History of Pioneer Resident
Edward Eby
by Floyd Frank, November 23, 1983

Eby's Landing, showing the store (left), Dominion Telegraph Co. cabin (center,
and the hotel, (circa 1910).  With the establishment of Terrace the hotel was
bought by the Marsh family, dismantled and rebuilt at Kalum Street and Keith Avenue

Edward (Ed) Eby was born in Ontario in Grant Township, Bruce County, Elemwood, in 1877, on September 22nd. He headed west in 1892 for Banff, Alberta where he was employed for one year. Still working his way west, he arrived in Vancouver in 1896. Then he crossed over to Victoria and worked his way up the island to Uclulet, where he found a job in a general store as manager. The store was owned by a H. C. Brewster, who later became Premier of B.C.   In 1904 Eby went back to Victoria where he married Vina Fayette. From Victoria the couple came up the coast to the mouth of the Skeena River and Port Essington, where Eby was employed in the Carlisle Cannery. Their first child, Vernon, was born in Port Essington in 1905. In that year he was employed as foreman in Wadhams Cannery. But Eby wasn't interested in a career in the fish packing industry. In that year, 1905, the Kitsumkalum and Lakelse valleys had been thrown open to land seekers and the first settlers arrived to stake homesteads. With the beginning of steamboat traffic in May of 1906 Eby came up river to look around. When the steamer pulled into a cut bank, about one mile upriver from the mouth of the Kitsumkaum River, to take on cordwood, Eby decided to gather up his belongings and come ashore to size up the surrounding country. The site, halfway between Port Essington and Hazelton seemed ideal for a boat landing point, and, with the prospects of a rush of settlers seeking land, a good place to build a hotel and store. He staked out several acres of land there along the riverbank and proceeded to build himself a log cabin and do a bit of clearing. But they had to get back to the coast in July to his job in Wadhams Cannery, as the salmon run was starting. It was while he was at Wadhams Cannery that Eby met William (Billy) Bruce, who was bookkeeper at the Skeena River Commercial cannery in the vicinity of Port Essington. Eby told him of his plans to establish a hotel and store upriver at Kitsumkalum and said he could need a partner, and Bruce agreed to join in this new venture. In the spring of 1907 Eby again headed up the river, this time with a whole cargo of lumber to start construction of his hotel and store. Whether Bruce came up with him and helped with the buildings is not known. What we do know is that Bruce was back with the Skeena River Commercial cannery again for the 1907 fishing season.  Being in Port Essington, he was able personally to see that Eby got the supplies he needed, and it was in September of that year that be bought a large order of various whiskies and beer for Eby's new bar and shipped it up on the steamer Northwest.  About half way up the river to Kitsumkalum the boat hit a submerged snag or rock, ripping a large hole in the aging planking on the bottom, and the vessel settled to the bottom, in water deep enough that a good deal of her cargo, including Eby's order of beer and hard liquor sailed off downstream. About half of their order was lost, some of it to be picked up by thirsty travellers on the lower river in after years. But Eby was established at what became known as Eby's Landing, although the post office which the postal service opened there was Kitsumkalum post office, although the settlers always referred to it and spelled it Kitsumkalum, while some old maps called the river and lake Kitsumgallum, which might have been nearer to the native's way of pronouncing it. On a few occasions the riverboats make quick trips up to Hazelton in October if heavy rains raised the level of the river to make passage possible, but that had to hurry back as a frosty night or two would mean the river level could drop to the point where navigation would be impossible. The flat bottomed vessels, when coming down nearly empty didn't require much more than two feet of water, except the latest arrival on the river, the Inlander, whose owners claimed she could navigate quite well on a heavy dew. However, as a general rule navigation closed about the middle of September, so upriver storekeepers had to at least attempt to get in their full winter's supply of goods on these last trips. It wouldn't have been too hard to Eby in the fall of 1907 as there weren't too many bachelors in the valley yet. But in 1908 families started arriving, the Franks, the Marshes, the Johnstons besides many more single men taking up land.

Mrs. Eby and son Vernon came up to join her husband as soon as living quarters were available. They lived in a section of the hotel, and Mrs. Eby looked after the rooms and did the cooking in the hotel kitchen. And so, Ed Eby, with partner William Bruce, became the first businessmen in the new settlement which eventually ends up as the town of Terrace.

Edward Eby was a medium sized man, about five feet seven inches, and fairly stout in build. Where his folks originated, and the name Eby came from I don't know, although I had heard that they came to Eastern Canada from the middle east, possibly Syria. His distinguishing feature was that he had one blue eye and one brown eye, which suggested a mixing of nationalities somewhere in his background.

He had a shrewd business ability, as he proved in later business ventures he undertook. His brother, Sam, came into the area later, but I can't recall Sam ever taking an active part with Ed in the business, although he may have helped financially. As the name Fayette implies, Mrs. Eby was of French stock. She was born in Chesley, Wisconsin on October 24, 1882. She was quite a clever woman. She had the only camera in the district for a number of years, a Kodak postcard size, and she developed and printed all her own pictures. We are indebted to her for most of the old pictures of riverboats and dog teams, now so treasured. When the family moved to Smithers about 1919, they took with them a whole cardboard box of Mrs. Eby's negatives. What happened to those negatives after Mrs. Eby's death in 1956, I do not know. But the few old time residents left here could really have a field day looking them over.

The original log cabin became a Dominion Government telegraph office as soon as the Landing became a stopping place for the boats and the center of the new community, with Percy Brunell as the first operator. Then Henry (Hank) Boss was moved up from Graveyard Point to take over, and I believe the Graveyard Point office was closed. Following Boss was a Mr. Dempster, and last a Hugh Burch took over about 1911, and it was he who moved the office into Terrace a year or two later, to a small building on a lot just to the east of what is now the Skeena Hotel. Ed Eby brought the first horses into the area, possibly in 1907, and the site of the old barn, with stalls for four horses at the north end, a blacksmith at the south end, and a hay loft above, is still visible to those who know where to look. His blacksmith was Harry Richmond, some of whose family are still in the area. One team he called Kitsum and Kalum, the other was called Prince and Black Silver. When the country to the north as far as Kitsumkalum Lake was opened up somehow these teams managed to haul heavy freight wagons through to the foot of the lake, with several miles of the road just a muddy rutted track skirting around trees in the dense forest. In the fall of 1910 Clair Giggey and his father cut cordwood on the area around the old cemetery, and Eby's teams brought this cordwood down and piled it along the riverbank handy for loading on the steamboats. I remember watching out our windows as the heavily laden sleighs passed our home on the way to the Landing. He had a number of drivers over the years, some we got to know, like Dan Claher and Frank Nightwine, but many of them stayed only a short time and then were gone. But the favorite one with us youngsters was Pat Healy, right from Ireland. When he spoke in that Irish brogue he almost sang out the words, and loved his horses, petting them, caressing them, and the horses seemed to understand and respond. What eventually happened to his teams I do not know. Possibly Billy Bruce took them with him when he went up into the Bulkley Valley to fill the contract for railway ties he and Eby required.

The hotel lobby was the size of a big living room, and was used on a number of occasions to hold small dances. Small, because there were only a handful of women in the valley. Vital Soucie could play the violin, especially the fast square dance music, and George Minchin could wail out a tune on his mouth organ. Frank Nightwine could beat out the accompaniment on his guitar. It may not have been much to listen to, but the beat was there, the musicians usually stomping out the beat with one foot. In 1911, with the building of the community hall-school-church complex next to the Marsh home, that hall took over as the entertainment centre. The big building was never used as a store, whoever had it built in 1912 realizing that they had made a mistake, the town and all the business was to be in Terrace. But the fir floor upstairs was ideal for dancing, and all the dances in the valley were held there until the Progress Hall, later known as the I.O.O.F. hall, was built in Terrace. By 1912 Henry Frank had mastered the violin, and he and Frank Nightwine provided the dance music, with Frank Lazelle, if he was present, spelling Henry off on the violin. Lazelle was left handed and held the violin between his knees, facing outward, but he was able to saw away on the fiddle, giving off a very acceptable rendition.

With the rails being laid through the valley in late October of 1910, the last year of steamboating on the Skeena the fall of 1911, Eby realized that if he was to survive, he had to go to the new town of Terrace. The Rev. Thomas Marsh also saw the need to move into the new town and build a proper church. So in the fall of 1912 Marsh bought the Eby hotel and proceeded to tear it down, cart the lumber into Terrace and build himself a new home. He chose the east side of Kalum Street south of Keith, where he built a very large two storey home. And Eby started his move. The first building he tore down was the freight shed, Eugene (Gene) Hale taking on that job. But while standing on the two by four braces across the top of the walls, driving the boards off the roof, he last his balance and fell to the floor, breaking several ribs, and effectively removing him from the wrecking business. However, the work went on. Eby bought a lot up Eby, the street named after him, and built a bungalow type home on the property. The house burned down in the 1950's, and the DeJong family bought the property. He also built a two storey store building in Terrace on the east side of Kalum Street.

In 1911 a daughter was born in the Prince Rupert hospital to the Ebys. She was named Vina after her mother. Then in 1913 a second son, Peter was born at home in Kitsumkalum. At this time Dr. Traynor was established in Terrace and he undoubtedly attended the birth.

Mrs. Eby was in charge of the hotel kitchen for the first while, when business was not very brisk. As Eby's partner said they tried to hire a Chinese cook in Port Essington, but there were so many reports of accidents and drownings on the river that no Chinaman would venture up the river. Work on the railway eventually brought a number of the many foreign workers into the area and one day a half dozen of these workers came into the dining room and sat down at a table. Mrs. Eby glanced out the door to the kitchen, saw all these strangers and decided she didn't want to go out to serve them. So she rounded up Jack Hepburn to act as waiter.  Jock put a towel over his arm and went out to take their order. When asked what they wanted they all said pie. So he went to the kitchen where Mrs. Eby told him there was no pie. He went back to the group and told them "no pie", what else would you like. The answer from the group was again pie.  It turned out this was the only English word they knew, so Mrs. Eby fixed up a lunch that seemed to satisfy them. With business getting brisker a cook was again looked for, and a widow woman, Mrs. Annie Ross, took over the running of the hotel, possibly about the fall of 1909, with Billy Bruce assuming the role of waiter if things got busy in his spare time. Mrs. Ross had a grown up family who also came into the district. Tom, the oldest, Frank, Bob, and Inez in her late teens. They took up land at the head of Kitsumkalum Lake, and hence the name Rosswood. So Ed built living quarters for his growing family to the rear of the store where the family lived the last few years they were at the Landing.

And so the era of Eby's Landing came to an end. It wasn't a long period, seven years at the most, but it took in the period when the valley was in its in infant stages. With few exceptions the settlers were single men, from all corners of the earth. As a group they got along exceedingly well. Eby's store was a favourite gathering place, with the big stove in the center of the room, a few chairs, barrels and boxes to lounge in or on, a spitton nearby which the smokers and chewers were adept, most of the time, at hitting. Much of the conversation centered around their plans for the next year, clearing land, putting in a garden, or the best kind of apple varieties to plant. I believe it was Mrs. Dan McKinnon who remarked that more farming was carried on around Eby's stove in the winter time than actually took place the next summer.

W.C. Sparkes bought part ownership in the new store in Terrace in 1914 and it became Eby and Sparkes. In 1916 Eby joined the Canadian Army when the 102nd battalion was recruited in Northern B.C. that year. Their commander was Col. Warden and they were known as Warden's Warriors. A large percentage of them were men in their middle ages, used to roughing it and familiar with firearms. From the time they were recruited to the time they were in the frontlines in France was the shortest training period of any of the troops that went overseas in that first world war. Ed Eby was put in charge of a field post office, so saw little or no service in the front line trenches. He was home again early in 1919 and shortly after his return he sold his interest in the store to W.C. Sparkes and moved with his family to the town of Smithers, where he built a hardware store. When the store was well established and Peter was old enough to take charge, Eby again moved east to Vanderhoof where he said he was building a cash and carry hardware store. People laughed at him saying customers wouldn't patronize a cash and carry store, they were too used to monthly credit. But Eby went ahead with his store and made a success of it. He also opened a store in Burns Lake. He eventually retired to Smithers. Mrs. Eby became very ill and passed away in the Smithers hospital on October 2, 1956, and Ed Eby died sometime in early 1964. To the best of my knowledge none of the Eby family now live in Smithers. However, several grandchildren dwell in Prince Rupert.

Floyd Frank

November 23, 1983
 
 

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