No. 15
6 April 1858
1. Since I had last the honor of addressing you in my Despatch No 35 of the 29th of December last, 1 in reference to the discovery of gold, in the Couteau or Thompson's River District, we have had much communication with persons, who have since visited that part of the country.
2. The search for gold and "prospecting" of the country, had up to the last dates from the interiorbeenManuscript image been carried on almost exclusively by the native Indian population, who have discovered the productive beds, and put out almost all the gold, about eight hundred ounces, which has been hitherto exported from the country; and who are moreover extremely jealous of the whites and strongly opposed to their digging the soil for gold.
3. The few white men who passed the winter at the diggings, chiefly retired Servants of the Hudson's Bay Company, though well acquainted with Indian character, were obstructed by the natives, in all their attempts to search for gold. They were on all occasions narrowly watched and in every instance, when they did succeed in removing the surface andexcavatingManuscript image excavating to the depth of the auriferous stratum, they were quietly hustled and crowded by the natives, who having, by that means, obtained possession of the spot, then proceeded to reap the fruits of their labors.
4. Such conduct was unwarrantable
This term might be demurred to; for the natives, whose country we choose to take possession of, have a good right to dig for gold; & I suppose it will be difficult to make them understand the right of the Crown to minerals in a Country which they regard as their own. ABd.
2 and exceedingly trying to the temper of spirited men, but the savages were far too numerous for resistance, and they had to submit to their dictation. It is however worthy of remark and a circumstance highly honorable to the character of those savages that they have on all occasions scrupulously respected the persons and property of their white visitors, at the same time that they have expressed a determination to reserve the gold for their own benefit.
5. Such Manuscript image
5. Such being the purpose of the Natives; affrays and collisions with the whites will surely follow the accession of numbers, which the latter are now receiving by the influx of adventurers from Vancouver's Island and the United States Territories in Oregon, and there is no doubt in my mind that sooner or later the intervention of Her Majesty's Government will be required to restore and maintain the peace; up to the present time however, the country continues quiet; but simply I believe because the whites have not attempted to resist the impositions of the natives. I will however make it a part of my duty to keep you well informed in respect to the state of the gold country.
6. The extent of the goldregionManuscript image region is yet but imperfectly known, and I have therefore not arrived at any decided opinion as to its ultimate value as a gold producing country. The boundaries of the gold district have been however greatly extended since my former report.
7. In addition to the diggings before known on Thompson's River and its tributary streams, a valuable deposit has been recently found by the natives on a bank of Fraser's River about 5 miles beyond its confluence with the Thompson, and gold in small quantities has been found in the possession of the natives as far as the Great Falls of Fraser's River, 3 about eighty miles above the Forks. The small quantity of gold hitherto producedaboutManuscript image about eight hundred ounces by the large native population of the country is however unaccountable in a rich gold producing country, unless we assume that the want of skill, industry, and proper mining tools, on the part of the natives, sufficiently account for the fact.
8. On the contrary the vein rocks and its other geological features as described by an experienced gold miner encourage the belief that the country is highly auriferous.
9. The Miner in question clearly described the older slate formations thrown up and pierced by beds of quartz, granite, porphery, 4 and other igneous rocks; the vast accumulations of sand, gravel and shingle, extending fromtheManuscript image the roots of the mountains to the banks of Fraser's River and its affluents; which are peculiar characteristics of the gold districts of California and other countries. We therefore hope and are preparing for a rich harvest of trade which will greatly redound to the advantage of this Colony.
10. I have further to communicate for your information that the Proclamation 5 issued by me asserting the rights of the Crown to all gold in its natural place of deposit, and forbidding all persons to dig for gold without a licence have been published in the Newspapers of Oregon and Washington Territories, and that notwithstanding some seventy or eighty adventurersfromManuscript image from the American side have gone by the way of Fraser's River to the Couteau mines, without taking out Licences.
11. I did not, as I might have done, attempt to enforce those rights by means of a detachment of Seamen and Marines, from the "Satellite", 6 without being assured that such a proceeding would meet with the approval of Her Majesty's Government; but the moment your instructions on the subject are received, I will take measures to carry them into effect.
12. There being only two practicable routes, from the sea coast to the Couteau Mines; those could be guardedatManuscript image at little expense, and the country rendered as secure from foreign intrusion, as the fabled garden of the Hesperides.
I have etc.
James Douglas
[P.S.] An explanatory sketch of Frasers River is forwarded with this Report. 7 J.D.
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Mr Merivale
This will be useful for reference in case more enquiries are asked of this Office on the subject.
Fortunately the Boundary Surveying Ships are at Victoria, which can render assistance to the Europeans in case of conflict with the Natives.
Copy to F.O. H. Bay Co R. Geol: Society. 8
ABd 29 May
Manuscript image
Lord Carnarvon
Difficulties arising out of such circumstances as these grow so rapidly, that I really think the attention of Govt ought at once to be called to the subject.
The Governor asks for instructions, & requires them. He was told to issue a proclamation requiring gold licenses to be taken out, which was done. This proclamation is disregarded, as was of course to be expected when the excitement increased, there being no force on the spot & no semblance of British Government. I suppose that on the whole the best direction will be, to let things take their course as regards the licenses & the gold digging, but to prevent, if he can, & if he cannot, immediately report upon, any proceedings inconsistent with the assertion of British dominion in the territory? In the mean time you are aware of the difficulty which prevents his being armed with a Lieut. Governor's Commission. 9
HM May 31
This describes a dangerous state of things, wh it is clear cannot long last. The nextManuscript image mail leaves on the 16th and it ought to take out instructions to the Govr but those instructions must depend upon the course wh is adopted with reference to the Law opinion 10 wh passed me yesterday.
C June 1
I must leave this to Mr Merivale's judgment, being unable to deal with it now, and an early answer being required. The most essential part is to see if the Lieut. Gov's Commission cannot be granted, the present legal obstacles notwithstanding.
S June 3
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Ld Carnarvon
I pass this again to draw attention to the passage at the end, which has acquired more importance than I at first attached to it. It certainly looks on the whole like a plan for keeping the gold for the HB Co's people as far as possible.
HM June 19
I am afraid so. See min. on 5869. 11
C June 21
  1. = Douglas to Labouchere, 29 December 1857, No. 35, 2084, CO 305/8, p. 271.
  2. = Illegible [Honeci Derce?] Similar notation CO 60/1, p. 316??
  3. Early references to "Great Falls" on the Fraser are confusing. Douglas here obviously refers to rapids almost between Lillooet and Williams Lake, but in a later despatch (Douglas to Stanley, 10 June 1858, No. 24, 7828, CO 60/1, p. 29, par. 11), he locates the Great Falls as forty miles beyond the confluence of Thompson's River. By contrast, Hell's Gate was known variously as "The Falls" or Big Cañon. Cf. Douglas to Labouchere, 8 May 1858, No. 19, 6113, CO 60/1, p. 10.
  4. Porphyry is a type of igneous rock in which one kind of crystal is much larger than the rest. Coarse-grained granite containing large crystals of feldspar is known as granite porphyry.
  5. = 28 Dec 57, declaring rights of crown The proclamation, untitled and unnumbered, is dated 28 December 1857, and is enclosed in Douglas to Labouchere, 29 December 1857, No. 35, 2084, CO 305/8, p. 271; it is published in the Victoria Gazette, 2 September 1858. Check?? Cf. Douglas to Lytton, 30 August 1858, No. 37, 10344, CO 60/1, p. 134 and Douglas to Lytton, 26 October 1858, No. 6, 12724, CO 60/1, p. 245.
  6. The H.M.S. Satellite, a 21-gun screw corvette of 1,462 tons, Capt. James Charles Prevost, was engaged in surveying the maritime portion of the international boundary. Prevost left England on 23 December 1856 and arrived at Esquimalt on 13 June 1857. Source?? Check Maritime Museum of British Columbia, Bulletin, or dossiers prepared by Rear-Admiral P.W. Brock Plumper was engaged on coast survey. Add from BCHN.
  7. = of lower Fraser The sketch, which has been removed from the file, is published in .Great Britain, Correspondence Relative to the Discovery of Gold in the Fraser's River District, in British North America (London: George Edward Eyre and William Spottiswoode, 1858), ff. p. 10.
  8. R. Geol: Society = Royal Geographical Society The Royal Geographical Society was founded on 24 May 1830 as the Geographical Society of London; its purpose was to assist in the pursuit of geographical research and exploration around the world. The Society aided such notable expeditions as the first crossing of the African continent by David Livingstone in 1853, Sir Ernest Henry Shacketon's expedition to the South Pole in 1908-09, and ,more recently, Sir Edmund Hillary's successful ascent of Mount Everest. See Ian Cameron, To the Farthest Ends of the Earth: The History of the Royal .Geographical Society, 1830-1980 (London: Macdonald and Jane's, 1980). Check text; should "l" be superscript??
  9. minutes, Lieut. Governors Commission = for the mainland NEED?? 5898, CO 6/26, p.3, Kelly & Cairns to Lytton, 19th Jan. 1858, enclosing Lt. Gov commission on mainland.
  10. NEED?? 5060, Law Officers to Colonial Office, 25 May 1858, CO 6/26, p.24 regarding the difficulty of moving government to the mainland.
  11. FIND 5869
People in this document

Blackwood, Arthur Johnstone

Cairns, Hugh MacCalmont

Carnarvon, Earl

Douglas, James

Kelly, Fitzroy Edward

Labouchere, Henry

Lytton, Edward George Earle Bulwer

Merivale, Herman

Prevost, James Charles

Stanley, Edward Henry

Organizations in this document

Colonial Office

Foreign Office

Hudson's Bay Company

Law Officers

Royal Geographical Society

Vessels in this document

HMS Plumper, 1848-1865

HMS Satellite, 1855-1879

Places in this document

British Columbia

Couteau River


Fraser River

Great Falls




Oregon Territory, or Columbia District

Thompson Region

Thompson River

Vancouver Island


Washington Territory

Williams Lake