July 28,1914 is remembered as the day that ‘The Great War,’ World War I, began. Sixty-one young men residing in the Bella Coola Valley signed up to participate in what was to become the regrettably misnomered ‘War to end all Wars.’
Not all had permanent homes here but work had brought them into the region. Word had it that three or four railroad companies were investigating a route from the interior to the coast, which attracted able-bodied men with the prospect of work. The potential of this rail route was driven by the fact that Bella Coola was closer to the Peace River grain fields than Vancouver by a couple of hundred miles.
However, the money backing these proposals was mostly British and the British pulled back all financial commitments other than defending their homeland once war was declared. This left surveyors and land speculators unemployed and willing to fight with our allies to protect our international interest and trade partners.
In commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the start of WWI, the Bella Coola Museum and Archives has researched and developed a photo display recognizing a number of those from the Valley who volunteered and served.
Until the end of August the Museum is open to the public to visit and view the photo display. Only the men whose families remained part of our community after the war were selected for this exhibit. Some names and family descendants are still amongst us today: Brynildsen, Casperson, Clayton, Grant, Edwards, Jacobson, Levelton, Nygaard, Olsen, Pedersen, Ratcliff, Robson, Saugstad, Schulstad, and Svisdahl.
The research and preparation of the display was done by Peter Solhjell and Rene Morton, with financial support from Legion Branch 262 and photo work donations from Tell-Tale Signs. The display will also be on view at the Legion on Remembrance Day, and then form part of the Legion’s permanent photo recognition of all from the Valley who served in the Armed Forces.