Charlie Chandler and the Runaway Bannock

This week, we thought we’d take a look at the life and legacy of Charles Ernest Chandler, one of Whistler’s earliest European settlers.  Locally known as Charlie, he was a trapper during the beginning of the twentieth century.  He came to the Whistler valley from Wisconsin in 1908 to pre-empt about 160 acres on the northern end of Alta Lake.

(L-R) Sue Hill, Kay Hill, Charlie Chandler, Wallace Betts holding daughter Louise, Charlie Lundstrom, and ‘Sporty’ the dog on Alta Lake docks, 1939. J Jardine Collection.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, pre-emption was a method of acquiring Crown Land from the government for agriculture or settlement.  It was formally established by the Land Ordinance in 1870, and was still legal until 1970.  In order to pre-empt land, a person (the pre-emptor) would have to stake out a block of unsurveyed, non-reserved Crown Land and submit an application to the government.  If their application was approved, the pre-emptor would receive a Certificate of Pre-emption, and they would be free to begin “improvements.”  After appropriate development had taken place, the pre-emptor would receive a Certificate of Improvement from the government, which would allow them either to buy the land at a discounted price, or receive the title for it outright.  Pre-emption often did not take into account indigenous claims to land, and the land that was pre-empted by Chandler was part of the unceded territory of the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations.

The Rainbow Lodge property was part of the 160 acres pre-empted by Charlie Chandler.  Philip Collection.

For the next three or four years, Chandler spent his time improving the area he had pre-empted in order to gain title for it.  His move to the Whistler valley was meant to give him a fresh start, away from the influences of “the bottle.”  According to Dick Fairhurst, Chandler though the best method to solve such a problem was “to get the hell away – out in the woods, some place it [alcohol] wouldn’t be too handy.”

He also spent his time working on his trap lines, which ran along Wedge Creek all the way to Wedge Pass, and about 1.5 km down Billy Goat Creek on the Lillooet divide.  He occasionally made money taking people on hunting trips along his trap lines, as well, which is how one of his many colourful stories came about.

Myrtle and Alex Philip stand outside Rainbow Lodge in the 1930s. Philip Collection.

One night, while guiding Alex Philip on a hunting trip, Chandler was cooking his typical fare of bannock for dinner.  The camp they had pitched sat at the top of a steep slope, and when Chandler tried to flip the bannock over in his frying pan, he missed.  The unfortunate bannock flew out of the pan and went cartwheeling down the ridge.  Chandler, the determined man that he was, went chasing after it.  The bannock put up a bit of a fight, it seems, but eventually, with a well-placed stomp, Chandler caught his dinner.  By the time he made it back up to the camp, the bannock looked more than a little worse for wear.  Chandler, however, just looked at the messy ball of dough and said, “You look a little dirty, but we’re eating you anyway.”

Chandler sold ten acres of land to Alex and Myrtle Philip in 1913, which they would quickly turn into the famed Rainbow Lodge property.  Chandler himself moved further north along Alta Lake to settle in the area now known as Alpine Meadows.  He built his homestead there, where he lived until passing away peacefully on his porch in the winter of 1946.

6 responses to “Charlie Chandler and the Runaway Bannock

  1. Since you go to the trouble of outlining what ‘pre-empting’ land means, you should outline that the land never belonged to the Province in the first place. It is an important piece of the description that should be pointed out. The land in question was never given to, sold to, or traded to the Province from the Lil’wat or Squamish Nations.

  2. I’m curious about the sale of 10 acres to the Philips. Did Chandler later sell them the rest of his property? I ask because during the era I am familiar with (the 1950s and 60s), the Rainbow property was comprised of 160 acres (a “quarter section”), some of which was under water (extending into the lake). It was at that time that B.C. Hydro (then B.C. Electric) acquired easements to build their power lines through the property.

    • Hi John,
      We’re not sure about the sale of the rest of his property. As far as I am aware, the museum does not have any record of a further sale to the Philips. By the 1950s and 60s, Rainbow Lodge had been sold to the Greenwoods, and it is possible that they bought more land. It is certainly something to look into though!

      • I wonder if the original report of a sale of 10 acres is in fact correct. When the Greenwoods bought the property (1948? 49? — I’m not quite sure), it was a quarter section, a standard measure of property amounting to one-fourth of one square mile, or 160 acres. As I mentioned, some of this acreage was under water, since government surveyors simply drew squares on a map, irrespective of geographical boundaries. Incidentally, when the Greenwoods sold the property to Joan Saxton (again, I’m not entirely sure of the year — 1973, perhaps?), they retained ownership of a small corner of the quarter section located high up on the mountainside (it would be the southwest corner). They also held water rights to a small creek nearby, and their intention was to perhaps build a retirement home there one day.

  3. I have another question for you. When I lived at Whistler, there was an old log cabin very close to Scotia Creek and just above the railway tracks. It was uninhabited, but intact (glass in the windows, etc.), and there was a small outbuilding where Karen Gow kept her pet burro, Adeline. I only once ever saw anyone staying there, who coincidentally turned out to be schoolmates of mine and a teacher from Vancouver. I have no idea now where they got a key or who then owned the place, but I understood it to be the cabin of a trapper named Chandler. I wonder if you know anything about the place I’m thinking of or what eventually happened to it?

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