Holt Family Story


This story of the Holt family was prepared by Nora Holt, and tells the story of several of Golden’s early settlers, and includes the Underhill, and Peters’ families as well as John Powers and John Dahlstrom. This may well have been the largest one-time immigration to Golden.

The Holt family arrived in Golden from Minnesota in April 1907, along with the Underhill family and the Frank Peters family as well as a couple of bachelors, John Powers and John Dahlstrom. The group travelled by C.P.R. tourist class, armed with a picnic basket for the five-day journey.

Dad, Matthew Holt, was born on May 18, 1973, in Newcastle, New Brunswick, the younger son of Hugh and Helen Holt. As a young man, he left Canada to follow the logging industry in Maine and then on to Minnesota. There he met our mother, Lenora Elsie Brooke, in Rutledge. She was born in September 29, 1881, the eldest daughter of Thomas Brooks and Mary Alice Jones Brooks. They were married on August 1, 1899.

Young Matt was born February 2, 1901. On July 23, 1902 along came Mary Mildred (Min). On May 2, 1904 Francis (Bus) was born. On May 12, 1906, Lenora Marie (Nora) joined the family.

With this small brood our parents migrated to British Columbia to join the work forces of the Columbia River Lumber Co. Mr. J.D. McCormack, with whom dad had been associated in Minnesota, was now manager of the C.R.L. While housing was being located, we lived at the Queen’s Hotel, owned and operated by Mr. and Mrs. J.C. Green.

For a year or two dad worked at various jobs for the C.R.L. Initially, he was a river driver whose responsibility was to “herd” logs down river to the mill. “River Drivers” checked for traffic. Canoes were their means of transportation.

He was appointed superintendent of the logging operations where he remained until 1926, the year of the great fire.

Because of the location of the camps, miles from town, our father could be home only on weekends. Each summer when school vacation arrived, we moved out to one of the camps, usually Headquarters, for a month or six weeks of family togetherness. First we lived in tents set up in the beautiful tall tree country. Later, we stayed in a log cabin, previously occupied by a fur trapper. With much work, we soon had a cozy three room home situated by a lovely lake we named “Mother’s Lake.” Bears often roamed the nearby marshy land, but our trusty Airedale, “King,” kept them a respectable distance from the cabin. Mother would do fantastic things with a few yards of cretonne and orange crakes to make our cabin attractive. In later years, Dad had a three room cottage built by a cool mountain stream. The Cornell family spent several summers at camp. We had visits from Jean and Toast Beattie, Harriet Sanborn, Chris Gable, Kate McCormack and others. Our weeks there were a wonderful experience.

There we learned about logging. I remember the sound of the axe making the first cut in the tree, then the zing of the cross cut-saw, and finally the call “Timber” when the tree came crashing down to be readied for the log deck.

I remember our early lessons. Matt and Min began their music education with Mrs. Mercier. Later Matt switched to violin with H. Connell Moore. When Mrs. Alex Beattie opener her studio in Golden, Min and I were among her long list of piano students. Mrs. Beattie also had a kindergarten class where she taught Scottish dancing, besides pre-school studies.

I remember Mrs. Alex Clippingdale, an energetic English lady who organized the Junior Red Cross during W.W. I. Here we all learned to knit. She planned and ably directed many of the Red Cross variety type benefit shows. She designed and made costumes for many of her productions.

Our father and mother were very supportive parents and were always interested in our youthful projects. Mother made doughnuts for the Boy Scouts, arranged backyard picnics and held numerous birthday parties. Dad had a great singing voice and on Sundays woke us with either an operatic solo, or a chorus from a bawdy 1890 Revue. Sunday was a special day in our house because we were all home together. Breakfasts were family affairs where we sat and discussed many things. Then it was time for church. All six of us walked the few blocks to the little Catholic Church. Sunday dinners were homey affairs which always included a few friends and often the Parish Priest. Mom’s menus could stretch to accommodate any given number.

We all learned to dance at home, waltzing and two stepping to music from an old Edison phonograph. Mom and Dad were our instructors.

I remember the Saturday night movies in the Lyric Threatre. Music was synchronized with the movie by a bouncy, talented Jennie Wells at the piano. During the war years, Mrs. Bullman, who must have kept the entire Canadian army in socks, knit all through the movie, her needles clicking in time with Jennie’s music. In later years, the Moore family provided sophisticated music for the theatre. Yvonne Mercier supplied beautiful piano music for the silent movies for many years.

When their school days were over, both boys worked for the Columbia logging railroad, first as fireman and later as certified engineers, until 1926 when logging operations were terminated.

Matt then worked for the Harbour Board Railway, and later for the Great Northern Railway, as switchman. He was transferred to Seattle where he worked until his retirement in 1966. They moved to Woodburn, Oregon where they lived until Matt’s death on Devember 31, 1978. In 1928, Matt married Edythe Townsend McDonald, daughter of James McDonald who was with the C.P.R. in Golden. They had four children, all of whom reside in Seattle. Edythe has returned to Seattle since Matt’s death.

Bus went to Vancouver Island to work as engineer for the Comox Logging Co. He married Honorable B. Fitzgerald of Courtenay. They had a son who now lives in Lafayette, California. Bus died in August, 1941.

In 1925, Minn was married to Arthur Arbeau, who at that time, was chief mechanic for the Company Logging equipment. Arthur died in 1928 leaving Minn with two small children, daughter Ann Marie and infant son, Arthur Jr (Bud). In 1935, Minn remarried to Walter T. Johnson. They loved in Banff, Alberta. They had one son, Gerald. Walter died in 1968. Minn still lives in Banff.

I was married on May 2, 1931, to Howard Reed of Marysville, California. We have one son, Richard, who resides in Concord, California, with his wife Joan, and our two granddaughters, Dianne and Susan. Upon retirement, Howard and I moved to Medford, Oregon.

In 1926, when logging operations for the C.R.L. had ceased, our family made a permanent move to Vancouver. This had been winter quarters for us for several years. Due to health problems, Mother had spent winters in a milder climate and a lower altitude. Each fall Minn and Mom went to Vancouver where they remained until Easter when they returned to Golden.

Our Dad died in April, 1927. Mother remarried in 1935 to Cleve Libby (a cousin to Mrs. Cornell). She lived in Seattle until her death October 4, 1951.

When we moved to our present location last year, we met a Mrs. Reed, who lived in our apartment complex. At a patio function one afternoon we learned that Mrs. Reed was Ferol Peters, who had come to Golden from Minnesota with us in 1907. They had left Golden in 1914 and we had lost contact.

This story was written by Nora (Toots) Holt Reed in 1978. Nora passed away in 1981.