COMOX HARBOUR (or PORT
AUGUSTA) for centuries has provided shelter for ocean travelers and marine
explorers. It has been known by many names, but it was best known as "THE LAND
OF PLENTY" by the local Komoux natives, who lived here for centuries before
European explorers arrived ....The well-known "Beaver" was one of the early
exploration ships that made marine history.
Acrylic on Canvas
Courtesy of Bill Maximick
The boats and ships came
to the Comox Valley for many reasons; to explore, to trade, to survey, to work,
and like many today, to rest and enjoy the beauty of the area.
This partial summary of
the Marine History Events that helped shape the development of our communities
is not intended to be complete. Want to see YOUR marine history pictures up
here? We are always interested in old photos of ships, boats, or local scenery
to put up on our pages for all to enjoy. Please contact us by phone or e-mail.
Harbour Marine History
Capt. Vancouver & the
"Discovery" explore the Inside Passage. Two Spanish Capt.'s, Galiano and
Valdes investigate the Comox area and meet Capt. Vancouver near Texada
The Hudson Bay
Company's "Beaver", built in 1835, searches the South and East coast of
Vancouver Island for suitable locations for new Trading Posts. The "Beaver"
is the 1st steamboat to be used on the coast, but keeping up steam for 3-4
days travelling, meant 26 cords of wood had to be cut by her 13 woodcutters.
A replica of the
Courtenay River named
for Capt. Courtenay of the HMS Constance from Esquimault, one of the vessels
that first used Augusta Bay & Goose Spit for Gunnery practice.
HBC sends Joseph Wm.
McKay to Comox to look for Coal deposits by canoe.
HBC commissions the "Otter", which arrives from England in 1853, and becomes
the 1st propeller driven steam boat on the BC coast.
Governor James Douglas
visits the Comox area on the Beaver, and sees the agricultural potential of
The British frigate
"H.M.S. Tribune" is in the area as a territorial presence.
Capt. George Henry
Richards aboard the "H.M.S. Plumper" surveys the Baynes Sound area,
reporting enthusiastically of the potential for a settlement, and the safe
Governor Douglas issues
a land and settlement proclamation designed to lure settlers to other areas
of the coast than Victoria.
First wave of European
settlers arrive in Comox aboard "The Grappler".
Wm. & James Robb take title to the area on the shores above Augusta Bay,
which becomes known as 'The Landing.' The rest of the settlers stake areas
on the prairie along the Courtenay River.
Grappler at the end of her career
First shipment of cattle
arrive in Augusta Bay, aboard the schooner "Douglas". To unload they are
pushed overboard and herded to the shore by canoes.
British Navy Gunboats and the Hudson Bay Co are expected to supply regular
boat service of mail and supplies to the area.
In fact, service to the area is better measured in months than weeks.
Settlers campaign to get regular schooner service for mail & supplies to
The "Beaver" is leased by British Admiralty and begins extensive charting of
the Inside Passage.
Exploring Expedition and Dr. Robert Brown, survey the Puntledge, Courtenay
and Brown's Rivers, who confirms coal is plentiful and of high quality.
H.M.S. Sutlej, Elias, &
Sparrowhawk come to Comox to resolve problems with whiskey trading.
The screw steamer "James
Douglas" commences regular service to "Port Augusta."
Hudson Bay Post opened, supplies, trade goods and A.G.Horne, manager,
brought by the "Otter".
A.G. Horne recommends
the HBC Post be moved closer to the anchorage, this idea is ignored by his
Salt cured salmon becomes an export product of BC.
British Columbia joins
A wharf is built at 'The
Landing' for $3,337. It consists of a pier 1035 ft. long and 12 ft wide, and
the wharf head is 50 X 60 ft across.
This allows freight and passengers to be landed without needing transfer to
smaller boats for delivery to shore.
Joseph Rodello buys lots
on Wharf Rd, building a store on one side and eventually the Elk Hotel on
Road & Dock
'The Wharf' has become
central to the surrounding community, providing a link to the rest of the
coast and the world.
Before roads connected the various small communities; canoes, rafts, and row
boats delivered goods and people through out the area. The 'Royston-Comox
Taxi' delivered men to and from the Elk Hotel, and eventually the Lorne
Hotel for evenings.
Mail delivery by boat to Comox is still proving unpredictable.
The "Maude", built in
1871, begins mail service to Port Augusta, with Capt. Joseph Spratt. She is
the first of a number of vessels to undertake the Mail contract.
Goose Spit becomes a Royal Navy training base.
Joseph Rodello builds
the 1st Elk Hotel across from his store on wharf road
Cariboo & Fly, also owned by J. Spratt services Comox & Union to Naniamo.
Cariboo & Fly Loading Freight
Hudson Bay Post closes;
unwilling to compete with Rodellos' store and the other steamer service,
this further reinforces 'The Landing's' as the center of commerce.
Lorne Hotel built by John Fitzpatrick.
Rodello's first store
burns, he rebuilds within 2 years.
The "Beaver" is towing
logs from the Trent River to Vancouver Mills as her career wanes.
Princess Louise begins
regular service to the Valley.
Mail Contract goes to
the "SS Robert Dunsmuir" which also later delivers supplies to Comox.
Salmon Hatcheries begin
in 4 locations in the province, the first year they rear 1.8 million fry.
Coal seams opened at
Cumberland, and the lumber industry develops to supply the coal mines, and
the growing community.
James & Alexander
Dunsmuir launch the 1st single purpose tow boat built in BC. "The Lorne's"
3rd inaugural trip was an overnight celebration to Comox. She was to return
to the area frequently in years to come.
The "Isobel" begins 2
trips a week to Comox & Union Bay, bringing miners and supplies, this run
continues till 1892.
Clearing away the silt
Photo From Mrs. P. Currie
SS Joan, built in 1892,
begins service from Naniamo to Comox & Union Bay, for E & N Shipping. She
continues until mid 1907, when she burns at the Vancouver dock. Telegraph
Offices open at Comox & Union Bay.
in Comox Bay
Photo from Mrs. P. Currie
"City of Naniamo"
'The City of Naniamo",
built in 1891 and sister ship to "Joan" changes routes with her, and stays
in service to Comox till 1911.
The Royal Navy are to become frequent visitors to Port Augusta, Goose Spit
"Flora", "Grafton", "Bonaventure" "Egeria", "Algerine" and "Shearwater"
being only a few of the many RN ships that will come to Comox to rest &
Egeria in Comox Bay
Shearwater in Comox Harbour
Painting by Bill Maximick
Shearwater & Algerine
J.B. Holmes, builds
the Port Augusta Hotel, which also operates as a store and occasionally a
"SS Otter"(2), built
1900, begins a scheduled run which includes Comox for the CPN.
"SS Cowichan" stops in
Comox as part of Union Steamships scheduled service.
"H.M.S. Rainbow" is at
the Spit for training. Photo to right has 2 crew from the "Rainbow".
The road from Nanaimo to Courtenay is completed, 47 years after it was
promised in 1863.
Left to right, James Davies, sailor,
sailor, George N. Davies (2nd), David Davies.
note: George, James and David Davies were sons of British Columbia's first
fulltime lighthouse keeper George Nicholas Davies 1st and his wife Rosina
Warner (British Columbia's first female light keeper). They arrived in
British Columbia aboard the Grecian ship in 1860, having departed from
London, England, and worked at both the Fisgard and Race Rocks lights.
Photo taken in the 1800's when Joyner Studio existed in Nanaimo, British
Courtesy Joy Davies. Added March 2004.
CPR begins service to
the area with the "Princess Mary" with overall length at 210 feet.
Jack Martin begins rebuilding the Elk Hotel.
Warships in the Bay
SS Mary pulling out
Photo from Mrs. P. Currie
Charmer at the dock
Photo from Mrs. P. Currie
"The Mary" is changed
for "The Charmer" by CPR. "The Charmer" was launched in 1887 as "The
"The Charmer" is converted to oil in 1924 & stays on this run till 1932.
The mail is coming
daily from Naniamo on the E & N Railway.
steams away from Comox, taking the 102ND Battalion, with many local sons &
lovers to serve in WW1 in their ranks.
Prohibition begins in Canada, closing the local hotels as well.
The Lorne & Elk Hotels
are renovated & reopened when Prohibition is repealed in BC.
The new owner of the Elk, d'Esterre has an idea that begins Tourism.
upgrading of the Annex (Old Port Augusta) and advertises in Vancouver &
Victoria. His ads boast of Tennis Courts, Golf, Boating, Swimming, Hunting
Tyee Fishing, a new Dining room and Electric lights.
Following in the footsteps of the Terminal Steam Navigation Co, d'Esterre
added Comox to the holiday destinations of the day.
Comox Bay becomes known as a Tyee Salmon Fishing Spot bringing visitors
from all over the world.
The Annex to the Elk
Hotel is destroyed by fire.
"The Mary" returns to
the Comox run after conversion to oil and remains in the area till the
The Comox King Salmon
Club is formed, One of their main objectives; to build a dock for members
to tie up their small row boats.
R. Filberg donated the logs to build the docks.
History of British Columbia; G Woodcock, Hurtig Publishers , 1980
Land of Plenty A History of the Comox Valley; Isenor,McInnes, Stephens, Watson;
Ptarmigan Press, Campbell River, BC,1987.
Ships of Canada's Naval Forces, 1910-1981, McPherson & Burgess
The Friendly Port; J.Glover-Geidt,Kask Graphics Ltd., Campbell River, BC, 1990
The Princess Story; Hacking & Lamb, Mitchell Press, Vancouver, BC, 1974
Union Steamships Remembered,
Westcoasters, Boats that built BC; Tom Henry, Harbour Publishing, Maderia Park,
This page originally researched by Diane Weir.