A British Columbia Kootenay Pioneer

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Thomas Henry Hopwood was born at 60 Aldgate High Street in London, England on September 16, 1873 to William Edwin and Eliza Brasier (nee Van Wyck) Hopwood.   He was the sixth of eight children.  Nothing is known of his early years.  His father's family were East London meat providers for several centuries.  His mother's family were of Dutch descent.  While his second Christian name is recorded at birth as Henry, for reasons unknown he signed Thomas "Robert".   He married Jessie Elizabeth Traish at St James Clerkenwell church in 1895.  He and Jessie were blessed with five children: Thomas John (1896-1974), Jessie Dorothy (1900-1987), Laura Elizabeth (1903-1992), Edward Ernest (1904-1994) and Joseph Clifton (1907-1986).  It is unconfirmed that there was another short-lived child born in 1898.   


Tom immigrated to western Canada from Staines, Middlesex, England around 1908. He lived in Alberta and British Columbia and eventually settled in the Nelson area of the Kootenay region of British Columbia around 1910. Although it is not fully clear why he immigrated to Canada, it is believed that he suffered a serious disagreement with his brothers and decided to leave England.  It is assumed it may have been over the operation of the family business or due to a personal conflict with his father and one or more of his brothers, James, Frederick, William and Henry. Discussions among Canadian and English family descendants appear to confirm this opinion.


His younger brother John served as a NCO in the British Imperial Army.    His sister Sophia had immigrated to Manitoba around 1889 and eventually settled in Montana.  Tom's brothers remained in the meat industry in East London, with brother James operating a shop at 101 Grove Road in the Bow district.  His sister Minnie, a district nurse,  was killed in a bicycle accident at Hurst Green, Surrey in 1907.


Tom was attracted by the opportunities taking place in newly developing western Canada especially in mining and oil exploration.  He made an unsuccessful bid to claim an oil deposit near what is now Glacier National Park. He joined the mining boom taking place in the Kootenay country in the southeast region of British Columbia.   He made several gold and sliver claims in and around the Kootenay Lake District.  During the early years in Canada, as a master butcher, he worked for various meat providers in Calgary and Nelson.  A postcard from England sent to him by his brother Jack (a Sergeant in the Leicester Regiment) was addressed to him at Michel BC and is dated 1908.


Thomas sent for his eldest son Jack (Thomas John) around 1911 or 1912 and Jack came alone by boat to Montreal where he was met by a family friend who placed him on a Canadian Pacific Railway passenger train for the week long journey to Nelson BC.


Later, Tom then sent for his wife Jessie (nee Traish) and the remaining children: Dorothy, Laura, Ernest and Joseph.  They left Southampton in May of 1913.  Dorothy told of the many friends who tearfully bid Jessie and family farewell.  We are told that some begged her not to leave England.


Tom settled his family in Nelson BC, were the Pat Burns Company, a meat butchering and retail firm headquartered out of Calgary, Alberta, employed him .  During his employ with Pat Burns Company he lost a finger and sued for damages.  He lost his case and left their employ.  Tom eventually started his own meat butchering and retail business in Nelson and later in Silverton, a small mining town on the Slocan Lake.  He operated a butcher shop on Vernon Street in Nelson and at the Hart Hotel in Silverton.   Tom's young family helped in operating the butcher stores in both Nelson and Silverton.  His son Ernest assisted him during the time he spent in Silverton.  His daughter Dorothy recalls, "Helping Dad advertise his shop on Vernon Street by dressing up a young piglet in clothes, placing it and a 'Hopwood's Meats' sign in a small wagon which they pulled up and down Baker Street.

  <---Tom, Joe and Ernie -Nelson BC

Unfortunately, Tom abandoned the family and moved away from Nelson around 1918-20. Shortly thereafter, a friend of the family saw Tom serving at a butcher shop in Blairmore, Alberta some months later.  The eldest son Jack went to Blairmore and pleaded for his father to return to the family in Nelson.  His plea went unheeded.  Tom then left Blairmore and was said to have moved to another small Alberta town, where we believe he changed his name.  The family lost all contact with him.  His whereabouts and circumstances remain unknown.  Jessie suffered a creeping paralysis and, at only 51 years of age, died in 1923 and is buried at the Nelson cemetery.


Home Page    Canada    Wife Jessie


To learn about his sister Sophia click on - Sophia Mann          To learn about his brother John click on - John Hopwood

Written and posted by his grandson, John Farrell Hopwood, January 2004.