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A land office business

June 8, 2013

The first Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia was also one of its most acquisitive property owners.  Moody owned one of the first lots opposite New Westminster and claimed others ranging from tiny Tree Island in Fraser River, to the shore of False Creek in present-day Vancouver.

Moody land claims - GoogleMap link

As Chief Commissioner of Lands & Works, Moody had the power to decide where roads and trails should be built. However Moody was not the only speculator in early British Columbia, and his motives are not clear.
At the least, Moody was rather like the librarian who prefers books as a collection, on the shelf, as opposed to being in circulation. This can be seen in his setting aside of so many Reserved lots in the nascent City of Queenborough (even before it was re-named New Westminster) and his reluctance to put them on the open market.

On July 6, 1859 he forwarded to the Governor James Douglas a list entitled “City of Queenborough — List of Government reserved lots with proposed rate of monthly Rent for term not exceeding twelve calendar months.”  There were 98 reserved lots in the small city which at the start only extended to Royal Avenue. It was one of a number of policies which had set the Governor and Colonel Moody at odds.
Governor Douglas instructed him to let them go.

“I do not consider it advisable to rent the reserved town lots at Queenborough as that course would injure the lot holders and ultimately depreciate the value of the revenue lots.”

Moody may have had a passion for hoarding land, and perhaps  a desire to see that the best properties ended up in the hands of the best  people–namely proper British, C of E, and of the right sort.
Be that as it may, he did not have to own so much for himself.  Joseph W Trutch, who has been much criticized for his decision-making as to land rights, nevertheless was not, as a matter of principle,  personally invested in land dealings.

FW Laing cites eleven land claims reserved by Moody in his own name on land outside the city, “for which he received a severe reprimand from the Governor.” In enabling pre-emption of land Douglas instructed,

“…it was never the intention of the Government thereby to open out facilities to individuals connected with the lands Department to accumulate large tracts of land and to select the choicest spots by taking advantage of that connection to the prejudice of the actual settler, the detriment of the Colony and to the discredit of the Government…” (April 5, 1861)

The  map above shows 11 properties, which may be the ones referred to. One large holding Moody was interested in claiming was at the upper end of False Creek, extending to present-day Trout Lake, on the new trail from New Westminster, and comprising about 250 acres.

Land Moody did own included lots at the east end of Burnaby Lake, on the North Road near the Brunette River, and the entirety of  Tree Island – a tiny refuge in the Fraser River within a shout of the much more dominant entity of Douglas Island, all of which was held in the name of the Governor’s daughter.

*A more recent post includes a map of Moody’s complete land holdings.

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