William G. Cox

William G. Cox was born in Ireland in 1822. He married Sophie E. Webb in November of 1857. Shortly after Cox left his career as a banker and the couple emigrated to New York in the United Sates. In August of 1858 Mrs Cox returned to Ireland and W.G. Cox moved west to what is now British Columbia. Through connections with the Hudson’s Bay Company Cox was employed as a constable and he was posted at Yale. In 1859 Cox was sent to Kamloops as the Deputy Collector of Customs. Soon after he was appointed Gold Commissioner and Justice of the Peace in Rock Creek.

While in the position of Gold Commissioner Governor Douglas instructed him to mark out reserves in the Okanagan in 1861. Two years later he marked out reserves with post in the Kamloops area. His instructions from Douglas were to “grant all lands claimed by the Indians”. These reserves were later reduced prior to the Joint Indian Reserve Commissioner by Mr. Nind and Mr. Haines with support from other government officials to support habitation by settlers. These reserves would become somewhat controversial as it would be greatly reduced in the future and involve disputes with settlers over illegal pre-emptions. This line of work sent him up to the Cariboo mines in 1863 and later in 1867 he was found Columbia and Kootenay regions. In 1864 Cox was charged with leading the search party to seek out the Chilcotin warrior Klatsassin and others after the violence that occurred on settlers as a result of Alfred Waddington’s Bute Inlet work party dispute. Although the Chilcotin viewed this as a war the colony saw them as murders and Cox’s success in capturing led to their death by hanging as ordered by Judge Begbie. Cox became a county court judge in 1866 and went on to hold a seat legislative Council of British Columbia in 1867 and 1868.

Cox was viewed by others in his field as a generally entertaining man who spoke his mind, told good stories, and wasn’t afraid to use his fists when challenged in his earlier positions. He was popular as a judge among the miners and was known for his unconventional decisions; he once settled a dispute over a mining claim by ordering the disputants to a foot race from their current location to the claim in dispute. Cox’s personal life caused him some controversy and affected his professional standing. Cox, like many others, had made a home with an Aboriginal woman while he was still legally married to his first wife Sophia which brought the anger from family in a high social status back in Ireland. This controversy along with his support of establishing the capital of the new province in Victoria angered Governor Seymour who favoured New Westminster as the capitol. In May of 1868 Cox’s office was terminated. Almost a year later with no government employment Cox left Victoria for California. His later years he had little money as he sent some paintings to his friend Dr. Helmcken in Victoria requesting that he sell them for him as he was in need of income. He sought out gold in California and died in the mining town of Bodie in 1878.


  1. Harris, Cole. Making Native Space. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2002.
  2. Dahlo (Eek), Sue. “William Cox: Gold Commissioner” Boundary History No. 13 (1995): pp. 31-37.