See more of the Virtual Museum of Canada

The Work

Of The

Royal Engineers in British Columbia

1858 to 1863





An address delivered before the Art Historical and Scientific Association of Vancouver On 9th February, 1909

Printed by RICHARD WOLFENDEN , LS.O., V.D., Printer to the King's Most Excellent Majesty.


My good friend Judge Howay has been kind enough to ask me to subscribe a few introductory lines to his excellent lecture on the pioneer work of the Sappers and Miners in British Columbia, and it is with pleasure indeed that I readily comply with his request.

An early recollection of the members of the corps who remained in British Columbia after the main body had returned to England brings to mind names of many who have passed away- whose descendants are now prominent in the social and commercial life of the Province- as well as those who still remain with us, notably in this instance Colonel Wolfenden, who for upwards of forty-seven years has efficiently filled the position of King's Printer in British Columbia.

Judge Howay's contribution to perhaps the most important event in connection with the establishment of civil government on the mainland of the Province will prove a most valuable addition to the authentic literature relating to the early history of this country.

The achievement of the officers and men of the corps will ever remain as a permanent factor in the development and material prosperity of British Columbia, and should rank as a work worthy of the highest traditions of the Royal Engineers.

Prime Minister's Office, Victoria, B.C.,
March 21st, 1910.

The Royal Engineers


British Columbia.

In the formation of the Colony of British Columbia, the doctrine of evolution had neither place nor part. In the spring of the year 1858, the magnetic lure of the gold drew into the amorphous territory called New Caledonia a horde of reckless fortune-hunters, "from the world's four corners blown."

The first contingent of 450 miners arrived in Victoria on the 25th April, 1858. Reporting this event, Governor Douglas said: "They are represented as being with some exceptions a specimen or the worst of the population of San Francisco- the very dregs, in fact, of society." Yet he admits that they were quiet and orderly during their stay there; and we know that some of our best respected and most esteemed citizens came in that early rush. In the fortnight between the 5th and the 20th of June there arrived in Victoria from San Francisco the steamers Republic, Commodore, Panama, Cortez, and Santa Cruz; the ships Georgina and William Berry; the barques Gold Hunter, Adelaide, Live Yankee, and Madonna; the schooners Guilietta, Kossuth, and Osprey; and the sloop Curlew. And all of them loaded to the gunwales with eager adventurers. On the 27th June the Republic returned with 800; on the 1st July the Sierra Nevada landed 1,900; and on the 8th July the Orizaba and Cortez landed 2,800 more.

By every then known mode of conveyance, on land or water, "this motley inundation of immigrant diggers," as Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton (afterwards Lord Lytton) described it, poured into the unorganized territory, startling with a rude awakening the slumberous forts of the Hudson's Bay Company, until by the middle of July the number exceeded 30,000. As the Rev. R. C. Lundin Brown says: "Never in the migrations of men had there been seen such a rush, so sudden and so vast." The mainland of British Columbia, comprising the territory referred to as New Caledonia, then held by the Hudson's Bay Company under its exclusive licence of trade, still lay wrapped in the mantle of original silence. About a score of forts, or trading posts, or the Company, separated in most instances by hundreds of miles, were the only evidences of civilization; hunting, trapping, and trading, the only occupations; beaver-skins, the only money; the natural waterways, the Indian, and brigade trails, the only means of communication; semblance of government there was none; and the law of the club and the fang was the arbiter in all disputes.

In a moment all this was completely changed. The gathering cry had been cried; the bounden were obeying and responding in thousands to the call of the "yellow root of evil."

Instantly an enormous burden was thrown upon the "mother of nations." This great inrush called for the formation of civil government; the enforcement of law and order; the raising and collection of revenue; the examination, exploration and development of the country; the construction of roads, trails, and bridges; and all the thousand-and-one things which are necessary to change a wilder-ness into the abode of civilized and law-abiding people. And all of these things to be done, not leisurely, but immediately; not separately, but jointly; not consecutively, but concurrently.

James Douglas, the governor of Vancouver Island, and the head of the Hudson's bay Company west of the Rockies, being the nearest representative of the Crown, was by letter from Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, dated 16th July, 1858, "authorized under the necessity of the case" to perform the duties of the Governor of the organic Act, and his own formal and legal appointment as Governor.

Douglas, from a lad, had been accustomed to the natives, knew their habits, their manner, their lines of though and of action and understood the motives and impulses which prompted their conduct; but these foreign gold-seekers, these wild and adventurous spirits, many of whom brought unsavory reputations from California, and whose sympathies, as he himself said in his letters to the Secretary of State, were decidedly anti-British- these he looked upon with suspicion and dismay. The inrush of land-seekers had robbed the British Crown of the fertile fields of Oregon; this inrush of gold-seekers might rob it of New Caledonia. With such thoughts in his mind he felt the necessity of a "power behind the throne." Writing to Sir E. B. Lytton on the 19th August, he says: "The affairs of Government might be carried on smoothly with even a single company of infantry; but at present I must, under providence, depend in a great measure on personal influence and management-a position inconsistent with the dignity of the Queen's Government."

Much the same thought appears to have been in the mind of Sir E. B. Lytton, for in introducing into the House of Commons, on the 8th July, 1858, the Act to provide for the government of New Caledonia, he spoke of "the necessity of an immediate measure to secure this promising and noble territory from the hunger of gold the restraints of establish law." This abstract statement took form in a letter which he wrote a few days later to Governor Douglas, in which he says that he intends "sending to British Columbia b the earliest opportunity an officer of Royal Engineers (probably a field officer with two or three subalterns) and a company of Sappers and Miners, made up of 150 non-commissioned officers and men."

In a letter of 31st July 1858, he explains to him his views as to the duties of the Royal Engineers. "It will devolve upon them" he says, "to survey those parts of the country which may be considered most suitable for settlement, to mark out allotments of land for public purposes, to suggest a site for the seat of Government, to point out where roads should be made, and to render you such assistance as may be in their power…. This force," he adds, "is sent for scientific and practical purposes, and not solely for military objects. As little display as possible should therefore be made of it."

Sir E. B. Lytton, in a very lengthy letter written to Governor Douglas on the 16th October, 1858, goes into the reasons which moved him to select the Royal Engineers for this work. He says: - "The superior discipline and intelligence of this force, which afford ground for expecting that they will be far less likely than ordinary soldiers of the line to yield to the temptation to desertion offered by the goldfields, and their capacity at once to provide for themselves in a country without habitation, appear to me to render them especially suited for this duty; whilst by their services as pioneers in the work of civilization, in opening up the resources of the country, by the construction of roads and bridges, in laying the foundations of a future city or seaport, and in carrying out the numerous engineering works which in the earlier stages of colonization are so essential to the progress and welfare of the community, they will probably not only be preserved from the idleness which might corrupt the discipline of ordinary soldiers, but establish themselves in the popular good-will of the emigrants by the civil benefits it will be in the regular nature of their occupation to confer."

The detachment was sent out in three principal sections: First, Captain Parsons and twenty men; second, Captain Grant and twelve men; third, Captain Luard and the main body. Those accompanying Captain Parsons were principally surveyors; those accompanying Captain Grant, principally carpenters. These two bodies came by way of Panama, leaving England on the 2nd and 17th September, 1858. Colonel Moody, the commanding officer, also came by that route, leaving England on the Asia on the 30th October, 1858. Captain Parsons and his men arrived at Victoria on 29th October; Captain Grant and his men arrived on 8th November; and Colonel Moody, accompanied by his wife and children, arrived at Victoria on Christmas Day, 1858.

Captain Grant's party, although the second to reach Victoria, was the first to enter British Columbia. They were embarked on the Beaver on the 14th November, 1858, and sent forward to Fort Langley. Captain Parsons's party accompanied Governor Douglas and the other officials of the new colony of British Columbia who sailed from Victoria for Fort Langley on the 16th November in H.M.S. Satellite. At Point Roberts the officials and their bodyguard were transferred to the Hudson's Bay Company's steamers Beaver and otter, arriving at Langley on the 18th November. There they were received in approved military form by Captain Grant's party. These two sections of the Royal Engineers took part in the ceremonies in connection with the official birth of the Colony of British Columbia, which occurred at Fort Langley on the following day.

The third section, comprising the main body, sailed fro Gravesend on the 10th October, 1858, and from the Downs a week later, in the clipper ship Thames City, 557 tons, commanded by Captain Glover. This section consisted of two subalterns (Lieutenants A. R. Lempreiere and H.S. Palmer), one staff-assistant surgeon (J. V. Seddall), 118 non-commissioned officers and men, 31 women, and 34 children, under the command of Captain H. R. Luard, R.E.

A portion of the stores and provisions for the detachment was sent out in the barque Briseis, which sailed from the Downs on 27th October, 1858. It had been intended to send on her four married men of the detachment under Corporal William Hall, but when the vessel was loaded it as found that there was not sufficient accommodations for them. This was fortunate, as the Briseis was burned at sea, and the passengers and crew suffered many hardships before reaching safety. The remainder of the stores and provisions was sent out on the ship Euphrates, which sailed from London Docks on the 3rd of January, 1859, and arrived at Victoria on the 27th June, 1859. On her came the four married men and their families above alluded to- Sergeant Rylatt, the storekeeper and his wife, and Mrs. James Keary and her infant son, W. H. Keary, the present Mayor of New Westminster.

The interest which Sir E. b. Lytton took in the formation of the colony and in all that made for its solid foundation is shown by the care and attention he gave to the selection and proper fitting out of the Royal Engineers. He believed in the necessity for proper literary surroundings, and the men of the detachment having raised a fund for the purchase of a library, he undertook to select it personally. The result was a small but complete library, which after the disbanding of the Engineers in 1863 was transferred to the Mechanics' Institute in New Westminster, and formed the nucleus of the first public library in the colony. A description of this library as it existed some years afterwards will be found in Morley Roberts's "Western Avernus." When Captain Parsons was leaving on the La Plata, Sir E. B. Lytton went on board and addressed the party at some length, impressing on them the interest he felt in their welfare, and pointing out how much the ultimate success of the new colony depended on the exertions of themselves and their comrades. We must never forget- indeed, it should be a pleasure to us to remember- that the author of the "Last Days of Pompeii" was the father of the Colony of British Columbia. Of it, he was, he said, ""most proud"; and in September, 1861, in addressing the electors of Hertford, whom he represented in the House of Common, he expressed the hope that "in the future generations his name might be remembered in connection with the commencement of a colony destined, he believed, to be the wealthiest of all that now speak our language."

It must not be thought that the detachment sent to British Columbia was simply one of the forty companies into which the Royal Engineers were then divided. No greater mistake could be made. It was a picked body- selected out of a large number of volunteers for this service, and chosen with the view of having included in their ranks every trade, profession, and calling which might be useful in the circumstances of a colony springing so suddenly into existence as British Columbia had done. And although it is called a detachment of the Royal Engineers, there were four men in it who did not belong to the Royal Engineers at all- namely, two of the Royal Artillery and to of the 15th Hussars- included for the purpose of forming the nucleus of an artillery corps or a cavalry corps should the exigencies of the case so require.

Upon the arrival of Captain Parson's and Captain Grant's parties at Fort Langley, they were sent to New Langley, or Derby, for the purpose of erecting the necessary buildings in which the force should be housed. In the interval the Hudson's Bay Company's brigantine Recovery was pressed into service as a place of lodgment for them.

The main body, as I have stated, left England on the 17th October 1858. Although in a clipper ship, the long voyage around the Horn occupied over six month- anchor not being dropped in Esquimalt Harbour until the 12th April, 1859. The only calls made on the way were at the Falkland Islands, of which Colonel Moody had at one time been Governor, and at Valparaiso.


Chief amongst the means of whiling away the dull monotony of the voyage was the preparation and presentation of a paper, "The Emigrant Soldiers' Gazette and Cape Horn Chronicle." This novel paper was edited by that versatile genius Second Corporal Charles Sinnett, assisted by Lieutenant H. S. Palmer, and 'published at the Editor's Office, Starboard Front Cabin, Thames City." It was read by Captain Luard to the assembled company every Saturday night. Each little occurrence on board, all births and deaths (there were no marriages), the natural history of the voyage, the records of the days' runs, jokes, gags, and riddles, original and selected items, both prose and poetry, fill its columns. It may be interesting to note that among the children born on the voyage was a son of sapper Linn, after whom Linn Creek, on the northern side of Vancouver Harbour, is named; a daughter of Sergeant Jonathan Morey, whose very name (Marina) indicated that she as born upon the sea; a son of Sapper Murray, and a son of Sapper Walsh. Perhaps I may be pardoned for introducing a specimen of a home-made poetic effusion, entitled "Huthlicaut's Wedding," sung by Corporal Sinnett at a theatrical entertainment on 4th March, 1859:-

I'll sing ye lads a Falkland sang,
Wi' thumpin' chorus loud and lang,
I'll tell ye o' the gleesom' thrang,
At Huthlicaut's braw weddin' O.
The first that cam' was Geordie Cann.
Then Osment too, and Wolfenden,
Wi' Jock McMurphey, Dick Bridgman,
Cam' skippin' to the weddin' O.
There was Morey, too, and Rogerson,
And Lindsay cam' to join the fun,
An' Smith cam' ere the feast begun.
At Huthlicaut's weddin' O.
There was Normansell and Blithe Woodock,
And Launders came to join the flock,
An' Sinnett wi' his dirty smock,
Gid faith! He marred that weddin' O.

The proper names, it will be observed, are worked into the meter in a manner worthy of a Macaulay. After filling four more verses with an enumeration of the other persons present, the alleged poet goes on to describe the good things. The tables groaned, he says,

Wi' haggises an' fine kale soups,
Wi' brandies, ines, and mint-juleps,
Wi' gid brown ale full mony stoups,
At Huthlicaut's bra eddin' O.
Wi' ham, an' beef, an' mutton too,
Wi' Athol brose an' Irish stew,
Wi' pies an' pasties, not a few,
At Huthlicaut's braw weddin' O.

The original manuscript of the paper, in Sinnett's own handwriting, is preserved in the archives of the Province, and was no doubt seen by many who viewed the Simon Fraser exhibit at the Exhibition at New Westminster last year. Soon after the arrival of the corps at New Westminster it was published by the late Hon. John Robson, then editor of the "Columbian." This edition being unobtainable, the Provincial Government, in 1907, reprinted the paper in a most attractive and elaborate style, embellishing the work with beautiful photogravures of the officers of the corps.

I have referred at length to this paper not only on account of its intrinsic merit and its interest as an historical document relating to this Province, but also and more especially because a perusal of it will show far better than any words of mine the versatile abilities of the members of the corps.

By the time Colonel Moody arrived, the carpenter force which had been at work since the latter part of November, had constructed at New Langley, or Derby, quite a number of necessary military buildings. Remembering that his instructions were to suggest a site for the seat of Government, Colonel Moody proceeded to examine into the suitability of New Langley, or Derby, then the de facto capital. On sanitary, on commercial, on military, and on political grounds, the Colonel unhesitatingly condemned that spot, and chose instead the site upon which the city of New Westminster now stands.

The position selected for the Royal Engineer camp lay at the junction of the Brunette and the Fraser- the spot upon which the provincial Penitentiary no stands. To this place Captain Parsons' and captain Grant's parties ere removed early in march, 1859.


Before the removal from New Langley and while the Royal Engineers consisted only of Captain Parsons's and Captain Grant's contingents, they were called upon for the first military service performed in the colony. The incident is trivial, but may be interesting as showing how high treason may grow out of a common assault.

Know, then, that at Yale and at Hill's Bar, two miles below, were resident to magistrates, Whannell and Perrier, each bitterly jealous of the other. On Christmas Day, 1858- by the way, the first Christmas in British Columbia- a miner, Farrel, a resident of Hill's Bar, went up to Yale, imbibed too freely, and strolling along its one street, happened to see a Negro, Dickson, standing at the door of his barber-shop. Feeling, with Sir Anthony Absolute, that he should not breath the same air, or use the same light, or enter the same hemisphere with him, he committed a serious and unprovoked assault on the poor Negro. News of his conduct reached the Bar, and the Hill's Bar magistrate, on the ground that Farrel resided there, and should have got intoxicated at home, following the maxim, possibly, that 'equity looks on that as done which ought to have been done," concluded that he would investigate the affair, although it had not occurred in his jurisdiction, but in the jurisdiction of the Yale magistrate, and sent his constable with a warrant to Yale to arrest the offender. But before the constable arrived Farrel had been arrested by the Yale authorities, and the former was himself arrested and locked up for contempt of Court in daring to enter Yale for such a purpose, which, the Yale magistrate thought, reflected on his impartiality. This roused the ire of the Hill's Bar magistrate. The celebrated Ned McGowan was then a resident of the Bar. Likely at his suggestion, for he had been a Judge in California, a warrant was issued by the Hill's Bar magistrate for the arrest of the Yale's magistrate and his constable for contempt in arresting the Hill's bar constable. Armed therewith, and accompanies by a posse comitatus from the Bar, McGowan entered the town of Yale, arrested the Yale magistrate and his constable, opened the gaol, released the Hill's Bar constable, and took possession of the "bone of contention" - to wit, the original offender. When the matter came before the Hill's Bar magistrate, heavy fines were imposed- especially upon the brother magistrate for contempt of Court.

The Yale magistrate, highly incensed, sent word to Governor Douglas that the notorious Ned McGowan, the renegade of renegades, had been prison-breaking at Yale, and was at the bottom of a conspiracy to overturn British power in the colony, and annex it to the United States.

The Governor called upon Colonel Moody for assistance to put down this supposed rebellion. Twenty-five sappers under Captain grant and a party of blue-jackets and marines ere embarked for Yale; a field-piece was taken along; and that there might be no delay in trying the traitors when caught, Chief Justice Begbie accompanied the expedition.

Of course, as soon as the party reached Yale the real truth became known. Lack of time prevents entering into all the details of this opera bouffe, which may be found in Lieutenant Mayne's interesting volume. McGowan entered into an elaborate and successful defence of his conduct in the squabble over magisterial dignity; took the Chief Justice and the officers to Hill's Bar, showed them how to wash "dirt," and invited them to a champagne lunch in his hut. Mayne says: "Whatever opinion the Viligance Committee of San Francisco may entertain of these gentlemen (McGowan and his friends), I, speaking as I found them, can only say that, all things considered, I have rarely lunched with a better spoken, pleasanter party."

The testy magistrates both lost their commissions; the Royal Engineers had an outing; the colony paid the expenses- and heavy expenses they were; and Ned McGowan's war, as the incident was named, went on record as being even more bloodless than the ordinary South American revolution or the celebrated Battle of the Spurs.


Later in the summer of 1859 occurred the San Juan difficulty, and although not in exact chronological sequence, this seems a suitable place to mention it, so as to have side by side the two occasions in which the Royal Engineers performed military duties.

The question of the ownership of San Juan Island had been in difference between Great Britain and the United States from about 1854, but that as quite a different matter from the "mimic war" which developed on the island in July, 1859. Like the trouble just related, the San Juan imbroglio originated in a very trifling incident.

On San Juan Island the Hudson's Bay Company had a farm, and on the farm they had an historic hog. One L.A. Cutler was a resident of the island and he had a potato patch, About the 15th June, 1859, this hog trespassed on the potato patch and did damage. Mr. Cutler, irate, shot it. The company was wroth, and claimed exorbitant damages for the loss of the hog. You know that nothing increases the value of an animal like an accident to it. It is said that the company threatened to take Cutler to Victoria for trial.

Now at this time Brigadier-General W. S. Harney, in command of the United States Military Department of Oregon- Deus ex machina- visits San Juan, and in response to a request from the "American citizens on the Island of San Juan" orders a company of troops under Captain Pickett to occupy the island for their protection against interference by the British authorities on Vancouver Island and the Hudson's Bay Company. General Harney's brusque and almost insulting letter to this effect is reproduced in Viscount Milton's San Juan Water Boundary, at page 272.

Governor Douglas protested against this occupation. He did more than protest. He called upon Colonel Moody for military assistance. As the greater portion of the Royal Engineers was then scattered over the colony, Colonel Moody could only send forty-four of the Royal Marines who happened to be then at New Westminster, but he supplemented these with fifteen of the Royal Engineers.

In a letter to Governor Douglas dated the 21st July, 1859, Colonel Moody states his reasons for doing this. He says:-

"As the number of Marines is so few, and as it is not improbable field intrenchments may have to be formed, I have taken on myself to add to the above force Lieutenant Lempriere, R. E., and fourteen non-commissioned officers and men of the Royal Engineers." And in his instructions of the same date to Lieutenant Lempriere, Colonel Moody says: "Your party will take with them in addition to the ordinary equipment, and such other stores and in such quantities as may be ordered."

I am indebted to Lieut.-Colonel Wolfenden, I.S. O., V. D., for copies of the above letters.

Lieutenant Lempriere with his fourteen Royal Engineers embarked on H. M. S. Plumper on the 1st August for service on the Island of San Juan, where they formed part of the force on H. M. S. Tribune, Captain G. Phipps Hornby. Colonel Moody himself, as Commander-in-Chief of the Land Forces of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, accompanied the expedition. Mr. T. C. Elliott, of Walla Walla, Washington, has called my attention to the issue of the Pioneer and Democrat of 12th August, 1859, published at Olympia, in which the following item appears: -

"H. B. M. ship Tribune lies with spring cables and her guns double-shotted, broadside to the camp of Captain Pickett; her decks are covered with redcoats, having on board 450 marines and some 180 sappers and miners."

The number of Royal Engineers is grossly exaggerated; from 15 to 180 is certainly a long cry.

Governor Douglas's instructions were that British forces be equal in number to the American troops should be landed; but although the entire American strength on the island was only 66 (afterwards increased to 461), while Rear-Admiral Baynes had under his command five ships carrying 167 guns and 2,140 men, he contented himself with making a demonstration of his force and with making a suggestion of a joint occupation. Viscount Milton tells us: "The Admiral was complimented by the British Government for the line of conduct adopted by him." It cannot be doubted that it was owing to his moderate and dignified conduct that no collision took place. It is not difficult to surmised what the result of a landing of a British force would have been. As Captain Pickett himself said in a letter to headquarters dated 3rd August 1859: "They have a force so much superior to mine that it will be merely a mouthful to them."

In September, Lieut.-General Winfield Scott, Commander-in-Chief of the United States Army, was sent out by the President to assume immediate command of the united States forces on the Pacific Coast. The knowledge that General Scott as coming to arrange the matter, cooled the atmosphere; and when he arrived in October, 1859, all the British vessels, except H. M. S. Satellite, had been with drawn from San Juan.

After an absence of about three months, Lieutenant Lempriere and his party of Royal Engineers returned to New Westminster, without having seen any more of actual warfare than their brethren in arms had seen in the Ned McGowan war. Of those who were sent on this service three still survive- Sergeant L. F. Bonson, Corporal William Hall, and Sapper J. Musslewhite.

General Scott and Governor Douglas, after some correspondence, agreed upon a plan of joint occupation, whereby each Government was ultimately represented by a company of about sixty men. The British troops ere not landed on San Juan until 20th March, 1860, when by command or Rear-Admiral Baynes a detachment Royal Marines under Captain Bazalgette was disembarked on the north point of the island.

It is a matter of common knowledge that this joint occupation continued until 1872, hen the award of the Emperor of Germany, declaring the island the property of the United States, was made.


On the arrival of the Thames City at Esquimalt on April 12th, 1859, the main body of the Engineers was immediately embarked on the old Eliza Anderson and sent forward to its future home- the camp I have mentioned, at Queensborough, as New Westminster was then called.

Reporting to the Home authorities on April 25th 1859, Governor Douglas says: "The Royal Engineers have been all safely landed at Queensborough, here they are now stationed." On their arrival, owing to the change from New Langley, or Derby, instead of finding their quarters ready for occupation, as they had expected, they found only a small portion of the site of their camp cleared, and one little log-hut erected. However, the Hudson's Bay Company's old brigantine Recovery lay at anchor before the spot, and as many as could do so found accommodation aboard her, while the remainder went out under canvas on the site of their future home.

The summer of 1859 saw them busily engaged in clearing the site of their camp, building the barracks, married men's quarters, storehouses, offices, and other necessary structures; surveying and laying out the City of New Westminster, and preparing the necessary plans with all the neatness and accuracy for which their draughtsmen were famous. Some of Corporal Sinnett's and Corporal Launder's plans prepared at this time are preserved in the archives of the Province, and show work so exact and so beautifully executed that it is difficult to believe that they ere done by hand.

Speaking of the site of the camp, Captain Barrett-Lennard, who visited it in 1860, says, in his book: "About a mile higher up the river are the quarters of the Royal engineers, situated on a steep incline, presenting a most picturesque coup d'eil from whichever side it is approached, both on account of the graceful high-pitched roofs of the buildings themselves, as well as the romantic character of the site they occupy."

The crying necessity of the colony was a wagon road to reach a point above the canyons of the Lower Fraser. To meet this demand the first work undertaken was the improvement of the communication between Douglas and Lillooet. During May and June, 1859, Lieutenant Palmer surveyed the road- a trail already existed- and later in the summer a party of almost a hundred men of the Royal Engineers was employed in making more passable the various stretches of land travel which separated the series of lakes on that route.

With the same object in vie, Lieutenant Lempriere and a small party explored from Hope up the Coquihalla, thence along the south branch of Anderson River to Boston Bar, and along the left bank of the Fraser to Lytton. On receiving their report another party of the Engineers commenced the work of making a trail along this route, which was completed by August, 1859.

During 1859, the Engineers surveyed, besides New Westminster, the towns of Yale, Hope, and Douglas; and established at their camp an observatory, settling its exact position as 49 deg. 12 min. 47 sec. North Latitude, and 122 deg. 53 min. 19 sec. West Longitude. The transit used by them in this observatory is still preserved by the Provincial Government, and was shown with other relics at the Simon Fraser Exhibition.

In this year the Engineers also built a trail from New Westminster to Burrard Inlet, along the line on which in 1861 they constructed the road, which exists today, know as the North Road.

In September and October, 1859, Lieutenant Palmer explored the country between Hope and the Columbia River. The careful, systematic work of the Engineers is well shown in his report of his examination, which covers ten closely printed folio pages containing topographical, geological, and military information and remarks.


Upon the passage of the first Pre-emption Act on the 4th January, 1860, a demand for land at once sprang up, and the survey department of the Engineers was kept busy laying off the lands applied for. While the country as being overrun with people seeking chiefly the royal metals, yet that which always and everywhere is the basis of stable conditions and steady development- good agricultural land- as not being overlooked by the far-seeing ones. This demand necessitated the formation of a drafting office and a record department. These were also in charge of the Royal Engineers. The Clerk of the Records was the late Corporal Alfred R. Howse.

The Douglas- Lillooet route was much hampered by the poor means of reaching Douglas, hence in March, 1860, a detachment of eighty men of the corps under Captain grant commenced the deepening of the channel through the shoal of the Harrison River. This is the portion of that river which today prevents its navigation, as it is only during a freshet that sufficient depth of water can be found on it to float the ordinary river steamer. When driven from this work by the rising of the river in June, Captain Grant changed the scene of his labours and resumed work on the Douglas-Lillooet Road, or rather on the twenty-eight-mile section that separates Douglas from the Little Lillooet Lake. "This road," says Captain Barrett-Lennard, "as far as it was then finished, lay through a wild rocky district; on the left hand of it flowed the Harrison, sometimes broad and shallow, brawling over stones, sometimes deep and narrow, and rushing through a gorge." By the end of October this wagon road was practically completed to the 28-Mile House at Little Lillooet Lake. Reporting to the Duke of Newcastle, Governor Douglas speaks of it as "a work of magnitude and of the utmost public utility which as been laid out and executed by Captain Grant and a detachment of Royal Engineers under his command with a degree of care and professional ability reflecting the highest credit on that active and indefatigable officer."

During the summer of 1860, Sergeant McColl with another detachment of the Engineers located the trail from Hope towards the Similkameen as far as the summit of punch-bowl, carrying it over an elevation of 4,000 feet with no greater single gradient than 1 foot in 12. Later in the summer of 1860, the Hon. Edgar Dewdney built along this route the first trail from Hope to the Similkameen.

The trail from Yale to Spuzzum was built by Powers and McRoberts in the summer of 1860. The old trail used by the Hudson's Bay Company and by the early packers left the Fraser at Spuzzum, and crossing a divide followed Yale Creek to the ton of Yale; but this new one was built along the course of the Fraser at a moderate elevation above the river, following much the same line afterwards adopted for the wagon road. Speaking of this work, Governor Douglas, in a letter to the Secretary of States for the Colonies, says: "The arduous part of this undertaking- excavating the mountain near Royal Engineers under Sergeant-Majoy George Cann, and it has been completed in a manner highly creditable to themselves and to the officers who directed the operation." In this year, the Royal engineers also surveyed the sites of Lytton and Lillooet.

Captain Parsons and a party of Royal Engineers were engaged from the middle of June till the end of the summer of 1860 in making a reconnaissance of the country adjacent to the Sumas and Chilliwack Rivers. This work was done in connection with the plan of the Governor for a wagon road from tide-water to Yale; it also had in view the ascertainment of the feasibility of utilizing the rich farming lands of that locality. Indeed, whenever Governor Douglas wished information of any kind in reference to the colony, he had only to turn to the Royal Engineers and he could find men competent to undertake the investigation; thus, while on a tour through the country in the fall of 1860, not being satisfied with the location of the existing trail from Pemberton to Lillooet, he sent out two exploring parties under Sappers Duffy and Breckenridge to examine the neighbouring country with a view to obtaining a more convenient route. Apparently no better route could be obtained, as there is no record of the route being changed.


We now come to the operations of the Engineers during the year 1861. The Douglas-Lillooet Road and the road from Hope to the Similkameen were those upon which work was done.

On the former the Engineers still stuck to the twenty-eight miles separating Douglas from Little Lillooet Lake, which had been completed the previous year. On this portion was a hill- Gibraltar Hill- very steep and difficult of access. A party of the Engineers under Sergeant Bridgeman was employed during this summer in making a cut-off, decreasing the gradients and generally improving the road at this spot, and so well was the work done that Sergeant Bridgeman was dubbed the "conqueror of Gibraltar." Lieutenant Mayne, who traveled over this road soon after its completion, speaks of it as "a wagon road which would be no discredit to many parts of England."

The work in the neighbourhood of Hope this year consisted in commencing a road to the Similkamen. This was in charge of the greatest builder of them all- Captain Grant. The road did not follow exact line of the trail built the preceding year, although it touched it here and there. By October, Captain Grant with his party of eighty sappers had completed the road to the Skagit Flats, twenty-five miles from hope. From that point to the Similkameen the engineers simply widened the existing trail. This latter work was divided into three sections: the first under the charge of Sergeant L. F. Bonson; the second in charge of Corporal William Hall; the third in charge of the late Sergeant John McMurphey. The intention of this work was to improve the access to the diggings on Rock Creek and the vicinity; but when their glory waned before the wondrous riches of Williams, Antler, and the other creeks of Cariboo, the road was abandoned.

The success of the work done on the trail along the Fraser from Yale led the Governor to consider the possibility of a wagon road along that route to Lytton. This necessitated a careful survey and examination of those sheer and stupendous shoulders of rock which confine the Fraser as in a straight-jacket for miles along the Little Canyon and the Black Canyon. To whom was this work of examination to be intrusted? To none other than our old friends the Royal Engineers. A party was dispatched to examine the route from Yale to Lytton and thence to Cook's Ferry, or Spence's Bridge, as we now call it. Preserved in the archives of this Province will be found the reconnaissance sketch of this survey, together with the specifications drawn by the Engineers for the construction of the road. It was seen as soon as their preliminary reports were made that the wagon road, if built, must cross the Fraser. What point should be selected? To determine this, another party of Engineers under Sergeant McColl was ordered to examine and select the most suitable spot for a suspension bridge. The spot selected was that upon which in 1863 the late Sir Jos. W. Trutch built the Alexandra Suspension Bridge.

It was not at all a case of "all work" with the Royal Engineers. From November till March the corps was gathered together into its home at the camp. This portion of the year saw another phase of the versatile sapper. At the camp a theatre was built, and during each winter the members of the corps presented from time to time light dramatic pieces, comedies, farces, etc. They were not at a loss even when it came to female parts in such theatrical entertainments, and one or two of the beardless youths obtained quite a reputation for acting such parts. The corps had also a social club, the Royal Engineers' Club, and during each winter it was the scene of many happy gathering, banquets, and dances.


The survey made in 1861 determined Governor Douglas to devote the whole strength and force at his disposal to the building of a road from Yale to connect at Clinton with the then existing Lillooet Road. The road had never been popular with the travelling public owing to the delays in making connection with the steamers on Lillooet, Anderson and Seton Lakes.

In May, 1862, a force of fifty-three sappers under Captain Grant was dispatched to Yale to commence at that point the great wagon road- a work which, as British Columbians, we may claim to be the eight wonder of the world. By November a magnificent road, cut, or at any rate built, out of the solid rock, as constructed to a point six miles from Yale. Of course, in the building of the C. P. R. that roadbed was in many instances destroyed, but sufficient remains unto this day to make us realize the excellent work done by them; and to indorse the words of Hon. John Robson in the "Columbian" of July 18th, 1863, "Some of their work will stand long as the everlasting rocks, an enduring monument of engineering skill and patient toil."

I might add here, parenthetically, that the portion of the Cariboo Waggon Road from the six-mile post to Chapman's Bar (suspension bridge) was built by Thomas Spence in 1862; from Chapman's Bar to Boston Bar to Lytton by Spence and Langvoidt in 1862; from Lytton to Spence's Bridge, the contract was held by Moberly and Oppenheimer, in 1862-3.

In July, 1862, Lieutenant Palmer explored a route from Bentinck Arm to Fort Alexandria, and thence to Williams Creek. His exhaustive report can be found in the files of the "British Columbian" for March and April, 1863. It, like all the reports of these trained men, seems the final word on the subject. His minute examination covering a period of three months made it clear that the road then being constructed to Cariboo through the canyons of the Fraser was the more suitable route. This line showed for a space of fifteen miles a continuous average grade of 182 feet per miles, a great part of which was on loose rock and precipitous mountain slopes. It was carefully examined in 1873 by Marcus Smith to ascertain if it ere a feasible line for the C. P. R.; but when it was decided to bring the C. P. R. don the Fraser valley, no further examination was made.


We now come to the last year of the work of the Royal Engineers as a corps in British Columbia- the year 1863.

In this year the Engineers commenced the publication of the British Columbia Gazette- the first number being published on 3rd January, 1863. The Gazette was then, as it is to-day, in charge of Corporal Richard Wolfenden (now Lieut.-Col, Wolfenden, I. S. O., V. D.).

The existing trail, or, rather, route into Williams Creek by ay of the Forks of Quesnel, Snowshoe Mountain, and the head-waters of Antler Creek, being at too high an elevation and consequently difficult for inter travelling, the Governor desired an alternative route via Quesnelmout and Cottonwood River. The route was selected, and the trail built along it in 1863 under the superintendence of Captain Grant. By September he had built the trail over the whole sixty-three miles which lie between Quesnelmouth and Barkerville, and had made such a passable was that he himself rode over the entire distance in one September day. We have on this point the testimony of Lieutenant Palmer, who, in addressing the Royal Geographical Society in March, 1864, declared it to be "the one good trail in Cariboo."

During the year, 1863, the late Gustavus Blinn Wright built the waggon road from Clinton to Alexandria, and the work of locating the line fell to the lot of Captain grant- that is, as to that part in the vicinity of Williams Lake and Deep Creek.

The Engineers, under the charge of Lieutenant Palmer, built during 1863 the first stretch of nine miles of the Cariboo Waggon Road along the course of the Thompson River, easterly from Cook's Ferry, or Spence's Bridge. There the road connected with the portion then being constructedby William Hood.

The Alexandra Suspension Bridge over the Fraser was built by the late Sir Joseph W. Trutch in 1863. This was of course a toll-bridge, but before he could obtain the right to collect tolls the work must be accepted by the Government. The duty of examining and approving the bridge was placed on Lieutenant Palmer, who in September, 1863, passed it as satisfactory. That the work was done satisfactorily and well is shown by the fact that, having been in constant use for twenty years, until the advent of the C. P. R., it is now standing after a lapse of forty-five years from its completion. Those who have passed by it lately cannot have failed to notice that the planking at this end of the bridge has given way, and it is no longer passable. The whole structure shows signs of what our medical friends would call general paresis and senile decay. Some step, it seems to me, should be taken, while there still is time, to preserve this historic bridge- one of the few remaining public works which link our present with our past.

This year also saw the finishing touches put upon the Douglas-Lillooet Road by the Engineers. But the road from Yale having been constructed, it became evident that, being more direct, unbroken by portages, and always accessible by water, it would become the more popular; consequently but little attention was paid to the Douglas route thereafter.

In this year also a party of the royal Engineers under Lance-Corporal George Turner surveyed the original Lots 184, 185, 186, and 187 upon which a part of the City of Vancouver now stands, and made a complete traverse of the shore-line from Hastings Townsite around Brockton point into English Bay and False Creek.

And here it may not be uninteresting to remember that to Colonel Moody is due the credit of setting apart as a military reserve the land now known as Stanley Park. So that the people of Vancouver owe to that far-sighted officer the existence today of the largest and most beautiful natural park contiguous to any city in Canada. If the Engineers should create in the people of Vancouver a deep and abiding interest in the corps and serve to keep its memory green among them.

In this year also the Engineers surveyed the suburban lots adjoining the city of New Westminster, and while the survey as in progress the Municipal Council seized the opportunity to do honour to Colonel Moody. On the 20th April, 1863, the following resolution was passed: "Moved by Mr. A. H. Manson seconded by Mr. John Cooper, and resolved: "That in consequence of the judicious selection of the townsite of New Westminster for the capital of British Council considers it desirable that a space of not less than twenty acres should be reserved in the suburbs now being surveyed to be called 'Moody Square' in commemoration of the founder of the city; and that the Clerk be instructed to forward a copy of this resolution to the Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works with a request that the same may be acted upon."

Taking stock of the work of the Engineers up to the end of 1863, we find that all the important explorations in the colony were performed by them; the whole peninsula between Burrard Inlet and Fraser River was surveyed by them; all the surveys of towns and country lands were by them; some of these, including portions of the Cariboo Road, the Hope-Similkameen Road, the Douglas-Lillooet Road, and the North Road to Burrard Inlet, were built by them; practically all the maps of the colony and of sections of it were made form their surveys, prepared in their drafting office, lithographed and published by them at their camp; they formed, in 1862, the first building society in the colony; they designed the first churches (Holy Trinity Church and St. Mary's Church, New Westminster) and the first school-house in the colony; they designed the first coat-of-arms and the first postage-stamp in the colony; they established the first observatory, and to them we owe the first systematic meteorological observations in the colony, covering a period of three years; they formed the Lands and Works Department, the Government Printing Office, and printed the first British Columbia Gazette; they aided in the maintenance of law and order; and their commencing officer was the first Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works, as ell as the first Lieutenant-Governor.

This enumeration does not include the work done by a different detachment of the Royal Engineers in locating the 49th parallel in conjunction with an American force; now foes it include the work of Captain Gossett, R. E., Colonial Treasurer, to whom is due the establishment of the Assay Office and the Colonial Mint.

But over and above all these material things, the Royal Engineers and their officers were a power for the food in the land. Their influence in this respect cannot be overestimated. In aid of Bible and missionary societies, in every moral and religious movement, in every scheme looking to the improvement of social conditions, the officers and men of the corps were always foremost. To their energy we owe in a great measure the existence of the first hospital in British Columbia- the Royal Columbian Hospital at Ne Westminster.

In an editorial in the "British Columbian" of the 21st October, 1863, the Hon. John Robson says: "Their name stands identified with nearly all the great and important public works in the colony, either as engineers, mechanics, or operatives. They have made their mark, and it will be seen by future generations, whether in throwing a pathway across the foaming torrent or in cutting a highway through the towering mountains of everlasting rock."

As Joaquin Miller says:-
The crusades knew not braver knight
Then these brave men before her walls;
The noblest in the old-time fight
Matched not the humblest here that falls;
And never were there worn such scars
As these won in these nobler wars.
These bloodless wars that bring not pain,
These priceless victories of Peace,
Where Pride is slain, where self is slain,
Where Patience hath her victories;
Where, when at last the gates are down,
You have not burned, but built, a town.
As early as June, 1863, there were rumours that the corps would be disbanded in the fall was read on parade. The end of Septembersaw all the various parties who had been at work on the roads at home in camp. Preparations for the return of the corps, or those who wished, went on apace. To at least two hearts then came the though of those "sudden partings," which, as Lord Byron says, "press the life from out young hearts." Result: On the 7th October, Lieutenant Palmer was married at Holy Trinity Church in ne Westminster to a daughter of Archdeacon Wright, the Chaplain of the Force; and following the good example, Captain Luard was married on the 8th at Christ Church, Victoria, to Miss Leggett, of that city.

On the 5th November, at the old Colonial Hotel, then kept by Grelley Brothers, a farewell banquet was tendered to the Royal Engineers by the citizens of New Westminster. The chair was occupied by the late Robert Dickinson, the Mayor, or President of the Council, as he was then called; on his right hand, Colonel Moody, Captain Hardinge, R. N., Lieutenant Palmer, and Dr. Seddall; on his left, Archdeacon Wright, representing the Bishop of Columbia, Captain Grant, and Captain Parsons. The vice-chair was filled by the later Hon. Mr. Homer; on his right, the late Hon. Mr. Holbrook; on his left, Captain Cooper.

In the course of his response to the toast of 'Colonel Moody and Officers of the Royal Engineers," the gallant Colonel said: "It was an experiment, gentlemen, a novelty, mingling thus military and civil duties. How far it has met what was sought for by the Government is not for me to say. I ever, as was natural, and as was my duty, kept the military part foremost in my mind, and it is with feelings of extreme satisfaction I can reflection that part of our service in British Columbia. You have been witnesses throughout of our discipline, and at the same time how we- soldiers -have borne ourselves in our social relations with you. Some anxiety was felt on the probably result of this part of the experiment. I had no fear. I had full confidence from the beginning in the class of men I had the honour to command. I knew what they were; I knew well how they would act, and in this I have not been mistaken."

Colonel Moody was also the recipient of complimentary addresses from St. Andrew's Society and from the Municipal Council of New Westminster on the day preceding his departure- the 10th November.

On the 11th November, 1863, the steamer Enterprise sailed at noon, carrying with her forever from our shores Colonel Moody, Captain Grant, Captain Parsons, and their respective families, and Captain Luard and his bride. An hour later H. M. S. Cameleon, having on board Lieutenant Palmer and his bride, Dr. Seddale and some fifteen sappers, who were the only ones returning to England, came sweeping gracefully don in front of the town. "As she passed the Pioneer Wharf the order as given 'to man the rigging and give three cheers,' when up shot a hundred blue-jackets as if by magic, and out rang three hearty cheers, such only Her Majesty's seamen can give, in response to which the crowd on shore cheered most lustily, the excellent Royal Engineers Band the while playing those beautiful and, under the circumstances, touching airs, 'Home Again,' 'Home, Sweet Home," "Auld Lang Syne," and 'God Save the Queen.' In Every direction, from window and balcony, was to be seen the waving of handkerchiefs and hats, accompanied by many a truant tear. But, Oh! The reaction! When all was over, and the bustle and excitement consequent upon leave-taking had subsided, a feeling of sadness and gloom seemed to pervade the entire community, and people wended their way home with grave countenances and drooping heads, looking as though each had lost a near and dear friend that day."

Whether the policy pursued by Governor Douglas enabled the colony to obtain the full fruits to be expected from the presence of such a body of trained men during its toddling days may well be doubted; and it may be questioned as a consequence whether the full measure of success hoped for by Sir. E. B. Lytton was attained. But no one can doubt, in looking over their record, that as was assigned to them to do they did thoroughly and conscientiously. To them and to their work the language of Kipling is fitting :-

Keep ye the law- be swift in all obedience-
Clear the land of evil, drive the road and bridge the ford.
Make ye sure to each his own
That he reap where he hath sown;
By the peace among our peoples let men know we serve the Lord!
The remaining members of the corps, some 130 in all, remained in the colony, and took up as civilians their various occupations. A perusal of the advertising columns of the "Columbian" for November and December, 1863, shows them as gardeners, masons, carpenters, tailors, hotelkeepers, tanner, grocers, blacksmiths, architects, and surveyors- in fact, in every walk and avocation in life. This gave to the colony the advantage of men well trained in their trades and professions as a basis upon which to basis upon which to build the industrial life of the community.

Of this number there remain today in British Columbia only fourteen- namely, in Victoria, Corporal Richard Wolfenden, Bugler Robert Butler, Thos. Argyle, John Cox, and William Haynes; in New Westminster District, Sergeant L. F. Bonson, Corporal William Hall, Matthew Hall, Philip Jackman, and John Musselwhite; in New Westminster City, Corporal George Turner, Samuel Archer, and Henry Bruce; and in Vancouver, All Cummins. And all of them are men over the allotted span, for remember it is fifty years since they landed on our shores. In this number there are no survivors of Captain Parsons's party. Two, Sergeant Bonson and Sapper Bruce, came with Captain Grant; one, Corporal Hall, came on the Euphrates; all the remainder came on the Thames City. Four of the above survivors, namely: Sergeant Bonson, Corporal Hall, Matthew Hall, and Henry Bruce are veterans of the Crimean War of 1854-55.

In 1894, there were thirty-four of the Engineers alive in this province; in 1900, when Colonel Wolfenden read his paper on this subject (to which I gladly acknowledge my indebtedness in the preparation of this address), the number had decreased to twenty-five; tonight there are but fourteen. Thus we see that in fifteen years twenty of the detachment in this country answered their last bugle-call. And this brings the sad though that this is a corps which can never be recruited, but must constantly diminish, until it becomes but a memory among us.

As we think of this gradually diminishing force, the words of an American poet, in reference to a group picture of the pioneers of California, come to mind:-

For year I have watched these shadows as others I know have done;
As death touched their lips with silence I have draped them one by one,
Till, seem where the black-plumed angel has mingled here and there,
The brows I have flecked with sable cloud the living everywhere.
Darker, and darker, and darker these shadows will yearly grow,
As, changing, the seasons bring us the bud and the falling snow;
And strangers will write the record, "The last of the group is dead."
Thinking of the few remaining members of this once distinguished corps, whose motto, "Ubique quo fas et Gloria ducunt," was seen in the thickest of the fight at Inkerman and at Balaklava, I feel that I cannot close better than by quoting the words of the poet last referred to :-

Let us drink this toast in silence, "To the builders of the West."
Long life to the hearts still beating, and peace to the hearts at rest.


New Westminster, February 13th, 1909.

From the "Daily Columbian" of Wednesday, October 13th, 1909


Old-timers and pioneers of this city and district are the chief centres of interest at the Exhibition to-day, and every possible honour is being accorded the twelve survivors of that famous corps f Royal Engineers who founded the City of New Westminster and assisted in establishing a system of law and order in the Province of British Columbia.

At one o'clock to-day Mayor W. H. Keary, manager of the Exhibition, entertained these pioneers at luncheon at his home. The members of the corps present at the luncheon were Thomas Argyle, Rocky Point, Vancouver Island; Samuel Archer, New Westminster; Lewis F. Bonson, Port Hammond; Robert Butler, Victoria; Allan Cummins, Vancouver; William Hall, Sumas; William Haynes, Victoria; Philip Jackman, Aldergrove; George Turner, New Westminster; and Lieutenant Colonel Richard Wolfenden, Victoria. Matthew Hall, of Sumas, and John Musselwhite, of Chilliwack, were unavoidably absent.

Hon. Richard McBride, Premier of British Columbia, and Judge Howay were the only ones resent beside the Royal Engineers. After luncheon the host, Mayor Keary, proposed a toast to His Majesty the King. Premier McBride proposed the toast to "Our Guests: the Survivors of the Royal Engineers." Judge Howay then read an interesting paper prepared by one of the pioneers, Lieutenant Colonel Wolfenden, giving an interesting description of the trip from England to British Columbia, around Cape Horn, over fifty years ago.

At the conclusion of the speaking special badges were presented to the Royal Engineers present at the luncheon as souvenirs of the occasion. A photograph of the group was taken, and the party was then driven to the Exhibition grounds. This evening they will be the guests of honour at the Scotch concert to be given in the opera House.


Colonel Woldenden, in his address, was reminiscent of the incidents of the voyage of the old ship Thames City, which brought to British Columbia from England the main body of Royal Engineers, who were selected for service on the Mainland, or what was then termed the Crown Colony of New Caledonia. The speaker, to give effectiveness to his narrative, threw it into the form of a supposed dialogue, overheard between two, now comparatively old, gentlemen, sons of to of the "Sappers," who accompanied their parents on the ship to this new land, a land then thought by some to be a vast wilderness, and it would, probably, remarked Colonel Wolfenden, never have been heard of had it not been for the accidental discovery of gold in the Fraser River in 1858, and but for which discovery the detachment of Royal Engineers would not have been sent out to this country. It was on the request of Governor Douglas, he points out, that Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, then Secretary of State for the Colonies, decide to send out a detachment of Royal Engineers to assist the Governor in maintaining la and order, to construct roads and trails, to erect bridges, to make surveys, to conduct explorations, and generally to assist in colonizing the country.

"You all know," the speaker said, "that that vast, and then unknown, wilderness is no the richest, the brightest and fairest Province of the whole Dominion. It is not for me to say what share the Royal Engineers had in furthering the marvelous development that has taken place since their arrival in the then new colony of British Columbia. You will, however, I think, agree with me that but for their presence in the country this magnificent Province might have been lost to the British Crown."


The speakers, as I said before, were sons of Sappers, and having heard that it was the intention to hold a Jubilee celebration of the arrival of the Royal Engineers in the country, happened to meet in the Guichon Hotel last night, and after partaking of one or to whiskies-and-sodas and several cigars, naturally commenced to relate their reminiscences of the long voyage of sic months that it took to bring them to this fair land.

"I say, Hughie," said Johnny, "do you remember when we came out with out fathers and mothers in the Thames City? We were only little chaps then."

"Yes I do, Johnny, and wasn't she a regular old tub?"

"Well, perhaps she was an old tub, Hughie, but didn't she bring us safely there, and didn't she behave like a thoroughly good ship when she came round the Horn?"

"Oh, yes, she was a safe old boat Johnny. I say, do you remember that night when the hatches were battened down, when we all though we were going to the bottom of the sea?"

"Yes, Hughie, and didn't the women and children scream, and weren't the men all huddled together in their hammocks, perhaps some of them preying 'God save us'? They were all as silent as the dead."

"Yes, Johnny, and weren't all of us youngsters afraid to sleep that night, and weren't out fathers and mothers, our sisters and brothers, and all the men, thankful when morning came and the wind had somewhat calmed down, and the hatches had been uncovered, the men sang and whistled for pure joy?"

"Hughie, do you remember Captain Luard, the commanding officer, always with his monocle in his right eye- 'Old Scrooge' the men called him- how he had the men paraded every morning in bare feet, so that the pudgy little Docter Seddall could inspect them? What for I don't know, unless it was to see that they had not got the foot-rot.

"Oh, yes, I remember that, Johnny, and although the men did call the Captain 'Old Scrooge,' I think they all liked him, for didn't he often read to them out of Dickens's and other works, and didn't he furnish them with all kinds of games to amuse them during the long voyage, and wasn't he a good-hearted, considerate man?"

"Oh, yes, Johnny, and didn't they all like to hear him read the 'Emigrant Soldiers' Gazette' every Saturday night, that was edited by a fellow named Charlie Sinnett? Wasn't he a funny little fellow, a sandy-haired chap, who used to wear a dirty smock?"

"Yes Hughie, but he was a clever fellow for all that, and wasn't it great fun to listen to his scraps of poetry on 'Matilda,' the fellow who was the Doctor's assistant, and who used to lead a little black cat around the ship with a blue ribbon round its neck?"

"Yes, but my! Johnny, didn't Matilda give it him back hot and strong, and weren't we all sorry when the to fellows couldn't accept each other's banter without quarrelling, so that the Captain had to stop them, and we lost a lot of fun?"

"By the way, Hughie, why did they call that fellow 'Matilda'?"

"Oh, it as because he was more like a woman than a man, with his finicky ways."

"Yes, Johnny, and wasn't there a young chap- Lieutenant Palmer, I think his name was- he was a regular swell. They said he was the Assistant Editor of the 'Gazette,' and I think he must have been, for there were many interesting scientific articles in the paper which I think mist have been written by him, for he was a clever fellow. I have heard it said that he was a wonderful man at figures, could add up pounds shilling and pence all at once- just run his fingers up the three columns of figures and tell you the total in a jiffy."

"Some of the fellows used to think that Docter Seddall- the men called him 'Bouncer'- was a frequent contributor to the paper; perhaps he might have been the author of those articles on the Natural History of the voyage."

"Yes, Hughie, perhaps he was, but if he did not write them, either Captain Luard, Lieutenant Palmer, or the Parson did. Anyway, whoever wrote them, don't you think they were cleverly written?"

"Yes, indeed, Johnny. Do you remember the great fun e had on board when the men got up private theatricals; and don't you remember that chap- Howse I think his name was- who called himself the manager of the Theatre Royal? And didn't he think himself smart?"

"Yes, Hughie, I remember how he rigged his company out, making us really believe he was the manager of a real 'City Theatrical Troupe.' But he was a clever chap, for didn't he and his fellow actors help to make us laugh, and thus amuse us?"

"Oh, I say, Johnny, do you remember the names of the fellows who assisted him, thought they could act a bit? I think some of the names were Sinnett, Turnbull, Benney, Franklin, Derham, Eaton, Alliott, Hazel (Matilda), Launders, Mead, and Dick Wolfenden. Dick sometimes used to take a lady's part.

"Oh, yes, Hughie, fancy white-haired old Colonel Wolfenden, as we know him now, acting the par of 'Lydia' in 'Done on Both Sides.' But they say he was then a nice, slim, modest young fellow, and that he was always a 'ladies' man. Oh, but weren't they funny, and didn't they make our mothers and us kids laugh?"

"And, Johnny, didn't they have lots of concerts on board, and balls, and all kinds of fun, and didn't the women like to dress themselves up in their very best for the occasion, and didn't we kids enjoy the run, too?"

"Yes, Hughie, wasn't Franklin funny when he sang 'My Pretty Maid,' when one side of him was the maid and the other the man, and didn't Woodcock, Derham, Sinnett, Argyle (from Brum), and others bring down the house with their humourous songs, and didn't 'Professor' Haynes and his splendid band add greatly to our amusement?"

"I say, Johnny, I was reading the other day a printed copy of the 'Emigrant Soldiers' Gazette,' and I see that they had streets and squares and alleys, and all other things like they have in a town."

"How was that?" said Hughie.

"Oh, don't you know that the ship we sailed in was called the Thames City, so the silly Editor tried to make us believe that we were living in a real city? Do you remember, Hughie, the horrible murder that he said took place one day, when an old gentleman named 'Jimmy' was found dead, and his body horribly mutilated?"

"Yes, the fool Editor tried to make us all believe it was a real murder, when it was only Cooper (our butcher) who had cut the throat of an old sheep, to save its life. Wasn't it silly on the part of the Editor? But it made our fathers and mothers and all the men laugh, and I think we youngsters laughed, too."

"Hughie, do you remember the old ship putting into the Falkland Islands? Wasn't it a treat to get on shore once again after about three months at sea? And didn't we youngsters enjoy going shopping ith our fathers and mothers, and buying lollypops, etc.? although we could scarcely keep our feet, still feeling the rolling of the ship."

"Yes, Johnny, and I think the men must have had a jolly time on shore, too, for I sometimes think that the unsteady gait of some of them when they came on board was not altogether due to the bad behavior of the ship."

"Well, Hughie, don't you think that the officers and men tried to amuse the women and children and all on board, and make the voyage as enjoyable as could be under the circumstances?"

"Yes, Johnny, and wasn't it nice to hear that editor chap, Sinnett, sing his 'farewell ditty' when we were nearing the end of our voyage; and oh! can we ever forget the day when our good old ship safely entered Esquimalt Harbour on the 12th of April, 1859?"

"Oh, those were happy days, Hughie. And weren't they fine, jolly lot of men, and didn't they look smart on Sunday Parade, in their splendid scarlet uniforms?"

"Yes, Johnny they were fine-looking lot of men. There were tall men and short men, round, plump men, and thin men; men with black beards, men with red beards, and others with no beards at all; young fellows, some of them, not then out of their teens. And there was one man with a grey beard, a man who had been in many wars and had over six medals. You know who I mean, Johnny? Oh, but he was a grand old man."

"Oh, yes (tearfully), I know who you mean, Hughie. And do you know this man- a man in the full prime of his manhood, a man with red, curly hair, wearing a splendid red beard- such a well-set-up man and so strong and healthy; such a handy man, too, a man who could do almost anything- make you a pair of boots, build you a boat, or print you a map, and I don't know what he couldn't do. Do you know ho that man was, Hughie?"

"Yes, yes, I know, Johnny (almost sobbing)."

"And there was a fat, chubby little chap- quite a boy- who used to blow the bugle for the men to parade, and to call them to dinner; and of! Couldn't he make it sound, and wasn't he proud of his bugle?"

"Yes, he was a dandy player, and wasn't he the pet of all the women? Do you think you could recognize him no if you were to meet him? He must be quite an old chap now. And, oh, do you remember one day when the ship was rolling and pitching, the poor fellow fell down the hatch and broke his arm?"

"Yes, I remember that, but the Doctor and 'Matilda' (ho nursed him in the hospital) soon put him to rights."

"I say, Hughie, I used to hear the men talking about 'Splicing the Main Brace.' What did they mean?"

"Oh, don't you know that every day when the sun passed over the year-arm, at 12 o'clock noon, the Quarter-Master (Davy Osment) used to serve the men with grog and limejuice? They called that 'Splicing the Main Brace.'"

"And do you remember, Johnny, our leaving Esquimalt Harbour on board the steamer Eliza Anderson on our way to our future home 'The Camp,' New Westminster, and that we got stuck on the sandheads at the mouth of the Fraser River?"

"Yes, quite well, and I saw in the papers the other day that another ship got stuck on the same sandheads."

"Well, Hughie, we have had a good yarn about our experiences on board ship. What do you think of the doings of the detachment after their arrival in the colony?"

"I think, Johnny, that, on the whole, our men and our women, and we boys and girls who came out with them, have reason to believe that they and we played no small part in assisting to colonise this wonderful country."

"Yes, Hughie, but isn't it sad to think that at the Jubilee of our arrival to-morrow there no only remain, our of the one hundred and fifty men, fourteen who have been spared to take part in the celebration, and that nearly all the mothers have passed away, too?"

"Yes, Johnny, it is truly sad that so many have gone to their long home, yet e have the consolation of knowing that they strove to do their duty, and that thy have left hundreds of descendents to help in upbuilding this splendid Province."


True to their motto, time but enhances their fame;
Hard through their task nothing could them restrain;
Ending their long sea voyage and on shore once again,

Robust, strong and willing, success their brightest aim,
On Fraser's mighty river bank their home a canvas tent,
You soon could hear the humming that saw the hammer sent.
A city stands upon the spot here, fifty years ago,
Lo! The Indian and the coyotes enjoyed their to and fro.

Every ay they cut new trails where white had never been;
No grander road then Cariboo new country's ever seen.
Girtling streams with bridges, felling mighty pines,
Initial work in everything -even churches in their line.
Nobly did they do their work, B. C. will always tell,
Empire-builders surely! Their descendent offspring swell.
Esteemed by one and all are the few that now remain;
Remembered in all honour those who've left this earthly train.
Symbols of their motto, they up held their glorious name,
B. C. admits that "Ubique quo fas et Gloria ducunt" a motto without stain.
Thos. Harman.
8th March, 1909.


This story of the work of the Royal Engineers in British Columbia is an interesting one as set forth by Lieut.-Colonel R. Wolfenden in a paper read before the Veterans' Association of Vancouver Island on November 23rd, 1900. It gives an excellent conception of the services performed for British Columbia by this body of men no celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of their arrival here. It was owing to the discovery of their arrival here. It was owing to the discovery of gold in 1858, in what was then termed New Caledonia, that Sir James Douglas, Governor of Vancouver Island, reported to the British Government the advisability of appointing a Governor to administer the new territory in case of a sudden rush of miners. Mr. Douglas was appointed Governor of the Colony of British Columbia, as it was named. A body of men possessed of military and scientific acquirements was sent out to the new colony to support Governor Douglas and to contribute to the improvement and colonization of the country. This body of men was selected from the Royal Engineers, under the command of sic officers, Colonel R. C. Moody, Captain H. R. Luard, Lieutenant A. R. Lempriere, and Lieutenant H. S. Palmer, also Dr. Seddall as medical officer.

From the large number of volunteers one hundred and fifty non-commisioned officers and men were selected. The men were composed of surveyors, astronomers, engineers, draughtsmen, architects, accountants, clerks, printers, lithographers, carpenters, boat-builders, blacksmiths, shoemakers, tailors, and men of all other trades and calling ho were fitted to perform some special work in the new colony.

The first detachment of this corps left Southhampton on September 2nd on the steamer La Plata, and these were followed shortly afterwards by a second detachment, under Captain Grant. The main body, in charge of Captain H. R. Luard, Lieutenant A. S. Palmer, and Dr. Seddall,, with 118 non-commissioned officers and men, 31 women and 34 children, sailed from Gravesend in the steamer Thames City on October 10th, 1859, after a long and rather tedious six months' voyage around Cape Horn.

"Owing to Captain Marsh the tedium of the journey as relieved by publication of a weekly paper in manuscript form called "The Emigrant Soldiers' Gazette and Cape Horn Chronicle." This was edited by Corporal Charles Sinnett, and as road by the Captain every Saturday night. Lieut.-Colonel Wolfenden has since republished this paper in book form, which is one of the most interesting features of the historical exhibit at the Fair.

On their arrival at Esquimalt the main body of the party proceeded by the steamer Eliza Anderson to their future home on the Fraser River. A camp as established on the present site of the Provincial Penitentiary. At that time the City of New Westminster was covered by a dense forest, the only signs of human habitation being a crude jetty, a saloon conducted by T. J. Scott, late of Port Moody; a butcher shop conducted by the late Robert Dickinson; a grocery by W. J. Armstrong, and a bakery by Philip Hicks.

The party arrived here fifty years ago and at once proceeded to establish the capital of British Columbia here. Fort Langley as chosen by Governor Douglas, but as later abandoned for Queensborough. There was some dissatisfaction with the name, and the matter was submitted to the Queen, who named the city New Westminster. The party proceeded to build barracks, to survey the sites of the city, and of Hope, Yale, Lytton, Douglas, Lillooet, Clinton, Richfield, and others; they conducted numerous explorations and surveys throughout the country, and established astronomical stations; they constructed many roads, streets, and bridges, notably the wagon road from Douglas to Pemberton Lake; the first and most difficult section of the Yale-Cariboo Waggon Road, the Hope Mountain Trail, as well as the principal streets and roads in and about New Westminster; they formed a gold escort and brought gold don from Cariboo; they designed the first English churches built at New Westminster and Sapperton, as well as the first school-house; they designed the first British Columbia coat-of-arms and the first postage stamp used in the colony; they built, at their own coast, a reading-room, library, and theatre, in which many interesting entertainments were held during the winter months, as will be remembered by many old residents; they established the Lands and Works Department and the Government Printing Office, and printed the first B. C. Gazette on the 3rd January, 1863. Law and order were maintained by the party and a from of government instituted.

The detachment disbanded in October, 1863, after five years' service, and all the officers and twenty-five or thirty men returned to the Old Country. Those who remained were given a free grant of 150 acres of land, and engaged in various occupations in the new colony. Fourteen of the survivors still reside in British Columbia, of whom twelve are in the city celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of their arrival.

©Heritage Branch, Province of British Columbia 2001. All rights reserved | Credits
Comments and Suggestions