Grant, Captain Walter Colquhoun
b. 1822-05-27
d. 1861-09-27
Grant was the first white non-HBC employee to settle on Vancouver Island, and its first inland surveyor.1 As the files on Grant show, he purchased 100 acres from the HBC in 1848 and, after some disagreements with the Company about price and location, he settled in Sooke in 1849. James Douglas discusses his initial encounter with Grant in this letter.
Once settled, Grant struggled to manage both money and men. He applied unsuccessfully for HBC protection after some minor encounters with local First Nations, as this document shows, and later complained about the Company’s lack of support.2 Unable to complete his surveyor duties, Grant resigned in September, 1850, and in October decided to visit Hawai’i, leaving a labourer in charge of his property.3 He returned for a brief period in the Spring of 1851 before travelling to Oregon that summer in search of gold.4 He returned for the last time in September 1853 and sold his property to another non-company settler, John Muir; Grant left Vancouver Island in mid November.5
Public opinion of Grant varied. Douglas said he was an unfortunate man who has been an absolute plague to me since he came to the Island, while Helmcken remembered him as a splendid fellow and every inch an officer and a gentleman.6 A pioneer of the Island’s lumber industry, Grant also imported the game of cricket and Scotch broom, so the hills around him might benefit from it and also take on the hue of his native Scotland7
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1822, Grant lost both parents by age seven.8 He followed family tradition and studied at the Military College at Sandhurst, and at 24 became the youngest captain in the British Army, as a member of the Scots Greys.9 He had to leave the army when he lost his inheritance (a reported £75,000) through bank failure.10
After leaving Sooke, Grant re-enlisted in the army and served as a lieutenant-colonel during the Crimean War.11 He remained interested in Vancouver Island, however, and even toyed with the idea of becoming governor provided government felt disposed to take the [colony’s] affairs seriously in hand.12 He authored both Description of Vancouver Island, by its first colonist and Remarks on Vancouver Island, principally concerning townsites and native population, which were published by the Royal Geographic Society.13 He died at age 39 as brigade-major of Lucknow, India.14
  • 1. Barry M. Gough Grant, Captain Walter Colquhoun, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. Ibid.
  • 6. Ibid.
  • 7. Ibid.
  • 8. Ibid.
  • 9. Ibid.
  • 10. Ibid.
  • 11. Ibid.
  • 12. Ibid.
  • 13. Ibid.
  • 14. Ibid.
Mentions of this person in the documents
The Colonial Despatches Team. Grant, Captain Walter Colquhoun. The Colonial Despatches of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1846-1871, Edition 2.2, ed. The Colonial Despatches Team. Victoria, B.C.: University of Victoria. https://bcgenesis.uvic.ca/grant_wc.html.

Last modified: 2020-12-02 13:40:34 -0800 (Wed, 02 Dec 2020) (SVN revision: 5008)