Cowichan Alive

Your guide to beautiful Cowichan Living

William J. Shearing and the Shearing Tree

The Shearing Farm was the first farm established in Cobble Hill. In 1862, William J. Shearing arrived in Harrisville (the Cowichan Valley) at the age of 18,  by way of the HMS Hecate. Originally from England, he came here via India. There were 62 other passengers on the Hecate also looking for new starts in life. Most went north after they disembarked, while a few like William looked South for a homestead. 

HMS Hecate 1863

It didn’t take long to see the potential in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. It was not an easy life and one with some uncertainty. Shearing bought the land lineated by Telegraph Bay Road and extended from Cowichan Bay Road south to Cherry Point Road. His was about one and a half miles southeast of Cowichan Bay.  It wasn’t till after the government reached an agreement with the local First Nations in 1873 the he was legally allowed to pre-empt the land. Not all of it was suitable for farming and after several challenging letters with the Chief Commissioner for Lands the government took back the gravely parts.

The land was logged with the exception of one tree and he built a cabin on the hillside overlooking the picturesque valley. He married Mary Jack from the Cowichan first Nations and they had five children; William Jr., Dolly, Louise, Edward, and Herbert. Farming was not his first love so he hired Mr. Richardson to manage the farm with the help of the younger Shearing’s. It stayed this way till the children were old enough to take over. 

Harvest Time

Shearing was mathematically inclined and left his mark on the valley through various pursuits. He started as a foreman at Sayward’s Sawmill in Mill Bay, where he worked for 5 years till he owned his own sawmill in Nanaimo. He was also involved in construction in various forms. He was involved in road construction and became the District Roads Superintendent. He designed and built the Columbia Hotel in Cowichan and the original Bench School. Being multi-faceted and talented, he also designed and built several bridge’s notably in Cowichan Bay and Copper Canyon.


The Columbia Hotel

He returned to the farm in his later days and died there in 1919 at the age of 72. His son Ted took over the farm and carried on the family tradition. Although much of the land has been sold off over the last century; the famous “Shearing Tree” also known as the “Shearing Eagle Tree” or “Shearing Big Tree” is still standing its lonely vigil on family farm.

The tree is a 70 feet tall old-growth solitary Douglas Fir. Many of the Shearing family have their ashes spread beneath its lofty boughs. This is a fitting monument to a pioneer family that did and continues to shape the cultural and historic significance of the Cowichan Valley and its pioneering spirit. Please respect the property as it still is privately owned by the family.

William Shearing Park, which is found east off the Trans-Canada Highway at Valley View Centre onto Cowichan Bay Road. Turn right onto Shearing road. The trail head is at the end of Shearing Road. It is a fitting memorial to an integral leader of our community. 


Thank You Khowutzun

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