The Monks House

 John Cooper's House at Grice Point was bought by Harold Monks in 1934.

The Monks house and property has been a landmark on the Tofino landscape for almost 100 years. Traditionally, the land was known by its Tla-o-qui-aht name načiks, "looking down on something". The Nuu-chah-nulth people used the rocky bluffs as a watchman's lookout. The area is also known as "Grice Point", named after pioneer John Grice, who in 1893 pre-empted Lot 114 on the Esowista Peninsula. Grice obtained the Crown Grant (legal title) for the land in 1900, and later subdivided portions of the lot.

John Grice and son circa 1913.


John Grice's Crown Grant, 1900. The top left corner is "Grice Point" /Načiqs.

This image comes from Historic Crown Grants Database.

In 1924-1925, John Pirie Cooper, Tofino's Imperial Oil Agent, acquired land at "Grice Point" for the Imperial Oil marine gas station. Cooper built a house just up the hill overlooking the gas station -- convenient for seeing when new customers were arriving. Cooper was a successful businessman, a member of the Board of Trade, and one of the Village of Tofino's first Town Commissioners.

John P. Cooper (right) was Tofino's Imperial Oil Agent.

He built the "Grice Point" house in 1924.

Cooper was also a popular entertainer. Newspaper items show he was often singing Scottish songs at local social events, for example this item from January 1925: "Mr J.P. Cooper sang some pretty songs. One of his own compositions, to the tune of “It Ain’t Gooner Rain No More”, created much laughter.” In early 1934, John and Elizabeth Cooper decided to leave Tofino. The Coopers reportedly were going to emigrate to Australia, yet by 1936 they were running a grocery store in East Vancouver.

In spring 1934, Harold Monks left commercial fishing and bought the Tofino Imperial Oil marine gas station (and connected house) for $4,000. Katie (Hacking) Monks later remembered that he had "scrimped and saved" to come up with the money. In November 1934, Harold Monks and Katie Hacking were able to finally marry (now that he had a house and secure income) and spent the next 40 years together, running their business, raising their family and maintaining the beautiful property.

Harold and Katie Monks with son Harold Frank, c. 1939 in their garden.

The front of the house was reached by a winding pathway up from Grice Road. At one point, there was a carved sign that said "The Monastery -- The Monks live here"! The steps to the front porch were a popular place for photos. Here's the Monks family on the front steps in the mid 1950s.

Harold and Katie Monks, Lois and Harold Frank Monks on the steps of their house, mid-1950s.

The front porch led directly into the front room of the house, which was filled with 1920s/30s style furniture (all included in the original sale of the house). This photo from the late 1940s shows Harold Monks relaxing at Christmas and gives a good idea of how the house looked at that time.

Harold Monks Sr in the Monks House circa 1947.

The house originally had a small lean-to kitchen at the back, where Katie Monks was busy baking her famous cakes and cookies. Here is one of Katie Monks' recipes for Nut Drop Cakes.

Many people remember coming up to the Monks house and enjoying Katie's hospitality. Harold and Katie Monks, and later their son Harold Frank Monks, enjoyed entertaining visitors with food and drink. Here is a lovely photo from the 1960s of Harold and Katie and their friends Mr and Mrs John Hansen and Mrs Jack Macleod. The photo was taken in the kitchen.

Mrs John Hansen, Katie Monks, John Hansen, Harold Monks, Mrs Jack Macleod.

Harold took great pride in the beautiful garden surrounding the house. In 1934, his (then) fiancée Katie Hacking wrote to her parents: "Harold is working hard on the garden. He is anxious to have a nice place and although Mrs. Cooper left a nice garden he is not satisfied."

Harold Monks Sr. tends to his garden in Tofino in the 1960s.

The property was surrounded by forest, with trails leading to rock bluffs facing the outer islands. Sitting on the bluffs was a popular pastime for Harold and his family.

Harold Sr. and his daughter Lois on "Third Bluff" at the Monks Point Property, late-1950s.

Harold Monks passed away in 1974 and Katie Monks in 1993. Harold and Katie's son, Captain Harold Frank Monks, worked for the BC Coast Pilot Service. When not taking ships into and out of Vancouver harbour, Harold spent time in Tofino. He was always busy on the property -- modernizing the house, construction new buildings, and clearing paths to the bluffs.

After Harold Frank Monks' 2008 death, the Monks property was transferred to the Land Conservancy of British Columbia (TLC), who, in 2015, sold the property to the District of Tofino. Currently, Tofino and Tla-o-qui-aht community members are in consultation about future uses for the house and property.

In the 1970s, Katie Monks led tours around the property to raise money for the Tofino Hospital. Visitors could always be assured of seeing beautiful gardens and hearing good stories on her tours! In summer 2019, the Tofino Clayoquot Heritage Museum has been giving tours of Načiks / Grice Point / Monks Property.


The Monks House in 2019.


By Stephanie Ann Warner, Harold and Katie Monks’ grand-daughter. Thank you to Ava Hansen for sharing information about Grice Point / Načiks in the early days, and thank you to Ron Macleod for sharing the image of John Grice and son Joe. All other photographs come from the Monks family collection. 


To read more about the Tofino research Stephanie has done you can visit her website. NOTE: The website will be available for viewing until October 23 2019. The stories shared there are the culmination of 5 years of research, writing, and website design, but due to costs of running the site it will be taken down after October 23rd (Harold Monks Sr.'s birthday), so she would be delighted to have a few final visitors!

Clayoquot Sound as we Remember it 2019


We're excited to invite submissions for family history exhibits for the second year in a row!

Who: Does your family's history in Clayoquot Sound go back at least 2 generations? If so, then we'd love to hear from you!

What: We want to hear about the history of Clayoquot Sound from the perspective of your family.

Why: We're all about community and all about telling our collective story collectively. The history of Clayoquot Sound is made up of the stories of various individuals, so its history should have various writers. We encourage creative storytelling and submissions of photographs.


To learn more or to participate please e-mail Ava at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


The War is Over!

“The War is Over!” The Tofino Clayoquot Heritage Museum comes to the end of its winter/spring 2019 exploration of Clayoquot Sound in World War One.

In winter/spring 2019, our museum hosted a travelling exhibit from the Royal British Columbia Museum, “British Columbia’s War 1914-1918”. To complement this travelling exhibit, we looked into one of Clayoquot Sound’s war stories, that of Vargas Island.

“Vargas Island Ranchers at Home and at War” was guest curated by Stephanie Ann Warner, whose grandpa Harold Monks Sr. ranched on Vargas Island in 1914. Stephanie had been researching Harold’s experiences and those of his family, friends, and neighbours on Vargas Island. There were so many stories to tell of how this island was settled just before the war, and how the war impacted the residents.

Stephanie and Ava Hansen (Museum Operations Manager) spent an intensive couple of months pulling together these stories into illustrated panels that used quotes from letters, diaries and oral history interviews to bring to life this previously little-known island story. A related part of this exhibit was Harold Monks’ own wartime memorabilia, medals, snapshots and especially a notebook he carried with him in the trenches.

On March 21 2019, over 30 enthusiastic local history buffs came to the Tofino Legion for an Evening of History and Refreshments. Stephanie (dressed in time-period appropriate costume) presented an illustrated talk “A Vargas Island Rancher Goes to War”. We went on a journey from ranching experiences such as clearing the land (dynamite and oxen!) to war experiences of various Vargas men from the time they enlisted to their sometimes tragic ends on the Western Front.

One such story was that of Captain Arthur Thomas Abraham, M.C., whose mother on Vargas Island, Mrs Helen Malon, kept a diary of the war years. Through this diary we learned of Mrs Malon’s daily life running the local post office and working in her garden. Sometimes the diary entries were touching. For example, on October 22 1917, Mrs Malon wrote about picking blackberries. Little did she know that the very same day, her son had just died in the mud of the Ypres Salient. See our post on Mrs Malon’s Garden.

If you could not attend our talk, we are sharing the talk’s photos and stories in print –- just ask for the binder, “A Vargas Island Rancher Goes to War”.

Our Museum “Field Trip” to Morpheus Island was another opportunity to look at the World War One connection, this time the graves of three men who served overseas and died later. One of these men was Burdie Garrard, who contracted tuberculosis while on military service and died three years later in a Kootenay Lake sanitorium. His body was brought back to be buried in his family plot. Please see our feature on Morpheus Island for more information.

Guest Curator of Vargas Island ranchers at home and at war Stephanie, at Morpheus Island.

We further continued our wartime theme with profiles of two Clayoquot Sound residents who served overseas: Tofino’s own military nursing sister, Lilly Garrard, and Murdo Macleod, who was surprised to meet Lilly in hospital in England (Murdo also met quite a few other Tofinoites while he was overseas!) We have many more stories to tell, and look forward to sharing these online closer to Remembrance Day.

What has been the result of this 5-month long World War One “tour of duty”?

Operations Manager Ava Hansen has ‘been in the trenches’ so to speak, at the museum, meeting visitors and sharing our local war stories. Ava has noticed a “huge” positive response from local residents. There was a lack of awareness about how many local Clayoquot Sound residents served in World War One, and many people didn't know just how many pioneers had lived on Vargas Island. In particular, kayak and boat guides who've told stories of Vargas Island for years (if not decades) commented that they had learned so much from the exhibit and they can now share it with visitors.

Ava also noticed a strong response from out-of-town visitors, who often come from cities. These visitors were “awed” at the Vargas Island people’s day-to-day lifestyle, especially after reading the "Women at Home" portion of our exhibit.

Ava has read many positive comments in the museum guest book and especially notes this one: "Excellent exhibits - great work connecting ancient history, colonialism, and environmental impacts!"

We know that this big undertaking could only happen so successfully with the support of museum friends, volunteers and everyone who shared their photographs, memorabilia, stories, and historical information. In particular, we’d like to thank Ken Gibson, Ron Macleod, Joan Nicholson and Lois Warner for sharing Vargas Island and wartime era photographs. The museum exhibit would not be the same without such wonderful snapshots of the past!

Though our World War One and Vargas Island exhibits are ending, the Tofino Clayoquot Heritage Museum continues to explore these fascinating areas of our history. If you have related stories to share, please let us know! There are, of course, many other areas of Clayoquot Sound’s rich history to explore, so please come and see us at the museum!

Thanks again from Museum Operations Manager Ava Hansen and Guest Curator Stephanie Ann Warner.

Enjoy our photos below of our WWI adventures!


The last day of the Vargas Island ranchers at home and at war exhibition will be June 2nd 2019.

Guest curator Stephanie Ann Warner regales a crowd at the Legion with entertaining stories of the lives of pioneers of Vargas Island. 

Mrs Malon’s Vargas Island Garden

By guest curator Stephanie Ann Warner

This spring, our museum has been exploring Clayoquot Sound's experiences during World War One. A key part of our look into "Vargas Island Ranchers at Home and at War" has been the diaries of Mrs Helen Malon, who gardened on Vargas Island during the war years. Being self-sufficient with home produce was an important part of the west coast experience, and never more so than during the war years, when slogans said "dig for victory". Mrs Malon's diary has given us valuable insights into what Vargas Island residents were able to grow in their gardens, and how they grew these crops (a clue -- lots of seaweed and lots of weeding!)

This portrait depicts Mrs Helen Malon, Vargas Island gardener. The photograph has been shared by Joan Nicholson.


These quotes are just a taste of Mrs Malon’s gardening experiences:

“Carted up some seaweed and staked out the asparagus bed after dinner”, Tuesday February 27 1917 

“Carted up a lot of herring roe and put it down on the garden as fertilizer,” Wednesday March 14 1917

“Fine bright day. Cool wind, darned stockings most of the morning. Also carted manure for the cabbages,” Monday April 30 1917

“Another lovely day and warmer. I hoed potatoes after breakfast. In the afternoon prepared ground and sowed a few seeds,” Monday June 11 1917

"Much rain last night and raining off and on all day. Hoed a few potatoes in the morning. Planted a few tomatoes and brussels sprouts in the afternoon,” Thursday June 21 1917

“Picked a few beans and put them in jar with salt,” Wednesday September 19 1917  

“Very foggy all day. Pulled onions and spread them on racks in the cellar,” Friday October 5 1917

Reading these quotes – and the many hundreds more – in Mrs Malon’s diary certainly makes one hungry for good local produce! It’s also a fascinating contrast to what was happening for her sons Arthur and Ted Abraham (and other Vargas Island ranchers at war), fighting in the trenches on the Western Front and eating canned “bully beef” and hard tack biscuits!

Seedlings on Vargas Island ready to plant in the spring.

As we near the end of our exhibit “Vargas Island Ranchers at Home and at War”, I would really like to take this opportunity to give a “shout out” to a few people who have helped our museum learn more about and understand Mrs Malon's wartime gardening. In order to understand about Vargas Island garden conditions mentioned in Mrs Malon’s diary, I was fortunate to connect with modern day Vargas Island gardeners. Julia Simmerling gardened on Vargas Island for two seasons with the Cedar Coast Field Station in exactly the same site as Mrs Malon. Julia enthusiastically shared her experiences of growing fresh vegetables. In this photo Julia Simmerling stands in front of original trees planted on Mrs Malon’s former property (apple tree in bloom at the right).


Julia related how much she had been helped to learn by her gardening neighbour “extraordinaire”, Una Ledrew. Una and her husband Dave Ratcliffe started clearing land on Vargas Island in the 1970s and are today enjoying a bountiful harvest of crops. Una has taken the time to share her insights into gardening on Vargas Island -- a wonderful way to put into context the words from Mrs Malon's diary and to see that even 100 years later, similar techniques are being used and similar garden produce is being grown. (Once again – lots of seaweed!) In this photograph Una Ledrew stands in front of a bed of daffodils. These bulbs came from original daffodil bulbs planted by Mr Hovelaque.


I’d like to give a very big “thank you” to Una and Dave for their hospitality in hosting me for a visit to Vargas. Una and Dave live on the former property of Mr P.A. Hovelaque, Mrs Malon's friend and neighbour, who was a long-time fruit farmer on Vargas Island. During my visit, we had the opportunity to go back in time to see what remains of the gardens of Mrs Malon and Mr Hovelaque -- a really meaningful way to bring the past to life. In the photo below I stand in front of an original acacia tree on Mr Hovelaque’s former property.

Finally, we are indebted to Joan Nicholson, who shared her grandmother Mrs Malon's diary. This unique piece of west coast history is a valuable resource for future historians of gardens or just life on Vargas Island in general. Joan has also shared photographs of Mrs Malon and her family that we have been pleased to use in our museum exhibit.

The museum is continuing to collect information on Vargas Island gardening, past and present. In the meantime, we are pleased to share Mrs Malon’s diary. Come in for a visit and explore Mrs Malon’s Vargas Island garden.

Our "Vargas Island Ranchers at Home and at War" exhibit runs until the end of May. 




People in Profile - Murdo MacLeod's WWI


Guest article by curator of Vargas Island ranchers at home and at war, Stephanie Ann Warner.

Tofinoites unite on the Western Front! Tofino’s WWI history has a nice little story how Murdo Macleod met up with various Tofino neighbours far away in England and France.


Murdo Macleod and his cousin Jack Macleod.

Image courtesy of Ron Macleod.

Murdo Macleod was born on December 27 1885 in Scotland. While Murdo put his birthplace as “Isle of Raasay” on his attestation paper, his son J.R. Macleod learned that the family was from Kyle Rona and Fladda (both small islands North of Raasay.) It appears that Raasay was the hub of most activities and therefore cited as “home”.

Murdo’s brother Ewan came to Canada in 1903, reunited with Murdo to work at the Bamfield Cable Station in 1905, moving to Clayoquot shortly thereafter. Another brother, Alex, joined them. (Alex worked on the Lifeboat and later became a well-known coxswain).

This photograph shows Murdo at the back of the photo (right) on the beach. In the boat is brother Alex (also wearing a corsage – perhaps they had been at a wedding?). There is a John Macleod in the photo. He is no relation to Murdo and Alex, but did come from Raasay. Also in the photo is Henry (Harry) Harris from Vargas Island, who Murdo would run into in France during WWI.

A view at Clayoquot in 1914. Image courtesy of Ron Macleod.

In the years leading up to the war, Murdo worked in construction, mainly as a road crew foreman. Therefore, it’s no surprise that he enlisted with the 1st Canadian Pioneer Details. “Pioneer” battalions’ role was to do heavy construction work at the Front – building roads, trenches, railways etc. Murdo enlisted in Vancouver on October 5 1915 and arrived in England on November 15 1915.

Murdo arrived in France in March 1916. He became Corporal of the “A” Company of the 1st Canadian Pioneer Battalion. Murdo was recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal for work done with a party of men on the Battle of the Somme on September 15 1916.

Not long afterwards, there was a West Coast “meet up”! In early October 1916, Murdo ran into Joe Grice of Tofino, Harry Harris and Jerry Lane of Vargas Island. Murdo wrote to his brother Ewan that “all the boys are going strong and getting the last kick out of the Huns now” (Source – a letter published in The Daily Colonist, November 23 1916).

A few days later, on October 8 1916, Murdo was wounded at Courcelette. Parts of his upper lip and nose were shot away by shrapnel. His lower lip and chin were badly split.

On October 10 1916 Murdo was admitted to St Johns Ambulence Hospital, Etaples and on October 12 1916, he was transferred to Folkestone. Murdo spent the next few months at Keighly War Hospital in Yorkshire, where he wrote a letter to his brother, later published in The Daily Colonist. He stated that he was getting “first class treatment and consideration from the Red Cross.” Murdo also wrote that he “expects to be back again to be in at the finish with the others.”

This expectation was not realized. Military records are always tricky to decipher, but it appears that he spent the rest of the war working in England and visiting hospitals for follow-up surgery.

In spring 1917, Murdo was now in Purfleet with the Canadian Railway Troops (the newly re-branded 1st Canadian Pioneers). On August 19 1917, Murdo was admitted to Ontario Military Hospital, in Orpington Kent for a “plastic” operation. He returned to Orpington in February 1918 for follow up surgery.

While at Orpington, Murdo had his second west coast meet up! He later wrote to Frank Garrard, the Tofino telegraph operator, that he was sure surprised to meet Frank’s daughter Lilly – a nurse at the hospital – and Frank’s son Noel – on leave and visiting his sister. [Read about Nursing Sister Lilly Garrard in our previous story: “More than a Dishwasher”]

From March 5 1918 - April 16 1918 Murdo was on sick furlough (leave), a result of post-surgery and another on-going digestive condition. Given the long amount of time for the leave, it’s likely that he went up north to Raasay to visit his parents. Murdo’s health continued to be iffy, and on September 24 1918 - invalided to Canada and went to Shaughnessy Military Hospital in Vancouver.

Murdo was discharged from the military as “unfit for service” on January 21 1919, and he returned to the west coast. Six months later, he was married in Victoria. Murdo married Julia Macleod of Sydney Australia. Julia, who had arrived the week before, was the sister of John Macleod, formerly of Tofino (see the canoe photo above). John Macleod had gone to work with the Royal Engineers, Inland Water Transport Section in Mesopotamia, where he was drowned on the Tigris River in July 1917. John and Julia Macleod came from Isle of Raasay Scotland but were not related to Murdo. A news report of the Macleod wedding noted that Julia “looked charming in a fawn colored satin gown and carried a bouquet of bridal roses. She was attended as bridesmaid by Miss Florence Nightingale MacLean. The bridegroom was accompanied as groomsman by his cousin, Murdo MacLeod. (It’s unclear who this other Murdo Macleod was). Murdo and Julia made their home in Tofino, where they had two sons.

Mrs Murdo Macleod and Harold Monks on the Maquinna, early 1920s.

Image from Harold Monks collection.

In the early 1920s, Murdo worked again as a road crew foreman on the Tofino-Ucluelet road. He may also have worked on the Tofino Lifeboat, as he appears in this photo from 1920.

Murdo Macleod standing left on the Tofino Lifeboat in 1920.

Photo taken by Harold Monks. 

In August 1922, Murdo was appointed Dominion Fisheries Officer when John Grice was "superannuated" (the old term for retirement). Murdo also served as president of the Great War Veterans Association and the Canadian Legion, Clayoquot Sound Branch.

Prepared by Stephanie Warner

Sources: Murdo Macleod’s military service, Library and Archives Canada; The Daily Colonist digital edition; Francis C. Garrard memoirs, BC Archives; J.R. Macleod’s family history shared by Ron Macleod.