History of Cowichan Station
A SHORT STORY OF COWICHAN STATION
AS TOLD BY VALLEY HISTORIAN, MR. JACK FLEETWOOD:
“The story of the community of Cowichan Station goes back to 1862 when James Mearns, Senior, a native of Montrose, Scotland took up pre-emption of land comprising of what is now Fairbridge. That same year, James Itemingo took up land adjoining Mearns’ homestead and Arthur Todd took up a homestead of 150 acres that year, situated between what is now Koksilah, Howie and Mountain Roads.
In 1868, John Sinclair took up a homestead comprising 100 acres of Section 2, Range 1, Cowichan Land District, which was purchased by Donald McPherson, one of the three brothers that came to the district in 1881.
In 1885, Cowichan Bay entrepreneur, Giovanni Batisk Ordano, who had come to the Bay in 1858 and founded the district’s first trading post the following year, built a small trading post for his 15 year old son, Austin, approximately across from the present railroad station. The move was made to stimulate trade with the employees of the railroad contractors, Larkin and Paterson, many of them were Italian, as the Ordanos were. The workers were grading and preparing the bed for the E & N Railway, which was completed with the driving of the last spike at Cliffside, south of Shawnigan Lake, on August 13, 1886.
Settlement had been steady but scattered throughout this southern area, but with the completion of this medium of transportation, a shift of population took place, with a settlement starting around Austin Ordano’s store. Donald McPherson became the railroad section foreman, so then a station was built across for the Ordano store in 1887, and given the name “McPhersons”.
That year, 1887, saw the erection of two hotels across from the station: the Central Hotel building, with its bar belonging to Ordano, and the Cowichan Hotel, belonging to George Jones. In this latter, the post office of McPherson Station opened on March 1, 1887. That same year, a blacksmith shop was opened on what is now Cowichan Station Road and the settlers built a community meeting place, the South Cowichan Community Hall, at the corner of Koksilah and Bench Roads.
A mile north of the station, a quarry was opened in 1887, employing 20 to 25 men and operated until 1913. The sawn sandstone produced was used in several buildings in Victoria, including part of Robert Dunsmuir’s Castle, and the old portion of the Metropolitan United Church on Pandora Avenue.
Today it is a quiet agricultural centre, and home to exceptional places as Blue Grouse Winery, Fairburn Farms, and Gem of the Isle Sculpture Garden. Cowichan Station is a community connected. It is the gateway to the historic Kinsol Trestle and the lovely Bright Angel Park. It is a place where people can share the taste of goodness from local farms, gardens, and wineries, enjoy the numerous parks and trails, and celebrate its historical roots. We invite you to enjoy the beauty of a place local historian Jack Fleetwood called the “hub of the universe”.