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Another Coffee from the Nov 2002 Deep Cove Crier

Colonel Moody & BC’s First War

Each November 11th, we gratefully remember soldiers who have defended our freedoms.  How often have we given thanks for Colonel Richard Moody and the Royal Engineers who defended us in BC’s first war?

In 1858, Colonel Moody’s troops steamed north along the Fraser River to Yale on the Enterprise.  Ned McGowan had led a vigilante gang to falsely imprison the Yale Justice of the Peace, PB Whannel.  Ned McGowan had great influence with the vigilantes, as he was both a former Philadelphia Police superintendent implicated in a bank robbery and a former California judge acquitted on a murder charge.  Without Moody’s intervention, the fear was that BC would be quickly annexed to the USA by Ned McGowan’s gang.

Upon arriving in Yale, Colonel Moody and his Sappers from Sapperton were unexpectedly received with ‘vociferous cheering and every sign of respect and loyalty’.  No shots were even fired!  Matthew Begbie the so-called ‘Hanging Judge’, in his first-ever BC Court case, fined McGowan a small amount of £5 for assault, after which he sold his gold-rush stake and promptly returned to California.  BC Premier Armor de Cosmos said of ‘Ned McGowan’s War’  that BC had ‘her first war- so cheap- all for nothing…BC must feel pleased with herself.’
Born on Feb 13 1803 in Barbados, Colonel Moody became the second-most important leader in the formation of BC.  Like our first BC Governor James Douglas who was born in British Guyana, Moody brought Caribbean ingenuity and vision to the frontiers of Western Canada.

Moody had entered the army at an early age.  Moody’s father Thomas was also a Colonel in the Royal Engineers. A graduate of the Royal Academy at Woolich, Moody joined the Royal Engineers in 1830 and served in Ireland and the West Indies, as well as a professor in Woolich.  After Moody had been sick twice from yellow fever, he drew plans submitted to Queen Victoria for restoring Edinburgh Castle.

In 1841 he went to the Falkland Islands as Lieutenant Governor, later Governor where he stayed until 1849.  In 1858 Moody was appointed Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works and Lieutenant Governor of the new colony of BC.  Moody was soon sworn in as Deputy to Douglas on the mainland and empowered to take his place, if anything should happen to the Governor.

Moody’s role in the colony was two-fold: to provide military support and to carry out major building projects with the Government considered necessary to keep up with a sudden growth in population and commerce.

Moody’s Sappers were specially trained in surveying, reconnaissance, and constructing roads, bridges, and fortifications.  They represented many trades such as printers, draughtsmen, photographers, carpenters, blacksmiths, and masons.

Colonel Moody and his sappers were sent to BC because of the 1858 BC Goldrush.  On April 25th 1858, 495 gold-rush miners arrived in Victoria.  Governor James Douglas commented that ‘they are represented as being with some exceptions a specimen of the worst of the population of San Francisco – the very dregs in fact of society.’  By the middle of July 1858, the number of American miners exceeded 30,000.  Rev. Lundin Brown held that ‘never in the migration of men had there been seen such a rush, so sudden and so vast.’

Click for more on Colonel Moody’s amazing lasting impact.


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St. Simon's Anglican Church 
North Vancouver, B.C.