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The Godson's

My grandfather John (Jack) Godson born in Blockley (Cotswolds) England, came to Canada in the early 1900’s and settled in Abbotsford (the Fraser Valley) BC.  He found employment at the Abbotsford Lumber Company mill on Mill Lake.  Later he met my Grandmother who was working with the cook at the mill site.  They married in 1917 and lived their entire lives in their home; built in 1920.

Recently, Jan and I visited Abbotsford and the Trethewey House (MSA Museum Society).  On my Grandmother’s death in 1985, the bulk of her household possessions (furniture, clothing, kitchen products) dating back to the 1920’s were donated to Trethewey House.  I admit it, the pack-rat gene runs strong; somehow it’s migrated to Jan also. While there, the Collections Manager, Christina Reid, kindly chatted with us.  Stories about my grandparents, their home, the mill and Trethewey House quickly filled the span of 2-hours.

The Trethewey House and The Godson House
Trethewey House – 2005 and Godson House – 1970’s

Both my grandmother’s home and the Trethewey House were kit homes from Sears Catalogue at the same time.  The Trethewey House was built by Joseph Trethewey for his third wife, Reta and in keeping with his position within the community and the love for his wife; this was a very special home.   Built to a woman’s taste as a sophisticated ‘arts and crafts’ style bungalow, the walls were pink and the curtains of silk; with even technological advances such as central heating and a built-in vacuum system.  It is now a civically recognized heritage house.

Original Central Heating
Original Heating Ducts and Interior Hallway

Now I can’t speak to my grandmother’s house and I can no longer ask dad; my father passed this last Tuesday, November 26 at the age 94 from complications of dementia, however, we were told that the entire Trethewey home was built from local building products.  Of course, the finest Douglas-fir from the Abbotsford Lumber Co., brick and crackle-glazed clay tile used in the chimney and fireplaces were from the nearby Clayburn Brick Plant; even the horse hair used in the plaster work of the walls was local.  Abbotsford’s most important early industries are represented in this home; a true local diet of supplies.  It’s been said that if any carpenter was caught using a piece of wood with a single knot in it, the entire crew would be fired!

In the style of Arts and Crafts
In the style of Arts and Crafts
Douglas-fir in the Dining Room
Douglas-fir in the Dining Room

Of the many mills, The Abbotsford Lumber Company was the largest.  Known by several names, from 1903 to 1909 it was known as the Abbotsford Lumber Company. In 1909 the Company was renamed Abbotsford Timber & Trading Company until 1919 when it was renamed Abbotsford Lumber, Mining & Development Company. In 1929 it was renamed for the last time when it reverted to the original name of the Company, Abbotsford Lumber Company. In its heyday it was not only the largest employer in the community but soon became the third largest forestry employer in the province. With more than 260 workers toiling at the mill and in the bush, the company systematically logged the entire Central Fraser Valley.  Lumber was sent everywhere, including the Prairies and the Panama Canal.  At one point the mill produced two special timbers to be sent to Australia, measuring thirty inches by thirty inches by seventy-four feet.

godson-7
(left) Abbotsford Lumber Co. 1912, Jack Godson on the right.
(right) Abbotsford Lumber Co. Mill Crew, 1912. 
Thank you to The Reach Gallery for the use of their photos

When the Sikh workers at the mill initiated construction of a gurdwara (temple) the Trethewey’s donated the lumber for it. The Trethewey’s employed Japanese, Chinese, and East Indian workers at wages only slightly lower than those of the ethnic white workers, which encouraged these minority groups to settle in the community; multiculturalism at its best.  Characteristic of their philanthropy, the family donated this house to the City of Abbotsford for use as a museum.

We heard entertaining stories about a family horse being brought up to the 2nd story bathroom to be watered in the family tub.  About hostile takeovers of the mill by the Trethewey Brothers; about love lost and community rejection and of a ghost, in one of the upstairs bedrooms.  Christina told us of unexplained ‘events’ happening in the bedroom; a rocking chair being dismantled and the wood pieces placed in order of size on the floor; of paranormal experts catching flying marbles on film.  I’m not one to feel/see ghosts as some family members do, but when I ventured back upstairs on my own to take pictures, I must admit I felt the need to ask permission; suggesting that if I was not welcome to show a ‘sign’.  I got my photos!

Ralph Calvert Godson
October 10, 1919 – November 26, 2013Ralph Godson (1919 - 2013)

5 Comments

  1. It is GREAT to read ‘history’, and especially when it relates to ones own past.
    How ‘things’ evolve, and others ‘stay the same’.

  2. My Brother Jay and I also heard the rumors of there not being a single piece of knotted wood in the house when we were kids. PSSSSST, look in the attic. The flying marbles… perhaps nothing more than a residual energy imprint from the game we routinely played in the hallway using marbles and wooden rulers as hockey sticks. Look very closely at the open end of the big light fixture at the bottom of the stairs in the front entrance. It wasn’t made that way, it was cleanly busted open by a flying marble, one of my best slap shots. Molly Godson was a very good friend of my Grandmother, Gladys Abernethy. My Brother and I sat on her furniture long before the museum had it. You may well marvel at the shape of her chesterfield, we couldn’t, we never actually saw it. Molly always had it covered even when company was over. One year when the Royal Hudson stopped in Abbotsford as part of a cross Province tour Mother took Jay, myself, Grandma A. and Molly down to see the train. Molly who was very old then climbed up into the Engine and pulled the whistle harder and longer than any one of us there that day. We always enjoyed visiting with her and she never ran out of stories of old(er) Abbotsford. Oh, the ghost in the house? That would be my other Grandma, Maria DesMazes who passed away in the master bedroom in 1945 of tuberculosis. The horse in the upstairs bathroom. That may have been my Aunt Jeanne who lead the horse to water, I have a faint recollection of the story. If so then the horse was refereed to as “Pa’s Mule”, a horse that my Grandfather Raoul DesMazes saved from the slaughter house. He was an old Calvary man of the French Army and apparently wanted that horse to die a natural death. It did and I actually have some of the horses teeth. One of the byproducts of the excavation of some 800 booze bottles from our back yard digs in the early-mid 1970’s. These empties did not come from my family though. My Grandparents were very Catholic, they didn’t drink Catto’s Whiskey, Frosted Gin, Apricot Brandy or Champagne. Raoul had only been living in Canada a few years when he returned to France in 1914 to rejoin the French Army and fight the Germans as his Father had in 1870. Raoul was a survivor of the war we will celebrate the 100th year end of in two days. Lieutenant Raoul DesMazes survived the longest battle in modern history, Verdun, 21 February-15 December 1916. When he returned in 1919 he and his Wife moved from Westbridge to Abbotsford and bought the house fifteen years later in 1935. I spent the first seventeen and a half years of my life in that house and I still dream about it at least once or twice a year. Here’s one last little known fact about “les cinq arbres” as my Fathers family called the place. It is a virtual pet cemetery. Perhaps one day I will actually sit down and recount the dozens of cat’s dogs, gerbils and unlucky birds that have been laid to rest on the grounds between 1935 and 1979. You may no longer want to visit the place after dark now. I do. but then I know all of them by name so, I should be OK. Michael DesMazes.

  3. Hi Shelley, I was intrigued to discover this blog post, I believe I’m very distantly related to your grandfather John (and hence yourself), John being a 3rd cousin 2x removed, through his Haynes heritage in the UK.
    Loved reading the fascinating story of his home.

  4. What an amazing coincidence, John. I found this blog via a link on a photo on Ancestry. I too am a 3rd cousin 2 x removed from grandfather John Godson — via Hitchman and Shipton families. I have about 3000+ on the tree now, so I will look out for you, and Shelley, on there, and on my DNA matches –if you have done that too.

    It’s a wonderful story, Shelley, and the photos on Ancestry are so beautiful too, so thank you for sharing your precious memorials with us all.

    Blessings,
    Ruth

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