James Dunsmuir Courtesy of Craigdarroch Castle

James Dunsmuir Courtesy of Craigdarroch Castle

James Dunsmuir (1851–1920) was the son of Robert Dunsmuir. He commissioned two yachts, Thistle and Dolaura.

Upon the death of his mother, Joan, he was heir to his family’s coal fortune. The Dunsmuir family dominated the province’s economy in the late nineteenth century and were a leading force in opposing organized labour. Dunsmuir managed his family’s coal business from 1876 until 1910 increasing profits and violently putting down efforts to unionize. In 1905 he sold his Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway to the Canadian Pacific Railway. In 1910 he sold his coal mining company, Union Colliery of British Columbia and R. Dunsmuir and Sons to Canadian Collieries Ltd.

Dunsmuir entered provincial politics in 1898 winning a seat in the provincial legislature and became the 14th Premier in 1900. His government attempted to resist popular pressure to curtail Asian labour and immigration not for humanitarian reasons but to ensure a cheap labour pool for business. It also promoted railway construction and accomplished a redistribution of seats to better represent population distribution in the province.

Dunsmuir disliked politics and resigned as Premier in 1902. In 1906 he became the province’s eighth Lieutenant Governor but retired in 1909 and lived out his years at the baronial mansion he had constructed at Hatley Park. He founded the town of Ladysmith, British Columbia.

He is interred in the Ross Bay Cemetery in Victoria, British Columbia.