Working And Living In Chilliwack
How do you get to where you are living today? Were you born in the town you live in? Did you move there because of family? Were you transferred because of work?
I moved because my family was here and they helped me get a job before I got here. My sister was the first to move to Chilliwack in 1992, it was an affordable little community where she could raise two children. But she was not the first to set up roots in this community. Almost one hundred years before my sister came here my Great Great Uncle John Telford lived and worked in Chilliwack.
“1894 - Chilliwack”
The following information was taken from the autobiography of my Great 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 III - “Work, Mosquitoes and Farewell”
When school closed, the brothers were too young to teach school so they went to work, George as an office employee and collector in a lumber mill at Popkum and John doing odd jobs. The summer of 1895 saw John buck-sawing piles of cordwood for Mr. Ogle, the storekeeper at Sardis. He states “hour after hour, day after day I bucked wood. Did my back ache! I don’t remember how much I got for the job or how long it took and I didn’t care. I was earning my first money and felt quite proud of myself.” The route to school from Sardis Village followed the Vider Creek and across from the Wells farm the big salmon were heading upstream to spawn. He watched the farmers’ hogs wade out into the stream, grab a struggling fish and bring it out to eat it. This diet ruined the Chilliwack hogs for market. The fishy taste of the pork was always unacceptable. He would watch also as the farmers would drive their wagons into the stream and with ordinary hay forks load the dead or struggling fish to spread over their fields for fertilizer.
About two miles upstream from Chilliwack Landing was a small island and George Ashwell cut and cured the hay that grew there. They drove the team and hayrack onto a flat bottom scow and rowed a couple hundred yards or so to the island. John states “we called it haying season but we could just properly have called it mosquito season. They were there in full possession, hordes of them. We all worked with broad rimmed hats veiled with netting, upturned heavy coat collars, leather gloves or mittens and with our pantaloons inside our stockings. I do not know whether Ashwell owned the island but felt he should have been willing to turn the whole thing over to those little winged creatures, which in such huge number, were anxious to devour any man or animal coming in sight.”
John was attending Baptist meetings and in the summer of 1896 was baptized, along with several other young people, in Hope Creek, directly in front of the Denholm home. Reverend Peter Charles McGregor came as pastor. Earlier on, in the spring, it was decided to erect a church building on a lot in the eastern part of the village. The work began in the fall and was completed in the spring of 1897.
Sister Maggie was married to Albert Wedrick in the Templar house while John was in Chilliwack. He was a farmer, living on Promontory Heights, a level spot high up in the hills about seven miles out from the village and reached only by a long, steep, narrow mud road leading from the valley into the hills.
Picnics galore were held at Cultus Lake about eight miles west of the village. John states “we drove out in wagons, our only means of navigation, crossed the high bridge over the swift-flowing Vider River; passing along a bush road a short distance. We had a stream to cross, drove in and along the stream for about fifty yards and out the other side, if we were fortunate enough to miss the boulders or the deep holes.” The land was chiefly bush with a space or two on which to hold races or ball games. It was in its virgin state and absolutely untouched by axe or plow. In the summer of 1896 the Sunday School held its picnic by the side of Vider river, known today as the Vedder river. The bridge had just been washed out in the Chilliwack Valley flood of that year and they could not get to Cultus Lake.
The spring of 1897 came and John’s days of living in Chilliwack were numbered. His mind was set on the booming town of Nelson where work could be had without trouble and brother George was there. He was there in 1898, the year of the mighty rush to the Yukon gold fields and left in 1899.
John went on to become a Baptist Minister and then a lawyer in Saskatchewan where he and his wife Gertrude spent the rest of their lives.
My Great Great Uncle John did not end up staying here in Chilliwack but it was a stop worth mentioning in his autobiography and our family finding their way here almost a hundred years later, maybe our roots go deeper. Our children are all finished school now and working here in Chilliwack. They are starting to venture out on their own. Even if they move away and we are all gone I wonder in another hundred years will some of our family find their way back here to the beautiful city of Chilliwack.