May 28, 2004 Features & Images » Feature Story

Feature - Snapshots of McGuire 

Dalphine McKenzie recalls life in a little community south of Whistler

The wind rises and falls with the rush of the Cheakamus River somewhere beyond the trees at the far side of a homestead near the train station at McGuire. With it’s boarded up cabins, collapsed outbuildings and wood sheds the property looks as if it’s been left to the forces of nature. Stove parts, a tossed out kitchen pot and more firewood dominate the front yard that was once a huge garden. But on closer inspection one gets a sense of the hard work that must have gone into making a home here. A second smaller garden has been put in behind the main house. And a well for drinking water sits beside a small creek that flows across the property.

The homestead is a reflection of both the history and the present, in a region that seldom stands still for very long.

When Dalphine McKenzie’s father, James, settled with his family at McGuire, just south of what is now Whistler, in 1939 he was starting from scratch. This was a time not that far removed from the Great Depression; when the world was heading into World War II. There wasn’t a lot of money and some families went back to the land.

"There were old buildings left over from a former mill," Dalphine says, from a table in the kitchen of her North Vancouver home. "He leased the land; a 99-year lease at first."

Long before James McKenzie settled at McGuire the community got its start as a construction camp during the building of the Pacific Great Eastern Railway, between 1910 and 1915. One-hundred-and-fifty workers lived in tents that made up the camp south of where McKenzie would later homestead.

By 1938, when McKenzie moved to McGuire to prospect, there were several small sawmills that milled cedar, fir and balsam for markets in Vancouver. McKenzie had retired from the Vancouver City police force and worked his mining claims during the summer months with his two sons and partner, Bill Anderson.

"When he retired at the age of 60, he promptly remarried and I was born, and he brought me and my mother up there," Dalphine recounts.

Using wood from the old sawmill buildings, McKenzie, his sons and Anderson built two houses and out buildings at McGuire. Mining was more difficult.

They carried in what they needed for mining and blasted out a hole with dynamite. They’d take what ore they found to an assayer. If it wasn’t a good spot they’d find somewhere else.

Mining in the area was difficult because the veins of ore were all broken up. McKenzie found ore but never struck it rich.

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