Valley Voices From The Past:

Pioneers of community: The Sadler-Browns of McLure, B.C.

Many North Thompson Valley pioneers are no longer with us, but it is good to tell their stories every once in awhile so that younger – and more recently arrived – valley residents can connect with the names of those who helped to make this area what it is today. In the community of McLure, the name Sadlier-Brown still appears on a road sign; the road is named for Leonard Sadlier-Brown.

Len was born in London, England on April 5, 1903. His family emigrated to Canada in 1907 where his father, Leonard Senior, retained the deed to property in McLure. Young Len graduated from a Kamloops high school in 1918, then Len worked for the Canadian National Railway (CNR) for awhile and later in mines near Chu Chua and Blackpool.

However, Len did not envision a lifetime of mining, and in 1923 went to Calgary, Alberta, where he joined the Lord Strathcona Horse Regiment. From there he received an appointment to the B.C. Provincial Police, and was eventually posted to 100 Mile House in May of 1929. While 100 Mile House was his first posting with the police force, it was going to prove to be most important. That summer, as he patrolled the Cariboo roads on his Harley 74 motorcycle, the young constable met Miss Margaret Cunningham of 74 Mile House.

Margaret, the daughter of Cariboo country pioneers Mr. and Mrs. John Cunningham, was born on May 31, 1905, and raised on the family’s cattle ranch at 74 Mile House. She was quite impressed with the area’s first highway patrolman, with their wedding taking place on Sept. 24, 1929, in Vancouver, B.C.

Over the years, Len and Margaret received several transfers, including a posting at the first Police House in Blue River during the early 1930’s where their first daughter Rita was born.

Looking for a more permanent lifestyle for his family, Len decided to resign from the police force and start farming the family property in McLure. On Mar. 17, 1936, the Sadlier-Browns arrived, lock, stock and barrel, on the platform of the CNR station in McLure. They were met by Henry Alex who helped load all their worldly possessions on his horse-drawn sleigh, and drove them along the snow-packed highway to Pete Lawson’s cabin. Len and Pete then built a log house into which Len’s family moved in June of that year.

One of Margaret’s most vivid memories of those early days in their new home was of dense cloud of mosquitoes which descended on the house, and the smudge pots which burned unceasingly in an attempt to keep them at bay. She also remembered city raised Len’s reluctance to milk the cows, a task she turned over to him during her pregnancy with their second daughter Pat. Undaunted by the hard work in turning the long-deserted land into a working farm, they were well settled by the time the Second World War began.

Len joined the Royal Canadian Engineers as a Sergeant in the 4th Field Park Squadron, and for the next five years served his country in the United Kingdom, Italy, Belgium and Holland. During this time, Margaret raised their family, and kept the farm running with some assistance from a hired hand and Len’s father during haying time. Late in 1945 Len returned to McLure to be re-united with his long missed family.

Over the next few years the Sadlier-Browns turned to dairy farming. They were the first farm in the North Thompson Valley to ship milk to the Kamloops Dairy. Len also began driving a school bus in 1948, and continued to do so until 1962 when he went to work for Kamloops and District Credit Union.

During his time with the Credit Union, Len set up a branch office in Barriere in 1964. That first small office which he established in the Esso building was the fore-runner of Thompson Valley Saving Credit Union, and the Interior Savings Credit Union of today.

Len entered the insurance field in 1971 and opened a small office in Barriere situated in front of the Royal Canadian Legion of which he was a founding member. Retiring in 1973, he turned the insurance business over to son-in-law, Ernie Perry. After Ernie’s death in 1974, the business was then sold to Barton Black and Robertson in Kamloops.

In 1979 Len, who had fought many different battles in his life, embarked on yet another struggle, this time with cancer. His foe left him without a voice due to throat surgery, but it did not defeat him.

Both he and Margaret continued to live quietly on the land they had settled so long ago. They were both publicly recognized over the years for the many contributions made to their community, their province and their country. Len was a Shriner for many years and Margaret was a life member of the Vinsulla Women’s Institute. They were both life members of the Royal Canadian Legion, and in 1985, Attorney General Brian Smith signed a plaque that was presented to Len in honour of his service in the B.C. Provincial Police.

A resident of McLure for 56 years, Len passed away in 1986 at the age of 83. Margaret, his wife of 57 years, passed in 1994.

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