Revelstoke — Northport, 18 September 1893

Noise, rumbling and the whiny howls of the steamer’s whistle announced the departure of the steamer to us at 4 o’clock in the morning, and we steered already at full speed in the Columbia river when I entered the gallery. The river is in general very narrow and runs in numerous often very sharp turns through a narrow valley enclosed on both sides on steep hills and mountain ranges. The navigation is furthermore made more difficult by banks and rocks in the river bed. I thus had to admire the skill and audacity of the captain who drove on his hard to steer ship at full speed through these obstacles; the depth of the steamer however was shallow which reduced the difficulties of navigation a bit and lessens the danger. On the other hand the vehicle is equipped with numerous life-belts which was apparently deemed sufficient for all eventualities as it is well known that human lives do no to count for all that much in America.

Soon the fire-burnt woods left us and we entered into a region that had been spared such destruction up to now. Here too a railway was to be built, thus putting an end to the splendid forest. The territory of the Columbia River used to be up to recent times one of the least known and explored parts of North America and white people only have been entering this wilderness since the establishment of river shipping. Currently they are mostly gold diggers who enter as the first pioneers and spend their days partly by washing for gold in the river partly by prospecting for metals in the mountains. Some farmers too have tried their fortune in clearing a wood lot and then cultivating the ground. Our steamer was transporting the first plow for one of these farmers. The settlers at first can sustain their life only by hunting which is said to be very plentiful as there is much big game and numerous bears.

For some time our steamer was driving in the midst of the forest without a settlement in the vicinity and stopped at the shore to disembark some gold diggers there who then entered into the wilderness. One can thus imagine without difficulty the strange company assembled on board. Ugly and rough fellows were milling around on deck and in the salons in threadbare torn clothes with large hats on their heads and a revolver near their hands. This gave us the opportunity to acquaint ourselves already here with the American ruthlessness. Everywhere these fellows were lounging around, putting their feet upon couches and chairs, spitting everywhere and taking possession of books that had been left for just a moment in the salon.

The river runs, still in Canada, twice into lakes called the Upper and Lower Arrow Lake what we could however perceive by the lighter color of the water as we would have taken the lakes to be just a wider river bed.

The only bigger settlement along our route owes its existence to a silver mine that had been opened in the Selkirk Range and is said to be quite rich. Due to the current devaluation of silver the level of activity had been reduced and one employs the workers present to build a railway line from the mine to the lake shore. In this settlement that consisted of multiple small log huts with the inescapable shop and a steam saw we saw all workers united at the landing pier as it just was pay day for which our steamer brought the money. The loading of the wood for our boiler furnace seemed to go on forever. Large wood logs were stacked at the edge of the forest, the captain beached the steamer nearby into the mud and sent a few people on land who carried the logs piece by piece on board.

Bad weather was following us here too. And while dense fog lay over the mountains in the morning that prevented any clear view, it even started to rain during the afternoon. It turned bitterly cold so that staying outside became impossible and we had to remain together with the spitting sons of the wilderness in the salon. Fortunately a fellow travelling American woman who was by the way very pretty had sufficient mercy with us and permitted us to smoke for which we were greatly thankful.

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Ein Gedanke zu „Revelstoke — Northport, 18 September 1893

  1. Walter Volovsek

    The settlement described is Nakusp on Upper Arrow Lake. In the summer of 1893 land for the town-site was cleared and some buildings erected, including a sawmill. This activity was precipitated by the construction of a CPR subsidiary railway (Nakusp & Slocan) that was being built from Nakusp to Sandon where many silver mines were located. The Archduke describes the situation quite accurately.
    The railway was being built to compete with the American-backed line to the Sandon mines from Kootenay Lake.
    It is not certain where the steamer Columbia spent the night, but the most likely settings were Trail Landing (about half hour north of the boundary) or possibly Robson (near present-day Castlegar). Arrival in Northport by 10 the next day could accommodate either setting for the overnight stay.

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