Series GR-0522 - Kamloops Government Agent land records

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Kamloops Government Agent land records

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  • textual record
  • cartographic material

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on the content of the series

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  • 1877-1977 (Creation)

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Physical description

47.7 m of textual records and cartographic material

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Biographical history

There was a Government Agent Stationed in Kamloops and the surrounding area as early as 1876. An Agent was stationed there until at least 1978.

The government agency system of British Columbia has its origins in the two colonial offices of Gold Commissioners and Stipendiary Magistrates. The position of Gold Commissioner was created by a Proclamation of Governor Douglas, dated September 7, 1859. These commissioners were responsible for issuing free miners certificates, recording claims, managing miner’s water rights and settling disputes.

Stipendiary Magistrates, often referred to simply as Magistrates, were laymen without legal training who acted as judges in civil, small debt, and some criminal cases. Magistrates were often the only government officials in a region and fulfilled all government functions and services for their communities. However, before confederation their primary function was to maintain law and order. They were initially responsible for policing in their districts, and may have acted as Police Constables. In more populated regions they may have supervised multiple other Police Constables, in addition to other administrative staff such as Mining Recorders and Toll Collectors located throughout the district.

Almost all Gold Commissioners, or Assistant Gold Commissioners, also held the position of Stipendiary Magistrate. Initially, these positions could be held alongside a variety of others. It was common for one individual to also be appointed, or otherwise referred to as: Mining Recorder, Government Agent, Justice of the Peace, Small Debts Court judge, County Court judge (until 1881 when they were replaced with trained Supreme Court judges), and as a representative in the Legislative Council of the colony.

Other Magistrate duties varied widely, including: managing road or other infrastructure projects, recording census data and vital statistics, issuing marriage licenses, tax and revenue collection, and school and hospital inspections. They also acted as Assistant Commissioners of Lands and Works in all local aspects of land administration, including: supervising surveys, the sale of crown land, pre-emptions, and leases of timber or grazing land.

Before confederation, the boundaries of administrative districts were only roughly delineated. This meant magistrates could be unclear on the limits of their own jurisdictions, resulting in considerable overlap. Magistrates often travelled extensively to maintain order throughout their districts and may not have had a clear base or headquarters they consistently operated out of. Archival records reflect this inconsistency, and the multitude of different job titles that could be held by one individual in multiple places at one time.

Over time, the title "Gold Commissioner" became restricted to those officials performing the administrative and judicial duties laid out in mining legislation (Gold Commissioners held their judicial responsibilities until they were repealed by the Mineral Act of 1897). The more general title "Government Agent" was increasingly used for those officials with broader responsibilities and was consistently used to describe these multifunctional roles by the 1880s.

The several functions of a Government Agent are legally separate powers and appointments, which were often, but not always, held concurrently by the same individual. Over the next few decades Government Agents continued to fulfill a multitude of roles. By the turn of the century, a single agent’s duties could include:

Government Agent, Supreme Court Registrar, County Court Registrar, Sheriff, Gold Commissioner, Mining Recorder, Water recorder, Welfare Officer, Vital Statistics Recorder, Meteorological Recorder, Provincial Registrar of Voters, Federal Registrar of Voters, Game Warden, Land Commissioner, Assessor, Collector of Revenue Taxes, Financial Officer, Marriage Commissioner, Local Board of Health Sanitary Inspector, Cattle Brand Recorder, Maintainer of Government Buildings, Coroner, Gaoler, Constable, and Court clerk.

New functions were added as government services were created. For example, during prohibition, agents issued permits to purchase liquor. They also became involved with the administration of the Motor Vehicle Act by registering vehicles and licensing drivers. By 1900 policing functions were formally removed from Government Agents and transferred to police forces, though they continued to work closely with some police constables, particularly in rural areas, until the BC Police force was replaced by the RCMP in 1950.

Into the twentieth century, the staff in government agencies was growing substantially from one person who fulfilled all government functions, to offices with multiple staff supervised by the Agent.

The location of agencies and the headquarters of each agency where an Agent was located changed over time, based on the movement of population. There were often sub-offices or other outposts throughout a district with other government officials, such as Mining Recorders, who reported to the Government Agent at the district's headquarters.

Agents reported directly to the Provincial Secretary in Victoria until 1917 when they were became part of the Department of Finance, as one of their primary roles was tax collection. Starting in 1920 and increasingly after 1945, the role of the Government Agent was reduced and eroded by the growth of other more specialized and centralized branches of government. For example, Agents provided social services and acted as informal Social Workers by dispensing income assistance and child welfare responsibilities until they were replaced by trained Social Workers in the 1930s.

Into the 1950s the Government Agent in some small communities continued to act as Magistrate, Gold Commissioner, Mining Recorder, Maintainer of voters lists, Recorder of vital statistics and many other duties. However, these roles were increasingly done by representatives of different government branches. The role of Government Agent continues to exist in 2022 as an administrator with limited authority in several communities across the province.

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Scope and content

The series consists of the business records, 1877-1977, of the office of the Kamloops Government Agent, including the records of several additional positions usually held by the same individual: Gold Commissioner, Mining Recorder, and Land Commissioner for the Kamloops Land District. The series also includes records of the Canadian Department of the Interior; most created and received by the Dominion Lands Agent at Kamloops as part of the administration of the Railway Belt.

Record types and subject matter include, but are not limited to the following: land alienation through pre-emption or purchase from the provincial government and homesteading or purchase from the federal government; a variety of leases of Crown land; other more general types of records; and records regarding Indigenous peoples and Indian Reserves.

Records related to land alienation include: applications for pre-emption records; land classification reports; forms completed by land inspectors of the Department of Lands Inspection Branch; declarations of occupation and permanent improvement on pre-emption claims; applications for homestead entry, cancellation, and abandonment; homestead Inspector’s reports; affidavits in support of an Application for Entry for a homestead, pre-emption or purchased homestead; land sales records including applications to purchase and certificates of purchase.

Records related to a variety of leases and other uses of Crown lands include: grazing leases; foreshore leases; dredging leases; indentures to reassign leases; special use permits; timber permits; water records including conditional water licenses, and permanent water licenses; applications for irrigation schemes; petroleum and natural gas leases; quarry leases; bar leases; coal leases; mining leases regarding surface and subsurface rights; applications for lease of crown-granted mineral claims; applications for placer leases under the Placer-Mining Act; and the lapse of a lease or forfeiture of a mineral claim to the Crown.

Other more general types of records include: correspondence regarding Crown grants; inquiries about land availability; surveyor’s reports; preliminary plans and correspondence for the surveys of townships; Soldier Settlement Board records including forms, correspondence and records of soldier land grants; attestation papers and discharge certificates; naturalization papers; personal correspondence; correspondence files on specific topics such as hay permit regulations or precipitation measurements; records regarding taxes; and business records of the office, including inter-department correspondence, circulars, and memorandum related to matters of land administration.

Files also exist for specific Indian Reserves, and can include correspondence; water records; surveys; and inspection reports created in the process of allotting new, and canceling existing Indian Reserves. Some files document instances of overlapping land use and conflict between settlers and Indigenous peoples on specific parcels of land.

Files are generally either correspondence files on a particular subject, or a variety of records related to a particular piece of land. Many files cover a wide time period and may be associated with multiple individuals or companies as land rights were often transferred to others or cancelled and reapplied for. Only the name of the first and last individual listed on the file is included in the file list. This means there may be additional names associated with files not included on the file list. The file list may also only include part of the legal description of land in cases where the description was exceptionally long, or included many different pieces of land. Single individuals may also have multiple files for each piece of land they are associated with.

Cartographic materials, consisting of blueprints and hand-drawn maps or plans, indicating the parcels of land relevant to the file, are commonly found throughout the records.

No file list or indexes were transferred with these records from the Kamloops Government Agent. Most files only included numbers with no clear names, so titles were created by the archives based on the contents of the files or by transcribing information on relevant file backs.

A fire on 17 September 1893 at the Dominion Lands Office in Kamloops destroyed some files. The contents for these files are marked [empty]. Files marked as [file back only] were likely destroyed in the fire, but then had their titles and some additional information transcribed by Lands employees onto file backs from letter books or other surviving records which were not transferred with these records.

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Physical condition

Files were rehoused in acid free folders. Originally, most provincially created files were housed in file folders, and federally created files were housed in scalloped edge envelopes, many which included a one or two digit grease pencil number which has been added as a prefix to relevant file numbers in the file list.

Immediate source of acquisition

Transferred to the Archives in September 1977 by N.R. Blake, Government Agent at Kamloops, B.C.


Files are arranged in their original order as transferred from the Government Agent at Kamloops. Files may have been created by either the provincial Government Agent at Kamloops, or by the federal Dominion Land Agent at Kamloops. Two different original numbering systems appear to exist in the series to reflect the various creators, but have become intermingled over time through continued use by the Government Agent.

Ownership and administration of Crown land in the Railway Belt was transferred to the federal government in 1883. At this time, provincial files in the impacted areas may have been transferred to federal custody where they were maintained; often continuing the existing provincially created systems, or updating the files to comply with federal systems. Other files in the Kamloops Land District, but outside of the Railway Belt, may have remained with the provincial Government Agent. The federal government proceeded to create new files using their systems as Crown land was alienated in the Railway Belt after 1883. In 1930, the Railway Belt was transferred back to the province and all files were transferred to the provincial Government Agent at Kamloops, where files continued to be maintained using their existing systems until the files were transferred to the archives in 1977. After 1930, new files were likely created using the provincial systems.

Each government utilized its own survey and file systems. Provincial surveys utilized a district lot system in which lot numbers are generally assigned numerically based on date of survey and could be located anywhere in a land district. A regional office file number was assigned to each file, ranging from approximately 5 to 7374, with many gaps in the file numbers. These file numbers would differ from the file numbers used in the Head Office in Victoria. Some sections of these file numbers appear to have been assigned mostly chronologically based on the date the file was opened.

Federal surveys used a section, township, range system which identified a particular piece of land. In this system, 36 square mile townships were surveyed and divided into 36 sections. Each 640 acre section was then further divided into four quarters, or smaller sub-divisions. In most cases, file numbers can be identified by a prefix delineated by a hyphen ranging from approximately 1-4 to 77-31100, with many gaps in the file numbers. The prefixes are grease pencil marks made on the original envelopes which housed the file. Some sections of these file numbers appear to have been assigned mostly chronologically based on the date the file was opened.

Boxes 1-37 contain primarily provincially created records. Boxes 38-104 contain primarily federally created records. Boxes 105 on contain a mixture of both. Files have become intermingled over time, making it impossible to separate provincially and federally created records. Files may be mixed together in a box, and individual files may include records created by both provincial and federal employees over time.

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There are no restrictions on access.

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Associated materials

Related records at the BC Archives include:

GR-0112 Crown land pre-emption records (British Columbia. Dept. of Lands and Works), includes two sub-series: certificates of pre-emption, with associated certificates of improvement and certificates of purchase, and pre-emption registers. Each sub-series consists of bound, indexed volumes arranged by land district and division.

GR-0436 Land settlement records for Railway Belt and Peace River Block (Canada. Department of the Interior), includes correspondence, applications for homestead entry, applications for patents, and registers relating to land settlement in the Railway Belt and the Peace River Block.

GR-0437 Land surveys relating to the Railway Belt and Peace River Block (Canada. Department of the Interior), includes correspondence files relating to surveys in British Columbia, and Dominion Land Surveyors' diaries.

GR-1088 Crown land records (British Columbia. Surveys and Land Records Branch), includes correspondence files relating to the administration, management, conservation, and development of Crown lands and natural resources throughout B.C.

Note that file numbers for related files in the above series will likely be different then the numbers used by the Kamloops regional office in GR-0522. The above series may contain additional and possibly duplicated records relating to some files and parcels of land in GR-0522.

Additional related records are listed and described in the draft guide Government Records Relating to Crown Lands in British Columbia (Reference Room inventory binder 15).

Associated materials and resources at other institutions include:

Mineral files can be searched through the MINFILE database using the MINFILE name (listed in “” in the contents column). Note that MINFILE numbers may not correspond with file list

Library and Archives Canada has a database for searching Western Land Grants, including digitized copies of maps and Letters Patent. Letters Patent were issued by the federal government to grant or confirm title to a piece of land. Letters Patent are searchable by legal description, name, or keywords. Searching by legal description is recommended, if possible, as the individual named on the Letters Patent may not be named in the GR-0522 file list. The database can be accessed here:

BC Crown Grants from the completion of the pre-emption process or purchase from the BC government can be searched through GATOR “Historic Crown Grants” search. The database can be searched by grantee’s name and will provide the lot number for the land (the provincial legal description). If the legal description is known, additional information can be found through the GATOR “Legal Description” search. GATOR can be accessed here:

BC LTSA ParcelMap is an interactive map which shows all the boundaries of lots and their legal descriptions. If the rough area of a piece of land is known, it may be possible to identify it on the map

Related materials


General note

Accession number(s): GR-0522

General note

How to use the file list:

There was no file list or indexes transferred with these records. Files must be identified using this file list created by the archives. The original order of the files has been maintained in the file list due to their complex creation and use over time by the Government Agent. This means that the most effective search method to locate a particular file is through keyword searching this document (click Ctrl+F for search box). The file list can be searched by file number, license or permit number, name of associated individuals or organizations, legal description of the land, or any other relevant keywords.

Searching for a particular individual or organization:

Keyword searches can be conducted for particular places, people, companies or other organizations. However, when searching for particular individuals, note that not every person named in a file is included on the file list. Some pieces of land could have been used by dozens of individuals over many decades. Only the first and last person associated with a file has been included on the file list. Some files have no associated names included on the file list. If a desired name does not appear in the file list, try searching for a particular piece of land by identifying the land’s legal description.

Searching for a particular piece of land by legal description:

Legal descriptions of land are generally recorded in a standardized format in this file list. Files will either use the provincial system of lot numbers and portions of lot numbers, or the federal section, township, range system, as described above in the Overview section of this document.

The provincial system will list a lot, or part of a lot. For example:

Lot 4458 K.D.Y.D
E ½ lot 2051 K.D.Y.D

The federal system provides a precise geographical location consisting of a full section or part of a section, followed by township, range, and the relevant meridian, ending with the names of associated individuals or groups. For example:

Sec.29 Tp.20 R.19 W6M : M.U. Homfrey
N.E. ¼ Sec.23 Tp.20 R.15 W6M : Andrew John Brown
S. ½ of S.E. ¼ Sec.22 Tp.18 R.23 W6M : John Wood : Walter F. Bose

However, many files include multiple parcels of land (usually combinations of sections or parts of sections). If the description includes multiple sections they will be delineated by commas. If the legal description was excessively long it may not have been transcribed in its entirety into the file list. Some examples of legal descriptions for large areas include:

Sec.27, 28, 33, 34, 35, 36 parts of 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26   Tp.20 R.18 W6M                       
N. ½ N. ¼ Sec.7, S. ½ S.W. ¼ Sec.18 Tp.20 R.8 W6M : A.M. Baird
Parts of Sec.20, 27, 29 Tp.22 R.25 W6M : Charles G. Doering

Searching for a parcel of land by filling in the blanks of the following punctuation and format should locate it.

     Sec.__ Tp.__ R.__ W6M

If no results appear try searching for just combined township and range, and scrolling through the results to see if the correct section appears. Locating a specific parcel of land in a file covering a large area may require multiple searches to look for relevant entries in the desired township and range, then looking for the correct section.

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