Tag Archives: Victoria

How Mifflin Gibbs made his fortune in gold rush Victoria

Mifflin Gibbs was one of the most successful black merchants in Victoria. Gibbs had a partnership with Peter Lester and their firm ‘Lester & Gibbs’ had everything a miner could want. Some say it was the first provision store in Victoria to rival that of the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Born in Philadelphia in 1823, Gibbs was eight years old when his father Reverend Gibbs died. One of three sons, Gibbs helped out with odd jobs while his mother Maria worked cleaning laundry. When they were teenagers, Mifflin and his brother Jonathan apprenticed as carpenters. Eventually, the brothers became active in the anti-slavery movement; a time which marked the beginning of their political lives.

Mifflin Gibbs

Mifflin Gibbs

In 1850, Mifflin Gibbs went to the gold rush town of San Francisco and found work as a carpenter. Two years later, he entered into partnership with Peter Lester and together they ran the ‘Clay Street Pioneer Shoe & Boot Emporium’. Their business was prosperous but it didn’t take long before anti-black sentiment to take its toll. Discrimination supported by increasingly restrictive immigration policies prompted many members of San Francisco’s black community to leave.

As soon as he heard about the Fraser River gold rush, Gibbs headed north to Victoria.
Gibbs arrived in June, 1858 with provisions including flour, bacon, blankets, picks and shovels. Miners bought everything he had and Gibbs ordered more with the help of Lester who was still in San Francisco. Within a few weeks, Gibbs set up the store of ‘Lester & Gibbs’ in one half of a house; the other half, he rented out for $500 a month.

After a successful year, Gibbs travelled to the eastern United States for a lengthy visit. During that time he married Maria Alexander, who had been a student at Oberlin College in Ohio. The couple returned to Victoria to his five acre lot in the James Bay district. Gibbs became a British subject in 1861.

Life in Victoria was not without its challenges. There was still prejudice against blacks; however, at least they could rely on British law for protection. Determined to change the status quo, Gibbs ran for election as city councillor for the new municipality of Victoria in August 1862. Voting was done by a show of hands in public and the results were very close; Gibbs lost the election by only four votes. Despite this setback, Gibbs continued to be politically engaged and frequently made his points of view known.

After seven years of marriage, his wife left him and returned to the United States with their five children. Meanwhile, Gibbs committed himself to expanding his business interests. In 1864, he ended the partnership with Lester and moved on to earn his living from real estate, construction and mining investments.

In November 1866, Mifflin Gibbs ran again for Victoria city council, representing the district of James Bay where he lived and this time, he won. Re-elected the following term, Gibbs was so preoccupied with a coal mining venture in the Queen Charlotte Islands that his seat was declared vacant.

In 1869, Gibbs returned to the United States where he obtained a law degree and became a judge.

Victoria’s first volunteer fire companies

Selim Franklin had endured substantial losses in the 5th of the ‘Great Fires’ of San Francisco. Six times San Francisco had been torched to the ground by an arsonist. Lives and buildings were destroyed. People lost their savings while gangs looted. So when Franklin set foot on Vancouver Island in 1858 and saw all those wood shanties and tents around Fort Victoria, he shuddered to think of what could happen.

Franklin and a few other businessmen convinced Governor Douglas of the need for volunteer fire companies. They purchased fire engines at a cost of just over $5,000. Volunteers, many of whom had served in the fire brigades in San Francisco, were familiar with these heavy machines, tested them out the day they arrived on July 28, 1858.

early fire engines had to pulled by ropes

It was challenging to keep volunteers in Victoria as many left to go to the mainland to search for gold. Interest was revived in January 1859, however, and officers were appointed for two fire companies, and two cisterns (where water could be stored and used in case of a fire) were built  without government help. These cisterns were located on Store Street and on Government Street. Back then it was customary to use gunpowder to blow up buildings to stop fires from spreading. Hooks were used to tear down wooden structures.

The first major fire in Victoria

The first major fire in Victoria occurred on October 18, 1859:

Yesterday morning between four and five o’clock the town was alarmed by the cry of fire. On arriving at the scene of alarm, the flames were bursting from the east end of the large two-story wooden building on the corner of Government and Johnson streets owned by Thos. Pattrick & Co. In a short time it was entirely enveloped in fire, rendering all efforts to save it from destruction futile, and within an hour it was a smouldering ruin.

$8000 worth of liquor stored in the warehouse helped to ignite the flames which burnt one side of the Union Hotel nearby. To prevent the fire from spreading, a house was torn down as well as several small sheds. Three people who had been living in the top floor of the warehouse barely escaped. One threw himself out the window and another managed to get down the stairs just as they collapsed.

The total loss to property was estimated at $13,350. It was believed that the fire was largely stopped by the Marines stationed at James Bay. The fire engine didn’t arrive until later, being under the direction of the police magistrate.

Hook and Ladder

The next day, the Daily Colonist newspaper voiced the opinion that something must be done to set up a permanent fire department. The government was reluctant to spend the money, however, and it was left up to the business community to raise $1,500 for an alarm bell and a hook and ladder rig to be shipped from San Francisco.

On November 22nd, the Union Hook and Ladder Company was formally organized with members given red shirts, black trousers, wide leather belt and cap, similar to the uniforms worn by one of the well known San Francisco fire companies.

the machinery arrived in January, 1860

Contracts went out for a two story building to house a “Hook & Ladder Truck, Fire Engine and Hose Carriage, with Cupola for Alarm Bell.” The first fire hall was built at Bastion and Wharf Streets.

The two original companies were reorganized into the Deluge Engine Company No. 1 and Tiger Engine Company No. 2.

Deluge housed themselves in a rented building on Government between Yates and Johnson, while the Tiger Company leased premises around the corner, on Johnson Street between Government and Broad. Eventually Tiger Company moved into its own hall.

The companies raced each other to the fires and sometimes battled with each other for the sake of being first.  Two men with the Tiger Company fell beneath the wheels of their hand-drawn engine while racing to a false alarm. Their injuries were “painful” but apparently not serious.

Membership in all three companies (Tiger, Deluge and Union Hook and Ladder) was limited to about 70. Applicants were carefully screened and voted on by ball ballot (three black balls and the man was “out”). Benefactors were rewarded with honorary memberships.

Political Clout of Volunteer Fire Companies

It wasn’t long before the volunteer fire companies made their mark on the City’s politics. This came as no surprise to some because in the United States, where many had come from, fire companies had a long history of political influence. Many who wanted to enter into politics first started in a volunteer fire company.

During a debate on the Fireman’s Protection Act, Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken said, “There is no doubt but these fire companies will end in political societies but at present they are the most useful organization in the colony.”

Victoria continued to rely on its volunteer fire companies throughout the gold rush years all the way until 1886 when the City established a paid fire department.

Occupations of the 1860s – Assayer to Water Carrier

What occupations were there during the BC Gold Rush? People did many different kinds of jobs.  The colonial government of Vancouver Island printed a notice January 1, 1861 with a list of trade license fees in Victoria. Some occupations are still around such as bakers, carpenters, confectioners, hair dressers, tailors, and insurance agents. As you can see from the list, some vocations are rarely heard of anymore and others have disappeared altogether.

This list of construction trades also shows that people were constructing solid buildings in Victoria – those rough wood shanties were a thing of the past.

Assayer – tested gold for purity (read the story about Marchand’s assay office)
Blacksmith – made farm tools, cooking tools, and sometimes shoed horses and oxen as well
Boarding-house Keeper – rented rooms usually for a week or more and one meal a day was provided. Check out this ad for Mike Cohen’s Red House in Victoria.
Bootmaker – wellington boots, and work boots were in demand during the gold rush.
Brickmaker – prepared the bricks and then fired them in a kiln
Camphene Dealer – camphene oil was used to light lamps
Carman – delivered goods on a horse-drawn wagon
Clothier –  made suits and sometimes drapes
Coach Builder – coaches was a shortened word for stagecoaches
Confectioner – made candy, cough drops (back then sugar was considered medicinal)
Cooper – made wooden barrels
Corn Dealer –  agents who bought grain from farmers and sold it either for feed or seed
Hosier – sold socks and undergarments (see my post on Hardy Gillard – Hoser, Glover & Outfitter)
Indian Trader – would’ve bought items directly from Natives such as furs, baskets, fish
Ironmonger – sold guns and hardware
Jobber – a wholesale merchant
Lime-burner – burning lime in a kiln was a dangerous job because of the toxic fumes. Lime was turned into powder – an essential ingredient for mortar
Livery stablekeeper – housed and fed horses (a hotel for horses)
Mason – a stone worker
Paper hanger – someone who ‘hangs’ wallpaper
Peddler – sold wares directly from a wagon to passersby – often at the edges of town
Plasterer – applies plaster (there was no stucco or drywall in those early days)
Saddler – a maker of riding saddles
Sailmaker – made sails out of canvas for scows, canoes
Saloonkeeper – typically refers to someone who dispensed liquor, although there were coffee saloons and shaving saloons as well
Scourer – this could refer to someone who washed wool or most likely, washed clothes
Scrivener – a professional writer (good for responding to legal documents)
Shipwright – they made ships
Soda water manufacturer –  water was mixed with various compounds and/or flavoring, and of course, carbonation
Syrup manufacturer – syrup was used by confectioners and saloon keepers
Teamster – driver of a team of horses or oxen
Tentmaker – one of the first commercial users of sewing machines was a tentmaker
Tinsmith – maker of stoves, stovepipes and even gold pans (see The Tinsmith of Barkerville for more)
Water Carrier – water was brought to Victoria in wooden barrels carried on horse-drawn wagons.

In the early days of the Fraser River gold rush, water was expensive. Every saloon charged “one bit” (12 cents and one half penny) for a glass of water. Some even charged as much as 15 cents! Cocktails were “two bits” (25 cents) in comparison.

Children worked in various trades, even at saloons where they washed glasses and swept the floor. Women worked as well, primarily as domestics or garment workers.

Gold fever comes to Victoria a.k.a. Tent Town

Outside the walls of the HBC Fort Victoria, a tent town sprang up. John Keast Lord of the Royal Engineers observed bartenders and monte-dealers plying their trade in large canvas shelters, “ablaze of light, redolent of cigars, smashes, cobblers, and cocktails.”

Tent town Victoria

Tent town Victoria

The Hudson’s Bay Company first took some gold dust and nuggets to be assayed at the San Francisco Mint in February 1858. By the end of April, ships were heading north to Victoria.

Steamers (sternwheelers or sidewheelers) began making round trips between San Francisco and Victoria in ten days, taking 500 passengers and full freights north each time.

From the Knickerbocker Magazine in New York:

Many of the steamers and vessels went up with men huddled like sheep — so full that all could not sit or lie down together…

The goldseekers arrived to find out there wasn’t any accommodation for them. So they pegged up wedge-shaped canvas tents, lean-tos and other make-shift shelters.

Lekwungen Territory

Across the way was a Songhees village. This was part of the larger Lekwungen Territory. The Songhees were comprised of several local groups who collectively referred to themselves as Lekwungen. They lived in houses with single-pitch shed roofs over horizontal plank walls parallel to the waterfront.

Monte: a card game that became popular during the California gold rush. It was originally played in Mexico and brought north after the Mexican War in 1847. Players bet on the turn of the card by the dealer.

Smash: gets its name from mint leaves which were ‘smashed up’ in the shaking of ice, whiskey and sugar. Goldseekers preferred to drink their smashes quickly; not sipped.

Cobbler: a cocktail made with either brandy or whiskey and slices of fruit, sugar, and ice. Cobblers were often served with a straw so one didn’t swallow any pits.

Here is my page from my graphic novel I’m working on, “Cartoon Introduction to the Fraser River Gold Rush.”

Can you spot the figure standing next to the San Francisco Mint?

Cows vs. Cabbages in Victoria

cow

British Colonist newspaper advertises cow for sale

In the late 1850s and early 1860s, farms dotted the landscape throughout the Victoria area. Just north of Esquimalt Harbour was a large farm of almost 400 acres. In addition, many settlers in Victoria kept their own cows and chickens as well as vegetable gardens. Druggists sold seeds for vegetables such as turnips and cabbage.

Sometimes there was conflict between neighbours such as the case of ‘Cows vs. Cabbage’ reported by the British Colonist newspaper on June 9, 1864:

Cows vs. Cabbages

Mr. Myers of Fort Street complained yesterday to the stipendary Magistrate that two cows had broken into his garden and had devoured 400 or so cabbages. He had detained one of the animals and had complained to the owner of the other, whom he knew, but who had refused any compensation, telling him he might take a pail of milk every time he caught her in his garden. Mr. Wood [Magistrate] said the custom here seemed to be to allow animals to run at large, and he was afraid he could do nothing for him. His [Myers] best plan would be to milk the cow he had detained until the owner sent for it.

Mr. Myers wrote to the paper the next day to set the record straight:

“…the Magistrate [advised] to sue the owners of the cows for damages, a course I shall certainly pursue in respect to the owner of one of the cows (the owner of the other having compensated me).

Coincidentally, the following notice appeared in the newspaper that same day:

Grazing to Let.
The Grass on a Farm of About 100 acres near Mount Tolmie and within two miles of Victoria suitable for grazing Cattle and Sheep TO LET, with immediate possession for one or more years.
Apply to Mr. Weissenburger Land Agent, Government Street

Ad Wednesday: Olympia Oysters for sale

Olympia Oysters for sale! Here are some advertisements from November 22, 1865 published in the Vancouver Daily Post (based in Victoria). The Vancouver Daily Post was one of four daily newspapers covering the colony of Vancouver Island.

Oysters_PA
Oysters, Oysters!
The celebrated
Olympia Oysters, In Every Form!
-at-
Piper & Alisky’s,
Government street, opposite the Theatre.
Special accomodation for families

Oysters_Occidental

 

BIVALVE-IC.

Peter at the Occidental!
Having made arrangements with Captain Finch for
ALL THE OYSTERS
from Olympia, has now the pleasure of informing
The Public, The Trade, and Families,
That in addition to dispensing from the Stand
Fries, Roasts, Stews, etc., as usual,
he is prepared to furnish the
OLYMPIA OYSTERS
by the bag (100), gallon, quart, etc., to suit all customers, and on the most liberal terms.

The Kanakas of British Columbia

When Captain Cook came to the islands of Hawaii in 1778, he named them the Sandwich Islands, after his patron the Earl of Sandwich. Since that time, ships from Britain and France arrived at this new mid-ocean way station. Hawaiians, known as ‘Owyhees’, were recruited to work on the ships. They called themselves Kanakas, the Hawaiian word for ‘people’.

1851. Kanaka Village at Fort Vancouver, Washington.

1851. Kanaka Village at Fort Vancouver, Washington.

By the 1820s, the practice of recruiting Kanakas for work on the Northwest coast was firmly established. When the North West Company merged with the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1821, the merger meant that Kanakas were brought up north from Oregon Territory. As a result of a head tax on Sandwich Islanders that came into effect in 1845, there were few who wanted to stay behind. Many returned to Hawaii.

The Hudson’s Bay Company offered Kanakas three year contracts that included room and board and a wage of ten pounds a year. They worked at the Belle Vue Farm on San Juan Island where they looked after sheep under the direction of the foreman Charles Griffin and maintained a presence for the British. The Kanakas had a reputation as one that was willing to “fight the local Natives” and for this reason they were employed as guards. When a Washington Territory sheriff named Barnes was sent to San Juan with a group of assistants to seize some of HBC’s sheep for non-payment of taxes, “there was a whoop from the hill and Griffin, together with some twenty Kanakas brandishing knives were seen charging down toward them.” They retreated however, after Barnes and the others fired their revolvers.

In 1851, James Douglas, then the chief factor of Fort Victoria, set up a militia group comprised of “eleven Kanakas and two negroes” known as the Victoria Voltigeurs. It existed for 7 years as a rifle corps to guard the fort. Douglas relied on them frequently to apprehend Natives who threatened the HBC. He wrote of a case where the Voltigeurs chased a Cowichan Native into the woods, captured him and another and brought them back on board the Steamship Beaver. The two men were later hanged for the crimes.

During the mid-1850s the Voltigeurs were often used on more routine patrol duties on horseback “to visit the isolated settlements for their protection.” In 1856, eighteen Voltigeurs were sent a s part of a large expedition to Cowichan after the attempted murder of a white man by a Cowichan Native.

The Voltigeurs continued as a force until the gold rush began in 1858. The following year, the HBC’s monopoly on trade officially ended and many of the Kanakas left Victoria to join the gold rush in the Fraser Canyon. Kanaka Bar was one place where they left their mark. Many of them lived in Victoria on what was known as ‘Kanaka Row’ – a line of shacks at the head of Victoria harbour where the Empress Hotel is located.

There was a strong connection between Victoria and Hawaii (still referred to as the Sandwich Islands) in the early years of the gold rush. The Kanakas held onto their Hawaiian culture and customs. In 1862, it was noted that “A steady and increasing trade is carried on with S. Francisco, the Sandwich Islands, Oregon, Washington Territory and the coast of British Columbia.”

Russell Island near Salt Spring Island (visible from the Swartz Bay ferry terminal) was once owned by a Kanaka pioneer. Parks Canada operates a visitor centre on Russell Island in conjunction with the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.  Descendants share their family stories about life on Russell Island with visitors.

The gold rush at Goldstream, BC

At the beginning of October 1863, a party of four miners were sent out by Governor James Douglas to prospect for gold in the Victoria area. Ten days later, they returned and reported that they had discovered diggings paying 4 or 5 cents to the pan at a stream flowing into Gold or Deadman’s Creek.

“A number of persons carrying packs and mining tools started for the scene of new excitement. The new “Douglas Diggings” at Goldstream presented the appearance of a thorough mining locality possessing every facility for working. The proximity of the location would tender the working expenses trifling; mining would be easy owing to excellent facilities for washing and the shallowness of the diggings; and, the road was accessible as a dray could be taken within four miles of the spot, whence packing was very easy on horse or foot.”

Goldstream

Goldstream

Goldseekers made their way to the stream that lay between the 12th and 13th mileposts on the five foot-wide Cowichan trail, about two or three miles from Langford’s Lake.

On October 20, 1863, one day after the discovery of gold was reported, the Colonist printed:

“One hundred people were headed for the diggings. A great many lost their way with some going down the trail to Sooke and others unable to follow the proper trail. Those who succeeded in reaching the mining grounds spoke in the highest terms of the appearance of the country as a gold-bearing region and expressed confidence in the ultimate results of efficient prospecting. A quantity of liquors and other things were sent out from town, and several applications for permission to sell the former were made.”

In just a few days, the population at Goldstream grew to over 300, including several Cariboo miners. Companies were formed and claims were staked. There was even talk of making the trail from Langford’s Lake to Goldstream a wagon road.

As the weeks went by, it became apparent that the gold was scattered through the quartz for some miles. Finding flecks of gold in a pan soon dwindled. Only with machinery was it possible to hit paydirt and the expense of reaching bedrock was greater than anticipated.

As interest in the area began to wane the following spring, there were a few companies said to have ore assessed which made their claims valuable.

In April, 1864, The Muir Company’s ore was assessed at $10,500 for gold and $24 for silver to the ton. “A great demand for shares in this company resulted with their value rising from $7 per share (of 15 feet) to $15.”

In response, W.A.G. Young, Colonial Secretary, rose in the House to request $4,000 for the purpose of constructing a road to Goldstream. Amor De Cosmos called the gentleman to order for he was not aware that Young represented the Governor any more than any other member of the house.

On July 17, 1864 the discovery of gold on the Leech River became known and the miners abandoned their claims at Goldstream.

The Esquimalt by-election of 1861

During the gold rush years, elections in British Columbia were contentious affairs. The Esquimalt by-election of 1861 was a race between George Tomline Gordon and Amor De Cosmos.

Esquimalt

Esquimalt

Amor De Cosmos was also known legally as William Smith. Gordon’s allies raised the issue of Smith’s name and they argued that if William Smith ran as Amor De Cosmos his election would be contested. As a result, the official entry for Cosmos was “William Alexander Smith commonly known as Amor De Cosmos.”

“The day of polling arrived and great was the excitement in the little town of Esquimalt. The fences and walls were profusely decorated with placards and posters and the reds (Gordon) and the blues (De Cosmos) took possession of the village long before the polls opened at ten o’clock in the morning. The saloons were wide open, and horses, buggies, and express vans, and on one occasion a wheelbarrow, were used to take electors to the poll…from the amount of interest manifested one would have thought that the fate of the British Empire depended on the result of the election in that borough.”

As the day wore on it became evident that not all of the electors would vote. Several electors who had promised one side or the other failed to put in an appearance.

C.B. Young volunteered to bring James Moore down to the polling station. Moore was the chief clerk of Langley & Co., the pioneer chemists of Victoria, whose establishment stood on the corner of Boomerang alley and Yates Street.

Ten minutes before the voting was to close at four o’clock, Young and Moore arrived on horseback. Moore was led to the returning officer’s table, with Young on one side, and De Cosmos on the other. In those days, there were no paper ballots; electors stated the name of their chosen candidate.

The votes so far were at a tie:
George Tomline Gordon 10
William Alexander Smith, commonly known as Amor De Cosmos 10

“What is your name?” Moore was asked.
“James Moore.”
“Where do you reside?”
“In Victoria.”
“What is your qualification?”
[Moore was a property holder in Esquimalt and gave the address of the lot.]
“For whom do you vote?”
“Amor De Cosmos,” came the answer.

“A wild cheer burst from the Gordonites. Gordon himself…leaped up and down…in a state of frantic glee and excitement.” Gordon demanded that Sheriff Naylor put the vote down as being for ‘Amor De Cosmos’ and not ‘William Alexander Smith, commonly known as Amor De Cosmos’.

“No, no,” said Young. “He meant William Alexander Smith, commonly known as Amor De Cosmos,” didn’t you, Moore?”
“Yes,” said Moore.
“Too late,” said Sheriff Naylor. “The vote is recorded for Amor De Cosmos.”
At four o’clock the poll was closed and Naylor read the return as follows:

William Alexander Smith, commonly known as Amor De Cosmos…..10
George Tomline Gordon…10
Amor De Cosmos….1

“I declare a tie between Mr. Smith and Mr. Gordon and I cast my vote as returning officer in favour of Mr. Gordon whom I declare duly elected member for Esquimalt.”

George Tomline Gordon won the election by one vote.

Alfred Waddington and the Bute Inlet route

Bute Inlet

Bute Inlet

Major W. Downie and his partner Alex MacDonald were the first to officially explore the Bute Inlet. In June 1861 Downie travelled the Homathko River, that flows from the Chilcotin Plateau to the coast. Downie travelled the Homathko River by canoe and foot for a total of 33 miles when a steep canyon forced him back.

Alfred Waddington, a merchant and a promoter, was excited at the prospect of a possible new route to the gold fields. He convinced his fellow merchants in Victoria, who faced competition from New Westminster, to give Downie’s route along the Homathko River a chance.

Alfred Penderell Waddington was born in London, England in 1801 where he attended school. After his father died in 1818 Waddington moved to France where his brothers had business interests. In 1850, he set his sights on California and the gold rush there. Waddington sailed to San Francisco in May and set up a wholesale provision firm which was soon profitable. Upon hearing of the Fraser River gold rush in 1858, Waddington came north to Victoria to set up another grocery firm.

Alfred Waddington

Alfred Waddington

By the end of the year, Waddington had published his observations in a book titled, The Fraser Mines Vindicated; Or, the History of Four Months. In his book, Waddington was optimistic about future gold prospects and wrote “it is beyond doubt that the other kind of dry diggings exist plentifully in the north…”

On September 19, 1861, Waddington left Victoria on the steamer Henrietta, visited the head of Bute Inlet, made friends with certain native people in Desolation Sound, navigated by steamer for 8 miles up the Homathko River and then by canoe for some distance beyond. He left five men to explore further while he returned to Victoria.The five returned to Victoria near the end of October.

Within a week, Waddington arranged for a second party. This included Robert Homfray, a surveyor who had worked for the Colonial Survey Office under J.D. Pemberton. Homfray was in charge of the group which consisted of three HBC voyageurs – Cote, Balthazzar, and Bourchier, along with Henry McNeill and two natives.

Homfray and his crew set out on October 31, 1861. Nine days later they reached the entrance to Bute Inlet. Here they were kidnapped. Fortunately, they were rescued by a chief of the Cla-oosh people whose village was in Desolation Sound. Homfray convinced the chief to guide them through the Homathko River valley.

Robert Homfray told of one log jam, twenty feet high and half-a-mile long, stretching right across the river. They proceeded up the rapids, manhandling the canoe over slippery log-jams, often up to their waists in water. He could look up and see the blue ice of glaciers above the steep walls of the river. The chief turned back. Then the weather turned bitterly cold and the ice froze on their clothes, their beards and hair. After almost losing their canoe when the tow rope broke, they decided to cache it, and proceeded on foot.

Just when they were coming to the end of their food, they encountered a tall Native, his body painted jet-black, and vermillion-colored rings around his eyes. He was pointing an arrow straight at them. They were able to convince the Native that they were friendly and they needed food. After giving them a dinner, they were told to return the way they had come. For Homfray and the others the trip back to the coast was worse than they could have imagined.

Their canoe was wrecked in a log jam, and most of their supplies lost. They salvaged some gear, including matches and two axes. It took them four days on a makeshift raft to reach the head of Bute Inlet and their buried provisions. They had to eat with their fingers and shared one empty baking-powder tin for drinking.

After riding half-way down Bute Inlet in a hollowed-out log, they were eventually rescued by the same Cla-oosh chief who brought them to his village. He later helped them return to Victoria. They had been away two months.

Waddington was more determined than ever to pursue the route. Before Homfray and his party returned, Waddington wrote a letter to Governor James Douglas and described  the Homathko as a “fine level valley, from two to four miles wide, and navigable for forty miles from the mouth for steamers of four or five feet draft . . . without a single rock or other serious impediment”.

Homathko River

Homathko River