1858 engraving of Victoria

Colonial History Vancouver Island

Maureen Duffus - Author and Historian


Vancouver Island History

Summer of 1858: Senior Colony legislators address the goldrush disruptions:

"Attach Frazer's River to Vancouver's Island"

Minutes of the House of Assembly of Vancouver Island
Quotes from proceedings of the first Vancouver Island legislature are from Minutes of the House of Assembly of Vancouver Island, August 12th 1856 to September 25, 1858; Kings Printer, 1918. Thanks are due to the late Provincial Librarian and Archivist E.O.S. Scholefield for arranging for their publication.

In the summer of 1858, members of Vancouver island's House of Assembly were troubled. There was an invasion of American miners who were arriving by ship at Fort Victoria en route to the gold fields in the northern reaches of the Hudson's Bay Company territory. The HBC's expanding authority, and the effects of its exclusive navigation and trading rights on Frazer's River, were also cause for concern.

Hot-headed James Yates, member for Victoria, "gave notice that ... the House go into committee to consider ... petitioning the Home Government to attach Frazer's River and the surrounding country to Vancouver's Island, and to remove same from the dominion of the Hudson's Bay Company."

Toning down the belligerence of the Yates proposal, the House politely requested a conference with the Governor "solely with the intention of promoting the interest of this Colony." Governor Douglas invited members to meet with him at Government House on June 18 and promised that "any information he possessed would be cordially given."

Questions were asked about his authority for "having ... undertaken the government of Frazer's River..." and continuing the Company's exclusive trading rights throughout the whole gold rush country. The Members were of the opinion that Douglas had more or less taken control of the river, including the responsibility for supplying "the large number of persons that would be at the mines within a short time."

The Governor assured them that as representative of the Crown he had "stepped in to preserve law and order as in duty bound," and that the future Government of Frazer's River "... was a matter at present under negotiation." Those negotiations resulted in the separate mainland colony called British Columbia being proclaimed in November 1858.

A note that "Mr. Yates' motion relating to a petition to the Home Government to attach Frazer's River to this colony falls to the ground" was entered in the minutes of the Assembly for June 25.

By Maureen Duffus, excerpts from an article originally written for
Orders of the Day, The Publication of the Association of Former MLAs of British Columbia.

Read more about Vancouver Island's first legislature.

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