It was many years after the formation of the settlement at the foot of Cowichan Lake, (then know as “the Foot” today known as the Town of Lake Cowichan) that permanent churches were erected in the area. Since the turn of the 20th century there had been several missionaries, preachers and bible students who came to the area although none stayed. Men of the cloth (preachers) and church laymen from Duncan or beyond occasionally traveled the old Cowichan Lake road from Duncan to “the Foot” to conduct religious services at the schoolhouse or at a private residence.
The first known permanent church building in town was constructed in1935 by the followers of Reverend T. Maynard. For five years Maynard had preached the gospel of a strict fundamentalist sect know as the Plymouth Brethren, in a floating church.
Services were held in the float-house, which was moored on the riverbank between today’s town office and the former Mildred Child Annex (now owned by the town). Known as The Ark, it wasn’t a stretch of the imagination that Maynard, who sported a long white beard, would be called Noah. During his years as Noah of the Ark, the elderly preacher and his wife Margaret and family lived in a small house situated on property just steps away from the moored Ark.
The float-house itself was built years earlier by pioneer Carl Swanson, who at one time operated a dance hall in the large float-house. For several years, the Ark served the congregation well. One of the memories some local children — who weren’t necessarily church members — had was attending services just so they could watch the “lantern slide- show.”
After some sort of problem arose among the church members, the building was sold for $500, and removed. Noah, now without his Ark, purchased two lots across the street on what is now South Shore Road (beside today’s Footwear Centre). There, his followers built a permanent church, which they called Hope Hall.
For several years local families, those who were dedicated adherents of the faith, attended Sunday services, bible study, and children’s bible lessons at the church.
At the back of the church stairs led to an attic room used to teach children Sunday school classes. At some point in time local elementary school teacher Miss Doris Dien taught Sunday school in that upstairs room.
On December 10, 1939 at age 74, the Reverend Thomas Henry Maynard (Noah), died at Lake Cowichan while returning from a visit with members of his congregation. A news account of the day reported “he had taken a shortcut (home) where he climbed up an embankment which put an extra strain on his heart which caused him to fall.” His body was later found in a clump of bushes.
Many years later local dentist Dr. David Sharp purchased the Hope Hall property. The old church building was removed and a brand new dental office was built on the space. After many years Dr. Sharp retired and sold the dental practice, which continues to operate to this day.
Max, one of Rev. Maynard’s many children, later became a painter of some acclaim. As a young man he studied under famous Canadian artist Emily Carr. One of Max’s paintings depicting a sober scene of a house set among the mountains surrounding Cowichan Lake can be viewed online.