A special anniversary for Point Roberts

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April 2021 is a special anniversary in the wider contextual history of Point Roberts.

George Vancouver named Point Roberts for his friend Captain Henry Roberts, who was supposed to have used the Discovery on his own mission to Antarctica (with Vancouver as his First Lieutenant), but the Discovery was reassigned at the last minute to Vancouver to explore the Salish Sea and defend against the Spanish. 

Henry Roberts was reassigned to a mission to capture the three western provinces of Guiana from the Dutch. This month is the 225th anniversary of Henry Roberts' success in that mission in South America, which eventually resulted in the new colony of British Guiana, today's independent nation of Guyana.

Sadly, Roberts never made it back to Britain; he died four months later at age 40 of yellow fever in the Caribbean, essentially giving his life for Guiana to be British.

The story gets more ironic for Point Roberts. Once secured for the British, Britain needed colonists to settle in Guiana to secure its claim. James Douglas, the future Father of British Columbia, was born in 1803 in Guiana to parents who had resettled there from Barbados.

Fast-forward 54 years to the Fraser Gold Rush. Douglas, as Governor of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, required miners to get permits at Fort Victoria. However, our first townsite, called Roberts Town, sprung up in 1857, and many American miners used Roberts Town as their last stop before heading up the Fraser River to the goldfields, bypassing the pesky permit process at Fort Victoria.

Douglas sat on a warship off Point Roberts, just inside British waters, blocking access to the mouth of the Fraser River, to check miners leaving Roberts Town for their permits. The irony is Governor Douglas blockaded the town named for the man (Roberts) who gave his life to liberate the land of Douglas' birth!

Learn more about our namesake Henry Roberts, and the significant role Point Roberts played in the Fraser Gold Rush, at the Point Roberts History Center on Gulf Road, now open Saturdays 12–3 p.m.

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