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

Victoria-Swan Lake MLA Rob Fleming moves to the role of transportation minister in the NDP’s new cabinet. (B.C. government file photo)
Greater Victoria MLAs claim key roles in new cabinet

Transportation, Indigenous relations, children and family development ministries headed by locals

Karl Ablack, chair of the Port Renfrew Recovery Task Force, says visitors should steer clear of the community after the second wave of COVID has begun to hit across the province. (Black Press Media file photo)
Port Renfrew, Pacheedaht First Nation asks visitors to steer clear of community again

Tight-knit community of 400 has yet to report single case of COVID

Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes delivers the inaugural address at council’s swearing-in ceremony in November 2018. The ceremony included blessings from representatives of two Christian churches. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes delivers the inaugural address at council’s swearing-in ceremony in November, 2018. The ceremony included blessings from representatives of two Christian churches – a fact highlighted in a report released by the BC Humanist Associaton on Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
Christian-based prayer at inaugural Vancouver Island council meetings violates court ruling

Blessings violate Supreme Court decision that prayer in council is discriminatory

Victoria police are warning people after two Victoria residents fell victim to financial scams on Nov. 18 and 19. (Black Press Media File photo)
VicPD issue warning after two Victoria residents scammed $3,500

In both cases, the fraudsters were posing as financial services employees

Penny Hart is emotional outside the Saanich Police Department as she pleads for helpt to find her son Sean Hart last seen Nov. 6 at a health institution in Saanich. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: Mother of missing Saanich man begs public to help find her son

Sean Hart last seen leaving Saanich mental health facility Nov. 6

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Nov. 24

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

B.C. Premier John Horgan, a Star Trek fan, can’t resist a Vulcan salute as he takes the oath of office for a second term in Victoria, Nov. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
Horgan names 20-member cabinet with same pandemic team

New faces in education, finance, economic recovery

The corporate headquarters of Pfizer Canada are seen in Montreal, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. The chief medical adviser at Health Canada says Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could be approved in Canada next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Health Canada expects first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved next month

Canada has a purchase deal to buy at least 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine,

Port McNeill councillor Derek Koel busts a rap to help promote the town’s active transportation plan. (Facebook video screenshot)
VIDEO: Vancouver Island councillor makes rap video to promote active transportation plan

Active transportation is a personal matter for councillor Derek Koel.

FILE – A paramedic holds a test tube containing a blood sample during an antibody testing program at the Hollymore Ambulance Hub, in Birmingham, England, on Friday, June 5, 2020. (Simon Dawson/Pool via AP)
Want to know if you’ve had COVID-19? LifeLabs is offering an antibody test

Test costs $75 and is available in B.C. and Ontario

The grey region of this chart shows the growth of untraced infection, due to lack of information on potential sources. With added staff and reorganization, the gap is stabilized, Dr. Bonnie Henry says. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 tracing to keep up with surging cases

People now notified of test results by text message

People wear face masks as they pose next to a Christmas display in Montreal, Sunday, November 22, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
How to tell family their Christmas gathering is too risky and you’re not going

Dr. Hurst says it’s best to frame the conversation from a place of care, stressing safety precautions.

Most Read