By J.D. Jeffery
In 1956 an historical committee was created as part of the Board of Trade, now known as the Chamber of Commerce. After separating and becoming their own society, The Windermere District Historical Society acquired a building and located it at Pothole Park. With the first building, the Historical Society became known as Lake Windermere District Historical Society Museum. By the time the museum officially opened a year later, the name had changed to Windermere Valley Pioneer Museum.
In June 1965 a visitor’s book was presented to the society by Capt. James and Miss Jeanette Ogilvie-Wills to record all the visitors touring the new museum building. It was covered in white buckskin and decorated with beadwork done by Mrs. Mary Jimmy of the Columbia Lake Band.
On the first page were three signatures of prominent people in the valley. The first signature was Martin Morigeau, chief of the Columbia Lake Band and grandson of Baptiste Morigeau; Baptiste was a prominent settler in the valley. The second signature was Mary Morigeau, wife of Martin, and was age 86 at the time. She was the last Indigenous lady to sign her name with a cross. The last signature was Mrs. Louis Arbel, at the age of 93. She was the wife of late Louis Arbel who was the last of the Columbia Lake Band chiefs that were elected for life.
For the next five years the museum grew with artifacts and it was open to visitors two days a week for only two to three hours. By 1970 the Pioneer Cabin was getting crowded and the society knew they needed more space.
A member of the society was watching out for buildings in the community to see what may be available for the society to acquire. In October 1969 that member reached out to the CPR to try and secure the train station. By June 1970, a reply was received informing the board that even though the building was not being used for freight deliveries and passenger cars stopped coming through in 1965, the building was still being used as a train order office.
Learn more about what’s happening at the museum by visiting www.windermerevalleymuseum.ca