The first people of the area were the Squamish Nation (or Sḵwxwú7mesh in the Squamish language) who inhabited a seasonal fishing village north of Gibsons Landing named Chek-welp. The Chek-welp villagers also used the Gibsons Landing area as a lookout, which provided advance notice of invaders visible through the West Howe Sound gap. Several successive outbreaks of small pox led to the eventual abandonment of the Chek-welp village in the early 1900s.
While European explorers and fur traders visited the area in the 1800s, the first white settler to pre-empt land here was George Gibson, an ex-British naval officer. In 1886 George Gibson built his homestead and began encouraging other settlers to come and live around him and form a community. Within two years, Gibson had built a two-storey house, planted 100 fruit trees and cultivated four acres of his land, enough to ship his produce to Vancouver to sell and enticed other early pre-emptors including the Soames, Winegarden and Glassford families.
The landing was dependent on water transportation and contact with the mainland was maintained by tug-boats. In 1891 the Union Steamship Company began to call at the dock, making the area more accessible from the mainland.
The mainstay of employment for the early pioneers was related to logging and the production of shakes or shingles. When fishing or logging was not productive, residents practiced subsistence agriculture to make ends meet. “Stump farming” as it was locally known, required the blasting out of tree stumps in order to create an appropriate landscape to farm.
As the population grew between 1910 -1930, shops and services such as a bakery, a delivery service, a post office and drug store sprung up in the landing. Through World War II, Gibsons Landing remained a small rural community based on logging, fishing and a limited amount of agriculture. After the construction of a road from Gibsons to Port Mellon around 1950, the Mill became one of the largest employers for Gibson’s residents. In 1951 a car ferry service, Black Ball Ferries (later to become BC Ferries) began, resulting in relative ease of travel from the Lower Mainland by car. In the next few years, the roads between the various communities on the Sunshine Coast were paved and improved which encouraged commerce between these areas as well as with Vancouver.
At this point, growth became much more rapid. Much of the more recent development in Gibsons has occurred in “Upper Gibsons”, where flat land allowed expansion and adequate parking compared to the old business area around the wharf at the waterfront. This trend in development continued, and today most commercial activity is located in Upper Gibsons while the waterfront has become more oriented towards tourism and cultural activities.
Source: Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives
Photo #246 – Gibsons Landing c1913. John Wyngaert, with family ox “Billy”, hauling supplies from the wharf to home. Steam is from Cross & Armstrong sawmill in the bay area. Methodist Church at left. School Road along fence. Ox purchased from George Gibson. Postcard.
Photo #950 – Gibsons Landing, circa 1905. Store built at head of wharf by George Gibson Sr. in 1900. It burned down in 1910.
Photo #3556 – A view of the fishing fleet anchored in Gibsons harbor waiting for the area opening. Taken from the Bluff looking across the harbor to the wharf, circa 1930. A Union Steamship Co. vessel approaches the wharf.
Photo #174 – The Gibsons Landing post office at the corner of School Road and Gower Point Road, circa 1962, just before move to new location at corner of Winn Road.
Photo #1868 – A colour photo of the businesses on the north side of Gower Point Road, just west of the main intersection. The Heron Cafe, Florest and Gifts, Gibsons Landing Professional Building, Hunter Gallery, Granny’s Sweets, N.D. P. Bookstore.
Photos courtesy of the Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives.