ALEXANDER, Richard Henry (1844-1915)




Author Tags: 1850-1900, Early B.C., Essentials 2010, Gold

QUICK REFERENCE ENTRY:

When the Thomas McMicking expedition bound for the Cariboo gold fields departed from Fort Garry at the outset of June in 1862, it left behind various parties who would follow thereafter. These individuals formed three contingents: a group of 20 led by an American doctor named Symington, a minor group of five people known as the Rennie party, and a larger group of 63 people ostensibly led by police sergeant Stephen Redgrave. According to Joanne Leduc, editor of McMicking’s memoirs, republished as Overland from Canada to British Columbia: By Mr. Thomas McMicking of Queenston, Canada West (1981), the leader of the largest “after-party” was actually an American adventurer named Timolean Love and two “half-breed” guides. Included in this Redgrave/Love cavalcade were the artist William G.R. Hind and Richard Henry Alexander. The latter produced a diary that remained as a manuscript in the provincial archives until it was published in a limited edition of 500 copies as The Diary and Narrative of Richard Henry Alexander In a Journey Across the Rocky Mountains (1973).

Born in Edinburgh in 1844, Richard Henry Alexander, the son of a wine merchant, was brought to Toronto by his parents in 1855. To reach the Cariboo gold fields, Alexander and others believed they could save time by going directly overland and not using the Panama route or the Oregon Trail, but Alexander’s diary and letters reveal he and his companions almost starved to death in order to complete their Alexander Mackenzie–like overland quest in mid-November of 1862.

Alexander’s diary is significant as one of the earliest literary accounts of a migrant settler arriving overland to British Columbia. Millions have since followed Alexander to Lotusland to escape the harshness of winters in the other provinces, flying for a few hours instead of tramping through the wilderness for almost six months.

Upon his arrival in B.C., Alexander worked briefly for John Robson, editor of the British Columbian. He also mined briefly at Williams Creek, returned south to Victoria, and later took charge of the Hastings Mill Store, Vancouver’s first retail outlet, opened in 1856. He began working there as an accountant and rose to the position of manager upon the death of Captain James Raymur. Located at the foot of present-day Dunlevy Street, the store also served as a meeting place and post office. It survived the great fire of 1886 and was moved to its present site at the foot of Alma Street in Kitsilano in 1930. Alexander also served as a justice of the peace and a member of the Granville school board. He ran for mayor of Vancouver in the first civic election of May 3, 1886, but his arrogance made voters choose a newcomer, Malcolm Alexander MacLean, a realtor who won by 17 votes. At the time Richard Henry Alexander was the biggest employer in Granville, as Vancouver was then known. He died in Seattle in 1915.


FULL ENTRY:

When the Thomas McMicking expedition bound for the Cariboo gold fields departed from Fort Garry at the outset of June in 1862, it left behind various parties who were unable or unwilling to participate. These individuals formed three contingents: a group of twenty led by an American doctor named Symington, a minor group of five people known as the Rennie party, and a larger group of 63 people ostensibly led by police sergeant Stephen Redgrave. According to Joanne Leduc, editor of McMicking’s memoirs republished as Overland from Canada to British Columbia by Mr. Thomas McMicking of Queenston, Canada West (1981), the largest ‘after-party’ was actually led by an American adventurer named Timolean Love and two “half-breed” guides. Included in this Redgrave/Love cavalcade were the artist William G.R. Hind and Richard Henry Alexander. The latter produced a diary that remained as a manuscript in the Provincial Archives until it was published in a limited edition of 500 copies as The Diary and Narrative of Richard Henry Alexander In a Journey Across the Rocky Mountains (1973).

Born in Edinburgh on March 26, 1844, Richard Henry Alexander, the son of a wine merchant, was brought to Toronto by his parents in 1855, but he was unable to complete his medical studies. To reach the Cariboo gold fields, Alexander and others believed they could save time by not using the Panama route or the Oregon Trail, but Alexander’s diary and letters reveal he and his companions almost starved to death in order to complete their Alexander Mackenzie-like overland quest by mid-November of 1862. His diary is significant as one of the earliest literary accounts of a migrant settler arriving overland to British Columbia. Millions have since followed Alexander to Lotusland to escape the harshness of winters in the other provinces, flying for a few hours instead of tramping through the wilderness for almost six months.

Upon his arrival in B.C., Alexander worked briefly for John Robson, editor of the British Columbian. He also mined briefly at Williams Creek, returned south to Victoria, and later took charge of the Hastings Mill Store, Vancouver’s first retail outlet, opened in 1856. He began working there as an accountant and rose to the position of manager upon the death of Captain James Raymur. Located at the foot of present-day Dunlevy Street, the store also served as a meeting place and post office. It survived the great fire of 1886 and was moved to its present site at the foot of Alma Street in Kitsilano in 1930. Alexander served as a justice of the peace and a member of the Granville school board. He ran for mayor of Vancouver in the first civic election of May 3, 1886, but his arrogance made voters choose a newcomer, Malcolm Alexander MacLean, a realtor who won by 17 votes. At the time Richard Henry Alexander was the biggest employer in Granville, as the city was known. He died in Seattle in 1915.

BOOKS:

The Diary and Narrative of Richard Henry Alexander In a Journey Across the Rocky Mountains (Richmond, B.C.: The Alcuin Society, 1973).

[BCBW 2014]