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Kokish and life at the head of Beaver Cove

Anthropologist Franz Boas noted that Kokish was considered a place of origin.
SUBMITTED PHOTO Beaver Cove Lumber Company, Nov. 1919

The name Kokish, which is also the name of a nearby river, is said to be a Kwak’wala word which means either ‘notched beach’ or “place where the river spreads.” The Kokish River was reported to have that name on maps as early as 1919, and is located within Beaver Cove, a part of the traditional territory of the ‘Namgis First Nation.

Anthropologist Franz Boas noted that Kokish was considered a place of origin, which means that there were traditional stories in the times before people or when people were first created which took place in this location. In the early historical contact times (1700s - 1800s) the use of Beaver Cove may have alternated between Indigenous tribes, which was not uncommon at the time.

Eustace Smith, who rowed up to Beaver Cove from Comox in 1900 to take up a government pre-emption of land and begin farming, said that there was no one in the area for miles. In an oral interview of BC pioneers Smith stated that to local First Nations the Beaver Cove area was taboo, as they believed that Dzunuk’wa, a supernatural being, resided there.

The town of Beaver Cove, which along with Englewood and East Bay made up a trio of small towns ringing Beaver Cove, was first established in 1917 to support the mills run by the Beaver Cove Lumber and Pulp Company. The community was home to a pulp mill, a saw mill and a shingle mill. There were over 140 employees, and the town included a settlement of Chinese workers. Unfortunately by 1920 the mill was bankrupt and the lone occupant became a paid caretaker.

In the early 1950s Crown Zellerbach bought the logging rights in the area, and moved the community of Beaver Cove in order to develop a large log sorting facility at the head of Beaver Cove. The new community was named Kokish, and it existed from 1955 to 1985 up the hill on the southeast side of Beaver Cove.

The Kokish community was close, and celebrated events together such as logger sports day. In 1981 the three room school was disposed of by the school district, and in 1985 what was left of the community was disbanded. Crown Zellerbach, which had leased homes to come families for as low as $35/mo., offered interest free loans of $10,000 to assist people with purchasing homes in Port McNeill or Port Hardy.

- Brenda McCorquodale article

Tyson Whitney

About the Author: Tyson Whitney

I have been working in the community newspaper business for nearly a decade, all of those years with Black Press Media.
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