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Roots In Chilliwack

Updated on February 14, 2012
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Why would I want to move to Chilliwack? Family of course! First of all my sister and her two children moved here then my parents moved here. So when my husband lost his job and my family helped me get one in Chilliwack, that’s where we moved to. Family roots grow deep in a city, town or village, even one like Chilliwack where our roots go back over a hundred years.

“1894 - Chilliwack”

The following information was taken from the autobiography of my Great Uncle John M. Telford who in 1894 (after leaving his home in Valens, Ontario at the age of 16), arrived in Chilliwack where he would spend the next three years.


PART II - “Living and Working”

John was sixteen when he arrived in Chilliwack which meant that his schooling must continue. Sister Jean had arranged with the Pearsons of Sardis for one large room at the back of their house where John and brother George would “batch” until the end of the school term the next June. They attended the Sardis school where Jean taught, a couple of miles out of the village. The school yard was large and had a flower garden planted and kept by the “scholars.” A couple of days before Christmas 1894, John picked a rose from the garden — a marvel for an Ontario boy. There was also a barn for horses as pupils went to school in buggies and on horseback. Two or three would arrive on one pony, tied on in the winter and rainy season with a shawl or blanket covered with some waterproof material. When they arrived at school the teacher or some senior pupil would go out, untie whatever held them together, and lift them off. After school, the children would be piled back on their pony, covered and tied safely for their journey home.

In the summer of 1894, before John arrived, there was a bad flood. The village of Chilliwack was flooded as was the basement of Jean’s home. They built a rowboat which they used to do their necessary shopping. When they arrived back home they would pull the boat through the front door and tie it to the second step of the stairway. Again, in the summer of 1895 the Fraser overflowed it’s banks to inundate large areas of the valley and John helped with the building of a dam across the mouth of a ravine entering the river. He and others swam in a hayfield that summer.

The summer of 1895 was also when Earl Grey, the Governor General of Canada visited Chilliwack. John states “Albert Knight, with his team nicely groomed, harness newly oiled and democrat glittering in the sunshine, drove the party about in Sardis district. It was a grand occasion and I can yet see Albert proudly sitting in the front seat with lines in hand. It was the first High Notable I had ever seen.”

Sundays were always spent at Jean’s, whose house was always open, not only to her family, but to hosts of others. They all attended services held by a small group of Baptists, usually returning to Sardis early enough to attend the Methodist Service at the Coquilitza boarding school.


Jean taught English twice a week to a group of Chinese boys and they were there the night John arrived. John states “It was a new experience to me and the beginning of thoughts international. People from another land — far away China — stood before me. We shook hands and smiled at each other. I had seen Chinese before but only one or two. It meant very little to me years ago but that night in Jean’s house it did mean something to me. I had met some people of another race, another color, another language and other customs. We smiled and talked, at least we tried to. That was new and the thought of other people in other lands, just human beings like ourselves, did impress me. There was quite a group of Chinese boys in the village. Some had a laundry, others went out to clear land, cut down trees and brush, dig out stumps, pile and burn it all. They would take contracts and then worked cooperatively. And they worked! Hours meant little to them. Late Saturday night several would come into the village to their headquarters which was at the laundry. Early Sunday evening they left for their work camp with their week’s food supply.”

Across from Jean’s house was the Independent Order of Good Templers (IOGT) and both John and George were active members. Nearly everybody belonged and drinking was scarcely known. John states “How much that society meant to the community no one will ever know. I know it did something to steer my thinking for years to come. I’ll venture to suggest that most of those interested in the work of the Society look back to their hours spent there as a time of mighty influence on their lives and characters.”

It’s funny how my Great Great Uncle John lived and worked in the village of Chilliwack and my family, over a hundred years later, live in the city of Chilliwack. As the little village grew some things stayed the same. Two of my children graduated from Sardis Senior Secondary and one from Cilliwack Senior Secondary. All five of us work in Chilliwack so does my sister and her family. We have a different last names but the bloodline continues. Living and working in Chilliwack, we hope we would have made my Great Great Uncle John Telford proud.

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