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Friday, April 22, 2016

#47 - Dick's Journey Across Canada Continued.

We already know that Dick (Richard Grant) got killed at Vimy Ridge, but I still have three more postcards that he wrote (and that, obviously, pre-date his death).  The first one listed here really should have been shared in the last post about him, as it is from the Rocky Mountains.  It is a "General View of New Grade Reduction Loops and Spiral Tunnels, Field, Canadian Rockies."

Oddly enough, I just drove through Field on Sunday with my family, and I mentioned the Spiral Tunnels in this past post.  But to re-cap, the spiral tunnels are train tunnels that loop around inside a mountain.  That way the grade could be lower than it would be on the surface, and it wouldn't be as dangerous for the trains and their crews.  In the first 6 km west of the Kicking Horse Pass summit, the Kicking Horse River drops 350m (1,150 ft), creating a 7 km long stretch of track with a 4.5% gradient called the Big Hill (a good 2.5% steeper than most modern railways).  The Big Hill was used (temporarily) from the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885 for nearly 25 years until the Spiral Tunnels were completed in 1909 (only 6 years before Dick went through them on the train).  When dealing with the topography of the Rocky Mountains, sometimes you have to get creative - and these designers certainly did.  The tunnels still garner a lot of attention and have their own official stop with information panels explaining them.  You can read all about them here.

On the back of this postcard, Dick writes what is possibly the most poignant of all the messages to date.  Not because of what he wrote, but of what he was facing afterward:

"9th (or 8th) Nov 1915 On the train.  We are on our way to Berlin every one happy  Dick"

The second-to-last postcard from Dick to Jack is from the R.M.S. Missanabie, the ship he sailed the Atlantic on.  She was 520 feet long, 64 feet wide, had a depth of 41 feet and a gross tonnage of 13,000 (as noted on the front of the postcard - although another site stated 12,469 gt).  Built in 1914, the Missanabie was conscripted into use by the army and was torpedoed and sunk in 1918 off the coast of Kinsale, Ireland - in the same general area as the Lusitania 3 years before.

This one is post-marked Quebec City, but was posted from the ship.  The back reads:  "this is our boat we have got started all right.  started ___ on the 13th with a black crow on board.  we had the crow on our train so we are all right give my love to everyone and kiss Gladys for me  Dick."  Gladys was my then one-year-old grandmother.

It makes me rather sad to read these postcards now - knowing that Dick never came home, that he died in a nasty battle, that my grandmother never knew him, that he was lost to his family.  Just sad.  And that this hero was nearly lost to history's ravages (as were so, so many of them) is sad as well.

#46 - The Awesome Power of the Internet

Originally published 3/25/15

I had an amazing history day Monday.

Two complete strangers contacted me through my previous blog to share information!  How cool is that?  Thanks to those two men I now have more pieces to fit into my puzzle!

One of them, out of the blue, sent a photograph of the Woodpark Asylum.  If you remember, my great-great-grandmother (Helen Steele, nee McKenzie) worked there as I mentioned in this earlier blog post.

Thank you to Neil Gray (who contacted me and shared the picture) and to Russell at Turriff Printing Services whose pamphlet the photo was in and who got back to me when I asked if he knew where it came from (he did not).  The source of the photo is unknown at this time.  As it turns out, Neil works for the company responsible for The Ladysbridge Village development.  They now own the property and the buildings and are converting them into housing - nice looking housing.

In this photo (which is of the same series as the one I shared in that previous post) you'll see Ladysbridge Asylum, and I've circled the Woodpark building here (sorry it's black and hard to see - top centre):

In this photo, it is the building to the right of the picture in the little patch of woods:

What I had read was that it was about a mile distant.  I think it's closer.  

The other person who contacted me is a long lost relative.  He is the grandson of the child my great-grandmother stayed in Scotland to care for before coming to Canada (read about it here).  His grandmother, Peggy Black, is the reason I exist at all.  If she hadn't been in need of motherly care, my great-grandmother would have died on the Titanic.  

To my knowledge, our family had lost touch with her - apparently after she was married, because they knew her married name.  But here is her grandson (with all the research in hand, I might say) passing along photos and information to me.  Bless him.  Here's a photo of Peggy and her husband Bill Black.

I certainly see a family resemblance.

So not only am I learning about my family history, I feel like the family is being slowly brought back together as well.  How blessed am I?

#45 - S.N. Leek and Elk!

When I wrote an earlier post about Atlin and the gold rush, I had this particular postcard in the pile to include with the others in that post.  But then I took a closer look at it ....

The postcard is (obviously) of a herd of elk.  And I assumed it was a herd of Elk from Atlin, because, well, that's where my head was.  But when you are doing history, you have to be a little more on the ball than that.  If you take a look, printed on the front of the card is: "COPYRIGHT 1911 BY S. N. LEEK," and on the back is printed:  "Copyright 1911 by S. N. Leek, Jackson, Wyo." as well as: "Portland, Oregon July, 1912."

Now, just because it is copyrighted by someone in Wyoming and has Oregon printed on the back does not mean that it wasn't bought in Atlin - and it may well have been - but I doubt it.  When I looked into S. N. Leek, I expected to find little if no information on a photographer over 100 years ago - the kind of stuff I normally find.  But this time I got a surprise.

The National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, was established in 1912 - in large part due to the actions of S. N. Leek.  I'll summarize, but if you are interested, the whole story can be read here in the is article by Shannon Sullivan:

S. N. Leek homesteaded in South Park, Wyoming, in 1891.  At that time there were around 30,000 elk in the region - no longer migrating through the area because of human development, the herd stayed in the region for the winters.  Leek became a hunting guide with one of his clients being George Eastman (of Eastman Kodak fame) who gave him a camera.  

Three harsh winters put the herd in danger from 1909-1911 when numbers decreased to less than 10,000.  Local residents started to feed the Elk hay as they were dying in such numbers.  Leek took pictures of the problem, publishing them in magazine and newspaper articles and giving lectures around the country - leading to the establishment of the Elk Refuge.

If you take a look at his book found at this link, you'll see the photo that is also this postcard along with many other photos of elk and hunters and such.

(Personally, I find it strange that the people who want to help preserve animals are often the ones who also want to kill them - I mean, I understand it, but they seem like different goals.  They aren't, but it feels like it, you know.)

Anyhow, why is this postcard in this collection??  Well,  I don't know.  Maybe someone went to Wyoming.  

The fact that Portland, Oregon is printed on the back makes me think that someone went to Oregon - which is probably more like it since family members do live in Oregon - and they've been there since 1908.  The fact that 1912 is printed on the back makes me think that perhaps Nellie and Jack headed to Oregon when they got married - or perhaps the summer after.  Why they would have bought a postcard of Elk, I don't know - unless perhaps it was part of a fundraiser for the Elk Refuge.

When I was a kid, several times we went down to Yamhill Oregon to visit Uncle George and Aunty Gladys - two unmarried children of Uncle Alec - an incredibly old, deaf man who scared me (he died in 1973 at the age of 89 when I was 4, so when I knew him I was really little and not used to the elderly - and, well, he was grouchy!).  Alec had come to Oregon from Scotland and was one of my Great-Grandmother's brothers.  He and his wife, Helen (ore Ellen or Nella - depending on which census you are looking at - I bet she had a thick accent and the recorders couldn't understand her) had 7 children, I believe.

I have some wonderful memories of the visits we made to Oregon to see Uncle George and Aunty Gladys.  They had a farm and we got to collect eggs and play on the hay bales.  But the barn is what I remember the most - George had dairy cows and I remember that old, dilapidated barn (you can just barely see it in the photo below).  One year, a distant "cousin" of mine (don't ask his name, I don't know it) were plopped on the back of a rather sedate bull of George's.  Here's proof (and an image of me as a grubby farm kid):

Funny where one old, unused postcard can lead - from Atlin to Wyoming to bull riding in Oregon.

#44 - The Rest From the Gold Mines

As a continuation of the last postcard post:

So before we continue with the story of Dick Grant headed to war, it would probably be better to go back and see the rest of the cards that ended up in our collection from the Atlin area.

Since I didn't know most of the story before, and since these cards are not post-marked, I really didn't know where they fit into the story.  But now I do - before Dick signed up with the 47th.

So here are some postcards from the Atlin and Discover, B.C. area.  None of them were postmarked, and most of them did not have much of a message if any at all, so really I was just dealing with images - except for this first one.  But now that I know who was up there, I have some answers (and way more questions).  For now I am (reasonably) assuming that these cards are associated with the Grant brothers.

Message on back reads:  "Thanks for PC this is what is left of Atlin after the fire.  it was a good thing that it was not Discovery. well how are you always getting along. is Jack done of the garden yet.  we are very busy up here and the weather is very cold yet but we will soon get the summer how is Van looking I just try and come down this winter to see what you are all doing.   __ __ one that I am asking for them  RG."

The fire that burned Atlin started in May 1914 - it wasn't the first time the town had a major fire.  The town had a major fire in August, 1900 as well, with damages estimated at $43,000.  The 1914 fire, though, took most of the town's buildings and did more than twice the estimated damage at $100,000.  

On the back of this one is written simply "this is one of Atlin."  In the corner it says "Publ. By H.E. Brown, Atlin, BC"

On the back of this one is a note stating:  "what do you think of this lot"

These "real photo" types of postcards were very popular at this time.  A photographer likely had the dogs and sled set up and took pictures for tourists or locals.  These two photos were taken at the same spot from two slightly different angles.  If you look closely, you'll see some snowshoes in the trees behind the last dog.  

I have been in touch with one of Richard Grant's descendants (well, one of his sister's descendants, as he had no children), and am hoping to get a picture of him.  If I do, I want to see if it happens to be the man with the hat and glasses (front in top one, back in bottom).  If it is him, we can see that it was not just two bachelors mining in the wilds.  And it looks like they might be having a grand time.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

#43 - Dick! Found him! Then lost him ...

I just shared an older post (#34) with a LinkedIn group and came to the stunning realization that the author of that postcard is none other than the friend, Dick - same guy who was off to WWI.

How did I miss that??

This friend, Dick (who I assume to be a Richard), on December 18, 1914 was in the wilds of BC in Discovery apparently mining for gold.  Less than a year later, in October 1915, he was in the Okanagan Valley at the training camp in Vernon, having joined the 47th Battalion, C.E.F.  By November 11th, 1915, he was on the train in Fort William (Thunder Bay) headed to either Quebec or Halifax to head to England. (Spuzzum PostFraser Canyon Post).  [There will be at least 3 more posts upcoming about Dick.]

I have been trying to find out who Dick is, and will continue to look through information on the 47th Battalion as well as the gold rush and see what I can find.  But this is one mystery that keeps intriguing me.


I wrote the above paragraphs last week.  I e-mailed the Royal Westminster Regiment, who perpetuate the 47th Battalion (keep their records since the 47th no longer exist), and found out that they wrote and published a book called For King and Country - 150 Years of the Westminster Regiment.  The book lists all the men who left with the 47th in November of 1915.  The person I e-mailed told me it would be "like looking for a needle in a haystack" to track down a Richard from the Battalion.  He doesn't know me, though, does he.

There were only 150 copies of the book printed.  If I buy it from the Westminster Regiment, it's $65.  From Amazon, it's $99.  But I have a wonderful brother-in-law (BIL) in Vancouver, Bruce Harwood, who is very familiar with the Vancouver Public Library, and today he went and wrote down all the Richards who departed with the 47th in November of 1915.  There were only 10 - I'd have thought there would be a lot more.

Next stop: the Solders of the First World War search page of Library and Archives Canada.  If you have anyone in your past who was in WWI in Canada, you can find information out about them there. You can only look them up by name or regimental number right now, but the Archives are working on a more detailed search engine - and some of the WWI soldiers are on that now.

I started with the first name on my BIL's list - Richard Bell.  There were 22 who were in WWI with Canada.  The one who departed with the 47th was regimental number 629030.  He was from Scotland, so he was a possibility.

Next came Lieutenant-Corporal Richard Hoskin Duce - there was only one of them in the database and he was regimental number 629360 - but he was from England and I'm pretty sure my Dick is Scottish - my GGparents seemed to stick with their fellow nationals a lot.  I wouldn't rule him out, but there was nothing screaming "Dick" to me.

Then came the third name on the list:  "Richard Grant" and something twigged - I have a postcard to a "W. Grant" in Discovery.  Could they be brothers??  There were 9 Richard Grants that went overseas from Canada in WWI.  And 629491 was Richard Grant from Inverness, Scotland.  His attestation paper gives us lots of information.  He was 30 years old (was the same age as Jack's older brother, Alexander), 5 feet 7 inches tall with brown eyes and black hair.  He signed up for the army on September 1, 1915 in Vernon, B.C. - a little over a year after the war started - and after he no doubt lost money trying to gold mine in Discovery.  He was born March 19, 1885, not married, and his next of kin was listed as his mother, Mrs. Richard Grant, who lived at 15 Booth (or possibly Boath) Terrace in Nairn, Scotland!  He was also listed as having the occupation of a miner.  Found him!  Didn't think I would.  Ship's records tell us that Dick travelled to Canada in March, 1912, arriving in Halifax, N.S., on April 1.  He came across on a ship called "Scandinavian" of the Alaln Line.  There is no evidence that any of his family came at the same time.

In the 1901 census and until he left for Canada in 1910, Jack lived with his parents on Roseneath Terrace in Nairn, Scotland.  In the 1901 census, Dick's family lived at 27 Harbour Street in Nairn (on the 1891 census they lived at 25 Harbour Street - I'm guessing that numbering changed, was written down incorrectly on one of the censuses, or was not very fixed).  Here's where their houses were:

Dick's father was a Market Gardener - so they were likely in a similar financial situation.  But with such a small town, young men of a similar age would have a good chance of knowing each other.

So there we have it.  Dick Grant from Nairn.  His brother, who was a year older than him, was named William Grant who we have a postcard for as well - only further confirming the identity.

Here comes the terribly sad part:  in doing this research, I also found Corporal Richard Grant, Regimental Number 629491, listed on the Canadian Great War Project's webpage.  He was killed in action on April 13, 1917 at Vimy Ridge (I had a good cry over that one - found him and lost him on the same day).  He is buried at the Petit-Vimy British Cemetery in France (photos courtesy of Simon Godly, a very generous man living in France who runs

Jack McCurrach, my great-grandfather, and Dick's friend, was transferred to Dick's unit, the 47th Battalion C.E.F., in June, 1917 - I don't know if he was hoping to find his friend still alive and well with the battalion or if he already knew the worst.  My family was lucky - Jack got wounded but stayed alive and eventually got to go home.

I wonder if Dick has anyone to remember him ....

Post Script - Dick does have people who remember him.  After this post was originally published, I got in touch with descendants of his brothers and sisters who still have some of his postcards, and some photographs that might be him.  Like this one:

Presumably, from the writing he would be the one on the left.  I love this photograph - very early century.

His family also passed along this one:

It appears to be him on the left of this one as well.  

#42 - White's Creek Bridge and Fraser Canyon

As you can see, this postcard is from White's Creek Bridge in the Fraser Canyon (not actually "Canon" as it says on the card).  You'll also note that it says "Canadian Rockies."  Not sure if this was a series of postcards called "Canadian Rockies," but the Fraser Canyon is not in the Rocky Mountains.  In this area the river divides the Canadian Cascades from the Coastal Mountains (from what I understand).  

I can't absolutely identify this spot on the map, but another postcard (found on the internet) notes that it is near Spuzzum (which you can barely read at the top):

"White's Creek Bridge and Fraser Canon (looks like it is mis-spelled here, too - what's with that??), near Spuzzum, B.C., Canadian Pacific Railway"

As seen in this past post, Spuzzum is an interesting town just north of Yale on Highway 1 in B.C.
The CPR was built in the 1880s, with the last spike being driven in 1885.  So I assume that this bridge was built during the construction of the RRd.  I'm sure if I am wrong on that, someone out there will tell me, please.  I can't find White's Creek on any maps, only in other postcards of a similar age.  

The back of the postcard reads:  "Got to Winnipeg this morning.  Met Bill and the wife.  they were down at the station at 3 in morning and we got in at 4 but we only had a few minutes with them the two of them are looking well.  we are having a fun time.  Dick"  He was writing from Winnipeg although he seems to have mailed it later.

The red line is the CPR - Dick would have travelled along the main line that went through Calgary.

The post mark is from Fort William - Now part of Thunder Bay. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

#41 - Spuzzum

In the last postcard post, Jack's friend, Dick, was in Vernon, BC and headed to New Westminster to start his WWI journey to Europe.  On this card, we see he is travelling east toward Europe - but he hasn't gone too far, yet.  The card is from near Spuzzum, BC.

"SPUZZUM"??? you may ask.  What kind of word is Spuzzum???  According to Wikipedia, it may be a First Nations ("Indian" for those of you who don't reside in Canada, but First Nations is the term used here) word meaning "little flat."  It is the boundary between the Sto:lo and Nlaka'pamux peoples - just north of Hope, BC - often referred to as "beyond Hope." (Spuzzumites have had quite a sense of humour regarding their size and name).

To put it in the context of my experience, when I was younger, Spuzzum was a stop on the highway - a gas station and cafe.  Before the Coquihalla Highway (Highway 5) was put through in 1986, the Trans-Canada Highway was the main route we used to travel from Vernon to Vancouver - every year or two.  Here is a picture of what it used to look like (from the cars, I'd say late '70s, early '80s):

If I remember correctly, behind the photographer would be a rather steep hill going up, and behind the restaurant/gas station was a rather steep hill down to the river - but not too close, as there were some houses down there.  As we were driving through, my father would say "there's Spuzzum, don't blink or you'll miss it!"  And, to show their own humour, the hamlet had one sign which on both sides read "You are now leaving Spuzzum."  The other highway being put through must have really killed their business in the mid-80s.

In 2002 the gas station and restaurant burned down.  They were not re-built.  Here is what the spot looks like today:

This postcard was written to Jack's sister, Belle, and the text reads:  "On the train 9th Nov Hello Belle how are you getting along.  we are having a fine time with the girl's all along the line the weather is a bit cold here but every one is happy Dick".  A curious little note.  Not sure why he needed to tell Belle he was having fun with all the girls ...

The postmark is from Regina, Saskatchewan, so from this and the previous postcard, we can see where Dick has been (on a 1915 map of the railroads across Canada):

Remember, he started in Vernon, went to New Westminster (which is part of the Lower Mainland along with Vancouver and several other cities) and then got on the train headed east.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

#40 - 47th Battalion C.E.F., the Vernon Army Camp, and Dick

This postcard is particularly meaningful to me - for several reasons.

For one thing, this is the first in a group of 6 postcards that document one man's journey from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, to England in 1915 ... for the Great War.  I don't know who he was or if he ever came back.

Another reason that this postcard is meaningful is because it was sent from Vernon, British Columbia.  The town where I was born and raised.  I lived there, in the same house, until I was 19.  And the Army Camp (which still exists there today as the Vernon Army Camp Summer Training Centre or VACSTC) was a big part of the summer in Vernon - the Cadets would come and parade and train for the summer months - from all over BC.  They would often be seen walking down the hill from the camp to the downtown when they had time off.  A friend of mine married one of them.  So to find a nearly 100-year-old postcard from the Vernon Army Camp in this collection just shows the spiderweb-like connections in our lives.

Here is a shot of the army camp from a different angle in 1915:

This photo is courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons.  Please see the link for copyright information.

Here is a satellite shot of the army camp - it may well be larger that what I'm showing (my dad and possibly a few other people reading this will know and likely tell me how big it is) but these are the main structures that are there now.  During WWI, I suspect they used a great deal of the land around Vernon.  I think it's pretty clear that there is a large church and part of a neighbourhood intruding at the top left of the photo, but the rest is mostly army camp:

When I was growing up, we used to have filmstrips in the gymnasium of our school warning us of what to do if we found unexploded mortars from WWII.  I also worked at a heritage site and a live mortar was found behind one of the buildings (many miles from here).  Training for war was a messy business.  As was cleaning up afterward.  It was a good 30 years after the second world war when I was in elementary school.  That war seemed a lot further back to me then.

The training camp opened in 1912 and in May 1915 became a central mobilization camp and training centre.  By 1916, 7000 men were training at the centre - while Vernon barely had a population of 3000.

Yet another reason that this postcard is meaningful is because it is from the 47th Battalion C.E.F.  I wrote an article and had it published in BC Studies this summer - it was about Jack's (my great-grandfather, for those who are new here) training battalion., the 143rd Battalion C.E.F.  I spent 5 years or so researching it off and on.  Well, after he went over to England, the 143rd was split up and he ended up in the 47th.  So another tie with his friend and his battalion.  I wonder if they met up when they were over there.  I also wonder if "Dick" - the author of this postcard - is the same friend that Jack said he watched die during the war.  (I have gone to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and looked for a Richard that died that day, and I have not found one.  I also have not found a reasonable Richard who signed up with the 47th battalion before November, 1915, so I'm nowhere near figuring out who this guy is).

The back of the postcard reads:  "Dear Jack We are leaving there on the 26th (of October, 1915) for New Westminster if all goes well Dick."

So Dick went from Vernon, west to New Westminster and then headed back east on the train to head overseas.  Not knowing his last name, Dick is going to be a difficult person to track down.

This postmark is from the Field Post Office at the Vernon Camp.  The photographic post card was printed by the Vernon Photo Company, which was started around 1910 by Bernard LeBlond - a British bloke from Richmond-on-Thames (a suburb of London) - who partnered with a Mr. J. H. Hunter.  The partnership dissolved in 1919, the name going with Hunter, but LeBlond continued as a photographer in Vernon for some time after (his son took over and ran the business until 1988 - I'm not sure if the business closed down at that time).*

I'll see if I can glean anymore information bout Dick out of the other postcards, but for now he is an enigma.

*Okanagan Historical Society annual 75:120

Relatively Speaking

I was recently asked to contribute to the Alberta Genealogical Society's publication, Relatively Speaking.

 click here to go to their page

One of the benefits of a membership to the Society is receiving this quarterly journal.  If anyone is interested in Canadian Genealogy, or Alberta Genealogy specifically, I would recommend becoming a member.  You can find their web page here:

The article I wrote is called "It All Started with Dick" - and it chronicles my search for the author of the postcards signed either "D" or "Dick".  If you regularly read my blog, you'll have already read about the story.   If not, you can find it here.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

#39 - Summit Lake and Mount Wapta

From what I can ascertain from Google and other people's photos online, these are now called Wapta Mountain (as opposed to Mount Wapta) and Yoho Lake (instead of Summit Lake), just north of Field.    This is a fabulous area and is in Yoho National Park part of our wonderful National Parks system in Canada.

This postcard was written in a very light pen or pencil.  Parts of it are really not readable, but I'll do my best.  See if you can get more.

"Dear B. We are having lovely trip expect to arrive Moose Jaw tomorrow morning. I am sending you 50c when I arrive to as afar to get my umbrella near drug(?) store on Robson St. I was to late on Wed night I did not see ____(?) I waited til nearly ____(?) at main st. Love from Lizzie"

I don't know who this Lizzie is. There was a Lizzie Steele, but she lived in Scotland and died in 1912.  This is 3 years later. She may have been a friend. I wonder if she is going to Moose Jaw to visit the friends that wrote the previous postcard form there.

The letter was written to Bella in Vancouver - this was Jack's sister and indicates that she is indeed has moved to Vancouver to be with her brothers. She has the same address as Jack and Nellie although it was originally written care of someone who lived in Shaughnessy Heights.  I don't know who they would have known there as it was and is a very swanky neighbourhood.

The post mark is interesting. The one on the stamps reads Moose Jaw & Calgary R.P.O. RPOs were Railway Post Offices, an important part of the Canadian Postal Service. According to this website:

"Mail began to be sorted on trains in the late 19th century when the railways had developed an extensive passenger network. The Railway Mail Service was the elite branch of the Post Office. It took intelligence, manual dexterity, strength, endurance and an excellent memory to qualify as a Railway Mail Clerk.

An annual event was the Case Examination in which the clerk had to sort 1000 cards with the Post Office name on them into the slot corresponding with their correct distribution point. The time limit was 1 hour and an accuracy rate of less than 90% meant no salary increase. Repeated failure led to dismissal. 

The Railway Mail Service died with the removal of the passenger trains. Mail, once sorted on the trains, had to be brought into Post Offices to be processed. It was many years before postal service regained the standards it had once enjoyed in the days of the Railway Mail Service.

The Canadian Railway Mail Service officially ended April 24, 1971 with the last R.P.O. ending its run by returning from Campbellton, New Brunswick to Levis, Quebec"

Thursday, January 21, 2016

#38 - More on British Columbia's Last Gold Rush

As mentioned in a previous post, British Columbia's last real gold rush started in Atlin, B.C. in 1898 (shortly after the Klondike Gold Rush began, and likely because of it).  The mining season with the highest monetary returns from the area was in 1903 (1).  My Great-Grandparents apparently knew people who were in the area at some point (not sure when they arrived) and who were there more than a decade after that peak.  By that time, tourism was very popular, with hunting and sport fishing advertised to draw people to the area (2).  So the various postcard writers/recipients in Atlin/Discovery may have been there in relation to that activity (either as tourists or providing services).

The second post I wrote about Discovery was from someone who was up there at Christmastime.  Because of the time of the year and the text, I do assume he was living up there at least semi-permanently, and not simply as a tourist himself.  But because I don't know who the individual was, I cannot confirm that.  That first post may well have been to someone who was in Discovery visiting, but again I can confirm none of it at this point.

And to re-cap, a man named Jimmy Kinnaird, who we know to be a friend of the family and who did some gold mining, may not have been in the Atlin area at all - these postcards might not be related to him.  This is a mystery that may never be solved.  But it's sure fun to try!  (Post Script - mystery at least partly solved in post #43).

This is a lithographed picture of Discovery, BC, probably closer to the time of the early gold rush rather than the tourism boom.  As you can see from the writing below, the sender states: "and this is good old Discovery but it is a very old photo."

The photograph was taken by H.E. Brown of Atlin and the card printed in Brooklyn, New York by the Albertype Co.  I was going to say that I suspected the paper stock was provided by that company, but I found this site that has a list of the types of postcards they printed, and I learned that this type of picture (made of dots) is a lithograph and had to be printed commercially, so now I know it the printed cards were ordered from Brooklyn.  Does the fact that it was an old photo mean that the store where they were purchased had lots of these cards sitting around for a long time?  I can't imagine that they sold that many of them.

Again, here is where Discovery is in relation to Atlin:

This other postcard is also in my collection:

This is a coloured lithograph, and from the back of the postcard you can see that it was made by the Portland Post Card Company, but printed in Germany - where a LOT of postcards were produced during the "golden age of post cards," a time period which varies depending on who you reference, by was mostly 1905-1914.  No photographer is noted on the card.

There were several photographers in Atlin in these years.  I have postcards by H.E. Brown and C.W. Brown, but G.M. Taylor, L.C. Read, C.R. Bourne, Fred Warren Cartmel and the Rev. Louis H. Pederson apparently also all produced postcards in the area (3).

It only makes sense if tourism was a major economic driver in the area that postcards would be popular - not a lot of people had their own cameras, and if people did have them, the photographs were not guaranteed to be good, so postcards were an excellent way to have guaranteed good pictures of an area.

(1) Atlin:  the Story of British Columbia's Last Gold Rush.  By Christine Frances Dickinson and Diane Solie Smith, 1995, Atlin Historical Society, p.301.  If you want to order a copy, please contact the Atlin Historical Society at 3rd St, Atlin, British Columbia V0W1A0. (when I bought my copy in 2006, it cost $25).

(2) Ibid p.302


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

#37 - Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan!

Wow!  This is a hard one to read.  Join me on THIS particular adventure:

"Dear Friends   We arrived at our destination all very tired  I was sick the first day but the youngsters (thanks to my mother's good interpretation skills, because I couldn't read that word) were fine.  Wallis started to work Monday for the C.P. R. the prairie looks fine the crops are great the mountains were great we went thru the loop and around the principal canyons in day light.  We haven't got our trunks yet but expect to get them this afternoon.  We'll give the guy another dollar I guess he made good on that ___(?) Wallis will write later but I wrote because know you would be looking for a line pfnir2 (??)  Mrs. Arrowsmith"  As always, your expert opinions are welcome in interpreting the unknown words.

NO idea who Wallis and Mrs. Arrowsmith were, how they knew Jack and Nellie, or why they moved to Moose Jaw (actually, we kind-of can assume it's because Wallis got a job with the CPR).

Their address is listed as 170 Lillooet Street, Moose Jaw, Sask, which may be this house:

Or it may not - the one to the right hand side in the picture is #178, and the one to the left has no visible number.  But the one past that is 150.  So I'm guessing that this is 170.

But then there is an online map of Moose Jaw that shows all of the lots, blocks and plans!!  And, yes, this is 170:

So that's where they lived - The style of this house makes me thing is may have been there in 1915 - unless there was another building that burned down around that time and this one was re-built.  I'd have to look up information on it and I don't have the time or inclination to do that right now.  Let's just say we know a Mrs. Arrowsmith and a Wallis moved to Saskatchewan in the late summer of 1915 (post mark is August 24) and moved into this house or maybe one prior on this lot.

We can also see that luggage was lost even on the trains in 1915.  Or perhaps it took a long time to unload and they delivered them later, but I think more likely they couldn't locate the trunks.

But was this a mother and son, a husband and wife?  I am inclined to think husband and wife since she mentions youngsters, but she did sign "Mrs. Arrowsmith" while referring to the man as the much less formal "Wallis," so it could be mother and children.

The "loop" she is talking about is likely the Spiral Tunnels that go into the mountains in the Rockies because the grade is too steep at that location.  It is a rather popular stop on the highway to take a break and admire the technological prowess of our forebears in the early 20th century.  It's really quite amazing.

Click here to go to the website.

They are located just to the east of Field, B.C. (the very pale grey line is the railway, and the two loops go into the mountains):

I'm not sure how the railway opened in 1885 and the tunnels were not completed until 1909 - I'm assuming here, and someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm thinking that they had problems with the original steep curve and this was built to correct that and allow larger, heavier trains to go through.

The front of the postcard shows wonderful colourized prairie farming scenes from the day:  

So what does this tell us of Jack and Nellie?  Not much.  Aside from the fact that they were living in Vancouver and because it was addressed to both of them, we could assume that they had not yet been separated by the war (although that would be a real assumption if I didn't know they were together at that time).  

We know they had friends who moved to Saskatchewan.  But it tells us a lot about the history of the country and about what people were doing at the time.  And it's just another little piece of a larger puzzle.