The Story of Cumberland

Welcome to the Village

The Village of Cumberland is unique. Its ramshackle charm reflects its roots as a proud coal mining town, with heritage homes dotting the streets and abandoned mine sites hiding in the forest. Today, it boasts an unmatched quality of life that attracts an active, young population who seek the Village out for its outdoor recreation opportunities, small town friendliness, and dedication to sustainable growth. 

Our vision for Cumberland is to enhance our environmental assets, deepen our sense of place and community, and continue the transformation and diversification of our economy. 

The History of Cumberland

The K’ómoks People have been caretakers of this region, also known as the “land of plenty,” since time immemorial. On the hunt for coal in the 1850’s, settlers slashed their way through dense underbrush along rugged hillsides. They found what they were looking for, and from 1889-1966, Cumberland was bustling coal mining community. Miners and their families hailed from across Canada, the US, Europe, China and Japan. 

The original townsite was named Union, after the Union Coal Company, but changed its name to Cumberland in 1898. Many of the town’s streets were named after the famous coal mining district, Cumberland, in England. Once known as Canada’s smallest westernmost city, the area was also home to the fifth largest Chinese settlement in British Columbia, as well as three Japanese settlements and a small Black community.

The Ginger Goodwin Story

Cumberland is where, during the 1912-1914 Coal Miner’s Strike against Canadian Collieries, labour activist Ginger Goodwin spoke out vehemently against dismal working conditions and advocated for mine safety and union recognition. His untimely death in 1918 at the hands of a Dominion Police Officer in the woods surrounding Comox Lake spurred the first ever Vancouver General Strike, and many more. Thousands filled the cemetery at his funeral, and passionate crowds continue to gather each year in June for Miner’s Memorial Day. 

Modern-Day Cumberland

When the coal industry declined in the late 1960’s, the local population decreased. Many workers left the community to seek their fortunes elsewhere, or shifted to other extractive industries on Vancouver Island.

However, Cumberland has experienced a renaissance over the past 20 years. No longer a sleepy little village, our home is now a significant destination for outdoor recreation, culture and tourism. This revitalization is in no small part due to the grit and determination of the children and grandchildren of the families who built the Village. They keep the stories alive, and new residents are delighted to hear the tales of the coal mining, logging, cultural diversity, political, business, and labour history of the Village. Today’s Cumberland is a perfect mix of its gritty, political past, its active, progressive present and its sustainable, innovative future.