Nootka Mission Hospital

Esperanza – a place of Hope on the North Island

History columnist Brenda McCorquodale looks at the community of Esperanza.

The community of Esperanza is located on the north side of Hecate Channel, just north of Nootka Island.

Historically the site of a Nuu chah nulth village, the traditional name for the site was tlawe muxtsoo, or kle-muq-suu which reportedly was a reference to the liver, or purification of the body.

In the 1920s Dr. Herman McLean completed a medical degree and worked for a time in Bella Coola before searching for a new location where he could minister and provide medical services. In the 1930s he met Percy Wills, and the two toured around Vancouver Island in the Messenger II, a vessel owned by the Shantymen Christian Association.

By 1937 the two missionaries met Mr. Peters from Ehattesaht, and decided that the location on the north side of Hecate Channel was the right spot for a mission and hospital. There was a lot of local industry which put working men at high risk for work-related injuries; families who lived there were isolated; and the area had a good source of clean water and was in a bay protected from the prevailing winds.

The settlement, which opened its first buildings in 1937, was originally known as McLean’s Landing, but was soon renamed Esperanza (or Little Esperanza), after nearby Esperanza Inlet. Esperanza means hope in Spanish.

While the Shantymen supported the initiative, they did not want to take on the ownership or liability for the hospital, and so the Nootka Mission Association was formed and faced the daunting task of raising the funds to support the mission. Many of the materials used to build the initial settlement were donated by local sawmills and businesses.

Dr. McLean not only worked at the hospital, he also visited local communities in his boat Dieu Donna (later renamed Donna Dene).

In 1938 a hotel was built adjacent to the mission, and unfortunately became a bit of a focal point for drunkenness and debauchery, much to the chagrin of the mission staff. A number of prayer meetings were held for those participating in the events taking place at the hotel. On more than one occasion people died after falling off the dock or getting into boating accidents while intoxicated. The hotel burned down in 1960.

In its prime the community had a library, school, and community lounge. For a number of years the hospital relied on the hotel’s generator for its power.

In 1948, while on a medical and mission trip with his son, Dr. McLean’s boat hit bad weather on the way back from Kyuquot and capsized. McLean survived the wreck but his son was never found.

After World War II ended, the mission purchased the former military radar station at nearby Ferrier Point. The location was turned into a summer camp.

In 1955 the local post office was relocated from CeePeeCee to Esperanza, and when the cannery closed the mission purchased all of its residences and bunkhouses for $1,000, and transported them to Esperanza.

The hospital started offering a variety of health and addiction services in the 1970s, and today Esperanza still exists as a spiritual retreat and offers a variety of services for youth and community members.

Brenda McCorquodale is a Port Hardy resident and North Island history enthusiast. If you have any stories or local lore you’d like to share, email her at storeysbeach@gmail.com. A collection of her past articles is available on her blog at undiscoveredcoast.blogspot.ca/.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Alert Bay: COVID-19 cases go from 30 to zero thanks to health and emergency planning

Dr. Cutfeet says community leadership set Alert Bay up for success

Kwakiutl First Nation cautiously eases restrictions around COVID-19; Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw to remain locked down for now

Both First Nations near Port Hardy have no COVID-19 cases, and are prioritizing community safety

Pacific Coastal Airlines will resume service next month

‘We are pleased to confirm that we will be resuming scheduled service on June 1, 2020’

MP Rachel Blaney feels low-income boost for seniors falls short, but is pleased with the support for commercial fishers

‘Seniors in our communities have been asking for help with additional costs due to COVID-19’

VIDEO: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

Bike shops busier than ever, but owners worry about stock supply issues

Uptick in cyclists brings new challenges for shops

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

B.C. premier says lessons to learn from past racism during response to pandemic

B.C. formally apologized in the legislature chamber in 2008 for its role in the Komagata Maru tragedy

Snowbirds to remain at Kamloops Airport indefinitely after fatal crash

small contingent of the Snowbirds team is staying in Kamloops, acting as stewards of the jets

Most Read