Sunday, October 11, 2020

Ruth Botel's Cape Scott Map

 Map of settlement in the Cape Scott area by Ruth Botel. Ruth was a North Island historian who passed away in 2018.  Reproduced with permission of her daughter Sandra Botel.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

The mysterious marble shrine at Nimpkish Camp

In the bush, in the area around Nimpkish Lake, there is a marble monument, which seems quite out of place in the middle of the dense forest, with no indication that a hiker were to come upon it.

I have been told it was a labour of love, built by a man who emigrated from Italy and worked in the logging industry. Apparently his plan was to bring over his childhood sweetheart when he had earned enough money, but she died before she was able to come to Canada. Her name was Maria Rei.

The monument was built in the late 60s and early 70s, and at one time included a statue of the Virgin Mary. Either the statue that was a part of this monument, or perhaps a separate one, was donated to St. Bonaventure Catholic Church in Port Hardy. 

The artist was Rufino (Manny) Mancinelli, who was a "welder, barber, and sculptor" who worked in a local logging camp. When the camp closed the area was overtaken by the North Island rainforest.

Photo of Rufino (Manny) Mancinelli displaying another of his talents, as the Camp barber.
 If you do visit the monument, please be respectful and take care not to damage it, so that it can be enjoyed by future generations.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Varney Bay - Quatsino Sound

Ethel (1869-1957) and (Thomas) Henry (1869-1952) Varney took up a pre-emption in Varney Bay in 1897 and had nine children. They lived on their homestead for about 50 years.
Varney, who was rumoured to come from a titled English family, was well known in the community and sometimes referred to as "Lord Varney." He held various government jobs and led some projects such as a road-building crew in the community.
A number of their children died tragic deaths. Philip and James died in a boating accident at the mouth of Quatsino Sound, and Fred passed away in a plane crash in Port Hardy.
Their daughter, Dinah Varney, born on the North Island in 1907, never married. She helped care for the homestead and even into her old age was still taking care of a large garden. A strong and self-reliant pioneer woman, when she was 57 she was still running a 12 mile trap line, and was known for bringing down 19 cougars.
Dinah Varney's house in Varney Bay by the mouth of the Marble River - undated. BC Archives F-05834

#VarneyBay #QuatsinoSound

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Nootka Packing Company Ltd.

A fish saltery was opened in the area of Yuquot / Friendly Cove on Nootka Island in the late 1800s.

The cannery was built just about one mile North of this location in 1917 and operated as the Nootka Packing Company Ltd., canning razor clams, pilchard, and herring. Some reports say the cannery employed up to 2000 people at capacity. 

Nootka Island Cannery 1938
BC Archives E-07910
Indigenous workers' houses to the rear of the cannery at Nootka 1930s
BC Archives A-08869
Jewish Museum and Archives of BC Item L.13201
It closed around 1950 when fishermen were no longer able to catch pilchard off the coast at their previous levels of abundance.

Nootka Cannery 1940
BC Archives E-07909

In the 1960s visitors to the canneries were able to find many of the old original labels from the cannery still in the buildings.

Deserted Nootka Cannery, 1964.
UNBC Archives Item 2013.
Today a fishing lodge operates at the location of the old cannery.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Kla-anch River

In the late 1800s Southern Vancouver Island was becoming more inhabited, and people began to explore the North Island in earnest. Some came to scout out good farming areas, and many were prospecting. In the late 1800s and early 1900s some adventurous explorers came to the Nimpkish watershed to try out the fishing. At this time Nimpkish Lake, and the Upper Nimpkish River were known as Karmutsen or Kla-anch.

Perhaps most famously, Roderick Haig-Brown wrote in A River Never Sleeps: "...In 1928 I caught a real January steelhead in the Kla-anch River on Vancouver Island. The Kla-anch, which is sometimes called the Upper Nimpkish, is the largest stream flowing into Nimpkish Lake, and is a hard river to know for several reasons. It is a very long river, scattered with pools that are not often easy to approach; it comes into heavy freshet rather quickly and easily,and it is an isolated river in a totally unsettled area; so that few people have fished it,and anyone who goes there to fish must gather his own local knowledge as he goes along... One day the road will reach there, and then the fishermen will learn the river and name the pools."
Kla-anch River - 1914

BC archives : Ref: NA-04255

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Canneries in Quatsino Sound

Jobe Leeson opened the Winter Harbour Canning Company in 1904, hiring mostly Chinese workers, across the inlet from the community at Winter Harbour. He canned clams and crab.
VPL Accession Number: 14134 - The Leeson cannery in Winter Harbour

VPL Accession Number: 14145 - Women preparing clams

VPL Accession Number: 13959 - Winter Harbour Canning Co.

In 1911 he sold to Wallace Fisheries who moved the cannery to Mahatta.  The cannery struggled as Quatsino salmon stocks supported limited populations and really only produced economically viable numbers of fish every second year.  Its focus was on salmon and pilchard. 

VPL Accession Number: 13913 - Wallace Fisheries Ltd. Quatsino

VPL Accession Number: 13905 -Interior of the Wallace Fisheries Cannery. 

After closing briefly in 19917 the plant re-opened. The Mahatta plant changed ownership twice before being sold to BC Packers in 1928. In addition to canning, a reduction plant operated at the site up to 1930. In 1934 the plan was closed and the buildings were torn down. 
Koprino Cannery - Used with permission of the Canadian Fishing Company Archives.

The Koprino Cannery also operated in Quatsino Sound in this period. It was built in 1927 by Canfisco - the Canadian Fishing Company. Like the Mahatta plant it offered both canning of fish and a reduction plant. The plan closed in 1930 when pilchard disappeared from the coast. 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Port Neville

This incredible historical photo of the week shows a forest fire threatening the town of Port Neville on June 25, 1925. Port Neville is located across Johnstone Strait just North of Kelsey Bay/ Sayward and is within the traditional territory of the Tlowitsis Tribe. Hans Hansen was the first non-Indigenous settler to locate to Port Neville in 1891, and a settlement which served as a stop for coastal steamships was established in 1892. The post office operated until 1910.
Port Neville June 25, 1925
City of Vancouver Archives: AM54-S4-: Tr P45
Port Neville June 25, 1925
BC Archives NA-04977
Logging railway Port Neville (early 1900s)
Item NA-03814