Long lost Bible with Fort Saskatchewan family history discovered in B.C. motel

·3 min read

Evan Robinson was a moment away from disposing of a dusty, long-forgotten Bible, when he saw an envelope sticking out of the back.

Robinson was cleaning out the back storeroom of the Sandman Inn in Cache Creek, B.C., earlier this month, when he found the old book high up on a shelf. He was ready to throw the long-since-abandoned book away, when he noticed the envelope.

The envelope was signed by someone named Neil McEachern from Fort Saskatchewan. Inside were obituaries and announcements about family members clipped from newspapers.

"I started really actually looking through it and got towards the middle of the Bible and there was, lo and behold, one page that had all these McEachern names and dates. I think the oldest entry there was 1920," Robinson said.

Supplied by Marjie McEachern Lafreniere
Supplied by Marjie McEachern Lafreniere

Robinson enlisted the help of his wife Francine, and the two began a search that would quickly land the Bible back into the hands of the family it belonged to.

Francine found Fort Sask Informed, a Facebook group for the area and posted about the Bible to the group. Her phone soon lit up with responses.

Marjie McEachern Lafreniere was told about the post by her great-niece. When Lafreniere recognized the handwriting and saw the name of her grandfather, Neil, she knew the Bible belonged to her family.

Lafreniere today lives in Chase, B.C., near Shuswap Lake, but she used to live in Fort Saskatchewan. Her family was among the first wave of settlers from Parry Sound, Ont., to come to the Fort Saskatchewan area in the 1800s.

Living in Chase, Lafreniere was only 45 minutes away from the Robinsons in Kamloops, and after reaching out to Francine, she had the treasure trove of family history within hours.

"It was very touching, we were all in tears, and it was just really great to return a family heirloom back to someone who it means so much to," Francine said.

Now Lafreniere is trying to piece together more information about her family's history.

She never met her grandfather, Neil, who died in the 1940s. In the time since her family settled in Alberta, relatives have long separated from one another.

She's now using the information in the Bible to connect with relatives she has never met.

"This is going to kind of bring us all together, and see where we can figure out where everybody is now," said Lafreniere who was interviewed on CBC's Edmonton AM on Friday.

"We're hoping that this book will connect a lot of the dots."

Supplied by Marjie McEachern Lafreniere
Supplied by Marjie McEachern Lafreniere

Lafreniere said she plans to personally deliver the Bible to a second cousin in St. Albert who she believes is its rightful owner.

She also hopes one day to learn how did the Bible ended up at the Sandman Inn, what happened to her great-grandfather, Donald McEachern, who separated from the rest of the McEacherns long ago, and what happened to the half-brother she believes she has.

They are questions she wouldn't be asking if Evan Robinson hadn't taken a second look before throwing the Bible away.

"It brings tears to my eyes that he didn't," Lafreniere said.