In the late 1800s, Mary Ann Trethewey was home alone in the wilderness with her young children.
When a stranger refused to leave her front porch, she pulled out the pistol concealed in her skirt. A nurse by training, she knew just where to aim. The astonished man escaped with a flesh wound in the arm.
This story, and many other tales, are found in a newly published book entitled Pioneers in Petticoats: The Trethewey Women 1800 – 1900.
The book is written by local author Julia Rohan and published by the Heritage Abbotsford Society. It will be launched at a free public event on Friday, Sept. 27 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Trethewey House Heritage Site at 2313 Ware St.
When Rohan and her architect husband Ted Yudelson moved to Abbotsford from Quebec a year ago, one of the first places the couple visited was Trethewey House, the historic house museum located on the shores of Mill Lake. During their tour, executive director Christina Reid regaled them with stories about the house’s original owners, J.O. Trethewey and his controversial wife Reta Bell Massen.
These snippets of the past were all that were necessary to inspire the author to research the family’s history in depth.
She learned that Trethewey (pronounced “Tre-THEW-y”) Street was named after the family; that James Trethewey was the first man to create a townsite at Mission; and that Abbotsford’s Mill Lake was the site of the Trethewey sawmill that employed hundreds of locals in the early 1900s.
“I noticed that, though the men in the family were frequently the subject of local news, the women –their wives, sisters and daughters – were more or less ignored,” Rohan says.
“But these ladies played pivotal roles in the success of the family, and ultimately in the success of the communities they inhabited.
“Each of the 16 women in the book is unique, though some are more mysterious than others. Writing their stories, I grew to have affection for them all.”
The author will be on hand to read an excerpt from her work and to sign copies of the book. Refreshments will be served. Call 604-853-0313 for more information.