Written by: Katrina Eeles
History is all around us, in the way we speak, the places we go, and the homes we live in. This was especially true for one of the oldest houses in Selkirk.
This house was made from logs, carved wooden pegs and hand-made nails, and was built in 1870 on Pacific Ave. just off of Eveline street. The log cabin had been covered up with plaster, hiding the original architecture from view. Loose nails that were once buried during construction would later find themselves in the yard of the house next door. The first resident in this house was a Wolseley Expedition soldier, Mr. Smith, who accepted a land grant after the Riel Resistance. He lived in the house for years, the walls absorbing his stories. The third owner, Mr. Sid Hall, occupied the home for several more years, raising his children and entertaining his grandchildren from the house next door. It would be in those years that history would be uncovered.
“The Old Bell Place”
Over the decades, the young Hall family next door dug up artifacts from their garden plot: broken shards of China, bullet molds, arrow heads, a bronze crucifix, and of course, handmade nails. 272 Eveline was built in 1890 for Cpt. John Bell, a well-known and liked Hudson’s Bay Company ship captain of the SS Wrigley. He captained the ship on many expeditions to the Mackenzie River in what is now Northwest Territories.
After Cpt. Bell sold the house to the next family, the Walls, it then changed hands to the Halls, and since 1991, the Kidds. Many memories were made during this century of change. After the Halls purchased the house in 1948, they heard about some of these memories – tales of Cpt. Bell’s house:
The flats of the Red River, where the Selkirk Golf and Country Club is now, used to be home to many Indigenous people. One day, two men found themselves in a “furious fight”. Axe in hand, one chased the other up the hill directly into the Bell house. Meanwhile, Cpt John Bell’s servant, a young Indigenous girl, was looking after the house with her lady, sick in bed. As the men came through the front door, the young woman blocked the doorway into the main part of the house and told them they could “kill each other outside, but not inside the house.” The men were impressed at the girl’s assertion and quickly disappeared. Cpt. Bell later praised the young woman publicly for her conduct. – Source: The Regional News
Arrow heads, and crucifixes, along with scraps of broken China continued to pop up in the Hall’s garden, as if the earth between the old Smith house and old Bell house were retelling their stories, revealing and recycling history. Artifacts leaked out of the earth every year, growing and piling up, several dating from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.
Our histories are unavoidable – its in our cultures, our rhetoric, our memories, and the ground beneath our feet. Whether intentionally excavated or accidentally discovered in our back yards, everything surfaces with time.