100 YEARS: A commitment to Alberni history

AV News editor Susan Quinn immersing herself in Alberni history for 12 months and she wants to hear your thoughts as part of her research.

I love history. I think I get it from my late father, who had a bookshelf or three full of local history on places he visited. A few of those books made it into my own collection, which keeps growing.

For the next year, I am going to be immersed in the history of Port Alberni. The city will celebrate the 100th anniversary of incorporation of Port Alberni (as opposed to New Alberni) later this year, and I’ve committed to writing a column a week about some aspect of the region from 100 years ago, as well as upcoming centennial events.

I have copies of Jan Peterson’s three books on the Alberni Valley, and expect to spend a lot of time with my borrowed copy of The Albernis 1860–1922 in the coming months. I’m also grateful to Ken Rutherford, who is a fount of historical information. I have a list of topics I want to tackle thanks to him (and I’m open to other ideas too). I’ll also be spending some time visiting the Alberni District Historical Society archives and Alberni Valley Museum, fleshing out those topics.

When trying to decide how to approach a column about the centennial, I thought about writing on significant events that have happened over the past 100 years. But that was too daunting: how to narrow it down to 52 subjects? It’s much easier to look at the year 1912 on its own, I thought.

Now I’m not so sure. A lot of interesting things happened that year, and also in 1911, leading up to incorporation.

The focus back then was more on fishing than logging; development on the waterfront was in its infancy; rail travel was just beginning; and there was even a dispute over whether the Trans Canada Highway would end in Alberni.

There are so many questions begging to be answered: who was the Citizens Committee of 11? How did we end up with two cities with similar names? Who are the city’s pioneers, and what are their stories? What were the four districts of the city back in 1912 (no, really, I haven’t figured that one out yet and would appreciate some help)?

Researching material for this column could become a full-time job. I’ve probably bitten off way more than I can chew, so to speak. But the journey begins now. If you’ve got a tale, a piece of history, memorabilia or a deep-seated curiosity about something that happened in the area 100 years ago, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line at editor@albernivalleynews.com, check out our Facebook page or call me at 250-723-6399 and let’s chat.