by Gary Grieco - email@example.com
Published Powell River Tourism Web Site September 2010
Texada Island has a long history of fascinating entrepreneurs disguised as tourists appearing on her shores. Precious metals were the lure, and to this day gold still excites a fever and optimism in all men. The Spanish were the first to be enticed by this lush island and the prospect of riches in 1791. They named it Texada, but left empty handed. Harry Trim was the second visitor. He sailed into Welcome Bay on the west side of Texada in 1871 and found ‘gold’ in the form of iron ore, and stayed.
Other early colourful characters were BC Premier, Amor de Cosmos of BC who created a scandal by trying to buy Texada to corner the iron ore market. Capt. John Sturt, rumoured to have been involved in the Pig War between the United States and Canada surveyed the first lot on Texada, and named Sturt Bay. This is the present home of the Texada Boating Club which welcomes hundreds of cruising boaters a year to Texada. Another famous tourist who stayed was Charles John Anderson, known in Klondike legend as the Lucky Swede, and a man of some mystery.
Photos courtesy of Gary Grieco
Anderson was a fascinating character of the Yukon days in the late 1880’s. He came to be known as the Lucky Swede after being suckered while drunk into buying a worthless claim for $800 in the Klondike Valley. His claim went on to produce a million dollars worth of gold in a few short years, and Charlie became one of the good-time Klondike Kings. He married a dance hall girl after he promised her weight in gold. They travelled the European continent in a whirlwind tour and returned to San Francisco just in time for the 1906 earthquake. He not only lost his wealth, but also his wife.
Texada Island’s twin cities of Van Anda and Texada City rivalled Dawson City in the late 1890’s, becoming the Eldorado of the south when gold and copper were discovered. In his epic novel of the Klondike, Pierre Berton recounts that Charlie Anderson, the Lucky Swede, “still wearing his pointed little beard, died penniless in 1939 pushing a wheelbarrow at a saw-mill near Sapperton, BC, for three dollars and twenty-five cents a day.”
Herein lay the mystery, because Texada Island residents like 94 year old Henry Leibic, an island pioneer, related to me, how he was a neighbour and personal friend of Anderson. He told me, “Yes, I knew the Lucky Swede well. He was a small man with a little pointed beard. He dressed well, and the ladies liked him. He lived and died in his house just down the road on SmelterAvenue on what’s now an empty lot. He is buried in Van Anda’s Woodland cemetery, and the camera and binoculars he gave me are in the Blubber Bay Museum.” Pierre Berton had the date of his death right, but not the location.
Now, here I was, meandering between the headstones of Texada’s 110 year old Woodland Cemetery on a warm summer day searching for the “Swedes” gravesite in an attempt to solve part of this local historical mystery. I eventually found the headstone of Charles John Anderson. I spent time brushing and cleaning, all the while thinking about the small man buried under my feet whose life story is still shrouded in some mystery. The stone read, “In Loving Memory – Charles John Anderson – Klondyke Pioneer”.
The Lucky Swede never gave up trying to recoup his fortune, and he never shaved his pointed beard. His summers were spent camped out on Texada between 1925 and 1930 searching for a fabulous mid-island lost gold mine. There is still gold in them ‘thar’ hills. And if you concentrate, sights of yester-year on the streets of Van Anda may appear in the ‘corner of your eye.’
If You Go there
Woodland Cemetery: Travel from Blubber Bay ferry on Blubber Bay Road to stop sign. Turn right on Gillies Bay Road. Distance to Woodland Cemetery approximately 1800 ft.
GPS Reading of the Lucky Swedes Headstone in Woodland Cemetery: N49° 44’914”
W124° 33’ 781”
Or, walk straight from the center of the Woodland Cemetery iron gates 27 paces,
turn right and step off 14 paces. You are in the vicinity of the Lucky Swede’s
Visit the Texada Heritage Society museums in Blubber Bay or Van Anda for a glimpse of yester-year mining on Texada.
Rock hounds and amateur geologists may find just about anything from flower rocks to marble or gold on Texada. But Texada’s most valuable resource now is in the outdoor activities that can be enjoyed without fear of large predators like cougars, bears, skunks or poisonous snakes.
For more information about Texada, log onto www.texada.org and www.texadaheritagesociety.com