Kitsilano Beach is formerly known as Greer Beach, named after settler Sam Greer. Samuel Greer (aka “Gritty”) was born in Ireland in 1843 and moved to the States where he fought in the Civil War. After returning to Ireland, the Gold Rush brought him to BC where he was successful with a few claims.
He settled in Chilliwack with his family, where he was the area’s first constable and customs officer, before moving to Kitsilano where he preempted 160 acres of land, bounded by lst Avenue, Trafalgar and the beach. [sources: Mountain View Cemetery, Kitsilano History]
Back in the day, preempting was a method of acquiring provincial Crown land by claiming it for settlement and agricultural purposes. In 1884 however, the province gave 6,000 acres to the CPR to build a terminus in Kitsilano and Gritty’s land was a part of the bundle. He and his family were forcibly removed in 1887 the scene that ensued sounds like something from the old wild west.
New Westminster sheriff Thomas Armstrong tried to remove Gritty, his wife and six children. Gritty shot several times, hitting the sheriff and his deputy. After a second posse arrived, he gave himself up and his farm was razed. In 1891, convicted by Judge Begbie of wounding a sheriff, he served a term in the New Westminster jail where he often ate lunch on the beach. [source: Vancouver History]
The land ended up in the CPR’s hands in the 1890s and they then opened it up for settlement. Greer’s Beach became a popular seaside hang out for swimmers, sunbathers, and campers.
As Greer was considered a squatter, officials wanted to find a more suitable name for the beach. Postmaster Jonathan Miller was asked to rename the site and he referred the request to Professor Chas. Hill-Tout who recommended Kitsilano, in honor of the First Nations in the area. Greer Beach was then assigned the name of Kitsilano Beach.
Gritty passed away in 1925. Greer Ave in Kitsilano is named for this famous early resident.