History of Anyox a family affair

I will be giving a talk to the Cowichan Historical Society on Sept. 18, 7 p.m. at St. Peter’s Quamichan Church, 5800 Church Rd., Duncan, presenting on the history of the copper mining town in northern B.C. called Anyox.

My grandfather and greatgrandfathers, who came from Wales, all worked and lived there and my father was born there in 1923. My grandmother and her father left Chemainus to operate the two dams for the hydro power as well.

Because of their particular connections of being the B.C. liquor vendor, the town policeman, the dam-keeper, as well as working in the smelter plant, they knew all the characters as well as recorded these stories not only in story form in their diaries, but also with many albums of photos.

I grew up hearing all these stories and my grandfather, Ozzie Hutchings wrote in the Victoria Daily Colonist in the 1970s before his death, on the subject of B.C. mining towns. He befriended T.W. (Tom) Paterson when he started writing his historical publications.

My brother and I went to Anyox by sea kayak a few years ago and we recorded an excellent update of the state of the current town site complete with the huge slag pile and all the foundations of the smelter, coke plants and other mechanical shops to show my father before he died two years ago.

Artifacts were all over the place and we even found the hidden cemetery in the now-forest, complete with concrete First World War army helmets placed on those soldiers who are buried there that survived that war and came back to continue working for the mining company Grandby Mining.

Grandby also had a coal mining operation in Cassidy here on the Island and their high grade of coal went to Anyox for the coke plant used in the smelting operation so there is an Island connection.

It just so happens that my grandmother was born in Chemainus in 1902 and it was her father who moved the family to Anyox where he was the dam-keeper. The copper extracted from Anyox was the largest copper mine in the British Empire in its day and served for armaments for the First World War, as just one example.

I have many artifacts brought back from my trip including an intact light bulb from the coke plant with the word “stolen” enscripted in frosting on the clear bulb, something very hard to find. This bulb was most likely a remaining bulb from the 1920s and is still in operation with its intact filament.

Gord Hutchings is from Cobble Hill

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chris Wilkinson column: It’s not too early to reflect

It’s time for the next great migration! A migration back out of the house. To ‘somewhat normal’.

Cowichan residents invited to join Walk for Alzheimer’s online

Taking place on Sunday, May 31, the online event will start at 9 a.m.

Duncan Lanes bowlers take on the best in B.C.

The best results for the Cowichan Valley bowlers came in the intermediate girls division

Sonia Furstenau column: Now the time to make changes for the better

This coronavirus has given us opportunity to identify what matters most in our day-to-day lives.

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Trudeau to seek 10 days of paid sick leave for Canadian workers, says talks are ongoing

Paid sick leave is key to keeping COVID-19 spread under control, prime minister says

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Commercial rent relief applications open as feds encourage landlords to apply

Program would see government cover 50 per cent of the rent

COVID-19: B.C. park reservations surge as campgrounds reopen

Keep trying, many sites not reservable, George Heyman says

B.C. residents can now reserve a provincial campsite for a stay starting June 1

Campsite reservations will only be available to British Columbians

Cullen commission into money laundering in British Columbia resumes today

Inquiry was called amid growing concern that illegal cash was helping fuel real estate, luxury car and gambling

Bike shops busier than ever, but owners worry about stock supply issues

Uptick in cyclists brings new challenges for shops

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

Most Read