Texada Tapestry

Harbour Publishing, 2011. ISBN 978-1-55017-537-0

Texada Island at the north end of the Strait of Georgia was the site of BC’s first political scandal which brought down Premier Amor de Cosmos in 1874. Thirteen years later, Calvin Miller pounded five thousand dollars in gold out of his Golden Slipper claim and started the Texada Excitement, a mini gold rush. Dynamite explosions rent the air at all hours of the day and in all directions.  



“In the late 1890s, a laid-back, happy-go-lucky prospector arrived on the island. Born in Australia, Walter Planta (1871–1948) had grown up in Nanaimo, where his parents were teachers. On Texada he staked several claims and worked with James Raper in the Victoria Mine. Like many of the prospectors and miners of this period, he didn’t have separate work clothes: all his prospecting was done in a suit and bowler hat. One day in 1901 while eating lunch about two miles west of Van Anda, he rolled back the moss from a rock and discovered a pocket of free gold seven feet long and six feet deep. Quickly he staked the Marjorie Claim, which brought him sixty-five hundred dollars. On his next trip to Seattle, he married a pretty young woman and brought her back to Texada, though eventually he set her up in a house in Vancouver, where their two daughters were educated. Planta himself returned to Texada, where he became involved in everything from land speculation to logging. His Marjorie claim became part of the Planta Group of claims operated by the Texada Gold Mining Company Ltd.”

Among those attracted to invest were Robert Christie, founder of Christie’s Biscuits, his son-in-law, J.J. Palmer, President of the Toronto Type Foundry and Harry and Olive Treat, a wealthy young couple from New York who were friends of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.  Olive’s arrival with trunks full of fashionable clothes caused quite a sensation among islanders used to more mundane attire. 

Gold and copper mines came and went but the lime business flourished.                              


“In 1954 the Ideal Cement Company of Denver, Colorado, undertook an extensive drilling program and geological survey of Stan Beale’s property. Finding it suitable for their purposes, they purchased it three years later. Ideal’s newly acquired Texada properties played only a small part in a big company that had land and processing plants in Spokane, Seattle and Richmond, but Beale, who had been retained as manager when Ideal bought his company, was at last working in the kind of multi-armed business he had dreamed of as a young man. His new job gave him the scope to go out and find more contracts with which to expand the operation.

Limestone, of course, has never been a particularly valuable product—in fact, taking inflation into account, it may be cheaper at the present time than it was in the great Depression—but Beale knew that the trick was always to find value-added uses. One of his clever moves was that, whenever they were blasting and broke out a Volkswagen-sized cap rock, instead of blasting it into smaller pieces, he stored it. Thus, when the government required large boulders for the Iona jetty in Vancouver, he had a mass of large boulders on hand, and he charged the marine contractor extra for “big rock,” saying it had to be specially quarried.

In 1973 Ideal Cement installed a new facility for handling limestone on the west side of Texada adjacent to Texada Mines; this plant included crushing, screening, conveying, stockpiling, reclaiming and barge loading capabilities. Beale then made use of the services of his brother-in-law, Ron Margetts, a promoter with Chapman and Co., to develop the loading system on the west side of the island at Beale Cove. As this had to be strong enough to withstand ships smashing into it in bad weather, it was constructed with ninety-foot steel and concrete caissons to anchor the swinging cranes that load the ships. Three years later, Texada Iron Mines ceased operations, and Beale tried to convince Ideal’s management to buy the industrial part of the mine site, complete with its ship loader, two crushers and shop buildings. They were reluctant to do so, until he told them he would buy it himself and could be in competition with them within ninety days; as a result, on July 1, 1977, they bought it, thereby closing the door for any other limestone operator to enter the picture. The German company Alm Forest bought the rest of the Texada Mines’ land.

In 1978 the company erected another screening, stockpiling and reclaiming system for handling chemical grade limestone. Beale continued to make improvements at the former Texada Mines’ site, and during the early 1980s, shiploads of limestone began going to the sugar refineries in California. By the time Beale retired in 1983, he had seen the evolution from breaking rock by hand to sending out two thousand tons of rock per hour on a conveyor belt.”


“In addition to quarry personnel, during the war years Blubber Bay had a hard time keeping teachers. So it was that at 2:30 one morning in August 1942, after a stormy voyage, young Frieda Blasha and a collection of freight boxes were off-loaded from Union Steamships’ Chelohsin. She had been told the ship would arrive at 6:15 p.m. but the many stops along the way at logging camps and isolated cabins had pushed its arrival at Blubber Bay far into the night. Having just graduated from the Vancouver Normal School following two years at UBC—which was all her parents could afford—Frieda Blasha was now on her own. Prairie schools often only paid teachers in kind, so she hadn’t wanted to go there. A job in Richmond paying $900 a year would have meant spending most of it on bus fares. The Blubber Bay job paid $1050, so she had come to see what it had to offer. She stood on the dock in the pitch-black night as the ship steamed away.

Two small lights twinkled in the distance and then a truck rattled onto the dock.

“Are you the new schoolteacher?” a man’s voice asked.


“Climb in and I’ll take you to where you’re supposed to spend the night.”

She climbed into the truck with the mail and the groceries and off they went. He dropped her outside a house and she knocked on the door. The man who opened it wasn’t wearing a stitch of clothing. Frieda’s sheltered upbringing had not prepared her for this, but she had no alternative. When the man and his wife invited her in, she accepted the bed they offered.

After breakfast a grumpy old farmer (who turned out to be Willis Woodhead, the school board secretary) arrived to escort her to the school. No one had cleared up after the Saturday night dance in the building, which doubled as the community hall. Beer bottles were upended in the ink wells and on the windowsills. Just then a ship’s whistle sounded as the Chelohsin returned on its southward voyage. “Good bye,” she told Woodhead firmly. “I’m going back to North Vancouver,” and she ran back on board.

Shortly after she arrived home, BC Cement manager Rob Hamilton, who also served as head of the school board, phoned. “Won’t you please come back? We need a teacher so badly. There’s no one here to teach these kids. My company will guarantee your salary.” She returned to Texada and actually enjoyed it from then on.

Frieda Blasha taught grades one through eight, with a few high school correspondence students sitting at the back. On the first day, some of her students asked if they could open a window, and then threw their books outside. She strapped twelve of them. The next day she strapped thirteen.

“Holy hell, but that teacher can hit!” one of the offenders said, but Frieda had no more trouble. She liked teaching history and geography but also taught English and home economics. She was forced to resign when she married Phil Woodhead, the school board secretary’s son, as in those days married women were not allowed to teach.