Gassy Jack Haiku

Where the white man goes,

Next white man follows with booze,

Ever-flapping jaw.

BC Day is on Monday, so fuck it, I’m making this BC Week. I will educate you all on the noble and proud history of my home province of British Columbia. Let’s start with Gassy Jack!

John Deighton was born in Hull in 1830 and like a lot of young men there, he took to the sea. His brothers found positions on British ships, but John wound up on American one. This didn’t upset him, because reportedly, the grub was better. This led him to the California Gold Rush, to gold hunting by the Fraser River, to becoming a river pilot, to…

Buying the Globe Saloon in New Westminster. There, got the nickname ‘Gassy Jack,’ because he couldn’t shut up. (‘Gasser’ being a Victorian term for such people.) The Globe failed after he left it in the care of an American friend, who spent all the cash on fireworks.

Meanwhile, a sawmill opened up on the Burrard Inlet. The problem for the mill workers was that there was nothing to do. Enter Gassy Jack on his boat, with his wife, dog, in-laws, and a barrel of whiskey. Once on land, he opened that barrel, distributed the contents to the huddled masses yearning to be free, and informed them he’d sell them more if they built him a saloon.

They did and business and the settlement flourished. The settlement was graced with the name ‘Granville’ after the colonial surveyor, but lol, no one called it that.

The legend died in 1875. Upon hearing his dog howling in the night, he reportedly uttered his last words: “You son of a bitch! There’s something going to happen.” And something did, to much mourning.

So why is it the City of Vancouver and not the City of Gastown? In 1886, the railway came and the time arrived for the settlement to become incorporated. The area had developed a tawdry reputation and the powers that were thought continuing to have the city named after a saloon keeper lacked a certain class. Thus, they renamed it after the boringly respectable Vancouver Island. (Which was named after the explorer George Vancouver, FYI.)


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