With its landscape of massive old growth forests, the picturesque Bowen Island is home to a bounty of many different types of sought-after timbers like red cedar, Douglas fir and Sitka spruce. Offering plenty of this natural resource and an ideal location between Vancouver Island and the Mainland, Bowen Island’s logging industry has enjoyed a long and lucrative history.
Inhabitants of the area had been using these massive trees for centuries, and even decades. However, its logging industry only began in the late 19th century. The first recorded large tract logging on Bowen Island started with an 850-acre property at Tunstall Bay. After a change of ownership, the land was sold to a large Chemanius company, Croft and Angus in 1887. Two years later, Victoria Lumber and Manufacturing Company, took over and by 1899, it had doubled its production capacity. The property once again was sold, this time to Western Explosives Limited in 1909. As a supplier for the east coast of Vancouver Island, as well as for the construction of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo railway, the company enjoyed swift success in its early days, and logging quickly expanded to other parts of the island as well.
Aside from sheer wealth, Bowen Island’s logging history brought many employment opportunities for its residents. There were a variety of jobs available, from the swampers who trimmed felled trees into logs, to the barkers who removed the bark from the tree, and the sawfillers who maintained and repaired the saws in the saw mill – there were workers of every skill and variety at the logging camps. Commonly earning up to $2.00, these jobs brought in workers from both near and far who wanted to get their share of the wealth.