Title and statement of responsibility area
Helmcken family fonds
- Textual records
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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)
Dates of creation area
[ca. 1865]-1975 (Creation)
Physical description area
0.06 m of textual records, 516 photographs, and 1 school slate
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Archival description area
Name of creator
John Sebastian Helmcken was born in London, England in 1824. Introduced to the medical profession at a young age through an apprenticeship, Helmcken trained to be a physician at Guy’s Hospital in London and received his diploma from the Royal College of Surgeons in 1848. In 1849, following a brief stint at sea as a ship’s doctor, Helmcken accepted a position with the Hudson’s Bay Co. (HBC) as the Colonial surgeon on Vancouver Island. He arrived in Esquimalt Harbour in 1850 and, with the exception of several months working in Fort Rupert, Helmcken spent the rest of his career in Victoria.
Helmcken continued his work as surgeon for the HBC while building his own private practice, located on Fort Street. He also held the position of medical officer for Victoria’s Bastion Square jail for a number of years. In addition to his work as a physician, Helmcken was involved with early politics on Vancouver Island. He was elected to the Colony’s first Assembly as a representative for Esquimalt, a position he held for 15 years. Helmcken also held the position of Speaker of the House for 10 years and was involved in the negotiations which led to British Columbia joining Confederation in 1871.
Helmcken married Cecilia Douglas (b. 1834), daughter of Governor James Douglas, in 1852. The couple settled in Victoria on what would later become Elliot Street and had seven children, four of whom survived into adulthood: Catherine Amelia “Amy” (1855-1922), James Douglas (1858-1919), Henry Dallas “Harry” (1860-1912), and Edith Louisa “Dolly” (1862-1939). In 1865, Cecilia Helmcken contracted pneumonia and died shortly after giving birth. John Sebastian Helmcken died at the family home in 1920.
Name of creator
James Douglas Helmcken, eldest son of John and Cecilia Helmcken, was born in Victoria in 1858. Educated in Scotland, Helmcken returned to Victoria in 1884 to follow in his father’s footsteps as a physician. Helmcken’s medical practice was located at the corner of Fort and Langley Streets. In addition to his private practice, Helmcken was a doctor at St. Joseph’s Hospital.
Helmcken married Daisy Halliday of Edinburgh in 1886. She died less than one year later in Victoria of consumption. In 1888, Helmcken married Ethel Mouat (b. 1865), daughter of Captain William Alexander and Mary Ann Mouat, of Victoria. The couple had five children: Cecelia Mary, Edith Helen Douglas, Ethel, John Sebastian, and Ainslie James. The family resided at 1103 Langley Street and later at 915 Moss
Street. James Douglas Helmcken died in 1919. In 1923, his widow commissioned architect Samuel Maclure to design a bungalow on the family’s summer property on Beach Drive. She lived there until her death in 1941.
Scope and content
Fonds consists primarily of correspondence and photographs of three generations of the Helmcken family. The fonds also includes a scrapbook, certificates, family tree, and other material relating to the family’s private and professional activities.
Immediate source of acquisition
Material is arranged by record type and chronologically within these groupings. Due to volume, the records of Ainslie James Helmcken have been separated from the family fonds (see related records, below).
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A file list is available.
Uploaded finding aid
Associated material can be found at BC Archives. See: John Sebastian Helmcken fonds (MS-0663 and MS-1223) and Helmcken family fonds (MS-0505).
For other records relating to the Helmcken family at the City of Victoria Archives, see: Ainslie James Helmcken fonds (PR 267), J.S. Helmcken (Jr.) collection (PR 273), Ainslie James Helmcken collection (PR 252), and Rita Hughes fonds (PR 46). See accessions 199609-01, 199408-01, and 2001-0402 for records pertaining to the Mouat family (Ethel Helmcken’s parents).