View of the Cowichan Valley from Hill 60

View of the Cowichan Valley from Hill 60

Hill 60 named for local soldiers in First World War

Hill 60 refers to the long hill that stretches between the Paldi turnoff to the top of the hill (the straight stretch) on Highway 18.

Hill 60, we’ve all heard the name before. To most of us it refers to the long hill that stretches between the Paldi turnoff to the top of the hill (the straight stretch) on Highway 18.

Fewer know that the section of the highway traverses the lower part of a 2,200 foot-high mountain, which was named Hill 60 decades before the highway and its straight stretch existed.

The name itself goes back to the First World War (1914-1918) when in 1915 “Canadian soldiers distinguished themselves by taking and holding Hill 60 (the Battle of Hill 60) in Flanders, near Ypres in France.

Since there were several Cowichan Valley men who fought in the successful engagement, the folks back home decided to honour their bravery by naming the nearby mountain which runs between Lake Cowichan and Duncan, Hill 60.

In 1917, the Government of Canada Munitions Board decreed that “the little-known mineral, manganese, was of strategic importance in the making of munitions and steel,” (J. Fleetwood, 1985).

In the summer of 1918, two well-known local prospectors and miners named Thomas Service and Merlin Douglas — who both fought in the Battle of Hill 60 in France and were instrumental in naming the mountain after the battle — discovered ore on Hill 60 at the 2,000 foot elevation level.

The men staked three claims on the mountain as the assay levels were unusually high. They were joined by two additional partners who were also active miners and they formed the B. C. Manganese Incorporation.

The Canadian government chipped in with taxpayers money and provided half the cost of a wagon road (said to be four miles long) “from the mine to an ore bunker to Charter Siding, which was situated along the E & N Railway near the base of the mountain.” This was decades prior to the building of the old Lake Cowichan Road and Highway 18.

There was great demand for high quality manganese which was shipped to a manufacturer of Ferro-Manganese, in Tacoma, Washington.

Due to great demand, the partners began expanding their operation. In the winter of 1919-1920 they built an aerial tramway along the mountainside from the mine to the bunkers at Charter Siding below.

Unfortunately for the partners, they had waited too long because by then the war had ended and the post war depression hit the country.

By 1919, with manganese no longer in demand, the mine closed and eventually a new forest slowly took back the mountain.

Decades later the unused open-pit mine area was once again staked after the discovery of Rhodonite, which was used by “rock hounds.”

Over the years Cowichan Valley Hill 60 Rhodonite jewelry and souvenirs became very popular with tourists and locals and in its raw state was also mined and sold internationally.

The term Hill 60 has many origins but, to most of us, it denotes the long straight stretch on the road to Duncan.