R. E. (R. Edward) Gosnell.

A history; British Columbia online

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of progress in interior British Columbia. Of recognized honesty and integrity,
energetic and persistent, from the outset of his career he has easily made his
own way and w'hile gaining his own livelihood and a secure place in material
affairs he has also won the esteem and respect of his fellow citizens.

A native of Glengary, Ontario, born February 7, 1863, his father,
Alexander McRae, being now deceased, but his mother, Jane (Dey) Mc-
Rae, still living in Glengary, Mr. McRae grew up in his native province,
acquired a public . school education, interspersed with wholesome training in
industrious and honest habits, and after leaving the parental roof he fol-
lowed the arduous pursuit of lumbering in the woods of Michigan, Wis-



600 BRITISH COLUMBIA

consin and Minnestoa. Mr. McRae has lived in Revelstoke since the spring
of 1886, at which time he came out to this province to continue the kimber
business. He did lumber contracting for the Canadian Pacific Railroad, and
for about six years prospected in the mines of this vicinity.

Mr. McRae's public service career has displayed his eminent usefulness
to his fellow citizens outside the sphere of his own private duties and re-
sponsibilities. He entered the public service as mining recorder and con-
stable. He was chief license inspector for the district and was also mining
recorder at Trout Lake. He resigned from' the provincial offices in order
to contest the Revelstoke Riding, but was defeated. In 1902 he was ap-
pointed postmaster, and has since filled this office to the eminent satisfaction
of all concerned, his zeal and conscientious devotion to all affairs of the city
and district making him an ideal public official.

Mr. McRae was married in 1890 to Miss Annie Richardson, a daughter
of Thomas Richardson, of Dorchester, Ontario. Mr. and Mrs. McRae have
six sons, Alexander, Charles, Walter, Thomas, William John and James.
Mr. McRae affiliates with Kootenay Lodge No. 15, A. F. & A. M., and he
and his wife adhere to the Presbyterian church.

ALEXANDER JACK.

Alexander Jack, whose labors have been a factor in the development
of the rich mineral resources of British Columbia and who in his business
career has advanced from a humble financial position to one of affluence,
is numbered among the early settlers of Victoria of 1862. He was born in
New Mecklin, parish of Intherickshire, Scotland, about ten miles east of the
city of Glasgow, on the 9th of November, 1827. His father, John Jack,
descended from the lowland Scotch ancestry, was a farmer and was one of
the steadfast members of the " Ould Kirk " of Scotland. He lived to the
age of seventy-five years, but his wife died of cholera in 1853. They were
the parents of seven sons and five daughters, but only two are now living.

Alexander Jack acquired his early education in his native country and
spent the days of his youth upon his father's farm, no event of special im-
portance occurring to vary the routine of farm life for him while he was
mastering the labors of the fields and the lessons taught in the schoolroom.
Attracted, however, by favorable reports concerning the business opportuni-
ties of the Pacific coast country, he made the voyage around Cape Horn in
the old ship Celesta in 1862, arriving in Victoria in the fall of that year.
One hundred and twenty-eight days passed ere. the voyage was completed
and there were three hundred passengers on board. The vessel was com-



BRITISH COLUMBIA 601

mandecl by Captain Joslyn and of all these who came to British Columbia
on that occasion Mr. Jack knows of but thirty who are now living. He was
first engaged in British Columbia in clearing land for Sir James Douglas,
also in making rails and building fences. In this he was associated with
John Waddle as a partner. They also were given a contract for digging a
cell'ir for Sir James Douglas. In the spring of 1863, however, they went to
the Cariboo mining district, prospecting in that locality, but the gold was so
deep that the water prevented successful work in the mines. In 1865 Mr.
Jack was associated with others in the ownership of a claim, of which he
was made foreman. At first it did not yield profitably and the company be-
came involved in debt to the amount of sixteen thousand dollars. However,
owing to the unfaltering perseverance and determination combined with the
practical business methods of Mr. Jack the work of developing the mine was
placed upon a paying basis and in seven weeks the indebtedness was not only
cleared off but there was also a profit of three thousand dollars accruing to
each of its partners. The other partners also gave to Mr. Jack a gold watch
valued at two hundred and fifty dollars, which was properly inscribed and
Vshich he still carries. It is an excellent time piece, being yet in good condi-
tion. Mr. Jack also had another claim that paid him nine thousand dollars
and is still bearing. Later he went to Mosquito creek, where with others he
owned the Minnehaha, named by Dr. Corral, who was one of the promoters.
Mr. Jack spent two years at Peace creek, where he has mining interests yield-
ing him about seven hundred dollars a year, and later he went to Cassiar,
where he took out one thousand dollars in a year. He also worked for
wages at mining and he spent four and a half years in mining operations at
Ashel. realizing two thousand dollars from his labor, being paid two pounds
a day. In 1852 he went to Australia and was there engaged in mining,
securing a claim for which he paid twenty sovereigns. This proved a very
fortunate investment, for he took out one hundred pounds in one week and
twenty pounds in a single day. He sold his mining property and returned
to Scotland, taking contracts there on the Clyde, in which venture he both
made and lost money.

Mr. Jack was united in marriage to Miss Agnes Main, a daughter of
Robert Main and they came together to British Columbia in 1862. At the
time of his second visit to Scotland his wife had been at home for three
years and he returned for her and again brought her with him to British
Columbia. They were also accompanied by two nieces, whom they reared,
one being Jane Jackson, who married William Dixon and has since passed
away, while the other, Christina Forest, is now the wife of Donald Kear.



602 BRITISH COLUMBIA

Mr. and Mrs. Jack had no children of their own, but their union was a very
happy one until 1889, when she was taken from him by death. She was a
lady of very benevolent, kindly and charitable spirit, was one of the organ-
izers of the orphanage and was a woman much beloved not only by her
immediate family, but also by many friends. Mr. Jack is a member of St.
Andrews Presbyterian church, assisted liberally in the building of the church
edifice and has been generous in his contributions toward the erection of other
churches in Victoria. He occupies a pleasant home on Michigan avenue,
which he built many years ago and he also had a ranch of one hundred
acres, which he has recently sold. He is a member of the Independent Order
of Odd Fellows and has a wide and favorable acquaintance in Victoria and
British Columbia. His knowledge of the growth and development of the
province comes not from reading or hearsay, but from actual experience as
an eye witness of what has been accomplished.

WILLIAM SKENE.

William Skene, secretary of the Vancouver board of trade, is probably
one of the best informed men concerning the history of Vancouver in all its
departments of activity and growth from its founding to the present. Be-
sides knowing so thoroughly all the events that have transpired in the devel-
opment of this phenomenal city, he has likewise been a conspicuous factor in
promoting that development, and in private business affairs and by work
of semi-public nature he has helped advance Vancouver to a front rank among
the commercial and industrial centers of the great northwest.

Mr. Skene was born in Glasgow, Scotland, June 8, 1842, of highland
Scotch ancestry, his father, Alexander Skene, being a native of West Fife,
Scotland, and a resident of the city of Glasgow, while his mother, Isabella
(Sutherland) Skene, was born in Sutherlandshire, Scotland, and died many
years before her husband, both parents being Presbyterians in ■ religious
f-aith.

Mr. Skene, after receiving his education in the Glasgow Academy and
obtaining a practical training in the dry goods business, subsequently spent
twenty-five years in connection with practical woolen manufacturing in York-
shire and the West of England. His attention was directed to the excep-
tional business opportunities and the fine climate of British Columbia, and,
being so favorably and convincingly influenced, he made his arrival in Van-
couver in 1887. The town was then only a year old, and only two brick
buildings marked the site of the city of granite and brick which is now the
pride of the citizens and an object lesson of the prosperity and resources of



BRITISH COLUMBIA 603

British Columbia, There was then no clearing west of Granville street.
One of the buildings mentioned was on the corner of Homer and Cor-
dova streets, having been built by Mr. Jam.es Angus, of Victoria, and the
other had been built by A. G. Ferguson at the foot of Carroll and Alex-
ander streets. In this embryo city Mr. Skene opened a wholesale dry goods
house for Samuel Greenshield's Son and Company, and he conducted this
business for ten years, after which he took up assignee work and general
agency business. Mr. Skene has travelled extensively on the continent of
Europe, and is conversant with the French and German languages. From
the first he has been interested in all undertakings for the advancement of
Vancouver's material prosperity. He was one of the organizers and a char-
ter member of the board of trade, and has served as its secretary since 1901.
He is also secretary of the Vancouver General Hospital.

HON. NOAH SHAKESPEARE.

The name of Noah Shakespeare is deeply engraved on the pages of Vic-
toria's history, for through many years he has been a most important factor
in its interests. • His life has been filled with good deeds and labors of love
toward his fellows, and his career has ever been that of an honorable, enter-
prising and progressive man, whose well rounded character also enabled him
to take an active interest in educational, social and moral affairs, and to keep
well informed concerning the momentous questions affecting the welfare of
the nation. In all life's relations he commands the respect and confidence
of those with whom he has come in contact, and his upright life should serve
as an inspiration to the many friends who are familiar with his virtues.

A native son of England, Mr. Shakespeare was born at Brierly Hill,
Staffordshire, January 26, 1839, and is a representative of stanch old Eng-
lish ancestry. His parents were Noah and Hannah (Mathews) Shakespeare,
both natives of the fatherland, and descendants of the Shakespeare family
of which the poet was also a member. In the town of his birth the son Noah
spent the period of his boyhood and youth, and becoming imbued with the
idea that across the water in the new world brighter prospects awaited him,
he in 1862 made the voyage around Cape Horn on the steamship Robert Low,
arriving in Victoria, British Columbia, on Saturday evening of January 11,
1863. He was the only member of his family to undertake the journey to
this then almost unknown province. At that time the city of Victoria was
almost in its infancy, and Mr. Shakespeare landed without capital, a stranger
in a strange land. He accomplished the first task that was offered him,
which was in the Vancouver Collieries. His work thereafter was in Nan-



604 BRITISH COLUMBIA

aimo District, at the Pit Head, for the Hon. Robert Dunsmuir, continuing
there and at the mines until 1864, in which year he returned to Victoria and
engaged in the photographic business. Later he became a dealer in real
estate, buying and selling property in his own name.

From the first Mr. Shakespeare became deeply interested in the wel-
fare of the city which he chose as his home, and finding that British Colum-
bia was fast becoming the "dumping ground" for the lowest Asiatic ele-
ment, he espoused the cause of the working man and became a leader among
them. An Anti-Chinese Society was formed, of which Mr. Shakespeare
was made the president, and in 1876 his name headed a petition, signed by
fifteen hundred workingmen, asking the Dominion parliament for an act
restricting the emigration of Chinese to this country. He was soon after-
ward elected an alderman of the city, in which position he served four years,
and in 1882 was elected its mayor by a large majority of the votes. So sat-
isfactorily did he discharge the duties of that important office that at the
termination of his term his fellow citizens, in token of their appreciation of
his eminent services, presented him with an illuminated address. And it
was during his mayorality that Governor General Lx>rd Lorfte and Princess
Lx)uise visited the Pacific coast, and upon Mayor Shakespeare devolved the
duty of entertaining the city's distinguished guests, which position of honor
he filled in a manner highly satisfactory. In 1882 he was also elected a
member of parliament for the house of commons at Ottawa, to \yhich he was
re-elected in 1885, and during his service was active in securing the present
emigration restriction law passed in 1886. He resigned his seat in parlia-
ment to accept the office of postmaster of Victoria, a position he has con-
tinued to fill to the present time, covering a period of seventeen years, and
which he filled to the satisfaction of the government and to the patrons of
the office. He now has under his immediate supervision tw^enty clerks and
twelve carriers, and the receipts of the office in 1903 were fifty-two thou-
sand, three hundred and forty-three dollars.

In many other ways Mr. Shakespeare has shown his interest and activ-
ity in the affairs of the province. In 1882 he was elected president of the
Mechanics' Institute, was active in the organization of the British Colum-
bia Agricultural Association, and in 1885 was elected its president. Desir-
ing to again visit the scenes of his childhood and youth and to renew the
acquaintances of earlier years, he returned to England, and while there gave
several lectures on the resources and advantages of British Columbia, which
influenced many of the leading citizens to come to the northwest. Mr.
Shakespeare was also one of the organizers of the British Columbia Fire



BRITISH COLUMBIA 605

Insurance Company, of which he was elected president in 1886. Ever an
active worker in the cause of temperance, in 1877 he was elected grand
worthy chief templar of the grand lodge of Washington Territory and Brit-
ish Columbia, filling the same position in the following year, and in 1886
was elected president of the Young Men's Christian Association of Victoria.
He is president of the Provincial Branch of the International Sunday-school
Association, has been superintendent of the Methodist Sunday-school for
the past fifteen years, and has long been an active and helpful member of
the Methodist church.

In 1859 Mr. Shakespeare was united in marriage tO' Miss Elizabeth
Pearson, a native of the state of New York and a daughter of Thomas
Pearson. Mrs. Shakespeare, with her eldest child, came from England and
joined her husband in this country one year after his arrival, making the
long passage around Cape Horn. Eight children were born to them, four
of whom are now living, namely: Frederick N. E., William B., Hannah
M., the wife of Fred Berryman, and Percy S. All are adherents of the
Methodist church. The family reside in a beautiful cottage, the "Stratford,"
which he has surrounded with beautiful trees, shrubs and flowers, and is a
fitting abode in which to spend the evening of a long and well spent life.

GEORGE RANDALL ASHWELL.

George Randall Ashwell, one of the oldest and best known citizens of
the Chilliwack valley, is also an old-timer of British Columbia, and he has
spent the greater part of his active career in the province. Having come
here during pioneer days, he is familiar with all the course of development
by which British Columbia emerged from a wilderness into one of the richest
and most productive parts of the Dominion, and the broad lines which his
own activity has followed make him also a prominent factor in the history
and welfare of the province.

Born in Bedfordshire, England, December 17, 183 1, a son of Henry
and Mary (Randall) Ashwell, Mr. Ashwell, following the period of his
years devoted to attendance at the public schools of his native shire, took up
landscape gardening as a profession, and followed that in England until
he was twenty-five years old. On his emigration to Canada in 1856 he
spent the first six months at Toronto, and he then did carpenter work in
various places in Ontario for five years. He came out to New Westmin-
ster in 1861. and during the first year engaged in carpentering. He then
went into the hardware and furniture business with Thomas Cunningham,
and two years later the two departments of the business were divided, Mr.



606 BRITISH COLUMBIA

Ashwell retaining the furniture department and conducting it for eight
years. In 1871 he moved into the ChilHvvack valley and bought out several
settlers' rights in land. He is now the owner of seven hundred acres in
this fertile region, and has been a prominent and progressive factor in the
agricultural affairs of the locality. He also started a general merchandise
store at the landing on the river in 1873, and conducted that for twelve
years, until his removal into Chilliwack, where he is now the proprietor of
an extensive general merchandise store, a two-story metal covered' and one
of the most complete and reliable establishments in the province.

Mr. Ashwell is the owner of a large amount of town property, and he
is interested in every line of development which will promote the progress
and welfare of his district. He is one of the prime movers in the proposed
electric road to connect the valley with New Westminster. He has been
reeve of the municipality for several terms, and for years was a member of the
council. He is at present justice of the peace. As a staunch Conservative
in politics, he was, in 1902. the candidate of that party for parliament, and he
made the best run for a Conservative ever made in the district, missing the
election by only the narrow margin of seventeen votes. He and his family
are Methodists.

Mr. Ashwell was married in 1867 to Miss Sarah Ann Webb, a daughter
of John Webb, of England. Their three children are John Henry, George
Horatio Webb and Ethel May, who is the wife of Dr. Allen, of Vancouver.

JOHN L. BECKWITH.

John L. Beckwith, prominent in the political circles of Victoria and
now serving as one of its aldermen, is also one of the most active business
men of the city, at present a member of the board of trade of the province
and a representative of an extensive commission business and also of the
salmon industry of the northwest. He was born in Kentville, Nova Scotia,
on the 5th of March, 1856, and traced his ancestry back for many genera-
tions. The Beckwiths went from Normandy to England at the time when
William the Conqueror left that country, Sir Hugh de Malebisse being a sir
knight of Normandy. His grandson, Sir Hercules de Malebisse, in the year
1226 married Lady Beckwith Bruce, a daughter of Sir William Bruce, lord
of Ugelborby, who inherited his rank and lands from Sir Robert Bruce, of
Shelton castle, the progenitor of the royal family of Bruce in Scotland. It
was from this marriage that the name of Beckwith was derived. Lady
Beckwith Bruce inherited an estate or manor called Beckwith in the old
Anglo-Saxon, and with a view to perpetuating the name she required her



BRITISH COLUMBIA 607

husband by the marriage contract to assume the name of Beckwith. From
this ancestry the Beckwith family, of which John L. Beckwith is a member,
is descended. For generations they were lords of many of the old castles
in England.

Mathew Beckwith emigrated from England to New England in the
year 1645. Two of his sons, Samuel and Renald, emigrated to Nova Scotia
in 1760, and were the founders of the family there. They resided near the
site of the present township of Cornwallis and Samuel Beckwith received a
large grant of land from the English government. His son, Samuel, became
a merchant and extensive farmer and married Miss Rebecca Chipman. The
Chipmans traced their ancestry back to John Chipman, who was one of the
earliest settlers of New England, coming to America from Dorsetshire. He
married a daughter of a Mr. Howland, who was the pilgrim that landed
first on Plymouth Rock in 1620, and thus the subject of this review is also
descended from one of the distinguished bands of Puritans that made the
first settlement on the coast of New England, having crossed the Atlantic
in order to secure religious liberty. William Beckwith, a son of Samuel
Beckwith, became a Baptist clergyman and settled at Halifax. John Beck-
with, who with his brother located near Cornwallis in 1760, became a wealthy
land owner. The members of the Beckwith family w'ere loyal to the crown
and when the spirit of discontent arose in the colonies along the Atlantic
coast the Beckwiths left that part of the country and settled in Nova Scotia.
John Beckwith married a Miss Catherine Chipman, a sister of his brother's
wife. His son, Handley Beckwith, was born in Cornwallis, March 6, 1779,
and their son, Mayhew, was born in Cornwallis, April 7, 1801. He was the
grandfather of John L. Beckwith of this review and he became a prominent
merchant. He was also one of the leading members of the Baptist church' in
his locality and took a very active and helpful part in the organization of
the Acadia University. He also represented Kings county in the Nova Scotia
legislature and was a leading factor in the intellectual, political, material
and moral development of his native province. He married Eunice Rand.

John Albert Beckwith, son of Mayhew and Eunice (Rand) Beckwith,
was born in Cornwallis and early in life became a merchant there. Subse-
quently, however, he gave his attention to agricultural and horticultural pur-
suits and became a celebrated fruit-raiser and packer of Nova Scotia. He
married Miss Rebecca Barnaby, a native of Cornwallis. She was descended
from the Chipman family, being a niece of the late Hon. Samuel Chipman,
who was a man of note and attained to the very advanced age of one hundred
and five years. Mr. and Mrs. Beckwith became the parents of seven sons,



608 BRITISH COLUMBIA

all of whom following the advice of Horace Greeley went to the west. All
are now living with the exception of Alfred, who died in Portland, Oregon,
in 1893. William S. resides in Victoria. H. R. located in Portland, Ore-
gon, and is engaged in the commission business there. Harry M. also resides
in Portland, Oregon, where he is a member of a retail grocery firm. Arthur
W. is a stock rancher of Montana and is the assessor of the town of Hamil-
ton. Norman still resides on the old homestead farm, where he is engaged
in fruit-raising. The father died in 1891 at the age of seventy-two, while
his wife lived to the age of seventy-five. They were Baptists in religious
faith and were people of the highest respectability, enjoying the fullest con-
fidence and esteem of all who knew them. The family is now a numerous
one in both Canada and the United States and many representatives of the
name have filled high positions of honor and trust and have also been noted
for their devotion to moral influences and their activity in church work.

John L. Beckwith pursued his education in his native town and in early
life became familiar with the methods of merchandising, becoming an em-
ploye in a retail dry goods establishment. He has made merchandising his
life work and was one of the pioneer commercial travelers of British Colum-
bia, traveling over this country ere the construction of the railroad. For
five years he was a representative of Messrs. H. Shorey & Company, whole-
sale clothing manufacturers of Montreal, and for fifteen years has repre-
sented the firm of Mann, Byars & Company, of Glasgow, Scotland. He
has carried their goods as far east as Winnipeg. He has otherwise repre-
sented large wholesale dry goods firms and he is now in the general com-
mission business and has the agency of the Canada Rubber Company of
Montreal. He is also connected with the salmon canning industry and is a



Online LibraryR. E. (R. Edward) GosnellA history; British Columbia → online text (page 59 of 79)