Jack (John) Verdier (1865-1952)

jack verdierTop Row, L->R: Joe Fall, Nat Dougan, Jim Wood, Ted Shearing, Dan Dougan
Bottom Row, L->R: Chris Canute (Canute Lemo), Astley Porter, John Dougan, Jack Verdier, Steve Dougan
Photo at the opening of the new Bench School, 1950s

In 2012, Rosemary Allen collected the following family story from Bob Vey of Cowichan Bay who remembered his uncle very fondly:

Jack, my great uncle, settled on Freeman Road in the latter part of the 1880's, after migrating from the Brentwood Bay area by canoe to the Kilapi Beach area. He was one of the first students of the original one room log Bench School located on Telegraph Road between Koksilah Road and Cowichan Bay Road. The remains were still visible in 1950. Jack was 87 when he told me the story about him and Canute hiding the schoolmaster’s mule in the woods nearby as a lark.

Jack and Canute Lemo with others were honored at the dedication of the present day Bench School. Jack settled on Freeman Road where he logged, cleared and built a one room log cabin. Even though he did not have running water or power his cabin was always neat and clean. From 1949-1952 Mom and I checked in on him regularly. We would sit beside the stove with the water bucket and dipper nearby and listen to his stories by the light of a coal oil lamp. His stories were always interesting and memorable.

Unfortunately Jack was badly injured in a logging accident near Lake Cowichan while still a young man. He was transported by buckboard to Duncan held overnight and sent to Victoria by train the next day where he was hospitalized and had his leg removed and replaced with a wooden one. This unfortunate accident ended his relationship with his fiancée who lived in Seattle. He believed he was a cripple for life and sadly broke off the relationship remaining a bachelor for the rest of his life. This terrible setback didn't stop him from clearing his land with his team of horses and his axe and shovel. I remember several of the local farmers telling me of Jack’s exploits. He walked on a regular basis to Cowichan Bay to attend St. Ann's Church services every Sunday. That was a return walk of about 12 miles. He did it until he was the age of 80. When Uncle Jack passed away at the age of 87 his wish was to be buried at St. Ann's. This was denied because it was said he hadn't attended the church for 7 years and therefore couldn't be buried on consecrated ground. Mom went to the Anglican Church in Cobble Hill and found a welcome resting place for him there.