ROYAL                    ENGINEER     


Boundary Commission

The Camp 1860
The Camp 1860

"I am sorry to say our photographers have not been very busy lately, on account of sickness or bad conduct..." 

-- 28 March 1860, Lt. Anderson RE


The first Sappers were taught photography in 1856 by Charles Thurston Thompson (1816-1868) at the Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum).  A Royal Engineer survey team arrived at Esquimalt in July 1858 to establish the 49th parallel.  Among their numbers was one photographer who deserted in the spring of 1859 to the U.S.  Also with this group was a civilian photographer, Arthur Vipond, who had trained in 1857-1858 under Thurston Thompson.

     Two more Sappers trained in photography arrived as replacements in October 1859 and practiced with the equipment by photographing in and around Victoria.

    Charles Wilson, in the field near Chilliwack, mentions taking photographs in October 1859.  Most of the photographs taken in 1860-1861 were made in the Fort Vancouver, Cascades and Dalles area of Washington and Oregon.  In addition to the boundary survey team, the Columbia Detachment of Royal Engineers was stationed at New Westminster, Colony of British Columbia, from December 1858 to 1863.

Charles William WILSON         
BORN: 14 March 1836, Liverpool, UK
DIED: 25 October 1905,  Tunbridge Wells, UK.

     BIOGRAPHICAL SUMMARY: A lieutenant in the Royal Engineers, he was Secretary to the British Boundary Commission (1858-62). In his diary was this remark:

October 28th to 31st [1859]. Tolerably fine weather, during which I have been taking a few photographs.

     These were taken at the camp around Chilliwack ("Chilukweyuk").  Wilson also produced watercolour sketches of various scenes and these are in the BC Archives.

REFERENCES: BVIPA, Wilson diary (original); Wilson (1970):75. 

Woodward (1974-75).
   "The Influence of the Royal Engineers on the Development of British Columbia." Frances M. Woodward. BC Studies no. 24 (Winter 1974-75):3-51. back up
Birrell (1975).
   Into the Silent Land: Survey Photography in the Canadian West, 1858-1900. A.J. Birrell. Ottawa: Public Archives of Canada, 1975. back up
Birrell (1981-82).
   "Survey Photography in British Columbia." Andrew Birrell. BC Studies no. 52 (Winter 1981-82):39-60. back up
Mattison (1989).
   "Arthur Vipond's Certificate of Competency in Photography." David Mattison. History of Photography v. 13, no. 3 (July-September 1989):223-233. [Vipond, Arthur]. back up
Wilson (1970).
   Mapping the Frontier: Charles Wilson's Diary of the Survey of the 49th Parallel, 1858-1862. Charles Wilson. Edited by George F.G. Stanley. Toronto: Macmillan, 1970. [Short title].  back up


Painting:  James Madison Alden; Charles W. Wilson