Arthur Oliver Wheeler
1860 - 1945
Arthur Oliver Wheeler was born in Kilkenny, Ireland on May 1, 1860 and then came to Canada with his family in 1876. Wheeler received his education in Dublin, Ballinasloe College, Galway, and in Dulwich College, London, England. When he arrived in Canada he served an apprenticeship as a Dominion Land Surveyor with Rvley and Hamilton, and with Elihu Stewart in Collingwood. Wheeler spent his first year in Canada surveying in the Bruce Mines area of Ontario with Ryley and Hamilton, before taking up with Stewart on performing Indian Reserve surveys in Canada 's new west.
Wheeler qualified as Ontario Land Surveyor in 1881, as Manitoba and Dominion Land Surveyor in 1882, as British Columbia land Surveyor in 1891, and Alberta Land Surveyor in 1911. In 1883 and 1884 Wheeler performed township and townsite surveys for the Dominion Government and the Canadian Pacific Railway in the West, before the Riel Rebellion broke out. During the rebellion, which began in 1885, Wheeler served as a lieutenant with the DLS Intelligence Corps. When the rebellion was over Wheeler returned to surveying, and began to experiment with some of the new technology that had begun to emerge. Working for the Department of the Interior, his first chief, Dr. Edouard Deville, trained him in photo-topographical surveying. In 1900 he surveyed in the Crowsnest Pass area of the Canadian Rockies and in 1901 and 1902 he was assigned to survey in the Selkirk Range based at Glacier House and in particular to map areas utilized by tourists and mountain climbers. The report and maps of this survey were published by the Department of the Interior in book form under the title of The Selkirk Range by A.O. Wheeler, 1905.
From 1903 to 1910 he continued the photo-topographical survey of the main range of the Rockies and during this time was appointed Topographer of the Department of the Interior. Wheeler returned to private practice from 1910 to 1913 forming a partnership with Alan Campbell and later Robert McCaw. During this period, a large contract subdivision survey was completed of the Tetachuck Lake area north of Bella Coola.
Inspired by his mountain surveys, in 1906 Wheeler founded the Alpine Club of Canada, assisted by Mrs. H.J. (Elizabeth) Parker and Dr. J.C. Herdman. Sir William Whyte, Vice-President of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, also gave assistance. He became the club's first President from 1906 to 1910, then Managing Director until 1926, when he retired. He was then elected Honourary President and continued in that office until his death.
In 1907, as ACC President, he attended the Jubilee celebration dinner of The Alpine Club in London and in 1908, proposed by Edward Whymper, Wheeler was elected to Honourary membership in The Alpine Club.
In 1912, the Alpine Club of Canada was asked to evaluate the alpine potential of the newly established Strathcona Provincial Park on Vancouver Island. Arthur Wheeler's son, Edward Wheeler led the trip summitting the Strathcona Matterhorn which they christened Elkhorn. On the second part of the expedition Arthur Wheeler led a team that included Albert MacCarthy and his wife Bess, up Price Creek, at the head of Buttle Lake, and over to Port Alberni along the way naming another peak the Misthorns. He also named Margaret Lake after Lady McBride, the wife of Sir Richard McBride, whose cabinet supported the expedition.
In 1913 he was British Columbia 's commissioner for establishing the Interprovincial Boundary between that province and Alberta. Those involved in the survey were responsible for the naming of more peaks than any other group. The survey was begun in 1913 and continued every summer until 1925. It was a major effort that involved much detailed mapping in the areas adjacent to the border as well as the actual delineation of the boundary itself.
While doing the survey work for the Boundary Commission, which was done during and immediately after the First World War, he received permission from the Geographic Board of Canada to name the peaks in the Kananaskis area. The decision would be one that many would regret, as Wheeler, in a fit of patriotism, named most of the peaks after World War I generals and admirals, French villages, songs of the era and battleships, blatantly ignoring the first mandate of peak naming, which is to reflect the natural history of the area. This prompted R.M. Patterson, in a 1961 publication entitled The Buffalo Head, to say that: "The Rockies must sadly be the worst-named range in the world."
Through his involvement with the Boundary Survey and the Alpine Club over four decades, Arthur Wheeler probably saw more of the Canadian Rockies than any other person and fittingly has a mountain in the Selkirk Range named after him.
In 1920 the Allied Congress of Alpinism was held in the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco and Wheeler organized the Alpine Club of Canada's representation and exhibit. Although unable to attend, the Club's exhibit was well received and, the Prince of Monaco bestowed Wheeler with the Officer of the Order of St. Charles and conferred upon him the Cross of Order. In 1929, Wheeler became a honourary member of the Dominion Land Surveyors' Association that would later become the Canadian Institute of Surveying.
Wheeler's first wife was Clara Macoun, daughter of the eminent Professor John Macoun, Dominion Naturalist and Botanist. They had one son Edward Wheeler who would become the Surveyor General of India. Wheeler later married Emmeline Savatard. Arthur Wheeler passed away on March 20, 1945, at the age of eighty-four.
Wheeler, A.O. "The Canadian Rockies." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 1. The Alpine Club of Canada. 1907. p. 36-46.
Wheeler, A.O. "Observations of Yoho Glacier." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 1. The Alpine Club of Canada. 1907. p. 149-158.
Wheeler, A.O. "Report of Chief Mountaineer." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 1. The Alpine Club of Canada. 1907. p. 171-175.
Wheeler, A.O. "The Alpine Club Jubilee." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 1. The Alpine Club of Canada. 1908. p. 295-309.
Wheeler, A.O. "Mt. Douglas/1907." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 1. The Alpine Club of Canada. 1908. p. 318-319.
Wheeler, A.O. "Expedition to Mt. Robson/1907." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 1. The Alpine Club of Canada. 1908. p. 364-367.
Wheeler, A.O. "The Alpine Club of Canada Expedition to Jasper Park and Mt. Robson." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 4. The Alpine Club of Canada. 1912. p. 1-84.
Wheeler, A.O. "The Alpine Club of Canada in Strathcona Park." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 5. The Alpine Club of Canada. 1913. p. 82-95.
Wheeler, A.O. "Robson Glacier." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 6. The Alpine Club of Canada. 1914-15. p. 139-145.
Wheeler, A.O. "Ascent of Mt. Sturdee." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 11. The Alpine Club of Canada. 1921-22. p. 176-177.
Wheeler, A.O. "Appreciation Logan Expedition." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 15. The Alpine Club of Canada. 1925. p. 9-14.
Wheeler, A.O. "Passes of the Great Divide." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 16. The Alpine Club of Canada. 1926-27. p. 150-176.
Wheeler, A.O. "Rogers Pass." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 17. The Alpine Club of Canada. 1928. p. 38-52.
Wheeler, A.O. "Mts Brown and Hooker." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 17. The Alpine Club of Canada. 1928. p. 66-68.
Wheeler, A.O. "Origin and Founding of the Alpine Club of canada." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 26. The Alpine Club of Canada. 1938. p. 82-85.
"The Wonders of Strathcona Park." Alberni Advocate. [Alberni, B.C.] (September 6, 1912) p. 1.
Fraser, Esther. Wheeler.
Summerthought. Banff, Alberta. 1978.