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 Labouchere

The British Colonist, August 19, 1862

The voyage back was the very antipodes of the trip in the steamer; we were only three white men, Juan Ewers, Francisco Bilboas and myself in a Northern canoe, and two concubine squaws, who had been left by their lords at Bella Coola, one of them a great masculine creature, three feet broad between the shoulders and snoring like a man, lazy as a prize hog; the other, puny and sickly: this was all our crew, and we soon transshipped the lazy squaw. The winds were variable and often ahead, when they neutralized the effect of a favorable tide, and we had considerable rain. At most of the camping places we were sure to find the remains of small-pox Indians, with all their effects, left there, no doubt, by those driven from this place, on their way home northward. We were once in imminent danger from a squall in Bentinck Arm, and we were caught out three times towards night-fall without any place of shelter, but we succeeded in getting late at night, on two occasions, into safe inland bays, and on the other, with a strong head wind, we reached about midnight a beautiful white, sandy beach, to the north of the Comax Bluff. I will now endeavor to give a faithful account of the Bentinck Arm, and of the route, according to what I saw and heard of it from many who had returned from it.

The distance from Klemahaya, a little shelter formed by three islands on the southern side of the entrance to Bentinck Inlet, to the head of the North Arm, I consider sixty miles; according to Ocuble’s chart and scale it is 80 miles, but his data must be taken cumgrano salis [with a grain of salt]. We camped at that place two days on account of bad weather; it rained, blew, and was foggy all the time. The first place of safety for vessels in the inlet is Safety Cove, on the north shore, where Vancouver refitted after getting ashore on the reef outside, then Restoration Bay on the south shore; the next place is a small bay about half way upon the southern side, where we camped two days on account of rain and head winds; here we found the remains of three Bella-Bella Indians one had committed suicide on being attacked with the small-pox, and two other squaws had been left to die there. There are some places, indentions of the coast and in the south fork of Dean’s Canal, where vessels might anchor, but there are stretches of ten and fifteen mile without any shelter whatever, and the tides are strong and the squalls sudden and heavy.

The first white settlement on the Arm is the whiskey mill of A. Wallace on the northern bank at about three miles from the Indian village. I regret Lieut. Palmer did not land there as I consider it the only place worthy of attention. There is a snug little bay, a flat of considerable size, which, with some low benches, might form 100 to 150 acres. It has a southern exposition, the snow soon disappears and the vegetation is luxuriant. Mr. Wallace had green peas, potatoes, onions, parsnips, beets, cabbages, etc., of very healthy growth. There is another building of boards on the same flat belonging to Capt. McKay, called Constance House, on account, I presume, of being constantly empty and likely to remain so. A fine torrent stream divides the flat, capable of running a mill of any power; it could be easily dammed and Mr. Wallace assures me that a mile and a half up it is the finest description of timber which could be floated down it. Mr. Wallace and Mr. Kenny were the only two white men I left there. It is true that if that spot were made the terminus of ship-navigation goods would have to be lightered up nearly three miles to a point below the Indian village on the proposed town site, where they would strike the river trail.

The next house is a little farther up on the other shore, an omnium gatherum [of multiple objectives] claim, to secure a water-power where, I am told, there is no timber. Then comes a roofless hut on the same side, put up by Mr. Taylor, but seemingly abandoned; we now reach Capt. Venable’s hovel and afterwards the house called Barney Johnson’s, where I left Henry Maddock and Mr. Sweet, who had come down from the mines, but thought of returning to them. The only way to make a payable road from Barney Johnson’s to the town site is to erect a wharf about a mile and a half long; blasting the perpendicular rocks whose base the tide washes is out of the question. From the proposed town site, about half a mile square, where the Indians have their potatoe patches, to the upper village is about three miles, a torrent stream has to be passed, on logs now, but a strong bridge would be required for the high water season. At the upper village to which the claim of Capt. Marley extends, on both sides of the river from the line of the town site, are two white men, Mr. Taylor and Mr. McLeod, holding claims, I am told, for some Victoria folk; Mr. McGregor, who has located there has gone to the mines.

Mr. Ross, who had returned from his way to the mines, and who was formerly connected with Mr. Wallace, thought of settling on the river at the crossing and establishing a ferry. The Indians are desirous of having white people among them, but by their extortion and ill-faith do everything to drive them away.

I have already given a description of the trail from Asinari to the upper village; it is about the same from Noosloos to Asinari. I landed several times from the canoe on my way up at various parts of the trail, and though some parts were good, the general character of it is the same. On approaching the head of canoe navigation the trail is exceedingly rocky and rough, so it is soon after leaving Spring’s and going onwards. But the trail even if good would be useless for permanent purposes, as a large portion of it must be overflowed during the freshet season. The level land is about a mile wide from the river to the foot of the mountains, and, I think, commencing denovo [anew], a good trail might be made nearer the base by long, straight stretches, shortening the actual tortuous trail very considerably. In my next communication I will give the reports of several persons who have returned from the trail.


(To be continued.)

Source: VIATOR, "A Trip to the Head of Bentinck Arm on the Steamer Labouchere," British Colonist, August 19, 1862.

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