No. 19
12th March 1866
Sir,
I have the honor to report that extensive Gold fields have been discovered on that portion of the Columbia River commonly known as the "Big Bend," lying between 51o and 52o North Latitude. The discoverywasManuscript image was made in the summer of 1865 but owing to the roughness of the Country and the difficulty of access, the few adventurous Miners attracted to the spot were literally starved out before they were able to prove the richness of the discovery. The numerous creeks from which specimens have been received leave no doubt of the extent of this New District and the extreme coarseness of the Gold is sufficient in the miners' theory to foretel the richnessofManuscript image of the Diggings.
2. The excitement prevailing in California and throughout the neighbouring Territory convinced me of the necessity of opening communication with these mines without delay and in time to enable the Merchants to throw in supplies before the "rush" of miners fairly commenced.
3. You will have gathered from Mr Moberley's reportsforwardedManuscript image forwarded in my despatch No. 14 of 2nd March, that the navigation of the Kamloops and Shuswap Lakes and of the connecting River is practicable for Steamers of light draught for a distance of one hundred and ten miles. The Country lying between Kamloops Lake and the nearest point of the main waggon road is chiefly open prairie, admirably adapted for agriculture. I have not therefore hesitated to authorizetheManuscript image the construction of a waggon road on this portion of the route. The Hudson Bay Company have entered into an agreement with the Government to construct a Steamer to navigate the Lakes at a fixed rate for freight and passage money. The trail made by Mr Moberley from the head waters of Shuswap Lake to the Columbia River will answer all purposes for the spring traffic and little will be done on this portion of the route before the CountryhasManuscript image has been more fully explored. I trust the entire route will be open early in May at a comparatively small cost.
4. Until I receive more definite information of the extent and richness of this new District, I intend to appoint Mr O'Reilly Gold Commissioners over the combined Districts of the Columbia and the Kootenay. Mr O'Reilly as you are already aware from Governor Seymour'sdespatchManuscript image despatch No. 5 of 31st January 1865, was selected to proceed to Kootenay. He was so well appreciated by the Miners and the General Public during the past year that I am most anxious he should still retain his authority in that District and at the same time superintend the new Gold fields on the Columbia River.
5. I do not consider there is any occasion for retaining a Magistrate at the Town ofDouglasManuscript image Douglas, I have therefore amalgamated the District with that of New Westminster and propose sending Mr Gaggin, now Magistrate of Douglas, to assist Mr O'Reilly in the Columbia District. Mr Gaggin has had no experience in the duties of a Gold Commissioner and this is my chief reason in placing him under Mr O'Reilly.
I have the honor to be,
Sir,
Your most obedient humble Servant
Arthur N. Birch
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Elliot
Copy to Land Bd. Acknowledge.
The arrangements for the disposal of the Magistrates & the Gold Commissioner must be left to the Acting Governor.
ABd 14 May
TFE 14/5
WEF 15/5
EC 16
Other documents included in the file
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Elliot to Emigration Commissioners, 28 May 1866, forwarding copy of the despatch for information.
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Draft reply, Cardwell to Acting Governor Birch, No. 29, 24 May 1866.
Birch, Arthur Nonus to Cardwell, Edward 12 March 1866, CO 60:24, no. 4652, 113. The Colonial Despatches of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1846-1871, Edition 2.2, ed. James Hendrickson and the Colonial Despatches project. Victoria, B.C.: University of Victoria. https://bcgenesis.uvic.ca/B66019.html.

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