Tag Archives: Brandywine Falls

The Boom and Bust of McGuire

1992 William Jack Biggin-Pound was asked by Ruth Gallagher to write down what he know of the history around McGuire, Brandywine Falls and Alta Lake.

Ruth and Ray Gallagher had owned and operated the Brandywine Falls Resort until 1973 (keep an eye out for more announcements on this subject in the New Year!) and Ruth was collecting information on the history of the area.

McGuire, located about 7km south of Whistler, had its own station on the PGE Railway and has been settled for as long as the area that is now Whistler.  After the construction of the railway, McGuire was the site of several small sawmills until the logging industry began moving out towards the end of the 1930s.  A mall shake mill began operating after the Second World War, employing up to 100 people in the 1950s, but by the time Jack Biggin-Pound and a friend staked some crown land in 1961 McGuire was again a quiet settlement.

“Picnic lunch at McGuire” from the Myrtle Philip Collection. Though probably taken in the 1930s, well before Jack Biggin-Pound lived there, this is believed to be the only photograph of McGuire at the Whistler Museum.

Though most of the old mills were no longer operational, the buildings and machinery (including and “A” frame crane type machine with a large engine and winch, all bolted to tree trunks as skids) were still there, if only for a short while.

Jack recalled, “One weekend I was surprised to find a large flat bed railcar on the mill site siding.  A workman arrived and started up the winch diesel and within two hours had persuaded the “A” frame contraption to ensconce itself on the flatbed railcar, and by the next weekend it was gone.”

Over the next couple of years the machinery left at the mill disappeared piece by piece and the buildings were neglected to the point where a winter storm was able to flatten what was left.

Staking crown land required that $600 in improvements be made to the property over five years.  For years Jack and his sons, Tony and Dennis, travelled to McGuire on weekends, constructing a cabin before moving in full-time in 1963.

Construction did not always go smoothly.  They finished the floor just before winter and left the timber for the walls and roof stacked and covered on the floor.  When they returned in May they discovered someone had used their building materials as firewood.  The timbers had been crisscrossed and burnt in the middle, leaving pieces “about three feet long with one burnt end.”  Not the most useful of building materials.

Jack remembered exploring the area, finding old trails and the remains of an old bridge that once spanned the Cheakamus River.  He also spent time visiting neighbours; during the winters he was invited down to the McKenzie homestead to listen to Hockey Night in Canada on their radio on Saturday nights and would visit Ken and Edna Stockdale who lived near the water tank between Brandywine and Garibaldi.

Santa used to put in appearances at Myrtle Philip Elementary around Christmas time each year. Photo: Whistler Question, Week of December 20, 1978

When Whistler Mountain opened in 1966 Jack worked providing refreshments on the mountain (Jack’s son Tony also worked on Whistler Mountain and was the one to push out the first gondola on opening day).

Jack played a very important role in the area: Santa.  Jack closed his recollections of the area with the seasonally appropriate words: “Never again will Myrtle Philip undo my flies, to the great amusement of everyone, to stuff a pillow in to make me a more portly Santa Claus for the school children.  They all tried hard but I don’t think the children ever found out who Santa was.”

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Brandywine’s Murky Origin Story

Long before Brandywine Falls was established as a provincial park in 1973 the area was a well-known destination for sightseers, hikers and campers.

Not known, or at least not confirmed, is the origin of the name Brandywine.  The most popular story of the name was reported in The Vancouver Sun in 1946 by Wallace Gillespie who in turn was quoting a man named Cliff Thorne who lived in the Squamish area beginning in the 1890s.  In this version dated to 1910, Jack Nelson and Bob Mollison, two surveyors for the Howe Sound and Northern Railway (which became part of the PGE Railway), wagered a bottle of brandy on which of them could more accurately estimate the height of the falls.  When the height was later measured using a chain Mollison had the closer estimation and Nelson bestowed the name Brandywine Falls in memory of his lost wager.

A view of Brandywine Falls taken by Leonard Frank in the 1920s. Frank, the son of one of Germany’s earliest professional photographers, moved to Vancouver in 1917 and became the leading commercial/industrial photographer in the city.

Another account of the naming of Brandywine Falls comes from a source closer to home.  Alex Philip claimed that Charles Chandler (known locally as Charlie and famous for blowing up his own outhouse) and George Mitchell were passing through the area on their way to trappers cabins and stopped at the waterfall for tea.  One had brought a bottle of wine and the other a bottle of brandy and both were mixed in with the tea in a billycan.  After drinking this concoction the two are reported to have passed out for an entire day.

Regardless of which, if either, story is true the name Brandywine stuck to the waterfall and surrounding area.

Near the beginning of the twentieth century a family from Ontario called the Conroys moved West and preempted 380 acres of land for homesteading, logging and a mill site in the area that is now the Brandywine Falls Provincial Park.  As the Permberton-Lillooet Caribou Trail passed by only about 500 feet from the falls, the area had previously been used as a way station for north-bound travelers.

The view of Brandywine Falls clearly shows the railway bridge which provided a unique view to passengers.

The opening of the PGE Railway brought sightseers in open cars and the construction of a train station meant the area became a popular spot for picnic-goers in the 1920s.  A supply road was put in by BC Electric in the 1950s followed by the construction of the highway in the 1960s, bringing more visitors.

In 1966 Brandywine Falls was featured in the film “The Trap” starring Oliver Reed as a fur trapper in the wilds of Canada who takes Eve, a mute girl played by Rita Tushingham, as his unwilling wife to his remote cabin in the woods.  In one scene a battle between Reed and a black bear is waged on the brink of Brandywine Falls.

Some time in the 1960s Charlie “Whitewater” Conroy (who, in an interesting side note recorded a ballad about the Woodfibre pulp mill called “The Ballad of Woodfibre” in 1972) sold the property around Brandywine to Ray Gallagher.  In an article Gallagher wrote for Garibaldi’s Whistler News in 1970 he expresses the hope that “instead of developing as it must to survive, Brandywine should become a Public Park for the people in all season, for all times.”  Just three years later Brandywine Falls became a provincial park and continues to attract sightseers and hikers each year.

Chasing Waterfalls

There are few natural phenomena as universally adored as waterfalls. From the sublime power of Niagara Falls to the delicate cascading ribbons of Yosemite or even a secluded cascade in the forest, waterfalls are some of the most magnetic destinations on Earth

Surrounded by the steep, rain-drenched Coast Mountains, Whistler and the Sea-to-Sky region is a veritable waterfall watcher’s paradise. Ever since the early pioneer days, locals and visitors have been drawn to the powerful spray and serene flow of the many cataracts to be discovered.

Alex Philip and friend in suits and ties, sitting at the base of Shannon Falls, circa 1920.

Shannon Falls are arguably the most dramatic and most accessible in the region. Here Alex Philip and friend pay a rather formal visit, circa 1915.

Based on our photo archives, it is clear that Myrtle Philip of Rainbow Lodge fame was especially drawn to waterfalls. There are dozens of such  images in her collection, and they were one of her favourite attractions when guiding lodge guests through the surrounding forest.

Some of the waterfalls in these photographs we know quite well, while others remain a mystery. Perhaps some of Whistler’s many waterfall enthusiasts can help us identify them?

On the reverse is written a note, presumably to Myrtle of Alex Philip. It reads "This could be made a nice picnic spot for hikers or riders from Rainbow as it is a beautiful waterfall and to make a pony trail would mean very little work from Pemberton trail below mile 43 post. Wedgemount Creek Falls.

On the reverse of this photo print Myrtle wrote “This could be made a nice picnic spot for hikers or riders from Rainbow as it is a beautiful waterfall and to make a pony trail would mean very little work from Pemberton trail below mile 43 post [of the PGE Railway]. Wedgemount Creek Falls.”

Photograph appears to be a copy of an original postcard. On the front is written "19 Mile Creek Falls, Alta Lake, B.C." On the reverse is written the following: ' "Above Alpine Meadow - that's where they get their water supply". (MP '83) "This was taken when we just began going up there about 1924. MP ('83)'

In a recorded interview, Myrtle noted that this photo was “taken when we just began going up there about 1924.” It became a favourite destination for lodge guests on short day hikes from the lodge. Today, 19 Mile Creek runs right through the Alpine Meadows neighbourhood.

 

These are identified as "Rainbow Falls" but it is unclear if they are half of the twin Rainbow Falls that can be seen up close from a short spur trail, low down on the Rainbow Lake trail.

These are identified as “Rainbow Falls” but it is unclear if they are half of the twin Rainbow Falls that can be seen up close from a short spur trail, low down on the Rainbow Lake trail.

 

This steep cascade in heavy flood is reminiscent of the several creeks that can be seen while hiking the Rainbow Lake trail. Any thoughts?

This steep cascade in heavy flood is reminiscent of the several creeks that can be seen during the middle section of the Rainbow Lake trail. Any guesses?

 

Brandywine Falls circa 1920s.

The stunning Brandywine Falls, circa 1920s. Photo taken by celebrated Vancouver photographer and frequent Rainbow Lodge guest, Lawrence Frank.

 

Tweed Neiland Jardine dog at Cheakamus in 1930s

Residents of and visitors to the Cheakamus Crossing neighbourhood should be able to recognize these falls, which provide a stunning winter backdrop for Tweed, the Jardine family’s dog, circa 1930.

 

Most likely somewhere in the Green River canyon.

Most likely somewhere in the Green River canyon.

 

Nairn Falls?

Nairn Falls?

 

Green River Falls in summer. Inscription on verso : "Green River Falls 1918-19 taken by Myrtle Philip.

Inscription on the back: “Green River Falls 1918-19.” Taken by Myrtle Philip.

 

Another unidentified gem, shot by Myrtle.

Another unidentified gem, shot by Myrtle.

This is just a selection of photos, primarily from Myrtle Philip’s collection. There are many more images of waterfalls in our archives and, of course, many more waterfalls in our region.

What are your favourites?