Blanshard is the name of an important street in Victoria. It commemorates Richard Blanshard, the first Governor of Vancouver Island which was made a British colony in 1849. Previously it had been governed by the Hudson’s Bay Company.
Richard Blanshard must have been one of the most disappointed men who ever came to Canada. He was a London merchant who had spent some time in the West Indies and India, and became ambitious to make a name for himself in the British diplomatic service. When Vancouver Island became a colony, he applied for the job of governor, even though it meant serving without pay. There was some talk in London, though, that he would be given a beautiful mansion and an estate of 1,000 acres with beautiful lawns and gardens.
His chagrin can be imagined when he stepped on shore from H.M.S. Driver on March 11, 1850, and read the proclamation establishing the new colony with himself as governor. It was a dreary day, mixed with rain and snow. The only estate available for Blanshard was 1,000 acres of unclear land which he was expected to develop at this own expense. There wasn’t a place for him to live on shore, let alone a mansion and he had to go back to the ship.
In one of his first letters to the Colonial Office, he complained that there were only three other settlers on the island. One of them, Captain Colquhon Grant, had arrived the previous year with coaches and carriages, only to learn that there were no roads. He also brought equipment for playing cricket, which requires a smoother surface than a baseball diamond!
Blanshard only lasted until November when he resigned. James Douglas, Chief Factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, was appointed governor in his place. It was a good thing, because Douglas had seen the United States take over Oregon and knew the steps that had to be taken to keep British Columbia from annexation.
Did I whet your appetite? To read more about this, there are a few good sites to visit. The first I’d recommend is Birds of a Feather – Victoria B & B’s History of Victoria and Vancouver Island; then you can head on to Google Docto read Bob Reid’s extensive article about The Colony of Vancouver Island 1849-1855; there’s a bit about Fort Victoria at The Canadian Encyclopedia; Richard Blanshard at Wikipedia, also at Wikipedia, there’s more information about the Colony at Vancouver Island.
Happy hunting, everyone — there’s a lot more out there!
- And The Lion – See It Cowers (tkmorin.wordpress.com)
- B.C. and 5 Vancouver Island First Nations sign pre-treaty land deals (timescolonist.com)