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1920::Farson and the Cowichan Lake Float-Houses

Updated: May 26

An early 20th-century writer once called a float-house on Vancouver Island home.

1915::Negley Farson. Journalist, Civil Engineer, Adventurer

"1915::Negley Farson. Journalist, Civil Engineer, Adventurer"

Photo Clip: Passport Application (1915)

Long before James Bond, there was a man who made women swoon and who did the things that most men of his time could only dream about. That man was Negley Farson. Farson was a partially educated American journalist and Civil Engineer who wandered the earth, experiencing extreme adventures. He traded arms in Russia during the Russian Revolution, interviewed Gandhi before also witnessing his arrest, and had a close-up view of John Dillinger's body after being shot… the list is endless. 

“Almost everything happened to him that befalls a living man.” - New York Times (1936)

1920::Uncle Dick's Cabin at Lake Cowichan on the North Arm

"1920::Uncle Dick's Cabin at Lake Cowichan on the North Arm"

Photo Clip: Britannia & Eve (1935)

London, England

At the outbreak of WW1, Farson joined Britain's Royal Flying Corps, learned how to fly and was sent to Egypt, where his plane was shot down in action. He was sent back to Britain to recover from a severe leg injury and fell in love with his nurse, Eve Stoker, the niece of Bram Stoker of Dracula fame. When the doctors could do no more for Farson's leg, they suggested sunshine and rest as his next step for recovery. Eve knew just the place: Uncle Dick's cabin.

1920::Negley Farson and Eve Stoker's Dual Passport

"1920::Negley Farson and Eve Stoker's Dual Passport" Photo Clip: Passport Application (1920)

Penniless due to post-war circumstances, Eve and Negley married and soon arrived in Lake Cowichan, where they were challenged to live on £10 a month. They met up with Eve's uncle, Dr. Richard 'Dick' Stoker, Bram Stoker's brother who had retired to Lake Cowichan in 1898. Uncle Dick gave the newlyweds the keys to his cabin, where they'd spend their first of two years on the lake. 

1921::The Farson's Cowichan Lake Float House

"1921::The Farson's Cowichan Lake Float House" Photo Clip: Britannia & Eve (1935)

London, England

During their second summer, the Farsons joined their neighbours on the lake by trading in Uncle Dick's cabin for a float-house. Each day, they lifted the float-house moorings so they could wake up to a different view of a different part of the lake. 

"It was merely a raw board shack built on a cedar raft, but it had this advantage - we could pull up its wooden pile moorings and let it drift just to see where we would wake up in the morning." - Negley Farson (1890-1960)

1921::Negley Farson on Cowichan Lake

"1921::Negley Farson on Cowichan Lake" Photo Clip: Britannia & Eve (1938) London, England

"Yes, we lived on an island lake in British Columbia for two years, subsisting largely on a shotgun, fishing rods and an overworked typewriter - and I wouldn't swap them for any other two years of my life. Not by a long shot!" - Negley Farson (1890-1960)

1921::Eve Stoker Cooking Trout for Breakfast Near Shaw Creek, Lake Cowichan

"1921::Eve Stoker Cooking Trout for Breakfast Near Shaw Creek, Lake Cowichan" Photo Clip: Britannia & Eve (1935) London, England

1921::Negley Farson Lifting the Moorings of his Cowichan Lake Float House

Life was good, and Negley got his sunshine as prescribed. The Farsons left Vancouver Island during their third summer on the lake, and Negley would later write that there wasn't a place in the world where he could write as well as he could during his summers spent on Cowichan Lake. 

"1921::Negley Farson Lifting the Moorings of his Cowichan Lake Float-House" Clip: The Des Moines Register (1936)

Des Moines, Iowa

In 1936, an article was written by a female reporter who was smitten by Negley Farson after she had read his latest book, The Way of a Transgressor. She noted that Negley Farson "must be as charming as he is handsome and must make love as well as he writes." 

"Twice a week I rowed five miles down to the store to get mail and groceries. I always trolled on the way down or took a shotgun... or both." - Negley Farson (1890-1960)

1935::A Star Was Born on Cowichan Lake

"1935::A Star Was Born on Cowichan Lake" Clip: Times Colonist (1935)

Victoria, British Columbia

Although people didn't realize it then, a star was born on Cowichan Lake. Farson spent most of his time writing as his house drifted, and every now and then, he'd travel to the post office in the nearby city of Duncan to send his work off to publishers in Chicago or New York. 

1921::The Farsons Camping Lakeside

"1921::The Farsons Camping Lakeside at Cowichan Lake, Vancouver Island" Photo Clip: Britannia & Eve (1938)

London, England

Negley Farson became known as a man who could not only out-drink Hemingway, but also out-Hemingway Hemingway. Farson's friends Ernest Hemmingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald would have agreed.

1962::Negley and Eve Farson's Gravesite in Devon, England

"1962::Negley and Eve Farson's Gravesite in Devon, England"

Photo: (tbd)

Negley and Eve Farson left Lake Cowichan to continue on their worldly adventures. They spent years travelling and writing stories. Then, much to Negley's misery, their lives began to slow down when they took a break to raise their only son. They lived in Devon, England, for their remaining days and were buried in St. George's churchyard. Their son, a beneficiary of the family fortune, made a name for himself as a television personality and journalist. Like his father, he wandered the earth seeking and often finding extreme adventures. 

1920::Susan Stoker and George Simpson

"1920::Susan Stoker and George Simpson"

Photo Clip: Stoker Photo Album

In the 1970s, a leather-bound book was discovered in a second-hand bookstore on Vancouver Island. Inside were private photos of the Stoker's lives at Lake Cowichan. The image on the left above is Susan Stoker, Dick Stoker's wife (Bram Stoker's sister-in-law). The photo on the right is of a man named George Simpson. The Simpsons had moored their float-house near the Stoker's cabin as Susan Stoker was a good friend of Simpson's wife. It was said that George Simpson, a devout animal lover, had trained the Whiskey Jack, which they both held in the palm of their hand.

1920::George and Suzanne Simpson (nee Charbrier)

"1920::George and Suzanne Simpson (nee Charbrier)" Photo Clip: Britannia & Eve (1935)

London, England

George Simpson and his Parisian wife Suzanne (nee Charbrier) had moved into their Cowichan Lake float-house in 1917. After taking advice from their neighbours on the lake, they varnished, loved, and enjoyed it for many years.

1920::The Two-Susan's Artwork

"1920::The Two-Susan's Artwork"

Photo: BC Archives (PDP02712)

Susan Stoker was a respected artist whose work attracted the attention of many prominent botanists. Like Susan Stoker, Suzanne Simpson was also an artist. Near the end of her life, she donated her Lake Cowichan property to the University of Victoria for research purposes on the condition that she be allowed to continue living out her days there, quietly and peacefully.

1931::Headstone of Dr. Richard 'Dick' Stoker, Bram Stoker's Brother

"1931::Headstone of Dr. Richard 'Dick' Stoker, Bram Stoker's Brother" Photo: (tbd)

The final resting place of Dick and Susan Stoker, Eve Stoker's Uncle and Aunt, is at St. Peter's church in Duncan, Vancouver Island. It is also the resting place of Susan's sister Lucy, who had visited her on Vancouver Island and decided to stay. It reads:

In Loving memory of Lt. Col. Richard Nugent STOKER I. M. S. son of Abraham Stoker of Dublin Born Oct. 31, 1854 / Died June 14, 1931 Also SUSAN widow of the above Born July 27, 1852 / Died June 13, 1936 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills And her sister LUCY HARDEN Died Aug. 10 1945 Aged 81 years

1935::Negley Farson Writes for Britannia and Eve

"1935::Negley Farson Writes for Britannia and Eve"

Clip: Britannia & Eve (1930-1957)

London, England

Britannia and Eve is the magazine for lovers of Art Deco and all that came with the time. Negley Farson's Lake Cowichan stories and other life experiences often appeared as feature stories in this popular British magazine.

Farson's books that featured his time spent at Lake Cowichan:

  • The Story of a Lake

  • The Way of a Transgressor

  • Going Fishing (rumoured to have been written on Cowichan Lake when he secretly returned to write this book).


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