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Helmcken, John Sebastian, 1824-1920
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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.
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