The unique curve of this portion of a fallen tree will serve as a canvas for a new end of driveway sign for McKinnon’s parents home. /ANDREA ARNOLD

By Andrea Arnold

Tom McKinnon has a love for history. Specifically the history that surrounds his home between McBride and Valemount, North Croyden.

He also enjoys working with wood. So when a large and uniquely curved tree fell in the corner of one of their fields, he decided to combine these two passions.

“That curved tree has been here since dad moved here in 1945,” said McKinnon. “I decided to preserve the log by peeling and scraping all the bark off and turning it into a new sign for the end of the driveway.”

He plans to use some of the sign making skills he learned back in high school shop class to stencil and carve the house number and name.

He has aspirations to also use those skills to provide signs for along the highway marking either end of the North Croyden community.

“I have been trying to work with highways to find out what I need to do to put signs up,” he said.

He would also like to see some of the history of the community made available to visitors.

Tom McKinnon stands next to one of the two parts of the school house that served the North Croydon community. This part was transported from Tete Jaune and combined with the portion from Red Pass to create their school space. /ANDREA ARNOLD

McKinnon has a library of stories stored in his memory and will happily share them with anyone who is interested. He talked about how the river just below their home was used by paddle and river boats. He said that following the establishment of the Carrol Brothers mill, the population of the area grew so much that a school was needed. Instead of building new structures, they brought in the old schoolhouse buildings from Red Pass and Tete Jaune.

McKinnon’s dad Al interjected that they used a small skidder to bring the school house from Red Pass.

“It took a week for them to get here using the little TD14,” said the senior McKinnon. “It only went about two kilometres an hour and the road was just a dirt trail.”

The two halves of the schoolhouse were connected on a piece of land that can be seen from the McKinnon’s current home. Blood, sweat and tears went into the process of attaching the two parts as Mr. McKinnon Sr. recalled that his brother lost the ends of a few fingers that day.

Years after the school was closed following the shut down of the mill, they skidded the two parts of the school house closer to their home. One was placed down the back field a ways where a few years ago, a heavy snowfall maxed out its strength and it was reduced to a pile of lumber.

The smaller one, the part brought from Tete Jaune, still stands in the yard and McKinnon had hopes of turning it into a workspace.   

This 70 year old sawmill is up and running again and McKinnon hopes to use this piece of history to help create items that tell the story of North Croydon /ANDREA ARNOLD

It is stories like this one that McKinnon would like to make available to visitors. He has a vision of an overhead photo of the area that could be displayed at a pullout. The photo would have markers and numbers indicating different community members’ homes, the mill, the school, the trading post, the ferry, the gas station and any other locations of note.

Alongside the map image would be the numbers and information and perhaps a story about their corresponding location. 

If he can get the project in motion he will provide hand made wooden frames for the display. 

McKinnon is working on making this idea reality. He is working on collecting photos and stories about the locations as well as figuring out the logistics of setting up a historical information site. Looking at a really big picture, he would like to see a reconstruction of the schoolhouse set up as a museum.

McKinnon recently had a conversation with one of his neighbours who also has a rich family history in the area.

“He agreed with me that we need to find a way to preserve and share the history of the people who have lived here in the past,” he said.