Friday, June 21, 2013

The Reign of Robson

W.H. Brown obtained a building permit for 802 and 804 Semlin Drive on January 5, 1911. Listed as both owner and builder, Brown listed the value as $2,800. This was probably for both houses since the cost is high.

John Robson's most persistent cause was "an enlightened and liberal land system" to keep out speculators and provide a "free homestead to every bona fide settler". He was unhappy with the practice of building fine roads in the Cariboo while forgetting basic roads and trails for the agricultural districts of the Fraser Valley, the Kootenay mines and the interior cattle ranches.  Robson also complained about inadequate surveys and explorations, unnecessarily complex laws and "soil grabbers" who locked up choice lands. While Robson was in cabinet, the government gradually rewrote the law so that the scarce agricultural lands could be preserved for settlers. 

Robson was willing to use the land to assist railways. Between 1883 and 1892, the provincial government set aside nearly six million acres for railway subsidies and although his critics accused Robson of being in CPR's pockets, the politician did assist other railways such as the Nelson and Fort Sheppard Railway, which the CPR opposed.

In 1892, an MLA for Victoria City, John Grant, described Robson as "the most successful land speculator in the province". During the 1870s, during his employ with the federal government, Robson began acquiring acreage for as little as $30 in Coal Harbour and English Bay. He believed that this was "the only true and proper terminus for the CPR". He also played a prominent role in arranging for the provincial government to five approximately 6,000 acres as well as private owners providing one third of their holdings in exchange for the CPR to build a 12-mile extension from its terminus at Port Moody to Granville.

Robson encouraged the residents of Granville to apply for municipal incorporation in 1886. And even though he felt the name was "undesirable and confusing", Robson championed for the new town to be named Vancouver. 

John never denied his involvement with Vancouver real estate - even as he attacked "speculators" - and he was careful to point out that he never acquired the land either directly or indirectly through the crown. He always described himself as "land poor" but in 1880, some of his lands were being sold at a profit. 
This home is a subset of the "Vancouver Box". This style of architecture usually has a gable. 

Even if there was land available though, it was of little value without settlers. Robson knew this and took steps to advertise British Columbia with pamphlets and other promotional material. He sent agents to San Francisco, England and maybe Toronto to find new residents. Robson had doubts about assisted immigration though. Perhaps that is because in 1892, he chaired a committee of the Legislative Council that recommended subsidizing the immigration of female domestic servants. The government was offering $5,000 but only 22 women responded. Robson did support Alexander Begg's proposal in 1890 to aid Scottish crofters in developing the deep-sea fisheries of British Columbia. Unfortunately, Begg lost his most influential supporter when Robson died in 1892.

John Robson worked for the "moral and intellectual improvement of the people". He supported Sabbath observance and was in favour of temperance measures such as limiting the number of liquor licenses. He didn't support prohibition, even defending brewers against federal legislation that would have confined the brewery industry to New Westminster and Victoria. 

This former "Angel Gabriel", long served the Presbyterian faith but recognized that his faith was not the only one. In 1864, he told Governor Douglas that "in this Colony all denominations of Christians are upon a perfect equality". 

Once again, I have to thank the Dictionary of Canadian Biography website for the above information. Monday, I should finish telling you about this remarkable man.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

, , , , ,

No comments:

Post a Comment