Tag Archives: prospecting

The milkman’s vehicle of choice? A dugout canoe!

Ever wonder where you got things like fresh milk, eggs and whipping cream living at Alta Lake in the early 1900s? Keep reading…

Originally from London, England, Alfred Barnfield caught his first glimpse of the Alta Lake area on his way to the Klondike gold fields from his home in Squamish in 1895. In 1903, he formed a prospecting group with other Englishmen called ‘The London Group’ that prospected in the Garibaldi/Black Tusk area. They are credited with the original name of Whistler Mountain – London Mountain.

Alfred prospecting high up in the Coast Mountains with his trusty rock pick.

Alfred’s high-end prospecting digs, location unknown.

Daisy Barnfield

In 1905, Alfred returned to Alta Lake to settle 160 acres near the northeast end of Alta Lake. The same year, Daisy Hotchkiss arrived, riding on top of a wagonload of potatoes bound for a logging camp. Despite their vast age difference (she was 19 and he was 42), they married in 1910. By all accounts, it was a happy marriage, and they had four children – Fred, William, Vera and Charles.

The Barnfields worked hard to establish a dairy farm on their Alta Lake property. Within the next few years, the railway from North Vancouver extended up to Alta Lake, opening up a thriving tourist trade. In the right place at the right time, Alfred and his son became a familiar sight as they paddled a dugout canoe, delivering milk, cream and eggs to lakefront lodges. They also passed along the local news/gossip – the valley grapevine had begun.

This dugout canoe is similar to the one Alfred and Fred would have used. It may in fact be the one they used, but we have no records to confirm or deny that.

By 1920, they had 14 cows supplying the local population with fresh milk. Rainbow Lodge was their biggest customer – our records indicate that their daily order consisted of 80 quarts of milk, four quarts of whipping cream, and two quarts of table cream!

In 1926, the Barnfields moved the farm south to Brackendale, but every summer they loaded cows and chickens onto the train and made the trek back to Alta Lake for the tourist season.

Daisy (on right) is seen feeding the chickens with a little help

When London Mountain became Whistler Mountain everything changed. The focus shifted from Alta Lake’s fishing lodges to the mountain serviced by Creekside and eventually farther north to Whistler Village. Today, Barnfields is one of Whistler’s residential communities.

Things change, it’s not a bad thing, but who wouldn’t want fresh-from-local-cows milk delivered by canoe?

We couldn’t resist including this one last photograph taken on the Barnfield property at Alta Lake:

This puppy looks a bit unsure about his perch on the back of a cow.