|In the Forest
12th June 1859
My Dear Uncle,
I think a few lines from this part of the world may
please you but you must not be particular if the writing etc., is
rather illegible as I am squatting on the ground and scribbling
this on my knee.
For the last four weeks nearly have I been living
almost entirely in the bush, having nothing with me buy a small
Tent, my blankets, and one change of clothes, which are now in
rags. My occupation in this locality is cutting a trail between
Fort Hope on the Fraser river, and Lightning or Boston Bar on the
same river between the two places being unnavigable and the
distance between them about 50 miles. It is exceedingly rough
work, but as long as the weather is fine, I must say, I should
like it, if I only had a companion to talk to, and make the
evenings pass away more pleasantly; I generally however roll
myself up in my blankets (clothes on) and go to roost soon after 8
and am up generally at 5 sometimes much earlier, and breakfast at
5:3. One must keep early hours at this sort of work, and I think
one is all the better fort it. My dinner hour is 11:30 and I
supper at 5:30 or 6 pm. I get little else to eat and drink but
bacon, dough, tea or coffee except when an Indian is lucky enough
to kill a bird, or my Muleteer, brings out a few potatoes when he
is obliged to return to Fort Hope, or Barley for the Mules. At
first it made me quite sick having nothing but bacon every day but
I soon got accustomed to it, and after a hard days work could make
as hearty a meal as if I had one of your good Saddles of Mutton
before me, in truth, although if I saw the two together I should
not be long in making my choice.
I had got through about 20 or 30 miles of my Trail
path sufficiently large for one mule to get along, when I found
the snow in front quite impassible, and was obliged to retreat,
and am now improving the first section, all of which was very
rough with large trunks of trees lying across, and many places
where one had to wade through streams, up to ones middle. A
felling axe, the principle description of tool is used and I am
sure it would quite astonish you, if you were to see in what a
short time a large tree, 140 or 160 feet high, is cut down with
one of these, by a single man if he is a good axeman. When we come
to a stream which is not fordable, we fell a tree on the bank so
that it falls across, and then chip the rounded part off the top,
and ride our mules over. If this is well done it forms an
There is a great quantity of Cedar, Pine, Alder, and
some Cypress along the rout. The latter is very valuable for
furniture. The Cedars and Alders make the best fire wood. We think
nothing of cutting down 2 or 3 trees for our Evening fire, which
is certainly a great luxury. Fancy cutting down those Cedars on
our lawn at home for firewood! I frequently amuse myself with an
axe and am getting quite expert at it. I find it is not such an
easy thing as one would imagine by merely seeing it used.
I am enormously glad to get my Camp clear of that
Snow, which a few days ago was about two feet thick all round and
melting so rapidly that the Interior of one's tent was always wet
and damp. When the Snow gets rotten it is very dangerous to travel
over a country like this. It may be quite hollow underneath, and
you unexpectedly go down some 8 or 10 feet.
I went into Fort Hope the other day, and coming out
again we could not reach our Camp the same day, and so we had to
sleep in the open air. I started about 5:30 the following morning
and had not gone more than a hundred yards or so when the Indian
that was with us pointed to a large Black Bear about 30 yards off,
he stopped an instant and looked at us, and then made off for the
mountains. I had no rifle with me at the time, so was not sorry to
see him take his departure.
All the country of British Columbia that I have seen,
is one vast forest over mountains and everywhere. They say
however, that there is open country above Boston Bar which will be
valuable for grazing and farming purposes. At present there is no
easy access to that part of the country and that is the reason I
am cutting this trail through - which, if it turns out well, is
likely to be, one of these days, the most important trail in the
I daresay you have heard that Queenborough is to be the name
of the capital. It is situated on the Fraser River about 19 miles
below Langley and its site is one of the thickest timbered parts
of the country - it seemed almost ridiculous to walk over it and
imagine that there could ever be a Town there. It consequently got
the nickname the "Phantom City". Contrary to all expectations the
sale of 2/3 of the lots there on the 1st of the month realized the
sum of 17,800 dollar, so you see people must place some faith in
the future prosperity of the colony. The remaining 1/3 of the lots
is being reserved for people coming out from England, or
elsewhere. The plan of the town is admirable, and the site being
healthy, but the clearing of the lots will be very expensive, of
course that falls on the purchasers.
Our head camp, is about a mile from there, and very prettily
situated with a ravine separating it from the Marines. There are
about 150 of the latter, and I must say they are a most useful set
of men - they are generally employed in clearing the land, and
form an excellent body of axemen.
A most important discovery was made only a few days ago by
the captain of the Survey Steamer "Plumper" viz: that there was an
excellent Harbour for all sorts of vessels, in any weather, only
some 4 or 5 miles from Queenborough. It was not known before that Queenborough was anywhere near the coast. This discovery will save
the dangerous navigation of the Fraser River. A trail to is
already in course of construction - it is quite extraordinary how
little is really known of this country. Those maps you get in
England of it, are not worth a Song. It is also a most difficult
country to survey, as you cannot see a yard ahead of you on
account of the timber.
Colonel Moody RE who is now Lieutenant Governor and Chief
Commissioner of Lands and Works, is I think on the whole very
popular - I like him very much myself. (Private) Governor Douglas
from Victoria one sees in the papers does not appear at all
popular: he wished Langley to be capital, and sold the lots there
before Colonel Moody arrived. Langley was situated on the American
side of the river, and I fancy that was the reason why Col. Moody
objected, and finally settled upon Queenborough.
A great many of the Miners are leaving just now. I attribute
it, to the high price of provisions and the river having risen
very high from the melting of the snow, and this preventing their
working for the next 6 weeks or 2 months. I asked one of them, a
few days ago, what he lived upon and he said Bacon, Beans and Tea
for breakfast, beans, tea and Bacon for dinner and tea, bacon and
beans for supper, so you see I have little variety. I daresay you
would think the Miners as a general class are a horrid set of
ruffians, particularly when you see them with their great beards,
rough clothes, high boots over their trowsers, and always carrying
firearms: it certainly struck me so at first, but after being in
the habit of meeting and talking to them frequently, I must say I
think there are as good honest hearts under it all, as you will
meet anywhere, of course there are exceptions, and one is likely
to meet with men of every character.
There was a bit of a disturbance the night when I was at
Fort Hope when a man stabbed the constable, and I was roused up to
assist the Magistrate.
The Indians about here are a finer race, than those further
down the river; I had 4 of them with me, when I first started out
on this expedition. 3 soon deserted, but the fourth is still with
me, and seems quite attached. I go many distances sometimes with
no one but him and am never afraid of trusting any of my property
to his charge. I sent him out with my Gun occasionally and he
sometimes returns with a grouse or a Duck which is a great treat. He never fires without he is certain of hitting, and will crawl
along on his belly like a snake until he is quite sure of his
mark. I can generally manage by signs and a few Indians words, I
have picked up, to make him understand.
All the Indians wear their hair streaming down their
necks and a great many paint their faces and breasts.
In the Winter they return into their "rancheries". They are large holes in the ground covered over with the bark of
trees, a hole being left in the centre for them to get in and out
by and to answer the purpose of a Chimney they have an upright
pole with dents passing through this hole something like those in
the Zoological Gardens for the Bears to climb up.
It is a wet, chilly, miserable, Evening. Drops of rain
coming through my tent and the Mosquitoes biting like fun; so I
think I will smoke a cigar to keep out the damp and annoy the
Mosquitoes, and wish you Good Night before turning in.
Monday June 13th
Now I should like to walk in, and see you all comfortably seated
under the shade of one of those trees on the Lawn. I have got so
accustomed to being without a table or a chair, that I find I can
now get on very well without them. I should like to know, how you,
Aunt, Lowey and the boys are getting on. Be sure and give them my
best love, and a hearty kiss to Aunt, and Lowey. What has become
of our Harry. I have not had a line from him since I left England. Tell him to write and to let me know whether he has still got the
chestnut as well as all the news that he can give me.
I don't suppose there are any people from our part of the
country thinking of coming out here. If there are I should not
recommend them to do so at present. The country is too rough, and
the provisions too high for them to get on well unless they are
single men and well up to hard work - even then it is very
doubtful whether they could get on. I was paying at Fort Hope
about 4 weeks ago $6 per diem for the board and lodging of 3 men I
had with me. I believe that prices are still the same, though it
does not cost so much when living in the Bush, where you take out
your supply of Bacon etc. There are a great many Yankees in the
Colony who spit, drink, and smoke pretty much all day.
Tell them once they write always to address to me at
Queenborough British Columbia and to put on the envelope via New
York and Panama.
No more time and with very best love to all.
Believe me my dear Uncle.
Ever your affectionate Nephew
Arthur R Lempriere.
I am on my way to Queenborough having received an order to return
late last night. I have received a letter from my mother and
Isabella Reid. You cannot tell what an immense treat a letter is
at this distance from home. I am now on board the Steamer and it
is shaking so I cannot write.