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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

4 Fascinating Facts About Dunster, BC

My father’s parents (Del & Hilda Harder) bought a house and some acreage in Dunster when I was a youth and, living in Valemount, I would often go to visit them there. Our extended family was scattered across B.C. and Alberta but we would always eventually find ourselves having a reunion at this special, centrally-located property.

I remember well the good times spent with aunts and uncles and cousins, going to the farmer’s markets and especially taking in the annual Ice Cream Social. All of these, along with the celebration of my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary at the community hall, were fond memories for me and so I wanted to do a little write up on this historic and unique place.  For even more info on Dunster please visit the community’s website here

#1 Geography

Dunster is a small but well known farming community in the heart of the Robson Valley. It is placed on the mighty Fraser River between the Rocky Mountains to the north and the Caribou Range of the Columbia Mountains to the south. It is located between the larger villages of Valemount and McBride, approximately 243 km southeast of Prince George and 37 km northwest of the historic site of Tete Jaune Cache. 

Speaking of geography, Dunster was once immortalized in the pages of the National Geographic Magazine. One of the most famous photos is of John and Josie Adams watching a television set in an old abandoned car. Residents have recreated the scene with an old car and mannequins near the Dunster General Store. 

Photo Credit:

#2 Name & Origins

Marylin Wheeler tells us ( “As construction on the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway worked its way across the west, sections for maintenance were established about eight miles or so apart. Examples in the Robson Valley were Croydon, Dunster and Raush, ... Later, as roads improved and mills closed, Dunster became the centre for the area.”

Grand Trunk Pacific Railway: Royal B.C. Museum

The name “Dunster” was bestowed upon it by a railway official for the GTP who named it after his hometown in Somerset England.  In the old country, Dunster is a civil parish located across the Bristol Channel from Wales about 32 km northwest of Taunton and has a population of about 817 people. 

#3 Railway Station

The railroad station at Dunster was built along the line of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad at what was originally known as “Mile 72” in 1913 and a year later the rail line was completed. The GTP was eventually taken over by the Canadian National Railway and in the 1980’s the CN began to systematically destroy its old train stations. Locals rallied together to save the Dunster icon and purchased it from the CN for $1. 

GTP Station at Dunster (1920s): Wikipedia

As of August 1st, 2015, the building has been fully restored and is operating part time as a museum receiving over 1,000 guests last year. It is also a stop on the Skeena line of the VIA Rail and is one of the only remaining stations of its kind in Canada. 

#4 Other Early History 

The train station at Dunster was built in 1913 but the community considers its founding year as 1915 (making this past year its Centennial anniversary). It was 1915 when the post office was first started with George A. Hall as its postmaster and the beginnings of a school also took shape in Dunster. A new school was built in 1932 and again in 1964 and for many years ran as a Fine Arts School. 

Photo Credit: The Yellowhead Pass and Its People

The locally famous General Store was opened in 1918 and 3 years later a bridge was built to span the Fraser (“The first permanent road bridge in the Valley” MW) as the ferry was getting too busy.There is even an unofficial story about a group of older ladies who kept painting flowers on the bridge until the Department of Highways gave up repainting it and named it "The Dunster Flower Bridge".  

The first Community Hall was built in 1932 and the current building just off the highway was constructed in 1979. It is, of course, famous for its farmer’s markets and annual Ice Cream Social. Dunster is truly a one of a kind place in this world and will always hold a special place in my heart. 

"How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children 
of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.
They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; 
and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures." Pslam 38:7-8

Sources & Further Reading:

The Yellowhead Pass and Its People: Valemount Historic Society 1984

B.C. Place Names


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