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.

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