Ninety Nine years ago … – by Mike Manson

Young Nicol Manson milking the family cow
Young Nicol Manson milking the family cow

It was some time before midnight with the moon high in the sky when a canoe slowly came out of the shadows of the North Twin. Now cast in bright light it made its way south across the bay, straight towards the sloop.

A shotgun lay on the bottom of the canoe, already loaded and with the safety off.
With each stroke the paddle made a small splash but nothing that could be heard.
As the canoe drew closer the open porthole was clearly visible.

The eagles and herons squawked wildly when the thunderous bang shattered the still of the night.

A young Nicol Manson was sound asleep, tired from playing with his sister Rose. They had stayed out until it was too dark to see, the bracken ferns they had been pulling from the field would have to wait for another day. He was woken with a start by a loud commotion and his mother’s shouts. This was too much for him to stay tucked under the covers. In the dim light of the kitchen lantern he could see his mother and father were desperately tending to a man all bloodied and bandaged.

Rose Manson at the site where Reverend Nixon came ashore in the middle of the night
Rose Manson at the site where Reverend Nixon came ashore in the middle of the night

In the morning Rose told him what had happened. The Reverend Harpur Colville John Nixon had been shot. Someone had tried to kill him. He had been asleep on his boat anchored in front of the Twin Islands when someone had rowed up in the middle of the night and shot him through the porthole. Unable to speak he did his best to scribble a note to their father (John Manson). The gunshot had blown away his lower jaw. From the best they could determine he had managed to climb into his dinghy and row to Sunny Brae where he scrambled up the bank to the farmhouse. Their father had left at first light with the Reverend Nixon and was rowing over to Stag Bay on Hernando to meet the Union Steamship on its way south to Vancouver. They didn’t know if the Reverend would survive or not.

The Reverend did make it, to Vancouver General Hospital, where the doctors operated to salvage what was left of his face. At first the prospects looked promising but when infection set in there was little the doctors could do and a month later on August 5, 1915, he succumbed to his injuries. The shooting had now become a murder.

And that is the story as told to me nearly fifty years ago by my father Nicol. What we know for sure was that my father witnessed the wounded Reverend being tended to in the middle of the night, and that someone had used a shotgun to shoot him through the porthole. image

The Death Certificate registered at the BC Archives shows Reverend Nixon was a patient at Vancouver General Hospital for 30 days before his death. The cause of death is listed as shock from “gun shot wound, lower jaw blown off”.

When I queried my father whether the killer was caught, he said no. The police had their suspicions but could not make a case out of it.

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