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British Columbia Historical News 2004

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 British Columbia
Historical News
"Any country worthy of a future should be
interested in its past." W. Kaye Lamb, 1937
Journal of the British Columbia Historical Federation    |  Volume 37 No.4 Winter 2004   |    ISSN 1195-8294   |   $5.00
In this Issue: What's in a name | Looking for David Thompson | Early Scots
History |Token History | Book Reviews | and more...
!/*, (Wjs*
MU^BHH British Columbia Historical News
Journal of the British Columbia Historical Federation
Published Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall.
BC Historical News welcomes stories, studies, and
news items dealing with any aspect of the
history of British Columbia, and British Columbians.
Please submit manuscripts for publication to the Editor,
BC Historical News,
John Atkin,
921 Princess Avenue,
Vancouver BC V6A 3E8
Book reviews for BC Historical News,
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Vancouver BCV6S1E4,
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phone 604-824-1570
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Single copies of recent issues are for sale at:
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- Royal Museum Shop, Victoria BC
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ISSN 1195-8294
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While copyright in the journal as a whole is
vested in the British Columbia Historical
Federation, copyright in the individual articles
belongs to their respective authors, and
articles may be reproduced for personal use
only. For reproduction for other purposes
permission in writing of both author and
publisher is required.
British V&olumbia historical federation
A charitable society under the Income Tax Act Organized 31 October 1922
PO Box 5254, Station B., Victoria BC V8R 6N4
Under the Distinguished Patronage of Her Honour
The Honourable lona Campagnolo. PC, CM, OBC
Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia
Honourary President
Melva Dwyer
Jacqueline Gresko
5931 Sandpiper Court, Richmond, BC, V7E 3P8
Phone 604.274.4383
First Vice President
Patricia Roy
Department of History, University of Victoria, PO Box 3045, Victoria, BC, V8W 3P4
Second Vice President
Bob Mukai
4100 Lancelot Dr., Richmond, BC   V7C 4S3
Phone 604-274-6449
Ron Hyde
#20 12880 Railway Ave., Richmond, BC, V7E6G2
Phone: 604.277.2627 Fax 604.277.2657
Recording Secretary
Gordon Miller
1126 Morrell Circle, Nanaimo, BC, V9R 6K6
Ron Greene
POBox 1351, Victoria, BC, V8W2W7
Phone 250. 598.1835 Fax 250.598.5539
Past President
Wayne Desrochers
13346 57th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V3X2W8
Phone 604. 599.4206 Fax. 604.507.4202
Member at Large
Alice Marwood
#311 45520 Knight Road, Chilliwack, BC, V2R3I2
Patrick Dunae
History Department, Malaspina University College
Historical Traits and Markers
John Spittle
1241 Mount Crown Road, North Vancouver, BC, V7R 1R9
Phone 604.988.4565
W. Kaye Lamb Essay Scholarships Committee
Robert Griffin
107 Regina Avenue, Victoria, BC, V8Z 1J4
Phone 250.475.0418
Writing Competition - Lieutenant-Governor's Award
Bob Mukai
4100 Lancelot Dr., Richmond, BC   V7C 4S3
Phone 604-274-6449 the Federation's web site is hosted by Selkirk College in Castlegar, BC British Columbia Historical News
Journal of the British Columbia Historical Federation
Volume 37 No.4 Winter 2004
2 British Columbia Historical News
By Anne Yandle
3 What's in a Name
Captain Courtenay and Vancouver Island Exploration
By Allan Pritchard
8 The Swede Who Beat Death Rapids
By Bill Laux
13        Feast and Famine
By Rod Palmer
17        Scots on the Coast before Alexander MacKenzie
By Bruce Watson
21        John Ledyard
By Alan Twigg
23        In Search of David Thompson
By Barry Cotton
28 Token History
30 Book Reviews
37 Website Forays
38 Archives & Archivists
Editor's Note
It is with sadness that we note
the death of Yvonne Klan on October 4,
2004 (see page 38). I had the pleasure
of corresponding with Yvonne over the
publication of her article The Lone Man
in my first issue of the News. What
struck me then was her attention to
detail and great research skills. She will
be missed.
This issue of British Columbia
Historical News marks another
milestone; it is the last issue under the
old name. Starting with Vol.38 No.1 the
publication becomes British Columbia
History. To mark the occasion I've asked
Anne Yandle to write a short history of
the magazine starting on page 2.
Except for the odd design tweak
here and there, no major changes are
In the corrections department:
gremlins snuck into the print room and
made Sylvia Stopforth's name disappear
from the top of the Archives and
Archivists column last issue along with
that of the column's contributor,
Ramona Rose.
As well, an eagle-eyed Gulf
Island reader noticed that the vessel
featured on the cover of the last issue
was the CPR's Princess Victoria not the to watch out for old
notes and double check everything.
Don't forget our web site at
BCHF Prizes | Awards | Scholarships
W. KAYE LAMB Essay Scholarships
Deadline 15 May 2005
The British Columbia Historical
Federation awards two scholarships
annually for essays written by students
atBC colleges or universities on a topic
relating to British Columbia history.
One scholarship ($500) is for an essay
written by a student in a first-or
second-year course: the other ($750)
is for an essay written by a student in
a third-or fourth-year course.
To apply tor the scholarship,
candidates must submit (1) a letter of
application: (2) an essay of 1,500-3,
000 words on a topic relating to the
history of British Columbia: (3) a letter
of recommendation from the professor
for whom the essay was written.
Applications should be submitted
before 15 May 2005 to: Robert Griffin,
Chair BC Historical Federation
Scholarship Committee, PO Box 5254,
Station B, Victoria, BC V8R 6N4.
The winning essay submitted by a
third or fourth year student will be
published in BC Historical News. Other
submissions may be published at the
editor's discretion.
BC History Web Site Prize
The British Columbia Historical
Federation and David Mattison are
jointly sponsoring a yearly cash award
of $250 to recognize Web sites that
contribute to the understanding and
appreciation of British Columbia's
past. The award honours individual
initiative in writing and presentation.
Nominations for the BC History Web
Site Prize for 2004 must be made to
the British Columbia Historical
Federation, Web Site Prize
Committee, prior to 31 December
2004. Web site creators and authors
may nominate their own sites. Prize
rules and the on-line nomination form
can be found on The British Columbia
History Web site: http: 11
www. victoria, resources!
Best Article Award
A Certificate of Merit and fifty dollars
will be awarded annually to the
author of the article, published in BC
Historical News, that best enhances
knowledge ot British Columbia's
history and provides reading
enjoyment. Judging will be based on
subject development, writing skill,
freshness of material, and appeal to
a general readership interested in all
aspects of BC history.
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004 British Columbia Historical News
A Short history By Ann Yandle
Ann Yandle is the
long time book
review editor for BC
Historical News
he BC Historical Federation is approaching
another crossroads in its life. The British
Columbia Historical News is shortly going
to appear in a new guise. As I was involved
with the early development of the News, the Editor
has asked me to write a brief history of it.
At the annual general meeting of the British
Columbia Historical Association in 1967 in
Williams Lake, the President, Donald New, spoke
pessimistically about the future of the Association
without the British Columbia Historical Quarterly.
The most recent issue, dated 1957, had been
published in 1962, and although the Editor,
Willard Ireland, promised further issues, none
had appeared. Meanwhile, the Association had
published several short newsletters in an
attempt to keep its members informed and
committed; three issues appeared between 1965
and 1966, edited in turn by Donald New (Gulf
Islands), Robin Brammall (Vancouver)
and Bessie Choate (Burnaby)
At that 1967 meeting, there seemed
little hope of further issues of the Quarterly;
the fledgling newsletter also appeared to
be moribund. The President, in the absence
of nominations, pleaded for an editor.
Philip Yandle, unknown to most BCHA
members, eventually volunteered and in
spring 1968 the first issue of The British
Columbia Historical News came out. In it, the
new editor promised that "to the best of my
ability and with the help of the member
societies I will in each issue publish their
accomplishments and items of interest."
His aim was to bring together the flagging
member societies, and disclose fully the
activities of
2 Colonial Art**
Chinese at w,1iJ„^M
the Association to its members. Volumes 1-10,
accordingly, published minutes of all BCHA meetings,
along with news of member societies, news of local
historical interest, and a feature article in each issue.
Robert Genn, well-known BC artist, generously
provided drawings for the covers of Volumes 2-10.
Book reviews first appeared in Volume 2. Frances
Woodward provided a "British Columbia Books of
Interest" column in Volumes 4 -14.
The first ten volumes of the News were typed
on stencils on a portable Olivetti typewriter, later on
an IBM Selectric, and run off on a second-hand
Gestetner. Distribution of the News at that time was
by mailing batches of copies to member societies;
many such packages were delivered personally by
John Spittle, whose business took him throughout the
After Phil Yandle stepped down in 1977 at the
end of Volume 10, Volume 11:1-2 were produced by
an editorial committee of the Vancouver Historical
Society. Kent Haworth and Patricia Roy from Victoria
took over and carried on, along with Terry Eastwood,
until the end of Volume 12. Maureen Cassidy, Marie
Elliott and Bob Tyrell in turn produced about two
volumes each; Esther Birney edited Volume 19:3.
Naomi Miller moved from the President's chair to
that of Editor in 1988 (Volume 21), continuing until
1999, when Fred Braches succeeded her; he handed
the job over to John Atkin in 2003.
Over the years the contents of the News have
been reorganized by the various editors. Minutes are
no longer published, more feature articles have been
included, and new columns such as notes on archives
and websites have been added..
The News, as the successor to the British
Columbia Historical Quarterly, carried on the
philosophy expressed by Robin Brammall
in his 1972 presidential address, when he
said that the Quarterly "was the life blood
of the Association and there is some
doubt as to whether our Association
[has] any real vitality or raison d'etre
without [it]" (BCHN, Volume 9:1).
Thanks   to   contributions   from
members and non-members from all
over  the  province,   the  News
provided a cohesive link for the
BCHF's  growing  number  of
member societies. •
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004 What is in a Name?
Captain Courtenay & Vancouver Island Exploration
By Allan Pritchard
Captain George Courtenay's visit to
Vancouver Island in HMS Constance in
1848 has been prominently
commemorated in the island's place
names. His name has been given to a river and town,
as well as to a street in Victoria, while a part of
Esquimalt Harbour bears the name Constance Cove.
Yet the circumstances and activities of his visit have
not always been very well understood, and
inaccurate accounts of them appear even in some
usually reliable reference works and histories. The
article on the town of Courtenay in the Encyclopedia
of British Columbia states that it was named for
Captain Courtenay "who surveyed the area during
1846-49 aboard HMS Constance." Elsewhere the
distinguished historian Margaret Ormsby writes that
in order to lay claim to coal deposits on northern
Vancouver Island, Courtenay "had proceeded to
Beaver Harbour, taken possession, and issued a
proclamation in the Queen's name warning off
intruders." Courtenay himself, however, never
claimed to have made any such surveys or
expeditions, and the naval records make it clear that
he could not have done so.
Since some mythology has grown up around
his visit to Vancouver Island, it may be useful to
consider here who Courtenay was and what he did
and did not do on the island. George William Conway
Courtenay (1795-1863) like many naval officers of the
period belonged to a family well connected with the
landed gentry and aristocracy. His father, Clement
Courtenay of Beach Hall near Chester, was nephew
of the third Earl of Bute, who had been prime
minister, and his mother was the daughter of a
baronet. The family had a strong tradition of naval
and military service, and Courtenay's entry to the
navy was sponsored by the naval hero, the Earl of St.
Vincent. He entered at a very early age in 1805, the
year of the Battle of Trafalgar, went to sea in the next
year, and soon gained a medal in action against the
French. After the end of the Napoleonic wars, he
distinguished himself in actions in suppression of the
African slave trade, and during an interval between
naval appointments he served as consul in Haiti. He
reached the rank of captain in 1828, and in later life,
after the period of his visit to Vancouver Island, he
was advanced to rear admiral in 1854 and vice
admiral in 1861.
In Courtenay's long naval career the visit to
Vancouver Island was a brief and relatively
unimportant episode, much shorter than such
as the one
in       the
of   British
Those accounts
probably   derive
partly from Captai
John Walbra
statement made more than
once in his fine old compendium (
information, British Columbia Coast
Names, that the Constance was "on this
station 1846-49," which can easily be 33
misinterpreted as meaning that the ship was •*L>
in local waters for several years. Walbran's dates
are correct, but "this station" means the Pacific Station,
which during this period, long before the
establishment of the Esquimalt base, had its
headquarters far from Vancouver Island at Valparaiso
in Chile. The Constance, a large new 50-gun frigate,
arrived on the Pacific Station in the autumn of 1846,
but Courtenay was not appointed to it until August
1847. He remained in command until it sailed back to
England two years later, but during this period it
generally stayed in Latin American waters, and made
just one excursion as far north as Vancouver Island,
prompted in 1848 by the request of James Douglas
and Peter Ogden, the Hudson Bay Company's chief
factors at Fort Vancouver, for protection of British
interests in the Columbia region during the unsettled
time following its transfer to American possession by
the Oregon Treaty of 1846. The logbooks of the
Constance show that the ship was at Vancouver Island
for no more than six weeks, from July 25 to September
4, 1848, and for the whole of that period remained
anchored in and adjacent to Esquimalt Harbour.
The real interest of Courtenay's visit to
Vancouver Island lies not in the surveys and
expeditions that have mistakenly been attributed to
him but in what it reveals about the relations between
the two representatives of British imperial power on
the coast, the Royal Navy and the Hudson's Bay
Company, during the period of retreat from the
Columbia after the Oregon Treaty. Courtenay's
correspondence and reports make it clear that he
considered the concerns of Douglas about American
depredations and threats to the company's property
and interests on the Columbia to be exaggerated: he
Vancouver Island from a
map of British Columbia
from History of the Pacific
States of North America
(Vol. XXVII), by Hubert
Howe Bancroft, 1887
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004        3 HMS Constance in
Esquimalt Harbour, 1848,
with Natives paddling a
war canoe and fishing.
Drawing by Lieut. John T.
BC Archives PDP-01182.
thought that the
company, "having for
years lorded it over that
Country," was simply
failing to adjust to the
new realities. Douglas
was in Hawaii on
company business during
the whole time of
Courtenay's visit, and
Courtenay blamed him
for not coming to
Vancouver Island to meet
him, though the navy had
offered him passage,
while Douglas blamed
Courtenay for not going
to the Columbia to make
a first-hand investigation.
Expressing strong
disappointment to
Courtenay following his
visit, Douglas wrote
vividly of the difficulties
the company faced with
American settlers at war with Natives on the
Columbia, even though on humanitarian grounds it
had provided Americans with refuge: "The ordeal we
have endured for the last twelve months has given
us a lesson of experience which can never be effaced
from our minds." Nothing either in Courtenay's
upper-class background or long naval career is likely
to have given him special appreciation of the problems
of the fur traders, and misunderstanding was
increased by the lack of communication resulting from
Douglas' absence. No doubt, however, Courtenay was
carrying out higher official policy in recommending
resignation and restraint, and avoiding any risk of
diplomatic incidents with the American authorities.
While Courtenay's visit was on the whole
disappointing from the viewpoint of the Hudson's
Bay Company, on one occasion he did gratify the
company. At the request of Factor Roderick Finlayson,
who was in charge of Fort Victoria, he put on a
demonstration with a large body of armed men from
his ship to impress Natives in the vicinity of the fort
on August 24. According to the log of Constance, the
purpose was to avert a skirmish that seemed about
to take place between two tribes. Finlayson considered
that the show of power had a "good effect," although
he recorded that one of the chiefs remained
unimpressed with the white man's way of fighting in
the open rather than using cover, and that Courtenay
was not pleased with this reaction.
In later years Courtenay was specially
remembered on Vancouver Island as commander of
the first Royal Navy vessel to anchor in Esquimalt
Harbour. This is not to say that he was the first naval
officer to explore it. The harbour had already been
well charted in 1846 by the officers and crew of the
little survey ship HMS Pandora, under the supervision
of Lieutenant James Wood of that vessel and Captain
Henry Kellett of HMS Herald. The master (navigating
officer) of the Constance, Henry Paul, recorded in his
Hydrographic Remarks Book that he entered the harbour
on July 25,1848, "without the slightest difficulty, with
the aid of Capt Kellets excellent chart." Although the
harbour had been charted before his arrival,
Courtenay can be credited with helping to draw
attention to its value for naval purposes: in his report
to his commander-in-chief, Rear Admiral Phipps
Hornby, he described Esquimalt as "a good and secure
harbour," noted that it provided an excellent source
of fresh water and timber for spars, and added that
he was able to obtain supplies of fresh beef daily from
the Hudson's Bay Company's farms, as well as some
potatoes both from the company and from Natives,
while Paul in his Remarks Book complained about the
lack of vegetables, but recorded that salmon were
plentiful "and brought alongside in great numbers
by the Natives."
During his short period on Vancouver Island,
Courtenay made just one attempt at exploration
beyond Esquimalt and Victoria. For three days
between August 9 and 12, accompanied by his master
Paul, he tried in his ship's launch to investigate the
southern entry to the Strait of Georgia, the "Canal de
Arro" or Haro Strait, but he was handicapped by
heavy fog and did not penetrate very far. His
subsequent report to Admiral Hornby and Paul's
Remarks Book emphasized the hazards of navigation,
which during this period deterred such large sailing
vessels as the Constance from entering the Strait of
Georgia. Paul recorded that the existing charts were
"exceedingly incorrect," "not noting one half of the
Islands and Rocks" with which the channels were
studded. Courtenay concluded that because of the
rapidity of the tides and currents the passage into the
strait was "perfectly unfit for anything but steam
vessels." These reports show how unrealistic the idea
is that the Constance, which was not converted to
steam power until many years after its return to
England, might have sailed up the Strait of Georgia
and conducted surveys of the Comox area in 1840s.
The hazards of navigation in the Strait of
Georgia would not necessarily have deterred
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004 Courtenay from making the second major expedition
attributed to him, the visit to Beaver Harbour near
Port Hardy to lay claim to the coal deposits there, since
that area could be, and commonly was, approached
from the open sea to the north. He was certainly
interested in the coal. The steamship magnate Samuel
Cunard had written to the Admiralty advising that
the coal be reserved for British use, and Admiral
Hornby had instructed Courtenay to look into the
matter. But Margaret Ormsby, although an admirably
accurate historian, was misled into mistakenly
supposing that Courtenay actually went to Beaver
Harbour by some references in Hudson's Bay
Company records to his attempt to reserve the coal.
The naval records show that the only Vancouver
Island coal Courtenay ever saw was some obtained
by HMS Cormorant at Beaver Harbour in 1846 with
the help of Natives of the area, which had been left at
Fort Victoria. He drafted a proclamation, which he
reproduced in his ship's log on August 17, claiming
the coal beds for the crown, but rather than going to
the north of the island himself, he simply asked the
Hudson's Bay Company to post it at Beaver Harbour.
This was viewed, however, as unnecessary and an
interference with its rights by the company, which
was already making its own plans to exploit the coal,
and in the next year founded Fort Rupert in order to
begin mining operations.
While Courtenay is not to be credited with the
Vancouver Island surveys and expeditions sometimes
attributed to him, in another way his visit sheds light
on the knowledge then possessed of the island by
Europeans. He endeavoured to gain information by
directing a series of questions about the island to
Roderick Finlayson, and then recorded the replies.
Finlayson's responses reveal that at this date, five
years after the foundation of Fort Victoria, Europeans
knew relatively little of the island beyond the area
around Victoria, and scarcely anything of the central
part of the east coast. When Courtenay enquired about
the harbours of the island, Finlayson stated that the
only ones on the east coast were "Shuchartee, Beaver
Harbr, McNeil's Harbour, and Beaver Cove." When
he asked about rivers, Finlayson replied that the only
one known at present on the island "in any way
navigable" was the "Nunkis", i.e., Nimpkish. When
he enquired about tribes of Natives, Finlayson again
jumped over the central part of the east coast from
the "Kawitchen" to the "Uchulta" (the Lekwiltok
commonly termed Eucletas or Yacultas in this period),
which he located on Johnstone Strait. He made no
reference to any Native group or geographical feature
between Cowichan and Cape Mudge.
It is possible of course that Finlayson may not
have been telling all he knew. Courtenay complained
to Admiral Hornby: "there appears to be the greatest
reluctance or fear on the part of the Hudson's Bay
Company's Servants to afford information." But
Finlayson's replies to Courtenay's questions are not
inconsistent with other records of the state of the
company's knowledge at the time. Such historians as
Margaret Ormsby and Richard Mackie have pointed
out that when the company, foreseeing the loss of the
Columbia region to the Americans, founded Fort
Victoria as a prospective headquarters and depot for
the fur trade in 1843, it was not at first much interested
in exploration or exploitation of the island. It was slow
to investigate the east coast even as far as Cowichan.
Douglas did not receive reports of good agricultural
land at Cowichan until 1849, and the first exploration
of that area for the company was not made until 1851
by J.W. McKay. Although the Nanaimo area had been
visited by Spanish explorers in 1791-92, the company's
serious investigation of that place did not begin until
it learned of the coal there in 1850.
The legend of Courtenay's survey of the Comox
district would be of some historical interest if accurate
because that area seems to have remained unknown
to Europeans until explorations by the Hudson's Bay
Company in the early 1850s, and its coastline
remained uncharted until a survey by the Royal Navy
at the end of that decade. The conspicuous white cliffs
at the end of the Comox peninsula had been sighted
by Jose Maria Narvaez of the Eliza expedition in July
1791, who placed them on his chart as Punta de Laso
de la Vega, later known as Cape Lazo, but he did not
make a close approach to the area; nor did Captain
Vancouver, since he was engaged in exploring the
opposite side of the strait in search of the northwest
passage. Exploration by Europeans of Comox does
not appear to have extended any further for the next
sixty years. As late as the 1850s ships navigating the
Strait of Georgia still tended to follow Vancouver's
course and charts, which kept them away from the
east coast of the island south of Seymour Narrows. In
1854 James Douglas reported to the Royal
Geographical Society that because of the "extreme
incorrectness" of the maps of the east coast and
adjacent islands ships even between Victoria and the
Hudson's Bay Company's new post at Nanaimo
followed the long round-about route of Captain
It may seem surprising today that the Comox
district remained unknown to Europeans until a later
time than places now considered much more remote,
but the reasons why it was bypassed both by the
Roderick Finlayson
BC Archives photo A-01270
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004        5 Captain George Henry
Richards, HMS Plumper
BC Archives A-03352
Hudson's Bay Company and the Royal Navy until
some years after the survey mistakenly supposed to
have been conducted by Captain Courtenay are not
difficult to discover. The Hudson's Bay Company
records show that for many years the company
neglected the east coast of Vancouver Island and other
parts of the Strait of Georgia because it considered
them unprofitable for the fur trade. As the Spanish
explorers had already noted in the 1790s, the specially
prized sea otter was not found in the strait, and the
company concluded at an early date that beaver were
not plentiful there. In 1825 John McLoughlin at Fort
Vancouver instructed Captain Hanwell of the trading
brig William and Ann to avoid the inside of Vancouver
Island, and even the founding of Fort Langley on the
Fraser in 1827 did not at first much change the
company's policy, as the journals of the fort show. In
fact the killing of a sailor and wounding of another
from the company's trading schooner Cadboro when
they were getting water for the ship somewhere on
the Vancouver Island coast between Comox and Cape
Mudge in 1827, though probably the result of an attack
by a roving group of Natives from further north,
added to the sense that the area was best avoided.
From 1836 the company's steamship the Beaver
passed from time to time through the strait, but so far
as can be determined from the surviving logs, it kept
well away from the east coast of the island south of
Cape Mudge. Not only were the mariners still
influenced by Vancouver's precedent, even though
they did not always remain so close as he did to the
mainland, but Captain W.H. McNeill of the Beaver
regarded this part of the east coast as barren and rocky,
and, as Sir George Simpson noted in 1841, he favoured
a course that took his vessel by way of Texada Island,
as providing the best and most accessible supplies of
wood for steamship fuel.
The Hudson's Bay Company's interest in the
east coast of the island developed only with the
discovery of the coal fields there. After the first
attempts at mining at Fort Rupert proved
disappointing, the company in 1852 shifted its mining
operations primarily to the better coal seams recently
discovered at Nanaimo. On September 30,1852, J.W.
McKay, in charge of the Nanaimo post, wrote to
Douglas that he had learned of the discovery of a seam
of coal at Comox: "in the country of the Siklaults, a
branch of the Comocs tribe who live on a river in the
vicinity of point Holmes." On October 10 he went
there by canoe to investigate, and reported to Douglas
the existence of the bay and river and large prairies
of fertile land. On August 24-25, 1853, Douglas,
accompanied by McKay and the surveyor Joseph
Pemberton, went to make his own exploration of the
area in the Otter, the company's second steamship,
which had recently arrived on the coast, and he left a
description in his diary emphasizing the agricultural
potential of the area. These accounts by McKay and
Douglas both make it clear that the Comox district
had previously been unknown to them. The
company's unfamiliarity with this part of the coast is
shown also by the fact that on this occasion the Otter,
as its log shows, employed "an Indian Chief" as pilot.
Contrary to the legend of Courtenay's survey
at Comox, the Royal Navy was even later in
approaching that area than the Hudson's Bay
Company. Other naval officers agreed with Courtenay
that entry to the Strait of Georgia was too hazardous
for large sailing vessels. When in January 1853 a force
of sailors and marines from the frigate HMS Thetis
was dispatched to Cowichan and Nanaimo in search
of two Natives wanted for murder, it was transported
by the Hudson's Bay Company's Beaver because, as
one of the officers, John Moresby, reported, the
navigation was "quite unsuitable and impossible for
a sailing frigate." From the 1840s the navy had some
steam powered ships on the Pacific Station, and they
occasionally passed through the Strait of Georgia, but
the logs of these ships before 1859 record no closer
approaches to Comox than views from some distance
of the prominent landmark spotted by Narvaez in
1791, Cape Lazo, sometimes given the alternative
name Point Holmes. On September 22, 1846, HMS
Cormorant, en route to investigate the coal deposits
on northern Vancouver Island, passed "Point Home."
On March 26, 1850, HMS Driver, on its way to
investigate troubles at the new Fort Rupert, passed
"Pt Lazo." HMS Virago passed through the strait three
times en route to and from the north in May, June,
and July, 1853; and on July 23 the log recorded that
the ship was "Abreast Point Holmes." On June 10 its
master, George Inskip, noted in his journal: "the White
Cliff at Pt Lazo (Holmes) was very conspicuous." In
following a course that kept them away from the
Vancouver Island shore, the navigators were
influenced by the precedent of the Hudson's Bay
Company as well as by that of Captain Vancouver:
the Cormorant and the Virago were both guided by
experienced Hudson's Bay Company pilots, James
Sangster and Charles Stuart; and Commander James
Prevost of the Virago reported to Admiral Fairfax
Moresby that, as the company had long held,
"Favada" (Texada) was the best place to procure wood
for steamships. There is nothing in the logs and
reports of these three paddle sloops, as they were
termed, to suggest any knowledge of Comox Bay or
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004 the valley at its head with the river later named for
The navy does not seem to have made a close
approach to the Comox district until March 1859,
when the frigate HMS Tribune, which had steam
power as well as sails, under the command of Captain
Geoffrey Phipps Hornby (son of the Admiral Hornby
who had been Courtenay's commander-in-chief),
anchored for a short time off Hornby Island, while
engaged in escorting to the north Haidas who had
been ordered away from the vicinity of Victoria. In
reminiscences written many years later one of the
ship's officers, Francis Norman, stated that they had
not known at the time that this was an island, but the
log of the Tribune shows that they did in fact realize
it, and entered their location as "Outer Llerena
Island," a version of the name Lerena that appears
on the Narvaez charts. They remained anchored there
just one complete day, Sunday, March 27, when they
held divine service. Their mission did not allow time
for further exploration, but a few months later the
Comox area was included in the extensive coastal
survey carried out by Captain George H. Richards in
the steam sloop HMS Plumper.
The Comox survey is quite well documented.
It took place primarily in three phases in September
7-9 and October 12-28, 1859, and April 13-20, 1860.
During these periods the Plumper remained anchored,
mainly in Baynes Sound and Henry Bay (at the north
end of the island entered in the ship's log in 1859 as
Komax Island and in 1860 as Denman), and sent out
men in small boats day after day to survey the
coastline and take numerous soundings. While maps
of this part of the coast had previously been very
vague and wildly inaccurate, the 1859-60 survey
resulted in a very detailed and accurate chart of
Comox Bay and the adjacent coastline. The naval
surveyors placed on the map not only the name Port
Augusta for Comox Bay, which has not remained in
use, but also Courtenay for the river, which has
Much of the local exploration was carried out
by Lieutenant Richard C Mayne, who records the
name Courtenay as given to the river in the autumn
of 1859. He writes in his journal that on October 21 he
"worked up to Courtenay River," and mentions that
Richards had already been into the river. In April 16-
17,1860, Mayne himself went up the river with four
Natives in a canoe, and he left several interesting
accounts of his exploration of the district, including
some indications of the views taken by the Natives of
the incursions on the land they had long inhabited.
He records that the Native name for the river was
Tzooom or TzM-O-Mme and that a main branch was
called the Pknt-lkch (the name by which McKay in
1852 and Douglas in 1853 had known the river as a
whole). Versions of these names as Tsolum and
Puntledge were subsequently adopted for the two
branches which flow together to form the river
renamed by the naval surveyors the Courtenay.
Courtenay seems to have been one of the first
new place names assigned in the area by these
surveyors, since it appears in Mayne's journal in 1859,
at a date when Denman Island is still entered in the
Plumper's log as Komax Island, and Hornby
apparently as Kaka Island; and it is already found on
an early version of the new chart which has few other
local place names. There is nothing to suggest that
and Mayne
to have any
with the
Comox area.
intended to
him for what
he was best
for by naval officers on Vancouver Island during the
period, as captain of the first Royal Navy ship to
anchor at Esquimalt, and they may have viewed him
in 1859 as a venerable survivor of Nelson's navy. Three
years later the officers of HMS Grappler, the gunboat
that brought the first group of European settlers,
attracted to the Comox Valley by the good naturally
clear agricultural land, recorded their arrival in the
ship's log on October 2,1862 (misspelling Courtenay's
name as many others have done): "Anchored at
Mouth of Courtney River" and "Disembarked
Settlers." The town gradually established by these
settlers and their successors on the banks of the river
took its name from the river, and so the name
Courtenay gained wider currency. •
HMS Plumper, showing
naval surveyors at work in
Johnstone Strait, 1860,
just after the Comox
Survey. Engraving after
sketch by Edward P.
Bedwell, second master.
BC Archives PDP-00257.
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004 The Swede Who Beat Death Rapids
By Bill Laux
Columbia River at the
head of Dalles Des Morts
BC Archives 1-33424
Before the dams were built in the 1960s and
1970s the Columbia River between today's
Revelstoke and Boat Encampment
presented a series of eight rapids, feared by
both the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) boatmen and
the later miners of 1866 Big Bend Gold Rush.
Ascending the Columbia in their York boats built at
the Colvile HBC Post, men would first encounter the
Big Eddy, just above present Revelstoke. Here the river
running swiftly swung into a closed pocket formed
by a rocky bluff directly across the course of the river.
The current swirled in a large counterclockwise motion until, turning back on
itself, it escaped with an abrupt swing to the
right. If caught in this powerful and often
violent eddy, a boat might circle for hours
before escaping. Directly above Big Eddy
boatmen encountered First Rapids, a long
rocky stretch of tumbling water. These were
later named Steamboat Rapids to
commemorate their holing of the
sternwheeler, Forty Nine in 1869.
Ascending this rapids in a York boat,
two men would remain in the boat to fend off
rocks with poles while the others would
scramble ashore to haul her through with a
line made fast to the bow. The flat bottom and
raked square bow and stern of the York boats
favoured lining though, since the craft was
designed to be dragged over rocks and ledges.
Once past these rapids the Columbia
emerged from a deep box canyon and rapids
called Little Dalles. ( There was also an
American "Little Dalles" between Fort
Colvile and present Northport, Washington.
"Dalles" was the French term for a steep-
sided rocky defile, what later Westerners would call
a "Box Canyon.")
Here, under the precipitous cliffs, this water,
running even more swiftly than First Rapids, had to
be carefully lined through. Two more short rapids
would be encountered in the next two miles, one
below and one above the mouth of Coursier Creek.
Once passed, the boats could be rowed again to
Eighteen Mile Rapids where lining through would be
required again.
Above Downie Creek the most difficult water
on the Columbia would be encountered. The first was
Priest Rapids, then, shortly above it, the rock walls
closed in to form a box canyon and here the boatmen
found themselves in the Upper Dalles, or Grand
(Death) Rapids where the Columbia River poured
through a narrow cleft in the rocks at the upper end
and rushed violently down a rock-strewn passage. To
pass Grand Rapids the boats would have to be
beached and unloaded. Their cargoes would have to
be carried on men's shoulders up to the top of the
canyon walls and a difficult portage made around the
Dalles to a landing place above them. When this was
done, the empty boats would be lined through with
two men aboard fending off the rocks with long poles
and another two on the shore pulling the line. Above
Grand Rapids was a short section of calm water and
then Twelve Mile Rapids, again requiring loaded
boats to be lined through.
Coming downstream, the Grand Rapids could
be run by skilful boatmen during the high water
season, May through July, when the dangerous rocks
would be submerged. During low water the cargo was
portaged and the emptied York boats were carefully
let down though on ropes with men ashore keeping
the boat off the rocks with poles.
All but Steamboat Rapids are today drowned
by the Revelstoke Dam Reservoir but in the days of
the York boats the Upper Dalles with its Grand Rapids
was the most feared of all the water passages on the
Northwester Alexander Ross, then with the
HBC, describes an ascent of Grand Rapids in 1825.
"They are about two miles in length, and at the head, an
abrupt bend, the most dangerous part. Here the channel,
scarcely 40 yards broad, presents a succession of white
breakers, and a portage of 150 yards must be made where
everything but the boats has to be carried. At the bend or
narrowest part of this intricate passage the river appears
to have forced a passage though the solid rock but the
huge sides of the yawning chasm seem to threaten to
resume their position by closing up the gap.
The land portage is no less difficult and but little less
dangerous... and after three hours labour we landed our
boats safely at the upper end."
Ross Cox, another HBC trader, describes how
Grand Rapids got the name of "Death Rapids" in 1817.
He had ascended the Columbia and the rapids in that
year but on reaching Boat Encampment seven of the
party were found to be so weak from illness that there
was no question of them being able to make the
crossing of the Rockies. They were therefore given a
canoe and ordered back to Fort Colvile. Cox describes
what happened to them as it was told to him three
years later by the men at the fort.
"They drove rapidly down current to the Upper Dalles
8 BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004 where they disembarked. A cod-line was tied to the canoe's
stern and two men preceded it ashore with poles to fend
it from the rocks. About half-way down the canoe caught
a current, was swirled around and the line snapped. The
canoe was engulfed in a second and upon reappearing was
smashed instantly. They had not the prudence to take out
the blankets or provisions, and thus they were left without
life's necessaries."
The men, in poor physical condition, attempted
to continue downstream afoot but without any trail
and without food, they quickly weakened, only able
to travel two or three miles a day. On the third day,
according to the account given by the single survivor,
La Pierre, one died and his remains were eaten by
the others. One by one, La Pierre reported, the others
dropped and were consumed by those remaining.
Finally, he said, only he and Dubois were left and
somewhere near present Arrowhead Dubois sprang
on him with a knife. However, as La Pierre told it
after being rescued by Sinixt Natives, he got
possession of the knife and in self defence, killed
The Sinixt Natives did not believe this story and
after locating the bodies of the others nearby, they
concluded from visible wounds that all had been
murdered. La Pierre was sent back east with a Native
witness to be tried for murder. The court, however,
acquitted him for lack of evidence, Native statements,
apparently not being regarded as trustworthy by the
The remains of the men were buried at
Arrowhead and crosses erected which were visible
from the river for many years after. From this tragedy
the Upper Dalles or Grand Rapids were from that time
on known as Death Rapids or "Dalles des Morts."
The next tragedy occurred in 1838. Father
Norbert Blanchet left Montreal on May 31838 bound
for the Hudson's Bay Company's Fort Vancouver
accompanying a brigade of HBC traders. At St.
Boniface he was joined by Father Modeste Demers.
They continued with the brigade to Norway House.
Leaving that place in eleven boats loaded with
merchandise the party comprised a considerable
number of men, women and children, perhaps fifty,
all bound for Fort Vancouver. Included were two
British botanists, Peter Banks and Robert Wallace who
had his wife with him. They reached Edmonton and
transferred to horses for the next stretch to Fort
Assiniboine where they took boats for Jasper House.
By October 9 they were at Athabaska Pass at
the summit of the Rockies. On October 14 they
reached Boat Encampment. Here they found only two
boats when such a large party would require four. It
was decided that one third of the party would remain
at Boat Encampment while the two boats would go
down the river and unload at House of the Lakes
(probably present Pingston where there was a shortlived mission.) Then the boats were to return for the
On loading the boats for the second trip there
proved to be scant room for the passengers. Twenty-
six people crammed into the second boat,
substantially overloading it. On entering Death
Rapids the boat filled with water from the standing
waves thrown up by the rocks underneath. The
boatmen were able to beach their craft, empty the
water and re-launch it. But on entering the rapids
again the boat at once began shipping water. The
passengers were terrified. The botanist, Wallace, in
panic, took his wife in his arms and jumped. This,
according to Father Blanchet's account, upset the
boat, capsizing it and all were thrown into the water.
Some managed to cling to the overturned boat which
had caught on a rock. Fourteen were eventually
pulled ashore but twelve drowned including botanist
Wallace and his wife and all the children in the party.
Only the three children's bodies were ever
found and given burial. The survivors continued on
in their patched-up boat and with the others reached
Fort Vancouver on November 24.
On April 29, 1846 Captain Henry Warre, a
British Officer on a secret mission to investigate the
relative military strengths of Americans and British
in the Oregon Territory in case the boundary dispute
came to war, ascended Death Rapids. While his men
lined the emptied boat though, Captain Warre made
a watercolour sketch of the process. This he later
published along with a number of other watercolours
in Sketches of North America and the Oregon Territory.
Father de Smet ascended Death Rapids on May
19, three weeks after Captain Warre and left us his
"The waters are compressed between a range of
perpendicular rocks presenting innumerable crags, fissures
and cliffs through which the Columbia leaps with
irresistible impetuosity, foaming as it dashes along,
frightful whirlpools where every passing object is
swallowed up and disappears."
In 1861 gold was reported from the streams
entering the Columbia below Big Bend. By 1863 the
news was out and groups of miners from the Wild
Horse diggings and from Colville (Colville is the
American town; Colvile was the HBC fort.)
Washington, rushed to the Columbia and bought or
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004 Hauling up a rapid (les
Dalles Des Morts) on the
Columbia River
BC Archives PDP-00057
rented every boat they could find. All began rowing
and paddling up the Columbia in a mad scramble to
get to the placer grounds first. Small settlements grew
up around Downie Creek and above Death Rapids at
French Creek. These men, carrying their supplies with
them, undoubtedly found it necessary to portage the
Little Dalles and the other rapids, lining their boats
through. Many had bought idle York boats at HBC
Fort Colvile, unused since the route over the Rockies
had been discontinued. The former HBC boatmen,
some of whom were then farming around Colville,
were probably interrogated by the parties of miners
about the river they would have to ascend and were
surely warned about Death Rapids.
While the miners from Colville were
contending with the Columbia's rapids , British
Columbia's Governor Seymour in 1865 sent out
Walter Moberly to cut a trail from Shuswap Lake to
those Big Bend placer diggings and to explore for
other routes to the Kootenays. After cutting the trail,
Moberly took a boat down the Columbia to replenish
his supplies at HBC Fort Shepherd. He describes the
trip down stream from Downie Creek.
"We were swept along at a great rate and at last found
the river getting narrow, with high rocky banks and
overhanging cliffs. I was in the middle of the canoe taking
bearings, estimating distances etc., the Indian boy in the
bow and Perry steering. The boy suddenly exclaimed. "Bad
water. All will be killed." He drew in his paddle and lay
down in the bottom of the canoe. I crawled across him and
getting hold of the paddle and I managed to keep the canoe
out of the whirls, etc. that threatened to suck us down.
At one moment we were on the edge of one of these
dangerous places and the next swept a hundred yards away
by a tremendous "boil." Sometimes one end of the canoe
became the bow, at other times the opposite end but at
length we reached a little sandy cove and landed in still
water. We had run the Little Dalles without knowing it."
In 1865 the hurriedly constructed American
sternwheeler Forty Nine began carrying men and
supplies up to the Big Bend Camps. Its fearless
Captain, Leonard White, was able to line through
Little Dalles with the steam powered capstan on the
foredeck. Crewmen were put ashore with a long rope;
which they made fast to a tree. Then with men on
board fending off rocks with poles, the steam capstan
was turned and the vessel was winched up the steep
pitches of water. At Death Rapids, however, Captain
White, after inspecting the passage ahead, declined
to attempt it. Even by lining with steam power, he
judged, no boat could manage to pull herself through
the twisting cleft in the rock through which the full
force of the Columbia dashed. Death Rapids was
established as the head of navigation on the Canadian
Lower Columbia and from then on all supplies were
off-loaded at a flat below Priest Rapids called La Porte.
From there they were forwarded by pack train to the
In 1866 another tragedy was enacted at Death
Rapids. On May 19 a group of miners left McCulloch
Creek heading downriver in an old Hudson's Bay
Company's York boat. The boat, with twenty-five men
aboard, was severely overloaded. When they entered
Death Rapids the four men rowing became paralysed
with fright as their craft began shipping water from
the standing waves just as with the 1838 party. With
no one rowing the boat lost steerage and drifted into
a whirling boil of water. There it capsized. Sixteen men
of the party were drowned. Four clung to the bottom
of their overturned boat until some Natives helped
them ashore. Five more had made it to shore and
walked out of the canyon at the lower end.. After that
disaster any miners heading downstream took care
to portage Death Rapids.
The Big Bend was over by 1867 with all but a
very few miners returning downriver to their Colville
area ranches to await the next big strike.
For the next 18 years the Big Bend was virtually
empty with only a few Chinese miners chartering the
Forty Nine each spring to take them to the diggings
abandoned by the white miners and hiring it again in
the fall to bring them back.
It was the construction of the Canadian Pacific
Railway that once more brought substantial numbers
10 BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004 of men to the Canadian Columbia. When the
contractors arrived at Golden on the Upper Columbia
in 1884 they were supplied from Spokane Falls via
pack train with no attempt made to navigate the
sinister Death Rapids.
Among the contractors were the Abrahamson
brothers, Andrew, Charles and John, who were stone
cutters and bridge builders. They had immigrated
from their home in Dorslund, Sweden to the US in
1880. Two years later they came to Winnipeg where
railroad construction offered work for bridge builders.
They followed CPR construction west, taking bridge
construction contracts and operating a profitable tent
hotel to house and feed the workers. In 1884 they and
their tent hotel were at Donald. From there, the next
large bridge was to be built at what the CPR called
Second Crossing, the town site of Farwell (later to
become Revelstoke.) The Abrahamson brothers folded
up their tent hotel and had it packed across the Rogers
Pass on the unfinished railway grade to Second
Crossing. However the packers would not take their
heavy billiard table, the chief attraction and money
maker of their hotel. This was probably the only
billiard table between Calgary and Kamloops and
they did not intend to part with it. Andrew
volunteered to take it by boat around the Big Bend of
the Columbia.
Somewhere he secured a boat, probably a scow
with oars. He loaded the billiard table and taking his
dog, Watch, and his cat, Mollie, he set off down a river
wholly unknown to him to rejoin his brothers at
Second Crossing. As the Hudson's Bay Company men
and the miners of 1864 had departed long before there
was no one at Beavermouth to tell him of the rapids
that lay ahead.
It was the First of May 1885 when he set off, a
time of year when the Columbia had not yet risen
with the spring runoff and Death Rapids, at low water,
would be full of rocks and whirlpools.
When Andrew rowing his scow into that
twisting cleft that led to Death Rapids felt it suddenly
lurch down the steep pitch of water, like Moberly,
sixteen years before, he could do nothing but try to
fend off the worst of the rocks and paddle his way
out of the whirlpools. Somehow he made it through.
He never told anyone how and like Moberly at Little
Dalles, he would say he had run Death Rapids
without knowing it.
On May 8, Abrahamson reached Second
Crossing with his dog and his cat and the billiard
table. The day before a great fire had wiped out half
the camp. Hotels were badly needed and the
Abrahamson Brothers set up their canvas shelter forty
feet square on Front Street in what everyone but the
CPR called Farwell. They called it the Central Hotel
and by winter had built up a wood framework around
it faced with split cedar shakes.
The Abrahamnson brothers settled
permanently in Farwell/Revelstoke and prospered
with their hotel. When, five years later, it was
proposed to prospect the unexplored Lardeau country
to the south to search for ores with which to supply
the languishing Revelstoke smelter, it was the laconic
Andrew who again took up the challenge. Dropping
off the sternwheel steamer Lytton at Arrowhead with
his dog and his cat he set off on foot into the still
unexplored wilderness of the Lardeau to find a spot
to build a hotel where he could put up the prospectors
who he was sure would arrive.
At Trout Lake he built his hotel and with his
brothers, pre-empted a town site they called Trout
Lake City. The prospectors arrived the next year. The
Abrahamnson brothers and Trout Lake City
prospered as the Lardeau mining boom began. The
hotel, one can be sure, included a billiard table. •
The town of Farwell on
the Columbia River
BC Archives 1-30817
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004
11 Feast & Famine:
Salmon and the fur trade in New Caledonia
by Rod N. Palmer
Rod Palmer is a
retired Fisheries and
Oceans Canada
biologist and fishery
manager with an
interest in the
historyof fisheries
research and
management in BC
In that portion of north central British Columbia
which was known as New Caledonial during
the fur trade era, salmon were essential to the
survival of both the fur traders and the Native
people. At Fort St. James, Fort Fraser, Fort Alexandria,
Fort Babine and other Hudson's Bay Company (HBC)
establishments in New Caledonia, the officers of the
company went to great effort and expense to bring
enough salmon into their storerooms but frequently
found them in short supply. Although the HBC people
occasionally caught their own fish, most were
purchased from their aboriginal trading partners.
The Native people of New Caledonia made
good use of weirs (fences) to capture their salmon
supply. At the outlets of Stuart Lake, Fraser Lake and
Babine Lake, weirs were built across the rivers to
divert salmon into traps where they were easily
caught. Smaller weirs were employed on some of the
tributaries. The mainstem Fraser River at Fort
Alexandria is too big to cross the river with a weir
but various diversion fences and traps were installed
along the river bank2
There is a commonly held belief that salmon
were always abundant in earlier times before the
development of commercial fisheries to supply the
canneries. The HBC journals and reports from the fur
trade era, however, tell a different story. More often
than not, salmon were scarce in the Fraser River
tributaries of New Caledonia. Periods of short rations
and starvation were not uncommon for both the HBC
employees and the Native people.
In the Report of New Caledonia 1826, Chief
Factor William Connolly at Stuart Lake (Fort St. James)
described the essential need for salmon but, at the
same time, expressed a poor opinion of dried salmon
as a staple diet.
"For subsistence however the greatest
dependence is upon salmon, these fish ascend the
rivers from the ocean in greater or less abundance
every summer, and without them neither the whites
or natives could exist, as no other kind of food can be
procured in quantities any way suited to the necessary
expenditure. In years of scarcity much distress is felt.
These fish in the manner they are cured are neither
wholesome nor palatable they are merely split and
often after being in a putrified state and hung up in
the sun to dry. They are procured in greatest quantities
in the Babine and Fraser Lakes. Stuart's Lake
frequently fails, and at Alexandria from the difficulty
the Indians have in catching it, very seldom more are
procured than are required for the consumption of
the place."3
Two species of salmon are present in the Fraser
River tributaries of New Caledonia, chinook, the
largest of the Pacific salmon, and the smaller but much
more abundant sockeye. Sockeye salmon were the
major food source for both the aboriginal people and
the fur traders in New Caledonia. The principal
sockeye salmon stocks of the Fraser River above Fort
Alexandria spawn in the Quesnel River system, the
Stuart River system and in tributaries to Fraser Lake
and Francois Lake on the Nechako River system.
The life history of Fraser River sockeye salmon
provides us with the reasons for the great year- to-
year fluctuations in abundance. Since most Fraser
River sockeye salmon return to their natal rivers to
spawn and die in four- year cycles, there are
essentially four separate populations which
reproduce independently. For example, the progeny
of the fish that spawned and died in a Fraser River
tributary in the autumn of 2003 will return to the same
stream to spawn in 2007. When the commercial net
fishery was started in the 1870's, the fishermen and
canners were faced with large annual fluctuations in
the supply of sockeye salmon. A pattern emerged of
one year of great abundance followed by a year of
moderate return and two years of low returns. This
pattern of one very large cycle is known to fisheries
scientists as cyclic dominance. The average run on the
dominant cycle in the five generations from 1897 to
1913 has been estimated at 26 million fish.4 During
the same period, returns in the other three cycles were
in the order of five to seven million fish. Fisheries
scientist, W.E. Ricker, has provided evidence that
returns on the dominant cycle may have been much
larger than previously estimated. He concluded that
the sockeye population in the big cycle years may
have averaged in the order of 100 million fish.5
This cyclic pattern was disrupted in 1913 when
the Fraser Canyon was blocked with rock dumped
into the river during construction of the Canadian
Northern Pacific Railway (later Canadian National
Railway). The big run of 1913 was blocked in the
canyon and few made it to the spawning grounds
above. After 1913, all four cycles remained at a low
level for many years but a program of rehabilitation,
starting with the construction of fishways to ease the
passage of salmon through the canyon, has resulted
in substantial restoration of the sockeye runs. As the
various populations have increased in abundance,
cyclic dominance has reappeared but, on some stocks,
has shifted to other cycles.
12 BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004 Native Fish Weir on Fraser Lake
BC Archives F-0065
^^* * .-ST -_;
In the 1950's, biologists of the International
Pacific Salmon Fisheries Commission examined
references to salmon in the journals and reports of
the HBC and concluded that this pattern of cyclic
dominance existed in the Stuart and Fraser-Francois
Lake systems at least as early as the 1820's.6 They
noted that sockeye salmon were abundant in the
Stuart River system in the dominant cycle years, i.e.,
1825,1829, etc., and that two years out of four were
almost a complete failure. They also noted that the
Fraser-Francois runs often failed in the year before
the big year but had abundant returns on the
dominant cycle and moderate returns on the other
two cycles. Entries in the Fort Alexandria journals
illustrate that sockeye were abundant in the dominant
cycle years, sometimes fairly abundant in the year
following the dominant year and were generally
scarce on the other two cycles.7 The Native fisheries
in the vicinity of Fort Alexandria had access to sockeye
runs to the Quesnel River system as well as the Stuart
River and Fraser- Francois runs. In general, the
available records for New Caledonia during the
seventy-year period 1820 to 1869 illustrate that
sockeye salmon were consistently abundant in the
dominant cycle years, of variable abundance in the
year immediately following the big year and were
scarce in the other two cycles.
It is not known how cyclic dominance may have
developed but a number of factors may be involved
in maintaining this consistent pattern of big and small
sockeye runs. Biological factors such as fluctuations
in the food supply in the lakes and predation may
prevent the low years from increasing. For example,
predators such as trout would likely kill a larger
portion of the young salmon
from a small run than from a
large run. Also, it is very likely
that harvest by humans is a
major reason why the low years
have remained low. Since in
earlier times the Native people
of the Fraser River depended
on salmon for survival they
would have attempted to
harvest what they needed for
food and trade regardless of the
*i run size. The Native fishery
would probably have caught a
greater portion of the sockeye
run in years of scarcity than
they would have taken in years
of abundance.8
Estimates presented by anthropologist James
Mooney in 1928 indicate that the Native population
of the Fraser River system was about 25,000 in the
late eighteenth-century9 More recent studies suggest
that the population may have been even larger than
estimated by Mooney10 Also, an estimated 5,000
Native people from Vancouver Island and other
coastal areas visited the Fraser River each summer to
harvest salmon.11 Annual salmon consumption by the
Native people in that era has been estimated at 500 to
1,000 pounds per capita.12 Based on fresh fish weight
the estimated consumption would equate to about one
hundred to two hundred sockeye per person per year.
If consumption by Native people was similar to the
rations allocated at HBC establishments, these
estimates may be low. Reported HBC rations have
varied from one salmon per day for a child to four for
a man.13
While sockeye salmon were the most important
food source in New Caledonia, substantial numbers
of other salmon species were utilized by the people
of the lower Fraser River. However, Native fisheries
which extended from the Fraser River estuary to the
tributaries of New Caledonia could have harvested a
substantial portion of the sockeye salmon population
in years of low abundance and, thereby, prevented
the low cycle years from increasing in abundance. In
particular, the salmon destined for Stuart and Fraser
Lakes would have been heavily exploited by this
gauntlet of fishermen. By the time the commercial
salmon fishery developed in the 1870's the Native
population had declined as a result of introduced
European diseases and fewer salmon would have
References and Notes
1. New Caledonia has been
defined as the area of north
central British Columbia lying
between the 52nd and 57th
degrees of latitude. See G.P.V. 6
Helen B. Akrigg. 1973. 1001
British Columbia Place Names.
3rd. Edition. Discovery Press.
Vancouver. Hudson's Bay
company establishments in New
Caledonia included Fort
Alexandria, Fort St. James, Fort
Fraser, Fort George, McLeod
Lake, Fort Babine and Fort
2. For descriptions of fishing
methods see A.C. Anderson.
c.1860. British Columbia.
Unpublished Manuscript. PABC
Add Mss 559 Vol 2.
3. Extracts from the Hudson's
Bay Company Archives documents
on Search Files Folder 2 Salmon
Fishery - Fraser River. Report of
New Caledonia 1826.   Note: HBC
Search Files Folders 1 and 2
contain extracts of references to
salmon in HBC journals, reports
and correspondence relevant to
the Fraser River system.
4. Report of the International
Pacific Salmon Fisheries
Commission for the Year 1978.
5. W.E. Ricker, Effects of the
Fishery and of Obstacles to
Migration on the Abundance of
Fraser River Sockeye Salmon
(Oncorhynchus nerka). Canadian
Technical Report of Fisheries and
Aquatic Sciences No. 1522: 75p.
6. International Pacific Salmon
Fisheries Commission Annual
Reports 1952 and 1954.
7. Search File Folder 1 Salmon
Fishery - Fraser River. Fort
Alexandria Journals 1824 -1864.
8. For a more detailed discussion
of factors affecting sockeye
salmon cycles see Robert L.
Burgner. Life History of Sockeye
Salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) in
Pacific Salmon Life Histories. C.
Groot and L. Margolis Editors.
UBCPress. 1991.
9. James Mooney. The Aboriginal
Population of America North of
Mexico. Smithsonian Institution.
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004
13 Miscellaneous Collections 80,
Publication 2955.1928. p. 26-30.
10. Robert T. Boyd. Demographic
History, 1774-1874. In Suttles ed.
Northwest Coast, p. 135.
11. Fort Langley Journal, June
27,1827-July 30,1830.
Transcribed by Winnifreda
Macintosh. Archives of British
Columbia. Also see Wilson Duff.
The Upper Stalo Indians of the
Fraser River of B.C.
Anthropology in British Columbia
Memoir No. 1. British Columbia
Provincial Museum. 1952.
12. Gordon W. Hewes. Indian
Fisheries Productivity in Pre-
contact Times in the Pacific
Salmon Area. Northwest
Anthropological Research Notes
Volume 7. University of
Colorado. 1973. P. 133-150
13. In the Fort St. James Report
for 1822-23, James Stuart stated
that the allowance for a man was
four salmon per day with four
more required for his dogs. HBC
Archives B188/e/1. In November
1840, the daily ration at Fort St.
James was 54 salmon for 14 men,
four women and 11 children,
down from a full allowance of 74
salmon (an average of 2.5 salmon
per person). Journal of Stuarts
Lake (Fort St. James). Peter
Skene Ogden in charge. HBC
Archives B188/a/19. As recorded
in Search File Folder 2 Salmon
Fishery- Fraser River. In the
Thompson Rivet District in 1827,
the daily ration was three for a
man two for a woman and one for
a child. Thompson River District
Report to the Governor and
Council Northern Development
Rupert's Land, 1827. As quoted
by Cicely Lyons. Salmon Our
Heritage: the Story of a Province
and an Industry. Mitchell Press.
Vancouver. 1969. p.47.
14. New Caledonia District
Accounts-Outfit 1836-37. B188/
d/15. Search Files Folder 2.
Salmon Fishery - Fraser River.
15. In 1806 Stuart Lake Post was
established by Simon Fraser of
the North West Company and
became a Hudson's Bay Company
post in the amalgamation of the
two companies in1821. It was
renamed Fort St. James in 1822.
See G.P.V. & Helen B. Akrigg.
been harvested. The commercial fishery soon filled
the gap, harvesting a large portion of the low year
sockeye runs.
Compared to the total consumption of salmon
by the Native population, the requirements of the
HBC establishments were relatively low. For most
years, it is not possible obtain an accurate estimate of
salmon consumption in New Caledonia but annual
consumption probably did not exceed 100,000 fish.
The New Caledonia District Accounts for 1836-37
provide a count of dried salmon in 1836 when a
reported 67,318 were consumed.14
The frequent shortages of salmon in the Fraser
River tributaries forced the officers of the HBC to look
elsewhere for their salmon. The posts of New
Caledonia soon became dependent on salmon
purchased at Babine Lake to supplement their annual
food supply. The Native people of Babine Lake made
effective use of weirs at the lake outlet to harvest their
annual supply of salmon and in most years had a
surplus to trade.
The Babine River system is the main sockeye
producing tributary of the Skeena River and hundreds
of thousands of fish migrate to Babine Lake each year.
Although there were natural fluctuations in annual
abundance during the fur trade era, the sockeye runs
to Babine Lake were found to be more consistent than
those of the upper Fraser River. Unlike the upper
Fraser River sockeye which return mostly at age four,
the Babine sockeye runs are made up of a mix of four
and five year old fish and, therefore, each annual
return includes fish from two spawning populations.
This provides opportunities for a year of poor salmon
survival to be offset by a subsequent year of good
Babine Lake was first visited by fur traders in
January 1812 when Daniel Harmon and James
McDougall, officers of the North West Company, led
an expedition over the ice from Stuart Lake Post (Fort
St. James).15 They were likely the first non-Native
people to explore the Skeena River system.16 After this
visit there were annual trading expeditions to Babine
Lake and, in 1822, a fort was established on the lake.17
The original fort was built under the leadership of
Chief Trader William Brown on the north shore of
Babine Lake at the point where the lake is split into
two arms, one leading to the outlet and the other
leading up to Morrison Creek. In the early years the
fort was known as Fort Kilmaurs but in later years
was generally known as Fort Babine or Babine Post.
In 1871, the fort was relocated to a site closer to the
Cleaning salmon at Stuart Lake
BC Archives 1-33184
Babine Lake outlet and the fishery18
When William Brown arrived at Babine Lake
in 1822 to establish the new post, the Babine people
were reluctant to supply the salmon he needed to
provision the establishment. Only when he threatened
to leave the country and never return to trade did they
begin to bring sufficient salmon to sustain them.19 By
1825, however, the trade for salmon was well
established and, in that year, Brown had procured
44,000 salmon by early November.20 Byl829, horses
and sleigh were used to transport salmon over the
nine mile long portage between the south end of
Babine Lake and Stuart Lake.21 Peter Skene Ogden,
Chief Factor who was placed in charge of New
Caledonia in 1835, wrote about the salmon trade at
Babine Lake in the early 1840's. He reported that
salmon were bartered at the rate of ninety fish for the
value of one "made beaver"22 but had previously been
valued at sixty salmon for one beaver pelt. He
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004 attributed the reduced cost of salmon to the
introduction of horse and cart transportation over the
Babine Portage and boats on both lakes which made
access to the fish supply easier and they were,
therefore, less dependent on the Natives of the Fraser
River tributaries. He stated that a minimum of 30,000
were needed annually with 20,000 of those coming
from Babine Post. Two men with horses and carts were
employed to transport the salmon over the portage
and they were then moved to Fort St. James by boat
in two shipments. Ogden noted that the salmon failed
at Babine occasionally but it was a more reliable source
than the upper Fraser River tributaries.23
The Hudson's Bay Company requirement for
salmon from Babine continued throughout the
nineteenth-century and into the early twentieth-
century For example, comments on evidence
provided to a Senate Committee in Ottawa in 1888
stated that:
"The Hudson's Bay Company now annually trade from ten
to fifteen and rarely as many as twenty thousand dried
salmon at Babine. I believe they largely exceeded those
quantities in former years when they obtained their annual
Outfits from Fort Vancouver and had to maintain a large
staff of Servants in New Caledonia District; but they never
even approached fifty thousand, let alone '4 or 5 millions'
in any one year... "2A
The writer, thought to be Roderick McFarlane,
was apparently responding to testimony suggesting
that the HBC was purchasing large numbers of
salmon. As a further example of the continued trade
in salmon, in May 1900, A.C. McNab, Fort St. James
wrote to C.H. French at Babine Post:
"// you can furnish me with some more salmon this autumn,
I should be glad to have them... "25
Smoking Salmon Heads at Stuart Lake bc Archives G-0374
By the 1880's, when improved transportation
systems enabled easier supply of the HBC posts in
New Caledonia, the requirement for salmon to feed
the people of the establishments declined and there
was greater emphasis on trading salmon to the Native
people of the upper Fraser areas in years of poor
salmon returns. For example, in 1895, A.C. Murray at
Fort St. James wrote to J. McDonald at Babine Post.
".../ fear the Indians of this place will be in need of salmon.
So I hope you will be able to get for me at least 4,000, and
would not object if there are even another 1,000..."26
In January, 189 7, Murray sent a letter to William
Sinclair at Fraser Lake by way of a group of Stuart
Lake Natives who were travelling to Fraser Lake to
buy salmon:
"... / think I never saw these Indians so badly off for food
as they are this winter, and I hope they will be able to buy
some salmon over there. I am sold out of salmon here
already altho' I got about 3,000 from Babine last
By the 1890's salmon were a cash commodity
and were valued at three cents per fish at Babine Post.28
Although the fisheries of British Columbia came
under Canadian law in 1876 when the Fisheries Act
was extended to the province, the Native fisheries
were left unregulated until new regulations were
promulgated in 1888. These regulations prohibited
salmon fishing by means of nets or other apparatus
except under license:
"Provided always that Indians shall, at all times, have
liberty to fish for the purpose of providing food for
themselves, but not for sale, barter or traffic, by any means
other than with drift nets, or spearing. "29
This regulation
prohibited trade in
salmon between the HBC
and the Babine people
but there is no indication
of any enforcement effort
at Babine until 1904 when
Inspector of Fisheries J.T.
Williams sent Fishery
Officer Hans Helgesen to
Babine to enforce the
regulations and require
the Natives to remove
their weirs.30 In his report
to Inspector Williams,
Helgesen provided the
following observations.
1001 British Columbia Place
Names. 3rd Edition. 1973.
16. Sixteen Years in the Indian
Country. The Journal of Daniel
Williams Harmon. Edited with an
Introduction by W. Kaye Lamb.
The MacMillan Company of
Canada Ltd. Toronto. 1957. p.
17. Journal of Transactions and
Occurrences in the Babine
Country New Caledonia by
William Brown. Hudson's Bay
Company B11/a/1. Also see A.G.
Morice. 1906. The History of the
Northern Interior of British
Columbia. Galleon Press 1971. A
reprint of the 1906 edition, p.92
18. Ibid. Morice wrote that Chief
Factor Peter Skene Ogden
ordered that the fort be
relocated in 1836 but William
Bean, the officer in charge of the
post never built the new post
and the fort was not relocated
until some 50 years later.
Douglas Harris reported that the
fort was relocated in 1871.
Douglas C. Harris. 2001. Fish,
Law and Colonialism: The Legal
Capture of Salmon in British
Columbia. University of Toronto
19. Babine Post Journal 1822-23.
HBC Archives B11/a/1.
20. Babine Post Journal 1825.
HBC Archives B11/a/3.
21. Fort St. James Journal 1829-
30. HBC Archives B188/a/14.
22. The beaver skin was the
standard of value in the fur
23. Peter Skene Ogden. c.1842.
Notes on Western Caledonia.
Presented by W.N. Sage in The
British Columbia Historical
Quarterly. Volume 1.1937.
24. Extract from remarks on
parts of the evidence, written
and oral, given by several of the
witnesses examined by the
Senatorial Committee, regarding
the resources of the Great
MacKenzie Basin in April 1888.
Dated Fort St. James, Stuarts
Lake, B.C., January 7,1889.
These remarks are in Roderick
McFarlane's writing. H.B.C.
Archives B.188/z/1. Search Files,
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004
15 Folder 2 - Salmon Fishery - Fraser
25. A.C McNab to C.H. French,
Babine, May 21,1900. Extracts
from Fort St. James
Correspondence Book, 1899-
1900. Search Files, Folder 2-
Salmon Fishery - Fraser River.
26. A.C. Murray to J. McDonald,
July 30,1895. Extracts from New
Caledonia Letter Book. Search
Files, Folder 2 - Salmon Fishery -
Fraser River.
27. A.C. Murray to William
Sinclair, Fraser Lake, January 18,
1897. Extracts from New
Caledonia Letter Book. Search
Files, Folder 2 - Salmon Fishery -
Fraser River.
28. A.C. Murray to J. McDonald,
Babine Post, July 4,1895.
Extracts from New Caledonia
Letter Book.  Search Files, folder
2 - Salmon Fishery - Fraser River.
29. B.C. Fishery Regulations
dated November 26,1888.
30. Report of the 1904
Inspection of Babine Lake and
Tributaries and the Headwaters
of the Skeena River by Fishery
Officer Hans Helgesen. Sessional
Papers 1906. Appendix 10 British
31. See Douglas C. Harris. Fish,
Law and Colonialism. The Legal
Capture of Salmon in British
Columbia. University of Toronto
Press. 2001.
32. Letter R.N. Venning,
Assistant Commissioner of
Fisheries to J.T. Williams,
Inspector of Fisheries, February
19,1907. Department of
Fisheries and Oceans dormant
files, Prince Rupert, B.C.
33. Dominion-British Columbia
Fisheries Commission, 1905-1907.
Report and Recommendations.
Government Printing Bureau.
Ottawa. 1908.
34. Department of Marine and
Fisheries. RG23, vol.164, file 583
part 1. National Archives of
35. B.C. Special Fishery
Regulation Amendment,
September 11,1917. (Section
"The Indians do not only catch and cure salmon for their
own use, but herd it up every year for sale and barter, it is
a sort of legal tender amongst them, 10 salmon for a dollar
and so many for a blanket; they sell dried salmon to packers
and miners, to all those who haul with dog sleighs, in every
part of the upper country during winter, and to merchants,
every store keeper that I asked told me that they handled
more or less every year. The Babine Post had an order
from Stuarts Lake for 9,000 dried salmon."
Much has been written about the conflict which
ensued at Babine Lake over the next two years and a
detailed account is beyond the scope of this paper.31
Inl906, however, an agreement was reached between
the Babine people and the federal government in which
it was agreed that the Babine people would give up
their weirs and the government would supply nets and
authorize their use. The government also agreed to set
aside additional land for the Babine people. The terms
of the agreement as laid out in
instructions to Inspector Williams
outlined the position of L.P Brodeur,
Minister of Marine and Fisheries in
respect to Native trade in salmon at
"Since it appears to be a fact that the
Indians have hitherto to some extent
trafficked in the food fish they have taken, he
would not be disposed at the moment to
interfere with the extent to which this traffic
has prevailed; but this concession so far as it
may bind a future policy of the Department, must
be distinctly understood as conditional upon
whatever action it is deemed advisable for the Government
to take upon the recommendations which will shortly be
submitted by the British Columbia Fishery Commission,
which is at present considering the whole question of
fishery regulations applicable to the sea coast and inland
waters of the Province and he pointed out _^ that
the question at present under discussion
forms one of the specific points for the
consideration of the Commission, and any
tentative agreement which may be reached
must be capable of adjustment when the final
policy is decided upon."
As   was    expected   by    the
government, the Commission report released
in 1908 recommended that the sale of salmon
taken in Native fisheries be prohibited:
"We are convinced that if the proviso regarding
the securing of fish for food be carried out and all
fishing for sale stopped, excepting under a proper license,
one main cause of the depletion of salmon, as well as trout,
will be removed. "33
In 1911, the Native people of Stuart Lake and
Fraser Lake also agreed to give up their weirs in
exchange for nets and other forms of government
support.34 Subsequent fishery regulations continued
to prohibit sale or trade in salmon caught in Native
fisheries and the regulations of 1917 further stated that
any person buying fish caught in Native fisheries was
guilty of an offence.35
Although the Native people continued to
harvest salmon to meet their own needs, enforcement
of government regulations brought the legal trade in
salmon to an end. It is not clear from the records when
the HBC stopped buying Native caught salmon but
it was probably early in the twentith-century thus
ending a nearly one hundred year connection between
salmon and the fur trade. •
Chinook Salmon
Sockeye Salmon
Illustrations from www-
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004 Scots on the Coast Before Alexander Mackenzie
By Bruce Watson
It was not too long ago in our impressionable
youth, when the world map was red with British
Empire, that we all innocently and fervently
believed that Alexander Mackenzie was the first
person on the coast. Our ancestral buttons popped
with pride. Not long after, we realized that large
numbers of the natives had been on the coast for
considerably longer. In fact, Mackenzie had used well-
trodden native routes to get to the coast. Now, with a
bit more research and getting closer to our dotage,
we realize that individuals from many backgrounds
were on the coast before Mackenzie, and not by the
overland route. These people were: African,
American, Chinese, East Indian, Lascars, English
Filipino, French, German, Irish, Irish/Spanish, Italian
Mexican Criollo, Polynesian, Portuguese, Russian,
Scottish, Spanish, Swiss
This rather muddies our comfortable and clear
view of the past. However, once we have recovered,
we must ask ourselves how all these people got here?
Well, on sixty-nine ships which were here before July
22, 1793 when Mackenzie, who took the far more
difficult route across land, arrived on the coast in
Elcho Harbour in Dean Channel and wrote his
message on a rock in red vermillion.
It is not known how many people in total these
vessels carried, but at least two thousand would be a
safe guess. Out of this multitude, then, how many of
them were Scots? Who knows? I was able to identify
about sixty so there could easily be double that.
How do we define a Scot? Most emanate from
inside the borders of Scotland that collective mixture
of Irish Scoti, Picts, Norse and Teutonic invading
settlers. By 1793, the diaspora resulting from the
Highland Clearances was underway and so Scots
were leaving their homeland in increasing numbers.
Also included are those of Scottish heritage born
outside the borders of Scotland. Sooner or later they
were bound to show up on the coast.
What was their route to get to the coast?
Generally we can put them into three categories: first,
they came from the British Isles on long exploratory
expeditions or second, from the British Isles to trade
directly on the coast or, third, from the pool of
international seamen in Bengal or Macao who
shipped on and sailed to the coast for trade.
What about the Cook expedition where the
dozen or so Scots or suspected Scots were squeezed
on four hundred ton Resolution and smaller three
hundred ton Discovery? They spent at month at
Nootka in spring 1778. They likely supplemented
Sixty-nine ships
on the Coast before the arrival of
Alexander Mackenzie
Fenis and St. Joseph
North West America
Gustavus III
Polly (a)
Prince Lee Boo
Hancock (a)
Prince of Wales
Imperial Eagle
Princess Royal
Prince William Henry
Captain Cook
Iphigenia Nubiana
Queen Charlotte
Chernui Oral
San Carlos
Columbia Rediviva
Santa Saturnina
Jenny (a)
King George
Sea Otter 1 Harmon [1]
Lady Washington
Sea Otter [2]
Discovery 1
La Flavie
Sea Otter [3]
Discovery II
Slava Rossie
La Solide
Fair American
Mercury (a)
Three Brothers
Tri Svyatitelya
Felice Adventurer
their salt beef, salt port, salt fat, ship's biscuit and
dried peas and beans, essence of malt and saurkraut
with locally supplied fish. No oatmeal here.
Perhaps the easiest are the crew of the Cook
and Vancouver expeditions to the coast.
George Stewart
Alexander Mcintosh
John Mcintosh
Robert Mackay
John Ramsay
John McAlpin
How did they fare? None really distinguished
themselves at Nootka. The records are silent on able
seaman George Stewart, who was actually born in
Charleston, South Carolina and who sailed on the
Resolution. Like the others, he came to the coast via
the South Pacific and the Hawaiian Islands and then
sailed north along the coast and into the Bering Sea
before returning to winter in the Sandwich Islands.
After Cook was killed at Kealakekua Bay
[Karakakooa], Island of Hawaii on February 14,1779,
his vessel sailed north to the Kamchatka Peninsula,
into the Bering Sea again, south to China and
eventually to England where they arrived in the Fall
of 1780.
Not much is known of Stirling born
midshipman Robert Mackay who joined Cook's
expedition from the Nonsuch in 1776. We do know
Adapted from a
paper presented at
Exploring Scots
Heritage in British
Columbia and the
West, a three-day
14, 2002, sponsored
by the Centre for
Scottish Studies at
Simon Fraser
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004
17 that Mackay lost his rank on October 3, 1777 at
Huahine [Society Islands], for letting a native prisoner
escape. However, like much of the crew, he arrived
uneventfully back in England in 1780.
The Perth born Mclntoshs weren't so lucky.
John, a captain's servant on the Discovery made it as
far as the Bering Sea when, on October 28,1778, the
vessel encountered a storm in which the fore and main
tacks gave way. John was thrown down the
forehatchway and killed instantly. He was likely
committed to the deep that day or the following day.
Alexander didn't make it back to Scotland either.
Throughout the entire voyage, this carpenter's mate
was never really heathy. After Cook's death in Hawaii
in February 1779 Mcintosh sailed north to the
Kamchatka Peninsula and Petropavlovsk where, on
May 16, 1779 he died of dysentery. His body was
carried to the mouth of the harbour where it was
committed to the deep.
And then there was John Ramsay of
Perthshire. How did he do? He was brave enough to
be on all three of Cook's voyages, the first time as an
able seaman, the second time as a cook and the third
time, possibly because of a reflection of his cooking,
as a gunner's mate.
On the later Vancouver voyage, able seaman
John McAlpin almost didn't make it back to the British
Isles. On June 15,1793, McAlpin, along with Robert
Barrie, John Carter and John Thomas ate some
mussels, obviously affected with red tide, on the
beach. All took sick and Barrie urged that they row as
hard as they could to force a heavy perspiration. They
rowed back to the rest of the crew on another shore
and only when Carter died did the crew take their
officer's advice and drink boiling salted water.
McAlpin survived and Carter was buried at what is
now known as Carter Bay on Finlayson Channel. He
eventually made it back to the British Isles in the Fall
of 1795.
Another representative group of Scots were a
ship's officer, a seaman and a surgeon, all of whom
sailed from England with the fur trading and
exploration vessels, King George and Queen Charlotte.
William M'Leod
John M'Coy
William Lauder
William M'Leod (fl. 1785-87) was a busy,
popular, but not particularly healthy, ship's first mate
on the King George on the Northwest Coast. In 1785
M'Leod joined the King George under Nathaniel
Portlock as first mate and on its way out ran messages
to the accompanying Queen Charlotte and other ships
as well as led groups trying to procure food, etc. On
July 20,1786 near Cape Bede, Alaska, he contacted a
settlement of Russians who kept themselves
uncharacteristically sober to avoid any surprise by
drunken American sailors. By early 1787, however,
after wintering in Hawaii, the health of M'Leod, who
had had a chronic complaint of a stricture of the
uretha (a possible stone or gout) began to deteriorate.
On November 28,1787 at Canton, after drinking some
stale beer aboard the Locko, an Indiaman, M'Leod
became violently ill. His bladder may have burst for
at 3:00 p.m., the following day he died. On the
morning of November 30th, he was buried on
Frenchman's Island, off Canton in the Canton or Pearl
Another Scot on that voyage was seaman John
M'Coy who was a bit of a hero. In August, 1787, along
with third mate Samuel Hayward, assistant trader
Robert Hill, seaman James Blake and others, M'Coy
left the King George on a longboat for a trading
expedition to trade for furs in the vicinity of Cape
Edgecomb, Alaska. Sailing very fast on August 14,
the night before they returned to the King George,
James Blake fell overboard and it was considerable
time before they were able to bring the longboat to
John M'Coy who jumped overboard and swam to
Blake with an oar. It took almost an hour for the crew
of the longboat to get Blake on board because the
wind kept taking him away from the boat. Our hero
returned to England in August 1788 and has not been
followed further.
William Lauder the twenty-two year-old
surgeon on the sister ship, the Queen Charlotte, was
not so lucky. He was on the vessel when it traded in
both 1786 and 1787. He sailed to China where both
vessels sold their furs and took on tea to be
transported to England. Lauder took ill some time
after leaving Whampoa on the voyage home and
shortly after, on February 28,1788, died of unknown
causes. According to Dixon, Lauder "resigned himself
to the Divine will, with the greatest composure, being
perfectly sensible to the last moment." His body was
committed to the deep the next day.
What about other vessels? The last group
came on assorted ships
John McKay
Alexander Stewart
William Douglas
James Charles Stuart Strange
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004 One of the more unusual Scots was surgeon
John M'Key if I can call him a Scot for he was born in
Ireland. The early life of M'Key has not been traced
but, likely as a young surgeon, he went to Bombay in
the service of the East India Company. In Bombay, in
late 1785, he was engaged by David Scott (after whom
Cape Scott is named) and James Strange as surgeon
aboard the Captain Cook and sailed from Bombay on
December 8,1785. M'Key reached Friendly Cove on
June 27,1786 and either because he had "purple fever"
(skin eruptions) or because James Strange wanted him
to set up conditions favourable to future trade, McKey
agreed to stay behind with the local Friendly Cove
natives. The young surgeon was left with a red coat
so that he could look more war-like, as well as
blankets, clothes and seeds so that he could plant a
garden, a male and female goat, musket, pistols, beef,
biscuits, rice salt, sage tea, sugar, tobacco and books.
He was also left with pen, ink and paper to
record "the Manners, Customs, Religion, &
Government of these people". He soon secured a
modicum of safety and respect by curing one of Chief
Macquinna's children of scabby hands and legs. In
fact, he adjusted so well in the first two months that
when Captain Hanna of the Sea Otter arrived and
offered to take him off, he refused. During the next
year at Friendly Cove, he planted his garden, learned
the language, adopted local customs and discovered
through his wanderings that Vancouver Island was,
in fact, an island. After a year at Friendly Cove, and
now without his original clothes and with a
considerably darkened complexion, M'Coy was quite
willing to leave in August 1787, when Captain Charles
Barkley and wife Frances arrived on the Imperial Eagle.
He sailed back to Bombay with his observations,
which, unfortunately, have never been traced.
Now we come to two brothers from Orkney,
one of whom saw service in the South Pacific, the
other on the Northwest Coast. These are the brothers
Alexander and George Stewart. Lets deal with George
who never made it this far north. Brother George (not
to be confused with the above George Stewart), born
in Massiter, South Ronaldsay and having few
prospects in Orkney, met and befriended William
Bligh when he dined in the Stewart's house in
Stromness when Captain Cook's ships called in 1780.
Our George then became midshipman with Bligh on
his legendary breadfruit voyage on HMS Bounty.
George didn't partake in the 1789 mutiny but took
refuge in Tahiti where he married and had a child.
However, as he was considered a mutineer, he was
apprehended in March 1791 but drowned in May,
while being brought back manacled on HMS Pandora.
This ends the story of George accept that he was later
immortalized in Lord Byron's poem "Torquil."
Less known is brother Alexander who reached
Friendly Cove on the Northwest Coast in 1789. He
came via Canton as second mate of the ship Princess
Royal [Thomas Hudson] in company with the Argonaut
[James Colnett] with their European crew and Chinese
technicians. Because they were trading in what-is-now
British Columbia waters, then Spanish claimed
territory, Stewart and fellow mariners were seized by
the Spanish. He was taken south to languish for a year
in a Spanish prison at San Bias and nearby Tepic in
Mexico. This escapade didn't faze him for, after his
release, he was soon back trading on the coast as
captain of the tender Jackal - at the same time as
George Vancouver's explorations. On the dark side,
the guns that he traded at Hawaii were of such poor
quality that they exploded when they were fired for
the first time. He soon tired of the fur trade on the
coast and decided to settle for the rest of his life in the
Hawaiian Islands with a local woman he had met there
previously - probably not on the same island where
he sold his guns. He was also depressed over the news
of the fate of his brother - George. You remember
George. Five years later, in 1799, Alexander's love of
his Hawaiian wife had worn thin so when the vessel
Dove [Robert Duffin] anchored to winter at the Islands,
Stewart had no trouble at being persuaded to go to
sea again by his old friend. He toured the Northwest
Coast for one more season with Duffin and returned
to the Sandwich Islands where he took up residence
just as his brother had done to the south. And there
we leave him.
Our next Scot on the coast was William
Douglas a ship's captain who is credited with
introducing watermelon to the Sandwich Islands
[Hawaii] and who was an unwilling participant in the
Anglo-Spanish conflict at Nootka. He came several
times to the coast, each voyage testing his mettle. For
example, on the first voyage, after sailing from
Calcutta in 1786 in the two hundred ton Nootka [John
Meares] he survived an ice-bound winter of 1786-87
in the King William Sound area where scurvy took
many officers and men, including Indian Lascars. He
next came to the coast in 1788 as supercargo of the
nominally Portuguese vessel, Iphigenia Nubiana, in
company with the Felice [Meares]. A stop at
Zamboanga [Philippines] for repairs and to alleviate
scurvy saw the loss of one of the fifty Chinese artisans
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004
19 hired for the voyage to the Northwest Coast. After
trading on the coast during 1788 and wintering in
Hawaii, he returned to the coast, just as Spain was
trying to assert its claimed sovereignty. In May 1789,
Don Esteban Jose Martinez asserted Spanish
sovereignty by seizing the Iphigenia and its contents.
Within days of the seizure, however, most or all of
Douglas' property was returned and, after signing
papers admitting guilt of trading in the area as well
as dismantling the post that Meares had built, Douglas
sailed north to continue trading and did a name
exchange with an old Haida chief. He sailed to Hawaii
that summer and, as luck would have it, foiled a plot
by some of King Kamehameha's chiefs to kill all
officers and crew and destroy the ship. He then sailed
for China but then the record gets a bit fuzzy. Douglas,
appears to have become master and owner of the
American eighty-five ton schooner, Grace, which was
back on the coast in 1791. Here his luck ran out, for
while returning to China in the autumn, William
Douglas died and was presumably buried at sea.
The last Scot, James Charles Stuart Strange
(1753-1840) is a person about whom we know a lot
thanks to research by others. He made one voyage to
the coast in 1786. Born in 1753 to Jacobite supporter
and well-known engraver, Sir Robert Strange, and
having Charles Edward Stuart ("Bonnie" Prince
Charlie) as a godfather, a young James Strange saw
action early when he was kidnapped in London. He
was only rescued after several days when he was able
to hail someone he knew while being spirited across
London Bridge in a basket. As a youth, the
uncommonly handsome Strange's wayward habits of
dancing on the stage were cut short when he was
articled as a "writer" under the secretary in the military
department in the East Indian Company's service at
Madras. While on furlough in England, he became
impressed with the possibilities of trade on the
Northwest Coast, having just read James Cook's
voyages and so, on his return to India was financed
by fellow employee, David Scott, and outfitted by the
East India Company with men, supplies, guns and
ammunition. So, on December 8,1785, he sailed on
the Experiment [Capt. Guise] in company with the
larger Captain Cook [Capt. Lowrie] from Bombay for
the Northwest Coast. After months of sickness, gales,
calm and a grounding, Strange sighted the coast. On
July 6, he landed the surgeon, about whom we have
already spoken, and crew ashore at Friendly Cove,
where he purchased a building to act as a temporary
hospital to cure the men of scurvy. After four days he
moved into a tent, cured the men to each of whom he
gave vegetable seeds to plant. During his time there
he secured furs, even bartering away his cymbals,
expanded James Cook's dictionary on the language
and provided observations of the various habits of
the native peoples. After a month's stay, Strange left
Friendly Cove, leaving behind surgeon Dr. John
M'Key. After sailing north to Prince William Sound
and running into a rival, Strange decided to abandon
the financially unsuccessfully mission, and sailed
directly to Canton where he arrived in November.
Now, what happened to this adventurous Scot
after the Northwest Coast? The thirty-three year old
Strange returned to India, where his wife had died
while he was away, and, in Madras, worked his way
through the ranks until 1795 whereupon he retired to
England. There he remarried and pursued a career in
business and politics until 1802 when financial ruin
brought him back to India where he once again rose
in the Madras bureaucracy. When he finally retired
and returned to England, he stopped at St. Helena
where he won a gold coin from the then-exiled
Napoleon Buonaparte over a game of picquet. He also
took a gift of bonbons from Buonaparte back to his
daughters. He died in 1840 at the Castle of Airth,
Scotland, which he had rented for several years. His
grandson, the Rev. R. J. Dundas, came to Victoria in
1860 as an Anglican minister. And so, what goes
around, comes around.
So there you have it. This is just a small glimpse
into the lives of a few Scots who were on the Coast
before Alexander Mackenzie. All were equally brave,
adventurous and tough. So as our childhood visions
of the uniqueness of Lewis-born Scot, Sir Alexander
Mackenzie, tend to become more remote, we can begin
to look at the other Scots who were on the coast before
him. Their stories are certainly worth telling. •
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004 John Ledyard
An exclusive extract from the new book First Invaders
By Alan Twigg
Iohn Ledyard published some of the earliest non-
Aboriginal impressions of British Columbia but
he is little-known in Canada, perhaps because
his roots were American and not British,
yard was described by Thomas Jefferson as "a
man of genius, of some science, and of fearless
courage and enterprise." He described his
momentous arrival at Nootka Sound with Captain
Cook on March 30,1778.
"We entered this inlet about 4 o'clock in the
afternoon. The extremes of the opening at the
entrance were about 2 miles distant, and we had the
prospect of a snug harbour. It was a matter of doubt
with many of us whether we should find any
inhabitants here, but we had scarcely entered the inlet
before we saw that hardy, that intrepid, that glorious
creature man approaching us from the shore...."
John Ledyard began to earn his title of
"America's Marco Polo" at an early age. Born in
Groton, Connecticut in 1751, he studied law and
theology at Dartmouth in 1772, intending to become
a missionary. His family was poor because his father
had died at sea. One of his Dartmouth classmates was
an Aboriginal who taught him how to paddle a canoe
whereupon, in 1773, Ledyard chopped down a white
pine, carved a 50-foot-long canoe on the banks and
paddled down the Connecticut River with the Greek
Testament and Ovid as his reading material. He
paddled 140 miles to Hartford, then reached New
York. It was the start of a lifetime of wandering.
As a sailor he visited the Barbary Coast and
the West Indies in late 1773, then enlisted in the British
Navy at Gibraltar in 1776. In Plymouth he signed on
for duty with Captain Cook's third voyage that took
him to the Canary Islands, Cape Verde Islands, Cape
of Good Hope, Tasmania, New Zealand, Tahiti,
California, Oregon, the Bering Sea, Unalaska Island,
the eastern coast of Asia and the western coast of
Vancouver Island. His description of Cook's arrival
"Night approaching we came to an anchor
between one of those islands and the eastern shore
about one quarter of a mile from each. In the evening
we were visited by several canoes full of the natives;
they came abreast our ship within two rods of us and
there staid the whole night, without offering to
approach nearer or to withdraw farther from us,
neither would they converse with us. At the approach
of day they departed in the same reserve and silence.
On the 30th we sent our boats to examine a small
cove in the opposite island, which answering our
wishes we moved with both ships into it and moored
within a few rods of the surrounding beach."
John Ledyard proceeded to provide one of the
first and best records of Mowachaht (Nuu-chah-
nulth) behaviour and attitudes in the eighteenth-
century "Water and wood they charged us nothing
for. Capt. Cook would not credit this fact when he
first heard it and went in person to be assured of it,
and persisting in a more peremptory tone in his
demands, one of the Indians took him by the arm
and thrust him from him, pointing the way for him
to go about his business. Cook was struck with
astonishment, and turning to his people with a smile
mixed with admiration exclaimed, 'This is an
American indeed!' and instantly offered this brave
man what he thought proper to take; after which the
Indian took him and his men to his dwelling and
offered them such as he had to eat."
Upon his return to England in 1780, Ledyard
was forced to give his journals to the Admiralty. He
served in the British navy for two more years,
reaching America at the close of the Revolution in
December 1782. During a seven-day leave he visited
his mother, brothers and sisters whom he had not
seen for eight years. Unwilling to fight for the British
against his American brethren, he deserted at
Huntington. Ledyard spent the first four months of
1783 at Thomas Seymour's home in Hartford. When
friends persuaded Ledyard to recount his adventures
with Cook, he was not averse to using portions of
crewmember John Rickman's newly published
account to refresh his memory. Ironically, Ledyard's
book, published in 1781, served as a landmark
volume for copyright legislation in the United States.
As a former student of the law, Ledyard
successfully petitioned the Connecticut Assembly for
the right of exclusive publication. Although the
copyright designation did not appear in the volume,
Ledyard's memoir became the first book to be issued
in the United States under a copyright law of the sort
that is now prevalent, to protect the rights of the
author. Provisions of the Connecticut copyright law
were soon copied by other states, leading to a national
copyright law in 1790.
Ledyard's memoirs provide an uncensored
eye-witness narrative of Cook's murder at
Kealakekua Bay. Also killed were Royal Marine
Corporal John Thomas, Privates Theophilus Hinks,
John Allen and Tom Fatchett and many Hawaiians.
Unlike most of his British contemporaries, Ledyard
was clearly willing to consider the confrontation from
Ledyard & Cannibalism
"On the 1st of April [1778] we
were visited by a number of
natives in their boats... This was
the first fair opportunity after
our arrival that I had of
examining the appearance of
those unknown aborigines of
North-America. It was the first
time too that I had been so near
the shores of that continent
which gave me birth from the
time I at first left it; and though
more than two thousand miles
distant from the nearest part of
New-England I felt myself plainly
affected... It soothed a home-sick
heart, and rendered me very
tolerably happy.
"We had no sooner beheld these
Americans than I set them down
for the same kind of people that
inhabit the opposite side of the
continent. They are rather above
the middle stature, copper-
coloured, and of an athletic
make. They have long black hair,
which they generally wear in a
club on the top of the head, they
fill it when dressed with oil,
paint and the downe of birds.
They also paint their faces with
red, blue and white colours, but
from whence they had them or
how they were prepared they
would not inform us, nor could
we tell. Their cloathing generally
consists of skins, but they have
two other sorts of garments, the
one is made of the inner rind of
some sort of bark twisted and
united together like the woof of
our coarse cloaths, the other...
is also principally made with the
hair of their dogs, which are
mostly white, and of the
domestic kind. Upon this
garment is displayed the manner
of their catching the whale-we
saw nothing so well done by a
savage in our travels... Their
language is very guttural, and if
it was possible to reduce it to
our orthography, [it] would very
much abound with consonants.
"In their manners they resemble
the other aborigines of North-
America; they are bold and
ferocious, sly and reserved, not
easily provoked but revengeful;
we saw no signs of religion or
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004        21 worship among them, and if they
sacrifice it is to the God of
When a party was sent to procure
some grass for our cattle they
would not suffer them to take a
blade of it without payment, nor
had we a mast or yard without an
acknowledgment. They intimated
to us that the country all round
further than we could see was
theirs... The houses we saw near
this cove appeared to be only
temporary residences from
whence it was supposed that in
winter they retired into the
interior forests, and in summer
lived any where that best
answered the purposes of fishing
or hunting.
"The food we saw them use
consisted solely of dried fish and
blubber oil, the best by far that
any man among us had ever
seen: this they put into skins. We
purchased great quantities of it
[for] our lamps [and] many other
purposes useful and necessary.
Like all uncivilized men they
[were] hospitable, and the first
boat that visited us in the Cove
brought us what they thought the
greatest possible [gift], and no
doubt they offered it to us to
eat; this was a human arm
roasted. I have heard it
remarked that human flesh is the
most delicious, and therefore
tasted a bit, and so did many
others without swallowing the
meat or the juices, but either my
conscience or my taste rendered
it very odious to me.
"We intimated to our hosts that
what we had tasted was bad, and
expressed as well as we could
our [disapproval] of eating it on
account of its being part of a
man like ourselves. They seemed
to be sensible by the contortions
of our faces that our feelings
were disgusted, and apparently
paddled off with equal
dissatisfaction and
disappointment themselves."
the perspective of the Hawaiians. His account of the
great hero's death was critical of Cook's arrogant
attitude towards the Hawaiians and he alleges Cook
was jealous of Vitus Bering.
Ledyard's memoirs constitute the first great
travel literature by an American to be published in
the United States. His publisher was Nathaniel Patton,
a Hartford printer who dedicated the book to
Governor Jonathan Trumbull, George Washington's
"Brother Jonathan" of Revolutionary fame.
It soon became Ledyard's great ambition to
become the first American to cross the continent on
foot. Thomas Jefferson wrote of their meeting in Paris
in 1786: "I suggested to him the enterprise of exploring
the western part of our continent by passing through
St. Petersburg to Kamtchatka and procuring a passage
thence in some of the Russian vessels to Nootka
Sound, whence he might make his way across the
continent to the United States; and I undertook to have
the permission of the empress of Russia solicited."
Ledyard devised a plan to travel across Russia
and Siberia, then on to Alaska, then down to the
Mississippi River. With two hunting dogs as
companions, he set forth but failed to cross the Baltic
ice from Stockholm to Abo. Reconsidering, he walked
from Stockholm to St. Petersburg, arriving barefoot
and penniless in 1787. Undeterred, Ledyard managed
to accompany a Scottish physician named Brown to
Siberia. Leaving Dr. Brown at Barnaul, he went on to
Tomsk and Irkutsk, visited Lake Baikal, and
descended the Lena to Yakutsk, but Catherine the
Great sent orders for him to be arrested. At Irkutsk he
was accused of being a French spy and banished from
Russia. He was sent back to Poland.
In 1788, Ledyard speculated about possible
racial connections between Asian and American
aboriginals, providing grist for similar
anthropological arguments that advanced in the two
centuries that followed. Ledyard's wanderlust
continued. Back in London, he signed on for duty with
Sir Joseph Banks and the African Association for an
overland expedition from Alexandria to the Niger. At
age thirty-seven, John Ledyard died in Cairo on
January 10,1789, killed by an overdose of vitriolic acid.
Extracts from Ledyard's private correspondence
with Thomas Jefferson and others are provided in
Jared Sparks' Life of John Ledyard. Ledyard's comments
about women give an indication of his seriousness
and character.
"I have always remarked that women in all
countries are civil and obliging, tender and humane;
that they are ever inclined to be gay and cheerful,
timorous and modest; and that they do not hesitate
like men, to perform a generous action. Not haughty,
not arrogant, not supercilious, they are full of courtesy,
and fond of society; more liable in general to err than
man, but in general also more virtuous, and
performing more good actions, than he. To a woman,
whether civilized or savage, I never addressed myself
in the language of decency and friendship, without
receiving a decent and friendly answer.
"With man it has often been otherwise. In
wandering over the barren plains of inhospitable
Denmark, through honest Sweden and frozen
Lapland, rude and churlish Finland, unprincipled
Russia, and the wide spread regions of the wandering
Tartar; if hungry, dry, cold, wet, or sick, the women
have ever been friendly to me, and uniformly so. And
add to this virtue, so worthy the appellation of
benevolence, their actions have been performed in so
free and kind a manner, that if I was dry, I drank the
sweetest draught, and if hungry, I ate the coarsest
morsel with a double relish." •
A Journal of Captain Cook's Last Voyage to the Pacific Ocean, and in
Quest of a North-West Passage, between Asia & America; Performed in
the Years 1776,1777, 1778, and 1789 (Hartford, Connecticut: Nathaniel
Patten, 1783).
Sparks, Jared. Life of John Ledyard, the American Traveller;
Comprising Selections from His Journals and Correspondence (London:
Hilliard and Brown, 1828; 1834,1847,1864.) [Contains extracts from
Ledyard's journals and his private correspondence with Thomas
Jefferson and others.]
The Adventures of a Yankee; or, The singular life of John Ledyard; with
an account of his voyage round the world with the celebrated Captain
Cooke. Designed for youth by A Yankee (Boston, Carter, Hendee and
Babcock, 1831).
Mumford, James K. John Ledyard: An American Marco Polo (Portland:
Binfords & Mort, 1939).
Mumford, J. K. (editor). John Ledyard's Journal of Captain Cook's Last
Voyage (Corvalis, Oregon: Oregon State University, 1963).
Watrous, Stephen D. (editor). John Ledyard's Journey Through Russia
and Siberia 1787-1788: The Journal and Selected Letters (Madison:
University of Wisconsin Press, 1966).
From First Invaders: The Literary Origins of British
Columbia (Ronsdale Press, $21.95 1-55380-018-4)
by Alan Twigg.
Alan Twigg is the founder of BC Bookworld and author of
ten books. He has compiled
(hosted by SFU Library) with information on more than
6,500 B.C. authors.
First Invaders is the first volume in a projected series
about the literary history (origins) of our province.
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004 In Search of David Thompson
A Study in Bibliography
By Barry Cotton
On July first 2002, at Invermere BC a new
statue of David Thompson and his wife
Charlotte Small was erected, with all due
celebration. The festivities were a prelude
to a series of related bi-centennials to take place in
the north-west from 2007 to 2011. To quote the Link -
the B.C. Land-Surveyors magazine: "recognition for
David Thompson and Charlotte Small is coming"
It is indeed encouraging to see the renewed
interest in this man, who has been described as the
greatest geographer of his time, certainly in North
America. There are other encouraging signs, too, such
as interestingly written books which portray
Thompson without prejudice. Although the
framework of his life has been known for many years,
painstaking research is still necessary for any new
author, so it is also nice to know that the resulting
picture of him as a man is now being painted in
straightforward and ethical tones.
But everything in the garden is not necessarily
lovely. I also happened to read several paragraphs
regarding David Thompson in Peter Newman's
Caesars ofthe Wilderness1 which riled me up so much
that I resolved to go back to basics, and do a little
research myself. Should I blame Peter Newman?
Perhaps. When one takes for granted flawed opinions
from the past, and builds on them, the results can turn
out to be less than factual, and Peter Newman states
as fact what is - in fact -fantasy. So I have to admit
that it was his treatment of David Thompson that
sparked this article.
Perhaps it is time to ask the big rhetorical
question; when will we see the consolidated, all
inclusive publication of Thompson's writings, Journals,
letters, maps and reports. It has certainly been
advocated more than once and there are rumours that
the Champlain Society are planning such a
(monumental) work, although it may still be several
years before we see it. Until it comes, we must track
Thompson down through dozens of publications
relevant to the Fur Trade, the North West Company,
the Hudson's Bay Company, the Astorians as well as
in the publications of his own works.
Other pathfinders in Canadian history are easier
to know. The lives of Sir Alexander Mackenzie and
Simon Fraser do not rest uncomfortably on unresolved
issues. But David Thompson remains an elusive
character because he has been too well analysed by
the many writers who had a theory to expound.
The purpose of this article, therefore, is to
provide a guide through the maze of historical writing
and editorializing about David Thompson - a history
of a history - to result in a more clear-thinking
approach to this man who should be a legend in our
recorded past.
A Well Recorded Life At almost any time of
his fur trading days, David Thompson's movements
can be verified by the records of his Journals, reports,
letters and other contemporary memorials. He himself
also threw his life open to the scrutiny of posterity
when he wrote his Narrative, and lesser memoirs. For
seventy years his grave lay unmarked, and the fear
which he held in late lifetime - that he would not be
given credit for his explorations - was only
too well realized. Then came recognition,
and with J.B. Tyrrell's researches in the
field, and publication of the Narrative in
1916, the public became aware of the truly
remarkable achievements of this fur-
trader/geographer. In 1927 his grave was
monumented, and a special ceremony held
in his honour. For at least the next few
years, the authenticity of his work was
confirmed, and without questioning the
integrity of his reporting.
Since then, however, underneath the
ornate lettering of the monument, it seems
doubtful that the shade of David
Thompson can have slept too peacefully.
The hero of J.B.Tyrrell's 1916 edition of the
Narrative gave place to the pariah of
Richard Glover's 1962 edition (both
editions, incidently published by the
Champlain Society). No doubt all heroes
have feet of clay (as any modern historian
will be quick to point out) - but the fact
remains that Thompson's own text is the
basis of the Narrative in all of three
published editions. Only the footnotes vary
- editorial comment far-reaching into the
realms of assumption. In fact, David
Thompson's character, as popularly
conceived, has rested almost entirely on the
building-blocks of these addendae to his
own incomparable Narrative.
David Thompson's Writings Let's
take a look at the records from which the
facts of David Thompson's life are gleaned.
For a first, general impression, no reader
need go further than the Narrative. This is
nothing less that his own account of travels
in North America from 1784 to 1812. It was
Barry Cotton is a
retired BC Land
Surveyor and is the
author of First in the
Field, the Pioneer
Years of Garden,
Hermon and Burwell,
Civil Engineers in the
Province of British
Columbia 1890-1920
A    III! I
na an \tiv i:
1 111
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004
1. Peter C.Newman. Caesars of
the Wilderness. NY. Viking. 1987.
2. Tyrrell J.B. ed. David
Thompson: Narrative of his
Explorations in Western America.
Toronto Champlain Society. 1916.
3. Coues Elliott ed. New Light on
the early history of the Greater
NorthWest.(3 vols) - Minneapolis.
Ross 6 Haines, reprint 1965.
4. Elliott. TC. ed. Journals of
David Thompson. Washington
Historical Quarterly -VIII (1917)
- IX (1918) - X (1919) - XI (1920) -
XXIII (1932)
Oregon Historical Quarterly - XV
(1914)-XXI (1920)-XXVI (1925).
5. Morton A.S. The North-West
Company's Columbian Enterprise
and David Thompson. Canadian
Historical Revue No.17 (1936).
6. Morton A.S. A History of the
Canadian West to 1870171.
Reprint University of Toronto
Press 1973.
7. Tyrrell J.B. David Thompson 6
the Columbia River. Canadian
Historical Review 1937.
8. White. M. Catherine ed. David
Thompson's Journals relating to
Montana.... Montana
University Press. 1950.
9. Bridgewater Dorothy W. John
Jacob Astor relative to his
settlement.... Yale University
Press Library Gazette No. 241949.
10. Glover R.ed. David
Thompson's Narrative. Champlain
Society 1962.
11. Glover R. The Witness of
David Thompson. Canadian
Historical Review Vol. 31.1950.
12. Lavender D. First in the
Wilderness. Doubleday N.Y. 1964.
13. Ronda James P. Astoria and
Empire. University of Nebraska
14. Lamb W Kaye ed. Journal of
Gabriel Franchere 1811-14.
Champlain Society 1969.
written in late life, seven years before his death in fact.
Prof.V.G.Hopwood, who edited the third edition,
called it a literary masterpiece, as indeed it is,
acknowledged by historians as an invaluable insight
into life and times when white-men were still
newcomers in the vast Pacific North-West. The
Narrative is, of course, a literary work in its own right.
The wealth of description and knowledge of the day
which was incorporated into Thompson's Narrative
was drafted out by him at seventy-six years of age -
forty years after the events which form the framework
of the writing. It is fairly obvious that his Journals
were the reference points which sparked his
reminiscences, and that they were in front of him as
he wrote. If there are any discrepancies between the
two records, they are normal considering the
circumstances (although a few have been
triumphantly pounced upon by some historians).
David Thompson kept meticulous Journals in his
travels through the unmapped territory of the West.
They describe as in a diary the main events of each
day, noting the directions and courses of his travel
(by compass bearing and estimated distance), and also
the data and calculations used for astronomic
observations. Thus the factual record of events as they
happened, and the geographic data needed for his
later map-making have been preserved. In addition
there are many other contemporary Journals and
writings, official and personal letters, much still
unpublished - in fact enough actual published
material to cover five pages of bibliography that must
be mentioned (not to say digested) by any historian
who dares to offer a fresh idea.
... And His Publishers The late J.B. Tyrrell was
the first to "discover" David Thompson's competence
in 1887/8, and he edited the first edition of the
Narrative in 1916.2 He is still regarded as a foremost
practical authority on David Thompson's activities,
having followed much of his routes, his explorations,
portages, trails, and observation points on the ground;
and as part of both the Champlain editions of the
Narrative, Tyrrell's "Itinerary 17 85-1812", is an
invaluable ready reference.
Many literary works give an involuntary
indication of the writer's individuality and general
disposition; although an assessment, as such, can be
coloured by the reader's own ideas and aspirations.
Tyrrell was David Thompson's champion, but
unfortunately the first to let assumption prevail over
the few recorded facts about him as a person. Tyrrell's
Thompson strides through the bush, sextant in one
hand, Bible in the other, and is perhaps a little too
good to be true, even for the reader who is prepared
to hunt for that rare first edition. The Journals and
other official documents have, of course, been the
subject of numerous scholarly articles in periodicals
over the years, all being the result of original research.
Elliott Coues was publishing Thompson's Journals as
early as 18973, and TC. Elliott's researches into
Thompson's activities in Idaho and Washington were
published in the Washington and Oregon Historical
Quarterly magazines, most well before the 1930's.4 It
was about this time, when so many records of the old
fur-trade, and the North-West Company in particular,
had been unearthed (and published), that serious-
minded historians felt that it was time to tackle David
Thompson's hitherto stainless character as a man; and
here it is really quite fascinating to note how
differently the various writers have dealt with
Thompson as a person.
Bones of Contention The historian A.S.
Morton, in his article on The North-West Company's
Columbian Enterprise and David Thompson in 1936,5 led
the attack on Tyrrells too-pious David Thompson. The
latter was blamed for the "failure of the Columbian
Enterprise" (a particularly successful endeavour in the
end), and adversely affecting Britain's claim to the
Oregon Territory in favour of the USA. This latter
allegation refers to the theory of the "race," in which
the North-West Company were presumed to be
engaged in an all-out effort to plant the Union Jack at
the mouth of the Columbia before Astor's American
company got there. Four years later, in his History of
the Canadian West to 1870-16, Morton's assumptions
had hardened into affirmations, (perhaps the idea of
a "race" sounded quite plausible at the time, although
today's readers might wonder why such a race had
not already been won a few years previously by Lewis
& Clarke, the ruins of Fort Clatsop having still been
in place when the Astorians arrived).
Morton had some very harsh criticism of
Thompson, whom he accused not only of having lost
the alleged "race", but to the extent of deliberately
destroying one of his own Journals (presumably in
order to mislead discerning historians a century later).
Unfortunately for David Thompson's image, Morton's
authority as a historian was profound, and his theories
endured for at least the next forty years.
His reasoning would not go unchallenged7, but
Tyrrell was now getting on in years, and valid though
his objections might be, they would simply be viewed
as natural reaction. Mary Catherine White, in her 1950
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004 publication of David Thompson's Journals Relating to
Montana and Adjacent Regions? a scholarly work now
very hard to find, devoted the whole of Appendix B
to forcefully refuting Morton's arguments. Moreover,
in 1949, new evidence came to light regarding David
Thompson's exploration of the Columbia River,
published in an article by Dorothy W Bridgewater, in
the Yale University Library Gazette - John Jacob Astor
relative to his settlement on the Columbia.9 This article
should have effectively put a damper on the
implications (and persistence) of Morton's philosophy,
but unfortunately it was not taken seriously by the
next editor of note - Richard Glover10, who now
reinforced Morton's ideas in his new edition of the
Narrative in 1962. (It seems that Glover, as a champion
of Samuel Hearne,11 was quite ready to believe
anything detrimental about David Thompson).
Glover's hatchet was even sharper than
Morton's, and the David Thompson whom he cut
down to size, had little similarity to the man who had
been so eulogized by Tyrrell. Glover noted on page
xiii of his Introduction, that "when every subtraction
has been made, much will remain to be admired"', yet
by the time he had finished pulling his unfortunate
subject apart, it is a wonder that anyone would want
to read the Narrative that follows. Thompson is now
not only the scapegoat in losing the Oregon Territory
for Britain, but he is also blameworthy for having quit
his employment with the Hudson's Bay Company, for
cowardly behaviour towards the Peigans, for
deliberate suppression of the truth in his writings (the
"missing" Journal) - even for his own poverty late in
life (because he was an inept businessman!). In a way
David Thompson's character would have been better
served had he not written his Narrative at all, since
every slight discrepancy seemed to generate the seeds
of distrust.
In the ensuing inuendo, Thompson became not
a person to be admired, but an object of scorn. This
version of the craven David Thompson would last for
the next nine years, and find its way into several
history books, where the writers were disposed to take
for granted the suppositions of their colleagues.
The Astor Connection John Jacob Astor's
Pacific endeavour was, of course, the motivating factor
behind David Thompson's journey to the mouth of
the Columbia River, and in order to put the latter's
expedition in proper perspective, relevant information
on the tactics of America's first tycoon should be
appreciated. David Lavender12 was the first to delve
deeply into the Astor papers in recent years. But for
complete details of Jacob Astor's dealings with the
North-West Company, the reader must go to Astoria
& Empire, by James Ronda13- which authentically
quotes chapter and verse, as well as outlining the part
played by David Thompson. Both of these
publications reveal a lot about Thompson that was
imperfectly understood, and place him logically in the
sequence of events.
One historian who was not taken in by the
controversy was W Kaye Lamb, when he edited the
Journals of Gabriel Franchere.14, The latter was a clerk at
Astoria at the time when Thompson, with Union Jack
flying, arrived at the mouth of the Columbia on July
15,1811. It would be natural for him (and his fellow
clerks) to assume that Thompson had been sent to
forestall the Astorians, but had 'lost the race".
Franchere's Journal makes fascinating reading,
especially Lamb's Introduction, and it is hard not to
wonder how Franchere's assumption became
mistaken for fact. But to find a good reason for this,
one must go to Washington Irving's book Astoria,15
written in 1836, the first story of Astor's enterprise.
This book was written at Astor's request, and has been
around for 165 years, in several re-issues. Irving used
several contemporary sources for his dramatic, even
romantic story, and it is interesting here only insofar as
the theory of the "race" is concerned (since James
Ronda's book retells the story of Astoria in its entirety).
One of Irving's sources was Franchere himself, and the
author skilfully transformed Franchere's opinion into
historical fact in his, otherwise, well-researched bestseller, so the idea was widely circulated as fact, to the
extent of being swallowed whole by at least one
Canadian historian exactly one hundred years later.
Less Contentious Reading Insofar as the
Narrative is concerned, many readers may not need to
go further than Prof.V.G. Hopwood's edition of David
Thompson's Travels.16 This was a "popular" edition - in
that there are few footnotes to denote sources - but it
tells Thompson's story in his own words, thereby
revealing much of the character of the writer and central
figure. It is basically a third edition of the Narrative
(including sections not previously published),
rearranged where necessary, and with abridged extracts
from Journals and other supplementary writings,
skilfully blended in to maintain continuity.
The fur trade was a background for the history
of the North-West, an era that only lasted a few years.
Since it can only exist now in the imagination of today's
generation, it should be important to "get it right" So
there is quite a paradox when one considers that books
15. Irving Washington. Astoria, or
Anecdotes of an Enterprise
(various editions).
16. Hopwood. Victor G. David
Thompson: Travels in Western
America. McMillan Toronto.
17. Evans, Hubert. North to the
Unknown. Dodd Mead. 1949.
Wood, Kerry. The Map Maker.
McMillan, Toronto. 1955.
18. Nicks, John. Thompson,
David. Dictionary of Canadian
Biographies Vol VIII. 1985.
19. Thomson Don W. Men and
Meridians Vol. I. Queens Printer
Ottawa 1967.
20. Sebert L.M. David Thompson's
Determination of Longtitude in
Western Canada.
The Canadian Surveyor Vol 35
21. Belyea, Barbara. The
"Columbian Enterprise" and
A.S.Morton, a Historical
Exemplum. BC Studies 86 1990.
22. Belyea Barbara. Columbia
Journals: David Thompson.
McGill-Queens University Press
23. Nisbet, Jack Sources of the
River. Sasquatch Books, 1995.
24. McCart, Joyce £t Peter On the
Road with David Thompson. Fifth
House, 2000.
25. Wood W. Raymond ed. David
Thompson at the Mandan-Hidatsa
Wood and Thiesson T.D. Early Fur
Trade on the Northern Plains.
University of Oklahoma 1985.
26. Masson L.R. ed. Les
Bourgeois de la Compagnie du
Nord-Ouest. New York
Antiquarian Press 1960.
27. Campbell Marjorie W. The
North-West Company. Douglas £t
Mclntyre 1973.
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004
25 28. Campbell Marjorie W.
McGillivray. Lord of the NorthWest. Clarke Irwin 1962.
29. Payette B.C. Northwest.
Privately Printed (a reference
book for the Friends of
the Columbia River Maritime
Museum). 1964.
30. Payette B.C. The Oregon
Country under the Union Jack.
Privately printed for
Payette Radio Ltd, Montreal.
31. Akrigg G.P.V. & Helen B.
British Columbia Chronicle Vol. 1
Discovery Press 1975
32. Bigsby J.J. Shoe and Canoe
Vol. f London 1850.
written for young people17 in the 40s and 50s continued
to portray David Thompson as a role model, while
perpetuating the myths of his "dalliance" and the "race".
Old ideas die hard. Even John Nicks' excellent
biography in 198518 did not answer the controversies.
For genuine facts about David Thompson's
surveys a person only has to read Men & Meridians
Volume One.19 These activities speak for themselves,
and for him, as no other material can. As we are now
in the age of satellite imaging and GPS fixes, it might
be of interest to mention the complexities of observing
for latitude and longitude in Thompson's day.
Although latitude and local time, could be determined
in a straightforward manner from astronomic
observation, using sextant and the current Nautical
Almanac, obtaining Greenwich time (and so longitude)
was anything but straightforward. The method of
lunar distances as used by David Thompson has been
described in detail by L.M. Sebert in his 1981 article
in the Canadian Surveyor.20 Use of this arduous method
enabled David Thompson to determine astronomic
fixes that compare remarkably well with those taken
two hundred years later (which have all the
advantages of modern methods and equipment). Any
larger discrepancies can well be atributed to the
exigencies of operating in rugged unknown terrain,
with or without the assistance of an untrained man
as timekeeper. Another reason - if one is needed - to
admire the dedication and competence of this
eighteenth-century geographer.
A New Look Although a few authors, in writing
about related subjects, had cleared up some of the
mystery surrounding David Thompson's epic journey
down the Columbia, none actually took up the
cudgels in the cause of proper, historical logical
deduction until Barbara Belyea came on the scene. In
The Columbian Enterprise and A.S.Morton: A Historical
Exemplum,21 she effectively hammered into the ground
the theories of Morton and Glover, as well as
castigating several other historians for adopting them
without question. This very ethical historian then
went on to edit and publish The Columbian Journals:
David Thompson,22 filling a much needed gap in our
knowledge. This is the first publication of the Journals
as such for many years and is the result of a prodigious
amount of research. Here, Thompson's great
achievement is set out for the readers themselves to
Belyea's publication of the Columbia Journals,
and her vindication of Thompson's motivation,
proved to be the start of a new perspective - that David
Thompson's story should be derived basically from
his daily Journals, while other writings e.g. the
Narrative, are given due importance, but used
Sources of the River23 by Jack Nisbet, gives an
extensive biography of David Thompson largely from
Journal content and clearly describes the problems
facing a newcomer in a vast unknown country, where
rivers run north before turning south and sometimes
south before turning north (as in the case of the
Kootenay); included are comparisons with people and
places on the banks of today's multi-dammed
Columbia which are only too realistic.
Also written with today's world firmly in mind
is On the Road with David Thompson24, by Joyce & Peter
McCart. Here too the authors are not arm-chair
historians, and the reader can follow, in today's
complex pattern of roads, rivers and dams, the path
of the first practical map-maker to penetrate the
Rockies and explore the Columbia River. Thompson's
Journals are well-quoted in this book, but the part
which I relish the most is where the authors put paid
to Peter Newman's fanciful (not to say outrageous)
account of the events of September 15 - October 11,
1810. The happenings in this period were first
described in Alexander Henry's Journal, at a
significant time in Thompson's affairs, when the
Peigan blockade forced him to adopt the Athabasca
Pass as a new route through the Rockies. The
interpretation of these events by the authors has an
advantage over many other explanations, in that it is
perfectly believable.
The Journals Reading and piecing together
the entries from the Journals can be a most satisfying
way of forming one's own narrative of events. Here
there can be no malarkey As an example:- although
David Thompson's Narrative well describes the plight
of his small party during the winter of 1810/11, in a
frozen world, splitting cedar shakes for a shelter to
live in, and for a clinker-built canoe, only his Journal
will suffice for the reader to appreciate the hardships
of this small party when they set off up the melting
Upper Columbia on April 17,1811, pulling their laden
canoe, with the trackers wearing snow-shoes in three
feet of wet snow on the banks. A cryptic entry for April
24th simply says: "Gumming canoe. Vallade ill with
snowblindness"; what more miserable conditions
could be conjured up by six words?
While every author who writes about
Thompson becomes familiar with his Journals
through research, the ordinary reader must rely on
26 BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004 published sources for his access to
them; and here he faces a somewhat
daunting task. The Journals are
extant from 1790 until 1812, when
he crossed the Athabasca Pass,
going east on his last journey across
the Rocky Mountains, and while
they have been catalogued in
archives, publication has only been
done piecemeal. Some editions of
the Journals have been already
mentioned; and his Mandan Journals
1897/8 were published in 197725. To
show how difficult it is to obtain a
sequential record of Journals
relating to Thompson's greatest
accomplishment - say from Oct 29,
1810 (before crossing the Athabasca
Pass west-bound), to arriving back
at Boat Encampment Sept 18,1811
(after having explored the Columbia to its mouth) -1
have set out a record of Journal publications for that
period (see above).
So even the most avid would-be reader of
Journals has a problem - just too many sources.
Moreover the Journals themselves, even when
decyphered, are of little use to the layman without
the footnotes of an editor/historian who is also a
Thompson scholar. Which brings us again to that
rhetorical question - when are we going to see that
omnibus volume that does justice to all the criteria of
David Thompson's life?
To Sum Up The books listed here do not, of
course, constitute a complete tally of David Thompson
publications. There have been over the years many
biographical writings by other eminent authors. But
nearly all owe their derivation to the ones I have
mentioned. They are the basis for the liberal mix of
fact and assumption that is seen as David Thompson's
life. As for that boundless subject, the fur-trade, of
which his story is only a small part, a few publications
should be mentioned on account of their relevance, e.g.
L.R Masson's Les Bourgeois . . .26, M. Campbell's The
North-West Company27 and McGillivray, Lord of the
North-West21\ and B.C. Payette's North-West29. The latter
has some very interesting exhibits (in particular the
complete texts of the North-West Company's
unsuccessful petitions to Britain in 1811/12 for a
charter). Also relevant is a similar book by Payette, The
Oregon Country under the Union Jack30 a treasure trove
of memorabilia about Astoria, in particular the full text
July 22/Oct. 29
No Journal for D.T
Sept. 6/0ct. 29
Alex Henry's. Journal Reference
Elliott Coues
Hew Light on the History of the Greater Northwest p.610-658
Oct. 29/Dec. 31
D.T. Journal (Athab
isca Pass)
B. Belyea
Columbia Journals
B. Belyea
Columbia Journals
Jan. 26/Feb. 26
Feb. 27/June 9
Mary Catherine White
David Thompson's Journals Relating to Montana
and Adjacent Regions pt VI
June 4/9
TC. Elliott
Washington Historical Quarterly XI (1920)
June 7/14
TC. Elliott
Washington Historical Quarterly XXIII (1932)
June 10/16
TC. Elliott
Washington Historical Quarterly VIII (1917)
June 17/19
TC. Elliott
Washington Historical Quarterly IX (1918)
June 20/28
June 29/July 2
TC. Elliott
Oregon Historical Quarterly XII (1911)
July 3/21
D.T.Joumal (Lower
B. Belyea
Columbia Journals
July22/Sept. 23
D.T.Joumal (Return
B. Belyea
Columbia Journals
of that historic Bill of Sale ceding Astor's Pacific Fur
Company's assets to the North-West Company, at
Astoria October 16,1813. As for the loss to Canada of
the Oregon Country, one should only have to read B.C.
Chronicles Vol ll31 to get to the root of the matter
As this article progresses to completion, the truth
as hinted at in the beginning becomes inescapable; the
reader who wants to get the complete story about the
man David Thompson, Canada's greatest geographer,
will have to do some exploring himself - through many
libraries, and even archives. The books I have
mentioned are still available, but some, I regret to say,
are now out of print.
As for the only contemporary writer who met,
and was able later to describe David Thompson as a
man, this was J.J. Bigsby, in his book Shoe & Canoe,
1850,31 and that one really is out of print!
It seems to me that Canadian history is being
short-changed in this matter. It is as though the
pundits are saying: "OK - we have dealt with David
Thompson, and everybody knows about him, so let's
get on with something else". But the pundits have
not dealt with him in a satisfactory way. This is
Western Canada's great geographer, about whom this
generation should need to know - and would like to
know better, but for the exigencies of having to
conduct our own researches in so many different
avenues, dodging round, as we must, the theories of
sixty years ago, many of which are both outmoded
andunproven. •
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004
27 Token History
Bread, the Staff of Life or a tale of Two Related Bakeries    By Ronald Greene
Hanbury, Evans &
Co., ofVancouver,
B.C. Golden West
Bakery, of
Victoria, B.C.
Above right, Mr. and Mrs.
Hanbury and their 3 sons,
I. to r. Evan, Alfred and
Courtesy: Rea Hanbury
Below, D.W. Hanbury's
delivery wagon, Vancouver
& London Bakery,
Victoria, B.C. from the
period of 1904-1911
Courtesy: Rea Hanbury
The two principals of the Vancouver firm
were David W Hanbury and Thomas G.
Evans. Both were born in England, moved
to Australia, and then came to Canada,
where they were associated for several years in the
above named firms.
David W. Hanbury was born in London,
England in 1868. He trained as a baker and moved to
Brisbane, Australia, no later than the early 1890's for
his three sons were all born in Australia.1 His wife
was Jeannie Clark Campbell, known as "Jennie," a
native of Scotland.2 Thomas George Evans, usually
known as T.G., was born in Liverpool in 1870. He
moved to Australia as a young man. He was married
to Annie Robinson and they had one daughter.3
According to David Hanbury's grand-children4 with
whom we spoke the two wives were very close
friends. The family background seems not to have
been discussed in the family but it was known that
Jennie hated Australia. Not long after James' birth in
October 1902 David Hanbury sent his wife and family
to Scotland while he searched out a place to relocate.
His first choice was California, but he didn't stay there
very long. By mid 1904 he was running the Vancouver
Bakery at 73 Cook Street, in Victoria, and the London
Bakery at 25 Government Street. He had taken over
from Simmons & Coker who had operated bakeries
at both locations, and in the 1905-06 directory he was
listed as the proprietor of the London & Vancouver
Bakery at 73 Fort Street. By 1904 his family was living
with him in Victoria. We will return to Mr. Hanbury's
Victoria career below.
T.G. Evans arrived in Vancouver in 1906 and
went into a large bakery business with David W.
Hanbury. In October 1906 they bought a bakery from
the William D. Muir who had operated Muir's Bakery
at 2414
Wes tmi nste r
Avenue. Evans was
the manager of the
described as
wholesale and
retail bread
and very quickly
increased the
number of loaves
produced per week
to 55,000s up 50%
from the levels that
Mr.    Muir   had
produced.    The
plant  had  over
thirty employees
and used the most
modern     ovens
available.   They
required  fifteen
wagons to make
deliveries. Their
expansion    was
swift   and   they
needed to
purchase a new
site, which they
did at 60 Lansdowne West (now 4th Avenue West).
The bakery moved to this new location in time to be
listed there in the 1910 city directory. We don't know
what happened but in 1911 T.G. Evans left the bakery
business and returned to Australia. Ramsay & Pinchin
were listed as bakers at the former Hanbury, Evans &
Co. premises in 1912. In 1914 T.G. Evans returned to
Vancouver and entered the shoe business, working
with James Rae. Later he was a partner with Marshall
Sheppard.  He appears to have retired in 1922 and
lived in Vancouver until his death in 1947. The two
families remained close and Rea Hanbury (David's
grandson) remembered going over to Vancouver quite
often to visit the Evans family into the 1940's. T.G.
Evans does not appear to have had any involvement
in the Victoria bakeries and David W Hanbury never
lived in Vancouver.
Meanwhile, in Victoria, by 1910 David W.
Hanbury had taken over the Golden West Bakery of
John T Legg at 1729 Cook St.6 David Hanbury built a
large bakery building at 2120 Quadra Street, on the
south west corner of Princess Avenue in 1911 out of
which he operated a wholesale and retail operation.
He gave up the London & Vancouver Bakery by 1912.
The two older sons, Alfred and Evan, were
working with their father by 1914. As WWI carried
on both signed up and were listed as on "active
service." After serving with the Canadian Army
Medical Corps Alfred was discharged in July 1919.
Life as a baker did not appeal to him and he took a
horticulture course at university7 He married a
Scottish girl, Ann Cameron Allen in 1924 and moved
to Penticton. He later became an orchardist near the
head of Osoyoos Lake. When James became old
enough to work he started at the bakery. He moved
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004 to New York to take a Fleischman's bakery course.
When he returned he took over production in the
On April 2, 1929 the Golden West Bakery
Limited was incorporated, with the intention of taking
over the bakery business and its assets for $84,875.00.8
There is a detailed list of assets and equipment, which
included eight Ford and one Pontiac [delivery]
vehicles, five horses and horse-drawn vans, one Essex
manager's car, and two Shaller New Era Continuous
baking ovens. Of interest was that Glenora Securities
Ltd. of Montreal was allotted all of David Hanbury's
shares. Those shares were transferred to McGavin
Bakeries Limited June 10th of the same year. At this
point David Hanbury retired but the boys kept
running the bakery for McGavin's. Evan became
President, James was Vice-President and production
manager. The Golden West Bakery Limited entity was
placed in voluntary liquidation in 1932 and after that
the bakery operation carried on under the McGavin's
When David retired he took up fox farming,
but the Great Depression was not easy on him or this
profession. During WW2, the bakery was hard
pressed to find help. Rea remembers helping out after
school as a young teen-ager from 1942, but doesn't
recall his grandfather going back to work at the
bakery. However, the city directories show David
Hanbury in 1940 as a fur breeder and production
manager at McGavin's, in 1944 as a baker, and his
death certificate showed that he last worked as a baker
in 1945.9 When Jennie died in 1945 David Hanbury
moved to Osoyoos to live with Alfred. He died Aug
James had to leave the bakery in 1943 due to
health problems - flour dust is quite a health hazard
and he was told if he kept working in the bakery his
years would be very sharply numbered. He took over
a 10 acre orchard, from Alfred and a man named
Cummings. He later ran a launderette and died in
Victoria in 1972. Evan continued to manage the bakery
until the early 1950's, but then left the bakery and
became a fireman at H.M.C.S. Naden. He was on the
job when he suffered a fatal heart attack in 1965.
In 1961 McGavin Bakeries Limited merged
with Canadian Bakeries Ltd., to form McGavin-
Toastmaster Ltd. The new company amalgamated its
Victoria operation into the plant at 2629 Prior Street
and vacated the Quadra Street plant. From 1960, with
the new B.C. government ferry system between
Swartz Bay (near Victoria) and Tsawwassen (near
Vancouver) in place it became practical to supply
Victoria with bread baked in Vancouver and in 1964
McGavin-Toastmaster ended all production in
Victoria. Today the former Hanbury bakery on
Quadra street is the home to a wholesale marine
supply business.
The Vancouver token of Hanbury, Evans &
Co., can be dated to the period 1906 to 1911. It is black
print on a dark red which will not reproduce well. It
is interesting that the token also mentions the name
Mount Pleasant Bakery, but that name does not appear
in either the Greater Vancouver Illustrated, or city
directories. The Golden West B akery token can be dated
to the period 1912 to 1928. Both pieces are rare. •
»D. W. HAHBISRY. Prtprirtor
PHONE 361.    Cor. Quadra and Prioceti Ave.
Golden West Bread
1 Alfred b. 1894, Evan b. 1895
and James b. 1902
2 Vital Events, Death
Certificate, 1945-09-666847,
microfilm B13188
3 Daily Province, July 29,1947,
4 Interview with Ann Scott on
April 3, 2004, and D.M. "Rea"
Hanbury, on April 15, 2004
5 Greater Vancouver Illustrated,
Dominion Illustrating Company,
Vancouver, B.C. [copy in British
Columbia Archives, NW/971.1Va/
D671. This promotional
publication is undated, but is
evidently either 1908 or late
6 the 1910-1911 Victoria City
Directory was published in
January 1911. Hanbury was listed
as the proprietor of the Golden
West Bakery.
7 His obit in the Osoyoos Times,
Dec 10,1981, p. 2 mentions that
he attended school and university
in Scotland, but Rea recalled that
he took a horticulture course in
Oregon. This would not be
contradictory if he had studied
something else in Scotland.
8 Registrar of Companies files,
BC0010858, microfilm B5176
9 Vital Events, Death
Certificate, 1953-09-008009,
microfilm B13216
(top left) Four Brisbane,
Australia bakers in their
baker's whites David
Hanbury [at left front]
Courtesy: Rea Hanbury
(opposite) Golden West
cardboard token
61x 32mm Black print on
orange card
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004
29 Book Reviews
Grewingk's Geology of Alaska and the
Northwest Coast of America; contributions
toward knowledge of the orographic and
geognostic condition of the Northwest Coast
of America, with the adjacent islands.
Translated by Fritz Jaensch. 242 p., illus., maps. $24.95
Steller's History of Kamchatka; collected
information concerning the history of
Kamchatka, its peoples, their manners,
names, lifestyles, and various customary
practices. Translated by Margritt Engel and Karen
Willmore. 298p., illus., maps. $27.95paperback.
Through Orthodox Eyes; Russian missionary
narratives of travels to the Dena'ina and
Ahtna, 1850s- 1930s. Translated by Andrei A.
Znamenski. 416 p., illus., maps. $27.95paperback.
These three books are 2003
publications by the University of Alaska
Press at Fairbanks. They are Volumes 11,12
and 13 of the Rasmuson Library Historical
Translation Series which was introduced in
1985. The series provides access to historical
journals and studies, generally from the
Imperial Russian era, prior to the 1867
purchase of Alaska by the United States.
While often specialized, this series provides
fascinating in-depth historical accounts.
Volume 11. Grewingk's Geology
Constantine Grewingk assembled
everything that was known of the geology
of Russian America in 1850. Although he
never visited Alaska, he exhaustively
examined reports and mineral samples
assembled by explorers and clerics to create
the first mineralogical dissertation and maps
of Alaska. He also provided information
with respect to volcanic activity, fossils and
the concept of the Bering Land Bridge.
Volume 12. Steller's History of Kamchatka.
Georg Wilhelm Steller, German by
birth, was appointed by the Russian
Academy of Sciences as naturalist to Vitus
Bering's second Kamchatka expedition.
Steller arrived in Kamchatka in 1740. He
sailed with Bering to discover Alaska in
Books for review and book reviews should be sent to:
Anne Yandle, Book Review Editor BC Historical News,
3450 West 20th Avenue, Vancouver BC V6S 1E4
1741. Bering died on that island. Steller
returned to Kamchatka on the salvaged St.
Peter in September 1742 after being
marooned on the island for approximately
nine months. Steller's handwritten
manuscript on Kamchatka was composed
in 1743 and 1744 and was finally published
in German thirty years after his death, at age
37, in 1746. This book is the first English
translation of Steller's History of
Steller was interested in everything.
His review of the area's natural history is
extensive. He was the first scholar to
describe the complexities of the life cycle of
the Pacific salmon. Today, his data allows
researchers to determine changes in fish
distribution due to natural and human
His detailed descriptions of the native
people (Itelmen)reflect his willingness to
disregard his own comforts to access their life
style. The book provides present day natives
with a rich source of knowledege of their
ancestors' way of life and traditions. Steller
details their origins, religion, disposition,
virtues, vices, physical characteristics,
clothing, work, tools, diet, table manners,
celebrations, entertainment, marriage and
sexual customs, medicines, time measurement
and travel habits. The book is easy to read,
fascinating and often amusing.
Volume 13. Through Orthodox Eyes
This book brings into English an
important collection of Russian missionary
records which shed new light on the spread
of Orthodox Christianity among the
Athabaskan speaking peoples from the area
on the north coast of Cook Inlet, south to
the Copper River. It provides insights into
the Russian perceptions of native society
and includes much new ethnographic
information on seasonal hunting and fishing
cycles, shamanism, marriage practices,
interaction between natives and miners as
well as alcohol abuse. The translator has
provided a substantial interpretive chapter
that places events into historical perspective
and cultural interaction,  as well as
biographies of individual missionaries and
native leaders to demonstrate how the
Athabaskans turned Russian Orthodoxy
into their native church.
Norm Collingwood Norm Collingwood is a recently retired
Provincial Court Judge.
A Ribbon of Shining Steel: the railway diary of
Kate Cameron. Julie Lawson. Toronto, Scholastic
Canada, 2002. 203 p., illus. maps. $14.99 hard cover.
'Dear Canada' Series
This story is set in 1882 and is written
in the style of the diary of a twelve year old
girl. Although the diary is based on actual
historical fact and real people, Kate Cameron
and the diary are fictionalized. Kate and her
family have moved to Yale, B.C. and her
father works for the C.P.R. railroad. The
story speaks of life in a railroad construction
town and the trials and tribulations of the
twelve-year old girl and her family. She tells
us about the first trip of the Skuzzy through
Hell's Gate Canyon on the Fraser River, the
terrible toll on the lives of the Chinese
workers who built the railroad, the building
of the many railway bridges, including the
Skuzzy River and the cantilever bridge at
Siska, writing the historical aspect in terms
easily understood by the young and the not-
The story is exciting, informative and
well-written. It will be extremely useful in
the teaching of B.C. history and the railroad
for that particular period in time. It has large,
easily read print and particularly suits
grades 4 to 8. However, it is also a great read
for everyone else -1 am in my seventies and
thoroughly enjoyed it.
Dodothy Dodge Dodothy Dodge is the Curator of the
Lytton Museum and Archives.
George Davidson: Social Policy and Public Policy
Exemplar. Richard B. Splane. Ottawa: Canadian Council
on Social Development, 2003. 236 p. $30 paperback.
At this time of distrust in governments
and high-ranking officials, it is restorative to
read of the great respect that exists for public
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004 servant George Forrester Davidson (1909-
1995). For example, when Davidson receives
a Doctor of Laws from U.B.C. in 1955 as part
of the 25th anniversary of the School of
Social Work it is "for his personal qualities,
which so well reflect his humane studies, no
less than for his contributions to the
improvement of human welfare in British
Columbia, in Canada, and through the
United Nations".
Davidson's career begins in B.C. after
graduating from U.B.C, and obtaining his
Ph.D. from Harvard in 1932. He is an
excellent classics scholar and he actually
writes his doctoral thesis in Latin. However,
no career doors open in his field and the
future looks unpromising in the midst of the
Depression. Then George Weir appoints him
as B.C.'s Superintendent of Welfare.
Davidson is quite aware of his lack of
specific subject knowledge for the job.
Fortuitously, he works with Dr. Harry
Cassidy, known for his expertise on
unemployment issues, and Laura Holland,
B.C.'s celebrated first professional social
worker. His career in social welfare and
public administration is thus established,
and he goes from one important post to
another in quick succession.
He briefly serves in the volunteer
sector as the Executive Director of both the
Vancouver Council of Social Agencies and
its funding raising arm, the Vancouver
Social Welfare Federation. In 1939 Cassidy
leaves the province, and Davidson assumes
his role as B.C.'s Director of Welfare.
Davidson is only in his mid thirties when
B.C. loses him to Ottawa as he takes the
executive helm of the Canadian Welfare
Council, and he makes a point of travelling
extensively in Canada to see the country's
social problems firsthand. From the Council
it is a short hop to the federal government.
From 1944 to 1960 he is Deputy Minister for
National Health and Welfare, where he
plays a key role in the administration of
Canada's new family allowance program.
He also is involved with the formulation of
the Green Book proposals, which are
influential in post-war reconstruction.
Another deputy minister post follows:
Citizenship and Immigration. Then he
works at the administrative heart of
government as the Director of the Bureau of
Government Organization and as the
Secretary to the Treasury Board.
But his career doesn't stop there. Many
remember Davidson as head of the
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He
doesn't seek the position and he accepts it
only at the insistence of Prime Minister
Pearson, since Davidson expects that the role
will be an arduous one. And indeed it is.
There are many challenges including the
coverage that the CBC gives the FLQ crisis.
He once again proves himself and he goes
on to the the United Nations to become the
Under-Secretary General for Administration
and Management in 1972. At that time it is
the most senior post ever held by a Canadian
at the U.N. In the 1980s Davidson concludes
his work at the U.N. as an Advisor to the
Fund for Population Activities.
Not surprisingly, Davidson receives
many awards before his death in Victoria in
The book's author, Dr. Richard (Dick)
B. Splane, served under Davidson and he
was inspired by him. Splane is a renowned
figure in his own right winning a place in,
Faithful angels: portraits of international social
work notables. He has written an engaging
work showing the importance of Davidson's
upbringing, as well as the social and
economic times. Splane's book details
Davidson's life very thoroughly and yet it is
easy to read, and it has many bibliographic
references. The book is a worthwhile
contribution to the history of Canadian
public administration.
Beverley Scott Beverley Scott is a retired social work
librarian and she recently authored, Establishing
Professional Social Work in Vancouver and at the University
of British Columbia.
Harvesting the Fraser; a history of early Delta.
Terrence Phillips. Delta Museum and Archives, 2003.
80 p., illus. $20 hard cover, $15 paperback.
As the title implies, Delta has been
strongly influenced by the Fraser River. It is
truly a child of the river which has deposited
silt and debris for approximately 8000 years,
expanding the land westward by three
metres each year, thus providing a rich
productive natural environment, albeit one
subject to constant geographical changes.
Delta municipality is located on a
peninsula at the south-western extreme of the
Fraser River delta. It possesses a large flatland
region which was often submerged. Prior to
European settlement, its First Nation people,
the Coast Salish Tsawwassen, came to the
swampy low-lying areas to obtain food. Part
One of the book contains a fascinating
account of the Tsawwassen people, their
lifestyle and the inevitable changes resulting
from contact with the first European
explorers, Narvaez, Eliza, Galiano, Valdez,
Vancouver and the first settlers.
The Ladners were the first to bring the
rich delta marshland into production by
diking and draining. In 1873, a government
wharf was built on land donated by William
Ladner, thus providing access to the
steamboats travelling the Fraser. Prior to the
wharf construction, Ladner offered part of
his homestead as a post office site, which
had become known as Ladner's Landing.
He would row out to passsing steamers,
collect the mail and hand it over to local
residents. The area continued to prosper
with the construction of the Ladner Trunk
Road in 1874, and in 1879 Delta was
incorporated as a municipality.
A large salmon fishing and canning
industry was a logical development from the
1870's onward with much of the labour force
coming from Chinese immigrants who were
first brought to the west coast for the
construction of the C.P.R. When the railway
reached Vancouver in 1887 that community
grew rapidly with a corresponding decline
in other communities such as New
Westminster and Ladner's Landing. Delta,
surrounded by ocean on two sides and
separated from Vancouver by the massive
Fraser delta, truly felt the need for a stronger
transportaton infrastructure.
The canning industry lessened in
importance with increased competiton from
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004        31 American fishers, local fishers'
dissatisfaction with prices they were paid
for fish and the development of canneries
at Steveston on Lulu Island which were
more accessible than most of the Delta
canneries. In 1902, the newly formed British
Columbia Packers Association acquired and
merged nine Delta canneries and promptly
closed five of them. Finally, in 1913, railway
construction resulted in the Hell's Gate slide
in the Fraser Canyon which decimated
salmon runs by blocking access to upriver
spawning areas.
In 1883 Laurent Guichon, one of
several brothers from France who had
successfully ranched in the Nicola Valley,
moved his family to Delta and began
farming west of Ladner's Landing. Guichon
already had interests in a hotel in New
Westminster and he shortly built the "Port
Guichon" hotel, a store and a wharf on his
newly acquired land. In the late 1890's and
early 1900's transportation construction
expanded rapidly in the lower Fraser Valley.
In 1902 the C.P.R. reached Steveston and
ferries to Steveston from Ladner and Port
Guichon shortened the journey to
Vancouver. By May 1903, the Victoria
Terminal Railway and Ferry Company, (a
Great Northern subsidiary), constructed a
line from Cloverdale to Port Guichon and
from there a rail-ferry carried passengers
and freight to Sidney on Vancouver Island.
The Delta community continued its
progress through the 20th century resulting
in today's attractive mix of farms, residential
areas, recreational facilities and industrial
complexes. It celebrates its 125th
anniversary in 2004, an excellent reason to
visit its museum and archives, to view their
special exhibits and to acquire this fine
record of its past.
Norm Collingwood
The Lake O'Hara Art of J.E.H. MacDonald and
Hiker's Guide. Lisa Christensen. Calgary, Fifth
House, 2003. 136p., illus. $29.95 paperback.
This is the third book by author Lisa
Christensen that studies the work of
Canadian artists who visited several areas
of the Canadian Rockies to paint some of
their best works while there. All were
members of the Group of Seven, whose
homes were in eastern Canada. The author
also includes the Lake O'Hara painting by
the American artist John Singer Sargent who
visited the region.
The three books by the author are
unique since she links art and the
environment where the art was created.
Christensen is well qualified to do this since
she is not only an art historian but also an
ardent hiker and environmentalist who lives
in the Rocky Mountain town of Banff. The
art work of J.E.H. MacDonald was not
painted on the Alberta side of the Rockies but
in British Columbia in the Yoho and Lake
O'Hara area. It is here that the artist visited
and worked during the summers from 1924
to 1930. This was the same period that
Lawren Harris, A.Y. Jackson and others were
painting in the Jasper area. The Canadian
Pacific Railway was encouraging in
sponsoring Canadian artists to visit and paint
in the Rockies to advertise their tourist
The numerous colour reproductions
in the book often occupy the entire page
with no margins. Sometimes to designate
the various sections or chapters of the text,
the reproduction carries over to the second
page. Most of the illustrations occupy a full
page with margins. The colour
reproductions are, as in the previous books,
of excellent quality. The choice of paper also
enhances both the text and the illustrations.
The introductory chapter includes
biographical information about the artist
and also gives precise and accurate advice
to those who wish to visit and hike in the
Lake O'Hara area. A map is included that
shows the location of the camps, trails and
the spot where the artist painted or sketched
the works that are reproduced. Each art
work is numbered and described. The
corresponding number is shown on the map
by a location dot. Many quotations from the
artist's note-books are included in the text.
Archival photographs and other material is
also included, which makes the text both
interesting and reliable.
A bibliography, end-notes, and index
are features that the author has included here
as in her previous works. Her attention to
such details makes the book valuable not only
to artists and those who enjoy the outdoors
and wish to follow in the artist's footsteps,
but also for those who are working on
research on Canadian art and artists.
Since the only access to the Lake
O'Hara area where MacDonald painted is
by trail, the detailed location information
that was included in the previous books is
not necessary here. The hiker must depend
upon the map on page eleven in the
introductory section. It occupies a full page
and would be easily reproduced to take
along while hiking to the various locations.
The author is to be congratulated once
more for producing an interesting and well-
researched book on an unusual combination
of subjects.
Melva Dwyer Melva Dwyer is the Honorary President of
the B.CH.F.
Cassiar; a jewel in the wilderness. Suzanne
LeBlanc. Prince George, Caitlin Press, 2003. 210 p., illus.
$19.95 paperback.
The story of Cassiar is a very Canadian
one, for this country has had many mining
boom towns, places built in remote
wildernesses to exploit a rich mineral deposit,
then abandoned when the mining activity
ceased to be profitable, its buildings moved
or left to rot, and its people forced to move
elsewhere. This book is a history of one of
these towns, a modern example, and of the
mine and the region in which it was located.
In 1950, prospectors discovered a
huge deposit of high-grade asbestos on
McDame Mountain, in the Stikine region of
northwestern British Columbia. Although
the location was very remote, the Alaska
Highway, built eight years earlier, passed 138
kilometres to the north of it, and a very rough
mining road came within 30 kilometres of the
site, making access possible. The claims were
sold to the newly formed Cassiar Asbestos
32 BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004 Company, and when surveys showed that
there was enough of the mineral to mine for
about forty years, the company built a town
with modern (for the era) facilities, including
a school, a clinic staffed by a doctor, and other
Founded in 1952, the town was closed
in 1992, for reasons that are somewhat
disputed, but involved world prices,
increasing costs (the mine was on top of a
steep mountain, and extracting the asbestos
was always costly), company finances, and
possibly union intransigence at the end.
While it lasted, however, it was a place that
one either liked or hated. Those who liked
it cited the tremendous natural beauty of the
region, the friendliness and safety of the
community (doors were not locked), the
high wages (25% higher than the provincial
average in 1990), and the opportunities for
outdoor recreation. Those who hated it cited
the isolation (even when it was finally
connected to the provincial road network it
was a long drive from anywhere), the harsh
climate and short winter days (the mean
January temperature is -19C and the extreme
minimum was -47C), and the fact that
everyone knew your business. Those who
liked it mourned its passing, and those who
disliked it did not stay in the town for long.
Cassiar: A Jewel contains nearly
everything one would want to know about
a resource town of this sort. Based on
interviews with former residents as well as
archival research, it is part geography,
geology, economics, and social history.
LeBlanc, a sociologist by training, writes
engagingly and sympathetically about the
town without descending to the kind of
boosterism that makes so many local
histories interesting only to people who live
in the communities that are being written
about. As a history of the time and place of
a single town of a very Canadian type, it is
a model of its kind.
William R. Morrison, University of Northern British
Living on the Edge; Nuu-Chah-Nulth History
from an Ahousaht Chief's Perspective.
Earl Maquinna George, B.A., M.A. Winlaw, Sono Nis, 2003.
158p. illus. $19.95paperback.
Academic letters following the
author's name on the title page may not
reflect current stylistic practice, but the
Bachelor in History and the Master in
Geography signify the intent and process of
this book. Maquinna is heredity chief of the
Ahousaht people, one of the Nuu-Chah-
Nulth nations, on Vancouver Island's west
coast, Already in his seventies, he
demonstrated to First Nations youth the
importance and attainability of learning, and
at the same time equipped himself to deal
with the challenge of the treaty negotiations.
For the latter purpose the content of his
studies was less important than its form; he
had to master the white ritual of
documentation and jargon. Long
accustomed to navigating on the water, he
learned to steer his way through paperwork.
Like many books reviewed in these
columns, this book is based on a thesis, but
in this case the writer has rejected the usual
conventions of white scholarship: "The
difference with the information herein is that
I decided the agenda and the order of the
information... Documentation by outsiders
is an artefact of the order and the orderliness
of western cultures; it is not a part of our
way of knowledge."
He takes a good-natured dig at the
myriad historians, geographers,
anthropologists, and ethno-scientists who
have "studied" his people, including his
friend and academic mentor, ethnobotanist
Nancy J. Turner: "I have no list of interviews
and have never 'collected' information."
Parts of the book are not always linked, he
explains but does not apologize: "However,
that is the way the information exists and
has since time began for us. We lived here
long before Franz Boas, Gilbert Sproat, the
many Indian agents and band managers,
treaty negotiators, fishing companies,
logging companies, and government agents,
as surprising as that may seem to non-native
He has assembled, not collected, his
information by living it; his autobiography
belongs in the thesis as part of the argument
of Living on the Edge, the edges being
geographical, the edge between land and sea
and also one edge of a large continent with
power somewhere in the centre, and
cultural, the edge between the native way
and the white way. He has no regrets about
his work in the fisheries, canneries, and
forests. Even the residential school filled a
need when his widowed father went north
to work. But he does regret that, while he
has learned about white ways, white people
have not been willing to learn about native
ways. Even well into the treaty process and
environmental crises, native knowledge does
not seem to be of much interest. So he makes
that knowledge another part of his argument,
including chapters about plants, animals and
world-view: knowledge, not "folklore". His
"research" has been his people's recollections
and his own experience, and on these he
bases his conclusions, his view of the future,
and his insightful, often witty, analysis of the
treaty process. He finds he must be a
translator where exact translation is
impossible. Keywords, such as nation,
ownership, chief, crown, title and
conservation, have been rendered into
Native / English equivalents, but the concepts
have not been translated. Almost always, the
English implies a hegemony and rigidity
alien to the Native connotation. The English
terminology carries also overtones of
paternalism, which Maquinna emphatically
and repeatedly rejects.
He is deeply suspicious of the
governmental reluctance to relinquish
parental control of Native people through
the bureaucracies at Indian Affairs and their
satellite bandcouncils. He is very clear on
the next step: "What should happen, and
what should happen fast, is that we should
scrap the Indian Act and set up our own
department, First Nations managing their
own destiny through self-government." He
talks about "HaHuulhi", which is "not
ownership in the white sense; it is a river or
other place that is shared by all Nuu-Chah-
Nulth people, with a caretaker being the
hereditary chief of each site or village, such
as Ahousaht"; a concept now written into
the framework agreement and recognised
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004        33 by the provincial and federal governments
and the Nuu-Chah-Nulth nations. He
concludes by alluding to the First Nation
ideas of many nations within a larger nation,
about one nation always being tied in with
another on the outer side of the same island:
"It is a fitting description of how all nations
should live, as we are all on different sides of
the same island." A successful scholarly work
usually inspires further development by
other students. It is no accident that the
author of this thesis includes photographs of
his daughter Grace and his son Corby who
has assumed the chieftainship duties. Neither
looks likely to allow their father's work or
their people's future to slip off the edge.
Phyllis Reeve Phyllis Reeve is a resident of Gabriola Island.
Bent Props and Blow Pots; a pioneer
remembers northern bush flying. Rex Terpening.
Madeira Park, Harbour Publishing, 2003. 338 p., illus.
$36.95 hard cover.
In this remarkable book, Rex
Terpening provides an account of the age of
classic bush-flying of which every word
comes from direct, first-hand experience.
The author, now in his nineties, spent his
entire working life in commercial aviation.
The early part of it was passed in the
uncharted, lonely, and largely unexplored
vastness of the Canadian north, where he
worked as a mechanic and "air engineer".
In prose which is always clear, graceful and
sometimes elegant, the author returns us to
a vanished world, almost unimaginable to
most Canadians today. He kept a careful and
extensive diary, and the book contains an
abundance of photographs, mostly taken by
him. The narrative is both instructive and
evocative, a journey back through time.
We read of innumerable adventures,
flying while sitting or lying on piles of cargo,
as pilots routinely performed take-offs and
landings in grotesquely dangerous
circumstances - and of astonishing repairs
and ingenious solutions to equipment
failures and breakages. But there is far more
to this book than details of aircraft
registrations (which, like the given names
of real people, give them an individuality
which lives in the memory), or the ingenuity
of major repairs made, of necessity, from
random scrap parts or serendipitous bits of
local junk.
In contrast to the modern world,
choking on contracts, obligations, fee
schedules, writs, torts, leases and bills, the
Arctic world of the twenties and thirties
depended on handshakes, friendship, cooperation and goodwill to an extent that we
shall never see again. We read of an
unplanned, damaging landing at McMurray
in April of 1936. It being a Sunday, "a
number of the townspeople, strolling in the
sunshine, were now streaming across the ice
. . . soon joined by CAL people who were
enjoying a morning off... added manpower
that would prove a blessing". After
struggling with the damaged aircraft, they
saw "coming toward us from the mouth of
the Snye... a pair of hayburners from Ryan
Brothers Transport... expert teamster at the
controls. Baba and Prince then took over the
towing operation . . ." This all happens
spontaneously, and the motif appears over
and over again. In those days, in that bitter,
harsh, beautiful and often dangerous
environment, goodwill prevails while
danger and distance are overcome. In this
book, beautifully printed and produced, the
reader is uplifted as much by example as by
the wings of northern aviation.
Mike Higgs Mike Higgs is a retired Canadian Pacific Air
From Tears to Triumph; the pioneers' journeys.
Borderline History Committee, Box 200, Tomslake, B.C., VOC
2L0.435 pages, illus., maps. $95 hard cover.
When Canada and most of Europe
trembled on the brink of World War II, a
small trainload of refugee immigrants
reached journey's end at the tiny station of
Tupper in unbroken land in British
Columbia's Peace River country, a mile or
two from Alberta. It was April 22,1939. They
had fled their homes and way of life far
across the sea in Sudetenland in what is now
the Czech Republic rather than submit to the
imminent occupation of their land by
Hitler's armies permitted by the Munich
Agreement in September 1938. Great Britain
and France had bought peace in their time.
The compelling story of these
political refugees has been told before in
such places as Andrew Amstatter's Tomslake:
History of the Sudeten Germans in Canada,
1978; Bonar Gow's article, "A Home for Free
Germans in the Wilderness of Canada", in
Canadian Ethnic Studies, vol.10, 1978; and
"The Sudeten Story" by William Wanka in
Lure ofthe South Peace in 1981. These accounts
make for poignant reading indeed as do the
remembered family stories in From Tears to
Triumph. But here it is mostly second
generation recollection; life has surged on
and many of the earlier narrators, the
parents and older people, have been left
behind. In this book we get more of the
triumph than the tears.
We see the triumph in the black and
white photographs of smiling, healthy-
looking family members sometimes in their
best clothes standing near their homes or
relaxed at a picnic or in classes at log-built
and newer schools with their teachers. There
is even a photo of my library's bookmobile a
long time ago at one of the rural schools with
its dozen pupils and teacher. There are
pictures of men at work, kids on horseback,
young men in uniform, soccer players and
hockey teams, and wedding parties and even
people in lederhosen at community dances -
all bespeaking the triumph of what they as a
community have come through from the
stark hardships of their parents who met their
struggles head-on in the early days of the
settlement during and after the war.
As one family wrote after moving into
Dawson Creek in 1975, "No more half hour
drives to work or shopping. We enjoyed
water that was hot and ran endlessly out of
the tap; a house that proved equally warm
in all rooms with central heating. No more
heat lamp under the propane tank to keep
it going in forty below weather and provide
shelter for an endless supply of mice. It is
amazing how much things have changed in
our own lifetime. We have gone from battery
radios, coal oil lamps, and horse drawn
implements to cell phones, digital TV,
computers in the home and on vehicles - all
34 BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004 in the matter of fifty years. It makes a person
wonder what the future holds."
If these sturdy descendants
continue to show the same pioneer spirit and
energy as their forebears did, no one should
worry on that point. Well edited and
indexed, From Tears to Triumph is a valuable
source of local lore and a unique piece in
the mosaic of our heritage. Well done,
Borderline History Committee.
Howard Overend Howard Overend, author of Book Guy:
A Librarian in the Peace, was Head of the Public Library
Commission's Peace River Branch from 1958 to 1972.
Vancouver, A Novel David Cruise and Alison Griffiths,
Harper Collins Publishers Ltd., Toronto, 2003. 753 p.
$37.95 hard cover.
Vancouver, a novel of epic proportions
written by David Cruise and Alison
Griffiths, may appeal to the historian rather
than the literary reader. Twelve stories titled
after a protagonist, are set in sequential time
periods, from the ice age to the present day.
While the prose is plain, the ambitious
structure and detailed research give the
reader an appreciation of the many layers
of Vancouver history.
The authors' eight previous
collaborations, all non-fiction, dealt mainly
with the business world, most notably,
Fleecing the Lamb: the inside story of the
Vancouver Stock Exchange. And so it is no
surprise that some of the best stories in this
novel are of entrepreneurial dreamers and
schemers. Warburton Pike—inspired by an
actual person and the only character whose
real name is used—was one such dreamer.
A 'gentleman immigrant' from Europe in the
late 1800s, Pike became one of Vancouver's
well-known eccentrics. His distant cousin of
German stock, Konrad von Schaumberg, is
also richly portrayed as a self-made man
whose luck turns bad as the First World War
approaches. Another excellent portrait is
that of father and daughter, Walter and
Tiffany Dolby, aggressive players on the
Vancouver Stock Exchange in the 1960s and
through the ensuing decades of VSE crimes
and misdemeanors.
The stories of Soon Chong and Nanak
Singh reveal much about the city's early
ethnic enclaves. Chong's story begins in
Guangzhou, China. He emigrates first to
California at the time of the gold rush and
experiences the brutality common to many
Chinese miners. His tenacity and business
know-how eventually lead him to
Vancouver where he becomes a Tow profile'
rich man. Similarly the Sikhs' resilience is
depicted through Singh's story. To work at
a sawmill, for instance, Singh is compelled
to remove his turban and tell outsiders he is
Italian. For all the racism and hardship, there
is lots of humour in the telling of these tales.
The labour / left movement has played
a major role in defining Vancouver, yet this
perspective is notably absent. War and
depression stories also get missed. But then,
the history of the city since the great fire of
1886 is a mere blimp in time compared to
that of the First Nations'. Appropriately, the
novel begins and ends with their presence.
The final story is prophetic as Ellie Nesbitt,
part-First Nations, feels the history of her
ancestors while in Stanley Park. This
knowledge empowers her just as the reader
of Vancouver is empowered by gaining a
richer understanding of place.
Janet Mary Nicol Janet Nicol is a free lance writer, a
social studies teacher at Killarney Secondary School and
long time resident of Vancouver.
Native American in the Land of the Shogun;
Ranald MacDonald and the opening of Japan.
Frederik L. Schodt. Berkeley, Calif., Stone Bridge Press,
2003. 418p., illus., maps. US$19.95paperback.
Ranald MacDonald's ten-month
adventure in Japan has been chronicled
before, both in English and in Japanese, in
novels and in biographies, but Frederik
Schodt's account is the first to set the
romantic tale in context. Schodt is an
interpreter and translator with a broad
understanding of Japanese history, and his
telling clearly explains the importance of
MacDonald's role and the significance of the
timing of MacDonald's stay in Nagasaki.
Just when the Japanese Shogunate
were coming to the realization that their
strict Seclusion Laws were impeding their
progress on the world stage, this young
'American' shipwrecked himself off their
northern coast with a bundle of books and
an ingratiating manner. He was transported
to Nagasaki and, contrary to custom,
confined in relatively comfortable quarters
where a group of official 'interpreters' came
to him daily for instruction in English. It was
one of these interpreters, Einosuke
Moriyama, who played the key role when
Commodore Matthew Perry sailed into Edo
(Tokyo) Bay in July 1853. For this reason
MacDonald is known as the first teacher of
English in Japan. After years of refusing
entry to foreigners and avoiding contact
with any outsiders other than a handful of
Dutch traders resident on a tiny offshore
island, the Japanese received Perry and he
was able to begin the move to negotiate the
1854 treaty that opened Japan to commerce
with the rest of the world.
Schodt has mined many hitherto
undiscovered Japanese sources in telling the
story and gives a full account of conditions
that prevailed in the Pacific region in the
mid-19th century. He describes the activities
of Russian, Dutch and British traders, as well
as the American whaling fleet that brought
young Macdonald to the Sea of Japan. He
updates the MacDonald story by reviewing
Ranald's attempts during his lifetime to
publish a memoir and the circumstances of
its subsequent publication, in various forms,
after his death. Today MacDonald is
remembered by monuments in Japan and in
Washington and Oregon and by the Friends
of Ranald MacDonald in both countries who
meet regularly to honour him.
Though a world traveller, Ranald
MacDonald spent more years of his life in
British Columbia than anywhere else. Born
in Oregon, the son of Archibald McDonald,
a prominent Hudson's Bay Company officer
and Princess Raven, daughter of the
legendary Chinook chief Comcomley his
mother died soon after his birth in 1824 and
he spent his childhood years at Kamloops
(1826-28) and at Fort Langley (1823-33) with
McDonald's second family. After a term at
John Ball's school at Fort Vancouver, he was
sent to the Red River Academy in 1834 with
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004        35 his younger half-brothers. Five years later,
at age 15, he went to St. Thomas, Ontario, to
be tutored in the ways of business by
Edward Ermatinger, an old friend of his
father who had retired from the fur trade.
He endured the sedentary life for a few
years, but in 1842 he ran away, ending up at
Sag Harbour, New York, where he signed
on as crew on the first of numerous sailing
MacDonald returned to British
Columbia about 1858, when he and his half-
brothers Allan and Benjamin engaged in
various entrepreneurial activities during the
Cariboo gold rush. He was with Robert
Brown's 1864 Vancouver Island Exploring
Expedition, and remained in B.C. until about
1885, when he moved down to old Fort
Colvile for the remaining nine years of his
life. Schodt deals with all his years, but puts
most of his emphasis on the Japanese
experience which, as he says, was 'the
highlight of his life'.
The book is attractively designed
with numerous appropriate illustrations,
maps, and helpful footnotes and
bibliograhy. It sheds new light on the
adventurous life of a pioneer British
Jean Murray Cole Jean Murray Cole is President of the
Ontario Historical Society and a direct descendant of
Archibald McDonald.
Noteworthy Books
Books listed here may be reviewed at a later
date. For further information please consult
Book Review Editor, Anne Yandle.
Common ft Contested Ground; a human and
environmental history of the Northwestern Plains.
Theodore Binnema. University of Toronto Press,
2004. $27.95
Denny's Trek; a Mountie's memoir of the march west.
Sir Cecil Denny. Surrey, Heritage House, 2004. $18.95
Dr. Fred and the Spanish Lady; fighting the killer
flu. Betty O'Keefe and Ian Macdonald. Surrey,
Heritage House, 2004. $18.95
Lilies ft Fireweed; frontier women ofBritish
Columbia. Stephen Hume. Raincoast Chronicles 20.
Madeira Park, Harbour Publishing, 2004. $24.95
The Old Red Shirt; pioneer poets of British
Columbia. Yvonne Mearns Klan. Vancouver,
TransmontanuslNew Star Books, 2004. $16
Plants of Haida Gwaii; Nancy J. Turner. Winlaw, BC,
Sono Nis Press, 2004. $38.95
The Remarkable Adventures of Portuguese Joe
Silvey. Jean Barman. Madieira Park, Harbour
Publishing. $17.95
The Slocan; portrait of a valley. Katherine Gordon.
Winlaw, Sono Nis Publishing, 2004. $24.95
Wires in the Wilderness; the story of the Yukon
telegraph. Bill Miller. Surrey, Heritage House, 2004.
New Research on Highland
Evictions Published
French publisher Publibook has just
published Improvement, pauvrete, evictions et
emigration dans la presse d'lnverness 1845-
1855. Originally a thesis by Christian Auer,
a researcher in British cultural studies at
Louis Pasteur University, Strausborg, this
new book deals with the Highland evictions
and, in part, their emigration in large
numbers to Canada and other parts of the
British Empire. Published in French, the
book is available from the publisher at
New Release
The Whales, They Give
Themselves: Conversations
wiih Harry Brower, Sr.
by Karen Brewster
The Whales, They Give Themselves is an
intimate life history of Harry Brower, Sr.
(1924- 1992), an Inupiaq whaling captain,
artisan, and
community leader
from Barrow,
Alaska. In a life
that spanned the
profound cultural
and economic
changes of the
Brewer's vast
knowledge of the
natural world
makes him an
contributor to the
Native and scientific communities of the
North. His desire to share his insights with
future generations resulted in a series of
conversations with friend and oral historian
Karen Brewster, who weaves Harry's storey
with cultural and historical background into
this innovative and collaborative oral
Brower communicated a vast
understanding of bowhead whales and
whaling that became the basis for a scientific
research program and helped protect
Inupiaq subsistence whaling. He was a
central archtect of the Arctic Slope Regional
Corporation boundaries and served for over
twenty years as a consultant to scientists at
the Naval Arctic Research Laboratory.
This volume is a major contribution
to our understanding northern peoples, and
a testament to the immense value of
collaborative oral history.
22.95 - paper/45.00 hardcover 248 pages, blw
photos, map, bibliography, index Available
from the University of Alaska Press
36 BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004 WebSite Forays
Casting Your Vote
Christopher Garrish
This coming December could prove to
be a pivotal month in the political history of
British Columbia. On the 15th, a Report is due
to be submitted to the government by the
Citizen's Assembly on Electoral Reform. It is
possible that the recommendations of this
Assembly could change the way we elect the
provincial government for the first time in over
fifty years (and thereby place BC at the forefront
of electoral reform in Canada). To mark this
potentially momentous event, a suite of web
sites related to electoral history (and reform) in
BC will be reviewed, beginning with the
Citizen's Assembly site at
The Assembly itself is an independent,
non-partisan assembly of 160 randomly
selected British Columbians who are examining
how votes cast in provincial elections translate
into seats in the Legislature. If the Assembly
decides that BC should move away from the
current First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) system, a
referendum will be held in conjunction with the
provincial election scheduled for May 2005 (the
first in the province since the successful 1991
vote on Initiative and Recall).
Although the Assembly's web-site deals
primarily with current issues and events, there
are, nonetheless, some very interesting
historically based resources available to visitors.
These pages can primarily be found in the
"Learning Resources" section of the site. One
of the more interesting papers details aspects
of British Columbia's electoral past, specifically
the use of the "Alternative Vote" (AV) in the
1952 and 1953 general elections.
The AV electoral system was adopted by
the Coalition Government (comprising the
Liberal and Conservative parties) for purely
partisan motives as the best way to curb the
growing popularity of the Co-operative
Commonwealth Federation (forerunner of the
NDP). This was because the Alternative Vote
worked by asking voters to rank candidates in
the order of preference.
As the story goes, the coalition assumed
the election would only be a three-party race
and that this would give Liberal and
Conservative candidates a leg-up on CCF
candidates, as their supporters would assign
their vote to the other Coalition party candidate
before the CCF candidate. What had not been
anticipated was the rise of the Social Credit
party, and its ability to garner many of the
second or third preferences of Coalition
When Social Credit won the 1953 election
outright under the AV system (having only won
a minority in 1952), they abolished the AV and
reverted back to First-Past-The-Post which
Premier WAC Bennett felt would better
guarantee his party's long-term electoral
success against the CCF / NDP in what was now
a two-party system.
It is this history of using the voting
system for crassly partisan reasons that has long
spurred the movement for electoral reform in
the province. As a result, there are a number of
sites on the web that advocate for change,
although none provide as comprehensive a
resource as the Elections BC site
Elections BC is a veritable tome of
information with the history of virtually every
election and by-election ever held, along with
a number of other interesting features. For
instance, in the 1909 election two candidates
each ran in two different ridings. John Oliver
(future Premier: 1918-1927) ran unsuccessfully
in both the riding of Delta and Victoria City,
while Premier Richard McBride was successful
in both Yale and Victoria City. Want another
curious fact? In 1934, Thomas King in the riding
of Columbia was the last candidate elected by
A May vote on electoral reform will not
be the only issue British Columbian's have been
asked to vote on in referenda. Historically, if an
issue was too controversial, the Legislature
generally put the matter to a popular vote.
Many of these touched on common themes such
as Women's Suffrage and Liquor Control, but
there have also been some odder ones such as
Daylight Savings (1952), the use of Pacific
Standard Time in the Kootenays (1953), and my
favourite, the "Beer by the Glass" plebiscite of
1924 (defeated).
I could quite happily continue to quote
some of the intriguing and bizarre facts and
figures I found contained at the site, but it is
probably best if you explore it for yourself.
The last two sites that I will cover deal
with the issue of directly advocating for
electoral change. The first of these sites is the
Malaspina College-hosted Electoral Change
Coalition of British Columbia (ECCO-BC) site
(http: / / / ~westj / ECCO /
welcome.htm). ECCO-BC's objective is to
inform British Columbians about alternate
electoral models used throughout the world.
Unfortunately, many of the pages appear to be
slowly vanishing due to neglect.
However, one of the more interesting
features that still remains is a table that was
compiled to show what the outcomes of the
1996 election (won by the NDP, but in which
the Liberals captured the popular) would have
been under different electoral systems.
Problematic with this site, however, is that while
it readily points out the problems with the
current system, it does not appear to offer an
objective assessment of the short-comings to
other electoral systems.
A more comprehensive site, however, is
Fair Voting BC at http://, which bills itself as
"non-profit, non-partisan" in its attempt to
change BC's voting system to one that is more
proportional. As with the ECCO-BC site, no one
particular electoral model is favoured, rather
Fair Voting BC simply lays out an argument that
details everything that is wrong with FPTP.
The most interesting pages are, by far,
those dealing with the writings of Fair Vote
Director, Nick Loenen - a former Social Credit
MLA during the Vander Zalm years. One of the
central tenant of Loenen's writings is that
reform must occur in order to curb both the
concentration of power as well as political
disengagement by the public. Loenen's writings
draw on his experience as an MLA to argue for
the adoption of a Single Transferable Vote (STV),
a system that he has advocated in front of the
Citizen's Assembly.
The STV works on the idea that voters
rank candidates in the voter's order of
preference by numbering the ballot. The ballots
are then to be counted in a way that ensures
the candidate with the highest preference is
elected. It is an interesting concept, and one that
some local media commentators have begun to
peg as the odds on favourite recommendation
of the Assembly.
Depending on the consensus that is
ultimately achieved by the Citizens Assembly,
the web sites that have been reviewed this time
provide an excellent background to some of the
issues that have been tackled in this debate.
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004        37 Archives & Archivists
By Roma Pedersen, Archives Volunteer
Edited by Sylvia Stopforth,
Librarian St Archivist, Norma Marion Alloway Library,
Trinity Western University
A "S.O.L.I.D." Collection
The South Okanagan Lands
Irrigation District collection,
which is held by the Oliver and
District Heritage Society, consists
of 9.24 metres of textual records, 990 maps
and plans, and many black and white
S.O.L.I.D. was established in 1964,
taking over what had been called the South
Okanagan Lands Project (S.O.L.P), which
had been established in 1918. These two
collections include field books, managers'
diaries, scrapbooks, meteorological records,
water measurement records, and more.
The following is based on these
records, and on the book, The Ditch: Lifeline
of a Community, by Julia Cancela, in cooperation with the Oliver Heritage Society
Museum and Archives and British
Columbia Heritage Trust (1986).
Premier John Oliver did not like what
was happening to soldiers returning from
the First World War. He believed that they
had fought hard for their country and
should be rewarded for such when they
returned home. The Soldiers Land Act, passed
by the B.C. Legislature in 1918, enabled the
provincial government to purchase some
22,000 acres of land, extending from
Mclntyre Bluff to the U.S. border, from the
Southern Okanagan Lands Company for
$350 000; 8000 acres of the 22,000 were to be
The government's main objective in
taking over and developing the land was to
provide homes for those returning soldiers
desiring to work the land. These men
contributed not only to the actual
construction of the irrigation system, but
also to the preparation and subdivision of
the land. Many laboured for several years,
and as work progressed and land at the
upper end of the Project was offered for sale,
they were the first to buy and to build
homes. Five and ten acre lots were set out; a
ten-acre orchard was considered sufficient
to provide a family with an adequate
Premier Oliver hoped that the young
soldiers would see the importance of
owning land, instead of remaining in urban
areas where there was high unemployment.
Men came from all walks of life - engineers,
surveyors, carpenters, and labourers - to
work on the project.
During construction of "The Ditch,"
and because there was no accommodation,
nine camps were set up throughout the area.
Large tent houses were erected, which could
accommodate fifty to sixty men each,
and between 150 and 300 men lived in
each camp.
In 1927, the project was completed. It
was twenty-five miles long, with twenty
miles of ditches, twenty-seven flumes, and
a wood stave siphon. "The Ditch" is still in
operation today, and thanks to the vision of
Premier John Oliver, we are now known as
the Wine Capital of Canada!
These few facts and much more are to
be found in these two collections.
Irrigation Canaland fruit trees in bloom,
Oliver BC
Oliver Chamber of Commerce photo
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004 In Rememberance
DORRIT LETICIA MacLEOD December 28, 1906 -August 13, 2004
Sadly, this is to report the passing of
a long time member of the Alberni District
Historical Society, a woman of many talents
and a wide variety of skills.
Dorrit came to the Alberni Valley
before her second birthday. As a young child
she learned about the outdoors from her
father who loved to explore the surrounding
territory and often took some of his children
with him. This included hiking through
virgin forest, orienteering, handling small
boats and fishing. Dorrit learned well. As
an adult she put this knowledge to good use
as the Leader of a Girl Guide Troop for many
years and later as a member of the Tuesday
Walkers, a group of women who enjoyed
exploring the trails and mountain tops of
the region.
As a young adult, Dorrit worked at
the Post Office and then for the local
newspapers, the Twin City Times, the West
Coast Advocate and then the Alberni Valley
Times. She excelled as a Proof Reader. Dorrit
was married to Neill Macleod for over 50
years. They were a good team. They had no
children of their own but their commitment
to their community benefited many
young people.
Dorrit was also an enthusiastic
member of the choir of her church, and
belonged to a number of organizations.
She joined the Alberni District
Museum and Historical Society in 1966 and
became a dedicated historian. This was well
before photocopies and she spent many an
hour copying information in her clear and
firm hand gathering the real story of the
Alberni Valley and assisting in the
development of the Archives for which this
society is so well known. When the City of
Port Alberni opened a local museum, the
responsibility for the artifacts and
photographs moved over, and the Alberni
District Historical Society continued to be
responsible for the paper treasures. Dorrit
also gave generously of her time speaking
to various groups about our history and
conducting Heritage Walking Tours. She
had a lot of personal knowledge as well as
what she gathered from the written and
spoken words of others. She never hesitated
to share it. She also held a number of
positions on the Board of Directors including
Just listening to Dorrit and other
members of the Historical Society as they
discussed, and argued about, what had
really happened on various occasions
fascinated me. It wasn't long before I became
a member too and committed myself to
"Keeping the Record Straight".
Every member of the Alberni District
Historical Society and many others
throughout the BC heritage community
have benefited form Dorrit's commitment
and friendship. We will miss this dear friend
and colleague.
Submitted by Valentine Hughes,
volunteer archivist,
Alberni District Historical Society.
YVONNE KLAN 1930-2004
It is with great sadness we note the
passing of Yvonne Klan, on October 4,2004.
Yvonne published numerous articles on the
history of British Columbia including "The
Lone Man: Founding of Fort St. John", "We
Are Travelling Through an Unknown
Country," and "The Apprenticeship of
James Murray Yale" for British Columbia
Historical News. She was also a contributor
to The Encyclopedia ofBritish Columbia.
Yvonne Klan was born in 1930 in a
logging camp near Victoria, BC. Her father
cut the umbilical cord while her 17-year-old
mother read him instructions from a St. John
Ambulance handbook.
She developed her literary tastes in
the bunkhouses of her youth, where it was
common for loggers to recite the bunkhouse
ballads of Robert Swanson and other
rhyming bards. "They trotted them out on
every possible occasion," says Klan. "This
is pre-TV we're talking about now." Her
affinity for her working class origins led her
to compile and edit an historical survey of
pioneer poets ofBritish Columbia called The
Old Red Shirt (Transmontanus #12, New Star,
2004, $16). It contains poems and
biographical notes dating back to James
Anderson of Barkerville, touted as the first
published poet in B.C. She was assisted and
encouraged in the project by her partner
Peter Trower, who contributed the
introduction. Several of Peter Trower's
poetry books are dedicated to Yvonne Klan
and his volume that was most directly
inspired by their relationship, A Ship Called
Destiny, is subtitled Yvonne's Book. Klan
died a few months after her first and only
book was printed, following a prolonged
battle with cancer.
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004
39 Miscellany
Colourful biography of former
mayor wins City of Vancouver
Book Award
Mayor Larry Campbell presented
writer Daniel Francis with the $2,000 City
of Vancouver Book Award Tuesday for his
colourful biography of a former long-
serving mayor.
Francis' book, L.D.: Mayor Louis Taylor
and the Rise ofVancouver (Arsenal Pulp Press),
is a lively, though serious, look at former
Vancouver Mayor Louis Denison Taylor who
served eight terms in the early 20th century.
It also follows the story of Vancouver's
beginnings, and how Taylor matched this
rowdy and growing city step for step.
Francis is one of Vancouver's most
prominent popular historians. He's the
author of more than fifteen books including
the Encyclopedia ofBritish Columbia, as well
as social studies textbooks and works on
Canadian social history. He is currently on
the editorial board of Geist magazine and
has served with the Writers' Union of
Canada, the Federation of BC Writers, the
Vancouver Word on the Street Festival and
the West Coast Book Prize Society.
The City of Vancouver Book Award
is presented annually to authors of books in
any genre that demonstrate excellence and
illuminate Vancouver's history, unique
character or the achievements of its
residents. The winning title and finalists
were selected by an independent jury that
included writer George Fetherling, UBC
reference librarian Keith Bunnell, and
bookseller Crystal Allen.
The finalists for the 2004 City of
Vancouver Book Award were Annabel Lyon
for The Best Thing for You (McClelland &
Stewart) and Paul Yee for The Bone Collector's
Son (Tradewind Books).
This year, the judges also awarded
honourable mentions to three authors:
Caroline Adderson for Sitting Practice
(Thomas Allen Publishers), Maggie de Vries
for Missing Sarah (Penguin Canada) and
John Punter for The Vancouver Achievement
(UBC Press).
New Historic Site Announced
Stave Falls Hydro-Electric
The Stave Falls Hydro-Electric
Installation is an excellent representation of
the core period of hydro-electric
technological development among the
approximately 160 extant stations built
between 1900-1920 across Canada.
The hydro-electric power plant at
Stave Falls is located sixty-five km east of
Vancouver and five km north of the Fraser
River, and is situated in the District of
Mission and the Dewdney-Alouette
Regional District. Its location and its
watershed are clear examples of the types
of installations that were built in British
Columbia throughout this important phase
of development. The history of its
construction gives a clear outline of what
was required to develop, what at that time,
was a remote water power site.
Work began on the first phase of the
installation in 1909-1910. Power production
started in 1912 with transmission lines from
Stave Falls to receiving stations at Ardley
(between New Westminster and Vancouver)
and Sumas, Washington.
BC hydro H
The site's
development eminently
typifies the struggle for
dominance of the power
industry by the British
Columbia Electric
Railway Company
within the province. As
such, development of
the site also reflects the
political and economic
climate in which
electrical development
took place in British
Columbia, a period
during which the
predatory practices of
private developers were
the governing factors
within this industry.
Reprinted from the Alliance of British Columbia National
historic Sites of Canada Newsletter
The Chinese Canadian
Historical Society of BC
The CCHS began formal operation in
November of this year. Its main goal is to
bring out the unknown aspects of the history
of the Chinese in this province through a
sustained effort to document, study, and
promote teaching and publication on the
subject. CCHS will sponsor or co-sponsor
oral histories of families, organisations and
localities. It will also sponsor lectures,
seminars and workshops, and collaborate
with like-minded organisations, inside and
outside local Chinese society. Membership
is open to anyone, whether individuals or
groups, except for those representing foreign
interests in Canada. Our goal is a broadly-
based society with a diverse membership
and social activities to accompany our other
efforts. Our website will be developed as,
among other things, an informal publication
outlet for student and other research. For
more information, contact Ed Wickberg
(, Larry Wong
(, Jean Barman
( or Imogene Lim
BC HISTORICAL NEWS - Vol. 37 No. 4 | FALL 2004 British V&olumbia historical federation
an umbrella organization embracing regional societies
Questions regarding membership should be sent to:
Ron Hyde, Secretary, #20 12880 Railway Ave., Richmond BCV7E 6G2
Phone 604.277.2627 Fax 604.277.2657
Abbotsford Genealogical Society
PO Box 672, Abbotsford, BC V2S 6R7
Alberni District Historical Society
PO Box 284, Port Alberni, BC V9Y 7M7
Anderson Lake Historical Society
PO Box 40, D'Arcy, BC VON 1L0
Arrow Lakes Historical Society
PO Box 819, Nakusp, BC VOG 1R0
Atlin Historical Society
PO Box 111, Atlin, BC VOW IA0
Bella Coola Valley Museum Society
Box 726, Bella Coola, BC VOT 1C0
Boundary Historical Society
PO Box 1687, Grand Forks, BC VOH 1H0
Bowen Island Historians
PO Box 97. Bowen Island, BC VON 1G0
Bulkley Valley Historical & Museum Society
Box 2615, Smithers, BC VOJ 2N0
Burnaby Historical Society
6501 Deer Lake Avenue, Burnaby, BC V5G 3T6
B.C. History of Nursing Group
c/o Beth Fitzpatrick Box 444 Brackendale BC VON 1H0
Chemainus Valley Historical Society
PO Box 172, Chemainus, BC VOR 1K0
Cherryville and Area Historical Society
22 Dunlevy Road, Cherryville, BC VOE 2G3
Cowichan Historical Society
PO Box 1014, Duncan, BC V9L 3Y2
Craigdarroch Castle Historical Museum Society
1050 Joan Crescent, Victoria, BC V8S 3L5
Dixon Entrance Maritime Museum Society
PO Box 183, Masset, BC VOT 1M0
East Kootenay Historical Association
PO Box 74, Cranbrook, BC V1C 4H6
Finn Slough Heritage & Wetland Society
9480 Dyke Road, Richmond BC V7A 2L5
Forest History Assn. of BC
c/o 5686 Keith Rd West Vancouver, BC V7W 2N5
Fort Nelson Historical Society
Box 716, Fort Nelson, BC VOC 1R0
Gabriola Historical & Museum Society
Box 213, Gabriola, BC, VOR 1X0
Galiano Museum Society
S13 - C19 - RR1, Galiano Island, B C VON 1P0
Gray Creek Historical Society
Box 4, Gray Creek, B.C. VOB 1S0
Gulf Islands Branch BCHF
c/o S-22, C-11, RR# 1, Galiano Island, BC VON 1P0
Hallmark Society
c/o 810 Linden Ave, Victoria, BC V8V4G9
Hedley Heritage Society
PO Box 218, Hedley, BC VOX 1K0
Horsefly Historical Society
Box 11, Horsefly, BC VOL 1L0
Hudson's Hope Historical Society
Box 98, Hudson's Hope, BC VOC 1C0
Jewish Historical Society of British Columbia
206-950 West 41st Ave, Vancouver, BC V5Z 2N7
Kamloops Heritage Railway Society
6 - 510 Lome St, Kamloops, BC V2C 1W3
Kamloops Museum Association
207 Seymour Street, Kamloops, BC V2C 2E7
Kimberley District Heritage Society
Box 144 Kimberley BC V1A 2Y5
Kitimat Centennial Museum Association
293 City Centre, Kitimat BC   V8C 1T6
Koksilah School Historical Society
5213 Trans Canada Highway, Koksilah, BC VOR 2C0
Kootenay Doukhobor Historical Society
112 Heritage Way, Castlegar, BC V1N 4M5
Kootenay Lake Historical Society
PO Box 537, Kaslo, BC VOG 1M0
Ladysmith & District Historical Society
c/o 781 Colonia Drive Ladysmith, BC V9G 1N2
Langley Heritage Society
Box 982, Fort Langley, BC V1M 2S3
Lantzville Historical Society
c/o PO Box 274, Lantzville, BC VOR 2H0
Lions Bay Historical Society
Bopx 571 Lions Bay, BC   VON 2E0
Little Prairie Heritage Society
Box 1777, Chetwynd BC   VOC 1J0
London Heritage Farm Society
6511 Dyke Road, Richmond, BC V7E 3R3
Maple Ridge Historical Society
22520 116th Avenue, Maple Ridge, BC V2X 0S4
Marpole Museum & Historical Society
8743 SW Marine Dr, Vancouver, BC V6P 6A5
Metchosin School Museum Society
4475 Happy Valley Road Victoria, BC V9C 3Z3
Michel-Natal-Sparwood Heritage Society
PO Box 1675, Sparwood BC VOB 2G0
Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society
PBC Box 611 Kelowna BC    V1Y 7P2
Nakusp & District Museum Society
PO Box 584, Nakusp, BC VOG 1R0
Nanaimo & District Museum Society
100 Cameron Road, Nanaimo, BC V9R 2X1
Nanaimo Historical Society
PO Box 933, Nanaimo, BC V9R 5N2
Nelson Museum & Historical Society
402 Anderson Street, Nelson, BC V1L 3Y3
Nicola Valley Museum Archives Association
PO Box 1262, Merritt BC V1K 1B8
North Shore Historical Society
c/o 1541 Meriynn Cres., North \foncouver, BC V7J 2X9
North Shuswap Historical Society
PO Box 57, Celista, BC VOE 1L0
North Vancouver Museum and Archives
209 West 4th St North Vancouver BC V7M 1H8
Okanagan Historical Society
PO Box 313, Vernon, BC V1T 6M3
Old Cemeteries Society of Victoria
Box 5004, #15-1594 Fairfield Rd, Victoria BC V8S 5L8
Parksville & District Historical Society
PO Box 1452, Parksville, BC   V9P 2H4
Pemberton Museum & Archives
PO Box 267, Pemberton, BC, VON 2L0
Prince Rupert City & Regional Archives
PO Box 1093, Prince Rupert BC V8J 4H6
Princeton & District Museum & Archives
Box 281, Princeton, BC VOX 1W0
Qualicum Beach Historical Society
587 Beach Road, Qualicum Beach, BC V9K 1K7
Revelstoke & District Historical Association
Box 1908, Revelstoke BC VOE 2S0
Revelstoke Heritage Railway Society
PO Box 3018, Revelstoke, BC   VOE 2S0
Richmond Heritage Railroad Society
c/o Suite 200, 8211 Ackroyd Rd., Richmond, BC V6X 3K8
Richmond Museum Society
#180 - 7700 Minoru Gate, Richmond, BC V6Y 1R8
The Riondel & Area Historical Society
Box 201, Riondel, BC VOB 2B0
Roedde House Preservation Society
1415 Barclay St, Vancouver BC V6G 1J6
Saanich Historical Artifacts Society
7321 Lochside Dr., Saanichton, BC   V8M 1W4
Salt Spring Island Historical Society
129 McPhillips Ave, Salt Spring Island, BC V8K 2T6
Sandon Historical Society
Box 52, New Denver, BC VOG 1S0
Sea Island Heritage Society
4191 Ferguson Road, Richmond, BC V7B 1P3
Sicamous District Museum & Historical Society
Box 944, Sicamous, BC VOE 2V0
Silvery Slocan Historical Society
Box 301, New Denver, BC VOG 1S0
South Peace Historical Society
c/o 900 Alaska Avenue, Dawson Creek, BC V1G 4T6
Steveston Historical Society
3811 Moncton St., Richmond, BC V7E 3A0
Sullivan Mine & Railway Historical Society
PO Box 94, Kimberley BC   V1A 2Y5
Surrey Historical Society
Box 34003, 17790 #10 Highway, Surrey, BC V3S 8C4
Terrace Regional Historical Society
PO Box 246, Terrace, BC V8G 4A6
Trail Historical Society
PO Box 405, Trail, BC V1R 4L7
Union Bay Historical Society
Box 448, Union Bay, BC VOR 3B0
Vancouver Historical Society
PO Box 3071, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6
Victoria Historical Society
PO Box 43035, Victoria North, Victoria, BC V8X 3G2
Williams Lake Museum and Historical Society
113 - 4th Ave North, Williams Lake, BC V2G 2C8
Yale & District historical Society
Box 74, Yale, BC VOK 2S0
Yellowhead Museum
Box 1778, RR# 1, Clearwater, BC VOE 1N0
Archives Association of British Columbia
PO Box 78530 University PO, Vancouver BC V6T 1Z4
Hope Museum
POBox 26, HopeBC   V0X1L0
Kelowna Museum Association
470 Queensway Avenue, Kelowna, B. C. V1Y 6S7
Langley Centennial Museum
PO Box 800, Fort Langley BC   V1M 2S2
Northern BC Archives - UNBC
3333 University Way, Prince George BC   V2N 4Z9
North Pacific Historic Fishing Villiage
PO Box 1109, Port Edward BC   VOV 1G0
North Vancouver Museum and Archives
209 - West 4th Street North Vancouver BC V7M 1H8
Women's History Network of BC
402 - 9603 Manchester Dr., Burnaby BC   V3N 4Y7 Return Undeliverable Canadian Addresses to Circulation Department.
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Alice Marwood, #311 - 45520 Knight Road Cnilliwack, BC V2R 3Z2
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Contact Us:
BC Historical News welcomes
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dealing with any aspect of the
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British Columbians.
Please    submit    manuscripts    for
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John Atkin,
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phone 604-824-1570
Subscriptions: $18.00 per year
For addresses outside Canada add
22nd Annual Competition for Writers of BC History
Lieutenant-Governor's Medal for Historical Writing
Deadline: 31 December 2004
The British Columbia Historical Federation invites book submissions for the twenty-second annual Competition for Writers of BC
History. Books representing any facet of BC history, published in
2004 will be considered by the judges who are looking for quality
presentations and fresh material. Community histories, biographies, records of a project or organization as well as personal
reflections, etc. are eligible for consideration.
Reprints or revisions of books are not eligible.
Lieutenant-Governor's Medal
The Lieutenant-Governor's Medal for Historical Writing will be
awarded to an individual writer whose book contributes significantly to the history of British Columbia. Additional prizes may be
awarded to other books at the discretion of the judges.
AU entries receive considerable publicity. Winners will receive a
Certificate of Merit, a monetary award and an invitation to the
Awards Banquet of the Federation's annual conference to be held
in Kelowna, BC on May 14, 2005.
For information about making submissions contact:
Bob Mukai, Chair of Competition Committee
4100 Lancelot Drive
Richmond, B. C. V7C 4S3
phone 604-274-6449 email
Books entered become property of the BC Historical Federation.
By submitting books for this competition, authors agree that the British
Columbia Historical Federation may use their names in press releases
and Federation publications regarding the book


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