Heritage Week: Nanaimo Pioneer J.J. Southgate

This week is Heritage Week across BC and the theme is “Heritage Afloat.”  Tonight, Wednesday February 19, 2014 at the Nanaimo Museum there will be a Heritage Summit from 7pm to 9pm at the Nanaimo Museum which the public is welcome to attend. To celebrate Heritage Week and Nanaimo’s early history meet Nanaimo Pioneer J.J. Southgate.

Nanaimo Coal Pioneer

Nanaimo Pioneer J. J. Southgate
J. J. Southgate

In Nanaimo’s south end there are some landmarks named after the early politian and merchant Mr. J.J. Southgate.  Born and raised in England, Joseph Johnson Southgate came to Victoria in 1859 from San Francisco.

From 1860-1863, he was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Vancouver Island, representing Salt Spring Island. Later he was the elected representative for Nanaimo. In 1864 he was president of the newly formed Vancouver Club.

It wasn’t uncommon for politicians of the day to mix political and business interests. In the same year that the Harewood Mine opened, J.J. Southgate put forward a request in the Legislative Assembly for Vancouver Island:

“A letter was read from Messrs. J. J. Southgate and Sebright Green, Directors of the Harewood Railway Company Limited, dated 10th June 1864 requesting the consent of the Governor to their taking land in the Government Reserve in the Nanaimo District for the purposes of their proposed Railway.

The Council were of opinion that the Harewood Railway Company might be  permitted to take the land necessary for their line of Railway across the unsold portion of the land situated on the Government Reserve opposite Newcastle Island in the District of Nanaimo upon the same terms that are provided by the Vancouver Island Land Clauses Consolidation Act 1863 with regard to the land of private persons.”

After the Colony of Vancouver Island merged with that of British Columbia in 1866, J.J. Southgate served as the elected member for Nanaimo. He was also a keen supporter of Confederation and was honoured with several geographical features named after him.

Read more about Nanaimo’s early coal history.