Daily Telegraph, Saint John, NB
April 21, 1864
British Columbia and Vancouver Island as they really are.
A friend at Shediac has placed at our disposal two letters received by him last week from acquaintances in Victoria, Vancouver Island, from which we are permitted to make some extracts. One correspondent speaks of his disappointment in finding the gold country so different from what he had expected. He says:-
"This country, (I mean the whole Pacific coast) is getting pretty well played out for laboring men. The war in the States has driven so many of the pusillanimous portion to this coast that wages in many cases are no better than they are at home.
All the boys who came out together are here (in Victoria) except Charles Perkins, who is in Washoe doing very well. We are all going up this spring, that is, Clinch, Anderson, Webster and myself. Webster has a half interest in a Saw Mill on Williams' Creek. It is thought he will make a good thing out of it. Lumber in Cariboo last Spring was 25 cents per foot, and at the present time 15 cents. There is now a great rush to Boise river, greater than it ever was to Cariboo. I have seen __________s description of the country, and as far as I can learn it is correct. I think it would be well to have it published; it might be the means of saving some innocent youth from coming to this misrepresented country. There are statements in many of the English papers, praising the mining and agricultural resources of British Columbia, that are notorious falsehoods."
The other letter contains the "description of the country" referred to above. We publish it in full for the benefit of too confiding Colonists. We know the writer personally and can vouch for the accuracy of any statement made by him.
"I went up to Cariboo last Spring, in company with Henry Seelye of St. George, Henry Howe of San Jose, and Mr. Fairweather of Penobsquis. We left Victoria on the 27th of April in the steamer for Westminster, which is a small town about the size of Salisbury, situated about twenty miles up the Frazer, and is the capital of British Columbia. We remained there all night. Mr. Hannay, one of your old Railway conductors, keeps a grocery store there. We left the next day at noon for Fort Yale, about 100 miles up the Frazer, and arrived there about the middle of the following afternoon. (That is a hard old river. The steamer had to make four or five attempts before she could run some of the rapids.) As we drew near Fort Yale we passed between two snow capped mountains, the magnitude of which it would be impossible for me to give you an idea. We left Fort Yale on the 30th of April with four animals packed with grub, and arrived in Cariboo on the 30th of May. The first 60 miles of our journey were through the Cascade Mountains, where, if a person had a taste for wild scenery, he might get completely gorged. It is about 400 miles from Yale to Cariboo, and yet hundreds of men pack from 60 to 70 lbs. all that distance on their backs. The people in New Brunswick have no idea what hard work is. I have stood in the town of Van Winkle, on Lightning Creek, and seen a crowd of men leave for Williams' Creek, most of them with 100 lbs. on their backs, when the snow was so deep that horses could not travel. They had a high mountain to climb at the start; and it was a hard sight to see them winding their way up the trail, gasping for breath every step. These men were employed by merchants and packed by the pound. It is about 14 miles from Van Winkle to Williams', and it is called a day's work to pack a load that distance and walk back light. Yet hundreds of men would have been glad of the chance to pack at any price, for it requires as much influence to get employment in Cariboo as it does to get a government office in St. John.
__________ and I had a claim on Lightning, which proved to be not worth a cent, of course. Lightning has been mined for five miles on one stretch where every inch of ground has been taken up, to say nothing of the scattering claims which have been taken up for thirty miles up and down the creek. Millions of dollars have been spent there and yet there never were more than two claims on that creek which paid working expenses. On Lowhie there are three paying claims; on Jack of Clubs, not one; on Sugar Creek there are two paying a little more than working expenses; on Stuart's they struck a prospect but it fizzled out. All these creeks have been worked at an enormous expense but they have been almost total failures. The only creek in Cariboo that is worth a row of pins is Williams'; the whole country is depending upon it, but even there the paying claims are few. Not more than one man in forty has made anything who have taken up claims there. I know some parties who have spent nineteen thousand dollars to the interest in buying in and working claims on Williams' flat. Some few men have made money by taking up claims and selling out and leaving the country at once. A Canadian of my acquaintance, who was one of the first to strike gold on Williams' flat, had forty thousand dollars in his possession which he took out of the Canadian claim (which you may have read of), and instead of leaving the country at once, he invested it all on Williams', and when I left in the fall he could not raise one thousand dollars. On the whole, I do not think that Cariboo has turned out one dollar for every ten that has been expended there. The excitement was got up by land speculators who invested their money in Victoria at the time of the 58 excitement. The communication which we saw in the London Times was a fabrication from beginning to end. It was written by Donald Fraser, a man who owned considerable property here which never brought him anything.
There were about two thousand Canadians who came out here the same time I did, and the people in this God-forsaken town lived by gulling them. I believe the people here would starve to death if it was not for the piles of money which hundreds of deluded Englishmen and Canadians bring here every year. This country is not self sustaining; it has no resources of any account. Last winter there were about fifteen hundred miners here in Victoria most of them dead broke and they could not get a day's work to do. They lived in miserable little cabins on one meal per day and just as they were on the brink of starvation the newspapers urged the Government to do something for them, and after they ascertained beyond a doubt that the men could not winter out without assistance the Government borrowed five thousand dollars from the Bank of British North America and set the men to work for one dollar per day pounding stones to repair the streets, when board and lodging at the meanest boarding house in the town was seven dollars a week. There is no kind of employment to be had here all winter. The people in British Columbia all crowd into Victoria in the fall and prepare for a winter's loafing.
The climate is very good here in summer - it is very warm and dry; but the winters are ten times worse than in New Brunswick. There is little or no snow and no very cold weather, but it rains more than half the time, and it is almost impossible to get around for mud. Imagine a horse with a load of wood wallowing through two feet of mud with bells on in mid winter as they do here. Last winter they could not get around to the houses with wood, and were obliged to throw off their load in the principal streets and let the people carry it to their houses.
Some parts of British Columbia are very good for grazing, but none of it is very good for farming. It has been condemned by two thousand Canadian farmers. I have talked with men who have been in all parts of the country, and they all say there is no depth to the soil. They have one coal mine opened on Vancouver Island and they export a little lumber from Barclay Sound, but for want of snow it won't pay to haul logs more than a half mile, so the lumbering business will soon get played out. The newspapers are laboring hard all the time to bring emigration into the country, and they give the bright side of everything, and don't hesitate to tell the most infamous lies. For instance, if a man came down from Cariboo bringing five thousand dollars the papers report his arrival bringing fifty thousand. While I was on Williams, I have at different times seen it stated in the Victoria papers (which arrived by express) that certain claims were paying five hundred ounces per day, when I knew that the same claims were not paying one cent. Besides they send delegates to England to misrepresent the country. The Church of England Bishop who left here five or six months ago and has been lecturing in England on the resources of this country, told such tuffers that even the newspapers here made fun of him. The Bishop stated among other things that fish were so plenty here that the people had big rakes for raking them out by bushels. It is a common thing here when any person is telling tuffers for some person to call out, "Oh! that is worse than the Bishop's fish story." I belong to the Church of England myself, so you see this is not prejudice, but it appears to me the preachers in this country have forgotten themselves. Last summer Cariboo was alive with them, while some of their churches were deserted in the lower part of the country. I also heard of one or two instances where they speculated in claims.
Many of the men here never sleep in a bed from one year's end to the other, but carry their blankets with them wherever they go, and sleep wherever they can find a dry spot - and groan all night with rheumatism, for of all the places in the world this is the worst for that complaint. There are few persons here who follow out door employment but what suffer more or less with it; yet the men here are willing to brave everything if they only get fair remuneration. There is as hardy a crowd of men in this country as I ever saw. If they had not been pretty rugged they never would have stood the amount of hardship and starvation which they did the year before last on that ever memorable retreat from Cariboo, where after spending their last dollar in hope of getting employment, they were obliged to leave, most of them dead broke, 400 miles in the interior of the country, and grub from one to two dollars per meal. It is a mystery until this day how they ever got down alive. Some of them lived on the lights of beef cattle for three weeks before they left Cariboo. On their way down when they had any grub it was generally a little flour mixed up with cold water and baked into a heavy cake. Some of them were obliged to cut the boots off their feet piece by piece to favor the blisters, and in many cases the stones on the trail were dyed with blood from their feet. Anderson, from Sussex, came down with that crowd, and he traveled the whole distance in eleven days, with his blankets and other traps on his back, and half the time he had only one meal per day. It was said that the trees along the trail were peeled by these men, and the bark eaten to keep them from starving, but I cannot vouch for the truth of that. However, the trees were peeled for some purpose or other. This stampede threw in the shade everything that has taken place since Boney's retreat from Moscow.
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