Friday, May 27, 2011

Vargas Island History - 2

[Continued from here.]

One young Englishman who obtained land on Vargas was Harold Monks Sr., originally of Wigan, Lancashire. Monks was in contact with a distant relative, Harry Hilton, who had already come to Vargas. By the time 21-year-old Harold landed at Hopkin's Beach in 1914, there were no beachfront properties left. Harold's homestead was inland near the northwest corner of the island. The other 30 or so Vargas settlers included families that may still be familiar, at least as place names on local charts and maps: Eby, Abraham, and Malon, as well as a Captain Cleland who lived on Open Bay. Harold Monks Sr. recalled Cleland's driveway of sand that ran from the beach to his homestead. Cleland hired Harry Harris to do chores for him, which included taking Cleland's mother for buggy rides up and down the beach.

The start of World War I was the beginning of the end for the Vargas Island settlement. Thirteen men from Vargas, including Harold Monks and Arthur Abraham, enlisted. (Harold returned, while Arthur did not.) With the young men gone, it became too difficult to maintain homesteads. Land became overgrown and homesteads collapsed.

One settler, Ted Abraham, however, did return. He came back to Vargas with his new bride, Dorothy (nee Allard) to join his mother, Mrs. Malon and his siblings. At first, the newlyweds stayed at the Malon's waterfront home (near where the Vargas Inn is today), but eventually moved to Ted's place on the other side of the island, which Dorothy described in her memoir, Lone Cone, as being "beautiful, rugged, terrifyingly lonely." The only other settler on the island when they returned was Pierre Hovelaque, who married Ted's sister Violet in 1920. The lack of neighbours miffed Dorothy somewhat and she wrote: "...although I am not vain, [there is] no one to see all my nice English trousseau...we might have gone about in fig leaves or less."

Eventually the challenges on Vargas became too great. "Our money was dwindling fast, and we had nothing in sight in the way of a living, one cannot live on love and scenery forever!" Dorothy wrote. They too eventually moved to Tofino, then a growing town of about 300.

If you are interested in more about Vargas Island, Margaret Horsfield's book, Voices from the Sound, has some wonderful sections on Vargas.


  1. This is really interesting, Adrienne.

    I am curious about Mrs. Malon - do you know why she and her son Ted Abraham had different surnames?

  2. It was a second marriage, Jackie. She had two sons from a previous marriage and then married Malon and had two more children.

  3. Hello - Vargas Island just arose during conversation, and so I remembered my old friend Yvonne lived there, and googled a history. To my astonishment, I think I've found information about Yvonne! I remember she talked of her brother, Pierre, and that they were the 'later' children in the family. Yvonne married and became Forsythe. She was my great aunt's roommate for years in Vancouver. She died just after my second son was born, in 1994. She was such a wonderful person - we were great friends despite our age difference. She spoke fondly of Vargas, and of Pierre. I don't know whether I can find out any more about her early life. Perhaps you know?

  4. I can't tell you much more about Yvonne, but I can put you in touch with her niece, PIerre's daughter if you like. Send me your contact information.