James Stoddart is remembered as, “a general favourite, honest, good natured and of an exceedingly genial disposition.”22
Strictly speaking, Stoddart Creek, located just south of Dry Gulch, is named after James Albert Stoddart, but as the Stoddart family’s influence in the Valley extends well beyond James, this is a broader exploration of the Stoddart family.
James Albert Stoddart
There isn’t much recorded about James’ early life. Later sources recount that he went West as part of the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway,3 and that he left the construction line initially to work along the Upper Columbia River, and later to settle down.
The name “Stoddart” first appears (as a Jno Stoddart) in the Windermere Valley in Public Accounts records for the fiscal year 1st July 1885 to 30th June 1886,4 and then again the following year (as J Stoddart).5 In the first Stoddart was paid for “conveying letters Columbia Lakes to Donald”, and the second for hauling freight up to Golden. These match with a later account, from Stoddart’s nephew Walter, that he poled boats carrying freight on the Columbia River between Golden and the headwaters.6
James A Stoddart recorded a land pre-emption on 4 October 1886 for what became Lot 288, located immediately north of the Shuswap Reserve and along what would become known as Stoddart Creek.7 Whereas many of these early pre-emptions were made but little used, Stoddart’s was one of the earliest active settler ranches in the Valley.
Newspaper reports from 1888 list the Stoddart Ranch as one of four ranches in the Windermere Valley,8 and report his first full season as being a respectable one. Stoddart, “By good hard work … raised a small crop of oats and potatoes. He has got several head of nice cattle on his place.”9 In 1890 the Stoddart Ranch was one of a handful of ranches undertaking “general farming” (planting crops in addition to stock – mixed farming).10
Less than a year following his marriage, in June 1890, James Albert had gone into the “hotel business” in Windermere,13 operating the Windermere Hotel. Stoddart also became postmaster at Windermere on 1 August 1890.14
At first Stoddart was partnered with George Geary in the hotel venture, although it’s unclear how long Geary was involved. His (Geary’s) name continues to appear in Public Accounts records alongside Stoddarts’ for providing hotel accommodation in Windermere in the fiscal year of 1892 British Columbia,15 while it is only Stoddart listed the following year.16
Although Stoddart became well known as the proprietor of the Windermere Hotel, he continues to be noted on electoral lists through 1894 as a farmer,17 suggesting that he also continued activity on his Stoddart Creek ranch. He shipped out 14 head of cattle in the autumn of 1895.18
James and Rose had two children, James Edgar being born on 17 April 1890,19 and Evelyn (listed as Anna on her birth certificate) on 8 November 1895.20 Tragically, James Edgar drowned in Lake Windermere in April 1896, at the age of just six years.21
James Albert Stoddart passed away 18 March 1908, age 47, of pneumonia.22 In his obituary, James is remembered as, “a general favourite, honest, good natured and of an exceedingly genial disposition. He will be much missed by his many friends in this country.”23 Rose and Evelyn continued to live in Windermere after his passing.24
John Edgar Stoddart
John Edgar Stoddart (often Edgar or Ed Stoddart) was nine years younger than James, having been born 4 May 1869 in Ontario.25 Once again, details about his life before coming to the Windermere Valley are scarce. His early interests in the Valley, however, are varied.
Edgar came to the valley from Toronto in autumn 1896,26 and on the 1901 census he is listed as living with James in Windermere with an occupation described as a “compositor.”27 (I looked this up: a compositor does type setting for printing, which would not have been much in demand in Windermere in 1901).
Edgar became active in prospecting circles, including as a partner in both the Hot Punch group at the head of the Delphine Creek Valley,28 and in the Mineral King Mine (during the years of his involvement known as the Silver King).29
In these early years, Edgar gained some local notoriety as the owner of an ice boat – a rather popular winter attraction in the early 1900s. Ed had his boat built in January 1902, with races held against Harold E Forster.33
Following James’ death, in September 1909, the executors of his estate asked for tenders for the purchase of certain lots in Windermere, including the hotel, other buildings, hotel fixtures, furnishings and furniture.34 I was unable to find record of what happened with this sale, but on the 1911 census Edgar Stoddart is listed as a hotel keeper in Windermere,35 and he remained the operator of the hotel until his death.
In addition to owning the Windermere Hotel, Edgar continued with his mining interests and seems to have kept up raising cattle (presumably on the Stoddart ranch).36 Edgar is also responsible for opening the first golf course at Windermere: a nine hole course opened in June 1923.37
Edgar passed away suddenly, at age 66, on 8 July 1934 in Windermere.38
Walter Holton Stoddart
The Stoddart clan in the Windermere Valley had grown further in the late 1890s with the arrival of their (James’, John’s, and Rose’s) nephew, Walter. Walter’s mother, Eleanora, had brought eleven old Walter with her in March 1897 when she was convinced by her sister to visit the hot springs at Sinclair for her health.39 During his stay, Walter was told by his uncle, James, who missed his son, that if Walter ever wanted to return and live with them he would give him his own horse.40 In 1899 Walter returned, at the age of 14, to live with his aunt and uncles in Windermere.41
Walter was born in Columbus, Ohio on 14 September 1885 to David Stoddart (James’ younger brother) and Nora Jerger (Rose’s sister).42 Walter’s move to live in Canada seems to have been somewhat gradual. His name is listed on the “Windermere School Report” in April 1900,43 but his name is also included with his family in Columbus on the 1900 United States census (taken 5 June 1900).44
The young Stoddart became known in the Valley for his horse jockey skills. On a visit to Golden in August 1901, Walter is pointed out for his “clever riding [which] has been a feature of the two last Windermere race meets.”45 Walter was still in the Valley in January 1902,46 but went to spend the following Christmas with his family in the United States, prompting the remark that, “Everybody will miss his bright, cheerful face and will be glad to hear of his return.”47
Walter returned for a visit to the States again in December 1903,48 but had very much become a Valley resident. In 1905 he and Charles Ellis, at one time a desk clerk at the Windermere Hotel,49 built their own ice boat, the “It”.50 That same year the two also started a ranch, which they called Ellenvale, on the west side of Windermere Lake.
As recalled by Walter’s daughter, Bernice Stoddart Hathaway, “My father, although only 20 at the time, was Charles Ellis’ partner. His uncle (James A. Stoddart) may have loaned him money for the purchase of… [S]ince he was under 21 at the time someone with more capital was required. My father had come west from Ohio and was living with his uncle and aunt at the original Windermere Hotel.”51
Ellis and Stoddart cultivated oats, wheat, barley, timothy, vegetables, and apple trees, as well as raising horses and cattle and having a logging camp.52 In April 1921, Ellenvale (then 5,500 acres) was sold to Captain Albert H McCarthy to become a cattle ranch known as “K2.”53
Walter remained living in the Valley for a few months following the sale of Ellenvale, being recorded on the 1921 census in June as lodging in Invermere.54 Walter was also one of two local enumerators of the 1921 census,55 and in my opinion was the best enumerator the Valley had up to that date. Among all of the local census enumerators, Walter is the only one to have painstakingly recorded the Lot numbers where people were living, thus preserving an invaluable amount of information.
Shortly after the marriage Walter became manager of the Deer Creek Ranch near 150 Mile House in the Chilcotin where, in September 1930, a coworker of his was shot and killed, and Walter himself severely injured, by the owner of the ranch, Cosens Spencer. Walter managed to get into a truck and drive some three miles from the ranch before the truck overturned. He was found three hours later and brought to the Williams Lake Hospital where his arm was amputated.58 Walter recovered, and Spencer was found dead in a creek nearby.
Following this incident Walter and his family went to live in Calgary,59 where his parents had relocated sometime between 1910 and 1916.60 Walter’s father passed away on 3 January 1937,61 and his mother moved to Winnipeg some two years later, in 1939.62
Also in 1939 Walter returned to the Windermere Valley with his wife and two daughters, Margaret and Bernice. There he developed property at Windermere Beach into a subdivision (later Terra Vista) of about 50 summer homes known locally as Calberly (there was about 50/50 occupancy by residents of Calgary and Kimberley).63 He retired in 1954.64
There were two additional Stoddart siblings who came to live in the Windermere Valley. In 1907 James and Edgar’s sister, Ethel May (Maude), came with her husband, Arthur Chisholm, to visit Windermere and decided to stay. Arthur had been a barrister in Toronto, but decided that Windermere looked like a good place to start a career in writing. He was later forced by the Depression to supplement his writing income with work as a magistrate and local coroner, but he also published half a dozen books as well as countless magazine articles.67
Edgar and Ethel’s much younger sister, Ella, also came to Windermere and was living with Edgar at the Hotel in 1921.70 Ella became ill and underwent a “serious operation” in Toronto in January 1925.71 She returned to Windermere in the summer of 1926 before relapsing and returning to Toronto, where she passed away in January 1927.72
It is interesting that, of all the activities of the Stoddart family – the Windermere Hotel, Ellenvale Ranch, and Terra Vista – it is James A Stoddart’s early land pre-emption that is remembered with a creek named after him.
Due to Stoddart’s relatively early association with the valley, the name “Stoddart Creek” appears to have been established relatively early, including with a crossed out “Stoddart” labelled on the creek included in a sketch of the lot for his original 1886 pre-emption record. Interestingly, on the official survey sketch of the lot, done in 1892, the creek is labelled differently – possibly as “Willson Creek.”73 The first mention found of Stoddart Creek by name was in the fiscal year of 1896, and remains firmly established from that time.74
I came across quite a bit of information about the Windermere Hotel during research for this post, and I had originally included a separate section about the hotel. Then I decided that the hotel was really worth an entirely separate post, so come back two weeks from now for a more thorough look at the Windermere Hotel!