British Columbia Historical Dates

1778 Great Britain’s explorer, Captain James Cook, reached Nootka Sound and became the first white man to set foot on British Columbian soil.
1787/8 John Mackay was the first white man to live in BC – in Nootka on Vancouver Island.
1788 Frances Barkley, the young wife of Captain Charles William Barkley, was the first white woman to set foot on Vancouver Island.
1790 October 28: Treaty of the Nootka Convention was accepted and signed by Great Britain and Spain.
1792 August 28: Captain George Vancouver reached Nootka.
1793 July 22: Alexander McKenzie, the first European to complete a journey across Canada, arrived at the Pacific Coast
1808 May: Simon Fraser and his twenty-four adventures set out in four canoes to descend the Fraser River.
1807/8 Geographer David Thompson is credited with having recorded the first systematic meteorological observations taken in British Columbia.
1835 Coal was discovered on Vancouver Island.
1843 March 15: Fort Victoria was established by the Hudson Bay Company – later to become Victoria.
1846 June 15: The 49th parallel (Latitude) was decided upon as the boundary between the United States and the British Colonies.
1849 Vancouver Island was proclaimed a Crown Colony.
1850 Gold quartz was discovered at Mitchell’s Harbour on the west coast of the Queen Charlotte Islands (renamed Haida Gwaii in December, 2009).
1852 The Queen Charlotte Islands became a dependency of the Crown Colony of Vancouver Island.
1857 Gold was discovered in the sandbars of the lower Fraser River. The gold rushes of the following 8 years brought approximately 25,000 prospectors from around the world to the mainland.
1858 November 19: The Colony of British Columbia was formed at a ceremony in Fort Langley.
1859 New Westminster became the capital of British Columbia.
1866 August: An Imperial Act was passed, uniting Vancouver Island and British Columbia, formerly separate colonies, with New Westminster as capital. The Rocky Mountains were designated as BC’s eastern boundary, following the Continental Divide.
1868 April 2: Victoria was named capital of British Columbia.
1871 July 20: British Columbia became the 6th province of the Dominion of Canada.
1872 Three German Judges, at the request of Britain and the US, settled the boundary dispute in the Strait of Georgia by ruling the San Juan Islands as US territory.
1885 November 7: The last spike in the transcontinental railroad was driven at Craigellachie.
1903 The boundary between BC and Alaska was established.
1906 Official flag was registered with the College of Arms in London and later authorised for use in the Province, 1960.

British Columbia Historical Facts

  • The first Governor of Vancouver Island was Richard Blanshard, from 16 July 1849 to 30 August 1851.
  • The first Governor of British Columbia was James Douglas, from 2 September 1858 to 21 April 1864.
  • The first Governor of the United Colonies of British Columbia and Vancouver Island was Frederick Seymour, from 24 October 1866 to 10 June 1869.
  • The first Premier of British Columbia was John Foster McCreight, from 13 November 1871 to 20 December 1872.
  • The first Lt. Governor of British Columbia was Joseph w. Trutch, from 5 July 1871 to 26 June 1876.
  • In 1871, under the terms of the Union of BC with Canada, three senators were appointed to represent BC in Ottawa.
  • In 1872, six Members of Parliament were appointed to represent BC’s provinces in Ottawa.
  • In 1917 women in BC were given the right to vote in federal elections.
  • The first female member of the BC Legislature was Mary Ellen Smith in 1918.
  • The first female Cabinet Minister in Canada was Mary Ellen Smith in 1921.
  • The first female Cabinet Minister with Portfolio was Tilly Rolston – 1 August 1952.
  • The first female Premier of a Canadian Province was Rita Johnson – 2 April 1991 (British Columbia).
  • Vancouver Island was originally named Quadra and Vancouver Island by Captain George Vancouver in 1793. The area which is now Northern Washington and Southern BC, he named New Georgia, and the area that is now Northern BC he named New Hanover. This region was named New Caledonia by Simon Fraser in 1808 and subsequently changed to British Columbia by Queen Victoria in 1858.

Researched and written by:
Danda Humphreys