While Jay Sherwood was researching the latest book in his series on historical Kootenay surveyor Frank Swannell, he travelled to Nelson to find some of the landmarks depicted in the century-old photographs he’d pulled out of the BC Archives.
“Swannell took wonderful photos of Nelson. The people at the museum were able to identify where he had taken his photos from, and then I went to those places to compare.”
Sherwood stood at Central School and gazed at the same landscape, comparing the differences. He said it was almost like traveling back in time.
“I really do feel like you have a connection when you hold up the photograph and go ‘I’m in the same spot’. You can look at the landscape and see how it’s changed. You realize the ruggedness of the land, the remoteness. Until you see the photographs, it’s hard to imagine.”
Swannell did extensive research on his book Surveying Southern British Columbia, which is the fourth and final in his series on Swannell. It contains 150 stunning photographs that portray human settlement and untamed wilderness in what were the most remote areas of the province, including photos of Cranbrook, Nelson, and other towns in the Kootenays.
Sherwood also includes excerpts from courtship letters sent to a love interest named Ada Driver.
“Some of his diaries from that era aren’t as complete as the others, but in these letters there are very good descriptions of surveying around 1902, 1903. You can definitely tell he’s in love with her,” he said.
Swannell’s work had a significant impact on events that shaped our province’s history including the search for oil, the Pacific cable survey, the early timber license surveys for the pulp and paper mill at Ocean Falls and the controversial CPR land grants through southern BC.
Sherwood will be presenting at libraries and museums across the Kootenays.
His Nelson show will take place at Touchstones on Thursday. The show will be approximately an hour long, and he will read excerpts and show historical photographs.
For more information visit touchstonesnelson.ca.