Friends and colleagues, we have a New Year’s resolution for 2014: to finally finish all of our Featured Place posts for our blog! This has been an ongoing feature where we feature items in our collections relating to the places in B.C. that are the namesakes of the rooms in the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre.

Today we’re going to look for resources to do with Wells B.C. Wells is located in the Cariboo district between Quesnel and Barkerville- much closer to Barkerville though! Today it is mostly a tourist town, accommodating visitors on their way to Barkerville, but it was originally founded as a company town for the Cariboo Gold Quartz Mining Company- whose archives we happen to house here in Rare Books and Special Collection. The town of Wells was named after one of the founders of the company, Fred Wells. The town was established in the first year the mine went into production, which was 1933, and the population plummeted when the mine closed in 1967.

In addition to letters, reports, and maps, the fonds has a number of photographs showing the development of the mine and the town. These mini panoramas (the originals are just over 15 cm in length!) show the mine and the surrounding area ca. the 1930′s:

Historic photograph of water and hills surrounding mine.

Wells area, ca. 1930′s, Cariboo Quartz Mining Company fonds folder 3-11

Historic photograph of mine under construction.

Mine construction, ca. 1930′s, Cariboo Quartz Mining Company fonds folder 3-11

Historic photograph of mine with town in background

View of mine and town in background, ca. 1930′s, Cariboo Quartz Mining Company fonds folder 3-11

You can click on the images above to see them much larger. The Wells Classroom is room 461 in the Barber Centre.

We’re looking forward to featuring more B.C. places in 2014- we hope you’ll read along with us!


It seems appropriate in our blog series about places in British Columbia used as room names in the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre to address researching the origin of place names. There are a number of sources that are useful for researching place names, and one here at UBC is the Norman Ogg Place Name Collection (see the finding aid here).  In 1979-1980, Norman Ogg undertook a study of the origins of place names in Canada (excepting Quebec) and Washington State.  He received many letters from town and city clerks and archivists explaining the origin behind their city’s name, as well as a number of ephemeral items such as brochures.

The place we are examining this week is Keremeos.  Keremeos is located in the Southern Interior of British Columbia and is in the Similkameen Valley.  The aboriginal people of this area, the Sylix, are now part of the Okanagan Nation Alliance. Horticulture and agriculture are the main industries in Keremeos, and the area is also home to Cathedral Provincial Park.  As Norman Ogg learned from the clerk of the Village of Keremeos in 1980, there are two theories behind the name Keremeos: it was believed to be derived from the Aboriginal language of the area to mean either “wind channel in the mountains” or “cut in two by water,” referring to the Similkameen River.

Letter to Norman Ogg from clerk of Village of Keremeos

Letter to Norman Ogg from clerk of Village of Keremeos

(Click on the image of the letter to see a larger version).

Other sources for place names in British Columbia include BC Geographical Names (a free online resource), The encyclopedia of raincoast place names by Andrew Scott and many other books available at UBC Library which can be browsed by subject in the catalogue.

The earliest source for B.C. place names was written by Captain John Walbran, captain of the S.S. Quadra. This photograph is from the Chung Collection, which also contains a copy of Walbran’s book British Columbia Coast Names, and one of his chief officer’s logs.

Captain John Walbran, from the Chung Collection

Captain John Walbran, from the Chung Collection

As described by the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Walbran’s Coast Names is “an amazing grab-bag of history, biography, and anecdote,” and a “rich mass of anecdotes and digressions.”  It is a well-known and well-used source of British Columbia history.

In the Barber Centre, the Keremeos Lounge is on the second floor, adjacent to Ike’s Cafe on the south side of the building. A great place to have a cup of coffee and read up on B.C. place names!

Keremeos Lounge, adjacent to Ike's Cafe

Keremeos Lounge, adjacent to Ike's Cafe

The Skeena River Room, room 317 in the Irving K Barber Learning Centre, is a group study room that is named after the Skeena River, the second-longest river entirely within British Columbia’s borders (the largest being the Fraser River). Six-hundred and twenty-one kilometers long, it flows south and west through the Skeena and Coast Mountains, reaching the Pacific Ocean at Prince Rupert.

Port Essington, Skeena River, 1888, BC124

Port Essington, Skeena River, 1888, BC124

For thousands of years, the Tsimshian (“People of the Skeena”) have lived along the river; the Coastal Tsimshian live near the lower part of the river and the Gitksan live on the upper part of the Skeena River. George Vancouver visited the mouth of the Skeena River in July, 1793, but it wasn’t until the 1860s and 1870s that persons associated with the Gold Rush and railway began to travel to and settle along the river. In 1876, salmon canneries were built along the Skeena River. Operating along the river from the late 1870s to the mid-1980s, at one time there were as many as 18 canneries along the Skeena.

In Rare Books and Special Collections, we have various records and plans of salmon canneries that operated in British Columbia, and in particular along the Skeena River. For example, in the Inverness Cannery fonds, there are plans, financial records and correspondence relating to this cannery constructed along the Skeena River in 1873. The J.H Todd and Sons fonds also contains records concerning the Inverness Cannery.

It is also very interesting to consult the 1924 fire insurance plans of Skeena River salmon canneries in the collection of Plans of salmon canneries in British Columbia together with inspection reports on each, that are part of the records of the British Columbia Fire Underwriters’ Association. This collection includes the plans of 12 canneries that operated along the Skeena in the early 1920s: Inverness Cannery, North Pacific Cannery, Dominion Cannery, Sunnyside Cannery, Cassiar Cannery, Haysport Cannery, Alexandra Cannery, Balmoral Cannery, Port Essington Cannery, Carlisle Cannery, Claxton Cannery, and the Oceanic Cannery.

Fire insurance plans are detailed large-scale maps of cities, smaller municipalities, and industrial sites that were produced from the late 1800s to the mid-1960s. The object of these maps was to show the character of any insured building. These plans were compiled by the fire insurance underwriters to assist their agents in assessing and controlling the risks of fire. Various symbols and colours were used to indicate the following characteristics: the shape and size of a building; the type of construction used; the existence of fire protection facilities; and the use of the building (e.g., a restaurant, a laundry, etc.).

The fire insurance plan of the North Pacific Cannery is revealing for a number of reasons. In addition to documenting the number and types of buildings of this cannery originally established in 1889, the plan shows, for example, that in 1924, the Japanese, First Nations and Chinese cannery workers were housed in separate buildings:

Sheet 44, North Pacific Cannery, RBSC-ARC-1272:F9-8

Sheet 44, North Pacific Cannery, RBSC-ARC-1272:F9-8

Sheet 44 (part 2), North Pacific Cannery, RBSC-ARC-1272:F9-8

Sheet 44 (part 2), North Pacific Cannery, RBSC-ARC-1272:F9-8

This week our featured place, and Irving K. Barber Learning Centre room name,  is Hazelton.  Hazelton, as well as New Hazelton and South Hazelton, is located near where the Skeena River meets the Bulkley River, northeast of Prince Rupert.  The Hazelton area is the traditional land of the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en First Nations.

The featured document is from the Social Planning and Research Council (SPARC) of British Columbia fonds. SPARC is a non-partisan organization that was founded in 1966 to “work with communities in building a just and healthy society for all” (from the SPARC website). The archives here at RBSC include files from 1966 to 1984 and contain a wealth of information on the history of social issues and programs in B.C., from youth, housing, health, aging, and much more. One such file is on the Hazelton Children’s Home.  Founded by the United Church in 1967, the Hazelton Children’s Home appears to have run at least into the 1980′s.  It is described in the file as “an extended care facility for mentally and physically handicapped children.” The files contain a request for funding written to the Skeena Health Unit in 1978.  Information about the home is now scarce- the SPARC files as well as files at the Bob Stewart United Church Archives appear to be two of few sources.

Document from SPARC fonds

Document from SPARC fonds

A finding aid for the SPARC fonds is available, and if you are new to archival research, we recommend our Archival Materials Research Guide.

In the Barber Centre, the Hazelton Classroom is on the fourth floor in the south end of the building.

This week, we are taking a closer look at the community of Hartley Bay — the community that the Hartley Bay Meeting Room (room 266), in the Irving K Barber Learning Centre is named after.

Image Credit: Map of Hartley Bay, from

Hartley Bay is the home of the Gitga’at First Nation, members of the Tsimshian cultural group. A village of 200, accessible only by air or water, Hartley Bay is located at the mouth of Douglas Channel, about 630 kilometres north of Vancouver and 145 kilometres south of Prince Rupert.

On March 22, 2006, the people of Hartley Bay were the first responders to the passengers aboard the sinking BC Ferries Queen of the North. The community was recognized for their heroic actions by the Governor General on May 3, 2006 and received the Governor General’s Commendation for Outstanding Service.

The XWI7XWA LIBRARY, located at 1985 West Mall has a variety of material on the community of Hartley Bay, including material in their special collections. Contact Ann Doyle, head of XWI7XWA LIBRARY, for more information on accessing material in the special collections.

In our ongoing series of B.C. place names used in the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, this week we will look at Fernie, B.C.  Located in the East Kootenay region of British Columbia, Fernie is nearer to Alberta than it is to the rest of the province.  Fernie’s main industry was and still is coal mining (the town is named after William Fernie, who started the coal mines in 1887) but today also includes tourism (especially skiing- Fernie made a bid for the 1968 Olympic games), transport and trade.

The District Ledger, 1910

The District Ledger, 1910

Our featured document is a newspaper- the District Ledger which ran under various titles from at least 1893 to 1919 (see the B.C. Archives list of microfilmed newspapers). The District Ledger was technically the newspaper of the local district of the United Mine Workers of America, but also functioned as a local newspaper and job printer for the area. RBSC holds one lonely copy of the District Ledger, dated Oct. 21, 1910. (Do you have a stack of old District Ledgers in your basement or attic? We’d love to hear from you!)

Rare Books and Special Collections collects historic newspapers from across the province (and embracing the whole alphabet, from Abbotsford to Zeballos!). Newspapers are very popular amongst researchers as a way of understanding the important issues in other communities, in other time periods. Newspaper digitization projects have frequently been funded by the BC History Digitization Program.  For help on newspapers more generally, check out UBC Library’s Newspapers research guide.

In the Barber Centre, the Fernie Reading Room is number 380, and is a study area for the use of students in the UBC Gateway Programs: Arts One, Science One, Coordinated Arts and Coordinated Science.

The Kootenay River Room, a large, bright and airy group study room (room 422) on the 4th floor of the Barber Centre, is named after the Kootenay River, one of the tributaries of the Columbia River. It is a major river that runs through southeastern British Columbia, Canada and the northern part of Montana and Idaho. Throughout the history of British Columbia, many people from various backgrounds have lived and traveled along its banks.

The very source of the Columbia River, looking south across Canal Flat toward the Kootenay river, ID # BC-146

The people of the Ktunaxa (Kootenai) nation have lived, fished and hunted along the river for thousands of years.

Image Credit:

In the early 19th century, the first European explorer to visit the area, David Thompson, explored and surveyed the Kootenay’s banks, calling it “McGillivray’s River” on his 1814 map (the original map is in the Archives of Ontario and is part of F443, the David Thompson fonds ). Rare Books and Special Collections has a reproduction of Thompson’s 1814 map, published by the Champlain Society in 1916 : Map of the north-west territory of the province of Canada.

Image credit: Champlain Society Digital Collections:

In the late 19th century, the Doukhobors, a “Spiritual Christianity” sect that originated in Russia in the late 16th-17th century and rejects organized government and the church, left Russia and travelled to Canada. Various groups settled in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. In 1908, the group that settled in British Columbia, called the Community Doukhobors, purchased 2,700 acres of land along the Kootenay River. Their leader, Peter Verigan, called the settlement “Brilliant,” after the sparkling waters of the river.

In Rare Books and Special Collections, there is a large body of archival material related to the Doukhobors. You may be interested in consulting the Doukhobor research collection , the Peter Faminow fonds and the Jim Hamm research collection.

In 2010, the Irving K Barber British Columbia History Digitization Program funded a digitization project by the Touchstones Nelson: Museum of Art and History, Changes Upstream: Along the Kootenay River North of the 49th Parallel Before and After the Libby Dam, 1969-72. Visit this digital exhibition to view images of the homes, lifestyles and lands of communities along the Kootenay River during the summers of 1969-72.

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