Cusheon Cove pioneer recalled

William E. Bulman had entrepreneurial drive

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BY Emma and Ian Laurenson

A Salt Spring pioneer has been commemorated with a sign placed at Cusheon Cove by his great granddaughter and her family from Scotland.

The event honouring William E. Bulman (1876-1948) took place last summer, when Emma Laurenson and children John and Hazel were accompanied by current residents Chris Hatfield, his wife Janthra and the family of Tom and Dtik Boivin.

They were assisted by Emma’s late mother Gillian and her aunt Cara, who had visited Salt Spring some 11 years ago, having tracked down details about Bulman through islanders Hatfield and Charles Kahn.

In the early 20th century, Bulman founded a lumber business, which, at its height, had around 150 workers on site, with a mill and pier, visited daily by steamers plying their trade between Ganges and Victoria. Bulman’s wife Sarah had spent some years there, but later returned to the U.K. with their two sons Arthur and William. She never returned, but Bulman remained at Cusheon Cove for the rest of his life. 

The mill continued, but with many challenges of the time, including labour disputes, drowning of a senior manager in a steamer accident and a major pier collapse with loss of much lumber. As need be when funds were short, Mr. Bulman would sell some of the land he owned to enable him to survive. Ultimately, he died on a considerably reduced holding, having never seen his wife again. One son paid a short visit to him before he died in 1948.

William Bulman was the youngest of 10 children from Ebchester, near Newcastle, England. The first to emigrate to B.C., he was followed by four siblings, scattered from Vancouver Island to the Kamloops area. While on Salt Spring Island, Emma and her family met for the first time several cousins through another Bulman branch in Nanaimo.

When Hatfield bought the property in 1984, he had little idea of this history. Once retired in 2004, but still with an active mind, enthusiasm and energy, aided by examination of aerial photographs, he began to uncover a wealth of artefacts from middens on the property. These included tools, bottles, shoes, personal bowls and utensils from Japan and China, helping to piece together some of the story.

Complemented by old photographs from Richard Bulman, William Bulman’s grandson in the U.K., as well as documents unearthed from the B.C. Archives in Victoria, the recent history is on display in the Bulman Museum at Cusheon Cove. Hatfield and Boivin regularly show groups of children and other interested individuals the property by arrangement. Also on the site, separately owned, are the Bulman house and office building, which have in part been restored.

Hatfield is also the donor of 100 acres of land contiguous with Ruckle Provincial Park land.

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