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With thanks to Shawn Lamb, George F.G. Stanley, C. Ian Jackson, John Norris, David Scott, Edward Affleck, Jeremy Mouat, Richard Atkins, G.W. Taylor, Janna S. Brown, Greg Geddis, John Morrison, Roberta Griffiths, Elizabeth Scarlett, Ken Butler, Patricia Rogers, Nicole Tremblay, Howard Dirks, James Albert Spencer and Philip Spencer, Michael Kluckner, Tim Kendrick, Alisa Judd, Pauline Battian and, especially, Martin and Jane Lynch, and R.J. (Ron) Welwood.
Arrived at Nelson and Staying
Opening the Country
Silver in the Mountain
Early Ore to Market
Stanley and Nelson
Hall Mines, Limited
Death of the Silver King
The Late Railway
Highway 6 and Ymir
Out of Nelson Eastbound
Arrived at Nelson and Staying
It is only 21 kilometres eastward on Highway 3A from Playmor Junction to Nelson (516m), Queen of the Kootenays, lounging on the southern shore of Kootenay Lakes West Arm. Approached from the west, this fair sized settlement reveals itself as a cascade of bright buildings tumbling down Evening Ridge to the waters edge where, on the far side of the City, a great, orange, cantilevered bridge reaches out to touch the toes of Mount NelsonElephant Mountain, of oldrising on the north side of the Arm. The Bridge brings The Highway in from the east.
From the west the 3A lances into Nelson past the old smelter site, loses No. 6 at an over-sized interchange in the Cottonwood Creeks valley and threads its way through the Citys streets to get to the Bridge. For cyclists the better entry is to peel left off the Highway at Government Road, sign-posted Granite Road on the south side of the Highway. Government leads down onto the Arms wide foreshore flats and into a tiny industrial park populated by auto-body shops and their kin. The black granite building that the Nelson Coke and Gasworks raised at the turn of the twentieth century marks the intersection of Government with Railway, and turning towards the Lake on the latter, one soon crosses the little 1920 bridge over the Cottonwoods abused and insulted waters and arrives on Baker Street, Nelsons main drag, near the grand old train station.
Nelson is a hotel kind of a town, and most of them are in the centre of the city. From the ritzy Prestige Inn down on the lakefront to the Flying Squirrel Hostel in the old Savoy Hotel building on Baker Street, the City has a hotel for every budget. For those of a historic bent, the refurbished New Grand on Vernon Street occupies a building raised in 1913 and two flanking annexes dating from 1939. Nearby on Vernon is the oldest hotel still accepting overnight guests, the Hume Hotel, is John Frederick Humes venerable 1898 hostelry, completely and attractively reconditioned. For those of a gregarious nature, Nelson has an International Youth Hostel, The Dancing Bear, one of only two on the entire Crowsnest Highway. In 1995 a couple named Leatherman bought and began renovating the existing hostel in the old Allen Hotel on Baker Street just a block up the hill from the CP station. The Leathermans did an excellent job and the place is reminiscent of a well appointed European hostel. Of motels there are, surprising for the central city of the Kootenays, only four, two of which are across the orange bridge in North Nelson. For tenters, right in the middle of town at the far end of Baker is Gyro Park and its associated Nelson City Campground. With most of its 35 pricey campsites rather exposed, this facility is most useful to the RV crowd. It is shower equipped, however, and a tent can be easily pitched under the pines and a bike can be locked to a tree at night.
It doesnt take long for the visitor to realize that Nelson lies trapped in a time-warpd marriage between la Belle Époque and The Sixties. Since Doukhobor days the Kootenays have been the retreat of B.C.s counter-culture. On the benches amid the flower-planters which separate the sidewalk from car traffic on Baker Street downtown, the beaded, bearded and bangled, cut-off blue-jeaned, granny-skirted and hiking booted, free-haired youth of retro-hippydom lounge in the sunshine, practice guitar riffs and generally, much to the perturbation of Nelsons more staid citizens, chill. As visitors amble along poking into the many unique boutiques that populate the Citys core and admiring the restored turn-of-the-century facades that are the Nelsons delight, their olfactory senses are occasionally piqued by the unmistakable aroma of smouldering hemp. This casual combustion is the subject of some comment in the Nelson Daily News, but here in the Kootenays, the enforcers of the law have long abandoned the zero-tolerance, mindless war-on-drugs, criminal-manufacturing mentality so popular in other jurisdictions. The recreational usage of pot is just too widespread, and with familiarity, much of the puritanical condemnation has blown away like smoke on a summer breeze.
There is a ton of sights to see in Nelson besides the Chamber of Mines of Eastern B.C. museum on Hall Street, and the civic museum located, Touchstones Nelson, in the old post office on the corner of Vernon and Ward Streets. Towards the end of the 1970s, those in the City with an historical bent realized that they were living in a tourist gold mine. Everywhere were Victorian and Edwardian buildings which, if left in Times careless custody, would soon feel the bite of the dozers blade. Applying for assistance to preserve their past, Nelsonians prevailed upon the Heritage Conservation Branch of B.C.s Ministry of Recreation and Conservation to evaluate the Citys core in 1978. Though too late to save the Clement Hillyer Block, Nelsons first brick building, the Branch did designate more than 350 structures as heritage sites, keepers of the Citys yesteryears. The Queen Anne Commercial and Italianate Commercial facades along downtown Baker Street had suffered modernizations since they were raised in the Citys heyday. These were carefully removed or disguised to present as unblemished a frontier High Victorian streetscape as is possible to find anywhere at the beginning of the Third Millennium. Available on-line in down-loadable pdf form, and from the InfoCentre on Hall Street, two excellent self-guidesone for walking1 and one for drivingmosey the follower past the Citys antique architecture both in the business district and the old residential area. Thoughtful of bicyclists who may want to travel the farther-ranging Driving Tour, the six buses of the B.C. Transit which prowl Nelsons streets are equipped with bike racks. Permits to use them must be obtained from City Hall, however, as union regulations prohibit bus drivers from loading bikes.
Opening the Country
In the summer of 1880 the wealthy California mining man and rancher, George Hearst, had mounted an expedition to the Kootenays to investigate the potential of an enormous outcrop of ore which he and his associates had been told jutted out from the eastern shore of Kootenay Lake. Probably hoping for something precious, Hearst was disappointed in the composition of the outcrop, but when he returned to San Francisco he apprised his partners of the riches in timber and other resources standing undeveloped in the Kootenays. With Hearsts appraisals as their beacon, a consortium of entrepreneurs headed by the president of the Oregon Steam Navigation Company, Captain John Commingers Ainsworth, including his son, Captain George J., Enoch W. Blasdel and Hearst, himself, worked out a deal with the B.C. government and on December 21st, 1882, had their counsel in Victoria, John G. Barnston, apply to the provincial parliament to encharter the Columbia and Kootenay Railway and Transportation Company (CKR&T). The companys business plan was ambitious. From the end of an anticipated Northern Pacific spur at Bonners Ferry, a boat service to Geo. Ainswoths pre-emption at the Hot Springs on Kootenay Lakes western shore was to be established. Thence a railroad was to be threaded up the West Arm and down the Lower Kootenay River to the Columbia, and another boat service was to connect the end of the railroad to a waggon road to be built by Gustavus Blin Wright from Big Eddy at present-day Revelstoke, westward over the Eagle Pass to Shuswap Lake near the proposed alignment of the CPRs Mainline, whenever and where ever it was finally built. In exchange, the CKR&T would be granted all the land along the entire navigable length of the Canadian reach of the Columbia River to a depth of six miles from either shore, the same on the Lower Kootenay River and all around the Lake and up its tributaries with the exception of the Upper Kootenay River within fifteen miles of the Boundary. In all, 750,000 acres of landnearly 1,200 square mileswould fall to the company. The majority of the politicos in Victoria were overjoyed at the prospect of opening up the Kootenays, and eagerly enacted legislation incorporating the company. The Act received royal assent on May 12th, 1883, naming J.C. Ainsworth and E.W. Blasdel of Oakland, California, and G.J. Ainsworth of Portland, Oregon, as directors, and setting the capitalization at $5 million. Besides progress deadlines, the main provisos were that the federal government approve a trans-Boundary steamship line, and that the railroad had to be completed before the Northern Pacific Railroad ran its spur up to Bonners Ferry where it would be in a position to draw away Canadian ore, the fear of provincial entrepreneurs like Robert Patterson Rithet, the president of the B.C. Board of Trade. Later that year, writes Edward L. Affleck in his Kootenay Lake Chronicles (Alexander Nicolls Press, Vancouver, n.d.), Ottawa, disbelieving the CKR&Ts protestations that it intended to save Canadian resources for Canada and not just become a servant of the Northern Pacific, used the office of the governor-general2 to disallow B.C.s legislation, setting off a seven year long jurisdictional battle between the province and the Dominion. No ships were floated, no rails were laid, and on January 26th, 1888, with the legal wrangle yet two years from resolution, the CKR&Ts charter was cancelled and the promised lands released for pre-emption.
The Ainsworths and J.S. Baker, however, were not prepared to give up so easily on the plan, and on the following April 28 received a provincial charter for their Kootenay Railway & Navigation Company. Without federal approval to operate across the Boundary, though, the company had no prospects of success and when the $5 million in stock that the company offered to the markets failed to sell, the owners lost interesting. That October of 1888, the CPR quietly gathered the dormant KR&N into its portfolio.
The personal investigations of a worthy like Hearst were bound to attract attention, and by July of 1882, while the rich man and his associates were lobbying legislators in Victoria and their crews evaluating the Kootenays prospects, Jerry ODonnell, Bill Feeney and others had pitched their tents around the mouth of Ward Creek on the West Arm and were spending their days rambling over the rocks, chipping, scraping, digging.
Silver in the Mountain
Noted3 in 1860 by the Secretary to the British Boundary Commission, Charles Wilson, Canadian, French, Iroquois and half-breed descendents4 of ex-HBC servants were farming the loamy soils in the bottom of the Colville Creek valley around old Fort Colvile in what is now northern Washington. Cattle they were raising, and growing crops of corn, oats, barley, and potatoes and other vegetables. Come 1886 the mixed-blood5 brothers Winslow and Osner Hall felt they had suffered enough disappointment trying to scrabble a sustenance from the Valley. With that years meagre harvest safely stored by the end of August, the brothers reckoned to venture north and see for themselves what prospectors seemed to find so interesting in the Canadian Kootenays. From their cousins in the Oakes family and their circle of friends they drew a party of fifteen, supplied themselves from the D.H. Ferguson and Company stores in Colville, and set off up the old horse trail along the southern banks of the Pend dOreille River. They crossed the River at Metaline Falls on a ferry which they had reportedly moved downstream from Deadmans Eddy, and by October they had worked themselves to the headwaters of the Salmo River between the Bonningtons and the Nelson Range. Climbing up onto Toad Mountain via what is now Hall Creek, the party stumbled upon a show of chalcopyrite, tetrahedrite and silver-carrying bornite ores that would make them wealthy. A few weeks of intensive investigation revealed a lode of exciting proportions and richness, verified by samples that the brothers thumped onto the counter of the assayers office in Colville the following spring. Soon every carpetbagger in the Northwest was headed for the Kootenays, intent on profiting from the new bonanza. B.C. was on the brink of a boom.
In the soaring economy of the times, arranging a grubsteak to allow them to investigate their find proved little problem, and the Halls were quickly back on Toad staking claims for their Kootenay Bonanza Mining Company. They registered the Kohinoor, the American Flag, the Silver King and the Kootenay Bonanza with the district recorder, Alfred Demeau Wheeler, at Hot Springs Camp/Ainsworth, on July 6th, 1887. As it turned out, the brothers glory hole turned out to be the Silver King, on the northern slopes of the Toad, five miles south-west of todays Nelson.
By 1888, backed by a little Spokane money, the Halls had their Silver King mine chewing into Toad Mountains fabulous lode, described by James Baker in his article The Rich Kootenay (B.C. Mining Record, Vol. 1, No. 1, October, 1895) ...as a great dyke of diorite protruding through shale which contains within its matrix chimneys of copper and silver ores with iron pyrites. The Halls knew, however, that they were small-time players in the business of mining. They had not the reputation nor the backing to raise real money to develop their mine. Hearing the rumours that the U.S. Congress was about to require the American mint to buy tons of silver, the Halls decided it was a good time to sell out. Emphasising that their ores ran to 150 ounces of silver per ton, they put their holdings up for sale. They looked overseas.
In London it was becoming chic to own a piece of a Canadian mine, and in 1889 R.D. Atkins bought one-half of the Halls enterprise. In August of 1890, before financial arrangements could be finalized, Atkins died, and it took another year before his estate could gather enough like-minded risk-takers together in London and form Hall Mines, Limited. With £300,000 in ready capital, it laid plans to develop the Silver King.
Early Ore to Market
From the time they started stripping the Silver King of his treasure, the Halls main headache was getting their ore to market. Enter Richard (Dick) and Martin Fry, brothers who in 1875 had bought Edwin L. Bonners ferry and trading post on whats now the Idaho reach of the Kootenai River. In 1888 they and Dicks son-in-law, Arthur Bunting, purchased the Northern Pacifics little railroad construction tugboat, the Idaho, and had had it wheeled over the Walla Walla Trail from Pend Oreille Lake to Bonners Ferry. Contracted by the Halls, the Frys skidded and packed Silver King ore down to their dock at the mouth of Ward Creek, heaved it onto a barge and left Captain Bunting to huff the Idaho to Bonners where the ore was shovelled onto waggons for the 34-mile haul over the Pack River Pass to Pend Oreillesince 1893, Sandpointon the Northern Pacifics mainline. Its rich lead content making it efficacious in the efficient smelting of silver from the siliceous ores of Montana mines, most of the Silver Kings shipments found their way to smelters in Butte, Montana Territory. Though it did put a little cash in the Halls pockets, this method of moving ore was inefficient and expensive. For the Silver King to produce real profit, it needed railroad steel right to the Mines mouth.
Neither Ottawa nor John Robson, the premier of B.C. since August 2nd of 1889, much liked the direction the development of the Kootenays was taking. The Frys operation was run by and for Americans who had little interest in paying Canadian taxes and export duties. John Charles Rykert, Collector of Customs stationed since 1883 on the Boundary where the Upper Kootenay River crosses back into B.C. near what is today Creston, could only guess at the worth of the ore passing his post and tax accordingly. Furthermore, the raw wealth of the Kootenays was being drawn out of the country to have value added to it elsewhere. The better option for the good B.C. and Canada would be to get the Halls ore to the Columbia where it could be loaded onto a Canadian vessel, be valued properly and either sent south to the Little Dalles for transportation overland to the Northern Pacific at Spokane Falls, or better, north to the CPRs Mainline at Revelstoke for shipment to Canadian processors.
The four or five cascades that dropped Kootenay Lakes water down a hundred vertical metres to the Columbia made even a canoe trip down the Lower Kootenay River an extremely exhilarating experience. Rafts would not have survived, nor would anything like the York boats that the Hudsons Bay Coy used to float furs down Prairie rivers to York Factory. Portaging ore in quantity around the thrills would have been commercially impractical. In 1888, anxious that the Halls output be properly taxed, the province ordered its general functionary in the region, Gilbert Malcolm Sproat, to get a packtrail built forthwith connecting the Silver King to the Columbia. The Kootenay Valley Trunk Trail was serviceable by that autumn and ore was soon moving down to Sproats Landing where it was piled into the C&KSNs Kootenai and carried either 130 miles upstream to Revelstoke, or, usually, downstream some 50 miles to Daniel Chase Corbins Spokane Falls and Northern wharves near the Little Dalles. The finishing touches were added to the Trunk Trail in 1889, by which time Robert William (Bob) Yuill had brushed a horse path from where the Trail crossed Forty Nine Creek to what was then Stanley, now Nelson.
Though the Trunk Trail did give the Halls an alternative to the Frys route to market, packtrains simply could not keep pace with the Silver Kings production. In an effort to increase the capacity of the Trail, a local teamster, Joe Wilson, was engaged in 1890 to widen it into a waggon road between Taghum and the Columbia. Under the superintendence of L. MacQuarrie, this was accomplished. The C&KSNs powerful, new Lytton was in service by the time Wilson was finished, and the combination of waggons and fast riverboat made the Trunk Trail/Columbia route economically viable. The Trail, however much improved, was still slow, expensive to maintain and viciously hard on waggons, animals and drivers. Had Toad Mountain contained ore of mundane quality, or had the price of silver remained static, the Route would likely have been suffered until the lode was exhausted.
Stanley and Nelson
In 1883, in response to the Ainsworths proposals and to a plan promoted by the man for whom the Narrows is named, William Adolph Baillie-Grohman, the provincial government had sent Arthur Stanhope Farwell and Gilbert Malcolm Sproat to inventory the Kootenays and survey a trail over the Eagle Pass through the Gold Range of the Monashees. Suspecting that the West Arm area might some day need a town, Sproat chose a 160 acre site where the valley of Cottonwood Creek comes down to the Arm, and registered a pre-emption in his name. In 1888, when the Ainsworth land grant lapsed, Sproat applied for title to the plot. However, the B.C. Gazette misidentified the location and Arthur Bunting, who had built his cabin between the Cottonwood and Ward Creeks in 1887, was granted a pre-emption to the same lands.
While the government was busy sorting out the muddle in Sproats favour, the areas newly arrived constable and mining recorder, Henry (Harry) Anderson, applied for a quarter section near the point where Nelsons big orange bridge stands today. There he built his office and engaged Charles Wesley Busk to lay out a townsite called Salisbury. When, however, Sproats site was properly located, the government found that his application for a townsite took priority and Anderson was forced to shelve his plans for Salisbury.
Sproat made himself the Father of Nelson, by surveying and subdividing his property, according to T.A. Rickards in his monograph, Gilbert Malcolm Sproat (The British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Vol. 1, 1937), in October of 1888, offering lots for sale by auction on the townsite he named for Lord Stanley of Preston, Canadas governor-general from 1888 to 1893.6 Stanley the community remained until the Post Office discovered a previous Stanley registered in the Cariboo district and requested that the Kootenay settlement choose a new name. John Truth Houston, pioneer owner and editor of the communitys first newspaper, The Miner, in 1892 finally convinced his fellows to officially rename the community after B.C.s then Lieutenant-Governor, Hugh Nelson.
Described by Joseph William Cockle in Edwd. L. Afflecks Kootenay Lake Chronicles, in 1888 Stanley consisted of a crude path meandering up Ward Creek, the approximate line of todays Ward Street, from the extensive, stinking mud-flats of the Lakes shore. Flanking the path were two tents serving as Jno. Fred. Hume and Bob Lemons general store, and John F. Wards hotel and bar. Amid the scattering of prospectors tents in the fire-blackened brush stood the shack of Denny, Devine and Company of Spokane, suppliers of everything needful for finding and working lode mines. Cockle mentions neither the Fry brothers supply tents, nor the dock which John Norris, in his Historic Nelson: the early years (Oolichan Books, Lantzville, 1995), claims that the brothers built at the mouth of Ward Creek in 1887. In 1889 the only log-built structure was the Records Office.
With the first sackful of ore shipped from the Silver King, the settlement began to grow and prosper. The Kootenay Lake Marble Quarry, across from todays Kaslo, commenced operations in 1889, and when G.O. Buchanans mill along the Arm at Harrop began sawing lumber on July 12th of the same year, the tents of Stanley quickly disappeared and the town took on a less impermanent air. The Grand Hotel, the first hard-roofed hostelry in town, was offering accommodations a few weeks before 1890 was rung in.
That year, 1890, brought very good fortune to Stanley. The Ward Creek gully was finally bridged uniting the rough-and-tumble, exuberant eastern reach of Baker Street with the genteel western extension, creating an exciting commercial avenue. The Nelson Sawmill began operations at the mouth of Cottonwood Creek, the settlements second sawyer. As good as those events were for the local economy, they fade to insignificance when compared to events consequent to the vote in the United States congress on July 3rd of 1890. On that date the real money gold standard supporters failed to defeat the Sherman Silver Purchase Act which, until it was repealed in May of 1893, required the U.S. mint to buy 4.5 million ounces of silver per month. Silver mines were suddenly worth a bundle.
Like Colorado and other places similarly blessed the precious metal, the Kootenays boomed; the Act had made the Silver King staggeringly wealthy. Focused on the money, the CPR led the rush upon the settlementwhich, unofficially, was calling itself Nelson,managing to get the Columbia and Kootenay Railway opened for business on May 31st, 1891. On June 11th the community celebrated the founding of another industry when and Columbia and Kootenay Steam Navigation Company launched its Nelson onto the waters of the West Arm at its yards at the mouth of Cottonwood Creek. At 500 tons, the Nelson was the largest vessel yet afloat on the Lake. That year of 1891, too, saw the Nelson Brick Company formed, saw several prominent citizens organize the Deluge Hook and Ladder Company under the presidency of Dr. Edward Charles Arthur, and saw a telegraph connexion established to Spokane. In May, in the home of Dr. E.C. and Dr. Isabella Arthur, the first school classes were offered to Nelsons children. Perhaps the bedlam associated with such an altruistic gesture inspired the good Doctors to organize a Board of School Trustees who forthwith initiated the construction of a school house on Stanley Street to which, on October 1st, Jane Rath, the communitys first paid school teacher, summoned students. That October, as well, according to Patricia Rogers in her The Hotel Phair: and the Extraordinary Family Who Created Her (British Columbia History Vol. 40, No. 2, British Columbia Historical Federation, 2007), Edwin Ernest Phair opened his sumptuous lodge.7 Sometime in 1891, Dick Frys rickety old pier was replaced by the solid Government wharf and the pack-trail up to the Silver King was widened into a 12-foot wide waggon road, its bridges build by Bob Yuill.
The year that it officially adopted its present name, 1892, was the watershed in Nelsons development. Bringing credit and development capital to town, on January 2nd the Bank of Montreal opening an office in J. Fred. and Lydia Humes general store. In March the Bank of British Columbia arrived, followed by a private bank operated by Messrs. Allen and Applewhaite. With money available, entrepreneurs incorporated the Nelson Electric Light Company on April 23rd and began to subscribe supporters for a dam and generating station that they proposed to build on Cottonwood Creek. The same act also incorporated the Consumers Waterworks Company, the precursor of which had actually begun operations in the summer of 1890. Proving itself a community with foresight, residents rallied around Bob Yuill, Drs. Edwd. C. Arthur and David LaBau, John Frederick Hume, John Hamilton, Willim F. Teetzel and Robert E. Lemon when they formed the Kootenay Lake General Hospital Society in 1893 and began drafting plans for a centre of medicine.
On June 2nd, 1892, to the welcoming hoots of the lakeboats City of Ainsworth and Nelson, the CPR hauled its first passenger train into the town on the rails of its Columbia and Kootenay,
a railroad, observed CPs president Van Horne sardonically, from nowhere to nowhere. Perhaps stung by the comment, Nelsonians eagerly marked the progress of D.C. Corbins Nelson and Fort Sheppard as it emerged from Cottonwood Creeks valley in November of 1893 and curled across the lower slopes of Ymir Mountains Evening Ridge. On the 18th the crews reached the site where they began building the N&FSs Mountain Station. When the Line was opened upon final inspection on December 14th, Nelson enjoyed an all-steel link to the world outside. Denied access to the waterfront by the C&Ws land grant until a deal was worked out in 1900, in early 1894 the N&FS pushed its steel only as far into Nelson as the Grove Hotel in Bogustown.8
The Nelson and Fort Sheppard had arrived, however, in a glum community. Earlier in 1893, on the 5th of May, the U.S. Congress had repealed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. The drop in the price of an ounce of the metal from 95¢ American to 57¢ precipitated the market crash of that June 27th. Credit vanished. Spending slowed. The economy of North American slipped into a tailspin, hurting especially resource-based communities, and especially those engaged in silver mining.
Hall Mines, Limited
With the incorporation in Britain of Hall Mines, Limited, Winslow and Osner Hall and their local supporters fade from the history of the mine they developed from a gleam in the eye of the Toad. With and initial £300,000 in capital in its coffers, Hall Mines was already laying plans for developing the Silver King, suggests B. Richard Atkins in Columbia River Chronicles (Alexander Nicolls Press, [ed. E.L. Affleck], Vancouver, 1976), in 1891. Its board of directors chaired by the now Sir Joseph Trutch, the White-supremacist former lieutenant-governor of B.C., the new outfit soon accumulated nine claims and nine mineral locations in the neighbourhood and began building the Halls operation from a family affair into an international organization. Under the general management of H.E. Croasdaile, Hall Mines bought lands west of Cottonwood Creek on the lowest slopes of Morning Mountain and began raising a smelter. To efficiently move ore down from the Silver King 3,750 feet above, the California Wire Works Company was contracted for $50,000 to install a 4.5 mile long, gravity powered Hallidie Aerial Rope Tramway which, with 850 buckets of 150 lb. capacity each, was designed to deliver 13 tons per hour. By November 1st of 1895 the tramway was in operation.
On January 21st, 1896, Hall Mines blew in a small, 100 to 150 ton-per-day reverberatory furnace in the new smelter. Smelting being the inexact science that it was at the time, everybody held their breath while the furnace was tested to see if would process the Silver Kings ore. So successful was it at calcining the ore and refining the metal to 98% purity that the company promptly set about installing a 275300 ton-per-day version. This was blown in on September 5th and by the end of the year the two furnaces had reduced 30,000 tons of ore to recover nearly 40,000 lbs. of silver, 578 ounces of gold and 1125 tons of copper. The preferred shareholders were so encouraged by the $23,250 in dividends which the company paid them that year that they OKd the construction of a second smelter building beside the original. Under the direction of the projects new supervisor, Robert R. Hedley,9 in the new building Hall Mines erected the biggest copper blast furnace the world had ever seen. It was blown in on September 5th, 1897, and its output of 49% pure matte copper (the first in Canada, claims B. Richard Atkins in Afflecks Columbia River Chronicles, was shipped to Swansea, Wales, where stood what was then reputed to be the British Empires best refinery. Having processed 48,000 tons that year to gain nearly 60,000 lbs. of silver, a bit of gold and 1750 short tons of copper, the company dispersed $133,750 of dividends among its shareholders. The next year, 1898, saw a 3,000 ton reduction in the smelters total through-put as the company converted its small furnace to process lead ores which were solicited on a custom basis from other mines. The company also found that its ores were declining in richness, yielding 22.5% copper and 1520 ounces of silver per ton, encouraging it to import copper ores from the War Eagle mine at Rossland.
Enhancing Hall Mines profits was the reduction in the price of coal realized by the opening of mines in the Crows Nest Pass and the completion of the British Columbia Southern Railway thence to Kootenay Lake. In 1898 Crows Nest coal delivered to Nelson cost $2.25 per ton, according to The Annual Report of the Minister of Mines ... for 1898, whereas Hall Mines was charged $5.25 per ton for coal from the Dunsmuir mines on Vancouver Island.
As if the pain of recession through 1894 was not enough, in December of that year it began to snow. And it didnt quit. By spring Nelson found itself buried under an accumulation of 22 feet, a record still-standing in 2007. Come the warmth of spring, of course, the little mountain trickles that usually plashed into Kootenay Lake turned into torrents. In June another record was set when the water level in the West Arm rose to 30 feet above average. Anything not securely tied down, and even things that were, tore themselves away from their moorings and headed west down the River to the Columbia and thence into the wide Pacific. Among the many artefacts which sailed away was that big disappointment of a wharf that Bob Yuill had built for C.W. Busk on Anderson Point in Bogustown.
A hub of transportation and noisy with industry, as the middle of the 1890s approached Nelson was well on its way to becoming the Queen of the Kootenays, buoyed by the federal governments decision to designate it a Port of Entry on January 1st, 1895. Two years later, on March 18th, 1897, Nelsons 3,000 citizens toasted their towns incorporation as a city and elected John Houston, now publisher of The Tribune, as their first mayor on April 15th. Already the City had a hospital, built by public subscription and opened in August of 1893: now it bought the Deluge Hook and Ladder Company and built a new firehouse outfitted with the latest equipment. On April 17th, during its first meeting, the new City Council created the Nelson Police Department. How the painted Ladies of the Fine felt about that is unknown.
After four years of effort by John Houston and his associates in the Nelson Electric Light Company, on February 1st of 1896 the main breaker had been closed in the companys generating station near the dam that the company had built on Cottonwood Creek just below the highway interchange that now mixes and separates traffic on the 3A and No. 6. On streets and in parlours all over town, low wattage bulbs had banished Nights shade to dark corners. Unfortunately, the Creeks modest flow did not readily lend itself to reliable power generation. The solution seemed to be to raise the height of the dam to impound more water. The owners of Nelson Electric thought that Nelson, since becoming a City, could better accomplish this task and, eager to recoup their investment, offered to sell their company. From the soap-box of his editorial page in the Tribune, Mayor Houston, a principal in the electric company, urged his fellow citizens to vote yes to the proposal to purchase. Houston had been out of office for three months when the City elected to buy the electric company in March of 1899. It took, however, a judgement of the Supreme Court of B.C. to untangle the results of the plebiscite held to determine the citizens will, but in December of 1899 the Court found the procedure lawful and that the City was indeed the owner of its own electric system, the first settlement in B.C. to do so.
Many of Nelsons citizens resented Houstons self-serving success in steering Nelson Electric into the public domain, and heaped opprobrium upon him when it was revealed that, while the future of Nelson Electric was being decided, West Kootenay Power had connected the City to its grid and contracted to supply electricity to the Hall Mines smelter and the communitys new street tram company. Attempting to make its power generation more reliable in competition with WKP, the City went ahead with the modifications to the Cottonwood dam, raising by four feet. Unable to bear the added weight, the dam collapsed on August 18th, 1900. Forced to buy WKP power through the tramway company and realizing that the Cottonwood could never satisfy its needs, Nelson Electric looked to the falls on the Lower Kootenay River. Though the City obtained a provincial water licence in January of 1901 and another three years later allowing it to build on a site at the Upper Bonnington Falls, its right to do so was challenged by West Kootenay Power which itself had designs on the location. Mayor Houston, according to Jeremy Mouat in The Business of PowerHydro-electricity in South Eastern British Columbia, 18971997, had graduated to provincial politics by that time and prevailed upon premier Richard McBride to support Nelsons claim. Finally victorious, Houston returned to local politics in 1905 to raise the $150,000 the City needed to execute the project. It was completed in 1908, though had been powering the City since the previous year. Currently a property of Nelson Hydro, the plant now generates 16mW to satisfy 55% of Nelsons 1999 needs.
The Nelson Electric Tramway Company was incorporated on October 4th, 1899, by the great British Electric Traction Company, owner of street railways the world over. Having raised a barn, laid 2.1 miles of trackage, and secured a reliable supply of electricity from West Kootenay Power, on December 23rd, 1899, Nelson Electric Tramway closed its switches and the two cars of the smallest streetcar system in Canada, if not the British Empire, began clanging Nelsonians to their destinations. The system was not, evidently, a big money-maker, for on January 1st, 1905, British Traction leased the entire operation to the City. A fire in the car barn in 1908 crippled the system, compelling the company to turn over its assets to the Nelson Street Railway Company which won incorporation on September 7, 1909. Service limped along until suspended on December 21st, 1910. A fresh injection of enthusiasm got the system operational again on June 21st, 1911, but service was sporadic. Viewing the streetcar system as a service as essential as the Coke and Gas Works which it had only recently acquired, on February 1st, 1914, the City of Nelson bought the tram operation. For the next 35 years the little Ottawa Car Company double-enders shrieked their way merrily through the streets until, by the end of the 1940s, they were worn out. By that time, their administrators demented by the siren song of Big Oil and the manufacturers of internal combustion engines, most North American cities were scrapping their street railway systems, unable and unwilling to adapt them to changing demands and expectations. Nelson followed suit and the streetcar era ended in the City on June 20th, 1949, when the trams surrendered their duties to the diesel-dirty buses of the privately-owned Interior Stage Company. Interior was bankrupt by the early 50s and its job was assumed by the City. Today, 1999, a cadre of B.C. Transit Authority drivers battle their fleet of six aging GM diesels through the Citys car-jammed streets. For old times sake and the tourist dollar, in the early 1990s the City rebuilt a vintage streetcar and laid a couple of miles of tram-track in Lakeview Park between the big bridge and the Chahko-Mika Mall. Fatigued strollers and day-tripping families can now relive the olden days on old number 23.
The waterfront of yesterdays Nelson is buried under the thousands of yards of fill that the CPR and the City have dumped over the years to expand the foreshore flats to lay out a rail yard and an airport. This is where the areas heavy industries stood. By 1899 the Brydges and Fisher Company, the Kootenay Lake Saw Mills and the Nelson Saw and Planing mills were screaming logs into lumber for builders and shipwrights. Chief among the latter were those employed in the Columbia and Kootenay Steam Navigation Company yards at the mouth of the Cottonwood.
Following the launching of the Nelson in 1891, C&KSN had concentrated its ship-building energies in its yards at Nakusp on Upper Arrow Lake. As the 90s matured, however, increased industry demanded more ships on Kootenay Lake. In response the C&KSN refurbished its Cottonwood yards and set to work a-building, slipping the beautiful 350-ton Kokanee down the Nelson ways in 1896. A year later the CPR had purchased the C&KSN and continued to build ships in the old Yardsthe 830-ton Moyie in 1898, the little screw tugs Ymir, Procter and Valhalla in 1899, 1900 and 1901. Needing room to expand its railyards, CP bought a piece of waterfront at Bogustown, named it Fairview and moved its shipyards thither in 1903. The orange bridge bisects the property today. So busy did the yards become that a sawmill arose on its eastern edge to feed it, and a community of houses built up around the industries. In 1921 the City absorbed the area as the neighbourhood of Fairview. With the completion in 1931 of the B.C. Southern along the western shore of Kootenay Lake, the romantic steamboat era was at an end. Tug barges were still needed, however, and CP maintained a much-reduced crew at the Fairview yards to effect their construction. Time and highways eventually killed that industry and the Yards became just an overgrown patch of foreshore flats as residential Nelson began to spread out onto the heights above. Ironically, it was the needs of the Highway which saw activity return to the Yards in the late 1990s. The ancient Abscomb, which for 40 years had loyally ferried traffic across the Lake between the West Arm and the East Shore, was worn out. Experts decided that the best was to replace her was to have modules of a ship built in the Vancouver Shipyards and moved by road and rail to the Lakeview yards where Maglio Industries took charge of them and, using Kootenay talent, assembled them into the 1780-tonne Osprey 2000. Launched on July 1st of 2000, the craft went into service that August 26th, turning out the poor old Abscomb to look for a buyer to prolong its life. Fairview Yards, in 2002, is again a weedy reach of shoreline.
By 1900 the Citys docks and wharves were crammed with stevedores wrestling cargoes on and off the paddlewheelers that whacked their way across Kootenay Lake to a profusion of hinterland mining and logging operations, and to Kootenay Landing at the head of the rail line to the Prairies. With tons of Bullock and Hancock bricks and thousands of board feet of the sawmills output being fashioned into offices and homes, Nelson roared into the new century.
Death of the Silver King
After a decade of richly rewarding its owners, the lining of the Silver Kings cloud began to tarnish. In 1900 it was able to send but 700 tons of ore down the mountain to the smelter during the entire year. After months of negotiation, on April 1st Lord Ernest Hamilton succeeded in reorganizing Hall Mines as Hall Mining and Smelting Company. Under the superintendence of Captain John R. Gifford and Monte S. Davys, 60 miners were kept hacking away in the Silver King, trying to locate new ore. For a year they had success, sending 21,000 tons of ore down the smelter in 1901 where the 80 men working therein under the continuing direction of R.R. Hedley determined that the Mines output was running 3.8% copper and 16 ounces per ton of silver. It was the last good year at the Silver King. In June of 1902 Hall M&S quit mining, leasing the Mine to Davys who, with a dozen or so men, picked out the remains of the high grade ore and sent it down the mountain. Davys and his die-hard successors would work the Silver King until 1914, two years after it was formally taken over by Consolidated Mining and Smelting.
With the failure of the Silver King the future of the smelter was bleak. However, on July 1 of 1902 the federal government begun paying a bounty of $5 per ton for lead smelted in Canada. Encouraged, Hall M&S increased its smelter crew to 130, converted the original furnaces to smelt lead and in 1902 fed them nearly 27,000 tons of ores purchased from regional mines to recover 4175 tons of lead bullion worth $962,000. The big blast furnace that year worked only 53 days, processing 11,000 tons of copper ore to get 946 tons of matte which earned $178,000. Davys paid Hall M&S royalties of $3500 in 1903 for his lease, sending ore running 1040 lbs. of copper and 1825 ounces of silver per ton to the smelter. The mines contribution, however, did little to offset the $20,000 loss which the HM&S showed after factoring maintenance costs and capital depreciation into its accounts: this despite treating 17,000 tons of ore to recover one million ounces of silver, 8,000 ounces of gold and 3,350 tons of lead. Though the Silver Kings ore was self-fluxingrequiring only a little iron ore and 10% limestone in the furnace mixand needed no roasting, the smelter had been originally equipped with two ore roasters. Ten years later these were obsolete, an in 1904, in an effort to enable its facility to smelt the widest possible variety of ores, Hall M&S added a Merton roasting furnace to its process. By 1905 the company had set up the B.C. Standard Mining Company to work the Hunter V property near Ymir, and that year mixed that mines deliveries with the ores from 125 different properties, running Nos.1 and 2 furnaces at 76% capacity. From the Silver King Davys managed to send 1187 tons down the mountain in 1906 and reported that the lower levels of the mine were flooding. To further broaden its range of acceptable ores, Hall M&S introduced the Sarelsberg process of roasting sulphur from the galena. This proved disastrous and by the time the company installed a Huntington-Heberlein process roaster in 1906, it was in deep financial trouble.
Adding to the strain on Hall M&S was its only Canadian competitor, the CPRs Canadian Smelting Works at Trail. Both companys sold their product through agents in Montreal and, struggling to maintain market share, Hall offered prices slightly lower that CSWs. Adopting an unusual stratagem, CSWs manager, Walter Hull Aldridge began anonymously buying Halls output and reselling it at his own price, thereby capturing the entire market. As CSW was by far the larger producer, neither Halls management or its agent suspected the ruse. Opening another front in its assault, when the CPR organized the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company in 1906 it deprived Hall M&S of the output of the St. Eugene mine on Moyie Lake, one of Halls largest sources of ore. Lost to Hall, as well, was the output of most of the Boundary District mines as the smelters there, the Granby Consolidateds at Grand Forks and the B.C. Coppers at Anaconda near Greenwood, expanded and refined their processes.
Though it managed to keep its No. 2 furnace in blast for 345 days in 1906 to treat 38,000 tons of ore, Hall M&S continued to lose money, its back to the wall as it was forced to bid against other regional smelters for ore and coke. Hedley quit and John Joseph Campbell succeeded as general manager. Believing that the company was incapable of solving its problems, its creditors were becoming increasingly anxious about their investments. In an illuminating case of mutual back-scratching reported by G.W. Taylor in Mining: The History of Mining in British Columbia, Aldridge, now manager of CPs Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company at Trail, in 1907 sent his valued right-hand man, Selwyn Gwillym Blaylock,10 to Nelson to squeeze what money he could from the Hall smelter for one of its major shareholders, the Bank of Montreal, the CPRs long-time commercial confidant and supporter. Blaylock soon concluded that the smelter was doomed; its equipment was obsolete and worn out, unable to perform the basic tasks that CM&S assigned it. That September smelting ceased, and by the end of 1908, Blaylock had sold what machinery he could and scrapped the rest. A shell sheltering nothing, the smelter building stood brooding above the City until the evening of September 2nd, 1911, when, writes David Scott in City in Panic (Canadian West, No. 12, Summer 1988), John Bradshaw, as his masterwork in an 18-month-long career of arson, set it alight. By two oclock in the morning of the next day all that was left standing was the chimney.
The demise of the smelter did not completely discourage metallurgical endeavour in Nelson. Industry demanded brass, and copper demanded zinc to make it. Locked in the slagheaps and ore dumps of the Hall smelter was zinc aplenty. Unfortunately, it was hard to extract. One F.T. Snyder, however, had patented a process to accomplish the task and in 1905, according to Jeremy Mouat in The Business of PowerHydro-Electricity in South Eastern British Columbia, 18971997, the Canada Zinc Company, Limited, was incorporated to apply that process. Conscripting $10,000 each from 20 local shareholders including Nelsons Member of Parliament at the time, W.A. Gallihan, the company built a built a waterfront plant. Problems soon arose. In 1908 the company managed to secure a $10,000 loan from the province but, when Ottawa rejected an appeal for funds later that year, Canada Zinc folded. During World War One and again later, two other organizations poured money into the project only to walk away in frustration. Finally, in 1935, the offending plant was razed and today the only reminder of the experiment is an ingot mould that someone dug out of the fill by the Lakes shore and donated to the civic museum.
Notwithstanding the failure of Canada Zinc, the wealth locked in the Hall M&S dumps beckoned A.G. French to apply his methods. Forming Frenchs Complex Ore Reduction Company of Canada, he was able to convince investors in Victoria to back him and in the old Cottonwood Creek generating station he set up a zinc recovery process which combined roasting, leaching and electrolysis. His demonstrations attracted the interest of R.H. Stewart, then the general manager of Consolidated Mining and Smelting which in May of 1912 agreed to finance the construction of a one ton-per-day experimental smelter in its vast complex at Trail. It disappointed and CM&S cancelled the project in June of 1915 as it was developing its own process. French went on to sue CM&S for patent infringement in 1917, finally get his case to court in 1924 and drop it in 1930 when CM&S, having formed the Electrolytic Zinc Processing Company with Anaconda Copper, counter-sued.
Though its mine was played out and its smelter destroyed, Nelson had the railroad, the shipping, and the lumber industries to fall back on, and slipped quickly into the rôle of transportation marshal and warehouseman to the district. By the time those occupations finally fell into redundancy, the City had become the regional administrator, a function it fulfils still.
Today, snugged in its dramatic valley, Nelson in busily bleaching the last traces of blue out of its collars as it welcomes tourists and manages regional affairs. Looking at the deserted waterfront, one is hard pressed to imagine that anything more strenuous than the casual cast of a sport-fishing lure ever took place here. The old C&KSN shipyards are long disappeared, the last sawmill, Westar Timber, the former Kootenay Forest Products, closed on November 18th of 1982, the CPR railyards are but a memory. With its smaller cousins, the big City Wharf that the CPR rebuilt at the foot of Hall Street in 1908, is smashed and buried under rip-rap breakwaters which protect the reclaimed frontage from natural inundation by the Lake.
From the slopes above, the most obvious thing on the lakefront these days is the landing strip. On September 24th, 1912, the American daredevil Walter Edwards wowed Nelson into the age of the aeroplane when he took off in his Curtiss biplane and circled the City. Perhaps witnessing Edwardss feat was a young Norman Stibbs who, as a City councillor 25 years later, began urging Nelsonians to embrace the new era in transportation: air travel.11 World War Two hammered home the utility of reliable airplanes, and in 1944 the City leased the outer fringes of the foreshore flats from the CPR and began dumping fill into the shallows. On May 27th, 1947, a small plane inaugurated the site of the future air field by gingerly alighting on the levelled fill. Two years later, the runway completed, Nelson welcomed regular air service. The City bought the land in 1965, resurfaced the runway and officially opened the Norman Stibbs Airport in June of 1972. The present terminal was completed fourteen years later. At 940 metres, the landing strip is not long enough for anything but helicopters and short-take-off-and-landing aircraft; Nelson cannot challenge Castlegar for the regions commercial jet traffic. In fact, one can keep an eye on Stibbs field for hours and see nothing but a lonely little Cessna completing circuits of its touch and go landing practice.
The busiest enterprise on the lakefront today is the Chahko-Mika Mall, 30-odd stores and shops set on a raft of parking pavement and anchored upon the eastern edge of the foreshore flats by a large Overwaitea store and a Wal-Mart. Between the Mall and the airport, the brand-new high rising Prestige Lakeside Resort promises to pamper its patrons as they bask on their balconies and amuse themselves watching the traffic below.
Behind the Airport and the Mall, running along the bottom of Town, the CPR tracks lie in dirty ballast and remember busier days.
The Late Railway
West from the Dancing Bear Inn, Baker Street continues its descent down to and across Cottonwood Creek to end in the rough parking lot bracketing the big old CPR station on the inland edge of the foreshore flats. As it was laying rail up the Lower Kootenays valley from Sproats Landing in 1891, the C&K was suggesting that Procter, at the mouth of the West Arm, would be the logical terminus for its tracks. If the suggestion was a ruse cooked up to squeeze a land concession from Nelsons town council, it worked. To convince the Company to build no further east, Nelson gave up the large, fertile flats at the mouth of the Cottonwood Creek as well as a corridor along the entire waterfront. Satisfied, CP kicked the Chinese truck-gardeners off the flats, laid out its yards and erected a station.
The 1890s was a decade of tremendous expansion of the CPR into southern B.C. With many miles of track to maintain and increased business to attend to, the Company broke its operations up into Divisions. Nelson was named the headquarters for its Kootenay Division. The original station completed for the C&K in 1891 was judged unable or unworthy to house divisional offices, so the Company raised this magnificent structure, officially opening it on January 1st, 1900. Ten years later it was doubled in size to house the headquarters of the B.C. Lake and River Service, as well. In front of it, on ground gained by burying the shallow, marshy little bay at the mouth of Cottonwood Creek under thousands of cubic yards of fill, CP expanded its Yards; side tracks, coaling and sand towers, a turntable-fed 15-stall brick roundhouse and associated shops, water tank, ash pit, and power plant. Surveying the site now, acres of churned up earth with only a siding or two left to accommodate the occasional freight car, the loudest noise the skree of the gulls overhead, a visitor can only imagine what this place used to be like when steam whistles echoed in the mist of an early winters morning and shunting locomotives hooted and hissed and bashed cars into trains amid the maze of sidings. Dust and coal smoke hung fragrant in the air, hot oil stank, the shops and roundhouse sang with the clang of metal banging metal and hummed a din of machinery, background accompaniment to the conductors cry of All Aboard as tarrying passengers hustled from the platform to their coaches.
Long before it entrusted the Kootenay cluster of subdivisions to the new Kootenay Valley Railway (KoVR), CP uprooted Nelsons sidings, levelled the old brick roundhouse and left only part of the diesel shops to service the occasional locomotive which cant be nursed over the Purcells to the service facilities at Cranbrook.
At the edge of Todays silence the big old station stands empty, a canvas for midnight Michaelangelos, its wide, open-beamed eaves sheltering no-one from Nelsons leaky skies. The Lakes and River Service vacated its portion of the building when that organization was dissolved in the mid-50s, and in 1987, with the redrafting of the divisional boundaries, CP moved its regional headquarters to Cranbrook. Boarded up and ignored by the KoVR people who work out of a portable complex nearby, the station remains, so far, intact, its black-trimmed white paint cracking and peeling, its turreted and dormer-festooned hipped gable roof sloughing big diamonds of faded crimson shingles, the heavy black doors of its express room shouldered open only rarely to admit or discharge some infrequently used piece of equipment. Though rail aficionados consider it a gem well worth preserving, the lonely edifice is resigned to the attention of a thrill-seeking firebug or the bite of a bulldozers blade unless Marathon Realty, CPs property manager, can soon find a buyer for it.
Unless one was fortunate enough to see a white flagged special, the only train action a fan was likely to get in Nelson in the year 2002 was KoVRs train number 981/984. Having left Cranbrook westbound at 0030 hours, 981 arrives in Nelson between 0730 and 0900, changes crews and continues to the end of steel at the Trail smelter. Returning around four in the afternoon as 984, the train is retaken by its now rested morning crew and grumbles into Cranbrook around midnight.
Come 2004, however, things began to look up for rail traffic to Nelson. An outfit called Rocky Mountaineer RailTours, which has for many years past operated a luxury train service from Vancouver to Banff on CPs mainline, is toying with the idea of running a comparable service down the Kootenay Central Railway trackage from Golden, BC, on the Mainline, to Wardner, BC, on the BC Southern, and thence into Cranbrook. From there the train would roll onto the rails of the KoVR to carry on to Nelson and, presumably, Castlegar and perhaps Trail. On the 20th of October of 2004 an experimental Mountaineer departed Nelson.
The Citys Architectural Heritage Walking Tour features, of course, the edifices of which Nelsonians are particularly proud. Among them are two designs by the noted architect Francis Mawson Rattenbury: the Bank of Montreal building in Italianate style dated to 1899 and, nearby, kitty-corner from the 1902 Post and Customs Office now serving as the civic museum, the Court House, which Rattenbury rendered in Chateau style in 1909. The Walking Tour is supplemented by the Architectural Heritage Motoring Tour which leads visitors to public buildings and private homes of note located out of the downtown core. Though the wood-framed Presbyterian Church at the corner of Kootenay and Victoria is interesting in that, dated 1892, its the oldest structure in Nelson, and the Roman revival Cathedral of Mary Immaculate farther up the hill on Ward is impressive on its high stylobate with six stout Doric columns carrying a massive entablature, the most remarkable structure and dear to the beer aficionado is the rambling ghetto of smoke-blue clapboard Victorian Utilitarian buildings located on Latimer at Hall Street. This is the home of the Nelson Brewery Company, and from here flows Nelson After Dark ale and its various cousins.
Though some of the brewerys buildings date from the 19-aughts, the property has been occupied by a brewer since Nelson Brewing Company set up shop here in 1893. By 1930 Kootenay Breweries Limited owned the place, selling it to Interior Breweries Limited in the early 1950s. After completing its new brewery in Creston in 1960, Interior sold its Nelson premises to Denis Cohen who salvaged the equipment and surrendered the buildings to the pigeons. The property changed hands several times over the next 25 years but remained vacant, gradually becoming an eye-sore. Surprisingly it didnt burn downthough the fire department was rumoured to have its eye on it for a pre-emptive burn as a skill-enhancing exerciseand in July of 1990 was rescued from the wreckers ball by local entrepreneur, Larry Johnson. Despite the fact that the City would not protect the site with Heritage status, Johnson spent nearly $200,000 buying and repairing the structures. Helping him were Dieter Feist and Paddy Glenny who moved their fledgling brewing business into one of the buildings that summer. They have since expanded their operation and share the buildingsnow removed from the Citys condemned listwith artisans studios and other tenants.
Highway 6 and Ymir
Preparing to depart Nelson, careful cyclists consult their maps to peruse their proposed routes. There are two; the slow, easy path of the 3A down the east shore of Kootenay Lake to Creston, or highway No. 6 south from Nelson, an extension from downtown Stanley Street up through little YmirWye-murto Salmo to rejoin the Crowsnest Highway.
The forty kilometres of highway No. 6 between Nelson and Salmo was from the mid-50s until 1964 part of the No. 3A from Trail to Nelson. Designated 6/3A because it picked up the Boundary-bound No. 6 at Salmo, it became just plain 6 after the grand realignment of 1964 when the Kootenay Pass section of the Crowsnest Highway was complete.
From the interchange in the Cottonwoods valley that since 1972 has untied it from the 3A, the No. 6 begins a four mile climb up the valley on grades that incline to 6%. Below the roadway to the west the Creek bashes away at its rock-lined trench. It seems amply energetic to spin an electrical generator or two. Slab bridges of pre-stressed concrete leap over to trailer-house parks and private dwellings. On the east side of the highway a cute, miniature steel truss bridge gives off into someones yard. Out of the built-up area and approaching the top of the climb, the road steepens and curves to cross the line of the Nelson and Fort Sheppard Railway losing itself under a young generation of cedars and dark spruce. Out of the valley, the highway picks its way along the slope of Ymir Mountain, Cottonwood Flats wide to the west, Cottonwood Lake preferring the company of Toad Mountain on the other side of the skunk cabbage-strewn flats. Moose country.
A couple of undulating miles on the highway eases gently over the 945m summit of Apex Pass where the Whitewater Ski Area access road departs easterly, beginning its 10 kilometre long ascent. Beyond Apex the No. 6 drops into the valley of the Salmo River to recross the line of the N&FS where a few yards of rail still gleamed dully in 1999. Not far beyond, Hall Creek rushes down from Toad Mountain to the west.
The Silver King property is on the boundary between the Kootenay and Salmo watersheds and generally faces into the latter, overlooking the puzzle of mining properties gathered roughly around the community of Ymir. At the turn of the twentieth century outfits like the London-based Athabaska Gold Mines, Limited, and the little Venus Gold Mining Company operated small mines on claims with names like Mugwump, Goodenough, Golden Horn, New York Central, Fog Horn, and Yukon. By 1904 among the best known was the Hunter V group owned by the locally-based B.C. Standard Mining Company which, rumoured to be well backed, had opened two pits on its property some four miles south-east of Ymir and were delivering ore mainly valued for its fluxing qualities to the N&FS via a three mile-long Riblet aerial tramway. After spotty production followed by a lengthy dormancy, the property was bought by Consolidated M&S in 1925 which rebuilt the tramway and used it to dump 50 to 75 tons per day into rail gondolas for movement to Trail. The 1928 volume of the Annual Report of the Minister of Mines ... states that CM&S took 12,000 tons of ore out of the Hunter V that year. The Reports make no further reference to it.
A few miles away from the Hunter V, north of Ymir on the slopes above Wild Horse Creek was the Ymir mine. This had been located by the London and B.C. Goldfields, Limited and by 1896 was in production. After extracting nearly 43,000 tons in 1900, L&BC decided it needed to concentrate the ore and installed an 80-stamp mill and a cyanide tailings treatment plant in 1901. In 1903 L&BC sold the operation to its subsidiary, Ymir Gold Mines, Limited, which processed 54,000 tons to recover over 11,000 ounces of gold, 5,000 of silver and 515 tons of lead for earnings of $300,000. Like many of its neighbours, the Ymir was ephemeral: by 1909 it had been eclipsed as the regions biggest operation and quickly faded from public attention.
The stalwart of the region was the Yankee Girl and her consort, Yankee Boy, on a property only about two kilometres directly across the N&FS north-east from Ymir. Mentioned in The Annual Report of the Minister of Mines for the Year Ending 31st December, 1905 as being in development, by 1911 it was owned by the Hobson Silver-Lead Company which by 1920 had optioned it to the Mining Corporation of Canada. Yankee Girl, Limited, acquired the property in 1926, releasing it under option the next year to the enormous Porcupine Goldfields Development and Finance Company which also had a stake in the nearby Goodenough, the Alice near Creston, the Galena Farm and Mammoth in the Slocans and the Stemwinder near Kimberley. The Annual Report for ... 1928 states that in March of that year the property was taken over by Enterprise Consolidated Mining Company which forthwith changed its name to Yankee Girl Consolidated Mines, Limited, and, after relocating some buildings away from an avalanche track, took out 1,220 tons of ore. The Reports make reference to the Yankee Girl for the last time in 1929.
The settlements of Hall and Porto Rico shown on some earlier maps as standing on the N&FS between Apex Summit and Ymir are no more. Southward on the No. 6 past the plunging waters of the Stewart Creek Rest Area, Porto Rico Road branches off eastward to wander awhile along the quiet Salmo past cozy farmsteads. Amid the thimbleberry bushes, paper-white birches rise like the ghosts of the evergreens which stood here before the Big Fire of 1926 scorched the region, destroying what timber the Ports Rico Lumber Company12 hadnt yet cut.
Porto Rico Road connects to the Ymir access road which brings the occasional vehicle down off the No. 6 and into the north end of Ymir. To the casual visitor in a vain search for a cup of potable coffee, the little dormitory community seems asleep in its valley, exhausted, perhaps, from trying to live up to its boast of being Wild and Woolly. Strung out along the line of the N&FS and studded with vacant lots and vacant buildings, it is centred upon its Post Office, a Convenience Store and the Ymir Hotel and Saloon, built in 1896, the only survivor of the nine reported as being in operation in October of 1897. In the year 2000 the Ymir accepts no pernoctating clientele unless, of course, one is a friend of the owner and passed out drunk wild and woolly on the bar room floor.
As discouraging as Ymir might look to a stranger in the chill of a mountain drizzle, the wreck of the Silver Palace Hotel the obvious haunt of ghosts, this settlement was a place of some substance yesteryear. In the Ymir Arts Museum are scores of photos documenting a bustling town. Established as Quartz Creek Camp around 1890, it was renamed for the local mountain range in 1897 by D.C. Corbin who had the townsite laid out and a station erected. Dr. George Mercer Dawson, the intrepid Canadian Geological Survey explorer had, according to Clara Graham in The Kootenays in Retrospect (Kootenay Yesterdays, vol. 3, ed. Edwd. L. Affleck, The Alexander Nicolls Press, Vancouver, 1976), named the mountains after the ancient Norse earth god.
Once some of the local mines came into production in the mid-90s, so much was going on in Ymir that it took two Justices of the Peace and two constables to keep matters in hand. One of the J.P.s was A. Bernard Buckworth, co-owner with Valentine Carson of the settlements first newspaper, the Quartz Creek Miner. By 1900, when there was business enough in the community to support 11 hotels, G.R. Clark had taken over publishing what was by then the Ymir Miner. Besides the usual simple, one-teacher school, the post office, several stores and a church building shared by the big three Protestant denominationsAnglican, Presbyterian and Methodist, Ymir could boast of a waterworks developed by J.W. Ross. Come 1904 the Miner had become the Mirror and may well have been printing its evident competitor, the Ymir Herald, as well. Neither of these publications could predict that the failure of most of the mines to live up to their owners expectations would reduce the settlements population to an estimated 300 souls by 1920, and leave only five hotels competing for dwindling business.
The communitys salad days are long gone, recalled only by the historical placards lined up along the abandoned N&FS right-of-way across the street from the hotel where the aerial tramway from the Yankee Girl used to dump its bucket-loads of ore into great hoppers to await loading onto rail cars.
At the southern end of Ymir, the long Front street reconnects with the No. 6 to run down to Salmo and the Crowsnest Highway, a dozen kilometres away.
Out of Nelson Eastbound
Startlingly visible from anywhere on Nelsons lakefront is the distinctive, 600-metre long, emergency orange cantilever bridge which has shifted Highway 3As traffic over the CP tracks and the West Arm of Kootenay Lake since premier W.A.C. Bennett officially opened it on November 7th, 1957. The Bridge retired the cable ferry which had operated nearby since 1913. Upstream near the City-side bridgehead stands the district headquarters of the RCMP and some industrial buildings which serve as a reminder that this was for many years the site of the CPRs Fairview boatyards. The surrounding district is Fairview, formerly Bogustown, the terminus of the Nelson and Fort Sheppard Railway until 1900 when the CPR permitted N&FS/GN trains to run into Nelsons Station.
Next: WEST ARM
- Revised in 2007. !NB: To return to this end-notes origin in the main text, left-click your browsers Back arrow
- Sir Henry Charles Keith Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquis of Lansdowne, 6th Earl of Kerry, Canadas 5th governor-general. !NB: To return to this end-notes origin in the main text, left-click your browsers Back arrow
- Mapping the FrontierCharles Wilsons Diary (ed. Geo. F.G. Stanley, Macmillan of Canada, Toronto, 1970). !NB: To return to this end-notes origin in the main text, left-click your browsers Back arrow
- In Letters from the 49th Parallel: Selected Correspondence of Joseph Harris and Samuel Anderson (ed. C. Ian Jackson, The Champlain Society, Toronto, 2000), Joseph Harris, one of the American Boundary Commissioners who passed through the Colville valley in 1859, unkindly characterized the inhabitants thereof as a ...miserable set of Scotchmen and Canadians...[who] raise very little... !NB: To return to this end-notes origin in the main text, left-click your browsers Back arrow
- Writes interested reader Alisa Judd in an email to the author dated April 17th, 2007, [sic] My research to date has not revealed any native american marriages, legal or not. Winslow & Osners father, Simeon Hall, was a local circuit preacher and farmer born and raised in Maine; a descendant of the Hatevil Hall family who were Quakers supposedly descended from John Hall of Dover. They came from New England religious puritan stock. Their mothers families were Bryants and Pattersons, also New England family lines. Mother Sally Bryant died in 1841, Winslow was about 8 years old and Osner about 5 years old. They had 2 sisters, Olive and Mary Ann who also came west. Olive married William J Oakes also from Maine and Mary Ann married a Jones and a Varney both from Maine and Massachusettes, respectively. These are the cousins you mentioned. More on the party of miners later. Mary Ann lived in California mostly.
Simeon raised them alone for 7 years before he married my great great grandmother Lucy Wescott Dorr. The first family did not live with Simeon and his new wife. They were older and out on there own. Also, it was common for teenagers to live with other relatives to help work the farms. There is speculation Simeon travelled to California around 1849 for the gold rush, made a fortune and returned to Maine, but this timeline would be nearly impossible with his 2nd marriage in 1848 and the birth of his first child by Lucy in 1849. What seems more probable is that the stories of gold digging and grandeur made big impressions on them. How they came to California or Washington has not been established yet. Its well known boys went to sea, some as young as 12 years and some become masters of sailing vessels by their early 20s. It was a way of life for them. Its not unreal to say that every family probably had a seaman. The ship-building industry in Maine during this period 18411865 was second to none and profitable. Some of Simeons relatives were seafaring but most were farmers or other craftsman. Lucys family had a great many seaman and this is probably why 3 of their sons became Captains. All of them came to San Francisco about the same time as Osner.
It is presumed Winslow left first and not having an itineray of his whereabouts, he shows up in Washington with a Native American girl from the Great Lakes tribe between 18601864. (There is speculation he was with the sister first and she died, but there is nothing conclusive yet.) One of these young indian girls has a daughter already. The first born son Thomas was born in Washington according to the 1865 Colville census and this indicates Winslow was in Colville as early as 1864. Up to this point his location is unknown, but he was probably farming and mining most of the time. His farm in Colville was outside of town close to the Indian reservation if not on it and he was supposedly buried close to there. What is interesting is that Winslows father was a Methodist preacher and he received the last rites in the Catholic mission. At the time of his death 1901, the witness is George Hall, and is most likely an older male relative possibly a cousin. Im still trying to track George down too. Where was Winslow between 18501860? Was he with the HBC? I found a Winslow in 1860 Oregon, but there is no conclusive proof this was him. Maybe he was mining in various locations? Winslows children were half Native American Great Lakes indian and white.
Osners wife is from Maine also. He leaves for military duty to fight the indians in Arizona and New Mexico, then returns to Maine. Osner marries Nancy Perkins in 1867 and has 2 children born there until early 1873 when he comes to California where daughter #3 is born in Dec.1873. Sometime between the 1880 census from California and 1885 census in Washington Territory they make the decision to move north. … According to my records, Osner wasnt in Washington until after 1880 but definitely by the 1885 Colville census. In fact, he might have only been in WT just over a year when they discovered the Silver Mine in 1886 according to your records also.
The mining party included (per Colville Historians records) Winslow and a couple of his sons, Osner and his oldest son, William Oakes and two of his sons with others totalling about 15.
Some say [the Halls] were rich and others say they broke even. Actually, from what Ive heard, they threw money away, at least some of them did and it has been documented that Osner was broke and working to support himself when he died in 1917. But, whos to say?
In all, there are very few facts at least primary sources, but without all this speculation there might not be a good story. !NB: To return to this end-notes origin in the main text, left-click your browsers Back arrow
- Curiously, Sproat dates an addendum to his submission to The Annual Report of the Minister of Mines for the Year Ending 31st December, 1888, Nelson, 15th January, 1889. !NB: To return to this end-notes origin in the main text, left-click your browsers Back arrow
- Writes Rogers, the hotel cost $12,000 to build and
oh, she was grand. There were 35 rooms, steam heat, hot and cold water, electric bells, flush closets, baths, a bar, parlours, billiard tables and dining facilities. The Honeymoon Suite could not be rivalled anywhere in the Interior. Carriages met the trains and sternwheelers
The dining facilities were the finest in the Kootenays with the most up-to-date cooking stoves and staff. The linens were crisp, the crystal fine and the sterling silverware heavy and polished. The structure was destroyed by fire on May 28, 1958. !NB: To return to this end-notes origin in the main text, left-click your browsers Back arrow
- So named for a real estate gambit by the Victoria lumber magnate and speculator, Joshua Davies. In 1889 Davies bought the property on the waterfront that Henry Anderson had had surveyed and subdivided as Salisbury. Claiming that it was a part of Stanley, Davies began to sell lots. It was, of course, not, and when the big wharf that Bob Yuill had built for Chas. Busk on nearby Anderson Point proved itself incapable of berthing the lakeboats for which it had been designed, locals cheerfully renamed the whole area Bogustown. !NB: To return to this end-notes origin in the main text, left-click your browsers Back arrow
- For whom the community of Hedley, B.C., is named. !NB: To return to this end-notes origin in the main text, left-click your browsers Back arrow
- Blaylock is blamed by some for single-handedly destroying B.C.s cherry industry by insisting on importing Japanese ornamental cherries in 1932 to grace his estate despite the known risk that they might be infectiously diseased. They were, and by the end of W.W.II the disease had wiped out B.C.s cherry trees and damaged Washingtons orchards. !NB: To return to this end-notes origin in the main text, left-click your browsers Back arrow
- Perhaps, too, Stibbs looked up in wonder on August 7th, 1919, to see Captain Ernest Charles Hoy in his Curtiss JN-4 Jenny, and his temporary companion, Lt. Ernest O. Hall, in another craft, buzz over Nelson heading eastward. Hall and Hoy, who had only been flying in tandem since about 11 a.m. that day, parted company over Kootenay Lake, Hoy to fly to fame as the first aeronaut to surmount the Rockies, Hall to fly into obscurity, wrecking his plane at Creston later that afternoon. !NB: To return to this end-notes origin in the main text, left-click your browsers Back arrow
- Moved into the neighbourhood from the Moyie area in 1921. !NB: To return to this end-notes origin in the main text, left-click your browsers Back arrow
Opera House burned 1935
Hotel Phair burned May 28, 1958.