The Canadian Pacific Railway completed its TransCanada build to the west Coast on November 7, 1885. The development of “The Forks” as it was known in 1872 showed a great deal of promise due to the coal deposits within the area and the formal renaming of this community as “Merritt” in 1906 with its’ incorporation as a city occurred in 1911. The Kettle Valley Railway would arrive around 1914 and offered some promise of Nicola being revived as hopes of a railroad route to Kamloops via Quilchena were discussed but this never came into being despite Joseph Guichon building his Quilchena Hotel to provide accommodation for future train passengers.
Melville Charles Baillie was living in the Colchester – Tatamagouche Nova Scotia during the Canadian census of 1891 and 1901. According to my mother Olive Baillie-Copley, her father Melville Charles Baillie came across the country from Nova Scotia by Stagecoach but it seems more likely he would have travelled by Train. It is likely he got off the train in either Kamloops or Ashcroft as these were the two closest communities to the Nicola Valley area at that time .
Where he travelled and what he did prior to arriving in the Nicola Valley at 24 years of age is unknown. Where and what training or apprenticeships he undertook in Blacksmithing or wheelwright training prior to arrival in the Nicola Valley is also unknown. There was an advertisement placed in the Nicola Valley News of February 20, 1904 promoting his Blacksmith shop purchase in Nicola which infers that he possessed the knowledge and skills to undertake this trade. He would have been 23 years of age at this time.
The Nicola Valley News of April 1, 1910 (source BC Legislative Library) states W.M. Riley and his wife arrived in Nicola in 1878 and he was known as ‘the village smithy”. Their home was described as “a large comfortable house in the heart of Nicola” which is a close description of the house my mother described as growing up and living in and which our family in 1946 would occupy for a few years. Major Charles Sydney Goldman would buy up all the townsite buildings at Nicola in 1919 when he founded the Nicola Ranch which infers that all residences prior to that time were privately owned, thus a possible history of ownership of a house and business by Riley and Baillie.
Carl G. Stephens (Steffens) in his autobiographical “Pioneer Child” account of the Steffens family recounts that in 1908 observing “a tall, fair haired, muscular young man whose name was Melville Baillie” was now living in Lower Nicola, west of Merritt, where he had taken up employment as a Blacksmith with Mr. Fred Page. It appears that between 1904 and 1908 Grandfather Baillie was still employed as a blacksmith in the Nicola Valley.
In 1908, he began to court Pauline Steffens who was employed as a housekeeper for the Marcus Woodward household in Lower Nicola and frequently, according to Stephens, Baillie escorted her from Lower Nicola to the Steffens Ranch- a distance of about 18 miles on the Mammette Lake road “in his varnished red buggy pulled by a fine young horse” so she could visit her parents and siblings. This was apparently an example of a young man doing well who possessed his own horse and buggy. Their travels together brought them closer together and on December 20, 1909 they were married in the Church in Ashcroft. He was 29 years of age and she was 21 years old. Pauline’s sister Mary Baker and husband Fred stood as witness for this solemn occasion.