BC Black History Timeline
1864: Victoria Pioneer Rifle Corps disbands
January 31, 1865: The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolishing slavery is signed.
The Emancipation Proclamation, declared by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 during the American Civil War, only freed slaves held in confederate states. Only through this Thirteenth Amendment did emancipation become national policy. It was passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864, and by the House on January 31, 1865. It was signed by Abraham Lincoln on February 1, 1865.
JUNETEENTH: Texas was the last Confederate territory reached by the Union army, on June 19, 1865.
April 9, 1865: The End of the American Civil War
“By the end of the Civil War, roughly 179,000 black men (10% of the Union Army) served as soldiers in the U.S. Army and another 19,000 served in the Navy. Nearly 40,000 black soldiers died over the course of the war—30,000 of infection or disease. Black soldiers served in artillery and infantry and performed all noncombat support functions that sustain an army, as well. Black carpenters, chaplains, cooks, guards, laborers, nurses, scouts, spies, steamboat pilots, surgeons, and teamsters also contributed to the war cause. There were nearly 80 black commissioned officers. Black women, who could not formally join the Army, nonetheless served as nurses, spies, and scouts, the most famous being Harriet Tubman who scouted for the 2d South Carolina Volunteers.”
Source: Black Soldiers in the U.S. Military During the Civil War
On April 15,1865 President Abraham Lincoln is assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in Washington, D.C.
November 13,1865: Abner Hunt Francis is elected as a municipal councillor representing the Yates St. ward … then resigns!
In November 1865, nominations for Mayor of Victoria and 6 councillors were called for. Abner Francis is nominated by Willis Bond. (Colonist, November 9, 1865). The election took place on November 13th, Mayor-elect Lumley Franklin and Councillors Charles Gowan, Richard Lewis, Joseph Jeffrey, Abner Hunt Francis, and Robert Layzell were sworn in and took the Oath of Allegiance.
Surprisingly, the next day Francis resigned!, and posted the notice in the Colonist.
The issue was property ownership. Francis is on the “Real Estate Assessment Roll July 1,1864 to June 30,1865” with 2 properties; 1 on Quadra and 1 noted as Quadra/Fisgard. However, to determine eligibility for this election, the 1863 Property Assessment Roll was used and Francis did not own property in that year.
On November 17th, an editorial in the Colonist questioned the use of the Assessment Roll in determining candidacy for elections, and specifically why was the most recent (1865) assessment roll not used? “The assessment of 1862-3 is no more than a piece of waste paper …. The whole affair from beginning to end is a ‘mass’ of the most outrageous absurdity… ”
November 19, 1866: The Colonies of British Columbia and Vancouver Island are united as the new Colony of British Columbia
Early in August 1866, an Act for the Union of the colonies was passed by the Imperial Parliament. It became effective at noon on November 19, 1866, when it was proclaimed simultaneously in the two capitals, New Westminster and Victoria.
November 19, 1866: Mifflin Wistar Gibbs is elected as a Municipal Councillor representing James Bay Ward
Mifflin Wistar Gibbs was the first Black to be elected in B.C. and serve as a municipal councillor. He served as a councillor from 1866 to 1869 representing the James Bay Ward. While on council Gibbs chaired the council’s ways and means committee and from time-to-time acted as Deputy Mayor.
Gibbs was a business man, entrepreneur, community leader and politician. Read more about his unprecedented achievements.
July 1, 1867: O Canada!
On July, 1, 1867 The British North America Act came into effect marking the birth of the Dominion of Canada; comprising four provinces: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario. Ottawa was chosen as the capital and recently knighted Sir John A. Macdonald was the first prime minister.
May 25, 1868: Governor Seymour proclaims Victoria as the Capital of British Columbia
September 14,1868: The Yale Convention
On September 14,1868, 26 delegates from the BC colonies met at Yale for a convention of the Confederation League. The Confederation League was led by Amor de Cosmos, now a B.C. legislative council member. Another noted delegate is Mifflin Gibbs, representing Salt Spring Island.
*The plaque states “The Yale Convention. By 1868, the gold rushes that had founded British Columbia were over, the public debt was soaring and many were dissatisfied with the colonial government. On September 14, 1868, 26 delegates from all over the colony met at Yale for a convention of the Confederation League. This convention did much to stimulate popular support for the idea of union with Canada as a solution to the colony’s problems.“
September 16, 1868: The Barkerville Fire
John Anderson was a local correspondent for “The Elevator” a San Francisco newspaper. He writes “Mr. Editor: – Since I last wrote you, we have met with a serious calamity. – Barkerville has been entirely destroyed by fire, and it has been a ruinous loss to many …. among the sufferers are our friends W.D. Moses, I.P. Gibbs, and Miss Hickman. Mrs. R. Gibbs saved her things, but lost her house.”
*William Delany Moses ran a barbershop, I.P. Gibbs is a brother of Mifflin Gibbs and R. Gibbs is Rebecca Gibbs, a sister-in-law of Mifflin Gibbs.
US Constitution Amendments (14th and 15th) enacted in July 1868 and February 1869 may have been motivation for Blacks to return to the United States
We know that some Blacks did return to fight in the Civil War and after the Civil War with the abolition of slavery in the U.S. in 1865.
*On July 21,1868 the Fourteenth Amendment is ratified, granting citizenship to any person born or naturalized in the United States.
*On February 26,1869 Congress drafts the Fifteenth Amendment; it is ratified on March 30, 1870 granting African American men the right to vote by declaring that the right to vote shall not be denied on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
*Mifflin Gibbs returned to the United States in 1869/1870 and in his autobiography he writes “I had left politically ignoble; I was returning panoplied with the nobility of an American citizen.”
July 20, 1871: British Columbia becomes the sixth province to join Confederation
*By 1871 the federal government of Canada finally promised to build a railway to British Columbia, however the railway was not completed until 1885!
*By a United Kingdom Order in Council, British Columbia became the sixth province on 20 July 1871. Sir Joseph Trutch was appointed the first Lieutenant Governor, and the Legislative Assembly elected John Foster McCreight as the first Premier.
1871: Census for Blacks in B.C. and Canada
British Columbian Population by Principal Racial Ethnic Origins 1871. Source: Jean Barman “The West Beyond the West”, pg. 429. Total population: 36,427 comprised of:
- Indigenous est. 25,661 (70.8%)
- British/Continental European 8,576 (23.7%)
- Asian 1,548 (4.3%)
An informal census by the Victoria Police Department in 1871 counted 128 colored men and 89 colored women. The official Canadian census states 462 Black people in BC in 1871.
Deas Cannery employs 25 people
John Sullivan Deas took over the salmon canning business that had been started by Edward Stamp, and pre-empting the land that now bears his name.
*July 25,1872, British Colonist Newspaper “At the Fishery which is carried on by Mr. Deas some 300 cases of canned salmon were already put up, four boats were constantly at work, the number of men employed is about 25.”
November 26, 1872: B.C. enacts legislation for Black men to be on the official list of jurors
*Peter Lester sat as a juror in February 1860 but Black men were not on the “official list of jurors maintained by the Sheriff’s office” as had been promised by Douglas.
*In March 1872, Black residents presented a petition to the Legislative Assembly requesting their names be added to the official list.
*On March 21, 1872 the Daily British Colonist reports “The resolution was lost 5 to 13”. Dr. Ash “a colored man had never been summoned on a jury in Victoria and the reason seemed to be that white men object to sitting beside colored men.”
*On November 27, 1872 there is the following brief notice on pg. 3 in the Daily British Colonist. “The first colored jurors who have sat in the Province since 1860, were empaneled yesterday. Another blow at prejudice.”
Image A-01626 Courtesy of Royal BC Museum and Archives
John Craven Jones and Henry W. Robinson are elected to Salt Spring Island council
*When Salt Spring was incorporated in Spring 1873, John Craven Jones and Henry W. Robinson were elected to the seven-member council.
*John Craven Jones was the island’s school teacher originally from Oberlin, Ohio.
*Henry William Robinson, originally from Bermuda, served as the council secretary.
*Salt Spring Island remained incorporated for about 10 years. Today the island is an unincorporated rural Electoral District within the Capital Regional District (CRD).
Pompey Jackson is the oldest person buried at Ross Bay Cemetery?
Pompey Jackson is believed to be the oldest person buried at Ross Bay Cemetery (G42 W18). On October 3,1873 on page 3 of the British Daily Colonist is a brief notice of his death “Old Jackson, a colored man, aged 111 years, died near the Royal Oak yesterday (October 2, 1873). He was born in Virginia in 1762.
*His death in 1873, age 111 indicates that if he was one of the settlers who arrived in 1858 he would have been about 96 at that time. Did he come with family and who were they? Two men, Thomas H. Jackson (Drayman) and Richard Jackson (Gardener) did apply for citizenship in September 1858 but there are no records found that they are related.
*A year before his death there is a civil case reported in the British Colonist dealing with a dispute about the ownership of a cow “Pompey Jackson vs. C. King” giving perhaps some indication that Jackson was farming here.
September 1874: Emma Stark: 1st Black teacher on Vancouver Island
“Emily Arabella (Emma) Stark 1856 – 1890 Emily was the daughter of Louis and Sylvia Stark. She was appointed the first teacher in the new North Cedar School in 1874, becoming the first Black teacher on Vancouver Island.” Emma had grown up on Salt Spring Island, arriving with her parents, grandparents and 1 brother when she was just 4 years old. She completed high school in Nanaimo. Here’s her story
May 3,1876: Black and white community members meet to organize First Baptist church
Today the First Baptist Victoria church is located at the corner of North Park and Quadra Streets, Victoria.
In the initial stages of this church, Blacks and whites, met in homes for prayer meetings.
“On May 3, 1876 fifteen people met to organize the First Baptist Church. They were: William Carnes, Fielding Spotts, Alexander Clyde, Julia Spotts, Mrs. Fanny Clyde, Thomas W. Pierre, Caleb Bishop, Alfred Oldershaw, Mrs. Johnson, Thomas Mathews, John Sluggett, Augustus Christopher, Madison F. Bailey, Mrs. Sally Page, Mrs. Mary A. Bailey. This was the first Baptist cause to be inaugurated in British Columbia, and the first Canadian Baptist work west of Winnipeg.” First Baptist Church History
Fielding Spotts: South Saanich school trustee 1879 to 1884
Fielding and Julia Spotts were part of the first Black community that settled in Saanich, just north of Victoria. They had eight children. Fielding was a trustee at the schools their eight children attended; Lake District School circa 1870 and then at the South Saanich School circa 1879 to 1884. Their story
June 25,1883: Grafton Tyler Brown art exhibition opens in Victoria
The 1 week art exhibition included 22 paintings: views of Victoria, surrounding area and the mainland. This is the first art exhibit in Victoria by any artist. Brown is considered the first professional Black artist on the Pacific North West. The photo was taken in his studio at the Occidental Hotel in Victoria. The painting in progress on the easel is “Valley of the Similkameen (1883)”
William Allen Jones is the 1st licensed dentist in B.C.
William Alan Jones was granted a licence on June 26, 1886 under the British Columbia Dental Act. William Allen was the oldest of three brothers who came with the other pioneers in 1858. William received his degree at Oberlin College in 1857. After the American Civil War (1861-1865) William returned to Oberlin College to complete his dental studies and then returned to Barkerville. “Painless Jones: The Barkerville Dentist”
*Image is a pencil sketch by Gene Grooms, local artist (1994); BC Black History Awareness Society Collection
July 4, 1886: First scheduled passenger train arrives in BC at the Port Moody terminal
“The Shady Creek Church”
The Church was originally constructed east of the Old East Saanich Road, nearby Sandhill Creek. Charles Alexander initiated and assisted in the building of the original church and was one of its first lay preachers.
This church stood for some 30 years; the congregation built a new building completed in 1895 at its current location on East Saanich Road. The name of the church has adapted as the community has grown, originally called Saanich Methodist Church then South Saanich United Church. In 1952, the name was again changed to Shady Creek United Church and is now called Central Saanich United Church.
Golden Wedding Anniversary on Christmas Day 1899
Charles and Nancy were married in Springfield Illinois, on December 25,1849. In 1899 they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with many friends and well-wishers at their home in Lake Hill (a subdivision in Saanich, BC).
*The studio portrait is 10 years later. The dress was made for their 60th wedding anniversary.
More than 400 descendants have been documented and many still live on Vancouver Island, Salt Spring Island and on the mainland. Here’s their story
Image: Studio portrait of Charles and Nancy Alexander on their 60th wedding anniversary. Image A-01068 Courtesy of Royal BC Museum and Archives