By Keith McNeill
An interesting piece of North Thompson Valley history came to life on Saturday as two monks from Westminster Abbey near Mission joined members of Wells Gray Riders Association for a work-bee at the MacMillan Cabin in Upper Clearwater.
According to Roland Neave’s book, Exploring Wells Gray, the cabin formerly belonged H.R. MacMillan, co-founder of MacMillan Bloedel Ltd. He and his friend, Don Bates, owner of an insurance company in Portland, Oregon, needed to take breaks from their high pressure lifestyle and so came fishing on the Clearwater River once or twice a year for nearly four decades, beginning in 1934.
They often stayed at the cabin, which belonged to the Harbys at the time. They purchased it in 1949 and, with the onset of old age, gave it to the monastery in 1972.
Who built the cabin is not clear but it could be 100 years old, which would make it the oldest buildings in the Clearwater Valley.
Neave’s book gives instructions on how to access the cabin from the Flatiron Trail in Wells Gray Park – about a 10 km walk.
People from the monastery visit the cabin once or twice a year to check up on it, said Fr. Abbot John Braganza.
For the past few years it has been leased to Wells Gray Riding Club, who use it for day trips on horseback.
When they heard the club was planning a work-bee to give the cabin a spring cleaning, he and another monk came along to help out.
According to Wikipedia, Westminster Abbey is a community of Benedictine monks that was founded as a seminary in 1931. The abbey church, which was built in 1982 on a hilltop near Mission, B.C., is a noted landmark.
Barganza was elected abbot in 2005. The abbey presently has about 30 monks.