This Week in History: The Guichon family history


In 1878, 140 years ago this week, a wedding took place on the Saanich Peninsula.

Both the bride and the groom, and siblings from both sides, had immigrated to B.C. from France.

Tzu-I Chung, the curator of history at the Royal B.C. Museum, says their many descendants play an important role in this province’s history.

“They have really contributed to the building of this province and the nation,” says Chung.

Three Guichon brothers left Savoie France in 1858, to join the Fraser River gold rush, via California.  A fourth brother joined them in 1864.

“When looking for wintering for horses, and pack animals, they came upon the amazing grassland in today’s Merritt, and Nicola Valley,” says Chung.

Two brothers began ranching there in 1867.

Ten years later, they met the Rey sisters, recent immigrants from, remarkably, Savoie France.

While Joseph and Josephine Guichon continued to ranch, brother Laurent and wife Perronne moved to the Lower Mainland to farm.

“That’s why there’s a place still called Port Guichon in today’s Delta,” says Chung.

Descendants are still running that farm today.

Back on the ranch, Joseph’s son Lawrence took over when his father retired and played a huge role in shaping the B.C. cattle industry.

“He ran different committees,” says Chung, “And he drafted the Act that regulates every aspect of the cattle industry from calf branding to cattle transportation.”

In the 1920’s, the Nicola Valley grasslands were ravaged by grasshoppers.

Lawrence led the Nicola Grasshopper Control Committee, which later became the model for grasshopper control worldwide.

He received an honorary doctorate from UBC because of his work.

The family has donated memorabilia to the Royal B.C. Museum, including boxes of documents, photographs, and a number of Lawrence’s journals.

“He never went a day without writing in his journal,” says Chung.  “He documented everything.”

The fourth generation includes former Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon.

Another descendant, Guy Rose, reopened the historic Quilchena hotel, which Joseph Guichon ran from 1908 until 1918.

“Guy and his wife Hilde reopened the Quilchena Hotel in 1958 and ran it until 2013 when they retired,” Chung explains.

The museum now stores Quilchena hotel-ware and a kettle which came from Savoie France with Joseph in 1864.

The ranch in the Nicola Valley is now managed by the fifth generation of Guichons.

“On the other branch of the Guichon family,” says Chung, “Laurent and Perronne’s family, they are still in Delta, and the fifth generation is running the farms along the coast.”

A remarkable B.C. family history.

Veronica CooperVeronica Cooper

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