The Alberni Valley Museum has a new, temporary exhibit on display celebrating the life of a West Coast heroine.
Minnie Paterson made headlines back in 1906 for her heroic hike along what would become Vancouver Island’s West Coast Trail to raise a rescue for the men aboard the shipwrecked Coloma.
Paterson’s husband, Tom, was a lightkeeper at the Cape Beale lighthouse. During a stormy night on Dec. 7, 1906, he noticed a ship in distress, but the telegraph line had been broken during the storm.
Paterson braved the stormy weather to walk to Bamfield, six kilometres away. It took her four hours of slogging through water and mud and over trees that had fallen in the wind. She and the telegraph line-keeper’s wife rowed out to the Quadra, a government steamer that normally carried out mail, supply, and fuel deliveries as well as law enforcement, to alert the crew.
The Quadra made it to the shipwrecked sailors just in time, and all 10 sailors on board were rescued.
One of the most remarkable parts about this rescue, said Alberni Valley Museum collections assistant Amy Sky, was that Paterson had a newborn child at the time.
“She had to trek back home in order to nurse her infant son,” Sky explained.
Just a few months ago, the museum received a donation from this son’s descendant—a gold medal that Paterson received from the Canadian government to recognize her heroics. The medal will be on display at the Alberni Valley Museum, along with a few other artifacts from the Paterson family, just in time for Heritage Week (Feb. 20-25).
The exhibit includes family photographs as well as a silver plate and tea set that Paterson received from the Canadian government and the Seattle Maritime Union. This was donated to the museum back in 2014, but is kept in storage most of the year to prevent the silver from tarnishing. The exhibit will be available to view until Feb. 28.
The Alberni Valley Museum is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (open until 8 p.m. on Thursdays) at the Echo Centre.
For those interested in learning more about Minnie Paterson and her husband Tom, the Maritime Discovery Centre also has an ongoing display about the Patersons, featuring an original trunk belonging to Minnie.