Women played important role in cultural, educational progress

Not a lot of information is known about the women who played important role in cultural, educational progress

Circa 1920s: From left

Not a lot of information is known about the women who at one time lived here and whose influence helped shape the area into what it is today.

However, there is much information on their husbands and other men who lived and worked here in years past. The woman, for the most part, were wives and mothers, but they were also responsible for much of the early cultural, social and educational progress made within the community over many years. The following women are just a few of them.

In 1921 Dave Madill, a local resident since 1918, married Scottish born Miss Catherine McIntyre, in Lake Cowichan. For the first few years of their marriage they lived in a float house before building a permanent house on land.

Madill worked at many logging camps throughout the area including a close association with the legendary Lake Logging Company. Soon after the marriage, the Madills became very active in the civic and social affairs of the community.

The couple had a son who was raised and schooled locally. Catherine (standing on left in photo) was a long time (charter) member of a ladies service organization and had other local interests over many years. Dave too was involved with many organizations including 20 years on the local school board.

The Madill’s  son and  grandson were both also named David. After the death of Dave Madill Sr. in 1960, Catherine remained in the family home on Park Road and continued her community activities as she had always done. The senior Madills were both buried in the Masonic section of Hatley Memorial Park in Colwood, B.C. (Victoria).

Married in Vancouver in 1922, Mrs. Asta Nilsen (seen second from left) and her husband Andy’s first home was a float house at the far end of Cowichan Lake near present-day Heather Campsite. As was common for loggers in that era, Andy and his family moved their float house wherever there was work.

With their son Ron — who was born in Vancouver in 1924 — they eventually ended up, as did a small colony of other floathouse dwellers, near the Upper Pool of the Cowichan River close to the present-day weir.

Life was tough for float-house dwellers. Especially for the women, who had the added burden of making sure their children did not drown. The fear of fire was also a constant concern for float-house dwellers who cooked and heated their homes with wood or coal and used coal oil in their lanterns.

Eventually the [Nilsen] family moved their floating home to a property just down river from the present-day car bridge. In 1983, Asta Nilsen died at the age of 89.

Mrs. Kerrick (second from right in photo) and Mrs. Stelley, wife of prominent Victoria man George Stelly, (whose family Stelly’s Cross Road in Saanich is named after) were both short term residents of early Lake Cowichan.

Mrs. Stelly was a wonderful gardener who was responsible for the gardens in front of the old Riverside Inn which was owned by her husband and a partner.

At that time, the Stelleys maintained a private residence directly across the river from the hotel. It was there that Mrs. Stelley planted and maintained a large and beautiful garden which included the monkey tree that remains there to this day.


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