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.
VANCOUVER, BC, CANADA
Add. MSS. No. 192
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: