Author Tags: 1900-1950, Fiction, Women

Born as Evah May Cartwright in February of 1885 in Hamilton, Ontario, Evah McKowan died in 1962. She was the author of two B.C.-based romance novels:

Janet of Kootenay: Life, Love and Laughter in an Arcady of the West (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1919).

Graydon of the Windermere (New York: Doran; Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1919, 1920).

[BCBW 2006] "Fiction" "1900-1950" "Women"

Evah McKowan of Cranbrook

Evah McKowan was an important citizen in Cranbrook for many years. D.M. Wilson's excellent public history site, The Virtual Crowsnest Highway, contains a reference to her. For the full context, visit:

According to D.M. Wilson:

"Tom Leask and James Slater were among the first entrepreneurs who settled in “Cranbrooke” soon after the Railway arrived in 1898. Teaming up, they quickly had a busy saw mill in operation. In 1902 they sold their enterprise to Harry A. McKowan, Edwd. Slater, Charles Gaskill and Michael Johnson. Two years later, according to Our First Hundred Years published in 1998 by Crestbrook Forest Industries, Limited, McKowan was partnering with Albert and William Slater, Allan Nickolson and Bill Spence. In 1905 they registered their out fit as Cranbrook Sash and Door Company, Limited, and in their shops on 3rd Street North near the St. Eugene’s Hospital west of the Railway, they had the latest in equipment to add value to the logs that their fallers cut. With a variety of planers, lathes and specialty saws powered by a 30 horse-power steam engine fed on saw dust and shavings, CS&D manufacturing fancy mouldings and frames, doors and windows, as well as rough and finished lumber. Its major customer was the community’s biggest employer, the CPR, though settlers who were filling the environs with ranches and farms constituted a large market, as well. Because it developed a solid business base making specialized items, when the easy timber ran out and the cruder mills were forced to close or move on come the end of the 19-aughts, CS&D was able to survive and prosper. When the mill burned in 1917, McKowan and his partners immediately leased the idle King Lumber Company mill nearby and worked there until they could raise new shops in Cranbrook in 1921, equipping them with next-to-new machinery acquired from the bankrupt Henderson Sash and Door Company at Golden. By then CS&D had opened a little sawmill in Kitchener, as well.

"CS&D survived the Depression on contracts from the CPR for ties, cattle-guards and grain-doors for boxcars. To get to the big timber, the company worked with the Cranbrook Foundry to develop mobile sawmills which could be skidded by a tracked tractor up into the stands on leases it had acquired from B.C. Spruce Mills and the Crow’s Nest Pass Lumber Company. Employing up to 24 men, these outfits could cut some 18,000 board feet of lumber per day. Eventually CS&D operated six of these mills and made enough cash that come the end of 1940 it was able to buy up B.C. Spruce Mills at Lumberton and its remote reserves back up in the Purcells around Mineral Lake. Having created a subsidiary called Kootenay Spruce Mills to absorb B.C Spruce into the company fabric, CS&D had it build a saw mill at Mineral Lake and send cutting crews up into the untouched Lamb Creek watershed to truck out logs.

"Cranbrook Sash and Door was now firmly in the hands of Harry McKowan. With the acquisition of B.C. Spruce, McKowan had doubled his workforce to some 250 employees. In 1941 he hired V.C. (Victor) Brown to help him run the outfit. Negotiations with the radical leaders of the Strike of 1946 seriously strained the health of the 69 year old McKowan, and on September the 26th of 1947, having that year bought the last 7,400 acres of the defunct King Lumber Company’s timber limits adjacent Lamb Creek, he died. Evah McKowan took over the presidency of her husband’s company and with Brown’s assistance as V.P. continued expanding the business by purchasing the Columbia Contracting Company in March of 1950 and the George McInnes Lumber Company in 1955. CS&D now employed some 350 workers at two stationary mill sites and three portables.

"In March of 1956 American Northwest money convinced the McKowan family and Farstad & Burns of Creston to sell CS&D and Cranbrook Sawmills, respectively. The new outfit, headed by J.M. Brown of Idaho, incorporated itself as the Crestbrook Timber Company, retaining Vic Brown as vice president and Alf Farstad as a business advisor. With the cash that from the sale of shares when the company went “public” in April of 1956, Crestbrook consolidated its operations and bought Crow’s Nest Pass Lumber’s planer mill at Wardner. The fire that destroyed the new company’s large Parson mill on June 4th of 1956 derailed plans to integrate the Wardner operation into its corporate structure and in May of 1958 it was sold to the Graf brothers. The fiscal losses inflicted by the Wardner failure, the reconstruction of the Parson plant, the wildfires in the company’s timber limits in 1957, the beetle infestations in the same, and the operation of the inefficient St. Mary’s sawmill drove the company to the financial wall towards the close of the 1950s."