Port Hardy History
Port Hardy, the largest community in the North Island region, was named for Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy who, as captain of the H.M.S. Victory, held the dying Lord Nelson in his arms at the end of the Battle of Trafalgar.
Archaeological studies carried out in 1978 by the B.C. Provincial Heritage Conservation Branch indicate the site was first occupied some 8,000 years ago. Samples of tools provide evidence that the area's early residents made good use of the land and resources in this region.
Settlers first came to the Port Hardy area at the turn of the century when Alec and Sarah Lyon operated a store and post office on the east side of Hardy Bay in 1904, not far from the existing settlement of Fort Rupert on the shores of nearby Beaver Harbour
The stark isolation of the area discouraged further settlement in those times, but a 1912 land deal promoted by the Hardy Bay Land Co. ultimately put the area on the map and increased its population.
Enticing advertisements promising a prosperous port town, complete with rail yards and grain elevators, drew settlers from the United States and England, but when they arrived they found dense green forests and black rock, in place of the farms and conveniences they had been promised. Many packed up and left, but others had invested everything they had to make the move. These people remained and by 1914, 12 families had settled, built a school, sawmill, church and hotel. By 1916, a trail connected Port Hardy to Coal Harbour and the community was on its way to becoming the central North Island supply centre it is now.
Fort Rupert is just north-west of the Port Hardy Airport off Beaver Harbour Road. Aboriginal culture has flourished on Northern Vancouver Island for thousands of years.
"Although Beaver Harbour is so rich in legends, it is strange that in 1835 there was very little permanent Indian settlement here. The present area of Fort Rupert village was the site of an enormous bank of clamshells, two miles long, half a mile wide and fifty feet high. The shells were the last vestiges of enormous feasts held here for generations and they came to play a part in local history in World War II when they were used to level the airport nearby." (Landmarks and Legends of the North Island by Philip Stooke, published in 1978 by North Island Gazette.)
Other visible aspects of Fort Rupert's cultural fabric include a historical graveyard, the old chimney which marks the site of a former Hudson's Bay Company fort and an impressive Big House.
Petroglyphs, one of which dates back to 1864, are not easy to find, but they do exist on sandstone formations in the upper tidal in front of the old fort site.
(courtesy of the District of Port Hardy http://www.porthardy.ca)
For further information, and to begin planning your visit to Port Hardy, please contact:
Tourism Port Hardy
Media contact: Joli White