William Washington Bolton
1858 - 1946
William Washington Bolton was born in 1858 in the county of Staffordshire, England. He went to Caius College, Cambridge in 1877 and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1880, and took his Master's degree three years later. At Cambridge his interests were equally divided by scholarship and sports. In 1879, he won the British amateur championship for the half mile, and at the same time, set a record for the thousand-yard race. He was also a spirited boxer, a footballer (both rugby and soccer) and a long distance swimmer, and an ardent tennis player when that now universal sport was in its infancy. He was proud of being a Cambridge Blue, and a member of the Achilles Club of London, which is made of both Cambridge and Oxford Blues.
In 1881, he was ordained in the church by the Bishop of Lichfield. For the next three years, he held a curacy in England, before moving to Canada in 1885 to become a missionary in Saskatchewan. In 1887, he was appointed Rector of St. Paul's Church, Esquimalt on Vancouver Island and ran the parish boy's school which he operated until 1890. He then went to San Francisco and became rector of St. Mary The Virgin Episcopal Church until 1898.
In 1894 Bolton secured a leave of absence from the diocese to undertake an exploration expedition on Vancouver Island, under the auspices of the Province Publishing Company. His goal was to travel the length of Vancouver by foot and canoe. The expedition began on July 4, 1894, when the team sailed from Victoria to Shushartie on the northern tip of the island. Weather and conditions were poor and the team began running behind schedule. Upon reaching Nootka Sound they decided to avoid the unknown central mountainous region and picked up the trail from Port Alberni, in Barkley Sound, eventually reaching Victoria on well-used trails.
Due to the lack of sponsorship for completion of the journey, Bolton persuaded a personal Oxonian friend, John W. Laing, to help finance and accompany him on the remaining journey. Two years later on July 1, 1896, the team again sailed from Victoria to Alert Bay and commenced traveling overland to Nootka Sound. With weather improving they then proceeded into the heartland of Vancouver Island traveling tracts of land that had never been explored before eventually coming out at Port Alberni. Thus ended the most ambitious expedition yet undertaken on Vancouver Island. Bolton was most meticulous in keeping a journal of the trip and these provide a fascinating glimpse of life on the trail as well as a description of isolated settlements and native villages at the close of the nineteenth century.
Bolton again briefly visited the mountainous interior of the island in 1910 as part of the Crown Mountain Exploring Expediton with the Minister of Finance and Agriculture, the Honourable Price Ellison. This expedition was evaluating the tourism potential of the mountains and surrounding lakes for establishing a provincial park (Strathcona Provincial Park.)
Bolton returned to Victoria in 1898 and opened a small school for boys at his home on Belcher Avenue. Then in 1906 he was joined James Clark Barnacle and Rupert Valentine Harvey in starting University School of Victoria, but it was Bolton who was the most influential founder implanting his values: gentlemanly conduct, good manners, good sportsmanship and athletic ability. However, it was not just his values, but the energy, enthusiasm, keen mind and vigorous participation in a diverse array of interests that made Bolton unforgettable. He was warden of University School until 1920, when he left for the South Pacific to be Inspector of Schools for the New Zealand Government.
In 1920 Bolton went to the South Pacific taking a position as inspector of Schools for the New Zealand Government. In 1925, in an Auckland newspaper, Bolton chanced upon a notice asking for a teacher in Niue, a lonely little island dependency of New Zealand in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. At sixty-seven Bolton was really thinking about retiring, but when he learned that the Niue post was not wanted by others because of its remoteness, he immediately offered his services. He spent nearly three years teaching children in Niue, and then in 1928, set out for Tahiti to rest for the remainder of his days.
In A True Story, by James Norman Hall, he tells much about the energy and character of Bolton based on interviews and a personal friendship while both lived in Tahiti.
Reverend William Washington Bolton died in Tahiti on July 28, 1946, at the age of eighty-eight and left behind him a legacy to be admired of a bewildering number of achievements. His energy and interest knew no bounds, and every person who were in contact with him in someway were touched by him.
In 1971 the University School of Victoria eventually amalgamated with another old Victoria school St. Michael's which was founded in 1910 by Kyrle W. Symons. In Symon's esteem he considered Bolton to be "the doyen of school teachers." The two schools become St. Michaels University School.
Bolton, W.W. Vancouver Island by land and water. Transcript's of Bolton's journals in the months of July and August 1894, and July and August 1896, in the British Columbia Archives and Records Service.
Peter and Wilson, Rob. "An Unforgettable Character: Reverend William
Washington Bolton." St. Michael's University School (SMUS) website