R. E. (R. Edward) Gosnell.

A history; British Columbia online

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ington, proposed that rather than continue the irritating controversy the
middle channel should be adopted as the one through the middle of which the
boundary line should pass. This would give all the islands except San Juan
to the United States. The compromise was not accepted and when, having
thoroughly surveyed the three channels the commission found that they could
come to no agreement, the matter was in 1867, ten years after they had begun
their labors, referred to their respective governments.

While surveyors and diplomatists were striving to arrive at a peaceful
solution of the boundary question a trivial incident rendered its settlement



BRITISH COLUMBIA 65

still more difficult. A United States settler named Lyman A. Cutler, had
gone in April, 1859, to live on San Juan Island, and planted a patch of po-
tatoes near the Hudson's Bay Company's establishment. One of the Com-
pany's hogs on the 15th of June had rooted up some of Cutler's potatoes and
was shot by the angry farmer. The manager of the Company's farm de-
manded a high price for the animal, which Cutler refused to pay. During
the day it happened that three of the leading men of the company, Dallas,
Tolmie and Fraser, came over to San Juan on the steamer " Beaver." Dallas
on hearing of the occurrence insisted on the payment demanded and warned
Cutler against any further injury to the company's property. High words
and even threats were said to have passed between the two men.

General Harney was at that time commander of the military department
of Oregon. The American settlers, of whom there were about thirty, had in
May asked the general to send them a guard of twenty soldiers to protect
them from, the northern Indians. He did not comply with their request at
the time, but on the 9th of July he visited the island. He was presented by
Cutler and other settlers from the United States with a second i>etition ask-
ing for protection, not only from the Indians, but from the authorities on Van-
couver Island, who they stated had threatened Cutler's arrest. General Har-
ney W'ithout communicating with his superior officer or with the authorities
at Washington, issued an order to Captain Pickett to transfer his company
from Fort Bellingham to San Juan Island. On the day of the arrival of
Pickett's deatchment (July 27th), Major de Courcy came over from Victoria
on H. M. S. "Satellite " to fill under British law the office of Stipendiary
Magistrate on the Island of San Juan.

Captain Pickett proceeded to establish a military camp, and on the 31st
was reinforced by another company under Colonel Casey from Steilacoom.
There were then stationed at the island 461 United States soldiers, with eight
32 pounders.

It was September before the British minister in Washington learned that



66 BRITISH COLUMBIA

the disputed territory had been occupied by United States soldiers. The am-
bassador represented the matter to the president as Hkely to occasion a grave
breach of the friendly relations between the two governments. The executive
of the United States immediately sent General Scott to inquire into the cause
of General Harney's action, and to make such arrangements as would tend
to preserve peace between England and the United States. On his arrival at
the Pacific Coast General Scott ordered the removal of all the cannon from
San Juan and left but one company of soldiers there. As Pickett had ren-
dered himself objectionable to the British residents of the island an officer
named Hunt was put in his place. He urged upon Governor Douglas the ad-
visability of sending an equal force to occupy the island on behalf of Great
Britain. After some delay this plan was agreed to and on the 20th of March,
t86o, a detachment of Marines under Captain George Bazalgette was sent to
San Juan. This joint occupation continued for twelve years. The greatest
harmony and good feeling prevailed between the military men stationed at
San Juan and many pleasant social gatherings attended by the young people of
Victoria and Esquimalt, took place on the island. That no collision took
place while General Harney was placing the troops on San Juan was entirely
owing to the wise forbearance of General Baynes, who would allow neither
the provocation of his enemies nor the rashness of his friends to hurry into ill-
considered action. This was the more to be commended as he had, by the
admission of the American officers, a force amply sufficient to prevent the
landing of the troops or to effect their capture afterwards.

The San Juan difficulty still remained unsettled when in 1871 the Joint
High Commission met at Washington. By one of the terms of the treaty
then drawn up it was decreed that the matter of the disputed boundary should
be submitted to the arbitration of the Emperor William of Germany, whose
decision would be final. George Bancroft the American minister to Germany
was appointed to prepare the case of the United States, while Mr. Petre the
British charge d'affaires conducted that of Great Britain. The award was



BRITISH COLUMBIA 67

made in favor of the contention of the United States on October loth, 1872.
By this time British Columbia had become a province of Canada, w^hose
southern Hmit from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific was not completely de-
fined.

The Alaskan Boundary.

To the modern tourist the name of Alaska suggests a scene of rugged
grandeur whose chief features are high rocky islands, deep fiords and mighty
mountains, whose immense glaciers glisten in the sunlight. The sea sheltered
by rocks on either hand is peaceful and the only dangers to be feared are the
sunken rock or the hidden iceberg. As he floats along during the endless
midsummer days it requires an effort to remember that the ownership of these
picturesque fiords and barren shores has been a subject of grave dispute be-
tween two powerful nations. Yet a great deal of time and thought has been
spent by some of the wisest men in England and the United States and much
money has been expended in the effort to settle the Alaskan Boundary Ques-
tion. All that can be done here is to give a brief outline of the history of the
dispute and of the terms of settlement.

The peninsula of Alaska was discovered in the year 1741 by Behring on
his third voyage. Its shores were soon frequented by Russian fur traders, and
in 1 789 the Russian American Fur Company was formed, and given exclusive
privileges of trade in the whole of Alaska, which seems at that time to have
been undefined territory. When at the end of the eighteenth and the be-
ginning of the nineteenth century British explorers found their way either
by land or sea to the territory to the south and east of her possessions, Rus-
sia does not seem to have concerned herself much about their doings. It was
another matter when fur traders began to occupy the country and to deplete
the waters of the sea-otter and seal and the land of beaver, marten and other
fur-bearing animals. The Russian monopolists viewed with great disfavor
the neighborhood of the British monopolists. In 182 1, the year when the
great fur companies united, the Russian emperor issued a ukase, claiming the



68 BRITISH COLUMBIA

whole west of America north of the fifty-first parallel of north latitude and
forbidding* the subjects of any foreign nation to approach within one hundred
miles of the coast. England hastened to protest against the extravagant
claims, and in 1825 a treaty was made defining the boundary between the
respective possessions of England and Russia in America.

The Peninsula of Alaska was divided from' the British possessions to
the east of it by the one hundred and forty-first degree of longitude, about
which no dispute could arise. Russia, however, claimed a strip of seacoast
reaching as far south as latitude fifty-four degrees forty minutes. Though the
coast had been explored by Vancouver the land was untrodden by the foot
of civilized man. It was traversed by mountains, crossed by rivers, and in-
dented by many arms of the sea. An archipelago of islands stretched along
its coast. The definition of the eastern boundary of this part of Alaska was
laid down very elaborately by the negotiations. It was more than half a
century before there was any necessity for ascertaining where this boundary
lay and then many difficulties presented themselves as to the interpretation of
the treaty. There was also a clause which gave British subjects " the right
of navigating freely and without any hindrance whatever, all the rivers and
streams which may cross the line of demarcation upon the line of coast de-
scribed in article III of the present Convention."

While the Russians held Alaska no dispute arose with regard to the pro-
visions of the treaty. Between the years 1839 and 1849 ^he Hudson's Bay
Company leased the Russian territory between latitudes fifty-four degrees
forty minutes and 58 degrees North.

In 1867 the United States purchased Alaska from Russia in the same
year the Dominion of Canada was formed. When in 1871 British Columbia
entered into confederation Alaska and Canada became adjoining territories.
In that year the treaty of Washington was signed and it contained a clause
Avhich was interpreted to mean that England gave up the right of her subject



BRITISH COLUMBIA 69

to navigate the rivers and streams of Alaska for any purpose save that of
commerce.

Gold was discovered in the Cassiar District of British Columbia in 1872.
Tlie nearest route into the country was by the Stikine River, which was de-
clared to run through the United States territory ; this caused an agitation
for a definition of the boundary and surv^eyors went into the country to try
to locate it, but little was done till in 1896 the great discovery of gold in the
Klondike, a tributary of the Yukon situated in the northwest of Canada,
showed still more plainly the dangers and inconveniences that might arise
from an uncertain boundary. From every quarter men rushed to the gold-
fields carrying with them valuable outfits. The most direct entrance was by
Lynn Canal in Alaska. The- United States town of Skagway was on this
canal, and Canada claimed, but was refused the right to build one near it.
A provisional boundary was perforce agreed upon at this place.

The Alaskan Boundary controversy must be allowed to exist no longer.
All the points in dispute resolved themselves into one. To whom did the
inlets belong? The treaty declared that the width of the Russian, now the
United States possessions should be ten marine leagues measured by a line
drawn " parallel to the windings of the coast." Canada contended that the
" coast " meant the shores of the Archipelago while the United States main-
tained that the ten marine leagues were to be measured from the continental
coast-line. The wheels of diplomacy were at last set in motion and in Janu-
ary, 1903, a commission was appointed, consisting of Lord Alverston, Chief
Justice of England, Sir Louis Jette, a retired judge of the Supreme Court
of Canada, and A. B. Aylesworth, a Canadian lawyer, representing British
interests, and Elihu Root, Secretary of War, Henry C. Lodge, Senator of
Massachusetts, and George Turner, formerly Senator from, Washington, on
behalf of the United States. It was agreed that the decision of a majority of
the commission should be binding on both nations. After many months' de-
liberation the award was given in October in spite of the protest of the Cana-



70 BRITISH COLUMBIA

dian commissioners, who refused to sign it. By the verdict of the commis-
sion the United States retained possession of the inlets of Alaska. At the
mouth of Portland Channel, the beginning of the boundary, are four islands.
Two of these, Pearse and Wales Islands, were awarded to Canada, while the
United States received Sitklan and Kamaghmnut.



BRITISH COLUMBIA 71



CHAPTER VL
FUR TRADERS AND GOLD SEEKERS.

In these old days before the gold rush, the history of the Northwest coast
of America concerns itself solely with the trade in peltries, the " Company of
Adeventurers and Traders trading into Hudson's Bay," and the native tribes
with whom they traded are the only two classes thrown on the canvas.

The year 1843 is a turning point. Fort Vancouver on the Columbia is
near its end, the glory of the great McLx}ughlin is becoming dimmed, a new
strong man holds the reins of power, a new city is building " Where East is
West and West is East beside our land-locked blue." It is the parting of the
ways.

There were sound reasons for placing the Hudson's Bay Company Fort,
the nucleus of the city of Victoria, where it was placed. The American
claims tO' the possession of the " Oregon country," the first low threats of
" fifty-four forty or fight " showed the wisdom of a stronghold north of the
settlements on the Columbia, and in the sheltered harbors of Victoria and
Esquimalt the fortbuilders fondly saw the outfitting base for the growing
whale fleet of the Pacific.

The site was not chosen on the impulse of the moment. As far back as
1837 Captain McNeill explored the south of Vancouver Island and found
" an excellent harbor and a fine open country along the sea shore apparently
well adapted for both tillage and pasturage." Governor Simpson, going north
from Fort Vancouver in the " Beaver " in 1841, remarks " the southern end of
Vancouver Island is well adapted for cultivation, for, in addition to a moder-
ate climate, it possesses excellent harbors and abundance of timber. It will
doubtless become in time the most valuable section of the whole coast above



72 BRITISH COLUMBIA

California." Simpson's word carried great weight. For thirty-seven years
he was the chief officer in America of the Hudson's Bay Company; from east-
ern Canada to the Red River country he wandered and from Oregon to
Alaska, and through this vast commercial empire his rule was unquestioned
and his word was law. When, then, Simpson in person before the London
directors advised a complete change of base from the Columbia, and suggested
the site of the present city of Victoria as the location of the strong fort, the
new regime may be said to have already begun. What were the advantages
of Camosun (the Indian name of Victoria Harbor) ? It was near the Ocean
and yet protected from it. Great islands were north of it, and to a huge con-
tinent it was nature's entrepot. It stood at the crossway of the waters, Fuca
Strait, Puget Sound, the Gulf of Georgia; and as whaling operations set
northward might not a northern rendezvous and trading base be welcomed?
The whole life and training of the Hudson's Bay servants made for keen ob-

4

servation, deep cogitation and careful balancing of cause and effect. Who
shall say how far an insight into empire expansion was theirs, and to what
extent they foresaw trade with the Alaskan north, the Mexican south, the
near-by Orient and the far off isles of the sea ? The long-headed, keen-witted,
silent Scots immediately connected with this movement were John McLough-
lin, James Douglas, John Wark, Roderick Finlayson, Tolmie, Anderson and
McNeill, all graduates of that stern Alma Mater the " Company of Adven-
turers and Traders trading into Hudson's Bay," British North America's
University of integrity and self-reliance and self-restraint.

Shakespeare makes Coriolanus say, " What is the city but the people ?
True, the people are the city." Let us for a moment look into the training
through which they passed, these rugged men whom fate ordained to be found-
ers of " a greater empire than has been." London was the headquarters of
tlie Hudson's Bay Company, here sat the Home Governor and Board of Direct-
ors. Next came the Governor in America, Sir George Simpson. Under him
served the Chief Factors, next came the Chief Traders, usually in charge of



BRITISH COLUMBIA 73

some single but important post ; fourth, were the Chief Clerks, who went with
crews of voyageurs on frequent expeditions or held charge of minor posts;
and, fifth, followed the apprenticed clerks, a kind of forest midshipmen, un-
licked cubs fresh from school or home — ^attracted to the woods by an outdoor
love of freedom and thirsty for Indian adventures, whose duties were to write,
keep store, and respectfully wait upon their seniors; sixth, postmasters;
seventh, interpreters, advanced from the ranks of the hewers of wood and
drawers of water because of some lucky gift of the gab or predilection for
palaver; eighth, voyageurs; ninth, the great rank and file of laborers who
chopped and carried and mended, trapped, fished, and with ready adaptability
turned their hands to fifty different crafts at the sovereign will of their su-
perior officers. The laborer might advance to be postmaster, the " middy "
might become chief factor or governor. Five years the apprentice served be-
fore he became clerk, a decade or two might see him chief trader or half
shareholder, and a year or two more crowned his faithful life service by eleva-
tion to the chief factorship. Broadly speaking, the chief factor looked after
the outside relations of the company and the chief trader superintended traffic
with the Indians. " Hard her service, poor her payment," Kipling sings of
the East India Company, the sister company of commerce, which did for' the
empire in the east what this did in the west. No doubt the life of the servant
of the Hudson's Bay Company was hard, but it had its compensations, it de-
veloped self-reliance and the hardier virtues of truth and courage and integ-
rity ; here, if anywhere, a man stood on his own bottom and rose or fell by his
own acts; each man in charge of a post, be it ever so obscure and unimpor-
tant, to his little coterie of employes and the constituency of Indians with
whom he traded, was a master, a governor, a ruler, his aye had to be aye, and
his nay, nay for evermore, or his life would pay the foirfeit, it was no place
for weaklings. That was the charm of the life, the lust for power is stronger
than the lust for gold. The one great drawback to the career, of course, was
it loneliness. The young trader or factor had neither time nor money to go



74 BRITISH COLUMBIA

back to civilization to seek a wife, his choice lay between single blessedness
and a dusky bride. Generally he chose the latter. The year before the build-
ing of Fort Victoria, Governor Simpson tells that in calling in at Stickine
fifteen of the employes there had asked his permission to take native wives.
Simpson granted them leave to accept what he is pleased disdainfully to call
them " worthless bargains," being influenced perhaps more by the trade ad-
vantages of these tribal connections than by any sympathy with unmarried
loneliness.

In secret justice to the " worthless bargains " it should be said that they
almost invariably proved true, industrious, faithful spouses and loving moth-
ers, they were subservient to their lords, they were content to remain obedient
hand-maidens, and were imbued with no troublesome yearnings for the fran-
chise and equal rights. Probably at times clouds connubial covered the
horizon here as elsewhere, but it was not the warring of the New Woman

and the Old Adam.

The Beaver.

It was the steamer " Beaver " that bix)ught Douglas and his fifteen men
from Fort Vancouver on the Columbia that early March day of 1843 to Cam-
osufi harbor.

The " Beaver " as a history maker deserves more than passing notice.
She was the first steamer to ply the waters of the Pacific and the first to make
the voyage from Europe westward across the Atlantic. If we wish to attend
the birthday christening party of the little " Beaver " we must go back to
1835, i'^ the days of William IV, the Sailor King. No expense was spared
in her construction, these were the palmy days of the Hudson's Bay Company,
and well did the old " Beaver " repay her owners for the good workmanship
put into her construction. For over fifty years in another hemisphere and a
new ocean was she to do brave pioneer service, piling up an honorable record
of work done squarely and unwasted days. At her launching the king at-
tended in person and it was the hand of a Duchess that broke the christening



BRITISH COLUMBIA 75

bottle. Her engines were made by the first firm in the world to make ship's
boilers, Messrs. Boulton & Watt, her length over all being loi 1-3 feet. The
company built an escort to the " Beaver," a barque of three hundred and ten
tons burden, the " Columbia," and on the 29th of August, 1835, the two
pioneers stole down the Thames mouth. The trans- Atlantic voyage was made
without incident, and Cape Horn passed. Then for nearly four months, with
her prow turned northward, did the plucky little black steamer ply the waters
of an untried ocean. She was little and unpretentious and homely, but she
was " the first that ever burst into that silent sea." Hencefr^rth the history
of the " Beaver " is the history of the colonization of northwest America. She
poked her inquisitive nose into river estuaries and land locked seas ; she made
frequent trips as far north as Russian Sitka, and it was in her furnace that
the first bituminous coal discovered on the coast was tested.

We have seen that the " Beaver " brought to Camosun the founders of
Victoria; in 1858-9 the "Beaver" carried the Cariboo miners to the new
found Fraser fields ; next year she took a prominent part in the " San Juan
affair;" she carried up and down the coast the imperial hydrographers who
prepared the first charts of these northern waters, and she died in harness.

It was on a summer night of 1888 that the little steamer piled up on the
rocks at the harbor entrance to Vancouver City. For four years she hung
there and none so poor to do her reverence. Then a passing steamer came
close in one night and gave her her wash, the " Beaver " shuddered through
all her oaken ribs, " they broke her mighty heart," and the great Boulton-built
boilers slipped down into the sea. Then came the relic-hunter; her stern-
board is preserved in the Provincial Museum, it was the end of her long life
and an honorable one.

No excuse is offered for this brief history of the " Beaver" — it is very
pertinent to our subject; northward and westward — ^seaward, did Victoria look
for her maritime commerce, northward and westward do we still look.

From the Songhees village across the harbor did the curious and angry



76 BRITISH COLUMBIA

Indians paddle out to inspect the " Beaver " that March day of 1843. What
might it mean, this "big canoe, that smokes and thunders?" And James
Douglas and his men, with what feehngs did these pioneers of long ago look
around them as they stood among the wild lilies and heard the larks sing of
spring? An empire's history is making that day, and this little group of
fifteen men are about to begin a chapter. To this end they employ no cunning
colors of the cloister, hewn logs and cedar posts are their writing tools, and
although the scene be beautiful and enticing, and the thought that till now no
European foot had trod these park-like vistas is even to prosaic minds a fas-
cination — still they came for work these fort-builders and not for moralizing.
The practiced eye of Douglas soon determined upon a site and all hands were
at work digging a well and cutting and squaring timber. The appre-
hensive and somewhat sulky Indians gathered round not too well pleased with
the advent of the '* King George's men." Douglas in a characteristic speech
told them that the whites came as traders and friends, they wanted furs and
would give guns and blankets and trinkets, in the meantime as a " trial order "
the Indians might bring in cedar " pickets " twenty-two feet long and three
feet in circumference, for every forty pickets a blanket would be given.
" Nowitka, delate bias kloosh !" and the trade of Camosun is begun.

According to Bancroft, with the fort-builders came a Jesuit missionary,
one J. B. Z. Bolduc, the first priest to set foot on the island of Vancouver.
He was as warmly received as the traders were. Up the extension of the har-
bor he reared his rural chapel of pine branches, and boat's canvas and cele-
brated mass, upwards of twelve hundred converts crowning his zealous ef-
forts, native Songhees and visiting brethren of the Clallams and Cowichans.
If this be true then Father Bolduc's was not only the first, but the largest
congregation yet assembled on Vancouver Island.

Everything thus auspiciously begun, Mr. Douglas left the men to carry
forward the work of fort-building, and himself proceeded northward in the
" Beaver " to close Forts Tako, Stickine and McLoughlin, leaving Fort Simp-



BRITISH COLUMBIA 77



Online LibraryR. E. (R. Edward) GosnellA history; British Columbia → online text (page 7 of 79)