Valley Voices: Jack Moilliet grows up on sheep ranch

Though he attended school in Vavenby, starting in 1925, he more often than not was found among the sheep rather than at school

A ferry man operates a river ferry at Vavenby sometime in the 1920s. The ferry was replaced by a bridge in 1949.

As told to Ruth Phillips by Jack Moilliet

Editor’s Note: The following story from the Feb. 5, 1975 issue of the Times was part of a series written by former Times reporter Ruth Phillips. It is continued from a Valley Voice that was in our Feb. 25, 2016 issue.

Young Jack Moilliet grew up among the sheep of his father’s flock at their ranch near Vavenby. Though he attended school in Vavenby, starting in 1925, he more often than not was found among the sheep rather than at school.

This school is not in existence now. The present Vavenby Community Hall was originally the school which opened in 1929. At the time Jack started school, his brother, Ted, was leaving to attend high school. He was among the fortunate few who, at that time, were privileged to attend secondary school.

StumpsIn 1925 the Moilliets sold their store. Jack’s uncle, who had been running  and maintaining the store as well as sleeping there, moved from the store to the ranch, and became a much needed handyman around the place. He endeared himself to all by making the morning fire and the morning porridge.

Although Jack only attended school now and then, he gained a wealth of knowledge from his home and his parents, who were both well-read and very knowledgeable. Much vital discussion took place in the Moilliet home. Fascinating people, such as bishops and ministers, frequently visited and stayed with the Moilliets. Jack found it a really exciting home to be raised in.

Days were never without adventure for very long with no bridges, only ferries and other boats with which to cross the waters. Ferries could not run in extremely high water, when the driftwood was too thick, or in the fall when the mush ice was running. Many trips were made in boats and it was often “nip and tuck” as to whether one would get across or not.

One particular time that Jack remembers was when the Vavenby cable broke in peak high water, and the ferryman and the school children walked down to Moilliets’ place where they found Tam. He crossed them all in two trips in a wretched old punt with a broken board for a paddle and a pole to steer with. Being an expert with both, Tam got all across the river safely.

At another time, when the ferry was at Peavine and Tam was laid up with one of his many sprained ankles, he suddenly heard a very loud “bang” during the day. Looking from his window, he could see no cable and knew it had broken. Grabbing his crutches he jumped into his canoe and headed down the river after the ferry.

A Mr. Jones was running the ferry, and with him at the time was a Mr. Harbin. These two had managed to straddle onto a point of an island near Birch Island. This is where Tam found them and rescued the two of them with his canoe.

Jack’s sister, Madeline, also enjoyed herding the sheep as Jack did. She loved going up into the high mountains with her dad and the sheep. Jack recalls her being away at boarding school part of the time that he was growing up.


Ted got his high school diploma, and then went to UBC for one year before he began working for the government.

Photos –

Inset: Stumps decorate a field on the Moilliets’ Aveley sheep ranch during the early days of the 20th Century.

Below: Photo shows the first store at Tam Moilliet’s place near Vavenby.



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