Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Sore Losers

Ever since its beginnings, British Columbia had been tormented by the bitter feud going on between the official clique and its supporters - more British than the British - and the growing Canadian element. For two decades, the battlegrounds were New Westminster and Victoria. After all, Burrard Inlet was too insignificant to be bothered with. And in its first election, Vancouver made its choice - the city is Canadian.

When R.H. Alexander taunted the newcomers as being "North American Chinese" then tried to oppose them at the polls with the real Chinese, it was the last showdown between the old vendetta and new wave. As we know, the old guard was defeated.

The old timers didn't accept the defeat gracefully. They started a petition to have the election voided and unseat newly elected mayor, MacLean. There were threats of violence, which didn't amount to anything.

The new city council held its first meeting on May 10, 1886. In addition to the mayor, there were 10 aldemen: Joseph Griffiths, Robert Balfour, Thomas Dunn, Charles A. Coldwell, E.P. Hamilton, Joesph Northcott, L.A. Hamilton, Peter Cordiner, Harry Hemlow and Joseph Humphries. The meeting was held at 2:30 pm in Jonathan Miller's house.

The city archivist recreated the scene:

"Mrs. Miller cleared the dining-room table. Some laid their hats upon it, others got more chairs out of the three or four jail cells (the jail was behind the house), an oil lamp swung above, the tiny room was crowded, the audience, such as could, peered through the open door.

"The poll clerk, the late Gardner Johnson, swore in the mayor-elect, and then the mayor swore in the ten alderman. A bystander... went round the corner and came back with a pad of paper, a pen and a bottle of ink and wrote "City of Vancouver" across the top of the first sheet."

The main business of the meeting was appointment of officials. J. Huntley was appointed city clerk pro-term at $75 a month; John Boultbee was appointed the police magistrate with no salary; J.P. Lawson assessment clerk and city engineer at $75 a month.

"As for city treasurer," said MacLean "I do not see any particular hurry for this appointment, having no cash to deposit in his hands."

The first communication dealt with was an offer from Silsby Manufacturing Co. of a second-hand fire engine on reasonable terms.

Thanks to Alan Morley and his book Vancouver From Milltown to Metropolis for the above information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Rise of the Newcomers

When I left off Monday, the town of Granville was just given royal assent to incorporate the City of Vancouver. Ninety-five years after explorers Narvaez and Verdia first talked to the Indians of Musqueam, the City of Vancouver came into existence. Then it ran from Heatley Avenue on the east to Trafalgar Street on the West, from Burrard Inlet on the north to Sixteenth Avenue on the south.

The newly formed city's first order of business was to form a city government. The difficulty with that was that although more than 400 people signed the petition for the new city, few of them had lived in Granville for at least a year. In fact, all of Burrard Inlet had only 175 names on the provincial voters list.

So in order to qualify to vote in the city election, a person had to own land, possess a cabin, room or lease of the value of $5 a month. Four hundred and sixty-seven votes were cast in the election of May 3, 1886.

The two candidates were Hastings Mill manager, R. H. Alexander and real estate dealer, M.A. MacLean. It was a battle between the old timers and the new comers.

Alexander had a few things working against him. First, he employed Chinese labour at a time when the Chinese were being released from the railway construction. This led to hard feelings because the Caucasian workers felt the Chinese were taking jobs away from them.

Another error made by Alexander was the attempt to get the Chinese workers to vote. His supporters marched the Chinese workers in a large body to the polls. Stage driver, Charlie Green charged the procession with his vehicle. The whites drove the bewildered workers back to the mill with clubs and fists.

At the close of polling, Malcom A. MacLean was elected by 242 to 225 votes. It was a victory for the newcomers.

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

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Damned Vancouver Fellows

L.A. Hamilton was continuing with his survey of the Granville townsite and it wasn't easy. The original layout, he complained, made it impossible to avoid some irregular corners downtown. The sale of some "City of Liverpool" lots to Joseph Spratt added more difficulties. This hiccup forced a jog in Hastings at Burrard.

Hamilton had his achievements too. One of them was a "mile-long peephole" hewed in the forest where Granville Street now runs.

 The names of the streets downtown are those of CPR officials - Hamilton was, after all, a CPR surveyor - and the streets in the West End came mainly from Admiralty charts and provincial dignitaries.

When the survey was complete, the CPR decided whether a landholder or the railway got first choice concerning a lot of land through a draw of hat. That was the 1884 settlement.

In later years, Hamilton confessed he had "cooked the draw" in favour of Brighouse so that he might retain the lots on which the "three greenhorns" had built their cabin in 1862. (For more information on the "three greenhorns" see this entry.)

Granville was a hard-boiled, hard-drinking, hard-living town. Cards and alcohol were everywhere. The night before the land draw, CPR president, Van Horne, was unmercifully skinned in a poker game. The next morning, he told Hamilton,

"Keep your eyes open. Theses damned Vancouver fellows will steal the pants off you."

David and Isaac Oppenheimer formed a syndicate, where they bought part of the Hastings Mill site and logged the land between Carrall Street and Gore Avenue in addition to getting ready to open a wholesale and retail grocery at the corner of Powell and Columbia streets. During an all-night poker game, one of the players woke to find four queens in his hand. He looked around suspiciously.

"Who dealt?" he asked.
"Ikey." someone answered.
"Who cut?"
"I pass." said the drowsy gentleman and threw his hand in.

David Oppenheimer went on to become our second mayor.

The person who recorded the above incident saw the owner of a general store at Water and Alexander Streets, Hugh Keefer, bet $100 on which of two flies crawling up a bar mirror would reach the top first.  Some people will bet on anything!

Then again, a man had to be a gambler to live in Granville. People who settled in the townsite by the inlet bet his time, his future and his earthly possessions on the hamlet in the wilderness becoming something.

Granville was growing rapidly. Hamilton recorded there were barley 100 habitable buildings in the town as the end of February 1886. By the middle of May, there were at least 600 inhabited by speculators, merchants, families and worker required to build 500 buildings in 75 days.

In January 432 residents of Granville signed a petition to the provincial Legislature asking the City of Vancouver be incorporated. There was opposition from representatives of New Westminster but the act received third reading April 2, at 7:30 pm and Lieutenant-Governor C.F. Cornwall gave it royal assent April 6.

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

I hope you find the beauty around you.