Ladysmith is a town located on the 49th parallel on the east coast of Vancouver Island British Columbia, Canada. The local economy is based on forestry, tourism and agriculture. A hillside location adjacent to a sheltered harbour form the natural characteristics of the community.
Ladysmith is also known for its annual Festival of Lights in which the entire commercial sector and many homes are decorated with strings of colourful lights for six weeks in celebration of Christmas. It is also known for its local Summer Celebrations, called Ladysmith Days, which was once one of the premiere logging sports venues in North America before the decline of the logging industry.
Ladysmith was founded by James Dunsmuir in about 1898, a year after he built shipping wharves for loading coal at Oyster Harbour. Dunsmuir, owner of coal mines in the Nanaimo area, needed a location to house the families of his miners. He chose to build the community at Oyster Harbour, some twenty miles south of his Extension, British Columbia mines. Many buildings were moved from Extension and Wellington by rail and by oxen. The Town of Ladysmith was incorporated June 3, 1904.
The town was named in honour of the British victory in a battle during the Second Boer War in Ladysmith, South Africa, which in turn was named after Juana María de los Dolores de León Smith also known as Lady Smith, the Spanish wife of Sir Harry Smith, the British Governor of the Cape Colony at the time.
Dunsmuir thought this would be a fitting tribute at the conclusion of the Boer War. In addition to commemorating the end of the war by naming his town after Ladysmith, Dunsmuir also chose to name the streets of the community after generals who fought victoriously in the Boer War. Included in this honour are Generals Buller, Kitchener, Baden-Powell, Methuen and Symonds. In addition, the town has left intact much of its original architecture, from the time of its initial founding. Surrounding features also bear the names of this era, such as Majuba Mountain. The local High-School Album published every year by the graduating class is called Spion Kop ("spy hill" in Afrikaans) in commemoration of the Battle of Spion Kop, site of a famous engagement and defeat by Boers of British troops during the Second Boer War.
Ladysmith has been notable in the history of the labour movement with significant unrest and violence during the big strikes of 1913–14 era. During this time militia were dispatched to put down unrest and protect property.