Exploring the Village Cumberland on Vancouver Island, BC
If you are visiting the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island, BC you need to take the time to visit the village of Cumberland. Formerly a company coal mining town, Cumberland today is thriving, community which is a delight to explore. You’ll find great places to eat, lots of culture and history and a large variety of recreational activities.
Coal was discovered in the Comox Valley, in the vicinity of what is now Cumberland, in 1852 by a prospector named J.W. Mackay. A few years later with encouragement from the provincial government a group of prospectors confirmed Mackays discovery and formed the Union Company from which the settlement first took its name.
While the first venture was successful from a prospecting standpoint, the group lacked working capital to create a successful mining operation and the company was sold to the famed coal baron Robert Dunsmuir. In 1891 the town that was growing up around the mine was renamed Cumberland. By 1897 the mine was producing 700-1000 tons per day employed over 700 men and supported a town of 3000.
Cumberland was the first place in BC where a significant number or Chinese workers were brought in as labourers in the mines resulting in, for a time, the second largest Chinatown in BC. There was also a large Japanese contingent here who also formed their own village 1 ½ miles from town, just down the road from Chinatown. While there is nothing left of either Chinatown or the Japanese settlement, the town has done a nice job of setting up interpretive signs showing the location and history of the some of the buildings that once existed there. The last of the buildings were deemed a fire hazard in the 1960’s and were demolished.
In all, there were 8 mines operating around Cumberland, with the last one closing in 1953. 295 workers lost their lives working these mines. While the mines have closed, many of the old company structures and homes are still intact. There are no mine structures remaining but there is some interpretive information and some mining artefacts’ on display in a small park at the location of one of the mineshafts close to the town center.
Cumberland in recent years has seen a resurgence in growth partly due to the overall growth in the Comox Valley particularly Comox and Courtenay. As a result many of the buildings and homes have been restored, new businesses have moved in and recreation is booming including hiking, mountain biking, fishing. swimming and boating on beautiful Comox Lake.
Cumberland is a gem to explore with lots of beautifully restored old homes and the old buildings on Main St are teaming with coffee shops, restaurants, shopping and even a brewpub.
While there is nothing left of either Chinatown or the Japanese settlement, the town has done a nice job of setting up interpretive signs showing the location and history of the some of the buildings that once existed there. The last of the buildings were deemed a fire hazard in the 1960’s and were demolished.
For more on Cumberland check out their website at : http://cumberlandbc.org/