British Columbia History

British Columbia Historical Quarterly Jul 31, 1946

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Published by the Archives of British Columbia
in cooperation with the
British Columbia Historical Association.
W. Kaye Lamb.
The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C.
Willard E. Ireland.
Provincial Archives, Victoria, B.C.
J. C. Goodfellow, Princeton. T. A. Rickard, Victoria.
W. N. Sage, Vancouver.
Editorial communications should be addressed to the Editor.
Subscriptions should be sent to the Provincial Archives, Parliament
Buildings, Victoria, B.C. Price, 50c. the copy, or $2 the year. Members
of the British Columbia Historical Association in good standing receive the
Quarterly without further charge.
Neither the Provincial Archives nor the British Columbia Historical
Association assumes any responsibility for statements made by contributors
to the magazine.
The Quarterly is indexed in Faxon's Annual Magazine Subject-Index. BRITISH COLUMBIA
" Any country worthy of a future
should be interested in its past."
Vol. X. Victoria, B.C., July, 1946. No. 3
The Collins Overland Telegraph.                                             Page.
By Corday Mackay  187
The Oregon Treaty: Finis to Joint Occupation.
By Robert E. Cail         217
Esquimalt Dockyard's First Buildings.
By Madge Wolfenden  235
Notes and Comments:
British Columbia Historical Association  241
Centenary of the Signing of the Oregon Boundary Treaty  242
Address of the Hon. George M. Weir  244
British Columbia Historical Association Essay Competition  245
Helmcken House Museum  246
Contributors to this Issue  246
The Northwest Bookshelf:
The Journal of John Work, January to October, 1885.
By Grace Lee Nute 247
Runnalls: A History of Prince George.
By J. C. Goodfellow  248
Graham: Fur and Gold in the Kootenays.
By W. Kaye Lamb 249
McKelvie: Maquinna the Magnificent.
By Willard E. Ireland  250
Walter: Early Days among the Gulf Islands of British Columbia.
By W. Kaye Lamb 251 Vol IX.—No. 450.]
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In the fall of 1943 Brigadier-General James A. O'Connor,
commander of the United States North-west Service Command,
and officer in charge of the building of the Alaska Highway, presented to the Provincial Archives, Victoria, and to the City of
Vancouver, photostat copies of the Papers of Colonel Charles S.
Bulkley. The same year a third copy was presented to the
Library of the University of British Columbia by Mr. Isaac
Burpee, of Portland, Oregon.1
These gifts drew attention to a valuable and unusually interesting record in the early history of British Columbia, for here,
in the even, back-sloping penmanship, and the formal, almost
elegant style of the 19th century, is a detailed account of one of
the most ambitious schemes of that adventurous period: the
attempt to bridge the distance which separates Europe, Asia, and
North America by building an inter-continental telegraph line.
In the long lines of communication necessary to accomplish this,
the unexplored northern wilds of British Columbia were to be an
important link. That this ambitious attempt ended in failure
was in no way the fault of its originators. They were merely
the losers in a race with time; for the final successful laying of
* For two interesting and informative accounts of the Overland Telegraph see James D. Reid, The Telegraph in America and Morse Memorial,
New York, 1886, Chapter 29 (pp. 508-17), and Donald McNicol, " Pioneer
Attempt to Establish Telegraph Communication Between America and
Europe," Telegraph and Telephone Age, July 1, 1926, pp. 289-94. Some
time ago Mr. McNicol assembled an outstanding collection of books, pamph- •
lets, clippings, manuscripts, etc., relating to the history of telegraphy, and
in 1941 presented it to the Library of Queen's University, Kingston, where
it is known as the McNicol Collection. It includes some of the original correspondence between Collins, the Western Union Telegraph Company, and
officials in Russia. This and much other material was made available to
the writer through the kindness of Mr. E. C. Kyte, Librarian of Queen's
University. •>
(1) The original manuscript is in the possession of the Library Association of Portland, Oregon. There is no title-page, and the Library of the
University of British Columbia has catalogued its copy as: Charles S.
Bulkley, Papers: Comprising correspondence relative to the Collins Overland Telegraph Scheme, July, 1865-June, 1867.   .
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Vol. X.. No. 3.
Illustration on opposite page, courtesy. The Canadian Geographical Journal.
187 ■     •' 188 Corday Mackay. July
the Atlantic cable came in July, 1866, and rendered superfluous
a Russian-American overland telegraph-line.
The scheme was a logical step in the development of telegraphic communication. The first public line in England was
built between London and Slough in 1843; the following year
the first line in America was opened between Washington and
Baltimore. In Canada the first telegraphic communication was
established in 1846, between Toronto and Hamilton. By the
early sixties a vast network of lines had been built in Europe
and in Eastern North America; and in October, 1861, a transcontinental line was completed to San Francisco.
In the meantime the idea of submarine cables, to carry lines
from continent to continent, had already been entertained. The
discovery of gutta-percha as an insulating material, in 1848, gave
a great impetus to this plan. The first effective cable was laid
between Dover and Calais in 1851, and by 1854 there were several cables operating successfully between England, Ireland, and
the Continent. In 1856 the Atlantic Telegraph Company was
formed, and the following year an attempt was made to lay an
Atlantic cable. This ended in failure when the cable broke and
could not be recovered. In 1858 another attempt ended in
momentary success. The cable was actually laid from shore to
shore; but less than three months after its triumphant completion it faltered and fell silent. It was this second failure, which
was widely accepted as proof that a trans-Atlantic cable would
be impracticable for many years to come, that led to the development of the overland scheme as an alternative means of linking
the great centres of Europe with those of the United States.
The chief originator and promoter of the overland telegraph
was Perry McDonough2 Collins, about whom strangely little is
known. His name appears in none of the standard biographical
dictionaries, and a careful search for information made some
years ago produced only the barest outline of his early career.
(2) Collins seems to have spelled his second name " McDonough," as his
name is given as " Perry McD. Collins " on the title-page of A Voyage Down
the Amoor. This was actually incorrect, for, as noted later, he was named
after two American naval officers who won distinction during the War of
1812—Thomas Macdonough and Oliver Hazard Perry. 1946 The Collins Overland Telegraph. 189
. . . Collins was born about 1813 in a village up the Hudson, probably
Hyde Park [since made famous by its associations with Franklin D. Roosevelt], and was named after the [American] naval heroes of the war of 1812,
Commodores Perry and MacDonough [sic]. As a young man he came to
New York to seek his fortune, with no particular advantages in education
or family influence. He was attracted to New Orleans and for a while
worked for a Mississippi steamship company, probably as a clerk.   .   .   .
During the gold rush in 1849, Collins went to California by way of
Panama and formed a partnership as a banker and dealer in gold dust
with the father-in-law of U. S. Grant, the firm being known as Collins &
Dent.   .   .   .3
We know also that he was called to the Bar in California.
But Collins was a promoter by nature, and he himself has recorded how his mind was soon busy with plans extending to
distant horizons:—
For several years previous to 1855 [he wrote in 1860], while residing
in California, I had given much study to the commercial resources of the
Pacific side of the United States, especially in connection with the opposite
coast of Asia. I had already fixed in my own mind upon the river Amoor
[Amur] as the destined channel by which American commercial enterprise
was to penetrate the obscure depths of Northern Asia, and open a new
world to trade and civilization, when news arrived in 1855 that the Russians
had taken possession of the Amoor country, and formed a settlement at the
mouth of the river. Greatly interested by this event, the important consequences of which my previous speculations enabled me fully to comprehend,
I proceeded to Washington in search of accurate information on the subject.
. . . What I chiefly desired was to examine the whole length of the Amoor,
and ascertain its fitness for steamboat navigation. That point settled in
the affirmative, everything else was sure to follow as a matter of course.
At Washington, I had conferences with President Pierce, Secretary [of
State] Marcy, and the Russian Ambassador, which resulted in my appointment, March 24, 1856, as Commercial Agent of the United States for the
Amoor River.
Armed with this commission, and with letters to influential personages
at St. Petersburg, I started without delay for the Russian Capital, resolved
to traverse the empire from West to East, cross Siberia, enter Tartary, and,
if possible, descend the Amoor river from its source to its mouth.   .   .   .4
This adventurous journey Collins completed without mishap.
He was delayed for six months in St. Petersburg and Moscow,
(3) From a sketch of Collins's life compiled about 1928 by Professor
Philip B. McDonald, of the Department of English, College of Engineering,
New York University.   McNicol Collection.
(4) Perry McD. Collins, A Voyage Down the Amoor, New York, 1860,
pp. 1-2. 190 Corday Mackay. July
but the time was far from being wasted. He spent his days
cultivating the acquaintance of influential officials, and in gaining their good-will towards his plans to promote trade and
improve communications. When he finally left Moscow on
December 3, 1856, he was firmly established in their good graces.
For interesting reading, Collins's A Voyage Down the Amoor,
published in 1860, can hold its own with many a modern travel
book. In prose that may be formal, but is never tedious, he
describes his winter journey, mostly by cariole, across the icy
highways from Moscow to Irkutsk, and his barge voyage down
the Ingoda, Shilka, and Amur rivers in the late spring and early
summer of 1857. Nikolaevsk, at the mouth of the Amur, was
reached on July 11, and Collins was encouraged to find that a
number of American business houses had recently established
branches there, and that several American vessels were in port.
In August he sailed for home, and some months later arrived
back in San Francisco.
It is usually said that Collins went to Russia to promote the
overland telegraph project, but there is little evidence that this
is so. No reference to the scheme appears in his account of his
travels, and at the time he seems to have been concerned solely
with ascertaining ways and means whereby American goods
could be carried into Siberia. While at Chita, he corresponded
with the Russian authorities regarding the possibility of building
a railway from Kyakhta to Irkutsk, which would form a link
between the tributaries of the Amur River on the one hand and
the river systems of the Siberian interior on the other; but the
telegraph nowhere appears in the story. It was undoubtedly
the failure of the first attempt to lay an Atlantic cable, which
was a topic of the day when he returned to the United States,
and the subsequent fate of the 1858 cable, that brought the telegraph to the fore in Collins's mind. He himself had just traversed some of the most difficult country through which an overland line would have to pass; he had seen no insurmountable
obstacles there, and he was convinced that the scheme was practical. If he could secure some aid from the United States Government, interest the Western Union Telegraph Company, and
enlist the influence of his Russian friends, he was confident that
the great scheme would not prove impossible of accomplishment. 1946 The Collins Overland Telegraph. 191
By 1860 Collins was ready to approach the United States
Government. This he did by submitting a memorial in which
he outlined his plan and asked the " aid of Congress, in order to
make a thorough exploration and survey of the coasts, islands,
and seas of the Russian possessions, both in Asia and America,"
from the mouth of the Amur to the northern limits of British
Columbia.6 (Alaska, it will be remembered, was at this time
still Russian territory.) The memorial was referred to the Committee on Commerce of the House of Representatives, and Congressman John Cochrane, its chairman, submitted the Committee's report on February 18, 1861. The verdict was entirely
favourable. The report reviewed the obstacles of weather and
geography which stood in the path of the scheme, and declared
that none of them was insurmountable. As far as climate was
concerned, it was " known to practical working telegraphists that
high latitudes add to rather than retard the electric current."
This had been proven on the lines from Berlin to St. Petersburg
—all to the north of 47°, and in part as high as 60° north latitude.6 The fact that the only submarine cable required—that
across Bering Strait—was no more than 40 miles in length was
turned to good account, for the report expressed the conviction
that ocean cables of great length were impracticable, and pointed
out that this meant that " without some new plan by which a
telegraph can be constructed . . . Europe and America must
remain as far asunder as if electricity had never been discovered,
or Morse, Wheatstone, Amphere, and Siemens never had lived."7
" Under all the circumstances," the report concluded, " the committee recommend an adequate appropriation by Congress, in
order to carry out successfully the views of the petitioner, and
for that purpose report a bill."8
(5) Perry McD. Collins, Overland Explorations in Siberia, Northern
Asia and the great Amoor Country; . . . with Map and Plan of an Overland Telegraph Around the World, New York, 1864, p. 405. The appendix
to this volume (pp. 391-467), which was a reissue of Collins's A Voyage
Down the Amoor, carries the story of the negotiations regarding the telegraph scheme down to May, 1864.
(6) Ibid., pp. 405-6.
(7) Ibid., p. 408.
(8) Ibid., p. 418. 192 Corday Mackay. July
The appropriation recommended was $50,000; but the bill
fell by the wayside. Continuing his campaign, Collins returned
to the attack the following year. Upon this occasion his memorial was considered by the Senate Committee on Military
Affairs, and the report was presented by Senator Milton S.
Latham on February 17, 1862. Once again the verdict was
entirely in Collins's favour. The report noted, for one thing,
that the gap that had to be closed to link Europe and the United
States was steadily diminishing. When Collins had first proposed the project it had extended from St. Louis to Moscow.
Since that time the Russians had determined to build a line from
Moscow to the mouth of the Amur, and the telegraph was
actually in operation as far as Perm, in the Urals. In the United
States a transcontinental line had been completed to San Francisco in October, 1861, and its extension northward to Oregon
was assured. " We hold the ball of the earth in our hand,"
Latham declared, " and wind upon it a network of living and
thinking wire, till the whole is held together and bound with the
same wishes, projects, and interests."9
Collins had incorporated in his memorial two letters of more
than ordinary interest. One was from Samuel Morse, who
stated that although the project would doubtless develop its own
peculiar problems, he could see " no insurmountable difficulties "
in its way.10 The other was an enthusiastic endorsation from
Hiram Sibley, founder and president of the Western Union Telegraph Company, which had just completed the San Francisco
line.   This read in part:—
The cost of the line [to San Francisco] will not exceed one-half the
lowest estimate made when the contract was awarded to me; and our men
are pressing me hard to let them go on to Behring's strait next summer,
and (as you say to me) " if I had the money," I would go on and complete
the line and talk about it afterwards.
If the Russian government will meet us at Behring's strait, and give the
right of way, &c, through their territory on the Pacific, we will complete
the line in two years, and probably in one.
(9) Speeches of Hon. Milton S. Latham delivered in the Senate of the
United States, . . . and Report from the Military Committee, on Telegraphic Communication between San Francisco and the Amoor River, . . .
Washington, 1862, p. 29.
(10) Ibid., p. 30.    Morse to Collins, November 29,1861. 1946 The Collins Overland Telegraph. 193
The work is not more difficult than that we have already accomplished
over the Rocky mountains and plains to California; and, in my opinion, the
whole thing is entirely practicable, and that, too, in much less time and with
much less expense than is generally supposed by those most hopeful. No
work costing so little money was ever accomplished by man that will be so
important in its results.11
Upon this occasion the appropriation recommended was
$100,000. Once again no money was actually voted, which is
not surprising, as the Civil War was raging at the time; but
many men in public life had become interested, and the Western
Union Telegraph Company had definitely entered Collins's picture. Thus, in spite of internal strife, American ambition soared.
Latham was not alone in feeling that the moment was less
inopportune than it seemed.
Let this not be called an improper time to present this subject to Congress, because we are engaged in a war for our national existence, and
because we are already taxing the whole energies and resources of the
nation in a time of great peril; let us rather say that the United States is
not only able to suppress rebellion at home, but able also to extend her great
commercial and scientific power over the earth.
Such an enterprise as this telegraph from San Francisco to Asiatic
Russia will only strengthen our power as a great commercial nation, and
evidence to the world that we surrender nothing to the circumstances of
the hour.   .   .   .12
Collins's dream was, indeed, well on the way to being realized.
Only the possibility of a successful Atlantic cable stood in its
The next two years were filled with complicated negotiations.
Collins first of all returned to Russia, and there, on May 23, 1863,
an agreement was signed that authorized construction rjf that
part of the overland line that would pass through Siberia and
Russian-America. The rights granted were for a period of 33
years.13    On February 9, 1864, a parallel agreement was reached
(11) Ibid., pp. 30-31.    Sibley to Collins, October 16,1861.
(12) Ibid., p. 31. Latham, a Senator from California, was at this same
time pressing vigorously for the establishment of a line of steamers from
San Francisco to Shanghai; see his comprehensive speech on this project in
ibid., pp. 2-13. This line actually came into being when the Pacific Mail
steamer Colorado sailed for the Orient on January 1, 1867.
(13) Collins, Overland Explorations, p. 448. After Collins had assigned
his rights to the Western Union Telegraph Company, new articles of agreement, granting the privileges directly to the Company, were signed in March, 194 Corday Mackay. July
in London, covering the portion of the line which would pass
through British Columbia.14 In the meantime, Collins had formally submitted to the Western Union Telegraph Company the
terms upon which he would be willing to assign to them his rights
and privileges in the plan. He asked for $100,000 in paid-up
stock, the right to subscribe to another $100,000 in stock, and a
cash payment of $100,000 " as compensation for eight years'
service in securing the grants."16 These terms were submitted
to the Board on March 16, 1864, and accepted unanimously.16
The Western Union, on its part, undertook to build a tele-
grap-line from some point " not east of Chicago " to the mouth
of the Amur River.17
About this time Collins submitted a third and last memorial
to Congress. This was referred to the Senate Committee on
Commerce, which, in turn, asked for an expression of opinion
from William H. Seward, Secretary of State. Two passages
from Seward's reply, dealing with Collins's status, and the nature
of the concessions for which he was asking, deserve quotation:—
... I have, not without design, called it Mr. Collins' enterprise. It is
truly his, because it was he alone who conceived and projected it, and who
has clothed it with the substantial form which enables the three great States,
whose concerted action he solicits, to cause it to be put in operation. But
in another sense it is entitled to be regarded as an enterprise of the government of the United States. During all the time that Mr. Collins has been
engaged in maturing and developing it, and presenting it to the consideration of Russia and Great Britain, he has been acting under the instruction
and with the approbation of the Department of State, and a knowledge of
that fact has not been withheld from Congress.
1865, by Hiram Sibley (for the Western Union) and I. Tolstoy (for the
Russian Telegraph Department). See letter, Tolstoy to the Company, August
24, 1865, in the McNicol Collection. The friendly relations that Collins had
established with the Russians shows up in the correspondence that took
place at this time. In 1866, when Tolstoy was made a Count for his diligence in promoting the overland telegraph, the Company at once sent off
a cordial letter of congratulation.   See the copy in the McNicol Collection.
(14) Collins, Overland Explorations, p. 448.
(15) Reid, The Telegraph in America, p. 510-11. Collins's proposal was
first formally submitted to the Western Union Company on September 28,
1863.    Ibid., p. 510.    The actual terms were arranged later.
(16) Ibid., p. 510.
(17) Collins, Overland Explorations, p. 447. 1946 The Collins Overland Telegraph. 195
What Mr. Collins asks of Congress is, the grant of a right of way across
the public lands, with the right to take therefrom materials necessary for
constructing the line; the use of a national vessel, suitably officered and
equipped, to make surveys and soundings along the north Pacific coast,
beyond the limits of the United States, and to aid in prosecuting the work;
and, finally, a stipulated compensation for the government use of the line,
when it shall be constructed. If the views I have submitted are just, this
demand for patronage is neither unnecessary nor unreasonable.18
This time Collins received substantially what he asked for.
A second edition of Collins's account of his Asiatic travels
was published in 1864, no doubt as part of his campaign to gain
support for his great project. The text proper was left
unchanged, but the title-page was altered, a map was inserted,
and the history of the overland scheme was dealt with in detail
in a 77-page appendix. The map not only indicated the route of
the proposed line, but included projected extensions to India,
China, Japan, and Australia. At the time of publication the
Russian trans-Siberian telegraph had been completed as far as
Irkutsk, while on this continent a line had been carried northward from San Francisco to Portland, Oregon.19
The work of actually organizing the undertaking was the
next step.
Financially, the arrangements were relatively simple.
A Western Union Extension Company was formed, and its
activities were financed by special " Extension Stock" issued
by the Western Union Telegraph Company. The cost of the
5,000 miles of line was not expected to exceed $300 per mile, or
$1,500,000 in all; and although the authorized capital was
$10,000,000, consisting of 100,000 shares of $100 each, only
20,000 of these were issued at first, and only 5 per cent, had to
be paid down. Western Union shareholders were given a
preference, and they promptly took up practically the entire
issue, which was regarded as an excellent investment.20
(18) Seward to Zachary Chandler, Chairman of the Senate Committee
of Commerce, May 14, 1864; quoted in Collins, Overland Explorations, pp.
(19) See foot-note 5 supra.
(20) Reid, The Telegraph in America, p. 511. For a facsimile of an
Extension Company stock certificate see Dots and Dashes, VII., November,
1931, p. 1. 196 Corday Mackay. July
The Extension Company's service was organized on a quasi-
military basis, both to improve discipline and because it was
thought the plan would give the Company's officers more prestige
when dealing with foreign and native peoples. Camp guards
were posted, reports were submitted, and accounts kept, more
or less in army style. Many of the leaders of the various expeditions had had military training and experience; those who had
not were given appropriate honorary ranks.
For the post of Engineer-in-Chief, the Company chose Colonel
Charles S. Bulkley, who had been in charge of the United States
Army's military telegraph system in the Department of the
Gulf. The choice was an excellent one, for Bulkley was not only
able and experienced, but " was universally respected and
trusted; and he entered his new appointment with the unbounded
confidence of all parties."21 Under him were three field superintendents, one assigned to each of the three vast segments of
territory through which the telegraph-line was to pass. Franklin L. Pope, of New York, one of the best-known telegraphic
engineers of the day, who later became the partner of Thomas A.
Edison, was given the rank of Major and appointed Chief-of-
Explorations in British America—that is to say, in British
Columbia. Robert Kennicott, a distinguished young explorer
and naturalist who had added immensely to the collections of the
Smithsonian Institution, was appointed to the corresponding
post in Russian-America.22 Serge Abasa, a Russian, took charge
in Siberia. Another notable figure was Captain Edmund Conway,
who came to British Columbia as Chief of Construction Parties.
Conditions here were different than elsewhere. For some hundreds of miles the telegraph-line would parallel such well-
established travel routes as the Cariboo Road. These sections
Conway could start to build immediately, while Pope devoted his
energies to trail-blazing through the less-known north country.
Kennicott had stipulated that he should be permitted to enlist
a number of assistants, who could collect natural history speci-
(21) Reid, The Telegraph in America, p: 512.
(22) For an account of Kennicott's career, the diary of his remarkable
expedition to the Northwest Territories and the Yukon in 1859-62, and other
documents, see James Alton James, The First Scientific Exploration of Russian America and the Purchase of Alaska, Evanston and Chicago, 1942
(Northwestern University Studies in the Social Sciences, No. 4). 1946 The Collins Overland Telegraph. 197
mens, and a full-fledged " Scientific Corps," which even boasted
a flag of its own, took to the wilderness with the various exploring
expeditions. The group consisted of six young scientists and a
volunteer assistant. Several of the former became widely known
in later years, notably J. T. Rothrock, W. H. Dall, and H. W.
Elliott. Frederick Whymper, the artist, joined one of the parties
when it called at Victoria, and spent two years in the interior of
Bulkley was appointed in August, 1864, and immediately set
about the immense task of organizing and setting in motion the
far-flung enterprise. After completing preliminary arrangements in the East, he left New York on December 13 for San
Francisco, where, in January, 1865, he opened offices on Montgomery Street.24 There he pressed forward the work of engaging
a staff and devising means whereby hundreds of workmen could
be mustered in the wilds. To carry men, equipment, and supplies
to their appointed places a Marine Service had to be organized,
and from first to last the Extension Company owned or chartered
more than a score of ships. It had already been arranged that
the schooner Milton Badger and the bark Clara Bell should carry
wire, insulators, and other telegraphic supplies from New York
to the Pacific Coast; and Bulkley purchased a number of additional vessels in the spring of 1865, including the steamer
George S. Wright and the barks Palmetto and Golden Gate. The
U.S.S.  Shubrick was  made  available  by the  United   States
(23) In 1913, at the request of the late E. 0. S. Scholefield, then Provincial Librarian and Archivist, Dr. Rothrock described his experiences in
a lengthy letter (dated West Chester, Penn., January 11, 1913) now filed
in the Provincial Archives. " The pecuniary inducement offered the scientists," Rothrock recalled, " was board, transportation and thirteen dollars
a month. It probably was a fair expression of the estimate placed upon
scientific endeavor by the business end of the enterprise." W. H. Dall
described his part in the overland telegraph scheme briefly in the volume
entitled Alaska and its Resources (Boston, 1870). Henry W. Elliott became
an authority on Alaska, and in 1886 published An Arctic Province: Alaska
and the Seal Islands; only incidental reference is made therein to the overland telegraph. Frederick Whymper's interesting Travel and Adventure in
the Territory of Alaska, formerly Russian America, London, 1868, describes
his experiences in detail. The flag of the Scientific Corps is shown in Dall,
p. 527.
(24) George Kennan, Tent Life in Siberia, New York, 1888, p. 3. 198 Corday Mackay. July
Government, while across the Pacific the steam corvette Variag
was placed at the disposal of the Company by the Russian
In spite of his utmost efforts, Bulkley found it impossible to
get the various expeditions under way as promptly as he had
hoped. In British Columbia, as we shall see, Conway was able
to make relatively good progress, but elsewhere the preliminary
arrangements lagged. The ships that had been assembled at
San Francisco were not ready for service until June, and even
then Bulkley still had no means of sending an advance party to
Siberia. At this opportune moment the brig Olga, a private
trader, happened along, bound for Kamchatka, and Bulkley was
able to arrange a passage in her for Major Abasa, and three
assistants—James A. Mahood, a civil engineer, R. J. Rush, and
George Kennan, who later wrote an interesting account of the
work of the Asiatic Division in a volume entitled Tent Life in
The Olga sailed from San Francisco on July 3. Nine days
later Major Kennicott and a corps of assistants left for Alaska
in the George S. Wright and Golden Gate. Pope and Conway
had already reached their appointed field in " British America."
Collins's scheme was at last fairly under way.
It is usually said that British Columbia owed her first telegraphic connection with the outside world to the Collins Overland
scheme; but, strictly speaking, this is not so. Before the
Extension Company was even organized, the California State
Telegraph Company had completed a line from San Francisco to
Portland, and was arranging to carry it farther northward.
Horace W. Carpentier, President of the Company, visited British
Columbia early in 1864, and on March 1 he petitioned the Legislative Council for permission to extend this line to New Westminster. The response was prompt and favourable. Within
ten days the Council had passed and the Governor had approved
the ordinance known as the First Telegraph Act, 1864.    This
(25) First published in New York in 1870. In 1885, Kennan returned
to Siberia as leader of an expedition sponsored by the Century Magazine
to investigate the Russian penal system and penal colonies there. A series
of articles published in the Century in 1888-90 were expanded into the two-
volume work entitled Siberia and the Exile System (New York, 1891). Courtesy, The Canadian Geographical Journal.
Captain Edmund Conway (centre)  and a group of Overland Telegraph officials.    Captain J. C.
Butler, who explored the Skeena and Stikine rivers in 1866, is on the extreme left. Courtesy, The Canadian Geographical Journal.
Buckley House, Takla Lake, in 1866.
From a pen-and-ink sketch in the Provincial Archives, based on a water-colour by Franklin L. Pope.
Courtesy, The Canadian Geographical Journal.
The famous suspension bridge built by the Indians over the Bulkley
River at Hagwilget. It was bound together with telegraph-wire left in the
wilderness when the Overland Telegraph scheme was abondoned. 1946 The Collins Overland Telegraph. 199
gave the California State Telegraph Company building and
operating rights within the Colony for a period of 25 years, on
condition that work commenced within five months, and was
completed within thirteen months, on a line that would
" place . . . New Westminster in telegraphic communication
with the United States and the Canadas. . . ."26 Later, rights
and Company were both alike swallowed up by the Western
Union; but the fact remains that the line was assured before
these developments occurred.
Edmund Conway's diaries for 1864 and 1865, which were
presented to the Provincial Archives some years ago by his
daughter, Miss Alice Conway, enable us to follow his movements,
and the progress of the overland telegraph in British Columbia,
in some detail. He first came to New Westminster in November,
1864, and spent some weeks in friendly negotiations with
Governor Seymour and other officials. One result was that early
in 1865 the Legislative Council passed the International Telegraph Ordinance, which gave to " Perry Macdonough Collins, his
associates and assigns " the right " to survey, and . . . construct and maintain " the section of the overland line that would
pass through British Columbia. Construction was to commence
by January 1, 1867, and to be completed by January 1, 1870;
thereafter New Westminster was to be kept " in complete and
continuous telegraphic communication with the whole telegraphic
systems of the United States and Russia.  .  .  ."    This accom-
(26) British Columbia, Legislative Council, An Ordinance to encourage
the construction of a Telegraph Line, connecting British Columbia with the
telegraph lines of the United States, and for other purposes. No. 9, 1864:
passed by the Council, March 8; received Governor's assent, March 10.
Actually the rights were given to the President of the California State
Telegraph Company " and to his successors in office, or assigns." The
Ordinance gave certain rights to Carpentier exclusively, and on the grounds
that this was contrary to the policy of the British Government, the Colonial
Secretary disallowed the Act. The result was An Ordinance to amend the
" First Telegraph Ordinance, 1864," No. 9, 1865: passed by the Council,
January 30; assented to February 22. This re-enacted the original Ordinance, minus the offending clauses. Some have contended that the Colonial
Office's primary objective was to delay construction of a telegraph line from
the United States, as an overland telegraph line from Canada to British
Columbia was under discussion at this -time. See the two Parliamentary
returns known as the " Telegraph Papers " (London, 1863 and 1864). 200 Corday Mackay. July
plished, the builders were to be confirmed in their rights for a
period of 33 years.27
The Extension Company hoped to have the line nearly finished
by the beginning of the specified construction period, let alone
the end of it. In November, R. R. Haines, Assistant Superintendent of the California State Telegraph Company, had written
to Governor Seymour stating that working-parties were then
about 10 miles north of Seattle, and that he hoped that they
would reach New Westminster by the middle of January. This
hope was not fulfilled, but events nevertheless moved at a lively
pace. February saw the arrival of J. L. Pitfield, who was to be
the Extension Company's agent in New Westminster. He and
Conway established temporary offices in the Columbia Hotel.
The excitement aroused in the little city was intense, and the
British Columbian referred editorially to the wondrous fact that
New Westminster, " an infant city established only 6 years
before amid towering trees that seemed to smile on man's puny
efforts . . . was to be linked with the electric systems of
Asia, Europe and North Africa." It was an hour of triumph,
and the editor could not resist the temptation to have a thrust
at the Royal City's " jealous and grasping neighbour." " We
understand," he wrote, with obvious satisfaction, " it is not
in contemplation to establish a branch to Victoria."28
(27) An Ordinance to encourage the construction of a line of Telegraph,
connecting the Telegraphs of British Columbia with the Telegraph lines of
Russia, the United States and other Countries, and for other purposes. No.
5 of 1865: passed by the Council, January 26; assented to February 21.
This Ordinance provided that all telegraph materials required for the construction or repair of the line should be admitted duty free up to January 1,
1870. It was followed in 1866 by An Ordinance to incorporate The Western
Union Telegraph Company, in lieu of the Western Union Telegraph Extension Company (No. 3 of 1866: passed January 29; assented to January 31).
At this point the Western Union Company proper took over the rights, etc.,
which had been granted to Collins and to the Extension Company.
(28) British Columbian, February 25, 1865. Victoria was finally linked
to the mainland by telegraph in 1866, when cables were laid between the
Saanich Peninsula and San Juan Island, between San Juan and Lopez
islands, and between Lopez Island and the Washington mainland. Communication was established between New Westminster and Victoria on
April 24, 1866. 1946 The Collins Overland Telegraph. 201
Governor Seymour seems to have been much interested in the
telegraph, and the first line actually placed in operation in
British Columbia extended from the city proper to Government
House, a distance of about a mile. This was completed, with
appropriate fanfare, on March 6. On the 17th the U.S.S.
Shubrick arrived, with Colonel Bulkley on board; but the
Engineer-in-Chief hurried on to Alaska after a stay of only one
day. However, the Shubrick brought the cable that was to be
laid across the Fraser River, and Conway had already arranged
to use Governor Seymour's steam yacht, the diminutive Leviathan, to place it in position.29 A first attempt failed, owing to
stormy weather, but on March 21, the laying was completed
successfully. The Governor himself acted as steersman, and in
recognition of the international character of the event, the star-
spangled banner floated proudly overhead. The first message
transmitted read as follows:—
Opposite New Westminster,
March 21st, 1865,11:45 a.m.
To the Editor British Columbian.
We have to announce that the Cable is laid and working.
It was laid in seven (7) minutes.
Another month passed before through communication was
finally established with the cities to the south. Colonel Bulkley,
who paid a second flying visit to New Westminster on April
11-12, missed the great event by only a few days. On April 18
the line to Seattle was at last in working order, but rejoicing
was cut short when over it came the shocking news of the
assassination of President Lincoln, which had occurred on the
It is interesting to note that Bulkley was not satisfied with
this southern connection. On April 22 he wrote to his old chief,
Colonel Anson Stager, General Superintendent of United States
Military Telegraphs:—
(29) The steamship Great Eastern was frequently referred to as the
Leviathan, and the editor of the British Columbian remarked in the issue
of March 25, 1865: " It is rather an interesting coincidence that while the
submarine cable will be laid across the Atlantic by the big Leviathan that
across the Fraser is about to be laid by the little Leviathan."
(30) British Columbian, March 23, 1865. 202 Corday Mackay. July
It will be useful should you find in the future that a line from Salt Lake
city down Lewis River is necessary to connect the Overland telegraph.   .   .   .
The California Line to New Westminster, our present connection, is
badly constructed and part of it through the gigantic forest growth of
Oregon and Washington; this part will ever be subject to frequent breaks.31
Conway was now free to push forward the Overland Telegraph proper. He had already spied out the land as far as Hope,
and now set off on another expedition that carried him as far as
Lytton. On May 25, Franklin L. Pope, Chief-of-Explorations in
British Columbia, arrived in New Westminster with a group of
assistants and workmen, and on the 31st he and his party left
for the Interior. On June 17 the schooner Milton Badger completed her long voyage from New York, and Conway at last had
the wire, insulators, and other materials essential for actual
Thereafter exploration, the location of routes, the clearing of
the right-of-way, the erection of poles, and the stringing of wires
all proceeded apace. From New Westminster the line was to
follow the south bank of the Fraser River as far as Hope, and
wire was being strung from pole to pole within 48 hours of the
arrival of the Milton Badger.32 On June 27 the river steamer
Lillooet laid the Overland Telegraph's own cable across the
Fraser,33 and thereafter at times it was possible to maintain
contact with some of the working parties. Building operations
were soon in full swing both above and below Yale. On the
upper reaches of the line Conway opened an office at " Cornwall's
ranch," a few miles from the Ashcroft of to-day, on August 2,
and another at Clinton two days later. Lower down, the line
was completed and commenced working to Hope on August 17.34
According to the British Columbian the first dispatch transmitted
read as follows:—
(31) From the copy of the letter in the McNicol Collection.
(32) This and many of the other dates and details cited are taken from
Captain Conway's manuscript Diaries, in the Provincial Archives.
(33) British Columbian, June 29, 1865. The report states that this
cable was a short distance below that laid by the California State Telegraph
Company.    The latter extended from Albert Crescent to Brownsville.
(34) Edmund Conway, Diaries. 1946 The Collins Overland Telegraph. 203
Hope, B.C., August 18,1865.
To Mr. Grelley, Colonial Hotel, New Westminster.
Send a bottle of champagne to the Telegraph Office to Mr.
Conway with the compliments of
Champagne was apparently abundant in those days, for on
August 26, when the line was completed to Yale, another request
came over the wire directing Mr. Grelley to deliver a bottle to
J. W. Pitfield, the Extension Company's New Westminster
More important than these local frivolities was the telegram
Conway received at Hope, on August 21, which informed him
that the latest attempt to lay an Atlantic cable had ended in
failure. Thus cheered on his way, Conway travelled on to Soda
Creek, Alexandria, and Quesnelmouth. Construction gangs
followed hard on his heels, and his diary records that the line
was completed to Quesnel at 3 p.m. on September 14, " Great
enthusiasm prevailing." The distance from New Westminster
was 435 miles, and Conway might well feel satisfied with his
brief season's work.
Far from being content to rest on his laurels, however,
he turned his attention immediately to the all-important
northern explorations. Here the plan of attack was threefold.
In Russian-America, Kennicott was to push into the interior
from St. Michael, with Fort Yukon as his first objective. That
point reached, his parties were to push southward as far as
possible. In British Columbia Pope was to start north from
Quesnel, with the ultimate object of reaching Fort Yukon, if
he did not first make contact with some of Kennicott's men.
Finally, Conway had been instructed to have some one explore
the Skeena, Nass, and Stikine rivers, both to gain some knowledge of the country through which they flowed, and with a view
to carrying in supplies for the various survey parties that would
be passing through the region.
This last assignment Conway gave to Captain Horace
(" Tom ") Coffin, of the small sternwheel steamer Union.   The
(35) British Columbian, August 19,1865.
(36) Ibid., August 29, 1865. 204 Corday Mackay. July
choice was a logical one, for the previous year Coffin had taken
the Union to the Northwest Coast on a trading cruise, and in
the course of his wanderings had pioneered steam navigation
on the Skeena.37 His activities in 1865 were summarized as
follows in Conway's report to Colonel Bulkley:—
In compliance with your instructions of July 22d 1865, to have the northern rivers explored and supplies taken to our interior line of explorations,
I beg leave to report, that I started the steamer Union, in command of Capt.
Horace Coffin to make the necessary explorations. Captain Coffin left New
Westminster on the 30th of August 1865, entered the mouth of Skeena river
on the 15th of September. The steamer ascended the river 90 miles, at this
point two canoes were loaded with supplies. They succeeded in getting
them up to Agglegate village on the 28th of September, distance from the
mouth of the river 216 miles.
I enclose a list of supplies, stored at this village, they will probably be
consumed by Major Pope's party, as the village is within four days travel of,
Connolly's, or Babine lake.
The steamer entered the mouth of Nasse river on the 9th of October and
ascended 43 miles. The party succeeded in ascending with canoes forty
miles above the steamer, total distance 83 miles.   .   .   .
Captain Coffin considered it too late in the season to explore the Sticken,
so he returned to New Westminster, arriving there on the 3d of November.
I sent a full load of supplies on the steamer, thinking they might succeed in
getting them to Stewarts lake. These supplies are stored at Fort Simpson,
where they will come handy next year. I enclose you a list, in case you
should need them.   .   .   .ss-
Major Pope started his explorations from Quesnel on July 4.
At first his party numbered twenty-five, but by the time he had
reached Fort St. James the difficulty of transporting supplies
had become apparent, and he reduced his force to fifteen. This
number included Dr. J. T. Rothrock, the botanist, and Pope
decided to send him on ahead to establish winter quarters for a
select party of eight or ten men, while he himself looked after
the supply problem. Rothrock left Fort St. James on August 7,
and after some searching chose a site at the northern end of
Takla Lake. There, with the expert help of George Blenkinsop,
an old Hudson's Bay man, he built Bulkley House. Heavy frosts
started by the end of the month, but the buildings were ready
(37) See Norman R. Hacking, " Steamboating on the Fraser in the
' Sixties,' " British Columbia Historical Quarterly, X. (1946), p. 27.
(38) Conway to Bulkley, December 30, 1865; in Charles S. Bulkley,
Papers, pp. 25-6. Conway itemized the cost of the expedition, which totalled
$2,860. 1946 The Collins Overland Telegraph. 205
before winter really commenced, and Pope succeeded in laying
in adequate supplies. In addition, he was able to examine the
whole of a proposed route for the telegraph from Quesnel to
Bulkley House, by way of Fort St. James and Stuart Lake, and
to submit a detailed report, complete with map, to Conway.89
Conway himself was ready to leave Quesnel on September 20,
and spent exactly two months on a trip that took him first to
Fort St. James and Bulkley House, and then on still farther
north to Fort Connelly. This done, he returned to his headquarters in New Westminster, where he spent the next few
months preparing for the resumption of construction-work in
the spring.
In San Francisco, Colonel Bulkley was similarly employed.
Amongst other things, a thorough overhauling of the Marine
Service was necessary, and Bulkley passed a busy winter. The
schooner Milton Badger was sold, as she had proven unsuitable
for the Company's work. The steamer George S. Wright, which
had shown herself to be a most useful little vessel, was reconditioned after a tempestuous ocean crossing from Kamchatka
in which she had nearly gone to the bottom, taking Bulkley with
her. The clipper ship Nightingale was purchased and made the
flagship of the reconstituted fleet.40 The barques H. L. Rutger
and Onward were also acquired, and the sternwheeler Mumford
was built specially to order on Puget Sound.
(39) See Pope to Conway, November 6, 1865; Bulkley Papers, pp. 27-32.
Additional details are given in Rothrock's long letter to E. 0. S. Scholefield,
dated January 11, 1913, in the Provincial Archives (see foot-note 23 supra).
The party that wintered at Bulkley House celebrated Christmas as elaborately as circumstances permitted. For an account of the festivities see
British Columbian, April 11, 1866; also Corday Mackay, " Christmas Day—
Cloudy and Cold at B.C.'s Bulkley House, 1865," in magazine section, Vancouver Daily Province, December 22, 1945, where much of the original
account is reprinted.   .
(40) The Nightingale had had a strange career. Built as a model clipper ship, intended to be placed on display at the time of the great London
exhibition of 1851, she was sold at auction before completion, and after
sailing as a merchantman for a time, was employed in the African slave
trade. Ultimately she was seized, condemned, and purchased by the United
States Navy Department, which used her as a guard and store ship during
the Civil War. See E. W. Wright (ed.), Lewis & Dryden's Marine History
of the Pacific Northwest, Portland, Ore., 1895, p. 149. 206 Corday Mackay. July
It was Bulkley's hope that these and the numerous smaller
craft at the disposal of the Company would prevent a repetition
of the delays that had made progress in 1865 less rapid than
he had expected. In Alaska results had been particularly
disappointing, for he had been unable to land Kennicott and his
party at St. Michael before September. As a result, they had
been able to do little more than establish winter quarters at
Nulato, and make plans for the future. In Siberia, however,
though months would pass before Bulkley was aware of the fact,
Major Abasa and his three assistants were making phenomenal
progress in their preliminary reconnaissance. George Kennan,
one of the four, has left a detailed account of his adventures in
the volume entitled Tent Life in Siberia, and for the present
purpose it is sufficient to note that, in the course of only seven
months, and in the dead of winter, the little party actually
covered the immense distance from the mouth of the Amur to
the mouth of the Anadyr. Moreover, as Abasa reported with
obvious and justifiable pride, " the route of the telegraph-line
[had been] located on the whole distance."41
So matters stood when the widely-scattered parties had
finished their first seasons in the field.
The events of 1866 can be chronicled more briefly. So far as
British Columbia is concerned, Captain Conway's summary
report to Colonel Bulkley reviews the season's activities in
adequate detail:—
San Francisco. Cal Febry 19th 1867
Col Charles Bulkley
W.U.T. Russian Extension
I beg leave to lay before you a brief report of the season's work for 1866.
In the fall of 1865 the only route known for operations, north of Fort
Fraser, being by Fort St. James and Lake Tatla, I had six men employed
at Quesnel during the winter, constructing large bateaux for the transportation of supplies and material from Quesnel. There were five strong,
clinker built boats constructed, each to carry four tons. Fearing, that I
would not be able to hire men for the boating parties at Quesnel, I determined to engage Stekine and other Indians from the coast, at New West-
(41) Abasa to Bulkley, April 10/March 29, 1866;   in Bulkley Papers,
p. 87. 1946 The Collins Overland Telegraph. 207
minster, and take them up the wagon road. This afterwards proved a very
fortunate move.
I arrived at Quesnel on the 1st of May, and succeeded, after great difficulty, in getting together 25 white men, with whom, and sixty animals, I
commenced work on the 14th of May, eighteen miles north of Quesnel. Owing
to the excitement created about the Big Bend gold mines, I found it almost
impossible to hire men at Quesnel, which I did, by allowing them ten days
pay. On the 17th of May my force was increased by the arrival of 25
chinamen. By the 1st of June I had 150 men; 86 in construction camp,
26 packers with 160 animals; 38 white men and Indians transporting supplies in bateaux between Quesnel and Fort Fraser. The Fraser river being
very high, and the current consequently very swift, the boats had great
difficulty in getting up to Fort Fraser and only succeeded in making two
trips, when I was compelled to have the rest of our supplies brought up by
the trail.
We constructed the Telegraph road, and line to latitude 55.42 N. and
longitude 128.15 W. The distance from Quesnel, by the road, is computed
at 440 miles, and by the wire 378 miles. There are fifteen stations built,
a log house, with chimney, door and windows, 25 miles apart. We built
bridges over all small streams, that were not fordable, corduroyed swamps.
All hillsides too steep for animals to travel over, were graded, from 3 to
five feet wide. The average width of clearing the wood for the wire, is, in
standing timber, 20 feet; and in fallen timber, 12 feet. All underbrush and
small timber is cleared to the ground, thus leaving the road fit for horses,
travelling at the rate of, from 30 to 50 miles per day. Double wires are
stretched across all large rivers. Number of poles put up 9246. Boats are
built for crossing the Bulkley and Westroad Rivers.
The Coast party, 23 men, under command of Jas. L. Butler, left Victoria
on Steamer Mumford on July 5th; they succeeded in landing at Fort Stager
(Skeena River) 150 miles of material and 12000 rations. They also transported to Shakesville on the Stekine river 4500 Rations, and left at the
mouth of the Stekine over 200 miles of material, and near 20,000 Rations.
Owing to the uncertainty of our route, and the fast approaching winter,
we were compelled to suspend work on the 2d of October. The party
returned to the Skena River, from the point they had reached beyond it,
and came down to Fort Simpson in five flat bottomed boats, constructed at
Fort Stager. On the 18th of October the party left Fort Simpson on
Steamers Otter and Mumford for New Westminster, where they were paid
off during the latter part of October. The accompanying journal gives the
amount of work done each day, and the force employed. I also forward
the map of our route, which will describe the country in detail much better
than I can possibly do in a report.4^
(42) Unfortunately the reports and maps to which reference is made in
this and other letters are not included in the Papers of Colonel Bulkley at
present available. 208 Corday Mackay. July
In concluding this brief report, I can assure you, that we constructed
in every respect, a first class line, omitting nothing, that would help in
making it a good working, and durable line. It runs through an extremely
favourable country, and is constructed in such a manner, that it can be kept
in repair with but little difficulty, and at not a very great expense.
I cannot speak too highly of the Officers and men employed in the
American Division during the past season, they overcame all obstacles cheerfully and willingly. Mr. Butler, commanding the coast party, deserves
great credit for the energy displayed by him in transporting supplies up
the Skena and Stekeen Rivers. The Division Quarter Master Mr. Burrage,
gave great satisfaction, and kept the party well supplied with provisions
and material. The foremen, Messrs. Decker and Bradley displayed great
energy, and left behind them first class work.
I am very respectfully
Yours most obedt. servant
(Signed) E. Conway
Late Supt American Division^
In addition to being superintendent of construction, Conway
was also given direct charge of explorations in 1866. These were
devoted, first, to the task of finding the best route from Fort
Fraser to the Skeena River, and, secondly, to probing the
mysteries of the great area still farther to the north, lying
between the Skeena, Nass, and Stikine rivers.
Conway seems never to have been satisfied with the Fort
St. James-Bulkley House-Fort Connelly route that he and Pope
had examined in 1865: hence the explorations from Fort Fraser.
He thought first of carrying the line through the Babine country,
but inquiries led him to believe that it would be practicable to
build farther west, and carry it in an almost direct line from
Fort Fraser to Hagwilget, an Indian village on the Bulkley River
about 3 miles from its junction with the Skeena. In May and
June of 1866 two of his men went over this route carefully, and
found it satisfactory in every essential. Conway promptly
adopted it, and, as the report already quoted indicates, the line
was completed over the whole distance before the season ended.
Half a century later this portion of the Overland Telegraph was
paralleled very closely by what is now the Prince Rupert branch
of the Canadian National Railways. From Fort Fraser (to use
the place-names of to-day) railroad and telegraph alike followed
(43)  Conway to Bulkley, San Francisco, February 19, 1867;   Bulkley
Papers, pp. 159-60.    (Paragraphing revised; otherwise quoted verbatim.) 1946 The Collins Overland Telegraph. 209
the Endako River, skirted Burns Lake and Decker Lake, and
then followed the Bulkley to Hagwilget.44
From the latter point the telegraph crossed over to the
junction of the Skeena and Kispiox rivers; and near the present
village of Kispiox the Western Union Extension crew built one of
their stations, Fort Stager.46 This was as far as the line was
ever placed in operation. Construction was carried about 25
miles up the Kispiox River (which was known for a time as the
Collins River), but the wire simply ended in the wilderness.46
The northern explorations were commenced during the winter
of 1865-66 by Pope and Rothrock, who used their winter quarters
at Bulkley House as a sort of base camp. After two shorter trips,
undertaken to enable him to learn more about the technique of
winter travel, Rothrock and two companions set out in January,
1866, explored the country to the westward, reached the Skeena
River, and descended it as far as Kitsalas before turning
homeward. Late in February, Pope, accompanied by George
Blenkinsop and two Indians, left Bulkley House, determined to
reach and descend the Stikine River. This extraordinary trip
of some 500 miles they accomplished in 70 days, despite great
hardships and privations. In March, Rothrock set out once more
from Bulkley House, and made a prolonged journey northward.
His route is not known in any detail. " When I was there," he
himself has explained, " the country was unnamed—no one
knew, except by conjecture, where any of the small streams went,
further than that they went East or West. I had no means of
fixing my position astronomically, except approximately and
(44) By rail, the distance from Fort Fraser is 192 miles..
(45) Named after General Anson Stager, under whom Bulkley had
served in the United States Military Telegraphs.
(46) The route of the Overland Telegraph throughout its length is
shown clearly on the so-called " Trutch map," which was compiled in 1870,
but includes additions to January, 1871. The correct title is: Map of British
Columbia to the 56th Parallel, North Latitude. Compiled and drawn at the
Lands and Works Office, Victoria, B.C., under the direction of the Honble.
J. W. Trutch . . . Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works and Surveyor
General. 1871. London: Edward Stanford, 1871. On this map the telegraph-line is carried up the east bank of the Kispiox for 40 miles or more;
then it crosses the river, and ends in a valley a few miles to the west. 210 Corday Mackay. July
crudely by the altitude of the pole star." Thutade Lake and some
branch of the Finlay River were the only landmarks that could
be identified with any certainty. Rothrock's own opinion was
that he probably reached a point about 70 miles E.S.E. of Dease
Lake, which would bring him very near the upper reaches of the
Other expeditions were made from Shakesville, a vanished
village on the Stikine that seems to have been located a few miles
below the present Glenora. Scovell, one of Conway's men, after
being forced back in a first attempt, succeeded during the summer
in reaching Kuldo, on the upper Skeena. Byrnes, a member of
another party, who had explored the Fort Fraser-Hagwilget
route, and later struck out into the country north of the Skeena,
actually travelled 1,500 miles between April and October. " Too
much cannot be said in praise of these men," Conway wrote to
Colonel Bulkley, "the hardships which they had to encounter,
were fearful; being compelled to pack their blankets and
supplies on their backs, and this through a country covered with
underbrush, fallen timber, swollen rivers, and other numerous
It is remarkable to find that neither in Conway's reports, nor
in a lengthy communication addressed by Colonel Bulkley to the
Executive Committee of the Western Union Telegraph Company
as late as March 1, 1867, is any reference made to the successful
laying of the Atlantic cable. On July 27, 1866, the steamship
Great Eastern had nosed into Heart's Content Harbour, Newfoundland, and her crew had brought ashore the end of a cable
that stretched all the way to Ireland. There is an impression
abroad that this event led to the immediate abandonment of the
Overland Telegraph scheme; but this is not so. Work continued
in British Columbia until October, when it would normally have
ceased for the winter; and even then Conway sent Thomas
Elwyn to winter quarters at Shakesville, on the Stikine, with
instructions to " send out small parties towards the Skeena, Take
(47) Rothrock to Scholefield, January 11,1913.  MS., Provincial Archives.
(48) Conway to Bulkley, San Francisco, February 19, 1867;   Bulkley
Papers, p. 162.    This report on the explorations covers pp. 161-2. 1946 The Collins Overland Telegraph. 211
and Chilcat Rivers, and also towards Dease House and Yukon."49
There still remained the hope that the cable would fall silent, as
its predecessor had done in 1858, and until time returned a
verdict upon its reliability, the Overland project remained alive.
In British Columbia, it is true, it may be said to have continued to exist only in a state of suspended animation; but in
Alaska and Siberia, where news travelled slowly, a year passed
before the great enterprise was abandoned. The official decision
to stop work was taken by the Directors of the Western Union
Company in March, 1867, and on March 27 William Orton,
Vice-President of the Company, wrote to Secretary of State
All doubts concerning the capacity and efficiency of the ocean cables, are
now dispelled, and the work of construction on the Russian line, after an
expenditure of $3,000,000, has been discontinued.50
In his reply Seward recognized the facts of the case, and
I would not have the Atlantic cable become dumb again if thereby I could
immediately secure the success of the Inter-Continental Pacific Telegraph
enterprise which was committed to your hands. Nevertheless, I confess to
a profound disappointment in the suspension of the latter enterprise^
The purchase of Alaska was pending at this time, and no
doubt Seward was disappointed that the completed line had not
been carried that far. Progress in Russian-America had, on the
whole, been less rapid than elsewhere. This was partly due to
the death of Robert Kennicott, who collapsed suddenly at Nulato
in May, 1866. Colonel Bulkley appointed W. H. Dall as his
successor, but it was some time before word of Kennicott's death
reached the outside world, and Dall could arrive to take over.
After spending the winter at Nulato, Dall and his party started
up the Yukon River on May 26, 1867, still blissfully ignorant of
what had happened in the outside world.    On June 23 they
(49) Ibid., p. 162. It was in the course of the winter explorations in
1866-67 that Telegraph Creek, on the Stikine River, was named. This has
led many to assume that the Overland Telegraph actually reached the
Stikine, but this is not so. Telegraph Creek was the spot at which it was
intended that the line should cross. It happens to be the spot at which the
Dominion Government Telegraph Line to the Yukon actually does cross the
river to-day.
(50) Reid, The Telegraph in America, p. 516.
(51) Ibid. 212 Corday Mackay. July
reached Fort Yukon, and there saw copies of the Nor' Wester,
a journal published in the Red River Settlement, that announced
the successful laying of the Atlantic cable. Six days later an
advance party returned from a winter trip to Fort Selkirk, and
on July 8 the whole expedition left for St. Michael, where they
arrived on the 25th. There they were met with the news that
the Collins enterprise had been abandoned; and Frederick
Whymper recalls that the men's feelings caused them " to hang
black cloth on the telegraph-poles, and put them into mourning."62
In Siberia, actual construction of the telegraph-line was well
started, but the work had been much delayed by the late arrival
of the supply-ships. Major Abasa and his men waited weary
months before the Clara Bell arrived from San Francisco in
mid-August of 1866 with 50,000 insulators and brackets, and
for other essential equipment they had to await the coming of the
Palmetto, on September 19. A third vessel, the Onward, got
only as far as Petropavlovsk, which meant that for immediate
purposes she did not arrive at all.63
News of the success of the Atlantic cable arrived on June 1,
1867, when the New Bedford whaler Sea Breeze entered the
harbour of Gizhiga, the port at which most of the supplies for
the Siberian parties were to be delivered. Six weeks later, on
July 15, the slow-moving Onward arrived with orders to cease
work. The summer was spent in gathering up the widely-
scattered construction parties, and early in October the barque
set sail for San Francisco. The last of the Overland Telegraph
officials to leave Siberia included two of the first to arrive—
James Mahood and George Kennan. They, and two companions,
decided to return home by way of European Russia, and they
set out on their great overland trek soon after the Onward
disappeared over the horizon.64
The collapse of the Overland Telegraph was a severe blow
to the Western Union Company, but it made no attempt to shirk
the unpleasant financial consequences.    The Company issued
(52) Wymper, Travel and Adventure in Alaska, p. 241.
(53) .See Kennan, Tent Life in Siberia, pp. 369 et seq. A great store of
information about the Siberian division of the Collins venture is to be found
in the many letters from Major Abasa included in the Bulkley Papers.
(54) Kennan, Tent Life in Siberia, p. 421 et seq. 1946 The Collins Overland Telegraph. 213
$3,170,292 in bonds to redeem the Extension stock, and although
this meant that it was footing the bill, the market value of
Western Union stock did not fall. " Some denounced this
proceeding," one authority notes, " but as the stockholders [of
the Extension Company] were almost wholly also holders of the
Western Union Company stock, it was generally acquiesced in."56
Collins himself seems to have fared reasonably well financially, and to have emerged from the enterprise with a modest
competence. In 1876, at the age of 63, he moved to New York,
and took up residence in the St. Denis Hotel, in lower Manhattan.
There he lived for no less than twenty-five years, and during
that time he handled his investments so well that when he died
on January 18, 1900, at the ripe old age of 88, he left a considerable fortune. Seventeen years later his niece and heir, Kate
Collins Brown, bequeathed the sum of $550,000 to New York
University, the income from which was to be used for scholarships in the University's College of Arts and Pure Science, and
in the College of Engineering. In the interval Collins himself
had been so completely forgotten that these scholarships had
been awarded annually for a decade or more before anyone
thought of drawing attention to the ultimate source from which
the money came.66 To-day he still remains a forgotten man,
although his world-girdling scheme is recalled now and then by
a journalist in search of a good story that has both a modern
touch and a romantic flavour.67
The fate of the hundreds of miles of telegraph line that the
Extension Company actually constructed in British Columbia
is not without interest. When the " cease work " signal was
received, a blockhouse was built at the end of the line and filled
with equipment " as a silent hope that the Atlantic venture might
(55) Reid, The Telegraph in America, p. 517.
(56) Mr. Donald McNicol seems to have been primarily responsible for
the effort that was made to find out something about Collins personally, and
bring it to the attention of the University and the students receiving the
awards. Most of the details given are taken from the sketch of Collins's
career prepared by Professor Philip B. McDonald, of New York University,
to which reference has already been made.
(57) For a recent example see W. H. Deppermann, " Two Cents an
Acre," in North American Review, 245 (1938), pp. 126-33. This article
was abridged and reprinted by the Reader's Digest. 214 Corday Mackay. July
again result in disaster."58 Fort Stager was kept manned until
1869, when John McCutcheon, the last operator there, abandoned
the station and left " with thirteen large canoes loaded with
provisions and clothing."69 In the meantime the line had
remained in active commercial operation as far as Quesnel, and
in 1868 it had been extended to Barkerville. However, the
Western Union Telegraph Company took little interest in it, and
in February, 1871, the Government of British Columbia secured
a perpetual lease of all the Company's lines that lay within the
Colony. In July of the same year British Columbia became a
Province of Canada, and the Dominion Government, in accordance with the terms of union, took over the lease. During the
next decade the line to the Cariboo was repaired and largely
rebuilt, and various new lines and cables were added to the
system, including an all-Canadian connection with Victoria.
Finally, in September, 1880, the Government purchased all the
Western Union Company's property and privileges. It secured
an extraordinary bargain, for the price paid was only $24,000,
and the deal ended subsidies and brought in revenues that
between them amounted to $25,000, even in the first years.
Between Quesnel and Fort Stager the line was left to go to
wrack and ruin. W. F. (later Sir William) Butler has described
how he chanced upon its remains in the course of the great
journey described in The Wild North Land:—
Crossing the wide Nacharcole River, and continuing south for a few
miles, we reached a broadly cut trail which bore curious traces of past
civilization. Old telegraph poles stood at intervals along the forest-cleared
opening, and rusted wires60 hung in loose festoons down from their tops, or
(58) R. N. Young, " Collins Overland Telegraph," in Telegraph and
Telephone Age, July 1, 1922, p. 298.
(59) Ibid. John McCutcheon later settled in the Chilliwack district,
where he died relatively recently. Other long-lived survivors of the Overland Telegraph days included George Kennan, who died in 1924, and Leonard
Bright, who joined the Nightingale as a cabin boy in 1866. He was still
alive, aged 87, in 1934.
(60) The reference to rust recalls the fact that it is often assumed that
the wire used would be copper. Mr. Donald McNicol is of the opinion that
it was 8-gauge iron wire, and notes the fact that the Indians are said to
have used bits of it for nails, which would scarcely have been practicable if
the wire had been copper. To the best of his knowledge copper-covered iron
wire was first used in 1872, and single-strand copper wire did not come into 1946 The Collins Overland Telegraph. 215
lay tangled amid the growing brushwood of the cleared space.    A telegraph
in the wilderness!    What did it mean?
When civilization once grasps the wild, lone spaces of the earth it seldom
releases its hold; yet here civilization had once advanced her footsteps, and
apparently shrunk back again frightened at her boldness. It was even so;
this trail, with its ruined wire, told of the wreck of a great enterprise.61
This chance encounter occurred in May of 1873. Here and
there in the wilderness great piles of wire, insulators, and other
equipment survived, and may still survive. Occasionally the
Indians made use of these materials, as, for instance, in the
construction of the celebrated bridge at Hagwilget. But as
decade followed decade, two or three place-names, notably Telegraph Creek and the Bulkley River, became the most enduring
survival of the great enterprise. The telegraph-line itself, and
the memory of Perry McDonough Collins, whose imagination and
tireless effort had brought it into existence, virtually disappeared.
Corday Mackay.
Vancouver, B.C.
use until 1877.    See carbon copy of letter, McNicol to Professor D. W.
Hering, December 20, 1936, in McNicol Collection.
(61)  W. F. Butler, The Wild North Land, 4th edition, London, 1874, pp.
Fur-traders, explorers, missionaries, propagandists, pioneer
farmers, international diplomacy—all the influences that might
stimulate occupation and possession are to be found in the story
of Old Oregon. While settlement was being extended to the new
frontier of the Great Lakes area in Canada, and to the Mississippi River in the United States, the frontier itself, by jumping
the central plains, was receding to the Pacific Coast. The Oregon country and California became the new frontier in the 1840's.
For twenty-five years the joint occupation initiated by Great
Britain and the United States in 1818 had worked successfully in
Oregon. The arrangement was satisfactory so long as the actual
occupants of the area were neither numerous nor permanent, but
only transient fur-traders of either nationality. Almost the only
permanent residents were the officials of the Hudson's Bay Company, whose superintendent, Dr. John McLoughlin, had his headquarters at Fort Vancouver, on the Columbia River. From that
vantage point he dispensed high, low, and middle justice to
Indian and fur-trader alike from Alaska to California. His
easy-going existence had been interrupted in the mid-thirties by
the arrival from the Eastern United States of Catholic and
Protestant missionaries bent on converting the Indians. Their
spiritual message made scant impression on the unregenerate
natives, but their letters home describing the country stirred in
the restless citizenry of the Atlantic and trans-Appalachian
states a desire to enter in and to possess such a goodly land.
There were, it is true, millions of unsettled acres in the Louisiana
Purchase nearer home; but this the prospective settlers disdained as a desert country because of its treeless nature. There
was presented to the world then, in the early forties, the strange
spectacle of thousands of people travelling painfully 2,000 miles
* Prize essay in the contest sponsored by the British Columbia Historical
Association in commemoration of the centenary of the signing of the Oregon
Treaty, June 15, 1846.
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Vol. X., No. 3.
217 218 Robert E. Cail. July
across a fair and fertile plain to make their homes in the wilderness beyond.1
But the long road to Oregon was known many years before
the settlers began to march. The fur-traders had found it in the
early twenties, and had used it year after year in their journeys
to and fro between Oregon and St. Louis, their base of supply.
In 1842 the United States Government had sent out John C.
Fremont to survey and map the route. His map furnished the
migrating farmers with such guidance as they needed over the
well-known trail up the Platte River, through South Pass, and
down the Snake and Columbia rivers to the Promised Land
With the advent of settlers, and as the forest gave way to the
farm and the market town, boundary-lines became necessary.
Joint occupation became impracticable. When the rivalries of
trading companies pushing into the wilderness are followed by
settlement there ensues a life-and-death struggle between fur-
traders and settlers. Canadian and United States development
has been characterized by such struggles. The fur trade must
give way to law and order, and to a conventionalized society with
its rules and recognized magistrates; and with the emergence of
these, people begin to think in terms of government. Politics
enters upon the scene, bringing to the fore a new set of interests,
not least of which are sentiment, prestige, and nationalism. The
incoming American settlers in Oregon wanted the form of government to which they had been accustomed in the Eastern
United States. With characteristic frontier disdain of international agreements, they took possession of the Willamette
Valley, established a provisional government in 1843, and called
on their country for support. Such was the situation in Oregon
in 1846, the year destined to be so fateful in the history of the
Pacific Coast from Alaska to Mexico.
No other phase of the history of the Pacific Northwest has
been investigated more thoroughly by historians than the Oregon boundary dispute. Weighty tomes, scholarly articles, and
appealing stories in seemingly unlimited quantity, have been
written on the subject, some amusing and many authoritative,
(1)  E. O. S. Scholefield, British Columbia from the eafliest times to the
present, Vancouver, 1914,1., p. 446. 1946 The Oregon Treaty. 219
some pro-British and many pro-American. The claims of each
protagonist have been investigated and interpreted by sincere
and painstaking scholars who have presented their evidence as
impartially as is humanly possible. In particular, to Dr. Frederick Merk must go credit for much intensive research, which he
has presented in a series of admirable articles written over the
course of three decades. From the weight of evidence that has
been compiled, it would appear that a discussion of claims, with
intent to justify one or the other side, is not only difficult but
also useless. It would be an academic investigation, the conclusions of which could not but be influenced by personal opinion.
So numerous and conflicting were the claims, and so inextricably
bound were they to 19th century Imperialism and sectional politics, that all that may be attempted profitably by the student of
the problem is a presentation of claims to the disputed area in
the light of the Treaty concluding the controversy, and in relation to the effect upon subsequent history of the Pacific Northwest.. Whose claims were the more valid is a matter of small
moment now. Speculations as to the " if's " of history are entertaining and diverting but neither profitable nor constructive.
The paramount questions then, are rather why the decision
formulated in 1846 was favourable to one country and not to the
other, what cast the decision in that country's favour, and what
the effect has been upon the subsequent social, political, and
economic development of the area.
When the fate of Old Oregon became a matter of international
importance, involving the immediate prospect of war, the claims"
to the disputed territory were investigated in full both by Great
Britain and by the United States. Every shred of supporting
evidence was advanced by Lord Aberdeen, the British Foreign
Secretary, and by James Buchanan, the American Secretary of
State. These claims will be briefly summarized; briefly, because
they warrant no lengthy consideration. When the Treaty was
finally signed on June 15, 1846, its decision was not contingent
upon any superiority of claims. Although the Conventions of
1818 and 1826 had left the territory west of the Rocky Mountains open to both nations, the final settlement was not in the
least affected by them. Neither prior discovery, superior exploitation, nor more advanced settlement gave the area to the United 220 Robert E. Cail. July
States practically on her own terms. This was brought about by
a combination of national bluff in America and famine in Ireland.
By means of the successful campaign slogan of " 54° 40' or
fight," adopted by the belligerent President Polk, he was eminently successful in arousing to fever pitch public interest in the
" re-occupation of .Oregon." By so doing, he tipped the scales in
favour of conciliation in England. Polk's superior diplomacy,
or bluff, triumphed over Sir Robert Peel's party politics.
Throughout the 19th century, from the Treaty of Ghent in 1814,
through the " roaring forties " and the period of Manifest Destiny in the United States, and down to the Spanish-American
War that closed the century, Anglo-American relations, though
often dangerously strained, remained peaceful. It can scarcely
be disputed, however, that this was due more to a conscious
effort on the part of England to avoid war, than it was to the
desire of the United States to preserve peace. This year of 1846,
which Bernard De Voto has termed the Year of Decision,2 was
an obstacle in the path of United States nationalism, which had
taken to itself the sobriquet of Manifest Destiny, and which was
capitalized upon by the State Department in Washington, ever
on the alert to follow economic penetration by political dominion.
Such was the policy followed in Oregon.
In the apportionment of North America, the Pacific slope,
like the eastern portion of the continent, was a confusion of
overlapping claims based on desultory explorations and an indefinite and uncertain occupancy. There is agreement among historians now that the claims of both the United States and Great
Britain to all of the area under dispute—the land lying between
the Columbia River and the 54th parallel—were " extravagant
and unsound."3 " Neither nation," Dr. Keenleyside says, " had
a perfect, or even a strong, case."4 Behind the controversy lay
a tangle of claims based on the activities of both sides in exploration and occupation. The voyages of Cook and Vancouver, the
surveys of the Columbia River made by Captain Gray and Lieutenant Broughton, the expeditions of Mackenzie and Lewis and
(2) Bernard A. De Voto, Year of Decision, 1846, New York, 1943, passim.
(3) F. H.  Soward, " President Polk and the Canadian Frontier," in
Canadian Historical Association, Annual Report, 1930, p. 71.
(4) H. L. Keenleyside, Canada and the United States, New York, 1929,
p. 205. 1946 The Oregon Treaty. 221
Clark, the activities of the Pacific Fur and the North West companies, were all advanced as justifying title to the whole area.
The situation was further complicated by Russian and Spanish
claims. These were soon defined when the treaty of 1819
between Spain and the United States placed the northern limit
of Spanish claims at the 42nd parallel, and when Russia, by
treaties with the United States in 1824 and with Great Britain
the following year, agreed to stay north of 54° 40'. But even
these agreements, which reduced the number of potential rivals,
added new complexities to the claims of the two who remained.
A further complication was created by the question of
Astoria. This post, which Astor had established at the mouth of
the Columbia River in 1811, had fallen victim to the vicissitudes
of the War of 1812. Rather than see it captured without recompense, Astor's local representative had prudently sold out to the
North West Company. Nonetheless, a British naval commander
had taken formal occupation after the post had changed hands,
and this action, according to the American view, brought it
within scope of the clause of the Treaty of Ghent which provided
for a mutual return of conquests. An expedition was sent to
effect a symbolic reoccupation in 1817, and Castlereagh, the
British Foreign Secretary, while protesting against the mode of
procedure, acknowledged the validity of the American contention. In 1826 Canning was to regret the action of his predecessor6 because the event added strength to American claims in
the Oregon region.
So the stage was set for one of the greatest dramas in the
history of America, a determined contest between Great Britain,
which agreed with Sir Alexander Mackenzie, who in 1801 was
moved to declare that wherever the northwestern boundary-line
should strike the Mississippi, " it . . . must be continued
West, till it terminates in the Pacific Ocean, to the South of the
Columbia; "6 and the United States, whose most fiery citizens
(5) A. S. Morton, A History of the Canadian West to 1871, London,
1939, p. 734. A confidential memorandum prepared by H. U. Addington
for Canning said May 2, 1846: " That retrocession was in fact merely a
matter of form: the fort was delivered up on paper, but retained possession
of by the British, in whose hands it has remained ever since."
(6) Alexander Mackenzie, Voyages . . . to the Frozen and Pacific
Oceans, London, 1801, p. 399. 222 Robert E. Cail. July
shouted " 54° 40' or fight," while others declared that the line of
49° would be a satisfactory boundary. At a number of times
during the long-drawn-out controversy Great Britain might have
had all the territory above 49°, but her statesmen were unwilling
to yield what they thought was the better part of the territory, a
part which they claimed tenaciously.
A proper analysis of the subject necessitates a survey of the
area at stake. It was not such an extensive territory as at first
sight it would seem. It appeared as though the whole of the
Oregon country was at issue, the vast domain extending from
the Rocky Mountains to the sea and from California to Alaska.
But the area about which the dispute really centred was the comparatively limited area lying between the Columbia River and
the 49th parallel, the area now constituting the central and
western thirds of the State of Washington.
The British looked upon the Columbia River as an essential
artery of the fur trade and a vital outlet for the whole trans-
montane region. The Americans were determined to secure possession of the Straits of Juan de Fuca, not so much because of
the value of the intervening territory as because the area of
Puget Sound offered the only good harbours north of San Francisco. In fact, had San Francisco been in American possession
at the time, it is possible that the furore over Oregon might not
have been so great. Britain rejected the suggestion that the
49th parallel be extended to the Pacific, and the United States
refused to concede the Columbia River as the boundary. As a
result the final settlement was left in abeyance, and the Convention of 1818 provided for joint occupation for a period of ten
years.7   Negotiations were renewed in 1826, following the elim-
(7) Canada, Department of External Affairs, Treaties and Agreements
affecting Canada in force between His Majesty and the United States of
America, 1814-1925, Ottawa, 1927, p. 16.    Article III. reads:—
" It is agreed that any country that may be claimed by either party on
the Northwest coast of America, westward of the Stoney Mountains, shall,
together with its Harbours, Bays and Creeks, and the navigation of all
rivers within the same, be free and open for the term of ten years from the
date of the signature of the Present Convention, to the Vessels, Citizens
and Subjects of the two powers: it being well understood, that this agreement is not to be construed to the prejudice of any claim which either of
the two High Contracting Powers may have to any part of the said Country,
nor shall it be taken to affect the claims of any other Power or State to any 1946 The Oregon Treaty. 223
ination of Russia and Spain. But neither side would recede
from its territorial claims, and the offer of the United States to
concede free navigation of the Columbia was no more acceptable
than the offer by Great Britain of a harbour on the Straits. In
1827 the arrangements for joint occupation were in consequence
extended, this time without limit, but with the provision that
they could be abrogated by either side on twelve months' notice.
This may have been, a play for time on the part of the American
Government in order to populate the country.
The provisional arrangements did in the end work to the
advantage of the United States, as they had hoped. Although at
this period it was the British alone who were in effective occupation of the disputed area, that occupation was represented only
by the Hudson's Bay Company. There was little immediate
prospect of a more substantial settlement from British territory
farther east. The Hudson's Bay Company favoured agricultural
establishments near the posts for the sake of supplies, and when
the problem of more extensive occupation became pressing some
efforts were made to promote a pioneer movement from the Red
River settlement. But there was no such population surplus
available as that which was pushing the American frontier of
settlement steadily westward, and which was by that time flowing
over the Rockies to claim the Pacific Coast.
This advance was powerfully assisted by the attitude of the
Chief Factor of the Hudson's Bay Company in the Columbia
District. Of all the Scotsmen who lifted the fur trade to its
days of greatness none was more remarkable that Dr. John
McLoughlin, the " White Eagle " to the Indian and the " King of
Old Oregon " to the settler. For twenty years he ruled his vast
domain, managing the widespread activities of the fur trade,
which included raising stock and growing grain as well as
trapping. His remarkable personality made him the unquestioned authority around which life in Old Oregon revolved.
But his virtual sovereignty, accepted by the community over
which he had charge, could not long survive an influx of settler
ment. He himself recognized the fertility of Oregon and the
inevitability of eventual occupation of the land.    Before long his
part of the said Country, the only object of the High Contracting Parties, in
that respect, being to prevent disputes and differences amongst themselves." 224 Robert E. Cail. July
fears were confirmed. The American settler with his plough
was following the footsteps of the profit-seeking trader who had
first exploited the wilderness. In this phase the missionaries
played the leading role as pioneers.
The first arrivals were the Methodists in 1834, intent on
bringing spiritual enlightenment to the Indians. They were
followed within a year by the Presbyterians. Their religious
activities were not spectacular; their plaints were those of all
missionaries. Braves who were converted during the tedious
winter tended to backslide when spring came. Indian children
adopted by the missionaries tended to die, with Christian resignation, no doubt, but with unhappy frequency. But in more
mundane activities the talents of the newcomers found more
successful employment. The Methodists were soon impressed
with the prospects of the Willamette Valley, directed there on
the excellent advice of Dr. McLoughlin. They abandoned active
preaching and devoted themselves to land promotion. Their
glowing descriptions found an audience when the depression of
1837 moved some of the restless and discontented on the old
frontier to try their fortunes farther west. In 1839 a shipload
of settlers came out by way of Cape Horn. An overland party
in 1840 heralded the beginning of a new migration. Three years
later the first large company made the overland journey from
Missouri; a short while later other pilgrims combined a land and
sea trip through the Panama. " The Plains over, the Isthmus
across, or the Horn around ? " became the query asked of each
new arrival. By the end of 1843 some 400 settlers had established themselves, chiefly along the Willamette. In that year a
definite movement got under way which brought an increasing
flood of immigrants, whose total was over 10,000 by 1848.
No sooner had a compact settlement developed on the Willamette than the settlers began thinking in terms of self-government
and self-protection. As their dependence on the Hudson's Bay
Company decreased their aggressiveness grew. The result was
the provisional government, formed at Champoeg in 1843, by
which the Americans formed a compact for mutual protection
and to secure peace and prosperity among themselves. For the
sake of safety McLoughlin thought he must co-operate with that
body.    His action was interpreted in a false light by his Com- 1946 The Oregon Treaty. ' 225
pany, but he felt that to maintain peace and to secure order such
action was best until the two governments could settle the question of the boundary. He tried to avoid compromising British
claims to the Columbia River boundary by keeping the settlers
south of the river. Any settlement meant danger, and recognition of the provisional government seriously weakened the
British position. McLoughlin argued that any other course
would precipitate a storm to which the British must yield or be
prepared to resist by force. But the Hudson's Bay Company
was only too well aware that the territory in any case was about
to slip from its grasp. The American settlers were now making
vigorous representations to Washington, and sentiment throughout the country had been aroused to the point where the possession of Oregon had become a national issue.
It was now clear that affairs in Oregon were approaching a
crisis. The British, seeing the trend toward agricultural economy, realized that the fur trade was doomed and that they could
only hold the Columbia Valley by following the American
example. Dr. McLoughlin, though he had been cordial in his
treatment of the American settlers, quickly grasped the inexorable, and urged upon the British Government the adoption of a
colonizing policy, but the aid he sought was refused. Owing
partly to this disappointment, partly to a division of his authority in the Columbia Department, and partly to personal animosity
to George Simpson, his superior in the Company, he resigned the
leadership he had so honourably held, letting the drift of Western
life pursue its own course.
Sensing battle in the air, both Americans and British opened
the fray with skirmishes. Since there was no established
authority to make land grants and to keep order, they engaged
in bitter contests over titles and breaches of the peace, each side
accusing the other of making fraudulent entries, of selling firearms and whisky to the Indians, and undercutting in the fur
market. Desirous of bringing the whole region under their
control, and chafing under the monopoly enjoyed by the Hudson's
Bay Company, Englishmen on the ground requested their home
government in London to unite the Oregon country with Canada.
With equal force the pioneer Americans in Oregon urged Wash- 226 Robert E. Cail. July
ington to settle the issue by giving them self-government and
assuring them of protection.
Up to this point the issue was of a purely local nature. The
settlers on the American side of the river and the Hudson's Bay
men on the northern shore bandied words and brandished clubs,
and each group examined its own claims, forwarding as many as
could be substantiated, and a few that could not, to their respective governments. But with the presidential election of 1844 the
controversy assumed international importance, involving threats
of war. The Democratic Party's platform, drawn up at the
party convention in Baltimore, and on which James K. Polk was
elected President, ended with this resolution:—
. . . That our title to the whole of the territory of Oregon is clear and
unquestionable; that no portion of the same ought to be surrendered to
England or any other power, and that the re-occupation of Oregon and the
re-annexation of Texas at the earliest practicable period are great American
measures which this convention recommends to the cordial support of the
Democracy of the Union.3
The Oregon debates in Congress, brief though they were,
were full of language uncomplimentary to the British, which
John Bull found wounding to his pride. In the person of the
Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, John Bull swelled with hardly
suppressed anger and professed to believe the situation serious.9
Clearly his government was faced by an American democracy
recently victorious at the polls, a democracy which was inaugurating its return to office with a vigorous twist of the British
lion's tail. Then came the new President's assertion, in his
inaugural address of March 4, 1845, that:—
Nor will it become in a less degree my duty to assert and maintain by all
constitutional means the right of the United States to that portion of our
territory which lies beyond the Rocky Mountains. Our title to the country
' of Oregon is " clear and unquestionable," and already are our people preparing to perfect that title by occupying it with their wives and children.
...   To us belongs the duty of protecting them.   .   .   .10
(8) Scholefield, British Columbia, I., p. 448.
(9) T. P. Martin, " Free Trade and the Oregon Question," in Facts and
Factors in Economic History, Cambridge, Mass., 1932, p. 483n. Sir Samuel
O'Malley proposed, on March 1, to take over a large body of Irish and hold
the Oregon country.
(10) James D. Richardson, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers
of the Presidents, 1789-1897, Washington, 1897, IV., p. 381. 1946 The Oregon Treaty. 227
From this point on the issue becomes clouded in a maze of
proposals and rejections, diplomatic messages, and vituperation.
Had Great Britain not had what her Government under Sir
Robert Peel considering more pressing problems to settle; had
the Government not had to rely upon Whig support; or had
there not been an advocate of conciliation, in the person of Lord
Aberdeen, in the Foreign Office, war would probably have been
the outcome.
The thread of British party politics, discernible in the fabric
of American history at many points, has woven discord more
frequently than harmony. Twice it has produced war. It came
near to doing so in the Oregon controversy. It was the dread of
party clamour that induced the British Government to postpone
a settlement until passions in the United States had been aroused
almost to the point of explosion. Because of a distorted Opposition charge of " capitulation," as applied to the Webster-
Ashburton award of 1842, the British Government was restrained from agreeing to a capitulation that was not only real
but also necessary in Oregon.
For more than twenty-five years, and through five negotiations, British Governments had resisted American pretensions to
the triangle on the ground of the superiority of the British title
to it. To descend from this height was not easy. Since the
earlier negotiations the triangle had been occupied by British
subjects in considerable numbers—servants of the Hudson's Bay
Company. Practically no Americans were settled there—none
so far as Lord Aberdeen knew. If, in diplomacy, possession was
nine points of the law, the triangle was already British. To give
it up, to retreat from the Columbia River boundary, was to abandon British vested interests and to expatriate British subjects.
It was to retreat from the boundary of British prestige.
Lord Aberdeen, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs in the Conservative Government of Peel, was eager for a pacific adjustment
of all outstanding differences with the United States. Conciliatory and peace-loving, he saw nothing within the triangle that
was worth the risk of war. Of the territory itself he had a low
opinion; he was well aware that the Columbia River could never
be an outlet for Western Canada to the sea, and he recognized
the essential reasonableness of the American demand for a share 228 Robert E. Cail. July
in the harbours about the 49th parallel. Personally, he was willing as early as March, 1844, to settle the dispute on the basis of
that parallel to the sea.
By December of 1845 it had been proven to the British Government that failure to compromise in external matters was
unprofitable, with the result that by spring party politics were
set aside pro tern in order that the dispute be settled. Polk, with
his campaign cry of " 54° 40' or fight," was not to be intimidated.
Not even the Southern senators, who had no interest in the
extension of free soil into Oregon, could have stopped Polk. The
situation in England was such that conciliation and concession
could not but triumph. In the autumn of 1845 three major
crises faced the British Government, the least of which was the
Oregon question. There was a harvest shortage of seemingly
famine proportions. There was a Corn Law conflict of revolutionary intensity. Some writers11 have seen in these domestic
problems the reason for Britain's conciliatory attitude, but Dr.
Merk has disproved adequately such a solution.12 Merk's concluding remark is: " The thesis of the beneficent intervention of
the bill [i.e., the Anti-Corn Law bill, which removed the tariff
restrictions on grain imported, designed to appease the Middle
Westerner on the Oregon question by opening British markets to
their wheat] in the American crisis ... is, in truth, the
serving up of contemporary propaganda as History."
The free-trade movement in England may not have influenced
directly the settlement of the problem in Oregon, but it did contribute its share. It did so by removing political obstacles to a
policy of concession. In earlier negotiations British Governments had rejected again and again the proposal made by the
American Government to divide Oregon by a line drawn along
the 49th parallel to the sea. Lord Aberdeen regarded this line
as a reasonable basis of partition. As early as March, 1844, he
had been willing to accept it, stopping it short only at the coast
.so as not to sever Vancouver Island. The cabinet, however, was
less pliant.    The territory between the 49th parallel and the
(11) See St. G. L. Sioussat, "James Buchanan," in S. F. Bemis (ed.),
The American Secretaries of State and their Diplomacy, New York, 1928,
V.;  and T. P. Martin, op. cit., pp. 470-492.
(12) F. Merk, "The British Corn Crisis and the Oregon Treaty," in
Agricultural History, VIII. (1934), pp. 95-123. 1946 The Oregon Treaty. 229
Columbia River, for which British Governments had held out,
had become steadily more British since the first negotiations, as
a result of the Hudson's Bay Company's occupation. A government surrendering it to the United States under such circumstances exposed itself to the Opposition charge of having abandoned British pride and honour. As Merk says, the chief
obstacle to an amicable adjustment of the Oregon controversy
during the critical years of 1845-46 was this political hazard.
The Anti-Corn Law crusade served to lessen this hazard. It
did so by releasing in England a spirit of international conciliation. The free-trade doctrine was a gospel of peace. Its postulates were international good-will and the dependence of nations
upon each other. The leaders of the Anti-Corn Law League,
powerful in England, were conspicuous internationalists,
friendly in particular toward the United States. Their contention was that the repeal of the Corn Laws would result in a
permanent bond of friendship between the United States and
England by means of trade. America would feed England, England would clothe America. In the Oregon crisis these leaders
turned the militant fervour of a triumphant crusade into channels of Anglo-American conciliation.
A more direct contribution of the Anti-Corn Law crusade to
the peaceful adjustment of the Oregon question was the realignment of British political parties it produced in the winter of
1845-46. The Conservatives, under Peel, managed to consolidate their ranks sufficiently to abolish the Corn Laws in face of
embittered opposition from the Conservative party. In the cabinet crisis the Whigs had been won over to a policy of conciliation
in Oregon. Free trade was the means by which belligerence
over the Oregon question was turned into a policy of concession.
President Polk suspected that England had little desire to
fight for Oregon; and, fortified by that conviction, he played his
cards skilfully and successfully. His Government renewed the
American offer of the 49th parallel as the boundary to the Pacific,
with the concession of a free port on the tip of Vancouver
Island. When this was rejected as " inconsistent with fairness
and equity and with the expectations of the British government "
the proposition was specifically withdrawn; notice was given of
the termination of the agreement on joint occupation; a British 230 Robert E. Cail. July
suggestion of mediation was refused, and the United States
embarked on preparations which seemed convincing proof of a
readiness for war.
Britain, too, was taking military measures, but purely for
purposes of defence. War with the United States would endanger not only Oregon, but also Canada, which would inevitably
become the main object of attack, and the stakes were not worth
such a major risk. The British Government decided on yet
another surrender, modified only by certain limited concessions
on the part of the United States. One was the acceptance of the
Straits of Juan de Fuca as the final stretch of the boundary, thus
leaving the whole of Vancouver Island to the British. Another
was the concession of the navigation of the Columbia to the
Hudson's Bay Company, together with a clause which preserved
the proprietary rights of the Company and of other British subjects south of the new boundary. Although the actual definition
of the channel through the Straits was to remain a matter of
dispute until 1872, the signing of the Treaty on June 15, 1846,
marked finis to joint occupation.13
The most amazing aspect of the entire settlement is that,
audacious as Polk's policies seemed, and fearful as the American
people were of the consequences, there was in reality so little that
stood in the way of the President's accomplishing his purpose.
The great fear of the Americans in Oregon, as well as the country
generally, was that England would not be willing to give up any
of the territory north of the Columbia River on which she had
insisted for three decades. Joseph Schafer says that it is certain
that Canning's attitude of 1824, which was the policy of the Government from that time on, " would infallibly have brought on a
(13) Although virtually completing the definition of the boundary between Canada and the United States, the Treaty unfortunately contained
the following ambiguity, largely due to the ignorance of the geography
involved on the part of the signatories. The Treaty said the boundary-line
was to pass down the channel of the Straits, from the parallel of 49° to the
south of Vancouver Island, and so to the open Pacific. The exact wording
of the agreement was: "... to the middle of the channel which separates
the continent from Vancouver's Island, and thence southerly to the middle
of the said channel, and of Fuca's Straits, to the Pacific Ocean." Here were
the seeds of future dissension, as there were two channels that would have
answered the letter of the agreement. 1946 The Oregon Treaty. 231
war with the United States had not such a calamity been averted
by the more temperate statesmanship of Sir Robert Peel and
Lord Aberdeen."14 Edward Everett, American Minister in London when Peel's administration began, and who remained there
until the summer of 1845, expressed in a series of dispatches
during that time his conviction that the British Government was
disposed to a friendly settlement of the Oregon question on reasonable terms. Everett's idea of what would be reasonable is
almost exactly expressed by the treaty as finally concluded. It is
now known that the British Government did send a secret military expedition to Oregon under Lieutenants Warre and
Vavasour, in 1845-46,
to examine and report on all existing British posts, to ascertain and report
if they be of a nature to resist any sudden attack, or whether they could be
made so in a short space of time.   .   .   .15
The reports of these men were such as to make the defence of
the country look exceedingly difficult. The interest of both
countries in their new policy of free trade, which, if persisted in,
would cement their destinies, stimulated the friendly feeling of
Aberdeen and Peel for the United States. It was further the
well-known attitude of England at this period to be averse to
colonial enterprise. It must also be remembered that between
1834 and 1846 Great Britain had trouble elsewhere, especially in
Canada, which during 1837-38 was in a state of open rebellion.
Doubtless this factor contributed no small share to Britain's
apathy regarding further acquisitions of territory in North
America. The fact that there were many more Americans in
the Oregon country south of the Columbia than there were
British, giving to the former a great advantage in the event of a
conflagration, doubtless hastened a settlement on the basis of
mutual concessions.
The Treaty is of more than passing interest. It marked
the finale of a struggle which had opened in colonial times; it
determined the fate of the Pacific Coast of North America; it
determined the nature of the future development in the disputed
(14) Joseph Schafer, " The British Attitude towards the Oregon Question, 1815-46," in American Historical Review, XVI. (1910-11), p. 278. •
(15) Joseph Schafer (ed.), "Documents relative to Warre and Vavasour's Military Reconnaissance in Oregon, 1845—46," in Oregon Historical
Quarterly, X. (1909), p. 23. 232 Robert E. Cail. July
region; and for Canada as a whole it had very important and
lasting consequences.
From the beginning of British interest in North America in
the 17th century, English merchants had relied upon the fur
trade as an unfailing source of profits, and in the protection of
that interest they had again and again brought pressure to bear
on the policy of their government. They it was who had been
instrumental in securing the momentous decree of 1763 which
shut the gates of the hinterland upon American squatters.
Defeated by the Revolution, they moved the seat of their Empire
westward, and in the War of 1812, made the fur trade once more
an issue. On one thing both the English and the Indians agreed
—the fur-bearing animals of the wilderness must be protected
from the soil-tilling pioneers of the United States. But they
were banded together in a fight against fate. Though the second
war for American independence culminated in a peace that promised a respite, it merely transferred to diplomacy the old battle
between.resolute farmers and the British fur-traders supported
by Indian allies, and as the American frontier advanced, exterminating the fur-bearing animals,, the clash of these contending
forces was pushed onwards until it reached the Pacific Northwest. There, at the water's edge, in the Valley of the Columbia
River where the British Hudson's Bay Company had its outpost,
the long struggle ended. T. C. Elliott summarizes the situation
when he says:—
Thus we find that it was the prime beaver skin of the Columbia river basin
in its abundance which attracted the attention of both England and America
to Oregon; the symbol of the pound sterling and American dollar preceded
both the flag and the cross in both discovery, and exploitation. And the
purely commercial interests involved also undoubtedly occasioned the delay
in the final determination of the dispute by means of the treaties of joint
Although in 1846 there were only eight Americans actually
residing in the disputed area, and no commercial activities, the
thousands of American settlers in the area immediately to the
south made a positive contribution to the boundary settlement.
Owing to their presence, George Simpson was led to order the
removal of the Hudson's Bay Company's main depot from Fort
(16)  T. C. Elliott, " The Northern Boundary of Oregon," Oregon Historical Quarterly, XX. (1919), p. 28. 1946 The Oregon Treaty. 233
Vancouver to Victoria in 1843. Simpson, who profoundly distrusted all American settlers, entertained fears for the safety of
the valuable stores concentrated at Fort Vancouver. Lord
Aberdeen recognized this decision as being a tacit admission of
defeat in Oregon. Such a surrender of the Columbia River was
the key to peaceful settlement, and Aberdeen translated the
retreat into a treaty of peace.
The Treaty which was of such importance to the Pacific
Northwest was accepted with equanimity by officials of the Hudson's Bay Company, but the cry of " 54° 40' or fight" had
aroused such a great surge of nationalism in the United States
that Polk was roundly berated for having accepted its terms.
Although he won a state thereby, his bluff had been called.
Senator Benton, referring to " 54° 40' or fight," said:—
And this is the end of the great Line! All gone—vanished—evaporated
into thin air—and the peace when it was not to be found. Oh mountain
that was delivered of a mouse, thy name henceforth shall be 54:40.17
The significance of the settlement as far as the United States
was concerned was that America had now acquired a domain
imperial in extent, which stretched from sea to sea. She had
secured a firm foothold on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Of
even greater importance was the fact that it ushered in an era
of Anglo-American peace, good-will, and free trade, which during the next fifteen years (with slight exception) operated
greatly to strengthen the North and the West in the United
States against the day of Southern secession and a war for the
division of the Union. A third result to America that was to be
of great importance in the future was Polk's restatement of the
Monroe doctrine of 1823, by which Polk warned all European
nations not to interfere with the coast, as well as any other part
of the American continent.
The results for Canada were no less important. The judgment of those in the area was that Britain had actually conceded
too much, but that the area in dispute was not worth a war.
The reaction of James Douglas was typical:—
The British government has surrendered more than strict justice required;
but John Bull is generous, and was bound to be something more than just to
(17) J. W. Foster, A Century of American Diplomacy, New York, 1902,
p. 313.
4 234 Robert E. Cail.
his promising son Jonathan, who will no doubt make a good use of the gift.
At all events, I am glad to see the vexing question settled so quietly. The
Hudson's Bay Company is fully protected in all its interests.18.
The significance of the Treaty to Canada was that British
sovereignty was definitely established over the western territory
which the Dominion was later to inherit. The Oregon crisis
provided an example and a warning. The dangers which might
arise from the infiltration of American settlement were clearly
evident, and the need for measures to prevent a similar outcome
in the adjoining area was henceforth constantly before the eyes
of the British and Canadian governments. The organization of
Vancouver Island as a Crown Colony in 1849; the subsequent
steps to extend effective authority over the mainland, the title to
which the British had secured by the Treaty; and the concern
over the possible fate of the Red River settlement, which played
its part in the movement for Confederation, could all be traced
directly to the lesson of Oregon. The loss of the disputed triangle between the Columbia River and the Straits was possibly
offset by the resulting vigilance which made certain the retention
of what now remained in British hands north of the 49th parallel.
Robert E. Cail.
Vernon, B.C.
(18) James Douglas to George Abernethy, November 3, 1846, quoted in
James Henry Brown, Political History of Oregon, Portland, 1892, p. 291. ESQUIMALT DOCKYARD'S FIRST
The three frame structures built during the Crimean War at
Duntze Head, on Esquimalt Harbour, by Governor Douglas in
answer to Admiral Bruce's request for temporary hospital accommodation for his squadron, have, for many years, been a source
of much interest to students and others. The following notes
and photographs have been gathered together recently, and are
now presented in completion of the story of the " Crimean huts,"
as they have been popularly designated.
From time to time in the pages of this Quarterly, and elsewhere, reference has been made to their raison d'etre, their
structure, their uses, and their final disposal,1 but, for the sake
of clarity, it has been thought helpful to reiterate briefly the
story of their building and the changes through which they
Upon receiving Admiral Bruce's instructions on May 7, 1855,
Douglas lost no time in causing the hospital buildings to be commenced, thereby taking the first step towards the establishment
of a naval base, which he had been advocating for the previous
two years. By June 13 he was able to report to the Home
" . . . I was induced ... to commence the erection of airy and roomy
buildings in a healthy and convenient locality . . . the buildings will be
habitable by the end of this month.   .   .   . "2
Four months later, by which time they had been completed,
he described them as follows:—
(1) J. F. Parry, Sketch of the History of the Naval Establishment at
Esquimalt, reprinted in Victoria Times, February 19, 1906. F. V. Long-
staff, Esquimalt Naval Base, Victoria, 1941, p. 20. W. K. Lamb, " Correspondence Relating to the Establishment of a Naval Base at Esquimalt,
1851-57," in British Columbia Historical Quarterly, VI. (1942), p. 278.
Donald C. Davidson, " The War Scare of 1854," in British Columbia Historical Quarterly, V. (1941), pp. 249-251.
(2) Douglas to Grey, June 13,1855.
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Vol. X.. No. 3.
235 236 Madge Wolfenden. July
The hospital consists of three buildings, a centre and two wings, each
50 feet long by 30 feet wide, and 12 feet from floor to ceiling. The windows
are large and the ventilation perfect. The centre building contains a Kitchen,
operating room, dispensary, and Surgeon's apartments; the wings contain
the sick wards and will accommodate 100 patients.   .   .   .3
In the same communication Douglas mentions the fact that
the hospital was "well adapted for the purpose intended and
otherwise a valuable property which . . . may be sold, at any
time for the full sum it has cost."
Admiral Bruce, who had only a very temporary building or
rented premises in mind when he first wrote to Douglas, was
disturbed to find that the hospital had cost nearly £1,000, and
expressed the opinion that this was considerably more than the
British Government would be willing to pay. Douglas had foreseen that a dispute over costs would arise, and presented his
case with such logic and firmness that the Admiralty finally paid
up in 1857. The same year he handed the buildings over to
Captain Prevost, of H.M.S. Satellite, who took charge of them
in the Admiralty's name. But although they thus became possessed of buildings there, it was not until June 29, 1865, that the
Shore Establishment of Esquimalt was formally authorized by
the Admiralty.
In the meantime the buildings had been put to good use, one
becoming a storeroom, whilst the second remained a hospital.
Towards the end of 1858 part of the third building was adapted
as a draughting-room for the use of the officers of H.M. surveying ship Plumper, and in 1859 Assistant-Surgeon Samuel Campbell, who was in charge of the hospital, made his residence there.
In order to avoid repetition, and with the object of communicating all that is known about these historic buildings, the details
of their service have been listed in an appendix.
Two of them, as is well known, survived until 1936 and 1939
respectively. The fate of the third building after the group
ceased to be used as a hospital remained a mystery until recently,
when the following letter furnished the clue that enabled the
writer to solve the riddle.
(3) Douglas to Barclay, October 10,1855. 1946 Esquimalt Dockyard's First Buildings. 237
New W[estminste]r. 10 Novr. 1863*
I have the honor to forward herewith Plan & Elevation for converting
one of the vacant Log Buildings at the Old Hospital Point Esquimalt into
a moderate [modern?] residence for Admiral Commanding on this Station.
. You will observe it consists of removing a few partitions, altering
Windows & Doors, and adding a new portion at the end. It also provides
a Kitchen, Store room, &c. I have also thought it as well to design an
upper Storey for further extension of accommodation some future day.
Mr. Whites lately discharged from the R[oyal] E[ngineers] the very
intelligent N.C.O. who waited on you is now establishing himself as a
Builder & Architect. He designed these adaptations and would be a suitable
person to undertake the construction.
I have, &c,
sigd. R. C. Moody
Col. Comdg.
Rear Admiral
J Kingcome
Pacific Squadron
&c., &c., &c,
The next step in unravelling the history of building No. 3 was
to discover whether Colonel Moody's suggestion was ever carried
out, and, if possible, when the alterations were made.
In an album of photographs taken by Frederick Dally between
the years 1867 and 1870 is one showing these three buildings
side by side; the most southerly building of the three is in the
process of conversion to a dwelling-house with a second story.
Another photograph album, kept by Commander H. W. Mist
whilst in command of H.M.S. Sparrowhawk on the Esquimalt
Station from 1868 to 1872, shows the dwelling complete, with
dormer windows in the roof.
The evidence of these photographs, dated as they are with
fair precision, would seem to indicate that although Colonel
Moody's letter was written in the autumn of 1863, the alterations to the building were not effected until 1867 at the earliest.
His second suggestion, namely, that building No. 3 should become
a residence for the Admiral, was apparently never acted upon,
(4) Royal Engineers.   Correspondence Outward.   July-November, 1863.
(5) Corporal John C. White was the artist who painted the well-known
water-colour of New Westminster's 24th of May celebration in 1865, photographic copies of which have frequently been reproduced. 238 Madge Wolfenden. July
for we know that Admiral Hastings, who was in command of
the Esquimalt Station from 1867 until 1869, lived at " Maple-
bank," a house built on Hudson's Bay Company property near
the Indian Reserve on the opposite side of the harbour. It is
also fairly certain that Admiral Denman also lived at " Maple-
bank " even previous to that time, when it was known as " Dallas
The first naval storekeeper to be appointed to Esquimalt was
Paymaster Sidney John Spark, R.N., who took over his duties at
the Dockyard late in 1865. Research has not revealed whether
he used the residence in question, but it is surmised that during
the latter part of his appointment he did so.
Paymaster Spark was succeeded in 1873 by James Henry
Innes. Mr. Innes, who, with his wife and seven children
travelled from England to Victoria, found upon arrival that the
house in which he was expected to live was not sufficiently commodious for his numerous family.6
Mrs. W. E. Scott, of Ganges Harbour, Saltspring Island, who
is the only surviving member of the Innes family in British
Columbia, has been most helpful in identifying her father's house
and office in the photographs, and in relating interesting details
concerning her childhood days spent at Duntze Head. Mrs.
Scott relates that the family boarded with Mrs. H. B. Ella, on
Fort Street, while more and necessary alterations were made to
their house.
The Innes family lived in the converted " Crimean " building
until 1885, when plans for a bigger and more suitable house for
the Storekeeper were put into execution. These plans resulted
in the building of the brick house7 adjoining the site of the three
original huts, with its front door facing north instead of west.
To obtain the necessary space for the brick house it was
expedient to demolish the former dwelling-house, consequently
the Storekeeper and his family were obliged to find other quarters in the interval. They occupied the house lately vacated by
the Dockyard Engineer, the most northerly one of the group as
shown in the accompanying photographs, and designated building No. 1.
(6) Ella C. Scott to M. Wolfenden, February 5, 1946.
(7) This house since 1936 has been the residence of the Senior Naval
Officer, R.C.N., of Esquimalt station. 1946 Esquimalt Dockyard's First Buildings. 239
Owing to the fact that the correspondence between the naval
authorities at Esquimalt and the Home Government was removed
at the time of the withdrawal of the Imperial forces from this
coast, many interesting facts concerning the Dockyard and its
development by necessity remain obscure.
The photographs and the documents to which reference has
been made are all to be found in the Provincial Archives.
Madge Wolfenden.
Victoria, B.C. 240 Madge Wolfenden.
This building was first used as a store and provision room for the hospital from 1856 until 1859, when it became a hospital ward. From 1862, when
the hospital was transferred to Skinner Cove, it apparently was vacant.
Presumably from 1871 until 1879, when another residence was built, it was
used by the Chief Engineer of the Dockyard. After 1885 and until 1910 it
served as a double residence for the Chief Boatswain and Carpenter of the
dockyard; in 1891 it was added to. From 1910 and until 1914 the Chief
Clerk of the Naval Stores Officer lived in part of it, the other part remaining vacant. During World War I. the building became the office of H.M.C.S.
Shearwater Shore Establishment. The rear section, originally kitchens, was
condemned in 1917 and torn down. The main portion of the building stood
empty after the conclusion of hostilities and until 1936, when it was
From 1856 until 1862 this was the Naval Hospital proper. In 1865,
when Paymaster S. J. Spark was appointed Paymaster-in-Charge of Victualling Stores, it became his office and continued as the office of the Naval
Storekeeper until the withdrawal of the Imperial forces in 1905. Quarters
were also provided in it for the Commander-in-Chief Pacific Coast, when
ashore. Alterations were effected in 1901. From 1905 onwards it was the
office of the Naval Agent, and later of the Superintendent of the Dockyard.
In 1913 it was in use as the general office of the Dockyard Civilian staff,
and during World War I. it was enlarged to accommodate a larger staff.
Though condemned in 1936 because of the ravages of dry-rot, it was not
finally demolished until 1939.
This building seems to have remained unused until 1858, when it was
converted into a drawing office for the use of the officers of H.M.S. Plumper.
Upon Doctor Campbell's appointment to the hospital, half of it was used by
him as a residence. Between 1867 and 1870 it was converted into a two-
story dwelling-house for the Naval Storekeeper. Altered in 1873 to accommodate the large family of Mr. J. H. Innes, it was demolished in 1885, to
make room for the brick dwelling now designated " Dockyard House."
* Certain details not found in the above-mentioned general references
were obtained from a Report contained in Commodore C. Goodrich's letter to
the Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia, dated January 20, 1905 (British Columbia Executive Papers 1905/8). In this photograph all three " Crimean Huts " are to be seen.
Building: No. 1 on the left is the Dockyard Engineer's house. Building No. 2 in the centre is the office, while Building No. 3 on the
right has been altered for a Storekeeper's residence. Date approximately 1870.
;   4
HMK.i.ti.                      - ffjJx                     \
PM^# i,rw t%m loir
,§L-' '     {*        I .-^^.■ir-.
The earliest known view of the " Crimean Huts," showing
Building No. 2, the Hospital proper, on the left; and Building
No. 3, Doctor Campbell's residence, on the right. Building No. 1
is out of sight to the left of the picture. Date probably after 1862
when the hospital was removed to Skinner Cove.
In this photograph are to be seen, from left to right, Buildings
Nos. 1 and 2 which survived until 1936 and 1939 ; and on the extreme
right, the Storekeeper's brick house built in 1885. NOTES AND COMMENTS.
Victoria Section.
Foreshadowing the approaching centenary of the signing of the Oregon
Boundary Treaty on June 15, 1846, Mr. Willard E. Ireland, Provincial
Archivist, addressed a meeting of the section held on Tuesday, May 14, in
the Provincial Library. The address, Beyond Old Oregon: Larger Issues
in the Boundary Controversy, indicated that the issues which resulted in an
amicable adjustment lay for the most part beyond the confines of the wilderness partitioned to which neither country had, in reality, a clear and unquestioned title. Economic conditions in both Great Britain and the United
States pointed towards a compromise solution. While Great Britain had to
bear in mind the position of her other North American colonies in formulating a policy in Oregon, the United States, on the other hand, had to
consider the condition of her relations with Mexico.
Some fifty members of the section motored to Saanichton on Saturday,
May 18, to join with the Saanich Pioneer Society in unveiling plaques to the
memory of two great Saanich pioneers. As the late Simon Fraser Tolmie,
former Premier of British Columbia, had officiated when the first log of the
Pioneer Inn was placed in position it was only fitting that his long association with the Saanich district should be commemorated at that spot. On
behalf of the Vancouver Daily Province, Mr. B. A. McKelvie presented a fine
sketch in oils of the Hon. S. F. Tolmie, the work of George H. Southwell,
and took the occasion to speak of the former premier's contributions as a
private citizen and as a political leader. The second plaque honoured the
memory of Lawrence Christopher Hagan, pioneer and for many years
prominent councillor of the Municipality of Saanich. Both plaques were
presented by the British Columbia Government Travel Bureau.
Vancouver Section.
The May meeting of the section, held in the Grosvenor Hotel on Tuesday,
May 7, highlighted the forthcoming celebration at the Peace Arch, Blaine,
in commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of the signing of the
Oregon Boundary Treaty. Choosing as his topic Contemporary British
Opinion on the Oregon Crisis, 1848-46, the Provincial Archivist, Mr. Willard
E. Ireland, traced by frequent references to the editorials of the London
Times and other British journals the propaganda campaign launched in
Great Britain to pave the way for a compromise solution of the troublesome
boundary question. The marked contrast between public reaction to the
issues in Great Britain and the United States was noted: whereas there
was but one full-dress debate in the British Parliament, the American Congress frequently was used as a sounding-board for expansionist sentiment.
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Vol. X., No. 3.
241 242 Notes and Comments. July
TREATY, JUNE 15, 1846.
The British Columbia Historical Association as early as August, 1943,
entered into correspondence with the Oregon Historical Society and the
Washington State Historical Society for the suitable commemoration of the
centenary of the signing of the Oregon Boundary Treaty of June 15, 1846.
Early in 1946 a special committee was set up under the chairmanship of
Mr. Willard E. Ireland, comprising Miss Madge Wolfenden, Major H.
Cuthbert Holmes, Mr. B. A. McKelvie, and Mr. E. G. Rowebottom, to work
in conjunction with a committee of the Washington State Historical Society
on the project. From this there evolved the Oregon Boundary Centennial
Planning Committee, with Col. the Hon. W. C. Woodward, Lieutenant-
'Governor of British Columbia, and the Hon. Mon. C. Wallgren, Governor of
the State of Washington, acting as Honorary co-Chairmen, and Mr. Thomas
A. Swayze, Tacoma, Wash., and Mr. Willard E. Ireland, Victoria, B.C., as
co-Chairmen, and Chapin D. Foster, Tacoma, Wash., as Executive Secretary.
A strong general committee, composed of representatives of the cities and
municipalities adjacent to the boundary, was organized, and in addition the
whole-hearted co-operation of the Peace Arch Association was assured.
Two main projects were undertaken: the erection of a cairn and the
publication of a commemorative pamphlet. The latter was made financially
possible by the British Columbia Department of Trade and Industry and
the Washington Department of Conservation and Development. A 58-page
brochure containing an historical account of the event, beautifully illustrated, is about to be released. The text was written by Dr. Burt Brown
Barker, Portland, Ore., Professor Charles M. Gates, Seattle, Wash., and
Willard E. Ireland, Victoria, B.C. A smaller 16-page digest of this brochure was prepared for release at the time of the main celebration.
A special cairn committee, under the co-Chairmanship of Col. Howard A.
Hanson, Seattle, Wash., and Dr. W. N. Sage, Vancouver, B.C., recommended
the Peace Arch Park near Blaine, Wash., as a suitable site for the erection
of the cairn. Steps were taken to ensure that this marker would be officially
recognized by the International Boundary Commission and by the Historic
Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, which latter body generously agreed
to bear the Canadian share of the expenses involved. The cairn, 5 feet in
height, is a monolithic native granite block on a concrete base. It was
centred on the boundary-line approximately 100 yards east of the Peace
Arch. Cut into the face on one side is the word CANADA and on the other,
UNITED STATES; subsequently appropriate bronze plaques will be added.
Over 8,000 people- were in attendance at the official unveiling of this
cairn on Saturday, June 15. Preceding the ceremony 250 guests and dignitaries attended a luncheon tendered by the Blaine Chamber of Commerce, to
which the Provincial Council of the British Columbia Historical Association
and the Section Councils were invited. The band of the American Second
Division, Fort Lewis, Wash., and the Depot Band of Military District No. 11,
of Canada, were in attendance at the ceremony which commenced at 2 p.m.,
Mayor William Mott, of New Westminster, B.C., presiding.    Representative 1946 Notes and Comments. 243
Henry M. Jackson in his capacity as Chairman of the World Maritime
Labour Conference then in session in Seattle, Wash., was the first speaker
and emphasized the international significance of the event celebrated. The
•Hon. George M. Weir, Minister of Education, was the official spokesman for
the Province of British Columbia and was followed by Lieutenant-Governor
Victor A. Meyers for the State of Washington. The cairn was unveiled by
Dr. W. N. Sage, representing the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of
Canada, and Captain A. M. Sobieralski, Seattle, Wash., representing the
International Boundary Commission. This portion of the programme was
released over the national network of the C.B.C. and station KJR in Seattle,
Wash., with Mr. Bill Herbert of C.B.C. as commentator.
Following the unveiling .an impressive parade of the colours of military
and veteran organizations of both Canada and the United States passed
through the Peace Arch to mass for a final salute before the speakers' stand.
The ceremony was brought to a close with a pageant telling the story of the
Canadian and American flags.
On Tuesday evening, June 18, the Province of British Colunjbia entertained some ninety guests at a banquet in the Empress Hotel, Victoria, B.C.
Col. the Hon. W. C. Woodward and Mrs. Woodward were in attendance.
Members of the Provincial Cabinet were present. Greetings were brought
to the gathering by Miss Madge Wolfenden, President, British Columbia
Historical Association; Mr. Chapin D. Foster, Secretary-Director, Washington State Historical Society; Mr. Lancaster Pollard, Superintendent,
Oregon Historical Society; and Dr. W. N. Sage, Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. Guest speaker of the evening was Mr. B. A.
McKelvie, who with great care sketched the story of the Oregon Treaty,
paying particular attention to the influence of the much earlier Nootka
Sound Convention on the later negotiation. The Hon. George M. Weir
thanked the speakers for messages from historical associations and Mr.
McKelvie for his informative address.
This historic anniversary was also the occasion of fitting celebrations
elsewhere along the border. From all sections of the Okanagan valley
people assembled on Sunday, June 16, on the boundary between Osoyoos,
B.C., and Oroville, Wash. Decorated cars and floats, veteran organizations, school bands, and Indians in full regalia added to the colour of the
occasion, which marked the unveiling of a monument by Dr. R. R. Laird,
M.L.A. for Similkameen, and Mr. J. V. Rogers, Mayor of Wenatchee, Wash.
The international significance of the celebration was stressed in addresses
by Mrs. Zella McGregor, Penticton, B.C., Past President of the Federated
Women's Institutes of Canada, and Mrs. Frances Spanger, Cashmere, Wash.,
President of the American Legion Auxiliary. Captain H. A. Davis,
Okanogan, Wash., and Mrs. R. B. White, Penticton, B.C., dealt with the
historic backgrounds of the treaty and of the Okanagan valley in particular.
An impressive feature was the Indian ceremony contributed by members of
the Colville Agency in Washington and the Inkameep Reserve in British
Columbia. The proceedings were brought to a close by the exchange of
flags by the Canadian and American Legions. 244 Notes and Comments. July
Still farther eastward a ceremony was held at the international
boundary between Carson, B.C., and Danville, Wash., on Sunday, June 16.
Commemorative addresses were delivered by Mr. John T. Raftis, Colville,
Wash., and Mr. D. C. Manly, Mayor of Grand Forks, B.C. Flags were
exchanged by the respective branches of the Canadian and American
Legions and a unique feature concluding the ceremony was a pledge of
friendship made by the massed citizens of both countries, over 1,000 being
in attendance.
" One hundred years ago to-day there was signed in Washington, D.C,
a treaty between the Governments of Great Britain and the United States
of America. Popularly known as the ' Oregon Treaty,' it divided the Oregon
Territory, which, since 1818, had been open to joint occupation by both
countries, by laying down the forty-ninth parallel as the land boundary
between British and American possessions from the Rocky Mountains to
the Pacific Ocean.
" Oregon Territory was then largely a vast, uninhabited wilderness, valued
primarily as a fur preserve by the enterprising traders of both countries.
Thanks to the organizing genius of the Hudson's Bay Company, British
interests were for many years predominant. Time, however, was working
on the side of the United States. A tide of settlement was sweeping across
the great American plains which found no parallel in the adjacent British
territory. Eventually it reached the shores of the Pacific Ocean and
became a deciding factor in solving the question of disputed national
sovereignty. Nor must it be forgotten that for both Great Britain and the
United States there were larger national issues involved, more significant,
perhaps, than the mere possession of the thousands of square miles which
eventually comprised the States of Washington, Oregon, Montana, and
Idaho, and the Province of British Columbia.
" It is our privilege to-day to honour the memory of those pioneers who,
with enormous courage and fortitude, carved their homes from a wilderness. Cairns and arches are but tangible expressions of our gratitude.
The ultimate tribute must be our assurance that the edifice we erect shall
be worthy of the foundations they pioneered.
" There is, however, an even greater significance to the event we commemorate. It brought to a close a period of protracted negotiations that
from time to time promised to become fruitful of increasing controversy
and tension. The respective claims of Great Britain and the United States
to the territory were often ably, though vigorously, expounded. Despite
the fact that Oregon Territory was remote, that its great natural resources
were practically unknown and unexploited, for a time public sentiment
became so inflamed that recourse to war was frequently referred to as a
possible, if not probable, means of settling the dispute. Yet in the end an
amicable adjustment was reached. In both countries the real strength of
public opinion was arrayed against a belligerent policy.    This treaty was 1946 Notes and Comments. 245
founded on a basis of neighbourliness, and laid the foundation for future
Canadian-American relations in this westernmost part of the continent that
has been preserved from that day to this.
" For Canada this treaty has a particular significance. Its provisions
made geographically possible the eventual creation of a Dominion of Canada
stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It was basically an agreement
that provided that the peoples of both the United States and Canada should
share in the economic resources of the Pacific Northwest; that both should
have their ports, their railroads, their industry and their commerce; that
both should pursue their national destiny in a spirit of harmony and cooperation unimpeded by border hostilities.
" Admittedly the relations of Canada and the United States since that
day have many times been troubled, but they have never been strained
beyond the point of peaceful adjustment. Our joint problems have all been
faced and solved in the light of a realism that springs from the knowledge
that whilst we are two people, we are of one family.
" We are proud that for one hundred years ours has been an unviolated
frontier. But international good-will is not a will o' the wisp nor a whim
of fortune. It is a spirit in the mind of man, the possession of which
demands his noblest and most strenuous efforts. The unity of purpose
which has characterized the efforts of our two nations as allies in the common task of preserving liberty and freedom in the world must be perpetuated. It is not, therefore, in a spirit of idle boasting that we would
commemorate a century of peace. Rather it is our ardent hope that the
practicability of international good-will here demonstrated may flourish and
gain universal acceptance.
" The Province of British Columbia is happy to join with the adjacent
States of the American Union in commemorating this historic event. We
can only view with deep satisfaction this proof that understanding, goodwill, and peace between nations is not an idle dream. We may look forward
to the future with confidence if we sincerely and earnestly endeavour to
perpetuate the spirit which has characterized the past one hundred years.
Let us hope that this ceremony to-day will be a symbol of the new links of
friendship which Canada will forge with our Neighbour to the South."
As part of the Oregon Boundary Treaty Centenary programme the
British Columbia Historical Association sponsored an essay competition
open to the students of the University of British Columbia, Victoria College,
and the Canadian Naval College, Royal Roads. Three prizes of $25, $15,
and $10 respectively were offered. Each institution was asked to submit
the three most outstanding essays for final adjudication by a committee
composed of Miss Alma Russell, former Assistant Provincial Librarian and
Archivist; Mr. Harry D. Dee, of the staff of Victoria High School; and
Mr. Willard E. Ireland, Provincial Archivist. 246 Notes and Comments.
First prize was awarded to Mr. Robert E. Cail, Vernon, B.C., a student
at the University of British Columbia. His essay is published in this issue
of the Quarterly. Miss Marjorie Aldritt, Victoria, B.C., and Mr. David
Charters, Vancouver, B.C., were awarded the second and third prizes
respectively. The former is a student at Victoria College and the latter at
the University of British Columbia. Honourable mention was given Cadet
G. C. Hyatt, of the Canadian Naval College, Royal Roads, and Mr. David
I. W. Braide, of Victoria College.
It is interesting to note that in addition to this essay competition a
similar project was sponsored by the Delta Chapter, I.O.D.E., of Ladner,
B.C., in the Senior and Junior High Schools of that district, under the
direction of Miss Patricia Johnson. Evan Price "was awarded the prize for
the Senior High School division and Doris Hall for the Junior High School
division. An essay competition amongst the school children on both sides
of the boundary was also a feature of the celebration held in the Okanagan
An interesting event took place at Helmcken House Museum on July 5
when Mr. Willard E. Ireland, Provincial Archivist, presented a framed
picture of the historic old house to Mr. Victor A. Magnin, of Los Angeles,
Cal. The presentation marked the ten thousandth visitor to register since
the museum was officially opened to the public on August 26, 1941. The
resident curator, Mrs. H. Webster, reported that visitors from every province of Canada and every state of the American Union have been registered.
Corday Mackay, M.A., is librarian on the staff of the Lord Byng High
School, Vancouver, B.C., and has written many articles on the history of
the Hudson's Bay Company and British Columbia.
Robert E. Cail, of Vernon, B.C., is a veteran of three years' service with
the Royal Canadian Air Force, who has recently returned to the University
of British Columbia to complete his academic studies. His essay submitted
in the competition sponsored by the British Columbia Historical Association was awarded first prize.
Madge Wolfenden is Assistant Archivist in the Provincial Archives and
President of the British Columbia Historical Association.
Grace Lee Nute, Curator of Manuscripts of the Minnesota Historical
Society, is the author of several books dealing with the voyageurs and
explorers of the Middle West.
Rev. J. C. Goodfellow, a member of the Council of the British Columbia
Historical Association and a former President of the Association is also
editor of the Princeton Similkameen Star. THE NORTHWEST BOOKSHELF.
The Journal of John Work, January to October, 1835. With an introduction and notes by Henry Drummond Dee. [Archives of British Columbia, Memoir No. X.]    Pp. 98.   111.   $2.50.
Most of John Work's sixteen diaries have now been published. This is
the last one in the Provincial Archives of British Columbia and next to the
last one extant. The last one, May 13-26, 1851, is in the Howay Collection
in the Library of the University of British Columbia.
The series of fifteen in the Provincial Archives begins at York Factory
in July, 1823, and continues through Work's career as a fur-trader in the
Oregon country, at Fort George, Spokane House, Fort Colvile, Fort Vancouver, in the Snake River and Flathead country, and in California. All
of these are land diaries. The journal under review is primarily maritime
in character. It takes Work in the brig Lama from the mouth of the
Columbia River up along the Northwest Coast, with stops at Fort McLoughlin and Fort Simpson; and with side trips to Kaigani, Nass River, Vancouver Island, Queen Charlotte Islands, and a few other places. Finally,
in September and October there is a voyage to Fort Langley in the Lama
and thence by brig and canoe to Fort Nisqually and down the Columbia to
Fort Vancouver.
It is a typical trader's record, using terms and references that without
the editor's copious notes would be difficult to understand. Mainly its burden is a jeremiad against the Yankee traders on the Coast, who were able
to get most of the natives' furs because the Company men could neither
produce the articles wanted by the Indians nor pay such high prices as the
New Englanders. Quite a little is added to the fascinating story of the
" Bastonais " on the Coast by the constant references in this diary to the
vessels, the captains, and the trade methods that Work encountered on his
One is struck constantly by the hazardous life of both Boston and Bay
men on this coast. Every few entries one meets a reference to a murder
.of native or white man. In comparison, a trader's life in more eastern
sections of the continent, even among Sioux or Blackfoot Indians, was relatively tame. The Coast Indians must have been corrupted early by rival
traders, for by 1835 they appear completely perfidious. Work relates not
a little about their customs and manner of life.
Another fact is borne home to the reader of this diary by reiteration,
namely, the difficulty that was experienced on the Coast in clearing land for
a fort, building chimneys, and extracting a harvest from the heavy soil.
The new Fort Simpson was not yet completed and the diary reveals much
of its layout, architecture, and the materials used in constructing it.
The diary has been transcribed with great care—almost too meticulously
in spots.    I doubt the wisdom of such frequent use of [sic] for mere mis-
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Vol. X., No. 3.
247 248 The Northwest Bookshelf. July
spellings as is found in the book. There is a good deal of repetition in the
foot-notes, though perhaps not too much for the complete stranger to the
lush growth of obscure Indian tribes, unusual fishes, and odd names of all
kinds on the Northwest Coast.
The paper of the volume is beautiful, but the print is very unsatisfactory. Both text and foot-notes seem to be set in the same small type.
Probably war conditions in the printing business explains this unfortunate
choice.    There is no index.
Grace Lee Nute.
Minnesota Historical Society.
A History of Prince George. By Rev. F. E. Runnalls. With a Foreword
by Harry G. Perry. Vancouver: Wrigley Printing Company, 1946.
Pp. xiv., 197.    Maps and ill.    $2.
Rev. F. E. Runnalls, B.A., B.D., has been minister of the United Church
of Canada at Armstrong, B.C., since the beginning of July, 1946. Prior
to that he was minister of the United Church at Prince George for five
years. During that time he prepared an authentic and very readable
account of the community and district which he served. With a foreword
by Harry G. Perry, former Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, this has
now been issued in book form. The history is carefully docketed and indexed,
and is profusely illustrated. The frontispiece shows an air view of Prince
George, taken in 1929, and the story which follows takes a wide view of
the town and district from the earliest times to the present day. An appendix includes lists of mayors, aldermen, and other civic officials, together with
a bibliography. There seems to be only one printer's error, and one error
of fact, in the book's 200 pages: " January " is misspelled on page 171;
and, on page 179, under " 1926," the second alderman should be I. (Ivor) B.
Guest, instead of H. B. Guest.
In Sir Mortimer Durand's Life of the Right Hon. -Sir Alfred Comyn
Lyall, we read of the hero receiving " copies of his volume of ' Asiatic
Studies,' with a ' kindly but magisterial letter' from the editor of ' The
Edinburgh Review,' for omitting to acknowledge in his preface that one of
the chapters was taken from an ' Edinburgh' article. Lyall had asked
permission, but had forgotten to mention it, and he now apologized humbly,
' pleading youth and inexperience as an author.'" Mr. Runnalls was in
good company when he forgot to mention that part of his story had already
appeared in the British Columbia Historical Quarterly, and can plead the
same excuse as did Sir Alfred Comyn Lyall.
•The History of Prince George reveals the author as a careful, painstaking chronicler of local history, not lacking a sense of humour or the gift of
imagination.    The opening paragraph reveals the scope of his undertaking:—
Not far from the geographical centre of British Columbia there is a lovely
valley where the clear waters of the Nechako River join those of the muddy
Fraser. Here at the meeting of the waters is situated the young and enterprising city of Prince George. Its citizens believe that its greatness lies in
the future, but there is sufficient romance in the few years of its history, 1946 The Northwest Bookshelf. 249
and in the many years that preceded its birth, to be worth the' telling, and
it is the purpose of this work to relate some of that romance.
Then follows a story worth telling, well told.
Following a chapter on geology—" Before the Age of Man "—Mr. Runnalls tells of the native Indian peoples called the Denes; traces the story
of the great explorers, Mackenzie and Fraser, and the history of the fur
companies in the area. There is a chapter on " The Golden Cariboo," which
includes a record of the Overlanders of 1862. The story of the Telegraph
Trail, and the coming of the railways", is well told. Credit is given to the
early Roman Catholic missionaries for pioneer religious work, especially
amongst the Indians. The work of Protestant denominations is noted in
"The Story of a Wedding" (chapter XL), and elsewhere throughout the
The second half of the book is taken up with the story of Prince George
itself; of the early settlers, difficulties of transportation, the struggle
between rival communities, the romance of real estate, the growth of
industry, and community life.
The closing chapter—" Hope Springs Eternal"—links the long story
with the Second World War, and consequent developments in building and
transportation. The railway-line to Prince Rupert became the " Burma
Road " of Alaska, and the opening of the Alaska Highway in November,
1942, brought new visions to old settlers. " In view of these facts," concludes Mr. Runnalls, " and because Prince George is so strategically located
in the Central Interior of British Columbia, the rosy hopes for the future
which are entertained by its citizens are understandable."
Mr. Runnalls is to be commended for producing such a work, and it is
to be hoped that others will do for other communities what he has done so
well for Prince George.
John Goodfellow.
Princeton, B.C.
Fur and Gold in the Kootenays.    By Clara Graham.    Vancouver:  Wrigley
Printing Company, 1945.    Pp. xiii., 206.    Map and ill.    $3.
This interesting volume supplements in many respects the Tales of the
Kootenays, published by Fred J. Smyth in 1938 and issued in a second edition in 1942. Mr. Smyth devoted most of his attention to the later 80's
and 90's. Mrs. Graham, on the other hand, deals with earlier days, and
her narrative extends from primitive times to the middle 80's and the
founding of Nelson.
The book is divided into three parts. The first—" The Country and its
Primitive Peoples "—consists of only a few pages, but forms a useful and
informative outline, despite its brevity. Part II. is devoted to the explorers,
fur-traders, and missionaries who travelled through or settled in the Kootenays in the period 1807-58. David Thompson, Sir George Simpson, and
Father De Smet are the most celebrated figures dealt with, and they overshadow all others—even such notables as David Douglas and Paul Kane.
The journals of these and other travellers contain striking and often dra- 250 The Northwest Bookshelf. July
matic accounts of their journeys up and down the Columbia, and elsewhere
in the region, and Mrs. Graham has performed a most useful service in
bringing the substance of them together. Indeed, this part of the book
might well have been extended considerably, and readers would probably
have welcomed more direct quotations from the original sources.
Part III. is entitled " Early Gold Mining and Other Events, 1856-1888."
The topics treated include the Palliser expedition, the gold-rush to Wild
Horse Creek, the building of the Dewdney Trail, Baillie-Grohman's once
celebrated land reclamation scheme, and accounts of the Kootenay adventures of Moberly, Sproat, Dr. Dawson, and others. The variety of material
available is remarkable, and here again it is evident that a much larger
book could easily be written, even if use were made only of sources readily
to hand.
There are twenty-seven illustrations, and an outline map, that appears
as a frontispiece, has wisely been made simple and crystal clear. Both Mrs.
Graham and her printers are to be congratulated on the attractive type and
format. It may not be generally known that many books bearing the
imprint of Toronto publishers are now being printed in British Columbia.
In view of the quality of work done by local presses this is not surprising.
It seems ungracious to add an errata slip to a review, but a few errors
of fact can scarcely be left unnoticed. Cook was not the first white man
to see British Columbia, and Captain Vancouver arrived fourteen years,
not three years, after Cook's visit (p. 20); Bishop Demers did not publish
the first newspaper in British Columbia (p. 71); and Walter Moberly did
not belong to the Royal Engineers (p. 150). There are several slips and
omissions in the bibliography, notably in the authorship of The Honourable
Company, which is attributed to Douglas Reid instead of to Douglas Mackay
(p. 205). It will be noticed that none of these errors relates directly to
Mrs. Graham's special field of interest—the Kootenay; but they cannot help
but make an unfortunate impression on the historically well-informed reader.
W. Kaye Lamb.
Vancouver, B.C.
Maquinna the Magnificent. By B. A. McKelvie. The Vancouver Daily
Province, 1946.    Pp. ix., 65.    111.    [Printed for private distribution.]
In an 'endeavour to increase interest in the history of British Columbia
the Vancouver Daily Province commissioned Mr. B. A. McKelvie to write
this book. The object in view is to be commended and the publication is
a credit alike to the public spirit of the Southam Company and to its author.
Few people are more conversant with the historic lore of this Province than
is Mr. McKelvie.
The average visitor to the West Coast of Vancouver Island to-day finds
it difficult to realize that Nootka was once the thriving trade centre of the
Pacific Northwest; that there "incidents" occurred which brought mighty
European powers to the verge of war. Historical students are, perhaps,
much better informed for much has been written on the maritime fur trade
and the Nootka Affair.    It was not the author's purpose, however, to write 1946 The Northwest Bookshelf. 251.
another " dry and historical" account of events, but, rather, he has sought
to indicate " the romance and drama that swirled around the area."
Mr. McKelvie has sensed the epic quality of the life of Maquinna, the
chief of the Nootkans. Consequently his story unfolds not as a narrative of
the great visitors to Nootka—British, Spanish, or American—but as a chronicle of the native peoples. All the great explorers and traders—Cook,
Hanna, Strange, Meares, Haswell, Colnett, Martinez, Haro, Vancouver, and
Quadra, to mention but a few—appear upon the scene and their activities
are described with a fine sense of historical proportion. But, throughout,
it is the reaction of Maquinna, Callicum, his friend, or Comekela, " the
travelled one," to these intruders which is emphasized. Events and people
thus take on a new significance: Meares becomes responsible for returning
Comekela to his people rather than the builder of the North West America;
the burning of Yuquot seems more distressing than the " Spanish Insult to
the British Flag"; the murder of faithful Callicum raises more resentment against the conduct of Martinez than does his mistreatment of Colnett;
Alberni becomes more human in his role of peace-maker. The threads of
the career of Maquinna are skilfully woven into the fabric of a majestic
historic tapestry—a career which reaches its zenith in the brother-in-
friendship era of Quadra and Vancouver and descends into the tragic period
of decline culminating in the massacre on the Boston.
Three excellent illustrations especially prepared by the well-known
artist, George H. Southwell, greatly enhance what is altogether a remarkably well-executed publication. Some reference notes have been added and
there is a list of references which in its form hardly merits the title " Bibliography." The occasional typographical error detracts slightly from the
appearance of this book, but to this reviewer the most serious criticism
arises from the inclusion of the introductory chapter. A discussion of
anthropological questions such as the origin of the native tribes or the
existence of the Kingdom of Fusang, to say nothing of the mythical
" Sasquatch," seems an inappropriate introduction to the romantic story
of " Maquinna the Magnificent."
Willard E. Ireland.
Victoria, B.C.
Early Days among the Gulf Islands of British Columbia. By Margaret
(Shaw) Walter. [Victoria: Diggon-Hibben, Limited, 1946.] Pp. 67.
It is nearly seventy years since Mrs. Walter first saw the Gulf Islands,
for it was in 1877 that her father and mother brought their four small
children to British Columbia. In contrast with the glowing accounts of
the country that had reached them in Scotland, prospects seemed so grim
at first that the family almost started back for the Old Country; but they
decided to try their luck for a time, and it is clear that Mrs. Walter at least
has never regretted the decision.
Through the years her interest in the Gulf Islands and their history has
grown, and purely for her own satisfaction she clipped or jotted down facts
and stories that came her way.    " Now," she writes in the foreword to this 252 The Northwest Bookshelf.
pamphlet, " in reaching fully four score years, and finding as time went on
many items of local interest forgotten, and other events repeated until
many errors crept in, I have felt moved to write down some of these in
rambling sketches of small literary merit; but recording conditions and
incidents of an earlier time such as can never happen again."
To her the future historian of the Islands will be duly grateful, for
although her little book may be rambling, it contains a great deal of interest
and value. Much of the material relates to Galiano and Saltspring islands;
in date it ranges -from the first days of settlement to relatively recent times.
W. Kaye Lamb.
Vancouver, B.C.
Printed by Charles F. Banfield, Printer to tbe King's Most Excellent Majesty.
650-746-6981 We
Organized October 31st, 1922.
His Honour W. C. Woodward, Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia.
Hon. G. M. Weir   ----- Honorary President.
Madge Wolfenden    ...       - President.
Helen R. Boutilier      ...       - Past President.
E. G. Baynes     ----- 1st Vice-President.
Major H. C. Holmes     ...       - 2nd Vice-President.
Mrs. M. R. Cree ----- Honorary Treasurer.
W. E. Ireland       ----- Honorary Secretary.
A. G. Harvey. Miss A. M. Russell. W. N. Sage.
L. LeBourdais. B. A. McKelvie.    J. C. Goodfellow.
E. G. Rowebottom.
Willard E. Ireland W. Kaye Lamb
(Provincial Archivist). (Editor, Quarterly).
H. C. Holmes G. E. White
(Victoria Section). (Vancouver Section).
To encourage historical research and stimulate public interest in history;
to promote the preservation and marking of historic sites, buildings, relics,
natural features, and other objects and places of historical interest, and to
publish historical sketches, studies, and documents.
Ordinary members pay a fee of $2 annually in advance. The fiscal year
commences on the first day of January. All members in good standing
receive the British Columbia Historical Quarterly without further charge.
Correspondence and fees may be addressed to the Provincial Archives,
Parliament Buildings, Victoria, B.C.


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