TOP 5 EVENTS IN THE HISTORY OF SECHELT
SECHELT, BC — DECEMBER 31, 2008 — Local real estate agent Gary Little spoke at the opening of the new Sechelt Spirit Square on New Year's Eve. The topic was Top 5 Events in the History of Sechelt. This is a copy of his speech.
Good evening Mr. Mayor, ladies & gentlemen, boys & girls.
Tonight we are here to formally open Spirit Square, built to honour the 150th birthday of British Columbia.
So this is the perfect time to reflect on some of the important events in the history of Sechelt which have helped shape our community.
I have selected 5 important events from the 217 years of recorded history of Sechelt. I'll discuss them in chronological order.
1. First European Explorers 1791-1792
JULY 10, 1791
JOSE MARIA NARVAEZ IS FIRST EUROPEAN TO VISIT THE SUNSHINE COAST
Most people do not know this, but the first recorded European explorer to set foot on the mainland of British Columbia actually did so within the boundaries of today's District of Sechelt.
The date was July 10, 1791, the explorer was Josť MarŪa NarvŠez of Spain, and the place was near Mission Point at Davis Bay.
Narvaez, the first explorer to enter Georgia Strait, had anchored near the point so he could go ashore and get fresh water from Chapman Creek.
The District of Sechelt will place an historic marker near this site within a few weeks.
The year after NarvŠez visited, George Vancouver arrived and surveyed the length of the Sunshine Coast in detail. Vancouver we've all heard of, but remember that NarvŠez was first.
2. Settlement by Pioneers 1869-1900
MAY 25, 1869
JOHN SCALES FIRST TO RECEIVE LAND GRANT ON SUNSHINE COAST
After Vancouver left our area in June 1792, it would be almost another century before European settlement of the Sunshine Coast began.
These pioneering settlers joined about 21,000 natives who were in the Sunshine Coast area by the mid-1800s.
John Scales, a retired Royal Engineer, was first: he received a 150-acre military land grant on Trail Bay in 1869. He later acquired 110 acres fronting Sechelt Inlet. These lots today include the entire village of Sechelt.
Other pioneers arrived in the last decades of the 1800s: Frederick Sargeant, William Wakefield, James Wilson, Herman Carlson, Thomas Roberts, Thomas John Cook, and Bert Whitaker.
Who were these settlers? They were a hardy bunch of loggers, fishermen, and farmers trying to survive without the conveniences of the big city.
Whitaker probably had the most impact: he bought Scales' land and operated the wharves and established many service business right here in the area between Trail Bay and Porpoise Day. His mini-empire was eventually acquired by Union Steamships in the 1920s.
3. Union Steamship Company 1889-1959
JULY 18, 1891
FIRST UNION STEAMSHIP VESSEL COMES TO THE SUNSHINE COAST
The formation of Union Steamship in 1889 was the catalyst for growth and development of the Sunshine Coast in the first half of the 20th century.
USSCo itself was set up to serve all the tiny communities of fisherman and loggers which had sprung up along the coast north of Vancouver all the way to Alaska. The ships allowed rural families to flourish despite the isolation and lack of modern conveniences of the big city. Just as importantly, they also opened up our area to tourism for the first time.
The first recorded trip to the Sunshine Coast was on July 18, 1891 — a day excursion to Pender Harbour.
Many wharves, or landings, soon sprung up to attract the steamships.
USSCo promoted our coast as an idyllic tourist destination. We were the Gulf Coast Riviera in those days. 1000s of visitors came in these steamships — the glory days were the 1920s and 1930s.
Here in Sechelt, there were wharves at Davis Bay and Trail Bay where the big steamers stopped.
The most popular stop, though, was at USSCo's Selma Park resort where people flocked for swimming, sunbathing, hiking, fishing, picknicking, tennis... and dancing. Except for Bowen Island, we were the busiest recreational destination north of Vancouver.
4. Black Ball Ferries 1951-1961
AUGUST 11, 1951
START OF CAR FERRY SERVICE TO THE SUNSHINE COAST
By the 1950s USSCo's business was suffering because people fell in love with the convenience of the automobile and they wanted to vacation where they could drive.
Then, in 1951, Black Ball Ferries arrived in BC to provide "drive-on drive-off" service to the Sunshine Coast. This spelled the end of the USSCo's business.
Black Ball opened up the floodgates. More tourists came here. The roads were improved. And the population of the coast grew because people could get here easily and isolation was no longer an issue.
The first ferry could handle only 48 cars and made only 5 round trips daily. In the first 6 months it handled over 66,000 passengers, 10,000 cars, and 3,500 trucks. Its popularity led to the acquisition of a second ferry and the addition of more runs.
Black Ball was bought out by the BC government in 1961 and was merged into the BC Ferries operations.
5. Sechelt Indian Band Independence 1986
OCTOBER 9, 1986
SECHELT INDIAN BAND IS FIRST TO ATTAIN SELF-GOVERNMENT
1986 was another important year in the history of Sechelt.
First, the District of Sechelt was created, an extension of the Village municipality which pushed the boundaries to Wilson Creek, Tuwanek, and West Sechelt.
However, the biggest news that year was the passage of the Sechelt Indian Band Self-Government Act, proclaimed on October 9, 1986.
It created a unique third order of the government in Canada, setting up the SIB as the first indigenous Band in Canada to develop its own Constitution and to take formal fee-simple ownership of their reserve lands.
No longer would the SIB have to answer to the Department of Indian Affairs. They controlled their land, managed it, and provided their own services. After years of federal oversight, they had achieved self-government and independence — establishing a model for others to follow.
So there you have it. Five important events — spanning almost 200 years — in the history of Sechelt, the source of the spirit embodied in our new community square.
Gary Little, realtor®
Royal LePage Sussex
5485 Wharf Ave., P.O. Box 65
Sechelt, BC V0N 3A0
This news release is located online at: http://www.GaryLittle.ca/pr-20081231.html