McColl, Sergeant William
b. 1819-05-24
d. 1865-06-03
Sergeant William McColl was born on 24 May 1819 in Scotland. McColl was a member of the first party of Royal Engineers (RE), surveyors, to be sent to the colony of British Columbia.1 On 29 October 1858, McColl arrived in the colony, via Southampton and Panama, on board La Plata. McColl was responsible for marking out lots that would be sold at auctions.2 However, McColl did not solely serve the military and civil engineers but also participated in police activities and filled the role of Constable in 1859.3 In 1860, McColl was amongst the engineers to locate the trail from Hope to Similkameen.4
Additionally, McColl was charged with the careful examination of the Fraser Canyon in order to establish the feasibility of building a road through the canyon to Lytton and then to Cariboo.5 Most commonly, however, McColl is known for aiding Governor Douglas in what is now referred to as the Douglas Promise -- the promise Douglas made to the Stó:lō people that he would recognize their land rights. In 1864, McColl was asked by Douglas to survey the reserves in the Fraser Valley, mapping 14 Indigenous Reserves that covered 39 000 acres of land.6 It should be noted that this amount was still significantly less than what settlers could obtain in this time, but by the time of McColl's death a year later, this land was reduced by another 90%.7
Not long after his work with Douglas, McColl was discharged due to the government dismantlement of the RE's in 1863.8 McColl remained in the colony with his family and worked as a toll collector at the Alexandra Bridge (a location he selected) until his death on 3 June 1865 at the age of 46.9
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