History of Newcastle Island
MetadataShow full item record
Audio recording of Bill Merilees' October 1997 presentation to the Nanaimo Historical Society about the history of Newcastle Island. Merilees explains how the island was depicted on early maps of the area, and he also discusses local place names, including: Departure Bay, Point Mowatt, Bate Point, Mark Bay, and Harley Bay. Newcastle Island’s various industries are discussed in detail, including: the coal mines, the sandstone quarry, the Japanese herring salteries, and the pulp stone quarry. Newcastle Island’s history as a recreation destination is also reviewed at length, and the island's role as a smallpox quarantine station is also mentioned. Throughout the talk, Merilees tells several stories from Newcastle Island’s past, notably the 1872 sinking of the Zephyr, which was carrying a load of Newcastle Island sandstone destined for the US mint in San Francisco; and the 1868 tragedy involving Peter Kakua, a Hawaiian man living in Nanaimo, who killed four members of his family before being captured on the island. Merilees also shares other interesting parts of his research, such as the story of Mr. T. Matsuyama, a Japanese businessman who lived in Vancouver and financed Newcastle Island’s ship-building facility, who lost his entire empire during World War II when he returned to Japan to avoid internment in the B.C. Interior. Merilees also relates his personal investigation into whether the Alexandra Bridge outside of Spuzzum was constructed using Newcastle Island sandstone. After taking questions, Merilees concludes his talk by discussing how middens and culturally modified trees on the island, together with oral history and archeological research, can inform about the Indigenous history of the area.