Local humour: Expensive mowich and Indian illihees


A scene near Camp McKinney, painted by Michael Kluckner (image credit: Vanishing BC)

The Chinuk Wawa loanwords here are self-explanatory, so they don’t detract from the fun.

Nor do you need to be familiar with the details of local and provincial politics in 1890s British Columbia to be amused…

Free Miners Certificates

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Free Miners Certificates 03

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The free miner’s certificate, when considered as a piece of B.C. mining legislation and compared with all else in the mining line emanating from the legislature, stands out in bold relief as regards its simplicity — that is, on the surface. The moment, however, the owner of one of these slips of paper sinks an analytical shaft on that portion of the document which reads “and is entitled to all the rights and privileges of a free miner,” he finds that he has struck it rich in pyrites of ambiguities and chlorides of assessments. What are these privileges? “Mr. Recorder, have you a Mineral Act handy?” “Yes, sir, we sell them at two bits.” Our free miner takes one, and after losing half-a-day prospecting in a volcanic formation in which Webster’s dictionary shows up in a very distorted, broken and metamorphosed condition, he emerges into better country, and finds (1) That when his present certificate runs out he can get another by paying $5; and that should the present one be eaten by bush-tail rats, or become otherwise disabled or extinct before its allotted time, he can procure a substitute on payment of $1 lawful money of Canada. (2) That like a railway ticket it is not transferable, and if he shoots a deer on some other fellow’s certificate it will prove an expensive mowich. (3) That if he does development work without a free miner’s certificate he has the privilege of paying $25 and costs. (3) That he has the right to enter (and cut his own trail), locate, prospect and mine upon waste land of the crown for all mineral other than coal (provided he does not run up against an orchard, an Indian illihee, or hydraulic monitor).

On blowing in four bits more for “An Act to discourage coal mining,” and “The Columbia & Western Grab-all Act” he learns that coal mining is covered by a higher grade of certificate costing $50, and must be countersigned by Heinze, or some other heavily-bonused railroad magnate. If he is poor he can locate only one claim on one lode. This is to keep him on the move so he will not nurse his troubles.

If he is loaded up with cash he can buy as many more as he wants. He may kill all the game he needs, for his own use, if he has a gun and is a good shot. He is entitled to all the privileges granted free miners by the Placer Act [two bits for this Act]. He can mine clear down to hades inside the boundaries of his own claim, but he must not prevent anyone else on the outside going to the same place. His interest is a chattel interest — the meaning of which term can be ascertained by knocking at the Court of Chancery. “No free miner shall suffer from any acts of omission or commission or delays on the part of the government ” — if it can be proven. After this hasty assay of Free Miner’s Certificate No. 7,777,363,611, of which I am the proud possessor, may I ask space in your next issue to make a few suggestions as to a new form of certificate?                                                                         RAY MURRAY.

Camp McKinney, Dec. 2nd.

— from the Greenwood (BC) Boundary Creek Times of December 12, 1896, page 7, column 1

Fore more of Ray Murray’s sarcastic wit, you can see page 7 of the issue two days previous.

What do you think?
What have you learned?