There is no shortage of books, newspaper articles, maps and documents that tell the interesting story of Youbou’s past.
The area now known as Youbou was called Cottonwood in its early days.
As has been mentioned in past columns, Youbou was indeed a place were history was not just made but also recorded and preserved. From its earliest days in 1913 when Empire Lumber Company built the first lumber mill in the Cowichan Lake area until present day, the community survived and in one way or another has always prospered.
By using Empire Lumber Company’s logging equipment and logging camps, contractor Jesse James brought to the area the first steam locomotive (loci), which he transported, by scow, up the lake to the area of Cottonwood. It was then put into operation on a three-four mile stretch of railroad line extending up to Cottonwood Creek explained Wilmer Gold in his 1985 book, Logging as it Was.
Portrayed as a “character” that commissioned speedboats to transport workers and supplies up the lake, Jesse James was known to drive a big Cadillac “motor car” during his travels between Victoria and Lake Cowichan. Unusual as Cadillac’s and speedboats were in those far off times, James was also not adverse to “bringing women in from Duncan ” for the regular Saturday night dances he held in camp. After a year of this, it was said that James went broke leaving Empire Lumber to assume operation of it’s logging concerns in addition to it’s continued operation of the lumber mill.
By 1925, the mill was putting out approximately 30,000 – 40,000 board feet of lumber per day. With the completion of the laying of steel to Youbou, the Canadian Northern Railway cars easily transported lumber to the outside market. During the same year Empire Lumber along with it’s assets and timber, were taken over by Industrial Timber Mills, which used the old portable mill to cut the materials to build a brand new “all-electric” sawmill near the original site.
Finally, in 1929 an eight-mile stretch of highway was completed, which connected Youbou with the larger community of Lake Cowichan, so “Youbou was no longer isolated,” wrote Wilmer Gold.