Sunday, October 13, 2013

The community of Mahatta at the mouth of Monkey Creek

This article originally appeared in the North Island Gazette in August 2, 2006.
The Mahatta River is located on the Southwest portion of Quatsino Sound.  The name is derived from a Kwakwala word "melade" meaning "having sockeye salmon."  This area falls within the traditional territory of the Quatsino First Nation.  At one time there was a large Koskimo summer village at the mouth of the river.
A short distance from the Mahatta River, behind Salmon Island, is the mouth of Monkey Creek and the location of the former community of Mahatta.  Monkey Creek was named for a local man, known by the nickname of "monkey", who lived alone in the cove in about 1904.
The cove was reportedly used by Wallace Brothers, who operated a salmon cannery there is 1911.  The cannery was purchased by the Winter Harbour Canning Company Limited, who operated a crab and clam cannery in the building.
In about 1930 a trapper, Gordon Cox, built a small shack at the mouth of Monkey Creek, in which he and his wife lived for 30 years.
Cox, who had lived in Holberg as a young man, served in World War I as a sniper.  During the war he had taken a young wife in England, Elsie, who had accompanied him back to Canada.  Cox and his wife lived in almost total isolation in their small cabin.
In the early 1850s Emil Stevenson began logging at the area near the mouth of Monkey Creek, where the Mahatta Camp would eventually be located.
At this time the Port Alice Pulp Mill had the timber rights to the larger area, but it was difficult to access.  It was determined that a logging camp should be established in the vicinity of Mahatta to allow for better access to the timber reserves on the South side of Quatsino Sound.  The location in the cove by the mouth of Monkey Creek was chosen as the site.
Once the land was logged, a float camp was towed from Port McNeill (around Cape Scott).  These buildings served as an initial home for the loggers and construction workers tasked with setting up the camp.
By Christmas of 1953 they had cleared a large portion of land, completed a dock, a few short roads, and three houses.  Gordon Cox and his wife were provided a house by the logging company.
Mahatta Camp
At its peak Mahatta had more than 300 residents.  There were married quarters, single men's bunkhouses, a large cookhouse, a community centre, a school, a swimming pool with sand filters, and a sauna.
The swimming pool sat on water and faced west, catching the afternoon sun.  It was a favourite with the local children.
The Mahatta swimming pool.
O'Connell Lake was also used as a playground by local families, and a shooting range and dirt bike track were other popular outdoor activities.
In the 1970s Mahatta even had its own airstrip, and a number of planes regularly traveled in and out of the camp.  A shuttle from Mahatta to Port Hardy was $10 one way.
Former residents fondly remember the "Welcome to Mahatta" sign complete with a fountain and goldfish.
A full-time gardner cared for the beautiful gardens in the village, and there were many varieties of trees, including lilac, laburnum, and Japanese cherry trees.
At one time Prime Minister Diefenbaker visited the community and fished in the Mahatta River.  The Diefenbaker Pool is named for him.
In 1985 a road was punched into the area from Port Alice, making the area accessible by truck.  Most of the camp was disassembled and closed by 1988, and the logging crews were moved to Jeune Landing.  Except for a couple of buildings, most were either sold or destroyed, and the ground where Mahatta once stood was leveled and planted with trees.
All that is left today in Mahatta are a shop and two bunkhouses, hidden in the forest which has reclaimed the area.

2 comments:

  1. This swimming pool was where I learn to swim. Lived in Mahahatta as a child as my father was a logger in the early 80's.

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  2. I was there in 1965 and also swam in the same pool I was 18 years old from Victoria.
    My name is Arthur Perry

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