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The sea of mountains; an account of Lord Dufferin's tour through British Columbia in 1876 (Volume 1) online

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Some of the Indians who took part in
this race were Heidahs, from Queen Char-
lotte's Island, and their canoes are, as
may be supposed, of gigantic size, as
they must be to permit them to navigate
the Straits of Georgia. It was these
Indians who, some years ago, came down
from Queen Charlotte's Island and, en-
camping on this arm of the sea on which
they now race, threatened to take the
Colony. There was some difficulty in re-
straining them from acts of violence, and
it became necessary to send down to
Esquimalt for a detachment of Marines.
The sight of red coats moving upon the
encampment, and the sound of the bugles
through the forest, had a very wholesome
effect, and they remained quiet until a
little later, when the steam frigate Tribune,
under Captain Hornby, was ordered tc-
take them up to their own country,

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Their women and baggage were got on
board the frigate, and the canoes were
made fast in lines astern and at the sides,
but the Tribune had hardly gone as far as
the mouth of the harbour when every
canoe cut itself adrift, and the Indians
stood up and yelled for their wives and
baggage. I am afraid that the " wives "
and " baggage " were sometimes synony-

oo o J J

mous terms, but good or bad they were
kept on board the Tribune as she steamed
off for the North.

At night these ladies were sent on shore
to camp, and in the morning were taken
on board again, the Tribune proceeding on
her way, and trusting that the gentlemen
would follow. Some of the ladies de-
camped, and set off overland to find their
husbands, but the majority of them had so
long been made to follow their lords that
they came to the conclusion that a little
reciprocity would be advantageous, and
frankly declared that if they were worth
caring about they were worth coming


after. This was very true, but the ques-
tion that would obtrude itself was were
they worth caring about ? They evidently
were although there is no accounting for
tastes because their lords followed after
in their canoes, dreadfully sulky at being
obliged to paddle while their wives were
carried on board, but still desirous of
regaining their mates, and when they
were all united at a spot to the north of
the island, they were so overjoyed that
they proposed to celebrate the reunion by
immediately wiping out another tribe that
resided in the neighbourhood. Had it not
been for the threatened anger of the
Tribune's guns they would have proceeded
to the contemplated festivity at once. On
her road up, the Tribune met a large num-
ber of war canoes of the same people on
their road to Victoria, so that some
danger was narrowly escaped. These
Heidahs have the reputation of being the
most warlike tribe on the coast a kind of
sea coast Blackfeet and they have from


time to time obliterated stray parties of
white men who have fallen upon their
shores. It is to their Island Queen
Charlotte's Island that Lord Dufferin
starts to morrow. He will call first at
Nanaimo, the coal-producing place, and
will then go up the coast to Queen Char-
lotte's Island and Fort Simpson, returning
to the Fraser by the 7th of September.
From there he will go up into the interior
as far as Kamloops, and return to Bur-
rard's Inlet by the 13th, probably reaching
Victoria on the 14th September. I do
not know his date of departure from
Vancouver Island. It will probably de-
pend on circumstances, but Lady Duf-
ferin's ball is announced for the 18th, and
it is understood that there is one, if there
are not two others to come off during
the Vice-regal stay.



Arrival at Nanaimo The Great Coal-Field of the
Pacific Lord Dufferin's Reception The Person most
Interested in the Island Branch Freight of Coal by
Railway Location of the .Terminus Importance of
good Anchorages Election of an Indian Chief Bute
Inlet Agreeable " Mess" on Board the Dominion
Steam-Yacht Scenery of the Haro Straits San
Juan's Island Origin of the San Juan Difficulty.

Wednesday evening the Governor-
General and Lady Dufferin went on
board the Amethyst, at Esquimalt, to start
in the morning for their northward trip.
There was a grand illumination in their
honour. At 8 a.m. on Thursday morning
they got under way, and steamed up to
Nanaimo, where they arrived about four
in the afternoon. It had been arranged
that they should land on the following day,


and the citizens of Nanaimo were all
busily employed till late in the evening
preparing for the reception.

Nanaimo is the coaling depot of the
North Pacific, and is an incorporated city
of some one thousand inhabitants. There
are three mines at present working, but
the trade is not now as brisk as it
has been, and as it will be again. The
first mine that brought Nanaimo into
notice was on the water's edge, but that
appears to have been worked out, and
those from which the supply is now
obtained are all situated at distances of
from three to seven miles from the city.
The coal is brought to the seaboard on
tramways, or by buckets, each carrying
two hundred pounds, which travel along
a hawser road high up in air. This is
done on the endless wheel principle, the
buckets being attached to the rope, which
carries them unceasingly to and from the
mine. Lord Dufferin wished to travel the
four miles to the coal-pit in one of these


air-buckets, but it appeared that every now
and again they jump off, and the risk of
thus exposing a Governor-General could
not be incurred.

Nanaimo has a very beautiful and well
sheltered harbour, but it is not practically
very large, on account of shoals and mud
flats. Some way down from the city there
is a second bay, on which a coal discharg-
ing depot is established, and where we saw
vessels taking in coal. The whole place
is completely landlocked by a high range
of hills on the one side, and a group of
islands out towards the straits on the
other. You will observe by the address
presented to the Governor-General that
the people are much less exercised on the
subject of the Island Railway than are the
inhabitants of Victoria. I think the
reason is that they do not care very much
whether it be built or not. They have the
sea as their high road, and are not likely
ever to use the railway for the transport
of coal. Probably coal could not be car-


ried on it except at rates which would en-
tail a useless and very serious loss on
every shipload. At any rate such is the
impression I have gained, and it is also
felt that they have the solid foundation
for progress and prosperity, irrespective of
the fillip that might be derived from the
construction of the road. Of course they
would be glad to have the railway, and
are in fellowship bound to say that the
Carnarvon Terms should be carried out.
The sentiments of the inhabitants, how-
ever, may be supposed to be expressed in
the following address :

" To His Excellency, the Eight Honour-
able Sir Frederick Temple, Earl of
Dufferin, Viscount and Baron Clane-
boye of Claneboye in the County Down,
in the Peerage of the United King-

" May it please Your Excellency :
" The inhabitants of the city of Nanaimo

respectfully tender to Your Excellency and


her ladyship the Countess of Dufferin their
heartiest welcome, and thank you for the
very distinguished honour conferred upon
them by your Vice-regal visit.

" Embracing the opportunity afforded
by Your Excellency's presence amongst
them, Her Majesty's liege subjects desire
' to express their unanimous and deep-
rooted feeling of loyalty and attachment
to the throne and person of Her Most
Gracious Majesty the Queen, whom Your
Excellency so worthily represents. If we
are not quite so demonstrative in our
mode of reception as the residents of
older cities we are none the less hearty
and sincere.

" We beg leave to remind Your Excel-
lency, with, we trust, pardonable pride,
that our spacious harbour, which is navi-
gable for the largest vessels, and safe at
all seasons, forms the chief port of ship-
ment of the coal-fields of the North-West,
and receives more tonnage than any other
port in this Province. As a site for a dry


dock our harbour is unrivalled. The
rising city of Nanaimo is the seat of the
most important industry in British Colum-
bia, and is at present in a most prosperous
and progressive state ; the coal mine t s are
being worked with a vigorous energy and
extensive outlay of capital that fully main-
tain the British reputation for enterprise
in the prosecution of legitimate commercial

" But we regret to say that our coal
trade is carried on under the serious dis-
advantage entailed by the heavy duty im-
posed in the United States upon our
large exports to that country our. princi-
pal foreign market.

" We have a long felt and pressing need
of direct communication with the tele-
graphic systems of the world, and there is
an entire absence of suitable buildings for
the Customs, Post-office and other federal
departments at Nanaimo. We would fain
hope that in taking the liberty of bringing
these requirements before Your Excellency


we may secure that immediate attention
and action on the part of the Dominion
Government which the exigencies of our
case fairly demand.

" Although, as a community, we do not
take a prominent part in the discussion of
political questions affecting the most vital
interests of the Province, we would never-
theless ask to be pardoned for mentioning
here that for the peace, progress, and
satisfaction of the people of British Colum-
bia, we believe what are known as the
Carnarvon Terms should be fulfilled intact
by the great Dominion of Canada.

" We have much pleasure in testifying
to the high regard in which Your Ex-
cellency's able administration of the im-
portant duties of your elevated office, and
your liberal patronage and encouragement
of education and the arts, are held by the
people of this Province.

" In conclusion, we trust that Your Ex-
cellency and Lady Dufferin may accomplish
your tour with safety and enjoyment, and


that you may be blessed with long life and
the highest happiness.

" Mark Bats,

" Mayor of the City of Nanaimo.

"John Hirst,
" Richard Brinn,
C, *' Samuel Gough,

"Joseph Bevilockway,
" George Baker,
" William E. Webb,
" John Sapiston,

" Councillors of the City of Nanaimo."

This document was read and presented
by the Mayor on Lord Duflferin's coming
on shore on Friday morning. I will not
ask your readers to follow me through
any description of the decorations of the
one street which comprises the business
part of the town, or to picture the general
effect of what had been done, because,
beyond saying that it was a most credit-
able display for so small a community,
and that the harbour and the grand


beauty of the scenery which impresses
me at every step in this country, are of
themselves sufficient to occupy an hour's
close attention, I should not be able to
bring any distinct likeness before them.
When the address had been read, Lord
Dufferin replied as follows :

" Mr. Mayor and Gentlemen,
" I beg leave to thank you for your
loyal address.

" I am very glad to have an opportunity
of paying a visit to the harbour and city
of Nanaimo, and of appreciating by personal
observation the satisfactory indications of
the mineral resources by which you are

" As every sound economist must do, I
regret with you the existence of those
heavy duties along the United States
frontier which impede so disastrously to
every one concerned, commercial inter-
course between the communities of this


" I shall not fail to bring to the notice
of the proper authorities the absence of
those conveniences as regards both your
telegraphic communication and your public
buildings generally of which you complain.

" I can assure you I fully sympathise
with the anxieties to which you give
utterance in respect of the accomplish-
ment by the Dominion of those engage-
ments to which you refer as the * Car-
narvon Terms,' more especially as the
performance of one of them, in which I
understand you consider yourselves so
deeply interested, viz., the construction of
the Nanaimo and Esquimalt Railway, has,
through the action of one branch of the
Canadian Legislature, become extremely

" I can only hope that a friendly con-
sideration by the parties concerned of the
difficulties which have arisen out of this
disturbing incident may lead to the sub-
stitution of some equivalent which may
be found acceptable to the Province.


" With regard, however, to the princi-
pal feature, namely, the construction of a
railway to the Pacific Ocean, although
it is no part of my business to give you
any assurance on that point, I sincerely
hope that your just expectations may be

The presentation of this address and
reply took place in a large al fresco, ever-
greened, buntinged construction of which
the children of the city occupied one side,
where they sang God Save the Queen and
other things, and in which all the principal
residents had mustered for the occasion.
When the formal address had been pre-
sented to the Mayor, Lord Dufferin spoke
to those assembled in what may be called
a private capacity speech, appropriate to
the occasion, and one which was well re-
ceived by those present.

After the principal personages of the
community had been presented to their
Excellencies, and cheers had been called



for and given, Lord and Lady Dufferin
drove off to visit the Douglas Mine.
There they are now, while their absence
affords correspondents the opportunity of
recording what has already been done.

Nanaimo, which already calls itself the
Newcastle of the Pacific, is destined to
be a prosperous place, no matter in what
locality the railway terminus may be
ultimately fixed always supposing, how-
ever, that the Keely motor does not work
some revolution abolishing the utility of
steam coal. And the knowledge that they
are independent of railway locations is
apparent in the conversation of the in-
habitants. They have coal and heaps of
it. They have the raw material, and who-
ever wants to cook it must come to Nanai-
mo to buy it. One large proprietor said
be didn't care whether the railway came
there or not.

The person who expressed most anxiety
on the subject was a young lady, who
said that she wished Mr. Mackenzie


would hurry up with the railway, because
then she would be able to run down to
Victoria without a fuss, and have a good
time. And it is impossible to doubt that
if Mr. Mackenzie knew the young lady in
question he would be more moved by her
entreaties than by the reproaches of those
who are equally impatient with her, but
from more sordid motives. Besides this,
the knowledge that the construction of a
railway from Nanaimo to Esquimalt is to
result in the frequent visits to Victoria
of the young lady who normally adorns
the society of Nanaimo, must inevitably
prove an incentive to the unmarried men
in Victoria to urge the construction of the
Island branch.

But the mass of the Nanaimo people
are in the position of those who are open
to approve of any number of railways
that anyone may choose to build, but
who are not going to distress themselves
on the subject. They have the sea at
their feet, and the small passenger steamers

B 2


run the seventy or seventy-five miles
between the two places in a few hours.
Carrying coal by the railway is out of the
question. I am told that the cheapest
railways in England bar one short line
charge seven-eighths of a penny a ton
per mile for carrying coal. The freight
here would be at least two cents a ton.
A thousand tons, therefore, would cost
for freight between Nanaimo and Esqui-
malt fifteen hundred dollars. But a
thousand tons shipped on board at Nanaimo
could be towed round to Esquimalt, if
that was necessary, for a few hundred
dollars, and if the freight was destined
for any place beyond the island even this
small expense would not be incurred.
And if the railway is not required to
carry coal, what will it carry except the
young lady to whom I have referred and
her friends that cannot equally well
be carried by sea ? Only can it be
necessary by Esquimalt becoming the
terminus. Whether or not that harbour


should so become is a matter of diverse
opinion, and the likelihood of such an
eventuality a matter of much speculation.
Every man in the Province has his opinion
and wish on the subject.

While everyone should rejoice that the
question of locating the terminus devolves
on what Dundreary would call " some
other fellow," one thing has made itself
clear to me, viz., that if I were the Pacha
of the Pacific Railway, I should begin by
Dot paying any attention at all to what
outsiders said about the proper locality at
which to meet the ocean vessels. I hear
people blame Mr. Mackenzie because he is
guided by people who don't know British
Columbia, and only go through it measur-
ing and surveying. I believe he is per-
fectly right, and that the question should
be determined only on the knowledge and
advice of competent professional men of
land and sea service, who are not possessed
of property at Victoria or any of the rival
inlets. Talk to three men on the subject


of the line west of the mountains, and
though they may not disagree while to-
gether, each one of them will afterwards
explain the advantages of his route, and
enlighten you as to the quantity of land
that the others own in their respective
sections. But it does strike one that, in
the discussions which one is in the habit
of hearing in Canada, as well as in some
of the reports which are presented for the
instruction of the Canadian people, an
undue prominence is given to the matter
of the land line, and not sufficient im-
portance to the question of harbours and
approaches from the sea.

It would be an evident folly to locate
the terminus at a point which, by reason
of fogs and reefs, was shunned by sea-
going vessels. It is at least as reasonable
to say, " First find the best practical har-
bour in British Columbia, and then take
your line from that," as to ask " what is
the easiest route down to the sea ?" One
knows, of course, that the Minister of


Public Works never loses sight of this
point, but he is necessarily much guided
by the reports of surveyors, who are apt,
like -all professional men, to view that
which is out of the limits of their own
knowledge as of secondary importance. A
map shows distances correctly, and a chart
shows soundings, but an engineer whose
acquaintance with and opinion of a harbour
and its approaches is derived from these
documents only or even chiefly, is not a per-
son whose authority on the subject is con-
clusive. The men at sea who are to make that
harbour I mean who are steering for it
are considering the question of fogs and
tides, and dangers that must be passed in
order to reach their destination, but which
may be situated a long way from it. The
reputation of a harbour is as delicate as a
woman's, and ought, when possible, to be
spoken of with confidence and admiration.
" Ifs" and " buts" in either of these cases
are fatal.

And in these waters good anchorages


are not common. The mountains fall
close to the water's edge, and in many
cases inlets and harbours that look in-
viting are useless on account of the depth
of water up to the very edges of the rocks.
Even intelligent surveyors are not always
sufficiently awake to this point, and people
on shore, who want the railway in their
direction, never think of it. When the
officials of the Northern Pacific were travel-
ling along Puget Sound and its neighbour-
hood seeking a fitting terminus for their line
now building, they reached a place which
in many ways looked inviting. They went
on shore, and found on investigation and
casual survey that the place was well
fitted for a terminus. They had been
shown about by a retired General, who
owning property in the place, was greatly
excited on the subject of securing the
terminus. Everything looked satisfac-
tory, and the party went off to the ship
again, the General greatly elated at the
prospect of the coming line. In the mean-


time the people on board had been sound-
ing the bay, but had not succeeded in
finding bottom, and in reply to the con-
gratulatory tone of the General's remarks,
one of the directors said :

" But, General, I'm afraid this place
won't do ; there's no harbour."

" No harbour I" said the warrior settler,
in astonishment, looking round the bay in
which the vessel was tied up.

" There's no anchorage to be got," said
the other.

" No anchorage !"

"No; they can't find any soundings to
speak of."

"Soundings be doggoned!" replied the
General. " Why, what in thunder are you
talking about. There's a hundred fathom
of them alongside of you."

There are several such harbours in
places spoken of as a possible terminus
for the Canada Pacific Railway.

Nanaimo is at the foot of Mount Ben-
son, one of a number of mountains that


run in a range along the coast of Van-
couver Island. There is not, therefore,
any great amount of agricultural land, and
the little town has anything but the ap-
pearance of an agricultural centre. But
it has plenty of coal, and in the neigh-
bourhood there are untold quantities of
iron ore. The population is principally
composed of miners from the mining dis-
tricts of England, and there is a liberal
complement of Indians. It was intended
by the Indians themselves to come out in
canoes and meet the Governor-General,
but the movement entailed the election of
a new chief, and somehow or other the
wrong man was elected, and the defeated
party upset the arrangement. An Indian
who has claims upon the chieftainship
regards the principle of election as an
excellent one when it results in the choice
of himself, but he is apt to regard it as
foolish trifling when the wrong man is

An Indian grandson of a chief in


Manitoba, who at the election of chiefs for
the first treaty had failed to inspire suffi-
cient confidence in the band, subsequently
gave a great deal of trouble to the officers
of the Government, and declined to believe
that an intimation to Ottawa that he had
been put aside would have no effect in
altering his position. He was told over
and over again that the selection of a
chief had been left to the Indians them-
selves, and that they had chosen another
person, and as often he replied that that
was the very thing which he desired the
Government to know, for what could be
the use of " election" when it was plain to
everyone that they had passed him by ?
Possibly the Nanaimo candidate felt in the
same way. It is annoying to lose an
election, let the world be ever so in-
different on the subject. There does not
appear to a casual observer to be as much
intermixture of the races here as on the
other side, though the Indian women
who, large and small, good and bad,


Heidah or Songees, are all alike called
" Klootchman" are frequently found as
helpmates to white men. On the after-
noon of their arrival at Nanaimo, Lord
and Lady Dufferin were pulled off in
the Commodore's galley towards the
island to fish. During their stay on the
water they came across a man and an
Indian woman, who were also fishing from
a boat, and Lord Dufferin entered into
conversation with the man. Lord Dufferin
knew the part of the country from which
the man came, and with that affability
which everyone delights to comment upon,
talked for some time with the man,
concluding the conversation with the

" And that is your wife?"

" Well," said the man in reply, " well,
ye-es no, not exactly."

This describes the kind of friendly,
neighbourly relationship of which there is
a good deal existing. After all, parsons
don't grow like blackberries in every


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Online LibraryMolyneux St. JohnThe sea of mountains; an account of Lord Dufferin's tour through British Columbia in 1876 (Volume 1) → online text (page 10 of 13)