CA33 – Coal Baron Robert Dunsmuir

Stitchers: Barbara Gilbert, Sharon MacDonald, Diana Caleb, Bonnie-Lynne Ceriko, JoAnn Allan, Lois Waters, Karen Lehman, Pat Davis, Johanna Lisakowski (Victoria, BC).

The Hudson’s Bay Company began recruiting miners from Ayrshire, Scotland, to help develop a mine at Fort Rupert on northern Vancouver Island. The first contingent arrived at Fort Victoria aboard the Harpooner on June 1, 1849. They were the John Muir and John McGregor families from Kilmarnock. The next group was the Boyd Gilmour and Robert Dunsmuir families, also from Kilmarnock. The miners had signed a contract with the HBC for three to five years. All were transferred in 1852 from Fort Rupert when the new coal deposit was discovered at Nanaimo.
Robert Dunsmuir renewed his contract with the HBC and in 1855 he and Edward Walker were granted the first free miners’ licenses. He then reopened a mine on Commercial Inlet, hired his own workers and sold the coal back to the HBC. A coal-prospecting trip in October 1869 changed his life forever; he found a seam of coal that would bring him riches beyond his dreams. With capital from friends in the navy, he formed his own company and began transporting coal to San Francisco.  

When British Columbia entered Confederation of Canada in 1871, British Columbia was promised a railway on Vancouver Island. In anticipation of this, the BC government established a railway land reserve 20 miles in width along the east coast of the island. Dunsmuir formed the Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway Company (E & N Railway) and petitioned the government to construct the railway. All the railway land reserve was transferred to Dunsmuir. His consortium also received $750,000 bonus to help with construction. Construction began in 1884 and the railway was completed from Victoria to Nanaimo in 1886. He was now the richest man in British Columbia.

He had promised his wife Joan he would build her a castle, and this he did. Land was purchased in Victoria and Craigdarroch Castle was built. It was named after the home of Annie Laurie, a song made famous by Rabbie Burns. The castle was completed in 1890, unfortunately Dunsmuir didn’t live to see it, he died in 1889.

Joan was firmly established in Craigdarroch Castle when their son James built his own mansion, which he named Hatley Castle, and completed in 1908. James became premier of British Columbia in 1900.

CA33 Raibeart Dunsmuir, am Baran Guail
Thòisich Companaidh Bhàgh Hudson a’ trusadh mhèinnearan à Siorrachd Àir gus cuideachadh le mèinn a leasachadh ann am Fort Rupert aig ceann a tuath Eilean Vancouver, agus nam measg bha Raibeart Dunsmuir. Ann an 1852, chaidh na mèinnearan a ghluasad gu mèinn ùr aig Nanaimo. Bha Raibeart Dunsmuir am measg nan ciad fheadhainn a fhuair cead saorsa mèinnearachd. San Dàmhair 1869, lorg e sreath guail, chruthaich e a chompanaidh fhèin agus thòisich e a’ giùlain gual gu San Francisco. Às dèidh sin, chruthaich e Companaidh Rèile Esquimalt is Nanaimo (Rèile E is N) agus bho 1884–6 bha e a’ togail na rèile bho Victoria gu Nanaimo. Bha e a-nis mar an duine a bu bheairtiche ann am British Columbia. B’ ann aig an àm sin a thog e Caisteal Chreig Daraich do a bhean, Seonag.