For many British Columbians, exploring the province’s parks is not only a rite of passage, but a lifelong adventure. The landscape is nearly inextricable from one’s experience of B.C. and communion with the natural world is a unique part of provincial identity. British Columbia boasts the third largest parks system in all of North America, trailing only Canada’s National Parks system and the United States’ National Parks Service. B.C.’s first provincial park—Strathcona on Vancouver Island—was established in 1911 and its founding would precipitate the creation of hundreds of other sites over the following decades.
One such place is Herald Park, a well-known destination situated on traditional Secwepemc territory along the
western shore of the Salmon Arm of Shuswap Lake. Today, it is a haven for swimmers, birders and hikers, with a great network of trails and a stunning sandy beach. With hundreds of campsites, the park is a popular spot in an area already synonymous with the quintessential Canadian summer. But long before its provincial designation—long before even the first provincial park was established—the vast parcel of land was home to a family of five carving out a life for themselves in the wilds of the B.C. Interior.
Dr. Dundas and Edith Herald and their children, daughter, Jessie, and son, James—affectionately known as Buster—would purchase the property from John Reinecker in 1906. Soon after the sale, the family would welcome a third child, Arthur. The 160-acre plot, Bonny Bray, would house at least one member of the Herald clan over the greater part of the twentieth century—up to and during its eventual use as a provincial park.
Dundas Herald was originally from Dundas, Ontario and after graduating from Queen’s University, headed west to practice medicine in the Lower Mainland and the Cariboo. In 1901, he and his brother Wilson—also a physician—would establish a cattle ranch in Medicine Hat, Alberta. Dundas’ future wife, Edith (nee Grant) also hailed from the Heartland province, but would find herself in Alberta at the turn-of-the-century when her parents decided to take up ranching, as well. By 1905 Edith and Dundas would marry and start their family.
Accounts state that Dr. Herald was in search of a drier climate that would be more agreeable to his health. Upon their move to the Shuswap, he would cease his medical practice, focusing instead on the work of being a homesteader. Living in near isolation against the backdrop of the trees, the lake, the mountains, the Heralds were self-sufficient and capable. They made a living raising Jersey cows, selling their milk and churning butter. They also grew and harvested fruits and vegetables, but the bulk of their livelihood depended on the sale of hay. The children would never attend school, but would be educated by their father who would forgo the use of any school curriculum. A piano would be shipped to the farm and the children would take lessons.
Letters addressed to the family offer both a glimpse of their life at Bonny Bray and the state of the world at the time. The economic depression is noted, as are illnesses and news of relatives’ passings. But aside from the ramblings on poor weather and the goings on of the railway, the communication reveals the Heralds to be generous, good-natured and kind-hearted people.
Over and over, those penning the letters—including a nephew, MacLaren Grant, presumably a blood relation of Edith’s and one H.W. Beatty—offer thanks for gifts of cherries and tomatoes and plums sent to them by the Shuswap family. Responses to invitations to stay at the homestead never fail to mention the beauty of the area or the graciousness of their would-be hosts.
Other correspondence sent by one Norman B. Sanson suggests Dr. Herald to be a dependable man for he calls on him for a favour regarding the sale of his Canoe fruit farm. Though unclear, this Sanson may possibly be the Norman Bethune Sanson of Banff—an important figure of the Rocky Mountains who served as curator of the Banff Parks Museum and was well-known for his legendary ascents to a weather observatory at the top of Sulphur Mountain.
Photos of the Heralds and their property also provide a true feeling for the life they lived, their friends and family, the land they called home. Present are the proverbial markings of rural life—log fences, wild, open meadows and little wood structures built in the shadow of
evergreen mountains. But beyond that are the more personal images—a bearded, middle-aged Buster, his breast pocket bearing a Fire Warden insignia. Young Dr. Herald standing with one Robert Fortune astride a strung up line of caught fish. A picnic on the beach, the food and drink set festively on the makeshift plank table.
While Dr. Herald passed away in 1951, it is unclear when Edith, Buster and Arthur did. It is known that Jessie Herald was the last surviving member of her immediate family and lived on the property for nearly the entirety of her 88 years. Her time at Bonny Bray included the decades leading up to the sale of the land to the provincial government in 1976 and, also, after. Part of the deal—which saw the land sell for much less than it was worth—included a condition: that Jessie be able to stay until her death. So for close to 20 years, Jessie Herald lived on a 200 foot parcel of land within the provincial park named for her family. She would grow vegetables and keep a record of dozens of species of birds and when she died in December of 1994, the remainder of her land would be reverted to the government and incorporated into the park.
Perhaps the history of Herald Park is not that different from the origins of other provincial parks and perhaps the Heralds were not so unlike other homesteaders, but their tale is undoubtedly still worth telling. Their love of the land, their fair sale of it when it could have been sold for a higher profit for some other use—is a gift to the future generations of British Columbians who get to experience, year after year, the magic of a Shuswap summer.