Monday, August 12, 2013

Premier Number 14

Photo taken from The Canadian Encyclopedia

This photo is from Wikipedia
And this one is compliments of the Times-Colonist newspaper

And this portrait was painted in 1920 by Victor Albert Long. I got it from

Our fourteenth premier was James Dunsmuir, son of Robert Dunsmuir and Joanna (Joan) Olive White Dunsmuir. He was born on July 8, 1851 in Fort Vancouver (Vancouver, Washington) while his parents were emigrating from Scotland to Vancouver Island.

James started life in his parents' crude log cabin in Fort Rupert (near Port Hardy, B.C.) but he would experience his family's rise to a position of wealth, power and prestige. James received his early education at schools in Nanaimo. His father obtained the position of mines supervisor for the Vancouver Coal Mining and Land Company.

At the age of 16, James began an apprenticeship as a machinist. He was following in the coal mining families tradition of sons patterning their careers after their fathers. James would spend two years working at the Willamette Iron Works in Oregon.
It was during this time that the elder Dunsmuir discovered the rich Wellington coal seam north of Nanaimo. He staked his claim and with the financial support of naval officers, created Dunsmuir Diggle Limited in 1873. Suddenly, James' prospects improved. He went to Dundas Wesleyan Boys' Institute in Dundas, Ontario for higher learning and polish before going to Virginia Agriculture and Mechanical College in Blacksburg, VA in 1874 where he studied mining engineering.

While he was in Virginia, he met Laura Surles, the sister of a classmate. The two were married in 1876 and then returned to Nanaimo. The Dunsmuir's status had improved greatly from the days when they lived in the log cabin as was seen when the coastal steamer Cariboo Fly, made a special trip from Victoria to Nanaimo with the bridal party.

James became mine manager for his father and Laura integrated herself into the elite society of her new home. In less than a year, the couple's first child arrived, followed by ten more over the next 17 years. Nine of those survived infancy. James was 52 when his last child, a daughter, was born. 
Between  1876 and 1881, James was in the difficult position of being manager of the Wellington Mine. It was difficult because his father was only a few miles away at the corporate and shipping office at Departure Bay and the community knew who was in charge. During a strike in 1877 then a fire and explosion in 1879, Robert took command. James seemed to live in his father's shadow. Even in his obituary in the Nanaimo Free Press, more space was dedicated to the elder Dunsmuir rather than James. 

James was not weak though and he didn't mismanage the mine. Under his guidance, production rose almost 350 percent and the number of shipping wharves and rail locomotives each increased from two to five. Working with two employees, James created British Columbia's first telephone from information gathered from the Scientific American. So James' transfer to Departure Bay wasn't a demotion. The company had simply grown too large for one person to handle the day-to-day management of both mining and shipping. It was corporate expansion and Robert's widening interests that brought James to Departure Bay.

John Bryden, Robert's son-in-law replaced James at the Wellington Mine. Bryden had been joint manager for the Vancouver Coal Mining and Land Company in Nanaimo - an uncomfortable position considering he was married to the daughter of the competition!

I would like to thank my usual source for information on politicians - the Dictionary of Canadian Biography

Since I started this blog with four photos of James Dunsmuir, here is a photo of his father, Robert Dunsmuir.
Although I got this photo through Google Images and they sourced it from The Dictionary of Canadian Biography, this is actually from the Vancouver Island University website.
I hope you find the beauty around you.

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