Quadra Island History

The Coast Salish made Quadra Island their home until the arrival of Captain George Vancouver in 1800. He writes of visiting their village at Cape Mudge in 1792 and finding a settled community with long houses, boats and approximately 350 residents.

It was not his arrival, however, that drove them out, but rather an invasion by other First Nations people arriving in the early 19th Century. The We Wai Kai band of the Kwagiulth continue to live in the village of Cape Mudge today.

Quadra, which was named after a Spanish naval officer, was a pristine wilderness until the 1880’s when logging and mining interests discovered its riches. It became one of the few Gulf Islands where mining could be profitable.

The Lucky Jim mine opened in 1903 and for a time it yielded tonnes of gold and copper ore. A fish-canning plant also flourished in the early 1900’s, at its heyday employing between 200-300 workers. It burnt down in 1941 and was never rebuilt.

By 1904, Quadra had two post offices, a school, hotel, lumber camps, mills, and a mission. A passenger ferry started in 1949 and a car ferry in 1960.

The first public school on Quadra was built by the Kwagiulth people at Cape Mudge in 1893, under the guidance of the last hereditary chief of the We Wai Kai band, chief Billy Assu. He was also responsible for building up the band¹s fishing fleet, still flourishing today.

Unfortunately the Lucky Jim mine became unlucky in 1925 and also suffered a fire. The forest fire which resulted was a major disaster. It was the third of three major fires which devastated the island. Old growth timber, homes, mines, logging, all disappeared in smoke and Quadra took a long time to recover, sliding into an economic slump which lasted until well after the Great Depression.