Life Before Museum

The BC Forest Discovery Centre started as a private collection owned by Gerry Wellburn.  Born in Yorkshire, England in 1900, Gerry moved to Victoria with his family where his father ran a grocery store at the corner of Pandora and Cook. Young Gerry had started collecting stamps in England so when he discovered both British Columbia and Vancouver Island had once issued their own stamps he became fascinated. He visited many of the older residents of Victoria to collect old letters and to hear their stories of British Columbia's beginnings. He also spent his time riding as many trains as he could find.

He graduated from Victoria High School with members of prominent Victoria families including Bruce Hutchinson and Ansley Helmcken.

His first job was with the circulation department of a Victoria newspaper. His duties took him on trips up the Island where he observed that there were more jobs and opportunities than in Victoria. In 1923 he moved his wife Ethel May and daughter Lois to Courtenay where he worked in logging and sawmilling. He was soon promoted to foreman and worked for several companies on the Island and mainland.

In the early 1930's he founded Wellburn Timbers Ltd., a sawmilling and logging company in Duncan. In 1943 he sold the company to his friend H. R. MacMillan and continued on as manager of what is now the Shawnigan Division of MacMillan & Bloedel Ltd.

During his career, Gerry started logging with six horses; progressed to using steam yarders and was one of the first to use Caterpillar tractors and trucks. He and others proved that not only were trucks cheaper to run than railways but that the flexibility of being able to select cutting areas provided much improved forest practices. He was a founder of the Truck Loggers Association and made an honorary member of the Association of Professional Foresters.

Always active in community affairs Gerry Wellburn was president of the Duncan Chamber of Commerce and the Victory Bond sales drives during the second world war. He was the Chairman of the Duncan Hospital Society for 12 years and was successful in obtaining the funds for a new hospital for the district.