Dunsmuir, James
b. 1851-07-08
d. 1920-06-06
James Dunsmuir, who was born on 8 July 1851 at Fort Vancouver, Washington, while his parents were en route from Scotland to Vancouver Island, served as premier, and, later, lieutenant governor of British Columbia during the early 20th century.1
From meagre beginnings in a Fort Rupert miner's cabin, the Dunsmuirs would go on to be one of the wealthiest, and most prominent families in early British Columbia. James's father, Robert Dunsmuir, established a successful mine at Wellington, and, after James completed his education, he returned to Nanaimo and took the position of manager at the Wellington mine.
The Dunsmuirs' extended their coal operations into the Comox Valley, and, with the help of investors from California, built the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway. After his father died in 1900, James spent several years consolidating his numerous business assets, both, by buying out his partners, and, since Robert Dunsmuir left all of his shares to his wife, in court against his own mother.2
James had been elected MLA of Comox in 1898, and he would continue to rise up the political ranks; in 1900 he became premier of British Columbia, and proceeded to the lieutenant-governorship in 1906—a position which he held until 11 December 1909.3
Some historians, as well as many of Dunsmuir's contemporaries, labelled him a self serving politician—most notably because of his Asian immigration and labour policies—however, Dunsmuir was patriarchal figure who ran his businesses like a family, and often considered his employees best interests. As well, Dunsmuir's many donations to local charities and social services, and his contributions to the business and economical spheres of British Columbia should not be overlooked as part of his legacy.4
After his stint in politics, and, with his children either abroad or leading frivolous lives, Dunsmuir retreated to a solitary life on his estate at Hatley Park. Dunsmuir spent many of his later years hunting and fishing at his lodge on the Cowichan River, where he died in 1920.5
  • 1. Clarence Karr, Dunsmuir, James, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. Ibid.
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