R. E. (R. Edward) Gosnell.

A history; British Columbia online

. (page 2 of 79)
Online LibraryR. E. (R. Edward) GosnellA history; British Columbia → online text (page 2 of 79)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


expeditions thither. But these expeditions were generally ill-starred and
achieved naught for Spain. At least two important armaments were launched
from Mexico against the Portuguese, one sailing as early as tlie year 1526
under Saavedra, and the other in 1542 in command of Ruy Lopez de Villa-
lobos. Both ended in complete disaster.



6 BRITISH COLUMBIA

If we can place reliance in the obscure and unsatisfactory documentary-
evidence, which is the only instrument in the hand of the latter-day historian,
we must honor the adventurous Friar Urdaneta, who had sailed with Magel-
lan, as the discoverer of an eastern route to the shores of America. He
solved the problem which had puzzled his country-men for so long and earned
their well-merited praise by proving that it was possible to sail to and from
the East Indies from any port on the western seaboard of America. Urdaneta
found that by steering a northward course from the Philippines a region was
entered where the prevailing winds blew in the direction of the American
continent, and thereafter the Spaniards availed themselves of the peculiarities
of the atmospheric currents, with the result, however, that on the return voy-
ages their ships would often strike the continent far north of Mexico.

After several abortive efforts in this direction, the Philippines had been
subjugated by Miguel de Legazpi, with whom Urdaneta sailed as pilot. In
this manner the Spaniards gained what they had long coveted, a secure posi-
tion in the Far East. The potentialities of the Oriental trade were soon
recognized, and as a natural result, Spanish shipping rapidly increased and
before long the Pacific Ocean became an important highway of commerce.
The authorities at Madrid were jubilant, and in a few years a lucrative traffic
sprang up between Spain and the Philippine Archipelago, by way of the
Isthmus of Darien, where fortified posts were maintained for the safe-guard-
ing of the treasure and merchandise which was transferred overland from
the shores of the Pacific to the Caribbean Sea.



BRITISH COLUMBIA



CHAPTER II.
ENGLISH BUCCANEERS.

The trade route thus estabhshed possessed great advantages in the eyes
of the Spaniards, as it was more or less immune from the attacks of free-
booters, whose depredations in after years caused so much irritation and
bitterness of feehng. For a period Spain was practically supreme on the
Pacific, and her mariners plied their avocation of collecting tribute from
defenseless peoples without fear of molestation at the hands of privateering
adventurers. Firmly intrenched in their new sphere of influence as they be-
lieved themselves to be, and perliaps placing overmuch reliance in the efficacy
of a papal bull, by which Pope Pius IX awarded to the Spanish King vast
regions known and unknown, the news of the arrival of English buccaneers
on the scene of their operations came as a rude shock to the Spaniards. The
storm of the Reformation had not yet subsided and Protestant England re-
fused to acknowledge the rights of Spain on the Pacific to the exclusion of
other nations, and vigorously disputed with her the claims based on such
authority.

John Oxenham, so far as \\& can ascertain at this late date, was the
first Englishman to sail the Pacific, With the gallant Drake he had viewed
the ocean from the Isthmus of Darien in 1572, when, it will be remembered.
Sir Francis, on bended knee, prayed that God would bless him in his efforts
tO' carry the English flag upon this great sea. Two years later, in 1574,
Oxenham left his ship on the east coast of the Isthmus, and on foot, with his
small band of adventurous followers, crossed over to some lonely and long-
since forgotten spot on the Pacific shore where he built a rude pinnace, forty-
five feet in length, on which he embarked on his hazardous enterprise. A



8 BRITISH COLUMBIA

few small treasure galleons were captured, but the foray was only partially
successful. On the return journey across the Isthmus, the whole expedition
fell into the hands of the Spaniards, and the reckless Oxenham paid the pen-
alty of his temerity with his life. He was hanged at Lima in 1575. A few
years later Sir Francis Drake planned and executed a daring raid on the
Spanish settlements on the South American seaboard. Leaving England
with five ships he steered for the Strait of Magellan, but storms dispersed
his little squadron, and Drake's own vessel, the Golden Hinde of glorious
memory, alone reached the Pacific Ocean. Nothing daunted by his misfor-
tunes he boldly sailed up the coast, visiting and ravaging the settlements, and
capturing many Spanish galleons laden with treasure. Devastation marked
his triumphal progress, and we are told that up and down the coast the mere
mention of Drake's name struck terror to the hearts of his enemies. At
last, satisfied with the havoc he had wrought and wishing to depart in safety
with his rich booty, Drake sailed northward, proposing to return to Europe
by the northwest passage of which he had heard so much. In " The World
Encompassed by Sir Francis Drake " we read that the courageous English-
man continued his voyage far up the northwest coast in his vain quest. He
was at last forced to put about on account of the inclemency of the weather.
He sailed south again, making land in the neighborhood of the thirty-eighth
parallel of latitude on the coast of California. His exact landfall was for
many years a matter of conjecture and dispute, but the available evidence
seems to prove more or less conclusively that Drake's Bay, a little to the
north of San Francisco, was the haven in which the Golden Hinde found
refuge. Here Sir Francis had intercourse with the natives, by whom^ he
was well received, and obtained a supply of water and fresh provisions which
were badly needed. Drake christened the whole land New Albion and took
l)ossession of it in the name of Queen Elizabeth. Then, rather than again
approach the hornet's nest he had stirred up to the south, he sailed across the
Pacific and followed the path of the Portuguese round the Cape of Good



BRITISH COLUMBIA 9

Hope to Europe, reaching England in 1580, after an absence of three years.
Sir Francis was honored by Elizabeth and became the idol of the people, with
whom his exploits on the Spanish Main were in high favor.

The voyage of Sir Francis Drake had a somewhat important bearing on
future events, for upon his discoveries on the northwest coast the British
partially based their claim to the territory of Oregon when, at a later date,
the boundary dispute occupied the attention of the diplomatists of Great
Britain and America. Unfortunately, we have no sure means of ascertain-
ing the exact parallel of latitude attained by Drake as his notes are by no
means as clear as they might be upon this subject. It was advanced by the
authorities favoring the British contention that the forty-eighth parallel was
reached, but it is scarcely likely that the northern excursion of the noted
buccaneer was prolonged so far. .

The fancied impregnability of the Spanish position on the Pacific was
thus rudely shaken. Their richly laden galleons served as a lure to the ad-
venturous English, who delighted in humbling the power and pride of
Spain. A few years only had elapsed after Drake's successful piratical in-
cursion, when Thomas Cavendish, almost as celebrated as his great prototype,
appeared ofif the west coast of South America with three small ships. Fol-
lowing the tactics of Sir Francis Drake he pillaged and burnt the settlements
of the Spaniards and looted their treasure ships, leaving behind him a trail
of blood and fire. Before returning he sailed as far north as Cape San
Lucas, where he fell in with the galleon Santa Anna having on board an
immensely valuable cargo of merchandise from Manila. Capturing this rich
prize, he transferred the treasure to his own vessels, then burned the craft
to the water's edge and with the wantonness characteristic of the age, landed
her unfortunate crew on the desolate coast and abandoned them to their fate.
Happily for the castaways, the burned craft drifted ashore in their vicinity
and they were able to roughly repair the damage and escape to a Mexican
port. Vizcaino and Apostolos Valerianos (the latter better known as Juan



10 BRITISH COLUMBIA

de Fuca), who later played an important part in the exploration of the north-
west coastline, were on board this ill-starred ship, and for this reason, if for
no other, the incident just recited possesses more than ordinary interest.

In the latter quarter of the sixteenth century English freebooters were
more or less actively engaged in harassing the Spaniards on the Pacific.
However, as a general rule, those who endeavored to emulate the deeds of
Drake and Cavendish met with but indifferent success. The inaccessibility
of the Manila trade route, and the lack of bases for the conduct of offensive
operations proved the salvation of the Spaniards.

Belief in the existence of the Strait of Anian, or the Northwest Passage
as it is known to us, seemed inborn in the mariners of the sixteenth century.
The Spanish, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the English held this faith in
common and to their zealous, but futile, endeavors to find the Pacific inlet
to this fabled Strait we are indebted for many of the early voyages of dis-
covery and eventually the exploration and settlement of the Northwest Coast.

To this belief we also owe a rich literature of adventure, the materials
of which are contained in the records of many voyages and expeditions. The
Spaniards after repeated attempts despaired of its existence, at least within
the sphere oi their influence. But the belief died hard, all the more so be-
cause from time to time the world was misled by reports of the navigation
of the reputed waterway. The published accounts of such men as Maldo-
nado, de Fonte and others, were believed implicity by many. Tbese bald
falsehoods, manufactured as they were out of whole cloth, served to keep
alive the idea that such a passage really divided the North American con-
tinent. The early explorations on the Mexican and Californian littoral soon
established beyond peradventure that the long sought for passage did not
find an outlet in this region, and the fact might have had a discouraging
effect on the progress of northwest exploration if a new reason for charting
the Pacific coastline had not arisen. The establishment of the trade route
to the Spice Islands has already been alluded to. It will be rem,embered that



BRITISH COLUMBIA 11

the ships crossed the Pacific in the path of the southwesterly trades. In re-
turning, however, mariners were obliged to steer a northerly course so that
their landfall on the continent was often far above Mexico. This necessi-
tated a more or less protracted voyage along an uncharted and dangerous
coast. Naturally enough the authorities at Madrid, bearing in mind the
enormous value of the Philippine trade, soon determined that in order to pre-
vent the constant loss of ships in these waters it would be necessary to find
and chart havens of refuge for the homing treasure ships. It is impossible
to say in what latitude the ships made the continent, but it has been stated,
and apparently with some show of reason, that they often sighted land in
the higher latitude of the Californian coast. There is reason to believe that
long before Vizcaino, in 1602-3 charted the coastline between Cape San
Lucas and the forty-third parallel, the Spanish captains engaged in the East
Indian trade knew of the harbor of San Francisco and it is not altogether im-
probable that they often visited this port for water and refreshment after
their long and tedious voyages across the Pacific.

Between the voyages of Vizcaino and that of Juan Perez in the " Santi-
ago," which is dealt with in the next chapter, there is an interregnum of nearly
two hundred years. During that long period, so far as contemporary evi-
dence is available, attention from the problems of Pacific navigation, trade
and adventure was completely withdrawn, only to be revived to greater activ-
ity towards the close of the eighteenth century, when Spain made a final
effort to assert her traditional sovereignty over the western and southern
seas. England had also entered upon a new phase of naval activity, and was
ag'ain to be brought into conflict with an European power for the supremacy
of the ocean, this time with France, as she had once in the earlier period
described, in conflict with Spain, and it was her destiny once more to emerge
triumphant. Spain at this later period was struggling with adverse fate to
regain lost ground; England was in the ascendancy, strong, aggressive and
indomitable. A new race of sea dogs, worthy of the best traditions of the



12 BRITISH COLUMBIA

days of Drake, had risen in the Navy, and headed by Nelson, were more than
ever to make the Union Jack respected and feared wherever flung to the
breeze. In respect to the Pacific Coast of North America, the later expedi-
tions of the Spanish were soon followed by those of the English. Interest
was again revived in the solution of the problem of the Northwest Passage,
and the mariners of both nations contributed much to the knowledge of this
coast. That England should lead in this enterprise is not to be wondered at,
considering the greatly superior vessels and improved equipment as compared
with those of the Spaniards. That she should remain in possession while
the Spanish retired forever from the region north of California coast was
inevitable. Spain was a worn out and decrepit naval power, while England
was coming to her prime, and was yet to witness her greatest triumphs.

Juan de Fuca.

In 1592, just a century after the discovery of America by Columbus,
the Viceroy of Mexico sent a Gi*eek pilot, known among the Spaniards of that
colony as Juan de Fuca, on a voyage of discovery to the north Pacific Ocean.
This navigator followed the coast till he reached an inlet up which he sailed
for more than twenty days. The entrance of the strait was marked by a
great headland or island on which was an exceedingly high pinnacle of spired
rock. This strait which grew wider as the explorer proceeded contained
numerous islands. Juan de Fuca landed at several places and found the
natives dressed in the skins of beasts. He observed that the land was fruit-
ful and reported that it was rich in gold, silver, pearls and other things like
New Spain. Sailing on he reached a broader sheet of water of which he
S]X)ke as the North Sea. He then returned to Acapulco. The inland waters
thus explored are known now as the Straits of Juan de Fuca and Georgia.
This is alluded to in the following extract from Robert Greenhow's " Historic
Memoirs of the Northwest Coast :" " The discrepancies to be observed in
the narrative of de Fuca are few and slight and are all within the limits of



BRITISH COLUMBIA 13

supposable error on the part of the Greek, especially when his advanced
age, and the circumstances that he spoke only from recollection are consid-
ered; while on the other hand, the coincidences are too great and too strik-
ing to be fairly attributed to chance.

" It may, therefore, be undoubtedly admitted that Fuca entered the strait
now bearing his name, and that he may also have passed entirely through it,
but that he, an experienced navigator,' should have conceived that by sailing
thirty leagues east and then eighty leagues northwest by west he had arrived
in the Atlantic is wholly incredible."

The explorer not receiving the rewards he expected from the viceroy
and the Spanish king returned disappointed to his home in Cephalonia. On
his way thither in 1596 he met at Florence an English sea-captain, John
Douglas, who introduced him to Michael Lx)ck, an influential merchant. So
greatly were these Englishmen impressed with the truthfulness of the story
told by the old mariner and of the importance of his discovery that they en-
deavored through Lord Cecil, Sir Walter Raleigh and Richard Hakluyt,
famous for his publication of works of travel and exploration, to induce
Queen Elizabeth to employ de Fuca to make discoveries on England's be-
half. To take the explorer to England £100 was needed and the British
Government was asked to furnish the money. It was not sent and when in
t6o2 Lock found himself in a position to advance it out of his own funds
Juan de Fuca was on his deathbed. The opportunity had passed and it was
almost two hundred years before the flag of England was planted on the
Northwest Coast.



14 BRITISH COLUMBIA



CHAPTER III.
LATER EXPLORERS.

The next explorations of which we have any authentic record were those
of Juan Perez and his pilot, Estevan Jose Martinez, who set sail from San
Bias in January, 1774, on the Spanish corvette, Santiago, to explore the coast
between the forty-third and the sixtieth parallels of north latitude. The San-
tiago spent the winter at Monterey. Leaving that harbor on the sixth of
June Perez sailed north and sighted land in latitude fifty-four degrees. He
named the most northerly point of land Cape San Margarita. It is now
known as North Cape on the extreme north of the Queen Charlotte Islands,
The navigator then turned his prow southward and on the ninth of August,
the eve of the festival of St. Lawrence, reached latitude forty-nine degrees
thirty minutes. Here he found anchorage which he piously named San
Lorenzo. The natives offered him skins in exchange for articles of iron,
showing that they had previously learned the value of that most useful of
metals. Father Brabant, a Roman Catholic priest stationed on the west
coast of Vancouver Island, told Captain Walbrau, C. G. S., of the following
tradition current among the Indians at Hesquiat and Nootka Sound, which
he believed related to this visit of the Santiago :

" One day, many, many years ago, the Indians, one morning, looking out
to sea from a village called Oum-mis, saw between the Hole-in-the-Wall
and Sunday Rock a large object floating on the water which, at first; they
took to be a very large bird. But when it came nearer, near enough to see
people moving about on it, they concluded among themselves that it was a
very big canoe and that the strangers were their dead chiefs coming back
from the dead. The ship came close into a place called Patcista, a bay



BRITISH COLUMBIA 15

marked on the chart as a g'ood landing place for boats, between Sunday Rock
and Escalante Reef, and there stayed a short time."

The Santiago returned from San Lorenzo to San Bias and the next
year was sent on a second expedition under command of Captain Don Bruno
Heceta with Juan Perez as one of his officers. She was accompanied by a
little vessel, the Sonora, thirty-six feet long, twelve wide and eight deep.
To the gallant and persevering officers of this tiny craft, Don Juan Francisco
de la Bodega y Quadra and Antonio Maurelle, is chiefly due the credit of
explorations made during this voyage. Leaving San Bias on the sixteenth
of March they surveyed the coast till they reached the vicinity of the en-
trance into the strait discovered by Fuca. Here the ships were driven south-
ward by a storm. They found anchorage between a small island and the
coast. The crew of a boat sent on shore for wood and water was murdered
by the natives. The Sonora was also attacked, but although there were only
three men left on board capable of bearing arms the savages were driven
back with a loss of six men. The island where the disaster occurred was
called Isle de Dolores. Heceta now wanted to return but Quadra urged him
to continue his voyage. He complied, but about a week afterward, the ves-
sels having been separated by a storm, the Santiago began her homeward
journey. Ten days later her commander discovered the mouth of a large
river, the Columbia, which is marked on the Spanish charts of 1788, Rio San
Roque. The little Sonora with her diminished crew proceeded on her
voyage. On the sixteenth of August she reached what is now known as
Mount Edgecombe, '' which was of the most regular and beautiful form they
had ever seen, the top of it covered with snow and beneath this top caused
by the snow lying in deep gullies, white and dark stri])es were regularly
fornied down the mountain side." The next day at a place which the Span-
iards called Port de los Remedies, but which is now known as the Bay of
Islands, Quadra erected a cross, carved another on the rock and took formal
possession of the territory in the name of the king of Spain. The natives



16 BRITISH COLUMBIA

of this place carried off the wooden cross and placed it in front of one of
their houses. The mouth of the river which emptied into the bay was filled
with salmon, which were caught by the natives and sold to the explorers.
On the twenty-second of August Quadra proceeded northward and reached
latitude fifty-eight degrees. The weather became very cold and stormy and
as only Quadra himself and Maurelle were well enough to navigate the ship
they were obliged to set out on their homeward voyage. Threading her way
among the islands and promontories so numerous on this coast the Sonora
at length found shelter in a large bay in latitude fifty-five degrees thirty min-
utes, which Quadra named Port Bucarelli. Here the weather-worn sailors
found rest and refreshment. It is curious to learn that they attributed the
grateful warmth of this sheltered haven to an active volcano which they saw
burning in the distance.

Passing by and naming Cape St. Augustine the explorers saw and
named Perez Sound, now known as Dixon Entrance. Here a southwesterly
storm drove them north and again the indefatigable mariners had hopes of
accomplishing their mission and reaching the sixtieth parallel, but sickness
reappearing they abandoned their purpose and set out on their return. They
reached Monterey on the seventh of October and on the twentieth of No-
vember, 1775, arrived at San Bias.

In 1779 Quadra and Maurelle accompanied Lieutenant Artega on a third
expedition to the Northwest Coast. They examined and surveyed the bay
at Port Bucarelli discovered in 1775, saw Mount St. Elias and entered the
large inlet now called Prince William Sound just beyond the sixtieth par-
allel which Quadra had striven so hard to reach in the preceding voyage.
The Spaniards contented themselves with these discoveries and it was not
till British merchants had begun to occupy the Northwest Coast that they
returned to prosecute their explorations and to drive off, if possible, those
whom they looked upon as trespassers.



BRITISH COLUMBIA _ 17

Captain Cook.

In 1588 the renowned Englishman, Sir Francis Drake, sailed by the
western coast of North America and named the region New Albion. As
far as can be ascertained he did not reach a higher latitude than California.
It was one hundred' and ninety years before another visit of a British ship
to this coast is recorded. On the seventh of March, 1778, Captain James
Cook, the celebrated navigator, sighted land about one hundred miles north
of Cape Mendocino. He had set sail from Plymouth nearly two years be-
fore in command of His Majesty's ships, Resolution and Discovery. He had
spent much time in exploring the southern seas and had discovered the Sand-
wich or Hawaiian Islands. His instructions were to endeavor to fall in with
the coast in the latitude of forty-five degrees and then examine it to the lati-
tude of sixty-five degrees, but not to lose any time in exploring rivers or in-
lets until he had reached the latter parallel. At the fifty-sixth parallel he was
to search for a passage pointing towards Hudson's or Baffin's Bay, and if
found, to attempt to make his way through; if no passage was found, then
he was to visit the Russian establishments in that latitude and to explore the
seas nothwards, as far and as completely as he could.

A little northwest of the forty-eighth parallel Cook observed a point of
land to which he gave the name of Cape Flattery. The weather here was
very stormy and no sign of Juan de Fuca strait could be observed. The old
Greek navigator had stated that the passage was between the forty-seventh
and forty-eighth parallels, and as Captain Cook could not find it there he
came to the conclusion that no such strait existed. Keeping on his course
he discovered land on the twenty-ninth of March, 1778, in latitude forty-
nine degrees twenty-eight minutes north. Here he found a large bay into
which he entered and to which he gave the name of Nootka Sound. He
stayed here four weeks, thoroughly refitted his ships and made a plan of a
portion of the sound. He found the natives very friendly and not disposed



Online LibraryR. E. (R. Edward) GosnellA history; British Columbia → online text (page 2 of 79)