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The Chung Collection

The north-west of Canada Horetzky, Charles 1873

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j^uture   Resources  of  the   Country.
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Now that the subject of emigration is beginning to attract
the attention it deserves, a brief but comprehensive description
of the immense territories inhabited at present by a comparatively few nomadic Indian tribes, will not be out of place, and
may assist the efforts of our Emigration Agents in Great Britain
and on the Continent of Europe, where the great majority of
the population is yet in ignorance regarding the vast resources
recently acquired by Canada by the transfer of the Hudson's
Bay territories.
Before the acquisition of those immense regions, and the
confederation of the Atlantic Provinces and British Columbia,
Canada represented but an insignificant portion of the North
American Continent; now her flag waves proudly over its best
northern half, and she may justly claim possession of an empire
rivaling in size and resources that of her southern neighbour.
The regions recently under the control of the Hudson's
Bay Company, comprise a vast area: they embrace that portion
of the continent lying north of old Canada, the United States,
and British Columbia, and extend from east to west for a distance of three thousand miles, while from the shores of the
Antic Sea to the 49th parallel, they cover a breadth of about
fourteen hundred miles, and include an area of nearly two and
a quarter millions of square miles.
Of course, a very large portion of this territory is valueless
for agriculture, still, the incalculable mineral wealth wliich
doubtless lies hidden beneath the vast unexplored and otherwise
worthless tracts lying in the northernmost parts of the Dominion, must ultimately prove of immense value.
Leaving out of the question those parts of British North
America comprising old Canada and the Atlantic Provinces,
the Dominion may be divided into five distinct sections, viz :
The Arctic Basin, Hudson's Bay, the Central Plains, the
Rocky Mountains, and lastly, though by no means least, the
is bounded on the west by the Rocky Mountains which, from a
point in the vicinity of Jasper House, form a distinct and well-
defined boundary line northward, as far as the Arctic Sea.
An imaginary line from the same point (Jasper House),
northeasterly to Lake Wollaston, and past it to the edge of the
Silurian Basin of Hudson's Bay, will sufficiently mark the
southern boundary, while thence to the head of Chesterfield
Inlet, the eastern line of demarcation maybe readily traced on
any good map.
The Arctic Basin is drained by three great rivers : the
Mackenzie (which, by its main feeder the Peace, also draws off
a vast quantity of water from the western slopes of the Rocky
Mountains), the Coppermine, and Back's Great Fish River.
Nine-tenths of this great basin is a barren and inhospitable
wilderness; the eastern and smaller half lying on the granite
rocks of the Laurentian system ; the south-western extremity,
however, which rests upon a more recent formation, presents
the finest "■UV of territory in the British North-West. Of
this comparatively small section watered by the Peace and
Smoky rivers, I shall speak anon; in the meantime we shall
proceed to a brief description of
The basin of this great inland sea, from Fort Churchill
round to its southern extremity, and north again to the East
Main river, is of Silurian formation, and the low margin, which
is a distinct characteristic of the coast line within the limits
just described, is covered with vast deposits of drift and boulders.
Northwards from the East Main river the formation changes,
and the primary rocks of the Laurentian system, thence to the
Hudson's Straits, present a frowning barrier to the icy waters
of the northern sea.
Of that portion of the territories comprised within the
Labrador Peninsula, and drained by rivers flowing westward
into Hudson's Bay, also of the country adjacent to, and situated
south and west of James' Bay, watered by the Abitibbi, Moose,
and Albany rivers, little can be said, for in general the land is 1
of the most inhospitable nature, and totally unfitted for cultivation, partly owing to the severity of the climate, and partly
to the poor and swampy nature of the soil.
Wheat crops have never been raised at any of the Fur
Company's posts bordering on the Bay, but vegetables succeed
well at Rupert's House and Moose Factory ; at the latter place
especially, where the rich alluvial islands, upon one of which
the factory is situated, offer a soil as rich as that of Red River,
but the intense cold of winter and short duration of the summer
interpose an effectual barrier to the cultivation of cereals.
The whole country around the shores of James' Bay, at the
southern extremity of whicli is situated Moose Factory, is very
slightly elevated above the sea level, and presents a vast and
irreclaimable swamp covered with a thick, and sometimes
stunted forest of spruce and tamarae, which find an insecure
hold in the soft and moss-covered surface.
The low fringe of Silurian formation which encircles James'
Bay extends back in a southerly direction for seventy-five miles
or thereabouts, until, above the Clay Falls on the Abitibbi
River, the "Otter's," (a series of cascades formed by the sudden
dip and disappearance of the Laurentian rocks) are encountered ;
from this point southwards to the head- waters of the Ottawa
River, the country presents the appearance of a Canadian
forest, but is generally level to within some forty miles of the
height of land, when it is much cut up by picturesque lakes,
and is considerably broken.
The season of navigation in Hudson's Bay is extremely
short, being only of three or four months duration, and usually
begins about 1st July, and closes towards the end of October, a
period barely sufficient to permit the coasting craft of the Fur
Company to perform more than four trips from the Great and
Little Whale Rivers (on the Eastmain Coast, and in about
latitude 5bJ° north) to Moose Faetory and back.
During the month of July there is generally a great
southerly drift of ice floes* down the bay, a circumstance which
renders navigation extremely hazardous.
Two ships annually visit Hudson's Bay. They usually
arrive about the middle of August, and bring the bulk of the 6
supplies   requisite for the  Indian  trade  of the northern and
southern departments of Rupert's Land.
The coast line of James1 Bay, and the sea bottom for many
miles from the shore are strewn with drift boulders, and the
extreme flatness of the land causes an extraordinary shoaliness
of the water, which, at a distance of twenty and twenty-five
miles from the shore, has a depth of from five to six fathoms
The expense and trouble attending the navigation of the
solitary barque which visits Moose Factory once a year are,
from this cause, almost incredible.
The London ship,-after having passed into James' Bay, has
to rely chiefly upon soundings, and on reaching the "outer ship
hole," twenty-five miles from the Factory, the point selected for
the lightening of the cargo before the bar can be crossed, land is
nowhere visible.
In consequence of this dearth of landmarks, a beacon has
been erected on the coast some eighteen miles north of the
factory. This solitary beacon, a mast of great height, strongly
staved, and surmounted by a globular cage, twelve feet in
diameter, has, of course, a known bearing from the outer
anchorage, and in conjunction with the soundings, and a
range of buoys and beacons stretching for many miles towards
the " inner ship hole" at the mouth of the Moose Itiver, is the
only indication by which the vessel's position is known.
The consequences of a heavy gale from the northward
with such a shallow sea to leeward when the ship is
yet too deep to cross the bar ot the river, may be
easily imagined, and an anxious period, during which all the
available coasting craft are busily employed in lightening the
cargo, is usually passed. Once the ship's draught is sufficiently
reduced to enable her to take the bar, a sloop is there stationed,
and at the instant of high water a signal from that vessel '•on-
veys the intelligence to the anxious captain that he may now
venture to scrape over the bar, which he hastens to do, provided
the wind be fair. More than half a score miles of intricate
navigation bring the vessel to the inner anchorage which is safe,
but of very small extent.    At this point (nine miles from the 1
Factory) the cargo is discharged into small vessels and taken
up to the Factory.
This event of the London ship's arrival is the one exciting
theme to the few white residents in James' Bay, and is always
looked forward to with great interest. Immediately after the
departure of the vessel with the furs of the Department, the
buoys and beacons between the inner and outer anchorage, are
carefully taken up and stored away at the Factory until the
ensuing season, when they are again placed in their positions.
Of course it is needless to remark that all this work is occasioned
by the ice, which covers the sea for many miles out during the
This description of the coast is applicable to the whole of
James' Bay, and I believe that at York Factory, at the mouth
of the Nelson River, similar drawbacks occur.
These circumstances preclude the possibility of ever forming
good ports on Hudson's Bay, a scheme which has often been
urged by enthusiasts who, not only wish to establish ports of
entry in those inhospitable regions, but also desire to open up
by railway communication, the very worst lands of the
Dominion, viz.: those lying between the Bay and Lake Superior.
The pressing political necessity for a line of route through
British territory available for the Canada Pacific, can be the
only incentive for the disbursement of millions of dollars on the
construction of a road which, between Mattawa and Fort Garry,
must pass through several hundred miles of the least attractive
lands on the continent. The writer has crossed the country
alluded to on various occasions, both by canoe and on snowshoes,
and is in a position to make the foregoing assertions.
The waters of Hudson's Bay are as unproductive as the
dismal swamps they touch, for neither salmon nor any other
valuable and edible fish is to be found. Seals and white
porpoise are, or at least, have been, tolerably plentiful in the
northern waters: but the latter, like the rabbits inland, would
seem to migrate occasionally, and of late years they have
disappeared entirely, the once valuable fisheries of "Great and
Little Whale Rivers being now quite unproductive.
In James' Bay vast salt marshes covered with luxuriant hay 8
extend for miles along the low lands bordering on the sea, and
afford excellent feed for cattle, numbers of which are kept at
the posts of Albany, Moose Factory, and Rupert's House.
Game also abounds, and in the autumn when the countless
flocks of geese return southward from their hyperborean retreats,
thousands of these birds are slaughtered for food, fifty and sixty
thousand salt geese being often barreled up at Albany for
general consumption.
Having now briefly described the general features of the
country around James' Bav, we shall proceed to an examination
of the third division, which offers a much more inviting field,
and to which I would call the attention of intending emigrants
as containing within its limits the second best lands of the five
sections into which I have divided the Nor'-West Territories.
the 96° of west longitude, from the 49th parallel northward to
latitude 50^° being the eastern boundary of the newly-made
Province of Manitoba, may also be taken as the extreme eastern
limit of the plain country.
The 49th parallel being there the southern limit of the
Dominion, the section under discussion will, as a matter of
course, be hounded by the same line.
The Saskatchewan and its tributaries drain the country
included in the north-western portion of this section.
This division contains at least three hundred thousand
square miles. From Lake Manitoba to the eastern base of the
Rocky Mountains, a distance of about seven hundred miles in a
direct line, the prairies extend over a vast layer of drift which
is the principal geological feature of this region.
From the Rocky Mountains eastward, the gradual
subsidence of the sea at remote periods, may be sufficiently
well traced by three distinct terraces or plateaux. The earliest
well marked coast line is seen at the Grand Coteau, Eagle and
Thickwood Hills.
The present valleys of the North and South Saskatchewan
are cut through the high plateau of which those prominences-
are the commencement, while the prairie level at their -base- is ^
about sixteen hundred feet above the present sea level. At the
period when the sea washed the base of this plateau the North
and South Saskatchewans were probably independent rivers
emptying their waters into the great bay formed by the Eagle,
Thickwood and Thunder Breeding hills.
The second period of subsidence left a well defined coast
line which may be traced from the Pembina mountain where
an escarpment, two hundred and fifty feet above the prairie
below, indicates the ancient coast. The edge of this plateau
sweeps northwesterly to the Assiniboine and the Riding Mountains, which doubtless were formerly connected with the Duck,
Porcupine and Basquia Hills, all elevated to the full height of
the level, say sixteen hundred feet.
About twenty miles below Fort a la Corne on the Main
Saskatchewan, the banks of that stream become suddenly
reduced from their usual elevation to one very slightly raised
above the river, thus marking the eastern edge of the plateau.
This depression of the banks may likely offer an eligible locality
for the crossing place of the Canada Pacific if the present Government of the Dominion elect to push that line by Lac la
Biche and the Peace River.
The third and most reeent level is that of the country
around Lake Winnipeg and other lakes in its vieinity, as also
of the low swampy land west of Lake Manitoba. According to
Dr. Hector this level in the vicinity of Red River Settlement is
composed of argillaceous marl. Underlying this is a bed of
stiff clay. The upper layers of this deposit contain vegetable
remains, .and the whole marks a fresh water deposit indicating
a time when the Winnipeg group of lakes covered a much more
extended area than at present.
The Province of Manitoba, as originally laid out, is but of
small extent, and is included within the 96° and 99° of west
longitude, while it stretches northwards from the 49th parallel
to latitude 50£°. This area contains about fourteen thousand
•square miles, and includes much of the most fertile land of the
The provincial surveys have, however, been very much-
extended westwards,  and incoming settlers will always flnd
J 10
surveyed lands in quantity sufficient for their immediate wants.
The lands are generally laid out in square townships, measuring six miles on a side ; those are again snb-divided into
sections of six hundred and forty acres. Free grants of quarter
sections (one hundred and sixty acres) are given to each Ixma
fide settler. Land may also be purchased at the uniform rate
of one dollar per acre.
Settlers on prairie lots are also entitled to a wood lot of
twenty acres in the nearest locality.
Such are, I think, the regulations at present in force, with
regard to the sale of lands within the Province of Manitoba.
Within the greater portion of the Province the land is of
the very finest quality, and the yield something enormous.
Splendid harvests of both grain and green crops are generally
Spring wheat is harvested at the rate of from thirty to
forty bushels per acre, barley averages fifty bushels, and oats
from sixty to seventy-five bushels per acre.
The fertility of the soil is so great in certain localities that
beets, carrots, and other vegetables grow to an enormous size.
Potatoes generally return immense crops which compare
favorably with those grown in any part of Canada.
Good markets for farm produce are readily obtained, for
the country as yet produces barely more than sufficient for home
consumption. During the past summer (1873), the prices of
grains were as follows : Wheat, $1.50 per bushel; Oats, $1.00 ;
Barley, $1.25, and Potatoes 75c. per bushel. Cattle thrive
remarkably well in Manitoba, and are very numerous. Horses
and cattle, nothwitnstanding the severity of the winter months,
may generally winter out, although it is better to house them.
The natural pasturages of Manitoba are almost unlimited,
while the nutritious character of the grasses enable both horses
and cattle to thrive and fatten. Sheep would also, doubtless, do
remarkably well in the western country j but the Province being,
generally speaking, of a very level and uniform character, the
more rolling country found to the westward would answer
better for sheep farming. Ik
The great disadvantages under which settlers labor are, the
scarcity of wood and good fresh water.
There can be no doubt at all as to the great want of wood,
and very few years will elapse ere coal must form the staple fuel
of the country. Fortunately, that mineral is to be found in
enormous quantities in the valley of the Saskatchewan. It has
also been discovered in the Sonris River, at the Roche Percee,
about two hundred and fifty miles west south-west from Fort
Garry, and may there be obtained within a very few feet of the
In localities far removed from large streams, the boring
of artesian wells will probably result in the satisfactory solution
of the water question.
The climate of Manitoba is remarkably salubrious. During
the winter season the atmosphere is very dry, and from this
cause, the low temperature which usually obtains, seldom
produces any inconvenience. In summer, the heat is often
intense, and is much the more felt owing to the great want of
timber. Thunder and rain storms are of frequent occurrence,
the former often extremely severe.
Immediately west oi the Province, the valley of the
Assiniboine and its tributaries present some of the very finest
land for settlement. For a description of those fertile and
beautiful tracts of country, I shall quote from Professor
Hinds' interesting work.
Speaking of the areas fit for settlement, he says:—
Valley of the Assiniboine.—" Issuing from the Duck mountains are numerous streams which meander through a beautiful
and fertile country. This area may be said to commence at the
" Two Creeks," ten miles from Fort Pelly, thence on to " Pine
Creek," fifteen miles further. The vegetation is everywhere
luxuriant and beautiful, from the great abundance of rose bushes,
vetches, and gaudy wild flowers of many species. After passing
" Pine Creek," the trail to Shell river pursues a circuitous route
through a country of equal richness and fertility.
Shell river is forty-two miles from Pine Creek, and in its
valley small  oak appear,  with  balsam,  poplar,  and   aspen, 12
covering a thick undergrowth of raspberry, currant, rose, and
dogwood bushes.
Between Shell river and Birdstail river, a distance of thirty-
nine miles, the country is level and often marshy, with numerous
ponds and small lakes, but where the soil is dry, the herbage is
very luxuriant, and groves of aspen thirty feet high vary the
monotony of the plain.
Between the trail and the Assiniboine, the soil is light, and
almost invariably as the river is approached, it partakes of a
sandy and gravelly nature, with boulders strewn over its surface.
The flanks of the Riding mountain are covered with a
dense growth of aspen and poplar, and cut by numerous small
rivulets. From Birdstail river to the little Saskatchewan, or
Rapid river, a distance of thirty-three miles, the same kind of
soil, timber, and vegetation prevail.
About one hundred miles from its mouth, the Rapid river
issues from the densely wooded flanks of the Riding mountain
through a narrow excavated valley filled with balsam poplar,
and an undergrowth of cherry and dogwood, with roses,
convolvuli, vetches, and various creepers. The slopes are
covered with poplar eighteen inches in diamater. Descending
the river, groves of poplar and spruce show themselves, with
thick forests of aspen and balsam poplar coveriug the terrace on
either hand. The river is hei e forty feet wide, with a very
rapid current. Before it makes its easterly bend, the ash leaved
maple shows itself in groves, and on both sides is an open
undulating country, attractive and fertile, with clumps of young
trees springing up in all directions.
The region drained by the Rapid river continues beautiful
and rich until within twenty-five miles of the Assiniboine, so
that it may with propriety be stated, that for a distance of seventy-
five miles this river meanders through a country admirably
adapted for settlement.
Ponds and lakes are numerous ; wild fowl in great numbers
breed on their borders, and the waters of the Rapid river abound
in fish. It will probably become important as a means of conveying to the settlements on the Assiniboine and Red River
supplies of lumber from its valley and the Riding mountain. 13
From the Rapid river to White Mua river the distance is
thirty-three miles, and the country continues to preserve the
same general character with respect to fertility and fitness for
settlement which has uow been traced out for a space of 164
White Mud river flows into Lake Manitoba at its southwestern extremity. This river drains an extensive area of the
richest prairie land, similar in all respects to the White Horse
Plain on the Assiniboine, or the rich wastes on Red River.
White Mud river is connected with the Prairie Portage by
an excellent dry road, the crossing place being eighteen miles
from the Portage.
The river banks are well timbered with oak, elm, ash,
maple, aspen, and balsam poplar.
The soil on its banks and far on either side is of the finest
Valley of the Saskatchewan.—1st. The country between
the Lumpy Hill of the woods and Fort a la Corne, including
the Valley of Long Creek and the region west of it, bounded by
the South Branch and the main Saskatchewan. This area may
contain about 600,000 acres of land of the first qua'lity.
2nd. The valley of Carrot river and the country included
between it and the main Saskatchewan, bounded on the south
by the Bir'ch Hill range. There is a narrow strip on the Great
river, about five miles broad, where the soil is light and of an
indifferent quality. The area of available land probably does
not exceed 3,000,000 acres.
3rd. The country about the Moose Woods on the South
4th. The Touchwood Hill range.
5th. The Pheasant Hill and the File Hill.
The aggregate area of these fertile districts may be stated
to extend over 500,000 acres.
Assuming that the prairies of Red River and the Assiniboine
east of Prairie Portage contain an available area of 1,500,000
acres of fertile soil, the total quantity of arable land included
c 14
between Red River and the Moose Woods on the south branch
of the Saskatchewan, will be as follows :—
Red River and Assiniboine prairies, east of Portage .. 1,500,000
Eastern watershed of Assiniboine and Riviere Sale ... 3,500,000
Long Creek and Porks of the Saskatchewan      600,000
Between Carrot river and the Main Saskatchewan.... 3,000,000
Touchwood Hill range, Moose Woods, &c      500,000
Mouse river, Q'Appele river, White Sand river   1,000,000
Headwaters of Assiniboine and Swan river valley ... 1,000,000
Total area of arable land of first quality 11,100,000
Of land fit for grazing purposes, the area is much more
considerable, and may be assumed equal in extent to the above
estimate of arable land."
The foregoing short description of " areas fit for settlement "
will be seen to include the lands east of the Forks of the
Saskatchewan, and the South Branch as far as Moose Woods
only. Large fertile tracts are to be found near Carleton and
along the North Branch for many miles of its course. Also at
and in the vicinity of the Eagle hills, and the elbow of the North
Between the South Saskatchewan and Battle River (the
largest southern tributary of the north branch), there is a verv
extensive area of semi-desert country, devoid of wood, and of
scanty herbage. This barren tract extends westward from the
edge of the first prairie steppe marked by the Eagle Hills and
Thunder Breeding Hills, and it almost reaches the Hand Hills
and south elbow of the Battle River, enclosing an arid region
perhaps 7000 square miles in extent.
Along the North Saskatchewan and Battle River there is,
however, much fine land, which is also tolerably wooded.
The semicircular area included between the 53rd parallel
of latitude and the North Saskatchewan, also contains some
beautiful and fertile country, generally of an undulating nature,
but sometimes much broken, and, as a rule, very scantily clothed
with timber. Within this zone, localities favorable for farming
occur, more especially in the northern part, where the Hay
Lakes, Beaver Hills and Lakes, also the Egg Hills, all situated
within fifty miles of Edmonton, offer a fine field for settlement 15
and stock-raising. Those localities possess much rich soil, and
a luxuriant pasturage ; but the hilly and exposed prairies which
occupy the larger and southern portion of this section present
by no means an inviting aspect for permanent settlement.
Wood is extremely scarce; water occasionally wanting, and
when found, is too often brackish.
The country north of the North Saskatchewan in point of
fertility, compares favorably with any to the south of the same
river, and is much better timbered. q
From Fort a- la Corne, west north-westerly towards Lac lfj7*-
Biche, the land is of good quality and generally well wooded,"4>^
besides being watered by numerous lakes abounding in fish.
The climate of this section of the country is fully as mild as
that of the more open tracts to the south, and there is every ^^^t
reason to think that the stream of emigration will natnrally*V®&.
follow in this direction. tfs»     , yt
Two powerful reasons point to this conclusion : liul*
Emigrants will, casteris paribus, most naturally seek to
locate their homes where wood and water are to be found in
sufficient quantities. Proximity to the line of the great interoceanic highway will be another desideratum, and many causes
point to the probable selection of a northern route for the
binding link between British Columbia and the Eastern
The Saskatchewan valley will however always offer inducements to intending settlers, and no doubt, in the future,
Edmonton will become the nucleus of one of the secondary
towns of the north-west.
The Red Deer, Bow and Belly rivers drain a beautiful and
most fertile region, but its great distance from known centres
and the unsatisfactory state of Indian affairs in that quarter
may possibly retard for some time, the settlement of this
inviting country.
West of Edmonton and the upper part of the north
Saskatchewan, the country is swampy and densely timbered,
offering but poor inducements to the emigrant. In fact, the
North Saskatchewan River, from the 114° of west longtitude, is
the boundary between the fertile belt and the swampy wilder- c
noes which, intervenes   between  that river  and   the  Rocky
Lac la Biche situated in llli° west longtitude, and about
1 jr. ~
'seventy miles due north of the North Saskatchewan, is a magni-
^Jicent sheet of water abounding in fish, and is surrounded by
a finely timbered country.    The Roman Catholic Mission has
there established a flourishing station, where farming is carried
*~&fa on with great success.    Wheat is cultivated, and that staple is
supplied by this establishment to many other outlying posts of
the mission.
JJ& ^Sd)"6ut one hundred and seventy miles west from Lac la
Biche is situated a Hudson's Bay Co's Post, near the western
extremity of Lesser Slave Lake, a large body of water, seventy
miles in length, and also teeming with the finest fish.,,
For this distance, (one hundred and seventy miles), a dense
forest of tamarac, spruce and poplar interposes the only
obstacle to wheeled vehicles between Fort Garry and the
beautiful and fertile country drai/ned by the Peace and Smoky
" This south-western section of the Arctic Basim," presents
without exception, the finest grazing and agricultural portion of
the North-West territories, and piobably comprehends an area
equal in extent to Manitoba, and may be, exceeds that Province
in size.
Immense quantities of coal lie beneath the rich uplands of
this beautiful country, which is also sufficiently timbered to
meet all the necessities of the pioneers of civilization.
The climate of that portion of the Peace River country,
lying between the parallels of 55° and 56£° north latitude, and
between the 116° meridian and the Rocky Mountains, is
extremely salubrious, the winters being dry and temperature
Although Dunvegan, a Post of ^the Hudson's Bay Company's, situated upon the Peace River, is, about thirteen degrees
of latitude north of Toronto, yet, during the open season, the
raean temperatures of those two places do not v$ry by more than
a degree of Fahrenheit.' • 17
This extraordinary mildness of climate must be ascribed to
the position of this piece of country which lies immediately
to leeward of the sheltering peaks of the Rocky  Mountains.
The westerly vapour-laden winds of the Pacific, before
reaching the eastern slopes of the mountains, lose, by precipitation, a great portion of their moisture, and being divested of
their vapour screen, permit both solar and terrestial radiation
to take place more freely in the regions immediately to leeward.
Certainly in point of climate, and depth of snow during the
winter months, the Peace River eountry is much superior to the
Saskatchewan country; for, in the former, snow never packs,
and rarely attains a depth greater than twenty-four inches.
From careful observations made by Professor Maeoun in
the fall of 1872, the vegetation, grasses, wild fruits and timber
of this favored region, indicate a climate nearly as warm as that
of Belleville, in Ontario.
Here, then, lies a field for the emigrant which might be
reached from Red River by wheeled vehicles, did not the one
hundred and seventy miles of forest, intervening between Lesser
Slave Lake Post and Lac la Biche, present a serious obstacle.
As matters now stand, unless the round about and expensive
canoe route of the Hudson's Bay Company were made use of,
that veritable i Garden of Eden " still remains beyond the reach
of the white man.
Of course, to travellers journeying, through the eountry,
with few or no impediment, as did the writer, there is no
difficulty whatever; hut tne emigrant who leaves Fort Garry
with all his worldly goods packed in earts, and is besides
encumbered with a family, and must seek an economical mode
of travel, eannot think of attempting to penetrate further north
than Lac la Biche, to which, however, easy access is now to be
had from the Red River Settlement.
The probability that the route of the Canada Paeifie Railway will be directed through the Peace River country, offers
the only solution to the difficulty, and presents a key to this.,
beautiful country.
As soon as the route is located and the forest cleared for
the railway line, a very trifling additional expense would enable 18
a road, passable for the Red River cart, to be cut out. In fact,
such must be done in order to carry on the work of construction,
for a good cart road must accompany the railway line for obvious
The post of Lesser Slave Lake being once reached, the
difficulty of getting to the Smoky River, sixty or seventy miles"
distant, would be trifling, and that point arrived at, the vast
and fertile region south of the Peace River, would be within the
emigrant's grasp.
To reach the Peace River by any route other than that
described (which will keep to the north of Lesser Slave Lake)
would be impossible, for the route followed by the writer, from
Fort Assiniboine to Lesser Slave Lake, is almost impracticable,
excepting for pack trains.
That a passage through or over the Rocky Mountains to
the Pacific, via the Peace River country, can be found, is nearly
certain; either by a pass, to which attention has already been
drawn, or, failing that, by a route following the valley of the
Peace River, which, although extremely circuitous,- and in all
likelihood, difficult of construction, nevertheless, passes through
the Rocky Mountain Range at am elevation not exceeding
sixteen or eighteen hundred feet above sea level.
Two very cogent reasons may be given for the proposition
to take the Canada Pacific Railway by and through the Peace
River eountry. Such a route, although perhaps a trifle longer
than one by the Tete Jaune Cache pass, would open up the
finest region of the North-west, and would render it unnecessary
to approach the Frazer River; both considerations of no mean
The snow difficulty would also be, in a great measure,
avoided by that route, and in the whole distance from Fort
Garry to a point in the vicinity of Quesnel, the construction of
heavy bridges would be required only at the mai/n Saskatchewan
(say twenty miles below Fort a la Corne), at the Ri/oer Athabasca^
the- Smoky Ri/oer, and the south branch of the Peace.
Many other powerful arguments might be adduced in favor
of this northern route, but as we do not purpose entering into
the railway question, its further discussion may be deferred.. 19
But we have spoken of only a very limited portion of the
Peace River country. From what is known of the territory
lying north of the Peace up to Fort Liard in latitude 60°, the
fitness for agriculture of the triangular area bounded by the
Peace River as far as latitude 60°, the Rocky Mountains, and
the parallel of 60° may be safely assumed.
At Fort Liard wheat has been grown, while barley, oats
and potatoes generally yield fair returns.
From Dunvegan on the Peace River, to Great Slave Lake
is only a distance of three hundred and fifty miles in air line.
The country intervening is of an easy character and partly
From Portage des Noyes on the Slave River, to Fort
Simpson, the Mackenzie river presents a splendid stream navigable for vessels of considerable burden, say schooners of one
hundred tons or so.
From Fort Simpson to the sea, the Mackenzie will float the
largest frigate.
The Mackenzie river country abounds in coal, and the
Arctie Sea at the mouth of that magnificent stream, harbours
within its depths, cetecea yielding the finest oil, and in the
pursuit of which our American neighbours send fleets of many
Here then is yet another field for Canadian enterprise.
The Canada Pacific pnce built, and passing within three hundred and fifty miles, of the Mackenzie River would help to
build up a trade in oil and coal, of no insignificant proportions ;
for the construction of a branch line from the vieinity of
Dunvegan to the Mackenzie would not be difficult.
But the Athabasca might be utilized for purposes of trans,
portation, and by the help of a short line of road from the
uppermost to the lowermost rapids in the Slave River, a distance
of, say sixty miles, craft of moderate size could ascend the
Athabaska to the crossing place of the Canada Pacific Railroad,
and by this route bring the products of the Arctic Seas and the
minerals of the Mackenzie River district to the cars.
By some, these speculations may be thought chimerical,
but the Canada Pacific Railroad itself is by many classed among 20.
the delusions of the day, and  if the one be feasible, why not
the other ?
Why should not the Dominion of Canada, like Russia,
possess an Archangel ?
At Fort Simpson in latitude 64° 32' north, situated at the
junction of the River of the Mountains with the Mackenzie,
and about seven hundred miles from the sea, a town may
eventually spring up where fleets of small fishing vessels will
be fitted out for the prosecution of the rich whale fisheries at
the mouth of this great river.
If it pays the Americans to send out large fleets through
Behring's Straits for the same object, how much more profitable
would it not be, (supposing the Canada Pacific Railway
completed to Lac la Biche, even) to convey the Arctic products
by the route indicated.
Such an accession to the traffic of the Inter-oceanic railroad would be highly profitable.
I commend the scheme to the consideration of the Hon.
John Young, the originator of many commercial enterprises,
and one well qualified to judge as to the feasibility of such a
channel of communication.
The value of the exports of Archangel, twenty-five years
ago, was nearly one million and-a half sterling ; her products
were, timber, iron, flax, hemp and tallow. Her situation is
much further north than Fort Simpson, her seasons sh >rter,
and the navigation of her waters more precarious than that of
the Mackenzie River.
Archangel can boast but of one good month in the year,
i. e. from 15th July to 15th August; her shortest day is of only
three hours duration.
The region south of Fort Simpson is quite capable of producing the grain,  tar,  tallow, etc.,  enumerated  among  the
exports of the Russian port, besides the coal, oil, and ivory of
the Lower Mackenzie.
A fleet of steam vessels could leave Fort Simpson in the
beginning of June, and reaching the Arctic in a few days, com-
mence the fisheries, and return about the end of September. 21
The branch road of three hundred and fifty miles would
connect with the Canada Pacific near the Peace River, or the
interrupted route, via Lake and River Athabasca, might be used
for the same purpose.
Immediately west of the Peace River country,
interpose their hoary summits, but nature has formed a navigable channel of communication through their rocky walls, in the
upper portion of the Peace River, which flows smoothly and
almost uninterruptedly for many miles over beds of limestone
exhibiting fossils of the carboniferous period.
The low altitude at which the Peace River flows through
the Rocky Mountains is certainly a most wonderful phenomenon, and at first would naturally lead to the belief that there is
an easy solution to the passage of the Mountains. That river
can certainly be navigated with ease, especially in the autumn
months, but its valley does not present a very good route for
wheeled vehicles or a railroad.
I shall not here enter into a description of this pass, but the
reader, if desirous to learn more is referred to a work now in the
press, and shortly to be published, entitled " Westward, by the
Peace to the Pacific," wherein the subject is more fully
Although the Rocky Mountains do not afford laud fit for
cultivation, they contain minerals such as gold and silver, and
doubtless at no very remote period they will become vast mining
centres, and will afford a wide field for enterprise.
It will be here unnecessary to speak of British Columbia;
the resources of that rich Province have been already tested by
other writers, and the comprehensive report of the late Minister
of Public Works, Mr. Langevin, has quite exhausted the subject.
The capabilities of British Columbia can be summed up in
a few words. Her gold mines have proved to be among the
richest on the Pacific Slopes of the Continent; while the new
mining regions of the Upper Branches of the Peace River
promise fair to attain a golden celebrity.
D 22
Her salmon fisheries, lumbering capabilities, and cattle
ranches will soon give her a prominence among the many rich
Provinces of the Dominion, while the vast beds of coal which
underlie not only Vancouver Island, but a great portion of the
mainland, will ultimately serve to build up a Newcastle on the
Already the Californians have found out the superiority of
the Nanaimo coal over that of their own territory, and American
shipping now exports large quantities of the mineral to San
The Islands of Queen Charlotte adjacent to the northern
coast of British Columbia, are also of great importance, and
contain coal, copper and gold, and thitherward the hardy gold
seekers have already began to extend their operations.
The greater portion of British Columbia is yet unexplored
and the parts now known are excessively mountainous, the
narrow and generally confined valleys alone offering workable
arable lands. Yast tracts of country, especially in the northern
parts of the Province, are utterly useless unless for their mineral
wealth which is probably unlimited.
When we compare the beautiful regions of the Central
Plains, and the Peace River east of the mountains, with this
western province, the conviction is reluctantly forced upon the
mind that it cannot honestly be held up to the Emigrant as a
field for Agriculture. However, the Dominion possesses elsewhere unlimited tracts of rich country which, for years to come
will absorb the irresistible flow of emigration, while on the
other hand, the growth of manufacturing establishments, arising
out of the rich mineral wealth of the Pacific Slope, will build
up British Columbia, and enable her to maintain a foremost
rank among the provinces of the great Dominion. mpi
The following extract from the " Ottawa Citizen" of 2ith
October last (1873) may prove of interest, and elucidate the
scheme or proposition for taking the Canada Pacific Road
by a northern route:
At the present juncture, when the Canada Pacific Railway
scandal is occupying the attention of legislators and the public
generally, it may not be amiss to offer some remarks upon the
route or routes available for the very important highway destined not only to bring the remote shores of the Dominion
within easy reach, but also to open up the vast and now unoccupied lands of the North West.
That the route across the Rocky Mountains via
will be finally adopted, or if chosen, that it will fulfil the
conditions requisite to meet the emergency of the case, is not
the general belief.
Against the selection of that route, there appear to be two
rather powerful arguments ; first, the difficulty of reaching the
Bute Inlet from the Tete Jaune Cache, and, secondly, the
inadaptation of the section of country east of the Rocky Mountains crossed by that line, for successful and permanent
In order to reach this momentous question without circumlocution, we shall at once enter into a comparison between the
route projected via the Tete Jaune Cache pass and
by way of Lac la Biche and the Peace river, crossing the Rocky
Mountain range either by a supposed practicable and low pass,
situated in about latitude 55£ N., or, through the comparatively
low gap in the Rocky Mountains by which the great Peace
river finds its way from the British Columbian slopes at an tr
elevation of about 1,600 feet above sea level, to the eastern side
of the range.
Before going further, let us premise that Bute Inlet is the
point on the Pacific coast which it is most desirable for the line
to reach in order at some future and not far distant period to
bring Yancouver Island and Yictoria into direct communication
with the interior of the continent.
Taking it for granted that a practicable route does exist
from the Tete Jaune Cache via the North Frazer and Fort
George to Bute Inlet (a distance of 450 miles) or from the Tete
Jaune Cache to the same point via Lac la Hache (also 450 miles),
both distances taken from Progress Report of 1872; see page
17, we shall at once discuss the merits of that section of the
Canada Pacific comprised between Portage la Prairie (Manitoba)
and the Cache.
From Portage la Prairie in a nor'-west direction and for a
distance of about 220 miles, the projected route passes over a
very fine country; in the vicinity of the pretty poplar wooded
Riding Mountains, to the south, and almost within reach of the
beautiful Lake Dauphin, and over the Swan river, until, when
between the Thunder and Porcupine hills, it takes a westward
course for the Saskatchewan, distant 192 miles.
We shall now make the
a common point of departure for the two routes under discussion,
for east of that prominence, the line lias passed over the best
available ground.
Resuming then our course for the Tete Jaune Cache, we
strike almost due west, for 192 miles over a very easy country,
but for the most part open, sparsely wooded, and containing
many lakes, of which the waters are saturated with the sulphate
of soda.
From the crossing of the South Saskatchewan to that of the
northern branch of the same river at the White Mud Creek
above Edmonton, 350 miles of country are crossed, nine-tenths
of which is a treeless prairie, exposed to the fury of the cold
northern blasts, rough and broken in many places, where good
fresh water, excepting in the vicinity of the rivers, is extremely 25
scarce, salt and brackish lakes of frequent occurrence, and very
much frequented by the nomadic tribes of the plains.
Crossing the North Saskatchewan, we now leave the open
plain country, and enter a vast swampy region, which, with the
exception of some few dry ridges, extends to the Athabasca
As a matter of eourse, this tract of eountry (which the line
intersects for a distance of some 170 miles), is wet, cold, and
From the Southern end of Lac Brule, which we have now
reached, about one hundred miles take us to the Cache, which
distance can be overcome by easy grades.
A great portion of the section of country just described
offers immense tracts of fine land suitable (so far as the soil
itself is concerned) for both agriculture and grazing purposes.
But the drawbacks already briefly referred to, viz.: the scarcity
of wood and water, are insuperable obstacles in the way of
successful and permanent settlement.
It is true that occasionally small copses of poplars (the trees
rarely exceeding eight inehes in diameter) are met with, never-
the less the extent of wooded, compared with prairie land is so disproportionate, that but a widely scattered community of settlers
would be needed to clear off all the available timber in a few
On the score of
it may be urged that the coal whieh under-lies a great extent of
the Upper Saskatchewan country may offer a good substitute
for wood and be used to advantage. There is no doubt that coal
in quantities enormous, is to be found, especially west of Fort
Pitt, but, those who seek these regions with a view to settlement,
cannot be expected to turn all their attention and devote all
their energies towards the painful and laborious extraction from
the bowels of the earth, of the whei ewithal to
during the long and severe winters which are the rule, when,
the thermometer often sinks to 40° below zero. ,.—I
It is «ne thing to cross those beautiful prairies during the
summer season, when the hills and dales are in the full flush of
exuberant verdure, another to travel them in winter in face of
the biting northern blasts which sweep the boundless wastes of
these interminable plains with a rigor and severity almost arctic
in their intensity.
We shall now return to the Thunder Hill, the point where
the proposed route to the Paeific,
branches northwards from the one just described. Travelling
west northwesterly for about one hundred and fifty miles within
the limit of the true forest, we reach Fort a la Corne. Somewhere in this vicinity a crossing of the Saskatchewan must be
sought, and gaining the north side of that river, the line of
route would cross the Netsetting river, and keeping south of
Green and Pelican lakes, seek the easiest way in Lae la Biche
through a thick wood country, supporting a growth of spruce,
larch 'and poplars, abounding in lakes teeming with fish,
and removed from the presence of the roving Indians of the
From Lac la Biche, (in latitude 55° N., where wheat lias
been successfully cultivated for years) to the western extremity .
of Lesser Slave Lake, is a distance of about 170 miles, through
a fairly level country'covered with forest. This section is com*
paratively unknown, but from Indian reports, is presumed to
be level.
From this point, sixty-five miles of fine, gently-rolling
timbered country will take the line to the Smoky river, which
ean be crossed some thirty miles from its mouth.
From the last mentioned river the line would intersect and
open up
situated to the south of the great Peace River—a region comprising an area equal in extent to Manitoba, well wooded, with
abundance of water, of excellent soil, and in all probability
possessing unlimited quantities of good coal. The general
elevation of this large tract of country is about 1,800 feet above
sea level..     The climate is most salubrious, and by all accounts* 1
as mild if not milder than that of Red River.    On the extensive
plains bordering upon the Peace river, both north and south of
it, snow never exceeds two feet in depth, and never packs. Up
to the month of December,
and although winter usually sets in with the month of November,
the early opening of the spring in Apiil compensates for the
short fall.
I shall here give several extracts from a letter written by a
gentleman of reliability who has lived in the Peace river country
for seven years.    Speaking of the climate he says:—
" Le climat est certainement salubre. Les vents qui regnent
" en maitre ne sont generalement pas froids, ils soufflent presque
" toujours de l'ouest a l'est, et sud-ouestau nord est. Les orages
" ne font point de degats. En hiver meme, la temperature est
■■ tres variee, ce n'est que dans le mois de Janvier et une partie
" de Mars que quand le vent est nord, il fait bein froid.
" A Athabasca, au contraire, le froid est intense et de longue
" duree. La neige n'atteint ordinairement pas plus que deux
"pieds, eucore n'est elle pas dure, Voir etant toujours sec et
" le del serein.
" Dans les cotes, dans les praires, la nature offre une foule
u de fruits que les Europeens meme ne dedaigneraient pas sur
i leurs tables.    Les poires, des cerises sauvages, des pembina,
<; des raisins d'ours, des froises, des framboises.     il me
I semble que le pommier reussirait. L'orge murit tous les ans.
" Je pense que le ble seme en automne murirait tres souvent,
" comme le ble du printemps. Une annee j'aiseme des haricots
" de 24 de Mai, le 30 de Juillet ils estaient bons a manger. Les
" pois reussissent generalement, legumes toujours bien."    Of
he says, " In many places tar exudes from the ground. The
xi purest and whitest of salt can be collected in enormous quan-
" tities. Pure sulphur is found below Fort Yermilion. Bitum-
fl inous springs abound, while the Smoky river, as its name
*' indicates, proves the existence of vast beds of pit coal."
This magnificent country; rich in mineral wealth, with
abundance of timber, possessing millions of acres of the finest jm
pasture land, watered by numerous small rivers, is intersected
by the noble Peace River, navigable, from'the Rocky Mountain
Portage, to the Smoky river (a distance of 250 miles) and probably very much further, for the largest river steamers.
We shall now onee more pick up the line of route, and
keeping a little south of west, cross the Rocky Mountains by the
if it be practicable. It, on the contrary, insurmountable obstacles impede our progress in that direction, we must keep to the
right, heading the Pine river sufficiently to enable us to cross it
at the most eligible point, and make for the Peace River Yalley,
by following which, and making a detour of 125 miles, we shall
reach MeLeod Lake, after having passed through the Rocky
Mountains at an elevation rarely exceeding 1,800 feet above the
sea. This detour may, however, necessitate very heavy works
of construction, the Pine river, owing to its deep valley, being
itself probably the first serious obstacle. Between this river
and the upper end of the portage, (probably thirty miles), the
country is a dense forest, and apparently rough. The White
Fish river has besides perhaps to be crossed. Above the portage, and partly within the mountains, there are sixty or seventy
miles of rough and expensive road to be constructed, occasional
level terraces can be made use of, but precipitous mountain
sides, especially above the
will occasion heavy and expensive work, while the tortuousness
of the river may require many bridges.
The waters of the Peace river above the portage, being, however-navigable for stern wheel steamers of light draught (some
slight improvement being made at the Finlay rapids) as far as
the outlet of MeLeod lake, would greatly simplify the operation
of road making by furnishing cheap and easy means of transport
along 145 miles of the line of route.
From MeLeod lake, or its vicinity, 140 milea of countryf
chiefly unavailable for farming purposes, in 6ome places rough,
for a great part level, and probably nowhere exceeding 2,400 29
feet above the sea, will bring the line to Black or West road
river, whence the famed Chilcoten valley, and thence
may be reached.
When we consider that the line just pointed out is via
The Pine Rimer Summit Lake Pass only fifty miles longer
than that by the Tete Jaune Cache, or, the Pine Pass
being impracticable, that the route, via the circuitous Peace
river valley and the Parsnip only exceeds by 180 miles the
Yellow Head Pass route, that it will pass out of the region of
deep snow, and open up the best and most available country of
the Nor'-West east of the Rocky Mountains, for settlement,
avoiding much rough country and
altogether, there can be no doubt as to the most eligible line for
the great Lnteroceanic highway, to give it the conditions essential to its success as a commercial and political undertaking.
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