British Columbia

Squamish, B.C. history: from fur-trappers to homesteaders

From fur trappers to homesteaders to ambitious professionals, CBC Radio hears three stories from Squamish's history.

From the community doctor who helped the hospital get built to early pioneers, Squamish has ambitious history

Cleveland Avenue, shown here in 1913, continues to be the main street in downtown Squamish. (Squamish History Archives)

Less than an hour's drive from Vancouver, Squamish, B.C. is a community that is growing fast.

The community has an official plan to grow, renew, and to re-branding itself as Canada's Outdoor Recreation Capital.

The town also has a rich history, and CBC Radio's ​The Early Edition delved into some of the stories from the past.

Sea otter pelts lure Europeans up Howe Sound

Howe Sound, named by Captain George Vancouver in 1792, drew European fur-trappers who were in search of sea otter pelts. (Squamish History Archives)

The first Europeans to arrive in Squamish didn't come to settle.

In the 1700s, fur trappers came through Howe South in search of sea otter pelts.

"Sea otter pelts were quite fashionable if you can believe it," said Bianca Peters, president of the Squamish Historical Society.

"They're quite cute but I'm sure they look quite well as a hat and maybe even a jacket."

Peters said she doesn't have first hand experience with sea otter pelts, but she assumes they're warm and water resistant.

"If I was wearing a sea otter pelt and you weren't, I was probably doing better than you."

To hear more about Howe Sound's early fur trappers, click the audio labelled: Squamish History: Sea otter pelts.

Early settler Harry Judd came in search of adventure

Harry Judd on his homestead in Squamish. (Squamish History Archives)

One early settler to Squamish was Harry Judd, who was born in 1870.

He left his home in Ontario in his late teens in search of something new.

"My grandfather was an adventuresome soul and he came out on one of the first trains from Ontario and ended up in Vancouver visiting one of his cousins," said grandaughter Ellen Grant, who still lives in Squamish.

On the train, Judd met other young men, also looking for an adventure.

"Howe Sound being the closest waterway to Vancouver, they decided to explore and that's exactly what they did," said Grant.

The group got themselves a boat and headed up the sound, but ran out of supplies before they reached Squamish.

"It was enough to whet their appetite and all of them ended up coming back in subsequent years," she said.

Judd decided to settle in Squamish. Grant's family still has a letter he wrote to his mother in Ontario after he celebrated his 20th birthday in Squamish building a homestead for himself.

"He was a person who was very interested in bringing new things into a community. He had the dairy farm, but he also had the first cars and stagecoaches, the first radio," she said.

"I remember he had a crystal radio in the front room when I was a little kid and everyone had to be very very quiet while he listened to the news, especially the weather, because for a farmer to have a weather forecast was really something."

To hear more about Squamish pioneer Harry Judd, click the audio labelled: Squamish History: Early settler Harry Judd.

Young doctors fights for community hospital

Dr. Laverne Kindree (right) stands with the Brandvold family in 1952 in Squamish. Kindree rallied the community to support a hospital. (Squamish History Archives)

Up until 1948, Squamish didn't have a hospital, and many doctors didn't stay in the community long — leaving to practice in Vancouver, where the pay was more lucrative. 

One of the doctors who did set up their practice was Dr. Laverne Kindree 

"When Doctor Kindree came, he was a young, energetic doctor and he was married to Norma, his wife, who was a nurse,"  said Grant.

"They decided it was time that we had a hospital and he campaigned day and night. he encouraged the entire community to get behind him."

Kindree travelled to Victoria lobby the provincial government for a hospital to serve the community.

"They said, 'Well, we don't see a necessity to it. They're close to Vancouver. What's the problem?,'" said Grant.

Finally, the province told Kindree if he could get the community to back the hospital financially, it would be built.

The doctor threw fundraisers, and was able to get the support he needed.

"He managed to do it and the hospital was built. He inspired the entire community."

Kindree died in 2009, at the age of 88, but his memory lives on every year, when the Squamish Hospital Foundation throws a golf tournament in his name.

To hear more about Dr. Kindree's fight for a hospital in Squamish, click the audio labelled: Squamish History: Opening a hospital.

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