Cougar Annie was my great-grandmother.
Ada Annie Jordan was born on June 19, 1888, in Colfax, California to an English military parents. She grew up in Durban, South Africa, during the Boer War, and subsequently moved with her parents to a homestead north of Edmonton.
After a prairie fire, the family moved to Winnipeg, where Ada became the head stenographer with Eaton’s at the age of 19.
In 1907, the family boarded the train bound for Vancouver, where Dr. Jordan was to open a cat and dog hospital on Cornwall Street in Point Grey.
In 1908, Ada met her first husband when he brought in a small dog, which had been run over by a Model T.
With her father’s blessing, she married William Rae Arthur, son of a Lord Provost of Glasgow, Scotland.
He was 36 and she was 20.
After having three children, the family left Vancouver in 1915 to become a West Coast pioneer farmer at Boat Basin. At a time when women could not vote or own land, Ada Annie moved with her husband and three young children to the wilderness to stop Willie’s temptations of the opium and gambling dens of Vancouver’s Chinatown.
Travelling by schooner, their destination was unreachable by land, and belongs to one of the largest rain forests in the world. Ada Annie’s father taught her how to shoot at the age of eight. That skill proved worthy as she became a bounty hunter for the Hudson’s Bay Co., and through trapping and tracking, she had shot over 73 cougars. She survived two cougar attacks unscathed.
Her husband, Willie, and his sons were awarded for their work on the telegraph lines on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Cougar Annie cleared acres of land with her own hands; worked in the Boat Basin Post Office, taking orders from their nursery catalogue; outlived all four of her husbands and six of her 11 children. Some are buried in the garden with her husband, Willie.
Ada Annie Lawson, née Jordan, nee Rae Arthur, née Campbell, née Arnold, died in Port Alberni hospital on April 28, 1985.
Her legacy has been celebrated by the present owner, Peter Buckland, and in print with Cougar Annie’s Garden, by Margaret Horsfield. As well, Katrina Kadoski of Sooke, has a musical one-person show, Cougar Annie Tales. — Mur Meadowsd