(A letter from Jonathan Begg, from Salt Spring Island, to his brother-in-law
All spelling, punctuation and grammar as appear in letter.)
Salt Spring Island
Near Van Couver’s Island
My Dear Friends
I take this opportunity of again writing to
you. I have not up to this time heard from you since I arrived in the colony.
In my last I related my experience on the Pacific Coast together with my views
etc., so that it would be needless to repeat it. Suffice it to say that it, the
country has shown proofs of lasting greatness this summer few have dreamed of
and so far as the Fraser River is concerned it is now proved beyond a doubt that
is contains inexhaustible supplies of the precious metal all along the river and
its numerous tributaries through 6 or 7 miles of country.
I have taken a farm
now and am hard at work putting in cabbages and turnips. I have 4 acres under
fence and two acres already in potatoes and early vegetables. The balance will
be in cabbage and turnips. I hope to have in 10,000 cabbages this summer which
will bring in sometimes at 10 cents per pound, which I expect they will bring
me in the spring. My farm contains 200 acres of the best land in the colony and
is admirably situated midway between New Westminster and Victoria the respective
capitals of British Columbia and Van Couvers Island. I am very well pleased with
my prospects here and should the gold field of British Columbia prove of a lasting
character, which I have every reason to believe I can not fail doing well here
in a few years. The climate is excellent so far as I am able to judge as I have
now just one years experience of it. The summer here is unrivalled and the country
looks like a gentleman’s pleasure grounds, so splendid and variegated does
it look in its summer vesture. Farming is not conducted here on grand principles.
Any little that is done or has been done heretofore has been by old servants of
the H.B.Co. who are more awkward than the animals they drive. One can see here
the old carts, farm implements and mode of cultivation in vogue 30 years ago in
Britain. A good practical farmer here with a little means would not fail to make
rich in a few years; for instance turnips sell at 1 cent per lb by the quantity,
hay 30 to 50 dollars per ton, butter 30 cts lb, eggs 75 cents doz. And every other
thing of produce in proportion – and these prices must last so long as the
gold fields are productive, and that is now a fixed fast fact for dry digging
of boundless extent has been discovered this spring which averages from 5 to 10
dollars per day to the man.
We are not badly off for company here. There is
already quite a number of Canadians and Co settlers on this Island as we lie on
the highway to Naniamo, the coal fields and only 25 miles distant from that place.
We have always as many as three or 4 schooners etc. calling on us weekly on the
way from Vancouvers to Victoria and we have a mail about every ten days. And your
humble servant has been appointed postmaster. We had an election of legislative
assembly men and Salt Springs etc sent a member. I was appointed returning officer
on this occasion. The members had to be worth $1800 so we had to appoint a man
from Victoria as no settler could qualify. The member is elected for three years.
By that time we hope to be represented by a local man. I had the honour of organizing
the first agricultural society in the colony so we have the Salt Springs Island
Agricultural Society and hope to have something good to show next fall. We are
at present anxiously waiting to hear from home in order to have the land reduced
to $125 per acre. A petition from the local legislature has gone home to obtain
I like this better than any country I ever lived in and had
we only a little good society it would be a perfect paradise. I may remark that
society is daily improving by respectable families coming from England and the
It costs little to live here. Our natives supply us with all luxury
of the season for a trifle. Fancy a fine buck for $1 – Salmon weighing 20
lbs 12 ½ cents, brace of grouse 25 cents, etc
This is the country for
I am in excellent health and spirits hoping this may find you
all the same. Hoping you will send me a long letter with all the news from there.
Via Overland Route
Salt Spring Island
Near Vancouvers Island
James and Elspet must be grown to be quite a size.
I should be glad if James were here. He would be excellent company for me and
would thrive here like the cedars of Lebanon in its native forest.