The project began when the District of Vanderhoof asked the Nechako Valley Historical Society if they could find names of the first 150 settlers in the area to be recognized at the 2017 July 1st, Canada Day 150 birthday celebrations.
Approximately 15 members of the Nechako Valley Historical Society (NVHS) took several days gathering information recorded in Vanderhoof Museum archives and began compiling a list of the earliest settlers to the Nechako Valley. Recognizing that First Nations people had been in the Vanderhoof area well over 100 years and long before the first settlers arrived, the NVHS with the help of a few Sai’kuz elders and others, put together a list of Indigenous families who were already living in this area before the arrival of settlers, these were:
Alexis, Antoine, Bill, Casimere, Felix, George, John, Johnny, Joseph, Ketlo, Noelli, Patrick, Paul, Quaw, Raphael, Thomas, Toelna, Williams.
The earliest settlers arrived here around 1860 with large numbers arriving in 1918 – 1919 via the finished railway. Many who came were war veterans who qualified for homesteads. Some stayed, others moved on.
Along with the names are many humourous stories and also many sad stories. A lot was written about the hardships they endured at that time, especially arriving here with nothing.
This project led to the idea that maybe another book could be written about the area to follow the book “Vanderhoof, the town that couldn’t wait.” which was compiled by the Nechako Valley Historical Society and published in 1979 with editing and contributions by Lyn Hancock.
“There are many more stories that we could gather from local elders, descendants and seniors. It would be a shame to have these stories forgotten,” says Anne Davidson, member of the NVHS.
“One of the main questions we would like to ask is what made the settlers pick Vanderhoof?” says another NVHS member, Sharon Bennett, “Many came from Europe and the USA. How did they hear about the Nechako Valley?”
The Society and the District of Vanderhoof have applied for a grant to fund this project, they will know in the new year if they have been successful in obtaining the grant. Plans include story-telling for students and museum visitors, audio-visual and digital recording of the history, senior transportation to the museum and other sites of historical significance, sourcing period costumes, setting up live demonstrations of handcraft skills and trades from a bygone era.
– Thanks to NVHS member contributors to this work in progress: Anne Davidson, Sharon Bennett, Ginny Springer, Diana Phillips, Marjorie Weaver, Rosalie Nichiporuk, Shelly Simrose, Myrna Bailey, Joy Aitkens, Vi Young.