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1886-1889::The Man Who Lived in a Cedar Stump

Updated: May 27

A large cedar stump makes a perfect 3-story home in British Columbia.

1888::A Primitive Abode

"1888::A Primitive Abode"

Clip: Victoria Daily Colonist (1888)

Victoria, British Columbia

In 1886, a man on a journey to Yale, British Columbia, discovered a sizeable hollow stump of an old cedar tree somewhere between Langley and Sumas. It sat in a quiet forest far back from the busy road, and for a man who had travelled west to free himself from the world, it seemed the perfect place to call home.

1902::Witness Sketch of the Cedar Stump Abode

"1902::Witness Sketch of the Cedar Stump Abode"

Sketch: Tourism Brochure (1902) Vancouver, British Columbia

It was no ordinary stump; it was huge. The tree had been cut 15 feet from the ground and left the stump with a radius of 30 feet at the bottom, which tapered to 10 feet at the top. After hewing down the roughness of the inside, the man divided his living quarters into three parts: a pantry, a kitchen and a bedroom loft. He laid down a 12-foot square floor 3 feet from the ground and cut a hatch to access the newly formed cellar beneath where he could store potatoes and other vegetables. He built a front door out of split cedar (with latches and hinges of crooked maple vine) and cut two small windows large enough to let the sunshine in. On the main floor above the cellar was his kitchen and dining room, where a warm fireplace served for cooking and heating purposes. He built a roof over the stump, which created a loft to sleep in and a ladder he could pull up and hang on a peg. For three years, the man tended his small orchard, grew a vegetable garden, and made the stump his home... until one morning in 1889, he awoke to the sound of voices. New settlers had arrived and had set up their camp nearby, shattering his solitude. He was no longer alone. Within weeks, the man sold his stump for a reasonable sum and moved to New Westminster, where he lived the rest of his days. 

1891::The Town Site of Abbotsford

"1891::The Town Site of Abbotsford"

Clip: Vancouver Daily World (1891)

Vancouver, British Columbia

The newspapers featured his story several times over the three years that the man lived in the cedar stump. The story was presented with slight variations each time, adding to the mystery and intrigue. In one scenario, the man was believed to be the first settler in the area, later known as Abbotsford. In another scenario, the man had raised five kids in the tree stump, a feat that seemed impossible given its size. In yet another scenario, the man was found deceased on the roadside not far from his stump with his pack at his side, a tragic end to a unique life.

1889::Stump & Property Sold

"1889::Stump & Property Sold"

Clip: Victoria Daily Times (1889)

Victoria, British Columbia

No matter which version is true, the 1889 New Westminster directory lists a family name that did not appear in the directory the previous year. Years later, in 1902, the City of Vancouver featured the man's story in a tourism brochure and provided this sketch of his home in the cedar stump as drawn from witness accounts.

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