All posts by Marina Sacht

Kuper (Penelakut) Island Residential School

There were 18 Residential Schools in British Columbia, 4 on Vancouver Island.

The residential school closest to us in Ladysmith was the Kuper Island Residential School. (Kuper Island is now called Penelakut Island).

The Kuper Island Residential School on Penelakut Island near Chemainus, Vancouver Island, British Columbia opened in 1890 and operated to approximately 1975. It was run by the Roman Catholic Church although it was primarily funded by the Department of Indian Affairs. Its mission was to provide manual and domestic training for Indigenous children of the Cowichan Indian Agency and adjacent Coast Salish groups.

Source BC Archives

When the school officially opened in 1890, there were 17 boys in attendance, but the student population would number approximately 171 between 1890 and 1906. By 1920, 320 children had attended the school. The school was designed to be only for male students, but in 1891 12 females registered and the school continued to be co-educational.

Kuper Island Industrial School Brass band circa 1890, Source BC Archives
Girls side of room at Kuper Residential School. Undated. Source: Ethan Shoup on Pinterest

Children who went to the residential school were isolated from their community, and frequently forcibly taken from their families. They were forbidden from speaking their language at the school, suffered neglect, were underfed, and often faced sexual, physical and mental abuse. Approximately a third of students died from tuberculosis. Students set fire to the school in 1896 when holidays were cancelled. A survey carried out in that year showed that of 264 former students 107 were dead. In one case, a student was whipped and placed in solitary confinement for taking apples. In the 1930’s, doctors undertook medical experiments on children. Several children drowned trying to escape by swimming across to Vancouver Island, or floating logs across the water, and another student committed suicide in 1966

The federal government took over the administration of the school in 1969 and closed it between 1975-1978; the building itself was demolished in the 1980s.

Examples of Kuper Island Residential School survivor testimony can be found in the report “The Survivors Speak: a report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada” (2015), and information sources about residential school history in British Columbia are being collated by the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at the University of British Columbia.

Complied by Quentin Goodbody

Text Source:



Truth and Reconciliation Bentwood Box


Created by Stz’uminus First Nations carver Luke Marston, this Bent Wood Box was commissioned in 2009 by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. After years travelling around the country as the centrepiece of healing circles, collecting items from Residential School Survivors related to their personal journeys, and a time on display at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the box now resides at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.  The box is a powerful physical and visual symbol of the suffering inflicted upon Canada’s indigenous peoples.

Background to the box:

A 2017 University of Manitoba interview with Marston examined the meaning and significance of the Bentwood Box.

UM TodayWhat was your inspiration for the design of the Bentwood Box?

Marston: The inspiration for the healing box, or the TRC Bentwood Box, came from my family: my grandmother and my grandmother’s mother were in Residential Schools, both in Kuper Island [now Penelakut], so I drew inspiration from that. I also have other relatives – friends of the family, mentors, Elders – who were in Residential Schools who really helped me when I was making the Box, through guidance and things like that.

Then also, it had to have the representation of all the Nations across Canada, so not just where I’m from – the West Coast – but also the Woodlands First Nations and the more northern Inuit territories and the Métis people as well had to be represented on the Box. Looking within their culture, I found inspiration through their art forms as well.


UM Today: you tell me about the traditional steam Bentwood Box and the materials you used for this particular piece?

Marston: The steam Bentwood Box is a traditional form that was used down to Seattle and all the way up north into the Tsimshian territory. We use them for collecting and storing food and storing things like masks and blankets and anything for cooking. They would be water tight so you could put water in them then put rocks in them to boil food. They’re also used for holding medicine, which this particular one is.

The whole Box is made out of western red cedar. It’s old growth wood. We believe that when we cut down one of those old growth trees, or any tree, we give it a new life into something else. It’s still a living thing, it still has its own spirit, or its own soul, even when it’s just a piece of wood. So that’s why we believe our houses and stuff – like the cedar houses – are still living. We name our houses and our masks and things like that because all of those materials, that cedar, is a sacred thing to us, that’s why we use that traditional wood.

UM Today Does the Bentwood Box represent the identity of Canada?

Marston: When I look at the Box, I definitely think that I captured the First Nations of Canada distinctly from each area. There are so many different nations within Canada that it would be impossible to get every one, but when you think about Woodlands First Nations – I definitely captured their style of art form. The medicine circle is distinctive to this area and then the Métis figure eight is an iconic symbol that everybody knows. The Bentwood Box itself is for sure a West Coast Box, it comes from there, and that style of carving is Coast Salish, representing the North-West coast carvers. Then the Inuit, the more northern people, are represented with the northern lights and the Inuit man with his parka over his head. As a whole, I feel like it is representative of the Canadian First Nations people for sure.

Then also, when you look at it you can see what it represents, as Canada, and as Canadians, and what Canada has decided to do by acknowledging the Residential Schools and what’s happened. I think that’s the biggest thing when you think about, “Does it encompass Canada?” It’s like, well yeah, this is what Canadians are about and this is what we’re doing – we’re taking responsibility for what’s happened.

UM Today: As Canada celebrates its 150th Birthday, how do you see the Bentwood Box playing into Canada’s future? 

The thing with the Bentwood Box coming back here, I feel like it was a necessary move to have it still to be active. Having it safe in the [Canadian Museum for Human Rights] is one thing, but also to have it here, still being used by people and Survivors and knowing that they can come here – it’s something, you know. They say they collected 7,000 statements and they’re all in that Box, so you know if people want to come here and talk and still use the Box, I think that’s really necessary.

I don’t believe that the journey of the [Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada] is over, I don’t think that healing can be done that quickly – undo all this in five years – especially with the diversity of the people that were affected through the schools. I don’t really know what I see for the 150th for the Box, but I’m happy to see that it’s carrying on and still working and helping people to heal.”

In 2021 The Ladysmith & District Historical Society honored Luke Marston with a Ladysmith Heritage Award for his work in sharing the rich heritage, traditions, art, beauty and resilience of the Stz’uminus people within the Ladysmith Community, nationally and internationally.

Compiled by Quentin Goodbody

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada

Background and Inquiries:

Indigenous communities and activist groups have long been advocating for action against the disappearance and murder of an alarming number indigenous women and girls in Canada.

The National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains (NCMPUR) unit of the RCMP was established in 2010 in response to their earlier investigations of murdered and missing Indigenous women, particularly in relation to what became known as the “Highway of Tears” an area of intersecting highways around Highway 16 in northern British Columbia where at least 19 indigenous women and girls had been murdered by that time.

A 2014 report by the RCMP, titled “Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Overview“, found that more than 1,000 Indigenous women were murdered over a span of 30 years. From 2001 to 2015, the homicide rate for Indigenous women in Canada was almost six times as high as the homicide rate for other women, representing “4.82 per 100,000 population versus 0.82 per 100,000 population.”

In 2016 the Government of Canada launched the independent National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. As background to the inquiry it was determined that, between the years 1980 and 2012, Indigenous women and girls represented 16% of all female homicides in Canada, while constituting only 4% of the female population in Canada.

Statements for the inquiry were gathered from across Canada between May 2017 and December 2018. A total of 2,380 people participated in gatherings and hearings across the country. The final report entitled “Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls” was released in June 2019.

There was an overwhelming concern expressed by the families who gave testimonies to the Inquiry, believing that police investigations were “flawed” and that police services “had failed in their duty to properly investigate the crimes committed against them or their loved ones.”

This prompted a Forensic Document Review Project to review police and other related institutional files. The most significant findings of this review were as follows:

  1. There is no “reliable estimate of the numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA persons in Canada.”
  2. The 2014 and 2015 RCMP reports on MMIWG “identified narrow and incomplete causes of homicides of Indigenous women and girls in Canada.”
  3. The “often-cited statistic that Indigenous men are responsible for 70% of murders of Indigenous women and girls is not factually based.”
  4. “Virtually no information was found with respect to either the numbers or causes of missing and murdered Métis and Inuit women and girls and Indigenous 2SLGBTQQIA persons.”
  5. “Indigenous communities, particularly in remote areas, are under-prioritized and under-resourced.”
  6. “There is a lack of communication to families and Indigenous communities by police services and a lack of trust of the police by Indigenous communities.”
  7. “There continues to be a lack of communication with and coordination between the police and other service agencies.”
  8. “[d]eaths and disappearances of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people are marked by indifference. Specifically, prejudice, stereotypes, and inaccurate beliefs and attitudes about Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA persons negatively influence police investigations, and therefore death and disappearances are investigated and treated differently from other cases.”

Symbolism and Community

In 2010, Metis artist Jaime Black started the REDress Project in response to the missing and murdered Indigenous women epidemic in Canada. In this ongoing project empty red dresses are hung in a variety of environments to symbolise the missing and murdered persons. Both Canada and the U.S. have declared May 5th ‘Red Dress Day’ to promote awareness of the issue. Jaime Black chose the colour red for the dresses after conversations with an indigenous friend, who told her red is the only colour the spirits can see. “So (red) is really a calling back of the spirits of these women and allowing them a chance to be among us and have their voices heard through their family members and community.”

Our local Stz’uminus First Nation has been touched by this tragedy and has chosen to commemorate their missing women and girls by extending the REDress project to our highways. In May 2021 trees lining the side of the TransCanada Highway at the north and southern approaches to Ladysmith were adorned with red dresses.

Commemorative gathering south of Ladysmith. Photo: Quentin Goodbody

On at least one occasion a small group held a traditional prayer meeting at the roadside to honor and remember a murdered family member.  Poignant evidence of great pain and sorrow borne with immense dignity.


Key references for this post:



LDHS 2021 AGM President’S Report

LDHS President Quentin Goodbody with Stz’uminus Elder Buffi David at the opening pf the 2021 AGM

Hello Everyone,

A LOT has been happening since the last AGM in August 2020  – both on the Covid front and within the Society – which has, I think, coped fairly well given the circumstances.

Town Support:

I want to acknowledge the continued financial support by the town – with which we partner, through a Management and Operating Agreement, to run the Archives and Museum. This agreement comes up for renewal next year, so some negotiations are in the offing. Additionally the Town provided money through a Grant in Aid, to finance, in part, the Industrial Heritage activities at the Comox Logging yard (Steam Loci 11 and Humdergin refurbishment, track upkeep etc.). We also receive annual contributions for heritage promotion and staff/volunteer training.

As I said last year, without this arrangement and support the LDHS would be a very different type of society.

We have been, and continue to be, affected by Covid-19. Hopefully with vaccinations the risk of severe effects has diminished, but we still need to adhere strictly to protocols for the protection of our volunteers and our community.

Covid-19 Emergency Funding:

The Society last year received funding from the BC Museums Association Resiliency Fund and the federal Canadian Heritage Covid-19 Emergency Support Fund. This financial support is gratefully acknowledged. It has financed purchase of Covid related supplies and facilitated expansion of the Society’s online presence through renovation and expansion of the website, increased Facebook and YouTube presence, and purchase of a commercial Zoom account.


Our part-time archivist, Christine Meutzner and Volunteers have been working , and for the time-being continue to work, behind closed doors at the Archives. In-person visits can occur by prior arrangement, following strict Covid protocols. In addition to  servicing queries from the public by phone or email, a lot of background work has been going on. Computing systems have been reviewed/improved: hardware and software have been updated.  Database clean-up and re-organisation continues:  historic photos scanned and id’d etc.  etc. Volunteers are researching specific topics – about which we very much look forward to talks and/or reports!.  It is pretty busy in there!


After being closed during the winter for renovations (done by volunteers) and due to Covid, the Museum opened in February, with strict Covid entry protocols. Our feature exhibit ‘Prime Predators of Vancouver Island’ has been very successful, attracting young and old from near and far. More about this  in the Museum Committee report. Reorganization of the Museum continues, updating  content and presentation of permanent exhibits about the town and district, this paired with the addition of video, sound and interactive technologies. Computer hardware and software have also been updated.

In February we received a significant BC Community Economic Resiliency Infrastructure Program (CERIP) grant from the Province of British Columbia for repair and renovation of the Museum building. This funding, gratefully received, is being spent on the following:

  • improvement of drainage and roofing to prevent flooding every time we get persistent rain
  • Upgrading artifact storage by installation of compact rolling shelving
  • Upgrading curatorial work area
  • Improving visitor flow through the facility
  • Improving meeting spaces
  • Upgrading climate control (installation of air conditioning in the attic)

Please take a moment to look at the sketch plans for these renovations – posted in the Museum and on the Society website.

The roof and drainage work is being managed by the Town. As evidenced by a pile of dirt to the north of the Museum building at the time of the AGM, work has started in earnest on the drainage aspect.  Quotes are coming in for the internal renovations.  The rolling shelving has been ordered and will be here in December. Under the terms of the grant we have until Spring 2023 to complete the work.

After a 5 month Covid hiatus, Industrial Heritage Preservation Group volunteers recommenced work this Spring on Saturday mornings under Covid protocols at the Comox Logging Depot – continuing such key projects as restoring Loci 11, The Humdergin and maintaining the track.

Shirley Blackstaff, head of the Industrial Heritage Committee has written a report on this group’s activities.

Shirley Blackstaff giving report at AGM. Shirley has stepped down as Director for this year due to other commitments. She will be missed as DIrector but continues as a volunteer.


Railway Station

The Society entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Island Corridor Foundation, under which a group of volunteers spruced up the building for viewing by groups interested in rehabilitating it for their use. Let’s just say that, amongst other things to be done to make the building presentable,  there was some rather interesting graffiti that needed to be covered up….  Thanks to the Kinsmen and Rotary Clubs for financial support. Submissions by interested parties will be reviewed by an as yet to be set up independent committee. We look forward to this heritage building once again playing an important community role.

Historically Speaking Talks Series

This talks series, started last year, has continued via Zoom.

To date, the Society has presented 12 of these talks. The last talk was given on July 20th – the 150th anniversary of BC joining the Canadian Confederation. – an important milestone which our federal and provincial governments unfortunately chose to ignore. The talks are available to view through the Society’s YouTube site. If you have not viewed them, do check them out – lots of interesting stuff there! Links to the talks can be accessed on the LDHS Website. Anyone can make a presentation – please do step up if you have a subject you would like to talk about.


Heritage Promotion took a number of forms:

Again this year we, in conjunction with the LMS we put on Family Day and Heritage Week activities in February.

Our Heritage Treasure Trail was particularly popular with over 5000 views online.

We again presented the Ladysmith Annual Heritage Awards – via Zoom. This year we had star-studded cast of worthy recipients.

The Society has been very active working on projects and contracts:

People and Place Neighbourhood Project:

Spearheaded by Lesley Moore and funded by HeritageBC, this work, focused on identifying cultural diversity and early neighbourhoods in early Ladysmith,  was completed with the production of a report and  ‘learning kit’ which is available for schools from the Archives.


Heritage Inventory Project:

This project, which involved reviewing all the Museums and Discovery Centres between Mill Bay and Nanaimo, was completed this Spring, with a report being provided to the CVRD which funded it.

Ongoing projects include:

ONE Community Project:

Funded by  The Heritage Legacy Fund of BC (managed by HeritageBC),  the Society hosted a series of Zoom workshops which were attended by heritage societies and cultural groups in the area from Mill Bay to Nanaimo to see how we can work together to further preservation of,  education about, and celebration of, our community’s varied heritage and to further communication between different cultural groups. The project is still ongoing, with work being done on crafting a digital map of heritage assets and pursuing ‘Reconciliaction’.  Several more workshops will be held prior to year end.

The Beat Goes On – Music in Ladysmith:

This exciting contract with the Virtual Museum of Canada charts the story of the Ladysmith area through time as evidenced by our music. We are working on it now, writing story pages about specific events exemplified by associated music. More volunteers for this fascinating project would be most welcome.

To wrap up:

Despite Covid-19 difficulties, the Society is active.

Important tasks lie ahead, and challenges remain: namely:


  • We will need to renegotiate the Archives and Museum Management and Operating Agreement with the Town as the current agreement expires end of June next year. Without additional volunteers or money for wages, it will be difficult for the Society to maintain the current level of service.
  • We are worried about vanishing Heritage. We have met with the Town about updating Ladysmith’s Heritage Strategic Plan, but there is much more to do on this.
  • We are working to foster a closer relationship with the Stz’uminus First Nation and to integrate First Nation content within the Museum/Learning Centre.
  • We are concerned about the Comox Logging Machine Shop, Loci Shed and Railyard. The Loci Shed needs structural work right now.
  • We need clarification from the Town regarding our tenancy of the Loci shed and railyard – our permit to occupy expired in Fall 2019. We also need clarification on space allocation in the machine Shop – when its current rehabilitation is completed.
  • We are worried about long term plans for the Museum. The current building is slated for demolition in the future – when is not known. . Where will the Museum be in the future and what form will the building take?
  • We are short on volunteers – ours is an aging group diminished by Covid concerns. The Society is working at capacity at the moment. We need more people willing to invest time and effort to maintain current activity – let alone do more.
  • While we are in decent financial health, we are always short of money to finance the projects we want to do. We need a ‘professional’ focus on fundraising.
  • Oh, did I mention that we need more volunteers?

This is your Society. We are proud of it, and of our Community. Thank you for your membership and your interest in its heritage.

Respectfully submitted by:

Q Goodbody,

President LDHS


Notice of 2021 AGM – Sept 11, 2021

We invite you to attend the 2021 Ladysmith & District Historical Society AGM on Sept 11, 2021. Find up what your society has been up to this year. Election, Light Refreshments. Ladysmith Museum. LDHS – AGM – Saturday, Sept. 11th – 12:00 NOON.

Here is a link to our Certified By-Laws:




                         – VOTE

LDHS AGM 2021 – Election of Board Officers/Directors

 Election of Board of Directors/Directors:                                                              Vote: (circle choice)

For President:                        Quentin Goodbody       Yes                         No

For Vice President:            Marina Sacht                     Yes                         No

For Secretary:                        Alex Stuart                         Yes                         No

For Treasurer:                        Elaine Layman                  Yes                         No

For Non-Exective Directors:

  1. Pat Brownfield                                                                 Yes                         No

 2.Val Galvin                                                                              Yes                         No

 3. John Sharp                                                                           Yes                         No

 4. ________________                                                                    Yes                         No

 5.________________                                                                      Yes                         No

Note: A total 9 Directors can be elected to the Board. Under the 2020 Adopted By-Laws, no nominations can be taken from the floor.



All those interested in letting their name stand for election will require the following:

    • Per Section 3.2.3 – “ A Member may designate a proxy to vote on his/her behalf, said proxy to be registered with the Society Secretary a minimum of three days prior to the meeting in accordance with the protocol outlined in LDHS Policy 001 (Appointment of Proxy).” Note: Proxy Form can be email to members.
        • Per Section 3.2.5 – The AGM shall  be not less than 25% of the members in Good Standing present in person or Proxy.
        • Per Section 7.2.3 – A member must be in Good Standing for a minimum of 21 Days prior to the election date; and is required to have their nomination signed by two members in Good Standing to delivered to the Secretary at least 10-days prior to the Annual General Meeting..


Ladysmith Railway Station Open House

About 50 people attended an open house at the Ladysmith Railway Station on July 21Wednesday evening. The purpose of the event, hosted by the Ladysmith & District Historical Society (LDHS), was to familiarise the community with the building so that the best community use(s) for it could be decided. Now the property of the Island Corridor Foundation, the building has been locked and empty since suspension of rail service in 2011.

Quentin Goodbody, President of the LDHS, addressed the gathering and gave background to the initiative. In February of this year a group of volunteers, under the umbrella of the Ladysmith & District Historical Society, approached the Island Corridor Foundation to see if an agreement could be reached to put the heritage building to use. The ICF responded enthusiastically, and a memorandum of understanding was signed under which the LDHS would try to assess the best non-profit community uses of the building, with the potential of a long term lease being available from the ICF for a nominal fee. Since then, the ICF paid for a new roof, and volunteers have worked diligently to bring the building to its current state which allows the community to see its potential. Apart from thanking the volunteers for their efforts, Quentin thanked the Kinsmen and Rotary clubs for generous financial contributions toward building repairs to date and noted that local firms Heart Lake Roofing and Gutter Gator had been contracted to install the new roof and guttering.

Larry Stevenson, CEO of the Island Corridor Foundation, said that he was very pleased that the community had taken the initiative to put the building to use, and was most impressed with the rehabilitation work done to date. He noted that all but two of the stations along the E&N line were currently being put to community use. Aaron Stone, speaking as Mayor of Ladysmith and as Co-Chair of the ICF Board, said that he was excited about the potential for the building to be an important part of Ladysmith’s waterfront development and to be put to community use, and thanked the volunteers for their efforts.

Goodbody noted that a lot of work remains to be done before the building is in a useable state, and that this will require significant investment. He encouraged interested parties to contact the LDHS with ideas and business plans. Those present, were then invited to tour the building, enjoy its authenticity, imagine potential uses, and leave comments. A number of displays were also on view which put the building in historical perspective.

For those that missed the occasion, other viewings of the building may be made by arrangement with the Historical Society or drop in during their regular work parties every Wed from 10 to noon.

Community Feedback is welcome with an email to

Watch Slide Show here!

 The story of British Columbia joining the Canadian Confederation 150 years ago this July 20th

By Quentin Goodbody

Most of us remember the big celebrations across Canada in 2017 to mark the 150th anniversary Canadian Confederation which occurred July 1st, 1867. We in BC joined in the party, but really this was eastern Canada’s celebration because BC did not become part of Canada until July 20th, 1871. This year marks our  150th anniversary!

The story of how BC came about, and how we ended up part of the Canadian confederation is all about colonial expansion.  It has little to do with the First Nations who, after the fur trade days, became disenfranchised and were not afforded any political say.

Colonial expansion into North America arguably started with Columbus discovering the ‘New World’ in 1492 – which was promptly claimed by Spain. Portugal, the other major colonial power of the time, didn’t like that. According to the Treaty of Tordesillas signed in 1494 non-European lands west of a meridian about halfway between the Portuguese Cape Verde Islands and the newly discovered Caribbean islands would belong to Spain, while that east of the line belonged to Portugal. It was irrelevant that Spain and Portugal had no idea about much of the Americas. No one else paid any attention to this treaty, least of all England and the peoples inhabiting the affected lands.

Due to its isolation, the Pacific Northwest remained unmolested by outside influence until the late 18th Century when Russian, American and British fur traders encroached on Spain’s ‘rights. Meanwhile, Spain had been very busy plundering Central and South America since the early 1500s. In 1774 Spain sent Juan Perez up from their Pacific base of San Blas (in modern Mexico) to assess the degree of ‘incursion’ on Spain’s sovereignty. Perez visited Haida Gwaii and Nootka Sound. Captain Cook famously visited Friendly Cove in Nootka Sound in 1778 during his third Pacific voyage looking for the Northwest Passage: reports of his visit and rumours of large profits trading furs to China attracted more outsiders to the area.










Things started heating up in 1789 when the Spanish returned to Nootka, kicked the American fur traders out, arrested a British captain whose ship carried sufficient supplies to establish a settlement, and seized a number of other ships and their crews, bringing them back to San Blas.  Spain established the short-lived colony of Santa Cruz de Nuca at Nootka and built Fort San Miguel there to cement their ownership of the area.  Britain was NOT happy and a serious diplomatic squabble, called the Nootka Crisis, resulted. War was avoided, with Britain and Spain agreeing not to establish any permanent base at Nootka Sound, but ships from either nation could visit. They also agreed to prevent any other nation from establishing sovereignty. Spain’s intent was not to colonize the area but to use it as a buffer between encroaching Russian influence from Alaska and their more southern, lucrative colonies in Mexico, Central and South America. Spain effectively withdrew from the Pacific Northwest in 1794. Throughout all this, the First Nations had no understanding of what was going on.

Increased visitation by British and American traders followed who realised significant profits selling furs to Asia. Captain George Vancouver’s charting of the coastline in the early 1790s  was one way of asserting British interests. The permanent British presence in the area came later with the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) establishing a series of fur trading forts – Fort Simpson in 1831 (near present-day Prince Rupert) and Fort McLoughlin in 1833 (near present-day Bella Bella) – to intercept inland furs being traded with the Americans. In 1843 the HBC established a fort at Camosun on Victoria’s Inner Harbour: initially called Fort Albert, it was after some months called Fort Victoria.

The 1846 Oregon Treaty between the United States and Great Britain, which established the 49th Parallel as the official border between US and British interests, prompted the HBC to move its headquarters from Fort Vancouver on the banks of the Columbia River north to Fort Victoria on Vancouver Island. In 1849 the British Colonial Office designated Vancouver Island a crown colony and leased it to the HBC for 10 years at an annual fee of seven shillings with the intent that the HBC would encourage British settlement within five years. The idea was that this would halt the northern advance of American influence.  That same year, the HBC established Fort Rupert in northern Vancouver Island – not so much for the fur trade – which was diminishing over time due to over-trapping  – but because of the coal deposits there which had been known about since 1835. With the increasing use of steam vessels, coal became a valuable and strategic commodity. When the Rupert coal mines turned out to be a failure, attention switched to Nanaimo following First Nations reports of coal there in 1851. The establishment of coal mines at Nanaimo heralded the change from fur trading to a settler economy for the colony.

Following a gold rush on Moresby Island in 1851 which saw an increase in American presence, the British Colonial Office created the Colony of the Queen Charlotte Islands to emphasise British sovereignty. A similar gold rush incursion of Americans during the Fraser River Gold Rush of 1858 prompted the establishment of the mainland Colony of British Columbia, which was expanded to the north in 1861 in response to the Caribou Gold Rush.  The three colonies were united in 1866 into the ‘United Colony of British Columbia’ which had the outline of our current province.

The U.S. purchase of Alaska from the Russians in 1867 sandwiched the United Colony of British Columbia between American territories. Britain and the new Canadian confederation formed July 1st, 1867 consisting of Ontario, Quebec (prior to Confederation known jointly as The Province of Canada), New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, became concerned about the Pacific Northwest being annexed by the Americans. It was so very far away – Britain could not reach the colony without either sailing around Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope. However, the Americans could get there quicker: construction of the first transcontinental railroad in the U.S. – the Central and Union Pacific connecting San Francisco to Saint Louis – was commenced in 1864 and completed in 1869. Construction of a second U.S. transcontinental railway, the Northern Pacific, started in 1870. At this time, the U.S. definitely had their eye on Britain’s Pacific Northwest.  A report submitted to the US Senate Committee on Pacific Railroads in February 1869 stated: “The opening by us first of a North Pacific railroad seals the destiny of the British possessions west of the 91st meridian. They will become so Americanised in interests and feeling that they will be in effect severed from the new Dominion, and the question of their annexation will be but a question of time.”

Needless to say, Britain and Ottawa, wanting a British dominion stretching from the Pacific to the Atlantic, were extremely uncomfortable with this. During 1870 the Canadian Confederation was extended west through the incorporation of Manitoba (in its original form), and the HBC domains of Rupert’s Land and The North-Western Territory. The United Colony of British Columbia, crippled by debt and seeing confederation as a means to support, agreed to join Canada on July 20th, 1871. BC wanted a wagon road connecting to the east, but Ottawa offered something much better – a railroad. Article 11 of the Terms of Union, reads in part: “The Government of the Dominion undertake to secure the commencement simultaneously, within two years from the date of the Union, of the construction of a railway from the Pacific towards the Rocky Mountains, and from such point as may be selected, east of the Rocky Mountains, towards the Pacific, to connect the seaboard of British Columbia with the railway system of Canada; and further, to secure the completion of such railway within ten years from the date of the Union.”

This was a tall order – hugely expensive, and a massive engineering challenge. Also, there were questions of the route of the railway and where the Pacific terminus would be.  Ultimately, of course, the railway was built, but much later and not without a lot of squabbling, threats by BC to withdraw from the Confederation, and possibly some underhand dealing. It also did not take the expected route or end up with either of the proposed termini – but this is another chapter in our story – one which you can hear in an upcoming Historical Society talk on Zoom July 20th titled “Construction of the E&N Railway: Ladysmith’s role, and the History of our Railway Station”.

Ladysmith Railway Station

An open house at the railway station is planned for Wednesday, July 21, 2021, from 4pm to 7 pm so our community can judge what non-profit use the building can best be put to. Do come!









New talk & Open House: BC 150, Confederation and the Railway: How Ladysmith ties in to the tricky tale of the E&N

July 20th, 2021 is the 150th anniversary of British Columbia becoming the 6th province in the Canadian Confederation. The Ladysmith & District Historical Society marks the occasion with a ‘Historically Speaking’ talk titled “BC 150, Confederation and the Railway: How Ladysmith ties into the tricky tale of the E&N” which explores the promises, broken and fulfilled, leading to BC joining the Canadian Confederation in 1871 and the construction of the Esquimalt to Nanaimo railway between 1884-1886 with extensions to Wellington in 1887 and to downtown Victoria in 1888 original Ladysmith Station, not built until 1900, rapidly became ‘the’ hub of activity in the northern part of the line and remained so ‘till the demise of coal mining at Extension.  Put the present station building (constructed 1943) in context for your visit to the Ladysmith Railway Station’s Open House on July 21, 2021, from 4 pm to 7 pm.

Presented by Dr. Quentin Goodbody, this free talk is via ZOOM.
Meeting ID: 814 1041 6877

Ladysmith’s Early Neighbourhoods

Early Ladysmith BC Canada. Photo: Ladysmith Archives

Were there neighbourhoods in early Ladysmith?  That is a question asked by Ladysmith Museum curator Lesley Moore in a new “Historically Speaking” talk on Tuesday, June 15, 2021

at 7 pm. Sponsored by the Ladysmith & District Historical Society the presentation will be held via zoom and is free to the public. Email for your link

“We invite you to be part of the discovery,” said Moore who will be presenting images and maps and taking a look into early records of who lived where prior to the Second World War. “Apparently there was an “uphill gang” and a “downhill gang” with a “no man’s land ‘” in-between,” said Moore. “Was this a pattern of children playing or was this based on neighbourhoods?

How we describe where we live changes with circumstance and Ladysmith for its first fifty years had abrupt ups and downs, she adds.

What identifies a neighbourhood? Come and find out Tuesday, June 15th at 7 pm.

MDA King of Ladysmith talk

If you missed the Thursday, March 18, 2021 6:30-7:30 pm  Historically Speaking series “MDA King of Ladysmith” presented by author Daryl Ashby with guest Cindy Damphousse and Rob Johnson, you will be able to watch it on our YouTube channel. Watch for link coming this weekend.