A perilous success

Pondering and prospecting the great wonder of us… etc etc… this guy’s life, a classic Horatio Alger story, “except that he was black”.

Almost no one today knows who he was, but he was a major figure in 19th-century black America, as well as being a critically important person in British Columbia’s first decade.

Summarizing his achievements is a challenge:

  • Abolitionist agitator and a worker on the underground railway in Philadelphia.
  • Shoeshine boy, boot merchant, and newspaper publisher in gold-rush San Francisco.
  • First competitor with the Hudson’s Bay Company in gold-rush Victoria.
  • Builder of B.C.’s first railway, in the Queen Charlotte Islands.
  • Victoria city councillor and acting mayor.
  • Member of the Yale Conference for B.C.’s entry into Canada.
  • America’s first elected black judge, in Little Rock, Arkansas.
  • U.S. Consul in Madagascar in his 70s,
  • and founder of a bank on his return.

Mifflin Wistar Gibbs died rich in 1915, aged 94.

“What? Downhearted? Go do some great thing!”