No. 24
10 June 1858
My Lord
1. Since I had the honor of addressing you on the 19th of May last, 1 in reference to the "Couteau Gold Mines," and the immigration of foreigners into Fraser's River, as well as the measures taken to assert the rights of the Crown, to enforce the revenue laws of the Empire, and to protect the rights of the Hudson's Bay Company, I haveasManuscript image as therein proposed, made a journey to the Falls of Fraser's River, visited the Gold diggings and seen all the Miners below that point, and I will now proceed to give a brief narrative of my proceedings, and the information gathered in respect to the auriferous character of the country, in the course of that journey.
2. In consequence of the requisition for assistance made on Captain Prevost, Her Majesty's Ship "Satellite", was anchored off the mouth of Fraser's River, where I joined her on the following day with the Hudson's Bay Company's Propeller "Otter,"2 in which we proceeded up Fraser's River, with the "Satellite's" LaunchandManuscript image and Gig in tow to Fort Langley 3 distant about 30 miles from the mouth of the River.
3. The Revenue Officers 4 found immediate occupation in the seizure of several lots of contraband goods, and taking sixteen unlicenced canoes into custody. The latter being manned exclusively with gold miners, and containing only their mining tools, provisions, and personal clothing, without any merchandize for trade, I caused them to be released, granting a pass at a charge of five dollars to each canoe, and the amount, Eighty dollars so formed, was carried to account of the public revenue.
The Manuscript image
The contraband Goods will be brought to trial
on the 11th of Instant under the 167th section of the Customs Consolidation Act 1853. 5
4th From Fort Langley we pursued our upward journey in canoes manned chiefly by native Indians and accompanied by Captain Prevost in his gig, manned with six of the "Satellite's" seamen.
5. After journeying four days we reached Fort Hope, 6 the next establishment of the Hudson's Bay Company, on Fraser's River, and about Eighty miles distant from Fort Langley.
6. The actual gold diggings commence on a Bar of Fraser's River, about one mile below the point on which Fort Hope is situated, and fromthatManuscript image that point upwards to the commencement of the Falls, a distance of twenty miles, we found six several parties of Miners, successfully engaged in digging for Gold, on as many partially uncovered River Bars: the number of whites on those Bars being about 190 men, and there was probably double that number of native Indians, promiscuously engaged with the whites in the same exciting pursuit. 7
7. The diggings became sensibly richer as we ascended the stream as far as "Hill's Bar," 8 four miles below the Falls, which is the richest point workable in the present high state of the River.
8. The gold on those BarsisManuscript image is taken entirely from the surface, there being no excavation on any of them deeper than two feet, as the flow of water from the River prevents their sinking to a greater depth.
9. Mr Hill the party after whom the Bar is named produced for inspection the product of his mornings (6 hours) work, with a rocker and three hands besides himself, the result being very nearly six ounces of clean float gold, worth one hundred dollars in money, giving a return of Fifty dollars a day for each man employed. That return the party observed was the largest days work he had ever made on Fraser's River, and he further remarked that the same goodfortuneManuscript image fortune did not attend him every day.
10. The other miners whom I questioned about their earnings stated that they were making from two and a half the lowest to Twenty five dollars the highest usual return to the man a day.
11. The greatest instance of mining success which I heard of in course of our journey fell to the lot of a party of three men, who made one hundred and ninety ounces of gold dust in seven working days on "Sailor's Bar," 9 a place about ten miles above the Falls, giving a return of nearly nine ounces a day for each man employed.
12. Thirty miners arrived from the upper countryduringManuscript image during our stay at the Falls, with very favorable reports as to its productiveness in gold. They told me that they had prospected the banks of Fraser's River as far as the Great Falls, forty miles beyond the confluence of Thompson's River, and also many of its tributary streams, in all of which they found gold, frequently in pieces ranging from Twenty four grains to half an ounce in weight, and they also observed that the gold was larger in size and coarser the further they ascended the river. Thus for example the gold found below the Falls is in thin bright scales, or minute particles, while that found at the Great Falls is in pieces ranging as before said, from Twenty four grains to half anounceManuscript image ounce in weight, a circumstance which the Miner believes to be indicative of a richer country beyond.
13. The country about the Great Falls has not been closely examined, but the Miners generally report its appearance to be promising, and from any thing we know to the contrary, the whole course of Fraser's River, even to the Rocky mountains may be auriferous.
14. Those miners were prevented going further into the country for want of food, which compelled their return to the settlements for supplies. They were very successful about the Great Falls, and made from ten to thirty dollars to the man a day.
15. William C. Johnston an old Calefornia miner, toldmeManuscript image me that he had prospected Harrison's River, and had travelled from thence to the Great Falls of Fraser's River, and that he had observed in the course of his journey much gold bearing quartz and the most promising indications of placer gold. Another old miner assured me that he had found large quantities of gold bearing quartz in the mountains near Fort Hope, which he thinks will pay better than the Calefornia quartz rock, a report which was confirmed by other miners. The miners generally assert that Fraser's River is richer than any "three rivers" in Calefornia.
16. Thompson's River and its tributary streams are known to be auriferous,andManuscript image and I have just heard from Mr McLean, one of the Hudson's Bay Company's officers that gold has also been lately discovered on the banks of the great Okanagan Lake.
17. Mr Richard Hicks a respectable Miner at Fort Yale, 10 assured me that he had found "flour gold," that is gold in powder, floating on the waters of Fraser's River, during the Freshet and he is of opinion that by means of quick silver, gold will be found in every part of Fraser's River, even to its discharge into the Gulf of Georgia.
18. Evidence is thus obtained of the existence of gold over a vast extent of country, situated both north and south of Fraser's River, and the conviction is gradually forcingitselfManuscript image itself upon my mind that not only Fraser's River and its tributary streams, but also the whole country situated to the Eastward of the Gulf of Georgia, as far north as Johnstone's Straits, is one continued bed of Gold of incalculable value and extent.
19. Such being the case the question arises as to the course of policy in respect to Fraser's River, which Her Majesty's Government may deem it advisable in those circumstances to follow.
20. My own opinion is that the stream of immigration is setting so powerfully towards Fraser's River, that it is impossible to arrest its course; and that the population thus formed will occupy the land as squatters, iftheyManuscript image they cannot obtain a title by legal means.
21. I think it therefore a measure of obvious necessity, that the whole country be immediately thrown open for settlement, and that the land be surveyed and sold at a fixed rate not to exceed twenty shillings an acre. By that means together with the imposition of a customs duty on imports; a duty on licences to miners, and other taxes; a large revenue might be collected for the service of Government.
22. As the Hudson's Bay Company, would in that case, have to relinquish their exclusive rights of trade, 11 compensation might be made to them for those rights, by anannualManuscript image annual payment out of the public revenues of the country.
23. Either that plan or some other better calculated to maintain the rights of the Crown, and the authority of the Laws, should in my opinion, be adopted with as little delay as possible, otherwise the country will be filled with lawless crowds, the public lands unlawfully occupied by squatters of every description, and the authority of Government will ultimately be set at naught.
24. In anticipation of your instructions to carry some such plan into effect I have communicated with Mr Pemberton the Surveyor General of Vancouver's Island, and desired him to make temporary arrangements with any qualified personsheManuscript image he may find in this Colony for the purpose of increasing the staff of Surveying Officers, and of engaging actively in an extended survey of the lands of Fraser's River, whenever your instructions to that effect are received from England, and in the mean time, they can be usefully employed in laying out allotments for sale on Vancouver's Island, there being at present a very great and increasing demand for land in this Colony.
25. I beg also to remark that it is my intention to confer on Mr Pemberton, the provisional appointment of Surveyor General of Fraser's River, as he is a gentleman ofgreatManuscript image great experience, and thoroughly well qualified by previous training in the forests of Vancouver's Island, and great natural talent, for that responsible office.
26. I propose to form a large and efficient corps of Surveying Officers to be placed under the management of the Surveyor General, and to authorize him, after due application to this Government, to establish branch offices wherever required, which will report all proceedings to the General office at this place, superintended by the Surveyor General, who will be held responsible for the proper management of the department.
27. In consequence of the unceasing demands upon my time by the crowds of peoplewhoManuscript image who are flocking to this place, and the want of assistants, my Secretary Mr Golledge being greatly overworked, I have been compelled to prepare this report in the midst of numberless interruptions, and I beg that its inaccuricies may be overlooked, and that I may receive your instructions by return of Post, as the case is urgent and calls for rapid and decisive measures in the outset, for in the course of a few months there may be one hundred thousand people in the country.
I have etc.
James Douglas
Other documents included in the file
Manuscript image
Draft reply, Lytton to Douglas, No. 8, 14 August 1858 (extensive minutes and revisions).
  1. = Douglas to Stanley, 19 May 1858, No. 23, 6667, CO 305/9, p. 87.
  2. The Otter, built for the Hudson's Bay Company in 1852 in Blackwall, England, was the first propeller-driven steamer in the North Pacific. Originally measuring 122' by 20' by 12' and displacing 220 tons, the ship was refitted in San Francisco on its way up the coast, and its dimensions were altered to 125' by 22' by 12' and 291 tons displacement. In 1883, the Canadian Pacific Navigation Company bought the vessel, converted it to a barge, and used it to haul coal until 1890. The Otter was then sold and burned to retrieve the copper fittings. E.W. Wright, ed., .Lewis & Dryden's Marine History of the Pacific Northwest (New York Antiquarian Press, 1961), p. 46. 1895 edition??
  3. Fort Langley, named for Thomas Langley, a director of the Hudson's Bay Company, was founded in 1827 on the south bank of the Fraser River, about twenty-one miles from its mouth, on a site selected by James McMillan in 1824. McMillan supervised its construction from August to November 1827, but Simpson's original plan of making Fort Langley the headquarters of Columbia Department was quickly abandoned after his hair-raising descent of the Fraser in 1828, which showed it to be utterly unsuitable for brigade purposes. Instead, Fort Langley became an important base for agricultural and mercantile operations. In 1839 the original site was abandoned and a new fort was constructed about two and a half miles upstream, where the soil was more suited for agriculture. The new fort was destroyed by fire on 11 April 1840 and was completely rebuilt. After New Westminster was selected as the capital in February 1859, the Fort Langley quickly delined. The HBC abandoned the site altogether in April 1886 and instead built a new general store nearby. See Mary K. Cullen, The History of Fort Langley, 1827-96, Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History, No. 20 (Ottawa: Supply and Services, 1979), esp. pp. 98-99. Cf. Douglas to Lytton, 3 November 1858, No. 9, 528, CO 60/1, p. 331.
  4. = at Langley William Henry Bevis and George Perrier?? Cf. Douglas to Stanley, 26 July 1858, No. 31, 9253, CO 305/9, p. 125. McKelvie gives Bevis.
  5. Customs Consolidation Act, 16 & 17 Victoria (1853), c. 107. sec. 167: No Goods shall be laden or water-borne to be laden on board any Ship, or unladen from any Ship, in any of the British Possessions in America or in the Channel Islands, until due Entry shall have been made of such Goods, and Warrant granted for the lading or unlading of the same; and no Goods shall be so laden or water-borne or so unladen in the said Channel Islands, except at some Place at which an Officer of the Customs is appointed to attend the lading and unlading of Goods, or at some Place for which a Sufferance shall be granted by the proper Officer of Customs for the lading and unlading of such Goods; and in the Presence or with the Permission of such Officer; but the Commissioners of Customs may make such Regulations for the carrying Coastwise of any Goods, or for the removing of any Goods for Shipment in the said Islands, as to them shall appear expedient; and all Goods laden, waterborne, or unladen contrary hereto, or to any Regulations to be so made, shall be forfeited.
  6. Fort Hope, at the junction of the Coquihalla and the Fraser, was built in October 1848 on orders from Douglas, after earlier attempts by the HBC to bring its New Caledonia brigade to Fort Yale ended in failure (see footnote below). In ?? Henry Peers?? explored a route eastward from the junction of the Fraser and the Coquihalla, over Hope Pass and Manson Ridge to the Tulameen and north to Nicola Lake. The fort was named in anticipation that it might provide an all-British route to the interior, subsequent to the establishment of the Oregon boundary. The route was subsequently adopted by the fur brigades and became the principle transportation link between the interior and the lower Fraser, until the construction of the Cariboo Road up the Fraser Canyon. See Frederic William Howay, The Raison d'Etre of Forts Yale and Hope, Transactions of the Royal Board of Trade of Canada, 16, 3d series (1922): 49-64. And Hadfield?? Place in V58019??
  7. = Fraser River Bars Gold bars were sandy flats on the river bottom, exposed during low water, which trapped the fine gold particles swept downstream by the flushing action of the current. A convenient sketch of the various bars is in G.P.V. and Helen B. Akrigg, British Columbia Chronicle, 1847-1871: Gold & Colonists (Vancouver: Discovery Press, 1977), p. 110. Cite sketch from Papers instead??
  8. Hill's Bar, discovered in mid-March 1858, was one of the earliest and richest on the Fraser. It was located about two miles below Fort Yale, For an account of early activities there, see James Moore, The Discovery of Hill's Bar in 1858, British Columbia Historical .Quarterly, 3 (?? 1939): 215-20.
  9. Sailor's Bar was located just south of Spuzzum on the Fraser River, about seven miles above Yale. Check Anderson's Guide and map, or Douglas to Labouchere, 6 April 1858, No. 15, 5180, CO 305/9, p. 61??
  10. Named for James Murray Yale of the Hudson's Bay Company, Fort Yale was located at the head of navigation on the right bank of the Fraser, about 20 kilometers below Hell's Gate. A.C. Anderson volunteered to seek a new route for the New Caledonia fur brigade and in 1847, crossed from Kamloops to Nicola Lake, the Coldwater River, and Uztlius Creek to Spuzzum, below Hell's Gate. The next spring Donald Manson was instructed to utilize that route, following an attack by Indigenous forces on the Whitman Mission in Oregon that threatened to escalate into a full-blown war in the lower Columbia region, and Fort Yale was hurriedly constructed. After losing 70 of some 400 horses, Manson pronounced the route "utterly impracticable" for the fur brigade, so Fort Yale was abandoned the following year for a more southerly route through Fort Hope. (Manson to Simpson, 24 August 1848, cited in Morice, p. 258; see also footnote above, and Howay, The Raison d'Etre of Forts Yale and Hope, pp. 49-64. Creech??). Because of its strategic location, Fort Yale quickly re-emerged as a principal supply depot for miners in the spring of 1858.
  11. = HBC revocation. On 2 July 1821 the Hudson's Bay Company was first granted an exclusive right among British subjects to trade with for a period of twenty-one years. This license was renewed for another twenty-one years on 30 May 1838 and was thus due to expire on 30 May 1859. The license was formally revoked in November 1858 (see Lytton to Douglas, 2 September 1858, No. 3, CO 398/1, p. 55). Grant dated 5 December 1821??
People in this document

Anderson, Alexander Caulfield

Bevis, William Henry

Douglas, James

Golledge, Richard

Hicks, Richard


Johnston, William C.

Lytton, Edward George Earle Bulwer

Manson, Donald

McClean, Donald

Peers, Henry Nathan

Pemberton, Joseph Despard

Perrier, George

Prevost, James Charles

Simpson, George

Stanley, Edward Henry

Yale, James Murray

Organizations in this document

Board of Trade

Hudson's Bay Company

Vessels in this document

Otter, 1852-1861

HMS Satellite, 1855-1879

Places in this document

Cariboo Road

Coldwater River

Coquihalla River

Fort Langley

Fraser Canyon

Fraser River

Fraser River District

Great Falls

Harrison River

Hell's Gate

Hill's Bar


Hope Pass

Johnstone Strait



Manson Ridge

New Caledonia

Nicola Lake

Okanagan Lake

Okanagan River

Oregon Territory, or Columbia District

Sailors Bar

San Francisco


Strait of Georgia

The Falls

The Rocky Mountains

Thompson River


Uztlius Creek

Vancouver Island