Speak of the dead tour returns

Salmon Arm Museum and Haney Heritage Village Curator Deborah Chapman is preparing to take people on her annual tour, “Speak of the Dead.”

  • Oct. 3, 2012 5:00 a.m.
Historic tour begins: Museum curator Deb Chapman stands in front of the Raby house at the corner of 50th Avenue and 50th Street SW.

Historic tour begins: Museum curator Deb Chapman stands in front of the Raby house at the corner of 50th Avenue and 50th Street SW.

Salmon Arm Museum and Haney Heritage Village Curator Deborah Chapman is up to one of her favourite fall activities — preparing to take people on her annual tour, “Speak of the Dead.”

She’s reviewing the cast list, checking her candidates, making sure all are still available, and preparing for a walk through one of the prettiest knolls in Salmon Arm, the Mt. Ida Cemetery.

This year the walk falls on Thanksgiving Sunday. The air will be crisp and leaves starting to turn colour. It is a beautiful spot, chosen by early pioneers, and purchased from Mr. Jas Allen in 1894.

One of the pioneers on the scene the year of the cemetery’s purchase was James Raby.

He arrived in the valley in 1892, homesteaded 80 acres at the foot of Mt. Ida. Raby built a cabin only to have it destroyed by a bush fire. But, with determination, he rebuilt.

Memories of that hardship were selective. Raby’s challenge was spending years to clear his land from dense bush, when every spare dollar was used to purchase stumping powder.

Raby made a trip east to Ontario in 1896 and returned with a bride.

Heartache was part of life in any pioneering community. The couple lost two infant children, Ernest Henry in 1904 and Grace in 1911. Two daughters, Laura Adela and Ila Gertrude, survived.

Raby was community-minded, serving on the municipal council and helping to construct the Mt. Ida Methodist Church now located at Haney Heritage Village.

Raby’s mark on the landscape continues to this day. His landmark house was ordered from the T. Eaton Company and still sits elegantly on Foothills Road at the corner of 50th Avenue and 50th Street SW.

Local residents tell of when the lumber, windows and other components were shipped on three railway cars in 1916.

The foundation was of dressed stone and mortar. When finished, the house had hot water heat and a generator that powered electric lights long before electric power made its way to Mt. Ida District.

It was a house built for entertaining and was showcased a decade later, when the Rabys had a reason to celebrate.

When daughter Laura married Rev. Reginald Alfred Redman of Port Alberni in 1926 at the Valley United Church down the road, the Rabys were in full attendance and the Salmon Arm Observer preserved the memory.

A column was dedicated to the event, as the paper reported that the maid of honour was Ila, wearing a frock of imported chrysanthemum silk crepe with a picture hat of powder blue. Miss Marion Bray was the flower girl and “looked very pretty in pink silk.”

During the wedding march played by John Lacey, the bride and her father proceeded to the altar on rose leaves strewn by the flower girl, under a series of arches decorated with ivy and fern and hung with wedding bells.

The bride wore an exquisite Oriental ivory brocade gown in cherry blossom design, with pearl trimming. Laura’s veil was of heavily embroidered tulle, held in place by a crown of orange blossoms. She carried a shower bouquet of white carnations and cream roses, the Observer continued. Immediately after the ceremony, a reception was held at the home of the bride. Hopefully, the party continued into the wee hours with the aid of Mr. James Raby’s personal generator powering all the lights in the house!

Join Chapman for more stories on Sunday, Oct. 7 at 1 p.m. in the old section of Mt. Ida Cemetery. Space is limited, so call 250-832-5243 to reserve your spot.

Cost of the program is $7.50 and includes a hot chocolate.