Peters Hill (Informal name, northwest of Toby Creek Bridge in Athalmer)
“Morning wasn’t morning until the Peters’ had made their daily milk delivery.”31
Anyone who has gone up to Panorama has driven up Peters Hill – it’s the local name for that steep hill just on the other side of the bridge over Toby Creek. Peters Hill is named after the Peters family, who arrived in the Valley from England in March 1912.
Henry Hugh Peters was born on 14 April 1882 in Chew Stoke in Somerset, England (south of Bristol) as the fourth son in a farming family.1 His parents, Francis Hugh Peters and Emma Peters (née Pearce), had a fifty acre farm (Bridge Farm) on Stanton road (you can search for this on Google and see a street view of some lovely stone buildings).2
As typical in a farming family, Henry (Harry) grew up working on the farm. His help would have been particularly useful following his father’s death, in January 1906,3 after which his mother took over its operation.4
Amy Louisa Baber
At age 29, in 1911, still working on the family farm, Harry’s life got a bit more interesting when he met Amy Louisa Baber. Amy Louisa was also born to a farming family, on 19 September 1878, less than ten kilometres away from Chew Stoke in Hinton Blewett.5
Her family, including parents Joseph and Fanny Baber (née Harris),6 along with five (later seven) siblings, moved when Amy was quite young to Queen Charlton, where Amy seems to have spent her childhood. Her family was relatively successful, with her father in 1881 farming 137 acres and employing three labourers.7
Nonetheless, Amy left home, likely in her late teen years, as in 1901 she could be found living in East Harptree, Somerset with her cousin (either Richard M Dudden or his wife, Louisa A Duddon). Louisa was a cheese maker,8 no doubt giving Amy experience in similar work, as ten years later she was working as a dairy maid and housekeeper at a farm in Chew Magna, just a few kilometres away from Harry Peters down in Chew Stoke.9
Wedding and Departure
Harry and Amy were married in on 31 January 1912, each with an elder brother present as witness.10 Within two months, the newly married couple were on the Empress of Ireland to Canada, destination Golden B.C., arriving at St John, New Brunswick on 16 March 1912.11 Amy arrived heavily pregnant, as less than one month after that, on 15 April 1912, their first son, Joseph Harry Peters, was born.12
This was, to the numerically inclined, very much a rushed marriage, likely prompted at least in part by an unexpected pregnancy, and followed by a rapid departure to a new country.
That opportunity to leave the country was also likely a matter of lucky circumstance. According to a later remembrance, Amy had heard from Eldred Walker, the editor of a Bristol newspaper, that CPR publicist John Murray Gibbon was looking for someone to manage and work his property in the Windermere Valley as a model farm for the Columbia Valley Irrigation Fruitlands Co (CVIF).13 As a young couple, both with extensive farming experience, and looking for a fresh start, the Peters family was a good fit for the position.
Still, it was a dramatic and sudden change for the couple. Amy later recalled it taking three days for them to travel from Golden down to Invermere, “along the hardly used trail that was later to become a major highway. They even had some musical accompaniment in the form of a man named Gifford, who sang “Daisy, Daisy” throughout the entire 3 day journey.”14 It was a long, long ways from Somerset.
With newborn Joe, the Peters’, “embarked on their new life complete with English chickens and even a plough.”15 Then working for $40 a month,16 they were tasked with establishing and operating the Gibbon model farm known as “Cydervale.” Harry soon cultivated three orchards, including over 500 apple trees, with red and black currant bushes planted in between rows.17 There were also large vegetable gardens, acres of potatoes, and hay fields, with the Peters family living in a manager’s home, which was soon joined by a number of other farm buildings.18
The Peters family, meanwhile, soon grew with the arrival of Joan Mary on 18 May 1914,19 and Ruth Louise on 6 October 1916.20
The Social Side
The couple also slipped into Valley life, with Harry soon attending meetings of the local Farmers Institute,21 an organization for which he soon volunteered as a director. He continued to serve in that capacity, as near as I can tell, for over three decades.22 Harry was also, later, a director of the Windermere District Stockbreeders Association,23 as well as the Windermere Co-Operative Creamery Association. 24
Harry saw success as a farmer, winning awards in various agricultural competitions over the years, particularly for pigs and potatoes, but also alfalfa, beets, poultry, fruit, grain, and, in 1934, a particularly large pumpkin (around 47 pounds).25 He is described in a 1921 newspaper article as, “an Old Country farmer of the best type, [who] is known all through the valley as one of the most successful of settlers.”26
A Shift to Dairy
That success, of course, would not have been possible without Amy. At first, Cydervale was operated primarily as a fruit farm, but in spring 1918, a registered Holstein Bull (named “Kitchener”), along with a herd, was acquired,27 and the property was converted to a dairy farm.28
By this time, the property included CVIF Lots 10, 11, and 12, all bordering Toby Creek, along with the south half of Lot 27 up the hill, which was also owned by the Gibbon family. (The northern-most property, Lot 10, was subdivided in 1921 with the southern half remaining with the Gibbons, and the northern half going to Harry Peters.)
Amy’s experience as a dairy maid would have been very useful on the dairy farm, and the three kids learned quickly. As a teenager, son Joe “became a familiar sight with his milk urn and the 1922 model T,”29 as he and his sisters were up early every morning to deliver milk to homes in Invermere and other Valley communities.30 So ubiquitous were the three that, to a certain generation living in the area through the 1920s and 1930s, “morning wasn’t morning until the Peters’ had made their daily milk delivery.”31
Amy, once her children were a bit older and she had more time on her hands, also became active with the Women’s Auxiliary of the Anglican parish at Christ Church, where she served as president in the 1930s,32 and with the Windermere District Hospital Ladies Aid, serving as a vice president for a number of years.33
In addition, the Peters’ farm through in 1930s played host to a couple of community events, including a garden party in 1931 that featured refreshments and dancing on the lawn, (Anne Murray Gibbon, who spent summers with her children at her summer house on the hill, trained up the young people in these dances).34 A field day for the Windermere District Farmers Institute was also hosted by the Peters in 1934.35
The Property is Sold
The Gibbon family sold their portion of land, including all tools and dairy equipment, in 1948 to Ben Bennett,36 after which Harry and Amy continued to live in a small house on the property (likely on the Peters’ section of land – in 1921 Harry is noted as owning his own home).37
They later moved to Invermere, along Pipe Line Road (later 13th Ave), where Harry passed away on 10 November 1952.38 Amy suffered a fall sometime following, resulting in a serious hip injury, after which she lived with her daughter and son in law (Joan and Jack Solinger) in Invermere.39
Amy passed away on 31 January 1961 in Invermere.40 From the sources I was able to find, Harry and Amy returned just once to England, spending the winter of 1923/24 there along with all three of their children.41
The Peters Children
The eldest of the Peters children, Joe, grew up on the farm, attending the one room school house in Athalmer with his sisters. Joe, “would rather have forgone that experience. He remembers in particular when his entire Grade 8 class failed the year, a class of 15 pupils, “”and the whole lot of us didn’t make it” he laughed, “and Joan caught up to me!””42 He would later attend a year in Vancouver at UBC completing an agricultural course.
After the farm was sold, meanwhile, Joe became, “the number one oil furnace installation and repair man in the Valley.”43 This was likely just one of his jobs, however, as his occupation on his death certificate is listed as a “carpenter.”
Joe was also very active in sports, to the point that, according to his obituary, “Joe Peters and the word “sport” are almost synonymous in the Windermere District. He was active in all sports, but excelled at softball and basketball, curling and golf.”44 Joe is mentioned at times as secretary of the Invermere Badminton club, in 1936,45 a member of the Radium and Fairmont Golf Clubs,46 and vice president of the Invermere Curling Club, in 1942 and 1945.47 So involved was Joe in curling that at some point the Invermere Curling Rink was named the Joe Peters Curling Rink in his honor.48
He was involved in other organizations as well, including the Invermere Rotary Club (becoming an life-time honorary member), and the Canadian Legion.49
Joe passed away on 18 January 1988 in Invermere away after a lengthy illness.50 He was remembered as, “an ardent competitor in all sports, but a good portion of his enjoyment of athletic endeavours was the camaraderie and friendship that went along with participation. Joe was rich in friends. Joe knew the true meaning of friendship. He had many, many friends and they all rallied around him in his last months of illness.”51
Joan Mary, born in 1914, was also happy to grow up on a farm, proudly listing her occupation as “farmerette” when she was married in December 1938 to John Frank (Jack) Solinger, a labourer then living in Athalmer.52
Joan was active in sports as well, being among the “star performers” of the Lake Windermere basketball team in a game played in the David Thompson Memorial Fort in May 1931.53 She went on to take a business course at a college in Nelson through 1932.54
Joan and Jack Solinger remained in the Valley following their marriage. Jack joined up during the Second World War, enlisting in April 1942 and serving overseas as a Lieutenant Corporal with the 28th Armored Regiment (BC Regiment), seeing considerable action in Northwest Europe.55 Following his return, he worked in the logging industry, and passed away in July 1991 in Invermere.56 Joan, meanwhile, worked as a bookkeeper at Weirs Motors. She passed away in November 1997, survived by one daughter, Louise Marilynn Samletszi (later Collier).57
The youngest, Ruth, paved her own way, notably becoming “Invermere’s first hairdresser,”58 after taking a course in Vancouver in 1935.59 She carried on in this profession until December 1940, when she married Norman Lawson Ruffle, the son of Alfred James and Ada Franse Ruffle of Canal Flats.60
Norman was then living in Vancouver, where he worked as a heavy machinery mechanic, and the couple moved there following their wedding. By 1946, the Ruffles were living in Prince George,61 while in 1961 they are reported at Vernon.62
Soon after, they landed in Burnaby, where Norman passed away in July 1972.63 Ruth continued to work as a bus driver, and she passed away at her home in Burnaby in October 1994.64 The Ruffles had one daughter, Lynne Davies.
Markers for all of the Peters family can be found at the Windermere Cemetery, where Harry and Amy are both buried (their children are remembered with plaques).
Cydervale, also known as Peters Hill Farm, went on to be purchased by Hans and Rosa Hefti in 1955, who carried on with the dairy farm for a couple of years before turning to beef cattle. The property was sold in 1972 to Felix Austin, who in turn sold to George Deck.65 Kasper Heiz also later owned the property.66
There continued to be a sign there for Peters Hill Farm in the late 1990s when my parents brought by brother and I there to choose our first puppy (I’ll always have a soft spot for Peters Hill Farm due entirely to that bundle of energy).
John Murray Gibbon
David Thompson Memorial Fort
Another fantastic piece of work. You really bring history to life! I’ll never drive past that hill without remembering the Peters family.
Another article bringing back many memories. Joe snd I shared birthdays and he made me a wooden doll crib when I was younger that I kept and passed on to my granddaughters.
Thank you Alexandra
I love this! Such a special memory.
We are so lucky that you’ve chosen our valley for your endeavours. Thank you.