By Nicole Wilson, Whistler Museum.
In the days of instant everything it is easy to forget the time and distance people used to travel to acquire the simple items we use in our daily lives. On the other hand, gone are the days when fresh milk was delivered to our doorstep in reusable glass bottles (there has however been a small resurgence of this practice).
In the Whistler region in the early 1900s getting fresh milk, eggs, and whipping cream was not as difficult as we might think. While most of the provisions used by the locals around that time had to be transported by boat, horse, and later train, one farmer in the area came up with a scheme to deliver fresh goods. Alfred Barnfield was his name.
Originally from London, England, Alfred first saw Alta Lake in 1895 while he was on his way to represent the bank of British North America in Dawson City during the Gold Rush of the time. He later formed a prospecting group in 1903 with other Englishmen called “The London Group.” These men worked in the Garibaldi/Black Tusk area and are credited with the original name of Whistler Mountain – London Mountain.
In 1905, Alfred returned to the Whistler area and pre-empted 160 acres near the northeast end of Alta Lake. As the law required at the time, Alfred had to make improvements on the land each year in order to keep a claim on this land; each summer he would come to Alta Lake from Squamish and alter the land in some way. His 160 acres extended over the present-day Adventures West and Whistler Cay subdivisions in Whistler.
Around this time Daisy Hotchkiss arrived in the area riding on top of a wagonload of potatoes bound for a logging camp. Despite their age difference, Daisy and Alfred married in 1910; she was 19 and he was 42. The couple established their first dairy farm in Brackendale and later opened another dairy farm near Alta Lake in 1920.
At the peak of production the Barnfields’ dairy farm had 14 cows and supplied the summer residents around Alta Lake with fresh butter, cream, and milk on a daily basis. This was important for Rainbow Lodge, which was Whistler’s first commercial (and very popular) lodging.
It was from the Alta Lake farm that Alfred and his son Fred would deliver their farm goods in a homemade dugout canoe. Vera, the Barnfields’ daughter, stated in an interview in 1993 that Alfred never missed a delivery. Even on the stormiest of days he would pack the canoe with crates of milk and cream. Despite the difficulty he had controlling the canoe on these stormy voyages, Alfred was determined to make his morning deliveries.
On these daily trips Alfred and Fred would deliver 80 quarts of milk, four quarts of whipping cream, and two quarts of table cream to Rainbow Lodge alone, making it the Barnfields’ best customer.
In 1926 the Barnfields moved their original Brackendale dairy farm to Squamish, but continued to operate their dairy farm in Alta Lake during the summer months by loading their cows and chickens onto the train at Squamish and heading towards Alta Lake.
The Museum is unclear about when it was exactly that the Barnfields ceased operations, however we do know that Alfred passed away in 1960 and Daisy in 1980. In the 1970s, a section of the family’s parcel of land in Whistler was sold to developers, with the last piece sold in 1988. This last parcel of land was developed and is today known as Barnfield Place.