Huscroft reunion mirrors Creston Valley history

Web Lead

  • Jun. 25, 2011 9:00 a.m.

A family reunion in Lister this summer will be more than a time for a few cousins to get together and reminisce about their childhood. Not when it is a gathering of Huscrofts, whose history is closely tied to local history.

William Rodger Huscroft and Jane Fisher Huscroft arrived in the Creston Valley 120 years ago from Utah. Shortly thereafter, they would be joined by all but one of their nine children. William was 61 when he came to Canada.

“Very little is known of the early life of William Rodger Huscroft,” Dawn (Huscroft) Sommerfeld wrote in a family history that was published for the Huscrofts’ centennial reunion in 1991. “He seldom spoke of his childhood and, although many Huscrofts appear in the records of Kirk Smeaton (Yorkshire, England) as far back as 1632, despite a great deal of research I have been unable to tie them to W.R. Huscroft.”

William was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in England in 1850 and emigrated to Utah the following year.  His marriage to Jane took place in Provo, Utah, in 1851. He and his family lived in Missouri for a time, then returned to Utah in the early 1870s.

Meticulous genealogical research by Sommerfeld and other Huscroft descendants led to the publication of a two-volume work filled with family tree information, photographs and anecdotal contributions by various family members.

Sommerfeld wrote about her father, John Henry Huscroft, the eighth child of William and Jane. John Henry was born in Jensen, Utah, in 1878 and died in Creston in 1964.

“Dad never mentioned that he had attended school in Utah and we always understood that his mother was his only teacher until they reached Canada and he attended school in Porthill where Mr. McLochlin taught. At any rate, his formal education was about four or five grades but he was very well-read and he received his steam engineer papers by correspondence which he studied in the evenings while he was working at the North Star Mine.

“Dad was always a hard working, responsible person. He often told us of how, at the age of 13, he had supported the family by selling wood in Kalispell when his father and brother had gone ahead to the Creston Valley to look over the land. When he was only 17, he preempted the property which was to become our home farm. He worked at the North Start Mine, as engineer on a tug which hauled logs from Porthill to [Lardeau], and as foreman at the Rogers mill in Huscroft. Later he started his own mill, which was to become J.H. Huscroft Ltd. He farmed in Huscroft and the Wynndel flats, and over the years had cleared many acres of land mostly without the help of modern equipment.”

Irwin Kenneth (Ken) Huscroft was born to John Henry and his second wife, Amy Johnson Huscroft. At 87, Ken remains active in the operation of the sawmill. He wrote:

“My earliest recollections are of farm life – doing farm chores – clearing land – hauling logs on sleighs – haying with sweeping rakes and hay stacker, all horse powered – outdoor toilet – all wood cooking and heating – gasoline and coal oil lights.

“I started school when I was five – about 18 students nearly all related – no electricity – wood heater – outdoor biffy, and water was carried up the hill from the creek. I got the strap in grade two for hitting the teacher with an acorn.

“Sports were a big thing – baseball in the summer and hockey in the winter on outdoor ponds, shovelling lots of snow. The first electric lights were from a Delco generator at our rink on Uncle Charles’ place. He was the best goalie, with horse-collar pads for protection.

“We seemed to be forever clearing land for growing crops. Shortly after Grandfather settled here, he and Uncle Jim and Dad put in about two miles of ditch from Huscroft Creek for flood irrigation. This was an art that he had learned from the Mormons in Utah and he taught my dad and Dad showed me. During some dry summers in the 1930s we would have two heavy crops of alfalfa while unirrigated land got one medium crop.”

Ken described the formation of the family-owned sawmill that continues to operate in Erickson, with more than 100 employees.

“One must also learn to be humble because when the war ended I was back in the logging camp up to my boot tops in mud with a pregnant wife living in a make-do shack. Leonard (one of Ken’s brothers) returned from overseas in February 1946 and started working up Iron Mountain with Elmer (another brother) and me cutting ties. Dad retired to the farm about this time. Early in 1947 we incorporated the sawmill businesses as J.H. Huscroft Ltd. with Elmer, Leonard and I as equal major shareholders.

“Our operation was up Boundary Creek for the next four or five years, then we moved to Dodge Creek and it was there on the 29th of June 1953 on Elmer’s 42nd birthday that his arm, with heavy clothing, got caught in and edger and he was hauled up into those saws and he died from head injuries. About two months later, polio it the area. Elmer’s son, Garth, Leonard and his baby daughter, Penny, got it. Garth made a quick recovery but Leonard and Penny went to Vancouver for treatment for six months. So by the hand of fate I became the manager of J.H. Huscroft Ltd. Penny died in May 1954 and Leonard was partially crippled for the rest of his life.”

Next week: Further reminisces from Huscroft family members.

(With thanks to Dawn Sommerfeld for providing copies of the Huscroft family history, published in 1991. All anecdotal quotes are from the book.)