Pearse, Benjamin William
b. 1832-01-19
d. 1902
Benjamin William Pearse was born on 19 January 1832 in Devon, England. Pearse, for the majority of his career on Vancouver Island, was an assistant surveyor, however for a brief time he held the position as surveyor general, and overall was involved in political, military, and artistic functions.1 From 1841-1851, Pearse worked as a civil engineer until he saw an advertisement in the London Times for an assistant position -- posted by J. D. Pemberton.2 Out of all the candidates, Pemberton described Pearse as being the most competent.3 Due to Pemberton's recommendation, at the age of 19, Pearse left for Vancouver Island in November 1851.
Once landed in Vancouver Island, Pearse became the assistant surveyor to Pemberton in 1852 under the Hudson's Bay Company, he held this position even after his transfer from the HBC to the colony of V.I. in 1855.4 During his time as a surveyor, Pearse became increasingly involved in political and military matters. Pearse was politically conservative; and as he became a member of the colony's governing élite, and sat on the Island's Executive and Legislative councils, he increasingly differed politically from Governor Kennedy and others that shared Kennedy's political views.5 Pearse also helped found the Victoria Rifle Volunteer Corps in 1864 -- an organization charged with aiding New York against Fenian threats.6
Pearse's career as a surveyor advanced once Pemberton retired and he became the acting surveyor general in 1864. However, it was made clear by Kennedy that this was a temporary position.7 Only two years later, Pearse was demoted back to assistant surveyor. He would serve under Trutch from 1866-1871. During this time, he was responsible for the Vancouver Island branch of the Lands and Work Office.8 By August 1871, Pearse became the principal surveyor general, although he only held this position until 7 October 1872 when he resigned and instead became the head of the Federal Department of Public Works.9 In this position he was responsible with the construction of various sites and held a large amount of authority. Nonetheless, in 1880 he was charged with jobbery and he resigned. Pearse held bitterness towards British Columbia until the end of his life in 1902 from cancer.10
Beyond his career in surveying, Pearse was strongly indebted to the arts and helped form the Victoria Amateur Orchestra in 1879, and later the Victoria Musical Society in 1885.11 Although he held some bitterness after his resignation from public life in 1880, after his death, he left some money that would be sent to various organizations such as: Thomas Barnardo's home for boys in London, The British Columbia Protestant Orphan's Home, and the Old Men's Home in Victoria.12 His biggest endowment, however, was a hefty $10,000 that he left for the chair of natural sciences should there ever be a college or university built in the city of Victoria.13
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