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Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

Local and Other Items

Posted on: January 6th, 2016 by
Chilliwack Progress Newspaper Clipping, January 7, 1892, page1.

Chilliwack Progress Newspaper Clipping, January 7, 1892, page1.

Chilliwack Progress, January 7, 1892, page 1.

  • “Nanaimo is now lighted by electricity.”
  • “Mr. Cory Ryder takes charge of the Post Office at Cheam.”
  • “The Gladys will continue her regular trips up and down the river.”
  • “Mrs. Spencer, of Victoria, is visiting her mother, Mrs. Evans, her husband accompanied her.”

If you’re like me, you’ve been browsing the recently digitized historic newspaper archive of the Chilliwack Progress. I always stop at the Local and Other Items column listed on the front page to read the detailed accounts of life in Chilliwack and the latest headlines from around the Province.

I love these old newspapers. Reading the Local and Other Items columns takes me back in time, where I imagine the conversations that ensued around the water coolers of years past. I imagine the discussion that might arise when the towns folk read things like:

  • ” A carload of wagons, buggies, sleighs and cutters, direct from the east, have arrived, and will be deposited at the Harrison House. For particulars see John Reece”. (Chilliwack Progress, 1892, January 7, p.1)

or

  • “Mr. James Bailey has gone east for a three month visit to his father and friends in Grey Co. and other places. We wish him a pleasant trip and safe return”. (Chilliwack Progress, 1892, January 7, p.1)

These news items are amusing. Phone numbers or postal addresses are not required, for everyone knows how to get a hold of John Reece. There is no need to explain who James Bailey is, for the entire Chilliwack Progress readership seems to be wishing him a pleasant trip. I picture these news items being discussed in length at social gatherings, much like many people today find themselves referencing Facebook and Twitter when recalling current news and gossip.

Social Media

Speaking of Facebook and Twitter, I can’t help but compare today’s social media phenomenon and popularity with the Local and Other Items columns found in historic newspapers. The local columns must have been popular at the time, seeing as they are often found on the front pages and have no end of minute details about people’s comings and goings. The “posts” even seem to be restricted to a short word length, not unlike the 140 character limit of Twitter.

This has me wondering: what will our descendants think about our social media posts and tweets 100 years from now? Will photographs of our meals and updates on our vacations inform researchers about who we were and what we’ve been up to? Were the Local and Other Items columns the 1890’s version of Twitter?

Research

Researchers at the Chilliwack Archives find the newspaper reports of local happenings a fun and often informative part of their research. I’ve seen, for example, many people get sidetracked reading these reports while looking for obits and other articles. Knowing when great uncle Bob arrived to town, who stayed with him and what social parties his wife attended, can provide a colourful glimpse into life and perhaps, personalities of their relatives.

Historical Context is Key

When it comes to historic newspapers and archival records in general, context is key. Historical context is not something easily grasped when you are faced with primary source records. With historical documents, historical context can help us better understand the moods, attitudes and cultural setting of a person, place or event in history.

Jonathan Reece, ca.1858. [Chilliwack Museum and Archives P.7]

Jonathan Reece, ca.1858. [Chilliwack Museum and Archives P.7]

For example, Johnathan Reece would have needed no introduction in 1898 Chilliwack, as he was a prominent landowner – the first Anglo-European to pre-empt land in 1959 in what would become the City of Chilliwack. As well, the Harrison House Hotel, which was located on the southeast corner of Wellington Avenue and Corbould Street, was a short buggy ride from Chilliwack landing and a four minute walk to the business district of Five Corners. An obvious choice for a deposit of large goods such as carriages and cutters.

So, while I reflect on the similarities between Facebook posts and the Chilliwack Progress Local and Other Items columns of 1892, I must also think of the historical contexts of the time periods in question. In 1893, Chilliwack’s population was about 3000 and so easy for the newspaper informants to keep an eye on local news and social events and for people to know one another well. While the Local and Other Items columns can be informative, they can also be selective in their reporting. For example, attitudes at the time were not always favourable towards First Nations and Chinese residents, and so these communities are not included or reported upon in the local happenings columns. As a result, if I were researching a Stó:lo or Chinese family history, the newspaper might not be a good source for information, where it may be a great source for Anglo-European residents.

Historical context can help place the historical documents we examine in to perspective. What is being reported upon; what is not being reported upon? Why or why not? How valid is the resource, what are the biases of the author or publisher? What does the reporter take for granted the readership will know and understand? Why or why not?

Engaging with History

Harrison House Hotel, Chilliwack

Harrison House Hotel, ca. 190-. [Chilliwack Museum and Archives, P835]

Back to 1892, the Chilliwack Progress newspapers continue to pique my curiosity and spark my imagination as I formulate a picture and narrative of Chilliwack’s past in my mind. Learning more about my community, its people and attitudes from historical documents is how I enjoy engaging in local history.

I would like to invite you, dear reader of this blog, to visit or contact me at the Chilliwack Archives. I’m happy to help you access the resources needed for you to engage with your local history here in Chilliwack and electronically, abroad.

– Shannon Bettles, Archivist

Coqualeetza’s Indian Residential Schools Olympiad

Posted on: December 16th, 2015 by
P8151 Coqualeetza

Front view of the first Coqualeetza Indian Residential school building on Vedder Road in Sardis. Chilliwack Archives P8151

In light of the release of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, I was reminded of some research that I completed for our recently launched annual exhibition, Game On! The Evolution of Sports in Chilliwack, that never made it into the final cut of the exhibit text. On May 26-28 1931, Coqualeetza Indian Residential School in Sardis hosted the first Canadian Indian Residential Schools Olympiad. It was held at Coqualeetza with events rotating between the 2 other residential schools in the area and covered many aspects of sports; track a
nd field, soccer, basketball, badminton, softball, baseball and shooting. Coqualeetza won the Department of Indian Affairs championship shield, as the point total shows:

  • Coqualeetza Indian Residential School, Sardis                  170
  • St. George’s Indian Residential School, Lytton                  73.5
  • St. Michael’s Indian Residential School, Alert Bay             59.5

“A thrilling experience was a trip of the boys and girls basketball teams to play against St. George’s School at Lytton. The trip was unique in that we made the first bus trip over the ‘new’ Fraser Canyon Highway, which was just built. The road had numerous curves and in one mountainous stretch we counted twenty-two hairpin turns in a mile. At one point a large fir tree fell directly in front of the bus and had to be cleared away before we could proceed.”
– 
George Williams, Coqualeetza basketball coach, Chilliwack Archives, AM 456

P4284 Coqualeetza soccer

Group portrait Coqualeetza senior boys football team, winners of the cup in 1925-1926. Chilliwack Archives P4284

The event was meant to be an annual celebration of sport during an era when public recreation was just in its infancy. The health benefits of sports were only recently emerging as an important part of a balanced lifestyle. Athletics at Coqualeetza Indian Residential School were related to vigour and health in the new field of “Physical Education”.  It is during this era that BC established the Recreational and Physical Education Branch and the first Provincial Recreation program, a community-oriented scheme called Pro-Rec. The program was aimed at providing healthy recreation opportunities, especially amongst unemployed youths during the Depression – essentially the beginning of organized sports. Pro-Rec came to be the centre piece in provincial adult education programs and served as a model for recreation schemes in other provinces.

While the Indian Residential Schools Olympiad gave students a brief break from the highly regulated way of life that characterized most residential schools, this break was part of an assimilative strategy that was used to discipline their “savage” ways and, in turn, transform them into “normal” Canadian citizens. The policy of Canada’s residential schools was to remove children from the influence of their families and culture, and assimilate them into the dominant Canadian culture.[1]  Over the course of the system’s existence, about 30% of Indigenous children, or roughly 150,000, were placed in residential schools nationally. The program was funded by the Canadian government’s Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and administered by Christian churches, predominantly the Roman Catholic Church in Canada (60%), but also the Anglican Church of Canada (30%), and the United Church of Canada (including its pre-1925 constituent church predecessors) (10%).[2]

P7511 Coqualeetza staff

Group portrait of staff and senior students of Coqualeetza Residential School. Chilliwack Archives P7511

There has long been significant historiographical and popular controversy about the conditions experienced by students in the residential schools. While day schools for First Nations, Métis and Inuit children always far outnumbered residential schools, a new consensus emerged in the early 21st century that the latter schools did significant harm to Aboriginal children who attended them by removing them from their families, depriving them of their ancestral languages, through sterilization, and by exposing many of them to physical leading to sexual abuse by staff members, and other students, and enfranchising them forcibly.

The 1931 Olympiad is a spectacle of physical endurance and strength but also a stark reminder of the often hidden historical wrongs committed in BC communities. My research was never able to uncover whether the Olympiad continued in subsequent years. Records from the Department of Indian Affairs do not show whether the Olympiad was funded in subsequent budgetary cycles. However, there have been numerous “Indian” Olympiads in BC throughout the twentieth century.

 

[1] Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future. Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. May 2015.

[2] Oblates in the West, accessed at: http://oblatesinthewest.library.ualberta.ca/eng/impact/schools.html

The “Peppering” Traveling Baseball Team

Posted on: August 6th, 2015 by

While completely losing myself in sports-related research for our upcoming Game On! The Evolution of Sports exhibit, I have come across a few gems. One such gem was the discovery of a traveling baseball team called the “House of David”.

The Israelite House of David was established as a religious community in Benton Harbor, Michigan, in 1903 by Benjamin Purnell, along with his wife Mary. The purpose of this colony was to gather the 12 lost tribes of Israel for the “Ingathering”, to await the Millennium. Benjamin Purnell, a sports enthusiastast, encouraged the playing of sports. The House of David started playing baseball around 1913 as a weekend endeavor and by 1915 the team was playing a more grueling schedule. By 1920, the team was “barnstorming” around the country, earning money for the colony, and using the team as a way to preach to potential members. While the team was on the road, the colony established a home team, a girl’s team, and a junior boys team. The players were led by its manager, Francis Thorpe and the team was originally comprised of members of the colony. The team was always an attraction by their long hair and beards, a doctrine of the religion, and would draw substantial crowds wherever they played. By the early 20’s, in need of participate with better playing abilities and by the lack of colony member participation, were in the business of hiring players not of the faith. These “Players for Hire” were required to grow a beard, and some played for the team for many years.

After a lengthy legal battle and subsequent death of Purnell, an internal power struggle for the colony ensued. After this struggle, the colony divided into two separate factions, and eventually two separate colonies. One was the Israelite House of David, whose members believed that Benjamin was the one and only leader, which was led by colony pillar Judge H. T. Dewhirst. This colony went by the moniker of “The House of David”.

Both factions of the House of David teams visited small communities all over Canada and the United States. Different House of David teams visited Chilliwack many times throughout the 1930s, playing local teams at Chilliwack’s Athletic Park. The August 1, 1935 article of the Chilliwack Progress remarked “Chilliwack fans got a big bang out of the famous ‘pepper’ tricks,” which were said to be along the lines of the fancy basketball moves of today’s Harlem Globetrotters. Many of the Chilliwack games raised funds for the Chilliwack Amateur Athletic Association but also provided lots of entertainment for hundreds of spectators. At fifty cents, it was quite a good bargain (valued at under $9 if adjusted for inflation).

Don’t miss our upcoming exhibit Game On! The Evolution of Sports in Chilliwack, which opens October 29!