Water Over The Wheel – The Story of the Chemainus Valley and its People
by W. H. Olsen
It is fortunate indeed that the Chemainus area was blessed with a chronicler of strong determination. W. H. (Harry) Olsen brought a rare combination of talent and ability to the task of writing Water Over The Wheel, the book on which one of the themes of the Chemainus Festival of Murals project is based.
Aided by his wife, Catherine, Olsen pieced together tales and fact, pored over archives and records, and sorted myth from reality, to create a time-capsule of the Chemainus Valley.
Unlike many historians who begin their stories with the arrival of the Caucasian settlers to an area, Olsen devotes much of his book to the fascinating and important Native history of the area. Here are the ingredients of a fascinating yarn – the danger and mystery of a wilderness land, the dignity, struggle and sometimes ferocity of Native life, the toil and heartbreak of early European pioneers, a generous sprinkling of humour and a unique, century old partnership between a community and an industry. In the words of Willard E. Ireland, Provincial Librarian and Archivist, “It is a story well worth the telling! It is a privilege to recommend Water Over The Wheel to you.”
Olsen’s warm and factual book has been an encouragement and a source of inspiration for the people of Chemainus and has proven a rich resource of ideas for projects besides the Chemainus Festival of Murals.
They have rediscovered the power of their own roots, and have translated it into a living example of how the past is a unique part of their present, indeed their future.