This first Huscroft house in 1898. (From right) Jim

Huscroft history, part 2: Huscrofts journey from Utah to B.C.

Web Lead

A reunion to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the arrival of the Huscroft family in the Creston Valley is only a month away. In this issue, we present an article by Donald Young, which appeared in the Creston Valley Advance in May 1958:

Great-grandfather William Huscroft was an unusual man — stern, solemn and stubborn, he was the very embodiment of the Victorian concept of “Father”. At the age of 61, he abandoned a flourishing business in a comparatively civilized community and set forth with family and chattels to start life anew in the wilderness.

Two things seemed to have prompted his decision. First, disagreement with his fellow Mormons over the issue of polygamy and secondly, tales of a fabulously fertile valley in British Columbia, confirmed by photos of men on horseback, all but concealed by the lush growth of wild hay on the Kootenay Flats.

Provo, Utah, is about 800 miles from Creston as the crow flies and even in this day of paved highways, road maps and motorized travel, it would take some planning to move two families with all their goods and livestock … but think of the appalling difficulties accompanying a trek in those days. Primitive roads and trails, no road maps, many creeks and rivers to be forded, slow travel on foot, on horseback or covered wagons, no medical care, doctors being few and far between, and very few stores.

 

SET OUT IN 1891

In spite of all this in 1891 they set out. The party consisted of Mr. and Mrs. W. Huscroft, their sons, John, James and Charles; their daughters, Effie (Mrs. R.J. Long), Sophie (Mrs. W.H. Crawford), Maud (Mrs. Tom Ross), Sarah (Mrs. E. Ennerson) and the Arrowsmiths, six in all and a seventh on the way. The Arrowsmiths were as follows: John, Mrs. John (Emma, the oldest Huscroft child, 31 years old at the time) and their children: Louie, 9; William, 7; Jennie, 3, and Osman, 1.

That year they reached Kalispell, Mont., where the Arrowsmiths wintered, and Joy was born 9 October 1891. Spring of 1892 saw them on the road again.

The Huscrofts moved on after a short stay in Kalispell. When they came to the Kootenay River, they built a raft on which they loaded part of their gear and, manned by some of the men and boys, descended the turbulent Kootenay to Bonners Ferry. The rest of the party continued … overland to Bonners. At Bonners, the Kootenay being more placid and there being only a pack trail to Porthill, the whole party took to the river on rafts.

At that time (William) Baillie-Grohman was diking the old Reclamation Farm and on this project the men found employment.

The family squatted on what is now known as Christiansen’s Bend on the Reclamation Farm but when the annual flood came they were forced to move out. Great-grandfather then set out in search of a permanent location. His ideal had to meet three specifications — first, high enough as not be endangered by floods; second, as much level land as possible and third, a good stream on it to allow for irrigation.

 

CHOOSES HOME SITE

The place he chose is now occupied by his son, Charles. Across the road to the west is the James Huscroft place and south of James South Boundary is John Huscroft’s farm.

With practically all the land of the whole valley at his disposal, for many years it appeared that great grandfather had not chosen wisely, since the Huscroft area is not as favourable to fruit growing as other parts of the Valley — Erickson, for instance.

But the present prosperity of the Lister-Huscroft section due to alfalfa, grain and cattle raising seems to have vindicated the old gentleman’s judgment.

As one looks at these verdant acres today, it is hard to visualize the backbreaking toil that made them what they are. First the forest had to be cut, the logs removed, the stumps blown and disposed of, the ground broken and seeded, dwellings, barns, fences, etc. built. Meanwhile, a living had to be made and the children educated. The nearest doctor was at Bonners Ferry and there was no road, only a pack trail, and the nearest store was at Porthill and there was only enough money for the bare necessities of life. Today the age of retirement is 65. Grandpa Huscroft was just getting nicely started at that age. Once his daughter, Sophie, got blood poisoning in her hand. Red streaks ran up to her armpit so James was dispatched via horseback to Bonners for the doctor. When they returned the following day, the home remedy by grandmother of hot applications of Epsom salts dissolved in water had proven effective and the trip was for nothing. In spite of medical care all the Huscoft children reached adulthood strong and healthy.

 

ALLERGIC TO HORSELESS CARRIAGES

Although he was one of the first car owners in the valley, grandfather never learned to drive and regarded them with suspicion till the day of his death.

When he was 90 Grandpa started walking to Erickson to visit his son-in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. R.J. Long. His son, Jim, missed the old man and started after him on his Model T Ford. Catching up with his father, Jim asked where he was going.

“Over to see Bob and Ef,” was the old gent’s reply.

Jim tried to talk him out of it but to no avail.

“Alright,” he said. “If you won’t change your mind get in the car and I will drive you over there.”

Grumbling, Grandpa got in the car. As they bounced along he cast many aspersions on the reliability of the car and on Jim’s driving. They hadn’t gone far when the car started to boil. Jim stopped to repair the fan belt, which was slipping, and Grandpa said to him, “Either Dick Bevan (the dealer who sold the car) is a smart man or my boys are all fools.”

(To be continued next week.)