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Email letters to editor@northislandgazette.com and we will publish online and in print.

Where have all the Hamlets gone, asks longtime McNeill resident

‘today one is hard pressed to find any evidence of this once thriving hamlet’

Dear editor,

Younger generations will likely never have listened to this catchy song Peter, Paul and Mary made popular in 1962. The song asked in turn, “Where have all the flowers, girls, husbands, soldiers, and graveyards gone, long time passing.”

Today we might ask, “Where have all the North Island hamlets gone, long time passing?” Communities like Gilford Village, Vernon Camp, Nimpkish Camp, Scott Cove, Kokish, , and others once lit up our wilderness. Like bright flowers they flourished and echoed with children’s laughter. One by one they disappeared from today’s maps.

Kokish is a prime example of a community that vanished completely. Crown Zellerbach had acquired the logging rights in the Beaver Cove area of Johnson Strait. In 1955 the company moved Beaver Cove to a new location a few kilometers up the logging road. They named this new camp Kokish. It is believed Kokish is a Kwak’wala word meaning ‘Notched Beach.” As is the case in almost all hamlets everyone in the community knew all their neighbors and so they grew close to each other. The three-room school became an important gathering center for the people. For the school’s special events almost everyone in the hamlet showed up often mingling behind afterwards to visit and enjoy refreshments. Other activities like logger sports put on by the people of the village brought visitors from neighboring communities to town for a day.

The men in the community worked at the maintenance shop nearby or at other jobs of the logging operation and the mills in the area. Aside from the school and the few businesses that existed women found it more difficult to find work out of the home. They often met in small groups and often formed firm friendships, sometimes to the exclusion of others. Overall, the days were quiet and peaceful in the village.

For people living north of Kokish the only land bridge down island was the logging road to Gold River passing nearby the hamlet. Given the distance between communities, the isolation, and the rough road, Kokish provided a small measure of peace of mind for travelers who hailed the completion of the highway to Campbell River in 1978. But it helped to hasten the death of Kokish. The school closed in 1981. Families began to move to Port McNeill, and today one is hard pressed to find any evidence of this once thriving hamlet.

Werner Manke,

Port McNeill


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