RBCM Archives

Series MS-2164 - Family records

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Family records

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  • 1877 (Creation)
    Douglas family (Sir James Douglas, 1803-1877)

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Originals, 1899, 3 items

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Douglas family (Sir James Douglas, 1803-1877) (1803-)

Biographical history

Sir James Douglas (1803-1877) served as an HBC officer and governor of the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia. He was the son of John Douglas, and was born in Demarara, British Guyana, where the Douglas family held interests in sugar plantations. Douglas returned to Scotland to attend school and at the age of 16 was sent to work for the North West Company. The following year he was transferred to Ile-a-la-Crosse, and in 1821, when the North West Company and Hudson’s Bay Company merged, he assumed the post of second class clerk in the HBC. During his career, Douglas was posted to Fort Vermilion, Fort Saint James, Fort Connolly, and Fort Vancouver, and was involved with opening up the overland brigade route between Fort Alexandria and Fort Okanagan. By 1839, he had risen to the position of chief factor, and arrived on Vancouver Island in 1842. Construction of Fort Victoria commenced the following year, and by 1851, Douglas was appointed governor and vice-admiral of the island colony. He stepped down in 1864, a year after being knighted.

Douglas married Amelia Connolly in 1828 'according to the customs of the country,' although the marriage was re-confirmed in the presence of a church official in 1837 at Fort Vancouver. The couple had thirteen children, although seven died in infancy, and son James died young in 1883. The Douglas’ five remaining daughters survived well into adulthood. Jane married A.G. Dallas, Cecilia married Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken, Agnes married Arthur T. Bushby, Martha married Dennis Harris, and Alice married Charles Good, although the union was not a happy one and they separated in 1869, eventually obtaining a divorce following Douglas’ death in 1877. Amelia died in 1890.

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Letter to Sir James Douglas from Alexander Grant Dallas, London, February 10, 1877, giving news of houses, children, etc.; bill to Lady Douglas from Geo. Winter, carriage proprietor, Victoria, 1899; calling card, Mrs. H. Dallas Helmcken. Transferred from Visual Records accession 198508-4.

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Presented by Isobel Cliff, Victoria, 1985.


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Accession number(s): 85-110

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