Britisher James Curtis, who arrived on the west coast in July 1886, was among the passengers who disembarked from Canada's first transcontinental train. Curtis soon made his way to Vancouver Island, eventually pre-empting land at Bates Beach south of Campbell River.
The Pioneer Cabin in the Museum's major exhibits gallery is a replica of the home Curtis built at Bates Beach. Curtis occasionally worked on survey crews, as recounted in the extracts from his journal which follow. A copy of Curtis's diary is held in the Archives of the Museum at Campbell River.
Diary of James Morley Curtis, 1888
Wednesday 19 Sept. Started North. Blew too fresh for us to weather Pt. Holmes so we put back.
Sunday 23 Made Camp about 5.pm on River at the head of Inlet. Tide against us nearly all day. Find J.M and Shorty in camp. Indians report that they have small-pox in the village. One man has already died. Skinner thinks it is only the measles Thinks man died of severe inflamation of the lungs He is probably right
Monday 24 Go out on the line
Mountain goat for supper
Tuesday 25 Go out on line, do not do much work. Nearly all day rectifying an error of yesterday
Wednesday 26 J.B caught 18 trout in about half an hour before breakfast. Plum duff for supper!!!
Friday 28 Fine day. Shifted camp to three miles up the main river. Had to pole the canoe up all the way as the current was too strong for pulling.
Sunday 30 Fine day. Indians all moved up to opposite where we are camped. Having several cases of sickness. They have left all their sick behind.
Thursday 4 Oct. Fine. Shifted camp down to mouth of river
Sunday 7 Wet nearly all day. Wrote home
Monday 8 Rained all day. Went out and finished survey and surveyed Indian graveyard. Came back to camp at 3. p.m. Skinner came to tent in the evening and yarned for an hour or two.
Tuesday 9 Shifted camp to Salmon Bay about 15 miles down the Inlet
Began to rain when we were in the canoes, and rained all the while we were making camp. B left for Comox with smaller canoe with 2 Indians for more stores P.S. Camped on bank of a river
Thursday 11 Fine until about 4. pm. when it commenced to rain steadily.
Out on line most of the day did a little traversing in the afternoon.
P.S. Rained hard all night.
Friday 12 Rained all day. River very much swollen. Had to shift all the tents but our own immediately after dinner on account of the river rising.
Thursday 18 Moved camp, had a fair wind nearly all the forenoon. Camped in a little Bay on east side of Inlet, it is a perfectly sheltered boat harbour. Seems to be a "Siwash" hunting station as there is one of their rude sheds erected here built in the usual style of split cedar
Friday 19 Wet, so we lay in camp. Shifted provisions out of canoes and put them under "Siwash" shed, out of the wet.
Saturday 20 Wet until 10. a.m. We then loaded the canoes & started for Orford Bay, arrived there about 3. p.m., camped at the mouth of the River. The Indian Ranch (village) was deserted save for one old squaw, she said all the Siwashes are away hand logging, i.e. getting out timber without the aid of an ox team. This is only practicable when the timber is fairly close to the water with a steep grade right up to it. (the timber)
Tuesday 23 Fine. Blew hard all day. We went about a mile up the river looking for Spruce tree blazed by Indian Commission for point of commencement. We failed to find and came back and traversed along the foot of mountain. Saw lots of bear tracks some of them very large ones
Thursday 25 Fine all day. Julien shot a grizzly.
Saturday 27 Wet all morning. Did not go out until after dinner. In the evening our two Indians went to visit the others and had a big blow-out on the bear meat They afterwards gambled until about midnight
Thursday 1 Nov. Fine all day. Surveyed about 1/2 the Reserve which is only a small one. Two timber "cruisers" arrived at camp at noon and pitched their tent just below us. In the evening one of them, a young Englishman, came and eat in our tent and yarned for an hour or tow
Thursday 8 Rained more or less all day. Laid in camp until after dinner when we went out and finished traverse. J (the Indian) went out and shot a deer. An Indian and his wife have just left here who have just lost the last of their seven children within a month of the measles.
Wednesday 14 Broke up camp. Started for Comox got in about 5 p.m. distance run about 40 miles
Friday 16 See rest of fellows off on boat. Go round to Jack Hawkins to borrow his boat
Monday 19 Go hunting. I shoot a very large Buck, weighed about 100 lbs (cleaned) I packed him about 3/4 of a mile when I fall over a stick he is too heavy for me to lift on to my back and as there is no log handy to drag him up on to as I had previously done I leave him in the woods intending to call for him the next day
Tuesday 20 We go look for my deer and find that a panther [cougar] had anticipated us and spoilt pretty nearly all the meat. We skin him and leave the meat for the panther to finish.
Thursday 29 Went down to the "Bay" Attended a meeting to consider the advisability of starting a Comox football club. We resolve to try it. I am elected one of the committees.