Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Trethewey House Museum

    I've always collected artifacts and little bits of history in my time, and people have often remarked my home is like a museum. Along with the usual old knik knacks, books, and other items from the past are some that have been passed on down the line from the Trethewey family, which of course hold special significance.
   William, a much enterprising uncle of my grandfather discovered a rich vein of silver near Cobalt Ontario in 1904, making himself a bundle. His brother Joe had a stake in the mine and returned to BC a wealthy man, buying the Chilco Ranch and investing in mining properties.  In 1909 he invested in and became the major shareholder in his brother Arthur's sawmill enterprise on a tiny lake in the Fraser Valley. With good management, a rail-head nearby to ship lumber to eastern Canada, and a ready local market the business grew to one of the largest in the valley.

    The Abbotsford Timber And Trading Co. was built on the shore of what was Abbotsford Lake, which soon became known as Mill Lake. Much of the early development of the town of Abbotsford was helped in no small part by the Trethewey brothers lumber company, the largest employer in the area. At it's peak, the mill produced 20 million board feet of lumber and 15 million shakes per year. At the time it was said to be the third largest employer in the province.
The business had been managed by Arthur, Joe preferring to live in the interior expanding his ranch and  seeking mineral properties,  but he took over hands-on management of the company when Arthur fell ill. Joe moved to Abbotsford in 1919 and built a home for his family close to Mill Lake and continued to live life on a grand scale. His 1920 house had central heating, hot and cold running water, electric lights, and a built-in vacuum.
Joseph Ogle Trethewey, and a gold nugget that he always wore as a stick-pin on his tie, as seen in the picture.
   Much could be written about the exploits of my great grandad, and he was well known in the BC lumber and mining circles. Joe died from cancer in 1927 and my grandad Edgar took over the Abbotsford mill. The depression years arrived about the time the company was faced with depleting timber reserves and despite hanging on for a number of years, the mill was closed, and the old locomotive and miles of track were sold for scrap. Edgar made a gift of the mill property to the city to be used for the beautiful Centennial Park that surrounds Mill Lake to this day.

   Joe's lovely old house had several owners over the years before it was purchased by the Trethewey family and restored back to circa 1925 by the Heritage Abbotsford Society, being designated a municipal heritage site at a ceremony in 1983 that I recall attending.  The Heritage Abbotsford Society operates the museum and showcases local arts and crafts as well as give tours of Trethewey House.

I had always thought about donating some of the family history I have around here, and an email recently from the Executive Director spurred me into action. They had found my site doing research and I have mentioned Joe in the past. So a week or so ago I braved a trip out to civilization to pay them a visit, bringing along some goodies.

Anna offered to give me a tour of the house, probably not too often she gets to give the spiel to a real live descendant.

The old ones tell of some roaring parties here during the 20's.
Rumor has it the place is haunted too.

This lovely old chair I gifted the museum is from the old Abbotsford Lumber Co., and I passed on some old share certificates and things I had around I figure I could probably live without.

 They could produce 100,000 of these a day, but probably the last two AT+T shingles in existence. They are quite weathered on the other side, taken off some building that was torn down. Someone years ago had the forethought to save two of the bundle tops that had the stencil and they got passed down a few generations. I'll take these to the museum next time along with some other cool old stuff I've got around here, like some rich samples Joe brought back from the famed silver mine.
Comes a time to pass things along. It will all be going to a good home.


  1. Thank you for sharing a piece of your family’s history. Indeed a lovely house. My favorite pictures were the old stove and the other picture from the kitchen with the fridge. I loved the old chair as well.

  2. Thanks for taking us along for the visit!