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VANCOUVER'S ISLAND, COAL MINES, &c. VANCOUVER'S ISLAND is in length 290 miles, with an average breadth of 55 miles; it lies between the parallels of 48° 17' and 50° 55' north latitude, and 123° 10 and 128° 30 west longitude.
Comparatively little is known of this fine territory, and I shall therefore give all the useful information obtainable.
The following is an extract from a Report by Lieuts. Warre and Vavasour (of the Royal Engineers), dated 26th October, 1845.
· From Port Discovery, we crossed the Straits to Vancouver's Island, commencing in the 48th parallel of latitude, and extending 260 miles north, and about 50 miles in breadth.
· This island is somewhat intersected by high mountain ranges, but the soil is said to be fertile, and well adapted for cultivation. • We visited the Hudson's Bay Company's post, Fort Victoria, in 48° 26' north latitude, and 123° 9' west longitude, on the south shore of the island, near the head of the Narrow Inlet (of which we forward a sketch), where they have established a Fort, similar to those already described, a farm of several hundred acres, on which they raise wheat and potatoes, and a depôt of provisions, supplies, &c. for the different trading posts farther to the north.
• The position has been chosen solely for its agricultural advantages, and is ill adapted either as a place of refuge for shipping, or as a position of defence.
• The country to the south of the Straits of De Fuca, between Puget Sound and the coast, is overrun by high rugged mountains, presenting great difficulty in traversing, and but few inducements to the farmer.
• Between the above-mentioned points, there are some fine harbours, among which we may mention Port Discovery and Dungeness, on the south shore, and a bay within three miles of Fort Victoria, called the 'Squirnal,' by the Indians, which, from superficial observation, appear to afford anchorage and protection for ships of any tonnage.-(See page 44.)
• The above-mentioned harbours contain an abundant supply of fresh water, in which the rest of the coast is very deficient
you reach a
Large rivers are formed in the winter season, which become perfectly. dry during the summer.
• There is coal in the neighbourhood of Puget's Sound, and on the Cowlitz River*. The specimens used by the Hudson's Bay Company, were obtained from the surface, and were probably on that account not found good.
• The specimens of lead found in the mountains on the coast are apparently very fine. The fisheries (salmon and sturgeon) are inexhaustible, and game of all descriptions is said to abound. • The timber is extremely luxuriant, and increases in value, as
more northern latitude that in 50 to 54° being considered the best. Pine, spruce, red and white oak, ash, cedar, arbutus, poplar, maple, willow, and yew, grow in this section of country, north of the Columbia River. The cedar and pine become of an immense size.
• At Nisqually, near the head of Puget's Sound, is the farm of the Puget's Sound Company, commenced in 1839, and supported chiefly by the gentlemen of the Hudson's Bay Company. They here cultivate wheat and potatoes, &c., but the magnificent ranges of rich prairie country, between the shores of Puget's Sound, and the Cascade Mountains to the east, are chiefly used as pasturage for the immense herds of cattle and sheep; the greater number of which were brought from California in 1840–41. From Nisqually we crossed the head waters of several large streams, among others the Nisqually and Chetreels Rivers, rising in the Cascade Mountains, extending along the coast to latitude 49o. These rivers have their channels sunk in some places upwards of a hundred feet below the level of the country, rendering them extremely dangerous and difficult to traverse at the seasons of high water. The Chetreels flows into Grey's Bay, on the Pacific, is navigable for small boats and canoes, and forms a barred harbour for vessels of small tonnage.
· The country is easy of access from Nisqually to the Chetreels * Commodore Wilkes says he examined all the places that indicated coal, and found only lignite:'-(Vol. iv., p. 318.)
River, when the soil changes from gravelly loam to a stiff clay, and numerous little rivers, which overflow their banks and flood the country for an immense distance during the winter and spring freshets, render the land journey to the Cowlitz River difficult, and, during that season, almost impracticable.
• There are a few families settled on plains on this route, and the Americans are forcing themselves as far north as Puget's Sound. During our travels we met five families on their route to the prairies in that vicinity.
· There is a settlement of about ninety Canadian families on the Cowlitz River, where the Puget's Sound Company have about 1000 acres of ground under cultivation. This farm is situated about thirty-five miles from the Columbia.
· The course of the Cowlitz is rapid, and, in high water dangerous, but presenting no obstacles that are not overcome by the energy and perseverance of the Canadian boatmen. A small establishment has been formed at the mouth of the Cowlitz River, as a store for wheat, &c. which the Hudson's Bay Company export in large quantities to the Russian settlement at Sitka, and to the Sandwich Islands.'
The following extract of a Report from Lieut. Vavasour, of
the Royal Engineers, to Captain Holloway, dated Ist March, 1846, refers to the Hudson's Bay Company's establishment
on Vancouver's Island. • Fort Victoria is situated on the southern end of Vancouver's Island, in the small harbour of Cammusan, the entrance to which is rather intricate. The fort is a square enclosure of 100 yards, surrounded by cedar pickets twenty feet in height, having octagonal bastions, containing each six 6-pounder iron guns at the north-east and south-west angles; the buildings are made of squared timber, eight in number, forming three sides of an oblong. This fort has lately been established; it is badly situated with regard to water and position, which latter has been chosen for its agricultural advantages only. About three miles distant, and
nearly connected by a small inlet, is the Squimal Harbour, which is
very commodious and accessible at all times, offering a much better position, and having also the advantage of a supply of water in the vicinity.
* This is the best built of the Company's forts; it requires loopholing, and a platform or gallery, to enable men to fire over the pickets; a ditch might be cut round it, but the rock appears on the surface in many places.
• There is plenty of timber of every description on Vancouver's Island, as also limestone, which could be transported to Nisqually, or other places in the territory, where it may be hereafter deemed necessary to forin permanent works, barracks, &c.'
The Straits of Juan de Fuca, which separate Vancouver's Island from the main land, may be safely navigated ; the shores are straight and bold; on the south, composed of perpendicular cliffs that run back in high and rugged peaks; on the north, rocky, and in some places formed of reddish granite.
Mr. Chief Factor Douglas surveyed the south coast of Vancouver's Island in 1842, and, after a careful survey, fixed on the port of Camosack as the most eligible site for the Hudson's Bay Company's factory within the Straits of De Fuca. At Camosack there is a range of plains nearly six miles square, containing a great extent of valuable tillage and pasture land, abundance of timber around, and water power for flour or saw mills on the canal of Camosack.
At this place the Hudson's Bay Company have established the station called Fort Victoria, to which reference has been above made; they have erected buildings and stores, enclosed and cropped land, and stocked the place with cattle. The country is fine, the climate salubrious, and the necessaries of life abundant.
Mr. Douglas, after investigating the south coast of the island, says—Camosack is a pleasant and convenient site for the establishment, within fifty yards of the anchorage, on the border of a large tract of clear land which extends eastward to Point
Gonzalo, at the south-east extremity of the island, and about six miles interiorly, being the most picturesque, and decidedly the most valuable part of the island that we had the good fortune to discover
* The accompanying ground plan shews pretty correctly the distribution of wood, water, and prairie upon the surface, and to it I beg to refer you for information upon such points.
• More than two-thirds of this section consists of prairie land, and may be converted either to purposes of tillage or pasture, for which I have seen no part of the Indian country better adapted ; the rest of it, with the exception of the ponds of water, is covered with valuable oak and pine timber. I observed, generally speaking, but two marked varieties of soil on the prairies, that of the best land is a dark vegetable mould, varying from nine to fourteen inches in depth, overlaying a substrate of greyish clayey loam, which produces the rankest growth of native plants that I have seen in America. The other variety is of inferior value, and to judge from the less vigorous appearance of the vegetation upon it, naturally more unproductive. Both kinds, however, produce abundance of grass, and several varieties of red clover grow on the rich moist bottoms. In two places particularly we saw several acres of clover growing with a luxuriance and compactness more resembling the close sward of a well-managed lea, than the produce of an uncultivated waste.
Being pretty well assured of the capabilities of the soil as respects the purposes of agriculture, the climate being also mild and pleasant, we ought to be able to grow every kind of grain raised in England. On this point, however, we cannot speak confidently until we have tried the experiment and tested the climate, as there may exist local influences destructive of the husbandman's hopes, which cannot be discovered by other means. As, for instance, it is well known that the damp fogs which daily spread over the shores of Upper California blight the crops and greatly deteriorate the wheat grown near the sea coast in that country. I am not aware that any such effect is ever felt in the