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Posted February 28, 2015 by Miama Admin in Agassiz History

Agassiz Valley and Harrison Hot Springs

Agassiz Valley


The Agassiz Valley is named after its first settlers, the Agassiz—pronounced by them, Aggazise. Capt. Louis Agassiz was in the English army, and when he came to British Columbia, in the early rush, it was on account of the excitement incidental to the discovery of gold. His real object, however, was to get land, but gold had its lure as well. Mrs. Agassiz, who with three daughters still lives in the fine old homestead, is still quite hale, vigorous and very alert of mind despite her advancing years, and tells with zest of the experiences of those early days.
After a long and wearisome trip they got as far as Yale. The wagon road was not then built, and an attempt was made to go over the mountains back of that town, one of the routes the early miners took. Mrs. Agassiz was an efficient horsewoman, and would go anywhere on horseback a man could go.She would have succeeded, no doubt, in getting to Cariboo, but with small children it was a hopeless outlook, and they returned to Yale, where they resided for five years. “Anyway,” Mrs. Agassiz said, “Cariboo was no place for a woman in those days.”
That, or the following year, Capt. Agassiz took up the greater part of Agassiz, much of which is still part of the Agassiz estate, of which formerly the experimental farm was a portion. Capt. Agassiz and family were the first settlers there, and for years had not a neighbor. They had occasionally high officials from Victoria and others as visitors to relieve the monotony, but it was a lonely life for a long time.
The Agassiz family came from a Swiss ancestry, common with that of Jean Louis Rudolph Agassiz, the celebrated ichthyologist, geologist and naturalist in general. The former branch ‘migrated to England in 1726, before which their ancestors lived in Switzerland in the canton of Vaud since the Thirteenth Century. Captain Agassiz’s father and grandfather were both British naval officers. Captain Agassiz himself, as stated, was in the army. L. A. Agassiz, the eldest of the family, is the male representative in the valley. He was born in Charlottetown, P. E. I., where his mother (nee Caroline Schran of U. E. Loyalist stock), with four children, resided for several years before joining her husband at Yale.
Capt. Agassiz came around the Horn at the time of the gold excitement and was engaged in mining for a considerable period before lie was joined by his wife and family, who came via Panama, Victoria and New West-minster, at Yale. Capt. Agassiz called the place Ferny Coombe; but it had an Indian name signifying “beautiful valley.”
When the C. P. R. was completed to the Coast the station and post office located there were called Agassiz by the late Sir Joseph Trutch, then Dominion Government Agent in British Columbia.

The valley, though rich in soil and well adapted for farming, was slow in development. Twenty years ago, Mrs. Agassiz told me. it was difficult to get the then required number of pupils—twelve—to have a school built. Now i think she said there are six schools in the district. On Arbor Day, this year, there were 200 school children present—all well and neatly dressed, all healthy in body and mind. Of the 200 there was not one maimed, sick or deficient in any way. Mrs. Agassiz spoke as proudly of them as if they had been her own children. All or nearly all the settlers have done well and enjoy the comforts of modern life—have pianos, horses and buggies, and neat well-furnished houses. It might be aptly designated as a happy valley.

Agassiz Valley extends from Harrison Lake, where it is about half a mile wide, to the Fraser River, gradually widening until it merges into the Fraser Valley. It is difficult to say just what constitutes the valley, but I should estimate it at from 6,500 to 7,000 acres. By the road from Agassiz station to Harrison Hot Springs, it is five and one-half miles.
The land is low-lying and level, and when cleared and cultivated, ideal for dairying purposes, and the growing of hops, vegetables, oats and all kinds of fodder crops. The soil is, similar in character to the general Fraser deep alluvial deposit, but in the Agassiz Valley there is a subsoil of sand into which the water seeps. This has its advantages and disadvantages. It gives constant moisture to the soil and does away with the necessity of under-draining. The land, in other words, drains itself into the subsoil. The disadvantages are that unless there are surface drains to draw off the surface water during the wet season, and the land is well cultivated and limed, it is apt to get sour. Sorrel and other acid plants in such cases are growing plentifully. Such conditions are unfavorable for the growing of large fruit. Young trees do well and bear heavily, but are soon infested with fungi and other parasitical diseases as well, as soon as the roots reach the watery subsoil their decay is greatly hastened. As a matter of fact the whole Fraser Valley, which once promised so much in the way of fruit growing, is not suited for fruit-growing, on account of the prevalence of disease, and attention is being directed more and more to live stock, dairying, hay and oats, and small mixed farming. On the North side of the river conditions are more favorable on account of the greater altitude, but generally speaking there is riot much future for orchards throughout the Lower Fraser.
At the Experimental Farm, which formerly grew I know not how many varieties of fruit, the trees have been rooted out, and attention is being largely concentrated on dairying and fodder crops. When last there I was shown a field which a few years ago was typical of fields in the locality, full of sour grass and weeds, which grows two crops of clover, and last year yielded over four tons to the acre. I never saw a more luxuriant growth of clover. Mr. Moore, the superintendent, is creating a splendid object lesson for the farmers of the surrounding country in demonstrating the special adapt-abilities of the district. He has built up a splendid herd of Holsteins, and he is showing how the most can be made out of an animal, how to get the most out of the land, the best time to harvest the fodder, and how to house it. I have already stated that they are growing four tons of clover on land that was formerly practically useless.
Last year he grew twenty-two and one-half tons of ensilage corn per acre and fed it from the silos, but the average is about t 8 tons. It is greedily eaten by the cattle that like it better than any other feed. He is showing the people that hay should he cut as early as possible. Most farmers in British Columbia allow their hay to get ripe before cutting, destroying its food quality and running the risk of bad weather. Mr. Moore cuts his hay quite green, giving the second crop a good early start, and gets it in good condition as a rule. There is a small flock of horned Dorsets that look exceedingly well, although the low Fraser Valley is not a good country for sheep. It has, however, always impressed me that a good deal of mountain and hillside could be utilized for Angora goats, if they could be made safe from wild animals.
In connection with the Experimental Farm there is a veterinary research laboratory, of which Dr. Seymour Hadwen, pathologist is in charge. He is assisted by Mr. G. H. Unwin, B.S.A. Very valuable scientific work is being done in this laboratory. Dr. Hadwen has made a deep study of bacteriology and has made several contributions of value to science. At present he is making a study of “red water” which occurs among cattle in the Fraser Valley.
In this connection it will be interesting to state that the Experimental Farm was established in the year 1887, the land being purchased from Captain Louis Agassiz. One reason for its selection was that it represented the average conditions in the Fraser Valley rather than the extreme of fertility or the poorest land. It then had only a few acres cleared. The original purchase included about 350 acres of land on the level, to which was added by transfer from the Government land, some 1,100 acres of mountain land. Up to the present time the latter has been almost useless.
The most important branch of farming carried on in the Agassiz Valley is that of hop-growing. The area growing hops is about 300 acres, in all. Hop-growing is an industry requiring very considerable capital, and the money invested here is mainly British and American. It is also one requiring intensive cultivation, fertilization and eternal vigilance. The great enemies of the hop plant are hop lice. Early in season, the vines are scraped to minimize the ravages of the pest, and later on they are sprayed. The fields I saw were in prime condition, and they are really a beautiful sight. The varieties mainly grown are known as Golden Cluster and English Kent’s, and I was told that the Agassiz hops are equal to the best Kent grown, and command the highest prices in the old country markets. The future of Agassiz Valley will undoubtedly consist mainly in dairying, and hop-growing, and perhaps there is no other part of British Columbia better adapted to ensure success.
Agassiz itself is a thriving little town, with a really good hotel, the Bella Vista, several well-appointed stores, and the branch of a chartered bank. It is quite a week-end resort, and it is also the point of departure for Harrison Hot Springs, which are well patronized all during the summer season. Besides, the Experimental Farm adds to its importance. It is what made Agassiz famous.

Agassiz Valley and Harrison Hot Springs, to which it leads, have a history of their own. This was the route taken by the first miners into the Lillooet and Cariboo Districts, at the time of the early gold rush.In my history of Sir James Douglas, the following appears:
“As an illustration of the resourcefulness of Douglas and his complete command of those rebellious forces which, at the time; were all he had at his disposal—forces which in less trained or skillful hands might have run only in disorganized or harmful channels the building of the first trail to the Fraser diggings is of more than passing interest.”
To the miners who had braved successfully the dangers of the sea passage from California, there still remained to surmount the swift and treacherous current of the Fraser narrowed into a torrent above Yale.Monopoly was soon to lay an added tribute on the country’s development, the foreign owners of the steamboats plying on the lower river having joined to raise the cost of transportation from £5 to £14 a ton, a charge that brought the inhabitants above to the verge of starvation. By the power of withholding the privilege of registration, however, this evil was in time corrected, and the obstacles against which Douglas fought in the present instance were chose of nature alone. From Yale, no other avenue was open to the mines which lay beyond, than the rough and precipitous footpath of the river’s edge, where, on men’s backs to and from over the cliff, the food and tools of the miners had perforce to be conveyed. How to transport supplies to the front around these difficulties became at once the all-important question. To some returning miners a route from Anderson lake to Lillooet, thence by Harrison Lake and river to the Fraser, was shown by the Indians. The distance was seventy miles, over a generally level country. There were 500 miners at Victoria, on their way to the diggings, restless and idle men through the lack of easy transport. With instant appreciation of the situation, Douglas adopted the following plan for the construction of a pack road by the road described, In consideration of a deposit of $25 and an agreement to work upon the trail until it was finished, the Hudson’s Bay Company at Victoria agreed to transport the miners to the point of commencement on Harrison River, feed them during the work, and at the end return the value of their deposit in supplies at Victoria prices. The combination of credit and co-operation involved in the plan had been suggested by the miners themselves and at once engaged their support. The work was speedily completed, and at the end the men received their money back, their transportation being reckoned a fair returns for their labor, while the company, in addition to the temporary use of the money deposited, was left with a toll road of infinitely greater value than the transportation and provisions it had cost. Some disagreement arose as to the point at which the supplies covenanted by the company should be delivered, the men holding that the upper end of the trail had been implied, while the company declared for the lower. This, at the time, was an issue of some importance, beans which cost one and one-half cents a pound in Victoria being worth five cents on the lower Fraser and $1.00 at the upper end of the new road. The dispute was ended by a compromise, the goods being delivered in the middle.”

It was during the passing to and from of the miners that the famous Hot Springs were discovered at Harrison Lake. Their therapeutical qualities were appreciated by the miners coming from Cariboo, who, afflicted with rheumatism and other ills, bathed in these waters and obtained great benefit from them. There are two springs, one at the head and one at the foot of the lake. The latter, only, has been developed. These were acquired in the early days by J. C. Armstrong of New Westminster, who is still a large shareholder in the Harrison Hot Springs Company, Limited.

Dancing Pavilon, Harrison Hot SpringsHarrison Hotel and springs are located in a situation which for scenery and general natural attractions are certainly not exceeded in any part of America. The lake itself, forty miles long and about a mile wide, extends away to the front and is filled with islands. Mount Cheam, a massive mountain, lies almost directly back of the hotel, and Mount Douglas away in the foreground—both snowcapped and imposing. The lake is entirely surrounded by mountains, and the view always picturesque in the extreme. To the right, a few hundred yards away from the hotel, is situated the springs, to which a pretty wooded roadway leads. A little further on, rounding a point we come to the Harrison River, which connects Harrison Lake with the Fraser River, and is now navigable at all seasons of the year.Harrison Lake Hatchery To the right, not five miles away, is the Dominion Hatchery; and immediately above, that, about a mile distant, is a little lake from which the company derives its power for electrical and other purposes. This lake is also a very favorite fishing resort. For six months of the year the Harrison is a tourist resort as well as a resort for invalids taking the baths and drinking the water. The rest of the year it is mainly a sanatorium.

Harrison Lake itself affords almost unrivaled facilities for fishing, boating and motor launches. Away to the North is the celebrated Bridge River country in the Lillooet District, noted for its big game hunting. That district is now being opened up by the Pacific Great Eastern and will afford unusual facilities for visitors at the Harrison Hot Springs reaching the great interior districts. Attached to the property there are about 1,250 acres, 800 acres of which are still virgin forest, and would make, if cleared and cultivated, an ideal dairy and stock farm.
Daily Colonist 1914-08-02 by R.E. Gosnell


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