Line completed and in use between New Westminster and Quesnelle

[Trade Journal]

Publication: The Telegrapher

New York, NY, United States
vol. 2, no. 30, p. 144, col. 1-2

From the Collins Overland Telegraph



[Correspondence of THE TELEGRAPHER.]


BULKLEY HOUSE, B. C., Nov. 1, 1865.


NEARLY four months have elapsed since the date of my last letter to THE TELEGRAPHER, during which time every department of the work has teen pushed forward with the utmost possible energy. The vessels of the fleet comprising the steamers "Geo. S. Wright" and "Union," the barks "Golden Gate" and "Clara Bell," and the schooner "Milton Badger," sailed some months since for their respective destinations at various points along coast of the North Pacific between the Frazer and the Amoor, carrying with them several parties who, upon landing, will at once proceed to make explorations along the proposed route of the line. You will doubtless be in possession of further information respecting their movements long before this letter will reach you.

In the British Columbian division, under the charge of Assistant Engineer E. Conway, surprising progress has been made, the line having been entirely completed from New-Westminster to Quesnelle-a distance of over four hundred miles--in the latter part of September, and has been in constant operation since that time. Were it not for the supplies and material having been greatly delayed by the bad condition of the wagon-road up the Frazer, the line would have been completed to Fort Frazer - one hundred and ninety miles above Quesnelle-during the present year. It is not improbable that it may yet reach this point before winter sets in with sufficient severity to prevent work from being carried on.

The line has been built in the most permanent and substantial manner throughout. The portion running along the wagon-road from Yale to Quesnelle, was in charge of Mr. D. Libby, formerly of the Grand Trunk Railway Telegraph, Canada; the remaining and most difficult portion of the line - that from New-Westminster to Yale - being under the personal supervision of Mr. Conway. The line works exceedingly well, partly owing to its excellent construction, and partly to the favorable character of the climate in these mountain regions. The office at Quesnelle is in charge of Ralph W. Pope, formerly of the American line. There are at present intermediate offices at Hope, Yale, and Clinton, and the number will be increased as circumstances may require.

At the date of my last letter Major F. L. Pope's exploring party, with which I am connected, was at Fort St. James. From this point we proceeded in a northwesterly direction along a chain of connecting lakes to the head of Lake Tatla, at which point a station was established, not only as a depot of supplies for the use of winter exploring parties, but to be hereafter occupied as a permanent post upon the completion of the line. A comfortable log building has been erected and well supplied with provisions, which has been named "Bulkley House." It is about eight hundred miles north of New Westminster by the telegraph route, and is situated in latitude 56 deg north. The location on Lake Tatla is most romantic and beautiful, commanding a magnificent view of its waters, winding among the mountains for nearly fifty miles, while on each side a lofty range of snow-clad peaks, whose summits almost pierce the clouds, extends far away to the southward. These ranges, known as the "Peak Mountains," were thought to be a formidable obstacle in the way of the telegraph; but we have found a good, practicable pass entirely through them by the way of Lake Tatla.

Major Pope, with a small party, will make this post his headquarters during the winter, and carry on various explorations on snow-shoes and otherwise with a view of determining the best route above this point. The country continues to be extremely favorable for the prosecution of the work - much more so than had previously been anticipated. The difficulties in the way of an exploring party above this place, however, are quite numerous, the principal of which is that of obtaining subsistence or of transporting it, which amounts to the same thing. Each man must carry, in addition to his provisions, an extra amount of blankets to guard against the intense cold of the nights in this latitude; and the distance he can travel from base of supplies is necessarily limited by the amount of food he can carry in his "pack." A working party, however, can cut a bridle path as they proceed, and make use of "pack animas" for transportation.

The natives throughout the country are friendly, but are insignificant in point of numbers. There is not a solitary one living within sixty miles of "Bulkley House" in any direction. One or two of them may be seen occasionally threading their way through the woods to the trading post at Fort St. James, whom we usually impress into our service as mail-carriers. They are quite useful, to us in this capacity, as they will carry a package of letters two hundred miles, and deliver them faithfully, in consideration of a pound or two of tobacco.

The maps of this country are grossly inaccurate, and serve to mislead rather than to assist us in the majority of cases in which we require their use. The best is Arrowsmith's, but even upon this very little reliance can be placed. The building, of the telegraph through these almost unknown regions will add greatly to the scanty stock of geographical knowledge concerning them which is now in possession of the world.

We do not find the climate, even in these high latitudes, as severe as had been expected. The average degree of cold thus far at Bulkley House has been little if any beyond that of the mountain districts of New-England. The days, however, are very short in winter, and the depth of snow is probably considerable.

We receive our mails here with gratifying regularity considering that we are four hundred miles from the nearest post-office, through a trackless and almost untrodden wilderness. With the exception of a large mail for our party which was lost in the wreck of the ill-fated steamer "Brother Jonathan," all our Eastern mails up to August 15th have come to hand safely. The party at this time are all in excellent health and spirits, and as rustic letter-writers are wont to remark, we "hope these few lines may find you all enjoying the same blessing."



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