From the Hudson’s Bay Company to a fraternal organization, there have been many people who have kept watch over the Bastion throughout its 162 years in Nanaimo.
Currently, the Bastion is officially looked after by the Nanaimo Museum. However, some believe the building is kept under a watchful eye by, of all things, a resident ghost.
“What is going on in there is really benign,” Nanaimo Museum interpretation curator Aimee Greenaway said.
The ghost story is just one of the many things that people can learn about when taking a guided tour of the Bastion.
The tours, which are by donation, run until Labour Day and are organized by the Nanaimo Museum.
Paige Fehr, Bastion tour coordinator and guide, says she focuses primarily on the history behind the three-storey building.
“I just talk about the history behind the Hudson’s Bay Company and why they decided to build the Bastion,” Fehr said. “I talk about each of the three floors and what each purpose of the floor was.”
The Bastion was built in 1853 by the Hudson’s Bay Company as a way to protect the city’s coal mining industry.
According to Fehr, a recent Vancouver Island University graduate, the Bastion is unique from other buildings built by the Hudson’s Bay Company.
“It is interesting because it is so different from other Hudson’s Bay Company forts that were built,” she said. “Normally they would build the walls and then four towers, but we were never a fur trading post. The Bastion was built just for coal.”
According to Fehr, the Bastion has only been officially attacked once throughout its history.
“That was when two sailors were arrested for drunken behaviour and their friends found out and got upset about it and stormed the Bastion,” Fehr said. “That was the only time the Bastion was officially attacked.”
The tour will also touch on the stories about a ghost that apparently wanders the floors of the Bastion.
According to Greenaway, Nanaimo’s historical landmark does indeed have a resident ghost.
“You’ll be on the first floor and you will know that no one is upstairs and cannonballs will go rolling by and you wondered how they moved when there is no one upstairs,” Greenaway said.
Greenaway and many other museum staff members believe the ghost roaming the floors of the Bastion is that of Joseph Muir, a Nanaimo man who grew up on Albert Street and became heavily involved with the Bastion during the early 1900s.
“He was considered the caretaker of the Bastion through most of the 1900s right up … until the 1960s,” Greenaway said.
During his life, Muir was a member of a fraternal organization called the Native Sons, a community group made up of mostly immigrants who considered Nanaimo their home.
“They were a fraternal group that met in the Bastion. That was technically their clubhouse for years and years,” Greenaway said. “The Nanaimo Museum is a centennial museum. We started in the ’60s, but prior to that the Bastion was the Bastion Museum and anyone who had an old artifact would show up at the Bastion and the Native Sons started out being the caretakers for some of Nanaimo’s earlier history.”
Due to Muir’s connection to the Bastion, Greenaway believes it is him who wanders the floors of the historical site.
“He had this strong personal connection to the building and that is why we wondered if it was him. Maybe he had spent so long caring for it that he wasn’t ready to leave,” she said. “There is nothing sinister and so that is why we wondered if it was him.”
Tours take place Monday to Sunday after 12 p.m. For more information on the tours, please visit www.nanaimomuseum.ca.
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