Series C/AA/30.71K/1 - Surveyor General correspondence

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Surveyor General correspondence

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  • textual record

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  • 1866-1868 (Creation)
    British Columbia (Colony). Lands and Works Dept.
  • 1852-1866 (Creation)
    Vancouver Island (Colony). Office of the Surveyor General

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4 cm of textual records

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Biographical history

The first Surveyor General for the Colony of Vancouver Island was appointed in 1859 under the name Colonial Surveyor. Prior to that, the affairs of the colony were also the affairs of the Hudson’s Bay Company and were administered by the chief factor (James Douglas) and employees of the company. The name was changed to Surveyor General by Royal Warrant in 1861. The first Surveyor General was Joseph Despard Pemberton who was originally hired as Colonial Surveyor and Engineer for the Hudson’s Bay Company in Victoria in 1851. In 1859, when his contract with the company expired and the Hudson’s Bay Company surrendered the Colony of Vancouver Island to the British government, Pemberton was appointed as Colonial Surveyor for the colony. In 1861, Pemberton received a royal warrant from Queen Victoria naming him as Surveyor General for the Colony of Vancouver Island. He served in that position until 1864 during which time his assistant, Benjamin W. Pearse, served as Acting Surveyor General when Pemberton was absent. Pemberton resigned his post in 1864 and Pearse continued as Acting Surveyor General until 1866 when Vancouver Island was united with the Colony of British Columbia. The Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works and Surveyor General for the Colony of British Columbia was responsible for Vancouver Island from 1866 until 1871 when the Colony of British Columbia joined confederation as a province of the Dominion of Canada.

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Biographical history

The Lands and Works Dept. of the Colony of British Columbia was established in 1859 when Colonel Richard Clement Moody, commanding officer of the Royal Engineers, was sworn in as Chief Commissioner and Surveyor-General for the Colony of British Columbia. Prior to 1858, the territories of the new colony, known then as New Caledonia, were under grant to the Hudson’s Bay Company. Moody and the Royal Engineers were sent to the lower Fraser Valley by the Colonial Office in England to provide a military presence in the new colony, and also to survey land for settlement and to provide engineering expertise and manpower for the building of roads and bridges.

In 1863, the Colonial Office implemented constitutional changes to the Colony of British Columbia to encourage more settlement and a representative government. The contingent of Royal Engineers was disbanded and Chartres Brew, Chief Inspector of Police for the colony, was designated as Acting Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works until Joseph Trutch was appointed to the position of Surveyor-General in 1864.

From 1864 to 1871, the Surveyor-General was an elected official who also held the title of Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works and was a member of the Executive Council. Trutch continued the job Moody had started, with a personal emphasis on Crown lands and aboriginal claims. Trutch was the Surveyor-General when British Columbia joined confederation in 1871, at which time he was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of the new province.

Most of the colonial officials remained in their positions, under his authority, until an election was held in November and a new government was sworn in. During this transitional period, first Peter O’Reilly and then Benjamin Pearse, served as Acting Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works and Surveyor-General.

After the election, 1871, Henry Holbrook was appointed the Acting Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works and Surveyor-General in the first ministry. A few months later, George A. B. Walkem took over as the first Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works and Surveyor-General in the new Dept. of Lands and Works.

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Scope and content

The series is a correspondence record book originally kept by the Surveyor General of the Colony of Vancouver Island, J.D. Pemberton, from 1852 to 1864. The record book was then kept by Acting Surveyor General B.W. Pearse, from 1864 to 1868 both for the Colony of Vancouver Island and the United Colony of

The volume contains copies of correspondence from Hudson's Bay Company House in London to Colonial Surveyor J.D. Pemberton and Governor James Douglas, as well as individual letters from Douglas and other Colonial officials to Pemberton and Pearse bound into the book. There are also lists of reports issued by Pemberton and extracts from minutes of council regarding regulations for the sale of land, letters and papers regarding the Race Rocks lighthouse, and correspondence relating to the Union of the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia.

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Records digitized in 2023.

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Accession number(s): M146

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