“B.C. widow with nursery and orchard wishes partner. Widower preferred. Object matrimony.”
So ran an advertisement placed by Ada Annie Rae-Arthur in The Western Producer in 1936. Born Ada Annie Johnson in Sacramento, CA in 1888, she lived in England, South Africa, and the Canadian Prairies while still a child, and moved to an isolated spot on Vancouver Island near Clayoquot Sound in 1915 with her first husband, Willie Rae-Arthur.
When Willie died in 1936, his widow – who had had 11 children by this point – placed an ad hoping to find a suitable replacement. She ended up outliving four husbands, one of whom tried to push Annie off a cliff in order to inherit her farm; but Annie outsmarted him and ran him off the property with a shotgun. He disappeared, never to be seen again.
Annie’s five-acre garden – which she cleared herself – was her pride and joy, and furnished her with a steady income from the sale of bulbs and plants. She also ran a post office and general store on her property, and became known as “Cougar Annie” for her prowess at killing cougars. She claimed to have killed more than 60 of them over the course of her life, as they preyed on the goats and chickens which she raised. She continued to live on her farm until she was into her nineties, and died in 1985, aged 97.
Singer-songwriter Katrina Kadoski moved to Annie’s historical homestead in 2007 and spent three years there living “off the grid”. She became fascinated by Annie’s colourful life, and began conducting interviews with Annie’s relatives and collecting photos, news clippings, and letters to learn more. After five years of researching and writing, Cougar Annie Tales was born, a one-woman show combining narrative, photographs, letters, and original songs that celebrates the unconventional and fascinating life of one of B.C.’s most colourful characters.
The Winding Rivers Arts and Performance Society is pleased to be bringing Katrina Kadoski and Cougar Annie Tales to Ashcroft on Sunday, March 15 at 3pm at St. Alban’s Church Hall. Tickets can be purchased at Ashcroft Bakery, UniTea, Nature’s Gifts, and the Cariboo Jade Shop. For more information visit the WRAPS website at www.windingriversarts.ca; and to find out more about Katrina Kadoski and Cougar Annie Tales, visit www.katrinakadoski.com