“At the outset, it may be said that the [Cowichan Valley] is unique in Western Canada, if not in the British Empire.”—Cowichan Leader.
The new year 1912 dawned bright with hopes for a continuing prosperous future. As we noted Wednesday, the province was on a decade-long economic roll. That the bubble was about to burst because of increasing political tensions in Europe that would culminate in world war was as yet unforeseen, even unimaginable.
So it should come as no wonder that when the Cowichan Leader published a special edition that year to promote the Cowichan Valley, not just to other Canadians but to the world — particularly to the moneyed British — it did so with gusto.
(I remind readers that this glowing portrait of Cowichan was written for those living afar and with no previous awareness of this small corner of the world…)
“…On the railway line within the borders of Cowichan there are nine principal stations. Beginning in the south these are Koenig’s (Shawnigan Lake), Cobble Hill, Hillbank, Cowichan Station, Koksilah, Duncan, Somenos, Westholme and Chemainus. Of all this large section of country, Duncan is the central town, and distributing point. The CPR runs through the Cowichan Valley from end to end.
“The development of the western section of the district is now going ahead rapidly with the construction of the Canadian Northern Island line. This line will open up large tracts of the most magnificent timber to be found anywhere in the world. Thousands of acres of this timber lie within the boundaries of Cowichan and will in time be a most valuable asset as the country is opened up. Up to the present time, development on Vancouver Island has been chiefly confined to the east side of the Island.
“At the outset, it may be said that the district is unique in Western Canada, if not in the British Empire. It enjoys all the advantages of a mild and equable climate. The average rainfall is slightly more than that of Victoria, viz. 31 inches per year, which is slightly more than the rainfall of the South of England. The summer can be relied upon to give at least five months of beautiful weather, the heat of the sun being always tempered by the cool breezes from the Pacific; while the winter lasts but a few short months. The rainfall is confined in an average year almost entirely to the months of November, December, January and February.
“The Cowichan district…is the only rural residential district in Western Canada. The population is roughly about 3500, consisting to a large extent of retired officers of the British Army and Navy, or people who have made their money on the prairies of the west, and are attracted to the district by the social advantages and equable climate.
“But, while it is true that the population of the Cowichan district is largely made up of people of means to whom it is not altogether necessary to work for a living, it must not be imagined that the district is lacking in industries.
“Cowichan has long been famous as one of the best agricultural districts in the west. As a dairying centre it has for many years held its own with the best districts on the mainland. The dairying industry has recently received great encouragement from the fact that the owners of the Brampton herd of Jerseys from Brampton, Ontario — a herd known over the whole continent of America — have decided to establish a branch farm at Cobble Hill… The location was chosen for this purpose from every other district in British Columbia, as being most suitable for dairying.
“Already in Cowichan there are farmers who possess very valuable herds of dairy cattle.
“The raising of hogs is another branch of agriculture which is found to be profitable here, and there are a number of farmers who go in almost exclusively for this business.
“Of recent years the poultry industry has come to the front here…fostered by the splendid work of the Cowichan Creamery Association…
“Fruit growing has been somewhat neglected of late years, but the fact that one grower alone at the 1912 Agricultural Show of the Cowichan Agricultural Society made an exhibit of 30 boxes of magnificent apples packed for market, goes to show that there are great possibilities for this industry.
“Market gardening is beginning to attract a good deal of attention. The soil and climate are eminently suited for the production of vegetables and small fruits.
“The advantages of the Cowichan district as a social centre are many. Within a couple of miles of Duncan there are to be found clubs for the encouragement of every kind of sport. In the summer months, cricket, tennis, polo, boating and fishing are gone in for by many people, while in the winter, to make the time pass pleasantly, there are football clubs — both Rugby and Association — a golf club, a ladies’ hockey club, and a badminton club at Shawnigan Lake. There are two amateur dramatic societies — one at Cowichan Bay and one at Duncan — and two or three shows are given by each of them during the season. Dancing is another favourite pastime in the winter months.
“There is already a hall capable of accommodating about 100 couples in comfort, but plans are now being prepared for the building of a much larger hall in connection with the new building of the Agricultural Society, which will accommodate a great many more people, as the present hall is far too small.
“The district has within its borders no less than four lakes.
“Two of these — Quamichan and Somenos Lake — are within one mile and a half of the city of Duncan.
“Round the shores of these lakes are to be found some of the most beautiful of the residences and farms in the district.
“The land slopes gently down to the edge of the water. Quamichan Lake has many maple and dogwood trees round its borders, and, backed by the deep green of the fir-clad hills across the water, a picture is presented difficult to beat the world over.
“Cowichan Lake, the largest of the lakes in the district, lies 21 miles to the north-west of the city of Duncan. It is famous as a paradise for the fisherman, and here is located the hatchery of the Dominion Government.
“The lake is now connected with the main line of the E&N Railway by a branch line which connects at a point close to the city of Duncan. There is also a small lake at Chemainus, at the northern end of the district, which affords much pleasure to the residents of that district during the summer months…”
So, readers, would you have responded favourably to the Leader’s sales pitch for Cowichan? Assuming that you could afford to, of course.