History of Port Clements

The Islands were first introduced to Europeans by Spaniard Juan Perez, hoping to claim land South of Alaska for Spain.  It was Captain George Dixon who named the Charlotte Islands after his Queen and Ship.

From that first sailing ship in 1774 until the early 1800’s trade in otter pelts, fish, and seals were brisk.  There were few, if any maps of this area and the waters were uncharted.  Each trader felt free to name and re-name places ignoring for the most part the traditional Haida names.

A man named Eli Tingley first arrived at what is now Port Clements in 1907.  He had a vision for the town site as it started to grow.  Originally named Queenstown, the town was re-named to Port Clements in 1914.

The town’s namesake Herb Clements was the local Member of Parliament.  In return for using his name, the community was given a new government wharf.  This addition made the difference in the development and settlement as a wharf always attracts more visitors and commerce.

Masset Inlet has been a busy area of Haida Gwaii ever since.  With all the logging camps in the vicinity, Port Clements soon became a centre of supplies, services, and transportation for this industry.

In August of 1914, war was declared and rumors started.  Coastal steamers were tied up at their docks, the telephone services, newly installed, were suspended, and for six or more weeks, there was no communication with the outside world.  Most of the men decided to enlist and go to War and the Islands economy was flattened.

The early years of the War were hard on the economy of Port Clements.  The Barton Mill closed and men were left stranded without pay.  Eli Tingley and his friends had formed a small company and bought machinery from Sewell which they floated on a raft and setup a mill on the North side of the new Wharf.  Markets were difficult and the company had to reorganize but nothing had improved.

In 1917 there was great activity supplying Spruce for the airplane industry that took off during World War 1.  At one-time two Mills operated and the place was busy around the clock with brothels, boot leggers, and saw mill gangs.  Over 800 loggers were in demand in the fourteen logging camps that were situated  up and down the Inlet.  The town got a plank road, boardwalks, a Pool Hall, and a larger Hotel.  Times were good, however it did not last.  1918 brought the end of World War 1 and a decline in the Spruce Market.  The Government Wharf was burned to the ground in 1964.

The aftermath of World War 1 brought a slump and it was difficult to make a living.  The population was enough that a one room schoolhouse and a community hall was built.  This also served as an emergency Hospital when the Great Flu Epidemic came in 1918.  With the return of the War Veterans, a special hall was built with an entertainment club.

The depression of the thirties created more problems, the veterans hall was sold and turned into a store.  It is standing today and operates as the local grocery store known as “Bayview Market”.  The Tingley Hotel built by Bert was left empty for years until the Baxter Pole Company bought it and setup their headquarters for their operations in Mayer Lake.

The Second World War brought prosperity once again.  When MacMillan Bloedel took over extensive logging leases on Haida Gwaii, Spruce was in high demand once again.  Houses and a much larger school were built and students from Grades 1-10 attended.  The first paved road arrived in the summer of 1967 and a street dance was held in front of the store then owned by Ernie Chapman.

The Village of Port Clements was incorporated in December of 1975.  The Golden Spruce Motel was built on the newly paved highway to Masset.  In the early seventies the school lost Grades 8,9, and 10 and the students were bussed to the new High School in Masset,  George M. Dawson Secondary School.

To present, the main resource in Port Clements is still Logging.  The old Graham town site of Charlie Adam’s is now the Industrial Park, with a sawmill owned by ABFAM Enterprises and a pole site owned by O’Brien’s Logging Ltd.  Independent Sawmills operated by Chris Marrs, Tim Fennell, and Clark McPhilips also produce quality specialized wood products on this site.

The Golden Sprice Motel has expanded and the Yakoun River Inn is still situated next to the Government Wharf, but not the original.  A Museum was built in 1987 to house and display artifacts from the days of settlers and logging.  Mrs. Kathleen Dalzell, daughter of pioneer T.L. Williams, with the aid of friends and government grants, achieved this.

We would like to thank Mrs. Wendy Quinn for her submission of the history on Port Clements along with permission from Mrs. Kathleen Dalzell with excerpts taken from her published book “The Beloved Islands:”