Alfred Penderell Waddington
Alfred Penderell Waddington was born on October 2, 1801 at Cresent House, Brompton, London, England. He received his early education in England and attended the Ecole Speciale du Commerce in Paris. He also spent two years at Leipzig and at the University of Gottingen in Germany.
From the late 1820's to the mid 1840's, Waddington worked with his brothers at various ventures in France but none were financially successful. In May 1850 he sailed to California in the wake of the California gold rush and became a partner in the firm of Dunlip and Waddington, wholesale grocers in San Francisco.
Following the news of the Fraser River gold rush, Waddington moved north and in 1858 established himself in Victoria on Vancouver Island. Although not interested in the actual search for gold, Waddington had political and commercial aspirations in this young Colony. Shortly after arriving he authored The Fraser Mines Vindicated, the first non-government book published in the Vancouver Island Colony.
In 1860, he was elected to the colonial legislature as a reform candidate who favoured small, local government; religious equality; and greater financial freedom. In 1861 he resigned because he was disillusioned and distraught by the political process. Waddington's progressive thinking and actions were frequently premature, his ideas to far ahead of the other colonists and his times. He also fought hard for women's right and helped draft Victoria's charter but declined a nomination to be Victoria's first mayor.
No longer a member of the Legislative Assembly, Waddington shifted his focus to the construction of a wagon road to the Cariboo goldfields. Although several proposals had been made, Waddington passionately advocated the Bute Inlet route and lobbied the press and his political allies for support. Both the financing and the construction of the road proved problematic at times, but Waddington persisted, finally ratifying a draft agreement early in 1863.
Worked commenced on the construction of the road at the head of Bute Inlet but after the Chilcotin War of 1864, the enterprise collapsed. Waddington tried unsuccessfully to recover his expenses but the Bute Inlet route had virtually bankrupted him.
In 1865, due to the efforts of his friend Amor De Cosmos, Waddington was appointed the Superintendent of Education for the Colony of Vancouver Island. Waddington's reports and his school inspection journals attest that he an able administrator and a great friend to the cause of public education.
In November 1866, when the Colony of Vancouver Island was annexed by British Columbia, the new governor was opposed to the principle of free education. The constitution of Vancouver Island was revoked and the authority of the General Board of Education was no longer recognized.
The Board soldiered on but finally in September 1867 Waddington resigned and the Board decided to close all schools on Vancouver Island. In April 1868 the Board resigned as a body in protest against "the hostility of the government towards Free Schools and the continued withholding of funds voted."
Waddington meantime resumed his business interests and became active in the pro-Confederation campaign. Although the government refused to provide him with compensation for his Bute Inlet enterprise, Waddington's visions only became larger. He became a tireless advocate of a transcontinental railway, to be built from Canada to British Columbia and to connect to Vancouver Island via Bute Inlet. Although he did not witness the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway and his proposal was unlikely to win the contract, the federal government purchased his surveys that helped to create a solid foundation upon which to build what was then the largest railway in the world. It was while in Ottawa lobbying for the Bute Inlet route when he died of smallpox on February 26, 1872, at the age of seventy-one.
Although best remembered for his transportation initiatives, Waddington has been characterized as: "an unwaveringly optimistic entrepreneur who took an active interest in the early history of colonial Vancouver Island and the province of British Columbia." Waddington is also commemorated by having the highest peak in the Coast Range and the highest mountain wholly within British Columbia named after him: the impressive Mount Waddington.
Shanks, Neville. Waddington: A Biography of Alfred Penderell Waddington. Port Hardy, BC. North Island Gazette. 1975.