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Gordon Brown

How Salt Spring Island Became Canadian

Accession Number Interviewer
Date Location SSA Cassette tapes box File #1A to File #23 Shelf 8C
Media Audio CD
ID 25




Unknown Speaker 0:00
For those of us who live down in the Deep South, the line may be in the in the invisible as Tony has suggested isn't the advertisement for this meeting. But the results of the boundary settlement are obvious when one gazes southeast toward San Juan Island. Now, it might seem that the boundary bears little impact that bears little on the on the history of the island. But after all, it was the boundary agreement, two of them that determined that Saltspring should remain in British later Canadian hands. And from that flowed other important effects, such as the coming to the island and 1859 of blacks from the slaveholding United States, and an 18 Suddenly three of Hawaiians, once Hudson Bay Company employees in Oregon Territory, who moved to San Juan Island, and then continued their journey here when San Juan was getting to the United States. Another impact of the story of the boundary is the heritage of place names on Saltspring and in the waters around left by the Royal Navy when it sailed our coast to protect British interests and to survey the boundary. Now a little background before we start at the beginning, boundary settlements affecting our side of the continent began with the Webster Ashburton Treaty of 1818, which agreed on the 49th parallel was the dividing line across the prairies to the Rocky Mountains. From then, until 1846, the area west and south of the Columbia River was remained in in dispute and was governed by what's available to both countries actually found the minimum arrangement not this map, which can see later in detail was printed in London in 1840. And it shows most of the Columbia territory in as part of Canada as part of British America. No doubt they're American maps, which was until just to reverse the tune in 1846, the Treaty of Washington gave the Americans everything on the mainland south of the 49th. But left Vancouver Island entire entirely in British hands. The two sides still have to work out the boundary through the water separating Vancouver Island from the mainland and in the ensuing quarter century, the negotiations came to knock. Finally, the question was, was referred to arbitration. And in 1872, the harrow strike was decided upon as the dividing line through the islands of the Gulf. Those in brief are the milestones in the story of the boundary as it unfolded in the 19th century. Let's go back now and look at the story a little more closely. 1/3 of the way through the 19th century, the two principal powers in our story were both in periods of expansion, Britain, a great power controlled events in Europe and in the Middle East, while enjoying supremacy in other continents. The second empire was being created. New Zealand, for example, having been occupied only in 1840, a year after Hong Kong was taken. Britain was feared and distrusted by the former American colonies, who were now at the beginning of their own enormous surge of imperialistic expansion across the continent, south into Mexico and far across the Pacific. While domestic events made the British cautious about their overseas commitments, there were no such rains on the Americans whose thrust westwards was headlong and characterized by bluster and flamboyance. This was after all, the time of 5440, or fight. In the early 1840s, the Hudson Bay Company held held sway west of the Rocky Mountains in what are now British Columbia, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. Through its union with the Northwest company, that had eliminated pretty well the competition of the American traders. It had bases in San Francisco than that which was then in Mexico, and in the Sandwich Islands, a white the company's presence was the basis for the British territorial claim. Methodist and Presbyterian missionaries from New England had arrived in the Willamette Valley, just south of Portland, Oregon, and of Walla Walla in eastern Washington State in the 1830s. There were reports of the mild climate and fertile soil eventually caused Oregon fever and the resulting influx influx of American settlers threatened the joint occupation of the Oregon territory that had existed since 1818. Agitation began for an American takeover of the entire region, and the Democrats fought and won the election of 1844 In the slogan 5440 or fight 5440 being the southern bounder, the southern border of Russia and Alaska. In his inaugural address in March 1845, President Polk shuttered defiance of Britain. The end of that year, he asked Congress for authority to end the joint occupation agreement, asserting that the United States had a rightful claim to the whole of Oregon. But by now, Polk have war with Mexico and the annexation of the expanse from Texas to California on his mind, and became more conciliatory about Oregon. In April 1846, he gave notice that the joint occupation agreement would end in 12 months, but he didn't shut the door on negotiation. And the British were soon at that door with the proposal at the 49th parallel be the boundary to the Gulf of Georgia, and from there, the line should run through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. On this basis, two months later, the Oregon treaty was signed. Now was it a fair settlement? The Great American historians, Morrison and Kommentar had this to say. Another Anglo American crisis had passed largely by reason of the conciliatory disposition of Lord Aberdeen, Foreign Secretary, and the desire of pulk to be free to thrash Mexico. There can be little doubt that England gave up a just claim to territory. In their British Columbia Chronicle, the Acrux are less charitable about what the pacifist Foreign Secretary Lord Aberdeen had done. Discussing the American concession on Vancouver Island, they let the British retain our Vancouver Island. They wrote this concession was a small one compared with Britain surrender of the Puget Sound area, and much of the interior of today's Washington state. And also they say this purely arbitrary, the line of demarcation was an absurdity and the land where natural boundaries were to be found in all directions. Well, how right the acronyms were when one sees what the line did that point Roberts. While these authorities suggest that we were robbed, there are others whose judgments are less severe. And the British historian Ramsey mirror commented, even if the Canadian claims have been irrefutable, some sacrifice would have been worthwhile for so remarkable results. And he means the creation of long boundary and the beginning of unbroken peace between Canada, the United States, and Beric off the west coast naval historian, attributes the equitable settlement to the presence of British naval. Not everyone was happy on the American side, a congressman representative Hannigan of Illinois, had this to say in the house. When President pope gave up the demand for 5440 I quote, The Story of his infamy would be circulated from one end of the land to the other, and his perfidious course, would sink him to an infamy so profound, in a damnation so deep that the hand of resurrect resurrection would never reach him a traitor to his country, so superlatively base, need hope for neither forgiveness from God, nor mercy from Matt. So not everybody was happy with the 1846 settlement by which the future Canada lost its chance of having a common boundary perhaps with California, or at least one on the Columbia River, and the curious effect of cutting off the first Canadians on this coast from their homeland. These were the Hudson Bay employees, many of them Matey and French Canadian, who had settled in the Oregon territory, mostly in the Columbian Willamette valleys, and a few on Puget Sound. There was also a good size contingent of the Roman Catholic missionaries lay as well as clerical then included the first Archbishop of Oregon, Norbert blonds, che and his brother, August I am Bill McGraw Brochet, the first bishop of this quality in Washington territory. And I might do by way, by the way, that the Archbishopric of Oregon was only the second Roman Catholic archbishopric in the United States, the first one being a Newing Boston at a time when there you know, there were preps for an archbishopric with perhaps of five or 600 parishioners. incredibly well, these are the two blushes came to Fort Vancouver at the end of the 1830s port Vancouver down on the Columbia

Unknown Speaker 9:51
and spent the rest of their lives in what would it become Oregon and Washington States. Last and not least, was the Hudson Bay chief factor. Report Vancouver, Dr. John McLaughlin about who mourn the moment. With few exceptions, the connectors were the frequencies, the servants of the company and the missionaries remained and assimilated with the American overlanders who flowed into the territory in the 1840s. And so the future of British Columbia did not receive the infusion of Eastern Canadians that it might have had if the boundary had been fixed farther south or the return to Dr. McLaughlin. Born in 1784, Rivia, dilute on the lower St. Lawrence McLaughlin became a surgeon in the Northwest company. After its amalgamation with the Hudson Bay Company he was sent in 1843 to the Columbia department as chief factor. There he established Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River, and for two decades was a large figure in the affairs of the honorable company noted for his toughness and competing with the American perpetrators based on Fort Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia. When American missionaries and settlers came overland to the Willamette Valley, McLaughlin extended hospitality to them and helped them with credits of seeds equipment and supplies the built up depths by 1845 of $30,000, which is a vast amount of money in those days, a year earlier. alarmed by McLaughlin's fraternization with the centers, the company had decided to retire him for quote, insubordination and growing incompetence. But he held on until 1846 When he quipped to throw his lot in with the Americans before the conclusion of the Oregon treaty, and later to become an American citizen. In his history of the Hudson's Bay Company, Douglas Mackay suggested that as the study of the Oregon boundary dispute dispute becomes clarified by research, it would seem like the the John McLaughlin sympathies will be shown to have been with the United States quite early in the in the controversy. The Act Griggs discusses long romantic idealization of things American all the time he had served in the Columbia the acronym comment, his had been the responsibility for protecting British interests. Yet because of his cotton cupboard, pro Americanism, and in particularly, in particular, his assistance to American immigration, no man had done greater damage to these interests. McLaughlin soon found himself disillusioned by his new country when the missionaries turned upon him because he was Roman Catholic and incited the settlers against him. He died embittered in 1857. It took a late later generations of Oregonians to appreciate McLaughlin's place in their history, and to honor him and posthumously, he was styled the father of Oregon, and the princely great humanitarian, and his bus was the first of any Oregonian to be placed in the rotunda of the Capitol in Washington, DC. His place in Canadian history obviously, is considerably less flattering. We now begin the second stage of the saga on how Saltspring island became Canadian. This stage ran for just over a quarter century from Jun 1846 When the Oregon treaty was concluded, until March 1873, when a protocol of agreement was signed, after the Keiser of Germany had handed down an arbitration based on the American claim. Now, later on, then look at maps here, which, first of all, I'd like to note this on this chart, show you that where the 49th parallel runs, where the boundary runs, and the two do not coincide. As you know, there is an 800 foot there was an 800 foot a giveaway of Canadian territory, which is discussed in last last month's historical news BC historical news by McEwen who is the boundary Canadian boundary commissioner at the present time. He suggests that the reason there is this 800 foot discrepancy with the boundary line. The boundary line actually running north of the 49th parallel. Close up do you see the two lines here? He suggests that that was due to the state of the art of surveying act and act in the 1860s. The stories I've heard are that the Americans introduced whiskey into the camp and developed the British surveyors drunk every time they couldn't sleep. However, the this this discrepancy would have given out of the plane crossing the border crossing it looks it would put the ground up Where the American customs and immigration sheds are put back into Canada, because the 49th parallel was actually just to the south of the American Immigration shirts. There are there a few other documents there. There's one which is a reproduction of a, an article written by an American in 1846, but not published until 1848, in which he had suggested a solution for the Oregon territory, which would have given the Americans total possession of everything below the 49th parallel, and then a condominium arrangement with Britain. From there to Alaska, the same sort of thing would have existed previously, but just north of the boundary. There's also a chart which shows the details of what we're going to come into now. And that is the determination of the boundary through the fire.

Unknown Speaker 16:09
Well, much happened during the intervening years between 1846 and 1873. Victoria became the first the trading center of the Hudson Bay Company and then the capital of the colony of Vancouver Island. Later the colony of British Columbia, later the province of British Columbia, the Royal Navy established a base of Esquimalt the Fraser Gold Rush took place Dominion of Canada was formed in British Columbia under Confederation. And halfway through the period of 1959 Saltspring Island saw its first settlers, and the Pig War erupted on San Juan Island. After the Oregon treaty, neither side appears to have worried much about the practical application of the boundary through the inland waters. It had been agreed that it should follow the middle of the channel, separating the cotton and Vancouver's island. But opinions soon different on the channel that the signers of the treaty had in mind. Commissioners for the water boundary were appointed only in 1857, with Captain primo of HMS satellite, and Captain Richards of HMS plumper as the British commissioners and Archibald Campbell as the American. By this time, much had been learned by both sides about the islands in the Gulf and the various channels that spread through them. changes it also taken place in the channels used by ships plying between Vancouver, Victoria, Victoria and the mainland. San Juan Island had been occupied by the Hudson Bay Company soon after the post of Victoria was set up in the mid 1840s and was used first as a sheep farm. And then as a source of food generally, the Americans sought to advance their claim by appointing a customs collector on San Juan. And in 1854. They included the island within the boundaries of Washington Kati. There was concern in the Royal Navy over the fact that San Juan Islands overlooked Victoria and the Esquimalt. Nor was the strategic situation lost on the Americans while the Rosario channel on the east side of the current sign one of the San Juan Islands your hand again can you please here's the Rosario channel. Here is the house straight from the Harold Donald golf and in between is a compromise which will come around to later which was proposed one state by the British, which is known today as the San Juan challenge channel, San Juan channel, but in those days was known by the British as the Douglas channel. But there is Rosario. Here is how they're the two important ones in the story.

Unknown Speaker 18:57
While the Rosario channel would have given Britain the islands of Lopez Shah and orcas, as well as San Juan, only San Juan seems to have been considered of importance to the British side. This eventually led them to propose a compromise between the Rosario channel on the east and Harrow on the west, namely the San Juan trial channel, which I just mentioned, which cuts just to the east of Walden and San Juan Islands. In 1858, the Gold Rush introduced new pressures, not the least the influx influx of 10s of 1000s of Americans who flocked to Victoria and Bellingham, on the way to the upper Fraser Valley, a few squatted on San Juan, and one of them Lyman Cutler, made his name on the 15th of June 1859. By shooting a fine black breeding boar belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company. Cutler soon was aware that he had caused more trouble than he wanted to, and he offered to make amends, but fame would not give him up steamer beaver arrived a few days later from Victoria with a group of holiday errs out for a picnic. Among them was ag Dulles, a senior member of the Hudson Bay post, who had words with coupler which the man took to be threatening. coupler complained to the American customs collector, who in a report to his superiors colored the affair by presenting it as an instance of persecution by the British of an American living on American soil. Captain Georgie Pickett, better remembered for leading a foolhardy charge by his division of Gettysburg, now enters our story. He was in charge of the United States Army post for Fort Bellingham. And there he learned from the collector of Cutler's humiliation. Take it in turn, informed Brigadier William S harming the recently appointed commander of the Oregon military department, and the fat was in the fire. Arne was probably unstable. The evidence of his behavior in the Indian wars in Florida and in the Mexican War, suggests that he was extremely impulsive, chronically and insubordinate, and probably a psychopathic killer. He wanted to be president, and it's for a war with Britain as the way to fulfill his ambition. He was also disappointed that the northern Oregon Territory had remained in British hands, and in particular wanted Vancouver Island for its strategic value. After making the reconnaissance to Victoria, under the guise of a courtesy call on Governor Douglas Harney ordered picket to occupy San Juan Island, picket landed with his force on the 27th of July. This is about six weeks now after the pig was shot. And the same day Major John de Courcey arrived aboard this HMS satellite to read his commission as stipendiary magistrate with authority over San Juan. The British asked picket to leave. He refused, and instead reinforced his Garrison until it numbered 400 men ready it seemed for a fight. Although picket was odd by the presence of a large British force on ships off the island, the roebuck, 900 Sailors and Marines on the on those ships. All prevented shooting was the determination of Captain Hornby of HMS Trivium. Not to use force disappears or the Esquimalt were equally determined to avoid and and Cotter, even though they were being urged on by government Governor Douglas, who was almost as bellicose as Harney was Admiral Baynes arrived at the Esquimalt the next week, aboard HMS Ganges, and approved of the forbearance of the captains of the squadron. He reported to the situation to London, which got in touch with Washington, President Buchanan, up to his knees in the dust of the gathering American storm, disowned harneys actions and sent General Winfield Scott hurrying to the Oregon Department to take charge. That took Scott only a few weeks he's got he was in his 80s, I believe, at that time or late 70s took only a few weeks. However, to make the long journey. He came to an early agreement with government Governor Douglas on the joint occupation of San Juan Island by 100 men of each side. When all was arranged, Scott relieved Harney of his command, and San Juan Islands settled down to 12 years of peaceful joint control. The boundary commissioners have taken no part in those in those in the early days of the trouble of 1859. The American Commissioner Campbell was especially put out by the United States Army's occupation that July because he had accepted the false assurances of Captain picot that had been ordered by Washington. And of course, it happened. After the American elections of 1860, Britain made a renewed attempt to have the boundary questions settled. The British ambassador in Washington proposed to the State Department that the matter be submitted to the arbitration of the king of the Netherlands or the kingdom, Sweden and Norway, or to the president of Switzerland. But now that Civil War was about to begin. There was no time in Washington for the boundary question, and the State Department did not reply to the British proposal. During the years of the Civil War, and for the rest of the 1860s, the two occupying forces and the residents of both nationalities on San Juan Island coexisted quite harmoniously. It was not until 1868 When the British and American governments began to negotiate differences began to negotiate the differences that are developed during the decade, the West Coast boundary question came to the fore again. The American administration agreed to the earlier proposal for arbitration but the Senate was held ratification. Finally in 1871, negotiations were resumed, and in the Treaty of Washington a bit of aid, May 18 somebody won, the boundary issue was referred to the Emperor Germany. Both sides made lengthly lengthy submissions to the three judges who were appointed by the Kaiser to consider the question the British case rest of mainly on the state of knowledge of the coastal waters in 1846. When the problem first arose, it was a case built on history. The Americans presented their case in the light of contemporary surveys, and navigational practice. In other words, what was being done in 18, somebody one, suddenly to the German decision was waited anxiously by both Americans and Canadians on the West Coast, and by the new government of the Dominion of Canada, which had been involved in an international negotiation for the first time in our country's history. When John A Macdonald took part as a member of the British delegation in the talks leading to that treaty. In October 1872, the Kaiser gave his decision, which was based on a two to two to one vote of the German judges, that the American claim that the line should run through the harrow strike was most in accord with the true interpretation of the Treaty of 1846 on the Oregon boundary. Within weeks, the Royal Marines was withdrawn from San Juan, and less than six months later agreement was reached on the definition of the water boundary through the house Great. Well, before we leave this subject, and that's the under the lower boundary problems in our Island area. I'd like to hear about that I'd like to tell a personal anecdote about the about the spoon. Personal, almost personal in the same sense, Tony, as you're trying to find out if anyone here knew this government who lived here in a country in 1881. But a constant theme, and the evidence presented in support of the American claim, was the superior superiority of harrow straight over the Rosario strait. Rosario, they argued could not be the channel that the 1846 agreement envisaged because it was narrow, relatively shallow, and shallow, and dangerous for large ships on account of rocks. Now this reminds me of the only boy driver made through the Missouri Channel. In the spring of 1977, I was invited to sail on the tanker, arco Fairbanks, from Port Angeles to the refinery Dr. Cherry Point. Also on board was the governor of Washington State, the redoubtable Dixie Lee Ray, who was given the wheel during the passage of the narrows part of the channel 1.3 miles in width. Now, the arco Fairbanks, a 120,000 ton vessel was 883 feet long and 138 feet wide with a draft of 68 feet. The governor remarked that the narrow point of the channel presented no problem for safe passage of a very large ship after all, she was in charge. And she added that a number of tankers could go through at the same time. So I did a quick calculation. And I said, and I gave her the numbers 50 side by side, which she then used in an interview. So much for the argument that the Rosario channel was narrow and dangerous. There are two more points by the 1846 Treaty navigation of the Gulf of Georgia south of the 49th parallel remains free and open to both countries. So it is when we crossed the Gulf from so awesome to act and pass on the ferry. Half of our journey is through the territorial waters of the United States.

Unknown Speaker 28:43
And a final point and my favorite one when I've discussed this question is that San Juan Island has been a major source of sand and gravel for the construction industry in Vancouver for in the century. And so it can be said that what was lost in 1872 is being regained now. Barge load by barge. atony you advertised it also talk about our boundaries with Alaska, but I can't keep everybody here that long. I'll do I'll say something very briefly in the settlement of the boundary along the Alaska Panhandle in 1903. Canada was up against one of the greatest Imperials that the United States had ever produced. President Teddy Roosevelt when Britain agreed to the American formula to refer the dispute to a judicial commission of three jurists from each side, Roosevelt appointed three politicians, one of them being his secretary for war. On the British side, two commissioners were Canadian judges, and the third was Lord Chief Justice of Britain, Lord aalverson. During the consideration of the case, when it seems to be there seem to be a possibility that Alvaston might side with the Canadians. President Roosevelt let it be known to the Brit His government that he would use troops to get the settlement he wanted. alveston Thereupon voted with the Americans, and we lost our bid for access through one or more fjords into the interior of British Columbia. Through the Panhandle Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier told the House of Commons later, I have often regretted Mr. Speaker, and never more than on the present occasion that we're living beside a great neighbor, who I can, I believe I can say without being deemed unfriendly to them, are very grasping in their national actions, who are determined on every occasion to get the best in any agreement which they make. Now, in the in the 1980s, we may have the last laugh on the subject of the Alaska boundary. One of the three seaward boundaries, which is to be southern with the United States, as a result of the extension of economic zones are 200 miles out. Is that is that from the A B line, which is the southern boundary of the Alaska panhandle, it is in fact, 5440 coincides with the old 5440 parallel which makes and that makes the case the Canadian case for it very strong. After all, extended seawards, the line will give Canada a much more generous maritime zone than the United States would like to see. So when the matter goes to the international court for decision, as it probably will, in the next year or two, we will emulate I suggest the Americans have 1845. And our legal case will be fight for 5440. Thank you very much.

Unknown Speaker 31:53
What questions do we have? There's a lot of material there. Interesting items. One question I have is, how far east does this 800 foot differential run?

Unknown Speaker 32:07
Well, you know, when you're bargaining You always say that you've got your you're in desperate state. And I believed on the on the Saskatchewan Montana border. The the error was made in our favor, but we only talk about this

Unknown Speaker 32:32
go to Canada, Alberta. And it was

Unknown Speaker 32:40
I'd imagine there are a lot of little waivers and jogs and so on as the line went across the McEwen article is worth reading on this point on how these errors took place because of the type of surveying they did at the time. I don't claim to know anything about the technicalities. I like the politics of

Unknown Speaker 33:10
its on its south of the boundary line that was supposed to be the 49th parallel. Well, let's call it the 49 plus 800. It actually the 18 818 18 Treaty. Sorry, the 1846 Treaty determined that the 49th parallel parallel wouldn't be the boundary until it reached until you reach the sea and then you would go to the middle of the channel between the sea between the continent and the island Well, you don't actually leave the continent until you pass through point Roberts you've left it you leave it at bay of course on boundary bay that you go across boundary Bay and then hit land again and that's all point Roberts five square miles was created at that time were the people in for geography at that time no notice inhabiting

Unknown Speaker 34:11
you May I make a little comment just around I have to deal with the stress on that subject. And I started the Jeopardy develop I found to be a national exam which I can come up yet and that was about more the old one was so keen on not going to war in vain. Oh yes. Well, anyway January he said there's no point to go to war because the British have a naval bases plan. What are the numbers If the Americans only have one ship in the Pacific, they have changed all the guns on staff advisors have on the island as soon as we couldn't possibly lose the war no point.

Unknown Speaker 35:15
barnby another island

Unknown Speaker 35:23
any more questions?

Unknown Speaker 35:26
I believe Mr. New you also have a copy of the book that was produced by for the Oregon Historical Society. Yes. That was 1970 publication. know, it's interesting to compare the nuances in that book with those of the actrix for instance, and others and

Unknown Speaker 35:49
others have told that story. They have a natural boundary where they have committed but is recognized in some classes especially well, I was asked to be the speaker at the luncheon that they do like the delay for the visiting people. And I chose the subject from people for that talk. I made a little joke out of it but I can enjoy offer by my good guys on each side. But But after I got home, that's who they signed off on a representative of the federal government. Thank you for the aggressive saying this is after the fact that never did.

Unknown Speaker 36:45
I think we should pursue some twisted president's arm get to get him to twist your arm to deliver the your pig more

Unknown Speaker 36:56
than anybody else.

Unknown Speaker 37:00
Max do the work.

Unknown Speaker 37:03
Well, Gordon, I think the fact that you got a pretty good audience on a nice sunny spring day, there's evidence that there is interest in your topic, certainly enjoyed very much. And remember some of the complications that led up to the present boundary. It occurred to me while we were talking that Dr. McLaughlin's busters in Washington practice did have one president token in Ottawa counterbalances his efforts contributed to by retaining this part of the world. Anyway, thank you very much for your time.

Unknown Speaker 37:43
Of course, the best way we can show our thanks is by buying some of the postcards at the back.

Unknown Speaker 37:55
The next meeting we'll deal with the subject of Hastings house. Its past present and future history. And Jonathan Yardley will be talking to us with some slides. So I hope to see you all there. The meeting is now adjourned and coffee