“WHERE’S THE RHUBARB?” a visitor asked recently, at my place of work–the Haylmore Heritage Site. I understood immediately. So often, an ancient rhubarb plant, and its scions, are the only vestige of an old homestead in the woods, outlasting lumber and nails. The humble rhubarb perseveres, bearing witness to what can no longer be seen. This is not the case at the Haylmore Heritage Site, though several ornamental garden plants remain.

We know that Will Haylmore had extensive gardens. Photos show tomato plants basking in his sun porch overlooking the fenced vegetable patch, and a sunken rose garden flowered beside his office. Kids would pick his strawberries, and he would let them choose one large vegetable each, to take home to their mothers. One little girl felt like a princess, strolling along Will’s flower-planted terraces.

Did Mr. Haylmore not have rhubarb, or was it uprooted during subsequent disruptions? This is one of the questions I carry in my mind, along with wondering about the location of his outhouse (not the existing one), and whether he got his water from a well, or directly from the Hurley. It’s one thing to see historic pictures of subjects that the photographer thought notable, but it’s another another thing to think about what actually living on site would be like. These may seem like rather mundane details, but mundane details govern the flow of life.

In relating boom town histories, there is a tendency to focus on and record the exceptional–the biggest nuggets, the first gold brick–but to pay less attention to context. Yet it is overburden that contains and supports the sought-after ore, and there is a lot more overburden than ore. Likewise, a mine and miners also need services and support. So many people moved to the Bridge River Valley to serve the needs of the mines and miners, but were never miners, themselves. However, their presence built a community, and a context in which the mines operated.

We are fortunate to be in touch with people who were born in the community during the boom years, and who remember the mundane details of daily life in the valley, just from being local kids, while grownups were making mining headlines and writing stock prospectuses. These now-grown kids have an important role, today. They are like the rhubarb scions, bearing witness to what is no longer visible, of their past community.

Can any of those valley kids reading this post please tell me, then, whether Mr. Haylmore had rhubarb, where his outhouse was, and whether he had a well? Or can you share any other seemingly mundane recollections, of what time has erased? After all, it’s such humble details as these, that bring history to three-dimensional life. You guys are the “missing” rhubarb.

Article by: Regan Dixon
Photo credit: Bralorne Pioneer Museum, Fugere Collection