The Bute Inlet Route
The British Columbian, June 1, 1864
We would not have deemed it worth our while to devote any more space to the discussion of the merits of a route which may now be considered defunct, were it not that a Victoria contemporary has provoked it by the insertion of the following passage: — “The Forward had no difficulty in steaming up to the town site, and lay at the wharf during the whole time of the visit, although drawing nine feet six inches of water. The New Westminster people on the expedition expressed their surprise at the excellent nature of the trail and the large amount of work done.”
As regards the allusion to the navigation we need only say that the Forward drew but seven feet of water, that she had nothing to spare in getting up to the “town site,” although it was flood tide when she ascended the river; that it was with considerable difficulty she could be turned, so narrow is the channel; that when the tide went out she was left hard on, and was obliged to wait the rise of the water in order to get out; that on the way down there was not an inch to spare in many places, the soundings showing only 7 feet, and that at low water a vessel half her size could not possibly be taken up. The anchorage outside of the Inlet as well as in the Inlet is very bad, at all times. Such is the character of the navigation that we are assured it would be impossible to take a merchant vessel up, and if a vessel of any considerable length were taken up it would be impossible to turn it. Indeed it will be recollected that the str. Enterprise, when there last year, lay across the channel with both ends hard on, and in this critical position got her back broken! So much for the channel.
Now a word respecting the "trail," so-called. We are informed by Mr. Maclure, city surveyor, and Mr. Turner, both practical engineers of long experience in the Royal Engineers, that, so far from expressing "surprise a the excellent nature of the trail, and the large amount of work done," the very opposite was the fact. The trail they declare to be utterly unworthy of the name, and they express their astonishment that so little work has been done considering the time and the number of men employed thereon. They found a total absence of feed for animals, and upon several parts of the trail they were obliged to wade through water up to the loins, observing upon the trees unmistakable evidence that at certain seasons the water is several feet higher. What Mr. Waddington dignifies with the name of “bridges” they describe as the most inadequate and trumpery crossings, constructed in the most unworkmanlike and temporary manner, and even now falling into ruin. The trail over “Waddington Mountain” they describe as difficult, with grades in places entirely too steep even for a mule trail; and in respect to the rocky bluff at the terminus of the part of the trail, said to be made, they say that of course money and engineering skill would tunnel the Alps; but that for all practical purposes they consider the continuation of the road in question an impossibility. And all this, be it remembered, is confined to the first fifty miles of the route. Beyond that point they profess to know nothing; nor do we believe Mr. Waddington’s knowledge extends much, if any, beyond that point. Indeed, it matters little what may be the character of the other portion.
The extraordinary course pursued by Mr. Waddington respecting this route can only be accounted for on the ground of monomania; and we would feel disposed to spare the old gentleman’s feeling as at the present moment were there not too much system perceptible in his madness. The fact of his having pressed his imaginary claim upon the Government for indemnification when he came up to report the massacre of his men did not say much for the depth or delicacy of his feelings, while his manoeuvers to try and induce the Government to purchase the road from him says less for his modesty.
We were recently informed of one little circumstance, which we give, just as a sample of the gross deception which has been practised respecting the road in question. While on his way down to Victoria last fall with the party of workmen he had employed, and who had been paid for their labor chiefly in Bute road scrip, the men were very much dissatisfied and spoke in the most disparaging terms respecting the undertaking. Shortly before they arrived at Victoria, Mr. Waddington called the men together and addressed them, in substance, as follows: “You hold as payment for work a large amount of road scrip. Every word you say in disparagement of the road will tend to depreciate the value of that scrip. You are, therefore, pursuing a most suicidal course in speaking as you are doing. Your best policy on arriving at Victoria is to speak in the highest terms as to the quality and practicability of the Bute Inlet route, as by that course you will be enabled to dispose of the paper you hold at a good price.” After concluding this harangue Mr. Waddington treated them pretty freely to brandy. The result of this stroke of policy did not disappoint the cunning old man. On debarking at Victoria they gave three cheers for Waddington and three more for Bute Inlet. The local press, as a matter of course, re-echoed these cheers, and teemed with glowing accounts of this new route which was to be the highway to the interior.
We are inclined to take this little incident as a fair specimen of the means by which the Bute Inlet agitation has been kept up all this time. But the old gentleman’s mania has proved his ruin, while it has cost many of the poor fellows he employed their lives. He must not now think that our treasury is to pay for his consummate folly, to use the very mildest term. Indeed if there is any paying in the matter it appears to us that Mr. Waddington has rendered himself liable to heavy damages for being instrumental in the death of his workmen. He had ample warning of the hostility of the Indians, and yet he kept men there unarmed, and so stinted in their provisions that they were led to starve the Indians employed in packing for them, to which circumstance, we believe, is partly to be attributed the bloody massacre which is likely to cost this Colony a very large sum. Indemnify him, indeed! It would be more like the thing to hold him responsible for the expense he has been the means of entailing upon the Government.
Source: "The Bute Inlet Route," The British Columbian, June 1, 1864.
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