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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 47

New Westminster District.—Special Description

New Westminster District.—Special Description.

I will describe the New Westminster district, beginning at the mouth of the river Fraser:—

We find there extensive, low, rich "tidelands or flats," free from timber, with patches of willows, rosebushes, and, about the border of higher ground, crabapples. A coarse grass, called "swamp hay," is plentiful. There are a good many salt-water sloughs, which add to the difficulty of dyking.

Farm after farm is being occupied in this section, and there is room for settlers. There are 29,000 acres of very good land in an island between the north and south arms of the Fraser.

On the north arm a small settlement of about 20 farmers; 500 acres cultivated; samples of red and white wheat described as 5½ feet high, page 50 yielding 50 bushels to the acre; average of course less. Two potatoes ("Breely Prolific") yielded 67 lbs. Timothy hay, barley, oats, peas, &c., good. A few grasshoppers appeared in 1872.

Churches, schools, &c. Visiting clergyman lectured lately on the "Origin of the English Language."

Left bank of "south arm," land very fertile, easily cleared from brush, and drained; dykes are being made; buildings erected. 47 men, 5 women, 15 white children, and 10 half-breeds.

Mud bay—oyster-beds, great resort of wild geese and ducks.

A district exactly like this mouth of Fraser district, indeed, part of it, within the United States territory, near the mouth of the Lummi and back from Semiahmoo, is filling up with population rapidly.

Ascending the Fraser, we in no long time come to forests on each side; giant pines, cedars, maple, alders, cottonwood; real agricultural value of the land cannot be seen. Luxuriant vegetation in the forest—berry-bushes of all kinds, also ferns, ground-creepers, moss—the sweet-scented white flowers of the wild apple-tree shine among the green foliage in summer. Scenery and products altogether on a grand scale. But let the settler take heart: he is beside the sea here, no railway carriage to the seaboard; there is much good land requiring little clearing, and plenty well worth the clearing. There are in parts extensive flats covered with wild hay, also fine prairies with fertile soil; excellent crops and dairy yield; thriving farms near the town of New Westminster, and settlements also at Pitt River, Keatsey, Langley, Matsqui, &c. For instance, at Pitt River 20,000 acres of good arable land requiring no clearing—the part of it subject to freshets is good now for grazing.

At Langley a newspaper correspondent ('Daily Standard,' Victoria, November, 1872) describes farms with "several hundred acres of alluvial soil, "black mould with clay bottom; at your feet several square miles of green "meadow land, the gleaming river beyond, and across it the dark Cascade "range; a stream full of trout meandering through the meadow." Another farm of "1000 acres, every, part cultivated, drained, and laid off into large "parks of 30 to 40 acres each: the steading in the form of a square; a "fine mansion-house." Another of "800 acres, 200 cultivated, fine black "soil, all fit for the plough, drained by a stream which skirts it." Again, "600-acre grass dairy farm; cows, Durham breed: farmer cures butter." The next, "300 acres, stock and crop owned by the blacksmith. Good "public school; neat Presbyterian church." The writer ascribes an extra-ordinary production per acre to these farms.

Higher up the river still (see Map), where the rivers Sumass and Chilukweyuk (Chilliwhack) join the Fraser, are rising settlements. Prime beef, choice butter and cheese, fine cereals; wide-spreading fertile prairies and valleys here, only thinly peopled yet; 60 to 70 farms; good dwellings, barns, stables, churches, schools, shops, grist-mill; 600 acres wheat raised last year, 40 to 50 bushels an acre; 200 acres oats: also potatoes, peas, beans, hops, fruit, and even tobacco; supply beef to Yale and Hope (Yale gets some beef also from Nicola); extent of prairies great; much good land also on the Chilliwhack above the valley that would do well when cleared. Drawback to Sumass and Chilliwhack at present, overflow in parts from river freshets; roads muddy in bad weather.

page 51

I will sketch in the Appendix one year's history of these last-named young settlements by giving extracts from local newspapers, and thus will photograph a settler's life in the New Westminster district before the mental eye of the intending emigrant. The winter was the worst known in America for forty years. (See Appendix.)

The New Westminster district and Vancouver Island district, already described, are the only two portions of the West Cascade region that are "settled." It would appear that another part of this region is worthy of attention, namely, the country in the neighbourhood of the Nasse and Skena Rivers.