You may think you know Quadra…but do you REALLY know Quadra?

Quadra Island. Many of us has visited it and enjoyed the feeling of peace that comes along with that short ferry ride.  Recently I was on a Museum at Campbell River boat tour that circumnavigated this island – the largest of the Discovery Islands.

History aside, it’s rugged beauty, the sea air, the delicious lunch at the Heriot Bay Inn, the mother humpback whale we saw with her baby.  It was unforgettable, and the view from the water gives you a completely different vantage point then driving on the island.  Fortunately, Quadra Island has a rich and vibrant history that we would love to share with you.  This remote island on the BC Coast has so many stories to tell. 




This coming Sunday, July 1, 2018, you can join us in circumnavigating the island and exploring some of these stories with your Museum guide, Alison.  There are a few spaces left and the weather forecast is calling for clear, sunny skies.  (Not that it matters.  I toured Sonora Island last weekend in pouring rain and we had a fabulous day despite the weather!)

Don’t forget that Museum members get discounts on boat tours!

Ripple Rock – new photo acquisitions!

A couple of years ago, Dudley Booth of Westbank, BC, approached the Museum with an exciting donation – 133 photographs of the Ripple Rock project.  Most of these were photos the Museum had never seen before.  They were taken by Alfred E. Booth, the donor’s father.  Alfred Booth worked on a government contract in Campbell River during the Ripple Rock project.  He took numerous pictures of the work being done to prepare for the detonation of Ripple Rock.  A number of photos were aerial shots of the worksite on Maude Island.  Other shots showed bunkhouses, boats, the cookhouse and other aspects of day to day life for the men working on the project.  Thank you Mr. Booth for the donation and for enriching the story of Ripple Rock that is held in our collections!

Here is a small sampling of the photos.

A few spots left on 4-Day Cruise aboard Columbia III

Myriad islands, snow-clad mountains, remote inlets, and tales of daring adventures are just part of the allure on the Museum at Campbell River’s four-day cruise of the Discovery Islands, Bute Inlet and Desolation Sound. The guided trip, May 21-25, is co-hosted by Mothership Adventures. 

Writer/historian Jeanette Taylor is the onboard guide, leading participants on daily shore excursions for short hikes to homesteads and archaeological sites. “Because we take no more than ten guests,” says Taylor, “we can take our time, and explore places like the lush tidal estuaries at the head of Bute Inlet,” says Taylor.

The tour starts and ends in Campbell River, following a winding route through the islands, with stops at places like Maud Island, a leisurely exploration of Desolation Sound Marine Park, and hikes along the trails of Mitlenatch Island bird sanctuary.

Taylor, whose BC Best-seller “Tidal Passages, a History of the Discovery Islands,” shares a wealth of stories about the intriguing characters who once lived in these isolated places. Though the region is now all but deserted, there were once many First Nations villages, homesteads and small settlements scattered throughout the region.

The impeccably restored Columbia III is the perfect vessel for this trip. She was built to serve this stretch of the BC coast over sixty years ago as a medical mission ship. “It’s like a homecoming for this boat when we stop at places like the old store and post office at Refuge Cove,” says Taylor.

The Mothership Adventures crew, a family-run business, is famous for their gourmet fare. They also share their passion for the birds, plants and marine life of this region, which has been home to the Campbell/Kornelsen family for four decades.

Only six spots remain on this cruise, at an all-inclusive price of $1795 per person, plus GST. For further information check the websites or, or call 1-888-833-8887.

International Women’s Day

Our region has a history of being home to some amazing women.  The rugged coast seems to attract strong women – women who could thrive away from the comforts of larger urban centres.  I can’t begin to name them all, and there were certainly many unsung heroines.  For one, I think any woman who lived in an isolated coastal floathouse and gave their families the comforts of home in these tiny floating shacks, deserves huge kudos.  But in honour of International Women’s Day, let’s name a few that have stood out in our region’s history.

mcr015624Pearl, Marion and Pansy Schnaar.  These girls were known for the pet cougars they kept, but what impressed me was how at quite a young age they would take care of the home and garden while their father was gone for many days at a time hand logging or hunting.  Their mother died when they were young, so they got to work doing all the chores needed around the homestead – whether it was canning food for the winter, taking care of livestock, or chopping firewood.

20 391-410Elizabeth Quocksister.  Today Elizabeth is often remembered as a gifted photographer who documented life on the Tyee Spit reserve.  Her photographs are an invaluable record of that time and place.  You can tell from her work that she cared deeply for her community, family and neighbours.  Her legacy goes deeper than those photographs however.  Together with her mother, Katie Ferry, Elizabeth spent countless hours teaching children traditional singing and dancing, helping to re-invigorate cultural activities in her community and Campbell River as a whole.  This was no small feat considering the politics of the time and the restrictions placed on First Nations people – especially women.

Ann Elmore Haig-Brown.  Her husband had a certain fame that came with his successful writing career, but without Ann he may not have risen to that level of notoriety.  For one, she typed all of his manuscripts for him, enabling him to submit his work to publishers.  Ann truly was a remarkable woman in her own right.  The list of her accomplishments and contributions to her community is lengthy, but perhaps one of the most mcr015191remarkable things she did was open her house to women and children in need.  Before Campbell River had a transition house (which is now named after her), she opened her doors and offered them a safe place to stay.

Happy International Women’s Day to the women of Campbell River and region – past and present – and to their daughters and granddaughters who are keepers of the stories of our past.

Break the St. Valentines Day Mould

February is here and with it comes Saint Valentine’s Day.  You could get flowers or go out for dinner, but didn’t you do that last year? Or the year before that? Or was it a heart-shaped box of chocolates last year?  They really all start to blend together in one big blur of roses, menus and cocoa.  Saint Valentine’s Day has so many clichés associated with it, so it’s about time to break out of that mould.  And we think exploring Campbell River’s history is the answer for you this Valentine’s Day.

This year the big day of romance fallsheart necklace on a Wednesday.  The Museum at Campbell River offers free admission on Wednesdays for locals. It must be a sign!  Exploring the exhibits with someone makes for a great first date.  There is perfect mood lighting in the exhibits, it’s warm and cozy and out of the rain, there are lots of things to discuss, and you can easily pass an hour or two without any awkward silences.  For those in more established relationships, taking the time to be a tourist in your own town can be very rewarding and offer up all sorts of date opportunities.

The Museum Shop is well stocked for St. Valentine’s Day.  You can find some great hand-made gifts that will be treasured for years to come.  Art makes a great gift, as seeing it every day on the wall can be a reminder of your love and devotion.  And of course, who doesn’t love getting jewellery.  The Shop has many jewellery items for sale, including a huge selection of hand carved one-of-a-kind pieces.

Dr. Samuel Campbell

Until recently, little was known of Dr. Samuel Campbell, the man who the Campbell River was named after.

From 1857 to 18mcr00938363, Captain G.H. Richards and the crews of the ships Plumper and Hecate were surveying the Northwest Pacific coast.  Dr. Samuel Campbell served as the Assistant Surgeon on both the Plumper and the Hecate.  At the time there was a dispute between the British and the Americans about the location of the International Boundary.  The 49th Parallel had been determined as the boundary, but once they reached the sea the course of the boundary line was unclear.  No good charts of the area existed at the time.  In such a vast region there were many features that the newcomers re-named in their charting process, and crew, friends, acquaintances, ships, animals and objects often found their names attached to bays, islands, mountains, inlets, and rivers.

Dr. Campbell was born in 1832 in Glenleary, County Donegal in Ireland.  Fifth born in a family of six, his family’s property went to his oldest brother, while he and his younger brother were encouraged to pursue a career in medicine.  Samuel began his studies at the University of Glasgow in 1851, and graduated with a medical degree in 1856.  Within six months he was appointed assistant surgeon on the Victory 101, and then shortly thereafter he was appointed to the H.M.S. Plumper.  At this time the ship surgeon and assistant surgeon were also responsible for reporting on the natural history of the areas surveyed.

In November 1857 the Plumper arrived at the naval base at Esquimalt Harbour, which at that point only consisted of three small huts.  Dr. Campbell was sent ashore to establish a hospital in one of the huts.  This would be the first hospital in the Colony.  Most ailments were treated on board, however seamen suffering from long illnesses or serious injuries were brought to the shore hospital.  Dr. Campbell remained there until the spring of 1859, when he once again took up his posting on the Plumper.  Immediately upon rejoining his ship he was chosen to accompany Lieut. R.C. Mayne on a survey up the Fraser River and into the interior of the Province.  On this trip they would cover approximately seven hundred miles in two months before rejoining their ship.

When the survey was complete, Admiralty Chart 2067 “Vancouver Island – Harbours in Discovery Passage, Broughton Strait and Goletas Channel” was published in February 1863.  The chart stated that the surveys were conducted by Captain G.H. Richards and the Officers of the H.M.S. Plumper in 1860.  This chart is the earliest cartographic reference to a waterway on Vancouver Island named the Campbell River.  Several other features in the region were also named after Dr. Campbell, including Campbell Bay and Campbell Point on Mayne Island, and Samuel Point adjacent to Mayne Island.

In his life he would go on to be appointed to ships in the Caribbean, the Chilean Coast, China, and Korea, among other areas.  In 1881 due to ill health he retired to County Donegal, spending his winters in the south of France.  He died in 1910 and was buried a short distance from the farm on which he was born.

A short book was written by Edward F. Meade entitled The Biography of Dr. Samual Campbell, R.N. Surgeon & Surveyer.  Copies of this book can be seen at the Museum at Campbell River’s Archives Research Centre.


Winners selected at 2017 Festival of Trees

After twenty days of voting, the results are in for the People’s Choice Award at the Museum at Campbell River’s Festival of Trees.  The winner is “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, a fun and creative tree decorated by Broadstreet Properties.  The tree features a fun assortment of brightly coloured, and very Seupeoples choice award winnersical, ornaments, as well as the Grinch himself half-buried in the tree.

A volunteer committee voted before the Festival opening for a number of awards.  The Most Traditional Award went to the Willows Tree, located in the Willows Hotel, and supported by Gary & Glen Thulin (Carl-Marg Holdings Ltd.).  The Most Unique Tree Award went to Broadstreet Properties.  The Best of Festival Award went to the Coast Discovery Inn & Peak Mortgages-N.I. Mortgages tree called “A Victorian Christmas”.

“It’s been a great year for the Festival of Trees” explains Museum spokesperson Erika Anderson.  “The companies that participated really put a lot of effort into decoratinbest of festivalg.  The people that came in to vote frequently expressed difficulty in choosing just one tree to win the People’s Choice Award.”

During the month of December the Festival of Trees is open daily from 10am to 5pm.  Admission to the Festival is free.  Bring your family and friends and stop by the Museum at Campbell River at 470 Island Highway to soak up some Christmas cheer.

Help us to restore the Del’s sign

Campbell River’s Del’s Drive in brings back memories for many locals.  Whether it was the zombie burgers, the friendly servers in go-go boots, or the Friday night’s hanging out in the parking lot with friends, Del’s was the place to be.  The iconic sign that was outside of the restaurant was donated to the Museum at Campbell River and has been selected as one of the 60 objects to be featured in the Museum’s 60th Anniversary exhibit.  Those that loved Del’s will be able to see it once again!

But there is a catch, and we need your help.

The sign needs extensive repairs to be in condition for display.  It is expected those repairs will cost around $5,000, and will include fixing the body of the sign and repairing and replacing the neon so that it can be turned on again.  It seems like a steep price, we know, but it needs to be done properly to maintain the integrity of this artifact, and we want it to be fully restored to operating condition.

If one thousand past friends, employees and patrons of Del’s each donated the cost of a burger – $5 – we could raise enough to have the sign fixed.  Of course bigger donations would go further, but today we challenge you to donate $5, then encourage your friends to donate $5 as well.  Forward this campaign to the people you know will remember Del’s.  Find this campaign on the Museum’s social media accounts and share it widely.  Together we will bring back to life this piece of Campbell River’s past.Del's sign even smaller

Steam Donkey will run again this year thanks to community support!

This year’s Labour Day celebration at the Museum at Campbell River came close to having to be cancelled due to problems with the Steam Donkey that were identified in an inspection earlier this year.  This annual event is attended by hundreds of people and is the biggest event happening on Labour Day in Campbell River each year.  As soon as the problems were identified, Museum staff and volunteers started to look for solutions, knowing they were on a tight deadline.  Thankfully due to efforts on several fronts, the festivities will be able to proceed this year as scheduled.


Norm Fair, a Museum supporter and volunteer who was involved in the initial restoration of the Steam Donkey, became involved as soon as he heard that the machine, originally built in 1916, needed repairs. “For me, it is about the volunteering of the community.  People rallied to help out the Museum when they needed it.  It shows once again the amazing sense of community spirit in Campbell River.”


Norm Grant, who operates the Steam Donkey for special events put in countless hours working at getting it back into running order.  He had previously helped rebuild some valves during the restoration of the Museum’s Steam Donkey, then Norm Fair talked him into volunteering to run it starting in 2006. “He’s a great arm twister” Norm explains.  Not only does Norm give up his Labour Day and sometimes Canada Day to run the Steam Donkey, he also meets annually with the inspector from the B.C. Safety Authority to ensure the machine remains safe to operate, and does any work needed to keep it in good running order.


Several local organizations were instrumental in meeting the tight deadlines. CR Metal Fabricators contributed donated time and materials to build a new smoke stack for the Steam Donkey, and the Campbell River Daybreak Rotary Club stepped up with a grant to cover repair costs.  Blake Leisch and welder Alfie Boudreau also contributed to the project.  The Steam Donkey required a series of non-destructive tests to prove that it was safe, and Kodiak Non-Destructive Testing Services from Nanaimo did the testing and donated their time and expertise to do it.


Overall it has been a community effort, and now the Museum is pleased to invite you for Labour Day, Monday, September 4, from noon to 3pm, to see the Steam Donkey running once again.  The popular donkey boiler coffee will be served, and the Glacier Heritage Equipment Club from the Comox Valley will be joining in this year with some of their antique tractors as well as a pole lathe demonstration.  Artist Pavel Barta will be there with a newly designed paper model of the Steam Donkey, and the Museum Lego collection will be out for free Lego play.


For more information go to or call 250-287-3103.  The Museum at Campbell River is located at 470 Island Highway.

The Ol’ Quinnie:  Simply a place to go and have a beer

This article appeared in Campbellton Magazine in 2014 and we are posting it here today as a tribute to the Quinnie that burnt down last night.

article by Catherine Gilbert

8018 Quinsam Hotel

An enduring symbol of old Campbellton, the Quinsam Hotel was built almost one hundred years ago, and is one of the few remaining heritage buildings in Campbell River from this time period.  It has survived through several owners and several eras, and continues to be a popular gathering place and unpretentious drinking establishment.

8027 Quinsam Hotel, opening

Affectionately known as “the Quinnie”, the hotel was under construction in 1917 but had an inauspicious beginning; it was the same year that Prohibition was enforced.  Since the builder, Tom Laffin had counted on alcohol sales to support his investment, he sold it while it was still under construction and dubbed it ‘the White Elephant’.  He only needed to wait a couple of years – Prohibition was short lived and ended in 1920.  Ken Bergstrom completed construction on the hotel, and was soon doing a roaring trade.

The third owner of the hotel, and one who had a colourful reputation was Jim English.  He was known about town as a character, and was nicknamed ‘the Bishop’.  English wasn’t new to the hospitality business; he had been operating a bootlegging business out of the Fisherman’s Lodge in Oyster River, and he used the proceeds to purchase the Quinsam in 1923.

In 1926, he added a café and barbershop.  An article in the Comox Argus dated July 25, 1929 gives a delightful description of the hotel as it was then:”

At a point near where the Island Highway swings close to the Campbell River, there has sprung up a settlement which has grown amazingly of late, namely, Campbellton, and near to the centre of it is the Quinsam Hotel.  It is run by Mr. Jim English, who has expanded it until it has become the chief building of Campbellton.

There were always a large number of loggers coming down the International Timber line, and the hotel was established primarily to cater to them, and twenty two rooms are provided where they can stay in comfort.

Since the building was re-modelled, Mr. English has added to it a café, where an excellent cook provides meals at all hours.  Regular meals are provided at reasonable prices and short orders are a specialty.  On the other side of the block is the barber shop, where Mr. William NcNeil will give the logger or anyone else, modern tonsorial service.”

English owned the bar for just over 35 years, then in 1959, Jack Ross went into partnership with him.  By this time English was no longer actively participating in the business, but he continued with his bootlegging – buying cases of liquor from the liquor store to sell to the customers who couldn’t get there before the 6:00pm closing time.  Ross remembered that English wore special pants that could carry and conceal his bottles, and he would walk down the middle of the street selling his wares.

1 Quinsam Hotel

When Jack Ross bought the bar, he knew nothing about the business but was looking for some independence and a way to make money.  He was good with math, and after reviewing the financial figures for the ‘Quinnie’, thought it would be a good investment.  He soon found out that he possessed another useful talent.  He had received training in wrestling while living in Edmonton, and this came in handy when he had to break up fights, which were a common, if almost daily occurrence.  His son-in-law Bruce Izard said that Ross was friends with the then famous wrestler Gene Kiniski who would come to the hotel to see him, but Kiniski couldn’t have a drink in the bar as so many fellows would challenge him to a fight.  Ross and Kiniski would have to meet in one of the hotel rooms to have their visit and share a drink.

When Ross took over the Quinsam, he kept the existing staff but worked the bar himself for the first few years.  He found that he like the bar business; “I could BS a lot” he said.  He had many regulars and made a point of knowing his patrons and calling them by name.  In those days, the Quinsam was strictly a beer parlour, and in his opinion, “it was the nicest place to drink”.

It wasn’t long before he decided to expand and in 1961 bought Crawford’s Store next door.  The beer parlour went from 125 to 200 seats, the cafe was added onto, and eight new hotel rooms went in above.  With the need for reception staff, waitresses in the cafe, cooks and extra bar staff, he had between 20-25 people working there.

The majority of his clientele were mill workers on their way home and loggers.  Women were allowed in the establishment but could only come in through the front entrance, and there was a separate entrance for men.  One day a woman came in asking if he had found any teeth the night before, and when he said ‘no’, she replied, “Then I must have left them in the Willows.”

Laws governing drinking establishments were quite rigid at that time.  One of the most challenging liquor laws to abide by was having to close the bar from 6:30 to 7:00pm; the idea being that patrons would go home for supper.  Ross said that it was often difficult to convince them to do so.  The tap was cut off at 11:30pm, and the establishment closed at midnight, and the bar was not allowed to be open on Sundays.

By 1967, Jack bought out the business from Jim English’s son Bob.  They were busy years.  Ross and his wife had six children and at one point he became President of the Rotary Club.  A couple of his children worked in the bar and his oldest went on to study hotel management and to run the Arbutus Hotel in Courtenay.

While Ross owned the Quinsam, he said that only men served in the bar, and in those years there was no entertainment.

He sold in the Quinsam in 1976 to Eli Katz who changed the name to the ‘Kerdan’.  Katz had the idea that there should be entertainment in the form of dancing girls, so he put plywood over the pool table to make a ‘stage’ for them.  He sold the hotel to an insurance adjuster who did away with the dancers and lost money.  Katz went on to purchase the Douglas Hotel in Victoria.

John Jerry owned the Quinsam from 1982 to 1989 and one of the most significant changes he made was to bring in bands to play every night except Sundays, until the laws changed and Sunday opening was also allowed.  Some bands would stay for as long as two weeks if the patrons liked them.  On his time as a bar owner Jerry commented: “If only the building could talk.”

Jerry sold the business to John and Bonnie Uzzell.  Their daughter Crystal said her father John was a very hands-on owner, and despite having a manager, would do every job from clearing tables to getting behind the bar.  Her mother Bonnie worked more behind the scenes and looked after the books and other details.  It was a family affair, and Crystal and her husband Mike Modras operated the café for many years.  During the years the Uzzells owned the Quinsam, they procured a licence to sell liquor and opened the liquor store that was attached to the building at the back parking lot.  Crystal has fond memories of all the regular customers, who were very supportive when the family lost John Uzzell to a tragic accident in 2001.  His wife Bonnie sold the business in 2009.

It was then purchased by the Cape Mudge Band.  General Manager Blair Wells says that the only change the Band made was to move the liquor store and its licence to their property at Quinsam Crossing in 2011.  Other than that, the hotel has remained the same, with live bands playing Fridays and Saturdays, karaoke on Sundays and Thursdays, and daily food specials.  The café is still a popular spot for breakfast and lunch.

As Blair Wells says, “It’s a one of a kind place, not a cookie cut like so many of today’s pubs.”  It could be this sense of uniqueness and the feeling that the Quinsam retains ties to the past that keeps people coming.  Today’s patrons enjoy the old fashioned ambience the ‘Quinnie’ provides – like a place where time stands still.