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Nanaimo Historical Society fonds
Series 2 Sound Recordings
Dr. Daniel Gallagher on Mining - April 15, 1980
Transcribed by Lois Park, April 2008
Gallagher: If I donít use a mic, can you all hear me?
Okay thatís good. Weíll set up the projector now and I have about 50 slides and Iíll go through them quite quickly. Some of them I will focus in on a little bit more and I think weíll have a little bit of fun tonight. It is going to be very informal and then when Iím finished Iíll ask for questions and indeed maybe about half way through Iíll ask for questions and if someone is bursting to say something to me, just interrupt me okay.
[Very noisy, probably setting up the projector]
The deal is to try and research out the story through documents, and many memories and partially through the artifacts and then put the story together as best we can and hopefully encourage other areas to save larger machinery. And, later on in my talk, Iíll mention something a bit more in this vain and what perhaps Nanaimo might be able to do, or for that matter this part of Vancouver Island, in terms of preserving the, shall we say the technology and part of the social history of coal mining through the museum, through the historic sites and through other means.
I feel a bit like taking coals to Newcastle, coming here, I really do, no pun intended. I guess there is a little pun intended there. Because Nanaimo has such an excellent reputation for being concerned with its history and now when I say Nanaimo I donít mean all of Nanaimo. People who are in Nanaimo that have been concerned with their history have an excellent reputation, okay. I know this city like many cities, most cities in British Columbia and indeed in western Canada takes a rather cavalier attitude towards its history. It is so busy it thinks making history that it fails to look back.
And for more settled locales, even in eastern Canada, there is a much bigger emphasis on it, that is the preservation of the history. But it is groups like this one and through the museum, through the coal mining group and I can go on and name others that have contributed so much and are still contributing so much to preserving this part of the islandís history.
Anyhow, letís just take a look at this coal industry and what I found about it and I should say too that the period that I really focused in on was from 1849 through to 1891. And the reason that I did that was nobody had ever really made a systematic study of the whole industry. Thatís logical because that werenít really that many people who were dealing with history, B.C.ís history and there have been so many subjects that they thought were more important particularly in the political side. I think we are beginning to see now that the politics of B.C. have been exhausted, certainly examined thoroughly, certainly the gold rush and fur trade days have and the colonial period.
What happened to these other communities and what kinds of activities were going on are the sorts of questions that were of special importance to me. And living on Vancouver Island, working here, having lived here for many years, I spent five years in Comox for instance, close by Cumberland and have an idea what happened there.
It seemed to me that the coal industry really deserved a very thorough look at it and I didnít have that firm of an understanding of it to begin with. I had a general idea but I felt that I wanted to probe into as deeply as I could and find out what made it tick and beyond that what impact did it have on Vancouver Island and ultimately British Columbia. The reason that I cut off in 1891 was that the study would have been too big to go beyond that for what I wanted to do at that time, although I have plans to go on. Secondly, [pause] my initial date was going to be 1912-1914, the strike, that seem to be very ambitious to try and deal with the strike, it is a subject worthy of itís own major history and indeed that will be done. Then I thought, well, I can step back a little bit further and I thought 1889, thatís when Robert Dunsmuir died and thatís when the Vancouver Coal Mining and Land Company was re-organized to become the new Vancouver Coal Mining and Land Company. Well, two other things happened between 1889 and 1891. First of all, the Cumberland field came into itís own, not as big as Nanaimo in those days but it was starting to roll by 1891 and the other thing which was just my own choosing as land mark was that was the first time a million tons of coal were produced in any one year on Vancouver Island. I thought, well okay, thatís a good enough reason to shut it down there for this study. So thatís how far I went.
But letís just take a look at some of the things, some of the highlights that I found about it.
Okay, very quickly this is where coal is found in British Columbia right now. These are the major coal formations of the 1970ís, this right now and this isnít actually just coal but these are the formations. Here you have the Nanaimo group here, the Comox field, Susquash near Port Hardy, Similkameen around Princeton where you will be going to your convention, Merritt, Hat Creek which BC Hydro is developing for a thermal hydro plant, the Crowsnest Pass where Kaiser is taking out so much coal its going up here through Robertís Bank to Japan. The [Baryan?] Lakes coal field, [Takwa?], Ground Hog and Peace River. There is a tremendous amount of coal here but it isnít of the same high grade, as you will find down in these areas and Grave Island coalfield. And it is this area here which is the earliest to be worked and the one that was virtually exhausted, it still exists, there is still coal in this area as you know and up through Comox, [P??] area and so forth.
Now, here are the early coal licenses locations and you can see, very quickly here, Iíll just explain this, if I can get it focused. Okay, these are all 1885 through to 1889 in the Kootenays, 83, 84, 87, 1865 to 1887 each one of these dates means another [?] for coal. 1848, there is the earliest one, Fort Rupert. 1883, all of the 1883, 1862 down here in Barkley Sound, 1852, of course, Nanaimo and little earlier then that when it was found here, of course, as you know. 1864 in the Comox area through 1872, now these are, and Saanich Peninsula 1889, Burrard Inlet 1865 and, see when the gold economy collapsed in 1860ís, it was believed that coal because it was coming on stream, as we would say today, was going to be the new source of wealth for British Columbia. And indeed, between 1884 and 1904, coal was British Columbiaís most valuable product and by the year 2000 it likely will be againÖmost valuable mineral.
Of course, the coal industry was more important then the forest industry in the 1880ís and through 1890ís. The forest industry, as we know it, is only a relatively recent phenomenon of this century. Now, this isnít all a geography lesson and maps, weíll get to this but I just thought Iíd ...
okay here is Vancouver Islandís early coal finds: 1835 Beaver Harbour, Quatsino Sound 1883, Comox 1864, Wellington 1869, Nanaimo 1852 and other 1876 major East Wellington and South Wellington 1882, Cowichan 1864, Saanich 1869, Sooke 1864, Barkley Sound 1862.
Only two of these areas were major producers, one is this one, of course, and the other is Comox.
Now, here is the coal industry from 1860 to 1970 and I guess we go on to 1980 now. Now, what you have here are the number of short tonnes produced each year. So, for instance, here is one million short tonnes, two million, three million short tonnes produced in British Columbia. The solid area here is Vancouver Island and this is all of British Columbia, including Vancouver Island, and it takes off here is where they opened up the East Kootenay coal fields again in the Crowsnest Pass in 1969 and it just goes way off the chart but you can see that Vancouver Island was definitely the first and it wasnít until 1889, 1898 I beg your pardon, when we began coal mining in the East Kootenays.
Now this is a very dramatic chart, in this sense, you have a very fast rise to the industry and very fast decline on Vancouver Island spanning about a hundred and thirty years. Now, itís the amount on this scale of a chart would be insignificant for the earlier years. Okay, so we can say 1860 here, Iíll come back to that a little bit later. Here you have the sort of tentative [?], there is a major recession going on here in the 1860ís, you know from your own understanding and readings of history that was the year of the union of the two colonies of 1866 because of the serious economic depression after the gold rush.
And the coal industry really wasnít going anywhere. But in the 1870ís, it starts to pick up and then it rises very, very sharply. [Carrying?] on these dips and bumps and so forth were often caused by major strikes. Up we go and here is a recession again, it was felt everywhere along the west coast of North America and thereby ate into the coal profits here. Up it goes until it peaks 1910-11 on Vancouver Island. In 1905, oil was discovered in California and that started the beginning of the end of the for Vancouver Islandís coal industry in terms of itís foreign markets.
Here is that crippling strike of 1911, 1912, 13, 14. Up it goes again with a wartime high, down as there is a recession after the war, starts to climb up again and then this very swift decline. Interestingly enough, it is in the later half of the great depression where there is an upsurge of interest in but it is on its way down. Another little peak here just toward the end of the war and then finally tapers off and you people, many of you of course, witnessed this latter half of the decline of the industry.
Iím not going to talk about that. Itís sort of a cop-out, as they say these days, you people know more about that then I do. I am going to talk about this first part in here tonight. Why was it such a dramatic rise, what happened, what influence or impact did it have on the community in sort of general terms. And I want talk about some of the more colorful personalities as well. Okay.
Now, here we are going to take a look at the very earliest finds in Beaver Harbour and Fort Rupert and these are the various pits, the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and somewhere around here and seventh. Very difficult to try and mine. First of all the coal was terrible, and it had just a handful of miners who were not supported by the Hudsonís Bay Company very well at all. And I will talk just a little about that in a moment.
Native peoples around here for the most part, helping to stack the coal on the beach. There is a fellow named [Aspinall?]l, you may have heard of him, who was a smooth Yankee trader who had his own steamship line working off the North West Coast of America. Contracts out with the Hudsonís Bay Company for them to supply him with coal. The Royal Navy also needs coal. James Douglas figures ďwell here is how I can make a real dealĒ what I will do is get them to put up the money before hand and then I will develop the mines and then we will sell the coal and, of course, because we are the only real sources of supply north of Peru and most of the coal at this time incidentally is also coming around as ballast from England, I can charge up to that limitĒ.
Well, he over played his hand. The Navy said Ďto heck with you we wonít have anything to do with you and [Aspinall?l just abandoned him. So by this time, they are pretty well committed to Fort Rupert and they have an apparatus there and there is all sorts of trouble there. The miners, the first contingent of miners, some of them deserted, some of them were put into irons, and it was just a sorry tale all around.
And really what my view is, that not only was the coal bad but the Hudsonís Bay Company inexperienced as it was and generally inexperienced, total lack of experience with coal mining just simply didnít know how to handle it. And mismanagement, more than anything else, almost killed the coal industry on Vancouver Island before it got started. Really got started.
Okay, this is just one of the earliest photos. Here is a naval officer from one of the ships with a couple of [?]petty officers, probably with some of the native people at Fort Rupert who were employed on piecework basis in order to stack the coal. The native people felt that somehow they, this wasnít quite fair, the coal should really belong to them, and they would sell it to the Hudsonís Bay Company.
And there was a lot of trouble going back and forth in those days about it, and I think there is a good article in the Beaver of several years gone by that explains just what happens at Fort Rupert. But, nonetheless, it started up in 1849 and by 1852, they, the Hudsonís Bay Company had pretty well abandoned it because, of course, they were down in Nanaimo by that time.
Now here is old James Douglas. Square toes Douglas they called him. But you know he has also been called the Father of British Columbia. A really complex man and he did understand coal because he forced himself to learn it. He went up to the coalfields here in Nanaimo and actually worked for a while, not really as a miner but worked in the sense of familiarizing himself with all the operations. He had a tremendous number of other jobs to concern himself with too, and by 1858, 59, 60 when the gold rush occurred and was really in its full bloom, full flower he was truly distracted and he had a province, he had a, well I donít even know what you would call it, he had a colony, two colonies to build and to keep away the Americans who he felt were very likely going to attempt to take it over and he had British justice and order to bring to this tremendous region and I am not going to try and repeat the [?] to you tonight. Because, you are more than familiar with it than I am sure.
The point here is that the coal industry which he had seen to have so much promise before gold came in, was virtually swept aside along with his fur trade in order to cope with gold. But coal continued to build steadily in spite of sort of being off the beaten track. Now, remember there is very, very little steam machinery in British Columbia at that time, in the 1860ís, very, very little.
Where most of the coal was being sold is for export to the San Francisco market, which was developed in the 1850ís by the Hudsonís Bay Company after they finally understood that they [couldnít be as a market as they had been?]. And it was being used for the rising number of steamers on the Pacific, the eastern Pacific along the shores of North America. So the coal was not going through the normal economy or economic channels of British Columbia at that time like the gold was. It was just being [?] off, it was a tidewater coal supply, ships were coming to the docks here, loading per meter.
Now, just stepping back to Fort Rupert for a moment. Captain McNeil, Master of the Beaver, part of the problem. He knew a fellow named [Birkingsall?], who was his clerk. You have to understand that Fort Rupert is really a way at the end of the line and the isolation felt not only by the miners but by sailors and by labourers and traders at that distance surrounded by hostile natives all because of the higher raiding parties and so forth caused discipline to break down very quickly within the Fort, this new fort and the miners were having to work with just picks and shovels really. Out there in this open pit trying to prove this coal and the coal wasnít there so the frustration was, good coal wasnít there, the frustration must have been very high and there resulting goal, [Birkingsall?] his subordinate was left in charge, he over reacted to the Muirs and as a consequence, McNeil along with [Birkingsall?] were found to be unequal to the task of running the Fort.
John Muir. Now this is John Muir 1849, thatís when he came, I am sure John Muir didnít look like that in 1849. But he was a Scottish coal miner recruited by the Hudsonís Bay Company in England along with his two sons and nephew and so forth and came out as family contingent of miners to prove the coal at Fort Rupert and to start it up. Now, John Muir had been used to what would then be called modern collieries in England and Scotland. Very long and difficult journey over here in 1849, lands in Fort Victoria, and then on up to Fort Rupert and expecting the colliery and all he is finding is picks and shovels and a beach and Indians loading coal up and so forth and so he spent most of his time doing two things. A - trying to keep his own family in check who were very rebellious by this time and B - trying to find the coal and had very, very little success. He eventually, he came down to Fort [Victoria?], well letís put it this way, his off spring rebelled and deserted him and this is after having been in irons and they, he was lucky he didnít leave, he fulfilled the terms of his contract. Douglas still had enough respect for him that he brought him down to Nanaimo and had him do some work there. He didnít see eye to eye with Boyd Gilmour, who was a subsequent arrival and another oversman, about where the coal lay in Nanaimo and how best to get it out. Muir also ended up in Sooke and went into the saw mill business, his sons materialized again and they find coal and try and develop it in the Sooke area and nothing, actually Beachtown, nothing really comes of it there.
So the Muirs have an interesting part in the history of Vancouver Islandís coal but it is a minor role.
Now, just very quickly this is the hierarchy of the Hudsonís Bay Company. And you can see, how would you like to work for some thing like this. Just very quickly. The Hudsonís Bay headquarters in London is calling so many of the shots, then you have the Columbia District headquarters in Fort Victoria with the Chief Factor being James Douglas. Then you have Fort Rupert, you have the Chief Trader William McNeil and the Chief Clerk Thomas [Birkingsall?] and then somewhere down here are the coal miners. You have [?], John Muir, coal miners, and an apprentice here, I think it is a seven-year-old nephew or something. He was sort of just on the list, another name so they could get more money. Tradesmen and labourers from the Hudsonís Bay Company and native Indian labour. Now, the problem was this fellow was really overwhelmed and he had this whole weight of the bureaucracy to have to contend with. So that these people were not making the policy and nobody understood, none of their superiors understood what coal mining was about and they were getting no help from these people and, in fact, this group tended to be hostile.
Now, it got so bad that Dr. Helmcken was sent up in order to make an investigation of the problems there and the morale problems and discipline problems and he made his recommendations, and indeed if you want to read the recently published, unless you have already, the recently published memoirs of John Sebastion Helmcken as published by UBC Press, and I believe they were edited by Dorothy Blakey-Smith, and they are really quite fascinating. They should be at the public library here and I am sure some of you have it at home.
Now, down to Nanaimo, we are going to jump ahead a little bit here. This is the Vancouver Coal Mining and Land Company land purchase in 1862. Now, here you have Nanaimo harbour, a native village here, and here is the earlier mines, Newcastle Island down here, Cameron Island down here, this is part of the Indian Reserve here.
Now the Hudsonís Bay Company, these were the early sites from 1852 through to 1862 of the mining they were doing. James Douglas was very shrewd; he understood what was going to happen ultimately to this territory. He knew that the Crown would want it and so what he did on behalf of the Hudsonís Bay Company, he purchased this acreage, even though they had exclusive trading rights, he purchased this acreage because he felt that this is where the coal lay under. And in fact, he proved himself wise because in 1862, when the Hudsonís Bay Company finally faces reality, and knew that it couldnít possibly contain the tremendous commercial drive that was going on because of the gold rush and thereby was going to have to abandon itís free trade, itís exclusive trading rights.
Actually, I am getting a little bit ahead of myself. They knew that earlier, by 1860. It still had purchased several [?], one of which was this coal bearing lands and it decided that it was going to retrench and stick to the retail, wholesale trade, and particularly in furs. And so it sold off itís apparatus and itís coal-mining rights and itís land to the Vancouver Coal Mining and Land Company. The Vancouver Coal Mining and Land Company was formed in England by a fellow named James Nicol who was the brother of Charles Nicol who was the last resident manager for the Hudsonís Bay Company mines. Charles Nicol, prior to this coming here, had been the high sheriff of British Columbia, prior to that he had engineering and surveying training and had spent time in other lands. When he ultimately left here, he went as far as Nicaragua, Spain, Russia and California where he ended up, mainly as a mining consultant to engineering. It was typical of those engineers, Victorian engineers, engineers of the Victorian Era that could travel all over the world making great works or into mining and so forth. In any event, what he gave his brother the information as to the work of this coal find, these coal mines and people like ďSam SlickĒ Haliburton who, I am sure I am not telling you much that you donít know already here, but in England was one of the major shareholders and several people banded together and bought, formed a joint stock company in order to buy out the Hudsonís Bay Company and carry on. Now, this was very typical of mining ventures in the 19th century out of Britain, the joint stock company. This was before limited liability would have took over.
And actually, limited liability was starting to come in about that time and eventually did work itself up but this was a new company. But, Nicol, now Nicol is a very important character. I will talk a little more about him in a minute or two. In any event, you have workings here and there is about five - six thousand acres at stake, I think the Hudsonís Bay Company sold it for about 40,000 pounds sterling. That was a nice profit because Douglas had only paid 6,000 pounds for it, a pound an acre.
Okay, now what did they buy. Well, this is one of the most difficult coal bearing formations in the world to mine. Because of how this coal was formed and I will speak very briefly about this. This is a very young part of the world geographically okay, or geologically. It is only about two hundred million years old, now that means something because in the mountain building that went on here, you had a both a Vancouver Island up heaving and a coast range up heaving, even this basin what we call the Strait of Georgia okay. About five times in pre-history, land sandwiches would form across the northern and southern ends of Vancouver Island, thereby trapping water in here, trapping the sea.
What happened then was that as erosion and other forms of climatological activity went on, you got both from Vancouver Island and from the mainland fresh soils being put down into this area, along with this brackish water and you got swamp conditions and then what happened for a major sort of geological reasons and oceanic reasons. Those sand ridges would be knocked away and the sea would flood in again and cover this area. Now this happened about five times, so what you have got is pieces of the old swamps. This is the Douglas seam, there is the Newcastle seam, and here is the Wellington seam. Because this was all up heaving and changing, as well and twisting and faulting and a lot of [volcanism?] and so forth, you donít get straight seams. They will go here and then all of a sudden they will shoot off to the left or right and theyíll take a dip this and youíll find them two hundred, three hundred feet below going in a different direction. And with this over burden of rock a tremendous amount of pressure in there, and to make matters worse, because this was a marine sort of environment, you get a tremendous amount of bacteria down there, marine bacteria, very high sulphur content, and that so that gets embedded in the coal, so you are starting to get hydrogen sulfide and along with other gases in there too, so they are very explosive mines.
Tremendous amount of pressure in the mines, and very hard to work through because the amount of rock, narrow seams with limbs out for instance that go like this and they will open here and there, so you have this very difficult area to mine.
Start of Side 2.
Newcastle, then ultimately, the Wellington, which is a more valuable seam, was found later because it was so much deeper. And here you can see that coalmine to present with the early mines showing. So here is Hudsonís Bay Company 1852-53, 1870 Vancouver Coal Mining and Land Company, the Vancouver Coal Mining and Land Company again 1881, this is the first penetration. South Wellington 1876, Vancouver Coal Mining and Land Company 1883. You can see how they have been doing it. Harewood 1864, East Wellington 1882, Dunsmuir Dingle 1871-74 and no massive field that you start at one end and work down. So probing in and picking these up. Ultimately, submarine mining, of course, and this is the Douglas seam. Here is the Newcastle seam and here is the Wellington seam.
Joseph McKay. I donít know how much you know about him, I donít know very much about him but he seems to be, well there is his letters, of course, his correspondence with Douglas that tells most about him and his journal of Nanaimo. Douglas just said, in essence, God helps them that help themselves when he came to provisioning the Nanaimo fields and the Nanaimo colliery or the Nanaimo mines shall we say back in the 1850ís. How much this man had to put up with, you can certainly see his plaintive appeals to Douglas for more and Douglas saying ďIím sorry there is just no moreĒ and giving him nothing but suggestions on he can have self-sufficiency. And indeed, this is one of the great stories about Nanaimo in its very first years - how did the people survive because they got very little in help from Douglas. Lots of advice, when I say Douglas, Iím talking about the Hudsonís Bay Company, donít forget that there is still this whole hierarchy, because Douglas himself had troubles trying to convince the Hudsonís Bay Company that they need all sorts of other provisioning and so forth.
But McKay did a very good job and he had a couple of hardheaded coal miners to contend with in those days. For instance, the people or the second contingent that went up to Fort Rupert to replace the Muirs, Boyd Gilmour was there. The uncle of and..oh..protector of really of Robert Dunsmuir and Muirs, as I mentioned. had disagreed themselves on how to go after the coal and this man also had to contend with hostile natives in Nanaimo and also to run a trading fort as well. And a very young man but apparently very capable.
Here is Nanaimo and this is a very familiar one to you I am sure - Number One Pit, the first one. And you can see here there is a small engine but obviously, obviously everything was done virtually by hand. Nicol, as I mentioned, had the job of trying to cope with the harbour. If you read [Bains?] reminiscenes Commander [Bains?] how he complains about the harbour, the navy which is upset terribly about it. Ships lying at anchor for weeks on end before they could load coal and this is very important to understand that in those days without the apparatus, modern colliery apparatus which would mean for proving the field, that is finding where the coal is, sinking the shafts, mining the coal, haulage, and ultimately off loading onto ships or loading onto ships took a tremendous amount and we are just dealing with a handful of people here.
And this is about the level of technology, you can see the hand augers, they are still really used into this century, of course, but this was basically it. The dog fish oil lights, the soft hat, this fellow at least has room to stand, normally, I am sure they didnít in many instances. Now this is an illustration of the period.
Now letís just go back to the Hudsonís Bay Company. Reforms occurred. Hudsonís Bay Company left it more to Douglas because Douglas was beginning to show that the thing could be profitable and he re-organized this. He separated coal mining out from the normal trade and he made it the Nanaimo Coal Company and the Manager was Joseph McKay. And an oversman here is Boyd Gilmour, as I mentioned, and oversman here is John Muir. So you had two different groups trying to prove two different areas and reporting to this man here but in the coal company. The coal company then had to pay its own way with itís own accounts receivable and so forth. So it is a basic reform here and a major step but, of course, it is coming rather late for the Hudsonís Bay Company. But at least these people feel they have a better control because now the oversman also can control the labourers as well as the miners whereas before the labourers were off and if they needed cribbing built in the mine or something else like that they would say forget it Iím doing something else.
Now, we can just see here, here is 1849 to 1862, hundreds of long tonnes Hudsonís Bay output, this is zero to 60 hundred tonnes 1849 to [?], that is Fort Rupert nothing. That wouldnít even show up that much on that big chart I showed you and Nanaimo with the Hudsonís Bay Company a steady growth but really not that significant, itís only about 200 tonnes raised in the final year 1862. I am sorry that is 20,000 tonnes raised in the final year, we are thinking that by 1891 there is a million tonnes.
So the early period, the Hudsonís Bay Company days, while they are very romantic and they are very important in terms of what is happening to the community, in terms of the industry itself it is extremely primitive. But it is a start.
This is Charles Nicol. I sure wish I had a picture of him. And he is, as I mentioned, a very fascinating character, he is a very controversial character, I kind of favour him because he really did build Nanaimoís harbour. He set it going, he also fought hard and fast with the Colonial Government in Victoria in order to convince them that Nanaimo needed certain things. Such as harbour facilities, such as roads, such as institutions and what not here. He was a law unto himself in a sense, his being, well, in those days; I guess itís not too different in all communities, small communities today. He was Justice of the Peace as well as being the Manager of the Mines. He was the president of the Literary Society, he was the sheriff and so forth, and he had all these titles that sort of went with the territory and he was very effective in being able to do this. Where he runs into controversy is two-fold, well three-fold: A - the provincial government and he has to back down several times particularly when he wants to poach on crown land in order to get more workage space for instance for the Hudsonís Bay or for the Vancouver Coal Mine Company. And the provincial government or the colonial government really does give an arms length with [?] people, it is refreshing to see. He runs afoul of his own principles, the shareholders who say Ďwhere are the profits, where are the profits, this guy just wants to spend our money sinking it into this hole in the groundí and he perseveres there until they finally virtually throw him out. Send him down to California to open up a branch office there in the late 1860ís. And they also wonder about him, about his honesty in terms of certain claims and so forth that are made later on. I havenít been able to track that down but basically, and he has many careers after that. He is an interesting character and I just wish I knew more about him. But he is our phantom for tonight.
Now, here is George Robinson, Vancouver Coal Company early 60ís. Princess Royal, I believe. And he came in here as the new resident manager of the Vancouver Coal Mining and Land Company and did good service. He is succeeded by Mark Bate.
Bateís, now Bateís is really an interesting character, he sure is. He was Mayor of Nanaimo, is it eleven or fourteen times, I have forgotten which. I guess they were elected every year rather then every other year in those days, so it seems perhaps a bit more impressive then it is. He was an Odd Fellow, he was, yeah, he joined everything; we called him a gladhander in [?] days. He was also probably the most incompetent manager that the coal industry ever had. Possibly because he didnít really understand the industry, he was a clerk who came into the accounts office and moved up as others moved out and then moved in to politics and so forth. Iím not criticizing him as a man, all I looked at him really at for was his ability as a manager and he vacillated a great deal, he had a lot of trouble with Bryden, who was his foreman, his chief foreman. Bryden wanted to take a hard line with the men and what was would happen was Bryden would do so on site and the men would go into Bateís office and Bateís would capitulate and cut the ground out from underneath Bryden, according to Bryden. And as a consequence, well you know that is just simply opinion and Bryden was the one that wrote the diary, Bate didnít. So, of course, Bate had his reminiscences about 1907 or í08, which are very interesting to read in themselves and they are published by the Nanaimo Free Press, as I recall.
But if you look at the statistics, which we will do later on, you will see during his tenure how he was resident manager of Vancouver Coal Mining and Land Company from about 1869, Ď70 through to 1883. Just bear those dates in mind.
Okay. Now here is the [?] again just to give you a idea of the state of the art, these are coal carrying buckets on sort of [?], like putting the washing out, okay. What would happen is gravity feed and you would just put coal in here, well coal here actually, and the gravity would pull it down and it would be dumped and then the return empty buckets would come up. Well, the carrying capacity is extremely small and this is 1860, this is the Harewood Mine, which, of course, had the problem of getting the way across, see all the apparatus looks like a series of ďAĒ frames all the way down, very costly to erect is this aerial tram line. Again, now we are moving away, beginning to move into pneumatic drills but again still the soft hat along with the dog oil lamp. Very dangerous. Pneumatic drills, as I mentioned. The technology is starting to shift and change.
Here is one of the first locomotives. This is a vast improvement obviously over the aerial tram line but still just think of Robertís Bank right now and you see those unit trains come in there. You people incidentally ever go across to Tsawwassen, yes, well maybe, I go back and forth quite often, I donít come up to Nanaimo and go across. But just the 100-car coal trains that come in there three and four times a week or possibly even daily and dump all this coal. Well, you can see how small the industry was, this again is the 1860ís, here is another one with the locomotives on this side.
And here you have the same locomotives, small, fellow here, fellow here, small locomotive, small cars, here we are again, here is another locomotive here. Very, very minimal amount of capacity and this is the thing that the coal industry has to fight, the lack of capacity and it moves on.
And finally, well not finally, but later on, here we have Robert Dunsmuir. 1870, late 1870ís, okay, this is late 1870ís. The cars are bigger but not much, and the locomotives, the Duchess, in this case, which is incidentally in a park up in the Yukon still, we would like to get it back in B.C. It should be here in Nanaimo. But a larger saddle tank locomotive but still small and a ten-mile colliery railroad is very, very extensive in relative terms for that period from Wellington to Departure Bay.
But now we are beginning to see a larger apparatus, a head frame here, the colliery, of course, down here. A lot of timbering, so the development here then of secondary industry or linkages or sideways linkages as the [?] would say the development of lumber industry, of course, construction.
Okay, larger locomotive here, somewhat larger cars.
But there is still, this is backwards Iím sorry. Here is a Sunday visit to the colliery. Okay. So there is this Victorian sense of industry, man and machine will save the world. This century decided that rational man and the machine will save the world and we could prosper in its place. This century has learned that often, too often it is irrational man and machine, which will destroy the world or a good portion of it. But in those days, there was this sort of very innocent view of industry that is reflected in the sort of social history view of this land.
The white picket fence, look at how uniform that is, the archway going in and here is the, you know this is the sort of trade fair approach to one of the filthiest industries you can imagine in terms of the soot and the blackness and so forth.
And of course, here we are by the 1920ís, much larger engines and locomotives and look at the size of the cars here now. So it has finally arrived at this point where it can move the volume but the trouble is, of course, that demand for the coal has fallen.
Coastal trade and domestic markets picks up a lot of the slack but it is falling off from the other, because of course, you have the railroad, the CPR gets built into Vancouver and you have Vancouver rising itself in Victoria and other communities, coastal communities, so there is a domestic trade for heating and thermal coal really and shipping local. And of course, even up, later on, this is well, Gold Star taking cargo and slack coal for Alaska. Into the 20ís and so forth.
Here you are getting the more impressive capacity to win the coal with such machinery. Power driven augers, blasting, removal.
Couple of interesting things, these are boys; they would work in the mines. There was a comprehensive Coal Mining Act in 1877, and if I recall correctly the date, it outlawed boys under twelve to work in the mines. Outlawed women in B. C., taken from the British legislation of just a bit earlier. They would work on top.
Of course, pardon?
Audience Woman: Can I interrupt you for a little bit?
Audience Woman: A question that has been on my mind a little while ago - Did women in Nanaimo ever work underground in the mines?
Gallagher: I havenít found evidence of it, there may have been, may have been labour in the field but I never found evidence of any women, they may have but I never found any evidence of it.
Audience Woman: I havenít seen any evidence of it either, I was just wondering.
Gallagher: Boys would go in.
Audience Woman: I have read back as far as the mining history in Nanaimo goes and there is never ever any record of any women going down. Indian women picked coal on the surface.
Gallagher: Right. Right. Yeah, that would explain it. The boys were in there all right but they werenít underground, they worked up top. Picking coal as well on the tables and so forth and used as runners in any number of things.
Audience Woman: What sort of age would they go underground?
Gallagher: To go underground, I think by sixteen, they let them down.
[Inaudible comment from audience]
[Inaudible comment from audience]
Fourteen? Which is awful young, I have a fourteen-year-old boy, gee, thatís what Iíll threaten him with the next time he gets [inaudible because of laughter]
Well here, this is a very fascinating dimension too, of course, mine safety. And many of the strikes that occurred were on the basis of mine safety. Wages were the most important reason for many, many years in the nineteenth century, followed by job security and, ultimately, mine safety. And union recognition wasnít even a factor. Later on, that all sort of switched around, the more important things for instance in the 1912-14 strike were union recognition, mine safety, in this order, job security and wages. And take pride in these teens being able to, really be terribly proficient in mine safety and competitions province wide especially after the Crowsnest fields opened up.
Here again, this is just sort of taking our story up to date but here you are finding fellows wearing gloves here, hard hat, electric lamp, coveralls, boots and so forth and this, I was recently into the coal mines in the Kootenays and underground and this what they are wearing today.
So, there is an evolution in terms of the style of clothing and so forth and again these are all geared for safety to a very large extent. Because, for instance, these would be tucked right up and you donít get a lot of filth and dirt in you. Just anyway to, to not damage the goods which is the man. Because the more men you have down, the less productive the mines are. That is perhaps a bit cynical.
Robert Dunsmuir. Well, a very controversial character, probably the most controversial character in B.C.ís history. And frankly, I kind of like him. Some of the things he did, I donít like at all. But generally speaking, I found him to be a pretty understandable character, there was a method to virtually everything that he did and he was consistent. And he had some tremendous advantages and he made use of them. And I donít have sort of, no hero worship in what I am saying but he was typical of very successful entrepreneurs of his day.
Okay, first of all let just talk about this. Now the story is not finished on Dunsmuir, I am certainly not finished with it but here are some of the things. He was an experienced coal miner when he first came to British Columbia. Secondly, he was an energetic man, and determined, he went to look for coal himself. Thirdly, he was ambitious and wasnít afraid to take on new challenges as witnessed by his attempt to run the Harewood coal mines which folded for lack of capital. Certainly, he went back and worked for Vancouver Coal Mining and Land Company. James Douglas praises him for taking an old, as early as 1855, taking up an old abandoned mine shaft of Gilmourís and making it pay as free miner because and he was given that concession because he refused to join a hot head strike in the 1850ís. He was a family man, he looked after his family, he looked after them very well, for instance, parts of his character sort of poked through that you would like to be able shove back, he tried to circumvent the mining license requirements where they had to have this joint stock company of ten people and he wrote and said to the government I donít see why this has to be, complained vigourously, that one man should be able to do it if he had enough where-with-all. So when they came back Ďnoí, he set up some screens in the sense of people he had in his employ, he put their names down, plus his sons, and then ultimately, of course, had to expand further and get outside capital and borrowed the money from, well went to the naval officers. I am sure you know that story and ultimately bought them out.
He continued to study coal mining, he had that very lucky find at Wellington. And what I am getting at is other things I canít really go back in memory that well but he a lot of advantages and made something out of each advantage and he was able to tie them together. And when you take a look at him in relation to some of the other people that were in coal mining, most of the other people who went into coal mining, he stands head and shoulders above them as an expert, as a business man, in the sense of having business acumen. Okay, I am not talking about his morals or his ethics right now, that is another chapter altogether that has to be looked at but before you start examining those things, see in this man the complexity and try and separate out the myth. Letís take a look at a few other things here. He is inventive.
This is one of his homes in Victoria, a tragedy that it burnt down many years ago, was knocked down. Of course, this is the monumental castle that he built and there is so much of the romance and so forth associated with Dunsmuir for great daring. Most of his wealth was in equity, that is what he owned in the mines and the railroad and so forth.
James, James looks pretty good too in the documents, he is an even more aggressive man than his father and is better educated.
Robert had the view, at least this is how I found it, that what you do, you see coal mining coal is basically treating a diminishing resource. You take out the most easily accessible first, which means you have got to go deeper and thereby more cost as you go on. And from the coal proprietor, the biggest fear has to be that he is going to run out of coal or at least accessible coal or coal gets too expensive to mine. So Vancouver Island, what Dunsmuir wanted, what made Dunsmuir so successful, one of the things, was that he recognized this and started to buy up other coal mines, that was Robert. And he bought up anything that would go broke, now if he could help it go broke he would do that too and as a matter of fact he wasnít above high-grading as well. Apparently he, it came back to haunt him, he dug into somebody coal area and successive generations went ahead and bought the land and found it was all was gone because of Dunsmuirís, even before hand. So there was all that sort of hanky-panky, to put it mildly. In any event, he bought it up and among the other places he bought up was the Comox fields. And Bryden, who was his son-in-law and who had been the nemesis of Mark Bate during the 1880ís in the Vancouver Coal Mine and Land Company, and finally he got fed up with Bate and went to work for his father-in-law as a partner of course. Dunsmuir Dingle or was it Robert Dunsmuir and Sons by that time?
Plus, James, James Dunsmuir and Bryden wanted to open up the Comox fields and right away get more coal coming out and more coal Ďwe can sell it, we can sell it, we can sell it to California, we can sell it anywhereí. Old man Dunsmuir, Robert, said Ďno, no, no, no, weíll go bankruptí. Well as it turned out, the younger generation was right. But by, and Robertís big diggings were in the 1870ís really.
Oh there is such a big story here, Iíd love to be able to go on and on with it. I would, I am sure [?], weíll get there, because we are running out of time.
Okay, this is a Nanaimo home, I believe and it [?], didnít it burn down just recently? or was torn down? [Inaudible murmuring from the audience].
This is the Dunsmuirís, this is James on the porch here, I believe and [more murmuring from audience]. This is prior to moving to Victoria.
Audience Man: You think this is a Nanaimo home?
Gallagher: I think it is, yes. The only other one it could be would be the one on the Gorge in Victoria. I will check that out.
Audience Man: I think [inaudible discussion between Dr. Gallagher and audience].
Gallagher: Thatís right, because it looks a little too large; it has been a while since I looked at this.
[Inaudible murmurs from audience]
Of course, he then moved on to greater things and here is Hatley Park and here is the gardeners.
[Inaudible murmurs from audience]
Now where did the money go? You know the old biblical one, what is it m Adam begat, etc. the begats. Well, thatís what happened here, there is Robert and Joan White who had ten children, among one of which was James, who had ten children and if you just pass money through that many generations I can tell you it is not going to stay around very long. I suspect thatís what happened to it.
And this is 1951, this was 1951 and there is others of course. A very large family.
Okay, here is Dunsmuir, Diggle and Company, the hierarchy. Now I am going to try and explain why the industry rose as quickly as it did and why Dunsmuir was so successful.
Okay, Managing Partner, Robert Dunsmuir company office Departure Bay, right on site another advantage that he made for himself.
Mine supervisor was his son, the miners here and the labourers there, they report to him who reported to his father and he was a partner, of course, but he took his orders from Robert, who was more knowledgeable then James about mining.
Partners, silent partners anywhere else but in Departure Bay, Ďstay out of my hairí. Okay, Iíll run the mines, they are my mines, you put up the money Iíll pay you half of them, agents.
1874, man is in his 40ís here, peak of his powers. Okay, I like to think.
In any event, by 1884 he has made it ten years, the company office Wellington, President Robert Dunsmuir. Robert Dunsmuir and Sons, [?]
A Victoria agent, San Francisco Office, they sent the black sheep Alexander Dunsmuir down. Not so dumb, not so dumb because it gives them a good excuse to visit him and of course, he gets mixed up with a lot of very important business contacts on the west coast, including [?], Huntington and so forth who helped him build the E&N. Of course, they are major buyers for his coal.
Colliery managers, still one step below James Dunsmuir - John Bryden, son and son-in-law respectively.
The railway operation, the mine supervisors, the colliery fleet - the miners and the labourers here, helpers and apprentices, all funnels right up here, heís got it.
Now he was ultimately pushed aside in a sense, still keeps it after 1884, his position, but these are the people that are really running it. Because he is distracted with all these other activities that he is doing.
So Robertís decade in terms of coal is in the 1870ís, a little bit in the 1880ís.
Okay here is, by way of contrast, the Vancouver Coal Mining and Land Company corporate hierarchy 1862-89. Head Office - London England, Directors.
End of Tape.