By Suzanne Norquist
When I saw this picture of Delina Noel with a bear that she shot (in a skirt, no less), I had to know more about her.
She and her husband killed the bear when it reared up over them in the wilderness of British Columbia, where they lived.
Delina Letalicen was born in 1880 in Lillooet, British Columbia.
Her father had come for the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush of 1858–59. After giving up on mining, he started a ranch. He married a school teacher from Quebec, and they had two daughters. A few years after Delina was born, the family moved to Quebec, where the girls were raised. Then, when Delina was about sixteen, they returned to Lillooet.
I found her wedding announcement in the Lillooet Prospector Newspaper. It seemed very conventional. No hint at the extraordinary life she would live.
The article goes on to say that “Mr. Noel is well and favorably known in the mining affairs of this section. . . His bride is a charming young lady . . .”
What this article doesn’t say is that almost immediately after the wedding, she went with Arthur by pack train to his mine. The miners weren’t happy about having a woman at the mine and threatened to quit if she stayed. But her new husband stood firm.
She was never an underground miner (smart woman). Instead, she worked above ground as the “top man” for a shaft sinking project. By 1902, she was the superintendent of the stamp mill that processed gold ore. Later she carried her own gold brick to the assay office in Vancouver.
Delina became a hunter and trapper, manning her own trap lines. Once, she traded a fox pelt for a mineral claim.
She studied geology and staked her own mining claims. I found a land lease notice for mining property in the July 10, 1916 edition of the Lillooet Prospector. She leased the land in her own name, and she lists her occupation as “married woman.”
Not interested in fame or glory, she only granted a few interviews to reporters and turned down would-be-biographers. An article in the 1930s says, “Mr. Noel and his associates are currently mining the area.” No doubt, she was one of “his associates.”
I found no record of children (there was a cat in the photo with the gold brick). Perhaps without this responsibility, she was freer than most women to pursue her own interests.
During World War I, she recruited miners from the men who didn’t leave for the war. She found the best of the lot.
In 1929, claim jumpers took over one her mines, and she won it back in court.
After Arthur died in 1946, she tried life in Vancouver but was soon back in the wilderness. In 1958, she was presented with the BC Governor-General’s Centennial Medal.
She died in 1960 as British Columbia’s most illustrious female prospector and mine developer.
Suzanne Norquist is the author of two novellas, “A Song for Rose” in A Bouquet of Brides Collection and “Mending Sarah’s Heart” in the Thimbles and Threads Collection Everything fascinates her. She has worked as a chemist, professor, financial analyst, and even earned a doctorate in economics. Research feeds her curiosity, and she shares the adventure with her readers. She lives in New Mexico with her mining engineer husband and has two grown children. When not writing, she explores the mountains, hikes, and attends kickboxing class.
She authors a blog entitled, Ponderings of a BBQ Ph.D.
“Mending Sarah’s Heart” in the Thimbles and Threads Collection
Four historical romances celebrating the arts of sewing and quilting.
Mending Sarah’s Heart by Suzanne Norquist
Rockledge, Colorado, 1884
Sarah seeks a quiet life as a seamstress. She doesn’t need anyone, especially her dead husband’s partner. If only the Emporium of Fashion would stop stealing her customers, and the local hoodlums would leave her sons alone. When she rejects her husband’s share of the mine, his partner Jack seeks to serve her through other means. But will his efforts only push her further away?
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