The Village of Cumberland has a facinating history that is a significant part of our appeal to visitors, investors and new residents. Once Canada’s smallest and westernmost city, Cumberland was a bustling coal mining community from 1888 to 1966, with workers streaming in from Europe, China and Japan.
Cumberland was founded in 1888 by coal baron Robert Dunsmuir. The original settlement was named Union after the Union Coal Company. In 1898, the post office address of Union was changed to Cumberland, as many of the town miners were from the famous English coal-mining district of Cumberland in England.
Cumberland was also once home to the fifth largest Chinese settlement in British Columbia, where two 400-seat theatres hosted touring Chinese singers and acrobats. It is said that the former Chinatown was modelled after the village of Canton in China, hometown of most of the Chinese miners.
Cumberland remained an active coal mining town until 1966, enduring devasting mine explosions, 2 world wars and bitter labour disputes. Cumberland had become an important centre for local trade and commerce and distinct ethnic settlements were established. But as the coal industry declined, the local population decreased. In the past 20 years Cumberland has begun to reclaim and celebrate its history and is slowly transforming from a sleepy village into a major destination!
This HERITAGE AND RECREATION MAP gives an overview of historic sites and recreation opportunities in the Village of Cumberland.
The children and grandchildren of the families who built the Village play a huge role in keeping the stories alive. New residents are delighted to hear the tales of the coal mining, logging, multi-cultural, political, business and labour history of the Village. The Cumberland Museum is home to the extensive archives and artifacts on the Village of Cumberland. They offer research services and guided tours and feature a replica coal mine, a Women’s History display, turn of the century Japanese Photography, a BC Tel History Exhibit and more!
On Union Road east of the village are the Japanese Cemetery, the Chinese Cemetery, and on Minto Road is the Cumberland Cemetery and the burial site of Ginger Goodwin, a popular labour leader whose slaying in 1918 lead to riots across the Country.
A self guided Heritage Walking Tour of the Village is available at the Cumberland Museum. Or just stroll down the streets and alleys to see first hand the charming turn of the century homes, bridal cabins, heritage plaques, story boards, parks and heritage trees and shrubs. Take a stroll down to the#6 Memorial Mine Park or walk along the old Chinatown site, now a tranquil marsh, home to osprey, hooded mergansers and other waterfowl. See the Comox Valley Nature Viewing Guide for spots in and around Cumberland to view wildlife and special eco-systems.
Watch a video of Cumberland historical photos! Courtesy of the Cumberland Museum. Music by Gordon Carter.