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First Observers for the Canadian Meteorological Service in British Columbia

January 22, 2015

From Special Force for Revenue Service to Special Station for Weather Observation: Dominion Meteorologist William Bevis

The first meteorological officer for Canada in BC was William Henry Bevis of Fisgard Lighthouse, Esquimalt.  Born on the Isle of Wight, October 1, 1880, Bevis came to the northwest in 1858, shortly before the the creation of the colony of British Columbia. He was  appointed Revenue Officer on the lower Fraser River in June 1858, at the height of the gold rush, and he was first Postmaster at Langley. Bevis later commuted from Langley to  Queenborough Revenue Station at Kikait, opposite the Royal Engineers Camp.

In 1859 William and his French-born wife Amelia lived in  a small private house near the station, at what is now the Amix salvage yard,  just upriver from the Pattullo Bridge.

When the Revenue Service was reduced as the gold rush subsided,  the couple moved to Vancouver Island. Following a stint in the Victoria constabulary, in 1860 Bevis was appointed Keeper of the Fisgard Lighthouse, with Amelia a salaried assistant. Their duties included weather observations, and when responsibility for lighthouses was assumed by the Dominion government after BC joined Confederation, Bevis became the Dominion Meteorologist on this coast.

A pillar in the harbor and a column in the British Colonist

Right, newspaper clipping of  Wm. H. Bevis’ abstract of meteorological observations for the month of January 1875, taken at Fisgard Lighthouse Meteorological Station, Esquimalt.

Bevis weather summary for  January 1875 Fisgard Lighthouse - Esquimalt - WH Bevis
     

Bevis gravestoneAfter the death of WH Bevis on August 5, 1879, Amelia carried on for some months as lightkeeper and meteorologist, assisted by her niece Mary, likely the first women paid for this work in Canada. However regulations prohibited a woman being in charge of a lighthouse and Amelia was let go.


Amelia Bevis and niece Mary Bevis were in BC at the time of the 1881 census, then appear to have left BC for good. What became of them we don’t know.


Mortar and Pistol: Dominion Meteorologist Adolphus Peele

Apothecary Adolphus Peele, first weather observer for Canada on the Lower Mainland,  kept his instruments outside his store on Columbia Street.

Born in Lincolnshire, England, Peele came to New Westminster in 1870. His chemist’s shop opposite the Colonial Hotel was a local landmark until it was demolished in 1889. Peele was possessed of a broad scientific knowledge and he was the local curator of interesting specimens of various sorts which people brought to his dispensary.

  1871 A Peele advert  
 

“Every Man To His Own Business,” the long-running advert for A. Peele, Chemist and Druggist, New Westminster.

 
     

Adolphus Peele was an officer and crack shot in the Militia. In 1874 Peele  won a Martini-Henry rifle donated by the Lord Mayor of London. In 1933 The Times  reported that the Lord Mayor’s Prize rifle was being donated to the BC Rifle Association by the Peele family.

1874 Lord Mayor of London rifle won by PeeleCaptain Peele established the Peele Butts rifle range at the east end of Royal Avenue, which was in use until a new range was developed at Brownsville in 1879.

Adolphus Peele died in 1916.  A large contingent of the 104th Regiment, New Westminster, accompanied his funeral procession.

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