.
W. Kaye Lamb.
Provincial Library and Archives,
Victoria, B.C.
(65)  Commander A. J. Curtis to Rear-Admiral Bruce, August 9, 1855. A NOTE ON THE CHANGE IN TITLE OF
Fort St. James on Stuart Lake is one of the oldest settlements
in British Columbia. Father Morice, in his History of the
Northern Interior of British Columbia, has recorded the traditional history of the Carrier Indians and told the story of the
founding of the fort by Simon Fraser and John Stuart on a site
marked out by James McDougall.1 Although called by Fraser in
his letters by the native name Nakazleh, the post was usually
known as Stuart Lake. After the Union of the North West and
the Hudson's Bay Companies the name was changed to Fort
St. James.
In the Hudson's Bay Archives in London is preserved the correspondence book of the " New Caledonia Department" from
1821-23. Access to it was graciously permitted by the Governor
and Committee and from it the following facts have been
John Stuart dates his letters from Stuart Lake from November 3, 1821, to February 16, 1822. From February 25, 1822 on,
he uses the new title varying it from Fort Saint James to Saint
James. On October 14, 1822, he returns in a letter to James
McDougall to the older title, but also includes the new one, the
entry reading " Stuart's Lake, Saint James, 14th Oct. 1822."
In the Minutes of Council of the Northern Department of
Rupert's Land held at Norway House on August 11, 1821, and
adjourned till August 12 and 13, there is no reference whatever
to any authorization of a change in name for the post on Stuart
Lake.2 It has been conjectured that the title Fort St. James was
suggested by Fort St. John, which in accordance with the
Minutes of Council of 1823 was to be removed to Rocky Mountain
Portage.8    There is no certainty as to the reason for the change
(1) Morice, Rev. A. G., O.M.I.: History of the Northern Interior of
British Columbia, Toronto, 1905 (2nd edition), pp. 55, 63-65.
(2) Minutes of Council, 1821-31. Hudson's Bay Archives B 239 K—
pp 1-9; citation made with the permission of the Governor and Committee
of the Hudson's Bay Company.
(3) Ibid., p. 27. 56 W. N. SAGE. January
in title, but it is evident that it was sudden. Unfortunately, the
Fort St. James journal for the year 1821-22 is missing from the
Hudson's Bay Company's collection, so it is impossible to settle
this point. The Journal of Fraser Lake kept by John McDonnell
commencing April 20, 1822, calls the post Fort St. James, but
does not mention any change of name.
One thing is certain; the suggestion that Fort St. James was
named for James Douglas is absolutely contrary to fact. James
Douglas in 1822 was in the Churchill or English River district
and remained at Isle a la Cross until 1825, when he proceeded to
New Caledonia. The change in name came in February, 1822.
The reason for it is not yet apparent.
W. N. Sage.
University of British Columbia,
Contributors to this Issue.
T. A. Rickard, D.Sc, A.R.S.M., is the author of many books, including
Man and Metals and Through the Yukon and Alaska. His autobiography,
Retrospect, has just been published. He was formerly editor of the Mining
Magazine (London) and the Mining and Scientific Press (San Francisco).
Ian McTaggart Cowan, Ph.D., Assistant Director of the Provincial
Museum, has contributed many papers to scientific journals, and is an
authority upon the wild life of the Province.
Walter N. Sage, Ph.D., is Head of the Department of History of the
University of British Columbia. He is the author of the standard life of
Sir James Douglas, and of other books and papers relating to the history of
the Province.
V. L. Denton, B.A., is Principal of the Provincial Normal School, Victoria, and is well known to students of history as author of The Far West
Index to Volume I.
The title page and index to the first volume of the Quarterly are being
distributed to subscribers with this issue. It is hoped that in future it will
be possible to publish the annual index in the October number, instead of in
separate form.
The January and April, 1937, issues of the Quarterly have been out of
print for several months. A number of libraries and collectors that entered
their subscriptions late in the year were as a consequence unable to secure
copies. An appeal is therefore made to subscribers who do not wish to
preserve the Quarterly to return their copies of these issues to the Provincial
Archives, in order that libraries and others who wish to bind the magazine
may secure a complete file. If desired, payment will be made at the rate of
50 cents each for the copies returned, provided they are complete and in
good condition.
British Columbia Historical Association.
Victoria Section.
The annual meeting of the Victoria Section was held in the Provincial
Library on October 28, 1937. Dr. T. A. Rickard, the President, was elected
by acclamation to a second term of office. Other officers elected were as
follows: Vice-President, John Goldie; Hon. Secretary, Mrs. M. R. Cree;
Hon. Treasurer, Miss Madge Wolfenden; Members of the Council: Dr. J. S.
Plaskett, Dr. Kaye Lamb, E. W. McMullen, G. S. McTavish, J. B. Munro,
T. W. S. Parsons, Mrs. Curtis-Sampson, Major H. T. Nation, and Major G.
Sisman;  Auditor, G. H. Harmon.
The Secretary prefaced her report by the announcement that it was just
fifteen years since the Association had its birth. For the first ten years
the average membership was 40;   this year the membership of the Section 58 Notes and Comments. January
was 133. A brief account of the eight lectures which had been given during
the season followed.
The retiring Treasurer, Mr. G. S. McTavish, gave a detailed report,
showing a satisfactory bank balance. Conveners of Standing Committees
submitting reports were as follows: Mrs. George Phillips, Necrology; Major
Nation, Mining; C. C. Pemberton, Historic Landmarks; Miss Wolfenden,
Following the business session, Dr. Rickard presented an interesting
paper on Early Gold Discoveries in B.C. He traced the work of the Indians
in first finding and exploiting the precious metal, and linked the subsequent
development of mining in the Province to the gold discoveries in California.
Before the adjournment the Association honoured the retiring Treasurer,
Mr. McTavish, with a life membership, which he declined with thanks,
saying that he preferred to remain an ordinary member.
On Tuesday, November 16, the Society met to see the beautiful coloured
cinema pictures taken by Mr. R. H. B. Ker, grandson of Robert Ker, Auditor-
General of British Columbia in the early days of the Colony. After a few
remarks with regard to his visit in England, he proceeded to entertain the
large gathering, showing pictures he had taken of the Coronation and Naval
Review. These were followed by views of Victoria, including the Military
Tattoo held in July, and the pioneers at the garden party held by the Section at the home of Mrs. Curtis-Sampson. Mr. W. M. Halliday, for thirty
years Indian Agent at Alert Bay, until his retirement in 1933, was the
speaker at the meeting of the Section held in the Provincial Library on
Tuesday, December 21. The President, Dr. T. A. Rickard, presided. Mr.
Halliday, before becoming Indian Agent, was school-teacher at Alert Bay
for seven years, and police magistrate and coroner for a large section of
territory. He is senior Justice of the Peace for British Columbia, and
during his term of office was known to the natives as the " White Father."
His address to the Society consisted of reminiscences of early and later
days in and around Alert Bay, his personal experiences with the Indians,
and numerous interesting side-lights on the habits and characteristics of his
native charges.
Dr. R. L. Reid, of Vancouver, a guest for the evening, received a warm
welcome from the President. He spoke briefly, and brought greetings from
the Vancouver Section.
Mr. B. A. McKelvie also spoke, giving a short account of a trip made by
Mr. Halliday and himself up the coast of Vancouver Island to Nigei Island
in search of relics left by James Strange, the fur-trader, in 1786. Much
careful research had been made for years into the records of Strange's
voyage by Mr. McKelvie, who had secured from India a copy of his journal.
The searchers were rewarded by finding a round fragment of copper which,
in their opinion, was originally buried beneath the stump by Strange.
Vancouver Section.
Dr. Robie L. Reid, K.C, was elected President of the Section, by acclamation, at the annual meeting held in the City Archives, City Hall, on Thurs- 1938 Notes and Comments. 59
day, October 28, 1937. Other officers for the coming year are: Vice-
President, Reginald Tupper, K.C; Secretary, Helen R. Boutilier; Treasurer,
Kenneth A. Waites; Members of the Council, Dr. W. N. Sage, Major J. S.
Matthews, J. M. Coady, Mrs. Thomas Kirk, D. A. McGregor, J. R. V. Dunlop,
S. W. Mathews, and W. C. Ditmars.
In accepting the office of President, Dr. Reid appealed to the members
for support in an attempt to raise the membership to 600. If this were
done, he explained, it would be possible to increase the size and scope of
the Quarterly.
The annual report of the Secretary showed that four meetings of the
Section had been addressed by outstanding students of the history of British
Columbia, and that the membership had increased from 96 in October, 1936,
to 196 in October, 1937. The Treasurer reported a balance of $37.29, after
all expenses had been met.
British Columbia's position among the Five Canadas was the subject
chosen by Dr. Sage, the retiring President, for his presidential address.
Dr. Sage spoke of the geographical and cultural divisions of Canada, and
then confined his remarks to the Pacific Province. Even within this division
the speaker showed that there was considerable diversity, and that each
section of the Province has a history of its own which the Association should
endeavour to preserve. The varied racial and cultural backgrounds of the
citizens of British Columbia provide a wealth from which our own distinctive contribution to Canadian life will be made, but exactly what form this
will take remains to be seen. As Dr. Sage expressed it, " British Columbia
is a part of Canada and yet apart from it."
His Worship Mayor Miller attended the meeting, the first to be held in
the City Archives, and spoke briefly. He indicated some of the changes
which had taken place in Vancouver during the time he has lived there, and
stated that he felt that an organization such as the Historical Association
had a very real place in the life of the community.
On Wednesday, December 15, the Section met in the old Hastings Mill
Store. The speaker of the evening was Mr. Kenneth Waites, who has made
a special study of responsible government in British Columbia, and who
chose as his subject, How Self-government Came to B.C. He paid particular attention to the influence of a reform press, and to such men as John
Robson and Amor de Cosmos. In expressing the thanks of the audience to
Mr. Waites, Dr. R. L. Reid, who presided, gave an amusing description of
the meetings of the early legislators in the old Parliament Buildings at
Victoria; of how members would watch patiently to see if " Waddy "—
Alfred Waddington—or some other of their number was coming along Bird
Cage Walk to the " Goose Pen." When the late-comers finally arrived and
a quorum assembled, business would proceed.
Members of the Section were much interested in the collection of early
pictures and relics which the Native Daughters of British Columbia,
Post No. 2, have brought together in the old store building. 60 Notes and Comments. January
Local Historical Societies.
The Fraser Canyon Historical Association has had an active and interesting year. The tenth quarterly meeting of the society was held at Hope
on May 14, 1937. The President, Mr. T. L. Thacker, read a paper entitled
Memories of the Construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the Fraser
Canyon, by W. H. Holmes, of Granite Creek, B.C., which described the
writer's experiences in 1880 and subsequent years. The annual meeting
was held at Yale on July 2. The Secretary presented a report upon the
year's activities, and the following officers were elected for the year 1937-38:
President, T. L. Thacker; Vice-Presidents, E. Barry and F. Creighton;
Secretary-Treasurer, Rev. Heber H. K. Greene; Editor, L. A. Gibbs. The
third meeting of the year was held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Charles
Flood, at Flood, B.C., on October 26. There were about twenty persons
present, and many incidents and aspects of the early history of the district
were discussed by the members. Amongst those who contributed to the
programme was Mrs. Starret, who gave a vivid description of her first
journey from the Coast, in 1882. She travelled part of the way by steamer
and the rest of the trip was made in a box car.
In the course of the year Dr. W. N. Sage drew the attention of the
society to the fact that very little information was on record relating to the
history of the Fraser Canyon region for the period from 1875 to 1900. The
society has therefore decided to concentrate its attention on this period, in
an endeavour to gather as much material as possible while pioneers who
have a personal knowledge of those years are still available to assist in the
work. A number of valuable contacts with old-timers have already been
made, and there is every reason to believe that the project can be carried
through successfully.
The society's collection of photographs is growing steadily, and many
gifts have been received during the year. In addition, a number of exceptionally interesting early photographs have been borrowed and copied. An
index of the collection is now badly needed, and indices of the notes and
papers and news clippings which have been gathered should also be made
as soon as possible.
During the year the society suffered the loss by death of two valued
members—H. V. Cbttrell and A. E. Raab. Mr. Raab was Treasurer of the
Association and took a great interest in its activities. At the time of his
death he had in his possession a most interesting sun-dial, which was
originally a gift from the Royal Engineers to the people of Hope, in 1860.
The society is endeavouring to have the sun-dial itself deposited in the
Provincial Archives and a replica erected at Hope.
At the October meeting of the Similkameen Historical Association Mr.
C R. Mattice read an interesting paper on The History of the Great Northern Railway in Similkameen. Mr. Goodfellow told of a trip he had made
with W. A. (" Podunk") Davis to the top of Jackson Mountain, and of
finding at one point the old Hudson's Bay Company brigade trail, where it
switchbacked up the mountain-side. THE NORTHWEST BOOKSHELF.
Captain James Cook, R.N., F.R.S. By Vice-Admiral Gordon Campbell, V.C,
D.S.O. London: Hodder & Stoughton, Ltd., 1936. Pp. 320. 111. and
maps.   15s.
An Introduction to the Bibliography of Captain James Cook, R.N. By
Maurice Holmes, CB.   London:  Francis Edwards, Ltd., 1936.   Pp. 59.
Any one interested in a reasonable account of the life and services of
Captain Cook will find Admiral Campbell's book to be authoritative and
interesting. From the mass of material available the author has made a
careful and satisfying selection.
The introduction of four pages gives a " rough outline of the voyages of
his [Cook's] precursors." Another four pages might well have been used
in giving a clearer view of the state of Pacific exploration prior to Cook's
first voyage. No mention is made of the length of voyage, the scurvy
problem, or the control of large areas by the Dutch, Spanish, and Russian
Chapters 1 and 2 (25 pages) deal with Cook's early life and stress his
training in the coal trade, and, after enlistment, his friendship with Sir
Hugh Palliser.    This part is well done.
Six chapters (90 pages) are devoted to the first voyage, and six chapters
(96 pages) to the second voyage. This is the best portion of the book.
The inclusion of the Admiralty sailing orders is an admirable feature.
The account of the third voyage (five chapters, 71 pages), which is of
particular interest in British Columbia, practically ends with the death of
Captain Cook and a character eulogy. Better balance would have been
secured if the efforts of the expedition to find a north-east passage in 1779
had been described. This would have shown that the organization Cook
left behind was sound and able to function—one more point of greatness in
the man. Nor is any reference made to the highly important fact that, on
the voyage home by way of Macao, the sale of sea-otter skins secured at
Nootka Sound led to the advent of the maritime fur-traders on the northwest coast of America, to the breaking-down of the Russian monopoly in
Alaska, and to the Spanish occupation of the Nootka region. The book is
lamentably weak in its treatment of the results of the third voyage.
The inclusion of a list of logs and journals pertaining to the three
voyages was an excellent idea, but it is to be regretted that no attempt has
been made to annotate the entries, nor even to indicate the whereabouts of
the original manuscripts. The maps of the three voyages are well designed,
and the inclusion of two of them as end papers makes for easy reference.
The Bibliography of Captain Cook, which has been issued in a small
edition by Francis Edwards, who is known the world over as a dealer in
Americana, is a very timely and worth-while book. The author, Maurice
Holmes, states his aim clearly, " to provide an elementary guide with the
aid of which the collector and the student may be enabled to find their way 62 The Northwest Bookshelf. January
through the labyrinth of literature which surrounds the man and his
voyages." No doubt the book will be of considerable value to collectors of
material relating to Cook. Possibly that is why the edition was limited to
200 copies.
The book opens with a concise chronology of Cook's life, a feature that
might well be copied by other works of a like nature. This is followed by
biographical notes on twenty of Cook's men, which make interesting reading.
The list might have been extended with profit.
Section 1 of the bibliography " gives the titles and collations, with such
notes as appear to be called for, of the first editions of those contemporary
books and pamphlets which may be regarded as of primary importance."
It shows that the author is well informed and that his work is the fruit of
diligent and exhaustive search.
Section 2 is of doubtful value, comprising " less important books and
pamphlets by contemporary authors." Of the 43 titles listed, 19 are of no
historical value and are only of interest to one who wishes to examine some
of the literary sewage of the 18th century.
Section 3 consists of a selective list, with notes, of more recent titles,
beginning with Ellis's Narrative of a tour through Hawaii, 1826, and concluding with Vice-Admiral Campbell's Captain James Cook, 1936. This
chronological arrangement is used throughout the book, and it is regrettable
that an author index was not included.
A total of 108 titles are listed in the three sections. The notes appended
are short, condensed, and readable, and will be of great interest and value
to libraries and collectors interested in books relating to Cook. They possess
that admirable quality which leaves one with the desire for more and disclose
the wide range of the author's reading and research.
V. L. Denton.
Provincial Normal School,
Victoria, B.C.
A Monograph of the Totem-Poles in Stanley Park, Vancouver. By Rev.
G. H. Raley.   Vancouver, 1937.    Pp. 24.   111.
By long residence among the native peoples of our coast, and by patient
study of their life and art, Dr. Raley is well qualified to write this Monograph. As a young man in the Methodist ministry he was stationed at
Kitimat in 1893 and at Port Simpson in 1906. In 1914 he was appointed
Principal of the Coqualeetza Residential School for Indian children, at
Sardis. Since his retirement in 1934 he has continued to take an active
interest in Indian life and art.
This booklet is " a monograph of the Totem Poles in Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia." It is intended as an inexpensive guide for
tourists. Within 24 pages all the totems are illustrated, and their stories
told briefly. A chapter on totems in general precedes descriptions of the
poles in the park. Of these there are at present six, the Thunderbird pole
at Prospect Point, and five near the Lumbermen's Arch—the Wakius, Sisa-
kaulus, Dsoo-kwa-dsi, Nhe-is-bik, and Skedans poles.   The booklet is attrac- 1938 The Northwest Bookshelf. 63
tive, the illustrations are good, the totems are faithfully described, and
their stories well and authoritatively told. Previous guides have omitted
any mention of the gifted men who carved the poles. These were master-
craftsmen who interpreted, in totemic art, family histories and tribal
legends of our coast Indians. From Dr. Raley we learn that the Thunder-
bird pole was carved by Chief Mattias Joe Capilano, and that See-wit of
Blunden Harbour carved the Nhe-is-bik pole in 1892.
J. C Goodfellow.
Princeton, B.C.
By Juan de Fuca's Strait. By James G. McCurdy. Portland, Oregon:
Metropolitan Press, 1937.   Pp. vi., 312.   $3.
Though its first chapters deal with the reputed voyage of Juan de Fuca,
and the exploration of Puget Sound two centuries later by Captain Vancouver, this book is almost exclusively a history of the city of Port
Townsend, Washington. The narrative proper commences with the story
of Alfred A. Plummer, who was born in Maine in 1822, started westward
in the late forties, reached San Francisco in May, 1850, and arrived at
Steilacoom in the last days of that year. Later he proceeded to Port
Townshend (as the name was then spelled), where he filed a land claim on
April 24, 1851. He was the first white settler upon what became in time
the site of the city; and Port Townsend folk are proud of the fact that his
claim was filed six months before the founding of Seattle.
Mr. McCurdy's father arrived in 1857, and his book thus represents the
accumulated lore of two generations of Port Townsend pioneers. It is
filled to the brim with local details, and the ability of the author is revealed
by the fact that, in spite of this, it will interest the general reader. He has
managed to make his story colourful and dramatic without sacrificing his
sense of proportion. Almost every aspect of the life and development of
the community is dealt with at some length; and though only some one
familiar with local history can judge its accuracy, it has every appearance
of having been written with care. The only error noted by this reviewer
was some confusion between the Fraser River gold excitement and the later
rush to the Cariboo. On two occasions (pages 127, 136) the Cariboo rush
is dated 1858, when a reference to the Fraser River excitement is evidently
The author has set an example which might well be followed elsewhere.
In the words of the Portland Oregonian, " Every community needs such a
book. ... It would provide a marvellously rich library if every city
or every county in the Pacific northwest had its elderly resident who was
sufficiently interested and accomplished to do what Mr. McCurdy has done
for Port Townsend."
The story touches British Columbia at several points. It adds an interesting account of the voyage of the Georgiana to the story of the gold
excitement in the Queen Charlotte Islands in 1852, and local repercussions
of the 1858 rush are indicated.   Considerable space is devoted to marine 64 The Northwest Bookshelf. January
history, much of which relates to British Columbia as well as Washington.
The author obviously has a special interest in things maritime, possibly
because his father, William A. McCurdy, was by profession a ship-joiner,
and had received his training in the famous MacKay shipyard in Boston.
There are a few misprints, which should be corrected in later editions
(see pages 145, 165, 198, 199). The index adds greatly to the value of the
book as a work of reference, and the 18 illustrations are well-chosen and of
great historic interest. The end papers and frontispiece consist of a useful
outline map of Clallam and Jefferson counties, but it is a pity that in one
place or the other a map of the city itself was not substituted.
W. Kaye Lamb.
Provincial Library and Archives,
Victoria, B.C.
A short history of the Shaughnessy Heights United Church, Vancouver,
entitled The First Ten Years (pp. 15), has just been published by the congregation. The text was prepared by Mrs. R. E. Jamieson and Dr. W. H.
Smith, and is a model of its kind. The circumstances which led to the
founding of the church are outlined, and its construction and activities are
then described concisely, but without the omission of any pertinent fact or
figure. The events described are so recent that the value of the booklet
may be overlooked; but its interest and importance will become apparent
as the years slip by. Every congregation would do well to follow this
example and place its recent history on record, while the information
required can be obtained readily at first hand.
A special issue of the Kamloops Sentinel dated September 3, 1937, contains two valuable articles upon the history of early missions and churches
in the Kamloops-Okanagan region. The Catholie Church in Kamloops was
contributed by Sister Mary Stella, and the article entitled Glimpses of
Protestant Church History is by Rev. J. C. Goodfellow, Secretary of the
Historical Committee of the B.C. Conference of the United Church. A most
interesting paper consisting of Biographical Notes on Joseph LaRocque who
founded Fort Shuswap appears in the same issue. The original French
text was supplied by Mr. Alfred LaRocque of Montreal, and the translation
was prepared by His Honour Judge J. D. Swanson.
Mention should also be made of a special 82-page edition of the Vernon
News, published on October 21, 1937, which reviews the history of practically the whole of the Kamloops-Okanagan district.
Printed by Charles P. Banfield, Printer to the King's Most Excellent Majesty.
550-1237-9557 We
Organized October 31st, 1922.
His Honour Eric W. Hamber, Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia.
OFFICERS, 1937-38.
Hon. G. M. W_m       - Honorary President.
W. N. Sage  President.
J. S. Plaskett  1st Vice-President.
Kenneth A. Wattes   - 2nd Vice-President.
E. W. McMullen     -       -       - Honorary Treasurer.
Muriel R. Cree  Honorary Secretary.
Robie L. Reid  Archivist.
F. W. Howay J. M. Coady H. T. Nation
J. C Goodfellow B. A. McKelvie
To encourage historical research and stimulate public interest in history;
to promote the preservation and marking of historic sites, buildings, relics,
natural features, and other objects and places of historical interest, and to
publish historical sketches, studies, and documents.
Ordinary members pay a fee of ?2 annually in advance. The fiscal year
commences on the first day of October. All members in good standing receive
the British Columbia Historical Quarterly without further charge.
All correspondence and fees should be addressed in care of the Secretary,
Provincial Archives, Parliament Buildings, Victoria, B.C.


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