R. E. (R. Edward) Gosnell.

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terrible a fate. It was the eighteenth of April, 1792, before Vancouver
arrived on the coast of America. The first land seen was in the neighbor-
hood of Cape Mendocino. As he neared the straits of Juan de Fuca the
United States ship " Columbia," Captain Gray, was spoken. Gray told Van-
couver that he had been at the mouth of a large river a few days before, but
was prevented by the current from entering it. A shore time after, how-
ever. Gray was able to sail up the river and anchor about ten miles from its
mouth. He gave it the name of his vessel, a very appropriate one, the Co-

As Vancouver's ships neared Cape Flattery on the twenty-ninth of April,
a storm came on which added to the gloom^ of that wild region. The next
day, however, the weather cleared and as the vessels sailed up the strait the
sky was so cloudless and the sea so smooth that Vancouver was able in the
afternoon to take a lunar observation. A little later a magnificent mountain
peak, whose snow-covered head reflected the beams of the setting sun, was
seen and received the name of Lieutenant Baker of the " Discovery." In
remembrance of a similar formation of land on the shores of England, a low
sandy spit near which the ships were brought to anchor was called New
Dungeness. On May first the boats were lowered for exploration. In
the evening a large bay was discovered with an island protecting the en-


trance. The ships were anchored in this bay, which was called Port Discov-
ery and the island Protection Island. There were not many natives in the
neighborhood, and those that were seen seemed to pay no attention to the
strangers. The boats were again embarked and Vancouver set out on his
cruise in the winding sheet of water which still recalls the name of Lieutenant
Puget. Whidby Island, near the entrance of the sound, was called after the
most indefatigable of Vancouver's assistants, the master of the Discovery,
Joseph Whidby. Many bays, promontories, islands and inlets were ex-
amined and named by Vancouver and his officers. On May twenty-ninth,
1792, the survey of Hood's Canal, Admiralty Inlet and Puget Sound hav-
ing been completed, Vancouver, at what is now Port Blakely, but which he
called Restoration Point, took solemn possession of the country in the name
of George III. A turf was turned, the British jflag hoisted, the crews drank
the king's health and the guns on the ship fired a salute. On June fifth a
northward voyage was begun. The ships passed out of Admiralty Inlet and
anchored in Birch Bay, near Point Roberts, now on the international bound-
ary. The boats were sent out. After examining Point Roberts they saw
that there was no shelter on the shoals near for the night' that was coming
on. They rowed across to the western shore and spent the night in the
shelter of a rocky bluff. The next day the explorers returned and landed at
Point Grey. The distance between Point Roberts and Point Grey is nineteen
miles. Into this part of the Gulf of Georgia empties the Fraser River. Why
Vancouver did not read in the shoals at this place, and in the discoloration of
the waters of the sea, the signs of a large river has ever since been a mystery.
But if the Fraser River was missed Burrard Inlet was thoroughly explored.
The place was a solitude. Had Vancouver any premonition that the shores
would be covered with a great city, and that ships compared with which his
own would seem only a tiny craft would convey the merchandise of the world
to its marts? And so Vancouver sailed on, naming as he went waters and
islands after his friends of high or low degree. As the boats returned from


Jervis Inlet vessels were seen at anchor near Point Grey. These proved to
be Spanish men-of-war under command respectively of Lieutenants Galiano
and Valdez, which had sailed from.Nootka June fifth on an exploring expedi-
tion. They were in search of a large river said by the Indians to exist on
the coasts which Vancouver had been exploring, but as yet they had been
unable to find it. E^ch of these exploring parties showed the other their
charts and journals and they worked together three weeks. The Indians,
the Spaniards reported, said that the waters in which they were sailing united
with the ocean to the north. Vancouver named it the Gulf of Georgia.
Several villages of the natives were visited on the coast of the mainland and
some trading was done here. Passing through the narrow and dangerous
channel called after one of his officers, Johnstone Strait, the vessels reached
Queen Charlotte Sound, where they narrowly escaped being wrecked. The
coast was examined as far as fifty-two degrees eighteen minutes north, when
the trading brig " Venus,'' which had lately visited Nootka, appeared in sight.
Her captain informed Vancouver that his store ship, the " Daedalus," had
arrived at that place. As her commander had been murdered in the Sand-
wich Islands, Vancouver determined to sail straight for Nootka. When he
arrived there he found that Quadra, the Spanish commandant, had preceded
him. The British officers were courteously received and hospitably treated
by Quadra and the warmest friendship grew up between the two commanders.
When Vancouver, however, asked for the surrender of the lands which
he had been authorized to receive. Quadra declared that his instructions from
the Spanish court did not agree with the tenor of Vancouver's commission.
Vancouver then sent Zachary Mudge, first lieutenant of the Discovery, in a
Portuguese brig to China with dispatches which he was to deliver in England
as soon as possible. Quadra left Nootka for Monterey in September, but
before he went the large island of which Vancouver had completed the survey
begun many years ago by the Spaniards, was at Quadra's suggestion named
by Vancouver the Island of Quadra and Vancouver. A month later Van-


couver sailed for San Francisco with the purpose of exploring- the Columbia
on his way. When he arrived at the mouth of the river the weather was
stormy and he was obliged to commit to- Brouffhton, the commander of the
smaller vessel, the task of exploration. The Chatham sailed about a hundred
miles up the river, and Broug-hton took possession of it and the adjoining
territory in the name of the king of England, claiming that as the United
States, Captain Gray, had only proceeded ten miles from the coast he had
not really discovered the river — not a very ingenuous contention. This ex-
plorer learned from an old Indian that higher up falls obstructed the river
and that it had its source very far to the eastward. The " Discovery," the
" Chatham " and the " Daedalus " all met at Monterey on September 26,
1792. Here Vancouver renewed his intercouse with his friend Quadra and
dispatched Captain Broughton overland to England to learn how he should
proceed in the Nootka difficulty. This winter was also spent in the Sand-
wich Islands. Here Vancouver charged himself with the duty of bringing
the murderers of the officers of the " Daedalus " to justice. He succeeded in
discovering the culprits and in prevailing upon one of their native chiefs to
perform the office of executioner. By the end of May the explorers were
again at work at Fitzhugh Sound, the place where they had finished their
labors the previous autumn. During this season the coast was explored to
within the borders of Alaska. Much time and care were spent in examining
the region on what is now the extreme northern coast of British Columbia,
for an old voyager, Admiral Fuentes, had reported that a large opening ex-
isted there and that from, it a chain of lakes extended across the continent.
Vancouver himself took charge of one of the expeditions, which wound in
and out of the coast for seven hundred miles, where a direct course north
would have extended only sixty miles. On this journey Vancouver's boat
was attacked by a party of natives whose leader was an old woman. At first
the gallant officer attempted to get rid of his dangerous visitors without blood-
shed, but finding all his efforts vain he gave the order to fire. At the first



volley the Indians took to the water and, using their canoes as shields, soon
disappeared. From that time onwards the utmost vigilance was used to be
ready for attack and prevent it if possible. Needless to say. Fuentes passage
was not discovered. During this season Vancouver's ships were for some
time anchored in Observatory Inlet, where it will be remembered the inter-
national boundary between the British and United States possessions begins.
The explorations were continued northward past the mouth of the Stickine
River to a place called Cape Decision, where on September 21, 1793, they
were concluded for the season. After calling at Nootka, Vancouver pro-
ceeded south and finished his survey in that direction, which ended at the
thirtieth parallel of north latitude. The winter was spent in exploring the
Sandwich Islands. From the tropical luxuriance of these islands the explor-
er shaped his course to the rocks and glaciers of the Alaskan coast. He had
determined to begin his season's work at the sixtieth parallel, and working
southward complete his survey of the whole northwest coast at Cape Deci-
sion, the point from which he had sailed last year. He reached the opening
which Captain Cook had supposed to be a river early in April. The weather,
though very cold, was bright and the view of the surrounding region, com-
prised of stupendous mountains whose rugged and romantic forms clothed
in perpetual sheets of ice and snow, presented a prospect, though magnificent-
ly grand, yet dreary, cold and inhospitable. Upon exploration it was found
that the sheet of water was not a river, but an inlet. Here a Russian settle-
ment was found. The immigrants had lived at this place five years and were
on friendly terms with their Indian neighbors. Some weeks after Vancou-
ver received his first news from home. He had passed Yakutat Bay when he
met Captain Brown, who had last year come to his assistance when he was
in danger of losing his vessel in a rocky channel. Captain Brown had in
the meantime been in England and had brought out the momentous tidings
of the French revolution, and of the war between France and England. Here
Vancouver fell ill, but Whidby continued the task of exploration. He dis-


covered the immense mountain of ice, which has since received the name of
the Muir Glacier. There is now a bay at the foot of the mountain called
Glacier Bay, but Whidby found no such inlet. His account agrees with the
tradition of the Indians. Lynn Canal, so familiar as the entrance to the
Yukon, was discovered by Whidby and received from Vancouver the name
of his birthplace, Lynn, in Norfolk. The natives here were found to be a
fierce, treacherous, warlike race, and Whidby had to use all his vigilance to
escape their attacks. They had been supplied with arms by the Russian trad-
ers of New Archangel, a proceeding which roused the indignation of Van-
couver. The boats which had been sent out in different directions to com-
plete the last section of the survey met in Frederick Sound on the sixteenth
of April, 1794, and on the nineteenth returned to the ships. The great work
was finished, and Vancouver speaks of the fact in the following terms :
" The accomplishment of an undertaking, the laborious nature of which can
be easily perceived, and which had required their unwearied attention, abili-
ties and exertions for three years to bring to a successful conclusion, could
not fail of exciting in all on board the ' Discovery ' and ' Chatham ' sensa-
tions of the most pleasing and satisfactory nature."

On September second the ships arrived at Nootka and there Vancouver
heard the sad intelligence of the death of his friend Quadra. At Monterey
he had the satisfaction of learning that he was right in his interpretation of
the treaty of Nootka, and that the whole port of Nootka harbor and Port
Cox, with the adjacent country, would be delivered to Great Britain. A new
commission had been issued from the court of London, but not addressed to
Vancouver. He therefore set out on his homeward voyage. On their way
home the ships captured a Dutch East Indiaman named the Malacca, as war
had been declared with Holland. The "Discovery" and "Chatham"
reached England in September, 1795, having been absent nearly five years.
Before he had completed the preparation of his journals, Vancouver died,
May 10, 1798, at the early age of forty. It is by the simple, unostentatious


devotion to duty of such men as Vancouver that Eng-land has won her great -
est victories whether in peace or war. He, in his Hfetime, had the satisfac-
tion of knowing that he had done his work well, and posterity sees in the
grand scenery of British Columbia, his monument.

The commissioner appointed to succeed Vancouver was Lieutenant
Thomas Pierce. On the twenty-eighth of March, 1795, he received from
General Alva, the Spanish commissioner, the lands formerly occupied by
the British, and the Spaniards having dismantled their fort Lieutenant Pierce
hoisted the British flag in token of possession. Strange to say this harbor
of Nootka Sound, the first point on the northwest coast to be brought to the
notice of the world, and for ten years the resort of explorers and traders from
all quarters, has not since the departure of the Spaniards been the home of
civilized man. Even the natives have almost disappeared. Less than three
hundred of the three thousand Indians with whom; Meares traded, survive
to attend the little church which the zeal of the Roman Catholic missionary
at Hesquiat has placed among them. At a small store in the cove, a successor
of the old time traders strives to make gain of the Indians who,
however, have long ago learned the true value of the white man's wares.
Not a trace of the fortifications of either of the rival nations remains at
Friendly Cove, and the visitor sees little in the village to tempt him to lingef
in Nootka Sound.



After Vancouver there was a second lull in the interest attached to the
fortunes of the Pacific Ocean. There were trading vessels from a number
of countries, principally the United States and Great Britain, that came to
traffic in the sea otter, which gradually became scarcer until they ceased to be
profitable and sought for as formerly. After the Hudson's Bay Company
had firmly established itself on the northwest coast, subsequent to the amal-
gamation with the Northwest Company, in 182 1, the navigation of the north
Pacific was practically limited for a number of years to their ships, and an
occasional man of war. It will be permissible here to quote from the Year
Book of British Columbia (1897), a summarized account of the conditions
which prevailed after Vancouver took his departure for England, and it may
be incidentally remarked the period immediately succeeding were dark days
for not only England, but for all Europe.

" As has already been stated, the Spaniards abandoned the country after
the Nootka affair was terminated and never afterwards made any attempt
at exploration or discovery in these waters. As a matter of fact. Great Brit-
ain herself ceased to take any interest in it, and practically abandoned it as
well. It is true the victory was with the British, but largely on account of
the negative attitude of Spain, to which she was forced by her continental
position; but the unsatisfactory terms of the settlement could hardly be re-
garded a victory of diplomacy. They left wide open a ground of dispute,
which was the cause of subsequent complications when the Oregt)n boundary
came to be fixed. Notwithstanding that Spain took no direct part or interest
in it, the United States government, claiming to inherit lier rights, did not


fail to take advantage of the terms of the convention, which the great Fox
at the time properly denounced as a blunder.

" It is an interesting fact that the setlement of the Nootka affair left
matters on this coast in a very uncertain, indefinable statu quo. For some
years a long stretch of the Pacific territory was in reality " No Man's Land,"
and it is not in any sense due to the prescience or wisdom of British states-
men of these days^ that it is British territory today. To the enterprise of the
Northwest Company, and of its legitimate successor, the Hudson's Bay Com-
pany, is due any credit that may attach to an accomplishment we now ap-
praise so highly. The traders of that powerful organization pushed their
way through to the coast by way of New Caledonia and the southv,m passes
of the Rocky Mountains, carrying with t lem the supremacy of the British
flag and extending the authority of the Canadian laws, and finally occupied
practically the whole of the Pacific Coast from Russian America to Mexico.
That we do not occupy the whole of the Pacific slope today was no fault of
theirs. However, in placing an estimate upon the statesmanship of Great
Britain, which permitted by a policy of laissez-faire so much territory to slip
through her hands, we must consider the circumstances and conditions of the
the times, the remoteness of the country, the almost total lack of knowledge
concerning it, and the general indifference which existed regarding its future.
Men ofttimes are, but. cannot ordinarily be expected to be, wiser than they
know. In view of all that has happened to, and in, the North American
continent since that time, there is reason to be thankful that there has been
left to us so glorious a heritage as we now possess.

" Several fearful tragedies in which the Indians were concerned are
recorded to have taken place on this coast when the fur trade was at the
'height of prosperity. One was the destruction in 1803 of the American ship
' Boston ' by the natives at Nootka Sound, all the crew being murdered with
the exception of the armourer, Jewitt, and the sail-maker, Thompson, who
were kept in slavery four years by the Chief Maquinna of Vancouver and


Quadra's Bay. In 1805 ^^e American ship 'Atahualpa,' of Rhode Island,
was attacked by the savages of Millbank Sound and her captain, mate and
six seamen were killed, after which the other seaman succeeded in repelling
the assailants and saving the vessel. In the same manner the * Tonquin,' of
Boston, was in June, 181 1, attacked by the natives whilst at anchor in Clayo-
quot Sound, and nearly the whole crew murdered. Five of the survivors
managed to reach the cabin, and from that vantage ground drove the savages
from the vessel. During the night four of these men left the ship in a boat,
and were ultimately murdered by the Indians. The day after the attack on
the vessel, all being quiet on board, the savages crowded the decks for the
purpose of pillage, when the ship suddenly blew up, causing death and de- .
struction to all on board. About one hundred natives were killed by the ex-
plosion, and this tragic ending has always been ascribed to the members of
the crew secreted below."

Alexander Mackenzie.

While Vancouver was seeking in vain to find a waterway through the
North American continent, a man of kindred spirit was, with no less persever-
ance and with perhaps greater difficulty, making his way from the great
plains of the Northwest over the rocky region that divides them from the
Pacific Ocean.

Towards the end of the eighteenth century Alexander Mackenzie was a
partner in the Northwest Company, which was at that time striving to wrest
from the Hudson's Bay Company the monopoly of the fur trade in the im-
mense region to the north and west of Canada that it had held for more than a
hundred years. The Northwest Company was founded in Montreal in 1783
and consisted chiefly of Scotchmen who had made Canada their home. Among
these was Alexander Mackenzie, one of the Mackenzies of Seaforth in Storna-
wery, Island of Lewis. Having proved himself brave and enterprising, Mac-
kenzie was sent to one of the company's outposts, Fort Chippewayan on Atha-


basca Lake. In the year 1789 he discovered the great river which bears his
name and followed its course to the Arctic Ocean. Not seeing how it was
possible to reach the Pacific from the ice-bound region which he was the first
civilized man to behold, Mackenzie determined to find a western road to its
shores. Accordingly, having prepared for the task he had set himself by
going to England and studying astronomy and the use of instruments, Mac-
kenzie set out from Chippewayan on October 10, 1792. He took the western
branch of the Peace River, and at a place a short distance from the Forks he
made his winter home. Two men had been sent forward during the summer
to prepare timber, so Mackenzie was able to proceed rapidly with the work of
building a trading post. The winter was unusually cold, though not un-
pleasant. Tliere were Indians in the neighborhood who had previously given
the fur traders some trouble. Mackenzie called them together and repri-
manded themi for their bad conduct, at the same time giving them presents
and showing them the benefits to be got by treating the white men well.
Both among the Peace River and the Rocky Mountain Indians the women
were greatly inferior to the men in personal appearance. Yet, though they
were kept in a state of abject slavery, they were not without influence in the
councils of the tribe. There was much sickness among these natives and
Mackenzie was often called upon tO' play the part of physician and surgeon,
which he did with great humanity and no little skill. The explorer speaks of
the warm southwest winds since called the Chinook winds, which moderate
the climate on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains.

On the 9th of May the river was clear of ice and the exploring party in
a light but very heavily laden canoe. It consisted of Mackenzie himself and
his lieutenant, Alexander MacKay, six French Canadians, two Indian hunters,
and an interpreter. With infinite toil these hardy boatmen forced their way
against the current of the Peace river. Many times they were obliged to
unload their canoe and carry boat and cargo along the steep wooded banks of
the river. Often their frail bark was caught in the rapids and dashed against


the rocks. Sometimes they drew it along by lines fastened to trees on the
impending- precipice, at others they guided its course by catching hold of over-
hanging branches. Night frequently overtook them where there was not a
landing place large enough to afford a resting place for their exhausted
frames. But a life of privation and hardship was the lot of these voyageurs,
and a big camp fire, a comfortable meal and a glass of rum rarely failed to
restore their good-humor and make them forget their fatigue.

By the end of May they found that the river again divided and they took
the southern branch. Mackenzie tells us that wild parsnips abounded here,
and that their tops made a pleasant and refreshing addition to the diet of the
explorers. In this vicinity Indians were met who, though at first terrified by
a party of white men, were reassured by the fearless yet kind demeanor of
their leader. They told him that there were Indians eleven days' march away
who traveled a moon to another nation who live in houses. These people
extended their journey to the seacoast and traded with white men who came in
vessels as big as islands. Mackenzie could not, however, obtain any informa-
tion concerning the river which he sought, but one of the young men con-
sented to accompany the party as a guide.

On the 9th of June the explorers entered a lake two miles long by five
hundred yards wide which Mackenzie believed to be the source of the Peace
River. Beyond this lake was a swampy region where the streams were en-
cumbered with falling trees. Here their progress was slow. Mackenzie,
seeing that unless provision were made for the homeward journey the party
would be in danger of starvation, buried pemmican of the 21st of June.
Making their way as best they could from one stream to another, the ex-
plorers at last found they had a river whose current was carrying them on-
wards. The banks soon grew steep and the rapids frequent. The men were
in peril of their lives, and their canoe was continually being pierced by the
jagged rocks.

A large party of Indians and their families came up the river in canoes.


They at first showed signs of hostihty, but, as before, Mackenzie was able

Online LibraryR. E. (R. Edward) GosnellA history; British Columbia → online text (page 4 of 79)