Report – BCHA – 1929

Since the discovery of gold on the Sooke and Leech Rivers many documents that have been published contain some misinformation regarding this early period.

One of the first historical documents published about the Sooke and Leech Rivers gold discovery can be found in;

‘British Columbia Historical Association – Fourth Report and Proceedings

- Edited by Donald A. Fraser – October 11th, 1929.’

Inside the report (page 36-39) is an article called:

‘Address at the Unveiling of Memorial Cairn at Leechtown. By John Hosie.’

The author of this website believes this particular article to be the source of many cases of (copied) misinformation that have been published throughout time.

The most common misunderstandings

- John Foley was the true discoverer of gold on both the Sooke and Leech Rivers, not Peter Leech. Although (with the absence of Brown) Leech was temporarily in command of the expedition, in both occasions Leech wasn’t even present at the time of the discoveries and he had put Foley in charge of the Leech River exploration.

- Robert Brown wrote the report (dispatch No. 4) about the Leech River gold discovery which contains the now famous historical words, “The Gold Will Speak For Itself”. Credit has gone to Peter Leech; however this is a grave error.

 About the article

The article is about the speech held, on October 1st, 1928, by John Hosie (at that time President of the ‘British Columbia Historical Association’), at the unveiling of the memorial cairn erected on the site of Leechtown in commemoration of the finding of gold.

Lieutenant Governor Robert Bruce unveiling the cairn, 1 Oct. 1928. Image NA-40363, courtesy of Royal BC Museum, BC Archives.

Lieutenant Governor Robert Bruce unveiling the cairn, 1 Oct. 1928.
Image NA-40363, courtesy of Royal BC Museum, BC Archives.

Reviewing the authentic documentation of this period it is the author’s opinion that …

Although the article perfectly describes the spirit of the ceremony, unfortunately it contains several factual errors and presumptions, at times is written as suggestive and lacks accuracy.

The speech fails to give sufficient credit to the other party members of the VIEE and glorifies Peter Leech. Perhaps since Leech had been the only VIEE member who remained living in Victory after the expedition and/or since his only daughter Mrs. Fannie Faucault was a special guest at the cairn unveiling ceremony, the speech was embellished. It is also feasible misconceptions may have been made as at that time not all the original historic documents (journals and letters) might have been available for research.

Over time this particular article is well spread and is one of the few historical public documents that is now relatively easy accessible via the internet. Since it was published in 1929 by the ‘British Columbia Historical Association’ and the speech held by its former president, it’s easy to understand that readers hold the content as accurate. However, the authentic records of 1864 reveal the misinformation and tells in many ways a different story.

Misinformation in the article

  • In the first line of the speech (and header of the article) it is stated: “… the discovery of gold in the Sooke and Leech Rivers on the 17th of July, 1864, …”

Correction: No gold was found on the 17th of July, 1864. This Sunday, the exploration party remained at camp 19 at the South end of Sooke Lake.

The discovery of (payable) gold in the Sooke River took place on the 14th of July, 1864.

The discovery of (payable) gold in the Leech River took place the 18th of July, 1864.

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  • “… the Government contributing dollar for dollar.”

Correction: … the Government contributing two dollars for every dollar raised by the public.

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  • “Dr. Brown was not present when this discovery was made, being in the Cowichan District pursuing his investigations there, and writing his brilliant, distinctive, and somehow ironic, diary.”

Also Leech was not present when this[2nd] discovery was made, remaining at camp 21 on a small rocky Island in Sooke lake, waiting three days for Foley and men to return.

At the time of the discoveries Robert Brown was in Victoria for business (together with VIEE member Barnston).

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  • “…Carrying out his instructions, he duly proceeded by vessel to Sooke, …”

There were no instructions for Leech at the moment the whole party traveled to Sooke by canoe (under command of R. Brown). Leech was temporarily put in charge of the expedition and received his written instructions from Brown two days later.

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  • “… on the 14th July, 1864, made the first discovery of gold on the bars of the river. In his letter of that day he states: – …”

John M. Foley made the first discovery of gold on the Sooke River on the 14th of July, 1864, not Peter Leech. That same day Leech (and some other members) was exploring a nearby mountain and Foley showed him the gold after Leech came back to camp 17.

There was no letter of Leech that day. The letter of Leech referred to in the speech was written by him on July 17th.

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  • (in the letter) “… Mr. Foley estimates the result about 2 cents to the pan, …”

The original letter states: “… Mr. Foley estimates the result about 8 cents to the pan, …”

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  • The article continues with ” ….Another excerpt is as follows:…”

Here the orator or writer of the speech creates the suggestion as if ‘the other excerpt’ is also written by Leech. However this report (dispatch – No. 4) was later written by Robert Brown on July 27th and contained the words “The Gold Will Speak For Itself”.

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  • (in the excerpt) “… the Sooke River about 10 miles from the sea …”

Brown’s original letter states: “… the Sooke River about 12 miles from the sea …”

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  • “… Leech’s discovery and his closer examination of the larger tributary on our right, …”

Again, Leech himself made no gold discovery (nor are there any records that he himself prospected) and did not closer examine the larger tributary. He had not even been there and camped at Sooke Lake during the closer examination of, and gold discovery on the Leech River by other VIEE members.

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  • “… the name “Leech” was bestowed upon the latter by a party headed by Ronald[sic] McDonald…”

In the morning of July 18th, at the suggestion of Foley, Lieutenant Leech agrees to send Foley in charge with [Ranald] MacDonald, Meade and Anthony back to the forks where they arrive around noon. Foley and party decide to call the bigger westward stream “Leech River”, on account of Lieutenant Leech being the first to see it (on their way up, three days earlier), him being in command of the expedition at the moment, and because of his willingness to allow them to prospect it.

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  • “… and even a number of Brown’s party and Leech’s own party showed a disposition …”

Suggestive. Leech did not have ‘his own’ party. There had been some dissatisfaction among party members from the beginning of the expedition.

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  • “… Leech had the greatest difficulty in retaining the services of certain members of his party…”

Should be: “Brown had the greatest difficulty in retaining the services of certain members of his party.”

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  • “… of an artist of renown who accompanied Leech in his explorations – Frederick Whymper,…”

Suggestive. Frederick Whymper was the artist of the VIEE in general and did not specifically accompany Leech. Leech did not have any explorations of his own; he only followed orders given by Brown.

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  • “Having thoroughly examined the banks of the Sooke and Leech Rivers, and sent in his reports, he proceeded northward to Sooke Lake; …”

Leech did not thoroughly examine the banks of the Sooke River at all and sent in his report (not reports) after he had reached Sooke Lake hence before the Leech River examination and gold discovery by Foley and men.

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Download this (pdf) file:  Book – BCHA – 4th Report and Proceedings -1929

Download this (pdf) file:  Article – Address at the Unveiling of Memorial Cairn at Leechtown

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