Back in the Day: Whistler’s Tapley Legacy

Written by Nicole Wilson, Whistler Museum.

Most of those who are familiar with Whistler know the story of Myrtle and Alex Philip, who built the first commercial lodge in Whistler back in 1914. What a lot of people may not know is the integral part Myrtle’s family, the Tapleys, played in the settling of Alta Lake (now Whistler).

Unfortunately there are gaps in our knowledge of the family. For example, we are not sure of the circumstances surrounding Myrtle’s mother, Anna Green’s death in August of 1907. Or how it came to be that Sewall, Myrtle’s father, and the three youngest children – Margaret, Frank, and Jean – would travel from West Brooksville, Maine, USA to Alta Lake in 1913. We assume the primary reason to come to BC was to help Myrtle and Alex build Rainbow Lodge.

Photograph of the Tapley family at Rainbow Lodge: From L-R: Jean, Phil, Edith with Frank Tapley Jr; two unknown women, Virginia, Margaret Esworthy (nee Tapley) & Sewall Tapley. Photo courtesy Whistler Museum.
Photograph of the Tapley family at Rainbow Lodge: From L-R: Jean, Phil, Edith with Frank Tapley Jr; two unknown women, Virginia, Margaret Esworthy (nee Tapley) & Sewall Tapley. Photo courtesy Whistler Museum.

This move must have been a drastic change for the children as they were coming from a family of ship captains and sailors in a coastal town, to inland parts of BC only accessible by train. This being said, based on the photos we have, it looks as though the Tapleys were farmers long before they moved to Alta Lake. The industry in West Brooksville, such as logging, was similar to that of the Whistler and Squamish area, but the population of the Alta Lake community was much smaller than that of the Brooksville area.

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Myrtle Philip, Phil Tapley, Margaret Tapley Esworthy, Jean Tapley & Sewall Tapley (L-R). Dogs Kihi, Skookum & Spot. Photo courtesy Whistler Museum.
Myrtle Philip, Phil Tapley, Margaret Tapley Esworthy, Jean Tapley & Sewall Tapley (L-R). Dogs Kihi, Skookum & Spot. Photo courtesy Whistler Museum.

Jean Tapley, the youngest child in the family, was only eleven years old when she travelled roughly 3,500 kms from West Brooksville to Alta Lake by train. We are not sure when Jean left the area but she did eventually move to Seattle, Washington where she lived for over 50 years. Whistler was clearly where Jean’s heart was however, as when she died on August 11th 1982, she was buried here.

Sewall Tapley and unidentified man in Maine. Photo courtesy Whistler Museum.
Sewall Tapley and unidentified man in Maine. Photo courtesy Whistler Museum.

Margaret moved to Victoria where she was a manager of a newsstand in the Empress Hotel. It was here she met her husband Henry Esworthy and married him in the 1920s. During WWII, Margaret was a conductor on the Vancouver streetcar system and when buses replaced the system, she worked as a driver until she retired.

(L-R) Margaret Tapley Esworthy, Myrtle Tapley Philip, and Jean Tapley. Dogs Skookum, a pup & Kihi. 1919. Photo courtesy Whistler Museum.
(L-R) Margaret Tapley Esworthy, Myrtle Tapley Philip, and Jean Tapley. Dogs Skookum, a pup & Kihi. 1919. Photo courtesy Whistler Museum.

As far as we can tell, Frank Tapley did not stay around very long after travelling with his father and two sisters to Alta Lake. He married Edith Pritchard in Andover, Massachusetts in 1919.

Studio portrait of Frank Tapley seated in a chair, 22 years old. Annotation on verso: "Frank 1920". Photo courtesy Whistler Museum.
Studio portrait of a 22-year-old Frank Tapley. Annotation on verso: “Frank 1920”. Photo courtesy Whistler Museum.

Today the Tapley legacy in Whistler is remembered in Tapley’s Farm – a residential area – and Tapley’s, a longstanding Whistler bar.

Margaret Esworthy, Myrtle Philip and Jean Tapley standing on the verandah of the West Side Road house in 1978. Myrtle with walker. Photo courtesy Whistler Museum.
Margaret Esworthy, Myrtle Philip and Jean Tapley on the veranda of the West Side Road house in 1978. Myrtle with walker. Photo courtesy Whistler Museum.

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