30 historical facts about the Comox Valley that you might not know
Explore the rich culture and history of the Comox Valley
The Comox Valley is amazing. People are romanced by its natural beauty, mild climate, and the endless opportunities to play outside. But did you know that it’s rich with culture and history dating back thousands of years?
Courtenay, Comox, and Cumberland each have a fascinating and diverse history when it comes to people, places, and everything in between. Our communities are proud of the past and offer warm welcome into our vibrant communities.
Here are 30 things that you should know about the history of the Comox Valley. This certainly isn’t a comprehensive list, but it’s a great place to start.
30 interesting facts that you might not know about the Comox Valley
- 80 million years ago, the Elasmosaur swam in the warm shallow sea that is now the Comox Valley.
- The Comox Valley has been home to human population for over 4,000 years.
- In 1792, Europeans made contact with Coast Salish peoples when the HMS Discovery (Royal Navy) anchored in Comox Harbour.
- In 1848, the Courtenay River was named for Captain Courtenay of the HMS Constance from Esquimalt, one of the vessels that first used Augusta Bay (Comox Bay) and Goose Spit for Gunnery practice.
- The Comox Valley real estate market originated in 1861 when the Governor offered land for $1 an acre to anyone who would relocate to the area.
- In 1862, the first European settlers began to arrive.
- Sir Francis Drake made reference to landing in 'New Albion' in 1579. This area that he mentions is argued to be Comox, but has never been proven fact.
- In 1874, the first bridge was built over the Courtenay River, and a government wharf was constructed at “The Landing” (Comox).
- In 1876, Goose Spit became a training base for the Royal Navy.
- In 1877, the first school was built on Anderton Road. One room educated grades 1-8.
- Cumberland was founded in 1888 by Robert Dunsmuir with the original name Union.
- Cumberland was home to the fifth largest Chinese settlement in British Columbia. It had two 400-seat theatres that hosted traveling Chinese singers and acrobats.
- The first telephones were brought to the area in 1905 by Joseph McPhee at his store on 5th Street in Courtenay.
- Access to the area was by sea until 1910, when the first road was built connecting the Comox Valley to the south.
- Founded in 1910, the Comox Logging & Railroad Company was once the largest logging company in the British Empire.
- In 1913, four sisters (Sister Majella, St. Edmond, Praxedes, and Claudia) arrived from Toronto and established St Joseph’s Hospital as a four bed infirmary.
- In 1914, the E & N Railway links the area to Nanaimo and Victoria.
- In 1915, Courtenay incorporates as the only city in the Comox Valley.
- 5th Street in Courtenay was originally named Union Street. It marks the dividing line between the two original properties of Reginald Pidcock and Joseph McPhee.
- In 1916, a massive fire destroyed a large section of Courtenay’s main street. In an effort to save the town, the well of the Comox Creamery and the dairy shaft were pumped dry, along with the well at the butter maker’s home. Using cream cans, a bucket brigade from the river to the fire was quickly set in place.
- In 1917, conscription (military draft) was introduced. Men who opposed the war took to the woods and mountains surrounding Cumberland as draft dodgers—including the infamous Ginger Goodwin who was shot and killed by a policeman in the hills above Cumberland on July 27, 1918.
- Starting in 1937, wrecked tugs and sailing ships were sunk to create a breakwater for the log booming grounds in the Comox Harbour. Known as the Royston Wrecks, decaying hulls can still be seen (mainly at low tide), including two important 19th century ships: the Riversdale and the Melanope.
- During World War II, Lewis Park served as temporary barracks for the crews of the assault craft moored at the Courtenay River Slough. This site was one of two areas used for operations training and defence preparation.
- In 1942, the airfield at Comox was opened as a Royal Air Force (RAF) Base then closed in 1946. In 1952, it was reactivated as an Air Defence Command with its first operational squadron. CFB Comox was officially placed under the control of Maritime Air Command in 1961 and then under the command of the Commander Air Command in 1975.
- In 1946, an earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale hit the Comox Valley. Although there was damage, the area continued to develop.
- In 1949, Forbidden Plateau opened operating under the name Wood Mountain Ski Park. In 1982, the original lodge burnt to the ground and the roof of the day lodge collapsed under a heavy load of snow in 1999. The lifts haven’t moved since.
- In 1956, a civilian air terminal was added to the airbase and run by Transport Canada until it was assumed by the Comox Valley Airport Commission in 1996.
- In 1977, James Robb’s 90 year old pier at the end of Wharf Road was demolished and landfill was used to create a seawall for fishing vessels and a marina for recreational vessels.
- The first ski runs opened on Mount Washington in 1979.
- Today, evidence of the ingenuity of the K’omoks First Nation’s ancestors can be seen in Comox Harbour. Hundreds of wooden stakes used for tying fishing weirs have stood the test of time and protrude from the mud along Dyke Road.
Looking to dig into more history of the Comox Valley? Fantastic places to start are: Courtenay and District Museum & Paleontology Centre, Comox Museum & Archives, Comox Air Force Museum, and Cumberland Museum & Archives.
Come explore the culture and history of the Comox Valley. You won’t want to leave once you get here!
If you decide to stay, I would love to help you call the Comox Valley home. Call me directly at 250.792.2776 or email firstname.lastname@example.org