UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

New Westminister, 1859-1871 McDonald, Margaret Lillooet


This thesis deals with the history of New Westminster from the spring of 1859, when the City was founded, to July, 1871, the date at which British Columbia entered Confederation. As background material, reference has been made to the inception of the colony of British Columbia as a result of the gold rush and its early administration under James Douglas, Governor of both British Columbia and Vancouver Island. A detachment of Royal Engineers was sent out from Great Britain to provide military protection and to perform various civil duties, notably survey work. New Westminster was chosen as the site for the capital of the new colony by Colonel R. C. Moody, Officer Commanding the Royal Engineers. When New Westminster was incorporated in July, 1860, at the request of the inhabitants, control of civic affairs was vested in an elected Municipal Council. An account is given of the Incorporation Act, the composition of the Council, its revenue, expenditure and achievement. A chapter has been devoted to the early development of the City with mention being made of the establishment of the Royal Engineers’ camp at Sapperton and the erection of Government offices and the first private buildings and residences in the City. As New Westminster could not develop independently of the surrounding area reference has been made to these adjoining districts. Shortly after the founding of the City agriculture was started on the rich farm lands of the Fraser Valley and the year 1862 saw the beginning of the lumbering industry on Burrard Inlet. To connect New Westminster with these farming areas and with the Inlet, a series of trails was constructed from the capital. The early political history of New Westminster is chiefly concerned with agitation for responsible government and a resident Governor. New Westminster urged these two reforms because it felt that Governor Douglas and the government officials were sacrificing the City's interests to those of Victoria. A Legislative Council was created in May, 1863, and British Columbia obtained a separate Governor in the person of Sir James Douglas and later Frederick Seymour. Despite strong objection from the people of New Westminster the two British colonies on the Pacific were united in November, 1866, and in 1868 the capital of the united colony was moved to Victoria. The chapter dealing with political development concludes with an account of the City's attempts to secure compensation for the removal of the capital and its part in the move towards Confederation. The chief government institutions at New Westminster were the Jail, Land Registry Office, Post Office, Assay Office and proposed Mint. A resume is given of the functions of each of these institutions, as well as of the administration of law as it affected New Westminster, mail service within the colony, the gold escort from the Cariboo mines, and the contribution of the Royal Engineers to the development of the City. A further chapter deals with semi-official institutions; the Hyack Fire Department, the Royal Columbian Hospital, the Library and the three militia units. The economic history of New Westminster is mainly an account of the chief business establishments, banking facilities and the development of fishing and lumbering. A summary is given of trade and commerce at New Westminster, the port of entry for British Columbia, and of port development including buoying the mouth of the Fraser. Ships calling at New Westminster included steamers which plied regularly between Victoria, New Westminster, Hope and Tale, and ocean-going vessels which made infrequent calls. Telegraph communication was provided when New Westminster was connected with the line of the California State Telegraph in I865. The next year it was connected with Quesnel by Western Union line. By I863, New Westminster had a public school under supervision of a citizens' committee. After the first school ordinance for British Columbia was enacted In I869, control of the school passed into the hands of the Municipal Council acting in the capacity of a school board. The chapter on education also mentions the various private schools established in the City and concludes with a history of the work of the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Wesleyan and Presbyterian churches. The section devoted to social development includes an account of the early newspapers, notably the British Columbian, mentions the activities of various lodges, societies and associations, and tells of early entertainments, including May Day celebrations, balls at Government House and the annual celebrations held in honour of Queen Victoria's birthday. In conclusion the thesis reiterates the fact that New Westminster and Victoria were bitter rivals and points out that because of undue government bias towards the island City, New Westminster's development was temporarily discouraged and retarded.

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