A new, ultra local read! I first learned about the booklet, “Cedar By The Sea: 1890-1970” compiled by Roger Prior in the fall newsletter of the Nanaimo Historical Society. Since I live in Cedar myself, and I also like to support the creative work of fellow NHS members, it was a definite must-have! Only a limited number of copies have been produced, so I’m happy to have one to add to my always expanding local history library.
In his NHS newsletter article, Prior expressed that he felt that the history of Cedar’s early settlers was not well-known (I’d agree), and that he hoped that his “modest little booklet might help to recognize the endurance and vision of [Cedar’s] pioneers.” It’s so easy for stories to get forgotten if they aren’t recorded in any way. Local history matters, and I’m happy to see someone else writing about the history and development of the often overlooked small communities that surround Nanaimo.
The first and most lengthy section of the booklet features the Fiddick family, who moved to the Cedar area in 1872. Samuel and Elizabeth (Grandam) Fiddick pre-empted 250 acres on the west side of the Nanaimo River, building a home at the corner of Wilkinson and Akenhead Roads. Their son Charles later purchased 120 acres near Dodd Narrows, a property that was uncleared and included a quarter of a mile of waterfront. Charles Fiddick developed the land and moved his family into a house there in 1904, and descendants of the Fiddick family still live in the immediate area today.
Next there is a brief section in the booklet about the Long John Silver subdivision, which was developed by the realty company of Nanaimo’s pirate mayor Frank Ney on land purchased from the Fiddick family in 1963.
The next section features the Thomas family that first pre-empted land in Cedar in 1884. The Thomas family section is particularly focused on long time Cedar resident Ivor Thomas who lived in the area from his birth in 1889 to his death in 1981.
The final section of the booklet is about the Aquarian Foundation property. It was nice to see that Prior did not spend a lot of time on the mysterious (but sometimes over-embellished) tale of Brother XII that’s been covered at length elsewhere. Instead, the property itself is the focus in the booklet and what happened to the land and different buildings after the foundation dissolved and Brother XII and his followers dispersed.
I really appreciate the effort that goes into producing this kind of local history resource: peering at old newspapers, sorting through albums and boxes of photos, conducting interviews with neighbours, and exploring the resources of the Nanaimo Community Archives. As I contemplate my own writing ideas, I was pleased to read that Prior found his project to have a community building element. He shared that he “used the project as an introduction to even more neighbours and locals who added more of their memories.” The idea that neighbours can be brought together in the spirit of local history project is definitely one that I can get behind and something I will be thinking about in the future.