There’s Something in a Name

There’s Something in a Name

MARY AGNES PEASE December 1 1939
There’s Something in a Name

There’s Something in a Name

MARY AGNES PEASE December 1 1939

There’s Something in a Name

MARY AGNES PEASE

No. 11: British Columbia

THERE may be a lovelier place than British Columbia, but I have never seen it,” wrote a world traveller in Blackwood's Magazine some years ago. The beauty of the province is also extolled by a more modern writer who describes it as “a place where the grass is green the year round, where the trees tower in grandeur, where roses grow out-of-doors until Christmas . . . a place full of adventure and romance, and also of stability, with the ramparts of the Rocky Mountains behind it and the Pacific Ocean before it.” This province was formerly two separate colonies—Vancouver Island and New Caledonia—under the rule of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The mainland colony received its name in 1806 from Scottish Hudson’s Bay factors, in memory of their native land—Caledonia being the Roman name for Scotland. This name became in time a subject of dispute, and the matter of a more suitable title was referred to Queen Victoria for settlement in 1858. As the name New Caledonia was already borne by a French colony in Pacific waters, Her Majesty recommended British Columbia as a desirable name since it suggested the Old Land and the new. In 1866 the two colonies became one under this name, and as such joined the Federal family in 1871.

The colony of Vancouver Island was first named “Quadra and Vancouver” by Captain George Vancouver, the explorer, in tribute to the friendly relations which existed between him and the Spanish representative. Quadra, in settling differences as to rights of ownership on the Pacific Coast between the Spanish and the British. The Spanish flag gave way to that of Great Britain in 1795, and later the name of Quadra was discontinued as part of the island title.

Mighty rivers bear the names of Mackenzie and Fraser, two dauntless explorers and fur traders. Another strong character in British Columbian history was James Douglas, a chief factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company and also governor of the two colonies of Vancouver Island and New Caledonia. His name was given to a town bom by the gold rush in the province, but like many other mining towns, it did not live, and is now only a memory.

Melodious and appropriate Indian names are everywhere heard in the province. Kootenay, Okanagan and Chilliwack were named after Indian tribes; Nanaimo —which means great or strong—was the name of a group of small Indian tribes who for protection formed themselves into a union. Then there is Esquimalt. the naval harbor (pronounced with the accent on the penultimate), which is derived from three Indian words, Is-whoy-malth, meaning “the place for gathering camass”—an edible root.

Some place names are reminders of towns in England, such as Cranbrook and Cumberland. Ladysmith, of course, commemorates the relief of the town of that name in South Africa after the fourmonths siege by the Boers. This name was not originally one word, but was the title of the wife of Sir Harry Smith, governor and commander-in-chief of the Cape of Good Hope.

Prince Rupert was named after the dashing cavalier, Prince Rupert of England and Bavaria, the first governor of the Company of Adventurers, better known as the Hudson’s Bay Company. The town’s name was selected by open competition, with a prize of $250 at stake.

There are, of course, the well-known names of Victoria and Vancouver, cities of unusual beauty and interest, also that of New Westminster, former capital of the colony of British Columbia, and named by Queen Victoria. After the colonies were united, the capital was removed to Victoria.

Very British are the people in this province. In fact it has been said that many British Columbians are more English than the English. Some of the early settlers came to British Columbia by way of Cape Horn, seeking gold, and found the province so attractive that they made it their permanent home. Their belief in its bright future has been abundantly justified, for with its wealth in timber, mines, fruit and fisheries, it continues to live up to the prophecy that it would become “a province of paramount importance to the Dominion and to the Empire.”