No. 235
1 November 1859
My Lord Duke
I have the honor to forward for your Grace's information the Copy of a Report which I lately received from Mr William Downie, the same enterprising person who last winter furnished a report, also forwarded with my Despatch No 123 of the 25th of March last, on Jarvis' Inlet.
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2. The report now transmitted relates to the unsuccessful result of the attempt made in the month of July last, by a body of miners from this place, to explore Queen Charlotte's Island.
3. The adventurers, dismayed by the rugged aspect of the Country, the humidity of the climate, and the numbers and formidable appearance of the Native Tribes, did not prosecute the enterprise with resolution or tenacity, and soon returned to this place, with the exception of a few daring spirits, who accompanied Mr Downie to Fort Simpson, and there made arrangement to explore the course of Skeena River, which flows into the sea at Port Essington, North Latitude 54o 15.
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4. The party commenced the ascent of the Skeena in a canoe, which they managed to take on as far as the Forks, a distance of 110 miles from the Sea. The River ceases to be navigable at that point, in consequence it is supposed of Falls and dangerous rapids; and they had to leave the canoe, and to travel 55 miles by land to the Indian Village of "Naas Glee", a celebrated native fishing station, from whence the Skeena again becomes navigable to its source in "Babine Lake", fifteen miles beyond "Naas Glee".
5. Babine Lake is a broad and extensive sheet of water nearly 90 miles in length, with depth sufficient for vessels of the largest class; and is Manuscript imageseparated by a low table-land 13 miles in breadth from Stuarts Lake, a feeder of Fraser's River, not quite so large as Babine Lake, but otherwise equally well adapted for the purposes of navigation.
6. The Report closes with the arrival of Mr Downie and party, after much suffering and privation, at Fort St. James, Stuart's Lake; when their wants were generously relieved, and themselves hospitably entertained, by the officers of the Hudson's Bay Company.
7. Mr Downie made several important discoveries in course of his adventurous journey. He found gold in small quantities on the Manuscript imageSkeena River; and the mountains, which he had not time to explore, appeared to be of the formation containing gold; he also saw very valuable and extensive beds of coal. He moreover found gold on Stuarts Lake. He describes the country between the Forks and "Naas Glee" as being well adapted for farming, and suitable for the construction of roads. The whole distance from Babine Lake to the Sea does not appear to exceed 180 miles, a great part of which is accessible by water.
8. The valley of the Skeena is thus shewn to be an available avenue into the interior of British Columbia, and will, I have no doubt, soon become a most Manuscript imageimportant outlet for the upper Districts of Fraser's River; which, from the course of the River and the direction of the Coast, are brought in close proximity with the sea.
9. As a means of supplying the distant mining Districts of British Columbia by a shorter and cheaper route than the valley of Fraser's River, its importance will soon be appreciated, and attract the attention of the mining and commercial classes; and I believe that the day is not far distant when Steamers will be busily plying on the waters of the two great inland Lakes.
10. It appears from the Manuscript imageAmerican papers published in Washington Territory, that rich gold diggings have been very lately found by the men of the United States Boundary Commission on the Shimilcomeen River, and we shall have to turn our attention immediately to that quarter, as the greater part of the Shimilcomeen Valley lies north of the 49th parallel of latitude, and within the limits of this Colony.
11. The enclosed clipping from the "Pioneer and Democrat" of the 4th of November instant contains all the information we have yet received relative to that discovery.
I have etc.
James Douglas
P.S. I forward herewith for Your Manuscript imageGrace's information, a rough map of British Columbia, on which is a tracing in red, of the route pursued by Mr Downie.
This is not sufficiently accurate to be worth engraving. I will however, endeavour to send a more correct plan shortly.
James Douglas
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Merivale
Printed copies of Mr Downie's report are promised,
1. Copy of despatch & (minuted) enclosures to the Geographical Society.
2. Communicate to Parlt with other B. Columbia Papers. This Shimilkameen discovery of gold will divert the attention of the California Miners, from the Fraser River Districts, wh. they were expected to visit this spring & summer.
ABd 27/1
HM Jan 28
CF Feb 2
N 3
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Merivale to Secretary, Geographical Society, 24 February 1860, forwarding copy of the despatch and enclosure for information. . Downie's report, Col Corr, GR1372, F487/4a, Mf B1326, PABC See also his further report in F487/4b, ibid.
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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William Downie to Douglas, 10 October 1859, reporting on his exploration of the Skeena River (fifteen pages).
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Newspaper clipping, Olympia Pioneer and Democrat, 4 November 1859, "New and Rich Gold Discoveries on the Si-mil-ka-meen River."