Edward Graham Alston
1832 - 1872
Edward Graham Alston was born September 6, 1832, at Cambridge, England, the second son of the Reverend George Alston and Anne Charlotte Oxenden. Alston was educated at St. Paul's School, London, and Trinity College, Cambridge (BA, 1855), and was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1857. Arriving in Victoria by way of the Panama on May 26, 1859, he was admitted to the bar of Vancouver Island on June 15, 1859 and on February 14, 1861, was appointed registrar of titles for Vancouver Island, a position he held until June 1, 1870, when he became registrar general of the united Colony of British Columbia. He was one of three commissioners who drew up the Consolidated statutes of British Columbia and he acted as attorney general from May 12 to August 23, 1871, during which period British Columbia officially entered confederation.
Alston was a member of the Legislative Council of Vancouver Island, 1861 - 62; a commissioner of the Indian reserve and a member of the General Board of Education of Vancouver Island, he resigned these offices in 1865, when after the death of his first wife (Elizabeth Caroline Abbott) he went to England for a year. Following his return he was appointed a member of the Legislative Council of British Columbia, 1868 - 71; justice of the peace (December 3. 1868); commissioner of savings banks (April 15, 1869); registrar of joint stock companies (August 26, 1869); and inspector general of schools (May 6, 1870).
Outside his official duties Alston took an active interest in community affairs. A member of the Church of England, he was appointed registrar of the diocese in 1866 and he contributed an "Historical and political summary for ... 1858 - 1868" to the Report of the Columbia Mission for 1868. He held office in the Mechanics' Literary Institute and as a freemason was the prime mover in establishing the benevolent fund of the Victoria Lodge. During the Fenian scare of 1866 he was "idiot enough to join the corps [Vancouver Island Volunteer Rifles] and go into camp and sleep out and make myself very juvenile and foolish." In 1868 he accompanied the expedition which crossed Vancouver Island from Nootka Sound to the east coast, a region whose exploration had been left unfinished by Robert Brown's VIEE party in 1864; "Mount Alston" at the head of the Nimpkish River still commemorates his journey. In the 1870 edition of the Hand-book to British Columbia and Vancouver Island Alston himself comments on this 1868 expedition and affirms his belief that "this colony, with its latent wealth and splendid climate, has a rich - though it may be distant - future before it ..."
In this future, however rich, Alston himself had no wish to share. He was quite out of sympathy with the growing trend in British Columbia toward a more democratic form of government. When the colonies were united in 1866 he was privately delighted to have "got rid of the House of Apes" on Vancouver Island, and when the united colony joined confederation in 1871 he asked the imperial government for a transfer since he could see "no hope of preferment within the Colony, inasmuch as a Responsible form of Government has been established, in which all vacancies will be filled by the political friends of the ministry of the day." A month after British Columbia had officially become a province of Canada. Alston left Victoria to take up his appointment as queen's advocate in Sierra Leone where his career was cut short by African fever the following year. Evidently, as his son said, Alston found himself "more at home" in a colony like Sierra Leone where he was a member of the Legislative and Executive Councils and served as acting governor, and where the local newspaper bore witness that "his abilities and high character gave him a foremost place in the staff of officials." Edward Alston died November 12, 1872, in Freetown, Sierra Leone at the age of forty-one.
Alston, Edward G. A Hand-book to British Columbia and Vancouver Island. John Murray. London, England. 1870.