Salt Spring Island
New Victoria, V.I.
Nov 28th 1862
I have this evening taken a few minnetts to
pen these lines to you to acquaint you that I am still in my usual health, with
the exception of a cold caught amongst the icy regions of Cariboo. I have been
healthy out here. Since I wrote to you last a great emigration has been pouring
into this colony. Large vessels arrive weekly from all parts of the world laden
with passengers and merchandise. English capitalists have gone into investments
in this colony and as shown fruits in the way of erecting substantial warehouses,
wharfs etc in town and in the erection of sawmills etc in the country.
in due course from Carraboo that famed goldfield after traveling some 1500 miles
with my blankets and grub on my back. My experience during 3 - 4 months I was
absent would fill an interesting volume. I packed cabbage plants right into the
mines and planted them out also. I should have realized $2.50 per head if I had
not got starved out before they matured. I went up here in company with a person
who was to supply me with provision all summer but who was not able to keep his
agreement after undergoing great hardships with little profit except for some
orders I was able to take on my way down. However it will be satisfactory to know
that I am steadily progressing with the colony. My property is every day becoming
more valuable and my means are steadily increasing. I am now able to supply the
demands of British Columbia with young fruit trees grown at my own nursery. I
have sold a large quantity this season of my own growth and every year the trade
is increasing. I expect to put in 50,000 grafts this season and plant out about
1000 orchard trees. Referring to the subject of trees, my commencing that trade
here has been a decided hit. A large local demand has sprung up owing to the number
of settlers now settling up the wild land a large local demand is springing up
- in Canada or the north States you see no growth of fruit trees like what we
have here. This season I had plums put on shoots of 7 feet in length and one in.
in thickness and apples at two years old as large as the same in Canada at 3 to
4 years old. I have trees 12 feet high and well proportioned which I put in three
yeas ago small trees.
You will see by the above that this is a country we
can grow stuff in. I saw tomatoes ripen in August as I passed down by Williams
Lake which is 3000 feet above sea level and 300 miles N.E. of New Westminster.
There are many good openings in the way of farming in this country in fact no
country in the globe shows the like. I know farms that has netted 30,000 dollars.
I know some farmers that has made $10,000 in cutting and stacking wild hay in
the course of 6 weeks. Barley and oats for fodder brings 20 to 25 cts per lb and
it cost me $4 ½ per night at some points to keep a horse at hay. When will
your Iowa prices compare with that? There is no country presents the openings
for a working man that this does.
This season has been remarkably mild so
far. It is more like September weather than anything else.
I remark what you
say on the subject of my coming over to get married etc. But that is the rub I
cannot leave my beautiful place Balmoral for any such foolish purpose at present
as my business will retain me here in spite of fate for one or two years more.
It is difficult for a person to find a suitable substitute to transact one's business
in this gold country where every one is on the move. I think as a second best
resort I had better get you to find a wife for me, box her up and send her by
express. Surely the war has now decimated the country sufficiently to throw in
one's way the chance of getting an interesting widow. If no maidens are to be
had. I am now quite prepared for matrimony in a worldly point of view - Plenty
of everything to keep a woman comfortable.
The city of Victoria is improving
rapidly. Large stone and brick warehouses are being reared in every direction
and there are now a number of streets already built up. It will soon be one of
the first cities on the Pacific. I think you missed it very much sticking down
in that poor place Iowa where you toil to raise corn at a bit a bushel. There
is plenty of good land to be taken up here in favourable localities at $1 per
acre with 4 years to pay it in. this spring brought out shoals of Canadians to
this coast many of whom have sent for their families and are now permanent residents
amongst us. And amongst the number who should I have met this spring but James
Cummings stalking along the streets of New Westminster. I was somewhat surprised
when I saw him. He informs me his father has been dead for some years.
colony has a gread destiny before it. It is bound to acquire commercial importance
at an early date. It has a good climate, excellent agricultural resources and
mines that can not be worked out in a century to come. My trip to the mines this
season set at rest all previous doubts I had on that matter. I saw some of the
miners dig out what you would consider a good year's work at every shovel of dirt
they took from the bed rock.
I can assure you however it is not all gold that
glitters. The miners endure hardships you form no conception of in the want of
provisions etc. I have lived for days while in Carraboo on beans boiled without
port of salt or any other substance besides water, and miners has lived for weeks
on that alone this summer up there. I paid $1.25 per lb for beans and could get
nothing else. I lived on beans straight for several days that is on beans without
salt or sugar. Flour could not be had at 150 per lb early in the season when I
was at the mines.
The adventures of almost each miner forms a romantic and
stirring narrative of itself. I have had my share on this coast as well as elsewhere.
A railroad company has just been formed to join Victoria and Esquimalt Harbour
a distance of 3 miles and another is in projection to pass my place to Nanaimo
I wish the Pacific Rail road were made. I would then pay you a visit. There is
published now 3 daily papers in Victoria besides some weeklies. One of the dailies
is verily as large as the Globe (in Toronto)
I have fruit trees 12 feet height
will be bearing heavy crops next year if I have luck with them.
all your boys and girls and grown good sizes now. I should like very much to see
you all again but I fear the pleasure is removed some distance from me. You might
send me over the oldest boy as you can now well spare him. I will have him well
educated and will provide for him otherwise. Apart from getting me a wife by express
I know of no better service you could render me than by sending the boy.
me kindly to Mrs. Chisholm senior and your sister Mrs. Gibb, also all other enquiring
friends. I hope Margaret is in her usual good health but first she must quit the
family accumulating or else you will have to look for estates on the Pacific.
Iowa will not be broad enough to contain your family. I will be glad to hear from
you on receipt of this with all the local and family news but no general news.
For God Sake do not fill your letters with general news any more as I know what
is going on in the States better and quicker than you do. You forget we have an
Atlantic telegraph here with news at Victoria 5 days from New York.
Yours very truly