Mary Gardner (nee Adams ) 1878--1951

Mary Gardner (nee Adams )1878--1951

These notes have been written by me in 2005 and are , to the best of my knowledge and memory, a brief history of the life of my Auntie who I always knew as Polly, although I think in Canada she was sometimes called Molly.

Mary Adams , the first daughter of Mary Ann and Robert Adams, was born in the shepherds tythe cottage at Pipers End, near Hertingfordbury, in 1878. My Mother, her younger sister, always called her Polly and so did the family. She went to school at Birch Green, which is still there today, and in due course went into service, which was the lot of most country girls at that time. After several posts she became a housemaid at The German Embassy in London and it was while she was there that her sweetheart, Herbert Gardner,known as Jack, who had gone to Canada a few years earlier, asked her to go and join him. He had originally gone to join the Canadian Mounted Police, and had left and gone to British Columbia. This was a few years after the great gold rush in the Yukon, which petered out fairly quickly. At that time a lot of gold was being found in B.C. , not so dramatic as the Yukon, but steady over a long period. Herbert arrived at a little village called Van Winkle in the wilds of B.C. which only had one store which sold everthing and also assayed the miners gold. It was owned by an old lady and she employed him as a general dogsbody , in Canada called the "boy". She took a liking to the young Englishman and when she heard about his sweetheart she said that if he could get her to come over they could live above the store, and this is what she did

In about 1905 Mary left the Embassy and booked passage on the S.S. Ottawa leaving Liverpool for eastern Canada. My Mother went to see her off and we still have the postcard of the ship that she bought in Liverpool. It must have been an emotional time for them both, although they never knew they would never meet again. It was a big blow also to my Grannie who had lost her husband back in 1884 and then my Uncle Harry in the Boer War.

When she landed in Canada she went by Canadian Pacific Railway to Vancouver and then by stage coach up to Van Winkle, where she married her sweetheart and took up residence above the store. There most have been few comforts in those days but she was a country girl and was used to such a life but the cold winters most have been a shock to her. It was there that they started their family which would eventually be Alfred (1908), Martin (1910 ), Herbert, Harry (1917), and Dorothy (1920). After a few years the old lady decided that she would retire and offered the store to Herbert, if he could raise the mortgage. After a successful few years they decided to sell the store and buy what we would call a coaching inn. In those days stores and materials were taken to remote areas by wagon over long distances so inns were popular to provide rest , victuals and an overnight stop. They used to grow some of their own food

Their next move was to sell up and buy a sawmill in Quesnel, and join the growing lumber business. By then the family had grown up and the boys joined their father in what became a very successful business. After a time they bought another mill and ended up with having several on various lakes . Harry told us that one of his jobs was to fly their seaplane carrying money and wages between the mills. All this time over the years the sisters corresponded, and family news was kept up to date. My sister Mary was a penpal of Dorothy and when we were young Christmas presents went back and forth. I remember a lovely pair of Indian made gauntlet soft leather gloves, allcovered in bead work that I was very proud of. When one of the boys shot a black bear Auntie Polly sent it over ,to be cured by an English furrier. It arrived rolled in a sack covered in bear grease but when the furrier finished it was a lovely bearskin we used to have on the floor.

When the War came along in 1939 Canada entered when Britain did and sent over thousands of men , as they did in the Great War. Harry joined up with an infantry regiment and then came over to prepare for D day. When he was under training in this country he often came to see us at Elmer Close and my Mum made a great fuss of him and his friend Petain who often came with him.It was great for us all to be able to hear first hand about Canada and to tell him about our lives. I remember when they were training on Salisbury Plain he said how cold and wet it was. Apparently in is much colder but it is a dry cold and doesnt get into your bones so much. His regiment went to France and fought their way up through the low countriess to Germany and fortunately he received no serious injury.

After the war was over and Harry rejoined the family business they decided to go in for house building supplies business in anticipation that housing would be in demand. This venture was as successful as the earlier ventures, so much so that after a few years they were able to sell up when it got too big for a family business and made a lot of profit, that they could all live on. The families grew and still we kept in touch . Jack died suddenly of a heart attack when he and Auntie Poly were on holiday and she died in 1951. Dorothy sent over her Mothers favourite fur coat and Mum wore it for some years. When she died we gave it to Sue and had the worn part cut out and then made up into a lovely short coat that Sue still treasures.

In the late sixties Harry and Emm brought over their youngest daughter, Joan, and they stayed for a time at Elmer Close and we got to know them really well. In the early seventies Martins son Les came over to Europe with his friend and toured Europe in an old van, finishing up in England. They stayed a while at Elmer Close too and we made a fuss of them.

When Rob went to the U.S.A. in one of his university holidays he worked in a boys holiday camp laundry near New York and with the money purchased a rover Greyhound ticket . He went all across the States and up the west coast to B.C. where he stayed with Harry and Em. It is now 100 years since Auntie Polly emigrated and in that time we have kept up contact with our Canadian cousins. I hope that future generations will read these notes and realise what a brave step Auntie Polly took all those years ago.

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