PEARKES, GEORGE, lawyer and public servant; b. in 1826 in Guildford, Surrey, Eng.; m. 30 April 1869 at Victoria, B.C., Mary Elizabeth Dorman; d. 18 March 1871 in Victoria.
Nothing is known of George Pearkes’ family background or of his upbringing. His correspondence demonstrates, however, that he was a well-educated man with a gift for clear analysis. He probably studied law in England but does not seem to have been admitted to the bar there. Pearkes immigrated first to eastern Canada, later to California, and finally arrived in Vancouver Island in 1858. Here he became the colony’s first practising solicitor and was appointed the first notary public by Governor James Douglas on 3 Aug. 1858. On 28 August the governor named him the first crown solicitor and attorney (analogous to attorney general) for the colony. As such he accompanied Douglas to Fort Hope that year, where he and two others were commissioned by the governor as competent judges to hear a charge of murder.
George Pearkes spent most of his years on Vancouver Island in private practice. His original law partnership with Elisha Oscar Crosby was dissolved on 31 Jan. 1859; he was later associated with William Saunders Sebright Green, the arrangement ending 12 July 1866, and on 28 Oct. 1870 he formed his final partnership with Edwin Johnson. Probably arising from his early sojourn, Pearkes had a familiarity with the laws of California and on 27 Dec. 1859 he was appointed a commissioner for that state. For almost a year in 1865–66 he was acting registrar general for Vancouver Island while the permanent incumbent, Edward Graham Alston, was on leave.
At his untimely death the Victoria Colonist said of George Pearkes: “A prominent member of the Masonic Fraternity, and a zealous promoter of every public movement or patriotic enterprise, the earnest friend of every private charity, he has succeeded beyond what is the lot of most men in making himself useful and respected in this day and generation.”
PABC, George Pearkes correspondence. PRO, CO 478/3. Cariboo Sentinel (Barkerville, B.C.), 8 April 1871. Colonist (Victoria), 27 Dec. 1859–21 March 1871. Victoria Gazette, 3, 28 Aug., 28 Sept., 4 Nov. 1858; 1 Feb. 1859.