Salt Spring Island History
Salt Spring Island’s namesakes are found in the northern part of the island on various private properties. While reputed to be unspectacular mineral springs, they nevertheless singled out this large island as being the only one not named for an explorer or his ship.
In 1859, the first settlers arrived on the island from all parts of the world. Many were Blacks from California, escaping the harsh state laws and looking for a place to farm. Unsurveyed land was virtually free on Salt Spring and by the end of that year 117 settlers had taken advantage of the fact.
A well preserved petroglyph at Drummond Park attests to the fact that the Coast Salish were here, as on the other islands, thousands of years earlier.
The first general store was opened at what is now Fernwood, on the north end of the island. Orchards were planted and livestock raised and more communities developed at Beaver Point, Fulford and Burgoyne Bay.
Other immigrants to Salt Spring arrived from Portugal, Scandinavia and Hawaii. The Hawaiians, or Kanakas as they were called then, came to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company and settled on the island.
A famous pioneer family, the Mouats, came from the Shetland Islands. Their ancestors still run a number of the island’s businesses.
While the high cost of shipping and the development of the Okanagan orchards ended the province’s demand for Gulf Island produce, Salt Spring lamb is still popular.