Keeping local history alive and preserving heritage isn’t always glamourous but it’s something Allan ‘Al’ Jones of the Lone Butte Historical Association (LBHA) is happy to do.
Jones, who graduated with a history degree from the University of Victoria, moved to the Cariboo in 1981 to learn how to build a log home and to find some cheap land to purchase. A year later, he started Jones Martial Arts School of Self Defence and shortly after met his wife Gayle, raised a family and settled in.
“I like just about everything about it, the wildlife, we do quite a bit of snowshoeing, hiking … and our work with the historical association keeps us rather busy,” Jones said.
It was in 1998 when Jones found his calling – becoming involved with the LBHA and the teachers at Horse Lake Elementary School to relocate and restore the historic Willowford Schoolhouse. Jones said he needed to go through a Society to apply for grants to fund the move and the LBHA made the most sense as they were a dedicated group of volunteers.
When the project was done in 2000, Jones became vice-president of the LBHA, taking over as president two years later.
“I think that if you’re not aware of history, Lone Butte doesn’t look like it used to anymore; most of it unfortunately burnt and if you drive through Lone Butte you’d never know what was here,” Jones said. “I think it’s important people are aware of their past and history.”
The LBHA and its volunteers are responsible for several projects in the area, including the Willowford Schoolhouse, the Pioneer Cemetery, the Alice Singleton Heritage House, one of the churches in the area from the 1940s, and the Lone Butte Water Tower Park. They also converted the caboose that used to sit in the Save on More parking lot into a museum.
While it may not seem like it now, Jones said, Lone Butte and not 100 Mile House, used to be the regional hub of the area, built up around the railroad in the 1920s. However, as the highway became a more widely used method of transportation, the population began to shift, leaving many historical buildings neglected.
“Lone Butte was basically born with the arrival of the railroad and then, after the water was no longer needed for steam trains and the highway was developed more, 100 Mile became more of the larger centre of the area and Lone Butte slowly died out,” Jones said. “The group of people I represent try to preserve the history of the area.”
What really got the LBHA going, Jones said, was its work to preserve the water tower in the 1980s, which was at risk of collapse. This remains the only original water tower built along the rail lines in B.C. still standing, Jones said. The tower is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and it just recently received a fresh coat of paint.
His favourite project, though, was one he did recently. It involved putting together a bunch of pictures of Lone Butte to display in a museum setting, moving the 60,000-pound caboose with a crane, and talking to older people in the community to compile the area’s history. It also fulfilled one of the core mandates of the LBHA, founding a proper museum.
Jones said work continues on the Alice Singleton Heritage House to make it more closely resemble the old post office that was once there, and replicating the former hospital it also housed while also maintaining the Pioneer Graveyard. This is somewhat difficult, however, as the group has lost a few of its members in recent years to old age and not many young people are replacing them. He’s hopeful more young people will step up and take the reins.
“It’s rewarding, I’ve done it for 20 years but it’s hard work and no one gets paid, so that’s a bit of a deterrent,” Jones said. Anyone interested in getting involved can contact him at 250-395-5193. The membership fee for the LBHA is $2.50 for seniors and $5 for everyone else.