Friday, July 26, 2013


Before I get into talking about Charles Semlin, I want to let my readers know about something I just found out. On June 11, 2012, I wrote an entry entitled 'Flirty Forty' and this photo and write up was included.

Taken in New Westminster on October 1, 1940, this is one of the most famous photos of World War II. It is entitled 'Wait for Me Daddy'.
This photograph shows the Eighth Street and Columbia Avenue intersection. Photographer Claude P. Detloff positioned himself to capture the column of soldiers walking down the hill when he saw the five-year- old Warren 'Whitey' Bernard escape his mother's grasp and run to his father, Private Jack Bernard.

Life magazine picked up this picture and it appeared worldwide. In addition, it hung in schoolrooms across British Columbia during the war. Good news is that Bernard made it back from the war and Detloff was on hand to photograph the family's reunion.

It has just been announced that artists Veronica and Edwin Dam de Nogales have been hired to create a bronze memorial artwork of this photo, which will be displayed in New Westminter's Hyack Square, in almost the exact spot where this photo was taken. It is due to be unveiled in October of 2014.
A speech by Attorney General Martin ultimately led to the demise of the Semlin government. On June 20, 1899 - just after the Kootenay miner's strike began, Martin was giving a speech at a banquet in Rossland. A few angry miner owners in the audience began to heckle Martin. The Attorney General didn't handle it that well and shouting match began, which led to a brawl that had to be broken up by the police. Semlin demanded Martin's resignation and Martin only agreed after the caucus sided with the premier.

That wasn't the end of Joseph Martin though. When the legislative session began in January of 1900, there was Martin sitting with the opposition. Even when Martin was in his cabinet, Semlin did not have a comfortable majority. Now with the man sitting with the opposition, the future of Charles Semlin's government was precarious. The fatal blow came in February of 1900 with the defeat of a major government bill concerning electoral redistribution. 

Semlin advised Lieutenant Governor McInnes of the defeat and requested time to try to regain the confidence of the house. After several days of negotiating, Semlin found several opposition figures that were willing to join his ministry. McInnes ignored Semlin's efforts and dismissed the government. He called on Martin to form a government.

The lieutenant governor's decision caused an uproar in the assembly and they responded by passing a no-confidence vote in Martin. Martin could not govern without a popular and he failed to get that in the June 1900 provincial election. So McInnes turned to James Dunsmuir to form a new administration.

Semlin had represented Yale since British Columbia had entered the confederation. But he didn't run in the 1900 election. He later said:"I felt that I had done my share, and that it was time that younger shoulders were taking up the burdens of public life." He did try to return to politics, winning a by-election in 1903. He didn't run in the provincial election that fall though. He did try provincial politics again in 1907 but lost.

Throughout his political career, Charles Semlin found time to be active in his community. He is said to have helped form a local agricultural association in 1888 (the Inland Agricultural Society of British Columbia perhaps? He was elected president of that organization in 1889.) He was active in the development of the British Columbia Cattleman's Association in 1889.He continued to play a role as the ranching industry faced a series of challenges, including increased competition from ranches in Alberta. 

Semlin also had an interest in Canadian history land and was president of the Yale and Lillooet Pioneer Society for many years. He was a good speaker and was often asked to chair meetings and to act as master of ceremonies. He continued to fill those roles well into his eighties.
Charles Semlin was a life long bachelor - is even listed as single on his death certificate. He did raise a daughter, Mary, and left much of his estate - valued at just over $50,000 and consisting of mainly stock in the Dominion Ranch Limited - to his grandchildren. In one account of his life, written after Semlin's death, a friend said that the girl was adopted. However, according to a census record of 1881, Mary is listed as the daughter of Caroline Williams. Williams was a native woman living with Semlin and using his surname but there is no record of them ever marrying.

This teacher, packer, miner, hotel owner, rancher, politician and school trustee died on November 2, 1927 - less than a month before his 91st birthday. The Vancouver Daily Province carried the news on the front page, pointing out that he was the last surviving member of the province's first legislature. In the editorial column, it reflected that Semlin's adult life had spanned the history of the province of British Columbia since its formal creation in 1871. In Cache Creek, the newspaper observed that his grave was next to a cenotaph commemorating European pioneers "of which the deceased was one of the most beloved."

So that is my telling of the life of Charles Semlin, B.C.'s twelfth premier. I obtained the information from the awesome website, Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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