The social history of the Ashcroft Slough for well over a century is rich with characters who lived and died there. I refer to the area on the Thompson River where the river turns eastward, two kilometres from Ashcroft. One of the founding fathers of Ashcroft, Oliver Evans, developed a farm on the site. His wife Ellen (née Brink) had 14 children. The homestead was large: a two-storey dwelling with a wide veranda. It was situated in the shade of some cottonwoods below the CP rail line. An apple orchard situated nearby, and a wading pool built with river rocks by their father, created a warm and friendly country environment for the whole family.
A young Chinese lad was employed as a cook, and was probably trained by Ellen Evans in cooking Western food. This lad grew up and eventually opened a general store on Railway Avenue, Wing Chong Tai. Before Safety Mart was built, most of the people of Ashcroft shopped there for meat and groceries as well as work clothes, boots, etc.
About a kilometre from the Evans homestead, in a ravine below the south side of the rail track, a few shacks were built by rail workers for their families. I found the site in the early 1970s, and became a friend of Rita Fooks (née Evans). Rita was born on the family homestead (the Lady Minto Hospital had not yet been built), and she took me to the grave of her grandfather, William Brink, who was buried at the edge of the family farm. A wrought iron fence stood around the grave, and a rather large marker noted the year of Brink’s death: 1879, five years before the rail line came to Ashcroft.
When development of the site known as the slough began, the grave of William Brink was exhumed. I recently learned that the grave marker is now situated in the Ashcroft cemetery. The marker is cracked, lies flat, and is not visible until you are right beside it. There is no black iron railing. I am hoping the village will do more to acknowledge one of the founding fathers of the village.
Brink, [and Ashcroft founders] Bill Bose and John Barnes, incidentally were packers. They carried freight to the gold fields of the north. Brink’s daughter Ellen married Oliver Evans when she was 15 (Evans was 34). He was moving sheep to the gold fields at Barkerville and Richfield, saw the fertile field of Brink above the Thompson, and saw the potential, not only of farming, but as an important stop on the rail line being built. Barnes dammed the creek above, and created the lake which provided water not only for his ranch but for other ranches.
A mulberry tree and vestiges of the apple orchard at the slough were still standing on the abandoned site of the Evans farm in 1973. The evidence of human habitation at the site goes back thousands of years, actually, as native artifacts on the site have been found in plenty. I am told by a friend who lived on the site that a “stop work” is issued when the artifacts are found. I am wondering if anything is being done by the local native bands about the preservation of the artifacts?