Thomas Harris was the first Mayor of Victoria, B.C. first being elected to that office in 1862 and subsequently serving three consecutive terms.
Thomas Harris was a charter member of Victoria Lodge, No. 1085, G.R.E., the first Masonic Lodge constituted in British Columbia. This Lodge is now Victoria-Columbia Lodge, No. 1 in Victoria, B.C.
Here is a brief biography of Thomas Harris, taken from local newspaper reports and other records:
“Death of High Sheriff Harris
We are grieved to announce the death at five minutes to 12 o’clock last night of Thomas Harris, Esq., High Sheriff. Mr. Harris was taken ill about ten days ago; but was believed to be in immediate danger until Tuesday, when paralysis of the brain set in and he began to fail rapidly. Mr. Harris leaves a widow and two daughters – Mrs. Thomas Wilson, who resides in England, and Mrs. William Wilson of James Bay, Victoria. He was native of Almeley, Hertfordshire, England, and would have completed his 68th year had he lived till March. In 1853 he came to California, and in 1858 came to Victoria, where he has since resided. In his younger days Mr. Harris was a leading and successful business man, and was noted for his private charities and interest he took in public affairs. In 1861 he was elected to the legislature of the old colony of Vancouver [Island], and in 1862 he was elected first mayor of Victoria, a position which he held for 3 successive terms – twice being chosen by acclamation. While Mayor he was thrown from his buggy on West Saanich road, sustaining a fracture of one leg and arm, and never afterwards regained the full use of his limbs. Previous to the accident, being a man of fine presence and gigantic statue he was one of the handsomest and most powerful men in the province. All of Mr Harris’ friends and acquaintances who may read this announcement will experience a feeling of keen sorrow that the familiar form of one so generally esteemed shall be seen no more on our streets; and the hearts of all will sympathize with the stricken widow and family in their great grief.”
(Source: Daily British Colonist, 30 November 1884, page 3)
“DEATHS – In this city, on the 29th ultimo, Thomas Harris, a native of Almeley, Hertfordshire, England, aged 68 years. The funeral will take place from his late residence at 2 o’clock p.m. and from the Reformed Church at 2:30 TO-MORROW (Wednesday), 3rd inst.”
(Source: Daily British Colonist, 2 December 1884, page 3)
“Funeral of High Sheriff Harris – The mortal remains of the late High Sheriff Harris were followed to Ross Bay Cemetery yesterday afternoon. In spite of the inclemency of the weather the attendance was large. The cortege moved from the residence shortly after 2 o’clock, the mayor, members of the city council, the civic officers, the members of the fire department, with the chief and assistant engineers and the members of the police force occupying the right. The followed the pallbearers; the chief mourners – Mayor Dickenson of New Westminster and Mr. Wm. Wilson of this city – and citizens in carriages and afoot. At the Reformed Episcopal Church the funeral service was read by Bishop Cridge, and after a hymn by the choir and the solemn strains of the Dead March In Saul had poured forth from the organ the procession proceeded to Ross Bay cemetery, where the remains were interred. The pallbearers were Hon. A. E. B. Davie, Mr. E. B. Marvin, ex-Sheriff Byrne, Mr. A. A. Green, J. Wilson, Mr. H. Short, Mr. N. Shakespeare, M.P. and Mr. D. W. Higgins. The fire department and city flags were at half-mast during the day.”
(Source: Daily British Colonist, 4 December 1884, page 3)
Here are links to some historic photos of Thomas Harris:
- BC Archives photo A-01332 – Thomas Harris, circa 1870
- BC Archives photo B-08626 – Political cartoon depicting Thomas Harris, circa 1860’s
Thomas Harris is buried in Ross Bay Cemetery, Victoria, B.C. We will get a photo of his grave in the near future.
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