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Hotel Blog

October
15

Matilda Harrison

posted by: The Royal Hotel Chilliwack on: October 15, 2019 02:45:05 PM
 
image credit: Chilliwack Museum & Archives
 
I was born in 1840 in Kingston, Ontario; the same year the “Act of Union” united Upper and Lower Canada under one government. After my husband died unexpected I decided to make the long journey from Ontario to Chilliwack, where my brothers James, John and Cory Ryder had settled earlier.

My eldest brother James came to B.C. in 1864 - like many other men seeking their fortune in gold, and decided to stay and make Chilliwack home. I arrived here in 1878 accompanied by my young son Jeff.
 
Chilliwack was a new frontier in 1878 but as a widow and single mother my prospects for employment were limited – to say the least. I quickly made friends with George and Mary Ashwell. They were the proprietors of a general store at Chilliwack Landing - located at the end of Wellington Avenue where the paddle wheelers landed. It was with their urging that I started a boarding house at the Landing, and called it the Valley Hotel. I was the owner of Chilliwack’s first hotel providing accommodations for those weary travellers arriving on the paddle wheeler!


The Valley Hotel - at Chilliwack Landing
 
When the new business district was moved to Five Corners in the 1880’s my hotel was the last business remaining at the Landing. In 1890 I was able to purchase just over 3 acres of land at the corner of Wellington & Corbould - not far from the Landing – and in 1891 my new 32 room hotel, which I named the “Harrison House Hotel” opened.


Chilliwack Progress, Aug. 4, 1892

I was very proud of my new hotel and worked tirelessly to make it the best hotel in the area. I prided myself in providing personal service and regularly greeted guests arriving at the Landing to escort them back to the Harrison House Hotel in my horse and buggy.


Harrison House Hotel
image credit: Chilliwack Museum & Archives
 
My hotel was surrounded by lush lawns, beautiful flower gardens and Chilliwack’s first grass tennis court. I also tended a large vegetable garden, fruit orchard and kept cows on property located close to my hotel. I wanted to make sure the freshest ingredients were used in the meals we prepared at the Harrison House Hotel. Alcohol however was not tolerated in my establishment.


The Harrison House Hotel - back lawn & gardens
image credit: Chilliwack Museum & Archives
 
When the great flood of 1894 hit Chilliwack, my hotel and property was surrounded by water. Guests had to navigate the floodwaters by canoe but I was still able to provide rooms to locals displaced during the flood.


Side view of Harrison House Hotel during 1894's flood.
image credit: Chilliwack Museum & Archives
 
In 1904 I was 64 and wanted to retire – so I decided to sell my hotel. I lived with my brother James in a comfortable home I had built near the hotel.


Chilliwack Progress, May 18, 1904
 
The Harrison House Hotel changed ownership several times before being demolished in 1919 and in 1925 at the ripe age of 85 I passed away.
 

 
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