British Columbia History

British Columbia Historical Quarterly Apr 30, 1943

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APRIL,  1943 We
Published by the Archives of British Columbia
in co-operation with the
British Columbia Historical Association.
W. Kaye Lamb.
The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C.
Willard E. Irel.a
(On active service, R.C.A.F.)
J, C. Goodfellow, Pri F. W. How. '.'estminster.
Robie L. Reii A. Rickard, Victoria.
W. N. Sage, Van
Editorial communications should be addm e Editor.
Subscriptions should be sent to the Provincial Archives, Parliament
Buildings. .  B.C.    Price, 50c. the copy, or §2 the year.    Members
.jf vhe British Columbia Historical Association in good standing receive the
riy without further charge.
Neither tho Provincial Archives nor the British Columbia Historical
Association assumes any responsibility for statements made by contributors
to the magazine. We
" Any country worthy of a future
should be interested in its past."
Vol. VII. Victoria, B.C., April, 1943. No. 2
Victoria Centenary Issue.
The Founding of Fort Victoria.
By W. Kaye Lamb     71
Sir James Douglas: A New Portrait.
By B. A. McKelvie 1    93
Five Letters of Charles Ross, 1842-44-
Edited with a biographical note  103
The Diary of Robert Melrose: Part I., 1852-58.
Edited with an introduction and notes  119
Notes and Comments:
Celebration of the Victoria Centenary  135
Pacific Station Records.
By R. P. Bishop    139
British Columbia Historical Association  141
Contributors to this Issue  143
The Northwest Bookshelf.
Winther:   The Trans-Mississippi West:  A Guide to its Periodical
Literature (1811-1938).
By F. W. Howay  144
Stefansson: Greenland.
Author's Note.—A special word of thanks is due Mr.
J. Chadwick Brooks, Secretary to the Governor and Committee
of the Hudson's Bay Company, who not only granted permission to print the excerpts from documents in the Company's
Archives that are included in this article, but also contrived,
in spite of war-time difficulties, to have several of these copied
from the originals expressly for the use of the writer.
The founding of Fort Victoria in 1843 marked the climax of
a controversy—one might almost say a series of controversies—
that had lasted for nearly twenty years. The point at issue was
the best location for the principal depot of the Hudson's Bay
Company on the Pacific Coast. Chief Factor John McLoughlin,
who was placed in charge of the Company's operations west of
the Rocky Mountains in 1824-25, early became a staunch supporter of the claims of Fort Vancouver, on the Columbia River.
Governor Simpson, who travelled westward with McLoughlin,
felt from the first that the main depot should be farther north.
As the years slipped by, circumstances seemed to favour first one
point of view and then the other; but in the end the consensus
of opinion turned decisively against McLoughlin.
Two considerations remained paramount throughout the controversy. First came the trading requirements of the Company.
In 1825 its activities were limited to a chain of posts in the
valley of the Columbia, and in the interior of what is now British
Columbia, all of which received their supplies and shipped their
furs by way of the Columbia River. The second consideration
was the boundary question. Until 1846 the whole area from
California to Alaska was in dispute between Great Britain and
the United States. A joint-occupation agreement had been
arrived at in 1818 and this was renewed for an indefinite period
in 1827; but uncertainty about the boundary was nevertheless
a continual source of anxiety to the Hudson's Bay Company.
Sooner or later the line would be determined; and it was most
desirable that the main depot should be located in territory which
would ultimately become British.
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Vol. VII., No. 2.
71 72 W. Kaye Lamb. April
At first both considerations bolstered McLoughlin's point of
view. When Fort Vancouver was completed, in 1825, no one
could deny that it was admirably situated to meet the trading
needs of the moment. At that time, moreover, informed circles
were of opinion that the boundary-line would follow the Columbia
River; and with this in mind Fort Vancouver had been built
on the Columbia's north bank. The post was thus situated in
territory which it was presumed would become British. This
being so, McLoughlin felt that it should become the main depot,
at least until such time as some change in conditions made it
unsuitable for the purpose.
But Governor Simpson was not convinced. For one thing,
he hoped that the Company would be able to develop an extensive
trade on the Northwest Coast, and Fort Vancouver would not be
a convenient depot for this purpose. For another, he felt that
it would be prudent to place the district headquarters at a greater
distance from the prospective boundary-line. All things considered, the mouth of the Fraser River seemed to him to be the
most promising location, particularly as he was confident that
the river itself would .provide a travel route to the interior comparable to that furnished by the Columbia. By Simpson's order
Fort Vancouver was therefore planned as an ordinary trading-
post, and built upon a site suitable only for this limited purpose.
Needless to say, when Simpson reached this decision he knew
nothing about the canyon of the Fraser. Simon Fraser -had
descended the river in 1808, and had described in his journal
the narrow chasms and swirling waters that made it an impossible route for the transport of supplies and furs; but little was
known about his experiences until a later date. A party sent
off by Simpson, late in 1824, had had time to explore only the
lower reaches of the river. In 1828, however, when travelling
westward on his second tour of inspection, Simpson himself investigated the canyon. A few months later he confessed to the
Governor and Committee in London that he would " consider the
passage down, to be certain Death, in nine attempts out of Ten."1
The plan to establish a depot at the mouth of the Fraser was at
(1) Rich, E. E. (ed.), The Letters of John McLoughlin . . . First
Series, 1825-38, Toronto and London, 1941, p. lix. (Simpson's 1829 Report,
March, 1829.) 1943 Founding of Fort Victoria. 73
once abandoned, and, to McLoughlin's immense satisfaction,
Simpson agreed that Fort Vancouver should become the headquarters of the district. The post was subsequently moved
nearer to the river, where shipments of freight and furs could
be handled more easily, and rebuilt upon a much larger scale.
At this point the depot controversy seemed to have ended;
but circumstances soon led to its revival. In the spring of 1829
the annual supply ship William and Ann, inward bound from
London, was wrecked on the bar at the mouth of the Columbia
River. A year later the Isabella met a similar fate. The Governor and Committee had long been aware of the existence of
the bar, but these events brought its dangers very forcibly to
their attention. Then in 1830 a fever epidemic broke out in the
lower valley of the Columbia, and in the course of two seasons
it decimated the Indian population. Deaths amongst the whites
were astonishingly few, but McLoughlin's men were laid up by
the score and the Company's programme of expansion was
brought to a standstill.
By the spring of 1834 the Governor and Committee had come
to the conclusion that some change in the depot arrangements
was necessary.    In March they wrote to Governor Simpson:—
The unhealthy state of [Fort] Vancouver for several years past, and the
distance at which it is situated from the Sea, render it by no means so well
adapted for the sole depot of the West side of the Mountains, now that the
Trade is extended to the Coast: we therefore think it advisable that a
Depot should be situated on the shores of Puget Sound, where there are
many places highly favorable for a Seaside Depot   .   .   .2
Simpson subsequently instructed McLoughlin to explore Puget
Sound and examine the various sites available. This McLoughlin
endeavoured to do in 1835, but sickness at Fort Vancouver forced
him to return before he had completed the survey. He reported '
to London in September that he had visited Fort Nisqually and
the head of the Sound, but that neither place could offer one of
the essential requirements for a depot—an extensive tract of
land suitable for tillage.3
(2) Governor and Committee to Simpson, March 5, 1834. This and all
subsequent quotations from documents in the Archives of the Hudson's Bay
Company are printed by permission of the Governor and Committee.
(3) McLoughlin to the Governor and Committee, September 30, 1835.
Letters of John McLoughlin, pp. 138-39. 74 W. Kaye Lamb. April
McLoughlin's report crossed a dispatch from the Governor
and Committee in which the latter dealt with the depot question
at some length.    The topic was introduced as follows:—
We have again to draw your attention to the object of removing your
Principal Depot from the Columbia River to the Coast, say to Whidby's
Island, Pugets Sound, or some other eligible situation, easy of access, as we
consider the danger of crossing the Columbia Bar too great a risk to be run
by the Annual Ships from and to England, with the Outfits and returns.^
Doubtless with McLoughlin's susceptibilities on the subject in
mind they hastened to add that " Fort Vancouver must of course
always be kept up as a large establishment," and that it " must
always be maintained as a Depot" for the interior posts and
trapping expeditions. But McLoughlin knew full well that the
supremacy of Fort Vancouver was threatened; and in his reply
he entered a strong plea for permission to carry on as before,
basing his request upon a sincere conviction that the existing
arrangement was " the most economical and efficient " that could
be made.6
His principal arguments were three in number, and to them
he clung tenaciously through the years that followed. In the
first place, as the Columbia River was admittedly still the only
practicable route to the interior, the supplies for and furs from
the numerous posts would have to continue to cross the Columbia
bar, regardless of where the principal depot was situated.
Secondly, McLoughlin insisted that the bar itself was not nearly
as dangerous as it was reputed to be, and charged that the loss
of both the William and Ann and the Isabella had been due to
the negligence of their captains. Finally, he pointed out that
a new depot on Whidbey Island, or thereabouts, would prove
costly to the Company, since it could not take the place of the
near-by posts at Fort Langley and Fort Nisqually, as the Governor and Committee evidently supposed. Fort Langley was
maintained largely because of the salmon trade, which could not
be transferred elsewhere, while it was certain that the Indians
who frequented Fort Nisqually would not go instead to the
proposed new depot.6
(4) Governor and Committee to McLoughlin, December 8, 1835. Ibid.,
p. 154.
(5) McLoughlin to the Governor and Committee, November 15, 1836.
Ibid., p. 155.
(6) Ibid., pp. 155-56. 1943 Founding of Fort Victoria. 75
In spite of his strong prejudice in favour of Fort Vancouver
it is only just to McLoughlin to say that he seized every opportunity to secure information about possible sites for a new depot.
In November, 1836, Chief Factor Duncan Finlayson, returning
from Fort Simpson in the steamer Beaver, visited Port Town-
send, Port Discovery, and Whidbey Island, but could report
favourably on none of them.7 In the light of later events it is
interesting to find that it was apparently McLoughlin himself
who first directed that the search should be extended to Vancouver Island. On December 8,1836, he wrote to Chief Trader John
Work, who was then in charge of' Fort Simpson:—
The Captain of the steamer [Captain W. H. McNeill] should also be directed
to examine on his way to Nisqually next summer the south end of Vancouver's Island for the purpose of selecting a convenient situation for an
Establishment on a large scale, possessing all the requisites for farming
rearing of Cattle together with a good harbour and abundance of timber,
in short containing every advantage which is desirable such a situation
should furnish.s
In accordance with these instructions Captain McNeill, in the
Beaver, spent some days in the early summer of 1837 exploring
the southern end of Vancouver Island. It is clear that he was
favourably impressed, but McLoughlin devoted only a few lines
to the subject in his autumn dispatch to the Governor and Committee. He stated that McNeill had " found an excellent harbour, of easy access with good anchorage, surrounded by a plain
of several miles in extent, of an excellent Soil"; but added
cautiously that it " would require to be more particularly examined before we could rely on it."9 If McNeill submitted a
written report it has been lost, and it is therefore fortunate that
James Douglas returned to the subject of this survey and dealt
with it at greater length in a letter to Governor Simpson. This
reads in part as follows:—
The survey strictly speaking commenced at Newitti1" near the north end of
the Island  and proceeded  through  Johnstones  Straits  and the  Gulf  of
(7) McLoughlin to the Governor and Committee, November 18, 1836
(postscript to dispatch dated November 15).   Ibid., p. 165.
(8) H.B.C. Archives, B.223/b/15, fo. 62.
(9) McLoughlin  to  the   Governor  and  Committee,   October  31,   1837.
Letters of John McLoughlin, p. 214.
(10) Meaning the region about the present Port Hardy.    Fort Rupert
was built there by the Company in 1849. 76 W. Kaye Lamb. April
Georgia to Pt. Gonzalo. . . .n On reaching the South end of the Island,
a decided improvement was observed in the appearance of the Country.
Three good harbours of easy access, were found west of Point Gonzalo, at
two of which, Captain McNeill passed a few days. The land around these
harbours is covered with wood to the extent of half a mile, interiorly, where
the forest is replaced by a more open and beautifully deversefied Country
presenting a succession of plains with groves of Oaks and pine trees, for a
distance of 15 or 20 miles. The most Easterly of the harbours 10 miles
West of Point Gonzalo is said to be the best on the Coast and possesses the
important advantage, over the other, -of a more abundant supply of fresh
water furnished by a stream 20 Yards wide, which after contributing to
fertilize the open Country, flows into it. The plains are said to be fertile
and covered with luxuriant vegetation; but judging from a sample of soil
brought here, I think it rather light and certainly not the best quality,
admitting even this disadvantage, I am persuaded that no part of this sterile
& Rock bound Coast will be found better adapted for the site of the proposed
Depot or to combine, in a higher degree, the desired requisites, of a secure
harbour accessible to shipping at every season, of good pasture, and, to a
certain extent, of improvable tillage land.i2
There is no doubt that the three harbours examined by McNeill were Victoria, Esquimalt, and Sooke; and of these it was
Victoria Harbour, the " most Easterly " of the three, that he and
Douglas described with such approval.13
It is clear that the Governor and Committee intended that
the new depot should be built as soon as a satisfactory site for
it had been found. Thus in February, 1837, they informed Governor Simpson that the post was to be named Fort Adelaide,14
in honour of Queen Adelaide, consort of the reigning monarch,
William IV.—a step they would scarcely have taken if the building of the post had not been in immediate prospect. Again, in
October, 1838, Douglas remarked that he was awaiting—and by
this he obviously meant that he was expecting—" instructions,
(11) The present Cadboro (Ten Mile) Point, not Point Gonzales.
(12) Douglas to Simpson, March 18, 1838. Letters of John McLoughlin,
pp. 286-87.
(13) It is interesting to note that in a dispatch dated November 15, 1837,
when they were still unaware of McNeill's survey, the Governor and Committee suggested to Douglas that the southern end of Vancouver Island
should be examined. (H.B.C. Archives, A.6/24.) When the report of
McNeill's explorations was received, they complimented him on finding so
promising a site. (Governor and Committee to Douglas, October 31, 1838;
H.B.C. Archives, A.6/25.)
(14) Governor and Committee to Simpson, February 15, 1837. (H.B.C.
Archives, D.5/4.) 1943 Founding of Fort Victoria. 77
with the necessary reinforcements of officers and men, to carry
into effect your wishes, with respect, to the proposed establishment on Vancouvers Island."15 But by that time the Governor
and Committee had adopted a policy of delay. Why they did so
we do not yet know; but it is possibly significant that John
McLoughlin arrived in London in the autumn of 1838 to confer
with officials of the Company. McLoughlin, whose opposition
to the construction of a new depot was well known, may well
have asked that the final decision as to a site should be postponed
until his return to the Pacific Coast; and in view of his long
service in the region it would be a difficult request to refuse.
Be that as it may, the fact remains that McLoughlin paid his
first and only visit to Vancouver Island almost immediately after
his return to Fort Vancouver, in the autumn of 1839. He was
accompanied by John Work and Captain McNeill. The party
proceeded first to Fort Nisqually and from there sailed in the
Beaver for Fort Langley, where they arrived early in December.
McLoughlin described their subsequent movements as follows,
in a report to Simpson:—
... On the 10th [December] left Fort Langley. On the 12th reached the
plain on the South end of Vancouvers Island which Captain McNeill
examined in 1837 and reported as a fine place for an Establishment. It is
a very fine harbour, accessible at all seasons, but it is not a place suitable
to our purpose;   on the 14th arrived at Nisqually   .   .   .16
Thus briefly did McLoughlin dismiss McNeill's discovery, and the
possible site of a depot that might rival his beloved Fort Vancouver. He made no further reference to the matter in his
report to Simpson, and did not so much as mention it in his
dispatches to the Governor and Committee.
As it turned out, McLoughlin's attitude had little influence
upon the course of events. Simpson was planning a third inspection trip to the Pacific Coast, and the Governor and Committee
decided to place the whole matter in his hands. The same month
that McLoughlin visited Vancouver Island a dispatch left London
instructing him not to make any decision as to the location of
(15) Douglas to the Governor and Committee, October 18, 1838.    Letters
of John McLoughlin, p. 267.
(16) McLoughlin   to   Simpson,   March   20,   1840.    (H.B.C.   Archives,
B.223/b/26.) 78 W. Kaye Lamb.
the new post until Simpson's arrival17—an order that had the
effect of postponing any further action until 1841.
In the interval, however, a new complication appeared on the
horizon. It had long been McLoughlin's ambition to build a
chain of trading-posts that would extend along the coast all the
way from Puget Sound to the far north. By 1834 he had completed Fort Nisqually, Fort Langley, Fort McLoughlin, and Fort
Simpson. At that time the Russian American Company controlled Alaska; but the agreement arrived at between that Company and the Hudson's Bay Company in 1839, while McLoughlin
was in London, made it possible for the latter to extend its
operations to Russian territory. In the summer of 1840 James
Douglas went to Alaska, and there took over Fort Stikine and
built Fort Taku.
As he returned southward, Douglas carefully considered the
Company's trading requirements on the whole Northwest Coast.
He concluded that one more post was needed—a fort that would
be frequented by the Indians dwelling in the region of Queen
Charlotte Sound and the northern half of Vancouver Island.
This area was then served by the Beaver and other trading
vessels, but Douglas felt that a fort would be both cheaper and
safer. On the question of its location he reported to McLoughlin
as follows:—
The place which I consider, in all respects most suitable for this purpose,
is the neighbourhood of Neweete, near the north end of Vancouver's Island,
where there are several good harbours accessible to Shipping at every
season, and which is almost directly in the centre of the Native Population -.   .   .18
McLoughlin, who infinitely preferred trading-posts to trading-
ships, and who regarded the steamer Beaver in particular as an
unnecessary and costly extravagance, welcomed this recommendation and endorsed it heartily in his fall dispatch to the Governor and Committee.19 To complete the chain of forts on the
coast by building a post at the northern end of Vancouver Island
(17) Governor   and   Committee   to   McLoughlin,   December   31,   1839.
(H.B.C. Archives, A.6/25.)
(18) Douglas   to   McLoughlin,   October   1,   1840.    (H.B.C.   Archives,
(19) McLoughlin to the Governor and Committee, November 20, 1840.
(H.B.C. Archives, B.223/V28.) a a
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seemed to him much more sensible than to build a new depot,
which he was still convinced was unnecessary, at its other
Such was McLoughlin's frame of mind when Governor Simpson—who in January had become Sir George Simpson—arrived
at Fort Vancouver late in August, 1841. A few days later
Simpson left for the north with Douglas on a seven weeks' tour,
in the course of which he visited every post on the coast except
Fort Langley. Unfortunately the conclusions he reached regarding the conduct of the coastal trade were diametrically opposed
to McLoughlin's policy. In November he wrote to the Governor
and Committee from Fort Vancouver:—
The trade of the coast cannot with any hope of making it a profitable
business afford the maintenance of so many establishments as are now occupied for its protection, together with the shipping required for its transport,
nor does it appear to me that such is necessary   .   .   .20
The thing to do, in Simpson's opinion, was to abandon all the
forts north of the Strait of Georgia except Fort Simpson, and
carry on the trade with the Beaver, supplemented by sailing-
McLoughlin did not accept defeat without a struggle. He
produced facts and figures that proved, to his own satisfaction
at least, that trading-ships—and in particular the Beaver—were
much more expensive to acquire and maintain than trading-posts.
But Simpson was adamant, and by the first months of 1842
McLoughlin knew that he would receive instructions to abandon
Fort Taku and Fort McLoughlin in 1843, and Fort Stikine in
On the depot question McLoughlin fared no better. At Fort
Vancouver Simpson had found Commodore Wilkes, commander
of the United States Exploring Expedition that circled the globe
in 1838-42. From Wilkes he learned that one of his sloops of
war, the U.S.S. Peacock, had been pounded to pieces on the bar
of the Columbia six weeks before. Even when it was not dangerous the bar was frequently a serious inconvenience, as Simpson
himself found when he left Fort Vancouver for California in
(20)  Quoted from E. 0. S. Scholefield, British Columbia, Vancouver,
1914, I., p. 417. 1943 Founding op Fort Victoria. 81
December. On March 1, 1842, he wrote to the Governor and
Committee from Honolulu:—
A three weeks detention inside Cape Disappointment, watching a favorable opportunity for crossing the very dangerous Bar off the entrance of
the Columbia river, recalled my attention very forcibly to the importance of
a depot being formed for such portion of the Company's business, as is more
immediately connected with the Foreign Trade and Shipping department,
on some eligible part of the coast instead of continuing Fort Vancouver as
the great centre of the business of the west side of the Continent, and
exposing many lives and the whole of the valuable imports and exports of
the Country to a danger which is becoming more alarming every successive
In measure as the natural resources and sources of commerce of the
Northern Pacific and its shores and interior country develope themselves,
in like measure does it become apparent that we cannot avail ourselves of
them advantageously, while entirely dependent on Fort Vancouver as the
principal depot; as independent of the dangers of the Bar, the time lost in
watching opportunities either to get out or in (frequently from a month to
six weeks, while three weeks more are often consumed after crossing the
Bar, in getting from Cape Disappointment up to Fort Vancouver) renders
it impossible to calculate with any degree of certainty on the quantum of
work that ought to be performed by the Shipping, deranging the best laid
plans, burdening the different branches of the business with very heavy
Shipping charges and depriving us of the means of embarking in other
branches of Commerce, which might be carried on with great advantage,
had we a depot eligibly situated on the Coast.
Regarding the site for the new depot, Simpson had this to say:—
The Southern end of Vancouver's Island forming the Northern side of
the Straits of de Fuca, appears to me the best situation for such an establishment as required. From the very superficial examination that has been
made, it is ascertained there are several good harbours in that neighbourhood no place however has as yet been found combining all the advantages
required, the most important of which are, a safe and accessible harbour,
well situated for defence, with Water power for Grist and Saw Mills,
abundance of Timber for home consumption and Exportation and the
adjacent Country well adapted for tillage and pasture Farms on an extensive scale. I had not an opportunity of landing on the southern end of the
Island, but from the distant view we had of it in passing between Puget's
Sound and the Gulf of Georgia and the report of C F McLoughlin and
others who have been there, we have every reason to believe there will be
no difficulty in finding an eligible situation in that quarter for the establishment in question.2!
He went on to point out that there was a good prospect that both
the salmon and whale fisheries would develop on a large scale
(21)  Quoted from the transcript in the Provincial Archives. 82 W. Kaye Lamb. April
in the region, and that a post on the Strait of Juan de Fuca would
be well situated to benefit from this trade.
It is evident, too, that political considerations weighed heavily
with Simpson when he was deciding the depot question. Some
years later he recalled that " The first idea of forming an establishment at the Southern end of Vancouver's Island was suggested by the danger that seemed to present itself from having
the whole of our valuable property warehoused at one depot."22
The proximity of Fort Vancouver to the Willamette Valley, in
which there was already an American settlement of some size,
worried him, and both then and later he was apprehensive lest
the post should be attacked and plundered of its heavy stock of
supplies. Moreover, even as early as 1842 Simpson had come
to the conclusion that, when the boundary was finally determined,
the line would follow the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Americans,
he was convinced, would insist upon having a harbour on the
Northwest Coast, and to grant this it would be necessary to give
them Puget Sound. Much as the British Government might
regret this necessity, Simpson foresaw that it would yield for the
sake of peace.23 In that event a post on the southern end of
Vancouver Island would be of the utmost strategic and political
importance, as it would bolster strongly the British claim to the
whole of the island.
McLoughlin assigned to James Douglas the task of re-examining Vancouver Island and of selecting a site for the new fort.
Douglas carried out the mission with characteristic thoroughness
and submitted a detailed report, dated July 12, 1842. As the
text of this report is readily available,24 only the first three paragraphs, in which Douglas summarized his findings, need be
quoted here:—
According to your instructions I embarked with a party of 6 men, in the
Schooner Cadboro, at Fort Nisqually and proceeded with her, to the South
(22) Simpson to McLoughlin, Ogden, and Douglas, June 16, 1845.
(H.B.C. Archives, D.4/32.)
(23) See Simpson to the Governor and Committee, March 1, 1842; transcript in the Provincial Archives.
(24) See, for example The Beaver, Outfit 273, March, 1943, pp. 4-7,
where the report is printed in full. The map that accompanied Douglas's
report was forwarded to London by McLoughlin. The portion showing the
vicinity of Victoria is reproduced in the accompanying illustration. 1943 Founding of Fort Victoria. 83
end of " Vancouvers Island," visited the most promising points of that coast,
and after a careful survey of its several Forts and harbours, I made choice
of a site for the proposed new Establishment in the Port of Camosack
which appears to me decidedly the most advantageous situation, for the
purpose, within the Straits of De Fuca.
As a harbour 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, 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.
In the several important points just stated, the position of Camosack can
claim no superiority over some other excellent harbours on the south coast
of Vancouvers Island, but the latter are, generally speaking, surrounded by
rocks and forests, which it will require ages to level and adapt extensively
to the purposes of agriculture, whereas at Camosack there is a range of
plains nearly 6 miles square containing a great extent of valuable tillage
and pasture land equally well adapted for the plough or for feeding stock.
It was this advantage and distinguishing feature of Camosack, which no
other part of the coast possesses, combined with the water privilege on the
canal, the security of the harbour and abundance of timber around it, which
led me to chase [choose] a site for the establishment at that place, in
preference to all others met with on the Island.
The " Port of Camosack " was, of course, the present Victoria
Harbour and Victoria Arm, and the word Camosack itself a
variant of the Indian name usually rendered in English as
Camosun. It is interesting to note that the determining factor
in favour of Camosack was its suitability for agriculture. Its
chief deficiency was the inadequate supply of fresh water, which
Douglas felt would " probably be found scanty enough for the
Establishment in very dry seasons . . ." The report concludes :—
The situation is not faultless or so completely suited to our purposes as it
might be, but I dispair of any better, being found on this coast, as I am
confident that there is no other sea port north of the Columbia where so
many advantages will be found combined.25
Douglas was probably still on Vancouver Island when the
Council of the Northern Department assembled at Norway House,
perused Simpson's reports, and on June 28, 1842, passed the
following resolutions:—
(25) Ibid.,p.l. 84 W. Kaye Lamb. April
That in accordance with the 23rd paragraph of Governor Sir George
Simpson's dispatch to the Governor and Committee, dated Fort Vancouver
25th November 1841, Chief Factor McLoughlin take the necessary steps for
abandoning the posts of Fort McLoughlin and Takoo in Summer 1843, and
the Posts of Stikine in Summer 1844; and fitting the "Beaver" Steamer
to secure the trade usually collected at these abandoned Establishments.
It being considered in many points of view expedient to form a depot at
the Southern end of Vancouver's Island, it is resolved that an eligible site
for such a Depot be selected, and that measures be adopted for forming this
Establishment with the least possible delay.2^
Douglas can have had no conception of the important part
the new establishment was to play in his own career, and it is
therefore interesting to find that he returned from his visit to
Vancouver Island thoroughly enamoured of the " Port of Camosack." Writing to his friend James Hargrave in February,
1843, he described it in glowing terms:—
The place itself appears a perfect " Eden," in the midst of the dreary wilderness of the North west coast, and so different is its general aspect, from the
wooded, rugged regions around, that one might be pardoned for supposing it
had dropped from the clouds into its present position. . . .
The grouth of indigenous vegetation is more luxuriant, than in any other
place, I have seen in America, indicating a rich productive soil. Though
the survey I made was somewhat laborious, not being so light and active
of foot as in my younger days, I was nevertheless delighted in ranging over
fields knee deep in clover, tall grasses and ferns reaching above our heads,
at these unequivocal proofs of fertility. Not a musquitoe that plague of
plagues did we feel, nor meet with molestation from the natives.27
He informed Hargrave further that he was soon to leave for the
Northwest Coast to superintend the abandoning of Fort Taku
and Fort McLoughlin, and the construction of the new post.
Douglas left Fort Vancouver on March 1, with a party of
fifteen men, and on the 9th arrived at Fort Nisqually, at the
southern end of Puget Sound. The next day he wrote a private
letter to Simpson, in which may be seen the last flicker of the
(26) Formal authority to abandon the posts and build the new fort on
Vancouver Island was given to McLoughlin by the Governor and Committee
in a dispatch dated December 21, 1842. This probably reached Fort Vancouver by the supply ship Diamond, which arrived on June 30, 1843; but by
that time, as we shall see, work on the new post had already commenced.
(27) G. P. de T. Glazebrook (ed.), The Hargrave Correspondence,
Toronto, 1938, pp. 420-21. 1943 Founding of Fort Victoria. 85
depot controversy. Despite Simpson's known opinions and instructions, McLoughlin still felt that a small fort was all that
was required; and it is evident that it was upon his own responsibility that Douglas ordered the building of a larger post. To
Simpson Douglas wrote:—
I am at a loss on what scale to build the new Establishment, I thought it
was designed to serve as a general Depot for our Pacific trade, and to
become a rendezvous for the shipping: but it seems I am mistaken, as the
Doctor thinks that a quadrangle of 70 yards will answer every purpose of
its erection. I am however of opinion that it should be made larger; as
whatever may be our present views, I am confident that the place from its
situation and accessibility, will eventually become a centre of operation,
either to ourselves or to others who may be attracted thither, by the valuable timber and exhaustless fisheries of that inland sea. I would therefore
propose to make the stores roomy and substantial, and the Fort on a plan
of at least 300 feet square, so that when it is up we may not be put to the
expense and derangement of incessant changes and extensions.2®
Leaving Nisqually in the Beaver on March 13, Douglas
arrived off Clover Point, Vancouver Island, about 4 p.m. on the
14th. He appears to have remained on board until the next
morning, from which point his activities are recorded in a small
pocket diary now in the Provincial Archives:—
Wednesday 15th March. Went out this morning with a boat and examined
the wood of the north shore of the harbour; it is not good being generally
short, crooked and almost unservicable. On the south shore, the wood is
of a better quality and I think I will have no difficulty in getting enough for
our purpose. Small wood for picketing [i.e., for the stockade] is scarce,
particularly cedar which answers better than any other kind for that purpose from its lightness and greater durability under ground. We will
probably have to bring such as we require from a distance.
I am at a loss where to place the Fort, as there are two positions possessing advantages of nearly equal importance, though of different kinds.
No. 1 has a good view of the harbour, is upon clear ground, and only
50 yds. from the beach, on the other hand vessels drawing 14 feet cannot
come within 130 feet of the shore, we will therefore either have to boat
cargo off and on at a great distruction of boats, and considerable loss of
time or be put to the expense of forming a jettie at a great amount of labour.
No. 2 on the other hand will allow of vessels lying with their sides
grazing the rocks, which form a natural wharf, whereon cargo may be
conveniently landed from the ships yard, and in that respect would be
exceedingly advantageous but on the other hand, an intervening point inter-
(28) Douglas to Simpson, Private, March 10, 1843. (H.B.C. Archives,
D.5/8.) 86 W. Kaye Lamb. April
cepts the view so that the mouth of the Port cannot be seen from it, an
objection of much weight in the case of vessels entering and leaving Port,
another disadvantage is that the shore is there covered by thick woods to
the breadth of 200 yards so that we must either place the Fort at that
distance from the landing place, or clear away the thickets which would
detain us very much, in our building operations. I will think more on this
subject before determining the point. The weather rather cloudy, but dry,
and beautifully clear in the afternoon.
Thursday 16. The weather clear and warm. The gooseberry bushes growing in the woods beginning to bud.
Put 6 men to dig a well and 6 others to square building timber. Spoke
to the Samose [Songish] today and informed them of our intention of
building in this place which appeared to please them very much, and
they immediately offered their services in procuring pickets for the establishment, an offer which I gladly accepted and promised to pay them a Blanket
(2%) for every forty pickets of 22 feet by 36 inches which they bring.
I also lent them 3 large axes, 1 half sqre head Do. and 10 half round head
axes, to be returned hereafter, when they have finished the job.
... 5 Men squared 1 % pee of 40 feet, & 1 pee of 32 feet today. 6 men
digging the well.   .   .   .
Friday 17th. Clear warm weather. Frost last night. The 5 squares
[squarers?] finished %pcs of 40 feet and 1 of 32 feet.   .   .   .
Six men digging the well.
Saturday 18th. Men employed as yesterday. The well is now about 11
feet deep.29
A parallel narrative is in existence, which, although it is not
concerned directly with the founding of Victoria, has an interest
of its own. Douglas was accompanied from Nisqually by a
Catholic missionary, Father J. S. Z. Bolduc, who has left this
description of his arrival at Camosun:—
[On the 14th March] we bore away for the southern point of Vancouver's Island, whither we arrived about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. At
first, only two canoes were perceived; but, after a discharge of cannon, we
saw natives issuing from their haunts and surrounding the steamboat. '
Next morning the pirogues (Indian boats) came from every side. I went
on shore with the commander of the expedition [Douglas] and the captain
of the vessel [McNeill] ;  having received unequivocal proofs of good-will of
(29) Quoted from the original in, the Provincial Archives. On the 17th
Douglas described in detail " a luminous streak in the heavens" which
appeared that evening and was again visible, when darkness fell, on succeed-
'ing days. Dr. W. N. Sage believes this to have been the great comet of 1843
(see Sir James Douglas and British Columbia, Toronto, 1930, pp. 121-122);
but see also James C. Agnew, " The Okanagan Arc," in Sixth Report of the
Okanagan Historical Society, 1935, pp. 119-121. 1943 Founding of Fort Victoria. 87
the Indians, I visited their village situated six miles from the port, at the
extremity of the bay.
Like the surrounding tribes, this one possessed a little fortress, formed
by stakes enclosing about 150 square feet.   .   .   .
My arrival being noised abroad, several neighboring nations came hither
in crowds. Saturday, the 18th, was employed in constructing a kind of
repository, whereon to celebrate mass the ensuing morn. Mr. Douglas gave
me several of his men to aid the work. Branches of fir-trees formed the
sides of this rustic chapel; and the awning of the boat, its canopy. Early
Sunday morning, more than twelve hundred savages, belonging to the three
great tribes, Kawitskins [Cowichans], Klalams [Clallams], and Isanisks
[Sanetch], were assembled in this modest sanctuary. Our commander
neglected nothing that could render the ceremony imposing; he gave me
liberty to choose on board, all that could service for its decoration. He
assisted at the mass with some Canadians, and two Catholic ladies. It was
in the midst of this numerous assembly, that, for the first time, the sacred
mysteries were celebrated; may the blood of the Spotless Lamb, fertilize
this barren land, and cause it to produce an abundant harvest.3"
The identity of the " two Catholic ladies " has not been established.
Father Bolduc remained at Camosun only until March 24,
when he left by canoe. Douglas tarried somewhat longer, but
the exact length of his stay is not known. Nor is it certain that,
when he sailed on to Fort Taku and Fort McLoughlin, men were
left behind to continue work on the new fort. It now seems
more likely that Douglas's purpose on this first visit was merely
to decide upon the precise site for the new post, and become
familiar with local conditions, in order that work might proceed
without delay when he returned from the north with the men
from the two abandoned forts.31 Be that as it may, Douglas and
the Beaver carried out their northern mission and arrived back
at Camosun on June 3. Six days later Douglas left for Fort
Vancouver, leaving Chief Trader Charles Ross, who had previously been stationed at Fort McLoughlin, in charge of the
construction of the new post.    Roderick Finlayson was second
(30) Father P. J. De Smet, Oregon Missions and Travels over the Rocky
Mountains in 1845-46, New York, 1847, pp. 56-58. Bolduc's narrative is
dated February 15, 1844.
(31) We know from Ross's letter of January 10, 1844, that work on the
well was not resumed until Douglas returned. As we shall see, the supply
of fresh water was a matter of importance, and one would think that if any
men had remained at the fort site, they would have continued this work. 88 W. Kaye Lamb. April
in command; and Ross tells us that the men numbered " little
short of forty hands."32
It is frequently asserted that Fort Victoria was originally
known as Fort Camosun, but no available contemporary document bears out the statement. The name Camosun, or Camosack,
is invariably applied to Victoria Harbour, or, occasionally, to the
neighbourhood; never to the fort itself. The post was first
known locally as Fort Albert; but when it was so named, or by
whom, does not appear. On the other hand, the distinction in
significance between the names Camosun (which in this instance
is spelled Camosum) and Fort Albert is shown clearly by an
entry in the log of the schooner Cadboro, under date August 6,
1843.    This reads:—
. . . Made all possible sail . . . and run for Camosum ... at 11.30
A.M. arrived safe and Moor'd abreast of Fort "Albert"...
A later entry, which refers to the " Harbour of ' Camosum,'"
makes the distinction still more clear. The transcript of the log
of the Cadboro in the Provincial Archives covers the period from
July 1 to November 4, 1843. Throughout those months the
Cadboro was acting as a tender to the new post; references both
to it and to Camosun are therefore numerous, and it is noteworthy that not one of them is inconsistent with the distinction
made above.33
Officially the post was never known by any other name than
Fort Victoria. William IV. having died in 1837, the original
intention of naming it Fort Adelaide, after his Queen, was
dropped, and it was christened instead in honour of the new
reigning monarch. A resolution passed by the Council of the
Northern Department at Fort Garry on June 10,1843, is interesting both in this connection, and because it shows the wisdom of
Douglas's decision to build the post upon a generous scale:—
Resolved: That the new Establishment to be formed on the Straits de
Fuca to be named Fort Victoria be erected on a scale sufficiently extensive
to answer the purposes of the Depot; the square of the Fort to be not less
(32) Ross to Simpson, January 10, 1844.    See infra, foot-note 36.
(33) I am aware that this interpretation runs counter to the statement
made by Governor Charles A. Sale in a letter dated April 7, 1927, which is
printed in Sage, Sir James Douglas and British Columbia, p. 123. 1943 Founding of Fort Victoria. 89
than 150 yards; the buildings to be substantial and erected as far apart as
the grounds may admit with a view to guarding against fire.8*
The text of this resolution presumably reached McLoughlin by
the fall Express, which arrived at Fort Vancouver on November
17, 1843. In any event, the post is referred to as Fort Victoria
in a dispatch to the Governor and Committee written by McLoughlin the next day.
The most complete description of the original plan of Fort
Victoria at present available is contained in a private letter from
Douglas to Sir George Simpson, written in November, 1843, the
text of which the Hudson's Bay Company has kindly released.
The passage reads:—
We arrived and began operations at Vancouvers Island in the beginning
of June, and after things were fairly started I returned by instructions to
this place, leaving Mr. Ross in charge. In planning the Fort, I had in view
the probability of its being converted into a Depot for the coasting trade and
consequently began on a respectable scale, as to size. It is in form a quadrangle of 330 x 300 feet intended to contain 8 buildings of 60 feet each,
disposed in the following order say 2 in the rear facing the harbour and 3
on each side standing at right angles with the former leaving the front
entirely open. The outhouses and workshops, are to be thrown in the rear
of the main buildings and in the unoccupied angles, so as not to disturb the
symmetry of the principal square. So much for the plan now for the progress made in carrying it out. On the 21st September when we last heard
from Ross the Pickets and defences were finished, and two of the buildings
completed so far as to be habitable, and they were engaged in hauling out
the logs of a third building.
The climate of the place is pleasant, and I believe perfectly healthy. It
is rather a singular fact that no rain fell there between the 10th of June
and 8th Septr., though we had heavy showers, both at this place [Fort Vancouver] and Nisqually. The great and only inconvenience of the situation
is that which I mentioned in my survey report, as likely to be felt, until such
time as wells are dug, the scarcity of fresh water in the months of August
and September. They were at times badly off for water last summer, and
■had to cart it from a distance of 1% miles in consequence of the failure of
the stream which supplies the Fort. There is a numerous Indian population
about the place, who have so far been quiet and civil, though they had many
opportunities of displaying an unfriendly disposition if they had been evil
The summer returns from June to September amount to 300 Beaver and
Otter, with a few small furs, and probably the trade will increase, when the
Cape Flattery Indians and the people inhabiting the west coast of Vancouvers Island begin to frequent the establishment.    There has of course
(34)  E. H. Oliver (ed.), The Canadian North-West: Its Early Development and Legislative Records, Ottawa, 1915, II., p. 862. 90 W. Kaye Lamb. April
been no time to attempt any thing in the way of farming, and the resources
of the country in fish, are only known as yet through the supply procured
in trade from the Natives, which was abundant after the arrival of the
salmon in July; other kinds of fish were not regularly brought in; a proof
of their being, either, less sought after or not so easily caught.35
A second letter from Charles Ross to Simpson, dated Fort
Victoria, January 10, 1844, gives a few additional details:—
Our progress in regard to the Establishment is as follows—a Quadrangle
of 330 by 300 ft. surrounded with Stoccades, eighteen feet high—one octangular Bastion of three stories erected—also, two men's houses, and one Store
each measuring 60 by 30 ft. with 17 ft. Posts & Pavilion roofs. These have
been thoroughly completed, and an Officers' & main house of 60 by 40 ft. are
rapidly advancing to the same end. The farming is as yet little more than
in embryo—there being only about five acres under cultivation, and about
the same quantity prepared for the Plough.36
Trade had continued quiet, and Ross reported that he had " as
yet collected little beyond 400 skins—Beaver & Land Otter."
'Little more than five months after this letter was written,
Ross, whose health had frequently been a cause for anxiety, died
after a brief illness, and was succeeded as officer in charge by
Roderick Finlayson.
At this point, strictly speaking, the story of the founding of
Victoria should end; but a few notes relating to later events,
and to the ultimate fate of the fort buildings, may be of interest.
The year 1843, in which Fort Victoria was built, is known in
the history of Oregon as the year of the " great immigration "
and of Champoeg. The arrival of a thousand American citizens
in a single season, and the establishment of a provisional government, made it more than ever clear that the days of British
influence in the valley of the Columbia were numbered. The
future of Fort Vancouver became increasingly uncertain, and
the Hudson's Bay Company attached more and more importance
to Fort Victoria. In the autumn of 1844 the Governor and Committee instructed Captain Mott, of the annual supply ship Vancouver, to proceed direct to Fort Victoria instead of to the
Columbia; and, although the formal transfer of the Company's
(35) Douglas to Simpson, Private, November 16,1843. (H.B.C. Archives,
(36) Charles Ross to Sir George Simpson, January 10, 1844. (H.B.C.
Archives, D.5/10.) This letter is printed complete elsewhere in this number
of the Quarterly; see pp. 113-117. 1943 Founding of Fort Victoria. 91
district headquarters was delayed somewhat longer, this event
was unmistakable evidence that the position of primacy was
already passing from the Columbia to Vancouver Island.
One journal of the old fort has survived and is now in the
Archives of the Hudson's Bay Company. It covers the period
from May 9, 1846, to May 28, 1850 ;37 and when the text becomes
available it will throw a flood of light upon the development of
the post during four eventful years. Meanwhile notes in the
possession of the writer, made from this journal many years
ago, reveal that Fort Victoria soon grew beyond the original
dimensions set by James Douglas. At least two buildings were
erected outside the walls, one of which was a powder magazine.
In 1847 the stockade was partly rebuilt and at the same time
extended to the north, in order that the whole establishment
might once more be enclosed. The work was completed on
Christmas Day, 1847. Such details as are available indicate
that the fort enclosure was enlarged to measure 300 by approximately 465 feet, or about half as big again as the original area.
A new bastion was constructed at the north-east corner, and
upon its completion the old bastion to the south-west was rebuilt
as well.
The stockade and bastions seem to have been kept in repair
as fortifications for a good many years; but the serious need
for them passed quickly. Soon after Ross's death a clash with
the natives occurred, but owing to Finlayson's courage and forbearance it only served to enhance the prestige of the fort.38
By 1850 both the Company and private individuals were erecting
buildings at considerable distances from the stockade. In 1851
James Douglas himself completed a large residence on property
adjacent to what later became the site of the Parliament
Buildings. The following year Douglas's son-in-law, Dr. J. S.
Helmcken, built a more modest dwelling next door. The gold-
rush of 1858, which in a few months caused Victoria to grow
into a town with a population of several thousands, completed
the transformation. The pickets and bastions that had been a
practical necessity only a few years before had become an
(37) H.B.C. Archives, B.226/a/l.
(38) Finlayson's own account of the incident is printed in A. S. Morton,
A History of the Canadian West to 1870-71, London, n.d., pp. 731-32. 92 W. Kaye Lamb.
An agitation was soon afoot urging the removal of the fort,
and in particular of the north-eastern bastion, which stood on
Government Street, the main thoroughfare of the new town.
Popular feeling seems to have been well expressed in a letter
printed in the Victoria Gazette in December, 1858, that poured
scorn and ridicule upon the now superfluous fortification:—
It cannot be used to fire a salute without endangering the lives of pedestrians, as well as smashing the windows in neighboring houses, as was the
case the last time a salute was fired off, and for which window-smashing a
bill has been presented to the Government for payment—so remove the
concern. 39
But the bastion survived this blast and held its ground for
another two years. By that time the Hudson's Bay Company
had built a new brick store and warehouse on Wharf Street and
had decided to sell part, at least, of the old fort property. In
preparation for this sale a portion of the fort was demolished,
as recorded in the newspapers of the time:—
The old picket fence [i.e., stockade] that has so long surrounded the fort
yard, is fast disappearing. Piece after piece it is taken down, sawed up,
and piled away for firewood. Yesterday afternoon workmen commenced
removing the old bastion at the corner of View and Government streets, and
before to-day's sun gilds the western horizon, the wood comprising it will
no doubt have shared the ignoble fate of the unfortunate pickets. Alas!
poor bastion. Thy removal should be enough to break the heart of every
Hudson Bay man in the country.4"
. Late in 1864 a second sale caused another orgy of destruction,
and the last remnants of the fort disappeared. Its passing was
thus chronicled in the press:—
Bit by bit all traces of the Hudson Bay Company's old fort are being
obliterated. The work of demolition of the remaining fort buildings has
been going on gloriously during the last few days. Yesterday evening the
last of the number, an old log house, adjoining the Globe Hotel, formerly
used as a kitchen, was brought to the ground.41
So passed old Fort Victoria, after a relatively brief life that
scarcely equalled in length the controversy that had preceded its
W. Kaye Lamb.
The University of British Columbia,
Vancouver, B.C.
(39) Victoria Gazette, December 9, 1858.
(40) Victoria Colonist, December 15, 1860.
(41) Ibid., November 25, 1864. Sir James Douglas, K.C.B.
A hitherto unpublished portrait, reproduced from the original tin-type
in the Provincial Achives. SIR JAMES DOUGLAS:  A NEW PORTRAIT.
Through the kindness of the family, the Quarterly is enabled
to present in this, the centennial year of Victoria, a reproduction
of a hitherto unpublished tin-type of the Capital City's founder,
Sir James Douglas, K.C.B. The original was presented to the
Provincial Archives by Mrs. J. E. W. Oland, granddaughter of
Sir James.
The photograph is undated, but obviously it was taken within
a few years of his death, and before the still later picture that
shows Sir James with sunken cheeks. It is also apparent that
this new likeness of the " great governor " was made after the
photograph that is so familiarly known, and which was so extensively retouched as almost to destroy the indices of personality
for the sake of a more pleasing picture.
The tin-type presents a picture of a tired, sad, and dignified
old face, but one that is filled with character. The firm, sensitive
mouth, and square determined chin; the rather bulbous nose,
the heavy-lidded eyes, and broad high forehead defy the loosening facial muscles and reveal a man of courage, decision, and
intellect. The mouth is the most interesting feature, for it
indicates at the same time decision and sentiment; but it betrays
very little humour.
A study of the " new " photograph, and of personal letters
and official correspondence of his day, lifts the veil a little and
gives a glimpse of the man, rather than the stern and somewhat
pompous governor portrayed by those familiar with him only in
his public capacity.
The business abilities and general character of James Douglas
were analysed by one of the shrewdest of his contemporaries,
Governor George Simpson, of the Hudson's Bay Company, whose
business it was to estimate the worth of his associates in the
service. Writing long before Douglas attained to the position,
either with the Company or the Crown, that he eventually occupied, Simpson had this comment to make about the young clerk:—
A stout powerful active man of good conduct and respectable abilities;—
tolerably well Educated, expresses himself clearly on paper, understands
our Counting House business and is an excellent Trader.—Well qualified for
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Vol. VII., No. 2.
93 94 B. A. McKelvie. April
any Service requiring bodily exertion firmness of mind and the exercise of
Sound judgement, but furiously violent when roused.—Has every reason to
look forward to early promotion and is a likely man to fill a place at our
Council board in course of time.i
This appreciation was penned about 1833, when Douglas was
30; and time justified Governor Simpson's evaluation of the
clerk at Fort Vancouver. He did fill a very important place at
the Company's council board, and became the dominant figure
in the affairs of the concern West of the Rockies.
Apart from Simpson's appreciation of him, James Douglas
may be said to have fashioned his life and conduct upon the Bible
and copy-book precepts. He was a slave to duty, and as long as
he was a subordinate to Dr. John McLoughlin, on the Columbia,
he gave implicit obedience to his superior. Writing to an associate he reprimanded him for his lack of courtesy to the doctor:
" You have got to learn at this hour," he declared, " that obedience is the very first and most important of our duties."2
But once he was placed in command at Fort Vancouver,
although only temporarily, due to the absence of McLoughlin in
Europe, James Douglas was ready to strike out along lines that,
it would appear, McLoughlin did not favour. Writing to Governor Simpson on March 18, 1838, he commented:— .
In consequence of Chief Factor McLoughlin being here I have not hitherto
taken a leading part in the management of affairs; but upon his departure
I shall carry into effect, such, of the several objects recommended in your
dispatch, as could not be attempted at an earlier periods
It was from this time that Douglas really blossomed. Upon
the return of McLoughlin to Fort Vancouver, and his own
appointment in 1840 to a Chief Factorship, he took a larger part
in the affairs of the Company. He became a confidant of Simpson and a diplomatic representative of the Company on the
Pacific. He was no longer restricted to the status of an inferior
who must give blind obedience to his immediate superior.
A man of deep religious principles, and—f or his day—of wide
denominational tolerance, he supported every church that sought
to spread Christianity in the western wilds, while his generosity
(1) Douglas MacKay, The Honourable Company, Toronto, 1936, p. 200.
(2) Douglas to A. C. Anderson, April 20, 1841; quoted in W. N. Sage,
Sir James Douglas and British Columbia, Toronto, 1930, p. 111.
(3) E. E. Rich (ed.), The Letters of John McLoughlin, First Series,
1825-88, Toronto, 1941, p. 269. 1943 Douglas: A New Portrait. 95
to the poor and distressed was gracious and generous. It is
interesting to look into the personal account-book that he kept.
An entry for January 2,1836, was: " To goods to poor 0.19.10 ";
and another: " Cash to Jason Lee (U.S. Missionary) 5.0.0." On
June 10 of the next year: " To Orphans Fund, 3.0.0 " and " to
Catholic Church, 2.0.0 "—and so on throughout the years. One
item in 1849 is of more than passing interest: " To goods to
ransom a slave 14/."4
This payment of ransom money to free an Indian slave shows
that James Douglas did not swerve from the social and religious
programme that he set himself to attain when he was made
Chief Factor.    It is written in the same account-book:—
The Moral renovation of the place;
Abolition of slavery within our limits;
Lay down a principle and act upon it with tonfidence;
The building of a church of Christ in this place.
Slavery was an ancient institution among the Indian tribes
of the Northwest, and it took a courageous man to fight against
a custom that was one of the pillars of the whole social system
of the savages.
In 1840, following his elevation to the Chief Factorship,
Douglas was sent to Sitka to settle the details of a trading agreement with the Russians, and he did his best to dissuade them
from selling liquor to the Indians. His habits of industry and
orderliness were shocked, for he found Sitka " crowded with
men living in idleness."5 To him, idleness was a cardinal sin.
He jotted down at the same time another observation based upon
a copy-book maxim:—
Honesty is found in all cases the best policy, but in our dealings with our
Russian neighbors it will be found so from the first day to the last of our
Personal note-books, scrap-books, and diaries left by Douglas
show that he was interested in the details of a multiplicity of
matters and things apart from those directly concerned with the
fur trade. Nature in its various phases enthralled him, and
convulsions of Nature, such as cyclones and earthquakes, tidal
waves and unusual rainfalls, fascinated him.    He was particu-
(4) James Douglas, Personal Account Book, MS., in Provincial Archives.
(5) James Douglas, Notes from Establishment of Servants and Trading
Trips, MS., in Provincial Archives.    Cited hereafter as Notes. 96 B. A. McKelvie. April
larly fond of astronomy, while a deep reader of science generally.
Occasionally he clipped out a humorous anecdote from some
periodical and carefully pasted it in a scrap-book, betraying his
own lack of spontaneous humour by labelling it "Amusing."
Occasionally a sense of the ludicrous appealed to him. Chief
Trader James Murray Yale was lacking in stature, so much so
.that he was known as " Little Yale." He was sensitive upon the
subject, and avoided standing beside Douglas when he could,
as the towering height of the Chief Factor made his own lack of
inches the more apparent. Douglas knew this, and took a quiet
delight in teasing Yale by moving with him whenever Yale
sought to lessen the contrast.6
Among the things that interested Douglas was baldness.
When he discovered that the Indians of the Northwest Coast
used a certain root for medicinal purposes, he gravely recorded:
" It prevents baldness and produces a new growth of hair."7
Dr. J. S. Helmcken, in his delightful story of his meal in Fort
Victoria in 1851, tells how Douglas questioned Dr. Alfred Benson
about the cause of baldness. It may be that he feared that he
would lose his hair with advancing age, but if so it was a needless
worry, for he kept his locks until the end.
Religious and theological topics claimed his closest attention,
while political speeches and history made up much of his reading.
He was constantly seeking a more intimate knowledge of the
ways and customs of the Indians, and when he discovered that
there was a belief among the Northwest Coast natives in the
existence of a Supreme Being whom they called Yealth, and that
he had a son named Yealth Yay, Douglas found time amid his
many other duties of the day to set it down in detail.8
He went to California to treat with the Spaniards there, following his trip to Sitka in 1840, and his sense of propriety was
I hear from the most unexceptional authority that the ladies of California'
are not in general very refined or delicate in their conversation, using gross
expressions and indulging in broad remarks, which would make modest
women blush.9
(6) Reminiscence of the late Jason Allard, told to the writer.
(7) Douglas, Notes.
(8) Ibid.
(9) Ibid. 1943 Douglas: A New Portrait. 97
In his own home and circle women were treated with every
possible respect, and with the utmost regard for the strict conventions of the period.
Such, then, was Chief Factor James Douglas at the time that
he founded Fort Victoria in 1843: austere, just, and meticulous
in all things; an accomplished business-man and shrewd diplomat, deeply religious and tolerant. He lived behind a mask and
it became part of him. It was necessary in order to impress the
natives and overawe the rougher element among the Company's
servants that he maintain " face " at all times. He remembered
that the old adage was " familiarity breeds contempt," so he
maintained a grand aloofness, even among his associates. He
was dignified and courteous to all, but he made a confidant of
no one. As a result, it was the mask and not the man himself
that was presented to the public gaze. He was pictured by
writers of his time as being cold, righteous, but unfeeling.
Could a man devoid of finer feelings pen the account of the
Cowlitz epidemic of 1830, ten years after the event, upon learning the details of that dreadful occurrence?
Every village presented a scene harrowing in the extreme to the feelings;
the canoes were drawn up upon the beach, the nets extended on the willow
boughs to dry, the very dogs appeared as ever watchful, but there was not
heard the cheerful sound of the human voice; the green woods, the music
of the birds, the busy humming of the insect tribes, the bright summer sky,
spoke of life and happiness, while the abode of man was silent as the grave.
.    .    .    Oh, God! wonderful and mysterious are Thy ways.10
Douglas was devoted to learning in all its branches, and was
particularly keen to see opportunities afforded to the young for
scholastic training. He busied himself with the affairs of the
circulating library that had its headquarters at Fort Vancouver,
and provided outposts with solid reading matter. In 1844 he
was trying to establish a school on the Columbia where the
children from distant establishments could be boarded.11
When the Rev. Robert Staines and his wife arrived at Fort
Victoria in 1849 it was not long until Douglas was praising the
work that Mrs. Staines was doing as a teacher. Three years
later the Chief Factor and Governor found time to busy himself
(10) Ibid.
(11) Douglas to James Murray Yale; letter in the possession of James
Grant, Saanich. 98 B. A. McKelvie. April
with the text-book supply for the fort school. " Bailleys School
is doing wonders—books are scarce, will you get 36 spelling
Books for that promising institution if procurable anywhere,"
he wrote to Dr. W. F. Tolmie, at Nisqually.12
It was within his own domestic circle, however, that the real
character of Douglas was more generously revealed. He was
devoted to his wife and children, but even within his own home
he could not altogether free himself from the mask he wore
before the world. His tender regard for the sweet little girl
whom he married at Fort St. James in 1828, when he was an
obscure clerk, remained undiminished by time and advances in
fame and fortune.
Mrs. Douglas is now leaving for Nesqually with James and baby to try
the effect of a change of air [he wrote to Tolmie in 1854]. I am afraid
they will put you to much trouble, which I will not forget.
Have the goodness to supply them with anything they may want at
Nesqually on my account, as I regret no expense for their
James Douglas directed the affairs of his household with the
same painstaking regard to detail that he displayed in his private
affairs and in public business. It is interesting, as throwing a
sidelight on the life and character of this very busy man, to scan
the pages of an old scrap-book and order-book now in the Provincial Archives. It discloses that he ordered the clothing for
his entire family, and gave careful directions as to the manner
in which the various garments should be fashioned. ' Picture him
in 1855, at a time when he was Governor of Vancouver's Island,
Lieutenant-Governor of Queen Charlotte Islands, and directing
the affairs of the Hudson's Bay Company in the West, sitting-
down to write to England for white and coloured muslins, yards
—40 of them—of black merino, and bolts of linings for dresses.
It was a miscellaneous order indeed, for it contained such items
as " 56 Gall. Brandy in two quarter casks," " 4 doz. old Brown
Windsor soap," " 4 doz. Eau de Cologne," four pairs of boots and
shoes for himself, " 1 Gentleman's neat silk hat measure round
outside of hat 23% inches," books and magazines, " a few scent
Bottles and other little presents for young ladies," and, finally,
(12) " Report of the Provincial Archives Department . . . of British
Columbia . . . 1913," in British Columbia Sessional Papers, 1914, Victoria, 1914, p. V 93.'
(13) Ibid., p. V 104. 1943 Douglas: A New Portrait. 99
" 1 pair Colts Revolver Pistols—Colts patent no other wanted
because inferior."14
He supplemented the order by further instructions in respect
to clothing for himself:—
The Clothing I wish to have stout and good, and as well made as can be
expected, particularly the Trowsers, upon which I am rather hard, and pray
give the Tailors a caution to sew the buttons on well. We poor Colonists
are victimised, in many ways, but chiefly in the articles of clothing and
shoes, which cost one a little fortune in the course of the year.
Again, the following year, he made a somewhat similar complaint :—
Whether it be from mistakes in the measures sent home, or from inattention of the Tradesmen, you employ, I am unable to say, but it is certain
that my clothes seldom fit so well as could be wished; a remark which
especially applies to trowsers and hats, and I have experienced all the
tortures which uneasy shoes can inflict.15
He was particularly fussy about his clothes, and wished to be
correctly attired for every occasion. Hence it was that immediately upon his return from an expedition against the Cowichans
in 1856 he wrote to London:—
I wish you would send me a good serviceable sword, with a strong belt of
which I felt the want in my late journey.16
He had probably felt himself to be improperly dressed for the
military part that he had played, and took steps to prevent a
recurrence of such an error.
In one of his letters ordering clothes from London his Scottish
thrift induced him to pen: " Clothes to be made with deep seams
for letting out if required."
But James Douglas was not penurious by any means. In
sending his daughter and niece to California " to see the lions of
the Great City " of San Francisco in the summer of 1854, he
wrote to Douglas Peyton, of that place:—
I have to beg your kind offices in behalf of my dear little ones, and shall
take it a particular favour if Mrs Peyton will receive them under her care.
. . . Expense is of course no object. ... I have to request Mrs
Peyton's acceptance of a Sea Otter skin.1''
(14) Quoted from the original scrap- and order-book, in the Provincial
(15) Ibid.
(16) Ibid.
(17) Ibid. 100 B. A. McKelvie. April
And even in those days sea-otter skins were worth real
His acts of kindness extended from lowly Indians to the
highest dignitaries who visited Victoria. Hearing of a fire that
burned the home of a friend, he wrote:—
In expressing deep regret for the misfortune which has resulted in such
loss and suffering to yourself and family, permit me to use the privilege of
an old friend in presenting, under these calamitous circumstances, the
enclosed token of my sympathy and regard. 18
The " token " was a cheque for $200.
His youngest daughter, Martha, later to become Mrs. Dennis
Harris, was the favourite of his old age. From the faded pages
of a journal that he had her start on January 1, 1866,19 his
affection for the child is evidenced throughout. When she missed
a word or omitted an entry for a day, the neat, unmistakable
handwriting of Sir James makes good the deficiency. From
these daily notes in the childish scrawl of Martha and the precise
caligraphy of her father, a glimpse may be obtained of the daily
life of the old governor in retirement. " Drove into the country
with mamma in the phaeton with Papa riding," is typical of
many an entry. Martha usually accompanied Sir James to
church, and he often took her to the theatre; she rambled with
him through Beacon Hill's groves, and many were the picnic
parties that were made up to go out to his farm at Metchosin.
It is pleasing to contemplate the grave old Sir James stealing
to Martha's room on her birthday morning in 1866, in order that
he might be the first to compliment her: " An early visit from
my own dear Papa, who kissed me fondly and wished me many
happy returns of the day; he then gave me a beautiful gold pin
set with a ruby," Martha wrote.
She grew up too quickly for old Sir James, and for her own
good he sent her to England to complete her education. The
pain of that separation of several years has been splendidly
portrayed in an earlier article in this Quarterly entitled " Letters
to Martha."20
(18) Douglas to Mrs. A. F. Pemberton, November 25,1863.
(19) The original diary is in the possession of the writer.
(20) See W. Kaye Lamb, " Letters to Martha," British Columbia Historical Quarterly, I. (1937), pp. 33-44. 1943 Douglas: A New Portrait. 101
In one of his scores of letters to Martha he wrote on his
birthday, August 15, 1872:—
Dear little Dolly came in with a rush to wish me many happy returns of
the day, leaving in my hand a shilling, as a birthday gift, and went off like
a shot, for fear I should return it to her.
The late Mrs. Edith L. Higgins, the " Dolly" referred to,
supplemented his letter, shortly before her death:—
I had been given a shilling by my father [Dr. J. S. Helmcken], and
I saw grandpa walking up and down on the front verandah, smoking. I ran
through the gate from our place and put the shilling in his hand, saying:
" Now, Grandpa, that's for you to spend on yourself in any way you like,"
and before he could recover from his astonishment, I ran away.
When Sir James died five years later, they found that shilling in the
back of his watch case.21
The last days of Sir James Douglas were spent in superintending the cultivation of his large estates; in unostentatious
benevolences; in directing the affairs of his household; and in
fondly watching the growth and development of his many grandchildren and the city that he had founded.
B. A. McKelvie.
Victoria, B.C.
(21) Personal narrative given by Mrs. Higgins to the writer. FIVE LETTERS OF CHARLES ROSS,
Charles Ross was aptly described recently as " Victoria's forgotten man." Although he was the first officer in charge of Fort
Victoria, his period of office was so short, and the name of his
successor, Roderick Finlayson, has become so well known, that
Ross has been overlooked. Fortunately there would appear to
be a considerable number of papers relating to his career in the
Archives of the Hudson's Bay Company. When the war is over,
and research in the Company's Archives can be resumed, it
should therefore be possible to do him belated justice and prepare an adequate account of his life. Meanwhile the five letters
and biographical notes here presented will at least give Ross a
place in the Victoria centenary number of this Quarterly.
Only eight letters from Ross are known to be in existence,
outside the Archives of the Hudson's Bay Company. Four,
addressed to James Hargrave, were included in the collection
of Hargrave's correspondence acquired some years ago by the
Champlain Society. These were printed in 1938.1 The remaining four letters, together with a fifth from the Hudson's Bay
Archives, are printed below.
Thanks to a memorandum sent to the Ross family by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1924, it is possible to give a brief outline
of Charles Ross's career. He was a native of Kingcraig, Inver-
nesshire, but the date of his birth is not known. He joined the
Company's service in 1818, and on October 6 of that year was
mentioned as arriving in a boat at Norway House from York
Factory. In 1818-19 he served as clerk at Norway House, and
in 1822-23 was clerk at Lac la Pluie.
In 1824 Ross was transferred to New Caledonia, where he
served as a clerk at various posts for the next eight years. In
1825-27 he was in charge of Babine Post. The trade thereabouts
declined, and Chief Factor William Connolly charged Ross with
mismanagement.    A minute dated July 25, 1827, records that as
(1) See G. P. de T. Glazebrook  (ed.), The Hargrave Correspondence,
Toronto, 1928, pp. 63-64;  91-93;  361-362;  414-415.
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, VoL VII., No. 2.
103 104 Letters of Charles Ross. April
a result Ross " was ordered out to the depot for the purpose
of instituting an enquiry into his conduct. He was, however,
exonerated later." His name cleared, Ross returned to take
charge of Bears Lake Post. In 1828 he moved to Fort George,
and in 1829-31 was at Fort Connolly.
April of 1832 found him at Fort McLeod, where he wrote to
James Hargrave:—
If you take a peep at the front piece of this Epistle, you will see that
I am no longer at Connolly's Lake—To my great delight I quitted that
dreary solitude in October last, and came down to Stuarts Lake [Fort St.
James] the Emporium of these parts. Here I passed the greater portion of
the Winter in the enjoyment of more cheerfulness, and contentment, than
I had known for many years.   .   .   .
I left Stuarts Lake about a month ago, and came here to relieve my
friend [John] Tod, who goes out on account of ill Health.   .   .   .
...   I expect to remove to the Athabasca District in the Autumn   .   .   .2
Ross was duly transferred to Athabaska and there remained
until 1838, when he was sent to the Northwest Coast and stationed at Fort McLoughlin.3 This post was abandoned in 1843
and Ross, who had just received his commission as Chief Trader,
was placed in charge of Fort Victoria, which was under construction at the time. He arrived at Victoria on June 3,1843, and died
just a year later, on June 27, 1844, apparently of appendicitis.
His letters show that Ross was a man of some education.
R. E. Gosnell, who was able to obtain some information about
the family from a grand-niece, wrote as follows:—
Walter Ross, his brother, was a physician who settled in British Guiana and
there amassed a considerable fortune. He died in 1832. One of his legatees
was Charles, to whom he bequeathed £500. John, another brother, was a
clergyman, in all probability a Presbyterian, who lived and whose family
survived him in Edinburgh. He became a chaplain on a sixty-ton sailing
frigate, the Planet, bound for Caraccas on some adventurous scheme, which
proved to be a disastrous one financially. On this voyage John visited his
brother, Dr. Walter, in British Honduras. He was lost at sea . . .
A sister was married to a Mr. Young, who from 1820 to 1862 was editor
and proprietor of The London Sun   .   .   .4
(2) Ibid., pp. 92-93.
(3) The memorandum from the Company states that Ross returned to
New Caledonia and served as a clerk at Frasers Lake in 1839-40; but from
Ross's own letters and other evidence it is clear that he remained at Fort
(4) Victoria Daily Times, April 29, 1922. 1943 Letters of Charles Ross. . 105
One of the letters here printed was addressed to another sister,
Elizabeth (Mrs. Joseph Macdonald), and this letter' makes mention of a third sister, Kate.
In 1822, when stationed at Lac la Pluie, Charles Ross married
Isabella Melville (or Merilia). She is said to have been of Spanish descent on the male side.5 At the time of her death it was
stated that she was a native of Michillimackinac Island, Lake
Superior. She survived her husband for more than forty years,
and died in St. Ann's Convent, Victoria, on April 23, 1885, aged
78 years.6
The couple had five sons and four daughters. One grandson,
Francis Ross, still lives on Eberts Street, Victoria, not far from
Ross Bay, which was named after Charles Ross, and Fowl Bay,
which was so named by his grandmother, Isabella Ross.
a the possession of the Ross family.
Provincial Archives.
Fort McLoughlin October 1st. 1842
The original of this letter is in the possession of the Ross family.   It is
printed from a transcript in the Provincial Archives.
Sir George Simpson Knt.
Governor in Chief H.H.B.Coy.
Northern Department.
I have the honor to inform you that in July last
I was duly favored with your communication, dated Fort Vancouver
1st. Novr 1841—enclosing a List of Words and Phrases to be translated
into the language of those Indian tribes, to which I have access. This
task is now executed, so far as I am able, in the manner you were
pleased to specify; and I should be happy to find that the performance
proved satisfactory. I have certainly bestowed upon it all the pains
which my knowledge of the subject would permit. But this being very
■ limited, and that of the person who serves here as interpreter nearly
equally so—will I trust be my apology for all inaccuracies, as well as
for the scantiness of information I am able to impart.
The languages into which the " Words & Phrases " have been translated, are those spoken by the Billbillah [Bella Bella] & Bellwhoola
[Bella Coola] tribes. But, as I have already taken the liberty to intimate, my acquaintance with either of these dialects is so slight that
I do not feel competent to offer any further remarks upon their respec-
(5) Ibid.
(6) Victoria Daily Colonist, April 24, 1885. 106 Letters of Charles Ross. April
tive characteristics, than what will appear in the Document herewith
The Geographical position of the Billbillah & Bellwhoola tribes, lies
within the parallels of 51 & 53° North Latitude, and 128° West Longitude. The latter inhabit the mainland on and adjoining the outlets of
Salmon River, being that by which Sir A. McKenzie fell upon the sea
in his expedition across the continent in " Ninty three," and the former
occupy the adjacent Islands, which fill a portion of the sea of 120 miles
in length, and the same extent in breadth.
Accurate information on any point can rarely be obtained from the
Indians of this quarter, for they are ever ready to believe that our
enquiries are directed by improper motives. Owing to this, they view
with much distrust all questions relative to their numbers. On this
subject, therefore, I can procure no estimate from themselves, that can
at all be depended upon—they exaggerate too much. But, taking the
aggregate of their villages, and reckoning the average number of occupants in two or three houses I am of opinion that the Billbillahs may
amount to about 1500, and the Bellwhoolahs to 650 individuals of every
age and sex. It might be supposed that the abundance, as well as the
facility of supply, which the sea affords to both these tribes, ought to
render the population much denser than it really is, and this would no
doubt be the case—were it not for the lax state of morals which obtains
among them—permitting not only frequent divorce, but also, the still
more unnatural practice of Infanticide, both before & after birth.
Having now nothing further to add on these topics, I beg leave to
And have the honor to be
Your most obt [words obliterated]
Charles Ross Clk. H.B.Coy.
Fort McLoughlin
Sir George Simpson, Knt.
The late R. E. Gosnell saw the original of this letter in Ottawa, in 1922.
It was then in the possession of Mrs. William Beattie, a granddaughter of
Mrs. Macdonald. With Mrs. Beattie's assistance Mr. Gosnell prepared a
transcript, and this was printed in the Victoria Daily Times for April 29,
1922. In the accompanying notes Mr. Gosnell thus described the original:
" It is really the remnants of a letter which, suffering from fire and careless
handling, are patched together, very yellow and extremely fragile. Some
portions of the letter are lost altogether, and I could only surmise the contents from parts left and Mrs. Beattie's remembrance of the original as it
was. She found it in the false bottom of an old trunk and preserved it as
best she could." It will be noticed that the letter breaks off abruptly. Mr.
Gosnell was of the opinion that " a great many pages " were missing. The
postscript has been preserved as it was added at the top of the first page. 1943 Letters of Charles Ross. 107
The letter was addressed to " Mrs. Joseph Macdonald, Guelph Town."
Notations on the original show that it was received in October, 1844, eighteen
months after it was written (and, incidentally, four months after Charles
Ross's death), and answered on March 28, 1845.
The text which follows is quoted from the Times, but in reprinting notes
have been revised or added, square brackets have been substituted for parentheses, and one or two obvious typographical errors have been corrected.
Fort McLoughlin,
N. Wst. Coast of America,
April 24th, 1843.
My Dear Elspat,
A mercjf ul providence enables me to say that I am still in the land
of the living—and I had the rare happiness of receiving your affectionate and loving letter of 27th of Sept., '41, on the 14th inst., and you
see agreeably to your desire I lose no time in addressing you these lines
in return though I am afraid this letter will be equally as long [on the
way] as your own. It will, however, cross the Rocky Mountains in the
Fall, and through the . . . east side of Canada ... it will reach
you much earlier than if I were to defer writing until next Spring
which would be the regular period of communication between us and
you. The distance that divides us, my Dear Eppy, is, indeed, great,
and this has, hitherto, been one main reason in my backwardness in
writing to you—another was—that I preferred remaining in blissful
ignorance in regard to you, rather than run the risk of being told that
ruthless fate had left me alone of my father's house! But thank God
there are two of us, and I am truly happy to find by your excellent letter
that affairs appear . . . [the next few words are indistinct but evidently are to the effect " to be prosperous "] . . . beyond what my
fears would permit me to hope. On this head, however, being ignorant
of my probable fate you were not so communicative as you otherwise
would. It is nevertheless a great satisfaction to learn that you manage
[?] in the enjoyment of health and [were] without any serious complaint when you wrote. Your next letter will acquaint me with all you
left untold in your last—that is everything relating to yourself, your
husband, your sons and your farm. Meanwhile, I shall flatter myself
in the belief that you are now quite comfortable, and relieved from
every care, save those that are inseparable from human lot.
You say you are anxious, and it is but natural, to learn somewhat
of my own history for so many years back . . . [words here obliterated] ... I have as yet said nothing about my wife, whence you
will probably infer that I am rather ashamed of her—in this, however,
you would be wrong. She is not, indeed exactly fitted to shine at the
head of a nobleman's table, but she suits the sphere [in which] she has
to move much better than any such toy—in short, she is a native of the
country,1 and as to beauty quite as comely as her husband!
(1)  Not meaning the Northwest Coast;  Ross.met and married his wife
when stationed in Rainy Lake District. 108 Letters of Charles Ross. April
From remarks I have made in preceding parts of my letter you will
no doubt have gathered that there is a very painful part of it to come—
and this, it grieves me to tell you, is the case. Shortly after you heard
from me last, through our excellent friend, Mr. Urquhart, finding
myself in delicate health and thinking that a visit to our native land
might do me good, I, for the purpose, obtained a twelve months' leave
of absence and got safe to London in October, '35. There, as you may
suppose, I met with a warm and affectionate welcome from poor dear
Kate2—who was so rejoiced to see me, that she would hardly suffer me
to go as far as Edinburgh to see our poor brother's children.3 Thither,
I, however, went, and had the pleasure of finding our nephews and niece
in excellent health—nearly men and woman grown and almost as clever
and talented as their unfortunate father—but the poor mother, alas!
was quite helpless in body and mind. From Edinburgh I returned
again to London—[I did] not visit—the North,4 as I could find nothing
there but painful recollections. I left finally on my return to this
country in June, '36—and had every reason to be pleased with the
results of my trip. This, however, was not to last long—my very next
letter from home announced that our poor dear sister had ceased to
exist. I left . . . [here a portion of the letter is gone, but apparently from the remnant left referred to his sister's family]   .   .   .
[The next page begins abruptly with a description of the locality in
which Fort McLoughlin was situated.] . . . possess or wandering
through the morasses and swamps in quest of game. Business generally takes up but a small portion of his [the trader's] time and is
almost wholly confined to receiving such furs as the natives may bring
in and giving goods in return. By way of recreation and change we
are frequently shifted from one fort to another. I was for many years
a sojourner at various establishments on the east side of the mountains
but for the last five I have been a resident at this place. The situation
is a very comfortable one—only the native [Indians] are very numerous
and we require to be on our guard against them—but we are in the
hands of Him, whose eye neither slumbers nor sleeps, and at [is?]
present here as well as in the peopled city. The fort is situated on the
shores of the North Pacific—the country around us is extremely wild
and rugged and instead of frost . . . [some words obliterated here]
...   we have almost constant rains for two-thirds of the year.
I must now tell you, in answer to your enquiry whether, that I am
not only married but I believe I have a larger family than your own.
This however, is a circumstance which, I believe, I should not be proud
of—for I now think, it had been much wiser, if I had kept my freedom
a little longer, of which you will be the better judge, when I tell you
I married so far back as '22! The consequence is that I am blesaed
with a family of nine children, that is, five boys and four girls—whose
(2) Sister of Charles Ross.
(3) The children of the Rev. John Ross, who had been lost at sea.
(4) Presumably meaning Invernesshire, where Charles Ross was born. 1943 Letters of Charles Ross. 109
names and respective ages are as follows: John, 20; Walter, 16; Elspat
(Elizabeth), 14; Charles, 12; Catharine, 10; Alex., 8; Francis, 6;
Mary, 3, and Flora, 1. Now, my dear Eppy, that is a list for you which
I dare say will astonish you—but this is now not important. True,
this numerous progeny is for the present rather an encumbrance, but
the time may come when they will be no longer so. Meanwhile my
chief regret is their growing wild around me without proper education
or example, and my means I am sorry to say, are as yet too slender to
enable me to send them where they can get either.5 The whole are
with myself here, nor do I see the least possibility of respectably disposing of any of them so long as we remain in this unchristian wild.
This leads me to say that it is by no means improbable, but I may some
of these days, take up my last resting place alongside of you. But to
do this comfortably would, I fear, require a longer purse than I am yet
possessed of. Would a few hundred (meaning pounds, of course) do?
Tell me all about it in your next letter and whether my sons and
daughters joined to your own, might not be able to fit in and make it
go . . . [the next line is too indistinct to decipher, but he evidently
wishes to quit the .place, and he then comments upon] . . . the long
and dreary space since you and I parted and no doubt many events have
occurred to us both, but to neither of us, I believe has the major portion
of these events been productive of much joy—my own undoubtedly have
presented nothing that would give you much pleasure in the hearing or
me in the telling. Than our way of life in this dreary wilderness
nothing can be more dark and insipid. The posts we occupy, though
many, are far between, and seldom have any intercourse with each
other, oftener than once a year and then for the most part is for the
purpose of exchanging cargoes of merchandise for cargoes of furs.
There is no society—that is the person in charge must divert himself
the best way he can with his own thoughts. The few books he may
possess   .   .   .   [Here the letter breaks off abruptly.]
P.S.—I would perhaps send down my two eldest boys, John and
Walter if I thought they could prepare a place for the rest of us to
follow by and by. Tell me what you think of such a plan, and what
funds would be required to set it agoing—say, to buy and stock 200
Like James Hargrave, a portion of whose inward correspondence was
published by the Champlain Society in 1938, Donald Ross received innumerable letters from his colleagues in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company.
Many of these letters, including the following communication from Charles
Ross, have been acquired by the Provincial Archives. So far as we know,
Donald and Charles Ross were not related.
(5) As will be seen, as soon as Ross received word that he had been
made a Chief Trader he at once sent three of his children to England to be
educated. 110 Letters of Charles Ross. April
The original letter is endorsed:   " Private.    Charles Ross.    Columbia
10 Jany, 1844.    Ansd. 9 July "
Fort Victoria, Vancouver's Island,
January 10th 1844
My dear Sir
You may be sure you would be the very last I would forget
—nor did I—but it seems my Letter, whatever it was worth, was too
late for last years express. But I suppose it would have crossed in the
fall, & will reach you by & bye. I am now you see moving in a more
respectable state of society than heretofore, where I have more intercourse with the world, and can now promise you greater punctuality,
than while at Fort McLoughlin—because I have it more in my power.
This being premised, allow me to say that it gives me very great
pleasure to learn that yourself & family continue to enjoy the comforts
of Norway House without any serious draw back. And whether there
or elsewhere I most sincerely wish you no worse fortune. You talk of
coming this way to pitch your last tabernacle and, without joke, I think
you might do much worse—providing you bring " Old Jack River "
along with you; for I must say the Country, in our vicinity at least, is
rather droughty.6 This is its greatest draw back, for, in every other
respect, there is, I do believe, not a finer within the length & breadth
of Ruperts Land and all its dependencies! On the abandonment of
Fort McLoughlin & the rest of it, I need not dwell further, than to
observe that all was managed very quietly. The greater part of the
Indians of Millbank were absent at their fisheries when the event took
place—and thus no doubt, we escaped a good deal of annoyance from
them. We landed at this famous spot early in June, when Mr. Douglas
who had the conduct of the Expedition hitherto, started for Vancouver,
leaving myself & Mr. R. Finlayson with a body of 40 men to carry on
operations at this place. Here then we have ever since been hard at
it—fortifying—building—farming &ca &ca. Unaccustomed, as I may
say I am, to most of these things, and just emerging from comparative
solitude & obscurity—I dare say you will think the burden, thus
imposed, is quite enough for me, and, indeed, so it is. Finlayson &
myself are however doing the best we can, and I am happy to say things
have gone on hitherto without much let or hindrance, save from the
annoyance occasionally given us by the Natives—who have been about
us in great numbers, ever since our arrival, and, though not quite so
rough & surly in their manners, as their northern neighbors,—it was a
great relief to us when we got the Stoccades placed between ourselves
and them. The Fort is a quadrangle of 330 by 300 ft. The Buildings
are, for the present, to be eight in number, exclusive of Bastions—and
their dimensions—60 by 40 & 30 ft. with 17 ft. Posts & Pavilion roofs.
Of these edifices we have already thoroughly completed three, and two
more (Main, and Officers' House) are up, but as yet unprovided with
(6)  The season of 1843 was exceptionally dry on Vancouver Island. 1943 Letters of Charles Ross. Ill
covering or inside work. An octangular Bastion of 3 Stories is also
built. In the farming line we have not as yet done much, but there
are about ten acres broken up & prepared for the plough. The soil
appears excellent, being composed of decayed vegetable mould with a
strong clayey bottom; it is however a good deal encumbered with
stones & a rank growth of fern. The landscape is beautiful & strongly
reminds one of some of the noble domains at home—water alone being
wanting to complete the picture. The climate is perhaps too fine, of
which you may judge, when I tell you that from June to Novr. we had
scarcely any thing else, than bright sunny days! Yet we were by no
means oppressed by the heat, for the close vicinity of the sea, & the
cooling breezes blowing thence, made it very bearable. At present we
have occasional showers & slight frosts—but nothing like what might
be called bad weather for the time of year. Such, my dear Sir, is
Camosun, alias Fort Albert, alias Fort Victoria. And whether the
description is tempting enough to induce you to come and take the
charge of it, or pitch your tent in the neighborhood, it is, in either
case, equally at your service.
The Steamer [Beaver] & [schooner] " Cadboro " have been off & on
with us all summer and furnished us with all the news from either
hemisphere. But the most interesting to myself, & that upon which
you are pleased to congratulate me (many kind thanks) was my promotion in the service. My Commission [as a Chief Trader] came out
by the Chartered Ship, " Diamond "—an auspicious name, and I hope
it will make my fortune! Be this, however as it, may, on the strength
of it (the commission I mean, not the Diamond) I did perhaps a very
foolish thing—I sent three of my children to England to be educated—
viz—Walter, Elizabeth & Charles. They left us in September—perhaps never more to return to us. But the Lord reigneth & his will
be done!
Immense numbers of whalers have been upon the Coast this last
Summer, some say so many as 300 sail! One or two of them called in
at Newete to look for Beaver, and it is said have done us a good deal
of injury. The Steamer, as well as the Cadboro are at present gone
in that direction.
As I keep no copy of my Letters, I remember not what I wrote you
in my last, about the shocking occurrence at Stikine;7 but whatever it
was I do not believe it will much edify you, beyond what you already
know—because I myself was then & indeed am now not much enlightened on the subject.    The current version, however, is—that excessive
tyranny & oppression, especially while under the influence of 1 r led
to the horrid catastrophe that followed. Poor John undoubtedly had
his faults of which undue advantage was taken by the miscreants he
had to deal with—to destroy him! His poor father is still in a sad
state about it and leaves no stone unturned in his endeavors to clear
(7)  The murder of John McLoughlin, Jr., at Fort Stikine, on April 21,
1842. 112 Letters of Charles Ross. April
the memory of his son. Meanwhile I believe he has had little satisfaction from home—and the murderers still remain in limbo. We for
our share, have got five of them here, under watch and ward, which
adds not a little to our other embarassments.
I must leave you to your other correspondents for the Columbia
news—and I dare say you will thank me for so doing, as you must now
be quite tired of me.
My wife unites wh. me in warm respects to Mrs Ross and trusting
this may find you all in the enjoyment of your usual health—
I remain, my dear Sir,
always yours most truly
Charles Ross
Donald Ross Esquire
The original of this letter is in the Provincial Archives. In 1844 Dr.
Tolmie was in charge of Fort Nisqually.
Private Fort Victoria    January 11th 1844
My dear Tolmie
We are in momentary expectation of the arrival of
the Indian, Snaadlum, according to appointment, to convey some of our
people whose times are out,—as likewise, our a/cs. & Letters to your
place for transmission to [Fort] Vancouver. Hence you may see these
are busy times with us, as I dare say is the case with yourself. I must
not however pass over the opportunity thus about to offer without
acknowledging your kind favors per Steamer, as well as by Madam
Finlay. I heartily say amen to your hope that, whatever our religious
differences, our social intercourse may not be affected thereby.8 I am
no fiery zealot, not I trust a Pharisee—but I am of the religion of my
fathers, & there intend to stick. If reason were given us for an infallible guide, I might have my doubts, but as matters stand, I think my
own creed, at least quite as good as any new fangled doctrine attempted
to be foisted in its place!! We never can arrive at certainty by any one
system whatever without Revelation. Of this we have had many
proofs. Why then act, like the Dog in the fable—let go the substance
for the Shadow? But I am no logician and would be sorry to stake my
Salvation on my skill in that science!— So a truce with what may be
sheer nonsense after all—only it is well meant. Nothing has occurred
with us of late, in the least worth transmitting to you. What remains
of my family enjoys tolerable health—but as to myself I am but so so.
My ailings I believe to be occasioned by the old complaint—coldness &
irregularity of the Bowels. Pray can you do any thing for me? Exercise I know is one of your favorite prescriptions, as I proved at Van-
(8) Theological discussions are met with frequently in the letters and
private diaries of the fur-traders. See, for example, the well-known letters
from John Tod, in the Ermatinger Papers. 1943 LETTERS OF  CHARLES  ROSS. 113
couver. But of that God Wot I have enough here—so my dear friend
that wont do—you must propose some thing else—such as early rising
—temperance &c. You see I have got the whole catalogue by heart—
but what benefits it " so long as Mordicai the Jew sitteth at the Kings
Gate "! We had rather a merry Xmas & New Year, and I tried hard
to dance my complaint " down the wind." But ale would not do—
I rather made things worse. The Steamer & Cadboro being still with
us, we had a splendid dinner on the 25th which went off with great
eclat, as well as some of Scarboroughs Rockets9 to the bargain. On the
28th the vessels left for the North, having been detained hitherto, while
a cargo of [word obliterated in original] was being brought us from
Our Buildings are advancing apace. We have now six a-foot, but
only four, including Bastion, are thoroughly completed—the rest still
want coverings & inside work.
Our farm is as yet only breaking the shell. There are however
about 5 Acres under wheat (sown in Deer. & likely to come to nothing)
and more is being broke up & prepared for the plough. Trade is quite
dead—Provisions & every thing else. This reminds me of the charming Xmas gift you made us. It was well thought of, and helped us on
famously with our fete—many kind thanks for it—and once more for
the very entertaining Letter that accompanied it. Both afforded a
rich treat. Reciprocating the compts. of the season and wishing you
many happy returns, I always am my dear Tolmie most truly yours
Charles Ross
NB. The " fair haired chief " will perhaps write you himself—if not
he is doing well and is a very fine young fellow. A nephew of mine has
written me about the aerial Steam Carriage you speak of—and says
not the least doubt is entertained of its practicability. What an age
we live in!
The following letter is printed by kind permission of the Governor and
Committee of the Hudson's Bay Company. The original is in the Archives
of the Company, in London. A note indicates that it was received on June
9, 1844.
Fort Victoria 10th Jany. 1844
Sir George Simpson
Dear Sir
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your
various favors, both by the Diamond as well as by the " Express."
And for both my grateful thanks are due—especially for that by the
(9) James Allan Scarborough was at this time captain of the Cadboro.
Rockets from the schooner were evidently used to celebrate the occasion. 114 Letters of Charles Ross. April
Diamond,16 which was " long looked for come at last." I am well aware
how much I owe to your kindly endeavors in procuring me this step in
the service, and I hope no conduct of mine shall ever make you regret
having thus exerted yourself in my behalf.
Having had no opportunity of addressing you by the usual course,
I was induced in April last, to answer your communications the preceding season by writing via New Archangel &ca. and in so doing
I fear I was much to blame, but I chose it rather than you should think
I was in the least inattentive to what my obligations to you require.11
Shortly after this event poor old Fort McLoughlin was abandoned. In
spite of every precaution to the contrary, the Indians soon got it among
them that this was to happen, and, accordingly, collected about us in
great numbers. Observing us, however, busy with our ordinary occupations—planting Potatoes—breaking up new ground &ca. they began
to disperse by degrees, and finally betook themselves to their fisheries—
•so that when the Steamer returned from the North few remained
except the families of the absent men. Thus we got off with the
utmost possible harmony. On the 3d of June we landed here, and on
the 9th Mr. Douglas left for the Columbia. Since when Mr. Finlayson
and myself have been left to shift for ourselves, the best we may. The
sudden transition from the comparative seclusion of Fort McLoughlin
to the stirring scenes of this place, has been sufficiently trying to
myself. In fact I never before was in such a turmoil in my life. For
what with Building—fortifying—Shipping—farming—Indians &ca.
there is quite enough to do. Yet I am happy to say that in all these
respects, our proceedings hitherto have met with no unfavorable
check. Our progress in regard to the Establishment is as follows—
a Quadrangle of 330 by 300 ft. surrounded with Stoccades, eighteen
feet high—one octangular Bastion of three stories erected—also, two
men's houses, and one Store each measuring 60 by 30 ft. with 17 ft.
Posts & Pavilion roofs. These have been thoroughly completed, and an
Officers' & main house of 60 by 40 ft. are also rapidly advancing to the
same end. The farming is as yet little more than in embryo—there
being only about five acres under cultivation, and about the same
quantity prepared for the Plough. Our force on first commencing here
was little short of forty hands, but it was subsequently considerably
reduced, owing to five of the number being re-committed to prison for
their share in the melancholy transaction at Stikine,12 and two more
being required to keep watch over them. Numerous hordes of the
natives (except for a short time while absent at their fisheries) have
(10) The Diamond, a chartered vessel, was the annual supply ship from
London in 1843. She brought Ross letters from London telling him that he
had been appointed a Chief Trader.
(11) Simpson left the Northwest Coast in the spring of 1842 and
travelled to London via Siberia: hence the difficulty of communicating with
(12) Again the reference is to the murder of John McLoughlin, Jr., on
April 21, 1842. 1943 Letters of Charles Ross. 115
been about us up to the present moment. So far however, they have
not particularly annoyed us, beyond now & then shewing their dexterity
at light fingered work. The unreflecting imprudence of our people
was, more than once, on the eve of involving us in serious quarrels with
them, but all this was in the end amicably adjusted; and now, that we
have got ourselves surrounded with stoccades, we are proportionately
respected. They are much more effeminate in appearance than their
northern neighbors, and luxuriate, much more than these do, in filth &
poverty. The R.C. Priests, Baldue [sic] & Demers, having been
among them some time previous to our arrival—Psalm singing and
Prayers were for some time the order of the day. Latterly, however,
these gave way to their own less orthodox habits, and at present seem
entirely forgot. The reverend gentlemen, above alluded to, were for
some time located on Whitby's Island—but so little respect was ultimately shewn, either to their persons or property, that they were glad
to beat a precipitate retreat to the Columbia. I am sorry to say that
the trade here does not seem to augur any thing very propitious. We
have as yet collected little beyond 400 skins—Beaver & Land Otter.
Mr. Yale complains that we are injuring his trade at Fort Langley, and
I believe with justice; nor can it be otherwise, close neighbors as we
are, and friendly as the intercourse is, between his Indians and those
of this place. Nisqually also, is much in the Same predicament—so that
beyond what we may get from the Cape Flattery Indians, I believe it
cannot be said, that we are likely to make any very material addition,
to what was previously procured in this quarter.
Nothing can be finer than the Climate and scenery of this place.
The former, especially, surpasses any thing I ever before experienced—
for from the month of June up to the present moment, we have scarcely
yet had four & twenty hours of consecutive wet weather. Yet, notwithstanding the many bright sunny days we had during the Summer,
the heat was at no time oppressive, being almost invariably tempered
by refreshing Sea breezes. Bating the drought (which may not always
be so excessive as this last season) the country seems well adapted for
agricultural purposes. With the exception of a slight sprinkling of
Oak, and occasional clumps of Pine—it is quite open to the Plough;
the only other obstacles being a dense growth of fern, and stones in
great size & number. The ground is every here & there lined with
slightly rocky eminences which merely intersect it into natural fields,
the hollows between being almost in every instance, the best adapted
for cultivation. The soil appears to be composed of decayed vegetable
mould of about 1% ft. thickness—over a bed of clay of, as yet, unascertained depth. I cannot say that the country is well timbered. It is,
however, sufficiently so for our present purposes. Very little is to be
found on or near the site of the Establishment—and almost all the
Building materials hitherto employed had to be rafted from the left
shore of the " Camosun Arm." Water, however, is the great desidera-
tion.   -Mr. Douglas, on his way north in the spring, got a well com- 116 Letters of Charles Ross. April
menced, which was again resumed on his return in June, and sunk to
the depth of upwards of thirty feet—all hard clay—at this point a
quantity of Water collected in it, which was thought to be the real
" Simon Pure "—Subsequently, however, it unfortunately proved to
be no such thing. For not only it, but, also, every other reservoir then
known in the vicinity, dried up in course of the Summer—and things
began to look rather alarming, until we found a supply about 2 miles
distant, which I am in hopes will be a never failing resource, until such
time at least, as the urgent avocations, we have at present in hand,
will permit us to finish the Well already commenced. With regard to
Water power for machinery, I know of none within several miles,
except a strong Tide way (confined within a narrow compass down the
Camosun Channel)13 which, I believe, there is little doubt, a little skill
& labor can render available to every requisite purpose.
I shall now take the liberty of saying a few words about my personal
affairs. On the Strength of my Commission, joined to my little previous earnings, I have ventured to send three of my children to England
for their education. And perhaps, Sir, you may happen to see them,
which would give me very great pleasure. The honorable Coy's late
Secy.14 was, up to his lamented death, the person who settled my money
matters at home—and I fear that his loss will, consequently be much
felt by my youngsters on their first arrival. But having appointed the
Son my attorney, conjointly with the father, things may go on perhaps
better than I at present anticipate. I have allotted £100 per ann. for
the maintenance of my children—in which I am perhaps, much below
the mark, and in that case, may I entreat you, sir, to order on my
account such further supplies as their necessities may require. I have
about £500 invested in the funds, which I would not wish to be touched
■—but on the contrary, that all expences, if possible, were defrayed from
such monies as may accrue to me from time to time in the fur trade.
My nephew, Mr. Walter Ross, at Mr. Gillon's 44 Parliamt. St.
Westmr. is entrusted with the care of my children—and I mention this
in the hope that you, sir, will not decline the trouble of seeing him.
Trusting that yourself and Lady Simpson & family are in the enjoyment of perfect health
I remain, Dear Sir,
With the greatest esteem
and respect, your
most faithful & obt.
hum. servt. Chas. Ross
P. S. If I might speak of Dr. Barclay in a postscript I would say that
I heartily rejoice at his appointment.15 I have known him since 1814.
He was then an intimate friend of my brother's and I have ever heard
(13) The spot now known as " the Gorge," on Victoria Arm.
(14) William Smith, who died in January, 1843.
(15) The reference is to Dr. Archibald Barclay, who in February, 1843,
succeeded William Smith as Secretary to the Governor and Committee. 1943 Letters of Charles Ross. 117
him spoken of as a very clever & talented man. I am, however, not
speaking of him as to character, but merely expressing my pleasure at
his good fortune!    C. Ross
This is Simpson's reply to the letter from Charles Ross just quoted. Ross
never received it, as it was written only a week before his death. The text
here given is taken from a transcript in the Provincial Archives that was
secured from the Ross family. The present whereabouts of the original is
not known.
Red River Settlement
■ 20 June 1844.
My dear Sir,
I have the pleasure to acknowledge your valued communications of 13 April 1843 & 10 Jan. 1844. Owing to my absence from
England, the former did not reach me till April last, & the latter came
to hand a few days ago by the Columbia Express to this place.— By
the tone of those letters I am exceedingly happy to find that you were
in better health and spirits than when I had the pleasure of seeing you
at Fort McLoughlin, when I was exceedingly anxious about you, and
was really glad when information reached me that you had got over
the nervous state in which I was sorry to see you when we last parted.—
I am quite surprised to notice by your letter of April 1843 that you
express regret at removing from Fort McLoughlin, which proves that
" habit is second nature," as it was decidedly the most dismal, gloomy
place I was ever in, & surrounded by the most cut-throat looking rascals
I think I ever met with. You have now got to a very Elysium in point
of climate & scenery, if I may judge from the reports I have of the
Southern end of Vancouvers Island. It is quite evident from the
progres you have made in building & agriculture, & among the natives,
that you have not been idle. If you can but get water in sufficient
quantity, I think Fort Victoria is likely to become a place of much
resort to strangers, especially so if American whalers continue to frequent the Northern Pacific; & that a profitable business may be made
by the sale of provisions & supplies to those vessels.— I was not prepared to find the natives so peaceably & well-disposed, as from the
reports we had of them, there was every reason to apprehend they
would have been both formidable & troublesome. Sea Otters were
some time ago represented as numerous outside the Island about
Nootka & other parts; but as you do not speak of any important trade
in that article, I presume they have been very much thinned out since
then.— When at Newettee & among the Quakiolths [Kwakiutls] in
Johnstons Straits, we understood the few sea otters that were brought
to us, were hunted outside the island, & at no great distance from the
Entrance of the Straits of De Fuca.   Your information, however, must 118 Letters of Charles Ross.
be much better than any we could have collected in the short time we
had to communicate with the natives, of whose language we had a very
imperfect knowledge.
Considering the state of your finances, you must really be a very
bold man to send 3 children to England for the benefit of education and
I much fear they will cost you far more than you seemed to count upon
or can afford. The cost of maintenance & education will of course,
depend entirely on the description of school at which they may be
placed: but if at all respectable, they will most unquestionably cost you
much more than £100 pr. annm: indeed, I know very few gentlemen
who have sent their children to England, whose education has not cost
at least double the allowance which you have authorised your friend to
lay out, the ordinary charge I think being little short of £70-£80 pr.
annm, for board, education & clothing. I think you would have done
much better by sending them to Red River School, which is really by
no means contemptible & when they would have cost you but £30 pr
annm, covering all charges.— I hope to be in England in the course
of the Autumn, & shall make a point of seeing your nephew Mr. Walter
Ross, & if the allowance you have made be insufficient, I shall take care
that increased means be afforded.— Mr. Smith's son (W. G. Smith)
now Assistant Secretary, continues to transact any agency business,
usually managed by his late father.— He is highly respectable in
every sense of the word, & from his regular, steady, business habits,
will I am sure do justice to any matters entrusted to his care. You
need not, therefore, be anxious in reference to any authority with
which you may have invested him over your funds.
I met your friend Mr. Young16 once or twice when last in London;
he is a very active enterprising man & his paper has an extended circulation so that I presume he is doing well: & your old acquaintance
Mr. Barclay (who since he has become Secretary has dropped the
Doctor) gives great satisfaction at the H. B. House. Your friend
George Bain I see occasionally, he is still a Bachelor & I believe doing
very well.— I shall be glad to hear from you by every opportunity &
it will afford me much pleasure to be useful to you meantime.
Believe me
My dear Sir
Very truly Yours
Geo. Simpson.
Charles Ross, Esqre
Fort Victoria.
(16)  Ross's brother-in-law;   editor and proprietor of the London Sun. THE DIARY OF ROBERT MELROSE.
The only remarkable thing about Robert Melrose seems to
have been his diary. He was born in Scotland, probably in 1828.
In 1852, at the age of 24, he was engaged as a labourer by the
Puget Sound Agricultural Company, a subsidiary of the Hudson's
Bay Company, which was about to establish several large farms
in the vicinity of Fort Victoria. He and his wife made the
voyage from London to Vancouver Island in the barque Norman
Morison, in company with more than fifty fellow-workmen, many
of whom had wives and families. The vessel arrived in January,
1853, and Melrose was assigned to the Craigflower Farm, near
the head of Victoria Arm. The rest of his life was spent on the
farm or in the vicinity of Craigflower. He died in the Jubilee
Hospital, Victoria, after a long illness, on July 28, 1898, in his
seventy-first year. A daughter, Ellen, later Mrs. Douglas, was
born at Craigflower, on May 19, 1854. She died as recently as
May 26, 1936, a few days after her eighty-second birthday.
The diary indicates that Melrose was a man of some education, and certain entries suggest that drink may well have been
the reason for his failure to get on in the world. The original
manuscript is elaborately lettered and decorated, in clever imitation of the printed almanacs which were fashionable at the time.
The usual astronomical data and calculations, tables, ecclesiastical and historical anniversaries, poems, etc., are all included.
These have been omitted in printing, and only the contemporary
entries relating to local events have been retained.
At first sight the contents of the diary may seem trivial, but
a careful reading will show that it throws much light upon the
history of Vancouver Island in the fifties. To begin with, it is
one of the very few chronologies known to us, and it is the only
one that covers the years 1853-57 in detail. In the second place,
it contains a great deal of information about shipping movements. The harbour life of Victoria and Esquimalt was far
more active in early days than is generally realized. The supply
ships and coastal trading vessels of the Hudson's Bay Company
were constantly on the move; ships of the Royal Navy came and
went; the demand for lumber and piles in San Francisco kept
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Vol. VII., No. 2.
119 120 Diary of Robert Melrose. April
a small fleet employed, sailing from Sooke and Victoria; little
trading schooners flitted about, hawking wares and their services, and venturing as far afield as Honolulu. Finally came the
start of regular coastal services, notably the mail route between
Olympia and Victoria. All these developments can be traced in
the Melrose diary, if one takes the trouble to tabulate the entries.
Then again, the diary throws light upon the living and working conditions of the time. The discontent, punishments, and
desertions that characterized life at Craigflower are nowhere so
clearly and starkly recorded as in Melrose's brief notes. Similarly, it gives us a record of the banquets, horse-races, 24th of
May celebrations, and lectures on philosophical, religious, and
scientific subjects that helped to make up the pleasanter side of
The preoccupation of the writer with food and drink is
another point of significance. We know from his correspondence
that Governor Douglas was frequently worried about the food
supply on Vancouver Island. More than once a vessel had to be
sent off in haste to Nisqually to bring cattle and supplies from
the farms and storehouses there to relieve a local shortage. This
state of affairs continued for several years, until the acreage
under cultivation became sufficiently great to assure an ample
supply of grain and other necessities.
The numerous references in the diary to drunkenness are
amusing in their way, owing to Melrose's habit of noting whether
the persons concerned were one-quarter, half, three-quarters, or
wholly drunk; but the liquor traffic was anything but amusing
to Douglas. By the spring of 1853 it was clear that restrictions
of some kind were essential. On March 29, Douglas asked the
Legislative Council to license liquor vendors, as he believed that
this would be " the best means of restraining the abuse and excessive importation of spirituous liquors into this Colony." The
Council agreed and licence fees of £100 (wholesale) and £125
(retail) were imposed. Douglas reported to London that this
measure had been " fiercely opposed by the whole body of
publicans and other blood suckers, who are preying upon the
vitals of the Colony, exhausting its wealth and making a return
of poisonous drinks, ruinous to the morals of the people, and the 1943 Diary of Robert Melrose. 121
prolific source of poverty and crime."1 Six months later he was
able to state that there was " now only one licensed ale house at
this place and that conducted in a very orderly manner. The
consumption of spirits is greatly reduced, and the scandalous
scenes of drunkeness Isic] and excess which were the disgrace
of Victoria, before the passage of the Lieense act, are now never
seen."2 But if the supply had decreased, the demand had not.
Less than two months later Melrose stated, in a special footnote
in his diary, that " it would almost take a line of packet ships,
running regular between here, and San Francisco to supply
this Island with grog, so great a thirst prevails amongst its
Experience in the Provincial Archives, where the original
manuscript is a prized exhibit, has shown that almost every one
seeking information about life on Vancouver Island in the fifties
finds something of interest and significance in the Melrose diary.
For that reason it seems worth printing in the Quarterly.
No attempt has been made to identify every person, place,
event, or vessel mentioned in the text, but the more important
amongst them have been dealt with briefly in the footnotes.
W. K. L.
(1) Douglas to Barclay, April 8, 1853.
(2) Ibid, November 4, 1853. 122 Diary of Robert Melrose. April
under the
Printed & Published by R. Melrose.
Front Street, Maple Point, Vancouver Id.
The design and nature of this Almanack, is to take an accurate
account of all the proceedings, and remarkable events, which may occur
during our five years service under the Hudson's Bay Company on
Vancouver's Island; as it was my intention to take up the detail from
January 1853, that being the month of our arrival here; but I feel
myself obliged to commence the description from the month 6f August
1852; the time we embarked, and sailed away from our native soil,
where I shall be able to insert all the principal occurrences which happened during our voyage from Great Britain, to Vancouver's Island.
It is my intention further to pursue the course upon which I have
undertaken, carefully noting down every transaction, either in regard
to marriages, births, or deaths, agricultural improvements, house building, and all the shipping, either at Fort Victoria, or Esquimalt harbour,
as far as I am able to know of their arrival, or departure.
We. 11    Shipped on board the " Steam Boat Trident," at Granton
Pier,1 sailed 6 o'clock evening.
Rough sea, All the passengers mostly sick.
Arrived at London, evening.    Sleeped all night on board.
Shipped, on board " Norman Morrison,"2 East India Docks,
Tugged down the Thames, to anchorage, at Gravesend.
Weighed anchor, and sailed down to anchorage at the Lower
(1) Granton, a port on the Firth of Forth, a few miles north of Edinburgh.
(2) The correct spelling is Norman Morison.
17 We.
1943 Diary of Robert Melrose. 123
Mrs. Anderson3 gave birth to a female child.
Sailed out of the Thames.
Pilot left us at the Isle of Wight.
Passed the Lizzard Point.
Entered the Bay of Biscay.
Passed the Bay of Biscay.
Mo.    6    No brezzes at all, heavy swelling sea's.
We. 22    Thunder storm with high winds, Top-sails close reefed.
Th. 30    Crossed the Line 22° 56'West Longitude.
Mo.    4    Jonathon Simpson's child died, & buried.    Funeral service
S.     10    Very squally with showers.
Mo. 18    High winds and rain.
We. 20    Strong brezze, opposite the La Plata [River].
Th.  21    James Whyte's girl died.
Fr.  22        do.        do.     d. buried.    37°25' South Latitude, 49° West
Mo. 25    Strong gales.
Fr.   29    Thunder, lightning, and rain.
Sa.   30    Great numbers of Whales seen during the last two or three
S.    31    Went close by the Falkland Islands, charming breeze.
Mo.    1    Heavy rolling sea.
Th.    4    Scarcely ever dark at night, 64° S. Lat.    Off Cape Horn.
S.      7    Hurricane with drift and snow, saw an iceberg evening.
Mo.    8     Showers of snow.
Th.  11     Hurricane lasted from the 7th with a sea rolling mountains
Fr.   12     1 Albattross catched measurement, 10 feet 2 in. from tip to
tip, 3y2 feet from bill to tail.    Spoke a ship bound for
Sa.   13     1 Buffoon,4 3 snow Pigeons catched.
Mo. 15    High winds and heavy sea, lasted from Sabbath morning.
(3) Most of the persons mentioned throughout the diary were fellow
passengers in the Norman Morison. For a complete list of the passengers
see A. N. Mouat, " Notes on the Norman Morison," British Columbia Historical Quarterly, III. (1939), pp. 213-14.
(4) Meaning, presumably, a Buffon's skua. The species found on the
coast of Chile is known as Stercorarius chilensis. 124 Diary of Robert Melrose. April
We. 17 7 Albatross's catched, 42°30' S. Lat.    79°20' W. Long.*
Fr.   19 Great numbers of Cape Pigeons catched during the last month.
S.    21 High winds with rain.
Sa.   27 Crossed the Tropic of Capricorn.
S. 5 Mrs. Anderson's child baptized, after Captain Wishart, & ship
Norman Morison.6    12° S. Lat.
Mo.    6    11°37' South Latitude, 91°30' West Longitude.
Fr. 10 Mrs. Cheeseman gave birth to a female child, 3°35' S. Lat.
104° W. Long.
S.     12    Crossed the Line, 108° West Longitude.
Tu. 14    One Porpoise catched, 6 feet, 6 inches long.
We. 15    One Bonito, and one Albacore, catched.
We. 22     16°58' North Latitude, 119° West Longitude.
Sa. 25 Christmas kept, Grog for all hands, Riot with Mate & Seamen,
20°53' N. Lat.    124°30' W. Long.
S.     26    John Grout an Englishman died, aged 35.
Mo. 27 do. do. Buried 12. o'clock noon. Funeral service performed.    22°43' N. Lat. 126° W. Long.
Tu. 28 do. do.'s Clothing &c. sold by public auction on board.
Crossed the Tropic of Cancer.
Fr. 31 Grog for all hands. 29°3' North. Latitude 131° West Longitude.
Grog for all hands.
Strong breeze, sailing under Close reefed Top-sails.
Main Royal blown out of the Ropes, morning.    Top-sails
Heavy rain.
Hurricane of wind.    Sailing under Close reefed Top-sails.
Very Rainy, Brisk gale, Sailing under Close reefed Top-sails.
Espied Cape Flattery, and Vancouvers Island, Nearly struck
against the rocks evening.
Tu.  11     Dodging about the mouth of the Sound, with Close reefed Topsails    Nearly struck morning.
We. 12    Wet day,  Driven  out to sea,  Sighted Vancouvers  Island,
Th.  13     Strong gale, Driven out to sea again with Close reefed Topsails.
(5) The Norman Morison has now rounded Cape Horn, and is sailing
northward on a course roughly parallel to the coast of South America.
(6) The child was christened Eliza Norman Morison Wishart Anderson.
She died in Victoria in 1936, a few days before her 76th birthday. 1943 Diary of Robert Melrose. 125
Fr. 14 Came to the mouth of the Sound Evening, All hands on Deck,
to guard against the rocks.
Sa.   15    Fine day, Sailed up the Sound very slow.
S. 16 Cast Anchor in the Royal Bay [i.e., in Royal Roads], Saw the
Indians in their canoe's first time.
Mo. 17 English People went ashore, with Mr. McKenzie, Weir, &
Stewart, at Fort Victoria.7
Tu.  18     Scotch     do. also    do.
Fr.   21     Norman Morrison came into Harbour.
Sa.   22    Went up and saw our new abode.8
Mo. 24 Carpenters, & Blacksmiths, all removed up to the farm. Shipwreck lost our Stern going home.9
Sa.   29    Wet Day.
S.  " 30    Attended the English Chapel in the Fort.10
We. 2 James Downie & James Whyte removed to the farm. Shipwreck in the Rapids going home.11
Th.    3    Hard frost.
Tu.    8    George Greenwood & Isabella Russel married.
We.   9     Holiday kept here.
Sa.   12    Holiday given all the men practising ball shooting.
Tu.  15    The " Brig Vancouver "12 sailed for the Sandwich Islands.
Sa.   19     Mrs. Stewart gave birth to a male child.
Tu. 22 Brig " Mary Dare "1S arrived from Nisqually with fresh Beef
and Cows.
Tu.    1     Mr. McKenzie's Steam Engine taken up to the Farm.
Fr.    4    Temporay [sic] Smith's-shop erected.
(7) Kenneth McKenzie had been engaged as a Bailiff on behalf of the
Puget Sound Agricultural Company, to take charge of one of their farms in
the neighbourhood of Victoria. Upon his arrival he was assigned to the
tract of land which soon became famous as the Craigflower Farm.' James
Stewart and Robert Weir had been engaged as Land Stewards by McKenzie.
(8) That is, Craigflower, to which Melrose was also assigned.
(9) At this time travel between Victoria and Craigflower was by water,
up and down Victoria Arm.
(10) The Rev. Robert J. Staines, Chaplain to the Hudson's Bay Company, had been at Victoria since March, 1849.
(11) I.e., in the reversible falls now known as the Gorge.
(12) The Vawcoifyer was owned by the Hudson's Bay Company. She
was the first vessel to make the voyage from England direct to Victoria,
where she arrived in 1845.    She was later wrecked, as noted in the diary.
(13) Owned by the Hudson's Bay Company. The farms at Nisqually
were one of the chief sources of supplies for Victoria at this time. 126
Diary of Robert Melrose.
" Norman Morrison " ran aground at the entrance of the Harbour.    " Steam Boat Beaver " sailed [for] Coal-Mines.14
The Brig " Williams " visited Port.15
Thomas Abernethy & Christeena Bell proclaimed for marriage.
Steam Boat " Beaver " arrived from Coal-Mines.
Barque " Norman Morrison " sailed out of Harbour.
Mr. McKenzie's Store House finished.
Barque " Norman Morrison " sailed for England.
Scough-load of Provisions taken up to the farm.
Wet day.
Brig " Recovery "i6 sailed as a gaurd-ship [sic] to the Coal-
Mines,17 Steam Boat " Beaver " tugged her up.
Holiday given.
James Douglas Esqre. proclaimed Governor of Queen Charlotte's Island.18
John Crittle & Herriot Whyte proclaimed for marriage.
Likewise William Guthrie & Helen Fisher.
Scough-load of provisions taken up to the farm.
Rain & Snow.
One Dwelling House finished.19
Mr. McKenzie, Wife & Family removed to the Farm.
Brig " Mary Dare " arrived with fresh meat and Potatoes.
Schooner " Mary Taylor "20 arrived in Port.
Mr. McKenzie's Steam Engine set agoing.
Thomas Abernethy and Christeena Bell married.
Saw Mill started.
Brig " Mary Dare " sailed for San Francisco.
Schooner " Mary Taylor " sailed out of Port.
William Guthrie and Helen Fisher married.
John Crittle and Herriot Whyte, married.
Schooner " Honolullu " arrived in Port.21
(14) Mining operations were being carried on at both Fort Rupert and
Nanaimo in 1853;  this reference is probably to Fort Rupert.
(15) The William, as she is usually called, loaded 121 tons of coal at
Nanaimo in March, 1853.
(16) Owned by the Hudson's Bay Company.
(17) Fort Rupert is meant.
(18) Actually Lieutenant-Governor. Gold had been discovered in the
Queen Charlotte Islands in 1850-51, a small rush followed in 1852, and it
was deemed advisable to give Douglas formal authority in the area.
(19) Presumably this and the other buildings the completion of which is
noted in the diary were in the Craigflower Farm neighbourhood.
(20) This little 60-foot schooner was the first pilot boat on the famous
Columbia River bar, in 1849. She had just been replaced there, and was
starting a new career as a general trader.
(21) Also referred to as the Honolulu Packet; a 92-ton British schooner.
We. 30
17 1943 Diary of Robert Melrose. 127
Mo. 18    H.M. Steam Frigate " Virago," 6 Guns, arrived in Esquimalt
John Bell stricken work.22
" Mary Taylor " arrived in Harbour.
Carpenters stricken work.    Wet morning.
Schooner " Mary Taylor " sailed.
Steam Boat " Beaver," and Brig " Cadboro,"23 arrived from
Coal Mines.
Schooner " Honolullu " sailed out of Port.
H.M.'s Steam Frigate " Virago," sailed for the Coal Mines
[Nanaimo], & Queen Charlotte's Island.
John Bell imprisoned for thirty days.    Wet day.
Brig " Vancouver " arrived from Sandwich Islands.
Steam Boat " Beaver " sailed on a trading expedition.
Garden seeds sown.
Mrs. Deans gave birth to a female child.
Commenced to plough a piece of ground for potatoes.
One bullock killed.
One dwelling house finished.    One dwelling house finished.
Mo. 16    William Veitch, James Liddle, James Wilson, & the Author,
all removed to the farm.
Tu.  17    All the potatoes planted in the Garden.    Brig " Vancouver "
sailed for Fraser's River.
Th.  19    Horses & Cows brought up to the farm.   John Russel removed
to the Fort.
Mrs. Barr gave birth to a female child.
Victoria races celebrated on Beacon Hill.    Holiday given.
James Wilson, and the Author got a clock each.
Brig " Rose " taking in a cargo of timber in Harbour.24
John Bell liberated.    James Downie stricken work.
One Bullock killed and divided.
James Stewart, and George Deans's children baptized, English
Mo. 30    H.M.'s Steam Frigate " Virago " arrived from Queen Charlotte's Island.
Tu. 31    Field potatoes all planted.
(22) The case of John Bell illustrates the punishment meted out to
recalcitrant employees of the Puget Sound Agricultural Company. See the
entries dated April 28, May 27, June 7, and June 20, 1853.
(23) The famous little vessel, owned by the Hudson's Bay Company,
which had been on the Pacific Coast since 1827.
(24) The Rose, a German vessel of 200 tons, was loading piles, which
were in great demand in San Francisco.
29 128
Diary of Robert Melrose.
James Downie started to work. Dinner given by the Governor to the Officers of the Frigate on Beacon Hill.
Well sunk 27 feet deep plentifull supply. Brig " Mary Dare "
arrived from San Francisco.
William McNeill, and Mary MacCauly married. One Sow
Two Deers divided among the people.
Attended Prayers on board the Steam Frigate " Virago."
One dwelling house finished.    One Sow pigged.
James Tait removed to the farm.    John Bell started to work.
Discovered Lime-stone. Steam Frigate " Virago " sailed for
Port Simpson.
Four Cows brought up to the farm.    Slight showers.
Brig " Vancouver " arrived from Fraser's River.
Edward Shooter drowned by the upsetting of a Canoe.
7 Cows brought up to the farm.
Commenced to make Bricks.
W. Veitch, J. Wilson, A. Hume, J. Liddle, J. Tait, & the
Author got a Cow each.
James Downie got a Cow.
One Bullock killed and divided. Brig " Vancouver " sailed
for San Francisco.
Edward Shooter's body found by an Indian.
John Bell made his escape to America.    Showers.
Edward Shooter buried. Brig " Rose " sailed for San Francisco.
Shed put over the Saw Mill.
Brig " Cadboro " sailed along with the Governor.
John Russel, and Peter Bartleman stricken work.
H.M.'s Frigate " Trincomalee " of 26 guns arrived in Esquimalt Harbour.
William & John Weir absconded to Soack [Sooke]. John
Russel & Peter Bartleman tried.
John Russel started to work.
8 Indians started to work.    Peter Bartleman started to work.
One dwelling house finished.    Brig " Cadboro " arrived along
with the Governor.
James Stewart removed to the farm.    Wilson & the Author
got a gun each.
Four Lambs killed and divided.
One of Neptune's sons, belonging to the " Trincomalee," got
himself hurt by falling from a tree, after drinking a
bottle of Grog on the top of it. Mo.
1943 Diary of Robert Melrose. 129
First Lime Kiln burnt off.    3 more Indians started to work.
Crane broke.    2 more Indians started to work.
Crane mended.    One Bull gotten for the Cows.
Licences for selling grog granted 120£ per Annum.25
One Sheep killed.
3 more Indians started to work.    One little pig got its leg
6 Marines belonging to the Frigate " Trincomalee " started to
work here.
The Marines dropped work.
Attempt made to make [take?] Robert Weir a farmer at Fort
Schooner " Honolullu " arrived from San Francisco.
Visited the Frigate " Trincomalee."    Fine dinner on board
of her.
Mo. 18    Mrs. Veitch gave birth to a female child.    One bullock killed
and divided.   2d Lime kiln burnt off.
We. 20    R. Anderson got a cow.    Dinner given by the Governor to the
Officers of the Frigate " Trincomalee."
Th. 21    Brig " Vancouver " arrived from San Francisco with flour.
Fr.  22    Fresh Salmon served out.    Schooner " Honolullu " sailed out
of Port.
Mo. 25    6 Marines, & 6 Seamen belonging to the Frigate " Trincomalee " started to work here.
Tu. 26    Flour brought up.    Smiths shop  erected.    " Trincomalee"
men threw a bridge here.
We. 27    James Downie's Cow shot by an Indian.    " Trincomalee"
men dropped work.
Th. 28    Skirmishing party sent after the Indian that shot the cow,
but could not find him.
Thomas Abernethy, and Christeena Bell escaped to America.
Lime kiln burnt off.
Prayer meeting started here by two Officers belonging to the
" Trincomalee " Frigate.
Mo.    1    H.M. Steam Frigate " Virago " arrived from Port Simpson.
Brig " Vancouver " sailed for P. Simpson.
Brig " Cadboro " sailed.
All the Indians dropped work.
Years pay due, Accounts made up.
(25)  This licence fee had been imposed in March.   See introduction.
, (26)  Presumably this refers to a forcible attempt to bring Weir back to
Craigflower, from which he had absconded (see entry dated June 27, supra).
4 Fr.
130 Diary of Robert Melrose. April
Screw Steamer " Otter " arrived from England.27
One sheep killed.   One sow pigged.   Oatmeal and Rice sttoped.
Mrs. Montgomery gave birth to a female child.    Brig " Cadboro " arrived.
Robert Anderson stricken work.    Refreshing showers.
George Deans stricken work.    More Indians started to work.
We. 10    One calf died of hunger.    H.M. Steam Frigate " Virago "
sailed for San Francisco & the South.
H.M. Frigate " Trincomalee" sailed for Queen Charlotte's
Island and Sitka.
Robert Anderson, and George Deans, commenced to work to
Captain Cowper.
Sa.   13    One Bullock killed and divided.
Mo. 15    One Indian died, that was working with Mr. McKenzie here.
Tu.  16    James Whyte got a room for himself.    Robert Weir removed
to Soack.
We. 17    Showers.
Th.  18    Screw Steamer " Otter," and Brig " Mary Dare " sailed fo*
the Coal-Mines [Nanaimo].28
Fr.   19    Heavy Rain.
Sa.   20    One sheep killed.
S.    21    9 of the Companys men escaped to America, from Fort Victoria.
Mo. 22    Brig " Cadboro " sailed.
Tu. 23    Brick kiln burnt off.   All the Indians dropped work.
We. 24    Joseph Montgomery dropped work.    No Pork served out.
Th. 25    Commenced to plaster the houses with Lime.
Sa.   27    Four Lambs killed and divided.
S.    28    American Steam Frigate " Active "29 arrived in Port.
Tu. 30    Screw Steamer "Otter" and Brig "Mary Dare" arrived
.from Coal Mines [Nanaimo].
We. 31    American Steam Frigate " Active " sailed out of Port.
Th.    1    Joseph Montgomery commenced to sink wells for his own
(27) The Otter, owned by the Hudson's Bay Company, was only less
well-known than the famous Beaver. She was a craft of 144 tons, with a
length of 122 feet.
(28) Douglas accompanied this expedition, in order to inspect the new
coal-mines at Nanaimo. It is possibly significant that the desertions noted
on August 21 took place during his absence.
(29) A United States revenue cutter and surveying vessel. She was the
first vessel to use Active Pass, which is named after her. Mo.
1943        Diary of Robert Melrose.        131
Sa.    3    Andrew Hume % Drunk, James Whyte, & James Liddle %
Brig " Cadboro " sailed as a guardship to the Coal Mines,
Screw Steamer " Otter " tugged her up.
More Indians started to work.    Smeeked [smoked?] Salmon
served out.
James Tait and Wife absconded to Soack.    One Bull got for
the Cows.    J. Wilson and the Author, % Drunk.
R. Anderson, G. Deans, & J. Montgomery imprisoned for one
month.    Robert, & Will. Weir apprehended.
Steam Boat " Beaver " arrived with the Crew of the Brig
" Vancouver."80 •
Andrew Hume, & Duncan Lidgate got a house each.
Each Family got a stew-pan, and girdle [griddle].
Three Sheep killed and divided.
Brig " Mary Dare " sailed for San Francisco.
John Hall, Engineer, removed from his house here.   Blankets
served out to each Family.    1 pair.
We. 14    James Wilson, & the Author's Vent put up.    Steam Boat
" Beaver " sailed on her trading expedition.
Sa.   17    One Lamb killed.    Pork served out.    Screw Steamer " Otter,"
& Brig, " Recovery," arrived from C[oal]. Mines.
The Author % Drunk.    James Wilson % Drunk.    Letters
arrived from Britain.
James Stewarts Vent put up.
Andrew Hume, & Duncan Lidgate's Vent put up.    Brig " Recovery " sailed for the Sandwich Islands.
John Hall, & James Whyte's vent put up.    Wet day.    Flour
brought up.
Potatoes served out.    James Wilson whole Drunk.    James
Liddle % d.    The Author % Drunk.
Screw Steamer " Otter " sailed for Port Simpson.
Peter Bartleman stricken work.    William Veitch, and James
Liddle's, Vent put up.
Another Saw-table erected.    One Calf died.    Peter Bartleman removed with his house to the Fort.
Peter Bartleman started to work.
American Steam Frigate " Active " visited Port, an express
sent from Dungeness, for her assisstance [sic], against
the Indians.31
(30) The Vancouver had been wrecked shortly before this on Rose Spit,
Queen Charlotte Islands.
(31) Serious trouble with the Indians was being experienced by the
American settlements at this time.
30 132 Diary of Robert Melrose. April
Sa.    1    Three Sheep killed and divided.
We.   5    H.M. Frigate " Trincomalee " arrived from Sitka and Queen
Charlotte's Island.    Showers.    R. Anderson, G. Deans,
& J. Montgomery liberated from Prison.    All the Indians
dropped work.
Th.    6    William, and John Weir imprisoned for one month.    James
Wilson whole drunk.
Fr.    7    One Sheep killed.
Sa.     8    Three Sheep killed and divided.
S.       9    Showers.
Tu.  11    Flour Mill erected.    Wet day.
We. 12    Commenced to Plough piece of land for wheat.    More Indians
started to work.
Th. 13    Showers.   American Steam Frigate " Active " arrived from
Fr.  14    American Steam Frigate " Active " sailed out of Port.
Sa.   15    Three Sheep killed and divided.    All the Indians dropped
S.     16    Wet day.
Mo. 17    Wet day.    12 Seamen belonging to the Frigate " Trincomalee " started to work here.
Tu.  18    Splendid Theatre on board the Frigate " Trincomalee."   Mrs.
Irvine gave birth to a female c[hild].
We. 19    The Seamen belonging to the " Trincomalee " Frigate dropped
Sa.  22    Three Sheep killed and divided.   Commenced to make flour.
S.    23    Mrs. Veitch's child baptized on board the " Trincomalee"
Frigate.    Wet night.
Tu. 25    Frigate  " Trincomalee" sailed for San Francisco.    Screw
Steamer " Otter " arrived from Port Simpson.
We. 26    Saw Mill going all night.
Fr.  28    Screw Steamer " Otter" sailed for Coal Mines.    Showery
Sa.   29    Four Sheep killed, three divided.    Doctor's Wife gave birth
to a male child.32    High wind & Rain.
S.     30    Mrs. Montgomery's child baptized.
Mo. 31    Mrs. Tait gave birth to a female child.    More Indians started
Tu.    1    Wheat Sown.    Saw Mill Shed slabbed all round.    No Pork
served out.
(32) The first child of Dr. J. S. Helmcken and his wife, Cecilia, daughter
of James Douglas. The baby lived only three months. See entry dated
January 22, 1854. 1943 Diary of Robert Melrose. 133
We.   2    Jack  Humphrey  dropped  work.    Pump   of  Engine broke.
Th.    3    Fresh Herring served out.   Pump of Engine mended.   Grinding wheat all night.
Fr.    4    William, and John Weir, liberated from Prison.    Quarters
Pay due, and settled.
Sa.     5    Peter  Bartleman, taken  Money  for his  Rations.33    Thom
Bates dropped work.    Sleet and Snow.
S.      6    Wet day.
Mo.    7    James Wilson, and the Author taken Money for their Rations.
Brig " Mary Dare " arrived from S[an]. Francis [co].
Tu.    8    Grinding wheat all night.    Rain.
We.   9    2 Vice's, 1 Anvil, 2 Hand Saws, Cargo of Iron, received from
.   S[an].   Francisco.     Prayer   Meeting   started.     Screw
Steamer "Otter" arrived from C[oal]. Mines.    Potato.
Th.  10    John Instant % Drunk.    Rain.
Fr.  11    John Russel % Drunk.    Rain.
Sa.   12    Three Sheep killed and divided.    Rain.    -
S.     13    Rain.
Mo. 14    American Barque " Swallow "34 arrived in Port.    Rain.
Tu.  15    Smiths Shop shingled.    Rain.
We. 16    Pork served out.    Rain.
Th. 17    Screw Steamer " Otter " sailed Nisqually.    J. Instant whole
Drk.    J. Stewart V2 Drk.    Barque "Swallow" sailed.
Johnstone Engineer's House burnt down.    Rain.
Fr.  18    J. Instant whole Dk.    J. Russel % Dk.
Sa.   19    John Instant whole Drunk.    Letters arrived from Britain.
S.    20    Mrs. Greenwood gave birth to a female child.    Rain.
Mo. 21    Schooner " Honolullu " arrived in Port.    Rain.
Tu. 22    Frost.
We. 23    Frost and Snow.
Th. 24    Schooner " Honolullu " sailed out of Port.    Rain.
Fr.   25    Earthquake felt at Fort Victoria.    Rain.
Sa.  26    Rain.
S.    27    Rain.
Mo. 28    Screw Steamer " Otter " arrived from Nisqually with Fresh.
Beef and Live Stock.    Mail came in.    Snow.
Tu. 29    Potatoe House put up.    John Goudy's Wife died.    Rain.
We. 30    J. Instant % Dk.    The Author % Dk.    Fresh beef served
out.    Indians dropped work.    Flour came up.
(33) That is, he accepted a money allowance in place of rations supplied by the Company.
(34) Not identified. 134 Diary of Robert Melrose.
Th. 1 W. Veitch % Dk. J. Whyte % Dk. The Author whole Dk.
Fr. 2 James Wilson whole Dk. Fresh beef served out. Screw
Steamer "Otter" sailed [for] C[oal]. Mines.    Rain.
Sa.    3    Rain.
S.      4    Rain.
Mo. 5 Monthly Ration Pay due, and settled. More Indians started
to work.    Rain.
We.   7    Mr. McKenzie got the Brig " Vancouver's " Boat.
Th.    8    Rain.
Fr.    9    Rain.
Sa.   10    Steam Boat " Beaver " arrived from her trading expedition.
S.     11    Frosty morning, Wet night.
Mo. 12    Rain,
We. 14    Screw Steamer " Otter " arrived from Coal Mines.
Th. 15 Steam Boat " Beaver " sailed Bellview Island35 with Sheep.
Mail came in.
Fr. 16 Brig " Mary Dare" sailed for England. Screw Steamer
" Otter " sailed for Bellview Island.
Sa. 17 Steam Boat " Beaver," and Screw Steamer " Otter " arrived
from Bellview Island.
Mo. 19 Cooking Galley, and Hen-House put up. Three French Canadians started to square wood.
Tu. 20 Screw Steamer " Otter " sailed to rescue the Crew of the Ship
" Lord Western."36    Flour came up.
We. 21    Prayer Meeting dissolved.    Frosty weather.
Th. 22    Enoch Morris started to work.    Frost and Snow.
Fr. 23 Five Sheep killed and divided. Schooner " Honolullu " arrived
in Port. Theatrical Play and Ball, held at F[ort]. Victoria by the H. B. C.'s Clerks and Officers.
S. 25 Wet day. Screw Steamer " Otter " arrived with Captain, and
remaining part of the Crew of the " L[ord]. W[estern]."
Mo. 26 Holiday given. Mail came in. Schooner " Honolullu " sailed
out of Port.
Tu. 27    Grinding wheat all night.    Rain.
Fr. 30 Monthly Ration Pay Settled, not due or 2d. January. Grinding wheat all night.
Sa.   31    One Dwelling-house finished.
(The concluding part of the Diary will appear in the July issue
of the Quarterly.)
(35) Bellevue Island, i.e., San Juan Island. The first serious American
claim to the island was made in the fall of 1853, and the matter is dealt with
at length in Douglas's letters of the time.
.(36) This 530-ton British vessel sailed from Sooke with a cargo of
salmon and lumber for San Francisco, but was wrecked on the coast of
Vancouver Island. She is sometimes referred to (as in Lewis & Dryden,
Marine History of the Pacific Northwest) as the Lord Weston. CELEBRATION OF THE VICTORIA
Early in the year a Civic Centenary Celebration Committee was formed
in Victoria, under the chairmanship of Alderman D. D. McTavish, to plan
the city's observance of its hundredth anniversary. Various interested
bodies were invited to name members to act on the Committee, and the
British Columbia Historical Association was represented by its President,
Mr. B. A. McKelvie, and by Mrs. Curtis Sampson and Mrs. M. R. Cree,
Past Chairman and Secretary respectively of the Victoria Section.
Owing to the war the celebration was planned on a modest scale, but at
the same time care was taken to see that the occasion received as much
attention as was consistent with the times. It was decided that the celebration should commence in March, and a series of most interesting and
successful functions were held during the month.
On Sunday, March 7, a " Thanksgiving Service in Commemoration of
the Centenary " was held in Christ Church Cathedral. Those in attendance
included Colonel the Hon. W. C. Woodward, Lieutenant-Governor of British
Columbia; Mayor Andrew McGavin, of Victoria; and Mayor J. W. Cornett,
of Vancouver. A special order of service was printed for the occasion and
the sermon was preached by the Rt. Rev. the Lord Bishop of British Columbia, who paid tribute to the city's pioneers: " Believing in the dignity and
greatness of the future, they laid foundations large and worthy; nor was
their vision limited to things material." Christ Church Cathedral traces
its origin back to the old Victoria District Church, the first church building
erected in the city; and even before its construction the Rev. Robert Staines
conducted services in Fort Victoria, as chaplain for the Hudson's Bay
On Sunday, March 14, the hundredth anniversary of the arrival of
James Douglas off the southern end of Vancouver Island, the British Columbia Historical Association sponsored a motor cavalcade through the streets
of Victoria, in the course of which a series of six plaques, marking as many
historic sites, were unveiled by pioneers of the city. The first ceremony took
place at the foot of Fort Street, where a plaque will henceforth draw attention to the existence of the old mooring-rings that are now the only surviving bit of Fort Victoria. Mr. B. A. McKelvie addressed the crowd of
interested spectators, and deplored the fact that the old oak-tree near the
mooring-rings, upon which Douglas had nailed his original proclamation,
taking possession of the neighbourhood for the Hudson's Bay Company, had
been cut down. Mr. Francis Ross, grandson of Chief Trader Charles Ross,
the first officer placed in charge of Fort Victoria, then unveiled the plaque.
The next spot visited was an old brick building that once housed Macdonald & Co. at the foot of Yates Street.    This private banking firm issued
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Vol. VII., No. 2.
135 136 Celebration of the Victoria Centenary.       April
the first paper money circulated in what is now British Columbia. The
plaque commemorating the bank was unveiled by Mr. W. H. Bone, one of
Victoria's best known and most respected citizens.
The cavalcade then proceeded to a spot near the Central Junior High
School, where a plaque had been placed to mark the site of the first school
building erected in Victoria. Mr. F. C. Green, Surveyor-General of British
Columbia, told the story of the school, and the plaque was unveiled by Mrs.
T. H. Laundy, daughter of the late Bishop Cridge.
The fourth stop was made at the Windsor Hotel, at the corner of Government and Courtney streets. This building, known originally as the Victoria Hotel, was the first brick structure erected in Victoria. The plaque
recording this fact was unveiled by Mr. Frank Partridge, who came to the
city as a child, travelling by way of Cape Horn.
Helmcken House, residence of one of the Province's most interesting and
distinguished pioneers, Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken, was next visited, and
a plaque was there unveiled by Miss Josephine Crease, daughter of Sir
H. P. P. Crease, first Attorney-General of British Columbia.
The sixth and last ceremony took place on Superior Street, where the
old Legislative Hall, the only one of the original Parliament Buildings now
standing, was likewise marked with a plaque. Mr. E. G. Rowebottom,
Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, whose department arranged for
the erection of the plaques, recalled the old " bird cages," and at the conclusion of his remarks the flag concealing the inscription was drawn aside
by Mr. Walter Chambers. Mr. Chambers, it is interesting to note, arrived
in Victoria in 1858, a year before the historic " bird cages " were built.
Guests who took part in the cavalcade included Mayor Andrew McGavin,
Alderman D. D. McTavish, and Alderman Archie Wills. Greetings from
pioneers in the Interior of the Province were brought by Lieut. Louis
LeBourdais, M.L.A. for Cariboo, and Dr. F. W. Green, M.L.A., of Cranbrook.
The old-timers who unveiled the plaques rode in the royal maroon phaeton
that was used by the King and Queen when visiting Victoria in 1939. Mrs.
Ross Palmer, of Comox, owner of the car, acted as chauffeur, dressed in a
maroon uniform that matched the car's colour. At the conclusion of the
programme the pioneers were entertained at tea in Helmcken House by Miss
Madge Wolfenden, Acting Provincial Archivist.
On Monday, March 15, the Sir James and Lady Douglas Chapter of the
I.O.D.E. held a centennial luncheon in the Empress Hotel. Mrs. A. S.
Christie, Regent of the Chapter, presided, and introduced the guests and
speakers. Two items on the programme were of outstanding interest, the
first of these being the presentation by the Provincial Government to the
City of Victoria of a striking oil painting of Sir James Douglas. The
portrait is the work of Robert Southwell, the well-known artist. The
presentation was made by Hon. John Hart, Premier of British Columbia,
and the picture was accepted on behalf of the city by Mayor Andrew
McGavin. Following this Mr. B. A. McKelvie delivered an address in which
he made an eloquent plea that justice should be done the memory of Chief
Trader Charles Ross, whom he described as " the forgotten man in a forr 1943        Celebration of the Victoria Centenary. 137
gotten grave." " Nothing," he felt, " could be more fitting in this centennial
year than that a memorial stone be erected in the Quadra Street Pioneer
Cemetery, where the remains of the man who first controlled the destiny of
the fort lie in an unmarked grave." Mr. McKelvie outlined Ross's life and
work, and described the construction and early days of Fort Victoria.
In the course of the proceedings Premier Hart announced a gift of
$10,000 to the city's Centennial Celebration Fund; and it is to be hoped that
plans for its expenditure will include the erection of a fitting monument to
Charles Ross.
Others present who contributed to the programme included Mrs. Sidney
Bowden, who moved the vote of thanks to the speakers; Mrs. W. H. Wilson,
who contributed vocal selections; Mr. F. G. Mulliner, representing the Victoria School Board; Mrs. Hilda Cruikshank, Chief Factor of Post No. 3,
Native Daughters of British Columbia; Mr. L. Westendale, Chief Factor,
Post No. 1, Native Sons; and Alderman D. D. McTavish, great grandson
of Sir James Douglas, and Chairman of the Civic Centenary Committee.
Mrs. Bertha Parsons, Secretary of the Sir James and Lady Douglas Chapter,
was convener of the affair, and supervised the seating of the 400 guests.
On Tuesday, March 16, a " Fort Victoria Centenary Dinner " was held
in the Empress Hotel by the Vancouver Island Philatelic Society. A most
interesting souvenir menu and programme was designed for the occasion by
Dr. J. A. Pearce, President of the Society. The illustrations include facsimiles of an early letter addressed to Fort Victoria, and of the now celebrated "V for Victory" stamp of 1865. Miss Madge Wolfenden, Acting
Provincial Archivist, gave an illustrated address entitled "An Album of
Victoria's Early Years," in the course of which many of the early sketches,
prints, and photographs relating to Fort Victoria were shown to the members. This was followed by a second address on " The Postal History of
Fort Victoria," by Mr. Gerald E. Wellburn. Mr. Wellburn has a remarkable knowledge of the philatelic history of British Columbia, and a selection
from the many letters, documents, stamps, Western Express envelopes, and
Colonial covers in his private collection was on exhibition.
Thanks to the efforts of the Philatelic Society a special centenary cancellation was used by the post-office in Victoria during the fortnight commencing on March 15. The design included an outline of Vancouver Island
and a drawing of one of the old bastions of the fort. It is much to be
regretted that, owing to the war, the Post Office Department was unable to
issue a special postage-stamp, as this would have directed wide attention to
the centenary throughout the Dominion.
On Friday, March 19, a Civic Luncheon was held in the Empress Hotel,
to honour " Victoria's Pioneer Residents of 1871 or Earlier." No less than
170 pioneers attended, and other invited guests brought the number present
to 215. Alderman D. D. McTavish presided. Grace was said by the Rt.
Rev. J. C. Cody, Bishop of Victoria. Greetings were sent to the pioneers by
Col. the Hon. W. C. Woodward, Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia.
Hon. H. G. T. Perry, Minister of Education, addressed the assembled pioneers 138 Celebration of the Victoria Centenary.
in the absence of Hon. Herbert Anscomb, concluding his remarks with a
much appreciated quotation:—
Make all the new friends that you can—but keep the old;
For one is silver—but the other gold.
Mayor Andrew McGavin expressed the good wishes of the city. A blessing
was pronounced by Rev. Hugh A. McLeod, President of the Victoria Ministerial Association. The programme concluded with an entertainment given
by a group of students from Victoria High School, which featured old-
fashioned costumes, songs, and dances. Mrs. W. Fitzherbert Bullen, granddaughter of Sir James Douglas, moved a vote of thanks, on behalf of the
pioneers present, to the Mayor and Aldermen and the Civic Centenary Celebration Committee for the delightfully arranged luncheon. Auld Lang Syne
was sung before the gathering dispersed.
A Civic Centenary Ball will be held in May. Other events are planned
for later in the year, including a service at the grave of Sir James Douglas
on August 2, the anniversary of his death in 1877.
The centenary received extended notice in the Press and on the air.
Station CJVI, Victoria, sponsored a variety of broadcasts, and no less than
eight programmes were offered by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
through station CBR, Vancouver. These ranged from fifteen-minute talks
to a half-hour historical drama. Several of the broadcasts, including the
drama, were carried by a nation-wide network.
The Victoria Daily Colonist and Victoria Daily Times both printed
elaborate centenary supplements, and almost as much space and attention
were devoted to the occasion by the Vancouver Daily Province and the
Vancouver Sun. The number and variety of the articles and photographs
printed by the four papers were remarkable, and the supplements will be
most useful in future for reference purposes.
An example of the widespread recognition accorded the centenary is
found in the February issue of the British Columbia Electric Home Service
News, and the B.C.E.R. Employees Magazine for March, both of which
include illustrated articles on early days in Victoria. NOTES AND COMMENTS.
The correspondence relating to the establishment of the naval base at
Esquimalt, printed in the Quarterly for October, 1942, brings to mind the
question of the Pacific Station Records and their value to local and general
history. The introduction brings out important points, but " Commander-
in-Chief, Pacific Coast," on page 279, seems to give a wrong impression.
The Pacific Station, in the days of the Naval Commander-in-Chief, was a
blue-water affair. An old standing order, for instance, provided for repairs
to Captain Cook's monument by ships visiting the Sandwich Islands. The
sloop Condor, leaving on the Island voyage, went down with all hands off
the west coast of Vancouver Island. Her sister ship, the Shearwater, after
patrolling the Bering Sea in 1902, left Esquimalt for Honolulu, Fanning
Island, Christmas, Tahiti, Pitcairn, and Easter islands. As coal was running short she made about 600 miles under sail alone before reaching the
coast of' Chile.
The last flagship was the cruiser Grafton. The Commander-in-Chief,
Rear-Admiral A. K. Bickford, and the Flag Captain, Colin Keppel, were
relieved by Commodore J. E. C. Goodrich in 1903. Some of the Grafton's
officers have had interesting records, but a few of these were cut short.
Clive Phillipps-Wolley, who came as a Midshipman from the old Warspite,
went down as Lieutenant with the Hogue in September, 1914; the Signal
Midshipman, now Vice-Admiral Sir Herbert Fitzherbert, became Flag Lieutenant to Lord Jellicoe; Lieutenant Loxley went down as Captain of H.M.S.
Formidable on New Year's Day, 1915; the Torpedo Lieutenant, now Admiral
of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound, has been First Sea Lord of the Admiralty
since the beginning of the present war.
The Grafton left for England in 1904, taking with her many of the naval
stores; her departure from Esquimalt was impressive, but marked the beginning of the end of the old state of affairs. The Commodore's pennant was
transferred to the cruiser Bonaventure, but not for long; she left for China
early in the following year, the Commodore returned to England, and the
Pacific Station became a thing of the past. Commander (now Vice-Admiral
Sir Thomas) Hunt, H.M.S. Shearwater, was appointed Senior Naval Officer
on the West Coast of North America. " Senior Naval Officer " was later
changed to " Commander in Charge for Station Duties," a senior officer
being present in the survey ship Egeria. In 1908 the sloop Algerine arrived
from China and the length of the station was extended, " North America "
being changed to "America." In 1914 the Algerine was commanded by a
Captain, as Senior Naval Officer on the West Coast of America.
When the staff of the Dockyard left for England the late George Phillips resigned from the Admiralty Works Department and remained at
Esquimalt as Admiralty Agent until the arrival of H.M.C.S. Rainbow in
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, VoL VII., No. 2.
139 140 Notes and Comments. April
1910, when the shore establishment and his own services were taken over
by Canada. The building demolished in 1939, after eighty-four years of
service, was used as an office by the Naval Stores Officer and then by the
Admiralty Agent. The north half was used by the Commander-in-Chief
when ashore, then by the Commodore, and the Senior Naval Officer. Old
Station Records were kept in one of the cupboards; current Records, bound
by the King's Printer in Victoria, accompanied the Flag; they were not,
however, taken on board the Shearwater, the size of the ship's office being,
approximately, 5% by 9 feet.
These Pacific Station Records contain important information on various
matters, such as the Bering Sea controversy and the San Juan affair, on
questions of local interest, and on the Pacific generally. Had it not been
for the efforts of the Provincial Archivist they would, apparently, have been
removed from Canada. Many of the volumes are now in Ottawa, but it is
hoped that recent developments will draw attention to the fact that they
should really be in British Columbia. In England the present tendency is
towards decentralization, as it has been found that national records are
•often most useful in the neighbourhood to which they belong. And, in
Canada, distances are so very much greater.
It might be added that distances in the Pacific are greater still. The
Canadian Navy had a promising start in 1910, but during the boom, and
after the war, the problems of the Pacific did not receive sufficient attention.
If the original programme had been completed Canada might have had two
cruisers of the Newcastle class on the Pacific coast in 1914; as events
turned out the presence of the Japanese cruiser Idzumo was distinctly
comforting—and Japan's services in the Pacific were rewarded by a League
of Nations mandate.
Since drafting this note I have seen Modern Naval Strategy, by Admiral
Sir Reginald Bacon and Francis E. McMutrie, whose predictions as to the
East Indian islands have proved remarkably correct; they foretold the
result of the lack of early and powerful fortifications at Guam, tracing the
blame to the mandate given Japan for the Pacific Islands. The authors
attribute importance to a well-informed public opinion on the changing
aspects of naval war; absence of this, they consider, even affected the battle
of Jutland. May we not then conclude that, while the old system of " showing the flag " throughout the Pacific could not be continued, its abandonment
left a gap which only a well-informed public opinion could replace? And
in this respect, perhaps, the Pacific Station Records may contribute their
share to the solution of the problems of the future.
R. P. Bishop.
Victoria, B.C. 1943 Notes and Comments. 141
british columbia historical association.
The annual meeting of the Association was held in the Provincial Library,
Victoria, on Friday, January 8. The meeting was held jointly with the
Victoria Section, which transacted its business during the first part of the
evening, and there was an excellent attendance. The retiring President,
Rev. John Goodfellow, delivered an address on John Hall: Pioneer Presbyterian in British Columbia. Members will recall that this paper was printed
in the January number of the Quarterly.
As usual, the election of the Council had been conducted by mail, and the
result of the ballot was announced to the members. After the adjournment
of the general meeting the new Council met and selected the officers for the
new year.    The Executive for 1943 is as follows:—
Honorary President       - Hon. H. G. T. Perry.
President Mr. B. A. McKelvie.
Past President  ------      Rev. J. C. Goodfellow.
1st Vice-President   -----     Mr. A. G. Harvey.
2nd Vice-President -----      Mrs. Curtis Sampson.
Honorary Treasurer       - Miss Madge Wolfenden.
Honorary Secretary       ...     -      Major H. T. Nation.
Members of the Council:—
Miss Kathleen Agnew. Miss Helen Boutilier.
Mrs. M. R. Cree. Judge F. W. Howay.
Dr. Robie L. Reid. Dr. T. A. Rickard.
Dr. W. N. Sage.
In addition to the above, the Provincial Archivist, the Editor of the
Quarterly, and the chairmen of the Victoria and Vancouver sections are
ex-officio members of the Council.
At the date of the annual meeting the paid-up membership was 410, and
it was expected that a number of members in arrears would still renew
their subscriptions.
Victoria Section.
The annual meeting was held in the Provincial Library, on Friday,
January 8, and was followed, as noted above, by the annual meeting of the
Provincial body. Mrs. Curtis Sampson, retiring Chairman of the Section,
presided. The Secretary, Mrs. M. R. Cree, read her report, which chronicled
the activities of the society and indicated that the Section had once again
had a most active and interesting year. Miss Wolfenden, the Treasurer,
presented a report which showed that finances were in a satisfactory state.
Other reports presented included that of Miss Alma Russell, Convener of the
Necrology Committee, who noted that at least 174 persons who had resided
in Victoria for fifty years or more had died in 1942. Short biographies of
several of these were included in the report.
Mrs. Sampson had chosen for the subject of her presidential address,
Victoria's Hundred Years. Placing the emphasis on the social life of the
city, she conjured up a vivid and delightful panorama of events, including 142 Notes and Comments. April
balls at Government House, 24th of May celebrations, regattas at the Gorge,
incidents connected with early schools and churches, visits of royalty, and
glimpses of the naval and military life of the city. Particularly interesting
was her account of the reaction of the city to the news of defeat and victory
during the Boer War and the Great War of 1914-18.
The new Executive is composed as follows:—
Chairman       -----      The Hon. Mr. Justice Robertson.
Past Chairman      -     -     -     -      Mrs. Curtis Sampson.
Vice-Chairman      ...     -      Mr. F. C. Green.
Honorary Treasurer   -     -     -      Miss Madge Wolfenden.
Honorary Secretary    -     -     -      Mrs. M. R. Cree.
Members of the Council:—
Miss Muriel Gait. Mr. John Goldie.
Mr. B. A. McKelvie. Mr. W. E. McMullen.
Major H. T. Nation. Mr. T. W. S. Parsons.
Dr. J. A. Pearce.
A meeting of the Section was held on Monday, February 22, when Dr.
T. A. Rickard gave an interesting address on Mining in the Early Days of
the Kootenay. Dr. Rickard described the Kootenay as one of the most
beautiful districts in the world, and noted some of the features that lie
within the area, which is approximately 240 miles long and 130 miles wide.
Its history extends as far back as 1807, when David Thompson built a
trading-post on Lake Windermere. The history of mining, of which Dr.
Rickard gave a detailed account, commenced with the discovery of the celebrated Bluebell vein, on the shores of Kootenay Lake. One of the most
spectacular developments had been the growth of the Trail smelter, which,
in 1938, processed no less than 600,000 tons of ore. Among those responsible for the successful exploitation of the region were William A. Carlisle
and W. Fleet Robertson, former Provincial Mineralogists, to whom the
speaker paid a warm tribute.
The Hon. Mr. Justice Robertson, Chairman of the Section, presided, and
Mr. F. C. Green, Surveyor-General for British Columbia, moved the vote of
thanks to the speaker. Dr. Rickard's paper will be printed in an early issue
of the Canadian Mining Journal.
Members of the Section took an exceedingly active part in planning the
celebration of the centenary of Victoria, and particulars of the various
functions held in March are given elsewhere in this issue.
Vancouver Section.
The first meeting in the New Year was held in the Grosvenor Hotel on
Tuesday, February 23. Mr. A. G. Harvey presided. The speaker of the
evening was Dr. W. Kaye Lamb, who described the Early Medical History
of British Columbia. The story commenced with William Anderson, who
arrived with Captain Cook in H.M.S. Resolution, and was the first qualified
surgeon known to have visited what is now British Columbia, and concluded
with Dr. J. S. Helmcken, who arrived in Victoria in 1850.   Chief amongst 1943 • Notes and Comments. 143
the intervening figures were Archibald Menzies, who came with Captain
Vancouver; Dr. John McLoughlin, of the Hudson's Bay Company; and
Dr. Meredith Gairdner and Dr. W. F. Tolmie, also in the service of the
Great Company, whose careers contrasted sharply with one another. Dr.
Lamb emphasized the remarkable variety of abilities and interests that was
characteristic of these men, pointing out, for example, that in addition to
being a qualified physician and a capable surgeon, Dr. Tolmie was a fur-
trader of note, a naturalist, an ethnologist, a mountaineer, a farmer, an.
educator, and a politician.
Early Days in Vancouver were the " marching orders" followed by
Major J. S. Matthews, Vancouver City Archivist, in his illustrated address
before members of the Section on Tuesday, March 23. In speaking of the
founding of the City Archives, Major Matthews paid tribute to the late
John Hosie, former Provincial Archivist, for the assistance he rendered and
the encouragement he gave to the undertaking.
The slides were arranged to give the audience an idea of life in the
pioneer community that has since grown into Canada's third city. Many of.
the views were of the area lying between Hastings Street and the harbour,
and Carrall and Granville streets. Colonial and railway officials whose
names are perpetuated in the city's streets were described, and the story of
the naming of Burrard Inlet, the Burrard Bridge, and Burrard Street was
particularly timely, as the title had so recently passed to a younger member
of the family. Major Matthews told of the securing of the city's charter,
and of the problems confronting the City Fathers, particularly after the
great fire of June, 1886: of a light-fingered jail inmate who had cached
blankets in the woods, but was able to produce them to relieve those who had
lost all their property; of the city hall " raised in five minutes "; of the
church service held on the first Sunday after the fire in a store on Cordova
Street, with kegs for pews. Unintentional humour, understood only by a
war-time audience, came with the picture of an early street-car, which
appeared to be as crowded as those now carrying defence workers.
Miss Jean Coots, Secretary of the Section, reported upon her visit to
Victoria to attend a number of the functions held to celebrate the city's
100th anniversary.
Bruce A. McKelvie, President of the British Columbia Historical Association, is widely known as a journalist and historian. His books include
Early History of the Province of British Columbia, Pelts and Powder,
Huldowget, etc.
W. Kaye Lamb, formerly Provincial Librarian and Archivist, has been
Librarian of the University of British Columbia since 1940'. THE NORTHWEST BOOKSHELF.
The Trans-Mississippi West: A Guide to its Periodical Literature (1811-
1938). By Oscar Osburn Winther. Bloomington, Indiana: The Indiana University Bookstore, 1942.    Pp. 263.    $1.50.
Our historical roads, like our highways, are becoming well lighted and
marked by guide-posts. This volume, which is No. 3 in the Social Science
Series of Indiana University Publications, " is designed," says the preface,
" to serve teachers, students, and investigators in the field of western
history " by furnishing a short-cut " obviating the tedious task of combing
tables of contents of the professional periodicals included in this compilation." To all time-pressed workers in that field the utility of such a guide is
manifest and they will gladly welcome its advent. There are others, with
minds not so well regulated and regimented, who care not a fig for the time
occupied in " combing tables of contents," for, occasionally, they find, like
Saul, something more worth while than the object of their present search.
This guide enumerates 3,501 items, but beyond merely indicating their
classification as articles, bibliographical material, official documents, letters,
etc., it gives no indication of their worth or importance. The subject-
headings do not include the Hudson's Bay Company: that Great Company,
dovetailed as it is into the story of the West—the ruler of Old Oregon for
nearly twenty-five years—is relegated to a subheading, a distinction it
shares with the North West Company.
The periodicals indexed include, besides the wider-ranging, all the historical publications regularly issued west of the Mississippi, except the
British Columbia Historical Quarterly. The essential unity of the history
of the whole region makes such an omission unforgivable. How a student
can prepare a complete and comprehensive paper or thesis on the " Fur
Trade," " Indians," " Mining," " Cattle," or " Oregon," not to mention
" Canada," or " British Columbia " (to quote some of the headings), without
consulting this Quarterly, passes understanding. The resultant product
must be something parochial or, perhaps, national, but cannot reach higher.
Leaving these omissions aside, the volume seems reasonably complete,
apt to its purpose, and so arranged that its contents are easily accessible.
An author index, of some twenty-three pages, affords yet another key.
Amongst the names therein are some that are familiar to the readers of this
Quarterly: Dr. W. N. Sage, Dr. Robie L. Reid, Dr. W. Kaye Lamb, and
Dr. T. C. Elliott. F w H0WAY
New Westminster, B.C.
Greenland.    By Vilhjalmur Stefansson.    New York:   Doubleday, Doran &
Company, 1942.    Pp. 338.    HI.    $4.50.
Lucus a non lucendo.    It has been said that Greenland was so named
because there was nothing green there, and that the poet's reference to its
" icy mountains " was more nearly correct.    Now we learn, from Mr. Ste-
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, VoL VII., No. 2.
144 The Northwest Bookshelf. 145
fansson, that the largest island in the world was named Gronland by Erik
the Red because he wished to make it attractive to his friends in Iceland.
The baleful light of a world-wide war has illuminated the earth so completely as to enlarge our knowledge of geography. The names of remote
places are now familiar to us and we know where to look for them on the
map. Interest in Greenland was awakened when on April 10, 1941, the
region was formally taken under the protection of the United States, with
the consent of the Danish minister at Washington, because at that time
Denmark was in the hands of the enemy. Greenland is useful for meteorological stations to predict the weather on the Atlantic. It is also valuable
on account of its production of cryolite, an ore of aluminium, of which a
large deposit is exploited at Ivigtut, on the southwestern coast. Mining
. began there about a century ago, says our author, and it has yielded more
than $15,000,000 in taxes to the Danish government.
Greenland is as large as the combined twenty-six American states east
of the Mississippi River. The fact that it was an island was determined
by Peary in 1900, before he reached the North Pole. About 85 per cent,
of Greenland is bound in snow and ice, but the remaining 15 per cent, of
the country gives 110,000 square miles of prairie land, a treeless tract of
grasses, sedges, and small bushes.
The first chapter of the book is devoted to geographic preliminaries; the
second, to prehistoric discoveries. Here the author is much at home owing
to his researches into the voyages of Pitheas and the early history of
Iceland, as is indicated by two of his recent books, Ultima Thule and Iceland.
He makes the interesting statement that Asiatic man has not been in Greenland for more than 2,500 years and it appears certain that the forefathers
of the Eskimo did not reach the American continent much before 1000 B.C.
Next Mr. Stefansson discusses the discovery of Greenland by the Greeks in
325 B.C. This is a fascinating question, even though the answer be inconclusive, for there is no evidence even to suggest that the enterprising
explorer from Massilia, namely, Pitheas, did more than catch a glimpse of
the ice-pack on the eastern coast of Greenland.
Equally inconclusive was the discovery of Greenland by the Irish. It is
recorded that an Irish saint named Brendan in about 570 crossed the
Atlantic in a curragh, or skin-boat, and likewise obtained a view of the
ice-floes in his approach to Greenland. However, we can hardly concede
that this was a discovery of Greenland, but it seems that the mythical and
saintly traveller did reach Iceland and saw a volcanic eruption of Mount
Hekla. Other evidence proves that the Irish landed and settled in Iceland
about 795, and when the Norsemen came thither in 850 they found Christian
Irish people had preceded them.
Then we come to the real discovery of Greenland, for it was an Icelander
named Gunnbjorn that reported he had seen some skerries, or small islands,
in the west, and land beyond them. The date is about 900. As a matter of
fact, Greenland could be seen from the Icelandic mountain-tops. Gunn-
bjorn's story prompted further exploration. A red-haired young man named
Erik left Norway in 950, and in 951 he sailed westward from Iceland in 146 The Northwest Bookshelf.
search of the new land. Erik the Red took his wife and children with him,
together with sundry friends, making a party of about thirty in a ship
80 feet long. He skirted the southeastern coast of Greenland and rounded
Cape Farewell to land on the beach of what is now Julianshaab. He
explored the vicinity and returned to Iceland in 954. His description of
Greenland, which he so named, was attractive; in consequence, during the
following year he started with twenty-five ships, of which fourteen survived
the voyage and brought about 350 men and women to the colony on the
southwestern coast. Thus Greenland, which is part of North America, was
discovered by Americans, for Iceland is part of the western hemisphere.
The author devotes his sixth chapter to the discovery of America by the
Greenlanders. This is a fascinating story, and it is well told. As is
generally known, Leif, a son of Erik the Red, sailed in the year 1000 to
Norway and on his return voyage he lost his way in the fog; in consequence
he passed Cape Farewell and reached a land where wine-berries and self-
sown wheat were found. He named the country Vinland or Wine Land.
This name has proved misleading, for berries that yield a palatable juice
are not necessarily grapes. Leif reached Greenland safely, returning northeastward.
Next we come to the Karlsefni expedition, which is told in a celebrated
saga. Stefansson thinks, with good reason, that the Norsemen reached
Baffin Island and then Labrador—and possibly New England or the Gulf
of St. Lawrence.
After immigration during 150 years, the settlements in southern Greenland had a total population of 9,000. Greenland became a republic, and
adopted Christianity in about 1020. Sixteen churches were built. In 1261
the country was joined to Norway. Religious fervor decreased after a
while by reason of a slow descent to Eskimo heathenism.
A chapter is given to the sagas of Erik the Red and Einar Sokkason.
They are interesting as sources of historic facts, for sagas can be historical
documents of importance. Such are these two. Then comes one of the
most perplexing events in the story of Greenland; namely, the disappearance of the Norse colony. In Chapter X. our author discusses the subject
with his usual acumen. In about 1420 the Greenland colony was cut off
from Europe and it was extinct when, in 1721, Hans Egede, a Norwegian
missionary, reached the sites of the former settlements. At first it was
believed that the Norsemen had been exterminated by the Eskimos. Others
suggested that the plague was the cause of the calamity. Our author
suggests that the complete isolation of the Norse settlers led to race
mingling with the Eskimos and eventual complete assimilation, so that when
seen centuries later the survivors were found to be predominantly Eskimoid.
Greenland in the Middle Ages and the resettlement of the country (after
Egede's exploration in 1721) form the subjects of two more chapters. The
book is full of interest, for, like Mr. Stefansson's other books, it is the
combined product of scholarly research and intimate knowledge of the Arctic
lands- ■   T. A. Rickard.
Victoria, B.C. VICTORIA, B.C.:
Printed by Charles P. Banfield, Printer to the King's Most Excellent Majesty.
525-443-4062 We
Organized October 31st, 1922.
Hia Honour W. C. Woodward, Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia.
Hon, H. G. T. Perry - Honorary Presid
J. C. GOODFELLOW Past. President.
A. G. Harvey
Mrs. Curtis Sampson -      -
H. T. Nation Honorary Secretary.
Mrs. M. R. Cree.      Helen R. Boutilier.      F. W. Howay.      Rceie L. Reid.
T. A. Rickard.      Kathleen Agnew, N. Sage.
Willard E. Ireland W. Kaye Lamb
:. Harvey H. B. Robert
E. M, Cotton
(New Westminster Sec.i
to promote the preservation and marking of hi L-iics,
natural features, and other objects and places of historical interest, and to
publish historical sketches, studio
Ordinary members pay a fee of %Z annually in advance.    The fiscal year
commences on the first day of January.    All members in ;ding
receive the British Columbia Historic dy without further charge.
Co: ,ice and fees may be addressed to the Provincial Archives,
Parliament Buildii ia. B.C.


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