Cumberland is a community steeped in history. Once Canada’s smallest westernmost city, Cumberland was a bustling coal mining community from 1888 to 1966 with miner’s entrepreneurs and their families streaming in from across Canada, the US Europe, China, and Japan.
Founded in 1888 by coal baron Robert Dunsmuir, Cumberland’s original settlement was named Union after the Union Coal Company. In 1898, the post office address of Union was changed to Cumberland and many of the town’s streets are named after the famous English coal mining district of Cumberland, England. The area was also home to the fifth largest Chinese settlement in British Columbia as well as a small Black Community and three Japanese settlements at #1 Town, Royston Sawmill and #5 Town.
Cumberland remained an active coal mining town until 1966, enduring devastating mine explosions, 2 world wars and intense labour disputes. It was a major centre for trade and commerce on Vancouver Island, shipping coal to markets worldwide. But as the coal industry declined, the local population decreased and workers left the community or shifted to logging, fishing, and other industries on Vancouver Island.
In the past 20 years Cumberland has shifted once again from a sleepy little village to a significant destination for outdoor recreation, culture and tourism. The children and grandchildren of the families who built the Village play a huge role in keeping the stories alive and new residents are delighted to hear the tales of the coal mining, logging, multicultural, political, business, and labour history of the Village.
Cumberland invites you to come and explore our rich history and our exciting future!