George Simpson – Making Administration Cool Since 1787

Two bad ass facts about this man to get out of the way right off – just in case you decide that administration isn’t the edgy topic that you’re looking for this morning and wand off without reading the rest of this post:

  1. George Simpson is known as the first person to have “circumnavigated” the world by land
  2. With the exception of voyageurs and their Serbian equivalents few men, even to this day, have spent as much time travelling in the wilderness

 

George Simpson, administrator extraordinaire. Photo from www.mhs.mb.ca

George Simpson, administrator extraordinaire. Photo from http://www.mhs.mb.ca

Yet another Scot who travelled over to North America in the employment of the Hudson’s Bay Company, George Simpson would become a central figure in the company during the years of its greatest level of power in Canada.  Not having the most ideal start in life, Simpson was born in 1787 the illegitimate son of his father George Simpson Sr. and an unknown mother who would be raised predominantly by two of his aunts and his paternal grandmother.

Sent, in 1808, to London in order to work for his uncle in the sugar brokerage industry George would come into contact with the HBC when his uncle’s firm merged with that of the one belonging to Andrew Colville who was a director of the company itself.  It appears that Coleville was impressed by what he saw because within eight years of this merge, he would name Simpson Governor-in-Chief, locum tenens of Rupert’s Land. (locum tenens means something close to ‘place holder’ making this a situation where Simpson would be temporarily filling this position in place of the permanent occupant)

George happened to be recruited into the HBC at a time when the company was at a continuous high level of conflict with the Northwest company which couldn’t have been a comfortable arrival for the Scot but it wouldn’t last long as the companies merged in 1821.  After three years working around Hudsons Bay, particularly at what was known as York Factory, Simpson was sent to the Pacific in 1824.  Making his way across what would become Canada, he decided to take an unconventional route which ended up being a fantastic call.  He arrived at Fort George after only an 80 day journey which was at least 20 days quicker than the previous recorded record.

George Simpson

Simpson in later years.

 

While no events of particular note occurred while Simpson was employed by the Hudsons Bay Company, this is perhaps a greater indication of his skill as a leader and administrator than any dramatic deed.  It is also worth while to note that during his time with the company, the HBC often returned a 10% profit which was a far less likely occurrence under other leadership.

On his retirement from the company, George and his wife settled in Montreal where he got into transportation and began to invest in railways and canals.  Travelling to the end, his health would eventually falter and he died at his home in August of 1860, aged 73, after suffering from a massive stroke.

 

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The Oldest Building in Kamloops: St Andrews on the Square

The oldest public building in Kamloops, St Andrews on the Square, was constructed in 1887 and has stood in place while the city itself has grown and developed around it.

The church peeking through the foliage.  Image from: standrewssquare.sampaguita.biz

The church peeking through the foliage. Image from: standrewssquare.sampaguita.biz

When it was first constructed in the late 1800s, in response to the growth of the city, the church was built on land that had been donated by the Canadian Pacific Railway.  The land which, at that time, had actually been located on the very outskirts of the town as it had existed at that time.  In addition to the gift of the land itself, the construction costs for building this structure were actually raised, in large part, by the CPR employees themselves.

Photo from truomega.ca

Photo from truomega.ca

The building served in its original function as a Presbyterian church until 1925 at which time the United Church of Canada was formed as a result of unification. It then continued in this function until 1942 when it was purchased by the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (a Pentecostal Christian domination – the largest evangelical church in Canada) and renamed the Calvary Temple which I think might be one of my favorite building names of all time. During this period of ownership in the late 1950’s and 1960’s the St. Andrews building was the host of the largest Sunday School in Canada.

An old look at the building. Photo from www.historicplaces.ca st andrews.

An old look at the building. Photo from http://www.historicplaces.ca st andrews.

As a historic place, this building is also noteworthy for its association with the Reverend Phil Gaglardi (1913-1995) who was responsible for the leadership of this church during a period of time which included the 1945 restoration and the large addition to the south of the building that occurred in 1958.  Prior to his taking a position with the church, Reverend Gaglardi had been the provincial Minister of Highways and played a huge role in the expansion of the province’s road and ferry systems.

A picture of the statue of Revered Gaglardi

The statue of Revered Gaglardi located on the grounds of the church.

Purchased by the City of Kamloops in 1991 in order to prevent its demolition, St Andrews had been experiencing years of neglect which had led to the significant decline of the building.  However, since this purchase, the building has undergone significant restoration (with this work being completed in 1996) and is now managed by the Kamloops Heritage Society where it is frequently used for events which include weddings, concerts, and meetings.

Architecturally, this building is a prime example of a late Victorian Gothic Revival style which can be seen, predominantly, in the Gothic pointed-arch windows, the steeple, the corner buttresses, and the scalloped wooden roof ridge (as per the St Andrews page on http://www.historicplaces.ca).

A more modern look at St Andrews. Photo courtesy of www.atyourservicecatering.ca

A more modern look at St Andrews. Photo courtesy of http://www.atyourservicecatering.ca

Finally, St Andrews on the Square is important for being one of the surviving pieces of work of the architect Robert Henry Lee (1859-1935) who was also central to the organization of the town sites of Nicola, Merritt, and Princeton amongst a number of additional, individual, buildings.

A 15 Minute Trip Around the World via the Internet

A Third Intermediate Period Dynasty Egyptian Chalice.

A Third Intermediate Period Dynasty Egyptian Chalice.

Weekly Web Links:

Historical Book Review for the Week:

Stuff You Missed in History Class by How Stuff Works

Stuff You Missed in History Class

Well it’s hard for me to say for certain if I did in fact miss a lot of the information covered by this book in history class but I will admit that there was a lot of information that I either had no pre-existing knowledge about or  very little so the title ended up being pretty much spot on for me! I think what I liked best about this particular book is that, through the title as well as the tone of the content, it manages to cover areas of history that you probably really should have an idea about without being unbearably snide and condescending about the whole thing; there definitely isn’t any presence of a ‘well if we have to break it down for some members of the class’ vibe.  Which I appreciated since one of the sections covered by this book is the Spanish Inquisition.  You’ve probably heard of it; kind of a big deal, happened ages ago, in Spain, it involved an inquisition…that, in combination with a really short 1-2 pg. scene in ‘Good Omens’ by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (hilarious book, not exactly a noted historically accurate text) has made up the bulk of my knowledge for the past three decades.  So, while this book in no way covers all the details or delves into any sort of in-depth analysis, I now know something about what I think we all can agree was kind of a big, historical, deal.

The Hasting Mills Store: Vancouver’s Oldest Surviving Building

Described poetically or dramatically, depending on your personal level of cynicism, as ‘the place where Vancouver began’, the Old Hasting Mill Store is the oldest surviving building in Vancouver.  While it currently sits on Point Grey at the base of Alma Street, it was originally located, at the time of its construction in 1865, on the southern shore of Burrard Inlet.

Image from  searcharchives.vancouver.ca

Image from searcharchives.vancouver.ca

Built for a British captain, Edward Stamp, as the base for his ‘British Columbia and Vancouver Island Spar, Lumber and Sawmill Company’ – evidentially with a title that long and descriptive he also wanted to ensure that there would be no confusion regarding the function of his company – this wooden building stands two stories tall.

During the sixty years that the store stood at its initial location, located in the center of the developing city’s logging settlement, it served both its logical function as a supply store for various materials necessary to the logging industry as well as a more social function of a place for workers could gather and gossip.

Another historical photo of the site; this one from www.hastings-mill-museum.ca

Another historical photo of the site; this one from http://www.hastings-mill-museum.ca

From the time of its construction in the 1860s all the way through the 1920s, the settlement of the area around the Burrard Inlet was closely tied to the existence of the Sawmill.  The people in the area shopped at the store itself and their children as far away as Moodyville on the other side of the inlet attended the Hastings Mill School.  After a second general store was built in the area the original building was first delegated as a storage facility before becoming, in succession, the city’s first post office, library, and community centre.  When the fire of 1886 occurred, this building was one of the few to survive the flames and, as a result, took on yet another role in the community by acting as a hospital and morgue for the victims of this disaster.

A more modern look at the building with it's snazzy colours. Image from www.hastings-mill-museum.ca

A more modern look at the building with it’s snazzy colours. Image from http://www.hastings-mill-museum.ca

Up until the time of the First World War, the mill remained Vancouver’s largest industrial enterprise but by 1927 progress and developments in the field resulted in the mill being dismantled with parts of its equipment being distributed among smaller operations around the continent.

When the mill closed down, the building that had been the Hastings Mill Store was uprooted and moved by barge to its current location at the bottom of Alma Street where it became known as the Old Hastings Mill Store Museum.  Run from that time to this day by the Native Daughters of British Columbia, the museum is still in operation today and contains displays of artifacts belonging to Native American, pioneer, and immigrant groups.

The plaque which declares the building to be a city of Vancouver Heritage Building, Image from www.century21.ca

The plaque which declares the building to be a city of Vancouver Heritage Building, Image from http://www.century21.ca

B.C. Industries: Coal Pt. 2

While the first nations groups of the area had been aware of what they described as the ‘stones that burned’ for a significant length of time, the early arrivals who began European settlement along the Pacific Northwest Coast would not become aware of the presence of this energy source until the midpoint of the 1800s.  The earliest mining of this fossil fuel at the Northeastern end of Vancouver Island by Europeans could have begun as early as 1835 where Fort Rupert would later be established but it wasn’t until 1849 that we have definitive historical evidence of this activity.

Miners hard at work. Image from www.empr.gov.bc.ca

Miners hard at work. Image from http://www.empr.gov.bc.ca

Prior to this point, timber had supplied an abundant amount of fuel for many activities of industry, however, blacksmiths required what was known as ‘smithy coal’ for their work which was import from England at a very high level of expense.  An additional demand for a more effective source of energy was also created by the introduction of steam powered boats which replaced the previously used sail method.

The Tariff Mine in 1897. Image from Wikipedia.

The Tariff Mine in 1897. Image from Wikipedia.

Luckily for the European arrivals they were directed to a nearer source of energy by the chief of a Vancouver Island first nations group.  The historical account states that:

“One day in December, 1849, the Snuneymuxw chief Chewichikan was watching an Hbc blacksmith at Fort Victoria repair his gun when he noticed the man toss coal on the fire. When the native asked the blacksmith where he obtained his coal, he was told it was shipped from England. The elderly chief was amused and commented it was silly to bring black stones from so far away when there was plenty where he lived. Company authorities offered Chewichikan free repair of his gun and a bottle of rum if he brought samples of the “stones that burned”. The following spring, Chewichikan returned in a canoe brimming with quality coal. The chief received his reward as well as a new nickname: “Coal Tyee” or “The Coal Chief”.”

This information came at a fortunate moment for the British as it corresponded with the decline of HBC operation on Vancouver Island.  This downward trend was created by a number of factors including the company’s inability to fulfill its colonial obligations, failures at earlier mining efforts, and the increasing threat of American expansion but a successful coal mining endevor would be an effective reversal of the economic fortunes. Therefore, James Douglas immediately ordered Joseph McKay to take a prospecting party and follow up on these claims.  They arrived in the area known as Wentuhysen Inlet which was located on the shore of the Nanaimo harbour where three coal outcroppings were found and which would end up producing millions of tons of coal over the following 28 years.