R. E. (R. Edward) Gosnell.

A history; British Columbia online

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has the honor of being the first merchant of the city as well as the owner
of its first residence. The first stock of goods for the store was secured in
Victoria and he continued in the trade until 1873. ^^ was long prominent
in its business life and thus contributed in large measure to the commercial
activity of the city, upon which the prosperity and well-being of every com-
munity always depends.

Mr. Armstrong has also figured prominently in public affairs, aiding
in molding public thought and action, and his influence has ever had a
beneficial effect upon his community and province. In i860, when the first
town council was elected, he was chosen one of the councilmen and re-
mained an active member of that body until 1873. In 1869 he was chosen
its president and also in 1870. He became very active in securing federa-
tion, and after this was accomplished he was elected to represent the dis-
trict of Westminster in the provincial legislature. In 1873, when the
McCreight government was defeated by the DeCosmos government, he joined
the cabinet of the latter as minister of finance and agriculture and retained
that office until 1876, when his party was defeated. He continued an active
worker an the opposition benches until 1879. During the session of that
year a deadlock occurred and the government was about to appeal to the
country without having passed the estimates. Mr. Armstrong, understand-
ing the financial situation and seeing the effect it would have on the provincial
credit, arranged a meeting between three representatives from each party
and secured an understanding whereby supplies were voted for the con-
duct of public business. In the general election of 1897 Mr. Armstrong
stood as a candidate for Ne^v Westminster, but was defeated, largely be-


cause of his inability to make a personal canvass, owing to the demands
upon his time made by his extensive business interests.

In the bi-election of 1881 Mr. Armstrong again offered himself as a
candidate for his city and was elected by an overwhelming majority. To-
ward the close of this session he became provincial secretary. In the gen-
eral election of 1882 he was again returned as representative from New
Westminster, but his party was in the minority in the house and he took his
seat on the opposition benches. In 1883 he was appointed sheriff of West-
minster county and the house thus lost one of its most able and energetic
working members — one who looked more tO' the interests of the county than
to the interests of the party. He has had much to do with the legislature of
the province, as well as with the management of its finances for eleven years,
and after his retirement was often urged to again stand for the dominion
and provincial legislatures, but declined to again enter public life.

In the years in which he figured prominently and beneficially in public
affairs, Mr. Armstrong capably managed private business interests. In 1867,
at Westminster, he built a flour mill, which was the first in the province, and
continued its operation until 1871. In 1876 he built a sawmill, which he
continued to conduct until 1882. He has had much to do with most of the
enterprises which, since i860 have been the principal features in the upbuild-
ing and development of the county, and his labors have had direct and imr
portant effect on material upbuilding and political progress. He was ap-
pointed and has filled the office of justice of the peace for many years. When
he had served as sheriff for ten years he resigned in favor of his son, who
has since filled that office.

In 1 86 1 Mr. Armstrong was married to Miss H. C. Ladner, a native
of Cornwall, England. This union has been blessed with three daughters
and three sons, as follows : Sarah Frances, at home ; William Thomas ;
Joseph, now sheriff of the county; Rosanna Salina, now the wife of Dr. O.
Morris, a practicing physician of Vernon; and two who died in childhood.
Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong are valued members of the Episcopal church, of
which he has been an officer for many years, and was one of the men who
aided in the building of the church edifice. He has for years been president
of the Westminster branch of the British Columbia and Foreign Bible So-
ciety, and has labored with strong purpose for the moral progress of his
county. Through a long period he has been identified with the Independent
Order of Odd Fellows and served as the first noble grand in New Westmin-

Mr. Armstrong, having promised his wife that when the railroad was


built through this city they would take a trip to the east, ten days after the
trains began running they and their two daughters started for Quebec, visiting
also Niagara Falls, Chicago. St. Paul and Winnipeg, having a delightful four
months' excursion by rail and seeing many points of interest in Canada and
the States. They have an attractive home in New Westminster, and this
honored pioneer, the first permanent settler here, receives the respect and
veneration which should ever be accorded those who travel far on life's jour-
ney and whose course has been marked by good deeds and strong and honora-
ble purpose. His name has long been a synonym for business and political in-
tegrity and his record forms an integral chapter in the history of British


George Lawson Milne, M. D., an ex-member of the provincial parlia-
ment, for the past quarter of a century a prominent medical practitioner in
Victoria, and also a leader in business circles and closely identified with public
affairs, has put his talents to use in many ways for his own advancement and
for the advantage of his province and his fellow men.

He is a Scotchman by birth, having been born in the town of Garmouth,
Morayshire, April 19, 1850. His ancestral line goes back many generations
in Scotland. His parents were Alexander and Isabella (Ingils) Milne, both
natives of that country. The Milnes were very prominent Scotch Presbyter-
ians, and Dr. Milne's father was an elder and a deacon after the disruption of
the church in 1845. The father followed merchandising in the old country,
and in 1857 emigrated to Ontario, dying in Meaford in that province, when in
the eighty-fourth year of his life. A successful business man and merchant,
he was likewise everywhere honored for his probity of character and useful-
ness in church and society. His wife died at the age of seventy- four years,
and they had been the parents of eleven children, six sons and five daughters.
The oldest son, the late Alexander Milne, C. M. G., was for many years col-
lector of customs in Victoria, and his death occurred on the 17th of January,

Dr. Milne is now the only member of the family in the province of Brit-
ish Columbia. He was seven years old when brought across the waters to
Canada, and he was reared and received his early education at Meaford. He
later took up the study of medicine, receiving the degree of M. D. from the
Toronto University and the degree of M. D. C. M. from the Victoria Univer-
sity, after which he immediately entered upon the practice of his profession.
He has gained an enviable reputation in his work, and has a profitable prac-


tice. He was health officer for the city of Victoria from 1886 to 1892, dur-
ing which time he took a hvely interest in the question of a proper sewage
system, and has written several able articles on the " Separate System of
Sewage," also an article on " Modified Typhoid Fever," besides other subjects.

During his residence in Victoria he has been especially interested in
public affairs. For the advancement of the cause of education he served
for a number of years on the school board, and the school system of the city
has been effectively aided by him. He was among the first to take steps look-
ing to providing a new medical act for the province, and since the organiza-
tion of the medical council he was registrar and secretary for many years,
as well as a medical examiner for that body. Dr. Milne's political alignment
has always been with the Liberals, and he represented the city of Victoria in
the local legislature from 1900 to 1904. In 1896 he contested, but unsuccess-
fully, the constituency of Victoria city and district for the Dominion house
of parliament. At present Dr. Milne is medical inspector and immigration
agent at Victoria for the Dominion government, and is a justice of the peace
in and for the province of British Columbia.

Dr. Milne has been a valuable factor in business affairs, notwithstanding
his activity in professional work. It is to his credit that the Vancouver Gas
Company was instituted, and he served as president of the company for some
years. He is a director and president of the Nanaimo Gas Company. He
is president of the Ramsey Brothers and Company, biscuit and candy manu-
facturers, whose large factory is located at Vancouver, and is also a director
of the National Life Assurance Company of Canada, with head office in To-
ronto, Canada. For a number of years he was president of the Liberal Asso-
ciation of Victoria. Dr. Milne is a prominent Mason, and has taken the blue
lodge, the Royal Arch and Knight Templar degrees, and is also a member of
the Independent Order of Foresters. His church connections are with the
St. Andrew's Presbyterian church, of which he is a valued member.

Dr. Milne was married in 1882 to Miss Ellen Catherine Kinsman, who
is a native of Victoria and a daughter of Alderman John Kinsman, of that
city. The Milne home is one of the most delightful in Victoria ; it is known
as " Pinehurst," located on the Dallas road, and its beauty and charm are
appreciated by scores of friends.


James Yates, a prominent Victoria pioneer of 1849, "^^^ contributed to
the early development of the city and aided in shaping the public policy to


the betterment of conditions, material, intellectual and political, in the prov-
ince, was born in Linlithgow, Scotland, on the 21st of January, 1819. He
was reared and educated in his native country and was there married to Miss
Mary Powell. In early life he had learned the trade of a ship carpenter and
he came to British Columbia in 1849 to superintend the building of the Hud-
son Bay ships, having an agreement whereby he was. to remain in charge of
this work for three years. He was stationed at Victoria for eighteen months,
at the end of which time he applied for a termination of the business arrange-
ment with the Hudson's Bay Company. This was granted and he then
opened a store of his own in which he sold goods and bought furs. He also
invested in city property and became the owner of all of the land extending
between Langley and Wharf streets, and Yates street, in this district, was
named in his honor. Recognizing and taking advantage of existing busi-
ness possibilities he made money rapidly, accumulating a handsome fortune
during his sojourn in British Columbia. In 1855 he was elected to the first
legislative council of Vancouver Island to represent Victoria city. In i860
he returned to Scotland, taking his family with him and leaving them in
that country in order to provide his children with better educational ad-
vantages than could be secured in the province. He, however, returned to
British Columbia in 1862 and it required two years for him to settle up his
business. In 1864 he returned to his native land, where he spent his re-
maining days, departing this life on the 23d of February, 1900, when in the
eighty-first year of his age. His wife had died about a year prior to his
demise. They were the parents of six children, as follows : Emma, who
became the wife of Hon. Alexander McGregor, British consul in Stockholm,
Sweden; Harriet, who became the wife of Professor G. S. Woodard, a pro-
fessor of Pathology in the University of Cambridge; Mary, who is now Mrs.
Harper, of Edinburgh, Scotland; Henry Myers and Catherine Jane, residing
in Edinburgh, and James Stuart.

The last named was born in Victoria, in 1857, ^^"^^ i^^ 1^62 he started
with the family for Scotland. While in New York, at the St. Denis Hotel,
he came very nearly losing his life by falling several stories down the well
of a circular staircase. Both of his legs were broken and the New . York
physician said he could not recover, but his father took him to Liverpool and
placed him under the care of an eminent surgeon. Dr. Evan Thomas, and in
three months he had recovered. He then joined the family in Scotland,
where he acquired his education, attending the Edinburgh Collegiate School
and the University of Edinburgh, being graduated in the latter institution
with the degrees of Master of Arts, and Bachelor of Laws. He then entered


Middle Temple, London, England, as a law student and passed the required
examination for admission to the bar in the Hilary term in 1883.

After traveling through Denmark Mr. Yates came again to British
Columbia, arriving in Victoria in the month of October, 1883, and here he
embarked in the practice of his profession in connection with George Jay.
Edwin Johnson, a well known barrister of Victoria, was absent in England
for a year and they managed his business and upon his return the law firm of
Johnson, Yates & Jay was organized, this relationship being continued until
1888, when Mr. Johnson withdrew, retiring from the practice of law. Since
that time the firm of Yates & Jay has maintained a continuous existence, with
a remunerative general law practice.

In his political views Mr. Yates is a Liberal. He was elected and served
as one of the aldermen of the city in 1900, and was afterward re-elected by
acclamation. He had the honor of being elected altogether four times and
was the head and front of the controversy concerning the construction of the
Point Ellis bridge, and had his views been carried out at that tmie eighteen
thousand dollars would have been saved to the city. Mr, Yates was prom-
inent in the organization of the Native Sons of British Columbia and had
the honor of being elected its first chief factor. He was for many years a
director of the Royal hospital and was also a director of the Provincial Jubi-
lee from its inception. He served as a member of the Victoria school board
for four years, during which time the north and south ward schoolhouses
were built. He was a member of the Hon. Jo Martin government, and under
Mr. Martin he served as chief commissioner of lands and works. Thus his
activities have touched many lines bearing upon public progress and the bet-
terment of conditions, educational and otherwise, in Victoria and the province,
and he is widely and favorably known for his public-spirited citizenship.

In 1890 Mr. Yates was happily married to Miss Annie Austin, a native
of Victoria, and they now have three sons : James Austin, Henry Joel and
Robert Stanley. The family are highly esteemed, and socially as well as
professionally Mr. Yates is prominent.

James Welton Home, one of the most honored and prominent residents
of the city of Vancouver, his life history forming an important chapter in its
history, is the eldest son of Christopher and Elizabeth Harriet (Orr) Home,
who were of Scotch and English ancestry. His birth occurred in the city of
Toronto, Canada, on the 3d of November, 1853, and he there acquired his
early education. He afterward attended school in Whitby and completed


his studies in the college at Belleville, Ontario. Thus equipped for life's prac-
tical and resix)nsible duties he entered the office of the Stathacona Fire Insur-
ance Company as assistant secretary, and at the end of a year began business
on his own account as a financial, real estate and insurance broker. He suc-
ceeded in securing a large clientage within three years, but Horace Greeley's
advice, " Go west, young man, go west," was continually in his mind like a
refrain. He was studying the signs of the times when the west was just
being opened up to civilization for it afforded excellent natural resources
and business opportunities and when there w^ere great possibilities for a young
man of energy and enterprise. Subsequently in the spring of 1878 he re-
moved to Winnipeg, w^here he again opened an office as a financial, real estate
and insurance broker. Almost immediately he acquired a large and remu-
nerative business there, but he was continually seeking broader fields of labor,
and in March, 1881, when the Canadian Pacific Railway Company completed
its arrangement with the Dominion government to build the line west from
Winnipeg, Mr. Home at once determined to again act upon Horace Greeley's
advice. There were hundreds of people on the qui vive to be the first on the
site of the new town which was expected to spring up on the line of the road
in the center of a fine agricultural country west of Winnipeg. Mr. Home
concluded that he would be the first on the site, and when General Rosser laid
out the road for the railroad Mr. Horne followed him on horseback. When
he reached the point on the Assiniboyne river where it was necessary for
the Canadian Pacific Railroad to cross he decided that he had found the site
of the future town. Three reasons seemed to confirm his opinion. It was at
the head of navigation on the Assiniboyne ; it was the center of a magnificent
agricultural district, and it was sufficiently distant from Winnipeg, and would
if once started attract the people in Winnipeg. The site of the future town
was at that time undistinguishable from the prairie which surrounded it on
every side, save that the great stakes of the railroad had been there driven.
Mr. Horne purchased a portion of land at this point, at once put up a tent on
the prairie and subdivided his land into town lots. He also opened and
graded a street and when this was done began the erection of buildings, it
being his intention to attract residents to the new^ tow^n. He then returned to
Winnipeg and influenced a few of the business men to take his stores free of
rent and establish different lines of commercial enterprises at that place, thus
casting in their fortunes with the embryo city. His plan worked well for
every new business and every additional citizen attracted others, so that the
town became advertised, people talked about it and the settlers visited it to
become permanent residents. The government land agent was induced by


Mr. Home to make his headquarters there and thus the first office building
was located at that point. Mr. Home secured the establishment of a post-
office and the papers began to comment upon the new western town, its
growth and possibilities, and in the autumn of the first year it had between
two and three hundred inhabitants. The future of Brandon — for so it was
called — was thus assured. Mr. Home continued to erect buildings on his
property and Rosser avenue, the street on which they were built, became the
principal thoroughfare. In November the railroad reached the place and with
it a large number of people poured in. In the spring of 1882 there were
over one thousand inhabitants in Brandon, a public meeting was called, a city
charter was applied for and granted and Mr. Home allowed himself to be
elected a member of the council board, believing that he could accomplish
much in that position. At the first meeting of the board he was elected
chairman of the board of public v\^rks and in that capacity he brought in a
report recommending the opening of streets, the building of sidewalks and
other city improvements which would cost one hundred and fifty thousand
dollars. The recommendation was adopted and the work of carrying out the
details was left to him. He at once advertised for workers in the principal
papers in the east and the attention of contractors and workers was thus
turned to Brandon and a large number of people came, so that at the end of
the year its population had reached three thousand. Mr. Home was also
instrumental in securing the establishment of public institutions here, a land
register office was located in the young city and the office of registrar was
tendered to him, but he declined it. His property increased in value with the
growth of the town and he was regarded as a most enterprising and success-
ful business man.

The work of city building here having been carefully instituted and
placed upon a safe basis Mr. Home then sought other fields of activity. He
had always kept a watchful eye upon the Pacific province and was especially
interested in the terminus of the Canadian Pacific Railway. In the spring of
1883 he took a trip to southern California and on his return visited Burrard
inlet and the Fraser river. He perceived, however, that he was too early to
do permanent work in that locality and returned to Winnipeg and Brandon
to settle up his business affairs there. In the spring of 1884, however, he
again visited Burrard inlet, but found that the terminus had not yet been
definitely settled. In March, 1885, he finally located at Coal Harbor, now
the city of Vancouver, this being a year and ten months before the railroad
was extended to the city. He invested largely in real estate when there was
little to indicate the present phenomenal metropolis except a fev/ board shan-


ties scattered along the beach. At this early stage in the city's history, when
it existed only on paper, he identified himself with its progress and growth.
Possessing keen discrimination ahd sagacity he made very choice locations
of property and erected business buildings thereon. His faith in Vancouver
and its possibilities was from the first unbounded and time has proven the
wisdom ,of his belief, crowning his labors with success. He built several
large business blocks on Cordova, Granville and other streets and from that
time to the present has been a most active factor in the substantial upbuilding
and improvement of the city. He has not only conducted private business
interests, but has labored for Vancouver in public office. He was the original
moving spirit in organizing the company for the building of the street rail-
way, was the promoter of the electric light company, and was instrumental in
the building of the tramway between Vancouver and New Westminster. He
acted as president and managing director of the street railway and of the
electric light companies for several years, or until he sold his interests. In
1888 he was elected a member of the city council and again in 1889 and 1890,
on all occasions receiving the largest vote ever cast in the city. In 1890 he
was chosen a member oi the legislative assembly of British Columbia, as
representative from Vancouver, and his course in office has fully justified the
trust reposed in him. Since coming to British Columbia he has been identi-
fied with "almost every enterprise of importance which has had for its object
the development of the country and the promotion of Vancouver's welfare.
He was chairman of the board of park commissioners for six years and de-
voted much time and energy to the superintending and beautifying of the
park. The zoo which now attracts thousands of visitors annually was per-
sonally started by him at his own expense and donated to the city. Upon two
occasions he was offered a portfolio in the Davie government, that of minister
of finance and minister of lands and works, but both of these he declined on
account of having to devote his entire attention to his varied business interests
m Vancouver. During his four years' service in the house of the assembly
he was a most careful and hard working representative and never lost an
opportunity for furthering the material interests and substantial upbuilding
of his district. To his zeal and energy is due the fact that the city of Van-
couver can today boast of many public advantages and splendid edifices, these
being monuments to his very capable work. Because of his private business
interests and the conditions of his health Mr. Home decided not to again
stand for the assembly and in a meeting held by the government supporters the
following resolution was passed by a standing vote : " Resolved, that the best
thanks of the general community of the supporters of the government party



in the city of Vancouver are hereby accorded to Mr. J. W. Home, Esquire, M,
P., for the able and valuable services rendered by him to the city of Vancouver
and the province at large during the four years he has been a member for
this constituency; that they regret business and other considerations have

Online LibraryR. E. (R. Edward) GosnellA history; British Columbia → online text (page 29 of 79)