JC was at the Turf waiting for me again on Saturday and reminded me of something he and I did a few years ago. Apparently we are named on a plaque in Barkerville for our efforts.
We didn’t do it for recognition and it kinda made me sad that JC and I had so many wonderful experiences and will be forever remembered for this one and we are no longer.
Anyway it started when I was living in an apartment in Abbotsford attending college. My son had moved back with me and JC had moved in as well. From my living room window at night you could see a yard light on down the hill but I had no idea what was down there; if just looked like brush from any angle.
One day my son comes through the door breathless with excitement and his arms full of papers. He said down the hill where that light is he found a small abandoned ghost town. He went on to say there was a huge lavish home, a smaller house, and several out buildings. The places had been trashed but he had found all these old papers, news papers, financial records from the Haddrell Hotel, Xmas cards etc.
I went through them with him and these were OLD, he had a newspaper article that showed the plans for the Twin Towers yet to be built (and now they were gone). I asked him about this place, was he sure no one lived there, how did he find it, etc.
He said there is an over grown driveway and once you get to the end of it; it opened up to a beautiful old rambling house and there was all sort of antiques strewn around. JC and I went down the next day after school and met Kris there. He was right, there was a regular 3 bedroom house where people had obviously been squatting, a really small shack that would have been a farm hands cabin, several out buildings and the main house which was 1/2 surrounded by a concrete wall about 4′ tall, bamboo plants and other tall huge plants, on the other side was a creek with a small wooden patio and one side looked out over the land below. Inside there was a main lounge area with the name Haddrell woven into the wall to wall carpet. A huge fireplace took up most of one wall there was a bathroom and bedroom off of this room and a door that opened to a kitchen area that had most of the cabinets removed and broken. Off of the kitchen was another big dining and living room with another fireplace and hard wood floors. Another hallway led to another sleeping area with a bathroom. There was no furniture in the house but I picked up a bible from the 2nd bedroom, and there were papers, newspaper articles and other paper strewn every where and broken china etc.
Outside there were more papers, cards from the early 1900’s we found a last will and testament for a William Haddrell, and kris found behind a door in the shed a penny wrapped in lined paper written by Bud Haddrell saying it was the first penny he ever made for sweeping off the hotel roof and he wanted people to know how he started in life and that he earned his money.
We bagged up a bunch of the cards etc and I was particularly drawn to pieces of paper about 4×3 obviously torn out of a notebook and spread all over the yard.
While we were there two fellows showed up and we asked what they were doing there. They said they were from Kelowna and had heard about this house in Abbotsford that had money hidden in it. They said they had found thousands of dollars in a couple of stoves, behind mirrors, and now they were lifting floor boards and taking the fireplace apart. They said the old guy who lived there was dead and they were going to demolish the house.
We took our treasures and went home to read. I could go on and on about what we learned of the Haddrells but I will try to keep it short.
It turned out the Haddrells were one of the first people to settle in Abbotsford and had the first hotel. There was 3 kids and Bud had remained at home his whole life. There was receipts from all the rentals they had in the town and they never increased the rent.
There was pictures of Bud dancing in Bavaria with women. A newspaper article about him and his collection of antiques. He had a collection of antique cuckoo clocks including the first one ever made, he had the original Pinochio puppet, and he said his prized possession was the Hanging Judge Roy Bean’s wood stove.
When I started reading the pieces of paper I had collected I realized I had his journal. He talked about the Dummies a lot, he made a note that the “Dummies” were on the corner and the time etc. There were several notes that said “invite someone in and see what you get”
I found a hydro bill where he had paid the hydro 5 years in advance; thus why the yard light kept going on at night.
And I found notes he wrote about having to get home before dark; before the Dummies showed up. My stomach started to flip; I realized I was no longer reading some old guys boring journal this man had been afraid. It took me hours but I put all the pages in chronological order and started from the beginning.
He was a generous man (there were many thank you cards from many people for the donations he had made, gifts he had given, going back years and years) and in 1984 he took a homeless man home and fed him. His house was full of treasures and I gather this fellow told other people; drug addicts who all started robbing this man.
He wrote about them showing up in a car and a woman he called the Lady in Red; who acted interested in him. They gave him a drink that he suspected had a drug in it and they made him go to the bank and take out money.
Other notes talked about him locking himself in his bedroom, reading his bible and praying while he heard them in the rest of the house rummaging through his things. He watched them walking down his driveway with so much stuff in their arms they were dropping things. He wrote to himself, don’t go pick it up. He wrote of them watching his house and he was trying to hide money they wouldn’t find. He told his sister they were robbing him and she laughed and said he was crazy that he should have them for tea.
I was sobbing reading how this went on for 15 years and no one helped this man. JC started asking around town about him and heard that he wasn’t dead; he was in the hospital dying of cancer.
Oh yeah! His birth date was the same as mine April 5th only 1911. JC decided to go visit the old guy but when he got there the nurses said the old guy had just gone to sleep. He hadn’t slept all night, he kept asking is he here yet? They didn’t know who he was talking about. We were going to go another day but he died before we got around to it.
It bothered me horribly that this poor man had been tormented like this. Then one day we were at a friends and the guy had gotten a free utility trailer but it had an old wood stove in it and he took JC to show him. The minute JC saw it he knew it was the wood stove we had seen in the newspaper article. He reached inside it and pulled out a pair of old railway engineer overalls (haddrell’s favorite thing to wear) a 1/2 pack of smokes, a really old $10 bill and a note. The note said;
“Would whoever finds this stove please return it to its rightful owner the Province of BC Barkerville”
JC couldn’t believe his eyes and told our friend “this is the Hanging Judge Roy Bean’s wood stove” the friend didn’t have a clue who the hanging judge was so we filled him in on the whole story. Once he knew it was an important piece of history he refused to part with it. For two years we bugged the guy trying to get the stove off of him or get him to return it to Barkerville.
We had talked to the curator at Barkerville and from the response JC and I both got we figured he thought we were nuts.
Finally one day we’re driving past the friends house and they are obviously moving. The guy had been arrested for something and the wife was packing up and leaving. We stopped and asked about the stove and she said take it!
We threw it on JC’s truck right then and there and without packing a change of clothes headed to Barkerville.
It was the best trip, the best time JC and I ever had. I had forgotten how far it was to Barkerville and 9 hours later we arrived to find out it was off season and closed.
We could hear singing in the distance and I knew some people live there year round so we went through the gate and walked down the dark desolate road. We had a small dim flashlight and could feel the eyes of ghost from long ago following us as we held hands and stumbled towards the singing.
There was a light coming from one of the old hotels and as we walked past we saw someone walk past the window. Uncertain if we should knock we tapped lightly on the door and heard voices inside say
“Come in” . Slowly we opened the door and stuck our heads in. They said, “Saya will be right back”. Just then a woman dressed in period costume came down the hall and said “Hello, can I help you?” JC and I looked at each other as if to say “Are you seeing what I am seeing?”
We explained why we were there and that we had arrived so late and heard the singing.
It turned out it was performers practicing their routine, this was a bed and breakfast and there was one bed left.
One of the guests brought down a bottle of red wine and we joined them and the other guests until the wee hours of the morning. One couple was from Germany, another from Vancouver island and I can’t remember where the other people were from. I had just enough money to pay for our room and JC had covered the cost of fuel. We went to our and felt we had been transported back in time. The high bed with the fluffy down quilt and soft deep down pillows, the pitcher and basin on the dresser and a shared bathroom down the hall. Saya came and took our breakfast order and told us breakfast would be served at 9 am.
We went down in the morning and were greeted by pots of hot strong coffee, cinnamon rolls and platters that held our individual breakfasts. We all sat around the big old country table talking between mouthsful JC never ate breakfast but he finished his and then finished mine. We were done just in time to find the curator opening up his shop.
We introduced ourselves, related our story and he seemed less than impressed. That is until we took him out to the truck and he set eyes on the stove in the back of JC’s truck. His eyes lit up and he could hardly contain his excitement. He said he had never seen a stove that old and in that good a condition. He said, “you know we don’t buy artifacts?” We said we didn’t want money that we were fulfilling a dying man’s wish. We unloaded it, took a few pictures and were on our way. So pleased we had finally given Bud Haddrell his wish. The stove was home.
It was a long ride home and became a faded and cherished memory.
Then Saturday JC told me a friend of his had been to Barkerville and the courthouse and the stove is there with a plaque on it displaying JC and my name.
Hmmmmm we never thought we’d be honored in any way for what we did; but it is nice. And it makes me sad in a way.
So that’s how the Hanging Judge’s wood stove made it to Barkerville.
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