Small City in a Big Valley: The Story of Duncan


182 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55017-212-3
DDC 971.1'2






Reviewed by Ann Turner

Ann Turner is the financial and budget manager of the University of
British Columbia Library.


When award-winning B.C. author Tom Henry decided to write the history of
his home town, he chose to highlight the personalities who shaped Duncan
and gave it character. “It begins with a man in a tree” (William
Duncan surveying the lush Cowichan Valley from his vantage point atop a
large cedar in 1864), “ends with a man on a totem pole” (Rick Hansen
depicted on a modern-day totem), “and includes some of the major and
many of the not-so-major themes in Duncan’s history.” The result is
a highly entertaining narrative that strings together facts, anecdotes,
quotations, and countless historical photographs to tell the story of
The City of Totems through its citizens’ stories, from the arrival of
the First Nations and other settlers to the present day. An appendix of
street name origins shows a predominance of personality-based names that
can be further explored with the aid of the detailed index. The selected
bibliography and acknowledgments indicate the extensive research that
stands behind the easygoing presentation, and the assistance provided by
the Duncan History Book Society and by local writers in gathering and
organizing a vast quantity of local-history material for inclusion.


Henry, Tom., “Small City in a Big Valley: The Story of Duncan,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 24, 2024,