A Vancouver child’s letter to grandma – October 18, 1909

A Vancouver child’s letter to grandma – October 18, 1909

This Vancouver child of 1909’s letter is kept in the City of Vancouver Archives, [Reference AM336-S2] indexed as “letter from unidentified child”. Assigned to write a letter during school hours, the child apparently took a break mid-sentence from writing to grandma and turned over the page to draw “robers and cowboys.”

This letter was transcribed by Transcribimus volunteers Leesa and L. Ellema.  Their transcription is below the original handwriting and drawing.

original handwritten minutes here

Dear Grandma :-
I received your welcome letter. Glad to hear that you are well, I am going to school and in the third Reader, we are all well, I am writing this letter in school.

This is a fine city I only wish you were here we have street cars running all over the city. It is all lit up at night there is a bit light on every corner, some of the biggest ships come here from all parts of the world, we have a building here 16 stories high, we got a lot of chicken’s and we get 5 eggs a day. I am working at a grocery store.

Alf Pilkington’s letter to New Zealand – July 8, 1906

Alf Pilkington’s letter to New Zealand – July 8, 1906
City Hall, 425 Westminster Ave. COVA reference no AM54-S4- City P47

Alf Pilkington and family fled the San Francisco earthquake and great fire of April 8, 1906.  By July 8, Alf has re-settled in Vancouver as the city accountant, and writes to his uncle in New Zealand, giving a picture of his life and work here.  This document is a photocopy (Vancouver City Archives AM 1024) of a damaged original.

copy of original document


Sixth Avenue East,

Mount Pleasant,

From A. J. Pilkington Vancouver, B.C.,


8th July 1906.

Dear Uncle James.

Since my last to you in which I described how we had been burnt

out or shaken out in San Francisco, I am sure you would be feeling

anxious to know how I have been getting on, so am writing to let you

know that I have settled down here. I just managed to catch last mail

with a letter to Ernest telling him that I had made a start here, but

I know you would sooner hear direct. The position I have secured is

that of Accountant to the “City of Vancouver” at what they would call

in Auckland the “City Council”. It is a good billet with a good salary,

and plenty of chances of advancement, especially as the City is growing

very fast. The population at present is between 50,000 and 60,000,

not quite as big as Auckland, but at present rate of progress there

should be 100,000 inhabitants in four or five years. I made a start

on the 17th May, seven weeks ago, and have got a solid grip of everything

now, and find the position first class. Office hours are 9 to 5, with

an hour and a quarter for lunch, 12 to 1:15, and as we are living within

10 minutes tram ride from the City Hall, I have plenty of time at home,

far more than in Sydney. Also I have a free pass on all the City tram

lines, so can get around without any trouble or expenses. We have

been fortunate enough to rent a nice little house of seven rooms, with

electric light, hot water fittings, etc., and a lawn for Frankie to

play in, so I reckon that we have been very lucky, considering that houses

are very scarce here for renting.

As far as I can see there is very little agriculture this side

of the Rocky Mountains, but I have not had any chances yet of getting

out of the town. Certainly there is no farming in sight of Vancouver,

and will not be until the heavy bush is cleared. When I learn the

country a little more I will write to you more fully about the country.

It is summer here now, and the weather is very much like Auckland summer

without any wind. In winter I am told it rains oceans, six months

without a stop – in fact the older residents are said to be web footed.

got a severe nervous shock from the earthquake

and has not recovered yet, but Frankie and I are both first class. We are

expecting a letter from you soon, and I will then write again. We

hope everybody is well, and that Nelson is quite better. The photos

from Harold have not yet arrived – we are expecting them any time now.

Did I mention that your photo was in the Gladstone Bag that we saved

from the fire? Hoping to hear from you very soon.

I remain, with love to all,

Yours Alf

Squalid Hovel their Prison – September 11, 1900

This news clipping was included in the Vancouver Board of Health’s records for 1900 [City of Vancouver Archives COV-S33] and transcribed in June of 2018 by volunteer Gerald Soon. Gerald points out that although someone has hand-written the date as September 12 1900, the article was published in the Vancouver Daily World on Tuesday Sept 11, 1899.

original news clipping here

Vancouver, B.C. Tuesday, September 11, 1900


Five Children Shut Up for Years by Parents.

Misery of Their Conditions Indescribable – Dirty, Unclothed and Uncared for – Their Existence Unknown for a Long Period.

Five children held prisoners, for months and years in Vancouver, and in a loathsome hovel, too. Impossible!
Unlikely as this may seem, it is more than possible. It is an actual fact, and what is more horrible to believer is the statement that the jailers of the unfortunate children were the parents, who should by all laws of mature and society have been the first to shield and cherish the helpless little ones, surrounding them with the comforts within their means. But these helpless little ones were not even permitted to run and play in the glad sunshine and fresh air, nature’s free gifts, and certainly easy of attainment in this beautiful city.
It must shock the boasted pride in institutions, educational, religious and charitable, possessed by Vancouver, when the cold, hard statement of fact is made that for the past three years, more or less, there have been kept prisoners, living in a house on a leading thoroughfare, the entire family of a man and woman, supposedly respectable, hard-working people, and engaged in a business that led them into close contact with the public.
And these same parents have been the jailers of their unfortunate progeny who have been kept closely confined under lock and key within the walls of a small cottage. Not only this, but the place in which the children are kept – or were kept until Monday – was found by the officers who visited it to be in a state of indescribable filth, and the wretched little victims in a condition that beggars description.
But let the story be told in the words of the officer who brought the strong arm of the law into long-deferred action.
Officer Mulhern, who was detailed to the case said the The World reporter Monday night: “I am sorry I did not tell you this morning where I was going. Had I had any idea of what I was to discover, I would have invited you to come and see for yourself.
“In company with the health inspector, I went to the place of Wm. Cressell, a bicycle repairer, doing business on Westminster avenue, at the corner of Dufferin street, Mount Pleasant, to inquire into the condition of his premises and to see what truth there was in the many complaints that had reached the health office and police station from neighbors who claimed that the insanitary state of the place and the inhuman way to which the man’s children lived were nothing short of scandalous.
“We found the stories all double discounted by the actual and horrifying conditions that met our eyes when we investigated.
“The man Cressell keeps a shot at the corner of Dufferin street and Westminster avenue, and has a house two doors nearer the bridge. He is an Englishman, rather a clever mechanic, it is said his wife works in the shop with him, and he also employs an assistant. He carries quite a stock and has a good outfit of valuable tools.
“But it was to the other place, used as a dwelling, that we turned our steps. Havingf been warned that we might expect opposition, we approached the back door. The woman answered our knock and despite a look that was by no means friendly we pushed into the house. The room was a sort of kitchen, but was in a state of unmentionable nastiness. The inner room appeared to answer as a dining room, but it was as squalid as the other. A table that had not been cleared off for many a day stood covered with decaying vegetables, potato parings and the fragments of past meals. It was a sight that removed all trace of appetite from the beholder for some time.
“But the worst sight of all, and one which it is simply past me to find words to describe awaited our gaze when we pushed on through the fetid atmosphere of the den into a room nearer the front.
“Here, huddled on a mattress that lay on the floor within the sides of a bedstead, were five little children, ranging in age from a girl of 10 years down to an infant of 16 months, which the girl held in her arms wrapped in an old blanket.
‘The filth and squalor of the place was nothing compared to the condition those poor children were in. The older, the girl of 10, was clad only in a scanty and ragged cotton shift, which could not possibly have been more unclean. Her hair was matted and filthy and her body was mottled and discolored with dirt. The infant in her arms had no other clothing than the wretched blanket, and it looked as if it had never in its brief existence known the luxury of a bath. The other three children were in a similar condition. Not one of them was clothed other than with barely a shirt or similar garment.”
Such was the statement of the officer.
On inquiry, it seems that these poor little ones never knew what it was to go out in the pure, free God-given sunlight and air. Within the confines of that awful hovel, rivalling the Black Hole of Calcutta, the wretched helpless little ones dragged a miserable existence, compared to which the most severely punished criminal in the Dominion lives a happy live of freedom.
The inhuman parents of the five hapless little prisoners pleaded “poverty” and “hard luck” as their only excuses for a most reprehensible course which has extended over a period, not less than three years at the very least They did not even seem to be at all impressed with the enormity of their misdemeanor, for which it would be hard to find a suitable description in the calendar, and for which it would be harder to “make the punishment fit the crime.”
The children appeared to be naturally bright, and would have been as other children had they had an opportunity. All the neighbors, from whom, in fact, have come the complaints, growing gradually more urgent, unite in the main features of the continuance of this awful abuse of the duties of parent and citizen.
The closeness with which the pool little wretches have been confined is well illustrated by the statement of the neighbor who has been living not more than two blocks away and passed the place daily in all the three years and never knew the people had any children whatever.
So impressed were the officers that the case required drastic treatment, that while the inspector questioned Cressell on the cause of his living in such a vile state, and maintaining premises which were such a meagre to the health of himself and neighbors. Officer Mulhern telephoned Medical Health Office Dr. MacLean.
That gentleman, when he arrived and inspected the wretched prisoners, at once advised that it was clearly a case of “criminal neglect” on the father’s part to provide for the natural requirements of his children. A summons was obtained and Cressell called o appear in the Police court to-day, his assistant, Walter Dingli, being also summoned as a witness.
In view of the extremely aggravated circumstances of the whole case, it is held by some of those who have heard the particulars that summary arrest should have followed the discovery and the unnatural parents given no chance to escape punishment for their disgraceful crime.
As a denouement, it is said the bailiff has been put in Cressell’s shop to hold the stock for arrears of rent.
To-day when the premises were examined it was found that the house had been slightly improved in condition though still in a vile state. The children had been bathed and dressed and were in much better state. Up to the time the court sat the man Cressell had not been found to serve the summons upon. It is though he has cleared out.

Vancouver Chinese Merchants’ Exchange letter to Thomas Tracy – 1896

Vancouver Chinese Merchants’ Exchange letter to Thomas Tracy – 1896

On September 14, 1896, Imperial Statesman Li Hung Chung visited Vancouver. The Vancouver Chinese Merchants’ Exchange asked the City Engineer, Col. Thomas Tracy to design a triumphal arch for the occasion, and sent him this letter of thanks for his design [Vancouver City Archives Reference Code: AM960].

One page of the letter was in Chinese, one page was in English.  You can read our volunteers’ transcriptions of these letters (and comments on the Chinese writing) below the original images.

original handwritten letters here

English page: transcribed by Gent Ng, L. Ellema, and Chris Stepehenson
Col. Tracy,
Dear Sir:
Will you be pleased to
accept the accompanying pair of
flower vases as an expression of our
gratitude to you for the excellent
manner in which you so kindly
designed our arch on the occasion
of the visit of His Excellency Li
Hung Chang.
Very respectfully presented
By The Chinese Merchants Exchange

Chinese page: transcribed, translated, and with commentary by Anonymous

Translator’s note: The original Chinese text is written by one that was equivalent to a
semi-literate individual, lacking formal education as reflected by the
socio-economic conditions of the Chinese migrants of the times.

The use of certain Chinese words and/or grammar of the times was incorrect.


迎李中堂大人衆蒙Col. Tracy地利仕大人繪龍門一座畫得十分流麗故聊贈與花蹲一對仰祈笑納



–English direct transliteration to follow–

(To) welcome (His Excellency) Chung-tong Li, Official, our request to (Col.) Tracy, Official, to draft a Dragon’s Gate was very fluently received; and (which we) would like to gift a pair of flower vases in hopes of (Col. Tracy’s) satisfaction.


(For) Official Tracy’s joyful satisfaction

Chinese Hall (present day Chinese Benevolent Association)
respectfully sends

The finished arch was built on the CPR wharf to welcome His Excellency Li Hung Chung.
Here is a picture of the finished arch (Vancouver Archives reference code AM54-S4-: SGN 1081)

Mrs. B.T. Rogers reminiscences – 1885-1886

Mrs. B.T. Rogers reminiscences – 1885-1886

In the City of Vancouver Archives we found these reminiscences, written by Mrs. B.T. Rogers (born Mary Isabelle Angus) at age 85. She shares her memories of Vancouver seventy years prior, when she visited as a sixteen year old girl.  She saw Vancouver not long before the Great Fire of June 1886, was a passenger on the first CPR train to arrive in Vancouver, and much more.

These pages were transcribed by Transcribimus volunteers Siobhan Devlin and Jenn Ashton in 2018.

original handwritten pages here


Reading about the early discoveries made me think of my first visit to Burrard Inlet, when in February 1886 we came from Victoria to see the site of the proposed Pacific Terminus for the Canadian Pacific Railway. There was no Vancouver then on the Inlet, only a little settlement round the Hastings Saw Mill, a few shacks, considerable clearing, and on the North Shore of the Inlet, the Moodyville Saw Mill.

My father, mother, and I had reached Victoria only a few weeks earlier. We had left England in July, 1885 crossed the Atlantic in the Allan liner Peruvian, stayed in Montreal with Uncle Richard’s family while my father visited several places before deciding where to settle. He finally crossed the continent, part of the trip being on horse back, riding in company with Mr. A. W. Ross M.P. of Winnipeg, through the Kicking Horse Pass, over the uncompleted railway track through the Rockies. He decided on Victoria


for our future home, & returned to Montreal for my mother & me. Then we set out by C.P.R. as far as Winnipeg, from where we went to the States to spend Christmas with the Rennys on their Minnesota farm, & to visit Uncle Sandy & family in Fergus Falls. Then on to Chicago, & by Union Pacific to San Fransisco, where we boarded the Steamer Umatilla for Victoria; we stayed first at the Driard Hotel, then took a small house off Menzies Street, on Simcoe St.

We lost no time in making the journey to the mainland to see the proposed townsite. It was an overnight trip to Burrard Inlet, so we slept comfortably on the S.S. “Princess Louise”. Spent the day exploring the site which was covered with huge felled trees; there was no means of transport, so all this fine timber was burned where it lay on the ground, & the air was thick with its smoke. We clambered over fallen logs, in company with JW. Thos. Sorby, the architect, to the where the C.P.R. was planning to build their hotel.


After a tiring smoky day, we returned to Victoria again, sleeping all night on the boat.

I remember well the fight in the Legislature over the change of name, when Sir Wm van Horne insisted on Granville becoming Vancouver, against the strenuous objections of Vancouver Island. That was in April 1886, & on June 13th 1886 came the fire.

On July 4th, 1886, we again visited the Inlet, this time landing at Port Moody, to meet the first trans. continental train. It was a Sunday, & a great crowd had come over on the steamer Yosemite, which was dangerously overcrowded. Before leaving Victoria at midnight on Saturday, a spectacular fire destroyed a warehouse & store at the N.W. corner of Fort & Government Streets. Many of the Yosemite passengers, who with the Captain – John Irving – had been celebrating the Fourth of July, on Beacon Hill, rushed ashore to the fire, & it was a very excited crowd, (Incidentally Capt. Irving in kilt) that boarded


the boat, where conditions were chaotic, no place to sleep & no food to be had for the majority of the passengers. However, we arrived safely at Port Moody, & when the train rolled in, it was welcomed in turn to the terminus by the Reeve of Port Moody, to the real terminus by Mayor McLean of Vancouver, to the fresh water terminus by the Mayor of New Westminster & finally by the stout Mayor Fell to the Pacific terminus of Victoria. The Premier Alec Davie had come over on the Yosemite, & Col. Wolfenden, the Queen’s printer, to welcome his brother arriving direct from England.

In Vancouver, everywhere there was excitement & real estate speculation. My father bought some lots on Richards Street, opposite where the Holy Rosary Cathedral now stands, & some on Powell Street. On Richards Street, he built two houses which were still in existence until very recently. We stayed at the Sunny Side Hotel, most of which was built on piles over the water. Sanitation was simple,


in the bedroom, you opened the window and dumped the slops into the harbour.

Altogether, the twelve months from July 1885 to July 1886 were an adventurous year for a 16/17 year old schoolgirl. Crossing the Atlantic, & seeing a huge iceberg in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, a smallpox epidemic in Montreal, with the militia called out to quell anti vaccination riots in the French quarter, part of our train wrecked by a spread rail north of Lake Superior in mid winter; forty below for Xmas on the prairies, the sudden change to blossoming spring in California, and attack of rheumatic fever in the Palace Hotel San Francisco, arriving in Victoria limping with a couple of sticks. Then seeing a new city emerging from the forest, sewing & knitting for the refugees from the fire, finally, the arrival of the first Through train. Truly a wonderful year for me.

Rev. H.G. Fiennes-Clinton’s letter home – April 3, 1886

Rev. H.G. Fiennes-Clinton’s letter home – April 3, 1886

Rev. H.G. Fiennes-Clinton was one of the first clergy of St. James’ Church in the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster.  On April 3, 1886, he wrote a letter to his sister-in-law “Lucilla”, otherwise Mrs. Clement Fiennes-Clinton, Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire, England, telling her about his life in “Vancouver,” as it was soon to be called.

Vancouver author Lisa Anne Smith first suggested we ask the Transcribimus community to transcribe Father Clinton’s letter. Lisa Anne discovered it while doing research for her latest book, Emily Patterson: the Heroic Life of a Milltown Nurse. Transcribimus volunteers Anonymous and Brenda Chapman have transcribed this letter below.

original handwritten document here

Add. MSS. No. 192


Vancouver City
British Columbia
April 3, 1886

My dear Lucilla

I got your letter all right yesterday, thank you for it. I left New Westminster about the middle of December to take up my abode among the people of Granville, whom I have been working all along, but used to come over for the Sundays. Lately we have changed our name from the pleasing one of Granville, for the bombastic swaggering title of Vancouver_ It is called this because it is to be the terminus of the great Canadian Pacific Railway and the C.P.R. are so fond of high sounding names, that Granville did not suit them & so they changed it to another which will create much confusion as there is besides Vancouver Island, two other places in the States, one quite near, also called Vancouver.
However all the swagger in the world will


not build houses, and if they don’t mend soon they will have the place a city of shanties, without water, roads or drains_ Drains there are none whatever that does not matter as no one ever gets ill here, so the 4 poor M doctors say._ The roads are quite impassable from the mud holes till this week when a bit of glorious weather has improved matters, though still leaving some awful mudholes, so bad that even a short legged man on horseback can hardly keep his feet out of the mud._ Some new ways they have been making are worse as they cross boggy land and therefore there is no bottom at all to the ways, and if you can once get fairly stuck you might reckon on taking forthwith a journey to the centre of the earth._The water here that folk drink (when they do drink water) is all surface water, in other words drainage, but still the

doctors all four of them are in despair & in bitter disappointment cry out in chorus “no typhoid yet.” There are however 2 good wells in the place and I know where to find one of them: & make a daily pilgrimage with a bucket & rope._ I live in a little house all to myself, and generally get my meals out, though lately I have been boiling my own coffee for breakfast and am my own groom, boots & chambermaid. I will make coffee & beds against all comers_ My horse is one which was lent me for a short time last December, but the owner has never wanted it back yet; I look upon it almost as a gift horse and therefore have not looked into its mouth to see how old the old beast is_ From his pace which is truly dignified I should write him ‘aged’_ He get along with me however all I want_ I have an out-


lying district from 5 to 10 miles away for which I need a beast – I have also another on the water 3 miles away for which I need a boat. We had a concert over there to purchase a boat with a bit since and raised about £7. The boat will cost about £12 altogether. I have meanwhile got it + use it, and greatly enjoy a sail as a run when Duty calls me to undertake that pleasure. I think as it is a glorious afternoon & I feel a bit tired Duty will very likely call me today as duty does not seem to require my presence anywhere else especially.
We have got a nice little church here and don’t we have it full now of a Sunday_ It is the regular thing for some to have to go away_ We shall have to move it soon as it is in the way of a railway track which will be down here soon. All buildings

can be moved here, as they are all built of wood_ hitch on 3 or 4 teams of oxen or horses and off she goes on runners or rollers, exp face. You wd have laughed at one they moved the other day _ about 16 horses on_ they got up steam and moved the thing along_ ran against a telegraph pole & knocked the building all askew & landed it fast in a glorious large mudhole, where they left it. It has since been got out however & is all serene again.
I will shortly be godfather to your little chap – you must let him come and see me sometimes_ I don’t expect to spend all my life out here and hope I shall see you before long. I am so glad to hear that you are so happy together.


I hope all will be well with you. This will reach you about Easter tide_ I have no Easter cards to send, but send my best wishes for a holy and happy East for you both, and the fullness of all Easter blessings. I pray that God may grant you_ nor do I forget the babe with love to Clem and a kiss to the little one believe me
Yrs in affectn:
GH. FiennesClinton

Petition to incorporate the City of Vancouver – February 15, 1886

In February of 1886, a number of residents of the town of Granville sent a petition to the B.C. Legislative Assembly to incorporate the City of Vancouver. In 1944, the Attorney-General of BC returned the original document to the City of Vancouver.  This copy was made from COVA reference number COV-S27.

copy of original petition here

This letter was transcribed in May and June of 2018
by Transcribimus volunteers Gent Ng and Gerald Soon

Petition for
Bill to Incorporate
the “City of Vancouver”

Presented 15/2/86


[next page]

The Legislative Assembly
of the Province of British Columbia
The Petition of the residents of Vancouver in the District of New Westminster
Humbly Sheweth
That the present village of Granville with its vicinity has been chosen by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company as the terminus of their Railway, and in consequence thereof the said Village is now daily increasing, and is likely to increase very largely in population, in the immediate future
That in view of the large increase in said population, it is necessary and expedient that the building of the roads, streets and bridges, and other improvements of a like nature should be provided for
Your petitioners further shew that the said Railway Company are about setting the contract for constructing their line of Railway from Port Moody to said Village of Granville and are about constructing large wharves and other buildings and improvements in said Village of Granville and in the immediate vicinity which said construction and improvements will give employment to many hundreds of men, and for the reasons aforesaid, and for the better preservation of law and order your petitioners are desirous of obtaining a charter incorporating the said village of Granville and its immediate vicinity, a city under

[next page]

the name of “The City of Vancouver.”
Your Petitioners therefore pray. .
That your Honorable House may be pleased to pass an Act incorporating the said City of Vancouver in accordance with the desire of Your Petitioners.
And your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Richard Alexander
Chas A. Coldwell
L. A. Hamilton
Edward E. Rand Jos Mannion
Thos F. McGuigan Alex Johnstone
F. F. Kingdon J. Miller
D A Ferguson A W King
Frank. A. Nicholson S Brighouse
J. W. Sullivan M. A. Mac Lean
James Hamilton Walter J. Graveley
Donald M Naughton J. J. Blake
Robert Thomas Jno Leask
D. L. Beckingsale John Boultbee
Thos Haggart Jones Mc Allister
Samuel Pearse T. C. Innes
C Russell E. E. Barker
J D Jarvis F. D. Boucher
A K Coughtrey S. S. Tilley
Colin Rankin J Rooney
Pet. Larson John Hay
G Blackstone Cy Arkell
John M Haywood W. J. McGuigan M. D.
Allan Mc Pherson C M Johnston

[next page]

Thomas Wilson R McDonald
W. Irvine J G Nicolson
J. Pitt T H Morris
D. Caldon A. Wilson
H. L. Freese J. Ross
Hemsley Lewis L R Arthur
W U Macdonald J. D. Kavanagh
J. A. Livingston
Robert Tassyeth G. Finney
J. B. Harker Stephen Altermat
Lewis J Hall M. Green
Elton Coleman H L Wilson
Alfred Wendell H. J. Carter
James E. Kelly J. Harvey
Will Smith H. Sweet
B. T. Chase J. H. Watson
C. Sullivan Justus Ryerson
Jos Edson M. Madison
F McCartney Pat Barry
W E McCartney + Bro Geo. Addison
George Chipman Samuel Greer
H. E. Langis, M. C. Arthur Johnston
James Z. Hall. Donald Menzies
J. W Jackson John McKenzie
G Jackman Edward C [unreadable]
G Fraser Thos I James
Jas E. Wize J A Gillion
Wm. Proehl W S Westcott
J. W. Palmer C. T. Wm Brown
H Hemlow Henry W. Hughes
John Cartwright R. A. Hanters
J. L. Quackenbush
W. W. Chase Mr Clements
M. Y. Ross Jas Harney
John Strathern A. Gilmore
G Payne

[next page]

Isaac Johns
A. C. Fraser
J. C. Douglas
A G. Ferguson
Wm Brewer
H G Bullson
W J Kilross
J. Huntly
T H Boyd
Henry Blair
E. P. Hamilton

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Province of British Columbia

May 4, 1944
C.H. Wilson, Esq.,
4175 Balaclava St.,
Vancouver, B. C.

Dear Mr. Wilson:

I enclose herewith copy of the original
Petition for the Incorporation of the City of

I thought you would like to have this.

Yours very truly,
R L Maitland

Emily Patterson’s midnight canoe journey – autumn of 1883

Emily Patterson’s midnight canoe journey – autumn of 1883

Vancouver author Lisa Anne Smith suggested we ask the Transcribimus community to take on this four-page letter about Vancouver pioneer nurse Emily Patterson. The letter was written in 1935 by Emily’s granddaughter, Mrs. Crackanthorpe, to Major Matthews, Vancouver’s first archivist. Emily set out during a dangerous gale in the autumn 1883 to save the life of Mrs. Erwin, wife of the Point Atkinson lighthouse keeper. Lisa Anne discovered this letter while doing research for her latest book, Emily Patterson: the Heroic Life of a Milltown Nurse.

original handwritten letter here

Transcription made in March of 2018 by Transcribimus volunteer Mary Ann Capistrano
and Cathy Harmer

Nov. 23rd 1935
Dear Major Matthews,
We received your letter this morning and will try to give you as much information as possible regarding my grandmother’s trip to Point Atkinson.
Mother does not remember the names of the Indians who took her down, but they were from the Indian Ranch at Moodyville then located where the elevator is now. I will tell you the story exactly as Mother and my uncle know it and you can condense it to suit yourself. They are both here now prompting me.
Shortly after five o’clock on a stormy day in the late Fall of 1883, two Indians came to the door with a note from Mr. Walter
Erwin asking my Grandmother to come as soon as possible as Mrs. Erwin was dangerously ill and in great need of help. Grandmother rushed upstairs and got her things together and went down to the Indian ranch, (the Masters of Etta White and Leonora having refused to put out) and the Indians put her in a canoe with blankets and put out. Two Indians went with her. Some begged her not to go as by this time a regular gale was blowing but she knew nothing of fear. They made it as far as “Skunk Cove” now Caulfields, but couldn’t reach Pt. Atkinson as the gale was now terrible just there so they had to tromp from there, the distance being about a mile, to the lighthouse, through thick forest and rough hills. There was a very small path but all this took place after dark and it was very black. One Indian went ahead of her and one behind
her and they made it to Pt Atkinson lighthouse after four hours from the time they left Moodyville now the worse for their trip. When she arrived, Mr. Erwin shouted, “I knew you’d come, I knee you’d come. Mrs. Erwin scarcely knew her.
That is the story, Major Matthews absolutely correct. We think that the Indians who brought the note must have been coming in point Atkinson and Mr. Erwin hailed them. You see it would be much easier and the storm would not have been so hard or probably may not have even started. Another thing too, all of this took place after dark which made the trip more dangerous. Some did not believe that Mr. Erwin had sent the note and that it was just a trial with the intention of foul play. But the Indians loved her far too much for that. They said she went off laughing and knew that she would be taken care of.
Mother would like me to say a few words about Mr. & Mrs. Erwin and the true friends they were. One can imagine the relief to him as he was quite alone with his wife and he never forgot. He proved his loyal friendship in many many ways both to Grandma and her family and when she was in her last illness he was here with anything and everything she wanted.
I hope this hasn’t been too long but it is hard for me to condense my thoughts very much. We have had a slight touch of flu but are better now.
Hoping you are well and with kindest regards from us both.
Muriel Crackanthorpe
PS. I forgot to mention that Mr. Erwin also rewarded the Indians who braved that trip handsomely. — MC

Gassy Jack Deighton’s letter home – June 28, 1870

Gassy Jack Deighton’s letter home – June 28, 1870
John “Gassy Jack” Deighton

This letter, written by “Gassy Jack” Deighton in June of 1870 to his brother Tom in England, was acquired by Vancouver businessman H. R. MacMillan and given to the City of Vancouver on December 23, 1948. A typewritten transcript and photocopy is found in the City of Vancouver Archives [COVA  AM648] ; the original is kept in a safe.

This transcript was made in July of 2018 by Transcribimus volunteer Tegbir Kaur facebook | instagram

copy of original document here

Page 1.

Burrard Inlet-B.C.
June 28. 1870

Dear Brother

You may imagine my surprise when I got your letter not having one so long. You see by the head of this letter where I live has got a name it has been laid out has a town site since I wrote home last. I was the first settler here three years ago I have purchased the largest and it proves by luck to be the best but I can assure you it was a loansome place when I came dhere first surrounded by Indians I dare not look out doors after dark there was a friend of mine about a mile distant found with his head cut in two the Indian was caught and hung this place is a lumber country we have two saw mills here but only one is running at present owing to the Lumber Market being low but both Mills will run shortly. I have done well since I came here, Tom, and I have seen hard times too. I find a man has few friends when he is sick and no means. I was three years and a half sick and most of the time on crutches and four months in my bed. I run in debt two thousand dollars and business in New Westminster fell off so I Could not make a living I started with all my traps and six dollars and me sick came to this place I was here one year and a half before anyone found out I was making money finally it was found out and then a rush. Hotels Saloons Stores etc. Everybody was going to make a pile and run me out but they did not succeed for I have done the most of the business all the time I have got a good house and garden plenty of chickens and have an Indian boy to cook. I paid all my debts do not owe a cent and have a little cash besides. Johnson wrote me and said he was surprised that Bill Maltby should owe me money. Why Tom,he is a useless thing he came to Cala broke and remained so all the time and I supposed he was man enough to pay me when he went home if he had me a prsent of something even the value of a dollar. But no he has never wrote me since he left here. Tom, I was sorry when I read he was married to Jane because I consider him no account. There are the countries to try a man where he gets nothing but what he works for no windfalls no marriage dourys. Johnson told me how well he was off so I wrote him and let him know where he could get rid of some of it. Tom I shall never ask Bill Maltby for anything but he is mean. I am now more satisfied at him getting married so soon it is a wonder he did not play Mormon on it and get two wifes in case of an accident.

Tom there is an old Chum of yours here his name is Dick Challenger I think. He sends his best respects to you and Emma so soon has you get your Salmon let me know how much there is two half Bbls for you Ann & Johnson. I sent them to him for I thought they would go safer I paid the frieggt to Hull if you like them I will send you some more in the fall write and let me know where to send them too for the Hudson Bay Co will forward them to any part of England. X Tom write and let me know how you are fixed and if you are short I will send you some money I will also give you an order for my Camphor Trunk and all my effects you can have everything but do not part with the spoons or Trunk and get them at once for delays are dangerous. Tom I

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might come home for a few days but the chances are I shall not for I cannot leave here without selling out. Tom if anything happens me you shall have all I have got Ann is all right and Mother I believe when you write again give me all particulars.
Tom I wish you was out of the country and here you could make an easy living with little work if things start up here again I might send for you and Emma. X When Dick died Johnson wrote me and I thought by the letter that Dick was broke he talked about Doctors Bills and the care he was taking with him that he was keeping him out of the poorhouse but however I am going to write him for all particulars. By the time you get this you will have got the Salmon. It is Salmon bellies you will have to soak them before cooking you will find them nice Tom I have given you a long twister with my kind love to you and Emma.

I remain your
Affectionate Brother
John Deighton.

You need not present the order without Johnson objects to deliver the Trunk or something happens Mother. I will write Ann in a month.


H.R. MacMillan, City of Vancouver Archives CVA 134-085
H.R. MacMillan, City of Vancouver Archives CVA 134-085