Ada Annie Rae-Arthur, later Ada Annie Lawson
but better known as Cougar Annie,
(June 19, 1888 – April 28, 1985) was a pioneer
who settled near Hesquiat Harbour at Boat Basin
in Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of
Vancouver Island, Canada
Born Ada Annie Jordan in Sacramento, California,
she moved to the land where she was to live for
more than 65 years from Vancouver,
British Columbia in 1915 after having lived in
England, South Africa and the Canadian prairies
as a child.
She arrived with the first of her four husbands to
save him from an opium addiction and ensure that
the remittance cheques that came from his family
in Scotland would continue to arrive.
At the time she and her husband settled on the coast,
they had three small children.
She gave birth to eight more children in this remote
location. She acquired her nickname because of
her famed marksmanship.
She shot dozens of cougars during her long life.
After the death of her first husband, Willie Rae-
Arthur in 1936, she advertised in
The Western Producer saying “BC Widow with
Nursery and orchard wishes partner.
Widower preferred. Object matrimony.”  The new
husband she chose from several candidates died at
their home in 1944 of an accidental gunshot wound
to the leg.
One of the children ran to get Ada but she was too
late as he had already bled out.
The truth of this death was that he was cleaning
his gun and didn’t realize that there was a cartridge
still in the chamber.
Her third husband was produced by the same
advertisement, and after his death of Pneumonia
in 1955, she ran another ad, this time seeking a
widower with young children.
Her own children having grown and moved off,
she found a companion who stayed on with his
children for a number of years before the
remoteness of life in Boat Harbour drove him away.
(This previous statement has never been verified
by the family.)
In 1961 Annie married for the fourth and last time.
It was an unsuccessful marriage to a man, 12 years
her junior, who drank, stole from the store and
sometimes beat her.
This man tried to run Annie off a cliff to get the
farm but she was wilier than him and ran him
off with her shotgun.
When he left never to return around 1967, he was
In 1942, the lighthouse at Estevan Point was
Annie claimed to have seen the submarine surface
in the harbour before the lighthouse was shelled
and to have found a shell on the beach in front
of her land.
With little help, Annie cleared 5 acres (20,000 m2)
of her land and planted a sprawling garden.
The garden was a source of income throughout her
life, as she sold bulbs and plants by mail.
She also operated a general store and post office
from her plot of land. Another source of income
over the years was a bounty offered for Cougars
that ranged from $10 to $40.
The numbers of cats that she claimed to have killed
continued to increase into her old age but in 1955
she received bounties for 10 cats.
At that time she claimed to have killed 62 cougars
and about 80 bears.
Killing cougars and bears was necessary because
Her livelihood depended upon the regular visits of
the Canadian Pacific Steamships Line Princess
Maquinna that arrived every 10 days in Hequiat
Harbour from 1913 to 1952 on her rounds from
Victoria to Port Alice.
Annie rarely left the property where she lived until
well into her nineties.
Ailing and mostly blind, she was removed to
Port Alberni, where she died at the age of 97.
Peter Buckland, retired from a career as a Vancouver
stockbroker, had met Annie a number of times in
her later years.
He recovered Cougar Annie’s garden.
He has established the non-profit Boat Basin
Foundation, which manages the garden and
runs the Temperate Rainforest Field Study
Centre which has been built on a ridge overlooking
In 2007, the Hesquiaht First Nation and
Ecotrust Canada became stewardship partners in the
It is possible to schedule inspiring educational
visits and overnight stays at the garden by
contacting the Boat Basin Foundation.
The foundation also provides regular updates on
CHERYL HOLMES YOUNG,
SAANICH PENINSULA REALTY