R. E. (R. Edward) Gosnell.

A history; British Columbia online

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son intact, then as now the northern outpost. On the first of June the return
party of thirty-five with the goods from the abandoned forts arrived at Cam-
osun, thus bring-ingf the force for the new stiX)nghold up to fifty men. Three
months later the construction was completed.

James Deans describes the fort as he saw it two years later. " The bas-
tions were of hewn logs thirty feet in height and were connected by palisades
about twenty feet high. Within the palisades were the stores numbered from
one to five and a blacksmith's shop, besides dining hall, cook-house and chapel.
The ground to the extent of an acre was enclosed by a palisade forming a
square. On the north and south were towers, each containing six or eight
pieces of ordinance (nine-pounders). The north tower was a prison, the
south one was used for firing salutes. On the right, entering by the front or
south gate was a cottage in which was the postofifice, kept by an officer of
the company, Captain Sangster. Following round the south side came the
smithy, the fish-oil warehouse, the carpenter's shop, bunkhouse, and in the
corner a barracks for new arrivals. Between this corner and the east gate
were the chapel and the chaplain's house. On the other side of the east gate
was a large building, the officers' dining room, and adjoining this the cook
house and pantry. On the next side was a double row of buildings for stor-
ing furs previous to shipment to England, and behind this again a gunpowder
magazine. On the lower corner stood the cottage of Finlayson, who was the
Chief Factor, and his family, and beyond were the flagstaff and belfry."

Finlayson had been the pupil of Douglas, as Douglas had been the pupil
of McLx)ughlin. " Much from little " was the motto of these frugal Scots,
Nails, like everything metallic, were legal tender with the Indians, they had a
distinct commercial value, so when Finlayson was ordered to build Fort
Camosun without a single nail, he did it. Mr. Finlayson was not the first
factor in charge of the new post. Mr. Charles Ross, transferred from the
abandoned Fort McLoughlin, was the first in command. Mr. Ross died with-
in the fort gates the following year (1844), and was succeeded by Mr. Fin-



78 BRITISH COLUMBIA

layson. The historian owes a deep debt to Mr. Roderick Finlayson. In a
carefully written manuscript of one hundred and four folio pages he gives a
clear and comprehensive account of the " History of Vancouver Island and the
Northwest Q)ast," indeed, were it not for Finlay son's record little would be
known of these ante-gold days. This pioneer pilot of the destinies of Cam-
osun was a shrewd, practical, clear-headed Scot, somewhat reticent about the
company's business, but personally courteous, kindly, and most approachable.

The Dividing Line.

Up to this time (1845), the somewhat indefinite territory loosely known
as " the Oregon country " had been jointly occupied by British subjects and
those of the United States. It had not been in the interest of the fur traders to
encourage immigration. But the time had come when this rich country could
no longer be kept as a game preserve, settlers from both nations were pouring
in and the question became insistent, " Who shall possess the land?"'

Notwithstanding contentions to the contrary, Great Britain is not and
never has been a land grabber, she has none of the hunger for territory which
the nations attribute to her, and for every square mile of land she has consented
to annex there are a thousand she might have had. When it is a question of
acquiring territory, she is always slow to move. " Is the country worth hav-
ing? " asked the English members of Parliament; " Is it worth fighting for? "
McLoughlin when closely questioned to this end answered flatly that it was
not. McLoughlin was a fur trader first, last and for all time; in the very na-
ture of things he could not see singly in this matter. At last England took
tardy action and in 1845 sent out H. M. S. "America," Gordon in command,
to spy out the leanness of this indeterminate land. Gordon was brother of the
Earl of Aberdeen, England's Prime Minister, and under him served Captain
Parke, of the marines, and Lieutenant Peel, son of Sir Robert. Guiltless of
any knowledge of either of the harbors of Victoria or Esquimalt, Gordon put
in to Port Discovery and sent a dispatch to Factor Finlayson summoning him



BRITISH COLUMBIA 79

on board. For three days, Finlayson, hour by hour, instructed England's
plenipotentiary on matters connected with tliis to him terra incognita. Then
the junior officers, Parke and Peel, were sent via Cowlitz to the Columbia to
see with their own eyes and judge of the desirability of acquiring the country.
It is of these two officers that that persistent story is told which will not down.
It is said that their viva voce report on returning to their ship was, " The
country is not worth a damn, the salmon will not rise to the fly."

Meanwhile the " America " had crossed to Victoria Harbor, and it was
incumbent upon Finlayson to do the honors of host to the distinguished of-
ficers representing the awe and majesty of the Mother Land. The bachelor
quarters of the fort were not very luxurious, but it was easy to kill calves
for the prodigals and provide a feast of fat things. " An Englishman's idea
of pleasure is, 'Come, let us kill something/ " cogitated Finlayson, so after
dining and wining he proposed a deer-hunt. A band of deer made its op-
portune appearance (without the aid of beaters!), and the gay Gordon,
mounted on the best cayuse the establishment boasted, got the leading stag in
range, but the whole band incontinently took flight while the noble lords were
adjusting their sights, and disappeared in the dense forest undergrowth. The
commander, sputtering with wrath because the stag was inconsiderate enough
not to stand at " Shun! " animadverted in choice Saxon upon the uncivilized
nature of such a land.

The sun shone brightly on the dancing waters of the straits, the crests of
the Olympics stood up like rough-hewn silver, and peace and plenty smiled
on every hand. But the deer had not waited to be killed. " Finlayson,"
swore Gordon, " I would not give one of the bleakest knolls of all the bleak
hills of Scotland for twenty islands arrayed like this in barbaric glories."

Next year (1846), a flotilla of British vessels appeared off Vancouver
Island, the "Cormorant" Captain Gordon {not the deer-slayer); the "Con-
stance," Captain Courtney; the "Inconstant," Captain Shepherd; the " Fis-
gujard," Captain Duntze; and the surveying vessels "Herald" and "Pan-



80 BRITISH COLUMBIA

dora." Overland also came Royal Engineers, Lieutenants Warre and Vava-
sour, arriving in Fort Vancouver by the annual express from York Factory.
After " great argument about it and about," what is now known as the Ore-
gon Treaty, was passed on the 15th of June, 1846, and the forty-ninth parallel
became the dividing line between the nations.

Paul Kane, the Wandering Artist.

In April, 1847, appeared on the scene Paul Kane, a wandering artist, who
in a very readable book describes " those wild scenes among which I strayed
almost alone and scarcely meeting a white man or hearing the sound of my
own language during four years spent among the Indians of the Northwest."
Kane's interest was with the Indians, though we get from him not a few in-
teresting sidelights on the paler pioneers. The word " Esquimalt," he tells
us, is the place for gathering the root camass ; " Camosun " is the place of
rushing waters. Across the harbor from the fort he finds a village of five
hundred armed warriors, the men wear no clothing in summer and in winter
affect a single garment, a blanket made of dog's hair and goosedown with
frayed cedar bark. The Indians breed these small dogs for their hair. The
hair is cut ofif with a knife and mixed with goosedown and a little white earth,
then beaten with sticks and twisted into threads by rubbing it down the thigh
with the palm., to be finally woven into blankets on a rude loom by the women
of the tribe.

Kane followed the Indian tribes into their loneliest lodges, lived with
them, ate with them, slept with them, and so studied them from within. He
tells vividly how the Songhees chief, Cheaclach, was inaugurated into his
high office after thirty days of lonely fasting culminating in a wild orgy of
dog-biting and biting of his friends ; the most honored scars are those which
result from a deep bite given by a chieftain-novitiate — faithful are the wounds
of a friend.

We go out on the straits with the artist and watch these primeval savages




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BRITISH COLUMBIA 81

take the big sturgeon, weighing often from four hundred to six hundred
pounds ; they are speared as they swim along the bottom at spawning season,
to this end a seaweed Hne one hundred and fifty feet in length, spear-handles
eighty feet long and detachable barbed spear-heads are used ; their fish-hooks
are made of pine-roots. The Indians were exceedingly fond of herring-roe,
which they were wont to collect in an ingenious way. Cedar-branches are
sunk to the bottom of the river in shallow places by placing on them a big
stone or two. The fish prefer to spawn on green things, the branches by next
morning are all covered with spawn, which is washed off into water-proof
baskets and squeezed by the hand into small balls. Kane says it is " very
palatable," and he so describes fern-roots roasted. Kane ought to know, he
was in like position with the old Scot who declared, " Honesty is the best
policy, I've tried baith."

Slavery in a most cruel form existed from California to Behring Straits,
any Indian wandering off from his tribe might be seized and enslaved. The
northern tribes played a grim sort of prisoners' base, and it was clearly advis-
able " to stay by the stufif," for surely the " gobble-uns will git you if you
don't — watch — out ! " The slavery that existed was of the most extreme kind,
the master exercised the power of life and death over his slaves, slaves were
killed to make an ostentatious display of wealth, the body of a slave was not
entitled to burial.

The making of a medicine-man was as weird a ceremony as the making
of a chief. It, too, was preceded by a period of fasting ; the would-be medi-
cine-man gave away every earthly possession before beginning his practice,
depending thereafter wholly upon his fees. The medicine-man really was a
magic-man, in direct communication with God, the " Hyas-Sock-a-la^Ti
Yah." Kane notices in the big lodges of the coast Indians, houses big enough
to accommodate eight or ten families, beatiful carved boxes of Chinese work-
manship which reached Vancouver via the Sandwich Islands. During all



82 BRITISH COLUMBIA

these years there was regular commimication and no inconsiderable trade be-
tween this tropical archipelago and the North American mainland.

Kane had wonderful tact in dealing with the Indians; he overcomes
their rooted prejudice to being sketched by telling them the picture is to go
to the " Great Queen over the water " and then they crowd his tent to over-
flowing, eager for the privilege, and proffer him their choicest delicacy, long
strips of four inch whale blubber to be eaten " al fresco " with dried fish.
Ingenious was the Indian method of capturing the whale. A flotilla of
canoes went out. to the whale-grounds, sometimes even twenty or thirty miles
from shore, each craft well supplied with spears and seal-skin bags filled with
air, each containing ten gallons. The bags were attached to the spears and
great numbers of the weapons were hurled into the animal's body; with the
loss of blood he soon became too weak to overcome the upward buoyant
pressure of the many floats, and cowed and dirigible, was towed tamely to
shore to be dispatched at leisure.

Kane met the historical Yellow-cum, chief of the Macaws, whose father
was pilot of the ill-fated " Tonquin," the vessel 'sent out by John Jacob Astor
to trade with the Indians north of Vancouver Island, and which was blown up
in such a tragic manner.

We get a glimpse, too, of the currency of these coast-wise tribes. The
unit of value is the ioqus, a small shell found only at Cape Flattery, where
it is obtained with great trouble from the bottom of the sea. It is white,
slender, hollow, and from one and one-half to two inches long. The longer
the shell the greater its \alue. When forty make a fathom, their united value
is one, beaver-skin. If thirty-nine will make- a fathom, its value is two beav-
er-skins and so on. A sea-otter skin at this time was worth twelve blankets.
The Indians at the south of Vancouver Island flattened their heads, those
at the north pulled them out into cones. On the opposite mainland were the
Babines or Big-Lips, bone-lipped beauties whose lower lips were incised to
carry patines of bone, shell or wood, sometimes so large that the ornament



BRITISH COLUMBIA 83

made a convenient shelf on which to rest the food. These people wear costly-
blankets of the wool of the mountain sheep and bum their dead on funeral
pyres. The way letters were carried by the Babines or Voyageurs is most
interesting. An Indian gets a letter to deliver perhaps hundreds of miles
away. He starts out in his canoe and carries it to the end of his tribal do-
main when he sells it to the next man, who takes it as far as he dares and
gets an augmented price for it, the last man delivers and collects full fare for
the precious missive. The mail-carrier is never molested, he cries in choicest
Chinook, " In the name of the Empress the Overland Mail." and is given
ever the right of way.

Important Hudson's Bay Company Posts of British Columbia.

At this time there were six Hudson's Bay Company forts on the British
Columbia coast and sixteen in the interior. At the southeast comer of Stuart
Lake stood the capital of New Caledonia, old Fort St. James, the central
figure of a cluster of subsidiary forts. Taking Fort St. James as pivotal
point, one hundred miles northwest was Fort Babine, eighty miles east was
Fort McLeod, sixty miles southeast was Fort George, and twenty-five miles
to the southwest stood Fort Fraser. The highland surrounding Stuart Lake
is a continental apex or divide whence flow the waters of the mighty Fraser
southward, to the north and west the Skeena, while away to the north and
east the winding Peace takes its tribute to the frozen ocean.

On Liikes McLeod, Babine and Fraser were forts of the same names,
and Fort Thompson was built on the Kamloops. Fort Alexandria on the
Fraser was an important base, from here the northern brigade took its de-
parture, and this post yielded an annual sale of twenty or thirty packs of
peltries. From Fort Alexandria to Fort St. James the trafficking merchan-
dise was carried by canoe.

Why emphasize these paltry redoubts, little picketed enclosures sepa-
rated each from; the other by leagues of mountain-morass, roaring torrents and
well-nigh impenetrable forests? What do they stand for, these fly-specks



84 BRITISH COLUMBIA

on the map of a country into which continental Europe can comfortably be
tucked ? To the Indians they are magazines of civilized comforts ; to the
Honorable Hudson's Bay Company they are centers of lucrative trade, mo-
nopolistic money-getters ; to the servants of the company we have seen they,
in their loneliness, are grim character-makers; to us who follow after they
are the outposts of empire, the advance guards opening the way for another
off-shoot from the Grey Old Mother. It is history in the making.

Fort St. James was a profitable station; it sent yearly to London furs
worth a round quarter of a million. By horse brigade to these great centers
came the goods for barter. The animals were sleek and well cared for, and
where the iron horse now makes his noisy way these patient packers picked
paths of their own through deep ravines, round precipitous mountain edges
and across swollen streams, carrying the goods of all nations to lay at the
feet of blanket-clad braves.

The coast forts were Simpson, the first and most northerly sea-fort in
British Columbia ; Langley, near the mouth of the Eraser ; Tako, on the Tako
River; Fort McLaughlin, on Millbank Sound; Fort Rupert, at the mouth of
Vancouver Island, and Camosun, whose name by transition through Fort
Albert, must hereafter be known as Victoria, in honor of the Great and Good
Queen. There was a connection other than commercial between these fur
trading fortresses. As far back as 1833 Dr. W. E. Tolmie and Mr. A. C. An-
derson of the Hudson's Bay service conceived the idea of establishing a cir-
culating library among the different posts throughout the length and breadth
of this great lone land. From London came the books and periodicals, and
among the gay blankets and beads and flint-lock muskets carried by cayuse
and canoe from post to post were tucked novels from Mudie's and works on
art and religion and agriculture from the Old Land. By the time a copy
of the Illustrated London News or the " Thunderer " had percolated from
officers' mess all down through the service till it reached Sandy at the forge
or Donald and Dugald driving the oxen, it was frayed away like a well worn



BRITISH COLUMBIA 85

bank note. This (1833-43) was the first circulating library on the Pacific
Slope. In 1848 Fort Yale was founded, on the Fraser River, and Fort Hope
the next year. Yale when built was the only point on the then untamed
Fraser between Langley and Alexandria, a distance of three hundred miles,
till' then untrod by white man. Yale was the head of navigation on the
Fraser. . .

Coal Discovered.

Fort Rupert, at the north end of Vancouver Island, was established in
the hope that it would prove the site of valuable coal mines. Coal was dis-
covered there and a trial shipment made to England by Rear Admiral Sey-
mour in 1847. B^^t Nanaimo, further south, was destined to be the coal
center of the island. Credit for the discovery here attaches to Joseph W.
McKay, of the company's service, who located the famous Douglas vein in
1850, having heard of the " black stone that burns " from a communicative
Indian. The fur traders knew a good thing when they saw it, and could turn
their talents into acceptable channels. Before the expiration of 1853 two
thousand tons were shipped from this point, fully half of which was taken out
by the Indians. The company's price at Nanaimo was eleven dollars, and in
San Francisco, now at the flood-tide of its gold-age, the coal brought twenty-
eight dollars a ton.

Two Strong Men of Kamloops.

In 1846 two strong men reigned at Kamloops. John Tod was Chief
Trader, and St. Paul, or Jean Baptiste Lolo, to give him the full title by
which the Mother Church received him, governed the Shus-wap Indians with
iron hand.

Much of history and romance is woven into the name Kamloops. The
establishment dates back to the days of the Northwest Company, being builded
as long ago as 1810 by David Thompson the Astronomer. Alexander Ross
in 1 81 2, on behalf of Astor's Pacific Fur Company, used it as his base, when



86 BRITISH COLUMBIA

no fewer than seven tribes traded there ; these were the palmy days. Worthy
successor of these strong ones was John Tod, wiry, alert, keen, a man all
through and through. And Jean Baptiste Lolo? He, too, was a striking
figure and worthy the steel of even a John Tod. Every wanderer through
the wilderness notes with joy these two chiefs, the white and the tawny, and
the struggle for supremacy of the warring personalities.

It was in Kamloops that the pack-horses were bred for the overland
pack-trains, and horse flesh here was a staple article of diet. Captain R. C.
Mayne, R. N.. F. R. G. S., pays his tribute to St. Paul:

" In the center room lying at length upon a mattress stretched upon the
floor was the chief of the Shuswap Indians. His face was a very fine one,
although sickness and pain had worn it away terribly. His eyes were black,
piercing and restless; his cheek bones high, and the lips, naturally thin and
close, had that white compressed look which tells so surely of constant suf-
fering. St. Paul received us lying upon his mattress, and apologized in
French for not having risen at our entrance. He asked the Factor to ex-
plain that he was a cripple. Many years back, being convinced that some-
thing was the matter with his knee and having no faith in the medicine men
of the tribe, the poor savage actually cut away to the bone, under the impres-
sion that it needed cleansing. At the cost of great personal suffering he
succeeded in boring a hole through the bone, which he keeps open by con-
stantly syringing water through it."

Such was Jean Baptiste Lolo. One can well imagine that such a man
could not be found wanting in personal courage. Although obliged to be in
his bed often for days at a time, his sway over his tribe was perfect. On this
occasion, at Captain Mayne's invitation, he rose and mounted, and rode with
the party all day, doing the honors of the District and giving Mayne double
names for every striking feature of the landscape, the Indian name and Paul's
fantastic French equivalent. For instance, the mountain upon which they
climbed was Roches des Femm-es, for in summer many Indian women were



BRITISH COLUMBIA 87

to be seen scattered about its sides gathering berries and the bright yellow
moss, Quillmarcar, with which they dye their doghair blankets.

St. Paul accompanied Mayne as a guide upon his continuing his journey,
claiming a place of honor at the " first table " and maintaining that silent
dignity which sits so well on these strong men of a past age. Having for the
time exchanged cayuse for canoe, Mayne says, " With all its many incon-
veniences, there is something marvelously pleasant in canoe traveling, with
its tranquil gliding motion, the regular splashless dip, dip, of the paddle, the
wild chant of the Indian canoemen, or better still the songs of the Canadian
voyageurs, keeping time to the pleasant chorus of ' Ma Belle Rosa,' or ' Le
Beau Soldat.' "

Thus happy we leave our chronicler and hark back to Paul Lolo's coun-
terfoil, the astute Tod. It was the custom every spring and summer to send a
party from Kamloops to the Pbpayou, seventy-six miles away on the Fraser,
to secure a year's supply of cured salmon from the Indians. This year a
Shuswap conspiracy was on foot to rob and slay the foraging party from the
Fort, and to wipe out the establishment. Scenting the plot from a hint
dropped by a friendly chief. Tod left his party, now well on its way, and alone
entered the hostile camp. With ostentation he threw down his weapons, and
told them that he had come as a messenger of mercy to save them from an
impending scourge of smallpox. Fortunately he had a, small supply of vac-
cine with him. Ready wit suggested his device, eloquence, a successful bit
of play acting on a spirited horse, and his native fearlessness completed the
conquest. Soon Tod had the would-be murderers felling a tree of immense
proportions, that he might have a kingly stump from which to officiate, for-
sooth ; and alone amid that band of determined cut-throats, the pawky Scot,
with tobacco knife lancet, vaccinated brawny arm after brawny arm till day-
light and vaccine were gone. The Indians went away his sworn slaves, hail-
ing him with loud acclaims for ever after as their father and savior. Well



88 BRITISH COLUMBIA

indeed did they know and fear the plague smallpox, and he who would deliver
them hence, was he not worthy of homage?

McKay Meets Adam-Zad.

In 1846 a strong figure looms large on the North Coast horizon. This
is Joseph W. McKay, this year made General Agent of the North Coast
establishments. McKay was staunchly true to the tenets of the company
which he served, the one insistent article of whose creed was, " Get furs."
Do Indian tribes show an inclination to go on the war-path? Their hostile
intents must be turned aside, not because war is unholy, but because chiefs
engaged in the gentle art of disemboweling their enemies and splitting the
bodies of babies on wooden frames as salmon are split (Cf. History of
Father Morice) are not able at the same time to trap beaver and marten and
bring in priceless sea-otter skins.

McKay had then to keep his aboriginal coadjutors in the gentle paths
of peace, he had also a second part to play. Stationed up against the con-
fines of Russian 'America, his it was to bend every faculty towards wresting
the monopoly of the lucrative fur trade of these hyperborean fastnesses from
the hands of Russia. To this end McKay had to pit his pawky Scottish wits



Online LibraryR. E. (R. Edward) GosnellA history; British Columbia → online text (page 8 of 79)