In the summer of 1960 my mother and father, sisters Carole and Lynda visited Port Essington. They were taken there by my dad’s uncle Bart Hedstrom. Carole, Lynda and Bart are featured in this 8 mm clip that my father shot.
The following year almost every building you see here was destroyed in the final disastrous fire of 1961 - the death knell of Port Essington. Unlike the Phoenix, Port Essington did not rise from the ashes but remains still alive in the hearts of those with memories of her once storied existence.
To quote Ernest Harris in his remarkable history of Port Essington - ‘Spokeshute’:
‘ The riverboat and dugout canoe both belong in the past .The gillnetters in their old fish boats have sailed into history. The old canneries, derelict and abandoned, will never be rebuilt. They all belong to an age gone by.’
The photographs in this account feature the second Essington Public School which was constructed about 1904 and was in operation until about 1954 before it was permanently closed. The school house was a prefabricated building similar to many others in B.C., manufactured and packaged in Vancouver and reassembled on site. Two outhouses were included in the package, one for boys and one for girls. A scow load of sawdust from Cunningham’s sawmill covered the playground providing a soft springy surface for the schoolchildren.
This is a group of school children in the school playground. This is about half of the pupils attending in 1915.
Here is a group of Port Essington students all dressed up for their school photograph in 1916.
My father Robert Vick’s school photograph taken about 1922. He is at the top right with his brother Tony standing next to him.
In 1921 the school consisted of about 15 pupils ranging in age from six to fifteen, in primary, intermediate and senior grades
The entrance class pupils were Agnes Letnes, Bertha Robinson, Mae Donaldson, George Cadwallader and Ernest Harris (the author of the remarkable Port Essington history ‘Spokeshute’). Kathleen Harris and Walter Noel were in Junior Fourth Reader (Grade 7), Kelly (Clarence) Letnes, Vern Lehto, Robert Vick and Leo Lehto were in Intermediate and junior grades. The primary pupils were Anton (Tony) Vick, Peggy Taylor Vienna Lehto and one or two others.
Visiting Port Essington in 1960, the year before the last fire which virtually destroyed the last of Port Essington, my father discovered the school register with his name in it in the teacher’s desk. He looked at it and put it back in the desk.
Here my father in the back row, third from the right, his brother Tony two boys to the left of him
This is teacher Miss Lockwood leaving Port Essington on the ferry boat Harold in 1922.
The Harold was a sturdy, beamy boat built in Port Essington and owned by Jimmy Adams. In 1914 he was awarded the mail contract and also provided a ferry service between Port Essington and Haysport. For over two decades the Harold carried tons of mail and thousands of passengers between the two places and other points along the Skeena River.
Full view of the schoolhouse - Ron Kadowaki photograph.