David Wilson

1854 - 1935

Teacher, school inspector, school administrator and Freemason

David Wilson was born in Richibucto, New Brunswick to John S. Wilson, a saddler, and Isabella (Foster) Wilson. He attended local schools in Richibucto. In 1871, he began studies at the University of New Brunswick and graduated in 1874 with an honours degree in French. Upon leaving university, Wilson taught in the Collegiate School at Fredericton (1874 1875); at a school in Upper Corner, Kings County (1876); at Mahogany Road School in St. John (1878 1880); and in Queens County Grammar School (1880 to 1884).

Wilson migrated to British Columbia in 1884 to take up the post of principal of the Boys' School, New Westminster. In July 1887 he was appointed to the newly-created position of Inspector of Schools for British Columbia. His 1892 school inspection report indicates a progressive, but formal pedagogic style.] Under Wilson's leadership, the provincial School Inspectorate grew steadily in importance and in 1901 it became a separate branch of the Department of Education.

In July 1908 Wilson was appointed Officer in Charge of the Text-book Branch, a position he held until his retirement from the Department of Education in 1920. In his position at the Text Book Branch, Wilson encouraged the development of school libraries by helping schools acquire the necessary books for their shelves and by drafting a set of Regulations for School Libraries. He also served as secretary of the provincial Board of Examiners and, from 1911 to 1920, was the secretary-treasurer of the Strathcona Trust for physical training in British Columbia.

Wilson was a dedicated Freemason, having received his Masonic degree in Shediac, New Brunswick in 1876. When he moved to British Columbia in 1884, he joined Union Lodge No. 9 at New Westminster and served as its secretary from 1885 to 1886. After his move to Victoria in 1888, he joined the Vancouver-Quadra Lodge No. 2. In 1895, he was elected Master for District No. 2. In 1896, he was appointed District Deputy Grand Master of Victoria District, and in 1897, he accepted his appointed duties as District Grand Master in 1897. His leadership within the Freemasons continued in 1898 when he served a one-year term as the Grand Master. As a one of its leaders, Wilson strove to protect the integrity of the Masonic order by ensuring that visiting masons were, indeed, members in good standing and ensured that examinations were being taken before the Master Mason's degree was bestowed upon the recipient. His address in 1909 at the fiftieth anniversary of the introduction of Free Masonry into British Columbia was described as 'a masterpiece of learning and eloquence.'

David Wilson lived a full life as an educator, Freemason, and mentor of British Columbia's school library system. He died on 15 May 1935 at his home in Victoria. He never married but was survived by one brother, George Wilson, of Moncton, New Brunswick, and a nephew, Arthur M. Frier, of Shediac, New Brunswick. He was predeceased by his sister, Mrs. James Frier.

Wilson's funeral service was held at Royal Oak Burial Park near Victoria on 17 May 1935. The leading members of British Columbia's education fraternity served as his pallbearers. They included Edward B. Paul, Alexander Robinson, and S. J. Willis. Samuel McClure, Victoria's distinguished architect, was also a pallbearer.

Written by Terra Dickson, History 349, Malaspina University-College, March 2001.

"David Wilson Laid at Rest," Victoria Daily Colonist (18 May 1935); "Death Claims Educationist: David Wilson, Pioneer School Inspector," Victoria Daily Times (15 May 1935); Patrick A. Dunae, The School Record (1992), p. 69: R. L. Reid, "Report of the Grand Historian," in Grand Lodge Proceedings, Vol. 65 (Vancouver: Chapman & Warwick, 1936), 171-173; R. L. Reid, Historical Notes and Biographical Sketches: Grand Lodge of British Columbia: 1848-1935, (Vancouver: Chapman & Warwick, 1935), 216-217; Provincial Archives of British Columbia, "Vertical Files," Reel 161, Frame 0778.