WADDINGTON, Alfred (1801-1872)




Author Tags: Early B.C., Essentials 2010, First Nations, Gold, Literary Landmarks, Publishing

LITERARY LOCATION: Mt. Waddington, Coast Range, at the heads of Bute and Knight Inlets [51°22'20"N 125°15'44"]

Often cited as B.C.’s first author, Alfred Penderell Waddington came to Victoria in 1858, attracted by gold fever, at the relatively old age of 57. Even though his gold panning expertise was negligible, he hastily wrote The Fraser Mines Vindicated; or, the History of Four Months (1858) to affirm gold deposits were still plentiful in the lower Fraser River. Mt. Waddington bears his name. He was also the man who was arguably chiefly responsible for the so-called Bute Inlet Massacre. It was the surveying efforts for Waddington's bold and now infamous plan as land developer to build a faster route to the Cariboo goldfields, via Bute Inlet, south of Knight Inlet, that gave rise to the so-called Chilcotin War of 1864.

ENTRY:

Alfred Waddington falsely boasted in his preface of his 1858 book that his was “the first book published on Vancouver Island.” In fact, David Cameron’s The Rules of Practice and the Forms to be used in the Superior and Inferior Courts of Civil Justice of Vancouver Island was published a month earlier by the Victoria Gazette. Cameron would produce a similar guide to Supreme Court practices in 1865, published by the Vancouver Printing and Publishing Company.

Waddington is more widely remembered as a progressive politician and a disastrous land developer.

It was Alfred Waddington's bold and now infamous plan to build a faster route to the Cariboo goldfields, via Bute Inlet, south of Knight Inlet. His vainglorious attempts to survey the route prompted the so-called Chilcotin War of 1864. In 1861, Waddington sent his surveyor Robert Homfray to Bute Inlet to examine the feasibility of a “gold road” or toll road from the mouth of the Klinaklini River, into the Homathko River Valley, and then on to Barkerville. Aboriginals were forewarned they would die of smallpox if they interfered. In response, eight members of the Tsilhqot’in (Chilcotin) First Nation attacked one of Waddington’s work camps in the Homathko Canyon in 1864 and killed 14 members of the survey expedition. The overall death toll rose to 19 “white” men and four aboriginals by year’s end.

Five Tsilhqot’in aboriginals were sentenced to death by Judge Matthew Begbie and hanged at Quesnellemouth. A sixth man was later hanged in New Westminster. The Chilcotin War, as it became known, remained a divisive racial issue in B.C. for more than a century. Eventually the province’s NDP government formally apologized for territorial infringements of Waddington’s men, as well as the procedural shortcomings of the trial and hangings.

There have been numerous books about the Chilcotin War including E.S. Hewlett’s The Chilcotin Uprising: A Study of Indian-White Relations in Nineteen Century British Columbia (1972), Mel Rothenburger’s The Chilcotin War (1978), Terry Glavin’s Nemiah: The Unconquered Country (1992), Judith Williams’ High Slack: Waddington’s Gold Road and the Bute Inlet Massacre of 1864 (1996) and Rich Mole’s The Chilcotin War: A Tale of Death and Reprisal (2009).

Waddington’s effort to open a new road to the Cariboo ruined him financially, but the highest peak entirely within provincial boundaries, Mount Waddington (13,260 ft.), located 300 kilometres north of Vancouver, is named in his honour. It's highest mountain in the Coast Range and the third-highest mountain in the province. Other B.C. places named for Waddington include Waddington Bay, Waddington Channel, Waddington Harbour, Waddington Canyon, Waddington Glacier and Waddington Range. There is also a Waddington Alley that leads toward Victoria's Chinatow.

Alfred Waddington was still lobbying for his Bute Inlet route to the Cariboo when he died at age 71—of smallpox—in Ottawa in 1872.

FULL ENTRY:

Born in London, England in 1801, the son of a merchant banker, Alfred Pendrell Waddington--aka B.C.'s first author--was an irresponsible developer whose plan to build a faster route to the Cariboo goldfields, via Bute Inlet, south of Knight Inlet, is reminiscent of the movie Fitzcarraldo or the attempt of Finnish-Canadian farmer Tom Sukanen to build an ocean-going freighter in Saskatchewan.

Alfred Waddington’s Quixotic scheme prompted the so-called Chilcotin War of 1864, a ghastly chapter of B.C. history that resulted in murders, vigilantism and the hanging of Aboriginal combatants. Author Terry Glavin has described the attacks on Waddington's survey crew by Tsilhqot'in warriors defending their homeland as "the only instance of significant military resistance to colonial authority waged by Aboriginal people west of the Rocky Mountains." (Colonial authority arrived in British Columbia in 1850. Previously Beaver Indians murdered the occupants of St. John’s, a small post at Beatton River mouth, in 1823; Aboriginals massacred all but one crewmember of the Tonquin in Clayoquot Sound in 1811; Aboriginals massacred the crew of the Atahualpa at Millbanke Sound in 1806; Aboriginals massacred all but two crewmembers of the Boston north of Friendly Cove in 1803; and Chief Cumshewa and the Haida massacred all but one member of the American schooner Resolution in 1794.)

In 1861, Waddington had sent his surveyor Robert Homfray to Bute Inlet to examine the feasibility of a “gold road” or toll road from the mouth of the Klinaklini River and into the Homathko River Valley, then onto Barkerville. The names of some Aboriginals were taken in the process and they were forewarned they would all die of smallpox [see R.C. Lundin Brown entry]. In response, eight members of the Tsilhqot'in (Chilcotin) First Nation attacked one of Waddington's work camps in the Homathko Canyon in 1864 and killed 14 members of the survey expedition. The overall death toll rose to nineteen white men and four Aboriginals by year's end, including the notoriously violent and vengeful Donald McLean of Hat Creek, a former fur trader who was hired to apprehend some or all of the Tsilhqot'in warriors. Known to the Chilcotin people as Samandlin, McLean was essentially a mercenary hired by Governor Frederick Seymour. When he undertook his own reconnaissance, separate from the expeditionary force of William Cox, McLean was shot to death near Eagle Lake, not far from a settlement known as Captain George Town. Five Aboriginals (Klatassine, Tellot, Tapitt, Piem and Chessus) were sentenced to death by Judge Matthew Baillie Begbie in a Quesnel court and hanged at Quesnellesmouth. A sixth man was later hanged in New Westminster. According to Glavin, court records identified the Tsilhqot'in leader as Klatsassine, and sometimes Klatassin, but in Chilcotin "Lhasas?in" means "We don't know who it is."

The Chilcotin War, as it became known, remained a divisive racial issue in British Columbia for more than a century. Eventually the NDP government of British Columbia formally apologized for the territorial infringements of Waddington's men, as well as the procedural shortcomings of the trial and hangings. Waddington's disastrous effort to open a new road to the Cariboo ruined him financially but the highest peak entirely within provincial boundaries, Mount Waddington (13,260 ft.), located 300 kilometres north of Vancouver, is named in his honour, as are Waddington Alley in Victoria, Waddington Crescent in Nanaimo and the Waddington Regional District.

Waddington's other claim to fame is that his guidebook to gold panning along the Fraser River, entitled The Fraser Mines Vindicated, printed in Victoria in 1858, was the first published-in-B.C. book credited to an individual author. He states in his preface that it's "the first book published on Vancouver Island." In fact, his commonly repeated boast is a lie. Waddington's preface is dated November 15th and his book did not appear until December. The November 13th edition of the Victoria Gazette carried an announcement that David Cameron's The Rules of Practice [and the Forms to be used in the Superior and Inferior Courts of Civil Justice of Vancouver Island] had already been published for the government by the Victoria Gazette. David Cameron (1894-1872) published a similar guide to Supreme Court practices in 1865, published by the Vancouver Printing and Publishing Company.

Waddington was born on October 2, 1801 in Brompton, London, England as the sixth son of a banker named William Waddington. He was educated in England and at Ecole Speciale du Commerce in Paris, at Leipzig, and at University of Gottingen in Germany. He and his brothers operated a foundry and ironworks in France until the 1840s. In 1850, Waddington sailed to California and took a partnership in a wholesale grocery operation in San Francisco named Dunlip and Waddington. At the relatively old age of 57, he came to Victoria in 1858, attracted by gold fever. Waddington's goldpanning expertise was questionable, given that he had only recently arrived on Vancouver Island, but he soon published The Fraser Mines Vindicated to affirm gold deposits were still plentiful in the lower Fraser River. There was a market for his optimism because summer high waters had made goldpanning difficult. The Fraser Mines Vindicated; or, the History of Four Months (1858) marked the beginning of his literary presence. In 1860, Waddington protested an Indian's execution for murder in print, making him a thorn in side of Governor James Douglas. He was also critical of the Hudson's Bay Company.

As a supporter of free thinker Amor De Cosmos, Waddington was elected to the House of Assembly of Vancouver Island, as a representative of Victoria District. He asssisted in the drafting of the charter of the City of Victoria in 1862 but he declined to run for mayor.

Waddington and Amor De Cosmos were firm believers in public education. Under the terms of a new Common Schools Act on Vancouver Island in 1865, Waddington was appointed Superintendent of Schools. When the colony of Vancouver Island was annexed by British Columbia in 1866, new governor Frederick Seymour opposed to the principle of free education. Waddington tried to retain the integrity of the egalitarian system, urging teachers to forego their pay and persuading landlords to forego rents until Seymour's hostility could be overcome, but ultimately the former constitution of Vancouver Island didn't hold sway. Waddington reluctantly resigned from his position in September of 1867. Free schooling would not be made available again British Columbia until the Public School Act was passed in 1872, the year of Waddington's death.

As a pro-Confederationist, Waddington also wrote a 48-page pamphlet in favour of a proposed railway route into B.C. via the Yellowhead Pass, published in London in 1868. It was followed by a 24-page reiteration, published in London in 1869. Sandford Fleming, chief engineer of the CPR, praised Waddington's planned route. In 1871, Waddington was sent by prospective backers to Ottawa to seek a railway charter from the Canadian government. He was still lobbying for his Bute Inlet route to the Cariboo when he died at age 71 of smallpox in Ottawa on February 26, 1872. He was buried in St. James Cemetery in nearby Hull, Quebec. The librarian and historia W. Kaye Lamb later collected biographical information on Waddington.

BOOKS:

Waddington, Alfred. The Fraser Mines Vindicated; or, the History of Four Months (Victoria: Paul de Garro, 1858). Reprinted: The Fraser Mines Vindicated (The Private Press of Robert R. Reid, Vancouver, 1949).

ABOUT WADDINGTON:

Judith Williams' High Slack: Waddington's Gold Road and the Bute Inlet Massacre of 1864 (New Star, 1996)

E.S. Hewlett's The Chilcotin Uprising: A Study of Indian-White Relations in Nineteen Century British Columbia (UBC Press, 1972)

Neville Shanks published Waddington: A Biography of Alfred Penderill Waddington in Port Hardy's North Island Gazette in 1975.

Mel Rothenburger. The Chilcotin War (Langley, Mr. Paperback, 1978).

[BCBW 2015] "Indianology"