Starting in the late 1800s, after the railroad opened the area for settlement, Norwegian families found their way to Whonnock. The Lees were one of those families.
Martha Marie Lee married Ole Nelson in Norway. In 1891, she and her husband and baby son came to Whonnock, where Ole Nelson’s brother lived. Two of her own brothers were in B.C. already and her other four brothers, two sisters, and parents came from Norway the next year and settled in Whonnock. In 1898, Yukon gold had lured the Lee sons north and two of them decided to stay in Alaska.
Anna Lee, daughter of Ole Nelson and step-daughter of Martha Lee, married Axel Lee in 1896. They lived on an 80-acre farm in Whonnock. She was a generous woman, holding open house for her family and friends. Fishing was still the main occupation and as well as the salmon, sturgeon was plentiful well into the 1940s. Anna’s husband’s brother donated the land for the old cemetery in Whonnock and also had the dubious honour of having his brother’s boat stolen by the train robber Billy Miner to get across the river when he was making his escape.
In mid-summer 1948, calamity struck. The Fraser burst its banks and flooded the area. The old farmhouse was high enough not to be affected, but Anna’s married daughter, Annie Holt, almost had her home washed away. Thanks to the quick thinking of her husband, who pushed logs under the building with his boat, they were able to save their house.
They then hired a moving truck and dragged the house up over the rail tracks to higher ground. Just as they had it across the rails, the truck got stuck and they had to work frantically to free the house just in case a train came through.
For more information on the Lee and Nelson families, see “Whonnock Notes #3 – The Trondheim Congregation” by Fred Braches.