No. 9
3 November 1858
1. I have the honor of submitting the following remarks on the subject of establishing a sea-port Town for the Colony of British Columbia.
2. The Colony of British Columbia possesses an extent of about 500 miles ofseaManuscript image sea coast, stretching from the point where the 49th parallel of Latitude first strikes the sea coast to the line of the Russian Possessions in Portland Canal.
3. That circumstance obviously suggests the necessity of establishing in British Columbia for the convenience of trade more than one seaport Town, where vessels may enter with cargoes of foreign goods.
4. One sea-port town, and that of the greatest present importance should be established at the entrance of Frasers River, and another in some convenient andaccessibleManuscript image accessible harbour, on the Coast of British Columbia north of Vancouvers Island.
5. There is unfortunately no convenient harbour for shipping at or in the near vicinity of Fraser's River, that is to say between the boundary of the United States in the 49th parallel of latitude to Point Grey, at the entrance of Burrard Canal.
6. Extensive sand banks, sweeping five miles from the land into the Gulf of Georgia, and reaching from Point Roberts to Point Grey, form an open unsheltered anchorage, but there is no harbour on that section of the coast.
7. The ship channelintoManuscript image into Frasers River, winds in a somewhat tortuous and narrow passage through those sands, and has a depth of water sufficient for vessels drawing 18 feet.
8. Beyond the sands the river increases in depth and the current in force and velocity. The banks for the first ten miles are low being only a few feet above the water level, and there is a wide extent of wet marshy country on both banks of the River, intersected by creeks and covered with sedge willows and coarse grass.
9. The low wet District passed, the country presents a new aspect beingmoreManuscript image more elevated and covered with Pines and other forest trees.
10. That is the point where the sea port Town can be established to the greatest advantage, and for this reason that it is accessible to sailing vessels, which owing to the lofty banks on both sides of the River, beyond that point, can rarely depend upon a fair wind, or ascend further without using the warp, or by the help of steam.
11. The "Port of Entry" for all ships entering Fraser's River for trade, should be established somewhere about that point, known as H.B.C. Tree, 1 the first explorers of the River having marked a tree with those letters, and the pointhasManuscript image has ever since retained this name, while for the convenience of general trade, and to prevent the risk and delay consequent on entering the River, a Customs House Officer might be stationed at Point Roberts, or at some more convenient point on the sea coast, outside of Fraser's River, to enter ships bound to other Ports in the Gulf of Georgia, north of Fraser's River.
12. The accompanying Chart shewing the character of the country near the mouth of Fraser's River, and the point where it is here proposed to place the sea-port Town, will be found useful for reference.
IManuscript image
13. I would propose another plan which is however open to adoption only, should Vancouver's Island be incorporated with British Columbia, 2 and this is that the safe and accessible harbour of Esquimalt Vancouver's Island should be made the Port of Entry to sea going vessels for both Colonies, leaving the navigation of the Gulf of Georgia and other inland waters for a class of steam vessels calculated to do the work with safety and despatch. This latter plan is very popular with the property holders of Vancouvers Island, who are generally desirous of having the sea port Town of British Columbia at EsquimaltorManuscript image or Victoria, where it now is, but if that plan should appear objectionable to Her Majesty's Government, then there will remain the alternative of selecting the point before described, about ten miles from Point Pelly 3 up Fraser's River, where the land is level, dry and otherwise well adapted as a town location.
14. One of those two places will I apprehend have to be adopted in fixing upon the site of the sea port Town of British Columbia.
With reference to the accompanying Chart. 4
I have etc.
James Douglas
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Mr Merivale
A Copy of this Despatch might be sent to the Admiralty with a request for any observations which they may have to offer on the practicability of the Govrs suggestions? We should send a Copy or tracing of the annexed plan as it explains the Despatch?
VJ Jan 17
HM Jan 17
It seems to me of so much consequence to arrive at a right decision on this point that I sd be inclined also to send a copy of this to the Bd of Trade and to request their opinion & advice (as well as that of the Admiralty) at their earliest convenience. I suppose that a port of entry will be likely to create a large commercial town & perhaps a capital for the Colony—and if so it's removal from the Sea coast to the distance of tenManuscript image miles appears at first sight questionable. Again the channel seems to be from the annexed tracing somewhat intricate, if indeed it is sufficiently wide. This is not very favourable to a large marine traffic. The line of coast is sandy—if any reliance can be placed on the Map, from Cape Grey to Cape Roberts. This again raises further ground for consideration before any decision is come to. At the same time it is clear that our reply to the Govr should go out with as little delay as possible, and under any circumstances much must be trusted to his discretion.
C Janyy 18
Sent to Admiralty.
Print for Parlt.
Col Moody will be referred to on the subject.
EBL Jan 19
Other documents included in the file
Manuscript image
Merivale to Admiralty, 26 January 1859, forwarding copy of the despatch for consideration.
Minutes by CO staff
With reference to Sir Ed: Lytton's Minute is it intended that the Desp: should be referred to the Brd of Trade?
Not that I see.
  1. The sketch has been removed from the file but appears as a Plan of Part of Fraser's River, Shewing the Character of the Ground from the Entrance to the Site of Old Fort Langley, in Papers Relative to the Affairs of British Columbia, Part II, following p. 93. Right one?? The sketch shows the HBC tree situated on the south side of the main arm ?? of the Fraser River, south-east of present-day Annacis Island. James McMillan, a chief factor of the Hudson's Bay Company, marked the tree with the initials HBC in 1824.
  2. = VI to join BC Section 6 of the Act to Provide for the Government of British Columbia stipulated that no part of Vancouver Island was to be included in British Columbia but that the imperial government could, by Order in Council, on receiving at any Time during the Continuance of this Act a joint Address from the Two Houses of the Legislature of Vancouver's Island, praying for the Incorporation of that Island with British Columbia . . . annex the said Island to British Columbia. . . . The act expired in 1864??
  3. The sketch shows Point Pelly situated on the Fraser River near the present site of Steveston. It was named for Sir John Henry Pelly, governor of the Hudson's Bay Company from 1822 to 1852. Plan of Part of Fraser's River, ibid.; see also John T. Walbran, British Columbia Coast Names, 1592-1906 (Ottawa: Geographic Board of Canada, 1909), p. 377.
  4. Plan of Part of Fraser's River, ibid. Same thing??
People in this document

Carnarvon, Earl

Douglas, James

Jadis, Vane

Lytton, Edward George Earle Bulwer

Merivale, Herman

Moody, Richard Clement

Pelly, John Henry

Organizations in this document

Hudson's Bay Company

Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty

Places in this document

Annacis Island

British Columbia

Burrard Inlet


Esquimalt Harbour

Fraser River

Pelly Point

Point Grey

Point Roberts

Portland Canal

Russian Territory


Strait of Georgia

Vancouver Island