Crowsnest Highway

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Montrose, B.C. : History

by DMWilson
With thanks to Anna Reeves, and George F.G. Stanley.
revised 2005/10/19
petted 2008/12/25

Montrose
Beaver Falls
        
Montrose

        Eastbound out of Trail’s suburb of Glenmerry, the 3B Highway is a four-laner following the Columbia River downstream. Across the River, high bluffs of poorly consolidated sand and gravel outwash channel and amplify valley breezes. Just beyond the Waneta Shopping Plaza, a fancy version of a simple “Tee” intersection frees the Highway from 22A and sends the former veering left to scramble up the River’s bluffs to get into the Beaver Creek valley on its way to Salmo. The road—locally known as “the cut-off”—dates to the early 1920s, but it was a pretty rude path until the Highway’s Branch built the present works in the early ‘60s. It’s a sharp climb: two kilometres of eight percent grade guarantees that some cyclists will be pushing and enjoying the remarkable views on a hazeless day back up the River’s valley to the bend to Trail, and south down past the mouth of the Pend d’Oreille River on the Boundary. Cutting through a spur of fine-grained granite, Highway 3B breaks into Montrose (548m), hanging high on the sunny northern slopes of Beaver Creek, over 400 feet above the Columbia River.
        Montrose is the fruit of Leon S. Simmons’ inspiration. Like many in the Beaver Creek valley at the end of WWII, Simmons was employed at the Trail smelter, commuting daily across this stump-strewn patch of level land known as Wood’s Flats. Scattered amongst privately-owned lots were those owned by CM&S since the 1910s and ‘20s, a result of the Company’s policy of buying out farmers who complained that the Smelter’s smoke was killing their crops and orchards. According to Anna Reeves in her informative Tracks of the Beaver Valley and the Pend’oreille, (Friends of the Beaver Valley Library, 2002), Simmons formed Montrose Homesites Limited with Trail-based lawyer A.G. Cameron and hired surveyor Boyd C. Affleck to lay out the townsite of “Beaver Heights.” Len Sims won the contract to grade the 60-foot-wide streets and dig in the water distribution system. The government determined that there were entirely too many settlements in B.C. with the word “Beaver” in their names, so by the time lots went up for sale the community’s name had been changed to “Montrose,” the name of a rural school in the area which had opened in 1928. Among the first businessmen to build on the townsite were Engvold Melgard and Louis Campeau who raised a grocery store in 1947. Twenty-one pupils were registered to attend classes conducted by Selma Frew and S. Nutini in the three-room elementary school which was completed in 1952 on land donated by Simmons. In 1953 the little post office at nearby Beaver Falls closed and a new one opened in Montrose on October 30th. On June 22nd of 1956 Montrose incorporated as a Village with Ken Manton as the interim chairman of the five-man Board of Commissioners.
        Though all the major churches had been granted building lots by Montrose Homesites, only the Anglicans took advantage of the offer and built St. Monica’s in 1961. It is now the Beaver Valley Baptist and remains Montrose’s only church.
        The Montrose Improvement Association, having built the Community Hall, dissolved and was replaced in 1965 by the Recreation Commission. In co-operation with its Fruitvale counterpart, the Commission built the Beaver Valley Swimming Pool, a covered facility which was opened in the spring of 1975 and, unfortunately, was crushed by an accumulated snow-load in 1997. It remains unreplaced.
        Improvements over the years had been made o the Village’s infrastructure. The school has been expanded and remodelled, the water system torn up and re-laid, along with a sewerage system to retire the residents’ septic tanks and out houses. Roads are paved and a new subdivision, Viewmont, is in-filling since 1999. Today Montrose remains largely a bed-room community, many of its denizens arising a half-hour earlier than their Trail-living counterparts to follow each other down the Highway to the City in an obedient line of sport utility vehicles and disposable compacts.

        
Beaver Falls

        Conterminous with the corporate limits of Montrose on the east is Beaver Falls, unicorporated, a sprinkled scattering of acreages, modest fruit farms and rural homes roughly centred on the Beaver Falls Motel. To the south, hidden from the Highway by a screen of trees is the feature for which the community is named; a picturesque cascade which drops the waters of Beaver Creek some 80 feet. The rumour persists that, as a boy living in Spokane, Bing Crosby, the popular American crooner, used to hop Great Northern freights and come to The Falls to fish.
         Though the Nelson-based Kootenay Orchard Association began offering lots for sale around the Falls in 1907, it wasn’t until local surveyor Boyd Affleck bought 225 acres with his Soldiers’ Settlement Act money after the Great War that the lands here abouts began to be settled. In the early ‘30s, reports Anna Reeves, Affleck sub-divided his property into acreages, laid in a water distribution system and got into the real estate business. By the end of that decade enough families had bought lots by that a community formed, and in 1939, the year that an April wild fire swept through the valley, volunteers built a school. Opened in 1940 with Mrs. P.A. Worley and Mrs. Stephenson at the helm, the school survived until 1971 when pupils started attending classes in either the Montrose or the Fruitvale schools, depending on which was closest. In 1940, too, the Beaver Falls post office opened in John Langset’s general store, and operated from there until it was moved a few miles westward down the Highway and renamed “Montrose” on October 30th, 1953.
        Through Beaver Falls, between Montrose and Fruitvale, Highway 3B humps and curves its way along the northern slopes of the Beaver Creek’s valley some nine or ten kilometres. Nearing Fruitvale it passes the two-storey’d Tudor-styled Villagers’ Inn and Pub offering twenty nice guest-rooms: the only motel, other than the Beaver Falls, in the neighbourhood. A few dozen metres beyond, the Highway right-angles left, bumps over International Rail Road Systems’ level crossing and turns into Fruitvale’s main street.


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