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Chilliwack's topography honours pioneer farmer Volkert Vedder

Attracted from California by Cariboo goldrush

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill Immigration Features HistoryThe most-widely known Dutch-descended people in Chilliwack were its earliest pioneers Volkert Vedder and his son Adam Swart Vedder who lent their surname to several geographical points: Vedder Mountain, Vedder Peak, Vedder Crossing, Vedder River and Vedder Canal. The Vedders hailed from New York’s Hudson Valley town of Schenectady, a Dutch colonial settlement founded in the 17th century where their ancestors were among the first colonists. They left the gold fields in California around 1860 for new opportunities in BC, where the Vedders eventually settled in the Fraser Valley. Initially, Volkert’s son Adam made a living as teamster, going up the Fraser Canyon and beyond, hauling freight and supplying gold miners at places such as Barkerville. Information on Chilliwack pioneer Volkert Vedder, mostly based on newspaper reports, are not uniform on the year of arrival in British Columbia. It is fairly safe to conclude it was in 1858 and that his sons came up from California two years later. Volkert who left his New York hometown for Chicago in the 1840s, had been an advance party for them before when he travelled overland with oxen to California around 1850, and back to get his sons. Another source had Adam travel to California via Panama. Perhaps, both routes were used but on different occasions. Volkert Vedder was lured to the gold fields, first in California and then to the Cariboo in B.C. He mined for gold in California but also was a teamster, a business his son Adam continued in BC’s Cariboo. Volkert (a widower) worked with three sons, Adam, John (who died in California) and Albert (who died in the Cariboo sometime after 1871). Local historian Horatio Webb in 1925 wrote that Volkert Vedder arrived in the area in 1858 with another pioneer named Jonathan Reece. Upon arrival at Sumas Prairie, they met a party of surveyors who were mapping a boundary line between the U.S. and British North America, as Canada then was called. On the way to the Cariboo goldfields, the men stayed over at the local Indian reservation Squihala and mined that winter at Emory Bar. Travel then meant hardship; there were no bridges, and, often for miles, they had to blaze their own trail. Vedder connection to Yarrow and Sardis Adam and Albert Vedder came to B.C. in 1860 to join their father. They camped for a while at Sumas Prairie before going to the Cariboo to start their transportation business. Adam made history in 1865, when he was the first to use a team of oxen to move freight (someone else tried it with camels). By 1868, the goldrush had waned, and Adam and Albert joined their father in the Chilliwack area where they as a family eventually pre-empted as much as 1,520 acres of land. Volkert already had pre-empted 160 acres on the Sumas Prairie in 1862 and farmed on the site where now the village of Yarrow is located. A news item in the daily called British Columbian reported on September 19, 1866, that Mr. V. Vedder (then in his 4th year, he was the first one to start farming) had 15 of his 200 acres under cultivation, had raised 400 bushels of grain, 130 tons of hay, and owned 40 head of cattle, 30 hogs, 200 poultry, 2 barns, sheds and a dwelling. Twelve farmers together cultivated 653 acres of land and had made 818 tons of hay that summer. Of the Vedder's, Volkert was co-founder of the local Methodist Church in which he was active for decades. He died at the age of 89 in February 1898. His son Adam intermittently served the Township of Chilliwack, which he co-founded in 1873, as councillor and in 1879 as Warden. His last term as councillor was in 1896 and was appointed in 1894 to complete an unfinished term as Liberal MLA in Victoria. Council minutes of the Vedder years show a deep concern for issues involving roads and bridges in the community. Flooding, which happened regularly, was another concern. Particularly the flooding of 1894 caused great harm to the community when all the bridges washed away. In the following years they started to build dikes along the rivers. It was not until decades later a pumping station was installed, equiped by a Dutch-made Stork pump, that Sumass Lake was drained and the threat of flooding subsided. Only the Sardis village site where Adam Vedder resided in later years, was safe from extreme run-offs. Adam Vedder in 1888 was appointed the first postmaster of the village of Sardis which he named after one of the seven churches in Revelation 1(:11). The post office was located at his home at the junction of the Coqualeetza and Skowkale Roads (now Knight & Vedder). Vedder died in 1905, at the age of 71, survived by Elizabeth (Jackman), his second wife, and a step-daughter. Adam's brother Albert pre-empted land in the area in 1871. He died and was buried in the mining town of Barkerville.