‘Mr’ Ed Morrison and family

Tofino telegraph operator Ed Morrison.

In the 1940s and 50s, Ed Morrison was Tofino telegraph agent and Evelyn Wigmore was a nurse at the Tofino Hospital. Their daughter Carolyn spent her early years having adventures and earning the name “The Terror of Tofino”. The Morrison family were good friends with the Monks family, especially Harold Frank and Lois, who called Ed Morrison ‘Mr’. Carolyn Morrison recently shared her family stories, photographs and memories with Lois’s daughter, Stephanie Ann Warner.


 Carolyn Morrison and her mom Evelyn at the telegraph office, early 1950s.

Carolyn Morrison was born in June 1950. When Carolyn was a few months old, she received a beautiful letter from a doctor at the Tofino Hospital, wishing her a happy life in her beautiful surroundings. This letter clearly expresses how well the Morrisons were viewed by their colleagues and their community and gives an insight into their personalities. Ed Morrison had a “kindly disposition to humanity” and Evelyn Morrison had a “deep religious conviction and strict devotion to duty.” Both Ed and Evelyn grew up far away from the west coast but came there for work – and fell in love with the coast and with each other.

Letter to Carolyn Morrison September 23 1950.

Edward Grey “Ed” Morrison was born in January 1893 in St Albert, Alberta. His mother, Anne Grey, was born in the Peace River and was Metis (the family has an official declaration of her status from the 1890s). His father, Angus Morrison, was born in the Red River Valley and is believed to have been Metis (though always referred to his background as “Scotch”). In the early 1900s, the Morrisons moved to the Yukon. Angus Morrison was a lineman on the Yukon Telegraph and Anne Morrison was a roadhouse proprietress. (Roadhouses were stopping points for the Overland Trail from Whitehorse to Dawson City.) When Ed was young, Anne and Angus Morrison separated and Ed had little contact with his dad. When Ed was 12 years old and attending a boarding school, a man came to visit him. Ed had no idea it was his dad!

In pre-war Yukon, Ed was a quiet, shy boy who worked on the land. In summers, he worked at the Pelly River Farm, for $3 a day and board. The farm raised short horn cattle for the Dawson market. In winters, Ed trapped furs at the head of Selwyn River and on the Macarthur Range between Pelly and Stewart. Ed later recalled “I was a bushed youngster in those days. For a glimpse of high life, I took the occasional trip to Dawson City.”

Ed had three siblings, Delphine, Angus and Alice. Sadly, Ed lost his sisters to illness. Delphine was 13 years old when she died of scarlet fever. Alice, a talented singer, died of tuberculosis, just 11 days before her 18th birthday. Ed later recalled, with tears in his eyes, taking a dog sled team for hundreds of miles to get his brother Angus home in time to see Alice – they arrived too late.

In July 1917, Ed enlisted with the Seaforth Highlanders in Vancouver (he gave his occupation as “trapper”) and later served in France with the 29th(Vancouver) Battalion, aka “Tobin’s Tigers”. Ed’s northern experiences came in handy on the Western Front, and he was selected to attend the Canadian Corps Sniping School. (Ironically, he was in sniper training when Armistice was declared so may not have used his new skills).

Ed Morrison at Lake Laberge telegraph station, 1920s.

In spring 1919, Ed married Katherine Grace Davis in Montreal and returned to the Yukon. Ed became a telegraph lineman and later a telegraph operator. From 1925 to 1937 the Morrisons lived at Lower Laberge, on the shores of Lake Laberge. Here,“with their children, [the Morrisons] were a happy family,” as geologist Hugh Bostock wrote in Pack Horse Tracks. Ed and Katherine Morrison had 4 children: Katherine Ann, Ed, Gordon and Frank. Bostock wrote that “Mrs Morrison was a very good trapper and everyone liked her. ”Katherine Morrison ran her own traplines in the winters and “had the most beautiful silver fox fur I have ever seen, trapped by herself.”

By the late 1930s, the Morrisons had left the Yukon (possibly because the telegraph line had been closed down). In 1939, Ed was the government telegraph agent in Quatsino, on the north end of Vancouver Island. By 1942, Ed’s marriage to Katherine had ended, and he arrived on his own to be Tofino’s new telegraph operator. Ed moved into the white clapboard telegraph office, located where the Co-op grocery stands today. For many years, the telegraph office had been home to Frank Garrard, a well-known Tofino pioneer.

Ed Morrison’s snapshot of the Tofino telegraph office (on left).

Ed had arrived in Tofino on his own, but soon was made welcome by Harold Monks, Tofino’s Imperial Oil Agent. Carolyn Morrison says “I am sure that [Dad] was lonely when he first arrived in Tofino and the Monks family really adopted him.” Harold Monks had been a close friend of Frank Garrard, and had lived at the telegraph office in the 1920s and 30s (where he often acted as relief telegraph operator). Ed and Harold were contemporaries (Harold was older by 3 months) and had both served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War. Ed also became friends with the telegraph lineman Ron Matterson, another “returned man”, who was a good friend of Harold Monks.

Ed Morrison, with Harold and Katie Monks and young Harold Frank Monks, circa 1943.

Ed Morrison played an important role in the lives of the Monks children, who called him ‘Mr’. He took young Harold Frank Monks out boating and hunting. Harold later told Carolyn Morrison how her Dad taught him about self-sufficiency. He described Ed showing him how to move a boat upstream over rapids by himself, using ropes tied to trees that were on the banks. Carolyn says “I imagine that this type of skill came handy during his Yukon days. The sense that I got from Harold was that Dad had a profound effect on his life.” Harold’s sister Lois agrees. She says “Yes, he did have a profound influence on Harold Frank's life as far as the outdoors went. ‘Mr’ was the person who was instrumental in getting Harold into boats.” (Captain Harold Frank Monks later worked on the Fisheries vessel Tanu and as a BC coast marine pilot).

Ed Morrison was god-father to Lois Monks, who spent a lot of time at the telegraph office. Lois recalls that when she was 3-4 years old, she and her friend Irving Macleod would go up to Mr’s place. Ed Morrison would give them work – “painting” the sides of the telegraph office, as far as their little arms could reach, with powdered milk mixed in water. It was good whitewash until the next rain!

The Tofino telegraph office was kitty corner to the old Tofino Hospital (located where the Post Office is today). Ed became a member of the Tofino Hospital Board, and thus met nurse Evelyn Wigmore.

Evelyn Wigmore and Ed Morrison.

Evelyn Wigmore was born in 1921 in Esquimalt BC. Her father William Wigmore was only 14 when he was sent on his own to work at a farm in Canada. In 1912, he moved to Esquimalt, where he was employed at the naval dockyard for decades. Her mother Ruth Chambers also came to Canada as a young girl, but with her family. The Wigmores were Plymouth Brethren, a conservative, evangelical Christian movement.

Evelyn’s brothers and sisters were William, David, Juliette, and Roger. Evelyn was the perfect oldest child, always kind and helpful. Ruth Wigmore told her grand-daughter Carolyn that she never knew Evelyn to do anything wrong! But according to Carolyn’s Aunt Julie, Evelyn set quite a high standard for the others to live up to.

Evelyn was an outstanding student and skipped one grade. In July 1934, she scored 520 marks on her high school entrance exams, the highest in the Victoria school area, and won a Bronze Governor General’s medal. Evelyn attended Esquimalt High School. She had a lovely singing voice, and one year she was chosen to be the lead in a school musical. Yet, her strictly religious father would not allow it. However, Evelyn’s mother appears to have pressured him to compromise, and Evelyn was allowed to take a minor role.

After high school, Evelyn attended the Royal Jubilee Hospital School of Nursing and graduated in 1943. Evelyn was a devout Christian who viewed missionary work as the highest form of service. Thus, she was drawn to the Nootka Mission Hospital in Esperanza on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The hospital had been started in 1937 through the efforts of Dr Herman McLean, a medical missionary. Rev. Percy Wills of the Shantymen’s Christian Association, who operated an evangelical mission on the west coast, had alerted Dr McLean to the need for a hospital and supported the organization (though did not run it) over the next decades. Evelyn’s patients included loggers, miners and cannery workers. Many of the patients were First Nations, mostly Nuu-chah-nulth [Source – Robert K. Burkinshaw, Crossroads for a British Columbia Mission: Esperanza Hospital and Ministry Centre (2012)].

In May 1945, Evelyn moved to Tofino to work at the hospital. (Carolyn Morrison understands that Nootka Mission provided staffing for the hospital.) The hospital was very short staffed and Evelyn had to work double shifts, which took quite a toll on her health. At one point, she contracted a form of hepatitis but didn't realize it at first and continued to work the double shifts. Evelyn’s energy level was never the same after that episode and her low energy level continued to haunt her for the rest of her life. In addition to her nursing duties, Evelyn also spent some time as cook. Carolyn notes “Mom was very thrifty and believed in ‘waste not, want not’. She told me she would make soups for the staff that included the leftovers from other meals. So, if an egg was leftover from breakfast, it went into the soup for that day!”

Old Tofino Hospital.

Tofino Hospital nurses, 1945 onwards, Idell ?, Hilda Ryttersgaard, unknown, Evelyn Wigmore.

Ed Morrison and Evelyn Wigmore were married in September 1949. Several of the missionary nurses who worked with Evelyn at the hospital also married men who were living in Tofino. One of these couples was Frank and Esther Rae Arthur, whose sons were close to Carolyn Morrison in age. Carolyn comments, “I think there was a shortage of young women in the community at that time.” 

Evelyn worked at the Tofino Hospital from 1945-1954. If there was a medical emergency that could not be handled at the local hospital, the patient would have to be flown to Vancouver. Carolyn remembers that the pastor's young baby became ill and Evelyn accompanied the baby on the plane to Vancouver. Many of Evelyn’s patients were the First Nations from Opitsat. Ed and Evelyn Morrison made a strong impression on their Tla-o-qui-aht neighbours. Carolyn Morrison says “both of my parents were highly respected…Mom for her work at the hospital. She was an exceptionally kind and compassionate person. She was given some Indian baskets to show their appreciation. Also a wonderful sweater.” (Carolyn still has these baskets and the sweater.)

Carolyn Morrison was a very active child. As she recalls, “I was quite ‘adventurous’ and always seemed to be getting into trouble.” It was not unusual for Carolyn to leave home without permission and wander around the town. She and other children stole candy off the shelf at the Coop Store and chased an older woman with blackberry branches in their hands. The townspeople became used to seeing Evelyn Morrison, wooden spoon in hand, searching the town for Carolyn and would tell her, ‘we just saw her passing our house’ or words to that effect. “All of this led to me being labelled ‘the terror of Tofino’.” 

There was the famous “rowboat” incident. Around 3-4 years old, Carolyn was persuaded by a girl a few years older than her to go out in a rowboat on their own. “Something I had been warned never to do.” 

The other girl became very afraid and grabbed one of the oars and stood up in the boat with it as they were being carried along by the current. Carolyn struggled with her over the oar and told her to sit down, as she had been told never to stand up in a rowboat while on the water. Carolyn remembers Lois Monks running along the beach calling for Katie Monks, who rushed down from their house to the dock. It all ended when the girl's older brother got into another boat and rowed out to rescue them. 

Carolyn would often go and visit Katie Monks, who gave her big hugs and lots of cookies! In the Monks family, Carolyn was well-known for naming a dessert named “Both”. Katie Monks created a new jelly dessert and offered Carolyn a choice between the jelly or chocolate cake roll. Carolyn opted for…“Both”! In the early 1970s, Evelyn Morrison got this recipe from Katie Monks, and it’s still in Carolyn’s family: Mix 1/2 cup lemon jelly powder and 1/2 cup hot water. Let cool to syrup stage. Beat in slowly 1 cup canned (evaporated) milk. Put it in the fridge and let it set until chilled and firm.

“Both”, a recipe developed by Katie Monks and named by Carolyn Morrison.

In 1954, Ed Morrison retired from the telegraph office, and the Morrisons left Tofino. Evelyn got a job at the Salmon Arm Hospital and they lived in nearby Canoe. The move to the Interior meant getting their first car – and winter road conditions. It was difficult for Evelyn to drive to and from work in the snow. Evelyn was an “island girl” at heart, so they returned to Vancouver Island. A return to the Island meant Evelyn was close to her family, and the Morrisons could also have visits with the Monks family. In 1959, they took Lois Monks on a road trip to the Rocky Mountains and Calgary Stampede.

From 1956-1964 Evelyn worked at the Cumberland Hospital. The Morrisons lived on the beach in Union Bay (where Ed had a boat) and later on the Royston-Cumberland road. Ed Morrison died of heart failure in January 1964. Carolyn Morrison vividly remembers an incident from this time. When the Morrisons lived in Union Bay, Ed took a young neighbor under his wing and would take him hunting. “When we arrived at the cemetery after the funeral service in January 1964, much to our surprise, standing at the grave site, was the same boy and his mother. The boy was dressed in his best clothes and was literally sobbing. His mother explained to us how much he thought of my Dad and how sad he was that Dad had died.” Ed Morrison is buried in Cumberland Cemetery.


Stephanie Warner cleaned Ed Morrison’s grave at Thanksgiving 2019.

After Ed's death, Evelyn read of a nursing opportunity at King's Garden (now known as CRISTA Ministries), a large campus in North Seattle (now Shoreline) Washington. Carolyn attended King’s High School and later University of Washington, while Evelyn worked in care homes.

In 1970, Evelyn and Carolyn Morrison had an unexpected encounter with a former west coast neighbour. Years before, Evelyn had been given a knitted Indian sweater by her Opitsat neighbours. She was wearing this sweater when she and Carolyn visited Blake Island near Seattle.There is a longhouse on Blake Island where they bake salmon in the traditional style for tourists. Inside that longhouse, Evelyn and Carolyn Morrison met a couple from the Tofino area, the Georges.

Nellie George and Evelyn Morrison July 1970.

Carolyn recalls, “They were thrilled to see Mom and deeply saddened to hear that my Dad had died.” (This was 6-1/2 years after his death but the first they had heard of his death.) The Georges said they were going to go back to their village and tell the others about Ed’s death. Carolyn remembers “they referred to me as ‘Ed Morrison's daughter’ with obvious deep respect for my Dad. It was a very moving experience to say the least.”

In the Fall of 1972, Evelyn Morrison returned to Victoria and soon went back to Esperanza to work at the Nootka Mission Hospital and assist in its closure. In May 1974, Evelyn was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and she returned to live with her parents at her childhood home in Esquimalt until shortly before her death in April 1975. Dr. Herman McLean, who founded the Nootka Mission Hospital, gave the eulogy at Evelyn's funeral. (McLean died later that same year in October 1975)

Carolyn Morrison still lives in Washington State but has made many visits to the west coast. She has also kept in contact with the Monks family. In 2006, she and her daughter Cherish visited Harold Frank Monks at his home in Tofino.

Harold Monks, Carolyn and Cherish Morrison in 2006.

In Spring 2020, Carolyn plans to spend her 70th birthday on a family holiday to Tofino. This will be a first-time visit to Tofino for Carolyn’s outdoors-loving grand-daughter. The Tofino Clayoquot Heritage Museum looks forward to welcoming Carolyn and family to the west coast!

Article by Stephanie Ann Warner. Thank you to Carolyn Morrison and Cherish Morrison for sharing family historyand memories. Photos are courtesy of Carolyn Morrison.

Mrs Malon’s Vargas Island Verandah

“Another perfect day which I spent on the verandah." – Mrs Helen Malon’s diary, February 18 1916

One of many happy pre-war summer days on a Vargas Island verandah -- Helen Malon sits in her big chair with youngest son Pierre on her knee. Her youngest daughter Yvonne stands beside her with Helen’s brother Uncle George Anderson. Helen’s children by her first marriage stand behind: Violet, Ted, Eileen and Arthur Abraham. The family had only recently reunited after years apart and would be separated once again by war.

In the spring of 2019, Tofino Clayoquot Heritage Museum presented an exhibit “Vargas Island Ranchers at Home and at War”. Mrs Malon was a key character in this exhibit. We are fortunate to have access to the diaries of Mrs Helen Malon, who lived with her family on Vargas Island from 1912-1918. Photographs and diary entries are courtesy of Mrs Malon’s grand-daughter Joan Nicholson.

"We have gone to a primitive life and no mistake, but I think we shall like it alright." – Mrs Helen Malon’s diary, July 18 1912.

In June 1912, Mrs Malon set sail from Liverpool, England. She was 49 years old and twice-widowed. She was travelling with her adult children Violet and Eileen Abraham and "the babies" Yvonne (6) and Pierre (4 years and 10 months). Mrs Malon was en route for Vargas Island in Clayoquot Sound where she planned to start a new life.  

Mrs Malon was born Helen Anderson in 1863 in Gatacre (outside Liverpool) into a large well-to-do family of a solicitor, but soon experienced international adventure. In 1870, she sailed to Toronto, where her father Weir Anderson had a new job as the Commissioner of the Trust and Loan Company of Canada. The Andersons (including Margaret and George, who would later live on Vargas Island) spent several years in Canada. By 1881, Helen’s father had died, they had returned to England and were living in a genteel seaside resort, St. Leonard’s on Sea.

In 1883, Helen Anderson became a vicar’s wife, when she married Reverend Thomas Palmer Abraham, and moved to a small village in Suffolk. (Later, she would call the water in front of her Vargas Island home “Suffolk Bay”). Rev. and Mrs Abraham had four children: Arthur, Violet, Ted and Eileen. In March 1897, Rev. Abraham came home from a church service feeling ill. He was soon dead of pneumonia. Helen and her young family (Eileen was less than 2 years old), had to leave their home, though were well provided for by Rev. Abraham’s generous will.

Arthur and Ted Abraham in Suffolk, late 1880s.

In 1902 Arthur Abraham, then 17 years old, emigrated to New Zealand to become a clerk in his well-to-do Abraham uncles’ firms. In 1904, his brother Ted also emigrated there (Their aunt Margaret Anderson Pietzcker and uncle George Anderson were also living in New Zealand). It would be several years before Helen would see her sons again. In 1905, Helen re-married. Her new husband Jules-Ernst Malon was a French and German teacher at boys’ schools. Monsieur and Madame Malon moved to Caen, France, where Yvonne and Pierre were born.

Violet Abraham and Helen Malon, Caen France, 1909.

Eileen Abraham, Yvonne Malon and Pierre Malon and their mother Helen Malon in late 1912.

Helen’s health was not ideal – she had migraines and rheumatism – and in 1910, Monsieur Malon decided to move the family to the warm climate of St. Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands. J.E. Malon took a teaching job at the boy’s school Victoria College. The family had a nice year amongst the palm trees and tropical flowers – then disaster struck! In October 1911, J.E. Malon had taken a few days off teaching because he was feeling unwell. He appeared to recover and took his young children for a walk, but came home and collapsed, unconscious. A few hours later, he had died of a brain aneurysm.

Meanwhile, Helen’s sons Arthur and Ted Abraham had left New Zealand. By spring-summer 1911, they and their Uncle George Anderson had taken out pre-emptions of land on Vargas Island. The “boys” were so enthusiastic in their letters to their mother, that she decided (perhaps rashly, given the recent loss of her husband?) to join them!

"It was a shock to our feelings to find no house only a shack but it is luckily quite roomy and we shall manage quite well until the rainy weather comes, but must have a house then." – Mrs Helen Malon’s diary, July 18 1912.

Mrs Malon’s journey to the west coast included iceberg sightings in the north Atlantic (a few months after Titanic sinking!), a dusty and scorching train ride across the country, a sea-sick-making boat ride up the west coast and a layover at the “queer” Clayoquot Hotel. At last, Mrs Malon arrived on Vargas Island. She was rather shocked at what she found --  Arthur and Ted hadn't told her about the living arrangements!

But she decided to make the best of it. Mrs Malon purchased 2 acres of land from Frank Garrard and Pierre Alexis Hovelaque at a location she called "Suffolk Bay" (now known as Buckle Bay). More recently, this location has been the site of Neil and Marilyn Buckle's home, the Vargas Island Inn and the Cedar Coast Field Station. Arthur, Ted and George started to clear the land, and Mrs Malon arranged with a local contractor, Billy Hilton, to build the house. But there was bad news: "Monday October 7 1912 - Had a blow, Hilton came to say he could not build the house until next year. Horrid nuisance."

Mrs Malon was compelled to spend the fall and winter in the shack. Here is her description of the shack: "There is one large room, kitchen dining room etc with a good large stove and two smaller rooms, one for Violet and Eileen and the other for me and the two babies....It is airy, as there are many cracks in the wall and floor but it has advantages, as when sweeping all the dust disappears through the spaces in the floor to the ground beneath." But Mrs Malon got some home improvements! On Wednesday October 2 1912, Arthur made a door, and put it up, "much to our joy and comfort." On Saturday November 9 1912, George and Arthur put down the linoleum "which makes a great difference to the shack."

In winter 1913, there was some progress with the new house: "Sunday February 9 1913 - Hilton came over with patterns of wall paper." But maybe not as much progress as she wanted: "Saturday March 22 1913 - Hilton came last night to ask for more money which I am not going to give him." Finally, the house was near completion: "Friday April 18 1913 -- Ted took Pierre and me to see the new house...Hilton has made good progress with the house. Gave him cheque for $45."

The house was completed in spring 1913. This photograph below shows the house as it looked when first built -- notice all the stumps surrounding it! A few years later, stumps would be cleared and Mrs Malon would have a large and productive garden. Mrs Malon's diaries pick up again in January 1916, when her recently widowed sister Margaret Pietzcker had just emigrated from New Zealand to join the family. Over the next couple of years, the sisters spent a lot time together, walking, gardening and especially trying to get their chickens to lay eggs!

Mrs Malon had a cozy house, but she spent most of her time outdoors, especially on the verandah that looked down to the beach, water and the mountains. She often mentions the verandah in her diary. Mrs Malon enjoyed "picnics" (the term she used for outdoor meals). What better place than on the large verandah? It seems she could spend all day eating outside. On Thursday May 11 1916, Mrs Malon "got up at 6 am and had breakfast on the verandah." On Saturday March 10 1917, she "had dinner on the verandah yesterday and today, tea also." Mrs Malon was often on the verandah in her "big chair", looking out at the view and writing letters.

During the early 20th century, the "fresh air movement" was popular. People tried to get as much fresh air to avoid wide-spread tuberculosis. It was very common for houses of this time period to have "sleeping porches" so that people (especially children) could breathe in fresh air. Mrs Malon and the family used their verandah as a large sleeping porch. On Thursday June 14 1917, she wrote: "Children are going to sleep out on the verandah for the first time this year." On Sunday April 21 1918, "Pierre slept on the verandah by himself." A few months later, on Saturday June 1 1918, Yvonne celebrated her 12th birthday with a girls' sleepover party! Mrs Malon wrote: "Evelyn Garrard, Kitty Hopkins and Lily Sloman came over in the afternoon and brought their bags. We all put them to sleep on the verandah."

It's clear that the family enjoyed celebrating birthdays (Mrs Malon and Violet were always making cakes!) and they must have had many birthday meals on the verandah. On Saturday July 1 1916, Eileen's 21st birthday, the Garrards and Mrs Riley and Agnes Riley came over to spend the day. "Had all sorts of games on the verandah."

Happy days and times! The photograph of Mrs Malon and her family on the verandah (the first image in this article) is the only image we have of the family together. In August 1914, war was declared, and Arthur and Ted Abraham immediately left Vargas Island to join up. (George Anderson later enlisted too). In early August 1914, Arthur Abraham wrote to his mother: "You won't probably see us back now till the end of the war."

Mrs Malon did not see Arthur back on Vargas Island. Captain Arthur Thomas Abraham, Manchester Regiment, was killed in action at Ypres on October 22 1917. Ted Abraham and George Anderson survived the war and returned to Vargas Island after the war (Ted’s “war bride” Dorothy wrote about her experiences in “Lone Cone”). Mrs Malon left Vargas Island in summer 1918 and moved to Saanich so that Yvonne and Pierre could attend public school. She returned to her big house and verandah for holidays, but in December 1921, Mrs Malon, Pierre and Yvonne and her widowed daughter Eileen Garrard left BC. They spent the next 7 years on the Isle of Wight and on Jersey. This is the last photograph we have of Mrs Malon, taken in spring 1922 on the Isle of Wight.

Mrs Malon returned to BC in 1928 and moved to Victoria, where she died in 1936. Mrs Malon transferred the Vargas Island house to her son Pierre, who "batched" there in the early 1930s. His daughter Joan Nicholson recalled visiting the house as a very small girl and remembered a big fireplace. The house was eventually abandoned and fell apart. It was burned down in the 1960s-70s and Neil Buckle built his house on the previous house's cement foundation.

Story researched and written by Stephanie Ann Warner, guest curator of “Vargas Island Ranchers at Home and at War” (spring 2019). Thank you to Joan Nicholson for sharing Malon and Abraham family mementos and photographs. Other resources include the Suffolk Records Office, Victoria College archives and Jersey Public Library.

Harold Monks and the Royal Canadian Legion, Clayoquot Sound Branch #65

Signaller Harold Monks in 1918 just before he went to the Front

In 2019, the Tofino Clayoquot Heritage Museum has been looking at Clayoquot Sound’s WWI experiences. One Clayoquot Sound resident was Vargas Island rancher and later Tofino fisherman Harold Monks Sr. This spring, museum visitors had a chance to look through Harold Monks’ wartime photo album and memorabilia. Harold’s grand-daughter Stephanie Ann Warner has been exploring her Grandpa Monks’ military service and post-war Legion membership. She has discovered some stories about what the Royal Canadian Legion, Clayoquot Branch #65 was up to in the 1920s and 30s.

After Harold Monks returned from overseas service, he joined other returned men in Clayoquot Sound in forming a branch of the Great War Veterans' Association (later the Legion). The initial purpose of the Great War Veterans' Association (G.W.V.A.) and the Legion was to advocate for pensions and ensure that returned men got jobs. In Tofino and Clayoquot Sound: A History, Margaret Horsfield and Ian Kennedy write that the Legion "took its responsibilities seriously, using its lobbying power to ensure returned veterans received jobs on the fisheries patrol, at the lifeboat station, or in other government-funded positions."

In 1920, Harold worked as winter crew at the Clayoquot Life Saving Service station (the "Lifeboat") and later become a full-time crew member, leading to retirement with a pension. In May - June 1920, Harold picked up 18 1/2 days work on the road-building crew, building a road between Tofino and Long Beach. Harold also used his war-time signaller training to get work as a relief telegraph linesman and telegraph operator. Other members of the Clayoquot Sound Branch of the G.W.V.A. worked on the Lifeboat or at the Kennedy River hatchery. Branch president Murdo MacLeod, wounded at Courcelette, became the fisheries officer. See our story on Murdo Macleod.

The G.W.V.A. also had an important social function -- to gather returned men together in reunions, armistice remembrances and community entertainment. The men needed a permanent meeting place. Harold Monks played an important role in the Clayoquot Sound Branch getting its own hall. In March 1922, the Branch took over the local public hall, which had been built pre-war by a group of shareholders. A number of shares were donated but the other 800 shares were purchased by G.W.V.A. members. Harold gave the Branch a loan at a nominal rate to allow it to purchase the shares. See the image below of a receipt for a November 1921 advance of $50 on the loan.

Receipt from the Great War Veterans Association for Harold Monks' loan of $50 on an advance of a larger loan to help build a community hall. Image from Harold Monks’ collection.

The Hall was known as the Clayoquot Sound Soldiers Memorial Hall and dedicated to those from the district who gave their lives in the Great War. The Hall was home to the memorial plaque to the men from the Clayoquot Sound district who gave their lives. Armistice Day services were held in the Hall, and the plaque was decorated by dahlias from the garden of local gardener and member Comrade J.W. Thompson.

The Hall was also the scene of annual reunions for the returned men. These evenings were far from sombre occasions! For example, the 1927 reunion began with service of the traditional army rum ration, followed by a mock recruits' parade, toasts, sing-song and humorous tales of camp life. About one hundred guests sat down to supper and were "entertained by the soldiers’ ditties and choruses, which were delivered with a swing and enthusiasm that was highly reminiscent of bygone days in Flanders." (The Daily Colonist, December 23 1927)

Every winter, the Branch hosted weekly whist drives and dances (and a series of billiard tournaments in winter 1929). These activities raised money to help pay off the Branch's expenses. There were only twenty-five members of the Branch but strong community support. By December 1928 the Branch was so financially sound that it had paid off $100 on its mortgage, had built a $350 extension and bought and paid for a $125 Orthophonic gramophone. A news report of the Branch's activities noted: "Items in [the] financial statement showed to a remarkable degree what can be done in a small community by a small number of men when all pull together in a common cause." (The Daily Colonist December 20 1928)

Harold Monks no doubt kept an eye on the Branch finances. He was elected an officer in 1930 and was auditor in 1932 (if not earlier). He was well suited to the role - for about seven years in England, Harold had been an accountant.

On May 2 1931, the Clayoquot Branch of the Canadian Legion celebrated one of the most important days in the history of the Branch when they paid off the final debt on their Hall. In the presence of two hundred local residents, Secretary Treasurer Major George Nicholson handed over the final payment to Harold Monks. The mortgage was torn up and given to two young sons of the oldest members of the Branch. The boys placed the mortgage on the flames of a fire built on stage! The Hall was dedicated by the Branch's chaplain, Comrade Reverend John Wright Leighton, who had seen imperial service in the Balkans. The Legion Concert Party then began an evening of "Song Dance and Drama".

The highlight of the event was an elaborate staging of a realistic military scene "The Guns in Action". Harold played a Gunner. He had much experience of big guns -- during the war he'd been attached to the 10th Battery, 3rd Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery. The producers of "Guns in Action" (all ex-servicemen) put a lot of effort into making the show as close to battlefield experience as possible. A "real life" 18 pounder gun was built especially for the occasion. A report in The Daily Colonist on March 9 1931 described the show in gory detail: "The gun was firing salvo upon salvo. The noise was terrific and exceedingly realistic, with the smoke of the gun firing in clouds across the stage, when all of an instant, a direct hit on the gun emplacement appeared to be made, the gun was blown up, and all the crew wounded or killed."

Stretcher bearers and army nurses tended the wounded (it was unclear if Harold Monks was one of the wounded or dead). A high powered spotlight ended the production, as one of the "nurses", Mrs Jack Mitchell, knelt by a wounded man and sang "The Great Red Dawn is Shining". After the curtain, the entire cast stood and, with rousing voices, sang "Pack Up Your Troubles in the Old Kit Bag".

Harold Monks continued his involvement with the Clayoquot Sound Branch of the Canadian Legion for the next 40 years. In 1956, Harold was awarded life membership, in recognition of his hard work in the Branch.

Harold Monks' Life Membership card to the Canadian Legion

Harold Monks was an active member of the Clayoquot Branch of the Great War Veterans' Association and Canadian Legion from the 1920s to 1970s. He received life membership in 1956

Harold's wife Katie Monks was also an active participant in the Legion Womens' Auxiliary. Their son Harold Frank Monks was also a strong supporter of the Legion.

The Legion is still an active Hall, often hosting special events as well as pool and dart nights, etc. To learn more about the Legion, see upcoming events, or to get involved, see their Facebook page

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

World War One Pioneer Joe Grice

Joe Grice, ca. 1916 

"Bravery, grit, determination and endurance." Joseph Harold Grice of Tofino showed all these qualities in his war service as a Pioneer, doing the vital - and dangerous - work of building trenches, roads and dug-outs for major campaigns in the Somme and the Ypres Salient. Joe was lost at Passchendaele on November 6 1917.

Joseph Harold ("Joe") Grice was born on December 30 1890, Newcastle Upon Tyne, England to John and Jane Grice. When war was declared in 1914, Joe was living in Tofino with his family. His dad John Grice was (among other things) justice of the peace, master customs officer and fisheries overseer. His brother Arthur ("Curley") worked as a cook at Clayoquot on Stubbs Island. His sister Jane Isabella ("Jenny") married Jack Macleod of the Tofino Lifeboat in 1915.


Jane and John Grice 

At the beginning of April 1915, Joe enlisted with the 88th Victoria Fusiliers, but soon transferred to the 48th Canadian Infantry Battalion, a "British Columbia Battalion." When Joe enlisted, he gave his occupation as "farmer". However, directories for Tofino for 1914 and 1915 list Grice J H as a "clerk". Joe's great-nephew Ron Macleod, who has researched the family history, does not remember any references to farming by him or his father John. It looks more like the Grices dabbled in land development, as did many west coast settlers of that time. Ron Macleod notes: "Registration of pre-emptions shows Curley, Joe, and John Grice actively pursued opportunities and had several applications in the system at one time awaiting cancellation or processing as they saw fit."

On January 25 1916, the 48th Canadian Infantry Battalion was re-designated the 3rd Canadian Pioneer Battalion. Pioneer battalions worked in the forward area in conjunction with the engineers. The pioneers were involved in these jobs: tunnelling, mining, wiring, railroad work, deep dugout building, and keeping trenches in repair. Joe probably joined a Pioneer battalion because he had previous experience in construction and road building. When the 1911 Canada Census was taken, Joe was working for the Dominion Government, building the Pachena Trail near Bamfield. However, Joe wasn’t physically a robust person. His army medical report shows that he was 5'7 and 147 lbs. The military doctor considered his physical development to be "poor". (The photograph below shows a very slight individual). Yet, what he did not have in physical strength, he no doubt would have made up in determination.

Joe Grice in Tofino, 1911 

On March 9 1916, Joe arrived in Boulogne, France. A few days later he was in the deadly Ypres Salient. The official War Diary for the 3rd Canadian Pioneers vividly describes the conditions. On Wednesday, March 15, 1916, "the enemy put a little shrapnel over in the morning." In the afternoon, the enemy was active with rifle grenades. That night, "two men were wounded while on working parties - one slightly and one severely in chest with rifle bullet." This was the Pioneers’ very first day on active service!

All spring 1916, the Pioneers were busy constructing trenches and were almost constantly under enemy fire. On June 19 1916, Major General L.J. Lipsett, Commander of the 3rd Canadian Division, asked the O.C. of the 3rd Canadian Pioneer Battalion to convey "his sincere appreciation and thanks for the good work they have been doing for the past three months and particularly during the severe fighting since the 2nd. He stated that the Battalion's splendid courage and devotion to duty have been commented on. He deeply regretted our losses though they were not made in vain" (as quoted in the Official War Diary).

Joe continued to work hard, but by August had become ill. On August 14 1916, Joe was admitted to the No. 9 Canadian Field Ambulance with P.U.O - Pyrexia (fever) of Unknown Origin. Joe recuperated for 3 days, then went back to building trenches. In early September, Joe left the Ypres Salient and moved near Arras France, where he would be for the next 12 months. In late September, Joe met a fellow Tofinoite! Corporal Murdo MacLeod of the 1st Canadian Pioneers wrote home that he had run into Joe Grice (The letter was published in The Daily Colonist). A few days later on October 6 1916, Macleod was wounded in the face at Courcelette. See our story on Murdo Macleod.

On May 17 1917, the 3rd Canadian Pioneer Battalion was disbanded. Major-General L.J. Lipsett addressed Joe and the men. He told them the 3rd Canadian Pioneer had gained for itself the reputation of being one of the finest pioneer battalions in France. “No place had been too hot for them and they had proved not only capable of handling their allotted tasks but had performed them in such a satisfactory and workmanlike manner as to make their work especially noticeable." (as quoted in the official War Diary)

Joe was transferred to the 29th (Vancouver) Infantry Battalion. At the beginning of August 1917, Joe was granted 10 days leave. He returned to England and married Mary Hall Baker of Breamish Avenue, Newcastle upon Tyne. It was to be a short marriage.

By the end of October, Joe was back at the Ypres Salient, where he had started his active service. On October 25 1917, Joe and the men had foot inspection and foot bath parades. Over the next few days, there were company parades, bayonet fighting and Lewis Gun training. The 29th Battalion moved closer to the battlefront. On November 6 1917, the Canadian Corps successfully captured Passchendaele village. Here is the rather terse 29th Battalion War Diary entry for November 6 1917: "Weather generally fine. Showery during morning…Casualties: Other Ranks: Killed 21, Wounded 79, Missing 8.” Pte. Joseph Harold Grice was one of the men who was killed in action that day.

Joe Grice’s name appears on the Menin Gate memorial in the town of Ypres. Why was Joe commemorated here and not in a grave? The Commonwealth War Graves Commission states: "Individuals are commemorated in this way when their loss has been officially declared by their relevant service but there is no known burial for the individual, or in circumstances where graves cannot be individually marked…." Chances are that Joe was one of the thousands of men who were victims of the shelling attacks and fell down in the mud of Flanders, his body not be recovered. All we can hope is that Joe is resting somewhere "in Flanders Fields."

Joseph Harold Grice's name is commemorated on the memorial plaque in the Royal Canadian Legion, Clayoquot Sound Branch Number #65. Joe’s name was also commemorated by his sister Jenny, who named her son Joseph Harold Macleod in his memory. Jenny (Grice) Macleod saved photographs of Joe and passed these on to her grandson, Ron Macleod, to whom we extend a warm thank for sharing!

Joe Grice, ca. 1910 

Story researched and prepared by curator of Vargas Island ranchers at home and at war, Stephanie Ann Warner, with sources from the official War Diaries and Joseph Harold Grice military service files, Library and Archives Canada. Photographs shared by Ron Macleod.

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.