While it is thought that Sir Francis Drake may have explored the coast of British Columbia in 1579 it was Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra who first documented the journey in 1775. Quadra was reasserting Spain's claim on the Pacific Coast that was first made by Vasco Nunez de Balboa in 1513.
Interesting fact. The Spanish were sailing here from what is now Western Mexico to find Russian settlements and declare those for the Spanish.
Ten years later, in 1788, an English navigator and explorer named John Meares bought some land from a local chief named Maquinna and built a trading post.
The next year a Spanish commander by the name of Estaban Jose Martinez started building Fort San Miguel in Friendly Cove, Nootka Sound. Since Spain considered this land to be part of New Spain, Martinez seized numerous British ships including those of Captain Meares. This almost led to war between Britain and Spain and the Spanish abandoned Nootka Sound.
But months later the Spaniards returned to rebuild the fort. The English had dismantled it after Martinez had exited. This time the fort was not only equipped with several defence constructions but also a vegetable garden to ensure food for the inhabitants. The Spanish remained there until the Nootka Convention came into force in 1795. (The Nootka Convention was a series of three agreements between Great Britain and Spain that averted war over overlapping claims to areas in the Pacific Northwest and North America.)
Just think. Little Nootka Sound was almost the cause of a war between two powerful kingdoms!
Things went along for years with people coming to BC and making their homes here. Then came the gold rush starting in 1858.
1858 saw the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush when gold was discovered along the shores of the Thompson River. Word got out in San Francisco and suddenly we had 20,000 Americans here all vying to get their hands on that gold.
At this time British Columbia was not under formal colonial authority. When the Americans first began to flood into this province our governor, James Douglas, (also known as the Father of British Columbia) had a gunboat stationed at the mouth of the Fraser River and would gather licensing fees from anyone going upstream. Due to this new situation the British Colonial office established the mainland as a crown colony on August 2, 1858, naming it the Colony of British Columbia. (From 1849 there was a Colony of Vancouver Island.)
Then there was more gold found. During 1961-64 gold was discovered in Omenica, Big Bend and Stikine. Roads were built linking the lower mainland to the gold rich Barkerville. Unfortunately this put the new colony deeply in debt and by 1866 the mainland and Vancouver Island joined as one and became the colony of British Columbia.
A year later, in 1867, British Columbia was a popular, hot property. We had options available to us. American Secretary of State, William H. Seward, had already negotiated the Alaska purchase and he was eager to incorporate the entire northwest Pacific Coast. What a boon to the United States for long term commercial advantages regarding Pacific Trade.
We could have remained as a British colony though, until the US started showing interest in us, the British had been indifferent to our fate. Suddenly they realized this area's importance for their imperial trade opportunities in the Pacific and the need of the Royal Navy for a station in the region.
But the newly formed Dominion of Canada was interested in uniting with us as well. Governor Anthony Musgrave offered a plan where the Dominion would pay off BC's debt as well as build a Canadian transcontinental railway that would erase our dependence on the American railway.
Everyone clamouring for our attention! We must have felt like the prettiest girl at the ball with numerous suitors.
As you probably gathered the Colony of British Columbia became a province in the Dominion of Canada. And even with the ups and downs that our country has experienced since its inception and its problems I am proud to say that I am Canadian.
That was brief overview (believe me there was a lot of information that I left out.) of how our province came to be. I hope you enjoyed the photos and at least found that informative.
Karen Magill,gold rush, Vancouver,furs,Dominion of Canada,William H. Seward,History,Spain