British Columbia has contributed some of the most unusual stories to Canadian history. How Victoria became the capital was recounted on April 2 (Now Where Was I … ?), the use of camels on the Cariboo Trail, on May 29 (Two Wild Beasts With Humps On Their Backs!). In 1859 George Barston was elected member of the legislature for Nanaimo, but only one vote was cast. Guess who voted? The story of Topping’s buying one of the world’s richest gold mines for $12.50 was told on July 21 (Gold Mine Sold For Just $12.50!). The Hudson’s Bay Company’s purchase of Vancouver Island for seven shillings a year was related on January 13 (Vancouver Island Leased). Here is yet another remarkable story from beyond the Rockies.
On September 20, 1882, Governor-General the Marquis of Lorne arrived in Victoria to attempt to solve the serious railway problem. There was not only the delay in getting the C.P.R. through to the Pacific, but also the question of who would build a railway on Vancouver Island. There was great unhappiness in British Columbia as suggestions were received that the province should secede from Canada and join the States.
The Governor-General’s visit was almost too successful. The vice-regal tour was supposed to last two weeks, but the Marquis and his wife, Princess Louise, daughter of Queen Victoria, stayed three months. While her husband was touring the interior of British Columbia, watching André Onderdonk build the railway through Fraser Canyon, Princess Louise remained in Victoria. She would walk along the streets visiting bazaars, examining needlework displays, and shopping. On one occasion, a baker, not knowing who she was, ordered her to come out from behind a counter where she was looking at something.
When the Governor-General arrived back in Victoria, he found that a telegram from William Van Horne of the C.P.R., had arrived, stating that a route had been found through Kicking Horse Pass, and that the railway would be completed from Montreal to the Pacific by January 1, 1887.
The announcement was not greeted with as much joy in Victoria as might have been expected. Instead, Premier Beaven asked it Vancouver Island could become a separate kingdom with Princess Louise as its Queen!
Many people on Vancouver Island were beginning to fear that the completion of the railway would make the mainland too strong, to their disadvantage. Of course no such step was considered, but Vancouver Island was promised that it could have a railway of its own and a dry-dock at Esquimalt.
As I’ve only written the basics here, I can suggest a few sites to visit to learn more. I suggest the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, and there’s an interesting page at Old Time Trains as good places to start.