“At the turn of the century, when so many families were leaving the British Isles to colonise the Empire as it was then known (now the Commonwealth),” wrote Colleen Pearce (Milsom) in a letter to Ruth Smith (Slavichak) dated May 1, 1973. “Sidney Milsom left England with his friend Douglas Foxwell to start a new life in Canada. They arrived in 1911 and purchased land in the Barriere Valley, with the idea of growing fruit and selling lumber. They employed local men as lumberjacks and to help build the house.”
To those living in Upper Barriere at the time, the house situated in the East Barriere Valley, soon became known as the “Milsom Lodge.”
In the spring of 1913, Sidney’s brother, Stroud Milsom, arrived from England with Pearce’s mother, Gwendolyn Newling. An Irish family by the name of Gallager (Francis, Diana and son Jack) also arrived to help with the house and the land.
A second part was added to the house in 1913, making it large enough to be called a “mansion,” the land was cleared, and fruit trees were planted.
Pearce wrote that by the winter of 1918, Douglas Foxwell had decided that life in the valley was too lonely and not for him, so he sold his land to her father and his brother.
“At the time, there was quite a few families living along the track to the lakes,” wrote Pearce. “It was a very simple life, especially for the women, because Barriere was a very small settlement with no fine motorway. It took two days to get to Kamloops.”
Pearce, was born in Kamloops, B.C., on Nov. 3, 1913. She wrote about how her parents often held frequent large parties, attended by local settlers. They would all wear full evening dress and dance in the big room of their house, which was called the “ballroom.”
Stroud and Sidney Milsom were very close to each other, and being wealthy gentlemen “of independent means,” were easily able to venture into the then little-known territories of East Africa for adventure. It was there that they had many exciting adventures “big game shooting,” returning with mounted trophy heads, many of which were hung on the ballroom wall of their Barriere mansion.
“When the 1914-1918 war was declared, my Uncle Sydney left Canada for Europe to fight, leaving my father and mother looking after the mansion,” Pearce wrote. “At the time, it was thought it would be a quick war, soon to be won, but when the months passed, my father decided he must leave for France to join his five brothers in the fighting.
“He joined the S.S.A.s volunteers and left my mother and me with the Gallaghers in Barriere. This was a very lonely time for my mother. So after a few months, she could bear it no longer and we sailed for England (from New York City) on the Lusitania – this was to be the last voyage before the Lusitania was sunk by the Germans in 1915.”
Pearce noted her Uncle Sidney was killed in WWI, and her mother decided she didn’t want to return to Canada. However, her father did visit Barriere once more, where he handed the mansion over to the Gallaghers, who resided there until leaving in the 1930s.
The Exploring Our Roots History Book notes that Jack Gallagher worked at the East Barriere power station for a number of years, and that he married May Murphy. The property was then sold to Harry Kirk, and then to Norman Newberry.
The property with the mansion was also owned by Ruth Smith’s father and mother, Alexander and Emma Slavichak.
The Milsom Lodge, which was up what we know today as the East Barriere Lake area, eventually gave in to it’s age and is no more.
Colleen Elizabeth Alice Milsom (Pearce) lived a long and interesting life. She passed at the grand age of 101.
Pearce’s niece, Sally Milsom, is interested in learning more about her relatives and their life in Barriere. She has created a website about the Milsom’s family history: http://www.milsoms.net/
Carson Stone’s History Notes of the North Thompson Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/276046409725342 welcomes any information the public may have about the original Milsom Lodge property in Barriere and the families that may have lived there over the years.
Check out: Barriere History Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/barrierehistory
North Thompson Museum: http://www.barrieremuseum.com/index.html