A Few Names to Faces at Lynn Valley Picnic, 1888

1888 - Port P334 - [Church picnic at Lynn Valley]  Group portrait showing Miss Sentell, J.H. Carlisle, Miss Slade (Mrs. F.W. Sentell), F.W. Sentell, Mr. Beckett, Mr. Hooper and others

CVA Port P334 – “Church picnic at Lynn Valley” shows “Miss Sentell, J.H. Carlisle, Miss Slade (Mrs. F.W. Sentell), F.W. Sentell, Mr. Beckett, Mr. Hooper and others”.

The image above was made by  an unknown photographer in 1888. It is unclear just what brought this group together, but what seems clear is that they are on a picnic and (according to CVA) the location of the picnic is Lynn Valley. Just how this group of predominantly women got to Lynn Valley from the city of Vancouver in 1888, dressed in their finery, I cannot say. If the photo had been taken, say, in 1907, it would not have been so hard to conceive – they would have taken the regular ferry over to Lonsdale (North Vancouver) and then climbed aboard the Lynn Valley trolly bus. How they got to Lynn Valley before the turn of the 20th century, however, I don’t know. CVA identifies a few of the picnicers, but (unfortunately) doesn’t point out where they were in the crowd. I may be able to help with that:

  • “Mr. Hooper” seems to be Tom Hooper, who (according to the 1888 city directory) worked at the Vancouver Harness Shop on Oppenheimer Street (today’s East Cordova). Hooper is the tall, bearded fellow who is standing at the far back of the group. He seems to have caught a good-sized fish (a salmon?) which he’s holding by its gill.
  • “F. W. Sentell” appears to be the fellow in the black overcoat seated on the front right (child in lap). Frederick W. Sentell  was one of a family of six  – four brothers (Frederick, George, Alfred, and Ephrian) and two sisters (Ann and Charlotte). Fred and his brothers were involved in a family business called “Sentell Bros.” They were building contractors and were responsible for building, among other structures, the first Vancouver City Hall. Frederick also served a brief term as a city alderman.
  • “Miss Sentell” is, I believe, the younger of the two Sentell female siblings, Charlotte; she almost certainly is the child in F.W. Sentell’s lap.
  • “Miss Slade” is, I believe, the young woman lower right, seated just behind Mr. Sentell. It seems that at the time this photo was taken, she was Miss Alice Slade; she later married F. W. Sentell.
  • “J. H. Carlisle” was a founding member of First Baptist Church (then located in a tiny building on Westminster – now called “Main” – Street); he was the third chief of the Vancouver Fire Brigade. John Carlisle appears to be the fellow seated behind Miss Slade (right, roughly third row).
  • I’m not sure where “Mr. Beckett” is in the photo. My best guess is that he is the fellow seated (unenviably) next to Hooper’s fish. John Beckett was (according to the city directory) a painter and the secretary of the Fire Brigade.
  • In my opinion, the most intriguing person in this photo is likely also likely to have the most enduring question mark surrounding his identity: the black gent who is lounging with apparent comfort partly in the laps of two of the white ladies in this photograph. Even the exceptional (in every way) Joe Fortes faced racial discrimination in early Vancouver. That the fellow in this image was apparently able to pose with such ease and even (am I imagining this?) with a twinkle in his eye, in 1888, is remarkable! His identity seems lost, however. Post-publication news (June 2016): While recently reading Eric Nichol’s 1970 volume, titled simply Vancouver, I came across this possible clue to the black gent’s identity. Referring to people who were around Vancouver in the late 1870s and 1880s, Nichol notes: “There was the fair-skinned black man, Arthur Sullivan, whose good looks were lost in his grocery store but shone seraphically at the organ of the Methodist Hall.” (41). Could the black man shown reclining in some very attractive female, white laps be Arthur Sullivan?

Whether the event was in fact a church picnic (as is suggested by the CVA record) seems to me to be an open question. Indeed, CVA seems to hedge its bets by showing in the “Related Subjects” column in this record “Religious Groups – Baptist” and “Religious Groups – Methodist”. It seems to me possible that this picnic was a group of churchgoers who were meeting for a reason that crossed denominational/doctrinal boundaries – temperance, for example. Indeed, just one year later, the First Temperance Convention (see second page of image plates following p. 10, These Sixty Years: 1887-1947 by W. M. Carmichael) would be held at First Baptist Church’s new building (corner Hamilton at Dunsmuir). Perhaps the image above shows an informal picnic gathering of a few of the likeminded individuals who would gather in larger numbers, more formally, a year later for the temperance convention.

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