Return to main Vanishing B.C. page Return to home page
Page last updated November 12, 2012
© Michael Kluckner
The house from above the bell-pepper field, looking down toward the orchard, more or less in a southerly direction, back toward Spences Bridge, late on a September afternoon.
There is a map showing this area on the Pokhaist page.
Hilltop Gardens is the biggest of the surviving fruit stands along the Thompson River, across from Toketic several kilometres north of Spences Bridge on the Trans Canada highway. The quality of the produce sold there is indicative of the heat of the summer sun in the Thompson canyon and the plentiful water from the river. Most of the other fruit stands, including the one that used to be attached to the orchard south of Spences Bridge, have closed, in part due to the decline of tourist traffic through the area since the opening of the Coquihalla Highway in 1986.
The Morens house is a bit run down and has a covering of stucco but nevertheless shows its 19th century lineage – a wraparound porch with carved brackets and a very interesting sunburst in the main gable. It is very historic, situated on an 1873 preemption by Pierre Morens; he also obtained the lot on the bench below the highway (at that time the Cariboo Road) in 1880, at which time John Jane, the surveyor, noted this large house on this site. (Source: Cariboo Road Heritage Conservation and Tourism Development Study, Alan Ferguson Regional Consulting Ltd., v. 2, 1989). There is no question it is one of the oldest buildings in this part of the Interior. The Morenses were related to the Guichons [WSp71], whose cattle empire included the land around the Quilchena Hotel and the small ranchhouse on the old Aspen Grove road. (Tidbits on the Guichon ranch and family members; interview with Gerard Guichon by Imbert Orchard, 1964. There are genealogy websearches going on seeking descendants of the Guichon, Morens and Rey or Reyd families by Danielle Rivas, etc.) Pierre Morens married Françoise Rey in Victoria in 1878 – apparently both were from the Savoie.
James Teit, the pioneer anthropologist, married Leonie Morens in 1904. His first marriage, to the Nlaka'pamux woman Antko of the Cook's Ferry Indian Band, ended upon her death in the late 1890s. There is more information on Teit in my book Vanishing British Columbia and elsewhere – see the references below. There are a number of Teits buried in the tiny cemetery on the hill above this house, but apparently James Teit himself never lived here. There is a National Historic Site monument to Teit at the campground at the confluence of the Nicola and Thompson rivers on the edge of Spences Bridge.
I have more watercolours and words about this area in the travel section of this website.
Most of the correspondence below relates to the old James Teit house in Spences Bridge rather than to the Hilltop Gardens property.
James Teit and his second wife Leonie Josephine Morens, at the time of their marriage in 1904. (Photo courtesy of Wendy Wickwire via Sigurd Teit)
From David Armstrong, Maylands, Western Australia, 2012: The letter from 1888 attached below may interest you.
The J.A.T. who wrote the letter below in 1888 is believed to be James Alexander Tate/Teit. The letter was published in the October 1888 edition of the Orkney and Shetland American, a Chicago based newspaper.
The Illinois State Library in Springfield has a microfilm with an incomplete run of the paper. In the late 1980s - early 1990s (ie pre-computer days) I requested the library to send me printed copies of the BDM column as well as the lists of subscribers. These prints are now fading, so I'm transcribing them and posting them to the "Orkney List" from where they're the forwarded to the "Shetland List". This letter by chance happened to be on the same page as the list of subscribers in Hamilton and Toronto. (I have never been to Springfield and so have never seen the O&SA microfilm in its entirety).
"Spence's Bridge, B.C.
"[To] Editor Orkney and Shetland American
"I have been knocking around lately in a very out of the way and uncivilized part of this only partially civilized country, where there were no post offices and white people were few and far between. I accordingly left word for all my mail to remain here until my return; so you see that is the reason I have been out of communication with you for so many months. I will probably stay here all winter now, so my letters will, I hope, not be so long between in future. I was very glad to see "our" paper is to be continued. Let me know if all the shares are taken up yet. Enclosed you have my postal order for renewals of my subscribers (sic). I have hardly been here long enough to gather much news, but I will perhaps be able to gather up something for you bye-and-by. I suppose you know the Skeena "rebellion" amounted to nothing. It was pretty nearly all rumors without any foundation, although they sent some troops up there. The troops had a nice "picnic" and then came back, there being no Indian uprising. Even on of the Skeena we can find representatives of our islands (where are they not?) in persons of John H. Inkster (Orcadian), Hazelton, and Jas Brown (Shetlander), Omeneca, who winters on the Skeena. I enclose a list of all Orkneymen and Shetlandmen known of by me in this province. I think it is pretty correct. In your list of Orkney and Shetland men in the West you omit quite a number which I enclose you.
"I was much pleased to see you publish the list of all natives in America: it interests me very much, as also the pictures and biographies of famous or leading natives, and hope you will give us another one soon.
"I am glad to see so many Orkney and Shetland societies springing up. I think that they ought to be able to form one at Nanaimo in this province. There is a large number of natives there, besides descendents.
From Janet Roth, 2012: We lived and grew up in the old Teit house in Spences Bridge. It was right next door to Widow Smith’s property, which by the way was beautiful when I remember it as a child. Painted white stones going up the long driveway and surrounded by a long grove of lilacs and Lombardy poplars (which created the fear of God in us during wind storms, so most of them were cut down as they rot inside). It was well kept then, and if not completely gone now, is a total derelict building and grounds.
The house originally had a trap door down into a small cellar which was located In a very small pantry kitchen. It contained glass-doored cabinets for dishes with a single sink that looked out onto the Smith property. My father ripped that little room out and made one big kitchen out of it. My brother and I have very good memories of that house and still call Spences Bridge our ‘home town’. When they sold it to the people who owned the Smith house at the time, they built a fireplace where the bay window was. My father also dug out a full sized basement under the house, all concreted in. My mother did a lot of canning and that is where it was all stored. They had a large garden and my Dad had his wood working shop in the shed. It also had a coal shed right across from the kitchen window facing the driveway, but that was torn down years ago. There was a massive maple tree in the back yard, and my mother would be so indignant that people who saw if from the new TCH would drive down and picnic under the tree on the other side of the fence :-) It was so darn hot in those days, I don’t blame them.
When I was young the apple orchards were still there across the street. They were abandoned and it was heart breaking when they took them all down. The pile of old roots though made a magical place for a kid to crawl under and find ‘rooms’. What is now called the ‘Packing House restaurant’ up the hill from Widow Smith’s for many years was a general store with living space at the back. It is actually Widow Smith’s old apple packing place. It is still quite quaint and is certainly worthy of documenting.
Note from Bev Howard, 2010: James Teit lived in a log house with his first wife Antko (Cook’s Ferry Indian Band); this home still stands in the mountains overlooking Spences Bridge. After she died he built a home in Spences Bridge, I am the owner of the home and I have the original land survey drawn by Teit himself, photos of his wife Leonie and his children on the front porch and other info. My neighbour owns the lot that his writing studio is on and this home has been kept original as well. His grandson will be able to confirm this info and the Museum in Merritt has an enormous amount of info and an entire wing in the Museum has been dedicated to the TEIT display.
The photo of his first home with Antko is on the front cover of The Thompson Indians of British Columbia Edited by Franz Boas, The Jesup North Pacific Edition. [and in Vanishing British Columbia – MK]. Photos of his second home also appear in other publications of Teit.
James Teit is buried in Merritt.
He lived in the log home in the mountains overlooking Sp.Br, the Spences Bridge home on Steelhead Place and a home in Merritt. These were his residences when he wasn’t traveling during his life in Canada.
A historic photo of James Teit's house on Steelhead Place in Spences Bridge, courtesy Bev Howard
A contemporary photo of the back (?) of the house from a recent MLS listing.
From Bev Howard, 2010: Here is a pic of the back yard, chicken coup and gardens and below it a shot of the interior hall. Note the detailed moldings, high ceilings and original fir floors.
Thanks to Steve Rice of Hilltop Gardens for the access to the Morens property. "HW" references are from "James Teit--Pioneer Anthropologist," by Don Bunyan, originally published in "Midden," republished in Heritage West, Fall 1981, pages 21-2. "WS" references are from Widow Smith of Spences Bridge, by Jessie Ann Smith, Sonotek Publishing, Merritt, 1989.
* * *