From left to right: Val Billesberger, archivist and project manager, Daphne Sleigh, editor and adapter and Tony Luck pose with copies of the new historical book Mission As It Was. / Kevin Mills Photo

New historical book examines Mission’s past

Mission archives help create new updated edition of Mission As It Was

If you have ever wondered about the details of Mission’s rich history, a new book can help shed some light on the stories of the past.

Mission As It Was, an update of a book originally published in 1973, has been completed and is now available for purchase.

Val Billesberger, Mission’s archivist and manager of the book project said the idea to update the previous edition initially began in 2013, during the book’s 40th anniversary.

The original book was funded through an Opportunities For Youth grant and eight students from the Mission area were hired to collect the history of the area.

Billesberger said the students collected photos interviewed people and created the tome.

When the decision was made to update the material, Billesberger said she knew exactly the right person to ask to take on the job.

That’s when Daphne Sleigh, who has 11 books to her credit, agreed to volunteer her time to be the editor and adapter of the project.

The timing couldn’t have been better as funding for the printing costs became available this year as part of Mission’s 125th Birthday and Canada’s 150th.

Sleigh said updating the content did present some challenges.

“How far can you depart from the original, that was a problem all the way through,” she said.

In her first draft, all she did was amend any dates or facts and put in footnotes to explain it.

“But when we got to the end, it was all footnotes. I’m not saying the first book was incorrect, but the footnotes did pile up tremendously.”

Thinking no one would read all the footnotes, the decision was made to incorporate all the new material into the original text.

Billesberger had to try and contact all the students who worked on the project back in 1973.

“Some of them could barely remember taking part,” said Billesberger.

While they couldn’t reach everyone, the students who were contacted authorized the changes.

The information in the book is mainly focused on the years from 1880 to the 1930s, but Sleigh said the new version is a little different.

“Something extra that this book has that the previous edition didn’t, is it focuses on communities.”

The new edition deals with each of the outlying communities individually.

“It goes from Stave Falls, to Lake Errock. I think this will appeal to a lot of people, to have their community focused on.”

There is also a final chapter added called early community builders.

Billesberger said it features short biographies and photos of important people of the time. However, she is a little disappointed that it only features two women.

“My view on that, as an archivist, is there is a lack of information on the women in that time period, because I know there were some other women that did a lot, but we only have what was in the newspaper. We haven’t been able to verify from other sources.”

The book is also full of surprising facts that people may not know.

Sleigh offered this example.

“There were two very strongly French Canadian districts in Mission and this has been more-or-less forgotten about. One was in Deroche and Lake Errock and that was in the 1890s… and the other was in Durieu along Durieu Road that intercepts McConnell Creek and Hatzic Prairie.”

According to Sleigh, the middle area, to the west of Durieu, was called Frenchtown for some years. You can find it on some older maps.

Mission As It Was is available now at the Mission Archives for $30. The book is 172 pages and contains 129 historical images.

The first run is 250 books but if sales are brisk another printing will be ordered.

“It’s a must read if you are a resident of Mission and you want to know its heritage,” said Billesberger.

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