R. E. (R. Edward) Gosnell.

A history; British Columbia online

. (page 22 of 79)
Online LibraryR. E. (R. Edward) GosnellA history; British Columbia → online text (page 22 of 79)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

by the Governm.ent, and that subsidies in land and money, to an extent that
would not increase the existing rate of taxation, should be given in aid of
the work; that the terms of this resolution were abandoned in 1874, the
rate of taxation having been increased and the work undertaken by the
Dominion instead of being confined to private enterprise, in accordance with
the expressed demand of Parliament; that the residents of Vancouver Island
still held fast to the hope thit Sir John A. Macdonald's assurance would be
adhered to, that a section of the main line would run from Nanaimo to
Esquimau, was clearly indicated by a passage in the petition to the effect
that no compensation had been offered by the Dominion Government for the
abandonment of this portion of the railway. After adverting to various
other matters wherein the Canadian Government had failed to fulfill its
promises, it was urged that the Province had entered confederation upon


U 1^' I V
(. /; I. I I I'

i V 1 i', II

f I'. \: C\ '.: I 1 /


the distinct and specific agreement that as " no real union could exist "
without " speedy communication " between " British Columbia and the east-
ern provinces through British territory, it was necessary that the Canadian
Pacific Railway should be built by the Dominion as a work of political and
commercial necessity."

British Columbia, it was pointed out, had conscientiously fulfilled all
the conditions of her agreement with Canada. The last section but one of
the petition eloquently stated "that by reason of the repeated violations by
Canada of its railway engagements with this Province, all classes of our
population have suffered loss; confident anticipations based on these engage-
ments have resulted in unexepected and undeserved failure, and in disap-
pointment of a grave and damaging character; distrust has been created
where trust and confidence should have been inspired; trade and commerce
have been mischievously unsettled and disturbed; the progress of the Prov-
ince has been seriously checked, and a feeling of depression has taken the
place of the confident anticipations of commercial and political advantage
to be derived from the speedy construction of a railway which should prac-
tically unite the Atlantic and Pacific shores of Your Majesty's Dominion on
the continent of North America."

In answer to this indictment the Privy Council of Canada prepared a
long report, contending that from the first the Government of the Dominion
had been animated by a desire to honorably fulfill the engagements to which
the country had been committed. The Imperial Authorities were asked to
believe that British Columbia, ignoring the general welfare of the country,
of which it had become an integral portion in 1871, and actuated by purely
selfish motives, urgently pressed for an enormous annual expenditure in
order that the small population dwelling in the West might reap vast profits.
It was maintained that the behavior of the Province could hardly be cal-
culated to induce people of Canada to " second the efforts of the administra-
tion to redeem, as far as they can, the appalling obligations to which, by the


Terms of Union, the country was committed." The Government repeated
their assertion that they would endeavor to construct the Canadian Pacific
Railway as rapidly as the resources of the country would permit.

Lord Dup^ferin^s Visit.

The Earl of Dufferin, who later achieved fame and success as a dip-
lomatist and ambassador in Russia and France and as Viceroy of India, had
from his inception of office displayed the greatest interest in the unfortunate
dispute between his ministers and the youngest member of the Canadian
family. He fully realized the difficulties that beset the path of the admin-
istration with regard to its railway policy as it affected the West, and de-
sired to prevent, if possible, the disruption of the Dominion. This far-
seeing statesman clearly understood that Canada's future welfare depended
to a great extent on her trade relations with the Pacific. He intelligently
studied the whole question and came to the conclusion that at all hazards
British Columbia must form a part of the Dominion, in order that the Brit-
ish possessions in North America might become a great, powerful and united
country, reaching from sea to sea. He perceived that an all-rail connection
with the Pacific Coast would in the future open rich avenues of trade with
the Far East. Canada would be able to exchange the products of her for-
ests, mines and farms for the spices, silks and tea of the Orient. The
newest portion of the New World would enter into communication with a
civilization rivalling Greece and Egypt in antiquity — the Far East and the
Far West would join hands across the sea. Bearing this in mind he de-
cided to visit the Province with the intention of using his influence with the
Provincial administration to bring about an amicable settlement of the mat-
ters in dispute. He left Ottawa in 1876 and arrived at Victoria after a
pleasant journey across the continent.

During his brief sojourn at Victoria His Excellency took no little
trouble to ascertain public opinion concerning the all-important railway


question. He mingled freely with the people, received deputations and a
a number of petitions, and endeavored to become familiar with the question
from a Provincial standpoint. While he frankly admitted that he had not
come on a diplomatic mission for the purpose of removing obstacles, he
stated that he was particularly anxious to establish a better understanding
between the two Governments by pointing out some of the difficulties it
would be necessary to overcome before the road could be built. He was
fully aware of the gravity of the charge that Canada had broken her solemn
pledges regarding the construction of a trans-continental line, made at the
time when British Columbia entered confederation. His Excellency also
fully appreciated the disappointment of the Province at the non-fulfillment
of the Terms of Union, which as he stated had the force of an international
treaty; yet, he contended that the tremendous difificulties in the way of com-
pleting the line within the stipulated time had not been fully realized, either
by the Provincial or Dominion authorities. In passing we must not forget
to refer to the memorable speech delivered at Government House, Victoria,
in which he ably and eloquently outlined the history of the whole affair.
This speech has always been reckoned as a masterpiece of oratory. It was
a statesmanlike utterance and the points in dispute were handled so carefully
that little offense was given. In expressing sympathy with the Province,
he was extremely careful to refrain from making statements which might
reflect upon the integrity of his ministers. In fact, he rather sought to re-
lieve the Government of Canada from the charge of negligence and lack of
interest, by dwelling at considerable length on the engineering difficulties
of the route of the railway. He referred to the fact that although survey
parties had been in the field for several years it had been impossible, upon
the data acquired, to decide as to the best course for the line. The difficulty
of locating a feasible pass through the Rocky Mountains was also mentioned.
Although openly avowing that he had no right to speak for the Canadian
Ministry, he did not hesitate to take up the cudgels in behalf of Sir Alexan-


der Mackenzie, and he particularly disclaimed that there was the least de-
sire to break faith with the Province. In discussing the question, remem-
bering perhaps that his hearers were residents of Vancouver Island, he did
not forget to state that he was under the impression that if Bute Inlet was
selected as the Mainland terminus of the railway it would not be possible
for it to stop there. The railway, he said, must under these circumstances
be prolonged to Esquimalt.

Of course it was well known that the inhabitants of Vancouver Island,
for obvious reasons, were particularly anxious to have Esquimalt made the "
terminus. From the earliest years the voice of the Island had been supreme
in the Councils of the Province, owing to its population and political in-
fluence being far greater than that of the Mainland. It was openly stated
by leaders of public opinion on the Island that unless the decision of Sir John
A. Macdonald to make Esquimalt the terminus should be adhered to, they
would take British Columbia out of confederation. It is certainly true that
the Governor General lessened to a great extent the irritation caused by the
action .of the Dominion, and his explanation did no little to allay sectional
feeling which unfortunately had already tinged with bitterness the relations
of the Island and Mainland portions of the Province.

It is not necessary to follow further the ramifications of the dispute be-
tween the two Governments. Let it suffice that after much correspondence,
and statements and counter-statements, in 1878, the problem was scarcely
nearer solution than it had been in 1874, when the Earl of Carnarvon ac-
cepted the responsibility of arbitrating in the matter. In 1878, a general
election took place and Sir Alexander Mackenzie's Government was hope-
lessly defeated at the polls.

Sir John Macdonald evinced a strong desire to accede to the wishes of
British Columbia with regard to railway construction. With an insight
eminently characteristic of the man, he recognized that not only was it neces-
sary to build the Canadian Pacific Railway in order to keep faith with the


western Province, but that this Hne was also greatly needed to open up for
settlement the vast extent of agricultural lands in Manitoba and the North-
west Territories. The settlement of these lands would ensure a large grow-
ing market to the eastern manufacturers, who, since the repeal of the
Reciprocity Treaty with the United States, had been obliged to seek new
fields for the disposal of their wares.

Surveys and Construction.

In the meantime, Sir Sandford Fleming, with an able staff of assistant
engineers, had been diligently prosecuting exploratory surveys along the dif-
ferent routes which, from time to time, had been advocated for the line.
In 1879, it was at last definitely decided that the route of the Pacific Railway
through British G>lumbia should terminate at a point on or near Burrard In-
let. In January, 1880, British Columbia was requested by the Imperial au-
thorities to convey, without unnecessary delay to the Dominion Government
the lands for twenty miles on each side of the railway Hne, in accordance
with the eleventh section of the Terms of Union. Towards the end of De-
cember, 1880, the Honorable Mr. Walkem left for Ottawa in order to make
final arrangements with regard to the commencement of construction in the
Province, and to press upon the Government the loss and injury which would
be inflicted upon the Southern portion of British Columbia by further de-
laying the construction of the Esquimalt-Nanaimo section. Mr. Walkem
pointed out that the Dominion Government had offered in 1874 to construct
the work as a " portion of the railway " and furthermore that a solemn en-
gagement had been entered into with England and the Province in 1875
to commence it " as soon as possible " and complete it with " all possible
despatch." In reply the Prime Minister remarked that the whole subject
had been carefully considered and that the contracts for the mainland work
had been let. He also intimated that the Government were of the opinion
that it was impossible to do more at present. It thus appeared that at last


the controversy with regard to the Canadian Pacific Railway, which had
been carried on for nearly nine years with great bitterness on both sides, was
in a fair way to be settled.

Mr. Onderdonk, the well known financier of San Francisco, secured
the contract for building the first one hundred and twenty-eight miles of line
on the mainland, from Emory's Bar to Savona. The contract was divided
as follows :

Sub-section A, Emory's Bar to Boston Bar, 29 miles; to be

completed December ist, 1883 $2,727,300.00

Sub-section B, Boston Bar to Lytton, 29^ miles; to be com-
pleted June 30th, 1884 2,573,640.00

Sub-section C, Lytton to Junction Flat, 29 miles; to be com-
pleted December 31st, 1884. 2,056,950.00

Sub-section D, Junction Flat to Savona, 403^ miles, to be

completed June 30th, 1885 . 1,809,150.00


The Terms of Union provided that the railway should be commenced^
simultaneously from each end within two years of the ratification of the
agreement. So far as the Eastern section of the line was concerned, it was
a comparatively easy matter to select a suitable route. Neither Ontario nor
the prairies westward of that Province contained any very serious obstacles
from an engineering standpoint. It was only when the huge chain of
Rockies was reached that the difficulties really commenced, and the magni-
tude of the work involved in crossing the " sea of mountains " to the Pacific
became fully apparent. At first sight it appeared that it would be impos-
sible to find a practicable route through this tremendous barrier.

The engineers and explorers who were dispatched to ascertain the most
feasible route across Canada had little trouble until they arrived at the foot-
hills of the Rockies. From this time on, however, a divergence of opinion
existed as to the most likely pass through the mountains. As early as 1793
Sir Alexander Mackenzie, then Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company,


had discovered the Peace River, and traced it to its source. Time and space
forbid an account of this heroic journey across a country that was then, and
is now, comparatively an unknown land. In 1828, Sir George Simpson, also
a Governor of the Company of Adventurers Trading into Hudson's Bay, in
a remarkable journey explored a considerable portion of the Peace River,
and finally reached the Pacific Coast. To these illustrious travelers we are
indebted for our first knowledge of this grand river and the country through
which it flows. Still, as can readily be imagined, the data acquired by Sir
Alexander Mackenzie and Sir George Simpson were altogether insufficient
for the purpose of basing a decision as to the desirability of the country for
settlement and railway construction. Eventually three passes were explored
— the Peace River Pass, Yellowhead Pass and Pine River Pass — with the
result that it was proved in many ways the Yellowhead was the most prac-
ticable opening in the mountains by which to reach British Columbia. To
the untoward delays that occurred in deciding upon the merits of the various
passes, the discontent that existed in British Columbia was mainly due. Sir
Sandford Fleming early in the day recognized the Yellowhead Pass as an
important objective point aff^ording an easy entrance to British Columbia
through mountains which heretofore had been pronounced impenetrable.
Although he had come to this conclusion in 1872 he did not deem it advis-
able to commence construction without first carefully examining the passes
to the northward. In addition to the difficulty of selecting a pass through
the mountains, a difficulty almost as great was encountered in choosing the
western terminal point. Opinion differed vastly with regard to the harbor
offering the best facilities as a terminus for a trans-continental line. Wad-
dington Harbor, on Bute Inlet, Port Simpson, Port Essington and Port
Moody, on Burrard Inlet, all had their supporters, and as previously men-
tioned, the residents of Vancouver Island claimed that Esquimalt was the
most convenient place. In 1887, Mr. Cambie followed the Skeena River
from its mouth to the country drained by its southern branch, the Watson-


quah. The examination was continued until Fort George was reached. In
the same year Mr. Joseph Hunter crossed the mountains by the Pine River
Pass. These explorations, however, only tended to confirm Sir Sandford
Fleming in the opinion that the Yellowhead route was the most practicable.

Mr. Marcus Smith had special charge of the surveys on the Pacific
Coast, and during the four years which he spent in this region he was chiefly
engaged in exploring the harbors at the various suggested termini. Every
harbor was examined and with the assistance of admiralty charts and from
conversations with officers of the Royal Navy and officials of the Hudson's
Bay Company, much valuable information was gained. Mr. Smith stated
in a report, dated March 29th, 1878, that there was no harbor on the Coast
of the Mainland of British Columbia, with the exception of Port Simpson,
suitably located for purposes of foreign commerce. He added, however,
that on the coast of Vancouver Island there were several harbors well situated
for commerce with Asia. Port Simpson, he pointed out, is easily approached
from the ocean and is fully 500 miles nearer Yokohama than Holme's harbor
in Puget Sound. But he added that this harbor is remote from the indus-
trial centers of the Province, and could only be looked upon as the station
to which the railway might ultimately proceed, providing the competition
for the trade of China and Japan should warrant such an extension. In the
light of current events, it is curious that so little importance was placed upon
the value of Burrard Inlet as a great harbor for commerce. It is worthy of
remark that the one harbor of the coast which attracted the least attention
from the surveyors and explorers should have become the chief port of the
western coast of British North America.

From 187 1 until 1878 exploratory parties were sent out in all directions
through the Province. Some nine different routes were explored through
a country- the natural barriers of which would have discouraged and barred
the progress of any but the most determined of men. When the history of
the Province shall come to be written in detail, the storv of the adventures


and experiences of these who mapped out routes for our national highway
will not be its least interesting- chapter.

Sandford Fleming was extremely loath to recommend that the line
should follow any particular route until careful examination could be made
of the whole country. As he pointed out on more than one occasion it was
a matter of the very gravest importance that the line should be built as
economically as possible and through a country which it would be possible
to settle. In his report of 1880, he remarked that irreparable injury might
have been done to Canada by an unseemly haste in the selection of a route.
If the railway had been constructed and later a better route found, the loss
to the Dominion would have been incalculable.

After passing through the Rockies there still remained the Cascade
chain to pierce. This range rises between the central plateau on the one side
and the coast on the other, and everywhere presents formidable difificulties.
Through these mountains twelve passes were discovered and surveyed, eight
of which were found practicable for railway construction. The route event-
ually decided upon followed the Fraser River canon to the Coast. Gen-
erally speaking there were four main routes suitable for the construction of
the railway. They were as follows:

1. Through the Peace River Pass to the Northern Coast of British
Columbia at Port Simpson.

2. Through the Yellowhead Pass to Port Essington.

3. Through the Yellowhead Pass to Bute Inlet.

4. Through Yellowhead Pass via Thompson River and Fraser River
to Burrard Inlet.

It was not until 1878 that the Government finally decided upon the last
mentioned route, and a contract was signed with Mr. Onderdonk for the
first portion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the following year, as stated
in the foregoing. Yellowhead Pass, however, was subsequently abandoned for
one through the Bow River and the Kicking Horse Passes, regarding which


it may be said that there ever will remain a dispute as to the wisdom of such
a course. The C. P. R. certainly obtained a route which for scenic beauty
and grandeur is unequalled on the continent of America and probably in
the world, but what it gained in that respect it lost in grades, the advantage
of which in the cost of hauling traffic is of the utmost importance. Sooner
or later, and probably very soon, the Yellowhead Pass will be utilized by one
or more trans-continental railways, either the Grand Trunk Pacific or the
Canadian Northern, or both.

In the year 1880 the Government of Canada was successful in organ-
izing a syndicate, which under certain terms undertook to construct the
railway and complete it by the first of May, 1891. It is unnecessary here
to refer to the terms, except that $25,000,000 in cash and 25,000,000 acres
of land were given as a bonus, with certain exemptions and privileges. The
great work, which has been the most important factor in Canadian develop-
ment, was prosecuted with such extraordinary vigor that it was completed
in 1885, or five years before the time specified. History will not record
anything more remarkable so far as the Dominion of Canada is concerned
than the manner in which the undertaking was carried out. Especially in
the canons and mountain fastnesses was it marked by great engineering
feats and attended by perils to life. There was an army of men employed.
It was a contest between the ingenuity, skill and daring of men against huge
natural obstacles in which the former wtdu a notable victory. It is the con-
stant wonder of travelers as they view the mountainous environments and
the engineering accomplishments how it was all done. Not less even were
the mechanical difficulties than the financial ability necessary to carry the
work through to completion. There was a time when the fate of the enter-
prise and that of Canada hung in the balance. The promoters, who, though
they ultimately reaped a harvest from its construction, backed it to the ut-
most of their credit and resources, and might even then have failed had not the
Government, whose credit and that of the country were at stake as well,


come to their rescue with a temporary loan, which, by the way, was all repaid
in due time.

The completion of this gigantic undertaking was the practical fulfill-
ment of the Terms of Union. There was, however, another part of these
which was fulfilled about the same time. The Carnarvon terms provided
that a line of railway should be built on the Island of Vancouver, and the
failure of the Dominion Government to carry out its agreement was a stand-
ing and a substantial grievance. Mr. Higgins has in a previous chapter
given a great many details of the settlement. In 1883 the terms of what is
known as the Settlement Act were arranged, by which all the outstanding
issues between the Province and the Dominion were disposed of. By this
act a subsidy of $750,000 was pledged by the Dominion Government for the
construction of the island railway, which, with a liberal grant of land from
the Provincial Government, secured the construction and completion of the
Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway. By the act in question the dry dock at
Esquimalt, construction of which had been begun under the Walkem-Beaven,
administration, provided that upon its completion the Government of Canada
should take it over and operate it as a Dominion work; that the Dominion
Government should be entitled to have conveyed to it all lands belonging
thereto, together with the Imperial appropriation, and pay to the Province as
the price thereof $250,000 in addition to the amounts that had been expended
or remained due up to the passing of the act. The province, as an equiva-
lent for the $750,000 bonus in cash to the E. & N. Railway Company, agreed
to convey to the Dominion Government 3,500,000 acres in the Peace River
district, the whole area to be selected in one rectangular block. The enter-
ing into confederation in 1870 was merely formal, the reality came about
and the Province was satisfied only when it was assured beyond all doubt
that the railway for which it bargained with the Dominion would be com-
pleted. As stated in the chapter on Confederation there was very little senti-
ment involved. Now, however, the commercial spirit that propelled the


movement from its inception until its consummation has been largely elimin-

Online LibraryR. E. (R. Edward) GosnellA history; British Columbia → online text (page 22 of 79)