Skip to Main Content

Early 20th Century Settlers and Ghost Towns of Northern BC

Northern BC Archives collections on early 20th century settlers and ghost towns in Northern BC.

Related Reading

Beyond Northern BC Archives


A fishing boat loaded with fish for the canneryMany canneries, especially salmon canneries, were built in outlying areas along the BC coast. Many of these canneries were established in the late 1800s and early 1900 but by the end of the 1930s few would still be in operation. The townships that were built up around these canneries steadily declined and were often abandoned after the cannery, the economic centre, ceased operations. For more contextual information see Mack Campbell's Cannery village, company town: A history of British Columbia's outlying salmon canneries (2004). The remnants of these once thriving communities now exist as ghost towns. Evidence of their past heydays can be seen in the Fred Jeffery Photograph Collection and the Reverend R.W. Large fonds.

Image: 2009.10.2.094 - A fishing boat loaded with fish for the cannery

Fred Jeffery Photograph Collection (1921-1933)

2009.10.2.044 - North Pacific Cannery, Port Edward, BCFred Jeffery Photograph Collection - 2009.10

Fred Jeffery was born in Bruce Mines, in the Algoma District of Ontario in 1870 to Richard and Mary Ann Jeffery. When he finished school he worked as a stationary engineer mining for hard-rock copper for the Bruce Mines until 1891, when he moved out West to British Columbia. After his migration, Mr. Jeffery worked as a steam engineer during the winters at both the original Hotel Vancouver and occasionally at the Rogers building; while each summer he traveled north to the Nass Valley where he worked as a steam engineer at a Prince Rupert salmon cannery. Upon his retirement he built a boat named the Algoma, and sailed around the Gulf Islands looking for the perfect spot to build a home – a spot he eventually found in Maple Bay (Duncan). Mr. Jeffery died in Maple Bay, B.C on 19 April 1952.

2009.10.2.047 - Balmoral Cannery, Port Essington, BCThe Fred Jeffery Collection consists of three photograph albums comprising a total of 303 b&w photographs all dating from ca.1924-1933. The subject matter of these images consist primarily of the fishing industry, river & landscapes, salmon cannery images (housing, people, workers, machinery, boats) on the Nass River and North Pacific Coast. Notable are the photographs depicting indigenous (Nisga'a) people and places and Chinese and Japanese cannery workers. Identified canneries featured in these photographs include: Mill Bay Cannery, Namu Cannery, Klemtu Cannery, Shushartie Bay Cannery, Balmoral Cannery, North Pacific Cannery, Nass Harbour Cannery, Port Essington Cannery, Kitwanga Cannery, Port Nelson Cannery, Alert Bay Cannery, Dominion Cannery and ABC Co. Cannery. Photographs also include images of the Canadian Pacific Railway in both Vancouver and Sicamous, BC., as well as, images of the Legislative Assembly buildings in Victoria, the 1924 Special Service Squadron ships in Vancouver, early construction of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and town overviews of Yokohama, Japan (pre WWII).


Reverend R.W. Large fonds (1900-1920)

Reverend R.W. Large fonds - 2004.2

2004.2.1.104 - Tow of cannery fishing boatsReverend R.W. Large (M.D.) was a Methodist minister and doctor on the Northwest Coast of British Columbia from 1898 to 1920. He worked at the Methodist hospital and mission in Bella Bella until 1906. He then went on to work at Rivers Inlet Hospital in Ocean Falls until he moved to Port Simpson in 1910, where he worked until his death. Reverend Large was the only known observer to document the community of Bella Bella from 1898 to 1906. Reverend Large's son R.G. Large followed in his father's footsteps and was a doctor at Port Simpson, Port Essington and later Prince Rupert.

The fonds consists of 165 black and white photographs depicting Northwest Coast communities including Bella Bella, Rivers Inlet, Port Simpson, and Prince Rupert between approximately 1900 and 1920. Also includes postcard images of ships and boats on the North Coast belonging to the Large family, from Reverend Large's son Dr. R.G. Large. Also includes 39 colour slides ca. 1960 of ship scenes and weather balloon launches from the Dr. R.G. Large family.

Image: 2004.2.1.104 - Tow of cannery fishing boats