Colvile, Eden

Born February 12, 1819 in England, Colvile served the Hudson's Bay Company as Governor of Rupert's Land from 1849, when George Simpson chose to step aside, until 1852, when he returned to England. Though his specific assignment related to a number of complex social issues that had arisen at the Red River settlement, he was also instructed to examine the affairs of the Puget's Sound Agricultural Company and make recommendations for the disposal of the lands owned by the Company in the vicinity of Cowlitz and Nisqually which, as a consequence of the Oregon Treaty of 1846, were awarded to the United States. As a result, Colvile spent much of the first winter of his posting at Fort Victoria, arriving on October 13, 1849 where, almost immediately, he met with James Douglas and toured the lands adjacent to the fort and listened as Douglas filled him in on a wide variety of topics including aspects of the local geography. When Colvile expressed an interest in visiting Cowichan, Douglas warned him "that it would not be prudent to attempt it without a larger party than can be collected here at present; as the country is thickly inhabited by a very uncivilised & and treacherous tribe of Indians." While at Fort Victoria, Colvile also met Captain W. C. Grant and visited his farm at Sooke. Subsequently Colvile recorded his impressions of Fort Victoria and the surrounding area and included a prophetic assessment of Grant's character. "I am inclined to think," he wrote, "that it will be necessary to send out a surveyor, as it appears to me that Captn. Grant, allowing him to be a good practical surveyor, of which I am somewhat dubious, will have quite enough to do in attending to his own property" and at a later date "His flightiness amounts almost to lunacy, & if the island is not surveyed till he accomplishes it you will have to wait some time." In February of 1850, Eden Colvile's 31st birthday was marked at Fort Victoria by a nine gun salute from the Beaver. Later that year, having completed his assignment on the west coast, Colvile moved on to the Red River settlement where he tended to a tangled set of circumstances on behalf of the HBC. He returned to Britain in 1852 where he "went on to a distinguished business career". He died in Devon, England in 1893.


  • Rea, J. E. "Colvile, Eden." Dictionary of Canadian Biography
  • Rich, E. E., ed. Eden Colvile's Letters (1849-52). London: The Hudson's Bay Record Society, London, 1956.
Graham Brazier