One of the most mysterious Whistler characters is Henry ‘Harry” Horstman. The details are pretty slim. We know that he moved to Alta Lake sometime around 1913 from Kansas. He pre-empted two pieces of land – one between Nita and Alpha Lakes and another at the end of Alpha Lake.
He came to the area with dreams of striking it rich through mining. He mined on Sproatt Mountain for copper, but always had a hope of finding gold. Horstman had a small farm near Nita Lake on which he raised chickens and grew vegetables. He would haul his goods on the train tracks using a cart he built himself. Harry would supply fresh produce and eggs to Rainbow Lodge and was of course willing to sell to anyone willing to pay.
Jack Jardine recalled visiting Harry and having bacon and eggs with him – Horstman kept his greasy frying pan in the woodpile, of all places. In an interview conducted in 1991 Jack recalled:
[…] we’d go to old Harry Horstman’s place there and he’d be having bacon and eggs for breakfast or something like that and he would just take his frying pan and he’d walk over and he turned it upside down on the woodpile, that’s what he did to his bacon grease. He just turned it upside down on his kindling pile. And then when he used his frying pan he just picked it up and put it in the stove. […] I mean the bacon used to hang on the wall on a piece of string! You went to hang it from the wall, the same as a ham would hang from the ceiling, three or four hams hanging from the ceiling!
Other residents didn’t really get to know Hortsman very well – often referring to him as an odd man, or only every seeing him and his beard from a distance.
Horstman often led a solitary life, which is probably why we know so little about him. Pip Brock, who often visited Alta Lake, remembers passing Horstman’s cabin on a hike one day and Harry remarked “ Gosh all Dammit. This hiking is getting to be quite a fad. You’re the second party this year!”
In the summer of 1923 the Alta Lake Community Club held their fist official gathering at Rainbow Lodge. It was an informal picnic and Horstman was designated as the official coffee provider. He took this position of responsibility so seriously has actually wore a suit, tie and fedora to the picnic!
Although Harry dug many tunnels on Sproatt Mountain, looking for copper, there of course came a time when he just couldn’t take the physical labour any longer. He retired to his cabin on Alpha Lake. Eventually he moved to Kamloops to live the remainder of his life in a nursing home.
While we don’t really know much about Harry Horstman, his memory lives on in the name of the Horstman Glacier. In fact, the remnants of his cabin at the 5300-foot level on Sproatt Mountain can still be found. Harry would no doubt be very impressed indeed by the number of hikers passing by these days.