British Columbia

Historic 'Little England' Thompson community crowdfunds to reopen museum

A ghost town in the B.C. Interior is raising money on GoFundMe to attract a student employee and reopen its museum.

Walhachin, B.C., boomed with British settlers then nearly collapsed after First World War

Assu Nydam is hoping a student will come and work in the Walhachin Museum. 'Last year we couldn't open up because we didn't have the manpower.' (Doug Herbert)

A tiny ghost town in the Thompson River Valley that was once home to affluent British settlers in the early 20th century is crowdfunding to bring its local museum back to life.

Walhachin, B.C., is located about 65 kilometres west of Kamloops on the Thompson River.

The community was founded in 1907 and was once considered a Canadian utopia for British settlers but now only has about 30 full-time residents.

"The second, third, fourth sons of royalty, they came here and basically played," said Assu Nydam, curator and president of the Walhachin Museum.

"They had a polo field, cricket field, fox hunts using coyotes, tennis courts, a swimming pool. The British saw this area as another Riviera, I would say."

300 residents at peak, now has 30

Nydam said British settlers would take a boat to Eastern Canada, then travel by train to the B.C. Interior to spend the summer.

At its peak in 1914, the community had about 300 settlers, but virtually collapsed after the First World War — a third of the residents enlisted, others returned home to England.

The small local museum now contains photography, kitchen items, bottles, instruments and other objects from the early days of Walhachin but no one to manage daily operations.

The museum has many artifacts dating back to the early 1900s, including bottles, baskets, instruments and photographs. (Doug Herbert)

"A few years ago, we had three or four people who would work at the museum but some have moved on," said Nydam.

"The population is very elderly here. Last year, we couldn't open up because we didn't have the manpower."

Museum looking for student employee

The museum is now looking for a student to come and work between May and September as well as catalogue its artifacts.

"We want to computerize them so we have a proper inventory," said Nydam.

At its peak, Walhachin, B.C., had about 300 residents, now it has about 30. (Doug Herbert)

The museum has started a GoFundMe account to try and raise at least $3,000 to pay half of the student's wages — the museum says it will try to get the other half from the federal government.

Nydam said the ultimate goal is to share the unusual story of Walhachin with as many people as possible. 

"When we were open two years ago, I remember seeing people from Germany, from Israel, all over the place."

"We would then tell them about the history and they were all shocked that 'Little England' was here."

Nydam said the small museum is hoping to raise at least $3,000 on GoFundMe to hire a student to work there for the summer. (Doug Herbert)

With files from Doug Herbert.

For more stories from the Thompson River Valley visit Daybreak Kamloops.