Robert Wolsley Haig 

Fort Colville, 1861 Victoria, 1862

" In Victoria I used to get up about 9, read the newspapers, take a few solar observations with a Sextant till 12, have luncheon, and ride up to town about 2, lounge about the town paying visits and shopping till 3, then go for a ride till 4:39, get home about 5:30, have dinner at 6, cup of tea at 7:30, rubber of whist (for love) till 11, and then turn in and that was our ordinary employment.  We used to be overrun at various portions of the day by naval officers coming on shore for fun, and in the evening we used sometimes to have as many as a dozen at a time in our Mess-room, and we were all great friends with them." 

-- 27 May 1860, Lt. Anderson RE

Haig, like all Royal Artillery officers, was a Gentleman Cadet at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, where he learned his trade as an Artillery Officer, upon completion received a commission as a 2nd lieutenant on 19th December of 1848. 

It appears that he also received his "step up" to 1st Lieutenant on the same day, 19th December 1848 (There must have been some reason for this as most had a gap of about 6 months before getting the step).

On the 9th of May 1855, Haig is promoted to Captain.  Harts' 1857 records no war service for this officer but his promotion appears rapid. He had spent the whole of the nine years up to '57 on full pay.

Haig receives word that he is to be part of the British North American Boundary Commission. The commission travels, from Southampton, England, 2nd April, 1858, on board the Steamer "Parana".

The "Parana" steams into St. Thomas, where the Commission transfers to the Steamer "Trent" and on to Colon (or Aspinwall as the Americans were calling it at the time.

"From there the Commission takes the Panama Railway across the Isthmus to then board the "HMS Havannah".  The Commission arrives at Esquimalt on the 11th of July, 1858.

The Commission counterparts, on the American side, had been working on the Boundary for some time and awaited the British with a mixture of dread and anticipation. Haig's opposite number, Joseph Harris, has left us with some of his observation of the Commission in general and Haig in particular:

4th August, 1858 - 

"On the 28th of July, the HMS Plumper steamed into the harbour and Mr. Parke went off to her.  He had arranged with Mr. King that if the British Commissioner, Major Hawkins, came ashore, he (Mr. P.) would wave his handkerchief as they came in the mouth of the creek and a salute would then be fired.  We on shore were watching for the signal but Mr. Parke, afraid of being seen by by those in the boat with him, waved so feebly that no one saw it and as we could see no body that looked like a dignitary but Captain Richards, we omitted the salute.  However the Commissioner Major Hawkins and Astronomer Captain Haig both were there as found out afterwards.  They came up and looked at the instruments, books, maps and everything else that we had, asked a great many questions and seemed as of course they ought to be quite au fait in such matters."

On the 26th August, 1858, Haig along with Captain Darrah, RE, and Dr. Lyall, RN, set off up the Fraser River with some of the sappers to establish a camp at Sumas Lake

21st September, 1858 - Parke to Harris

"Captain Haig arrived yesterday evening from Sumas, having been three days coming over the guide line.  He came in with our man and an Indian and expected to make the trip in one day.  He had a hard time; and followed your (Mr. Harris) line most of the distance.

He has measured down the Meridian from the observatory at Sumas Station, to a post standing about eight feet above the ground, and covered with red flannel, and finds the distance to be about 2200 yards.  Does this post answer to the one you placed on the parallel?  If so, I fear there is again some mistake..."

The following are a set of letters from Haig to Hawkins.  Haig's use of his superior officer's surname, without the rank being used, was a common form of address for British officers of the time. They considered themselves gentlemen first and officers second.

6th June 1859

My dear Hawkins,

I beg to recommend that the following men have their pay raised again in consequence of their good conduct -

Thomas Torque (particularily)
Robert Cowan (particularily)
Charles Bolton
Denis Ryan
Joseph Jenkins

The latter is a most valuable man as long as he gets no chance to drink.  As a surveyor is competent.  He is very intelligent and this is what I employ him for.  As a good and obedient soldier he does not shine so much, especially when under Serjt. Rogers, for whom he entertains, I think, a sort of contempt or perhaps, not quite so strong a feeling, say, ridicule.

Cowan came out quite strong at Langley with Serjt. Rogers and was the best man of the party.  He is on very low pay and I know not since when this has been the case.  However, ever since he has been with me, he has done everything that could be wished for and I am very glad he was not sent to England.  From what I have heard him say, I know he would have liked it above all things, so there would have been no need to put him on board a man of war to prevent him from bolting.

Bolton was one of the men I stopped all boundary pay from but Serjt. Hutchens does not mention him as worthy to have any of it restored, so I suppose he has had some trouble with him.  As for Kearney, he appeared before me two days after the Langley affair for drunkenness and as I had already stopped everything that I could, I was obliged to order him 28 days confined to camp, which of course amounts to nothing, but then the time for restoration of pay can be postponed being that of the other men and ought to be.

Torque has been on short pay for a long time, I believe since he last got drunk or otherwise committed himself.  When sober, I wouldn't wish for a more willing, hard-working man.

Yours very sincerely,
R. W. Haig

16th June 1859

My dear Hawkins,

I wish to send away the twelve axemen that I have here until the survey down the parallel has been accurately made.  Six of them might be sent with Roche and the remainder might be sent off on the Chilwkweyuk trail to repair it if necessary.  I have worked out a latitude for this place with weights for the different star places.  The probable error of this latitude comes out to be twenty four feet.  The latitude is 49.2 degrees 2 hours 12 minutes.

One of our men, Freeborn Gardner, gave notice to quit last Saturday so I have paid him up.  I can only (and that only PERHAPS) pay the others up to the first of this month.  Many of them are hard up for boots which I believe they can buy at Chilukweyuk.  I have not been able to get any from Langley lately.  If you will have some mules, say six, to make sure sent tomorrow, the axemen will be ready at Serjt. Hutchens' camp at midday which will give them enough to get to your camp the same day.  If I had a surveyor now I could leave this tomorrow myself as I have as accurate a latitude as I want for lines down to the parallel and a trail also crossing it all of which ought to be surveyed accurately.

With regard to the men I have punished by stopping their boundary pay, I also added 14 days confinement to the camp -

Ryan, J. Smith and Kearney had all their boundary pay stopped till further orders.
Jenkins 6 pence a day also.
McTirnan 6 pence a day till further orders.
Birch 7 days Boundary pay stopped and 6 pence a day till further orders.

All the men had either 14 or 18 days confinement to camp.  The crimes are all entered in the order book which I do not send as I understood from you that you would probably visit this station shortly.

Yesterday was a disappointment and today is not much better although the men are at work.

Yours very truly,
R. W. Haig

17th June 1859

My dear Hawkins,

I send two indians, the younger of which I have had employed here since the 26th May inclusive at $1 a day.  His name is Isthlaten.  He is strong and willing to work.  The other man I know nothing about except that he is said to be well aquainted with the Slepe country. 

As far as I can make out from him, a good mule trail can be made to the entrance of the valley and some way up it.  The mountain which has to be turned after leaving Coustas trail is, I understand him to say, very steep, right down to the Chilukweyk river but it is earth and not rock, so that, with a little spade work, a trail could be got through.  I also understand that this steep part over which the trail has to go or rather, along which it has to go, is about half a mile in length and then all is plain sailing again.  Of course, I cannot be dead certain of all this but it is the best that I can make out.  I think it is better to send the indian to you so that Roche may make a fair start with every necessary.  I hope the sextant and the other instruments have been got up from Sumas.  They might be packed on the backs of good and safe mules.  I think where the trail is as good as it is between Sumas and your camp, care being taken that the mule is lightly laden and it would perhaps be as well to have an animal with such a precious load led and then it could not stray and smash the boxes against the tress, etc.

I think while Roche is making the trail, a pocket compass will be sufficient to guide him.  I don't think he is up to sketching with the prismatic compass and moreover sketching Coulter trail would delay him too much.  If he does sketch, I will have the necessaries sent to him - I confess I hardly like sending away a pocket chronometer on such a break-neck expedition although if the sun does not come out it will be almost necessary in order to take stars satisfactorily.  However it will be as well for Roche to remember that there is no use in his taking a latitude at all, until he gets into the Slepe valley, where his course will be as near south as the valley will permit.

While running east latitude observations will be of but little service unless the trail is accurately traversed.  By the by, I suppose Roche is aware that the variation of the needle in these parts is about 21 1/2 degrees or 2 points East of true North.

If the two boxes of magnetic instruments were carefully packed on a led mule and sent here, I could take some observations while the survey is going on.

The two men that I retain were required to complete the second trail down to the parallel and by sending them with the surveyors to carry the instruments or clear away an intervening bough, I hope to get on much quicker that otherwise.  If the magnetic instruments are sent, one set of legs will be sufficient (the longest).

Yours very sincerely
R. W. Haig
The name of the older indian is Telichkil.

(Harris to his brother)

Camp Skagit, 7th August, 1859 -

"Captain Haig of the English Commission has now been here all day and nothing could be done towards getting letters written...

The HMS Satellite has been ordered to San Juan and it is said the HMS Plumper too to prevent the landing of any more troops and the Sappers and Miners, the only military in the country, have been taken down from the Fraser River to go to San Juan. The speck of war looks large to appear so quickly but I do not know what will come next - more quiet times I think. Haig appears to think the affair decidedly threatening: he gave me most of the information, though a letter from Warren and the Victoria papers confirmed everything.

Haig returns to Chilliwack Lake and I suppose with him return all hopes of the English Commission doing much more this season. He is now acting Commissioner and Hawkins cannot be back before three months."

As soon as he was able, it appears that Haig moved on disciplining his errant men.

RE Camp, New Westminster,
30th September, 1859


I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt this morning of your communication of the 14th Instant, referring to the case of Lt. Wilson RE having applied to me for a District Court Martial to be assembled for the trial of No. 2209 Sapper James Kearney, of the 32nd Company of Royal Engineers attached to the North American Boundary Commission under your Command.

Your approval of the steps taken by that Officer, under the circumstances, has my entire concurrence.

I submit herewith the proceedings of the Court martial, which have been approved by me, and shall feel obliged by your returning them, according to the rules of the Service, to the president, Captain Parsons RE, by whom they have to be transmitted to the Judge Advocate General, after they have been read out to the Men under your command, and the usual extract made.

Sapper Kearney is undergoing his Imprisonment here according to Lt. Wilsonís request.

I have etc., etc.,

RC Moody,Colonel Commanding

To Captain Haig, RA, Commanding NAB Commission

On the same day Haig received another letter from the Columbia Detachment from Captain Luard.

RE Camp, New Westminster,
30th September 1859


I am instructed by the Col. Commanding to enclose for your information a charge of Drunkenness against Sapper (late Lance Corporal) John Healey belonging to your Detachment, and to request that, whenever you may deem it necessary to order any Non-Commissioned Officer or Sapper to this place for medical treatment or on any duty, his Defaulter Sheet may, in future, when practicable, be sent with him, in order that in the event of his committing himself, the case may be dealt with according to the character he may have, by his previous conduct, established for himself in the Service.

Sapper Healy proceeds by this opportunity to rejoin your Detachment, with orders to report himself to Lt. Wilson RE at the Chilickweyuk Depot.

I have etc, etc,.

HRLuard, Captain RE

To Captain Haig, RA, Act. Commander NAB Commission.

In January of 1860, the explorer John Palliser, came to Victoria.

Esquimalt harbour is about three miles from Victoria, where the "Ganges" (Amdiral Baynes) and several other steamers are lying. Esquimalt is also the head-quarters of the Boundary Commission, under Col. Hawkins, and then under Captain Haig.

We were most kindly and hospitably entertained by Governor Douglas, Admiral Baynes, and all the officers of the fleet; also by Captain Haig and his brother officers.

- Appendix IV of The Palliser papers, pg. 536

"The ladies out here are not quite so ceremonious as those at home; they often speak of gentlemen by their surnames, and one of them who happens to be a namesake of mine also speaks of me as her cousin, tho' I should be sorry to own any relationship.  They say this very young lady was proposed to by Captain Haig, one of our officers, and the story goes that she was actually so silly as to refuse him, so we consider that he has had a wonderful escape." 

-- Lt. Anderson, Pilgrim's Rest,
14 April 1860

Eliza Anderson, daughter of A. C. Anderson. the young lady who refused Haig's proposal.  She went on to become Mrs. James Beattie.

CM/13706A             [Fraser River, Boundary Bay,     1860
                                  Chilliwack River and Skagit
                                  River] / by Captain Haig,
                                  N.A.B. Boundary Commission

ANDERSON, James Robert, 1841-1930.  Victoria; accountant, Deputy
Minister of Agriculture.
Originals, 1824, 1858-1927, 2.16 m

BC Archives

Haig (standing) and Darrah (seated in tent with theodolite) at Yahk River station.

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