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Thompson River First Nations

Letters Written and Received by Honorable Judge Matthew Begbie

compiled by F.W. Howay

(Source: The Early History of Fraser River Mines. compiled by F.W.Howay. Published by John Forsyth, British Columbia Provincial Archives, Victoria 1926. Accession no.: NW 971.3 5F H853 c.6)

lst January, 1859.
To His Excellency James Douglas, Esq.,
Governor of British Columbia, etc.,
Victoria, Vancouver's Island.

SIR,-I would again bring before the notice of Your Excellency most respectfully the present state of the town of Langley.

On Christmas Eve a man by the name of Joseph Miller went into the house of Mr. W. B. Bolton, for the purpose of taking a drink as he says, and that he had no sooner entered the house when he was knocked down, and kicked in the face and severely cut about the head; his trouser pocket containing $340 in dust was cut out, his watch cut from the guard, and, in fact, the man was very much abused, and, as far as I can learn, by a party of men who appear to have very little means of obtaining a livelihood.

The same parties, I hear, have expressed their intentions of arming themselves and going out for the purpose of killing the H.B. Co.'s Cattle. (1)

I would also most respectfully inform Your Excellency that the constant firing of pistols and guns is getting dangerous, particularly during the night-time. The practice of gambling is becoming very glaring, and to endeavour to prevent the same would, I fear, be useless. There is also another daily occurrence; that of parties losing Boats and Canoes up the River by having them stolen from them and brought down here and sold; the rightful owners then claiming them. I have endeavoured to the best of my ability to settle those which have come before my notice, and even then my opinion has not given much satisfaction to the parties concerned; and in this matter I am particularly at a loss how to act.

In regard to the tax on cutting wood. at present I am unable to collect any sum whatever; parties cutting seem totally regardless of the consequence and expenses of non-payment; and in my own opinion I would most respectfully call the attention of Your Excellency to this point, as when cases come to be tried parties who are guilty may excuse themselves by saying that I could shew them no form of law to warrant the payment of $1 per chord; on this account the Government is losing considerable revenues.(2)

As to the trading licence of $7.50 p. mth, there are several parties who say they cannot pay, when I am satisfied that they are well able. I am inclined to think that the man Lewis, who is in arrear 4 months, has been telling others that the tax is not lawful, etc.; I am informed that he has told one party that he was foolish to pay any such tax.(3)

The practise of selling liquor without license, also to Indians, is very common in one house;(4) and I am satisfied that selling liquor without license is a customary thing in most of the houses in the town. I have warned and cautioned the parties repeatedly, but still it appears to be of no avail.(5)

In conclusion, I would most respectfully inform Your Excellency that any attempt to arrest criminals on my part would, I fear, be attended with some trouble, as our force here is so small, and where I to call on all good citizens to aid me, from present appearances there would, I fear, he very little response; and in the many little cases of petty thieving which almost nightly occur, I am afraid the people will take the law into their own hands and punish the offenders.

I have the honour to remain,

Your most obedt Servt.

(Signed) Wm. H. Bevis.

(1)In the vicinity of Fort Langley the Hudson's Bay Company had for over twenty years carried on farming operations on a constantly increasing scale. Their cattle roamed over what is now known an Langley Prairie.
(2)There does not seem to have been any authority for this levy of one dollar per cord. Probably it was for this reason that Judge Begbie, in his letter of March 12, 1859, suggested that wood-cutters should be treated an traders and should pay seven dollars and a half per month.
(3) This licence fee was exacted by virtue of the Governor's Proclamation of July 13, 1858.
(4) One of Douglas's earliest Proclamations issued at Fort Hope on September 6, 1858, prohibited the sale or gift or Intoxicating liquor to Indians under a penalty of twenty pounds.
(5) The licence fee for vending Intoxicating liquor by retail was then one hundred and twenty pounds per annum.
(6) Lieutenant R. C. Mayne (later Commander Mayne), or H.M.S. "Pluimper" then engaged in surveying the coastal waters of British Columbia. Retired to Rear Admiral in 1879 and died in 1892. In chapter IV of his "Four Years In British Columbia and Vancouver Island," London, 1902, he gives a short account of this trouble - the so-called " Ned McGowan War."

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