By Dorothy Isted
Special to The Pioneer
Editors note: The following article is about the real history of two characters featured in the upcoming Pynelogs musical, The Visionary and the Ghost of Pynelogs.
Basil George Hamilton was born on October 14th, 1869 in Collingwood, Ontario. His farmer father emigrated from England and his mother was born into a second generation Scottish family living in Quebec. His first job was in a bank and then he went west to Winnipeg to work for an older brother, L.A. Hamilton, who was the first Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) land commissioner.
There is a plaque on the corner of Hastings and Hamilton Streets in downtown Vancouver commemorating L.A. Hamiltons efforts.
Basil first saw the Columbia Valley when working in a railway survey party in 1898. He returned to Winnipeg and acted as a homestead inspector for the CPR prairie provinces in the summer. During the winter months, he was engaged as a proofreader for the Winnipeg Free Press. BG, as he was generally referred to, then took a sideways career move as editor of the Fort William Times Journal in Ontario.
His future wife, Anna Maud Mary Crawford, was born in Liverpool, England in approximately 1868. She came from progressive, privileged and educated people. Her father, Captain Matthew Crawford, was a master mariner and ship owner. Her mother Mary was the principal of a ladies school. Both of Mauds parents had been born in Scotland. British census records of 1871 show a 13-year-old cousin from Canada living with the family. Census records also show there were two governesses and two servants living in the home. It is unknown if Mauds whole family immigrated to Canada. However, her younger sister Mary graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in medicine.
Maud graduated from the Toronto General Hospital as a nurse. She initiated the Manitoba Association of Graduate Nurses, edited the magazine Canadian Nurse and was a member of the Canadian Womens Press Club. She started a hospital in Indian Head, Saskatchewan and acted as the superintendent. She married Basil Hamilton in Winnipeg on June 29th, 1907.
Like her friend Lady Elizabeth Bruce, Maud was educated by a governess, married late in life, and never had any children.
Basil Hamilton eventually returned to CPR and came to Calgary as secretary to Colonel J. E. Dennis, who was in charge of irrigation and colonization projects for the company. In 1910, Randolph Bruce hired BG to become his secretary in the newly formed Columbia Valley Fruit Irrigated Lands Co.
Basil held this position until 1921. He then opened his own business offering secretarial and insurance services. BG and Mauds first home was in Wilmer. They then moved into Invermere and built was is now the Cleland House on 5th Street, which they named Kootenae Lodge.
A vast collection of his papers were donated to the Windermere District Historical Society. Boxes and boxes of papers exist, detailing BGs efforts to record events, as he was a dedicated historian. He interviewed many old-timers in the valley and many of the First Nations people. There exist five drafts of an unpublished book entitled Kootenay Indians, the Mystic Tribe of British Columbia, along with handwritten notes and corrections.
Basil researched for many years and published a book on David Thompson called The Legend of Windermere. In 1910, using portions of David Thompsons journals, he found the location of the original David Thompson Fort along the road to Wilmer, now a National Historic Site. He had the foresight to purchase the land on which it stood and worked hard to have the government recognize the importance of it with a cairn.
Sue MacDonald, a museum volunteer, has been cataloguing BGs papers for two years. She said, They must have been a fine team. After he died, Maud was the primary person who got that cairn going. She wrote letters to the Government of Canada, hounded them to recognize this area and David Thompson.
Maud donated the land to the government for the historic site.
Both Maud and BG contributed articles to newspapers and magazines. Maud was a poet and also wrote articles for children. BG was the go-to man for any information people wanted about the valley. He was a regular contributor to The Vancouver Province, The Calgary Herald and The Winnipeg Free Press. During the First World War, he created a newsletter he sent weekly to the men at the front to keep them in touch with news from home and with each other.
Basil tried to interview all newcomers, and when he couldnt, hed get someone else to do it. He was an indefatigable researcher and a relentless recorder of details: burial sites, history, coins, stamps, weather, settlers problems, local and world events, gardens etc. One reporter for The Vancouver Province travelled to the valley and wrote an amusing article about her time here and how, whenever she asked someone a question, theyd tell her to talk to BG. She titled her article The Man Who Knows.
Basil involved himself in many civic enterprises serving on executive committees and offering his secretarial and accounting skills to non-profits. He and Maud donated the land for the Anglican church, the site where Christ Church Trinity now stands. There is a plaque inside the building commemorating his many years of service there. He died in 1933. His obituary in The Golden Star called him the best loved man in the valley.
Maud got behind a lot of public development projects. She convened committees to raise funds to build schools, the hospital and the church. She served on the school board and once criticized the schoolmasters wife for hanging out her nightie and his pyjamas on the clothesline beside each other because they were too suggestive.
Maud took charge and made things happen when there was a need. Along with Delphine Stark, she founded the local Hospital Aid Society, serving as president for many years. When Basil became ill, he referred to her in his journals as his ministering angel.
When her friend Lady Elizabeth became ill, Randolph Bruce called Maud to attend to her. Maud was at her side when she died.
Like her husband, Maud died at their home, in 1936. She did live long enough to see David Thompsons Kootenae House declared a National Historic site in 1934. There are pictures of her sister, Dr. Mary Crawford, taking part in the unveiling. Mary inherited the Hamilton home, Kootenae Lodge, and lived there until her death in June 1953.
Special thanks to the writers sister Nadine Sturko of Edmonton for her genealogical research, which coloured in the unknown circumstances of BGs and Mauds early life.