Approaching the eastern shore of the Lake, the M.V. Anscomb slows as the crew makes ready to tie her into her slip at Kootenay Bay. To starboard the seven kilometre long Pilot Peninsula reaches south like a crippled left hand, palm down, forming and protecting Crawford Bay from the raunchy waters of the Lake. Three miles from Kootenay Bay, in the lee of the hands wizened thumb with its little bright white lighthouse,1 is Pilot Bay where, on a 300-acre site applied for on July 3, 1890, the Davies-Sayward Mill and Land Company, Limited, operated a sawmill until 1903 to supply props and construction materials to what is arguably the most star-crossed enterprise on the Lakes eastern shore, the Bluebell mine. The pair of rectangular, red brick chimneys poking up through the undergrowth near the shore at the head of Pilot Bay hint at the magnitude of this undertaking.
When Ktunaxa brought Archibald McDonald to their lake in 1844 they showed him a huge outcrop of what they would later learn to call chikamin, money rock. The Ktunaxa had been hacking at the outcrop for generations; the heavy stones were ideal for weighting fishing nets and, later, shooting out of guns. Writes G.W. Taylor in Mining: The History of Mining in British Columbia, along with his dispatches McDonald shipped samples of the ore to John McLoughlin, the HBCs chief factor on the Coast, who, in turn, forwarded them attention Archd. Barclay, Esq., at the Companys headquarters in Fenwick Street, London. According to the analysts report received by the Company on April 27th, 1847, the ore turned out to be an amalgam of nearly pure sulphuret lead and oxide of iron, lime, silica and alumina. It was of excellent quality. However, located an estimated 600 difficult miles from the mouth of the Columbia and possibly on American territory, the lead ledge of the Kootenays was commercially worthless to the HBC, merely another of the Columbia Departments curiosities.
Giving the Ledge wider publicity, in 1859, Dr. Hilary Bauerman, a geologist attached to the British contingent of the Boundary Commission, mentioned it in his notes, describing it as rising some 150 feet above the waters of the Lake, running for three-quarters of a mile roughly parallel to the shore, measuring about twenty feet wide and capped with rust-stained rock. Reflecting the opinion of the officers of the HBC, Bauerman pronounced it economically inaccessible. Edgar Dewdney the trail maker, too, saw the Ledge, shown to him by Dick Fry who was already making his home in this part of the world.
Though the HBC could see no viable way to exploit the Ledge in the 1840s, four decades of exploration and technical advance changed the situation. Railroads reaching across the continent and steamboats thrashing their way up remote rivers brought the Kootenays within reach of the industrial world.
Come the 1880s, ordinary joes interested only in panning placer gold from the Kootenays creeks had been replaced by professional prospectors intent on locating lodes of any ore that could be profitably mined. Almost invariably these rock chippers were Americans, some sent out on contract by syndicates with capital to risk, some came out on their own. According to Craig Weir and David Scott in Bluebell: A Mining Saga (Canadian West Magazine, No. 14, November 1988), among the latter was one Henry Doan who showed up in San Francisco in later 1879 with some pretty rich samples of silver-laced lead that he said came from a huge ledge of ore in British Columbia. News of Doans discovery reached people who were willing to risk some of their considerable wealth in such a remote precinct now that the Northern Pacific Railroad was making its way surely westward toward the Northwest Coast. Forming a syndicate, these people gave Doan a tenth of the agreed upon finders fee of $10,000 and told him to return to Fort Colville and await their representative, George Hearst. Hearst, 60 years of age, a prominent California politician and father of publisher William Randolf, roused himself from his comfortable San Franciscan abode in the summer of 1880 and, with a professional assayer, made his way to Colville to rendezvous with Doan. There Captain Alfred T. Pingston, former master of the Forty Nine, was engaged to act as guide, hire a boat and employ six Native oarsmen. Up the Columbia and the Lower Kootenay the party paddled. Crossing Kootenay Lake, the effusive Doan became ever more withdrawn, eyeing the assayer and his boxes of equipment with dread. For good reason: when Hearst analysed some samples of his own from the Ledge, they proved to contain only minute traces of silver. The outcrop was lead, made worthless by zinc. Interrogated, Doan admitted that the samples he had presented in San Francisco had originated in Colorado. Enraged by the swindle, Hearst wanted to have Doan stripped of anything of value and abandoned on the Lakes shore to make his own way back to Fort Colville. Captain Pingston intervened, however, and the devious Doan was apparently deposited at Colville.
A few months after Hearst left the Ledge in disgust, another character showed up. There are several versions of the story, but it seems likely that sometime during the summer of 1881 Robert Evan (Bob) Sproule, following Dick Frys directions, located the Ledge and staked his dog-legged Bluebell claim upon it. However, the provincial Minerals Act of 1878 required that, to be legal, a claim had to be registered within three days of its staking. Further, any claim unoccupied for three days straight was deemed to be abandoned and could be staked by another party. The nearest claim office to Kootenay Lake at the time was at Wild Horse which, at the east end of the Dewdney Trail, was much farther than three days travel from the Ledge. Because there were other prospectors nosing around the Lake, Sproule didnt dare leave the Bluebell, and hung around poking at its rocks, building a cabin and periodically changing the dates on his stakes until the end of the mining season on October 31st. After this time a miner could leave his claim with the reasonable expectation that it would remain his until the next Season began in the spring.
According to evidence given at his subsequent trial for murder, Sproule returned to the Ledge in the spring of 1882 in advance of the opening of the season, June 1st. His new partner, Gay Reeder, staked out the Mogul bordering the Bluebell on the south and Sproule restaked his claim and staked another, the Inca. Their registration problem was solved on July 31st when the District Gold Commissioner, William Fernie, exploring the Lake with his brother, Peter, dropped in at the partners camp and obligingly registered the claims. His properties, thought Sproule, were secure.
The year of 1882 brought increased interest in the Kootenay Lake region. After the Doan débâcle George Hearst had returned to San Francisco impressed with the potential for profit in the Kootenays from timber alone. He and the Ainsworth father and son had gathered a group of wealthy pals and they began promoting a scheme to open up south-central B.C. While funding agents to lobby government ministers in Victoria and register the Columbia and Kootenay Railway and Transportation Company, the group sent Enoch W. Blasdel, Thomas Hammill and C.J. Woodbury to tramp the mountains looking for promising mineral prospects. In the name of George Jennings Ainsworth they pre-empted 160 acres at the Hot Springs on the Kootenay Lakes west shore north of Balfour, almost directly across the Lake from the Bluebell. They set up camp and kept an eye on the comings and goings across the Lake.
Reeder evidently tired of the hardrock mining game for when Hammill rowed over to examine the Ledge in early October he found the Mogul abandoned. He restaked it as the Kootenay Chief under Blasdels name on October 5th, and a day later staked the Comfort for Woodbury immediately on the north of the Bluebell. Perhaps noticing that the suspicious and secretive Sproule was not feeling well, Hammill increased his vigilance.
In 1882 the mining season was declared closed from October 31st. Unfortunately Sproule couldnt tough it out. According to W.F. Bowker in The Sproule Case: Bloodshed at Kootenay Lake, 1885 (Law and Justice in a New Land: Essays in Western Canadian Legal History, Louis A. Knafla, ed., Carswell Company, Vancouver, 1986), Sproule, ill and out of supplies, somehow sent a request for a leave of absence to Gold Commissioner Fernie at Wildhorse, but unable to remain on the Bluebell, left a note of explanation attached to his claim stakes and on October 25th set out for Bonners Ferry.
When he noticed that Sproule had gone, Hammill counted three days, again crossed the Lake staked the Bluebell as the Silver Queen under his own name. What consideration induced Commissioner Fernie to register the claim on November 15th, half a month after the Season had closed, is still a mystery.
Sproule recovered enough of his health that he had the energy to appear in Victoria that winter of 188283 to contest the far-reaching land claims of the Columbia and Kootenay Railway and Transportation Company which, had they stood, would have alienated all mining and land claims within six miles of the Kootenay Lakes shore. Needless to say, when Sproule returned to his claim about a week before the Season was to open on June 1st, 1883, he was mighty displeased to find Hammills stakes in place of his own. He immediately sent a petition to the Gold Commissioner to attend to the matter when he made a circuit of his riding that summer. Further complicating the issue, Sproules new associates, Jesse Hunley and Jacob A. Meyer took advantage of their early arrival on the Lake to encroach on Blasdels and Woodburys properties. Hunley restaked the Kootenay Chief as the Lucy Long, and Meyer laid out the Gem across the Comfort and registered it in the name of Colonel Hudnut of Idaho, who had presumably grub-staked the party for a one-third interest in the Bluebell.
On January 29th of 1883 the administration of British Columbia had changed when the conservative William Smithe replaced the conservative Robert Beaven as premier. That meant a whole new slate of officially had to be appointed, so it wasnt until August 31st that the new Gold Commissioner, Edward Kelly, arrived at Sproules camp to hear the cases of the contested claims. To counter the arguments of the lawyer and next premier of the province, A.E.B. Davie, Queens Counsel, who had arrived with Kelly to represent the Ainsworths interests, Sproule engaged the well-spoken English entrepreneur, W.A. (William) Baillie-Grohman, who Sproule had met in Victoria the previous winter, contesting as well the Columbia and Kootenay R&Ts land grant. The trial dragged on for seven weeks with Baillie-Grohman spouting such a blizzard of fabrication and contradiction that when Kelly was finally allowed to render his judgement on October 16th, he found for Sproule and his associates. Hammill and his party went off to attend to his claims on the other side of the Lake at Hot Springs Camp and left Sproule and his fellows to work their claims. The Ainsworths were not, however, that easily dissuaded and appealed the case to the B.C. Supreme Court.
On March 25th of the next year, 1884, the chief justice, Matthew Baillie Begbie, sitting in Victoria with judges George Walkem and Henry Pering Pellow Crease, began hearing the Ainsworths appeal as presented Attorney General Davie. Queens Counsel M.W.T. Drake and C. Wilson represented Sproule and his associates. After three days of argument and reflection, the Court found that Reeder had indeed forfeited his claim by abandonment, that Blasdel had legal title to it and that Hunley was guilty of trespass. The Kootenay Chief was returned to Blasdel. By the same token it was judged that Meyer had no right to the Comfort and Woodbury was reinstated as owner of that claim. In the case of the Bluebell the judges concluded that Sproule had done everything possible to maintain his claim in a location so remote from the Gold Commissioner (including, mentions Gold Commissioner G. M. Sproat in his submission to The Annual Report of the Minister of Mines for the Year Ending 31st December, 1888, building the only stone house in the Kootenays) and condemned Hammill as an opportunistic, unscrupulous claim-jumper. Though he had won his claim to the Bluebell, Sproule ended up losing a third of the property when Colonel Hudnut apparently neglected to pay his fines and court-costs associated with the Gem/Comfort litigation. The Colonels only assets in B.C. turned out to be his third-share of the Bluebell which was seized and auctioned off by Deputy Sheriff George Johnson during the summer of 1884. The winning bid was cast for his employers by Thomas Hammill. In a savage twist of fate, Sproule and the Ainsworths had become partners. His new partners apparently decided to let Sproule moil out the Season of 1884 undisturbed, after which he retired to Pend OreilleSandpoint, Idahoto work as Commissioner of Roads for the winter.
Dr. Wilbur A. Hendryx, formerly of Grand Rapids, Michigan, liked the Pend Oreille country. He fancied himself a bit of a big game hunter and like hundreds of other adventurous and wealthy men, had come west on the Northern Pacific to kill a few animals. According to E.L. Affleck in Kootenay Lake Chronicles, Hendryx had met Sproule in June of 1884 when the latter was likely returning to his claim from his trials Victoria. Interested in new avenues of adventure, Hendryx accompanied Sproule to the Bluebell and immediately appreciated that it could make money. In November, having concluded that he could not develop the claim himself and damned if he would accept Ainsworth money, Sproule offered to trade part of his interest in the Bluebell for development money supplied by Hendryx and his brother, Andrew B., a wealthy brass founder in New Haven, Connecticut. Wilbur rushed to New Haven and there the brothers incorporated the Kootenay Mining and Smelting Company, Limited, (KM&S) before the year was out. Streaking back to a whistle stop called Kootenai Station just four miles eastward on the Northern Pacific from todays Sandpoint, Dr. Hendryx established the headquarters of KM&S and a sawmill and began building that part of the old Walla Walla Trail between Pend Oreille Lake and Bonners Ferry into a waggon toll road. Over this road he and Sproule managed to drag the little steam launch, Surprise, which they launched onto the Kootenay River at the Ferry. In it Sproule returned to the Bluebell on Friday, May 29th of 1885, with a crew which consisted of Adam and Charles Wolf and Charles Howse. Noting that Sproule was back on the claim, Hammill felt compelled to see to his employers interests and on June 1st crossed over the Lake to do some development work on the Kootenay Chief. It was a fatal mistake. Over the course of the previous winter the realization that the hated Hammill had stolen a third of his Bluebell might have unhinged Sproules mind, and close proximity led to bitter recriminations between the two rivals. Finally convinced that Hammill was intent on grabbing the claim entirely and that no power of the Law could prevent him, late morning of that June 1st Sproule borrowed Adam Wolfes rifle and put paid to Hammills claim with a bullet through his gut. Thinking it best that he return to American territory, Sproule left his men a note admonishing them to maintain the claim, jumped in his rowboat and lit out for Idaho. Constable Henry (Harry) Anderson, visiting Hot Springs Camp, was summoned and, gathering a posse of Ktunaxa, set out in pursuit, capturing Sproule on the lower Upper Kootenay River near the Boundary three days later. In a widely publicized and, some say, flawed trial in Victoria before Mr. Justice John Hamilton Gray, Sproule, prosecuted by his old nemesis, the Attorney General A.E.B. Davie, and defended by Davies brother, Theodore, was found guilty of murder and eventually hanged on October 29th, 1886.
The murder of Hammill convinced his employers, the Ainsworth syndicate, to abandon their claims on the Kootenay Lakes eastern shores, and with the subsequent incarceration of Sproule, the rights to the Bluebell fell to the Hendryxs Kootenay Mining and Smelting Company. In her Old Mines in the West Kootenays, Elsie Turnbull maintains that, though he did have some work done on the property in 1887, it wasnt until 1888 that Hendryx registered the Kootenay Mining and Smelting Company in Idaho, moved with his wife to the Bluebell property and got serious about developing the mine. The Surprise was much too small to supply an undertaking of the scale that Hendryx had in mind, so it was released to work as a general supply boat to miners scattered around the Lake and to barge ore to Bonners Ferry from the regions fist producing mine, Alfred Demeau Wheelers Krao near Hot Springs. To replace the Surprise, in 1888 Hendryx bought the eighty foot long, twin screw-driven Galena, had it sawn in half, dragged up the Walla Walla Trail to Bonners and bolted back together. Under the command of George Hayward, the Galena voyaged from Bonners on July 11th and began her Kootenay career of hauling supplies up to the Ledge and, as time permitted, to other claims along the Lake. Development work soon revealed that the Bluebells ore body consisted of a cross-fracture in a bed of marbleized limestone between strata of mica-hornblende schist. By 1890, writes E.L. Affleck in Kootenay Lake Chronicles, having absorbed $100,000 in development investment, the Mine was producing and the Galena lugged the ore to Bonners from where, until Great Northern steel reached there on March 12th, 1892, it was waggoned 50 kilometres down the Walla Walla Trail to Sandpoint on the Northern Pacific mainline.
According to records lodged in the B.C. Archives in Victoria, Hendryx finally got around to obtaining provincial registration for his Kootenay Mining and Smelting Company (KM&S) on the 23rd of August, 1892. It was capitalized to but $30,000. On the same day the Kootenay Lake Reduction Company was registered with a capitalization of $250,000.
By the end of 1893 KM&S had cut over 3,000 feet of tunnelling into the Ledge and was pulling out hundreds of tons of ore every week. However, with storms endangering her on the Lake and cyclic floods and ebbs making the Upper Kootenay River frequently impassable, the little Galena had a tough time delivering enough of the Bluebells ore to Bonners Ferry to make the KM&Ss operation worth while. The sure way to reduce risk and yet increase profits was to increase the value of the Galenas cargoes. To accomplish this KM&S had to reduce the Mines ore before shipment, and the best way to do this was with a smelter. It would be the first one built in the Kootenays south of the CPR Mainline. Because the terrain around the Mine was so steep, the directors of KM&S resolved to build on property owned by promoters Joshua Davies and William Parsons Sayward near their sawmill at Pilot Bay, eight miles from the Bluebell. KM&Ss subsidiary, the Kootenay Lake Reduction Company, was assigned the project. With imported tradesmen and the produce of an on-site brickyards KLR soon had a 200-ton-per-day concentration plant erected. On March 16th of 1894 the Galena set off for Bonners with her first cargo of high-value ore.
To finance the rest of the undertaking, Hendryx consolidated the KM&S and the KLR into a second version of the KM&S, registered in New Jersey on July 7th, 1894, capitalized to $2.3 million. When it was re-registered with the province on August 6th, Edwin W. Herrick of Minneapolis was listed as its president, influential Victoria businessman, Robert Patterson Rithet, as vice president, and Victorians Joshua Davies, E. Crow Baker, Hedley Chapman, W.H. Ellis and Jas. Hutchinson as directors. For more than a year construction continued apace. In addition to the concentrator building, engine house and boiler room, there arose a machine and blacksmith shop, a carpenters shop, a laboratory and assay office, buildings to shelter the four 17 by 65-foot reverberatory roasting furnaces, the 150-tons-per-day sampler, the smelter, and the general offices. On the townsite nearby David Clark and Joseph Blanchard built their hotels, P. Burns and Company opened a butcher shop by the general store of the Galena Trading Company. Hard at work was the Galena, taking concentrate to Bonners and bringing back coal mined at Bellingham, Washington, machinery and specialist craftsmen, rocking the houseboats anchored in the bay where-on Henry Roses light ladies maintained their quarters. Finally, in December of 1895 the first of the four proposed furnaces was blown in and started work on the 17,700 tons of ore that the Bluebell had sent to Pilot Bay during the previous five months.
The new facility quickly disappointed. The expensive equipment which KM&S had brought in at such great cost and so carefully installed was incapable of handling the Bluebells complicated ore. With four 100-ton-per-day furnaces and contracted to send the resulting matte to Aurora, Illinois, for final refining, the smelter struggled to output anything at all. On September 16 of 1896 Andrew B. Hendryx arrived aboard the Kokanee and shut the works down. The twin rectangular chimneys would never smoke again. The success of the Halls new smelter in Nelson, coupled with the high costs of sending the matte to Bonners and bringing back coal, quashed any argument for re-equipping the Pilot Bay installation. The $650,000 already spent was enough, at least until a railway should be built up the east shore from Creston. The KM&Ss main creditor, the Bank of Montreal, assumed ownership of the properties and leased the concentrator to Omaha and Grant Smelting Company which re-leased it to the Baden brothers who used it for awhile to reduce ore from their Lucky Jim and Tariff mines near Ainsworth. Despite the exodus of workers, families enough remained in Pilot Bay that Fred Cogle was kept busy at the Post Office, and in 1899 Jean Dyker was hired to open a school for 23 tiny scholars. When the Davies-Sayward mill closed in 1903, however, Pilot Bay was deserted.
The London and Vancouver Finance and Development Company took a close look at the old KM&S works in 1901 but decided against buying it. In 1905 the Canadian Metals Company (CMC), a firm controlled by édouard, Comte Riondel, and his consortium headquartered in Rue du Quatre-Septembre, Paris, interested itself in the complex. CMCs plan was to combine the output of the Bluebell with that of other local mines and renovate the concentrator to magnetically gather zinc-rich ore which the company then intended send for treatment to the state-of-the-art smelter that one of CMCs founders, Constant Fernau, was building near the Turtle Mountain coal mines at Frank in the District of Alberta. A crew of 20 had been set to work investigating the Bluebell and had determined that there was over a million tons of ore in sight. They began sending the best of it to the Pilot Bay smelter where R.R. Hedley and staff tried to concentrate it with the antiquated equipment on hand. They enjoyed little success and CMCs investors were disappointed when the Frank facility proved unable to smelt the concentrate. Shipments thither were suspended and the 21,000 tons that were taken out of the Bluebell in 1906 ended up in stockpiles, half at Pilot Bay, half at the Mine. A company reorganization in August of 1906 installed Samuel Stewart Fowler as the companys Kootenay regional manager and redefined strategy. The Frank smelter was abandoned. A new concentrator, set on a concrete foundation, would be built at the mine site where the ore would be processed and shipped to Consolidated Mining and Smeltings big plant at Trail for treatment. The casual camp surrounding the Bluebell and the steamboat hulks which served as floating dormitories for the miners would be replaced by a community consisting of married mens cottages, residences for the manager and the assayer and offices for the same, and commodious boarding houses for the single men. When a postal bureau was opened there in 1907, the name Bluebell was rejected by the Post Office for there was already a bureau of that name in Canada. Riondel was chosen instead. Though construction on the concentrator began in March of 1907, it wasnt operational until July of 1908. It worked well, successfully concentrating the 59,000 tons that the Bluebells 63 miners dug out in 1909.
Deeper and deeper, the Riondel group continued to mine the Bluebell right through World War One. In 1920 Fowler was instructed to install new pumping equipment in an attempt to keep pace with the leakage into the Mines lower levels. When the equipment proved inadequate in 1921, CMC gave up, its French directorate voting itself out of existence.
S.S. Fowler, engineer, entrepreneur and author of Early Smelters in British Columbia, (B.C. Historical Quarterly, Volume 3, Number 3, 1939), thought that there was much of worth yet left in the Bluebell. In 1924 he and his partner B.L. Eastman obtained some financial backing from CPs Consolidated Mining and Smelting subsidiary and unwatered the pit enough to again bring ore to the surface. Though hobbled by a dearth of reliable electricity, they concentrated the ore using CM&Ss newly developed froth floatation method, sending the product to the Trail smelter. In 1925 the partners mined 17,500 tons and began examining the nearby Kootenay Chief and Comfort. Though 1927s weak lead and zinc prices compromised the value of the Bluebell, in January of 1929 Fowler and Eastman incorporated the Blue Bell Mines Limited, capitalizing it to $2 million. It is evident that the partners were unable to raise anywhere near $2 million, for they looked to Consolidated M&S for financing, according to The Annual Report of the Minister of Mines for the Year Ending 31st December, 1929. The great stock market crash of October 1929 likely shook Fowler and Eastman out of business, for CM&S soon took over direct ownership of the property, leaving it idle until the results of a post-W.W.II diamond drilling program revealed substantial quantities of recoverable ore. At a cost of $1.3 million the Mine and the settlement of Riondel were refurbished and a new 600-ton-per-day concentrator was built, all powered by electricity transmitted from WKPs generating plants on the Lower Kootenay. The works were brought on stream on April 15th, 1952. In December of 1971, finally exhausted, the Bluebell was closed and following salvaging operations, the site was abandoned four years later.
Though CM&S toyed in the early 1930s with the idea of rebuilding the Pilot Bay smelter, the Depression changed the game, and from that time the smelter was the haunt of Sunday excursionists, brick salvagers and souvenir hunters who scavenged the site until the province acquired it as heritage property in the late 1980s.
Steam on the Lake
Even as Bob Sproule and Tom Hammill were playing out their deadly drama at the Bluebell claim, Kootenay Lake felt its first mechanical vibration. In 1884, as part of his agreement with the B.C. government, Sproules erstwhile counsel, Baillie-Grohman, instructed Captain Arthur Burroughs Fenwick to sail the Midge down the Upper Kootenay and out upon the Lake. Grohmans Midge, the propeller of which is displayed in the Nelson Museum, was not a commercial conveyance, just a steam launch, a floating flagpole that Victoria employed to flap the Union Jack at the American prospectors on the Lakes shores.
The Kootenay Mining and Smelting Company launched the Galena onto the Kootenay system at Bonners Ferry in 1888 to help develop the companys Bluebell mine. For the next three years she was the biggest boat on the Lake, lording it over the other little screw-driven steamers, the Halys and the Kaslo, which were soon tooting around the Lake on their own errands.
On June 11th, 1891, however, the Galena lost her title. Well capitalized and aggressive, the Columbia and Kootenay Steam Navigation Company skidded David Stephensons Nelson down the slipways of the companys new shipyard at Nelson. Notes R.D. Turner in Sternwheelers and Steam Tugs, by the end of the summer the Nelson was making twice-weekly runs from Nelson to Bonners Ferry, and from Nelson to Ainsworth. In the fall of the next year, C&KSN bought the Spokane, whose keel had been laid down by the Gray brothers at Bonners a year earlier to aid in the construction of the Great Northern Railway, and rebuilt it to nearly 400 tons in the Nelson yards. Relaunched in April of 1893, it served notice that the C&KSN intended to become the dominant shipping company on the Lake. When the Spokane burned at Kaslo on March 21st, 1895, C&KSN, by this time enjoying the services of the Bulger family of shipwrights, replaced it on April 7th of 1896 with the beautiful and swift 350 ton Kokanee. She proved to be that last ship that the C&KSN would ever build; the company being bought by the CPR on February 1st, 1897 and converted into its B.C. Lake and River Service (BCL&RS).
Although the BCL&RS would monopolize transport on Kootenay Lake by 1910, in the early 1890s competitors were unwilling to surrender to the C&KSN. The Nelson and Lardo Steam Navigation Company had Samuel Lovatt build the 193-ton City of Ainsworth at Ainsworth in 1892 and soon had her running back and forth between Nelson and her place of origin. In the first week of April of 1893, the Bonners Ferry and Kaslo Transportation Company entered the fray by launching the 500-ton State of Idaho, constructed by George Walker at Bonners Ferry. Under the captaincy of S.B. Shaw she worked for six hectic months, but at four in the morning of November 10th, she grounded and damaged her back at Ainsworth. Purchased as salvage by Geo. P. Alexander on behalf of the Alberta and British Columbia Exploration Company, she was rebuilt as the Alberta and was back at work by May of 1895. In competition for business during the 1896 and 1897 seasons was the Balfour Steam Navigation Company of C.W. Busk and Chris Kurtz which hopped its little Angerona and her companion, Flirt, up and down the east shore between Pilot Bay and Sanca.
The resultant increase in cargo brought to Kootenay Lake by the Nelson and Fort Sheppard Railways arrival at Five Mile Point in December of 1893 pressed the lakeboats to their limits. Anticipating satisfying profits, G.P. and H.B. Alexander and some other investors associated with Alberta and British Columbia Exploration incorporated the International Trading Company Limited on October 10th, 1895, and transferred the State of Idaho to the new company, rechristening her Alberta and putting George Hayward in command. On June 12th of 1896 ITC re-incorporated itself as the International Navigation and Trading Company (IN&T), and celebrated that event the following July 7th by launching the fast and fancy 525-ton International out of its Mirror Lake boatyard near Kaslo, Geo. Hayward in command. When CP bought the C&KSN and dropped the rival Great Northerns Slocan ore shipments to the bottom of its priority list, the IN&T eagerly volunteered to steam to the Great Northerns rescue.
Obliged to rely on the precariously financed IN&T, GNs Jim Hill soon concluded that to obtain reliable water transport, he had to control ships if he was going to successfully challenge his bitter adversary for control of the Kootenays. Having acquired control of D.C. Corbins Spokane Falls and Northern/Nelson and Fort Sheppard Railway during June of 1898, Hill teamed with H.W. Forster, a well-connected member of the British Parliament, to incorporated the Kootenay Railway & Navigation Company (KR&N) in England on August 8th, 1898. It was to be a holding company for the GNs various Kootenay district operations, and a smokescreen to hide the American corporations activities in B.C. from worried Canadian eyes. Among other interests, it soon bought up the paper of the never-to-be-completed Kaslo and Lardo-Duncan Railway, and acquired the IN&T and the Kaslo and Slocan Railway on January 1st, 1899.
Charged with the operation of the K&S and the ruination of the BCL&RS, IN&T built the 206-ton work-a-day Argenta in its yards at Mirror Lake near Kaslo and launched it on February 17th, 1900. On August 17th, builder Harold Elliott slid the speedy and eye pleasing 760 ton Kaslo down the same slipways. Having acquired all of D.C. Corbins regional operationsincluding the new smelter at Northport, Washington, the railroad line thence into Rossland and the SF&N/N&FS Railway with its docking facility at Five Mile Point near NelsonHill felt that the KR&N dovetailed neatly into his plans to control transport in southern B.C. By the turn of the twentieth century, the independent-minded Canadian-born railroader, spurred on by the unrelenting competition of his nemesis, was well positioned to rule the Kootenays.
William Cornelius Van Horne, CPs president, had other ideas.
The CPRs acquisition of the Columbia and Kootenay Navigation Company marked the beginning of a Company buying spree in southern B.C. and Alberta. In short order, CP bought F.A. Heinzes Columbia and Western Railway and Trail Creek smelter, and the charters of the B.C. Southern Railway and the Alberta Railway and Coal Company. By the end of the Nineteenth Century, the Company was well entrenched in the Kootenays.
On Kootenay Lake, CPRs new B.C. Lake and River Service inherited the Kokanee and the Nelson, and a few freight barges. In February of 1897 CP was marshalling its resources to build the Crows Nest Line into the Kootenays from the Prairies, and with passengers and cargo soon to start arriving at the Lines terminus on the southern end of the Lake, the BCL&RS needed to expand its fleet. It did this initially by diverting vessels destined for another region.
Records R.D. Turner in his engrossing Sternwheelers and Steam Tugs, the Moyie, like her sister on the Columbia River, the Minto, was prefabricated in Toronto by Bertram Iron Works, designed for CPs operations on the Stikine River in northern B.C. When plans for those operations collapsed in 1898, the Moyies steel ribs and composite hull plates were redirected to Nelson where the Bulgers bolted them together, installed the seventeen horsepower Bertram steam engine, and built the superstructure. On October 22nd, 1898, the 830-ton vessel slid into the Lakes water complete. She was CPs first Crow boat, dedicated to speeding the Companys passengers between Nelson and the Crows Nest Lines western terminus at Kootenay Landing. That December 6th, hooting a salute in the mist, she was on hand to welcome the first trainload of passengers to arrive at the end of steel.
With the 1,008 ton, wooden-hulled Kuskanook launched from the new Fairview Shipyard on May 5th, 1906, and a squadron of screw tugs bought or built to muscle barges laden with rail cars and freight up and down the Lake, the BCL&RS took a firm grip on the shipping business on Kootenay Lake. Competition began to wilt. The end for the Nelson and Lardo Steam Navigation Company came after its City of Ainsworth foundered with the loss of nine lives off Crawford Bay on November 29th of 1898. Though other small independents came and went, J.J. Hill and his International Navigation and Trading Company remained as BCL&RSs only serious rival, but as the first decade of the Twentieth Century wore on, Jim Hill took decreasing enjoyment in his campaign against the CPR. Though still involved in the CPRs affairs, Van Horne had retired to the background, and without the perverse chemistry of personal conflict, the Game began to bore Hill. As he lost interest in the Slocan, the IN&T tended to spend less on maintenance and replacement. When the Alberta sank at her dock at Kaslo on March 1st of 1905, she was refloated but not repaired. In 1909, her boiler threatening to explode from age and neglect, the International was tied up and forgotten until 1912 when she was stripped and sold to the Canadian Metals Company to join the hulk of the Alberta as a floating bunkhouse for the crew of the Bluebell mine. On May 27th of 1910, the big Kaslo sank off the Ainsworth dock, was refloated and beached. With only the leaky little Argenta to work with, the IN&T could offer little income to its operators, the GN-owned Kootenay Railway & Navigation Company, which itself had only ever made money in 1902. In 1911, GN liquidated the whole outfit, selling the companys only assets with any value; the Kaslo and Slocan Railway and the Argenta.
Cementing its commercial grip on Kootenay Lake, the BCL&RS launched the enormous Nasookin on April 30th, 1913, the last, and at 1,869 tons, the largest, sternwheeler to leave Fairviews slipways.
The completion in 1915 of the Kettle Valley Line as the last link in the CPRs southern mainline between the Prairies and the Coast, even as it diminished the general utility of the Lake and River Services Columbia River operations, increased demands on its Kootenay Lake fleet. The good times of the 19-aughts, when exploration and settlement around the Lake kept boats busy, seemed to have returned. Tons of copper and lead had to be fed into the wartime factories and the BCL&RS beat the waters into a froth in an effort to supply service. The post-war economic slump that mauled B.C.s metals industry cut into the Lake and River Services business, and the completion of the CPRs trackage along the west side of the Lake in December of 1930 made most of the Services fleet redundant. The Kuskanook was sold as a floating hotel and the Nasookin was leased by the provincial government in April of 1931, modified and bought for $17,000 in January two years later to carry road vehicles between Frasers Landing, just west along the Arm from Balfour, and Gray Creek, at the end of the new road running up the Lakes eastern shore from Creston.2 The Moyie kept herself employed with passenger excursions and running the occasional weight of freight into some remote location on the Lake. She completed her final voyage on April 27th, 1957, after which she was retired to Kaslo where, berthed onshore in a cradle of steel, she served as the towns museum, declared a National Historic Site in 1988.
The East Shore Road
Looking at The South-eastern British Columbia Recreational Atlas (P.T.C. Phototype Composing, Victoria, 1992), or at the provincially published British Columbia Road Map and Parks Guide, travellers might be misled into thinking that those little dots beading 3As red thread down the east side of Kootenay LakeGray Creek, Sanca, Kuskonook, et ceteraare towns. Theyre not, really; wide spots in the road trending towards casual communities is a description more apt in 2002. By the time that the Kootenay Skyway began stealing most of 3As traffic, the areas logging and mining industries had been long moribund. For the next 25 years only a few stores, resorts and gas stations hung on, their owners concerned more with quality of life than making a big return on investment. The occasional café, restaurant and store saw to alimentary needs, but as they were wont to keep irregular hours of business, the nutritionally concerned provisioned themselves in Nelson with snacks enough to see them the 85 or so undulating kilometres to Creston. There was, and remains, one provincial campground, but there were enough private endeavours so that cyclists neednt have worried about camping in the Wilds.
Since the mid-90s, however, the East Shore has been rediscovered. Foreign capital, attracted by the wildness that is in such short supply in Europe and America, is flooding the region, opening new lodges and restaurants and building or buying homes on the high lands overlooking the Lake, eagerly driving up the price of real estate. What was once was a rather sleepy backwater is rapidly becoming another Vacationland.
The Eastern Shore stretch of the 3A is not the worlds widest high way, nor the smoothest. Because the completion of the Kootenay Skyway in 1964 relegated it to a secondary status, 3A hasnt been resurfaced in years; only patched and rolled. This discourages heavy traffic and makes it an ideal cycling road. Few are the logging and transport trucks, the traffic consisting mainly of local folks on errands and tourists understandingly slowly rubbernecking their way along through some truly beautiful countryside. Up and down, the Highway winds its way among copses of evergreens, seldom out of sight of the Lake.
Prospectors looking for mineral wealth led the European effort to colonize Kootenay Lakes eastern shore. At places where lakeboats could nose ashore to land people and equipment, transient tent settlements were established, and some of these, usually at the mouths of creeks or near lands identified as arable, communities grew. Game trails were improved into cart tracks so neighbours could visit each other, but these remained unconnected to the World outside until, according to information obtained by The Boswell Ladies Club and published in their Boswell Beginnings - A History of Boswell B.C. and Area up to 1950 (Boswell, 1986) the province began extending the existing road between Creston and Kuskonook northward in 1927. Constructed a bit at a time by locals working off their taxes and by Depression-idled men living in the three relief camps3 on these shores and employed at 20¢ a day and board in governmental make work programs, it was completed through to Gray Creek in 1931. Though little more than a glorified waggon trail, the Road reduced the residents reliance on the lake boats for supplies, promoting Creston to a regional commercial node, especially after Greyhound Bus service was initiated. Upgrading the road into an actual highway from Kuskonook to Kootenay Bay was begun in 1947 by Dawson and Wade Construction. Storm Construction finished paving the route in 1949.
The Bays Kootenay and Crawford
Kootenay Bay is a collection of cottages with a couple of sometime restaurantsin 1999 the Kootenay Bay and the La Chance Swissand B&Bs to give substance to what is essentially just a ferry landing. The settlement got its start as Lynchville in the early 1900s when Mr. Lynch erected his house here. The house burned, Lynch moved on and the name changed. Pilot Bay Road wanders off southward down the shore to a casual resort and the heads of hiking trails to the smelter and village ruins and to the abandoned lighthouse on the tip of Pilot Peninsula which was dutifully tended for so many years by Eugene Montreuil in his launch, Eleanor.
Sharp climbs to 8% brings 3A up from the Landing to gain the ridge-top of the Cape Horn headland which separates calm Crawford Bay from the Lake. Teeing off about half way up is a little road that carries traffic northward past the Yasodhara Ashram and along the lakeshore nine kilometres to Riondel and the Bluebell. Sliding down the headlands eastern slope, the Highway slips past Fraser Lake and bends a couple of right angles to become Artisans Strip as it enters the unincorporated crafters haven of Crawford Bay. Scattered along the Highways verge are Weavers Corner, a co-operative of glass blowers, a traditional broom maker,4 the noisy shop of the Kootenay Forge Blacksmiths, a few potters and three or four places to overnight, such as The Purple Door, home of wizards. The nearby Kokanee Springs Resort and Golf Course is identified by Edwd. L. Affleck in Kootenay Lake Chronicles as the reason why there is not much at Crawford Bay any more.
According to Affleck, Crawford Bay got its name from White Man Jim Crawford, a prospector who landed in the Bay and searched his way up the creek also named for him likely sometime in the 1880s. The primordial scenery here began to change on July 17 of 1889 when Joseph William Cockle, the Kaslo boatbuilder, filed a pre-emption on 320 acres on the west side of the Bay. Though pre-emptions were meant to encourage settlement and farming, it is probable that Cockle was more interested in the stand of cedar which had survived the great fire that ravaged the Purcell Trench in 1883. None the less, he proved up to the provinces satisfaction and was granted title to his half-section as Lot 2335. Crawford Bay truly commenced its agricultural career when Arthur Case Houghton filed his claim of pre-emption on December 14 of 1894 and imported the localitys first plow. In May of 1895 he was joined by the first of the Mawdsley brothers, William Foster Tommy, who pre-empted property on the 10th. Soon Harry and Maurice Mawdsley came to join their brother, as did John Errington Houghton. They planted orchards. As their trees were maturing toward productivity, the Mawdsleys and the Houghtons began augmenting their farming income by running packtrains over the Purcells to Fort Steele, an operation which survived the completion of the Crows Nest Line by continuing to supply mining camps up in the Mountains and diversifying into the hunting guide business.
In 1896, with mining fever gripping the region, the Angerona and the Flirt of the Balfour Steam Navigation Company began running into the Bay to a rickety wharf on the east side near which Thomas Cyrs built Crawfords first, albeit crude, hostelry. In 1898 Thompson and Company had a real hotel raised, leaving its operation to C.W. Grain who was soon succeeded by Alex. McGregor. In 1903 Geo. P. Fournier and his wife, Annie, bought it and kept it open until Annie, by then running the establishment for Oscar Burden while George lived on the Coast, closed it during the 30s.
As the Kootenay Mining and Smelting Company was building its smelter nearby at Pilot Bay, the rocks in the creek valleys leading into Crawford Bay began to attract attention. The KM&S metallurgists realized that in order to process the Bluebells refractory ore, dry ores containing abundant quartz and the silver-bearing minerals of argentite, tetrahedrite and pyrargyrite would be necessary to mix into the smelter charge. Particularly promising were the California and the Hidden Treasure, the former sending several tons to Pilot Bay before KM&S abandoned the project in September of 1896.
Though the Pilot Bay works was fated never again to smelt ore, its construction had refired prospecting in the Purcells. Relying on the Mawdsleys packtrains, the Pilot Bay Mining and Development Company located the Minerva, the Rose, the Eagle and the Clover claims in the St. Marys watershed on the eastern side of the Purcell divide. Closer to Crawford, the London Consolidated Gold Fields Exploration and Mining Company, Limited, developed the Silver Hill and the Richilieu Mining Company, Limited, of J.A. Macdonald and Henry and T.G. Roy worked the neighbouring Richilieu. From 1901 to 1904 ore was aerial trammed down from the mines to Crawford Creek, packed a few miles to the head of a waggon road and rolled to bins built on the Bay front whence it was floated to Procter for delivery to CPs Trail smelter.
In addition to their mining activities, J.A. Macdonald and Henry Roy platted a townsite on Lot 196 in 1901. Though several families formerly associated with the Pilot Bay smelter project had settled in the area when Kootenay Mining and Smelting quit, Crawford Bay remained firmly rural and mostly agrarian, and Macdonald and Roy sold very few building lots.
Nineteen-05 brought an expansion of the Bays economic base when Oscar Burden and Alfred J. Watson established a steam-powered sawmill which for the next twenty years whined timber into boards for local building and send a variety of quality woods to the sash and door manufacturers in Nelson.
Since the Balfour Steam Navigation Company had gone out of business in 1898, rare had been the lake boat which bothered to drive itself up the 10-km-length of Crawford Bay on the off chance that someone there might have some business for it. The landings at Pilot Bay and Kootenay Bay were relatively close, but it was a hard slog for a pack horse over the ridge that separated the Lake from the upper end of Crawford Bay. Hence, when a good trail down the shore to Gray Creek and over the ridge to Kootenay Bay was constructed in 1908, the folks at the head of the Bay felt re-attached to the World. J.E. Houghton was inspired to open a general store and offer postal services.
With the arable lands around the Lake beginning to attract settlers in the late 19-aughts, the Turner-Hamilton Real Estate Company out of Winnipeg, Manitoba, bought up lapsed pre-emptions and other properties in around Crawford Bay, sub-divided them into 10-acre plots and marketed them as fruit farms. They sold well, especially to settlers of British origin who soon had fields of potatoes, onions and strawberries growing and a new wharf built to which the Kaslo of the International Navigation and Trading Company called twice a week until she sank in 1910.
Despite the loss of the Kaslo, 1910 was a watershed year for Crawford Bay. A branch of the Farmers Institute was organized under the presidency of F.W. Simpson, and that November F.J. Cody convened the areas first school classes in the newly built community hall. Come 1911, when the CPRs ancient Nelson began calling by daily except Sunday, Crawford Bay held its first annual sports day and Fall Fair.
The packtrail to Kootenay Bay was improved into a waggon road in 1912. The Nelson was retired in 1913 and replaced on the Crawford Bay run by the tug Ymir which was succeeded by the unreliable launch, Nelson, for a few months in 1914 until the great Moyie added Port Crawford to its schedule.
Crawford Bay probably achieved the acme of its existence about the year that the Great War began, 1914. Apple orchards were well established and producing, strawberry yields were reliable, and cherry trees had proved that they could survive and were being planted. Dairying had caught on, with the produce finding a ready market in Nelson. On April 14th the local ladies organized the Crawford Bay Womens Institute with Anne Gooch as president. It became so influential in regional affairs that it even attracted the famous Emmeline Pankhurst to speak on womens rights and suffrage in 1921. In 1917 a real school was built near the bridge which carried the Kootenay BayGray Creek packtrail over Crawford Creek, and by then the Crawford Bay Co-op had built a feed shed and packing house. By 1920 the entire packtrail had been converted into a waggon road along which the areas first car, a Model T Ford, honked its way. That year, too, a store and post office was built at the bridge, the centre of a growing community, and Commander M.J. Harrison raised his self-named Memorial Church and opened it to all denominations. Since 1944 it has been in the care of the Anglican congregation.
Crawford Bay coasted through the 20s, blithely unaware that the coming Depression would destroy the market for its fruit. The completion in 1931 of the road up the East Shore from Creston to Gray Creek instituted regular cross-Lake ferry service from the latter settlement to the West Arm, making the shipment of Crawfords fruit independent of the much-reduced boat service into the Bay, but by the time that the new community hall was raised by the Crawford Creek bridge in 1937, the little cherry disease had ruined the orchard trees anyway. The Second World War did little but spirit away the Bays youngsters, but the improvement of the East Shore road into the Interprovincial Highway in 1946 and its designation as the Crowsnest Highway in 1948 brought vastly increased traffic through the region. With the reopening of the Bluebell works in the spring of 1952 Crawford Bay fairly boomed with new residents and a jump in land values. Perceiving an opportunity to prosper from the local dearth of recreational facilities, in 1965 the Kokanee Springs Resort bought up large tracts, uprooted old orchards, cleansed its properties of unsightly, historic farm buildings, including Arthur Houghtons original pre-emption dwelling known as the Black Shack because it was constructed of burned-over logs. The only reminder of Crawford Bays agricultural past that was spared was the old fruit-packing shed. Though the Resorts planned ski hill never materialized, its 18-hole6,193 yards from the whitesgolf course is very popular and its hunting and fishing expeditions well patronized.
Expanding the regions economic base around the same time as the Resort was being organized was the International Marble and Stone Company which in 1964 commenced quarrying dolomite on Crawford Creek. In 1969 the company sunk a mine into the deposit to obtain cleaner material which it trucks south down the No.3 to its plant at Sirdar where it is crushed into an agricultural soil conditioner and construction materials.
Looking at Crawford Bay today the visitor is hard-pressed to imagine that this was once a vibrant community. Though it is home to the regional comprehensive school and still hosts a fall fair, it is a pretty quiet place. Perhaps if the Crawford Bay Centaur put in an occasional appearance, the local tourist industry might boom. The creature was spotted in the autumn of 1900 by W.J. Kane, master of the much-travelled Marion. No one, however, thought to record the recipe of the eye medicine the good captain favoured, so the Centaur hasnt been seen since.
Crossing the 1992 concrete span over Crawford Creek at the head of the Bay and noting the casual airfield laid out on the foreshore flats to the right, the traveller is half way out of the settlement.
Some six kilometres south of Crawford Bay and almost opposite Cape Horn is the little wide-spot of Gray Creek, a former steamboat landing which got its start as Ironton, a failed mining camp to which a community of largely British colonists came at the turn of the twentieth century to plant orchards around the Bay. Evidence of their work is still to be found in the odd bit of terracing and surviving fruit tree, but inexperience, climate, isolation and disease combined to defeat their commercial ventures.
Out-of-date Youth Hostel Guides indicate that there is a hostel at Gray Creek. No longer: on May 22nd, 1993, the proprietress of the rustic, old-timey Gray Creek Auto Camp wrenched the triangular hostel sign from the outside of her office wall and dropped it in the dust. Running that part of her business was simply not worth the effort. There are, though, tenting sites aplenty at the nearby Old Crow Campground and provisions available at the ancient Gray Greek Store.
For a few weeks every summer the Guiding Hands Recreational Society stages its Family Days, dispatching boatloads of people over to the ancient Native campgrounds at Pilot Bay where back-to-nature seminars under the guidance of First Nations elders are held. The hustle and bustle of the event must resemble the Gray Creek of old, when the community was a regular port of call for lakeboats dropping supplies for settlers and prospectors who tromped off into the Purcells seeking fortunes in the rocks. In this region not a lot was found; it seems that Nature had concentrated all her wealth in the Ledge. In 1902 the Lucky Jimmy group of eight claims and the Beaconsfield group of six were reported showing some ores assaying to 70% mundane metallic iron.
For the totally stoked rough road bikie, the Gray Creek Forest Service Road leaves the settlement as Anderson Road on the south side of the Gray Creek bridge and heads east up into the Purcells on an 85 kilometre long jaunt to Kimberley. A shortcut between the Rocky Mountain and Purcell Trenches, the Road is an aerobic adventure which climbs grades to 14% to ascend 1,500 vertical metres within fifteen kilometres of Gray Creek. Not a two-wheel-drive route at its best, at its worst, even in high summer, its impassable: conditions can be checked at the Visitor Info Booth in Crawford Bay or the Gray Creek Store where one can buy bear spray.
La France and Lockhart
A few kilometres south of Gray Creek and its quaint, asphalt-skinned wooden-decked bridge another timber-built bridge carries the Highway over La France Creek, named for Elzéar N. La France who pre-empted a 320 acre property here about on November 27, 1891. La France was a prospector and his property was soon known as Maryville, a casual camp for men who shared his enthusiasm. One of those who arrived there in 1891 was Thomas Wall who that year staked the Snow King on a showing of galena up the Creek. By 1900, when the Mulligan and Workman groups of properties were reported as being developed on La France Creek, Wall had a partner, H. Barr. In addition to the Snow King, they owned the Echo and the promising Umpire from which they extracted some 50 tons that summer. With the Umpires ore valued at $100 per ton, Wall and Barr looked to the Chicago Mining Company for development money and became shareholders in the La France Mining Company which Chicago registered in North Dakota in 1906. After a few years of fruitless effort and the installation of some crude amenities to aid in tunnelling, the venture went into hibernation during W.W.I and Wall took up ranching locally. The Annual Report of the Minister of Mines for 1926, however, notes that the La France Creek Mining Company of Chicago was working its Chicago group of properties. The Gold King and the Gold Queen were last mentioned in 1933, although some diamond drilling is thought to have been carried out on the properties in the 1980s.
Mining wasnt on the mind of one Major Gould when he acquired land in the La France Creek area in 1894. He wanted to see if tree fruits could be grown, and to that end set in several Coxs Orange Pippin apples and a few Cherries. The Cherries, like the good Major, did not take, but the apples are apparently still doing well.
Until 1936 only the Walls lived in the area, but come that year a couple of more families arrived and the next year a log cabin was adapted as a school. It lasted but ten years, for after the War an amalgamated school district was created and students were bussed to classes in Crawford Bay on the improved shore road. The old school became the La France community club house.
Today La France is a very few scattered residences loosely centred on the Mountain Shores Resort which began as the Rainbow Park in 1948.
Not three kilometres from La France Creek are the thirteen showerless campsites of Lockhart Beach Provincial Park and the 1973 bridge which carries the Highway over frothing Lockhart Creek. Recalls Jessie Hepher in Afflecks Kootenay Pathfinders: Settlement in the Kootenay District 18851920, an Ontarian named Isaac Lewis moved down from Pilot Bay in 1893 and pre-empted a homestead he called Davie near the mouth of the Creek. According to the Boswell Ladies, he never proved up, deciding to ranch on the Creston Flats, instead. The Park itself began in the autumn of 1912 when R.W. Yuill was sent out with a crew by the provincial government to clear the brush out of the creek and survey a townsite of 200 or so one, two and three acre lots for a summer resort. The project was not carried through, but Yuill bought a lot, built a hunting and fishing lodge and spent the rest of his days there making rhubarb wine and guiding sportsmen with his pal, Murdoch McLeod. In 1929 the Boswell Farmers Institute applied to the province to convert the old townsite into a public park. This was done and the Institute built some picnic shelters and a cottage for McLeod who was appointed custodian. Yuills lodge burned in 1937, three years after his death, and the other structures were destroyed by floods, fires and vandals over the years.
Around here the old-growth forest of western red cedar, Douglas-fir, balsam, hemlock, birch, larch and ponderosa pine has long been harvested, and where the colonizerswestern white and Lodgepole pine, western hemlock and yewhave not yet rooted, the rubine lances of Indian paintbrush thrust up through the grassy ground cover and Rocky Mountain juniper. In August, wild turkeys gobble huckleberries in the undergrowth. Squinting into the late afternoons sun, the sharp of eye can catch sight of the Kootenay Valley Railways daily down train, number 984, creeping southward along the Lakes shore opposite, its grumble ever so faint, drifting across the six kilometres of quiet waters. With twilight, the air thickens with the fragrance of wild rose and moisture, promising the woods a cleansing shower. Out on the Lake, a boisterous little storm blusters about, searching for a victim upon which to vent its vitriol.
Boswell and Sanca
Boswell, unincorporated, about halfway between Kootenay Bay and the end of the Lake, stretches itself two or three kilometres along the 3A on each side of McGregor Creek and offers travellers a variety of accommodations. Marking the northern end of the settlement, St. Anselms Anglican dates from the 1960s but the congregation traces its roots back to the first church services held in the A.R. Wilson residence near the Boswell steamer landing in 1911. For many years the school and then the Memorial Hall were monopolized come Sundays by the Anglicans.
If it could be said that there is a regional centre on the Lakes south-east shore, Boswell would be it.
What enticed Ken Wattie to pre-empt a homestead around here in 1893 or 1894 will remain unknown for he evidently didnt stay long; there is no entry for Wattie in the family record pages of the Boswell Ladies Clubs Boswell Beginnings. Be that as it may, the Wilson and Johnson families came and stayed to plant orchards of cherries and fields of strawberries, gooseberries, and raspberries on the benchlands along McGregor Creek. Thanks largely to the efforts of real estate promoter James Johnstone of Nelson, by 1906 there was a sizeable community along the shore by the mouth of the Creek, augmenting the meagre income from its orchards by trapping and fishing, logging, hunting, mining and animal husbandry.
The area got its big boost when the reigning governor-general of Canada, the 4th Earl Grey, Sir Albert Henry George Grey, visited the neighbourhood in September of 1906 and liked it so much that he bought 54 prime acres of it from promoter Jas. Johnstone, naming it Boswell Ranch. He left the property under the management of William and Emma Turner Ginol with instructions that it be prepared for fruit trees that he would import from England. Barracks were built and a squad of Chinese labourers set to work. In 1911, upon his retirement from Canada, the Earl sent a professional horticulturist in his employ, Alexander Mackie, from England to take over the Ranch and expand the orchards. On June 10, 1912, tons and tons of nutrient-rich volcanic ash blown into the sky by Mt. Katami in the Alaska panhandle began settling in the Kootenays, doubtless benefiting the Ranchs some 2,000 Cherries and Coxs Orange Pippins and Jonathan apples which were beginning to bear that year, along with the strawberries, potatoes and bush fruits. Most of the produce found its market on the Prairies. During W.W.I Mackie bought out the Earl and expanded his orchards to include Macintoshes, Red and Yellow Deliciouses and Gravensteins. Until the fruit market went flat during the Depression, the Boswell Ranch was a model enterprise which anchored the industry on the Lake and inspired others to try their hands at it.
Earl Greys interest focused attention in the fertile shores of Kootenay Lake, attracting increased numbers of settlers and earning Boswell a scheduled stop on the CPRs lakeboat service. In 1907 the Post Office established a bureau under the care of Emma Ginol. Enough of a community had developed by 1911 that residents gathered to form the Boswell Kootenay Lake Union that year. It concerned itself with up-grading and maintaining local trails and paths, keeping stream channels cleared of brush, promoted the installation of a telephone system and, later, showed moviesno mean trick using a cranky old engine to run a jury-rigged dynamo for electricityin the Boswell Memorial Hall which the community would open in 1921. On September 11th, 1911, Isabella Cummings delivered Sidney Raymond, the first baby recorded to have been born in the area, possibly prompting the formation of a committee that autumn to address education. Come the spring of 1912 a log-built school house had been completed on a plot of land donated by James Johnstone and classes were in session under the direction of Laura E. Symonds. That year, too, James Coupland opened his general store and, nearby, on the waterfront below the school, the new Conservative federal government of R.L. Borden began building a permanent wharf mainly to expedite the export of the fruit crop.
So successful did the business of fruit ranching become that on March 11th, 1916, the Boswell Fruit Growers Association was incorporated under the Co-operative Associations Act. It took over the running of the Fall Fair which had begun its annual exhibitions in 1914, kept the membership abreast of the latest in the orchardry/fruit-packing industry and arranged for the manufacture of shipping crates and the bulk purchase of fertilizers, sprays and feeds for work horses. Its main achievement was the construction of a packing shed in conjunction with he Farmers Institute in 1922.
The Boswell Farmers Institute which was registered under the Societies Act in May of 1921. The Institute superseded the Boswell Kootenay Lake Union and inherited its assets. Among its activities was the presentation of lectures on marketing and on animal husbandry and grain growing, elimination of noxious weeds and stinging insects, maintenance of roads and wharves, and the running of the Fall Fair which had been latterly under the auspices of the Fruit Growers Association.
By 1925 the population of Boswell had reached 97 and the packing shed was becoming cramped. As well as being used for sorting, packing and storage, the building was a factory where crates were made. Expansion nearly doubled its size and included a cold-storage annex. Unsuspected by all, however, the zenith of the East Shores fruit growing industry had been reached.
The completion of the railway on the other side of the Lake at the end of 1930 reduced the number of weekly lakeboat visits to Boswell, an inconvenience for the growers of soft fruits like cherries, strawberries, raspberries and gooseberries which relied on gentle handling and speedy delivery to command the best market prices. Left sitting on a wharf, boxed fruit quickly begins to rot, and so poor did service become that much of the east shores produce was fit for nothing but jamming by the time it arrived at Nelson. Trucking soft produce down the East Shore road to Sirdar on the B.C. Southern proved ineffective: the road was so rough that the most shipments were jammed in the crates. CPs reduction in service, combined with the little cherry disease which struck during the late 30s, destroyed the local soft-fruit business. Not so with apples, however, which could both stand the jouncy ride by truck down the East Shore road to Creston and extended storage in the boxcars standing on a barge moored to the wharf. With most of their produce dedicated to Great Britain, apple farmers installed a Cutler grader in the packing shed in 1937 to ensure uniformity of their produce, and in 1940 shipped out a record 17 boxcar loads, over half a million pounds. Unfortunately, as War took hold of the British economy and monopolized shipping thither, many of the east shores apple growers, unable to quickly crack other markets, were forced out of business. The industry never recovered, and the Boswell Fruit Growers Association held its final meeting on May 26th, 1953.
In 1947 Boswells school began to close when the Grade Eights, the seniors of the school, were bussed to Crawford Bay. The next year the rest of the students followed.
Boswells industrial heart was located in Akokliformerly, GoatCreek, a couple of kilometres south from the community proper. It was here that the settlements mining and logging activities were centred. The crumbled rock pier at the Creeks mouth was one of the first boat landings on the east shore.
In that it sustained the interest of the mining community for nearly 50 years, doubtless the most famous property in the area was the Valparaiso, staked in the heights above the Creek by one Bermeister in the mid-1890s. In May of 1900 money inconnu incorporated the Valparaiso Gold Mines Company which collected the Franklin, the Valparaiso, the Sunset, the Government, the Jackson, the Starter and the O.K. into its portfolio. A barracks was built and come the years end 12 men had hacked 125 feet into the granite country rock following a vein of ore which carried an gold value of $5.00 per ton, minimum. Eleven tons of ore each promising five ounces per ton of gold and eight of silver were extracted in 1901, packtraind down to the pier and heaved onto barges for transport likely to Hall Mines smelter at Nelson. Evidently, however, the effort wasnt worth the returns and the Mine was worked only sporadically, finally being acquired by the Frampton brothers and their Sanca-based Associated Mining and Milling Company in 1927. Sanca Mines, Limited, formed itself in 1928 to take over the works and was able, apparently, to interest the great Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company, Limited, which leased the property in 1933. A tiny aerial tramway was installed between the mines mouth and a lakeside ore bin and a reported seven car loads sent to Trail for smelting. Values of gold and silver were recovered, but not in economic quantities. The Mine closed in 1941.
In 1900, claim The Boswell Ladies Club, the Kaslo-based Imperial Mining Company, Limited, was 100 feet into the rock of Goat Creek on its Maratt, LaSalle and William Tell properties, following a vein of ore that promised to pay expenses. Evidently it did not, and the works was mentioned never more in any Annual Report of the Minister of Mines. That same year, Imperial was examining the nearby Copper Canyon group for copper, gold and silver. Adits were driven, but the findings were disappointing. Associated Mining and Milling Company bought the group in 1925, but did no noted work.
In 1906, high on the south side of the Goats valley W. Mulholland staked the Gold Basin group. Supposedly 1,000 feet of tunnelling was driven with some ores sent to the Bunker Hill Smelter in Kellogg, Idaho, for treatment.
Whereas mining in the Goat Creek was unrewarding, logging was. Forests of evergreens and birch, tamarack and poplar provided years of work for area men and an unlimited supply of logs for local construction. Noted by The Boswell Ladies is the Quinn family which in 1911 contracted to ship 100 cords of wood to the Yale-Columbia Lumber Company at Nelson. With other men in 1912, the Quinns cut 6,000 ties for the CPR and rafted them to Nelson. Organized timbering came in 1926 when the M.L. Bruce Lumber Company established a 100-man camp up in the Goat and built a flume down which to scoot primarily cedar logs to the Lake where they were boomed and tugged to Nelson. Professionally engineered, the flume crossed the Creek 17 times. The operation was taken over in 1934 by Bruces foreman, C.V. Cady. His Lumber and Pole Company operated in the Goat until the Creek washed out the flume 1936.
The tradition of only exporting raw logs from the east shore stopped in 1930 when V. Vasseur and P. Longeville set up a small sawmill at Destiny Bay, working there and at Blue Point for a few years. To make use of plentiful cedar scrap, the Offner brothers brought their shingle mill up to the Goat from Wynndel in 1940, the year a C.O. Rodgers contractor began cutting at Destiny Bay, sending the logs to Creston for milling. Five years later the Glacier Lumber Company sent crews up the Goat to haul logs out by truck, initiating the mechanization of the industry which continues today to savage the valleys with howling chain saws and crawler tractors ripping down vast swathes of the remaining timber.
In the year 2000 tourism is the mainstay of the east shore, and has been for many years. Bob Yuill pioneered the business in the 19-aughts with his hunting and fishing lodge at Lockhart Creek up the coast. In 1929, at the very centre of Todays community on part of a 53-acre property pre-empted some 20 years earlier by Lawson Hepher and Harry Beaumont at the mouth of Akokli Creek, the D.V. Wests opened their Destiny Bay Tourist Court to cater to travellers on the new East Shore road. South down the Lake from the Wests, in 1939 S.R. Cummings and family built their resort. They were the forerunners of an industry which in 2002 dots the Shore from Kuskonook to Riondel with tourist camps.
Attracting visitors, Boswell boasts what is unquestionably B.C.s most unusual abode. On a little promontory overlooking the Lake stands a castle made of glass bottles.
The size of The Glass House size doesnt really qualify it as castle unless, of course, you hold that every mans home is .... And this was a mans home; a very unusual man, too, D.H. Brown: Peculiar, he styled himself. Very peculiar, to imagine that 250 tons of identical, rectangular embalming fluid bottles mortared together in a two-storeyd cloverleaf design with a crenellated roof-line and watch-towerd walls would make a suitable home. Mrs. Brown, now the proprietress of the Kootenay Kampground about a mile south, in 1999 said it was a success as a living space, but built in the wrong location, what with people banging on the door at all hours requesting a tour. Macabre, actually, springs to mind. People must have done a lot of dying around here in the early days. Begun in 1952, the year that West Kootenay Power electrified the east shore, the Glass House is still a work under construction by Browns family who, understandably, doesnt live there anymore.
Some few kilometres beyond Akokli Creek with its unique, bent, timber-built bridge, Cummings Resort might entice a weary biker to come and camp on the beach, the brook babbling a lullaby. Knocked early awake by a pileated woodpecker practising her xyloglyphic arts on a rotting cottonwood snag, a traveller could arise to stretch out the kinks and admire the dawn-lit snow caps of the Nelson Range across the cobalt Lake. This is Big scenery; Big mountains mirrored in a Big lake which around here reaches its maximum depth of just over 500 feet.
By the year 2002 the settlement of Sanca has faded to a bare existence, remarkable mainly for the elderly 1957 bridge across the creek for which the community was named. Though never great, the settlement was a going concern in the late 1890s as prospectors homed in on White Grouse Mountain, on the divide between the Goat and St. Marys rivers watersheds, 25 kilometres as-the-crow-flies north-east of Sanca.
With a lucky eye for valuable real estate, sometime around 1895 Charles Plummer Chippy Hill bought a level piece of land near the mouth of Sancauntil then, GraniteCreek, subdivided it and offered lots for sale through the Sanca Townsite Company. Hill contracted J.T. Simpson to set up a saw mill to supply lumber to a little community which was arising in 1896 on the promise of Mackenzie and Manns nearby Storm King claim and White Grouse Mountain Camp to which the Harris brothers were regularly packing supplies. Among the miners shacks and tents was a store run by W. G. (Geo.) Nowell, and three hotels. The Sanca Hotel was built by Chris Kurtz, part owner of the Balfour Steam Navigation Company, and his partner, Grant McKean. The indefatigable Mrs. Emma Turnersoon to be Mrs. Ginol of Boswell Ranch management noteowned another hotel with six rooms, a dining room and the post office, which she built on two of the first lots that Hill sold. The other hotel was owned by Joseph Blanchard. Disappointment in the prospects of White Grouse Mountain and the strikes in the Klondike emptied the settlement seemingly overnight, leaving few to fight the fire that razed many of the remaining buildings sometime in the early 19-aughts.
Sanca was rescued by the Spence family who came to plant an orchard on the flats just north of the Creeks mouth in 1913. In 1929, with more families having come to farm the flats, an office of the postal bureau was established in the Spence home. The office moved around a bit from family to family until November 30th, 1956, when it was closed, obliging the Sanca folks to travel to Boswell to get their mail.
The mining business returned to Sanca when the three Frampton brothers, William, Morris and Ernest, settled near the Spences in the mid-20s. Speculators, in 1926 they used their United Lode Mining Company to establish a mine on the Iolanthe property just above the beach a bit north of the Creeks mouth. Morris set up an assay office for Canada Metals in a cabin near the beach in 1927 and divided his time between his duties there and the Mine. Ernest tramped the hills looking for better prospects and William is noted as a mining promoter, buying the Valparaiso mine near Goat Creek that year. Enough gold and silver showed that Sanca Mines, Limited, formed itself in 1928 and took over the Iolanthe, but the mine proved barren and saw its final appearance in The Annual Report of the Minister of Mines for the Year Ending 31st December, 1933. In 1930, when the road up from Kuskonook was being scratched along the lake shore, an outcrop of galena was discovered just south of Sanca Creek and was staked as the Lakeshore group. Not a big producer, it was worked off and on for a decade by the Timmons family who sent anything worthwhile to Trail.
Children enough there was in the area that in November of 1935 a school was opened in one of the old cabins at Sanca. A new building was raised in 1937 but, with registration well below the requisite twelve in 1942, the school was closed and the students bussed to Boswell.
Logging, of course, took place in the Sanca watershed, mainly in 1938 and 1939 when independent contractors sent their cut to the C.O. Rodgers mill in Creston.
As on the rest of the Kootenay Lake shore east, most income around Sanca comes from tourism, with the first camp being established by the Dennis family in 1941. In 1948 part of the camp was subdivided into lots and a little subdivision arose to carry on the Sanca name.
Kuskonook: Lakeboats and Railroads
Having passed the resort at Twin Bays and nearing the end of the Lake, the Highway rolls into the community of Kuskonook. To call it a settlement in 2002 is stretching the definition; it is merely a closer compaction of cottages the like of which are scattered liberally along this side of the lower Lake. Kuskonooks very valid claim to fame is hinted at by the triple row of rotting piles marching obliquely out into the water.
Writes R.G. Burrows in Railway Mileposts: British Columbia, when the CPR finally got to work on the western end of its British Columbia Southern Railway in 1898, Kuskonook, thanks to its relatively deep, sheltered, ice free cove, boomed into being, noted by the old time local prospector, Thomas Wall, as the place with the 17 saloons. Promoters, still arguing among themselves as to what the town was to be namedKalama, Goat River Landing, Armstrongs Landingproclaimed that the townsite was the only logical place for the CPR to build its Crow boat wharves and sold lots by the fistfuls. Tents soon gave way to wooden structures sheltering stores, hotels, and palaces of pleasure and diversion. It was a rough place, and amid the hubbub stood a gaol wherein was lodged John Davis after he killed Dennis Conner in the bar of the International Hotel on February 13, 98. Later that spring, the Kuskanook Searchlight trumpeted the treasure of the Last Chance claim, a gold deposit found right on the settlements beach. The treasure ultimately proved elusive.
Though the CPR landed its supplies in the cove, set up its quartermasters depôt there and began building its construction tote road, it had no intention of making Kuskonook its permanent base. The townsite was owned by principals in the Great Northerns Kaslo and Slocan Railway, and CP would certainly not knowingly do anything to benefit its chief competitor. The wharves that would soon decorate Kuskonooks pretty cove would not be the CPRs.
J.J. Hill, lord of the Great Northern Railway, in the late 1890s still revelling in cut-throat competition with his nemesis, the CPR, finally concluded that the lower reach of the Upper Kootenay River was too unreliable to be entrusted with boatloads of Slocan silver ore bound for his mainline at Bonners Ferry. Consequently, on May 8th, 1897, he incorporated the Bedlington and Nelson Railway Company (B&N) in B.C., and in Washington, a year later, formed the Kootenai Valley Railway (KoVR) (Kootenai Railway and Navigation Company?). Establishing the Kootenay Construction Company to build the lines, Hill had the River bridged at Bonners and hired the Foley Brothers, Larson, Halverson and Company to run the KoVRs rails 26 miles along the Rivers right bank to the vanished Boundary community of Bedlington, Idaho. The work, write the Messrs Turner and Wilkie in The Skyline Limited, was begun in November, 1898.
Finally receiving a charter for the B&N in the spring of 1900, Hill immediately began building from the Boundary northward, tantalizing the owners of the Pilot Bay smelter with talk of extending the line on past their plant to connect with the GNs proposed Kaslo and Lardo-Duncan Railway at the top of the Lake. At Creston he ordered that a station be erected at the bottom of what is now Canyon Street, and instructed the contractors to keep the B&N on the valley floor for its eight kilometre long run up to Wynndel. From there, as part of the accommodation that permitted the CPR to cross the tracks of the Nelson and Fort Sheppard at Troup Junction east of Nelson, the B&N was allowed to lease running rights on nearly nine miles of CP trackage to Sirdar Junction where CPs rails bend westward to cross the marshes between Kootenay and Duck Lakes. At the Junction the B&N diverged through a small rock-cut which is evident still and extended five kilometres up the Lakes shore to Kuskonook. New wharves were built and labourers began sweating ore into GN gondolas from the holds and decks of the boats of the International Navigation and Trading Company, which Hill had bought and reorganized in 1899. On November 25th, 1900, the B&N-KoVR went into full operation. Usually called by its American name, the KoVR fell, as did the IN&T and the Kaslo & Slocan Railway, under the stewardship of the Kootenay Railway & Navigation Company in Hills complex of operations.
Arrived at Kuskonook, the greater part of which had burned to the ground on March 20th, 1900, the B&N laid out a yards with 800 metres of sidings, raised a station-hotelwhich burned early on and was replaced by the pictured structure which, until wiped out along with two homes by the mudslide of August 8th, 2004,5 stood on the Highways inland shoulder. A three-stall enginehouse fed by a 60 foot long turntable completed the B&Ns infrastructure. Curiously, the B&N only ever owned one locomotive and one rail car, preferring to lease its power and rolling stock from the Great Northern. The loco and rail car, presumably, satisfied the provinces regulations regarding what an enchartered railway was expected to own.
Though disappointed that the CPR did not chose to remain in their settlement, the people of Kuskonook hung on, hanging their hopes on the B&N. Seven hotels, according to E.L. Affleck in his Kootenay Pathfinders: Settlement in the Kootenay District, 18851920, continued in business: the Anderson House, the Butte, the Kelowna, the Union, the Windsor, Klondike, and International. Provincial constables Allen Forrester and Joseph Wilson rattled doors on their nightly patrols, among them those of Charles Wrights general store. With monies partly raised from a poetry reading by the celebrated Pauline Johnston, the citizens of Kuskonook were able to raise a school and hire Mary Elizabeth Fletcher to begin teaching classes in May of 1899.
On August 1st, 1901, an ominous silence spread over the wharves and yards of Kuskonook. Operations north from Creston Junctionnow Wynndelhad been suspended. American tariffs on the importation of lead and the falling price of silver combined to diminish the flow of ore out of the Slocan. B&Ns raison detre was extinguished: what few tons of ore that were still shipped south were more efficiently moved on the GNs other regional line, the Nelson and Fort Sheppard. Internationals big Kaslo stopped coming into Kuskonooks little cove. Destroying the final argument for maintaining the B&N was the completion in 1902 of GNs Crows Nest Southern connecting Hills Crowsnest Pass coal fields to the GN mainline at Jennings, Montana: no longer did Hill need to send his coal via the CPRs B.C. Southern to Creston and from there into the United States on the KoVR. Though the B&Ns hardware lay in place until 1916, Kuskonook saw its last train on January 14th, 1904. Even a KoVR train into Creston was a rare event, ending when the B&N was formally abandoned on September 11th, 1914. As railroad rationalization seized corporate America, the GN, note R.D. Turner and D.S. Wilkie in The Skyline Limited, took over the KoVR on August 8th, 1913, and continued to run the occasional train from Bonners to the Boundary until Burlington Northern abandoned the spur in the 1970s.
In his excellent McCullochs Wonder, Barrie Sanford opines that Hill had been positioning his companies to benefit from reciprocityunhindered free trade across the Boundarywhich he was certain was going to be adopted as policy by the Canadian and United States governments. The Americans had already approved the terms for the agreement in early 1911 when Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Canadas Liberal prime minister, sought public ratification of the policy in a general election for September 21st of that year. Unsettled by the spectre of a ravenous American economic ogre conjured up by the Liberals political enemiesW.C. Van Horne prominent among themCanadians ushered Laurier out of office, thereby scuttling the trade deal. Ageing, Hill, according to Sanford, lost heart in his vision of a borderless North America, and allowed his boards of directors to dump unprofitable Canadian operations and concentrate their efforts south of the Boundary.
There is some question as to whether the triple row of pilings in Kuskonook Bay are indeed relics of B&N operations. Before the CrestonGray Creek road, precursor of todays 3A, was completed in 1931, CPs B.C. Lake and River Service used to bump a boat from settlement to settlement down the Lakes eastern shore, Kuskonook being the turn-around: those piles might have been driven by the Service.
The Lower Lake: Kootenay Landing and Sirdar
South from Kuskonook, across the wide, 1981 concrete slab span over Boulder Creek and passing cliffs of fine-varved shales intruded here and there by masses of grey granite, the Highway occupies the old B&N right-of-way down past the end of the Lake and almost to Sirdar Junction, the switch which united the B&N and the CPR for their eight kilometre long promenade down to Wynndel. Just before the Junction, the Highway steps left to leave the B&Ns ghost to cut its way through a rocky knob to the site of the long-gone switch. Forced by CPs well polished rails to climb higher up on the valley wall, the Highway climbs a short, steep grade over the subterranean conveyor carrying crushed rock from the Imasco Minerals, Inc. (formerly International Marble and Stone Company, Limited) operation above to trackside storage bunkers. The quarry has been in steady operation since James S. Wilson located it in 1913, extracting dimensioned and building stone from it into the 1950s. It was taken over by Kootenay Granite Products in 1955 and six years later transferred to International Marble and Stone which built a crushing plant to diversify its product line. It was likely from this quarry in the 20s that stone was extracted to build the Alberta Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Mormons in Cardston, Alberta.
Travellers pausing near the access road to IMASCO hair-pinning back up the slope from the Highway will find themselves about 30 feet above the valley floor overlooking a scene of some grandeur. Wild roses bloom on the roadside, the slopes are home to orange-barked ponderosa pines and inland cedars. West five miles the jagged amethyst chain of the Nelson Range stream pennons of cloud from their icy tips. Within spitting distance on the valley floor, the bright-steel banded, oil blackened railbed of the CPR, having run up from Creston, curves sharply away west, bangs through the steel truss Kootenay Slough Bridge and hurries away on 2,300 metres of causeway across the bogs at the bottom of the Lake. Originally, all that Causeway was timber cribbing, part of four miles of trestlework which was required to keep the rails of CPs British Columbia Southern out of the Lakes reach. Over the years, thousands of car-loads of fill have been dumped over the timbers resulting in a solid earthen bank carrying the Railway across the marshes.
Standing on this spot in early October of 1898 would have been a thrill. From the south the Foley Brothers construction train crept into view, huffing locomotive pushing a string of flatcars loaded with rail, ties and sundry supplies. Leading the ensemble was the tracklayer, a flat-decked car with a cable-supported derrick towering above its forward end. Sticking out beyond the car and hung by cables from the derrick were two roller-bottomed conveyor troughs which ran back in sections to the end of the train on either side, affixed to the cars. The longer of the two quivering conveyors spat ties into the waiting arms of a brigade of navvies who thumped them down transversely on the roadbed. Opposite the tie-layers another crew received 11-yard-long lengths of rail6 from the shorter conveyor, positioned them on the waiting ties and bolted them to the previous rail with fish plates. The alignment crew gauged the track to 56½ inches between the inside edges of the rails heads and the hammer gang then rang home the spikes. At a signal, the pushing locomotive shoved the train forward one rail-length and the whole procedure was repeated. Slowly off across the trestlework the drama rolled; smoke and dust and hooting steam engine panting heavily, squealing rollers and groaning spars, the clang of hammered steel, shouts, curses. Finally, at 7:33 in the evening of Thursday, October 6th, 1898, according to the Lethbridge Herald of the 13th instant, the lines last rail was huzzahd into place and spiked down. The entire line from Lethbridge to the Lake had taken but 540-odd days to build, an average, notes Diana Wilson in her Railroad Through the Crowsnest (Triumph and Tragedy in the Crowsnest Pass, ed. Diana Wilson, Heritage House Publishing, Surrey, BC, 2005), of nearly 3200 feet per day.
On a clear day, one can see that the far end of the Causeway crosses a spit at the mouth of the River. There CP built Kootenay Landing. For 30 years the end of the B.C. Southern, the Landing was a scenic and busy location. In front of the Companys station and hotel travellers exchanged modes of transport; those eastbound stepped up into coaches and parlour cars to continue their trips, those westbound sauntered out onto the long pier to board one of the graceful, snow-white paddlewheelers of the Companys Lake and River Service. In the back-ground, hard working tugboats nudged their grimy barges up to the piers so that huffing little switch-engines could shove trains of freight cars aboard for transport to Sunshine Bay and other points.
Beyond the Spit and its Landing, the Upper Kootenay River, now much reduced by the demands of irrigation and thirsty towns, pours into the Lake. Its breadth was not the least of the excuses that the CPR found for hesitating on the Spit for thirty years. However, as the Lake and River Service fleet aged and promised to require an enormous investment to replace, the argument for forging the last steel link in the Southern Mainline won the support of the Companys directorate. It would not be an easy accomplishment; carved into endless headlands by deeply incised creeks, mountains of resilient granite and tough quartzite plunge precipitously into the Lake. Five tunnels would be required, and eleven bridges. The first bridge, across the Upper Kootenay itself would, at a total length of over 2,300 feet, prove to be the longest in B.C.s southern interior. Eighteen hundred feet of trestling, three steel through-truss spans and, because the River was considered navigable at the time, an 84 foot long lift-span were required. Since the completion of the west shore section of trackage on January 1st, 1931, the old Landing is forsaken and silent, alive only in Historys memory.
The Railways causeway is only the largest of a 53 mile long complex of dykes that attempt to channel and contain the Upper Kootenays waters so that 25,110 acres of the Creston Flats can be farmed. The tops of many of the dykes have been levelled into trails access to which is gained here, by the Causeway, and at a point nearer Creston. A trail guide to the warren of dykes is available from the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area Interpretive Centre or local tourist office. Tanna Patterson-Z in Exploring the Creston Valley (Waterwheel Press, Vancouver, 1989) addresses the Duck Lake dyke complex.
From this point the No.3/3A will run in close tandem with the rails of the CPRs Southern Mainline all the way to their eastern termini at Medicine Hat, Alberta. Seldom will the two roads be out of sight of each other.
Less than three kilometres beyond IMASCO, the Highway passes through little Sirdar where the lonely pub has only the Sirdar General Store (1913), a few cottages and a big, old Highway-shading chestnut tree for company. From these scant remains it is difficult to believe that, like Kuskonook eight kilometres north, Sirdar used to resound with railroad industry. In a multi-tracked Yard laid in soon after the completion of the BC Southern Railway in October of 1898, west-bound CPR trains were broken down into barge-length sections for the voyage from nearby Kootenay Landing to Sunshine Bay some 37 lake-miles away, while east-bound cars were crashed together into trains for movement back to the coal fields of the Crowsnest Pass some 150 route-miles eastward, or farther, carrying lumber and metals out onto the Prairies. In a turntable-fed engine-house, mechanics serviced the locomotives and the ancillary machinery that worked the piers of Kootenay Landing. With a depôt of a type unspecified by Bohi and Kozma in Canadian Pacifics Western Depots: The Country Stations of Western Canada (1993) raised in 1900, a coal dock, a water tower, and a Yards full of cars, Sirdar looked forward to a future full of promise. Reports Shannon Nickisch, the proprietress of the General Store in 2005, the Post Office opened a bureau on June 1st, 1900, and by 1905 a school was in operation. The present General Store was raised in 1913 and in it A.W. Swalwell did a brisk trade, George Fosters restaurant was well patronized, as were the hotels of C.J. Campbell and V.C. Ratcliff. However, when the Railway abandoned the Landing after completing the west shore trackage in 1931, Sirdar was reduced to a station for pusher-engines to help mainline locomotives lift their trains up onto the Creston heights. Dieselization robbed Sirdar of even this duty in 1957. Chasing jobs elsewhere, many of the Italian families, who had settled here to work for the Railway and build homes and terraces and plant gardens and orchards between shifts in the shops, moved on. Ms. Nickisch writes that the school closed in June of 1963 and the students have been bussing it likely to Creston ever since. She also states that the station, the third on the site if one includes the tent employed at first, was burned by the Company7 around 1965 when the Nickisches took over the General Store. Today, with just the post office/store and two rusty old sidings that sometimes host tool crib and parts stores cars for the bridge-building crews or the odd freight car so damaged that it cant make the trip to Cranbrooks repair shops, Sirdar exists mainly as a tiny bedroom community for Creston, 20 kilometres south.
Wynndel and the Alice
In the eight kilometres of up and down to eight percent grades between Sirdar and Wynndel, 3As traffic load increases noticeably. To the west, Duck Lake,8 a reedy little backwater of the Kootenay, hosts a wildlife sanctuary and peters out into alluvial marsh alive with squawks and chirps and the flash of wings. It is, local pride insists, the bass capital of Canada. From the hiking and biking paths atop the labyrinth of dykes that manage the quiet waters of the Flats, that harlequin of the web-footed set, the splendid wood duck, can be occasionally glimpsed amid the bulrushes and cat-tails. Duck Creek, gallivanting down the slopes of the Purcells to splash into its namesake lake, was chosen by Edgar Dewdney to lead the eastern extension of his Trail up out of the Valley into the uplands of the Purcells.
The Highway sheds all vestiges of its shoulders as it enters unincorporated Wynndel, a real settlement with a store, a fruit stand, a derelict service station, and the Wynndel Box & Lumber Company, Limited, factory still hard at work down by the tracks on the valley bottom in 2002. Avers E. L. Affleck in Kootenay Lake Chronicles, Ole Johnson Wigin was the first resident, a prospector who settled down here in 1893.
Heading for Creston 11 kilometres south, the 3A climbs steeply up out of Wynndel onto a bench hanging 200 feet above the valleys floor. Passing rustic farmyards and get-away cabins in the trees, the Highway soon begins a long, shallow decent to the junction of the 3 and 3A. A couple of miles before the Junction one can see a scar on little Goat Mountain to the east. This is the mouth of the old Alice mine, by far the most productive lead mine in the neighbourhood. It is said to have been staked in July of 1890 by Jas.or JackKing who supposedly sold it to the British entrepreneur, W.A. Baillie-Grohman. It appears unlikely that Baillie-Grohman developed the property and by 1900 it had been optioned to one T.G. Proctor. In 1901 the Alice, the Morning Star and the Alice Fraction passed to Geo. P. Alexander and Lord Foster, two principals in the Alberta and British Columbia Exploration Company which had assumed several of B-Gs local interests. Alexander and Lord Foster involved another British entity, the Lancaster and York Syndicate, in developing the property into a mine. The Syndicate sent but one car-load of ore to the Hall Mines smelter in Nelson in 1901 before declining lead and silver prices convinced it to suspend operations. In 1903, with the federal government offering an attractive bounty on lead, John Hampson leased the site and while further developing the mine, perfected plans to build a concentrator by the B.C. Southern and connect it to the mine by a mile-long Riblet aerial tramway. Towards the end of that year the Alice Broughton Mining Company took over the project. Under Guy Constables direction, ABM went into full production upon completion of the 100-ton-per-day concentrator in September of 1904, shipping 450 tons of 70% lead concentrate to Trail for smelting in 1905. The whole operation never rose much above the subsistence level and kept itself going by custom concentrating ores from other mines. In 1910 it was idle, but revived to contribute metals to the slaughter of the Great War. In May of 1919, however, the post-War recession caught up to the little mine. Operations were halted and the crusher and tramway dismantled. In 1925 the Porcupine Goldfields Development and Finance Company leased the properties and poked around for a couple of seasons, but shipped nothing. Come W.W.II, local folks kind of remember activity at the old mine, but it is not mentioned in the reports of the Department of Mines. A short side-trip down Crusher Road, which tees off to the right as the 3A nears the Junction, reveals few traces of the concentrator.
The pace of its traffic increasing, the 3A hurries southward from the Alice past picturesque old farmsteads and an ancient log cabin or two, seemingly eager to recombine with No.3 a few kilometres north of Creston: best to take the scenic route southward from Wynndel.
Raggedly coated in greying United Grain Growers white with the companys emblem in faded blue, a genuine Prairie-type grain elevator built in the later 1930s during the Creston Valleys grain boom is by far the tallest building in Wynndel. Rising above the cottonwoods and looking abandoned and in danger of destruction, it is the sign post marking Lower Wynndel Road, the scenic route easing itself eleven kilometres southward along the valley bottom using the old B&N right-of-way.
The Road rolling past tumults wild flowers garlanding its shoulders sweeps evening cyclists into rapture with the scent of freshly mown hay. Banked by squadrons of violet-petalled, violet stamend Blue Sailors and their floral companions, the flanking ditches, part of the drainage system which make farming possible on the rich alluvium, are duck highways patrolled by the occasional muskrat and beaver. Magpies take time off from trailing deer to yak at passers-by: an ancient, weathered red farm Ford half-ton piled with sacks and kids groans along toward Town and fun. Eventually underpassing the Crowsnest Highway through an undated tunnel lined with curved corrugated plates, Lower Wynndel snakes into an S-bend from which it emerges as highway 21, known locally as KV Road. From here the traveller can easily get to anywhere in Creston.