Edward Gawlor Prior (1853-1920) was the principal of E.G. Prior & Company, a leading B.C. hardware retailer based at 1401 Government Street in Victoria. In 1919-20, Edward G. Prior served as Lieutenant-Governor of B.C.
Edward Gawlor Prior comes into Butchart Garden History as a business associate of Robert Butchart. Edward G. Prior ran E.G. Prior & Co. Ltd, which was one of British Columbia’s leading hardware retailers.
He also publicly defended Robert Butchart, Captain James Troup , Harry Ross, Joseph Flavelle and Edward R. Wood when Laurier-Liberal candidate Stuart Henderson made a speech at the Columbia Theatre (now demolished) in downtown Victoria during the December 1917 federal election campaign accusing them of wartime profiteering.
Here is the letter Edward Gawlor Prior sent to Victoria’s daily newspapers on 14 December 1917 after reports of Stuart Henderson’s speech appeared in Victoria newspapers:
“The Imperial Munitions Board
Sir. — In your issue of today I notice a letter from Mr. R. P. Butchart. In which he takes exception to remarks reported to have been made by Mr. Stuart Henderson, the Laurier-Liberal candidate, on the 12th Inst., at the Columbia Theatre, in regard to the Imperial Munitions Board and the firm of Evans, Coleman & Evans. Now, anyone who personally knows Mr. Butchart and Capt. Troup knows that no two men of higher character and more unblemished reputation could have been chosen in British Columbia as directors of the Imperial Munitions Board. They do not need anyone to champion them on that score, but as my firm has had large business transactions with the Board in connection with the shipbuilding Industry carried on under their control, I think it ls only fair and just that I should state what our experience with them has been.
So far as I have been able to ascertain. and my firm watches pretty carefully, no supplies of any magnitude In the way of Iron and steel needed for the ships have ever been obtained from any firm without tenders having first been invited from the principle wholesale dealers in B.C. and often from those in Seattle. as well as from manufacturers in the East.
Messrs. Evans. Coleman & Evans are competitors of ours in business, but we have never had any cause of complaint about not having been given an even chance with them and other firms in obtaining orders for supplies from the Board. It has invariably been a question of price and delivery with us.
In two or three instances, which came to my personal knowledge, orders might easily have been given to Messrs. Evans, Coleman & Evans without tender, because they happened to have the goods la stock, but which orders were given to other firms who had to bring the materials from the East, and this because they were a fraction lower in price.
My experience is that Mr. Ross, who supervises all tenders and contracts, gives every large firm in B.C., in our experience anyway, an equal opportunity to supply the Board.
It is a great pity that whenever an election takes place there is pretty sure to be some candidate who deems it “good business” to try by innuendos to blacken the character of any moa who are holding public positions of trust: and this without having even a shred of proof of illdoing on their part:
Surely during this grave crisis that we are passing through such men might rise to broader, nobler and more Intellectual flights of imagination.
E. G. PRIOR.
1401 Government Street, Victoria. B.C., Dec. 14, 1917.”
Here is a brief biography of Bro. Edward Gawlor Prior, taken from the local newspaper reports of his death and funeral.
Note that I have seen his middle name spelled “Gawlor” and “Gawler”. I have reproduced it as found in the various original sources.
“Death of Colonel E.G. Prior Ends Brilliant Career
Distinguished Victorian, Who died Sunday, Was Lieutenant-Governor, Premier of Province, Member of House of Commons and Prominent Military Figure.
British Columbia generally and Victoria in particular has suffered a severe loss in the death of His Honor the Lieutenant-Governor, Hon. Edward Gawler Prior, who succumbed last night at 7 o’clock, following a serious illness of five weeks duration. His Honor was taken ill with the recurrence of an old intestinal trouble while attending the exhibition of tennis given in the Drill Hall by the American champions last month, and his condition quickly became so aggravated as to necessitate his entering the Royal Jubilee Hospital. A week ago he suffered a relapse, and on Saturday underwent a major operation from which he failed to rally, his condition having been critical for the thirty-six hours preceding his death. Had he but lived until Saturday next he would have completed one year’s term of office, his installation in the gubernatorial position having dated from December 18, 1919. By a sad coincidence, his death occurred three days after the forty-seventh anniversary of his arrival in Victoria, on December 9, 1873. During his brief regime at Government House, the late Lieutenant-Governor proved a popular host, his geniality finding expression on the occasion of his entertainment of the Imperial Press Conference delegates, the Northwest Rotary Convention and other visiting bodies. His Excellency the Governor-General and the Duchess of Devonshire were among the distinguished visitors to Government House during the past year.
Edward Gawler Prior was born in May 1, 1853, at Dallowgill, Yorkshire, England, the second son of the Rev. Henry Prior. He was educated at Leeds Grammar School, and afterwards at Wakefield in mining engineering, being articled to J. Tolson White.
He arrived in Victoria on December 9, 1873, a young man of twenty years of age, and found Victoria a small town. He came out to an appointment as engineer and surveyor with the Vancouver Coal Mining & Land Company at Nanaimo. En route across the continent from New York, Mr. Prior stopped some days at Salt Lake City, having letters of introduction to the then head of the Mormon Church, Brigham Young. The Temple was then just building, the foundations being just six feet high. Brigham Young was then building a new house for his nineteenth wife. The place at that impressed Mr. Prior as being a beautiful little city with streams of water running down the sides of the streets, lovely sunshine, fine climate and an impressive view of the Rockies.
Since then the Colonel went back on two different occasions to visit Salt Lake City, his friend of the seventies, however, having died before his return the first time.
HIS ARRIVAL HERE
He then proceeded to San Francisco and came north on the Prince Alfred. He met on his way up City Comptroller Raymur and Inland Revenue Collector Jones.
After several days in Victoria, Col. Prior proceeded to Nanaimo, the trip then only being possible by the Emma. For five years he was a resident of Nanaimo, from 1873 to 1878. Early in the latter year he was appointed Government Inspector of Mines, and moved to Victoria, though he returned to Nanaimo towards the end of that year and remained there until early in 1880, when he again moved to Victoria.
Meanwhile, in 1878 (January 30) he married Suzette, youngest daughter of the late Hon. John Work, of Hillside Farm. She died in 1897.
EARLY DAYS IN NANAIMO
During his career in Nanaimo he was elected a life member of the North of England Engineering Institute of Mining and Civil Engineers in 1875.
Of the early days in Nanaimo Col. Prior had many interesting anecdotes to relate. He knew intimately the late Hon. Robert Dunsmuir, whom he described as a splendid man and one of nature’s gentlemen.
On his return to Victoria he went into business on Yates Street with the late Alfred Fellows, and when the latter went back to England he took sole control of the business of E.G. Prior Company, now on Government Street, one of Victoria’s leading business houses.
Col. Prior was first elected to the Provincial Legislature at the general election of July 6, 1886, and continued to sit for the city until the appointment of Noah Shakespeare, M.P., as postmaster in 1888. He was returned by acclamation at the by-election of January 23, 1888, for the city, and continued to sit at Ottawa until 1902. On December 19 1895, he entered the Cabinet of Sir Mackenzie Bowell as Comptroller of Inland Revenue, and was continued in the Cabinet when it was reconstructed by Sir Charles Tupper. At the general elections of 1896 and he was again returned.
From March 31, 1902 to May 31, 1903 he was Minister of Mines in the Dunsmuir Government, and Premier of the Province from November 21, 1902, to May 31, 1903.
Almost as far back as he could remember Colonel Prior was interested in soldiering. He was a lieutenant in the Rifle Company at Nanaimo, joining in 1874, and in 1884, on removing to Victoria, joined the old No. 4 Company, B.C. Garrison Artillery, under Col. (then Capt.) A.W. Jones. At first their quarters were in the old wooden drill hall, on the site of the present old drill hall, Menzies Street. The present building was erected in 1892. Colonel Charles Horton was the Deputy Adjutant-General here in the days referred to, and Capt. Wolfenden (later Col. Wolfenden) was in command of the Militia Garrison Artillery, being succeeded by Major Dumont.
Colonel Prior was gazetted to command the 5th Regiment, Canadian Artillery, in 1888, and only in 1896 resigned the command to be transferred to the reserve of officers. He commanded the Canadian rifle team at Bisley in 1890. Other offices in the same connection which he had held were that of president of the Dominion Artillery Association, and vice-president of the Dominion Artillery Association. He was one of the Canadian contingent sent to London on the occasion of the Queen’s Jubilee in 1897. From 1888 to 1895 he was extra aide-de-camp to Governors-General Lord Stanley and Lord Aberdeen.
PRESIDENT OF BOARD
For two terms, 1912-1913 and 1913-1914, he was vice-president of the Board of Trade, and for the two ensuing terms was president of the Board.
His long public career, business associations and social activities have made his name a household word in the Province, particularly in this city, where he so long resided.
Lieut. Basil Prior is the Colonel’s only son. He served overseas in the late war.
The Colonel left three daughters. Mrs. Hood is the wife of Major the Hon. F.G. Hood, R.E., Mrs. Lampman, wife of His Honor Judge Lampman, and Mrs. Watson, wife of Major Watson, of Hull, Yorkshire, England.”
(source: Victoria Daily Times, 13 December 1920, pages 1 and 22)
Here are some more information and photograph sources for Colonel Edward Prior.
- BC Archives photo B-03365 – in military uniform, 1896
- BC Archives photo D-04426
- BC Archives photo B-00467
- BC Archives photo D-06668 – as Lt. Governor of British Columbia
- BC Archives photo A-02418 –
- BC Archives photo A-02544 – Suzette Work, Edward Prior’s first wife. She died in 1897.
- BC Archives photo D-01837 – Eva Loewen, Edward Prior’s second wife.
- BC Archives photo C-03625 – Edward Prior with Sir Frank Stillman Barnard, 1920
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