Stone-Cutter's Cabin is Found at Southey Point

Gulf Islands Driftwood
February 1, 1984

A legacy of Salt Spring Island's heritage was unearthed at Southey Point last month when the remains of a buried stone-cutters' cabin were discovered by property owner Norman Elliot. For many years the small stone cottage stood abandoned at Southey Point, serving both as a fort for young school children and as a haunting reminder of early island intrigue.

Built in 1860 or thereabouts, the cabin housed two stone masons who skilfully carved the sandstone that surrounded the cottage. They would prepare the rock for shipping by schooners that would anchor in Stuart Channel. By 1870 the cabin had been abandoned and the golden years of Southey Point's stone-cutting history had ended. The stone walls soon began to crumble and the shake roof sagged an collapsed. In 1983, over 100 years later, the cabin had become nothing but a nondescript pile of rubble to the innocent passer-by, no more than a heap of moss-covered sandstone slabs.

Vancouver businessman-contractor Norman Elliot purchased the quarter-million-dollar property last year. It was known that the cottage lay in a heap somewhere in the area but no one knew where until the debris was found last month. Although the history of the cottage has been well-preserved in the minds of Salt Spring's pioneers, little of the history has been formally recorded by or for the curious archivist. For local hobby-archaeologist and artist Simon Henson, researching the history of the stone-cutter's cottage has been fascinating work. Few stories are consistent and the facts are hard to find. Today, the cottage exists in its original form with half its walls standing following extensive restoration and a delicate piecing together of its history and shape by Henson.

During the 1860s when the newly founded city of Victoria was being established, governments were being formed and laws and industry born while trade prospered from the initial stages of the goldrush. Builders learned that Salt Spring Island had great supplies of sandstone. The stone quarry at Vesuvius provided an active industry on the west side of Salt Spring Island for stone-cutters during the period. The stone was used in the construction of the Empress Hotel and the legislative buildings.


According to Henson, the history of the cottage, with its innocent collection of artifacts and coins, clay pipes and square nails, is inconsistent and tales and legends run wild. The fate of the stone-cutters is often thought of as a bloody one, rife with mystery of an unsolved double-murder. There are numerous stories.

When a naval vessel stopped to visit the masons, the captain was met by a tall Negro who told him of the island's current problem with cattle rustlers. "There won't be any more trouble with cattle rustlers around here," the man is said to have assured the captain. But the wary sea captain returned to the stone-cutter's cottage days later to investigate. He entered the 10x14 foot room only to fall over the half-buried bodies of the stone-cutters. He wasted no time in returning to Victoria to inform the police. With the law in tow, the captain returned to the cottage. Much to his amazement, the bodies had vanished, and of course, the captain was rebuked for over-indulging. A small round nautical button has been found in the cottage indicating the presence of a navy man at one time.

Another theory is that one of the early settlers, Willis Stark, discovered the murdered stone-cutters and sought revenge against their murderer. He believed it was the same Indian who had been terrorizing islanders for several weeks. He found him on Kuper Island and dealt with him there, the story goes.

Property owner Elliott hopes to restore the stone-cutter's cottage at Southey Point and one day provide access to the cottage for visitors and historians. In the meantime, what actually took place in the stone-cutter's cabin and the fate of the stone-cutters remains a mystery.

Source: Valerie Richards, "Stone-Cutters' Cabin is Found at Southey Point," Gulf Islands Driftwood, February 1, 1984

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