About 40 Million Years Ago...
Gabriola was formed by rising sea beds of sedimentary rock. The Island was later scoured by glaciers and battered by eons of wave action that sculpted the sandstone into the amazing shapes seen today.
Gabriola is part of the traditional territory of the Snunéymux First Nation. Once thousands of people lived here in coastal villages; the largest near False Narrows on the southwest shore. Snunéymux petroglyph rock carvings, believed to be thousands of years old, can be found across the Island.
In 1791, Spanish explorers Narváez, Galiano and Valdés landed on Gabriola. They were followed a year later by British explorer George Vancouver. But it was the discovery of coal on nearby Vancouver Island that sparked European settlement on Gabriola in the 1850s and 60s.
By 1874, seventeen settlers, many of whom had married First Nations women, were working the land and supplying food to Nanaimo. Later settlers quarried Gabriola’s abundant supplies of sandstone for use as millstones in pulp mills, and for construction in cities from Vancouver to San Francisco. From the 1890s to 1952, the Gabriola Brickyard was producing up to 80,000 high quality bricks a day, while the sheltered waters of Silva Bay were home to a fishing fleet, a lumber mill and a thriving shipyard that the Island’s largest employer in the 1960s. In 1950, Gabriola had fewer than 400 fulltime residents. Today the island is home to more than 4000, with many more residents in summer.
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