RBCM Archives

O'Reilly, Peter John, 1827-1905

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O'Reilly, Peter John, 1827-1905

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Peter O'Reilly was born in England in 1827 but raised in Ireland where he served in the Irish Revenue Police. In 1857 that force was amalgamated with the Royal Irish Constabulary and, as O'Reilly did not meet the age requirement for transfer to the Constabulary, he was honourably discharged. In 1859, he came to British Columbia with letters of introduction to Governor Douglas and Colonel Moody. He reached Victoria on April 10, 1859 and later that month was appointed Stipendiary Magistrate for Langley district. From then until 1898, he served the colonial, provincial and federal governments in a variety of positions. Following his appointment at Langley, in September 1859, O'Reilly was appointed Stipendiary Magistrate for the district of Hope and, in addition, High Sheriff of British Columbia. He held the latter office until 1866 when he resigned. In 1860, he was appointed Assistant Gold Commissioner for Rock Creek as well as for Hope, and in 1862 he was appointed Chief Gold Commissioner for British Columbia in Cariboo district with headquarters at Richfield. He remained in that position until 1865 when he was transferred to the newly discovered gold fields at Wild Horse Creek. In November 1863, he had been appointed Stipendiary Magistrate and Justice of the Peace for the Colony of Vancouver Island. In 1866 following the gold discoveries at the Big Bend, he was transferred to Columbia District. For health reasons, he applied for employment in the Lower Country, and in 1867 was appointed to Yale District; in that same year he was also made responsible for Kootenay and Similkameen districts. He retained responsibility for those three districts until 1871. In 1871, he was put in charge of the Omineca district. He served on the Legislative Council of British Columbia from 1864 to 1870 and in 1871. In 1867, he was made a County Court judge for the Colony of British Columbia. After Confederation, he was appointed County Court judge for Yale District. From1880 until his retirement in 1898, he served as Indian Reserve Commissioner in British Columbia, for the federal government. In December, 1863, O'Reilly married Caroline Agnes Trutch, the sister of Joseph Trutch, who later became Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works for the Colony of British Columbia and first Lieutenant Governor of the province. The O'Reillys lived in New Westminster and Victoria, from 1867 on, in Point Ellice House (2616 Pleasant St.), Victoria. This remained the family home until 1976 when it was purchased by the Provincial government. They had four children: Francis Joseph (Frank), 1866-1941, Charlotte Kathleen (Kathleen or Pussy), 1867-1945, Mary Augusta, 1869-1876, and Arthur John (Jack), 1873-1946.

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