The American Page

Americans have had a major influence on the history of Metropolitan Vancouver.

Simon Fraser, after whom the Fraser River and Fraser Valley and Simon Fraser University and Fraser Street and more are named, was born in 1776—just before the American Revolution—in a tiny place called Mapleton in what is now New York State. His family were Loyalists, so when the Revolution began they lit out for Canada. Simon was about eight at the time.

William Cornelius Van HorneAn American gave Vancouver its name! William Cornelius Van Horne, of Chelsea, Illinois, was the man who headed the CPR, the Canadian Pacific Railway that opened up the Canadian West. During one of Van Horne’s visits he was rowed around the area by Lauchlan Hamilton, the CPR’s local land commissioner, and told him, “Hamilton, this is destined to be a great city!” It needed, he said, a name that told people where it was. Granville (its name then) wouldn’t work. No one would know where "Granville" was. But everyone knew about George Vancouver’s explorations of the Pacific northwest.

L.D. Taylor was mayor eight times!The Vancouver mayor who served more terms than any other—L.D. Taylor—was an American, born in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He served eight terms, although not consecutively. We have recently learned, thanks to a fascinating book by Daniel Francis (L.D. Taylor and the Rise of Vancouver) that Taylor left Chicago—where he had an interest in a bank—in a bit of a hurry, and fled to Canada when the cops started sniffing around. And we also learned that he was briefly married to two women at the same time.

The old-money part of Vancouver, Shaughnessy, where a million-dollar-house is in the poorer part of the neighborhood, was named for an American: Thomas George Shaughnessy of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was another president of the CPR.

The first major industrialist on Burrard Inlet, lumberman Sewell Moody, was from Maine. He had a big mill on the north shore.

The first big industry in Vancouver was the B.C. Sugar Refinery, still here after more than 100 years, and started by—you guessed it, an American. He was the splendidly-named Benjamin Tingley Rogers, of Pennsylvania.

Nat BaileyYou’ll see a popular chain of restaurants here called White Spots. The first one under that name opened June 16, 1928. They were started by a fellow named Nat Bailey, doubly famous here for his promotion of local baseball. Nat Bailey was born in 1902 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Our most famous archaeologist, the late Charles Borden, was born in New York City.

The Cates brothers, who started our most well-known tugboat company, were from Maine.

Sam Cohen, who started the Army & Navy chain here, a local fixture for decades, hailed from San Francisco.

The Europe Hotel, the famed wedge-shaped Gastown building, was constructed by a firm from Cincinnati, Ohio.

There are many more examples. But the ethnic group that trumps everyone in its numbers and influence on the early history of Metropolitan Vancouver is . . . the Scottish!

See the article on that bonny group here »

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