Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Vargas Island History - 1

In the early 1900s, Frank Garrard, the first lightkeeper at Lennard Island made the move from that island to Vargas Island. After the tragic death of their infant son Edward, who died after ingesting lye, it became difficult for Annie and Frank Garrard to carry on at Lennard. The younger children went to school each week and Tofino and the boat crossings often brought anxiety. (One time, the children capsized enroute home.) With Pierre Hovelague, Garrard leased and pre-empted 1280 acres of land on Vargas Island. In 1906, the Garrards left the light and moved to Vargas, bringing their cattle and goats along too. Hovelaque and Garrard got busy on their respective homesteads, clearing land, building small cottages, planting gardens and fruit trees. Now all they needed were some neighbours.

Garrard placed an advertisement back home in England, encouraged others to homestead on Vargas. And come they did. Before too long, after journeys by train, ship and, eventually, skiff, eager settlers were offloaded on to Vargas beaches. The boggy land was useless for farming but the men made out as best they could, clearing land (there were a few oxen and horses on the island to help) building cabins, hunting, fishing and picking up odd jobs. Several men built and maintained two trails: a rough corduroy "road" then went from Malon's Bay to Open (Ahous) Bay and a trail connected to the north-island homestead to a the cross-island trail. Eventually, a crude telephone wire followed these two trails. (The trail from Malon's Bay to Ahous Bay is still the cross-island trail today and bits of corduroy are still visible.) For a few years, CPR ships would stop at the northwest corner of the island, at Port Gillam, to deliver mail or offload supplies.

I'll do another installment, tomorrow, but I wanted to mention the Malon's in this post as the Vargas Inn, which I wrote of yesterday, is built on the same property at the Malon's home.

(Thank you to Neil Buckle for the photo.)

This was what the home of Helen Malon and her children. Mrs. Malon kept a journal and here is how she spent May 24th (and a few days before and after) in 1916.

Tuesday, May 23rd
Lovely day. [Perry?] and Eileen went over yesterday evening to dance in Tofino. Tommy here at work also A. H. making a path, clearing stump. Made cakes, scones, etc. in the morning. Working a little in the garden after tea.

Wednesday, May 24th
Empire day. Glorious day. M and I with Yvonne and Pierre took our lunch with us and went to Open Bay. Had tea and supper with the Clelands, and did not get home until nearly 9 o'clock. The three girls all slept on the verandah.

Thursday, May 25th
Another lovely day. Worked in the garden directly after breakfast, preparing the ground for potatoes and then cut out dolls clothes for Yvonne's doll. Rested after lunch and then planted potatoes later.

Friday, May 26h
Foggy all day. Stayed in bed until late. Worked a little in garden. Made buns and scones after lunch. All going to sleep on the verandah tonight.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Adrienne, this is really interesting.

    I look forward to Part 2!