British Columbia History

British Columbia Historical Quarterly Jul 31, 1957

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JANUARY, 1957-OCTOBER, 1958 We
Published by the Archives of British Columbia
in co-operation with the
British Columbia Historical Association.
Willard E. Ireland,
Provincial Archives, Victoria.
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. BRITISH COLUMBIA
"Any country worthy of a future
should be interested in its past."
Vol. XXI Victoria, B.C., January-October, 1957-1958 Nos. 1 to 4
Some Early Historians of British Columbia.
By Walter N. Sage      1
The First Capital of British Columbia: Langley or New Westminster?
By Dorothy Blakey Smith    15
Welsh Gold-miners in British Columbia during the 1860's.
By Alan Conway  .. .,..    51
The Abuse of Greatness.
By James A. Gibson    75
The Journal of Arthur Thomas Bushby, 1858-1859.
Edited, with an introduction and notes, by Dorothy Blakey Smith    83
British Columbia: A Bibliography of Centennial Publications, 1957-
By Nina Napier  199
The Northwest Bookshelf:
Ormsby: British Columbia: A History.
By W. Kaye Lamb 221
Watters: British Columbia: A Centennial Anthology.
By Rodney Poisson 223
Roy: Ready for the Fray: The History of the Canadian Scottish Regiment
(Deas Gu Cath) (Princess Mary's), 1920-1955.
British Columbia in 1958 is celebrating its centenary: "A Century
to Celebrate." It is hardly necessary to remind members of the British
Columbia Historical Association that we are commemorating the birth
of the Crown Colony of British Columbia and not the centenary of the
Province. There seems to be some doubt in the public mind on this
subject. Let us hope that many of us here will Uve to see the hundredth
anniversary of British Columbia's entry into the Canadian federation,
which took place officially on July 20, 1871.
In this centennial year it seemed useful to discuss with you certain
of the early historians of British Columbia. I have chosen six—Hubert
Howe Bancroft, Alexander Begg, CC, Rev. A. G. Morice, O.M.I.,
R. E. Gosnell, E. O. S. Scholefield, and Judge F. W. Howay. H. H.
Bancroft was a San Francisco bookseller who collected a huge library
of source materials on the history of the Pacific Slope from Central
America to Alaska, including British Columbia, employed a large staff,
ran a "history factory," and produced The Works of Hubert Howe
Bancroft in thirty-nine volumes. Alexander Begg, CC. (Crofter Commissioner), was born in Scotland, Uved in Ontario, and came to British
Columbia in 1887. In order to avoid confusion with Canadian-born
Alexander Begg, author of the History of the North West and editor of
the British Columbia Mining Record, Scottish-born Alexander Begg, who
was appointed in 1888 by the Government of British Columbia Emigration Commissioner to investigate the settling of Scottish crofters on Vancouver Island, appended the letters " CC." to his name. His one important work, The History of British Columbia, published in Toronto in
1894, wiU be discussed later.
Father Morice was a devoted missionary priest of the Roman Catholic
Church, who was distinguished as a historian, an anthropologist, a philologist and linguist, a printer and pubUsher, and the adapter of Rev.
James Evans' syUabic Cree alphabet to the Athapascan or Dene" lan-
* The presidential address delivered before the annual meeting of the British
Columbia Historical Association, held in Nanaimo, B.C., January 17, 1958.
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Vol. XXI, Nos. 1-4.
1 2 Walter N. Sage 1957-
guages. An extremely able, versatile priest, he was fond of controversy,
and was no admirer of H. H. Bancroft.
R. E. GosneU and E. O. S. Scholefield, however much they differed
from each other in character, training, and attainments, may weU be considered together. They had one thing in common: they helped to found
and build up the Provincial Library and the Provincial Archives at Victoria. GosneU was an old-time journaUst who had a vision of what the
Ubrary, and later the archives, might become. Scholefield, who was Gos-
neU's assistant, and became his successor, was also a man of vision.
Above aU, he was a coUector of books and manuscripts, who, in the stirring days of Sir Richard McBride, secured the funds for the Ubrary and
archives addition to the ParUament BuUdings. It should, however, never
be forgotten that Scholefield buUt upon the foundation laid by GosneU.
Scholefield co-operated with GosneU in the writing of that large leather-
covered volume, produced in edition de luxe, and entitled British Columbia: Sixty Years of Progress.
The standard history of British Columbia during the last forty years
has been the first two volumes of a four-volume work produced by His
Honour Judge F. W. Howay and E. O. S. Scholefield. The fuU title of
these first two volumes is British Columbia from the Earliest Times to the
Present, that is to 1914. This history wiU, doubtless, be succeeded by
the centennial history of British Columbia, which is now being written by
Dr. Margaret A. Ormsby.
Judge Howay is usuaUy recognized as the outstanding historian of
British Columbia. Born in Ontario, he was brought west by his mother
at an early age. His father had already found employment in the Cariboo. Frederic WUliam Howay's boyhood was spent in New Westminster,
a city then fiUed with memories of the Cariboo and of the Royal Engineers. One of young Howay's friends was a good-looking lad caUed
Richard McBride, better known to us as Sir Richard McBride. Another
great friend was a Nova Scotian, Robie Lewis Reid, whom Howay met
when they were both trying the examinations held in Victoria for third-
class teaching certificates. Reid persuaded Howay to accompany him to
HaUfax, where they both entered Dalhousie Law School. " Dick " McBride foUowed them a year later. WhUe attending Dalhousie, Howay
began his Uterary career by writing letters dealing with Nova Scotian affairs to the New Westminster papers. Howay and Reid became law partners in New Westminster and prospered greatly during the early years of
this century. In 1907 F. W. Howay became the Judge of the " County
Court of Westminster holden in the City of New Westminster."   By this 1958        Some Early Historians of British Columbia 3
time he had begun his serious study of British Columbia and Northwest
Coast history and was buUding up one of the finest private Ubraries then
in existence in this field.
Judge Howay was " learned in the law " and was an extremely
accurate and indefatigable worker. He was also a good citizen and
interested himself in the New Westminster PubUc Library. He founded
the FeUowship of Arts and was a strong supporter of the Dickens Fellowship. He was a British Columbian, and a " mainlander." He knew
Vancouver Island weU and was highly regarded in Victoria, but his
home was in New Westminster, and as a lawyer he had also practised
in the Cariboo. The great contribution of his later Ufe was in the field
of the maritime fur trade. Nor should it be forgotten that he was the
first President of the British Columbia Historical Association, founded
in 1922, and that he held that office until 1926.
Before going more fuUy into the Uves and writings of this group of
historians of British Columbia, it would be weU to pause for a moment
to point out and emphasize the difference between historical source material and historical works. Source materials for historical writing may
be drawn not only from archives and Ubraries, but also from " historical
field work," the coUection of old-timers' stories, of old letters, newspapers, and pamphlets. Nor can the historian afford to neglect anthropology and its aUied sciences. So far we have tended to neglect the
history of the native peoples of British Columbia. One important historian, Rev. A. G. Morice, was also a noted anthropologist and a student
of linguistics. He was, in fact, an anthropologist before he was a historian. Ever since the early voyages, scientists have been interested in
the native peoples, as well as in the flora and fauna of the Northwest
Pacific Coast. For weU over half a century anthropologists have been
working in the British Columbia field, but even the historians have not
yet paid sufficient attention to their work.
The historian to-day must be a jack of aU trades. He must not only
be a frequenter of archives and Ubraries, he must also be a field worker
and collector. He must know enough of the techniques of fur-trading,
mining, smelting, lumbering, pulp and paper, fishing, agriculture, hydroelectric power, transportation by land, sea, and air, not to mention
atomic energy and guided missUes, to be able to write inteUigently on
these various and varied subjects. He must be, if not " learned in the
law," at least a student of legal, constitutional, and poUtical history.
He should be able to read, if not to speak, languages other than his own.
Curiosity should be one of his main characteristics.   He should always 4 Walter N. Sage 1957-
be asking questions, many of which he wUl never be able to answer.
He can never study local history in a vacuum. He must be able to
relate it to national, international, and world development.
Above all, the real historian should be humble. He realizes that he
knows so little even concerning his chosen field. He should be prepared
to admit his ignorance even in his special field and to answer " I don't
know." A genuine historian is not a bluffer, nor should he exhibit a
" false front" to the world. If possible he should be a man of wide
experience and broad sympathies. He must be ready to weigh evidence
and criticize. He cannot aUow his feelings and emotions to get the
better of him. He must stand aside from his work and view it objectively, and yet at the same time be part of his work, just as his work
is a large part of him.
In a word, the historian finds and uses source materials, but from
them he creates his historical work. It isn't enough to be a good collector, a wide reader, an assiduous searcher in Ubraries and archives, a
scientific weigher of evidence; the historian must also be an artist in the
presentation of his materials. He writes best who loses himself in his
writing. Then Clio the Muse descends upon him and real creative historical writing begins. It doesn't happen often. Most histories are not
masterpieces, but the work of journeymen or craftsmen, who are paid
weU for what they do but fall short of being great historical writers.
Judged by these severe standards, probably none of the six historians
under discussion would reach the topmost rating. That is hardly to be
expected. But all of them were important, and at least three of them—
H. H. Bancroft, Rev. A. G. Morice, and Judge Howay—made outstanding contributions in the field of British Columbia history.
Hubert Howe Bancroft, 1832-1918, was a Californian of the CaU-
fornians. In no other State of the Union, and probably in no other
place in the world, could a successful bookseller have become the proprietor, manager, and inspiration of a " history factory," which produced
volumes on the history and anthropology of the Pacific Slope, but specialized in Old California. He was born on May 5, 1832, at Granville,
Ohio, of New England stock and brought up in what he termed in his
volume on Literary Industries as " an atmosphere of pungent and invigorating puritanism."1 In 1848 H. H. Bancroft left home to go to Buffalo, N.Y., where he entered the employ of his brother-in-law, George
(1) H. H. Bancroft, Literary Industries, San Francisco, 1890, p. 63, quoted in
John W. Caughey, Hubert Howe Bancroft, Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of
California Press, 1946, p. 7. 1958        Some Early Historians of British Columbia 5
H. Derby, a bookseUer. He started at the bottom and hadn't climbed
very far up the ladder when, six months later, he was dismissed by the
head book-keeper. His brother-in-law provided him with a supply of
books on credit and Bancroft went back to Ohio, where he obtained
valuable experience as a book-pedlar. By the end of the summer he
was able to pay up his debts to his brother-in-law, to buy a suit of
clothes and a sUver watch. He was invited back to Buffalo to a regular
clerkship at the then satisfactory salary of $100 a year.
Azariah Ashley Bancroft, the father of Hubert Howe, in 1850 caught
the gold fever and left for CaUfornia. Two years later George Derby
decided to send his young brother-in-law to CaUfornia with a consignment of $5,000 worth of trading goods. H. H. Bancroft, with his friend
George L. Kenny, sailed from New York to AspinwaU, crossed the Isthmus of Panama, and took ship from Panama City to San Francisco.
A new day was dawning for Hubert Howe Bancroft.
Professor John Walton Caughey, of the University of California at
Los Angeles, has traced in detaU in his Hubert Howe Bancroft, Historian
of the West the adventures of the young Ohioan in the mining camps and
boom towns of California. He underwent an extensive and severe
training, but in the end he prospered. On a trip east in 1856 he obtained
a Une of credit and bought $10,000 worth of books and stationery. In
December of that year he started in business in San Francisco along
with his old friend George L. Kenny. The name of the firm was H. H.
Bancroft and Company. Although times were very hard, the Bancroft
shop prospered. Kenny was an expert salesman and Bancroft was an
excellent office manager.
During the CivU War, California remained on the gold standard at
a time when the rest of the country was using depreciated paper currency. Bancroft's business prospered greatly, and the proprietor had
sufficient money to visit not only New York, but London and Paris as
well. His brother, Albert L. Bancroft, had arrived in San Francisco in
1858, and in 1859 was placed in charge of the blank-book and stationery
shop operated by both brothers under the title of A. L. Bancroft and
Company. In 1858 H. H. Bancroft married his first wife, nee EmUy
Ketchum, a rather strait-laced young lady, who in the best Victorian
tradition undertook to convert her free-thinking husband. Until her
death in 1869, Hubert Howe Bancroft was, outwardly at least, very
religious.    His scepticism reappeared later.
On his various journeys, Bancroft learned much. Even in the Eastern United States he found certain customs and mores which shook his 6 Walter N. Sage 1957-
early puritanism. California had remade him, and on his travels to
and from New York via Panama he had glimpses of Latin-American
civilization. Europe was also a revelation to him. He was much impressed by the European leisured classes, although he despised their
disdain for work. He realized that there was something more in Ufe
than the accumulation of money. He would use money as a means to
an end, and that end was cultural rather than plutocratic. Already he
was dreaming dreams.
There is no time even to outiine how Bancroft gathered his Ubrary,
found able assistants, and became a historian. Suffice it to say that if
he had not made that vast coUection which has been since 1905 the
Bancroft Library at the University of CaUfornia in Berkeley, it would
have been quite impossible for later historians and others to have recovered what would undoubtedly have been lost. Even in the case of
British Columbia, if Bancroft in the 1880's had not visited Victoria,
talked with the pioneers, obtained Sir James Douglas's private papers,
and the manuscript histories and narratives of Alexander Caulfield
Anderson, John Tod, and many others, we would have lost much valuable material concerning not only the fur trade and the colonial period,
1849-1871, but even the early days of our Province.
Three of H. H. Bancroft's volumes deal with what is now British
Columbia: The North West Coast, Vols. I and II, and the History of
British Columbia. Even now at this late date they are essential. No
doubt there are errors; for example, Bancroft says that James Douglas
married NeUie Connolly. Her name was Amelia. Mrs. Dennis Harris
told me over thirty years ago that her father always caUed her mother
AmeUa. Bancroft also states that ConnoUy's first name was not WUUam
but James. But these are minor defects. In his review of Caughey's
Hubert Howe Bancroft, Dr. W. Kaye Lamb quotes with approval a
sentence from Bernard De Voto's The Year of Decision, 1846: " I have
found that you had better not decide that Bancroft was wrong until you
have rigorously tested what you think you know."2
One charge often leveUed at H. H. Bancroft is that he purloined
manuscripts, by borrowing them from their authors and refusing to
return them. This story was still going the rounds in Victoria thirty to
forty years ago. The late James R. Anderson, son of Alexander Caul-
field Anderson, told me that Bancroft had stolen his father's manuscript
on the North West Coast.   It is interesting in this connection to note
(2) British Columbia Historical Quarterly, X (1946), p. 305. 1958        Some Early Historians of British Columbia 7
that practicaUy aU original narratives in the Bancroft Library at Berkeley are in transcript form. The original manuscript of the Fort Langley
Journal, 1827-1830, is in the Provincial Archives at Victoria.
Bancroft's historical methods were, to say the least, unconventional,
and his works were by no means all his own compositions. He never
claimed that they were. His merchandising tactics were also open to
criticism. He was, none the less, a great figure in the historiography of
the Pacific Slope, and his reputation will, in aU probabiUty, increase
rather than diminish with the years.
It is, unfortunately, impossible to make a similar statement regarding Alexander Begg, CC His one book of importance, The History
of British Columbia, has always been and stiU is almost impossible to
use. As indicated above, Alexander Begg, CC, was a Scot. He was
born at Watten, Caithness, Scotland, on May 7, 1825, the son of Andrew
and Jane Taylor Begg. He was educated privately but later obtained a
teaching diploma at Edinburgh Normal School. He taught school for
a time at Cluny, Aberdeenshire. Emigrating to Canada in 1846, he
taught school in Ontario. His next move was into journalism. In 1854,
with H. F. MacmiUan, he founded the BowmanviUe Messenger; later
he estabUshed the Brighton Sentinel and pubUshed the Trenton Advocate. He sold out his interest in the Advocate to his brother Peter,
probably in 1855. In 1858 at BrockvUle, Ont., Alexander Begg married EmUy Maria Lake. They had eleven children—six sons and five
Begg was employed in the Department of Internal Revenue at
Ottawa for several years. Apparently he found the comparative safety
of the CivU Service preferable to the wear and tear of journalism. In
1869 he accompanied Lieutenant-Governor McDougaU on his iU-fated
expedition to Red River. Begg had been appointed CoUector of Customs for the North-west Territories, but Louis Riel thought otherwise.
At Pembina, Begg was turned back, as was McDougaU, by Louis Riel's
" men of the new nation."
In 1872 Begg, whUe on a visit to the land of his birth, was appointed
Emigration Commissioner in Scotland for the Province of Ontario. His
headquarters were in Glasgow, but he lectured aU over the country.
He persuaded many thousands of crofters to settle in Canada. About
two years later the indefatigable Begg was estabUshing a temperance
colony at Parry Sound. He turned once more to journalism and became
owner and editor of the Muskoka Herald and founded the Canadian
Lumberman. 8 Walter N. Sage 1957-
The Toronto Mail in 1881 sent Alexander Begg as its correspondent
in the Canadian North-west. He traveUed by Chicago, St. Paul, and
Bismarck, N.D. For a time he tried his luck at Dunbow Ranch, Alberta,
and imported horses and cattle from Montana. His son Robert A. Begg
eventuaUy took over the ranch, and it flourished under his management.
Another son, Roderick Norman Begg, in 1887 left Alberta to take a
position with the Daily Colonist in Victoria, B.C. His father foUowed
in a few months and was appointed in 1888 Emigration Commissioner
for British Columbia. It was then that Alexander Begg appended the
letters " CC." to his name.
Alexander Begg, CC, went to England in 1889 and took up his
residence in London, where he remained until 1897, directing the Crofter
Settlement scheme. During this period he was elected a FeUow of the
Royal Geographical Society and of the Colonial Institute. In 1894 his
History of British Columbia from its Earliest Discovery to the Present
Time was published by WiUiam Briggs, Toronto. It is a tedious work,
which has no index, and it cannot be classed among the more successful
volumes in the British Columbia field.
In 1903 the Beggs left Victoria and settled in New York, where five
of their sons and one daughter were engaged in professional work. In
March, 1905, at the age of 80, Alexander Begg, CC, died in New York
and was buried in Orillia, where he and his wife had Uved for several
years beginning with 1877. Mrs. Begg died at the age of 93 in the year
1932. "Old Paste and Scissors," as Begg has been termed by more
recent investigators in the British Columbia field, was not a great historian, but in his day he made a useful contribution.3
Rev. Adrien Gabriel Morice, O.M.I., 1859-1938, was noteworthy
as a missionary, an anthropologist, and a historian. Born at St. Mars-
sur-Calmont, France, on August 27, 1859, and educated at Oisseau
and the Ecclesiastical CoUege at Mayenne, he was early attracted to the
Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He made his final vows in that order in
1879 and was sent to British Columbia in 1880. He had not yet been
ordained but, with his companions N. Coccola and J. D. Chiappini, was
a scholastic brother of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. In 1882 he
received ordination and was sent to labour among the ChUcotins, whose
language he learned to speak.   It was one of the Athapascan language
(3) For the above information on Alexander Begg, CC, see Madge Wolfenden, "Alexander Begg versus Alexander Begg," British Columbia Historical Quarterly,! (1937), pp. 133-139. 1958        Some Early Historians of British Columbia 9
group and introduced Rev. A. G. Morice to the study of what he later
termed " The Great Den6 Race."
In 1885 he was placed in charge of the Stuart Lake mission at Fort
St. James. There he worked out his Dene SyUabery and gave to the
Athapascan peoples a written language. What is more, he provided
the Carriers of Stuart Lake with a printed language and produced valuable works on his printing-press. Morice became intensely interested
in anthropology and Unguistics. He talked to the old chiefs and gleaned
from them what they knew of the dim period before the white man came.
His first book, Au Pays de I'Ours Noir, was published in 1897. The
History of the Northern Interior of British Columbia, commonly called
New Caledonia foUowed in 1904. Bernard McEvoy, of Vancouver,
weU known to many of us as " Diogenes " of the Daily Province, praised
Morice's manuscript so highly that the pubUshing firm of WiUiam Briggs,
Toronto, accepted it unseen. It was a great success. The History of
the Catholic Church in Western Canada appeared in 1910, in two volumes. A three-volume French edition was pubUshed in Winnipeg in
1912. During his long Ufe (he survived tiU 1938) Father Morice pubUshed many books and articles in the fields of anthropology and history.
He wrote weU in both French and EngUsh, and his writings attracted
wide attention in Europe as well as in North America. For a time he
was lecturer in anthropology in the newly estabUshed University of Saskatchewan, which honoured him by granting him its first B.A. in 1911
and its first M.A. in 1912. These degrees were not honorary, but the
reverend father was not required to sit for any examinations.
Rev. A. G. Morice, O.M.I., made a most valuable contribution to
the writing of the history and anthropology of British Columbia and the
prairies. Of his abiUty and his versatiUty, there is no doubt. He was a
careful researcher and his work was authoritative. Above aU, he was a
true son of Holy Mother Church. His devotion to Roman Catholicism
led him at times to pass very unfavourable comments on Protestants
and other non-Roman CathoUcs. He dishked H. H. Bancroft, and he
was unduly severe in his comments on the Right Rev. W. C. Bompas,
successively AngUcan Bishop of Athabasca, Mackenzie River, and the
Yukon. Although he was always obedient to the rules of his order, he
was none the less an individuaUst, and rumour hath it that his feUow
members of the Oblate Order found him somewhat difficult at times.
Father Morice spent nineteen of his best years in British Columbia,
nearly aU in his beloved New Caledonia. He then crossed the mountains and took up his residence in the Prairie Provinces.   He was for 10 Walter N. Sage 1957-
years in Winnipeg, and part of his later Ufe was spent at La Fleche,
Saskatchewan. He made a great contribution to his church and to
Western Canadian culture. Probably the greatest stroke of luck in his
Ufe was the finding by Alexander C Murray, then the Hudson's Bay
Company's manager at Fort St. James, of a treasure-trove of old letters
and other documents in the attic of the old fort. From these manuscripts Father Morice derived much of his best source material for the
History of the Northern Interior of British Columbia, which is usuaUy
considered his finest piece of historical writing.
R. Edward GosneU, 1860-1931, was born at Lake Beauport in the
Province of Quebec in the year 1860 and was educated in Ontario. For
a time he was a school-teacher, then he became a journaUst and worked
for various Ontario newspapers. GosneU came to British Columbia in
1888, the year after his marriage to Miss AUce White, and was associated with the Vancouver News and News-Advertiser. In November,
1893, he was appointed Provincial Librarian, and the next year played
a large part in securing the passing by the British Columbia Legislature
of "An Act to estabUsh and maintain a Library for the use of the Legislative Assembly and constitute a Bureau of Statistics." He found a
Ubrary of about 1,200 volumes which was sadly lacking in organization.
He had vision and industry and laid the foundations of the present Provincial Library. In 1894 E. O. S. Scholefield became his assistant.
GosneU in 1896 became secretary to the Premier, and held both positions until September, 1898, when Scholefield succeeded him as Provincial Librarian. Mrs. GosneU died in 1898, a blow from which R. E.
GosneU seems never to have completely recovered. He became restless
and changed his posts frequently. He remained secretary to the Premier
until 1901, when he was appointed secretary of the Bureau of Provincial
Information. Organization was his strong point, and the Bureau prospered.   In 1904, however, he lost this position.
GosneU was always a journalist at heart, and in 1906 he became
editor of the Victoria Colonist. The next year, 1907, he was a delegate
to a conference on education held in London, England. Premier McBride at this time visited England asking " better terms " for British
Columbia. He found R. E. GosneU a useful assistant, and probably a
quite convivial traveUing companion.
When the Provincial Archives was separated from the Provincial
Library in 1908, GosneU became the first Archivist of British Columbia.
He held this position until 1910, when he was succeeded by E. O. S.
Scholefield.   In 1910 and 1911 he performed special services for the 1958        Some Early Historians of British Columbia 11
Attorney-General's and the Treasury Departments. From September,
1915, to December, 1917, he was again secretary to the Premier.
After 1917 we lose sight of R. E. GosneU for a time. He went back
to Ontario and Uved for several years in Ottawa. He seems to have
been in the employ of the Federal Government for a whue, and he also
represented the Vancouver Star in the ParUamentary Press GaUery.
I met him once in 1922, in the PubUc Archives of Canada, but he was
then but a wreck of his former self. He lingered on in Ottawa, but in
April, 1931, returned to Vancouver, where he died on August 5th.
In many ways his Ufe was a tragedy. He was brilliant, wrote weU, and
possessed organizing abiUty. Unfortunately he lacked both stabiUty
and sobriety.
None the less, R. E. GosneU made a great contribution to British
Columbia. In 1897 he issued the first Year Book of British Columbia,
a storehouse of useful information, historical and statistical, concerning
our Province. In 1906 he pubUshed A History of British Columbia.
Two of his best works were done by coUaboration. R. H. Coats, Dominion Statistician and " Father of Canadian Statistics," took GosneU's
manuscript on Sir James Douglas, prepared for the Makers of Canada
series, revised it, drasticaUy cut down its length, and rewrote the volume.
It was not reaUy a life of Douglas, but a most useful one-volume history
of British Columbia. Dr. R. H. Coats many years ago told me the story
of the revision of this volume. My memory may be at fault, but I am
almost certain he said that he had never met R. E. GosneU. GosneU
also joined E. O. S. Scholefield in the production of British Columbia,
Sixty Years of Progress, which appeared in 1913. It was a weighty
tome, beautifully printed, and handsomely bound. GosneU wrote Part
II, the period since federation. On the whole, it was a good piece of
writing, probably his best. He was a keen analyst of British Columbia
poUtics and poUticians, and he was also weU acquainted with the economic development of the Province. R. E. GosneU may be forgotten
to-day, but historical students should study his writings carefuUy. He
knew a great deal about British Columbia and he told it weU.
Ethelbert Olaf Stuart Scholefield received much of his early training
in Ubrary and archives methods from R. Edward Gosnell. He succeeded
GosneU first as Provincial Librarian and later as Provincial Archivist
Was this the result of chance, or of skilful manipulation, or was it by
merit? At this late date it is difficult to teU. Probably aU these factors
entered into Scholefield's advance and GosneU's decline. By inference
we may state that GosneU was a bit of an enthusiast who dreamed 12 Walter N. Sage 1957-
dreams, worked out schemes, did weU for a time, and then got tired.
Scholefield was a coUector and buUder. His real monument is the
Library and Archives Building and much, if not most, of its contents.
Born at St. WUfrid's Ryde, Isle of Wight, on May 31, 1875, Scholefield came to British Columbia, along with other members of his famUy,
in 1887. His father, Rev. Stuart Clement Scholefield, was an AngUcan
parson who was for a time in charge of a church in New Westminstei
and later was rector of Esquimalt. Ethelbert, in the best EngUsh
tradition, attended a private school conducted by Rev. W. W. Bolton.
He later entered the Victoria High School, where he had a distinguished
record. On leaving school he entered the service of the Provincial
Library. In 1894 he was assistant to R. E. Gosnell, whom he succeeded
as Provincial Librarian in 1898. In 1910 he became Provincial Archivist. These positions he held until his death, after a lengthy Ulness, on
Christmas Day, 1919.
Scholefield was intensely interested in the early voyages of discovery
to the Northwest Coast and in the development of Vancouver Island.
He was fortunate in his collaborators—R. E. Gosnell and Judge F. W.
Howay. The Judge often spoke to me with kindly affection of " Uttle
Scholefield," and sometimes commented on his acuteness. He had been
a page boy in the Legislature, and he early learned how to get along
with men and how to get the best out of politicians. He planned the
Archives Memoirs series and edited three of them, which were pubUshed
in 1918, the year before his death. He died before he was 50, and
had he lived out the aUotted span he probably would have written much
C. B. Bagley, of Seattle, writing in the Washington Historical Quarterly shortly after Scholefield's death, after praising him and his work,
criticizes him rather severely for his broken promises. He always Uved
under a terrific nervous strain and was continuaUy making engagements
he could not fill. He wrote, as has been weU said, " with the printer's
devil at the door." His work suffered as a result, but he gave aU he
had to the Provincial Library and Archives of British Columbia.4
And now, at long last, we come to His Honour Judge Frederic WUliam Howay, 1867-1943. How is it possible to recapture the Judge
and to contain him within a few manuscript pages?   The main events
(4) C. B. Bagley, "Death of E. O. S. Scholefield," Washington Historical
Quarterly, XI (1920), pp. 35-36. I wish to thank Mr. Willard E. Ireland, Provincial Librarian and Archivist, for his kindness in providing me with material on both
Gosnell and Scholefield. 1958        Some Early Historians of British Columbia 13
of his Ufe have been rapidly sketched above. He was a British Columbian by adoption, but no native-born son could have loved our Province
more nor done more to advance the writing of our history. He was
easUy the greatest historian that British Columbia has as yet produced.
As a boy in New Westminster he became steeped in the early history
of the Lower Mainland and of the Cariboo. His father-in-law, WilUam
H. Ladner, had come in with the gold-seekers in 1858 and had later
taken up land at Ladner's Landing, now Ladner, B.C. The Judge grew
up with British Columbia. He witnessed the coming of the railway and
vividly recalled " the battle of the terminals." He was a " mainlander,"
and his sympathies in the struggle between " mainland " and " island "
in the 1870's and 1880's were all with the " mainland." It is sad, but
amusing, that his resignation of the presidency of the British Columbia
Historical Association in 1926 was due to a difference of opinion, which
became an open quarrel, between himself and a learned Justice of the
Supreme Court, residing in Victoria, on the date of the birthday of
British Columbia. Judge Howay was adamant in upholding the date,
November 19, 1858, and the place, Fort Langley, B.C.
The Judge was a tireless worker and he was also fiercely accurate.
He checked and rechecked his references, and although he made mistakes—we all do—he tried to keep them to a minimum. He exhibited
his legal training in his handUng of materials. On the whole he wrote
well, but he spoke better than he wrote. There are few briUiant passages in his writings, but he has checked his facts, and the burden of
proof is now, as it was during his lifetime, on anyone who challenges
his statements. But under aU this legal and historical armour there beat
a kind and generous heart. He did not " suffer fools gladly," but to
any serious historical student he would open his stores of learning and
his wonderful library. Time meant nothing to him on such an occasion.
I owe the Judge a debt which I can never repay. He checked over the
manuscript of my thesis on " Sir James Douglas and British Columbia,"
not only chapter by chapter and page by page, but Une by Une. It was
excellent training, from which I profited greatly.
Law and history, however, were only part of the Judge's repertoire.
He was widely read in English Uterature, especiaUy in Dickens. He was
himseU not only a Dickensian, but to a great extent a character which
had walked right out of Pickwick Papers. He was a bit of an actor and
deUghted in dressing up and taking part in the Twelfth Night revels of
the FeUowship of Arts. He wrote for many years the addresses to be
spoken by the May Queen and the May Queen-elect at New Westmin- 14 Walter N. Sage 1957-
ster.   He was once awarded a good citizenship medal, and an elementary
school in New Westminster was named after him.
To list aU the historical and other honours Judge Howay was
awarded would be tedious. He had an international reputation. A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society of London, he was also a FeUow of
the Royal Society of Canada, of which august body he was president
in 1942. He received the TyrreU gold medal in history from the Royal
Society of Canada. He was for many years the representative of the
four western provinces on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of
Canada. There are now four members carrying on the work which
once he attempted alone.
After Judge Howay's death in 1943, Dr. W. Kaye Lamb prepared a
bibUography of his writings which was pubUshed in the British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Vol. VIII, No. 1, January, 1944. There are
in it 286 items, stretching from 1902 to two posthumous publications
in 1944. Later Dr. Lamb added a few more items. There is no time
to discuss this lengthy Ust, but it proves beyond argument that Judge
Howay worked and wrote hard.
There was, of course, another side to the story. There always is.
Judge Howay, as was Father Morice, was often involved in historical
arguments, and I have known him to become quite heated. UsuaUy
he had the backing of the older and more reputable Canadian historians,
but occasionaUy he and they went just a bit beyond what was needful
in trying to smash an opponent. Dr. J. B. TyrreU and Judge Howay
tried on one occasion to demoUsh Dr. A. S. Morton, but Morton put up
a good argument and, as usual, was unconvinced.
These six early historians of British Columbia aU made their contributions. Without them there would be irreparable gaps, not only in
source materials, for they were all coUectors with the possible exception
of Alexander Begg, CC, but also in the comprehension of what actuaUy
occurred in the early days of the white man on the Northwest Coast and
on the Pacific Slope. It would be hard to find six men more unlike, but
their work somehow now seems to intertwine and to form a firm foundation upon which we and subsequent generations of historical investigators in British Columbia can buUd.
Walter N. Sage.
The distinction of having been chosen as the first capital of British
Columbia has been claimed for Langley and for New Westminster.
If by " British Columbia " is meant the colony formed by the Act of
August 6, 1866,1 which united Vancouver Island with the mainland,
the colony which five years later entered Confederation as the Province
of British Columbia, there is, of course, no argument: New Westminster was the first capital. The Act clearly states that " the Power and
Authority of the Executive Government and of the Legislature existing
in British Columbia shall extend to and over Vancouver Island "; and
in 1866 the capital of British Columbia was New Westminster. The
site had been designated as the capital, though not named, by the
Proclamation of February 14, 1859,2 and it was not until May 25, 1868,
that the seat of government was moved to Victoria.3 If, however, the
term " British Columbia " is limited to the mainland colony estabUshed
under that name by the Act of August 2, 1858,4 there is some justification for a review of the evidence.
The question of the first capital of British Columbia is so closely
interwoven with the question of the first port of entry that it has proved
impossible here to discuss the one without involving the other. As soon
as the colony of British Columbia had been officiaUy proclaimed at
Fort Langley on November 19, 1858,5 the Government was obUged to
consider the establishment of a capital, or seat of government, and of
a port of entry, or seaport town,6 where customs dues could be coUected.
Three townsites had already been laid out in British Columbia—at Fort
(1) 29 & 30 Vict., chap. 67, published in British Columbia Government Gazette, November 24, 1866.
(2) Great Britain, Parliament, Papers Relative to the Affairs of British Columbia (hereafter cited as BCP), Part II, London, 1859 (Cmd. 2578, 1st series),
p. 65.
(3) British Columbia Government Gazette Extraordinary, May 25, 1868.
(4) BCP, Part I, 1859 (Cmd. 2476), p. 1.
(5) BCP, Part II, p. 34.
(6) The terms port of entry and seaport town are used interchangeably in the
contemporary dispatches.
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Vol. XXI, Nos. 1-4.
15 16 Dorothy Blakey Smith 1957-
Hope, at Fort Yale, and at Old Fort Langley7—and of these the Langley
site was clearly the most promising. It was the nearest to the mouth
of the Fraser, and consequently to the Vancouver Island colony which
Governor James Douglas had also to administer, and beyond Langley
the river was navigable only with difficulty.8 Excluding Hope and Yale,
there were still several courses open to the Government. Langley could
be made the seat of government and the port of entry. Or another site,
nearer the mouth of the river, could be selected for the port of entry,
and the seat of government established at Langley. Or, if a site other
than Langley were chosen for the port of entry, then this site could be
made the seat of government also. It was the third of these possibilities
which eventuaUy became fact; but before New Westminster was finaUy
confirmed as both port of entry and capital, six months of indecision,
frustration, and delay were to elapse. A survey of this period of uncertainty is not without interest, for wider issues than the rival claims of
Langley and New Westminster are involved: the relations between
Governor Douglas and the Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works
for British Columbia, Colonel Richard Clement Moody (who also held
a dormant commission as Lieutenant-Governor), and the attitude of the
Imperial Government toward the new colony on the Pacific Coast.
The estabUshment of a commercial town in the neighbourhood of
Langley, as distinguished from the fort which the Hudson's Bay Company had estabUshed as early as 1827, was not in the first instance due
to the Government at aU, but to what can only be described as a fortuitous concatenation of circumstances. On August 30, 1858,9 Douglas
had left Victoria for the Fraser River, on what was to be " an excursion
of nearly a month's duration,"10 his purpose being to enforce the law
(7) Governor James Douglas to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Sir
Edward Bulwer Lytton, October 11, 1858.   BCP, Part I, p. 38.
(8) Douglas himself comments on the Fraser between Langley and Fort
Hope: "... though much abated in force, from being less swollen than it was
in summer, still running at some points with a force and impetuosity almost insurmountable by the power of the steamer "; and beyond Hope his party " proceeded
... in three large boats . . . walking nearly the whole way, attended by the
boats."   Douglas to Lytton, October 12, 1858.   BCP, Part H, pp. 3-4, 5.
(9) Captain J. C. Prevost to Rear-Admiral R. L. Baynes, August 31, 1858.
Public Record Office Transcripts, Great Britain, Colonial Office Papers, Series 60
(hereafter cited as CO 60), Vol. U, Part 1, 1858, p. 28 [of transcript]. This MS.
and all other MSS. and maps subsequently cited may be found in the Archives of
British Columbia.
(10) Douglas to Lytton, October 12, 1858.   BCP, Part n, p. 7. 1958 The First Capital of British Columbia 17
among "the motley population of foreigners now assembled" there,
and " to assert the rights of the Crown " by introducing a form of gold
Ucence.11 During his stay at Fort Yale (which he reached, presumably,
on September 12),12 he received information from Victoria that
some speculators, taking advantage of [his] absence, had squatted on a valuable
tract of public land near the mouth of Fraser's River, commonly known as the
site of old Fort Langley, and employed surveyors at a great expense to lay it out
into building lots, which they were offering for sale, hoping by that means to
interest a sufficient number of persons in the scheme as would overawe the
Government and induce a confirmation of their title.13
On September 14 the Victoria Gazette, in an item headed " Wholesale
Squatting at Fort Langley," warned the public against the unauthorized
operations of " one James H. Ray, a weU known land speculator "; and
on September 23 the Gazette's travelling correspondent wrote from Port
Douglas that the Hudson's Bay Company were now having a general
survey made of their lands about Fort Langley,
being incited thereto I suppose, by the operations of the Day-Kanaka party, who
under the pretext of laying out a town, have well nigh spoiled a nice potato patch,
in a bit of clearing some mile or two below the Fort, running over it in the most
reprehensible and reckless manner. The older residents of Langley are not a little
entertained with the assurance of the principals in this scheme in assuming to own
the lands thus about to be sectionized into city lots; and when solicited to invest
therein cast upon the projectors a get-behind-me-Satan-sort of look, implying the
utmost distrust in the enterprise.   .   .   M
The promoters of what Douglas describes to Lytton as this " swindling
scheme, which, if tolerated, would give rise to other nefarious transactions of the same kind," had written to the Governor from Fort Langley
on September 7 (by which time, of course, he had left for the Fraser
River), to inform him that beUeving that " it is the intention of Her
Majesty's Government to . . . encourage the colonization of the
Mainland [and] that those of Her Majesty's subjects, who shaU settle
upon, survey Land, and file boundaries of same, with fuU description
shaU have the priority of purchase," they and their associates had set-
(11) Douglas to the Colonial Secretary, Lord Stanley, August 27, 1858.
BCP, Part I, p. 29.
(12) Douglas left Victoria on August 30 {see above, n. 9); he reached Fort
Langley " on the evening of the second day after leaving Victoria, and in two days
more . . . arrived ... at Fort Hope; . . . after a week's sojourn at Fort
Hope . . . proceeded ... to Fort Yale; . . . [the journey] occupied two
days."   Douglas to Lytton, October 12, 1858.   BCP, Part II, pp. 3-5.
(13) Douglas to Lytton, October 12, 1858.   BCP, Part II, pp. 6-7.
(14) Victoria Gazette, September 28, 1858. 18 Dorothy Blakey Smith 1957-
tled upon and were now occupying a tract of land a few mUes below
Fort Langley. The letter was signed by Henry N. Peers and James H.
Ray,15 and in a pencilled endorsation Douglas stated his opinion of the
latter in indignant terms:—
Mr. Rae [sic] is an American citizen bears a very bad character at San Francisco
and all over California—where he lived entirely by scheming—as he has no property, nor means to bring immigrants from Europe or Canada—the present being
simply a scheme to impose upon the credulity of the Government and his one object being to make money out of that land by his fictitious title—This attempt at
squatting must be put down by the strong hand, being a flagrant violation of the
rights of the Crown and if overlooked would lead to the pre-occupation of the
whole country, and a system of discrediting violence and confusion.
On September 15, no doubt as soon as he received the news, Douglas
issued from Fort Yale a proclamation warning aU persons
that no lands at or near Langley, or elsewhere on Fraser's River, have been in any
manner encumbered or sold, and that the title to all such lands is vested in the
Crown, and that any person found occupying the same without due authority from
me, will be summarily ejected; and all persons fraudulently selling the same will
be prosecuted and punished as the law directs.1^
Douglas was, of course, weU aware that as yet he himself had actuaUy
no legal power to grant titles to land,17 and while at Fort Hope and Fort
Yale on this same expedition he had got round the difficulty by granting
.to those inhabitants who wished to settle " a right of occupation for
town lots, under a lease terminable at the pleasure of the Crown."18
But now that speculators had made him aware of the financial possibUi-
ties of the Langley townsite and had spared him the expense of a preliminary survey, he was ready to waive the strict legal point, and a few
days after his return to Victoria19 notice was given, on October 1, of
(15) H. N. Peers and James H. Ray Correspondence. For Henry Newsham
Peers, see The Letters of John McLouglin from Fort Vancouver . . . Third
series, 1844-46, ed. E. E. Rich, Champlain Society, 1944 (Hudson's Bay Series,
Vll), Appendix B, pp. 318-320. He had entered the company's service in 1841;
had been associated with A. C. Anderson in the opening of a practicable brigade
route from Kamloops to Fort Langley in 1848 and 1849; had been a clerk at Fort
Langley in the season of 1850-51; and was in charge of the Cowlitz Farm from
1851 to 1857, when he went on furlough. He went to England in the autumn of
1858, and retired from the company's service as of June 1, 1859, returning to Victoria shortly after, and dying there in 1864.
(16) Enclosure 3 in Douglas to Lytton, October 12, 1858. BCP, Part n,
pp. 2-3.
(17) Douglas to Lytton, October 12, 1858.   Ibid., p. 4.
(18) Ibid.
(19) On September 26. See Prevost to Baynes, October 11, 1858. CO 60,
Vol. H, Part 1, 1858, p. 43. 1958 The First Capital of British Columbia 19
the intention of the Government to survey " the land in the vicinity of,
and including the site of Old Fort Langley " for a townsite, and to seU
the lots by auction.20 The Victoria Gazette21 hoped that the Governor
might counteract this order, as encouraging speculation, and would have
preferred the arrangements at Fort Hope and Fort Yale, whereby the
lands were leased, not sold. But Douglas was in need of revenue for
the new mainland colony, and by October 11 he had received dispatches
from Lytton pointing out that
the disposal also of public lands, and especially of town lots, for which I am led
to believe there will be a great demand, will afford a rapid means of obtaining
funds applicable to the general purposes of the Colony.22
On October 23 he forwarded for Lytton's approval an interim form of
title,23 and the town lots at Langley were duly sold in Victoria on
November 25, by the Colonial Surveyor, J. D. Pemberton. " The prices
brought surprised everyone," says the Gazette, and were " the best proof
that could be possibly given of the confidence entertained in the ultimate
prosperity of these Colonies."24
The site of this " first operation disposing of public lands in British
Columbia "25 was the site on which James McMiUan, in 1827, had
erected the original Fort Langley. By 1839 this fort had become overcrowded and dilapidated, and a second one was built by James Murray
Yale, some 2V4 miles farther up the river, nearer to the company farm.
This establishment was destroyed by fire in 1840, but a new and larger
fort was at once constructed upon the same site and this was the buUding known as Fort Langley in 1858.26 The site of the original fort of
1827 had thus been long abandoned, and it was this clearing which the
speculators, and Douglas after them, laid out as a town.
Its origin, as well as its proximity to Fort Langley, caused a good
deal of confusion in the names later applied to it. It has been suggested27
that the first speculators christened their new town "Derby," but no
(20) Enclosure 2 in Douglas to Lytton, October 12, 1858.   BCP, Part II, p. 2.
(21) Victoria Gazette, October 1, 1858.
(22) Lytton to Douglas, July 31, 1858.   BCP, Part I, p. 45.
(23) Enclosure in Douglas to Lytton, October 23, 1858.   BCP, Part II, p. 8.
(24) Victoria Gazette, November 27, 1858.
(25) Douglas to Lytton, November 29, 1858.   BCP, Part II, p. 37.
(26) For an account of the various establishments at Fort Langley, see B. A.
McKelvie, Fort Langley: Outpost of Empire, Vancouver, 1947, pp. 54-59.
(27) Denys Nelson, Fort Langley 1827-1927, Art, Historical and Scientific
Association of Vancouver, 1927, p. 24, says that "speculators   .   .   .  had sur- 20 Dorothy Blakey Smith 1957-
confirmation of this has been found. In correspondence, both official
and private, and in the contemporary newspapers, the town was referred
to, for at least the first six months of its existence, as " Old Fort Langley," or as " the new town of Langley," or simply as " Langley." On
March 19, 1859, the Victoria Gazette carried an item headed " Change
of Name of Langley, B.C.":—
We understand that the name of the new town of Langley is to be changed to that
of Derby—in compliment to the Prime Minister of Great Britain.
This may weU have been the case, for in February, 1859, Derby became
Prime Minister for the second time, but no official confirmation has
been found. In printed official correspondence the name "Derby"
seems to have been first appUed to the town, by Douglas, on October
18, 1859;28 but it had been used in private correspondence earUer than
this;29 and the Rev. W. Burton Crickmer, writing to Douglas on April
27, 1859, says:—
I find the proper designation of " Derby " universally known, and now colloquially
in some vogue.3°
Additional information, though of a somewhat confused nature, it must
be admitted, is supplied by contemporary maps and charts. One map
" compiled from the surveys & explorations of the Royal Navy & Royal
Engineers, . . . Novr 24th 1859," marks "Derby (F. Langley)" as
the only settlement on the south side of the river, and places it at the
site of the old fort.31 Another, from the same source and of the same
date, marks " Derby " (in large letters) on the site of the original fort
veyed a townsite, which they apparently called Derby, at the site of the Old Fort."
In the second edition of this booklet, 1947, an added introduction, by George
Green, says that the speculators "had named the place Derby, and this name
Douglas accepted." McKelvie, op. cit., p. 84, says that speculators subdivided the
site " into lots, to be sold as being ' in the town of Derby.'"
(28) Douglas to the Colonial Secretary, the Duke of Newcastle, October 18,
1859.   BCP, Part HI, 1860 (Cmd. 2724), p. 67.
(29) See, for example, Moody to Douglas, July 30, 1859 (British Columbia,
Lands and Works Department, Correspondence Outward, March-August, 1859);
Douglas to Rev. W. B. Crickmer, August 30, 1859 (Vancouver Island, Governor
Douglas, Correspondence Outward, May 27, 1859, to January 9, 1864).
(30) Crickmer Correspondence. Crickmer speaks also of "Langley (more
recently called Derby)" in an extract from a letter which, in the Archives transcript of a transcript loaned by the Rev. J. C. Goodfellow, immediately follows an
extract dated January 6, 1859; but in view of the reference to the change of name
in the Victoria Gazette of March 19, quoted above, it seems doubtful whether the
second extract actually belongs to the same letter as the first.
(31) BCP, Part HI, following p. 78. 1958 The First Capital of British Columbia 21
of 1827, and " Langley " (in smaU letters) on the site of the new fort
erected in 1840.32 An Admiralty chart of 1859-60 (No. 1922) obscures the situation somewhat by marking " Derby or New Langley " on
the site of the old fort, and " Old Langley " on the site of the new;
and a Bartholomew map tentatively dated 1860 makes this confusion
worse confounded by marking " New Fort Langley " on the site of the
old fort, and " Old Fort Langley " on the site of the new. But the name
of " Derby " does not appear to have been in use very long: a map dated
July 16, 1861, marks Fort Langley only, on the site of the new fort.
Whatever the name given to the town at various stages of its development and decline, the site itself had, as Douglas himself pointed out
to Lytton on November 29, 1858, both advantages and disadvantages.
The anchorage is good, and the river deep enough for ships close into the bank.
With a cheerful aspect, a surface well adapted for buildings and drainage, it has
the disadvantage of being in part low, and occasionally flooded by the river. The
greater part of the site is, however, a dry, elevated table land, closely covered with
bush and lofty pine trees.
From the financial point of view, Douglas added,
the result of this first experiment is highly satisfactory, as intimating the confidence
entertained by the public in the resources of British Columbia, and at the same
time yielding a needful supply of money for defraying the necessary expenses of
the public service.33
The highly satisfactory result of the Langley sale would seem to
have been due, however, not only to this " confidence entertained by
the pubUc in the resources of British Columbia " but, more specificaHy,
to the general impression that Langley would be the capital of the new
colony. True, the proclamation of British Columbia at Fort Langley
in the historic ceremony of November 19, 1858, had made no mention
of any site for a future capital, and the affairs of the mainland colony
were being administered from Victoria. But in the Government survey
of Old Fort Langley " the best situated lots and reserves [had] been
kept by the authorities for the special purposes of government ";34 the
sale of lots " under the auspices and with the encouragement of the
Governor of British Columbia"35 had given further grounds for the
" general impression that it was to be the capital of the Colony ";36 and
(32) BCP, Part IV, 1862 (Cmd. 2952), following p. 8.
(33) Douglas to Lytton, November 29, 1858.   BCP, Part n, p. 37.
(34) Victoria Colonist, January 22, 1859.   The editor was Amor De Cosmos,
and he, it may be noted, had bought half a dozen lots at the Langley sale.
(35) Ibid.
(36) Victoria Gazette, February 1, 1859. 22 Dorothy Blakey Smith 1957-
among the original purchasers had been not only Captain J. M. Grant
of the Royal Engineers, but the Speaker of the House, Dr. J. S. Helmcken.37 " Of course it was never guarantied [sic] that Langley was to
be the capital of British Columbia,"38 but " every honest and unprejudiced person, possessing common sense, had good reason to believe
that Langley would be a Port of Entry, and the principal town on the
Lower Fraser,"39 and felt that " the new town of Langley [had been]
tacitly intended by the authorities, the first capital of the government
in British Columbia."40
But the pubUc, of course, knew nothing of Colonial Office instructions in the matter of a site for the capital; and it was these which were
responsible for the Government's delay in making a final choice, and
thus for the accusations of " humbuggery, . . . mis-application of
the prerogatives of government,—double dealing and uncertainty "41
which were to be leveUed at Douglas by the disappointed purchasers
of the Langley lots. The authorities in London had determined that
the matter of a site was to be left to Douglas to decide, but only after
consultation with Colonel Moody of the Royal Engineers, and Moody
was not even to leave England untU October 30.42
In a dispatch of July 31, 1858, which Douglas acknowledged on
October 11, Lytton wrote:—
You will, probably, at an early period take steps for deciding upon a site for a
seaport town. ... A party of Royal Engineers will be despatched to the Colony
immediately. It will devolve upon them ... to suggest a site for the seat of
Government  .   .   ,43
On August 3 Herman Merivale, the Under-Secretary of State for the
Colonies, explained to the Under-Secretary for War that this party of
Royal Engineers would be required " to suggest a site for the seat of
(37) See the list of purchasers and prices in the Victoria Gazette, November
30, 1858.
(38) Victoria Gazette, May 3, 1859.
(39) Victoria Colonist, February 19, 1859.
(40) Ibid., January 22, 1859.
(41) Ibid., February 5, 1859.
(42) Lytton to Douglas, October 16, 1858.   BCP, Part I, p. 70.
(43) Lytton to Douglas, July 31, 1858.   BCP, Part I, p. 45.   Acknowledged
in Douglas to Lytton, October 11, 1858 (BCP, Part I, p. 37). 1958 The First Capital of British Columbia 23
Government and for a sea-port town,"44 and Lytton's instructions to
Moody on the eve of his departure from England were quite specific:—
11. . . . You will consult with the Governor as to the choice of sites for
a maritime town, probably at the mouth of Fraser's River, and for any more inland
Capital to which the circumstances of the territory will suggest the most appropriate site.
12. You will not fail to regard with a military eye the best position for such
towns and cities, as well as for the engineering of roads and passes, or the laying
the foundations of any public works."*5
In his capacity as the future Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works,
Moody was also instructed by Merivale that " it is to be distinctly understood . . . that the Governor is the supreme authority in the Colony,"46 and Lytton echoed this instruction in his farewell letter:—
10. . . . Whilst I feel assured that the Governor will receive with all attention the counsel or suggestions which your military and scientific experience so
well fit you to offer, I would be distinctly understood when I say that he is, not
merely in a civil point of view, the first magistrate in the State, but that I feel it
to be essential for the public interests that all powers and responsibilities should
centre in him exclusively. Nothing could be more prejudicial to the prosperity of
the Colony than a conflict between the principal officers of Government.*?
It was not until December 28, after Moody's arrival, that Douglas
acknowledged the copy of this letter sent him by Lytton on November
l,48 but by November 4 he had had copies of the two letters from Merivale to Moody,49 and thus by the time the Langley lots were put up for
sale he was well aware of the general attitude of the Colonial Office.
Obviously, this attitude created a very difficult situation for both
Douglas and Moody. Douglas had the responsibiUty of financing the
new colony, and the Colonial Office was continually reminding him that
British Columbia must be made self-supporting as soon as possible.50
Yet he was not given a free hand in the choice of townsites to be sold
for revenue; for although the final decision concerning the site of a sea-
(44) Merivale to the Under-Secretary for War, August 3, 1858.   Enclosure 2
in Lytton to Douglas, September 2, 1858.   BCP, Part I, p. 53.
(45) Lytton to Moody, October 29, 1858.   Enclosure in Lytton to Douglas,
November 1, 1858.   BCP, Part I, p. 74.
(46) Merivale to Moody, August 23, 1858.   Enclosure 5 in Lytton to Douglas, September 2, 1858.   BCP, Part I, p. 55.
(47) Lytton to Moody, October 29, 1858.   Enclosure in Lytton to Douglas,
November 1, 1858.   BCP, Part I, p. 74.
(48) CO 60, Vol. I, Part 2, 1858, p. 236.
(49) Douglas to Lytton, November 4, 1858.   BCP, Part II, p. 21.
(50) See, for example, Lytton to Douglas. July 31, August 14, September 2,
December 30, 1858.   BCP, Part I, pp. 45, 48, 56, 75. 24 Dorothy Blakey Smith 1957-
port town and of a capital was to be his, yet he must wait for Moody
before making it. And Moody, who in spite of the Royal Engineers'
belief that their colonel had the authority to select the site of the capital,51
could do no more than " advise," " suggest," and " consult," had received the most urgent instructions from his superiors that the site of
both seaport town and capital must be wisely chosen from a miUtary
point of view.
Sufficient evidence of this urgency is provided by Moody's instructions to Captain R. M. Parsons and Captain J. M. Grant before they left
England with the first detachments of the troops. To Captain Parsons,
the first to leave, Moody wrote:—
I think it would be well for you to draw the attention of the Governor to the
circumstance that military considerations of the very gravest importance (seeing
the nearness of the Frontier) enter into the question of determining the site of the
ch;ef town and also of the one to be laid out at the entrance of the River. If it be
absolutely necessary to commence some occupation at the latter place it should
be confined to the north side and I hope the Governor would be able to make it
a temporary tenure.52
To Captain Grant a fortnight later, Moody pointed out that
it is very evident there will have to be a large Military Reserve at the extremity
of the North Shore at the entrance of the Fraser River. . . . There will also
have to be another Reserve at the angle higher up the entrance still on the North
side, and looking down both entrances of the Fraser. ... On each site will'
have to be erected some small Barrack with store and magazine and this quite
independant [sic] of the site of the Chief town wherever it may be.53
Moody sent Captain Parsons a chart on which he had marked the spots
to be reserved, but no copy of this has come to Ught. However, Captain
Parsons arrived in Victoria on October 29, 1858,54 and since he seems
to have remained there until he and his detachment accompanied the
Governor to Fort Langley for the ceremony of November 19,55 there
was ample time for him to communicate Moody's views to Douglas.
Even before Captain Parsons' arrival, however, Douglas had acted
on Lytton's dispatch of August 31 and had taken some "steps for
deciding upon a site for a seaport town."56 On October 14 he had asked
Captain G. H. Richards of H.M.S. Plumper for " a report of the
general capacities of the harbours of Vancouver   .   .   .   [and] of the
(51) The Emigrant Soldiers' Gazette, January 29, 1859, p. 1.
(52) Moody to Parsons, September 1, 1858.   Moody Correspondence.
(53) Moody to Grant, September 16, 1858.   Ibid.
(54) Douglas to Lytton, November 8, 1858.   BCP, Part n, p. 25.
(55) Douglas to Lytton, November 27, 1858.   BCP, Part n, p. 34.
(56) Lytton to Douglas, July 31, 1858.   BCP, Part I, p. 45. 1958 The First Capital of British Columbia 25
mouth of the Fraser's River, as the site of the entry into British Columbia, apart from the island."57 On November 3, presumably on the
basis of this report, which Captain Richards had sent him on October
23,58 and presumably, too, after Captain Parsons had pointed out to
Douglas the mUitary considerations involved, the Governor submitted
to Lytton some " remarks on the subject of estabUshing a seaport town
for the Colony of British Columbia."59 In this dispatch Douglas put
forward two proposals. One of these, " open to adoption only should
Vancouver's Island be incorporated with British Columbia," foUowed
Captain Richards' suggestion60 that, as Douglas put it,
the safe and accessible harbour of Esquimalt, Vancouver's Island, should be made
the port of entry to sea-going vessels for both Colonies, leaving the navigation of
the Gulf of Georgia and other inland waters for a class of steam vessels calculated
to do the work with safety and despatch.61
The other alternative—and Douglas seems to have anticipated that the
suggestion of Esquimalt, whUe " very popular with the property holders
of Vancouver's Island, who are generaUy desirous of having the seaport
town of British Columbia at Esquimalt or Victoria, where it now is,"
might weU " appear objectionable to Her Majesty's Government"—was
to place the seaport town on the site which he described as foUows:—
7. The ship channel into Fraser's River winds in a somewhat tortuous and
narrow passage through those sands, and has a depth of water sufficient for vessels
drawing 18 feet.
8. Beyond the sands the river increases in depth and the current in force and
velocity. The banks for the first ten miles are low, being only a few feet above
the water level, and there is a wide extent of wet marshy country on both banks
of the river, intersected by creeks and covered with sedge, willows, and coarse
9. That low, wet district passed, the country presents a new aspect, being more
elevated and covered with pines and other forest trees.
10. That .is the point where the seaport town can be established to the greatest
advantage, and for this reason, that it is accessible to sailing vessels, which, owing
to the lofty banks on both sides of the river, beyond that point, can rarely depend
upon a fair wind, or ascend further without using the warp, or by the help of steam.
(57) Douglas to Richards, October 14, 1858. Vancouver Island, Governors
Blanshard and Douglas, Correspondence Outward, June 22, 1850, to March 5,
1859.   Quoting Lytton's dispatch to him of August 14, 1858 (BCP, Part I, p. 49).
(58) Richards to Douglas, October 23, 1858. Enclosure 7 in Douglas to
Lytton, October 26, 1858.   BCP, Part II, pp. 12-16.
(59) Douglas to Lytton, November 3, 1858.   BCP, Part n, pp. 19-20.
(60) Richards to Douglas, October 23, 1858.   BCP, Part II, p. 14.
(61) Douglas to Lytton, November 3, 1858.   BCP, Part II, p. 19. 26 Dorothy Blakey Smith 1957-
11. The " Port of Entry " for all ships entering Fraser's River for trade should
be established somewhere about that point known as H.B.C. Tree, the first explorers
of the river having marked a tree with those letters.  .   .   .
12. The accompanying chart, showing the character of the country, near the
mouth of Fraser's River, and the point where it is here proposed to place the
seaport town, will be found useful for reference.
13. . . . if that plan [i.e. that Esquimalt should be made the port of entry
for both colonies] should appear objectionable to Her Majesty's Government, then
there will remain the alternative of selecting the point before described, about
ten miles from Port [sic] Pelly, up Fraser's River, where the land is level, dry, and
otherwise well adapted as a town location.62
The interpretation of this description so as to identify beyond question the site suggested by Douglas is by no means simple, for the key
phrases—"somewhere about that point known as H.B.C. Tree," and
" about ten miles from [Point] PeUy "—are far from specific. J. D.
Pemberton, who as Colonial Surveyor might be expected to know what
was in Douglas's mind, wrote in 1860:—
Subsequently to the establishment of British Columbia as a Crown Colony in
1858, the ruling authorities decided that a separate capital for British Columbia—
one seaport, and that of the greatest consequence—to be established somewhere in
the neighbourhood of Fraser River, was indispensable.
A point on the left bank, nine miles from the entrance, was first proposed;
but afterwards abandoned (in November, 1858) in favour of a point sixteen miles
further up the river, on the same side.
The spot selected was the site of a former establishment of the Hudson's Bay
Company, known as " Old Fort Langley."63
Pemberton's phrase " a point on the left bank, nine miles from the
entrance " may perhaps be equated with Douglas's " somewhere about
that point known as H.B.C. Tree," this tree being on the south bank of
the Fraser, directly opposite Annacis Island. And yet it hardly seems
likely that in face of the instructions from Moody which Captain Parsons must surely have relayed to Douglas, the latter should have suggested to the Home Government a site on the south or frontier bank of
the river. Pemberton's statement that the site first chosen was abandoned for Langley in November, 1858, is supported by the fact that the
town lots at Langley were sold on November 25. And yet in this dispatch of November 3, 1858, Douglas certainly cannot be referring to
Langley, which is some 30 mUes up the river, not " about ten mUes from
Point PeUy."
(62) BCP, Part n, pp. 19-20. The transcript of this dispatch in CO 60, Vol. I,
Part 1, 1858, p. 251, reads Point Pelly, not Port.
(63) J. D. Pemberton, Facts and Figures Relating to Vancouver Island and
British Columbia, London, 1860, p. 51. 1958 The First Capital of British Columbia 27
Indeed, it would appear that the site described by Douglas in the
dispatch of November 3 is rather to be identified with the site of the
future New Westminster, or at least with a spot somewhere between
the present city and Mary HUl, at the junction of the Pitt River—for
the land at New Westminster itself could certainly not be described as
" level." "About ten mUes from Point PeUy " would indicate, roughly,
the site of New Westminster; and although the city is on the opposite
side of the river from the H.B.C. Tree itself, the site could not unfairly
be described as " somewhere about that point known as H.B.C. Tree."
If we had the original chart which Douglas enclosed with his dispatch, the matter would be settled, but it seems that we have not.
A marginal note opposite paragraph 12 of the dispatch says, "This
Chart wUl be found at the end of this Paper." Presumably, then, it is
to be identified with the " Plan of Part of Fraser's River Shewing the
Character of the Ground from the Entrance to the Site of Old Fort
Langley," which is bound at the end of Part II of Papers Relative to the
Affairs of British Columbia. On this plan, which was Uthographed by
John Arrowsmith in 1859, the site of New Westminster is marked, and
actuaUy so named. Obviously Douglas could not have used this name
in November, 1858, though he could have marked the site; and it seems
a fair inference that since these Papers were pubUshed on August 12,
1859, after the name " New Westminster " had been chosen (in May of
that year)64 by Her Majesty, Douglas's chart was amended in this respect
before it was printed. It may be, too, that London was responsible
also for the incorrect marking of Point PeUy on the north instead of the
south side of the south channel.65
That Douglas did in fact indicate on his chart the approximate site
of the future New Westminster is borne out by a letter from the Admiralty to Merivale, who had sent them on January 26, 1859, Douglas's
dispatch of November 3, 1858:—
My Lords are not aware   .   .   .   that a better [site] can be found   .   .   .   than
...  at the spot pointed out by Governor Douglas, just above Annacis Island
(64) Lytton to Douglas, May 5, 1859.   BCP, Part H, p. 86.
(65) Admiralty Chart No. 1922 (1859-60) marks Point Pelly on the south
side of the south channel, as do later maps, and marks Garry Point and North
Bluff on the north side of the channel. These names do not appear on the Arrow-
smith chart based, presumably, on Douglas's chart; the name Point Pelly is so
placed as to cover the stretch of land between these two promontories. 28 Dorothy Blakey Smith 1957-
of the charts, on the north bank of the stream, at about 14 nautical miles within
the sand heads, and 10 miles below Fort Langley.66
Further confirmation is provided by Moody's comment in his report to
Douglas of January 28, 1859, which recommended the New Westminster site:—
I am under the impression it is the same or nearly the same site to which you did
me the honour to direct my attention as the proper position for the port of entry ;67
and additional evidence may be found in Captain Grant's lettter to
Douglas dated November 17, 1858, in which, after stating his objections
to Langley, he added:—
Your Excellency in a conversation with me expressed an opinion that a site near
the Pitt River 10 miles below this [i.e. Old Fort Langley], and which is named by
Colonel Moody in his instructions to me, would afford a very advantageous
It would appear, then, that up to and including the date of his dispatch of November 3, Douglas had made no official suggestion that
Langley should be either the port of entry or the capital of British
On November 8 Captain Grant arrived in Victoria,69 and was advised
by Douglas " to proceed without delay to Fort Langley . . . and to
put up buUdings there for the accommodation of his own party and of
the other troops expected from England "70 on the Thames City. Actu-
aUy he did not leave Victoria until the 15th,71 which would give him
plenty of opportunity to consult with the Governor concerning the mUitary reserves mentioned to him by Moody (the second of which would
appear to be the approximate site of New Westminster) and " the ground
around the junction of the Pitt River and the Fraser," which Moody
had also enjoined him to examine if there were time before his own
arrival.72 Immediately after reaching Langley, on November 17, Captain
Grant wrote to Douglas, heading his letter " Old Fort Langley ":—
Having as far as a very limited visit allows, made myself acquainted with the
site of the proposed Town in this locality & adjoining which you have expressed
the desire that I should erect temporary buildings for the Troops now in British
(66) W. G. Romaine to Merivale, May 10, 1859. Enclosure 1 in Lytton to
Douglas, May 24, 1859.   BCP, Part H, p. 93.
(67) Moody to Douglas, January 28, 1859. Enclosure in Douglas to Lytton,
February 4, 1859.   BCP, Part H, p. 60.
(68) Grant to Douglas, November 17, 1858.   Grant Correspondence.
(69) Douglas to Lytton, November 9, 1858.   BCP, Part H, p. 26.
(70) Douglas to Lytton, November 27, 1858.   BCP, Part H, p. 35.
(71) Victoria Gazette, November 16,1858.
(72) Moody to Grant, September 16, 1858.   Moody Correspondence. 1958 The First Capital of British Columbia 29
Columbia and those expected to arrive in February next; I beg respectfully to
submit, in reference to my instructions from Colonel Moody R.E., and with the
view of delaying the sale of any land which will tend to establish a Town, without
fuller information being obtained—the following views which I deem to be of the
utmost importance to the future success of the Colony.
1. It is evident that the proper site of the Chief Town will be at that point
which limits navigation to ships of large draft, provided the neighbourhood is
suitable and the anchorage good; The position of Old Fort Langley appears to
possess these advantages, but at the same time there are disadvantages politically
& commercially which must weigh against it—. With respect to the former, it
appears unadvisable to locate a Town (in the first instance) so close to the
American Territory, trade & speculation will at once give it an impetus, and tho'
perhaps not intended, it will gain such importance as must militate most seriously
against any other position which may ultimately be selected for the Chief Town
& Port of Entry, and commercially, from its proximity to the Frontier, the open
trails & easy country which I understand exists between Fort Langley and Semi-
hamoo an American Port distant 16 miles, it will surely (if any duties are imposed) become a resort for smuggling and ruin the trade of the Fraser River, thus
making Semihamoo the real Port of Entry—
2. Your Excellency in a conversation with me expressed an opinion that a
site near the Pitt River 10 miles below this, and which is named by Colonel Moody
in his instructions to me, would afford a very advantageous position—The Anchorage there, I understand is the best on the River, the current less rapid than at
Langley, is less encumbered with ice in winter, has more span, and what is of
great importance, I beleive [sic] that for 4 months in the year viz from June to
September, the wind blows directly up the River [deleted] Fraser. R. as far as
the Pitt R., above this point it is uncertain, and would render towing necessary,
whereas shipping could sail with ease to good anchorage at the entrance of the
Pitt R., and moreover the position being at the confluence of the two Rivers, and
if the report proves correct that the country along the Pitt is auriferous, a large
influx of miners may be expected & the necessary supplies, for some time at least,
would be taken up to Langley, only to be carried back again, a measure detrimental to all interests—
3. Under these circumstances I would recommend to your Excellency the
suspension of the contemplated sale of Town lots, and further that no buildings
however temporary be commenced till such information is obtained as will indicate for certain, the true site for a Chief Town.1"
No acknowledgment of this letter by Douglas has been found. The day
before it was written, he had left Victoria for Fort Langley, where the
official ceremony at which the new colony of British Columbia was
(73) Grant to Douglas, November 17, 1858. Grant's fears concerning smuggling are borne out by the appointment in April, 1859, of an "Assistant Revenue
Officer in the neighbourhood of Langley, in order that the smuggling which it is
believed is now carried on to some extent in that quarter may as far as possible be
intercepted." W. A. G. Young to W. H. Bevis, April 9, 1859. British Columbia,
Governor Douglas, Correspondence Outward, July 14, 1858, to May 30, 1859. 30 Dorothy Blakey Smith 1957-
proclaimed took place on November 19. Captain Grant was, of course,
present, so that there was opportunity for him to put forward his views
to the Governor in person. But Douglas paid no attention whatever to
any representations made by Grant,74 and on the return to Victoria
Captains Grant and Parsons were left with the troops at the site of Old
Fort Langley,75 where they were reported by Douglas on December 27
to be "in good health and spirits, and busily engaged at this present
time in erecting houses for themselves and the main body of Engineers
at Fort Langley."76 Meanwhile Douglas had proceeded with the sale
of the Langley lots: they had already been surveyed and advertised for
sale; he was in need of funds; and until Moody's arrival there was no
possibUity of any other site of importance being put on the market. In
order to encourage the sale of the Langley lots, he proposed " building
a small church and parsonage, a court-house, and gaol immediately at
Langley, and to defray the expense out of the proceeds arising from the
sale of town lands there."77 Tenders were caUed for these buUdings on
December l.78
However, Douglas went no further for the moment in the development of Langley, at least in his official capacity. On December 3 he
issued a proclamation declaring the port of Victoria to be "for the
present ... the port of entry for British Columbia, until arrangements are made to coUect the duties at some point on Frazer's River,"79
there being " at present no Officer in British Columbia empowered to
levy the duties aforesaid, nor any station in the said Colony, at which
the said duties can conveniently be levied."80 The Victoria Colonist of
December 11 commented indignantly on this arrangement:—
(74) Moody to Arthur Blackwood of the Colonial Office, February 1, 1859.
" First Impressions: Letter of Colonel Richard Clement Moody, R.E., February 1,
1859," ed. W. E. Ireland, British Columbia Historical Quarterly (hereafter cited
as BCHQ), XV (1951), p. 103.
(75) Douglas to Lytton, November 27, 1858.   BCP, Part II, p. 34.
(76) Douglas to Lytton, December 27, 1858.   BCP, Part n, p. 48.
(77) Douglas to Lytton, December 14, 1858 (BCP, Part n, p. 45); and cf.
Pemberton to Douglas, November 30, 1858 (Enclosure 1 in Douglas to Lytton,
November 29, 1858, postscript dated December 1, 1858), BCP, Part II, p. 38:
"Unless some improvements are made, and buildings commenced to encourage
the wavering, I believe that [many purchasers at Langley will default]."
(78) Victoria Gazette, December 2, 1858.
(79) Douglas to Lytton, December 4, 1858.   BCP, Part II, p. 41.
(80) Proclamation. Enclosure 2 in Douglas to Lytton, December 4, 1858.
BCP, Part II, p. 43. 1958 The First Capital of British Columbia 31
Why were not the interests and convenience of British Columbia consulted instead
of the convenience of an officer? It cannot be supposed that Gov. Douglas wishes
the public abroad to understand that Langley is an unfit place for a station. . . .
By order of Gov. Douglas lots were sold at Langley to a very large amount Did
it occur to His Excellency that in making this [i.e. Victoria] the port of entry that
[sic] it was virtually a direct injury to the purchasers? Why was it not made known
at the time of sale?
Such was the state of affairs when Colonel Moody arrived in Victoria
on December 25, 1858, "not in time," says Douglas regretfuUy, "to
take part hi our Christmas festivities, which would have been all the
gayer for his presence."81 In a private letter written two days later,
Moody recorded his own impressions of Governor Douglas and his
hopes for a harmonious working relationship—
I venture on the liberty of writing a few private and confidential lines to say that
my first and second interviews with Governor Douglas are full of promise the most
satisfactory. I have entirely disarmed him of all jealousy and neutralized any
little mischievous attempts to introduce a wedge between us. He clearly understands that I have had the honour to be selected and placed at his disposal by you
to aid and assist in every way not only in command of troops & surveys and works
but in any other way he may be disposed to think my Counsels and Services may
be of value to him. I have assured him I understand my instructions to be that
/ am entirely under his orders and that he will find me support him loyally—that
where I may venture to offer him an opinion and even to urge it when such opinion
may entirely differ from his own, it will be urged in a spirit of duty to himself &
not of opposition—that when such opinion of mine may be rejected by him, he
will find me carry out his instructions as cordially in every respect as if they had
originated with myself. We gave each other a grip of the hand most significant of
the understanding between us—& my prayer to God is for grace and wisdom to
do my duty heartily always and cheerfully in a spirit which you will I trust approve
of to the last—I will do nothing " by halves ",82
The letter goes on to mention a number of specific " points that wUl
most probably come before you hi an official form from the Governor
before long."   Included in these is:—
The reconsideration of the site of the principal town on the Fraser. I believe the
Governor has not committed himself to the adoption of Langley—but I fear I
shall have the misfortune to differ as to the site. He may give way and I trust my
reasons will bring about that happy result.83
(81) Douglas to Blackwood, December 27, 1858.   Douglas Correspondence.
(82) Moody to [Blackwood?], private, December 27, 1858. CO 60, Vol. Ill,
Part 2, 1858, pp. 80-81. Merivale appended a minute: " I do not see anything to
do on it," to which Blackwood added, somewhat cynically, " Nor I—but I would
suggest that it be registered, as it makes abundant promises of subordination to the
Governor—which it will be well to remember in case of conflicts hereafter."
(83) CO 60, Vol. Ill, Part 2, 1858, p. 81. 32 Dorothy Blakey Smith 1957-
It seems clear from this letter that although Douglas was not free
to make an official choice of the site for a capital until Moody arrived,
he himself had Langley in mind, and further official evidence in this
respect is supplied by Blackwood's minute on the dispatch of February 5,
1859, in which Douglas reported to the Colonial Office the final decision
in favour of the New Westminster site:—
This choice of Colonel Moodys for the site of the capital Town of B. Columbia
sounds very satisfactory. The spot first chosen, & where the sales of Land took
place, which produced so much money, was very unfavorable, inasmuch as the
River was in the rear, & in a military point of view exceedingly unsafe.84
Lieutenant R. C. Mayne, too, remarked that " the site hit upon by
Colonel Moody was . . . both in a mUitary and commercial Ught
. . . infinitely preferable to the spot which had previously been fixed
upon for this purpose higher up and on the opposite side of the river;"85
and reference has already been made to J. D. Pemberton's statement that
in November, 1858, the site of Old Fort Langley had been selected for
the capital of British Columbia.86 Unlike the Home authorities and
Lieutenant Mayne, Pemberton approved of this selection, and so did
the Rev. W. Burton Crickmer, who as " chaplain for the gold fields of
British Columbia " came out in the same ship as Moody,87 and after
consultation with the Governor left Victoria almost immediately for
Langley to begin his missionary work.88 In a private letter to Douglas,
written on August 26, 1859, at " a critical time for Derby," Crickmer
stated expUcitly that the site of Langley, which he caUs " the noblest
town-site on the Fraser for every reason, geographical, local, civU, mUitary, commercial and social," had been " chosen under Your Excellency's sanction and approval." Indeed, he went so far as to say that
" the decadence of British Columbia has dated from the time that Your
ExceUency permitted so magnanimously your own choice or approved
choice to be set aside for specific professional wisdom to act without
let or hindrance "; and he fuUy beUeved that Douglas's " reasons for
permitting Derby to be selected, surveyed, and sold [would] wUl some
day be vindicated by facts before the world."89
(84) CO 60, Vol. IV, Part 1, 1859, p. 121.
(85) R. C. Mayne, Four Years in Vancouver Island and British Columbia,
London, 1862, p. 72.
(86) .   .   .   Vancouver Island and British Columbia, p. 51.   See above, p. 26.
(87) Victoria Gazette, December 16, 1858; Victoria Colonist, January 1, 1859.
(88) Douglas to Crickmer, January 7,  1859.    British Columbia, Governor
Douglas, Correspondence Outward, July 14, 1858, to May 30, 1859.
(89) Crickmer Correspondence. 1958 The First Capital of British Columbia 33
It seems clear therefore that at the time of Moody's arrival Douglas
would have preferred to estabUsh the port of entry and the seat of
government for British Columbia at two different sites. With respect
to the port of entry, he had already suggested to the Colonial Office, and
now suggested to Moody,90 the approximate site of the future New Westminster, a site closer to the mouth of the Fraser, and hence more convenient for shipping, than was Langley. With respect to the capital,
however, he wished to estabUsh the seat of government at Langley, and
hoped that Moody would approve his tentative choice of this site, on
which a considerable amount of work had already been done, for the
capital of the new colony.
Moody was sworn in as Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia
and as Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works on January 4, 1859,
and left for Fort Langley aboard the Beaver the day after.91 Arriving
there on the evening of January 6,91 he was met by the news of the
trouble at HUl's Bar, and with " admirable promptitude," as Douglas
records,93 he left that same night, at 11 p.m., for Fort Yale, taking with
him Judge Matthew BaiUie Begbie, who had accompanied him up the
river, and the detachment of Royal Engineers at Langley. " The Ned
McGowan War " is another story; but after the excitement was over,
Moody dropped down the river again to Langley, where the Plumper
was now awaiting him. He left Langley on January 23,94 and spent
the next four days examining the banks of the Fraser and the adjacent
coast.   He tells his friend Blackwood:—
Fr[om] Langley I went in the Plumper to Burrard's Inlet & afterwards to Semiamoo
to notice the Boundary Line & to Point Roberts. The loss of the latter is a serious
thorn in our side—A smuggling town is being built on the American portion & by
& bye there will be a Citadel of the 1st Class.   Depend on it the Military consid-
(90) See Moody to Douglas, January 28, 1859.   BCP, Part LT, p. 60.
(91) Victoria Gazette, January 6, 1859. The Victoria Colonist, January 8,
1859, is in error in implying that Moody left Victoria on the 6th. Cf. his own statement in his letter to Blackwood, February 1, 1859: " I [the] day after I was sworn
into my office I started for Frazer River "; and Begbie to Douglas, February 3,
1859 (Begbie Correspondence): " I left Victoria for Langley in company with the
Lieut. Govr ... on Wednesday, the 4th ulto. [actually Wednesday was the
(92) The Beaver anchored on the night of the 5th at one of the islands in the
Gulf and arrived the following evening (Thursday) at Langley. BCHQ, XV
(1951), pp. 91, 94.
(93) Douglas to Lytton, January 8, 1859.   BCP, Part II, p. 56.
(94) R. C. Mayne, Journal kept in H.M.S. Plumper, February 17, 1857, to
December 31, 1860.   Entry for January 23, 1859. 34 Dorothy Blakey Smith 1957-
erations affecting the Capital or principal Town at the entrance of the Frazer is
of the very greatest weight & shd take the lead.95
On January 28, stiU aboard the Plumper, " off Vancouver's Island,"
Moody wrote his official report for Douglas:—
After a very careful study of the question, I have now the honour to submit
to your consideration that the site which appears to be best adapted for the capital
of British Columbia is about 10 miles below the new town of Langley, and on the
north bank of the Frazer.
I am under the impression it is the same or nearly the same site to which you
did me the honour to direct my attention as the proper position for the port of
It is the first high ground on the north side after entering the river, and is about
20 miles above the Sand Heads.
There is abundance of room and convenience for every description of requisite
in a seaport and the capital of a great country.   .   .   .
As a military position it is rare to find one so singularly strong by nature, in
connexion with its adaptation as the capital of a country.
After analyzing in enthusiastic detaU the mUitary position, Moody
I would further submit that, in any war with our neighbours, our best, I may
say our only chance of success in this country . . . would be an immediate
offensive advance. I am so strongly impressed with these views as to venture (but,
believe me, with the utmost deference) to press on your consideration that, should
it be determined not to occupy this site in the manner suggested, concentrating
there, as early as possible, a condensation of political, military, and commercial
interests, growing and increasing in force in all time to come, it would seriously
peril, if not lose, to Great Britain the possession of the mainland.
These views, I apprehend, coincide generally with your own, but it is possible
they may not have struck you so forcibly as they may now that I have sketched
out the military value of the site.
FoUowing which tactful comment, Moody gave his opinion of Langley:—
This report would not be complete unless I added that the site of Langley is
open to the gravest objections as to the site of a capital, or even a town of importance. It is sufficient to say it is on the frontier side of the river, and no amount
of expenditure and skill could effectually rectify the strong military objection to
its position.96
In the afternoon of January 28 the Plumper reached Victoria,97 but
it was not until the foUowing day that Moody sent the foregoing report
to Douglas, with a covering letter dated January 29:—
(95) Moody to Blackwood, February 1, 1859.   BCHQ, XV (1951), p. 105.
(96) Moody to Douglas, January 28, 1859.   Enclosure in Douglas to Lytton,
February 4, 1859.   BCP, Part II, pp. 60-61.
(97) Victoria Gazette, January 29, 1859. 1958 The First Capital of British Columbia 35
... I cannot refrain from adding a few private lines just to assure you that
though I may appear to submit my observations in a somewhat urgent manner it
is in a spirit of entire deference to my chief.
I have the satisfaction of knowing you are disposed to agree with me in the
main in this matter—
I beleive [sic] I mentioned to you it is part of my duty to communicate to my
Military Superiors in England my views on all Military Questions affecting the
Colony as part of the whole Empire—  .   .  .
I hope you will confer also with Mr. Begbie on this question we talked it over
Douglas acknowledged report and letter on the same day on which they
were sent, Saturday, January 29, adding that he would " take the first
opportunity of conferring with [Moody] in person."99
This conference must have been held within the next three days, for
on the foUowing Tuesday, February 1, from " a very tiny house full of
[his] dear ChUdren but whose shouts sometimes ' fun' sometimes ' waU-
ings' do not tend to compose the thoughts," Moody completed a letter
to his friend Arthur Blackwood of the Colonial Office:—
You remember I promised to spin you a long yarn, I have done so I hope it will
not be voted a bore. . . . You will see by all the blunders that I have felt quite
at home in writing to you.100
In this very important letter, Moody gave a lengthy, detaUed, and highly
diverting account of his experiences in the Ned McGowan War, recounted his subsequent exploration of river and coast in the Plumper,
and then added:—
As soon as I got back again, the Govr, Begbie & I set to work to lay the foundations of the Colony of B.C. & we work together very satisfactorily—101
The site of the capital would be, of course, a major point for settlement;
and this letter to Blackwood is of very great interest in that it reveals to
no smaU degree the situation which actuaUy existed beneath the veneer
of the official dispatches.
Writing unofficiaUy to Blackwood, Moody reiterated the opinion
expressed in his official report regarding the mUitary fitness of the site
(98) Moody to Douglas, private, January 29, 1859.   Moody Correspondence.
(99) Douglas to Moody, January 29, 1859. Vancouver Island, Governor
Douglas, Correspondence Outward, January 7 to September 13, 1859.
(100) Moody to Blackwood, February 1, 1859. The original of this letter is
not available. In 1950 a copy was presented to the Archives by a member of the
Moody family, and this was edited, with an introduction and notes, by Willard E.
Ireland in "First Impressions," BCHQ, XV (1951), pp. 85-107. All quotations
are from the text in this article.
(101) Ibid., p. 106. 36 Dorothy Blakey Smith 1957-
which he had suggested (and which elsewhere in the letter he refers to
as "Queenborough"), and was even more critical of the Langley
In steaming up one fine reach at a spot 20 miles fr the entrance of the Channel
... to the Frazer, my attention was at once arrested to it's [sic] fitness, in all
probability, for the site of the first, if not the Chief Town in the Country. Further
study of that ground as well as other sites has now convinced me that it is the
right place in all respects. Commercially for the good of the whole community,
politically for imperial interests & military for the protection of & to hold the
country against our neighbours at some future day, also for all purposes of convenience to the local Government in connection with Vancouver's Island at the
same time as with the back country. It is a most important spot. It is positively
marvellous how singularly it is formed for the site of a large town (not a small
one) to be defended against any foreign aggression. ... I have written the
Governor a strong letter on the subject, wh he promises to send to the Colonial
Office. I hope both these observations & that letter may be shown to Sir John
Burgoyne as soon as possible. It must needs be some time before the explanatory
surveys can accompany any Military Report & in the meanwhile no time shd be
lost in adopting the site. In a few months it may be too late. . . . Now for a
few words about the new Town of Langley—I dare scarcely enter on the subject
with the freedom I wd wish, I wd have to say so many severe things. I will try &
put it into a few facts & leave you to draw your own deductions. First, I will
mention my own Officer Capt" Grant, earnestly protested against it & urged I wd
soon be on the spot. His advice was set aside, the Town was laid out, & the lots
sold. I know money was sorely needed & this sale brought grist to the Mill. No
public announcement of any kind was made that this was to be the chief town,
but public Officers bought Lots, among them Captn Grant himself, who firmly
believes it is to be the chief town. A Court House & Jail was promised besides a
Church & Parsonage and these are being built or about to be built at this moment
The prevailing opinion is that it is to be the Chief Town. It is on the Frontier
side of the River, a level country easily crossed, a sort of road now exists. American Soldiers come up to ours & try to fraternize smuggling of every kind goes on—
The Town may be said to be an American Town with it's [sic] port at Semiamoo
in American territory & if the Chief Town of the Country is to be at that spot,
Semiamoo, American, cannot fail to be the Chief port of the district. . . .
There are no Military features towards the frontier of wh to take advantage to
cover & protect the Town in time of War. At any moment the Americans cd & wd
have their grip on the very throat of B Columbia; the site itself, in itself, is not
bad for a Town & that is it's [sic] sole recommendation. By not at present selling
any more lots, nor any rural lots between it & the Frontier it's [sic] progress wd be
at once arrested & for ever, for all commercial interests wd centre too strongly at
the better place for British interests namely Queenborough, & Semiamoo wd die.102
In some quarters, " executive reluctance "103 to place the capital at any
other site but Langley was accounted for by the Governor's former con-
(102) BCHQ, XV (1951), pp. 93, 103-104.
(103) Victoria Colonist, February 5, 1859. 1958 The First Capital of British Columbia 37
nection with the Hudson's Bay Company, and Moody gives some support
to this view:—
The new town of Langley abuts close on in fact adjoins the 10 mile claim of the
H.B. Company—You have instructed the Govr to deal liberally with the H.B.
claims & Sir Edward in so doing acts both wisely & justly—They deserve every
consideration I freely confess, I came out somewhat prejudiced agst them, I now
think the Gov' of England are much indebted to them, & their Servants are worthy
enterprizing men, keen at making a bargain, & occupied in accumulating wealth.
That is their business, & they persue [sic] it with Will, prudence, forethought &
energy & if they get to windward of the Govr it may perhaps be thought a laudable victory. I do not grudge them in the least all the gain they may get by the
juxtaposition to Langley of their rich claim—By all means do not withhold it—104
But Moody's own objections to Langley had nothing to do with any
Hudson's Bay claim. " That does not influence me," he continued:—
My objections are strong "Imperial Interest" objections to the locality—I have
urged the matter very earnestly on the Govr in a military point of view & he has
promised to send my letter home—He admits all my facts, so does Judge Begbie,
approves of my policy, and we have drawn up a proclamation in wh it is stated
that a town is to be laid out (at my " site ") wh is to be the port of Entry & Capital
of B. Columbia & that lots may be exchanged.^*
It would appear, then, that Moody had carried his point; but as he
goes on to teU Blackwood, " The proclamation is not made pubUc yet,
& day after day passes." Rumours were current in Victoria as early
as the 1st of February, when the Gazette printed an item headed " The
Capital of British Columbia—Langley or Queensburgh? " and on February 5 the Victoria Colonist discussed the question at length:—
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? ... On apparently good authority it is said that Lieut. Gov.
Moody—whom everybody agrees should be a good judge of location—is favorable
(104) BCHQ, XV (1951), pp. 104-105. For the H.B.C. claims see the
Enclosure in Douglas to Lytton, December 7, 1858 (BCP, Part n, pp. 44-45); and
the " Statement of Claims " and Report by Moody, enclosed in Douglas to Lytton,
May 31, 1859 (CO 60, Vol. IV, Part 2, 1859, pp. 161 ff.). These claims include
New Fort Langley and adjacent farms (10 square miles) and 60 lots (10 acres) at
Old Fort Langley, " being part of the town as now surveyed. The whole of the
cleared land at Old Langley is claimed by the Hudson's Bay Coy.—as having been
cleared and occupied by them. This land was surveyed and sold by Government
against the remonstrances of the Officers of the Company, and the portion stated
above being inferior in position, is now claimed as only a portion of what they
consider they are entitled to." Apparently the company claimed squatters' rights
on land occupied before the influx of the miners. T. W. Berens, Deputy Governor
of the company, to Lytton, October 12, 1858.   CO 60, Vol. II, Part 1, 1858, p. 124.
(105) BCHQ, XV (1951), p. 105. 38 Dorothy Blakey Smith 1957-
to change while His Excellency Gov. Douglas is not disposed to do so. . . .
The public in general, and those owning Langley lots in particular, want to know
from the government, whether another town is to be laid out for a Port of Entry
at Pitt river? Or whether Langley will be made a Port of Entry? 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. . . . The idea of making Queensboro
the Port of Entry, and Langley the principal town, is perfectly preposterous.   .  .   .
Now is the time to decide,—and if a blunder has been made—and for the
honor of the country we would rather hear that such was the case than that H.B.
Co's land claim gave the preference for Langley—let it be promptly remedied.
But it was not until February 14 that the proclamation was actuaUy
pubUshed,106 and Moody obviously beUeved that Douglas was playing
for time in the hope that Langley might after all be selected. His letter
to Blackwood continues:—
If it is stated to Colonial Office that the matter has gone too far, it will be an error.
Scarcely any buildings of consequence are up, except a building intended to receive
some of my men, built I presume by the Govr's orders, certainly with his sanction.
I trust a " cry " will not be raised that it is not [sic: for now?] too far gone to
change the site. A " cry " is easily got up. At present the public only wish to
know wh is to be site. They are ready for either. Why the announcement is
postponed I know not, every day increases the evil. I am sorry, very sorry for it—
The people pester me, & comment on the Govr. Suspicions of the most odious
kind are rife. Now, observe, unless a very decided order comes fr Sir Ed, Langley
will be adopted.   ...   I hope Sir Ed's orders will come by return of post.10'
It would appear, then, that despite Moody's statement to Blackwood
that he and Douglas and Begbie worked together " very satisfactorily,"
there was a somewhat reluctant unanimity as far as the site of the capital
was concerned. OfficiaUy, however, unanimity on this point was
achieved, and more quickly than Moody's forebodings had suggested. On
February 1 Douglas wrote to Moody, instructing him " to adopt instant
measures for surveying and laying out a Town upon the site proposed
(106) Enclosure in Douglas to Lytton, February 19, 1859. BCP, Part H,
pp. 65-66.
(107) BCHQ, XV (1951), p. 105. The R.E. building had been erected at
Langley by Grant on the " advice " and " desire " of Douglas that he should do so.
Douglas to Lytton, November 27, 1858 (BCP, Part H, p. 35); and Grant to
Douglas, November 17, 1858 (Grant Correspondence). As for " the people pester
me," the Victoria Colonist, January 15, 1859, was convinced that " the immediate
supervision of British Columbia now devolvefd] on Lieut. Gov. Moody," and
Moody was obliged to set matters right in a letter of January 28 which the paper
published the next day: " I serve under His Excellency Governor Douglas, receive
his instructions, and carry out his orders in all matters relating to British Columbia." 1958 The First Capital of British Columbia 39
by you."108 On February 4 he forwarded to Lytton, as he had promised, Moody's report on the site of the capital, adding that " the views
which the Lieutenant-Governor has so ably developed generaUy coincide
with my own impressions on the subject, and I am satisfied of the soundness of his conclusions ";109 and the foUowing day he wrote again to
Lytton, requesting that Her Majesty would name the new capital.110
The view has been put forward from time to time that Douglas and
Moody disagreed concerning the name of the new capital, Douglas
always calling it " Queensborough " and Moody, " Queenborough ";
and that the Queen, appealed to as arbiter in the dispute, settled the
matter by rejecting both forms in favour of the name New Westminster.
The avaUable evidence does not appear to support this view.
That Moody did propose the name Queenborough seems almost
certain, in the Ught of the foUowing passage in his letter to Blackwood:—
The site is not only convenient in every respect but it is agreeable & striking in
aspect. Viewed fr the Gulf of Georgia across the meadows on entering the Frazer,
the far distant giant mountains forming a dark background—the City wd appear
throned Queen-like & shining in the glory of the midday sun. The comparison is
so obvious that afterwards all hands on board the Plumper, & indeed everyone
joins in thinking the appropriate name wd be " Queenborough."Ul
In this otherwise extremely frank letter Moody made no mention of any
dispute about the name, but merely added:—
The Governor very properly however says, it is his intention to take instructions
from Home about the Name & hopes her Majesty may be induced to name itH2
Making this request to Lytton on February 5, Douglas says that " it has
been determined, for the necessary sake of convenience, to distinguish
the town by the name of ' Queensborough,'113 and the Victoria Gazette
of February 1 inquired " whether Queensburgh (the reported name of
(108) Douglas to Moody, February 1, 1859. British Columbia, Governor
Douglas, Correspondence Outward, July 14, 1858, to May 30, 1859.
(109) Douglas to Lytton, February 4, 1859. BCP, Part II, p. 60. Merivale
added a minute to this dispatch: "I am very clad [sic] the two are agreed about
it, as it is just one of the points on which a difference of opinion might have been
expected."   CO 60, Vol. IV, Part 1, 1859, p. 121.
(110) Douglas to Lytton, February 5, 1859.   BCP, Part H, p. 61.
(111) BCHQ, XV (1951), p. 93.
(112) Ibid., pp. 93-94.
(113) BCP, Part II, p. 61. The Colonial Office did not like the temporary
name. Merivale added a minute: "' Queensborough' sounds prosaic, and reminds
one also of an English borough of indifferent fame," and Lytton's comment was
scathing: " Queensboro is not only prosaic—it is the quintessence of vulgarity."
CO 60, Vol. IV, Part 1, 1859, p. 131. 40 Dorothy Blakey Smith 1957-
the new town) [was] to be merely a mUitary station, or a new Government town." But that there was any long and bitter dispute concerning
the two forms of the name is not borne out by the evidence. Between
February 1, 1859, when Moody first used the name Queenborough, and
July 20, 1859, when the name New Westminster was proclaimed, the
Moody-Douglas letters, the letters of other Government officials, and
the newspapers of the time aU use the two forms indiscriminately, both
sometimes appearing in the same letter.114 It is true that Douglas may
be said to lean toward the use of Queensborough and Moody toward
Queenborough;115 but had there been any real quarrel about the name,
one would have expected to find each making a point of always using
the particular form which he had recommended.
The earliest reference to any such disagreement which has been
found occurs in a letter in the Victoria Colonist, July 27, 1859:—
Two great men quarrel as to whether a certain town shall be spelled with an " S "
or without one; the issue of the mighty contest is referred to Her Majesty, the
Queen, who decides . . . that the name shall be neither Queensborough nor
Queenborough, but New Westminster.
The same story of " a sort of quarrel about the name " and of the settling
of the matter by Downing Street was told by Dr. J. S. Helmcken in
1892.116 A much more picturesque and circumstantial account is given
by R. E. GosneU in The Year Book of British Columbia, published in
Before the Colony was proclaimed the Governor had fixed upon Langley, a level
country belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company around the fort, as the Capital
of British Columbia, but Colonel Moody, R.E., who had come out with a corps of
400 Royal Engineers . . ., at once opposed the selection of Langley as being on
the wrong bank of the river, and indefensible on military grounds, and with his
officers sought a suitable site on the right bank proper, and, against the advice of
his officers, at first fixed on Mary Hill, a fine and elevated site near the mouth of
(114) For example, Moody to Douglas, April 19, 1859, headed Queenborough, has marginal comments in the handwriting of Douglas using both
Queenborough and Queensborough; and Moody to Douglas, May 20, 1859, headed
Queensborough, has a marginal note by Douglas using Queenborough. Moody
(115) The statistics are: For Douglas, out of 17 instances, 6 for Queenborough and 11 for Queensborough: for Moody, out of 53 instances, 32 for Queenborough and 21 for Queensborough. These are apart from the official dispatches,
in which Douglas always uses Queensborough. Moody to Douglas, June 8, 1859
(Moody Correspondence), encloses a copy of a printed certificate "that will be
issued from the Lands and Works Department in respect of every lot purchased "
at the sale on June 1 and 2.   This reads " Queenborough Sale."
(116) J. S. Helmcken, Reminiscences, 1892, Vol. IV, pp. 11, 97. 1958 The First Capital of British Columbia 41
Pitt River, in preference to a still finer site a couple of miles lower down on the
right bank, and ordered his senior captain—Capt. Jack Grant, as he was familiarly
termed, now General Grant, RE,—to take the axe and make the first cut at one
of the trees nearest the river. He was in the act of swinging his axe to deliver
the blow, when he was so much impressed with the mistake they were making
that he said: " Colonel, with much submission I will ask not to do it. Will you
yourself be pleased to take the responsibility of making the first cut? "—respectfully giving his reasons. These were of so cogent a nature . . . that the Colonel
was convinced, rowed down the river and ordered the first cut to be delivered on
one of the huge cedars with which the hill was covered, and named the new town
" Queenborough."
But so great already was the jealousy in Victoria against the projected new
city, that Queenborough was considered by the Colonial Secretary, Mr. W. A. G.
Young, as too nearly a paraphrase of Victoria, the only permissible Queen City,
that [sic] after a great inkshed and a long acrid correspondence the name was proclaimed to be not the Queen borough, (Victoria) but Queensborough, which was
quite another thing. . . . The matter was taken up by the Home Government,
Her Majesty was engaged to finally fix on the name, and by Royal Proclamation,
Queensborough (a convenient name) was converted into a Royal City and the
Capital of British Columbia under the name of New Westminster, (an inconvenient one) and on the faith of that many invested their all in it. But it " would not
stay fixed ", for the Victorians exerted their political and financial influence, with
the Home Government against it, and in a hot and hostile discussion year after
year, and with such effect that on the 19th of November, 1866, the union of the
two separate Colonies under the name of British Columbia was accomplished and
proclaimed, and the Capital changed from New Westminster to Victoria.11''
GosneU provides no documentation for his story, and this account
of the choosing and naming of the site of Queenborough is at obvious
variance with Moody's own, as given in the letter to Blackwood quoted
above. Nor does it find confirmation either in the account given in 1862
by R. C. Mayne, who was one of the party aboard the Plumper with
Moody, or in the recoUections of Walter Moberly, who in 1885 wrote:—
Colonel Moody wished me to go down the river to the proposed new city, and
getting a week's rations, a tent, and picking up a man and an old leaky boat, I tied
her to the steamer Beaver as she ran down the river, and we were shortly on shore
at the site proposed. The trees, as a general thing, were of enormous size, and
the underbrush dense.   We made a little pathway for a few hundred feet and came
(117) R. E. Gosnell, The Year Book of British Columbia, Victoria, 1897,
pp. 45-46. This is a semi-official publication. An announcement on page 399
says: " Since the publication of the British Columbia Year Book and Compendium
by the author three years ago, the copies remaining unsold have been purchased by
the Government. ... In the next issue, while preserving the main features of
the 1897 edition, it is hoped to present not only what has been omitted in this, but
much entirely new matter." Gosnell himself was described on the title page as
" Librarian Legislative Assembly and Secretary Bureau Statistics." 42 Dorothy Blakey Smith 1957-
to a magnificent bird's eye maple tree, under which I pitched the tent, and founded
the city of Queenborough, now known as New Westminster.
What is more, GosneU was expUcitly, though privately, contradicted by
Grant himself, who on receiving a copy of the Year Book wrote from
London on April 15, 1898, to Sir Henry Crease:—
. . . The New Westminster site was the Chief Commissioners own selection,
personally I never liked it, principally on the ground that the Site should be either
as high up the river as navigation permitted, or failing that, then as near the River
mouth as possible.i18
And since, at the most, only three days elapsed between Moody's return
to Victoria and Douglas's decision to refer the matter to the Home
authorities, it is also difficult to see how " a great inkshed and a long
acrimonious correspondence " about the name could possibly have taken
place. Later writers who refer specificaUy to the supposed dispute
either consider the controversy so much a matter of fact that no evidence
need be quoted, or else quote this passage from GosneU as their only
(118) Crease Correspondence. Grant also corrects GosneU's figure of 400
Royal Engineers: "The total strength of the Detachment was 172—then 2 strong
companies of Royal Marines came from Japan." For the relevant passages in
Mayne, see Four Years in British Columbia and Vancouver Island, 1862, p. 72, and
also his Journal kept in H.M.S. Plumper, entries for January 23 and 24, 1859. For
Moberly's account see The Rocks and Rivers of British Columbia, 1885, p. 29.
(119) See E. O. S. Scholefield and F. W. Howay, British Columbia from the
Earliest Times to the Present, Vancouver, 1914, Vol. JJ [by F. W. Howay], p. 67;
Lillian Cope, "Colonel Moody and the Royal Engineers in British Columbia,"
University of British Columbia M.A. thesis, 1940, p. 85; Margaret L. McDonald,
New Westminster 1859-1871, University of British Columbia M.A. thesis, 1947,
p. 31; Willard E. Ireland, ed., "First Impressions," BCHQ, XV (1951), p. 93,
n. (24). In his Sir James Douglas and British Columbia, Toronto, 1930, p. 251,
W. N. Sage says merely that the capital was "first known as Queenborough, or
Queensborough," but discussing the choice of the site, he points out that though
'* Douglas is careful in his despatches not to suggest that there was ever any disagreement with Moody," nevertheless "it is evident from the testimony of 'old-
timers ' that such disagreements did occur." And again (p. 299), "it is a matter
of common knowledge among the ' old-timers' of British Columbia that Moody
and Douglas often found themselves in profound disagreement. . . . Such is the
tradition in New Westminster where Douglas was always less popular than he was
in Victoria." Gosnell (1860-1931) may be reckoned an 'old-timer,' though he
spent the latter part of his life in Eastern Canada, only returning to British
Columbia just before his death. His story of the dispute over the name of the
capital may therefore be part of the "tradition" of disagreement. That this
" tradition " is founded on fact is clear from the correspondence of Douglas and
Moody between 1859 and 1863, but it does not appear that the naming of the
capital of British Columbia was one of the points of disagreement 1958 The First Capital of British Columbia 43
Neither form of the name appears hi the proclamation of February
14, which simply says: " It is intended with aU dispatch to lay out and
settle the site of a city, to be the capital of British Columbia, on the
right or north bank of Fraser River."120 "As the Government [was]
desirous of concentrating the commercial interests of the Colony in and
around the capital,"121 it was also laid down that the purchasers of town
lots at Langley would be aUowed to surrender them and " have their
money transferred, either as a whole or part payment for lots in the
new town";122 and the proclamation also stated that "the proposed
(120) Enclosure in Douglas to Lytton, February 19, 1859. BCP, Part IL
p. 65. It is possible that the vagueness of this whole passage is intentional. On
February 10 it was still Moody's intention to lay out the capital at the site of the
future New Westminster, according to the sketch enclosed in his letter to Douglas
of that date, in which he proposes a canal between the Fraser and Semiamoo Bay
(Moody Correspondence). But there was clearly some idea in official circles that
the barracks, if not all the Government buildings, might be placed at Mary Hill,
some 4 miles farther up the Fraser, at the junction of the Pitt River. See Moody
to Parsons, May 12, 1859 (British Columbia, Lands and Works Department,
Correspondence Outward, March-August, 1859): " We thought first of placing the
Barracks at Mary's Hill." On March 1, the day before Moody left Victoria for
the Fraser to begin the survey of the site for the capital (see Victoria Gazette,
March 3, 1859), he instructed Captain W. D. Gosset that if the Thames City
should arrive during his absence, measures were to be taken " for getting her (or
in any case the men & stores) up the Fraser River as far as Mary's Hill." See
British Columbia, Royal Engineers, Correspondence Outward, February-May,
1859, p. 12. On March 7, over the signature of "Walter Moberly, Superintendent
Public Works, British Columbia," tenders were called " for the erection of certain
Government Buildings etc., at Mary Hill "; but on March 11, from the " Office of
Lands and Works, the Camp, Queenbro," Moody wrote to the editor of the Victoria
Gazette (which had published Moberly's notice on March 8), asking him to cancel
it and to insert another, calling for tenders " for the erection of certain Government Buildings at Queenbro." It may be that this cancellation was the basis for
GosneU's story concerning the change in the location of the capital from Mary
Hill to Queenborough. But no evidence has been found to support GosneU's
statement that Captain Grant was the first to recognize the superiority of the latter
site. Indeed, from Moody's letter to Blackwood of February 1, there seems little
doubt that it was Moody's miUtary eye which from aboard the Beaver first picked
out the Queenborough site on the way up to Langley at the beginning of January,
1859, although it was not until " afterwards," when on the return journey aboard
the Plumper, this and other possible sites were being studied, that " all hands on
board the Plumper, & indeed everyone joins in thinking the appropriate name wd
be ' Queenborough.'"
(121) BCP, Part H, p. 66.
(122) Douglas to Lytton, February 19,1850.   BCP, Part H, p. 65. 44 Dorothy Blakey Smith 1957-
capital wiU be declared to be a port of entry so soon as the necessary
arrangements shaU have been provided, which wUl be done with aU
convenient despatch."123 On February 17 the Governor approved, in
part only, Moody's request for permission to construct certain pubUc
buUdings at the site of the capital: he aUowed " a smaU Church, Offices
of Land and Works, Residence for Lieutenant Governor . . . , Barracks . . . , Custom House, Treasury," but added that " a Court
House and JaU being already in progress at Langley I think it would be
advisable to defer the erection of simUar buUdings at the Capital until
the present more immediate wants are somewhat satisfied."124 It was
to be over three months before the survey of the new site was completed
and the land offered for sale. The site was, as Pemberton later pointed
out in his defence of Langley, " too elevated, expensive to grade, and
heavUy timbered ";125 and Moody himself in a friendly and informal
letter to Douglas written from Queenborough on March 17, 1859, gave
a vivid picture of the situation:—
I beg to thank you for your kind note. We are struggling here against very
tiresome difficulties and delays arising from most atrocious weather. The rain is
incessant and gusts with mist—snow half thawed is deep throughout the woods—
the thickets are the closest and thorniest I ever came across. My clothes are becoming ragged! and the men's hands are torn in every direction. I am sending to
Victoria for some stout strong common leather gloves for them if such can be
procured. It will be weU repaid in saving time and money. I stand by and sometimes help a little, so I see with own eyes [sic] what a loss of time it is giving a
wince and rubbing your hand when a thorn as big and strong as a shark's tooth
tears across it
The woods are magnificent, superb beyond description but most vexatious to
a surveyor and the first dwellers in a town.   .   .   .
. . . Mr. Burnaby and Lt Blake . . . have been away now 3 days in the
most deplorable weather. The rain was in torrents all last night and it is streaming down still in Tropical torrents—nothing would gladden my eyes more than to
see them back. I ami just off with Captain Parsons to fix " observation Poles " in
the mud!   Indian rubber waterproof boots are the only wear here at present. 126
Reporting these difficulties to Lytton on March 25, Douglas added:—
I fear that consequently there wiU be no land for sale for some time to come;
and, unfortunately, the commencement of the survey of the new town has entirely
put a stop to any further sale of land at Langley. 127
(123) BCP, Part LL p. 66.
(124) Douglas to Moody, February 17, 1859, Vancouver Island, Governor
Douglas, Correspondence Outward, January 7, 1859, to September 13, 1859.
(125) Vancouver Island and British Columbia, 1860, pp. 52-53.
(126) Moody to Douglas, March 17, 1859. Lands and Works Correspondence.
(127) Douglas to Lytton, March 25,1859.   BCP, Part II, p. 71. 1958 The First Capital of British Columbia 45
A fortnight later, on April 8, Douglas amplified this dismal theme:—
7. The removal of the intended sea port town, from Langley to Queensborough, has caused a depression in the Public Revenue, arising from sales of town
lands, which ceased entirely at the former place, with the first announcement of
the proposed change in the seat of Government.128
Taken in isolation, this passage would certainly appear to suggest that
Douglas not only had intended to make Langley both the port of entry
and the capital, but had made pubUc announcement to that effect, for
the " announcement of the proposed change in the seat of Government"
presupposes an earlier announcement of a decision to place the capital
elsewhere. It is natural enough in the context of this passage to identify
" elsewhere " with Langley, but the fact is that no announcement of
Langley as the seat of government has come to light.129 Indeed, Moody
explicitly states that " no pubUc announcement of any kind " to that
effect was ever made;130 the newspapers were bitterly critical of Douglas
for not making such an announcement;131 and it is difficult to see how
such an announcement could possibly have been made in the face of
the Colonial Office instructions that Douglas must consult with Moody
in the matter of the capital.
(128) Douglas to Lytton, April 8, 1859.   BCP, Part IH, p. 2.
(129) The closest approach to an official announcement which has been found
comes at second hand from a foreign source. On January 15, 1859, the Colonist
carried an item quoted in its entirety from the San Francisco Evening Bulletin of
December 22, 1858, and headed "Necessity of a New American Port of Entry
near the Mouth of Fraser ": " Gov. Mason, in a message delivered at the meeting
of the Legislature of Washington Territory, at Olympia, on 9th Dec., urged the
necessity of the creation of a new American port of entry, somewhere near the
mouth of Fraser River.   He says:
"' I will call your attention to the necessity of a new port of entry, at some
point to the north, near the boundary line. Fort Langley, near the mouth of
Fraser river, has been selected as the seat of Government for British Columbia,
and is to be made a port of entry.' . . ." The Archives file of the Journals of
the House of Representatives does not include the volume for 1858, and in the
light of all the other evidence, no further investigation has been made. No letters
between the two Governors appear to be in the Douglas correspondence, and
Governor Mason was probably basing his remarks (presuming, that is, that he was
correctly quoted by the Bulletin) on the general impression concerning the future
status of Langley.
(130) BCHQ, XV (1951), p. 103; cf. Moody to the Colonial Office,
December 27, 1858 (CO 60, Vol. m, Part 2, 1858, p. 81): "I believe the Governor has not committed himself to the adoption of Langley."
(131) See, for example, Victoria Gazette, February 1 and 8, 1859; and Victoria Colonist, January 22, February 5 and 12, March 12, 1859. 46 Dorothy Blakey Smith 1957-
As for Langley having been " the intended sea port town," Douglas
flatly contradicts his own statement to this effect in a dispatch written to
Lytton about a month later, on May 12. By this time he had received
Lytton's comments on the sale of lands at Langley on November 25,
and Lytton, whUe expressing satisfaction at the financial results of the
sale, had been critical of the actual site. " It has been suggested to me,"
he says, " that supposing the advantages to be in other respects equal,
it might have been preferable to place the town on the banks of the
river which is furthest from the American frontier."132 Douglas repUed
that the choice of Langley was " a financial measure rather than one
founded on any cogent reason of poUcy "; that the land had " realized
a larger return of revenue than any other spot on the river would have
done "; and then added:—
You will doubtless have perceived from my Despatch No. 9, 3rd November last
[in which he had suggested a site in the vicinity of the future New Westminster—
see above, pp. 26-28] that I never proposed constituting Langley the sea-port town
of Fraser's River, for which purpose it would not, in my opinion, have been
adapted, owing to the obstructions caused by ice in the winter, and its greater
distance from the sea than the proposed port of entry, Queensborough.133
In view of the conflicting evidence, it does not appear that the dispatch of AprU 8 can be taken at face value. This whole dispatch is
concerned with the " Revenue and Expenditure of the Colony of British
Columbia."134 Is it a fair inference that, deeply concerned over the
depressed state of the finances, and deeply resentful, too, of the cutting-
off of his only source of revenue, as yet, from the sale of lands, Douglas
was for once off guard? Did the official mask sUp a trifle, revealing
his private and unofficial hopes for Langley—hopes to which the proclamation of February 14 had now put a definite end?
But if Douglas had now been forced to abandon the idea of Langley
as the port of entry and the capital, he had stiU not given up the struggle
to develop Langley as a commercial town of some sort. On April 30
the Victoria Gazette carried an item headed " Queenborough vs Langley ":—
A report is current on the streets, that New Langley, or Derby, is soon to be
declared a port of delivery by proclamation from the Governor. Whether this
rumor is true or not we cannot say, but we hear it from so many sources that we
are disposed to attach some credence to it. At any rate if not contradicted before
the sale of lots at Queenborough, now daily threatened, this report will have a
(132) Lytton to Douglas, February 11,1859.   BCP, Part H, p. 80.
(133) Douglas to Lytton, May 12,1859.   BCP, Part JH, p. 11.
(134) Douglas to Lytton, April 8, 1859.   BCP, Part HI, p. 1. 1958 The First Capital of British Columbia 47
damaging effect upon the sale. On the other hand, if such a proclamation is in
contemplation the Government owes it to itself and the public to make such intention known before the day of sale. Whether Langley is or is not to be a port of
delivery, is of very material importance to the property of Queenborough, whose
only supposed advantages over Langley consist in the intention of the Government
to make it the port of entry and delivery, and the Capital of British Columbia.
The rumour was not contradicted, and two weeks later Douglas was stiU
considering making Langley a port of deUvery, for on May 14, Moody
wrote to him:—
You did me the honor a few days since to express to me your opinion that it
might be desirable to declare Langley a Port of Delivery, at the same time that
Queensborough is declared the Port of Entry—
The subject has since engaged my closest study, and the result is, I would most
earnestly disuade [sic] you from taking such a step—
Your Excellency is aware of the Political importance of establishing thoroughly and as early as possible the Capial [sic] now chosen, of inducing Commercial intrests [sic] to centre there, and of doing all that may legitimately lay [sic]
in your power to dissuade them from rooting on the opposite or frontier side of
the River—  .   .  .
I am informed had it not been for a rumour of the possibility of Langley being
made a Port of Delivery all the Lots would have been transferred to Queensborough and even now, if your Excellency proclaim Queensborough the Port of Entry
without any iUusion [sic] to Ports of Delivery up the River it is possible the transfer would be complete—  .   .   .
I have never with-held from Your Excellency the strong and decided views I
take in reference to the occupation of the belt of Land between the River and the
frontier . . . while British residents are so few and United States subjects so
numerous it is clearly incumbent on the Imperial Government to discourage settlement on these frontier Lands, at Least until there is some prospect of an extensive
British settlement.
I go the extreme length of urging the settlement of this land by free grants to
British subjects on Feudal tenure for 21 years—  .   .   .
By disposing of it in the above manner, a loyal population would be on the
ground ready for immediate Military Service of [sic: for if?] the frontier be
threatened at its weakest point; and the land would be yielding sustenance instead
of lying waste—
I maintain also that your revenue would not suffer because the above mentioned are persons of whom you can have to [sic: for no?] hope of as purchasers
of land except to an insignificant extent—
Any step in this direction I submit with reference to this tract of land, would
naturally induce the immigration we want from Canada and the Mother Country—
T have connected this latter question with Langley as it is in fact the Chief
exponents of the Views entertained by me politically with regard to Langley and
the frontier—
Your Excellency is already aware of my opinion that Langley is inferior in
every respect to Queensborough as the Site for a Commercial city, and for intended communications to the interior by railways and other modes— 48 Dorothy Blakey Smith 1957-
As this question is one of very grave importance perhaps Your Excellency will
be good enough to pardon my requesting that the opinion entertained by me, may
be made known to H.M. Government, as from the instructions I received at home,
an opinion on a matter of this kind would be expected from me—13'
In the face of so strong a protest, and especiaUy of the impUcations of
the last paragraph, Douglas could hardly persist in making Langley a
port of deUvery. It would almost appear, however, that he wished
Moody to take the public responsibility for declaring the new capital
the sole port of entry, for Moody wrote to him on May 17:—
With reference to the verbal instructions yesterday received from Your Excellency
to include in the general notice of the terms of sale of Town lots at Queensborough
a declaration that the said Port is from the 1st June, to be the sole Port of Entry
for the Fraser River District B. Columbia—I would respectfully submit it is necessary a notice of such importance should be embodied in a Proclamation having
the Force of Law, and so not be liable, in any way, to a cavil as to its validity.l36
At last, on June 2, Douglas issued from Victoria a proclamation declaring that " from and after the 15th day of June now next, the port of
Queensborough shaU be the sole port of entry for aU vessels entering
Fraser River, and for aU goods imported by sea into the ports of British
Columbia adjacent to Fraser River,"137 and on June 15 a further proclamation, issued ironicaUy enough not from Victoria, but from Langley,
imposed tonnage, pUotage, and harbour dues at the port of Queensborough.138
On June 1 and 2 the town lots at Queensborough were put up for
sale at Victoria. Douglas reported that " the result has proved most
satisfactory as a financial operation, and indicates a general confidence
in the future of the colony."139 FinaUy, the new capital was given its
permanent name. Rumours of the change from Queensborough to
New Westminster were current in early July,140 and the change seems to
have been received with no great enthusiasm. To quote the Victoria
Gazette of July 9:—
The change of the title of the capital of British Columbia to New Westminster,
seems to be a fixed fact.   In this connection, the Canadian News says:
(135) Moody to Douglas, May 14,1859.   British Columbia, Lands and Works
Department, Correspondence Outward, March-August, 1859.
(136) Moody to Douglas, May 17,1859.   Moody Correspondence.
(137) Enclosure 3 in Douglas to Newcastle, September 13, 1859.   BCP, Part
IH, p. 55.
(138) Enclosure 4 in Douglas to Newcastle, September 13, 1859.   BCP, Part
LU, p. 56.
(139) Douglas to Lytton, June 6,1859.   BCP, Part JH, p. 16.
(140) Victoria Gazette, July 7,1859; Victoria Colonist, July 8,1859. 1958 The First Capital of British Columbia 49
It is announced that the title of the capital of British Columbia is to be New
Westminster, which is not by any means an improvement of [sic] the name of
Queensborough, as originally proposed by Gov. Douglas. Queensborough is not
only genuine Anglo-Saxon, but also appropriate and avoids confusion. We had
hoped for better things from the Colonial Office, under its present distinguished
head, than the old and worn-out prefix "New". We have New Yorks, New
Orleans, New Caledonias, &c., enough, in aU conscience, already.1*!
But" Her Majesty [had] been graciously pleased to decide "142 on the new
name, and on July 20 the Governor of British Columbia duly proclaimed that " the town heretofore called and known as Queensborough,
and sometimes as Queenborough, in the Colony of British Columbia,
shaU from henceforth be caUed and known as New Westminster."143
What the Victoria Gazette called the battle between the " Phantom
City " of New Westminster and the " Swamp City " of Langley144 was
finally over, and from this time on the fortunes of Langley steadUy declined. That Douglas stiU hoped Langley might be an important commercial town is made clear in a letter of August 30, 1859, to the Rev.
W. Burton Crickmer, the first incumbent of the church at Derby, or Old
Fort Langley, which had finaUy been opened for worship on May 8:—143
I had lately the pleasure of a communication from you marked private, representing the present state of Derby and the measures which you suppose would if
immediately and energetically carried out, tend to restore public confidence in the
2. Your reasoning on the subject appears correct and no serious objections to
the measures you propose occurs [sic] to me at this moment except on the grounds
of expediency.
3. As you justly presume I feel a deep interest in the place, and a higher degree
of confidence in its great capabilities as a commercial station, and I think there
is little reason to doubt that the land will be eventually sold in town lots as surveyed, and occupied by a commercial population, but for the present reasons
of state policy require that it should not be too prominently brought forward.   .   .   .I46
(141) The Canadian News, New Brunswick Herald, and British Columbian
Intelligencer was published fortnightly in London. The earliest issue in the
Archives file, No. 120, is dated January 3, 1861. The "present distinguished
head" of the Colonial Office was the Duke of Newcastle, who had succeeded
Lytton on June 18, 1859.
(142) Proclamation of July 20, 1859.
(143) Enclosure in Douglas to Lytton, August 17, 1859.   BCP, Part m, p. 39.
(144) Victoria Gazette, March 26, 1859.
(145) Ibid., May 14, 1859.
(146) Douglas to the Rev. W. B. Crickmer, August 30, 1859. Vancouver
Island, Governor Douglas, Correspondence Outward, May 27, 1859, to January
9, 1864. Douglas was replying to Crickmer's letter of August 26, 1859, cited
above, p. 32. 50 Dorothy Blakey Smith 1957-
But the Governor's hopes proved unfounded. According to Denys
Nelson, writing in 1927:—
The church was taken apart and floated over the river about the year 1882. . . .
The barracks, gaol and parsonage house have all been burned, only the marks of
their foundations being left to teU the tale.147
On the basis of the avaUable evidence, therefore, it would appear
that New Westminster, and not Langley, was the first capital of British
Columbia. Clearly, Douglas had hoped to make Langley the capital,
and without interference from Moody he would probably have carried
out his original plan. But however reluctant his acquiescence, he could
hardly go against the wishes of the Imperial Government. In the mind
of the Home authorities there were very grave fears that Great Britain
might soon be forced into a war with the Americans, and Moody had
accordingly received strict instructions that the site for both the capital
and the port of entry must be regarded with a mUitary eye. The newly
established colony of British Columbia could not be considered as an
independent poUtical unit; she was the western outpost of the British
Empire. Thus in Douglas's final decision to place the capital at the
site of the future New Westminster, despite his own preference for
Langley, considerations of Imperial mUitary strategy outweighed aU
others. As Moody frankly put it, Queenborough was " the better place
for British interests."148 This point of view made inevitable the rejection of Langley, a town already estabUshed and of no little historic
significance, but on the frontier side of the Fraser River, in favour of
a potential site on the opposite bank, steep, densely wooded, and
hitherto untouched. No doubt it was a site in which " a MUitary Man
wd deUght,"149 but it brought the first surveyors and settlers almost to
despair, and effectively frustrated any hopes which Douglas might stiU
have entertained for the rapid and easy development of a capital city in
the mainland colony. Whatever the effects of this choice on the subsequent history of the Province—and they were undoubtedly far reaching
—the final responsibUity must rest not with Governor James Douglas,
but with the Home authorities, whose imperial poUcy dictated the establishment of New Westminster as the first capital of British Columbia.
_ Dorothy Blakey Smith.
Provincial Archives,
Victoria, B.C.
(147) Denys Nelson, Fort Langley, 1927, p. 25. The Church of St. John the
Divine, which is still in use, was moved to Maple Ridge in August, 1882. See New
Westminster Mainland Guardian, August 30, 1882.
(148) BCHQ, XV (1951), p. 104.
DURING THE 1860's*
In 1849 Vancouver Island was proclaimed a British colony, but
British Columbia had to wait until the discovery of gold on the Mainland
brought a rush of miners seeking their fortunes in its sand-bars and
mountains before it could achieve that status. Gold had been discovered
in CaUfornia in 1848, and by 1850 the in-rush of "forty-niners" had
made of the region a fuUy fledged State of the Union. Fortunes were
made, but only by a comparatively few, and many who had gone to
CaUfornia with high hopes remained there with diminishing expectations,
until in 1858 news of the discovery of gold on the Fraser and Thompson
Rivers reached San Francisco and touched off stiU another gold-rush.
Shipping companies who could see the opportunity for high profits in
transporting the fortune-hunters to the diggings advertised widely the
wealth which could be made in the new El Dorado. Victoria and Vancouver Island found themselves prospering overnight. In August, 1858,
Governor Douglas estimated that there were 10,000 miners in the vaUey
of the Fraser prepared to organize some form of territorial government.
For the most part, these miners were Americans, and the unpleasant
prospect faced the British that, unless action was swiftly taken, the story
of Oregon might be repeated north of the International Boundary.
Douglas acted with energy and speed and left none of the miners in any
doubt that they were in British territory. ParUament foUowed up
Douglas's initial moves by creating the Colony of British Columbia in
August, 1858. By agreeing to relinquish his position as chief factor of
the Hudson's Bay Company, Douglas was made Governor of the new
colony, which office he formaUy assumed on November 19 at an appropriate ceremony held at Fort Langley. Soon a capital was estabUshed
at New Westminster, and attention was almost immediately given to the
question of buUding roads into the mining regions and the estabUshment
of law and order. The miners, seeing the advantages to themselves from
both undertakings, co-operated weU and agreed to the raising of funds
by a system of mining Ucences and tolls.
* The original article, of which this is an expanded version, appeared in The
National Library of Wales Journal, X (1958), pp. 375-389.
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Vol. XXI, Nos. 1-4.
51 52 Alan Conway 1957-
Of necessity, the gold deposits on the sand-bars of the lower reaches
of the Fraser River were soon worked out, and the prospectors began to
foUow the stream upwards. When the upper waters of the river produced Uttle gold, its tributaries, in turn, were prospected, particularly the
north branch of the Quesnel River, deep in the Cariboo Mountains.
A strike at Keithley Creek in 1860 was foUowed in 1861 by others at
WUUams Creek, flowing into the WUlow River, and at Lightning Creek,
flowing into the Cottonwood River. It was the mines of the Cariboo
region which thus saved the colony from being virtuaUy stiU-born by
bringing in a fresh influx of miners from aU over the world, in response
to the news of the riches being brought out. The Times correspondent
wrote from Victoria on December 9, 1859:—
AU accounts agree that the individual earnings of the miners are much larger than
in California or AustraUa. It is very common to light upon a man going to San
Francisco with several thousand dollars.   .  .   .1
More specific evidence was provided by him on January 25, 1860:—
The other day four Germans came down from Quesnell's River with $24,000,
which they dug out of a small stream, a tributary of that river, in the short space
of five weeks. . . . For the last few months so many successful miners have
returned to CaUfornia with "piles" that we are promised a considerable immigration from that country in the Spring. It is now admitted that the average earnings
are much greater in British Columbia than in the older gold fields, where the
surface diggings are worked out.2
Such favourable reports as these undoubtedly convinced many
waverers. Welshmen, both in Wales and in the United States, caught the
fever to emigrate to British Columbia, and emigrants from Aberdare,
for instance, began selUng their possessions under the hammer preparatory to leaving for the goldfields.3 A handbook to British Columbia was
put on the market for 4d., and emigration agents in Liverpool, catering
specificaUy for the Welsh, Uke Lamb and Edwards and D. Davies,
offered passage to would-be emigrants to British Columbia.4 From
Rhymney, despite good prospects of work dining the summer, young
men were leaving for the goldfields,5 and it was estimated that in July
one in three of the working population was keen on emigrating.6 Soon
the local newspapers began to publish accounts of Ufe and conditions in
(1) London Times, January 30,1860.
(2) Ibid., March 15,1860.
(3) Merthyr Telegraph, April 12,1862.
(4) Y Gwladgarwr (The Patriot), April 26, 1862.
(5) Merthyr Telegraph, May 3, 1862.
(6) Ibid., July 19,1862. 1958 Welsh Miners in British Columbia 53
the distant gold colony as letters from emigrating Welshmen were made
avaUable to the editors.
One of the first letters from British Columbia to be given wide circulation was from a weU-known bard, Thomas GwaUter Price ("Cuhelyn"),
who had emigrated in 1856 to MinersvUle, Pennsylvania. Later he
moved on to CaUfornia, from whence in March, 1859, he sent the
foUowing letter to Governor Douglas:—
Montgomery House, 19 Jackson St.,
San Francisco, California,
March 19th, 1859.
To His Excellency,
James Douglas,
Victoria, V.I.
Hon. Sir:—
Although fully conscious that your official duties are such as will not permit
you to waste time for the gratification and benefit of strangers like myself, who
burden you with applications for favors, &c., I assume the liberty of addressing you
thus, trusting that your exceUency will pardon my intrusion—and, furthermore,
that my appeal to your excellency's generosity wiU not be in vain.
I am a native of South Wales, G.B.; my age is 29 years. Was a commercial
traveller at home. Came to this country—that is, to the States—in 56. Was first
employed to write a Welsh Biography of Col Fremont, and to " stump " for him in
the Welsh settlements of Pennsylvania.
After the election (the Presidential) I started two papers in MinersvUle, Pa.,—
"The Workman's Advocate"—a paper devoted to the interests of the miners of
Pa.,—the majority of whom are emigrants from Gt. Britain—and " The Bard "—a
semi-monthly Welsh literary journal.
Being a "foreigner," and not a citizen of the U.S., and fighting against an
overwhelming monopoly—I, naturaUy enough, became an object of odium in the
eyes of "Native Americans" and oppressive employers; and with a view of suppressing my paper, I was constantly annoyed with Ubel suits. Not having a large
capital when I commenced business as publisher—and the miners being unable to
sustain me against the persecutions of moneyed employers and the prejudice of
corrupt judges, I was compelled to close my business at the end of the last year
without even a chance of selling my establishment
I managed to raise $200 with a view of emigrating to Victoria, and left my
young wife behind me to sell the establishment. By the time I reached here, my
money was getting short, and not having a chance to sail immediately, I had to
spend what I had to pay my boarding bills, so that by the time the late steamer
was ready to saU from here, I had no means to pay my passage.
What I crave of your exceUency is, an answer to this appeal, and a promise
of some kind of employment under your exceUency's government. With such
hopes before me, I could easUy raise sufficient means here to carry me to Victoria.
Testimonials as to my moral deportment, &c, can be immediately produced—
I am known to the Right Hon. Sir Benjamin Hall and his lady, who, I am satisfied, 54 Alan Conway 1957-
wiU willingly recommend me to your excellency upon an application being made
to them—as wiU Crawshaw [sic] Bailey, Esq., M.P. and other eminent citizens of
South Wales.
Trusting that your excellency will pardon my audacity, and that my ardent
prayer wiU be countenanced,
I beg to subscribe myself
Your Excellency's most humble
and obedient servant,
Thomas G. Price.'
No doubt Price was disappointed to hear from Charles Good, the
Governor's secretary, in May that it was " not in His ExceUency's power
to comply with your request so many appUcations being constantly rec'd
besides which the complement of governt employees is fully made up "8
and temporarily he abandoned his plan to go to British Columbia. But
by the spring of 1862 he had arrived in Victoria, for on March 20 he
wrote a letter in which, without minimizing the hazards and the hardships
of the venture, he virtuaUy threw out a chaUenge to those with courage
and endurance to try their luck in Cariboo:—
My dear LI ,
I have left California for the colonies of your noble Queen, cause—"a thirst
for gold." California has become a poor place now in the estimation of the
adventurous people who inhabit the Pacific Shores. The cry is Salmon River and
Cariboo; every steamer brings five or six hundred people from San Francisco.
As it may interest you, I will give you some idea of the cause of this emigration
and first I shall write of Salmon River. This place is in the Nez Piercez country,
Washington territory. All the rivers in that country are reported to be rich in
gold, but can only be worked in the summer season on account of the abundance
of snow. It is also a dangerous country on account of unfriendly Indians—the
Shoshones and Nez Piercez. The former are the most treacherous. Although the
Nez Piercez hitherto, have been somewhat friendly with the whites, it is expected
that they will join the Shoshones the coming summer to attack the whites, as it
is well known that the class of the latter who are gone into the country will
commit all kinds of mischief on the Indians. The very worst characters in California are gone out there—gamblers, prostitutes, pimps, thieves, murderers and
bad characters in general. Thank God, there are but few of such characters
coming into British colonies, for they will know that they cannot carry on their
fiendish practices in countries owned by the British Government. Allow me to
tell you that I am entirely sick of America and Americans; I am disgusted with
the liberty and independence of Americans. It is the liberty of going about
armed to the teeth Uke bands of smugglers or highwaymen, and depriving people
of their lives for the least provocation.   Their independence is nothing but vulgar
(7) Thomas G. Price to Governor James Douglas, March 19,  1859, MS.,
Archives of B.C.
(8) Ibid., from the endorsation dated May 3, 1859. 1958 Welsh Miners in British Columbia 55
bouncing. ... I must give you the distance and probable cost to Salmon
River. From San Francisco you take the steamer for Portland, Oregon. Portland
is a smaU city of three or four thousand inhabitants. The cost to Portland is $20
in the steerage. Then you push your way eastward along the course of the
Columbia, the Snake and Clear Water and Salmon rivers. The distance from
Portland is about 475 miles by water and land. To accomplish this it will take
you about twenty or twenty-five days; it wiU cost you $75 between your fare and
food. Your bed is mother earth—the roof of your house, the sky, unless you
carry a tent. The same steamer that takes you to Portland will for the same
price carry you to Victoria and there you wUl find yourself under the protection
of Queen Victoria. Your next step wUl be to Cariboo. The Cariboo is a kind of
wild deer or elk and the country it inhabits has been named after it. There are
two routes to Cariboo—first you go from Victoria to New Westminster, the
capital of British Columbia; then you take either the Douglas route via the chain
of lakes Harrison, Pemberton, Anderson, and Seaton, to Lilloet on the Frazer
river, 213 miles; or the Fort Yale route which follows mostly the left bank of
the Frazer river. The distance from this place (Victoria) to the mines discovered
last season is some six or seven hundred mUes along rivers, across lakes, through
vaUeys, up and down mountains and precipices, and heaven only knows how
much, and by some most of this distance is done on foot, having their blankets
and food upon their backs. Sometimes the poor fellows get lost in the woods,
and are days without food, oftentimes they get lost in the snow; they trespass
also on the rights of the savage and the bear, and are in constant danger of being
punished by them; still they go, for hope tells them that there is gold to be had.
To go from here to Cariboo wiU take twenty days, and will cost $60, but the
next question is when can we go? There are thousands here waiting for the
Frazer river to faU so as to enable them to go up, but great fears are entertained
by those who have experience in the country that we cannot leave for three
months, (but I am off for Cariboo in a fortnight's time), and that the country
wiU not be fit for "prospecting" until July, so that we shall have no more than
about three months time to "prospect" this season.—The extent of the Cariboo
country is unknown as yet, but what has been explored of it has been proved to
be rich in gold; mining was done last season within fifty miles of the Russian
possessions. The poor fellows who adventure this season will have to push on
further. As to the cost of living in Cariboo, those miners who camp near the
pack train routes are able to exist on poor diet for about $12 per week, but those
who Uve far from the route have to pay more. Everything costs a doUar per
pound for packing, so you see that flour, potatoes and meat cost high. What
think you of paying 4s. 6d. for a pound of flour or potatoes? Eat a peck a week
and your flour alone wiU cost you £3. 5s; but these miners don't eat a peck a
week, they cannot afford that much of luxury. With regard to implements, a
person of but little means cannot afford to take many tools with him, for walking
up mountains which are almost perpendicular is no joke; then how bring tools
unless you have a pack of mules? For this reason tools are scarce and sometimes
fabulously dear; for instance, there have been cases where men have paid $50
for a shovel or an axe. Then again the risk is great, health and even Ufe is con- 56 Alan Conway 1957-
stantly in danger. It is said that as far as the country has been explored that any
man may make from ten to twenty dollars a day, but ten dollars a day would
not suffice for the risk on account of the mining season being so short. Then
when the season is over you have to traverse on foot a most dangerous country
some 700 miles, and winter here or in San Francisco; as for me and my wife we
intend continuing at the diggings; . . . The rich diggings are what the miners
term "spotted," few and far between; therefore while one poor feUow wiU "prospect" (a mining term for testing the richness of the ground) for seasons and stiU
be unsuccessful, another may " strike " it at once. A friend of mine, Mr. David
Grier, of Aberdare, Glamorganshire, has been prospecting for two years. The
first season he failed to strike anything, but suffered much for his pains, being
three days and nights without food or fire. The last season, however, it was his
good fortune to strike a good claim, by which he made $10,000, and expects to
make $50,000 during the next season; ... By this you will see that a fortune
is not a certainty, yet while there are spots immensely rich, you persevere and
hope on. " Would I advise you to come out." I must pause ere I answer. Are
you healthy? Can your system sustain hardships? Are you fond of adventure?
Can you brave danger? If so—come. As for me, I would rather brave aU the
wrath of the elements of creation, and dare all the torments of human invention
to acquire an independency than crawl Uke a worm through the mire of poverty.
There are thousands who will perhaps curse the day that brought them here in
search of gold, while thousands will bless the spirit of enterprise that led them
hither.    For, my dear LI , money is power.  ...   If I ever reach Cariboo,
I promise to write to you, but you must not expect a letter soon, for I shaU want
to know the country before I write again. " When to emigrate and the probable
cost? " By leaving Wales in March, you wUl probably reach here in the latter end
of May, that will be early enough for the next season. The price in Steamers from
Liverpool to New York will be £6 more or less; from New York to San Francisco
£21; and to Victoria £5, in all £32—. The cost from here to Cariboo I have given
you; of course you wiU have to spend money while waiting for the steamers in
New York and San Francisco. ..." What will you bring with you? " A change
of clothing, a good shot gun, and a Sheffield sheath knife, which you can use to
cut your bread and cheese, cut open what game you meet, scalp an Indian or
dissect a robber, should the latter two molest you. Write to me and think of me
in your orisons.   God bless you, yours ever,
At the time of writing, Price had not been long in Victoria and had
yet to visit Cariboo, so he was dependent for much of his information
upon those who had left the gold region to winter in Victoria. Gold-
seekers are an optimistic breed of men, and his friend, David Grier, was
no exception. In his early ventures Grier had been fortunate. Indeed, the
Vancouver Island and British Columbia exhibit at the International Fair
in London in 1862 included " 'A Present from Cariboo'—Three nuggets
(9) Merthyr Telegraph, May 31,1862. 1958 Welsh Miners in British Columbia 57
found and exhibited by Mr. David Grier, a miner in that gold-field."10
Whether in Victoria or in Cariboo he took an active and prominent part
in community affairs.11 As a shareholder in the Ericson claim—" which
has thrown aU others into the shade by its extraordinary yield "l7-—for
a time his expectations were realized, but his success was transitory, for
he reinvested in less fortunate claims and by August, 1865, when haled
into Court for faUing to pay back wages in the amount of $445 he stated:
" I have spent $80,000 in this country, and have not a cent left. The
$21,000 I received out of the Ericson claim I have paid away for the
Grizzly company—mostly aU other people's debts."13 This latter company was not a success,14 but, optimist that he was, Grier remained in the
country at least until 1867, when it was reported: "Mr. D. Grier, who
is interested in the Discovery co'y [on Canadian Creek] ... is satisfied he has got a good thing."15 It can only be assumed that once again
fortune eluded him, for no further references to him have been found.
In the early 1860's one of the major difficulties which faced those
heading for Cariboo, as Price had pointed out in his letter, was the
difficulty of transportation. Of the two routes he mentioned, that by
way of Harrison Lake consisted of short stretches of hastily buUt road
between the various lakes and, at best, the Fraser Canyon route could
only be considered the roughest kind of a trail.   Even the most primitive
(10) Victoria Colonist, August 16, 1862.
(11) In 1863 he was the president pro tern, of the newly organized St. David's
Charitable Society [ibid., January 27, 1863] and was, presumably, its president the
following year [ibid., March 3, 1864]. In the summer of 1864 he was one of the
committee which arranged the complimentary dinner to Governor Seymour on
the occasion of his visit to WUUams Creek [ibid., August 23, 1864]. In 1866 he
was a member of the grand jury at the Cariboo Assizes [Barkerville Cariboo
Sentinel, June 18, 1866] and the following year he addressed a meeting on St.
David's Day [ibid., March 15, 1867].
(12) Ibid., July 29, 1865. The 1863 dividends had not been great, but for
1864 they amounted to about $8,000 to each interest, and for 1865 it was reported
that they would run above $13,000 per share.
(13) Ibid., August 19, 1865.
(14) The Cariboo Sentinel, June 6, 1865, reported that the Grizzly Company
had been working all winter but that they had been " informed by Mr. David
Grier, the foreman, that it has not paid expenses." Later that year, following the
flood on the creek, it was reported that the Grizzly claim was " caved in and is in
bad condition" [ibid., September 9, 1865]. In 1866 Grier was still foreman of
the company but there were only four men at work [ibid., May 28, 1866].
(15) Ibid., May 13, 1867. 58 Alan Conway 1957-
of vehicular traffic over these routes was impracticable and, in consequence, most of the miners, of necessity, made the journey on foot carrying their provisions with them. WiUiam Jones, writing from Lytton on
June 22, 1862, underlined the considerable physical effort which was
needed even to reach the "diggings":—
By now we have learned to Uve without the support of a woman. After
leaving Victoria and crossing the Gulf of Georgia and going to the Fraser we
saw nothing but high mountains with their heads covered in snow. The first place
we came to was New Westminster. On Saturday we came to Port Hope and then
moved on another three miles. The foUowing Saturday we reached Union Bar, a
wild place in appearance between high mountains with no-one there but a few
Indians and Chinese Uving mostly in tents. By Monday we reached a place called
Fort Yale. I would like our friends to have seen us leaving this place, each of
us with his swag on his back making the best of the road to the gold country and
indeed of all the clothes we had brought from old Wales, not one of us had very
much left. What we have mostly now is some flour, rice, tea, biscuits and bacon
. . . each one carrying as much as possible for 350 miles. We saw very few
houses, perhaps one every five or ten miles. The road we are traveUing is through
woods and valleys and over mountains and along paths Uke sheep tracks at the
edge of the rocks with some thousand feet of a drop below us on the left side and
the Fraser on the right . . . but as the EngUsh say " practice makes master "
and so we are by now. To my mind, the Indians are the most simple men in
creation and surely as honest if not more so than many Welshmen I have seen.
They enjoy helping the white man on the road. We meet many of them during
the day and they are almost certain to turn off the path to let us by, laughing and
greeting us in their own language.
We meet some coming back every day from Cariboo having spent all their
money there and because of this being forced to return. It is a comfort to us to
have been assured that we are going up at the right time of year, but all in all, the
news is not so good as it was in Kendal. If some would Uke to come here let
them remember not to be in too much of a hurry because walking fifteen to
twenty mUes a day through such country, preparing ones own food and in the
evening putting up tents for a Uttle comfort is not a pleasant life, but in spite of
all this we are content. The land beneath our feet is as if it had had no rain for
a year yet at the same time the mountains and their summits are covered in snow.
To travel the Cascade and Jackass Mountains once in a lifetime is enough for
any man.  .  .  .16
As provisions for those at the diggings had to be brought in either by
the route thus described or by its equaUy difficult counterpart, the price
of food in Cariboo became prohibitive for aU but those who had ample
funds to begin with or were able to find gold quickly and in sufficient
quantity to enable them to withstand the scarcity prices of essential
provisions.   After the successful season of 1861 in the Cariboo gold-
(16) YGwladgarwr, September 20,1862. 1958 Welsh Miners in British Columbia 59
fields, Governor Douglas moved energeticaUy to provide the miners with
improved means of communication. AU through 1862 work on the
Cariboo Road was prosecuted with vigour. From the head of navigation
on the Fraser River at Yale to Quesnel was a distance of 400 mUes, and
the buUding of this wagon-road imposed a severe strain on the finances
of the young colony. From Quesnel a wagon-road was buUt to Cottonwood in 1864 and on to WUUams Creek the foUowing year. The difficulties of the terrain meant that progress could not be swift, and for
some time the prices prevailing in the Cariboo prevented many miners
from remaining at the " diggings " long enough to do much prospecting,
and they had no alternative but to return to Victoria in search of work.
By September, 1862, the Merthyr Telegraph was warning its readers that
British Columbia had been painted much too brightly by the Times
correspondent and provided proof in the shape of a letter written from
Victoria on July 23, 1862, by a former inhabitant of Aberdare:—
My dear wife and children,
I will try to give you some idea of this country that has been the cause of
drawing people from all parts of the world. There are hundreds and hundreds
from New Zealand, Australia, etc., arriving here in Victoria with only a few
pounds in their pockets. They start up to Cariboo to the gold mines—about 800
miles from here—and after reaching that place they are bound to return, owing
to the high price of provisions. The flour is there six shillings per pound, and
bacon seven shillings per pound. AU other provisions are in proportion. It is
impossible to get a day's work at Cariboo at present. Only six or seven parties
have "claims" there, and no doubt they are doing weU. It requires at least, to
start from this place, £100 to go up and be able to find out what is to be done
there. AU the parties that came from Aberdare have been part of the way up,
and seeing that they could get no further, some of them returned and got work
on the roads, some two or three hundred miles from this place. Thomas Tre-
harne, WiUiam Harris and many other Aberdarians have gone back to California.
Myself and Mr. Roberts, late of the Glo'ster Arms, are working in the copper
mines about forty miles north of this island." Our wages are £12 per month
and board.   I don't Uke the place, owing that we don't see a white man from one
(17) Presumably this refers to the operations of the Sansum Copper Mining
Company. Although this company was not formally organized until 1863 [Victoria
Colonist, November 23, 1863, and January 18, 1864] a copper lead on the shores of
Sansum Narrows had been located in 1861 by Charles McK. Smith [ibid., January
9, 1862]. Early in 1862 Smith applied for a lease on behalf of the "Sansum
Mining Company " [Smith to W. A. G. Young, January 10, 1862, MS., Archives
of B.C.] and during the summer extensive work was begun under his superintend-
ency [Victoria Colonist, June 9, 1862]. Evidently £12 was the going rate of pay for
miners in copper mines, for Francis Poole gives the same figure with reference to
the Queen Charlotte Mining Company's operation on Moresby Island in 1862
[Francis Poole, Queen Charlotte Islands, London, 1872, p. 97]. 60 Alan Conway 1957-
month to another. The Indians have behaved very weU towards us so far but we
must not depend upon them. However, I intend to stop in the copper mine for
some time as we get more wages than are given anywhere else in this island. The
wages the Hudson's Bay Company give at present is six shillings per day without
victuals. Two Aberdarians—Elias, a collier from Bwllfa and Herbert, from Mr.
Rhy's pit—are working under them. It is shocking to see and think of the many
hundreds, if not thousands, of strong, able men returning to this place from
Cariboo, half starved and without a farthing in their pockets. Indeed, I do not
know what will be the end of these things if the government will not find something for them to do. Mr. Partridge, late of Aberaman works, came here the
same time as I did. We started with others to Cariboo and travelled about three
or four hundred miles, when he failed to go further, his money having failed him.
He got sick, too, and was obliged to Ue down on the ground without any kind of
covering and, alas, without anything to eat. In this state he was left by his
partners, dependent on the mercy of Providence. Poor fellow, it makes my
heart bleed to think of his fate! Mr. Howells, draper, from Dowlais, having
been part of the way to Cariboo, returned to this place where he remained very
Ul and I don't think he will ever be able to return from here. Please inform Mrs.
Nichols of the Iron Bridge of him. I believe if the correspondent of the Times
were here now, that those letters which he caused to be pubUshed in the EngUsh
newspapers would cost him his neck. He has represented the island to be the
finest place in the world. I, with thousands of others, think it is the very worst
place to emigrate to, no land to cultivate, the little that is here being in the hands
of the Hudson's Bay Company and a few others. The rest I would not give a
penny for, nothing but barren rocks and trees growing in the crevices. Please
do teU Morgan J. Thomas that Lodwick and Walter have returned to this place
to-day, after working three weeks on the road, teU William Treharne that David
his son is with them. They are in good health and intend to go to San Francisco
as soon as they can.   .   .   .18
Further testimony to the same effect was provided by WiUiam Jones
writing to his parents from Victoria on July 28, 1862:—
Dear Parents,
You will be astonished to find our letters from this place. ... In my last I
said that we had left Victoria, June 12th., and had travelled as far as Lytton! . . .
Well we kept together until we came to Williams Lake, 470 miles from this
place, daily meeting parties coming down from Cariboo, who gave a most wonderful account of the place; provisions went so very high in price and not enough
to meet the demands; so there we came to a standstill, and called a committee,
and the resolution we came to was that Richard Partridge and Henry PhUlipsW
(18) Merthyr Telegraph, September 13,1862.
(19) The Victoria Colonist, September 10, 1862, reported: "Mr. Henry Phfl-
lips, who left Grier's claim on WUUams Creek on the 20th August, reports that the
claim was yielding on the average of one hundred ounces of dust every twenty-four
hours to twenty hands employed. The hands receive $10 per day each, finding
themselves." 1958 Welsh Miners in British Columbia 61
should go on to Cariboo and that WUliam MUes and myself should return back
to Victoria.
So we gave all the money we could spare to them and parted ... all of
us thought we were doing quite right because the man that Uves near the lakes
informed us that about 1,500 had gone back and that above 100 a day were
leaving Victoria. It required some capital to go up to such a place, where food is
scarcely to be had for any price. They are in Cariboo this fortnight and we here
depend on Richard and Henry striking a good claim so that we may go up and
work it. No one would beUeve the hardships and privations we have gone
through since we left England, but thank God we all of us enjoyed good health
when parting. The first day after having repaired to Victoria, when walking about
town, we met James WUUams and Matthew Parry and we four are now Uving in
a smaU shanty.  .   .  .
The description that has been given, as a most delightful and healthy climate,
is downright falsehood; and if the Times correspondent was here, many would
make sharp work of him; he resided in this place but is now, I expect, in London,
writing Articles on British Columbia. ... He as well as Donald Frazer, ought
to bear the treatment that General Haynau once had; but should many Cali-
fornians meet him, he would be made an example of, which I hope wiU be shortly,
for writing such articles to delude people from their homes.  .  .  .20
To overcome the almost insuperable obstacle of the high cost of
provisions in the Cariboo, the method was adopted of forming companies
of perhaps half a dozen miners, two of whom would go on to the gold-
mining region whUst the remainder took what employment was available
in or around Victoria or wherever work could be found, until such time
as they knew whether or not their friends had found a likely place in the
Cariboo. John Price21 wrote from Victoria to his wife and chUdren on
July 22, 1862, describing such a venture:—
The roughness of the journey is beyond the imagination of anyone who has not
made it. It is strange that we are even alive. We saw many dead and undoubtedly there will be many more. We travelled 800 mUes in a steamer (from San
Francisco) and reached a place called Esquimau. After this we travelled on foot
for miles until we came to Victoria, British Columbia. The next morning we
went up the Harrison river for 100 miles and reached New Westminster in the
evening. Next morning we left this place and went up this same river for eighty
miles to a place called Port Douglas. We then travelled on foot for thirty miles
and found a lake about eighteen miles long. We walked another twenty-six miles
until we came to two other lakes which we had to cross. These were about thirty
miles and we had another four miles again until we reached the Fraser River.
(20) Merthyr Telegraph, October 4,1862.
(21) Although in this letter Price intimated that he might soon return home,
if he is the John Rees Price, an experienced Welsh miner, who wrote a letter
about the Harewood Coal Mine pubUshed in the New Westminster British Columbian, August 13, 1864, it is evident that he did not immediately do so. 62 Alan Conway 1957-
We have now finished with aU the rivers and lakes. We have another 300 miles
to go before reaching Cariboo, to be covered on foot and our packs were very
heavy. . . . There is some kind of road but it is extremely rough. I know of
nothing in the Old Country as rough ... it is terrible in every sense. There
are thousands of people and only horses to carry their food and these horses are
very poor and scores of them are to be seen dying here and there. The men who
drive them behave towards them Uke wild animals rather than as men. It is a
wild, mountainous country and the mountains are at present white with snow.
There is a little flat land here but very sandy and there is nothing worth having
except a Uttle gold picked up by those who are looking for it and those who get
hold of the yeUow gold are very few in number compared with those who get
none. One must have a fair amount of gold before coming here because of the
high price of things. I wiU note the foods as they are. Flour 5s. per pound,
bacon 6s. per pound, sugar 8s. per pound, tea 24s. per pound, butter 8s. per
pound, peas 5s. per pound, cheese 8s. per pound. You can see that it is no good
for men without money to come here. Thousands like myself would Uke to see
these things pubUshed in the papers instead of aU the Ues. I do not know what
thousands of emigrants will do. There is no work here except a Uttle gold mining.
I had thought that if I did not succeed in getting gold that I should get work by
the day fairly easily but quite the reverse, there is no work. Six of us traveUed
together for 120 miles and our money was getting short when we met numbers
coming back describing their hardships, so that we judged that two of us should
go on to see the quality of the country and the others turn back and so we did.
John and the others returned to look for work and David Jones and myself went
on. After going to the " diggings " as they are called and making every effort to
succeed and failing we decided that it was better to return before spending aU we
had. We returned to Victoria on 20 July and heard that John and the other boys
are working on a road some 200 miles from Victoria and we have not seen them
as yet. Today we have been looking for work but with no luck and it is very
difficult to get a day's work as so many have returned from the diggings. There
is almost no work for stone masons because houses are built mostly of wood in
this country. We think that we should go to join the other boys. We do not
know what we shaU do yet but we intend coming home as soon as possible unless
things improve pretty soon. We do not see any chance at present of making good
because so many thousands have come here from every part of the world. The
wages for working are 6s. to 8s. a day. Most of the Welsh who came out with us
went back to CaUfornia without going to the diggings. I would Uke this to be
made as weU known as possible to prevent others coming out and being cheated
by those who spread Ues to get men to come out here. I am ready to say like
Jacob: "AU this is against me." We sometimes think that there is a judgment on
aU of us.  .  .  .22
HoweU Jones, late of Llwydcoed, Aberdare, another member of the
party, showed clearly in a letter from San Francisco of August 21, 1862,
(22) Y Gwladgarwr, September 20, 1862. 1958 Welsh Miners in British Columbia 63
that those who were looking for work faced as much competition as
those who sought gold in the Cariboo:—
... I write to let you know that I am well and in good spirits. ... Six of
us started from Victoria on the 3rd of June last for Cariboo—myself, John Price,
Joshua Price (brother of the latter), David Jones, a man from Glyn-Neath and
John PoweU, a moulder, late of Richard Lewis's foundry, Aberdare. We traveUed
until we got within 100 mUes of Cariboo where we halted and came to the determination that four of us should return to work on the roads and hand over all
our spare cash to the other two, who were to go up and start "prospecting"
against the summer. This arrangement we, of course, made in consequence of the
high price of provisions at the gold diggings. We (the four of us) worked on the
road until August. I was engaged in blasting, getting £12 per month and my
food. As there would be no work going on the roads in the winter, we thought it
better to secure permanent quarters in Victoria before the rush from Cariboo
would take place. When we arrived at the former place, however, to our astonishment there were thousands of idle men there—men who had come down disappointed from Cariboo. Amongst these, we found our two comrades: they had
come down by a new route, after stopping at Cariboo only eight days. They
found provisions fearfully dear there and had to pay £30 for 100 lbs of flour, it
being sometimes difficult to get it at any price. Somewhat discouraged by aU this,
I and John PoweU started off with the next boat for this place and we arrived
here yesterday. Things are looking a little more brisk here than in Victoria.
Joshua Price has been talking to a man in Cariboo who had seen my brother
Richard in New Zealand. He was told that the latter had made his pile and had
left for England. I have not seen anyone that has seen my brother Tom. Excuse
this short letter as the maU is on the start  .  .  .23
DisUlusionment became increasingly evident from the letters of Welsh
miners as 1862 drew to a close, although the news of rich "strikes"
made them reluctant to cut their losses and leave the territory. Evan
Evans, of Merthyr, writing on August 10, 1862, from Vancouver Island,
castigated the correspondent and the editor of the Times for spreading
Ues about the prospects in the Cariboo:—
I have been here for more than six weeks. I came here Uke thousands of
others intending to get a Uttle of the yeUow dust but according to the signs it is
unUkely that I shaU see any. There are two gold mines, Cariboo and Stickeen.
The former is about 800 miles from here and the latter a Uttle less. Let no-one
think of coming here and taking a chance in the mines unless he has £100-£500
after reaching this place. Everything here for the maintenance of Ufe is terribly
expensive in the above places and on the way there. One meal of any kind of
food costs 10s. One cannot get to Cariboo under three weeks at least from here.
The trail is so rough it is almost impossible to travel along it and only one in a
hundred reaches Cariboo. They return in their hundreds, some short of money,
others without their health and strength and others because they have lost heart
(23) Merthyr Telegraph, October 11,1862. 64 Alan Conway 1957-
They tell me that the mosquitoes are enough to discourage the bravest if there
were nothing else. They kUl many animals and nearly ended the Ufe of one of
the men from Aberdare. ... If success were certain at the end of it, it would
be encouraging but the worst is yet to come and that is the risk of prospecting.
There are no more than half a dozen claims in Cariboo that pay. Wherever gold
is found in Cariboo it pays weU but I am afraid that there is not much there as
there has been so much prospecting and so few places where gold has been found.
It is feared that Cariboo has been the ruin of hundreds and thousands of men
who have left good jobs to come here and make their fortune and here they are
without the means to return and unable to do any kind of work even if they had
the chance, Uke cobblers, tailors, shop-keepers, clerks and an extraordinary number of the chUdren of the minor gentry. Indeed sometimes I have difficulty in
not laughing in the midst of my sorrow seeing so many of this type looking Uke
poets composing elegies. The usual wages for work here are $1 to $1.50 a day
and find your own board and lodgings out of this too. Things look very black at
present. They have already started to kill one another in Cariboo. About three
were killed on their way up there last Saturday and two the previous week for
their money. The general opinion here is that some dirty trick was planned
between the editor of the Times and the correspondent here before they could get
together to write such lies about the country. The correspondent here has had to
flee for his Ufe. I would not Uke to be in the shoes of the editor of the Times
either.  .  .  .24
An unknown writer to the Flintshire Observer reported, however,
that great fortunes could stiU be made in the Cariboo:—
Nearly every steamer brings a number of young feUows from home to try
their luck at the mines, who are sadly disappointed, however, on landing, as they
had been led to believe that the steamer would convey them to the mining district
instead of which they have to travel nearly five hundred miles before they can
think of commencing operations. At the same time provisions are extremely
dear—bacon, 6s per pound; flour 5s. and everything else in proportion. . . .
Many ... are obliged to sell their clothes and guns, in order to prevent themselves from starving. The people when once they get to Cariboo make it pay well
from aU accounts. One lucky fellow actually got the value of £750 in one day,
but it is seldom that such enormous luck as this is met with. Victoria is half mad
with excitement. Intelligence only came down yesterday that a " claim " up at
Cariboo named "Cunningham Claim" could not be bought for less than 35,000
dollars or 45,000 dollars per 100 feet. . . . The Governor had a letter from
this same " Cunningham " who said that the last thirty days they have been taking
gold out at the rate of 3,000 dollars every twenty four hours.  .  .  .25
Morgan Lewis, writing to the Rev. D. R. Lewis from New Westminster on October 29, 1862, regretted the lack of faculties for worship
and described the " frontier " conditions under which they were Uving:—
(24) Y Gwladgorwr, September 27,1862.
(25) Flintshire Observer, September 26, 1862. 1958 Welsh Miners in British Columbia 65
There are many Baptists here but I do not know if there is a single minister
in the township. A man of the ability of Mr. Price could do unbelievable good in
this place. By now I realise the importance of the missionary society and every
Christian undoubtedly feels the same. There is a small chapel belonging to the
Wesleyans a Uttle way from here and I go there whenever I can. ... I am
almost ashamed to teU you of our way of living. ... I am one of four living
in a plank house without one woman, remember, and you can imagine what an
unpleasant situation this is. Considerable value is placed on a good woman in
this country. Our first task when returning home is to Ught a fire and, after
cleaning up and getting a little food, each one is bound to his chore. The first
does the dishes and cleans the cabin, the second plies the needle, the third bakes
bread and the fourth washes etc. ... On the whole I am doing better than
those of my fellows who are disappointed as I am working quite regularly while
hundreds are out of work.   I fear the worst this winter.   .  .   .26
Early in 1863, WiUiam Harris, late of Aberdare, known as BUi Sion
Hari, had seen the futility of the situation and, after working on the roads
being buUt into Cariboo, had returned to CaUfornia. On January 24,
1863, he wrote to his father and mother:—
We were cheated very much because by the time we reached Victoria we
found that a man has to have a heavier pocket when reaching Cariboo than when
he started from home. We met many men who had been there and had spent
$500 but had found no gold and some of those swore that there was no more gold
in the country than in the couple of claims that they had the previous year. But
we saw men who had been there after this and had claims and gold and are going
up again this year. There is gold to be had there but the great difficulty is to get
hold of it and this is the reason why so many turn back after spending aU their
money and are glad to get work to save them from starvation. It is said in the
Old Country that the wages for workmen are from £8 to £10 a day but by the
time we reached here the pounds had turned into dollars. You get $10 a day for
working in Cariboo and five of these ten go for Uving. Thousands have gone to
Cariboo with no money to stay there and there were some with claims from the
previous year giving work to a few. But what is that in the face of the thousands
that have gone and are going there. Each one who is short of money has to turn
back as soon as they can. . . . There is no doubt that the Indians, by their
generosity have kept many aUve on the way back and it is three weeks walk
before getting a boat for Victoria. After reaching the boat things often become
riotous and those who have no money threaten to shoot the captain unless he
takes them aboard. Cariboo is a very cold and hard place in which to Uve with
so much ice and snow. ... It rains nearly every day in the summer. Many
lose their Uves from distemper. Things will improve with the years when regular
roads are buUt After we learned that there was no point in going to Cariboo
we went up to the Frazer to work on the roads leading to Cariboo and after
working a day and a half we left and went further up where they gave more
(26) Seren Cymru (Star of Wales), January 23,1863. 66 Alan Conway 1957-
wages. The wages were £8 a month and food and £12 for blasting in the quarry
and 300 men were wanted for Jackass Mountain. By the time that we got there
there was no working tackle to be had for love nor money and we had to turn
back towards Victoria. We were here for a fortnight looking for work, some
getting it and some failing. Thomas Treharne, myself and Thomas Price left here
for California and had work in a coalmine. Within two months David Treharne
and two sons of Morgan Sion Thomas came to join us. The work was poor and
we soon moved to another coal mine.27
T. Gwallter Price (" Cuhelyn "), as determined as ever, was stiU in
British Columbia. Presumably he went to the mines in 18 62 but returned
to Victoria for the winter. There in January, 1863, he called together
some sixty Welshmen for a meeting to consider " the estabUshment of
a benevolent society," from which meeting the St. David's Society
emerged.28 Back in Cariboo in 1863 it can only be presumed that he
had not struck it rich, for in November he wrote about having taken up
land at WUUams Lake, a considerable distance away from the gold-
fields.29 StiU later that month, in a letter pubUshed in the Victoria
Colonist, he complained in forceful language about one of the serious
problems of Cariboo:—
To use a vulgar term, a great many of our miners are bad eggs. They have too
much liking to Victoria, CaUfornia, &c. They come up here and get sick of the
place in about three months, and must run down to Victoria and elsewhere.
Surely this chicken hearted proceeding is injurious to the country and to its
people. Hired men, of course, cannot stay here when they cannot get work, for
the majority of them have not the means to do so, but were the claim owners a
Uttle more plucky—a Uttle less delicate as to cold weather—and stay here and
work their claims as long as they can be worked, and give employment to aU they
can, we would be considerably better off and so would aU.30
It can be assumed that Price did spend the winter of 1863-6431 and the
whole of 1864 in the Cariboo, but by then his patience was exhausted,
(27) Y Gwladgarwr, March 28,1863.
(28) Victoria Colonist, January 15,1863.
(29) Y Gwladgarwr, February 27, 1864. The land records avaUable to the
Provincial Archives of British Columbia do not substantiate this claim to 640 acres
of land.
(30) Victoria Colonist, December 19, 1863. The letter is dated November 30
at WUliams Creek.
(31) In a letter dated AprU 10, 1864, at WUUams Creek, signed Cuhelyn, he
noted that the congratulatory address from the Victoria City Council to the newly
arrived Governor, Arthur Edward Kennedy," was cased with silk, and embroidered
with the rose, thistle and shamrock" and asked "And why not the leek, Mr.
Editor? "   Ibid., AprU 21, 1864. 1958 Welsh Miners in British Columbia 67
for late in March, 1865, he left the colony " with the intention of returning to [his] native land."32
In November, 1863, he wrote of conditions in the Cariboo:—
There are only a few Welshmen here at the moment. . . . We have had
extremely mild weather until now, the snow had not been above twenty inches in
the creek but bitter frosts will come. Beef has risen to 75 cents per pound and
no more animals are to come in this winter. A company of Welshmen have come
out here this summer under the leadership of Mr. John Evans of Machynlleth.
They are on Lightning Creek fifteen miles from here. They are all boys from
North Wales. I had a conversation with Mr. Evans on my way to Williams Lake
about 150 miles from here where I have 640 acres of land. There is a smaU
village called Van Winkle about twelve miles from here and Lightning Creek runs
down past it. About three mUes from Van Winkle is the vUlage of the Welsh
company. . . . There is no mistaking the Welsh lads from any other nation
with their fustian jackets, corduroy trousers and 3s 6d caps. . . . There are
twenty four of them and they have until next summer to prospect the country
and if they strike a good thing, the workmen get half and if they strike nothing
their expenses are paid back to Wales, if they want. Their families get £3 or
£3. 10. a month while they are away. They are all craftsmen.  .   .  .33
The reference to John Evans and his party of compatriots is interesting,
for this was one of the better organized attempts to secure gold in the
John Evans, a native of Machynlleth, Montgomeryshire, in North
Wales, was a close personal friend of Henry Beecroft Jackson, a successful Manchester cotton-manufacturer, who underwrote this scheme
for two years. A group of men selected by Evans was outfitted and
transported to the Cariboo,35 and in addition a subsistence aUowance
paid to their famUies in Wales during their absence. AU prospects made
by the members of the group were to be shared and aU profits divided,
haU to the men in equal shares and the other half to be equally divided
(32) Ibid., March 21, 1865. This announcement was made at a meeting of
the St. David's Society on the occasion of the presentation of a farewell address to
Price, " late president." Previously it had been intimated that he had " undertaken to extend the hand of fellowship to the St. David's Society of New York "
on his return East [ibid., March 20, 1865]. Presumably he left the colony as
planned, for the Barkerville Cariboo Sentinel, August 2, 1866, lists a " T. G. Price "
among Unclaimed Letters.
(33) Y Gwladgarwr, February 27, 1864.
(34) For detaUs on this venture see R. L. Reid, " Captain Evans of Cariboo,"
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, LT (1938), pp. 233-246.
(35) The costs must have been considerable for the Baner ac Amserau Cymru
was advertising passages to British Columbia for £33:10 in February and for £39
in April. 68 Alan Conway 1957-
between Evans and Jackson. The men came from Carnarvonshire and
Flintshire, and on December 22, 1862, a party of twenty-six saUed from
Liverpool in the Rising Sun and arrived at Victoria, by way of Cape
Horn, on June 10, 1863.36 Evans himself did not leave until February
17, 1863, and taking the faster route by Panama, arrived at Victoria
on AprU 15. WhUe awaiting the arrival of his men he made a quick
trip into the Interior as far as Quesnel and back. On June 16 he and
his party set out for the mines, using the Harrison Lake route, as that
by the Fraser Canyon was considered impracticable for so large a body
of men. After a laborious journey of five weeks they reached their
destination, Van Winkle on Lightning Creek, on July 21. The venture
was not a success, for in the spring of 1864 eight of the men left the
Cariboo and found their way to Nanaimo, where they worked in the
coal mines until they got sufficient money to pay for their return to Wales.
The remainder stayed on until the expiration of their contract on
October 1, 1864, by which time only $450 in gold had been recovered
at an expenditure of over $26,000. A few of the men remained in the
Cariboo,37 but many returned discouraged to Wales. Evans himself
continued on in the Cariboo until his death at Stanley on August 25,
1879, at which time he was one of the representatives of Cariboo in the
Legislative Assembly.
(36) The foUowing list of names of this party is a composite derived from the
passenger lists published in the Victoria Evening Express, June 10, 1863, and its
contemporaries the Chronicle and the Colonist, of June 11, 1863: Jeremiah Wynn,
WiUiam Jones, David Perry, Edward Jones, Edwin Jones, WiUiam WUUams,
Thomas WUUams, Edward Parry, Richard Roberts, Taliesin Evans, WUUam Jones,
David Roberts, Hugh Jones, John Lumley, Humphrey Jones, WUUam Owens,
WiUiam Griffiths, WiUiam Jones, Henry Jones, Edwin Lloyd, Edward BlackweU,
J. Jones, Robert Roberts, Robert Prithart, David Jones, Benjamin Conway.
(37) Henry Jones, for example, remained until 1875 and did well according to
information written by John Evans to his daughter, Mary Ellen, November 6,
1875 [MS., Archives of B.C.]: "Henry Jones of Portmadoc is about returning
home having made a good deal of money, he dropt into a good claim aU at once."
Evans's own son, TaUesin, who had been in charge of the men on their outward
passage in the Rising Sun, did not fare so weU: "Among the recent departures was
Mr. TaUesin Evans, who had been mining in Cariboo for several years . . .
one of the most unlucky among the unlucky ones . . . but he is still of opinion
that Cariboo is one of the richest mining countries in the world " [BarkervUle Cariboo Sentinel, November 13, 1869]. He went to San Francisco, where he became a
journaUst and in 1875 was the city editor of the Bulletin [John Evans to his daughter, Mary EUen, November 6,1875, MS., Archives of B.C.]. 1958 Welsh Miners in British Columbia 69
The true gold-rush to the Cariboo region was short lived because
the surface mining soon came to an end and was superseded by deep
diggings, for which heavy capital expenditure was necessary. The casual,
independent prospector disappeared to other more promising locaUties,
and his place was taken by companies of miners with the money and
equipment needed for large-scale operations. The particular skills of
the Welsh miner were stiU in demand for this type of mining, and E. W.
Davies, writing on November 12, 1863, to his grandfather, mother, and
sister, revealed how the type of mining operation in the Cariboo was
I have now returned from the steel mines [sic] of Cariboo. We started our
journey towards Cariboo mines on 10 March by way of Fort Yale and three of us
reached Williams Creek on 3 April. On 4 April we started working for 10 doUars
a day and worked for a fortnight. After this I went to sink a pit at 12 doUars a
day. I worked here seven weeks and as I was successful I had offers from many
places after this at 14 dollars a day. Three Companies had tried to sink pits in
ConkUn's Gulch and could not get down because of the quicksands and water in
that place. They valued their claims at 2,000 dollars and one of their chief men
came to our tent to ask if I would take an ounce a day, that is 16 doUars a day.
I said the place was wet and dangerous but I went down the pit to see. The
pit was fifty three feet deep with planks from top to bottom to keep the sides in
place and very weak. I told them that the pit was nearly falling down and by
Saturday night the pit collapsed. On Sunday I agreed with the Company to sink
a new pit for them. I sank the pit safely in three months, ninety six feet, but
after we reached the bottom the Company lost heart.  .   .  .38
Operations during the winter were normaUy suspended, which meant
that by the next year the pits were fuU of water and had to be pumped
out before work could begin. Morgan Lewis39 wrote to his brother-in-
law, David Llewelyn, from WUUams Creek on June 14, 1864:—
I have been here since 25 April and I had a pretty comfortable journey with
dry weather most of the way. Everything looked pretty dead at the Creek when
I arrived. There was about four feet of snow covering the whole of the place and
most of the pits were fuU of water but the snow has disappeared by now and the
sun has melted the ice, the wheels have started turning and everything looks more
Uvely. But there are hundreds without work and many going back every day
cursing the country and the inhabitants. Things are cheaper here than they were
last summer but the wages are lower by 8s. a day. The price of flour at present
is 2s. per pound, butter 8s. per pound, bacon 6s. per pound and other things the
(38) National Library of Wales, MS. 337e, Aberdare Collection I.
(39) Writing to his son and daughters, October 9, 1873, John Evans noted:
"... I beleive an old partner of mine who has left here lately wUl visit Manchester before long and see you—Morgan Lewis of Aberdare " [MS., Archives of
B.C.]. 70 Alan Conway 1957-
same. Clothes are very expensive but most people bring enough from Victoria
for the summer. When I came here I paid £4 for a pair of waterproof
shoes. . . . Our Company started work on 25 April but we have not found
any gold yet but we are working on in hope. Some pits pay weU but their number
is few in comparison with the hundreds that pay nothing. There are many
hundreds of Welshmen here, many of them Aberdare boys.   .   .   .
The maU has been running regularly since the first of the month between
Cariboo and Victoria bringing letters up for about Is. instead of for 10s. as last
summer.  .  .  .40
The continued progress made on the Cariboo Road meant that, by
1864, wagons could get to within 60 mUes of WUUams Creek, but many
still preferred to make the journey on foot, if only to conserve their
money because provisions stiU remained high due to the last stage of the
road being only suitable for mules. Life continued to be very primitive
and the scarcity of women meant that the miners Uved a hard Ufe. John
Davies wrote to his wife and chUdren from WUUams Creek on July 17,
There are three ways of getting to Cariboo. The first is to take a carriage
which wiU take you to within sixty mUes of the mines and will cost 50 doUars
besides food and lodgings, which is one doUar a meal and one dollar a bed until
you reach half way and then the price is doubled. The other way is to walk,
eating and sleeping in the houses at the side of the road about every five miles,
sometimes more, as water is convenient The last way and the cheapest is to buy
food and cook it yourself and sleep in the open air. We chose the last way. We were
eight in number when we set out and we bought a sack of flour and shared it
between us. The flour bags here are small, weighing forty-eight pounds. Sometimes great argument took place as to who should bake first as everyone was of
the same opinion that it was easier to carry the flour in the stomach than on the
back. Our food for the whole journey was a Uttle tea, sugar, bacon, and bread
with a meal sometimes at a house. The dishes necessary for the journey are a
small tin pan for making dough, a coffee pot a tin mug and a frying pan. The
last is useful for baking bread as weU as for frying meat At night we would cut
a bundle of mountain feathers to put under us, that is lops of fir trees. You can
believe that we sleep as weU as a king in his palace and better if one can go into
the houses alongside the road and sleep on the floor without paying anything.
But by doing so it is likely that you wiU leave there the next day with more lives
on your person that you would wish. One would think from these houses that
we were in Egypt at the time of the plagues. . . . We were a fortnight and
three days on our journey and we walked 400 miles over ice and snow, mud and
dirt. The last day there was nothing but snow under our feet and we measured
our length several times in it during the day. It is much more difficult to walk in
snow now than a month ago because the snow is starting to melt. However we
reached the end of our journey safely and weU on 3 May 1864.
(40) Seren Cymru, September 2,1864. 1958 Welsh Miners in British Columbia 71
It is called Cariboo from a creature of that name in the neighbourhood. It is
like a young stag. The country is very mountainous for scores of miles around
and is completely the domain of the fir trees and the mosquitoes. A great deal
of the land by the road has been taken as farming land. A man can take as much
as 160 acres for nothing and one doUar an acre for as much as he wants over
this. If this turns out to be good land for food many of the poor farmers of Wales
should emigrate here. Food for man and beast is brought from California and
Oregon. Unless it turns out to be an agricultural country it wUl be a poor country
for ever, because it does not seem likely that the diggings will have enough wealth
to enable the diggers to pay the price at present for food. Many diggings are
being abandoned at the moment that would pay for working if the food were the
same price as in California. It is very poor and miserable here this year and
hired work very scarce. Hundreds of men have been here and have had to go
back without a day's work. I was here for a whole month without getting anything to do and in the end it was from a Dutchman that I got work. It is necessary for a man to have a good deal of money on arrival because he cannot rely
on a steady wage and it is not the best man who gets the work but the one with
the most friends. ... I would not advise anyone to come here without a
friend in whom he could trust and that friend able to do something for him.
There are three reasons for it being so difficult for a man without money to make
a Uving, the food is so expensive, the summer is so short and the diggings so deep,
not because there is no gold but because one cannot get at it. The papers do not
make many mistakes when publishing about the claims in this place. Their fault
is to say that everyone does weU here when hundreds go back disappointed.
Some claims are richer than anything in this world, they pay £200 a head each
day but such things do not last. The depth of the pits is from sixty to eighty feet
and many of the companies take the summer getting to the bottom of the pit
because there is so much water and quicksand in the country. If this land were
in the Old Country, opening a pit would be no difficulty because of pumps to
raise the water, iron pipes of every kind and engines for everything. But here
there is nothing but timber and canvas for every difficulty. Summer begins in
June and ends at the end of September and then the claims are left until next year
and there will be almost as much work in the second year as in the first because
the place will be full of water. The gold fever is very high here, more so than in
California. Men tend to be uncaring one for the other. There is no talk here of
brotherhood or patriotism. In general, the men live a hard and meagre life and
this is to be put down to the high price of food. 48 pounds of flour for 4 guineas,
tea 6s. per pound, coffee 6s. per pound, sugar 3s. per pound, rice 2s. per pound,
broad beans 2s. per pound, salt 6s. for 5 pounds, bacon 4s. per pound, beef Is.
per pound, wether 2s. per pound. Things were much more expensive when we
■ arrived than they are at present. At that time we paid £5 for a sack of flour and
8s. per pound for butter that is now selUng for 6s. The reason for the food being
so dear is that the distance is so great and very difficult and every pound that
comes here has to be packed in on the backs of mules for sixty miles which is the
nearest point that can be reached by waggons. It is said that there are 4,000
people in this region.   This creek, in size, is rather Uke Cwmdar.   It has been taken 72 Alan Conway 1957-
up for about four miles and as it goes down it gets wider and the diggings deeper
and more scattered. There are quite a few other places around here but there is
not much evidence that they pay very well.   So much for the diggings.   .   .   .
I Uve in a cabin by myself and sometimes I cannot do anything to my own
satisfaction but I have no room for grumbling or blaming anyone else but myself.
I have not washed or swept the kitchen floor since I have been here. When the
works are closed I take a shovel to clean the place. Half the cabin belongs to T.
Price who works about sixty miles from here and comes home every fortnight
We Uved in a tent for the first month. This was first rate except that it let in the
rain Uke a sieve. This cabin is all wood except for the roof which is of bark and
the doors and windows that are of canvas. It stands thirteen feet by fourteen
feet on freehold land. A man feels quite puffed up when he is a freeholder. . . .41
By 1866, although the picture at WUUams Creek was far from bright,
some hung on in the hope of wealth, worked when they could and
reverted to trapping to augment their incomes. John Davies, " Crwy-
dryn " (The Wanderer),42 wrote on May 21,1866:—
Wherever there are people there will be Welshmen and wherever there are
Welshmen there will be men from Aberdare. ... It is said in the English
papers that 700 people wintered on the banks of the Cariboo last winter. We
are having a much milder winter than last winter and the winter before that
The mercury froze twice in the winter of 1864 and in 1865 it did not freeze once.
In the winter of 1865-1866 the mercury from the beginning of December was
from 35 to 37 degrees below zero and on 17 January 1866 it was as low as 37
degrees below zero.  .  .  .
The life of a goldminer is a hard one at the best of times. We live here not
as we wish but as we can. It is true that some can live more happily than others
in this place through what the Englishman calls "Practice makes master." We
have had four years Uving like this, but as yet, worst luck, we have not yet half
mastered it. We have no more idea now how to polish than we had four years
ago. As for washing we do not care who has our share of it and as for baking
we are ready to give up the job tomorrow morning. When we come home from
our work the first thing to do is to light the fire and prepare some food as best we
can. Probably we have to bake bread before we can eat having come to the
cabin from work without a mouthful of bread in the house. After eating we
wash the dishes (sometimes), spUt kindling wood for the night and for the next
morning; washing and poUshing take their turn. Most of us do as Uttle of these
things as possible. . . . Williams Creek is the centre of the gold diggings in
British Columbia. Gold has been found here since 1861. Since then until now
not one place of importance has been found in this neighbourhood.   There is
(41) Y Gwladgarwr, November 5, 1864.
(42) It is quite probable that this is the John Davis who was reported by the
Barkerville Cariboo Sentinel, December 31, 1866, as chairman of a Welsh meeting
at Christmas and some months later, March 15, 1867, as having recited at a meeting to commemorate St. David's Day. 1958 Welsh Miners in British Columbia 73
gold to be found in almost every part of the country but it is difficult to get hold
of enough to pay for working it This country is enough to break the heart of
the man trying to prospect it The animal nature of man can be seen by going
to the prospecting field's in this country more than in any other part of the world.
Remember, there is no way of taking a horse outside of WiUiams Creek in any
direction so a man has to pack on himself everything necessary for prospecting.
A pair of blankets, a pick, a shovel, an axe, a pan and food for a fortnight all
have to be carried on his back. . . . After a few weeks Uke this a man loses
heart. If the Government were to cut paths through the trees wide enough for
horses to go through, undoubtedly more diggings would be discovered. . . .
TraveUing through the snow is unpleasant and impossible without snowshoes.
These are strange contraptions made in the shape of a paper kite but a yard to
four feet long and one foot wide, and sewn with narrow thongs. With their help
one can travel over any depth of snow quite happUy but not without the legs
knowing it and your thighs will be happy when the feet are freed from the slavery
of the snowshoes. . . . Many make good money catching martins, the skin of
which is worth 12s. here and 20s. each in Victoria. The Hudson's Bay Company
have made a good deal of profit in past years from these skins. About sixty
Welshmen wintered here last winter and I am glad to say that our religious feelings resulted in the beginning of a Sunday School and reUgious meetings. Our
number was small in the beginning but we are glad to see the number increasing
swiftly.   There is a lot of snow stiU on the ground although it is May.   .  .   .43
In 1867 there were stiU eighty Welshmen at WUUams Creek, which
by this time was assuming more of the appearance of a township, and St,
David's Day was celebrated with two meetings for singing and speech-
making and an exceUent dinner.44
R. Davies wrote to his brother on March 6, 1867:—
This is a very rough country of woods and mountains with no order to them.
. . . The trees make travelling difficult because the rotten timber falls one across
the other and in consequence travelling is difficult. . . . One can travel fairly
weU at this time of the year using snow shoes which are peculiar things made in
the shape of a kite, woven from narrow webbing and strong enough to hold the
weight of the traveUer. . . . The weather is very cold and in winter the thermometer has sometimes been as low as thirty six degrees below zero . . . when
the bread freezes and the bedclothes are as stiff as a board. . . . The thermometer seldom goes above freezing point in the winter. At the moment there are
from four to six feet of snow on the ground. ... If we have a dry summer
there wiU be a shortage of water for working the mines. . . . The Indians
Uve beside the lakes, hunting and fishing but some lower down the country cultivate the land a Uttle. The Indians generaUy are harmless and peaceful. . . .
Many earn a Uving packing food for the miners and cutting wood for the taverns
(43) Y Gwladgarwr, July 28,1866.
(44) An interesting account of this celebration is in the Barkerville Cariboo
Sentinel, March 15, 1867. 74 Alan Conway 1957-
and shops. There are also half a dozen squaws (Indian women), here who make
their living by breaking the seventh commandment . . . Many more men have
stayed here this winter than ever before and one may meet with people from every
civilised country and among them about eighty of the seed of Gomer. St. David's
Day was a great day with us. It was a kind of eisteddfod. Two meetings were
held at two o'clock and seven o'clock and we had some fine singing and enthusiastic speeches. We had an exceUent dinner at five o'clock with about seventy
Welshmen dining together.
The claims here are much the same as usual—some bad some good and the
wages drop from one year to the next. Seven doUars or £1 8s. Od. a day is the
highest wage here but as low as £1 a day in summer. The price of food is high,
higher than this time last year. The price of flour is £2 12. a hundredweight,
butter 6s. to 7s. a pound, sugar 2s. a pound, best tea 6s. a pound, cheese 4s. a
pound, beans 2s. 6d. a pound, potatoes 7 pounds for 4s., swedes 8 pounds for 4s.,
beef 15 to 18 pence a pound, mutton 20 to 25 pence a pound. The price of one
week's food is £3 12s. Od. and food by the meal is 6s.4S
The gold-rush to the Cariboo did not last long, and no sooner had
Douglas cut roads to one area which might have drawn profitable
returns than gold would be found elsewhere, and the demand for more
roads was again heard. Cariboo was succeeded by a rush to WUd Horse
Creek in the Kootenay, which in turn was abandoned in favour of a
strike at the Big Bend of the Columbia River. What emerges quite
clearly from the letters of the Welsh miners is the fact that in the Cariboo,
as in most other gold-rush regions, more were ruined than rewarded for
their efforts and that wealth could only be secured, in any amount, by
the organization of mining on business lines and the individual prospector
had to give way to the corporation. The romance and high adventure
of the gold-rush faded, but many of those who sought gold and faUed
remained as the nucleus of permanent settlement.46
Alan Conway.47
University College of Wales,
(45) Y Gwladgarwr, June 15, 1867.
(46) For further information on the Welsh company of miners in the Cariboo,
see the series of weekly articles by Harry Jones, as told to Louis Lebourdais, which
appeared under various titles in the Vancouver Province, January 5-April 6, 1935.
(47) The writer is indebted to Miss Judith Lewis for her assistance with the
translations from the Welsh. The elisions in the text of letters quoted are those of
The honour that this company does me and members of my fanuly
on this centennial occasion is visibly enhanced by recoUections of a
Uvely connection which goes back many years. Over forty years ago,
weU before Victoria CoUege had migrated to its present and beautiful
site, the then glacial wastes of this area were a playground in youth for
my brother and sisters and myself, aU of whom came to be numbered
among the graduates of this institution. Some thirty years ago my
father took in hand the work of beautification of the grounds surrounding the central buUding, and to the end of his busy Ufe the emerging
freshness and colour of an unmatched setting remained one of the abiding satisfactions of a real labour of deUght. It is with the greatest
pleasure that I find myself to-day in an atmosphere famiUar in youth and
respected in age, and under the aegis of so friendly a body as the principal,
councU, faculty, and students of Victoria CoUege.
The title of my address has been suggested, in this centennial year,
by a concern for our history: for the way we read it, teach it, savour it.
It has been prompted by a further concern for our attitude toward the
example of the historic past, the reaUty of the historic present, the
prospect of the future yet to be.
The first abuse of greatness consists in this: that except upon
" special occasions " we tend to take our history too much for granted;
we never enter into the imaginativeness of our history. As a consequence, a second abuse is that too many people regard our history as
duU. They assume that it is indUferently, if not indeed badly, taught,
and that the quaUty of dullness (assuming it to be deserved) is a necessary counterpart of any large-scale approach to the historical problems
bound up with the poUtical development of Canada.
Such an attitude is a great disservice to historical scholarship. If it
were to prevaU over any long period, we might resolutely abandon the
teaching of history as a Uvely art, and leave it, a Uttle wistfuUy, on the
fringes, as the Umited preserve of the antiquarians.   If we were to do so,
* An address given in the centennial year of British Columbia at the faU
assembly of Victoria College held in the auditorium of the Victoria High School
on October 17, 1958.
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Vol. XXI, Nos. 1-4.
75 76 James A. Gibson 1957-
we should lose aU the value of history as an inteUectual discipline. If we
were to persist in any such attitude, we should do violence to many of
the humane virtues of curiosity, thoroughness, and fairness in standards
of human conduct. In short, we should cast aside or do without the
serious study of history, and aU its imagery and charm, only at the
imminent peril of inteUectual ossification.
Consider for a moment the background of this centennial year in this
Province and this community, to which our assembling here is at once
a recognition and a tribute. Between the earUest voyages of discovery
by British subjects and the proclamation of civU government, some eighty
years had elapsed. After the voyages of Cook, Vancouver, and a certain
array of traders in furs, it was over forty years before there was any real
revival of maritime interest. It was a far cry from the days of the
Resolution and Discovery to the pioneer voyages of the steamer Beaver.
Yet in this interval there had been other brave voyages by land:
Alexander Mackenzie across the whole breadth of this Province, overland to tidewater; Simon Fraser down the surging river which now bears
his name; David Thompson, the most renowned geographer of aU, adding meticulously to the store of knowledge of what was still, in metro-
poUtan terms, a far-off corner of Empire.
Two generations of rivalry in the fur trade pushed settlement West of
the Rockies, southward to the Columbia, and led to the estabUshment
in 1843 of Fort Victoria as the westernmost headquarters of the Hudson's
Bay Company. The lure of gold which gripped the minds and hearts of
vagrant men from mid-century onward set its impress upon this Province.
It was the occasion for the formal proclamation of British authority
throughout the mainland region almost exactly 100 years ago; and from
the eager surging of a reckless human torrent, some nucleus of permanent
settlement remained. The exploitation of abundant natural resources
began once the steel bands of main-fine railways had made a physical
union of Canada from sea to sea, and the process of development is stiU
apparent on every hand.
Though the centennial observances spring from the poUtical beginnings of the larger Province, civU government in this island community
was several years older. There was a flavour of the dramatic in the
estabUshment of the Crown Colony of Vancouver Island. The verbal
excesses of presidential election campaigns in the United States, the
signature of the Oregon Boundary Treaty, the faintly reluctant concession of the principle of responsible government in Nova Scotia and in 1958 The Abuse of Greatness 77
Canada, the resurgence of annexationist sentiment, a mounting uncertainty about the territorial future of the Hudson's Bay Company, some
vision of a vaster Empire—aU of these must have been in the mind of
Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for War and the Colonies
when he recommended the appointment of Richard Blanshard, Esquire,
barrister-at-law, of the Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn, to be
Governor of Vancouver Island. Here was a figure on the scene, undertaking the lengthy voyage from Britain to Panama and up the Pacific
Coast to Victoria, reading out his Commission of Appointment before
the bastion of the fort, presiding for several months over a seagoing government; writing eight only formal dispatches to Downing Street (the
originals of which I have read in the PubUc Record Office in London);
resigning early in the day because of the default of any business to require
his attention; and having to wait many months before receiving a reply
instructing him in what form to hand over his government.
How Uttle, hi retrospect, we know of him: it is half-ironic to find
his name in the catalogue of appointments during Lord Grey's tenure at
the Colonial Office as not being previously known to His Lordship. Yet
who wiU say that these first beginnings were unimportant or inconclusive?
It may have seemed a workaday world, and perhaps a grim world, to the
earUest permanent settlers. But Vancouver Island (it had only lately
lost the possessive "s") held a great fascination for armchair traveUers
in Great Britain. When changes of consequence had to be made in 1866,
the detaUs received very scrupulous consideration in Downing Street;
and though the administrative ups and downs may have been troublesome at a distance, Vancouver Island was throughout an entity to be
reckoned with.
It is useful therefore to remember that our local history has never
been far removed from the concerns of the larger world: restless, grasping, opportunist, it may be; and yet having to take some account of
humane and just standards of human conduct. It was a combination of
scientific and maritime interest that first brought Captain Cook to these
shores. He had been trained in a rigorous school, including the St.
Lawrence, the coasts of Newfoundland, and the circumnavigation of
the world; and it was thus no mere adventurer who saUed into these
waters in 1778. He did as much as any man of his lifetime to shear away
the uncertainties of a north-west passage. He traced out more of the
coasts of New Zealand and of AustraUa than any previous navigator; 78 James A. Gibson 1957-
and for his contributions to knowledge of the oceans, of astronomy, of
pubUc health in the prevention of the dread disease of scurvy, he was
elected a FeUow of the Royal Society of London.
What Cook began, Vancouver and his officers and men continued.
Between 1778 and 1792 Britain had acknowledged the independence of
the new United States, though she had not yet relinquished her last footholds upon United States territory. The Parliament at Westminster had
enacted a statute under which representative government began to function (in 1792) at Quebec and at Niagara-on-the-Lake. WhUe Captain
Vancouver was charting straits and sounds and passages and treating
with captains of Spain, two new legislatures were grappling with myriad
problems of government: the one in the midst of a stable, sober, poUti-
cally quiescent community settled for many generations from old France;
the other in the wUderness where some of the noisier overtones of a
combative democracy were already audible.
Vancouver had set saU from Falmouth (April 1, 1791) when the
French Revolution was already perplexing many minds in Georgian
England. It was fortunate that the spirit of scientific discovery stiU
prevaUed. For when he reached Vancouver Island, Vancouver found
himself diplomat and negotiator as weU as naval commander. There is
nothing duU or passive about his conduct of an expedition that was absent
from England for upwards of four years, which added immeasurably to
the detaUed knowledge of this Pacific Coast, and which kept watch over
the dwindling remnant of a momentary outpost of the Empire of Spain.
The pubUcation of his A Voyage of Discovery to the Pacific Ocean, and
Round the World, in six volumes in 1801, kept alive the great saga of
discovery by sea, of which we in this island have great reason to be proud.
One other facet of history deserves attention, especially in a centennial year.
The French historian Marc Bloch (writing under the title The
Historian's Craft1) in asking "What is the use of history?" speaks first
of its unquestionable fascination. He then Usts other roles for history—
the spur to action, the charm, the claim upon the imagination. He states
that these features are true of any inteUectual discipline, but that history
has "its peculiar aesthetic pleasures."   Above aU, in the spectacle of
(1) Marc Bloch, The Historian's Craft (translated from the French by Peter
Putnam, with an introduction by Joseph R. Strayer), Manchester University Press,
1954, pp. 7-9, 17-18. 1958 The Abuse of Greatness 79
human activity, " thanks to its remoteness in time and space, it is adorned
with the subtle enchantment of the unfamUiar."
You wiU observe therefore that I am not speaking of our history as
familiar history; I am suggesting that it is what is unfamUiar which
ought to be our chief goal, the spur for reaUstic teaching, the iUumination
for a much wider pubUc consciousness.
I think I detect that Bloch (who was a singularly brave and unaffected
man) is saying that our interest in history is nothing to be ashamed of.
Two strands are, I think, discernible: one, the sense of poetry; the
other, the sense of the historic past which is aU about us. As to the first,
Bloch warns us to guard against stripping the science (of history) of its
share of poetry. Let me quote from what is to me the most moving
passage in his whole book:—
It would be sheer foUy to suppose that history, because it appeals strongly to
the emotions, is less capable of satisfying the inteUect. . . . Surely, in a world
which stands upon the threshold of the chemistry of the atom, which is only
beginning to fathom the mystery of intersteUar space, in this poor world of ours
which, however justifiably proud of its science, has created so little happiness for
itself, the tedious minutiae of historical erudition would deserve condemnation as
an absurd waste of energy . . . were they to end merely by coating one of our
diversions with a thin veneer of truth. Either aU minds capable of better employment must be dissuaded from the practice of history, or history must prove its
legitimacy as a form of knowledge.  .  .  .
Our mental climate has changed. . . . For certainty, new theories of the
universe have substituted the infinitely probable; for the strictly measurable, the
notion of the eternal relativity of measurement Their influence has even affected
the countless minds which, thanks to defects in intelligence or early training, have
been able to foUow the great metamorphoses only at a distance and as if by a
reflected Ught. . . . We find it far easier to regard certainty as questions of
degree. We no longer feel obliged to impose upon every subject of knowledge a
uniform intellectual pattern. We do not yet know what the sciences of man wUl
some day be. We do know that in order to exist—and, it goes without saying, to
exist in accordance with the fundamental laws of reason—they need neither disclaim nor feel ashamed of their own distinctive character.
The poetry of history is part of this distinctive character of history.
It is not idle fancy which leads a contemporary critic of the poetry of
John Keats to caU the poet " Cortez-Keats " and to add:—
With him we stare at the Pacific: it is not exactly Chapman's Homer, but rather his
vast and rolling idea of poetry and his own poetry to be; and if we are at aU his
men we feel the tremor of a wild surmise; surely not less thrilling because the
peak in Darien is found in the final enquiry to be situated somewhere between the
cliffs of Margate and the heights of Hampstead Heath.2
(2) John Middleton Murry, Keats, London, 1955 (4th ed.), pp. 161-162. 80 James A. Gibson 1957-
Our own peaks in Darien may be no further off than our own
workaday worlds. We might here weU wish to substitute Mount Tolmie
for Hampstead Heath, and Race Rocks for Margate, but the sense of
poetic feeling would be much the same.
The second strand—the sense of identity with the historic past—is
closely linked with the first. Our own sense of history—kept aUve with
visible reminders in this very island—springs however imperceptibly
from contact with long tradition. But, as Sir Maurice Powicke rightly
reminds us, for men of vision and purpose, our land and its tradition
reaUy are inseparable from the past—the past is not so much antiquity
as part of the present—and it becomes (in Powicke's phrase) " a source
of strength and encouragement, and at the same time of discipline and
It would be a real Abuse of Greatness if the sense of identity with
history should leave us inteUectuaUy untouched, or if it should evade us
or elude us, and pass by on the other side. It would be an additional
Abuse of Real Greatness if a sudden, almost breathless, preoccupation
with technology should exclude many other strands in education. We
may, indeed, be under imperative pressures to give more concerted
attention to the impUcations and the appUcations of scientific knowledge.
But there is a vast difference between scientific appUcation divorced
from every other strand of learning and comprehension, and scientific
knowledge which " fits in " with the general reaching-out of aU human
For let no one suppose that progress in scientific achievement can
really be separated from the inteUectual climate in which a whole society
Uves. Do we reaUy think we can work prodigies in science and Uve in
an inteUectual ice age so far as other areas of learning are concerned?
Can we be content if other humane disciplines—including history—are
consigned to a long glacial twUight, in which wanderers in the wastelands can never emerge into inteUectual dayUght?
This, then, is the case against the Abuse of Greatness: first, that we
do not take our history for granted; secondly, that we do not automaticaUy regard our history as duU; thirdly, that we do not lose our
sense of identity with history; and, fourthly, that we do not exclude the
educative, broadening, and, it may be, uplifting effects of history.
All these " safeguards " against abuse require both coUective interest
and individual attention.   The collective interest is demonstrated on such
(3) Sir Maurice Powicke, Medieval England, London, 1931, pp. 16-18. 1958 The Abuse of Greatness 81
an occasion as this. It is demonstrated by the whole commemorative
importance of this centennial year, and yet it must not be supposed that
pride in our history is merely a matter of local patriotism which reaches
a high pitch of enthusiasm on festival occasions. We should have constantly in mind the words—the affectionate words—of a man who never
saw British Columbia, but whose love of country was very great. It was
Joseph Howe who wrote:—
A wise nation preserves its records, gathers up its muniments, decorates the
tombs of its illustrious dead, repairs its great pubUc structures and fosters national
pride and love of country by perpetual references to the sacrifices and glories of
the past
The importance of the individual's attention perhaps is overlooked.
You recaU that fine phrase from Bloch which spoke of the countless
minds who foUow "only at a distance and as if by a reflected Ught."
The serious reader is accustomed to think in terms of distance as weU
as of degree, and he should not disdain even the phenomenon of reflected
Ught. Have you ever read what Keats thought of the effect of poetry
upon the reader?   In 1818 he wrote:—
The rise, the progress, the setting of Imagery should Uke the Sun come natural
to him (the reader) shine over him and set soberly although in magnificence
leaving him in the Luxury of twiUght.4
If with poetry, so with history. History is meant to be experienced,
but it can be read. The best recitals of our history should be read, and
read repeatedly, and aloud. The better the reading, the better the writing
which may be expected to foUow; and the better shaU readers range into
that " subtle enchantment of the unfamUiar " which is the ultimate warrant for the study of history. The reader, equaUy, is the ultimate resource
against the imposing of any uniform inteUectual pattern upon the broad
realms of history.
In Shakespeare's play of Julius Caesar it is the troubled Brutus who
Th' abuse of greatness is when it disjoins
Remorse from power: and, to speak truth of Cssar,
I have not known when his affections sway'd
More than his reason.
History in various ages has been the record of a continuing struggle
for power; even to-day we are prone to talk about power poUtics. Over
the long roU of the centuries there has evidently been plenty of remorse,
in the sense in which we understand the word.   In any struggle between
(4) Murry, Keats, p. 149. 82 James A. Gibson 1957-
good and evU we are accustomed to hope that reason wUl prevaU over
blind emotion. Perhaps, reviewing the whole calender of human virtues
(with which Shakespeare's play was genuinely concerned), we can finaUy
elevate the notion of the affections. For it is the human quaUties,
whether exercised individuaUy or coUectively, which in our acquisitive
society wUl save us from the worst excesses of other human beings; and
this, perhaps, is the real hope of history.
James A. Gibson.
Carleton University,
In the spring of 1858 accounts of the extraordinary richness of the
gold mines of the Fraser River were beginning to reach San Francisco,
and from that city, by means of the Special Correspondent of the
London Times, were being relayed to aU parts of the British possessions.1
In July of that year the Imperial Government estabUshed "British
Columbia " on the Pacific seaboard; and " lured ... by the glowing
descriptions of the Colony which appeared in the columns of the Times,"2
many a younger son with a taste for adventure left his comfortable home
in England and his settled, if somewhat staid, prospects there, to join
the rush towards the gold regions. Among those who in 1858 came
out to British Columbia, to use his own phrase, " on spec," was Arthur
Thomas Bushby. He made no fortune here, and indeed encountered
at first considerable hardship and discouragement; but he stayed on in
the infant colony to become " an upright, consistent and fearless pubUc
officer "3 in the service of the Government, and to be accepted as son-
in-law by Governor James Douglas. The journal which he kept for his
own eyes, fragmentary though it is, has great interest: not only is it an
intensely human document, recording the impact of the Furthest West
in 1858 on a sensitive, inteUigent, generous-hearted, and sometimes
rather naive young man who had come from the very centre of British
civilization, but it is also, in its frank and immediate comment on men
and affairs in early British Columbia, a record of no inconsiderable
value to the historian.
(1) See, for example, London Times, June 26, 1858, p. 5.
(2) Governor Frederick Seymour to the Duke of Buckingham and Chandos,
April 8, 1868. British Columbia, Governors Seymour and Musgrave, Dispatches, 1868-1871, MS, Archives of B.C. (Except as otherwise indicated, aU
MS material cited may be found in the Provincial Archives.) Seymour's reference is specifically to Bushby, with whom he seems to have been on very good
terms. Bushby often travelled back and forth to Victoria on the Governor's
yacht and was later executor of his wiU.
(3) Bishop George HUls, in a memorial sermon preached on May 23, 1875.
Columbia Mission, Seventeenth Annual Report, 1876, p. 20.
British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Vol. XXI, Nos. 1-4.
83 84 Dorothy Blakey Smith 1957-
Arthur Thomas Bushby was born on March 2, 1835,4 the son of
a highly respectable London merchant, Joseph Bushby, of No. 3 Halkin
Street, Grosvenor Place, partner in the firm of Bushby & Lee of St.
Peter's Chambers, CornhiU, and owner of two West Indian estates (with
the enchanting names of " WUUams Delight" and " Water Ground ")
on the Danish island of St. Croix. Arthur Bushby's mother, born Anne
Sarah Stedman, was an accompUshed linguist, speaking five languages.
She made a number of translations from the Danish, the most noteworthy being Hans Christian Andersen's The Ice Maiden, which she
published in 1863, the first English edition to be recorded in the British
Museum catalogue. She also contributed articles to magazines under
the pseudonym of "A.W.I." (for "A West Indian," she having lived in
the West Indies), and is said to have suggested the idea of "safety
islands " in the streets of London.5
Arthur's elder brother, Joseph William, appears to have taken over
the famUy business on his father's death on December 12, 1866. There
were five sisters in the household: one of them, Matilda Maria, was
married in 1853 to Lieutenant (afterwards Admiral Sir) John Edmund
Commerell;6 EUa M. and Lucy also married, their names being Wood
and Salmon respectively; Jane Margaret and Anne were unmarried at
the time of their mother's death in 1872 and Uved on in Halkin Street
with their brother Joseph, their home serving as a hospitable centre for
aU the visiting family connections from British Columbia.
When he left England in November, 1858, Arthur Bushby was 23
years of age. According to the letter of introduction which he presented to Governor Douglas from the Governor and Committee of the
Hudson's Bay Company,7 he had " been employed in the same way "
(4) See the entry in his journal, March 2, 1859. Except as otherwise indicated, the personal information in this introduction is drawn from Bushby's own
journals, from the wills of his father and mother, photostat copies of which are
in the Provincial Archives of British Columbia, and from the records of Somerset
(5) The information concerning Bushby's mother comes chiefly from a memorandum in the Archives made by her granddaughter, Mrs. W. Fitzherbert BuUen.
It has not been possible to trace any of the magazine articles referred to, nor to
confirm the statement regarding the "safety islands."
(6) For an account of Admiral Commerell see John T. Walbran, British
Columbia Coast Names 1592-1906, Ottawa, 1909 (hereafter cited as Walbran),
pp. 540-541.
(7) Thomas Fraser to Governor James Douglas, September 28, 1858.   Fraser
Correspondence. 1958 Bushby Journal, 1858-1859 85
as his father, and was "about to proceed to Vancouver's Island with
the intention of estabUshing himself there as a merchant." But from
the journal which he kept before he left London, it seems clear that
the business world had Uttle attraction for him and that his " mercantile
pursuits " were strictly a means to an end. Later, as he tramped the
rough traUs of British Columbia or pitched his tent beside some mountain stream—" my sponge in my bag was quite frozen and aU the horses
taUs were frozen " and a hornets' nest barred the way at the most enticing place for bathing—he buUt " a fine castle " in the air:—8
After having made a fortune neat little Villa on bank of Father Thames near
Hampton Wick nice boat house—2 or 3 beautiful little boats—pulling about every
evng—musical friends often down—2 spare rooms—nice little carriage & horses
to drive and ride, family down often much pleasing father—happy & comfortable—Agnes &c spending abt £1000 a year
And in one moment of despair, when he was homesick for old days
and pleasant associates, when his prospects were far from bright, and
his love affair with the Governor's daughter Agnes was running far
from smoothly, he burst out that he was " not fit for business at home ";
not even fit for the minor official appointment he had by that time
obtained in British Columbia; " music after all," he says, " is the only
thing I am fit for "; and he almost decided then and there upon " throwing overboard everybody & everything and of rushing head long into
the musical profession—go to S. Francisco & have a try."9
It is quite possible that Bushby might have succeeded in such an
enterprise, for he was a highly trained and versatile amateur musician,
whose evenings before he left London had been crowded with rehearsals,
concerts, and informal music-making at home. He had a fine tenor
voice, and was a member of the Amateur Musical Society, a group
originaUy formed to sing madrigals and in Bushby's time under the
distinguished leadership of Henry Leslie. He was a violinist, spending
much time playing second violin in a chamber-music group; he was
a pianist; and he was a composer of occasional pieces, a number of
which are still preserved in the Provincial Archives of British Columbia.
The " Florence Polka " of 1856 is a souvenir of the summer he spent
in Italy studying voice, piano, and Italian; the other pieces range from
a fragmentary "Valentine" of 1859, written shortly after his arrival
in Victoria, to an undated setting of "Lead, Kindly Light" and the
" March of the New Westminster Rifles," which he wrote in 1874.
(8) Journal, September 27, 1860.
(9) Ibid., September 19, 1859. 86 Dorothy Blakey Smith 1957-
Bushby saUed from Southampton on November 3, 1858, among his
feUow-passengers being one other Englishman heading for British Columbia, C. J. R. Bedford, who was later to become a Magistrate at
Langley and lessee of the Hudson's Bay Company's farm there. In New
York the pair encountered Robert Burnaby, who was to play a prominent role in colonial affairs; and when the trio went aboard the Moses
Taylor for AspinwaU they found themselves in the company of a Uttle
group of officials already appointed by the Imperial Government to the
recently proclaimed colony of British Columbia: Colonel Richard Clement Moody, Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works (with a dormant
commission as Lieutenant-Governor), who, as officer commanding the
detachment of Royal Engineers which Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton had
decided to send out for the assistance of Governor Douglas, was proceeding to Victoria several months in advance of the main body of his troops;
Captain W. DriscoU Gosset, Treasurer of the new colony; and the Rev.
W. Burton Crickmer, appointed