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UsedEverywhere – a resource for historical research?

Captain William Grant. Image from The Times Colonist Obituaries (Sunday, May 21, 1916)

I came across an unusual ad on the other day. It was a wanted ad seeking information on a couple of “true Canadian heroes,” as it’s poster, Art Bickerton, has described them. I met with Art to find out more about his search; more specifically Captain William Grant and Helen Mary Smith, the couple he is seeking information on.

Art felt a strange feeling of compassion while visiting the Grant’s property on Bay Street in Victoria, and soon discovered that he was standing on the very site where 55 men, women, and children lost their lives in 1896. This was what is known as the Point Ellice Bridge disaster. On May 26, an overloaded streetcar broke through the Point Ellice Bridge resulting in one of the worst disasters in BC’s history. The disaster was visible from Captain William Grant’s home on the banks of the Gorge Waterway. The Grant’s house was immediately opened up as a receiving hospital for the injured, and for this Art considers the Captain and his wife Helen Mary Smith true, if unsung, heroes.

Art continued his research behind Grant and Smith using the resources available to him, such as the archives of the Nova Scotia Historical Society and old newspaper articles. He found out that Grant was born in Grantville, Cape Breton, a town with his family’s namesake in 1835; Grant died in Victoria at the age of 81. Born into a wealthy family, Grant took the seas at a young age and was captain of many ships, including the Oliver Jordan, Louisa Hatch, and the Thomas E. Kenney. He was met with many unfortunate circumstances at sea such as stormy and treacherous weather. Also through his involvement in the American Civil War and the War of the Triple Alliance (also known as the Paraguayan War between Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina) his ships each seemed to meet their own tragic end and he managed to survive all of them. Art relayed many of the situations Captain Grant found himself in when I spoke with him and it was hard to not be intrigued by these tales of adventure.

Mary Helen Smith. Image from “As Wise as Serpents: Five Women and an Organization That Changed British Columbia, 1883-1939” by Lyn Gough (1988, p. 50)

Mary Helen Smith also had her own tales of adventure, many of which where alongside Captain Grant. She was born in Maitland, Nova Scotia in 1853 and died in Victoria in 1943. She was a school teacher and part of the Suffragette Movement in Victoria later on in her life.

Art continues to look for more information on Captain William Grant and Helen Mary Smith. He has posted several ads on and other classifieds in an attempt to reach anyone who might know more about these two and their family. Art is in search of primary resources containing information on the lives of Captain Grant and Helen Mary Smith, such as official documents, journals, and diaries. If you have any information of this sort please contact Art through his ad on

Thanks for sharing Art, and good luck with your research!

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