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Kimberley Families

The Soderholm Family


as told by daughter Ruth

John Gustave Soderholm, known to all as Gus, was born in Grundtrask, Norrbotten County, Sweden, in 1866.He was a widower with one son Arvid, when he married Jennie Hedman in 1905. She was born in Bjorksels, Vasterbotten County, in 1867.

Before coming to Canada in 1909, Mr. Soderholm worked in a high grade iron mine in Sweden. When it was closed down due to a strike, he decided to try his luck in Canada. He arrived in Halifax in March with five other countrymen. In order to stay in Canada, the stipulation was that each one have at least $25.00 cash. They barely had that much between them, so they lined up at immigration, the first man showed $25.00 and in the pretense of putting it in his pocket, he slipped it to the one behind him. This was how they all managed to pass immigration inspection.

His first stop was Winnipeg where he got a job helping in the excavation for the foundation of the T. Eaton store. His next work stop was in Edmonton, then at Jasper on the Grand Trunk Railroad. A typhoid epidemic scared him back to Edmonton, but not before he contracted the dread disease.

By 1910 he was working at Wycliffe for Otis Staples Lumber Mill, and at the various camps. Here his wife and two daughters, Irma and Ruth, joined him. Both girls had been born in Malmberget before Mr. Soderholm left Sweden.

The Soderholm Family, Paul, Gus, Sam, Ruth, Jenny, Erma.

In 1912, a son Paul was born in Wycliffe and a second son Sam in 1914. Then he moved the family to a small farm, six miles north of Cranbrook, on the old road to Kimberley. He went to work for the Company in 1915 staying in the bunkhouse at the Top Mine and if he didn't get a ride, he often walked the sixteen miles to the farm on off days.

Working for the Company looked like a permanent job so in 1917 he moved his family to the Ontario Hotel, Kimberley. There was a small shed out the back where they kept two cows a team of horses and a wagon that had brought all their belongings. Two other Swedish families also shared the hotel, the Perrson's and the Sholund's. Half a block away, lived a memorable woman known as Madame Louis, a big Belgian woman who kept chickens and sold eggs and did a bit of bootlegging on the side.

Mr. Soderholm purchased property on Kimberley Creek that ran through the outskirts of town and built a small house. A foot bridge crossed the creek to the barn that he also built for his cows. A chicken coop was added a little later.

Gus was an axeman for the Company and worked on the building of the main tunnel in 1915. He helped clear the land where the Company planned to build houses to rent, to their employees. This was the beginning of the McDougall Townsite. As the town grew, water mains had to be dug, (by pick and shovel in those days) and Gus being a big strong man was put to work on these projects. During the strike of 1919, he worked in the woods for the Was a sawmill, twenty miles north of Kimberley.

Ruth remembers when there was a spring of fresh water where Tamblyn Pharmacy now stands, and on the street beside the North Star Hotel was a long water trough for stock. This space is now used as the walkway from the parking lot to the shopping Platzel.

Ruth and her sister both attended the little white school house through to grade 8, before the new central one was built on the site of the A. A. Watkins School. Mr. Creighton was her first teacher and Mr. Doubleday was the second one.

Her brother Sam joined the Air Force and saw action in the Middle East and he was killed in 1940. Paul joined the Canadian Army and was invalided out and passed away in 1947. Irma was a home-body and kept house for the family and looked after her dad. He retired in 1932 but lived until he was 97 and remained active working at odd jobs.

Irma passed away in 1970.

Ruth received her elementary schooling in Kimberley. As there was no high school at that time she went to Cranbrook, as did many others, boarding with friends for three years. She became a teacher, attending Normal School in Victoria, and returned to teach first grade. A year at University in Edmonton and summer school at U.B.C. enabled her to teach in the Junior High School, where she remained until her retirement in 1967. Some of her first pupils are married with children and grandchildren.

During the big fire of 1919, Mr. Soderholm was a fire watch atop the Ontario Hotel, and they were kept well supplied with liquid refreshments from the taproom of Dune Morrison next door. Mrs. Soderholm and the children had been evacuated to Meadowbrook two or three miles north. As children will do, in new surroundings they went snooping in a lean-to shed. In a dark corner they found a large keg and on opening it discovered a cash of cured meat. It was venison and presumably shot out of season.

Other memories are of a treat called snow taffy. A large pan of clean snow would be brought in and a thick syrup was cooked and drizzled onto the snow. This hardened instantly and the fun began. Ruth also recalls the telling of fortunes by dropping molten lead into cold water, your fate was predicted by the shapes that were formed.

The Soderholm's were proud of their nationality and kept up the native language, speaking it in their home at all times and receiving newspapers from Sweden. This has stood Ruth in good stead as she has returned to Sweden to visit relatives there and when they came to visit she has no difficulty interpreting for them. Ruth remains a resident of Kimberley, living in a home her dad built. Over the years it has been enlarged and modernized.

Mrs. Jenny Soderholm, corner of Spokane St. and St. Marys Aven., 
Kimberley Creek

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