The Community
Vancouver Island, BC, Canada.

image of old buildings from early Koksilah days circa 1800-1900

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Population: 2400
Location: Latitude:
49°08'00" Longitude: 123°55'00"
Native Bands: Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group > Cowichan, Chemainus, Penelakut, Lyackson, Halalt and Lake Cowichan
Name Place and History:
•Name: There are many reasons for the name. One is a native was found hanging on a tree about half a mile from the Koksilah railway station. The translation of the name means suicide.
Another meaning is a place where hunters with their dogs met in the early days before going hunting. There are many other given names but there is much uncertainty as to the proper translation.
• Koksilah is 27 miles (43.5 km) north from Victoria on the Trans Canada Island Highway #1.
• Koksilah Ridge ( Hwsalu'utsum )is an elevated area located south of the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. It is centered at 48 o 42' N, 123 o 47' W.
Its summit lies about 892 meters (2,927 feet) above sea level. It is visible in most of the Cowichan Valley and on the Saanich Peninsula north of Brentwood Bay.
• Koksilah has some of the finest farming land on Vancouver Island with thousands of aceres covering the region.
•First Settlers:
Probably the first white men to set foot in the Koksilah area were the surveyors sent from the government in Fort Victoria, and the representatives of the Hudson's Bay Co. The first settlers to arrive on a steamer at Cowichan Bay was in 1862. At that time there were already people living there.
John Nelson from Sweden was one of the first to meet the steamer when it arrived with his fresh produce from his farm. Mrs Nelson later bought a house in Koksilah in 1910.
•The settlers bought property at one dollar an acre. Those with the most money, bought the largest parcels of land.
•Some of the oldest families from Koksilah area were the Corefields, Dodds, McLays, Croziers, and Boles.
Robert McLay and his son Robert McLay Junior were contractors and built the Koksilah school house as well as other buildings in the area.
Some of the earliest farms in the area were the Paterson farm on Wilson Road, the Evans farm on the island highway, now the BC Forst Nursery on the Trans Canada Highway and the Prinham farm behind the Koksilan Hotel which covered the area between Mission Road and the CNR tracks to Cowichan Bay. Mrs Prinham was a daughter of Mr. Singer of the Singer Sewing Machine Co.
•Church and School:
Before the first real school was built back in 1910, the Koksilah School District was formed. A family called the Paterson Farmed alongside the Koksilah and with nine children living on the farm, a school was started in the Paterson home with other children in the area attending.
There was a United Church Mission and School in Koksilah with a Rev. Mr. Millar in charge. Miss Cliff was the teacher and the mission was in existence for about forty or more years. •1911 to 1912
The first teacher of the first one room school house was Inez Duncan. •The school house in Koksilah had grades one to eight inclusive, with a pot bellied stove, a water pump and John in the back, no lighting, one teacher, no school bus and very little money.
• Twenty two children attended classes, nine boys, and thirteen girls. The total for staff and salaries and school supplies for the year came to less than 1,000 dollars.
•One morning the janitor came to heat the school for the day.
On Thursday, January 21, 1914, the school burned down. On March 19, 1914, THE Cowichan Leader printed a column for tenders for a new one room school house at Koksilah, tenders to be in by April 3.
•In the same paper dated April 16, 1914, The contract for the new school has been let, the successful contractor being Robert McLay. The new school is to be a first class one, having a concrete basement as a recreation room. It is to be built on the old site and work will be begin at an early date. At present the school is being held in a tent near the old site, witch will prove very healthy for the summer months.
•Some of the students names who attended in 1912 were Ryan, Asada, Dawley, Fletcher, Docksteader, Gunn, Archer, Westwood.
•Huber was the longest serving teacher, she was there from 1930 to 1940. A miss MacKenzie, who taught from 1925 to 1928 was cousin to Lyon MacKenzie King.
•A feature of the school system in those days was the provision of a teacherage, (a house for the teacher).
•The school finally closed its doors in 1964 along with thousands of other one room schools before and since.
•Cowichan Indian Sweaters:
•The world renowned Cowichan Indian Sweater has its roots in Koksilah. In the 1860s settlers brought sheep to the area. The Sisters of St. Anne taught the native women to wash, card and spin the wool in preparation for Knitting.
•Mrs. Jeremina Colvin instructed then in the art of making Fair Isle patterns learned in her native Shetlands. This influence can still be seen today. Through the years, the Cowichan Sweater gained favor with all who wore them. In the early 1930s the knitting of the sweaters developed into a cottage industry.
These sweaters were sold by Mu. H. Corfield at the Canoe Store, Koksilah. The attractive, warm, water proof sweater fame spread throughout the continent. Movie stars and Royalty received them as gifts. Many native women became famous for their outstanding craftsmanship. Today the industry has grown beyond all expectations. The native people have their own woolen mill, and the Cowichan Indian Sweater is sold throughout the world. Article by Lois Evans (Harrison).
After the building of the railroad in 1886, many settlers came and the area flourished. Mr. James Boal Sr. built the Koksilah Hotel opposite the train station. Mr. John Ferneyhough later bought the hotel, and Mrs Ferneyhough operated the post office on the covered porch of the hotel. The hotel held 10 bedrooms including high class meals.
• The Shaker Church: 1937
• The Shaker Church burnt to the ground while holding a Christmas revival service. There were over one hundred people attending, everyone escaped.
• Blacksmith Shop: 1883
Christopher Ryan, who emigrated from Northern Ireland had the first blacksmith shop in Koksilah. The shop was situated on what is now called Cowichan Bay road.
•Koksilah Store: 1908
At one time was owned by Mrs. (Tarlton) Storey, mother of Dr. Vernon Tarlton of Duncan. Vernon attended Koksilah School in 1911.
• Silver Mine:
W.R. Robertson of Victoria, a prospector, discovered the Koksilah silver mine in the Koksilah mountain range. He purchased the first acreage in Koksilah as it was his custom when prospecting inside the Koksilah area to pick out the prime pieces of land, but he was not considered a settler, though he came often into the area. The silver mine was in back of Mount Baldy, at the head of the Koksilah River.
Out of Koksilah came:
Robert W. Service, the Bard of the Yukon, lived in the Koksilah area before going to the Yukon, where he attained fame and fortune as a poet to the world. Coming to the Cowichan district in 1898, Service worked for G.T. Corfield in his store and post office by the Koksilah River on Cowichan Bay Road.
• Yvonne Dingley, a jumper and hurdler, went on to represent Canada at the British Empire Games in Sydney in 1938.
• The youngest justice of the peace appointed in B.C., to date, is a former pupil of Koksilah.
• Kinsol Trestle
• Koksilah has a highway strip which is known for its old west style town. It has some restored buildings, antiques shops, restaurants, and a popular antique auction. Along the same strip is a night club and bar. The area also has a garden center, and farm equipment sales and repairs.
• Koksilah Acres - Alpaca Farm BC
• Bright Angel Park

Communities near Koksilah:
Duncan, BC
Cowichan Bay, BC
Cowichan Station, BC
Chemainus, BC
Crofton, BC
•Thetis Island, BC
Cobble Hill, BC
Mill Bay, BC
Cedar, BC

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