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