Towns and cities often have founders with military backgrounds. Vancouver, however, has one with more colorful beginnings and an unusual name.
Although Vancouver began as a town with the name Granville, its nickname was, and still is, Gastown, with the Gassy Jack Statue commemorating its origins. In its initial stage, Gastown was a tiny settlement called Luck-Lucky with crude buildings on the shores of Burrard Inlet. Walk through this portion of the city and you will see prime real estate, along with the Gassy Jack Statue.
Sightsee through this area and you’re likely to come across the metal statue of Captain John “Gassy Jack” Deighton, one of the first permanent settlers and the city’s founding father. Interestingly, he settled in this area in 1867, the same year that this northern part of the continent became the independent Canadian Confederation. Standing on top of a whiskey barrel, Gassy Jack is beside the location of one of the earliest buildings, Deighton House Hotel, which he built to replace a nearby saloon that he had also constructed, but had to be torn down.
As proprietor of the hotel and saloon, Gassy Jack had earlier acquired his nickname for the lavish storytelling he did, an act at the time known as “gassing.” Read the inscription at the statue’s base to realize this Englishman was “an adventurer, river boat pilot and captain,” as well as being a saloonkeeper and a gold rush participant, although he was never fortunate in the latter venture.
Prophetically, Gassy Jack is reported to have said to a miner, “You and I may never see it but this inlet would make the nicest of harbors. It will be a port some day.” Vancouver Harbor has surpassed his prediction. Read accounts of Gassy Jack to learn that despite being famous in the area, he was an unassuming man and “never sought for fame, nor had he the least atom of hero about him,” according to letters from a friend known as Ancient Mariner.
Gassy Jack died in 1875 when he was 44 years old. Deighton House Hotel was destroyed by fire in 1886. Get to this statue by traveling along Water Street to the start of Powell Street.