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Profiles

  • Richard H. Carr (1818 - 1888)
    Richard Carr From [] Left his home in Oxfordshire in 1837 as a young man to wander the Americas. "From his diaries we read that he spent time in Texas, Alabama, and Illinois; he worked as a dec...
  • Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10154791
    Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie (c.1820 - 1894)
    SIR MATTHEW BAILLIE BEGBIE (1819-94) Chief Justice of British Columbia Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie is the son of Major Thomas Stirling Begbie, and his wife, Mary Hamilton. He is reported to have bee...
  • Adam Pinkney Heffley (c.1833 - 1872)
    ADAM PINKNEY HEFFLEY (1830-72) Adam Pinkney Heffley was an American gold prospector, packer, pioneer rancher, and horse breeder, in British Columbia, during the third quarter of the nineteeth century...
  • Terry Jackson
    Sarah Ann Jackman (1839 - 1917)
    Sarah Ann Jackman (Lovegrove) Sarah Ann Lovegrove was born in Gray's Inn Road, St. Pancras, Camden Town,London on 16th December 1839. Her parents were John Lovegrove and Mary nee Beard. Sarah left ...
  • Philip Jackman, "The Last Engineer" (1835 - 1927)
    Sappers Philip Jackman Park, Langley Article plus pictures of Alexander Bridge 1958 Article

Pioneers of Canada - British Columbia

History

Aboriginal Settlement

The coasts and interior valleys of British Columbia were first occupied sometime after the last Ice Age. Occupation of some sites in BC has been confirmed by carbon dating at about 6,000–8,000 years ago. The people of the Northwest Coast lived in autonomous villages of 200 to 1,000 people and had access to a particularly bountiful environment that provided abundant shellfish, salmon and even whales. Groups living along the coast used a variety of fishing tools and techniques, and used forest resources to build large and sophisticated plank houses. The coastal people concentrated along the lower reaches of the major salmon rivers. These groups developed an elaborate culture typified by totem poles and the potlatch (see Tagish; Tsimshian; Haida; Tlingit; Kwakiutl; Nootka; and Native People: Northwest Coast). The interior inhabitants, such as the Carrier, Interior Salish and Kootenay were generally nomadic and depended on hunting. Those groups living in the Subarctic region of the interior generally fished and hunted moose and caribou, while those living in the southern interior had a milder climate. The availability of salmon made it possible for the groups living in the southern interior to winter in small villages.

European Settlement

Due to its distance from the eastern coast of Canada and the barrier to east-west movement created by the mountains, the Pacific Northwest was very difficult for early Europeans to reach and was the last part of North America they explored. The first permanent European settlement came with the development of the fur trade in the early 19th century. A flurry of activity followed the discovery of gold on the lower and middle Fraser River (see Fraser River Gold Rush), resulting in an inland system of supply and transportation along the Fraser River to the Cariboo Mountains. By the 1880s more permanent mining towns began to dot the valleys of the southeast – each supported by local forestry, small farms and complex rail, road and water transport. In contrast, on the southwest coast settlement was more urban and commercial. From 1860 to 1890 Victoria, the capital, was the main administrative and commercial settlement, and the supply centre for interior and coastal resource development. Vancouver, on Burrard Inlet north of the mouth of the Fraser River, was selected as the site for the western terminal of the CPR in 1886. Vancouver soon replaced Victoria as the commercial centre and became the main port for both coastal and interior products to move to world markets. Overall, British Columbia developed contrasting coastal and interior settlement patterns which remained the same throughout the 20th century, although densities increased. The population has always been primarily urban, living in the southwest region. The remaining population is dispersed across the southern half of the province, mainly occupying the north-south valleys or resource-based settlements along the main transportation lines. The only major farming populations live in the Okanagan Valley and dispersed along the highway between Kamloops and Prince George. These linear population clusters are separated from each other by unoccupied mountain ranges. With the exception of an urban and agricultural cluster in the Peace River area of the northeast, few people live north of Prince George and Prince Rupert. Europeans arrived at the northwest coast much later than they did other areas of the continent. Spaniards under Juan Pérez Hernández were probably the first Europeans to see the coast of BC in 1774. They did not land, but Pérez claimed the region for Spain. Four years later James Cook took his two British ships into Nootka Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Within a few years British traders came by sea and developed a flourishing fur trade with coastal Aboriginal peoples. The Spanish had established a trading post at Nootka Sound and seized British ships there, and in 1789 Spain and Britain had a dispute over the ownership of West Coast North America. This Nootka Sound Controversy was settled by the Nootka Conventions of 1790–94, which did not determine ownership, but gave equal trading rights to both countries. British claims were strengthened after 1792 when ships under George Vancouver carried out a careful three-year mapping of the coast from Oregon to Alaska. Vancouver named many of the bays, inlets and coastal landform features. In this period of worldwide European colonialism, there was no concern among European governments and businessmen that this area was already occupied by Aboriginal peoples. In 1793 the first European report about the interior of BC was made by the North West Company fur trader Alexander Mackenzie. He entered the region from the east via the Peace and Upper Fraser rivers, and explored westward across the Chilcotin Plateau and through the Coast Mountains to the long inlet at Bella Coola. Two other members of the North West Company, Simon Fraser and David Thompson, explored other parts of the interior early in the 19th century. They established the first permanent European settlements in the province, which were fur trade posts supplied from Montréal. In 1808 Fraser reached the mouth of the river which now bears his name, and in 1811Thompson found the mouth of the Columbia River after exploring the river routes of southeastern BC. For about 50 years, while eastern North America was being occupied and settled by European agricultural people and dotted with commercial cities, the mountainous western part of the continent remained little-known territory on the fringes of fur-trade empires controlled from eastern cities. During the first half of the 19th century the British-owned Hudson’s Bay Company controlled the western fur trade, including the area of present-day Washington and Oregon. In the 1830s American settlers began to move into the southern part of this region, and refused to recognize the authority of the British company. Conflicting territorial claims were settled in the 1846 Oregon Treaty, which established the southern boundary of BC along the 49th parallel, with the exception of Vancouver Island. In anticipation of this result the HBC had moved its headquarters to newly-established Fort Victoria in 1843. In 1849 the British government granted Vancouver Island to the HBC for colonization, and in 1851 James Douglas, an official of the company, became governor of the new colony. In 1856 Douglas established a legislative assembly for Vancouver Island. At mid-century the only non-Aboriginal settlements within the boundaries of present-day British Columbia were fur trade posts on the coast, such as Victoria, Nanaimo and Fort Langley, and in the interior, such as Kamloops, Fort (later Prince) George and Fort St. James. Development This relatively quiet period of history ended in 1858 when gold was discovered in the sand bars along the Lower Fraser River. The ensuing gold rushes brought thousands of fortune hunters from many parts of the world, but mainly from the California goldfields. Many fortune hunters came by boat from San Francisco, crowding into inadequate facilities in Victoria to buy supplies and receive permits. Prospecting took place upstream along the banks and bars of the Fraser River during 1858. The town of Yale was established as a trans-shipping centre at the south end of Fraser Canyon, and as the eastern end of water transport from the Fraser River mouth. Gold seekers walked the tributaries of the Fraser River and major gold finds were made east of Quesnel. The boomtown of Barkerville arose at the western edge of the Cariboo Mountains as the chief service town for the Cariboo goldfields. At its peak in the early 1860s Barkerville likely held a fluctuating population of about 10,000, making it the largest settlement in western Canada at that time. In order to establish government and maintain law and order around the goldfields, the British established a separate mainland colony of British Columbia in 1858 under the authority of James Douglas, who also remained the governor of Vancouver Island. The new settlement of New Westminster, located slightly inland on the north bank of the Fraser River delta, was proclaimed capital of the new colony in 1859 and controlled river traffic entering the Fraser River en route to the interior. In the early 1860s the amazing feat of building the Cariboo Road along the walls of the Fraser Canyon was accomplished in order to move supplies to interior settlements. In 1866, with gold production declining and people leaving, the British government united the two colonies to reduce administrative costs. New Westminster was the capital of the combined colony for two years before protests from the older capital, Victoria, resulted in the seat of government being moved there in 1868. The resulting physical separation of the capital from the majority of the people and economic activity on the mainland later led to communication problems for the region, and many government services and offices had to be duplicated on the mainland. After 1867 the British colony on the West Coast debated whether it should join the new Confederation of eastern provinces known as Canada. In 1871 the 12,000 non-Aboriginal residents of BC agreed to enter the Dominion of Canada on the condition that the federal government build a transcontinental railway to link it with the eastern provinces. The federal government agreed, but the new province waited, rather impatiently at times, for 15 years before the Canadian Pacific Railway reached the southwest coast. The union with Canada was an unhappy one at first. The new province ran heavily into debt; the cost of governing a large mountainous area with few people was very high, and revenues from resource users were low. More than one-third of the province's white residents lived in or near Victoria. Even by 1881 the white population of 24,000 was less than the estimated 25,000 Aboriginal peoples. The hoped-for expansion of trade with East Asia did not develop immediately with the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885. However, the railway did bring people to the port of Vancouver and by 1901 that city had surpassed Victoria in population. Vancouver's population of almost 27,010 in 1901 had been reached within 15 years, whereas after 58 years of occupation Victoria had only 23,688 people. Around the turn of the 20th century entrepreneurs came to British Columbia to exploit the province's vast resources. A salmon-cannery industry was established along the coast. There were sawmills all around the shores of Georgia Strait and particularly along eastern Vancouver Island, and the first pulp and paper mill was completed at Powell River in 1912. The major expansion of the forest industry came, however, after the First World War when the Panama Canal opened and gave access to markets around the north Atlantic region. Since access to capital and natural resources for export was more important than ownership of farmland, BC attracted a different type of settler from those who settled on the land on the Prairies and across eastern Canada. In interior BC in the 1890s the major resource development and settlement centred on the mining activity in the Kootenay region of the southeast. Prospectors, mainly from mining camps in western Montana and Idaho, moved northward along the valleys and discovered gold and base metals in the area west of Kootenay Lake. Mining camps sprung up in the Slocan Valley, at Rossland, near Grand Forks and elsewhere. Nelson became the main service, supply and administrative centre, with a population of about 4,500 in 1911. Railways extended northward into the interior from the US, and the CPR built a line westward through the Crowsnest Pass in 1899 to bring coal from Fernie to smelters in the mining centres. By about 1914, however, many of the mines had closed and some towns were abandoned, although other mines opened in later years. The extension of the Kettle Valley branch of the CPR to the coast during the First World War came after the peak of mining activity in the Kootenay region. Agriculture brought settlers to the south-central interior. At the time of the early 1860s Cariboo Gold Rush ranching was established in the grassland valleys and rolling basins across the southern interior plateau. Irrigation was developed west of Kamloops and in the northern Okanagan Valley early in the 20th century. Irrigation for orchards that spread south from Vernon aided settlement projects for returning soldiers after the First World War (see Veterans’ Land Act). The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway west from Edmonton through the Upper Fraser, Bulkley and Skeena valleys was built in 1907–14 and was intended to give Canada a second gateway through the mountains to the Pacific coast. After the railway was built Prince George became a minor sawmill centre, with rail access eastward to the growing housing market in the Prairie provinces. However, the port and rail terminal at Prince Rupert never developed the anticipated volume of traffic, partly because there was little need for incoming freight. Despite its hopes, the small town remained mainly a fisheries centre. International political upheaval during 1930–45 and the resulting loss of world markets led to a serious economic decline in BC’s resource-based activities. After about 1950, however, the improved transportation system did much to integrate the interior resource economies and settlements with coastal collection, processing and management centres. Appropriately, the theme of Expo 86, held in Vancouver, was transportation and communications. Thousands of Canadians migrated to BC, attracted by the mild climate and perceived economic opportunities, joining thousands of other immigrants from Asia. These people not only provided labour and management for the growing commercial and service occupations, they were also consumers of goods, services and entertainment. In the 21st century, BC is one of Canada's most prosperous and fastest-growing provinces.

See also:Royal_Engineers,_Columbia_Detachment