The excerpt below has been taken from “Squamish The Shining Valley by Kevin McLane.” This hardcover coffee-table book about the story of Squamish from the past to the present is available at the following locations in town.
It can also be bought online here.
In the first decade of the new century, Squamish Valley was abuzz with promoters and investors eyeing their chances. In their zeal to attract attention, they applied the name of Newport to what we now call the downtown area. It was a marketing ploy loved by few, and so unpopular a schoolchildren’s contest was held in 1914 to choose another.
The names offered were all rejected except one: Squamish, the anglicised adaptation of Skohomish. Common sense had prevailed. From 1914, use of the word Squamish became entrenched for the downtown area, and Lower Squamish fell out of use.
However, the pleasant name of Squamish Valley remained in loose form. (Without the definite article ‘the,’ Squamish Valley encompasses the entire region, much as we would say Yosemite Valley in California, or Sun Valley near Kamloops.)
The choice of the name of Brackendale had a better reception. In 1905 an English remittance man, John Bracken, came to Squamish Valley. A remittance man (and in rare cases, a remittance woman) was often the troubled son of a well-to-do English family, sent abroad to seek his fortune with the preference he did not return.
Others were younger sons who could never inherit the family estate. Supported by a monthly allowance from their family, thousands of such men made their way across Canada. They were an eclectic band: some lived with occasional work, some joined the mounties, others were drunks or lived for high adventure, and some mined for gold. One woman lived in a tent near Banff. Robert Service, the poet of the Yukon, captured their spirit in his evocative ballad, The Rhyme of the Remittance Man. In the case of John Bracken, he opened a hotel in Squamish Valley.
At the beginning of the century, most of the settlers lived in the Upper Valley, as it provided the best farmland. Soon after the new century began, John Bracken opened The Bracken Arms, then applied to the government to open a post office. One afternoon, a group of men were in the hotel, and Bracken suggested it was an opportune time to name his proposed post office. One of the group, James Edwards, describes the debate: “Many names were suggested, but none met with wholehearted approval.
Mr Bracken suggested Bracken, not just because it was his name, but because of the bracken fern which grew in such abundance in the district. None of us fellows were much impressed by, or approved of the name, but when one, and I cannot remember which fellow it was, suggested Brackendale everyone was in accord. The ‘Bracken’ part really stands for both Mr Bracken and the fern, but the ‘dale’ really cinched the name.” And a touch of Yorkshire came to Squamish Valley.
In 1911 a noise entered Squamish Valley, a terrible sound unlike anything ever heard in the thousands of years that people had lived there. Harry Judd brought in the first motor car, a passenger vehicle called a Rapid, which could carry about 15 people. Purchased in Seattle, it was driven up to Vancouver by Lance Leyland and ferried on the Britannia to Squamish.
The engine drove a large chain attached to the rear axle, the tires were solid rubber, and from all accounts it was noisy.
Needless to say, everyone was impressed and Harry Judd was soon operating a stagecoach line driving people up and down the Valley. Everyone could sit down and be driven.