We do not know his name: Klatsassin and the Chilcotin War

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A Trip to the Head of Bentinck Arm on the Steamer Laboucher

The British Colonist, August 18, 1862

The voyage was in every respect a most agreeable one; the passengers not too numerous for comfort; the captain and officers exceedingly civil; the weather magnificent; the sea smooth as a looking glass; and the scenery grand and sublime, though terribly desolate. We remained a day and a half at Nanaimo coaling, and received every attention from that hospitable gentleman Dr. Benson, and then proceeded to Fort Rupert, where we also remained some time taking in wood. I must in justice pay a passing tribute to the gentleman (Mr. Moffat) in charge of that fort, for in all my travels I have never met a person more thoroughly hospitable or who does the honors of his house in a more engaging, liberal manner than he. We left Fort Rupert early in the morning and arrived at our anchorage before dark the same day. The whole running time from Victoria was 46 hours. Early next morning, the tide being low, which is necessary for the purpose, the horses and mules were put overboard and had to swim a quarter of a mile to shore, a place imaginatively called McLeod’s Wharf; from thence they scrambled along the shore through mud and brush, and over rocks, crossing several sloughs about a mile and a half to the head of a swamp to the town site, where we camped, near the Bella Coola lodges, where the small pox was raging fearfully, Indians lying about in all directions dead and dying. I remained two or three days with Mr. Hood and then started on up the river with one of his party in charge of his goods. They were put in three canoes, each with three Indians, and the transportation cost 42 blankets, 9 shirts, and feed for the Indians, to the head of navigation, computed at 45 miles from Bella Coola; it took us five days to pole up the river, a large, rapid salmon stream, with several salmon weirs across and the remains of three others that had been carried away. Stream navigation is out of the question.

Our nights passed on the shores of the river were rendered insupportable by mosquitoes. I found Mr. Spring at the head of navigation in charge of a lot of goods, and Duncan McKennon, a Canadian, convalescent of the small pox. Mr. Morris and party had left the day before I arrived. Daniel McCullan, the partner of McKennon, arrived from the slide nearly blind, his eyes swollen like two radishes, from the effects of sand flies. He reported the feet of the of the Doctor who accompanied Morris in a terrible condition. Spring was seized with pains in the head and giddiness and the fourth day after my arrival had the small pox, fortunately in a very mild form. When Capt. Venables learnt that I had arrived and that pack animals were coming, he came down from the slide, and the day after, I having waited a week for the animals, we proceeded down together to where they were camped, at a place called Anisari, only twelve miles from Bella Coola, they having left that place twelve days before. Here I also found Lieut. Palmer and his two engineers, and Major Foster. The next morning the horses were to start crossing for Nooshcloot, six miles above from which place I walked down, as the Indians would take us no further in the canoe. Lieut. Palmer followed the next day. I started off at once on foot for the upper Bella Coola lodges, Soonooklan, eighteen miles down, and tearing my way through brush, clambering over trees, crossing innumerable streams, taking off my clothes to wade through sloughs, and dancing over piles of drift-wood, arrived at the above place in the evening. I wanted to go to Mr. Wallace’s place about three miles down the river, but with great difficulty, got a canoe to take me to a desolate place near where the horses were landed, and where Mr. Henry Maddocks, who had succeeded Barney Johnson in charge of goods left behind by deluded miners, received me kindly. There is a shanty there about 10 feet square, half full of goods, which from its wretched position I call Desolation Lodge, for you can only walk twelve paces from it without having to climb over drift-wood or clamber over rocks. Fifty yards below is a miserable hovel, Destitution Hall, the marine villa of Capt. Venables.

After I had been here about a week, making fruitless efforts to get a canoe from the faithless, rascally Indians to take me to Fort Rupert, some miners, most fortunately for me, returned, as they found it impossible with the few provisions they could pack to get to Cariboo. Two of them belonged to Nanaimo, and were bound in the meantime for Fort Rupert, where they agreed to take me, and afterwards from thence to Nanaimo. It took us 14 days, out of which we camped four, on account of stormy weather, and we arrived at Nanaimo on Sunday morning at 1 o’clock. After a delay of two days at Nanaimo, which were rendered agreeable by the kindness of Dr. Benson, I embarked on the sloop Alarm and had 3 1/2 days passage to Victoria. I calculated being away fifteen days, but using every effort I have been absent nearly seven weeks. Lieut. Palmer, expected to be at Fort Alexander the 10th of August last, the last I heard of him was that he was at the slide trying to get Indians to pack for him.


(To be continued)

Source: VIATOR, "A Trip to the Head of Bentinck Arm on the Steamer Labouchere," British Colonist, August 18, 1862.

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