BLINKHORN, THOMAS, pioneer settler, farmer, justice of the peace, and office holder; b. 3 May 1806 in Sawtry, England, eldest son of Thomas and Ann Blinkhorn; m. 9 Aug. 1827 Ann Beeton of Great Gidding, England, and they had one son and two daughters; d. 13 Oct. 1856 in Metchosin (B.C.).
Thomas Blinkhorn was one of the small number of early settlers on Vancouver Island independent of the Hudson’s Bay Company, which in 1849 had been granted a lease of the crown colony in return for its colonization. Possessed of “a mind of wide range, and well tried by experience,” Blinkhorn had been “up and down the world somewhat,” and from 1837 to 1849, it would appear, he had been stock-raising in Australia. He reached Vancouver Island from England on 9 May 1851, having formed a partnership aboard the Tory with a fellow passenger, James Cooper*, a former captain in the HBC maritime service now returning to Fort Victoria (Victoria) as a free merchant and landowner.
Cooper took up over 300 acres of land at Metchosin, 9 miles from the fort by sea, 15 miles by Indian trail through the forest, and the partners were soon engaged in various enterprises. Cooper himself traded between Vancouver Island, San Francisco, and Hawaii, leaving the management of his Metchosin farm in Blinkhorn’s capable hands. Son and grandson of a miller, he had been a farmer in his native Sawtry and he had married a farmer’s daughter. In the five years before his untimely death in 1856 he cleared and brought under cultivation some 60 acres and established a dairy herd. Unfortunately the HBC chief factor in charge at Fort Victoria, James Douglas*, considered some of Cooper’s trading activities an infringement of the company monopoly. Consequently the partners joined with the other 13 independent settlers in an unsuccessful petition against the appointment of Douglas to succeed Richard Blanshard* as governor of Vancouver Island.
In March 1853 Blinkhorn, along with the three HBC farm superintendents, received a commission as “magistrate and justice of the peace,” Governor Douglas considering him “the only independent settler with a sufficient degree of education” to qualify for the office. By December, Douglas had found his appointees so ignorant of the law that he had been obliged to restrict them to “their proper duties of Conservators of the Peace” by establishing a Supreme Court of Civil Justice, under his brother-in-law, David Cameron*. In February 1854 Blinkhorn and his fellow justices were among the 70 settlers who petitioned the queen, without success, against Cameron’s appointment as chief justice.
“The most energetic settler on the island,” Blinkhorn now added to his responsibilities at Metchosin the management of William Fraser Tolmie*’s farm at Cloverdale, 15 miles away, and proceeded to carry out his various commitments in a most conscientious manner. The road from Fort Victoria had still not reached Metchosin and so his visits to Cloverdale and his monthly attendance at the Court of Petty Sessions involved him in strenuous travel in all weathers. On one occasion he “got to the river walking across the ice and fell in, had to come back and change his things Tryed to get a canoe could not get one the Indians would not go it was Snowing very fast and very thick.” Frequently he caught cold, “sitting in the canoe on the water going to the Fort.” Soon his lungs were seriously affected and on 13 Oct. 1856 he died. He was buried in the graveyard adjoining the Victoria District Church, now Christ Church Cathedral, and on 4 November an auction sale, at which “the stock sold remarkably well,” was held at the Metchosin farm.
Blinkhorn Island (Peninsula) in Johnstone Strait (named by Captain George Henry Richards* in 1861), Blinkhorn Lake and Mount Blinkhorn, both in Metchosin, perpetuate the name of this widely experienced and successful farmer, loved and respected by family and friends, and, within the limits of his scanty legal knowledge, the faithful holder of a minor office in the judicial system of Vancouver Island.
PABC, A/C/20, Vi2; C/AA/10.1/2; C/AA/10.4/1; E/B/B62.3. PRO, CO 305/5 (mfm. at PABC). M. C. Ella, “The diary of Martha Cheney Ella, 1853–1856,” ed. J. K. Nesbitt, BCHQ, 13 (1949): 91–112, 257–70. G.B., Parl., House of Commons paper, 1857 (session ii), 15, nos.224, 260, Report from the select committee on the Hudson’s Bay Company; 1863, 38, no.507: 523–38, Correspondence with the governor of Vancouver’s Island, relative to the appointment of Chief Justice Cameron. . . . HBRS, 32 (Bowsfield). Walbran, B.C. coast names. H. H. Bancroft, History of British Columbia, 1792–1887 (San Francisco, 1887). W. K. Lamb, “Early lumbering on Vancouver Island, pt.I: 1844–1855,” BCHQ, 2 (1938): 31–53. S. F. Tolmie, “My father: William Fraser Tolmie, 1812–1886,” BCHQ, 1 (1937): 227–40.
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