Shuswap’s most famous artist deserves more recognition

The Collings Estate, August, 2010

With the legendary Collings Tudor estate in Seymour Arm now for sale, it is a good time to examine more closely the work of the once very famous artist who began living there in 1910. On a recent trip to Vancouver, we visited the Uno Langmann Gallery to view a collection of Charles John Collings’ works and speak with Uno, a renowned art collector and an authority on the artist.

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Dreaming big – the Seymour Arm Fruit Lands

 Cover of brochure

Seymour Arm holds the unique distinction of being the only community in the Shuswap and perhaps the entire province that became a ghost town twice. While its gold rush era history, when it went from boom to bust in less than a year, is legendary its reincarnation as a fruit growing centre is less well known. In 1908, Seymour Arm Fruit Lands Limited was established with its head office in Vancouver after purchasing 6,500 acres. The company began a marketing program to sell 5-acre lots to potential settlers primarily coming from England.
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Finding solutions to the housing shortage



Frank Bugala addresses the workshop group, photo by Fred Bird

Every year a group of key Shuswap “movers and shakers” come together under the auspices of the group Plan B:E to discuss sustainable options for improving the local economy by linking business, artistic and environmental values. This year the third “Respect Lives Here” workshop was held at the Adams Lake Indian Band’s Pierre’s Point Centre and was hosted by Band Chief Robin Billy.
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Fisheries report provides useful information

The 2010 Adams River Salmon Run  had the largest return in nearly 100 years

The Fraser Basin Council recently released a comprehensive report that analyzes the condition of the local salmon habitat management area. Given that the Shuswap Lakes region is considered to be the “most socially, economically and ecologically important” large aquatic ecosystem in the province, high quality resource management should be required, yet the report indicates that problems abound.

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Impediments to solutions for agricultural pollution






     Manure sprayer at Hullcar, photo by Al Price

There are significant parallels between the groundwater contamination crisis in nearby Hullcar and the decline in Shuswap Lake water quality due to increasing amounts of phosphorus. Both problems stem from how large, industrial dairy farms deal with manure, which is commonly stored in sewage lagoons and then sprayed on fields. In Hullcar the excess nitrates are seeping into the groundwater, while in the Shuswap and Salmon River valleys, the excess phosphorus is leaching into the rivers and lakes.

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Early archaeologist Harlan Smith studied the Secwepemc

photo courtesy of American Museum of Natural History

Five of the Secwepemc photos in my upcoming book, Everything Shuswap, were taken by one of Canada’s earliest archaeologists, Harlan Ingersoll Smith. The images show an old pit house, a woman scraping a hide, a summer dwelling and a woman with a digging stick. These files were purchased from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, as they are part of the collection from Jessup North Pacific Expedition that the Museum sponsored from 1897 until 1902.

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Constructing the CPR through the Shuswap

Passenger train heading to Notch Hill, Credit – CPR Archives

Just prior to completing the final revisions and additions to the last chapter of Everything Shuswap about the history of settlement, I rediscovered some material about the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) through the Shuswap in my history file cabinet. These papers were obtained during a visit to the CPR archives in Montreal back in 1988, when my focus was on local history. The information was significant enough to warrant including some excerpts to the chapter.

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Walter Montgomery – Chase’s extraordinary logging photographer

In addition to the hundreds of forestry workers who flocked to Chase when the Adams River Lumber Company set up its massive sawmill, there was a young, very skilled photographer who came to stay for the rest of his life. After working as an itinerant photographer throughout southern Alberta, the Okanagan and the Kootenays, Walter Forrest Montgomery moved to the town in the spring of 1909 and soon became a very respected and much appreciated member of the community. Years later, his magnificent images became legendary.
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Howard Smith – Chase’s cowboy artist

Courtesy of Chase & District Museum and Archives

The town of Chase lost a true treasure and a most valuable piece of history, when a large mural of a cowboy scene was destroyed after an arsonist set fire twice to the museum in 2011. The prolific artist, Jerome Howard Smith, is one of the Shuswap’s most fascinating historical figures whose paintings are now held in private collections and galleries throughout the Pacific Northwest. Most of his works have western themes including those from his 1889 assignment to Montana, where he worked alongside the famous Charles Russell.

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Expedition researchers took early Secwepemc photos

                           Old pit-house near Spences Bridge

The number of photos taken of the Secwepemc people increased at the end of the 19th century due to the efforts of the American Museum of Natural History. Morris Jesup was president of the museum and he financed an extensive expedition to study the cultural, racial and linguistic attributes of Indigenous peoples living in the North Pacific Region. His goal was to gather evidence to support the Bering Strait migration theory, which postulated that the North American continent was populated by the migration of Asian peoples across the strait.
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