British Columbia History

British Columbia Historical Quarterly Jul 31, 1948

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JULY, 1948 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
and the Canadian Index. We
" Any country worthy of a future
should be interested in its past."
Vol. XII Victoria, B.C., July, 1948. No. 3
Staging and Stage Hold-ups in the Cariboo.
By Willis J. West_  185
McCreight and the Bench.
By Patricia M. Johnson  211
Gold-rush Days in Victoria, 1858-1859.
A letter from James Bell, edited with an introduction by Willard E.
Ireland  231
Notes and Comments:
A Note on Archibald Menzies and David Douglas, Botanists.
By J. W. Eastham 247
William and Margaret Thomson: Saanich Pioneers—A Tribute.
By Willard E. Ireland 248
British Columbia Historical Association , 255
Canadian Historical Association 256
Contributors to this Issue 257 SO
When reports reached the outside world of the discovery in
the early 'sixties of fabulously rich deposits of placer gold in
the Cariboo country of British Columbia there was a rush not
only of experienced placer-miners from California but of all
classes of humanity from Eastern Canada and the United States,
the United Kingdom, and many other points throughout the
world. This rush of gold-seekers was into a primitive, mountainous country that was known at that time only to a few
explorers, fur-traders, and to the Indians. The pioneer gold-
seekers prospected their way up the Fraser River and its tributaries until they discovered the rich gold-bearing creeks. There
were no roads or trails and very little was known about the
topography of the country since the early explorers had made
their journeys largely by following the waterways which were
swift mountain streams navigable only for isolated stretches at
certain seasons of the year.
The Cariboo country is, roughly, that part of the Interior of
British Columbia which is at present bounded by the Canadian
Pacific Railway on the south and the Canadian National Railway on the north and extends about 100 miles on either side of
the Fraser River. As the horde of adventurers started to arrive
there was a great need for transportation from the outside world
to the remote creeks, for food-supplies as well as for the necessary miner's equipment. The establishment of a regular service
for the carrying of passengers, express, and Her Majesty's mails
was also greatly in demand to ensure the development of the
new goldfields and the safe transport out of the country of the
treasure in gold-dust which every eager gold-seeker expected to
When the gold was discovered in northern Cariboo there were
several ways of entering the gold-bearing areas. Eventually
traffic was routed by river-steamer from the Pacific Coast up
the Fraser to the head of navigation at Yale from whence it
went first by trail and later by wagon-road some 380 miles north
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Vol. XII, No. 3.
185 186 Willis J. West. July
to Williams Creek. It was on this creek that the town of Barkerville was later established and became the supply centre for the
miners. It was not until over twenty years later, when the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed in the middle 'eighties that
the town of Ashcroft, the most feasible point on the railway to
connect with the Cariboo Road, came into prominence and soon
developed into a centre of considerable importance and the gateway to the whole of the Northern Interior of British Columbia.
The historical old Cariboo Road will soon be converted into .
a modern highway along which tourists will ride in comfortable
automobiles and be accommodated in luxurious hotels. It seems
appropriate that early conditions along the road should be
recalled and recorded. This article will deal with some of the
lesser known details in the history of the first organized transportation company in Western Canada, renowned throughout
British Columbia as the " B.X.," and will seek to describe how
it operated its unique service and discuss some of the difficulties
that it encountered in safely delivering the mails and in serving
the public in the pioneer days of the Cariboo.
Before turning to the activities of Francis Jones Barnard,
founder of the " B.X.," passing mention should be made of other
pioneer express companies. The pioneer expressman in British
Columbia was William J. Ballou, who, in June, 1858, organized
the Pioneer Fraser River Express, the first advertisement1 of
which appeared in the Victoria Gazette, July 3, 1858. Ballou
had had considerable experience in this field of activity in California and shortly after coming to British Columbia he entered
into a partnership with H. F. Smith. This partnership was
short-lived, being dissolved by mutual consent in February,
1859,2 and Ballou continued alone until his retirement in October,
1862,8 when his business was absorbed by Messrs. Dietz &
Nelson.4 Originally Ballou worked in conjunction with Freeman and Company's Atlantic and European Express south to
California and after 1859 with Wells, Fargo & Company, which
had taken over Freeman and Company's interests in British
(1) Victoria Gazette, July 3, 1858.
(2) Ibid., February 8,1859.
(3) New Westminster British Columbian, October 18, 1862.
(4) Victoria Colonist, November 6, 1862. 1948 Staging in the Cariboo. 187
The Fraser and Thompson River Express was another pioneer
company organized by J. Horace Kent and H. F. Smith in July,
1858. The first advertisement for Kent & Smith's express6 appeared in the August 6, 1858, issue of the Victoria Gazette, and
continued until September 30, at which time the partnership was
dissolved, although the business was carried on by H. F. Smith.6
It is presumed that this was the organization with which Ballou
entered into partnership. From its origin Kent & Smith's express
worked in conjunction with Wells, Fargo & Company. Still
another express company organized in 1858 was Lindhart &
Bernard's Express, operating over the Douglas-Lillooet route.7
The leading spirit in this venture was J. W. Lindhart, a merchant of Douglas, and evidently he soon became the sole proprietor.8 In December, 1858, he sold out his express business
to Messrs. Thompson & Fike,9 about whom no further information is presently available.
William Jeffray was for some time in 1858 on the staff of
the British Columbia Customs House department. Having severed
his connection with this government office in August, 1859,10 he
became a " Travelling Agent for the merchants shipping goods
... to Fraser river . . . paying duties on merchandise . . .
and to see it forwarded to its proper destination."11 Subsequently
he entered into partnership with W. H. Thain to form Jeffray
& Co.'s Fraser River Express12 and operations commenced on
April l.u In December, 1861, this business was acquired by F. J.
All of these companies were, in effect, courier services, using
canoes and pack-horses, and indeed often the proprietor himself
carried the express on his back.   Such was the experience of
(5) Victoria Gazette, August 6, 1858.
(6) Ibid., October 1, 1858.
(7) Ibid., September 11, 1858.
(8) Ibid., November 13, 1858.
(9) Ibid., December 21, 1858.
(10) Ibid., August 18, 1859.
(11) Ibid., August 16, 1859.
(12) Victoria Colonist, March 20, 1860.    The co-partnership notice is
printed in full.
(13) Ibid., April 3, 1860.
(14) Ibid., December 7, 1861. 188 Willis J. West. July
Francis Jones Barnard, a native of Quebec, who early in the
excitement over the discovery of gold, started " packing " letters
and parcels to the miners.15 In June, 1862, having some months
previously acquired Jeffray's express, Barnard merged his company into the British Columbia and Victoria Express Company16
and offered a weekly service. About the same time he entered
into an arrangement with Messrs. Dietz & Nelson, operating
between Victoria and Lillooet and Yale, beyond which points
Barnard's Cariboo Express took over. He was successful in
arranging a contract, dated July 19, 1862, with Governor Douglas to carry the mails into the Interior of British Columbia.
This contract included arrangements for a service to northern
Cariboo at monthly intervals during the winter period of December 1 to March 31 and at bi-monthly intervals during the rest
of the year. The authorities also stipulated a postal rate of four
shillings to convey a letter from Yale to Antler Creek, with an
additional charge of two shillings from that point to Williams
This service really marks the beginning of the famous " B.X."
In the summer of 1863 Barnard put two-horse wagons on the
run from Lillooet to Alexandria. These wagons carried two or
three passengers every ten days and beginning May 1, 1864,
four-horse coaches began to run regularly from Yale to Soda
Creek,18 from whence boats ran to Quesnelmouth. Still later
coaches were also used out of Quesnel. Some idea of the scope
of this venture is to be judged from the following extract from
the British Columbian:—
... it only remains to give a few figures, in order to afford the reader an
idea of the present magnitude of the institution, and the success with which
it has met under the able management of Mr. Barnard and Messrs. Dietz
& Nelson. The number of miles traveled [sic] during the present year is
110,600.   Number of men employed, exclusive of agents whose time is not
(15) For a biographical sketch of Barnard, see J. B. Kerr (comp.),
Biographical Dictionary of well-known British Columbians, Vancouver, 1890,
pp. 91-94.
(16) Victoria Colonist, June 24, 1862.
(17) A. S. Deaville, The Colonial Postal Systems and Postage Stamps of
Vancouver Island and British Columbia, 1849-1871 (Archives of B.C.
Memoir No. VIII), Victoria, 1928, pp. 84-85. For other details regarding
Barnard, see ibid., pp. 52-53.
(18) New Westminster British Columbian, May 4, 1864. 1948 Staging in the Cariboo. 189
entirely devoted to the Express, 38. Number of horses employed in the
Express service, 160. Number of Expresses despatched from the head office
in New Westminster during the present year, 450. Total amount of treasure and valuables, exclusive of merchandise, passing through the Express
during the present year, $4,619,000.19
In 1867 Barnard acquired the interests of Messrs. Dietz & Nelson.20 Later on, in 1878, Barnard and his associates21 were
incorporated as the British Columbia Express Company by special Act of the British Columbia Legislature and were empowered,
among other privileges:—
To construct, hire, purchase and acquire horses, coaches, waggons, boats,
steam vessels, and other conveyances, for the conveyance and transport of
any passengers, goods, chattels, merchandise, money, gold dust, bullion,
packages, letters, mail matter, or parcels that may be entrusted to them
for conveyance from one place to another within the Province of British
Columbia.   .   .   .22
On December 2, 1878, the first meeting of the directors was held
in the City of Victoria and a resolution was passed authorizing
the taking-over of the assets of F. J. Barnard & Company.
In the first days of the gold-rush the Company, as has been
pointed out, conducted its service with pack-horses, but as wagon-
roads were built and extended the Company introduced Concord
thorobrace stages from California and inaugurated a regular
horse-stage service which continued to be performed by the
" B.X." (under different owners) for fifty-odd years until at
last the construction of railways and the arrival of the automobile brought to an inevitable end this primitive method of transportation.23
(19) Ibid., December 14, 1864.
(20) Victoria Colonist, December 6, 1867.
(21) George A. Sargison, Frank S. Barnard (son of F. J. Barnard),
Stephen Tingley, and James Hamilton.
(22) Statutes of the Province of British Columbia . . . 1878, Victoria,
1878, p. 4, c. 2, "An Act to Incorporate the British Columbia Express
(23) The story of the earlier development of this pioneer transportation company has been well told in E. O. S. Scholefield and F. W. Howay,
British Columbia from the earliest times to the present, Vancouver, 1914,
vol. II, pp. 127-131. See also H. C. Hitt and G. E. Wellburn, " Barnard's
Cariboo Express in the Colony of British Columbia, 1860-1871 and later
Expresses of F. J. Barnard," The Stamp Specialist [New York, 1945],
pp. 3-32. 190 Willis J. West. July
The years with which this article primarily deals are those
following the transfer of the head office of the Express Company
from Yale to Ashcroft after the completion of the Canadian
Pacific Railway. It was during these later years that the present writer was employed by the " B.X." and can therefore write
from personal acquaintance of the days when mining and other
developments had been extensively stimulated by the construction of the railway, of which one of the first effects was a notable
increase in the availability of necessary supplies at a greatly
reduced cost. The " B.X." now reached its period of greatest
activity. The day of the individual miner was passing and companies were being organized with the amount of capital necessary to bottom the deep diggings where gold was still to be found.
The first 100 miles of the Cariboo Road, built from Yale to
Cache Creek, was a wonder of those pioneer days. Constructed
under the supervision of the Royal Engineers, it followed along
the canyon of the Fraser River, over Jackass Mountain and up
the Thompson River to Cache Creek. In places where the road
skirted along the high walls of the Fraser River canyon it was
built on timbers. Thus, if a passenger looked down he could see
that the stage was travelling directly over the swirling waters
of the river some 200 or 300 feet below. World travelled passengers remarked that no other road on the continent appeared
to be as hazardous or presented picturesque scenery to equal
that of the first 100 miles of the Cariboo Road. Many portions
of this first section were destroyed during the construction of
the Canadian Pacific Railway along the route. As a result
British Columbia was for over forty years without a highway
leading from the Interior to the sea until the present motor-
road was constructed.
Leaving the Thompson River near Cache Creek the road
headed north across country until it met the Fraser River again
at Soda Creek, which is 167 miles from Ashcroft. From Soda
Creek it followed the river to Quesnel and then ran directly east
60 miles to Barkerville. The country the road traversed was
rolling and uneven and at times the road reached an altitude of
approximately 5,000 feet in crossing from valley to valley, so
that it can be truthfully stated that there was hardly a mile of
straight or level road in the whole distance between Ashcroft 1948 Staging in the Cariboo. 191
and Barkerville. Since it was built by contractors24 in haste and
with a shortage of money there was a tendency in its construction to make progress at the expense of good grades and drainage. There was no paving of roads in those pioneer days and
very little of the road was even gravelled; therefore in the spring
after the winter break-up, or in a year of heavy rainfall, the
whole length of the road would consist only of two deep ruts
where the stage-wheels would sink to the hubs.
On the northern end of the road, the last 30 or 40 miles
before reaching Barkerville, the snowfall was particularly heavy
and towards the end of winter the mail-stage sleighs would be
travelling 5 or 6 feet above the level of the summer road owing
to the accumulation of snow. When the stage sleigh met another,
neither could turn off to pass. If the horses had stepped off the
narrow beaten track they would have sunk up to their ears in
the loose snow and would then have had to be unhitched and a
space shovelled before they could be brought back on to the road.
When two sleighs met the lighter one would be unloaded and
tilted on its side so that the other could pass. Everyone had to
pitch in when these incidents occurred and assist in the snow-
shovelling and unloading and loading of mail and express matter
or freight. At Devil's Canyon, a fearsome place between Stanley and Barkerville, and subject to serious snowslides, the snow
road might be 20 feet above the summer road. The Government
maintained a road gang to keep this canyon open in order that
the mail might go through, and on some occasions the driver
and the passengers on a stage proceeding down the canyon would
shovel snow some hours before meeting the road-gang working
from the lower end. Specially trained horses accustomed to
these snow conditions were used. If these intelligent animals
became buried by the snow they would not struggle but would
wait confidently until the driver shovelled a clear space and untangled their harness. In some years when the snowfall was
particularly heavy, and, despite all efforts, the canyon could not
be kept open for horses, a team of dogs would be used to carry
the mails. Express and supplies had to wait until road conditions improved.
(24)   Scholefield and Howay, op. cit, Vol. II, pp. 98-108, has the history
of the construction of the Cariboo Road. 192 Willis J. West. July
On the first day of January, 1910, the Provincial Government
brought into operation a "Broad Tire Act"26 which greatly
improved road conditions in Cariboo and made practicable the
operation in later years of automobiles. The average load for
a stage was about 750 lb. per horse; under the new regulations
the width of tires had to be proportionate to the load carried.
Strenuous objections were made by stage-drivers, freighters, and
ranchers against the enforcement of the new regulations, but
after the Act had been in effect for some time the benefits were
so obvious that all objections ceased.
The main stage-line at this time extended from Ashcroft to
Barkerville, the end of the road, a distance of 280 miles. Branch
lines radiated from main-line points to various mining camps
and settlements, from Ashcroft to Lillooet, Clinton to Alkali
Lake, 150-Mile House to Alexis Creek in the Chilcotin country,
150-Mile House to Harper's Camp, and from 150-Mile House to
Keithley Creek. Later after the projection of the Grand Trunk
Pacific Railway through Northern British Columbia, the stage
service was extended to Fort George at the junction of the
Nechako and Fraser rivers. It was the longest stage-line in
America, a fact which the Company was proud to advertise.
The mail stages were operated under a strict schedule set up
by the Postmaster-General at Ottawa. A definite time was stipulated for the arrival and departure of mail from each post-
office throughout the whole country north of the railway. The
Company's stages travelled in excess of 2,000 miles a week in
performing the regular mail schedule but this mileage did not
take into account the numerous stages carrying extra mail, passengers, express matter, and fast freight.
This was the age when the horse was still regarded as king
and the " B.X." made every effort, regardless of expense, to
obtain the finest possible horses for its Cariboo service. The
first horses were introduced from Oregon in the early 'sixties.
In 1868 about 400 head of breeding stock was purchased in
California and Mexico and driven north to Vernon, British Columbia.   The importation of these horses was the start of the
(25) Statutes of the Province of British Columbia . . . 1909, Victoria,
1909, pp. 89-90, c. 23, "An Act to amend the ' Highway Traffic Regulation
Act.'" 1948 Staging in the Cariboo. 193
famous " B.X." horse-ranch which for many years provided the
Company with a large part of their best stock. Still later the
Company acquired many fine horses that had been bred in the
Nicola and Kamloops districts of British Columbia. After the
advent of the railway, horse-ranches of Alberta and Saskatchewan provided additional large numbers of splendid animals.
These half-bred range horses made very excellent stage stock,
weighing on the average 1,150 lb. The " B.X." had a strict rule
never to buy a " broke " horse, since such horses were regarded
as spoiled. These range horses when acquired by the Company,
at the approximate age of 5 years, had never " had a rope on
them " except when they were caught and branded on the range
when young. When finally purchased in the spring months they
were quite wild, with long hair and tangled tails trailing along
the ground. In about three months, given the proper handling
and feeding, they would gain about 150 lb. (15 lb. of oats and 25
lb. of hay was the average daily allowance for each horse) and
would develop into beautiful animals which the hostlers were
more than proud to lead out for the admiration of the stage
passengers. In the training of these horses, exclusively for
staging, it was remarkable how rapidly they learned what was
expected of them. One could almost say that the horses seemed
as concerned as the driver in ensuring that the stage arrived
safely at the end of its run. It was interesting to watch some
of the wheelers, the heavier and older horses, on a dangerous
hill, and to observe how they would hold back, determined to get
the stage to the foot of the hill without mishap.
The driver carried a whip which he could use very expertly
and could touch up a leader in a six-horse team without the
other five horses being aware of the act. The whip was never
used except for training a horse, or for disciplining him, or in
an emergency. The use of the whip was completely unnecessary
for compelling them to make good time to the next station, where
a good feed and a comfortable stable awaited them.
These stage-horses were never really broken. They were
trained for staging alone and had to be handled in a way they
would understand. To illustrate this the custom observed in
preparing a stage and its horses for leaving a station had to
be carefully and expertly carried out to ensure a safe departure. 194 Willis J. West. July
When the mail, express matter, and baggage had been loaded
and securely lashed onto the stage, the passengers were requested
to take their places. Then the driver with his treasure-bag took
his seat and all was in readiness for the horses to be brought
from their stable. First the wheel team was led out by the
hostler who backed it into position on either side of the stage-
pole and passed the lines to the driver. After this team was
ready, with harness and rigging adjusted to the satisfaction of
the driver, the swing team appeared and the same procedure was
followed. Finally the two leaders, the freest and most spirited
horses in the six-horse team, were brought out and after the
horses had indulged in much restless prancing, the hostler would
eventually succeed in completing the " hooking-up " of the team
and would then quickly back out of the way. At this moment
the driver released the brakes and the horses lunged forward
starting the stage on its way to the next station. Some teams
when leaving a station at the beginning of their drive would
behave in a most alarming manner and fill timid passengers
with fear. The horses would stand on their hind legs and would
seem to be so wildly entangled that a serious accident appeared
inevitable. They would continue these antics until they had
travelled about 100 yards and then they would settle down to
a brisk trot. In their natural health and vigour they could not
refrain from these exuberant demonstrations. These horses had
a naturally strong " homing instinct." In the event of a horse
escaping from his corral he would head across country for his
home range; for instance, if he had originally come from the
Nicola country the Company would only have to send a full
description of him and his brands and would very seldom fail
to recover him.
Horses being the motive power of the Company it was essential that they receive very special care and attention. Each regular mail-driver had a certain number on his drive and was held
responsible for their condition. No one else was permitted to
drive them. At times when some fine animal caught the fancy
of a passenger a very satisfactory sum would be offered for its
purchase; but because a good horse was so highly valued and
necessary in the stage service, no matter how tempting the price,
the horse was seldom parted with.   In any event the driver's 1948 Staging in the Cariboo. 195
consent was always required before any of his horses would be
sold. No horse would be of any value without good feet and
therefore expert horse-shoers travelled along the routes and
regularly visited each station. Their equipment included a forge
so the shoes could be put on " hot."
The stations were of an average 18 miles apart along the
main line with fresh horses waiting at each. The regular mail
stage took four days to make the 280-mile journey from Ashcroft
to Barkerville. The stage travelled on the level at a brisk trot
and the average speed, including walking the long hills and steep
pitches, was 6 miles an hour. The hostlers in charge at the stage
stations were usually old horsemen who loved horses and the
care and feeding of them. They would vie with each other in
seeing who could turn out his teams in the finest condition. One
hostler even made it a practice to blacken and polish the hoofs
of his horses in order to win the admiration of the passengers.
Each horse had his own harness and it was a strict rule that
this harness had to be cleaned every time it was removed from
a horse.
It is possible that the impression which some readers have
of a stage-driver is, to some extent, taken from Hollywood
movies, in which the driver is represented as an elderly longhaired bewhiskered " gent" who usually drives his six-horse
team constantly at a full gallop. The Hollywood driver is not
a stage-driver at all, he does not even know how properly to hold
the lines. He is generally depicted as a hard-drinking man who
steps up to the bar at every opportunity. How different is this
romantic picture from the real driver of the early stages. In
reality he was a conscientious young man who only after extensive training and by virtue of outstanding ability as a horseman
and driver was entrusted with the responsible task of being a
regular mail-driver for the " B.X." The Cariboo climate is
rigorous and these men had to contend with the extremes of
road and weather conditions, such as the break-up of the roads
in the spring when the frost was coming out of the ground, the
blinding alkali dust of the hot season, and the extreme cold of
the northern Cariboo where the thermometer has been known to
sink as low as 50° below zero each day for a month at a time.
If you had been a passenger on top of a heavily loaded six-horse 196 Willis J. West, July
stage in the spring and had watched the driver take the stage
down a sideling icy mountain hill you would almost certainly
have a more concrete appreciation of the skill and courage
required by a driver of one of Her Majesty's mail stages in the
early days of Cariboo.
For its operations the " B.X." required a large and varied
assortment of conveyances, ranging from a two-horse thorobrace
" jerky " to a six-horse regular mail coach. There were also
numerous four-horse c6vered and open thorobrace stages and
four-horse covered thorobrace freight cages for transporting
straight loads of mail or express matter. For winter travel the
wheeled vehicles were duplicated with sleighs of all sizes up to
fifteen-passenger sleighs to which a back-action sleigh was ak
tached for carrying mail and express. A Concord stage was
built with thorobraces or what may be called " leather springs."
These were many layers of leather, of a width and number to
suit the type of stage, which extended on each side of the stage
gear from front to rear. The body of the stage was built with
rockers on each side which fitted on these leather springs, causing the stage to rock and sway over the rough road. This made
riding very comfortable especially when the stage carried a good
In 1876 the " B.X." had a light four-horse thorobrace coach
especially built in California in preparation for the coming visit
in that year of the Governor-General and his wife, Lord and Lady
Dufferin, who were driven in this coach from Yale to Kamloops
and back.26 This famous coach presented a very gay appearance
with its bright red body and yellow gear. It was upholstered
in green plush and had the Canadian coat of arms on the front
panels. It was always known as the " Dufferin coach " and was
reserved for special trips. When a German prince or an English
lord went moose-hunting in the Blackwater or Fort George
country he took the " Dufferin." The charge was $50 a day.
This was not exhorbitant as it covered the cost of a change of
horses at every station, which enabled them to make regular
stage time.
(26) Victoria Colonist, September 10, 1876. " Barnard's coaches and
horses were in excellent condition and whirled the party over the road in
good style."   Ibid., September 15, 1876. A " B.X." six-horse stage-coach, taken about 1890;
Emile Laforest driving.
-H •
•L ,/i-
A " B.X." stage-coach of the 1890's on the run between
Hat Creek and Clinton.
The stage-coach meeting a freight team on the Cariboo Road. ate:       , v  - uj
ffl^^,   iȣfastsHj
ggJ^BBwi^       I,  11 - /9fcJ. ^ftCgUffl
The 108-Mile House, built in the late 1860's by W. J. Roper,
a typical Cariboo stopping-place.
A scene on the Cariboo Road in the Fraser Canyon showing some of
the difficult terrain to be overcome. 1948 Staging in the Cariboo. 197
In the early days the first Concord thorobrace stages were
purchased in California. Later the " B.X." established its own
shops where it built the needed conveyances of all kinds and
carried out all necessary repair jobs. The California type of
Concord stage was strengthened and improved to meet the difficult road conditions and heavy loads with which the Company
had to cope. All the stages and other conveyances were painted
in the Company's colours—the bodies of a bright red and the
gears yellow—and presented a very fine appearance. The harness of the Company, which was all hand-made in the shops,
was manufactured out of the finest oak-tanned leather originally
imported from California and later obtained in Eastern Canada.
The harness was of such excellent quality and was so well cared
for that after the " B.X." finally ceased operations some back
pads and hame tugs still in service were found with stamps
indicating that they had been made at Yale fully forty years
The stage fare from Ashcroft to Barkerville was $42.50 in
winter and $37.50 in summer, with an allowance of 40 lb. of
baggage; the charge for excess baggage was 8 cents a pound
and for express matter 12y2 cents a pound. The regular mail
stages carrying passengers left the railway at Ashcroft at 4 a.m.
and under good road conditions would arrive at the 83-Mile
House, the end of the first day's run, at 6 p.m. They departed
at 4 a.m. the next morning, so that if a passenger went to bed
immediately after dinner he could enjoy about eight hours' sleep.
It was a different story, however, when heavy rains had made
the road a sea of mud and the stage was perhaps five or more
hours late. The mail invariably left on time every morning and
passengers travelling when the road was in bad condition would
get very little sleep on a journey through to Barkerville. It
was a tradition in the country and the terms of the mail contract
stipulated that the mail had to arrive on time notwithstanding
vicissitudes of the weather or the state of the roads and therefore passengers who travelled on Her Majesty's mail stages,
although they arrived on time with the mail, were often weary
from lack of rest when they reached their destination. However, the management and the drivers gave all possible attention to the comfort, as well as the safety, of the passengers. 198 Willis J. West. July
Stopping-houses along the route were provided where meals and
beds could be procured. The stopping-houses were not operated
by the " B.X." but were to some extent under its control as it
could stop its passenger stages at whichever house it found most
The food in such establishments was generally excellent and
the beds were clean, except in a few settlements where the saloon
business was viewed as of supreme importance and the comfort
of the travelling public was left to the Chinese cook. Every
ranch-house in Cariboo represented a stopping-house where a
traveller was welcome any time, day or night. These ranches
were as a rule 15 or 20 miles apart even along the main road,
and the lonely settlers were curious about any traveller from the
outside. They were delighted to welcome him, and although
they appreciated the payments received by them in return for
food and sleeping accommodation, they showed by their hospitality and kindness the pleasure which it gave them to have him
in their homes. At some of these ranch-houses where women
were in charge of the cooking the quality of the food was so
outstanding that travellers in special conveyances would arrange
their schedules so as to take advantage of this good food on their
journey up and down the road.
The ranches might be 50 miles from a store, but these Cariboo
women did not need a " store around the corner " in order to
provide appetizing cuisine. Nearly every dish which they served
was produced on the ranch and that accounted for the low cost of
meals. A meal or bed for one person was 50 cents each throughout the whole country until you got beyond Quesnel when the
charge was increased to 75 cents. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner
did not vary to any extent except that breakfast included a large
dish of oatmeal porridge and a huge jug of thick yellow cream
just as it had been skimmed from the pans in the milk-house.
This was before the dairymen had developed the scientific
marketing of milk. To-day, under Milk Board regulations, it
would undoubtedly be illegal to serve cream of that nature,
especially as the poor traveller had no knowledge of the butters-
fat content of what he was consuming. The cream did not seem
harmful, however, and was followed by a juicy steak, fried
potatoes, two or three fried eggs or more if you could eat them. 1948 Staging in the Cariboo. 199
This would be topped off with coffee and hot cakes swimming in
syrup. Quite a number of cooks served pie at breakfast, which
you could always have if you asked for it.
There was one particular road-house which always provided
three kinds of hot meat for the mid-day meal; these were put
on the table with vegetables, at least three kinds of pie, pudding,
two kinds of cake, and other varieties of food such as relishes,
cookies, and stewed fruit. When everything was ready and on
the table the traveller was summoned and was expected to carve
and help himself. The food was excellent and the charge only
50 cents. It was at this same road-house that the proprietor
had five bouncing daughters who, when an extra stage arrived
late on a winter's night with a load of half-frozen passengers,
were aroused from sleep by their father to give their warmed
beds to the travellers. This was not the only occasion when
families in Cariboo suffered inconvenience in order to accommodate the travelling public.
Looking back, one marvels at what Cariboo women could
accomplish under the pioneer conditions that prevailed for them.
Their lives were made up of few pleasures and plenty of hard
work. A Cariboo bachelor in selecting a mate would choose the
girl with the best reputation as a worker and cook. One could
hardly visualize one of these young pioneer women standing in
a queue a city block long on a rainy day waiting for an opportunity to purchase at an extravagant price a pair of nylon hose
that would likely start to disintegrate the first time they were
worn. Nor could you imagine a Cariboo belle appearing before
her friends or in public in a gown or even a bathing suit with a
bare mid-riff. Theirs were the homely virtues.' These kindly
competent women of Cariboo did a great deal towards adding to
the comfort of the stage traveller in the early days.
Women who were obliged to travel on the stages in Cariboo
were shown every-consideration. The fact that the traveller was
a woman entitled her to the choice seat on the stage, to the best
room in the stopping-house, the seat at the right of the driver at
the table, and the courtesy of being served first. The driver
always sat at the head of the table to carve and serve his passengers. That a woman might be " Irene," a prostitute from
one of the settlements, made no difference;  she was a woman 200 Willis J. West. July
and when travelling on the Cariboo stage was treated with every
Her Majesty's mail stages in Cariboo were responsible for
carrying not only mail and express matter but also all the gold
that was shipped out of the region. From the beginning the
miners had great confidence in the " B.X." and never suffered a
financial loss during all the years the Company performed this
service. For as long as the old Company operated the Government would not permit gold-dust and bullion to be carried
through the mails in Cariboo, although this was permitted in the
Yukon as in the rest of Canada, since it was considered that such
gold shipments placed too much responsibility on the postmasters
handling them. Therefore when a miner wished to make a
shipment of gold-dust he would take his poke or sack to the
Company's agent who, in the miner's presence, would carefully
seal it with wax and stamp it with his agency seal along all its
seams so that none of the gold could possibly be extracted without detection. Every shipment was insured against loss by the
Company through Lloyd's of London for the declared value so
that the Company would suffer no financial loss in the event of
a stage hold-up and robbery.
For many years the British Columbia Police provided a
special guard to travel on the stage during the active gold-
shipping season and to take charge of the stage safe. This
guard was heavily armed and it is interesting to note that the
stage was never held up during the years that the police provided
this armed escort. When the Attorney-General, for reasons of
economy, discontinued the service of an armed guard, the Company notified its drivers that since the gold and treasure were
always insured it did not wish them to carry arms or to offer any
resistance in the event of an armed hold-up. Was it not wiser
to hand over the mails and treasure rather than to have one of
their favourite horses or, worse still, a passenger shot? It was
the responsibility of the police to protect the mails and the gold
and in withdrawing the guard they gave the impression that they
did not feel there was much danger of hold-ups at this late date.
Some extremely large shipments of gold-dust were made in
the early days when the richest creeks were first mined. It is on
record that on one trip down from the creeks the driver had in 1948 Staging in the Cariboo. 201
his charge three stage safes full of gold. A stage safe would hold
gold-dust to the value of about $200,000. The largest shipment
of bullion was made in the early fall of 1901 from the Cariboo
Hydraulic Mining Company's placer-mine at Bullion. This mine
was owned at that time by Canadian Pacific Railway directors
and was reputed to be the largest placer operation in existence.
In order to create publicity for the mine the gold-dust from one
big clean-up was melted into the form of a large naval gun shell.
Before the bullion was shipped from the mine a cradle with
handles was made so that four men could carry it and lift it on
and off the stage. It was shipped east from Ashcroft and was
on display for a short time at Toronto, in the lobby of the Bank of
Montreal at the corner of Yonge and Front streets. Customers
could feel and examine it closely and it did not appear to be
guarded. The bank officials did not seem to think a customer
might walk away with it for, valued at $178,000, it weighed a
mere 650 lb.
It is remarkable, considering the value of the gold carried
each season, how seldom the Cariboo stage was held up and
robbed during the half century it operated, and for this there
are two main reasons: first, the manner in which law and order
were administered in Cariboo, and, second, the difficulty of
escaping capture and making a safe get-away after the hold-up.
In those pioneer days there was no delay and no red tape to speak
of in punishing a criminal. When a man committed murder he
was given a fair trial and hanged with dispatch. Other crimes
were dealt with in the same forthright manner. The British
Columbia Police in Cariboo were the real heroes of the country.
They had a large district in which to uphold the law and the only
equipment a gun, a saddle-horse, and plenty of courage. They
were supposed to out-fight and out-shoot every drunken Indian
or miner that might start raising a disturbance. Lots of " bad
men " came to Cariboo but they behaved themselves for the most
part. They seemed to hold in great respect the alacrity with
which Canadians administered justice and punished wrong-doers.
It is only in comparatively recent years that some parts of the
Cariboo have been thoroughly explored. At the time of which
this article concerns itself the country was so sparsely settled
and the pioneer settlers so lonely and inquisitive that a stranger 202 Willis J. West. July
could not hope to escape attention. The only known route out of
the country was by way of Ashcroft to the railway, making it
virtually impossible for a stranger to rob the stage and hope to
get away safely.
The story has been told many times of Bill Miner,27 the
notorious Western American outlaw, who, with accomplices, over
forty years ago escaped after successfully holding up the transcontinental passenger train near Mission, British Columbia.
A short time later he, with companions, again held up a Canadian
Pacific Railway train near Monte Creek, east of Kamloops,
British Columbia. It is also well-known that he was captured
and convicted at the Assize Court at Kamloops of the second
robbery and sentenced to a long term in the New Westminster
However, it is not generally known that this notorious outlaw
primarily came to rob the Cariboo stage. He proceeded directly
to Ashcroft seeking information regarding the operation of the
stages and the nature of the country in which he was planning
his robbery. A stranger visited the " B.X." office in Ashcroft.
one late August afternoon in 1894. He stated that he was a
.placer-miner specializing in a small way in mining dry ground
and inquired about stage transport to Barkerville. He was
given a folder showing the times of departure and arrival of all
stages. This stranger was Bill Miner, but the " B.X." agent did
not discover his identity until some time later. Miner had a long
chat with the agent and in the course of deceiving him regarding
his intentions, went to considerable detail in explaining his
peculiar method of mining, involving the use of a pump and
fire-hose for saving gold in workings where very little water was
available. At the time the bandit was chatting and slyly extracting information there was an illustrated reward notice from
Pinkerton's Detective Agency, Chicago, in prominent view on the
wall of the office. It offered a reward of $2,500 for the capture
of Bill Miner dead or alive. The poster displayed a picture of a
tough-looking bearded Westerner with long hair and dressed in
a rough shirt, overalls, and high boots.   No one would have
(27) " Bill Miner—Outlaw and Stage Coach Bandit," British Columbia
Provincial Police The Shoulder Strap, 10th edition [1943], pp. 41-45; " The
' Bill Miner' Case," Scarlet and Gold, December, 1919, pp. 65-67. 1948 Staging in the Cariboo. 203'
associated this picture of the wanted criminal with the neat-1
looking dry-ground miner who was so industriously acquiring
knowledge of travelling conditions in the Cariboo.
At that time Ashcroft was a lively town, even for the West,
and had three saloons which never closed, even on Sunday, when
one simply entered by the side door. There was always a poker
or black-jack game running and after Miner left the " B.X."
office he got into a poker game and lost a couple of hundred
dollars before quitting. It was through one of the poker players
later being in Kamloops when Miner was up for preliminary
hearing that his presence in Ashcroft before the hold-up was
On Tuesday evening, September 7, 1904, the Cariboo stage
arrived at Ashcroft from the north on time and carried a full
load of passengers, largely miners from Bullion. Some of these
men mentioned they were being laid off as the hydraulic mining
season was over and they casually remarked that the big gold
shipment would be down on the next stage. Bill Miner must
have had one of his gang waiting around Ashcroft for rumours
of this sort. The main line stage from Barkerville arrived as
usual Thursday night, September 9, and Miner and his gang
held up the transcontinental train early the next morning near
Mission. The train was in charge of conductor William Abbott,
who reported that the robbers got $6,000 of Cariboo gold which
had been transferred from Thursday night's stage and was
picked up by the train when it passed through Ashcroft during
the night.
If Miner had studied the " B.X." time-table more carefully
he would have learned that when the miners from Bullion stated
the big shipment would be down from the mine on the next stage
they meant it would arrive not on Thursday but the following
Tuesday, since there was only one trip a week on the branch line
from Bullion. If the bandits had waited and had held up the
train on Wednesday they would have secured over $60,000 of
gold from Bullion alone. At all events this experienced bandit
who specialized in stage robberies all his life had come to the
conclusion that there was less risk in holding up the train than
in robbing the Cariboo mail-stage. As it happened, Tuesday
night's stage carrying the Bullion gold was overloaded with 204 Willis J. West. July
passengers, nearly all of them miners from Bullion. Every man
was heavily armed as the management of the mine had learned
of the train robbery and were taking precautions. As they
came off the stage they deposited their rifles, sawed-off shotguns,
and ivory-handled pistols with holsters, and cartridge belts
around the office. It looked as though they had brought everything they had at Bullion in the way of offensive weapons. The
agent spent some time unloading all the weapons to make them
safe to send next stage O.C.S. (On Company Service) back to
the mine. It would be interesting to know what would have
happened if Miner and his gang had held up that stage.
In the original Minute-book of the Company which I have
before me as I write there appears the following entry in the
minutes of a shareholders' meeting held at Ashcroft on September
16, 1890: " Regarding the robbery of the stage on the 14th July
last near the 99 Mile Post the shareholders present regret to be
unable to report any substantial clue to the identity of the
perpetrator." At the next annual meeting of the shareholders
held September 14, 1891, the following entry appears in the
minutes: " Satisfaction was expressed at the result of the trial
of M. V. B. Rowland, for the robbery of the stage near Bridge
Creek in July 1890, who was convicted and sentenced by Judge
Walkem at the June Assize at Clinton to a term in the Provincial
penitentiary at New Westminster."
Martin Van Buren Rowland had been working in the mines
around Barkerville and was on a trip " outside " travelling by
saddle-horse and leading a pack-horse when he conceived the idea
of robbing the stage. After his conviction he wrote a confession
describing how he left his camp and circled back in the timber,
coming out to the road at the foot of Bridge Creek hill while it
was still dark. Stages are without exception held up on hills
or on steep pitches so that the driver cannot suddenly whip up
his horses in the hope of getting away. Rowland waited for the
stage near the 99-mile post where it usually stopped on this
4-mile-long hill to breathe the horses. In his confession he went
on to describe how he covered the driver, William Parker, with
his rifle and demanded he turn over the stage safe and treasure-
bag. As it happened there were no passengers on this-trip and
as Parker was unarmed he was obliged to throw out the treasure- 1948 Staging in the Cariboo. 205
bag and get the gold-safe from its compartment under the back
seat. Parker was able to talk Rowland into letting him retain
the treasure-bag by telling him that it contained only waybills
and other documents which might get the bandit into trouble if
they were found in his possession. Parker had difficulty in
getting the bag back on the stage without the bandit noticing its
weight. It contained $2,500 worth of gold-dust. Rowland also
related that after he had ordered the stage to drive on he loaded
the gold-safe on his pack-horse and rode some distance up Bridge
Creek before dismounting to chop open the back of the safe with
his axe and thus extract the gold which was valued at $4,500.
Hiding the safe in the heavy brush under a fallen tree he
departed with the $4,500 in gold which it had contained. The
" B.X." obtained the confession from Rowland in an effort to
locate the safe and recover the valuable papers which had been
locked in it, but their search was in vain.
Rowland was successful in returning undetected up the road
to his camp. He then proceeded at a leisurely rate back down
the road past the scene of the robbery and on to the railway at
Ashcroft. If he had been wise, he would have then taken the
train out of the country and enjoyed his spoils without even
being suspected of the stage robbery. As it was he was too clever
for his own good, for, after going on a good spree, he bought a
stock of grub and let it be known that he was journeying back
up the road about 20 miles to Scottie Creek to do some prospecting. There had been several stampedes or excitements over
Scottie Creek when a little coarse gold had been found there at
different times. Some good prospectors, however, had thoroughly tried out the ground and located nothing worth while, so
it was then abandoned. Some time later Rowland went back to
Ashcroft and went on another spree, stating he had found some
rich ground. He bought more supplies and returned to his
camp. The " B.X." became a little suspicious and when they
later found he had spent some gold-dust in the saloons they asked
the bar-tenders to save any gold Rowland might tender in payment for whisky in the event of his coming into town again.
It may not be generally known that the gold mined in the
many creeks of the Cariboo varies greatly in colour, feel, size,
value, and so forth, and that any experienced miner or banker 206 Willis J. West. July
could, upon examining any pan of gold-dust, tell immediately
from which creek it had been mined. As Rowland did not again
visit Ashcroft a sample of the gold he was spending could not be
checked to see if it was the stolen gold. He remained at Scottie
Creek some weeks and then one day startled the driver of the
regular mail stage by tendering a shipment of gold, a little over
$4,000 in value, which he claimed he had mined at Scottie Creek
and wished to have delivered to the Gold Commissioner at
Barkerville with the request it be melted down to bullion. Upon
delivery it was identified by the Gold Commissioner as the gold
stolen in the Bridge Creek hill robbery and Rowland was
immediately arrested, convicted and sentenced. He was not
convicted of the robbery—since it took place in the dark and he
could not be positively identified—but for having in his possession stolen gold for which he could not account.28
Many years later, during the construction of the Pacific Great
Eastern Railway along the route of the Cariboo Road, the police
turned over to the " B.X." a stage safe that had a hole chopped
in the back. This was the safe stolen by Rowland and had been
found by railway-workers clearing the right-of-way along the
bottom of Bridge Creek hill. As the Tingley family owned the
" B.X." at the time of the robbery the safe is now in the possession of Mr. F. C. Tingley, Vancouver, who is keeping it as a
souvenir of his boyhood days in the Cariboo.
On June 25, 1894, the stage leaving 150-Mile House early in
the morning was held up, but on this occasion the robbery was
a minor one. The bandit was picked up on the Dog Creek road
the next day and when searched was found to have only $45
worth of gold-dust on him, which was the amount of treasure in
the gold-safe on that particular trip. He was tried before Judge
Clement F. Cornwall at 150-Mile House on July 4, convicted and
sentenced to ten years in the penitentiary.29 The only points of
particular interest that are brought to mind by this robbery
(28) News of this hold-up first appeared in the Kamloops Inland Sentinel, July 19, 1890. Rowland was not arrested until November 15, ibid.,
November 22, 1890; and was tried at the Clinton Assize, June 8, 1891, ibid.,
June 13, 1891.
(29) This robbery was reported in the Kamloops Inland Sentinel, June
29, 1894, and the trial is recorded in ibid., July 6, 1894. The robber was
identified only as Blankly. 1948 Staging in the Cariboo. 207
concern the driver, Ed. Owens, who was rather out of the ordinary as drivers went. He had arrived at Ashcroft without
anything being known of his previous whereabouts and had
eventually obtained a job driving the stage. He was a quiet,
reserved young man, of athletic build, weighing over 200 lb.,
who never talked about himself. His fellow employees noticed
that he had some peculiarities and after becoming fairly well
acquainted with him asked him why he always carried a heavy
calibre gun in the waistband of his trousers and never let the
gun be far away when he was sleeping. They were also curious
as to why he never would sit with his back to a door or window
and why he seemed so diffident about meeting strangers until he
had an opportunity of observing them closely. The only answer
he made was, " There's a fellow after me and I want to see him
first." Owens was reputed to be a wizard in drawing and shooting his big gun and would sometimes demonstrate to passengers
by knocking over grouse as the stage travelled along. At the time
he was held up with his stage containing only two passengers, he
calmly waited until the bandit's attention could be diverted and
he could safely draw and shoot. The bandit ordered him to get
the gold-safe out of its compartment. In compliance with this
order Owens got in the stage and started to draw his gun but the
only inside passenger put a restraining hand on him as he was
afraid of being hurt if any shooting started. Owens stated
afterwards he could easily have killed the bandit but, when
restrained, hesitated and decided to let him live as he knew he
would get very little out of the hold-up. In addition to 4)eing
an expert with firearms, Owens was the slowest stage-driver
known in Cariboo. Passengers used to say he starved his horses,
it took so long to reach the next station. He was also the fastest
foot-runner in the country—he could run away from anyone else
in a 100-yard dash. •
The last time the Cariboo stage was held up was on November
1, 1909, at a point between 141-Mile House and 144-Mile House.
This robbery was perpetrated by a man and his female accomplice. The regular mail stage with a full load of passengers left
the 150-Mile House early that morning on time. It was still
dark when the stage approached a point on the road where there
is a big tree on one side and a big boulder directly opposite.   The 208 Willis J. West. July
woman, dressed like a man, waited behind the tree and the man
behind the boulder; when the stage reached them, they both
stepped out and covered the driver with their rifles. The man
then demanded all the registered mail sacks from 150-Mile House
and points north. Apparently they knew it was too late in the
season for gold shipments. Charles Westoby, the driver, who
was known to be quite deaf, pretended he could not understand
their instructions and in the confusion managed to keep back
some of the registered sacks and substitute " empties " that were
being returned to the railway. No attempt was made to rob or
molest the passengers. Westoby was ordered to drive on and the
stage made good time to the 134-Mile House, the nearest telegraph office, where word was sent to all telegraph stations up
and down the road notifying the police. A posse was formed of
" B.X." employees and ranchers and proceeded to the scene of
the hold-up. The police had already arrived to discover that the
bandits had taken the mail-sacks a short distance into the brush,
coolly cut them open, and abstracted any currency from the
letters, but left bank cheques and money-orders. The posse and
the police tracked the bandits' barefooted horses for some miles
until they encountered the tracks of a band of wild horses,
obliging them to turn back and abandon the pursuit. When
the stage that had been robbed arrived with its passengers at
Ashcroft the next night they seemed to regard the hold-up as
something of a joke, since they had not been robbed or injured
in any way. There was one exception, however, a newspaper
writer from the Coast, who came storming into the office and
demanded to know what efforts were being made to capture the
" dastardly scoundrels who had robbed His Majesty's mail."
He was still pale and nervous from the shock of being in a
stage hold-up. We of the " B.X." were somewhat taken aback.
Secretly we had felt rather pleased, since the Company was not
responsible for loss of the mails in the event of an armed hold-up,
no one had been hurt, and we had made the front pages of the
newspapers across Canada.
The police, however, were making every effort to discover and
arrest the bandits. The country around 150-Mile House was at
that time very sparsely settled and by careful checking and a
process of elimination the authorities finally decided that the 1948 Staging in the Cariboo. 209
culprits were a certain woman and a man whom she called her
brother-in-law that had been in the district only a few weeks.
The pair were arrested and their cabin searched but the only
evidence found was two freshly shod saddle-horses. After
consultations with police headquarters in Victoria, the prisoners
were brought down to Ashcroft, put on the train and told to get
out and stay out of Canada. They were undoubtedly guilty and
were obviously relieved to get off so lightly. It was estimated
that they only got about $2,000. They missed one package of
$5,000 in currency from the bank in Quesnel owing to driver
Westoby's initiative in withholding some of the registered
Passengers who later travelled on stages past the scene of the
hold-up were very interested and the driver would have to stop
and explain to them in detail just what had occurred. On one
particular trip a passenger, with a camera, remarked how
unusual it would be to have a picture of a stage hold-up. The
driver on the trip, Al. Young, was an accommodating chap and
offered to arrange for a photograph. He stopped his stage and
with the co-operation of the passengers took the picture of a
hold-up. Although it was posed it shows the actual stage and
the horses that were in the last hold-up of the Cariboo stage.
Al. Young was born along the route of the overland stage to
California. His father kept a stage station, so early in life
Al. learned about horses, guns, and bad men. He was not only
a great stage-driver but an expert in handling a big Luger gun
that he always carried when driving stage. He would have been
a dangerous man for any bandit to have accosted. Wonderful
are the tales of bad men and their gun-fighting he could relate—
not restricted as is this writer to a strictly factual account of
" Staging and Stage Hold-ups in the Cariboo."
Willis Jas. West.
Vancouver, B.C.
(30) For an account of the robbery see Quesnel Cariboo Observer,
November 6, 1909; the arrest of Clark and Mrs. Reider is given in ibid.,
November 20, 1909. McGREIGHT AND THE BENCH.*
The Act of Union of 1866 did not provide for the amalgamation of the Supreme Court of Vancouver Island and the Supreme
Court of British Columbia. Confusion arose as to the jurisdiction of the two Chief Justices, Joseph Needham and Matthew
Baillie Begbie.1 In 1868 provision was made for the continuance
of both Courts2 and the following year a final decision was
reached which provided that on the death or resignation of either
of the two Chief Justices there was to come into being a Supreme
Court of British Columbia presided over by the remaining Chief
Justice and assisted by a new Puisne Judge to be appointed.8
In 1870 Chief Justice Needham resigned to become the Chief
Justice of Trinidad and at that same time H. P. P. Crease was
appointed the first Puisne Judge. On July 3, 1872, John Hamilton Gray was named second Puisne Judge under an enabling
Act passed by the British Columbia Legislature that year. For
some years these three Judges formed the Supreme Court.
In 1878 legislation was passed providing for the appointment
of two additional Judges. It was also laid down that " not less,
than three of the Judges of the Supreme Court shall reside on
the Mainland of British Columbia." Provision was also made
that Judges of the Supreme Court should preside over the County
Courts.4 The following year a Judicial District Act set up four
judicial districts with the further provision " that one of the
three Judges assigned to the Mainland shall reside in the City of
New Westminster; one in the town of Clinton; and one in the
town of Barkerville; or in the neighbourhood of these respective
places.5   Accordingly on November 26, 1880, two new Puisne
* The third in a series of four articles dealing with aspects of the career
of John Foster McCreight.
(1) See W. K. Lamb (ed.), " Documents relating to the effect of the Act
of Union of 1866 upon Judge Begbie's Status and Jurisdiction," British
Columbia Historical Quarterly V (1941), pp. 134-147.
(2) Courts Declaratory Ordinance, May 1, 1868.
(3) Supreme Courts Ordinance, March 1, 1869.
(4) British Columbia, Statutes, 1878, c. 20, "An Act to make provision
for the better administration of Justice in British Columbia."
(5) British Columbia, Statutes, 1879, c. 13, "Judicial District Act, 1879."
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Vol. XII, No. S.
211 212 Patricia M. Johnson. July
Judges were appointed—Alexander Rocke Robertson and John
Foster McCreight. It was decided that Begbie and Crease
should reside in Victoria, Gray at New Westminster,6 Robertson
at Clinton, and McCreight at Richfield.
It is important to note that the Judges of the Supreme Court,
although referred to as Puisne Judges, all possessed full powers.
The term " puisne " is simply a survival of an English statutory
term meaning " newly created." In the Supreme Court there
were (and are) no grades of Judges. The Chief Justice had
precedence and the direction as to which Judge should preside at
a certain place at a certain time, but he had no superiority.
When the Supreme Court sat in " Full Court" all the Supreme
Court Judges were usually present. As the Province was divided
up into judicial districts, County Courts were set up, but at the
same time no County Court Judges were created.7 This meant
that the Supreme Court Judges had to sit in the County Courts
and usually they travelled from one Court to another on circuit
when the Assizes were held. The policy of having a resident
Judge in each of the four districts did lead to some confusion.
McCreight protested bitterly about being expected to reside in
the Cariboo, while as a Supreme Court Judge he was to visit
Victoria for Full Court occasions, so naturally he kept his
Chambers there.8 As time went on, more Judges were appointed
and County Court Judges were added to those already attached
to the Supreme Court.    In this way the two groups could be kept
(6) This he refused to do, so there was no resident Judge in New Westminster until McCreight went there in 1883.
(7) Authorization had been given to the Governor in 1867 to appoint
existing Stipendiary Magistrates to County Court judgeships and by the
time of Confederation six appointments had been made. All of these
appointees were, in effect, lay judges, for none had professional training.
The " County Court Judges Appointment Act," c. 22, British Columbia,
Statutes, 1872, was permissive in nature but no appointments were made.
On January 14, 1881, all remaining lay County Court Judges were retired
on pension and their duties were performed by Supreme Court Judges. The
appointment of Eli Harrison in April, 1884, as County Court Judge for
Cariboo marked the beginning of a professional County Court Bench.
(8) J. F. McCreight to H. P. P. Crease, December 2, 1881, written at
Richfield, MS., Archives of B.C. 1948 McCreight and the Bench. 213
separate and Supreme Court Judges could give most of their
time to Supreme Court cases.9
The first mention of McCreight's elevation to the Bench came
on November 30, 1880, when the Victoria Colonist reported:—
We understand that Messrs. J. F. McCreight and A. R. Robertson, Q. C's
have been appointed judges of the Supreme Court of this province, the headquarters of one to be at Clinton, and of the other at Kamloops. It is further
stated that both the positions have been accepted. The salaries are $4000
On December 17, McCreight resigned from the position of Treasurer of. the Law Society,11 which Society, in turn, gave a dinner
in honour of the new Judges at the Driard House where an evening of " song and sentiment " was enjoyed.12
On January 4, 1881, the two new judges were sworn in18 and
received the congratulations of the Law Society. Each wrote a
letter of thanks to the Society and these letters were published in
the newspapers. They are an interesting contrast. That of
Robertson is an elaborate document, flowery in phrasing and
cordial in tone. That of McCreight is a simple, reserved expression, probably very sincere, but certainly not expansive. Robert-,
son wrote:—
Victoria, Feb. 17, 1881.
Dear Sir,
I had the pleasure last week of receiving your letter conveying to me
the congratulations of the Law Society of British Columbia on my recent
appointment to the Bench of the Supreme Court.
I beg to express through you to the members of the Society my grateful
appreciation of their kindness and the compliments conveyed by your letter.
It is a source of great satisfaction to me to feel that my relations with
the members of our profession have always been so cordial and I feel
assured that the same good feeling will always exist.
If I should be so happy as to succeed in discharging my duties efficiently
I feel assured my success will be largely due to the assistance I shall receive
from the Bar.
With renewed expression of thanks I am, dear sir, Yours sincerely,
A. Rocke Robertson.14
(9) For this sketch of the duties of Judges the writer is indebted to
C. G. White, District Registrar, Supreme Court of British Columbia,
Victoria, B.C.
(10) Victoria Colonist, November 30, 1880.
(11) Ibid., December 17, 1880.
(12) Ibid., December 30, 1880.
(13) Ibid., January 5, 1881.
(14) Ibid., February 19, 1881. 214 Patricia M. Johnson. July
With this, contrast McCreight's letter:—
Victoria, Feb. 10, 1881.
Dear Sir,
I have had sincere pleasure in receiving the very kind communication of
the Law Society of British Columbia.
My anxious wish is that relations with its members may continue to be
of the same pleasant character as heretofore; and that I may have their
cordial assistance in the discharge of my duties; and that under the
guidance of Providence I may be enabled to perform them as I ought.
Believe me, yours faithfully,
J. F. McCreight."
On February 23, 1881, McCreight appeared at a Supreme
Court sitting for the first time.16 This was the occasion of a
Full Court, with Begbie, Crease, and Robertson also present.
In May he was still in Victoria at the Assizes. By June, 1881,
he had moved to the Cariboo and although his cases17 were not
numerous, they were varied and reflected the life of the region.
A case on August 12, 1881, dealt with the estate of Peter Brown
who died intestate. A naturalization case followed. Then the
case of Houseman v. Peebles regarding a contract for supplies,18
followed by Regina v. Moses for sale of liquor to an Indian.
A further case concerned a horse " working for its keep," then
a contract for mules owned by a Chinese who required an interpreter. In October, McCreight presided over the County Court
at Kamloops (Judge Robertson was at the time ill in Victoria),
at Soda Creek, and at Quesnel, and then returned to Richfield
for the winter.19 No more cases are recorded until the following
(15) Ibid., February 19, 1881.
(16) The first trial recorded by McCreight in his Case-books took place
in Victoria, on February 12,1881, that of Meyer v. Grant. The notes on the
case are extensive but strictly technical and in such appalling handwriting
that little can be deciphered.
(17) The Case-books of Judge McCreight are preserved in the Archives
of B.C.
(18) " Houseman sold Boyd 24th May, 1880, 580 lbs. of hams at 35 cents
half hams, half shoulders, hams worth more in May than September, 2%
cents higher in May than Sept." is a note on the side of the page on which
this case is recorded in Case-book of Judge McCreight, 1881-82, MS.,
Archives of B.C.
(19) J. F. McCreight to H. P. P. Crease, November 26, 1881, written
from Richfield, MS., Archives of B.C. 1948 McCreight and the Bench. 215
During the summer of 1881 Bishop A. W. Sillitoe, the Anglican Bishop from New Westminster, made a visit to the Cariboo.
Mrs. Sillitoe described the places which she visited with her
husband in August. After remarking that they had reached the
residence of Judge McCreight at Richfield, she continued:—
We had just one week to stay in Cariboo, and we began our visit very lazily,
for our first evening was spent sitting over a fire and talking with our host.
Although it was August, there were sharp frosts every night, and there
seemed little prospect for the strawberry crop in the garden outside, for
the plants were only just coming into blossom, while the first radishes of
the season had that day been pulled for us.20
Of McCreight's friends in the Cariboo, the directory is the only
guide. The District Registrar for the Supreme Court was S. F.
Wootton; the Sheriff, George Byrnes; and the Government
Agent and Gold Commissioner at nearby Barkerville was John
Bowron. Richfield had a Roman Catholic Church whose priest
was the Rev. Father J. McGuckin, of St. Joseph's Mission, 150-
Mile House. The Anglican Church, under Rev. Charles Blan-
chard, and the Wesleyan Church were at Barkerville.21
During the winters time must have passed slowly. McCreight
wrote several letters to Crease regarding the lack of cases. Five
letters have been preserved in the Crease collection of the Provincial Archives and prove most revealing, both of McCreight's
difficulties and of his character. He had apparently been anxious
to go to Victoria, but could not do so without an assignment from
the Chief Justice.    He wrote:—
It would not be precedent for me to leave this place now! There is a general election in the Spring!! I know you feel at the same time that the
useless nature of my life is very disagreeable to me. However I read law
all day & I never was in a better climate, or as good for study, and I can
wait till the time comes, if ever, when the Assembly may think it proper
that I should sometimes act as a S[upreme] C[ourt] Judge.22
He went on to suggest that the Government was trying to cause
his resignation.
As to your point about districting the S[upreme] C[our]t Judges I cannot
see now consistently with the provisions that a S. C. Judge can only be
(20) H. H. Gowen (comp.), Church Work in British Columbia, being a
memoir of the episcopate of Acton Windemeyer Sillitoe, D.D., D.C.L., first
Bishop of New Westminster, London, 1899, p. 66.
(21) R. T. Williams (comp.), The British Columbia Directory for the
years 1882-83, Victoria, 1882, pp. 321-335. 216 Patricia M. Johnson. July
removed on address of both Houses, the Govr. G[eneral] & Leg [islative]
Assembly can leave to the S. C. Judge the choice of death or resignation.
They may freeze him out in more senses than one.22
-He felt, too, that the problem was not entirely personal. He
was a Supreme Court Judge, yet he had to reside in his specified
district—there was an anomaly here. " I can't but think that
that [sic] law is in its infancy in Canada,"28 and he suggested
that the Law Society should examine American constitutional
law for parallel situations. He made the point that the three
senior Judges—Begbie, Crease, and Gray—were doing too much
County Court work, while Judges like himself and Robertson, in
isolated areas, had far too little to occupy their time. Writing a
few days later, he said:—
Robertson and myself are of course materially interested. If you are
districted for Victoria, I become nearly an intruder when I go to my
chambers there, if on the other hand it is held that a Supreme Court Judge
of the Province is to discharge the duties that fall to the Supreme Court of
the Province, our local residence I think, will come to an end.2*
Judge Robertson's death occurred at this point and after expressing regret for his passing26 McCreight went on to urge that the
matter of " districting " a Judge might be taken up at Ottawa.
The complaint of too little work had apparently not been
overlooked by the authorities. It was suggested that McCreight
could issue mining licences and see to revenue and debt collections. This he apparently refused to do, wondering whether
" the Government could tax my salary, they might do it in view
of my refractory disposition."26   Although McCreight blamed the
(22) J. F. McCreight to H. P. P. Crease, November 26, 1881, written
from Richfield, MS., Archives of B.C.
(23) Ibid. The whole matter of control of the Judges of the Supreme
Court by the Provincial or Dominion authorities was being argued at this
time in connection with the celebrated Thrasher Case. F. W. Howay claims
that McCreight took no part in this (see E. 0. S. Scholefield and F. W.
Howay, British Columbia, Vancouver, 1914, vol. II, p. 680), but these letters
show that he provided Crease with many suggestions. The authority of
the Provincial Government was confirmed in 1883.
(24) J. F. McCreight to H. P. P. Crease, December 2,1881, MS., Archives
of B.C.
(25) Robertson died December 1, 1881, see New Westminster Mainland
Guardian, December 3, 1881.
(26) J. F. McCreight to H. P. P. Crease, December 10, 1881, MS.,
Arehives of B.C. 1948 McCreight and the Bench. 217
Government, it is possible that he meant partly his old enemy,
Begbie. This personal bitterness, a feeling that he had been
slighted and pushed out of the way, continued. In referring to
Robertson's death, he wrote:—
I suppose they will be thinking of filling up poor A. R. R.'s place. It was
offered to me, and indeed accepted before, by arrangement with me, he took
it, and I this place. I knew or guessed they would send some person to this
place, who might be as well away, if I did not take it, and I thought in
letting A. R. R. have the other, I was acting for the best.27
In the same letter, he continued:—
There is no debt collecting even to be done here now in the C[ounty] Court.
I shall if I live have a pretty strong case in the shape of statistics for going
down next winter—after all I am a Judge of the S[upreme] C[ourt] of
B [ritish] C[olumbia] not a C[ounty] C[ourt] Judge for Cariboo District.^
The same feeling is clear in the next letter:—
I should be glad to be somewhere where I can be of use. There has been
no C[ounty] Court here for 2 months and nobody seems to want one. One
thing I don't think even a politician could suggest my staying here another
winter. The other day an attempt was made to show there were less than
50 people here!
I somehow think they will be slow to fill up the vacant judgeship. They
must see they are in a fix. Gray refusing to go to N[ew] W[estminste]ri
& they can't tell what I may do, nor more can I.z9
Apparently many other people realized McCreight's impatience. Crease must have encouraged his views and a Colonist
article of January, 1882, seemed to suggest that the time had
come for a change.    McCreight wrote:—
I see Higgins [editor of the Victoria Colonist] suggests that some people say
" I seriously think of retiring from the Bench & returning to Politics." Well
as Blanchard says the weather is frosty & pumps won't draw here. I think
I am pretty well retired from the Bench up here, but still I never wish
myself in
After the winter was over things probably improved. In
May and June, 1882, McCreight was on circuit again, visiting
Quesnel on June 7. A murder trial involving a Chinaman on a
gold claim occupied the late summer and the Case-book records
(27) J. F. McCreight to H. P. P. Crease, December 23,  1881, MS.,
Archives of B.C.
(28) Ibid.
(29) J. F. McCreight to H. P. P. Crease, January 21,1882, MS., Archives
of B.C.
(30) Ibid. 218 Patricia M. Johnson. July
numerous remarks such as " Greer—going at a Chinaman or
vice versa " and " a man going to fight wouldn't keep both pick
and shovel on left shoulder."31 In September, 1882, occurred a
mining claim trial—the Cascade Mining Case—which along with
the Dulton v. Ah Hing case at Kamloops, and the Aurora v. Gulch
Mining Company cases at Cariboo form a series of famous
mining cases. The Case-books contain detailed copies of these
trials, apparently in the handwriting of Paulus M. Irving (who
succeeded McCreight as Puisne Judge). The fact that some
small child has used the book to draw and scribble in makes it
all the more interesting.
In November, 1882, McCreight apparently got his wish and
went to Victoria. In the County Court there he presided at a
naturalization case and other cases as well on November 2.32
Then he presided over the Supreme Court for a few sessions,
then at a lengthy session of the Assizes and then back to the
Supreme Court again.33 If he were to be in Victoria he would
have to work hard there.
He apparently returned to the Cariboo for a short time during
the winter, as a case concerning theft by a Chinaman from a
hotel there is listed. By February, 1883, he was back in Victoria
again for a case between the Hudson's Bay Company and the
Enterprise Company.34 In April he was at Clinton, then back
to Victoria by May.35 In June he conducted the Nanaimo
Assizes,86 and in August the Victoria Assizes,87 as well as serving
in the Supreme Court. His life was strenuous with its constant
journeyings and the route from Victoria to the Cariboo by way
Of the Fraser River and the Cariboo Highway long and tiring.
But at least he could not feel that he was useless.    By the next
(31) J. F. McCreight, Case-books, 1881-82, MS., Archives of B.C.
(32) Victoria Colonist, November 3, 1882.
(33) For County Court cases see ibid., November 7, 1882; for Supreme
Court cases, ibid., November 17, December 20, 24, 1882; and for the Assize
Court ibid., December 5 to 20, 1882.
(34) Ibid., February 21, 24, and March 7, 1883.
(35) Ibid., May 22, 30, 1883.
(36) Ibid., June 10, 1883.
(37) Ibid., August 21, 1883. See also entries for June 12, July 7, 11,
August 9, 10, September 25, 28, and November 3, 1883. 1948 McCreight and the Bench. 219!
winter he had been appointed resident Judge in New Westmin-r.
ster, so there was no longer any fear of isolation or lack of work.
From a study of these cases it seems evident that McCreight
resided permanently in Cariboo only from June, 1881, to October;
1882, a matter of about sixteen months. After that time his
visits would be short, interspersed with returns to his permanent
home in Victoria. This may account for the fact that he is little
remembered in the Cariboo. When he did live there he resented
the isolation; when he could get away, he did so as much as possible. In that way he was never really part of the place and left
no permanent mark upon it.
The people of New Westminster desired to have a resident
Judge and, in 1881, had petitioned for one.38 This request was
not granted and various Judges continued to visit the city to
hold Court from time to time. However, by November, 1883,
McCreight had received his appointment to New Westminster,39
to the mutual satisfaction of all concerned, judging by the following item in the British Columbian:—
Complimentary Dinner.—On Saturday evening the members of the local bar
entertained the Hon. Mr. Justice McCreight at dinner at the Colonial Hotel.
The dinner was intended as a sort of welcome to his lordship on taking up
his residence permanently in this city. We understand that his lordship
expressed satisfaction at the arrangement by which he has been assigned to
this district, and that a very pleasant evening was spent.*"
He presided at the County Court on November 7, hearing several
cases. In Knox v. Woodward, where a carter had been sued for
payment due on a load of potatoes, " His honor, in rendering
judgment, said he looked upon the def[endan]t, as a common
carrier simply, and that he could not be held responsible for the,
debts due to the pl[ain]t[i]ff for goods carried and delivered by
him."41 At the Assizes the following week, in charging the
Grand Jury, McCreight stated "... the cases, although
involving serious charges, must be left in a great measure to the
(38) New Westminster Mainland Guardian, January 15, 1881.
(39) " Hon. Mr. Justice McCreight came up from Victoria yesterday,
and we understand he will now become a permanent resident of this city."
New Westminster British Columbian, November 7, 1883.
(40) Ibid., November 14, 1883. The issue of November 10, 1883, contained a letter to the editor expressing satisfaction at the arrival of a
resident Judge.
(-41)  New Westminster Mainland Guardian, November 10, 1883. 220 Patricia M. Johnson. July
juries, who would be judges of the facts,"42—a very different
attitude from that of Begbie to his juries. At the close of the
Assizes the Grand Jury Presentment concluded with this statement :—
The Grand Jury cannot meet Your Lordship for the first time, as resident Judge for their Judicial District, without expressing to Your Lordship
their gratification at the settlement of a long-vexed question that has been a
source of much trouble and loss to us; and our pleasure that a gentleman of
your high standing and legal ability has been selected for the position of
Supreme Court Judge in this District. We trust that your residence
amongst us will be pleasant to your lordship and advantageous to the
Throughout the winter McCreight was busy in the New Westminster Court. There were County Court sittings in December,44
Supreme Court sessions in February,46 and then County Court
again in March.46 In May, the Judge paid a visit to San Francisco and experienced a serious illness while away.47 Possibly
this was the reason for a curious news item which appeared in
the Victoria Colonist during the summer:—
It is understood that this gentleman [Mr. Justice McCreight] has been
retired on a pension of $3000, that Mr. Justice Walkem will be transferred
to New Westminster, that two county court judges will be appointed, and
that the fifth seat on the Supreme Court bench will not be filled.48
The rumour apparently was unfounded, for on August 22
McCreight was back in the Supreme Court in Victoria.49 His
residence in New Westminster continued, as he was reported
arriving in Victoria from that city in September.60
During the winter he was again active in the New Westminster Court, presiding at the Assizes in the murder trial of
Charles Rodgers.    The case was controversial:—
His Lordship read copious extracts from the law, to show why or why not an
adjournment should be granted. He then said the articles read from the
newspapers and the affidavits made by the prisoner himself, and by others,
(42) Ibid., November 17, 1883.
(43) Ibid., November 24, 1883.
•(44) Ibid., December 8, 1883.
(45) Ibid., February 6, 1884.
(46) Ibid., March 8, 1884.
(47) Victoria Colonist, May 8, 10, 11, 1884.
(48) Ibid., August 30, 1884.
(49) Ibid., August 23, 1884.
(50) Ibid., September 21, 1884. 1948 McCreight and the Bench. 221
appeared to be good evidence to show that it was expedient that the case
should be tried elsewhere.61
In the end the case was removed to the next Assize in Victoria—
as there was too much local prejudice.62 The next month
McCreight held County Court at Chilliwack68 and then returned
to New Westminster where the usual sessions started in 1885.
The Case-books record a variety of trials for 1885 and 1886,
some in New Westminster, some for the Supreme Court in Victoria. They note as a special event, the first County Court held
in Vancouver on April 7, 1887.64 Vancouver was regarded as
part of the Westminster District until 1891 when a new judicial
district was created.66 During this period there were few outstanding cases. The Case-books for the years 1887-93 are
missing, and the newspaper reports contain only routine matters
in the Supreme Court and the Assizes. County Court cases at
New Westminster were now being handled by Judge W. N. Bole.
McCreight maintained his ability to make clear speeches and
masterly summaries, while his exactness of expression is well
illustrated in the following remarks made when passing sentence
on a man accused of perjury:—
The jury have considered your case carefully, and found a verdict of guilty.
The offence of perjury is a very serious one, and I think you must be sent
to the penitentiary for three years, though I could have sent you for fourteen. There are some points, however, reserved in your case which may
come up in a new trial.56
The use of the expression " I think " was apparently typical of
McCreight's judgments and his extreme regard for the truth.
Mr. W. C. Moresby mentioned that a favourite expression of the
Judge's, especially when presiding at criminal trials, was " my
conscience is troubling me,"67 while Mr. A. D. Crease stressed
the point that " on the Bench he displayed a certain amount of
diffidence. It was characteristic of him and his reverence for
the saying ' stare decisis' that he hesitated to express himself
(51) New Westminster Mainland Guardian, November 15, 1884.
(52) Ibid., November 19, 1884.
(53) Ibid., December 13, 1884.
(54) J. F. McCreight, Case-books, 1886-87, M.S., Archives of B.C.
(55) New Westminster British Columbian, January 24, 1891.
(56) Ibid., November 23, 1891.
(57) W. C. Moresby in a letter to the author, dated October 22, 1946. 222 Patricia M. Johnson. July
with any certainty until he had studied all legal decisions."58
Yet another example of this comes from Mr. J. H. Bowes, a
former member of the British Columbia Bar:—
His knowledge of case law was deep, his desire to do justice was almost
excessive, but for the law of the chief justice [Sir Matthew Begbie], he had
profound distrust, a distrust which led him to fear for the fate of the chief
in a future state. A wrong decision was an actual sin he told me. . . .
His eccentricities increased with age, and at last he retired leaving behind
him the memory of a learned and kindly man, whose wish to be absolutely
correct led sometimes to strange and irritating vacillations, but those were
really due to his anxiety to do right. . . . The manager of the old Bank
of British Columbia told me amusing stories of the doings of Judge
McCreight before he went on the bench, and was counsel for the bank. The
learned counsel would—after much consideration, give an opinion; then he
would ring up the manager telling him not to act on it until he, as counsel,
had considered it further. Then he would get another opinion more or less
confirming the first—then further notice to delay action, and so on, until at
last a final opinion in nearly all cases confirmed the firsts
The point is often made that McCreight had a remarkable
memory for cases, and " could cite off-hand, with the report
reference, any one or more of them, applicable to the issues
before the court."60 This aptitude for reference quotations and
exactness of opinion is well illustrated in a case that came up in
New Westminster in 1892. A smallpox epidemic was raging in
Victoria, and a certain George Bowack, held in quarantine by the
Vancouver Health Authorities had applied for release on the
ground of a writ of habeas corpus. In refusing the writ,
McCreight wrote the following explanation:—
Maxwell on Statutes, 1st Ed. Page 157, a general late law, does not abridge
an earlier special one. And 3 App. Ca., 952, 953, 966, and 969, containing
the observations of the Law Lords. I was told that the decision of Crease,
J., [Judge H. P. P. Crease] in Victoria, covered the question as to the Provincial Regulations governing the present case. I am by no means sure
that the case before him is the same as the present, which is Bowack's alone,
and relating to his detention on land. No report of his decision was produced, and I must repeat what the late Master of the Rolls said, that " he
could not act on a case unless a report of it was produced."    Crease, J., may
(58) A. D. Crease in a letter to the author, dated September, 1946.
(59) J. H. Bowes, " Notables of 'Just and Noble' Judges of whom B.C.
Lawyers Tell Tales," Vancouver Province, January 8, 1938 (magazine
(60) Denis Murphy, "Judges of Ye Olden Time," The Advocate, Vancouver Bar Association, vol. IV, part 3 (June, 1946), p. 86. 1948 McCreight and the Bench. 223
have thought that, on the evidence, he could not dissolve the injunction he
had granted and I may observe that, in habeas corpus applications, each
judge or court is free to act, subject, of course, to the decision of a Court of
As an illustration of this in the Canadian prisoner's case in the Court of
Exchequer, 4, Meesor Wills vs. Wilsby, p. 32 and in Q. B., 9 Add. & Ell.,
when the same case is reported as Leonard Watson's case.
The writ is, therefore, refused.°i
During 1893 McCreight was absent from duties for seven
months, with much of his work in New Westminster being taken
by Judge Bole. On his return, it is interesting to find him
engaged in cases involving neighbouring municipalities. The
technicalities of such constitutional questions must have
delighted him, and a case concerning tax collection and surcharge
between the Municipality of Surrey and the Provincial Auditor
gained particular prominence.62 A great deal of McCreight's
work consisted of Chamber cases63 and there are mention of
those dealing with orders for costs, probate, and payments out
of Court. Liens, liquidations, and wills are also frequently
alluded to in the Case-books.
Towards the end of 1893 a famous murder trial was held at
the New Westminster Assizes. Albert Stroebel and Frank
Eyerly were accused of murdering John Marshall, of Huntingdon, in the Fraser Valley, with the Attorney-General, Theodore
Davie, prosecuting. Also concerned in the case were Elizabeth
Bartlett, engaged to marry Stroebel, and her mother, both of
whom turned out to be hostile and adverse witnesses. A great
deal of conflicting evidence was presented by the various members of the families concerned and McCreight laid it down " that
it was an old point in law that any statement made by the prisoner against himself was admissible as evidence, but any states
ment made by him or any relative in his favor could not be
admitted."64 Some confusion existed as to the location of the
crime and " His Lordship read the section of the act upon the
point of juries going to view the locality.    He remarked the spot
(61) New Westminster British Columbian, July 23, 1892.
(62) Ibid., July 4, 1893.
(63) Non-jury cases, where only a Judge's decision is required, held in
the Judge's Chambers and not in the Court.
(64) New Westminster British Columbian, November 17, 1893. 224 Patricia M. Johnson. July
would very likely be very wet at this time of the year."66
Arrangements were made for the jury to visit the scene of the
crime the following day, travelling by train. When the prosecuting attorney asked if the Judge would accompany them he
replied: " I have no objection. I shall be as well there as here,
I suppose."66 The Sheriff was then directed to provide the necessary accommodation for the party—including gum boots for all.
At this point, McCreight's well-known propensity for fresh air67
asserted itself:—
The heat in the room during the afternoon was frequently very great, and
His Lordship several times ordered the windows to be opened. This caused
a current of cold air to descend on the jury, who wrapped themselves up in
their overcoats.08
The last-mentioned garments were probably very much in evidence the following day when the party assembled for the trip
to Huntingdon. An amusing description is given of the procesr
sion to the station, with special mention of the gum boots: " His
Lordship and the Attorney-General wore those useful articles."69
The trial lasted for seven days but the jury reached no agreement, so was discharged. The case went to Victoria and after a
twelve-day trial Stroebel was found guilty and sentenced to hang
by Judge Walkem. It was most unusual for Judge McCreight to"
allow any lighter note to creep into the solemnity of his Court,
but on the discharge of the New Westminster jury, an amusing
incident occurred. The foreman asked that the jurymen be
granted double time for the Sunday on which they had been
sitting and the following conversation ensued:—
His Lordship.—" Well, gentlemen, I will do all I can, but really I have
nothing to say in the matter. I am only a machine to carry out the law,
you know."
Foreman Ross.—" Then we will have to depend on the liberality of the
His Lordship.—" I am afraid he, also, is only a machine." (Great
(65) Ibid.
(66) Ibid.
(67) According to Mr. W. C Moresby in a letter to the author: " He
always insisted on plenty of fresh air and in the winter months insisted
upon the windows in the Court House being raised."
(68) New Westminster British Columbian, November 17, 1893.
(69) Ibid., November 18, 1893. 1948 McCreight and the Bench. 225
Sheriff's Officer.—" Order in the Court! "
Mr. Davie.—" I have been looking into the matter and find the jury is
not entitled to pay on Sunday, but I have arranged you will get one day's
Foreman Ross.—" If that is the case the jury will be satisfied with the
gum boots."    (Renewed laughter.)
Sheriff's Officer.—" Order in the Court."
His Lordship (smilingly).—" Well, you ought to get them."
Mr. Davie.—" The Government has no use for gum boots, so you had
better keep them."70
With that they had to be content.
The year 1894 was a busy one for McCreight with two notable
cases. The first of these took place in October in County Court
in the appeal of Kitchen v. Paisley. The defendant who was
Returning Officer for Chilliwack riding was charged with " wilfully and wrongfully " inserting in the voters list the names of
unqualified persons—the term " wilfully " being interpreted by
McCreight to signify " corruptly."71 The indiscretion could not
be proved, but His Lordship commented upon the somewhat
unorthodox behaviour of the Returning Officer, as follows:—
... he could not understand Mr. Paisley committing so many irregularities, such as letting his clerk sit for him at the court of revision as he
(Mr. Justice McCreight) might as well ask Mr. Falding or Mr. Cambridge
[clerks of the court] to sit on the bench as his substitute.72
The conviction was quashed but Paisley had to pay costs because
of the irregular factors mentioned.
The other case was of quite a different character, but interesting because of the light it throws upon the varied troubles of the
times. At the Fall Assizes there came up the case of Johnny the
Boss, Francis William Fish, Andrew, Jim Colson, Willie, Charlie,
Big William, Mary, John, Johnson, Charlie Hyack, Ahoyset, Jack,
Togche, Frank, Ten Quart Jim, Ten Quart Don, Jack, Mouhtie,
Joseph, Polly, and Susan—all Indians, charged with piracy.
Most of them were from the West Coast of Vancouver Island
and had apparently been hired as crew of a sealing schooner,
C. D. Rand, bound for the Kodiak Islands, but when the trip had
been somewhat prolonged they had insisted on returning home,
and when this was not done had revolted and tried piratically to
(70) Ibid., November 21, 1893.
(71) Ibid., October 31, 1894.
(72) Ibid. 226 Patricia M. Johnson. July
run away with the schooner.73 Throughout the case, McCreight
strove to guarantee a fair trial to the Indians and to understand
their mentality. The defence counsel pointed out that technically
a number of the Indians were passengers rather than crew, and,
as such, could not be charged with piracy. With this McCreight
agreed, remarking that " Susan could certainly not be regarded
as a seaman,"74 and, as a result, charges against fifteen of the
Indians were dropped. McCreight seemed to think that much of
the blame lay with the drunken master of the schooner, and
finally remarked—" Witnesses may lie, circumstances cannot."76
As a result of his summary only six light sentences were given.
The cases recorded for 1895, 1896, and 1897 followed the
usual pattern. More and more of McCreight's work concerned
Chamber cases dealing with such problems as land titles, bank
matters, and rent recovery. Times were changing; Begbie was
dead (June 11,1894) and Crease had retired (January 20,1896).
McCreight was the " grand old man" of the Bench, exact,
eccentric, hard of hearing, and approaching his seventieth year.
He still journeyed to Victoria for sittings of the Full Court,76
accompanied often by Mr. Justice Angus John McColl,77 the new
Supreme Court Judge. By November, 1897, it became generally
known that McCreight was planning to retire.
It is understood that the last time Mr. Justice McCreight will occupy the
bench will be at the next sitting of the Full Court, which is to be held on
November 17. For some time past the venerable judge has been closing up
the business which has been before him, and it is now a number of months
since he has heard any cases. Now everything being in good order, he will
retire to the well earned rest to which his long and honorable career has
entitled him. 78
The last case that McCreight recorded in his Case-book was on
November 17, 1897, when " self, Drake, and McColl "79 sat as
Full Court in the case of the Canadian Pacific Railway v. Parkes
(73) Ibid., November 19, 1894.
(74) Ibid., November 21, 1894.
(75) Ibid., November 23, 1894.
(76) Ibid., February 1, 1897.
(77) McColl had been appointed Puisne Judge, October 13, 1896, and
became Chief Justice on August 23, 1898.
(78) Victoria Colonist, November 11, 1897.
(79) J. F. McCreight, Case-book, August-November, 1897, MS., Archives
of B.C. 1948 McCreight and the Bench. 227
and Painchaud, in which the plaintiffs were granted the right of
appeal to the Privy Council.80
His retirement came into effect that day81 and he was succeeded by Paulus ^milius Irving as Puisne Judge residing at
New Westminster.82 A letter to the editor of the British Columbian, half humorously commented on the change:—
I see by the telegraphic despatches Mr. P. .#2. Irving, of Victoria, has been
selected to fill the boots vacated by Hon. Mr. Justice McCreight. What a
tremendous amount of vacant space there will be in those boots, if such is
the case!83
Many tributes were paid to the retiring Judge. The Victoria
Colonist published a lengthy summary of his career and in
connection with his judicial duties commented:—
From that date [his appointment to the Supreme Court] to the present
time he has administered the duties of the County court, the Supreme court
and the Court of Appeal. His judgments have ever won respect and attention, and he has rendered to every judge who applied for his assistance the
valuable aid of that marvellous knowledge of leading cases in all divisions of
law and equity, and all cases under old and recent laws, as has made him
the pride and boast of all his legal brethren; while his disinterested communication of the knowledge he possessed to all his legal brethren, young
and old, has secured him the lasting love and respect of all the judges,
barristers and students with whom he has been brought into close contact.84
Apart from his judicial activities and his preoccupation with
his law books, much of McCreight's time in New Westminster
was taken up with his beloved horse, Tally. For many years he
rode every day, sometimes alone, sometimes in company with his
friends. Among the latter was Mrs. William Moresby, whose
husband was connected with the New Westminster Court and
whose son was articled to a law firm in New Westminster at this
(80) Victoria Colonist, November 18, 1897.
(81) " Mr. Justice McCreight retires to private life with the kindest
regards of the people of British Columbia, who will join with us in the hope
that he may long be spared to enjoy his well-earned rest." Ibid., November
18, 1897.
(82) Irving's appointment was dated December 18, 1897. Owing to the
illness of two of the Judges of the Supreme Court it had been necessary to
adjourn the Full Court after the meeting of November 17, and as a result
the Law Society had pressed for the immediate replacement of Judge
McCreight.   Ibid., November 18, 1897.
(83) New Westminster British Columbian, November 29, 1897.
(84) Victoria Colonist, November 19, 1897. 228 Patricia M. Johnson. July
time.85 Later, when the horse became somewhat decrepit,
McCreight led it out each day for exercise. Some people claimed
that he had no real friend except the horse, and there is a well-
known legend that he grazed it illegally on the Penitentiary
grounds, and paid a man to keep him from turning it in.
It is well known that McCreight was getting deaf before his
retirement but he was apparently very active when he reached
his seventieth year. Upon retirement he received a pension from'
the Federal Government and this continued until his death.
Some confusion exists about his activities immediately after
retirement. R. E. Gosnell stated that McCreight " went to
Ireland whither his wife had preceded him; "86 but this has never
been authenticated. It is known definitely that he visited Rome
and spent some time there. By 1909 he was residing at Hastings, in England, closely associated with the Society of Pious
Missions, who directed a hostel run by priests of the Roman
Catholic church for elderly men, many of them priests. It is
believed that McCreight was not in the hostel itself but in the
house of a Mrs. Mary Jane Fisher who lived nearby. That Mrs.
Fisher and her daughters must have been very kind to an elderly
man is evident from the bequests they received in McCreight's
will. Mrs. Fisher herself received £5087 and a similar amount
went to each of her daughters, Elizabeth " otherwise Lizzie,"
Harriett " otherwise Hattie," Ellen " otherwise Nellie Wilson,"
and Jane " otherwise Jannie."88 Elizabeth must have been the
favourite, or possibly looked after McCreight personally. She
was appointed one of the executors of the will and later was left
an additional fSO,89 then a further £250 that would have gone to
McCreight's sister, Anna, had she not died.90   Another record of
(85) W. C. Moresby in a letter to the author, dated October 22, 1946.
(86) R. E. Gosnell, "Prime Ministers of British Columbia:   1. Hon.
J. F. McCreight," Vancouver Daily Province, February 5, 1921.
(87) Codicil to the Last Will and Testament of John Foster McCreight,
April 20, 1911.
(88) Last Will and Testament of John Foster McCreight, dated August
20, 1909.
(89) Codicil to the Last Will and Testament of John Foster McCreight,
dated June 19, 1911.
(90) Codicil to the Last Will and Testament of John Foster McCreight,
dated May 2,1912. 1948 McCreight and the Bench. 229
Elizabeth Fisher was in a communication received from the law
firm that drew up the will. The firm of Young, Coles and
Langdon, of Hastings, stated:—
We confirm that we acted for the above named Deceased [J. F. McCreight],
and also for the Executors of his Will. One of the Executors has since died,
and we have not heard of the other Executor for many years.91
A letter received from the Rector of the Catholic Church at
Hastings confirmed (1947) that Miss Fisher was still alive.92
McCreight had apparently become somewhat eccentric in his
last days. His will shows the mind of a man constantly changing his ideas and desiring in his own small way to make his
wishes felt. The terms are set out in great detail, new names
and revocations of former bequests constantly occur, and there
are four codicils. It is reported that McCreight became well
known for extravagant gifts to the children of the neighbourhood, again considered a sign of eccentricity rather than of
good-heartedness. Mr. A. deB. McPhillips makes this point:—
From some information given me by the Reverend Father O'Connor, P.S.M.,
who knew the late Judge well in Hastings, England, it would seem that in
his later years he became something of a philanthropist, taking great
interest in under-privileged children of the town and spending considerable
sums of money on their behalf. Father O'Connor informed me that it was
not at all out of the way for the Judge to round up a goodly number of
children from poor houses and have these outfitted with clothing and shoes,
the total cost of which often ran to a somewhat staggering amount.93
McCreight died on November 18, 1913, at the age of eighty-six,
and was buried under the auspices of the Pious Society of
Missions.    His estate amounted to approximately £3,619.
Patricia M. Johnson.
Ladner, B.C.
(91) Young, Coles and Langdon, to the author, dated January 4, 1944.
(92) Rev. H. Treacy, P.S.M., in a letter to the author, dated February
20, 1947.
(93) A. deB. McPhillips in a letter to the author, dated September 27,
1946. GOLD-RUSH DAYS IN VICTORIA, 1858-1859.
First-hand accounts of the early gold-rush days in British
Columbia and Vancouver Island are few and far between, and
for this reason the letter written by James Bell at San Francisco
late in February, 1859, upon his return from a seven months'
sojourn in Victoria, is of considerable interest. The letter itself
was presented to the Provincial Archives some years ago through
the courtesy of Mr. E. 0. Cornish, of Vancouver, B.C., who had
received it from Mr. David Thomson, a business associate of
Liverpool, England, and nephew of the original recipient, John
Thomson, of Annan, Scotland. It came complete with its linen-
lined envelope and bore no postage stamps. It was post-marked
at San Francisco on March 8, 1859, and again at Liverpool on
April 10, indicating that it had been thirty-three days in transit,
a comparatively speedy delivery considering transportation
facilities in those days.
Only fragmentary information is available concerning James
Bell. Since he addressed John Thomson, who was a draper in
Annan, as " brother," the assumption is that Bell's mother had
married again and that there had been some disagreement within
the family, which explains to a degree the rather odd commencement of the letter. His reference to " life in California during
her early golden days " suggests that he may have been a California " 'forty-niner," and the claim has been made that he came
by way of Panama, walking across the Isthmus. By 1858 he
was well established in business in San Francisco, and he is listed
in The San Francisco Directory as " wholesale and retail hardware," with his store at 26 California Street and his dwelling on
" Howard bet [ween] Third and Fourth."1 From his letter it is
apparent that he arrived in Victoria early in July, 1858, with the
intention of establishing himself in the hardware business. This
was the month of the great influx of population, and it has been
impossible to establish the exact date of his arrival or the name
of the ship in which he came.
(1)  H. G. Langley (comp.), The San Francisco Directory for the year
1858   .   .   .   , San Francisco, 1858, p. 64.
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Vol. XII, No. 3.
4 232 Willard E. Ireland. July
That he found conditions satisfactory to his purposes is
evidenced by the fact that he soon acquired property and opened
a store on Johnson Street near Wharf Street. His first advertisement appeared in the Victoria Gazette of September 16, 1858,
and continued for a month.
The Undersigned keeps constantly on hand a full assortment of
Hardware, consisting of
BUILDERS' HARDWARE—Door, sash and window locks of every
description, with fancy and plain trimmings, iron and brass bolts,
blind and shutter mountings, wrought, cast and finishing nails,
wrought and cut spikes, cast steel, car and sheet iron, carpenters'
tools, &c, cross cut, pit and mill saws.
SHIPS' HARDWARE—Composition hinges, hasps and staples,
brass locks, bolts and cabin hooks, brass screws, copper nails and
tacks, copper and brass wire.
DOMESTIC HARDWARE—Table cutlery, table and tea spoons,,
butcher and sheath knives, scissors, &c, cordage, and a full assortment of general Hardware.
James Bell
Johnson st., near Wharf, Victoria.
N.B.—Special orders to San Francisco will be prosecuted with
the utmost dispatch.
No reference is to be found in either the Victoria Gazette or
Colonist of his return to San Francisco in February, 1859. In
all probability this was only a business visit to oversee his California establishment, for Victoria continued to be his home for
several years. The First Victoria Directory, issued in March,
1860, listed his store and carried an advertisement for " Builders'
Agricultural and General Hardware."8 In April, 1861, he served
as foreman of the Grand Jury of the Assizes. No doubt as
foreman he had a great deal to do with the preparation of their
report, which was characterized by the same f orthrightness to
be found in this letter. Chief Justice David Cameron, in charging the Grand Jury, had specifically requested them to confine
their activity to the matters laid before them. Heretofore Grand
Juries, he believed, had " entered into matters foreign to their
(2) Victoria Gazette, September 16, 1858.
(3) Edward  Mallandaine   (comp.), First Victoria Directory
Victoria, 1860, p. 26; the advertisement is on p. 23. 1948 Gold-rush Days in Victoria. 233
duty. They had taken on themselves to visit jails, schools, and
hospitals, and in doing so they exceeded their duty."4 Not the
least deterred by these instructions, the Grand Jury reported on
conditions generally in Victoria and in particular on " the
disgraceful state of the Esquimalt road " which they branded
as a nuisance and declared that " the person or persons, whoever
they may be, that are answerable for its existing condition as
deserving of public prosecution."5 The Victoria Colonist in
thanking the jury editorially for their report rather gleefully
pointed out that although the Legislative Assembly had appropriated $1,800 for this project, Governor Douglas had never
taken action.
James Bell died of tuberculosis in San Francisco on June 24,
1862. It is not known when he withdrew permanently from
Victoria, but some idea of the esteem in which he was held is to
be gathered from the announcement of his death.
Death of a Pioneer.—We are pained to record the demise, at San Francisco,
of our late esteemed fellow-townsman, James Bell, who expired of consumption on the 24th inst. Mr. Bell was a Scotchman by birth, and was widely
known and esteemed throughout California and these Colonies. He came
hither in 1858 and established himself in the hardware business which he
continued until failing health caused him to dispose of his stock and return
to San Francisco, where his family reside.6
As the letter is a straightforward narrative, it has required
little editing. It is interesting to note in passing the obvious
satisfaction with which Bell compared the administration of
government in the colonies with that of California during its
gold-rush days, and in this connection the pride of a Scot in
finding a fellow Scot at the head of the colonial administration
is understandable. His analysis of business prospects is equally
interesting, and his foresight in urging the completion of a
transcontinental railroad is a commentary on his competence
as an observer.
The spelling and punctuation of the original letter has been
retained throughout.
Willard E. Ireland.
Provincial Archives,
Victoria, B.C.
(4) Victoria Colonist, April 9, 1861.
(5) Ibid., April 12, 1861.
(6) Ibid., June 30, 1862. 234 Willard E. Ireland. July:
Sanfrancisco   February 27,1859
Mr John Thomson
Dear Brother
To call up despondency, with all its gloomy associations, I have only
to sit down with the intention of writing my relations; Why I should
experience such feelings on calling to memory, those, above all others,
excep my two dear children, I most love and esteem, may appear
unaccountable; But with whys, and wherefores, my dear Brother I will
not this time tax your patience; I sit down determined to write a long
Letter, declaring war against all impediments; and it must be done.
I feel however, that to do the heart justice, there must be a little
said in the way of apology for the above remarks.
Though we cannot hope forgiveness, still would we plead sympathy.
" When shadowes of things that have long since fled,
Flit over the brain like ghosts of the dead;
Day dreams that departed ere manhood's noon,
Bright visions of happiness, vanished too soon;
Attachments, by fate, by falsehood, reft;
Companions of early days, lost, or left;
All—all now forsaken, forgotten, forgone;
And I a lone exile remembered of none;
My high aims abandoned, my good acts undone;
A weary of all that is under the sun;
With that sadness of heart, which no stranger can scan,
Would I fly to the desert, afar from man."
As you are already aware, I have again been "out on the path of
Empire "   I returned a few weeks ago, after an absence of seven
I left Sanfrancisco in the beginning of July last, with the intention
of establishing a permanent business in the New Colony, that was to
be; Being the pioneer in my peculiar line, I found many difficulties to
contend with, still so far, I have had no reason to regret the step.
I joined the exodus to her Majestie's domenions at a time of
unprecedented excitement, even in the exciting history of Gold digging,
when it threatened to depopulate California;7 There was nothing in the
(7) " There is no disguising the fact that the excitement throughout the
State in regard to the newly discovered gold region on Fraser's river and
its tributaries, has increased to such an extent within the past few weeks,
as to almost give room for the belief that the state is about to become
heavily lessened of its working population during the next few months.
... At the present time, the boats from the interior come down every
night, loaded down with miners and others, all bound for Frazer's river. 1948 Gold-rush Days in Victoria. 235
representations of the new Gold Fields to warrant such multitudes
leaving their occupations, and Families, at one time, consequently, as
was to be expected, the rush north, was immediately succeeded, by as
unwarranted a rush south.
Looking, myself, entirely over the transitory Gold excitement, to
the certain rapid development of what must prove to be, one of the
most successful, and important, of British Colonies; I could not resist
the temptation the new field offered; besides, I longed for a change;
To one who had enjoyed a mountain life in California during her early
golden days, a prospect of fresh adventure has irresistable charms;
I found my constitution being undermined by a sedentary life, existence was becoming " stale flat and unprofitable; " If in nothing else,
I have at least profited in health, not having felt so well in that respect
for many years.
Whether or not, such a distant part of the world is attracting much
attention in your neighborhood, I have had no means of ascertaining.
I assure you, it was with no little gratification of national pride,
I learned that the progress of the country heretofore has been almost
entirely indebted to Scotch enterprise, and as I consider the future
development of its many great natural resources, as holding out inducements peculiarly to the hardy, industrious, scientific Scotchman, even a
limited description of the county, and a few reflections on its future
destiny, from one who has resolved to share its fortunes, may not only
be interesting to yourself but may serve to induce some of your many
worthy acquaintances to secure for themselves, and Families, an independent and prosperous future; The certain reward of all who may
bring with them, to the new colony, habits of industry and frugality.
I will begin with a few words on Vancouver Island. In regard to
climate, it has been very much misrepresented, as has also British
Columbia, the two, so far as yet explored, differing very little in this
respect. The present winter, which is already over, has been considered by the old residents quite a severe one, Though upon the whole,
much milder then you experience in the south of Scotland; Up to the
beginning of December, except heavy rains occasionally, we had nothing to call winter, then for about ten days, we had a succession of
sharp frosts, and snow storms, the snow however never reaching ten
inches in depth, which disappeared in a few hours after a change of
wind to the south.
The hotels in this city are fairly crammed with people, waiting for an
opportunity to leave; while reports reach us from various points of the
interior, that parties are setting out overland for the same locality.
Throughout the entire length and breadth of the State the ' Frazer river
fever' seems to have seized hold of the people, and threatens to break up,
or at least, seriously disarrange for the time being the entire mining
business of the State."    San Francisco Alta California, June 5, 1858. 236 Willard E. Ireland. July
Frazer River was frozen over, so as to impede navigation, about
eight days;8 I am in receipt of Letters from Victoria dated February
11th, which represent the weather as being mild and beautiful, so much
so, that numbers of Boats, and Canoes, were again starting on their
long and perilous journey to the upper Gold Mines;9 The winter preceding, was much more mild, there not being any Frost till the beginning of Februrary; Old Farmers tell me that they rarely find it necessary to house their cattle in Winter; or is all this to be wondered at,;
when we take into consideration that the whole Island, is in a more
southerly latitude then that of England.
Then the summer nothing can be imagined more beautiful, in the
way of weather, a constant even temperature without any unpleasant
heat; for this equality no doubt we are indebted to the magnificent,
ever snow clad, range of Cascade Mountains, to the north and east of
us; our summer air is refined while passing their frozen tops, as it
generally does during that season, not only is every particle of moisture
extracted, preventing rain, but what would otherwise be a hot land
breeze, is cooled and made pleasant.
The Island is 300 miles long, with an average width of 60 miles;
Its outline is very irregular; almost the entire coast being broken into
bays and Inlets, in many places thickly studded with small Islands;
affording numerous sheltered harbours; The shores being rocky, and
precipitous with little rise and fall of water, vessels of the heaviest,
draught may approach with safety on every side.
•These bays and Inlets, apart from their harbour facilities, contribute principally to the support of the Indian population, and in fact,,
so far, produce the Island's greatest available staple, being swarming
with Fish in endless variety.
This apperantly inexhaustable product alone, is suffecient to warrant
commercial prosperity; Indeed the same may be said of the whole of
Puget's Sound, withe Island or Main Land; At certain seasons salmon
literally swarm along the coasts, especially near the mouths of fresh
water streams, Indians have no difficulty in taking them simply with
a hand net.10
(8) " The steamer Beaver arrived from Langley on Tuesday evening
[December 7], with eighty passengers. She reported the river frozen over
to the depth of an inch and a half from Langley down to its mouth, and
the weather as exceedingly severe." Victoria Gazette, December 9, 1858.
" There is little or no doubt that the river is open again to navigation."
Ibid., December 16,1858.
"(9)  " Latest from Fraser—  .   .   .   Some sixty boats left Fort Yale in
one day bound upward."   Victoria Colonist, March 5, 1859.
(10) " Beecher Bay is situated about 14 miles in a westerly direction
from Victoria. ... It is one of the best salmon stations on Vancouver
Island, as from four to six hundred barrels of that fish are taken here every
year, wholly by the Indians."   Ibid., August 12, 1858. •1948 Gold-rush Days in Victoria. 237
With the exception of the H. B. Co. salmon curing has been carried
on to a very limited extent, even the Co. since the Gold excitement seem
to have abandoned it, their time and capital being employed so
extremely profitabley otherwise.11
The Indians, subsisting almost entirely on Fish, are rarely to be
found any distance inland; Their villages are always located close to
the coast, or else, on the banks of a River, apparantly caring little about
the products of the soil, they seem to feel most at home on the water;
With the whole family in the light though graceful canoe; they are to
be met paddeling among the Islands, in all weathers; Devided into
small tribes, they are numerous on all sides of the Island, in every
respect they are much superior to the Indians of California, though
little has yet been done to ameliorate their miserable, savage, condition;
In appearance many of them differ little from Europeans, being equally
white in the skin, with fair, and frequently even red, hair; At Victoria, two months ago, hundreds of them were to be seen wading
through the snow with their bare feet; Among the Females there is a
painful and provoking scarcity of petticoats, whilst amongst the males
there is a disgusting lack of continuations; They depend on the
Blanket almost entirely for covering; The Blanket is also their circulating medium, every thing is valued by the numbers of Blankets.
In its agricultural resources, I must say, the Island presents nothing
very attractive, especially to one who has, like the writer, witnessed
the wonderful productiveness of a California; Probably nine tenths of
the whole Island is covered by dense Forrest; The interior, so far, has
been very imperfectly explored; The few open patches as yet discovered are of inconsiderable extent, and To clear Timber Land for
the purpose of Agriculture, at the present price of labour, is out of the
question, may it long continue so.
The small portion under cultivation, is confined to a few Farms on
the southern end, near Victoria; These are principally occupied by
old servants of H. B. Co. who, according to agreement, have been
granted small portions of Land on being dismissed from the service;
These people being originally from the north and west end of Scotland, of the poorest class, As might be expected, their ideas of Farming
are very primitive; Much of their Land, owing to the proximity to
Town became suddenly very valuable during the Gold excitement;
Many "Awoke one morning to find themselves rich."
The most extensive agriculturists on the Island as well as other
points in Puget's Sound, are a joint stock co. known as the Pugets
Sound Agricultural Co. composed principally of Members and Officers
(11) " No sign of preparation is made to develop our Salmon fishing.
Why is this? Is everybody so intent on gold digging, trading, and land
speculation, that the existence of this gigantic source of wealth is entirely
ignored. ... No country ever had better or more valuable Salmon
fisheries, no more easily developed, than our own." Victoria Colonist,
February 5, 1859. 238 Willard E. Ireland. July
of the' H. B. Co. They own extensive tracts of Land and have some
well conducted Farms, also in the neighborhood of Victoria,12 which
are worked by Tenants on shares; I have seen nothing for many years
that reminded me so much of home as those substantial, comfortable
Farm Houses, with their thrifty looking appendages in the way of—
neatly thatched Ricks, Barns, Thrashing Mills &c. some of them having
even Flour, and Saw Mills attached;13 Cattle and sheep are generally
of fine quality but getting scarce, and high in price, owing to the
increased population; Horses are also scarce, and a miserable poor
bread. I took one up with me and sold him at about three times
Sanfrancisco price.
For years every thing seems to have gone on with these People in
the same easy old country style, till the sudden rush of Gold-seekers
awoke them from their lethargy; Land stock and produce of every
description went up at once to prices they never before dreamt of.
Altogether Farming is conducted pretty much the same as in Scotland, Oats, Wheat, Barley, Peas, Beans &c came to great perfection;
Also every description of vegetables, especially potatoes which I never
saw equalled.
Seed time and Harvest also conform very nearly to those in
Government price of Land is £1. per acre, five shillings paid at time
of purchase, and the balance, in three, two year's installments; ninety
per cent of the purchase money has to be expended, by the Government,
in improvements;14 so that virtually, I may say, Land costs nothing.
The open Lands in the interior, are rapidly being located skirted by
dense Forrest on one side, and penetrated by a Tongue of the sea, on
another, some of these fertile Plains, under such a mild climate, are
(12) In all the Puget Sound Agricultural Company operated four farms
in the vicinity of Victoria: Viewfield Farm, established in 1850, under
Donald Macaulay, a Scot from the Hebrides; Colwood or Esquimalt Farm,
established in 1851, under Captain E. E. Langford from Sussex, England;
Constance Cove Farm, established in 1853, under Thomas J. Skinner, an
Englishman; and Craigflower Farm, established in 1853 by Kenneth
Mackenzie, a native of Rosshire, Scotland. For a detailed history of each
of these farms, see Leigh Burpee Robinson, Esquimalt " Place of Shoaling
Waters," Victoria, 1948, pp. 49-83.
(13) Probably Craigflower, the most extensively developed of the four
(14) Under the terms of the Royal Grant of Vancouver Island to the
Hudson's Bay Company, dated January 13, 1849, a maximum of 10 per cent,
profit from the sale of land was allowed the company, and the balance was
to be " applied towards the colonization and improvement of the island."
The Grant is reprinted in E. 0. S. Scholefield and F. W. Howay, British
Columbia, from the earliest times to the present, Vancouver,. 1914, Vol. I,
pp. 676-680. 1948 Gold-rush Days in Victoria. 239
extremely lovely but their quiet acadian beauty is doomed, The indolent,
contented, savage, must give place to the busteling sons of civilization
and Toil, The class privilaged to fulfil the devine fiat, who " eat their
bread, with the sweat on their brow," Near the coasts, there may
be found passable Indian Trails and from Victoria a few wagon roads
have been constructed by the H.B. Co. the longest of which extending
to the Saanach district a distance of twenty five miles.
Woe to the way f arer, who strays beyond these roads, or openings,
he may, it is true, for a time be rewarded by the grandest, and most
varied of scenery, from the pleasant fertile vale, to the sterile snow
clad mountain, but he must inevitably be brought to a stand amongst
the impenetrable undergrowth of the Forrest; where the crowded tops
of the giant Pines almost exclude the light of day, causing a deep silent
gloom, through which the dank, tangled, jungle, is rarely gladdened by
a stray sun-beam, or even shaken by the slightest breath from the
passing Hurricane.
Some of the Timber, especially for Spar purposes, is unsurpassed by
any in the world; vessels from foreign ports, find in this always a
profitable return cargo.16
There are also several valuable coal mines on the Island, one of
which, is producing more than any other on the western coast of
In Victoria we are indebted to the Indians for a supply of every
thing in season of native production at very reasonable rates; They
collect great quantities of Berries, most of which are new to me; For
a back load of Potatoes they charge one shilling; these they cultivate
by simply burring the seed under the green turf; A fine salmon can
also be purchased for one shilling; Other Fish such as Cod, Herrings,
Flounders &c are always to be had equally cheap; A large Basket of
Oysters one shilling; The market is also supplied with plenty of venison, Deer are quite plentiful, until the arrival of the American
Hunters, the old residents seemed unaware of this fact There are
abundance of Water Fowel, Ducks, Geese, and even Swans, but with
the exception of Grouse, there is little feathered game inland; Occa-
sionly a Hunter brings in a black Bear but they are not plentiful.
(15) For retails in connection with the early lumber industry, see
W. Kaye Lamb, " Early Lumbering on Vancouver Island, 1844-1866,"
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, II (1938), pp. 31-53, 95-121.
(16) The existence of coal at Beaver Harbour, near the north end of
Vancouver Island, had been known since 1835, but no attempt at exploitation was made until 1849, when Fort Rupert was established. See J. H.
Kemble, " Coal from the Northwest Coast, 1848-1850," British Columbia
Historical Quarterly, II (1938), pp. 123-130. This deposit did not prove
commercially satisfactory, and then interest shifted to Nanaimo, where
development began in 1852. ,See B. A. McKelvie, " The Founding of
Nanaimo," British Columbia Historical Quarterly, VIII (1944), pp. 164-188. 240 Willard E. Ireland. July
Of the settlements on the Island except Victoria there is little worth
mentioning; The H.B. Co. have an establishment on the extreme north,
Fort rupart,17 where within a palisaded fort, a few cautious Traders
offer their wares to the treacherous savage in exchange for Furs. It is
no doubt a center from which must soon radiate the light of civilization, a light that so far seems to have remained under the bushel, there
being no evidence of one single ray having ever fallen on the darkness
of heathenism with which it is surrounded.
Ten years ago the Fort at Victoria was in the same condition, even
one year ago, the place scarce deserved the name of village; only since
April last has it atall been looked upon as a commercial Town; When
I landed in the middle of July, it presented something the appearance
of Sanfrancisco in 1849, though of course not so extensive the suburbs,
white with Tents, while the few streets were alive with a heterogeneous
crowd of adventurers, in which every country of the world seemed to be
The site for a large Town, is an excellent one, it may expand to any
extent, having always a convenient natural grade, with just sufficient
elevation. The Harbour is small, and scarcely suitable for large ships,
though with care they run little risk, by blasting a few submerged
rocks, it may be vastly improved;18 I noticed one strange peculiarity
in this Harbour, in regard to Tides, which completely upsets my philosophy, There is a rise of about eight feet perpendicular, and only
once in twenty four hours, besides it is high water always near the
same time, eleven-oclock fore-noon.
Within four miles of Victoria is the harbour of Esqumault, where
heavy vessels discharge, being chosen as the naval depot for the Pacific,
it is probably near enough Town. A finer, or more convenient Harbour
then this, it is impossible to imagine ships of the largest class may
enter it at any time of the tide, in a gale of wind, and drop anchor in a
smooth pond, though a pond miles in width, it is sheltered from all
winds by the high lands with which it is surrounded; It is aproach-
able from Victoria both by Land and Water; When I left it presented
quite a busy scene, the Government had a great many men at work
erecting Barracks, Hospitals &c.19    Besides numerous small craft and
(17) This post, Fort Rupert, was established in the spring of 1848, the
Hudson's Bay Company hoping to be able to supply coal to the Pacific Mail
Steamship Company from the adjacent deposits.
(18) The Vancouver Island House of Assembly on January 25, 1859;
set up a Select Committee to report on conditions of Victoria harbour
[Victoria Gazette, January 27, 1859] ; and early in April they recommended
extensive dredging [ibid., April 5, 1859]. For years thereafter the dredging of the harbour was the subject of continuous agitation.
(19) See Madge Wolfenden, " Esquimalt Dockyard's First Buildings,"
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, X (1946), pp. 235—240. 1948 Gold-rush Days in Victoria. 241
steamers, there lay at anchor, the line of battle ship Ganges,20 eighty
four Guns; the Steam Frigate, Satelite;21 and the Steam Sloop of
War, Plumper;22 In all a compliment of about two thousand men.
This Harbour must inevitably be a place of great importance, a fact
with which I was very forcibly impressed on my last trip down the
coast. There is not another harbour on the whole line of coast to
Sanfrancisco, a distance of nearly one thousand miles, that a ship can
approach with safety in stormy weather; The steamer23 on which I
was a passanger was hove-too, off Columbia River, three days, having
on board, two hundred and fifty tons of freight, and a number of
Passangers, for Oregon; the whole had to be brought on to Sanfrancisco, finding it impossible to cross the bar at the mouth of the River.
To return to Victoria, It continues to Florish beyond expectation;
Building during the winter was never stopped, though, owing to the
rush south when the winter set in, the population was small.
The few Gentlemen composing the government, certainly deserve
credit, without being atall prepaired for such an emergency, they found'
themselves at once surrounded with the most clamerous, and politically
speaking the most unreasonable People in the world; Still every thing
was managed with a dexterity, cheapness, and satisfaction, pleasing to
witness Many of my American acquaintances were astonished at the
simplecity, promptness and honesty with which government business
was managed; such a change from what they had been accustomed tof
in Sanfrancisco; There elevation to Office, in place of being associated
with honor, was looked upon as a license, whereby the idle politician/
was authorized, during his short term, to rob his more industrious
Brethieren. About the time the cold weather was setting in Government employed some four hundred men in street making, so that
already several of the principal streets are substantially macadamized,
without cost to the property holder;
It was thought, in July last, real estate was held at a figure that
could not be sustained, yet there has been little depreciation; I paid
for the lot on which I built my store, twenty feet Front by seventy feet
deep—two thousand dollars, which is still an average price in the best
(20) H.M.S. Ganges, Captain John Fulford, was the flagship of Rear-
Admiral Robert L. Baynes when on the Pacific Station, 1857-1860. She
was the last sailing line-of-battle ship in active commission on foreign
(21) H.M. steam corvette Satellite, Captain J. C. Prevost, twenty-one
guns, was also on the Pacific Station, 1857-1860. See F. V. Longstaff,
Esquimalt Naval Base, Victoria, 1941, pp. 175, 176.
(22) H.M.S. Plumper, Captain G. H. Richards, was an auxiliary steam
sloop. She was used as a survey ship on this coast from November, 1857,
until relieved by H.M.S. Hecate in January, 1861.
(23) Presumably the steamer Pacific, which cleared for San Francisco
on February 10, 1859, see Victoria Gazette, February 12, 1859. 242 Willard E. Ireland. July
business localities; Farther back Town lots, sixty feet front, by one
hundred and twenty deep, may be bought all the way from one hundred,
to one thousand dollars, according to location. Victoria is a free port
to goods of every description, from every part of the world; No where
is business so little trammeled; I have a business going on there
successfully, which has been established now over seven months, yet
I have never been asked for one penny, either towards town improvements, or Government expenses.
There were two fine steamers built in Victoria last fall and another
on the stocks at present.24
But I am dwelling on the Island too long;25 I will now ask you to
accompany me on a short trip to Frazer River; On leaving the
Harbour, we turn abruptly arround the south east point of the Island,
when in a north west course we immediately find ourselves in the midst
of a group of Islands; On a fine summer day, this is a perfect fairy-
scene. You can imagine some fifty Islands, many of them quite small,
rising boldly from the smooth sea, all of them covered with green trees
to the water's edge; sweeping past them on a magnificent steam Boat,
often within stone throw; They are mostly uninhabited; Except
occassionly " The Indians light Canoe " shooting from some shadowey
retreat, there is nothing to disturb the quietude of the Silvan
Leaving the Islands and steering in a north east course in a few
hours we have crossed the Gulf of Georgia and find ourselves on the
bar at the mouth of the Frazer; This bar is going to be a great
impediment to navigation, should the port of Entry, for the Colony,
be established on the Frazer as no doubt it will be; The bar extends
four miles into the gulf, the channel through it is narrow and intricate;
To enter the River vessels of four hundred tons and upwards will
always have to engage a steam tug; The difficulty is over so soon as
the River is reached, there being then plenty of water.
The Land on each side of the River, till we reach Langley26—a distance of thirty five miles, is low and in many places swampy, with very
(24) The sidewheeler Caledonia or Caledonian, launched September 8,
1858, was the first steamboat to be built in the colonies [Victoria Gazette,
September 8, 1858]. She was followed by the sternwheeler Governor
Douglas on October 30, 1858 [ibid., November 2, 1858], and her sister ship
the Colonel Moody was launched May 14, 1859 [ibid., May 17, 1859]. For
further details see Norman Hacking, " Steamboating on the Fraser in the
'Sixties," British Columbia Historical Quarterly, X (1946), pp. 1-8.
(25) Oddly enough Bell makes no mention of Nanaimo, then a flourishing coal-mining town on Vancouver Island.
(26) Fort Langley, as originally established in 1827, was situated on
the Fraser River, but in 1839 this site was abandoned in favour of one
adjacent to good farming lands some 2 miles distant. jSee R. L. Reid,.
" Early Days at Old Fort Langley," British Columbia Historical Quarterly,
I (1937), pp. 71-78. 1948 Gold-rush Days in Victoria. 243
little open country; In appearance it differs materially from the everlasting Pines on the Island; Along the River is to be found many
kinds of Timber, which gives a pleasing variety to the foliage; It is a
fine broad River, and has altogether, a magnificent appearance.
In November last the Government laid off a new Town at Langley,
the head of Ocean Navigation;27 It is certainly the best spot on the
River for a Commercial Town, although Col. Moody,28 who arrived
lately, looking at it in a military point of view, is not pleased with the
site; This is very much retarding its progress; His principal objections are, its being on the wrong side of the River, and only fifteen
miles from the American frontier.29 Town Lots measuring sixty five
feet front, by one hundred and twenty feet deep, were put up at
auction, they brought from one hundred to seven hundred dollars each;
I bought two choice front Lots for which I paid four hundred dollars
each; Some eighty thousand dollars was realized in three days all
payable in one month.30   This we expect to be the seat of Government
(27) On November 19, 1858, the colony of British Columbia was
formally inaugurated at a ceremony held at Old Fort Langley, or Derby
as it was called. Prior to this time plans were laid for the sale of town
lots, see Victoria Gazette, October 1 and 23, 1858.
(28) Richard Clement Moody, who was in charge of the detachment of
the Royal Engineers sent to British Columbia, arrived in Victoria in the
steamer Panama on December 25, 1858 [ibid., December 28, 1858]. He held
a dormant commission as Lieutenant-Governor and became the Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works.
(29) Moody favoured a site 10 miles down-stream on the north bank
of the river. See R. C Moody to Governor Douglas, January 28, 1859,
MS., Archives of B.C. The confused state of affairs drew the following
comment from the editor of the Victoria Colonist: " Is there to be a new
town laid out at Pitt river, called Queensboro, which will place Langley in
a secondary position? Or, is the site of Langley to be changed for another?
These are questions which have been agitating the public mind for some
time,—and since the late arrival of Lieut. Gov. Moody, have taken a more
substantial shape than before, and produced a high state of excitement
among lot owners at Langley, in fact completely unsettling the purposes of
those who were prepared to make improvements in that locality. On
apparently good authority it is said that Lieut. Gov. Moody—whom everybody agrees should be a good judge of location—is favorable to change,
while His Excellency Gov. Douglas is not disposed to do so. . . . That a
town must be built some where near the mouth of Fraser's river, is a
matter beyond doubt, but two towns would injure both. As business is
unsettled by the uncertain policy of the government of British Columbia,
the only way it can be re-established on a secure basis, is to announce a
Port of Entry at Langley, or somewhere else in British Columbia." Victoria
Colonist, February 5, 1859.
(30) The sale of town lots at Langley was held on November 25, 26,
and 29, 1858.   According to a published list of purchases, Bell acquired lots 244 Willard E. Ireland. July
for British Columbia,31 being a seperate Government from Vancouver
Island, there is here a Tariff on imports; The next settlement on the
River is some fifty miles higher up, Fort Hope, a short distance above
which commences the Gold Mines; Fort Yale, above fort Hope, fifteen
miles, is the highest point that has been reached by steam Boats, and
the place around which most Gold digging has been done; This was
a very busy camp during last summer, and is now considerable of a
Town, and at last accounts both Miners and Traders were doing a very
profitable business.
Close above Yale, the river cuts its way through the Cascade
Mountains, causing deep foaming chasms, inaccessible either by water,
or Land, thus have the body of miners been shut off from the Upper
Country; Many found their way over the mountains, but the road was
too ruggad to pack provisions,
Last summer, there accumulated around Yale, an immense crowd
of people; This was the focus to which rushed the Gold-fever afflicted
multitude; The River at the time was swelled to its greatest hight,
caused by the melting of snow on the mountains; The best diggings
were all under water, provisions were scarce, consequently high in
price; The snow covered, Cascade Mountains frowned above, forbidding
farther approach.
For the fevered crowd these difficulties proved ready and effectual
medecine; It soon turned out, however, that the curing of one disease,
only gave place to another of equally malignant type; All at once the
home fever broke out, causing as unreasonable a rush from the country,
as only two months previous there had been to it; It has been discovered since, that the very ground on which many of them were
incamped, will pay in Gold dust from three, to six dollars per day to
the hand; This stampede home, did the country great injury; People,
to save their own credit, spread all kinds of false reports, which were
taken up by the news-papers, and cerculated over the world; for a time
completely checking emigration, though a check that will not last long,
as will soon be proven.32
6 and 13 of Block 4 at $410 and $375 respectively [Victoria Gazette,
November 30,1858]. The sales reported for the three days totalled $66,089.50.
(31) Actually Douglas acceded to Moody's advice and Queensborough
became the capital. Its name was changed to New Westminster at the
request of the Queen, and this decision was proclaimed in the colony. Ibid.,
July 21, 1859.
(32) It was partially to refute this state of affairs that the first book
to be published in Victoria made its appearance. This was Alfred Wad-
dington's The Fraser Mines Vindicated, or the history of four months,
Victoria, 1858. A detailed history, complete with supporting documents,
is to be found in F. W. Howay, The Early History of the Fraser River
Mines (B.C. Archives Memoir No. VI), Victoria, 1926. 1948 Gold-rush Days in Victoria. 245-
It was during the summer discovered, that by ascending the
Harrison River, which joins the Frazer below Fort Hope, and taking
advantage of several Lakes that lay in the way, a Road might be cut-
through the woods, by which the upper country could be reached,
without having to cross the mountains; The Government with that
admirable promptness, and liberality, that have characterized all their
movement for the public benefit, went into this undertaking at once;
With five hundred men the road was completed in about four months,
but too late to be made use of last season, this spring it will no doubt
be a great thoroughfare, as it opens up an immense country, in which.
Gold has been found in all directions.83
The two extremes, at which Gold has been discovered on the Frazer
alone, are four hundred miles apart. All the intervening Branches
have also been found to contain Gold.
The Upper Country has, as yet, been very imperfectly explored;
during next summer there will no doubt be great developments; I have
seen numbers who have been a great distance up. All have the same
tale to tell, they were making plenty of money but had to leave on
account of the cold weather, and scarcity of provisions. Ten dollars
they considered a moderate days work often doubeling that amount.
I will here make an assertion, based, not only on reliable information I have had such a good opportunity of obtaining; but also from
my own personal experience;
I was on Frazer River in December, since then I have made a tour
of the Southern Mines in California, a distance of two hundred miles
from Sanfrancisco; These mysterious Frazer River mines, are by far
the most profitable for individual enterprise, of any at the present time
known;  I include in this the latest accounts from Australia;
It is represented as a much superior country in every respect, above,
to what it is near the coast, having plenty of cleared Farming Land.
I am happy to notice, that the home Goverment is alive to the
importance of the new Colony; As yet it is only the commencement,
of the development, of a country the magnitude, and destiny, of which
baffles the imagination.
Take for instance, the eastern Hemisphere, north of the forty ninth
parallel of latitude, and you will find almost the whole of Europe;
These British possessions occupying a relative position, in the Western
Hemisphere, are about equal [in] extent of territory, and it may be,
equal, if not superior, in natural advantages.
There is one work ought to be undertaken quickly, not only to
consolidate such an extensive country, bringing it all at once under the
(33) This reference to the building of the Douglas-Lillooet trail is
essentially correct. See Victoria Gazette, July 29, August 6 and 11, September 7, 1858. The route chosen passed from Douglas at the head of
Harrison Lake to Lillooet by way of Seton, Anderson, and Lillooet lakes.
For a brief account of this and other routes to the mines, see Scholefield
and Howay, op. cit, II, pp. 87-92. 246 WnxARD E. Ireland. July
liberal colonial laws; but also to secure the trade of the Pacific, making
the country not only the highway for travel, but also for Asiatic
commerse. The British goverment ought now to take the precedence,
since the American senate have abandoned their rail road scheme, and
at once commense the projected Road, between Puget's Sound and
In regard to the healthiness of the country, it is certainly far
a-head of California; There is no degeneracy of European constitutions
in British Columbia, like to what is witnessed in all parts of the United
States; The extremes of climate in California, tells very quickly
amongst the working population; It was curious to witness how those
old worn-out Californians gained flesh, and strength, while north, even
those in the mountains who had scarely the means of sustaining life,
came down ruddy and healthy.
Should the Goverment still adhere to their liberal, and wise policy,
in keeping Victoria a free port, its many peculiar advantages, as a
depot for British manufactures must quickly secure an extensive
Trade; California, Oregon, Washington Territory &c now contain a
large and rapidly increasing population; Not producing any domestic
manufactures worth mentioning, they have all to be supplied by importation ; Here-to-fore, except what little was done by the H.B. Co British
Manufactures before reaching those countries have been burthened
with enormous expenses, which to a great extent has made it impossible
to compete with the American; Being in the first place shipped to
New York, paying a duty of some thirty per cent and a liberal profit
to the merchant then shipped to Sanfrancisco, subject to all the
expenses of this extravagent Town, before being carried to the consumer, by the country merchant; In Victoria goods from England can
be laid down at a small expense, there being always ready for the ship,
a return cargo of Timber, for this cargo British ships, discharging in
Sanfrancisco often have to go up to the sound in Ballast,
Should the Sanfrancisco merchant have a connection in Victoria
and have his Goods shipped there, they can at once be exposed for sale
without expense, thus having the whole in market, and only paying
duties on such as are in demand in California, Oregon &c besides
where there is such an extensive frontier there will no doubt be an
extensive illegitimate trade carried on.
But I must now close, I had no idea when I set out on writing such a
long Letter. I fear I have dwelt too long on a subject in which you
may be little interested, It is my home however, and in what ever
country that is, I trust my relations will still feel an interest, if only
for my sake; Excuse this long hurried Epistle and believe me
Yours truly
The recent publication of A. G. Harvey's Douglas of the Fir has
suggested the following note on certain matters which adversely
affected the permanent record of the work of both Archibald Menzies
and David Douglas.
The Rules of Botanical Nomenclature are a dry and thorny jungle
even to many botanists, but without unduly entangling the non-botanical reader it may be possible to explain how the state of botanical
affairs in Great Britain at that period robbed both of these botanists,
to some extent, if not of their discoveries, at least of priority of publication. In the long run, indeed, these amount to much the same thing.
The more comprehensive Floras usually give the name of the collector
of the " type " specimen from which the species was first described and
named;  other collectors are forgotten.
The period was one of very active exploration, and Great Britain
sent out many expeditions. Most of these were accompanied by
naturalists, who brought home large collections of plants. In addition, the administrations of the recently acquired Empire countries,
including the vast and varied territories of India, were taking stock
of their plant assets, especially from an economic standpoint, and most
of this material was also referred to Great Britain, which was at that
time the leading centre of botanical research. The number of first-
rate systematists was, as always, few, and they were overwhelmed
with work. It is estimated that the number of known species of
plants increased from 20,000 in 1789 to 92,000 in 1830.1 Robert
Brown, in 1805, brought back 3,900 species, three-fourths of them
new to science; David Douglas sent home 7,000 species, a large proportion new.
Archibald Menzies returned to England with Captain Vancouver in
1795, but it was not until sixty years later that the last of his plants
had been worked over and the results published. In the meantime
many species had been named elsewhere from other collections, some
from the Lewis and Clark expedition, others from the Russian voyage
of the Rurick and elsewhere. Menzies was a naval surgeon and, by
the terms of his commission, turned over his collection to the Government on his return to be worked over by such botanists as they
appointed, while he resumed his duties as a naval surgeon.   Whether,
(1) J. Reynolds Green, A History of Botany in the United Kingdom
from the earliest times to the end of the 19th century, London and Toronto,
1914, p. 340.
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Vol. XII, No. 3.
247 248 Notes and Comments. July
given the opportunity, he would have been able to undertake the
description and naming of the collection himself, we do not know.
Although he maintained his herbarium until his death, he published
very few species. Douglas, a more fully developed botanist, with no
learned profession to attract him and maintained, however inadequately, in the employment of the Horticultural Society, was able to
describe and name a large number of his plants. By so doing he
obtained earlier publication and also established his reputation as a
botanist and not merely as a collector.
How much of his collections had been worked over when Douglas
•sailed on his last voyage is not known, but the work was certainly not
completed. Acer Douglasii was collected in 1826, but the species was
published by Hooker only in 1847. One instance of how the congestion
in botanical work affected both Menzies and Douglas is perhaps of
sufficient general interest to mention, since it concerns our well-known
and justly admired dogwood tree, the glory of the woods and gardens
of the Pacific Coast in spring. In bloom it could hardly escape the
notice of the most casual observer, much less of a botanist. Menzies
collected it on his voyage with Vancouver and probably on his earlier
one with Colnett. It was one of the first plants collected by Douglas
(April, 1825), and he added a note in his Journal "... the wood is
hard and very tough, and much used by the Canadian voyageurs for
masts and spars for their canoes . . . very abundant in the pine-
forests ; its great profusion of large white flowers makes it one of the
most ornamental trees of the forest. . . ."2 Yet it was not named
from either of these collections. In 1840 Audubon, the naturalist,
described, named, and published the species in honour of his friend
Thomas Nuttall, and since the validity of a species name is determined
by the date of its publication and not by the date of the discovery of
the plant that bears it, Cornus Nuttallii it remains to this day.
Such were the uncertain rewards of the botanical collector.
J. W. Eastham.
Vancouver, B.C.
It is only right that homage should be paid to the pioneering
spirit of our forefathers, as exemplified ninety years ago when William
Thomson brought his young wife, Margaret, and their infant son,
David, over the old Indian trail from Victoria to settle at " Bannock-
burn," on the slope of Mount Newton in Saanich. True enough,
William Thomson had been preceded by Angus MacPhail in selecting
the rolling hills of Saanich as his home-site, but it is fitting that the
■residents of Saanich should commemorate April 8, for that day in
(2)  Journal kept by David Douglas during his travels in North America,
1823-1827, London, 1914, p. 109. 1948 Notes and Comments. 249
1858 witnessed the establishment of the first home in the district.
It is difficult to imagine that young wife's thoughts as she toiled over
the summit of Little Saanich Mountain and perhaps caught a distant
glimpse of the clearing in the forest with its tiny cabin which was to
be her new home. But were William and Margaret Thomson to-day to
stand upon that same mountain, it is easy to imagine how thrilled and
proud they would be, for before them would be the proof that they had
pioneered well and laid the foundations of a prosperous farming
The story behind the founding of " Bannockburn " is a thrilling
one—for this pioneer adventure of 1858 was no haphazard arrangement. It was the result of much careful planning, for the Thomsons
were, in effect, even at that early date, old-time residents of Vancouver Island—Margaret having arrived over five years previously and
her husband over four.
Margaret Dyer, a native of Haddingtonshire, Scotland, was born
in 1841. Following the death of her father, for some time she lived
with her grandparents but rejoined her mother after her remarriage
to Duncan Lidgate. Margaret was only a young girl of 12 when, in
August, 1852, the family joined the barque Norman Morison and set
out on the long journey to Vancouver Island. Her stepfather was one
of the group of labourers forming the party of Kenneth Mackenzie.
The voyage lasted for over five months.1 The Norman Morison was
only a small ship—not quite as long as two Pullman cars—and she
carried a large complement of settlers. No doubt Margaret was kept
busy, for she had two younger stepsisters, and there were in all thirty-
six children on board. From the diary of Robert Melrose we can read
the highlights of the voyage2—joy and sorrow often walked hand in
hand. To the weary travellers the sight of Vancouver Island on
January 10, 1853, must have been welcome, but for seven days they
were buffeted about by storms at the entrance to the Straits of Juan
de Fuca and several times narrowly escaped disaster. Finally, on
January 16, they came to anchor in Royal Roads and five days later
entered Victoria harbour. Shortly thereafter the Mackenzie party
disembarked and immediately began the establishment of Craigflower
farm.3 These were busy days for everyone—children included. We
know that Margaret frequently acted as nursemaid in the homes of
the Skinners and Captain Cooper and that she attended Craigflower
school when it was opened in March, 1855. But other plans were soon
afoot, for on November 30,1856, Melrose noted in his diary: " William
Thomson and Margret Lidgate proclaimed for marriage fi[rst]. time."4
(1) See  A.  N.  Mouat,  " Notes  on the  ' Norman  Morison,'"  British
Columbia Historical Quarterly, III (1939), pp. 203-214.
(2) W. K. Lamb (ed.), " The Diary of Robert Melrose," British Columbia Historical Quarterly, VII (1943), pp. 119-134, 199-218, 283-295.
(3) Ibid., pp. 124, 125.
(4) Ibid., p. 291. 250 Notes and Comments. July
Margaret Dyer was then not 16, and her fiance was then ten years
her senior. William Thomson was also a Scot, born in Tannadice, on
the River Esk, in Forfarshire, in 1830. With his brother, Alexander,
he was apprenticed in ship-building and learned the trade of carpentry,
which was later to stand him in good stead in his new home. Eventually, however, he decided to settle on Vancouver Island, and late in 1853
he arrived in San Francisco. There he boarded the British brig
William under the command of Captain John Mcintosh, and on
December 5 cleared for Vancouver Island.5 The ship's captain was a
drunkard, and as they approached the island on January 1 the ship
drove ashore about 1 mile north of Nitinat.6 All the crew and passengers, except the captain, got safely ashore, but all their possessions
were lost and they were thrown on the mercy of the Indians. Actually
Thomson did manage to salvage one small plane from his carpenter's
outfit. Writing of this incident, Governor Douglas noted:—
. . . the fact but too evidently appeared that the Master was a person
of intemperate habits and that the ship had been lost entirely through his
misconduct. The evidence proves that he was often unconscious from intoxication—that he was in that state when the vessel ran ashore, on Vancouvers
Island, and his death in attempting to land from the wreck, appears to have
been the effect of the same cause. . . . On the wreck of the Brig
" William" the crew travelled under the direction of the natives towards
this place and after much privation and hardship arrived here in a state of
great distress.7
The Governor relieved their immediate wants and attempted unsuccessfully to obtain for the crew a settlement from the ship's agent, Robert
Swanston. In the end a full-scale inquiry in the Court of Vice-
Admiralty was held, with Chief Justice David Cameron and Captains
W. H. McNeill and Charles Dodd presiding.
Thus, at the outset, young Thomson found himself in debt to the
Hudson's Bay Company. For a time he worked at Craigflower building the grist-mill to pay off his debt, for he was determined to become
an independent settler and already had been attracted to the Saanich
District. At that time no surveys had been made, but prospective
settlers were allowed to stake out their claims and hold them until the
surveys could be completed.8 The original grant involved 200 acres at
the going price of £1 per acre.
Probably it was while working at Craigflower that William Thomson first met Margaret Dyer.   They were married on December 19,
(5) San Francisco Daily Alta California, December 6, 1853. "British
Brig William, Mcintosh, Vancouver's Island; McKenzie, Thompson & Co.
Dec. 5."
(6) Ibid., February 15, 1854. "We learn from Capt. Knowles, of the
brig Consort, that he was informed by Cape Mafeet Indians that an English
brig had been lost on Vancouver's Island, and that the Captain was drowned
and the crew saved."
(7) James Douglas to the Duke of Newcastle, March 13, 1854, MS.,
Archives of B.C.
(8) Victoria Gazette, March 5, 1859. 1948 Notes and Comments. 251
1856,9 by Rev. Edward Cridge at Christ Church—the third wedding
to be performed in the new church. Their first home was just outside
the old fort, and it was there that their first child, David, was born.
In the meantime work on the farm was progressing. The first stock—
ten pigs—had been safely transported by canoe in a trip taking four
days. By the spring of 1858 a small cabin was ready to welcome the
first white woman to settle in Saanich.
Within a few months " Bannockburn " had established its reputation for hospitality. In August, 1858, a wandering reporter for the
Victoria Gazette visited Saanich:—
Having crossed to the south side of the Mountain [Mt. Newton] we
arrived at the place of a settler named Thompson [sic], and a little further
on at that of another named Macphal [sic]. At both these places, I saw
several fine fields of grain, the wheat crop being especially good. We found
these people, though poor and surrounded with but few of the comforts of
life, exceedingly hospitable and obliging, and quite ready to impart such
information as they were possessed of in regard to the country. . . .
They have each secured, by purchase, or some understanding with the
Government, a portion of these desirable lands, which when they come to be
improved, will secure them valuable farms and comfortable homesteads.!0
Admittedly conditions in the small cabin were primitive, but of
courage and determination there was plenty, and before long a four-
room timber house replaced the cabin, and there it was on March 14,
1859, that Alexander was born—the first white child born in Saanich.
Life was difficult, for " Bannockburn " was only a clearing in the
forest and roads were non-existent. The first voters list for the District
of Saanich, published on December 3,1859, included twenty-one voters,
but of these only eight or nine could be considered bona-fide settlers.11
However, the Fraser River gold-rush was on, and it provided an ample
market for farm produce, even though it did have to go by sea to
Victoria.12 More settlers came in and gradually the roads were
improved.    By September, 1861, a visitor reported:—
About six miles from Victoria is the only house of refreshment on the
road, kept by Mr. Stevens. About eight miles further on we came to Mr.
Thompson's [sic] farm, where, as the settlers are hospitable, refreshments
might also be obtained. This farm forms part of the Saanich valley, and I
should say; judging from the appearance of it, and from the very heavy
crop of oats he has recently cut, that he has a capital piece of land.13
One of the factors contributing to the success of the Thomsons was
the friendly relations they established with the neighbouring Indians.
Family tradition has it that this was partially due, at least, to the
(9) W. K. Lamb (ed.), op. cit, loc. cit, p. 291.
(10) Victoria Gazette, August 18, 1858.
(11) Victoria Colonist, December 3, 1859. William Thomson of " Bonne
Bon " is listed as owner of 200 acres freehold. Duncan Lidgate is also
listed as residing in Saanich.
(12) "The roads through this district [Saanich], in many places, are
mere sloughs, and a disgrace to the government. . . . Some talk is heard
in the District of cutting roads to the water side and freighting goods to
Victoria by means of small craft."   Ibid., June 7, 1861.
(13) Ibid., September 27, 1861. 252 Notes and Comments. July
fact that Seultenut, daughter of the Chief of the near-by Tsartlap
village, once visited Esquimalt and there was greatly impressed at
seeing a young white girl her own age at Constance Cove. This was
Margaret with the Skinner children. Some years later, Seultenut
visited the new settlers near her home village and, to her delight,
recognized in Mrs. Thomson the little girl of her previous experience;
Thus a friendship was formed that endured even the tragedy when
Seultenut's husband was burned to death clearing land for William
In due course, to this couple fifteen children were born—ten sons
and five daughters. The growing family made necessary a new house,
and in 1869 the present home was occupied. Most of the lumber was
brought by canoe from Sayward's mill at Mill Bay, and William himself made the window and door frames. Into this house were built two
cobblestones which he had brought as luggage from the River Esk
after a trip to his old home the year previous. It should also be noted
that he returned this time complete with kilt. Tragedy, too, struck
the family, for one son was killed when a farm cart overturned and
another was drowned in a well.
The management of a large farm, to say nothing of the demands of
a growing family, must have kept William Thomson busy, but still he
found time for other duties. In 1862 he accepted a contract for bridging and corduroy work on the old road to Cowichan by Goldstream and
Sooke Lake.14 In 1864 he did $200 worth of work on Mount Newton
Cross-road. In addition, he was always active in any agitation for
local improvements. When, in 1865, efforts were made to get $10,000
for road-work in Saanich, it was William Thomson who chaired the
public meeting and headed the delegation to the Governor.15
It was fortunate for Saanich that she had pioneers of the ilk of
William and Margaret Thomson. Their hopes and aspirations were
not confined only to the development of their own homesteads, but
were paralleled by a willingness to assist the advance of the community
in which they lived. Of their community spirit, there are many evidences to-day, three of which only will be detailed.
St. Stephen's Church, the pioneer church in Saanich, was built on
land given by William Thomson. A goodly number of citizens from
Victoria drove out to witness the consecration of this church on June
3, 1862, by the Bishop of Columbia. The first incumbent was Rev.
Richard L. Lowe.16  An interesting incident in connection with this
(14) See J. D. Pemberton to William Thomson, September 8, 1862,
MS., Archives of B.C.
(15) Victoria Colonist, August 8, 1865.
(16) "New Church for Saanich District.—This building, which has
been erected near the residence of Mr. Thompson [sic], about 12 miles from
town, will be consecrated this morning by the Bishop of Columbia. The
Rev. Mr. Lowe is to be the resident minister. A large number of the
members of the Church of England will leave this morning in vans and on
horseback to witness the ceremony.    Mr. Lowe has issued cards for a tea 1948 Notes and Comments. 253
consecration reported in the Victoria Press throws into pleasant
contrast the ease with which " Bannockburn " is now reached.
On Monday, the Rev. Mr. Lowe, his lady and others, started for Saanich,
in a light wagon, conveying considerable freight in the way of provisions,
for the next day's celebrations. When about six miles from their destination, the vehicle broke down, and no help being at hand, the travelers concluded to encamp for the night. Fortunately, they had two tents with them,
which were erected for their accomodation. After cooking their supper,
they received a visit from some black bears and panthers, who were doubtless attracted by the savory smell of the good things preparing. These
unexpected visitors remained around the camp all night, affording their
listeners vast entertainment by their vocal performances, but made no
attempt to molest the travelers. . . . The provisions were subsequently
transported to the end of the journey by some of the visitors' conveyances,
the bears having taken no advantage of their opportunity to come in for
" pot-luck.""
It was only natural, too, that William Thomson should be active in
the establishment of a school. Prior to 1864, when the first school
was built, evidently the church was also used as a school-room. Alfred
Waddington, the first Superintendent of Education on Vancouver
Island, writing on July 1, 1865, has left an interesting account of South
Saanich School, as it was called:—
The school room and dwelling house were built not quite a year ago and
cost the government $750. There are 4 acres of ground which were bought
or rather taken back from Mr. Thomson; they are fenced in by the neighbours, and about 2 acres cultivated by the teacher. The School room is 20
ft. by 30. The school is situated on rising ground on the north side of the
road half way between the Eastern and Western roads.
The teacher, Mr. C[harles]. N[ewton]. Young, was professor of English
for 18 months in Holland, at a school in connection with the university.
He began to teach 6 months ago. Salary $500 with $5 a year fee from each
child and the use of the glebe.13
The first school must have been a rude affair, for the estimates for
1866 included the sum of $120 for adding " a boarded ceiling to school
room (there is none) boarding in basement and digging a well" to
the South Saanich School.19 Of this pioneer teacher, Charles Newton
Young, it is recorded that he considered " grammar as useless for
farmer's children " but had the Bible " read before leaving every afternoon."20 He was succeeded by Captain George Steven Butler and his
wife, Fanny Catherine, who jointly drew the salary of $500 and taught
party, to come off during the afternoon." Ibid., June 3, 1862. See also
ibid., June 4, 1862. Later, in 1868, the churchyard was consecrated on land
given by Thomson.   Ibid., October 20, 1868.
(17) Victoria Press, June 4, 1862.
(18) Alfred Waddington, Board of Education Notebook, MS., Archives
of B.C. See also A. Waddington to W. A. G. Young, July 12, 1865, MS.,
Archives of B.C., which lists school property as follows: " Four acres at
South Saanich with buildings and fences. The ground belonged to a Mr.
Thompson [sic] under the pre-emption Act, but I believe was not paid for."
(19) Ibid.
(20) Board of Education Notebook, MS., Archives of B.C., under date
October 3, 1865. 254 Notes and Comments. July
school after July, 1869. By this time William Thomson was serving
on the School Board.21
Still another community venture was the organization in August,
1869, of the Saanich Agricultural Association and its sponsorship of a
fall fair.22 The first fair was held on September 25 on Mr. Brown's
farm, and it is to be noted that Thomson won no less than eight first
prizes.23 Some weeks later, on November 2, the association sponsored
the first ploughing match, holding it at "Bannockburn." About this
event the Victoria Colonist reported:—
For the youthful prize the only entrant was Alexander Thompson [sic],
whose energy in the performance of his task elicited universal praise. . . .
After the conclusion the judges, with the committee, the competitors and
others were properly entertained by Mr. Thompson.2*
In 1871 Thomson succeeded A. C. Anderson as president of the Saanich
Agricultural Association,25 and for several years thereafter the fair
was also held at " Bannockburn."26
Thus the Thomsons made their contribution to the growing community life of Saanich. Through it all William Thomson found time
to undertake public works farther afield. For example, he contracted
for and constructed the dike road across Cowichan flats. Still later he
contracted to build a similar dike road in Surrey, south of New Westminster. This was a large undertaking and, when almost complete,
was totally destroyed by a freshet. The financial loss entailed, for
Thomson received no compensation, was a severe blow, and thereafter
he devoted himself to farming to recoup his fortune. The farm prospered, as the following extract from the Victoria Colonist in June,
1887, witnesses:—
On Saturday and Monday last many of the farmers on North and
South Saanich with their sons, assembled on the farm of Mr. William
Thompson [sic], one of the oldest and most respected pioneers of Saanich,
to assist in raising a barn, which, when completed will, it is believed, be the
largest structure of the kind on the island, the dimensions being 100 feet
long, 40 feet wide and 45 feet high. The timber was all cut on the extensive
wood forest forming part of the ranch, and was cut and prepared mainly
by Mr. Thompson and his son, Mr. Alex. Thompson, who is one of the most
able amateur carpenters in the neighborhood. The hay crop on this farm
is looking splendidly and bids fair to be very heavy.27
Courage, fortitude, and industry William and Margaret Thomson
had in abundance, and full well they knew the meaning of hard physical
labour. But withal they were kindly and hospitable; their sense of
neighbourliness and of community spirit set the tone for the district
that has endured to this day.    It is right that their memory should
(21) William Thomson et al. to the Officer Administering the Government, July 10, 1869, MS., Archives of B.C.
(22) Victoria Colonist, August 4, 1869.
(23) Ibid., September 21, 1869.
(24) Ibid., November 3, 1869.
(25) Ibid., April 7, 1871.
(26) Ibid., September 26, 1871;  October 4, 1871.
(27) Ibid., June 17, 1887. 1948 Notes and Comments. 255
be honoured, for down through the years "Bannockburn" has witnessed many gatherings together of old friends. The highest tribute
that can and must be paid to the pioneers—to men and women like
William and Margaret Thomson—is the assurance that what we build
on the foundations they have laid be worthy of their pioneering.
Willard E. Ireland.
Victoria, B.C.
Victoria Section.
The April general meeting of this Section took the form of a joint
session with Post No. 1 of the Native Sons of British Columbia and was
held in their club-rooms in the Sweeney-McConnell Building on Tuesday
evening, April 27. The speaker of the evening was Mr. S. C Ells, for many
years associated with the Canadian Geological Surveys in the Northwest
Territories. He chose as his subject Pioneer Days in the Canadian North
and delivered a lecture of unusual interest, dealing with the activities of
the pioneers in the opening of the North. This included, amongst other
items, the reading of excerpts from poems that he had written and published. From his long association with the North, Mr. Ells was able to
give a great deal of first-hand information, and the opportunity for questions was appreciated by the audience. Through the kindness of the Native
Sons a social time was enjoyed by the members at the conclusion of the
meeting, and the appreciation of all was tendered to the speaker and to the
Native Sons by the Chairman, Mr. G. H. Stevens.
The ninetieth anniversary of the arrival of the first white woman in
Saanich, Margaret Dyer Thomson, was commemorated on Sunday, April
11, jointly by members of the Saanich Pioneer Society and the Victoria
Section at a ceremony and reception held at " Bannockburn," the original
home-site of 1858, on the slopes of Mount Newton. Mrs. H. S. Hughes, a
daughter of William and Margaret Thomson, acted as hostess and welcomed
over 150 guests. During the course of the afternoon, Mr. Willard E.
Ireland, Provincial Librarian and Archivist, read a paper in tribute to the
Thomsons, which is reproduced in this issue.
This Section was particularly fortunate to have Mr. Norman Hacking
of the staff of the Vancouver Daily Province as its guest speaker at a meeting held in the Provincial Library on Monday, May 17, when he spoke on
The Romance of Two Rivers: the Columbia and the Kootenay, an address
given previously before the Vancouver Section. In a delightfully informal
manner, Mr. Hacking sketched out the terrain of the East Kootenay Valley
from Golden to the International Boundary and spoke of its early history,
•with particular attention to the developments of the later 1880's. The
reclamation and land scheme of W. A. Baillie-Grohman, of which the building of a canal between the Columbia and Kootenay Rivers was a most
spectacular part, was retold with rare good humour, and the association of
.Captain Frank Armstrong and his two steamers, the Gwendolen and the 256 Notes and Comments. July
North Star, was the amusing highlight of the address. The vote of appreciation tendered by Dr. E. H. W. Elkington was enthusiastically endorsed
by all members present.
The June meeting of the Section, held in the Provincial Library, on
Wednesday evening, June 16, took the form of a joint session with the
Canadian Historical Association and is reported elsewhere in this issue.
Vancouver Section.
A regular meeting of this Section was held in the Hotel Grosvenor on
Tuesday evening, April 13, when Mr. C. W. McBain delivered an interesting
address on Vancouver's Early Days. Mr. McBain, the land agent for the
Canadian Pacific Railway, had access to many of the company's earlier
records, including many letters, maps, and other documents kept by L. A.
Hamilton, the first land commissioner. In consequence, many interesting
details regarding the railroad company's early activity in Vancouver, as
well as the general development of the new city, were recounted for the
edification of the audience.
For years it has been the dream of British Columbia historians and
others that the various Canadian learned societies should visit this Province.
During the late Judge F. W. Howay's presidency of the Royal Society of
Canada arrangements were well in hand for sessions of that society, the
Canadian Historical and Canadian Political Science Associations, and allied
bodies to meet in Vancouver, but the outbreak of the war in September,
1939, made it impracticable to carry through the arrangements. In June
of this year, despite the complications resulting from the Fraser River
flood, the plan was carried through to a successful conclusion.
Sessions of the Royal Society of Canada were held in Vancouver at the
University of British Columbia, June 14 to 16, and in Victoria on June 17.
The first general session of the Canadian Historical Association was held
in Victoria on Wednesday evening, June 16, in the Provincial Library.
Professor F. W. Soward presided over the gathering, which was a joint
session with the Victoria Section of the British Columbia Historical Association, and over 125 persons were in attendance. A trilogy of short papers
dealing with aspects of British Columbia's historical heritage was presented, which in due course will appear in the Annual Report of the Canadian Historical Association. Dr. Margaret Ormsby, of the Department of
History of the University of British Columbia, chose as her subject Canada
and the New British Columbia and dealt with the influence of Canadian
settlers on the economic, political, and social developments of the new
Province. Mr. Willard E. Ireland, Provincial Librarian and Archivist, in
his paper, British Columbia's American Heritage, dealt specifically with the
problem of American sentiment, particularly as it sought expression in
annexationist sentiment. Dr. W. Kaye Lamb, librarian of the University
of British Columbia, was unfortunately unable to attend the sessions, but
his paper, A Bent Twig in British Columbia, was read by Professor A. C. 1948 Notes and Comments. 257
Cooke. This dealt with the influence of the older settlers that had come
direct from the Mother Country and the continuation of Crown Colony
sentiment into the post-Confederation period.
At the conclusion of this meeting, members present were given the
opportunity to visit the Provincial Archives, where special exhibits displaying many of its priceless treasures had been prepared. A similar
opportunity was afforded on Thursday. A meeting of the council of the
Canadian Historical Association was held in the Provincial Archives on
Thursday, June 17, and also a conference on local history under the chairmanship of Dr. George W. Spragge, of the Department of Education of
Ontario. This latter was a well-attended meeting, with wide geographical
representation, and a splendid opportunity was afforded for the mutual
exchange of ideas relating to the writing and publication of local historical
Local hospitality was arranged by a committee headed by Mr. W. C
Mainwaring and included a scenic drive through Victoria and a complimentary banquet on Thursday evening, June 17, in the Empress Hotel,
honouring all three learned societies. For British Columbia it was a privilege thus to be able to act as host for these gatherings, and it is the earnest
hope that before too many years pass, the stimulus derived from such
meetings may once again be enjoyed.
Willis J. West, of Vancouver, B.C., has for many years been engaged in
business in British Columbia. He was associated for a considerable period
of time with B.C. Express Company and came to know intimately its operations in the Cariboo.
Patricia M. Johnson, M.A., is a teacher at the Ladner Junior-Senior
High School, Ladner, B.C.
J. W. Eastham, recently retired botanist and plant pathologist of the
British Columbia Department of Agriculture, is an authority on the history
of botany and botanists in British Columbia. Recently the Provincial
Museum published a supplement he had prepared to J. K. Henry's Flora of
Southern British Columbia and Vancouver Island.
Printed by Don MoDiabmid, Printer to the King's Most Excellent Majesty.
650-848-4239 We
Organized October 31st, 1922.
His Honour Charles A. Banks, Lieuteftant-Governor of British Columbia.
Hon. W. T. Straith     - Honorary President.
Willard E. Ireland - President.
George B. White ----- Past President.
Margaret Ormsby    .... 1st Vice-President.
G. H. Stevens     ----- 2nd Vice-President.
Madge Wolfenden   -      -      -      - Honorary Secretary.
J. K. Nesbitt       ----- Honorary Treasurer.
Helen R. Bouthjer.        Burt R. Campbell. Muriel R. Cree.
John Goodfellow. W. Kaye Lamb. B. A. McKelvie.
W. N. Sage.
Willard E. Ireland        G. H. Stevens L. S. Grant
(Editor, Quarterlu). (Victoria Section). (Vancouver Section).
To encourage historical research and stimulate public interest in history;
to promote the preservation and marking of historic sites, buildings, relics,
natural features, and other objects and places of historical interest, and to
publish historical sketches, studies, and documents.
Ordinary members pay a fee of $2 annually in advance. The fiscal year
commences on the first day of January. All members in good standing
receive the British Columbia Historical Quarterly without further charge.
Correspondence and fees may be addressed to the Provincial Archives,
Parliament Buildings, Victoria, B.C.


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