British Columbia History

British Columbia Historical News 1998

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Volume 31, NO. 2
Spring 1998
ISSN 1195-8294
Journal of the B.C. Historical Federation
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Please send any change to both the Treasurer and the Editor at the addresses inside the back cover. The Annual Return
as at October 31 should include telephone numbers for contact.
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fistorical News
Journal of the B.C. Historical Federation
Volume 31, No. 2 Spring 1998
This issue leads into the Annual Conference
of the B.C. Historical Federation. All history
buffs are welcome to attend. Note that the
deadline for registering is April 10. (The deadline for registering for the Genealogy Workshop
is April 3, 1998. See page 5 for details.)
Surrey Historical Society offers entertainment
by Irish dancers, a ride on a Fraser River
paddlewheel steamer and/or a bus tour, plus
speakers on the history of the Fraser River
(Jacqueline Gresko), the Interurban (Victor
Sharman) and the Telegraph Trail (Jim
Foulkes), the Annual General Meeting and the
Awards Banquet. Please phone Wayne
Desrocher @ (604) 599-4206 or Kathleen
Moore @ (604) 538-6731 for registration details and forms. It sounds like an exciting conference!
Articles in this issue give us a volunteer's view
of behind the scenes in the Surrey Archives,
and later, a nineteen year old tells us how she
did research by dovetailing written and oral
information with statistics available on the
Internet. For those of us who are computer illiterate it sounds easier than reading microfilm in an archives ... but?
We have another contributor from outside
Canada. An American gently slaps our predecessors on the wrist for their negative responses to a group of immigrants who were
very valuable workers.
And, thanks to Pixie McGeachie there is a transcription of a letter from Victoria, VI written by
Robert Burnaby.
Naomi Miller
The lovely home shown on the front cover
stood in downtown Victoria where the Royal
B.C. Museum is now. It was the residence of
James Douglas and his family, built circa 1851,
when they were no longer obligated to live
within the stockade of Fort Victoria. Douglas
died here in 1877. The house was vacated and
the furnishings auctioned off in 1902. The
heirs found no buyers for the house so it was
demolished in 1906.
Photo - BC Archives #G-04924
Inset. The recently retired Governor, Sir James
Douglas. This portrait was taken shortly after
he was created Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in August 1863.
Photo - BC Archives #A-01229
The James Douglas We've Hardly Known    2
by Peggy Cartwright Walker
How Vancouver Island was Settled and Saved    3
by Peggy Cartwright Walker
The McLean Gang 6
by John Keranen
Discovering New Horizons On Old Landscapes    //
by Lome Martin Pearson
British Columbia's Error Regarding the Chinese Immigrant    14
by Craig D. Wilkey
Robert T. Lowery: Editor, Publisher & Printer    18
byBronsonA. Little
Bill Billeter: 1914 Sailor & Fisherman 24
by Dirk Septer
Researching the Lives of Pioneers on the Internet 27
by Jennifer Wasley
Robert Homfray CE. L.S 29
by H. Barry Cotton
Dear Harriet... From Robert    34
Letters transcribed by Meg Kennedy Shaw and Pixie McGeachie
NEWS and NOTES   36
Copying People     37
Review by Laurenda DanieUs
Vancouver Island Letters of Edmund Verney     37
Review by Phyllis Reeve
Wo Lee Stories     37
Review by Adam Waldie
Those Lake People: Stories of Chowichan Lake     38
Review by Richard Lane
Hubbard the Forgotten Boeing Aviator     38
Review by Richard Lane
Raincoast Chronicles 17      39
Review by Richard Lane
Vancouver at the Dawn     39
Review by Phyllis Reeve
Union Steamships Remembered     39
Review by James Delgado
Provincial and National Park Campgrounds in BC     39
Review by Sheryl Salloum
The Story of Butchart Gardens     40
The Vantreights: A Daffodil Dynasty
 Review by Morag Maclachlan	
Manuscripts and correspondence to the editor are to be sent to RO. Box 105, Wasa, B.C. VOB 2K0.
Correspondence regarding subscriptions is to be directed to the Subscription Secretary (see inside back cover).
Printed in Canada by Kootenay Kwik Print Ltd. The James Douglas We've Hardly Known
by Peggy Cartwright Walker
It is not my purpose, nor do I have
qualifications for writing a biography of
James Douglas. However, despite all that
has been written about "the father of
British Columbia" - books, unpublished
manuscripts, articles in journals and
newspapers — almost nothing in any of
these was said about his life prior to his
entering the service of the North West
Company three months before his sixteenth birthday, May, 1819.
Another blank in the written history
of British Columbia is the story of the
black settlers who came in 1858, not for
gold, but for land to farm, where they
could live without fear, raise families,
Amelia Lady Douglas, born January 1, 1812, died
January 9, 1890, daughter of WiUiam Connolly,
Chief Factor at Fort St. James
Photo courtesy of B.C. Archives #H-04909
build homes and churches along with
settlers of other races, and with equality
under the law. It was when I began doing research about the black settlers that
I first became aware of James Douglas as
a real person. Until then he was for me,
going to school in Vancouver, a being
called the father of British Columbia, and
Photo courtesy of B.C. Archives #A-01228
that was it. Of his background before he
acquired that label I was totally ignorant.
I've since discovered that my ignorance
was shared by almost all British
My research on the emigration of black
settlers to Vancouver's Island during the
Fraser Gold Rush in 1858, led me to the
realization that James Douglas was a coloured man. But historians writing about
him either follow the accepted version
that James Douglas was born in Lanarkshire, Scotland,1 that his mother was
probably a mulatto servant on his father's
plantation,2 or that the name and background of his mother remain hidden,
perhaps forever.3 Many writers speak of
the mystery surrounding his birth. Yet
in a Maclean's article titled "The Mulatto
King of B.C.", April 15, 1952, we read
that "Modern research indicates that he
was born in the West Indies in 1803, son
' of a Scottish father and a Jamaican
mother. His contemporaries took his
mixed blood for granted".4 Another his
torian states that Douglas was often referred to as mulatto because his mother
was mulatto or Creole.5 There was also
the highly respected minister who, presented with facts he found too difficult
to absorb, wrote of James Douglas's birth,
"his father, in humble circumstances,
emigrated to British Guiana from Scotland shortly before his son was born".
This may have been an effort to explain
how James Douglas came to be born in
British Guiana instead of Scotland. The
reverend gentleman supplied no further
It began to become clear to me that
the mystery surrounding the birth and
family background of James Douglas was
really how people could have failed to
know the basic facts. The Hudsons Bay
Company did, company records referring
to Douglas as a Scotch West Indian.6
David Cameron certainly knew, for he
had been managing the Douglas family's
plantations in Demerara, and was married to Douglas's sister, Cecilia. Surely
the Camerons had been in contact with
James Douglas during the years before
he was transferred to Fort Victoria, in
June 1849.7 The only reference to his
mother's death is in an old notebook, in
Douglas's handwriting, "1839. July. My
mother died."8
Further confirmation that the facts of
his parentage were well known and accepted are found in comments by contemporaries, e.g., a letter written by
someone familiar with personal details
about Hudson's Bay Company officials
which refers to him as a mulatto.9
Then we come to the exhaustive research done by Dr. Charlotte Girard during a year's sabbatical in Guiana, formerly
British Guiana, and published in B.C.
Studies, no. 44, Winter 1979-80." The
Royal Gazette of British Guiana," a
colony of close to 80,000 population,
included in the issue of July 13, 1839, a
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 list of deaths, presumably of persons of
some social standing, Miss Martha Ann
Telfer, noted with the date of death given
as July 11, in Cumingsburg, a district of
Georgetown.10 The will of Martha Ann
Telfer, filed July 16, 1839, directs that
after the payment of debts and bequests,
the residue of her estate, left from the
sale of household furnishings - advertised
in the Royal Gazette - be held in trust
for her granddaughter, Cecilia Cowan,
daughter of Mrs. David Cameron, born
Douglas.11 The will also reveals that
Martha Ann Telfer's maiden name had
been Richie.12 This confirms the statement made by Sir James' daughter, Agnes
(Mrs. Arthur Bushby) that her grandmother's maiden name was Richie.13
With names like Richie and Telfer on his
mother's side, one might be tempted to
assume that James Douglas had Scottish
forebears on both sides.
1.   Professor Walter Sage, Sir James Douglas. University
of Toronto Press, 1930.
Alison F. Gardner, James Douglas. Fitzhenry &
Whiteside, Ltd. Don Mills, Ont. 1976.
Derek Pethick, James Douglas: Servant of Two
Empires. Mitchell Press, Vancouver, 1969.
Mary E. Colman, "The Mulatto King of B.C."
MacLean's, April 15, 1952.
W. K. Lamb, "Some Notes on the Douglas Family"
British Columbia Historical Quarterly Vol. 17,
Pethick, James Douglas, Servant of Two Empires,
page 27.
Ibid, page 113.
Ibid, page 10.
Ibid, page 10.
Dr. Charlotte M. Girard, "James Douglas' Mother and
Grandmother" B.C. Studies no. 44, Winter 1979-80.
Ibid, page 27.
Ibid, page 27.
Ibid, page 25.
How Vancouver Island was
Settled and Saved
by Peggy Cartwright Walker
The Crown Colony of Vancouver Island was in danger, a fact which was apparent to James Douglas, Chief Factor
for the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort
Victoria, and also Governor of the
colony, under direction of the Colonial
Office in London.
At the Headquarters of the Hudson's
Bay Company in London also, there was
concern. American settlers had contributed greatly to the success ofthe United
States in the Oregon boundary dispute.
The new Colonial Secretary, Earl Grey,
was similarly worried by the prospects of
further American expansion, and declared: Looking at the encroaching spirit
ofthe U.S., I think it is of importance to
strengthen the British hold upon the territory now assigned to us by treaty, by encouraging the settlement on it of British
Archibald Barclay, secretary of the
HBC, did not agree with Earl Grey.
Writing privately to the governor ofthe
Company, Sir George Simpson, he
stated: / quite agree with you as to your
estimate of Vancouver Island.  It is in my
view worthless as seat for the colony?
In 1849 James Douglas, who had assumed that the Hudson's Bay Company
genuinely desired to promote immigration, recommended an initial shipment
of twenty families, totalling about 100
persons. Simpson, however, wrote: The
great danger to be apprehended in a too
rapid settlement ofthe island is that a year
of unfavourable crops might occasion scarcity & that would inevitably lead to the
immediate abandonment ofthe colony by
the settlers, who would seek more genial
climes in Oregon or California?
Then came the Fraser Gold Rush.
Bancroft states that "from 30,000 to
40,000 miners left the United States for
the goldfields ofthe Fraser and Thompson
rivers .
From the HBC Headquarters in London Sir George Simpson, disregarding
King Canute's salutory lesson with the
tide, immediately issued orders that only
British subjects would be allowed access
to the gold fields, and the Hudson's Bay
Company should keep out "strangers
from California and elsewhere." It is evi
dent that Sir George lacked experience
with gold rushes.
James Douglas, on the other hand,
knew what to expect. As merchants
swarmed into Victoria, eager to make
their fortunes supplying the miners with
goods on their way to the gold, and relieving the lucky ones of their assets when
they returned by selling them real estate
at ever-rising prices, he managed to keep
order, control the sale of liquor, and remain calm.
He also wrote letters, giving a concise
and comprehensive picture of the situa-
tion, to the Right Hon. Henry
Labouchere at the Colonial Office.5
His correspondence made its way, as
might be expected, to the office of the
Colonial Secretary, Sir Edward Bulwar-
Then on August 2, 1858 the British
government passed an act establishing
direct rule over the mainland, thereafter
to be known as British Columbia. James
Douglas resigned as chief factor and disposed of all his interests with the Hudson's Bay Company and the Puget Sound
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 Agricultural companies, to become governor of both the mainland colony and
Vancouver Island.
He would be responsible for the two
newly-created colonies, which until then
had been controlled and governed by the
Hudson's Bay Company, with scant attention being paid to colonization. Now,
with thousands of gold-seekers arriving
by shiploads every week, the need for
settlers was urgent. The miners who were
rushing to the gold fields had no intention of remaining to become British subjects, to provide the stability essential if
the sweep of "manifest destiny" from the
United States was to be halted. As early
as the summer of 1858, the Colonial
Secretary was making it clear to Douglas
that he was expected "by the growth of a
fixed population" to establish "Representative Institutions" in British Columbia. "It should be remembered," Lord
Lytton wrote, that "your real strength lies
in the conviction ofthe emigrants that their
interests are identical with those ofthe Government, which should be carried on in
harmony with and by means of the people
ofthe country. '*
Edward Bulwar-Lytton, statesman,
diplomat and novelist, known to us today as the author of The Last Days of
Pompeii, would surely have appreciated
the historical significance of the meetings that were held at the Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in San Francisco just
three months before his dispatch to James
Douglas regarding the type of emigrants
desired for the colonizing of British Columbia.
Douglas knew he needed settlers. But
where was he to find the sort he needed?
He had heard from his friend, Jeremiah
Nagle, harbourmaster of Victoria, who
made frequent trips to San Francisco, that
the congregation of Zion Church on Pacific Street, had been meeting under the
leadership of their pastor, John Jamieson
Moore, to consider emigration. He knew
that these people were not caught up in
gold rush fever, that they were looking
for something else, for land to farm and
to own, for a place where they could build
homes and churches and schools, and live
without fear, with equality under the law.
Were these not the very qualities that
Lord Lytton recommended should be
sought in emigrants? Jeremiah Nagle
thought so. He attended a meeting in
the small black church on Pacific Street,
informed the congregation of what Vancouver Island offered for settlers, and replied to the questions that were asked in
a way which seemed to be the answer to
the problem.
It was a serious problem for the black
congregation of Zion Church. Nine
years earlier California was admitted to
the United States with a constitution
outlawing slavery. Black people, like so
many others, had gone to California during the Gold Rush of '49, and had continued to go there in the following
decade. There were restrictions, there was
prejudice. But they were free. And now
they feared, with good reason, that if the
South seceded from the union, California would follow, becoming a slave state.
To pack up their worldly goods, to sell
businesses, to break friendships and leave
behind their connections in neighbourhoods where they had lived and followed
trades, then to set sail for an unknown
land, far to the north - it was a large step
to take. But they made the decision unhesitatingly, supported by hope, and faith
in God and the promise of James Douglas.
They were not naive. Three of their
members had gone ahead, to wait upon
the governor and ask the important questions face to face with him. And he had
answered all their concerns in the affirmative, making only one condition,
that there should not be a "Negro
The Report of the Pioneer Committee was accepted, and the resolutions
which had been read at their previous
meeting were adopted. The first clause
WHEREAS we are fully convinced that
the continued aim ofthe spirit and policy
of our mother country is to oppress, degrade,
and outrage us, we have therefore determined to seek asylum in the land of strangers from the oppression, prejudice and
relentless persecution that have pursued us
for more than two centuries in this our
mother country.
Therefore, a delegation having been sent
to Vancouver's Island, a place which has
unfolded to us in our darkest hour the prospect of a bright future; to this place of British possession, the delegation having
ascertained and reported the condition,
character, and social and political privileges
and its living resources.
and after a dozen more clauses, covering all aspects ofthe proposed move, the
members who wished to join were requested to place their signatures on the
document, and plans to emigrate were
immediately implemented.7
It has been estimated (though no official figures are available) that between
600 and 800 black emigrants came to
British Columbia during the period of
1858 to 1863 or 1864. Some went to
the Fraser gold fields to try their luck,
but for the most part they were happy to
settle and make new lives for themselves
on Vancouver Island. Over 50 applied
for British citizenship soon after arriving. Some pre-empted land and became
farmers in the Saanich Valley, others
farming on Salt Spring Island. Many
went into business in Victoria, and in
time spread out to other communities on
Vancouver Island, as well as on the mainland. When the black settlers are mentioned now, the usual response is surprise,
and then the assumption that black people in British Columbia's history were
escaped slaves who came via the Underground Railroad - though that famous
and inventive system of transportation
never operated west of the Kansas-Missouri border.
But where are the descendants of those
black setders now? Some are still in British Columbia, but the majority of the
original settlers returned to the United
States after the Civil War, believing the
promises of Reconstruction, expecting to
be allowed to live as citizens in the country of their birth, unable to imagine what
lay ahead in the long struggle towards
real freedom.
We should not forget, however, the
part they played in helping James Douglas save British Columbia from becoming part ofthe expanding United States.
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 His need for emigrants continued to demand his attention. In 1861 he endeavoured to negotiate a direct steamship
service from San Francisco to the colony
of British Columbia, to ensure "the expected flow of immigration being directed towards its Capital, instead of
being diverted through the Columbia
River."8 The gold rush was over, the
hordes of miners had left, but if the end
result was to stimulate immigration to
the northwest, Douglas wanted the emigrants to be routed to British territory, if
He lived to see his province become
part of the Federation of Canada, the
western boundary ofthe great land mass
extending from the Adantic Ocean to the
Pacific. He is not placed alongside John
A. Macdonald and Wilfred Laurier in our
history books, but had it not been for
him, Dominion Day might mean only
what it did in 1867: the federation of
four colonies clustered on the eastern
seaboard. And the State of Washington
might extend northward to Alaska.
It was James Douglas, of mixed Scottish and West Indian blood, who made
the difference, and the black settlers contributed to that achievement.
Mrs. Walker enjoys browsing through the B.C.
Archives and the Royal B. C. Museum - both of
these are within walking distance of her home.
1. John S. Galbraith, "The Hudsons Bay Company, An
Imperial Factor".
2. Barclay to Simpson, Oct. 13,1848, HBC Archives.
3. Simpson ro Douglas, Private, Feb. 20, 1850, HBC
4. Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of British Columbia,
pp. 348-349.
5. Douglas to Labouchere, May 8,1858, Colonial
Correspondence, BC Archives.
6. Lytton to Douglas, July 31, 1858 - cited by Derek
Pethick, "James Douglas".
7. From the Daily Evening Bulletin San Francisco, May
12, 1858, report on "Meetings on Emigration" at the
Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.
8. The Colonial Secretary to Attorney General, 27
December, 1861, B.C. Provincial Archives.
Margaret Ormsby
Scholarship Committee
B.C. History Winners Announced
The Society for the Promotion of British Columbia History is pleased to announce the
winners of the First Annual Margaret Ormsby Prizes. The prizes honour British Columbia's premier historian who passed away late last year.
The prizes for the best essays in British Columbia History have been awarded to:
• Jessica Pauls of the University-College of the Fraser Valley in Chilliwack-
Abbotsford for her paper, "Emily Carr: Her Ethnographic Importance to
British Columbia."
• Carol Grant Powell of Malaspina University-College in Nanaimo for her
essay, 'The Horne Family Portrait: A Micro-Study in the Use of Photographs
as Primary Sources."
• George Richard of Okanagan University-College in Kelowna for his work,
"Price Ellison: A Gilded Man in British Columbia's Gilded Age."
The prizes are awarded for the best essays in British Columbia history, including: the
related disciplines of historical geography, historical sociology, art history, the history of
education and ethno-history, to students at the provincial university colleges. The prizes
are meant to encourage what Dr. Ormsby did well: researching and writing about British
Columbia history in a way that informs and engages a broad audience.
The Margaret Ormsby Prizes are offered by the Margaret Ormsby Scholarship Committee of the Society for the Promotion of British Columbia History to honour Dr. Margaret
Anchoretta Ormsby. She is most widely known for her book, British Columbia: A
History, the first modern attempt to explain the development of British Columbia to British
Columbians. A pioneering woman scholar who headed the history department at the
University of British Columbia for over a decade, Dr. Ormsby promoted the history of the
province more effectively than any other individual.
For more information please contact Dr. John Lutz, History Department, University of
Victoria, PO 3045 Victoria, B.C., V8W 3P4, (250) 721-7392, FAX (250) 721-8772, EMAIL:
Free Genealogy Workshop
Thursday, April 30, 1998
The topic of the 1998 workshop is Genealogy. This is very appropriate, since there are several major
research collections within the North Surrey area where the B.C. H.F. conference is being held. The
Cloverdale Public Library, the British Columbia Genealogical Society and the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter Day Saints all have extensive collections of genealogical material within the region.
The workshop will be held at two sites: the Cloverdale Public Library and the Surrey Inn. A bus will be
used to transport the registrants between the two places.
We shall have representatives from the libraries speak about the resources available for Genealogical
Research. John Adams from Victoria will also speak about the importance of Cemeteries in Genealogy.
At the Surrey Inn, Ron Taylor from Mission will demonstrate Genealogy on the Internet. This is a subject
of interest even if you do not own a computer. You can always get your friends to log on for you!
Registrants should be prepared to spend the day immersed in the subject. No one should miss the
sessions at either location.
Workshop Registration for Both Sessions/ Locations
Phone or Fax
Melva J. Dwyer - 2976 McBride Ave., Surrey, B.C. V4A 3G6 or Phone / Fax: 604-535-3041
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 The McLean Gang
by John Keranen
The story ofthe McLean brothers and
Alex Hare shocked the European community in the newly created province of
British Columbia. The brutality in the
way in which the young McLean gang
killed Provincial Policeman John Ussher
and Jim Kelly led many to fear the worst.
The newspapers reflected the alarm felt
in the community that a possible Native
uprising, led by the murderous McLeans
and Hare, was taking place. The crimes
took place in 1879, and the language
used by the press and the Anglo-European elite to describe the events reveals
much about the dominant attitudes of
the day. The discourse used by these institutions illustrates the way in which
they viewed the role of law and the nature ofthe settlers and the aboriginal and
mixed-blood peoples. Also, the language
used by the popular press and the leading elites shows that there was a perceived
fear that a repeat of American violence
might occur in British Columbia.
The three outlaw McLeans were born
to Donald McLean and his Kamloops
Native wife Sophia. They were the three
youngest in a large family that had been
in Canada for many years. Donald
McLean was a chief factor for the Hudson's Bay Company and he often acted
as an enforcer ofthe Company's law. The
elder McLean was known as a man of
violence, having shot a fugitive's uncle
in place of the fugitive. During this incident, Donald McLean's bullets also
claimed the lives of a woman and her
infant son.1 Donald died when the boys
were very young. He was shot by a
Chilcotin man during the 1864 expedition to avenge the men killed in the
Waddington Massacre.
Of the three outlaw McLeans, Allen
was the oldest in 1879 at 24 years of age,
and he was the unofficial leader of the
gang. Next was Charlie, who was 17
years old and the youngest was Archie,
who was 15 years of age.2  The fourth
member ofthe McLean gang was another
mixed-blood Alex Hare, who was the
same age as Charlie. The boys had had a
long history of petty crimes before 1879,
taking part in horse and cattle stealing
and the theft of other properties. They
also had a record of violence that seemed
to be getting worse; Charlie had been
charged with biting off the nose of a
Native man, and the gang had recently
robbed a Chinese man and severely
beaten him. The gang apparently held
the area of Kamloops in a state of terror
for some time; "there neither life or property was safe, so far as they were at large."3
In early December 1879, the McLeans
had broken out of jail again, and were at
large once more. This time, the young
men had a reward of $500 posted for
their capture. A local rancher named Bill
Palmer, while looking for a prized horse,
stumbled across the McLeans and Hare.
Palmer noticed that the McLeans had his
horse, and after an uneasy exchange with
the boys he rode back to Kamloops to
tell the local British Columbia Provincial Policeman John Ussher that he had
seen the McLean gang and to report their
latest theft. A small posse was formed; it
was comprised of Ussher, Palmer, a Canadian Pacific Railway man Bill
Roxborough, a rancher named John
McLeod, and a respected tracker named
Amni Shumway.4 Ussher quickly made
the other men special constables, and
they set off to find the gang.
Once the posse was in the area where
Palmer last saw the McLean gang, one
ofthe brothers gave a signal and they fired
at the policeman and constables.5 The
posse returned the fire somewhat unsuccessfully due to the failure of some of
their guns. Ussher dismounted and approached the McLean gang to try and
• reason with them. Alex Hare saw Ussher
and attacked him with a knife, stabbing
him repeatedly. As Ussher grappled with
Hare, Archie ran up and shot Ussher in
the head at point blank range.6 McLeod
was also shot in the head, but the bullet
hit one cheek and exited out the other.
These were not his only wounds, as
McLeod was also shot in the leg. Realizing that they were outmatched, the posse
beat a hasty retreat. The McLeans also
left the scene, but only after they had
stripped Ussher's body of his possessions.
The McLeans and Hare apparently had
a list of people that they wanted to get
even with. They also had repeatedly
claimed that they wanted to rid the country of
the whites.7 Part of their plan was to arm
the local Native bands and to do this they
began to scour the countryside for weapons. After stealing a few pieces from local ranchers the McLean gang came upon
a sheep herder named Jim Kelly, whom
they did not like. After an exchange of
words the boys shot Kelly dead and
stripped him of his possessions as well.8
The second part of their plan was to secure the aid ofthe Douglas Lake Indian
band. The chief of this band,
Chillihitzia, was Allen's father-in-law, and
Allen felt this connection might secure
the old chiefs help in fighting the whites.
Chillihitzia refused to help, claiming that
an uprising would mean the end of his
Meanwhile in Kamloops, other posses
were being organized. Telegraph despatches were sent to Victoria asking for
assistance. People in Kamloops knew
that the McLeans might attempt to stir
up trouble among the Aboriginal peoples, and they were even more afraid
when setders began to tell them that the
McLeans and Hare were collecting weapons. A dispatch was sent to the United
States with a description of the boys, in
case they tried to cross the line.10 The
news of Ussher's murder reached Victoria on December 9, and the Superintendent of British Columbia Police Charles
Todd made preparations to send men and
arms to the settlers in Kamloops."
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 The McLean gang, after their meeting
with Chillihitzia, occupied an empty
cabin near the Spahomin village, on the
Douglas Lake Reserve. Apparently they
went there to plan their next move.
Unknown to the fugitives, a Native man
had informed a posse leader named
George Caughill ofthe McLean's whereabouts.12 On December 10, 1879, the
settlers surrounded the cabin and a three-
day siege began. After a tense stand-off,
during which a settler and two Natives
were wounded, the boys surrendered. It
appears that their lack of water was beginning to take its toll. Also, it became
obvious that escape was impossible and
that the posse was going to carry out its
threat to burn down the cabin.13 The
McLeans and Hare surrendered on December 13 to a posse of some 75 setders
and Nicola Lake and Kamloops Indians.
The fugitives were put in irons and led
off to Kamloops. After two trials, the
gang was hanged in New Westminster,
on January 31, 1881.
The newspaper accounts of the
McLean incident are full of references to
the way in which the early British settlers viewed the importance of law and
order. By looking at the discourse used
by the press to describe the McLean gang
and their relationship to the British system of law, one can get a sense of the
way in which law reinforced ideas of
Anglo-European superiority. The author
Tina Loo argues that the type of colourful prose found in these early papers cannot be separated from the stories they
described. The prose was intentional and
formed part ofthe language used by the
local European population to describe
their world view, and to persuade their
audience.14 Crime, according to Loo,
was the central metaphor of disorder in
the Nineteenth Century, and "responses
to it not only tell us about identity but
adumbrate the larger contours of social
order."15 The Anglo-Europeans were
concerned with building a type of social
order through the civil and criminal law.
They also used law to define themselves
as being separate from the United States,
whose lynch law the elites in British Co
lumbia found distasteful.
The British system of law was especially
important during the last decades ofthe
Nineteenth Century, in which British
Columbia was experiencing a period of
transition. The fur trading colony was
becoming a "reluctant component of a
modern federation, and in the process a
way of life was passing into history,
particularly for the Native Indians and
the half-breeds ofthe remote regions."16
With the large influx of mosdy American miners and with the increase in European immigration, British Columbia's
white population grew by some 15%
from 1870-1881 to become 40% ofthe
province's total population.17 In 1870,
the Native population made up roughly
70.8% of British Columbia's total population, and by 1880, the Aboriginal peoples made up only 51.9% of the total
population.18 With the increase in the
white population, setdement expanded
into the interior, and conflicts over land
ownership grew in number. The increase
in settlement often displaced the Native
peoples and left them without the land
to pursue their old ways of hunting and
fishing or from raising crops like the
whites.19 The law took on new importance as a way to maintain sovereignty
over the new immigrants as well as the
disgruntled Native population.
The law in British Columbia was also
undergoing a transition. During the fur
trading period, the Hudson's Bay Company was the only semblance of European law in the area, and administration
of this legal system was crude at best.20
After the crown colony of British Columbia was formed in 1858, the mainland
colony's first judge, Matthew Baillie
Begbie, proclaimed in force the English
Law Ordinance. The Ordinance provided that the civil and criminal laws of
England, up to the date of November 19,
1858, applied to the new colony.21
The lack of enforcement of British law
was the reason the McLeans and Hare
were allowed to get away with what they
did, according to the press of the day.
The newspapers never blamed British law
for failing to deal properly with the
McLeans, but rather the government,
under Premier Anthony Walkem, for letting the crisis get out of hand. The frequent requests of John Ussher for money
to fix the dilapidated jail house in
Kamloops, which could not detain the
juvenile McLeans, were not acted upon.
Also, Ussher's plea that more constables
be sent to the Interior fell on deaf government ears. The press felt the government, in "pursuing a penny-wise and
pound-foolish policy," was responsible
for creating contempt for the law that
the press felt was present among the Aboriginal and mixed-blood peoples.22 The
Victoria Daily Colonist suggested that
Ussher was a victim ofthe local government's parsimony and neglect.23
The press' attack on the Walkem government reveals the differences in British and United States frontier law. In
the British model, the central government was the upholder ofthe law, while
in the United States frontier, local governments or groups of individuals carried out the maintenance of order and
the punishment of criminals. In British
Columbia, British sovereignty was enforced by the law, while in the Western
United States the ideology of vigilante
justice promoted popular sovereignty.24
Americans saw "people as being above the
law [which was] viewed as ineffective
against frontier crime."25 The British
Columbia press placed the blame for the
McLeans' criminal rampage solely on the
Provincial Government, and not on the
inability of the local settlers to organize
an effective posse. British law was fundamentally different from its Western
American counterpart in other ways. The
United States frontier held to the legal
doctrine of "no duty to retreat".26 Unlike English law, which stated that "in a
personal dispute that threatened to become violent, one must flee from the
scene . . .[and] should it be impossible
to get away one must retreat as far as
possible."27 The top Ohio Court, in
1876, struck down the English law and
proclaimed that a "true man was not
obligated to fly from an assailant."28
Also, instead of the British system of
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 reasonably fair trials, vigilante justice
reigned in the Western United States.
During the California Gold Rush ofthe
1840's, cities such as San Francisco often had vigilante groups consisting of as
many as six to eight thousand members.29
In Montana, volatile vigilante groups
such as "Stuart's Stranglers" were treated
like heroes. The cattle-baron Granville
Stuart, who led the Stranglers, was later
named "Mr. Montana", the state's most
revered pioneer.30 The vigilantes and
lynch mobs executed horse and cattle-
thieves, and they often enforced the dictates ofthe big cattle barons and the rich
merchants by eliminating opposition. A
British traveller who had taken part in a
Texas cattle drive in the 1880's commented that the cowboy was possessed
of a "violent vengefulness against insult.
. .[dealt with] frequently not [by] a word
and a blow but [by] a word and a bullet."31 Clearly, with such violence south
of the border and the large influx of
Americans into British Columbia, the
enforcement of British law became that
much more necessary. Men like Judge
Matthew Baillie Begbie were proud that
there was a distinction between the two
legal systems; "as early as 1860 Begbie
had felt able to boast that Sir William
Blackstone was more regarded in his jurisdiction than Judge Lynch."32 This was
a clear reference to the differences in the
two systems.
In the minds ofthe people in the provincial capital and in New Westminster
a lynch mob execution of the McLeans
and Hare would have been a travesty of
British justice. They were far enough
removed from the violence in Kamloops
to condemn the few local cries for a lynch
mob. In Kamloops things were different, and according to Amni Shumway
and Bill Palmer, the mood among some
of the whites was hostile, with some of
them saying "they would shoot them [the
McLeans and Hare] as quick as a coyote
and others saying that they would hang
them to the first tree handy."33 Apparently, a small group of vigilantes led by
AE. Howse of Nicola was making its way
to Kamloops to try and hang the outlaws.34 In order to prevent such action,
the McLeans and Hare were kept under
heavy guard in the Kamloops jail during
their brief stay. Also, to ensure their
safety and their ability to get an impartial j ury, the McLeans and Hare were sent
to New Westminster to stand trial. However, no such lynch mob ever materialized. Justice Henry Pering Pellew Crease,
in his address to the grand jury of the
first McLean trial, proclaimed the moral
victory the citizens of British Columbia
had won over the evils of a United States-
style lynch justice; "let it go out to the
world, that British Columbia is a law
abiding country . . .[and that] the people ofthe Interior truly followed the genius and spirit of the law, [because] they
did not take the law into their own
hands."35 Crease saw the trial as being a
particularly painful one, given the ages
of the condemned men and their gruesome crimes and also their sad fates. Even
though it was painful, Crease reminded
the jury and all present that the trial was
necessary, because it was the morally superior and only alternative to lynch law
and the United States policy of "shoot at
The language the press used to describe
the McLean gang paralleled the developments in the case. As the relationship
between the McLeans and the law
changed, so did the tone ofthe newspaper articles. Just after the deaths of Ussher
and Kelly, the McLeans and Hare were
described as outlaws, bandits and desperadoes. This kind of language suggests
that they still were feared, and indeed
they were, as the mainland papers still
believed that the McLeans were in league
with a hostile Indian confederacy. However, the press changed their urgent tone
once the boys were taken prisoner. As
soon as their power to potentially destroy
the white settlement in the Kamloops
area was gone, the McLeans and Hare
were described by the press as assassins.37
One newspaper described them as being
"poor deprived wretches.. .all the ferocity and blind rage taken out of them."38
Once the McLeans and Hare were finally in the grip ofthe law, the press described them in a more sympathetic and
patriarchal way. The gang, as wards of
the state, were considered to be "unfortunate."39 The once feared bandits were
described to be repentant men, changed
by the just nature of British law. The
press gave a full account of their conversion, including the time they spent with
Reverend Father Horris and two other
priests.40 The press described how the
outlaws asked for the forgiveness of those
they had wronged, before they were executed. Yet even in captivity the McLeans
and Hare were feared. It is interesting to
note that some witnesses in the two trials asked for permission to carry guns in
case friends ofthe gang or even the gang
themselves sought revenge.41 It was only
after British law had ultimately triumphed by hanging the young men that
the white community could breathe a
collective sigh of relief.
Compared to the Anglo-European
community, the half-breed McLeans and
Hare were foreign. As Tina Loo argues,
the white community used the
"otherness" of the Native and mixed-
blood peoples and their seemingly primitive ways to define themselves as
superior.42 The discourse ofthe key players in the McLean incident reflects this
attitude clearly. In his address to the
grand jury in the first trial, Justice Crease
summed up popular race-thinking and
the belief in the characteristics assigned
to each race:
What is their future? Sons ofthe hardy
pioneer . . . they fell into many ofthe
habits ofthe natives among whom they lived
and many a trapper and trader has owed
his life to the fidelity and sagacity and courage of his Indian wife. The offspring of
these marriages, a tall strong, handsome
race, combined in one the hardihood and
quick perceptions ofthe man ofthe woods,
with the intelligence and some ofthe training and endurance ofthe white man, which
raised them into a grade above their mothers' but not up to the fathers' grade. .. They
learned next to nothing of agriculture. They
never went to school or had the semblance
of an education . . . So long as the white
father lived, the children were held in some
sort of subjection but the moment he was
gone they gravitated towards their mothers'
friends and fell back into nature's ways . .
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 The cases before us give a terrible illustration of my observations.43
According to the press, the McLeans
fit the profile ofthe half-breed suggested
by Crease. Their father Donald was
praised as being a man who showed
much bravery and gallantry in the
Chilcotin expedition and among the
Indians during his days in the Hudson's
Bay Company.44 But with their father's
death, the boys were left to their mother's care, which in itself was considered
an abomination to the patriarchal order
ofthe dominant Anglo-European elites,
especially considering the boy's mother
was Native. As a result of their family
the McLeans were not brought up in a
way the Anglo-European community saw
proper; they did not have a full education and the time they did spend in
school was mischievous.45 As a result,
the McLeans adopted the roving lifestyle
ofthe Native and refused to take up any
settled employment.46 Crease and the
Anglo-European community saw the
McLeans and Hare as being products of
their upbringing and of faults inherent
to their race.
If the McLeans were the epitome of all
that could go wrong in mixed-blood
youth, then John Ussher was offered as a
contrast by the press as a symbol of white
values. Ussher was a man of many talents, due in part to the many government
duties he had to perform as the only civil
servant in the Kamloops area. The press
claimed Ussher was one ofthe most able
and popular "gentlemen" in the public
service.47 Unlike the McLeans and Hare,
Ussher was well rooted in the public life
of the community. Ussher was also recently married, a fact which the press
mentioned almost immediately in their
description of him, illustrating the importance placed on marital status by the
Anglo-European community. By contrast, the only mention made of Allen
McLean's marriage to Chillihitzia's
daughter was when it was feared that this
connection might lead to an uprising of
the Douglas Lake Indians.48 Ussher's
upbringing is ideal when compared to
the fatherless childhood ofthe McLeans,
and the papers do not fail to pick up on
this, as the Daily Colonist reports that
Ussher was the son ofthe Reverend Mr.
Ussher of the Reformed Episcopal
Church in Montreal. Ussher was at the
height of his youthful vigor and energy,
which added to the tragedy as he was "cut
down in the flower of his manhood."49
The McLeans and Hare, by contrast,
were referred to by a settler as being "four
brats," which illustrates the idea of the
young innocent savage, untamed and
Perhaps one ofthe most pressing concerns evident in the discourse ofthe press
was the fear of an American style Indian
war. In the western United States frontier, conflict between whites and Native
peoples was a central and peculiar feature of the settlement process.51 As
Anglo-American civilization expanded,
the Native populations were displaced
often through violent struggle. The author Richard Slotkin terms this type of
conflict as the "savage war," in which the
supposed differences in the cultural and
racial characteristics of the "primitive"
Native peoples and the "civilized" whites
made coexistence impossible on any basis other than that of subjugation.52
Therefore, the "savage war" was a fight
for survival, and "because ofthe 'savage'
and blood thirsty propensity of the Natives, such struggles inevitably became
wars of extermination in which one side
or the other attempted to destroy its enemy root and branch."53
Given the recent conflict between the
American Government and the Sioux
peoples, including the stunning defeat of
the United States Seventh Cavalry at the
Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876 and
the 1877 war against the Nez Perces, the
white community most likely felt uneasy
about the safety ofthe settlers in the interior. Apparently some Nez Perces refugees had been in the Kamloops area
trying to get support from the local Aboriginals.54 Trouble was beginning to brew
among the prairie Metis at this time.
Locally, there were fears that the poor
condition of many ofthe Native peoples
might drive them to revolt. Concerns
were raised when a letter from William,
the chief of the Williams Lake Nation,
was published in November, 1879.
William wrote that his people were starving due to white setders taking all of their
land and fencing it off. The whites,
William wrote, had scared off the game
animals with the noise of their threshing
machines.55 Also, the Natives could not
pre-empt land to adopt white ways and
grow crops. William warned the Anglo-
European population that his people
would not starve in peace, for it would
be better for them to die fighting than
to die from hunger.56
The fears of an American style "savage
war" were heightened once the murder
of Ussher was made public. The press
wrote that the 200 or so white "industrious settlers with their wives and little
ones," along with their houses and property, were threatened with destruction.57
The settlers were portrayed as being so
good-natured that they did not even
think before-hand of buying weapons in
case of possible hostilities.58 Under headlines such as "The Grave Emergency,"
newspapers urged the government to act
quickly for "hesitation would embolden
the Indians."59 It was feared that a potential force of some 1500 warriors, disgruntled by white encroachment on to
their land, might join the McLeans and
Hare and lay waste to the white settlements. Even in Toronto, the press reported that the situation in British
Columbia was dire, as the "Indians are
fearfully excited and an Indian revolt is
The level of concern over a potential
United States style "savage war" was obviously great, judging by the military reaction the Kamloops murders generated.
Superintendent Todd led a group of men
from Victoria with twenty-two rifles of
"the new improved pattern" and hundreds of rounds of ammunition to arm
the settlers in case of an attack.61 The
Daily Colonist suggested that Todd's
expedition take with them one or two of
the Hale's war rocket batteries that were
stored at the Dockyard.62 These units
were reportedly well suited for bush warfare, and they were proven to be field
worthy in the Abyssinian and Zululand
wars.63   It was also suggested that the
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 force from Victoria be in proper military
dress, as "the Indians hold uniforms in
great awe."64 Volunteers were converging on the Kamloops area, ready to fight
for the settler community. It seems that
the Anglo-European society was still unsure of their Aboriginal and mixed-blood
neighbours. The mistrust and the racial
attitudes towards the Aboriginal community, along with the examples of the
American Indian wars, influenced the
press to assume the worst once news of
the Ussher murder reached them.
By examining the language used by the
popular British Columbia press and by
members of the Anglo-European community, one can piece together some of
the attitudes of the dominant white society in the last decades ofthe Nineteenth
Century. The story ofthe McLean gang
reveals the way that the Anglo-European
elites viewed themselves and the mixed-
blood and Aboriginal peoples. John
Ussher became a symbol of the settler
society, while the McLean brothers and
Alex Hare became the representatives of
all that was bad in the Natives. The reporting of the Kamloops murders also
reveals the importance that the Anglo-
Europeans placed on British law and their
contempt for the American lynch law.
Finally, the fears of a full-scale Indian war
illustrate the mistrust the settlers still felt
towards the Aboriginal community.
John Keranen of Langley was a student in
History 404 when he researched this dramatic
story and its sociological aftermath. In May
1997 he graduated from the University of British Columbia with a BA. (History Major).
1. Met Rothenburger, The Wild McLeans (Victoria:
Orca Book Publishers, 1993) 49-50.
2. Rothenburger, 89
3. "Special Assize", New Westminster Mainland
Guardian 20 March. 1880:3.
4. Rothenburger, 95.
5. Guardian, "Special Assize" March 17, 1880.
6. Guardian, "Special Assize" March 17, 1880.
7. Rothenburger, 116.
8. Rothenburger, 114-115.
9. Rothenburger, 132-133.
10. Rothenburget, 129.
11. Rothenburger, 127.
12. Guardian "Special Assize" Match 17, 1880.
13. Rothenburger, 152.
14. Tina Loo, Making Law, Order and Authority in
British Columbia, 1821-1871 (Toronto: University of
Toronto Press, 1994) 140.
15. Loo, 135.
16. Hamar Fosrer, "The Kamloops Outlaws and
Commissions of Assize in Nineteenth Century British
Columbia," Essays in the History of Canadian Law,
ed. David Egypr Flaherty (Toronto: University of
Toronto Press, 1983)311.
17. W. Petet Ward, "Class and Race in the Social Structute
of British Columbia, 1870-1939," British Columbia:
Historical Readings, ed. W. Petet Ward and Robert
A.J. McDonald (Vancouver: Douglas and Mclntyre,
1981) 590.
18. W. Perer Ward, 590.
19. "An Astonishing State of Things at Williams Lake"
Dairy Colonist 7 Nov. 1879: 3.
20. Foster, 311.
21. Fostet, 314.
22. Dairy Colonist, "Mounted Police for rhe Interior,"
Dec. 13, 1879.
23. Daily Colonist, "The Kamloops Tragedy," Dec. 11,
24. Richard Maxwell Brown, "Violence," The Oxford
History of the American West, ed. Clyde A.
Milner ii, Carol A. O'Connor, and Martha A.
Sandweiss (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994)
25. Brown, 395-396.
26. Brown, 393.
27. Brown, 393.
28. Brown, 393.
29. Brown, 396.
30. Brown, 402.
31. Brown, 395.
32. Fosrer, 310.
33. Rothenburger, 156.
34. Rothenburger, 156.
35. Guardian, "Special Assize" March 20, 1880.
36. Guardian, "Special Assize" March 20, 1880.
37. Daily Colonist, Dec. 16.
38. Guardian, Dec. 27, 1879.
39. Guardian, 2 Feb. 1881.
40. Guardian, 2 Feb. 1881.
41. Foster, 337.
42. Loo, 135-136.
43. Fostet, 332-333.
44. Guardian, 17 March 1880.
45. Rorhenburger, 91.
46. T.W. Paterson, Outlaws of Western Canada. Langley:
Mr. Paperback, 1977.
47. Daily Colonist, 11 Dec. 1879.
48. "The Kamloops Mulders," Guardian, 17 Dec. 1879.
49. Daily Colonist, 11 Dec. 1879.
50. Daily Colonist, 13 Dec. 1879.
51. Richard Slorkin, Gunfighter Nation, (New York:
Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992) 11.
52. Slotkin, 12.
53. Slotkin, 12.
54. Rothenburget, 133.
55. Daily Colonist, 7 Nov. 1879.
56. Dairy Colonist, 7 Nov. 1879.
57. Dairy Colonist, 13 Dec. 1879.
58. Daily Colonist, 13 Dec. 1879.
59. Dairy Colonist, 13 Dec. 1879.
60. "A Serious Condition of Affairs," Toronto Globe, 16
Dec. 1879.
61. Daily Colonist, 13 Dec. 1879.
62. Daily Colonist, 13 Dec. 1879.
63. Dairy Colonist, Dec. 13, 1879.
64. Daily Colonist, Dec. 13, 1879.
Fosrer, Hamar. "The Kamloops Outlaws and Commissions of
Assize in Nineteenth Century British Columbia." Essays
in the History of Canadian Law. Ed. David Egypt.
Flahetty. Toronro: University ofToronro Press, 1983.
Loo, Tina. Making Law, Order and Authority in British
Columbia, 1821-1871. Toronto: University of Toronto
Ptess, 1962.
Maxwell Brown, Richard. "Violence," The Oxford History
ofthe American West. Ed. Clyde A. Milner 11, Carol A.
O'Connor, and Martha A. Sandweiss. Oxford: Oxford
University Ptess, 1994.393-423.
The New Wesrminster Mainland Guardian, 17 Dec. 1879,
27 Dec. 1879, 17 Mar. 1880, 20 Mar. 1880, 24 Mar.
1880, 2 Feb. 1881.
Paterson T.W. Outlaws ofWestem Canada. Langley: Mr.
Paperback, 1977.
Rorhenburger, Mel. The Wild McLeans Victotia: Orca Book
Publishers, 1993.
Slotkin, Richard. Gunfighter Nation. New York: Macmillan
Publishing Company, 1992.
Spinks, W Ward. Tales ofthe British Columbian Frontier.
Toronro: The Ryerson Press, 1933.
The Toronto Globe, 16 Dec. 1879.
The Victoria Daily Colonist, 11 Dec. 1879, 13 Dec. 1879,
14 Dec. 1879, 18 Dec. 1879.
Ward, Perer W and Robert A.J. McDonald, eds. British
Columbia: Historical Readings. (Vancouver: Douglas
and Mclntyre, 1981) 518-599.
Thomas Donald Sale
1914 -1998
Don Sale passed away on January 8,
1998 after a long struggle with cancer.
He was active with many groups and
volunteer organizations in Nanaimo
and across the province. We remember
him best as the Corresponding
Secretary of the B.C. Historical
Federation from 1983 to 1997. He was
also a judge for our Writing
Competition, 1983-94.
This gentleman, however, racked up
over 6,000 hours of volunteer service
with the St. John Ambulance Brigade;
served at St. Paul's Anglican Church
in so many roles that latterly they
appointed him "Warden Emeritus"; he
was President then Secretary of the
local Royal Canadian Legion; he was
active in the Masonic Lodge and
concordant bodies, the Old Age
Pensioners Organization, Retired
Teachers Association, Loyal Nanaimo
Bathtub Society, St. Lazarus Society,
Nanaimo Historical Society and
Nanaimo District Museum. "His hands
were always at the public service and
he was ever ready to enter upon work
that was good for his fellow man." This
quote, written for Don's grandfather in
1889, inspired Don and others in his
family. Don's last request was, "No
flowers. Donations may be given to the
BCHF Scholarship Fund, Nanaimo
Museum or a charity of your choice."
The address of the BCHF Treasurer is
inside the back cover. Donors wiU be sent
a tax deductible receipt.
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 Discovering New Horizons On Old
A novice looks at the complexities of Archival retrieval
My first real academic passion in retired life was with AVA. AVA has permitted me to step onto a time machine
and explore new horizons on old landscapes. AVA is not the sultry, seductive
damsel working in the office down the
hallway, rather, it is the passion of being
an Amateur Volunteer Archivist, (AVA),
with the Surrey Museum and Archives
Heritage Services.
The initial spark of this passionate
flame was ignited in 1957/58, when my
father who was the first historian for the
Municipality of Surrey and author of
Surrey's first written history, — "Land
of the Peace Arch" — handed me the
following poem to proof.
Let us travel down through the ages
And visit people of yore.
Let us listen to stories and legend
Of those that have gone before.
Let us walk over trails and pathways
They blazed through the forest and vale.
Let us fathom the fields and meadows
They cleared between mountains and dale.
Let us pause for just a brief moment
In the turmoil and rush of our day.
And walk over campsites and middens
Of a race from an age — far away.
Let us learn of pioneer Fathers
Who came to this beautiful land,
And left us a garden of Eden
On the golden, Pacific strand.
- John Pearson
The words of this definitive idyll were
almost immediately emblazoned upon
my mind. However, as a young man seeking a new found career with the thirty-
three year old Surrey Fire Department, I
did not have time to think of Pioneer
Fathers — nor in fact, the past, even
by Lome Martin Pearson
though I knew that my great, great
. grandparents were among the first settlers in Nanaimo, arriving in 1854.
A subsequent culminating factor to this
future passion with AVA came a year or
two later when father handed me a birthday gift, in the form of a Charter Life
Membership card for the Surrey Museum
and Historical Society, (L29).
Unbeknown to me at the time, this was
an intellectual implant that would blossom into fruition in the 1990s when I
became a volunteer archival worker with
the Surrey Heritage Services, a division
of the City's Parks and Recreation Department.
I was not aware of this when I sauntered into the terra incognita world of
Archives on that eventful day of 1994.
I had some insight toward the Municipality of Surrey for reasons that have already been noted and I had been told
more than once, "you know a lot about
the Surrey Fire Department, why don't
you work on recording its history?"
Virtually everything historically known
about the Surrey Fire Department at that
point in time was hearsay, passed from
mouth to ear over the years. In fact the
only published historic information regarding the fire department was that
which Fern Trelevan wrote in her book
The Surrey Story. Therein she wrote: -
"Surrey's first Fire Department was
started in 1924 by the Surrey Board of
Trade. It consisted of a group of volunteer men, with a second-hand 80-gallon
tank mounted on a trailer made from an
old car."
The challenge having been presented
and accepted, I nervously entered the
Surrey Archives that afternoon to take up
the gauntlet and was received by Archivist Jacqueline O'Donnell, who inter-
viewed, questioned with maieutic enthusiasm and then encouraged me to become
a volunteer within her Archives program.
Considerable information was presented
to me, to take home and digest prior to
making a decision to commit to such an
One week later I returned to the Archives for basic indoctrination and more
reading material.
Jacqueline, who is truly an intellectual
academic, has become my inspiration
and above all my mentor. She has nurtured my transition and virtual existence
into the archival world and educated me
as to what is required in being a volunteer archival worker, and has taught me
a great deal about life — past — present
and future.
Indoctrination into the Archivist world
is not simplistic, for as with all professions there are specific terminology and
procedures to which one must adhere,
some examples are:
• A collection
• Provenance2
• An inventory3
• Biographical Sketch/Agency History/
Administrative History4
• Manuscript Groups, (fonds)5
• Ephemera6
It seems that the vocabulary for the
Archivist's profession is ad infinitum.
Even after several years working at the
Archives there is new expose each time a
visit is made to the Archives.
Archival methods, procedures, general
work ethics and in fact The Archivist are
rarely recognized by others, indeed the
Museum Curator, the Historical Boards
and even the Archaeologist know that
something is happening in amongst all
those files and records, but none are sure
exactly what it is that is happening.
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 However, they and many others do
know that when historical research
is required, one just drops into the
Archives and receives guidance and
support from the Archivist to complete his or her chore.
Generally though, people look at
the Archives as the point between
the administration office files and
the paper shredder, a place where
one can 'dump' the records one no
longer requires for the day to day
operation of society. However, most
fail to realize or remember that
words lead to ideas, ideas develop
into beliefs and then become world
views — and without archival preservation and retrieval this would not
be a reality. In proper perspective
Archives form a huge, but almost invisible impact upon problems which
confront society . . . Archival repositories conserve these ideas or
words in original form, within an orderly manner of files and photographs.
Today's modern Archivist brings
forth these historic records via Museum Displays, Public Exhibitions,
Newspaper and the Electronic Media, on a routine basis, to inform the
public of the impact our past has
upon the technologies of today and
It has been postulated by Archivists that many collections arrive in
a state of chaos. Such was certainly
the predicament when exploration
of Surrey Fire Department history
began. The first snippets ofthe collection were a veritable hodgepodge
of newspaper clippings; disorganized office records; many photographs—without a great amount of identification; a
few scrap books; some World War II vintage items of fire fighting procedures,
namely apparatus instruction books and
even codes. There were maps; receipts;
cheque stubs; tax notices; money by-laws
and various other paraphernalia referencing the development of the fire department in Surrey. Virtually nothing at the
beginning of our endeavour pre-dated
World War II.
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During the process of appraising, organizing and cataloguing this material,
it became obvious that there was a great
amount of organizational detail not accounted for documenting the history,
growth and development of the twelve
fire halls of Surrey. Therefore, as a result
of my recent administrative association
with the fire department, I was able to
contact the fire stations both as a group
and individually to solicit the donation
of their early records.
To say the least, this effort was almost
futile. It is my observation that for some
unknown reason people in general do not
wish to turn over their files and records
to Archives, which are an unknown or
mysterious and misunderstood authority. This is not to suggest that the acquisition process was a useless endeavour,
in fact the Surrey Archives has been the
recipient of considerable material from
three or four fire departments in Surrey.
By far the greatest collection acquired
was from the Cloverdale fire brigade,
considered to be the first operational bri-
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 gade in Surrey. This collection was a veritable bonanza toward tracing the history
of the Surrey Fire Department. The
records, photographs and ephemera that
the Archives received from Cloverdale
dated back to the handwritten recorded
meeting minutes of the first brigade
meeting, held on February 12th, 1929.
There were also pictures and more pictures, in various sizes and condition —
the list of items included in the collection defies the space available for mentioning at this time. Suffice it to say they
were housed in a large steel container
which required the strength of two men
to transport.
The Cloverdale brigade records, particularly the minutes book, presented a
quandary for it valiantly disputed previous historical documents indicating that
the fire department began in 1924. Inventories were created, photographs iden-
tified and reproduced because the
original donor was not willing to transfer the pictures without retaining copies
for their education programs and events.
This was a benefit to the fire brigade, for
they received photo copies and laser
prints of their contribution — which in
many cases were far superior to their
originals. Another "spin-off" benefit was
that all the duplicates were organized,
copies of their photographs were put into
acid-free envelopes and many were identified and dated before being returned to
The initial success with the Cloverdale
brigade was beneficial toward acquiring
further collections, as word spread
throughout the fire department detailing the integrity of the Surrey City Archives. At times since beginning this
project we have even had a few "walk-
in" donors with significant fire department contributions.
Our Surrey Fire Department collection
is today at a point where a researcher/
writer can work through the archival files
and compile a written history of Surrey
Fire Department.
The importance of a written history
became ever more evident when on June
7th 1997, during research into another
Surrey Archival program, the following
Lome Pearson August 1997 in his office "Den" at home.
was discovered within the pages of The
Daily Columbian Newspaper of May 3,
Fighting Fire at Surrey Centre
Great excitement was caused at Surrey
Centre, Sunday afternoon, by an alarm of
fire, caused by sparks supposed to have
blown from the Chinese shack on Coast
Meridian road. The flames spread with
great fierceness, helped along with the brisk
wind which was blowing. Mr. A.
Richardson's property stood in great danger
for quite a time. Fences, logs and a great
amount of rubbish lying around blazed
merrily for a long time. Neighbours and
all persons in the vicinity, along with the
boys, worked like Trojans, and gained a
noble victory, after a most terrible fight.
Churchland'sfarm and outbuildings luckily escaped. Fences were torn down to stay
the rush ofthe fire fiend. Water was thrown
on the flames by the Surrey Centre fire brigade, (long may they live!) from two powerful spray pumps. Loss, not known; no
insurance. — Com.
Research is now on going to uncover
earlier verification of the Surrey Fire
Departments establishment. If nothing
is forthcoming, then 1998 becomes the
critical year for centennial celebrations.
Whichever way the question is answered
we are delighted, for even though we may
have debunked earlier historical writings,
we have discovered new horizons on old
The future with Surrey City Archives
does not seem to have any shortage of
projects to work on. The chore will be
for the Archivist to teach this old dog new
Lome Martin Pearson has told you about his
volunteer work in this article. What he never
mentioned is that he now lives in Chilliwack
and drives several times a week to work in the
Surrey Archives.
1. John Pearson was commissioned by the Municipality of
Surrey ro write a history of rhe Municipality, as a
Cenrennial project, (1958).
2. The office of origin.
3. First document produced in rhe archives after being
received from a Provenance. They are preliminary,
summary and regular.
4. This is not a detailed day to day record of life and
acrivity, rather, ir is a 'sketch' designed ro give the
researcher a fairly concise overview ofthe history ofthe
person or the agency. It only covers the period
encompassed by the Collection.
5. World governmenrs have mainrained archives for more
than two thousand years. However, modern archive
methods only dare back to around 1840, when the
French esrablished rhe principle of respect des fonds,
which requires thar groups of documents created by
one office be dealt with as a unit not mixed with
records from orher offices.
6. Items prinred for a one time impacr: - Letterheads,
Flyers, Tickers, Bumper Srickers, etc.
Gracy II - Daivd B. Archives and Manuscripts:
Arrangement and Description. Society of American
Archivists. Chicago, 1977.
Baum Willa K. Oral History for the Local History Society.
Third Edition, 1987.
A Manual for Small Archives: - Association of British
Columbia Archivists. Vancouver 1988.
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 British Columbia's Error Regarding the
Chinese Immigrant
by Craig D. Wilkey
Nationalism in Canada not only meant
the unification of the various provinces
of land into one conglomerate government, it also meant the unification
through a transcontinental railroad called
the Canadian Pacific Railway. One of
the seven points of the National Policy
derived by Prime Minister John A.
Macdonald, as mentioned in lectures,
included this railway. Macdonald
wanted the task completed in ten years.
To meet the time limit and complete the
process of building this railway, many
laborers were required, and one major
source of labor, used on the West coast,
were the Chinese. The inhabitants of
British Columbia vehemendy opposed
the use of Chinese laborers by demanding that white labor be used instead. It
can be argued that the British Columbia
inhabitants erred in their opposition to
the Chinese immigrants as laborers for
the building ofthe Canadian Pacific Railway because these immigrants contributed significandy to the development of
the Canadian nation through the revenues and taxes paid as consumers and
merchants purchasing the necessary
items for consumption by the Chinese
and by their involvement in large sums
of money saved for the shareholders due
to lower labor costs.
In 1871, with the Prime Minister's
nationalism policy, the Canadian Pacific
Railway was conceived. It was
Macdonald's intention to have a railway
built from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Alexander Mackenzie, a
Liberal leader, considered this railway
venture an "act of insane recklessness."1
The United States had recently completed their transcontinental line and
they had been a nation for almost 100
years. This looked like an almost impossible task with Canada being a young
nation attempting to build a railroad almost 1,000 miles longer than America's.
Due to delays in finding available backing and extensive surveys for probable
routes, the beginning of construction
occurred on June 1st 1875, four years
after proposal, near the mouth of the
Kaministiquia River close to Lake Superior. The railroad came together in sections across the continent over the next
few years. However, the railways could
not be completed within the ten year
period promised by John Macdonald.
The toughest section to complete was
considered the final stretch from
Kamloops to Port Moody following the
Fraser River, and it was this section where
Chinese immigrants became involved.
Prior to 1878, a member of Parliament
(MP), from Victoria, called for a "restriction on Chinese immigration and urged
the government not to permit employment ofthe Chinese on the railway construction."2 Arthur Bunster, another MP,
attempted to add a "clause in the CPR
contract forbidding the employment of
anyone whose hair was more than five
and a half inches long."3 This particular
length of hair referred to Chinese as they
usually wore it long as a mark of submission to the Manchus. Had either of these
recommendations been passed, the work
that needed to get done on the final section would probably have been delayed,
not to mention that it would have cost
the railway more money than expected
due to higher wages.
Even though the British Columbia inhabitants were against the use of Chinese
laborers, many people in authority positions favoured them, as historian
Anthony Chan observes: "Sir Matthew
Begbie, the British Columbia chief justice, declared that the four personal qualities of the Chinese were 'industry,
economy, sobriety, and law-
abidingness.'"4 J.A. Chapleau, a cabinet
minister of the Conservative Canadian
government, wrote in 1885 "that the
Chinese worker had no superior as a railway navvy"5 The most famous endorsement ofthe Chinese worker came from
Prime Minister John A. Macdonald when
he told parliament in 1882, "although
the Chinese are 'alien' and would never
assimilate into the 'Aryan' way of life,"
he stressed, "that it is simply a question
of alternatives: either you must have this
labor or you can't have the railway."6
Given the political clout of these speakers, the people had no other choice than
to accept the Chinese as laborers into the
Canadian Pacific Railway.
The government awarded the contracts
for the final section to Andrew
Onderdonk in 1880. He was not the
lowest bidder; however, since he had
proven his ability to complete his contracts on time, he won the bid. The
employment problems started as
Onderdonk tried to recruit the labor he
needed to meet his task. In the British
Columbia area, there were only about
50,387 people, of these, 26,849 were
native, 19,069 were white, and 4,195
were Chinese.7 The British Columbia
inhabitants actually hoped that more
white people from other parts of Canada
or from America would respond to advertisements for work which would add
more people to the communities. The
merchants looked forward to the railway
workers spending their money in their
stores for consumables and supplies, aiding the local economies. Onderdonk
knew that he would need in excess of
10,000 able-bodied men to complete the
task. The number actually doubled over
the five years it took to complete the
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 From his previous experience in
America west, Onderdonk knew that
Chinese laborers would be able to do the
task in the time needed and at a much
cheaper rate than white labor, but he had
promised the Anti-Chinese Association
that he would hire whites first. Advertising rates of $1.50 a day or $125 a
month for overseers brought only thirty-
nine satisfactory workers. In addition,
Onderdonk also ran advertisements assuring whites that their work was wanted.
One advertisement read as follows:
There appears to be an impression that
we propose to work Chinamen on our Railroad Contracts, to the exclusion of white
labor. This impression is working us an
injury, as many who might otherwise apply for work are discouraged from doing so.
As it is imperative to work a very large force
of men the coming season, we shall employ
both classes of labor, and shall furnish employment for 3,000 white men, at our current rates for that class of labor, on
application, provided they are hardy and
This proved that Chinese labor was
necessary, especially considering they
would work for $1 a day. Presently there
were only 4,100 Chinese living in British Columbia. Chinese population figures for the five-year period prior to 1880
accounted for only 2,326 Chinese people, and after 1880 that number increased to 15,701.9 A majority of these
were brought in in 1882 and 1883 for
the Canadian Pacific Railway. Robert
Ward, a commission merchant for the Six
Companies of San Francisco, located in
Victoria, supplied 5,000 to 6,000 Chinese from Hong Kong in response to
Onderdonk's first order. Ten ships delivered the Chinese workers in 35 days.
Residents worried about the social and
moral evils that would come with more
Chinese immigrating such as prostitution, gambling, and opium. Their worries were confirmed when the Six
Companies' men offered these items
along with food, lodging, and clothing
to the recent arrivals prior to sending
them to the work camps. This continued even under the auspices ofthe Chi-
Consolidated     Benevolent
Association which replaced the Six Companies in 1884.10
From the very beginning of contractual work Onderdonk worked the Chinese. A report in the Inland Sentinel
listed the railroad payroll as having 330
white men and 101 Chinese in May of
1880.'' These numbers were to increase
as time went along. A later report by
July 1880 listed 1,300 men on the Railroad company payroll, a little over half
of these were Chinese.12 The ratio comparison shifted from one-fourth of the
workforce, as being Chinese, to over one-
half of the workforce, in a period of just
one and a half months. By 1884, 6,500
of 10,000 workers were of Chinese descent, bringing the ratio to sixty-five percent.13
At first, Onderdonk used the Chinese
for the simple tasks; however, he found
that they were also better suited for the
hard tasks. Four-fifths of the workers
performing grading work were Chinese.
Grading meant to cut out hills to fill ravines and gullies. The reclaiming ofthe
swamp lands also fell to the Chinese as
they were more conditioned for this type
of work. The Chinese appeared to be
immune to malaria, which often occurred from working in the swamps. In
addition, the Chinese were used for tunnelling and work involving dynamite.
Nevertheless, their pay did not change
no matter how hard or demanding the
work. The performance of this style of
gruelling work, along with other demanding tasks, demonstrated the usefulness of the Chinese in the building of
the railway.
As time went along, the construction
company found that the Chinese had as
much endurance as the white man, if not
more. This was proven when they were
put up against some Cornish miners and
the Chinese were able to cut more rock
in a week in the most gruelling conditions. It became evident that the Chinese were needed to build the railway as
not enough white men could be secured,
and the Chinese had proved their capacity for hard work.
One of the toughest assignments
awarded to 150 Chinese laborers dealt
with the Hell's Gate region ofthe Fraser
Canyon. Onderdonk wanted a steamboat to make a run through Hell's Gate,
thus lowering the freight costs to provide
materials. After having a steamboat built
specifically for the task, the hard part lay
ahead in making the run. At one point
the water moved rapidly at ten knots over
a ledge and allowed a passage only eighty
feet wide. To master this task, ringbolts
were placed into the walls ofthe canyon
at steady intervals. The Chinese laborers
then passed ropes between the ringbolts
and helped the Skuzzy maintain the
middle of the river preventing her from
crashing against the edge. The significance of this event is noted in the harrowing eventuality of death the laborers
faced while handling the ropes. One false
move or lost grip ensured a fall and possible death.
The Chinese in and around British
Columbia were also involved in more
than just the railway construction. Many
worked in mines, canneries, milling,
farming, and some were merchants. Each
occupation provided taxes which contributed to the province's development and
growth. The businessmen contributed
approximately $150,000 in duties and
$2,300 in revenues from the $1,320,000
in annual business received.14 A more
detailed report on revenues for a two-year
period, from July 1882 to June 1884,
brought in $87,460 and $99,779 respectively,15 not to mention the annual
$400,000 in trade merchants did with
other local merchants.16 Other expenditures from Chinese people included
freightage and drayage at $26,000, road
tolls at $13,000, rent paid to white owners equaled $33,180, and interest, gas and
insurance totalled $12,370.17 All in all,
the Chinese spent a large portion of their
wages in British Columbia, contrary to
the popular belief that they sent it home
to China. Out of the average annual
Chinese wage of $300, he probably had
approximately $43 left over after expenditures.18 This was not enough money
to bring a wife and children to Canada,
nor was it enough money to allow him
to return to China.
Another venue that can be considered
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 Provincial Trade with China
Table # 1
Duty Received
regarding the Chinese is the number of
arrests due to the increase of Chinese after 1880. According to reports in 1879
and 1880, Chinese were arrested seventy-
five and sixty-nine times respectively. In
1881 the numbers dropped to twenty-
four, followed by fifty-three, forty-three,
and thirty-two for the years 1882, 1883
and 1884 respectively.19 These numbers
compare favorably with those of the
whites. In 1879 and 1880 the number
equaled 291 and 295; however, in 1881
they increased to 354, then 375,394 and
305 for the remaining years.20 This
strongly suggests that Chinese were in less
trouble than whites. However, reports
do not mention if the whites were arrested because ofthe Chinese.
Throughout the building of the railway, many deaths occurred, the majority of which were Chinese. The high
mortality rate was caused by the severity
ofthe jobs assigned and the poor safety
precautions established by the company.
Some of these deaths occurred because
of premeditated negligence, or simple incompetence of the laborers, herders, or
the company, and insufficient warning
of imminent explosions, falling boulders,
rock slides, or cave-ins. Death to the
Chinese laborer caused a stoppage by all
other workers, especially if the death occurred within sight of other workers.
Once the body was removed from the
sight of the workers, they returned to
work. In Canada's China towns, a saying arose: "For every foot of railroad
through the Fraser Canyon, a Chinese
worker died."21 This was an exaggeration of course; however, Onderdonk's
records as well as Lee Tung-hai's records
(Lee Tung-hai was an author of Jianada
huoaqiao shi) showed an estimated
number of 600 Chinese dead during railroad construction.22 This estimate
equated to four Chinese dead for every
mile of railroad built.
The citizens of British Columbia still
did not want these Chinese people
around. Yet on the other hand, British
Columbians benefited greatly by maintaining trade relations with the Chinese,
as is evident in table number one. 23
The amount of duty received because
of trade with China in delivering items
needed by the Chinese was beneficial to
the province.
In terms of trade, the Chinese purchased a large quantity of goods. A
number of these goods such as tea, rice,
chinaware, silk goods, and many more
were imported from China, Japan and
the United States. In addition, a duty
was paid on the items because they were
imported. On the other hand, they also
required local items which added to the
betterment of the province. Purchased
items included cloth goods, woollens, linens, boots, stockings, horses, carriages,
and many others.
Taking into consideration the
amount of money
spent by the average
Chinese in British
Columbia, between
consumables, taxes,
and such, one must
wonder why the inhabitants of British
Columbia still believed the Chinese
sent all their money
home. Had the
situation been reversed, by using
white laborers, the
amount of income
for the district would have been considerably less; especially because the province would not have been able to charge
a head tax. In addition, the price of 100
pounds of rice was substantially higher
than 100 pounds of flour, not to mention the duty charged on rice which did
not apply to flour.
Another interesting point regarding
taxes charged the Chinese was a small
school tax of five dollars per year, as reported in the Inland Sentinel in 1881.24
Failure to pay the tax brought tax-collectors to the work site to obtain the tax.
The tax-collector came with several large
men to ensure that payment occurred.
Considering the number of Chinese
working the line, at five dollars a head,
this added tremendously to the coffers.
The more significant part of this tax is
that ninety-eight percent ofthe Chinese
workers were single and had no children
attending the schools. Therefore, the
Chinese were now contributing to the
education of the residents of the province with no regard to their own welfare
or their children, if they had any. In addition, if they had children in the province they would not attend the same
schools as the others.
In addition, a portion ofthe anti-Chinese sentiment dealt with the subject of
racism. This sentiment also bore symptoms of hatred, jealousy, and misconceptions of Chinese living conditions.   A
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 majority ofthe middle class citizens were
the ones looking for expulsion, while the
upper class had an indifference to the
situation, partially because they hired
Chinese for domestic work. This paper,
however, deals only with the economic
considerations regarding the expulsion of
the Chinese; as the issue of racism is an
entirely different venue.
Another interesting point regarding the
subject of limited immigration regarding the Chinese people came from the
actions ofthe people ofthe United States..
In 1882, the United States Congress
passed the Chinese Exclusion Act.25 This
act suspended immigration, limited the
civil rights of resident Chinese, and forbade their naturalization. Furthermore,
cities on the Pacific Coast such as
Tacoma, Portland, and Seattle even went
to the point of expelling the Chinese living in their cities in 1885 and 1886.26
This period was sometimes referred to
as the Yellow Peril era. For the situation
to reach the height of Congress required
the problem to have existed many years
prior to this. Now British Columbia attempted to do almost the same thing that
the United States had already done. This
is another example of Canada following
in the footsteps of its southern neighbor.
The Canadian Pacific Railway would
not have been completed as rapidly as it
was, had the Chinese not been hired, nor
would the company have saved $3-5
million. Onderdonk knew that the Chinese were hard working diligent people
capable of getting the job done, because
of previous experience using them. On
the other hand, it is hard to understand
the British Columbians' resistance to the
Chinese being in the province especially
when taking into consideration the
amount of revenues and taxes received
from them. By continuing the attempt
to eradicate the province of Chinese inhabitants, province citizens were figuratively cutting their own throats. Fears
about crime did not appear to substantiate removal ofthe Chinese; the statistics
reveal that the Chinese were involved in
less crime than the other inhabitants.
The British Columbian inhabitants
should have changed their views relating
to the Chinese as inhabitants of their
province and should have accepted them
with open arms as taxpaying constituents
ofthe province after looking back at the
contributions the Chinese made to the
development of British Columbia. One
might say the Canadian Pacific Railway,
West ofthe Rockies, could have had its
name changed to the Chinese Pacific
Railway because of the cooperation and
involvement of those who built it.
Craig Wilkey is a retired U.S. Navy Submariner who served on various Poseidon Ballistic
Missile Nuclear Submarines. This father of four
children has just completed his B'A. in History
at the University ofWashington in Seattle. This
essay was written for a course in Canadian
History taught by Dr. Richard Mackie of Victoria.
1. Piette Betton, The Impossible Railway: The Building
ofthe Canadian Pacific, (New Yotk: Knopf, 1970),
2. Hugh A. Dempsey, ed., The CPR West: The Iron
Road and the Making of a Nation. (Vancouver
1984), p. 24.
3. Dempsey, The CPR West, p. 24.
4. Anthony 6. Chan, Gold Mountain: The Chinese in
the New World, (Vancouver: New Stat Books, 1983),
p. 59.
5. Chan, Gold Mountain, p. 59.
6. Chan, Gold Mountain, p. 60.
7. Cole Hattis, The Resettlement of British Columbia:
Essays on Colonialism and Geographical Change,
(Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press,
1997), p. 140.
8. Inland Sentinel, 17 February 1881, p. 3.
9. Canada, Parliament, Sessional Papers, 1885, Volume
XVIII No. 11, Report ofthe Royal Commission on
Chinese Immigration, No. 54 a, The Honorable
Commissioner Gray's Report Respecting Chinese
Immigration, p. v.
10. Chan, Gold Mountain, p. 44.
11. "Canadian Pacific Railway," Inland Sentinel, 29 May
1880, p. 2.
12. "Eighteen Miles along the Canadian Pacific Railway,"
Inland Sentinel, 15 July 1880, p. 2.
13. Robert D. Turner, West ofthe Great Divide: an
illustrated history ofthe Canadian Pacific Railway
in British Columbia, 1880-1986, (Victoria: Sono Nis
Press, 1987), p. 7.
14. Sessional Papers, No. 54 a, The Honorable
Commissioner Gray's Report Respecting Chinese
Immigration, p. ix.
15. Sessional Papers, No. 54 a, Appendix N, p. 397 and
16. Sessional Papers, No. 54 a, The Honorable
Commissioner Gray's Report Respecting Chinese
Immigration, p. ix.
17. Sessional Papers, No. 54 a, The Honorable
Commissioner Gray's Report Respecting Chinese
Immigration, p. ix.
18. Chan, Gold Mountain, p. 67.
19. Sessional Papers, No. 54 a, The Honorable
Commissioner Gray's Report Respecting Chinese
Immigration, p. vii.
20. Sessional Papers, No. 54 a, The Honorable
Commissioner Gray's Report Respecting Chinese
Immigration, p. vii.
21. Chan, Gold Mountain, p. 67.
22. Harry Con, Ronald J. Con, Graham Johnson, Edgar
Wickberg, and William E. Willmorr, From China to
Canada: A History ofthe Chinese Communities in
Canada, (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Limited,
1982), p. 24, quoted from Lee Tung-hai (David T.H.
Lee), Jianada huaqiao shi (Taibei: n. p., 1967),
p. 131.
23. Sessional Papers, No. 54 a, The Honorable
Commissioner Gray's Report Respecting Chinese
Immigration, p. iv.
24. "About Collecting Taxes," Inland Sentinel, 27
October 1881, p. 2.
25. John Mack Faragher, Mari Jo Buhle, Daniel Czirrom,
and Susan H. Armitage, Out of Many: A History of
American People, 2 vols. (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.:
Prenrice Hall, 1995), 2:371.
26. Bonnie Sue Lewis, Class Lecture, History ofthe Pacific
Northwest, HSTAS 432, University ofWashington,
Seattle, 19 February 1997.
Primary Sources
Canada. Parliament. Sessional Papers, 1885, Volume XVIII
No. 11, Report ofthe Royal Commission on Chinese
Immigration, No. 54 a, The Honorable Commissioner
Gray's Report Respecting Chinese Immigration.
Canada. Parliament. Sessional Papers, 1885, Volume XVIII
No. 11, Report ofthe Royal Commission on Chinese
Immigration, No. 54 a, Appendix N.
"Canadian Pacific Railway." Inland Sentinel, 29 May 1880,
"Eighteen Miles along the Canadian Pacific Railway." Inland
Sentinel, 15 July 1880, p. 2.
Inland Sentinel. 17 February 1881.
"About Collecting Taxes." Inland Sentinel, 27 October
1881, p. 2.
Secondary Sources
Berton, Pierre. The Impossible Railway: The Building of
the Canadian Pacific New York: Knopf, 1970.
Chan, Anthony B. Gold Mountain: The Chinese in the
New World. Vancouver: New Star Books, 1983.
Con, Harry; Con, Ronald J.; Johnson, Graham; Wickberg,
Edgar; and Willmott, William E. From China to
Canada: A History ofthe Chinese Communities in
Canada. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Limited,
1982 quoted from Lee Tung-hai (Lee, David T.H.).
Jianada huaqiao shi. Taibei: n.p., 1967.
Dempsey, Hugh A., ed. The CPR Wesc The Iron Road and
the Making of a Nation. Vancouver: Douglas &
Mclntyre, 1984.
Faragher, John Mack; Buhle, Mari Jo; Czitrom, Daniel; and
Armitage, Susan H. Out of Many: A History of
American People. 2 vols. Englwood Cliffs N.J.: Prentice
Hall, 1995.
Harris, Cole. The Resettlement of British Columbia: Esays
on Colonialism and Geographical Change. Vancouver:
University of British Columbia Press, 1997.
Lewis, Bonnie Sue. Class Lecture. History of the Pacific
Northwest HSTAS 432. Universiry ofWashington,
Seatde. 19 February 1997.
Turner, Robert D. West ofthe Great Divide: an illustrated
history ofthe Canadian Pacific RaiJway in British
Columbia, 1880-1986. Vicrorla: Sono Nis Press, 1987.
l/Huc/i Canadian history can
only he recti aright with one eye
on the history oj the riinited
R.G. Trotter,
Canadian Historical Review, 1924
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 Robert T. Lowery:
Editor, Publisher & Printer
by Bronson A. Little
In 1891, first hand news of major
Slocan silver and lead strikes was limited
to two West Kootenay papers, the Hot
Spring News in Ainsworth, B.C., and
The Miner in Nelson, B.C. These settlements were not in the Slocan District
proper, but they were as close as possible
to those first exciting news events and
the ones which followed in 1892. The
Miner, in particular, continued to carry
a great deal of Slocan mining news while
the weekly Slocan papers were getting
The first newspaper to be published
in the Slocan was the Kaslo-Slocan Examiner. Its editor was Mark W
Musgrove from Oregon. Some copies of
the first issue were printed on four folds
of fancy silk cloth, probably to ensure a
permanent record, but also to advertise
the new paper. It was published on October 22,1892. A copy, brown with age,
may be seen in the B.C. Archives in Victoria.
The second Slocan newspaper was the
Kaslo Claim which was started on May
12, 1893 by the versatile Robert
Thornton Lowery. He was distinguished
by his short stature (about five feet), his
piercing Irish eyes behind steel-rimmed
spectacles, his mild manner, and his caustic wit. He was a smart dresser, wore a
goatee, and smoked expensive cigars. He
enjoyed a healthy shot of whiskey and
he played a good hand of poker. These
characteristics earned him the honorary
title of "Colonel" although he was not a
veteran of any war.
Mr. Lowery began life in Halton
County, Ontario (near Milton) in 1859.
His early days were spent in Petrolia,
Ontario. His career in printing and publishing began in a job printing office in
Toronto. He later returned to Petrolia,
and with his elder brother Bill, started
Robert T. Lowery in his later years.
Photo courtesy of BCARS HP42283
the Petrolia Topic about 1886. A few
years later, he sold his interest in this paper and moved to Sault St. Marie, Ontario where he opened a stationery store.
Lowery grew weary ofthe routine store
business and headed west to Vancouver,
B.C. in the early part of 1891. He first
arrived in Nelson, B.C. on May 26th of
that year. It would seem that he was
somewhat undecided about settling
down in Nelson. However, in 1892, he
opened a stationery store there and in
Kaslo, where he also felt there was a need
for another local paper in this busy frontier distributing centre.
In the first issue of the Kaslo Claim,
Lowery expressed himself with witty
phrases and a dry sense of humor which
would be the trademark of all ten of his
West Kootenay publications, eight of
which were newspapers. "The printing
factory," he wrote, "is on Printing House
Square, close to the meeting of the wa-
ters of Kaslo Creek. If the mules do not
kick the office down before Fall we will
wear diamonds and gaze at the World's
Fair before Christmas. This oration does
not cost anything but the Claim is still
$3 a year ..."
Unfortunately a slumping silver market in the summer of 1893 put Spokane
banks in financial difficulties and caused
the Slocan to lose, for a short time, its
commercial backing. The Kaslo Claim
felt the effects of the depression. On
August 25, 1893, Lowery was forced to
shut down the paper with an unusual
"tombstone" edition. On the front page
the epitaph was printed on a gravestone.
In this issue, Lowery poked fun at his
advertisers by changing the position of
some of their ads. These were printed
upside down for clients who had not paid
their bills; sideways for clients who had
partly paid; and right way up for clients
who had paid in full. Some Kaslo residents were not amused by Lowery's eccentricity but he at least had the pleasure
of showing up these deadbeats!
Lowery was no quitter. He was a sharp
and shrewd newspaperman, and when he
saw a good opportunity to publish firsthand he moved, even though he had to
borrow money to make a fresh start. On
October 5, 1893, the initial issue ofthe
Nakusp Ledge came off his press which
he had moved from Kaslo. Some copies
were printed on white silk, probably to
ensure a more permanent record and to
advertise the new paper. An example can
be seen in the Special Collections Library
at the University of British Columbia in
Nakusp was at this time becoming a
busy railroad and sternwheeler centre.
The B.C. Government contractor was
rushing to get the Nakusp and Slocan
Railway line completed through to
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 Sandon townsite before the Kaslo &
Slocan Railway could get in its line.
Consequendy there was plenty of exciting news to report. The railways and
roads were, of course, the main topic, as
were Nakusp events.
Lowery commented on railway
progress (or lack of it), and interspersed
his comments with observations on other
aspects of frontier setdement. He took a
great interest in people, being quick to
point out their faults and foibles. He
could also give praise where it was deserved. He wrote with honesty, boldness
and humor about any issue which he felt
needed to be exposed for better or worse.
He believed strongly in the rights of
workers and many of his editorials blasted
the mine owners for the poor working
conditions in some ofthe mines.
Once the "Colonel" got started on a
subject he would not leave it until he was
satisfied that he had made clear his position, which was usually a strong one
when it came to railroading, retail business of all types, and labour problems and
politics. His use of flowery words and
long sentences helped him to get across
his points, often with a dry humorous
twist. In some instances he used words
and phrases which may be somewhat difficult to understand today.
In the October 26, 1893 issue ofthe
Nakusp Ledge, Lowery wrote a stinging editorial on the voices of Kaslo's
Theatre Comique, a branch of Spokanes
Comique Variety Show. "The
Comique," he said, "is not one of those
resorts to which gentlemen take their
wives and it is not a place which is calculated to improve either public or private
morality. Within its precincts we must
never expect to find either culture or talent. Education is not well represented
therein, but on the other hand, it presents
a lewd appearance, a something which is
suggestive which does not attract our
better qualities, but which appeals
strongly and directly to the lower and
most beastly part of our nature. A double row of boxes, called private, a boisterous pit, a number of meretriciously
attired females, an orchestra, and a row
of lamps throwing a glare of light upon
tawdry ornamentation - and there is
Kaslo's Theatre Comique."
The Comique was certainly one of
Lowery's favourite targets for criticism.
In the years to come, he would have more
to say about it, especially when it became
established in Sandon, B.C.
Near the end of 1894, Lowery decided
to move the Nakusp Ledge to New
Denver, B.C., where it became simply
The Ledge. The first issue was printed
on December 27th. New Denver was
much closer to the major mining activities, both up in the mountains and near
Slocan Lake. The town was filled with
speculators and businessmen of all types.
Three Forks and Sandon were also feeling the pleasant effects of a rapidly expanding population and booming
economy. Other centres, such as Slocan
City and Silverton, provided a wealth of
news as they were, like New Denver, convenient stopover points for all types of
On the other side ofthe Slocan divide,
Kaslo was experiencing rapid growth and
prosperity. Lowery felt it again needed a
paper so he started up the Kaslo Claim
(relocated) on August 10,1895. Heap-
pointed John J. Langstaff as its publisher.
John was also an Ontario native from
Bruce County. He worked closely with
Lowery to put out this paper and frequently used some of the "Colonel's"
cynical comments on human nature.
The March 21, 1896 issue contained
some especially good ones, for example:
The human race are natural kickers.
We know business men in this town
who kick because the people send
away for goods in order to save a few
cents. The same individuals, if they
wanted a job of printing done once a
century would, if they could, save half
a dollar and send to China for it, in
preference to having it done in this
district. This is not the way to build
up a town, and it is a poor rule that
does not work both ways.
The special subscription offer on April
11, 1896 stated that "For $25 we will
send the paper for life to any individual
who is old or who gains his living in a
dangerous occupation."
Soon after this printing, the Kaslo
Claim (Relocated) ceased publication.
The last issue came out on April 25,
1896. Langstaff was anxious to try his
hand at prospecting that year, and
Lowery was apparently unable to find
another publisher. The New Denver
paper took up a lot of his time as he published it with litde assistance except when
he was out of town. The main source of
revenue came from advertisements and
subscriptions which he often found hard
to sell. He was constantly after people
to pay up.
Once in 1903 he became so discouraged that he wrote a short poem for the
November 26th issue of The Ledge. It
was entitled "Printers Poetry" and read
like this:
Lives of poor men oft remind us
Honest toil won't stand a chance.
The more we work, there grow behind us
Bigger patches on our pants.
On our pants once new and glossy
Now are stripes of different hue.
All because subscribers linger
And won't pay us what is due.
Let us then, be up and doing.
Send the pay however small,
Or when snows of winter strike us,
We shall have no pants at all.
Lowery did not often write poetry for
publication but when he did it was usually funny and it was often directed at
In the summer of 1896, Lowery returned to Petrolia to visit friends and relatives. He found few changes other than
the death of a friend. He sent back for
publication in the July 23rd issue of The
Ledge the following comment under the
heading, "Among the Tenderfeet. Or the
Ups and Downs of a Travelling Editor's
Many of the old boys look about the
same as they did in the days of yore.
Hank Brake has the same sunburnt face
he used to have, but I missed my old
partner Hee. During our absence he
had climbed the golden stairs into that
country where no man carries a pack
and everything breaks even. Hee was a
dead square man, and his moral formation carried a wide paystreak of everything that was good and true in man.
Lowery was not a particularly religious
man in terms of being a regular church
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 THE LEDGE (New Denver): July 12, 1900. Cartoon from an editorial page. 'Colonel'
Lowery sits at his desk, while Keno, his bulldog, devours a delinquent subscriber.
goer. However, he did have convictions.
He basically believed that the way a person lived in this life would largely determine what would happen in the next life.
He believed his criticisms were valid and
that he was doing the right thing in expressing them in his newspapers. The
final judgement, however, would not be
made by him.
He derived some satisfaction by occasionally poking fun at the Ministry which
is well illustrated in this quote from The
Ledge for August 6, 1903 under the
heading, "The Editor's Upper Stope":
A New York preacher says that we all
go to the devil when we get $50,000.
This is some comfort, although we
wish some breeze of fortune would
send us a ticket so that we could take a
look at the devil, and see whether he is
real, or just a dream of blue brains or
yellow livers.
By the Fall of 1896, Sandon was fast
becoming a major commercial centre for
many ofthe mountain mines around it.
Retail business was booming: stores, hotels, and saloons filled its gulch from end
to end. All this activity created the need
for town planning and the expenditure
of considerable sums to make the town
safe and attractive for settlement. Both
the Canadian Pacific and the Great
Northern railroads were now in to
Sandon, so outside communication was
considerably improved. Professional
gamblers, prostitutes, and con artists of
all types showed up on a regular basis.
Money and whiskey flowed freely in
Sandon. However, unlike many United
States mining camps, there were few
This was the type of opportunity
Lowery favoured for the starting up of a
new paper. On September 26,1896, the
first issue of The Paystreak appeared in
Sandon. The "Printing Palace," as
Lowery liked to call his business, was a
wood shack sandwiched between other
businesses on the main street. The "Colonel" first put John J. Langstaff in charge
of its publication while he stayed in New
Denver to work on The Ledge. Lowery,
however, always made sure The
Paystreak contained some of his material. These items were published under
"Ledge Croppings." Later, beginning in
1900, they appeared under the heading,
"From Lowery's Upper Stope."
In March 1897, Langstaff for some reason, left The Paystreak. Lowery appointed a new manager, E.C. Bissell. The
content and style of the paper did not
change. The years 1897, 1898 and the
early part of 1899 were boom times for
Sandon. News was abundant and the
reporting of it was generally good. It is
particularly during this period that
Sandon's connections with other
Slocan communities
were emphasized.
There were good
sporting teams in
most of them and
entertainment of all
types was a shared
experience. If an
event was being held
in Sandon, people
from Kaslo and
New Denver got on
the trains and attended in significant
numbers. Even bad
weather did not usually stop this exchange in or out of
Sandon. Many of
these activities were faithfully recorded
in The Paystreak, and the accounts are
invaluable to researchers of social life in
early mining towns. With a shifting
population of around 5000 at this time,
Sandon had much to offer in this way.
There was never a dull moment.
In 1898, Lowery decided to start up a
paper in Rossland, B.C. Only one issue
of Lowery's Golden Claim was ever published and that was on December 18th.
He apparently decided that New Denver
and Sandon were better locations, at least
for him.
Lowery frequently argued with the
editors or owners of other local papers
when he felt they were taking advantage
of him, or were unfairly criticizing his
opinions. He particularly disliked
Charles Cliffe of the Sandon Mining
Review because Cliffe would wait to
publish his paper until The Paystreak
came out. Then he would use some of
Lowery's news without permission.
There were no copyright laws back then.
Cliffe had come to Sandon from
Brandon, Manitoba, and Lowery often
felt he should return there, for good.
Cliffe also ran a book and stationery store
in Sandon in conjunction with the Mining Review. No doubt, Cliffe took away
from Lowery some Sandon advertising
business, and his store was quite success-
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 ful, which probably irritated Lowery even
more. On the other hand, the "Colonel" never had any serious competition
in the ten years he published in New
Around April 15, 1899, Billy
MacAdams assumed full ownership of
The Paystreak, and acted as its publisher
and editor. Although Lowery's connection with this paper diminished, he still
made contributions to it from time to
time, and MacAdams used some of
Lowery's New Denver news from "Ledge
Croppings." This is an example from the
July 8, 1899 issue:
The lowest form of life yet found is
the man who will take a paper for years
without paying for it, and then have
the postmaster send it back, marked,
'Not Called For.' Hell is so full of this
class that respectable applicants from
Nelson, Vancouver and other points
have been refused admittance until the
premises can be enlarged.
MacAdams, like Lowery, was an outspoken critic of big business, railway
magnates, labour leaders, and politicians
in general. However, he was not as successful as Lowery in voicing his opinions
in flowery language which made Lowery's
comments seem less harsh and less likely
to antagonize the person being criticized.
In the summer of 1902, MacAdams went
too far and, in an editorial, insulted the
B.C. Supreme Court judges. He was
given a jail sentence, and Lowery had to
publish The Paystreak for the rest of that
Prior to this trouble, Lowery had
started the Slocan Drill in Slocan City,
which was first published there on April
6, 1900. He had turned over the job of
publishing the paper to C.E.
Smitheringale. It was a success until the
spring of 1905 when it became defunct
because of unpaid bills.
In addition, Lowery was experimenting with the publication of Lowery's
Claim, a monthly journal, which had
come out at irregular intervals since 1901
in New Denver, Nelson and Vancouver.
Although the Claim continued sporadically until 1906, it was never a success.
It was a controversial publication in
which Lowery proposed to expose all
sorts of frauds with "truth and humor."
Lowery was a busy man throughout
1903 and 1904. He kept up the publication of The Ledge in New Denver, and
attempted to start a weekly, The
Ozonogram, in Vancouver. This was
published only in May and June of 1903.
Near the end of 1903, Lowery started
a paper at Poplar in the Lardeau country
north of Kaslo. This was The Nugget
which was published for nearly a year.
Prospectors had earlier made some good
silver strikes in this area, and when gold
was discovered as well in June 1903, there
was a mad rush to stake claims. Lowery
felt that Poplar was destined to become
as important as Sandon, but by the end
of 1904 the boom was over and so was
The Nugget.
Lowery's next project was Float, a collection of a few of his own articles and
short stories by other authors, in book
form. It was published only once in New
Denver and Nelson for the years 1903/
Sandon, B. C Hub city far tbe Slocan Mountain Mines. CA 1897.
Pholo courtesy of the Kootenay Museum Association, Nelson, B.C. #1509.
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 1904. He had intended Float to be a
"romantic history of Kootenay," but it
turned out to be mostly just a collection
of borrowed fiction and not very good
fiction at that. There were only a few
good stories about "Kootenay." and a
skimpy section about his start in the
Slocan. Lowery touted Float as a "literary venture," but his best publications
were the ones which contained his own
material or that of his editors.
Before Float was printed, Lowery
made another trip east to Petrolia which
he wrote about for his new publication.
This is a small section from the trip account:
I found many people here willing to
board me in return for my company.
I have given them a kind invitation to
move out west so as to be always near
me. Such folks are dear to me, and I
suppose in time I would be dear to
them. So far my washing has not cost
me anything and I am inclined to remain here for life, but my love for
America's Lucerne will probably shatter my dream of ease.   I have been
asked to attend church several times,
but up to this minute I have not
yielded to the temptation. It is a great
pleasure to be home with a mother. I
have only one mother, and she thinks
I am an angel without wings.
The "Colonel" was always glad to return to New Denver or "America's Lucerne" as he liked to call it.  Only R.T.
Lowery could describe in such descriptive prose the Slocan's changes in season,
the moonlight on Slocan Lake, or the
fury of a storm. The following account
is a good example from Float in which
he makes comparisons to the great flood
in Galveston, Texas, the one in Biblical
times, and Niagara Falls:
The elements were all on a toot the
other day. As the day grew old the
storm became more violent. It seemed
to favor my printing place with steady
attention. The sign blew down like a
feather from a flying goose. The wind
howled like a Three Forks demon, and
the rain was copious enough to indicate an attack of diabetes in the heavens. I thought of Galveston. Then I
battened down the hatches, tied myself to the big press, and allowed resignation to spread itself over my
benign-or-ten-countenance. After that
I rested easier. The lurid flashes of
Nature's electric light plant revealed
ever and anon the solemnity of the
occasion. The rain descended in long
sheets of active moisture, and I knew
that somewhere rainmakers were working overtime. The office sprang a leak
abaft the smokestack and I thought of
Noah, but it did me no good, as nothing in the building would pair, not
even my hosiery. The storm increased
in virulence, and the roar on my tin-
slated hurricane deck was like Niagara.
The bulldog howled as though praying in Gaelic, while the mice, which
have been stealing my paper all summer, came out of their holes and with
tears in their eyes begged my forgiveness. Taking it all in all, it was the
wettest storm this camp has had for
many moons, and it has made soft
water a drug on the market.
(The highest deck on a sternwheeler
was often referred to as a hurricane deck.
He called his bulldog, Keno.)
About the best true story that Lowery
wrote about Sandon life was printed in
Float. It described a gambler, Morris
Butterman, and his last deal, under the
heading, "How Morris Cashed In":
In '97 there were flush times in the
Slocan. The overflow ofthe Rossland
boom swished through the silver
camps and coated them with gold.
The wash struck Sandon the hardest,
and for months that town had its
Cairo-like street literally paved with
dollars and playing cards. Sandon is
built in a gulch between high mountains, o'er which the sun occasionally
rubbers the burg. In those days it was
a hot locality. All night long the pianos shrieked 'Below the dead line',
while about it the booze factories had
no keys. The clinking of glasses kept
time to the rattle of chips and cries of
"That's good', 'I'm fat!', 'Put in with
you!', etc. Gamblers were thicker than
'Coons at a cake walk', and a flash of
sunlight made the lower end of the
camp look like a switchyard with all
the danger signals on fire. The camp
never closed up. It was one long carnival of cards, wine and women.
When one shift went flewey another
took its place, and Canada's Monte
Carlo never blinked an eye.
About this time, Morris Butterman
hailed the camp. Morris had no yellow in him, and packed more than
sixty years on his broad back. He had
been a gambler for nearly half a century. He had faced the tiger in Montana, shot craps in New Orleans, dealt
stud on the old Mississippi and peeped
from behind fours in many a draw
game. So when he hit the camp he
was not afraid of anything in sight. He
dealt faro in the Bucket of Blood saloon and kept his shirt bosom ever
white. For a long time his meal ticket
had figures on it, and then the splits
came. The crash in silver, and then
the strike, soon made Sandon look like
a dirty deuce in a new deck, and the
old gambler went up the hill to cook
for a while, but he did not suit and
wandered back again, broke, but sad,
silent and proud.
Several ofthe boys noticed that he did
not eat regularly and proffered him aid,
but he shook his head and stood pat.
One day, about five in the afternoon,
he passed through the Bucket of Blood
to the stairway on the rear to his room.
As he mounted the steps he turned and
took a long look at the bar and Handsome Jack. Late the next afternoon
Jack went upstairs to the old man's
room and found him dead. He had
put on his best clothes, got under the
blankets, taken a swallow of poison and
cashed in. And thus Morris quit the
game — a philosopher. Old, broke
and nothing behind the deal, he preferred to pass up, rather than burden
his friends.
On April 2, 1903, Lowery amalgamated The Ledge with a new edition of
The Paystreak which was published under the Typographical Union label, Nelson No. 340. However, he kept the name
The Ledge and continued to publish it
in New Denver until August 11, 1904
when he moved his press to Nelson. The
Ledge name moved too but it lasted only
until October 20, 1904. Perhaps there
was too much competition in Nelson for
Lowery, or he had a falling-out with another editor or publisher. He had been
known to criticize the Nelson populace
somewhat harshly in his Slocan papers.
In any case, Lowery decided that
Fernie, B.C. needed a good newspaper.
He kept the name The Ledge and the
first issue was published there on Octo-
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 ber 26,1904. The paper was full of news
about coal mining and the people who
made up this "camp" as Lowery liked to
call the towns in which he had a publication. For some reason, he only published The Ledge in Fernie until August
2, 1905 at which time he seems to have
taken a short rest from the newspaper
Lowery's next paper was The Ledge in
Greenwood, B.C. His first issue was
published there on May 10,1906. It had
a long run right up to August 1, 1920.
During this time Lowery acquired the
Similkameen Star in Princeton, B.C.
He was involved with it from July, 1914
to May, 1918, but eventually sold it to
another publisher.
As usual, Lowery took a great interest
in recording Greenwood's daily events in
the centre of the copper mining and
smelting region ofthe Boundary district.
Phoenix, up in the hills above Greenwood, was a bustling city itself so there
was plenty of news to more than fill the
weekly edition of The Ledge. What did
not get published there was printed in
the Phoenix Pioneer, a rival paper.
On June 14, 1906, soon after his arrival in Greenwood, Lowery wrote as follows under the heading, "Phoenix
On the road from Greenwood, snakes,
birds, and gophers are plentiful, and
can be seen without drinking anything
out of a bottle.
About the only differences between
Sandon and Phoenix were the dryer climate and the type of ore in the mines.
The miners were basically the same, and
the news about them and the general
populace in Greenwood and Phoenix had
many similarities to Slocan news. Greenwood, however, could boast of a smelter!
By the latter part of 1920, Lowery's
health was beginning to deteriorate. He
developed dropsy or edema, a debilitating disease which leads to retention of
water in body tissues. The doctors of
today are usually able to successfully treat
this disease but in Lowery's time it was
not well understood. He was hospitalized for several months in Grand Forks,
B.C. from 1920 until 1921. On August
1, 1920 Lowery had to retire from the
newspaper business and The Ledge was
leased to another publisher who changed
its name.
On May 20, 1921 Robert Thornton
Lowery "climbed the golden stairs" after
sixty-two years of a very interesting life.
He had indicated, during his last days,
to his executor, W.R. Dewdney, that he
wished to be buried at Nelson by the
Oldtimers. This was the Nelson branch
of the Kootenay Pioneers' Association.
The funeral was held on May 25th and
was well attended by the Oldtimers,
many of whom had been close friends of
the "Colonel" in Nelson's earlier days.
Lowery had never married but he left
behind two sisters and three brothers, all
in Ontario.
At the funeral an interesting rite took
place which was later described in an
unidentified newspaper for July 2,1921,
under the heading, "Dropped Boughs
into Open Grave. Indian Rite Performed
at Funeral of Late Robt. T. Lowery":
A beautiful rite, employed by the
Kootenay Pioneers' Association for the
first time, was exemplified at this funeral
when twenty-five old associates of the
early days each dropped into the open
grave his tribute of British Columbia fir,
with the parting injunction, 'Rest in
Peace.' This rite was founded on the custom of an Indian tribe in the East
Kootenay-Columbia Valley many years
ago, of never passing a certain spot in
the narrow trail at the head of Columbia Lake, where once the men ofthe tribe
died to a man in making a stand against
an invasion, without depositing a fir
bough, the pile of boughs being always
green by this perpetual renewal.
This seems like a fitting tribute to a
man who had spent some thirty years
publishing and printing newspapers
throughout the Kootenays. Lowery was
buried in the Anglican section of the
Nelson cemetery.   The grave is not
marked with a headstone.   Surely, the
"Colonel" deserves one, for without his
ambition and drive, the Slocan and other
parts of the Kootenays would not have
the excellent record provided by his early
newspaper accounts.
The author spent many years in the Kootenays
but now lives in Victoria where he can visit the
B.C. Archives and read newspapers from the
early years.
B.C. Outdoors, Vol. 24, December, 1968. Article by Wayne
McCrory: "The Colonel ofthe Kootenays."
The Columbian (New Westminster): Articles by John
Pearson: November 2, 1970, "The Way It Was — Pioneer
Editor Saw Life in the Raw."; March 1, 1971, "The Way
it Was — Soot, Booze Filled Pen."
The Courier (Cranbrook): March 19, 1969. Article by Dave
Kay and D.A. MacDonald: "Come With Me to Yesterday
— Colonel Lowery, Newspaperman Extraordinary."
Daily Townsman (Cranbrook): June 6, 1977. Article by John
Pearson: "A Part of Yesterday —The Mark Twain ofthe
Frontier Times, Austin, Texas: September, 1970. Article by
Wayne McCrory: "All the News That's Fit to Laugh At!"
(Editor Lowery).
The Kootenaian (Kaslo): March 14, 1968. Article by Wayne
McCrory: "Colonel Lowery — the Famous Founder of
Many Area Weekly Newspapers."
Kootenay Lake Historical Society: Pamphlet, "Historical
Kaslo, British Columbia", 1966.
Public Works, Nelson. Telephone conversation in July, 1991
with Bob Adams in regard to Lowery's gravesite. Personal
visit to gravesite in September, 1992.
J. B. Stetson Hats.
Fancy Corduroy Caps.
The Citizen's Hat.
Young Men's Derby.
Men's Hats - a few samples in an 1898 Sears
Roebuck Catalogue
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 Bill Billeter: 1914 Sailor & Fisherman
by Dirk Septer
William "BiU" Billeter, now deceased,
was a long time resident ofthe Bulkley Valley. His pictures andfew notes were left to
the Museum in Smithers. The author was
shown these when preparing "Pages from
the Past", a column for the Smithers newspaper Tbe Interior News. Mr. Septer decided to share the photographic story with
the readers ofthe B.C. Historical News.
When these pictures are returned from
the printer Septer plans to send them to the
Alaska State Archives in Juneau as a record
ofthe sockeye season in 1914 in Bristol Bay.
The Journey to Alaska
In April 1914, the W.B. Flint, a really
old fully rigged wooden sailing ship, left
Seattle, Wash, for the Bering Sea. Since
the ship was entirely dependent on sail, On board the W,8, Flint. -1914,
it was towed out of Puget Sound to the the payroll from the time of leaving port,
open Pacific. The journey to Bristol Bay they were all assigned to various tasks
took 31 days.   Since the men were on      while aboard ship. Billeter was given the
job of being one ofthe sailors. Unfortunately, the
weather was rough when the
men got turned loose and
many got promptly very seasick. Another thing made
the first couple of days anything but pleasant. Most of
the sailors, to be fishermen
later, were Scandinavian or
Finns, and nearly all liked
their liquor. At the time, rot-
gut whiskey was so cheap
that many of the men
brought a five gallon keg of
this on board with them.
For the next couple of days,
only the odd sailor was really sober. When drinking,
a water dipper was used, and
if you happened to be a bit
different and would not
drink with them, they felt
highly insulted. Some
would get really nasty, and
On board the W.B. Flint - 1914. It was one of those beautiful days       Billeter, being seasick as well,
and I went up into tbe rigging for fan. was in real trouble.  He re-
BiU and some of his crew mates.
called one morning, he felt so sick that
he could not get up. The sleeping quarters were down in the hold and the bunks
were three high and so close together that
you had to walk sideways to get in between. Billeter occupied a top bunk.
Pretty soon the mate came down and
said: "And what is the matter with you?"
Billeter replied that he felt very sick. The
mate then said "Hell we are all sick" and
yanked Billeter out of the bunk and let
him fall.. .
Things improved steadily as the whiskey ran out and Billeter learned about
his job. As a rule they did not go up in
the rigging to work the sails unless it was
really blowing and the mate thought that
a little more would tear the sail. It didn't
bother Billeter much to be up. But when
half a dozen men would get up on one
small rope, it made him a bit uneasy because everything about the ship looked
so old. He knew that if a rope broke
that would be just too bad... No nylon
rope in those days!
The men never learned the age of the
old "tub". Perhaps one indication ofthe
age was that, with the exception of the
captain's cabin, there was no plumbing,
not even a sink to wash dishes. The gal-
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 ley (kitchen) was in one part ofthe ship.
Then the food was carried to a small
cubby hole in another part. This place
would seat only a quarter ofthe crew, so
they took turns. The dishes were washed
in a bucket of cold salt water.
As the ship leaked since leaving Seatde,
frequent pumping was routine. The
amount of leakage depended on the condition of the sea. And of course, there
were only hand pumps. Despite the
crude conditions, Billeter enjoyed the
latter part ofthe trip north.
Kogguing, Bristol Bay, Alaska
After a 31 day journey, the Flint arrived at Bristol Bay. Due to a very gradual
slope of the sea-bed from shore and a 30
foot tide, it was necessary to anchor the
vessel some miles offshore. The cannery
itself was built inland on a deep plough.
When the tide was out, the slough was
dry. Most of the area around the cannery was covered with deep spongy moss.
Walking across it in summer would bring
out clouds of gnats. These pesty little
critters would fly into one's eyes, nose and
ears, and could drive a person crazy when
no netting was worn. Near the cannery
a number of Natives were living. Their
standard of living was quite appalling. In
cold weather they would go underground
in shallow dugouts not much better than
kennels. For a good part ofthe year thei r
diet consisted of dried fish and the odd
seal. There was no sign of game in the
area. One of the worst features of the
time seemed to be their isolation and lack
of communication.
Billeter spent the early part ofthe season working on the cannery's little tug
boat. It was used to move freight from
the Flint to the cannery. This little boat
had been built for river work, and she
certainly was not suited for work in this
area. She only drew three feet of water
and when it was rough she bobbed
around like a cork. On two occasions
Billeter was tossed out of his bunk. A
barge was anchored at a convenient spot
to receive fish from the fishermen.
When the fish started to run, he was
given the job of firing the steam boiler
that powered the cannery. Normal work
hours were sixty hours a week.   How
ever, when the run started,
each day's catch had to be processed that same day. Some days
it would be midnight or later
before everything was cleaned
up. There was not such a thing
as overtime. The men received
a regular pay of $50 a month,
paid in one lump sum when
they arrived back at Seattle.
The bookkeeper also kept
some sort of commissary, supplying work clothes, tobacco
and whatnot.
A crew of Chinese labourers,
who lived in separate quarters,
cleaned the fish. The heads
and tails of these fish soon
formed a big heap. It did not
take long before that pile perfumed the whole area. The
food in the cannery was good
and when the men worked
long days they had extra
snacks. By the time Bill left,
he had put on 35 pounds. It
took him six months to get rid
of it.
The fishermen needed a lot of courage, skill and stamina, going out in these
litde boats. They worked two men to
each boat, going out for days at a time
and often working around the clock.
When needed, the only shelter they had
was a piece of canvas to throw over the
bow.  The boats had a tiny sail to take
On board the
about that old
W.B. Flint - 1914.   You just did not dare worry
rope breaking.
them where they wanted to go. There
was always the danger of being blown far
out to sea. These men sure earned their
money! The sad part of it was that for
quite a few of these fishermen the season's work would give them only one big
binge when they got back to Seattle and
Return Journey
At the end of the season, the W.B.
On board tbe W.B. Flint in Bristol Bay - 1914.
25 B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 W.B. Flint, Bristol Bay - 1914. Here we are sitting in the mud because tbe tide beat us out.
,jk     iri"
. ^j<          B
^                     Ht
^■^■^LkXJafiisfl                     3§3ftsW
S&93 BjJMxm
ffT& J7«'»fc Bristol Bay in tbe Bering - Wi-rf. 2TW» toot fliw artob on o»* o/t/w 6etter <ijyj.
Flint, loaded to capacity, took the men
back home to Seattle. Soon after leaving, still in the Bering Sea, they got a real
beating when a terrible fall storm arose.
The Flint began leaking badly, and
though the crew pumped frantically
round the clock, they could not keep up.
By the next day, the sleeping quarters
were flooded and the men were forced
to find whatever shelter they could find
on deck. Consequently the men did not
get much sleep. The ship carried a
number of canvas covered lifeboats scattered around the deck. Some ofthe men
were tempted to crawl into them, but
they were a bit leery to do so, because
they thought there might be a chance that
these boats might be swept overboard.
A real strong gust of wind swept overboard a fair sized tank that contained
their supply of fresh drinking water. The
tank had been bolted to the deck with
two heavy iron bars that just snapped like
ribbons. That certainly settled the
thought of crawling into those lifeboats!
As the water rose inside the ship, she
settled lower and lower. The ship was
steadily sinking lower and by the fifth
day, part ofthe deck was under water and
the men had to take care not to be swept
overboard. Suddenly the storm died, as
quickly as it had started. This was not a
bit too soon, for if it had lasted a bit
longer the ship might have just slid under. It had been just a bit too close for
There followed a stretch of beautiful
weather. However, it took the men some
time to get the ship pumped out and their
sleeping quarters dried out a bit. The
return journey back to Seattle took 33
days. Though they had been so close to
disaster, Billeter considered that all in all
it had been an interesting trip.
Dirk Septer is a Forester based in Telkwa, near
Area near the cannery at Bristol Bay - 1914. Small boats lined upon the shore. It it were not for the fish this
would be a godforsaken land
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 Researching the Lives of Pioneers on the
by Jennifer Wasley
The Internet makes a great deal of information available with the click of a
mouse. Vital statistics are available via
the Internet; it is no longer necessary to
trek to Victoria to find these numbers.1
Interment information is also available
over the Internet, giving genealogists and
historians easy access to burial records.2
This technology does not just exist. It
Is online technology, like the Internet,
a useful research tool for discovering the
lives of pioneers? There are many reasons why this question may seldom be
asked. On of the major reasons is that
the possibility of information about pioneers, long dead, being available online
seems outlandish. The research conducted for this paper shows that the
Internet is a viable research tool when
investigating the lives of pioneer women.
The Internet can be used as a tool to
supplement stories of pioneer lives. Local histories, like Memories Never Lost:
Stories of the Pioneer Women of the
Cowichan Valley and a Brief History
of the Valley, offer the stories of pioneers
lives as recalled by their families. This
paper examines one account from
Memories Never Lost, that of Annie
Bonsall, to determine how useful a research tool the Internet is now and how
useful it might become in the future.
For instance, Marjorie McKay wrote
her mother's story, as she knew it, for
Memories Never Lost.3 Information
from this account is a starting point that
can be elaborated upon through online
research. Mrs. McKay noted that her
mother, Annie Botterill, married Henry
Bonsall on Vancouver Island. She did not
give a date or location for the ceremony.
The Internet, through the "B.C. Archives
Vital Events Index" revealed that Annie
Botterill married Henry Bonsall March
8, 1875, in Victoria.4 Memories Never
Lost states that Annie was born in 1859;
this is substantiated by her age given on
her death registration.5 Annie would
have been sixteen years old at the time of
her marriage. Mrs. McKay also notes
that her mother died in 1933 but does
not give the actual date, place, or site of
interment. Annie Bonsall died January
24, 1933, in North Cowichan and is
buried in the All Saints Church Cemetery, Westholme.6 This type of information was always available but it was
hard to access and in some cases not indexed in such a way as to be accessible.
Mrs. McKay mentioned that Annie's
parents were Matthew and Mary Botterill
and that they came from Ontario via the
Panama route. When she related this
information she gave the impression that
Annie was an only child.7 Matthew
Botterill died April 16, 1921, in Saanich
and his wife Mary died June 5, 1900, in
Maple Bay. They are both interred in
the Maple Bay Pioneer Methodist Cemetery.8 The records for this cemetery indicate family relationships. The Botterills
had other children because the cemetery
records indicate a Mary Frances Botterill
as being buried there and list her as "third
daughter of Matthew and Mary
Botterill."9 One piece of information is
useful; when the pieces are put together
they become really valuable.
Information from the Internet and
Memories Never Lost combines to offer a fuller picture of Annie Bonsall's life
and that of her family. But sources like
the cemetery records raise questions as
well as answering them. For instance,
Annie's parents are buried in a Methodist cemetery and Annie and her family
are buried in an Anglican one.10 Were
the families of different religions, was
there only one church in the community,
or did they attend different churches than
the ones in which they were interred?
Mrs. McKay reported that her mother
made sure that the children attended
Sunday School but does not say where.1'
These questions cannot be readily answered by technological sources proving
that there is still a need for actual hands-
The Internet may become a powerful
tool for historical research but is currently
still in its infancy. Many manuscript censuses are becoming available online. The
ones needed for this paper are not yet
available. Birth registrations for British
Columbia are slated to come online soon.
Mrs. McKay tells the reader that her
mother had fifteen children, eight girls
and seven boys, and says that "(b)y the
time the youngest was born, the eldest
had moved away from home."12 She does
not give the names of her brothers and
sisters. A partial list of names can be
made from the death and marriage registrations but it cannot be completed
until the birth registrations or the 1891
census come online.
Another use for the Internet, in research about pioneers, is determining
what information found on the Internet
says about women's place in society. The
public lives, more commonly led by pioneer men, are more readily available on
the Internet. For instance, Mrs. McKay's
account mentions that her father preempted land at Westholme in 1881.13
The B.C. Archives has put an index of
correspondence to the Chief Commissioner of Land and Water, 1871 to 1883,
on the Internet. This record made two
mentions of the Bonsall name concerning land grants.14 Mrs. McKay also mentions that her grandfather worked for the
Hudson's Bay Company for a short time
after arriving in Victoria. The Hudson's
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 Bay Company Archive indexes are avail-
able online but they are not yet
searchable. The "Servants Records" contain the post, address ofthe servant, salary, contract duration and other
employment information.15 If they were
searchable the "Servants Records" would
have yielded a great deal of information,
such as the Botterill financial situation,
and through that, information about
Annie's family life before she was married.16 Because women were often relegated to the private sphere their stories
must be told in local histories like Memories Never Lost and supplemented with
information from sources like the
Internet. Women's place in society is a
factor because the records would only
show the researcher some of Annie's life
indirectly. The records of church organizations and ladies aid societies could reveal more about pioneer women's lives.
They may never become available on the
Internet because the organizations or
their records no longer exist or there is
not a perceived interest. The Ontario
census for 1871 is available online. Although it offers no information about
Annie Bonsall it does reveal something
about women's place in society. It only
lists the information for "heads of households and strays"17 This excludes women
in most situations. The nature ofthe information about pioneer women on the
Internet reflects the ideas of women's
place in society in their time.
The types of information on the
Internet used in this paper will never
stand alone as a source in women's history. They can provide dates, locations,
facts and figures but can never tell the
story of pioneer women's lives like their
families can. A death or birth certificate
could never tell us, as Annie's daughter
does, that she went to church one day
and saw.
... Mrs. Lloyd, also a very small woman,
at the organ. When she came home she
reported that she had seen the smallest
woman she had ever observed. Later, we
heard that Mrs. Lloyd was making the same
report ofher!n
This kind of account may be included
in the B.C. Archives but it is not listed
in the index nor is it as readily available
as Memories Never Lost is at a local library. Accessibility is a factor when researching the lives of pioneers. The
Archives seems only to be able to offer
supplementary information like when
and where a pioneer married or died.
This information however, is not worthless. It is just more valuable when combined with an account like Marjorie
The information from the Internet has
been intertwined with the account in
Memories Never Lost to give a fuller
picture of Annie Bonsall's life. The
Internet is a viable research tool for investigating the lives of pioneers. References to time and place that were lacking
in Mrs. McKay's account were filled in
by information found on the Internet.
Everything that the government recorded
about Annie Bonsall is becoming available online. Thus far, most ofthe information relates to her death, but as Birth
Registrations become available more will
be known about her child-bearing years.
This synthesis of information could be
further augmented with hands-on research to discover documents that recorded community events of the time.
Although it still sounds strange, information about the lives of pioneers is available on the Internet and is a useable
resource for researching their lives.
This example of the power, both realized and potential, of the Internet as a
historical research tool should serve to
inspire the reader rather than discourage
him. The Internet is very accessible and
extremely user friendly. A look at your
local Yellow Pages, under "Internet" will
give you a place to start. Call around to
some Internet service providers to see
what kind of services and packages they
offer. On average, service should cost
$20.00 - $25.00 a month for 100 hours
of time. If you are affiliated with a college or university it will be available there
and will probably be free. Find a provider who gives good customer service
and offers 24 hour support. Some providers will even come to your house for
no extra charge to get you started. The
Internet offers a whole new range of pos
sibilities for history, as both a research
tool and a forum for discussion.
The author wrote this paper while a student at
Malaspina College in Nanaimo. She is now enrolled at the University of British Columbia
1. Webmaster, BC Archives. "Vital Events Indexes." last
revision: April 9, 1997.
<> (April 6,
1997) Provides a searchable index of marriages (75
years or older) and deaths (20 years or older). Birth
registrations are scheduled to come online soon (100
years or older).
2. Ron Demaray. "British Columbia Cemetery Finding
Aid." August 9, 1996.   <
bccia/homepage.html> (April 7, 1997) Provides a
searchable index with over 100,000 burial listings from
141 cemeteries in British Columbia.
3. The Pioneer Researchers. Memories Never Lost!
Stories of the Pioneer Women of the Cowichan
Valley and a Brief History of the Valley, 1850-1920.
(Alrona, Maniroba: D.W. Friesen and Sons, 1986)
4. "Vital Events Indexes."
5. Pioneer Researchers 35 and "Viral Events Indexes".
6. "Vital Events Indexes" and "British Columbia
Cemetery Finding Aid."
7. Pioneer Researchers 35.
8. "Vital Events Indexes."
9. "British Columbia Cemetery Finding Aid."
10. "British Columbia Cemetery Finding Aid."
11. Pioneer Researchers 37.
12. Pioneer Researchers 37.
13. Pioneer Researchers 36.
14. Webmaster, B.C. Archives. "B.C. Dcparrmenr of Lands
and Works: Chief Commissioner of Land and Water
Inward Correspondence, 1871-1883." last revision:
April 9, 1997 <
htm> (April 9, 1997)
15. Government of Manitoba, Depanment of Culrure,
Heritage and Cirizenship. "Hudson's Bay Company
Archives." February 24, 1997. <hrrp://>
(April 11,1997)
16. "Hudson's Bay Company Archives"
17. JefFMoon "Ontario Census, 1871" December 5, 1995.
(Apr'1«. "W.
18. Pioneer Researchers 37.
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address to;
Subscription Secretary,
B.C. Historical News,
Joel Vinge
RR#2 Site 13 Comp 60
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 Robert Homfray C.E. L.S.
by H. Barry Cotton
Early Efforts to Probe the Homathko
In 1863 Capt. Pender R.N. named
Homfray Channel after this enterprising
engineer and surveyor. Homfray Creek
(now deserted) was also named for him.
Both lay on the usual route from Victoria to the head of Bute Inlet, where
Homfray had been one ofthe first white
men to venture into the turbulent domain of the Homathko River.
Robert Homfray was born in Hales
Owen, Worcestershire, England in 1824.
He became a pupil of the eminent civil
engineer and naval architect I.K. Brunei,
who amongst other things designed the
Great Eastern, the steamship which laid
the Atlantic Cable, and for many years
was the largest ship afloat.
The quest for an adventurous life led
Robert and his brother to California in
the 1850's. Robert spent time in the
heart ofthe mining area actuated by the
California Gold Rush. Here, by his own
admission, he was engaged in underground surveys, tunnelling, canals, and
other work connected with the mines,
and was latterly employed as County
Surveyor for Nevada County.
He arrived in Victoria in 1858, and
went to work in the Colonial Survey
Office under J.D. Pemberton on September 28th. He was involved in several
noteworthy projects.
Hope, Yale and New Fort Langley
One of Homfray's field-books, still on
record at the Surveyor-General's office in
Victoria, gives details ofthe first surveys
of these townsites, made before the Royal
Engineers arrived in British Columbia.
Throughout 1858, Governor Douglas
had been taking steps to ensure at least
an impression of stability in the wild
country that constituted the Mainland
Colony, and surveying townsites was one
of them. Hope had already been laid out
in September 1858 (by Commissioner
OJ. Travaillot), so Homfray spent only
two days there. On Oct. 13th he proceeded on to Yale, at that time a turbulent town with more than its fair share
of unsavory characters (one of whom
seems to have been hired by Homfray @
$3 per day, and fired the same evening!)
By Oct 27th, he had finished at Yale
and moved back to New Fort Langley,
where he spent 22 days laying out the
townsite. He was one of those present at
the historic inauguration ceremony for
the Mainland Colony — giving the date
as Fri., 19th October.
This new townsite was on the location
ofthe old (original) Fort Langley (the fort
itself having been moved upstream in
1839). Thus we have New Fort Langley
occupying the site of Old Fort Langley
— a situation guaranteed to confuse!
Fortunately, the town was soon renamed
Derby. It was not
proclaimed as the
capital of B.C., although such a possibility must have
occurred to the
hundreds of people who bought
lots there. It was a
townsite spawned
by speculation, although Douglas in
a shrewd move
was able to expropriate the development, and turn
the operation over
to Pemberton's office, thus producing revenue for the
new Colony. Asa
town its days were
numbered, but it
set the pattern for
a great deal of later
development in
the Province —
the land-grab, fol
lowed by the speculative selling of lots.
Homfray was employed in Pemberton's
survey office until April 1859. During
this time he drew plans for Lots 1595-
1627, Victoria City, auctioned on April
16, 1859. He also drew a large map to
accompany the first comprehensive survey ofthe interior goldfields by Lt. R.C.
Mayne of H.M.S. Plumper. The map
showed creeks, trails, approximate geographic positions, and names of the
Fraser River bars being mined in those
early days; historically, a most unique and
invaluable map.
Homfray was at first unsuccessful in
obtaining employment under Col. R.C.
Moody, as his instruments were in San
Francisco (being repaired). He advertised
his engineering services in the Victoria
Gazette in 1859, the Colonist in I860,
Appro* seal:-    ISOO OOO
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 Inside Waddington Canyon
Photo courtesy of BC Archives #A-04111
and again in 1861, when he took on a
quite different kind of enterprise — to
assess Alfred Waddington's proposed
route to the interior via the Homathko
The Bute Inlet Route
The first to explore the rugged
Homathko officially had been Maj. W.
Downie and his partner Alex MacDonald
in June 1861. Downie was one ofthe
most competent wilderness travellers of
the day and he called it "without doubt
the hardest looking part of B.C. that I
have yet been into". He left a well-written journal — fairly easy to follow on a
modern map. After travelling upriver by
canoe for about 27 miles (to Scar Creek),
he went on foot for another six, as far as
what later became notorious as the
Waddington Canyon. After which he
stated categorically that this was no place
for a road. Subsequent history was, of
course, to prove him right. But he also
reported that "it will be an easy matter
to go up (the river) in the fall, when the
cold weather sets in".1
Homfray who followed him in
a few months time did not find
it an easy matter at all.
Downie's report was greeted
with great suspicion by the Victoria citizenry of 1861.
Quesnelmouth and Fort Alexandria were now gateways to
the goldfields, and the "Bute
Inlet Route", if feasible, promised to be not only a shorter
way, but a more favorable one
for the Victoria merchants,
who daily saw the business of
supplying miners being
usurped by New Westminster.
The champion and steadfast
promoter of this route was, of
course, Alfred Waddington, a
man who had himself been in
the business of supplying miners' needs before he came to
British Columbia. Little was
known of the route which he
undertook to sponsor, except
that the Chilcotin Indians
came down through the valley
in the fall to spear salmon. But
Waddington at sixty years of age was an
implacable promoter, whose enthusiasm
would in no way be distracted by the
enormous difficulties which would eventually present themselves.
He soon arranged a party to investigate the beginning ofthe route. On September 19th, 1861 he left Victoria in the
steamer Henrietta, visited the head of
Bute Inlet, made friends with certain
native people in Desolation Sound
(which was to be a boon for Homfray
two months later), navigated by steamer
for 8 miles up the river, and then by canoe some distance beyond.2 He left one
Thomas Pryce on Sept. 27th with four
men to explore further, and returned to
Homfray's Expedition
On the 24th of October, Pryce's party
returned to Victoria, and Waddington
lost no time in arranging a second party
to probe the Bute Inlet Route, this time
"under a competent engineer, to survey
the whole line, and fix upon the most
eligible route (under approval) for the
proposed trail". This quotation is from
Waddington's letter of Nov. 8th, 1861,
to Governor Douglas (which I shall have
occasion to refer to again later). This
time Homfray was in charge ofthe party,
which consisted of himself, three of the
Hudson's Bay Company's best voyageurs
Cote, Balthazzar and Bourchier, Henry
McNeill and two native Indians. Unlike
Downie who went by schooner to Bute
Inlet, and Waddington who went by
steamship, Homfray's party had to be
content with just one canoe. Company
officers warned him that he probably
would not come back alive; and as events
turned out, he was lucky to have done
The party set out on 31st of October
1861. They took nine days to reach the
entrance to Bute Inlet, where they were
promptly kidnapped by hostile Indians.
They were rescued in the nick of time by
a friendly chief of the Cla-oosh peoples,
whose village was in Desolation Sound.
... The latter, after unsuccessfully trying
to dissuade Homfray from going further,
eventually agreed to guide them through
the Homathko River valley. So they set
out for the head of Bute Inlet, the start
of their venture.4
The Homathko River drains two ofthe
major snowfields of the Coast Range in
B.C., for part ofthe way encased in perpendicular canyons. In Waddington's
day, glaciers extended almost to the river
itself. Don Munday in his book The
Unknown Mountain well described the
Homathko, when in 1926 he led a group
of mountaineers to explore the glacier
and peaks of the (then still unknown)
Waddington Range: —
"Most ofthe valley floor undergoes a cycle of devastation and reclamation. Log
jams collect from trees of all sizes which have
been undermined by the river, and swept
down. Above a jam, silting up may follow
rapidly. .. a deep bed of silt will kill root
systems of even the biggest trees in mature
forest. . . whitened cedar rampikes stood
like grisly spearmen with lances uplifted in
salute vo death..."
Robert Homfray told of one log jam,
twenty feet high and half-a-mile long,
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 stretching right across the river. The
party buried some provisions to ensure a
supply on return, and proceeded up the
rapids, manhandling the canoe over slippery log-jams, often up to their waists in
water. Wet snow continued to fall, and
above the noise ofthe rapids the roar of
avalanches could be heard. In one place
Homfray described the blue ice of a glacier extending almost to the river bank.
Their guide turned back. For a while
their two Indians were able to keep them
supplied with game. Then the weather
turned bitterly cold and the ice froze on
their clothes, their beards and hair. River
boulders coated with ice gave the appearance of glass balls. After almost losing
their canoe when the tow rope broke,
they decided to cache it, and proceeded
on foot. Eventually, at the end cf their
tether with cold and hunger, they met
up with a tall, powerful, almost naked
Indian, with body painted jet-black, and
vermillion-colored rings around his eyes.
"The bow and arrow . . . was pointed
straight at us. He danced up and down in
a slooping (sic)position with his knees bent,
and uttered frightful sounds.. . Cote told
us to lay our heads on our shoulders to show
him we wanted to sleep; then to open and
shut our mouths so that he might see that
we were hungry..."
When the Indian eventually made up
his mind that they were friendly,
Homfray's relief can well be imagined;
although it was still tempered with concern that the whole parry might end up
with their throats cut! Down in the Indian's underground shelter, an old Indian
woman offered them food, which, despite their hunger, Homfray and his cohorts found completely revolting, and the
smell "indescribably overpowering". But
Cote insisted that they must eat it, or the
Indians would feel insulted. Here,
Homfray's account becomes quite humorous, as he tells of their subterfuge in
doing so, while all the time passing the
food to the Indian dogs lying behind
So the natives proved to be friendly and
let them rest awhile, before clearly indicating the way they should go - back the
way they came.
Civil Engineer, Land & Mining Surveyor.
(Late County Surveyor of Nevada County, California, and
in the :Land Office, Victoria).
Office - Government Street, opposite Post Office.
out railroads. Canals or ditches. Tunnels, Roads, Bridges,
Flumes, Dams, Reservoirs etc etc.
Mr Homfray has studied Engineering several
years under the late celebrated English Engineer
J.K.Brunei Esq, (from whom he has testimonials), having
previously acquired a thorough knowledge of Surveying
during a long residence with one of the most practical
Surveyors in England, and has since been engaged in
Yuba, Placer, Nevada, Tuolumne, Sierra and Mariposa
Counties, California, as Engineer and Surveyor of
extensive mining works, including nearly 350 miles of
caned or miner's ditch, and some 60 miles of tunnelling,
costing an immense amount of time and capital.
Homfray's advertisement in the Colonist. March 20, 1860.
However, their return journey was
nothing short of horrendous. Their canoe was wrecked in a log jam, and most
of their supplies lost. They salvaged some
gear, including fortunately matches and
two axes. It took them four days, wading and relying on a makeshift raft, to
reach the head of Bute Inlet and their
buried provisions; which they had perforce to eat with their fingers, while they
shared one empty baking-powder tin for
drinking. After riding half-way down
Bute Inlet in a hollowed-out log, they
were eventually rescued by their friendly
Cla-oosh chief who brought them to his
village; and in the end escorted them
back to Victoria, where their ragged and
exhausted condition elicited no little surprise. They had been away two months.5
Details of this hair-raising story, however, were not immediately available, as
Homfray's laudable sense of professional
ethics was such that, in order to avoid
prejudicing Waddington's plans, he made
no public comment until thirty-three
years later. Obviously, after such time
the tale would lose various details, and
certainly gain a few!
Waddington himself was, of course,
undeterred by this setback. The Colonist, after noting Homfray's return and
briefly describing his misfortunes, then
went on to make some astounding revelations eg: - Price (sic) River is found to
be navigable for light-draft steamboats for
40 miles. . . then an easy portage to avoid
a canyon 350 yards in length . . . and so
on.6 Obviously this was what the Victorians wanted to hear.
Conjecture and Persistence
Homfray's abortive experience probably did not add much to Waddington's
store of information. This, however, was
immaterial. Waddington's letter of Nov.
8, 1861 to Governor Douglas (already
referred to) shows that he had already
decided on the feasibility of the undertaking.
The letter was written shortly after
Homfray had left and before he returned.
Waddington describes the Homathko as
a "fine level valley, from two to four miles
wide, and navigable for forty miles from
the mouth for steamers of four or five feet
draft . . . without a single rock or other
serious impediment". He notes: "A deep
canyon forms an obstruction across the valley, which was avoided by following a side
trail for about six miles, over a hill 700 ft.
high." But states: "This trail was of easy
ascent..." The topography beyond
here is probably described from hearsay.
The Forks are mentioned and also the
Big Lake (Tatlayoko). The mountain
nominated as Mt. Success by
Waddington is described, but in the
wrong location. He even quotes a (quite
unreal) latitude and longitude.7 The let-
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 ter must have been read by dozens of historians - one of whom was constrained
to write "oh!" as a marginal note to
Waddington's topographical inexactitudes.
Considering that Pryce's expedition
(substantiated by Homfray's) had merely
navigated twenty-five miles of river, traversed eight miles of trail before coming
up against a vast, precipitous Canyon,
Waddington's description ofthe route so
far explored is fanciful in the extreme.
But Waddington gives equally visionary details ofthe terrain beyond the Canyon. This information may well have
come from Indian reports, although Indian reports do not quote Latitudes and
Longitudes and the fact that one was
given - however inaccurate - implies the
presence on the ground of an observer.
One can only speculate as to how
Waddington came by his knowledge (garbled though it might be) ofthe unknown
country beyond the Canyon. Pryce
would have contributed a certain amount
Homfray's Grave in Ross Bay Cemetery.
of it, and he had plenty of time to talk to
the Indians in their village just south of
the Canyon.
Pryce was a man who had no previous
experience of wilderness travel. He took
with him bed-sheets, a "cask of bottled
ale" and an Indian servant, and was duly
aroused in the morning by Cote at 9 am
each day. He was turned loose by
Waddington on Sept. 27th 1861, (with
Cote and McNeill as chaperones), probably about 25 miles up the river, with
only 8 more to travel before getting to
the Canyon. His last camp was just inside the Canyon, and in the nineteen days
he spent before turning back (he had
started out with six weeks provisions!) he
could have reconnoitred to a point where
he could see the Forks, the mountain
Waddington named Mt. Success, and
made some sketches. He would not agree
to Cote's suggestion of proceeding further with one man. His report is unfortunately not extant, but he is said to have
told Waddington that he had found a
trail that a tilbury might
be drawn over with a little macadamization, and
purported to have seen
the bunch grass} H.O.
Tiedemann, who in
1862 took only seven
days from the head of
the Inlet to reach a point
above the same campsite, where he beheld
nothing but peak after
peak of snow-clad
mountains so far as the
eye could reach, concluded that Pryce must
have been dreaming.9
It is hard not to conclude that Waddington
himself must have been
dreaming to hire such an
inexperienced man to
explore a route where
Downie had already
turned back. Possibly,
due to the latter's report,
it would have been hard
to find a competent
man to explore further.
Obviously Pryce's report had much to do
with Waddington's assessment ofthe unknown part of the trail, as his letter of
Nov. 8, 1861 was written before even
Homfray returned.
Waddington's subsequent letter, where
he proposes to draft a regular plan of this
(still untried) trail, and give an estimate
of total cost10 - and where he submits a
preliminary plan, and discusses proposed
tolls and administration,1! all continue
to describe this mostly unknown route
in glowing terms. On March 28th, 1862
he received his charter, and had a work
party on the ground within days. 12 All
this although a practical assessment ofthe
route had yet to be done. Otto
Tiedemann would, of course accomplish
this in June 1862 - but that is another
The real achievers in all these shenanigans were, of course, the voyageurs.
Without them no expedition could proceed at all. All day they paddled, poled
or tracked the canoes, and on land shouldered packs of over 100 lbs to climb the
hills. They shivered in the gloom ofthe
rain-forest, fought cold, insects and dysentery, and slept under a canoe with one
blanket, aching muscles and backs. Well
led, they would probably go anywhere.
Cote and McNeil were on both these
early trips into the Homathko, and both
played a leading part in Waddington's
later road building activities. It is nice
to be able to report that Robert Homfray
was well thought of by these men.13
Homfray's Later Years
After the excitement of 1861, Homfray
was no doubt quite willing to go back to
his life as a surveyor/engineer in private
practice. In 1862 he surveyed part of
John Work's property, and was in Hope
drawing plans for a silver mine, and
nearby pre-emption. His also applied for
the post of City Engineer for Victoria
City but was unsuccessful.
That summer of 1862, Waddington's
perseverance paid off, when H.O.
Tiedemann, the next engineer to penetrate the turbulent Homathko valley,
reached Fort Alexandria, although by his
own admission, "reduced almost to a
skeleton and hardly able to walk."14 Of
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 those who read Waddington's highly euphemistic article in the Colonist,15
Robert Homfray at least would be able
to read between the lines.
He would continue to work both in
Victoria and in remote parts of B.C.,
wherever his services were required. In
1863 he was at the mouth of the Nass
River, in 1864 doing work at Thetis Lake,
in 1865 surveying the site for
Christchurch Cathedral in Victoria. In
the same year he did work for the Leech
River Ditch Co. (for which he was not
paid until 1869!). In 1866 a letter to the
Colonist places him at the Big Bend, (the
current "diggings") where he was compiling a map indicating routes and trails
to the mines.
Robert Homfray, according to letters
and newspaper reports, was something
of an extrovert, and very active in community affairs. He was secretary of the
Victoria Philharmonic Society in 1860-
1, and played cornet at their concerts.
He was a member of the St. John's
Church choir for forty years. He was also
a member of the 1st Volunteer Rifle
Crops, organized in Victoria in 1864. He
was also a keen amateur astronomer, as
witness various letters to the Colonist in
1864, the year of total eclipse ofthe sun;
and later in 1869.
Indeed, the Colonist frequently had
occasion to mention his name. On one
occasion (three months before setting out
on his Bute Inlet expedition) he was acclaimed for having scared off two burglars from his home in Trounce Alley,
with a big revolver. His letter of explanation appeared next day, denying that
he had had any intention of using the
1871 found him on location surveys
for the Canadian Pacific Railroad at
Lytton, B.C., and the following year he
was on the payroll ofthe Surveyor-General in connection with the Victoria City
An article in the Colonist, Oct. 2,
1873, describes Homfray's shell collection, consisting of five cases of shells and
marine animals "just as the energetic na-
turist found them". In 1902, before he
passed away, he donated this collection
to the Provincial Museum. His address
in 1893 was 3, Quebec St. adjacent to
the grounds ofthe Parliament Buildings.
He was unmarried.
In 1894, Homfray decided to publish
the story of his epic winter journey of
1861, noting in hindsight that although
his friends had pointed out the dangers
of navigating the Gulf of Georgia in winter in a frail canoe, up an unknown river
and through wild mountainous country,
surrounded by savage tribes, he had
looked forward to the adventure and the
challenge of new and strange sights.16
Such self-reliance was, of course, a philosophy common to a good many of our
pioneers, and fortunately so.
It is not hard to determine just how
far up the Homathko River his party penetrated. At no time does he tell of leaving the river itself, and tells of "a great
canyon" just ahead before turning back,
which would indicate that he got no further than the Indian village known to be
near the start of the Waddington Canyon.17 On March 3, 1863, giving evidence in court, Homfray stated that he
went up to within sight ofthe canyon in
a canoe,18 and his story tells of proceeding on foot after that till he reached the
Indian village. The Indians he met with,
living in underground shelters, were undoubtedly Chilcotins.
Homfray also stated at the time that
he had been hired by Waddington for
$200 per month, and if successful was
to be given the engineering ofthe road.19
It is said that some years before his
death, Robert Homfray had his tombstone erected in the Ross Bay cemetery,
with his particulars on it except for the
date of his decease, which was added after Sept. 16, 1902 the day he died. It is
a massive, polished, dark red, granite
globe supported by a square-sided pedestal, and impressive.
The author is a retiredB. C. Land Surveyor now
living on Salt Spring Island
Fnornntes are given here for evenrs concerning the proposed
Bute Inlet trail, vi?.: -
1. Downie to Douglas, Aug. 17, 1861.
2. Waddington to Douglas, Nov. 8, 1861.
3. Colonist, Oct. 1, 1861.
4. A Winter's Journey in 1861 - R. Homfray, 1894.
5. Ibid.
6. Colonist-Dec. 21, 1861.
7. Waddington to Douglas, Nov. 8, 1861.
8. Pryce vs Waddington. Supreme Courr, Feb. 27 -
March 4, 1863. Colonist reporr.
9. P.A.B.C. E/B/T44.
10. Waddington to Douglas Feb. 1, 1862.
11. Waddington to Col. Sec. Feb. 8, 1862.
12. Waddington. Neville Shanks, Port Hardy 1975.
13. Pryce vs Waddington - Supreme Court, Feb. 27 -
March 4, 1863. Colonist Report.
14. P.A.B.C. E/B/T44.
15. Colonist, Aug. 1, 1862.
16. Colonist, March 9, 1975.
17. A Winter'r Journey in 1861. R. Homfray, 1894.
P.A.B.C. E/B/T44. Sketch att'd.
18. Pryce vs Waddington. Supreme Court, Feb. 27 -
March 4, 1863. Colonist Reporr.
19. Ibid.
References ro Rnherr Homfray's life itself are available ar
City of Victoria Archives
B.C. Chronicles Vol. II., G.P.V. & H. Akrigg., Discovery
Press 1977.
The Unknown Mountain., Don Munday, The
Mountaineers 1975. Canadian.
A Winter's Journey in 1861., R. Homfray, reprinrcd in
Frontier Magazine, Summer 1972.
Waddington. Neville Shanks, Port Hardy, 1975.
Tiedemann, R.W. Liscombe. Canadian Dictionary of
Biography., Toronto 1990.
Waddington, W Kaye Lamb. Canadian Dictionary of
Biography, Toronto 1990.
Records from Mr. R.C. Harris.
Howay & Scholefield 1914.
(N.B. the author considers it unlikely that the
Robert Homfray here portrayed was ever a
member ofthe Royal Engineers Corps in British Columbia).
Alfred Waddington, dreamer, entrepreneur, and
lobbyist. This sketch of a young Waddington was
chosen for the series "Builders of British Columbia
- Centennial '71"
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 Dear Harriet... from Robert
Recently, four letters written (1859-63) from Victoria by Robert Burnaby, were discovered in the estate of a descendant of the Burnaby family. These letters, written to his sister, Harriet in Dublin, Ireland, have never been previously
published. They are of historical significance in that they describe Burnaby's views of prominent people and early
times in the Colony of Vancouver Island. Copies of the letters were sent by Burnaby's great-great-great niece, Meg
Kennedy Shaw to Pixie McGeachie who continues to research Burnaby's life and times. The original letters remain in
England in the Burnaby family archive.
Robert Burnaby arrived in Victoria on Christmas Day, 1858 along with Colonel Richard Moody, Commander ofthe
Royal Engineers. Governor James Douglas appointed Burnaby private secretary to Moody whose prime task was to
open up the lower mainland of the Colony of British Columbia for Settlement.
After a short stint with Moody, Burnaby moved to Victoria where he fulfilled his purpose of coming to the Colonies,
by establishing a commission merchant business. He became a respected businessman, an entrepreneur, a champion
of social issues and a Member of the Legislature in Victoria. A number of geographic sites in B.C. bear his name
including Burnaby Lake after which the City of Burnaby is named.
(The other three letters will be published in future issues of the B.C. Historical News.)
Victoria V.I.    December 3rd, 1859
My dearest Harriet -
It is your turn, I am sure, to have a
letter, as it is on my mind to thank you
for two or three giving me full accounts
of all your Dublin gaieties. Something
has happened to the Mail, & we are kept
out of our regular budget, as well as unable to send on mail we had ready; but
the steamer, just in, brings me two letters from Sally dated Sept. 22 and Oct.
6th. She mentions not hearing from me:
but there must be some irregularity in
the Post, since with the exception ofthe
short time I was out in Burrard Inlet, and
thereabouts, I have never failed writing
every Mail.
I never was better: and since leaving
England, have not known an hour's real
illness: and there can be no doubt about
the healthiness of this climate.
I am now actually in business harness:
have got a couple of good rooms in "the
City" - and at this instant am sitting, by
the side of a good wood fire on the open
hearth, amidst my household Gods, or
rather Goods, to wit Bales of Blankets.
Amongst my visitors are many gentlemen of the Hebrew faith & of German
extraction: who are reputed to be the
keenest traders, and most slippery customers in the world: but as they bring
dollars in their pockets we soon contrive
to come to an understanding -. So far
my efforts have been as successful as was
to be expected, and a good number of
red white and Blue Bales have been born
(sic) away for Native adornment - The
Indians are very particular about the style
of their Blanket & its quality: quite as
much so, indeed, as Ladies are about the
fashion of their attire - We shall soon have
the great Blanket feast coming off: at
which magnanimous proprietors tear up
all their Blankets into shreds before the
tribe, to show how rich they are, and how
utterly they despise the possession of
wealth after all -.
We are all amused here to see what a
sensation Genl Harney's move on San
Juan caused at home: such leaders [editorials] in the papers and indignation all
round: Here it is not regarded as more
than a nine day wonder, although had it
not been for admiral Baynes the hot
headedness of Gov. Douglas might have
risked a collision. He is a curious man:
full of craft and tack - a diplomatist of
the first order, which art he has acquired
by constant intercourse with Indians - in
treating with whom you must always
conceal your real object and work round
to it in an indifferent way: otherwise, the
moment they see you want something
they double their demands -.
He has taken Colonel Moody, and
crumpled him up small: never was there
a man so well armed for the fight - sent
out on purpose to out manoeuvre the old
Hudson's Bay factor - he talked a great
deal of all his intended moves: while the
old Boy, who had measured his man, let
him go on and on: muddling his work,
and doubling his expenditure; and then
when the time came for it quietly sat
upon him, which the gallant Colonel allowed -. At one time from his talk I
thought him an exception to the rule that
all men of the Canting school are weak
& wishy washy - but he has proved true
to the Colours of the faithful and of
course was writing slip slop to Missionary meetings when he ought to have been
hard at work on the country -. He will
probably return home in the Spring -
after waiting Mrs. Moody's convenience
in regard to an increase in the population -.
The news from the Gold fields is very
encouraging - at this time of year the
Miners come down to winter here or in
San Francisco - they all bring plenty of
money and mean to return in the Spring
-; and everybody looks for a rush of Miners this way when the weather breaks -.
As a proof of their earnings fancy an Irishman going up there six weeks ago "dead
broke" as they say: & coming down again
after paying all his expenses with between
£80 & 90 in his pocket -. Some men
have made as much as £10 in a day -.
But the country has been neglected and
mismanaged - B.Columbia on the mainland has been snubbed for the sake of
forwarding Victoria V.I. and all Govt.
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 This portrait of Robert Burnaby was chosen to illustrate a series on "Builders of British Columbia" during
the B.C Centennial '71.
officials sent from home for the former,
and paid out of its Revenues are absentees kicking their heels here -. There is a
Mr. Drake come out, who lived at
Shepperton - he knew the Potters there
and Mrs. P. he tells me was some Italian
Baroness -. You allude to the Marge in a
ship letter, which being insufficiently
stamped was sent here round the Horn:
and with many others arrived welcome
enough but very stale -. Please send me
all particulars about it - My faith in the
Potter was never very extensive: & it was
considerably shaken by the attitude he
took to Tom, with regard to the index of
his horrible Magnum opus -:   about
which I spent a world of useful time and
much pains -. I was so glad to hear of
Collingwood being on the Armstrong
Gun Committee - He will never be forgotten or overlooked where more than
ordinary talent and knowledge are required - Give him my very kindest love,
and good wishes -. I see Dick is promoted: which is pleasant news - it will I
suppose interfere with his Survey appointment - We have plenty of gaiety:
the ships are Ganges, Plumper, Tribune, Satellite & till lately Pylades - all
officers nice fellows - many of them
friends of Elwyn -. We had a Ball here
the other night which rather astonished
the old resident Big-wigs -; got up by a
Committee of Gentlemen in the place:
your brother being one: it was done in
"tip top" style - and every one was there,
to the dire wrath of several nobodies who
had hitherto allowed themselves into affairs ofthe kind -. The room was decorated with bunting from the fleet - and
looked lovely -.
All festivities are just now at a halt: owing to the death of Mrs. Cameron the
judge's wife and the Governor's sister -
the Colonial Secretary's Mother in law
and the Speaker's Aunt-in-law. /Happy
family!/ there was a grand funeral the day
before yesterday: at which everybody was
present: and where I, with many more,
caught a cold in the head -. I hope, by
this time, that Tom has got settled - But
I don't like to think of it - Kindest love
to all at home, L'pool. Kelso and Leicester - not forgetting sweet Dublin City -
Your loving Bro
R. Burnaby
Letters transcribed by Meg Kennedy
Shaw and Pixie McGeachie.
J. here are several characters
from early Canadian history at
hand, and in search of an
author. There is a world now
scattered in the archives and the
dust, waiting for whoever
wants to try putting it together
William Kilbourn,
The Firebrand. 1956, XV.
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 NEWS & NOTES
Janet Bingham Wins Heritage
Vancouver author and heritage activist, Janet
Bingham, received the Gabrielle Leger Award
from Heritage Canada. This Vancouver
Historical Society member was involved in
the saving of Gastown, Roedde House,
Christ Church Cathedral and many other
buildings. She has published books on
Samuel Maclure (B.C. architect), Barclay
Square and more. She is now lobbying to
save the Lions Gate Bridge and some
heritage buildings in East Vancouver.
Vancouver to Host Heritage
The joint conference of Heritage Canada and
the Heritage Society of B.C. will be held
October 1st to 3rd, 1998 at the downtown
Vancouver campus of Simon Fraser University. For further information contact Rick
Goodacre, Executive Director of the HSBC in
Victoria at (250) 384-4840 (phone and fax).
Alberta Treaty #8 Centennial
The Edmonton & District Historical Society
with the Lesser Slave Lake Regional Indian
Council and the Alberta Vocational College in
Grouard will host a major conference June
17-21,1999. This conference and re-
enactment ofthe 1899 treaty signing will
coincide with the Annual General Meeting of
the Alberta Historical Society. Anyone
interested in attending should contact:
Edmonton & District Historical Society, P.O.
Box 1013, Edmonton, AB, T6J 2M1 or phone
(403) 489-4423.
Alexander Mackenzie Voyageur
The Alexander Mackenzie Trail Association
has produced a map, The Alexander
Mackenzie Voyageur Route: Canada Sea
to Sea. It is a beautiful map, augmented with
pictures and brief notes about many of the
historic sites along the route. This is selling
in many bookstores or may be ordered by
mail at the cost of $7 from: The Alexander
Mackenzie Trail Association, P.O. Box 425
Station A, Kelowna, B.C. V1Y 7P1. The
members visualize this map as their contribution to the Canadian Unity movement.
Royal Museum Shop Lauded
The gift shop in the new foyer of the Royal
BC Museum has been chosen the Canadian
Retailer of the Year for 1997. This award is
not based on sales volume but on overall
excellence in all facets of retailing, quality and
assortment of merchandise, displays, and
staff efficiency. P.S. This is a shop which
regularly carries a few copies of our B.C.
Historical News.
Salt Spring Island Historical
Society Innovations
Regular meetings are held on the first
Tuesday ofthe month at 2 pm. Some
flexibility is being exercised to accommodate
certain speakers and to attract those
interested in the working public by scheduling
a few evening meetings.
Plaques have been installed on six heritage
buildings in the village of Ganges. The tourist
bureau has a handout for visitors describing
the history of these six sites with a map
marking the short walking tour to view these
buildings. Plans are afoot to mark and map
other sites outside the village. The tourist
bureau staff and local real estate firms have
enthusiastically endorsed this program.
Heritage Trust Reactivated
Minister Jan Pullinger has appointed Dr. Jean
Barman of Vancouver the Chair of B.C.
Heritage Trust, with former MLA Anne
Edwards of Moyie-Cranbrook as Vice-Chair.
Mary Elizabeth Bayer of Victoria and Ardith
Cooper of Sooke were reappointed. New
additions to the nine person directorate are
Colin Browne of Vancouver, Alice Maitland of
Hazelton, Michael Osborne of Duncan,
Richard Wright of Williams Lake, and Kent
Wong of Kamloops.
Hills Bar Anniversary
The major gold strike at Hills Bar in the
Fraser River on March 23,1858 triggered a
gold rush and ultimately the creation of the
Colony/Province of British Columbia.
Heritage Historical Tours of Yale are planning
a tour up to Hills Bar on this, the 140th
Anniversary of the Strike. Anyone interested
in participating should contact Blake Mackenzie, Box 87, Yale, B.C. VOK 2S0. Phone (604)
863-2324, Fax (604) 863-2495 or Email:
Living Landscapes
The first project undertaken jointly by the
Royal British Columbia Museum and an
interior region has achieved its initial goal.
Internet users can now access a lot of
information on the Thompson-Okanagan on
World Wide Web at
Grant Hughes is currently working with the
directors of the new Columbia Basin Trust to
create a website for the East and West
Kootenay. A broad cross section of local
citizens have been consulted; they represent
everything from Libraries to Wildlife Societies,
Naturalists, Historians, Archivists, Archaeologists, Arts Councils, Schools, Colleges and
Tribal Councils.
Victoria Historical Finds Grim
Members walked from Menzies and Belleville
around Laurel Point and Ogden Point. They
were told of the James Bay Athletic Association sites and activities, then a soap factory
and a paint company, depression years on
this waterfront, Indian burial houses and
poles, the sinking of the collier ship San
Pedro, a house used to isolate smallpox
victims, and the dramatic end of the last
owner of that house. All this drama shared in
one day last June!
Jack Fleetwood 1914-1998
Duncan's colorful historian passed away on
January 2,1998. Jack Fleetwood became a
writer for the weekly Cowichan Leader in
1927 and was a reporter or contributing
columnist for 65 years. Jack worked at a
variety of jobs and could tell stories about all
sectors of life in the Cowichan Valley. He had
a phenomenal memory and was willing to
share his knowledge to the very end. His
funeral was held at St. Andrew's Anglican
Church at Cowichan Station.
Robert C. Harris, 1922 -1998
R.C. "Bob" Harris, engineer, historian,
mapmaker, mountaineer and naturalist,
passed away on February 5,1998. Harris
contributed more than two dozen detailed
articles with beautiful accompanying maps to
earlier issues of the British Columbia
Historical News. He was a Captain in the
Royal Engineers 1942-46, completed his
degree in Civil Engineering at the University
of London in 1948, and then came to
Canada. He first worked in Ontario but has
called B.C. home since 1950.
Cultural Resource Courses at
University of Victoria
The Division of Continuing Studies at the
University of Victoria:
P.O. Box 3030
Victoria, BC V8W 3N6
are offering a variety of courses, some given
over one week on the campus, others by
home study. The topics range from Cultural
Tourism, Museums at the Crossroads to
Heritage Conservation and Collections
For details contact the above department by
phone (250) 721-8462, Fax (250) 721-8774
or Email:
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 BOOKSHELF
Books for review and book reviews should be sent directly to the Book Review Editor:
Anne Yandle, 3450 West 20th Avenue, Vancouver, B.C. V6S1E4
Copying People. Photographing British
Columbia First Nations 1860-1940. Daniel
Francis: Saskatoon & Calgary, Fifth House
Publishing, 1996.150 p., illus. $19.95.
Few travellers today venture to foreign parts
without a trusty camera or camcorder dangling
from their necks or hanging out of pockets, indeed, if a photographic device is forgotten, whole
ranges of cheap instant cameras, with or without
flash, are available from the closest pharmacy.
And usually tourists are anxious to take images of
the locals to show the folks back home, in many
cases the locals happily cooperate, sometimes in
exchange for a polaroid or a promise, in other
cases the images appear to be exploitative or stolen and ethically questionable. Travel is cheap
today (well, relatively so) and those of us who
cannot afford the time or the money to go to exotic spots can see them in comfort at home on
the television, or possibly on the Internet We are
accustomed, with the click of a channel changer
or mouse, to visit anywhere in the world and to
see with our own eyes, from many different points
of view, a vast display of different cultures and
Photography was not so easily accessible in the
period (1860-1940). Daniel Francis has chosen
to explore in Copying People; but a curious white
society was eager for information about the aboriginal people who occupied the far west Travel
was neither cheap nor easy. Many of the early
images in this collection of photographs were taken
by professional photographers, surveyors, anthropologists, and civil servants. In the earliest days
of photography they were constrained by the technology; cumbersome equipment, and fragile glass
plates which were easily broken when hauled by
canoe or horseback. Long exposure times resulted in stiff strained portraits. The introduction,
in 1888, of the hand held Kodak camera made it
possible for amateurs to enter the field. Faster
lenses resulted in more relaxed subjects. What
professionals and amateurs had in common was
that their photographs reflected a white world's
image of the First Nations people.
Mr. Francis, a freelance historical researcher and
writer whose work has chiefly focused on native
history and the fur trade in Canada, has gathered
together a diverse collection of the images of native British Columbians taken by non-natives. His
title reflects his theme. "Copying people" is a
translation of a Haida word for camera, which is
a play on the word for masks. Mr. Francis believes that photographs, like masks, both reveal
and conceal the truth. He shows how many of
the photographers attempted to document the
"traditional" Indian, with subjects dressed up in
costumes and props, while others portrayed their
subjects in contemporary dress with an eye to indicate they had joined "civilized" society. Some
tried to present the "noble savage" while others
preferred to focus on the savage. All influenced
the contemporary image of the Indian.
Following a short introduction, which gives a
brief history of photography and photographers
in the colonial west, the book divides into three
main chapters: The Pioneers, 1860-1900; Peoples of the Coast; and Fteoples of the Interior. Each
chapter contains a very short account of the photographers of the period followed by a generous
number of illustrations. The photographs are identified, where possible, by location, photographer,
date and archival source. Some are also accompanied by brief historical notes. The book concludes with a list of suggested readings which
should prove helpful to those who wish to extend
their knowledge of the subject
Some of the 140 images chosen by Mr. Francis
are, perhaps, overfamiliar to those who are interested in the interpretation of the photographic
record of First Nations life.. And one wishes that
some of them, the Curtis photographs for example, could have been seen in all their original glory.
Nevertheless there are many powerful and beautiful images in the collection. There is a haunting
quality in many of the faces which is slightly disturbing. As a person of distant native heritage
myself I wondered fleetingly about the choices
Mr. Francis had selected. Did he fall into the same
temptation as the early photographers did and
opt for the sensational and picturesque in order
to prove his point? Were there other, less dramatic, photographs available to him in the archives
and museum he visited which might have shown
a different way of life? Copying People raises
many questions about photography and its intrusion into the lives of First Nations people. This is
a useful and relatively inexpensive introductory
book for those who have an interest in the subject and it gives a good lead into future study.
Laurenda Daniells,
Archivist Emerita, University of
British Columbia.
Vancouver Island Letters of Edmund Hope
Verney, 1862-65. ed. Allan Pritchard.
Vancouver, UBC Press, 1996. 307 p. $65.
On May 15,1862, Lieutenant Edmund Hope
Verney made his first "cruize" from Esquimalt to
Victoria and back. Writing home, he admitted
being "a little nervous of entering the harbour for
the first time, as there are many rocks in it" However, he had been given careful instructions and
managed successfully. "Everything," he wrote,
"promises to be very delightful."
He was twenty-four years old, a veteran of the
Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny, and he had
come to Vancouver Island to take command of
the Royal Navy gunboat Grappler.
Throughout his three-year stint, he wrote regularly to his father, Sir Harry Verney, at Claydon
House in Buckinghamshire. Theirs was a small
world, and they knew everyone, at home, in the
colonies, and on the seas between. Verney cautioned, "An immense deal of mischief has been
done here in more than one instance, by peo-
pie's letters from this place being shown about
and copied in England: 1 do beg you to be most
careful of mine." Having given fair warning, he
launched into gossip, first about governor Douglas, "a wonderful man, but... very pompus and
ridiculous." The tone of Vancouver Island society left much to be desired; he reported that even
the ladies fought like cats. Verney worried about
the "poor batchelor bishop", George Hills, a family
friend: "poor man, he sadly wants a wife to cheer
him up and comfort him, for he has his troubles."
It was a quiet assignment for an ambitious
young man, and he chafed while awaiting the
promotion he felt was his due. But his eye was
too keen and his wit too wry to allow him to languish. He described Esquimalt harbour:
"Shiploads of oranges, diggers, and cocoa-nuts
arrive from New Zealand, and depart with timber
and diggers from Cariboo: the Cariboo diggers
are rushing down to Salmon riven the Stickeen
(sic) diggers are tearing away to Cariboo, and the
Salmon-river diggers are mad to get up to the
Stickeen: numbers of the diggers are coming down
the country and settling to work at Victoria, and
numbers of the Victoria workmen are going up
the country to rum diggers: so we are all like the
boiling water in a kettle, and no end of bubbles."
On shore he had a house, called "The Small
Bower," with a vegetable garden and poultry. He
entertained and was entertained. He spent a fortnight's leave touring the Fraser valley.
And he did steer the Grappler into more active waters: to Nanaimo, and the new communities at Cowichan and Comox; to Kuper Island to
assist the apprehension of murderers; to the San
Juans; to Bella Coola, where he went fishing; to
Metlakatlah where Mr. Duncan gave him a goat
At Bute Inlet, on a "wet day and uncomfortable
in every way", one of his men drowned, and at
Millbank Sound the ship ran on a rock.
Trivial or traumatic, everything went into the
letters home, along with expressions of concern
about friends, teasing messages to his sister, and
inquiries about job opportunities. Allan Pritchard's
satisfying introduction and notes brief us on who-
was-who and what-happened-next in both historical and human contexts.
Phyllis Reeve,
Phyllis Reeve has recently edited
A Gabriola Tribute to Malcolm Lowry.
Wo Lee Stories: Memories of a childhood
in Nelson, B.C.. John Norris, Twa Corbies
Publishing House, 124p.,$14.95, paperback.
John Norris, author of Historic Nelson, The
Early Years, which was reviewed in here in the
summer of 1996, has just published this small
book of essays relating to his boyhood in the
Fairview district of that beautiful interior city.
Growing up in the smelter city of Trail, fifty miles
away, 1 spent six or seven of my early summers at
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 BOOKSHELF
the home of my father's family in Nelson, two
blocks from the Norris house, so many of the
neighbours' names are familiar to me; the
McKims, the Pfeiffers and the Fleurys. The place
names, too, are part of a common heritage, —
Anderson Creek, Gyro Park, the Fair Grounds,
and Walton's Boat House.
Several of my aunts and uncles attended Hume
School, as Norris did, but at an earlier time. We
all bought our groceries at Fleming's Store, and
even as children we thought it prudent that Alderman Ross Fleming had a grocery store when
he had such a large family, (all of whom were
very musical.) The title, Wo Lee Stories, is taken
from the name of a Chinese market gardener
whose place lay midway between our two homes.
We had our counterpart vegetable man in Trail,
Way Gun, who filled the same role in our household at Christmas as Wo Lee did in the Norris
home — bringing gifts of ginger, lichee nuts and
Chinese lilies. While Norris' essays recall many
memories of this era, he must have been a particularly sensitive person to have remembered the
fine details so well.
Much of the charm of this little collection of
childhood memories lies in Norris' ability to remember and describe his feelings of sixty-five
years ago. He is able to recall the sense of wonderment aroused by the majestic service of the
Church of England and the distinctive language
of the Book of Common Prayer, and his ambivalence at being asked to sing a solo by his teacher,
Miss Curwen. His description of Duffy, the lifeguard with the beautiful physique, and Annabelle,
his fitting consort, going through the elaborate
ritual of getting ready to dive, will evoke familiar
strains of envy in those of us who were not naturally athletic.
Few of us totally escaped being touched or fondled by at least one teacher or youth leader, or
knowing of friends who were importuned in this
way, but Norris' description of being seduced into
sex play by a cub master is disarmingly real. Likewise his tale of "show and tell" hints at yet another rite of passage that most of us have been
through one way or another without suffering any
serious emotional damage.
This little volume gives structure to memories
that most of us have about growing up-the reticence of parents to talk about where babies come
from, the death of a schoolmate, the weaning
away from childhood church connections, the
mystery of an unattached woman in a settled community, the pride in one's father's occupation and
the formative and comforting influence of a good
mother in the home.
My only sense of disappointment comes from
Norris's restricted account of growing up in Nelson in the twenties and thirties, a veritable paradise for a boy. There were picnics to the Red
Sands with its clean, warm beaches, hikes in
search of the mythical Bums' Meadows, the spectacle of the three stem wheelers all tied up at the
Nelson docks on a summer evening, lit up like
the proverbial Christmas trees, the annual speedboat races on the West Arm of Kootenay Lake,
repeatedly won by the Lady Barber which was
owned by a male barber. There was great excitement to watch Captain Dobbin fly his early seaplane, a Fleet, (now hanging in the Museum in
Victoria,) on forest fire patrol, but occasionally
diverted to conduct an aerial search for the body
of a drowned youngster.
But it is futile to speculate about the stories he
could have written. Norris has given us a very
sensitive account of the ones he has chosen. It is
a pleasant read, particularly for anyone who grew
up in small town British Columbia between the
Adam C. Waldie,
Adam Waldie, a member of the Vfancouuer
Historical Society is a native of the West
Those Lake People: Stories of Cowichan
Lake. Lynne Bowen. Vancouver: Douglas &
Mclntyre, 1995. 217.p., paperback. $19.95
"I have chosen to tell the story of this area
through the lives of some of its people." The lives
of the people involves, also, their deaths. Death
pervades chapter five, for example, which starts
with a young married couple buying "the house
of a family that had gone fishing and never returned"; the chapter moves swiftly through everyday dangers — the avalanches, the floods, the
forest fires — to the story of the Hobson's close
call on a runaway speeder, then on to the suicide
of Mabel Jones, the schoolteacher, the accidental
drownings amongst the float houses, and finally
the death of a logger. These are the personal
tragedies that Lynne Bowen so sensitively narrates amidst the more positive achievements of
the people; yet this is also a work that goes beyond the personal and the private, or, rather,
shows how private stories are part of a wider public
history. Take the suicide of Mabel Jones. Her
death functions to bring "... to public notice a
problem experienced by many young women
teaching in isolated communities throughout British Columbia." The result was a government investigation into rural and assisted schools leading
to the appointment of a Rural Teachers' Welfare
Officer. This intertwining of private and public
brings to life the individual stories of Cowichan
Lake, placing them into a context that will fascinate all those interested in the history of B.C.
For those in need of them — or for the refreshing of memory — there are three maps of the
area provided, along with a glossary of specialized or localized jargon. The list of sources reveals the breadth of interviews undertaken by the
author and others, as well as providing a useful
research guide. Lynne Bowen has managed to
take all of these fragments and build something
coherent which doesn't smooth over difficulties,
problems or disagreements; the past isn't idealised or romanticized yet the energy and determination of the Cowichan Lake people is made all
the more attractive precisely for that reason.
Dr. Richard J. Lane,
Richard Lane, a Professor of English at the
University of Westminster, London, has a strong
interest in British Columbia History.
Hubbard The Forgotten Boeing Aviator.
Jim Brown. Seattle. Portland, Denver & Vancouver: Peanut Butter Publishing, 1996.
Foreword by Brien Wygle, 229 pages; $24.95,
Some people may be put off when they read
the word "aerophilatelist" in the foreword to this
book, which may be roughly defined as "a collector of air mail covers". Author Jim Brown is clearly
more than that, because here he has collected facts
and figures, anecdotes and written testimonials,
and a whole collection of records which give a
brief but evocative glimpse into the early flying
days on the Pacific Northwest coast So don't be
put off by that ugly word — it's well worth continuing with the rest of the book. But
maybe"book" is itself an inaccurate description;
Jim Brown has put together a text which I am
tempted to call an "archive". We are given more
than accompanying photographs to the written
narrative — although these alone would provide
a rich visual record of the deeds of the infamous
pilot Edward Hubbard who was largely responsible for Boeing's venture into the production of
mass-produced commercial aircraft and the successful operation of important early airmail routes.
We are also given: reproductions of newspaper
accounts and headlines, cartoons, correspondence, copies or original Air Board certificates and
various license renewals, reproductions of air mail
covers (an important note on forgeries), airmail
post office handstamps from Victoria and Seattle,
rules and regulations, time-tables and — finally
— obituary notices. For those interested in more
technical matters, there is an appendix which goes
into detail concerning the B-l, CL-45 and Model
80 Boeing airplanes. Anyone who regularly flies
on a Boeing 747 will be fascinated by the photograph on page 168: "passengers waiting to board
United A!r Lines Boeing Trimotor 80." As the
accompanying text notes: "This aircraft had comforts air travellers were not used to—the first stewardesses, heated cabin, upholstered and reclining
seats, forced air ventilation, hot and cold running
water, lavatory, insulated and soundproof cabin,
reading lamps and box lunches." Apart from the
size of the planes, it seems not much has changed.
If this book is an "archival" collection it also has
something that brings the collection alive: the story
of Hubbard's life told in twenty-one short but individually fascinating chapters. We are shown the
rapid evolution of Hubbard's aeronautical career
from mechanic to aviator extraordinaire, working
with Boeing and also having independent interests. Jim Brown's passion for accuracy and his
respect for Hubbard come shining through.
Dr. Richard J. Lane,
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 BOOKSHELF
Raincoast Chronicles 17: Stories & History
of the British Columbia Coast. Edited by
Howard White, Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, . 80 p., illus. $12.95, paperback.
It goes without saying that Howard White has,
yet again, edited a diverse collection of stories and
essays about the BC coast that will attract and
engross the reader. Issue 17 covers architecture,
the West Coast Trail, photography, the BC coast
smallpox epidemic, the August Schnarr family of
Bute Inlet, and the "Aboriginal Metropolis" of
Kalpalin. There are stories, poetry and a hilarious report on the 1919 People's Home Medical
Book, with all its advice and moralizing. "The
Deer???" by Dick Hammond is a story which
hovers between a realistic account of a hunt and
the mythical world of ghost stories and supernatural occurrences, where nature outwits man,
whereas the poem "The Rock Bandits" by Paul
Lawson suggests ways in which technology can
destroy not only the natural world, but the men
who become addicted to its power. Thir interaction between humanity and nature structures virtually the entire issue, such as the concern for a
respectable access to nature with the West Coast
Trail, or the way in which humanity can destroy
other cultures through disease.
The Raincoast Chronicles are undoubtedly a
great success, but issue 17 does raise some questions that need addressing. While the "spirit" of
west coast history has been "captured" as Howard
White once suggested was an initial aim of the
series, issues such as the impact of the smallpox
epidemic on First Nations peoples do not get the
academic framework or apparatus they deserve.
I'm not suggesting that these popular and popularizing accounts or essays should be written in
any other way — the opposite is the case — but
I am suggesting that at least some reference could
be made to related, accessible essays, such as that
on the 1847-1850 measles epidemic in British
Columbia found in BC Studies 109. Those wishing to follow up the pioneering work of Hannah
Maynard and the subject of early photography
could profit from knowing that an entire issue of
BC Studies was produced on photography and
British Columbia (issue 52) — and it's available.
The essay on Kalpalin, we are told is excerpted
from a Harbour Publishing book The Sunshine
Coast; but surely some more references to relevant essays and documents could have been
included? Why are not readers pointed or directed beyond the world of the Raincoast
Chronicles themselves? A lightweight referencing system or short bibliography would not get in
the way, and would serve only to enhance the
reader's awareness of BC coast history, through
other analyses and stories.
Or. Richard J. Lane
Vancouver at the Dawn; a Turn-of-the-Cen-
tury Portrait. John A Cherrington. Madeira Park,
B.C., Harbour Publishing, 1997. 183 p., $18.95.
Sara Maclure McLagan in 1901 became owner
and editor of the Vancouver Daily World and the
first woman publisher of a Canadian daily. She
was a force in the National Council of Women,
the Canadian Women's Press Club, and the Arts
and Historical Association. She was an owner,
with her brothers, of the Clayburn Brick Company, an overseas Red Cross worker during World
War I, and a superintendent of the Vancouver Old
People's Home. Her husband, John McLagan,
was an influential Liberal and her brother was
architect Samuel Maclure. Like Katherine
Graham of the Washington Post a generation or
two later, she took over the newspaper from her
husband and improved on his work. Nevertheless, John Cherrington felt there was insufficient
material for a full biography, and decided to combine her story with another project a snapshot
view of Vancouver at the beginning of the twentieth century. Vancouver at the Dawn is intended
as "an imagined memoir", Vancouver through the
eyes of Sara McLagan. "This memoir," writes
Mr. Cherrington, "must be viewed as a work of
historical fiction." Alas, it is neither history nor
fiction. It is a book which seems to have been
written in haste and should certainly be repented
at leisure.
Among the facts which author and editor should
have checked are the relative ages of Christ
Church Cathedral and St Andrew's Presbyterian,
the date of the patenting of the Victrola, and the
status of Emily Carr's career in 1901. General
Gordon did not fight in the Boer War.
Fbor Sara is made to describe her city as "a
fun place", but a few pages later, as if to restore a
period flavour, uses the presumably Edwardian
epithet "My land". She supposedly exclaims:
"My land, there were now three dailies serving
fewer than 25,000 people ..." She - or rather,
her spokesman - overworks trite adjectives,
changes tenses in mid-sentence, and is given to
stereotypical descriptions of "pompous Tories"
and "preening bluebloods". Snide comments
about society women engaging in inane conversation and idle social gatherings of course don't
apply to her own friends and her own regular "at-
homes". Sara, who insisted on editing and proofreading her own newspaper, must surely be
spinning in her grave.
Comments on social conditions, politics and
the CPR reek of presentism, seldom supported
by direct quotations.
Eventually Mr. Cherrington tires of this disastrous exercise, and crams the final ten years of
Sara McLagan's life into two pages. He has not
written either of his projected books.
I am not sure I want the "snapshot view" of
early Vancouver, but I would welcome a real biography of the remarkable Sara McLagan.
Phyllis Reeve
Phyllis Reeve is the author of histories of St
James Anglican Church and the University
Women's Club.
Union Steamships Remembered, 1920-
1958. AM. Twigg. Campbell River, B.C. Privately Published, 1997.420 p., $39.95,
The Union Steamship Company, organized in
1889 to serve the needs of the burgeoning province of British Columbia's coastal communities,
"stopped at almost every community and every
inhabited cove from Vancouver to Alaska." The
USSC's fleet and the crews aboard them were
the "Lifeline of the Coast," and the shock of the
Company's passing when it ceased operations at
the end of 1958 is felt still.
The significance of the Union Steamship Company is in part measured by the numbers of works
written about it, notably Gerald Rushton's classics, Whistle Up the Inlet and Echoes of the
Whistle and the recent book by Tom Henry, The
Good Company. With the long-awaited publication of Union Steamships Remembered,
former USSC purser Art Twigg has lovingly augmented the historic record.
Union Steamships Remembered is an essential addition to the literature and one of the core
histories. Art Twigg spent years interviewing more
than 170 USSC veterans, collecting over 1,000
photographs, and used the wealth of memories
and memorabilia to write his 427 page encyclopedic book, hence the title Union Steamships
The people, personalities, incidents and occasional accidents that fill the pages bring to colourful life the coastal communities and the ships that
connected them between 1920 and 1958. These
years were the heyday of the USSC, and for a
time so recent seem in today's fast paced world
already distant in the age of fast ferries, cellular
phones, and the Internet Art Twigg has ensured
that we will never forget those days or the ships
that not only linked us, but also defined life on
the coast
James Delgado,
Jim Delgado is Director of Vancouver
Maritime Museum.
Provincial and National Park Campgrounds
in British Columbia: A Complete Guide. Jayne
Seagrave, Surrey, Heritage House, 1997.192 p.
illus. 16.95.
Whether you are an experienced camper or a
novice, this guide to over 150 campgrounds is a
valuable tool for any BC trips you might be planning. Details on national and provincial
campgrounds include location, facilities, recreational activities, and additional information such
as the history of the local site, fish to be caught, if
reservations are recommended, local folklore and
other fascinating facts. For instance, Fillongley
Park on Denman Island is the burial site for George
Beadnell, who bequeathed the property to the
province. Seagrave points out that the Ethel E
Wilson Memorial Park, located near Burns Lake,
is named after the author. As a matter of interest,
the lake that was frequented by Wilson and which
was the setting for her novel, Swamp Angel, is
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 BOOKSHELF
Lac Le Jeune - a popular campground outside of
The discussion of campgrounds that are
deemed "primitive" due to their remoteness, difficulty in accessing them, and/or their rudimentary amenities (such as a lack of fresh water, wood,
and/or pit toilets) is limited.
This guide, which is intended for those using
tents or recreational vehicles, provides useful background information on such items as selecting a
camping spot, registration, and the reservation
process that is currently available for 42 provincial and two national parks. Seagrave also provides a thorough list of campground rules and
gives many practical tips. For example, she suggests that campers should 'try to avoid areas of
stagnant water (mosquito breeding grounds) or
spots close to the 'thunderboxes' (pit toilets) which
during the park's warm summer months may
exude unpleasant odors, attract flies, and offer
disturbance from banging doors." She also cautions about potential dangers such as bears, poison ivy, and the swimmer's itch (caused by
parasites in the water). Seagrave explains that an
application of "skin oil (for example, baby oil)
before swimming, towelling briskly, and showering after swimming," will help to prevent the small
red itchy spots and blisters; calamine lotion will
alleviate the discomfort of the condition.
The next printing of this guide could be improved if Seagrave adds information on other
pests, some of which are potentially dangerous:
black flies, leeches, mosquitoes, ticks (which may
carry Lyme Disease), and wasps (to name a few).
A camping holiday can be more enjoyable if one
knows how to deal with these pests. The climatic
conditions of some parks is a topic that Seagrave
might also want to add in her next edition. One
mid-August camping trip at Lac Le Jeune was so
cold (lows of 2 degrees Celsius and highs of 9)
that my family and I decided to cut short our stay
because of a lack of warm clothing.
The book appears to be well-researched, but I
did find misleading information on one park with
which I am familiar. In describing Golden Ears in
the Fraser Valley, Seagrave states that "all facilities, including showers, flush toilets, and a sani-
station, and wheel chair access are present" This
is the situation for the park as a whole; however,
the drive-in campgrounds are divided into two
distinct sites, Gold Creek and Alouerte, and the
latter does not have showers. Furthermore, she
mentions that the adventure playground keeps
"young ones entertained," but does not specify
that only the Gold Creek site has a playground.
Seagrave's personal anecdotes enliven the text
For example, in the list of campground rules she
notes that alcohol is allowed in campsites and
explains that she did not always know this.
I had camped for years before I learned it was
okay to consume a glass of wine with ... dinner.
Until then I had guiltily hidden my drink from the
park attendant I thought surely he would expel
me for my transgression. On one occasion, discovered and expecting to meet the wrath of the
BC Parks employee, I cowered and apologized.
All he said was, "You can drink here. This is your
home away from home. It is only in the public
sections of the park that alcohol is prohibited."
From that point on, I've always thought of provincial park camping spots as "home away from
Seagrave concludes the book with itineraries
for seven-fourteen-, and twenty-one-day camping trips. She points out that "these selections
are based on ... personal experiences and amenity evaluations and are designed to cover pragmatic travel distances on any given day."
My copy of this useful book is already becoming well-thumbed as I begin to plan for next summer's "home away from home" holidays in BC's
provincial and national campgrounds.
Sheryl Salloum,
Sheryl Salloum is the author of Malcolm
Lowry: Vancouver Days (Harbor Publishing,
1987) and Underlying Vibrations: The
Photography and Life of John Vanderpant
(Horsdal & Schubart, 1995).
The Story of the Butchart Gardens. David
Preston. Highline Press, 199 p., illus., paperback.
The Vantreights: A Daffodil Dynasty. Valerie
Green. Saanich: G.A Vantreight, 1997. 183 p.,
iUus., paperback. $22.95.
The setting for both these books is southern
Vancouver Island. Neither could have been written without the co-operation of the families involved. The Vantreight story is an authorized
biography of Geoffrey Vantreight Jr., written by a
local historian, but published by the subject himself The author has obtained most of her material from family members and, indeed, in places,
the voices of the people interviewed are clearly
heard. But she has also checked other sources
wherever possible, and it seems evident that
Vantreight did not demand a gilded version.
The family had a long history in Ireland as
Treights, but on settling in Holland had added the
Van which was retained when one of them returned to Ireland. John, the head of the Canadian family, came to British Columbia in 1884.
His early death meant hardship for the family. Both
hisson, Geoffrey, and his grandson, Geoffrey Jr.,
proved to be ambitious hard-working men who
took up land and farmed it in order to support
large families.
The story of the Butchart Gardens is
unathorized, but David Preston obviously had the
co-operation of family members. The Butcharts,
both Robert and his wife, Jennie, were from Owen
Sound, Ontario, descendants of Scottish immigrants. They moved to British Columbia in 1904
to take advantage of the lime deposits in Todd
Inlet, necessary for the cement business Butchart
was establishing. It seems unlikely that Robert
Butchart would have thought of creating gardens
in the ground scarred by the depletion of the lime,
but he was very supportive of his wife's efforts,
both morally and financially. The Butcharts invited the public to enjoy their gardens and, in the
early years, served tea to their visitors. It was not
until 1941 that admission fees were charged and
not until the late 50's that the gardens began to
turn a profit
Both books are well bound and contain photos supplied by the families. The Vantreight story
also has good maps of the counties of Ireland and
of the Vancouver Island land holdings, family trees,
a time line, and an index.
The Butchart Garden story, has, as well as
many black and white photos of the gardens and
of the family members, a series of beautiful colour shots taken in the garden by the author. There
are also a number of inserts which combine a
photograph and a verse or some piece of information superimposed on a floral background, a
charming feature.
The Vantreight story, according to the author,
is a mixture of legend, fable and fact which she
claims all biography should be. She is probably
right but this family history is also a story of commercial success won by bold, imaginative hardworking people who made the move from fanning
to agro-industry. The author of The Butchart
Garden Story claims that Benvenuto, the garden established by the Butcharts, is a legend. And
he is probably right, but there could have been
no legend if there had not first been commercial
success, and neither story could have been told if
the natural resouces, the cheap land, the cheap
labour, the mild climate, and the rapidly increasing population after the coming of the railroad
had not afforded opportunities which the
Vantreights and the Butcharts were willing to work
hard to seize. Both books make an important contribution to local history.
Morag Maclachlan,
Morag Maclachlan is a member of the
Vancouver Historical Society.
History teaches us
that men and nations
behave wisely once
they have exhausted all
other alternatives.
Abba Eban,
from a speech in London,
December 16, 1970.
B.C. Historical News - Spring 1998 THE BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORICAL FEDERATION - Organized October 31,1922
Web Address: .htm
His Honour, the Honorable Garde B. Gardom Q.C.
Leonard McCann c/o Vancouver Maritime Museum,
1905 Ogden Ave. Vancouver, B.C. V6J 1A3
First Vice President
Ron Welwood
Second Vice President Melva Dwyer
RR #1, S22 C1, Nelson, B.C. V1L 5P4
Wayne Desrochers #2-6712 Baker Road, Delta, B.C. V4E 2V3
2976 McBride Ave., Surrey, B.C. V4A 3G6
(604) 257-8306
FX(604) 737-2621
(250) 825-4743
(604) 599-4206
Fax (604) 507-4202
(604) 535-3041
Recording Secretary
Members at Large
Past President
Arnold Ranneris
R. George Thomson
Doris J. May
Roy J.V. Pallant
Robert J.Cathro
Alice Glanville
1898 Quamichan Street, Victoria, B.C. V8S 2B9 (250) 598-3035
#19,141 East 5th Ave., Qualicum Beach, B.C. V9K 1N5 (250) 752-8861
2943 Shelbourne St, Victoria, B.C. V8R 4M7 (250) 595-0236
1541 Merlynn Crescent, North Vancouver, B.C. V7J 2X9 (604) 986-8969
RR#1 Box U-39, Bowen Island, B.C. VON 1G0 (604) 947-0038
Box 746, Grand Forks, B.C. V0H 1 HO
(250) 442-3865
B.C. Historical News
Publishing Committee
Book Review Editor
Membership Secretary
Subscription Secretary
Historical Trails
and Markers
Publications Assistance
(not involved with
B.C. Historical News)
Writing Competition
(Lieutenant Governor's
Margaret Stoneberg
Tony Farr
Anne Yandle
Naomi Miller
Nancy Peter
Joel Vinge
John Spittle
Box 687, Princeton, B.C. VOX 1W0
(250) 295-3362
125 Castle Cross Rd, Salt Spring Island, B.C. V8K 2G1      (250) 537-1123
3450 West 20th Ave, Vancouver, B.C. V6S 1E4
Box 105, Wasa, B.C. VOB 2K0
(604) 733-6484
(250) 422-3594
FX (250) 422-3244
#7 - 5400 Patterson Avenue, Burnaby, B.C. V5H 2M5 (604) 437-6115
RR#2 S13 C60, Cranbrook, B.C. V1C 4H3
(250) 489-2490
1241 Mount Crown Rd, North Vancouver, B.C. V7R 1R9     (604) 988-4565
Nancy Stuart-Stubbs 2651 York Avenue, Vancouver, B.C. V6K 1E6 (604) 738-5132
Contact Nancy for advice and details to apply for a loan toward the cost of publishing.
Scholarship Committee        Frances Gundry
255 Niagara Street, Victoria, B.C. V8V 1G4 (250) 385-6353
Pixie McGeachie
7953 Rosewood St, Burnaby, B.C. V5E 2H4
(604) 522-2062
(NOTE: Area code prefixes are effective from October 19,1996 onward). The British Columbia Historical News
P.O. Box 5254, Stn. B
Victoria, B.C. V8R 6N4
Canadian Publications Mail
Product Sales Agreement
No. 1245716
BC Historical
The British Columbia Historical Federation invites submissions of books for the sixteenth annual Competition for Writers of B.C. History.
Any book presenting any facet of B.C. history, published in 1998, is eligible. This may be a community
history, biography, record of a project or an organization, or personal recollections giving a glimpse of the
past. Names, dates and places, with relevant maps or pictures, turn a story into "history."
The judges are looking for quality presentations, especially if fresh material is included, with appropriate
illustrations, careful proofreading, an adequate index, table of contents and bibliography, from first-time writers as well as established authors.
NOTE: Reprints or revisions of books are not eligible.
The Lieutenant Governor's Medal for Historical Writing will be awarded to an individual writer whose
book contributes significantly to the recorded history of British Columbia. Other awards will be made as
recommended by the judges to valuable books prepared by groups or individuals.
All entries receive considerable publicity. Winners will receive a Certificate of Merit, a monetary award
and an invitation to the BCHF annual conference to be held in Merritt in May 1999.
SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS: All books must have been published in 1998 and should be submitted as soon as possible after publication. Two copies of each book should be submitted. Books entered become property ofthe B.C. Historical Federation. Please state name, address and telephone number of sender,
the selling price of all editions of the book, and the address from which it may be purchased, if the reader has
to shop by mail. If by mail, please include shipping and handling costs if applicable.
SEND TO: B.C. Historical Writing Competition
c/o P. McGeachie
7953 Rosewood Street, Burnaby, B.C. V5E 2H4
DEADLINE:      December 31,1998.
There is also an award for the Best Article published each year in the B.C. Historical News magazine.
This is directed to amateur historians or students. Articles should be no more than 3,000 words, typed double
spaced, accompanied by photographs if available, and substantiated with footnotes where applicable. (Photographs should be accompanied with information re: the source, permission to publish, archival number if
applicable, and a brief caption. Photos will be returned to the writer.)
Please send articles directly to: The Editor, B.C. Historical News, P.O. Box 105, Wasa, B.C. VOB 2K0


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