Some of the folks in Salmon Arm’s early days found the Mysterious Mr. Harper a strange duck who was difficult to deal with. Often, people like Mr. Harper are like this because they are reclusive, sometimes wounded, but and this is how they present themselves to the world.

Arthur Henry Harper, or Henry Arthur Harper…. what was the truth? Did he go by Henry or Arthur? Good question, let’s see…

What can we find out about ‘a’ Harper who would fit the description? I think I’ll go with Arthur. Family might object and if so I will be overruled.

Arthur was born 11 October 1865 in Widemarsh, Herefordshire, England. His parents are a mystery to me. He had some schooling because later censuses show that he could read and write. He had knowledge of farming and animal husbandry that proved itself useful in Canada. Canadian records suggest he came to Canada in either 1881 or 1884, when he was 16 or 19 years of age. He spent the next 20 years of his life in the Virden area of southern Manitoba. This was pioneering for sure. In any event he was in no hurry to get married, waiting until he was 39 to do so.

Julia Edith Mary Ivens was born in 1869 and died in 1934. Her parents were John Ivens and Catherine Howe. She made the trip across the ocean to Virden in 1898, marrying Arthur in 1904. She was 35 at the time.

The couple got down right away to the serious business of having children. Winnifred Ellen was the first to be born in 1905 in Virden. The 1906 census shows them to be in the Salmon Arm area, most likely near Canoe. Then, in 1908 came Ivy Katherine and Henry Ivens in 1909. Last but not least was Stella Mary in 1913 when Julia would have been considered an elderly mother. Labor and delivery were a risky business. The family suffered a loss when Stella, who was born 11 June 1913, died at three weeks of age, July 1st 1913 of grangrenous dermatitis. 

In 1906 in Virden, the family had two hired men living with them. The census shows they had livestock. It was pretty common in Manitoba in those years for even the poorest of farmers to have hired help living on the farm.

By the 1911 census, the family had moved to Salmon Arm and were involved in fruit farming near Canoe. One hired man making $500 a year was living with them. By this time Arthur had $1000 worth of accident insurance. It seems like a princely sum. That would be $25,000 in today’s money. They were not rich but they were better off than many of that era.

The family were Anglicans.

Farming is what Arthur committed himself to throughout his working life. There is one question that remains unanswered. Did Arthur Henry Harper return to England during the First World War? There is a record of someone with an identical name who served with the Punjab Rifles, but it wasn't Harry.

Julia died in 1934 at the age of 65. I can’t imagine she had an easy life but one has to salute an adventurous spirit that would set out from the UK to the wilds of Canada.

Arthur died in 1948 at the age of 82-83. He is buried in Salmon Arm.

Don Paterson, MD, Archival Sleuth, and Family Tree Surgeon


Curator's note:

The featured image is of Arthur Henry (Harry) Harper holding  surrogate grandson Dickie Farmer.

The photo taken outside the bakery near Salmon Arm's present day Cenotaph. 

Arthur Henry (Harry) Harper holding Ivy Katherine and seated in the back Julia (Ivens) Harper with Winnifred and holding the couple's  son  Henry (Buzz) Ivens Harper. Buzz was born 11 Nov 1909 and the picture was likley taken in the spring of 1910. It was taken outside the bakery and their home. Both Buzz and  Ivy (born Oct 1908) were born there. Corner of Okanagan and 3rd by the Cenotaph.