In August 1960, long time Cowichan Lake resident Carl Swanson celebrated his 75th birthday. Family and friends from near and far gathered at the Swanson home on Cowichan Lake’s Marble Bay (now Bayview Village) for a surprise birthday celebration for Carl. At least 80 names were mentioned in the local newspaper as attending the event.
As a young man, Carl left his homeland of Sweden venturing out by sailing ship around the notorious Cape Horn and on to Canada. settling in North Vancouver. After meeting Anna Borg, who had left her home in Goteborg, Sweden for Canada, the young couple married and had three daughters Edith (Mrs.Walter Tiesu), Bonnie (Mrs. Ed Marley), and Ethel (Mrs. Jack Davis) who were all born in North Vancouver.
In 1913 they moved to Youbou (they lived in a tent for the first while) where Carl found employment as a saw filer. The family later moved to Lake Cowichan where they took up residence in a float house anchored near the present day weir. They later moved the float house around the lake to wherever Carl, a logger, was working at the time. Years later Ethel recalled her mothers beautiful flower boxes on the float house, the gardens and the eggs from her mothers chickens and ducks.
The Swanson girls either walked to school or rowed their boat down the lake, tying up at Scholey’s Store (where Jakes at the Lake restaurant now stands). They then walked to the school (the first area schoolhouse), which was located near today’s Evergreen Apartment building.
In addition to the smaller boat, Carl also owned a larger one called the Grey Streak. Like most of the town’s residents back then, the Swanson’s did not own a motorcar so the Grey Streak served as the family vehicle.
Carl and Anna later operated a floating dance hall. It was moored on the river behind today’s town municipal office and was, for a time, called Noah’s Ark after it’s next owner Rev. Maynard. The Swanson’s also operated Swan Café, which was set up in a residence that occupied the property of today’s post office. Daughter Bonnie, whose real name was Anna, ran a beauty parlour out of the same residence.
Another Swanson venture included the purchase and operation of Sunset Auto Court. Located on the North Arm of Cowichan Lake. The beautiful property was later subdivided into single-family lots where many lovely lakefront homes were built.
“In the mid 1930s, the northern portion of the North Arm waterfront had been bought by a Mr. and Mrs. Carl Swanson — respected Scandinavian pioneers — who developed what was known as Sunset Park, erecting several comfortable cabins, for seasonal visitors, and for permanent occupants. Mr. Swanson piped water down from Meade’s Mountain, for domestic use, and also, with great ingenuity, installed a small pelton wheel to generate electricity for his buildings. “This venture worked fairly efficiently, I believe, except at certain seasons of the year…” Excerpt from the Trevor Green Journals.
After the sale of the auto court the couple moved to Marble Bay where Carl built a beautiful home (as described by Henry Lundgren, emcee at the 75th birthday party). On October 31, 1965, just five years after Carl’s 75th birthday and a year and a half after Anna died, Carl passed away at age 80.
Although it’s been 99 years since the Swanson’s came to Cowichan Lake, there remains a Swanson presence in the community to this day. Several descendants, including grandchildren, Marie Monti, Larry, Don and John Davis, several great grandchildren, great-great grandchildren and great-great-great grandchildren make Lake Cowichan their home.