1885 Map showing Police Station in Bastion Square, UBC Specal collections G 3514-V5G475 1885 s2.  For a larger version, go to the Maps section. Victoria Police, 1860, Image Courtesy of Victoria Police Museum

After gold was discovered on the Fraser River and the first miners arrived in April 1858, the face of Victoria changed overnight. Before the end of the year, between 10,000 and 20,000 people came into the city on their way to the gold fields. While most moved on in search of gold, many stayed and settled in the city. In addition, with these miners came the support industries which brought merchants and traders to the city. Prices for goods and property in the city exploded, with some residents becoming instantly rich through speculation. It would not be an understatement to suggest that the city of Victoria experienced a complete upheavel in the years soon after 1858.

While most miners spent the majority of their time in the colony panning for gold on the Fraser, many of them would winter in Victoria swelling the permanent population of 1,500 to sometimes several times that. Thus, during the first winter of 1858-1859, Victoria experienced for the first time a vast increase with a semi-permanent contingent of miners who would spend several months living in the city. With this influx of people came dramatic social changes in a very short period of time. Within months Victoria, which had been until that point an attempted recreation of the British lifestyle, experienced a flood of American miners immigrants who brought with them their views on things such as race, law, and politics which often met the ire of many of the British immigrants who sought to recreate the values and systems of their homeland.

In addition to the vast numbers of miners coming to Victoria, many First Nations converged on Victoria during the summers in order to trade with the miners and the steadily increasing number of merchants in the city. This created much anxiety among the settler population who often blamed the Aboriginal population for the increase in crime that had occurred rather than associating it with the massive shift in population and demographics that had occurred over the previous year.



A view across James Bay in 1859.

BCA Call Number: H-01492



A view across James Bay from the site of the current Legislature in 1860.

BCA Call Number: A-02852