BC Family Day Ladysmith Heritage Treasure Trail

BC Family Day Ladysmith Heritage Treasure Trail


Calling all EXPLORERS young and old; near and far…

The Ladysmith Maritime Society and Ladysmith & District Historical Society are releasing a family-fun Heritage Treasure Trail game on BC Family Day, February 15th at 10:00 am. Due to the snowy conditions, we are extending the time to complete the trail and then join us on Sunday, February 28th.

During the next 2 weeks pick up your free HERITAGE EXPLORER MAP, STICK-ON DECAL & TRAIL CLUES from the Ladysmith Museum, the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce or the Community Marina or follow the clues and map posted online. Explorers are encouraged to take a photo or selfie at the site to share on social media #bcfamilyday and #heritageladysmith. There will be 33 plus features to find.

The trail starts at the Ladysmith Museum (721 First Avenue) and goes through the downtown core and to the Transfer Beach harbour area, where it ends at the Ladysmith Community Marina (611 Oyster Bay Drive). Participants are invited to complete as much of the map as they can during the next 2 weeks, and bring it with them on Sunday, February 28th to the Ladysmith Community Marina, where Explorers will receive a goodie bag and a free copy of the book “Ladysmith 100 years”.

Ladysmith Museum
Ladysmith Museum

Everyone can warm up with a hot beverage on the docks and see a display of heritage wooden boats restored by LMS volunteers. Heritage slide shows and videos will be available all week on both society’s Facebook and websites to entertain and educate. Put on your “EXPLORER” hat and join the fun!

For info call Ladysmith Museum at 250-245-0423.

To minimize risk and promote the continued safety of all, please wear your mask and practice social distancing at all times.

Remembering Isabelle Ouelette

Life-member of the Ladysmith & District Historical Society (LDHS), Isabelle Ouelette worked tirelessly to capture the stories that brought history to life. If Isabelle didn’t know it, it likely was not worth knowing.

Ed Nicholson, another champion of history, spent many hours in the Archives, researching projects with Isabelle.

Here are some of his memories:

Isabelle Ouelette (centre) at book launch of The Gap.

If you have visited the Ladysmith Historical Society Archives (under Tim Horton’s) at any point in the past twenty years, you have probably met Isabelle Ouelette. That is because if the Archives were open, Isabelle was usually there, and once you met her, you are unlikely to forget the experience.

I first met Isabelle in the summer of 2009. My wife and I had retired from our ten years in China and decided to return to the town where my family had first settled in 1899. I had spent part of my childhood in Ladysmith and still had relatives here, so we bought a house in Sunny Saltair and set about getting reacquainted. I had always loved history and was anxious to explore my family roots, so joining the LDHS was a logical beginning. My first cousin, Ruth Weeks, was already a member, so she took me down to the Archives to meet Isabelle.

Isabelle and Ruth were old friends, and at first, Isabelle seemed quite pleased to meet another Nicholson — especially as my aunt Myrtle had been her favourite teacher in Grade 5. In fact, whenever Isabelle introduced me to long-term residents she would say, “This is Ed, one of our new volunteers. He’s Miss Nicholson’s nephew!”

At first, I was a little intimidated by Isabelle. Show up for your volunteer shift at 9:10 in the morning, and you would be greeted by “What took you so long?” or, if she was in a better mood, “Well, look what the cat dragged in!”

Isabelle Ouelette with former Ladysmith Mayor Rob Hutchins at a ribbon cutting for The Ladysmith Archives

But once I got to know her, I discovered that was how she greeted most of the people she regarded as friends, and she had a lot of those! In fact, as long as you were there to volunteer or ask questions, you were most welcome at the Archives.

Isabelle not only knew a lot of people, she knew a lot about the town. She wasn’t one to flaunt her knowledge, but if you asked her a question about Ladysmith, she usually had an answer. And if she didn’t, she would pick up the telephone and call the person who did! I think her many years of working in the town as a telephone operator had given her a basic understanding of how the town was “networked.”

If, for example, you needed to know something about events happening in town, she would pick up the phone and call “Ann at the Rec Centre” or “Barb at the LRCA” or “Nita at Grant’s.” As a very last resort, she might say, “Well, you could always ask Rob Johnson. He always knows something, even if sometimes he gets it wrong!”

Isabelle also possessed an insatiable curiosity. The desire to find out something about the town’s history and then to make certain others learned about it as well resulted in her taking a leadership role in getting this knowledge into print. Isabelle was the major force behind the effort to produce two cookbooks containing family history, photos and the favourite recipes of more than 160 of the families that have contributed to our town’s success. She called, coerced and eventually collected the raw material for the two cookbooks and then convinced other society volunteers to help the families with the editing and assembly of their contributions. Although she was pleased to succeed in getting the two volumes published, I think she was even more pleased with the fact that nearly all of the stories were written or at least narrated by the family members themselves.

Isabelle also had a personal connection and deep respect with both the Métis culture and First Nations traditions. I met with Isabelle and many elders from the Stz’uminus people on a number of occasions while learning about their history. From Isabelle, I learned the importance of the choice of food offered in meals and meetings, as well as the role of simple gifts, like tobacco, to show my respect to honoured guests. Isabelle was deeply concerned about the survival of Stz’uminus history and the importance of helping our neighbours to tell their own stories.

Isabelle loved her TV shows, but she was also well-read. She didn’t consider herself a writer, but in publishing the story of the Gap, she made sure that the full story was told. I could never get her to write down her own stories despite her phenomenal memory, and it was like pulling teeth to get her to talk into a video camera, but I will never forget the summer afternoon when I talked her into taking me on a tour of the town. I would drive for a block and then pull over to the curb so I could write down the oral history pouring out of her memory banks. How I wish now I could have talked her into a second trip down First Avenue, with Marina Sacht recording it all from the back seat!

Isabelle, to use her way of saying it, was never one to “blow her own horn.” She also never “suffered fools gladly,” “had time for uppity people” or those who “never knew when to stop yappin’.” You were also not in her good books if you “screwed up,” “slacked off” or were someone who “was all talk and no action.”

I am sure that many of her own family could tell us about the inherent danger in “crossing swords with Grandma.” But I am equally certain that they had little difficulty seeing the warm and loving person just beneath the gruff exterior. The Isabelle I came to know had a huge heart and a wicked sense of humour, expressed with a raucous laugh and smile that could light up the darkest room. Isabelle could be cranky and stubborn, but put her in front of a group of primary students visiting the Archives with their teacher and she would melt before your eyes.

You know, I can imagine Isabelle reading this and telling me, “That’s a load of BS!” But I will use her own words to prove her wrong. Here is what she wrote in the preface to Cooking Up History Volume 2 in 2010: “At one time I could walk down First Avenue and recognize nearly everyone I met. Today, there are many new faces, and I do not always recognize the children and the grandchildren of my fellow residents, let alone the new arrivals. I have lived in Ladysmith for over seventy years, but despite the rapid growth in recent years, it has managed to retain many of the best qualities of small-town


Isabelle loved her hometown — and Ladysmith loved her back.

— Ed Nicholson

As Seen in TAKE 5/FEB 2021

BC Family Day Heritage Treasure Trail

The Ladysmith Maritime Society and Ladysmith & District Historical Society are presenting a family-fun Heritage Treasure Trail game on BC Family Day, Monday, Feb 15, 2021. The outdoor game will introduce families and individuals to heritage features around Ladysmith. The Heritage Treasure Trail route map and Heritage Explorer decal are being printed. Rhymed clues, released the morning of Family Day, will identify the heritage features. Once found, participants are encouraged to take a photo or selfie at the site to share on social media #BCFamilyDay​ #heritageladysmith. There will be 32 features to find with clues located sequentially at the sites. The trail goes through the downtown core and to the harbour area, where it ends at the Ladysmith Community Marina. Do all of the trail or just part of it. Participants can warm up at the Ladysmith Community Marina’s Welcome Centre with a hot beverage and pick up a participant goodie bag, plus visit the incredible display of heritage wooden boats.

You can download the Official Explorer Decal and Map, or pick one up at the Ladysmith Museum or Ladysmith Community Marina. Remember to check our website and Facebook page for the clues or pick them up at the Ladysmith Museum or Ladysmith Community Marina on the morning of BC Family Day.

Supported by the Province of British Columbia

Heritage slide shows and videos will be available all week on both society’s Facebook and websites to entertain and educate.

Please visit lmsmarina.ca and ladysmithhistoricalsociety.ca. For details call Ladysmith Museum at 250-245-0423.

Made possible thanks to the support of the B.C. government

Ladysmith Heritage Treasure Map


BC 150 & Open House at Ladysmith Railway Station

Join the LDHS and community partners for displays, refreshments and guest speakers at the Ladysmith Railway Station.

Wed. July 21,4 pm to 7 pm.

The day before, on  Tuesday, July 20, 2021 (the 150th anniversary of BC Confederation) from 7 pm – 8 pm, please join us for a free talk by Dr. Quentin Goodbody.  ‘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 its open house on July 21st. Presented by Dr. Quentin Goodbody
Free talk via zoom,
Meeting ID: 814 1041 6877

Come discover a bit of history, and see the station, and the work being done by LDHS volunteers. Do you have a good idea for community non-profit use of this building? This is your chance to pitch your idea.

For more information,  phone  Ladysmith Museum 250-245-0423 or email them at museum@ladysmithhistoricalsociety.ca

LDHS President’s Report for period September-Year end 2020

Happy New Year!

Since holding our AGM in blazing sunshine outside the Museum in August the society has, like everyone else, continued to be affected by Covid-19 restrictions. Of course, this has affected the pace of activity (a bit like swimming in molasses), but things have been happening, as outlined below:


A reduced roster continues to work at the Archives behind closed doors servicing queries from the Town and public by phone or email. It is surprising how constant the stream of requests is! Topics range from locating past industries in relation to groundwater contamination to assisting with family histories.

Stalwart volunteers (where would we be without them!) are focused on organizing archival fonds, cataloguing photographs, database entry of tax assessment rolls, etc.  An inventory of computer software and hardware has been performed, with recommendations for replacements and additions. The work is not particularly glamorous, but very necessary and is much appreciated.

The Reading Room area has been busy managing book sales, which have been brisk over the holidays.

Museum – 1st Avenue

The Museum doors remain closed to the public, however, things have been happening within.  The ‘Prime Predators of Vancouver Island’ exhibit is shaping up nicely. Storyboards have been printed and all the animals are on-site; what remains to be done is the final setup of the display. Then we must await Covid conditions being suitable for opening.

The basement continues to suffer from groundwater seepage, this requiring regular visitations with a shop vacuum to suck it all up and a dehumidifier to keep conditions appropriate for the safety of the collections. The Town has been generous with the provision of the dehumidifier. Building repair has been discussed and is pending results of a  ‘Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program (CERIP) grant application (Unique Heritage Infrastructure Stream) submitted for repair/minor renovation of the museum building and purchase of a storage system for the artifact collection. The application was submitted by the LDHS in October, with letters of support from the Town, the Stzuminus First Nation and the Chamber of Commerce. We should hear in February whether we get any money. Fingers crossed everyone!

Discussions are ongoing regarding the potential for sharing space in the museum building with the Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Centre. We believe this could be beneficial for all parties and are hopeful for a successful conclusion.

Museum – Oyster Bay Drive

The Industrial Heritage Preservation Group (IHPG) recommenced activity under appropriate Covid protocols in September but opted to shut down operations again when the Covid infection rate climbed in mid-October. None-the-less, significant progress was made on the restoration of the Box Car (roof catwalk reconstructed, metal parts rustproofed, wooden sides given another coat of paint), the Humdergin serviced and trackage in the vicinity of the Cable Shed was salvaged. We continue to suffer attempted break-ins – so a watchful eye is kept on the site.

Negotiations with the Museum of Port Alberni for the loan of the Plymouth 107 shunting engine are in their final stages. Hopefully, we can get the paperwork finalized in January.

The IHPG continues to work on a proposal for space in the Machine Shop as part of the Town’s Arts & Heritage Hub component of the Waterfront Development.

A joint ‘Ladysmith Harbor Heritage Committee’ was formed in September with the Ladysmith Maritime Society, the mandate of which is to showcase the heritage of the harbour area through the preservation and presentation of heritage aspects within context such that the public can gain an integrated understanding of the past, present and future of the area. A key role is to advise the Town on harbour heritage matters related to the Waterfront Development Plan and the Arts & Heritage Hub. Currently, the committee is composed of three representatives from each society, with the potential for the addition of representatives of other stakeholder groups)

In October this Committee submitted a CERIP grant application for preservation of the Comox Logging Locomotive Shed and Car Shop, with the LMS being the principal applicant, seconded by the LDHS. Both buildings are of significant heritage value, integral to the Arts & Heritage Hub and need some TLC. We should hear in February whether we get any money.

In December the LDHS nominated Q Goodbody and Shirley Blackstaff as potential representatives on a new Arts & Heritage Hub Design Steering Committee which will work with the newly announced architectural contractor to advise Council on project design of Development Phase 1 of the Arts & Heritage Hub – for which the Town was granted a  $3.3mm ICIP grant in June of this year.

Members of the IHPG are in discussion with the Corridor Foundation regarding an option on the use of the Train Station building, the idea being to ascertain interest within the LDHS and other non-profits in the Town regarding its use.

Barrie McDonald’s booklet “The Tyee Smelter; a core element of Ladysmith’s Industrial Heritage” was published and has generated a lot of interest.


During the past year, the Society has been focused on increasing communication with our members, the general public, with other local societies, and with the east-central  Vancouver Island heritage community. All this aimed at raising the society’s profile and raising recognition amongst the general public of the relevance of Heritage to the present and future.

Considerable effort has gone into the development of the website and Facebook pages.

Additionally, the society’s YouTube channel continues to grow with the recent addition of four new titles to the library of 36 videos with more coming monthly.

Historically Speaking Talks Series

Since August we have had four talks presented via Zoom and uploaded on the Society’s YouTube channel. These include my (Q Goodbody) three-part series on Climate Change: 1: History of Climate Change, 2:  Global Warming, Realities, Causes and Cures, and 3: Effects of Global Warming. The fourth talk was by Gary Allan on Wolves featuring the ecologic importance of wolves, and starring his wolf family Denali, Stqeye, Mahikan and Tundra.

Watch for these interesting upcoming talks. January 19th at 6:30 pm Erik Piikkila presents ‘Effects of Railroad Logging. Lessons from the past’. On March 18, Author Daryl Ashby and Historian Rob Johnson present ‘MDA King of Ladysmith, the Art Williams Story’. More talks will be announced shortly.

People and Place Neighbourhood Project:

Spearheaded by Lesley Moore, the report was completed in December and may be viewed, with an accompanying education kit, at the Reading Room when Covid permits. There is a lot of interesting information on the social structure of early Ladysmith.

Heritage Inventory Project:

Marina Sacht and Shirley Blackstaff have spearheaded this project which involved visiting all the Museums and Discovery Centres between Mill Bay and Nanaimo, talking with staff  to identify key synergies, risks and ways to work together for the common good. The Discovery Center in Duncan was visited in October. Two other local museums await visitation prior to completion of the final report.

“ONE Community’ Project:

It is early days with this project which has been greatly affected by Covid-19 restrictions. We have identified a moderator for the planned series of Workshops to bring various societies and cultural groups together to get to know each other and to explore synergies. The pace will pick up in January and a call for volunteers will be issued.

The Beat Goes On – Music in Ladysmith:

A meeting of interested persons was held which resulted in considerable brainstorming about what to include and how to present. A number of musician contributors have been approached and archival research is under way.  A draft story page was submitted to our Virtual Museum of Canada  which indicated that we are ‘on the right track’. More volunteers with enthusiasm and musical bent would be most welcome. Watch for online updates.

To wrap up:

Despite Covid-19 difficulties, the Society is active.

We continue to have concerns about:

  • Lack of clarity regarding long term plans for the Museum.
  • The need for a Museum Manager / Curator
  • Vanishing Heritage and the need for its protection.
  • The need to revise and expand the Community Heritage Register
  • Requirement for a review of the 2008 Heritage Strategy.
  • Requirement for a strategic approach to fundraising.
  • A shortage of volunteers – and demographics of the existing roster.

But we believe we are making progress.

  • Our membership is becoming more involved – with projects and especially on the Facebook page.
  • Our working relationship with the Town, the First Nations, and with other community groups continues to develop.
  • We have active communication within the regional and provincial heritage community
  • We have a super variety of projects for people to become involved in. Don’t feel you have to be an expert. Take the plunge and have fun participating!


Don’t forget – Membership renewal is now due. If you have not already done so, please renew online via the society website or arrange to visit the Archives to do so.

 The very best to you all for 2021.

Respectfully submitted by:

Q Goodbody

President LDHS

Extended deadline Jan. 23, 2021 Call for Nominations: Annual Heritage Awards

The Ladysmith & District Historical Society is calling for nominations from the community for the second Ladysmith Annual Heritage Awards.

The awards are to recognize the individuals, businesses and societies that have played a key role during this past year (2020) through their actions or initiatives toward preserving or promoting local heritage.

“These awards are a way to show appreciation of the role people or organizations play in preserving our heritage, to recognize how this heritage characterizes our community, and to emphasize the importance of this heritage to attracting visitors,”  says Quentin Goodbody, President of the LDHS.

There are two award categories: (i) Restoration of a heritage building, place or artifact, (ii) Commitment displayed by an individual or organization (society or business) to preserving and promoting local heritage.

Anyone can nominate, including nominating themselves, their business or their society. Nominations are requested either via email  or letter to info@ladysmithhistoricalsociety.comor Ladysmith & District Historical Society, Heritage Awards Nominations, P.O. Box 813, Ladysmith, B.C. V9G 1Y8.

Please detail the following information in your nomination:

Your name:




Name of Person/Organisation being nominated:

How did this individual or organization help to preserve and/or promote local heritage in Ladysmith and District?

The applications deadline has been extended to January 23, 2021

Award recipients will be announced during February’s BC Heritage Week.

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