BUSHBY, ARTHUR THOMAS, public servant and amateur musician; b. 2 March 1835 in London, England, younger son of Joseph Bushby and Anne Sarah Stedman; d. 18 May 1875 in New Westminster, B.C.
Arthur Thomas Bushby’s father was a highly respectable London merchant with West Indian estates. His mother, an accomplished linguist, was responsible for the first English translation (1863) of Hans Christian Andersen’s The ice maiden, besides many other translations from Danish and Spanish, and was a frequent contributor of fiction to the New Monthly Magazine. Educated in England and on the continent, Bushby had become an exceedingly well trained and versatile amateur musician before he left London in 1858 to seek his fortune in the gold colony of British Columbia; it would seem indeed that he felt more at home in the musical world than in the business pursuits in which he had been employed under his father’s direction. When he arrived in Victoria by way of Panama on Christmas Day 1858, he intended to establish himself as a merchant; but after one abortive attempt to set up a steam sawmill he entered government service where he proved himself “an upright, consistent and fearless public officer.”
On 8 Feb. 1859 Governor James Douglas (to whom he had brought a letter of introduction from the governor and committee of the Hudson’s Bay Company in London) appointed him private secretary to Judge Matthew Baillie Begbie* – “just the thing I want,” says Bushby’s journal – and he was delighted to accompany Begbie on his first strenuous circuit on the mainland, acting as “clerk of the court, assize clerk, registrar, clerk of the arraigns &c” though he admits that he had never even been in a court of justice before. On 4 May 1859 he was officially appointed registrar of the Supreme Court of B.C., and on 8 May 1862, “in consequence of high testimony borne to his character & services by the Judge,” Douglas appointed him registrar general of deeds for British Columbia at a salary of £500 a year. This promotion enabled him to marry, on 8 May 1862, the governor’s third daughter, Agnes, to whom he had been unofficially engaged since 1859. He built a house for her in New Westminster, then the capital of British Columbia, and here the couple spent what seems to have been an unusually happy married life until “dear Arthur’s” untimely death 13 years later. There were five children, four daughters (one of whom died in infancy) and one son.
Bushby held the office of registrar general until 1 June 1870, when he was replaced by Edward Graham Alston and himself became postmaster general (he had been appointed acting postmaster general on 12 April 1866). He was also registrar of joint stock companies (14 May 1866), justice of the peace (11 Jan. 1867), a commissioner of savings banks (18 June 1869), and a member of the Legislative Council (1869–70). He remained postmaster general until confederation when the dominion government took over the postal service of the province. In the meantime however Bushby had received his commission as county court judge (20 July 1869) and stipendiary magistrate (1 Aug. 1869) and had taken full charge of the District of New Westminster. As resident magistrate he was concerned with the administration of the jail, and both his humane feelings and his conscientious discharge of his duty are evidenced in his various representations to the government. He was indeed, as Douglas said, “a most worthy man, careful and attentive to the duties of his office,” and he was both respected and loved wherever he went. In the fall of 1864 he travelled on horseback with the colonial secretary over the roughest of trails to the newly discovered Kootenay mines, and the party brought back safely from Wild Horse Creek (now Wild Horse River) what he calls “the treasure – some 70 lbs weight of gold dust.” In the winter of 1872–73 he took the place of the resident magistrate in the Cariboo, winning the goodwill of all in his official capacity and the warm thanks of the Cariboo Amateur Dramatic Association at Williams Creek for his musical help in their charitable benefits. In December 1874 he went to Jervis Inlet, where he managed to settle a dispute with the Seechelt (Sechelt) Indians to the satisfaction of all concerned.
Bushby also played a prominent part in community affairs in New Westminster. He served on the Royal Columbian Hospital Board, 1860–71, and was appointed to the board of the public library in 1868. He was on the first board of school trustees, 1867, and was appointed inspector of schools for the District of New Westminster on 2 May 1870. He was also elected the first ensign of the New Westminster Volunteer Rifle Corps in 1863. In more purely social matters he was equally in demand, especially, of course, because of his musical abilities and his generous disposition. On 26 Jan. 1859 he had helped some 40 music lovers including Lumley Franklin to found the Victoria Philharmonic Society, the first amateur musical organization west of the Canadian Rockies, and his fine tenor voice continued to be heard at concerts for worthy causes until the end of his life. At the New Westminster local dances he played violin or piano, occasionally even cornet and drum, and in the May Day celebrations for which the city was already becoming known he took an active part, being immensely popular with the children. In 1873 he tried acting for the first time, and was promptly elected president of the dramatic club. In a more serious vein Bushby was an exceedingly valuable supporter of Holy Trinity Church (Church of England). As his journal demonstrates, the firm foundation of his life was a simple Christian faith which expressed itself in all manner of good works, from acting as churchwarden, 1860–71, superintending the Sunday school and training the choir, to “pulling a bell” when needed and collecting pew rents.
Bushby’s journal makes abundantly clear that he never spared himself, either in his official or in his private life, and he was only 40 when he died. He was buried in the Church of England cemetery at Sapperton (now part of New Westminster) with every possible mark of respect, and a memorial window was erected in Holy Trinity Church with the inscription “The memory of the Just is blessed.”
PABC, Bushby family papers; Arthur Thomas Bushby papers; James Douglas, “A confidential report upon the character and qualifications of the principal officers of this government,” Douglas to the Duke of Newcastle, 18 June 1863. British Columbia, Blue Books, 1859–70 (copies in PABC); Legislative Council, Journals, 1869–70. British Columbia Government Gazette (Victoria), 1871. Colonist (Victoria), 1858–75. Government Gazette (New Westminster, Victoria), 1866–70. Mainland Guardian (New Westminster, B.C.), 22 May 1875. Victoria Daily Standard, 20 May 1875. Victoria Gazette, 1858–59. R. E. Gosnell, “Sixty years of progress; British Columbia, portraits of some of those who laid its foundations . . . ,” in E. O. S. Scholefield and R. E. Gosnell, A history of British Columbia (Vancouver, Victoria, 1913). “Journal of Arthur Thomas Bushby” (Blakey Smith).