When D.W. Smith and William Van Horne dissolved their partnership after a heated argument in 1921, the two men never spoke again. According to history buff Rollie Jamieson, the partners jointly owned the Alexandra Hotel where the argument took place in the bar room. Van Horn said Smith spent too much time in the bar. Smith accused Van Horne of talking too much to the ladies. Neither man was happy and the hotel work wasn’t getting done.
Bar patrons expected a real fight that night, but were disappointed. A few days later the Salmon Arm Observer announced the legal dissolution of the partnership. Van Horne kept the hotel business and Smith went to work as the city’s wharf keeper, a career that was to last 30 years. He began building small boats. The ladies called him Mr. Smith and everyone else called him D.W. The craftsman became a fixture. Smith was also the official security on-site and reported to city council on petty thievery and vandalism.
How did earlier residents gain access to the waterway that connected to Kamloops and beyond? One hundred and twenty years ago, early surveyor George Mercer Dawson wrote that he “was grounded on the mudflats a quarter of a mile from the Salmon Arm station. Took off boots, and wallowed to shore and back through about a hundred yards of soft mud – so soft in places as to evoke fear [of] being engulfed altogether. To the station and telegraphed for mail to be sent to Sicamous tomorrow. Then to McGuire’s store and got a fresh supply of provisions of which we seem likely to be short.”
Then Mrs. McGuire had a private jetty built. In 1907, McGuire’s pier was replaced by a substantial Government wharf. The Enderby Progress newspaper reported that “[t]he hearts of all Salmon Arm citizens were gladdened by the report on the progress of the wharf question…$5,000 has been placed on the BC Supplementary Estimates for the purpose of building a wharf at Salmon Arm.”
Paddlewheelers that had brought supplies to crews building the C.P.R. were still in use as new ones were being built. They no longer had to nose to shore or rely on a gang plank to access dry land. Residents on the north side of the lake were still regular visitors and needed access to the railroad, roads, and markets.
This year’s Heritage Week theme, Heritage Afloat, is a nod to a special place – the historic government wharf that continues to be one of Salmon Arm’s defining features. The celebration is an opportunity to explore all the ways we use water as transportation and how it historically interlinked with road and rail travel.
Heritage Afloat is being celebrated at the Mall at Piccadilly. To see displays, courtesy of the Salmon Arm Museum at R.J. Haney Heritage Village and others, visit between Feb. 17 and 22.
For more, contact the Museum at 250-832-5243.