This 'Welcome to Lake Cowichan' sign

What’s in a name?

Rolli Gunderson discusses origins of names around the Cowichan Lake area.

  • Oct. 29, 2014 11:00 a.m.

*The word Mesachie (Lake) is purported to have been a First Nations word meaning wild, quick, unruly, fierce, lively or spirited. Since the lake itself, at times, was all of those things, the word Mesachie stuck.  According to an April 1945 newspaper article, early First Nations people believed that a “spirit” dwelled in the lake which caused thrashing to the water which then caused huge whitecaps. (With three valleys converging at the lake, the wind would blow three ways at one time causing this extreme weather.)  The belief was that the “whole place”, lake, land and surrounding mountains, including Mesachie Mountain, was “spirited”.

In 1944, two Hillcrest Lumber Company (by then located on the  shoreline of Mesachie Lake) employees, boom men who worked on the lake, claimed to have seen “strange fish with fins like a propeller which made a whirling sound as it surfaced and lashed among the logs (stored in booms on the lake). Apparently the men tried to get the fish with their pike poles, “but it got away as spirits do” lamented the men.

* The name Youbou (which had long been referred to as Cottonwood) was chosen many decades ago by J. R. Cameron, a manager of the western division of Canadian National Railways. It was his job to name new stations on the CNR branch line. He eventually settled on the first three letters of the last names of Mr. C.C. Yount and Mr. W. Bouton who were both associated with the ownership/management of the lumber mill. Pronounced differently than now, it began as Yawboo before settling on Youbou, pronounced UBO / You Bow.

* The small community of Paldi (located off Highway 18 between here and Duncan) was named after the birth place of Mayo Singh, who was born in the village of Paldi in the District of Hoshiarpur, East Punjab, India. Mayo established the Mayo Lumber Company and the small settlement of Paldi sometime in 1917.

* Named after early pioneer Frank Green, Greendale Road is the last mile or so of the original winding trail (road) that was blazed by hand through virgin forest in 1885 by William Forrest. The blazed trail began at Jordan’s Corner, which was already connected by road to Duncan and ended near the settlement of Cowichan Lake. For many decades the road was called Cowichan Lake Road (later the Old Cowichan Lake Road). In 1962 the closest section of road to the Village of Lake Cowichan was renamed Greendale Road after early pioneer Frank Green.

* In the early 1900’s when land was cheap the first mayor (reeve) of Oak Bay, William Edgar Oliver, bought what today is known as Saseenos Point in Youbou. The section ran from the (since removed) railway tracks to the shores of the lake. Oliver called his land ‘Peninsular’. Today, descendants of Oliver retain a small piece of the original Oliver property, Peninsular, where they have a summer home.

*Before the settlement now known as Lake Cowichan could have its own post office, it needed a name. No name, no post office. The postal authority of the day chose the name Riverside, then opened a small post office outlet in the old Riverside Inn. From Empire Day 1914, when the postal service officially opened to the public, until the name Lake Cowichan was adopted, the community was known as Riverside, BC.

 

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