The NWC cairn at Westwold, British Columbia.

The North West Company cairn at Westwold, British Columbia.

And so we began our next day exploring Falkland and Westwold, B.C., two towns that lie in the famous Grande Prairie. The phone number that David Gregory gave us for Ken Favrholdt, the Kamloops historian that Sam knew and I had met, worked, and Sam soon got in touch with him. We arranged to meet him at the Hwy 97 Cafe in Westwold, at noon. For us, it was a long drive from Penticton to Westwold, but we made it more or less in time, and enjoyed a delicious burger lunch while Sam and Ken caught up on all their recent news.

Then it was time to begin our “fieldwork,” as Ken called it. We wanted to find a man, named “Clemandson,” who Sam had met twenty years earlier when he was driving through the valley. Mr. Clemandson was a good hand with a metal detector, and he had shown Sam and his travelling partner items that he had found in his own fields; particularly at a camp or place that Sam described as a “grove of aspen that grew on a bench above a spring.” Mr. Clemandson had actually shown the two men that camping spot, and at his house shown him many of the artifacts (old guns, etc.) he had found there and elsewhere.

As I have said before, the second thing I wanted to see was the Westwold Cairn, which marked of a North West Company camp in the valley. I wanted to know if this “grove of aspen” that grew on a bench above a spring, was in the same place as the Westwold Cairn or not. I didn’t know whether or not I would be able to determine the difference: but, at least in part, that is why I arranged our visit to Westwold. 

The first stop was, of course, the local post office, where we discovered that Mr. Clemandson was actually Mr. Harry Clemitson: no wonder we couldn’t easily locate him! The post mistress, however, told us where his house was, and his wife sent us down to the place where he was working that day, and we talked to him. Unfortunately he did not remember meeting Sam twenty years earlier, and he also seemed to have forgotten about the camp and his various metal-detecting finds that were related to it, and so we got no new information at all from him on this occasion. He did, however, talk briefly of the concerns he had about the local First Nations: but I think Mr. Clemitson had a reason for his concern, as you will see below. A local feud, I suggest. 

And so we moved on.

Now I had innocently presumed that the Westwold Cairn would be placed somewhere reachable: if we asked some Westwold resident where it was, they would point to its location. It would be sitting sitting on the edge of a road somewhere and we could view it — BUT OF COURSE NOT! The Cairn was on a gentleman-farmer’s property, and at the back of his property and some distance from the house. Fortunately, we had obtained his name and address, and once again we arrived at a front door to disturb the wife. She didn’t seem to mind, and phoned her husband to come home for a minute or two.

When he arrived, we introduced ourselves, and he decided he had time enough to show us the Cairn. But to ensure we made it safely to the location of the cairn and back, he told us to follow in his tire-prints, more or less. We drove across a field, passing a collection of dead crows displayed on a fence (having a dead crow or magpie displayed on a fence keeps the others away for a while, it seems). We drove past a small building that had four coyotes living under it: and it seems he didn’t mind the coyotes as much as he disliked the crows! Then over a bridge that crossed a marshy stream: open and shut a gate or two; cross over the CN railway line; open and shut another set of gates; and finally drive toward the hills in the distance. We followed him faithfully until he pulled to a stop at the base of one of the hills. We were almost there!

A short walk through open grassy meadows and the beginning of the hills on the north side of the valley brought us to the Westwold Cairn and its protective surround. We heard voices in the woods. There was another group of people here: a neighbour who was showing some visiting American teenagers a piece of Westwold history! It was magical: the quiet of the woods and fields; the cheerful voices of the teenagers (two of whom you will see in the image above); the stream that led by the Cairn and flowed down the hill; the feeling you were standing in front of something important, and historical. Well, we were. 

And here, from a blogpost on Shuswap Passion, written by Jim Cooperman, at… I am told the site is compromised so you might not want to click it!  But he says…. 

At Westwold, first known as Grande Prairie, we drove across the valley on private land and hiked to the beginning of the hills to view the small cairn built in 1958 from the fireplace stones that came from the Shuswap’s first European dwelling, a supply cabin along the Brigade Trail. The plaque on the cairn, put there by the Westwold Women’s Institute, estimates that the cabin was built sometime between 1811 and 1820. Given that the cairn is located on the north side of the valley next to a spring, it is likely that the trail was located there, rather than where the highway is now. 

Another thing I just learned from the same source is that the Salmon River used to run through a vast marshlands, but an ditching project done by a local cattle rancher in the early 1960s “to channel the upper Salmon River and thus drain a wetland and convert to a hay field and pasture was clearly visible.” So what you see in the valley today is quite different than what it was in the past. In the spring the freshets would have filled the little river and its marshes, and the Brigades would have followed the north side of the valley. When they returned in the early fall, the country would have dried up a little but the marshes would still be there, still to be avoided.

And finally, from the little local history booklet, Saga of Westwold [Westwold, 1954] I learn that “It is, perhaps, not generally known that the valley of Westwold is believed to be the crater of a long since extinct volcano.” I have found that information in no other source, but according to Murphy Shewchuk, in his book Coquihalla Country, there are “volcanic rock bluffs along the roadway near km 70, 10 to 11 kilometres west of Westwold,” which are a favorite haunt of local rockhounds in search of moss and banded agate nodules, whatever they may be. And finally, there is the interesting little fact that I learned from our gentleman-farmer: the earthquake in San Francisco altered the water table in the Grand Prairie valley, near Westwold, and it has a much lower water table today than it used to have!

Random pieces of information, perhaps, but all of this is relevant down the road, and we will now approach the third visit we had on our project list. Ken parted company with us, and I phoned the young man who was supposed to show us the swimming hole (and other points of interest) at Monte Lake, just ten minutes drive down the road. He showed up, and said “change of plans, we are going to the Museum,” and he took us to a house at the edge of Westwold where I was shown into a small dining area and seated. Museum? It was a private house, and the female owner of the house had arranged that we be delivered there, and there we were, whether we wanted to be there or not.

Well, this was not supposed to be what was happening, and it certainly was not what I had arranged: and as you know this is my Canada Council Grant, what I have arranged is supposed to be what is happening, unless I and I alone change my mind. The woman seemed to be still angry about a blogpost I had written a dozen years earlier, and on my old blog. She started off with a series of strong declarations, in a voice that brooked no argument. She said, first, that the Brigades did not come through Monte Lake (WHOMP). [Well, she might be right, but that is not a convincing argument, and arguments are supposed to convince.] She told me that a lake called Duck Lake, that had lain just north of Monte Lake, is now called Duck Meadows because it dried up. (WHOMP!) That the Brigades went over a saddle or benchlands above Monte Creek, via Ingraham Creek, I believe. (WHOMP!) According to my ancient British Columbia Gazeteer, Ingraham Creek flows North into Salmon River, SE of Monte Lake, Kamloops District. Considering what I have just learned about the wetness of the Grande Prairie, she might be right, I guess, but like anyone who finds themselves in a situation like that, I wasn’t really listening anymore. 

The WHOMPS were not actually there, of course: that is just the violence of her voice and of her declarations. I asked her no questions: she just made all these aggressive declarations, one after another. She had no control over her anger, but I kept writing my notes. She said the cairn was built in 1970 by the school kids. Then she talked a bit about the well-known Kamloops historian named Jo Morse — He was likely John Jack Morse, high school teacher and historian who apparently died in 1952, after writing three booklets. After this she muttered something about the Clemitson family “being not in her good books right now.” [Here appears the other half of the argument I mention above, I think.] Nothing she said related to anything else she said: it was all free form, somehow, and I don’t think she would ever have ended this diatribe…

Except I then saw that she was gaping over my shoulder, at Sam, who stood behind me. I don’t know what he was doing, but whatever it was, it shut her up. Sam said quietly, “Shall we go, Nancy?” and I got up and walked out and we drove casually away. 

Hilarious! So we never got to have the talk at Monte Lake, but we had an interesting end to the day. It must have taken us a couple of hours to get home to Penticton, and I was exhausted when I got back to the Motel. We had one more day to spend in Summerland, but had made no plans for it as it was a Sunday. I wanted to find the mural in downtown Summerland, and succeeded in that: it appears at the top of some of my recent posts. And that is really the only thing I need to do: plus bookstores, of course! And we needed to find copies of the Brigade Trail booklet for Sam so he could take it home with him to read. 

So to go to the beginning of my Canada Council Grant adventures, go here: https://nancymargueriteanderson.com/canada-council-grant/

And when the next blogpost (and last in this series) is published, you will find it here. https://nancymargueriteanderson.com/summerland/

Copyright, Nancy Marguerite Anderson, 2023. All rights reserved. 


3 thoughts on “Westwold

  1. Kenneth Favrholdt

    Hi Nancy,

    Thanks for mentioning me. The name of the pioneer family in Westwold is Clemitson.



  2. Tom Holloway

    This was an adventure in itself! It sounds as though the detour by which you and Sam were delivered to the “museum” amounted to an abduction, if not quite kidnapping. And I wonder what the woman who lectured you thought that would accomplish. Was she angry ar you and Sam, at others in the area and just taking it out on you, or just angry?

    1. Nancy Marguerite Anderson Post author

      It felt like an abduction, actually. Also, I am immune suppressed of course, and she was exposing me to possible Covid, which is against Canada Council Grant rules. I think she has anger management issues. Apparently she commented on my ancient blogpost (13 or so years ago) and she told me when I arrived there that I had been “pissy.” And she was still made about it, thirteen years later! I don’t really know what she expects, when she talks to people in that tone of voice.