Houlgrave Road (Toby Benches)
The Houlgrave property was far back on the Toby Benches, a good distance away from other settlers.
Houlgrave Road, located up on the Toby Benches, was named after Master Mariner and sometimes farmer, Gerald Houlgrave.
Early Years and the Sea
Gerald Houlgrave was born in Liverpool on 14 August 1875, to parents Petri Georgü (Peter George) and Florentina (née Newstead), and was baptized Geraldus Houlgrave at the Catholic Oratory of St Philip Neri.1 Gerald had an elder brother, George, but very little is known about their early life. On the 1881 census, both George and Gerald (as Harold) were living with their maternal grandparents in Liverpool.2
By the 1891 census, Gerald was boarding as a pupil in Margate, Kent,3 while in 1901, he was living again with his grandmother. By then, his occupation is listed as “master mariner”.4
That same census, elder brother George was a third officer and master mariner on the vessel the Tauric.5 Either George or Gerald (the entry is only listed as G Houlgrave, which isn’t helpful) is listed on a crew list for the fishing boat Majestic, as fourth mate, in September 1901 out of Liverpool.6 Safe to say that both brothers undertook a naval career.
At some point, Gerald joined the Royal Navy, and was appointed sub-lieutenant on 21 January 1903, then lieutenant on 23 December 1904.7 A later newspaper article states that he was, “at one time fifth officer on board the Lusitania. He also has seen service in charge of a gun boat on Lake Victoria Nyanza in Central Africa.”8
A Change in Scenery
Gerald did not officially leave the navy until 29 November 1912, when he was given the rank Lieut Commander retired,9 but sometime before then, likely in 1911, he had already travelled overseas to Canada and the Windermere Valley. The Columbia Valley Irrigated Fruit Lands Co (CVIF) was then heavily advertising its property up on the Toby Benches, targeting retired military men with the gentlemanly pursuit of fruit farming.
Sometime in 1912, Gerald purchased Lot 171 of Division B of the Irrigated Fruit Lands, located north-west of Lake Lillian. At the end of June of that year, he also travelled (as Captain Houlgrave of Wilmer B.C.) from Québec back to Liverpool.10 On 23 July 1912, Gerald married Eleanor Mary Raynes at the parish church of Llysfaen in northern Wales,11 and the newlyweds arrived in the Windermere Valley in September, taking up residence on the Lot 171 ranch.12
Eleanor is described, by fellow CVIF settler Daisy Phillips, in a letter home in 1913, as “quite a girl and a very nice little thing,”13 who was “quite young, [with] dark hair and rosy cheeks and is very fit and well.”14 The “young” part of this description depends on perspective – Daisy Phillips was then age thirty-eight, and Eleanor about thirty. A much later, more critical description comes from another Toby Benches resident, Phyllis Falconer, who refers to Eleanor as “a little wife out of England who had never been used to doing her own work.”15
Hard Work and Isolation
Life on the CVIF’s lands on the benches wasn’t easy. The Company promised land purchasers a lucrative career in fruit farming, but in 1912 the irrigation system needed to accomplish that goal had not even been completed, let alone fruit trees planted.16 There was also a lack of local help for domestic work, and many of the newcomers lived in tents as their barns and houses were built, relying on their savings to get them by until crops could be planted.17
The Houlgraves were better off than many. Gerald had built, likely before Eleanor arrived, “an attractive house,”18 and all of their washing was sent out to be done (a costly luxury).19 Eleanor seems to have come from money, as at her death in 1925 her estate was valued at $20,382.48.20 Houlgrave was also gifted by the CVIF, in 1915, the east section of adjacent Lot 183, possibly in an effort to resolve his complaints about the company not keeping their promises.21
Money and land did not help with the isolation, however. The Houlgrave property was far back on the Toby Benches, a good distance away from other settlers. Daisy Phillips remarks in her letters that Mrs Houlgrave was “too far off for me to see much of her.”22
This isolation made a difference in late November 1914 as Eleanor was overdue to give birth to her first child. Eleanor’s cousin (possibly Franklin Humble23), who had been staying with them, had just left to join up in the First World War,24 leaving Gerald and Eleanor alone at the ranch. If Gerald needed to go to fetch the doctor, Eleanor would be alone.
Daisy Phillips and her young daughter came to stay for a few days, both to help with the housework (which she describes as “not half such hard work as at home”), and to stay with Eleanor should the situation call for it.25
It’s unclear if Daisy was there to help when Gerald Patrick Houlgrave was born 26 November 1914,26 but the birth itself was not easy. Daisy later writes, on 7 December, that “she [Eleanor] was very bad and nearly died but she is coming on very well now and the baby is very healthy. … We hope to go and see him tomorrow.”27
That visit would be her last, as even then Daisy and her husband Jack were packing to travel back to England for Jack to re-join his regiment in the war. Daisy was hoping to sell Eleanor their pram. Recovering from a difficult birth, while what little outside support she had on the Toby Benches was leaving, could not have been easy for Eleanor.
A Return to England
Eventually, the war took the Houlgraves away from the Windermere Valley as well. By early 1916, with more and more men having left to join up and fight, Gerald reportedly kept expecting to be called up from his position in the Royal Navy Reserves.
When no communications came, in April 1916 he decided to be proactive and travel back to England, with Eleanor and Paddy (their son). His efforts were successful, and Gerald was mobilized as part of the Royal Navy on 10 May 1916.28 He is described, in an April 1916 Cranbrook newspaper, as “amongst the last to depart” from the district (Invermere), and as having sold many of his belongings, although he retained an interest in the ranch.29
In his absence, the Houlgrave ranch was reportedly looked after by Jack Barbour,30 which is particularly interesting as Gerald is also reported as having, “a hot temper and was always fighting with Jack.”31 That temper may have gotten the better of him more than once, as in January 1916 a court case was brought against Gerald by Alex Ritchie and John Edgar Stoddart, who accused Gerald of shooting their bull. Gerald claimed self defense.32
Gerald’s war service with the Royal Navy was mixed. He was taken on as Lieutenant Commander, and went on to serve on four vessels between May 1916 and July 1918 (the HMS Excellent until 16 May 1916, the HMS Terrible 19 May 1916-14 Jan 1917, the HMS Excellent (again) 15 Jan 1917-21 July 1917, and the HMS President III 1 August 1917-25 July 1918). He then requested to be transferred to the Canadian Forces.33
Gerald was demobilized from the Royal Navy and returned to Canada in August 1918, where he was appointed on 12 September 1918 to the Naval Transport Office in Québec. There he seems to have done office work, although he was officially “borne on books” of the HMCS Niobe.34 He was discharged on 7 February 1919,35 following the Armistice and the closure of the naval transport office in Quebec.36
Gerald did not advance at all in rank while serving again through the war. He was described in February 1918, presumably by a commanding officer ( _ Henderson), to be “earnest and quick but fails to impart to others his special training and knowledge. There are difficulties in a ship of this kind where it is not possible to do any training work of drill in harbour as ship is discharging or receiving cargo.”37 In other words, he was capable but not a very good leader.
Back to Canada
Following the war, the Houlgrave family returned to the Windermere Valley, at some point moving to Wilmer to be closer to school for their son, Paddy. Gerald also took part in the the Wilmer Dramatic Club.38
Gerald and Eleanor’s second child, Katherine Elizabeth, was born in June 1922,39 and in November 1923 Eleanor and her two children left to spend the winter with her family “in the old country.”40 They returned in May 1924,41 and a year and a half following, on 1 December 1925, Eleanor died in childbirth at the Invermere general hospital.42 She is buried at the Windermere cemetery.43
She and Gerald’s third child was named in her honour, Eleanor Mary.44
Gerald and his three children, Gerald Patrick, Katherine Elizabeth, and Eleanor Mary remained living in Wilmer for just over another year. In memory of his wife, Gerald gifted Christ Church (Anglican) Church in Invermere with “a handsome pulpit… oak, in old English finish, in simple Grecian lines, with five inset panels, the middle one having a beautifully carved cross. The panel on the left side has the Green letter “A”, signifying the word “Alpha”, and the panel on the right side has the corresponding Greek letter “O” for “Omega” in the same carving as the cross. A brass plate with suitable inscription is set in under the book rest.”45 Gerald was also, through at least 1927, on the church committee for Christ Church.46
The Mariner Returns to the Coast
At the end of 1927 Gerald arranged to move his family permanently from Wilmer to North Vancouver.47 He returned briefly with his youngest daughter in August 1928, “in order to wind up his ranch affairs,”48 namely renting out the ranch.
Gerald would spend the rest of his life in North Vancouver. Through the late 1940s he reported to the Admiralty in Britain (it’s unclear if this was voluntary or required), that he was employed working irregularly on North Vancouver ferries and coastal tugs.49 He remained involved in the Anglican Church, and was a sidesman in the Parish of St Catherine’s (Capilano) in 1952.50
Gerald passed away on 6 October 1960 in North Vancouver as a retired master mariner extraordinary, and is buried in the Windermere Cemetery.51
The Houlgrave Daughters
I could find frustratingly little about the Houlgrave daughters. The youngest, Eleanor Mary (Mamie), at some time married William Sabok, and the two lived at Great Central on Vancouver Island (just north of Port Alberni). She died young, on 19 May 1955 at age 29, of leukemia, and is buried at the Greenwood Cemetery in Alberni.52
There is even less about Katherine Elizabeth (Babette or Bet).53 She is mentioned briefly in her father’s obituary as living on Vancouver Island as Mrs Moore.54
Gerald Patrick (Pat) Houlgrave
The eldest Houlgrave, Gerald Patrick (Paddy, and later Pat), initially followed in his father’s footsteps, recalling later that he had had, “deep-sea [naval] experience during the depression. “That cured me of wanting any more,” he grins, “so when the war came I joined the air force.””55
As Flying Officer for the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War, Pat was also, at the beginning of July 1944, engaged to music teacher Kathleen Beatrice Hall of Kelowna.56 It was a short engagement, and within a couple of weeks, on 24 July 1944, the two were married.57 Kathleen’s brother, Dick, was also part of the Air Force and acted as best man, and Pat’s sister Bet came from Vancouver for the ceremony.58
Just a couple of weeks following their wedding, Pat and Kathleen were reportedly moving to Calgary, accompanied by their daughter, Peggy.59 This move did not last, and it seems they returned to Kelowna for a time, where at the end of February 1945 Pat obtained his release from the Air Force.60 By the end of 1946 the family, now with two daughters, Peggy and Judy, were living in Penticton.61 In 1950 they were living in Courtenay B.C., with a third child, Robin.62
Pat later recalled of this period that, “After the war he tried various jobs in the interior and then moved to Courtenay where he went into the woods. But with a wife and four children to support, logging is too seasonal, so back into the air force went Pat.”63
Pat remained with the RCAF at Comox until about 1964, at which time he turned his full attention to operating the then-thriving Cape Lazo Boatyard. Pat had started the boatyard back in December 1961, inspired by his hobby of building boats and helping others to do the same. Kathie took night classes and took on the office end of the business. The boat yard went on to produce the first fiberglass fishing trawler on the Pacific Coast – fiberglass was then a relatively new and novel technology, as boats up until then were made of wood.64
Pat would pass away in July 1999 at age 84, still residing in Courtenay, at which time his occupation is listed as self-employed in business.65
The Houlgrave property, known as Horsethief Ranch (although it’s unclear who exactly named it such), went through a couple of owners. Gerald sold the ranch in 1938 to “Tex” Vernon Woods, a guide formally out of Banff, from whom it then passed on to Tex’s daughter, Dorothy Gow, who used it as a part time residence. In 1956 big game guide Albert Cooper purchased the ranch, using it to keep horses for his business.66
John Edgar Stoddart
Canada Dock Liverpool, “List of Officers, Crew and others on Board the Ship of Vessel Named Tauric on the night of Sunday 31st March 1901 (George Houlgrave).” Ancestry.com database, “1901 England Census.” ↩
Always very interested in reading about the valley.
Dorothy, née Vernon-Wood, Gow married Harry B. Gow in Banff. Harry was an RCMP constable who went on to Radium but left the RCMP, joining the Canadian Army (Reserve, & then Active) for the duration of WWII. On return he and Dorothy purchased the Ranch from Tex Vernon-Wood, and kept it for a decade doing hunting guiding and hosting tourists. This was hard to maintain as Harry remained active (Major, then Lt.-Colonel) in the Army, so they turned the place back to Tex Vernon-Wood who sold it on to Albert Cooper.
Hi! My brother and sister and I were so excited to find this article! We are the children of Katherine Elizabeth Moore nee Houlgrave. Your research into our family we found very fun and interesting with lots of facts we did not know! If you are interested in our mothers history, please let me know. Thank you so much!
Hi! I’m so glad you found the article, and happy to have been able to share some new information. I would definitely be interested in your mother’s history: you can email me at email@example.com