Valley Pioneer: The valleys original part-time resident: William Heap Holland



In this image from the 1920s, William Heap Holland pauses for a smoke from his pipe, sitting on the ranch he purchased from R.L.T. Galbraith in 1910. Photo submitted by Geoffrey Holland

Editors note: In the November 26th edition of The Pioneer, we ran a Historical Lens photo of William Heap Holland (see photo, above). Coincidentally, Dorothy Isted was writing a story about Mr. Holland and his influence in the valley at the same time.

By Dorothy Isted, Special to The Pioneer

William Heap Holland was a third-generation cotton mill owner who helped shape the future of Fairmont Hot Springs. Born in England in 1873 to Samuel and Rachel (ne Heap) Holland, he later traveled the world and ended up in this valley, building a spa at Fairmont that brought many visitors and immigrants to the area.

A manager ran the operation while Mr. Holland visited for extended periods from 1910 onwards, living in England when he wasnt in the valley.

Constance Gibbons Holland, Mr. Hollands first wife and the mother of his son, Bill.

Mr. Holland followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, William Holland, who employed hundreds of people in England in his cotton mills, William Holland and Sons. Mr. Hollands grandfather, who was the son of a labourer, started out working for mill owners and advanced until he was able to purchase and later build his own mills. His success was due in part to his business savvy and inventions, and the outbreak of the American Civil War.

The war caused the Lancashire Cotton Famine, as the Union Army blockaded exports of cotton from the Confederate States of America to England. The British looked elsewhere and bought Egyptian cotton.

In 1861, Mr. Hollands grandfather invented a device to modify existing spinning machinery, enabling the spinning of the different Egyptian cotton. Rather than registering a patent on this device, he gave it to the country. This was commemorated in Manchester Town Hall with his portrait.

By this time, Manchester had acquired the name Cottonopolis as it was considered the heart of the global cotton trade. When Mr. Hollands grandfather died in 1892, he left an estate valued at 24 million Canadian dollars in todays market.

His two sons, Samuel (Mr. Hollands father) and William Henry (Mr. Hollands uncle), ran the business together. William Henry also served in several prestigious business positions and later turned to politics. He was invested as a Knight Bachelor in 1902 and in 1910 the Peerage title Baron Rotherham of Broughton was created for him.

The Hollands were known as strict but fair, and thus were able to avoid labour disputes that plagued other factories. After his father, Samuel, died in 1906, Mr. Holland became a partner in the business with his uncle, William Henry, who was very influential in his life. When Baron Rotherham went bankrupt due to a number of bad investments, some sparked by losses from the First World War, Mr. Holland paid many of his debts, reducing his own fortune to a moderate size.

Bill poses for a photo on his fathers lap in the early 1900s.

In 1901, Mr. Holland met Constance Gibbons, who had just had a disagreement with a man she deeply loved. Thinking to make him jealous, she flirted with Mr. Holland, who instantly fell in love with her. He pressured her into a hasty marriage, and they had one son, Gerald William Leigh Holland, later known as Bill.

Soon after his birth she returned to her parents home and never returned. In an awkward attempt at reconciliation, Mr. Holland sued her for Restitution of Conjugal Rights. The judge, showing enlightenment ahead of the times, dismissed the case, ordering each party to pay their own costs.

Bill was raised by his mother and her family for six months of the year and by his father for the other six. Constance called her son Leigh and spoiled him. Mr. Holland called him Gerald and tried to instill discipline and order. He also took him travelling and introduced him to fishing, which became a lifelong passion for Bill. During their travels, father and son prospected for minerals and opened a mine in 1924.

When Bill was 16 he was allowed to choose where to permanently live. He chose his fathers home and never saw his mother again.

Records show that Mr. Holland was friends in England with Robert Randolph Bruce, a well-known local miner and land developer. The friendship prompted Mr. Hollands visit to the valley in 1910 when he purchased R.L.T. Galbraiths ranch at Fairmont Hot Springs.

By 1912, Mr. Holland had purchased 1,800 additional acres, including the Stopping House, a resting place for travelers, which had been built by early pioneer Sam Brewer. Mr. Holland later bought Fairmonts hot springs and natural pools from Mr. Bruce. Surprisingly, Fairmont resort was called Radium back at that time.

Mr. Holland returned to England to organize men and supplies for his venture into the Canadian west. Ernest Dapper Ede was one of the immigrants he brought to the valley. There are many Edes still found in this area today.

Claude Pearce, Mr. Hollands personal secretary from 1909, visited the valley with him in 1912. The two men became friends and the Pearces have fond memories of Mr. Holland, with Claude calling him Heap. He would drive the Pearces in his chauffeured car to London and at Christmas time give a bonus to Claude to buy gifts for his family. Claudes daughters played with Mr. Hollands son at the Holland home in England, White Barn Cottage.

During the First World War, Mr. Holland developed Fairmont into a spa that would appeal to Europeans. He built a concrete pool, restaurant, tent camp and bungalows to accommodate 70 people. He also built the Fairmont Hot Springs Ranch barn, which is still standing.

In 1924, Mr. Holland married Dorothea Thursfield in England and they visited the valley often. Peter Bartman of Fairmont Hot Springs remembers the couple. Peters father was the local manager for Mr. Holland and Peters folks talked of them a lot, Peter said.

Dorothea chose the dinnerware for the Fairmont cabins, he remembered.

Father and son, William Heap Holland (right) with Bill, in his 20s, enjoying one of their many trips to the valley together.

It was beautiful china, a flowered pattern. It was absolutely stunning stuff. She chose the smocks the waitresses wore. She had quite an influence on Fairmont, Peter said.

Peter believes the couple planted the willow tree which is on the street behind the shopping plaza, near where their house was. They were happy until the 1940s when Dorothea became ill and died in England.

Mr. Hollands son Bill found marital bliss of his own when he wed Joyce Selway Bright. She had come to the valley from England to work in the Hollands business venture, and ran the guest cottages and restaurant. In 1933, Bill, who had earlier met Joyce, came over from England and proposed marriage. She accepted and they returned to live in England. They had a daughter and son, named Jill and Geoffrey.

Geoffrey, who lives in London, England, has limited memories of his grandfather.

Tall, sporting a moustache, accustomed to wielding power and ordering people around, he had a difficult personality and we children were moderately but suitably terrified of him, Geoffrey said.

He was a fanatic over cars and owned many, five or six at a time; his preference was for Bentleys. He liked them to be open and could not bear upholstered seats. All the seating for his cars was custom-made in wood, which his passengers found exceedingly uncomfortable but which he claimed was better for the back.

Among the many patents he took out, there are 14 to do with improvements in motor cars seating, windscreens, steps, bodies, and electrics.

Around the Columbia Valley, Mr. Holland was known as an eccentric. Valley old-timers recorded that he wore a hat he made himself resembling a solar toupee supported with corks so air would circulate around his head.

He also strode down the streets of London, England, wearing beadwork pants, jacket and gloves made of buckskin by the Ktunaxa women of Columbia Lake reserve a daring thing in very conservative times.

When Mr. Holland grew old, he went to live at an expensive hotel in Eastbourne, a seaside resort in England. He became difficult, developing many allergies.

He became allergic to everything except alcohol, Geoffrey wryly stated. In the anteroom to his suite were all sorts of cleansing agents so that ladies could scrub off rouge and powder and lipstick and mascara. Joyce used to be furious. She was certain he only did it because he liked to annoy women,

Mr. Holland died in 1952 in England. War, which had helped his grandfather amass a fortune, contributed to the end of wealth for the family. Since England was still struggling to financially recover from the Second World War, death and estate taxes were high.

Probate held back what stocks and shares were left from Mr. Hollands estate throughout a stock market crash. Since this was the bulk of Mr. Hollands estate, Bill received a pittance of their original value.

This led to the decision to sell the Fairmont property to the Wilder family, who further developed Fairmont Hot Springs into the resort that is seen today.

Radium Camp, as Fairmont Hot Springs Resort was first known, this black and white image was hand-tinted by Mr. Holland

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