Museum Musings

Sam Alexander was a jack of all trades

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Cenotaph previously located in Chemainus next to St. Michael’s Church

Families came by the waves to Chemainus in the early days

Check out the interesting past of the area at the Chemainus Valley Museum


Some interesting tidbits from early Chemainus:

Land for sale, 1 £per acre; no takers. That was the end result of advertisements for available land in the Chemainus valley in 1857. In November of 1858 one J. A. Grahame, a clerk for the Hudson Bay company in Fort Vancouver bought 75 acres (35 hectares) on River Road. Known as ‘Grahames’ Prairie’ or ‘Rainbow Ranch’ it is considered the first homestead in the Chemainus Country. There is no indication that he ever lived there or ever developed the property.

In 1859 the first ‘wave’ of settlers, six families of 212 applicants, settled in ‘Chemainus Prairie.’ By 1880, Chemainus Prairie’s name was known as Hall’s Crossing, named after the first owner of the Quist Farm. By 1886 the railway was put through and Captain C. E. Barkley became post-master (by general consensus). The little post office was called Westholme after the name of Captain Barkley’s house, and the name stayed. The 1861 census by the Land Office’s List of settlers names: William Robertson, George Watson, Robert Watson, James Mars, Thomas Cunningham and William Alexander Scott.

In 1863, David Wishart Mainguy bought pre-empted land along the river and mouth of the Chemainus River, as well as Mainguy and Round Island. He developed the land with barns and gardens, chicken run and pig sty. From his first shack, to his house on Mainguy Island to the house he built across the river from All Saints Church, Westholme, he can be considered one of the original settlers.

The logging industry in the Chemainus Valley had begun to bustle in 1850 and Chemainus had been a thriving native community by 1858 (considered its founding year). It was the sawmill built on Horseshoe Bay in 1862 that drew in the people. The sawmill offered as many as 500 jobs and the town was born.

Step into the past by visiting the Chemainus Valley Museum and check out the logging display. It’s located next door to the Waterwheel Park, 9799 Waterwheel Cres.

printed in the Chemainus Courier Sep. 24, 2017 11:00 a.m.
COMMUNITY


Cap Bardot one of the colourful characters from Chemainus’ past

Chemainus Valley Museum features many displays and stories of the region’s history


The past comes alive at the Chemainus Valley Museum.

When Alick Bardot first came to the Chemainus area, he lived on Reid Island with the Silvey Family. He fished with the Silveys, worked at the cannery on Reid Island and cooked on Seine boats.

He was known far and wide as ‘Cap’ probably because year in and year out, he wore a very salty old yachtsman’s cap. Everyone who knew him has a favourite ‘Cap’ Bardot story.

Some stories were far out and some were comical, but all of them were entertaining and most based on the truth. It is a fact he was once in the old North West Mounted Police, stationed in Regina in the early 1920’s.

He was very independent, in his later years rarely missing a Friday trip to Chemainus. His pastime was painting pictures, a great many of them miniatures painted on oyster shells.

The story of Cap and other pioneers can be found in ‘Memories of the Chemainus Valley,’ a book compiled by Lillian Gustafson in 1978. It is available through the Chemainus Valley Museum at Waterwheel Park in Chemainus.

Drop in for a look.


printed in the Chemainus Courier Oct. 12, 2017 1:00 p.m.
COMMUNITY 


Sam Alexander operated locomotives in Chemainus for many years

The jack-of-all trades substituted in the position one day and never changed course

Sam Alexander was born in 1892 just north of Nanaimo.

His first job was starting and stopping a steam engine on a coal conveyor at the mine. He was 13 years old and received 75 cents a day.

Alexander also drove a mule team hauling cars of coal, worked as a blacksmith’s helper, was a pump man and spare brakeman, and a fireman on locomotives. He was skipper and engineer on the SSBute, carrying loggers to the camps and hauling freight and towing logs.

One day the regular locomotive engineer was away and Sam took over as locomotive engineer and shovel engineer. He operated locomotives in Chemainus from 1940 until his retirement in 1964.

You can find out more about Sam Alexander and other colourful characters who shaped the history of Chemainus at the Chemainus Valley Museum, 9799 Waterwheel Crescent.


printed in the Chemainus Courier Jan. 2, 2018 1:30 p.m.
COMMUNITY/DON BODGER

Thetis Island ferry named in honour of Ethel Hunter

Many descendants still live on the Island


he Chemainus Valley is rich in history and significant tales from the past. Watch for other historical tidbits in future issues.

Thetis Island was given ferry service in 1959.

The new ferry was named after Ethel Hunter, a pioneer of Thetis Island. Ethel Fawcett arrived on Thetis Island in 1908 and married Peter Hunter. Peter and his brother had bought some land on Thetis in the late 1800s and proceeded to clear the land to build their home.

Ethel and Peter had two children, Ena and son Adam. They were the pupils at the Island’s first school.

Ethel took part in the ferry inauguration ceremonies with relish and aplomb. She was 80 years old then and lived to be 92.

Many of her descendants still live on the Island.

To check out more stories and photographs, stop in at the Chemainus Valley Museum, 9799 Waterwheel Crescent in downtown Chemainus. Be a tourist in your own hometown.


printed in the Chemainus Courier Dec. 6, 2017 4:30 p.m.  
COMMUNITY/DON BODGER

The Bonsall Family, one of the original pioneering families

Move to the current site next to Waterwheel Park occurred in 1950

The Chemainus Cenotaph’s previous location might not be known to many in the community.

Willow Street was once known as Albert Street which housed St. Michael’s Anglican Church, built in 1891.

The Cenotaph was located in the middle of the street. It was dedicated there in 1921 and moved to the present location next to Waterwheel Park in 1950. When this occurred, Albert Street became known as Willow Street.

The large building adjacent to the church was the Masonic building, completed in 1927.

Find out more about facts like this at the Chemainus Valley Museum on Willow Street.


printed in the Chemainus Courier Nov. 8, 2017 6:30 p.m.
COMMUNITY