the real dunsmuirs
James Dunsmuir & Laura Surles Dunsmuir
I, James Dunsmuir, was the third of ten surviving children born to my parents, and eldest of only two boys. My father entrusted me with the management of his Wellington mine when I was 25 and, with my brother Alex, we gradually took on a great deal of responsibility for the running of my father’s business empire. After my Papa’s death I became first Premier and then Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia.
I, Laura Surles Dunsmuir, met James when he was a student at the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical School. We married when I was 18, and quickly set off for Vancouver Island. As a descendent, though a little distant, of the great Byrd family of Virginia, I was raised as a Southern Belle, and though my James could on occasion be said to lack ambition, the same cannot be said of me. I always did my best to ensure that the Dunsmuir name was at the forefront of British Columbia’s social and political scene.
Victorian men and women occupied very stratified positions in society, particularly those of the wealthy class. Men dealt with the public sphere as businessmen and politicians, and women were relegated to the private sphere where the home was their domain.
When Robert Dunsmuir died and left the control of his business empire in the hands of his wife Joan, and not in the control of his sons James and Alex, who had been running large aspects of those businesses for many years, it led to a serious split in the family. James and Joan never repaired their relationship.start tour