Crowsnest Highway

Crowsnest Highway

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Warfield, B.C. : History

by DMWilson
With thanks to Jocelyn LaFace and Richard Fish.
revised 2004/11/01
        
        Twisting and zigging through hairpins, No.3B, known here as the Schofield Highway, hurtles down some five kilometres of 10% grades from Rossland into Warfield (610m). Slowing to a reasonable 50 kilometres per hour, the plummeting Highway S-curves past a meagre business frontage and, ducking beneath two CPR overpasses, streaks down the last few metres into Trail. So much attention must bicyclists pay to navigating this absorbing stretch of Highway that they might not notice the signs that proclaim Warfield a Village.
        Though Warfield is largely a dormitory for Trail and Rossland, its past and future tightly interwoven with its neighbouring cities, it does have an independent history much of which has been collected by Jocelyn LaFace in an essay which she called A Unique Place to Live, published in a slim volume in 2002 as Village of Warfield—1952–2002—Golden Jubilee Booklet.
        Trail Creek Landing was still a brawling, mud-streeted smelter town in 1897 when George Legge Merry bought a piece of property in the gulch of the Trail Creek. To him it was just the most suitable lot as close to the Landing that he could get: he could not know that when he and Martha finally moved onto the lot in 1899, they, and their neighbours who arrived that same year, George Malcolm Annable and wife Bertie, would be identified as the first residents of Warfield.
        Come the end of the 19-aughts most arable land in the Trail Creek valley was settled. On 500 acres of the big bench above the Creek’s left bank John and Sarah Hintz ran a dairy herd. Below them, down by the Creek, Joe and Mary Shutek were gardening and raising a family. Dwarfing all other holdings, however, was that of the Annables. By local standards their 5,000-acre property was immense. On it the family ranched cattle and, until the supply of trees ran out, operated a water-powered sawmill. By dint of the extent of their holdings, the locale was soon named after them and Annable remains a district of Warfield.
        The land itself was well able to support agriculture, but disaster was in the air. Unregulated, unfiltered, the stacks of the CM&S smelter day and night puked tons of lead and arsenic dust and smoke into the air. The Annables’ cattle sickened as did those of the Hintzes’. Crops and gardens began failing regularly despite attentive care and the undeniable fertility of the alluvial soils. After years of denying the charges, in 1919 CM&S decided to silence the accusations by purchasing the Bench from the widow Hintz and turning the property into a model farm. With experts and money the Company flew into the project, all the while fighting law suits brought by neighbours far and near. Much to the Company’s chagrin the farm succeeded in demonstrating conclusively that smelter effluent was not conducive to the healthy growth of anything. Finally admitting to the undeniable, the Company introduced pollution control measures in the late ‘20s and used the filtrates removed from the Smelter’s flue gasses to make its Elephant Brand fertilizer in a plant it raised the failed farm property.
        For the convenience of its fertilizer plant workers, CM&S decided to develop a little subdivision near Annable and name it after Carlos Warfield, one of the original team that “Fritz” Heinze assembled to get his smelter up and running in the 1890s. In 1935 the Company bought part of the Shutek property and sold 40 lots in the area soon known as “Beaver Bend” to select employees at favourable terms. Nearer the plant, likely on the old model farm lands, in 1938 CM&S laid in sewerage and water pipes, surveyed 316 lots and built about 150 cottages in a cute style that quickly earned the subdivision, its streets named for dead British poets, the nickname “Mickey Mouse Town.” With a lottery underway to determine which employees got which lots in what was officially named “Upper Warfield,” CM&S began urging the residents to assume responsibility for administering the infrastructure. By an Order-in-Council of Lieutenant-governor Eric Werge Hamber in November of 1938, the Annable-Warfield Waterworks and Sewage District was incorporated and invested in the hands of trustees elected by the residents.
        The District’s responsibilities quickly expanded beyond its mandate as residents expected it to provide fire protection, maintain roads, collect refuse, et cetera. Money was hard to raise in an unicorporated community, however, or borrow; so after WWII the folks in Warfield began discussing amalgamation with the City of Trail. Arguing against submerging their community into the milieu of the City, supporters of a unique identity reminded their fellows that Warfield had educated its students since G.W. Weir had called classes to attention in the first Annable school in 1912. Since April 21st, 1949, the new J.L. Webster school had served the community. As well, Warfield had traditions worth preserving such as the annual Sports Day, first held on May 24th, 1938. When the options had been thoroughly aired a vote was taken and on December 8th, 1952, the Village of Warfield came into being, its first Board of Commissioners chaired by M.L. Krause.
        Sandwiched as it is between its two much larger neighbours, Warfield has not needed to develop much in the way of amusements or organizations. However, as evidenced by Ms. LaFace’s booklet, the Village continues to thrive independently with pride and shows every indication of doing so into the foreseeable future.

For more local History please see our pages for
TRAIL & ROSSLAND


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