5630 Dunbar St. at 41st Ave.

Historic Vancouver

Jonathan Miller - Early Vancouver Pioneer


Jonathan Miller

The orginal 1879 Burrard Inlet Deposition of Constable Jonathan Miller in an 'indictment for cutting and wounding by a seaman'

Jonathan Miller

See the full document here

It's Page 59 of Gerald Wellburn's Historic Vancouver album which tells the story of early Vancouver and the pioneer characters through the original documents

Realized $1,210 in our auction Saturday 10th December

Page 60 of the historic Vancouver album has an 1878 Complaint On Oath signed by Jonathan Miller

1878 Complaint On Oath signed by Jonathan Miller

See the full document here sold for $550 in our 17th December auction

1876 Escape from Custody document signed Miller/Raymur

1867 Escape from Custody

See the full document here in our 17 January 2017 auction


In the April 1984 edition of British Columbia Historical News there is a fascinating article by Douglas E. Harker called

Jonathan Miller, One of Vancouver’s Earliest Pioneers

Jonathan Miller

Douglas E. Harker shows how Jonathan Miller's story is deeply intertwined with the story of early Vancouver. Here is his article:

"In the 1860s the district of Cariboo, a remote area of British Columbia, produced enough gold to draw a surge of emigrants from all over the world. On June 4, 1862, one of the adventurers, Jonathan Miller, from the deck of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s steamer Enterprise, surveyed the small houses lining the bank of the Fraser River. They comprised the village of New Westminster, capital of British Columbia. Jonathan was twenty-eight, short, stocky, bearded, compact, with an air of quiet self assurance and reliability that attracted trust. He had come from Delaware, Ontario, where his family had lived for three generations as prosperous farmers and leading citizens, and where he had been justice of the peace since the age of twenty-two. His father had expected he would But Jonathan follow the had family heard pattern. 1 the call of gold and felt the promptings of adventure strongly enough to lure him away from his much loved wife Margaret and their two infant daughters to distant, largely unexplored British Columbia. For a month he had been travelling, by train to New York, by steamer to Panama, by rail across the Isthmus, by other steamers to San Francisco, Victoria, and New Westminster. He was entranced by the scenic wonder of this new country ... the immense trees, some two hundred feet high, the backdrop of massive mountains, the meadows and the sparkling sea joined by the wide river. The capital city itself was not attractive, It was shut in by dense forest timber of the largest size. New Westminster had grown rapidly from a cluster of shanties to a settlement of three hundred. It had a hospital, the Royal Columbian, a newspaper, the British Columbian, and three rough unfinished roads to Burrard Inlet.

See Gerald Wellburn page Early Vancouver

"During his long journey Jonathan had heard stories of the gold rush, of its pitifully few beneficiaries, and of its many victims who had ‘hurled their youth into the grave.’ Moreover, the winter of 1862 was the severest within living memory. Ships could not get up the Fraser River because of the ice. The capital city was isolated, the river frozen. Cattle and heavy carts could travel on solid ice from New Westminster to Yale. The sufferings of the gold miners that winter were indescribable. Jonathan decided he would not hurry to join the four thousand miners who that year alone had invaded the Cariboo. It was not difficult to find employment. He worked in a store, and he went with surveyor Alfred Waddington’s crew to look tor a route from the north end of Bute Inlet to the Cariboo gold fields. It would have been 175 miles shorter, but the terrain defeated them. The Coast Range of mountains, higher than the Rockies, the deep canyons, towering glaciers, dense forests and rushing rivers were insuperable. It was only by chance that Jonathan avoided a massacre in which fourteen of Waddington’s crew were murdered by Indians in their construction camp in the Homathco Valley.

"In 1865 Jonathan became a lumberman. He had come to the conclusion that British Columbia’s future was founded on timber rather than gold. Before long, he had two lumber camps on the shores of Burrard Inlet and employed twenty men. He felt ready to send for his wife and children.

"As Margaret stepped off the Enterprise, with four-year-old Ada holding one hand and threeyear-old Carrie the other, she must have found a disturbing contrast between the settled East and the emerging West. New Westminster had begun the year with a serious financial deficit. Governor Seymour who had arrived a few weeks earlier reported to the Colonial Office: “...New Westminster presents a melancholy picture. Many of the best houses are untenanted. The largest hotel is to let. Decay appears on all sides and logs of the fallen trees block most of the streets.. Fortunately for British Columbia and posterity, there were in the capital city and on the Inlet some men of rare vision and ability such as editor John Robson, mill operators Sewell Moody and Edward Stamp, logger Jeremiah Rogers and others whose courage and endurance built the province. Jonathan was of their number. His teams hauled logs for the mill owned by Sewell Moody, and it was while he was so employed that an event occurred that changed the course of his life and led to his becoming one of Vancouver’s leading pioneers. The event was a lawsuit brought against him by Captain Stamp. Jonathan was logging the 1000-acre peninsula which later became Stanley Park, but which was then a Military Reserve. Stamp had been given exclusive timber rights over it, so he sued.

See Gerald Wellburn Page Sewell Prescott Moody

and Gerald Wellburn Page Jeremiah Rogers

"The suit was widely discussed in the little community of New Westminster. The area which Colonial Secretary Birch had handed over to Captain Stamp was far larger than he could possibly need or use. Moreover, he was an irascible man whose domineering ways had made him many enemies. Most people favoured the unassuming young man from Ontario. They included John Robson, editor of the British Columbian and Governor Seymour. Stores and businesses closed early that afternoon in 1868 to enable as many of the townspeople as possible to attend the trial and witness Stamp’s discomfiture.6 Though the judgment went in Jonathan’s favour, he left the logging business soon after the trial and bought a farm in the Fraser Valley, but not before he had come to public notice as a strong, steady man and a lead

"On Burrard In let a little shacktown had grown up nicknamed ‘Gastown’. Its first sale of lots had occurred in 1869. The following year it was surveyed into streets and blocks of land. and called Granville after the British Secretary of State for the Colonies. A townsite of twenty acres cut from the forest, it was bounded by three streets later named Carrall, Hastings and Cambie. The fourth side was the shore, a crescent beach littered with boulders and seaweed where a few white-washed buildings faced the mountains. The town was dominated by the Hastings Mill which provided employment for mill crews and hangers-on, and was the focus for liquor and gambling activities. Granville was a wild place, not safe, some thought, for a respectable family to live. In 1871 a meeting took place between Captain J. Rayrnur, Stamp’s successor at the Mill, Sew. Moody and ‘Gassy’ Jack Deighton, proprietor of Granville’s largest saloon and regarded as Vancouver’s founding father. The meeting concerned the lawless conditions on Burrard Inlet.

"At present the Inlet is a scene of drunkenness and savage violence on the part of the Indians. They continually threaten the lives of white men and recently have committed one murder and have attempted another on whites, beside innumerable acts of violence on each other.

"So wrote Tompkins Brew, Deputy Collector of Customs to the Colonial Secretary in London. Without doubt whites were equally culpable. Raymur, Moody and Gassy Jack considered the appointment of a constable to be of paramount importance. All knew Jonathan Miller and believed him to have the necessary qualities to bring law and order to Granville. They took their recommendation to higher authority

See Gerald Wellburn page for Gassy Jack Deighton

Jonathan Miller and family to Burrard Inlet as Govt. Agent and Constable >

It was F.C. Claudet, a young Englishman sent out by the Colonial Office, and at that time filling in as stipendiary magistrate in New Westminster, who took action. There had been a savage fight on one of the ships. Acting without official sanction, Claudet appointed Miller constable and government agent for Granville, at a salary of $50 a month. The British Government confirmed the appointment and built a Court House with a jail about as big as a large cupboard. It stood on Water Street flanked by two saloons, Gassy Jack’s and Ebenezer Brown’s. A few yards away was the famous maple tree where notices were posted and impromptu meetings held.

Jonathan and Margaret were pleased to leave the isolation of the farm. Their five children would now have others to play with. Though the Inlet was still regarded as a wild, inhospitable place with a climate as savage as its terrain and occupants, Jonathan had strong faith in its potential. Jonathan’s duties far exceeded those of a constable in today’s sense of the term because he was the only officially appointed Government agent for the community. For the next twelve years there were about twenty-five houses and seventy residents.9 During those years he saw a school opened a hundred yards from Hastings Mill. His children attended it and he became a school trustee. He also found a job for his brother-in-law, Ben Springer, Margaret’s broth er, who had come from Ontario to join them, as an accountant at Sew. Moody’s mill. But life was primitive in spite of the efforts of the hardy pioneers to maintain civilized standards. There was no electric light. Groceries had to come from Victoria, and their arrival was haphazard. There was little public transportation. The corduroy roads were uncomfortable and dangerous. Not until 1876 did Granville have direct communication with New Westminster or the neighbouring community of Brighton, four and half miles away.

see Gerald Wellburn page Early Vancouver

Elections and Council >

"Then suddenly came an electrifying change in the circumstances and prospects of the people of Burrard Inlet. Ever since the coming of the Canadian Pacific Railway had been first mooted, its western terminus had been the subject of hot debate and keen rivalry among several competing localities. Would it be at New Westminster, Esquimalt or Port Moody? The last named was the most favoured. When the rumour spread that the CPR would have its terminus at none of these places but at Granville, the impact was immediate and immense. CPR President William Van Home changed its name to Vancouver. A committee was appointed to draw up an act of incorporation for the new city and met at the home of Hastings Mill manager Richard Alexander in January 1886. A petition was sent to the Legislative Assembly of the Province of British Columbia requesting a charter and first election of a mayor and ten aldermen. Jonathan Miller was named returning officer by acclamation. One hundred and twenty-five persons signed the petition. May 3, 1886, was the day of Vancouver’s first election. Two men competed for the office of mayor. One was Richard Alexander, whose wife was the first white woman to live in Granville, and son Henry the first white child to be born there. Alexander, a stalwart Scot, had travelled as a youth across Canada with the Overlanders, and had survived great perils, including the feat of swimming one mile in icy waters when his canoe capsized. An exceptional scholar and a natural leader, he had been educated at Edinburgh Academy and Upper Canada College. As mill manager, he had been involved in all the developments on the Inlet for the past fifteen years, and the instigator of most of them. He was expected to win the mayoralty contest with ease.11 Surprisingly, the result was otherwise. The other candidate was Malcolm MacLean, a comparative newcomer who had come from Winnipeg to join his brother-in-law, A.W. Ross. As a CPR land adviser, Ross had foreseen the coming boom at Granville and started a real estate business there. MacLean had not even been invited to join the committee which had won incorporation for Granville five months earlier.

"Four hundred and sixty-seven electors, all men, placed their ballots. Few could claim a year’s residence but all had been householders or leaseholders for at least six months. No Chinese or Indians were entitled to vote. MacLean won the election by 242 votes to Alexander’s 227. The newcomers had triumphed over the old-timers. Alexander’s supporters protested. MacLean, they said, had been nominated by one Angus C. Fraser, but the said Fraser was not at the time of the nomination a resident of the city of Vancouver. Nothing came of the protest which was strongly opposed by Richard Alexander and MacLean became Vancouver’s first mayor.13 MacLean was a fluent, forceful man, much travelled, of the utmost integrity and dedication. He worked without a dollar of salary for the first year, furnished his own desk and his own postage.14

On May 10th, 1886, he held his first Council meeting. Jonathan’s tiny courthouse was stretched to the limit as aldermen and officials trooped in. John Innes’ well-known picture “The Builders” portrays the scene: thirty men with high collars, dark suits and serious expressions are crowded around a table. A kerosene lamp swings from the ceiling. MacLean is in the centre exuding confidence and Jonathan at his left, white-bearded and looking older than his fiftytwo years.15 The mayor appointed a treasurer, though there was no cash to deposit, a coroner, city engineer, fire chief and other civic officers, including a lamplighter and two scavengers.

The Great Fire of 1886 >

"Jonathan’s various duties as Government Agent and constable were divided among several officials of the new city. He received a different appointment, that of Vancouver’s first postmaster. Since the Vancouver Post Office would now become a distributing point for Chinese, Japanese and Australian mail, the position was clearly important and required a first-rate administrator. In recognition of the hard work involved and the post office’s undoubted future growth, Jonathan was given one boy assistant. (By 1904 the job required an assistant postmaster and thirty-four clerks!)

"On May 14th the mayor called another meeting, this time to arrange for the celebration of Dominion Day. Jonathan, who was of Empire Loyalist stock, headed the committee. Vancouver’s population had soared to nine hundred. Lavish plans were made to celebrate the day as never before.16 But a momentous and tragic event held those plans in abeyance for over a year. During the morning and early afternoon of Sunday, June 13, 1886, Vancouver was consumed by fire.

"Though no one can state with certainty, the Great Fire is generally believed to have started in the CPR townsite, a six-thousand acre clearing, stretching from the high ground west of Water Street (above today’s Victory Square) to the forest edge (Burrard Street). Blasting and burning of slash went on there every day of the week and the townsite was perpetually carpeted with a dense mass of dry, fallen trees. Suddenly, on that fateful morning, an extremely hot day, a southwest gale of almost freakish intensity sprang up. At once the sky was obscured and the air became one mass of fiery flames, driven on by the gale. The black bitter smoke of burning gum and pitch brought instant suffocation to many. Others had no chance to escape the great tongues of fire that swept down on them.

"Most of the Miller children were at home getting ready for Sunday School. Nine-year-old Walter had gone ahead to help Father Fiennes Clinton ring the bell at St. James’ Church, this service being Walter’s particular privilege. Almost immediately, the Miller’s house was on fire. As Margaret saw her domain being totally destroyed before her eyes, she was transfixed— unable to move or utter a word. Somehow the children propelled her into the street. Their father, conscientious as ever, had been working at the Post Office, which that week had been moved to a small building on Carrall Street. They saw him running towards them, carrying in front of him a big black cashbox. His spectacles lay on top of it. Solemnly he said to Margaret: “I’ve saved my glasses”. “I’ve saved my prayer book,” replied Margaret. It was her first utterance, spoken very faintly.17 Several steamers were already engaged in taking refugees across to Moodyvilie (today’s North Vancouver), and Jonathan got his family embarked on one of them, the Senator. By early afternoon they were all safely with their relatives, the Springers, who lived in a big house on the heights above Sew. Moody’s mill. The house had electric lights, a luxury not yet enjoyed on the mainland. Eight young Millers and six young Springers bedded down together that sad night.

"Two young men who were engaged to be married to two of Jonathan’s daughters performed bravely that day. One of them, teamster Harry Berry, rushed off to a shed right in the path of the fire where he knew explosives were stored. With the help of a friend, he wrapped the twenty barrels of blasting powder in wet blankets, set them on his dray and drove his team at breakneck speed into the waters of False Creek. The other hero, acting City Clerk Joseph Huntly, set himself the gruesome task of looking for persons reported to be missing. A makeshift morgue was set up at the north end of Cambie Street Bridge. Huntly bivouacked with the other refugees at the south end.

Jonathan Miller

Image thank you Vancouver search archives.

Rebuilding and wealth >

"According to the 1887 Vancouver Directory, the pioneers re-built “with many points of superiority”. One million dollars was spent on “buildings of every description including twentyfive boarding houses and hotels, one of them a palatial hotel for the Canadian Pacific Railway, four churches and several schools.” Jonathan Miller was one of five trustees who helped form the Vancouver Electric Illuminating Company, and less than two months after the Fire, electric lights were turned on in Vancouver for the first time. The City’s business was conducted in a tent until Alderman David Oppenheimer persuaded the city fathers they could debate more comfort ably at the back of his warehouse?°

"The great day came, May 23, 1887, when the first train from Montreal, with baggage car, colonist sleeper, first-class pullman, and dining car steamed into Vancouver. Public enthusiasm knew no bounds. Hundreds gathered at the station. There were cheers for New Westminster, cheers for Victoria, cheers for the Queen. Streamers floated across the track inscribed, “Confederation Accomplished”, “Occident greets Orient”, and “Our National l—Iighway”. Mayor MacLean, elected for a second term, read an address to Harry Abbott, General Superinten dent of the Pacific Division of the CPR, recording the “high appreciation

"One year to the day after the Great Fire, SS Abyssinia, chartered by the CPR, arrived from the Orient with a cargo bound for London, marking the commencement of trans-Pacific trade using the new railway. Vancouver was made a customs port of entry. Before long the Empresses would be steaming majestically into its harbour. Their arrival was almost as important as the railway’s. The Post Office where Jonathan had been busily working when Vancouver caught fire, had burned to the ground. Postal work was now carried on in more spacious quarters in the Lady Mount Stephen Block at 309 West Hastings Street. Jonathan built a house for his family next door, and after a brief stay there, moved to Burrard Street, a shady tree-lined boulevard running from English Bay to the In let.

Jonathan "was now a rich man. In its 1891 souvenir edition, the Vancouver Daily World stated:

At the time the city was laid out Mr. Miller invested largely in property, a great amount of which he still holds. He is one of the largest property-holders here, most of his real estate being of the choicest kind.

The article went on to name Miller and Oppenheimer as patriarchs of the business community.

Vancouver grows >

Vancouver was indeed on the world’s commercial map. Its population in 1891 was estimated at 15,522. Settlers came in a steady stream from Britain, the United States, the Orient, and every part of Canada. Jonathan’s fortunes advanced with the city’s. In partnership with Thomas Dunn, hardware merchant and one of Vancouver’s first aldermen, Jonathan built the Dunn-Miller Block on the south side of Cordova Street, the site of today’s Army and Navy Store. It stood three storeys high, the largest and most attractive building in the city. It housed retail stores, apartme nts, Vancouver’s first library, first synagogue, and the Electric Railway and Light Company. Most men of Jonathan’s financial stature lived in the West End which had become Vancouver’s fashionable district. However, he preferred to live farther out. In 1895 he moved to the district of Fairview, so named by surveyor L.A. Hamilton when he first mapped the south shore of False Creek. Jonathan’s new house on the corner of Birch and Alder Streets occupied an entire city block and provided a superb view of forest, sea and mountains. Here he could run his three horses and have a residence large enough for his family. Jonathan and Margaret were loving parents and seven of their children, though in their twenties and thirties, still lived with them in their four-storey mansion. In the grounds were cottages for grooms and gardeners and even for assistant postmaster John Harrison

"It was a happy life full of sports, games and music, but access to town was not easy. Jonathan spurned the automobile which had arrived in Vancouver at the turn of the century. When the Millers wanted to go to town they had to walk or ride in the phaeton. No tramcar came to Fairview for many years, though when Jonathan opened his new Post Office at Pender and Granville Streets in 1895, by his express wish the electric street car passed its door and enabled him to establish Vancouver’s first letter-carrier service

Jonathan lived in Fairview for many years. He saw Vancouver suffer a temporary recession during the 1890s and be revived by the Klondike Gold Rush. He put up money to salvage the World newspaper, and established his widowed daughter, Alice Berry, as its assistant manager and organizer of the World Printing and Publishing Company, the owning company. Later Alice married Louis D. Taylor, publisher of the World and one of Vancouver’s most enterprising mayors. Jonathan’s third son, Ernest, was the most prominent of his children. Ernest had been sent away to school at New Westminster Lorne Collegiate, adjoining Bishop Sillitoe’s residence at Sapperton. Fees were $4 per week for room and board, a further $1 for tuition and an annual $2 for fuel. For this sum, meagre even by the standards of the day, ‘careful instruction’ was given in Reading, Writing, Spelling, English Grammar, Analysis and Composition, Book keeping, Literature, Ancient and Modern Geography, Use of the Globe, Drawing, Chemistry, Philosophy, Commercial and Advanced Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Mensuration, Latin, Greek, Bible History, Liturgy and Ecclesiastical History. French, German and Music were E2xtr2as. At this remarkable school, Ernest made a life long friend of Richard McBride, premier of British Columbia during some of its most prosperous years. When they met in later years, McBride steered Ernest Miller away from the practice of law into politics. He became MLA for Grand Forks, the best debater in the House, adviser to the premier and Member of the Council. Death at fifty-four cut short a career of great promise.

"In 1906 Margaret, Jonathan’s loyal and loving wife of more than fifty years, died. Their ten children were scattered all over the province. His brother-in-law and best friend Ben Springer, who had shared most of his enterprises, had been dead since 1898. Although Jonathan felt very much alone, at seventy-two he was healthy and still working. During twenty years as postmaster Jonathan had seen the Post Office moved five times, each time to a larger and more elaborate establish ment. Vancouver was growing by two thousand people each month. The Hundred Thousand Club had predicted (correctly) that by 1910 the city’s population would exceed 100,000. Jona than decided a new and more fitting Post Office must be built before he retired. The building was constructed at 701 West Hastings Street, within a stone’s throw of the shack he had hastily erected after the ravages of the Great Fire. Three storeys high, built in the Edwardian baroque style, with majestic columns and an elegant clock tower, it remained a landmark for fifty years.

Vancouver PO

A picture from Brian Grant Duff's visit to the nearby Canada Post boutique opening event

"Jonathan did not wait for the opening which was twice postponed, but retired in 1909 aged seventy-five. Next year he came to Vancouver from California for the ceremony, and was observed standing quietly in the background while other civic dignitaries did the honours and accepted the plaudits. He was never interested in public acclaim. In 1914, the First World War heralded the end of an era, the end of Vancouver’s golden years. One of the more than 60,000 Canadians slaughtered was Jonathan’s oldest son Fred, who was fifty when he enlisted. Towards the close of the year Jonathan, living in retirement in California, suffered a massive stroke. He was brought back to Vancouver and died with eight of his children at his bedside, well pleased to be able to spend his last hours in the city on whose shores he had resided for fifty-two years, and for which he had done so much—a man who deserves to be remembered.

Thank you British Columbia Historical News and Douglas E. Harker published by British Columbia Historical Federation Read the entire article in British Columbia Historical News Vol 18, No. 1 1984.


Latest Updates & Media coverage

Gerald Wellburn
Legendary B.C. Collector

Gassy Jack
Of Gastown

Sewell Prescott Moody's Mill
Dietz, Nelson and Robert Burnaby

Early Vancouver
from the Forest to a Magnificent City

Governor Sir Antony Musgrave
On Her Majesty's Service

Jeremiah Rogers
The Greatest Logger Of Them All

Sam Greer and Greer's Beach

Portuguese Joe No. 2
Accused of shooting, signs Statement with Granville JPs

Yesler's Grand Sawmill Prize
and the Puget Sound connection

Early Vancovuer Post Offices
Burrard Inlet PO
Moodyville PO
Hastings PO

Jonathan Miller
Early Vancouver pioneer.

Agnes Deans Cameron
Author, Schoolteacher at Granville and early leader for Women's Rights

More Historic Vancouver pages


Page 59 of the Gerald Wellburn Historic Vancouver collection

1879 Burrard Inlet Deposition of Jonathan Miller

1879 indictment for cutting and wounding by a seaman,evidence by J. Miller, Constable.

Jonathan Miller deposition

Jonathan Miller deposition

Page 60 of the Gerald Wellburn Historic Vancouver collection

Granville, B.C. 1878 Complaint on Oath signed Jonathan Miller

Page 62 of the Gerald Wellburn Historic Vancouver collection

1876 Escape from Custody document signed Miller/Raymur

Vancouver's first shopkeeper, Gregorio Fernandez, shot a man, escaped from jail, and hid on Siwash Rock. It was 1876 and Vancouver was called Granville. The Justices of the Peace were the Burrard Inlet Sawmill managers. Jonathan Miller and Captain James Raymur

Escape from Custody

Page 79 Gerald Wellburn Historic Vancouver Album

Lot 91 1884/85 Granville, B.C. Constable Miller -signed Arrest Warrant, Gerald Wellburn Historic Vancouver Album page 79

Featured in our 8th July 2017 auction

Constable Miller

Page 81 Gerald Wellburn Historic Vancouver Album

15 Jan 1886 Burrard Inlet Crime Newspaper clippings

Realized $38.50 in our 15 July 2017 auction


Gerald Wellburn Introduction

Bid now in Current Auction



Home - Info - Auction - Sales - Appraisal
All Nations Stamp & Coin

5630 Dunbar St. at 41st Ave.
Vancouver, BC, V6N 1W7

Phone: 604-684-4613

e-mail: collect@direct.ca