WICKS, Thomas




Author Tags: 1900-1950

According to coastal historian Rick James, the City of Vancouver Archives and the Alert Bay Museum have copies of Thomas Wicks' rare autobiography. James was alerted to the existence of 'Skookum Jim' (Thomas Wicks) and his book by Alert Bay's librarian/museum curator Joyce Wilby.

James writes, "Apparently, Thomas Wicks was a Great War buddy of Major J.S. Matthews of the Vancouver City Archives who encouraged him to get his story down on paper. Wicks had arrived on the North Island in 1882 in a schooner to make his fortune on Black Sand Beach (Nahwitti) panning gold. That didn't go anywhere. But he did end up living in those parts (Alert Bay) for sometime... and his book appears to be an ethnographic account of life on the North Island. Wicks not only describes life as a sailor, around the Horn and then on a sealer to the Bering Sea, in 1882-3?, but goes into wonderful detail about the local characters and how they got by before serious white encroachment and development north of Seymour Narrows. Another thing that Wicks does that's admirable, is let his native friends speak in Chinook and then gives the translation for it."

According to Archives Canada: "Thomas Wicks was born in La Cola, Quebec. In 1882 he signed on an as apprentice on sailing ships and landed in B.C. in 1883. Christened Skookum Tom by the Coast Indians, he lived near Alert Bay. From 1903-1907 he lived in Vancouver, but returned to Alert Bay, serving there as a police officer. In 1911 he married Kate Curling. He helped raise money for the Alert Bay Mission Church. In 1916 he served in the Pioneer Battalion overseas. After the War he farmed in the Chilliwack district, a highly successful market gardener. Briefs were prepared on the operation of the farm for presentation to committees for returned soldiers farms in Britain. In 1938 he moved to Nanaimo. The fonds consists of correspondence and personal papers, relating to farming ventures, 1931-1947; a letter concerning the Alert Bay Mission Church, 1913; a letter to Wicks from MacKenzie King, 1946; the manuscript of Wicks autobiography; several photographs of members of the Wicks family and Ned Fregonne."

Thomas Wicks died in 1949.

Bibliography:

An Autobiography of Pioneer Life Amongst the Indians of Vancouver Island (published by Vancouver City Archives, undated?)

"1900-1950" "Classic"