Matthew Begbie to Thomas Begbie

Extract of a letter received by Thomas Stirling Begbie, 4 Mansion House, City from his Brother Judge Begbie dated Richfield 8th July 1867.

Here I am in the heart of the Cariboo again, spending, as I sometimes say, my 14th Winter in the Colony—7 up here, & 7 in New Westminster or Victoria. This, so far, has been the worst weather season I have known since 1862, which it much resembles—generally cold rain and hail, with a touch of snow—& fine intervals when the sun is just as hot as it usually is in this latitude & month for half an hour or so—then cold again & boisterous. You must recollect that Richfield is, I calculate just about 1,000 feet higher than Snowdon, & surrounded by much higher Mountains—& about the same latitude (I make it 53-4' N and about 4,500 feet above sea level). There is plenty of snow yet on the Bald Mt close in view—down on the Creeks it has long been off the ground.
The heavy rains have caused freshet after freshet to come down the Creek: one of which unfortunately caused the filling up of what is called the Bed Rock drain. One great difficulty of Mining here has arisen from the extraordinary vicissitudes of the weather, affecting the water supply: so that in May & June what with rain & melting snow, all the ditches (leading to wheels which work pumps to Reef the Shafts clear of underground water) are full, & plenty of power—but the Creek comes down with a spate, smashes one ditch, runs down another shaft or tail race, carries away the flumes (long wooden troughs for washing the pay dirt, generally 40 or 50 feet, sometimes 100 feet long). And in August, when the snow has all gone from the near hills, & the weather is dry, there is not enoughwaterManuscript image water power to keep the pumps going, or even to wash the dirt in. To remedy this, at the bottom of the large flat below the Canon, perhaps 1 1/2 mi: below the Canon, they commenced what they call the Bed Rock drain, which, opening there on the Creek, and carried upwards at a very gentle inclination, soon strikes the Bed Rock, (the Skeleton as it were both of hills & valleys here) and thence proceeding still upwards at the average inclination of the Bed Rock and as near to it as possible, naturally drains by gravitation the whole mass of variously auriferous gravel which fills up the valley and forms the present surface on which the bed of the Creek flows. Thus if the dotted mass [here he refers to a diagram of a longitudinal section of the valley included in the body of the letter] represent the present alluvial valley reposing on the Bed rock K D C R N A S SS…B the present surface, along which Wms Creek flows—with very numerous shafts sunk all along—40 or 50 Companies working—and a company generally has, work hands, about 20-40—the double line A D N representing the drain, opening on the Creek at A. You will see that the drain will carry off all the underground water of the whole mass of alluvial matter, and save all the Companies the expense & risk of draining by pumps. But about a month ago the Creek being very much swollen, washed over some neglected shaft somewhere, I suppose, and carried down a mass of stuff which has choked the drain. All this mile or mile & a half of ground is drowned, pro. tem. till the drain can be cleared.
Not much gold has been taken out lately—and the prospects of a large out-turn which were so fully justified in April & May have been quite changed. Many hundreds of men have been thrown out of work i.e. one fourth or more of our efficient population for such is our condition, that we have notIManuscript image I suppose more than a couple of thousand men at work mining, about 300 more reported at Big Bend (Cola) and perhaps as many more at Wild Horse Creek. But both these districts scarcely belong to the Colony, as Gold & Miners both go at once down Columbia River to Portland, and swell the bead roll of treasure & passengers shipped at that port. Their provisions &c pay B.C. Customs duties of course—but B.C. gets none of the Credit of what they take out, which all goes to Oregan, Idaho, &c, Credit.
One great failing out here has been that the rate of Wages being fixed solely by the working population, has always been fixed far too high—so high, I mean as to far surpass the average productiveness of labor. The consequence is that Capital has been terrified—indeed it never had a chance. Men have always been halloing out "all the Country wants is more Capital." It might have been replied that all they wanted was more plunder. Your Union gentlemen regulating the rate of Wages at home without reference to any single thing than the monetary embarrassment to which a stoppage would expose their employers will soon drive Capital away….
[No signature]
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Mr Elliot
Another interesting extract of a letter from Judge Begbie communicated by his brother showing the nature of Mining operations in B.C. & the vicissitudes to which the Mining population is subjected.
Qy acknowledge with thanks.
WR 26/10/67
Manuscript image
No, I would not doManuscript image that, because altho' the information is interesting, it is not regular to get intelligence indirectly & not through the Governor, and therefore would be inadvisable to give it express encouragement.
Governors must naturally be sensitive to any correspondence from their ColoniesManuscript image unknown to them.
TFE 28/10
Manuscript image
If we ack. the stuff sent by the Ed. of [African Times?], we should ack. this good sense from the C.J.'s Brother in the City.
CBA 29/10
Manuscript image
I shd thank him for his courtesy in sending the extracts.
B&C 30/10
Other documents included in the file
Manuscript image
Elliot to Thomas Begbie, 5 November 1867, expressing thanks for his courtesy in forwarding the extracts.