New Westminster

Feature Type:City - A populated place with legally defined boundaries, incorporated as a city municipality under the provincial Municipal Act.
Status:
Name Authority: BC Geographical Names Office
Relative Location: N side of Fraser River, just E of Vancouver, New Westminster Land District
Latitude-Longitude: 49°12'23"N, 122°54'37"W at the approximate location of the Municipal Hall.
Datum: WGS84
NTS Map: 92G/2

Origin Notes and History:

City of New Westminster incorporated 16 July 1860.

Source: BC place name cards, or correspondence to/from BC's Chief Geographer or BC Geographical Names Office

The traditional village of Sxwaymelh was located on the right bank of the Fraser River here. Tsawwassen Chief Harry Joe, on behalf of the Council and Elders of the Tsawwassen community, related a story of the name of this spiritually and ceremonially important place in a letter to the Dominion Government in 1925. According to Chief Joe, the name [Sxwaymelh] is a reference to the phenomenon of salmon disappearing and reappearing from the waters near this seasonal camp. Other legends set out that this place is named for a warrior that was turned to stone by Xaals, The Transformer - a powerful mythical being of Coast Salish history. (Place names, as they are known to Tsawwassen, are shared between generations by elders and other knowledgeable community members, but several written accounts also exist, including: "The Coast Salish of British Columbia", by Homer G. Barnett (University of Oregon Press, 1955), "Katzie Ethnographic Notes", by Wayne Suttles (British Columbia Provincial Museum, 1955), "Archaeological Investigations at Tsawwassen, B.C., Volume 1", by Arcas Consulting Archaeologists, Ltd. 1991 and "History of Chewwassin" by Harry Joe, 1925. The place was re-confirmed by Tsawwassen Elders within the "Tsawwassen First Nation Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge Study", by Tsawwassen members, 2001-02.)

Source: "Tsawwassen First Nation Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge Study" by Tsawwassen members, 2001-02

"Prince Albert" is labelled in this location on A.C. Anderson's 1858 map "Routes of Communication with the Gold Region on Fraser River"; "Albert City" is labelled in this location on James Wyld's 1858 map "Gold Regions of the Frazer [sic] River and the Washington Territory...". Called "Queenborough" by Colonel Moody when the site of the capital of the new colony of British Columbia was selected in February 1859. Later Governor Douglas wrote to the Colonial Secretary expressing a desire that Queen Victoria would signify her will as to the name to be given, mentioning that meantime it had been determined to distinguish it by the name of "Queensborough". On 5 May 1859 the Colonial Secretary replied that Her Majesty had been graciously pleased to decide that the capital should be called New Westminster (Accounts & Papers, Colonies 1859, Vol XXII). See also the municipality's own website.

Source: BC place name cards, or correspondence to/from BC's Chief Geographer or BC Geographical Names Office

"The name New Westminster was given to the capital of the new colony of British Columbia by her Majesty Queen Victoria, 20 July 1859, the previous name, given by Colonel R.C. Moody, RE, when the site was selected in February of that same year being Queenborough. Before the colony was established by proclamation 19 November 1858, Governor Douglas had fixed upon a site near Fort Langley [to be] the capital, a level country surrounding the old fort which was erected by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1827; and the town lots were sold under the name of Derby. But Colonel Moody, who arrived from England in December 1858, opposed the selection near Langley as being on the wrong bank of the Fraser River, and indefensible on military grounds. Moody first selected what is now known as Mary Hill, near the mouth of the Pitt River, but on the advice of his officers ultimately decided on a site about two miles further down the Fraser, where the water near the northern bank was much deeper. Trouble loomed ahead for the new town of Queenborough, strong objections being made to the name by the inhabitants of Victoria as too nearly a paraphrase of their own fair city, the capital of Vancouver Island, and only permissible "Queen city", and after a long and warm correspondence carried on by the colonial secretary in Victoria, the name was proclaimed to be not Queenborough (Victoria) but Queensborough, which was quite another thing. (BC Year Book, 1901, p.46) The matter, however, did not rest and at last was taken up by the Home government, and Queen Victoria asked to finally select a name, when by Royal proclamation Queensborough was converted into a Royal city and the capital of British Columbia, under the name of New Westminster. Incorporated 16 July 1860. In a few years there was more trouble. On 19 November 1866 the two colonies of British Columbia and Vancouver Island were united, the name of British Columbia applied to the whole territory, and the capital removed in 1868, after the exertion of a great deal of influence on the part of the residents of the island, from New Westminster to Victoria."

Source: Walbran, John T; British Columbia Coast Names, 1592-1906: their origin and history; Ottawa, 1909 (republished for the Vancouver Public Library by J.J. Douglas Ltd, Vancouver, 1971)

On the penitentiary grounds, Parks Canada has installed a National Historic site cairn "to commemorate the early historic events associated with the City of New Westminster, which was the first capital of the Colony of British Columbia, 1859-68." At Sir Richard McBride School, a NHS tablet has been installed "in memory of Sir Richard McBride, Premier of British Columbia 1903-15, and Agent-General of British Columbia 1915-17." At the Court House, a NHS tablet recalls "Frederic William Howay, historian of British Columbia and Judge of the County Court of Westminster 1907-37, and member of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, 1923-41, chairman 1941-43, and President of the Royal Society of Canada 1941."

Source: BC place name cards, or correspondence to/from BC's Chief Geographer or BC Geographical Names Office