Queen Victoria circa 1860sThe City of Victoria prospered immensely from the Fraser River Gold Rush and the discoveries that followed as prospectors fanned across the tributaries of the Fraser and Thompson Rivers. The strikes continued to be encouraging until 1862 when a major find was made on Williams Creek in the "Cariboo" district and another major Gold Rush was on.

Victoria inner harbour circa 1860sAfter the encouraging start at the beginning of the decade, the city's fortunes began to decline. The CityGold returns dropped off after 1864 and the gold fields began to stabilize so there less demand for supplies from Victoria. James Douglas who had presided over the Colony and had given it preference over its sister, British Columbia, stepped down in 1864 and the colonies were forced into a unhappy marriage in 1866. For a time, Victoria even lost its place as capital city as the legislature met in New Westminster on the mainland until Victoria was finally selected as the capital of the joint colony in 1868. Declining gold revenues and huge debt incurred in building the Cariboo Road and fighting the Chilcotin War dragged the united colony down, and many left the colony. Alaska was purchased by the Americans in 1867 and the ailing economy of British Columbia looked as though it might be snatched in the encircling talons of the American eagle.

If the decade proved bad for her namesake it was worse for the Queen. In November, Prince Consort Albert learned of the death of his cousins Prince Ferdinand and King Pedro V of Portugal. A few days later the Queen and consort learned of a major indiscretion by the heir to the throne that threatened scandal on the royal family, and then Albert himself, fell mortally ill and died December 14 1861. Victoria was devastated, suffered a breakdown and went into a decade of mourning withdrawing from public affairs.

Queen Victoria did sign into law, the British North America Act in 1867, and in so doing made Canada an independent country comprised of four former British Colonies, and she added "Queen of Canada" to her long list of titles.

1861-62 Fardon Panorma from Songhees Point


Research Pages

Colonial Cricket

Created by Sarah Pugh, Kathryn Gibbons and Chris Adams

Cricket, the noble game, the manly game, was brought to Victoria, by Vancouver Island's first settler, Captain William Colquhoun Grant in 1849. At least, that was when the first set of wickets and bats to be used on the island arrived...

Medicine in 1860s Victoria

Created by David Badke

In the 1860s, Victoria had doctors, dentists and pharmacists offering their services and ready to prescribe all manner of medicines. This part of the Victoria's Victoria site explores the practice of medicine in Victoria in the 1860s...

The Spirit of Pestilence

Created by Elaine Moore, Anna-Marie Krahn, and Claudia Lorenz

In March of 1862, a miner brought smallpox from San Francisco to Victoria, British Columbia. The disease spread quickly, especially among Native people. The government of the day soon forced Natives to leave the city, which caused the disease to spread throughout many parts of British Columbia...

Spirits in Victoria

Created by Steven Robinson

The sale of "spirituous liquors" became a huge business in Victoria throughout the 1860's. There was a large amount of money in the Vancouver Island Colony during the early part of decade and consequently a fair bit of money to drink away...

The Theatre Royal in the 1860s

Created by Nancy Hintz and Jean Lomas

The Victoria Theatre, known as the Theatre Royal after 1867, was converted in 1861 by J.B. Robinson. It was located in an old Hudson's Bay Company storehouse on Government Street in downtown Victoria, which was situated at the southern tip of the then-British colony of Vancouver Island...

Race Class and Murder

Created by Justin Wong, Vesta and Dana Kimoto

This portion of Victoria's Victoria explores the varying degrees of racism in the handling of murders in Victoria during the 1860's. By using newspaper stories and other sources, this site focuses on three separate murders occurring in 1861, 1868, and 1869. The murders involve different races and different classes. We will examine the treatment of races in the presentation of murder in the media and also their treatment by the law.

Victoria Gas Company: Its Beginnings (1859-1862)

Created by Daniel Reid

The Victoria Gas Company was Vancouver Island's first utility company and is a predecessor to B.C. Hydro. The company was founded by young entrepreneurs who raised capital through the sale of stocks, another first in the colony. This site examines some of the controversies surrounding the Company through the lens of nineteenth century newspapers. Inside you will find the world's largest repository of digital images pertaining to the Victoria Gas Company.

The Victoria Brewing Company

Created by Sarah Alford, Heather Fyfe, and Liam Haggarty

In the summer of 1982 the building that had been home to the Victoria Brewing Company was torn down almost exactly ninety years after it was built. The building had been a standing memory of Victoria's brewing industry, which began with the gold rush in 1858. This website explores the history of brewing in Victoria, from the gold rush up to the turn of the century.

Who Killed William Robinson?

Created by Ruth Sandwell and John Lutz

Between 1867 and 1868 in the small community of Salt Spring Island near Victoria, B.C., three Black men were murdered. In one case, that of William Robinson, an Aboriginal man was charged and hanged for the murder, but a closer look suggests he may have been framed. By looking at the all the documents from the case, can you determine who killed William

The British Columbia and Victoria guide and directory for 1863

By Frederick P Howard, 1863.

The First Newspapers on Canada's West Coast: 1858-1863

Created by Hugh Doherty.

Victoria had no fewer than nine newspapers between the summer of 1858 and 1863, all except the British Colonist, short-lived but lively all the same. This website gives a history of each of these newspapers and the colourful people behind them.