In April 1937, Colonel J. H. Boyd became the official coroner in the district of Cowichan Lake.
Three months later he was appointed stipendiary magistrate and Judge of the juvenile court and small debts court.
He held the four positions until June 30,1958 (Kaatza – Chronicles of Cowichan Lake by John F. T. Saywell.)
As though that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, Boyd also held a seat on the local school board in addition to the position of school district secretary-treasurer. He held both these positions from 1933 until 1947 when amendments were made to the school act preventing a person from “being a trustee and a secretary-treasurer (at the same time).”
Obliged to drop one of the two school board positions, he chose to remain secretary-treasurer. Boyd was to remain a powerful force within the school district and throughout the village for many more years.
Several years ago Kaatza Station Museum was the recipient of several documents and records that Boyd had saved from his days as Coroner. During those years he meticulously recorded the details surrounding each and every death that he investigated—namely those that fell into the category of accidents or unknown cause.
Logging accidents were by far the cause of the majority of the deaths that Col. Boyd investigated, although there were also drownings and fires resulting in causalities. A surprising number of deaths due to suicides were also investigated. In his little black leather bound notebook were the names and circumstances of each case he investigated.
After recently discovering a 1955 article in which a man and his two horses tragically drowned in Cowichan Lake near Honeymoon Bay, I decided to check out Colonel Boyd’s little book of investigations. Sure enough there it was. Also reported in the Duncan newspaper the Cowichan Leader, was an article on the tragic drowning filed under the headline “Man and two horses drown while salvaging logs.”
It happened in the afternoon of December 1, 1955 with logger Tom Hewitt riding one of his horses while dragging (for salvage) logs out of the lake. In what was later described as a “freak accident,” the harness of the horse, “caught on a 60 foot partially submerged log” causing the horse to stumble, throwing its rider and the second horse (to which the first horse was harnessed) into the deep water.
Hewitt tried desperately but was unable to free his horses resulting in the drowning tragedy.
Note: The area the accident took place was near an old booming ground near which the lake bottom was almost totally covered with logs.
A few days later Cowichan Lake coroner Col. Boyd conducted an official inquiry into the death of Hewitt. The drowning was deemed accidental. Mr. Hewitt was survived by his wife and two sons aged 10 and 18.
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