Old Quatsino celebrated its 120 anniversary on Sept. 5, with Lorne Jones and the Tugs, a barbecue and beer gardens. Proceeds from the event went to the Quatsino Museum & Archives and the Quatsino Volunteer Fire Brigade.
“The community was given some cool birthday presents,” said event organizer Gwen Hansen from the Quatsino Archives Association.
These included a Canada flag from the Lieutenant-Governor of BC, an engraved 120th Anniversary commemorative plaque from Claire Trevena, a walnut tree seedling from the Odynsky family, and a beautiful Carnival shrub from federal MP candidate Brenda Sayers from the Green Party. Making their way over on a water taxi to attend the event were Bill Warren and Andy Howich who grew up together in old Quatsino and some of their children.
Bill’s parents Sydney and Jessie Warren, were once the lighthouse keepers on Kains Island.
According to lighthousefriends.com Sydney Warren and his wife were expecting their seventh child when he heard about the job opening for a resident lighthouse keeper on Kains Island. Sydney was given the position and soon sailed north with his six young daughters. Jessie, his wife, arrived six months later with their infant son, Bill, and soon began work on a large garden. The family also raised chicken and rabbits to supplement the supplies brought by boat. Five years of nearly idyllic life on the island came to an abrupt end on Oct. 23, 1929.
Sydney was rowing out to meet the mail boat when a wave sent him overboard. Jessie and her daughters yelled for the mailman to help, and Doris swam out to try to save her father. Doris managed to bring him to the surface just in time to be picked up by the mail boat. Sydney was taken ashore, where attempts were made in vain to revive him. The family went to Quatsino for the funeral then returned to look after the lighthouse until a replacement keeper could be found.
Jessie and her seven children relocated to Hecate Cove.
Bill left Old Quatsino in 1943 at the age of 17 to go work in Port Alice.
Howich, who also lived in Hecate Cove, remembers attending Quatsino Elementary School and being responsible for lighting the schoolhouse stove every morning. He was paid 25 cents a day, a total of $5 a month, which was big money in those days. When he got up to perform the task it was often so dark that he had to ride his bike across the island with a lamp.
Another former resident on hand for the celebration was Stan Becker who was born on Aug. 11, 1927 in Colony Lake. In 1944, Becker remembers, Old Quatsino boasted a population of about 200 people and between 45 and 50 youngsters attended school.
Quatsino is one of the North Island’s earliest settlements, it was first settled in the late 1800s, by Norwegian settlers from North Dakota who arrived aboard the ‘Mischief’, an old wooden steamship. They were joined by Danish settlers who had attempted to start farms on Cape Scott, but were soon discouraged by the isolation and weather. Many homes in old Quatsino were barged in from Cape Scott.
In the early to mid 1900s Quatsino was in its heyday. It had its own Government Wharf, four stores, a post office, hotels, a saloon, telegraph office, sawmills, canneries and a fueling station.
The one-room school burned down in 1934, but was re-built. Charles Thornbur was the first teacher, but he was succeeded part way through the first year by Claude Butler who was originally from England.
The school was still in operation until 2008 when it was attended by 10 children from Kindergarten to Grade 9.
The school was closed by the School District 85 at the end of 2008 because of low enrollment. Because of a lack of students, the school currently operates as a community centre.
Today the population of Old Quatsino is about 100 and the area has become a popular destination for sport fishing, kayaking, bird and whale watching.