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Rossland, B.C. : History Printer Friendly Version

by DMWilson
With thanks to Mark Daines, Richard Fish, Lance H. Whittaker, Elsie Turnbull, Edward Affleck, Jeremy Mouat, Gib Kennedy, John Fahey, Rosemary Neering, Phil and Jimmy Spencer, A.L. Emily, and, especially, Joyce Austin and Jack McDonald and the Rossland Historical Museum Association.
posted 2002
revised 2007/10/24

A Visitor in Rossland
Mining Red Mountain—the early years
Old Rossland
Railroad Race to Rossland
Mining Red Mountain—Consolidation
The Miners’ Hall and Local 38
A Visitor in Rossland

        From its intersection with the Crowsnest Highway at Nancy Greene Park high in the Rossland Range, 3B heads south some 28 kilometres to Rossland, “The Golden City.” In 1964 this was a brand-new road, designated the No.3A, “improved,” according to that year’s edition of Grant-Mann Lithographers’ B.C. road map, to the point of being scheduled for paving in 1965. Not more than ten kilometres southward from the intersection lies the 1575 metre-high Nancy Greene Pass. Because the elevation of the intersection itself is about 1450 metres, the climb up to the top is barely acknowledged by cyclists, having climbed the wicked grades on the No.3 coming up from either the Columbia or the Kettle valleys. From the summit of Nancy Greene to Rossland is one long, gentle descent, the Highway maintaining an even grade by following the contours of the mountain spurs that jut into the Columbia River valley’s high heights. The scenery is a recovering forest of grey-trunk’d Western larch and poplar peppered with green-black Englemann spruce, Hemlock and Western Red cedar clinging to the meagre mountain soils. The occasional devastation of a clear-cuts shocks the eye and reveals rock of dark, dull shales accentuating bright black and white granitic intrusions. Smouldering slash piles stud the ruination; the air is pungent with burning wood and soil. Somewhere in these Rosslands, noted Steven Hilts, in 2004 the Superintendent of Environmental Remediation for Teck Cominco’s Trail Operations, on peaks such as Old Glory, Plewman, and Granite, pockets of old growth forest survive. To the left, the spindly trees screen a long view out over the distant Columbia glinting like galena in the depths of its wide valley 500 metres below.
        Down past the access road to Red Mountain Ski Area and curling around Red Mountain itself, the Highway presents an overview of Rossland clinging to the steep slopes overlooking the Trail Creek valley and the City of Trail. Appropriating the grade of an abandoned CPR spur, the Highway drifts westerly along the face of Red until a switch-back left around the Scotsman Motel opposite the Rossland Historical Museum, combines it with the No.22 fresh in from Washington state, and converts them into Rossland’s main street, Columbia Avenue. Downslope, steeply pitched, metal sheathed roofs reflect sunlight and hint at the snowfall that winter visitors and residents alike can expect to enjoy.

        Rossland (1045m) is a picturesque, well-preserved little turn-of-the-century city, built to shelter and serve the miners who began extracting treasure from the Le Roi mine and its wealthy neighbours, particularly the Center Star, the Iron Mask, the Josie and the War Eagle, in the early 1890s.
         With clean, bracing mountain air, interesting architecture and eyebrow-arching sunrise vistas over the Columbia Valley, Rossland is an excellent place in which to awaken. The Scotsman Motel and its neighbour, the Rossland, are located on the No.22. Down Black Bear Road from the Rossland is the warm-showered Lions’ Park campground. Right downtown on Columbia stands the City’s only hotel, the full-facility’d Uplander. Also on the same side of Columbia and two blocks east, the youth-oriented Mountain Shadow Hostel welcomes any and all who appreciate a more casual atmosphere. Built into the two upper floors of the turn-of-the-century West Kootenay Power and Light building, Mountain Shadow in 1999 was not yet on par with the Dancing Bear in Nelson, but was clean and modernized: an excellent bargain.

        Even though its ore has long since played out, the Le Roi mine is still one of Rossland’s main benefactors. The City has developed the Rossland Historical Museum on five acres of the old plant site, converting the old workings into the only hard-rock mining museum in Canada, preserving gigantic mining machinery, hand tools, several different types of CPR rail scooters and the first couple of hundred metres of the some 140 kilometres of tunnelling which trace every metallic vein in the body of Red Mountain.
        In the office building of the Museum, besides the City’s archives, tourist bureau and a tea room, are isles of models and maps, diagrams, dioramas and displays detailing bits of local history and providing insights into the work of mining.        In a room separate from the main hall, the Western Canada Ski Hall of Fame presents the outline of the story of the sport in the Rossland area and displays collections of memorabilia donated by the City’s pioneer skier, Olaus Jeldness, Canada’s Olympic skiing sweethearts, Nancy Greene-Raine and Kerrin Lee-Gartner, “Booty” Griffiths, and the “Crazy Canuck,” Dave Murray.
Mining Red Mountain—the early years

        Rossland overlooks Trail Creek, sloshing its way down toward the Columbia River from the heights of the Rossland Range. The Creek gets its name from the fact that it was along its course that Edgar Dewdney laid the eastward extension of his famous trail in 1865. Redundant by the time it was completed, the trail saw little activity; just the occasional adventurer wandering along panning creeks for “colour.”
        By the mid-1880s, however, four factors had combined to alter this region’s destiny. On September the 8th of 1883 Henry Villard had completed his Northern Pacific Railroad, the mainline of which looped up through northern Idaho and Washington, coming to within 140 kilometres of the Boundary at Spokane, Washington: when the CPR finished its Mainline on November 7th two years later, the Kootenays were enveloped in railroad steel. Secondly, industrial technology had made great strides in finding methods of extracting metals from stone. Thirdly, on April 7th, 1887, royal assent was granted to “An Act to Aid the Development of Quartz Mines” which promised provincial money to any company willing to install a quartz mill or smelter on a likely property. Fourthly, in 1888 the United States government dropped its import duties on lead.
        Now a new type of prospector began prowling the Kootenays, one who could divine the metal content of a rock by sight, heft, intuition and crude chemistry. Among these were the Georges Leyson and Bowerman (or Bohman), soon to stake the Big Copper claim on Deadwood Creek in the Boundary District. Walking the by-ways of southern B.C. in 1887, they poked along Trail Creek. Locating promising ore on nearby Deer Park Mountain, in July of that year they filed two claims, but abandoned them as they searched on for that elusive glory hole. Two years later, Oliver Bordeau and his sometime partner, Newlin Hoover, relocated the Georges’ claims and re-registered one of them as the Lily May. As detailed by the anonymous authors of Rossland : The Golden City (Rossland Miner Ltd., ed. Lance H. Whittaker, Rossland, 1949), Bordeau returned in the spring of the next year, 1890, with an employee, Joe Moris, to do some serious assessment work. Difficulties over wages soon saw Moris at work in the Silver King near Nelson for a few weeks, long enough to get together a grubstake and return to Deer Park to work on his own claim, the Homestake. His claim a disappointment, when fellow a Québécois, Joe Bourgeois, came along, Moris hooked up with him to examine some rusty stains he had noticed on Red Mountain. They did not understand the lithic complexity of the Mountain, of course, but the multiple pyrrhotite and chalcopyrite dykes which fracture the hornblendic diorite of the Mountain’s “country rock” intrigued them. Where the dykes intersected, metallic gleams drew their attention. Later analysis would reveal gold, copper and silver. These ores, in the long run, would average one percent copper and give up one-half ounces of gold per ton milled, slightly more of silver.
        Staking likely properties on July 2nd of 1890, the Joes made their way to Stanley—soon to be officially renamed “Nelson”—to have some samples assayed and, if they looked good, register the claims. The story reported by Jeremy Mouat in Roaring Days: Rossland’s Mines and the History of B.C. (UBC Press, Vancouver, 1995) goes that the assays were so disappointing that Moris had to argue Bourgeois into registering the claims. Presenting themselves before the Deputy Recorder of Mines, “Colonel” Eugene Sayre Topping, on July 17th, the Joes registered their Center Star, War Eagle, Idaho and Virginia. Their fifth claim, the Le Wise, they figured was a minor extension of the ore vein upon which the Center Star was staked. Since law limited the number of claims an individual could register to two, in a bit of sweet-talking that they doubtless chuckled over at the time, Moris and Bourgeois convinced the Colonel, for the $2.50 cost of registering each claim, to buy the Le Wise from them and register it himself as the Le Roi. As Topping ever after loved to tell anyone who’d listen, for $12.50 he acquired what proved the richest property on Red Mountain.
        Topping, tired of his menial government job, was soon on Red Mountain taking a first-hand look at his claim. He liked what he saw. He also liked the fact that D.C. Corbin had hammered his Spokane Falls and Northern Railway to the Columbia that spring and was building piers at the Little Dalles to ease the exchange of goods with the old Kootenai and the newly launched Lytton of the Columbia and Kootenay Steam Navigation Company. The Columbia River, literally lapping the toes of Red Mountain, was now a major shipping corridor connecting the CPR’s Mainline at Revelstoke with the Northern Pacific’s mainline at Spokane. With an easy route to market within sight, Red Mountain’s wealth had become incalculably more valuable.
        To raise development dollars, Topping was off to Spokane that November of 1890 with a packet of carefully selected samples from the Le Roi. At Fort Colville he met lawyer George M. Forster who knew good ore when he saw it. Together they travelled to Spokane where Forster introduced Topping to Colonel William M. Ridpath and some associates. After a few days of evaluation, Ridpath and Forster formed a syndicate including brothers Colonel W.W. and George Turner, Oliver Durant, Colonel I.N. Peyton, Alex Tarbet, F. Graves and W.J. Harris. Provided investigation prove the property worth their while, the Syndicate and agreed to buy 53% of the Le Roi for $16,000. Early next spring Durant, Harris, Topping and a team set out for Red Mountain. Into the Le Roi they mined an adit and hacked a few open cuts from which they extracted several tons of the ore that was sent by donkey, boat and rail to the Colorado Smelting and Mining Company Works at Butte, Montana. Running to 20% copper with attractive weights of gold and silver, the ore proved rich enough to pay its way, and promised a good return on investment if the transport costs could be cut. Satisfied, in the spring of 1891 the syndicate formed the Le Roi Gold Mining Company in Spokane and provincially incorporated the Le Roi Mining and Smelting Company on June 22nd, 1891, capitalized to $2.5 million, headquartered at Trail Creek Landing.] Under the presidency of Forster the cash-strapped little outfit got busy developing a mine, the first gold lode mine in B.C. In a separate deal, for $30,000 Colonel Peyton bought the remainder of Topping’s interests for a group of his pals in Spokane.
        The syndicate was not alone on Red Mountain. By the end of 1891 the Mountain’s side was a patchwork of properties with names like Mayflower, California, Abe Lincoln, Young America…. Moris and Bourgeois had sold their Center Star and bonded the War Eagle to Oliver Durant and Alexander Tarbet in 1892, and though no one could know it at the time, these two properties, along with the Le Roi, were to produce 96% of Rossland’s one and a half million tons of ore to 1903. Living on hopes and dreams as the curtain fell on 1892, men were busy chipping at the rock all over the Mountain looking for Fortune.
        So far from the mills and markets was Red Mountain that only the boldest investors risked money in the early years, and only in the richest properties. With finances strained—especially during the recession of 1893 when the Pyritic Smelting Company of San Francisco picked up the bond on the War Eagle, examined the property and pronounced the whole Mountain worthless—miners picked and shovelled ore from their pits and mule-skinners packed or raw-hided it down to the Dewdney Trail and to the Landing at the mouth of Trail Creek where it was flung aboard the Lytton for the ride down to Corbin’s wharves at the Little Dalles. This labour intensive procedure cut profits to the bone.
        However, on September 18th, 1892, the rails of the Spokane Falls and Northern reached Northport, ten miles or so down the Columbia River from the Boundary. There the SF&N owned 160 acres of surveyed land with a nice view across the Columbia of the mouth of the Little Sheep Creek where Oliver Durant’s brand-new waggon road from Red Mountain came down to the River. Corbin soon had a ferry in service between Northport and the end of the Road. In a fleet of 40 Chicago-built freight waggons, writes J.D. McDonald in The Railways of Rossland British Columbia (Rossland Historical Museum Society, 1991), Le Roi ore, with only a couple of transfers, could now be wheeled all the way to any of the several smelters in the U.S. Northwest. The mule trains to Trail were idled but for the occasional shipment of ore from the smaller producers on Red Mountain.
        To prevent more mines from sending their output down Durant’s road directly to the SF&N, in 1893 Topping and his partner, Frank Hanna, built an ore storage shed at Trail Creek Landing and used a provincial grant to grade an eleven foot wide waggon road nine miles up Trail Creek to the mines. Much shorter than the Sheep Creek route, the Road attracted increased traffic to the Landing and the Lytton.
        The recession of 1893 weeded out those miners on Red who were not securely financed, among them Durant and Tarbet. By December of 1894, the War Eagle and the Center Star had been bought for $23,000 by P.F. (Patsy) Clark of Spokane and his partners, J.A. (John) Finch, E.J. Roberts, W.J.C. Wakefield and D.C. Corbin’s brother, Austin II. They quickly finalized a contract to supply the East Helena Montana Smelting Company with 1,000 tons of ore per month. On February 18th of 1895 the War Eagle Gold Mining Company was granted provincial registration as a Foreign Company, capitalized to $500,000, headquartered at Rossland, operating the War Eagle, the Iron Mask, the Virginia and the Poorman. Similarly capitalized and headquartered, the Center Star Mining and Smelting Company was registered on July 16th under the presidency of P.A. (Patrick) Largey with G. Larvell as V.P. and T.M. Hodgens, W.G. Benham and Oliver Durant as treasurer, secretary and mine manager, respectively. It owned the Idaho and the Center Star properties. Both companies were under the joint management of officers nominally resident in Spokane.
        Retroactive to February 1st of 1895 the War Eagle company paid dividends to its shareholders, the first mine on Red Mountain to do so. This event focused financial attention on Rossland. Traders in New York and speculators in London knew Rossland’s name. Development money began to pour in, and from a total 18,500 tons of ore mined in 1894, the Red’s output jumped to ten times that for the next year.
        It was not only War Eagle’s dividends that drew money to Red Mountain. In mid-1895 Frederick Augustus Heinze, the “Jewish Genius” of Butte, Montana, decided to build a smelter at the mouth of Trail Creek, some six miles from the Mountain’s mines. With his provincial proposal to incorporate The British Columbia Smelting and Refining Company, Heinze submitted a request to encharter a railroad to connect Red’s mines to his plant. Appreciating that the smelter would enhance any local mine’s profitability by radically reducing the costs of shipping ore to market, capital flowed into the area. By June of 1896, when Heinze had his smelter and his railroad functioning, nine companies representing $8 million in capitalization were working 18 mines on Red Mountain.
Old Rossland

        Since the miners downed their tools for the last time in the City’s one surviving mine, the Le Roi, in 1929, Rossland has pretty much been a dormitory community, making a living sending workers down the Schofield Highway to Trail.1 Lack of municipal income has discouraged downtown redevelopment and has left Rossland with many heritage buildings. Guiding the visitor eastward down wide, uncongested Columbia Avenue, the Walking Tour points out the historical structures, most brick-built and founded upon massive augite-biotite monzonite blocks cut, writes J.D. McDonald in The Story in the Rocks (Rossland Historical Museum Association, 1995), from the City’s quarry between First and Second Avenues below Georgia Street at the east end of town. Most of the nondescript little brick and concrete buildings that occupy the lots between the character structures have been thrown up since the 1930s to replace the original shacks that used to populate these streets. Towards the end of the federal census year of 1901 every inch of street frontage in what is now Rossland’s central business district was packed with “boom town” buildings. Wood-framed and false fronted, they leaned on each other, shored up by the occasional masonry edifice such as the Post Office, the Bank of Montreal building of 1900 that F.M. Rattenbury designed two years earlier in modified Lockwood/Mawson Italianate style. Street mud lay in clods on wooden side-walks, wood smoke rising from stoves and fireplaces perfumed the air already redolent with the scent of wet horses and fresh dung. Echoing steam whistles announced the movements of trains and shift changes in the mines, boisterous voices celebrated the end of another strenuous day of digging rock from the bowels of Red Mountain.

        Ross Thompson arrived at Red Mountain Camp probably in April of 1891. He spent a year hacking at the rock like the other working men, hoping to strike it rich. Out of luck, one day he realized that the Mountain’s obvious wealth would soon convince the residents of the Camp to replace canvas with the wood and brick and stone of a permanent town. A land owner, reasoned Thompson, would become strike the riches which eluded most of the miners. He applied for a pre-emption to 160 acres of the least sloping ground on the Mountain in January of 1892 and built a cabin. Upon receiving title to the property some two years later, Thompson formed a townsite company with John R. Cook, J.F. Ritchie and William M. Newton, built the Clifton Hotel and began to sell lots in “Thompson.” Sales were steady, for by the end of 1895 nearly 2000 mining properties had been claimed in the vicinity and the Mountain was swarming with gold hunters.
        By the time Thompson and his associates were legally in the town business, the heart of Red Mountain Camp centred on what the locals called “Sourdough Alley.” Mindful of possible future complications, merchants and entrepreneurs catering to the miners’ needs had thrown up their shacks and tents above what is now First Avenue, the northern limit of Thompson’s pre-emption, along the old trail which snaked its way up the Mountain to the area’s more promising properties. Soon it was a thriving hubbub of mud and activity. No one, however, owned the property upon which his or her structure stood, so, as the mines’ potential began to be realized, folks with an eye on long-term residence bought lots from Thompson and moved onto the townsite. Along Columbia Avenue and Washington Streets carpenters and brick-layers were soon at work raising the Rossland Hotel and permanent store buildings for merchants like Elie LaVallée, David Stussi and John Edgren. Unable to get his presses up to the new camp, in February of 1895 Eber C. Smith ran off the first copy of his Rossland Record in which he noted that Rossland had attracted a blacksmith, a tinsmith, a cobbler, a customs agent, a baker, a land surveyor, a lawyer, two sawyers, two barbers, three doctors, four bartenders and four hoteliers. There was a Justice of the Peace, but with no constable, obeisance to the Law was pretty well voluntary until stern John Kirkup was hired soon after James Westgate axed the life out of Hugh McLaughlin during a Sourdough Alley dispute in March of 1895.
        Chronicling that sordid affair and otherwise bruiting the news was the Rossland Weekly Miner. Owned by the publisher of The Miner in Nelson, John Houston, and edited in Rossland by David B. Bogle, the first issue of the paper was run off in Ross Thompson’s storied cabin on March 2nd. Bogle would buy the enterprise on August 1st and move it to new premises on Columbia Avenue.
        With the community’s population burgeoning towards 3,000, postal authorities were bedevilled by confusion between it and another, pre-existing, “Thompson” in the province, since vanished. Willing to accord Ross Thompson some recognition as the founder of the settlement, when it opened a local office on March 1st, 1895, the Service called it “Rossland.”
        That same month, March of 1895, ease of travel was greatly improved when a ten-passenger coach operated by Ashcroft, Seal and Gillies began shifting people between Trail Creek Landing and Rossland for two dollars a trip.
        The owners of the War Eagle mine early on embraced the idea of increased productivity through electrification. In 1895, Patsy Clark and J.A. Finch finalized a deal with an associate of the Washington Power and Light Company, W.S. Norman, and R.K Neil and A.M. Campbell and his brother, Frank, that would see the Rossland Light and Water Company formed, buy a “700-lamp capacity” bi-polar direct current Edison generator, marry it to an old stationary steam engine housed in still extant building on Thompson Avenue at Washington and sell the power that they didn’t need to light the War Eagle to Rosslanders. On January 7th of 1896 the switches were thrown and a few dozen low-wattage light bulbs glowed to life in stores along Columbia Avenue, Spokane Street and Sourdough Alley. Around the same time the company completed a pipe line from the reservoir on Stoney Creek to provide water to the community and drive a pelton wheel generating set to augment power output. When the old Edison rig proved sadly inadequate, it was replaced with pair of 1500 horsepower Corliss engines and matching 16-candlepower generators. These served until West Kootenay Power began supplying electricity in 1898.
        The first organized church service in Rossland had been conducted by a Presbyterian student, Hugh J. Robertson, in half-finished store on Spokane Street on May 26th, 1895. Soon after the Presbyterians had started work on a dedicated building, and on August 28th of ‘95 the congregation had celebrated its first service. Seeing the Presbyterians’ progress, Methodist Reverend D.D. Birks had summoned his co-religionists and raised their own sanctuary before the end of 1895. By the time the hospital opened a Rosslander had a choice of churches to heal the soul. The eccentric, Oxford-educated Anglican priest, Henry Irwin, was not one, however to wait patiently in his pulpit while the Devil played with men’s morals. “Father Pat,” as he was known, was often in the International Music Hall and sundry “hotels” seeking out his parishioners, on occasion ministering to them and others with his fists, providing work for the Sisters of St. Joseph.
        Energetic young strangers in an energetic young town, jostling and pushing to make a dollar, suffered misunderstandings, especially when liquor was added to the mix. Luckily for back alley combatants, for those careless or unlucky at their jobs, for those that just took sick, Father LeMay, founder of Sacred Heart Church, had convinced nursing Sister M. Stanislaus and Mother Teresa Moran to leave the convent of St. Joseph of Peace in Jersey City and travel to Rossland to establish a hospital. Arrived in April of 1896, the pair soon set up an infirmary in rented premises. The need was great and their services appreciated, and Sister Superior Teresa Kiernan and Sisters Ursula, Carmelita and Joseph Marie were summoned to help. A property was acquired towards the eastern end of Columbia Avenue, construction commenced on April 16th, 1897, and on that June 4th the Mater Misericordia hospital opened its doors.
        The issue of educating Rossland’s growing population of children was addressed in the autumn of 1895 when school classes under the tutelage of D.D. Birks were crowded into the Methodist’s church building near Sourdough Alley. When the Minister of Education, Colonel James Baker, visited their community that December, Rosslanders listed 98 school-aged children and petitioned the Baker to help them build a proper school. As a result, the local government functionary, gold commissioner Napoleon Fitzstubbs, was authorized to raise a two-roomed building on Kootenay Avenue which, after a winter of fund-raising concerts and entertainments, was completed on August 10th, 1896. When classes commenced that fall, 143 students turned up to jamb themselves into the poorly furnished classrooms and absorb as much as they could from the new teacher, M.H. Dobie, and his assistant, Miss Moffat. The situation was not conducive to learning and families that could afford to either sent their children to Spokane or registered them in Mrs. Corey’s private school. The youngest tykes attended the kindergarten run by the Misses Kehoe and Florman.
        As 1896 drew to a close Rossland’s regional population was estimated to be 7,000, enough to employ eight doctors, engage 17 firms of lawyers and enrich the owners of 42 saloons. In November the Rossland Board of Trade was organized. Around that time the well-known entrepreneur and speculator James F. Wardner gathered a consortium of high CPR officers and other Montréal businessmen and for $176,000 bought the remainder of the townsite company’s unsold lots, 842 in total. Until that time it was the largest real estate deal ever to have been consummated in the Kootenays. On the strength of the deal and with the industrial world mad for ores, Rossland boomed into city status on March 4th, 1897, under the new Speedy Incorporation of Towns Act, 1897. As a result of the elections held on April 7th, Judge Townsend swore in the seven-man City Council on the 10th with Colonel Robert Scott as mayor.
        City status gave Rossland borrowing powers. Among the first acts of the council was to arrange the loan of $50,000 from which contracts were paid for the grading of the streets and the laying of water and sewerage pipes. In the process of regularizing the street grid, Sourdough Alley disappeared.
        With its student population rapidly increasing, the Rossland School Board kept pressing the province for funds to raise an adequately-sized building. The pressure paid off and Victoria finally ear-marked $11,700 for the acquisition of property and construction. The contract for $7475 was let to Robert Hunter of Spokane and Central School, on 4th Avenue between Monte Christo and St. Paul streets, was completed May of 1898. With a two-room addition to the Kootenay Avenue school completed at the same time, the 500-odd scholars which registered that fall were comfortably accommodated.

         When Dominion census takers tallied the number of residents in Rossland in 1901 they found 6,000, double the 1895 estimate. That year over 4.6 million dollars’ worth of ore flowed from Red Mountain’s mines. Money flooded the City’s streets. Rossland swaggered.
        With fully two-thirds of the population male and mostly young and far from home, social life in Rossland tended toward the turbulent. In 1901 there were 40 saloons within a three block radius of the intersection of Columbia and Washington Street, many of them pretending to be hotels, several offering, in addition to booze and beer, bawdy spectacle and carnal comforts for lonely lads. It took the Le Roi, the Lion, and sometimes a third brewery to keep them all in suds.
        Though Rossland was pretty rough and tumble, it was not without its civilizing influences. Mayor J.S. Clute had maple trees planted along Washington Street in 1902. New and larger churches arose to serve expanding congregations. Rossland saw five newspapers in publication at one time or other. By the time Ross Thompson sold out his remaining holdings and moved to Nevada in 1904, he had read The Rosslander, The Rossland Record, The Rossland Times, The Industrial World weekly, and The Evening World. He missed The Rossland Star which published for 14 months ending in February of 1906, leaving the field to the enduring Rossland Miner.
        The 19-aughts were a time of consolidation and depletion among Rossland’s mines. The major player in the regional metals business, CP’s Consolidated Mining and Smelting, began to look to the East Kootenays for its ores, particularly the St. Eugene on Lake Moyie, and the Sullivan at Kimberley. By the time St. George’s Anglican opened its doors on January 20th, 1910, an uncertain future stalled Rossland’s development.
        The Great War stole many young men from the Region, and the collapse of the metals market after the Conflict saw local mining activity cease except at the Le Roi. Recounts Jimmy Spencer in his private memoirs, “The only place that still opperated was a hotel owned by Sam Irving, who’s only source of revenue seemed to be bootlegging! I worked in Trail in 1923 and the boy’s I associated with, for something to do in the evenings, would occasionally run up to see Sam. The town was very bleak in those days with its business district and fine beautiful large homes of former mine executives, all boarded up. They could have been bought for a song!” [sic] The Le Roi hung on until the gathering Great Depression shut it down too in 1929. Economically, Rossland, along with much of the rest of North America, was shattered. Some relief came when the Americans pegged the price of gold at $35 an ounce on January 31st, 1934. Ex-CP and CM&S employees who had left the Company in good standing were allowed to return to the Mountain to winnow the mine dumps or glean ore from poorly-mineralized veins in the dank galleries. In 1933, report the authors of Rossland—The Golden City, more than 10,000 tons of ore worth $225,000 was rolled in five-ton trucks down the Schofield Highway to the Trail smelter; in 1934 an estimated one million dollars’ worth was extracted from 60 properties by some 350 workers. So great was the tonnage that CM&S was obliged to re-commission the “Old Red Mill,” a step that the Company was hesitant to take as its processes had evolved to handle the lead-zinc ores of the great Sullivan mine at Kimberley. With the easing of the Depression in 1935 and the neighbourhood complaining about the Old Mill’s pollution, CM&S began withdrawing the Red Mountain mining permits and discouraging shipments from the independent mines. By 1937 only 335 tons of ore went down the Mountain from Rossland mines. W.W.II ended mining on the Mountain.

        In early 1896 the Rossland Light and Water Company had completed a pipeline from Stoney Creek to provide water to the settlement, but not enough to restrain the boomtown’s most feared resident, Fire.
        At Queen Street and First Avenue the City built its lovely brick and stone fire hall in 1900. Despite this precaution, the turn-of-the-century, highly combustible false-fronted townscape started disappearing at 3 p.m. on August 25th, 1902, when a blaze escaped the confines of the Burns and Company meat market and consumed both sides of upper Spokane Street, leaving only the solid old International Hotel standing. On December 16th, 1905, some 1800 pounds of powder in the Center Star’s magazine exploded, killing John Ingram, wrecking roofs nearby and gifting glaziers with months of work. Three years later most of the rest of the Center Star’s surface plant went up in flames. It was, however, the conflagrations of January 21st, 1927, and March 1st, 1929, which relieved Columbia of most of its wooden buildings, including the grand old Rossland Club on Queen Street, and took the fancy mansard roof, hanging tower and third floor off the magnificently Gothic 1901 Post Office building. Built plainly of brick, replacement structures have patched most of the gaps in Columbia’s facade and hint at what once was. The old fire hall is now the home of the B.C. Fire-fighters’ Museum.
Railroad Race to Rossland

        The Flying Steamshovel Inn, formerly known as the Bellevue Hotel, The C.P.R. Hotel, and the Orwell Hotel, looks north across Second Avenue at the old CPR right-of-way where stood a two-stall engine house, loading docks and, until 1973, the station CP had built in 1951 to replace its 1899 original. When the mines first started producing in 1892, ore was sorted at the mine mouth, the best of it loaded onto waggons or, in winter, onto sleds, and either skidded six miles or so down the Mountain on a crude track to the steamboat wharves at Trail Creek Landing on the Columbia, or jounced some 17 miles down the Little Sheep Creek road and across the Boundary to Northport, Washington. It was a slow process, and expensive, and it all began to change on that day in July of 1895 that “Fritz” Heinze decided to erect a smelter at the Landing.

        As he evaluated the situation at Trail Creek Landing in that summer, Heinze received A.E. Humphries’ assurances that a railroad could be built up the Creek to the mines on Red Mountain. In fact, one P. Larsen had already roughed out a right-of-way and had purchased used rails from the Alberta Railway & Coal Company’s line between Medicine Hat and Lethbridge, N-WT, which the CPR was in the process of standardizing from its original narrow gauge. As a provision in his application to Victoria to incorporate the British Columbia Smelting and Refining Company, Heinze specified that the company would lay trackage to connect the smelter to the mines. Perhaps with CP’s September 21st announcement that it had completed surveying a line of railroad into Rossland lending urgency to his actions, Heinze bought up Larsen’s supplies, hired A.E. Humphries to re-align the right-of-way up the Mountain and let the contract for the construction of the “Trail Creek Tramway” to Charles King and Nelson Bennett of Tacoma, Washington. Humphries completed his task on November the 9th and on the 16th crews under the superintendence of F.P. Gutelius began grading a standard 13-foot wide roadbed back and forth up the Trail Creek’s valley, curving tightly to gain 2,300 feet in 13.6 crooked miles and avoid violating the land grant and right-of-way, respectively, of D.C. Corbin’s Nelson and Fort Sheppard Railway and Red Mountain Railway. So constrained was the right-of-way by topography and land grants that between a point on the Tiger claim and another on the Spokane Ore Company’s Crown Point property, the line’s layout required that trains stop and reverse to gain or lose elevation. Despite these efforts, the Tramway’s right-of-way still nipped across a corner of Corbin’s land grants, a necessity that pleased Corbin greatly as he applied to the courts for a cease-construction injunction against Hienze. Though the injunction was granted, and despite being served with a writ prohibiting trespass, Hienze kept on building.
        On November the 9th, as Heinze was about to begin construction of the Tramway, a party of CPR officials visited Rossland and announced that soon the Company would begin construction of its Robson-Rossland Railway to connect the “Golden City” to the ferry landing at West Robson on the shore of the Columbia opposite the terminus of the Columbia and Kootenay Railway. Perhaps pricked by this announcement, on December 21st Heinze declared that he would apply to the provincial government for a charter to extend the Tramway westward to the Okanagan and derail CP’s plans to dominate the district. As he explained to Edgar Dewdney while convincing that worthy lieutenant-governor of B.C. to join the venture’s board of directors, building the line would hasten development of the Boundary District’s rich ore bodies and ensure that said ore be treated in Canada at Heinze’s smelter rather than be spirited away to The States.
        While Winter suspended the line’s construction, Heinze, his brother, A.P. of New York City, F.E. Ward of Rossland and Chester Glass of Spokane petitioned Victoria for a railroad charter. Because the applicants were investing a substantial sum in opening up the region, the provincial bureaucracy expedited the application and the legislature read it into law as “An Act to Incorporate the Columbia and Western Railway Company” (C&W) on April 17th, 1896. Capitalization was stated to be $5 million. Besides bestowing a grant of 10,240 acres of land per completed mile of the narrow-gauge trackage—20,000 for any standard gauge built—the Act permitted the C&W to build west through the metal-rich Boundary District and on to Lake Okanagan at Penticton to connect with the CPR’s lakeboat service to its Mainline via the Shuswap and Okanagan Railway. The company had four years to accomplish the construction or lose the $50,000 deposit that it was required to remit to the government within six months of the Act’s passage. Four days later, on April 21st, the CPR announced that it wouldn’t be building directly into Rossland after all, rather it would lay rail down the Columbia from Robson West and add a third rail to Heinze’s line up to Rossland to accommodate standard gauge cars.
        Since their tryst in court the previous autumn, negotiations between Heinze and Corbin had proceeded, culminating in the spring of 1896 in an agreement which saw Corbin lift his injunction in exchange for Heinze underwriting the costs of laying a double-gauged track to the eastern end of the bridge that he was supposedly to build across the Columbia River from Sayward—now Columbia Gardens—on Corbin’s Nelson & Fort Sheppard extension of his Spokane Falls & Northern.
        By the time that lieutenant-governor Dewdney signed the C&W Act into law, the Tramway’s grade was nearly complete. In April several little rail cars and the first locomotive—No.2, a diminutive three-foot gauged ex-North Western Coal & Navigation Company Baldwin 2-6-0—were off-loaded from C&K Steam Navigation vessels from Revelstoke onto trackage laid down to the Trail Creek waterfront. With Larsen’s used 28-pound rail augmented by more bought from the Utah and Northern Railway and the CPR, gangs quickly laid track up the Mountain to the Le Roi mine. There is no clear consensus as to when the Tramway’s last spike was driven, but according to W.G. Kennedy in his Canadian Pacific’s Rossland Subdivision (British Railway Modellers of North America, Calgary, 1983), on June 11th of 1896 a train of eight gondolas, loaded to their twelve ton capacity, were eased down the line to the Smelter.

        The occasion of Heinze’s first ore train down to the Trail smelter, though he permitted it by withdrawing his injunction, must have perturbed Daniel Chase Corbin. He had his own designs on Rossland’s ore and by all rights he should have had a line of rail into Rossland long before Heinze. With vision typical of him, on April 12th, 1893, Corbin and his partners, C.T. Dupont and F.B. Pemberton, had succeeded in gaining a provincial charter for their Red Mountain Railway Company, intending to replace Durant’s waggon road down the Little Sheep Creek. Canadians, though, viewed Corbin as an arch-typical American robber baron intent on stripping the Dominion of its raw wealth. To build across the Boundary he required federal permission, and that required lengthy consideration before it was, by 58-59 Victoria Chapter 60, finally “…declared to be a work of general advantage to Canada” and granted on June 28th, 1895. Corbin was, however, to face further delays.
        In Washington state on January 24th, 1895, Corbin et al had incorporated the Columbia and Red Mountain Railway. However, the right-of-way surveyed by chief engineer E.J. Roberts, running up Little Sheep Creek from the Columbia opposite Corbin’s SF&N town of Northport, presumptuously cut right through the Colville Indian Reservation. The Salish were not enraptured with the vision of the iron horse rampaging across their lands and protested to their agents. It took Corbin’s lobbyists months of persuasion, but the U.S. president S. Grover Cleveland was finally convinced that the Salish really had too much land anyway, and on March 7th, 1896, he signed a bill that dissolved the northern half of the Colville Reservation and threw the lands open for settlement. Corbin got his right-of-way, but the delays had cost him precious time and he was doubtless vexed to watch the Tramway making $10,000 a month delivering 120 tons of ore per day to Heinze’s smelter.
        With all the permits finally in his pocket and benefiting from no public subsidies whatsoever, on July 20th, 1896, Corbin took his own contract to build the line and the Northport bridge for $555,000. Once he got the 1500-foot long cable-controlled reaction ferry between Northport and the mouth of Sheep Creek operational and brought the first construction train across on September 3rd, Corbin proceeded to roar the 77-pound rail, standard-gauge trackage of the Columbia and Red Mountain Railway up the 2.74% grades of the Little Sheep’s valley and over the 2500-foot high pass into the Trail Creek’s watershed. Between Spokane and Washington Streets, and Third and Fourth Avenues, RMR laid out its Rossland yards with a depôt, immigration shack and, across the triple set of tracks, the off-loading docks where Canadian General Electric Company would eventually build its shops and warehouse. On December the 10th the B.C. inspector, H.B. Smith, declared the 9.5 miles of the line’s trackage in Canada, the Red Mountain Railway, complete. When the State of Washington followed suit six days later, the C&RM/RMR, all seventeen curvy miles of it, was open for business. Though the C&RM’s 1200-foot long Northport bridge wouldn’t be completed until October 4th of 1897, the reaction cable ferry served to shift railcars between the SF&N and the C&RM. With a pair of little 66-ton Baldwins, a coach and twenty box-cars, and all the ore gondolas and spare locomotives he could commandeer from the SF&N, Corbin was ready to haul away every ounce of the 111,000 tons of ore that the mines on Red Mountain would output in 1897. This was a distinct possibility for he quickly convinced the Tramway’s biggest customer, the Le Roi Mining Company, to build a smelter on a plot of land he provided at Northport, close to a huge deposit of fluxing limestone and the RMR’s junction with the SF&N. When it was blown in on January 1st of 1898, Corbin was in a position to push Heinze off Red Mountain and, indeed, out of B.C.
        Like sharks excited by a feeding frenzy, all the commotion on Red Mountain attracted the notice of the real heavy-weights in the railroad fight for the mid-continent, the Great Northern and the CPR. Backed by their lawyers and money and friends in high places, they cast their predatory eyes upon the operations of Heinze and Corbin, vying with each other for the first bite.
        While the titans battled for market share, the people of Rossland enjoyed their railroads. The Tramway was now an asset of the Columbia & Western and had acquired a total of five locomotives: four from the Alberta Coal & Railway and one from the Utah & Northern. On December 6th of 1896 the line inaugurated passenger service from a depôt near the intersection of Le Roi Avenue and St. Paul Street. Thrice daily in a pair of coaches—one of them the fancily decorated private car of Brigham Young acquired from the Utah and Northern Railway—travellers could ride in comfort down to the waterfront at Trail Creek and from there catch a riverboat up to the CP Mainline at Revelstoke. Alternatively one could walk up to the RMR station on Third Avenue between Spokane and Washington Avenues and catch a train to Northport on the Spokane Falls and Northern. When CP finally bought up Heinze’s Canadian operations on March 1st of 1898 the only significant change for passengers occurred a year later when on July 15th of 1899 the Company finished spiking down 60 lb. rail while converting the old Tramway to standard gauge and extending passenger service up to the expanded yards between Second and Third Avenues and Washington and Butte Streets. There the new CP station was opened two days later, and was soon joined by a long freight shed, a two-stall engine house, a coaling dock and the warehouses of the Rossland Warehouse & Transfer Company, and the Brackman-Kerr Milling Company. The water tower remained where it had been built farther down the line at Cook Avenue, and for the convenience of the residents below Columbia Avenue, the old Union Avenue station was moved up the line a few hundred metres to keep it company. With the gauge standardized, in larger if less luxurious coaches passengers could now ride all the way to Castlegar on the newly completed Columbia and Western to connect with the CPR’s “second Mainline” which by early 1900 would offer service from Midway in the west all the way through Nelson and the Crowsnest Pass to Medicine Hat on the Mainline in the North-West Territories’ District of Assiniboia.
        For patrons of the RMR very little changed when on July 1st of 1898 it and the rest of D.C. Corbin’s interests in the region were taken over by the Great Northern. Painting the depôt dark grey on buff, GN continued to run into Rossland for the next 20 years. The frequency of service diminished, however, as the CPR’s subsidiary, the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company, eventually succeeded in buying all the producing properties on Red Mountain, directing their ores exclusively to Trail after re-railing the Rossland line with 85 lb. steel in 1910 and shutting down the Le Roi’s Northport smelter when it bought the Mine in 1911. When the new owners of that smelter closed it forever in 1921 and began negotiating to sell it for scrap to the giant American Smelting and Refining Company—a deal closed on August 24th, 1922—GN declared the RMR/C&RM abandoned. Its last train left Rossland on July 1st, 1921 and on May 8th of the next year the company began salvaging the steel, sending some of the 77-pound rail to the N&FS to replace the original 45-pounders.
        Among those that were affected when Consolidated M&S closed the Le Roi in 1929 was, of course, what the CPR called its “Rossland subdivision.” The big ore trains ceased running. The Velvet mine, opened by Olaus Jeldness on Sofie Mountain a few miles west of town along the Cascade Highway, continued working haltingly until it fades with a last mention in the Annual Report of the Minister of Mines for 1946, trucking some weight into Rossland for the Railway to carry down to Trail in gondolas attached to the thrice weekly local freight train. Salvors scrapping out the abandoned mines and independent miners chipping the last of the economical ore out of the old works gave the sub. some business, as well. With improvements to the Schofield Highway down to Trail and the organization of the Rossland Co-operative Transportation Society in 1932 to ferry workers to and from Trail by limousine, Railway ridership fell and regular passenger service up to Rossland was halted in November of 1936. Finally the Railway could no longer justify the expense of maintaining the line and in July of 1966 stripped the steel from the right-of-way above Warfield and left the old grades as the foundation for Rossland’s campaign to diversify its economy in the 1990s by promoting itself as the “Mountain Bike Capital” of B.C. All the old railway grades, mine roads and cross-country ski trails make interesting cycling, especially in the autumn when the bears come down out of the heights to try and put on those last few pounds from the bounty in the garbage pails and gardens of Rossland before turning in for the winter.         
Mining Red Mountain—Consolidation

        The railroads, the smelter at Trail Creek and the one rumoured to be in the works at Northport drew the World’s attention to the fabulous lodes buried in Red Mountain. Cumulative ore extraction to July 1st, 1896, from just the Le Roi, the Iron Mask, the Poorman, the Josie, the War Eagle, the Evening Star, and the Cliff totalled 27,000 tons. This output yielded 45,237 ounces of gold, 67,793 ounces of silver and 13.25 tons of copper worth over $1,000,000. Money’d people in London, their imaginations inflamed by the glittering superlatives attached to the names of these and other B.C. mines by articles in The Times, the Pall Mall Gazette, The British Columbia Review, were fascinated. It was fashionable to own shares in a Canadian mine, and in the relative peace and prosperity toward the end of Victoria’s reign, now was the time to buy into Rossland.
        A man who liked to buy was J. Whitaker Wright, an American-educated buccaneer capitalist who scoured the Earth for likely looking projects in need of investment. To the great advantage of himself and his coterie of London acquaintances, he satisfied that need. His investments were highly speculative and he liked to insulate himself from risk as best he could with a hierarchy of interconnected companies which enthusiastically exchanged assets and debt. It was all very complicated, a delicately balanced house of cards which would collapse and bankrupt Wright early in the new century. Wright’s ruin, though, was a catastrophe unimagined by the wealthy who hastened to buy shares in his new London and Globe Finance Company in March of 1897. A company goal was to own part of the Kootenays, and to do this, Wright had London and Globe set up the British-America Corporation, Limited, in the autumn of 1897. Under the chairmanship of a former governor-general of Canada, the Marquis of Dufferin and Ava, the Corporation’s board sent one of their members, the former lieutenant-governor of the North-West Territories, the Honourable C.H. MacIntosh, to scout the Kootenays for investment opportunities in January of 1898.
        There was no shortage of applicants for British cash in the Kootenays. In 1897 alone, over 500 mining companies had been formed and all were hungry for investment. Not a few were frauds and most were very speculative; what MacIntosh did not want to get was fleeced on a grand scale. Unfortunately, he met Colonel I.N. Peyton.
        In Inland Empire: D.C. Corbin and Spokane, John Fahey writes that by 1896 The Le Roi Mining and Smelting Company, had broken into two factions centred on the colonels Turner and Peyton. In that year, according to the anonymous authors of Rossland—The Golden City, the initial rift in the company’s management occurred when a Chicago-based outfit offered $500,000 for the company. Disagreement within the board of directors whether or not to accept the offer drove Geo. Forster to resign as president and sell his 52,000 shares back to the company. Colonel Turner assumed the presidency and the board narrowly decided to retain the mine. With confidence inspired by the completion of railroads connecting Red Mountain to the Market, the company began building a smelter at Northport, Washington, re-equipped the Mine and appointed John Maynahan as mine superintendent. Under Maynahan the Le Roi sunk deeper into the Mountain, yielding $225,000 in dividends for the year ending in October of 1897. Dividends approaching $25,000/month and its own smelter nearing completion made Le Roi Gold Mining a very attractive property. Its owners agreed that it was ripe to sell.
        While MacIntosh was in Rossland purchasing the Josie, the Nickel Plate, the Great Western, the Poorman, the Le Roi West (No.1) and the Columbia & Kootenay for British America, Colonel Peyton and Judge Geo. Turner had travelled to London seeking to sell Le Roi Gold Mining. Each seemed to have his own agenda and it was by himself that Peyton met with Whittaker Wright representatives and agreed to sell the company for $3 million. Valuing the property at $5 million, Turner was appalled with the deal, and when the parties met to finalize the transaction in Spokane on June 28th, 1898, Turner, his brother W.W., W.J. Harris, and W.J. Wakefield refused to surrender their holdings. The upshot was that MacIntosh of the BAE acquired only 53% of Le Roi Gold’s 500,000 shares for a down payment of $500,000 with $1.2 million plus change owing. Though B-A now owned enough of the Le Roi operation to claim control under British law, the fact was that Le Roi M&S was a Washington company and the State’s laws differed. With Turner et al withholding the company’s legal papers and corporate seal, further negotiations were necessary. Elsie Turnbull in Trail: A Smelter City, relates the amusing yarn of injunctions, purloined papers, switched seals, and night flight from Spokane on a special train with sheriff Bunce clinging doggedly to an open coach platform. No one got shot, and further talks and legal shenanigans resulted in MacIntosh, as the local representative of B-A, issuing a cheque on August 27th, 1898, for just over one million extra dollars to Turner and associates for their Le Roi Gold shares. On November 22nd, B-A became the undisputed owner of the Le Roi and its associated Black Bear claim and Ivanhoe Fraction, and the Northport smelter. By the end of that year of 1898 it was sending 450 tons per day collected from all its properties to its Northport smelter and had plans to quickly double that weight.
        For the majority of Wright’s investors, however, ownership of Rossland mines would prove to be a bad deal. They were at the bottom of the hierarchy of ownership and many would be left holding worthless paper. The former owners of the Le Roi mine had ravaged the pit for valuable ore in the months before the final sale, leaving the workings in an unstable condition and in immediate need of costly repairs. As well, the price of Rossland ore was falling. In 1895 a ton of the Le Roi’s ore sold for around $36: by 1900 it was down to the $12 at which it would stay until Big Mining left Red Mountain in 1929. On top of these complications, B-A had apparently made a quick three-quarters of a million dollars profit in December of 1898 by having the Le Roi Mining Company buy the actual mining operation from its parent, Le Roi M&S, for a greatly inflated price. B-A then appropriated the cash. To drain more money from the operation, B-A had set up the Northport Mining and Smelting Company in Washington State in June of 1898 with Charles Herbert MacIntosh as president. In February of 1899 NM&S enriched Wright et al by buying the Northport smelter from Le Roi M&S. In an arrangement obscured by interlocking directorships and share ownership, NM&S (and its successor after 1901, Northport Smelting and Refining Company) remained under Le Roi Mining’s control until 1911 when CM&S acquired the Mine but rejected the smelter. Saddled with debt and dangerously under-funded, Le Roi Mining was left struggling.
        In desperation Le Roi Mining’s directors turned to John H. MacKenzie of the San Francisco firm of MacKenzie and Bradley to right the fortunes of their company. He managed to organize a general meeting of the bickering shareholders during the summer of 1902 at which A.J. McMillan was appointed mine manager. With a firm hand on the tiller, the company headed for profitable operation.

        The downside to the Red Mountain boom, related Fred Vipond to E.L. Affleck in the latter’s The Kootenays in Retrospect, Volume II—Kootenay Pathfinders: Settlement in the Kootenay District, 1885–1920 (The Alexander Nicolls Press, Vancouver, 1976), was the unscrupulous promotion of stock in worthless properties; so much so, in fact, that the name “Rossland” became synonymous with the practice.

        Toronto money, like London, was excited about the Kootenays. In parlours and office suites throughout the East, talk was of the Slocan and the mines on Red Mountain which were quadrupling their output in 1896 to 69,000 tons and wasn’t that a shame that those nasty Americans were making all that money, B.C. being part of the British Empire and all. The Influential contended that the sooner ownership could be repatriated and the profits kept under the Union flag, the better. Attuned to that sentiment was Patsy Clark of Spokane. Now that the Trail Creek smelter was demanding ore, Clark and his associates decided that the time was right to sell themselves off of Red Mountain; optimistic money would be eager buy up the War Eagle’s and the Center Star’s proven reserves.
        The optimistic money that appeared had been amassed in the Ontario distilling business and belonged to William George Gooderham and Thomas Gibbs Blackstock of Toronto. In January of 1897 their syndicate, including federal senator George Albertus Cox and W.H. Beatty, plunked down $850,000 to grab up the War Eagle and its associated properties; the Poorman, the Iron Mask, and the Virginia. So profitable did that enterprise prove to be that in April of 1898 the Gooderham-Blackstock combine bought the Center Star and its associated Idaho, for $2 million, setting up The Center Star Mining Company, Limited, with George Gooderham as president, T.G. Blackstock as V.P. On (1q?)October 1st, 1898 they incorporated the War Eagle Consolidated Mining and Development Company : Geo. Gooderham, director; Tom Blackstock, president; the Honourable Geo. Cox, V.P.
        Come the end of 1898 there were 31 companies or syndicates working claims on Red Mountain. The next year they output a combined tonnage of 180,300, with the Le Roi accounting for 92,250, the War Eagle 63,250, the Center Star 16,700 and the Iron Mask 5400, leaving but 2700 tons for the rest of the operations. In 1902, employing a total crew of 562, the Le Roi produced 216,500 tons worth $2.88 million from its No.1 mine, and 52,500 tons worth $860,000 from its combined No.2 and Josie mines. The Centre Star with 170 men earned $466,000 from 38,000 tons, while the War Eagle made $350,000 from 23,000 tons with 148 men. The Velvet-Rossland Mine, Limited, working the Velvet west of town, was encouraged enough by the $40,000 it made from 1600 tons in 1902 that it erected an experimental hydraulic concentrator. By that time, however, the CPR, the company that would eventually control the Mountain had already begun its local career by buying up the Smelter at Trail.
The Miners’ Hall and Local 38

        At the Museum, amid the mine models and maps, diagrams, dioramas and displays, a student learns that there were two types of hard-rock miners; the development men and the production men. The development miners were the elite of the trade. They were the ones that hacked their way into the solid rock and created the infrastructure of the mine. They dug a mine’s vertical main shaft and from it, at every hundred foot level or so, chewed horizontal “crosscuts” into the ore body and lateral “drifts” following the trail of pay, stepping their way up or down through the rock by vertical “raises” or “winzes” to determine the extent of the lode. They installed the simple machinery to aid them: air and power lines, small compressors and the like. Because it was they who found the rock’s faults and were sometimes made to pay the ultimate price for disturbing Nature’s fragile equilibrium, they were higher paid than the other miners, and were oft-times contractors. A production man fell under one of several classifications in an industry that was in the 1890’s rapidly abandoning its reliance on muscle and expertise and embracing the use of heavy, expensive machinery operated by relatively untrained labour. The Production Man—and always a Man since the passing of a provincial statute in 1897 prohibited women, as well as all Chinese, Japanese and boys under twelve, from working underground—might be a shift boss, a timberman placing mine props, a blacksmith or other maintenance worker, a diamond driller boring holes to sample the lode or prepare for blasting, the night-working “shot-firer” who placed dynamite in the diamond-drilled holes and set it off when the other workers were out of the mine, or a general labouring “mucker” who shovelled the shattered rock either directly into mine cars or into chutes for automatic loading. A mine was a complex organization of men by the mid-1890s, with the best paid earning $3.50 for a twelve hour shift.

        Guiding the visitor east along Columbia Avenue, downtown-bound from the Museum, Rossland’s Historical Heritage Walking Tour brochure designates the old Miners’ Union Hall as its feature number one. It is the first union hall built in the province. Of wood framed and sided construction dating from 1897, it stands a block inside the north-west corner of Ross Thompson’s pre-emption. Facing Columbia, its steeply gabled, one-storey dark chocolate on almond facade is barely ornamented—honest workmanship reflecting the modest expectations of the builders. Above the main doorway, a tiny, two-windowed balcony is set into the gable-end. Viewed face-on across Columbia, the Hall looks small, but approached along the sidewalk from the west the true volume of the building is apparent. The roof line established by the facade is maintained to the back of the 60 foot long building and, because the property falls precipitously away from the Avenue, the back of the Hall is at least six stories high. It is enormous and remains in service despite the fact no-one mines the Mountain anymore.

        The Hall proudly proclaims that it was not venture capital and mining magnates alone which dug Rossland’s ore from the Mountain. Working men toiled to bring Red’s wealth to the world, and Labour history was made here.
        Rosemary Neering points out in A Traveller’s Guide to Historic British Columbia that, unlike the simple processes and equipment employed by the gold-rushers of the 1850s and 1860s, mining lodes of minerals required great investment. Expertise had to be purchased to locate a potentially profitable deposit and determine the best way to exploit it, long-term control of the property had to be obtained, expensive equipment had to be bought, transported and installed on the site, infrastructure such as railways, conveyors and power generators had to be established, markets found, and men had to be hired to animate the whole operation. Skilled miners, men who could almost intuitively follow the trail of high-quality ore through the worthless surrounding rock, were being replaced by relatively unskilled workers who could be quickly trained to operate the machinery which ripped out the entire lode of ore regardless of its value, the industry relying on bulk processing to make a profit.
        The unbridled capitalism that ran the World’s economy at the end of the Nineteenth Century regarded Labour like shovels or air-drills; a tool of production to be driven to yield the greatest profit from the least monetary out-lay. Unfortunately for the workers, from the hundreds of thousands of people who were immigrating to the New World in that era, finding a man to do any job was no problem. These realities of mechanization guaranteed the abuse of human health and dignity. “Philanthropists” like the library-building Andrew Carnegie saw no contradictions in their philosophy as they crushed profit from their employees’ labour in order to earn money with which to gift the public. It was only by withholding that labour, and preventing the bosses from replacing them, that workers were able to resist the dehumanization of their condition.
        Because Rossland’s population was preponderantly American, the fight to win just treatment for Labour was imported from the United States. Bitter industrial relations in Idaho and Montana had prompted workers there to form the Western Federation of Miners (WFM) at a meeting in Butte in May of 1893. The benefits of organization became rapidly apparent as owners, faced with stoppages in production, quickly agreed to basic safety improvements in their pits and a fairer sharing of profits between investors and workers. Immediately aware of the gains won by their brothers below the Boundary and exasperated by the relentlessly exploitive behaviour of the managers of the local operations, Rossland miners invited the president of the WFM, Ed Boyce, and his executive to come north and help them organize. On July 16th, 1895, Rossland Miners Union No.38 came into being; president, W.A. Crane. Its goal; the eight hour work day and decent wages.
         The Union faced stiff opposition. Allied with the owners—and all big business—was the provincial government of J.H. Turner, the latest strongman, writes Jeremy Mouat in Roaring Days:…, of a dynasty that had ruled B.C. since the election of William Smithe in January of 1883. Victoria steadfastly refused the Union’s entreaties to arbitrate between workers and management. However, on July 9th, 1898, an electorate tired of pork-barrel politics swept Turner from office. The unstable new government of Chas. Augustus Semlin, relying on the votes of five pro-Labour MPPs to retain power, acquiesced to Union demands and introduced Bill No. 80 on February 16th of 1899, an amendment to the Inspection of Metaliferous Mines Act, 1897, which, upon receiving royal assent on February 27th, legislated an eight hour day for under-ground workers. The Amendment was met with condemnation by the majority of the mine owners who rightly figured that miners would expect to earn as much as they did before their shifts were shortened; $3.50 a day for an experienced hand. Organizing themselves into the Silver and Lead Mine Owners Association at a meeting in Sandon on May 8th, the owners offered three dollars a day to “production” miners, slightly more to the “development” miners whose work was harder and riskier. When the Act was implemented on June 12th, the largely American mine owners in the Slocan defied the law, hiring goons to prevent WFM men from working and replacing them with non-union labourers. Violence met violence as communities tore themselves apart.
        In Rossland, the most productive of the mines, the War Eagle-Center Star complex, and the fabulous Le Roi, had been bought out at a high price by Eastern and British money in 1897 and 1898, respectively. By the time the eight hour day was implemented, both these operations were struggling with narrowing profit margins in a weakening metals market. Slightly less reactionary than the Slocan owners, and possibly seeking to assuage emotions after eight miners died in two accidents in the War Eagle on May 19th and June 23rd of 1899, the Rossland owners initially accepted the eight hour day, but they sought to impress a contract system upon their workers; so much money paid for so much ore mined. The Union resisted, going so far as to ban contracting on August 1st. Months of negotiations, threats, and work slowdowns resolved nothing. When the Owners Association’s appeal for the repeal of the eight hour day failed in January of 1900, on the 6th of February, exactly one year to the day after the legislation was enacted, the War Eagle and Center Star mines locked their gates to Union men and began hiring “independents” to carry out “repair work” under the protection of a squad of heavily armed special police. The Le Roi followed suit on March 12th, having that day demanded that its Union men accept the contract system, and been refused.
        The WFM, writes Jeremy Mouat in Roaring Days:…, had formed its District 6 in a meeting at Rossland on December 18th, 1899, and charged it with presenting the concerns of the Western Canadian locals to the Union’s Denver-based executive, and acting as the locals’ political arm. In its latter capacity, when the Owners started importing labour from the United States to replace Union workers, District 6 representatives began pressing Wilfrid Laurier’s federal Liberal government to enforce the Alien Labour Act which had received royal assent on June 29th, 1897. Designed to prohibit the importation of workers into the Dominion when Canadians were available to do a job, its enforcement would have forced the Owners back to the bargaining table. But Ottawa, not wishing to offend those of its friends who had money invested in western mining, dithered, declining to implement the Act. Instead, it sent Roger Conger Clute to Rossland to mediate.
        Clute was successful, and on April 5th of 1900 the Union had accepted contracting and the Owners agreed that Union membership would not preclude a man from employment. However, once the mines were back in full production, the Owners, fixated on recouping lost profits, began concerted efforts to break the Union by displacing WFM men with mainly immigrant Italians imported from the United States and denying the Union’s “walking delegates” access to the workings to assess safety precautions, recruit members, collect dues and post notices. Partially in retaliation, Local 38 helped the workers in the Le Roi smelter in Northport, Washington, to organize.
        Relations between miners and management continued to degenerate throughout 1900 and reached their nadir on May 23rd, 1901, when royal assent amended the Alien Labour Act, shifting responsibility for its enforcement from the federal Department of Labour to regional authorities. As local law enforcement was usually in the pocket of big business, the Act was worthless to workers; with Owners able to bring in foreign labour unhindered, the Union became increasingly militant. Trying to defuse an explosive situation, Laurier sent his deputy Minister of Labour, the young William Lyon Mackenzie King, to conciliate. Quickly determining that the WFM’s executive was losing patience with the independent-minded Rossland Local, King sided with the Owners. Its back to the wall, No.38 called a strike. On the morning of July 11th, 1901, miners scheduled for the seven o’clock shift refused to go to work, as did the smeltermen at Northport.
        The Strike was a dismal failure. Armed guards made sure strike-breakers got to and from work, the Department of Labour turned its back, and without the full support of the WFM executive in Denver, the Local’s funds rapidly depleted. By December, strike pay ran out and, none of their demands met, the Union men returned to work by the end of the next month, January, 1902. Seeking a political venue to air their grievances, District 6 joined other labour groups at a convention in Kamloops in April to form the Provincial Progressive Party and, despite WFM wishes to the contrary, soon ally it with Eugene Debs and the Socialist Party of America. Meanwhile, arguing that the Strike had been illegal, the War Eagle/Center Star combine had brought suit against the Rossland Miners Union to recover $14,000 in losses that the company claimed it had incurred during the walk-out. With the Press and provincial politicians castigating the WFM as an alien subversive and the Union members beginning to view labour relations as a class struggle and unbending militancy as the only way to break the bonds of servitude, the courts came down in favour of the company; the Union Hall and the Local’s other assets fell into the companies’ pockets. Though the Owners saw the wisdom of allowing the Union men to continue using the Hall, it wasn’t until 1952 that it was restored to the Miners.
        The strike of 1901 came at the acme of Rossland’s mining career. A long decline followed. By the end of the year, ore values had sunk to about 30% of what they were in 1895. With refined silver down to 60¢ an ounce and falling, and copper fading away from 16.5¢ per pound, no one, least of all the private investor from “Down East” or overseas, was becoming rich. The men in Local 38 soon became disenchanted with the WFM as a whole, and the radical District 6 in particular. Charting their own course, the membership struck an more co-operative stance, and when copper prices collapsed during the Panic of 1907, exchanged job security for wage roll-backs.
        In 1916, bruised in its battle with the Industrial Workers of the World union, the WFM changed its name to the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers; popularly, Mine-Mill. In the chaos of collapsing post-Great War markets, Mine Mill adopted a compliant attitude in negotiations in an effort to save the jobs of at least some of its members. The Union appeared too docile to the Rossland miners, who deserted it en masse for the One Big Union movement. Not needing Rossland’s ore in the recession of the times, CP’s Consolidated Mining and Smelting (CM&S), by then the owner of every mine on Red Mountain, refused to deal with the OBU and formed, writes Jeremy Mouat in Metal Mining in Canada, 1840–1950, (National Museum of Science and Technology, Ottawa, 2000) “workers’ co-operative committees” within the Company. Those that wanted to work joined, if the Company had no objections. Deemed illegal, these shop unions were finally disbanded by federal legislation after World War Two, long after mining ceased in Rossland.

        At the east end of downtown Rossland, 3B/22 sheds its “Columbia Avenue” alias and, as the “Schofield Highway,” dips to 10% grades as it plummets some 600 vertical metres down the Trail Creek valley to the City of Trail in little more than ten lineal kilometres. Beyond the screen of roadside trees and signage, pieces of the old C&W’s contorted right-of-way are visible clinging to the Creek valley’s southern ‘scarp above the traces of the old ore-waggon road farther down slope.
        Twisting and zigging through hairpins, the Schofield hurtles down four kilometres into Warfield.


  1. Remembers James Albert Spencer in his unpublished Memories, “[In his book Ghost Towns of British Columbia (Mitchell Press Ltd., Vancouver, 1963)] Mr. [Bruce] Ramsey makes no mention of the fabulous gold mines of Rossland which, like other boom towns, faded to a ghost town after the mines had played out. The only place that still operated was a hotel owned by Sam Irving, who’s only source of revenue seemed to be bootlegging! ” !NB: To return to this end-note’s origin in the main text, left-click your browser’s “Back” arrow

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