Powell River residents will have an opportunity to learn about a unique piece of coastal history on Saturday, May 11, at Powell River Public Library.
BC author and professor Judith Williams will present from her latest book Raincoast Chronicles 24: Cougar Companions, Bute Inlet Country and the Legendary Schnarrs.It is an exhaustively researchedhistory of the Schnarr family, Bute Inlet pioneers known particularly for their eccentricity of keeping wild cats as pets. The book has been in the works for several years, according to Williams.
“I have a long history dealing with Bute Inlet; I wrote a book in the ’90s called High Slack and it was about events in the 1860s up there,” she said. “I discovered this family that lived up in Bute Inlet and the daughters had pet cougars.”
These were the daughters of August Schnarr, a trapper and logger in the region between 1910 and the 1960s. He was also an avid photographer who took his Kodak camera on his many expeditions, allowing the book to be richly illustrated with images of life at that time.
“August Schnarr and his wife Zaida had three daughters,” said Williams. “The mother died very early and he was left with the three girls, and they are a big part of the story because they lived remarkable lives and they were remarkable women.”
To learn and document the history of this pioneer family, Williams took research trips to Bute Inlet and the Homathko Valley, as well as conducting interviews and poring over archives and old diaries.
“I had a lot of access and cooperation and got a lot of help from the grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” said Williams.
A notable local connection is Charlie Rasmussen, who grew up just north of Lund, she added.
“He’s an important part of the story,” said Williams. “Charlie went trapping marten with August Schnarr up the Homathko Valley in the winter in 1929 and kept a diary every day, so we have a document of what is was like to trap there; what they did and where they went.”
Rasmussen’s daughters, Rita and Sylvia, were great contributors of information for the book, added Williams.
Of important note, said Williams, is the region in which the stories take place is the traditional land of the Homalco First Nation.
“Bute Inlet is the Homalco territory,” she added. “It’s important that all this incomer and homesteading stuff is set within the context of who actually originally lived in the area.”
Williams will be presenting from her book at Powell River Public Library at 2 pm on Saturday, May 11. For more information go to: prpl.ca.