A Vancouver time travelogue brought to you by Past Tense.
David H Nelson arrived in Gastown in 1881. Years later he described his arrival in the young settlement:
I came from Wiarton, Ont., when I was 20, traveling around by Frisco via Union Central, then by boat to Victoria. From there I took the old Western Slope to New Westminster and walked 12 miles over the old Douglas Road through solid green timber to Gastown — named after a man called “Gassy” Jack … There were three saloons, two hotels, and a little store kept by a Mulatto, and an oil works where the CPR depot now stands — nothing else except firs and cedars down to the water’s edge. It was certainly a wild spot.
Nelson recalls one eventful Christmas in the early days:
I remember one Christmas Sunday when sailors from five ships, which were loading lumber, were invited to the mill cookhouse for dinner. Sailors and lumbermen speedily got into a fight. Many suckling pigs had been baked. The upshot of the melee was that scores grabbed the pigs, stuck them under their arms, and hustled off to eat elsewhere, many of the loggers taking their pigs to their Indian and half-breed squaws.
They were a rough crowd. All had nicknames suitable to their peculiar characteristics. Disease was rampant. Working hours were 11 1/2 a day from 6 am to 6 pm, with half an hour for lunch. Wages ran about $40 to $60 a month and board.
This photo was heavily annotated by Major Matthews, who painstakingly identified all of the buildings, including Sullivan’s General Store (the Mulatto store mentioned above), Wah Chong laundry, and a restaurant that was only open when the proprietor, George Brew, wasn’t in jail.
Source: Photo taken from Major JS Matthews, Early Vancouver Volume 4, p 3, via the Internet Archive