Official Report On Kootenay: 0051.0012


From the British Columbia Government Gazette we obtain the following report of the late official trip to the Kootenay country by Mr. Colonial Secretary Birch:

                                                COLONIAL SECRETARY’S OFFICE,

                                                            New Westminster,

                                                                        31st October, 1864.

SIR – I have the honor to report to you my return from visiting the Kootenay District.  I much regret that my absence has been prolonged beyond the time I had anticipated, in consequence of the far greater distance of the Mining portion of that District from the town of Hope than I had been led to expect from the reports that had reached New Westminster before my departure.

Leaving Hope on the 2nd September, in company with Mr. Bushby and Mr. Evans, we crossed the Cascade range to Princeton, a distance of 75 miles, in 3 days, and following the beautiful valley of the Similkameen, we reached the custom house at Osoyoos on the 8th of September.

From Osoyoos we proceeded by way of Rock Creek, where we found several Chinamen and 5 white men employed in mining on the lower portion of the stream.  The latter were taking out from 6 to 8 dollars a day to the hand, and from information I was enabled to gather on the spot it only requires an influx of miners to develop the resources of this once famous creek.

After leaving this we followed the N-whoy-alpit-kwu, or Kettle river, as far as Boundary creek, where we left the old Colville trail and proceeded by the new Hudson Bay Company’s trail, which continues through British territory and after some 15 miles strike the old trail again on the Grande Prairie.  With the exception of a very few miles the entire route from Rock Creek lies through a fine rolling prairie country, thinly wooded and abounding in bunch grass.

The Grande Prairie is a magnificent level plateau of some 15 miles in length by 8 in breadth, admirably adapted for grazing and agriculture; it is almost encircled by the Kettle river, the banks of which for some distance on either side consist of a deep rich soil.

My intention was to have continued on the new trail to Fort Shepherd without passing into American territory, but on learning from the Indians whom we met on the Grande Prairie that the trail from Fort Shepherd to the Kootenay lake was extremely rough and bad for horses, I deemed it prudent to proceed to Fort Shepherd by way of Colville, where I was enabled to have some of the horses, which had become foot sore, properly shod at the United States barracks, through the kindness of the officer in command of the garrison.

After a delay of two days at Colville we started for Fort Shepherd, a newly erected trading post of the Hudson Bay Company, situated in a wild and barren spot, some two miles northward of the Boundary Line, and forty miles from Colville.

Here we had to swim the horses in a very rapid part of the Columbia, a short distance above the Pend d’Oreilles river.

I find that the trail from this point to the Kootenay valley, which passes over a densely wooded mountain, a distance of some 30 miles, was opened out in the early spring by the merchants of Colville but what additions or improvements have since been made by the employees of the Hudson Bay Company, I am at a loss to conceive.

No attempt has been made to grade the steep inclines in any way, and it seems to have been the ambition of the road party to carry the trail through as many swamps as possible, every now and then appearing to lose themselves and then taking the trail over some high bluff only to return again to the swamps beneath.

The best evidence I can give of the utter uselessness of the work done under the auspices of the Hudson Bay Company, is in the disaster which has happened to one of the Company’s own pack-trains, which started to cross this portion of the trail at the same time as myself, under the charge of Mr. Linklater; this train was 14 days in reaching the Kootenay valley, and lost six horses, one of which disappeared with its entire pack of 250 lb. of flour.

As the trail at present exists it would be impossible for packers to pass through this portion without carrying food for their animals.  There is good food about 12 miles from Fort Shepherd and again at the Summit of the mountains, which form the divide between the valleys of the Columbia and Kootenay rivers.  The distance from the first feed to the summit is 34 miles, and again from the summit to the Kootenay some 36 miles must be passed over without finding sufficient grass for more than one pack-train.

We struck the Kootenay river about four miles from the upper end of the great Kootenay or Flatbow lake.  This portion of the valley is quite level and composed of rich alluvial soil, and much resembles that of Pitt river at this season, abounding as it does in swamp grass and rank vegetation; it is evidently one continuous lake during the earlier period of the year.  The river itself is broad, steep and sluggish.

The Kootenay Indians are by far the finest specimens of the race that I have yet seen, and are among the – I fear – few tribes remaining that have not been demoralised by contamination with the white man.  I believe with few exceptions they have become converts to Christianity, and it was a pleasing sight to see the Chief of the tribe, who accompanied me on my road for some days, kneel down before each repast and thank God for his daily bread.  They appeared much pleased with the few presents which I made them of needles, fish-hooks and tobacco, and during the time that we were within the district of the eastern tribes we were generally followed by a large cavalcade.  A large number were encamped in the valley at their fishing grounds; they were very friendly, and tendered us every assistance in helping to swim our horses and cross our baggage over the Kootenay river; this we accomplished with safety, nearly parallel with the Boundary Line, having travelled some twenty miles up the valley after leaving the newly-made trail

On leaving the river we were obliged to diverge some 10 miles into American territory, when we joined the Lewiston and Walla Walla trail, which follows up the Mooyie river to the Lakes, from which the river takes its rise, through a thickly timbered and somewhat mountainous country, where we found it very difficult to find food for our horses.

From these lakes to the mines, a distance of about 40 miles, the country again opens out, and nothing exceed the grandeur of the scenery as we now approached the Rocky Mountains.

We arrived at the mines on the 26th day from Hope, and I cannot estimate the distance travelled over in this period at less than 190 miles, though in this it should be remembered that I include the detour of 30 miles, which I made by way of Colville.

I found about 700 men resident at the mines, and I was informed that at least 300 were out prospecting in the neighbourhood; but although numerous reports of new and extensive discoveries reached the creek daily during my stay, I could obtain no information sufficiently authentic to place any credence in them.

The mining is therefore at present entirely confined to one creek, called by the miners “Wild Horse Creek,” which takes its rise within the confines of the Rocky Mountains, and flows into the Kootenay river, northward of the 50th parallel of latitude.  This creek is at present worked for about 4 miles, commencing some two miles from its junction with the Kootenay.  I visited most of the claims, and found them all paying well, and, with few exceptions, the entire community appeared well satisfied with the laws to which they were subject.

At the time of my arrival, 50 sluice companies were at work, employing from 5 to 25 men, and taking out from $300 to $1000 per diem.

One hundred rockers were averaging from 2 oz. to 6 oz. per diem.

Eight companies have commenced running tunnels, into the side of the hill, but the Gold Hill Company was the only one sufficiently advanced to become remunerative; this company was taking out nearly an ounce “to the hand” per diem.

Four shafts were being sunk in the bed of the creek, but at the time of my departure no satisfactory results had been obtained, although all parties interested seemed confident of success.

Seventy men were employed in constructing a large upper ditch, some 5 miles in length, which it was expected would be completed early in the present month, when more than 100 hill claims, which were lying over for want of water, would commence work.  The few hill claims at present working are found to be richer than the bed of the creek, the opening of the ditch is therefore looked forward to with much interest.

Laborers were receiving $7 a day, and the price of provisions enabled them to live well for $1.50 per diem.

A town of no inconsiderable size has already sprung up upon the creek.  Four restaurants are established; the rate of charges for regular boarders average $14 to $18 per week.  Numerous substantial stores have been erected.  A large brewery had also been established, and had commenced working.

Great uncertainty prevails as to the period at which the winter fairly sets in, but it was expected that the severe frosts would not commence before November, and it was therefore the intention of Mr. Haynes to allow all claims to lie over from the 1st Nov. to the 1st May.

From the number of log huts in course of construction, it is estimated that from 300 to 400 persons will winter at the mines.

The gold taken from these mines is considered by the traders to equal the best Californian gold.  The price at which it passes current on the creek is $18 the ounce, and packers going down are glad to purchase at that price.

I was very anxious to obtain some approximate return of the amount of gold taken from the creek during the season, but I found it impossible to do so.  Careful accounts are kept by the miners of the receipts and disbursements for the week, but as each Sunday comes round the division of profits is made, or more properly speaking, there is a general square up, after which all accounts to that date are destroyed.

The camp is well supplied with all the necessaries of life.  I enclose a list of prices of the chief articles.

It is confidently expected by the traders that there will be a rush of from 10,000 to 15,000 miners from the Boise country in the spring, and large supplies are still being sent in to the mines.  On our return we met ten and twelve heavily laden pack trains daily.  The entire supplies are at present packed up from Lewiston, Walla-Walla, Wallula and Umatilla Landing, in Washington Territory and the State of Oregon.  The cattle came direct from Salt lake City, and are some of the finest I have ever seen.

The distances from these places are as follows:

Wild Horse Creek to Lewiston                                                                  342 miles

  Do.                do.   to Walla-Walla                                                                        408    do.

  Do.                do.   to Wallula                                                                    438    do.

  Do.                do.   to Umatilla Landing                                                   453    do.

            The present charges for packing from these places ranges from 20c to 24c per lb.

            A trail through British territory, either by way of the Shuswap or Grande Prairie, cannot I think exceed 400 miles.  The merchants of this Colony need therefore have little fear of being able to compete with the American merchants, when it is remembered to what enormously high tariff American goods are now subject.

            Mr. Haynes had collected a large amount of Revenue, considering the short time that he had been resident in the district.  I found his Treasury to consist of an old portmanteau which he zealously guarded by night and day, in the log hut in which he is at present living.

            At the urgent request of Mr. Haynes I relieved him of a portion of his responsibility, by taking over some 75 lbs. weight of gold.  This I brought down with me, and have safely deposited in the hands of the Treasurer.  It is an interesting incident for Mr. Evans, Mr. Bushby, and myself to remember that we were the first Gold Escort direct from the Rocky Mountains to the seaboard of the Colony.

            We left the mines on the 1st of October, and I much regretted that time would not allow of my returning by some other route than the one I had already travelled over, as I feel very confident that for many reasons it is not the one to be adopted by the Government.

            Since my return to New Westminster I learn that a surveying party has already started, by way of Kamloops and the Shuswap Lake.  They will doubtless follow the Indian trail, and strike the Columbia near the Arrow Lakes; but before any decision is arrived at in the matter, I am very anxious that the portion of the country lying between the Grande Prairie and the junctions of the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers should be explored.

            I am told by Mr. A. McDonald, who is resident at the Hudson Bay Company’s Fort at Colville, and who is well known as an experienced hunter, that, striking nearly due north from the Grande Prairie, there is a low divide, the commencement of which we could plainly distinguish, by which you are enabled to reach the Columbia with great ease, nearly opposite to the Kootenay River.

            The entire country from Princeton to the Grand Prairie, a distance of some 160 miles, is almost free from timber; abounds in food for cattle; the trail throughout is excellent, and with the exception of a small distance on the Similkameen, no expenditure would be required in improving it, and indeed little would be required in improving it,  and indeed little would be required in making the same into a wagon road.

            The exploration of the short distance, I have referred to might easily be accomplished during the winter months, and if found feasible might be opened out in a very short time.  I would therefore suggest for your consideration that Mr. Haynes be at once empowered to expend a small sum on this work.

            I have little of sufficient interest to report relative to our return journey, which would excuse me for continuing this already lengthy report; we arrived at Hope in 24 days from Wild Horse Creek, having experienced most lovely weather; we had only to record two wet days throughout the whole period of our absence, and nothing can exceed the charms of this climate for camp life.

            We found game abundant over the whole trail, and were enabled without difficulty or delay, to keep the camp well-supplied, though I must own that on occasions we had descended so low in the game list as to eat porcupine with a relish.

            I cannot conclude this letter without expressing my sense of the admirable manner in which Mr. Haynes has carried out his duties under most difficult circumstances; arriving as he did with only one constable to assist him, among a body of 1500 miners from the adjoining territories, many of whom were known to be utterly regardless of law and order; he found them banded together making their own laws and meting out their own ideas of justice; each man, as many have owned to me carrying his life in his hands.  In fact so insecure had life and property become in the eyes of many of the miners that Mr. Dore, one of the original discoverers of this creek, and a few others, had formed themselves into a committee, and drawn up a code of laws which they intended enforcing on the community had not a government officer arrived at the moment.  Copies of these laws were handed to me by Mr. Doors (sic.), and I enclose them as interesting documents.  I would add that the gentlemen forming this committee have cheerfully rendered Mr. Haynes every assistance in their power, in maintaining law and order.

            I arrived, within six weeks of Mr. Hayne’s residence in the District, to find the Mining Laws of the colony in full force, all Customs duties paid, no pistols to be seen, and everything as quiet and orderly as it could possibly be in the most civilized district of the colony, much to the surprise and admiration of many who remember the early days of the neighboring State of California.

            I have the honor to be, sir,

                                    Your most obdt. servant,

                                                                        ARTHUR N. BIRCH

            His Excellency, Frederick Seymour.



Flour, self rising                                                          $38 and $40 per 100 lbs.

Beans                                                                                                  $0.50 per lb.

Bacon                                                                                                     .40    do.

Tea                                                                                                      $1.75    do.

Coffee                                                                                                     .75    do.

Sugar                                                                                                      .75    do.

Butter                                                                                                 $1.00    do.

Beef                                                                                                        .20    do.

Mutton                                                                                                   .25    do.

Candles                                                                                                  .75    do.

Tobacco                                                                                             $2.00    do.

Gum Boots (none on the creek)

Knee Boots                                                                                $15.00 per pair

0051.0012: Official Report On Kootenay

Coverage of the official trip to Kootenay Country by Colonial Secretary Birch. A very complete description of methods of access and the amount of gold coming out of the creek. Also a short list of provision prices.

Medium:  Newspaper - Text
Date:  November 11, 1864
Pages:  2
Publisher:  Victoria Daily Colonist
Collection:  Columbia Basin Institute (0051)




People arrow Bircharrow
People arrow Dorearrow
People arrow Evansarrow
People arrow Linklaterarrow
People arrow Haynesarrow
People arrow McDonaldarrow
People arrow Seymourarrow
Social arrow Ethnic Groups arrow Chinesearrow
Social arrow Consumer Goods arrow Mining Camp Conditionsarrow
Physical Features arrow Mountains arrow Cascade Mountainsarrow
Physical Features arrow Mountains arrow Rocky Mountainsarrow
Physical Features arrow Creeks arrow Boundary Creekarrow
Physical Features arrow Creeks arrow Rock Creekarrow
Physical Features arrow Creeks arrow Wild Horse Creekarrow
Physical Features arrow Rivers arrow Columbia Riverarrow
Physical Features arrow Rivers arrow Kettle Riverarrow
Physical Features arrow Rivers arrow Kootenay Riverarrow
Physical Features arrow Rivers arrow Moyie Riverarrow
Physical Features arrow Rivers arrow Pend Oreille Riverarrow
Physical Features arrow Rivers arrow Similkameen Riverarrow
Physical Features arrow Lakes arrow Arrow Lakesarrow
Physical Features arrow Lakes arrow Kootenay Lakearrow
Physical Features arrow Lakes arrow Moyie Lakearrow
Transportation arrow Pack Trainsarrow
Transportation arrow Trails arrow Dewdney Trailarrow
Transportation arrow Trails arrow Walla Walla Trailarrow
Transportation arrow Trails arrow Wild Horse Trailarrow
Industry arrow Construction arrow Surveyors and Engineersarrow
Government arrow Fees arrow Gold Taxarrow
Government arrow Officials arrow Gold Commissionersarrow
Government arrow Customsarrow
First Nations arrow Ktunaxaarrow
Cities arrow Colville WAarrow
Cities arrow Fort Sheppardarrow
Cities arrow Hopearrow
Cities arrow Lewiston IDarrow
Cities arrow Princetonarrow
Cities arrow Umatilla Landingarrow
Cities arrow Walla Walla WAarrow
Cities arrow Wallula WAarrow
Cities arrow Kootenay arrow Businesses arrow Retailers arrow Hudson Bay Co.arrow
Cities arrow Kootenay arrow Businesses arrow Breweries and Bottlingarrow
Cities arrow Kootenay arrow Businesses arrow Restaurantsarrow
Industry arrow Mining arrow Gold Mining arrow Wild Horse Creekarrow
Industry arrow Mining arrow Equipment arrow Ditches arrow Victoria Ditcharrow
Industry arrow Mining arrow Lawsarrow
Sports arrow Huntingarrow
Natural History arrow Animals arrow Porcupinearrow
Social arrow Criminal Activity arrow Vigilantesarrow
People arrow Bushbyarrow
Cities arrow Osoyoosarrow


For additional features, including access to full text resources, become a member.

Find out more about Memberships.

Share what you know

Share what you know

Do you have additional information about this resource?

Please share what you know.

This resource may be protected by copyright law and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the written permission of the Columbia Basin Institute of Regional History.