The year was 1852 and a fellow by the name of J.W. Mackay was looking for coal seams in the Union township area that would become Cumberland, Vancouver Island. He had to bushwhack his way through thick brush to reach the place he thought there might be coal. He was right. He found very good quality coal in the comox lake area. It was a few more years before another group of men came to follow his route and they confirmed that the coal seams he discovered were of high quality. The created the Union coal company. They lacked funding though and not much more was done until the Dunsmuir family moved into the area and formed the Union Colliery Company, this provided the capital that was needed to get at the coal. By the the early 1890s, high quality coal was being mined and the township that up to this time called Union was renamed Cumberland.
Union was already booming with construction by 1888 and now with the new coal mine in operation, the town grew quite fast, in 1898 it was incorporated as a city. The mine was using Chinese workers and they had built a community about half a mile way that became known as Chinatown, there were more than 2000 people living here.
Cumberland was a well laid out town and the people made every effort to keep it clean and beautiful, it still is a very pretty town. I have always enjoyed visiting here, its a great spot to stop and do some shopping before heading out to hike any of the local trails. Comox lake is just down the road and there is some pretty awesome fishing to be had in its deep waters, many rivers, waterfalls and campgrounds can be found in close proximity to Cumberland and the shops are bursting with local arts from the many artists and crafters who live here.
So if you want to see one of the islands oldest but well looked after towns and all that the surrounding wilderness has to offer, you must visit Cumberland, you will be amazed and pleased you visited. Please remember to bring your camera as you will want to take home memories of your journey.