Photo courtesy of the Chilliwack Museum and Archives [PP500377] An interior view of prominent local fruit grower George Israel Thornton preparing fruit in elaborate glass jars, for shipment to England.

PIONEERS: The Thornton family of Chilliwack

Chilliwack pioneer George Israel Thornton made a name for himself in fruit growing and preservation

The history of the Thornton family is everywhere.

There is a Thornton Creek, a Thornton Road, and more recently Thornton Terrace in Chilliwack.

Chilliwack pioneer George Israel Thornton made a name for himself provincially and nationally for his fruit growing and fruit preservation skills that he honed on his Promontory farm.

Thornton moved from Napanee, Ont. to Chilliwack in 1891 with his wife Rebecca, who he married in 1885 in Tamworth, Ontario, according to the Chilliwack Story article by Kelly Harms.

In 1909 they moved into a large four-square house at the corner of Teskey and Promontory roads on Promontory Heights.

They had 11 children, of which nine survived, and had 32 grandchildren.

Thornton founded Acme Fruit and Dairy Farm to preserve fruit in large glass jars with alcohol and spirits.

The decorative jars were labelled: “From Sardis, Chilliwack Valley, the garden of British Columbia.”

He was an executive member of the B.C. Fruit Growers, and also one of the “earliest and most enthusiastic members” of the Chilliwack Agricultural Association, as explained in a Progress article about the 50th wedding anniversary of George and Rebecca Thornton.

“Many friends from many parts of the valley motored to Promontory Heights on Tuesday to wish Mr. and Mrs. George I. Thornton the best of good health and happiness for many years to come, this day marking the fiftieth anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Thornton’s wedding day,” according to anniversary article of June 13, 1935.

The Thornton Brothers shipped and exhibited apples and pears in the Chilliwack and New Westminster Fairs before 1900, according to a Progress story of Aug. 1, 1979.

In 1916 they made it to the World’s Fair in San Francisco.

Thornton became known across the province for preparing exhibits of preserved fruit for the CPR under the direction of the provincial government.

“For seven years he was in charge of district exhibits from Chilliwack to New West and for five years to Victoria and so worthily were these prepared that first prizes were awarded to them on all except one occasion. He was a key player in the Sumas Lake reclamation project, which led to the Vedder Canal, and acres of farmland on the Sumas Prairie.

Mr. Thornton died in 1942 at the age of 82.

Several directly related descendants still live in the Chilliwack area, and still on Promontory, including George Thornton’s granddaughter, Shirley Dargatz, and great-grandson Clay Thornton.

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