OUR FAMILY HISTORY AT SHAWNIGAN LAKEFROM 1904 TO Present
Starting with The Clay Family
1904 to 1920's
"MAHEMAKAJA" was the name given to the family summer cabin at Shawnigan Lake, which was derived from the first two initials of the Clay children's names Margaret, Helen, Mary, Kay and Jack.
Where it all began...
Leslie Clay was born at Bedeque, P.E.I, November 12, 1863, Died February 2nd 1928.
He married Florence Nightingale Leitch on July 2nd 1890 in P.E.I. (born September 22nd 1863, Died June 17th 1945).
Following graduation from from McGill in 1887 winning the Prince of Wales gold medal in Mental and Moral Philosophy.
Reverend Leslie Clay's first charge was at Morris Manitoba and later at St Andrew's Church in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan.
In 1894, he was called to St Andrew's in Victoria and remained there for nearly thirty-four years. In 1913, his Alma mater awarded him an honorary Doctorate and in 1927 he was elected Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada.
The Reverend W Leslie Clay, BA MA DD and Mrs Clay had two sons and four daughters.
They purchased the 6.5 acre Shawnigan Lake property around 1904. The reason behind the purchase was because their eldest Daughter Margaret Clay was suffering from TB and the doctors suggested the mountain air would be good for her health. In 1904 there was only a gravel road where the Malahat Island highway is today and Mt Baldy beside the lake was the closest and highest mountain around. It must have really worked because Margaret lived to the ripe old age of 91!
The Clay family, friends and relatives enjoyed many summers at Shawnigan. The first years they took the train to the village and would row down to the property before the road was put in.
The Malahat Drive portion of the Trans Canada Highway, built in 1911, improved access to Shawnigan Lake. However, the train continued to be the important transportation link until well into the 1930s' as most people did not own automobiles. The Malahat Drive, which was improved in 1958, shortened the driving time to the lake and by then most people had cars. The number of summer homes around the lake increased dramatically in the late 50s' and through the 1960s'.
The Clays' were among many people, who were attracted by the peaceful serenity of the community as well as its location close to Victoria. Many large properties on the lake have also been passed down through several generations for over a hundred years and are still owned by the same families. In 1903, Shawnigan-Mill Bay Road was built, allowing even greater opportunities for travel to and from the community.
Margaret (Peggy) Jean Clay - Born September 30, 1891 died April 1982, Margaret was the chief librarian in charge of the Victoria Public Library for 28 years from 1924 to 1952. She was instrumental in the beginnings of the Bookmobiles.
John (Jack) Leitch Clay - Born April 26, 1893 died Jan 1951, married Loretta (Laura) Maud Blake. Jack Clay was a founding barrister of the law firm of Clay & Macfarlane now known as Clay & Company from 1919 to 1951 upon his death.
Helen Amelia Clay - Born September 25, 1894 died 03 January 1957 Helen was a renowned Canadian weaver throughout her life. Married William (Billy) Sturgis Ellis on June 25th, 1924. Billy worked at the family business Barber Ellis in Vancouver and loved the game of rugby and was an avid player and coach.
Leslie Dawson Clay- Born October 18, 1896 (died Oct 31 1898 from a fire accident playing with matches in bed)
Florence Mary (Mernie) Minto Clay - Born August 24, 1899, died 19 Mar 1968 was the legal secretary for Judge Alan B. MacFarlane while he was a partner at Clay & Macfarlane. Mary spent much of her time volunteering at St Andrews Church as a Sunday School teacher for many years.
Kathleen (Kay) Mabel Clay - Born March 3, 1904. died 14 Mar 1993. Was quite well known socially and spent her life running the three story family home at 821 Linden Ave. in Victoria which was turned into rental apartments.
The Shawnigan Lake property was passed to the Clay Children upon their mothers death in 1945. In 1947 The original cabin burned in a Fire.
Clay & Ellis
1924 - 1947
On June 25th, 1924. Helen Amelia Clay married William (Billy) Sturgis Ellis ( born 18 Sep 1889; died. 08 Jul 1960) They were the only couple in the Clay family to have children, one son and one daughter.
Richard (Dick) Carlyle Ellis - Born August 16, 1925 died June 1974
Barbara Joan Ellis - Born November 7, 1927 died February 14, 2010.
The Ellis family lived in Vancouver and moved to Victoria in the early 50's.
Dick Ellis (Inducted into the BC Rugby Hall of Fame in 2006) followed in his fathers footsteps with his life long passion for rugby which filled his every spare moment his entire life. He was a very active member of the Oak Bay Wanderers and at the time of his death in 1974 (from a scuba diving accident) . Dick Ellis Memorial Fund Provides Support to National Team Captains. The Dick Ellis Memorial Fund (DEMF) originated in 1978 as an ongoing memorial to Mr. Dick Ellis, a Rugby Canada President, who had passed away in office.
Richard "Dick" Ellis was called to the bar in 1950 and joined Clay & Macfarlane and became partner at Clay, Macfarlane, Ellis and Popham known today as Clay & Company. Joan Avery also followed in another of her fathers loves, golf and did very well as an amateur golfer for many years.
After the original cabin burned down in 1947, Helen Clay and her sisters had the Pan-a-bode cabin built for them after their brother Jack built the other cabin with his new wife Laura.
CLAY, ELLIS AND AVERY
1940 - 1950
Richard Ellis married Shirley Constance Shaw in Sept 1949.
Barbara Joan Ellis married (Duke) Charles Avery in 1956.
The property was passed down to Dick and Joan and their spouses in 1973. At that time you were able to transfer property to your family for a dollar prior to the capital gains taxes were established a few years later by the then Sr. Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau.
Ellis and Avery
1950's - 1960's
Then came the next generation who are taking care of the family cabins at present. Dick and Shirley Ellis had five children starting with Debbie in 1951, Cathy in May 1952, David in March 1954, Barbara in March 1957 and ending with Patricia in Nov 1959. Joan and Duke Avery had two children Helen in October 1957 and Richard Avery in Oct 1959 - Died in 2015. The Ellis and Avery families have shared both cabins to thepresent day.
Ellis, Avery, Gardiner, Murphy
1970 - 1990's
In the 70's & 80's all 7 Ellis and Avery children met and married and started having children of their own. Cathy married and had a son Joel Murphy on March 2, 1977 and daughter Shannon Murphy on January 27, 1980 while living in Vernon BC. David had a son Jeremy Ellis. Barb married Doug Gardiner on Oct 1, 1977 and had a son Duncan Gardiner on October 9, 1983 and a daughter Teri Gardiner on Sept 27, 1985. Richard & Val Avery married May 28, 1988. Cathy moved back to the island and had a daughter Amy McKinstry in October 1990.
Avery, Battler, Ellis, Gardiner & Waet
2000 - 2020
As you can see in the photos below Shirley Ellis at 99 still plays an integral part in painting and keeping the burn pile flames going during our fall and spring work parties and cleanups. Although Shirley no longer swims, plays bridge or plays tennis she does lie in the sun almost every day.
In order to keep our beloved lake property we started renting the larger pan-a-bode cabin in 2006, during the summer months to help pay the taxes, maintenance, renovations and repairs. See our Testimonials Page to see what the many people say while staying with us.
We have had quite a few family weddings, work party's and celebrations at Shawnigan. Our father Dick Ellis' birthday was on August 16th 1925.
He always celebrated with many of his friends and family on that day every year. Hence we had to keep that date remembered. Debbie Ellis married Michael Battler on August 17, 2002. Duncan & Jessica Gardiner married August 2, 2008, Cathy married Ken Waet on August 16, 2014.
SOME OF THE NEXT GENERATION
We all remember growing upjumping off the dock all day long during the summer months.
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