ESQUIMALT has always been thought of as the wrong side of the tracks, or bridge rather, with the Johnson St Bridge separating it from the rest of Victoria, due to it's history of Industrial activity, it's home to a major Naval base and the resulting socio-economic profile these features tend to foment. Much industrial and commercial activity are a feature of this area, it's structures, and buildings are mixed in with residential homes and apartment blocks that accommodate a high percentage of renters. The inventory of homes has always been generally inferior in planning, architecture, style, and maintenance, and the people who live there of a more blue collar working class background. Newcomers are not aware of this and are always a bit surprised when they find out, as Esquimalt is very centrally located compared to the more remote areas of Greater Victoria accessible only by long commute, but to this day there are still some old-timers in Victoria who refuse to cross the Johnson St bridge into Esquimalt for any reason and not unless absolutely necessary. Many locals who don't actually mind the area won't purchase there because of the old stigmas of the area.
In the past 30 years Esquimalt has experienced a transition similar to what Vic West underwent a couple of decades ago, as people are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of this area with more affluent residences purchasing and renovating the existing housing stock. Many new homes, townhouses and condominium projects are being built there as developers are responding to this demand. With the influx of newcomers into the area the old attitudes of Esquimalt are slowly evaporating.
Esquimalt actually has a very rich history. An aura of things old, romantic and adventurous still clings to Esquimalt. Its streets bear the names of great admirals and ships of the past. It was a naval base in the days of sail-the only base of the Royal Navy in the North Pacific. A lieutenant in the Spanish Navy, Don Manuel Quimper, discovered Esquimalt Harbor. James Douglas, Chief Factor of the Company of Adventurers of England, explored it and recorded its Indian name.
The Flying Squadron dropped anchor there. The Crimean \Var determined its future. Today, Esquimalt is a fascinating mixture of British tradition and Canadian forthrightness. We go to "the village" to do our household shopping. "The Village" consists of three blocks of "shops" and "stores." We pass on our roads comfortable homes in attractive gardens. cheek by jowl with tiny cabins. Strangers ask us why we tolerate those disreputable shacks. We answer that we like "our cabins." They are part of our past. Old sailors and soldiers live in them, old pensioners who can talk of days and battles of long ago. They gather their firewood from the beaches, tend their small garden plots and give you a cheery greeting as you pass.
To us those tiny cabins are part of the atmosphere of Esquimalt, as much a part as its beautiful shoreline. Esquimalt is an Indian name and, like all Indian place names, has a meaning. Esquimalt means "Place of gradually shoaling waters." In naming a river, mountain, inlet or village, the Indians chose what was to them the outstanding characteristic of each and gave it a name, poetic, pointed or pungent, as the case might be. Is-whoy-malth, the original form of Esquimalt, referred to the flats at the head of the harbor near the mouth of Mill Stream. The name was a guide to the most vitally important spot in the harbor to the Indians, the place where they got their drinking water. In pronouncing Is-whoy-malth the Indians prolonged and accented the second syllable.
The correct pronunciation of Esquimalt also accents the second syllable and makes the "i" long and has nothing whatever to do with Eskimos. The story of the white man in Esquimalt covers only a century and a half but is filled with romance of sea and land. It does not begin with Captain Cook or Vancouver, but with the Spaniards, followed a half century later by the hardy pioneers of the great fur-trading company of the West, the Hudson's Bay Company. Clashes with the Indians, excitement of the Gold Rush, preparations for war and the comings and goings of ships of war, are all part of the story.
On the lighter side are social exchanges and frequent romances between the daughters of the Fort at Victoria or the Farms in Esquimalt and the naval officers from the ships anchored in Esquimalt Harbor. Many of the present residents of Victoria and Esquimalt are descendants of these marnages. The early Spanish explorers, a brave and gallant company, were the first white visitors to our harbor. Until they came no one but Indians in their dugouts frequented its sheltered waters. In 1790, on July 19th, Lieutenant Don Manuel Quimper sailed the Princess Real into Esquimalt Harbor and anchored for the night. This sloop was the Princess Royal of Nootka fame, one of the British trading vessels seized by the Spaniards at Nootka Sound. From that busy fur-trading post on the west coast of what is now Vancouver Island, the Princess Royal was sent to San Blas, New Spain (Mexico), as a prize.
This insult to the flag, added to the arrogant claim of the Spaniards to possession of Nootka, almost led to war between England and Spain. The Viceroy of New Spain had ordered the return of the Princess Royal to her rightful owners. Quimper was proceeding in leisurely fashion to fulfill this order. En route, he explored and charted the Strait of Juan de Fuca. He made a rough chart of Esquimalt Harbor and named it Puerto de Cordoya, after the forty-sixth in the long line of Viceroys of Spain. In his journal, Quimper described a landing on a point outside the harbor now called Albert Head. He wrote: "June 20 . I arranged for the other canoe to go ashore with the cross to be planted in the Rada de Solano [ Parry Bay].
At 3 in the afternoon I had the longboat and one of the canoes armed and embarked with the pilot, taking along the cross, for the purpose of taking possession of the farthest roadstead which I named "Valdez y Bazan" [Royal Roads]. At 4 in the afternoon I took possession, planted the cross, buried the bottle ·with all the other ceremonies which the instructions prescribe and fired repeated salutes. The Holy Cross was placed on a mesa which consists of a piece of land without any trees and bears W 08° N (of the compass) from the point at the entrance to the roadstead. The bottle is buried at the back of the Holy Cross at the foot of a pine tree on which a cross was formed by cutting off the bark. This will distinguish it from five others close to it and the only ones in the neighborhood. At 8 :30 I returned on board. On leaving Puerto de Cordova, Quimper sailed cast, vard as far as Gonzalo's Point and Haro Strait, naming both after his first mate, Gonzalo de Lopez de Haro. He then crossed over the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the south, now the American shore.
He examined and gave Spanish names to a number of places from Admiralty Inlet (Ensanada de Caamano) to Neah Bay (Boca de Nunez de Gaona). ELIZA AND NARVAEZ In 1791 the two Spanish ships of the Eliza expedition anchored in Puerto de Cordova. The first to arrive, on May 29th, was the San Carlos, in command of Don Francisco de Eliza, Commandant at Nootka. Eliza had sailed down the west coast of Vancouver Island from Nootka Sound via Clayoquot, where he had made a survey of Clayoquot Sound. On June 11th, the Santa. Saturnina., commanded by Jose Maria Narvaez, entered the Port of Cordova. This little schooner lay in our harbor until July 14h. She was at work filling in Quimper's charts. From the Port of Cordova, Eliza in the San Carlos and Narvaez in the Santa Saturnina cruised eastward and northward into the Strait of Georgia. To that waterway, Eliza gave the leisurely title "Gran Canal de Nuestra Senora del Rosario la Marinera."
One small fraction of this name is found in Rosario Strait, the passage between the San Juan Archipelago and the American mainland. Exploring the Vancouver Island coastline, Eliza reached Cape Lazo, which he named Lazo de la Vega. At this point scurvy and lack of supplies turned him back. Eliza's names are still used for Saturna Island, Orcas Island, and the Ballenas Islands (Islands of ·whales). His crew laid low with scurvy and his own health impaired, Eliza was forced, on their return journey, to leave the work of exploration to Narvaez in the Santa Saturnina .. The latter discovered and named Texada Island, Lasqueti Island and Parlier Pass. Narvaez was the first white man to discover Vancouver's fine harbour, Burrard Inlet. He named it after the Prime Minister of Spain at the time, calling it Boca de Florida Blanca.
The last of our Spanish visitors to Esquimalt Harbor -were two captains of frigates in the Spanish Navy, later to command line-of-battle ships in the Battle of Trafalgar, Don Dionisio Galiano and Don Cayetano Valdes. Their tiny survey vessels, the Sutil and the Mexicana, had been detached from the world--wide scientific and exploring· expedition of Alexandro Malaspina, that great Italian in the service of Spain. Their assignment was to complete the exploration of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, begun by Quimper and Eliza. Although Galiano's ships spent only one night in Puerto de Cordova he described it fully in his journal. "The port of Cordova is beautiful," runs his entry of June 9th, 1792, "and affords good shelter for sailors; but the water is shallow; as we saw, and Tetacus [the Indian child] informed us: the land is very irregular, of slight elevation, and, as the neighborhood shows, the surface of soil on the rock is of little depth.
Nevertheless it is fertile, covered with trees and plants, and these growths arc almost the same as those of Nootka, but wild roses arc most abundant. Also rather more birds are seen and more of the same kind of seagull, duck,.,, kingfishers, and other birds. It was in this port that the schooner Saturnina had to fire at the canoes of the inhabitants to protect the launch of the Packet San Carlos, which came in her company, and which launch they obstinately -wanted to seize." From this description of the shallow water it would seem that the Spaniards anchored their little ships in the upper reaches of Esquimalt Harbor, "the place of gradually shoaling waters." Just inside the entrance is a sheltered harbor where battleships have anchored and deep enough to be navigated safely by the great trans-Atlantic liner, the Queen Elisabeth. Spain's policy of secrecy about her early discoveries drew a veil over the work of her intrepid explorers.
Galiano and Valdes escaped this fate, thanks to Vancouver's generous tribute to them in his Journal. The unexpected meeting off Point Grey of Vancouver and his men in the Discovery and the Chatham, with Galiano and Valdes in the Sutil and Mexicana, their friendly exchange of hospitality, and joint survey of the Strait of Georgia, is an epic which has had no repetition. The course of the Spaniards in their ill-equipped little vessels, only 50 feet 3 inches overall in length, with a beam of 13 feet 10 inches, may be traced along the southeastern shores of Vancouver Island and about the Gulf Islands by the musical Spanish names. The Spaniards were not interested in the search for the North West Passage. They did not want their discoveries in the Pacific made known to the world. The search for this mythical waterway forced Vancouver, in fulfilment of half of his double commission, to explore the deep fjords of the mainland. This kept him away from his own island until he reached the place, above Campbell River, where Vancouver Island pokes its elbow ii1to the ribs of the mainland as if to demand attention. Galiano had brought word that Don Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra was awaiting Vancouver's arrival at Nootka.
The struggle for possession of that wild, romantic spot was coming to an end. Since its discovery by Captain James Cook in 1778, ships of many nations, British, Russian, French, Portuguese, American, had flocked like gulls on the wing to Nootka. They came to secure from Chief Maquinna and his Indians a share of the sea otter skins that had made Cook's men rich. Spain awoke to her lost opportunities. She claimed possession of Nootka. In 1789 she proceeded to occupy and fortify the harbor. She attempted to restrict the fur trade and seized two British ships, the Princess Ro)'al and the Argonaut, imprisoning the crews and sending the ships to San Blas as prizes.
One of the owners of the ships, John Meares, had visited Nootka Sound the year before. He had acquired from Maquinna a tract of land in Friendly Cove for the price of two pistols and had built there a temporary post. Using some Chinese carpenter he brought with him, a small sloop was built, the North America. Wen news of the Spanish action reached Mears, that irrepressible Irishman and ex-naval officer posted off to London, appeared on the floor oi the House of Commons, presented a memorial to the King (George III) giving his account of the Spanish insult and claiming enormous damages.
Anger against Spain rose to feverish heat in England. Preparations for war were made. The Spanish parliament ,vas assembled, the greatest display of Naval strength since the Spanish Armada. Spain capitulated. The "Kootka Convention" was signed. Its terms. by which the seized lands were to be restored, certain damages paid and the fur trade of the North Pacific declared open to all nations, were to he carried out on the spot. Captain George Vancouver was appointed to represent Great Britain. Senor Bodega y Quadra was Spain's emissary. Vancouver decided to continue his explorations on his way to Nootka.
With the Discovery and the Chatham he carried on to the northward, exploring· and charting with meticulous care the intricate channels and fjords on the mainland side of the Gulf of Georgia. Galiano and Valdes. The Sutil and Mexicana examined its western shores. The brave explorers of two rival nations worked harmoniously together, meeting at intervals and exchanging charts and information. In the fjord, named Desolation Sound by Vancouver from its forbidding aspect, the four ships anchored together for almost three weeks. According to Vancouver Senors Galiano and Valdes now begged leave to decline accompanying us further, as the powers they possessed in their miserable vessels, were unequal to a co-operation with us, and being apprehensive their attendance would retard our progress.'
Pressing on, the Discovery and the Chatham negotiated Seymour Narrows safely, passed through Johnstone and Queen Charlotte Straits and on August 5th, 1792, sailed out into the open Pacific. Vancouver had prayed that Nootka was situated on a large island. Galiano and Valdes followed at their slower pace. Off the northern end of the island, they discovered Goletas Channel and named it after their little schooners or goletas in Spanish. The Sutil and Mexicana, passed out to sea through this channel on their way to Nootka. Vancouver reached Nootka Sound on August 28th. He was received with great courtesy and hospitality by Sefior Quadra. In conference, however, they disagreed over their interpretation of the terms of the "Nootka Convention." Quadra offered a partial restitution of lands. Vancouver refused to accept. Neither would give in.
They agreed, at last, to refer the matter back _to their respective governments for further instructions. Throughout this period of heated argument the personal friendship between these two great men remained unshaken. In recognition of their mutual respect and admiration, Vancouver named the large island, first circumnavigated by him, the "Island of Quadra and Vancouver.'' On the old Admiralty charts the name "Quadra and Vancouver's Island" appeared. In early Hudson's Bay records the form "Vancouver's Island" was used. Spain's dream of possession of the whole western coast of North America faded with her frustration at Nootka. In 1795 she gave up all claim to sovereignty over lands north of California. In the three summer seasons that Vancouver spent on this coast, wintering in the Sandwich Islands, he surveyed and charted the vast unknown coastline from
Puget Sound to Alaska. Vancouver, by sea, the fur traders by land, established firmly Britain's claim to the western outskirts of Canada, now the Province of British Columbia. Few traces of the Spaniards were left on our shores. At Nootka some bricks lining a well and some Spanish tiles were found. In Esquimalt, the broken butt of an old Spanish pistol ornamented with brass was picked up in 1872 and is now in the Provincial archives. A rusted Spanish halberd head was found, in the spring oi 1939, by the late Captain Oswald R. Parker, then Superintendent of the Dominion Craving Dock at Esquimalt. Captain Parker discovered the halberd head in his garden, buried under the stump of an old oak tree. The roots of the oak had grown completely around the ancient weapon. The scarcity of Spanish relics may be explained by the "taking ways" of the natives recorded by early explorers. Quimper reported that his cross on Albert Head was removed by the Indians soon after it was planted. The bottle was never found. Today, Victoria, capital of British Columbia, and Esquimalt, naval Lase of the Royal Canadian navy stand side by side, on the southern tip of the island that Vancouver refused to surrender to the Spaniards. They are the doorsteps leading down to the Pacific Ocean on Canada's side of that colossal duplex house that is North America.
The little ships of Spain weighed anchor and sailed away. The blue hills brooded over the calm, sunny waters of Esquimalt Harbor. Fifty years were to pass before these waters would again be ruffled by the white man's activities. Tetacus, the Indian Chief, described by Galiano as ''an obliging and honest man," was left with his people in undisturbed possession of the land. Disturbing events to the south were to shatter that place. The trek of the "Covered Wagons" across the plain,- and mountains of America had begun. The influx of settlers from the United States into the Oregon territory threatened the sovereignty of the Hudson's Bay Company over that rich land. The Oregon Boundary Dispute had reached the boiling point. The chances of the Columbia River becoming the boundary between British and American territory grew slimmer. The fate of the Company's vast trading depot at Fort Vancouver on the Lower Columbia hung in the balance. Far-sighted officials turned their eyes northward.
They would pick out a site for a new trading post in territory indisputably British. Outstanding in a company ·whose service attracted strong personalities. were two men at Fort Vancouver. Dr. Jim McLaughlin and James Douglas. Both men were tall, over six feet, of fine physique and commanding presence. Jim McLaughlin was known to the Indians of the Pacific slope. from his crown of snow white hair, as "The Great White Eagle." He was in charge of all the Hudson's Bay Company's affairs from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific and from California to Alaska. Under his brilliant direction, with the able assistance of the young Chief Factor, James Douglas, Fort Vancouver had become a vast and lucrative farm as well as a rich fur trading depot. It was no mean task that McLoughlin assigned to Douglas, to select a site to replace Fort Vancouver. Embarking at Fort Nisqually (near Tacoma) with a party of six men in the spring of 1842, James Douglas crossed the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the Company's sloop, Cadboro. He made a careful survey of the south coast of Vancouver's Island. Rejecting the more westerly shoreline as too exposed, he concentrated on the three harbors of Sy-yousung (Sooke Harbour), Is-whoy-malth (Esquimalt Harbor) and Camosack (Victoria Harbour). Esquimalt Harbor was closely examined by Douglas. His report to Dr. McLoughlin, dated July 12th, 1842, at Fort Vancouver, sums up his impressions.
"Is-whoy-malth ... is one of the best Harbors on the Coast," he writes, "being perfectly safe and of easy Access, but in other respects it possesses no Attractions . . . . The Shores of the Harbor are rugged and precipitous, and I did not see One level Spot clear of Trees of sufficient Extent to build a large Fort upon; there is in fact no clear land within a Quarter of a Mile of the Harbor, and that lies in small Patches here and there on the Acclivities and Bottoms of the rising Ground. At a greater Distance are Two elevated Plains, on different Sides of the Harbor, containing several Bottoms of rich Land, the largest of which does not exceed Fifty Acres of clear Space, much broken by Masses of Limestone and Granite. "Another serious Objection to this Place is the Scarcity of fresh Water. There are several good Runs Winter, but we found them all dried up, and we could not manage to fill a single Beaker in the Harbor."
With the picture in his mind of Fort Vancouver surrounded by its three thousand acres of fertile fields and orchards, it is not surprising that James Douglas rejected our rocky, forest-clad shores in favor of the Port and Canal of Camosack, which . .. I think the most advantageous place for the new Establishment .... at Camosack, there is a pleasant and convenient Site for the Establishment within Fifty Yards of the Anchorage, on the Border of a large Tract of clear Land, which extends Eastward to Point Gonzalo at the South-east Extremity of the Island, and about Six Miles interiorly, being the most picturesque and decidedly the most valuable Part of the Island that we had the good Fortune to discover.
"More than Two Thirds of this Section consist of Prairie Land, and may be converted either to-Purposes of Tillage or Pasture, for which I have seen no Part of the Indian Country better adapted." Opinions differed on this choice. Two British Army officers, Lieutenant Warre and Lieutenant Vavasour of the Royal Engineers, sent out by the British authorities on a military mission to Oregon, visited the Fort in 1845. They reported to the Secretary of State for the Colonies : "Fort Victoria is situated on the southern end of Vancouver's Island, in the small harbor of Cammusan, the entrance to which is rather intricate. The fort is a square enclosure of 100 yards, surrounded by cedar pickets, 20 feet in height, having two octagonal bastions, containing each six 6-pounder iron guns at the north-east and south-west angles; the buildings are made of squared timber, eight in number, forming three sides of an oblong. This fort has lately been established; it is badly situated with regard to water and position, which latter has been chosen for its agricultural advantages only. "About three miles distant, and nearly connected by a small inlet, is the Esquimalt Harbor, which is very commodious, and accessible at all times, offering a much better position, and having also the advantage of a supply of water in the vicinity."
These officers were thinking in terms of harbors and cities rather than trading posts. Douglas, on the other hand, was choosing a site for a Hudson's Bay fort, which, after the first year when stock and seed would be supplied, had to be self-supporting. In March of the following year, 1843, Douglas arrived off Clover Point with a party of fifteen men in the little Hudson's Bay steamer, Beaver, the first steamship to ply these Pacific waters. Under his energetic direction the building of the fort on Camosack Harbor went on apace. The Songhees Indians from Esquimalt and Cadboro Bay who gathered near, helped by supplying cedar pickets for the stockade at forty twenty-two foot pickets for one blanket. The Indians' name for the district around Camosack Harbor was "Camosun," meaning "Place for Gathering Camass." The sight of blue drifts of this lovely native wiid flower, the Camass, which still grows in such profusion about Victoria, delighted red and white man alike but for a different reason. To the Indians it meant food. Its roots supplied the only starch in their diet until the potato came. The "Gathering of the Camass" was for them a ceremonial occasion. The "large Tract of clear Land" that decided the position of the Fort and the present city of Victoria. is believed to have resulted from the constant digging by Indian women with their sharpened sticks for the roots of the camass. Contemporary records do not use the name, Camosun, for the Fort but, as the Indians did, for the neighborhood. This musical and meaningful Indian name is frequently referred to as the original name of the new fort but "Fort Camosun" was never given official recognition. In the Hudson's Bay Company's records, the post was called from the beginning, Fort Victoria.
Esquimalt was not yet assigned a role in naval affairs. Headquarters of the Pacific Squadron of the Royal Navy were maintained, afloat, in a Store and Depot Ship in the Chilian harbor of Valparaiso. The few naval ships that visited Camosun made their base on the American side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca at Port Discovery, which Vancouver had charted. Officers and men calling at the Hudson's Bay post had to cross the Strait in the ships' boats. The first naval ship to visit the new British outpost was H.M.S. Modeste, a corvette commanded by Captain Thomas Baillie. In July, 1844, the Modeste was sent from Valparaiso to guard British interests at Fort Vancouver. In August, she sailed north to call at the new Hudson's Bay fort at Camosun on Vancouver's Island. During the summer of 1845, the frigate H.M.S. America, came to anchor in Port Discovery under the command of Captain, the Hon. John Gordon, brother of the Earl of Aberdeen, at that time Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Among his officers was Lieutenant William Peel, the brilliant young son of Sir Robert Peel, Prime Minister of Great Britain. In the memoirs of Roderick Finlayson, Chief Factor in charge at Fort Victoria from 1844 to 1849, we get a graphic account of Captain Gordon's visit.
He writes:- "Proceeding to the vessel I went on board accompanied by the officers sent for me, remained three days and during that time I gave the commander all the information I could about the country. The object of the vessel coming here was to obtain full information concerning the country & report to the English Government previous to the settlement of the boundary line. During my stay on board Capt. Parke of the Marines; Lieut. Peel, a son of Sir Robert Peel, were sent across to the Columbia River to obtain information & to report on the country in relation to its value to Great Britain. Capt. Gordon crossed with me to Victoria in a launch, where he remained some time. Vie had some fi1:e horses for the use of the Captain & his officers & we paid them every attention. We went out on one occasion to Cedar Hill [Mount Douglas] to shoot about the first of June.
The country looked beautiful, carpeted as it was with · beautiful wild flowers. Capt. Gordon was a great deer stalker. We met a band of deer & had a chase after them on horseback. The deer ran for a thicket into which the horses with their riders could not penetrate and of course no deer were had. "The Captain felt much disappointed & was anything but happy. I said to him that I was very sorry we had missed the deer, and also remarked how beautiful the country looked. He said in reply-'Finlayson, I would not give the most barren hills in the Highlands of Scotland for all I see around me.' We went back to the fort. I was then a bachelor, had a cot slung in the bare walls which I handed over to the Captain, whilst I and the officers slept on the floor. In the morning we had a nice salmon for breakfast. The Captain seemed somewhat surprised & asked where the salmon was had. We have plenty of salmon, was the reply.
Have you got flies & rods, said the Captain. We have lines & bait was the answer & sometimes the Indians take them with the net &c. No fly, no fly, responded our guest. So after breakfast we went to fish with the line, from a dingey. "When we came back we had four fine salmon, but he thought it an awful manner in which to catch salmon." Doubtless this incident was the origin of the local fiction circulated for many years after the settlement of the Oregon Boundary Dispute, that: "Great Britain lost Oregon because, forsooth, the salmon of that country did not know enough to take the fly." Through the shrewd, observant eyes of these "first westerners" and from their graphic reports; we are given vivid pictures and a first-hand knowledge of life as it was like in their day on Vancouver's Island.Paul Kane, the young Toronto artist who visited Fort Victoria in 1847, was among the first, if not the first, to use Esquimalt in almost its present form. In his book, "Wanderings of an Artist among the Indians of North America, from Canada to Vancouver's Island and Oregon through the Hudson's Bay Company's Territory and Back Again," although slightly confused in his geography, he spelled the name Esquimelt.
Important events affecting the future of this tiny British outpost followed thick and fast in 1849. Whether the man attracts events or events the man best fitted to cope with them, this year saw the arrival at Fort Victoria of James Douglas. Transfer of the headquarters of the Western Department of the Hudson's Bay Company from Fort Vancouver to Fort Victoria was completed in 1849. Dr. McLaughlin had retired. James Douglas was in charge. He came with his wife and family to take up residence at Fort Victoria in June of this eventful year. Fate was to place the affairs, not only of the great fur-trading Company, but also those of the future Crown Colonies of Vancouver Island and of British Columbia in the hands of this man of courage, wisdom and great foresight. . In this same year, the whole of Vancouver's Island was leased to the Hudson's Bay Company at an annual rental of seven shillings "upon condition that the said Governor and Company should form on the said island a settlement or settlements, as hereinafter mentioned, for the purpose of colonizing the said island, " The Royal Grant was signed on January 13th, 1849, after a bitter debate in the Commons in which Gladstone was among those who strongly opposed the ceding of any more land to the Great Monopoly. Rivals to the Hudson's Bay Company had appeared on the scene.
One, James Edward Fitzgerald, wished to promote a joint stock company for the colonization of Vancouver's Island by "gentlemen of birth, intelligence, education, and enterprise." The establishment of a Mormon colony on the Island was another scheme. A long memorial, signed by Thomas D. Brown of Liverpool, one of the fifteen thousand Mormons living in Great Britain, was presented to Queen Victoria. It urged "the Relief by Emigration of a Portion of her poor subjects." The distaste with which the young Queen viewed his proposal from a sect believing in plural marriage can be seen in its emphatic rejection by Her Ministers. There was also the fear of another invasion of American settlers such as had pushed the British out of Oregon. This scheme called for the establishment of "a stake in Zion" by the British Mormons, to be joined later by "Latter-Day Saints" from America. The powerful, Hudson's Bay Company with its knowledge of the country, its great resources and unquestioned loyalty to the Crown, won the day. The lease was granted but with the colonization clause so unpopular with officials of the fur-trading Company.
They saw clearly the impossibility of colonization going hand in hand with the fur trade. The final outstanding event of this year, 1849, was the establishment of the Crown Colony of Vancouver Island, with the appointment of a Governor, sent out from England. Governor Blanshard did not reach Fort Victoria until March, 1850. A chilly reception, no residence, no remuneration and no public affairs to administer. created an impossible situation for the new Governor. He resigned and returned to England after one unhappy year. James Douglas was appointed Governor in his place. A member of the Douglas family tells an interesting anecdote of the arrival late one night of a party of naval officers, bearing the Commissions appointing James Douglas Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Vancouver Island and also Vice Admiral. The officers had come on foot over the blazed trail from Esquimalt Harbor to the Indian village, described by one of them as "a very hold-your-nose kind of place."
For a potlatch of tobacco they were ferried across to the Fort in an Indian dugout. It was late by the time they _reached their destination. James Douglas received them in a paisley patterned dressing gown and tasselled smoking cap. After the ceremony of presentation of the Commissions, the officers were glad to turn in to the bachelors' quarters for the rest of the night. A few days later, the officers entertained the ladies of the Fort on board their ship. Walking the quarterdeck with one of the fairest, a young officer thought himself a very fine fellow when she told him how glad she was to see him. She brought him to earth with her next remark, "You see the Governor kills once a week when a ship is in instead of once a month." Stock had to be conserved in those days. The peace of Esquimalt was scarcely rippled by the momentous happenings of this period. Its only activities were the Hydrographic Survey of the Harbor for the Admiralty in the summers of 1846 and 1848 by Lieutenant-Commander James Wood and the construction in 1848 of a saw mill at the head of the Harbor. As yet there was no settlement on its shores. Soon after the reins of government were placed in the hands of Governor Douglas, the shores of Esquimalt Harbor ceased to be a part of the primeval wilderness.