Vanderhoof, BC Pioneer Letter – Thomas Dodd 1918

Nechaco (Nechako) Map showing undeveloped areas, 1910. The townsite of Vanderhoof, BC has not been founded.
Nechaco (Nechako) Map showing undeveloped areas, 1910.

Thomas Dodd, Pioneer of Mud River Valley / Chilako River District

Mr. Thomas Dodd, Prince George, B. C, who located in the Mud River Valley, southwest of Prince George, in 1911, and who has a wealth of practical experience, gives his impressions and conclusions clearly in the following letter:

Mr. R. C. W. Lett, December 16, 1918. Industrial and Colonization Agent, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Dear Sir: —

It affords me pleasure to write a line for insertion in your Booklet in regard to the Mud or Chilako River District. Having lived on the land here continually since 1911, I can speak with first hand knowledge.

Mud River Valley


Our valley is narrow, covered with timber, cotton wood, poplar, balm of Gilead, spruce and three kinds of willows, with small patches of open meadows. We have an abundance of good saw timber, spruce and fir for building purposes and jack pine poles for fences and fire wood galore near at hand.

The clearing of spruce, cotton wood, jack pine and poplar is rather hard, but can be made much easier by the use of fires if judiciously handled at the right season of the year.


The open patches produce a luxuriant growth of about six kinds of wild grass with a good sprinkle of vetch mixed in, making it a very high grade feed, which is eagerly sought and preferred to timothy by dairymen. The price of the hay ranges around $25.00 to $30.00 per ton, while I have sold some as high as $65.00 per ton. Our soil is a sandy loam and the bottom land proper I should say is a made soil built up of different kinds of earth with a large per cent, of decayed vegetation and mold of different kinds and it is very fertile and productive, so rich that we are inclined to seek the short and strong strawed varieties of barley, oats and wheat, so they will stand up to mature.

This ground can be plowed in its wild state and seeded to barley or oats and yield a good crop the first season. I have raised both fall and spring wheat that matured the same season. Wheat, speltz, spring and fall rye, and all kinds of small grains grow well here.


Talk about vegetables. One of my neighbors raised a swede turnip that he sold for 6 cents per pound, and it netted him $1.25! My big rutabaga weighed 28 pounds, top and all, and 10 and 15 pounds was very common run through the patch. Potatoes, beets, mangles, carrots, parsnips, cabbage, lettuce, onions, radishes, asparagus, rhubarb and peas all do well under good cultivation.


A good season we have an abundance of moisture, snow and rain. Our climate is considered good and I call it exceptionally good. I would say further in regard to crops, with timothy grows from 3 to 4 feet high and yields from 2 to 4 tons per acre. Brome grass grows about 5 feet high and then falls down, can be cut twice in a season and then pastured some. Alfalfa grows well, yielding from 13^ to 2 tons per cutting and can be cut twice and pastured some. Red clover, Alsike and other clovers grow satisfactorily.

Fish and Game

Do you like fish? Then come in biting season and we will step down to the river, just a stone throw from the house, and if I don’t hand you a nice trout in twenty minutes you may kick me into the river.  Game! Yes, I have stood at my cabin door and killed more than one moose.


Are we advancing? Yes. When I first came here we lighted our house with a candle, sowed, harvested and threshed as great grandpa used to. Sawed lumber with a whip saw. Now the grain drill, binder, threshers, mowers and rakes, the tractor, automobile, large saw mills, up-to-date lighting systems, are all in our midst.

In conclusion, I will say in this District there are some improved farms for sale at a reasonable figure. Some wild land can be bought cheap and some to be had under the Homestead Act. All told we can hunch over a little and make room for quite a bunch. I would invite good progressive, live wires to come and join us. I am not boosting for any one and I would suggest that you bring a copy of this letter with you, and if I cannot produce the goods I am ready for the consequences though it be a black eye.


Thomas Dodd,

Prince George, B.C.

From the booklet “Plateau and Valley Lands in Central British Columbia 9th edition”, compiled by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Company, Industrial and Colonization Department, published in 1920.

Remember – history plays an important role in reconciliation. To build for the future, Canadians must know their history, acknowledge it and learn from it.  Think, how can Vanderhoof history be told differently, to reflect the original land settlers, the Dakelh people?  Recognizing that the Nechako Valley was already settled before Europeans arrived is an important step.

More Vanderhoof, BC and area history!

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