British Columbia History

British Columbia Historical Quarterly Apr 30, 1947

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APRIL, 1947 We
Published by the Archives of British Columbia
in cooperation with the
British Columbia Historical Association.
Willard E. Ireland.
Provincial Archives, Victoria, B.C.
J. C. Goodfellow, Princeton. T. A. Rickard, Victoria.
W. N. Sage, Vancouver.
Editorial communications should be addressed to the Editor.
Subscriptions should be sent to the Provincial Archives, Parliament
Buildings, Victoria, B.C. Price, 50c. the copy, or $2 the year. Members
of the British Columbia Historical Association in good standing receive the
Quarterly without further charge.
Neither the Provincial Archives nor the British Columbia Historical
Association assumes any responsibility for statements made by contributors
to the magazine.
The Quarterly is indexed in Faxon's Annual Magazine Subject-Index. BRITISH COLUMBIA
"Any country worthy of a future
should be interested in its past."
Vol. XL Victoria, B.C., April, 1947. No. 2
British Columbia Steamboat Days, 1870-1883.
By Norman R. Hacking  69
Judge Begbie in Action: The Establishment of Law and Preservation of Order in British Columbia.
By Sydney G. Pettit  113
Notes and Comments:
British Columbia Historical Association  149
Contributors to this Issue  150
The Northwest Bookshelf:
Minutes of the Hudson's Bay Company 1679-1684.   First Part
By George F. G. Stanley.  151
Loyalist Narratives from Upper Canada.
By W. Kaye Lamb  153
Lower:   Colony to Nation:  A History of Canada.
I. Fraser and Stikine River Steamboats.
Life was dull in New Westminster in 1869. Trade with the
Cariboo mines showed decreasing returns each year, and the
high hopes of the Big Bend excitement of 1866 had ended in disillusionment. Governor Seymour and his following of colonial
officialdom had migrated to the Island and Government House
lay vacant. Population had dwindled to a few hundreds, and
grass grew in Columbia Street. Even the British Columbian
had ceased publication, and arguments waxed furiously whether
the colony would revive under union with the new Dominion of
Canada or with the United States.
The sawmills recently established on Burrard Inlet had
created a new industry, but they were far from prosperous, and
Stamp's Mill (later Hastings Mill) was involved in difficulties
that ended in bankruptcy.1 There were rumours of rich new
gold strikes in the Omineca region far to the north, but rumours
of gold had been too frequent in the past for the citizens of New
Westminster to be overly optimistic.
The Fraser River no longer echoed to the shrill toots of rival
steamboat captains racing to Yale or Port Douglas. Competition
between the sternwheelers had vanished, and so had the happy
days of free fares and free meals. Now there were only one or
two sailings a week from New Westminster to Yale. During
the long winter months from December to March — and the
winters were much more severe in those days—the steamboats
went to winter quarters in the Coquitlam or Brunette River, and
passengers and express came down from Yale by canoe. There
was no Yale road. The overgrown Hudson's Bay Company's
brigade trail from Langley was the only overland route to Yale
(1) See F. W. Howay, " Early Shipping in Burrard Inlet: 1863-1870-,"
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, I. (1937), pp. 3-20, passim; and
F. W. Howay, "Early Settlement on Burrard Inlet," ibid., I. (1937), pp.
101-142, passim.
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Vol. XL, No. 2.
69 70 Norman R. Hacking. April
and the Cariboo. The river was still the great highway of the
Most of the colorful steamboat captains who had enlivened
the cut-throat competition of the 'sixties had sought other fields.
Captain William Moore and his sons were blazing new trails into
the Peace River. Captain Charles Millard was devoting his
brassy-voiced talents to the auctioneering business in Victoria.
Captain " Gassy Jack " Deighton had migrated to the shores of
Burrard Inlet, with his squaw, his yellow dog, and a barrel of
whisky, there to lay the foundations of the future city of Vancouver. Timid little Captain Henry Devries, late owner of the
Henrietta, had sought spiritual solace as a lay brother at Mission
St. Mary's, on the banks of the Fraser.2
Years of competition betweeen river-boat captains had finally
whittled the field down to two contestants — Captain William
Irving with the Onward and Reliance and Captain John R. Fleming with the Lillooet and Hope.3 Captain Asbury Insley acted as
relief pilot for both. There was not sufficient trade on the river
for four steamboats; consequently, in 1866, the two captains
agreed to run their steamers in alternate years thereafter and
to split the profits. This agreement lasted until 1875, with the
Irving boats running in the even years and the Fleming boats in
the odd years.
On the Upper Fraser two steamboats operated between Soda
Creek and Quesnel, the Victoria and Enterprise, owned by
Gustavus Blin Wright, the road-builder.4 The season in the north
was short, but freight rates were high and the boats were moneymakers. The run between Victoria and New Westminster was
a monopoly of the Hudson's Bay Company, with the sidewheeler
Enterprise and the screw steamer Otter as relief boat.6 On the
New Westminster-Yale run the year 1869 belonged to Captain
Fleming's speedy Lillooet.   His other vessel, the Hope, which had
(2) Henry Devries, or " Harry Davis " as he was better known, was a
native of Hanover, Germany. He died at St. Mary's Mission, December 30,
1881, " a devoted and exemplary teacher." New Westminster British Columbian, January 18, 1882.
(3) See Norman Hacking, " Steamboating on the Fraser in the 'Sixties,"
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, X. (1946), pp. 1-41, passim.
(4) Ibid., pp. 23, 37.
(5) Ibid., pp. 23, 39. 1947 Steamboat Days, 1870-1883. 71
cost him only $1,000 and had been condemned for several years,
lay submerged in the Brunette River.6 Captain Irving's famous
old Reliance was also past her prime, and her days were numbered. The Onward was at Victoria undergoing refit and a new
boiler for the coming season.
Gold still rolled down from the Cariboo mines, although not
in the volume of former years. The Lillooet brought down a
package of treasure every trip from Yale, ranging from $10,000
to $50,000. The two steamboat-owners were prosperous despite
the prevailing hard times. Both Fleming and Irving were highly
respected public-spirited citizens. Their names headed every
subscription list, and they took an active interest in public
affairs. Public encomiums of the two captains were frequent in
newspapers of the period. Everyone knew them, for everyone
travelled on the river-boats.-
The arrival of the Onward at New Westminster in October,
1869, after her extensive refit, brought a joyous welcome from
the recently established Mainland Guardian:—
We welcome the reappearance of this fine steamer at our wharves, as we
regard the return of an old friend to our midst. Her bright new face,
refreshed with a coat of paint, is like the healthy glow acquired by a short
absence in a strange country. ... In addition to the other improvements,
there is a very ingenious application of the steam on syphon-shaped pipes,
by which she can be pumped dry both fore and aft, if she ever sprang a
leak, without the aid of pumps and in a very few minutes. The cabin fittings are new or renovated, making the vessel a real credit to her much-
respected owner and commander, Capt. Irving, who merits all the success he
is sure to have. Long may she "walk the waters like a thing of life,"
bearing happiness and prosperity wherever she goes.'
Similar praise was meted out to Joseph Spratt of Victoria,
builder of the new boilers: " probably the finest pair of boilers
on the Pacific coast . . . equal to any possible amount of pressure likely to be put upon them."
The only other sternwheeler on the river was the little
Union? once an active competitor, but now relegated to the lowly
position of steam-scow, carrying freight from New Westminster
(6) New Westminster Mainland Guardian, February 2, 1870.
(7) Ibid., October 23,1869.
(8) Norman Hacking, " Steamboating on the Fraser in the 'Sixties,"
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, X. (1946), pp. 18, 41. 72 Norman R. Hacking. April
to the mills and windjammers on Burrard Inlet.9 Under the
command of her owner-skipper, Captain George Odin, she
huffed and puffed her way around the Sand Heads in spasmodic
fashion.10 She was succeeded in 1874 by another steam-scow of
the same name, which won the derisive nickname of " Sudden
Jerk." She was powered by an old threshing-machine engine,
which had no reverse. When she blew her whistle, the sudden
loss of steam-pressure caused her engines to stop. Another
popular method of stopping her was to throw a sack into the
machinery. A buoy on the end of a rope was attached to the
engine to facilitate recovery should it fall through the bottom.
Fares and freight from New Westminster to Yale were set
at a profitable level. The fare up-river was $7, and down-river
$5.    Freight was carried for $12 a ton.
The decade of the 'seventies brought great changes and new
prosperity to the river. The growth of the cattle industry in the
Interior created new and profitable freight. Settlement in the
fertile Fraser Valley created scores of small landings along the
river-bank, with a subsequent boom in way freight. The establishment of the salmon-canning industry brought a new and
prosperous business. Climax of the decade was the final decision
on the route of the Canadian Pacific Railway, which brought a
boom never equalled before.
The tide began to turn in 1870. On March 30, in one of her
first trips of the season, the Onward arrived with $80,000 in
treasure for the banks and $10,000 for private account. In September she brought $150,000 in gold in one trip, the largest shipment in several years.11 News from the Omineca was good, and
Captain Fleming decided to repair the old Hope and run her up
the Skeena River, which was believed to be a convenient entry to
the new goldfields. Gus. Wright went up in the Enterprise to
Cottonwood Canyon, and decided he could take his steamer up to
Fort George and perhaps as far as Takla Lake, providing an even
(9) New Westminster Mainland Guardian, August 26, 1869, and November 17, 1869.
(10) Early in 1870 it was reported that Captain Odin had brought
another English steam-engine to New Westminster which he intended to
" place in a small steamer he is about building to run hence to the inlet."
Ibid., February 26, 1870.
(11) Ibid., September 17,1870. 1947 Steamboat Days, 1870-1883. 73
more convenient route to the Omineca country. Captain Irving
expanded his interests in August by buying John Kriemler's controlling share in Spratt and Kriemler's iron-works at Victoria.
Completion of a new trail from New Westminster to Yale in
September, 1870, provided improved communication with the
mining country, but travellers still preferred the river route, and
even when steamboats were laid up, Barnard's Express and passengers continued to come down by canoe.
The Hope was rebuilt at Trahey's yard in Victoria, lengthened
by 10 feet, given a new boiler from Spratt's Albion Iron Works,
and launched on September 13. She was provided with eighteen
staterooms and could carry 150 tons of freight.12 The Skeena
route to the Omineca mines had proved a failure, so Captain
Fleming steamed his vessel to New Westminster on November 9,
1870,13 ready for the coming season on the Fraser. Because of
her light draught, the Hope could reach Yale when other vessels
were deterred by low water.
Reports from the Omineca were so good in 1870 that G. B.
Wright went actively ahead with his plans for the coming season.
This Vermont Yankee, who had pioneered the opening of the
Harrison-Lillooet route to the mines in 1858 and built the road
between Lillooet and Soda Creek in 1862, was one of the most
progressive men in the colony. Accompanied by eight Indians
in a canoe, he embarked up the Fraser from Fort George to
Summit Lake and crossed the 7-mile portage to the McLeod Lake
and Parsnip River systems. He proposed to build a wagon-road
from the Fraser River where his steamboats would connect to
McLeod Lake, from whence a trail could be cut to the mines at
Germansen Creek.14
(12) Victoria Colonist, September 14, 1870. According to the Port of
Victoria Register Book, 1867-1880 (photostat copy in Archives of B.C.),
John Kriemler was her owner at the time of her rebuilding in 1870, and
remained so until August 28, 1875, when she was sold to Nellie Irving.
(13) Victoria Colonist, November 10,1870. It was planned to run weekly
sailings to Yale when the season opened in March, 1871. The Hope had the
misfortune to be snagged while returning from Yale on her first trip, but
was refloated and continued on the river until she was hauled off for the
season in mid-December. See Victoria Colonist, March 18, March 29, December 21, 1871.
(14) New Westminster Mainland Guardian, December 17, 1870. 74 Norman R. Hacking. April
His plans failed to materialize, but, undaunted, he took the
Enterprise next year with a party of gold-seekers up to Takla
Landing on Takla Lake, via the Cottonwood and Fort George
Canyons, Nechako and Stuart Rivers, Stuart Lake, Tachie River,
Trembleur Lake, Middle River, and Takla Lake. It was one of
the most impressive feats of river navigation ever accomplished
in the inland rivers of British Columbia. Wright started out
from Quesnelmouth late in June, 1871.16 The Enterprise, carrying 50 tons of freight and a full passenger list, puffed her way
through the numerous canyons and rapids without mishap. By
July 6 she had passed through the Fort George Canyon and later
in the month negotiated the dangerous White Mud Rapids in the
Stuart River.16 The Cariboo Sentinel watched her progress with
interest, carrying weekly bulletins from a correspondent on
board.    His report on the arrival at Stuart river is typical:—
The natives were considerably astonished when the steamer blew her whistle
at the mouth of Stuart's river; they were frightened and scampered away
into the woods. The passengers on board enjoy themselves and pass away
the time fishing, w
Fort St. James was reached on August 6,18 and shortly afterwards the adventurous voyage ended at Takla Landing.19 Wright
never repeated the experiment; the season was too short and
Captain Bill Moore's overland route won the bulk of the trade.
The old Enterprise remained on Takla lake, never to return to
In May, 1871, Captain William Irving announced that he was
going to leave the colony and offered for sale all his interests,
including his two steamers, control of the Albion Iron Works in
Victoria, and his New Westminster residence, the finest in the
Lower Mainland. He intended to return to his old home in Portland, where he had much property.    However, the sale did not
(15) Barkerville Cariboo Sentinel, June 24, 1871.
(16) Ibid., July 16, 22, 1871.
(17) Ibid., July 16, 1871.
(18) A. G. Morice, The History of the Northern Interior of British
Columbia, Toronto, 1904, p. 316.
(19) Barkerville Cariboo Sentinel, August 12, 1871.
(20) " She was designed to ply between that place [Fort St. James] and
Tatla [sic] Landing, but once she had gone north she never returned to
Stuart Lake, as a direct trail to the diggings had just been cut, which was
immediately adopted by the miners."   A. G. Morice, op. cit., p. 316. 1947 Steamboat Days, 1870-1883. 75
materialize, and Irving remained in the colony.21 Captain Fleming, who was in poor health, was joined by a partner, Captain
Otis Parsons, who took over the operation of the Hope and Lillooet in 1871. Parsons, an old-timer in the colony, had formerly
operated a ferry across the Fraser River at Lillooet to Parsonville, which was named after him. Captain Fleming soon retired
to Oakland, California, where he died August 9, 1875.22
The old Reliance was broken up in 1871, and the next year
Captain Irving carried on alone with the Onward. Early in
1872 Joseph Spratt bought out Irving's interest in the Albion
Iron Works. The arrival of the Onward late in February, 1872,
from her winter quarters in the Coquitlam River was greeted
with enthusiasm in New Westminster. It meant the long hard
winter was nearly over. " For our quiet city, the advent of the
up-river steamer is an epoch, and announced the approach of
spring, with increased business and lively times."23 Farther
inland, in April, the Victoria returned to her regular route from
Soda Creek to Quesnel,24 charging a cent a pound for freight and
$5 for passage.
The sudden death of Captain William Irving on August 28,
1872, was a shock to New Westminster.
When the sad news of the death of this gentleman, became known on
Wednesday last, it fell like a pall on the entire community. . . . His name
will be held in respect by British Columbians as long as one of the present
generation exists.2^
His river interests were taken over by his 16-year-old son, already
known everywhere on the river as " Captain John," a name still
revered by the old-timers. Well over 6 feet in height, handsome
John Irving was a consummate river skipper, a two-fisted fighter,
a great social favourite, a mighty drinker, and the soul of
generosity. He overcame all rivals, built up a great business
empire, was a member of the Provincial Legislature for many
(21) His two granddaughters still occupy the old family residence in
New Westminster.
(22) New Westminster Mainland Guardian, August 25, 1875.
(23) Ibid., February 21, 1872.
(24) Barkerville Cariboo Sentinel, April 13, 1872.
(25) New Westminster Mainland Guardian, August 31, 1872. 76 Norman R. Hacking. April
years, and died in Vancouver in 1936,26 poor in everything but
friends. He was a giant in an era of giants. His mother, Elizabeth Irving, was a woman of exceptional capacity, and for many
years she wielded an active financial power in her son's affairs.
In an era when women were expected to stick close to the fireside,
Mrs. Irving showed herself a business executive of no mean
ability.    She died in 1917.
Captain Asbury Insley took over command of the Onward
for the remainder of 1872, while young John acted as pilot,
learning the intricacies of " running " the river from a master.
Captain Irving was joined in the management of the business by
his uncle, John Dickson, of Victoria. Next spring Captain John
assumed active command of the Onward, and made a special
excursion to Yale in June to show off his command to the populace, who greeted him with a salute of cannon.
Great praise is awarded to Capt. Irving for the able way in which he
handled the boat in going up and returning. The settlers on the way, up
and down, cheered the steamer as she passed, showing the high esteem they
feel for Capt. Irving.2'
On the First of July he took the Onward on a holiday excursion
to Hastings Mill. It was a gala occasion, and Captain J. A.
Raymur, manager of the mill, was host at a free dinner attended
by 500 mill-hands and excursionists.28 " Sue " Moody, manager
of the rival Moodyville Mills, was not to be outdone. As a
patriotic American he was host at a similar excursion, sports
meet, and banquet at Moodyville on July 4. Those were spacious
Late in 1873 came enthusiastic reports of new gold discoveries in the Cassiar region, quite overshadowing the Omineca
District. Once again Captain William Moore was in the van,
and as a result of his explorations he was given the franchise to
build a pack-trail from the head of Stikine navigation at Telegraph Creek to Dease Lake. Captain Irving acted quickly—
determined to reap the profits of steamboat navigation on the
Stikine. The contract for a new shallow-draught sternwheeler
for the river was awarded to Alexander Watson and Lockhart
(26) Captain John Irving died August 10, 1936, Vancouver Daily Province, August 11, 1936.
(27) New Westminster Mainland Guardian, June 21, 1873.
(28) Ibid., July 2, 1873. 1947 Steamboat Days, 1870-1883. 77
Smith, two Scottish ship-builders. On March 9,1874, the Glenora
(Valley of Gold)29 was launched from Trahey's ways at Victoria,
equipped with the engines of the old Reliance.50 She was completed in April, and Captain Irving brought her over to New
Westminster to show her off to his friends. Citizens of the
Royal City responded by giving an impromptu " Glenora Ball "
in the drill-shed, attended by all the youth and beauty of the community.31 On April 22, with Captain Irving commanding and
John Dickson as purser, the Glenora sailed for Victoria and the
Stikine: " she bore away with her a good many of our familiar
faces, the possessors of which are on the way to the new
Captain Parsons also determined to take advantage of the
" new Eldorada " and prepared the Hope for the Stikine trade,
taking Captain Insley along as pilot.
The Stikine river is by all odds the most dangerous stream
for river navigation in the province. Only the most expert
pilots ever " ran" its turbulent currents and narrow gorges.
A contemporary United States Government report describes its
The velocity and strength of the current throughout the whole length of the
river is its most remarkable feature. Without any falls or impediments the
current sweeps down with great uniformity, and when the bed or banks are
not suitable for towing or tracking the only way to force a boat up is by
means of poles. The velocity of the current was measured at several places
and averages four or five miles an hour.33
(29) The ship was christened by Mr. R. Lipsett, see Victoria Colonist,
March 10, 1874.
(30) According to the Victoria Standard, March 10, 1874, she was 100
feet in length, 20 feet breadth of beam, and had a draught of 20' inches when
loaded. This newspaper account also stated that the machinery of the
Onward was used, but this must have been an error, for that vessel continued on the Fraser River after the launching of the Glenora. The Port of
Victoria Register Book, 1867-1880, gives Nellie Irving as her registered
owner. For additional information see also E. W. Wright (ed.), Lewis &
Dryden's Marine History of the Pacific Northwest, Portland, Oregon, 1895,
pp. 216-7.    Hereafter cited as Lewis & Dryden.
(31) New Westminster Mainland Guardian, April 22, 1874.
(32) Ibid., April 25, 1872; see also Victoria Standard, April 22,1874.
(33) William P. Blake, Geographical Notes upon Russian America and
the Stickeen River, Washington, 1868, p. 6. 78 Norman R. Hacking. April
The depth of water is seldom less than 3 feet in the main channel
even at low water.    High water usually occurs in July.
The journey of the Glenora from Victoria to Wrangel was a
memorable one. The fragile little steamer fought a howling gale
all the way up the coast, with seas washing a foot deep through
the main gangways. Passengers held tight to their life-preservers and offered prayers to the skill of the youthful skipper.
Little the worse for the experience, the Glenora reached Wrangel
on May 2, six days and three hours from Victoria. The stormy
journey up the coast was merely a foretaste of what was to
come in the treacherous uncharted reaches of the Stikine River.
Excerpts from the log of the Glenora give a glimpse of the
problems faced by steamboatmen in the turbulent mountain
rivers of British Columbia:—
Sunday, May 3d. Left Fort Wrangle [sic] with fifty tons of Freight and
a full compliment of passengers; also, having in tow a barge containing
twenty tons of freight, including six head of oxen. ... 9 p.m. tied up at
Spelten bar, river, so far, very good.
May 4th. 4 a.m. started. . . . 12:30 p.m. had to leave the barge; 2:30
p.m. tied up to cut wood.
May 5th. 4 a.m. started; 8 a.m. aground on a bar, got lines ashore; 9
a.m. off the bar and tied up to cut wood; 10:30 a.m. started again, at this
point the river is divided into four channels, three of which we tried and ran
aground each time, and finally, at 11 a.m. tied up and sent a party ahead to
explore. ... 12 m. tried it again and ran on a snag, worked all night
with lines and tackle ashore, after unloading freight. Steamer leaking
May 6th. 5 a.m. water in hold gaining rapidly, steam pumps unable to
check it, made two new pumps and at 7 a.m. got the best of the water;
8 a.m. got the steamer off and ran her ashore; 11 a.m. water in the hold
lowered and leak discovered, found a hole about two feet square in her
bottom;   4 p.m. leak repaired and commenced reshipping freight.
May 7th. 9 a.m. started, leaving some of the freight behind; 9.30 a.m.
tied up again, finding it necessary at this point to haul two large snags out
of the channel . . . at 12:30 p.m. again started; 2:30 tied up to cut wood;
4:15 p.m. off again. . . . 4:55 p.m. reached the H.B. Co.'s post and discharged freight.
May 8th. 7:45. Started back for the barge . . . 10:30 a.m. reached
the barge; 10:40 a.m. having taken on board the freight from the barge, we
started up the river again leaving the barge behind; 2 pm reached the
H.B. Co.'s post and tied up, all well.
May 9th. 9:45 am left the post and started up the river, taking only
the passengers and their freight   .   .   .   10:30 am  ran aground on a bar, 1947 Steamboat Days, 1870-1883. 79
lines ashore again; 12 noon off again and started; 1pm tied up to cut
wood;  2:30 p m  off again, weather fine, 9:15 tied up for the night.
May 10th. Daylight, all hands ashore cutting wood; 9 am off; 10:30
am stopped to cut wood; 11.30 am off; 4 pm Glenora riffle. At this
point the water is so strong that we worked for thirty minutes with all
steam the law allows, and could not gain an inch, and finally were compelled
to run a line ahead and work up with the assistance of the capstan, which
took us till 6 pm, when we again pushed on; 10 p m, tied up for the night,
weather fine, all well, still among snow mountains.
May 11th. Daylight, all hands ashore cutting wood; 11.30 am started,
weather cloudy, river clear of snags but very rapid; 3pm reached Shakesville and took in wood; 4.30 pm reached the big riffle, ten miles below
Buck's bar, and finding it impossible to run the steamer above this point,
we made a landing at the foot of the riffle and landed passengers and freight,
calling the landing Glenoraville.34
Glenora remained the head of navigation for the season,
although the next year vessels were able to reach Telegraph
Creek, the terminus of Captain Moore's pack-trail. The Hope
arrived on the river soon after the Glenora, and business boomed.
Rates were $50 per ton for freight to Shakesville and $20 for
passage, with no allowance for baggage, which was carried at
the rate of $2.50 per ton. This was augmented at Shakesville
by a charge of $1 for passage and $2.50 per 100 pounds to Buck's
House, 18 miles higher up.
The argonauts were not pleased by the exorbitant rates or
the terrors of the passage.    One disgruntled traveller, writing
from Wrangel of the route from Shakesville to Buck's House,
. . . There is no trail or at any rate an awfully difficult one. From Buck's
House is the commencement of what Bill Moore pretends to call a trail, and
a mile and a half further up is what this celebrity calls the head of Steamboat navigation, a perfect absurdity, as steamers cannot get within nearly
twenty miles of it.35
Actually Captain Moore, who had pioneered the Stikine in 1862
with the Flying Dutchman,36 was quite correct, and steamers
were eventually able to make regular trips to Telegraph Creek.
In 1874, however, they seldom got far past Shakesville.
(34) New Westminster Mainland Guardian, June 3, 1874.
(35) Ibid., June 6, 1874.
(36) Norman Hacking, " Steamboating on the Fraser in the 'Sixties,"
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, X. (1946), pp. 21, 39. 80 Norman R. Hacking. April
The Cassiar excitement attracted another old-time Fraser
River skipper, Captain Charles Millard. He ordered a new
steamer to be built at Rock Bay, Victoria, by Captain J. G.
Walker, intended for the Stikine route. The little Gem of 27
tons register was launched on April 10, 1874.37 Her completion
was so delayed that she was not able to get up to the Stikine in
time for the 1874 season but went instead to the Fraser in command of Captain George Odin. At the time of her trial run in
September the Victoria Colonist reported:—
She is the most complete little craft the Province has produced. She is a
sternwheeler, has two powerful engines and a gem of a boiler by Spratt.
The tonnage is 26; bow sharp, and draft so light that she can run in a
heavy dew.33
Competition on the Stikine River between Captain Irving's
Glenora and Captain Parsons' Hope was of short duration.
Monopoly was always a route to easy riches, so, in June, Parsons
came to terms with Irving, who " hauled off " the route, making
the usual deal to split the profits. Steamboat charges immediately went up to $80 per ton on the Hope, and the travellers
howled with anger, particularly as the steamer sometimes took
as much as eight days on the passage up-river from Wrangel.
In a letter dated at Telegraph Creek, July 18, 1874, a correspondent to the Victoria Standard moaned:—
. . . The steamer Hope is making bad time, and charging high prices for
freight and passage; freight is $80 per ton, and passage $25, and sleep in
one's own blankets, cook for self, pay $1 for inferior grub, and occasionally
cut wood, etc., for which not even a man can get " thank you." Captain
John Irving's absence is greatly regretted.3^
During 1873 the Onward had the Fraser River trade to herself. With all the familiar river captains bound for the Stikine,
Captain Irving recalled loquacious " Gassy Jack " Deighton from
Burrard Inlet and persuaded him to return to the Fraser for
(37) Victoria Colonist, April 11, 1874. Her dimensions were given as
71 feet by 13 feet. The entry in the Port of Victoria Register Book, 1867-
1880, dated September 18, 1874, shows her as jointly owned by C. T. Millard
(42 shares) and J. A. Clark (22 shares) and states that the engines were
the work of the Willamette Iron Works.    See also Lewis & Dryden, p. 217.
(38) Victoria Colonist, September 17, 1874. Millard had other interests
in the Cassiar excitement, for he had shipped the first pack-train of twenty-
six animals up to the Stikine, early in May, by steamer Isabel.
(39) Victoria Standard, August 6, 1874. 1947 Steamboat Days, 1870-1883. 81
the season in command of the Onward. The Lillooet reached
the end of her days late in 1874, and Captain Parsons ordered a
new vessel to replace her at the yard of Collings and Cook in
Victoria. On her last trip down the river, with a cargo of 62
head of cattle, the old Lillooet presented a grim sight.
. . . the poor brutes nearest to the boiler had kicked out the side of the
boat in several places in order to obtain a little air, and when the Lillooet
arrived at the wharf, heads and legs of dead cattle were protruding from
the side of the vessel.40
But profits were piling up as monopoly ruled the river, and
humanitarianism was not a popular virtue in that day of rugged
Captain Millard's new steamer Gem provided a little competition, but she won trade only when the river was too low for
the bigger vessels to run. She was never a favourite with the
public, and she passed in and out of the sheriff's hands several
times, which was no new experience for her owner. To add to
his griefs, she sank at the wharf a couple of times, but he always
philosophically pumped out the hull and started out anew. During the season of 1877 she operated on the Stikine,41 but thereafter returned to the Fraser. The Gem made the first trip to
Yale in the season of 1880, carrying as part of her freight the
printing-press of M. Hagan, the editor of The Inland Sentinel
that made its first appearance at Emory (Yale), May 29, 1880.
Even on that occasion ill luck followed her, for she was holed a
few miles before reaching Yale, but safely raised and taken to
New Westminster to be " overhauled and got ready for the fishing season."42 When she was long past her brief hey-day, Morley
Roberts, the English novelist, travelled in the Gem from Mission
to New Westminster and has left this account of his impressions :—
Next afternoon the " Gem " steamer came down stream. Poor little wretched
steamer to be so miscalled: " Coalscuttle " or " Hog-pen " would have made
good names for her. The captain and one more made up the crew—two all
told. The captain usually steered, and the other man engineered and fired
up, and one or other would rush out when making a landing to hitch a rope
round a stump;  and when wood ran low they would run her ashore near a
(40) New Westminster Mainland Guardian, October 7, 1874.
(41) Victoria Colonist, May 16, 1877; November 13, 1877.
(42) Letter to the editor of the Colonist signed M. H[agan]., dated at
Yale, April 15, 1880; ibid., April 20, 1880. 82 Norman R. Hacking. April
pile, the noble skipper getting out to throw half a cord on deck. Then they
had to take it aft before they could back her off. So we made slow progress,
even with the current of the noble river under us, especially as every little
while we stopped to take a few squealing pigs on board or some sacks of
Steamboatmen prepared for 1875 in a big way, convinced
that trade on both the Stikine and the Fraser would assure high
profits. Captain William Moore, who had made a new fortune
from his pack-train from Telegraph Creek to Dease Lake, decided
to return to the river trade and had the Gertrude launched at
Laurel Point, March 22, 1875.44 At the time of her launching
the following particulars were reported in the newspaper:—
Her dimensions are as follows: Length, 120 feet; beam, 21 feet; depth of
hold, 5 feet. She is fitted with ten water-tight compartments. The timber
used in her construction consists of natural crooks of yellow cedar obtained
near Fort Simpson during the past season. The vessel is to be fitted with
two 16 inch cylinders, with 4% feet stroke; slide valves with link motion.
Everything is made in the lightest and most substantial manner possible.
Her cranks phlanges, bed plates, and fire front, etc., are constructed of the
best wrought iron. The steamer will be furnished with two donkey engines,
and with two return tubular boilers, which have been tested to 185 lbs. cold
When river traffic reopened on the Stikine in May, there were
three competing vessels on the run, the Gertrude, Glenora, and
Hope. Fares remained at $25 from Wrangel to Glenora, but
freight dropped to $45 per ton.
The new Dominion steamboat laws had been put in force in
1873, requiring steamboats to maintain a maximum of 100
pounds of steam-pressure. It was a hard law to enforce, and
captains continued gaily to force the pressure up to 140 pounds,
although they usually tinkered with the steam-valve to ease the
feelings of nervous passengers.    Providence was kind, and there
(43) Morley Roberts, The Western Avernus, London, 1887, pp. 174-5.
The Port of Victoria Register Book, 1867-1880, states that the register for
this ship was closed March 22, 1902, the vessel having " been broken up on
Fraser River some years ago."
(44) Victoria Colonist, March 23, 1875. The christening ceremony was
performed by Miss Henrietta Moore, and the vessel was named after her
younger sister. See Victoria Standard, March 23, 1870. See also Lewis &
Dryden, p. 217.
(45) Ibid., March 11, 1875. Her trial run occurred April 18; ibid.,
April 19, 1875. 1947 Steamboat Days, 1870-1883. 83
were no major explosions for several years. For a time there
was doubt as to whether or not the Hope could get up river with
the 100 pounds steam-pressure limit, whereas the Gertrude was
reported to be able to steam over " the worst riffles on the
Stickeen with a pressure of 80 lbs. on the square inch."46
Captain Otis Parsons replaced the old Lillooet with the new
steamer Royal City, launched by Collings and Cook at Victoria
March 2, 1875.47 She was called the " finest specimen of steamboat work yet turned out in the province."
The Royal City is 128 feet long, has 26 feet beam, and 5 feet depth of hold.
The draught of water is very light, only 22 inches. The powerful engines
were built at Coffee & Risdon's Ironworks, San Francisco, and are supplied
with Cross' patent cutoff, which permits of great economy of steam. The
cylinders are 20 inches, stroke 5 feet, which will enable the steamboat to
stem the swiftest water on the Fraser with a low pressure of steam. The
furniture is very handsome. The ladies boudoir and staterooms are beautifully furnished and the staterooms are supplied with spring mattrasses
[sic] and every other convenience.48
The Royal City had barely started operation on the Fraser, in
command of Captain Asbury Insley, when Captain Parsons sold
out all his steamboat interests to Captain John Irving.49 This
included also the Hope, which was laid up at Wrangel in August
as " unfit for use . . . the machinery taken out, and the hull
broken up."50 Captain Parsons decided to retire to California
and booked passage on the ill-fated Pacific from Victoria. She
sank in collision off Cape Flattery in November, and Captain
Parsons, along with his wife and child and his wife's sister,
was a victim of the disaster.51 Among other prominent British
Columbians lost was S. P. Moody, manager of the Moodyville
Mills on Burrard Inlet.   This same year John Dickson, Captain
(46) Victoria Colonist, May 26, 1875.
(47) Ibid., March 3, 1875. She was christened by the Hon. Henry
Holbrook.   See also Lewis & Dryden, p. 237.
(48) Victoria Colonist, April 11, 1875.
(49) Ibid., June 20, 1875. At this time it was reported: "We learn
that Capt. Irving intends, now that he has the trade in his own hands, to
reduce the rates of fare." Her first run to New Westminster was made on
April 17.   See Victoria Standard, April 17, 1875.
(50) Report of the Steamboat Inspector for British Columbia to 31st
December, 1875, p. 73, in Canada Sessional Papers, 1876.
(51) Victoria Colonist, November 9, 1875. 84 Norman R. Hacking. April
Irving's uncle and partner in business, died at Wrangel on June
2 aboard the Glenora.
Competition was strong on the Stikine in 1875 between the
Gertrude and the Glenora, with Captain Moore's new boat
acclaimed a " lightning-striker." Moore managed to reach Telegraph Creek, 15 miles above Glenora, but business did not come
up to expectations, and the steamers spent much of the summer
laid up. Eventually Moore bought the Glenora from Irving,52
thus gaining a monopoly on the Stikine. Then in November he
brought the Gertrude down to the Fraser, determined to fight
Irving's Royal City. The usual cut-rate war followed, with fares
down to $1 from New Westminster to Yale, and freight at $2 a
ton. The going was tough, and the Gertrude gave up the struggle
after a few weeks.
Determined to get his revenge, Captain Irving ordered a new
steamer for the Stikine. This was the Reliance, the second of the
name, launched from Trahey's yard at Victoria, March 7, 1876.53
She was built under contract by John F. Steffen, of Portland,
with Alexander Watson acting as superintendent. Her boilers
were made by the Willamette Iron Works of Portland. Her
dimensions were: length, 123 feet; beam, 23 feet; depth of hold,
4% feet; and she was especially designed for the swift and
dangerous Stikine as she had a draught of only 16 inches.64
Captain Moore soon came to terms and bought off his rival before
the Reliance ever left for the north, and as a consequence she
remained on the Fraser all her days.66 Monopoly thus won out
again. The old Onward had worn herself out, so she was dismantled and converted into a barge.
The see-saw battle between Moore and Irving had another
exciting inning in 1877.    Early in the year Moore brought the
(52) The date of the transfer in the Port of Victoria Register Book,
1867-1880, is November 28,1876.
(53) Victoria Colonist, March 8, 1876. She was christened by Miss
Lizzie Irving.   See also Lewis & Dryden, pp. 244-5.
(54) Victoria Colonist, March 7, 1876.
(55) Her trial runs were made early in April, and she completed her
first trip to Yale that same week. Ibid., April 6, 1876. Still later that
month she made the trip from New Westminster to Yale and from Yale to
Victoria, a distance of 275 miles, in twenty-eight hours, including time lost
in stopping for wood and discharging and receiving freight at Yale and
Hope.   Ibid., April 29, 1876. 1947 Steamboat Days, 1870-1883. 85
Gertrude to the Fraser again in opposition to the Royal City and
the Reliance—and the fun started. But this was only the beginning, for a syndicate of Yale business-men, headed by the well-
known firm of Oppenheimer Brothers, hired the Glenora from
Captain Moore, and she too appeared on the Fraser under the
command of Captain George Odin. Speed became the order of
the day, and the steamers raced up and down the river, each
trying to outdistance the other. Moore proudly advertised that
the Gertrude was making the 110-mile run up to Yale in ten
hours' running-time, with only five hours down-stream. The
Reliance countered with a record of nine hours up the river.66
The public enjoyed the races immensely; while steam-pressures
mounted and fares declined.
Irving cut the passage rates to 50 cents, with $1 a ton for
freight, while the Glenora countered with a 25-cent passage and
offered to carry freight at 50 cents a ton. The people of Yale
were staunch supporters of the Glenora. On her first trip up to
Yale a general celebration was held.
In honor of the occasion the Yaleites hoisted all the flags in town, with
mottoes of welcome on the buildings, and the loyal little place reminded us
of the reception given here to Lord Dufferin—so gay were the decorations—
showing the hearty appreciation of the people in anticipation .of reduced
freight and fare.67
New Westminster enjoyed the fun, too. Crowds gathered on
the wharves to greet the steamers, and bets were placed on
arrival times. Irving's boats provided tough opposition, particularly as he hired the Hyack band to " discourse sweet music
at intervals along the route." Apparently the music had charms,
for on one trip down the Reliance brought 100 passengers, while
the Glenora had to content herself with only five.68
The Gertrude meanwhile gave up the struggle and returned
to the Stikine, but the Glenora was tougher opposition. Her
owners decided to run the risk of crossing the stormy Gulf of
Georgia and advertised weekly sailings direct from Victoria to
(56) New Westminster Mainland Guardian, April 11, 1877.
(57) Ibid., April 18, 1877.
(58) On another occasion it was reported: "The Fraser River steamer
Reliance carries a broom at the masthead as she claims to be considered the
fastest sternwheeler afloat.   .   .   ."    Victoria Colonist, May 1, 1877. 86 Norman R. Hacking. April
Yale, with passage, including meals and bed, set at 50 cents.69
It was wonderful fun for the public, but it couldn't last. Captain
Irving bought the Glenora out, and she " hauled off." For a
second time he became the owner of the vessel, and once more
he had the river to himself. Even the puttering little. Gem was
not in evidence, for she spent the years 1876 and 1877 on the
Having " licked his weight in wildcats," Captain Irving
decided to take on a more formidable opponent. During his
fight with the Glenora he had asked the Hudson's Bay Company
to give him through bills of lading from Victoria to Yale, with
transhipment of freight at New Westminster from the Hudson's
Bay Company's ships to his own. This the company refused to
do, and consequently Captain Irving decided to fight. Early in
1878 he purchased the venerable old sidewheeler Wilson G. Hunt
in San Francisco60 and brought her north to fight it out on the
Victoria-New Westminster run in opposition to the Hudson's
Bay Company's Enterprise. The Hunt had operated on the route
in the halcyon days of 1858 and 1859, and, although she was old,
she could still make 15 knots and her accommodation was as good
as any the Enterprise could offer.61
The Wilson G. Hunt made her first trip to New Westminster
as an opposition boat on April 22, 1878, and was greeted with
loud hosannas by the Mainland Guardian:—
This splendid steamer, commanded by Capt. John Irving, arrived at her
wharf here on Monday evening. A telegram having informed the public
here of about the time of her arrival, a large concourse of people was on the
wharf to receive her. The scene was highly exciting; as the noble vessel
neared the wharf the band on board playing " Cheer boys, cheer;" the
immense crowd gave three hearty cheers, which was duly acknowledged by
Capt. Irving. The appearance of the vessel is undoubtedly most imposing.
The wheels appear to be much larger than those of the Enterprise, and the
new paint and gilding make her look as trim as if she had been just turned
(59) New Westminster Mainland Guardian, May 16, 1877.
(60) Victoria Colonist, February 5, 1878. The transfer from her American owners is recorded in the Port of Victoria Register Book, 1867-1880,
under date of April 20, 1878, and the new owner is given as Thomas L.
(61) For an account of her previous career see Norman Hacking,
"' Steamboat 'Round the Bend': American Steamers on the Fraser River
in 1858," British Columbia Historical Quarterly, VIII. (1944), pp. 273-4. 1947 Steamboat Days, 1870-1883. 87
out of a mould. ... On the trip from San Francisco, in the face of a
strong northwest wind, she made the distance in 4 days 18 hours; the steamship Panama, on the same trip, was detained 30 hours. She has 12 staterooms, and can dine 100 at one table.62
Competition waxed strong throughout the summer, until in
October the Hudson's Bay Company bought the steamer Olympia,
then running on Puget Sound for George S. Wright.63 This
vessel had been built in New York in 1869 and was considered
" a handsome and trustworthy vessel "64 and was far superior to
either the Enterprise or the Wilson G. Hunt. She made her first
trip to New Westminster on November 1, 1878.66 Late in 1879,
after fares had dropped to 50 cents, Captain Irving came to
terms. In agreeing to withdraw from the Victoria-New Westminster run, he accepted an offer of through bills of lading,
which gave Irving's Pioneer Line two thirds of the through
freight and the Hudson's Bay Company the other third. The
Olympia was renamed the Princess Louise in 1879,66 and thus
became the first of the familiar Princess ships. Subsequently,
in 1881, Captain Irving sold the Wilson G. Hunt to Joseph
Spratt, of Victoria, who placed her on his East Coast Mail Line,
between Victoria and Nanaimo.67 With the organization of the
Canadian Pacific Navigation Company in 1883 she was sent to
the boneyard and broken up in May, 1890.68
The lengthy controversy over the route of the Canadian
Pacific Railway seemed finally settled in July, 1878, when the
McKenzie government decided on the Fraser Canyon route.
New Westminster cheered with delight and prepared for the
coming boom. Victoria sulked, still hopeful that the Bute Inlet
route and a bridge across Seymour Narrows would bring trains
(62) New Westminster Mainland Guardian, April 24, 1878.    See also
Victoria Colonist, April 16 and 24, 1878.
(63) Ibid., October 18, 1878.    The purchase price mentioned was $75,000
to $90,000.
(64) Port  of  Victoria Register Book,  1867-1880.   See  also  Victoria
Colonist, July 10, 1878.
(65) Ibid., November 2, 1878.
(66) Ibid., March 6, 1879.    Her registry was closed June 17, 1879, and
transferred to London.   Port of Victoria Register Book, 1867-1880.
(67) Victoria Colonist, February 20, 1881.
(68) Ibid., May 8, 1890.    She was finally burned in June.   See ibid.,
June 6, 1890. 88 Norman R. Hacking. April
direct to the Island capital. But it was not to be, and in July,
1878, Captain Irving was awarded a contract to transport 5,000
tons of steel rails to Yale, which had long been rusting at
Esquimalt and Nanaimo. It was a bonanza for his steamers,
and the rail shipment began a boom in river transport which
continued until the completion of the railway. The arrival of the
first lot of rails at Yale in the Royal City was the occasion for one
of those celebrations the little town so enjoyed. There was a
salute of twenty-one guns from an anvil battery, flags were
hoisted in all directions, and the jollity concluded that night with
" a grand display of fireworks."69
There was a setback to the general optimism in November,
1878, when the new Macdonald government cancelled all contracts of the McKenzie government, including Irving's rail contract, and the future route of the railway was once again in
doubt. After nearly a year Macdonald finally set the stamp of
approval on the Fraser route and called for tenders on October
4, 1879, for construction of the section between Emory, near
Yale, and Savona. Rails started to move up the river again to
Emory Bar, which immediately began to boom as Emory City.
In June, 1879', Irving had extended his interests by purchasing from A. S. Bates the Upper Fraser River steamer Victoria,
in partnership with Robert McLeese, a Soda Creek merchant.
He also joined in partnership with J. A. Mara and W. B. Wilson,
Kamloops merchants, in the Thompson River trade. The fortunes of the Pioneer Line were at a high level.   In December,
1879, Captain Irving had his first steamboat loss, the sinking of
the Glenora. The Reliance had run aground on Puget Sound
Bar, and the Glenora was sent up to help refloat her. On the
way down, on December 6, the latter also ran into trouble by
striking a snag near Farr's ranch. She tore a large hole in her
bow and sank immediately. Those aboard were rescued by the
Reliance, and some of the ship's fittings were salvaged.70 When
the water fell in February, her machinery was removed by the
The expected boom started in earnest in 1880. To prepare
for it, Irving had the fine new steamer William Irving built by
(69) New Westminster Mainland Guardian, July 27, 1878.
(70) Ibid., December 10, 1879. 1947 Steamboat Days, 1870-1883. 89
Alexander Watson on Burrard Inlet. The keel was laid on February 1, and she was ready for launching at Moody & Nelson's
mill on March 19. She was the largest and best sternwheeler
ever to appear on the Fraser.
She is a model of strength and beauty. Length 170 ft; beam 34 ft; depth
of hold 4 ft 6 inches. The engines will be put in at Victoria. The cylinders
will be 18 inches and the stroke 6 feet. Her capacity will be 300 tons, and
draught of water when loaded, 3 feet 6 inches. She will cross the gulf in
the severest weather.71
By May 13 she was ready for her trial run, and the following day
made her first trip from Victoria to New Westminster. She
became the first steamer registered under the new regulations
at the recently created port of New Westminster.72 Upon her
arrival at the booming settlement of Emory later in May the
Inland Sentinel was quite rhapsodic:—
The splendid new steamer, William Irving . . . has been hailed with
delight all along the Fraser, and salutes and flags greeted her at different
calling places along the river. Capt. John Irving may well feel proud of
his new venture; she sits upon the water like a duck, and moves as a thing
of life, breasting the swiftest current without hesitency [sic]. The boat
is finished in the best possible style for pleasure and durability. Upon her
first trip she was accompanied by the Royal City Band, discoursing appropriate responses to the honors paid. The " Boys " had a good time, and
gratified many persons who were reminded of the charms of music in other
Doughty old Captain William Moore arrived back in the
Fraser River trade in 1880 with the new steamer Western Slope,
which he had built for the Stikine River trade the previous year.
She had been launched at Victoria on May 8, 1879, was 155 feet
in length, 26^2 fee* beam, and her capacity estimated at 250
tons. Her engines had 20-inch cylinders and 5-foot stroke and
were the product of the Willamette Iron Works, Portland.74
During 1879 she had operated on the Stikine.75    She had deeper
(71) Victoria Colonist, March 19, 1880. She was christened by Mrs. R.
Dickinson, wife of the mayor of New Westminster. Her boilers were manufactured by Fulton Iron Works of San Francisco and her engines by the
National Iron Works of that city.   Ibid., March 27, 1880.
(72) Ibid., May 14, 1880.
(73) Emory City Inland Sentinel, May 29, 1880. See also Victoria
Colonist, May 23, 1880.
(74) Ibid,., May 9, 1879.    She was christened by Miss Minnie Moore.
(75) Ibid., May 27, 1879. 90 Norman R. Hacking. April
draught than the other river-boats, for Moore hoped to run her
in Gulf waters. For most of the year 1880 the Western Slope
operated under an agreement with Captain Irving, moving steel
rails, but Captain Moore was obviously waiting for an opportunity to renew his fight with his old rival.76 There was plenty
of business for all, and the Reliance and the Royal City, then
commanded by Captain Insley, " the most experienced man afloat
upon the Fraser," were also kept busy.77
In August, 1880, Captain John Irving, assisted by young
Frank Odin, took the Reliance through the first canyons of the
Fraser beyond Yale. The trip served no purpose except to
prove Irving's exceptional skill as a river pilot. A long rope was
made fast to a rock near the edge of the river, above the east end
of the tunnel, and with the combined aid of her engines, capstan,
and a crew of deck-hands, the Reliance pushed through a gorge
scarcely wider than herself, with jagged rocks projecting out of
the water on either side. After going up a few miles, the
Reliance ran the rapids back to Yale.78
Opposition to the Irving monopoly appeared in October, 1880,
with the arrival of the steamer Cassiar, built the previous year
at Seattle by W. J. Stephens for the Stikine trade. Smelling the
profits to be reaped on the Fraser, he had her transferred to
British registry, and she began operations under the command
of Captain N. H. Lane, with Louis Odin as pilot.79
Once again the public enjoyed the spectacle of a steamboat
war. The William Irving charged $3 for cabin fare to Yale,
and the Cassiar $2, with deck passage $1 on both vessels. The
Dominion Pacific Herald of New Westminster noted:—
The steamboat opposition on the Lower Fraser appears to be waxing hot,
and inexpensive travelling between this city and Yale is the consequence.
We understand those who choose to take advantage of both steamers (or
three or four steamers as sometimes happens) leaving Yale at once can get
(76) Captain Moore was handicapped by financial difficulties; as early
as June, 1880, his creditors were meeting and considering the sale of the
Western Slope.    Ibid., June 1, 1880.
(77) Emory City Inland Sentinel, May 29, 1880.
(78) Ibid., August 26,1880.    See also Victoria Colonist, August 29, 1880.
(79) Emory City Inland Sentinel, October 7, 1880, gives date of first trip
to Yale as October 4. Rumours of the impending transfer appeared in the
Victoria Colonist, September 28-30, 1880. 1947 Steamboat Days, 1870-1883. 91
down for anything or nothing.    Between here and Victoria there is no
The William Irving won the cream of the trade, and in one trip
in November she carried the largest freight ever taken to Yale—
270 tons.
The spring of 1881 dawned with new hopes and aspirations.
Railway construction would soon be in full swing, and all were
anxious to reap the benefits. The Reliance opened the river for
trade to Yale on March 5, blasting her way through 2 miles of
ice. " Hurrah for the Pioneer Line!" cheered the Dominion
Pacific Herald. " The Pioneer Line and Capt. Irving forever! "81
At Yale "flying colors and booming of the cannon manifested
the people's joy."82
Andrew Onderdonk had the contract for the construction of
the line between Emory and Savona, and on March 25 the first of
his workmen, 204 white men and 31 Chinese, were landed at
New Westminster by the Princess Louise. These were the vanguard of multitudes, white and Chinese, that were to flock into
the province under the contract. The white men were the scrapings of the San Francisco waterfront, and soon won the nickname of " Onderdonk's Lambs." A few days later the Dominion
Pacific Herald ruefully announced: " Of Onderdonk's Frisco
boys who went up to Yale last week, 12 were in the lock-up the
first night and 20 the second."83
Competition did not take long to develop, with both the Western Slope and the Cassiar out to reap big profits at the expense
of the Pioneer Line, which was running the William Irving,
Captain Irving; the Reliance, Captain J. D. Tackaberry; and
the Royal City, Captain Frank Odin. Captain William Moore
entered the fray with a vengeance and announced direct sailings
twice a week between Victoria and Yale by the Western Slope.
The Cassiar was also offering opposition between New Westminster and Yale under command of Captain W. D. Moore, one of
old Captain William's sons.
(80) New Westminster Dominion Pacific Herald, October 20, 1880.
(81) Ibid., March 9, 1881. Actually the Gem was the first to reach the
ice-jam but, since she could not force her way through, returned to New
(82) Yale Inland Sentinel, March 10, 1881.
(83) New Westminster Dominion Pacific Herald, April 2, 1881.- 92 Norman R. Hacking. April
A big event in the history of the province was the arrival of
the first locomotive of the Canadian Pacific Railway, christened
the " Yale No. 1," which was landed at New Westminster on May
3, 1881. It weighed 30 tons, and it was quite a job to get it
stowed on the bow of the Royal City for transport to Emory.
This was finally accomplished, and she steamed proudly away,
the locomotive bell ringing as she passed up the river.84 It was
the Royal City's last trip, for soon she was taken over to Victoria and dismantled, her engines being removed for the new
Elizabeth J. Irving, under construction for the Pioneer Line.85
An amusing item in the Dominion Pacific Herald entitled
" A Dead-Head," gives a glimpse of Captain William Moore's
rather high-handed methods:—
Owing to the number of " dead-beats " recently assaying to come down
from Yale on the steamers, Capt. Moore has adopted the precaution of collecting fare from suspicious looking cases before casting off. Last Monday
morning, in going the usual rounds, in the performance of this duty, the
Captain came across a Chinaman in a sitting posture, with his blanket
round him. Upon applying for his fare and receiving no response, the
impatient Captain gave " John " a lively " punch," supposing he was asleep,
which caused him to tumble over, and, upon examination, he was found to
be dead. It appears that the dead Chinaman had been placed on the
steamer in that posture during the night by his countrymen, with the idea
of getting a free passage to Victoria. Capt. Moore " could not see it" in
that light, and the " dead-head" was unceremoniously deposited on the
beach at Yale, where he still lay when the Irving sailed at 10 o'clock on
The above account may well have been published in spite by
the New Westminster paper, for at this time a hot feud was
waging over the relative merits of the Pioneer Line and Moore's
People's Line.    New Westminster staunchly supported Irving
and villified Moore.    Victoria just as strongly supported Moore.
The Western Slope carried freight and passengers direct between
Victoria and Yale, and New Westminster felt slighted.87
(84) Ibid., May 11,1881.
(85) Victoria Colonist, May 31, 1881.
(86) New Westminster Dominion Pacific Herald, June 1, 1881.
(87) At one time in May, 1881, an effort was made to obtain an injunction restraining the Western Slope from crossing the Gulf of Georgia as she
was claimed to be unseaworthy. This attempt was defeated. See Victoria
Colonist, May 13, 1881. 1947 STEAMBOAT Days, 1870-1883. 93
With so much competition on the river, safety precautions
were seldom observed. On a trip through Sawmill Riffle, near
Emory, in June the Cassiar had to warp herself through by
means of ropes on shore. The passengers, worried by the look
of the steam-valve, preferred to walk to Yale. Captain Moore
declared that he took the Western Slope through the riffle with
89 pounds and 2^2 ounces of steam. " Some inclined to the
opinion that either the Captain or the steam-gauge lied," tartly
commented the Dominion Pacific Herald.™
Unfortunately for Captain Moore, his sharp practices were
soon in the limelight. He had quarrelled with the second engineer of the Western Slope and had unceremoniously kicked him
off the ship. The engineer responded by laying an information
against Moore that he was exceeding the 100-pound limit of
steam-pressure. The case was heard in the New Westminster
police court and was played up to the hilt. The discharged engineer testified that not one safety-valve on the Western Slope was
working and that the boiler was burned out. Captain Moore
gave standing orders to carry 110 pounds of steam, and that the
vessel more frequently carried up to 140 pounds. A fireman
testified: " One valve was wedged down so that it could not
possibly work; the other stood at 140 lbs, and I never knew it
to blow off! " Captain Irving testified that he had noticed a
difference of 30 pounds in the ship's two steam-gauges. Captain
George Odin testified that the Western Slope could not reach
Yale with less than 140 pounds. Captain Moore was obviously
guilty, and he and his chief engineer were fined $200 each by the
The Victoria Colonist screamed in anger at the verdict,90
which it called a persecution and a conspiracy, and promptly
raised a public subscription to pay the fines, thus " setting the
law at open and utter defiance," as the Dominion Pacific Herald
put it.91 There was an echo of the affair a few weeks later when
the New Westminster paper, still smarting with righteous anger,
(88) New Westminster Dominion Pacific Herald, June 15, 1881.
(89) Ibid., June 18, 1881.
(90) Victoria Colonist, June 24, 1881.
(91) New Westminster Dominion Pacific Herald, June 29, 1881. 94 Norman R. Hacking. April
The steamer Western Slope has certainly enjoyed a remarkable run of
success during the greater part of this season—coming and going with
a degree of regularity that shames some other boats, and sailing through
Dominion statutes with as much assurance as she would run over a luckless
fisherman's net.92
The big event in the late summer of 1881 was the arrival on
the Fraser River of Captain Irving's answer to Moore's competition. This was the new Elizabeth J. Irving, built to run directly
from Victoria to Yale, and the largest sternwheeler yet to appear
on the river, for she was 190 feet in length.93 She was launched
June 18 by Mrs. G. A. Walkem,94 wife of the Premier of the
province, and was the marvel of the age, for she was equipped
with electric light.96 On her first trip from Victoria to Yale on
September 19 she took up the dismantled hull of the Royal City,
which had become a coal barge and lighter on the river.96 She
arrived at Yale on her maiden voyage on September 21 at 8 p.m.,
the searchlight on her pilot-house attracting the admiration of all.
The electric light gave the Yaleites notice of the steamer's approach for an
hour or two before her arrival and when she reached her destination at 8:15
o'clock Wednesday evening a large and enthusiastic crowd greeted the
steamer and her spirited captain. A salute was fired in honor of the occasion and hearty congratulations were the order of the evening. . . . The
electric light does admirable service on the river where both banks are
brightly illuminated.   In open water, however, it is not of so much service.97
She made the return trip to Victoria from New Westminster in
less than six hours against a stiff breeze, and all acclaimed her
a great success.98
But her career was short. On her second trip up the river,
September 29, her cargo of hay caught fire and she was soon
a mass of flames. The crew and most of the passengers jumped
ashore and the ship was cast adrift, and a mile below Hope she
burned to the water's edge.    She had cost over $50,000 and was
(92) Ibid., August 20, 1881.
(93) Victoria Colonist, June 15, 1881.
(94) Ibid., June  19,  1881.    Alexander Watson was the designer and
builder, and her boiler came from Spratt's Albion Foundry.
(95) For a description of the Brill electric light system see ibid., September 7, 1881.
(96) Ibid., September 20, 1881.
(97) Ibid., September 23, 1881;  see also Yale Inland Sentinel, September 22, 1881.
(98) Victoria Colonist, September 23, 1881. 1947 Steamboat Days, 1870-1883. 95
not insured.99 Skeletons of several Indians were found on the
main deck, which led the Inland Sentinel to comment: " It may
be that for the reason that the lives sacrificed were only poor
natives little or no inquiry will be made into the causes of the
fire."100 It was a stiff blow for Captain Irving, but he managed
to salvage the machinery and immediately ordered a new steamer,
even larger than the Elizabeth J. Irving. The charred hull was
also subsequently salvaged and was put to use as a barge.
The year 1882 opened with a vengeance as far as competition was concerned. The Cassiar had been rebuilt at Victoria,101
with improved passenger accommodation, and Captain William
Moore had another steamer with which to fight the William
Irving. This was a small light-draught sternwheeler called the
Pacific Slope. She was launched at Victoria in March, 1882,102
and was described as " diminutive in size " and having a " scowlike bow."103 She was designed to act as a consort for the larger
Western Slope, which Captain Moore had found was too large to
run to Yale regularly. On occasions both vessels went up-river
as far as Murderer's Bar, then goods and passengers were
transhipped to the smaller Pacific Slope, which made the trip on
to Yale and return, again transferring passengers and freight to
the waiting Western Slope, which would carry them to Victoria.104
More frequently the Pacific Slope, commanded by his son, Henry
Moore, was used to pick up freight and passengers when the
larger vessel was detained down-river.
The career of the Cassiar was short, for she came to grief on
her first trip of the season, commanded by Captain Charles Millard, who was certainly the most unlucky skipper on the river.
On her way up to Yale on April 13, laden with rails and two flat
cars, she struck the Two Sisters Rock, below Strawberry Island,
and sank almost immediately, a total loss.106 Two months later
the hulk floated off the rock and very nearly wrecked the Pacific
(99) Ibid., September 30, 1881;   see also Yale Inland Sentinel, September 29, 1881.
(100) Ibid., October 6, 1881.
(101) Victoria Colonist, April 23, 1881.
(102) Ibid., March 11, 1882.
(103) Ibid., April 13, 1882.
(104) Ibid., April 5, 1882.
(105) New Westminster British Columbian, April 15 and 19, 1882. 96 Norman R. Hacking. April
Slope.106 The stiff competition was too much for Captain Moore.
Before the summer was over, he was bankrupt, which was not
a new experience for the doughty old fighter. The Western Slope
was seized by his creditors,107 and the Pacific Slope was sold to
Andrew Onderdonk for use in his railroad building. She was
subsequently renamed Myra.
Captain Irving meanwhile had replaced the Elizabeth J.
Irving by a new steamer which was even larger, the R. P. Rithet,
designed for the through run from Victoria to Yale. Built by
Alexander Watson, she was launched at Victoria on April 20 by
Mrs. Thomas L. Briggs108 and was ready for service by mid-June.
The British Columbian describing her arrival for the first time
at New Westminster on June 10 reported:—
Perfect in lines and model, she is finished and found in every respect in first
class style. The carving in the saloons is elaborate and, ornate, while the
upholstering, gilding and general finish are simply gorgeous. The staterooms are spacious and convenient, provided with luxurious spring beds and
fittings. In short, in the perfection of her lines, the completeness of her
appointments, and the elegance of design and finish, the R. P. Rithet is
truly a floating palace. She is provided with the patent hydraulic steering
gear, and is brilliantly lighted throughout with electricity, having two
powerful head-lights placed in huge reflectors. These lights shone with
dazzling brilliancy as the noble steamer came into our harbor on Saturday
night, the New Westminster Militia Band, who were on board, playing a
lively air. . . . The wharves were literally crowded with people who went
down to welcome Capt. Irving and congratulate him upon this his last great
triumph in marine architecture.109
Back on the river to join in the competition appeared Captain
Millard in the Gem, "this good-as-new little steamer," and in
July the Gertrude joined the fray.110 She had been running on
the Stikine for Captain Moore,111 but he had lost her in his bank-
(106) Victoria Colonist, June 18, 1882.
(107) Ibid., December 12, 1882. The creditors also seized his shipyards,
two or three town lots, the two-story residence occupied by Captain Moore,
and the single-story residence occupied by Captain Meyer, as well as
(108) Ibid., April 21, 1882.
(109) New Westminster British Columbian, June 14, 1882. On this trip
she took up 570 Chinese coolies which had been landed from the Euphrates.
On her first trip up to Yale she did not reach the town.
(110) Victoria Colonist, October 10, 1882.
(111) Ibid., June 13, 1878;  April 16, 1881. 1947 Steamboat Days, 1870-1883. 97
ruptcy, and she was now owned by Captain J. D. Warren, of
Victoria, who put Captain George Odin in command, running as
the British Columbia Merchant's Line. Her removal from the
Stikine was due to " the failing trade of Cassiar having rendered
her presence there no longer profitable."112
The most exciting event for river-boatmen in 1882 was the
construction of the sternwheeler Skuzzy, 14 miles above Yale,
for Andrew Onderdonk. It was his intention to take her through
Hell's Gate Canyon and run her between Boston Bar and Lytton
carrying railway supplies, thus avoiding the tolls on the Cariboo
road. It was a stupendous undertaking, for no steamer had ever
before attempted to run this awful section of the Fraser. Named
after a little stream that empties into the Fraser near Boston
Bar, the Skuzzy was built by Dalton and was launched on May 4,
christened by Mrs. Onderdonk.113 She drew only 18 inches of
Because of delays in her building, the Skuzzy was not ready
to make the attempted run through Hell's Gate until the river
had risen to dangerously high levels. Captain Nathaniel H.
Lane, Jr., a renowned steamboatman from the Stikine, was hired
to command her, but after a look at the canyon he threw up his
hands and took over command of the Victoria on the upper river
instead.114 Onderdonk then looked around and hired Captain
Asbury Insley, the most experienced captain on the Fraser, to
undertake the job. Under his command she started out on May
17 and successfully crossed the first riffle,116 but Hell's Gate
Canyon proved too great an obstacle. Insley used every wile
known to an expert steamboatman, but the powerful little vessel
was unable to breast the current. After a futile battle Insley
admitted defeat and returned down-river, tying up the Skuzzy
at Spuzzum.116 Water in the river at that time was the highest
known in forty years.
(112) Ibid., June 17, 1882.
(113) New Westminster British Columbian, June 14, 1882;  Yale Inland
Sentinel, May 11, 1882.
(114) Ibid., May 11, 1882.
(115) Ibid., May 18, 1882.
(116) Ibid., May 25, 1882. 98 Norman R. Hacking. April
There was talk that the steamer would be dismantled and
rebuilt at Boston Bar,117 but Onderdonk was not one to admit
defeat. He waited until the river had fallen a little and then
hired three expert steamboatmen from the Upper Columbia to
make the attempt. These were Captain S. R. Smith, of Lewis-
ton, Idaho; his brother, David Smith; and J. W. Burse, acting
as engineer. These three managed to accomplish the " impossible " after two weeks of Herculean effort. They started out
from Spuzzum on September 7, and four days later a few miles
had been gained through the Black Canyon.118 In the next ten
days several unsuccessful efforts were made to get through, but
a sudden rise of the water made it impossible. At length ringbolts were drilled into the walls of the canyon, 125 Chinamen
lined the river and hauled on ropes, and with the combined efforts
of the Skuzzy's engines, her capstan, and sheer man-power she
managed to huff and puff her way up through the boiling
The Skuzzy's triumph, was a feat never equalled in western
steamboat history. Even to-day old-timers recall the excitement
which pervaded the province as the whole population waited for
reports on the little steamer's progress. The Skuzzy has long
since gone the way of all steamboats, but, for those who care to
look, the original ring-bolts, by means of which the vessel pulled
herself up the canyon, may still be seen on its walls. Well might
the Inland Sentinel comment: " We must say that Capt. Smith
and his assistants got the Railway Company out of (what for a
time looked like) a difficulty."120
Her first run from Boston Bar to Lytton, a distance of 22
miles, took more than seven hours, but the run down-stream was
made in one hour and twenty-seven minutes.121 She arrived at
Boston Bar rather the worse for wear, her sides and bottom
badly scraped, and a hole punched in her hull through running
on the rocks.122 After repairs had been made, she started out
with her first load of freight on October 27, under command of
(117) Ibid., May 25, 1882.
(118) Ibid., September 14 and 21, 1882.
(119) Ibid., September 28 and October 5, 1882.
(120) Ibid., October 5, 1882.
(121) Ibid., October 5, 1882.
(122) Ibid., October 12, 1882. The Western Slope tied up at one of the many lower Fraser River
points of call.
The R. P. Rithet at Victoria, B.C.
The Princess Louise (formerly Olympia), the first of the Princess
line of ships. The Isabel at Nanaimo, B.C.
The Senator, used to carry mail and passengers across Burrard Inlet.
The Peerless lying at Savona's Ferry, Kamloops Lake. 1947 Steamboat Days, 1870-1883. 99
Captain J. D. Tackaberry.123    The Smith brothers, well paid for
their triumph, returned to Idaho.
One other sternwheeler appeared on the Fraser in 1882—the
little Adelaide, built at New Westminster for Captain Christian
Meyers and Alexander Ewen, owner of Ewen's cannery. Launched
on June 13 at the lower end of the city and christened by Miss
Emily Howay,124 she was 95 feet in length and 18 feet beam and
was intended for freight and passenger traffic between New
Westminster and the Lower Fraser canneries and settlements.126
The British Columbian gives a colorful picture of the progress
of the Adelaide up the river one day in August, laden down with
Indian cannery-hands:—
The steamer Adelaide passed up at full speed on Thursday morning, her
decks crowded with Indians beating empty oil cans and dancing something
very like a war-dance, having in tow two large scows and a flotilla of Indian
canoes, and having specimens of the sockeye tribe suspended from the top
of poles. It was the " harvest home " of the sockeye run, Mr. Laidlaw's
Indians having struck camp, were going up to the Brunette Cannery to be
paid off.i26
With the opening of the year 1883 monopoly had its final triumph in British Columbia waters with the incorporation of the
Canadian Pacific Navigation Co. Ltd., a consolidation of the interests of Irving's Pioneer Line, the steamships of the Hudson's
Bay Company, Joseph Spratt, and others. One of the chief
reasons for the combine was Irving's desire for a new agreement
with the Hudson's Bay Company to eliminate competition on the
Victoria-New Westminster route. He was running the R. P.
Rithet as a through boat from Victoria to Yale, but under his
freight agreement of 1879 the Hudson's Bay Company collected
one-third of the freight revenues.
The company was capitalized at $500,000, in 5,000 shares,
with Captain John Irving as general manager. Directors were
his brother-in-law, R. P. Rithet, head of the great importing firm
of Welch, Rithet and Company, of Victoria; Robert Dunsmuir,
the Vancouver Island coal king; and William Charles and Alexander Munro representing the Hudson's Bay Company, which
(123) Ibid., November 2, 1882.
(124) New Westminster British Columbian, June 14, 1882.
(125) Ibid., June 17, 1882.
(126) Ibid., August 19, 1882. 100 Norman R. Hacking. April
owned a majority control.127 Big business had at last invaded a
field which had long belonged to rugged individualists. A new
era had begun.
Irving bought the Western Slope from Moore's creditors for
$16,500 in January128 and also purchased the Gertrude, the only
remaining opposition on the river. Also in the new fleet were
the Princess Louise, Enterprise, and Otter from the Hudson's
Bay Company; the Pioneer Line's steamers R. P. Rithet, William
Irving,1™ and Reliance; and the Maude130 and Wilson G. Hunt,
which Spratt had operated on the east coast of Vancouver Island.
For the next eighteen years, until its purchase by the Canadian
Pacific Railway, the Canadian Pacific Navigation Company was
to " rule the roost" in British Columbia steamboat circles.
II. Burrard Inlet Steamboats.
The establishment of sawmills on Burrard Inlet in the 'sixties
brought a measure of civilization to that wilderness, and with
civilization came the inevitable steamboats.131 The first steamer
owned on the inlet was the big sidewheel towboat Isabel, built at
Victoria by James Trahey for Captain Edward Stamp, the promoter of the British Columbia and Vancouver Island Spar, Lumber and Sawmill Company, later known as Hastings Mill. At
the time of her launching, July 28, 1866, she was described as
" a remarkably handsome model and a most serviceable craft for
(127) Victoria Colonist, January 17, 1883.
(128) Ibid., January 9, 1883. The Western Slope continued to operate
until the late 1880's, at which time she was relegated to the Coquitlam River,
but again in 1891 she was brought down to Victoria for overhauling. Ibid.,
January 9, 1891.
(129) The William Irving was wrecked near Agassiz, June 30, 1894,
while towing the R. P. Rithet. At that time it was reported that the original
cost had been $70,000, and there was no insurance on the vessel. Ibid., July
4, 1894.
(130) The Maude had been launched on San Juan Island on January 4,
1872, for Mr. Joseph Spratt and had been built by Mr. Smith Burr. Her
dimensions were: Length, 115.08 feet; breadth, 21.02 feet; and depth 9
feet; she had two engines generating 150 horse-power and was registered at
156.11 tons. Ibid., January 5, 1872; and Port of Victoria Register Book,
(131) F. W. Howay, "Early Shipping in Burrard Inlet: 1863-1870,"
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, I. (1937), passim. 1947 STEAMBOAT DAYS, 1870-1883. 101
any purpose, being in fact, almost too good to be engaged as
a tug at the Burrard Inlet mill for which she was designed."182
For several years the Isabel was employed by the mill company
towing sailing-ships through the Narrows to and from the company's wharves.133 The firm went into liquidation in 1870, and
the Isabel was sold,134 although she remained on the coast for
nearly 30 years longer, finally ending her days as a barge in the
employ of Robert Dunsmuir.
With two flourishing mills on either side of the inlet a demand
arose for ferry accommodation, particularly between Moodyville,
on the north shore, and Brighton, at the end of the road from
New Westminster. This was provided at first by a rowboat, but
about 1868 the first steam-ferry appeared on the inlet—a little
screw steamer called the Sea Foam, and operated by Captain
James Van Bramer, one of the members of the Moodyville syndicate headed by S. P. Moody. Originally it was intended to use
her also as a tug.135 Her undistinguished career included an
explosion of her steam-pipes in November, 1868,136 and a fire
which destroyed her upper works a year later.137 However, she
reappeared in 1870 as " quite a nice comfortable and airy conveyance," according to the Mainland Guardian.138 No doubt she
was airy.
Van Bramer augmented the Sea Foam about 1873 with another little steam-launch called the Chinaman, 37 feet long, and
(132) Victoria Colonist, July 30, 1866. She was christened by Mrs. J. G.
Shepherd and was named after the wife of the secretary of the mill company.
The cost was estimated at $50,000.    Ibid., September 5, 1866.
(133) For an interesting adventure in which she became involved see
F. W. Howay, " The Case of the ' Moneta,'" British Columbia Historical
Quarterly, V. (1941), pp. 185-90.
(134) According to the Port of Victoria Register Book, 1867-1880, she
was sold February 22, 1869, to William Richardson, of San Francisco, and
subsequently, on September 15, 1871, to Peter Dewar Forbes, of Victoria.
For a time during 1870 she ran between Victoria and Port Townsend.
Victoria Colonist, September 8 and 9, 1870.
(135) Ibid., September 16, 1868. She had been brought over from Port
Townsend and was originally transferred to Captain George Odin, at a
reported purchase price of $600.
(136) F. W. Howay, "Early Settlement on Burrard Inlet," British
Columbia Historical Quarterly, I. (1937), p. 111.
(137) New Westminster Mainland Guardian, November 6,1869.
(138) Ibid., April 13, 1870'. 102 Norman R. Hacking. April
so named because her hull had been brought from China on the
deck of a sailing-ship.139 The Chinaman scampered about the
inlet for several years and eventually passed into the hands of
the Royal City Planing Mills, of New Westminster.
The first steamer built on the inlet was the sidewheel tug
Maggie, built in 1873 by Jeremiah Rogers, a logging contractor
for the Hastings Mill Company. Under the command of Captain
William Rogers the Maggie became one of the first, if not the
first, vessel on the coast to engage in log towing, a trade that now
employs many hundred of tugboats.
A year later the sidewheel steamer Ada was built on the inlet
by Henry Maloney to the order of Captain James Robinson and'
Christopher Lee, an engineer.140 For the most of her life the
Ada, whose registered tonnage was only 56.95, ran between settlements in the Lower Fraser Valley with passengers and produce, although for a short time she operated a passenger service
between New Westminster and Nanaimo. In January, 1883,
she made her last trip, bringing in tow to Victoria the hull of
the new steamer Robert Dunsmuir, to which her machinery was
transferred.141 This new sidewheeler had been launched at New
Westminster, December 13, 1882, by Mr. Henry Maloney and
was owned by Captain William Rogers and A. C. Fraser, of New
Westminster.142 She was destined for the Nanaimo-New Westminster run, " where a considerable business has sprung up of
In 1874 Captain Van Bramer had a new ferry-boat built at.
Victoria by Smith and Watson for the Burrard Inlet service.
This was the Lily, equipped with the engines from the Sea Foam.
Another newcomer to the inlet that year was the American-built
tugboat Etta White, purchased by the Moodyville Mills for towing ships and log-booms.    She had been built at Freeport, Wash-
(139) F.  W.  Howay,  "Early  Settlement on  Burrard  Inlet," British
Columbia Historical Quarterly, I. (1937), p. 111.
(140) Victoria Colonist, August 6, 1874.
(141) Ibid., January 19, 1883.    Her cylinders were 2% inches in diameter, with 36-inch stroke.    Ibid., April 1, 1883.
(142) Ibid., December 14, 1882;  April 1, 1883. 1947 Steamboat Days, 1870-1883. 103
ington, in 1871, and had made her first appearance in British
Columbia waters in May of that year.143
Less important, but more remarkable, was the sidewheel
steam-scow Union, better known as the " Sudden Jerk," which
was built on Burrard Inlet in 1874 for J. C. Hughes, one of the
Moodyville syndicate. In her spasmodic fashion she was used
for log towing and general freighting. The Union was the lineal
descendant of the old Fraser River sternwheeler Union, built in
1861, and another steam-scow of the same name whose origins
are veiled in mystery.144 However, the final end of the " Sudden
Jerk" by fire in 1878 is an event worthy of recording; in its
miniscule way it is an epic of the sea. Her adventurous voyage
started on July 30, when she left New Westminster for Moodyville under command of Captain Hugh Stalker, with a cargo of
fifty bales of hay.    The Mainland Guardian describes her end:—
When she had reached a point about six miles down the North Arm it was
discovered that the steering gear was out of order, and, when the cause was
looked for, it was discovered that the rope attached to the tiller had been
burned off and that the hay was on fire; probably from some sparks having
fallen upon it from the smoke-stack. The vessel was then rendered helpless
in mid-stream, and the current carrying her round caused the fire to spread.
The anchor was let go, and the flames spread with such rapidity that all on
board were compelled to take refuge on the anchor chain in the water, from
which unpleasant positions they were ultimately rescued by one of the hands,
•who succeeded in recovering the small boat, the painter of which had been
burned.    The vessel was completely destroyed.146
So passed the " Sudden Jerk " through fire and water to her
Two more steamboats appeared on Burrard Inlet before the
end of the decade, both were built for Captain Van Bramer for
ferry and towing services in connection with the Moodyville
(143) Ibid., May 2, 1871. The Port of Victoria Register Book, 1867-
1880, has her entered for British registry under date of July 23, 1875, at
which time the owner is given as R. P. Rithet. On September 2, 1875, she
was sold to Hugh Nelson, of the Burrard Inlet milling company; she was
subsequently extensively overhauled (Victoria Colonist, December 31, 1875)
and eventually sold to the Moodyville Saw Mill Company on October 20,1879.
(144) See George Green, History of Burnaby and Vicinity, Vancouver,
1947, p. 148.
(145) New Westminster Mainland Guardian, August 3, 1878. 104 Norman R. Hacking. April
mills. These were the screw steamers Leonora1^ and Senator,,147
constructed on Burrard Inlet in 1876 and 1880 respectively by
Henry Maloney. They are of some historical interest, for in
1890, with the tug Skidegate, they became the nucleus of the present Union Steamship Company of British Columbia. The present fine coastwise vessels of the Union Company are thus the
direct descendants of Van Bramer's little Sea Foam.
III. Thompson River Steamboats.
A brief note on Thompson River steamboats is necessary to
round out the chronicle of river navigation in British Columbia
to 1883. The first steamer on the river and Kamloops Lake was
the Marten, built for the Big Bend gold-rush by the Hudson's
Bay Company in 1866.148 After the decline of the gold fever
she was laid up for several years at Kamloops until her purchase
in 1875 by F. J. Barnard, the expressman, and J. A. Mara and
W. B. Wilson, Kamloops merchants. Barnard had a contract
from the Dominion Government to build a telegraph-line up the
North Thompson River, and he used the vessel to transport
supplies. The contract was delayed by years of procrastination
by the McKenzie administration and was finally cancelled in
1878, leaving Barnard with a lawsuit against the Government
which dragged on for years. By this time there was a considerable settlement in the Kamloops area, so the Marten was employed spasmodically between the settlements under command
of J. A. Mara, Asbury Insley, and others. The Earl and Countess
of Dufferin made an excursion across Kamloops Lake in the
steamer in 1876, a trip which Lady Dufferin described at length
in her published journal.149
The first steamer to appear on the Thompson after the Marten was a peculiar little sidewheeler called the Kamloops, launched
in 1872 at Savona by John Adams and equipped with the engines
(146) In 1878 the Leonora was chartered by the Indian Commissioners
when making their survey.    Victoria Colonist, June 26, 1878.
(147) Ibid., April 18, 1880.
(148) Norman Hacking, " Steamboating on the Fraser in the 'Sixties,"
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, X. (1946), pp. 35-6.
(149) Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava, My Canadian Journal 1872-78,
New York, 1891, pp. 302-5. 1947 Steamboat Days, 1870-1883. 105
from the flour-mill that Adams had installed at Soda Creek in
1867. This steamer was primitive, to say the least, and August
Menenteau, her captain, who was also engineer and crew, spent
most of his time in the engine-room, steering the boat with lines
leading up to the pilot-house. It was claimed that she was
" quite a success " and could steam 12 knots an hour, having a
draught of only 8 inches.150
The Kamloops was succeeded in 1878 by a little better creation called the Spallumcheen, built at Kamloops by Alexander
Watson, the Victoria ship-builder. She was owned by Menenteau, in company with J. A. Mara, W. B. Wilson, and F. J,
Barnard, under the name of the Kamloops Steam Navigation
Company. She was launched July 3, 1878, and christened by
Miss Lily Tait, and did not draw over 6 inches, and was consequently " probably the lightest draft steamer on the coast."161
By this time there was quite a thriving trade to the new settlement of Enderby, in the Spallumcheen Valley at the head of
Shuswap Lake, and the little vessel was kept well occupied carrying produce and passengers. Because of her peculiar engine,
which came from the Soda Creek flour-mill via the Kamloops,
she was known affectionately as the " Noisy Peggy."
Competition for the " Noisy Peggy " was the Lady Dufferin,
a little sidewheeler built for William Fortune at Tranquille by
Neil Morrison. She was launched October 15, 1878, and was 90
feet long, 16 feet wide, and had a tonnage estimated at 106.162
On her first appearance at Kamloops on December 3 " she was
welcomed by a salute from the Kamloops anvil battery."163 The
Lady Dufferin likewise did a thriving service between the scattered farms and settlements in the valley.
The construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway brought
a sudden boom to the Thompson Valley, and to meet the sudden
heavy traffic in freight and passengers, J. A. Mara and his partners, who now included Captain John Irving, had the powerful
(150) New Westminster Mainland Guardian, November 9, 1872.
(151) Victoria Colonist, July 14, 1878.
(152) In a letter to the editor, dated at Kamloops, October 16, 1878, the
date of the launching is given and Miss Wilhelmina Campbell as the sponsor.
Ibid., November 5, 1878. Her trial run took place on December 2, between
Kamloops and Spallumcheen.   Ibid., December 12, 1878.
(153) Ibid., December 22, 1878. 106 Norman R. Hacking. April
sternwheeler Peerless built at Kamloops in 1880 by Alexander
Watson. She was 131 feet in length and 25 feet beam, and,
drawing 17 or 18 inches, was capable of a speed of 18 knots,
and was regarded as " one of the most successful boats of her
class yet built in the province."164 Her engines, built by John
Dougal, of Victoria, had 16-inch cylinders and 54-inch stroke,
and she was placed under the command of Captain Asbury
Insley.166 It was anticipated that she would be able to navigate
the Thompson River as far down as Spences Bridge.166
She proved to be a success from the start. She managed to
run upon the North Thompson River to Peavine, some 15 miles
above the mouth of the Clearwater, in June, 1881,157 and that
same month made the first trip to Harper's Mills, at the mouth
of the Bonaparte River, thus extending " inland steamboat navigation some thirty miles farther south, or rather west, than it
was ever known or popularly supposed to extend before."168 Later
that same month she became the first steamer ever to make the
run between Ashcroft and Spences Bridge, one of the most dangerous stretches of river in the province—a trip which required
five days for the return journey through the Black Canyon.169
Captain John Irving was in command for this special trip, and
until his death he carried a gold watch presented to him for his
The Peerless was followed by several other sternwheelers in
the Thompson Valley, but railways and highways have destroyed
the days of usefulness of the river-boats, and the C. R. Lamb, the
last of a notable list, is now laid up as a houseboat at Kamloops.
Norman R. Hacking.
Vancouver, B.C.
(154) Ibid., November 23, 1880.
(155) Yale Inland Sentinel, July 7, 1881.
(156) New Westminster Dominion Pacific Herald, November 6, 1880\
(157) Yale Inland Sentinel, June 30, 1881.
(158) New Westminster Dominion Pacific Herald, June 25, 1881. On
one occasion in June, 1881, Captain Insley ran her from Harper's Ferry, 20-
miles below Kamloops Lake, to Savona in five hours, stemming a 10-mile
current without putting out a line.   Yale Inland Sentinel, July 7, 1881.
(159) The Peerless reached Spences Bridge on June 29, 1881. Her
progress was recorded in the Victoria Colonist, July 1 and 20, 1881, and in
the Yale Inland Sentinel, June 30, 1881, et passim. 1947 Steamboat Days, 1870-1883. 107
Dimensions, etc., as given by even the best authorities frequently vary by
a few inches (or, in some instances, a few feet). The principal sources upon
which the following table is based are indicated as follows:—
[L] Lewis & Dryden's Marine History of the Pacific Northwest.
[N]  Contemporary newspaper records.
[NW] Port of New Westminster Register of Shipping.
[R] List of Vessels on the Registry Books of the Dominion of Canada,
on the Slst Day of December, 1874.    Ottawa, 1875.
[S] Reports of the Steamboat Inspector for British Columbia, 1875-
1888, published annually in Canada Sessional Papers.
[V] Port of Victoria Register Book, 1867-1880  (photostat copy in
Archives of B.C.).
Fraser and Stikine River Steamers:  1870-1883.
1. Adelaide.
Sternwheeler; launched at New Westminster, June 13,1882, by Henry
Maloney for Christian Meyers and Alexander Ewen.
Dimensions:  95.2' x 17.3' x 4.5' [NW].
Engines:  80 h.p. [S].
Registered tonnage:  96.02 [NW].
2. Cassiar.
Sternwheeler;   launched at Seattle, 1879, by J. F. T. Mitchell for
W. J. Stephens.
Dimensions:  131.' x 26.3' x 4.8' [V].
Engines:  16" x 72" [L] ; 150 h.p. [V].
Registered tonnage:  290.28 [V].
3. Elizabeth J. Irving.
Sternwheeler;   launched at Victoria, June 18, 1881, by Alexander
Watson for John Irving.
Dimensions:   167' x 33.8' x 8.5' [NW].
Engines:   86.07 h.p.  [S].
Registered tonnage:   692.99 [NW].
4. Gem.
Sternwheeler;  launched at Victoria, April 10, 1874, by J. G. Walker
for Charles Millard.
Dimensions:  71' x 13' x 2.6' [V] [R].
Engines:  40 h.p. [V].
Registered tonnage:  27.06 [V] [R]. 108 Norman R. Hacking. April
5. Gertrude.
Sternwheeler;   launched at Victoria, March 22, 1875, by Alexander
Watson and Lockhart Smith for William Moore.
Dimensions:   120' x 21' x 5' [V] [N].
Engines:   16" x 54";   100 h.p. [N];   56 h.p. [S].
Registered tonnage:   178.23 [V]  [S].
6. Glenora.
Sternwheeler;   launched at Victoria, March 9, 1874, by Alexander
Watson and Lockhart Smith for John Irving.
Dimensions:   102.7'x 20.2'x 4' [V] [R].
Engines:   50 h.p. [V].
Registered tonnage:   149.32 [V] [R].
7. Pacific Slope (renamed Myra).
Sternwheeler; launched at Victoria, March, 1882, by J. G. Walker for
William Moore.
Dimensions:   92' x 22.7' x 3.3' [NW].
Engines:   26.97 h.p. [S].
Registered tonnage:   71.88 [NW].
8. Princess Louise (ex Olympia).
Sidewheeler;   launched at New York, 1869;   purchased by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1878.
Dimensions:  180' x 30' x 13' [V].
Engines:  46" diameter;  350 h.p. [V].
Registered tonnage:  624 [V].
9. R. P. Rithet.
Sternwheeler;   launched at Victoria, April 20, 1882, by Alexander
Watson for John Irving.
Dimensions:   177' x 33.6' x 8.5' [NW].
Engines:   90 h.p. [S].
Registered tonnage:   686.16 [NW].
10. Reliance.
Sternwheeler;   launched at Victoria, March 7, 1876, by Alexander
Watson for John Irving.
Dimensions:   122' x 23' x 4.8' [V].
Engines:   120 h.p. [V];  55.2 h.p. [S].
Registered tonnage:   121.06 [V]  [S].
11. Royal City.
Sternwheeler;   launched at Victoria, March 2, 1875, by Collings &
Cook for Otis Parsons.
Dimensions:  128.1' x 26' x 5' [V].
Engines:  20" x 60" [L];  280 h.p. [V].
Registered tonnage:   322.16  [S]. 1947 Steamboat Days, 1870-1883. 109
12. Skuzzy.-
Sternwheeler; launched 14 miles above Yale, May 4,1882, by William
Dalton for Andrew Onderdonk.
Dimensions:   127' x 24.2' x 4.5' [NW].
Engines:  60 h.p. [NW] ;  48 h.p. [S].
Registered tonnage:   254.37 [NW].
13. Western Slope.
Sternwheeler;   launched  at Victoria,  May  8,  1879, by  Alexander
Watson for William Moore.
Dimensions:  156'x 26.5'x 8' [V].
Engines:   20" x 60" [L];   150 h.p. [V];   86.32 h.p. [W].
Registered tonnage:   725.71  [V]  [W].
14. William Irving.
Sternwheeler;   launched at Burrard Inlet, March 19, 1880, by Alexander Watson for John Irving.
Dimensions:   166.3'x 34.3'x 4.5'.
Engines:   18" x 72" [N];  74.4 h.p. [S].
Registered tonnage:   591.04 [NW] [S].
15. Wilson G. Hunt.
Sidewheeler;  launched at New York, 1849;   purchased by John Irving,
Dimensions:  186' x 26' x 8' [V].
Engines:  36" diameter;  150 h.p. [V].
Registered tonnage:  350.36 [V].
Burrard Inlet Steamers, 1865-1883.
1. Ada.
Sternwheeler;   launched at Burrard Inlet, August, 1874, by Henry
Maloney for James Robinson and Christopher Lee.
Dimensions:  82' x 19' x 5.5' [V] [R].
Engines:  2.5" x 36" [N] ;  75 h.p. [V].
Registered tonnage:  56.95 [V] [R].
2. Chinaman.
Screw-propelled steam-launch;  brought from China and operated by
James Van Bramer.
Dimensions:   37' x 7.6' x 4.6'.
Engines: 4 h.p. [S].
Registered tonnage:   11.25 [S].
3. Etta White.
Screw tug;  launched at Freeport Mills, Washington, 1871.
Dimensions:   93' x 19.6' x 9' [V].
Engines:   120 h.p. [V].
Registered tonnage:  82.4 [V]. 110 Norman R. Hacking. April
4. Isabel.
Sidewheeler;   launched at Victoria, July 28, 1866, by James Trahey
for Edward Stamp.
Dimensions:  142.4' x 22.6' x 9.1' [V] [R].
Engines:  80 h.p. [V].
Registered tonnage:   146.56 [V];   300.07 [S].
5. Leonora.
Screw tug;   launched at Burrard Inlet, 1876, by Henry Maloney for
James Van Bramer.
Dimensions:  57' x 9.2' x 5.3' [W].
Engines:   7 h.p. [S].
Registered tonnage:   18.00 [S].
6. Lily.
Screw ferry;  launched at Victoria, 1874, by Alexander Watson and
Lockhart Smith for James Van Bramer.
Dimensions:  43' x 6.9' x 3' [S].
Engines:   2.2 h.p. [S].
Registered tonnage:   4.15 [S].
Sidewheel tug; launched at Burrard Inlet, 1873, for Jeremiah Rogers.
Dimensions: 72' x 16' x 4.5' [NW].
Registered tonnage:  49.06 [NW].
8. Robert Dunsmuir.
Sidewheeler;   launched at New Westminster, December 13, 1882, by
Henry Maloney for William Rogers and A. C. Fraser.
Dimensions:  113' x 20' x 7' [L] [N];  105' x 17.5' x 6.7' [NW].
Engines:   2.5" x 36" [N];   65 h.p. [NW].
Registered tonnage:   146 [NW].
9. Sea Foam.
Steam screw ferry;  operated by James Van Bramer.
Dimensions:  None available.
10. Senator.
Steam screw ferry; launched at Burrard Inlet, April, 1880, by Henry
Maloney for James Van Bramer.
Dimensions:   51.5' x 12.5' x 4.5' [NW].
Registered tonnage:  21.42 [S].
11. Union.
Steam scow;  launched at Burrard Inlet, 1874, for J. C. Hughes.
Dimensions:   54' x 13' x 4' [NW].
Engines:   4.05 h.p. [S].
Registered tonnage:   25.98 [S]. 1947 Steamboat Days, 1870-1883. Ill
Thompson River Steamers, 1866-1883.
1. Kamloops.
Sidewheeler;  launched at Savona, 1872, for John Adams.
Dimensions:   57' x 12.5' x 3' [NW].
Engines:  4 h.p. [S].
Registered tonnage:   11.79 [S].
2. Lady Dufferin.
Sidewheeler;  launched at Tranquille, October 16, 1878, by Neil Morrison for William Fortune.
Dimensions:   87.5' x 16' x 5.5' [NW].
Engines:   20 h.p. [NW];   10.2 h.p. [S]'.
Registered tonnage:   52.38 [NW].
3. Marten.
Sternwheeler;   launched at Savona, 1866, by James Trahey for the
Hudson's Bay Company.
Dimensions:   125' x 25' x 5' [S].
Engines:  40.25 h.p. [S].
Registered tonnage:  282.51 [S].
4. Peerless.
Sternwheeler;  launched at Kamloops, November, 1880, by Alexander
Watson for Mara, Wilson & Company.
Dimensions:   133' x 25.5' x 5' [NW].
Engines:  16" x 54" [N] ; 75 h.p. [NW] ;  53.04 h.p. [S].
Registered tonnage:   256.03 [NW].
5. Spallumcheen.
Sidewheeler;  launched at Kamloops, July 3, 1878, by Alexander Watson for the Kamloops Steam Navigation Company.
Dimensions:   83.25' x 26.3' x 5' [N];   80' x 17' x 5' [NW].
Engines:   4 h.p. [S].
Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, it appears, gave no specific
instructions to the young barrister and court reporter, Matthew
Baillie Begbie, whom he had appointed Judge of the Crown
Colony of British Columbia. He did, it is true, make it clear to
Begbie that he must, at all costs, preserve order among the
American miners, and he informed him that he must assist Governor Douglas in any department of government where he could
be of use, but he wisely left it to the men on the spot to shape
their policies in the light of local conditions.1 The new Judge
was thus confronted with two great tasks: those of creating
a judiciary and making that system supreme. It was an immense undertaking, and one that must be started without delay.
Accordingly, he set out for the distant Pacific coast as soon as
he received his commission from the Queen on September 2,
1858, arriving in time to participate in the impressive ceremony
that marked the transition of the territory from fur kingdom to
gold colony.
British Columbia had been created by the Act of August 2,
1858, commonly known as the " British Columbia Act,"2 but it
was not until November 19 of the same year that the new colony
was formally ushered into existence. Judge Begbie, without
whom the ceremony could not properly take place, arrived in
* The second in a series of four articles dealing with the career of
Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie.
(1) Lytton to Douglas, September 2, 1858, in Great Britain, Parliament,
Papers Relative to the Affairs of British Columbia, Part I. (Cmd. 2476),
London, 1859, pp. 61-2. This important series of Blue-books comprises four
parts: Part II. (Cmd. 2578), London, 1859; Part III. (Cmd. 2724), London,
1860; and Part IV. (Cmd. 2952), London, 1862. Hereafter referred to as
British Columbia Papers. For Begbie's instructions on the preservation of
order, which appear to have been verbal, see Lindley Crease, " Sir Matthew
Begbie," Victoria Colonist, June 19, 1938.
(2) 21 & 22 Victoria, c. 99, "An Act to provide for the Government of
British Columbia," British Columbia Papers, Part I., pp. 1-2.
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Vol. XL. No. 2.
113 114 Sydney G. Pettit. April
Victoria from San Francisco on Tuesday, November 16, and
embarked with Governor Douglas and his suite for the mainland
on the following Wednesday. The official party, consisting of
■the Governor, Rear-Admiral R. L. Baynes, officer commanding
the naval forces of the Pacific Station, His Honour, Judge David
Cameron, Chief Justice of Vancouver Island, and other officials
were carried by H.M.S. Satellite to Point Roberts. Here they
spent the night, and on the following day were conveyed by the
Hudson's Bay Company's ship Otter to the steamship Beaver,
which awaited them at the mouth of the Fraser River. Both
vessels then proceeded to Old Fort Langley, where a detachment
of Royal Engineers under the command of Captain Parsons disembarked. The party then continued to New Fort Langley,
where the ceremony was to take place on the next day.
Although Friday broke grey and rain fell heavily, the occasion lacked none of the pomp that had characterized the journey
of the Governor and his aides from Victoria. There were bluejackets and sappers to form a guard of honour. A salute of
eighteen guns boomed one by one from the Beaver. In the main
building of the fort, naval and military uniforms and the robes
of the Judges lent colour and solemnity to the ceremony, symbolizing the fact that the Queen's servants were to bring order and
progress to the wilderness.
Governor Douglas, after reading a short address, administered the oaths of allegiance and office to Begbie, and delivered
to him the Queen's commission as Judge of British Columbia.
Judge Begbie then administered similar oaths to James Douglas,
and read aloud his Governor's commission. Taking the commission, Governor Douglas proceeded to read the proclamations upon
which the authority and functions of his Government were to be
established. First, he read a proclamation revoking the Hudson's Bay Company's licence to exclusive trade with the Indians
within the boundaries of the new colony. He then proclaimed
three other laws. The first was the Act of August 2, 1858, which
created the Colony of British Columbia and made provision for
its law and government, and the second was a proclamation validating the Acts of Douglas and his officials before the declaration of this Act. The third stated that English law was in force
in the colony as provided for in the Act of August 2, 1858, and 1947 JUDGE BEGBIE IN ACTION. 115
that the Acts of 1803 and 1822,3 which had placed the western
territories under the law and jurisdiction of Upper Canada,
should cease to have force in, and be applicable to, the Colony of
British Columbia.
On November 21 Governor Douglas left the fort to resume
work on the pressing problems with which he had to deal in the
two colonies. Another salute of guns marked his departure, an
observance fitting the man and the situation, for James Douglas
was an autocrat by disposition, and he was to rule the gold colony
in the grand manner of the old colonial governors. Following
the letter rather than the spirit of the Act of 1858, he appointed
Colonel R. C. Moody and Judge Begbie as members of the Executive Council for British Columbia, with which he was to work
throughout his tenure of office. This council was created in
March, 1859, and was essentially advisory in function. Colonel
Moody, in addition to commanding the Royal Engineers, held
a dormant commission as Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia and acted as Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works. In
this formative period Moody's position was of the first importance. He had charge of the armed force which was to defend
the colony should the need arise. In the event of serious disorders among the miners he was to take charge of the situation
if it proved too great for the colonial police to control.4 Under
his direction the Engineers made surveys and built roads. As
Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works, Moody had control of
the sale of lands. There are no minutes of the meetings of the
council, but in the light of Douglas' dislike and disapproval of
Moody it is not likely that he carried much weight in the formulation of policy.6 Judge Begbie, by virtue of his position, acted
in an advisory capacity in the matter of legislation. As he served
as Attorney-General up to March, 1859, when G. H. Cary was
appointed to that position, it is to be presumed that he promul-
(3) 43 George III., c. 138, and 1 & 2 George IV., c. 66.
(4) Instructions to Colonel R. C. Moody, enclosed in Lytton to Douglas,
November 1, 1858, British Columbia Papers, Part I., pp. 73-6. Lytton went
to great pains to explain that there could be nothing more harmful to a
community than the confounding of the duties of soldiers with the functions
of the police.
(5) W. N. Sage, Sir James Douglas and British Columbia, Toronto, 1930,
pp. 298-301. 116 Sydney G. Pettit. April
gated the first laws of the colony.6 From his correspondence it
appears that he frequently discussed legislation with Governor
Douglas and the Colonial Secretary, W. A. G. Young, but, unfortunately, seldom committed his views to paper.
Governor Douglas held Judge Begbie in the highest esteem,
both as a man and as an able servant of the Crown. It is true
that they frequently disagreed in matters of policy, but mutual
respect and a similarity in outlook on the broader issues of the
time permitted them to work in harmony together.7 As both
men were autocratic by disposition and arbitrary in the conduct
of affairs, it is probable that they had little use for representative institutions in the colonies. They made many enemies and
must have been drawn together by common sympathy when pilloried in the press, where the Governor endured the slings of
Amor de Cosmos and Judge Begbie suffered a hail of arrows
from John Robson.8 Yet James Douglas was too impartial a man
to permit private disagreement to colour his opinions in matters
of public service, and he was able to commend Begbie on achievements that were obvious to all but the most jaundiced eyes. In
his " Confidential Report on Officers," believed to have been written in 1863, he wrote:—
Able, active, energetic and highly talented, Mr. Begbie is a most valuable
public servant. I feel greatly indebted to him for the zealous discharge of
his official duties and for many services beyond the strict line of official
duty. It would be impossible I think to find a person better qualified for
the position he fills and for that of Chief Justice when the appointment is
It has been said that these men played their parts on a small
stage.10 This is true, in the sense that the northwest coast was
remote and that the problems of the colony were trivial in com-
(6) The Act of August 2, 1858, and the proclamation of November 19,
1858, declared English law to be in force, but the latter made provision for
the proclamation of laws required by local conditions.
(7) Victoria Colonist, March 11, 1864.
(8) De Cosmos was editor of the Daily British Colonist, published in
Victoria. He attacked Douglas for his failure to establish properly representative, responsible government. John Robson edited the British Columbian, published on the mainland at New Westminster, in which he flayed
Begbie for what he considered tyranny and incompetence.
(9) MS., Archives of B.C., reprinted in Sage, op. cit., p. 301.
(10) Ibid., p. 351. 1947 Judge Begbie in Action. 117
parison with those of more populous areas. But if the events
of the time are set within the context of continental movements
and rivalries, it becomes apparent at once that the policies of the
British Government were momentous and that Douglas and, to
some extent, Begbie played important parts in the unfolding of
our national destiny. Nearly a century has elapsed since the
hazardous days of the gold-rush of 1858, and with the passage
of time the existence of British Columbia has been taken for
granted. The southern boundary is accepted as if it had come
into existence by the decree of nature. Yet a moment's reflection
will show that the division between British Columbia and the
bordering American states is man-made and determined by historic rather than by geographic forces. It is, in short, an arbitrary line of demarcation, determined by treaty in 1846, and
held during the critical period of the gold-rush by Governor
Douglas and his able lieutenant, Judge Begbie.
The American frontier, thrust forward by growing population pressure, was drawn steadily westward as the continent
yielded its treasures of forest, land, and mine. By the middle
of the nineteenth century the richest and most accessible part
of the continent had been won. There had been little to deflect
this movement from its westward course. The area north of the
Great Lakes had nothing to compare with the fertile lands of the
Middle West. In comparison, the Canadian Shield, the Ontario
Peninsula, and the Prairies were far less attractive. Had these
lands been richer and more accessible, the American frontiersmen would have poured in and their Government would have
secured them by forceful negotiation, as it did in Maine, Oregon,
and Alaska.11 After 1850 the situation changed, and a period
critical for the future, if not the existence, of Canada ensued.
By this time the frontier had reached the Pacific and the whole
of the American West was occupied. At the same time population pressure increased, and its force would ultimately be directed
against the 49th parallel, which, in the West, was little more
than a line of demarcation between the land the Americans had
occupied and that which they had not wanted for the time being.
There was thus ample reason why these vacant territories should
(11)  E. W. Mclnnis, The Unguarded Frontier, a History of Canadian-
American Relations, New York, 1942, p. 6. 118 Sydney G. Pettit. April
become increasingly attractive to landless adventurers who were
not insensitive to the demands of manifest destiny.
The Americans had outflanked the frontier of Canadian settlement, which in 1850 had not passed beyond the Great Lakes.12
At the same time the American mining frontier was moving
northward in a sharp thrust towards the western limits of the
great fur empire of the Hudson's Bay Company.13 This vast
preserve, extending from the Great Lakes to the shores of the
Pacific, had remained vacant while the floods of American settlement were pouring irresistibly to the western coast. In Canada
there had never been sufficient population pressure to overcome
the barriers of the Hudson's Bay Company's privilege and to
push settlement over the wastes of the Canadian Shield in the
wake of the fur frontier. Such a movement had to wait many
years until steel could span these areas like a giant causeway to
the Pacific. In the meantime, for a period of more than twenty
years, the fate of the future dominion hung in the balance. The
loss of Oregon was an example of the consequences of American
expansion into territory to which Great Britain had a legitimate
claim but had failed to safeguard with an adequate framework
of government and law. The lesson was not forgotten in this
instance, and provisions were made to avert the consequences
of any further incursions into Her Majesty's possessions.
After long debates in both Houses it was finally decided that
a colony should be established on Vancouver Island to form
a barrier against further American expansion. As few of the
members were willing that the mother country should foot the
bill, it was finally agreed that the Hudson's Bay Company was
best fitted to undertake the task. At length, after protracted
negotiations, an arrangement was made, and on January 13,
1849, the colony was established under terms that were to cost
the Government nothing and enable the company, opposed to
settlement, yet fearful of American occupation, to make an
adjustment to the situation in terms most satisfactory to itself.
(12) With the possible exception of the Red River Colony, which, by
reason of its affiliations with the Hudson's Bay Company, was a population
centre only in a restricted sense.
(13) T. A. Rickard, " Indian Participation in the Gold Discoveries,"
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, 11.(1938), pp. 3-18, passim. 1947 Judge Begbie in Action. 119
Here, on the southern rim of British territory, was an organized
government which, enjoying an authority and prestige that the
company had never possessed in Oregon, could extend its authority and establish an administration in any part of the British
Pacific possessions where the home Government deemed it
The precautions taken by the British Government were justified by subsequent events. The influx of Americans which they
had forseen with some alarm was soon to come, though the
attraction which drew them northward was not land, but gold.
This mineral, which was to play so large a part in the next two
decades, had been discovered as early as 1833 on the shores of
Okanagan Lake by David Douglas, the botanist, but the first discovery to attract miners was made on the Queen Charlotte
Islands in 1850. After the deposit had been investigated by the
Hudson's Bay Company, news soon spread to the goldfields of
California. Two ships left Puget Sound and six sailed from San
Francisco with adventurers eager for a new bonanza. Although
the rush proved to be a fiasco, the event is of special significance,
for it put the policy of 1849 to the test and served as a dress
rehearsal for the drama of 1858. James Douglas, who had succeeded the unhappy Blanshard just as the excitement was beginning, was able to act with the full authority of an officer of
the Crown. He learned what steps to take in such an emergency
and the precise attitude of the home authorities on various points
of procedure and policy.
The agitation created by this strike had not long subsided
before rumours and reports of similar discoveries on the mainland began to circulate. In all probability gold had been found
first by Indians, as it had on the Queen Charlotte Islands, and
carried to the Hudson's Bay Company officials for purposes of
trade.14 According to Rickard, the company agent at Kamloops
had obtained dust from the natives as early as 1852, and there
is evidence to show that the metal was brought to other posts in
the Interior.16 It is thus very likely that the discovery at Colville
in 1855 did not surprise Douglas greatly, though the richness of
the strike led him to write a full report to Labouchere on April
(14) Ibid., p. 9.
(15) Ibid., p. 9. 120 Sydney G. Pettit. April
16, 1856, in which he expressed the belief that similar deposits
might be found in other parts of the country.16 For the time
being these discoveries led to no widespread activity, but through
1857 Douglas' dispatches contained frequent references to gold.
By the end of the year he believed that another gold-rush was
inevitable and wrote to inform the British Government that he
anticipated an inrush of miners in the following spring.17 Though
he had no specific instructions to represent the Crown on the
mainland, he issued a proclamation and regulations similar to
those that he had used on the Queen Charlotte Islands.18 James
Douglas was prepared for any eventuality.
As he had predicted, the rush to the Fraser began in the
spring of 1858. Between 25,000 and 30,000 men poured into the
territory. The majority of these miners were American citizens,
though a considerable sprinkling of other nationalities gave a
strong cosmopolitan colouring to the movement. All had one
end in view, and that was the rapid acquisition of a fortune.
Most of them were law-abiding and from past experience knew
that their best interests would be served under a rule of law.
There were, however, certain tendencies inherent in the situation that might lead only too easily to the loss of the territory
to the United States. First of all, there was the danger of an
Indian rising. The natives naturally resented the incursion of
large numbers of white men into their ancestral domains. They
had come to trust the servants of the Hudson's Bay Company,
partly from the benefits derived from trade, but chiefly because
the company men treated them in accordance with their profound
knowledge of the Indian character. The Americans, on the other
hand, they hated and mistrusted, for word soon reached the northern tribes of the bloody wars that had followed the American
frontier as it moved west and turned north toward the Fraser.
There was also danger from lawlessness. Though a distinct
minority, the gunmen, gamblers, and rowdies might get the
upper hand of the law, as they had in California, and initiate
(16) Douglas to Labouchere, April 16, 1856, Letterbook, Archives of B.C.
(17) Douglas to Labouchere, December 29, 1857, Letterbook, Archives
of B.C.
(18) Proclamation dated December 28, 1857, and "Regulations for the
Mines at Fraser and Thompson River Districts," dated December 29, 1857,
MS., Archives of B.C. 1947 Judge Begbie in Action. 121
a reign of terror. Either of these ppssibilities-^an Indian rising
or a serious outbreak of disorder among the white men—could,
have only one outcome: the miners would organize themselves
and call on their mother country for help; Britain would be-
powerless to act, and there could be no doubt as to the reaction
of the American Government. Whether willing or unwilling to
intervene, they would have been compelled by public opinion to
sweep aside the flimsy barrier of the International Boundary
and extend the border of the republic to the " fifty-four forty "
of Polk's election war cry.19 Had this happened, as it might
easily have done, there can be no doubt that the country west of
the Great Lakes would have fallen into American hands. How
long the older centres, the Canadas and the Maritimes, could
have held out would have been a question for manifest destiny
alone to decide.
During the spring and summer of 1858 James Douglas shoul--
dered the responsibilities of the gold-rush almost.alone. His
experience in Oregon had afforded him a close acquaintance with
the American frontier. He had at his disposal the machinery
created in 1849, and he had already learned how to use it in
1850. It is evident from his dispatches that he considered all
eventualities during the winter of 1857. Thus, when the crisis
came, he was able to take immediate steps to contain the incursion of Americans within a framework of government and law.
His prompt action prevented an Indian war that might easily
have led to American intervention. He overawed the lawless
element and controlled the autonomous tendencies among the
miners with such firmness that there were no appeals to the-
Government of the United States for help. By the end of the
summer Douglas had forestalled, for the time being at least, any
possibility of the territory's suffering the fate of Oregon.
With the approach of autumn a large number of miners left
the country to spend the winter in the South, giving James
Douglas a respite from some of his heavy responsibilities and
time to prepare for the administrative tasks that lay before him
as governor of the new colony. The creation of the Colony of
British Columbia on November 19,1858, marks a transition from
(19) A. S. Morton, A History of the Canadian West to 1870-71, Toronto
[1939], p. 751. 122 Sydney G. Pettit. April
a period of hasty improvisation to one in which a system of
government and law was gradually established by the new governor and his officials. This was accomplished largely between
1859 and 1861, a period of some three years in which Judge
Begbie made his lasting contribution to the history of the West.
By his suppression of violence he assured the continuance of
the country under the British flag. At the same time he established the judiciary and undertook many an administrative task
for the Governor that lay beyond the limits of his official duties.
He won for himself the name of the " Hanging Judge," it is true,
but a careful consideration of his work will show that the title
had, as he might have said himself, no shadow of foundation.
The first of Judge Begbie's " services beyond the strict line
of official duty " was his journey into the Interior from Yale in
March, 1859. It is sometimes referred to as his first circuit in
British Columbia, and such it was, for he was accompanied by
Arthur Thomas Bushby, his clerk and registrar, and Charles,
Nicol, the high sheriff. The chief purpose of the mission, however, was to estimate the resources and describe the terrain of
the hinterland. The Judge was admirably fitted for the undertaking. He was strong, athletic, and suited by nature and training for a scientific reconnaissance of this kind. His diaries contain numerous calculations of latitude and longitude, meteorological records, and descriptions of topographical features. The
long report which he submitted enabled Douglas to form a very
clear picture of the southern portion of the Fraser Basin. In the
Judge's opinion the American population had submitted readily
to British authority—a tribute to Douglas' work in the previous
summer. He considered the land wealthy both in minerals and
agricultural possibilities, but made it clear that the latter could
not be realized until a satisfactory system of land tenure had been
worked out and a proper system of communications had been
(20) Begbie to Douglas, April 25, 1859, Begbie Letters, MS., Archives
of B.C. This report is also to be found in British Columbia Papers, Part
III., pp. 17-24. It was subsequently published in the Journal of the Royal
Geographical Society, XXXI. (1861), pp. 237-48. The precision of Begbie's
descriptions and the logic of his conclusions reveal a natural capacity for
scientific work. 1947 Judge Begbie in Action. 123
It was Judge Begbie's scientific interests that brought him
into collision with Colonel Moody and his Engineers. We find
him performing duties that were definitely those of the Department of Lands and Works, and it seems that this was more than
the professional and regimental pride of the Royal Engineers
could endure. A letter written to Douglas in March, 1859, shows
him making arrangements for a ferry and laying out the town
lots at Fort Hope. At the same time he wrote to Moody, requesting him, very courteously, to be good enough to appoint Magistrate Nicol as a surveyor.21 When the Judge, acting on instructions from Governor Douglas, drew maps and submitted them to
the Department of Lands and Works, the Colonel icily requested
him to send them to the Colonial Secretary in future, going on to
say that Douglas would in turn direct them to his office.22 Up to
that time the Judge had begun his official communications to
Moody with the informal and friendly " My dear Colonel" and
closed them with " Please remember me to Parsons and the
others." Thereafter he wrote with arctic formality. He has
left us a glimpse of himself on the road, making observations and
recording them with a touch of malicious satisfaction. In a
rather personal letter to Young, whom he liked, Begbie wrote:—
I have a pocket sextant, w[hi]ch answers very well—my observations at
Cayoosh and Lytton agreed with the scientific gentlemen within less than
a mile.23
As it is more than likely that he rallied the officers on the accuracy
of their calculations, one can understand the feelings of Lieutenant H. S. Palmer, R.E., one of the "scientific gentlemen,"
when he wrote to Moody from his camp in the Cariboo:—
He has no right to be mapping when there are R.E.'s in the countryM
(21) Begbie to Moody, March 17, 1859, Begbie Letters, MS., Archives
of B.C.
(22) Moody to Begbie, December 31, 1861, Letterbook, Archives of B.C.
(23) Begbie to Young, August 26, 1861, Begbie Letters, MS., Archives
of B.C. Prior to his appointment as Colonial Secretary, W. A. G. Young
had served on the Boundary Commission. In his confidential report to the
Colonial Office, Douglas praised Young as highly as he did Begbie. See
Sage, op. cit, p. 302.
(24) Palmer to Moody, August 17, 1862, Palmer Letters, MS., Archives
of B.C. 124 Sydney G. Pettit. April
Palmer was eager to put the " Arch Enemy," as he called him,
out of business, for ten days later he wrote:—
I trust to be able on my return to sketch for you a really fair map of the
Cariboo district, a map that will be of value to miners & others, & thus
Messrs. Begbie, Epner & Co. will, I sincerely hope, be " played out."26
Judge Begbie performed these services while riding circuit.
In the early days it was his custom to spend considerable time in
the various centres. As a rule court business consumed only a
part of the time at his disposal, the rest of which he devoted to.
the special tasks that Governor Douglas asked him to perform.26.
He became a familiar figure in the settlements and on the trails
of the Interior, talking to all, seeing all, and remembering all.
When a shooting affray occurred and there were no constables
near by, the miners seized the guilty parties and held them,
knowing that Judge Begbie would ride in hot haste to the spot.27
His presence in the country became a guarantee of law and order,
as Lytton had foreseen. He was not unlike the itinerant
justices of Henry I.'s and II.'s day, carrying the royal writ to
the remote ends of the domain.
In addition to court duties and the special services mentioned
above, Judge Begbie was also busy in establishing the civil and
criminal judiciary. Prior to his inauguration as governor,
Douglas had appointed magistrates, justices of the peace, police
officers, and a collector of customs. He had, indeed, actually
established a rude court of law at Hope to try William King for
the murder of William Eaton.28 Whether or not this act, generally conceded to be illegal, was validated by the proclamation
of November 19 is a fine point of law.29 His appointments, however, were validated, and it remained for him, with the assistance of Judge Begbie, to round out the work he had started in
(25) Palmer to Moody, August 27, 1862, ibid.
(26) He was gradually relieved of these responsibilities as more officials
were appointed.
(27) " Speedy Trial of Prisoners Act," April 23, 1860, British Columbia
Ordinances and Proclamations, 1860. This enabled Begbie to hold court on
the spot and without delay for commission. He sometimes conducted such
trials in the open.
(28) Douglas to Lytton, October 12, 1858, British Columbia Papers,
Part II., p. 4.
"(29)  Sage, op. cit, p. 228. 1947 Judge Begbie in Action. 125
the spring and summer of 1858. Douglas had already sent
Lytton a plan for a judiciary which had been drawn up by
George Pearkes, Crown solicitor of Vancouver Island.30 Lytton
approved the plan, but suggested that it should be submitted to
Judge Begbie on his arrival and that he should consider its
efficacy in the light of local conditions.31
The Pearkes plan made provision for a Supreme Court under
a chief justice and two puisne judges. Judge Begbie, however,
had been commissioned as a puisne judge with the understanding that he would later be elevated to the chief justiceship, the
promotion to be governed not only by the nature of the services
rendered but also by the conditions prevailing in the colony.82
Chiefly for financial reasons and partly because Judge Begbie
objected, the authorities never appointed additional puisne
judges to the Supreme Court during the colonial period. This
meant that there was never, before 1871, a Court of Appeal
nearer than London—a fact that caused increasing dissatisfaction as time went on.
In addition to the Supreme Court, there were also the County
Courts for petty cases and the Gold Commissioner's Court, the
latter being a special innovation arising from local conditions.
Magistrates presided in County Court and came to enjoy the title
of " Judge," a purely courtesy title and one not to be confused
with the rank of a puisne judge. It is thus that Peter O'Reilly
and other magistrates are referred to to-day as judges. In a
similar manner gold commissioners are given the same title.
From the point of view of the importance of the work they did
and the scope of their jurisdiction, the latter enjoyed and deserved a great deal of prestige. Some of them served in the
capacity of magistrate as well as that of gold commissioner, and
this, in its turn, led to an even wider confusion of terms, since
either a magistrate or a gold commissioner came to be referred
to by all three titles—judge, magistrate, and gold commissioner.
(30) Douglas to Lytton,  October 26,  1858, British Columbia Papers,
Part II., p. 8.
(31) Lytton to Douglas, December 30, 1858, ibid., p. 74.
(32) Begbie to Seymour, March 11, 1865, and April 11, 1865, Begbie
Letters, MS., Archives of B.C. 126 Sydney G. Pettit. April
Another detail that sometimes leads to a little confusion is the
fact that there was actually only one commissioner, the rest being
known technically as assistant commissioners. The commissioner had charge of, and was responsible for, all mining matters. He supervised the assistants in their various districts and
had the power, subject to the Governor's consent, to employ or
discharge these men. All mining cases were heard in the Gold
Commissioner's Court, whence appeal could be made to the
Supreme Court.
Ancillary 'to the gold commissioner and his court was the
Mining Board, a body of miners appointed by the local commissioner. Its relation and function was not unlike that of the
Grand Jury. The members reported all grievances and needs,
providing the raw material out of which mining legislation was
finally made. These bodies were established in 1862, ceased to
function in 1864 and came to life again in 1866. Their usefulness was seriously limited by the fact that too many parties were
involved in the framing of mining laws. The miners, who knew
little of the law, submitted their views to lawyers, who knew little
about mining. To make matters worse, the miners made their
recommendations in the distant Interior, while the Governor,
Attorney-General, and the other officials came to their decisions
at the Coast. There was no adequate liaison between the two
bodies because the gold commissioners were overburdened with
work and could not make the long journey from the mines when
required to do so.
The machinery for settling miners' disputes had similar flaws,
attributable to human frailties that could not be foreseen nor
subsequently overcome by remedial legislation. Many of the
disputes arose from what is known technically as " unlawful
encroachment," or, in the language of the mining camps, " claim-
jumping." In such cases there was almost invariably an appeal
from the decision of the Gold Commissioner's Court. If the
injured party, the plaintiff, lost the case, he naturally sought
justice by appeal in the Supreme Court. If the plaintiff won,
the defendant was frequently willing to fight the case again in
the higher court, because Judge Begbie's decisions and conduct
of mining litigation were so unusual that men were willing to
take very good odds that the decision against them would either 1947 Judge Begbie in Action. 127
be modified or reversed. This, of course, resulted in long and
ruinous cases that became so numerous that injured parties
began to wonder whether or not it would be cheaper to cut their
losses from the " jump " by staying out of court. Another evil
arising from such cases, but one for which the Judge was not
greatly responsible, was the use of injunctions. When a suit was
filed, the counsel for plaintiff secured an order from the court
forbidding operations of any kind on the disputed ground. This
order, or injunction, literally locked up the claim until the end
of the case. As Judge Begbie had an immense circuit and an
increasing number of cases to hear each year, rich claims were
sometimes frozen for an entire season. It was, furthermore, not
an uncommon occurrence that, after difficulties in the Supreme
Court, a case would be taken into Chancery. This meant another
delay, with the injunction still in force.
With the exception of the trouble that occurred at Lillooet
over the arrest of the Cranford brothers, the County Courts were
comparatively free of strife and confusion.33 Magistrates Per-
rier and Whannell were fatuous, and Whannell, indeed, was an
out-and-out rogue.34 They were soon discharged, however, and
the rest of the magistracy established a record for industry and
efficiency. Thomas Elwyn, who had invested money in a valuable
claim, resigned as soon as Governor Douglas made it clear that
he could not permit responsible Government servants to have any
part in such activities.36 He had proved himself an able man,
and it was to be regretted that the Government did not pay him
sufficient to keep him in the service. Most of the magistrates
were recruited from the upper middle class in the British Isles
and had come to the colony not so much to make a quick fortune
as to make a career and a home for themselves in the new world.
Judge Begbie, who was both loyal and generous to his colleagues,
paid them a well-earned tribute in his illuminating report to
Young in January, 1863:—
(33) Wright vs. Cranford. This case was heard at Lillooet in the
Supreme Court before Judge Begbie, October 15-16,1862. Magistrate Elliott
made serious errors in issuing warrants for the arrest of the Cranfords.
(34) Sir Henry Barkley, Governor of Victoria, Australia, to Douglas,
May 31, 1859, with enclosures, MS., Archives of B.C.
(35) Elwyn to Young, December 9, 1862, Elwyn Letters, MS., Archives
of B.C. 128 Sydney G. Pettit. April
... I think His Excellency & the public have every reason to be satisfied with the services rendered. Those services could not be rendered without a degree of exertion and personal hardships undergone, w[hi]ch perhaps
a bare sense of simple duty wo[ul]d not always require, and w[hi]ch, certainly are not elicited by any extraordinary remuneration or immediate
reward: and w[hi]ch can therefore only be attributed to an anxious desire
in every officer to do his very utmost in his own department, to the sacrifice
of his ease and comfort & very often of his health.36
There were never more than seven of these local magistrates in
the colony, and when it is remembered that most of them served
as assistant gold commissioners as well, the truth of Judge
Begbie's statement that they were inspired by a high sense of
duty becomes very apparent.
The magistrates were supported by a regular police force of
fifteen constables under Chief Inspector Chartres Brew, a ludicrously small number in view of the size of the territory and the
nature of the population. It was, of course, extremely difficult
to obtain suitable men, particularly in the first two or three years
of the gold fever. The salaries were pitifully small and could
not compete with the lure of the mines. In the report cited
above, Judge Begbie made strong representations to Secretary
Young to urge the necessity for higher wages. It gives a vivid
picture of living conditions in Cariboo at that time. He described
the rate of pay as " inexplicably inadequate " and went on to
show that a constable's pay of £25 a month scarcely sufficed to
keep body and soul together. Up to September, 1862, meals had
cost 10 shillings, but after that they had been reduced to 8 shillings. This meant that to eat three meals a day at the first rate
would cost £45 a month, and at the second £36 a month. Boarding-houses, those offering the cheapest rates, charged about £24
a month. At the reduced prices the salary thus provided little
more than subsistence.    As Begbie wrote:—
The pay of a constable is £25 a month—not enough therefore to provide
him with two meals a day, without allowing anything for clothes (w[hi]ch
I need not remark are extremely expensive and rapidly worn out) tobacco,
an occasional stimulant or any of the other extras w[hi]ch a rough
mountain life justifies and almost demands.37
(36)  Begbie to Young, no date but received January 19, 1863, Begbie
Letters, MS., Archives of B.C.
(37)- Ibid. 1947 Judge Begbie in Action. 129
In spite of the poor wage offered for what the Judge called
the " most thankless duties involving great personal fatigue,
exposure and responsibility," Chief Inspector Brew managed to
build up a force of efficient constables. These were drawn from
the ranks of a certain class of Englishman who, like the magistrates, had come in quest of a career and a home. Judge Begbie
describes them as men:—
. . . who have hitherto filled superior stations in life: some of them
having even held field officers commissions in Her Majesty's Army—and
most of them are provided with some small means of their own.33
It was well for the constables that they had some means of their
own, for Judge Begbie's kind words gained them little more than
official appreciation.
On the occasions that called for a larger number of police
than were available, special constables were sworn in for a period
of days or weeks, as conditions might require. Ned McGowan's
posse of roughnecks who carried off the indignant Whannell were
special constables—officially. In the Grouse Creek affair the
Gold Commissioner enrolled about twenty or thirty volunteers.
In Begbie's opinion, specials were rarely as efficient as the regulars because of a lack of knowledge and experience. They were,
however, paid nearly twice as much.89
One of the greatest difficulties and perhaps one of the greatest
dangers of the day was the transportation of dust and nuggets
to the coast. In 1861 Governor Douglas, with the assistance of
Captain Gossett, established the Gold Escort. This imposing
and romantic body was composed of Royal Engineers, fully
armed and mounted, under the command of Thomas Elwyn, who
later became a magistrate and assistant gold commissioner.
Elwyn offered his personal guarantee for the safety of the
precious cargo, but when the Government would not give similar
assurances of safe delivery, miners began to manifest greater
reliance in the private concerns that took up the work.
The Indians gave little trouble after the summer of 1858,
when Douglas' prompt action and just measures prevented
serious disorder. In most cases individual Indian troubles arose
from consumption of liquor and when white men became involved
(38) Ibid.
(39) Ibid. 130 Sydney G. Pettit. April
with Indian women. As early as 1861 Indian constables were
employed with jurisdiction over Indian affairs. These men,
when carefully selected, acquitted themselves well, showing great
pride in their office, which was designated by a baton. When
four Haidas were murdered by a group of Chemainus Indians,
native constables from Nanaimo arrested the murderers in the
face of the whole Chemainus tribe and conducted them to
Nanaimo to stand trial. In 1863, when Indian trouble broke out
on the Gulf Islands, native constables were sent to apprehend the
wrong-doers, who would, no doubt, have escaped had it not been
for the skill and courage of the Indian officers. It seems that the
authorities encouraged the natives by giving them small rewards
for good service. Judge Begbie, who was generally very well
disposed to Indians and inclined to be lenient with them in court,
favoured cash rewards.    Of one constable he wrote:—
The native special displayed so much tact & perseverance that I ordered
him a special reward of $10—as it is very useful to encourage this description of service.*0
While the Judge does not seem to have exerted much more
than a friendly influence in matters concerning the magistracy
and the police of the colony, he played an important part, which
has been severely criticized, in the formation of the British
Columbia Bar. His acceptance of some lawyers and rejection of
others led finally to a storm of protest in the British Columbian,
and finally to petitions to Governor Douglas and the Duke of
Newcastle, Secretary of State for the Colonies. Throughout the
controversy Begbie never deigned to acknowledge public criticism, and all his letters to the Governor were written with proper
judicial detachment. Yet there were personal feelings and prejudices involved, for the issue came to a climax when he refused
to admit George A. Walkem, an ambitious lawyer from Upper
Canada with whom he had had a violent quarrel in the Cranford
(40) Begbie to H. M. Ball (Acting Colonial Secretary), September 3,
1863, Begbie Letters, MS., Archives of B.C.
(41) At Lillooet on October 15, 1862, in Wright vs. Cranford. George A.
Walkem was born in Ireland, but came to Canada at the age of nine. He
was educated in Quebec and qualified to practise in both Upper and Lower
Canada. It is generally believed that standards were high in Upper Canada
and that Walkem was an able lawyer.   When refused admittance by Judge 1947 Judge Begbie in Action. 131
The British Columbia Act of August 2, 1858, made only
general provisions for the judiciary. There were no special
enactments as there had been in the case of Vancouver Island
in 1849. Governor Douglas and Judge Begbie were thus to some
extent free to adopt any line of action that circumstances of a
local nature seemed to require. It soon became necessary for
the Judge to submit for the Governor's approval some definite
provisions for the employment of counsel and attorneys in the
courts of the colony. Writing to Douglas on December 15, 1858,
he pointed out that absence of counsel made it necessary for him
to act as adviser as well as judge, and that such circumstances
made him despair of giving satisfaction to the suitors and of
maintaining the desirable high character of a British court of
law. There were, he went on, persons giving advice sub rosa,
a situation which he considered harmful, and which could be
brought to an end by calling properly licensed practitioners into
The problem was to decide what regulations should be made
to obtain immediately the best available talent. There is no
doubt that Judge Begbie's preference was for English barristers,
but as there were none in the colony at the time, he was compelled to make a temporary arrangement. In the letter mentioned above he wrote:—
Now here, there being no English barristers or attornies [sic], it seems
expedient to take the best that can be got.   .   .   .43
He accordingly drew up an Order of Court on December 27,
1858, which made provision for temporary and permanent rolls.
Permanent enrolment was open to barristers, attorneys, and
solicitors who were entitled to practise at the Bar in England,
Scotland, or Ireland, and to those who should be instructed in
British Columbia and Vancouver Island. Temporary licence
would be granted for a period of six months after the Order of
Court to those qualified to practise in any part of the British
Begbie, Walkem rode circuit, giving advice sub rosa, as the Judge said, and
conducting cases from the public benches. This practice led to an undignified
scene in the Lillooet court.
(42) Begbie to Douglas, December 15,1858, Begbie Letters, MS., Archives
of B.C.
(43) Ibid.
6 132 Sydney G. Pettit. April
Empire outside the United Kingdom and to barristers qualified
to plead in the Supreme Court of the United States.
To the Judge's consternation, barristers could not be found
who were qualified to avail themselves of either the temporary or
permanent rolls. The provision for temporary enrolment expired
on June 30, 1859, and was not renewed. Nearly three years
later, on December 13, 1861, he wrote to James Douglas to
inform him that apart from the Attorney-General there was only
one barrister qualified to practise in the colony. Begbie made
it clear that he had no desire to change the existing rule—that
only barristers from the British Isles could practise — and
expressed the hope that "... a sufficient number of duly
educated practitioners may arrive from the mother country."
He had, no doubt, been prejudiced, or had his prejudices
strengthened, by the unqualified practitioners who were now
beginning to haunt the courts as he rode circuit. Most of these
men were from Upper Canada, where, ironically enough, they
had not made a footing in their chosen profession and, like
Judge Begbie himself, had come to British Columbia to make a
new start. As a rule they did not succeed in disposing him very
favourably to candidates from that distant colony unless they
were men of marked ability and integrity.
A Canadian who did win the Judge's approval was a Mr.
Barnston, an Upper Canadian barrister who had come to British
Columbia in 1858. He practised at first on a temporary roll and
was later given permanent status. This occurred in June, 1860,
when the absence of qualified counsel was beginning to be felt
acutely. But even then Judge Begbie made it clear that while
there was no power to control him in making this decision, he
would not do so without the approval of the Governor.44
Although Barnston proved himself to be a man of integrity
and tolerable ability, his admittance led to the uproar over
George A. Walkem. By the end of 1862 a number of barristers
from the British Isles had been admitted and the litigants in the
colony were able to obtain counsel. There were also a number of
Canadians who wished to be enrolled but were, under the Order
of Court of December 27, 1858, not eligible. Thus, when, on
September 30,  1862,  Governor Douglas forwarded Walkem's
(44)  Begbie to Douglas, December 13,1861, Begbie Letters, MS., Archives
of B.C. 1947 Judge Begbie in Action. 133
petition, Judge Begbie was able to state that it was not within
his power to comply with the prayer of Mr. Walkem. He pointed
out that the temporary roll for those barristers who were not
qualified to practise at the English Bar had expired on June 30,
1859, and that the present rules for admission, which had been
sanctioned by the Governor and the Secretary of State for the
Colonies, bound his hands " almost as effectually as if they
had been originally issued as instructions for my conduct by
Her Majesty in Council." Remembering Barnston, the Judge
I say " almost" as effectually for in one instance about 18 months ago
I certainly infringed them, in the case of Mr. Barnston a gentleman from
Canada resident in these Colonies since 1858. But that case was immediately communicated to His Excellency together with a statement of its
peculiar circumstances.
There was at that time only one Gentleman practising in the Colony
which caused a necessary and most marked inequality in all cases and suits
where one side and only one side could obtain any legal opinion or assistance
there was positively a greater amount of apparent unfairness than where
no professional assistance whatever could be obtained by either side.
I therefore, in view of the public convenience to which alone all regulations on such a subject are to be referred, admitted Mr. Barnston to practise
on a temporary roll, immediately announcing to His Excellency the fact of
such temporary admission and also Mr. Barnston's application to be fully
Upon this latter application all action was deferred for some months.
At the end of this time in the absence of all objection and Mr. Barnston
having shown at least a tolerable acquaintance with the duties of his profession and there being still only one Barrister resident in the Colony he was
enrolled as an ordinary Barrister.
But I felt that even under such circumstances every apology and explanation were imperatively required from me for departing from the rules which
I had voluntarily undertaken to observe—a departure which in my opinion
nothing but an urgent necessity could excuse.
At the present day however no such urgent necessity appears to exist.
There have been during the present Assizes here no less than six gentlemen in Court every day, and two others have transacted business here during
the past week, all entitled to conduct legal proceedings, three of these
habitually reside in this Colony and go the circuits.
Litigation is I am happy to say not so rife as to be beyond the Physical
capacity of these gentlemen to conduct but rather the contrary.46
Such was Judge Begbie's very able explanation why he had
enrolled one Canadian barrister and refused to do the same for
(45)  Begbie to Young. November 29, 1862, ibid. 134 Sydney G. Pettit. April
another. In closing, he made two revealing remarks. He states,
as if to underline the fact that admission of Canadians was no
longer necessary, that more English barristers were about to set
up in practice. Significant of his opinion of Walkem are the last
two paragraphs:—
I make no allusions whatever to the character or moral qualifications of
any of the present applicants as I conceive the question to be definitely
settled, so far as I am concerned on the above general considerations.
I have only to suggest that strict inquiry should in all cases of course be
made as to the antecedents of all Gentlemen admitted to practise, under any
His dislike of Walkem was well known after the Cranford case,
and it was also well known that he looked with great disfavour
on some of Walkem's convivial habits. Although the latter seems
to have enjoyed a certain amount of popularity, as shown by the
fact that a petition was signed on his behalf and sent to the
Governor on February 14,1863, there were others who considered
him a scoundrel.46 Moberly, for example, in a private letter to
Attorney-General Crease, expressed an opinion with which Judge
Begbie might have concurred, but would not have committed to
the written word:—
Do not on any account trust or place the slightest confidence in anything
Walkem may say or do—he is a contemptible underhand scoundrel. He'll
be a curse in the House—This I will explain to you when I get down, I put
you on your guard because he pretends to be my very best friend. Avail
yourself of this hint quietly but keep it to yourself.4?
Walkem's cause and that of the Canadian barristers was
taken up by John Robson in the British Columbian. In a series
of outspoken editorials in January and February of 1863 Robson
denounced Begbie as a tyrant, an incompetent, and as a man who
deliberately excluded Canadian barristers from practice in order
that a clique of English lawyers might grow rich at the expense
of the public.
In the meantime Governor Douglas forwarded the petition
and all the correspondence relative to Walkem's application for
admittance to the Bar to the Secretary of State for the Colonies,
who suggested that it might be as well to admit Mr. Walkem.
(46) New Westminster British Columbian, March 4, 1863.
(47) Moberly to Crease, October 19,1864, Moberly Letters, MS., Archives
of B.C. 1947 Judge Begbie in Action. 135
This letter was forwarded to Judge Begbie on April 30, 1863,
accompanied by a dispatch from Governor Douglas requesting
him to consider the case of Walkem as being similar to that of
Barnston in 1861. Begbie, however, would not give in. In a
letter to Douglas written in answer to this request, he refused to
admit Walkem on the grounds that it was not within his power
to do so. He declared that the Secretary of State lacked a proper
understanding of the question and, rather than suggesting that
Walkem be admitted, was really asking for more information.
As for the petition, the Judge went on, with an oblique thrust at
Walkem, nothing was easier in the two colonies than to secure
the public sympathy for notorious and convicted criminals. With
a more direct thrust he pointed out that special legislation should
be passed, an undertaking that was the responsibility of the
Government and not of the judiciary, especially since admission
of this candidate was not acceptable to the members of the Bench
and the Bar.48
Douglas, it appears, had made up his mind that Walkem and
other Canadian barristers should be admitted, and accordingly
requested Judge Begbie to make out an Order of Court permitting lawyers from any part of the Queen's possessions to plead at
the British Columbia Bar. On June 18, 1863, the Government
of British Columbia passed the Legal Professions Act which, as
Judge Begbie suggested in his letter of May 11, was the only
means of making admission of Canadians and others who were
not qualified to plead at the English Bar admissible in British
The way was now clear for Judge Begbie to enrol any Canadian barristers who made application and could satisfy him that
they were properly qualified. Walkem's petition had been in his
hands since early October, 1862.60 He was qualified to practise
in the courts of both Upper and Lower Canada. Begbie, however, still delayed his admission, and did not enrol him till
November 20, five months after the passage of the Act.    On that
(48) Begbie to Douglas, May 11, 1863, Begbie Letters, MS., Archives
of B.C.
(49) British Columbia Proclamations, 1863, No. 8.
(50) Evidently Walkem reapplied after the passage of the Legal Professions Act, for there is an application dated August 3, 1863, MS., Archives
of B.C.
6 136 Sydney G. Pettit. April
very day he received a communication from the Governor, dated
October 1, with enclosures from the Duke of Newcastle, Secretary
of State for the Colonies, asking what steps had been taken to
admit Mr. Walkem. It is open to question whether Begbie
admitted Walkem after reading the enclosures from His Grace.
There is no official letter of the Judge's in the Provincial Archives
answering the Governor. There is, however, an unfinished and
unsigned letter in his handwriting that suggests that he was very
angry. Perhaps, if he had enrolled Walkem before reading the
enclosures from the Colonial Office, he would not have given
indications of bad temper.   The fragment reads as follows:—
With reference to your despatch of the 1 Octr. with enclosures from His
Grace the Duke of Newcastle requesting information as to the steps taken
in the matter of the admission of Mr. Geo. A. Walkem to practise in the
Supreme Court of British Columbia I have to inform you that Mr. Geo. A.
Walkem was this day admitted to practise and duly enrolled accordingly.
As His Grace the Duke of Newcastle appears to take a personal interest
in this matter and as it may possibly relieve the anxieties of 51
It seems that the Judge changed his mind just as the tide of his
sarcasm began to rise, realizing that he could not go as far as his
anger prompted him. Some time later, when Walkem was riding
circuit as a fully accredited barrister, Judge Begbie sat watching
him from the kitchen window of a friend's house at Yale. To his
delight the barrister had great difficulty in mounting his horse,
and when finally he did so, he pitched headlong into a thorn bush
on the other side. Begbie yelled with delight and rushed out to
help his fallen colleague.
Wymond Walkem relates in his reminiscences that Judge
Begbie had refused to admit his brother from personal pique
arising from the Cranford case.62 Walkem, who was not enrolled
at the time, had undertaken to take part in the defence of the
Cranford brothers at Lillooet. This he was entitled to do, so long
as he did not assume the prerogatives of accredited counsel.
When the trial opened, he unwisely took his seat in the special
place set aside for barristers. Judge Begbie at once ordered him
to sit elsewhere.   Walkem objected.   As the Judge did not permit
(51) Draft, Begbie to [Douglas], November 20, 1863, Begbie Letters,
MS., Archives of B.C.   The last paragraph of this draft was scored through.
(52) W. W. Walkem, Stories of Early British Columbia, Vancouver,
1914, pp. 25-6. 1947 Judge Begbie in Action. 137
people to oppose his will in court, he shouted at Walkem and, of
course, a noisy scene ensued. There were, however, factors other
than personal dislike involved. By admitting Barnston, Judge
Begbie showed that he was not blindly prejudiced against Canadian counsel. He preferred, however, to have English barristers
practising at the British Columbia Bar. He seems to have considered them better trained and men of the highest integrity.
At that time the peculiar conditions prevailing in the goldfields
doubly justified his insistence on the highest professional standards. The miners were litigious by inclination, and their occupation lent itself to dispute. They were thus natural prey for
dishonest lawyers who, infesting mining communities, would
encourage litigation for the fees they could get out of it, some of
them going so far as to conspire to bring action on false charges,
with a view to sharing the proceeds in the event of winning the
case. Technically known as champerty, this practice would have
eaten into the prosperity of the community and dragged the
courts into the gutter. Fearing this in particular and low standards in general, Judge Begbie, an abstemious and upright man,
could not look favourably on a tosspot from Upper Canada or
anywhere else. Like those of most people, his judgments were
compounded of prejudices, guesses, and a measure of common
The bulk of Judge Begbie's correspondence is concerned with
the various problems described above. It is thus the only existing record of his service to British Columbia in laying down the
structure of the law. His dispatches do not give a complete
account of this important work because so much policy was
discussed and determined in consultation with the Governor and
his officials. In the same manner the Judge kept in touch with
the magistrates, gold commissioners, and police as he rode
through the country. He heard their complaints, considered
their problems, and carried their suggestions to the Government.
In a special sense he was the government on horseback, for he
represented both the legislative and executive branches of the
His other great contribution to British Columbia and, indeed,
to the Dominion was the part he played in preserving law and
order.    Unfortunately, his achievements in this regard have 138 Sydney G. Pettit. April
passed into legend, with the result that posterity pictures him as
a ruthless man who, by a long series of hangings, cowed the
entire mining population into submission to the British flag.
Such a portrait is distorted. He sentenced very few men to
death and was distinctly paternal in his attitude to the law-
abiding majority of the population. There were, however, gunmen and rowdies in the country who might very well have turned
the colony upside down had they been permitted to disregard the
law. Disorder begets anarchy, and when anarchy prevails, the
peaceful citizens seek aid wherever it can be obtained. As the
bulk of the miners were American, the necessary aid would have
been forthcoming with the inevitable results already described.
Such a calamity did not come to pass because Governor Douglas
and Judge Begbie succeeded in establishing the law and preserving order. With Douglas to support him and a small armed
force at his call, the Judge established a respect for law that won
him the praise of his worst enemies.
Judge Begbie had not been in the colony three months before
an event occurred which, though trivial in itself, was to put the
forces of law and order to a test and reveal the conditions with
which the authorities had to deal.63 Early in January, 1859,
news came to Colonel Moody at Derby, and later to Governor
Douglas at Victoria, that a very serious outbreak of disorder had
taken place at Yale. Without waiting for instructions from the
Governor, Moody set out for Yale with Captain Grant and a
company of twenty sappers. In the meantime Douglas had
received an extraordinary letter from Captain Whannell, the
magistrate at Yale, who declared that he had been set upon by a
band of armed ruffians under the leadership of the notorious
Ned McGowan. These men, he continued, had entered his court
during session, seized him along with his jailer and two prisoners,
and carried them off to Hill's Bar.   In conclusion, he wrote:—
(53) For an illuminating account of the central figure, Ned McGowan,
see F. W. Howay, The Early History of the Fraser River Mines, Victoria,
1926, pp. xiv.-xvi. This volume contains most of the source material dealing
with the event and the period. For a general account of the " war " see
F. W. Howay, W. N. Sage, and H. F. Angus, British Columbia and the
United States, the North Pacific Slope from Fur Trade to Aviation, Toronto,
1942, pp. 161-3. 1947 Judge Begbie in Action. 139
This town and district are in a state bordering on anarchy; my own and the
lives of the citizens are in imminent peril . . . An effective blow must at
once be struck on the operations of these outlaws, else I tremble for the
welfare of this Colony.64
Douglas feared an outbreak of the kind described by Whannell as much as anything that could befall the colony. He
remembered McGowan's arrival in Victoria seven months before
at the head of a gang of American adventurers, many of whom
had taken part in Walker's raid on Nicaragua. McGowan, whom
everybody knew to be wanted by the vigilantes of San Francisco,
had fired a salvo of guns as his ship entered the harbour. The
Governor thus saw, in what he believed to be an insurrection led
by this man, a challenge to British authority which, if not
answered, might mean the end of the colony.
Governor Douglas at once secured aid from the Boundary
Commission and from H.M.S. Satellite. This force, consisting of
a hundred marines and bluejackets, was dispatched to Langley,
whence it was to proceed up-river on orders from Colonel Moody.
Lieutenant Mayne, who had been sent in advance by canoe,,
caught up with Moody at Hope, where he was about to embark
with Judge Begbie for Yale. The three arrived on a Saturday,
to find no signs of disorder or of an insurrection. On the following day Colonel Moody held divine service in the court-house for
a large congregation of miners.
The events that had led to the dispatch of a hundred sailors
and marines proved to be nothing more dangerous than a clash
between two fatuous magistrates. On Christmas Day, 1858, a
Hill's Bar miner had assaulted a negro named Dickson. The
miner, a man named Farrel, fled with an accomplice to Hill's Bar.
Magistrate Whannell of Yale issued a warrant for their arrest
and sent it to Magistrate Perrier of Hill's Bar, requesting him
to seize the men and send them to him to stand trial. Perrier,
who had heard Farrel's story, refused to do so. Instead, he
issued a warrant for the unfortunate negro—whom the zealous
Whannell had clapped in jail pending the trial of Farrel—and
sent Constable Hickson down to Yale to arrest him. Hickson, it
appears, was overbearing, and so enraged the sensitive magistrate of Yale that he imprisoned him for contempt of court.
(54)  F. W. Howay, The Early History of the Fraser River Mines, p. 57. 140 Sydney G. Pettit. April
Perrier was also sensitive about the honour of his court and,
regarding the arrest of his constable as an act in contempt, sent
a posse of men to rescue Hickson and to arrest his brother magistrate, the jailer, and the negro. In charge of the posse was Ned
McGowan. Though armed, Whannell was obliged to give in to
superior numbers. He was arraigned before Perrier and fined
$50 for contempt of court.
While these serio-comic events were taking place, the miners
of Yale and Hill's Bar began to hold indignation meetings to
champion the cause of their respective magistrates. It is not
unreasonable to assume that a violent outbreak might have taken
place had it not been for the rapid intervention of the authorities.
The Yale miners were the adherents of the San Francisco Vigilance Committee, while those at Hill's Bar had been partisans of
the Law and Order faction, really an aggregation of the lawless
element. Judge Begbie said of them with truth that the lives
of their leaders would not be worth " an hour's purchase in any
street in San Francisco."66 These men naturally regarded the
miners of Yale as dangerous enemies and were likely to shoot it
out with them at the least provocation. The danger of this latent
antagonism became clear when Judge Begbie suspended the Hill's
Bar magistrate, Perrier, from the rolls. Shortly after hearing
this, McGowan happened to meet Dr. Fifer, a former member of
the Vigilance Committee. Words ensued, and McGowan attacked
the doctor on the street, a few yards from the place where Moody
and Begbie were quartered.
Colonel Moody was alarmed. He at once sent orders to the
Royal Engineers to march from Hope to Yale, and to the marines
and sailors to proceed from Langley. By the next morning the
Engineers had reached Yale. Deeming this show of force sufficient, Moody sent word that only the marines need continue on
their way. McGowan, who had never encountered anything like
this before, surrendered himself, apologized to Moody, and paid
a fine imposed by Judge Begbie. Ned McGowan's War, as the
incidents described above have come to be known in the history
of British Columbia, thus ended peacefully enough.   As a fitting
(55)  Begbie to Douglas, February 3, 1859, Begbie Letters, MS., Archives
of B.C. 1947 Judge Begbie in Action. 141
Gilbertian finale, Ned and his friends entertained the various
officers and officials at a luncheon.
With the passage of time, however, the events just described
have become significant for the student of the period. Viewed in
retrospect, they afford an answer to many of the basic questions
concerning the preservation of law and order. It is clear from
the first that Governor Douglas was keenly aware of the larger
issues involved, and that he was willing and able to use armed
force and to go to any expense to make the Queen's law supreme.66
The Royal Engineers, who left the colony in 1863, were always
at Judge Begbie's back, as it were, during the critical period.
After their departure it was a continued source of strength that
naval forces could be marched into the Interior in the event of
trouble. It is sometimes argued that the nature of the country
lent itself as a deterrent to crime. The criminal, it is said, had
only one place of egress, and that was through the mouth of the
Fraser, where Inspector Brew and his constables kept an eye
open for such men.67 What criminal in the Interior could hope
to make his way through the wilderness without succumbing to
violence or starvation? This is an attractive theory, but one not
borne out by the experience of Judge Begbie, who considered
escape easy and that the country lent itself to crime for that
reason.68 Whatever the role of geography, it is clear that the
chief factor in the maintenance of law, as the affair at Yale
shows, was the desire and will for order that animated Governor
Douglas and his officials, and the armed power they had at their
disposal in the event of trouble too serious for the gallant but
pitifully small police force.
The McGowan incident thus forms the basis of an interesting
comparison of conditions in British and American territory.
Most of the miners in British Columbia were Americans, and
nearly all of them came from the goldfields of California. They
belonged to the same mining frontier, and so no distinction can be
(56) New Westminster British Columbian, June 27, 1861. This account
contains an excerpt from Harper's Magazine for May of the same year
stating that Captain Wright of the Enterprise charged six or seven thousand
dollars for transporting troops to Yale.
(57) Howay, Sage, and Angus, op. cit, p. 175.
(58) Begbie to Douglas, November 30,1861, Begbie Letters, MS., Archives
of B.C. 142 Sydney G. Pettit. April
made between the groups north and south of the Border in terms
of social and cultural differences. The majority of the men in
the American West cherished law and order as much as their
compatriots who had pushed north into British Columbia. Yet,
in the United States, lawlessness was the common order, and the
mining areas were torn with feud and faction. Good and bad
elements struggled for control, which for various reasons the
State and Federal authorities had failed to maintain.
Similar tendencies emerged briefly at Yale and Hill's Bar.
The local authorities, Perrier and Whannell, proved to be insufficient for the offices they held. As in the United States when
authority proved weak, a lawless faction began to assert itself,
to be opposed by another, which, in the name of law and order,
was ready to embroil the community in what amounted to little
better than gang warfare. But unlike the authorities in the
United States, those in British Columbia were willing and able
to suppress Law and Order and Vigilance Committees alike,
whether they appeared at Yale and Hill's Bar or anywhere else.
Nor could there be found in the American West a body of local
magistrates and police so resolute and so devoted to duty as those
in British Columbia.69 As for Judge Begbie, he was the personification of the Queen's authority, the strong arm of a well-
constituted government and judiciary which, autocratic as it
was, served to keep the colony British when it might easily have
become American.
He rode up and down the country, year by year, holding court
and attending to government business. It was he with whom
the American miners first came in contact. In criminal matters
they found him fearless, just, and, on the whole, merciful. While
it is true that he failed to establish a record for impartiality and
sound judgment in the civil courts, it is not possible to find a
word of adverse criticism of his criminal trials. His methods
were rough and ready, but they never put the accused at an
unfair disadvantage. Wherever he held court, whether it was in
the official court-house, in a barn, or astride his horse in the open
air, he managed to create the atmosphere of an English court
of law.    He carried his robes with him and was always clad
(59) W. J. Trimble, The Mining Advance into the Inland Empire, Madison, 1914, p. 196. 1947 Judge Begbie in Action. 143
appropriately to the court over which he happened to preside.
In murder trials he always endeavoured to have a chaplain in
attendance. In the early days desperados sometimes sent him
letters threatening his life should he pass sentence on one of their
friends. On some occasions he read these communications to
the assembled court and invited the sender to proceed with the
assassination. It is related that once, while seated on the upper
floor of an hotel veranda, he overheard a group of ruffians laying
plans to shoot him as he rode out of town. After listening for
some time, he went to his room and returned with a pail of dirty
water which he emptied over their heads to show his contempt
for them.60
He had not ridden circuit many times before the news spread
through the country that Governor Douglas' Judge had an iron
hand. Law-breakers learned to expect a stiff sentence if apprehended. Many of them sustained a shock when he added a flogging to the penalty. Begbie believed that the judicious use of
the whip was efficacious in the case of habitual criminals because
it deterred some and induced others to leave the country. Shortly
after the McGowan incident he expressed his views on the matter
to Governor Douglas:—
He [Mr. Brew] objects very much to flogging. My idea is that if a man
insists upon behaving like a brute, after fair warning, & won't quit the
Colony; treat him like a brute & flog him.61
The spring assizes at Hope and Yale in 1861 saw some sharp
sentences for theft. A John Burke appeared on a charge of
stealing two pairs of blankets. When found guilty, Judge Begbie
sentenced him to nine months with hard labour. Two Chinese,
who were found guilty of stealing a pistol, were given two years
with hard labour. It is not surprising that prisoners awaiting
trial grew apprehensive as the assizes drew near. A number of
criminals, after a winter in Lillooet jail at government expense,
broke out and fled the country when they heard of his approach
(60) A. E. Beck, " Sir Matthew Begbie, Terror of Lawbreakers of B.C.
Fifty Years Ago," Vancouver Province, July 5, 1925, magazine section;
reprinted in British Columbia Historical Quarterly, V. (1941), pp. 131-4.
(61) Begbie to Douglas, March 23, 1859, Begbie Letters, MS., Archives
of B.C. 144 Sydney G. Pettit. April
in the spring.    They knew they were guilty and they knew what
to expect.62
Contrary to popular belief, he was more inclined to leniency
than severity when on those rare occasions it was his duty to
pass sentence on a prisoner for murder. He had a horror of
taking human life, and the prospect of condemning a fellow being
to death touched his conscience deeply. His habit of having a
chaplain in court was not prompted by a love of pomp. He was
the kind of man who felt the need of spiritual support in such a
situation almost as much as the prisoner. In more than one case
he passed sentence of death and subsequently expressed approval
of commutation. After sentencing the Indian Quahook, he wrote
to the Governor suggesting that he modify the punishment:—
. . . the Indians & the murdered man had been getting drunk together;
and ... in this there was some misunderstanding about a female. I am
quite aware that if 2 men engage in a burglary or any other crime, & one
kill the other, even by accident, it is murder: but surely, when it is the
seducer and the far more guilty party (as to the original crime) who
Is killed it wo[ul]d not be irrational to modify the punishment of the
On another occasion, when he had sentenced an Indian to
death for murder, Magistrate Ball interceded on his behalf, stating that the prisoner had saved a white man's life some three
years before. Governor Douglas granted a reprieve and the
prisoner was held in jail at Lytton. Begbie wrote to the Governor
asking for commutation on purely humanitarian grounds:—
I am not at all convinced that his execution is necessary, although I am
sure that it wo[ul]d have been just, but after so long a reprieve I cannot
but think that the sentence ought to be commuted to penal servitude for a
term of years. It is scarcely right to keep a poor fellow on the tenterhooks
for so long & hang him at last.64
Unfortunately his addresses to juries, sometimes uttered in
righteous indignation, gave him a reputation for a love of imposing the supreme penalty. In those days the jurors were frequently Americans, many of whom were as lawless as the
(62) Begbie to Young, June 24, 1862, ibid.
(63) Begbie to Douglas, April 7, 1860, enclosure, ibid.
(64) Begbie to Douglas, April 20, 1861, ibid. 1947 Judge Begbie in Action. 145
accused.65 To Begbie's indignation they sometimes brought in
verdicts of not guilty or manslaughter when the evidence pointed
very clearly to premeditated murder. On such occasions he denounced the jury and the accused in the hottest language, sometimes expressing regret that he could not hang the lot of them.
When the gunman, Gilchrist, was proved beyond shadow of doubt
to be guilty of deliberate murder, his compatriots found a verdict
of manslaughter. The Judge is reported by Wymond Walkem
to have addressed them thus:—
" Prisoner: it is far from a pleasant duty for me to have to sentence you
only to imprisonment for life. . . . Your crime was unmitigated, diabolical murder. You deserve to be hanged! Had the jury performed their
duty I might now have the painful satisfaction of condemning you to death,
and you, gentlemen of the jury, you are a pack of Dalles horse thieves, and
permit me to say, it would give me great pleasure to see you hanged, each
and every one of you, for declaring a murderer guilty only of manslaughter."66
This case is now famous, and though everybody is agreed that
Gilchrist deserved to be hanged and that Judge Begbie was
justified in making his blistering address, his remarks have
given the lasting impression that he would hang prisoners very
gladly and without any consideration of mitigating circumstances, as the jury claimed there were in the case of Gilchrist.
Yet the truth is that the Judge was satisfied with their verdict
and perhaps glad that he did not have to impose the death
sentence. In his account of the trial to Douglas he wrote:—
This wo[ul]d have been of course " death by misadventure " in California—
in England, Gilchrist wo[ul]d probably have been hung—in British Columbia it is not perhaps an altogether unsatisfactory Jesuit that Gilchrist was
convicted of manslaughter & sentenced to penal servitude for life, while his
" friends " (who are well known to the police, and to me) have left the
Colony and are not, I think, likely to return.67
(65) In the early days there were seldom enough British subjects to
constitute a jury. It is believed that the Judge swore in Americans on such
occasions without asking too many questions. The practice was legalized
by the Jurors Act, 1860, see British Columbia Ordinances and Proclamations, 1860.
(66) Walkem, op. cit, p. 28.
(67) Begbie to Young, January, 1863, Begbie Letters, MS., Archives
of B.C. 146 Sydney G. Pettit. April
Perhaps the secret of his achievement in maintaining order is to
be explained by the fact that the criminal's friends left the
country.    They believed Begbie was a " hanging judge."
There was, indeed, a remarkable absence of crime throughout
the colonial period. Year by year Judge Begbie was able to
report that the amount of crime in British Columbia was very
small in proportion to the population. He modestly gave the
credit to the others and never, by any means, made reference to
his own part in the achievement. In his first official communication on crime he wrote:—
There have been but 3 murders committed since I first began to hold courts
in British Columbia. They were all committed by Indians: in every case,
the Indians were drunk.   .   .   ,63
Some nineteen months later good order continued to prevail.
In a long dispatch which accompanied calendars of the courts
held since the previous June, the Judge expressed his satisfaction
with the state of affairs and went on to give his reasons for the
continued state of good order. As this is the only communication in which he wrote at any great length on the matter, it
deserves careful attention:—
It is a continued subject of thankfulness that the amount of crime still
remains very small in comparison with what might have been anticipated
from the amount of population, the extent and difficulty of the country over
which the population is scattered, the habits naturally induced by the
unsettled and exciting life of a miner, and from the impunity which
criminals might hope for, looking to the state of communications and the
nature of the country generally, the proximity of a long open Frontier
accessible by unfrequented passes and the necessarily distant and scanty
Police Force.
It is clear however that the inhabitants almost universally, respect, and
obey the laws, and voluntarily prefer good order and peaceful industry, to
the violence and bloodshed to which other Gold mining regions have been
subjected: and with such dispositions the police force scanty and scattered
as it is, appears to have been hitherto sufficient not only to restrain from
crime those who might otherwise have committed deeds of violence, but in
general to bring to justice the few persons who have been actually guilty.
The exceptions where criminals have evaded Justice during the past
year, are I think only 3 in number, one accused of murder which from what
I have learnt, would probably amount to no more than manslaughter,
another for shooting with intent to murder;  the third for larceny.
(68)  Begbie to Douglas, April 7, 1860, enclosure, ibid. 1947 Judge Begbie in Action. 147
In these three cases, too, the result proves the general apprehension of
criminals, that the officers of Justice are not to be trifled with, for there is
hardly a doubt but that all these 3 persons quitted the Colony with such
speed that pursuit was useless, and the community here are not likely to be
troubled with them again.   .   .   .
I am happy to say that the criminal records of the past year do not
appear to contain any other particular which calls for especial remark.6^
Fourteen months later the Judge reported that good order
continued to prevail:—
I think that notwithstanding certain occurrences, the security of life &
property in the remoter districts of the Colony is not otherwise than satisfactory and will probably contrast favorably with the state of any other
country of similar extent in the world.70
A more disinterested observer, Cheadle, noted in his journal
in the following August: " Order famously kept in Cariboo:
. . . only 2 murders this year."71 Some two months later
Cheadle passed the Judge near Clinton and, apparently impressed
by his achievements, if not his appearance, jotted down a similar
comment: " Passed Judge Begbie on horseback. Everybody
praises his just severity as the salvation of Cariboo & terror of
rowdies."72 Even the British Columbian, which had been such
a bitter opponent of Begbie, wrote with great satisfaction of the
good order prevailing in the Kootenay. At the beginning of the
rush to that district in the summer of 1864 there were probably
a thousand men on Wild Horse Creek. Magistrate O'Reilly had
only five constables at his disposal to deal with a threat of
disorder, but when word circulated that Judge Begbie was on
his way through the mountains with a party of marines, all
became quiet as if by magic. John Robson wrote of the prevailing good order:—
On arriving at Kootenay Judge Begbie found an empty jail and a clear
docket—not a single case, either civil or criminal, awaiting adjudication.
... In a colony like this, where the outlawed of surrounding countries is
supposed to concentrate, the paucity of crime is something very remarkable.73
(69) Begbie to Douglas, November 30, 1861, ibid.
(70) Begbie to Young, no date but received January 19, 1863, ibid.
(71) Cheadle's Journal of Trip across Canada, 1862—63, with introduction and notes by A. G. Doughty and Gustave Lanctot, Ottawa, 1931, p. 222.
(72) Ibid., p. 243.
(73) New Westminster British Columbian, November 18, 1865. 148 Sydney G. Pettit.
Unhappily for Judge Begbie this is one of the few occasions
on which John Robson was able to write about him without abuse
and contempt. The truth is that in the early days, when devotion
to duty and an iron hand were required to establish the judiciary
and preserve order, his personality and methods suited conditions. But as the Cariboo developed, he was not equal to the
tasks imposed on him as a judge in the complicated litigation
arising from disputes between mining companies. He had had
little experience in England and never came to know the law very
well. He had, through his early experiences, become a law unto
himself, and he proved unwilling, or unable, to change. He was
a success in the Canyon, but he was a failure in the Cariboo.
Sydney G. Pettit.
Victoria Section.
The first general meeting of the Section in the new year was held in the
Provincial Library on Monday, January 27, when more than eighty members
and friends heard an address by Major-General W. W. Foster, entitled The
New Northwest Passage. Reference was made to the many attempts to
discover and make use of a northwest passage by sea as an introduction to
a description of the building of the Alaska Highway, the construction of
which became a military necessity after Pearl Harbor. Major-General
Foster was the Canadian Special Commissioner for Defence Projects in
Northwest Canada and from personal knowledge was able to speak authoritatively on many of the problems faced in the construction of this highway.
The lecture was still further enhanced by a sound film prepared by the
United States Army depicting the building of the Alaska Highway. The
appreciation of the meeting was tendered to the speaker by Mr. F. C. Green,
former Surveyor-General of British Columbia.
The February meeting of the Section was held on Friday, February 28,
in the Provincial Library, with forty-five persons in attendance. Once again
it was a privilege to welcome Major David L. McKeand, M.C., F.R.G.S., who
had chosen as his subject Canada's Arctic Islands. Major McKeand had
for many years been the Superintendent of Eastern Arctic as well as Secretary of the Northwest Territories' Council. In the course of his address
he dealt with many of the earlier Arctic explorations and in particular with
the establishment of Canadian sovereignty over the northern archipelago.
Many interesting personal anecdotes added greatly to the enjoyment of the
evening.    Dr. T. A. Rickard moved the vote of thanks.
The traditional commemoration of Blanshard Day, March 11, took the
form of a reception, held at the Little Art Centre, when some eighty members and friends were received by the Chairman, Mrs. Muriel R. Cree.
During the evening Mrs. Cree read a short paper outlining the significance
of the appointment of Richard Blanshard, which had been prepared some
years previously by the late Archer Martin, Chief Justice of British
Columbia. Rev. William Hills was the speaker of the evening and selected
as his subject Sunrise without Sunset—a sketch of the history of history
from earliest times.
On Tuesday, April 15, a most interesting lecture was delivered before
eighty members of the Section, meeting in the Provincial Library, by Mr.
A. M. D. Fairbairn. Over the years Mr. Fairbairn has made several
sketching trips to the Queen Charlotte Islands and has, through the medium
of water colour, painted dozens of the rapidly disappearing totem-poles on
the islands.    His address, Queen Charlotte Islands and the Haida Indians
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Vol. XI., No. 2.
149 150 Notes and Comments.
in 1946, was, in consequence, extremely interesting, for after a brief historical sketch of the Haida Indians in former days he was able to contrast
their present condition. Mr. Fairbairn has rendered a great service to this
Province by his paintings of the totemic art of the Haidas—an art which, it
is greatly to be regretted, has almost entirely disappeared. In thanking
the speaker, Mr. W. E. Ireland took the opportunity to announce that
through Mr. Fairbairn's courtesy the Provincial Archives had made photographic reproductions of his paintings to supplement the originals already
in its possession.
Norman R. Hacking is a leading authority on maritime history in British
Columbia and is on the staff of the Vancouver Daily Province. He has
previously contributed articles to this Quarterly.
Sydney G. Pettit, M.A., is Assistant Professor of History and Sociology
at Victoria College, affiliated with the University of British Columbia.
George F. G. Stanley, D.Phil. (Oxon.), has recently been appointed to
the Department of History of the University of British Columbia. Formerly
at Mount Allison University, Dr. Stanley served as Assistant Historical
Officer at the Canadian Military Headquarters. He is an authority on
western Canadian history and the author of The Birth of Western Canada.
W. Kaye Lamb, Ph.D., Librarian of the University of British Columbia,
is the former editor of this Quarterly.
W. N. Sage, Ph.D., is head of the Department of History at the University of British Columbia. THE NORTHWEST BOOKSHELF.
Minutes of the Hudson's Bay Company, 1679-1684. First Part, 1679-1682.
Edited by E. E. Rich, with an introduction by G. N. Clark. Toronto:
The Champlain Society; and London: The Hudson's Bay Record Society,
1945.    Pp. xlvi., 378.
This volume, numbered VIII. in the Hudson's Bay Record Society series,
is the sequel to Volume V. which contained the first Minutes Book of the
company, covering the years 1671-1674. In the present volume, covering
the years 1679-1682, the minutes of 4 General Courts and 192 Committee
meetings are given to the public. These constitute the first part of the
company's second Minutes Book, 1679-1684. The appendices include the
Report to the Governor and Committee by John Nixon, 1682, the original
of which is in the possession of the Royal Society; extracts from the company's Account Books between 1675 and 1680; and a number of biographical
notes. As in the earlier volumes of the series, the editorial work has been
done by E. E. Rich. Professor G. N. Clark, Regius Professor of Modern
History in the University of Cambridge, has contributed the introduction.
It is unfortunate that there is a gap of five years and four months
separating the minutes printed in Volumes V. and VIII. For this period
only the Grand Ledgers and the Grand Journal provide serious continuity;
however, Professor Clark has drawn upon these for his very useful introduction. The extracts from the Account Books in Appendix B also help
to fill in the details of the story between 1674 and 1679.
To this reviewer the company's Minutes Books and Accounts appear to
be of limited, or rather specialized, interest. They do not, for instance,
give a complete picture of the company's business operations. Neither do
they throw much light on events or life on the Bay. They give us nothing
of the problems encountered in the Indian trade. They are, as Professor
Clark admits, " much less valuable than the records which, it is hoped,
will be published in future volumes of this series, especially the out-letters."
The company's Letter Books begin at 1680, and it is from them that we
shall obtain the clearest view of its policy and spirit.
Nevertheless there is much useful and interesting material here relating
to the stockholders and the conduct of the company's affairs in London.
From the introduction we find that several of the shareholders had disposed of their holdings between 1674 and 1679, owing, apparently, to the
unpromising prospects of the company's trade. Most of those who purchased stock at this time appear to have been business-men rather than
politicians or aristocrats; but, generally speaking, the transfers of stock
were too few to admit of any broad inferences or generalizations. It is
interesting to note that among the new shareholders whose names appear
in the minutes between 1679-1682 was that of Sir Christopher Wren, who
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Vol. XI., No. 2.
151 152 The Northwest Bookshelf. April
became associated with the Hudson's Bay Company in 1679 and who served
as a member of the Committee during the period covered by this volume.
On numerous occasions he took the chair in the absence of the Deputy
Governor, Sir James Hayes. No dividend was paid during these years.
Indeed, no dividend was paid on the company's stock until 1684. The only
stockholders who profited from their connection with the company were
those who lent it money at 8 per cent, to make it possible for the annual
expedition to be fitted out for the Bay.
The minutes also contain much incidental information of economic interest: information relating to the outward cargoes and the standing articles
of trade, to the company's fur auctions, to the expenditure on building,
fitting, hiring, and docking of ships, and to the cost of marine insurance.
John Nixon's report in Appendix A is of particular value. From it we
learn something of the difficulties experienced by the Governor in maintaining discipline among the company's servants, particularly those whose time
had expired and who were awaiting transportation back to England. A good
part of the report is taken up with Nixon's complaints of drunken orgies of
Captain Nehemiah Walker of the John and Alexander, who not only drank
the Governor's liquor despite the latter's protests, but roundly abused him
" after a gross manner." Governor Nixon did, however, find space to submit
a number of recommendations to the London Committee for the betterment
of the company's trade, not the least of which was the suggestion that Scots
might be induced to enter the company's service. Commending to the Committee's favour Mr. John Ker, surgeon of the Diligence, Nixon wrote:—
... I would you could get him into youre service, he fit for youre tourne, in
divers respects, both for his calling, and pen, and goud government of himselfe. lykewayes he can inf orme youre honoures how yow may get men out
of Scotland, who will both faire harder and serve at cheaper rates, then our
London borne childring; they goe to franee for small wages and seek their
fortounes up and doun the world, and doeth good service when they are, and
why may not yow imploy them for youre profit.
Another item of interest in Nixon's report in view of the impending
struggle with France, of which, oddly enough, no intimation appears in the
minutes, was the Governor's emphasis on the defenceless state of the company's posts on the Bay owing to the concentration of men at Charlton
Island, and his request for additional personnel: "... at this present,
July the 29th wee are heare the number of 60 men at Charleton Island, and
but 14 at the three factories to guard them, (viz.) at Chechechewan
[Albany] 6, at Muce [Moose] river 5, and at Ruports East river 3."
Of praise for the format, the type, and the index there is little to be
added to what has been said on the occasion of the appearance of earlier
publications of the Champlain Society. It is enough to say that this volume
maintains the high standard set by that society.
George F. G. Stanley.
Vancouver, B.C. 1947 The Northwest Bookshelf. 153
Loyalist Narratives from Upper Canada. Edited, with introduction and
notes, by James J. Talman. Toronto: The Champlain Society, 1946.
Pp. lxv., 411.
The United Empire Loyalists have been discussed and written about at
such great length that the scarcity of original narratives, which this volume
reflects, will come as a surprise to many. Dr. Talman has obviously cast
his net wide and skilfully, and presumably he here presents what is virtually a definitive collection. Yet, of the twenty-five " narratives " included
in the text proper, many are brief, and some are no more than obituaries of
Loyalists culled from various newspapers and periodicals. Moreover, most
of the " narratives " that, strictly speaking, deserve the name were written
by the children or grandchildren of Loyalists, and not by Loyalists themselves. Indeed, only five of the twenty-five items included are " Loyalist
narratives " in the sense that the title of the book brings first to mind.
The reason is not far to seek. " Many of the Loyalists," as Dr. Talman
reminds us, " could not write; and those who could were too busy to keep
diaries. Paper, moveover, was scarce enough to limit the possibility of
compiling records."
Much the longest of the five original narratives is that by Colonel
Stephen Jarvis, which runs to 118 pages. Unfortunately much of it is
taken up with a detailed account of the tribulations and military experiences
through which he passed before he finally left the United States; only
twenty pages or so are devoted to his move to Fredericton, and subsequently
to Upper Canada, where he took an active part in the War of 1812-15.
Richard Cartwright's " Journey to Canada " is a vivid eight-page description of his trip from Albany to Montreal, which seems to have been made in
the autumn of 1779. The other Loyalist narratives relate to Adam Crysler,
Joel Stone, and the Rev. John Stuart. Stuart, it may be noted, was one
of the very few professional men who took part in the Loyalist migration.
As noted in the editor's introduction, " with rare exceptions, only Loyalists
of humble origin found their way to what became Upper Canada "—which
is, no doubt, another reason for the scarcity of first-hand documents.
Some of the writings of the descendants of Loyalists go far to make good
the deficiencies of the original narratives. In this category the outstanding contributions are both by women. Susan Burnham Greeley's " Sketches
of the Past," which she began to write at the age of 92 and completed when
she was 95, and Amelia Harris's " Historical Memoranda," which between
them occupy seventy pages, give a graphic impression of daily life as the
Loyalists and their families lived it during their first difficult years in
In an appendix, Dr. Talman reprints ten representative petitions and
memorials, in order to illustrate the type of material that is to be found in
the hundreds of affidavits filed by Loyalists and their heirs in support of
claims for land and other compensation. Many of these give a detailed
account of the services rendered and hardships and losses suffered by the
petitioners, but they are tabulations of information rather than narratives
and, as such, have been excluded from the text proper of the volume. 154 The Northwest Bookshelf. April
The introduction gives a most useful and well-balanced summary of
what is known about the Loyalists. It begins at the beginning by explaining " Who they were and why they were loyal," and after tracing their
history Dr. Talman tactfully warns the reader against the temptation
(which has proved irresistible to many a Canadian of Loyalist descent) to
exaggerate their influence on later Canadian history. He shares the view
of Egerton Ryerson that they " ceased to be a distinct and controlling class
of the inhabitants " as early as 1815. In his own words: " Writers of
Canadian history, indeed, would better serve the cause of accuracy, and
would certainly save confusion, if they would avoid the use of the word
Loyalist in connection with any period except that of the American revolution."
One minor criticism comes to mind: this reviewer at least would have
welcomed more extended biographical notes on the twenty-five persons
represented in the table of contents.
W. Kaye Lamb.
Vancouver, B.C.
Colony to Nation:  A History of Canada.    By A. R. M. Lower.    Toronto:
Longmans, Green and Company, 1946.    Pp. xvi., 600.    $5.
Professor Lower has recently left Winnipeg, where he was for years
professor of history and political science in United College of the University
of Manitoba, and has accepted a professorship in the Department of History,
Queen's University, Kingston, Ont. During his career at United College he
spent a year as visiting professor at Dalhousie University, and he has
twice taught courses as a visiting professor in the Summer Session of the
University of British Columbia. A native of Ontario, Professor Lower
graduated from the University of Toronto, served during the First World
War with the Royal Navy, then joined the staff of the Public Archives in
Ottawa. He obtained his doctor's degree from Harvard. While in Ottawa
he became a keen student of French Canada. Few Canadians are better
equipped to write the history of their country.
Colony to Nation is a challenging title. It reflects the personality of the
author. In many cases an author tends to sink his personality in his subject. Dr. Lower could not do so if he wished. For years he has studied
and taught Canadian history. He has very definite opinions and he has
the courage of his convictions. During his lifetime he has watched Canada
grow from a colony to a nation, and he has drawn his own conclusions.
The result is a volume which is stimulating and provocative. It is by no
means a dry chronicle of explorers, fishermen, fur-traders, seigneurs, clergy,
governors, soldiers, politicians, United Empire Loyalists, Selkirk settlers,
prairie farmers, gold-seekers, and lumbermen; it is a close and critical
analysis of the achievements of all these groups of people. There is to be
found in this volume a certain maturity which was lacking in Canadian
historical writing at the beginning of the present century.
The author's point of view is distinctly Canadian. He is frankly nationalistic.    Canada is his country, and he is much more interested in Canada 1947 The Northwest Bookshelf. 155
than he is in the larger loyalties overseas. He fully appreciates the importance of the United States, but no one who has carefully perused this volume could charge him with being pro-American. The following excerpts
dealing with the United Empire Loyalists are typical of Dr. Lower's Cana-
The common bond which hatred of the successful rebels constituted-,
negative though it might be, proved sufficient eventually to make all the
English-speaking colonies realize that they had a common destiny. In this
way, the Loyalists by their stubborn determination to set up new, non-
republican communities in the wilderness gave birth indirectly to Confederation and thus to the Canadian nation. Mere sentiment without a strong
emotion behind it would not have been enough to resist the terrific draw of
the advancing nation to the south. This emotion the Loyalists supplied.
Down through the years they and their children have nursed their wrath
to keep it warm. The nationalism of the United States is founded on
violent repulsion from England, that of Canada originally rested on repulsion from the United States. . . . Canada today, partly owing to the
original Loyalist conception, is strongly monarchical in sentiment and as
strongly republican in practice. ... To preserve their amour-propre, the
Loyalists called an old world into existence to redress the balance of the
new. This they endowed with qualities not always corresponding to actuality. They exalted British successes in arms and British " greatness," but
they were not overly understanding of the lasting contribution of England
to civilization; her devotion to freedom and the great edifice of law, custom
and spirit which Englishmen had built to preserve that freedom. It was
a partial and one-sided English Tradition that the Loyalists cherished a
" drum and trumpet" tradition of mere " Britishism."
From the above quotations it is possible to appreciate both the strength
and weakness of Professor Lower's treatment of his subject. The strength
lies in his power of analysis. He has brooded long and carefully over his
subject-matter. He has drawn his own conclusions and he has stated them
fearlessly. His writing is full of stimulating and pithy phrases. Nor is
he devoid of a certain pleasant malice as when he writes (p. 427) : " Americans built railroads to develop their country, Germans for purposes of war,
but Canadians, apparently, just for the fun of building them."
Even those who criticize the book most severely will probably find it
extremely hard to lay it down and not to go on reading it to the bitter end.
For to them the book will probably be bitter. Dr. Lower is no respecter of
vested interests of any sort, and especially of traditional historical interpretations. In fact, his weakness consists largely in this lack of respect
for certain traditions. He decries the " colonialism " of English-speaking
Canadians, but he tends to laud the French-Canadians for attempting to
preserve their " unique institutions." He is much more sympathetic towards
the Methodists of Upper Canada and the Baptists of Nova Scotia than he
is towards the more autocratic Anglicans. It may be doubted also whether
he is really fair to the " Tory colonials " and the " imperialists." But even
Dr. Lower's sternest critics will be struck by the sincerity of these words,
taken from his concluding paragraphs:—
Canada with its divisions of race presents no common denominator in
those profundities which normally unite, in race, language, religion, history
and culture.   If a common focus is to be found it must come out of the com- 156 The Northwest Bookshelf.
mon homeland itself. If the Canadian people are to find their soul, they
must seek for it, not in the English language or the French, but in the little
ports of the Atlantic provinces, in the flaming autumn maples of the St.
Lawrence Valley, in the portages and lakes of the Canadian Shield, in the
sunsets and relentless cold of the prairies, in the foothill, mountain and sea
of the west and in the unconquerable vastnesses of the north. From the
land, Canada, must come the soul of Canada.
Colony to Nation is a notable book.    It must be read:   it cannot be
W. N. Sage.
Vancouver, B.C.
Printed by Don McDiabmid, Printer to the King's Most Excellent Majesty.
650-547-3248 We
Organized October 31st, 1922.
His Honour Charles A. Banks, Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia.
Hon. G. M. Weir  Honorary President
George B. White     -       -      - President.
Madge Wolfenden       - Past President.
Alma Russell ----- 1st Vice-President.
Rev. W. Stott      ----- 2nd Vice-President.
Helen R. Boutilier - Honorary Secretary.
J. K. Nesbitt        ----- Honorary Treasurer.
Burt R. Campbell. H. C. Holmes. W. Kaye Lamb.
B. A. McKelvie. T. A. Rickard. W. N. Sage.
Willard E. Ireland Muriel R. Cree Rev. W. Stott
(Provincial Archivist;      (Victoria Section).      (Vancouver Section).
Editor, Quarterly).
To encourage historical research and stimulate public interest in history;
to promote the preservation and marking of historic sites, buildings, relics,
natural features, and other objects and places of historical interest, and to
publish historical sketches, studies, and documents.
Ordinary members pay a fee of $2 annually in advance. The fiscal year
commences on the first day of January. All members in good standing
receive the British Columbia Historical Quarterly without further charge.
Correspondence and fees may be addressed to the Provincial Archives,
Parliament Buildings, Victoria, B.C.


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