BRITISH COLUMBIA, like Ontario and Quebec, has its chief development and population in the southern section. The coal, gold, silver, iron and copper are in this section scattered about with lavish hand, while forests, soil and sea, hold riches not less abundant. It is noteworthy, too, that the population of southern British Columbia has increased more rapidly than any other part of the Dominion in the last decade. Vancouver has had a marvellous growth, and is only one of the many important centres of the country. No portion of the Dominion has more to expect in the future. It is believed by very many that the success and increase of the last few years is but the prelude of much greater expansion.
In undertaking to speak of the northern portions of British Columbia we find a somewhat more difficult task. If the more southern parts may be regarded as new and undeveloped, the more northern portions may, for the most part, be regarded as vast wildernesses. They are, nevertheless, wildernesses of great possibilities. The section next claiming our attention is the one lying immediately north of the last one described, and including what is generally spoken of as the middle zone of British Columbia.
In former times this section was designated New Caledonia, and in this connection we may retain the ancient name.
In area and general features New Caledonia is, in many respects, similar to what is called southern British Columbia, and in all material resources it is as rich, if not richer. While the country maintains the same broken and mountainous character, it is also true that there are very many beautiful valleys. ” Here the soil is almost everywhere rich, and there are many very valuable farming and stock raising tracts.” Here also are the so-called Chilcotin prairies, which afford special advantages for stock raising and other forms of agriculture. The agricultural possibilities are probably as great as in the south, and the population engaged in this pursuit must in time be extensive. Being in the midst of a rich mining country the pursuit of agriculture will here be rendered more profitable than under ordinary conditions.
As to climate, the mean annual readings vary little from that of the south, though there are more extremes in both winter and summer than on the coast and in the south. It is thus described in the climates of Canada : ” Northward from the Thompson for one hundred miles is another region of rolling bench lands similar to the south, growing somewhat colder with the latitude, but in a surprising manner maintaining a dryness far north into the Chilcotin rolling prairie country west of the Fraser ; while at one hundred miles north of Kamloops such a moderate temperature exists that cattle maintain themselves all winter on the ranches. Except where excessive elevation prohibits, the products of this section are quite similar to other parts of British Columbia.”
The mineral wealth of this part of the Pacific slope, while, of course, not fully known, is certainly of very great value. Within this section the famous Cariboo district is located, from which many millions of dollars worth of gold was taken in its palmy days.
While the creeks of this section have been pretty well prospected for placer gold, there yet remain many ancient river channels, suitable for hydraulicking operations on a large scale. Copper, gold and silver deposits have also been found, but the quartz veins from which the placer gold originally came have yet to be located. This is partially owing to the lack of incentive for prospectors, who in the past have been deterred from going into the country because of the lack of transportation facilities, which are absolutely necessary to the success of lode-mining. With the entrance of a railway, however, a great impetus will be given to mining operations, and the wonderful mineral wealth of Cariboo will be developed as never before, and on a more enduring and lasting basis.
In climate, minerals, agriculture and other resources, therefore, this extensive territory has within itself the elements capable of making it the peer of any province on the American continent. At the present time the population is small and scattered ; some along the coast, some up the valley of the Fraser, and at a few other points. More rapid development is likely to take place in the near future, as the country seems likely to be opened up by different railway lines, making access to the interior more easy. The coast has a succession of magnificent harbors and arms, and doubtless many of these will afford harbors on which will be located ports of entry. The most promising of these at the present time is perhaps Port Simpson, at the mouth of the Skeena River. It is not improbable that in time large development may take place there as the ter-minus of the transcontinental railway, the Grand Trunk Pacific. Certainly the outlook for this section of the Pacific slope is full of promise, and we doubt not, in time, more than our anticipations will be realized.
The northeast corner of British Columbia, which we will call Omineca, contains about eighty-five thousand square miles. Its geographical position is such that in some respects it is one of the most difficult parts of the country to reach, lying, as it does, outside of most lines of even pioneer travel. It is consequently very imperfectly known and perhaps the white population in no other section is so small. It is, however, not without its possibilities, and it is quite evident when it becomes more fully known it will be found to be a country of many attraction§ and much natural wealth. The late Dr. Dawson said of it : ” This includes a portion of the Western Cordillera, and a large tract of the interior plateau region, and the component parts of which there is reason to believe consists of agricultural land. It will be noticed that the central core of the Rocky Mountains here trends northwesterly through the centre of this territory, leaving about half of it on the eastern slope. This eastern section is said to be a rolling country, with the same general features as the eastern foot-hills of the south, partly forested and partly open country, and as it lies in the path of the Chinook! winds, there is no doubt its climate is milder than one would expect to find in that latitude.”
Mr. Warburton Pike says : “On October 25th a west wind from across the mountains blew warm as a summer breeze.” Considerably to the north of this section, in the Mackenzie Valley, the climatic conditions are beyond expectation, and that of the Peace River is well known to be among the best in the West. It is, therefore, highly probable that over a large section of this little known region a surprisingly genial climate prevails. It may be claimed, therefore, that the eastern half of this territory is suitable for an agricultural country, and it alone represents an area almost as large as England. In the progress of time there is little doubt that the beautiful valleys of this section will pulsate with the throbs of human activity.
The more western sections of this territory are, of course, more mountainous, and their character is quite similar in general features to other parts of the Pacific slope. It is, however, a mineral country and likely one of great richness in deposits of gold. The Omineca gold mines have already yielded considerable wealth and are still being worked on a small scale. The opening up of the country would make possible the working of these distant ore beds in a manner that cannot now be undertaken. In addition to this, the country is “heavily forested, a factor of no small importance in contemplation of future needs. These two sections of this territoryits eastern agricultural lands, and its western metallicare calculated to give added importance the one to the other.
It will be noticed that the great Peace River pierces the Rocky Mountains in the southern part of this territory, affording, it is said, one of the easiest passes of this great range. No doubt, in the near future, railway lines will penetrate the mountains at this point, giving the country communication with the coast, as well as to the East and other sections of the Dominion. When this comes to pass its full value will be known, and doubtless many will be anxious to share in the advantages it has to offer.
The territory comprising the whole of the remaining mainland portion of British Columbia, which we will call Cassiar, or British Alaska, occupies its northwestern angle. It touches the coast between the Skeena River and the extreme south coast of Alaska, and is, therefore, maritime in position. Fort Simpson, with its spacious and ever-open harbor, is on its seaboard, and will doubtless more and more claim the attention of shipping in that part of the world. The area of this territory may be considered at one hundred thousand square miles. Comparatively little is known of that region, except on the coast and in the extreme north. It, however, has the same general features of the country to the south, being a series of mountains, valleys and stretches of rolling country. It is everywhere heavily timbered, except on the highest mountains, and the forest growth in some places is said to be superb, quite beyond general expectations.
There are also many tracts of good land, and the climate is suited for the growth of a large variety of grains, vegetables and fruit. On the coast, of course, the climate is mild even in the winter, while in the interior there are the usual extremes of heat and cold common to that part of the Dominion. The scenery is said to be in places magnificent, having already won considerable fame in this respect. Of the character of the country about Atlin City, in the north, a cultured and much travelled person said
” There are the lakes and woods, the white-capped mountains, the beautiful walks, the air like champagne, the atmosphere of romance which discounts that of the most famous resorts. Indeed, after Atlin, Europe lures me no more.”
It is a mining country. Of course, this great territory must figure largely in the future in that respect. Of her mineral resources there seems to be no doubt of reality and vastness. Of the Atlin District a recent extensive quartz discovery is said to have assayed from $1,000 to $5,000 per ton in the tests already made. Certain representatives of French capitalists, who visited the country in 1901, are quoted as saying. ” The mineral wealth of the country is perfectly amazing, and to all appearance superior in its mineral deposits to South Africa.”
Mr. G. W. Frazer, who has been recently engaged in making a survey of the northern boundary, is reported as saying : ” Although only a most hurried perfunctory examination could be made of the country in a geological sense, yet sufficient was seen to demonstrate that it has mineral wealth quite equal to any portion of the north. On the Taklionia River plenty of coal of good quality was found, and more was noticed in the neighborhood of the Dalton Trail.”
This great country, so virgin and so rich in all that makes for wealth, must in time take a rightful place in the general awakening of this northern land, and when it is more fully known it will probably be seen that the half has not been told. Some day its doors, so long closed by the barriers of nature, and so long unsought, owing to the indifference of man, will be thrown open to all who seek a share in her secret wealth. Till then our hopes of her are large.