1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/British Columbia - Wikisource, the free online library (2024)

BRITISH COLUMBIA, the western province of the Dominion of Canada. It is bounded on the east by the continental watershed in the Rocky Mountains, until this, in its north-westerly course, intersects 120° W., which is followed north to 60° N., thus including within the province a part of the Peace river country to the east of the mountains. The southern boundary is formed by 49° N. and the strait separating Vancouver Island from the state of Washington. The northern boundary is 60° N., the western the Pacific Ocean, upon which the province fronts for about 600 m., and the coast strip of Alaska for a further distance of 400 m. Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Islands, as well as the smaller islands lying off the western coast of Canada, belong to the province of British Columbia.

Physical Features.—British Columbia is essentially a mountainous country, for the Rocky Mountains which in the United States lie to the east of the Great Basin, on running to the north bear toward the west and approach the ranges which border the Pacific coast. Thus British Columbia comprises practically the entire width of what has been termed the Cordillera or Cordilleran belt of North America, between the parallels of latitude above indicated. There are two ruling mountain systems in this belt—the Rocky Mountains proper on the north-east side, and the Coast Range on the south-west or Pacific side. Between these are subordinate ranges to which various local names have been given, as well as the “Interior Plateau”—an elevated tract of hilly country, the hill summits having an accordant altitude, which lies to the east of the Coast Range. The several ranges, having been produced by successive foldings of the earth’s crust in a direction parallel to the border of the Pacific Ocean, have a common trend which is south-east and north-west. Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Islands are remnants of still another mountain range, which runs parallel to the coast but is now almost entirely submerged beneath the waters of the Pacific. The province might be said to consist of a series of parallel mountain ranges with long narrow valleys lying between them.

The Rocky Mountains are composed chiefly of palaeozoic sediments ranging in age from the Cambrian to the Carboniferous, with subordinate infolded areas of Cretaceous which hold coal. The average height of the range along the United States boundary is 8000 ft., but the range culminates between the latitudes of 51° and 53°, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies being Mount Robson, 13,700 ft., although the highest peak in British Columbia is Mount Fairweather on the International Boundary, which rises to 15,287 ft. Other high peaks in the Rocky Mountains of Canada are Columbia, 12,740 ft.; Forbes, 12,075; Assiniboine, 11,860; Bryce. 11,686; Temple, 11,626; Lyell, 11,463. There are a number of passes over the Rocky Mountains, among which may be mentioned, beginning from the south, the South Kootenay or Boundary Pass, 7100 ft.; the Crow’s Nest Pass, 5500 (this is traversed by the southern branch of the Canadian Pacific railway and crosses great coal fields); the Kicking Horse or Wapta Pass, 5300 (which is traversed by the main line of the Canadian Pacific railway); the Athabasca Pass, 6025; the Yellow Head Pass, 3733 (which will probably be used by the Grand Trunk Pacific railway); the Pine River Pass, 2850; and the Peace River Pass, 2000, through which the Peace river flows.

The Coast Range, sometimes called the Cascade Range, borders the Pacific coast for 900 m. and gives to it its remarkable character. To its partially submerged transverse valleys are due the excellent harbours on the coast, the deep sounds and inlets which penetrate far inland at many points, as well as the profound and gloomy fjords and the stupendous precipices which render the coast line an exaggerated reproduction of that of Norway. The coast is, in fact, one of the most remarkable in the world, measuring with all its indentations 7000 m. in the aggregate, and being fringed with an archipelago of innumerable islands, of which Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Islands are the largest.

Along the south-western side of the Rocky Mountains is a very remarkable valley of considerable geological antiquity, in which some seven of the great rivers of the Pacific slope, among them the Kootenay, Columbia, Fraser and Finlay, flow for portions of their upper courses. This valley, which is from 1 to 6 m. in width, can be traced continuously for a length of at least 800 m. One of the most important rivers of the province is the Fraser, which, rising in the Rocky Mountains, flows for a long distance to the north-west, and then turning south eventually crosses the Coast Range by a deep canton-like valley and empties into the Strait of Georgia, a few miles south of the city of Vancouver. The Columbia, which rises farther south in the same range, flows north for about 150 m., crossing the main line of the Canadian Pacific railway at Donald, and then bending abruptly back upon its former course, flows south, recrossing the Canadian Pacific railway at Revelstoke, and on through the Arrow Lakes in the Kootenay country into the United States, emptying into the Pacific Ocean at Astoria in the state of Oregon. These lakes, as well as the other large lakes in southern British Columbia, remain open throughout the winter. In the north-western part of the province the Skeena flows south-west into the Pacific, and still farther to the north the Stikine rises in British Columbia, but before entering the Pacific crosses the coast strip of Alaska. The Liard, rising in the same district, flows east and falls into the Mackenzie, which empties into the Arctic Ocean. The headwaters of the Yukon are also situated in the northern part of the province. All these rivers are swift and are frequently interrupted by rapids, so that, as means of communication for commercial purposes, they are of indifferent value. Wherever lines of railway are constructed, they lose whatever importance they may have held in this respect previously.

At an early stage in the Glacial period British Columbia was covered by the Cordilleran glacier, which moved south-eastwards and north-westwards, in correspondence with the ruling features of the country, from a gathering-ground situated in the vicinity of the 57th parallel. Ice from this glacier poured through passes in the coast ranges, and to a lesser extent debouched upon the edge of the great plains, beyond the Rocky Mountain range. The great valley between the coast ranges and Vancouver Island was also occupied by a glacier that moved in both directions from a central point in the vicinity of Valdez Island. The effects of this glacial action and of the long periods of erosion preceding it and of other physiographic changes connected with its passing away, have most important bearings on the distribution and character of the gold-bearing alluviums of the province.

Climate.—The subjoined figures relating to temperature and precipitation are from a table prepared by Mr R. F. Stupart, director of the meteorological service. The station at Victoria may be taken as representing the conditions of the southern part of the coast of British Columbia, although the rainfall is much greater on exposed parts of the outer coast. Agassiz represents the Fraser delta and Kamloops the southern interior district. The mean temperature naturally decreases to the northward of these selected stations, both along the coast and in the interior, while the precipitation increases. The figures given for Port Simpson are of interest, as the Pacific terminus of the Grand Trunk Pacific railway will be in this vicinity.

Fauna.—Among the larger mammals are the big-horn or mountain sheep (Ovis canadensis), the Rocky Mountain goat (Mazama montana), the grizzly bear, moose, woodland caribou, black-tailed or mule deer, white-tailed deer, and coyote. All these are to be found only on the mainland. The black bear, wolf, puma, lynx, wapiti, and Columbian or coast deer are common to parts of both mainland and islands. Of marine mammals the most characteristic are the sea-lion, fur-seal, sea-otter and harbour-seal. About 340 species of birds are known to occur in the province, among which, as of special interest, may be mentioned the burrowing owl of the dry, interior region, the

Mean Temp., Fahr. Absolute Temperature. Rainfall—Inches.
 Coldest Month.  Warmest Month.  Average Annual. Highest.Lowest. Wettest Month.  Driest Month.  Average Annual. 
 Victoria[1]Jan. 37.5°July 60.3°48.8° 90°−1°Dec.  7.98July.437.77
 Agassiz[2]Jan. 33.0°Aug. 64.7°48.9° 97°−13°Dec.  9.43July1.5566.85
 Kamloops[3]Jan. 24.2°Aug. 68.5°47.1°101°−27°July 1.61April .3711.46
 Port Simpson[4]Jan. 34.9°Aug. 56.9°45.1° 88°−10°Oct.  12.42June 4.3794.63

American magpie, Steller’s jay and a true nut-cracker, Clark’s crow (Picicorvus columbianus). True jays and orioles are also well represented. The gallinaceous birds include the large blue grouse of the coast, replaced in the Rocky Mountains by the dusky grouse. The western form of the “spruce partridge” of eastern Canada is also abundant, together with several forms referred to the genus Bonasa, generally known as “partridges” or ruffed grouse. Ptarmigans also abound in many of the higher mountain regions. Of the Anatidae only passing mention need be made. During the spring and autumn migrations many species are found in great abundance, but in the summer a smaller number remain to breed, chief among which are the teal, mallard, wood-duck, spoon-bill, pin-tail, buffle-head, red-head, canvas-back, scaup-duck, &c.

Area and Population.—The area of British Columbia is 357,600 sq. m., and its population by the census of 1901 was 190,000. Since that date this has been largely increased by the influx of miners and others, consequent upon the discovery of precious metals in the Kootenay, Boundary and Atlin districts. Much of this is a floating population, but the opening up of the valleys by railway and new lines of steamboats, together with the settlements made in the vicinity of the Canadian Pacific railway, has resulted in a considerable increase of the permanent population. The white population comprises men of many nationalities. There is a large Chinese population, the census of 1901 returning 14,201. The influx of Chinamen has, however, practically ceased, owing to the tax of $500 per head imposed by the government of the dominion. Many Japanese have also come in. The Japanese are engaged chiefly in lumbering and fishing, but the Chinese are found everywhere in the province. Great objection is taken by the white population to the increasing number of “Mongolians,” owing to their competition with whites in the labour markets. The Japanese do not appear to be so much disliked, as they adapt themselves to the ways of white men, but they are equally objected to on the score of cheap labour; and in 1907–1908 considerable friction occurred with the Dominion government over the Anti-Japanese attitude of British Columbia, which was shown in some rather serious riots. In the census of 1901 the Indian population is returned at 25,488; of these 20,351 are professing Christians and 5137 are pagans. The Indians are divided into very many tribes, under local names, but fall naturally on linguistic grounds into a few large groups. Thus the southern part of the interior is occupied by the Salish and Kootenay, and the northern interior by the Tinneh or Athapackan people. On the coast are the Haida, Tsimshian, Kwakiatl, Nootka, and about the Gulf of Georgia various tribes related to the Salish proper. There is no treaty with the Indians of British Columbia, as with those of the plains, for the relinquishment of their title to the land, but the government otherwise assists them. There is an Indian superintendent at Victoria, and under him are nine agencies throughout the province to attend to the Indians—relieving their sick and destitute, supplying them with seed and implements, settling their disputes and administering justice. The Indian fishing stations and burial grounds are reserved, and other land has been set apart for them for agricultural and pastoral purposes. A number of schools have been established for their education. They were at one time a dangerous element, but are now quiet and peaceable.

The chief cities are Victoria, the capital, on Vancouver Island; and Vancouver on the mainland, New Westminster on the Fraser and Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. Rossland and Nelson in West Kootenay, as well as Fernie in East Kootenay and Grand Forks in the Boundary district, are also places of importance.

Mining.—Mining is the principal industry of British Columbia. The country is rich in gold, silver, copper, lead and coal, and has also iron deposits. From 1894 to 1904 the mining output increased from $4,225,717 to $18,977,359. In 1905 it had reached $22,460,295. The principal minerals, in order of value of output, are gold, copper, coal, lead and silver. Between 1858—the year of the placer discoveries on the Fraser river and in the Cariboo district—and 1882, the placer yields were much heavier than in subsequent years, running from one to nearly four million dollars annually, but there was no quartz mining. Since 1899 placer mining has increased considerably, although the greater part of the return has been from lode mining. The Rossland, the Boundary and the Kootenay districts are the chief centres of vein-mining, yielding auriferous and cupriferous sulphide ores, as well as large quantities of silver-bearing lead ores. Ores of copper and the precious metals are being prospected and worked also, in several places along the coast and on Vancouver Island. The mining laws are liberal, and being based on the experience gained in the adjacent mining centres of the Western States, are convenient and effective. The most important smelting and reducing plants are those at Trail and Nelson in the West Kootenay country, and at Grand Forks and Greenwood in the Boundary district. There are also numerous concentrating plants. Mining machinery of the most modern types is employed wherever machinery is required.

The province contains enormous supplies of excellent coal, most of which are as yet untouched. It is chiefly of Cretaceous age. The producing collieries are chiefly on Vancouver Island and on the western slope of the Rockies near the Crow’s Nest Pass in the extreme south-eastern portion of the provinces. Immense beds of high grade bituminous coal and semi-anthracite are exposed in the Bulkley Valley, south of the Skeena river, not far from the projected line of the Grand Trunk Pacific railway. About one-half the coal mined is exported to the United States.

Fisheries.—A large percentage of the commerce is derived from the sea, the chief product being salmon. Halibut, cod (several varieties), oolachan, sturgeon, herring, shad and many other fishes are also plentiful, but with the exception of the halibut these have not yet become the objects of extensive industries. There are several kinds of salmon, and they run in British Columbia waters at different seasons of the year. The quinnat or spring salmon is the largest and best table fish, and is followed in the latter part of the summer by the sockeye, which runs in enormous numbers up the Fraser and Skeena rivers. This is the fish preferred for canning. It is of brighter colour, more uniform in size, and comes in such quantities that a constant supply can be reckoned upon by the canneries. About the mouth of the Fraser river from 1800 to 2600 boats are occupied during the run. There is an especially large run of sockeye salmon in the Fraser river every fourth year, while in the year immediately following there is a poor run. The silver salmon or cohoe arrives a little later than the sockeye, but is not much used for packing except when required to make up deficiencies. The dog-salmon is not canned, but large numbers are caught by the Japanese, who salt them for export to the Orient. The other varieties are of but little commercial importance at present, although with the increasing demand for British Columbia salmon, the fishing season is being extended to cover the runs of all the varieties of this fish found in the waters of the province.

Great Britain is the largest but not the only market for British Columbia salmon. The years vary in productiveness, 1901 having been unusually large and 1903 the smallest in eleven years, but the average pack is about 700,000 cases of forty-eight 1-℔ tins, the greater part of all returns being from the Fraser river canneries, the Skeena river and the Rivers Inlet coming next in order. There are between 60 and 70 canneries, of which about 40 are on the banks of the Fraser river. There is urgent need for the enactment of laws restricting the catch of salmon, as the industry is now seriously threatened. The fish oils are extracted chiefly from several species of dog-fish, and sometimes from the basking shark, as well as from the oolachan, which is also an edible fish.

The fur-seal fishery is an important industry, though apparently a declining one. Owing to the scarcity of seals and international difficulties concerning pelagic sealing in Bering Sea, where the greatest number have been taken, the business of seal-hunting is losing favour. Salmon fish-hatcheries have been established on the chief rivers frequented by these fish. Oysters and lobsters from the Atlantic coast have been planted in British Columbia waters.

Timber.—The province is rich in forest growth, and there is a steady demand for its lumber in the other parts of Canada as well as in South America, Africa, Australia and China. The following is a list of some of the more important trees—large leaved maple (Acer macrophyllum), red alder (Alnus rubra), western larch (Larix occidentalis), white spruce (Picea alba), Engellmann’s spruce (Picea Engelmanii), Menzies’s spruce (Picea sitchensis), white mountain pine (Pinus monticola), black pine (Pinus murrayana), yellow pine (Pinus ponderosa), Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga Douglasii), western white oak (Quercus garryana), giant cedar (Thuya gigantea), yellow cypress or cedar (Thuya excelsa), western hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana). The principal timber of commerce is the Douglas fir. The tree is often found 300 ft. high and from 8 to 10 ft. in diameter. The wood is tough and strong and highly valued for ships’ spars as well as for building purposes. Red or giant cedar, which rivals the Douglas fir in girth, is plentiful, and is used for shingles as well as for interior work. The western white spruce is also much employed for various purposes. There are about eighty sawmills, large and small, in the province. The amount of timber cut on Dominion government lands in 1904 was 22,760,222 ft., and the amount cut on provincial lands was 325,271,568 ft., giving a total of 348,031,790 ft. In 1905 the cut on dominion lands exceeded that in 1904, while the amount cut on provincial lands reached 450,385,554 ft. The cargo shipments of lumber for the years 1904 and 1905 were as follows:—

United Kingdom7,498,301  13,690,869
South America15,647,80813.332,993
South Africa2,517,1547,093,681
China and Japan  4,802,4264,787,784
Fiji Islands308,33229,949

There is a very large market for British Columbia lumber in the western provinces of Canada.

Agriculture.—Although mountainous in character the province contains many tracts of good farming land. These lie in the long valleys between the mountain ranges of the interior, as well as on the lower slopes of the mountains and on the deltas of the rivers running out to the coast. On Vancouver Island also there is much good farming land. The conditions are in most places best suited to mixed farming; the chief crops raised are wheat, oats, potatoes and hay. Some areas are especially suited for cattle and sheep raising, among which may be mentioned the Yale district and the country about Kamloops. Much attention has been given to fruit raising, especially in the Okanagan valley. Apples, plums and cherries are grown, as well as peaches, apricots, grapes and various small fruits, notably strawberries. All these are of excellent quality. Hops are also cultivated. A large market for this fruit is opening up in the rapidly growing provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Imports and Exports.—For the year ending June 30th 1905 the total exports and imports (showing a slight gradual increase on the two preceding years) were valued at $16,677,882 and $12,565,019 respectively. The exports were classified as follows:—Mines, $9,777,423; fisheries, $2,101,533; forests, $1,046,718; animals, $471,231; agriculture, $119,426; manufactures, $1,883,777; miscellaneous, $1,106,643; coin and bullion, $171,131.

Railways.—The Pacific division of the Canadian Pacific railway enters British Columbia through the Rocky Mountains on the east and runs for about 500 m. across the province before reaching the terminus at Vancouver. A branch of the same railway leaves the main line at Medicine Hat, and running to the south-west, crosses the Rocky Mountains through the Crow’s Nest Pass, and thus enters British Columbia a short distance north of the United States boundary. This continues across the province, running approximately parallel to the boundary as far as Midway in what is known as the Boundary district. The line has opened up extensive coal fields and crosses a productive mining district. On Vancouver Island there are two railways, the Esquimalt & Nanaimo railway (78 m.) connecting the coal fields with the southern ports, and the Victoria & Sydney railway, about 16 m. in length. The Great Northern has also a number of short lines in the southern portion of the province, connecting with its system in the United States. In 1905 there were 1627m. of railway in the province, of which 1187 were owned or controlled by the Canadian Pacific railway.

Shipping.—The Canadian Pacific Railway Company has two lines of mail steamer running from Vancouver and Victoria: (l) the Empress line, which runs to Japan and China once in three weeks, and (2) the Australian line to Honolulu, Fiji and Sydney, once a month. The same company also has a line of steamers running to Alaska, as well as a fleet of coasting steamers.

Government.—The province is governed by a lieutenant-governor, appointed by the governor-general in council for five years, but subject to removal for cause, an executive council of five ministers, and a single legislative chamber. The executive council is appointed by the lieutenant-governor on the advice of the first minister, and retains office so long as it enjoys the support of a majority of the legislature. The powers of the lieutenant-governor in regard to the provincial government are analogous to those of governor-general in respect of the dominion government.

The British North America Act (1867) confederating the colonies, defines the jurisdiction of the provincial legislature as distinguished from that of the federal parliament, but within its own jurisdiction the province makes the laws for its own governance. The act of the legislature may be disallowed, within one year of its passage, by the governor-general in council, and is also subject to challenge as to its legality in the supreme court of Canada or on appeal to the juridical committee of the privy council of the United Kingdom. British Columbia sends three senators and seven members to the lower house of the federal parliament, which sits at Ottawa.

Justice.—There is a supreme court of British Columbia presided over by a chief justice and five puisne judges, and there are also a number of county courts. In British Columbia the supreme court has jurisdiction in divorce cases, this right having been invested in the colony before confederation.

Religion and Education.—In 1901 the population was divided by creeds as follows: Church of England, 40,687; Methodist, 25,047; Presbyterian, 34,081; Roman Catholic, 33,639; others, 40,197; not stated, 5003; total, 178,654. The educational system of British Columbia differs slightly from that of other provinces of Canada. There are three classes of schools—common, graded and high—all maintained by the government and all free and undenominational. There is only one college in the province, the “McGill University College of British Columbia” at Vancouver, which is one of the colleges of McGill University, whose chief seat is at Montreal. The schools are controlled by trustees selected by the ratepayers of each school district, and there is a superintendent of education acting under the provincial secretary.

Finance.—Under the terms of union with Canada, British Columbia receives from the dominion government annually a certain contribution, which in 1905 amounted to $307,076. This, with provincial taxes on real property, personal property, income tax, sales of public land, timber dues, &c., amounted in the year 1905 to $2,920,461. The expenditure for the year was $2,302,417. The gross debt of the province in 1905 was $13,252,097, with assets of $4,463,869, or a net debt of $8,788,228. These assets do not include new legislative buildings or other public works. The income tax is on a sliding scale. In 1899 a fairly close estimate was made of the capital invested in the province, which amounted to $307,385,000 including timber, $100,000,000; railways and telegraphs, $47,500,000; mining plant and smelters, $10,500,000; municipal assessments, $45,000,000; provincial assessments, $51,500,000; in addition to private wealth, $280,000,000. There are branch offices of one or more of the Canadian banks in each of the larger towns.

History.—The discovery of British Columbia was made by the Spaniard Perez in 1774. With Cook’s visit the geographical exploration of the coast began in 1778. Vancouver, in 1792–1794, surveyed almost the entire coast of British Columbia with much of that to the north and south, for the British government. The interior, about the same time, was entered by Mackenzie and traders of the N.W. Company, which in 1821 became amalgamated with the Hudson’s Bay Company. For the next twenty-eight years the Hudson’s Bay Company ruled this immense territory with beneficent despotism. In 1849 Vancouver Island was proclaimed a British colony. In 1858, consequent on the discovery of gold and the large influx of miners, the mainland territory was erected into a colony under the name of British Columbia, and in 1866 this was united with the colony of Vancouver Island, under the same name. In 1871 British Columbia entered the confederation and became part of the Dominion of Canada, sending three senators and six (now seven) members to the House of Commons of the federal parliament. One of the conditions under which the colony entered the dominion was the speedy construction of the Canadian Pacific railway, and in 1876 the non-fulfilment of this promise and the apparent indifference of the government at Ottawa to the representations of British Columbia created

strained relations, which were only ameliorated when the construction of a transcontinental road was begun. In subsequent years the founding of the city of Vancouver by the C.P.R., the establishment of the first Canadian steamship line to China and Japan, and that to Australia, together with the disputes with the United States on the subject of pelagic sealing, and the discovery of the Kootenay and Boundary mining districts, have been the chief events in the history of the province.

Authorities.—Cook’s Voyage to the Pacific Ocean (London, 1784); Vancouver, Voyage of Discovery to the Pacific Ocean (London, 1798); H. H. Bancroft’s works, vol. xxxii., History of British Columbia (San Francisco, 1887); Begg’s History of British Columbia (Toronto, 1894); Gosnell, Year Book (Victoria, British Columbia, 1897 and 1903); Annual Reports British Columbia Board of Trade (Victoria); Annual Reports of Minister of Mines and other Departmental Reports of the Provincial and Dominion Governments; Catalogue of Provincial Museum (Victoria); Reports Geological Survey of Canada (from 1871 to date); Reports of Canadian Pacific (Government) Surveys (1872–1880); Reports of Committee of Brit. Assn. Adv. Science on N.W. Tribes (1884–1895); Lord, Naturalist in Vancouver Island (London, 1866); Bering Sea Arbitration (reprint of letters to Times), (London, 1893); Report of Bering Sea Commission (London, Government, 1892); A. Métin, La Colombie Britannique (Paris, 1908). See also various works of reference under Canada.(G. M. D.; M. St J.; F. D. A.) 

  1. 48° 24′ N., 123° 19′ W., height 85 ft.
  2. 49° 14′ N., 121° 31′ W., height 52 ft.
  3. 50° 41′ N., 120° 29′ W., height 1193 ft.
  4. 54° 34′ N., 130° 26′ W., height 26 ft.
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