Line construction has commenced from New Westminster

[Trade Journal]

Publication: The Telegrapher

New York, NY, United States
vol. 1, no. 12, p. 149, col. 1

From the Collins Overland Telegraph Expedition.

[Correspondence of THE TELEGRAPHER.]



June 13th, 1865.


In my former letter, written from San Francisco, I think I stated that the final organization of the expedition was not at that time complete. It was afterwards decided to start two exploring parties, one to examine the route through eastern Siberia, between Behring's Straits and the Amoor, and the other to follow the proposed route up the Frazer River in British Columbia, and thence along the valley supposed to exist between the Rocky mountains and the Coast Range, to the head waters of Pelly River, following down the valley of this river and the Yerkin into which it empties, to a point near the mouth of the latter, or in the neighborhood of Behring's Straits.

The party detailed by, Colonel Bulkley to make an examination of this route, left San Francisco by steamer of May 17th for British Columbia via. Victoria. As I shall accompany this detachment, you will have to depend upon others for details of the progress of affairs in other portions of the expedition. At the time of our leaving San Francisco, the other exploring patties were not fully organized, and I have not learned who is to have command of them.

The company have recently purchased the fine propeller Geo. S. Wright for the use of the expedition. She is nearly new, and has lately been running between Portland, Oregon, and Victoria.

Our party arrived here from Victoria on the 27th of May. The steamer on which we made the passage froth San Francisco to Victoria was delayed three days on her way, at Portland, Oregon. During that time the party were enabled to visit the world renowned Cascades of the Columbia, through the generosity of Col. J. S. Ruckel, President of the Oregon Steam Navigation Company, who tendered us a free passage on the Company's steamer "Wilson G. Hunt." On the following day, through the kindness of Captain Joseph Kellogg, of the steamer "Senator," we enjoyed another delightful excursion to the Falls of the Willamette on board his boat. In behalf of the members of our party, I take occasion to express my most sincere thanks to these gentlemen, as well as to Captain John Wolfe of the "W, G, Hunt," and Mr. William Burnett, Inspector of Steamboats, for their numberless acts of kindness towards our party, which will render our brief stay in Portland an occasion not soon to be forgotten by any of us.

New Westminster, British Columbia, is situated on the Frazer River, about 15 miles from its mouth. It is the capital of the colony, and the terminus of the California State Telegraph. The line of the Collins Overland Telegraph will also commence at this point. The work on this portion of the line is proceeding with great energy under the efficient superintendency of Mr. Ed. Conway, Assistant Engineer. It is scarcely two mouths since active operations were commenced, yet during that time nearly three hundred miles of poles have been cut and prepared for use. A large number have been set, and the remainder are already distributed along the line. The poles are nearly all cedar and of good size, and when finished they will form one of the most durable lines on the American continent. When the extremely mountainous and difficult nature of the country along the Frazer is taken into consideration, the rapidity with which this large amount of work has been done is extraordinary. It seems quite probable that the line will be finished the present season from New Westminster to Quesnell River, the terminus of the wagon road to the mines.

The colonial government are now engaged in cutting a road from New Westminster to Yale, a distance of about ninety miles, along which the wire will be carried. There has, heretofore, been no communication between these two points whatever, except by water. The river is bordered on both sides by high mountains and dense forests of heavy timber, with an almost impenetrable undergrowth. Not withstanding these difficulties, Mr. Conway, during the latter part of last winter, made an exploration of the entire route, on snow shoes, a feat which had never before been attempted by any white man, and which the most experienced members of the Royal Engineer Corps had previously declared to be impossible. Mr. Conway was at one time three days in the woods without either food or blankets while making this exploration.

From Yale to the Quesnell River, a distance of some 300 Miles, the line will follow the wagon road which has been built at an enormous expense by the colonial government, as a means of communication with the gold mining regions of Carriboo.

It will be a matter of considerable difficulty to construct a line of telegraph over that portion of this road which passes through the "great canon," as in many places the road has a perpendicular wall of rock upon one side and a perpendicular precipice on the other, and in one place is carried round the face of a cliff in this manner at an elevation of some 2,000 feet, directly over the river, being in some parts blasted out of the solid rock, and in others supported by a sort of staging. But in any place where a wagon road can be built, a man like Assistant Engineer Conway need not despair of building a telegraph line.



Keywords:Collins Overland Telegraph
Researcher notes: 
Supplemental information: 
Researcher:Bob Stahr
Date completed:December 18, 2005 by: Elton Gish;