New Caledonia

British Columbia. region
Former name for interior of British Columbia

“Mackenzie was the discoverer of New Caledonia and, therefore, of the interior of British Columbia,” wrote Adrien-Gabriel Morice. “Nay, as the skippers who visited the North Pacific coast never ventured inland, he might with reason be put down as the discoverer of the whole country.”

Alexander Mackenzie and his party of nine French Canadians accompanied by two Native guides, crossed from the Parsnip River to a tributary of the Fraser River on June 12, 1793.

In 1805, Simon Faser, a fur trader for the North West Company, was sent into the interior of British Columbia. Reminded of his mother’s descriptions of the Scottish Highlands, he called the area New Caledonia, or New Scotland. (Scotland was called Caledonia by the Romans.) The New Caledonia fur trade district was established between 1805 and 1808 in an effort to find a short supply route from the Pacific Ocean for the North West Company’s far interior posts. Fraser failed to establish a route inland from the Pacific but did establish five posts in north central British Columbia.

For the Hudson’s Bay Company, which moved into the area in 1818 and merged with the North West Company in 1821, New Caledonia was that portion of British Columbia between fifty-one degrees and fifty-seven degrees latitude, and between the summits of the Rocky Mountains and of the Coast Range. New Caledonia was part of the Northern Department of Rupert’s Land until 1825, when it became part of the Columbia Department. The headquarters of New Caledonia was at Fort St. James, the first permanent white settlement on the British Columbia mainland.

In 1858, legislation was introduced to make the area a crown colony under British law. Since the French already had a colony in the South Pacific of that name, New Caledonia’s name was changed to British Columbia on August 2, 1858.

References:

  • Morice, Adrien-Gabriel [1859–1939]. The history of the Northern Interior of British Columbia (formerly New Caledonia). Toronto: William Briggs, 1904. p. 35. Internet Archive

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