A map shows All Alone Stone in Gwaii Haanas. (Google Earth)

A map shows All Alone Stone in Gwaii Haanas. (Google Earth)

Tlellagraph: Connecting threads of history on Beitush Road

From Tlell to North Dakota to the Great War, history strengthens the connection to home

By Janet Rigg

The most incredible thing has happened. And it happened through the magic of the internet, something we’ve come to mistrust at best and at worst, to loathe.

Connection — it’s the essence of the internet, but existence itself. Everything is interconnected. Connection is the antidote to addiction. Connection is vital for the survival of infants. The evidence is mounting in fields as diverse as geography and psychology that connection is among the most significant factors for survival.

But there is also growing evidence that the rate of disconnection is growing at an alarming rate. The United Kingdom has a Minister of Loneliness to address what is now seen as a growing health concern, costing the government millions of dollars.

But at the same time, there is evidence that we aren’t moving as much as we used to. Less than 50 years ago, we used to relocate significant distances, from city to city, more than we do today. We are now more likely to end up dying close to where we were born. It would seem that as a species, we are beginning to value connection to place and family as more and more important.

What does all this have to do with Tlell? Well, my faithful readers, you will remember me writing a story on the history of Anna Beitush, whose family name graces the road upon which I reside. A letter found in an attic led to a conversation at the kitchen table with Alice Richardson, and that had led to a story about Anna.

It was some digital words on a screen, emailed to an editor, printed on paper, and placed on the shelves. But this time, it was sent into the interconnected web and became something beyond here, part of it all.

I got a wonderful email from a woman I’ve never met, and probably never will.

“Let me introduce myself. I am Gloria Fischer Pake, a granddaughter of Lydia Beitusch Fischer. Lydia is an older sister of Robert Beitusch. My father is Arthur Fischer and is 100 years old. He lives in North Dakota. He has often told us about a cousin from British Columbia. He knew she lived in British Columbia and his uncle’s name was Robert. I read your article from 2017 with great interest as you gave her name as Virginia. The North Dakota family did not know about a son named Robert.”

Yes, faithful readers, we are a part of our very own ancestry story. I have put out feelers and have found a way to contact Virginia, who married Wayne Flood and lived down the street when I arrived here. She and Wayne sold the Beitush property to the Haida Nation before moving about 10 years ago.

I eagerly await another chapter in this story.

But the links of history connected to the land on which I have relocated gets richer still. A while back, I received another email that could have easily come from a visit at my kitchen table.

Carol wrote, “The whole of the land on Beitush Road, from the cemetery edge to and including what is now Haida House at Tllaal was owned, after the Great War, the war to end all wars, aka the First World War, by Ralph Thomas Ward, an uncle to the late Lionel Ward Andrews.”

Ward had built a home and a garden “in behind Lawn Hill” on Haida Gwaii in 1907. A member of the British Army, a fellow he knew when they served in India as teens also came to visit him here, and stayed. In 1914, they both left to fight in the Great War.

Luckily, they survived, and both returned to the islands, each with a wife. The wife of the second serviceman was the sister of Ralph Ward, the first serviceman. And their only son was Lionel Andrews.

They lived for years in a log house near what is now Richardson Ranch. Carol still lives in the property adjacent to Wiggins Road. So as families come and go, some do remain close to home, while also having connections far away. The concept of home continues to be enriched for those of us new to the area.

These are the stories and the families that make up the more recent history. I would love to learn more about these threads, where they reach around the world, as well as the longer history of the Haida that lived on this land in Tllaal. Email me at sewnart@haidagwaii.net any time.