Monday, July 22, 2013

Charles Augustus Semlin

Charles Augustus Semlin was B.C.'s twelfth premier from August 15, 1898 to February 27, 1900. He was born on December 4, 1836 in Barrie, Upper Canada. He was educated in public schools then in private tuition in Barrie where he became a teacher.

However, as with many young men of that era, the gold fields in British Columbia called to young Semlin and he headed west to seek his fortunes. He arrived in Victoria on June 12, 1862.

Charles's career as a miner didn't last for long nor was it that successful. He spent three summers prospecting and mining in the Cariboo before becoming a packer, carrying supplies between Lilloet and Quesnel.

In the spring of 1865 there was a gold rush at Big Bend on the Columbia River and Charles Semlin was apparently on his way there when he came to Cache Creek. Here is where our future premier would spend the rest of his life.

Semlin found work at Ashcroft Manor. He managed the roadhouse and adjacent ranch of Clement Francis Cornwall and his brother Henry. Several months later, Semlin and his partner, Philip Parke, bought a roadhouse of their own, Bonaparte House. Bonaparte House was strategically located at the junction of wagon roads north to the Cariboo and east to Savona's Ferry (Savona) and the upper Thompson River. Parke sold his interest to Wilson Henry Sanford in 1868. Two years later Semlin bought Sanford's interest, making him the sole proprietor of Bonaparte House.

Not that Semlin stayed an innkeeper for long. He then traded Bonaparte House to James Campbell in 1870 for ranch land. Semlin had been acquiring land in the area for the last three years through pre-emption and purchase. Gradually, he consolidated his holdings to create one of the largest ranches of the region, named Dominion Ranch, which he would operate until his death in 1927.
Even though Semlin became a successful rancher - the Dominion Ranch carried 15,000 head of cattle and was one of the most notable of the large interior ranches - Charles also engaged in many other activities. He was Cache Creek's first postmaster. In 1873, he successfully lobbied the government for a public boarding school in the interior so that the regions scattered population of school-age children could receive a formal education. In 1874, as an MLA, Semlin introduced legislation that led to the establishment of the school in Cache Creek and oversaw its official opening in June.

The Central Boarding School attracted a good deal of controversy during its 16-year existence. Some felt that the school should have been in the larger community of Kamloops. The actions of the appointed school board (which comprised Semlin, Parke, Campbell and C.F. Cornwall) and the conditions at the school all drew critical comments from the press but Semlin staunchly defended the school - even teaching there for awhile. The school was shut down though in 1890. Years later when a rural school district was created for Cache Creek, Semlin, Parke and Campbell all served as trustees.

A photo of Philip Parke, compliments of the BC Archives #H-00234
The Cache Creek Boarding school. Photo from the Vancouver Library.
Wednesday, I will tell you about Charles Semlin's political life. Thanks to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography website for the information. It's a great site with lots of information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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  1. Was that one picture a fish tank or aquarium? And the winding mosaic looks like a snake. Appreciate the time you take to teach us some Canadian history.

    1. There are no photos of fish tanks or aquariums. Are you talking about the first photo? It is a fountain at a restaurant. I like the mosaic too.

      Glad you are enjoying this journey into my province's past. Thanks for visiting, reading and commenting.