Local pioneers’ stories are shared in new book

MSA Pioneer Association and MSA Museum Society collaborate to share stories of Abbotsford's early years

Clifton Hansen

Clifton Hansen

A new book compiles the recollections and stories of the Abbotsford area’s first settlers.

“Matsqui Sumas Abbotsford – Pioneer Stories: 1890-1950” is a collaboration between the MSA Pioneer Association and the MSA Museum Society.

Three members of the association – Frank Keis, Clifton Hansen and Allan Keeping – had the idea for the book in 2011. They wanted to focus on the people who settled in the Abbotsford area between 1890 and 1950. Partnering with the museum society, they collected about 200 stories from 150 families.

Philip Sherwood, who worked as the editor of the book, said they strived to be inclusive of all aspects of local history, featuring stories from the pioneers of the local European, Mennonite and Indian communities that settled in Abbotsford. Sherwood said they also tracked down some of Abbotsford’s former Japanese residents, who were forced out of the area and interned during the Second World War, most of them never returning.

The stories also reflect the many communities that make up what is now Abbotsford, such as Matsqui, Sumas, Bradner and Peardonville, which all have their own stories and character. Sherwood said the diversity in the book is important to building an honest and first-hand account of the history of the area.

Keis said they hope to preserve these memories for the community, and for the children and grandchildren of the families involved.

Dorothy Van der Ree, executive director of the MSA Museum Society, said she was amazed by what she learned in the process of creating the book, and hopes people in Abbotsford will be enriched by reading it.

“I think it will bring families and communities together.”

Van der Ree acknowledged the book is a compilation of stories – not a definitive history of the area. They hoped to make an engaging collection of the many aspects of the pioneer experience. Van der Ree said they encountered people who were reluctant to tell their stories, feeling that they were not important enough to merit inclusion in the book.

But Van der Ree was quick to reassure them: “If you don’t tell your story, who will?”

The 75th anniversary banquet for the MSA Pioneer Association will be held on May 3 at the Rancho on DeLair Road, where the books will be on sale. For tickets to the banquet, which are $25, call Cliff at 604-853-1508 or Rosalie at 604-853-2347.

On May 4, members of the pioneer association will be at the Sevenoaks Shopping Centre, selling the book at the community booth from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The MSA Museum will hold a book launch on May 5 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the museum on Ware Street. There will be a reading and signing along with storytelling for children.

The book costs $50 with no GST. For more information or to pre-order a book, contact the MSA museum at 604-853-0313 or email msapioneers@gmail.com.