Tel: 250 - 782 - 7144

1901 Alaska Avenue, Dawson Creek, BC

© 2019 Mile 0 Park

Welcome to the Pioneer Village

Self Tour Guide!

Intro

Welcome to Walter Wright Pioneer Village!

 

Walter Wright, long-time resident and businessman of Dawson Creek, had a passion about the preservation of our area's pioneer history. Through much personal effort and planning, his dream was realized in 1970 by the formation of Walter Wright Pioneer Village. To honour him for his vision, his active role in the completion of this project and his years of other exemplary community involvement, the Village carries his name.

 

The South Peace Historical Society (and then President, Mr Wright), in conjunction with governments, service clubs and volunteers built the attraction to represent a street of pioneer days (1912-1945). Boardwalks and a main street of gravel were built to complete the whole charm of an era gone by and the buildings were staged on the site.

 

The Village is a collection of original buildings that were carefully moved from the surrounding countryside to the first site which was by the airport on Highway 2, and historic replicas that were painstakingly rebuilt. To complete the picture, donations of the artifacts, vintage vehicles and farm machinery tell the story of the area's first settlers. The South Peace Historical Society maintained the buildings and artifacts.

 

Walter Wright Pioneer Village was officially reopened at its new location adjacent to Rotary Man-Made Lake in June 1992 as part of the Rendezvous ‘92 Celebrations of the 50th Anniversary of the Alaska Highway.

In 1992, the South Peace Mile 0 Park Society was created to manage, promote and maintain the newly relocated Walter Wright Pioneer Village, plus the Mile 0 Campground and Rotary Lake Facilities.

1. Mile 0 Park Gardens

The Dawson Creek and District Horticultural Society, a non-profit and volunteer based organization maintained the flower gardens throughout the village for many years. 

Developed in 1991-92, the project was dubbed Gardens North. Years of tireless dedication to planting and maintenance has produced landscaping that features dramatic displays of perennial and annual flowers and shrubbery.

As adults, Fred and Alice began construction of this house in 1928. It was located at Riley's Crossing, about 10 miles east of Dawson Creek. After a year of work for completion, and both remaining unmarried, they made this their home for twenty years.

 

Much care had to be taken in construction as the extreme northern climate of harsh winters and hot summers demanded a very durable structure. Most of the time, a building could only be completed with available materials and often every-day items were reused. 

 

Oakum is one of those revamped products. Traditionally used for caulking the hull of ships, oakum was created from hemp rope that was no longer strong enough to be used. The rope was untwisted and picked apart by hand, resulting in a loose stringy fibre that was soaked in tar. The final product was then wedged between the wall logs providing much-needed insulation. 

 

Another salvaged household product widely used in insulating walls was old rags that were also soaked in tar. Both of these products were used in the Taylor house.

 

Dove-tail joints that date back in history to ancient Egypt are another characteristic of the area's best pioneer homes. They were used to form the basic structure of the house because of their tensile strength (resistance to being pulled apart). 

 

This woodworking technique is used to attach two pieces of wood to form a corner without using nails. Dovetails are shaped so that the two pieces of wood fit together like pieces of a puzzle. Wedge-shaped pieces are cut out of each log and then the projections of one are fitted into the recesses of the other, making them fit snugly together.

 

Household furnishings and goods displayed in the house, accurate to the 1920's period, have all been donated to the project and are the property of the South Peace Historical Society.

2. Taylor House

In 1912 Fred Taylor and his sister, Alice emigrated with their parents from England to Calgary, Alberta. Herbert Taylor, (the Dad) believed in the theory, as did many pioneers, that the further you get away from civilization, the more freedom you have. In 1916 he and his wife came to see the wilderness of this area. They liked it, stayed the winter in Pouce Coupe and in the spring of 1917 filed a homestead, sent for their children and made a home.

3. Burled Spruce Log

This 50 foot burled spruce log was discovered by Paul Ash (Gordondale, Alberta) and is a rare specimen because of its incredible length. For preservation and for all to enjoy, it was donated to Pioneer Village.

The large growths on the trunk of the tree are called burls. Burls will not kill a tree, but will weaken it so that it may be vulnerable to diseases that can kill. A rarity in nature, trees with burls are always found in clumps. The largest burled trees in the world are found in the province of British Columbia and are abundant in the Dawson Creek area. This phenomenon can also be found in the state of Alaska. 

 

A burl begins life as a gall-a small tumour on the tree that is caused by stimulation to the presence of fungi, insects or bacteria. A slight irritation to the bark of a tree can cause a gall. The gall grows to become a burl which is a bumpy disfiguration that can grow to be massive. Once started, the burl grows with the tree, each year building its own new growth ring. Growth rings in a burl are spaced farther apart than the normal tree as the burl grows much faster than the tree. 

 

The hardness of wood is related to the rate of growth, making the wood inside the rapidly growing burl softer than the wood in the rest of the tree. This fast growth also results in wood that has an attractive grain that is not found anywhere else, thus making it very desirable for fine furniture and carvings.

4. The Village of Dawson Creek Firehall (1940)

Having possession of two of Dawson Creek's heritage fire trucks, local firefighters needed somewhere to store and preserve the vehicles. Through their efforts, some funding and much local assistance, this replica of the first Dawson Creek Fire Hall was built as a school project by the Carpentry and Joiners Class of 2000 from the Northern Lights College local campus.

 

It is complete with a siren and other fire fighting memorabilia, of which there are 1950 era masks and jackets, etc. The original location of the fire hall and up until 1961, was downtown Dawson Creek in the 1000 block on the north side of 103 Avenue.

 

In 1938, realizing the need for protection, the village of Dawson Creek established its first fire department. Fire fighting was originally done completely by volunteers. Eventually, the Village Council would pay each man $1 for each day of fire fighting. At this time, the department used a 40-gallon fire extinguisher that was mounted on a hand-drawn cart. The cart at the front of the hall is similar and of the era, but it came from the Dawson Creek Airport.

 

In 1941, the first motorized fire truck was purchased at a cost of $250. It was a Model A Ford truck that carried a 200 gallon water tank. There was no pump so the tank was pressurized by CO2 forcing water through the hose. 

 

Two of the later fire trucks are stored here. The first truck is a 1942 K8 International 600 GPM (Gallons Per Minute) Pumper that was bought second-hand in 1958 from the Canadian Air Force in Whitehorse, Yukon.

 

Another of the Dawson Creek fire department's historical trucks stored here is a 1951 Ford LaFrance 500 GPM. This truck was purchased new in 1951, but was not delivered to Dawson Creek until 1952. This made it quite a topic of debate that it was a 1952 model, not a 1951. It was proven to be a 1951 Ford when parts were needed and none of the 1952 parts ordered resembled or fit the ones on the truck. 

This vehicle has two names as it is a Ford truck that was sent to the LaFrance Company to install all of the firefighting equipment. The Dawson Creek Fire Department eventually sold it to the Tomslake Fire Department (15 miles south of Dawson Creek). When it was no longer needed there, and in order to preserve it, several local firemen bought it back for $1000. In running condition, this truck is driven in our annual local parades.

5. Dawson Creek School

This was the second school in the Dawson Creek area. The first structure where classes were held was simply four log walls and a roof. Bitter cold winters would force classes to be cancelled. Recognizing the need for a better building, the community pitched in and built this school. 

 

This is the original structure that was built in 1916 in Dawson Creek at today's address: the south-west corner of 8 Street and 110 Avenue (across from the Dawson Mall). This is the south side of the creek and the school was intentionally built here to be near families as the settlers on the north side of the creek were all bachelors. It was originally called the Pouce Coupe School.

 

The school was closed in the fall of 1918 due to lack of students, but an influx of settlers in 1919 required it to be re-opened. This is when it was re-named the Dawson Creek School.

 

By 1931 it was too small for its 88 students and they were transferred to a new school in Pouce Coupe (6 miles south of Dawson Creek). The school was used throughout the 1930's as a public hall providing a venue for community meetings, dances and events and for a short time, was a family residence. 

Because land was needed for expansion in the 1940's, the town bought the property the school was on, and it had to be moved. The porch entrance of the school was given to an interested area resident and the main structure was set up on skids to be moved away by whoever wanted it. A family named the Carlings moved it to their farm about 5 miles north-west of town and used it for an animal shelter.

1978 marked the return of the Dawson Creek School to the public eye. Hearing about its whereabouts, Mr. Wright followed up on the lead, with the result that the owners gave it to him. He organized the move of the school to Pioneer Village; and because of him, it is preserved here at its third and final home. Unfortunately, the porch was never found.

 

The school has been decorated with hand-crafted recreations of furnishings and fixtures and the same style of stove that was used in 1916.

6. Telegraph and Telephone Exchange

This building was fashioned from part of a skid shack as a display building to preserve and give public viewing access to the communication artifacts of the South Peace Historical Society. Society members put on the exterior siding, revamped the interior and reinforced the floor to accommodate the weight of the two-position operator switchboard to be stored here.

 

The two-position switchboard was used in Dawson Creek in the 1950's while the smaller switchboard came out of the new Dawson Hotel which was built in 1943. This was an in-house exchange for telephone calls to transfer incoming calls to rooms in the hotel.

 

Also in this collection is a typewriter from the United States Army Signal Corps Office of 1942. The military office was located about ½ mile north of here (on the left side of the Alaska Highway going north) next to the World War II repeater station building.

 

Although not from the old train station, the telegraph equipment on display is similar to what was used there in the 1940's. The wall telephones are of the 1930's era where an operator had to connect each phone call. 

 

The signage is from British Columbia Telephone Company that provided the area with service from 1961 after it merged with the North-West Telephone Company to become the largest system in the province. B. C. Tel served the area until 1999 when it became part of Telus Corporation.

7. Multiplex

This project started in 2014 and houses a Bank, Newspaper Office, Doctor’s Office, and Barbershop/Beauty Salon. The idea was born through the need to move artifacts that had been stored in back rooms, the Sudeten Hall basement, and crammed into the upstairs rooms of houses, into areas where the public could appreciate the displays. The plan was created and with the help of the City, the plans where drawn up. In 2015 the Northern Lights College along with their first-year carpenter class took on the project to build the building. They started the project on October 1st, 2015 and it was completed by the end of April 2016. The lumber that was used in the construction was planed by Mr. & Mrs. Karl Toerper, in Grand Prairie as this style of lumber is no longer available. 

8. W.O. (Wes) Harper's General Store

This is a replica of W.O. Harper's General Store that was first located in the old townsite which was two miles south-west of our present day city. Using photographs as a model, the replica was built with salvaged lumber, period siding and wallpaper that were found in the area. It was carefully built to be as exact to the original as possible. 

 

In 1930 the railroad arrived in Dawson Creek, and the land near the station was surveyed. Harper moved his store from the original townsite to three lots near the railway depot where the new Dawson Creek was springing up. These lots that were located on the northeast corner of where the Mile 0 Post is today, cost him $950.

 

The store was moved on skids and towed by three tractors that were borrowed from the contractor building the railroad yard. During this move, it was business as usual as the store stayed open while it was in motion.

 

In 1936, an addition was built on and six years later it was sold. The new owner Mah Show & Associates built the New Palace Hotel and Café on the site in 1943, resulting in the original building being lost in the purchase. Mr. Harper re-opened his business in a new store one block down the street. He stayed in business there until 1952 when he sold out to the Hudson's Bay Company.

The original store at the old Dawson Creek site that was built in 1922 by Howard Atkinson. Harper managed this store for  Atkinson and then bought it.

9. Trappers Cabin

The cabin was built in 1930 or 1931 by the Lars & Inga Paulson family who homesteaded in the Kilkeran area. It was built with wooden pegs instead of nails at the corners. They used the ground for the floor in the cabin. The Paulson’s were quite involved in building the Seven Mile Corner school and the Alderdale Hall at the 7 Mile corner. Lars passed away in 1963 & Inga in 1966. In the early 1950’s the cabin was moved to the 1/4 section which later was owned by the Cox family. Hawkins Norman owned the property at this time. He was a brother in law to Lars Paulson. Mr. Norman was involved in farming and logging. He also helped to build the school and hall. In the late 1950’s he passed away in his sleep in the cabin. Don K. Rice was the administrator of Hawkin Norman’s estate. They were good friends. The estate was not settled until 1983. Mr. Rice then bought the property and the cabin. He was the one who had built the floor in the cabin the 1950’s.

 

The property was then sold to Elwood and Elizabeth Baker. They logged the 1/4 section in early 1994. Gordon Earl Cox and his wife Dorsey D Cox purchased the property on July 1994. At this time a bachelor by the name of Dale Dow Beauls lived in the cabin. The Cox family farmed the 1/4 section for hay and green feed. They also had about 22 head of cattle.

 

There was no activity on the farm after 2008. In the fall of 2012, the cabin was donated to the South Peace Historical Society by Mrs. Doris Cox, in memory of her husband Gordon Earl Cox. It was moved to the Walter Wright Pioneer Village on October 7th, 2012 by members of the South Peace Historical Society.

10. Comboose

The City of Dawson Creek obtained from the CN Railways a coach-caboose rail car also known as a “comboose,” which had been owned by the NAR and was delivered to Dawson Creek on September 12, 1981. The comboose NAR #305 was built for the Boston & Albany Railroad in 1899. The comboose was later spotted on a portion of the team track. It was almost completely rebuilt, leased by Joe Delawsky and named the “Blue Goose Caboose.”

11. Pouce Coupe Central School

This is an original structure that was built in 1918 at McQueen's Lake which is about 3 miles northeast of Dawson Creek. It was built entirely by community volunteer labour and donated materials. 

 

Because of the lack of light and heat only being provided by a wood stove, it was at the discretion of parents to decide when it was too cold to go to school. Once again classes would be cancelled in cold weather and then stay open later into the summer to make up for the lost time.

 

When the school was no longer needed, it served as a community hall until 1971. Walter Wright purchased it and moved it to take its permanent place in the Village. Although there were some desks inside, most of the contents are not original to the building. Everything is vintage and authentic to the era and such artifacts as the water fountain, the ink wells, the maps and the teacher's bell tell an accurate story of that time. The South Peace Retired Teachers Association has adopted this school and in June of each year, organizes pioneer classroom experiences for school children.

 

Located in the back of the school where the teacher's living quarters which have since been remodelled as a temporary barbershop and beauty parlour display. When a permanent spot is obtained for these artifacts, the room will be restored.

12. St. Paul's Anglican Church

Built at Kilkerran (10 miles northwest of Dawson Creek) on the Murray Harper Farm, this was the first Anglican Church in the area. Volunteer labour started the construction in the spring of 1919; finally getting it completed in the fall. To finance the project, many local fundraisers were held. Unfinished, but still a church, a local couple was married here in July of that year. 

 

This original structure has remained solid even after it has gone through three moves since it was built. The church's first move was from the country to the village of Dawson Creek. After the move, the church was also a community centre for town meetings, dances and local events. The pioneers who built the church paid meticulous attention to detail and their craftsmanship is evident. The altar, carved completely by hand shows the care taken and the skill involved in its creation. 

 

The church was closed in 1958 and was moved to the north part of Dawson Creek. In 1970 the Anglican Church Diocese donated it and all of its contents to the City of Dawson Creek. For its third and final home since construction; it was moved to Pioneer Village in 1990. Today it is more than just a museum of the pioneer era. It is available for rent and is a very popular and special venue for summer weddings.

13. Memorial Rose Garden

The Dawson Creek and District Horticultural Society initiated the idea of a rose garden planted in memory of loved ones. Each bush was to represent an individual that had passed on. Upon contribution from a family, the Society offered to plant and care for a rose shrub. Because of the popularity of the project, space has become limited. Today the Society places a plaque at the front with the name of the person being remembered. 

 

The garden is planted with roses that survive the northern winters and bring a display of blooms in the summer beautifying the area. In full bloom, the garden is stunning and is used for a backdrop for many weddings, graduations and family photographs.

14. Story of Water

The Monitor Vaneless was manufactured by the Baker Manufacturing Company in 10-foot and 12-foot models and is a relatively simple windmill. The 10-foot “Model L” had six sections; the 12-foot “Model M” had eight sections. During the 1870s and 1880s, the Monitor Vaneless was made in a pattern without a counterweight. In 1892, a spherical balance weight was added. Following this improvement, the windmill was produced with few design changes for the next 20 years. The footballshaped counterweight like the one on this windmill was introduced in 1918. John S. Baker, son of the company’s founder Allen S. Baker, patented the Monitor Vaneless design on January 1, 1918 — exactly 55 years after the Homestead Act became effective and necessitated mass production of windmills in the United States.

 

This windmill was bought in Manitoba and donated to the South Peace Mile 0 Park Society in 2018 by Dale and Maxine Campbell. 

15. Red Barn

A classic Red Barn with a gambrel roof and a roomy hay loft houses the Wright Family Collection of horse drawn carriages, buggies, cutters and sleighs, and harkens back to a bygone era before the advent of the automobile.

 

An earlier attempt by the South Peace Historical Society to save an area pioneer log barn, which had previously been moved to the Pioneer Village site, was unsuccessful when the structure became unstable as a result of rotten logs caused by a manure pile which had been located long ago along one wall and the barn had become unstable. It was demolished in 1998.

 

However, the foundation was structurally sound and a replica barn was built on the existing foundation in 2010-2011. The city of Dawson Creek had previously purchased a vital piece of property, located within Pioneer Village, from Chevron Oil Company.

16. Story of Grain

 Grain is the fruit (seed) of the cereal grass plant. Grains grown in the Peace Region are Wheat, Barley and Oats, but Spelt and Rye are also grown to a lesser extent. The seed is made up of 3 parts the endosperm, germ and bran Humans for centuries have been using grain as the main food for ourselves and our animals.  

 

1 lb. of seed can grow into plants producing 40-60lbs. of new seed.

17. Marion House

This house was built by two brothers, Alphonse and Oscar Marion. They were born and raised in eastern Canada: Alphonse in Ontario in 1874; Oscar in Quebec in 1888. As adults, they were attracted here by advertisements of prosperity waiting out west here in the Peace River area. 

 

The year 1914 saw them working as Grand Trunk Railway camp cooks in Prince George (250 miles south of Dawson Creek). Hearing about what this area had to offer, the brothers travelled here looking for land. After their journey of 11 days by boat and portage, they managed to purchase homesteads. Before returning to their jobs in Prince George they built an 8 foot x 8 foot shanty. This shack was to be used for shelter when they returned to work on the land.

 

They remained working in Prince George buying and collecting materials for the new homestead while travelling back to work their land; permanently staying in 1915.

The house was completed in the fall of 1917. Crudely cut logs were used for the walls which were first covered in newspaper, then later heavy brown paper and finally in the early 1940's, flowered wallpaper was hung. The curtains were made from flour and sugar sacks that were bleached and trimmed with bias tape.

The house was originally located about four miles northeast of what is now Dawson Creek and was home to two generations of the family. It was used as a residence until 1966 and was moved to Pioneer Village in 1995.

18. Loiselle Blacksmith Shop

Walking through the shop, you will see an array of metal tools that were standard equipment of the pioneer era. The blacksmith was a vital part of the community as horses had to be shod and farm equipment, tools and machines had to be maintained and repaired.

 

The shop was built by Napoleon Loiselle who emigrated with his family from France to North Dakota and then north to Canada. In October of 1937, he purchased a quarter section of land about one mile west of Dawson Creek where he settled with his wife and ten children. 

 

Napoleon was a blacksmith, a machinist and a farmer and he worked hard at improving and converting the equipment at hand. He built the shop, many of the machines inside, and of particular note, the lathe. He also successfully converted horse drawn farm equipment (a binder and a pull type combine) into self-propelled machinery.

 

In the early 1950's he built a track caterpillar tractor from scrap automobile parts. Word of his invention travelled east to the Massey-Harris Company in Toronto which was one of the leaders in building farm machinery at the time. The company's engineers made a proposal to him to move to Toronto and assist in the production of his machine. Not wanting to relocate to a big city; he declined and stayed on the farm.

19. Sudeten Display

20. Bay Tree Hall

The Bay Tree Community Hall was constructed by volunteer labour on the N.E. 1/4 2-7-13 W6th in 1931. This was on land donated by John A. Svenson, a homesteader from Sweden, for $1.00 per year on a 20 year lease. By 1933 all was completed but the roof, which was cause for celebration, so the first dance was held, minus a roof. the lack of roof kept the attendees dancing to stay warm. The completed hall was 30 x 40’. and constructed of logs. The first wedding dance was held in 1934 for Emil and Alex Lehmann and was the first of many events to be held at the hall, including dances, box socials, Christmas concerts, and Halloween parties. 

 

Once the hall was completed, the local residents decided there was a need for a committee to help with the upkeep and operations. The United Farmers of Alberta Branch No. 800 was created with this in mind. After they disbanded, the Bay Tree Community Hall Association was formed. The hall was moved to the Walter Wright Pioneer Village in the fall of 2015.

21. Johnson-Davies House

This home was built in 1936 for Robert Johnson and his family. It was erected in a small settlement called Carpio (about 25 miles northeast of Dawson Creek).

The Johnsons moved to this area from North Dakota to escape the effects of the dirty thirties. Many settlers relocated here in the 1930's as the area was not affected by drought or depression. There was no drought, crops were growing, and (historically) because of the isolation and far distances from any larger centre, the people were self-sufficient. All of this made the area a very attractive place to live.

When it was moved to Pioneer Village, the house was named for the Johnson family that lived in it and for Ken Davies, the last owner and the man who donated it to Pioneer Village.

22. Landry School (Mile 1 Cafe)

Renovated inside to accommodate a small café business, this was one of the first schools in the area. It was built in 1917 about five miles northeast of Dawson Creek. The school (and the district in which it was located) was named for Stanislaus Landry, the man who was the catalyst for getting it built.

Originally coming out west with his uncle in 1913 from Quebec, Landry brought his family here in the winter of 1915. Up until then, a school had not been needed because most of the pioneers were bachelors and childless couples. Having the only children in the district, Landry began a letter campaign lobbying the Department of Education in Victoria for a school. During this time, many new settlers arrived in the area making the building of a school a possibility. 

 

After several months of back and forth letter writing, the Education Department came to a decision. If the residents were willing to do the construction, the Department would send a small grant and try to supply a teacher.

 

Mr. Landry took it upon himself to lease (donate) some of his land for the school site and purchased with his own money, all of the supplies that were needed for the construction. He bought most things including windows, doors, lumber and nails. 

 

The school was designed to be big enough for community gatherings. It also had many windows in order to get as much natural light inside as possible. Modern luxuries such as His & Hers outdoor toilets, a wash basin, a water pail and an air tight heater were included in the new building.

 

Soon a letter arrived from the Department of Education stating that because of Landry's determination and persistence in getting a school, it had been named after him. Also enclosed was the long awaited grant money which was the sum of $150.00. This was a lot less than had been expected and that had been spent. In true pioneer fashion, the community paid Mr. Landry back with money raised by many local fundraisers.

23. Boundary United Church

Boundary United Church was erected completely by volunteers and local donations of cash. It was built in the East Pouce Coupe District which is near the Alberta, British Columbia border; thus the name Boundary.

 

The church was completely built by hand, to the extent that logs were cut in the bush and hauled to the sawmill for finishing into lumber. This started in 1931, and after a break to put the crops in, everyone returned to assemble the structure. The church was dedicated in July of  1932. 

 

Jens Jensen, a master woodworker donated his skill by handcrafting the pews. The pulpit was made (at a cost of $4) by another artisan, Carl Stone. The rest of the interior furnishings were bought with cash donations from people in the area. The Pulpit Bible and the organ were donated by the Mission Service Fund of the United Church. 

 

Russell Ross arrived in 1933 to be the first preacher in the church. He was a very busy man as every Sunday he would travel to three or four different villages to hold services. In the summer he would drive a Model T Ford; in winter he had to journey by horse. He did not have the usual church manse in which to live, rooms were rented at the Dew Drop Inn (Alaska Hotel in Dawson Creek) and in the Hart Hotel (in Pouce Coupe). Because of his many travels, he was known as the saddlebag preacher. 

 

The church was in use until 1969. In that year, the congregation voted that it was a historical monument that should be preserved. When Pioneer Village was created, it was moved on site.

24. Sudeten Hall

The Sudetens (for whom the hall was given its name), are a German-speaking ethnic group which for centuries belonged to the multi-ethnic Austrian-Hungarian Empire. Their name is derived from the Sudeten Mountains surrounding the region where they lived. 

 

After 1918, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire was divided into several countries and the Sudeten homelands became part of the newly-founded Czechoslovakia. This political division made the Sudetens a minority that did not speak the language and who consequently were treated as second-rate citizens. Hostilities between the Czechs and Sudetens, and the oppression of the Sudetens escalated in the 1920's and intensified further in the 1930's.

 

In 1938 Hitler gained annexation of the region for Germany. Sudetenland was immediately occupied by Nazi forces and unified with the Third Reich. Being an anti-Nazi group that was now part of Nazi Germany, their property was confiscated and thousands were murdered.

 

To escape this persecution, they sought out safe countries to which they could flee. During this time, 3 million of the 3.2 million Sudeten Germans were expelled, detained, murdered or fled the country. Canada was the only country willing to accept so many refugees at one time but this was not without conditions: they had to have the cost of transportation to their destination; had to have $1500 cash to get established and they had to become farmers. Their flight to neighbouring countries for temporary refuge left them with nothing, and in particular, without the money that was required to immigrate. Once a refugee fund was set up by the British and Czech governments, the Sudetens came to Canada.

The next hurdle they faced was the requirement to become farmers. All of these people were from large cities and were accustomed to the amenities that urban environments offered. None were farmers. Imagine their shock of being in a much harsher climate, having no house and no source of income, and being dropped in the middle of the wilderness to exist with no farming experience.

 

From 1939-1940, Sudeten refugees totalling 518 people (152 families and 37 single men) were assigned to settle in a backwoods area (Tomslake and Tupper, about 15 miles south of Dawson Creek).

The first Sudeten Hall built there by these immigrants as a community centre was a log structure that was opened in  May of 1940.  A fire in 1953 completely destroyed it and because of a major political split in the community, each side built its own smaller hall to replace it. The group that built this hall was eventually unable to maintain it causing it to fall into major disrepair. 

 

In 1990 the Tomslake Canadian German Association gave possession of this building to the City of Dawson Creek resulting in renovation and its relocation to Pioneer Village. Inside is a pictorial display, artifacts and factual narrative of the people, their history and their culture. Still used as a community hall, it is available for rent and remains a very popular setting for year round events.

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