Johnson, C. Gardner (1857-1926)

Charles Gardner Johnson was the Vancouver shipping agent who acted for the Japanese owners of the Komagata Maru. He born in Dunblane, Scotland but left at the age of thirteen to serve a four-year apprenticeship at sea. In his early twenties he attempted farming in Souris, Manitoba but abandoned that in 1885 when he was twenty-eight, married and broke, to come to Vancouver at its very beginnings as a railway terminus and city. Initially he worked as a labourer for the CPR, but within a year he had opened the city’s first shipping and insurance agency. This agency on Hastings and Granville had become one of the major shipping agencies in Vancouver by 1914. Gardner Johnson was a cricketeer who captained the home team against Victoria in the first recorded cricket match in Vancouver on Dominion Day 1887. It was Gardner Johnson who engaged the eminent Sir Charles Hibbert Tupper as the legal representative of the owners of the Komagata Maru.  Tupper had represented the same owners a few years earlier when one of their steamers was struck on a fog by a CP steamship, and they had cabled Gardner Johnson to engage him for the Komagata Maru. Whether or not the owners were aware of it, Johnson had found them a lawyer with potent connections—Tupper was Prime Minister Borden’s former law partner.  

Sources: Chuck Davis, The History of Metropolitan Vancouver  (Vancouver: Harbour Publishing Co., 2009); Vancouver City Archives, Biographical History Introducing C. Gardner Johnson Fonds; Major J.S. Matthews, “Our Pioneer Park—The Historic Cambie Street Grounds,” Early Vancouver, vol. 1, (Vancouver: Brock Webber Printing Co.,  1932); Library and Archives Canada, Immigration Files, RG 76.