Surveying Southern British Columbia



Frank Swannell with theodolite, 1902

Frank Swannell running the theodolite, BC Southern Rail-way land grants survey, 1902. The pistol and ammunition were used to shoot small game. Photo: Royal BC Museum.

Letters to Ada ...
From 1901 to their marriage in 1904, Swannell courted Ada Driver. His letters provide detailed insights into the life of surveyors working in a challenging environment with limited resources.
We had just packed in to Sage creek when we were burnt right out by a forest fire. Lost tents, blankets, grub, pack saddles. Escaped with what we happened to be wearing... We froze that night around a fire in a wet spruce bottom.

Before he began surveying for the British Columbia government, Frank Swannell worked from 1901 to 1907 for Gore & McGregor, one of the leading surveying firms in the province. During that time Swannell surveyed throughout southern BC, from the west coast of Vancouver Island to the Rockies, and from the US border north to Quesnel in the Cariboo and to Ocean Falls on the Coast.

Swannell bought a camera in 1901 and used it to document the surveying he completed, the people he met, and the places he visited. He worked on many projects that were important in BC history and his photographs provide an important record of these events.



Setting out boundary markers, 1907

Setting out boundary markers for First Nations reserves, Highland Valley, 1907. Photo: Royal BC Museum.