Basil (1910-2012) and Jill Seaton, environmentalists and naturalists, lived on Cortes Island from 1982 to 1992.
Basil (1910-2012) and Jill Seaton, environmentalists and naturalists, lived on Cortes Island from 1982 to 1992.
Elton Anderson (1908 -1975) was a naturalist and conservationist. He was born in Victoria and lived for some years on Cortes Island. A former logger, Anderson became a leader in conservation work in BC. He served as president of the Federation of BC Naturalists, was an honorary life member of the Vancouver Natural History Society and the Victoria Natural History Society, and a member of the Canadian Nature Federation.
Michael Manson started a trading post at Manson's Spit in the 1880s. In 1910, the "Lodge" was built to house the Mike Manson family. Many people - students and loggers - flowed through the building. In 1921 Hazel Manson and her husband Henry Herrewig moved into the Lodge, later turning part of it into a small store. Mr. and Mrs. Jacks rented the Lodge in 1940 and constructed the front half of a new building which became the Manson's Landing store. The Lodge, store and property was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Lowe and their in-laws, Ev and Jack Summers. Many improvements were made including living quarters in the store, cabins for rent along the beach and a coffee shop where Mrs. Summers sold her famous pies. Jim Taylor owned the property in the 1960s and it was sold to the government after his death. In 1974 the government designated the 117 acres at Manson's Landing a provincial park. The store continued to operate until 1995, but the Lodge and other buildings were dismantled soon after.
Ken Slater (1905-1970) was a long-time resident of Cortes Island, a commercial fisherman and boat builder who was also an accomplished carver and cartoonist. His boatworks was located on the site now occupied by the Whaletown Post Office. Ken built the "Sylva Jane", launched in 1946, for Reg and Sylvia Walsh. He also built a model of the ship, which is in the collection of the Cortes Museum. Ken moved to Cortes Bay in 1962. His cartoons, artwork and wood carvings were displayed and sold at many island affairs.
Sedley Bell-Irving Sweeny (November 29, 1917 - December 19, 2013) was born in England. He graduated from the Royal Military College of Canada with a commission in the Royal Engineers and went on to serve in World War II with the 8th Army from El Alamein onwards, then in Sicily, Italy and Greece; he was awarded Military Cross for valour at the Garigliano River crossing in Jan.'44.
He married Diana Game in 1941 and they had three daughters: Nicola, Terry and Robin. He retired from the army in 1957, bought a farm in Wales, and for the next thirty years devoted his energies to sustainable land management, self sufficiency and, increasingly, the welfare of marginalized people. With Diana, he managed an orphanage for Tibetan refugee children in Simla, India, on behalf of Save the Children Fund, subsequently founding The Society for Training in Rural Industries and Village Enterprises, through which he provided instruction and practical experience for Tibetan family groups on his farm.
Sedley returned to BC in 1985, divorced and single again. At age 71 he rowed to Cortes from Vancouver, where he met and married his second wife, Trude Albright, in 1989. Sedley was a Self Sufficiency advocate promoting a Cortes wide vision of cooperation and skill sharing. He and Trude were involved in many Cortes community initiatives including an emergency first aid and ambulance service; the Friends of Cortes Association; the Cortes Ecoforestry Society; the Cortes Earmark Book of islander skills; and The Cooperation For Cortes Self Sufficiency. Many of the associated activities happened at Trude's Café. A skilled boat-builder, he converted a fishing boat into a junk-rigged yacht, and he also instructed Cortes youth in boat-building and sailing.
Sedley died at home at the age of 96 and is buried in the Whaletown cemetery.
Marguerite (Peggy) Flora Pyner (1914-2009) grew up in a family of seven children on Valdes Island. In 1945, she and her husband Jim Pyner bought 62 hectares on Cortes Island (now Hollyhock Retreat Center) for $2,500, where they logged and farmed. Their children Nancy (Anderson) and Barb (Warman) were born in 1946 and 1949. She wrote a weekly column, "The Manson's Landing Mirror" for the Campbell River Courier.
Doreen (Huck) Thompson, 1944-2006:
Doreen’s grandparents, William Edward Huck and Mabel Wells Huck, arrived on Cortes Island in 1915. Widowed in WWI, Mabel and her four children left Cortes for Vancouver in 1923. Her son Harry, Doreen’s father, returned to Cortes in the 1930s. He married Edith Launchbury in 1937 and they had two children, Doreen (b.1944) and Ed (b.1945, d.1993). Doreen and Ed were raised in Whaletown and attended school there and at Manson’s.
Doreen graduated from Vic High in Victoria before marrying Bob Thompson in 1962. From 1961 to 1963, Doreen lived in Teakerne Arm in a floathouse Bob had built on the shore of the Whaletown Lagoon and then moved to the shores of Heriot Bay on Quadra Island. Her children were born in 1964 (Janny) and 1965 (Debby). In 1970 the family and the house moved to Cortes Island where both daughters attended school to Grade 10.
Doreen spent a few years living in Alberta and Victoria in the early 1980s and then returned to Cortes Island. Doreen developed a deep knowledge of the history of the island and she devoted considerable time to preserving, gathering and sharing her own and others knowledge of the island through her volunteer work at the Cortes Island Museum and Archives.
Doreen was one of the founders of the Cortes Island Museum. She curated four exhibits at the Museum, including “Windows on Whaletown” in 1999, “Von Donop Inlet”, the commercial fishing portion of “Celebrating Wild Salmon”, and “Memories of Manson’s Landing”. She researched and created albums which combine photographs, reminiscences and clippings to document the history of various island areas, such as Green Valley and Whaletown. The Doreen Thompson Exhibit Gallery at the Museum commemorates her contributions.
Doreen was making a fourth cross-Canada road trip from Cortes to Newfoundland when she was killed in a car accident near Fort McLeod, Alberta on August 1, 2006.
Eleanor (Christensen) Milne is a third generation Cortes Islander. Her parents are Mabel (Lowe) and Buster Christensen; her grandparents are Henry and Lydia (Heay) Hague. The Christensen/Hague/Milne family homes are in the Manson's Lagoon area.
The Whaletown Women's Institute (WWI) began in 1920 as the Friendship Circle. In 1923 it became a branch of the Women's Institute, a community service organization for women with the goals of fostering the skills of rural women, improving their lives and works, and celebrating their achievements. During its years of activity, the WWI was very active in working for local improvement. Some of their projects included initiating a library service, donating books to the school, arranging for regular visits of a doctor and dentist, hosting an annual Christmas party and providing gifts for all the Whaletown children, maintaining the cemetery, fund-raising for a school playground, financing firefighting equipment and installing an emergency telephone network. The WWI was disbanded in 1963.
The beginning of the Whaletown Community Club (WCC) is unclear as almost all the Club's records were destroyed in a fire in 1950; the earliest records still existing date from 1948. (See Gilean Douglas fonds, Series 8). The WCC became a registered society in 1953 when the Gorge Harbour Community Hall Society disbanded and turned ownership of the Gorge Hall over to the Whaletown Community Club.
The activities of the Club are carried on chiefly within the Whaletown postal area, and are intended to promote the interests of the community in matters of general welfare, to sponsor recreational and sports activities, and to hold land and premises necessary for Club activities. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s the Club was a channel through which Whaletown residents organized health and educational services and lobbied for better roads, hydro and ferry service, as well as sponsoring social events. From 1978 until 2010 it sponsored the Whaletown National Enquirer, a monthly community newspaper.
A main function of the Whaletown Community Club is the maintenance of the Gorge Harbour Community Hall. Originally built in 1933, it has been renovated several times and serves as the main venue for community functions in the Whaletown area. Until 1953, when the lease was turned over to the Whaletown Women's Institute, the Club maintained the Church Hall, which was owned by the Columbia Coast Mission and stood at the corner of Carrington Bay and Harbour roads. Before 1958 the Club held most of its meetings in the Church Hall.
Since 1958, when the Whaletown Women's Institute disbanded, the WCC has maintained the library in Whaletown (originally the Farmer's Institute building; now the Louisa Tooker Library) and the old and new Whaletown cemeteries. In 1964 they acquired the lease for the last remaining piece of Crown land with access to Gorge Harbour, to preserve it as a park. They have leased the former Whaletown school property from the School Board since the school was closed in 1974.
The Cortes Ecoforestry Society (CES) was incorporated in March 1999, under the following mission statement:
"To work in partnership with the Klahoose First Nation, to gain community stewardship of the working forest lands on Cortes to create perpetual ecological and economic benefits for the entire community, and to serve as a model for sustainable ecoforestry."
Preceding names for the organization include Cortes Island Forestry Committee (ca. 1988-1990), Cortes Island Forest Resource Committee (c. 1990) and Cortes Island Forest Committee (ca. 1991-1999). A draft document from October 1991 states that,
"[T]he Cortes Island Forest Committee (CIFC) was formed in 1988. The purposes of the CIFC are to develop ecologically responsible and balanced forest use of Cortes Island forests, to develop a sustainable forest-based economy, to educate ourselves and the public regarding appropriate use of Cortes Island forests, and to work towards a broad based public consensus for the use of these forests."
In July 1999 Klahoose First Nation and CES signed an unprecedented Memorandum of Understanding, stating that the two parties would work together to create a community forest that used eco-system forestry. In 1999 and 2000 the Cortes Ecoforestry Society began planning and preparing a community forest proposal. In 2003, volume was made available for small community tenures, including Woodlot Licences and Community Forest Agreements (CFAs). Klahoose supported the efforts to revitalize the community forest proposal and a small, voluntary advisory group was formed (Bruce Ellingsen, Chief Kathy Francis, Liz Richardson and Ron Wolda). To ensure the proposal was seen to be inclusive of all islanders, the proponent name was changed to the Cortes Island Community Forest advisory group. The community forest proposal stalled, and CES, which at one point had a membership of 400 residents supporting their goals, became less active.
In May of 2011, the Minister of Forests invited the Cortes Community Forest Advisory Group to apply for a Community Forest Agreement (CFA), and in September 2013 a Community Forest Agreement was issued to the Cortes Forestry General Partnership, which was established in June 2012.
The Cortes Forestry General Partnership is managed and governed equally by two partners, the Klahoose Forestry No. 2 Limited Partnership (KF2LP) and the Cortes Community Forest Co-operative. The tenure agreement lasts for 25 years and encompasses 3,869 hectares of crown land, about 35% of the island. The Klahoose Nation holds ancestral tenure over Cortes Island and is currently at stage 4 in the process of negotiating a treaty agreement with the province of British Columbia and the government of Canada.
In 1995, Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) was directed to divest all its recreational harbours managed under the Small Craft Harbours program. In the following years, the DFO launched a program to encourage local non-profit groups to assume day-to-day management and operation of fishing harbours.
The Harbour Authority of Cortes Island was formed in 1998 or 1999 to "[r]epresent the community of Cortes Island to preserve and promote the present and future marine infrastructure and maritime transportation links, including wharves; docking launch and moorage facilities until being replaced by a suitable public representative or government agency".
The Harbour Authority of Cortes Island manages five locations: Cortes Bay dock, Squirrel Cove dock, Gorge Harbour Government Dock, Manson’s Landing dock and Whaletown dock. All provide safe well-maintained moorage facilities for a wide-ranging group of marine users year round.
In 1987, members of the Cortes Island Old Age Pensioners' Organization incorporated the Cortes Island Seniors' Building Society (later known as the Cortes Island Senior's Society) with the following stated purposes:
(a) to operate a facility where persons aged 65 years or older, or persons between 55 and 65 years of age who are in need, can improve their health through physical and other acitivity;
(b) to operate a residential housing facility for such persons;
(c) to carry on social activities incidental to the above purposes, but not to own, operate or manage a social club.
The records of the Cortes Island Seniors' Building Society provide useful insight into their process of envisioning the future of seniors' housing on Cortes Island.
The Southern Cortes Community Association (formerly known as the Manson's Landing Community Club) is a Registered Charity incorporated in 1956 under the Societies Act. The object of the society is to promote services and programs of a recreational and/or educational purpose within the community.
A primary responsibility is operating and maintaining Manson's Hall, a center for Cortes community activities. The original Hall was built in 1922 on land donated by Frederick Froud. A major expansion and renovation project completed in 1980 added space for the post office, playschool, cafe, offices, a pottery studio and a library to the original hall. A further expansion in 1986 added space for a medical clinic.
Programs include sponsoring a licensed playschool, a Parents & Tots program, a Summer Youth Recreation Program, a thrift store, and the annual Cortes Day at Smelt Bay. Manson's Hall is a venue for the Cortes Seniors Society's programs, and for group meetings, entertainment events and a variety of regular wellness and exercise activities led by local residents. The Hall houses the post office, a community kitchen, a thrift store, and a playschool. Over the years, it has provided space for many services to start, such as the Cortes Health Centre, North Island College and Cortes Community Radio. The SCCA also owns and manages the Manson's Landing cemetery, and provides space for the Strathcona Regional District's skate park.
Mae Sherwood (b. Feb. 8, 1931), and her husband Alden, moved to Cortes Island in 1992. She was active in the Whaletown Community Club until moving off-island in 2016, serving as Secretary for seven years, and then as Social Convener. She started the Classical Music program in 1994 and initiated other projects such as the Salad Bar at Cortes Days and the Pie Table at Sand Castle Day.
In 1919, the settlers of Whaletown decided to raise the funds necessary to erect a combined church and hall, to be used for both secular and religious purposes. The new building was attached to the first Whaletown school building, which was then used as a kitchen and dressing room. At this time, the parcel of land on which the school stood, at the corner of present-day Carrington Bay and Harbour Rd. in Whaletown, was deeded to the Diocese of Columbia by Mrs. Alice Robertson, and part of the property was set aside for a cemetery.
After a church was built in Whaletown in 1950, the Church Hall continued to be used for social events. In 1952 the Whaletown Community Club took over responsibility for the Gorge Hall, which then replaced the Church Hall as the main venue for weddings, dances, meetings and parties for both the Whaletown and Gorge Harbour communities. In 1953, the Whaletown Women's Institute signed agreements with both the Whaletown Community Club and the Columbia Coast Mission to assume responsibility for the use and upkeep of the Church Hall and cemetery. The Church Hall was used for a few more years. It was decommissioned in about 1957 and later dismantled.
Yendor (ca.1948-2005) moved to Cortes Island in 1973, after buying into Redlands Land Group, at the top of Robertson Rd. Gloria Jorg joined him in 1979. He was very involved in community activities, including the drama group, forestry committees, talent shows, drumming, oyster farming, Emergency First Aid Service, and the Whaletown Community Club. He served as webmaster for the Watershed Sentinel from 1995 to 2004.
Yendor made many trips to Ghana. He built djembe drums and had a gallery in his home featuring handmade drums, natural African products, and drum carving workshops. His import business of shea butter supported a women’s co-operative in Ghana, and helped preserve the trees.
Yendor died in an accident in 2005, when his safety belt broke as he was limbing branches high up in a tree.
In 1988, concerned members of the Cortes community formed the Cortes Emergency First Aid Service (CEFAS). They were trained in basic first aid and provided volunteer service to the island for the next four years. In 1992, the British Columbia Ambulance Service opened a station on Cortes which continued and expanded that service.
The Cortes Island Transportation Committee was formed in 1993. At a meeting on March 22, 1993 in Campbell River between the B.C. Ferry Corporation and local government representatives, Peter Hughes, chairman of the BC Ferry Corp., recommended that Cortes Islanders form a Transportation Committee to liaise with the Corporation. Director Ralph Nursall convened a public meeting on Cortes to explore the possibility in May. A high turn-out (50+) indicated an intense interest in transportation issues on the Island and a committee of volunteers was formed.
The mandate for the Committee and its Executive, as expressed by Ralph Nursall, Regional Director at the time, is as follows: "It is intended that the Transportation Committee be an independent, community committee operating as it sees fit to collect opinions of Islanders to transport to the B.C. Ferry Corp. and getting information from the Corporation for Islanders...The Committee will also interest itself in Highways and other transportation matters of the Island."
The Gorge Harbour Community Hall Society was formed in 1930, when residents decided to build a community hall. The young people of the area formed the Gorge Harbour Dramatic Society and put on plays and dances to raise funds. The Hall was built on land donated by George Beattie. Volunteers split shakes for the roof and did all the building, with Charlie Allen as supervisor and Bill Ballantyne as work boss. The Hall opened on Nov. 11, 1933, with an Armistice dance.
The Gorge Harbour Hall Society disbanded in 1952 and handed responsibility for the Gorge Hall over to the Whaletown Community Club. From this time, the Gorge Hall replaced the Church Hall as the main venue for weddings, dances, meetings and parties for both the Whaletown and Gorge Harbour communities.
Wilfred (Wilf) Michael Freeman was born October 21, 1917 in Vancouver B.C. and died December 23, 2012. He was the son of William George Freeman and Robina Steel (Manson) Freeman and brother to Elizabeth Jane May (Freeman) Ellingsen (born March 13, 1914); his grandparents were Michael and Jane Manson. Wilf grew up on Hernando Island until 1926 when the family moved to Vancouver. One of his first jobs in the early 1930s was in Powell River where, among other things, he was hand digging basements under some of the original Powell River townsite homes.
He gravitated to the logging industry, working for Sigurd Ellingsen and Eric Flescher in Phillips Arm through the late ’30’s and into the 1950’s. He was an excellent worker; strong, resourceful, thoughtful, humorous and thorough, and, as well, he enjoying hunting and fishing.
Wilf and his wife, May (Spence, died 1970) moved down to Smelt Bay on Cortes in the early 1950’s from Phillips Arm. He logged with Bill Mathews between 1954 and 1965 in the Von Donop Creek areas. As well, they both crewed on the seine boat “Courtenay Maid” with Pat Andrews for a few summers.
When the ferry came to Cortes Island, both Wilf and Bill worked as deckhands, always cheerful and busy throughout the trips, often chipping and repainting rust spots on the ship.
Wilf was active in many community affairs over all the years living on Cortes: among them the Ratepayers Association, the 1958 Centennial Committee, the Cortes Grapevine Telephone Assoc. (a local telephone system, 1959 - 1966), Cortes Days summer celebrations, Cortes Island Firefighters Assoc., Cortes Rod and Gun Club.
Wilf and his second wife, Nora, lived on in Smelt Bay until they moved to Willow Point, South of Campbell River, in 2002. There they lived until, on December 23, 2102, he passed away while shoveling snow in their back yard.
(John) Ralph Nursall was born in 1925. He joined the University of Alberta in 1953 as a lecturer in marine zoology and was granted full professorship in 1964. Nursall chaired the Department of Zoology for three terms, retiring in 1988. A specialist in freshwater biology and the anatomy of fish, he was president of the Edmonton Zoological Society and Chair of the panel on hazardous waste for the Environmental Council of Alberta. Material relating to his professional career may be found in the John Ralph Nursall fonds in the University of Alberta Archives.
Ralph and Mary (Stewart) Nursall (1924-2017) married in 1953. They lived in Edmonton for thirty-five years, both working at the University of Alberta, and moved to Cortes Island in 1989.
Nursall was elected Regional Director of Electoral Area I (Cortes Island) for the Regional District of Comox-Strathcona (RDCS) in November of 1990. He served two terms as Director: 1990-1993, and 1993-1996. From 1995 to 1997 the BC government undertook a comprehensive review of salmon aquaculture; continuing after the end of his term, Nursall represented the RDCS on a Salmon Aquaculture Review Committee. He was involved in the BC First Nations treaty process from 1996 to 2002 as chair of the Cortes Island Local Advisory Committee (CILAC).
Mary-Anne Forman is the daughter of Daniel Erskine McIvor (1911-2005). Her family has a summer cottage on Hague Lake on Cortes Island and has spent summers on the island since the 1950s. Dan McIvor and his wife Isobel are buried in the Manson's Landing Cemetery, which also holds a memorial bench for Eric Collins.
Dan McIvor joined the R.C.A.F. in 1941. After his discharge in 1945, he and his family moved to British Columbia where he flew the B.C. coast as one of the legendary "Bush Pilots." In the 1960s he found and arranged the purchase of four Martin Mars flying boats - the only ones of their kind in the world. Dan had always believed that the safest and most effective way to fight forest fires was from the air. His innovative ideas resulted in the conversion of the Martin Mars to the first modern water bomber.
Peggy Newsham (1907-1999) was born in Belfast, Ireland. At the age of 16, she emigrated to Vancouver, Canada. In 1937, Peggy met Doll (Jeffery) Hansen and together they traveled on the Union Steamship to Cortes Island. She worked for Alice Robertson at Burnside in Whaletown, helping with the gardening, livestock and household chores. Peggy moved to Manson's Landing in the late 1960s, where she was active in the Community Club and took part in many social activities. She was crowned "Queen of Cortes" by acclamation at Cortes Day in 1979. There is a memorial to Peggy in the garden of the Cortes Island Museum.
Frederick (Fred) Hawkins (1866-1952) and his wife Doris (1906-1959) settled in Manson's Landing in 1908. The Hawkins family lived across from the entrance to Manson's Lagoon at the Spit in a house originally built by Horace Heay (at the end of Taka Mika Rd). Fred lived there until his death in 1952; he is buried in the cemetery in Manson's Landing. Doris died in Powell River in 1959.
George Hawkins, son of Fred and Doris Hawkins, was born in 1928. He had two brothers, Bill and Bob. George and Bob Hawkins both moved to Powell River, in 1947 and 1955 respectively; Bill was killed in a logging accident in 1972.