The Crown gave notice to the Hudson’s Bay Company on January 20, 1858, that its Charter would not be renewed. Britain planned to take control of the Vancouver Island colony as of May 30, 1859. The situation was complicated by conflicting land title claims and because the official map of 1858 being used by the Colonial Office was different from the map used by the Company, so final surrender was delayed eight long years, until April 3, 1867.
In addition to the Colony of Vancouver Island, a second Crown Colony was established on the mainland in 1858. Douglas resigned from the HBC in order to become Governor of the new Colony of British Columbia as well as Governor of the Colony of Vancouver Island. He remained Governor of both colonies until his retirement in 1863-64. The mainland colony resented his blatant favoritism to Victoria, where he continued to live, while visiting the capital of the mainland colony, New Westminster, on occasion.
Victoria changes during the gold rush
Fort Victoria was “a quiet little hamlet” during the Fur Trade era, a Company town with a European population between 200 to 400. Victoria was an isolated, stable society largely insulated from the outside world. Hudson’s Bay Company employees and their families were the elite; they dominated socially, economically and politically.
In 1858, a huge influx of gold seekers heading to the Fraser River changed all that. Newcomers, both miners and settlers, had no allegiance to the Company nor much respect for it. There was consistent criticism from independent settlers and missionaries opposing the policies of Douglas and the Company. The newcomers prompted a dramatic change in social relationships because both American and British immigrants viewed mixed race families as inferior. It had long been the practice across Canada for Company employees to marry aboriginal women, so almost all HBC families in Victoria were mixed race. Fort families became visible minorities overnight.
On April 25, 1858, the first group of 450 miners bound for the Fraser River gold fields arrived on the Commodore. This was followed on June 27, 1858 by a ship with 800 men. July 1 brought 1,900 more. July 8 two more ships landed 2,800 men. “Victoria quickly became the principal point of entry to the gold country...a wholesale centre for both the coast region and vast interior of British Columbia.” (“The Company in Victoria,” The Beaver, September 1941, p. 7)
Estimates vary as to the size of the influx. “It has been estimated that no less than twenty thousand miners, merchants, jobbers, speculators and adventurers of all sorts came to Victoria in 1858.” (Scholefield, p. 560) William John Macdonald, the HBC employee who later became a Trustee of Beacon Hill Park and Mayor of Victoria, wrote in his Reminiscences, “In the spring and summer...our small community was augmented by an invasion of about 35,000 persons, from the United States chiefly...” (Burns, Flora Hamilton, “Victoria in the 1850's,” The Beaver, December 1949, p.38) Though most miners were passing through, it is likely 8,000 miners were often in Victoria at one time.
Lot prices in Victoria rose from $5 to $500. Even rural land purchased by HBC employees for farming shot up in value and could be sold for great profits. HBC supplies went quickly at higher prices. Macdonald mentioned the continuing water shortage in Victoria; water sold at $1 per 90 gallon barrel. Some of the new arrivals stayed to set up businesses and two began publishing the first newspaper, The Victoria Gazette. While the goldfields were frozen, many miners returned to overwinter in Victoria. They outnumbered the residents and brought in revenue.
Lekwungen life in the white settlement era
1858 marks the end of the Fur Trade era and the beginning of the white settlement era. The impact on aboriginals from this point forward was severe. During the fur trade years, the white population remained low and it had still been possible to a large extent for the Lekwungen to continue hunting, fishing and plant gathering. The HBC farming company damage to aboriginal hunting and food gathering areas was now multiplied a hundred fold as new settlers bought and fenced off private property. Promises to the Lekwungen that they could continue hunting, fishing and food gathering forever--still legally in effect today--became impossible with settlers fierce resistance to “trespassing.”
Historian Robin Fisher explained: "Settlement brought the clash of the two cultures in a way that the fur trade had never done.” All over British Columbia the problem was the same: “The conflict was simple and inevitable: the Indian had the land and the settlers wanted it.” (Contact and Conflict, pp. 97,103)
Immigrant missionaries had an agenda, too. Their interest was to “save” and “educate” and “improve” the aboriginals, to teach them to imitate whites and stop being “Indians.” Fisher wrote:
“...the missionaries were a part of the settlement frontier and required major social change of the Indians...Their aim was the complete destruction of the traditional integrated Indian way of life. The missionaries demanded even more far-reaching transformation than the settlers and they pushed it more aggressively than any other group of whites... The missionaries worked within the framework of government coercion established by the settlement frontier.” (Fisher, pp. 144-145,142)
The European version of the settlement period is a triumphal story of settlers and missionaries braving the “frontier,” bringing civilization to ignorant and backward “natives,” occupying “empty” land and developing its potential through hard work and perseverance. This story celebrates the economic and political expansion of a white superior culture.
A counter history, seen from the First People’s perspective, tells a different story. What white colonists called a “frontier” and a “wilderness” was, of course, their ancestral home. The “empty” landscape was not empty at all; every feature was familiar and named, every aspect of the habitat had personal connections and a history.
In order for the new British immigrants to be “settled,” the Lekwungen had to be “unsettled” and dispossessed, as Dr. Lutz points out. British colonization of Victoria meant the Lekwungen became “the first aboriginal people deprived of their land base.” (Lutz, “‘Relating to the Country’: The Lekwungen and the Extension of European Settlement,” 1843-1911,” p. 18)
There was a long European tradition justifying dispossession of aboriginals. Theorists like John Locke and M. de Vattel argued if people don’t cultivate land they cannot have true and legal possession of it (Fisher, p. 104). A British Columbia publication followed that same logic, writing “territory occupied by a barbarous or wholly uncivilized people may be rightfully appropriated by a civilized or Christian nation.” (British Columbian, June 1, 1869, quoted by Fisher, p. 104)
First Peoples from the north continued coming to Victoria in the summer in large numbers to trade and work. In 1860, “Douglas reported to London that 2,000 Indians from the north were living near the town.” (Fisher, p. 112) The Northern First Peoples camped on and near the Reserve and stayed for months, vastly outnumbering the Lekwungen, causing social problems and numerous confrontations. Liquor sales contributed to the volatile situation and associations with miners encouraged prostitution. White people tended to group all “Indians” and did not distinguish between groups of ‘Indians” or the different behaviours of local Lekwungen and northern groups. Many whites blamed local “Indians” for the behaviour of the northerners, though the locals had no control and were suffering themselves from the situation.
In 1858, the Lekwungen winter population on the Songhees Reserve was about 700 people. A steady population decline due to diseases and home-based alcohol followed, according to John Lutz. In 1859, the population was 600. In 1864-65, it was down to 285. In 1886, the village had only 134 people. The Reserve population reached a low of 117 in 1911.
Settlers wanted aboriginals out of the way except when they provided cheap labour. The aboriginal trapper and trader, essential in the fur trade economy, was obsolete. Male aboriginals worked in construction, land-clearing, ploughing, fishing and as paddlers for express canoes, always receiving wages well below that of whites. Women sheared sheep, grew potatoes for sale to whites, did domestic work, and in the 1870's and early 1880's, were salmon cannery employees.
Beacon Hill Park: horse racing, cricket and daffodils
“In 1858, Governor James Douglas gave the order for the establishment of a reserve for a public park and it is so marked on the Victoria District Official Map, 1858, as ‘Lot LXXXVII, Public Park,’” according to Willard E. Ireland, Provincial Archivist (“Memorandum re: Title to Beacon Hill Park, Victoria, British Columbia,” May 8, 1942). It became official the next year, on Feb. 23, 1859.
Difficulties arose because the Hudson’s Bay Company claimed that 3,084 acres, including the entire Park and the town-site, legally belonged to the Company. Not waiting for legal title to be resolved, the HBC began selling lots from that acreage in 1858, including parts of the original Park Reserve. (See Chapter Three and Appendix A)
Jurisdiction of the Park between 1858 and 1882 is complicated. From 1858 to 1864, records show the administration of the Park was under the Colonial government’s Department of Lands and Works. (Ireland, p. 5) Apparently, this same arrangement continued until 1867, when the City of Victoria was given control for eighteen months. In 1869, the Colonial Legislative Council took back control of the Park. In 1877, two trustees were appointed by the Colonial Government. They resigned in 1879 when the City was appointed trustee on March 15, 1879. The Public Parks Act of 1876 was amended in 1881 to empower the City to make by-laws and form a Park Committee. At last, Beacon Hill Park was granted in trust to the City of Victoria on February 21, 1882.
Park land continued to be used in the laissez faire tradition of a British Commons throughout the Gold Rush and settlement periods. People grazed cattle and horses in the park and cut trees for firewood. Residents dumped soil and refuse in the park especially at the northwest corner and along Cook Street. A rock quarry established in the Park by the City in the area opposite South Park School was used until 1911. A brick field and gravel pit apparently operated on the east side.
In 1858, the largest aboriginal burial cairn on Beacon Hill was excavated. The human remains found was wrapped in matting. Twenty-three cairns were still visible on Beacon Hill when archaeologist James Deans first arrived in Victoria in 1857. By 1897, Deans could no longer find large rocks marking the cairns.
Horse racing was a popular event at Beacon Hill Race Course long before a written report was published in Victoria’s first newspaper. The track was constructed around Beacon Hill, roughly following what is now Circle Drive and Dallas Road. It was used for at least forty years.
The Jockey Club was organized March 18, 1861 to promote horse racing and reorganized Oct. 11, 1889, to build a new horse race track at Willows Grounds, now part of Oak Bay. From that point on, use of the Park track declined. The last mention of the Beacon Hill horse race course in City of Victoria records was a note about track repair in 1894. (CRS 16, Annual Report, "Report of the Park Committee," 1894, p. 53)
Cricket Match (BCA A-02590)
This undated photo looks from Beacon Hill to the southwest. Cricket
spectators lined up in the foreground are standing on part of the
racetrack. The cricket pitch is now the Douglas Street all-weather
Cricket was also popular in Victoria well before the first newspaper was printed. The earliest cricket match described in the Gazette featured the Victoria Cricket Club playing the H.B.M. ship Satellite team in 1858. The game was played “near Beacon Hill.” (Daily Victoria Gazette, August 24, 1858) The first article on cricket in the Colonist newspaper was published April 28, 1859.
The first daffodils were planted in the Park in 1858. Enthusiastic daffodil planting continued for the next 150 years. in 1957, for example, 80,000 bulbs were planted on the south face of Beacon Hill. Park Administrator Warren said, “We can use hundreds of thousands there.” Colonist, Sept. 25, 1957, p. 21) Ten years later, Warren estimated “there were 400,000 daffodils dancing in the Beacon Hill Park breezes.” (Victoria Daily Times, April 3, 1967, p. 17) Unfortunately, bulb planting was not restricted to ornamental garden areas. They were planted in meadows and under Garry oaks where they competed with camas and other native plant species. Today there are an estimated one hundred thousand daffodils “naturalized” in the Park.
White immigrants worked hard to plant familiar European crops, flowers and trees on their own property and in the park. Emily Carr described her family’s garden: “Father wanted his place to look exactly like England. He planted cowslips and primroses and hawthorn hedges and all the Englishy flowers.” (Book of Small) The same “Englishy” look was desired for Beacon Hill Park. Every year, more non-native plants were introduced--intentionally and unintentionally-- with no thought to loss of native habitat.
On Feb. 23, 1859, Beacon Hill Park was officially established as a public park. Though the original size of the park was over 220 acres, the Company had sold off at least forty acres of it between 1850-1859.
A. G. Dallas, son-in-law of James Douglas, was appointed the new head of the Hudson’s Bay Company west of the Rockies on May, 1859. Dallas thought all Beacon Hill Park land should be retained as Company property and sold. “Dallas was annoyed that Douglas had declared Beacon Hill a public park. According to Dallas, the land with which Douglas had been so generous belonged to the Hudson’s Bay Company.” (Akrigg, p. 177) Luckily the public interest coincided with the desires of James Douglas in preserving the Park. Douglas wanted the Park bordering his Fairfield Farm property and he assured the Park was established before resigning. Clearly, Dallas would have done otherwise.
Before James Douglas resigned from the HBC to become Governor of both Colonies, he managed another beneficial land deal. He arranged to have the new Colonial Government offices built next to his house in James Bay. With the offices on the south side of the Bay, the long desired bridge from town would be built, making access easier to the Douglas home and that of his son-in-law, Dr. Helmcken. The new James Bay Bridge and the proximity of the new offices enhanced the value of both properties. HBC Governor George Simpson said Douglas had made “an unjustifiable use of his authority...for the promotion of his private interests and the benefit of his family.” (John Adams, Old Square Toes and His Lady, p. 128)
There were an estimated 10,000 spectators in the Park on April 23, 1859 to view horse racing. The Colonist reported: “Beacon Hill Course was alive with people... Admiral Baynes was present in the afternoon and Governor Douglas stayed for an hour.... It is painfully evident that His Excellency is extremely unpopular...” (Colonist editor and publisher Amor De Cosmos attacked and disparaged James Douglas on every possible occasion.) “In the first race, the Queen’s Plate, five horses were entered. Seven horses entered the Hurdle Race and though Mr. Pemberton’s horse, Carrots, came in first, since he ran off the track, the race was rerun and another horse won. Four horses entered the Victoria Sweepstakes. The last race was “the most interesting and best contested race of the day.”(Colonist, April 23, 1859)
A large May 24 celebration of the Queen’s Birthday was held as usual in Beacon Hill Park. Amor de Cosmos sneered that “Governor Douglas, without his Lady, at the Beacon Hill Races, Victoria, went almost unnoticed.” (Colonist, May 30, 1859)
Horse races were still being run in the Park in October. “The lovers of the turf will have an opportunity to test the mettle of their horses, as it is proposed to have a day’s horse-racing at the Beacon Hill Course.” (Colonist, October 19, 1859, p. 2) And later, “A race comes off at noon today, between Mr. Harris’ George and Parker’s Moustache, for $150.” (Colonist, October 28, 1959, p. 2)
De Cosmos wrote in the British Colonist:
“a new cause for excitement was...the discovery on the beach, immediately below Beacon Hill, of a rich vein of gold bearing quartz. The discovery was made by Mr. Holderness...For a month past he has been searching for quartz around Victoria...The vein varies in width from one to two feet or so and is situated at high water mark...As near as can be ascertained, it will pay $200 per ton...Should it prove as rich as it promises at present, a quartz mill will be immediately erected...His Excellency Governor Douglas repaired on Saturday to the spot to view the vein.” (Colonist, August 32, 1859)
This find, like the one in 1885, came to nothing.
A one liner on the Park was printed in the Colonist in September: “Why has a portion of Beacon Hill Park been sold and lately ploughed?” (Colonist, September 23, 1859, p. 3)
Large numbers of coastal First Peoples traveled to Victoria to trade in 1859. The Victoria Gazette published a count of all “Northern Indians” camped near Victoria in April, 1859. “Haida 405; Tsimpsian 574; Stikine 223; “Duneash” 111; Bella Bella 126; “Charcheena” 62; Kwakiutl 44, totaling 1,545. The Gazette claimed an addition 690 arrived after the count.
The Songhees Reserve land was now valuable property. The British Colonist editorials advocated removal of the “rascally redskins” and supported the views of letters like this one: “How much longer are we to be inflicted with the intolerable nuisance of having hundreds upon hundreds of hideous half-naked, drunken savages in our midst?” (Colonist, Feb. 26, 1859)
In January, 1859, the Victoria Philharmonic Society was founded with Judge Begbie as President. In April, 1859, the last palisades of the Fort were taken down. Victoria was slowly evolving into a modern city. Coming in the future were home water pipes, sewers, electricity, a new hospital...and the development of a traditional 19th century “pleasure ground” in Beacon Hill Park.
The Jockey Club was organized March 18, 1861 to promote horse racing, with Mr. A. G. Dallas the chairman. One 1861 race had a purse of $15,000.
A racist rant in the British Colonist called aboriginal men “hordes of thieves and cut-throats, and the women a community of prostitutes.” The writer, probably Amor de Cosmos, advocated moving First Peoples far from any contact with Whites:
“...there would be a bare possibility that their condition might be somewhat improved in a proper course of moral and intellectual training...As an inferior race, however, we believe they must give way for a race more enlightened, and by nature and habits better fitted to perform the task of converting what is now a wilderness into productive fields and happy homes. They never can successfully compete with the whites; for although their services may be had at a much cheaper rate, their indolent habits, dishonest disposition, and intellectual degradation will ever cause the labor of the white men to be preferred to that of the Indian.” (Colonist, February 19, 1861, p. 2)
Dr. Grant Keddie noted the “Johnson Street Bridge...was torn down [in 1861] to prevent the Songhees from having easy access to Victoria (it was not rebuilt until 1886).” (Songhees Pictorial, p. 60)
A pseudo duel took place on March 21, 1861 in a “secluded area” of Beacon Hill Park. The unnamed “saloon keeper” duelist and both “seconds” planned the ruse. Apparently, the saloon keeper’s opponent, an unnamed Colonel, believed the duel was for real. According to a newspaper report of the incident, the seconds (referred to in the report as “wags”) loaded the dueling-pistols with powder but no shot. The Colonel stated he intended to kill his opponent. The nervous saloon keeper checked several times with the seconds that no shot was in the pistols. Ten paces were stepped off and pistols fired. The saloon keeper clasped a sponge with red ink to his chest as he fell on his face. When the seconds turned him over, he appeared dead and the satisfied Colonel walked home. Police rushed to the scene of the reported death soon after. (Colonist, March 22, 1861, p.3)
“It is currently reported that injunctions will shortly be issued against the Hudson’s Bay Company to restrain them from selling any more property...A portion of Beacon Hill Park has been sold...If the colony has any right at all to a public reserve, we want to see it asserted...” (Colonist, May 10, 1861) [See 1862 for the result of the legal suit on this issue.]
Between 1861 and 1863, the western boundary of the Park was redrawn amounting to a loss of approximately eight acres of Park land. (See Appendix A for details and map.) A new line was drawn angling east from the northwest corner of the park to a point opposite Toronto Street, then a straight line was drawn angling west again from that point to meet up with the original boundary line at Beacon. This triangle of Park land was divided into private lots. (South Park School is on the north end of the triangular segment.) This change can be seen by comparing two maps available at the British Columbia Archives. A 1861 map of the Town of Victoria (CM/ B275), made by J. Despard Pemberton, Surveyor General, and published by J. Arrowsmith, shows the straight line western boundary. A map published in January, 1863, by Waddington, Kutchel, and Crease (CM/ B272) shows the triangle cut out of the Park.
That parts of the Park were sold was confirmed by W. A. G. Young before a committee in 1863. He stated “Governor Douglas, Col. R. C. Moody, Mr. Munro and Mr. Morris owned property within the original reserve.” (Ireland, Willard, "Memorandum," p.3)
Even though the land title was in question, the Company continued to sell land. Douglas wrote to Newcastle on August 8, 1861, “portions of land laid off on that map as streets and public reserves...having been recently sold by private contract...” The Surveyor General wrote to the Attorney General: “The Company have recently sold a portion of the Public Park (3 ½ acres on the west side) to Mr. John Morris, and his fences or buildings are in part constructed upon the same. The company have also disposed of other portions of the Public Park.” (Ireland, "Memorandum," p.3)
A Colonist editorial extolled the virtues of a walk through the Park in June, protested encroachments and advocated Park expansion:
“We are constitutionally opposed to all encroachments on or contractions of the liberties of the Beacon Hill Park institution, the Hudson’s Bay Company’s divine right or treaty right to the contrary notwithstanding... Beacon Hill Park is too small. Every accession to our population makes it smaller, without selling a slice to Col. Moody...We want an L added to the Park--a slice of the farm on the right of the Park behind the Public Buildings. A hundred acres or so in that quarter would be a great extension of liberty.” (Colonist, June 7, 1861)
The Colonial Office referred the question of title of Park land sold by the HBC to the Privy Council. “An arbitration award dated February 3, 1862 validated all prior sales of land within the disputed area.” (Ireland, "Memorandum," p.3) That meant the portions of the Park already sold by the HBC were kept by the buyers, lost to the Park forever. The areas sold included at least 8 acres on the west boundary of the Park and the entire northeast corner, about 32 acres. It is likely that more land along the north boundary was also sold.
Victoria was incorporated as a city in 1862, but Beacon Hill Park was left outside its boundaries. The Colonial government continued to administer the Park. (Ireland, "Memorandum," p.5)
The suggestion by “Mr. Pidwell, the Secretary of the Committee,” to erect “a long spar,” originally intended for the World’s Fair, on Beacon Hill was adopted. It will be erected “on Beacon Hill next Queen’s Birthday, where besides being the highest pole on record, it might ultimately serve to support a system of signals for vessels as far distant as Cape Flattery.” (Colonist, March 15, 1962, p.3)
The Colonist lamented residents cutting trees for fuel along the “northern boundary of Beacon Hill Park.” It called for "Vandals" to stop getting their fuel in the “handsome grove.” The writer envisioned the grove preserved and “improved with fine walks all through it, so as to be an ornament and a point of attraction to the town.” To do this, it was necessary for the town to get authority to administer the Park. “If there are any who can exercise authority over the park we would quietly remind them that we hope they will not tacitly encourage the reign of Vandalism, but preserve the grove from the speedy destruction it is now threatened with.” (Colonist, April 2, 1862, p.2)
A smallpox epidemic began in Victoria in May, 1862 spreading north along the coast killing about one third of British Columbia’s aboriginal population. This reduced the estimated aboriginal population from 60,000 to 40,000. (Akrigg, British Columbia Chronicle, p. 253) Historical geographer Cole Harris reported that Coast Salish populations had already been “devastated by smallpox in 1782” and new epidemics occurred in the area in 1836, 1853. By the time of the 1862-63 epidemic, many Victoria area aboriginal people had been vaccinated. A large number moved temporarily from Songhees to Discovery Island and other more isolated areas in an effort to escape the disease. Visiting northern Aboriginals were forced to leave Victoria and they spread smallpox as they traveled north. (Cole Harris, “Social Power,” p. 67-68) Though First Peoples had suffered and died in devastating numbers, only a white girl smallpox victim is named on the granite marker at Holland Point.
Horse racing in the Park continued to be extremely popular. “Nearly 4,000 people turned out for the races,” stated the Colonist on November 10, 1862. Horse races were part of a special celebration on the arrival of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.
In 1862, a second flood of gold miners came through Victoria, this time heading for the Cariboo. The rise in value of City lots was noted in the Colonist October 29, 1862: “a corner lot on Store Street, near the gas works, which was bought in June last for $700, was sold for the advanced price of $3,050.” The Victoria population increased from about 3,000 to 6,000 in 1862. (Colonist, January 2, 1863)
The Colonial government continued to administer the Park. The Department of Lands and Works recorded some work done in 1863: “The Park Entrance has been made with the sanction of the Municipal Authorities.” (January 12, 1864 letter cited by Ireland, "Memorandum," p. 3)
The Colonist reported, “At the southwest corner of Beacon Hill Park, carpenters are at work fencing off a huge piece of land. It cuts a slice off the present race-course, and seriously damages the water front of the Park. If there is any possibility of preserving the ground for the use of the public, it ought to be done. Mr. Dallas has the credit of owning the piece now being fenced in.” (Colonist, Feb. 27, 1863, p.3)
A volcanic eruption of Mount Baker on June 25 was visible from Beacon Hill. This description appeared in the Colonist, June 26, 1863: “...flames [were] plainly visible last night from Beacon Hill.” Mount Baker is still an active volcano. Many “explosive events” could have been witnessed from Beacon Hill during the nineteenth century. The latest eruptions were in 1843, 1846, 1853-54, 1858, 1859-60, 1863 and 1870. (U. S. Geodetic Survey website) Explorers on a Spanish ship reported seeing an eruption in 1792.
In 1864, the Spring Ridge Water Company laid log pipes from the ridge to downtown Victoria bringing “water by gravity feed to a stand pipe near the corner of Fort and Government.” (Victoria Daily Times, July 21, 1951) The water line was constructed by boring six inch holes through twelve-foot log sections and joining the log sections with shaped wood connectors. This museum exhibit photo shows a short piece of log pipe with a connector. Barrels of water continued to be delivered door to door by horse and wagon in Victoria, but barrels were more easily filled from the downtown location. A good water supply for Victoria was a major problem until Elk Lake water was piped into Victoria homes in 1875.
In June, 1864, the United Victoria Cricket Club requested permission “to fence in temporarily a portion of Beacon Hill for the use of the Club.” Because the Colonial government administered the Park, this request was directed to the Governor, who consented. (Ireland, Willard, "Memorandum," p.5)
A bizarre item in the Colonist described the idea of “erecting windmills on the coast to blow flour in the eyes of assailants so lately suggested by an advocate of coast defenses.” A prime location for these windmills was Beacon Hill. (Colonist, February 2, 1864, p.3)
With the end of the Cariboo gold rush, the population of Victoria again declined.
In a letter to the Colonial Secretary A. J. Young, the Victoria Cricket Club asked and received permission to plough and prepare a piece of land in Beacon Hill Park for the purpose of “a public cricket ground.” Fencing was needed for the pitch because of damage by grazing cattle and pigs. A Cricket pitch was constructed “in the vicinity of the brick fields,” apparently near what is currently the junction of Heywood Way and Bridge Way. The first clubhouse was built there in 1909 and a new one replaced it in 1979. Cricket was also played on the west of Beacon Hill. The cricket club mentioned in 1864, the United Victoria Cricket Club, apparently played on a field in the southwest corner of the Park. (Park Files: BHP material prepared by Willard Ireland)
The Victoria Rifle Volunteer Corps “established a camp in Beacon Hill Park...in 1866 when a rumour reached the city that thousands of Fenians, an anti-British Irish League in the United States, were collecting in Seattle for a raid on Victoria.” (R. Lovatt, Shoot, Shoot, Shoot, p.10)
The Colony of Vancouver Island merged with the mainland colony on November 19, 1866 and became part of the Colony of British Columbia.
The population of Victoria was down to about 3500 from 8,000.
The Ordinance to Incorporate the City of Victoria, April 2, 1867, passed by the Legislative Council, specifically included Beacon Hill Park within Victoria city limits. “Though no power was specifically given to the town council to pass by-laws,” apparently the City of Victoria was in control of the Park. (Ireland, Willard, "Memorandum," p.6)
The City’s control of the Park lasted only eighteen months and details are sketchy. It appears many residents and perhaps even some Council members were not aware the City had control. In a heated debate on control of the Park in the Colonial Government’s Legislative Council in 1869, one Council member claimed, “The jurisdiction over the Park had only been turned over to them for a short time,” and that one City Council member admitted “he did not know who had control of the Park, but he believed it was the Jockey Club.” (Ireland, Willard, "Memorandum," p.7)
At long last, on April 3, 1867, the Hudson’s Bay Company officially surrendered Vancouver Island with all claims and counter-claims settled. (Ireland, Willard, "Memorandum," p.2)
According to Geoffrey Castle, “In the early days, a lookout at Beacon Hill would signal the approach of the mail boat. To avoid lining up at the mail wicket, a person could be hired to keep your place for a dollar.” (Victoria Landmarks, p.40)
Residents on the east side of the Park were having trouble with the access road to their homes. “A number of property-holders in the vicinity of Beacon Hill have detailed a petition...praying that a road be opened at the intersection of Park road with the Park to run around the east side, by the old brick works and cricket ground, and connect with the Clover Point road on the south,’ according to an article in the Colonist, “...In the winter, residents find it impossible to reach their homes by the present road, owing to the mud, and as the suggestion is made that the chain-gang be employed at this work, and as the petitioners will agree to contribute to the expense, it is hoped that the prayer will be favorably entertained.” (Colonist, January 23, 1869)
A heated argument over jurisdiction of Beacon Hill Park took place in early 1869 between the City of Victoria and the Colonial government. The City had been allowed to control the Park for about eighteen months under the Municipal Ordinance of 1867. In 1869, the Legislative Council proceeded with an Bill to amend the Municipal Ordinance of 1867 in order to withdraw control over Beacon Hill Park from the Municipal Council and return it to the jurisdiction of the Colonial Department of Land and Works.
One of the stated reasons for taking back control was that the City of Victoria was blasting and removing rock from the northwest corner of Beacon Hill Park. In a public meeting called by the Mayor, Mr. Green defended the City’s blasting, saying “The rock that had been removed had not disfigured the Park and had been used in making a better road than the Lands and Works Department had ever made.”
Another accusation made at the Legislative Council was that the City planned to lease part of the Park to Capt. Stamp to build a stable. The Mayor said this was not true; the application had been made but not acted upon. The Mayor said the City had the power to control the Park. Mr. Trutch said it did not. (Colonist,March 2, 1869, p.3)
A Colonist editorial supported the City’s position, saying that its ability “to take good care of their own property has been established by the excellent care they are taking of the streets and the admirable uses to which they are putting the unsightly masses of rock that disfigure the northwest corner of the Park...we entertain not the slightest doubt that a satisfactory understanding will be arrived at...” (Colonist, March 3, 1869, p.2)
In the debate in the Legislative Council on March 3, 1869, Dr. J. S. Helmcken and W. T. Drake, both representing Victoria, advocated the City administer the Park and asked the Park be transferred by a proper Deed of Trust. Hon. R. W. Carrall gave the opposite opinion to that of the Colonist editorial, saying Victoria was incompetent to administer the Park, the evidence being “the condition of the streets which were in a disgraceful condition.” He doubted “they be capable of taking care of Beacon Hill Park...they had never done anything to beautify the Park. They had it in their possession during eighteen months and had not expended a single dollar upon it. They did not even know it was in their hands...” (Colonist, March 5, 1869, p. 3)
Though the City Council vigorously opposed the transfer, the Park was returned to the jurisdiction of the Legislative Council’s Department of Lands and Works in 1869.