History Of Victoria BC
We’re a city full of history and heritage.
Victoria is Western Canada’s second oldest town, incorporated as a City on August 2, 1862.
The Lekwungen People
Victoria is built on the traditional land of the Lekwungen People (pronounced Le-KWUNG-en). The Songhees and Esquimalt Nations are a part of the Coast Salish family and are descendants of the Lekwungen household groups. Lekwungen is the first language of the land. The Lekwungen People hunted and gathered here for thousands of years before European exploration, carefully handling the territory through controlled burning and food farming.
Launched in 2008, the signals of Lekwungen is an interpretive walkway across the Inner Harbour and surrounding regions that honours the art, culture and history of the Coast Salish people.
Captain James Cook – 1778
In spring 1778, Captain James Cook became the first known European to set foot on what is now British Columbia. Permanent European settlement, long delayed, was caused by the slow movement of the fur trade companies towards the Pacific Coast.
On March 13, 1843, Chief Factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company James Douglas, accompanied by the pioneer Roman Catholic missionary Father J.B.Z. Bolduc, anchored off Clover Point at the”Beaver.” The following day he chose the site for Fort Victoria. From mid-June, Chief Factor Charles Ross was busy at work building the new article.
The Hudson’s Bay Company – 1843
The City of Victoria was founded by the Hudson’s Bay Company on March 14, 1843, as a trading post and fort in the place the Lekwungen People called”Camosack” significance”Rush of Water.”
Supposes that under the Oregon Treaty, then being drawn up, the 49th parallel could be picked as the International Boundary Line, the Hudson’s Bay Company transferred its fort from Vancouver on the Columbia River into the southern end of Vancouver Island. Thereafter, for a brief while, it was known locally as”Fort Albert,” but by resolution passed by the Council of the Northern Department of the Business meeting at Fort Garry on June 10, 1843, it was formally named”Fort Victoria” after the amazing British Queen.
To buttress the British claim north of the 49th parallel, the Hudson’s Bay Company, by Royal Grant dated January 13, 1849, obtained title to the whole of Vancouver Island, but only on condition that colonization ought to be undertaken. By midsummer, Chief Factor James Douglas was in residence at Fort Victoria to start this endeavor, with the aid of his colleagues in the fur trade.
Crown Colony of Vancouver Island – 1849
Constitutional history began in 1849 with the production by the Imperial Government of the Crown Colony of Vancouver Island and on March 11, 1850, Richard Blanshard officially assumed office as Governor of the Colony of Vancouver Island. It was a wintry day, but every attempt was made to make the service as impressive as possible, including a salute in the 1 firearms of H.M.S. Driver and a response from the bastion guns of the fort. All accessible British residents and a complement of sailors from the”Driver” were constructed in front of the fort to listen to the newly-arrived Governor browse the Royal Commission, appointing him the first Governor of the first Crown Colony to be established in British land west of the Great Lakes.
The Gold Rush – 1858
The existence of this tiny community of Victoria, numbering roughly 230 men, women and kids in 1854, based in the company of the Hudson’s Bay Company until 1858 when gold was discovered in the mainland of British Columbia. Then miners and adventurers in the gold fields of California and Australia, and from all areas of the world, flocked to Victoria that was the only sea port and outfitting center for the gold fields of the Cariboo. The first ship bringing these contemporary argonauts, the”Commodore” – a wooden side-wheel American steamer, entered Victoria harbour on Sunday morning, April 25, 1858, just as the townspeople were returning homeward from church. With astonishment, they watched as 450 men disembarked – average gold-seekers, complete with blankets, miner’s pans and spades and guns; and it’s estimated that within a couple weeks, over 20,000 had landed.
The gold rush was on in earnest and the quiet of Victoria shattered forever. Overnight, as it were, a town of tents sprang up around the fort and spread out over either side of James Bay. While the great bulk of these people were just transients, the rush of gold-seekers on the way to the diggings on the Fraser River abruptly shifted”Fort Victoria” from a sleepy village into a bustling commercial center. A crazy land-boom followed, and one reads of town lots which were going begging one day at $25 apiece, being snapped up a week later at $3,000 each.
With the discovery of gold on the Fraser and Thompson Rivers on the mainland, and due to the consequent”rush,” the Crown Colony of British Columbia was inaugurated at Fort Langley on November 19, 1858, with the following decision to”lay out and settle the website of a city to be the capital of British Columbia on February 14, 1859, in New Westminster.”
Parliamentary authorities in British Columbia dates back to August 12, 1856, when Governor James Douglas convened the first Legislative Assembly of Vancouver Island in Fort Victoria. In 1859, government buildings were constructed at James Bay, south Fort, and christened “The Birdcages.” In constant use for nearly 40 years (except for the short period 1866-68 when New Westminster, not Victoria, was the capital) they had been replaced in the 1890’s by the current Parliament Buildings, completed late in 1897. The formal opening took place on February 10, 1898, when Lieutenant Governor R.R. MacInnes drove up in his carriage to start the first session of the Provincial Legislature to be held at the new buildings.
City Incorporation – 1862
The name “Victoria” was adopted when the townsite was laid out in 1852. Victoria was incorporated as a City on August 2, 1862. Mr. Thomas Harris was chosen (by acclamation) as Victoria’s first Mayor on August 16, 1862, and he presided at the City Council’s first meeting held on August 25, 1862.
Union of the Colonies – 1866
With the waning of the gold excitement, the continued separate existence of the Crown Colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia became impractical and costly. Early in August 1866, an Act for the Union of the colonies was passed by the Imperial Parliament. It became effective at noon on November 19, 1866, when it was proclaimed simultaneously from both capitals. In Victoria, there was no rejoicing, and in New Westminster just a”little knot of people” gathered in front of the government offices to listen to the Acting High Sheriff of British Columbia, J.A.R. Homer, read the proclamation. Not a cheer was raised.
Confederation – The Capital City – 1871
On July 20, 1871, British Columbia became the sixth state of the Dominion of Canada and Victoria was proclaimed the Capital City. The accomplishment of Confederation was no easy undertaking. The colonial legislative Council needed months in March, 1870, debated the terms of marriage and, agreement reached, three delegates were appointed to negotiate with the federal authorities. Dr. J.S. Helmcken from Victoria, Dr. R.W.W. Carrall from Cariboo, and Hon. J.W. Trutch, senior government officer, left Victoria on May 10 and, travelling of necessity the majority of the way through america, reached Ottawa early in June to start the discussions which were to reach their culmination the next year. With Confederation, the continuing establishment of the Canadian or British naval and army headquarters on the Pacific in Esquimalt, adjoining Victoria, was ensured.
For the majority of the nineteenth century, Victoria remained the largest city in British Columbia and has been the foremost in commerce and trade. But, with construction of the Transcontinental railway, Vancouver, as its terminus, emerged as the major west coast port and the largest city in British Columbia.
In the twentieth century, Victoria evolved primarily as a city of government, tourism and retirement. The Town remains, however, Canada’s western naval base and home to a significant fishing fleet. Ship construction and repair, in addition to forest products and equipment manufacturing industries, continue as important sources of employment. Increasingly, the city is growing as a marine, forestry and agricultural research center. The City is also known for its fine educational institutions Including the University of Victoria, Camosun College, Royal Roads Univeristy, and Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific (one of only six in the world operated by United World Colleges).
Nowadays with an estimated regional population of 326,000, a moderate climate and scenic setting, Victoria has kept a very vital but comfortable quality of life. The City of Victoria is proud of its British heritage, its fine houses and neighbourhoods, its historical and lively downtown, the flowers and parks, and needless to say, the Inner Harbour with its vistas toward the famous Empress Hotel and the Legislative Buildings.
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