Chemainus is a community founded as a logging town in 1858 on the east coast of southern Vancouver Island, about 36 miles (58 km) southwest of Vancouver and 24 miles (39 km) northwest of Sidney, British Columbia. The name comes from the native shaman and prophet Tsa-meeun-is meaning “broken chest”. The shaman survived a massive wound to his chest from an arrow in battle and become a powerful chief. The tribe people adophis name to identify their community, the Stz’uminus First Nation, formerly the Chemainus Indian Band.
In the 1850s, the burgeoning logging industry on Vancouver Island was beginning to demand more extraction and processing ability than was available on the largely unsettled central island. The town of Chemainus was established as a center of support for the area logging industry. In 1862, a sawmill was built and Chemainus quickly became the hub of log processing on the east coast of Vancouver Island with the ability to strip, cut, stack, and ship the boards out of one port. The Chemainus mill operated at capacity for much of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. By the time World War II was over, the mill was nearly 80 years old, and was showing its age. More efficient mills had been built in the area, and production in Chemainus was declining.
In the 1980s, British Columbia’s forest industry experienced a period of deep recession, largely caused by a substantial decrease in demand and price of forest products. This decrease came as a consequence of increases in global competition within forest product markets, the reduction in Vancouver Island forest stocks, issues regarding aboriginal land claims, and the increased public support for environmental groups. This transition placed a heavy burden on coastal single-industry forest communities like Chemainus due to rising unemployment. Restructuring of the forest industry resulted in an overhaul of the local sawmill with automated, state-of-the-art, machinery installed. This restructuring and the declining forest industry led to a reduction in the labour which ultimately forced diversification of the local economy. Read more here and here. Explore more of Chemainus here: