Tag Archives: Jack Jardine

The Mysterious Harry Horstman

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.

Harry Hortsman on Sproatt Mountain, probably not far from his mining claim. Harry first came to Alta Lake with dreams of finding a rich copper vein. Unfortunately, this dream never came true.

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.

Harry Hortsman at his cabin.

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!

First official meeting of the Alta Lake Community Club in 1923. Harry is pictured here on the right carrying the coffee pot, as part of his duties as ‘Official Coffee Provider.” Check out the full suit and fedora!

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.

Image of the Hortsman Glacier on Blackcomb Mountain.

An impromptu wake at Alta Lake Station

Charlie Chandler was originally from Wisconsin and moved to Whistler near the turn of the century. In 1908 he obtained 160 acres on Alta Lake. According to an interview with Dick Fairhurst, “Charlie had quite a problem with the bottle, and decided that only thing to do would be to get the hell away out in the woods some place where it wouldn’t be too handy.”

However, as Oscar Wilde once said, “the only way to get rid of temptation is to give in to it.” Whenever Chandler got some money put aside he would leave his cabin in the wilderness and head for civilization to blow every cent.

Charlie was a trapper and had a trap line on Wedge Creek. He also did odd jobs during the summer months, but he was still considered to be a bit of hermit by the other residents of Alta Lake. In 1916 he sold his land to Alex and Myrtle Phillip and move further north near Alpine Meadows.

Dick Fairhurst related one story about Chandler and Alex Phillip. The two men were out on a hunting trip and when they made camp, Charlie began making bannock for dinner. However, when we went to flip it over, he missed and the bannock started rolling down the hill. Chandler took off down the hill after his rogue dinner. Finally, the bannock came to a halt and Chandler picked it up saying, “you look a little dirty but we are going to eat you anyway!”

In the winter of 1946, Chandler didn’t come to pick up his mail. His friends became concerned and went to check up on him. What they found was quite a shock. Apparently poor Charlie had had a heart attack and died, while sitting in a chair outside his cabin.

He was frozen stiff, still in the chair. This proved to be a bit of problem. There was nowhere in Whistler to bury Charlie and he had to be transported to Rainbow Lodge to catch the train south.

So poor old Charlie was put on a speeder, still in his chair, and taken all the way to Rainbow Lodge. He was left (still in his chair!) on the platform at the station, as the train was not due to arrive until the next day.

His friends decided that Charlie needed a proper send-off. Consequently, an impromptu wake involving copious amount of liquor was held, with Charlie in the (ahem) seat of honour.

According to Jack Jardine, his brother Bob was at the lodge late one night, and heard a ruckus. As he walked behind the lodge he heard some men yelling, “Yay! He was good old stout! Old Charlie, have another drink!” Alex Phillip, Charlie Munsen and another gentleman, a little worse for wear, had somehow got poor old Charlie into a boxcar, propped him up and were offering Chandler one last drink!

Well, all I can say is, bon voyage Charlie!