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

Emily Patterson’s midnight canoe journey – autumn of 1883
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