No. 3
12 October 1858
1. I take the liberty of submitting for the information of Her Majesty's Government, a report on my observations on the state of public affairs, during a late visit to Fraser's River, necessarily brief, as my time is engrossed not only with the Executive duties of Government, but alsoinManuscript image in attending to all the details of inferior departments, which must hereafter devolve on other officers.
2. I was accompanied in that expedition by a force of Thirty-five non-commissioned officers and men, kindly furnished by Captain Prevost of Her Majesty's Ship "Satellite," and by Major Hawkins Her Majesty's Boundary Commissioner, the military force being under the command of that active and zealous officer, assisted by Lieutenant Jones of the "Satellite."
3. The party was conveyed to Point Roberts, at the entrance of Fraser's River, by the Hudson's Bay Company's Propeller "Otter," and was there transhippedintoManuscript image into the Stern wheel river Steamer "Umatilla." We disembarked at Fort Langley on the evening of the second day, after leaving Victoria, and in two days more we arrived by the same steamer at Fort Hope, the River though much abated in force from being less swollen than it was in summer, still running at some points, with a force and impetuosity almost insurmountable by the power of the steamer.
4. Our tents were pitched, and a regular camp formed near Fort Hope, it being here that the work of organization was to begin.
5. My first attention was devoted to the state of theIndianManuscript image Indian population. I found them much incensed against the miners; heard all their complaints, and was irresistibly led to the conclusion that the improper use of spirituous liquors had caused many of the evils they complained of. I thereupon issued a proclamation 1 which I have transmitted a copy, warning all persons against the practice, and declaring the sale or gift of spirituous liquors to Indians, a penal offence, and I feel satisfied that the rigid enforcement of the proclamation will be of great advantage both to the whites and Indians.
6. I also received atFortManuscript image Fort Hope visits from the Chiefs of Thompson's River 2 to whom I communicated the wishes of Her Majesty's Government on their behalf, and gave them much useful advise for their guidance in the altered state of the country. I also distributed presents of clothing to the principal men as a token of regard.
7. My attention was then attracted to the state of the white population. Upwards of three hundred persons engaged in trade and other pursuits, were living about the Fort, in tents and unseemly comfortless huts, all desirous of settling in the country, provided land could be acquired under a legal title.NotManuscript image Not being invested with legal powers to grant Titles, I hit upon an expedient, which without an undue assumption of authority, met the difficulty.
8. Having just ascertained from your despatch of the 1st of July last, that it was the wish of Her Majesty's Government to colonize the country, and develop its resources, I proposed to the inhabitants of the place to lay out certain lands as a town site, and to grant a right of occupation for town lots, under a lease terminable at the pleasure of the Crown, and to be held at a monthly rental of 41s/8d sterling, payable in advance, and with the understanding that theholderManuscript image holder would be allowed a pre-emption right of purchase when the land is sold, in which case the sum of monthly rent paid, would be considered as part of the purchase money. 3
9. The people gladly assented to the terms, and having fixed upon a town site near Fort Hope, Mr Commissioner Travaillot, assisted by Corporal Fisher, Royal Engineer, was immediately employed in surveying the site, and laying out town lots, the principal streets running parallel, and the cross streets at right angles with the course of Fraser's River. The size of town lots is one hundred and twenty by sixtysixManuscript image six feet, and the price to be paid is £20.16.8. for each lot.
10. The next object which claimed my attention was the regulation of the sale of ardent spirits in Fraser's River. There being no means of preventing its introduction into the country, it appeared to me that the wisest policy would be to regulate the trade, by granting licenses for the sale of spirits to certain parties of respectable character, who might open houses for the entertainment of the public. Two spirit licenses were accordingly issued at Fort Hope, for which the holders paid the sum of six hundred dollars each, being twelve hundred dollars in all into the publictreasuryManuscript image treasury. 4
11. My attention was then directed to the administration of justice. A considerable staff of public officers is necessary at Fort Hope, to consist of a Magistrate, Sheriff, and constabulary force, but the expense would have been so great, owing to the high price of labour, that I thought it proper to consult you on the subject before incurring the expense. No man of worth will accept employment, at less than three and a quarter dollars, or thirteen shillings and seven pence, a day, the men however in that case, finding their own board and lodging. I however made the following appointments.RobertManuscript image Robert Smith, a native of Scotland, to be Justice of Peace and Revenue Officer. Robert Ladner to be Chief Constable. A Court House and Jail are much wanted at Fort Hope, but they cannot at present be put up for less than £5000, and for the same reason, that is the great expense, I did not make any arrangements to provide those indispensable buildings, for want of funds and authority to pay by drafts on Her Majesty's Government.
12. A Court was held for the trial of petty offences, and sat every other day, during our stay at Fort Hope, and I issued a Commission appointing a Court for the trial of criminaloffencesManuscript image offences in which Mr Pearkes, Crown Solicitor of Vancouver's Island presided, assisted by Donald Fraser Esquire, a gentleman of high legal attainments, who accompanied me from Vancouver's Island, and Mr Justice Smith.
13. One case only was brought before the latter court, the trial of William King, for the murder of William Eaton, 5 on a mining bar in the upper parts of Fraser's Riverr. The defendant was found guilty of manslaughter, and sentenced to transportation for life. It was reported to me when the court was about to open for the trial of King, that a large body of miners, then present, intended to rescue theprisonerManuscript image prisoner, but whatever may have been their intention, it was not carried into effect, as the proceedings went off quietly, and were in no stage interrupted by any riotous demonstrations.
14. After a week's sojourn at Fort Hope, employed in the settlement of those affairs we proceeded on our journey up Fraser's River in three large boats.
Though the distance to Fort Yale, does not exceed 15 miles, it occupied two days, as we travelled slowly, walking nearly the whole way, attended by the boats, and stopping at all the mining bars on the River for the purpose of seeing the numerous bodies of minersworkingManuscript image working there. We estimated that about 3000 persons are engaged in gold mining on the banks of that part of the River.
I entered into conversation with the miners, enquired into their wants, heard their complaints, explained to them the views and intention of Her Majesty's Government, the reason and object of the regulations which had been established, and ascertained that their daily earnings were from five to twenty five dollars to the man, working with cradles or rockers.
15. I was much struck with the healthy robust appearance of the miners who were generallylivingManuscript image living in canvas tents or log huts, exposed to many discomforts yet all seemingly in perfect health, pleased with the country, and abundantly supplied with wholesome food.
16. The whole course of the river exhibited a wonderful scene of enterprise and industry. I was particularly struck with the ingenious contrivances for distributing water, wherever the natural was not convenient, small streams had, in such cases, been diverted from their course, and conveyed in skillfully graded ditches, even from a distance of 3 miles, and led along the higher parts of the mining bars for sluice washings. TheownersManuscript image owners of the ditches, charging a certain sum per inch, for the water supplied to the sluices. The sluice is far inferior as a means of washing gold out of the soil, to the cradle, and is a wonderfully labour saving machine.
17. To give an idea of the sums produced by sluices, and the advantage of that mode of working gold, I will here relate the information received from persons who employed those useful machines on their claims; for example a Mr Cushing, who had 5 hired men employed on his sluice at wages ranging from 5 to 8 dollars each a day, received in one week a yield of £2,500 dollars. Another person named George Cade, who owns a sluice on Hill's Bar,andManuscript image and constantly employs four hired men at wages of five dollars a day, averaged during the six days preceding our arrival, 400 dollars a day; and Martin Gallaghar makes about 32 dollars a day to the man out of ground already washed by the cradle, to the depth of 18 inches. Those were the greatest instances of mining success which we met with, in our progress, elsewhere the mines are not so productive, ranging as before stated, in the deeper and more developed workings, from 7 to 25 dollars a day. The river was then falling rapidly and claims were daily being taken up by new comerswhereverManuscript image wherever a bit of dry beach could be found, and even those surface claims were yielding from 2 1/2 to 5 dollars to the hand with the rocker. That yield however is not considered wages by the California miner, nor any other sum under six dollars a day.
18. We found a large assemblage of people at Fort Yale, expecting our arrival, with some anxiety, in order to ascertain the views of Her Majesty's Government.
19. According to their earnest request I met them the following day at a public meeting and delivered a short address, in which I announced the instructions I had received from Her Majesty'sGovernmentManuscript image Government, as contained in your Despatch of the 1st of July last, and the tidings were received with satisfaction. 6
20. The same process of organization was gone through here as at Fort Hope, the Indians were assembled, and made no secret of their dislike to their white visitors. They had many complaints of maltreatment, and in all cases where redress was possible, it was granted without delay; one small party of those natives laid claim to a particular part of the river, which they wished to be reserved for their own purposes, a request which was immediately granted, the space staked off, and the miners whohadManuscript image had taken claims there, were immediately removed, and public notice given that the place was reserved for the Indians, and that no one could be allowed to occupy it without their consent. 7
21. A town site was also marked out at Fort Yale, and leases of Town lots issued to all persons desirous of settling and building there, upon the same conditions, and at the same charge as the town lots disposed of at Fort Hope.
22. Several spirit licenses were also issued to check the profuse and illegal sale of ardent spirits.
23. Mr Solicitor Pearkes, opened Court, and heard allcasesManuscript image cases that were brought before him, none of them were however of a very serious nature.
24. Fort Yale is the head of Steam boat navigation and the ascent of the River beyond that point is exceedingly dangerous at all seasons of the year, and impracticable during the summer freshets, in consequence of a succession of rapids which occur in the defiles of the Cascade mountains, through which the river passes for a distance of 13 miles. A road, from that point is therefore carried over the mountains by Douglas' Portage, 8 on which I have lately authorized a good mule road to be made, and several bridges constructed attheManuscript image the public charge, for the convenience of transporting supplies to the upper mining bars, and interior of the country. From the upper end of Douglas' Portage the country presents a succession of steep rugged hills, as far as the Indian village of Quaiome, 9 and it will take a large sum of money, if even practicable, to make any better than a difficult mule track, through that District of Fraser's River.
25. A number of enterprising adventurers have nevertheless contrived to get several mule trains upon that road, and now transport supplies for the miners to the forks of Thompson's River, a distance of100 milesManuscript image 100 miles, at a freight charge of two shillings a pound, so that a pound of flour delivered at the forks of Thompson's River including the price of the article at Fort Yale, costs the miner exactly 2s/5 1/2d.
26. It was lamentable to hear of the fatal accidents that were daily occuring to miners, who to avoid the high rate of charge for land transport were striving to make their way in boats and canoes by the River through those perilous defiles. Seven men were drowned through such accidents during the few days we remained at Fort Yale, and there was also a great loss of property at the same time.
27. OneManuscript image
27. One of the first objects requiring the attention of Government is to open up the country by a system of roads, as by the present mode mode of access, the cost of transporting provisions to the interior will absorb the miners whole earnings, and even at the present high prices of transport, it will perhaps be impossible by this route to take in food enough for the support of a large population. In order to colonize the country therefore it is obviously necessary to make good roads.
28. We found about 2000 whites living near Fort Yale, chiefly in canvas tents, though some few had just erected habitations of wood.
29. AManuscript image
29. A saw mill 10 was just finished, and leases of town lots having been issued, it was expected that buildings of a more substantial character would be erected without delay, such being the generally expressed intention of the persons who wished to make it their winter homes.
30. Fort Yale is the residence of Mr Hicks, Assistant Commissioner of Crown Lands, his office consisting of a simple canvas tent. Public buildings will be required without delay, say a residence for the Commissioner, Barracks for the Police, a Post Office, a Court House and Jail. I am almost afraid to say how much thosebuildingsManuscript image buildings will cost, as there is no doubt the expense will be something very large.
31. A regular Police force 11 consisting of, One Chief Constable @ 150 dollars a month, Five Policemen @ 100 dollars each a month, were appointed during my stay at Fort Yale. This is a very high rate of pay but no men worth having will serve for less.
32. I caused a body of 14 special policemen to be sworn into the civil service at Fort Yale, selected from those persons who had received leases of town lots, and intended to make that place their permanent residence; no dependence can be placed on many of the other inhabitants, who are as yet merely birds of passage, and have no views in Fraser's RiverexceptManuscript image except the one idea of making their pile of gold and leaving the country. It is that roving class that are likely to give trouble to the Government.
33. Before I left Fort Yale, Mr Commissioner Hicks, made a successful beginning of collecting Trading Licenses from all persons doing business at Yale. I also directed him to issue mining licenses to miners holding remunerative claims, but to no others; my immediate object being to call in the certificates of mining duty, paid in advance by intending Miners at Victoria, according to the regulation advised in my Despatch No 28ofManuscript image of the 19th June last, 12 it being understood that those certificates would be taken in payment of their first months mining, from all parties holding such in their possession, lest after mining successfully they should come forward and reclaim their money.
34. He accordingly visited the several bars, accompanied by Justice Perrier, and two Policemen, marked out and defined the boundaries of claims, settled all cases of disputed lines, and collected upwards of 500 certificates, for as many mining claims.
35. I left him on my return to Victoria, in the midst of that occupation, and after IhadManuscript image had ascertained that the several regulations established for the purposes of providing a public revenue were being quietly carried into effect.
36. Information was received from Victoria, during my stay at Fort Yale, that some speculators taking advantage of my absence had squatted on a valuable tract of public land near the mouth of Fraser's River commonly known as the site of Old Fort Langley, and employed Surveyors at great expense to lay it out into building lots, which they were offering for sale, hoping by that means to interest a sufficient number of persons in the scheme as wouldoveraweManuscript image overawe the Government, and induce a confirmation of their Title. To put the public upon their guard, and to defeat a swindling scheme, which if tolerated would give rise to other nefarious transactions of the same kind, I thought it necessary to issue a Proclamation of which a copy is transmitted warning all persons that the Crown Lands in that part of the country had not been alienated or in any way encumbered, that any persons making fraudulent sales of land, appertaining to the Crown, would be punished as the law directs, and persons holding such lands would be summarily ejected. ThatProclamationManuscript image Proclamation was immediately forwarded to Victoria, and published 13 with so decided an effect on the public mind, as entirely to break up the scheme, and we are now laying off the site of Old Fort Langley in Town Lots, to be sold for account and for the benefit of the public revenue.
37. I am highly pleased with Major Hawkins R.E. who commanded the escort in my journey, having received much assistance from that active and zealous officer.
38. I will here bring this despatch to a close having thus briefly described the measures taken, and narrated the chief events of an excursionofManuscript image of nearly a month's duration.
I have etc.
James Douglas
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Merivale
I presume that this interesting account of the Govrs visit to Fraser's River will be printed, and a Copy made for the Queen?
VJ 14 Decr
Sir Edward Lytton
This is a very interesting account of Govr Douglas' proceedings. It shows the ability and power of organization wh he possesses. Express in answer satisfaction & approval of all that he has done? Send a copy to the Queen? As to the printing I do not quite know the position on wh the printing of the B. Columbia papers now stands. If the set is complete for the Cabinet, it will not be worth while to delay their circulation by adding this desp. to them, but it is a paperManuscript image wh certainly ought to be printed for Parliament?
C D 15
See Sir E. B. Lytton's minute on back of enclosure.
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
Manuscript image
Commission establishing criminal court for the trial of William King.
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
There seems no minute to this. In answer, approve the energy shewn—regret to hear of the cost of things & enforce economy—state my hope to hear soon his promised calculation of revenue upon which he based his own proposed salary of £5000 a year—about the highest rate of a great Colony's pay to a Govr, but Govr Douglas is Scotch.
EBL Decr 15
Other documents included in the file
Manuscript image
Draft reply, Lytton to Douglas, No. 60, 30 December 1858, with minor revisions.
Manuscript image
Merivale to Secretary to the Admiralty, 26 January 1859, forwarding copy of the despatch.
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Merivale to Under Secretary, War Office, 21 January 1859, forwarding extract of the despatch and expressing satisfaction with the assistance received from Major Hawkins.
  1. See footnote in 12719, CO 60/1, Douglas to Lytton.
  2. Douglas may have met with Splintlum, a chief of the Nlaka'pamux (Thompson) nation. Sage, Sir James Douglas and British Columbia, p. 227. Check Randy & Dot??
  3. Pre-emption, a prominent aspect of land policy in the United States, allowed settlers to occupy and improve land before it was surveyed and then to have first chance to purchase it at a fixed price once the survey was completed. Douglas's allowance of persons to lease town lots on a monthly basis until he was legally impowered to sell land on the mainland thus represents an interesting variation to the pre-emption system.
  4. Two spirit licences issued, to whom?? Gazette ??
  5. William King was convicted of manslaughter for stabbing William Eaton with a dirk-knife and sentenced to transportation beyond the seas for the remainder of his natural life, which proved to be meaningless inasmuch as this penalty was abolished by the mother country on 26 June 1857, An Act to Amend the Act of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Years of Her Majesty, to Substitute in Certain Cases Other Punishment in Lieu of Transportation, 20 Victoria (1857). In this instance, the anomally made little difference because King shortly escaped from the Victoria jail and was not recaptured. Gazette, 16 September, and 6 November 1858; minute on B039 below. Another ref besides B039??
  6. = Douglas address at Yale According to the Victoria Gazette (28 September 1851), Douglas addressed the miners on 15 September from the door of the Hudson's Bay Company's storehouse, giving a short outline of the tenor of the instructions received from the Home Government, and the course intended to be pursued with regard to the taking up of town and farming land. Lytton to Douglas, No. 2, 1 July 1858, PABC. CO 410/1, p. 128.
  7. What form this public notice took is not established. The Gazette (28 September 1858) reported simply that Treaties were made with the Indian tribes on the river, and protection promised to the miner. Check French newpaper?
  8. Douglas Portage ran along the west bank of the Fraser from Yale to Spuzzum. To the east of the Fraser between Spuzzum and the mouth of the Anderson River, just below Boston Bar, by-passing Hell's Gate?? Creech.
  9. According to Teit, Quaiome, or Koia'um, was the largest village of the Nlaka'pamux (Thompson) and was situated on the east side of the Fraser near the site of Boston Bar, about twenty-five miles above Yale. Koia'um means "to pick berries" in the Thompson tongue. Thompson Indians of British Columbia, p. 169.
  10. The sawmill, the first steam-powered mill in the region, was erected on a point of the Fraser opposite Fort Yale by Land, Fleming and Company. On 28 September 1858, the Gazette reported that the mill was working away, night and day. . . , the boards bringing $125 per thousand feet, and with enough orders to keep them busy for some time.
  11. Fourteen special policemen appointed at Yale. Further info UVic thesis?? Hatch, UBC MA.
  12. 7832, Douglas to Stanley, No. 28, 19 June 1858.
  13. = 15 Sept 58 See footnote in 12719, CO 60/1, Douglas to Lytton. Was it published in Gazette ?
People in this document

Cade, George

Carnarvon, Earl


Douglas, James

Eaton, William

Fisher, R. E.

Fraser, Donald

Gallagher, Martin

Hawkins, John Summerfield

Hicks, Richard

Jadis, Vane

Jones, Howard Sutton

King, William

Ladner, Robert

Lytton, Edward George Earle Bulwer

Merivale, Herman

Pearkes, George

Perrier, George

Prevost, James Charles

Smith, Robert Thompson

Spintlum, Chief

Travaillot, Oswald Justice

Victoria, Alexandrina

Organizations in this document

Hudson's Bay Company

Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty

War Office

Vessels in this document

Otter, 1852-1861

HMS Satellite, 1855-1879


Places in this document

Anderson River

Boston Bar

British Columbia

Cascade Mountains

Fraser River

Fraser River District

Hell's Gate

Hill's Bar



Old Fort Langley

Point Roberts

Port Douglas


Thompson River

Vancouver Island