Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Yanks are Coming!

The date was April 25, 1858. And the Americans invaded British Columbia. Actually, it was a peaceful, raucous group of American miners who disembarked from the side-wheeler Commander and came to shore in Victoria. They were the first of about 25,000 men who stopped to replenish supplies on their way to the Fraser River gold fields.

The arrival of so many Americans made us a bit nervous. In November, the governor of the Colony of Vancouver Island - James Douglas - was appointed governor of the Colony of British Columbia to ensure that British interests were promoted while the American influx was discouraged.

From B.C.'s earliest days of European settlement, the Americans have had some influence. In fact, even today I know of people who think that, at least geographically, British Columbia would have been better being a part of the United States. We have those little bumps called the Rocky Mountains separating us from the rest of Canada.

In 1869, a movement for union with the United States was gaining support. A letter was sent to President Andrew Johnson, asking for "the Acquisition of this colony by the United States". The supporters saw an unrestricted market, growth in population and investment, improvement in mail and communications, less expensive government and protection. Johnson wasn't interested in the deal and on July 20, 1871, British Columbia entered the Dominion of Canada.

However, we can still American influence in our names, habits, customs and founders. Americans have played a vital role in the foundation of this province and its cities.

Stanley Park was originally a military reserve set up to guard against possible American aggression. Burnaby's  Central Park was named for the one in New York City, birthplace of the wife of entrepreneur David Oppenheimer. 9th Avenue's name was changed to Broadway in May of 1909. Was that an attempt to encourage American interests in Vancouver's growing real estate market?

Sewell Prescott Moody bought the bankrupt Burrard Inlet Mills in 1865 and turned it into a thriving business. The waterfront area became known as Moodyville and renowned for its high-quality timber. Moody was born in Maine.

Benjamin Tingley (B.T.) Rogers came to Vancouver in 1889 from his birthplace of Pennsylvania. B.T. was owner of the B.C. Sugar Refinery and became one of the cities wealthiest men. Rogers and the city council negotiated a sweet deal for Rogers. A $30,000 "bonus", 15 tax free years, free ten-year water supply and a perpetual guarantee of water at ten cents per 4,545 litres. All Rogers had to do he would only hire white labourers. A sign of the times.

I am getting this information from a book titled The Greater Vancouver Book, An Urban Encyclopaedia. The article I am referring to is in the "Peoples" section and is by Georgina Bullen and is aptly named Americans.

Thank you Diana for the book.

I hope you find the beauty around you.


  1. Ah Americans. Knew at sometime we would have something to add to history. Nice piece.

    1. There are more Americans who left their stamp on my city and province. Read more on Friday!