Victoria 8 Dec 1872 6-pg Marcus Smith letter to his wife
Lot 89 in our auction Saturday 30th May 2020
Transcript of Letter
Victoria 8th Dec. 1872
My dear Nannie
The work for the season is at last drawing towards a close I have six parties home here making their plans etc. and in a day or two a steamer goes up the straits to valdes island to bring two parties down- there is only one party more in the heart of the rocky mountains near Henry house- this is the party who last year were surveying Howse pass- several hundred miles farther south then the yellow head or leather pass and which the Dominion Govt decided to abandon last winter- it has taken this party all summer to get to Henry house and they have not done a stroke of work- though they have cash well nigh $100, 000- they had to cut between 2 and 3 hundred miles of trail by the side of the Columbia river and over the Athabasca pass- and besides the chopping had to cut the rock, build bridges etc. to get the horses and mules over. This party had orders to come down but they have left it too late and cannot get down now before the Spring. Fleming is greatly annoyed about it- they have plenty of provisions with them but there is the pay of about 30 men going on all summer and all winter and nothing done- there are no roads- but one or two- in the country and everything has to be carried on the backs of horses or mules- and then have to take their chance of finding food by the way- we have over 400 horses and mules- these are now put out to winter- on such grass as they can find- often have to scrape for it in two to three feet of snow—
I shall probably go up the straits with the steamer and work down through the woods on the island (150 miles) as I have to trace a line for the railway to be surveyed some time or other we have no snow on the island yet but there has been a good deal of rain and it will be disagreeable- however I know well how to take care of myself in camp now- I take only one man with me and hire Indians in the country as I want them- I get along well with them and can now talk a little of the Chinook which all the tribes understand. It is a trading language invented by the Hudson’s Bay comp. we have a whaleboat with us and shall do a good deal of the distance by water as the line will be near the coast- I expect to get through by x-mas and soon after that hope to come home-
I don’t of course know what I shall be doing next summer- but as I have done all and more than was expected of me and been entirely successful- except in that one unfortunate party- if anyone is sent out here next I shall most likely have the offer- in this case I intend to take up a farm in Tom’s name in a new country (the Chilcotin valley) just going to be opened up- farms are not here what they are in Canada- but just here and there where the valley opens out there are flats that can be cultivated- while all around on the slopes are bunch grass and sage on which the cattle graze-so that it is really stock farming-and stock increase so rapidly here- that there is scarcely one who has not got rich in a few years. The man who owns the 150 miles house commenced as a packer with 6 mules (carrying goods) then bought his farm- or ranche as they call it here- in three years more he bought another ranche- then another now he has some 1500 acres of land 200 head of cattle a saw mill & grist mill and over $100 000 in cash-
At any rate a summer for Tom either with a surveying party or with a packer or on a stock farm would give him strength as this is a remarkably healthy country- though the mainland in the winter is as cold as New Brunswick- the summers are beautiful no great heat and but little rain- Vancouver is like England rain and soft- but not muddy as there is so much rock.
The children of Victoria are the prettiest and healthiest I have ever seen out of England such a bloom on their cheeks and they are so lively- but there are no servants- only chinamen at $30 to $50 a month and board- most people have but one of them- if they have any at all- you must have a servant at any price before I come home I have not spent much money except on clothes- and too much on [ ] etc. people here are so free- in fact awfully extravagant and I have been invited out so much that when they visit me they of course expect liberal treatment- but one thing is certain with a good position there are chances of making money here which do not exist in Ontario- for instance I should have a good opportunity of discovering mines I have sent some specimens of quartz which I picked up to be assessed and I know where the range of slate & quartz runs from which the gold in the river banks must have been washed- Though there has been no quartz mining done here yet only washing the gold dust from the beds and banks of streams and gold is found more or less on every stream- but it is a very uncertain business- I have been driving and every other day since I came home and have gained in weight at the rate of half a pound a day but when I come home I was thinner than ever you saw me-
Love and kisses to the little ones. I am longing to be home to see them.