Looking back at February 8, 1881 in coaltown Nanaimo

If we had the power to go back in time, what would we see? Well, if we found ourselves in Nanaimo on February 8, 1881, we’d see that this was a busy place.

Top story of the day was the death of “Coal Tyhee,” the aged member of the Snunymeux who, more than any other single person, contributed to Nanaimo’s founding, 30-odd years before, when he alerted the Hudson’s Bay Co. to the seashore coal deposits to be found here.

“What mighty changes has civilization made in this district since ‘Coal Tyehee,’ in a blanket perhaps, poked around the beach in what is now the City of Nanaimo and discovered the dusky diamonds that made her famous throughout the world,” marvelled the Free Press. “The primeval forest has given way to macadamized roads, the stately buildings and the magnificent works of the Collieries. While the screech of the locomotive whistle is now heard, where the hungry growl of the wolf and the purring sound of the panther reigned supreme. May the old man enjoy rich pastures and overflowing streams of pure water in the happy hunting grounds of his kindred, and may his camp fire never been extinguished.”

In 1881 James Dunsmuir, eldest son of the family that owned the rich Wellington colliery, was not yet the reviled despot that he was to become in the eyes of many. Proof of this was the “sumptuous supper” given to him in the Forester’s Hall by the residents of Wellington. He was presented with a gold watch, Mrs. Dunsmuir with a six-piece silver tea service, upon his retirement from the underground management of the Wellington Collieries, to assume charge of the company’s shipping and loading business at Departure Bay.

R. Scott, acting as MC, said that residents and employees wanted to express their “high regard and esteem” for the “able services” Dunsmuir had performed over the years.

Scott praised him for always having acted “in a most considerate manner, making the safety of Miners, and thereby the safety of the Mines, your especial study and care… With those under your charge you have been most courteous and gentlemanly while to your assiduous supervision and attention much of the harmony and security of these Collieries is due…”

Oh, how the miners present that evening would come to eat those words! But to get back to daily life in Nanaimo, as it was 133 years ago. Those involved in laying an underwater telegraph cable from Valdez Island to Point Grey were red-faced when their cable came up four miles short; they promised to have the service up and running within a month. A fire in the Chase River mine continued to burn despite efforts by the company and the city fire department to extinguish it without flooding the mine, an expensive antidote. At least the blaze, half a mile underground, was thought to be confined.

It was unusually quiet in magistrate’s court before JP’s John Pawson, J.P. Plant and C.M. Chambers: only three defendants, charged with possession of stolen property – blankets, clothes and tobacco. It was even quieter in the municipal council chambers, the regular meeting having to be cancelled for want of a quorum.

On the commercial side, James Knight of the Talbot Hotel hoped to “merit a share of the public patronage” with a large stock of the finest ales, wines, liquors and cigars, Mrs. Raybould offered her services as a milliner, the Presbyterian Manse had a piano for sale for $130, and H.G. Hall, bookseller and stationer, had a fine stock of plain and fancy “stationary,” German accordions and concertinas, and “cheap jewelry.” The Glasgow House offered ladies’ clothing, A. Bullock “the best selected and nicest lot of Dry Goods ever imported into Nanaimo” at bargain prices if paid in cash. Marshall Bray, city assessor and collector, was after citizens’ pocketbooks, too, having posted notice that property and school taxes were due.

That’s the way it was, on this day in February of 1881.

www.twpaterson.com

Just Posted

The province has come through with funding for Duncan Manor’s renewal project. (File photo)
Funding comes through for Duncan Manor’s renewal project

Money will come from the province’s Community Housing Fund

The former St. Joseph’s School site will remain an art studio at least into early next year. It will take some time before being converted to an addictions recovery community. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Addiction recovery facility will be all about building community together

Society on a clear path with members’ experiences to provide valuable help

Seniors in the Cowichan Valley are being moved into the new Hamlets. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
New Hamlets in Duncan admitting seniors

Residential-care facility has 88 beds

Police monitor protesters at a blockade in the Fairy Creek area of southwestern Vancouver Island on Wednesday, June 9. (Facebook photo)
Arrests continue to mount at Fairy Creek as protesters complain about RCMP tactics

Number of arrests approach 200 in ongoing southern Vancouver Island logging protest

t
How to tell if a call from ‘CRA’ is legitimate or a scam

Expert says it’s important to verify you really are dealing with the CRA before you give out any info

The courthouse in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo man, already in jail, found guilty of sexual abuse of sons

Man previously sentenced for sexual interference involving girl in Nanaimo

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets campers while visiting McDougall, Ont. on Thursday, July 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
71% of B.C. men say they’d prefer to go camping with Trudeau: survey

Most British Columbians with plans to go camping outdoors say they’d prefer to go with Trudeau or Shania Twain

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

Chilliwack cocaine trafficker Clayton Eheler seen with a tiger somewhere in Asia in 2014. Eheler was sentenced to nine years jail in 2018, but was released on bail in October 2020 pending his appeal of conviction.(Facebook)
Director of civil forfeiture seeks $140,000 from Fraser Valley drug dealer’s father-in-law

Clayton Eheler’s father-in-law Ray Morrissey caught with money in Fort St. John by B.C.’s gang unit

A Comox Valley shellfish operator pleaded guilty and was fined $10,000 in provincial court in Courtenay earlier this year. Record file photo
B.C. clam harvester fined $10,000 for Fisheries Act violations

Charges against three others were stayed in Courtenay Provincial Court

Frank Phillips receives a visit from his wife Rena at Nanaimo Seniors Village on their 61st wedding anniversary, March 31, 2020. Social visits have been allowed since COVID-19 vaccination has been offered in all care homes. (Nanaimo News Bulletin)
B.C. prepares mandatory vaccination for senior care homes

180 more cases of COVID-19 in B.C. Friday, one more death

Most Read