Mattie Frank, outside the family home, holding son Jack Frank in 1909, and other children Luella, Ivan, Floyd and Belle.

Heritage Day celebrates all that stands the test of time

Heritage Stands the Test of Time is the theme this year for the Annual Heritage Day set for this Saturday, Feb. 17, at the Arena Banquet Room.

Standing at 110-years old, the Old Henry Frank House, on Frank Street, is serving as a point of celebration with this year’s event.

Documenting the history of the home and its family with detail and first-hand accounts is The Old Aarvik Place by Belle Watt. Within it is a story by Ella Frank, the eldest of the Frank children, and Terrace’s first resident to graduate as a nurse, from a class of six, at Prince Rupert General Hospital in 1924.

Here is an excerpt of The Old Aavik Place, written by Ella Frank:

As I am the oldest of the Frank family children, my brother Floyd suggest maybe I could remember some interesting events of our pioneer days, so I will try to do my best comparing the present manner of living with that of the early days in Kitsum-Kalum and Terrace district.

I was seven years old when our family moved from the fishing village of “Port Essington“, to journey up the Skeena River aboard the stern-wheeler “Port Simpson” as far as Kitsum-Kalum Landing in May 1908. There were several tie-ups along the river to load cordwood for the boat.

There were four children in our family at that time, my brother Ivan was 5, brother Floyd was 3 years and six months, and sister Belle was about 2 years old. Dad had first come to see this part of the world in the year 1893 when, as a young man he came from the U.S.A. all the way up the coast in a rowboat, which took several months. In the year 1903, he took up a pre-emption of land at Kitsum-Kalum where he had spent some time hunting and prospecting. As well, he also did some fishing and carpentry work at Port Essington.

At Kitsum-Kalum boat landing there was a small hotel and general store and small post office in the store with Mr. and Mrs. Ed Eby in charge, as well as a log telegraph cabin and a small freight shed. A barn was built for the first team of horses that came on the same boat as we did. It was the first time we young ones had ever seen a horse. They were first used to make the wagon road, as until then there were only narrow trails winding through the timbers.

Our first shelter for about four months was a one room log cabin, about one and a half miles from the boat landing, which was in a clearing surrounded by thick woods. At the far end of the cabin where three bunks close together and over them hung cheesecloth mosquito bars. We soon learned how unfriendly mosquitoes could be and we often made smudges to keep them away.

The cook stove had an oven up in the pipe and mother had fun trying to bake bread and things for a while. We had chickens behind the cabin in a high net fence which kept us busy scaring away the hungry hawks. One day we saw a coyote in the bush near the cabin and ran to tell mother “we had seen an Indian dog”, as similar looking dogs belonged to some of the Indians living in Port Essington. We soon became acquainted with some of the unusual things of nature, so different from what we had known, such as listening to the rustling of cottonwood leaves when blown by the wind, the drumming noise of the partridge, and at dusk the mosquito hawks would make shrill noises circling overhead, then swoon toward earth and up again, and the weird howl of coyotes some nights. There were also pretty wild flowers and many kinds of moss. There were so many things to discover and learn about in that new land.

Rev. T. J. Marsh, an Anglican minister, had come to serve in the district a few months before his wife and two children, who came on the same boat with us. Etanda was eight years old and Tom about two. Mrs. Marsh’s sister, Miss Deacon, also came with them. Rev. and Mrs. Marsh had served fourteen years at a missionary school for Indians at Hay River on the Great Slave Lake.

The Marsh family also had a temporary home in a log cabin about half a mile west of us and church services were held nearby in a big tent on Sunday mornings. When mother went over to visit the Marsh family, I would have fun playing with Etanda’s dolls made of buckskin and beaded so pretty by the native women at Hay River. She also had a little tee-pee that we played in.

At that time there were about a dozen married women in the district, and most lived a few miles apart, so that when visiting it would usually mean a big day’s outing, with lots of walking through the woods and sometimes seeing the odd bear looking for berries. There were also a few bachelors on their pre-emptions. Two of them advertised in the “Family Herald” paper for a wife, and soon found they had widows with families, one came from London England, and one from Ontario.

Dad had a busy time that summer building a two story sawed log house about a quarter mile north of the boat landing. There was a small mill started that year, not far from there where logs were sawed. We were so happy to be able to move into our nice new home from the log cabin before the winter set in. The Marsh family had moved to the new Rectory by then too, which was across the road from our place. It too, was a two story house of sawed logs. A small building was erected nearby for a community hall and was also used as a church, then about two years later, used as our first school in the district. School opened in the year 1911, with eight pupils, four of them from the Frank family. The first teacher was Miss Jessie Morrison from Ontario, a niece of George Little, then a Bachelor living at Little Canyon who later was known as “the founder of Terrace”. Miss. Morrison stayed at our home and year or so later was married to George Dover. The school gradually increased in numbers as the Terrace area began to develop and about the year 1913 a larger one room school was built half way between Kalum and Terrace. Teacher and pupils all had to walk to school in those days, and sometimes through deep snow. There was a concrete basement where we played various games and on nice days we played baseball or football. in the Winter, one favorite recreation was building snow forts and firing snowballs to the other fort. There was a big heater in the center of the schoolroom, our only means of heat in winter, burning fire wood, and we always brought our lunches to school.

We had only coal oil lamps and lanterns in those days and doing school homework by lamplight was a bit difficult. We had candles in a tin that we called a “bug” which was handy going to the outhouse, etc., when dark. Those were the days! Later on gas lamps came into use.

There were three bedrooms upstairs in our house and below a storeroom used for winter supplies of canned goods, sacks of sugar, flour, rolled oats, etc. also boxes of dried fruits, that were brought in by river boat in August before boats would stop running until early in May the following year, because of low water and freeze up. The only means of transportation during winter months was by dog team. They brought the mail through from the coast, some one hundred miles west, sometimes encountering bad winter conditions, they sometimes traveled by the frozen river. It was always a welcome sight to see the mail carrier arrive. When taking off again he would call “Mush Mush” and away they would go to places along the river as far as Hazelton, which was also as far as the boats could navigate up river. It was always a big thrill to hear the whistle of the stern-wheeler coming up the river in spring those first three years before the railroad started running trains from Prince Rupert, then a growing terminal on the west coast, through to eastern Canada. We had never seen a train until then.

Those first winters the snow seemed so deep and when it would slide off the roof we had to stand on a chair to see out the top panes of windows, which meant lots of shovel work. Dad somehow made us snowshoes from willow trees, so we could tramp over the deep snow and when it froze, we had fun running all over the hard crust and would use a snow shovel as a sleigh.

Our first well was below the house, so we had to carry water uphill, but later Dad dug a deep well with a pump close to the back door, and we kept a pail of water on a bench in the house and a big kettle of water on the stove. A dipper was handy and a washbasin was on the bench. Mother washed clothes by hand in a round galvanized tub using a washboard and bar of laundry soup and then running the clothes through a hand wringer. Flat irons were heated on the stove to use for ironing. Sometimes Mother would roll hot flat irons in a heavy cloth to put under a pan overnight for rising bread that was made with slow “Royal” yeast. Bath water was heated in a boiler on the stove as there was no running water then, but the tub had a drain. So, it was quite a chore to bath in those days.

Our first two cows were raised from calves shipped in by boat in the year 1911. They became real pets. Mother and I learned to milk and carried on until brother Ivan took over. It was wonderful to have fresh milk and lots of rich cream, homemade butter and buttermilk. We had a few steady customers who bought the extra milk and butter which was hard to keep without refrigeration in those days.

Dad had the job of fish warden for several years, so he was away most of the time from July to October each year. One day when he was away, a bush fire started near the river and was driven by the wind into the woods below our home. We were terribly frightened as it flamed up the tall spruce, cedar, and hemlock trees and was so hot. Rev. Marsh and others came to help, they carried lots of water from the well to hang wet blankets on the walls and poured water over the dry shingles of the roof, as there were no hoses or running water those days. Mother carried things from the house to the far side of the yard and kept us there too. Finally, we were all relieved to see the danger over, but it was a sorry sight to see the blackened dead trees and sad to think of all the wildlife that had perished. Bush fires were quite common those days.

When the tie-makers had finished their work beside our place there were lots of big hewn chips that we carted home in a little hand wagon for firewood.

In the year 1910, hundreds of men were working in construction camps along the rail line. It was a hot dry summer and the fly population soared from poor sanitary conditions and soon dysentery started to spread through the camps and from there to homes. All four of us children took very ill. Floyd and I were so weakened by the attack that for a while our recovery was in doubt. There was only Dr. Johns caring for miles of construction crew patients. The settlers had to shift for themselves (no doctor, hospital or medicine or antibiotics those days). Rev Marsh, our good neighbor, helped all he could and finally located some honey, which gave us more strength and Mother was sure it saved our lives. She had an anxious busy time as brother John was then a baby, born April 1909, as the first white child born in the district.

Dad cleared most of the land at home by himself, cutting down the tall trees with axe and crosscut saw. Then he blasted the stumps and the horses pulled out the big roots which were piled for burning. When blasting stumps near the house, the windows were boarded over, and we would take to the cellar till the danger was over, then go out and help pick up the pieces. After ploughing and harrowing, Dad planted some fruit trees and berry bushes near the house and had potatoes and a vegetable garden, then when more land was ready, he grew some hay for the horses and cows. We also had pigs and chickens, cats, and a dog. I used to help with hay making and planting potatoes and digging them before we had machinery. Dad was real proud of his big “Gold Coin” potatoes.

Dad Weeks had the first big strawberry patch at Kalum and he needed pickers so Ivan, Floyd and I offered to try our hand at 25 a crate for picking. We had to walk about two miles in the hot sun and our backs ached from bending over trying to pick all we could. Four crates were about all one could do in a day, but we went home happy with our tummies full and quite proud of the first money we had ever earned and ready to pick more next day. A year or so later, we had our own strawberry patch and were quite experienced pickers by then. There was a big market at Prince Rupert and Dad shipped out many crates there and other places too. Mother used to make a big cake, heap on sweetened strawberries and top with whipped cream, which was a wonderful treat. We also made lots of jam from them. We also used to pick pails of wild raspberries and Mother made delicious jelly and jams with them too.

We had to make our own entertainment for the first few years. Mother made extra goodies at Christmastime and some of the lonely bachelors would be invited to join us and have fun singing old songs and carols while Dad played the violin. On Christmas Eve, at the foot of the bed we hung our stockings to find them filled in the morning with apples, oranges, candy and nuts and we were really thrilled as fresh fruit was a real treat in those times. The first dances were held at Eby’s Hotel in the dining room and when Mother went she sometimes took me along. I was quite young but loved to dance and soon learned to waltz, two-step, three-step, French minuet, schottische and square dance which were popular dances those days. About the year 1910, we had one of the first Edison Victor gramophones. It had a big horn and cylinder records and took a lot of winding up. We enjoyed records such as Sliver Bell, Rainbow, Redwing, and Uncle Josh comedies. The Indians called it “the canned man” and we thought it was really something in those days.

About the year 1912, the Marsh family moved to a new parsonage at Terrace and Rev. Marsh was in charge of St. Mathews Anglican Church there. The Eby family also moved to Terrace when the river boats stopped running and their hotel and store were taken down for use elsewhere. By then “Old Dad Weeks” had a two-story frame building north of the track in Kalum. The lower part was a store with a post office for a few years, and the upper part a hall that he rented for community affairs and dances, with most of the patronizers coming from the Terrace area. Some came with Griders horse and wagon or sleigh and some by foot. Later on, we used to walk the two miles to Terrace and back to dances. They were more like big house parties those days and music was lively with accordion, piano, violin and guitar. Sometimes the Terrace Band took a turn at playing. We girls had lots of fun dancing as there were not many ladies and especially, unmarried ones then.

As young ones, we always enjoyed the early sports days, May 24th and July 1st, when we would hurry on foot to the Terrace ballpark and be really excited to hear the band playing as we came nearer. Most everyone would turn out for those events. Ivan and Floyd took part in baseball games and I tried the ladies races. There would be about ten ladies in the foot race, and one, Hilda Chichester, always won. So, on May 24, 1916, I practiced running at home and was quite happy to win that race.

Mr. and Mrs. Geo. Powers opened the first bakery in Terrace about 1923. Mother had her bakery too. I remember there was a barrel of flour handy to the bake table, as with a growing family and a hard-working husband, she was kept busy baking lots of bread and biscuits, not forgetting hot cakes and “Crown” corn syrup, so popular in those days.

I sometime wonder how Dad managed to accomplish so much those early years, having so little to work with. He also took a keen interest in politics and school affairs and sat as a school trustee for many years. In 1911, the Farmers Institute was organized in the district. Dad was a charter member and served on the board of directors and later as president. He was also road foreman for a few years when a road was built to Kalum Lake and from Terrace to Usk, when the only road building equipment then was a grader drawn by horse and the use of blasting powder.

In 1926, Rev. Dean Marsh had to resign as minister of the Terrace Anglican Church because of ill health and blindness. In 1928, he was made a Cannon by Bishop Rix in recognition of his long and faithful service. He passed away September 4th, 1930.

The first doctor in Terrace was Dr. Trainer and the nearest hospitals were Hazelton and Prince Rupert. Both were training schools for student nurses for several years. I can proudly claim to be the first Terrace girl to graduate as a nurse in the year 1924, class of six, from Prince Rupert General Hospital which was a training school from year 1912 till about 1932. I also was on the staff of the Red Cross Hospital that started at Terrace in March 1948. It had 10 beds and as Terrace rapidly expanded it was turned over to Terrace and District on December 1, 1951. I served on staff eight years till 1956. In March 1961, Mills Memorial Hospital was officially opened as a modern new hospital to meet the needs of Terrace and district, named in honour of Dr. and Mrs. Stanley Mills who served the community faithfully and well from 1929 until 1961.

Louella (Ella) Frank and Elwood Brooks were married in Terrace in September 1925. Elwood worked at the C.N.R. Station for about 39 years, retiring as freight shed foreman in 1961, when they then moved south. They lived on Vancouver Island until moving to White Rock in 1964, enjoying their retirement. Luella Brooks nee (Frank) passed away in White Rock in July 1994 at the age of 93. Ella is buried beside her husband Elwood in the Terrace Pioneer Cemetery.

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