In British Columbia history, the time before European explorers reached our shores is referred to as 'pre-contact'. During this period it is known that indigenous peoples cut down cedar trees for use in buildings, and stripped individual planks from trees to use as boards. These remaining cedars are known today as 'culturally modified' trees.
European explorers who reached our shores by ship, cut fir trees as spars or masts for their ships in the late 1700's, taking additional cargos home for use in naval yards. American sawmills in Washington & Oregon state also reached north for timber. Captain William Brotchie attempted an unsuccessful spar business, running his barque Albion aground in 1849 on a reef south of Victoria harbour which now bears his name, Brotchie Ledge.
Today's Brotchie Ledge Beacon
The Hudson's Bay Company is credited with building the first sawmill in BC, at Victoria in 1848. It may have exported lumber to Washington State and even to Hawaii. This painting depicts both the sawmill (on the right) and a grist mill on Millstream near today's Six Mile Pub.
This was followed by an improved 2nd mill, and a mill in Nanaimo also by HBC.
Captain William Stamp (Stamp Falls) built a sawmill in Alberni in 1858, which ran out of logs soon after. Stamp went on to greater fame in Vancouver, a story which will be told later on this blog.