Saanich archive specialist Suzanne Hervieux handles a 1900s writing box with care to ensure its preservation. (Photo courtesy Suzanne Hervieux)

Saanich archive specialist Suzanne Hervieux handles a 1900s writing box with care to ensure its preservation. (Photo courtesy Suzanne Hervieux)

Mysterious 1900s writing box finds a home among Saanich Archives

Wooden chest owned by early Saanich resident Clara Isabelle McCoubrey

The mystery of a small, wooden chest from the 1900s that spent many years tucked away in various Greater Victoria homes has finally unravelled and the box now has a home among Saanich’s archives.

In 2019, Victoria resident Laura Lang retired and decided it was time to get to the bottom of the mysterious writing chest she’d uncovered five years earlier when going through her late sister’s belongings.

READ ALSO: Mysterious box from the 1900s unearths connections nation-wide

The dark-stained box lined with purple fabric contained glass bottles of ink, several old photographs taken somewhere in St. John’s and a letter dated Oct. 14, 1898 and addressed to Clara Isabelle McCoubrey – the presumed owner of the box.

Lang wasn’t sure who the box belonged to or where it came from, so during the summer of 2019, she contacted a journalist in Newfoundland to put out a call for information. Emails from history buffs and McCaubry’s distant relatives alike came flooding in after the article was published, Lang told Black Press Media at the time.

READ ALSO: Damage control underway as flood closes Saanich library, recreation centre

After discovering that none of McCoubrey’s direct relatives were still alive, Lang decided to donate the writing box and its contents to the Saanich Archives. A flood at the Greater Victoria Public Library Saanich Centennial Branch – which also houses the archives – in 2019 followed by the COVID-19 pandemic forced her to put off the donation until Sept. 24.

“We’re absolutely thrilled” to have this “remarkable object” in the collection, said Suzanne Hervieux, the archive specialist. She pointed out that it’s rare to receive photos that are older than the municipality – Saanich was formed in 1906.

Archives staff first learned of the box through local media and reached out to Lang. An employee recognized someone in one of the photos because other photos of the same family had just been donated, Hervieux explained.

READ ALSO: Metchosin sisters paint pictures for veterans

With the help of living relatives and history experts across Canada, nearly everyone in the photos has been identified, Hervieux said, noting that McCoubrey and many of her family members are buried in the St. Luke Anglican Church cemetery.

Hervieux is looking forward to having the box, photos and other material related to McCoubrey’s extended family on display sometime next year for residents to view in person and the photos will be added to the Saanich Archives digital collection shortly.

For now, the box – which is in “fantastic condition” – will be kept in a climate-controlled vault to preserve it forever, Hervieux said. To find out more or to ask about making a donation to the Saanich Archives, email archives@saanich.ca.


@devonscarlett
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

District of Saanich

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

A 1900s writing box found in Greater Victoria contained ink, photos and a letter addressed to Clara McCoubrey dated October 14, 1898. (Photo courtesy Suzanne Hervieux)

A 1900s writing box found in Greater Victoria contained ink, photos and a letter addressed to Clara McCoubrey dated October 14, 1898. (Photo courtesy Suzanne Hervieux)

Just Posted

(Black Press Media file)
Webinars help Greater Victoria residents affected by dementia prepare for the holidays

COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions can add additional challenges for people living with dementia

Masks are mandatory for passengers on board BC Transit buses and for those waiting at covered bus stops. (BC Transit/Facebook)
Masks now mandatory on BC Transit buses, at covered bus stops

Face shields no longer meet face-covering requirements per updated policy

Rose Ellis, 93, and her Shih Tzu, Zoey, have been clients of ElderDog Victoria since last summer. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Victoria ElderDog program seeking more seniors, pups to support

Service helps elderly people to care for their canine companions

Mona Strelaeff, a Metchosin resident, is the first non-terminally ill person in Canada to be allowed to use psilocybin assisted therapy. (Provided by Spencer Hawkswell)
Metchosin woman’s trauma treatment could be trendsetting

Experts say this could signal the broadening of who can access psilocybin therapy

Sidney’s Haunted Bookshop is changing owners with longtime owner Odean Long transferring ownership Dec. 1 to William Matthews. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Longtime owner of Sidney’s Haunted Bookshop closes chapter with sale

Odean Long and her late husband moved the business to Sidney in 1996

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

Most Read