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Yarrow, British Columbia

Edited by
Esther Epp Harder, Edwin Lenzmann, and Elmer Wiens

Yarrow's Village Pioneers

Before 1922, Sumas Lake stretched northerly on Sumas Prairie from Vedder Mountain to Sumas Mountain, and southwesterly towards the USA border near Arnold. Expanding in area during the spring floods, Sumas Lake was more than three times larger than Cultus Lake on the other side of Vedder Mountain. In contrast to the deep, clear waters of Cultus Lake fed by mountain streams, Sumas Lake was a shallow, muddy backwater of the Fraser River fed largely by the often-turbulent Vedder River.

Sumas Lake, the Vedder-Chilliwack River, and its tributaries are part of the traditional territory of the people of the Sumas and Chilliwack Stó:lō and Tzeachten Salish First Nations. The arrival of Europeans destroyed their way of life.

Before 1875, the Chilliwack River passed through Sardis on its way to the Fraser River. Logging in the Chilliwack River Valley created logjams at Vedder Crossing eventually diverting most of the Chilliwack River's flow onto the Vedder River.

Sumas Lake was readily available to the Sumas First Nation for fishing and hunting, and for travel by canoe to the Fraser River and surrounding areas. When Sumas Lake was drained by way of the Vedder Canal, the Sumas Band was essentially landlocked and their members' way of life shattered. Vancouver Sun: Sumas First Nation seeks compensation for its lost lake.

Passengers travelling regularly between Chilliwack and Vancouver on the B.C. Electric interurban trains witnessed the extent of Sumas Lake diminish after the Vedder Canal dykes diverted the Vedder River directly to the Fraser River, and the Barrowtown pumping station began draining the lake. After a few years, the ten thousand acres of reclaimed, lake-bottom, Crown Land, and Chauncey Eckert's one thousand acres to the east were ready to be settled and farmed. Until the end of 1927, settlers occupying about fifty homesteads inhabited the Vedder River Flats and Majuba Hill areas.

—   Yarrow's Pioneers: 1927   —
Bellerose E.W.   farming (Belrose)   Bellerose G.H.   farming (Belrose)   Bellerose V. farming (Belrose)   Bennett R.W. labourer  
Bishop J.W. labourerBrown Elizabeth   farmingBrown Robert   mstr menrPost Office Siddall postmistress  
Canadian Hop GardensOrd mng. dir.United ChurchShaw Reverend F. Clark J. labourerDe Graw Frank   fruit (Belrose)
Downham SamfarmingDuncan A.V. dairyingDuncan W.F.R. retiredGlover E. BCER Flagman  
Golder Harold P farmingHopkirk A labourerJohnston F labourerKnox George M.blacksmith
Knox Joseph dairyingKnudsen A labourerLandin G BCER trackmanLangran C.A. labourer
Latty D.F. farmingLubin P. farmingMcAloney R. labourerMaitland F. H. farming
Manuel Philip C. farmingMartin John J. farmingMessere Emilio BCER trackmanNorman J. labourer
Ord Henry mng. dir. Can Hops  Porter Mrs. R. farmingSiddall, Mrs. Eva postmistressSiddall Wm H. gen store serv sta
Simmons Albt dairyingSmith Mary C. widow farmingStevens S.W. farming Stromberg F. farming (Belrose)
Tetreau L.P. labourerThompson E. BCER asst agt Town Ira labourerTown L farming
Town Robt farming (Belrose) Washlynkuk A.farmingWright Geo. FarmingZandiro Gustaf BCER Trackman
Zoet A. farming

Eckert had waited twenty years to realize a return on his investments in land purchased in 1908 from Joseph and Margaret Knox. Eventually, Eckert advertised his farmland for sale in such publications as the Winnipeg Free Press Farmer, whose information was reprinted as a letter in the Mennonitische Rundschau. Mennonite families, anxious to escape the harsh climate of the Canadian Prairies, were eager buyers. They saw these Fraser Valley, virgin farmlands as a golden opportunity for a fresh start. Mennonites thronged west, drawn by Eckert's generous financial terms. More co-religious settlers from revolution ravaged Russia, and Mexico joined them. Before long, they developed a village along the lines of the Mennonite villages they had left behind in the Ukrainian steppes of Russia.

Chauncy E. Eckert
Chauncy E. Eckert

Nevertheless, the first few years were very demanding on Yarrow's settlers. These pioneers needed to re-build their lives, construct dwellings and barns, set up farms with pasture and hay fields, obtain livestock, poultry, and feed, and grow cash crops and gardens on recently drained soil. With little in the way of existing infrastructure, they needed to negotiate with the local government for roads, sidewalks, drainage ditches, water supplies, and schools for their children. The very earliest settlers took lodging in cabins, or with families on Majuba Hill until the B.C.E. railway delivered the "lumber for their first houses and buildings on the (Chilliwack) interurban line" (Ewert 183).

Between the summers of 1928 and 1929, passengers travelling regularly between Chilliwack and Vancouver on the B.C. Electric interurban trains witnessed a village emerge on the plain below Vedder Mountain. To only occasional travellers, however, Yarrow materialized as an instant village. That Yarrow was an instant, Mennonite village is evident from the Mennonite names that appear on the list of residents in Wrigley's Yarrow Directory for 1929.

—   Yarrow's Pioneers (excluding Belrose): 1929   —
Bargen John GfarmingBennett Robt W.   farmingBerg George farmingBerg Isaac labourer
Bishop J.W. labourerBolley Henry J. labourer
Can Hop Gardens  
Braun John farmingBrown Elizabethfarming
Brown R.mstr menrCameron John lbrmnPost OfficeSiddall
Canadian Hop Gardens Ord mng dir  
Clark J. labourerDahl Jacob labourerDahl John farmingDahl Mary domestic
Davies T.C. farmhand
Can Hop Gardens  
Doerksen George labourerDownham Saml A. farmingDuncan Alex H.T. farming
Duncan Wm F.R. retiredDyck Abraham labourerDyck Henry labourerDyck Kate domestic
Dyck Ormin labourerDyck Peter farmingEpp George labourerEpp Jacob Gfarming
Erdman John H. tmstrEsau John farmingFast George J. farmingFraser John A. farmhd
Friesen David labourerFriesen David R. farmingFriesen Jacob H.L.   farmingFriesen Nettie domestic
Funk Adolf farmingGiesbrecht Annie domestic
G.H. Hooge  
Giesbrecht Elizabeth domestic
H.N. Ord  
Giesbrecht Margaret domestic
Giesbrecht Peter farmingGoertz Daniel H. farmingGoertz Elizabeth domesticGoertz Mary domestic
Golder Harold P. farmingGraham Neil farmingHaines Henry P. farmingHill Ernest J. labourer
Hooge George labourerHooge George H. labourerHudson Edward H. labourerHudson Esther M. farming
Hunter John P. labourerIsaak Cornelius J. farmingJantzen Aaron farmingJantzen John J. farming
Johnston Frank labourerKlassen Abraham labourerKlassen Henry labourerKlassen Kornelius farming
Knox G. Marshall farmingKnox Joseph dairyingKornelsen Frank labourer Krause Jacob C. farming
Landin Gus trkmn BCERLangran C.A. labourerLarsen Louis loggerLatty D.F. farming
Linda Carl L. poultryLoewen George J. farmingMaitland Fredk H.  farmingMarshall William lbrmn
Martin John farmingMatyshen Peter laboureMessere Emilio trackman BCER  Neufeld Helen domestic
Neufeld Henry barberNeufeld Mary domesticNeufeld Peter H. school teacherNichel Richard farmhand
Nickel Abraham farmingNickel Abraham Jr. labourerNickel Cornelius labourerNickel Henry H. farming
Nickel Jacob A farmingNorman Jas labourerOrd Henry N. managing director  
Can Hop Gardens
Pankratz Jacob H. farming
Pauls Peter farmingPeacock W.J. lbrmn Peters David farmingPeters Gertrude domestic
G.M. Doerksen
Peters John F. farmingPorter Mrs. Rosalind farmingReimer Elizabeth farmingReimer Gerhard labourer
Reimer Gertrude farmingReimer Nikolai NfarmingReimer Sarah farmingRempel David N. farming
Rowles Thos J. loggingSawatsky Agnes farmingSawatsky Isaac farmingSawatsky Tina farming
Schellenberg David farmingSiddall Mrs Eva E.PostmistressSiddall Wm H. general store
service station
Simmons Albert dairying
Smith Mary C. widow farming Standing Frieda C domesticStevens Samuel W. farmhandThiessen Daniel farming
Thiessen Elizabeth domesticThiessen Helen domesticThiessen Henry chiropractorThiessen Susanne farming
Thiessen Tina domesticTown Ira L. farmingTown Ira L. farmingTown Ira L. Jr.farming
Town Robertt laborerWaslynchuck George farmingWeibe George W. farmingWiens Lena farming
Zandiro Gustaf trackman BCER      

Yarrow's original pioneer residents could have viewed this influx of Mennonite immigrants with concern, and even some alarm and trepidation. Thankfully, in answer to prayers, the new pioneers made friends, got work, built homes, raised children, and founded churches, establishing their Mennonite society and town. William and Ella Siddall's poem, "Mennonite Arrival — 1928," describes the arrival of the Mennonites. Susie Derksen read this poem in the "Blessings of Yesterday" portion of the service at the 80th Anniversary Celebration of the Yarrow MB Church on February 1st, 2009.

Siddall Poem Yarrow men hoeing at Canadian Hop Yards
Jacob Epp Home 1928 - 4254 Eckert Road Siddall Poem First Barn - at Central Rd & Second Street
Train - with steam engine Siddall Poem

With their fervent history of religious activism, the Mennonite pioneers of Yarrow immediately initiated collective worship services upon arrival, however informally. Confronted with their common need to survive in a challenging situation, inter-denominational differences of opinion arising from their differing Mennonite creeds were, at least for a while, ignored. At first, Yarrow's Mennonites gathered together for religious services in homes, at the park on Eckert Road near Vedder Mountain, or at the Vedder River close to the B.C. Electric railway bridge. The last site was especially favourable because Mennonites from Greendale on the north side of the Vedder River could easily meet and gather with Mennonites from Yarrow on the river's south side. However, it soon became evident that the expanding population needed a more permanent place of worship, and a more stable church organization.

Gathering of Yarrow Pioneers — 1928
Yarrow Village Pioneers - 1928
Park Where Eckert Road Crosses Stewart Creek
Near Vedder Mountain
Map for Yarrow Village Pioneers - 1928
Map To Identify The Gathering of Yarrow Pioneers — 1928

Names for Photograph of Yarrow 1928 Pioneers

Back Row L-R: 1. George Epp, 2. Peter Giesbrecht Jr., 3. George Hooge, 4. Gerhard Hooge, 5. Waldo Bahnmann, 6. Nick Thiessen, 7. Abe Thiessen, 8. Aron Jantzen, 9. IsaakEpp, 10. Johann Braun, 11. David Rempel, 12. Gerhard Derksen, 13.Wilmer Jantzen, 14. Aaron Jantzen 15. J .C. Krause, 16. Jacob Dyck, 17. Nicolai Reimer Jr., 18. Daniel Thiessen.

Second Row & Third Rows L-R: 19.WidowThiessen, 20. Gertrude Peters, 21. Maria Krause, 22. Sara Reimer, 23. Rev. Jacob G. Epp, 24. John Bargen, 25. Mrs. Elizabeth Epp, 26. Elizabeth Reimer, 27. Sara Reimer, 28.Gertrude Reimer,29.Katherine Derksen, 30.Tina Derksen, 31. Mrs. Meta Bahnman, 32. ? Bahnmann, 33. Peter Pauls 34. Mary Hooge, 35.IsaakSawatsky, 36. Mrs. Daniel Thiessen, 37. Mary Bargen, 38. Helen Jantzen, 39. Mrs. Isaak Sawatsky, 40. Mr. Nicolai Reimer Sr.

Fourth Row L-R: 41 John Braun Jr., 42. John Rempel, 43. Corney Giesbrecht, 44. Pete Sawatsky, 45. Ike Sawatsky,46. Lena Epp, 47. George Derksen, 48.Carl Krause, 49. Danny Thiessen, 50. Luise Rempel, 51. Hannah Rempel, 52. Jake Epp, 53. Henry Derksen, 54.Dave Giesbrecht, 55. Mary Krause, 56. Lena Bargen, 57. Melita Krause.

Fifth Row L-R: 58. Susanna Braun, 59. Menno Braun, 60. Elizabeth Thiessen,61. Elizabeth Giesbrecht, 62. Mary Thiessen, 63. Mary Dahi Hooge, 64. Hhlda Hanman, 65. Tina Epp, 66. Mary Giesbrecht, 67. Agnes Thiessen, 68. Lena Wiens, 69. Mary Epp, 70. Annie Sawatsky, 71. Lena Bargen.

Front Row(s) L-R: 72. Susie Epp, 73.Naomi Krause, 74. Peter Epp, 75. ? Giesbrecht 76. Mary Krause, 77, Elizabeth Epp, 78. David Rempel Jr., 79. Susie Giesbrecht, 80. Peter Bargen, 81. John Bargen, 82. ? Bahnmann, 83. ? Bahnmann, 84. Johnny Derksen 85.?

Source of Names: Tina Epp Dahl, Katie DahI Hooge, Susie Epp, Esther Epp Harder.

Initially, two preachers attended to this flock of Mennonite parishioners — Reverend Nicolai Bahnmann of the United Mennonite Church, and Reverend Jacob Epp of the Mennonite Brethren Church. In the spring of 1928, Yarrow's Mennonite populace gathered at the home of the Johan Jantzen family at the northwest corner of Central and Wilson Road to observe Good Friday. This church service was the first official church meeting of Yarrow's Mennonites.

First Mennonite Church Meeting
Good Friday 1928 - Home of Johann Jantzen Family
Northwest Corner of Central and Wilson Roads
First Mennonite Church Meeting
Standing L-R: Jacob Dyck, Aaron Jantzen, George Epp, David Rempel, Nick Reimer, Jacob Krause, John Braun, Isaak Sawatsky,
Peter Giesbrecht Sr., George Derksen, John Jantzen Jr., George Hooge, Johann Bergen, David Giesbrecht
Sitting L-R: Nicolai Reimer Sr., Gerhard Hooge, Johann Jantzen Sr., Rev. Jacob Epp
Photographer: Rev. Nicolai Bahnmann
First Mennonite Church Meeting
First Mennonite Church Meeting
Yarrow Mennonite Women and Children Join The Men
Pioneer Mennonite Church Meeting
Photographer: Rev. Nicolai Bahnmann

From this auspicious beginning, Yarrow's Mennonites began worshiping as a group in the newly constructed one-room Yarrow Elementary School on Central Road in downtown Yarrow. In 1930 when the Chilliwack School Board built a second one-room school next to the first one, however, "the two denominations separated, each using one of the school buildings" for their church services (Klassen 78-79).

From the Memoirs of Peter P. Giesbrecht and Elizabeth Wittenberg Giesbrecht

Giesbrecht Family Pioneers

I and my family bought 10 acres of bare land on Wilson Rd. Mr. Eckert bought some lumber from Vancouver for $200.00. My daughter Elizabeth and I built a 16' X 30' chicken barn, which was our first home in Yarrow. We lived there for two years with our 10 children while working hard in the hop fields. My daughters were employed doing housework in the winter.

The settlement grew and more and more people arrived. In 1930, our first church building was erected. We had 2 preachers - Mr. Jacob Epp from the M.B. Church and Mr. (Nicolai) Bahnman from the Conference Church. At first our church meetings were held in the homes but later in the new school room on Central Rd. We had a nice choir and were happy and contented. In July 1928, our last son George was born. He died shortly thereafter and the funeral was conducted on August 2nd. His was the first birth to the new settlement as well as the first funeral. We worked very hard but we did it with pleasure and the Lord blessed us and gave us good health. In March 1930 we celebrated our 25th Wedding anniversary in our new house which still stands today on Wilson Rd.

Giesbrecht Family Pioneers

More settlers kept arriving so in a few year most of the land was settled. Our main income was still the hop gardens. Without the hops, Yarrow would not have survived. At harvest time, the town was empty since everyone, old and young, was out picking hops.

Giesbrecht Family Pioneers
Mr. Peter Giesbrecht ran the store at the Canadian Hop Yards, with the help of his daughters
Giesbrecht Family Pioneers

We were fortunate in that Mr. Eckert was a very patient man while waiting for payments; he was not hard on anybody who could not pay. A special thanks to our children who worked hard and gave all their wages home until they turned twenty-one years of age. This income enabled us to buy more land and to build a cow barn so that we could begin shipping milk.

My children began to leave home and establish their own families. It was getting too hard for me and 1 suffered a small stroke, losing consciousness. We had 65 acres of land so I sold all the land but 5 acres, plus all my cattle. I gave all the money to the children since I felt it really belonged to them. The 5 acres I kept for myself had orchards and raspberries grown on it. Because of my inability to maintain my acreage, in 1953 we sold the 5 acres plus the house to our eldest daughter, Margaret (Henry) Derksen. We bought a new smaller home in Chilliwack where we lived for two years. Since most of my children lived in Yarrow, we were lonesome living there. Thus we sold that house and bought a lot on Central Rd. in Yarrow, across from the M.B. Church. Our youngest son Johnny owned a lumberyard and he built us a nice small house where we planned to spend our last years.

We were so thankful to the good Lord that 8 of our 10 children lived close by. In 1958, your dear mother became ill and all the doctoring did not seem to help. On November 28, 1959 the dear Lord called her home and the funeral was held on December 3rd. Br. Abe Unruh spoke on Genesis 23, which is Sarah's burial. This completed our happy marriage together. For 55 years, 8 months we shared joys and sorrows. We had much joy in our children and grandchildren.

Giesbrecht Family Pioneers

Peter P. & Elizabeth (Wittenberg) Giesbrecht
Margaret 1906-1992, Peter P. 1909-1981, Elizabeth 1911-1987, Mary,
David 1915-2002, Susie, Gertrude, Cornelius, Helena, John

Derksen Family Pioneers

Derksen Family Pioneers

Hop Yards: Weigh-Up Time

Hop Picking Weigh-UP Time
1934 - Weigh-up time ... Rev JB Harder (Greendale) weighs the hops of Rev. Jacob Epp (right) while the checker, Rev Petrus Martens (2nd from right), punches the ticket with the weight.

—   —   —     Mennonitische Rundschau     —   —   —

Agassiz, B.C. 11 December 1927

Mr. A. Buhr
In Winnipeg, Manitoba

With this letter, we are sharing with you that we have decided to purchase 10 acres each in the Sumas Prairie. Mr. Eckert has promised to help us as much as he can with everything. We will probably stay here in Agassiz until the work in the hop fields begins. The Sumas Prairie appears to us to be better suited to a larger settlement because there it a lot of land there. Please tell everyone, who is interested in coming here, that no one will feel disappointed when he comes here, and once they are here, they will never want to go back to the cold prairies. It is snowing a little today, but it is still very mild.

We certainly believe that, here, one can make a better life than in the prairies, because the weather here is not as unfavourable as it is there. It is almost unbelievable, but true, that one can earn up to $500 per acre. Certainly one should have some money to start with, but it is possible to start with just a little money, a fresh risk is half of winning. We would be happy if more of our Brethren would come here soon.

Now, it is quite expensive if one wants to come out to have a look, then go back and decide to come, so we would advise, that, if someone really wants to start their home here and has a little money, even if not very much, simply pack up everyone and everything and come here.

We will help you as much as we can to help you find housing. We are paying $5 monthly and starting mid February, there is work

in the hop gardens (which are close to the land) for 7 months, the wages are 30 cents an hour and they can keep about 100 men busy. For $200 one can get the wood to build a house. Those who would like more information about the land, just write to us, we willingly answer.

Our wish would be that if one settler can only claim a 10 acre plot of land, that the next person does not settle on the next 20 acres, rather that the land first be divided into 20 acre plots, and next person takes the next 20 acres and the 10 acres left from the first person are rented until he can afford to purchase them. This would be so the land would not be cut into too many little pieces at the beginning. Otherwise, it is for those on only want 10 acres. What do you think? Would you think this is smart? If more people would come here before spring, we could make a plan to found a nice village.

We will send you further reports, until then we remain, with greetings

Isaak Sawatsky
And Johann Bargen

Above is a copy of a letter from Mr. Sawatsky and Mr. Bargen. If someone is interested in British Columbia, particularly, the Fraser Valley, please write to the address below:

A. Buhr,
709 Great West Permanent Bldg.,
Winnipeg, Man.

(In the announcement we had overlooked a mistake, it said that the wood for the house would be $900.00, where it really costs only $200.00 Please excuse this. Ed.)



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