Kristine-StPauls-SMSalt Spring Island has a long history of human habitation. The island's first church built in 1885, St Paul's Church in Fulford, is still in use.

Salt Spring has an awesome little heritage museum called The Bittancourt Museum located at The Farmer's Institute on Rainbow Road in Ganges. And, if you want to read about the history of Salt Spring Island, Salt Spring resident Charles Kahn wrote a book: Salt Spring, The Story of an Island.

First Nations on Salt Spring Island

From Salt Spring Archives:

"The island's history is a microcosm of British Columbia history, a long period of aboriginal habitation followed by a frontier society of loggers, fishermen, farmers, and even some miners. Salt Spring is part of the traditional territory of the Saanich, Cowichan, and Chemainus First Nations, and aboriginal use of the island dates back at least 5,000 years. Permanent settlements fluctuated over the years with the main centres of population at HwnJ'nuts (Fulford Harbour), Shiyahwt (Ganges), StsBth (Long Harbour), and Puqdnup (Hudson Point). A major epidemic in the 1780s and subsequent warfare with northern peoples shifted resident populations to villages on Vancouver Island, Kuper Island, and Valdes Island from which the various families continued to access their lands and resources on Salt Spring. Aboriginal people remained at the present-day Tsawout Indian Reserve on Fulford Harbour until the 1920s, making this the longest continually occupied place on the island."

For an introduction to First Nations' history in the Gulf Islands, read the rest of this article here >>

Early Settlers

In 1857, nine slaves who had bought their freedom arrived in the Vesuvius Bay area. At the time, the island was uninhabited apart from first nations people using the island and beaches for seasonal fishing and hunting.

In fact Salt Spring has the oldest farm in all of British Columbia which is now part of a 1,200-acre provincial park called Ruckle Park. The original family home was built by Henry Ruckle in 1877 and still stands, nestled in amongst other heritage buildings, behind the barn and near the apple orchard. The first Salt Spring Island Fall Fair was in 1896 and the explorer Edward Mallandaine said in his BC Directory in 1887, that Salt Spring Island "will always be remembered as absolutely the first agricultural settlement in the then Colony of Vancouver Island."

Hawaiians (Kanakas) on Salt Spring Island

Many Hawaiians (who called themselves Kanakas) also settled on Salt Spring Island - often after years working and exploring with the Hudson Bay and other Companies. Some of these Hawaiian settlers still have descendants on the island - and early Hawaiian graves are found at St Paul's Church in Fulford. Although Hawaiians may have settled as early as 1853, in 1869 Kiave (Kiavihow), is noted as pre-empting 160 acres at Isabella Point in Fulford Harbour on Salt Spring. Other Kanaka followed, establishing property and planting orchards. Click here for a timeline of Hawaiian settlement >> in the Pacific Northwest (from the Salt Spring Archives).

Multicultural Salt Spring

Early on Salt Spring's residents were mostly British immigrants (English, Scottish, Irish), but many of the first Salt Spring residents were African Americans from San Fransisco, escaping their previously oppressive environment. Also included were other Americans, Australians and Europeans who had been attracted to Canada as part of the gold rush and some people, like the Hawaiians, who were former employees of the Hudson's Bay Company. In 1895, the island's then Anglican minister wrote:

"The present population of the island is estimated to be 450. A large number of different nationalities are represented. There are approximately, old and young, 160 English (or Canadians), 50 Scotch, 20 Irish, 22 Portuguese, 13 Swedes, 4 Germans, 2 Norwegians, 34 Americans, 90 Halfbreeds, 40 Colored, or partly colored people, 6 Sandwich Islanders [Hawaiians], 10 Japanese, also 1 Egyptian, 2 Greeks, 1 Patagonian."

Salt Spring's Farming Reputation Begins

By 1900, the first inn was available for travellers and there were 80 documented farms and Salt Spring was already known for its large fruit harvests. In 1904 Salt Spring Island Creamery opened and the diary along with poultry and sheep farming led to Salt Spring earning a reputation for quality food and produce. Salt Spring is still famous for its lamb today.

People Begin to Holiday on Salt Spring Island

By the 1930s, people were holidaying on Salt Spring Island - especially from Vancouver and Victoria - and businesses sprung up to take care of them. By the 1950s Salt Springers were subdividing land to support the vacationers and provide more services.

Artists arrive

In the 1960s, artists and craftspeople of every kind imaginable began arriving on the island seeking an alternative lifestyle and inspiration from the island's natural beauty and quiet. And the island has grown to have an international reputation for arts and crafts. These days the famous Saturday Market highlights our key exports - produce and art. In addition, many people seeking healing and to escape the city have moved here full time, and we have health and wellness professionals of every kind imaginable, as well as being a mecca for yoga.


Salt Spring's year-round resident population is now at approximately 10,500 and consists of farmers, artists & artisans, performing artists, healers, caregivers, free-thinkers and more. Many islanders are escaping the cities and fast-paced modern lifestyles. A growing segment of the population is what we call "digital workers", people attracted to the beauty and peace of Salt Spring Island who work online over the internet, and thus can work anywhere in the world!

From Salt Spring Archives: Click here for a more complete overview of the history of Salt Spring Island >>