The Witte Sisters – the late Irene E. Bliss (left)

The Witte Sisters – the late Irene E. Bliss (left)

Witte sisters make Twigg’s essentials book list

Veera Bonner is thrilled that a book she wrote with her late sisters Hazel Henry Litterick and Irene E. Bliss has been included in Allan Twigg’s new book 150 Great B.C. Books and Authors – The Essentials.

Veera Bonner is thrilled that a book she wrote with her late sisters Hazel Henry Litterick and Irene E. Bliss has been included in Allan Twigg’s new book 150 Great B.C. Books and Authors – The Essentials.

Their 1995 book Chilcotin: Preserving Pioneer Memories authored simply by The Witte Sisters (maiden names)  enjoys a glowing review by Twigg, who notes Bonner did the majority of the writing while crediting her sisters as instrumental in gathering the stories.

“Veera Bonner’s text is communal, charming and often fascinating — and captures the spirit of the Cariboo-Chilcotin with unpretentious pride,” Twigg writes in his review.

Bonner says she had no idea their book was reviewed in The Essentials, until a friend sent her a copy of the pages reviewing their book.

“I thought it was quite exciting — among the 150 great B.C. books — not just good,” Bonner says. “It came as a total surprise to me.”

Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin manager Pat Skoblanuik agrees with Twigg’s assessment of the Witte sisters’ book as a great resource for people coming to the museum to research history. “It is quite good,” Skoblanuik says. “I look at it lots to find out things about people and events.” 

150 Great B.C. Books and Authors — The Essentials was written and produced by Twigg in co-operation with Simon Fraser University Library and the University of BC’s Rare Books and Special Collections department and published by Ronsdale Press October 2010.

Among his many other accolades, Twigg is the author of 15 books and publisher of  the B.C. BookWorld newspaper since 1987. The Essentials is Volume 4 of Twigg’s Literary History of British Columbia.

Bonner has just a couple of corrections to Twigg’s account of her family history in the review — specifically the line that reads:

“As granddaughters of pioneers Tom Hance and Nellie Verdier Hance — reputedly the Chilcotin’s first white female resident, who rode side-saddle for 400 miles to get there in 1887 — Irene E. Bliss, Veera Bonner and Hazel Henry Litterick were raised by their mother Hattie Witte, who drove a six-horse freight wagon through Bull Canyon in the 1920s.”

Bonner notes the review neglects to mention that she and her sisters, along with their brother Duane, who is not mentioned, were all raised by both their mother and their father, Frank, who was also not mentioned. 

She says it was actually their father, Frank, who drove the six-horse freight wagon and that there may have been some confusion because a picture on file shows her mother appearing to be driving the freight wagon. 

But she notes that picture was actually taken when her mother accompanied her father on a trip to deliver supplies from Ashcroft to Andy Stuart’s store at Redstone.

Bonner also notes that she married Jim Bonner, not John Bonner, as stated in the review.

Despite these discrepancies the Twigg review entices one to pick up a copy of the Witte sisters’ book.

 He writes: “Never mind Arthur Erickson’s SFU campus, the Marine Building or the BowMac sign. The top engineering feat of B.C. is either Mungo Martin’s 39-metre totem in Beacon Hill Park or Rudy Johnson’s bridge that was erected without government support in 1968. 

“With typical Cariboo-Chilcotin grit and ingenuity, Rudy Johnson purchased a 200-ton, 300–foot long steel bridge in Alaska and reassembled it across the Fraser River, with the help of engineer Howard Elder, in six months for only $200,000. It allowed him to cut 30 miles off his trips between his Buckskin Ranch and Williams Lake.”

“Rudy Johnson is just one of the countless hardy souls featured in Chilcotin: Preserving Pioneer Memories (1995), a 432-page who-was-who assembled, as much as written, by the three Chilcotin-born Witte sisters — Irene, Veera, and Hazel, all raised at Big Creek.”

The review goes on to outline some of the Witte sisters and Bonner’s own story, while mentioning another locally produced book.

“The story of Veera’s birth, one month premature, on August 25, 1918, has been recorded by Linda-Lou Howarth in an equally remarkable collection Gumption & Grit: Women of the Cariboo Chilcotin (2009).”

The Essentials is described by Ronsdale Press as an encyclopedia of BC books, illustrated with numerous photos, many of them full-page.


In addition to the 150 great B.C. books and authors reviewed in The Essentials, Twigg also describes numerous other authors and books that have played an important role in recording B.C.’s history.