‘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.