Sunday, 4 November 2018

Cowichan Valley … the settling and opening up … part 2




William Shearing, that trusted crusty 18 year old mariner, who left England, went via India, and embarking in 1862 from HMS Hecate …
Wood engraving by Gustave Dore - re the
poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner




 … most of his shipmates went further north along the coast, while Shearing and a few others on finding the 'Warm Lands' stayed put … a place where they could settle … it didn’t take any of them long to realise the potential of this particular valley …






This was the land just south of Cowichan Bay stretching across to Dougan Lake – which to this day is still farmed …

Map of Cowichan Bay estuary ... Mill Bay is just at
the bottom of the map ...
The road is the Trans Canada Highway that starts in Victoria


The Cowichan Bay area and much of the southern Strait of Georgia is the traditional land of the Cowichan First Nation … Hudson Bay Company agents had, earlier in the 1800s, built a fort at the confluence of the Cowichan River with the estuary …  where trading could take place …







A print from a friend's house depicting
the Butter Church ...
As the Hudson's Bay Company set up forts for trade, and for safety … the Church sent out its missionaries to ‘convert the heathen’ … as they had been doing throughout the world as European influence extended its reach across the centuries …



… what better way to show this than the Butter Church built in 1870 by one of the pioneering Oblate missionaries to the Cowichan Indians.  Unfortunately it was built on native land ...


Today - there are also vineyards ... 


Father Rondeault used monies collected from the sale of butter, churned from his cows’ milk, to build the church – hence its name “The Butter Church”.





It was abandoned once a new church, at the insistence of the authorities, was built on non-native land, rendering this little Church redundant after only ten years.


The Masthead restaurant (ex Columbia Hotel) first
built by Shearing  (red awnings)
But for Shearing and friends the sheltered harbour of Cowichan Bay gave regular access by water, as well as the possibility of pasture, once the land had been logged, a cabin was built providing him with a home … where his Cowichan First Nation bride could join him.




They had five children … William didn’t much like farming … so put in a manager – while he went off to work at a Sawmill in Mill Bay – until the children could take over.



Another vineyard

He was a resourceful fellow … good with figures, logical and put his hand to developing various projects in the Valley – hotels, buildings and bridges …





Yet another vineyard ... showing the soils ... don't ask me
which is which - as I'm afraid I never found that out ...


The area still is very fertile, though a large part is covered with gravel – and back then William didn’t want the gravely part … so he returned it to the Government – keeping 220 acres.  The gravel is in demand today for building and there are gravel works ‘all over the place’ …





Famous Cowichan First Nations' cardigan
on display at the Museum of Anthropology
in Vancouver


Theirs was a mixed farm – Mary, his wife, would have known something about farming in the area … which must have helped … but they had sheep, along with pigs, cows, draft horses and chickens … the excess was sold to the locals and at the Cobble Hill Market …


… the sheep wool went to the Cowichan First Nations to be woven into various items … including their famous cardigans …




'Sidewheeler' and schooner in Victoria
harbour in 1890s
The capital of the Island and British Columbia in those early days was and still is Victoria with its deep water harbours and access to California - her markets were accessible along the west coast of the island – a three day cart-trek, by sloop, or early steamer south along the east coast … nothing could get through inland to the east … not helpful to those pioneering farmers.



Coast Salish - information on history

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

33 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

Fascinating that he married a first Nations woman, and that they seemed to make the very best use of their differing talents/experiences.
Thank you Hilary, I always learn from your posts.

Rhodesia said...

Gosh, you do find some interesting things to write about and generally all new to me. I would quite like one of those jumpers bet they are warm. Happy week Diane

Sandra Cox said...

Great info post, Hilary.
Isn't that cardigan awesome.

Anabel Marsh said...

I’m very taken with the cardigan too. I could do with it here!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

They were diverse in many ways!

Chatty Crone said...

Funny he had a farm but didn't like to far and did well with it with a farm hand and his children. And his wife with the cardigans brought her own culture there too.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ EC - yes a great many people have intermarried, as in fact they did in South Africa. But as you say they made the best of their attributes ... to achieve a happy life together. Thanks am glad you learnt a little by being here ...

@ Diane - well that's really encouraging ... it makes it so much more worth while when I get the kind of comments that I'm lucky enough to receive. I gather the cardigans are just amazing ... not being able to wear wool hinders me but I know many who would love one ...

@ Sandra - I wish I could wear wool ... as I'd be craving one - but as I cannot ... that solves that problem!

@ Anabel - the cardigan seems to be the flavour of the post! I do hope it's not going to be too cold this year ...

@ Alex - those pioneers certainly turned their hand to things ... and built up the land for us ...

@ Sandie - He was able to get land and once it was cleared it could be farmed ... then he could put his other talents to better use and leave the farming element to his wife with a manager for the day to day nitty gritty ...

His choice of wife was obviously very clever - they both achieved better lives through it ... and she brought her own talents - re the spinning of the wool into cardigans ...

Lovely to see you here ... thanks for the comments - cheers Hilary


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Glad they were able to build another church on non-native land!

It seems like people had so many talents and gifts back then. I'm not sure I'd have been able to keep up!

Joseph said...

The Hudson Bay Company was very important, both economically and architecturally. I am always amazed by how widely they covered the country and set up their services.

Joanne said...

I did chuckle that the farmer didn't really like farming. Rather like my mother who grew up on a farm and didn't care for animals. First chance she had she headed into town. Guess out there, the coast was one's outlet.
Have a good week

Jacqui Murray said...

These stories of settling unknown lands are fascinating. Sadly, almost all talk about getting the natives to agree with the foreigners. I'm not judging, just commenting. This is one reason why the mountain man stories from the American West are so appealing to me. They blend the White invasion with respect for the native culture.

You can see that as usual you have me thinking!

Liz A. said...

He got land but didn't like to farm? Well, that's one way of doing things...

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Elizabeth - the acquisition of land is a difficult one to this day ... as the natives have always had full access along the waterways and coasts ... their ancestors and spiritual ancestors have for millennia been there. The different tribes/bands and the provinces - some have sorted things out ... some haven't and that's the way here in BC ...

It's just a pity that the church that had been so lovingly built was unable to be put to its full use - before being made redundant ... still it reflects the agricultural start in the valley ...

@ Hels - yes the Hudson Bay Company was critical in opening up Canada - their buildings are around today ... especially in the larger cities. They have an interesting history ...

@ Joanne - well I suspect he came out 'country unknown' looking for a better life - at 18: that's some initiative. He had enough knowledge and common sense to know what was wise ... securing his land, and marrying his wife. How funny about your mother ...

The coast and the rivers were 'the roads' in early years - as too in Europe and I'm sure down with you ...

@ Jacqui - as I mentioned to Elizabeth ... the different provinces cope with their populations differently. Things are changing and we are realising that the native way of life does have a lot of things to offer. I saw a lot of documentaries over the weekend - some on this ... to be mentioned anon.

Certainly having now lived here I'm finding out a few things ... and realising a bit more than when I turned up a year ago. I'd be interested to read some of your mountain man stories in due course.

That's good ... I'm glad the posts engage!

@ Liz - well he got land with trees on, that needed to be cleared - but that had to be 'negotiated' with the government and the elders (not easy and probably not right ... ) ... and I'm sure as an 18 year old - he'd have had far more experience with sea-faring and the mechanics of boats than farming ... so his approach made sense to him - and obviously worked.

Thanks for your comments - I'm enjoying answering them ... though explanations can be troubling, as I don't want to step on toes in my unknowledgeable thoughts - cheers Hilary

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

Now this was an interesting read, I knew none of this

Out on the prairie said...

I would love to have one of those sweaters, what a lovely tale shared.

Pat Hatt said...

Sure knew how to use their talents to their advantage.

Janie Junebug said...

I thought Victoria was still the capital of British Columbia. I'll have to Google that to see what the capital is these days. It's amazing that some people are brave enough to be explorers, and sad that so many times the explorers found native people to exploit.

Love,
Janie

Debby Gies said...

This is some fascinating history of Canada Hilary. Love the cardigan and looking forward to the next part as I'm interested in finding out how our Hudson's Bay department store got the idea for their updated logo - the horizontal colorful stripes - red, green and yellow. ;)

H.R. Sinclair, Southpaw said...

Interesting. Too bad Butter Church was on native land. It was pretty cute.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Jo-Anne - so glad you enjoyed it ... and found the simple info interesting ...

@ Steve - the sweaters are much prized ... and glad you enjoyed the tale ...

@ Pat - yes, they were capable people ... mind you anyone who got on a boat for x months to come round here, had to be fit and aware of how things got done ...

@ Janie - Victoria still is the capital - I've slightly rephrased it ... in case others get befuddled with my posting ...

It's just thinking about an 18 year old getting on a ship and setting of with only a sail to steer it by ... and then start a new life here - he was lucky it seems ...

@ Debby - it's just some interesting tales from around here ... which get us thinking about life as it was. The cardigans are of great value. I wasn't going to write up on the HBC's development - it's quite complicated ... and that logo too ... perhaps I'll succumb ...

@ Holly - yes it is a pity about the butter church ... it looks quite delightful. The stone church is its other name ...

Cheers to you all - it probably helps us here on the Island that Victoria remains the capital. Thanks for commenting - Hilary

David Gascoigne said...

Thanks for the history lesson, Hilary. This is an area I have visited several times but I was unaware of this detail. It certainly is a beautiful spot on the Island.

Sandra Cox said...

I love the wood engraving on the right. Well done.

DMS said...

How fascinating! It is amazing how young he was when he set off for a new life. Seems like a lot to take on- though he obviously managed and did well. Thanks for sharing!
~Jess

Elsie Amata said...

Forgive me while I sound like an "old timer" but I love knowing the land is still farmland. So much of the land around us has been sold off acre by acre and stores keep building up along with condos and apartment buildings. It's no wonder our wildlife is either dying off or moving into our neighborhoods. And don't get me started about the flooding issues we have now that we didn't have before the development. Rant over. :)

Elsie

C.D. Gallant-King said...

Fascinating stuff. I too, enjoy the story of a farmer who just up and says "I don't want to farm" and goes to do something else. :-P

David P. King said...

That's different gravel for different soils? Had no idea vineyards did that. Cool to see from the sky! :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ David - it gives the flavour of how the land was settled ... with nods in various directions. I know you've been here - it is an amazing place to have experienced and visited ... I've been lucky ...

@ Sandra - the butter church engraving print was a delight to see ... and I was pleased to get the agriculture link in ...

@ Jess - in those days it probably wasn't unusual ... but he does seem to have been very independent, as well as pretty capable with his hands and brain. He did do well didn't he ...

@ Elsie - it's a prized valley ... with a lot going for it. I know re land being taken for building - let alone the damage it does ... re water, flooding etc ... you're right - and sadly the human race has too many demands that can't seem to be curbed.

@ CD - good to see you ... he must have been 'some chap' to have coped with the sea journey and then after he'd cleared the land - he could go off and do something else ... ie work at the saw mill ... as you say interesting to know about.

@ David - the image shows the different soils i.e. the moraine, and ultimately the soils after the last ice age ... while there's valuable gravel on the Island - which William Shearing back then didn't realise would carry value within a few decades - early in the 20th C ... so he 'gave' it back ...

Thanks everyone - such fun to see what you think ... and get you thinking about travel only 150 years ago or so ... cheers Hilary

cleemckenzie said...

What an interesting bit of history. It's hard to find a piece of land that has been farmed continuously for such a length of time. Also, I loved how the church got its name. The view of the vineyard is beautiful.

Lisa said...

Sounds like they lived a good life together. I love the name of the Butter Church. Life must have been fairly hard even with the river access. I like hearing about those times, but am glad I didn't have to live in them!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

That is such an interesting time in history. I saw a show recently that spoke of how heartless and vicious the trapping industry was in the early settlements.

T. Powell Coltrin said...

This is so interesting. I especially liked the story behind the butter church.

Teresa

bazza said...

You should write a book about Vancouver Island because you clearly love it!
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s habile Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Lee - thanks ... I've found it interesting to put a very brief covering on the thought about settling the land - I know I'm missing out huge chunks ... but it's getting the semblance for us all to think about. The area is delightful. It is only 150 - 180 years ago this all happened ... which seems extraordinary.

The church is a delight isn't ... sadly it is very neglected now ... but the vineyards are wonderful ...

@ Lisa - it does look like they had a happy and successful marriage. Access only by sea must have been trying ... the rivers on the island weren't much help in the early days to the Europeans ... the First Nations revered them ...

@ Susan - I'm sure there was an awful lot of greed, lack of understanding by many of the men who'd left Europe under difficult circumstances - and trapping would have fallen into that category of desperate need ...

@ Teresa - thanks ... it's been good to write it up - albeit my own little take on the start up of life here ...

@ Bazza - yes Vancouver Island has been glorious ... I haven't seen much of Canada ... but have thoroughly enjoyed being here.

Thanks for your comments and visits - cheers Hilary