Chambers Diary Tuesday. May 5th, 1891

CHAMBERS DIARY TUESDAY. MAY 5TH, 1891

The train journey ends at the CPR station in Vancouver after passing through the Fraser Canyon and Valley on the final day. They are not met as expected but receive a note at the Post Office directing them to take a steamer to the “island” which forces them to stay overnight in the city which they cannot afford. The “island” referred to is not Vancouver Island but Bowyer Island in Howe Sound where Arthur’s relatives homesteaded. When the Historical Society was researching the diary, which was signed only “J”, we established that this was the Chambers family who settled in the part of the Nanoose Land District that eventually became Lantzville . Little May, who was 8yrs old in these pages from 1891, grew up and married into the Thicke family. May’s daughter-in-law and longtime Lantzville resident, Dorothy Thicke told us she remembered a family connection with land on Bowyer Island although she never visited it.

Jessie Chambers comment below “white men in minority” says much about early B.C. She was referring to the settlements in the Fraser Canyon but First Nations and Chinese outnumbered “British” British Columbians in the Province as a whole until the 1890s when the huge immigration push from the British Isles and continental Europe, of which the Chambers were part, tipped the scales in favour of “white men”. The fear of the colonial masters being outnumbered, even in the age of Confederation, drove much of the racist legislation in B.C. denying the vote and full citizenship to First Nations and Asians until well into the 20th Century. English women like Jessie Chambers and her daughter May, gained the right to vote for the first time in the federal election of 1921. We don’t know if they voted or not. The Chinese and “Indians” Jessie observed along the railway had to wait until 1948 and 1960 respectively.

  B. Blood, Lantzville historical Society. `

Jessie Chambers

6 A.M. passed a very unpleasant night. Very thankful knowing we end our railway journey today. Train swayed very much, increase of speed. Cisco and Keefer stations, mountainous, Fraser River, rocky promontories, gorges, trestles, bridges etc. Line winding with the curves of the river, ridges along each side getting higher and higher, river narrow and turbulent, lofty banks studded with little homesteads. Also here and there a solitary grave or two enclosed by a white painted fence or with a small white cross. Each station we now pass being worthy the name village, populations very mixed – Chinese, Indians, half-breeds, white men in the minority. North bend station divisional point. Large hotel belonging to the CPRailway Co. Picturesque suspension bridge across Fraser. Yale and Hope, very old villages, Chinese predominate, beautiful gardens, great numbers of fruit trees – apple plum and cherry. River now widening and flowing in a gentle current.

We catch sight of an enormous fish, so large that some time we mistake it for a boat, but are told it is a sturgeon, which abound in the Fraser, sometimes so large as to capsize a boat, are principally speared by Indians. Harrison Station. All are now busy packing, brushing and washing and as far as possible removing the stains of travel previous to arrival at Vancouver. Everything has now put on Spring garb. A lovely yellow flower in great abundance, specie of Water Lily, growing in marshy places, also a tree resembling Hawthorns but whose blossoms resemble our white lily, only slightly primrose tinge and their perfume is very sweet. Forest trees of gigantic growth and verdure brilliant. Great masses of rock of irregular and grotesque shapes are seen at intervals. Indian tents and huts. We are now going along with greater rapidity. New Westminster junction; our train stops here for eastern bound train to pass. We keep a good lookout, thinking it just possible that someone may be here to meet us, but nobody turns up to claim us. Train passes carrying a noisy crew being (we are told) the English seamen, who have brought out the 2nd of three large steamers which have been built in London for the C.P. Ry. Co., to carry the mail from Vancouver via Japan and they are named, respectively, Empress of India, China and Japan, The English crews bring the vessels out here and they are then sent back and Chinese and Japs engaged in their stead.

Port Moody, at the head of Burrard Inlet, in the midst of forests of gigantic growth, great quantities of cut timber. This was the temporary terminus of the railway, and much money was sunk in land by those who believed it to be permanent. Numbers sold out at next to nothing when Vancouver was made the permanent terminus. Those who have held on to it are likely to get their own back (we are told), as it is becoming something of a pleasure and picnic resort. The place is very pretty, what we see of it.

Vancouver 14:25 o’clock. Train punctual. We get out and hang about the station to see if we recognize anyone who may be looking for us. We like the appearance of the place very much. We wait until all the other passengers have left the station, luggage all out on the platform and train backed out of station. Then Arthur May and Mr. Hutchby start off to find the Post Office. We all feel very weak, tired and ill, but may can hardly stand and her Papa has to carry her several times while on the way to the P.O. meanwhile, I remain at the station looking after luggage and keeping lookout still for friends, until Arthur returns with a letter from Mr. Howse, telling us to take steamer to the island and bring our bedding with us and also that our friend had better remain in town. We are much disappointed in the latter request, more especially seeing we have not a penny of our own to do anything with and we should have been badly off indeed had it not been for Mr. Hutchby, and we had hoped to be able to give him a shelter. However, he is exceedingly kind and we must make the best of it. Arthur goes off again to find out if we can proceed today, finds the boat goes 9 A.M. tomorrow morning. He then finds hotel and we all go there and have supper, but we are too tired to enjoy it. We leave May in the hotel in nice sitting room with the proprietor’s little daughter while we go and purchase a few medicines etc., to take to the Island with us, Mr. H. having advanced Arthur a loan of one pound. It is very cold out of doors and we do not stop long; but how nice the good bed is and really refreshing to us all, although the journey has so fatigued us that we rest our bones but cannot sleep much.

Brian Blood

Brian is old Lantzville. He gardens, walks his Aussies, reads about the Ottoman Empire and was an anarchist in his youth.

Posted in 1891 Diary - London to BC, Historical Society, May 2013
One comment on “Chambers Diary Tuesday. May 5th, 1891
  1. gary ward says:

    thank you very much for the ‘final’ postings of the chambers diary.
    i, for one, found it fascinating to look back on one family’s trip from England to the island. not Hollywood but real life!

    thanks again….Gary

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