Cougar Annie

cougar annie - photo

Ada Annie Rae-Arthur, later Ada Annie Lawson but better known as Cougar Annie, (June 19, 1888 – April 28, 1985) was a pioneer who settled near Hesquiat Harbour at Boat Basin in Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Canada.

Born Ada Annie Jordan in SacramentoCalifornia, she moved to the land where she was to live for more than 65 years from VancouverBritish Columbia in 1915 after having lived in EnglandSouth Africa and the Canadian Prairies as a child. She arrived with the first of her four husbands to save him from an opium addiction and ensure that the remittance cheques that came from his family in Scotland would continue to arrive. At the time she and her husband settled on the coast, they had three small children. She gave birth to eight more children in this remote location. She acquired her nickname because of her famed marksmanship. She shot dozens of cougars during her long life.

After the death of her first husband Willie Rae-Arthur in 1936, she advertised in The Western Producer saying “BC Widow with Nursery and orchard wishes partner. Widower preferred. Object matrimony.” [1] The new husband she chose from several candidates died at their home in 1944 of an accidental gunshot wound to the leg. The story goes he was cleaning his gun and didn’t realize that there was a cartridge still in the chamber. Her third husband was produced by the same advertisement, and after his death of Pneumonia in 1955, she ran another ad, this time seeking a widower with young children. Her own children having grown and moved off, she found a companion who stayed on with his children for a number of months before the remoteness of life in Boat Basin drove him away. However they did remain in contact for many years to come. (This previous statement has never been verified by the family.) In 1961 Annie married for the fourth and last time. It was an unsuccessful marriage to a man, 12 years her junior, who drank, stole from the store and sometimes beat her. This man tried to run Annie off a cliff to get the farm but she was wilier than he was and ran him off with her shotgun. When he left never to return around 1967, he was not missed.

In 1942 the lighthouse at Estevan Point was shelled by a Japanese submarine. Annie claimed to have seen the submarine surface in the harbour before the lighthouse was shelled and to have found a shell on the beach in front of her land.

cougar annie's gardenWith little help, Annie cleared 5 acres (20,000 m2) of her land and planted a sprawling garden. The garden was a source of income throughout her life, as she sold bulbs and plants by mail. She also operated a general store and post office from her plot of land. Another source of income over the years was a bounty offered for Cougars that ranged from $10 to $40. The numbers of cats that she claimed to have killed continued to increase into her old age but in 1955 she received bounties for 10 cats. At that time she claimed to have killed 62 cougars and about 80 bears. Killing cougars and bears was necessary because they preyed on the goats and chickens that she raised.

Her livelihood depended upon the regular visits of the Canadian Pacific Steamships Line Princess Maquinna that arrived every 10 days in Hesquiat Harbour from 1913 to 1952 on her rounds fromVictoria to Port Alice.

Annie rarely left the property where she lived until well into her nineties. Ailing and mostly blind, she was removed to Port Alberni, where she died at the age of 97.

[Source: Wikipedia]

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