This Week in History

First of a three-part series. This article was written in 1996 by Ron Ansell of the Arrow Lakes Historical Society

  • Mar. 16, 2016 1:00 p.m.

There is a saying, “a prophet is not without honour except in his own country.”

This, if true, may explain why there are no statues or plaques to honour Donald Waterfield in any communities along the Arrow Lakes.

For this former resident of Nakusp was truly a prophet with a clear idea of what would be involved in the flooding of the Arrow Lakes and Columbia Valley. He had stated, early in the 1960’s that water would become an increasingly precious commodity a resource not to be wasted or too lightly bargained away. He recognized the negative effects of the Columbia Treaty and tried to persuade the governments of the day to cancel or amend the terms which he felt were not in Canada’s or the West Kootenay’s best interests. The correctness of his stand, while still in some dispute, has become increasingly apparent.

Donald Waterfield came to this area with his parents as a child of four. His father was from a distinguished English family and had previously served as secretary to the Governor General of New Zealand. In 1912 the decision was made to join the influx of English settlers coming to Canada. The father came to Nakusp, purchased land in the Crescent Bay area and planted 20 acres of apple trees which, according to popular wisdom and advertising of the day, would soon assure their fortune. Then he began the building of their house which he named “The Assart,: and when it was complete, sent for the family.

Donald, his mother and his two sisters soon arrived and commenced life and hard work on their land in the area of Crescent Bay Orchards developments some three miles from Nakusp.

While somewhat isolated, they had as neighbours others of similar circumstances and breeding. Thus pleasant afternoons could sometimes be spent in the company of fellow would-be orchardists and relatives at their homes, also named, and but a short walk away albeit an often muddy and strenuous walk on narrow trails through the seemingly endless forest.

Young Donald spent the next five years with his family in this setting until there occurred what he was later to describe as the worst day of his life.

War had been declared by Britain in 1914 and this had meant that Canada was automatically at war also. Donald Waterfield’s father, along with many others from this area, had joined the army in 1915 to form the famous Fighting 54th Kootenay Battalion, and had gone to France to fight in World War 1. Then, in 1917 came word that he had been killed at Passchendaele. Donald’s mother was left a widow, with three young children and an orchard to run that was just beginning to come into production.

Suddenly, at the age of eight, Donald became the man of the house and was forced to accept the fact that the father he had last seen going off to war some three years before would never be returning.

Fortunately for Donald there were others to whom he was able to turn for guidance and advice in his growing years his mother, Elspeth and his uncle, Captain Clifton Carver.

Nonetheless, it is obvious that Donald profited from his misfortune, that he became a decisive, better organized and analytical person with a strong sense of what he felt was just and right and a sympathy for those less fortunate.

Part two will run in next week’s Arrow Lakes News


Arrow Lakes News