John Deighton (November 1830 – May 23, 1875), generally known as "Gassy Jack", was a Canadian bar owner who was born in Hull, England. The Gastown neighbourhood of Vancouver, British Columbia is named after him.
Growing up in Hull, a major seaport, Deighton and his brothers Tom and Richard learned to sail. Tom and Richard apprenticed on British ships, but Jack did not receive that opportunity. However, this meant he could switch to sailing on U.S. ships. When the California Gold Rush hit, ships were in demand to transport cargo and people from New York to San Francisco. In 1850, this voyage around Cape Horn took 140-160 days. Deighton signed up to work a new clipper Invincible that could sail 400 miles a day and made the trip in only 115 days. The next journey was to Hong Kong. Deighton was 21 years old and Third Officer. Next, Deighton visited family at home in England and then returned to the U.S., never returning to England again.
Next, Deighton worked a gold claim in California, along with many others, until February 1858 when there was news of gold further north in a British territory known as New Caledonia. The Fraser Canyon Gold Rush had begun and Deighton sailed north along with thousands of others. The harsh winter took its toll on the prospectors but Deighton stayed for 5 years. He found no gold, though others did. New Caledonia was now the Colony of British Columbia. Traffic on the Fraser River was increasing as more miners arrived, but so far only American steamers were able to travel beyond Langley. Local boats were built to meet this need and Deighton piloted steamships and sternwheelers on the Fraser River for several years.
By 1864, Deighton was forced to pursue other lines of work as he developed health problems (swelling of the legs and feet).
Between 1862 and 1867, he ran a bar called the Globe Saloon in New Westminster, British Columbia. It was quite prosperous due to the Cariboo Gold Rush. But in 1867 when Deighton went out of town to visit the hot mineral springs near Harrison Lake, he entrusted the bar to an old shipmate, an American. On July 4th the celebrations got out of hand and Deighton returned to find his business ruined.
In 1867, Deighton opened a bar on the south side of Burrard Inlet at the behest of his old friend, Captain Edward Stamp, the owner of the Hastings Mill. He later named it the Globe Saloon in memory of his previous bar in New Westminster. He came to the area with little more than $6 to his name, a few simple pieces of furniture, his native wife (whose name has been lost to the years), and a yellow dog. The bar was built by idle sawmill workers in exchange for all the whiskey they could drink in one sitting (the nearest drinking hole was 25 miles away). His patrons were mainly sailors and workers from the nearby sawmill. When business dwindled there, Deighton tried to acquire 20 waterfront acres near Moody's Mill and build a new saloon there. The local natives protested and the Governor agreed - Deighton went back to his previous bar, the Globe Saloon. This bar was demolished when the townsite of Granville was established. Deighton bought a nearby lot for $135 at the south-west corner of Carrall and Water Streets, where he built Deighton House.
Deighton's native wife died. Before she died she arranged for Deighton to marry her 12-year-old niece Quahail-ya, also known as Madeline or Matrine. In 1871 she gave birth to Richard Mason Deighton. Jack's brother Tom Deighton and his wife took over the business in 1873 and Jack returned to working the steamship that plied the Fraser River, this time as a Captain of the steamer Onward. However, after a family quarrel a few months later, Jack resumed management of the saloon and operated it until he became ill and died at the age of 44 on May 23, 1875. He is interred at the Fraser Cemetery in New Westminster, British Columbia. The location of the monument is (WGS84).
Deighton was known as Gassy Jack because of his talkative nature and his penchant for storytelling. The name stuck and the area around his bar is now known as Gastown.
He was succeeded by his son with Quahail-ya, Richard, who was derisively nicknamed the "Earl of Granville". Richard died before Jack's meager estate (about $300) was probated. Quahail-ya returned to the North Shore and married "Big William". She outlived him too, and died August 10, 1948, aged 90.
The Deighton House was later burned in the Great Vancouver Fire of June 1886.
In honour of Jack Deighton, the Gassy Jack statue stands in Maple Tree Square, in Gastown.
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- Hull, Raymond; Ruskin, Olga (1971). Gastown's Gassy Jack. Vancouver, Canada: Gordon Soules Economic Research. pp. 11–20. ISBN 0919574017.
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- Hull, Raymond; Ruskin, Olga (1971). Gastown's Gassy Jack. Vancouver, Canada: Gordon Soules Economic Research. pp. 24–25. ISBN 0919574017.
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