Canada thistles were the main target of noxious weed orders in 1924, but it applied to all invasives, including the ox-eye daisy, first introduced to Canada by Cobble Hill’s Pimbury brothers. 
(Invasive Species Council of BC photo)

Canada thistles were the main target of noxious weed orders in 1924, but it applied to all invasives, including the ox-eye daisy, first introduced to Canada by Cobble Hill’s Pimbury brothers. (Invasive Species Council of BC photo)

T.W. Paterson column: North Cowichan agenda no field of daisies in 1924

With the wisdom of Solomon, council ordered Young-husband to erect lattice-work around the washrooms

With the wisdom of Solomon, council ordered Young-husband to erect lattice-work around the washrooms, the work to be completed by month’s end.

There’s a real danger to historical research, you know. Almost without fail, I get into old newspapers such as the Cowichan Leader with a specific goal in mind and — I get sidetracked.

Happened again today. Here I am, out to write something for Friday’s National Day of Mourning and I made the mistake of reading the front page of the Leader for July 10, 1924.

But let’s deal with the workers’ memorial day first with an item that appeared in a 2013 issue of the Old Cemeteries Society’s bulletin, Stories In Stone. Family descendant Michele Ashby wrote about a double grave in Victoria’s Ross Bay Cemetery.

A large but plain granite headstone bears the inscription, In Memory of Edward Knight, Born June 21, 1850, Died June 23, 1925, and Percy George French Knight, Born October 18, 1886, Died June 11, 1925.

Note the dates of death of father and son, just 12 days apart. Therein lies their sad story…

A logger, George Knight was working near Eberts, B.C. on May 7 when, according to the news report in the Victoria Daily Times, a tree had been felled and had to have its branches stripped: “It was on a hillside, and commenced to roll. Observing that the timber would strike a companion at a lower elevation, Mr. Knight jumped in to save him. He put his shoulder to the tree, but slipped on the moist undergrowth and was instantly crushed as the timber rolled downwards.

“It proved a difficult task to extricate the unfortunate man, who was terribly injured about the abdomen and legs. Mr. Knight was removed to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where he was operated on at once, but while every effort has been made known to medical science to secure his recovery, it was feared from the first the effort would be futile, and thus it proved.”

Three years a logger, George Knight was 39 years old and he’s one of the legions of forestry workers who have been killed while working in the woods. Hence Friday’s National Day or Mourning honours those all who’ve been killed or injured in the workplace.

Which brings us back to his father, Francis Knight. Upon word of his son’s accident Mr. Knight, Sr. had rushed from Ontario to be at George’s bedside. No doubt it was the strain of it all that provoked the fatal stroke of June 23 that led to his being buried, side by side with his son whose own death came 12 days later. The logical conclusion is that the accident which killed George Knight also killed his father…

With that, and with due respect, may I turn to the local news of July 10, 1924. What a mixed bag! The city was eagerly anticipating turning on their new water supply from the Cowichan River within days; a forest fire fanned by high winds had threatened Somenos for a time and destroyed a home; police commissioner Dennis Ashby had narrowly escaped serious injury when the forestry truck in which he was riding left the road; and the Vimy Social Club had staged an excellent concert in their hall on Gibbins Road.

But it’s the news from North Cowichan council that really intrigues, the municipality having declared war on noxious weeds. This is something we can fully relate to today; almost a century later we’re still fighting what we’ve come to call invasive species.

Specifically, they were targeting Canada thistles which had taken over plots of land no longer being cultivated by the Soldier Settlement Board. Dispensing with red tape, council began cutting the weeds on its own accord and issued clear warning to all property owners that “if their weeds are not cut within 10 days the municipality will do the work and charge the cost against the land” under the Noxious Weeds Act which legally required only seven days’ notice.

Council had been prompted by two Westholme farmers, Capt. Gaisford and L.F. Solly, who complained that it was no use their cutting weeds on their own properties when Canada thistles were abundant on adjoining lands.

Although the thistle was the main target all noxious weeds (Burdocks and Ox-eye daisies entered the discussion) were included in the directive. Reeve Evans reminded council that the latter were the unintended legacy of Cobble Hill’s Pimbury brothers who’d planted daisies sent from the Old Country to remind them of their English homeland. Then George Drinkwater had introduced the daisy to Somenos and the white flower had simply run amok. Apparently Drinkwater was doubly chagrined when he later found out that, even in the Old Country, the daisy is considered a weed!

Police Commissioner Ashby, obviously recovered from his auto accident, asked council if they were going to prosecute R. Young-husband for cutting down trees on municipal property at Maple Bay. Young-husband said he thought he was on the Beaumont estate property where he had permission to log. This wasn’t good enough for Ashby who was “decidedly hostile” because, in so doing, Young-husband had cut away the natural privacy of the public conveniences which were now “wide open to public gaze,” to the point that people were likely to avoid using them. He said that Maple Bay residents were “very incensed”.

Ashby wanted action! Too many things were going on at Maple Bay, including church benches that were chopped up and burned as firewood; “the culprits [will] think they can get away with anything they like”.

With the wisdom of Solomon, council ordered Young-husband to erect lattice-work around the washrooms, the work to be completed by month’s end and to meet the approval of the municipality’s works superintendent.

Which brought them to the matter of the police chief’s phone line being tapped! This was Commissioner Ashby complaining again, this time that unnamed citizens were listening in on the chief’s line and learning the movements of the police, particularly those of North Cowichan force’s new motorcycle patrol. He’d approached the telephone company about installing a private line to the chief’s office but the cost, he said, was prohibitive.

He suggested that the phone company contact those who shared the chief’s party line and warn them to desist or further (but unstated) action would be taken.

Council agreed that a letter to this effect be sent to the phone company. Also in regard to the police motorcycle, it was noted that the municipality faced “a decided need for the regulation of speed fiends in the district,” as evidenced by the fact that police had issued seven speeding tickets in just four days.

And, finally, a request from the Great War Veterans Association that further work be done to improve the gravel road to the lighthouse war memorial on Mount Prevost was declined. But there was $2,000 in the coffers to purchase Canadian National Railways bonds which were guaranteed by the Dominion of Canada and to rebuild a bridge on Herd Road.

www.twpaterson.com