Charles Augustus (Gus) Cox grew up at the Cape Beale Lighthouse with three sisters and a younger brother, the children of lightkeeper Emanuel John Cox and Mary Frances Shortt. While all the Coxs were distinguished in some way throughout their lives, Gus Cox made his mark as the first policeman hired in the Alberni Valley.
Cox was born in Curragh County Cork, Ireland, in April 1867 and arrived with his family in Victoria in 1871. The family moved to the Alberni Valley in 1874, and in 1878 they moved to the lighthouse.
Cox was appointed a regular constable in 1892 after spending some time doing special police work. In 1904 he was appointed chief constable for the west coast.
Most of the charges Cox dealt with as a provincial police officer were connected with liquor, although on May 5, 1912 he became involved in the highway post controversy. A post was erected in Alberni proclaiming it the western terminus of Canada. A trio of Port Alberni men, annoyed at the snub that community received, stole the post. Cox was forced to serve the mayor of Port Alberni, Alex Waterhouse, with a summons over the debacle.
The post was returned via livery the next day.
Although Cox retired as a police officer in 1912, it wasn’t the end of his working years. He became the Indian Agent for the west coast, covering the Alberni Valley as well as the coast from Clo-oose to Kyuquot.
Growing up on the West Coast and living near the Ohiaht, Cox learned the native language and had a good understanding of the different way of life Aboriginal People lived. It served him well after he was named Indian Agent, according to an Oct. 2, 1947 article in the West Coast Advocate.
He was commended for representing claims of the West Coast Indians before the Sealing Commission in Victoria in 1913. Cox served as Stipendiary Magistrate from 1915, and retired from his office as Indian Agent in 1923.
A lifelong Conservative and Presbyterian, Cox died in mid-January, 1938. The West Coast Advocate noted in his obituary that at the time of his death, Cox was the oldest white resident of the Alberni District “with one exception” (which was not noted).
Cox Road, which runs from Ian Avenue to Tebo Avenue, is named for Gus Cox, in honour of his work as a police constable. Cox Lake, located beside Franklin River Road was named for the Emanuel Cox family. Although he is perhaps best known for being a lightkeeper at the Cape Beale Lighthouse, Emanuel was the first owner of the property on which the lake is located.
While researching Gus Cox’s exploits as a police constable at the archives, a volunteer pointed out there was another notable Cox who left his mark on Port Alberni in 1912.
Fred Cox and his wife moved to the Alberni Valley in 1912 and operated a dry goods store on Third Avenue until 1928. He eventually retired and moved to Sproat Lake in 1946.
The Fred Coxs eventually returned to Alberni, buying a house on Josephine Street.
Susan Quinn is the editor of the Alberni Valley News. Her centennial column will run weekly throughout 2012.