The explorations of James Cook and George Vancouver, and the concessions of Spain in 1794 established British jurisdiction over the coastal area north of California. Similar jurisdiction was established inland via the explorations of such men as John Finlay, Sir Alexander Mackenzie, Simon Fraser, Samuel Black, and David Thompson, and by the subsequent establishment of fur trading posts by the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC). However, until 1858, the region which now comprises the mainland of the Province of British Columbia was an unorganised area of British North America comprising two fur trading districts: New Caledonia, north of the Thompson River drainage; and the Columbia District, located south of the Thompson and throughout the basin of the Columbia River.
With the signing of the Treaty of Washington in 1846, which established the US border along the 49th parallel, the HBC moved the headquarters of its western operations from Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River (present day Vancouver, Washington) to the newly-established Fort Victoria, on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. Vancouver Island and the surrounding Gulf Islands in the Strait of Georgia were organised as a crown colony in 1849. Meanwhile, the mainland continued to function under the de facto administration of the HBC, whose chief executive, James Douglas, also happened to be governor of Vancouver Island. The non-aboriginal mainland population during this time never exceeded about 150, mostly HBC employees and their families.
By 1857, Americans and British were beginning to respond to rumours of gold in the Thompson River area. Almost overnight, some ten to twenty thousand men moved into the region around present-day Yale, British Columbia, sparking the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush. Governor Douglas and the colonial office were suddenly faced with having to exert British authority over a largely alien population. Douglas — who had no legal authority over New Caledonia — stationed a gunboat at the entrance of the Fraser River in order to exert such authority by collecting licenses from prospectors attempting to make their way upstream. In order to normalise its jurisdiction, and undercut any HBC claims to the resource wealth of the mainland, the district was converted to a crown colony on August 2 1858 by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and given the name British Columbia. Douglas was offered the governorship of the new colony by the colonial secretary, Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, on condition that he sever his relationship with the HBC. Douglas accepted these conditions, and a knighthood. British Columbia was given its own capital — New Westminster — in 1859, but James Douglas would govern both colonies from Victoria for the next six years.
By the time of this second gold rush, the character of the colony was changing, as a more stable population of British colonists settled in the region, establishing businesses, opening sawmills, and engaging in fishing and agriculture. With this increased stability, objections to the colony's absentee governor and the lack of responsible government began to be vocalised, led by the influential editor of the New Westminister British Columbian and future premier, John Robson. A series of petitions requesting an assembly were ignored by Douglas and the colonial office until Douglas was eased out of office in 1864. Finally the colony would have both an assembly and a resident governor.
On Seymour's return overland, he made a tour of the Cariboo minefields, and along the Fraser Canyon, which made him increasingly convinced of the colony's future prosperity. On returning to the capital, however, fiscal reality set in as it became clear that British Columbia's indebtedness was getting worse. Even as the colonial administration took drastic measures to augment revenues and improve the road system to attract prospectors and settlers, the economic situation grew increasingly dire, and agitation grew for an almagamation of the two colonies. Seymour opposed this proposal, but with pressure from various quarters of the colonial government, he eventually relented, recommending that British Columbia be the dominant partner, and (unsuccessfully) that the capital be located at New Westminster. And so it was that the two colonies were united by an Act of the British Parliament, and proclaimed on August 6, 1866 (see United Colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia).
Ned McGowan's War: in the midst of the Fraser River gold rush, some Americans plotted to deliver British Columbia into the hands of their countrymen. They were very nearly successful.
Feb 01, 2003; John Drummond Buchanan Ogilvy, Hudson's Bay Company factor for Fort Hope, walked quietly into the frigid night of January 17,...