THOMPSON, JOSHUA SPENCER, journalist, accountant, prospector, and politician; b. at Belfast, Ireland, in 1828; d. at Victoria, B.C., on 20 Dec. 1880.
Educated in Belfast, Joshua Spencer Thompson emigrated to British Columbia in 1858, settling first in Fort Hope but later, probably in 1862, moving to Barkerville. As foreman of the Fort Hope grand jury in 1860, Thompson complained to Chief Justice Matthew Baillie Begbie* of the poor roads in the Fraser Canyon, and as secretary to two citizens’ political conventions in 1860 and 1861 he spoke for Fort Hope commercial interests, condemning the abuses of the absentee government of James Douglas and demanding responsible government, lower taxes, and improved roads for the colony. In 1861 Thompson was a member of the committee that met with Governor Douglas to discuss the financing of the proposed Cariboo road.
Working in Barkerville first as a clerk, accountant, auctioneer, and mining commissioner, Thompson later acquired interests in various mining claims, and in 1866 was elected to the Mining Board of the Cariboo. In 1871 he was foreman of the grand jury of Richfield, and was elected chairman of the first school board in the Cariboo. As editor of the Cariboo Sentinel in 1870 and 1871, Thompson became the Cariboo’s most influential advocate of confederation and “that grand bond of union,” the transcontinental railroad. On 20 Dec. 1871 he was elected by acclamation the first mp for Cariboo. He was re-elected by acclamation in the general elections of 1872, 1874, and 1878. In the commons Thompson opposed Chinese immigration and urged that the house devise “some means by which that great evil which threatened to overwhelm their country, namely, the unlimited immigration, might be averted.” He also called for improved postal and telegraphic communications between east and west. But above all he called for the completion of the Canadian Pacific railroad. Although a Conservative supporter, he criticized both parties for delays in railroad construction.
Apart from his commercial and political activity, Thompson was active in Cariboo social life, being president of the Cariboo Literary Institute in 1866, 1867, and 1870, an officer in the freemasons brotherhood in 1871, and an actor and manager in the Cariboo Amateur Dramatic Association after 1869. He helped establish the first library and the first freemasons Grand Lodge in the Cariboo.
After Thompson’s death, a San Francisco woman claimed his estate as his widow, but his relatives denied her claim, maintaining that he had never married.
PABC, Joshua Spencer Thompson correspondence, 1851–61. Canada, House of Commons, Debates, 1871–81. I. M. L. Bescoby, “Some aspects of society in the Cariboo from its discovery until 1871,” unpublished ba thesis, University of British Columbia, 1932, especially 14, 113, 123, 127, 130. F. W. Howay et al., British Columbia and the United States: the north Pacific slope from fur trade to aviation, ed. H. F. Angus (The Relations of Canada and the United States series, Toronto, New Haven, Conn., London, 1942), 212. R. L. Reid, Grand Lodge of British Columbia A.F. & A.M.: historical notes and biographical sketches 1848–1935 (Vancouver, B.C., n.d.), 30–33. G. M. Murray, “Cariboo m.ps. – 1871–1951,” Northwest Digest (Quesnel, B.C.), VII (July 1951), 3–5, 16–21.