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Posted On March 31, 2016 By In Features With 549 Views

This Month in History: Gold, the First Census, an April Ghost and a Short-Term Premier

by Valerie Green –

On April 16 1856, Governor James Douglas officially announced the discovery of gold in British Columbia, declaring that all gold found would be the property of the Crown.

And did you know that the first B.C. census was taken in April 1871? The questionnaire sent out asked a total of 211 questions about things such as area, land holdings, vital statistics, education, administration, justice, agriculture and finance. It also included details of population, houses, buildings, age, sex, religion, race and occupation. However, not every household answered all 211 questions. The Census was thereafter taken every 10th year until the turn of the 20th century.

Now for two unusual April stories. The first concerns a ghost. The “April Ghost” makes an appearance at the Victoria Golf Club and is believed to be that of Doris Gravlin, a lady involved in an apparent murder-suicide with husband Victor in 1936. Their marriage was going through a bad patch that year and they were living apart, but had agreed to meet on September 22, 1936 at the golf course to talk about a possible reconciliation. They were last seen at approximately 8 p.m. Later they were reported missing by family members. A few days later, Doris’ body was discovered beaten and strangled on the beach but Victor had disappeared. His body was later located floating offshore, tangled up in a bed of kelp. The case was closed.

However, Doris’ ghost was supposedly seen on the golf course the following year. Sometimes she was gazing out towards the bed of kelp before vanishing in the mist, and sometimes she was seen striding through the golf course looking quite ordinary except for her old-fashioned clothing. Most sightings were between 9:30 and 10 p.m.

She has also appeared with arms outstretched, wearing a long white gown, and sometimes she rushes toward someone before dissolving into space. Why she became known as the “April” Ghost is a mystery because she can appear in any month of the year. During over 80 years of “hauntings,” the April Ghost has been written about by writers such as Charles Lillard and Robin Skelton and her legend continues to live on.

The second story concerns the eighth B.C. Premier, Alexander Davie, who came into office on April 1, 1887. He was elected to the legislature in 1875. Married in 1874 to Constance Skinner, the couple had four children. Davie was soon a rising political star and when Premier Smithe died in 1887, he was asked to become Premier and his future looked even rosier. However, within a few months he became ill and left for California to recuperate. Returning in May of 1888, his health worsened and he died in office in 1889 at the young age of 42, having only served for two years. It was a tragic end for a man with a promising future who rose to the highest political position on April Fools’ Day.

Valerie Green is an author/historian and can be reached at



Your West Coast Culture. A magazine about the people and places that make the Saanich Peninsula the little piece of paradise we call home.

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