Search This Blog

Friday, July 31, 2015

10 Fascinating Facts About British Columbia's History

With B.C. day coming soon ( the August long weekend) I have sought to put together some rather interesting facts ( 10 to be precise) on our early history and how we came to be what we are today (as well as some extra trivia) . So sit down for 5 minutes and read about where we came from and why we are so fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet!

#1 The Pacific Northwest Native Peoples
Due largely to the mild temperature and abundant food supply, the Pacific North West was home to one of “the most rich and complex Native Societies”.  Unlike many other Native groups (including other B.C. Native groups like the Salish and Kutenai), the Pacific North West Indians practiced private ownership of property and even social classes. They also produced professional and brilliant artists who were taught by the masters down through the years.

#2 Captain George Vancouver

In 1778 Captain Cook , after recently discovering Hawaii, was sent by Britain ( in the midst of  the American Revolution no less) to explore the west coast of Canada. Captain Cook and his crew were warmly greeted by the Mowachaht people on the west coast of Vancouver Island and,  asking them what they called the place, they misunderstood each other and he named it “Nootka” .  They traded for otter pelts that eventually made their way to China. Captain George Vancouver would later come along as well thus the name “Vancouver Island”.

Captain George Vancouver

#3 Spain & Russia Too

Have you ever wondered where B.C. got such Spanish sounding place names as “Juan de Fuca” , “Cortes” and “Quadra” ? What many people don’t realize is that the Spanish were the first Europeans to  explore the Pacific North West (The Russians had already laid claim to Alaska)  – in fact they had claimed the entire Pacific Ocean for themselves!  Upon hearing of Cook’s ventures they sent their own entourage to Vancouver Island and captured many British ships who had brought Chinese workers over. In fact, at one point there were “ British prisoners, Spanish swashbucklers, Chinese workers…Natives (and) American traders …all jostling for position on a remote cove on the far side of Vancouver Island.” And to add to all that, Juan de Fuca was actually a Greek sailing under Spain whose real name was Ioánnis Phokás. 

Juan de Fuca (Actually a Greek named Ioánnis Phokás who sailed under Spain)

#4 The Columbia River and District

We all know where the “British” part of B.C.’s name came from but it was the Columbia River and its massive basin that lends its name to the other half of “B.C.”.   At the time the entire territory from present day California to Alaska was referred to as "The Columbia District" by the Hudson's Bay Company and “The Oregon Territory” by the Americans. It was coveted by both the Americans and the British - largely because of the Columbia River trade route that began in the interior of the territory and flowed all the way into the Pacific.

Two Scotsmen and a Welshmen , all intrepid explorers opened up the Interior of B.C.  – Alexander Mackenzie, Simon Fraser and David Thompson. You will recognize their names by the mighty rivers they discovered or had named after them.  The most famous “graffiti” in Canadian history was etched into a boulder by Mackenzie just before  he took off from the Bella Bella territory  “Alex Mackenzie, from Canada, by land, 22nd July 1793”. Another interesting note on the Columbia River – it has a total of 14 dams built on it and produces more hydroelectricity than any other river in North America.

#5 James Douglas Saves Victoria

James Douglas, a senior manager in the Hudson Bay Company and the governor of Vancouver Island  has become known as  “the Father of British Columbia” . He was born in British Guyana to a Scottish father and a Creole mother from Barbados. The border between America and Canada was about to be drawn as a straight line along the 49th parallel  - the only problem was that Vancouver Island dipped below the 49th!  James Douglas founded Ft. Victoria on the south of the island and, in doing so, ensured its inclusion (and some say all of the northern Pacific Coast)  in Canada.

James Douglas

#6 54.40 or Fight

In 1844, James Polk was elected as the U.S. president. One of the slogans that became popular during the election was  “54.40 or Fight”. 54.40 was the latitude of the  border of the Russian territory – in other words, the Americans were bent on owning most of  B.C.  If this had happened, Canada would have no Pacific Coast and we would be a very different country.  You may recognize the term “54.40” – it’s the name of a B.C. rock band (named intentionally for that slogan and its failure to happen).

#7 James Douglas Saves the Mainland

As an emergency response to the influx of American gold miners , James Douglas tightly controlled who could enter the mainland. He actually bluffed his authority over the mainland but was later granted that authority by the British ( easier to attain forgiveness than permission?) . As a result, Mainland B.C. was founded ( by coincidence)  on August 2nd , 1858. Vancouver Island later joined officially with the mainland B.C. as “British Columbia”  in 1866.

"Splendour without Diminishment"

#8 The Cariboo Road

The Cariboo Road (connecting Yale to Barkerville near Prince George) was the result of B.C’s second gold rush. It was a marvel of engineering and a danger to ride – at one point Camels – yes Camels – were imported for the trek. Also worth noting during this time period is judge Matthew Begbie – “the hanging judge”. It was his relentless and fearless pursuit of law and order that prevented the B.C. interior from becoming the “free-for-all” that California had become to the south.

#9 Cosmos, Robson, Seymour
& Democracy

Although James Douglas was the “Father of British Columbia” he was not much for democracy and Responsible Government. Enter two newspaper men ,  Amor de Cosmos (real name: Bill Smith)  and James Robson who led the charge for these two rights. With these two rallying the crowd, the next governor, Frederick Seymour ushered in Responsible Government ( British Columbians governing British Columbians) and democracy.

James Robson

#10 The Last Spike

Canada was forming as a Country in the East. It now included Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Manitoba. Although there was a very small contingent in B.C. who were rallying to join the Americans, the majority decided to join Canada as the 6th province July 20th,  1871 thus creating a country from “sea to sea”.  Later, on November 7th, 1885, Lord Strathcona drove in the last spike of the transcontinental railroad (The Canadian Pacific Railroad which was part of the promise that attracted B.C. to join Confederation) at Craigellachie –between Sicamous and Revelstoke.  

"Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king's son... 
He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river 
unto the ends of the earth." A Psalm for Solomon 

(Psalm 72 - This passage inspired the official motto of Canada "From Sea to Sea". ) 

 ***Sources: Canadian History for Dummies , Wikipedia,

You May Also Like:

12 Fascinating Facts About the History of Canada

8 Fascinating Facts About Mount Robson: Monarch of the Canadian Rockies (B.C.)

5 Fascinating Facts About Kalamalka Lake: Treasure of the Okanagan


Other Interesting British Columbia Facts:

Expo 86 was B.C's first major global event and spurred on the construction of the Coquihalla Highway and the Vancouver Skytrain system

The 2010 Winter Olympics held in Vancouver / Whistler became the first Olympic games where Canada won gold on its home soil. These games are also credited with giving a massive boost to Canadian patriotism and Canada's place on the international stage.

British Columbia geographical and climate ranges vary from temperate rainforests to Boreal forests, from desert to sub-arctic prairie and from massive mountain ranges to the ocean shore!

Official Flower: Pacific Dogwood

Official Tree: Western Red Cedar

Official Bird: Stellar's Jay

The white Kermode Bear ( also known as the spirit bear) is only found in B.C.

With its film industry known as Hollywood North, the Vancouver region is the third-largest feature film production location in North America, after Los Angeles and New York City.

Largest B.C. cities (metropolitan area 2006):

1) Vancouver    2,313,328
2) Victoria          344,615
3) Kelowna        179,839
4) Abbotsford    170,191
5) Kamloops         98,754
6) Nanaimo           98,021
7) Chilliwack         92,308
8) Prince George 84,232
9) Vernon             58,504
10) Courtenay     55,213


  1. Lived in Victoria and visited many other cities in Canada. Love to my family and friends there.

  2. Link of the jungle red writers from which you can find the best policies in this section. You can also find the best fiction writers with cheapest essay writing service and can get the special link for the best knowledge area. Enjoy this stream of the best writing.