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A Place Called Cumberland

Cumberland Museum & Archives

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Established as a coal mining camp in the late nineteenth century and now reborn as a centre of arts, culture, and outdoor recreation in Vancouver Island’s Comox Valley, Cumberland has long fostered a strong sense of community that has attracted residents from all over the world. In this collection of riveting historical accounts, touching personal memoirs, and engaging creative non-fiction essays—complemented by more than two dozen historical and contemporary photos—writers with ties to Cumberland and the Comox Valley reveal lesser-known aspects of the region’s colourful past.

We hear about Joe Naylor, the unsung mentor to celebrated labour activist Ginger Goodwin, and the immigrants from countries like China and Italy who crossed oceans to work in the mines and build a new life. The story of the Ogaki family, active in the logging industry until their forced relocation to internment camps during World War II, demystifies the origins of the Japanese-Canadian comfort dish Cumberland Chow Mein. The aftermath of a collapsed rail trestle and the criminal exploits of "The Flying Dutchman" speak to the prejudices and priorities of the early twentieth century. Biographies of Diana Bruce, the first hotelier in Cumberland, and Dr. Irene Mounce, a pioneering mycologist raised in the village, illustrate the challenges faced—and overcome—by women of the era. Closer to the present, we hear of the grassroots trailbuilding work that put Cumberland on the mountain biking map, and how efforts at building affordable housing in the community led to the carving and installation of two welcome poles by local First Nations carvers, to help make more visible the long history and continued presence of the K’ómoks people in the area. 

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