HUMPHREYS, Danda




Author Tags: Architecture, Local History

Begbie. Douglas. Blanshard. Maynard. Yates. British surnames and streetnames are mostly the grist for Danda Humphreys’ On The Street Where You Live series, her histories of Victoria's earlier settlers. One exception is Quadra Street named for the 18th century Spanish sea captain Don Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra. A Creole from Peru, Quadra first arrived on the West Coast in a tiny ship with 15 men in 1776 and claimed the B.C. coast for Spain. To accept a British-Spanish agreement known as the Nootka Convention, he met Captain George Vancouver and Lieutenant-Commander William Broughton at Nootka Sound in 1792. Despite a language barrier and their age difference—-Quadra was about 15 years older—-the two men from rival colonial forces hit it off. They agreed the island should be named ‘Quadra and Vancouver’s Island.’

The first European ‘gentleman’ settler for Fort Victoria was Walter Colquhoun Grant, the namesake for Grant Road in Sooke. In 1849 the Hudson’s Bay Company advertised in England for pioneers with the promise of 100-acre parcels of land at one pound sterling per acre. Orphaned as an only child at a young age, Grant had few family ties. Grant sent labourers in advance to Fort Victoria while he took an unusual path—overland via Panama—before he built a sawmill at an Indian community called T’sou-ke, the precedent for Sooke. Grant’s men travelled 20 miles up the coast in canoes because there wasn’t a trail beyond Metchosin. Grant was a lacklustre surveyor with sophisticated manners who preferred to export lumber to San Francisco and Hawaii. Disillusioned, he sold out in 1854 and returned to England. “A splendid fellow and every inch an officer and a gentleman,” Grant later served in the Crimean War and died of dysentery in India in 1861 at age 39.

Alongside the Royal British Columbia Museum, the oldest surviving house in Victoria, Helmcken House, recalls the namesake for Helmcken Road. Dr. John Helmcken, one of 80 immigrants who arrived in 1850, is usually regarded as the first man to practise European medicine on the Pacific Coast of Canada, although he had numerous predecessors on the ships of explorers and traders. A tavern-keeper’s son, Helmcken entered the fledgling aristocracy in Victoria when he married the eldest daughter of Governor James Douglas in 1852. Known by children as ‘Dr. Heal-my-skin’, Helmcken became the First Speaker of the Vancouver Island General Assembly and helped to negotiate the colony’s entrance into Confederation. Not politically ambitious for himself, he maintained his medical practice until his retirement in 1910 at age 86 and died ten years later. Vividly described in Emily Carr’s memoirs, Helmcken was one of the few gentry in early Victoria worthy of some veneration--although he flip-flopped on political issues. A reluctant politician, he established the B.C. Medical Society and the B.C. Medical Council.

BOOKS:

On The Street Where You Live (Heritage House, 1999 34.95) Hardcover: 1-895811-90-2; Softcover 1-895811-98-8

On the Street Where You Live, Vol 2 (Heritage House, 2000)

On the Street Where You Live, Vol 3: Sailors, Solicitors and Stargazers of Early Victoria (Heritage House, 2001)

Building Victoria: A Peek Behind the Facades of Yesteryear (Heritage House, 2004, $24.95)

[BCBW 2004] "Local History" "Architecture"

On The Street Where You Live, Volume 2
Info



Taking some time away from her ongoing performances as Emily Carr and Anne Hathaway in Victoria, Times-Colonist columnist Danda Humphreys has produced her second Heritage House tribute to Victoria’s roadways and railways, On The Street Where You Live, Volume 2.

[BCBW AUTUMN 2000]