The Families of Point Ellice House

Four Generations of Family Life at Point Ellice House

Peter O’Reilly was born in England in 1827. From 1850 to 1857 he served in the Irish Revenue Police and Irish Constabulary. After a honourable discharge from the police service he was encouraged to seek new opportunities in British Columbia. He arrived in Victoria in April 1859; the Fraser River gold rush was well underway and officials with an understanding of British law and order were needed. Possessing a letter of introduction to colonial Governor James Douglas, O’Reilly was soon appointed as a gold commissioner, magistrate (judge), and sheriff for the Colony of British Columbia.

In 1863, Peter O’Reilly married Caroline Trutch. Caroline’s brother, Joseph Trutch, was a member of the Vancouver Island Legislative Assembly and an established colonial elite. As a result, the O’Reilly family became highly regarded in the Colony and, when British Columbia joined Canada in 1871, the Province. From 1880 to 1898, O’Reilly served as an Indian Reserve Commissioner and was tasked with setting out and, in many cases, reducing the size of reserve lands for First Nations across the Province.

Peter and Caroline moved into Point Ellice House in December 1867. Their first daughter, Charlotte (known as Kathleen), was born soon after, on December 31, 1867. They had four children: Francis Joseph (1866-1941), Charlotte Kathleen (1867-1945), Mary Augusta (1869-1876), and Arthur John (1873-1946). John, also known as “Jack,” and his wife Mary Beresford Windham (1886-1963) lived at Point Ellice House until they died. Their son John and his wife Inez Louise Elson then moved into the house. It is thanks to the work of John and Inez that the public is able to enjoy Point Ellice House today. The couple saved the house from demolition and began restoration work, turning the house and its collections into a museum. In 1975, John and Inez sold the house, its collections, and the property to the Province of British Columbia. The house remained in the O’Reilly family’s possession for 108 years.

Click or tap on the pictures below to view an enlarged image and descriptions of the family members who resided at Point Ellice House.