‘Mothers, Dogs, & Children’? Tapley’s Farm Then & Now

Written by Nicole Wilson, Whistler Museum.

Tapley’s Farm is one of the oldest residential areas in Whistler. Tucked away next to Alta Lake the area was Whistler Valley’s first attempt at employee-designated housing. The company that developed it was called the Mountain Development Corporation (MDC). It was so ‘local’ that MDC was quickly given the nickname “Mothers, Dogs, and Children” – a playful comment on the development’s residents.

The area was named Tapley’s Farm, after its previous residents.

In 1925, Sewall Tapley (Myrtle Philip’s father) purchased a large parcel of land that ran along the north shore of Alta Lake, including the marshes surrounding the River of Golden Dreams, from a trapper named George Mitchell. He wanted to move onto that land in order to clear and farm it. However, Myrtle and her siblings did not want him to live and work the land alone because of his age. They convinced him to continue living with Myrtle and Alex and to let his son, Phil, and Phil’s wife Dorothy move onto the land. This land was known from then on as Tapley’s Farm.

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Horse and wagon rigged for haying. Sewall Tapley is on top of hay in the wagon; Alex Philip and an unidentified helper are pitching hay. Courtesy Whistler Museum.
Horse and wagon rigged for haying. Sewall Tapley is on top of hay in the wagon; Alex Philip and an unidentified helper are pitching hay. Courtesy Whistler Museum.

In ensuing years Phil, Dorothy, and later on their daughter Doreen (born in 1926) managed a productive farm with various grain and vegetable crops, an orchard, cows, chickens, horses, and plenty of hay. In addition to producing the majority of their own family’s needs, they were able to provide plenty of milk, vegetables, and eggs for other settlers and lodge guests throughout the valley, as well as hay for their livestock.

Doreen Tapley as a baby, wrapped in a blanket and stuffed in a hollow tree. Boughs were placed above and below her for a festive look. Courtesy Whistler Museum.
Doreen Tapley as a baby, wrapped in a blanket and stuffed in a hollow tree. Boughs were placed above and below her for a festive look. Courtesy Whistler Museum.

In every sense the Tapley’s were a model, self-sufficient pioneer family. Not only did they have a profitable farm but Phil also operated traplines in the mountains surrounding Alta Lake. Phil and Dorothy Tapley continued to live by traditional means – pumping water from a well and deriving heat and light from fire well into the 1960s – while the rest of the people in the valley surrounding Whistler Mountain turned to modern conveniences, such as electricity and plumbing. Dorothy passed away in 1968 at the age of 81, and Phil stayed on the farm for 3 more years until his death in 1971 at the age of 83.

Phil and Dorothy Tapley and Myrtle Philip standing beside a birdhouse in a field of dandelions. The Farmhouse in the background. Courtesy Whistler Museum.
Phil and Dorothy Tapley and Myrtle Philip standing beside a birdhouse in a field of dandelions. The Farmhouse in the background. Courtesy Whistler Museum.