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Roderick Finlayson (1818 –1892) was born in Loch Alsh, Scotland. He immigrated to North America in 1837 and moved to Lower Canada into an apprentice clerk position with the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC).
The steamer Beaver handled the majority of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s (HBC) trade in the Columbia District and its resources were concentrated on the southern end of Vancouver Island. In 1843 until 1844, Finlayson worked under Charles Ross on the construction of Fort Victoria. A year later, upon the death of Charles Ross, Finlayson was promoted to command of the post. He was confronted with the problem of the HBC’s uneasy relations with the Songhees Indians and, after several confrontations, persuaded them to move across the harbour.
With the 49th parallel established in 1846 as the boundary between British and American territories, the HBC gradually abandoned its southern posts and Fort Victoria replaced Fort Vancouver (Vancouver, Wash.) on the Columbia River as its principal depot. As a result, in June 1849, Sir James Douglas left Fort Vancouver to relieve Finlayson of his duties as officer in command at Fort Victoria. Finlayson was subsequently appointed chief accountant of Fort Victoria, a position he held until 1862.
In January 1849 Vancouver Island was formally leased to the HBC for the purpose of colonization. To fulfill the conditions of the grant, company officers, including Finlayson, were given inducements to purchase land and establish farms. In 1851 he purchased 100 acres of land north of Rock Bay, the first of his extensive real estate holdings. He sold dairy and agricultural produce to local settlers, visiting ships, and to the Russian American Company. He was promoted to chief trader in 1850 and two years later appointed to the Council of Vancouver Island, on which he served as treasurer. He remained a member until 1863. When Sir James Douglas severed his connection with the HBC in 1859, Finlayson was made HBC’s chief factor. In 1862 he was granted the superintendence of the company’s affairs in the interior of British Columbia.
He retired from the company in 1872, devoting himself to farming and the management of his real estate and business interests. In 1878 he was elected mayor of Victoria, and during his one year in office the construction of City Hall was undertaken. Following his tenure as mayor he left public life, remaining in Victoria until his death in 1892.
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