R. E. (R. Edward) Gosnell.

A history; British Columbia online

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to interfere with him; in any way. They wore ornaments of brass and used
implements of iron. One of the men adorned his person with two silver
teaspoons of Spanish make. The Indians, nevertheless, declared no ship had
entered that bay before so it was supposed the articles were obtained from
other tribes who had held communication with the Spaniards. The natives
brought him furs in exchange for various articles of ' small value. These
furs the sailors made into coats or bed covering. On the twenty-sixth of
April, Captain Cook was again ready for sea. Soon after he saw the beauti-
ful mountain described by the Spanish pilot Maurelle and named it Mount
Edgecombe. Cook skirted the coast of Alaska, naming Mount Fairweather,
Cross Sound and Cross Cape. He saw Mount St. Elias, discovered by the
explorer Behring, and found two large bays. To the first he gave the name
of Prince William's Sound, the second has been called in his honor Cook's
Inlet. Calling at Unalaska and then sailing westward, Cook touched at the
most western point of the continent, naming it Cape Prince of Wales. He
then crossed the channel, thirty-six miles wide at this place, and reached the
opposite shore of Asia at East Cape. It was Cook who gave the strait, which
separates the contments of Asia and America, the name of Behring Strait, in
honor of the explorer, Behring, who had passed through it fifty years before.
It was now October and Cook, finding he could proceed no further north,
sailed for the Sandwich Islands to winter. He intended to return next spring
to pursue his investigations, but was murdered by the natives in February,
1779. Captain Clerke succeeded to the command of the ships, but neither
was he able to pierce the icy barrier. Like his commander he died in exile,
falling a victim to consumption at Petropavlovsky, in Kamschatka. Before
returning to England the ships, now under command of Captain Gore, went
to China. The sailors received such handsome prices for the furs they had
got at Nootka Sound that they wanted their commander to return thither to
get more. When, as in duty bound, he refused there was almost a mutiny
on board the Resolution and Discovery. The ships did not reach England


till 1780 and it was 1784 before the account of Cook's third voyage with
the charts of the northwest coast made by him and his officers was published.
No sooner was the news of the discovery of this rich fur-bearing region given
to the world than a great number of ships made their way thither. The first
to arrive at Nootka Sound was a little vessel from China in 1785, com-
manded by Captain Hanna, who was able to obtain furs which he sold for
twenty-six thousand dollars. During 1786 Hanna returned to find that two
of the East India Company's vessels, the Captain Cook and the Experiment,
had visited the place in his absence and that they had left no furs behind
them,. An adventurous seaman, John McKay, surgeon's mate of the " Cap-
tain Cook," had voluntarily remained at Nootka Sound to study the language,
customs and manners of the natives. Not being able to obtain furs at this
place Hanna visited the inlets to the northwest of Vancouver Island and
named many of them, as well as the capes. Queen Charlotte Sound was in
1786 discovered and named -by the officers of the " Captain Cook " and " Ex-
periment," who had returned on another trading expedition. A notable
event of the same year was the visit of the famous French explorer, La
Perouse. He was the first to suggest that the Queen Charlotte Islands were
not part of the mainland of North America. At the only place at which
this explorer landed he had the misfortune to lose two boat's crews consisting
of twenty-one men. He himself with both his ships was lost near Australia
on the homeward voyage.

Captain Meares.

In the autumn of 1786 two vessels, the " Nootka " and the " Sea Otter,"
sent out from. Calcutta arrived on the coast of Alaska. The commander of the
former vessel,' Captain Meares, was to fill an important place in the history of
British Columbia. He was a lieutenant in the British navy on half pay.
When in October the " Nootka " arrived at her destination. King William's
Sound, she found that the " Sea Otter " had been there and obtained her


cargo of furs and sailed away. No further tidings of this vessel were ever
heard. Meares being obliged to winter on this inhospitable shore lost the
greater number of his officers and crew from scurvy. In the spring his
distress was relieved by the arrival of two trading ships from England. In
return for their aid the captains of these vessels insisted that Meares should
not carry on any further traffic with the Indians on the coast, but should, as
soon as possible, return to China. He therefore set sail for Macao. He
reached the harbor of Typa and ended his disastrous voyage by being forced,
during a gale, which sprang up after he had anchored, to run his ship aground.

The ships that arrived in King William's Sound in the spring of 1787
were the " King George," Captain Portlock, and the " Queen Charlotte," Cap-
tain Dixon. They were the first fur-traders to arrive direct from London,
and their vessels were well equipped with everything needed for a successful
venture. Leaving King William's Sound, Dixon sailed southward, trading
as he went. On the twenty-sixth of July he reached a cape which foiTned
the southern extremity of the land along which he had been sailing. He
called the point Cape St. James and rounding it, steered tO' the north. He
soon saw, as Perouse had suspected, that he had been following the coast of
a large island or group of islands and gave them the name of his vessel, the
Queen Charlotte. Dixon then steered his course for Nootka, expecting to
meet his consort the " King George." On the way he fell in with the " Prince
of Wales " and the " Princess Royal " vessels, belonging to the same company
as his own, that of the Messrs. Etches, merchant traders, and learned from
them that the " Prince George " was not at Nootka. He then set sail for
Macao where he met his consort. Their furs were sold for fifty-four thou-
sand eight hundred and fifty-seven dollars, and having loaded their ships with
tea, Portlock and Dixon returned to England.

Captain Duncan of the " Princess Royal" was the first of the fur-traders
to pursue his calling along the coast of the mainland. Calvert and Princess
Royal Islands, as well as Safety Cove, still bear the names given by him.


He was rewarded for his enterprise and boldness by a splendid cargo of those
sea otter skins, which were the only furs sought by these early traders.

In 1787 Barclay Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island was dis-
covered by Captain Barclay of the " Imperial Eagle," who brought his wife
with him on this hazardous voyage. The natives, who had previously mur-
dered the Spaniards, had not changed in the interval, for a party from the
Imperial Eagle who imprudently went up a small river in one of the boats
near the Isle de Dolores to trade, were murdered. From this circumstance
Barclay re-named the place Destruction Island. A brother of the king of
Nootka, chief Comekela, was taken away in the Imperial Eagle when she
sailed for China. The next year, 1788, saw the arrival of the first ships
from the United States. These were the " Columbia," Captain John Ken-
drick, and the "Lady Washington," Captain Robert Gray. The next year
the captains exchanged ships and Gray with the " Columbia " returned to
Boston by way of China and the Cape of Good Hope, arriving in port on
August ninth, 1790. A medal was struck in Boston to commemorate this
voyage, which, as we shall see, was not so important as that made in the suc-
ceeding year.

Meanwhile Captain Meares, nothing daunted by his terrible experience
in King William's Sound, had undertaken a second voyage to the shores of
North America. This time he was bound for Nootka Sound and had deter-
mined to establish a trading post there. His expedition consisted of two
ships, the " Felice " commanded by himself, and the " Iphigenia Nubiana,"
under Captain William Douglas. Both vessels were really owned by a com-
pany of British merchants resident in Canton, but to evade the heavy dues
levied by China on all foreign vessels except those belonging to Portugal, the
questionable expedients of sailing under the Portuguese flag and making out
papers in the name of a Portuguese were resorted to.

The sixteenth of May, 1788, was a memorable day at Nootka Sound.
The " Felice " had arrived on the thirteenth and found that the chiefs of


Nootka, Maquinna and Callicum, were absent at Clayoquot on a visit of state
to Wicananish, a powerful chief who Hved there. On the sixteenth they re-
turned and seeing- the " Felice " in the harbor, these painted and befeathered
potentates rowed round her singing an address of welcome. Captain Meares
had brought back with him, Comekela, who had been taken away the year
before by the " Imperial Eagle." This chief was returned to his tribe clad in
a scarlet coat, a military hat and all the ornaments which he had been able
to obtain. Absurd as was the figure he presented to European eyes, his
gorgeous array was much admired by his countrymen, and he was greeted
with shouts of welcome and a feast made in his honor.

After these friendly demonstrations were over Captain Meares procured
from King Maquinna a piece of land on the shores of a part of the sound, with
the appropriate name of Friendly Cove, in exchange for ten sheets of copper
and other trifling articles. Here he erected a large building to serve for
workshop, storehouse, and dwelling, surrounded it with a breastwork defended
by one cannon. This work completed he raised for the first time on the
western coast of America the British flag. This little establishment of
Meares was the earliest recorded attempt at settlement made by white men
on the northwest coast south of the Russian possessions. Captain Meares
set his men at work building a ship and proceeded southward on a trading
and exploring expedition. He visited the redoubtable Wicananish, whom he
had met at Nootka, and being kindly received, anchored in a secure harbor.
To this place he gave the name of Port Con, after one of the owners of the
" Felice." After the universal Indian custom the visitors were feasted. In
return for this hospitality Meares presented Wicananish with two copper
kettles and some blankets. So highly were these presents esteemed that the
chief gave in return fifty splendid sea otter skins, the value of which would
not be less than two thousand five hundred dollars. The fame of the kettles
spread far and wide and Wicananish was forced to part with them to a
hostile and rrwore powerful tribe. Proceeding on his journey Captain Meares


recognized the spired reck described nearly two hundred years before by
Juan de Fuca, and saw stretching away to the east the channel whose exist-
ence Cook and others of the early voyagers to this coast had denied. Meares
at once named the inlet the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In the evening the
" Felice " crossed to a barren island at the south side of the opening. Here
they encountered Tatooche, a powerful Indian chief, and a large number of
his warriors. The Indians at first showed signs of hostility and Tatooche
said the country to the south belonged to him. In the end, however, the
Indians who were seated in their canoes entertained their visitors with a
song which Captain Meares speaks of in this way :

" Situated, as we were, on a wild and unfrequented coast in a distant
corner of the globe, far removed from all those -friends, connections and cir-
cumstances which form the charm and comfort of life and taking' our course
as it were through a solitary ocean ; in such a situation the simple melody of the
natives proceeding in perfect unison, and exact measure from four hundred
voices found its way to our hearts, and at the same moment awakened and
becalmed many a painful thought."

Nothing strikes the reader of the accounts of most of the early voyagers
more than the prudence and forbearance which the British sailors exercised
towards the natives. On the one hand they guarded against attack and on
the other they used every means to gain the good will of the savages. The
barren island from which Tatooche had come still bears his name. Not hav-
ing time to explore the strait, Meares set out to look for the river which the
Spaniards had named San Roque. Although he named the promontory to
the north of the mouth of its estuary. Cape Disappointment, and the water
to tlie south of it. Deception Bay, Meares could discern no sign of the great
river. The explorer then returned tO' Barclay Sound, named Cape Beale, and
took possession of Juan de Fuca Strait and the adjoining territory in the
name of King George. He sent out a boat to examine the Strait of Fuca
and get if possible a load of furs. The natives proved unfriendly, and after


a sharp encounter at what is now Port San Juan, her officer was glad to re-
turn to the ship. He reported that the strait was many leagues broad with
a clear horizon stretching away to the northeastward. When Meares reached
Friendly Cove he found that King Maquinna had kept faith with him and
that the fame of the building of the white man's canoe had attracted the In-
dians from all directions. Towards the end of August the " Iphigenia "
arrived, having visited rnany places along the coast of the mainland between
Cook's River and the north of Vancouver Island. On the twentieth of Sep-
tember the new ship was launched and called the Northwest America. In
honor of the event salutes were fired from the " Felice " and the " Iphigenia,"
and the cannon on shore was discharged, greatly to the delight of the natives.
Captain Gray of the " Washington " was present at the ceremony. A little
later Captain Meares set sail for China on the " Felice " with all the furs that
had been collected, giving orders that the " Iphigenia " and the " Northwest
America," which had been put in charge of Robert Hunter, mate of the
" Felice," should winter at the Sandwich Islands, returning as soon as possible
in the spring to resume the fur trade.

Meares promised to return as soon as possible to build more houses and
to introduce among his western friends the manners and customs of the far
east. Maquinna before his departure performed the ceremony of doing
homage to his English friend. He took his tiara of feathers, placed it on
Meares' head and dressed him in his robe of otter skins. Thus arrayed
Meares was requested to sit down on a chest filled with human bones, Ma-
quinna placing himself on the ground. The chief's example was followed
by all the natives present when they sang one of their plaintive songs. Thus
were the British in the person of Meares acknowledged sovereigns of Nootka
Sound. Vancouver Island in those days must have had a considerable
population. In the three villages of Nootka, Clayoquot and Port Con there
were twelve thousand souls.

Meares left for China delighted with what he had achieved and hoping


that the future held in store for him still greater successes. Alas for the
vanity of human expectations! His prosperity was shortlived and his plans
came to naught. When the " Iphigenia " and the " Northwest America "
returned next spring they found that the United States ships the " Columbia "
and " Washington " had wintered in Nootka Sound. The " Northwest
America " was at once sent off to forestall if possible the American traders in
the rocky marts to the north. As the " Iphigenia " lay in the harbor of
Nootka on the sixth of May, a Spanish ship of war, the " Princesa," under
command of Don Stephen Joseph Martinez, arrived from San Bias followed
on the thirteenth by a smaller vessel, the " San Carlos." At first Captain
Douglas and Don Martinez were very friendly, but the day after the arrival
of the " San Carlos " the Spaniards seized the " Iphigenia," put her officers
in irons and took possession, in the name of the king of Spain, of the land
and buildings belonging to Meares. The vessel was then stripped of all her
stores, provisions and merchandise, even her instruments and charts were
carried away. The only thing left was some bars of iron. The Spanish
commander had tried to induce Captain Douglas to sell him the " Northwest
America," but not being able to effect his purpose he had insisted upon his
writing to her captain ordering him to deliver his vessel to the Spaniards.
Douglas wrote a letter, though he did not give the directions ordered. When
it had been delivered to Don Martinez the British ship was allowed to sail
to China badly fitted out for such a long; cruise. However, after getting
supplies at the Sandwich Islands in return for the iron which had been left
on board, she reached Macao, much to the relief and surprise of her captain.
The " Northwest America " was in her turn seized, her cargo of furs taken
from her and her crew put on board the " Columbia." She was then sent out
on a trading cruise by the Spaniards. The captain of the " Columbia " at the
request of Don Martinez gave these British sailors a passage to China. When
Meares returned to China he sold the " Felice " and his company allying
themselves with Etches Brothers, he obtained control of the " Princess


Royal " and a litle ship named the " Argonaut." James Colnett was put in
charge of these vessels and in the spring of 1789 they sailed for Nootka
Sound. As soon as the " Argonaut" appeared in sight Don Martinez came
out to meet her, and by pretending to be in distress induced Captain Colnett
to come into Friendly Cove and furnish him with such supplies as the Span-
iards required. When the British captain hesitated about putting his vessel
under the guns of two foreign ships, Don Martinez assured him that he had
only come to the Nootka to prevent the Russians from settling on that part
of the coast, and pledged his word as a Spanish gentleman that, having given
him the supplies necessary for his relief, the captain of the Argonaut might
sail away at his own convenience. Captain Colnett, hiriiself an officer in the
British navy, and an honorable gentleman, trusted the perfidious Spaniard,
but no sooner was he in his power than he and his officers were imprisoned,
his sailors put in irons and his ship and cargo seized, \yhen the " Princess
Royal " appeared a few days after she was treated in a similar way. Al-
though Spain and England were at peace the ships were taken to San Bias as
prizes, their officers and crew treated with every indignity and their com-
mander frequently threatened with instant death. Arriving at San Bias the
Englishmen were induced by promises of speedy release to repair the " Ar-
gonaut " and get her ready for sea. When this was done their inhuman cap-
tors laughed at their credulity and sent the ship away on a voyage for their
own benefit. The prisoners were then, however, removed to Tepeak, where
they had the good fortune to meet with the commander of the squandron, Don
Bodega y Quadra, who obtained for Captain Colnett permission to go to
Mexico to lay his case before the Viceroy of Spain. On hearing his story that
dignitary, Don Revillagigeda, ordered that his vessels should be returned to
him, and that having been supplied with all necessaries he should be allowed to
return to China. Thus after fifteen months' unlawful capture these British
subjects obtained release.

When news of these highhanded proceedings reached England there was


great indignation. The Spaniards answered the demand for reparation and
satisfaction by declaring that British subjects had no rights on the northwest
coast of America, as it belonged to Spain by virtue of previous discovery.
England was firm in her demands and for a time war seemed imminent.
Eventually, however, a convention was formed and the treaty of Nootka
agreed upon. By the terms of this treaty all lands or buildings taken from
British subjects must be restored to them. Payment must be made for all
goods or other property seized or destroyed. The subjects of either nation
were to be free to settle or trade on any part of the western coast of America
north of the present Spanish settlements.

Don Martinez was at once recalled from Nootka by the Spanish govern-
ment. His place was taken by Commander Elisa, who was shortly after
succeeded by the humane and chivalrous Quadra. An instance of the in-
humanity of Martinez towards the natives is given in Meares' voyages and
was witnessed by the captain of the " Northwest America." The Indian
chief Callicum, who had treated the English at Friendly Cove with the great-
est kindness and perfect good faith, came one day to the " Princesa " to pre-
sent some fish to the commodore. He had with him in his canoe his wife
and child. He was received rudely and as he rowed away uttered an im-
patient exclamation. Instantly he was shot through the heart. The
wretches who committed this wanton murder would only allow the bereaved
father to recover his son's body when he had purchased the privilege by bring-
ing them a sufficient number of furs.

The British government appointed George Vancouver a commissioner to
proceed to Nootka and receive from the Spanish commandant stationed there
whatever tracts or parcels of land at Nootka and in the vicinity thereof Brit-
ish subjects had been dispossessed of in the year 1789. He was by the admi-
ralty placed in command of His Majesty's ships " Discovery " and "Chatham,"
with orders to proceed to the Pacific Ocean to survey the coast of America
from latitude thirty degrees to sixty degrees north and to ascertain what


passage if any existed to the eastward. How Vancouver carried out his in-
structions will form the subject of the following pages. We will close this
with a brief description of the Spanish explorations of this period. While
Captain Colnett and his crew were toiling beneath the heat of a burning sun
to fit the " Argonaut " for a voyage, the " Princess Royal," transformed into
the " Princesa Real," was under command of the Spanish lieutenant, Quimper,
sailing along the southern shore of Vancouver Island. He landed at what is
now Sooke Inlet, in June, 1790, named it Porto de Revillagigeda and took
possession of the region in the name of the king of Spain. On the last day
of the month he anchored in Esquimalt harbor, which he named Port Cor-
dova, after Bucareti, the forty-sixth viceroy of Mexico. An exploring party
.discovered the San Juan archipelago and Haro strait, which still bears the
name given it by Quimper. He crossed to the opposite shore, but stormy
weather prevented his making any further discoveries and he proceeded to
the Sandwich Islands, where the ship met her rightful owner. Captain Col-
nett, and he, by order of the Spanish government, was put in possession of

Captain Vancouver.

To none of her explorers does British Columbia owe such a debt as to
Captain Vancouver. Others came to her shores to enrich themselves by de-
pleting the rocks and waters of the animals whose beautiful furs rendered
them the prey of the remorseless hunter. Vancouver, in the pursuit of his
duty, spent busy days and toilsome nights to bring her coasts to the knowl-
edge of civilized man. From the day that he first viewed her rocky shores
till hand and brain were still in death, he was occupied either in threading
the intricate passages that wind in and out among her labyrinths of islands,
in exploring the deep fiords that stretch inland through the shaggy forests
which clothe the slopes of the mountains overlooking the ocean, or in pre-
paring a record of his voyages. By the help of his charts the mariner can


navigate the waters of the north Pacific, and in many places nothing has been
added to the knowledge gained by him and his gallant stafif of officers.

Vancouver left England on April i, 1791, in command of two of His
Majesty's ships, the " Discovery " and the " Chatham." He sailed by the
Cape of Good Hope, did some surveying on the coast of Australia and landed
at Dusky Bay, New Zealand, to refit his vessels. At the Society Islands,
where he had been twice before, Vancouver received a warm welcome from
the natives. He called at Hawaii to leave a native called Towereroo, who
had been taken to England, with his friends and to survey more thoroughly
these islands where his beloved superior officer. Captain Cook, had met so

Online LibraryR. E. (R. Edward) GosnellA history; British Columbia → online text (page 3 of 79)