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Early Pioneers


(As told by George V Copley) December 31, 1968)


A short recital (to about the year 1900) of some of the early pioneers of Mill Bay, Cobble Hill, and the southern Cowichan area.


Much has been written about the people of the above areas, and much of this is incorrect. The person, who did the writing, knew little or nothing about the early pioneers and who built the settlement. I will start at Cowichan Bay that, in the early days, was the contact point with Victoria (of the outside world). For a long while before the construction of the E&N railway, it was the only place where general merchandise, groceries and liquor, could be purchased. At this location there was a good wharf, a general store, a hotel and a saloon. All owned by Mr. Orson Odana (this name may be misspelled).


My father worked for Mr. Odana at various times to cancel store accounts.

The road from Cowichan Bay ran southerly through the western side of the settlement, along the eastern shore of Shawnigan Lake, continuing on past Sooke Lake, and on southerly through the Goldstream area to Victoria. The distance from Victoria to Cowichan Bay by this road was approximately fifty­ five miles. However, most of this road was never used except where it passed through the aforesaid settlement. The road passed through a densely forested area and during the winter months was full of obstructions from fallen trees.


I think the best way to cover the settlement of the whole area is by citing the several roads through the settlement.


1. The road from Cowichan Bay to Cobble Hill depot.

2. The road from Cobble Hill to Shawnigan Lake.

3. The new road from Shawnigan Lake to Mill Bay.

4. The road south from "Hopkins Swamp" past little (or Dobson’s) Lake to connect with the Shawnigan Lake, Mill Bay road (better known as Cameron -Taggart road).

5. The road that runs south-easterly from Cobble Hill through to Mill Bay with several short roads easterly connecting with the Old Telegraph Trail Road.





(No. 1 Road)

Almost the first and most important homestead was the John Nelson farm. He arrived in the district from California in Company with Mr. & Mrs. William f. Copley. Mr. Nelson later married and had a son and daughter.


Further south on this road (a mile or so to the west) lived Joseph Dougan and his cousin, Mrs. Routledge. They had one girl and two sons. Mr. Dougan was accidently shot by Mrs. Routledge. Later she and the family moved to Victoria.

Even further south was the James Dougan farm, the best in the whole settlement.


Mr. Dougan arrived in BC From Australia. He later married a girl from Australia, and they had a large family, ten sons and two daughters and were successful in raising their entire family to man and womanhood. Mr. James Dougan was a successful dairy farmer and lived to a ripe old age. There is three of the original family still living. I visited Nathan in November 1968, and he is still hale and hearty at the age of eighty-nine years. He lives with (and cooks for) his bachelor son on the son's farm. James Dougan’s oldest son, James Jr. Taught in a Vancouver high school for a number of years and his brother John J. produced by select breeding, what is still known as the JJ Dougan breed of white leghorn chickens.


About halfway between the Dougan farm and Cobble Hill, lived a Mr. McLellan. He had a small farm and lived alone for a number of years and then married one of the nightingale girls. The village at Cobble Hill depot (quite a place in my young days) was created by virtue of being a depot on the E&N Railway. The first agent and postmaster were a Mr. McLure, who later on in. Life became quite famous as the first architect to introduce the bungalow type of house in Victoria.

Shortly afterwards a Mr. And Mrs. Porter arrived with a family of seven, two girls and five boys. Mr. Porter built a nice little hotel in conjunction with a general store, post office and a saloon. All the boys as they grew up were connected in some manner with the E&N Railway. Monty followed Mr. McLure as station agent. Frank, (one of the younger sons) became the third agent and telegraph operator and Stanley, the youngest of the family, worked in the E&N. Railway office in Victoria for many years.


In the forks of roads (1) and (5) lived Donald McPherson, an E&N Railway section foreman. He was rather an important personage in the settlement. For he was one of the few who received a steady salary of $65.00 per month. In late life he married a Sarah Chapman, and they had one daughter.



Road No.2


The first farm on this road was the William F. Copley (my father) farm one and one quarter miles southwest of Cobble Hill post office. This farm was known as the Apple Bloom Farm and in my father's day boasted of eighty acres under cultivation. A great deal of this, however, grew back to brush and new forest. This property is now subdivided into many holdings. The large frame house my father built near the railway, is destroyed and where the old house that 1 was born in, stands another partial log and frame house (owned and occupied as at November 17th, 1968) by a Mr. R. Hick. One quarter mile further on the north side of the Railway was the Nixen place, a log house. Mr. Nixen was a Railway construction man. He had one or two or a family.


Immediately west of the above place was the Eugene Burnham Farm. They had quite an area of cleared land. Mr. Burnham was married to the oldest Miss Chapman, and they had quite a large family, one boy and several girls. He was a very good carpenter and did a lot of that type of work throughout the settlement. Later years he sold out and moved near the city of Victoria.


Further south and about a quarter mile west of road No. 2, lived the Raymond family. Mr. Raymond produced lime and an out-cropping shown to him by his father. This is now the great quarry, mined by the BC Cement Company. Mr. & Mrs. Raymond had two sons and three daughters. Mr. Raymond shipped lime to Victoria for a number of years. He finally closed the quarry and moved to Victoria where he carried on business until he sold to Evans, Coleman & Evan Company limited of Victoria. The younger son, Percy, later worked with Evans Coleman & Evans Company limited until he retired.


At Raymond's crossing an old road led off directly west which, when first constructed, led to the silver mines, some miles beyond the crossing of the Koksilah River (known in my days as the Burnt Down Bridge). Near this point lived Mr. And Mrs. Laverock who had a son and a daughter. They lived a very secluded life, and few other settlers even knew about them.


Further along No. 2 road, at a crossing over Millstream, lived a chap by the name of Mr. Nangle. He had an excellent house but seldom lived in it except on weekends as he was a cabinet make and worked in Victoria.



Directly south of Mr. Nangle's place (about one third of a Mile) lived a Mr. & Mrs. Heally. They had two sons who, when they grew up, became steam engineers as was their father. Mrs. Heally was Mrs. Chapman's sister.


At the north end of Shawnigan Lake lived the Rivers family. Mr. Rivers was a painter by trade and worked mostly in Victoria. They had a family of two or three daughters. There were quite a few people who lived in the vicinity of Shawnigan Lake, the most important being a Mr. And Mrs. Koenig. They had two sons. They had a nice hotel with a general store, post office and a saloon.

Mr. Koenig was accidentally drowned while swimming in the lake.


Mr. Halhead, a chap who never associated with any of the early settlers, lived in a large frame house on the west side of the Lake. He and his wife and family lived a very secluded life with their servants. They had no close neighbours.


North of the outlet of Shawnigan Lake (about one mile) lived a recluse ... A Mr. Bucket. He occasionally visited the store and about once a year he would visit with my folks. There was no road to his place and the only cleared land was his small vegetable garden.



(No. 3 Road)


This was a new road which cut through from Shawnigan Lake and connected with the Mill Bay road. The only pioneer in this vicinity was a recluse who lived one-quarter mile south of the road, two and one half miles east of Shawnigan Lake. He was called Ned Harris. He had a nice little farm on Cedar Creek and rather a good log house. He was a very good artist and had a fairly good education. He quit farming altogether and in his later years spent all his time in the hills prospecting. When quite old he was found dead in his house from an apparent heart attack.


In later years there were many small farms on this road.


Two miles east of Shawnigan Lake lived a major GW McKean, afterwards the Gibbs farm. A mile further on were first the Frank Copley home and then the Freeman home. Mr. Freeman had two sons and several daughters. Then approximately a mile farther, was the Henry Hollings farm. They had several sons and daughters. A quarter mile farther on lived Albert Grahame. Both Mrs. Hollings and Mrs. Grahame were sisters, daughters of Eugene Burnham.


Further towards Mill Bay, lived a Mr. and Mrs. George Frayne. Mr. Frayne was, for a time, a sawyer in the Shawnigan Lake Sawmill. His wife was the eldest daughter of Frank Garnett.

One-quarter mile further across Millstream, was the William Copley Jr. Ranch. Mr. Copley, my oldest brother, had a large family of girls and one son. His wife was Miss Mary Graham of Saanich.


Where the road intersected the Mill Bay road was a farm owned by a Mr. Frank Garnett. He had three daughters and one son. The Frank Garnett, the William Copley Jr. And the George Frayne properties, at a very early period, had belonged to a Mr. Voutrie who had passed on before my time.


(No. 4 Road)


This road was known locally as the Cameron-Taggart Road, and for many years the only people living on this road was a Mr. Dobson who sold his farm later on to a Mr. Haug whose wife was Maria Dougan, daughter of James Dougan Sr.


Mr. Cameron had a large farm and lived in a log house on the west side of the road. He ran a few cattle and sheep. Later in life his two sons and a daughter came out from the east and lived with him. His daughter married William Chapman.


Right across the road on the east side lived a Mr. And Mrs. John Taggart. They had one son who married Miss Mable Blake from Victoria. Mr. Taggart was an excellent carpenter and had a very nice residence and other outbuildings.


In later years, Ted and Will Turner, in partnership with Mr. Shiels, took up land immediately south of the Cameron farm and cleaned quite a large area. Ted Turner was accidentally killed while talking to a neighbour. Will Turner then sold to Mr. Shiels and went home to England. Mr. Shiels and his brother, who was married with one daughter, come out to live with him on the farm. They finally cleared a considerable area and farmed it successfully.




(No.5 Road)


This road had few people living directly on it until a distance of probably two and one half miles south of Cobble Hill post office. At this point lived Louis Gaborie with two or three children. Their son Joseph attended school with me. Which was south of their property in the angle between the Farnsworth and Nightingale farms. The Gabories had a good log home and a large frame barn, and they grew only grain and the necessary vegetables.


About one and one half miles south on this road from Cobble Hill post office, a side road led off to the east which cut into the Old Telegraph Road. In this area lived a number of old pioneers, Peter Peterson, the Manley’s, the La Fortunes, the Chapmans, the Verviers and our old schoolteacher, James Hoy, who taught in the old school for upwards of fifteen years, as well as doing a little farming as a side issue. He lived alone for a number of years, then after he was superannuated, he married, I understand, a widow from the city.


Adjoining the Gaborie farm was the Farnsworth farm. This was rather a large farm which in later years was cut in two and the south half sold to the nightingale family. Mr. And Mrs. Nightingale had a family of two or three daughters and three or four sons. They built a large house on the hill overlooking their farm. Mr. Nightingale was a lay Anglican pastor and had built a small church two miles south of Cobble Hill post office.


As mentioned above, it was in the angle formed by the Farnsworth and Nightingale farms that the little old one roomed schoolhouse was situated, in which most of the sons and daughters of the early settlers received their first schooling. Later on, when more settlers moved in, a new school was built just across the road from the Gregg farm, which was the first on the road south of the Gaborie farm on Road No. 5.


At the Gregg farm, a road led off to the east and on this road lived a number of pioneers. The first and main farm was that of Mr. And Mrs. Barry who had four sons and one daughter. For a short time, Mr. And Mrs. Barry kept a small general store.


On this same side road lived the Stewart family, the wilders and perhaps one or two other families. Then on No. 5 Road past the Gregg farm, lived a very old pioneer family named Mr. And Mrs. Hollings. They had four sons, the youngest of whom was killed in an accident while just an infant. The eldest, Henry, was the Henry Hollings who lived on No. 3 Road.

The third son died of pneumonia and the second son, Albert, may be still living on the home farm.

Toward Mill Bay on No. 5 Road; a side road leads northeasterly to the old catholic church. Mr. And Mrs. Hawkins lived on this road with their three sons, Thomas, Frank and Fred Thomas became an electrician and later was in business in Victoria. Eventually the Hawkins family left the settlement. I understand they sold to a Mr. And Mrs. McFarlane.


Further on down No. 5 Road towards Mill Bay was the Frank Garnett farm already mentioned as on Road no 3 Mr. and Mrs. Garnett had one son, George, better known as "Duff" and three daughters, Minnie the eldest, married George Frayne, Lettie married Pat Barry, and Carrie, the youngest, married Frank Driver, a brother-in-law of Frank Swanell of Victoria.


About one mile further, across Millstream was the Sam handy farm, right on the water-front Mr. And Mrs. Handy had one sone and three daughters. I have been advised that Rebecca, who married a logger name Hank Robinson is still living somewhere near Victoria on the Gorge Road.

In writing the foregoing narrative I may have missed some of the early pioneers, or perhaps misspelled some of the names, but in the main the above is a fair list of the early pioneers.


(George V Copley) December 31, 1968

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