Pender Island History

HMS Egeria carved in the rocks of Bedwell Harbour, Pender Island, British Columbia
HMS Egeria carved in the rocks of Bedwell Harbour, Pender Island, British Columbia

The Penders, as they are called by locals, were actually one island joined by an isthmus, which was dredged in 1902 to make a canal large enough for the steamship, the Iroquois, to traverse from the Hope Bay dock on North Pender to Sidney, a far safer and shorter route than around South Pender. Later, in 1955, the islands were joined again by a picturesque one lane bridge.

Pender Island United Community Church, Pender Island, British Columbia
Pender Island United Community Church, Pender Island, British Columbia

This area of the Penders has a long history. The shell middens at Beaumont Park and on the north end of the bridge again attest to the ancient settlement of this area by Coast Salish. A cairn marks the spot of the largest archaeological excavation on the Gulf Islands.

North Pender was the scene of rivalry for many years between Hope Bay and Port Washington, where the first wharf was built in 1891. Both sites lobbied for the ferry and post office, and both won – on and off. Politically the areas were at ends as well and according to long time resident, David Davidson of Roesland, parents used to threaten their children if they were naughty by saying, “If you don’t behave I’ll send you over to Hope Bay.” The first postmaster, Washington Grimmer, brought the mail to North Pender by rowboat from Mayne Island.

Now the rivalry is gone and both locations, still seeped in history with their blue “government docks” and country stores are popular destinations for locals and tourists.

Named after Daniel Pender, master of the Plumper, in 1857, the Penders saw a surprising amount of industry for islands their size. At one time or another there was a thriving brick making enterprise, a herring saltery, a fertilizer plant and a cedar shake roofing company, as well as logging activities.