Friday, February 20, 2015

Black's Bear

Gastown's first butcher, George Black, arrived in 1872. He built a house, shop and abattoir (slaughterhouse) almost opposite Deighton House - Gassy Jack's establishment. Black's house hung out over the water on piles. His Fraser River cattle and local hogs were slaughtered on the back platform, the carcasses hoisted for cleaning and flaying by the same crane that later lowered them into his boat.

This boat was equipped with a butcher's and George, along with a helper, rowed out to the ships in the harbour to sell or deliver meat. His hogs roamed the beach, feeding on offal, mussels and clams. George was described as a genial 'sporting' man who owned and raced horses.

Another creature George is rumoured to have owned is a pet bear. Unfortunately, the bear became noisy, undisciplined and difficult to handle so Black shipped the bear to Victoria on the famous ship SS Beaver.  On that voyage, the bear got loose and the crew took to the rigging. It was a lively hour or two on the ancient sidewheeler before the beast was caught and penned up again.

1873 and Gastown is becoming more civilized. The first school opened in January of that year. Georgia Sweney, daughter of the millwright, taught the students in a 18 by 40 foot building at the mill. Captain William Soule was the head stevedore, Alexander and Constable Miller were the board. The school district included the area within a three-mile radius with the mill as its centre.

Reverend Mr. Owen dedicated the school and there were 16 pupils in the first class - Indian, Kanaka and white.

On Sundays, Reverence Owen, an Anglican, and Ebenezer Robson, a Methodist, preached in the schoolroom.

Miss Sweney married at the end of her first term and discontinued teaching. The board hired Mrs. Richards - a young and pretty widow - as her successor. They were hoping she would stay longer.

1873 progressed in the tiny village of Granville or Gastown. At the end of the year, the population reached sixty-five. The mill crew and the married employees living on mill property undoubtedly outnumbered the townspeople.

1873 was the year John Peabody Patterson, his wife Susan and their two daughters arrived at the mill. On Abbie Patterson's birthday, the school was let out early with sports and races for everyone. Captain Fry of the ship Niagra brought a big pan of currant buns from the ship's galley and those were distributed as prizes. The adults playing cards in the schoolhouse that night and danced to the music of a concertina and a violin.

Mrs. Patterson was just the sort of person Gastown needed. She was a hard boiled angel of mercy,earning the title of 'the Grace Darling of Burrard Inlet' in later years. She tended the sick and injured, 'never quailed from hardship, danger or disease'. She could defeat a drunken or brutal husband with a look and a word.

One dark and stormy night, Mrs. Patterson went to the aid of Mrs. Erwin, the seriously-ill wife of the Point Atkinson light-keeper. This was a night when even the boldest of tug boat skippers would not face the wind and waves. But the Grace Darling of Burrard Inlet (this is when she earned the nickname) and two Indians ventured out in a canoe. They arrived at the lighthouse just as dawn broke.

Thanks goes to the book,  Vancouver, From Milltown to Metropolis by Alan Morley for the above information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Aren't these flowers beautiful? These photos were taken last week! Spring is coming, at least to Vancouver. The cherry blossoms are starting to appear.


  1. Fantastic. I love strong women. Great story.

    1. I think many women back then were strong. They had to be!