Robert Dunsmuir

Robert Dunsmuir, industrialist, politician (b at Hurlford, Scot 31 Aug 1825; d at Victoria 12 Apr 1889). Dunsmuir was best known as the coal king of British Columbia. He came to Vancouver Island in 1851 and worked as a coal miner

Craigdarroch Castle
Craigdorroch Castle, Victoria, circa 1890 (photo by Garrett Smith, courtesy BC Archives and Records/H-02479).

Dunsmuir, Robert

Robert Dunsmuir, industrialist, politician (b at Hurlford, Scot 31 Aug 1825; d at Victoria 12 Apr 1889). Dunsmuir was best known as the coal king of British Columbia. He came to Vancouver Island in 1851 and worked as a coal miner for the Hudson's Bay Co. After discovering a rich coal seam north of NANAIMO, he established his own mine and his own company town at Wellington. His disregard for safety, and his employment of cheap Asian labour and disallowance of unions made him unpopular with labour. Dunsmuir sat on Nanaimo's first school board and was elected MLA for Nanaimo in 1882 and 1886. In 1883 Dunsmuir and his son James DUNSMUIR contracted to build the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway, payment for which included $750 000 and about one-quarter of the land on Vancouver Island. In 1888 he became president of the Executive Council of BC. Dunsmuir retired in Victoria, where his elaborate mansion, Craigdarroch Castle, remained unfinished at his death.