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Pioneer days in British Columbia : reminiscences Sillitoe, Violet E. 1923

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THESE "Reminiscences of Pioneer Days in B. C." are
mostly of a personal nature. They have been jotted
down at the request of relations and friends, partly
from memory and partly from letters written at the time to
my mother, which were returned to me after her death. They
are not intended to be a record of church work nor of the
official life of my husband, this having been dealt with in
"Pioneer Church Work in British Columbia: A Memoir of
Acton Windeyer Sillitoe," by the Rev. H. H. Gowen, and in
"Early Days in B. C," published Christmas, 1922.
These  "Reminiscences"  deal  more  with  the  little  daily
happenings  and journeyings   in  the  semi-pioneer  days   covered by the duration of my husband's episcopate from 1879 to
First Bishop of New Westminster PIONEER DAYS
UR first journey out to British Columbia in 1880 was by
no means an uneventful one, and the latter part was
distinctly uncomfortable.
The steamer on which we crossed the Atlantic, the Allan
liner Sarmatian, was the last word in luxury, as it was
accounted in those days. A suite of apartments on board
had been arranged shortly before for carrying H. R. H. the
Princess Louise and H. E. Lord Lome, when he was
appointed  Governor-General  of  Canada.
Luxury in those days meant a very different thing to
what it does now. The best of staterooms was exceedingly
small, with the regulation upper and lower berths, a narrow
sofa opposite, and a small washstand facing the door. The
cabin was lighted by an oil lamp enclosed in a ground-
glass case, shared between two staterooms, and the light was
very dim.
Arrived in the Gulf of St. Lawrence we were caught in
a huge ice-field and could neither go forward nor backward.
It was a wonderful scene, ice in every direction as far as
the eye could reach, and innumerable vessels of all sorts and
sizes were in the same uncomfortable plight as ourselves.
Little fishing schooners and big ocean liners were caught fast
in the ice. There were the Allan liners Polynesian and
Moravian, the mail steamers that had left the week and
fortnight ahead of us, and to whom we were able to send the Pioneer Days in British Columbia
latest news and also a supply of newspapers, etc. People
were out on the ice amusing themselves. The ice was from
15 to 20 feet thick, but was getting rotten, so that we were
able, after a delay of about twenty-four hours, to grind our
way through, and we arrived in Quebec ahead of the other
The Union Pacific was the only transcontinental line, and
though the trains were comfortable, there were no dining
cars, and the meals provided at the stopping places during
the latter part of the journey, to put it mildly, were not
The voyage from San Francisco in the old Idaho was
even worse, for the steamer was crowded to capacity with
men engaged to work on the railway construction of the
C. P. R.; which had just commenced on the Western Division,
and at night all the floor space was covered with sleeping
figures. These men were described elsewhere as the scum of
the San Francisco market!
Arrived at Victoria we went to stay, at Bishops' Close
with the Bishop and Mrs. Hills, and the kindness of our
hosts and the cleanliness of the house and meals and the
sweet scents of the flowers wafted in through the open windows, by very force of contrast, made it seem like a foretaste
of Paradise. Mrs. Hills was a wonderful gardener, and the
Bishops' Close garden was one of the sights of Victoria, to
which all visitors from other parts were taken as a matter
of course.
When we arrived in New Westminster on June 18, 1880,
there was no house ready for us, and Archdeacon and Mrs.
Woods received us most hospitably at the Rectory. We
made  our  headquarters  with  them  for  nearly  three  weeks,
l-V&Sfnmfm^xmfp^fr Pioneer Days in British Columbia
the Bishop making trips of a day or two to Burrard Inlet,
Ladner and the North Arm of the Fraser and other nearby
places, I accompanying him.
Then a move was made to Yale, and we took up our
abode for a while in the four-room Mission House, built
many years before. It was here I began to wrestle with the
difficulties of cooking and housekeeping.
The summer and autumn were occupied by the Bishop
in getting to know the diocese and the people, and many
short journeys and one long one were made.
We arrived back in New Westminster on October 26,
and were much disappointed to find that work on the old
Archdeaconry House at Sapperton (which was to be our
home), and which, was afterwards renamed S. Mary's Mount,
had progressed so slowly that it was not nearly ready for
us. This time the Rev. C. Baskett came to our rescue and
offered us a room in his house, a very ramshackle building
roughly built of material from some abandoned sappers'
houses, for Sapperton was where the Royal Engineers were
located when they were laying out the city of New Westminster. It is interesting to recall that it was Queen Victoria herself who gave New Westminster its name. Originally it was to be called Queenborough, but objections were
raised, and affairs became so heated that the question was
referred to England, and Her Majesty decided the matter by
herself choosing the name, thereby conferring a singular
honor on  New Westminster.
At that time there were two Crown Colonies: Vancouver Island, with Victoria as the capital, and the mainland of British Columbia, with New Westminster as its
capital. Pioneer Days in British Columbia
Government House was built on the high ground of the
ravine which runs through the Penitentiary grounds, and
where the house of the governor of that institution now
Our quarters (or perhaps I should say "quarter," as we
had only one room) in Mr. Baskett's house were far from
luxurious, although in a missionary magazine Mr. Baskett
had been described as one of the city clergy "languishing in
the lap of luxury" so different from the up-country missionaries, whose many hardships were feelingly described. In
point of fact nothing could have been more misleading. Mr.
Baskett led a most self-denying life, and in his home few
luxuries found place. Even his bed was only a built-in bunk
in a tiny place off the kitchen, and the house was so badly
constructed that the four winds of heaven blew at their
sweet will through it. The room given to us was the dining-
room, and in a small alcove was the bed. It measured 2 ft.
6 ins. in width, and, having to accommodate two people,
was widened by a wooden bench out of the church, on which
for mattress was placed the original red cushion that adorned
the gubernatorial pew in S. Mary's Church and which was
much worn by long usage. It was better, however, than the
mattress proper, which was of flock, which had gathered into
hard lumps like raw potatoes, and the solitary pillow was
filled with the same material. However, extreme fatigue
made sleep possible, or if not, there was the pleasure of contemplating the stars through the holes in the roof, or for
change we could look down through the cracks and knotholes in the floor to see how three of the would-be clergy,
who had arrived from England, were getting on, and who
were housed in a kind of basement, possibly even more airy
than the house. Mr. Sheldon, one of them, not having a
sufficient supply of blankets, we noticed was sleeping under
a violet funeral pall which he had annexed from the church. Pioneer Days in British Columbia
Our stove was a very small sheet-iron one with a drum
in the stovepipe for oven, and in which on the first day I
baked a beeksteak pie. To my immense astonishment it
turned out a success; I think a special providence watches
over the efforts of the very ignorant, but how inhospitable
I felt when I had cooked a joint or pie which I hoped might
last at least for two meals and it was picked to the bone or
the last scrap at the first one!
Fortunately for us the Bishop could turn his hand to
anything, but this quality was by no means shared by the
embryo clergy. One day the menu for dinner consisted of
herrings. Now I could clean herrings when necessity called
for it, but I could not eat them afterwards, and the Bishop
was very quick to notice any loss of appetite on my part.
I asked all three of the young men if they would undertake
this job for me, and all with one accord made some excuse
or other, so I was just settling down to my work when the
Bishop came along, sized up the situation, and took over the
job himself. It was just the same with the wood chopping;
if Mr. Baskett was not on hand to help, the Bishop did it.
One good, kind engineer's wife saved me a lot of work by
baking the bread for us.
As it was I became ill with the strain, and in consequence we moved into our house when it was still far from
complete, and shared it with the workmen. The move was
made on the day before Advent Sunday, 1880, when we at
long last acquired a home of our own, and never before or
afterwards did anything seem such an acme of luxury, and
though our friends prophesied all sorts of ills from damp
walls, etc., nothing happened.
Soon after S. Mary's Mount was completed and the workmen had  left, the  Bishop  was  called  over to  Granville  on Pioneer Days in British Columbia
seme business and was obliged to stay overnight, and for
some reason or other I did not accompany him,. By this
time we had a Chinaman, and as Sapperton is some distance
from New Westminster, he slept in the house. We also had
two dogs, a collie and a black retriever, the latter a dog of
great character, by no means good tempered, but very much
attached to us. At about two in the morning on the night
of the Bishop's absence, I was awakened from my first sleep
by the dogs barking most furiously, and slipping on my
dressing gown I ran downstairs, calling to the Chinaman as
I passed. The dogs were throwing themselves against the
front door, and when I opened it they tore off in the direction of the gate. After some time and after hunting round
the outside of the house, for I thought it might be a telegram
from or about the Bishop, I returned and called the dogs in.
Our dogs, although allowed in the house, were never
permitted to come upstairs. When I was returning to bed
the black retriever started to follow me, and when he did
not obey my first order to go down, I spoke to him sharply,
and for the only time in his life he growled at me. That
night he slept on the bare boards outside my door, and was
there when I came out in the morning and begged his pardon. He knew his duty was to look after me in his master's
absence and intended to do it in spite of anything I said.
The Chinaman never came out of his room at all, but told
me that he had heard steps on the verandah, and in th;e
morning there were footprints, showing that two men had
been around and some tools left outside were missing. It
was well for the burglars that I was not as quick as I might
have been in waking and getting downstairs or they might
have fared badly from the teeth of the dogs.
Another occasion, when I was even more frightened, had
a most ludicrous ending.   I was at this time quite alone, the IWSWv '«wpg«
Pioneer Days in British Columbia
Bishop was in New Westminster attending a meeting and
the Chinaman was away also. I was sitting working when
I was startled by a crash at the back of the house. There
was no nearby house to flee to, and I knew that I must not
allow my nerves to get the better of me, so with a beating
heart and taking my courage in my hands, or rather hand,
the other being occupied by the lamp which I carried, I made
my way to the kitchen and there discovered the reason of
the noise.
The Chinaman had left a bowl of batter on the table,
and the cat in her peregrinations had pushed it off and it
fell on the floor with a crash, which probably sounded about
ten times as loud as it really was, and in falling had poured
the contents into the Chinaman's slippers, which stood handy.
My relief was such that I laughed till I was almost hysterical.
In one of my home letters I described the first meeting
of the clergy at our house in February, 1881. These
meetings became annual events during my husband's
episcopate. As far as I remember there were six guests to
be housed at the 1881 gathering. The weather was bitterly
cold and when I had distributed our none too liberal supply
of blankets there remained only one very thin single one for
ourselves. This we supplemented by the Bishop's Inverness
cape and my winter coat, but in spite of these we spent a
very shivery night.
Next morning, just as we were assembling for breakfast,
Mr. Whiteway, one of the visitors, came up to me and said:
"Mrs. Sillitoe, could you let me have another blanket? I was
not quite warm enough last night."
With a sinking heart but with hypocritically cheerful
countenance, I said "Certainly," and that night our one and mtmååå --^^msm^^mm^^ism^mss^^^É^ii^^l^^m^^^&^^^- - ?.
Pioneer Days in British Columbia
only blanket was given up. But our sufferings had a very
practical silver lining, for when reading of our difficulties
in my letters home, my mother and two aunts were so sympathetic that they sent us out a goodly supply of blankets;
so our shivering nights had not been in vain.
The following is a description of one of these meetings
from another point of view, published in "Pioneer Work in
B. C.":
The whole staff of the Diocese was present. The Bishop,
realizing most acutely the dangers that beset the clergy in
their lives of comparative isolation in this extensive Diocese,
knowing how much the spirituality of the work depends upon
the maintenance of a high tone of piety and devotion in all
to whom the care of souls is committed, and deeply alive to
the importance of fostering a spirit of brotherly kindness
between himself and his spiritual sons, "yea, rather, brethren
beloved," is aided by his wife at no little cost and trouble
in the preparation he makes for affording a retreat whilst
the examination of candidates proceeds.
At six a.m. the calling bell arouses all from slumber,
and by seven the chapel is occupied by silent worshippers
preparing for the Eucharist, celebrated by the Bishop himself
every morning at 7.30.
It is needless to anyone acquainted with the Bishop's
regard for order and reverence to add that the administration of Holy Communion is invested with the solemnity and
impressiveness that befit the Divine Mysteries.
At eight breakfast is partaken of in silence, whilst each
in turn reads from some book of an edifying character. This
season we read Milman's "Love of the Atonement." . . .
At ten the examination of the candidates is conducted by
the Archdeacon.    .    .    .    Dinner is at 1 p.m., with reading in
HP Pioneer Days in British Columbia
turn, as also at tea, which is at six. . . . It is with almost
a feeling of reluctance that one returns to the custom of
making such occasions periods of social relaxation and common talk. Friday is passed in a still more marked manner,
though it is generally termed a "quiet day." Absolute silence
is enjoined on all by the Bishop, himself not excluded, from
the rising of the sun till breakfast on the day following. On
the walls are posted the proceedings in which all are expected
to take part; subjects for meditation suitable to the ministerial life, and earnest addresses by the Bishop and others
are given in the chapel, concluding with a special service at
7.30, to which the parishioners are generally invited. So the
day of separation from the world, of self-communing, and
personal exhortation, passes away—but not so, we trust, the
deeper insight into ourselves, the high resolve, the kindled
desire and the chastened spirit.
DURING our sojourn at S. Mary's Mount we had the
honor of entertaining three governors-general. Princess Louise accompanied her husband, the Marquis of
Lome; Lord Lansdowne was only accompanied by his staff,
while Lady Stanley of Preston came out with her husband.
In each case our house, which was none too big, was taxed
to the limit, and beyond.
The Marquis of Lome was the first one to come, in the
early autumn of 1882. His party consisted of H. R. H. the
Princess Louise, with her two ladies-in-waiting, Miss McNeil
mm #**-*««■#* -W^-WE*81
Pioneer Days in British Columbia
and Miss Harvey; Col. de Winton, comptroller of the household; and two valets. Other members of the party we found
room for in the old Government House and in town.
We had only twenty-four hours' notice of the honor in
store for us, and, as usual, it found us with every room in
the house occupied; indeed I never remember the time when
the house was not full. We had, therefore, not only to provide for the incoming guests, but to find quarters for the
outgoing ones. Staying with us at the time were two of the
Cowley Community, Fathers Hall and Shepherd, who had
come out to spend the summer ministering to the men working on the Canadian Pacific Railway construction. Later
Father Hall became (and still is) Bishop of Vermont, while
Father Shepherd died in South Africa.
I was still very young at the time, and very shy, and
stood in great awe of these two holy men, but when the'yj
asked if they could do anything to help, my need of assistance was so great that I promptly accepted, and giving them
two big aprons, set them to work to clean the silver! Like
everything else they undertook, the work was done to perfection! Miss Kendal, who at that time was in charge of
Columbia College, the Church school for girls, was also most
kind in helping me.
S. Mary's Mount had three fair-sized bedrooms and two
very small ones, and into these the party was packed, H. R. H.
and the Governor-General having our bedroom and one of
the small rooms as dressing-room, the two ladies-in-waiting
sharing a room, and Colonel de Winton occupying the remaining large one. The Bishop and I and all our possessions
were piled into the second small one, which was about six
feet by ten or twelve, with no cupboard. I shudder when I
think of the appearance of that room.    The party arrived at
i^^lHIM     I ^e^38**™^^ z
r  *1       tÉflÉl Pioneer Days in British Columbia
about 1 o'clock and in great style, for there being no carriage on the mainland, other than the high, old-fashioned
stages, a landeau had been imported for the time being from
A party of bluejackets formed the escort. As the luggage
was to follow later, the Princess asked if she might borrow
one or two articles from me, and happily amongst the wilderness piled up I was able to find what she needed. Amongst
other things, put in at the last minute, was our little dog,
who was apt to bark at strangers.
When the Princess came downstairs she said to me:
"I hope I have not done wrong, but when returning your
belongings I let out your little dog!"
Just imagine my feelings at H. R. H. having seen that
awful room! The Princess told me to be sure to make use
of the valets—these two men having been accommodated with
tents pitched  in the field at the back.
If I had been awed at the thought of entertaining royalty, I was simply terrified at the valets, but again extreme
need came to my aid. Our domestic staff consisted of one
Chinaman, who had to look after the horses, milk the cow,
attend to the vegetable garden, besides cooking, baking and
washing for the family, and help, therefore, was urgently
needed, so I had the head valet in, giving him directions as
to the setting of and waiting at table, etc.
I explained that I made the coffee myself in the drawing-
room, of which he quite approved, saying that H. R. H. did
the same at Government House, but when I further explained
that after returning from viewing the torchlight procession
and illuminations on the river, I wanted him to bring in the
tea tray, which I would have all ready, there his approval
ceased—"We don't have tea at Government House, madam !"
mmKmmmmmHmamR  ,. Pioneer Days in British Columbia
Feeling that I must assert myself, I said: "I think I
would like you to bring it in," and he then thought he probably had been a little too officious, for he added rather apologetically : "You see, madam, our gentlemen don't drink
enough to require it!" His enlightening of my unsophisticated mind on the reason of tea and coffee after dinner was
so deliciqusly funny that I had to go into the drawing-room
to repeat the conversation, which caused much amusement.
Princess Louise was an ideal guest, so simple and unassuming, as were the ladies-in-waiting. Miss Harvey was a
first-rate musician. Miss McNeil afterwards married, as
his second or third wife, the old Duke of Argyle, and so became step-mother-in-law to Princess Louise.
The Princess made several sketches from our field and
these appeared later in the London Graphic. As it was still
too early for fires, she went into the kitchen herself to dry
her sketches, catching the Bishop at the back of the house
in his shirt sleeves doing some necessary chores. Between
tea and dinner we spent the time with music, the Princess
and I singing duets, she taking the alto and I the soprano.
Next morning there was a great gathering of Indians to
see the "Queen's Papoose" and also to make speeches to the
Governor-General. Just before leaving, Colonel de Winton
came in to tell the Princess what arrangements had been
made, for she was to return to H. M. S. "Comus" that day
en route for Victoria, and the whole party, ourselves included, were to go with her to Port Moody. The Marquis
was to return with us, as he was going on up country next
day. The arrangements were that the Governor-General,
the Princess and the two ladies-in-waiting should drive in
the landeau, the Bishop and I in the buckboard, and the rest
in all sorts and conditions of buggies and  stages.
16 Pioneer Days in British Columbia
"Oh, no," said the Princess, "that won't do. I am going
to drive in the buckboard with the Bishop," and no amount
of persuasion or expostulation would turn her from her purpose.
This was the first the Bishop had heard of the honor in
store for him, and he hastily slipped out to the stable to have
a look at the harness and see to the harnessing of the horse.
The buckboard had seen service, hard service, and indeed
very little of its original coating of paint remained, while
the harness had been second-hand when we bought it and
had since then grown perceptibly shabbier, and although not
held together (as much B. C. harness was) by cord and telegraph wire, still it was only a few degrees better.
"Punch," my beautiful horse, given to me on my first
birthday in British Columbia by the Bishop, had blue blood
in him. He was bred for a racer but had ignominiously failed
in his first race, and the Bishop, therefore, was able to acquire him for the price of an ordinary horse. But even
"Punch" did not appear at his best. His coat was shaggy
and none too well groomed; in fact, the whole turnout, to
say the least, was appallingly shabby. It headed the procession, passing through the decorated grounds to the playing of the bands, the waving of flags and the cheering of the
Next came the landeau with the Governor-General and
myself, and the two ladies-in-waiting opposite. The honor
thrust upon me was not at all appreciated, and I sighed for
the buckboard and the company of my husband. We all
lunched on the "Comus," returning in the afternoon, and
next day, after bidding adieu to the Marquis of Lome, we
returned to our ordinary "daily round."
I have very little recollection of the Marquis of Lome's
visit on his return from the upper country.,
17 WNBfäfr*n*vilt?-f
Pioneer Days in British Columbia
Lord Lansdowne's visit was a most delightful one. Of
all the guests we had—and they were many—he and Sir John
Macdonald were perhaps the most charming. Lord Lans-
downe was accompanied by two aides and, I think, a secretary. When they arrived, one of the aides said to the Bishop :
"Do you remember, My Lord, when we last met?"
The Bishop did not recollect, and small wonder, when
the aide said:
"Don't you remember bailing me out of the police court
at Darmstadt in 78?"
As this bailing out of the police court of the many young
Englishmen who were learning German, preparatory to going
into the army, was a constant occurrence, it is hardly to be
wondered that the Bishop did not remember the circumstance.
The numerous German notices of "verboten" or "streng ver-
boten" were irresistible incentives to the English youths to
do what was "forbidden" or "strictly forbidden" by the German police. Many of these youths whom we knew in Germany turned up in B. C. to renew the acquaintance.
Our house was often called Hotel Sillitoe, because all
sorts and conditions of people, both invited and uninvited,
came to stay with us. It was a holiday home for any of the
workers in the Diocese, and when people were ill they came
to be nursed and to recuperate; some of our guests were
indeed angels that we entertained unawares, and owing to
conditions and difficulties of travel, they would turn up quite
unexpectedly. On one occasion at four o'clock one morning
in summer time, the Bishop, hearing steps on the verandah,
put his head out of the window and called, "Who is there?"
A meek voice  from below  replied:  "Me,  my Lord."    "Me"
tlaaSas -i   ■■> *V.»#v^*--^.**s#I*r-w8P"^ -.JvP^r-.HAy-J'icka
Pioneer Days in British Columbia
was the Rev. R. Small, later Archdeacon of Yale, and his
colleague, the Rev. H. Edwardes, who had just arrived from
Lytton. I was getting up to make beds ready for them, when
I was ordered to remain where I was. I had been ill and
was only just recovering. For the remainder of the night the
two men had to sleep between blankets, to the great distress
of my housewifely soul.
In travelling about B. C, as we did every year, we met
with the most wonderful hospitality. We could turn up quite
unexpectedly at the most busy season of the year, or probably at other times equally inconvenient, but always the same
smiling welcome was accorded; only once in all those years
do I remember being turned away, probably for some good
reason. I have no recollection now of what it was, but I do
remember the sinking of heart I experienced, for it was late
in the afternoon, the next stopping place being fifteen miles
further on—a long stretch for tired horses, to say nothing of
ourselves. By the time we reached our second destination it
was quite dark. Our host came out to welcome us and then
went with the Bishop to unharness and see after the comfort
of our horses. This was a job my husband always attended
to himself, and he did not leave until the horses were rubbed
down and comfortably stabled; always the first thing in the
morning he was out again at the stables scraping the collars,
greasing the axles and generally over-hauling the harness.
This particular stopping place boasted of no women kind.
I had been ushered into a large barroom, or at least what
appeared to be one, with ten or twelve men lounging about.
I was very tired, and, making for the nearest chair, felt a
great inclination to weep. The real dangers of the road, so
long as my husband was with me, were as nothing, but to be
left unprotected in the company of so many unknown men
was terrifying.   It soon became evident that if I were fright-
mmmm^^M Pioneer Days in British Columbia
ened of the men they were equally so of me, for one by one
they made their way out, and I was left absolutely alone.
When our host returned, he asked if he could show me to
my cabin, and at first I thought he must have been a seafaring man, but no; following the light of the lantern he
carried, he ushered us into a one-room cabin with mud floor
and just two beds, not another thing, and our host made
many apologies to me for the absence of a looking-glass!
After supper the men again gathered together, and the Bishop
held a short service, and then, after I had retired, he stayed
on awhile to have a smoke and talk with them. Next morning he managed to get a pail of water in which I could perform my ablutions. Although our baggage had to be very
limited—just a small Gladstone bag shared between us—I
always carried soap, towels, a pair of sheets and pillowcases ; such things as clean sheets or sheets of any kind were
by no means the invariable rule. We borrowed a newspaper
to pin over the window as a shade. Another time, when not
even a pail could be found in a bachelor establishment, the
Bishop commandeered the bread-pan, which no doubt served
many other uses, besides being a receptacle for the mixing
of the dough.
The most striking case of hospitality occurred on one of
our visits to the Nicola Valley. It was late in October and
the weather had turned very cold. Towards the middle of
one afternoon, when we pulled up at our destination, we
found only the shell of a house; the side walls were in place,
but no roof, no filling between the logs, and, of course, no
doors and windows. We were beginning to figure out the
distance to the next house when a young couple came out to
greet us, the wTife looking like a charming picture out of a
Kate Greenaway book.
O, yes, they could certainly take us in, and, going through
mmm Pioneer Days in British Columbia
the shell of a house, we were shown into a large room —
kitchen, sitting-room and bedroom all in one, with a bed in
one corner. I could see no other room, so, after the horses
were housed, we decided to take a walk and give our hosts
an opportunity of making any preparations necessary. It
was so cold that, instead of going farther than about half-a-
mile, we gathered a lot of fir cones, made a fire and sat
down on a log to enjoy the warmth. On our return, things
were, to all outward appearances, just as when we left. After
supper the Bishop held evening prayers, and about 9 o'clock
our host and hostess got up, and, saying good-night, left us
in possession; we supposed there must be some other accommodation of which he knew nothing. It was not until next
morning that we learned they had slept in blankets on the
floor of the unfinished building, and the thermometer when
we got up in the morning stood at 2 below zero!
The Bishop was, I think, the hardest worker I ever knew;
he was never very strong, and even before coming out to
British Columbia he had had a good deal of trouble with his
throat, and this was a source of difficulty during the winter
months especially, as the constant preaching and speaking
was a great strain on the vocal cords. Five services on a
Sunday, with some three or four sermons, was very usual.
One winter, during the absence in England of Archdeacon
Woods, the Bishop had entire charge of Holy Trinity, New
Westminster, and S. Mary's, Sapperton, with only intermit-
tant help from a deacon.
The summer travelling, hard though it was in many ways,
always found us in better health at the end than at the start.
In connection with loss of voice, a most curious entry was
made in the Yale service book, unnoticed at the time,
but discovered when the record of some service was being
looked up.    The Rev. Darreli Horlock was in charge of the
21 Pioneer Days in British Columbia
Church, and on a certain Sunday, in place of the usual entry
of the services, which included the text of the sermon, it
read: "No services, Rector ill, voice gone." The next Sunday he was somewhat better, and the entry appeared, "Eight
o'clock Celebration, eleven Mattins, no sermon, Rector's voice
still gone," and on the third Sunday the usual services were
entered, and the following was the sermon text: "And the
Lord opened the mouth of the ass."
All Saints' Day, the date of the Bishop's consecration in
1879, and consequently the birthday of the Diocese, was a day
much observed, and we always had to be back from our
travels before that date. A service at Holy Trinity, New
Westminster, with special music on the eve of the festival,
always attracted a very large congregation, and latterly the
choir was augmented by the choirs of some of the Vancouver
churches. At eight o'clock in the morning of All Saints'
Day there would be a Communion service, fully choral, the
music being most beautifully rendered by the choir, which
had been trained by the Bishop himself. His great relaxation
was music, of which he was passionately fond, and when,
during his last illness, the reading of ordinary books tired
him, the reading of music scores was generally possible. He
organized, soon after our arrival, the New Westminster Choral Union, which once a week, during the winter months,
brought all the musical people together, and was himself the
trainer and conductor; several concerts were given each season, one always being a performance of Handel's "Messiah."
Such tramps we used to have in those early days into New
Westminster, through deep mud, lighting ourselves on our
way with a lantern! The sidewalk, which was built later to
the outskirts of New Westminster, was done by private subscriptions, gotten up by the Bishop, the Brunette Saw Mill
giving all, or at least part, of the lumber. This made the night
22 Pioneer Days in British Columbia
journeys into town much easier. After the Bishop's death
I gave his music scores to the Library in New Westminster, and also a file of the concert programmes. A concert by some members of the Choral Union was given at
Granville, in the winter of 1884, before anybody thought it
would be the terminus of the C. P. R., though the Bishop
always prophesied that Burrard Inlet would some day rival
San Francisco as a seaport, and was laughed at for his optimism. Those taking part in the concert made the 12-mile
journey over the Douglas road by sleigh, the snow making-
travelling much easier, for during the rest of the year the
road was more or less a combination of corduroy and mud-
We had two sleighs, which greatly helped in the transportation of the performers. One of the sleighs was a necessity, the other a luxury, and, as we did not indulge in many
luxuries, I had better explain this exception to the rule.
Our original sleigh was just a rough box upon runners,
with boards nailed across for seats, the whole thing built at
the least possible cost. We were driving over to Granville
one winter's day, and stopped to speak to Mr. Black, mine
host of the Road End Hotel, and some of his friends. They
remarked upon our sleigh in not very complimentary terms,
and the Bishop explained that it was strong and serviceable,
and the best he could afford. A few days later there was
brought to S. Mary's Mount a beautiful little two-seated cutter, a present to me from these generous-hearted men.
On our travels in the out-of-the-way places, services had
to be held in all sorts of places. On our first visit to the
Coldstream Ranch, near what is now Vernon, the services
were held in a big barn, and in "Early Days in B. C." I told
of the comical interference with the sermon by a proud hen
■   .t: Pioneer Days in British Columbia
which had just laid an egg. On our next visit to Coldstream
different arrangements were made for the services. A new
dining-room had just been added, but the floor boards had
been left loose so as to allow of their shrinking before being
nailed down. The service proceeded uneventfully until the
first lesson, when the chairs on which we were seated began
to jerk up and down in a most curious way, giving the whole
scene a most ludicrous appearance. The explanation was
that a party of pigs had got in underneath the room, and
finding the unusual resistance of the boards provided delightful scratching for their backs, had a delightful time. A little
later our gravity was again sorely tried. An old mother pig,
surrounded by a large and growing family, had inserted her
head into a receptacle where the Chinaman threw the refuse
from the kitchen, and, while the meal proceeded, all went
well; but, when she tried to withdraw her head, she could
not do it, and, growing frightened, rushed around with the
tin still on her head, terrifying her poor offspring, who scattered with loud squeals in all directions at the unwonted appearance of their parent, and all this was in full view of the
room. I hope that the service was edifying—certainly it was
not dull.
REMINISCENCES of Pioneer Days in B. C." would indeed be incomplete without mention of Father Pat,
one of the best-known and best-loved men in the Diocese of New Westminster. The Rev. H. Irwin came out in
1885, and was stationed at Kamloops as assistant to the Rev.
Darreli Horlock. The parish, or rather Missionary District,
was a most extensive one, and soon Father Pat was riding
24 — ^-»«.-tf,V»*«É fc... m •      iJtslfr-     'A <- o.
Pioneer Days in British Columbia
here, there and everywhere, holding services in all sorts of
places and making friends wherever he went. A little Memoir, written by Mrs. Mercier, tells how a friend of his at
Oxford had given him this name, which stuck to him all his
life, and was used by everyone who knew him, in the new
world as well as the old.
When first he arrived in Kamloops, some of the boys,
looking upon the new parson as a tenderfoot, and therefore
fair game, thought they would have some fun with him, and
asked if he could ride; when Father Pat said that he could,
they offered him a mount, not, however, mentioning that the
horse was a buck-jumper. Mr. Irwin was an excellent horseman, and in his Irish home could ride any horse bare-backed
or otherwise, but a buck-jumper was a new experience. He
soon realized that a trick had been played upon him, but
this only put his back up, and, after he had been twice thrown,
the boys were heartily ashamed of themselves and apologized, but Father Pat had established a character, and this
incident was published far and wide and was a most helpful
introduction for him..
The following letter I wrote to Mrs. Mercier in answer
to her request that I would tell her something about Mr. and
Mrs. Irwin's married life. On January 8th, 1890, he was
married to Miss Frances Stuart Innes, daughter of Mr. J.
H. Innes, head of H. M. Naval Establishment at Esquimalt.
My letter, published in "Father Pat," is as follows :—
"You ask me to tell you what I can about Mr. Irwin's
short married life, and the time afterwards that he spent at
the See House as the Bishop's Secretary and Chaplain.
"Being away from all my papers, it is impossible for me
to remember exact dates, but I think it was about the New
Year, 1890, that Mr. Irwin brought his bride to New Westminster, to a little house not far from the Church. . . .
25 <
fa ;
a Pioneer Days in British Columbia
"Father Pat and his wife were like two children in the
delight they took in everything, in the pride they took in
each other and their cosy little home; and, although it was
given to them to spend so short a time together here below,
that time was one of unclouded happiness. This I say from
observation and from what Mr. Irwin has since told me, for
he loved to talk to me of his wife and of their happiness,
telling me all sorts of anecdotes of their life. . . .
"At the choral evensong on All Saints' eve, 1890, the
hymn 'For all the Saints who from their labours rest' was
sung for the first time. Mrs. Irwin was not feeling well
enough to attend the service, but walked over to the Cathedral to listen from outside. She thought she had never heard
anything more beautiful than this hymn, the beauty of which
lifts one for a while above the small worries and harassments
of earth, the last triumphant verses carrying one almost into
the Divine presence. 'And to think,' as Mr. Irwin said to
me, 'that so soon afterwards it should have been sung for
"The little baby, whose advent was to fill up the cup of
happiness already so full, was not permitted to see the light
of this world; and on the evening of a Sunday in November, on which so many prayers had been offered for the safety
of mother and child, the little one was laid at rest in a corner
of the beautiful cemetery overlooking the Fraser River and
the snowclad mountains beyond. The grave is now marked
by a tiny stone on which is a touching inscription.
"Three days later Mrs. Irwin died, the shock being all
the more crushing, as she was supposed to be recovering.
On the evening of the funeral Mr. Irwin took up his residence at the See House, and here he stayed until early in
1894, when he was called to Ireland, a few months before
the Bishop's death, on account of his father's severe illness.
27 Pioneer Days in British Columbia
"Of his work during these three years there is not much
to be recorded. It consisted of humdrum every-day drudgery,
the writing and copying of letters, interviews, parochial work
(for he was curate of the Cathedral), and numberless other
things too insignificant to mention.
"The office, a large room in the See House, used for
meetings and the transaction of business, was where he was
usually to be found, although he had a private sitting-room.
In the evenings he was usually surrounded by a number of
young fellows, for the most part either strangers or those
down  on their  luck.
"Our Sunday evening suppers at the See House were
always motley gatherings of all sorts and conditions of men;
frugal meals they were, as indeed was all our fare; but
happy and restful after the day's work was over. It was a
great amusement to Father Pat to tell us afterwards of the
remarks that were made, the great simplicity was so different from what was supposed to be en regie in an episcopal
"Mr. Irwin's sunny disposition made him a charming
member of the family, and the love between him and the
Bishop was more that of a father and son, and in all these
years I never remember any friction dimming its brightness.
"Mr. Irwin always believed the best of everyone, and
his character was to strangers a misleading one: he was
so sweet-tempered, so anxious to think others right and to
yield his own way, that people were inclined to think that
he could be easily led and influenced; it was only when they
were brought up against his principles that they found themselves face to face before a solid wall round which there was
no way of getting.    When he felt a thing to be right, there
28 ~i    f fr ■iiiian? v. w.r^rti
Pioneer Days in British Columbia
was no shadow of yielding. He was from the first one of
my truest and dearest friends; but though I knew he was
out of health, I had no idea that the end, for which he so
much longed, was so near. The sorrow for my personal loss
could not but be very great, and yet there was happiness in
knowing that his many and arduous labours were over, and
that in the rest of Paradise he was re-united to those loved
ones gone before.
Mr. Irwin's thoughtfulness for others was wonderful. On
my first visit to England after the Bishop's death, he made
a special journey over from Ireland, so that there should be
somebody to meet me at Liverpool.' During my stay in England he told me he did not intend to return to British Columbia, that he could not face the work there without the
Bishop. I objected to this, saying that it would not be fair
to the new Bishop who was not then appointed; also I felt
sure that this would be contrary to the wishes of my husband,
who always placed the welfare of the Church before any
private feelings. In the end, Mr. Irwin decided to return,
taking up work in the Kootenays, remaining there until
his death in 1902. The end was very sad in its loneliness.
He was on his way to Ireland very much out of health,
nervously and physically, and he alighted from the train
just before reaching Montreal, probably craving for the
exercise to which he was so much accustomed. He was
picked up by a farmer with both feet badly frozen, taken
to the Notre Dame Hospital, but from the first his case
was hopeless. In spite of great suffering, he was most
considerate and cheerful. The Sisters had notified the Rev.
Canon Wood of S. John's, Montreal, when they found that
their mysterious patient (who refused to give his real name)
belonged to the Church of England, and during the last
three days Canon Wood was often with him.    He lost con-
29 Pioneer Days in British Columbia
sciousness only a few hours before death. Dr. D. A. Kingston, who attended him, wrote: "For my own part, I have
never seen so much strength and so much gentleness combined."
"In a corner of the beautiful little cemetery at Sapperton
is a semi-circular headstone, very low and small. In its
centre is a sacred symbol, the Cross enclosed in a circle. It
is the grave of the nameless little one who never saw the
light; and beneath the symbol are these touching lines:
'No name had I, O  Christ, to offer Thee,
Nor from Thy font received the sacred sign;
Yet in Thy Book of Life remember me,
I plead my Saviour's  Name  instead of mine.'
'Child  of H.  and  F.  S.  Irwin.'
"Not far off lie the parents in one grave, with two white
marble crosses at head and foot."
ON one of our journeys up country, whither we were going to attend a gathering of Indians, we took with us
as our travelling companion Miss Woods, the eldest
daughter of the Archdeacon of Columbia. There were trains
running irregularly on part of the western section of the
C. P. R., but the cantelever bridge where the line crosses the
Fraser River had not then been built. Crossing the river was
made in a sort of basket slung on wire ropes. Only two persons, we were told, were allowed to cross at one time. Miss
Woods, however, absolutely refused to go without either the
Bishop or me, and I would not permit him to go without me,
-	 -MSWäiSSigSÉSfi
Pioneer Days in British Columbia
saying that if anything happened we would at least die together. The situation was a difficult one, for we could not
possibly leave Miss Woods behind. The authorities finally
allowed the three of us to crowd into the basket, and we
reached the further shore safely. We spent the night in Lytton in the little one-room cottage, the Bishop and I sleeping
on the bare boards writh our Gladstone for a pillow. There
were no blankets, these having been sent on ahead of us to
the camp.
Another time, soon after the completion of the C. P. R.,
we were journeying to fill an engagement at Chilliwack, and,
while in the Pullman car talking to friends, the car began
to roll about in a very curious fashion. Happily for all concerned, a quick-witted newsboy pulled the cord connecting
with the engine, causing the engineer to stop the train, without, however, being able to see what was wrong. By that
time our car was on its side, having gone off the track.
Prompt action probably saved many lives, for, had we gone
a few hundred yards further, we should have been landed,
or rather submerged, in the Fraser River. As it was, it all
happened so quickly and quietly that we were hardly frightened, and were able to climb out of the car safely. It was
impossible for us to reach Chilliwack in time for our engagement, and our only alternative was to tramp back over the
tracks to Westminster Junction.
In concluding his book, "Church Work in British Columbia," Doctor Gowen says: "With such a Bishop's grave
amongst us, the Diocese can never be poor; as we gaze upon
it under the shadow of the mighty trees of the western forest, it speaks to us of the continuity of a cause which marches
on victoriously, though every standard-bearer fall in the
fight. We know that while God has given rest to His servants, their work is not done, nor can their graves be cold."
31 Pioneer Days in British Columbia
Now, thirty years later, more of the standard-bearers
have fallen. Six months after my husband's death Archdeacon Woods was called to his rest, and was later followed by the Rev. Richard Small, Archdeacon of Yale, a
Missionary to the Indians; by the Rev. H. Irwin, the Rev.
Charles Croucher, and the Rev. H. G. Fiennes-Clinton, whose
name will always be associated with S. James', the mother
Church of Vancouver, and who was identified with everything that made for the well-being of the Church and of the
City of Vancouver.
All these men, of whose friendship I must ever feel
proud, have died out here. Archdeacon Woods, "Father
Pat" and Mr. Croucher are buried not far from my husband
in the Sapperton cemetery, while Archdeacon Small's body
lies underneath the spot where stood the altar of the first
S. Paul's Church at Lytton. Father Clinton's body rests in
Vancouver's beautiful Mountain View cemetery. The second
Bishop of New Westminster, the Right Rev. John Dart, is
also buried in the Sapperton Cemetery. These graves, too,
testify to the continuity of the cause for which they lived
and died.
These are a few of the reminiscences, interesting most
of all to myself, inasmuch as through them I live over again
in memory, those happy by-gone days, but if, through them,
a desire is awakened in others to learn more about our
Church's work in British Columbia, the object will indeed
have been accomplished.
32 -6.T EVANS   a   HASTINGS


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