Looking into the Arrow Lakes Historical Society archives
The first issue of Nakusp’s first newspaper is framed on the wall of the Arrow Lakes Historical Society’s office. The big news on Oct. 5, 1893, was the arrival of an 85-ton train engine at the Nakusp wharf and the start of construction of a roundhouse and rail line in town.
The second page of the paper related the comings and goings of people in town. A.J. Ford left for a hunting trip and H.N. Coursier of Revelstoke was in town for a visit. These types of seemingly mundane activities made the news back then.
The Nakusp Ledge was in print for 16 months until it shut down. After that, there was the Advocate, which printed for nine months. Then, there was no newspaper in Nakusp until 1923, when the Arrow Lakes News started up. Of the latter, the archives’ collection dates to 1924.
Kyle Kusch, the archivist for the ALHS, pulled out the binder holding that year’s papers. The copy it held was owned by Thomas Abriel, the leading businessman of Nakusp’s early days.
“Rosemarie (ALHS president Rosemarie Parent) wrote that if Nakusp were named after somebody, they could have called it Abrielville,” Kusch told me. “He was the main mover and shaker for the first 30 years of the village.”
I met with Kusch and Parent at the archives’ new office inside the recently expanded Nakusp Centennial Building last Thursday.
The ALHS is holding its annual general meeting on Friday, Apr. 4, and an open house on Saturday, Apr. 5, from 1–3 p.m. I got an advance tour last week.
The new space is a substantial upgrade from the society’s old location — it’s more spacious and less cramped. It opens as the society approaches its 30th anniversary in December. The new space was the idea of the late Milton Parent, who is responsible for collecting much of the material in the archives.
“It was his suggestion. One night he came upstairs and said we should ask the village if we could add on to this building,” said Rosemarie. “I just groaned, because I knew who was going to do all the paper work.”
The archives feature binders filled with information gathered from the newspaper about everyone who lived in Nakusp for any significant period of time. They also hold histories of businesses, churches, social clubs, farms and more; from Arrowhead to Edgewood.
“You see a lot of empty shelves, but we did that purposely so we can grow,” said Rosemarie. “Some of the books are bursting.”
There are historical curiosities like an old ledger from the Big Bend Lumber Company and the register of the Leland Hotel. They have gathered the minutes from numerous service clubs, like the Kinsmen.
A 700-pound cabinet containing historical maps of the area was moved into the new space.
There’s a shelf with a collection of historical books from Edna Daney that is dedicated to her memory; she helped Milton with his interviews.
The prize of the archives’ collection is the 500 interviews Milton conducted with pioneer residents of the area.
“The interviews are the hidden treasure of the place because people don’t think to look for them,” said Kusch.
Most people are interested in the photos, he said. Currently, the archives collection sits at more than 10,000, and they’re always looking for more. “Pretty much every photo we have is digitized,” said Kusch.
The society has started a family tree program and have compiled the history of several pioneer families such as the Aaltens, Bairds and Parents, but they are looking for help to continue with the program.
With the new space opening, the ALHS plans on having monthly movie or slideshow presentations.
The archives is currently open two days a week. People are welcome to visit the archives and get help accessing material. They can also hire Kusch or one of the society’s members to do research for them.
Find out more at alhs-archives.com.