Gabriola Island Lifestyle Blog

Archive for the ‘History of Gabriola’ Category

The Brickyard

Saturday, July 19th, 2008



Brickyard Beach across from Mudge Island is a park. In the past it was the site of a very productive brickyard. In 1911 the first company to run the brickyard was incorporated, it and subsequent companies ran the brickyard until the early 50′s, but there is evidence that bricks were being made at this site possibly prior to the 1900′s. The brickyard was near the water line at brickyard beach, the drying and firing kilns were located where Ferne and South Road now converge and up the hillside was the shale clay quarry and assorted buildings. The output was high – in 1912 the average was 75-80 thousand bricks a day, in 1920 more than 3.5 million good quality red bricks were produced. Scows brought coal to fire the kilns and took away bricks to Vancouver and Victoria. Chinese workers did much of the hard labour, housed in shacks near the brickyard site. Many locals also worked in the brickyard. The wage was about $3.50 per day in the 1930′s. By the 50′s coal was depleted and construction had changed from brick to concrete. The buildings were removed from the brickyard site and few traces are left. In 1974 the patch of land between the beach and South Road was designated Crown Land, locals were allowed to dig bricks out and then the area was bulldozed flat, the hillside above grew over in trees and blackberry bushes. Today this is a good beach access where many bits of broken bricks can be seen along the shore. On a visit to any older Gabriola residence you may see some of these bricks being used in fireplaces, garden retaining walls and pathways.

source – article by Jenni Gehlbach in Shale journal of the Gabriola Historical & Museum Society

An Old Farmhouse

Saturday, July 5th, 2008


This old and abandoned farm house can be easily seen while driving down South Road on Gabriola, and is not far from Gossip Corner where the mail used to come. According to the book ‘The People of Gabriola’ the old homestead was built by James and Jessie Gray in 1896. Here they raised cattle, sheep, poultry and farm produce. This farm still raises sheep and hay and is a very pretty setting stretching to the sea at Degnen Bay.

Millstone Quarry

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008


The Millstone Quarry is a small park close to the ferry. Climb an easy path to a pretty view out over Descanso Bay, walk a bit further to a pile of rejected millstones, evidence of a bit of Gabriola’s history. The area above this park has quite a large expanse of exposed sandstone and the quarry extended far beyond the little park. From 1889 to 1918 large slabs of sandstone were cut and shipped to Vancouver to be cut into building blocks. From 1931 to 1936 millstones were cut and shipped, the small ones were used locally to grind wood into pulp for the paper mills. The larger ones went to Finland. There were many imperfections in the stone and many of the rejected millstones are piled in the park. For more about the quarry read ‘The People of Gabriola’ by June Lewis-Harrison.

Hallowed Ground

Saturday, June 14th, 2008


It was a lovely day and as we drove past the cemetery I noticed that the grass had just been cut. This encouraged us to stop for a bit to wander beween the graves, both old and new, and reflect on the past. I had just been reading The People of Gabriola, by June Lewis-Harrison and had learned that in the mid 1850′s europeans that had come to north america to find a better life began to settle on Gabriola Island. Many took aboriginal wives and they claimed and farmed the land. In 1882 Magnus Edgar donated a small patch of land for a cemetery where he buried his first wife. Over the years additional land was added and a burial register was kept. The section nearest the shore is the old graveyard. I have always called this the pioneer cemetery, but the sign says Gabriola Community Cemetery.

The Early Years

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008


I have lived on Gabriola Island for 30 years yet I know little of its history, I am endeavoring to change that and intend to use the Gabriola Museum as part of my education. This will be the first of several blogs that are meant to explore Gabriola’s past.
During the ice age Gabriola was deeply buried under ice at times almost a mile thick. At the end of the ice age, around 11000 BC, people first immigrated from northeast Asia to Alaska and the Queen Charlotte areas. In the early period after 8000 BC the climate was hotter and drier than it is now. There were no forests on southern Vancouver Island or the Gulf Islands. Only Garry-oak and Doulas-fir savannahs, and grasslands parched in the summer. Land and sea mammals were the most important sources of food. People started populating Vancouver Island at around 7000 BC. Around 4500 BC the climate in this area cooled and became wetter and rain forests began to develope. The earliest evidence of habitation in the Gulf Islands, found on North Pender Island, goes back to 4000 BC. Shell middens became common on the Gulf Islands after 3000 BC, progressively larger more substantial village sites appeared and tools became more sophisticated. The earliest archaeological record on Gabriola is a cave burial radiocarbon dated to about 1500 BC. By 400 BC – 500 AD life became quite compex in the Georgia Strait area with high populations, ranked societies, distinctive artwork, large houses, and wealth accumulation. Evidence of warfare appeared. From 500 – 1774 AD there are strong signs of outside influences, a decrease in political complexity, and towards the end a smaller population (Krakatoa erupted in 535 AD with dust in the atmosphere for 18 months and causing intense cold for a few years). Warfare intensified around 800-1000 AD and persisted until the 1860′s. The Snuneymux, the people of the Gabriola and Nanaimo area, have several oral histories about the battles that they fought. Contact between people on the BC coast and Europeans began with the voyage of Juan Perez sailing from Mexico to the Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlottes). More significant to the local people was the arrival of fur traders on the west coast of Vancouver Island after Cook’s voyage in 1778. In 1782-83 there was a smallpox pandemic that killed two thirds of the population on average and locally more.
Source – article by Nick Doe in Shale journal of the Gabriola Historical Museum Society.