Under the Crown Land Surveys in 1891, William McKenzie and Samuel Reid reported that good agricultural land would be available if the swamps were drained, but "parties who wish to settle upon the islands would have to be people of means, as it would require large outlays before any returns could be obtained."
In 1901 the permanent non-Haida people numbered only fourty, but a few years later, accompanying the general increase of population of Canada's western Provinces, Haida Gwaii known as Queen Charlottes began to attract the attention of settlers, settlement organizers, and their inevitable attendants, the property speculators.
By 1908 the Canadian Government started selling Q.C.I. [Haida Gwaii] as Crown Land to the public at prices ranging from $2.50 to $5.00 per acre, but settlement was still slow. One reason for this, given in a report of that year prepared for the Bureau of Provincial Information, was the lack of regular steamship service to many Island points. This lack made it almost impossible for intending settlers to view their prospective sites in a reasonable time or at a reasonable cost. The same report stresses the fact that large tracts of the Islands, particularly along the shores of Masset Inlet, were blanketed by timber and mining leases, and being unsurveyed it was impossible for a pre-emptor to decide just what land was vacant and available for recording.
By the summer of 1908 there were some fifty settlers located in the Lawn Hill-Miller Creek area and over one hundred in the Massett area, while the new townsite of Queen Charlotte City was beginning to attract venturesome merchants and business-man. Quite a number of these new-comers were Americans. The first drug-store in Queen Charlotte City was opened by the Dudley brothers, of Wisconsin, and Mark Lauder of Seattle, built the first hotel in that center. Among the farmers and ranchers who came to the Islands was a Mr. Dow, who had emigrated from the State of Washington, and who began a small settlement opposite the village of Massett. From the same state came the Mallard brothers to record sizeable pre-emptions near the north end of Kundis Island. These settlers were confident that if roads and surveys were assured by the B.C. Provincial Government, hundreds of farmers would move to the Islands from the North-west United States, their reason for migrating being that land had become too valuable in that area to farm in large blocks.
The first newspaper to appear on the Islands was the Queen Charlotte News. The manager-owner of this paper, D.R. Young, was an early proponent of the great commercial possibilities of the Islands. In 1907 he was in personal contact with then B.C. Premier McBride, stressing the need for a Government Office on the Queen Charlottes [Haida Gwaii] and offering himself as an appointee for the position of the Justice of the Peace on the Islands. It was largerly at his suggestion that the Mining Recorder's Office was established at Jedway, at this place, in his opinion, was to become "the metraliphous center of the Islands, while Skidegate and Cumshewa will be the coal producing, agricultural and commercial centers."
Mr. Young continued for several years to identify himself with the Islands and strove to further its commercial development.
The first few issues of the Queen Charlotte News, beginning on April 4th, 1908, were printed in Victoria, but this was only a temporary measure. Within a matter of months, facilities were provided at Queen Charlotte City and the press was moved to that location.
During the next four years, three other news-sheets made their appearance--"The Islander," "The Massett Review," and the "Massett Leader (1912-1913)," all of which had a vigorous but brief existence.
The same year (1908) a settler's association was formed among the people of Lawn Hill and Skidegate, with a membership of forty. Their first meeting resulted in the petitioning of the Provincial Government for a subsidy to run regular steamship schedules to outlying areas. At this meeting a resolution "to keep this a white man's land" shows that Asiatic labour was felt to be a problem. In this respect the "Queen Charlotte News" took a stand in favour of white labour, and in the following year conducted something of a crusade to rid the Islands of the Japanese. The Japanese groups were given sixty days in which to quit the Islands. Money spent by them in buying property and erecting houses or business premises at Queen Charlotte City was to be refunded.
A permanent hospital and a resident medical practitioner were two of the most urgent needs of the growing settlements. Sufficient money was finally raised by the citizens of Queen Charlotte City in 1908 to erect a temporary hospital building, and the Provincial Government was prevailed upon to provide $1,000 for equipment, plus a $300-per-year subsidy for a resident doctor. In August of that year Dr. J.W. Cross arrived, and a short time later the services of a qualified nurse were secured. The following year a hospital society was formed and the construction of a permanent hospital begun.
Further petitions to the Provincial Government resulted in the sum of $10,000 being appropriated in 1909 for the construction of roads. Several short ones were built in the Lawn Hill area, others at Massett, and a more lengthy one was planned to connect Skidegate and Queen Charlotte City.
Regular steamship calls and mail deliveries were for long a sore point with the Island communities. In the absence of permanent mail contracts the Dominion Government finally appointed a number of citizens, who had facilities for reaching the Mainland, as postmasters. At Queen Charlotte City this post went to Leo Beattie, owner of a general store; at Massett the Reverend W.E. Collison filled the position; other postmaster were appointed at Jedway and Lockeport on Moresby Island. This temporary measure lasted only until the winter of 1909, when the Grand Truck Pacific made arrangements with the Dominion Government to supply a fortnight mail and ferry service from Prince Rupert to various points on the Islands. The government of Canada was to subsidize the venture at the rate of $200 per trip. Because of the difficulties encountered with the rather ancient craft they commissioned for the job, the Grand Truck Pacific seems to have had trouble living up to its agreement, making only four or five trips during the winter months.
The year 1909 saw a new townsite laid out at Stewart Bay on Massett Inlet. This was originally named Queenstown, but within a few years the name appears to have been dropped and that of Port Clements subsituted.
After the hospital was an accomplished fact, or at least after the money had been raised and construction commenced at Queen Charlotte City, the school problem was the next to be undertaken by the people of this district. The Provincial Government was again petitioned for funds, this time to build a school-ouse. In the meantime temporary quarters were acquired, and the first school for white children on the Islands was opened on September 6th, 1909. Mrs. A. Butler, one of the residents, acted as temporary teacher until D. Cochrane, B.A., arrived to take charge.
The same year, Massett obtained a school, presided over by Miss J.A. Peck. Both of these schools were raised from the status of assisted school districts to that of organized school districts in the following year.
|The School Children at Skidegate - 1914|
By 1910 population on the islands had increase considerably. Although official figures are lacking, the white residents were number perhaps a little optimistically by local patriots, at "over three thousand." The road situation continued to demand attention, particularly in the Massett area. In August the Massett Settlers' Association petitioned the Provincial Government, calling attention to the fact that settlers had no adequate facilities for getting their supplies in or their produce out.
During and after 1912 the central and northern coast sections of Graham Island developed more rapidly. Two newspapers appeared at Massett, and although both initial attempts were short-lived, the press of one was taken over by the enterprising owner of the "Queen Charlotte News" and for some time was published as the Massett Leader. Not much news about the Haida people, mostly serving the white communities.
The Queen Charlotte Islander, first published at Queen Charlotte City in opposition to the News, decided in 1913 to move its location to Queenstown because "development and population have increased faster at the central section of the Island."
The information given in the Report of the Minister of Lands for 1912 is interesting:--
"The north coast from Massett to Rose Spit along the shore is all occupied, nearly one hundred people dealing at Mr. Anderson's store at Towe Hill, situated very centrally about eighteen miles east of Massett. The shores of Massett Inlet are also filled up, the occupiers dealing at Mr. Martin's big store at Queenstown and Massett. There are two English churches, one at Old Massett on the Reserve; and the other at New Masset where there is a small town containing a school, hotel, a large store and post office. . . . The fare from Vancouver to Massett is $26 and the journey . . . occupies three days."
The first public telephone and telegraph line went into service on November 1st, 1913. The line ran from Queen Charlotte City to Towe Hill and connected with Queenstown and Massett. There was one operator at Massett and another at Queen Charlotte City, and the report goes on to say, somewhat proudly, that the installation of fifteen telephones had been ordered for residents between Towe Hill and Massett.
Due to transportation difficulties during and immediately after World War I, steamship connections with the Mainland were still irregular and inadequate. Settlers complained bitterly that under this disability the could not compete in the Prince Rupert market. A further complaint was that there was no cold-storage facilities on the boats which did call, and perishable goods such as meat, poultry and eggs could not be shipped to Mainland ports.
The closing of the Sitka spruce export struck another blow at the small commercial centers. The 1921 census saw the population depleted to little more than 1,000 people, and the depression years of the 1930's were to see it drop still lower. The Skeena Land Recording Division Bulletin of 1938 states: "The Graham Island Farmer's Institute has about fifty members . . . so far there has been little serious farming on any scale."