We do not know his name: Klatsassin and the Chilcotin War

"Brew to the Colonial Secretary of British Columbia"

23rd May 1864

[ Homathco Below the Defile, This view sketched by Frederick Whymper only a few days before the attack shows the Homathco Valley below the canyon. It was engraved and published in 1868 with a caption


I have the honor to state that after a laborious march I arrived with my party at the scene of murder on the Homathco at 10 of a.m. on the Inst. 20th we would have reached the spot on the previous day only we were detained at the Ferry seven hours in consequence of the rope and Boat being out of order and the River swollen into a torrent. Immediately I arrived at the Scene of murder I had search made in all directions.

In the camp where the nine men were murdered we found the marks of blood in each tent where each man was slaughtered except in the tent occupied by Chas. Buttle but we found his coat all bloody with two bullet holes in the back so there is no doubt about his fate. A party went on two miles to the camp occupied by Brewster and three others and searched but failed in making any discovery, in the afternoon Mr. Waddington arrived with "little George" Brewster's Cook who pointed out the spot where he heard the firing the day of the murders. In a short time the tainted air led to the discovery of three of the bodies. Brewster, Jim Gawley and John Clark. Brewster was shot, his head smashed in with an axe and his belly ripped up. Gawley was shot in the arm and forehead and Clarke had two gun shot wounds in the thigh and groin and his head was beaten in. Mr. Elwyn and I held an Inquest on the bodies and had them as decently interred as circumstances would allow. Mr. Elwyn read the Burial Service. I left seven men at the Ferry to assist Mr. Waddington in crossing the mules but to my surprise Mr. Waddington came on without the animals as he feared to put them on the river in the high stage of the water and the imperfect state of the Ferry tackle. The Indians could only carry very small loads so we ran short of provisions and I had to send one half of the party back to the ferry at once. I marched the rest back after the interment on the 21st and the whole body arrived here this day. Unless provided with horse transport and supplies with means of repairing the Ferry and working it I could not keep a party fifty miles up the Country. They would be starved. The lower Country Indians are so scared that they would not venture one hundred yards into the interior unprotected and then they can't carry a load worth paying for. I had a consultation with Mr. Waddington as to the expediency of advancing into the interior if we could. The conclusion we arrived was that with the present means at command it would be impracticable. Trails would have to be cut, Bridges made precipices scaled and obstructions overcome which would require Engineering skill and resources. Thinking it useless to keep men here at heavy expense, I had determined to return by the Forward today, but of course your letter of the 19th Inst. which I have just received justifies my staying till I hear from you again. If His Excellency The Governor wish me to advance into the interior I shall make the attempt, let the undertaking be ever so difficult. No just idea of the Country or the Trail can be formed from Mr. Waddington's flattering description of it within a distance of four miles the trail crosses a mountain I consider 2000 feet high. Mr. Waddington says 1100. If I have to go on you will have to send me up horses axes saws ropes. Mr. Waddington will be able to describe to you in what quantity.

To return to the scenes of murder we traced the mark through the sand where the bodies of the nine men murdered were drawn and thrown into the River. Battiste Demarais one of Brewsters party it would seem was not murdered, he was copping [sic] wood when the firing commenced. His foot prints were found from there to the brink of the river where it appears he jumped in, the steps were long as those of a man running down a hill. His handkerchief was found between where he was working and the river. In the place where he leaped no man could escape drowning.

It is difficult to understand how men could have such blind confidence in fickle Savages as those murdered men had. There was in camp a store of all the things most coveted by Indians, Clothes, powder, Balls, sugar, flour meat & and all the [things?] it was known that the Indians were little removed from a state of starvation yet not the slightest effort was made to obtain the good will of the Indians or to guard against their enmity. When they worked they complained that Brewster paid them badly and gave them nothing to eat. They ought to have been paid their wages in money but as one of Mr. Waddingtons men said to me they did not get a chance of it. they got orders for powder Balls Clothes or Blankets as they pleased. Of course payment in this way was a loss to them. They never took provisions in payment they thought they had a right to be fed but they were not. They begged food or stole it and if those means failed them they hunted or fished. The women particularly the younger ones were better fed than the men as the price of prostitution to the hungry wretches was enough to eat. The Chilcotins never ventured down to the lower Homathco till Mr. Waddington made peace between them and the Clohoose Indians, at first they were chiefly armed with Bows and arrows but he was instrumental in supplying them with firearms and powder and Ball as a matter of trade. The Indians have I believe been most injudiciously treated if a sound discretion had been exercised towards them I believe this outrage would not have been perpetrated.

In the camp where the 9 men were killed we found a deposit receipt to James Campbell (killed) for $330. another to P.A. Peterson (wounded) for $200. In the latter were folded two $20 notes. I enclose the whole. Peterson who is in Victoria may want his money. To get to where Brewsters camp was from the first camp the party had to descend a precipice by a rope and cross a Ravine several hundred feet deep on a single log, to get horses over this portion of the intended trail will require many days work, in fact I do not see how it is to be done.

I trust you will excuse the imperfections of this communication I am writing in the open air pestered by mosquitoes people talking all around me and to me and I am conscious that I have made many mistakes. I keep no copy. I send this by the Gunboat as it will be in N.W. sooner than a Canoe could be. Four of my men are going back, if I have to advance I would require a small increase of force. The Indians here are greatly afraid that the Chilcotins will come down and kill everyone, but the outrage was committed for the sake of plunder by a few men of a branch of the Chilcoten tribe and the main tribe will not become involved in war on their account. A large quantity of the merchandise taken from the Ferry house where Smith was murdered was found en cache a short way off on an Indian hunting trail. The Indians amongst the plunder got possession of two kegs of gunpowder and thirty lbs. of Balls. They scattered about and destroyed a great quantity of things they could neither hide nor carry away.

I found it most difficult to examine the Indians here as they do not know a word of chinook.

I had intended on my arrival to make a more complete report but I trust this very hurried one contains at least an outline of all I have to say.

If I want anything particularly before I hear from you I shall dispatch a canoe that is if I can persuade the Indians to go but they have an idea that the Chilcotens are on the war path down the river as well as above. They are not [alone?] for ten men in some of the passes might kill a hundred armed men without losing a man.

I have the honor to be
Your obedient servant
C. Brew, S.M., J.P.

Source: BCA, Colonial Correspondence, GR-1372, F193/14, Mflm B-1310, Chartres Brew, Letter to the Colonial Secretary of British Columbia, May 23, 1864.

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