Having humped over the Eholt Summit (1028m), the Crowsnest Highway sheds its shoulders as settles into the July Creek valley for its descent toward the Kettle River. J.J. Hill, having overcome CPs litigious opposition, built the GNs VV&E up this valley in 1905 to challenge the Canadians for the riches of Phnix. Financially allied with Granby Consolidated, the Great Northern carried two-thirds of Phnix Mountains ore to market on the VV&E. Both Hill and his rival, W.C. Van Horne, had died by the time the post-Great War metals market melt-down made the Phnix properties worthless. In 1919 the GNs directors abandoned their interests on Phnix and yanked the VV&Es branch thereto. Two years later, CP finally concluded that the Mountain was misnamed, and likewise lifted its steel.
The ratchet pawls in their free-wheels zazzing like a rattlesnakes on amphetamines, cyclists zing past the road leading up to the Phnix townsite as July Creeks slope begins drawing the Highway down into the Kettles valley. The faint trace of the VV&Es overgrown right-of-way emerges from the Creeks brush on the right, and in a long diagonal, crosses the Highway to maintain its easy grade as it commences to curl around the southern tip of Hardy Mountain on its way down into Grand Forks.
On the west side of the Creek near the right-of-ways crossing stand a pair of cuboidal, two-storied domiciles decaying on the eastern slopes of Atwood Mountain. These are the most westerly examples of the ever dwindling number of Doukhobor dwellings which used to stud the arable lowlands between here and the Columbia River valley, 50 miles east. The ruins of these big houses testify to the fate of their builders ambitions, for it proved impossible for misapprehending and misdirected public officials to leave the Doukhobors in their communal peace. Interference elicited explosive protests which blew apart the sects solidarity, writing in flames the last chapter in this stubborn Russian congregations tragic history.
Wheeling downward, gradually leaving the old VV&E right-of-way to find a gentler grade on the slopes above, the Highway passes another old dormitory happily housing a family still. Ten kilometres from the Phnix Road, No.3 curls left tightly around the southerly hip of Hardy Mountain to avoid straying into United States territory and roars north-east down Spencer Hill into the Kettle Rivers valley. In the crook of the curl stands a finely preserved, privately owned Dormitory, and opposite, on the outside of the curl, a spacious pullout invites travellers to pause and admire its fancy information signs.
Sad to say, but geography has forced MoTH to put this pullout in the wrong place; from it one cant see the entire sweep of the lovely Kettle River valley. A much better and more expensive place to put the pullout would be a bit farther on, hung out over the Valley just as the Highway comes out of the curl and begins its career down Spencer Hill. There, sitting on the guard-rail with the moan of the eighteen-wheelers wailing down the Hill five feet from their backs, visitors ease their eyes into the green panorama which opens out below them.
The Kettles valley is here wide, flat bottomed and well farmed with patches of orchard scattered amid fields of vegetables and grains. From the right the south-west the River, camouflaged by stately Black Cottonwoods and Grand firs under-storeyd by Bebb willows, re-enters B.C. and wiggles east-north-east for a few miles before dog-legging eastward to meander off back toward Washington. At the dog-leg, the frisky Granby River joins its larger cousin. Northward along the face of Spencer Hill, between the slopes of Hardy Mountain and its conical little spur, Eagle Mountain, which intrudes into the Valley, one can see up into the Granbys valley, the divide in the Monashee Mountains between the Midway Range to the west, and the Christinas. Approaching the Kettle, the Granby has abandoned its old course around the west and south sides of little Observation Mountain and cut a shorter channel, isolating the Douglas-firrd, 250 metre-high Mountain in a triangle of valleys. In those valleys, strewn around the base of Observation and much of it hidden behind Eagle, lies the City of Grand Forks.
In 1824 the HBC had established Fort Colvile on the Columbia River near the mouth of the Kettle, some 40 miles down the valley from here. Coy employees travelled the Kettles ancient corridor to get to the Okanagan and occasionally left herds of horses and the occasional cow to pasture in this verdant vale which they referred to as grande prairie. Boundary Commission surveyors working their way through this neighbourhood in 1860 set up their theodolites on what they named Observation Mountain and on their maps noted this valley as Grande Prairie. Diarist Charles William Wilson, secretary to the British Commission, camped with his party here on September 1st of that year and noted no-one living permanently on the Prairie.1
This vale for generations has been a major migration route for aboriginal Americans, highly esteemed for its beauty and bounty. In A Travellers Guide to Historic British Columbia, Rosemary Neering reports that archæologists have uncovered a long-used Okanagan Indian campsite at the junction of the Granby and the Kettle. Recovered from the grave-sites there, spiral dentalia shells from the West Coast testify to the long-distance trade connections of the Okanagans, and boast of the Peoples wealth in that they could afford to gift the Dead with such expensive objects.
The earliest European known to have joined the Natives in residence on Grande Prairie was Joe McCauley, already here when Edgar Dewdney pushed his trail down the Kettle in 1865. McCauley and another reported settler, Bart Ingram,2 were apparently gone by 1884 when J.C. Haynes sent James McConnel here to establish a ranch. Farther on down the valley to the east, William Jones and erstwhile customs agent R.R. Gilpin shared a ranch. The McConnel family home was the first house built on what is now the townsite of Grand Forks, and McConnel was the first man to stake a mineral claim in southern B.C., doing so on Hardy Mountain during the year of his arrival. That same year, 1884, saw Ernest E. Spraggett and Sydney R. Almond arrive in the valley to take up land near the mouth of Fourth of July (now just July) Creek. The William Coverts came one or two years later to settle near Almond on 320 acres at the base of Spences Hill, plant a plum orchard and, eventually, build a commercial dehydration plant to produce prunes.
By the time the Coverts had enough plums to dry, several other families had begun farming the bottom lands and buildings began to accumulate on the tongue of land between the Granby and the Kettle which J.A. Manly had purchased in 1890 from C.S. McRae, who had pre-empted it two years earlier. Manly, according to Leigh Gordon in Grand Forks: The Early Years (Canadian West, No. 6, November 1986), promptly had a townsite surveyed and invited an acquaintance of his, Dr. Geo. W. Averill from Butte, Montana, to come an give him a hand in building a town. Averill obliged and the two completed a three story brick edifice as the communitys first commercial block, and built the first Yale Hotel and Averills famous house, Golden Heights, over the next couple of years. In 1892 the Kettle River School began operating, as did a post office in the Spraggetts home. An informal little hospital had opened by the year a bridge was thrown across the Granby by 1895. The road leading to it became, naturally, Bridge Street, along which the thrice weekly Penticton-Marcus stage coaches clattered to an over-night stop at the Yale. As the long suspected wealth buried in the nearby mountains was beginning to be confirmed, the forward-looking residents of Grande Prairie organized the City of Grand Forks under the Speedy Incorporation Act on April 15th, 1897; John Manly, mayor.
Gliding down the long slope of Spencer Hill a cyclist might notice the roadbed of the VV&Es Phnix branch line, an even 4.4% grade etched upon the breast of Eagle Mountain and along the face of Spencer Hill above the Highway.
At the bottom of Spencer, highway No.41, coming down the valley from the Boundary at tiny Carson about five kilometres south, joins its City-bound traffic to the Highways flow. Guarding the intersection is Rilkoffs store and the Chefs Garden Restaurant, its walls laden with historic photographs of Fructova, an unincorporated suburb which stood here, formerly the centre for local Doukhobor communes. A couple of yards west of the Intersection, Reservoir Road arrows north to pass Fructova School a few hundred metres up towards the saddle between Hardy and Eagle. The School has lately been restored as a Heritage Centre and archival library.
Heading into Grand Forks from the Intersection, the No.3 drops down into a small, shallow swale at the foot of Eagle Mountain. To the right, spread over the brow of the hill, the Doukhobor Cemetery; beyond, the housey-looking Flour Mill which the Community built in 1915. As evidenced by its shiny new corrugated steel granary out behind, the Mill still works, its old-time milling stones regularly grinding out sacks of Pride of the Valley for sale in Valley stores and to the visitors to the Mill.
Past the foot of Eagle and the Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ Community Hall, the Highway begins to look distinctly urban: a couple of modern motels, a few fast-food parlours, services stations and a strip-mall or two. This is the old VV&E yards property, the main of which is covered by the new Recreation Centre and Dick Barlett Sports Park on the right, and the baseball diamonds opposite. Just beyond the rec. centre the Highway crosses Donaldson Drive, the old Columbia & Western right-of-way.
Squinting north-westerly along Donaldson Drive in Grand Forks, visitors can make out the two-storey shape of a typical brick Doukhobor dwelling clinging to the lower slopes of Hardy Mountain. Located therein is the Mountainview Doukhobor Museum, a privately owned collection featuring the Communitys artefacts.
The Doukhobors were quite influential in the Grand Forks area. His people discouraged by the Saskatchewan government from remaining in that province on land that they had occupied since 1899, the Communitys leader, P.V. Verigin, travelled to Grand Forks in 1907 and bought the 900 acre Coryell Ranch for $38,000. For two years work-gangs laboured to clear trees and bush from the bottomlands and in 1909 families began arriving, calling the place Fructova. Soon 5,000 souls were living communally in nearly fifty little villages scattered on 2,700 acres of land in the Kettle and July Creek valleys. Hard working and co-operatively oriented, they soon had their farms irrigated, had a brick factory in Fructova, a cannery and a packinghouse erected, and were diversifying their crops and herds. Always striving for complete self-sufficiency, they bartered their excellent produce, skills and handy-crafts among themselves and, when they could, with the outside, greatly improving both their own lives and those of their neighbours. However, their reluctance to use money and their habit of buying goods by the carload from merchants in the East led to some misunderstanding and friction with folks who could not appreciate the Doukhobors degree of cohesiveness and social conscience. These misunderstandings led to the animosity and intolerance which resulted in the destruction of the Doukhobor community.
At Donaldson, the Highway changes into Central Avenue and, flanked by an honour-guard of maples, lances into the heart of Grand Forks (516m) to cross the Granby River on a silvery steel through-truss bridge emplaced in 1957. As befitting a regional node, the City offers a spectrum of accommodations, but the old hotels downtown do not presently accept overnight guests, although in 1999 the owners of the Grand Forks Hotel were renovating their buildings second floor with room-rental in mind. Beyond the silver bridge, heading eastward out of town, the Highway turns into motel strip for a couple of kilometres. One motel, the Kettle River Place, offers a tiny campground of sorts squished between the Granby and the Highway. A mile farther is the Riviera Campground and RV Park, as well laid out on a narrow reach of river bank within two good spits of the rather noisy Highway. The nicest place to pitch a tent in Grand Forks is in the municipal campground in City Park down on the Rivers bottom lands off Fifth Street, east of downtown. Occasional inundation by the rivers spring floods keep the grass here deep and soft with trees to ward off the Sols direct gaze, the mannerly Kettle lapping and plashing in its bed nearby.
The Columbia and Western in Grand Forks
Grand Forks would have matured into a sleepy agricultural settlement but for the lodes of low-grade copper ores cached in the surrounding mountains. By 1896 those lodes had been pretty well identified and claimed, with the likeliest properties being opened up a bit to evaluate the ore. Those values inspired Frederick Augustus Heinze, the owner of the new Trail smelter, to announce that his Columbia and Western Railway would soon be building into the Boundary District.
Heinze wasnt the only railroad-building industrialist interested in the Boundary District at the end of the Nineteenth Century. In support of his applications to run his Spokane Falls & Northern Railway across the Boundary to Nelson and the Silver King mine, Spokane-based Daniel Chase Corbin, well aware of the B.C.s coastal merchants long-time quest for a connection to the wealth of the Interior, in 1892 applied to Victoria for a charter to build a line of railroad up the Kettle River and on across B.C. by some vague route to connect to the Coast. Hanging on the promises of the CPR that it would soon build into the Kootenays, the parliament of B.C. rejected his application. By the end of 1896 Corbin had succeeded in breaching the Boundary with a couple of short lines into the Kootenays and owned an interest in a smelter at Northport, Washington. Though he was hauling the best of Rosslands ore to Northport on his Columbia and Red Mountain Railway/Red Mountain Railway, he realized that he had to develop alternative sources of raw material to ensure the full employment of his smelter. His eye on Phnix Mountain, he again applied for Canadian permission to build up the Kettle. To get the ball rolling, he and his brother, Austin, and Charles Dupont incorporated their Kettle Valley Railway Company in Washington on March 19th, 1898. By this time the legislators in Victoria were more accommodating, but when Corbin et al laid their plans before the Federal government, they hit a snag. Still viewed by some as one of those fearsome American buccaneers who would, if given half a chance, steal Canada blind, when Corbins second application in five years to encharter the Kettle River Valley Railroad came up for an vote in parliament on April 15th, 1898, it was, despite the fact that it had been approved by the Railway Committee, promptly rejected. Corbin rightly saw the hand of the CPR behind the vote, but could do nothing.
As it was, that parliamentary vote was Corbins last hurrah in the West Kootenays and Boundary District. Even as the Railway Committee was approving his application, Corbin was being eased out of his empire by the most formidable of all buccaneers, J.J. Hill. When the chips finally settled on July 1st, 1898, Hill owned the Spokane Falls & Northern/Nelson & Fort Sheppard railways, the Columbia & Red Mountain/Red Mountain Railway, and a great share of the Northport smelter.
Neither did Heinze build his railway into the Boundary District. Pressed by legal problems in his home base of Butte, Montana, he sold most of his interests in B.C. to the CPR in February of 1897 and it was surveyors employed by that company who tramped into Grand Forks on April 18th, 1898, staking the C&Ws right-of-way. Not many Railway structures survive from that era in Grand Forks, the most attractive being the original station that the C&W built on what is now Donaldson Drive, to the south of the downtown.
The combination of pub-brewed ale and railway memorabilia is an irresistible lure for some folks, and the old station has both. For nearly seventy years, until CP removed its rails and retreated to the comfort of the Kootenays in 1988, the building served the Company loyally. Purchased and renovated into the Grand Forks Station Pub and Columbia Grill by local entrepreneurs, it appears by the dearth of spaces free in its parking lot to be doing well in the year 2000. An old, chipped and faded yellow Fairmont track inspection scooter nests in a gravel garden outside the door, and inside upstairs what isnt used as offices in devoted to a little art gallery. The wide, wooden deck on the shady side of the building is reminiscent of the old platform where countless shoes crossed twixt train and station. It would have been fascinating to sit here in the hey-day of the steam locomotives; through-freights roaring by on the mainline would have blown the heads right off ones beer and seasoned the Cæsar salad with cinders and sand. Parallel, on the far side of the mainline to the north and west, four or five sidings set like strands of steel hair combed out on the gravel of the yards. They would have been crowded with lime-splashed cattle cars, creaky wooden boxcars, and bent up ore gondolas awaiting repair. West beyond yards, set in the angle formed by the mainline and the rails of the Kettle River Valley Railway which looped through downtown Grand Forks, the 15 stall brick roundhouse built in 1914, with its attendant turntable, sand tower, coal dock and water tank. A collection of seldom-idle wrecking equipment would have been parked close by. Since 1988 the Yards has been nothing but a gravelled mud-field slowly being overgrown by weeds, seen by few but cyclists on the KVR Trail and the folks that have moved their industry into the old track-side buildings.
Behind the surveyors who measured their way up the Kettles valley to get to Grand Forks in the spring of 1898 stretched a line of stakes 70 miles long, over the Rosslands to West Robson near Castlegar. For a month or two before September 18th, 1899, when its first official train arrived at the Station, the Company began dickering with the council of the City of Grand Forks for a right-of-way and a property upon which to erect a station downtown. The parties could not agree. Mindful that they were representing a City, the Council insisted that the land desired by the CPR was worth much more that the Railway contended. What the Council didnt realize was that the CPR was not about to be dictated to by a crowd of hicks in the back-woods of B.C. The Company had played the same act with special interest groups since it began building its Mainline across the Prairies in 1881. Out of patience with the Council, the Company simply avoided Grand Forks by a mile, building its station and yards here at Columbia, which duly incorporated itself as a City. Although Columbia emerged as West Grand Forks after the amalgamation of the Cities on July 1st, 1903, CP continued to call its station Columbia, ignoring Grand Forks until 1913 when it rolled into the City on the rails of its new partner, the Kettle Valley Railway.
In the fall of 1899, scarcely pausing to come into Grand Forks for drinks, the CPRs tracking crew whisked its rails around the Citys southern limits and hammered their way northward along the scarp of the Granby River, climbing to round Goat Mountain and steam onward toward Midway.
With the C&W complete, exploitation of the Districts mineral wealth could fairly begin.
The Granby Smelter
Since the mid-1890s the Spokane magnate, Jay Paul Graves, had been involved in developing mines on Phnix Mountain. At the suggestion of his partner, Québec manufacturer and banker, S.H.C. (Steven) Miner, Graves had Colonel N.E. (Nelson) Linsley of Spokane analyse the ores. In his report Linsley stated that the ores contained proportions of lime, silica and iron that would make them virtually self-fluxing in the smelting process, but that they were of such low metal content that the costs involved in shipping them very far for processing would make mining them unprofitable. Men of no mean talent, in 1899 Miner and Graves incorporated the Granby Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company, Limited, and set to work gathering money in New York and Boston to raise a smelter and develop the properties. Seeking a site for their smelter which combined reliable stream flow with attractive tax incentives, Miner and Graves approached the City Council of Grand Forks. Sensitized to the hazards of dealing with big business by its fiasco with the CPR, the Council proved eager to grant concessions and on May 16th, 1899, Graves announced that a deal which gave Granby Consolidated as much of the flow of the North Fork of the Kettle River soon renamed the Granby River as it wanted and a site nearby upon which to set up a smelter.
Granby Consolidated hired a Guggenheim-trained chemical engineer, A.B.W. (Abel) Hodges, to design its smelter, and on property just above the little Granby Rivers confluence with the Kettle, not 23 miles east along the C&W from BCCs Anaconda facility, the company was hard at work building by July of 1899. Farther up the valley a 175-foot long earth-filled dam was thrown across the Granby to create Smelter Lake and provide the project with a hydraulic head of 47 feet delivered via a one-mile long flume to the power house designed by Byron Christian Riblet, the Spokane engineer whose brother, Royal Newton Riblet, was famous for his aerial tramways. The head provided a minimum of 1200 horse power, ample to spin the huge Westinghouse generators which were to electrify the smelter. While the reservoir filled and the generating station was under construction, the company bought electricity generated by the Cascade Water, Power and Light Company at their plant a few miles down the Kettle from Grand Forks. To ease the delivery of machinery to the site, CP built a 2.5-mile long spur from its Columbia yards, spanning the Granby River with what became known as the Hummingbird Bridge.
On August 21st, 1900, plant manager Alfred Cornelius Flumerfelt gave the order to fire the smelters No.1 furnace, a 150-250 tons per day Gates Iron Works unit out of Chicago. Trainloads of ore from Phnix began meeting trainloads of Crows Nest coke in the belly of the smelter resulting in tons of 45-50% pure matte copper most of which was soon making its way to the Brooklyn, New York, plant of the Nichols Chemical Company, for refining. The first shipment was sent out on August 29th. On October 13th, No.2 furnace was blown in.
According to John Fahey in Shaping Spokane: Jay P. Graves and His Times, 1901 was a banner year for Granby Consolidated. On May 11th it won a new charter from the provincial government which allowed an expansion of its endeavours as reflected in its new name, Granby Consolidated Mining, Smelting and Power Company, Limited. In a year of copper prices being driven to the unimagined high of 18¢ per pound by officers of the Standard Oil Company fixing prices through Amalgamated Copper, the new Granby found a ready market for the $15 millions in stock that it was authorized to issue. It is likely that J.J. Hill and his associates purchased their first interest in the operation at this time. With investment money pouring in, the company borrowed $500,000 from the Eastern Townships Bank and began an ambitious expansion of its plant. New furnaces were ordered, and a Gates converter, which enabled the smelter to reduce 633 tons of matte per day to the much more valuable 98.5% pure blister copper, was installed. Capitalizing on his plants expanded abilities, Graves closed a three-year deal to send 700 tons of matte per month to New York, 200 to Liverpool, England. Come the end of 1901, Granby Consolidated estimated that it was paying the CPR over a $1,000 a day to run three trains of thirteen cars each hauling ore from the Phnix mines to the smelter.
Smelting the tons of ore pouring daily down the rails from Phnix Mountain required vast amounts of coke and coal. This periodically proved a problem for Granby Consolidated for it depended almost exclusively on the output of the Crows Nest Pass Coal Company based at Fernie, B.C., nearly 500 kilometres by rail and Kootenay Lake barge east of Grand Forks. As competition for Crows Nests produce increased, reliability of delivery became a concern for Granby Consolidated, and in 1902 Graves moved to secure his own coal. A year previously some businessmen in Spokane headed by E.J. Dyer had formed a syndicate to exploit coal properties located on the West Fork of the Granby River some fifty kilometres north of Grand Forks. Hearing of the properties, Graves sent his associate, Spokane mining engineer Colonel N.E. (Nelson) Linsley to investigate the properties. Based on Linsleys assessment, Graves bonded 15 coal claims for Granby Consolidated and formed the International Coal and Coke Company in Washington on April 28th, 1902, and appointed A.C. Flumerfelt as president, H.N. Galer as V.P. The measures on the west Fork were, however, far beyond the reach of economical transport, and rather than pay a railroad company to build a line thither, International bought properties at what is now Coleman, Alberta, in the Crowsnest Pass on the CPRs Southern Mainline. There the company invested its resources developing mines and building coke ovens dedicated to feeding Granby Consolidated.
The first shipment of blister from the new Gates converter left Grand Forks on January 20th, 1902. On February 3rd of that year, No.3 furnace was blown in, followed by No.4 on March 17th. That year the smelter treated 300,000 tons of ore, a nine-fifteenths share of all the ore smelted in the District. With the companys stock price at an all-time high, Miner and most of his Montréal friends decided to sell out. Graves was obliged to follow the crowd and by the end of the year control of Granby Consolidated had slipped into the pocket of the New York refiner, W.H. (William) Nichols, and his associates, John Stanton, Jacob Langeloth and C.S. (Clement) Houghton. Prior to a directors meeting in Montréal in the spring of 1903 that confirmed Miner as president and Graves as V.P. of Granby Consolidated, Nichols and his associates including W.A. (William) Paine of Paine-Webber and Company of Boston, G.M. (George) Luther, and the V.P. of Nichols Chemical, J.B.F. Hereshoff, came to Grand Forks to inspect their new properties. Satisfied with the potential they found, the new owners embarked upon an ambitious program of expansion.
Gates furnaces Nos. 5 and 6 were fired on November 5th and 6th, respectively, of 1903, which enabled Granby Consolidated to ship out 8.5 million pounds of copper, 357,000 ounces of silver and 47,500 of gold extracted from the 290,000 tons that its mines output that year. As well, at the insistence of the its new owners, for the first time the company declared a dividend to stock holders: a modest $133,630.
A Bessemerizing converting furnace was installed in 1904 and the smelter nearly doubled its output of copper from the 520,000 tons of ore it received. That summer brought change to Granby. With J.J. Hills VV&E now operational between the Granby smelter and the Phnix Mountain mines and providing a more direct connection to New York, Granby Consolidateds new owners decided it was time to restructure the company. All the Canadian directors with the exception of W.H. Robinson of the Eastern Townships Bank were asked to resign. Joining Nichols, Langeloth, Graves, Stanton, Robinson and Luther on the companys Board were a powerful set of New York financial luminaries: Payne Whitney, G.C. (George) Clark, A.C. (Arthur) James, Boston banker H.L. (Henry) Higginson and J.J. Hills man, G.F. (George) Baker, Jr., of the First National Bank. A shake-up of the executive on October 3rd of 1904 saw Jacob Langeloth replace Miner as president and A.B.W. Hodges replace W.Y. Williams and A.C. Flumerfelt as general manager of the Phnix and Grand Forks plants. Graves remained as V.P. Plans were announced to double the smelters size with new investment moneys. Under the supervisory eye of Hodges the new equipment was installed and the plants process streamlined.
The addition of Nos. 7 and 8 furnaces on October 20th, 1905, made the enterprise the largest non-ferrous smelter in the British Empire, second in the world only to the Washoe Reduction Works on the outskirts of Anaconda, Montana. Up to 4500 tons of ore per day yielded around 50 tons of blister copper of 98.5% purity which was cast into 220-lb. bars for shipment to New York. Somewhere around 9.3 tons of silver per year were also recovered, and up to 1.25 tons of gold. By 1907 the process had been perfected, the mix of ores tailored precisely to the furnaces requirements. Requiring no roasting to prepare them, the charges ran easily in the smelters furnaces, enabling the plant to economically reduce up to 8,000 tons per day with the moderately volatile bituminous coal imported from Graves and associates International Coal and Coke Company mines at Coleman, Alberta.
The Kettle River Valley Railway and the KVR
Included in the 8,000 tons of ore per day that flowed into the maw of the great Granby smelter during 1907 was the output of the mines at Republic, Washington, which were delivered to the Smelter by a shortline railroad that was to play a pivotal rôle in the CPRs completion of its Southern Mainline and giving B.C. its long-desired coast to Kootenay connection.
Tracy William Holland, representative of the Dominion Permanent Loan Company, had been in Grand Forks in the spring of 1900 when Granby Consolidated announced the smelter site. Seeing waggons loaded with ore arriving from the New Republic mine at Republic, Washington, and learning that the CPR had declined to extend a spur thence, Holland convinced himself that a shortline running between the Smelter and Republic could make money. He broached the idea to his brother, Frederick, who, in turn, interested the Honourable James Robert Stratton, the Ontario provincial treasurer, G.H. Cowan, and Thomas Patrick Coffee of the Toronto-based Trusts and Guarantee Company. His financial backing lined up, Holland applied for and, on August 31st, 1900, received a provincial charter for the Grand Forks and Kettle River Railway. This charter applied only, of course, in B.C., and to do international business, Holland needed to charter a railroad in the State of Washington, and obtain permission from the Canadian federal government to cross the Boundary. Washington granted him a charter for his Republic and Kettle River Railway (R&KR) in 1901, and on May 23rd of that year, too, Ottawa enchartered the road which Holland had, because he and his associates Stratton and Coffee, Christian Kloepfer and Walter Mills had amended the original provincial proposal by appending several spurs and extensions, renamed the Kettle River Valley Railway (KRVR). By that time the locals were sardonically calling it the Hot Air Line due to its lengthy incubation period, but adopted Republic and Grand Forks when the line was finally built.
The Vancouver, Victoria & Eastern
Hollands enterprise inadvertently re-ignited the border-war between the Great Northern conglomerate and the CPR. Since November of 1898 the rivals had observed a period of mistrustful détente, but nearing the end of 1900 J.J. Hill had become convinced that Holland was the front-man in a back-stabbing gambit by CP to secure Republics ore; poaching in GNs preserve was how Hill viewed it, and he was ever-ready to defend his turf.
Protesting that he was not invading CPs territory, rather merely intending to offer the miners at Republic the option of sending their ore to a smelter in which he had an interest at Northport, Washington, Hill bought the charter of the Vancouver, Victoria and Eastern Railway and Navigation Company from Mackenzie, Mann, et al, in June of 1901 and began pushing the Washington and Great Northern/VV&E up the Kettle River from Marcus, in the Columbia River valley on the GNs Spokane Falls and Northern line. Sir Thomas George Shaughnessy, president of the CPR since June 12th, 1899, doubted not for an instant that Hills ultimate objective was the Boundary Districts mother lode at Phnix. The gloves were off; the battle for southern B.C. was on again.
On August 31st, 1901, Holland started laying the KRVR/R&KR. The line, 35 miles in length, was to have been completed by the end of that year. It was not, and with J.J. Hill steaming his railroad up the Kettle, Holland felt in danger of losing Republics business; the American miners would probably prefer to ship their ores on an American road to an American smelter. Launching legal actions to prevent the VV&E from crossing the KRVRs line and thus gaining access to the Grand Forks smelter, and acquiring properties which the VV&E would need for its right-of-way on the right bank of the Kettle, Holland hoped to stall Hill. It worked. Though Hill retaliated by obtaining and enforcing a temporary injunction prohibiting the R&KR from building an overpass across the WGN at Curlew, Washington, Holland was still able hold Hill off long enough to complete his line. On April 12th of 1902 the Republic and Grand Forks line was declared open and soon KRVR trains were shuttling Republics ore to Cuprum Junction east across the Kettle from Grand Forks whence they took to C&W trackage for the short haul to the Granby Smelter.
Hills well practised legal team soon forced the KRVR to relinquish the properties that it had acquired athwart the VV&Es intended right-of-way, and by June, 1902, GN trains were huffing up the Kettles valley from Marcus, past Grand Forks and back down into Washington to Curlew and on south up the Sanpoil valley to Republic. Denied access to Grand Forks by the KRVRs right-of-way, on June 28th, the GNs first through passenger train from Spokane had to drop its Grand Forks-bound riders at a temporary station on the south side of the Kettle at Coopers Wye. In October, Hill won permission from the Board of Railway Commissioners in Ottawa to cross both the KRVR and the CP tracks to get to the Granby smelter in which he and his companies and supporters had by then a substantial interest. The truculent KRVR refused to comply with the Commissioners ruling and incited its men to prevent VV&E crews from installing a diamond-crossing in the KRVRs tracks. In a still celebrated incident, after discovering that Hills crews had laid in the Crossing in the middle of one dark night, the KRVR parked an old Ten Wheeler locomotive on the Diamond and refused to move it until Hill brought a suit against the KRVRs directors. In the aftermath of the barristerial brouhaha, the VV&E drove its steel to the boundary between the communities of Columbia and Grand Forks on November 12th, quickly building a station and laying out a yards on todays sports grounds south-east of Central Avenue. The spur to the smelter was laid in as well. With their access to the smelter now established, Hill and the GN now girded themselves for a legal fight with CP to get the VV&E up onto Phnix Mountain with its wealthy mines.
All went not well with the KRVR. The Granby smelter found Republics ore difficult to smelt and refused to buy it at a price which would return the KRVR much of a profit on hauling it. Holland resigned his position with the concern towards the end of 1902, exhausted by his struggle with Hill. Early in 1903 the KRVR reorganized itself as the Kettle Valley Lines and petitioned the Dominion government for a subsidy to build to Franklin Camp, some 45 miles up the Granby, where the great Union prospect, among others, tantalized and disappointed decades of speculators with glimpses of gold and silver-rich cupric ores. Though granted a maximum of $6,400 a mile to a maximum of 50 miles, the KVLs attempts to raise the remaining needed capital privately were quietly sabotaged by J.J. Hill. Fighting for territory and facing extinction if it lost, in 1904 the KVL announced that it had obtained an amendment to its charter which enabled it to build up the Granby past International Coal and Cokes properties on the west fork, across to Vernon and then west to connect near Merritt to CPs proposed Nicola, Kamloops and Similkameen Coal and Railway Company tracks. With access to the Nicola and Granby valleys coal deposits, the KVL would generate income by hauling fuel to the three Boundary District smelters. The then director of the KVL, J.J. Warren, negotiated a crossing of the C&W tracks at Cuprum with CP and won permission from the Citys council to build through central Grand Forks and erect a station right downtown. Warren succeeded in laying steel only as far as Lynch Creek, fifteen miles north of Grand Forks, before the financial panic of 1907 scared speculative money away from the project that summer. In spite of these portends of disaster, the KVL renamed the R&KR the Spokane and British Columbia Railway (S&BC) and declared its intent to thrust a line into Jim Hills ribs at Spokane. However, with a few strokes of his pen the baron ensnared the S&BC in court until the fall of 1919 when the KVL finally saw the advantage of renouncing the S&BC.
During the decade that its S&BC was tied up in court, the KVL reorganized yet again and became, as the Kettle Valley Railway, CPs junior partner in the Companys Southern Mainline adventure. In the arrangement, the KVR got access to CPs roundhouse at Grand Forks and CP got to use the KVR station downtown. In 1952, its bridge across the Kettle compromised by years of annual floods, the Company vacated the ageing KVR station and removed the Grand Forks signage to its original Columbia station on what is now Donaldson Drive.
Though CP leased the KVRs trackage for 999 years on July 1st, 1913, the KVR operated as a separate entity. It continued to have designs on the upper Granby River valley. In 1919, as it was removing the hardware from the Spokane & BC and ripping up its old KRVR trackage to the Boundary, the KVR pushed its Lynch Creek branch, its Fifth Subdivision, another two miles up the Granby to Archibald, site of the Rock Candy, a fluorite mine which had been developing since its discovery in 1911. In the aftermath of the post-war metals market crash, the Fifth made no money and the KVR longed to abandon it. However, for the convenience of the farming communities that had strung themselves out along the right-of-way, and the Western Pine Company which had relocated from Smelter Lake to Lynch Creek in 1917, the Board of Railway Commissioners withheld permission to abandon the line until September 27th, 1935. By then the CPR had legally absorbed the KVR as its Kettle Valley Division and had renamed the Granby River section the North Fork Subdivision. Today, the old railbed has been appropriated by a pleasant little road winding up through this lovely valley.
The Granby River Camps
The Granby River valley had held prospectors in thrall for ten years before the KVL succumbed to the valleys lure in 1907 and began a twelve year long project to extend a line towards the mines at Browns, Franklin and Gloucester Camps, the latter two located in the valley of a major tributary of the Granby, the Burrell. International Coal and Cokes measures in the Granby were also attractions.
The lure was minerals, of course, and one of the first people to note them was R.A. Sunset Brown who was later involved in the early development of Copper Mountain at Princeton. About eight miles north of Grand Forks sometime in 1885, writes T.W. Patterson in R.A. Volcanic Brown (Slumachs Gold : In Search of a Legend, ed. Art Downs, Heritage House Publishing, 1981), Brown staked his Volcanic and Fontentine claims on pyrrhotites and pyrites carrying significant gold, silver and copper values. He was soon convinced that a mother lode of gold-rich chalcopyrite lay within the claim, and his optimism for the properties soon attracted other treasure-hunters. Nearby, around what was dubbed Browns Camp, other claims including the Pathfinder, G.W. Houses Black Tail, Hummingbird, and Golden Eagle, were staked.
So enthusiastically did Brown expound upon the thousands of tons of pure copper ore and gold and silver that he knew were just beyond the end of his current tunnel, and so wild were his prognostications that the riches within reach would fuel a benevolent economic Goliath that would summon a half-dozen railroads and shelter its workers in Utopian settlements where all the churches would be halls of science, that he soon became known to some as Volcanic Brown, to others, Crazy. Despite his best promotional efforts, however, Brown failed to attract much investment, and in 1897 leased the Volcanic to the Olive Mining and Smelting Company while he went off hunting for his next bonanza.
By January of 1904 the Michigan-backed Volcanic Mining Company had purchased the property, renaming it the Volcano in an attempt, perhaps, to try and disassociate it from Brown. When told the next year that the tunnel was in 800 feet and still no lode had been located, Brown assured his interviewer that the real thing was just beyond the end of the tunnel. There it remains, for even Brown himself, who returned to the abandoned property towards the end of the Great War, could never push the tunnel far enough to hit pay.
Meanwhile, prospectors had been chipping away in the upper Granby and its side-creeks since the late-90s. Where Franklin Creek, and next to it on the north, Gloucester Creek, flowed into the Burrell Creek 25 or 30 miles north of the end of the KRVR steel at Lynch Creek, Franklin and Gloucester camps grew up. The flurry of activity that really established them ended after three years in the Crash of 1907. In 1912, on a property near Franklin that was a lithic swirl-cake of diorite and greenstone and granite fractured by porphyry dikes, claimants staked the Union. Its ores were estimated to run to $60 per ton in gold and silver, rich enough to get the KVR thinking about extending its Branch from Lynch. Unfortunately, the preparations for the Great War drained speculative capital from Western Canada and come 1919, the Union mine employed but three men who shovelled out 81 tons and humped it down to the KVR which that year extended its Fifth Subdivision a magnificent 2 miles to Archibald where the Stewart - Calvert Company of Oroville, Washington, had been hard at work since 1917 digging fluorspar from the Rock Candy. Though the Wars end meant the end of S-Cs operations at the Rock Candy, 1920 saw Union Mining and Milling Company, Limited, incorporated to gather the Union and its neighbours, the Idaho, Paper Dollar and Union Fraction, into the Union group and get to work. That year the company was able to ship 28 tons of concentrated ore to Trail, and upon the strength of that tried to float an issue of stocks. It sank and Union M&M halted work.
Every year during the early- and mid-20s Consolidated Mining and Smelting dug itself a few thousand tons of fluorspar smelting flux from the Rock Candy which it swung down to the KVR on a little aerial tram. The Union saw little activity, nor did the nearby Maple Leaf. In 1927, though, the South African-financed Hecla Mining Company of Wallace, Idaho, bonded the Union group and the Maple Leaf and late in the autumn began hacking the copper and platinum tainted shonkinite-pyroxenite greenstone ores from the mines. With faith in the future seen in retrospect as sadly misplaced, Hecla began a program of serious development, completing a large two-storey bunkhouse in 1929 and constructing a plant in which it installed a crusher and a ball mill, a classifier, a floatation-process concentrator, and a huge filter to trap metals. In 1930 Hecla milled 37,000 tons to send 1100 tons of concentrate by truck 25 miles down to the end of KVR steel at Archibald, thence to CM&S at Trail. For Hecla in 1929, the Maple Leaf ran gold at 0.45 ounces to the ton. Employing as many as 60 men in the early 30s, Hecla was beginning to wind down its operations when CP won permission to abandon its North Fork Subdivision in September of 1935. The costs of hauling its ore the extra 14 miles into Grand Forks convinced Hecla to gut its plant and move on, leaving the Union and the nearby Homestead to be picked up by W.E. McArthur of Greenwood by the beginning of W.W.II. The Union sent 4144 tons of ore to Trail in 1940 to recover 1082 ounces of gold and 38,000 of silver. In its last reference to the mines, the B.C. annual reports of the Department of Mines for 1941 mentions that both the Union and the Homestead were being gleaned of the last lumps of economic ore. Time has been kinder to the Rock Candy. It passed quietly into the hands of COMINCO who offered it in 1986 to the University of B.C.s M.Y. Williams Geologic Museum as a prospective teaching mine. According to the present (2005) owner of the mine, Bob Jackson, the University declined that offer at the insistence of its legal department, and Mr. Jackson acquired the property, made the mine suitable for visitors and conducts classes therein and tours.
Grand Forks and the Granby Smelter: later
While its industries were developing, Grand Forks was growing to keep pace. Notwithstanding the fact that Sacred Heart Church opened in 1899 and a six-room brick schoolhouse was raised two years later, the City was a restless place. Packed with young men far from familial constraints and earning big bucks, it couldnt help have had an underworld aglow in beckoning red lights and high-stakes card games, liquor. With dozens of saloons open seven days a week, navigating around staggering imbibers a fact of life for the decent folks going about their business. All that changed in 1903 with the election of Martin Burrell. His administration soon shut down all but seven strictly regulated, reputable hotels, made sure the Evening Ladies did not offend pious eyes, and generally nailed a lid on things.
By December of 1901, the Granby Consolidateds smelter was accepting nearly 900 tons of Phnix ore per day, firing it with coke from the Crows Nest Pass area and loading the resulting 50% pure copper matte onto CPR trains for transport to New York and Liverpool for final refining. Ending a two year process, by 1904 the company had been bought out by U.S.-based financiers over whom J.J. Hill exerted considerable influence. During that time the company was, with Hill, able to buy control of the enormous Crows Nest Pass Coal Company. Hills railroads were in 1904 carrying 68% of Granby Consolidateds freight, mostly ore trains from Phnix and coal trains from the Crowsnest Pass, both bound for the Grand Forks smelter. Gradually the CPR discovered how hard it was to make money running its three, then two, Shays back and forth between same two points, trying to feed ore to plant that already had its supplies secured, thank you. Further bedevilling his old adversary, Hill was by then in control of the huge Crows Nest Pass Coal Company, and with his connector between his mainline in Montana and the Crowsnest Pass siphoning off most of the coal, CP had much less tonnage to haul and was even finding it difficult to keep its Trail smelter supplied with coke.
Though the vast preponderance of the Granby smelters ore came from company-owned or affiliated mines up on Phnix Mountain, other ores made their way into the furnaces. Holding the financial hopes of some folks in Grand Forks was the Betts and Hesperus group of properties on Hardy Mountain within sight of the City. E.E. Alexander had filed upon them back in 1896, and over the years they had passed through the portfolios of such local notables as Lorne Argyle Campbell of West Kootenay Power, and his associate, J.A. (John) Finch of Spokane. In February of 1903 the Betts and Hesperus Mining Company acquired the claims and, with a Granby smelter contract in their accounts, began spending $50,000 over the next two years developing a mine. Nearby like-minded entrepreneurs got busy on the Homestake group. How much Betts and Hesperus contributed to the one million tons that Granbys smelter devoured in 1908 is unrecorded by that years Department of Mines annual report, and afterwards activities on Hardy Mountain seem to fall beneath the notice of the Department.
Granby Consolidated had expanded its Boundary District operations grandly from 1903 through 1907 as the burgeoning demands of the electric industry drove the price of pure copper on New York commodity exchange from 12¢ per pound up to 25¢. The Panic of 1907 destroyed that demand, however, and Granby suspended operations for part of that year, its management wrestling with the Western Federation of Miners for the hearts of the companys crews. Though the non-unionized Granby output 23.5 million pounds of copper in 1908, the company was not a mother lode of profit and had to struggle to keep market share. Distrusting Hodges 1909 assessment that, despite what the diamond-drill cores might indicate, Phnix Mountain held uncountable years of reserves of ore, the company commissioned the noted geologist, Otto Sussman, to examine the mines. In his opinion, submitted in 1910, Phnix would be exhausted by 1915. Hodges resigned and the price of Granby Consolidateds stock began to slide.
When coal miners in the Crowsnest Pass walked out on April 1st of 1911, Granby Consolidated ran on stockpiled coke until May 22nd. It fired again on June 10th with Pennsylvania coke but found this supply unreliable and costly and the smelter shut down again from August 15th until December 21st, by which time the Crowsnest miners had been back at work for more than an month. Granby Consolidateds directors entered 1912 thinking aggressively; expanding plant capacity would soak up the Districts ore, drive competing smelters out of business and thereby restore profitability. Despite that they were already moving their main focus of activity to the Hidden Creek copper showing on the Coast south of Prince Rupert, the shareholders voted to have eight new furnaces installed at Grand Forks and a granulation plant built to deal with the slag: no longer would the pair of little Canadian Rand Drill Company locomotives haul short trains of 6-ton slag cars out to the molten dump. By 1913 the modifications were complete and the smelter settled down to consuming an average of 3,400 tons of ore each day. Monthly paying some $40,000 in wages into the Districts economy, Granbys accountants still wrote discouragingly small numbers in the companys ledgers until their companys fortunes were rescued by Kaiser Wilhelm and the German aristocracy. Like the rest of the regions metals industry, Granby profited handsomely from the hostilities, despite the Crowsnest Pass coal strike of 1917. However, when Peace silenced the guns at the stroke of the 11th hour on November 11th, 1918, the metal markets began to slump and the resulting world wide mineral glut crushed copper prices. Closing its mines on Phnix and shelving the development of Copper Mountain, on June 20th of 1919, the Granby smelter, unable to sell its blister at anything approaching the cost of manufacture, began to lay off workers. Like its two Boundary Creek brethren, it was soon closed and began to suffer the attentions of the salvors torch as its useful equipment and skilled personnel were transferred to the companys new operation at Anyox, on the Coast one hundred-odd miles south of Prince Rupert. In the entire Boundary - Kootenay region, only the CPRs multi-metal works at Trail was able to keep its fires burning. The VV&E and the KVR pulled up their Granby smelter spurs in 1920, leaving the Boundary Mercantile and Equipment Company to sweep the plants floors and scour its flues for precious metal residues. In 1921 the useful buildings were dismantled and sent to Burke, Idaho, to replace those structures that the Hecla Mining Company had lost to fire. In 1925 Boundary Mercantile sent 680 tons to Trail, collected from all three Boundary District smelters and several old mills in the area. By 1929 this chore had fallen to R. Crowe-Swords and his Hercules Mining, Smelting and Power Corporation.
Smelter Lake was drained for farmland and about the only reminder of the mills existence are the concrete footings looking like great, grey war monuments scattered amid the huge conical hills of black granular slag which smother the site. The hills themselves are, come the end of the Twentieth Century, rapidly disappearing as the slag makes an ideal abrasive and, as Roxul Inc. has found, an excellent material from which to manufacture insulation.
The Great Northern and the CPR
Though the Granby Smelter and big-time mining had left the District, GN found enough business in Grand Forks to warrant the continuation of passenger services until 1938 when, having abandoned the VV&E/WGN from Curlew to Oroville, it dedicated its Republic-Marcus section solely to freight. At its Weston Yards, a kilometre south and east from CPs Columbia Yards, GN maintained its enginehouse and shops until dieselization of the line in the mid-50s made them redundant. Now part of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe network, the Kettle Valley branch is still in frequent use, with stops made at Coopers Wye, straight south of Grand Forks across the River, to pick up car loads of wood products on their way into the U.S. from Pope and Talbot Limited and CanPar Industries.
Across the River from downtown is the Grand Forks Industrial Park, site of the former Cuprum Wye which joined the KRVR to the CP mainline. Here the last vestiges of both lines are found.
In 1988, CP suspended service between Midway and Castlegar, though for the convenience of Industrial Parks two main residents, Pope and Talbot and CanPar, the Company continued to run the occasional locomotive out to Grand Forks to shift car loads of lumber. In 1990 CP got tired of doing this and that December saw the last train consisting of an SD-40 General Motors locomotive and a caboose leave Grand Forks. The next summer, but for maybe a half mile of mainline on either side of Cuprum Wye and a three-mile-stretch on the old KRVR right-of-way between Cuprum and Coppers Wye on the BNSF, CP ripped up its rails all the way back to Castlegar. On September 6th, 1991, P&T and CanPar incorporated a numbered company to operate the shortest of B.C.s shortline railways, which they named the Grand Forks Railway in August of 1992. In the next year, P&T, the Regional District of Grand Forks, and Grand Forks Railway, Incorporated, bought the line. With a 1950 ex-CPR General Motors SW8, GFRs six employees spot empty cars on the parent companies sidings and grumble loads of lumber down the 85-pound Algoma Canada rails to Coopers for the BNSF.
Grand Forks is a pretty City of well watered lawns and tree-screened streets. On the corner of Fifth and Central stands the Boundary Museum and tourist bureau, opened on October 5th, 1958. On the upper floor it shelters someones fine collection of birds eggs and a few stuffed birds for variety. Displayed, too, are Interior Salish artefacts supported by tracts on the Tribes history as pertains to the Kettle Valley. But the real gems of the Museum reside in the basement. Encased there are several large dioramas. Intricately detailed models of the Smelter and its associated structures fascinate students of industrial history, while the layout of CPs Columbia Yards and the downtown core circa 1914 appeals to all. On the Museums grounds are caged a few species of antique machinery such as steam powered fire waggons, ancient motor vehicles, carriages, sleds. Set amid the outdoor displays is a student run coffee concession and a shady patio where one can consume a leisurely beverage and enjoy the sunshine. From the museums tourist office one can obtain a copy of the latest heritage-building walking-tour and amble past some of the fancy homes built around the turn of the twentieth century by copper bosses. Downtown is largely built after 1911 from bricks fired in the Doukhobors works after the great fires of July 11th, 1908, and July 25th, 1911, wiped away all the pioneer structures downtown. The few survivors flank the 1909 Davis Block on off-kilter Market Avenue. Interestingly, the Tour winds up at the old Columbia Brewery, now occupied by Selkirk College, near the City Campground. The lower walls of rough stone were built in 1898 and upon them at a later date were set upper walls of red brick and flat roof to house Frasers Brewery. The business failed after only a couple of years, having been three years closed when Frank Hartinger revived it in 1905. As the Columbia Brewery, the enterprise worked until 1918.
Across 72nd Avenue from the old brewery the arch-porticod Post Office of sandstone and red Doukhobor brick has served as City Hall since 1981. Its cornerstone was laid before the embers of the 1911 fire cooled, its clock tower completed in 1915. Nearby, the fancily fenced and marble-detailed brick Courthouse dates from 1912.
To historians, at least, What is not on the Tour is also of interest. Downtown, at the corner of Market Avenue and Riverside, stood, until the cold night of October 29, 1991, of the great Yale Hotel, lamented for the loss of its Russian kitchen. Nearby stood a boxy wood-framed and clapboard two-storey built in 1909 as the Russell Hotel. It miraculously survived the 1911 fire and was tough enough to withstand the insults of a host of occupants, not the least of which were the biker who knew it as the Longhorn Saloon until fire claimed in the late 1990s.
Not on the Tour, as well, is the site of the station that the KVR built in 1906 downtown between Central and Market. The old Railway right-of-way is now Fourth, and the old station stood on the north side, high on its quay, freight sheds winging out on either side. Gone these many years, any thing of archæological interest buried under the Food Giant and flanking strip-mall.
At Fourth and Central and also ignored by the Tour, is the oldest hostelry in Grand Forks. Now minus its distinctive hanging corner turret and recessed balconies, the wood-framed Winnipeg Hotel of 1900 has been converted an apartment.
Long reliant on its forestry industry, truck gardens and specialty combustibles, the Citys Board of Trade does all it can to promote Grand Forks as a tourist destination. Though at the time animosities ran deep and many citizens of Grand Forks were as happy as not for one reason or another to see the near-destruction of Doukhobor society in the 1960s, time seems to have healed the superficial wounds. With enthusiasm inspired by a narrowing tax base, the Board trumpets the Doukhobors heritage and Russian ethnicity, though it is still difficult to find a Cyrillic letter in the entire City save in the Iskra periodical and on the old headstones in the cemetery at Fructova. What can be found is genuine borsch at the Omega Restaurant at the north end of the Granby Bridge and in the more relaxed Grand Forks Hotel, at the south end of the Bridge. The owners of the Hotel, a three-story mock-stone block edifice built in 1909 make their money on the main floor which is divided between a popular restaurant and its kitchen on one side, and a dark snug of a pub on the other. Hopefully one day it will regain its status as a hostelry.
A tip of the helmet to Mike Acres and his Chainsaw Museum on Riverside Drive, and provisioned from the Overwaitea store on Central because the shopping is pretty spotty from here to Castlegar, a visitor leaving Grand Forks eastbound has three choices. Easiest is letting Central cross the Granby to turn hard-right and become the Crowsnest Highway, following the Rivers left bank past the Confluence and east down the Valley along the toes of the Christinas. Alternatively, one could head east on Second Street past the Longhorn and cross the Kettle on a 1969 concrete span into the Citys Industrial Park where Pope and Talbot and CanPar are only the latest incarnations of an industry which has roosted on the lot since E.E. Spraggett set up a planing mill and sash and door factory here on Ruckle Slough in the early 1890s. In 1909 Charles Allen bought the plant, expanded it and eventually sold it as the Norris Lumber and Box Company. In 1945 new owners renamed it Grand Forks Saw Mill Limited, and Oregon-based Pope and Talbot bought the plant in 1969.
The premises of Roxul Incorporated and the yards of the lumber mills face onto 2nd Street which extends itself out from downtown, crosses the 68th Avenue into the industrial park and winds travellers out onto the valley floor, past the city works yards and the Department of Forestry, and on to the Grand Forks Municipal Airport. From the patchy pavement of its 4300 foot-long east-west runway small planes launch themselves aloft.
The age of the airplane came to Grand Forks at 10:34 in the morning of August 7th, 1919, when, on his pioneering flight across the Canadian cordillera, Captain Ernest Charles Hoy landed his Curtiss JN-4 Jenny near the City. Having left Vancouver before dawn, Hoy had refuelled in Vernon before arriving at Grand Forks. Taking off with full tanks, he joined up with a fellow aeronaut, Lieutenant Ernest O. Hall, in the skies over Grand Forks and flew together with him as far as Kootenay Lake. While Hall went south to crash-land at Creston, Hoy made it over the Purcells to Cranbrook and then hopped to Lethbridge before landing in Calgary at 2055 hours, 16 hours and 42 minutes after he began his historic flight. Nearly a decade later, guided by Hoys route, the federal Department of Transport designated Grand Forks as a stop on the Trans-Canada Airway. Built nearer the City, this original strip was completed in 1928 and became, on May 9th, 1929, the first federally licensed airport in B.C. Airmen were trained there during W.W.II, and in 1946 a new field farther away from the built-up area was opened. In expectation of commercial service, the City built the present facility in 1970. Too small to attract major carriers, it remains a minor regional field.
Beyond the Airport, quiet lanes gather into Carson/Gilpin Road, following the limpid Kettle for a couple of looping miles through a T intersection which directs traffic onto Whitehall Road, crossing the River to head north to the Highway.
Gilpin and the Kettles valley from Grand Forks to Christina Lake
According to the map, it is 21 kilometres from Grand Forks to Christina Lake. Away from the City the valley opens out to the south, wide and lush, weeping willows drooping in the heat. Fields not high in hay at populated with sheep or other grazers, or sown to corn. A scattering of green houses amid the shading cottonwoods advertise the local flower industry. North, the advance guard of the Christina Range crowds in on the River to reflect the suns heat back into the valley and down upon the Highway as the latter, reluctant to tread on arable land, picks its way along the foot of the Range, easily accessed from the gravel quarry gnawing at a rocky toe. Somewhere up on the alpine pastures of the closer Christinas are supposed to be a herd of California Bighorn Sheep which were imported by the City of Grand Forks many seasons ago as a tourist attraction. Only in cold weather to they come down within sight of No.3.
Some six kilometres east of Grand Forks the Mountains narrow the valley and the Highway finds itself squeezed onto the Kettles bank. In places resembling a miniature levy defending the Highway against the Rivers seasonal onslaughts, the C&Ws road-bed, clean of rails since 1991, chops through a little butte placed awkwardly by Nature in the middle of the valley. On the Rivers steep right bank, by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks in a row nearly a thousand metres long, hunker the dismal shacks of Gilpin. Somewhere there is the ranch yard that R.R. Gilpin staked out in 1883, a little settlement which swelled slightly with the arrival of the VV&E in the spring of 1902. It never amounted to much in its relative isolation and the governments of the day found it an ideal place to concentrate demonstrative Doukhobors after their release from custody in the 1930s. Some of their descendants live there still. From the Highway, the Kelly-green equipment of the daily BNSF train grumbling by close outside their windows, Gilpins dark, raw-wood cottages look like the end of a hard road.
Shy Western tanagers, joyful flashes of fuchsia and black, flit in the hillside brush as the Highway climbs, chopping into spurs of wildly contorted beds of quartzite and sandstone shot through with intrusions of granite and mineral-stained quartz. On top of the spur light sandy soils support a patch of regenerating Lodgepole pine (pinus contorta latifolia) and poplar screening the Cascade Cove Campground on the Highways south side. Below, the River has cut through the high ground at the CPR siding of Billings to embrace the waters of the Christina and hurry down the latters southward-flowing valley to cross the Boundary into Washington State about two miles distant. Coming off the spur the Highway passes the intersection of the Boundary-bound No.393 and glides down into the settlement of Christina Lake (555m).