Hornby Island History

River Otter, Hornby Island, British Columbia

Hornby Island history is interesting and goes way back in time. It is in the traditional territory of the Ko’moks First Nation, a Coastal Salish band who called the Island Ja-dai-aich, meaning The Outer Island.

It was first “discovered” by European peoples with the Spanish coming across the island, and naming it Isla de Lerena in 1791 after the Spanish Finance Minister, Don Pedro López de Lerena, Count of Lerena who had supported their explorations of the area.

The first “settlers” of the land were two men from Devon, England named George Ford and Henry Maude, who hailed and arrived in the late 1860’s. Ford settled around the area now named after him in the southwest part, while Maude’s land included beautiful Tribune Bay and Whaling Station Bay. Eventually between them they owned 40% of the island.

Whaling Station Bay on the northeast side of Hornby Island operated as a successful whaling port from 1871, until the subsequent decimation of the whale population.

Hornby Island, British Columbia

The population grew more slowly than with many of the other islands, due no doubt to Hornby Island’s more remote location. By 1900, much of the rest of Hornby Island had been claimed by other settlers but the population in 1905 was still only 32.

The H.M.S. Tribune, after which Hornby’s southern Tribune Bay was named, was a 31 gun screw frigate which arrived from China in 1859 in order to augment the fleet on account of the San Juan Island boundary dispute with the Americans.

Hornby Island’s industries included the usual BC island industries such as fishing, logging and farming. The greatest growth was in the 1920’s when a Women’s Institute and a Farmers’ Institute were founded, and later a one room schoolhouse, and community hall were built. The first tourist accommodation at Hornby Island Lodge at Tribune Bay followed. By 1930, the population had reached 100.

The next major spurt of development happened in the 1950’s with the building of the first church, the establishment of a regular car ferry service and the provision of electricity by B.C. Hydro. A co-op was established shortly thereafter.