John Muir: West Coast Pioneer

John Muir: West Coast Pioneer, by Daryl AShby

John Muir

West Coast Pioneer

by Daryl Ashby


  • Autumn 2005
  • ISBN 978-1-55380-027-9 (1-55380-027-3)
  • 6″ x 9″ Trade Paperback, 238 pages
  • Biography, History, West Coast

This historical biography – based on the life of British Columbia pioneer John Muir – tells the amazing story of a family from Scotland who came out to Canada in the late 1840s to work as “consignee” labourers for the Hudson’s Bay Company. Daryl Ashby recreates the story of the Muirs’ struggle to develop a place for themselves in the hierarchic colony ruled by James Douglas. With their vision of a country based on democratic principles, the Muirs fought to bring a new way of life to the West Coast.

Drawing on the Muir family diaries, Ashby recounts the family’s voyage from Scotland, their first years of toil in the coal mines near Fort Rupert on northern Vancouver Island, and their challenge to the Company when they initiated what may have been the first strike in Canada. Muir went on to acquire property and became an important figure in the economic development of the province. Muir built the first successful steam-operated sawmill in B.C. and developed the largest privately owned fleet of ships in the Northwest. He became a magistrate with his own sense of justice for the working man, and later a Member of the first Legislative Assembly.

So fascinating is Muir’s personality and so intriguing is his struggle for a democratic way of life that his life’s story reads at times like a novel. Ashby is to be commended for vividly bringing back to life this historic figure, a man who deserves to be better known in his own right and for his contribution to the development of the West.

“An early colonial history of British Columbia’s first settler, John Muir, imagined as a prose ballad by Robbie Burns, this museum installation as heritage re-creation, this wee dram after a big meal of footnoted textbooks, is just the thing to dispel ghosts, or to bring them back to life.”
— Harold Rhenisch


Reviews & Awards

Shortlisted for the Victoria Butler Book Prize and the BC Book Prize

“it depicts the hardships of early life in the colony and the Muirs’ struggle for independence with extraordinary clarity.”
Canadian Book Review Annual

“Ashby is to be commended for bringing this amazing character to life in his book.”
Sooke News Mirror