British Columbia History

British Columbia History British Columbia Historical Federation 2005-01-01

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Journal of the British Columbia Historical Federation | Vol.38 No.2 2005 | $5.00
This Issue: Cinema BC | Taking Flight | Fielding Spotts | A Mine Hoax | Tokens | And more. British Columbia History
Journal of the British Columbia Historical Federation
Published four times a year.
ISSN: print 1710-7881 online 1710-792X
British Columbia History welcomes stories, studies,
and news items dealing with any aspect of the
history of British Columbia, and British Columbians.
Please submit manuscripts for publication to the Editor,
British Columbia History,
John Atkin,
921 Princess Avenue,
Vancouver BC V6A 3E8
Book reviews for British Columbia History,,
3450 West 20th Avenue,
Vancouver BCV6S1E4,
Subscription & subscription information:
Alice Marwood
#311 -45520 Knight Road
Chilliwack, B. C.   V2R 3Z2
phone 604-824-1570
Subscriptions: $18.00 per year
For addresses outside Canada add $10.00
Single copies of recent issues are for sale at:
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- Galiano Museum
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ISSN: 1710-7881
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Federation, copyright in the individual articles
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British Columbia Historical Federation
A charitable society under the Income Tax Act Organized 31 October 1922
PO Box 5254, Station B., Victoria BC V8R 6N4
Under the Distinguished Patronage of Her Honour
The Honourable lona Campagnolo. PC, CM, OBC
Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia
Honourary President
Melva Dwyer
Jacqueline Gresko
5931 Sandpiper Court, Richmond, BC, V7E 3P8
Phone 604.274.4383
First Vice President
Patricia Roy
Department of History, University of Victoria, PO Box 3045, Victoria, BC, V8W 3P4
Second Vice President
Bob Mukai
4100 Lancelot Dr., Richmond, BC   V7C 4S3
Phone 604-274-6449
Ron Hyde
#20 12880 Railway Ave., Richmond, BC, V7E6G2
Phone: 604.277.2627 Fax 604.277.2657
Recording Secretary
Gordon Miller
1126 Morrell Circle, Nanaimo, BC, V9R 6K6
Ron Greene
POBox 1351, Victoria, BC, V8W 2W7
Phone 250. 598.1835 Fax 250.598.5539
Past President
Wayne Desrochers
13346 57th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V3X2W8
Phone 604. 599.4206 Fax. 604.507.4202
Member at Large
Alice Marwood
#311 45520 Knight Road, Chilliwack, BC, V2R3I2
Patrick Dunae
History Department, Malaspina University College
Historical Traits and Markers
John Spittle
1241 Mount Crown Road, North Vancouver, BC, V7R 1R9
Phone 604.988.4565
W. Kaye Lamb Essay Scholarships Committee
Robert Griffin
107 Regina Avenue, Victoria, BC, V8Z 1J4
Phone 250.475.0418
Writing Competition - Lieutenant-Governor's Award
Bob Mukai
4100 Lancelot Dr., Richmond, BC   V7C 4S3
Phone 604-274-6449 the Federation's web site is hosted by Selkirk College in Castlegar, BC British Columbia Historical Federation Members
an umbrella organization embracing regional societies
Abbotsford Genealogical Society
PO Box 672, Abbotsford, BC V2S 6R7
Alberni District Historical Society
PO Box 284, Port Alberni, BC V9Y 7M7
Anderson Lake Historical Society
PO Box 40, DArcy, BC VON 1L0
Arrow Lakes Historical Society
PO Box 819, Nakusp, BC VOG 1R0
Atlin Historical Society
PO Box 111, Atlin, BC VOW IA0
Bella Coola Valley Museum Society
Box 726, Bella Coola, BC VOT 1C0
Boundary Historical Society
PO Box 1687, Grand Forks, BC VOH 1H0
Bowen Island Historians
PO Box 97. Bowen Island, BC VON 1G0
Bulkley Valley Historical & Museum Society
Box 2615, Smithers, BC VOJ 2N0
Burnaby Historical Society
6501 Deer Lake Avenue, Burnaby, BC V5G 3T6
B.C. History of Nursing Group
c/o Beth Fitzpatrick Box 444 Brackendale BC VON 1H0
Chemainus Valley Historical Society
PO Box 172, Chemainus, BC VOR 1K0
Chinese Canadian Historical Society of B.C.
1829 MacDonald Street Vancouver, BC V6K 3X7
Cherryville and Area Historical Society
22 Dunlevy Road, Cherryville, BC VOE 2G3
Cowichan Historical Society
PO Box 1014, Duncan, BC V9L 3Y2
Craigdarroch Castle Historical Museum Society
1050 Joan Crescent, Victoria, BC V8S 3L5
Dixon Entrance Maritime Museum Society
PO Box 183, Masset, BC VOT 1M0
East Kootenay Historical Association
PO Box 74, Cranbrook, BC V1C 4H6
Finn Slough Heritage & Wetland Society
9480 Dyke Road, Richmond BC V7A 2L5
Forest History Assn. of BC
c/o 5686 Keith Rd West Vancouver, BC V7W 2N5
Fort Nelson Historical Society
Box 716, Fort Nelson, BC V0C 1R0
Fraser-Fort George Museum Society
PO Box 1779 Pr. George BC V2L 4V7
Gabriola Historical & Museum Society
Box 213, Gabriola, BC, VOR 1X0
Galiano Museum Society
S13 - C19 - RR1, Galiano Island, B C VON 1P0
Gray Creek Historical Society
Box 4, Gray Creek, B.C. V0B 1S0
Gulf of Georgia Cannery Society
12138 Fourth Avenue Richmond, B.C. V7E 3J1
Gulf Islands Branch BCHF
c/o S-22, C-11, RR# 1, Galiano Island, BC VON 1P0
Hallmark Society
c/o 810 Linden Ave, Victoria, BC V8V4G9
Hedley Heritage Society
PO Box 218, Hedley, BC VOX 1K0
Horsefly Historical Society
Box 11, Horsefly, BC VOL 1L0
Hudson's Hope Historical Society
Box 98, Hudson's Hope, BC V0C 1C0
Jewish Historical Society of British Columbia
206-950 West 41st Ave, Vancouver, BC V5Z 2N7
Kamloops Heritage Railway Society
6 - 510 Lome St, Kamloops, BC V2C 1W3
Kamloops Museum Association
207 Seymour Street, Kamloops, BC V2C 2E7
Kimberley District Heritage Society
Box 144 Kimberley BC V1A 2Y5
Kitimat Centennial Museum Association
293 City Centre, Kitimat BC   V8C 1T6
Koksilah School Historical Society
5213 Trans Canada Highway, Koksilah, BC VOR 2C0
Kootenay Doukhobor Historical Society
112 Heritage Way, Castlegar, BC V1N 4M5
Kootenay Lake Historical Society
PO Box 537, Kaslo, BC VOG 1M0
Ladysmith & District Historical Society
c/o 781 Colonia Drive Ladysmith, BC V9G 1N2
Langley Heritage Society
Box 982, Fort Langley, BC V1M 2S3
Lantzville Historical Society
c/o PO Box 274, Lantzville, BC VOR 2H0
Lions Bay Historical Society
Bopx 571 Lions Bay, BC   VON 2E0
Little Prairie Heritage Society
Box 1777, Chetwynd BC   V0C 1J0
London Heritage Farm Society
6511 Dyke Road, Richmond, BC V7E 3R3
Maple Ridge Historical Society
22520 116th Avenue, Maple Ridge, BC V2X 0S4
Marpole Museum & Historical Society
8743 SW Marine Dr, Vancouver, BC V6P 6A5
Metchosin School Museum Society
4475 Happy Valley Road Victoria, BC V9C 3Z3
Michel-Natal-Sparwood Heritage Society
PO Box 1675, Sparwood BC V0B 2G0
Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society
PBC Box 611 Kelowna BC    V1Y 7P2
Nakusp & District Museum Society
PO Box 584, Nakusp, BC VOG 1R0
Nanaimo & District Museum Society
100 Cameron Road, Nanaimo, BC V9R 2X1
Nanaimo Historical Society
PO Box 933, Nanaimo, BC V9R 5N2
Nelson Museum & Historical Society
402 Anderson Street, Nelson, BC V1L 3Y3
Nicola Valley Museum Archives Association
PO Box 1262, Merritt BC V1K 1B8
North Shore Historical Society
c/o 1541 Meriynn Cres., North Vancouver, BC V7J 2X9
North Shuswap Historical Society
PO Box 57, Celista, BC VOE 1L0
North Vancouver Museum and Archives
209 West 4th St North Vancouver BC V7M 1H8
Okanagan Historical Society
PO Box 313, Vernon, BC V1T 6M3
Old Cemeteries Society of Victoria
Box 5004, #15-1594 Fairfield Rd, Victoria BC V8S 5L8
Parksville & District Historical Society
PO Box 1452, Parksville, BC   V9P 2H4
Pemberton Museum & Archives
PO Box 267, Pemberton, BC, VON 2L0
Prince Rupert City & Regional Archives
PO Box 1093, Prince Rupert BC V8J 4H6
Princeton & District Museum & Archives
Box 281, Princeton, BC VOX 1W0
Qualicum Beach Historical Society
587 Beach Road, Qualicum Beach, BC V9K 1K7
Revelstoke & District Historical Association
Box 1908, Revelstoke BC VOE 2S0
Revelstoke Heritage Railway Society
PO Box 3018, Revelstoke, BC   VOE 2S0
Richmond Heritage Railroad Society
c/o Suite 200, 8211 Ackroyd Rd., Richmond, BC V6X 3K8
Questions regarding membership should be sent to:
Ron Hyde, Secretary, #20 12880 Railway Ave., Richmond BCV7E 6G2
Phone 604.277.2627 Fax 604.277.2657
Richmond Museum Society
#180 - 7700 Minoru Gate, Richmond, BC V6Y 1R8
The Riondel & Area Historical Society
Box 201, Riondel, BC V0B 2B0
Roedde House Preservation Society
1415 Barclay St, Vancouver BC V6G 1J6
Royal Agricultural & Industrial Society of BC
(Samson V Maritime Museum) PO Box 42516 -
#105 - 1005 Columbia St New Westminster BC
V3M 6H5
Saanich Historical Artifacts Society
7321 Lochside Dr., Saanichton, BC   V8M 1W4
Salt Spring Island Historical Society
129 McPhillips Ave, Salt Spring Island, BC V8K 2T6
Sandon Historical Society
Box 52, New Denver, BC VOG 1S0
Sea Island Heritage Society
4191 Ferguson Road, Richmond, BC V7B 1P3
Sicamous District Museum & Historical Society
Box 944, Sicamous, BC VOE 2V0
Silvery Slocan Historical Society
Box 301, New Denver, BC VOG 1S0
South Peace Historical Society
c/o 900 Alaska Avenue, Dawson Creek, BC V1G 4T6
Steveston Historical Society
3811 Moncton St., Richmond, BC V7E 3A0
Sullivan Mine & Railway Historical Society
PO Box 94, Kimberley BC   V1A 2Y5
Surrey Historical Society
Box 34003, 17790 #10 Highway, Surrey, BC V3S 8C4
Terrace Regional Historical Society
PO Box 246, Terrace, BC V8G 4A6
Trail Historical Society
PO Box 405, Trail, BC V1R 4L7
Union Bay Historical Society
Box 448, Union Bay, BC VOR 3B0
Vancouver Historical Society
PO Box 3071, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6
Victoria Historical Society
PO Box 43035, Victoria North, Victoria, BC V8X 3G2
Williams Lake Museum and Historical Society
113 - 4th Ave North, Williams Lake, BC V2G 2C8
Yale & District historical Society
Box 74, Yale, BC V0K 2S0
Yellowhead Museum
Box 1778, RR# 1, Clearwater, BC VOE 1N0
Archives Association of British Columbia
PO Box 78530 University PO, Vancouver BC V6T 1Z4
Hope Museum
POBox26, HopeBC   V0X1L0
Kelowna Museum Association
470 Queensway Avenue, Kelowna, B. C. V1Y 6S7
Langley Centennial Museum
PO Box 800, Fort Langley BC   V1M 2S2
Northern BC Archives - UNBC
3333 University Way, Prince George BC   V2N 4Z9
North Pacific Historic Fishing Villiage
PO Box 1109, Port Edward BC   V0V 1G0
North Vancouver Museum and Archives
209 - West 4th Street North Vancouver BC V7M 1H8
Quesnel & District Museum and Archives
410 Kinchant St Quesnel BC V2J 7J5
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We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada, through the Publications Assistance program (PAP), toward our mailing cost
Contact Us:
British Columbia History welcomes
stories, studies, and news items
dealing with any aspect of the
history of British Columbia, and
British Columbians.
Please    submit    manuscripts    for
publication to the Editor,
British Columbia History,
John Atkin,
921 Princess Avenue,
Vancouver BC V6A 3E8
Book reviews for British Columbia History,
3450 West 20th Avenue,
Vancouver BCV6S1E4,
Subscription & subscription information:
Alice Marwood
#311 -45520 Knight Road
Chilliwack, B. C.   V2R 3Z2
phone 604-824-1570
Subscriptions: $18.00 per year
For addresses outside Canada add
23nd Annual Competition for Writers of BC History
Lieutenant-Governor's Medal for Historical Writing
Deadline: 31 December 2005
The British Columbia Historical Federation invites book submissions for the twenty-second annual Competition for Writers of BC
History. Books representing any facet of BC history, published in
2004 will be considered by the judges who are looking for quality
presentations and fresh material. Community histories, biographies, records of a project or organization as well as personal
reflections, etc. are eligible for consideration.
Reprints or revisions of books are not eligible.
Lieutenant-Governor's Medal
The Lieutenant-Governor's Medal for Historical Writing will be
awarded to an individual writer whose book contributes significantly to the history of British Columbia. Additional prizes may be
awarded to other books at the discretion of the judges.
All entries receive considerable publicity. Winners will receive a
Certificate of Merit, a monetary award and an invitation to the
Awards Banquet of the Federation's annual conference to be held
in Kelowna, BC on May 14, 2005.
For information about making submissions contact:
Bob Mukai, Chair of Competition Committee
4100 Lancelot Drive
Richmond, B. C. V7C 4S3
phone 604-274-6449 email
Books entered become property of the BC Historical Federation.
By submitting books for this competition, authors agree that the British
Columbia Historical Federation may use their names in press releases
and Federation publications regarding the book
competition. BCHF Prizes | Awards | Scholarships
"Any country worthy of a future should
be interested in its past"
W. Kaye Lamb, 1937
W. KAYE LAMB Essay Scholarships
Deadline 15 May 2006
The British Columbia Historical
Federation awards two scholarships
annually for essays written by students
atBC colleges or universities on a topic
relating to British Columbia history.
One scholarship ($500) is for an essay
written by a student in a first-or
second-year course: the other ($750)
is for an essay written by a student in
a third-or fourth-year course.
To apply tor the scholarship,
candidates must submit (1) a letter of
application: (2) an essay of 1,500-3,000
words on a topic relating to the history
of British Columbia: (3) a letter of
recommendation from the professor
for whom the essay was written.
Applications should be submitted
before 15 May 2006 to: Robert Griffin,
Chair BC Historical Federation
Scholarship Committee, PO Box 5254,
Station B, Victoria, BC V8R 6N4.
The winning essay submitted by a
third or fourth year student will be
published in BC Historical News. Other
submissions may be published at the
editor's discretion.
BC History Web Site Prize
The British Columbia Historical
Federation and David Mattison are
jointly sponsoring a yearly cash award
of $250 to recognize Web sites that
contribute to the understanding and
appreciation of British Columbia's
past. The award honours individual
initiative in writing and presentation.
Nominations for the BC History Web
Site Prize must be made to the British
Columbia Historical Federation, Web
Site Prize Committee, prior to 31
December 2005. Web site creators
and authors may nominate their own
sites. Prize rules and the on-line
nomination form can be found on The
British Columbia History Web site:
Best Article Award
A Certificate of Merit and fifty dollars
will be awarded annually to the
author of the article, published in BC
Historical News, that best enhances
knowledge ot British Columbia's
history and provides reading
enjoyment. Judging will be based on
subject development, writing skill,
freshness of material, and appeal to
a general readership interested in alt
aspects of BC history.
The Journal of the British Columbia Historical Federation | Volume 38 Number 2 2005
The Rise and Fall of Cinema, B.C.
Hollywood North Ahead of Its Time 2
Black Pioneer Fielding Spotts
School Trustee, Church Founder, Farmer 4
Victoria's Birdman:
The Forgotten Story of William Wallace Gibson  8
The Great Le Roi Hoax
Buying Back a Canadian Mine 12
The First Fort George 19
Smith's Iron Chink
One Hundred Years of the Mechanical Fish Butcher 21
Token History
Fernridge Lumber Company, Limited of New Westminster, B.C 25
The Moti Prize
Local History Writng Competion for Elementary Students 27
Book Reviews 28
Website Forays 36
Archives and Archivists 37
BCHF Book Prizes 38
Miscellany 39
From the Editor
This issue of British Columbia History comes
with the first edition of the BC Historical
Federation's new Travel Guide. It's a great idea
which Ron Hyde, the Federation's Secretary, has
worked long and hard at. I hope that if you're taking
to the road this summer (gas prices not
withstanding) you take the guide along with you.
Also in this issue we have the winners of the
BCHF Book Prizes, the Best Article Award and the
Moti Prize.
This year I had the privilege to be asked to
serve as an adjudicator for the Historica Fair
in Vancouver. What a pleasure it was to be able
to talk to so many kids who have a passion for
history. Also impressive was the array of
projects they brought to the fair.
And lastly this issue has been delayed
because May and the first part of June was a
very busy month for me work -wise but we'll
be back on track with the next issue.
Enjoy your summer.
BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORY - Vol. 38 No. 2 The Rise and Fall of Cinema, B.C.
Hollywood North Ahead of Its Time.
Branwen C. Patenaude
Branwen Patenaude
has written several
books about the
Cariboo, including
Trails to Gold and
Golden Nuggets. She
has published two
historical novels and
will shortly publish
an account of the
life of William
All that remains of
Cinema, B.C. in the Fall
of 2003. (above &
Photo: Branwen Patenaude
The small community of Cinema, located in
the north Cariboo between Quesnel and
Prince George, was described in Wrigley's
Directory of 1925 as a "Post Office, general
store, and motion picture centre."
A motion picture centre, you say?
It all began when a young American bachelor
from Illinois, Lloyd Champlain, arrived in the north
at a time when the Pacific Great Eastern Railway
(PGE) line was first being constructed between
Vancouver and Prince George, about 1912. "I wanted
to be where there was an important project going on"
Champlain later told newspaper interviewers. Hiring
on with the railway as a veterinary surgeon, "Dr."
Champlain as
he called
himself, was
in charge of
looking after
the hundreds
of horses used
in the railway
Williams Lake
and Prince
Northward from
Quesnel, track was laid to the Cottonwood River,
where it would meet with a track from Prince George,
in the north. Construction at that time was not done
with bulldozers and heavy equipment, but with the
use of hundreds of horses employing metal scrapers
and stone boats, which were the closest thing to any
mechanized equipment.
In 1915, the PGE ran out of money, and
abandoned the railway project. Champlain lost his job.
Full of optimism and believing that the project
would soon start again Champlain remained in the
country. While he waited for the railway construction
to resume, he preempted land, nine hundred acres
of good farming land adjoining the Fraser River,
twenty miles north of Quesnel. To assist him in his
recent acquisition, he invited his niece, a Miss Ella
Maude Freeto to travel north from the United States
to live with him, and help him to develop his property,
which he described as the "Eden of the North."
In need of a source of income while they waited
for the continuance of the rail line, these two worked
■ Jalfl    "j    ■*____________T_____^K
i          4                     \wEgjawfr ■'Mi
■■*'    . ■  *■
~ ■   . -     - i
t           - ** i
• _____________»'____           *
hard to develop a large market garden, and also
started a dairy with several cows and a bull. For
several seasons the products from the garden and the
dairy were transported to Quesnel from where they
were delivered to railroad camps in the south. The
returns were quite lucrative.
By 1918, under the Department of Railways,
and a contract with the Northern Construction
Company, work on the PGE rail line continued, and
by 1921 the line had reached Quesnel.
Champlain had always been fascinated with
Hollywood and the movies, and one year, after their
market garden had produced a bumper crop netting
them $800, they spent the winter in California. While
there they visited the movie studios in Hollywood,
and learned a lot about how movies are made. From
this Champlain dreamed of making movies up in the
Cariboo, which during the 1920's was fairly primitive,
and not unlike the old wild west.
Back in the Cariboo that next spring Champlain,
who was obviously well educated, and his companion
Miss Freeto, set about planning a development of
enormous proportions on Champlain's property. To
begin with, a general store was built beside the
highway, and at this same time an application was
put in to start a post office that would operate from
within the store, In filling out the application it was
necessary to provide a name for the post office. The
name chosen was "Cinema" and it is not hard to
guess why.
On returning from California, and being all
enthused with what he had seen and learned about
movie making, Champlain began writing stories and
scripts depicting frontier life in the Cariboo, and
sending them to Hollywood. But this was only the
beginning. From here he branched out to even more
grandiose plans: Why not encourage families to move
to the Cariboo where they could work on his
property? Best of all, he would use these people in a
movie he intended to make!
Putting his plan into action, he first advertised
in various magazines. The Winnipeg Free Press, the
Western Home journal, and others as far away as
Ontario and Manitoba. Here is a sample of his
Cinema, BC. June 1st 1924. The Western Home Journal
Winnipeg, Manitoba. Classified Advertising. For one
insertion under the classification "Movies" I submit the
following: MOVIE COLONY FORMING- Co-operative,
industrial, educational. Will need men, women, children,
for farm, dairy, garden, poultry, timber, building
construction, cooking, laundry, sewing, typing, accounting,
BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORY - Vol. 38 No. 2 teaching, milling, clerking, that they may participate in
the movies. Enclose money order of $1.00 with enquiry to
receive further information. Address to Secretary, Cinema
PO, Cinema, BC
A shorter version of this ad. was also submitted
with a cash payment of $1.00 to The Farmer's Advocate,
and the Winnipeg Free Press.
To those who responded to this intriguing offer
of employment, Champlain replied with a single page
form letter outlining in imaginative detail the process
by which he would be able to single out the talent
and abilities of his applicants. The advertising went
on for some time, and just how much money was
received in money orders is not known, but must have
been considerable.
It is known however, that between 1924 and
1930 Champlain had quite a number of men, some
with families, who lived and worked on his land.
These men erected numerous buildings, residences,
and barns; built miles of fencing, cleared about thirty
acres of hay meadow, and in particular constructed a
roadside motel that opened to the public in 1927. The
Post Office at Cinema began operation in 1924 with
Miss Ella M. Freeto in charge.
That year the business directory listed only two
inhabitants of Cinema, Lloyd Champlain and Miss
Freeto, but by the next year there were twenty residents,
and in 1928, fifty residents. Of course all the residents
of the Movie Colony were expected to purchase their
supplies at Champlain's general store. A welcome
addition to the store was a coffee bar and lunch counter,
where the men were forbidden to smoke. While Miss
Freeto waited on the men, some flirted with her, and if
Champlain was there, would get very annoyed. The
men thought this was very strange, as Miss Freeto was
said to be Champlain's niece.
Those who today remember Lloyd Champlain
recall that he was a difficult man to work for; very
tight fisted in money matters, and always very
particular in the way any work was done, and very
precise. He was also said to question the men very
closely about their lives, and about their past, looking
for ideas for movie scripts, which he was always
writing and sending back to Hollywood. This was
another indication, some said, that Champlain must
truly have believed that some day a movie would be
made on his property. While the 'Movie Colony
project continued to function as late as 1931, no movie
was ever made there.
As the years passed, and no movie was made,
disenchantment took place, and his workers left the
property in search of other work. Champlain, who
by this time was in his seventies, continued to live
and farm at Cinema where he and Miss Maudie Freeto
were eventually married in 1945.
Today there are many descendants of those
families who were so persuaded by Champlain's
offers that they moved from Ontario, Saskatchewan,
and many points west to work on Champlain's land.
For reasons unknown, by 1948 Champlain had
lost the post office contract to Harvey Bryant, a local
land owner. Champlain's property was later sold, and
Champlain and his wife moved to Surrey, in the Fraser
Valley. A decade before his death in Surrey in 1965,
when he was in his eighties, Champlain was
about the
long awaited
extension of
the PGE to
George by
reporter Roy
W. Brown.
S t r a n g 1 y
while he
enlarged on
his long wait,
he made no
mention of his dream of creating a movie colony at
While Lloyd Champlain may have been
accused of being a promoter and a con artist, he
obviously did have sincere aspirations of making a
movie about life in the Cariboo. He was a man ahead
of his time. •
1924 Cinema Polling Division.
Wrigley's BC Directory, 1925.
Donald Van Buskirke, New
Cinema, BC, 1981.
Mrs. Vera Peever, Quesnel, BC.
BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORY - Vol. 38 No. 2 Black Pioneer Fielding Spotts
School Trustee, Church Founder, Farmer
By John Fitch
John Fitch is
Professor Emeritus at
the University of
Department of Greek
and Roman Studies
^& ^wifc t
Fielding Spotts c.1900
The identification fits what we know
of F. in view of the neat dress of the
person portrayed; the book he holds
is surely a Bible.
BCArhives F-00651
ielding Spotts was a prominent member of
the substantial group of Blacks who
emigrated to Vancouver Island in the late
1850's. Through use of contemporary
documents, in particular newspapers, it has proved
possible to give a more coherent account of his life
than was previously available. Such accounts of
individual lives are an indispensable basis for
understanding the role of B.C.'s black pioneers.
Born in Virginia c.
1827, Spotts first appears in
the public record in 1852,
when he was one of nine
people who organized a
Baptist congregation in a
private home in San
Francisco. This is believed to
have been the first Black
Baptist church established
west of the Rockies. The
church has a continuous and
vigorous history, and is now
Third Baptist, San
Francisco.1 An experienced
local researcher in San
Francisco might be able to
uncover further records of
Spotts' early life there: his
marriage to Julia Ann White,
who was about five years
younger than he, perhaps
took place in that city, and
the births of their oldest
children Charles (c. 1854)
and Fielding William (13 or
15 March 1857) almost
certainly did so.
It seems, at any rate,
that Spotts was one of the
thousands of Blacks who
had moved west to
California in the great trek of
1849 or shortly thereafter,
drawn by dreams of wealth
and by hopes of finding a
less oppressive racial
atmosphere. The latter
hopes were dashed,
however, since oppression
of Blacks intensified in California during the 1850's.
Consequently by the Spring of 1858 many of them
were ready to emigrate, and an advance group arrived
in Victoria on the SS Commodore on 25 April. Governor
James Douglas, in need of both labourers and settlers,
gave the newcomers a warm welcome. As a result of
these various factors, it is thought that between 600
and 800 Blacks came to Victoria within a few months.
To Victoria
Spotts arrived in Victoria by 22 February 1859,
when he purchased property. Though his son Fielding
William, some seventy-five years later, dated his
father's arrival to 1859, that was because he thought
the whole black migration had occurred in 1859; his
memory by then was poor, and he had no records.2
All that is certain is that Spotts arrived between 25
April 1858, and 22 February 1859.
What he purchased was a house lot on Pioneer
Street (now North Park Street) between Quadra and
Blanshard.3 His long-term intention was to farm, but
he needed to work in town until he could realize that
goal. He began to work as a cooper - perhaps a trade
he had followed in San Francisco.
In 1859 a group of would-be farmers,
represented by the lawyer John Copland, petitioned
the government to allow "pre-emption" of
unsurveyed land. Twenty-nine men were approved
to settle on Salt Spring Island; the list includes the
name of Fielding Spott (sic). His pre-emption was Lot
6, Range 2, which lies northwest of Ganges. However,
he did not hold it for long. On May 25,1860 Henry W
Robinson requested permission to move to the land
in question, since Spotts had abandoned the claim.4
Perhaps Spotts soon realized that the island was too
isolated a place to raise and educate a young family5
In December 1859 Spotts was one of ten
prominent "Electors of Salt Spring and Chemainus"
who nominated Copland to represent that District in
the Colony's legislative assembly. Later he was one of
the signatories to a protest against the manner in which
the election was conducted.6 Since there was no postal
service to the island, the fact that Spotts was in contact
with other would-be electors suggests that he was not
living full-time on the island at the time.
Perhaps as early as 1859, and certainly by
November 1860, Spotts had a stake in the land in
Saanich which was to become his home for more than
four decades.7 The price of "public" land had been £1
per acre until recently, but had now been drastically
lowered to $1 per acre, a reduction of about 80%;
BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORY - Vol. 38 No. 2 probably it was this reduction that allowed Spotts to
purchase the acreage. Since the land was only some
nine miles from Pioneer St., it was possible, albeit
arduous, for Spotts to continue working in town,
while riding out to clear land and build a house as
time allowed,
In 1858 the whole Peninsula had been surveyed
and divided into one hundred acre parcels. On the
basis of this survey, the parcel purchased by Spotts
was "section 18 of range IVE" (for short, 4E.18), which
remains its legal description today. The property lies
at the highest point now crossed by the Pat Bay
Highway, a little south of Tanner Road.8
A House and a Church
A high priority for Spotts must have been
construction of a house. He built a cabin "made out
of hand-hewn logs, not a nail being used, the timbers
being held together by dovetailing or wooden plugs."
No doubt the logs were from trees felled on the
property. Mrs. Ella Gait, who has lived in the area for
many decades, "recalls the cabin's dirt floor and clay
caulking between its logs, but claims the structure was
absolutely wind proof. She has memories a of a party
she and her husband once attended in the building."9
According to my interview with Mrs. Gait on 3 May
1989, the Spotts' cabin was situated on what is now
6030 Pat Bay Hwy and their orchard was on what is
now the next property south, i.e. 6010 Pat Bay Hwy10
When did Spotts move his wife and children
from town to the new cabin and the farm? Alfred
Waddington's note in July 1865 (see below), that there
were three Spotts children of school age in South
Saanich, is the first good evidence.
Spotts was soon involved in the establishment
of the original Shady Creek Church. "Probably in 1862
or 1863, a community church, including
Methodists and Baptists, was established through the
initiative of [Charles] Alexander, a negro, with the cooperation of Spotts and other negro and white
neighbours." The church was situated on the farm of
Jesse McMillan, a black settler - not on the site of the
present church. In addition to church services there
was a Sunday School; there were also many social
activities organized by the young people of the
church, including no doubt the Spotts children.11
The Children: Schooling and Athletics
Spotts and Julia Ann had eight children. The
oldest, Charles and Fielding William, had been born
in California; the other six were born in B.C., the
youngest in 1873. In order of age they were: James,
Albert, Theodore, Wendell, Julia, and Frederick.
Where were they to be educated? In 1865 Alfred
Waddington, Inspector of Schools, noted that Spotts
and other black residents were willing to build a
school house at their own expense; there were eleven
children of school age in the district, "all colored,"
including three Spotts boys. But the offer was not
taken up by the government. The nearest school was
the Lake District School, opened in July 1865, four
miles south of Spotts' place: so there the Spotts
children went. We find a record of Spotts as Trustee
there in 1870.12
In June 1873 the new South Saanich School
opened near the East Road. The site was only about
three miles north of the Spotts farm, so perhaps Spotts
transferred his children there right away. An entry in
the Visitors' Book, dated 5 November 1877, states
"Mr. Spotts paid school a visit and expressed himself
as pleased with the progress of the pupils." He was a
Trustee of the school from the fall of 1879 to some
time between 1884 and 1887.13
Julia was perhaps the most successful of the
children in scholastic matters. In the closing exercises
for the winter session in March 1883, the student
newspaper Scholars Effort "was read by Miss Julia
Spotts, the young lady acquitting herself very
creditably." In June 1884 the Prize for Spelling was
awarded (ironically) to Miss J. Spott (sic).
The biggest annual event on the peninsula was
the Saanich Picnic, held on Dominion Day. At least in
1876 Spotts served on the "committee of
management". Three of the Spotts children, James,
Fred and Wendell, appear among the prize-winners
in the athletic contests. In 1885, for example, Wendell
took first in standing high jump, hop, step and jump
(38'11"), standing long jump and seventy-five yard
race, and second prize in running high jump and
running long jump.14
A substantial portion of Spotts' income,
particularly in the early years, must have come from
felling trees and selling the cordwood. What did he
produce as the land was cleared? He certainly had cattle,
since in 1874 he won the prize at the Saanich Agricultural
Show for the best three to five year old steer. He also
had chickens, since he took the prize for "Best dozen
eggs (single yolk)" in 1874 and 1875. Almost certainly
he owned a horse, in view of his frequent travels to local
churches and schools and to town. Since he would have
1 See
history.htm; also Sue Bailey
Thurman, Pioneers of Negro
Origin in California (San
Francisco 1952) 23-2 6.
2 Fielding William's account: The
Province 29 May 1935, followed
e.g. by Pilton 67. Poor memory:
letter from Bertha Spotts in
Saanich Pioneers' Society
Archives (SPA) Spotts file.
3 Register of Absolute Fees vol. 1
no. 443.
4 British Columbia Archives(BCA)
CAA/30.71/Sa3.1 Filel Thanks to
Ruth Sandwell for the reference.
5 Pre-emptions: Pilton 130-31;
Kahn 27-36 and 59-62. Difficult
conditions: Kahn 41-54 6 British
Colonist 20 Dec. 1859,17 Jan.
1860; Kahn 69-71.
7 The Crown Land Registry's map
"South Saanich O.M. 1859"
identifies the purchaserA of
4E.18 as "J. Spotts" (sic). The
Official Land Register for North
and South Saanich (CLR) dates
the payment by J. Spotts (sic) to
1 November 1860.
8 1883 F. pre-empted an
additional 50 acres immediately
to the west of his main  holding,
viz. the east half of Section 18,
Range 3E.
9 Hand-hewn logs: Victoria Daily
Times 21 March 1936, M6. Mrs
Gait's recollection: Times-
Colonist 30 Jan 1994, M3.
10 On the later history of the
cabin see Victoria Daily Times 21
March 1936, M6 (also SPA F2005
S14); Saanich Star for Nov. 1
1951, in the Spotts file in Saanich
Archives (SA).
11 Richards 31-2, Glover 4-6.
12 Waddington's notebook (BCA
GR1467, microfilm B4715),
entries for 1 July, 11 July, 2
August. F. as Trustee: Colonist
April 24, 26, 29, p.3 in each.
BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORY - Vol. 38 No. 2 13 South Saanich School District
Visitor's Book 1876-84: BCA GR
14 The reports appear in the
Colonist annually on 3 or 4 July,
on p.3.
15 Show prizes: Colonist 7 Oct.
1874, 6 Oct. 1875. Hauling: the
school accounts show payment of
$5.00 to Spotts for hauling (SPA
F3205S13, perhaps c. 1890).
16 Colonist 2 Oct. 1878.
17 For the history of First Baptist
and Calvary Baptist Churches see
the useful website; also
transcript of Minutes of church
meetings 1876-82, held in the
First Baptist Church office.
18 See Baker 268; Richards 33-8;
entry for the year 1887 in;
Colonist for 9 May 1936.
19 Daily Colonist 17 Dec. 1972,
20 Sale to George W. Wynne
(Register of Absolute Fees 7467-
C); no price indicated.
21 Victoria Daily Times, 24 and
29 March 1902; Colonist, 25
March 1902.
22 The Spotts family plot, where
Julia is also buried, is on the left
shortly after one enters the
cemetery through the white
gate, immediately before the
separate grave of Mary Spotts.
23 Vol. 6 (1902), p. 17.
"Vancouver" is presumably an
error for "Victoria". The  brevity
and language of the obituary is
characteristic of obituaries in the
24 The Times-Colonist 30 Jan.
1994 M3 switches the two,
calling the standing figure Spotts
Sr. and the seated man Spotts Jr.
needed to haul cordwood, hay and produce, and since
he did some hauling for South Saanich School, he no
doubt owned a wagon also.15
We know from Mrs. Gait that Spotts had an
orchard, but not whether it was on a commercial scale.
The B.C. Directory for 1882-83 p. 114 indicates that the
biggest crops on the Peninsula at the time were oats,
wheat, barley and peas. In 1878 Spotts won the prize for
"Best 12 schallots" (sic),16 but these were presumably
grown for the family rather than on larger scale.
Spotts and Baptist History
Spotts' obituary, quoted at the end of this
biography, notes that he was a charter member of First
Baptist and Calvary Baptist Churches in Victoria, and
of Saanich Baptist. When we link this record with his
contribution to the establishment of the San Francisco
church and of Shady Creek, we have a remarkable
history of church-founding extending over nearly fifty
years. On 3 May 1876 Spotts and Julia Spotts were
among fifteen or sixteen charter members, half of
them Blacks, who met to organize the First Baptist
Church, Victoria.17 An elaborate church was built on
Pandora Street and opened in January 1877, at a cost
of $6000. Spotts, who was elected Trustee and Deacon,
must often have wished that the congregation, like
that at Shady Creek, had opted for a less ambitious
but more practical edifice. The mortgage, combined
with the pastor's salary, proved too much for the
membership to sustain. Unfortunately these financial
difficulties led to divisions along racial lines.
During a visit from Rev. J.C. Baker of San
Francisco in March 1881, the proposal was made that
"The entire business and management of the church
be given into the hands of either the colored members
or the white members". In this atmosphere most of
the black members withdrew from the church. They
were then offered financial aid from the U.S. to found
a separate church, but this was not accepted: clearly
they had no interest in assigning themselves the
second-class status which they had rejected in leaving
First Baptist was finally disbanded on 3 June
1883. However, on 5 June some of the former members
met to organize a new Church, Calvary Baptist, whose
covenant specifically condemned discrimination on
the basis of race, colour or class. Spotts was a charter
member of this church, according to his obituary. The
new church was successful, in part through the
energetic ministry of Rev. Walter Barss (1884-87). It is
remarkable that Spotts was willing to make the
difficult journey into town on a regular basis to attend
meetings and services at these churches, despite his
commitments as a father, farmer and school trustee
in Saanich.
There were meetings of Baptists in South
Saanich, in which Spotts was no doubt involved, from
the mid-1880s, when Rev. Barss would ride out on
alternate Sunday afternoons to conduct services. A
church was officially organised in 1898, with fourteen
constituent members. Though the early church
records are lost, we have the testimony of Spotts'
obituary that he was one of these charter members.
Services were held at the Temperance Hall, which still
stands on East Saanich Road.18
Though the early presence of black Baptists in
Victoria has always been known, Baptist historians
have traditionally treated John Morton, an
Englishman who reached New Westminster in 1862,
as the first Baptist in what is now Western Canada.
Fortunately John Richards sets the record straight by
acknowledging the priority of the black Baptists.
Among them Spotts is the first whose arrival can be
clearly documented, and his leading position is
suggested by his election as Trustee and Deacon of
First Baptist, His lifelong devotion to Baptism, and
the fact that he was a founding member of no less
than five churches, deserves more recognition than it
has received.
Happiness and Sadness
Charles, Spotts' oldest son, married Mary
Cecilia, daughter of T.W. Pierre, a successful tailor in
Victoria. In 1884 Charles purchased fifty acres on the
West Road. Since this was only some two miles from
his father's farm, there will have been opportunities
for Spotts and Julia to see Charles and Mary and their
seven children. (These are, in fact, the only
grandchildren of whom I have found record.) But in
1893 disaster struck, as Charles died on 29 March at
the age of thirty-eight. Charles' brother James also
died prematurely, probably in the period 1891-93.
Then in 1896 Spotts' wife Julia died suddenly on
March 21, at the age of sixty-four, of pneumonia after
a few days' illness,
A happier aspect of the Spotts' family life in the
early 1890s is recorded by the reminiscences of
Stephen Deloume. The Deloume family had recently
immigrated from France, and had moved to the
property immediately south of Spotts'.
"The Deloumes' nearest neighbours were a large negro
family of the name of Spotts, who owned the farm next to
BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORY - Vol. 38 No. 2 theirs. The Deloumes could not speak a word of English
between them, and it was the Spotts family who taught
them the language... the Spotts were all musical, and every
evening they would gather around to sing their old negro
songs from the south. Pretty soon the Deloumes, who were
also musical, started to join them, only they sang their
old French part songs. What a time of music and harmony
that must have been—the work of the farms over for one
more day, and the two families getting together for an
evening, to share their music."
Last Things
Spotts finally sold the farm on January 15 1902
and moved into town.20 He died two months later, on
Sunday 23 March at the age of seventy-four. While
attending morning service at Calvary Baptist he was
taken ill and removed to his home, 136 Yates St., where
he soon afterwards succumbed. One report mentions
heart failure. The funeral was conducted on the 28th
by Rev. Vichert of Calvary Baptist,21 and Spotts was
interred at the "South Saanich cemetery," i.e. Shady
A brief obituary appeared in the Report of the
Annual Convention of Baptist Churches of B.C.
"BROTHER FIELDING SPOTTS" A pioneer Baptist in British
Columbia. A charter member of the First church, Vancouver
[sic] and Calvary church of Victoria, and of the church at
Saanich. A simple trusting consistent child of God,
respected by all who knew him. "23
Though there were manifestations of racial
prejudice from white citizens in Victoria in the
nineteenth century, that fact remains that Spotts as a
black man was able to own land and to participate
fully in the school and church systems alongside his
white neighbours. This degree of racial integration is
remarkable for its time. Credit is due to certain early
leaders, in particular Governor Douglas and Bishop
Cridge, for opposing any institutional segregation.
But credit is also due to the calibre of black settlers
such as Spotts, who were willing to commit
themselves fully to the society which had initially
welcomed them.
Despite Spotts's contributions to the schools
and churches of his society, it is clear that the greater
part of his life and energy was spent on farming, an
occupation which yields satisfaction (at least when
work is completed) but little social recognition. This,
together with the fact that there are no surviving
descendants, explains why he is now largely
forgotten, Hence this attempt to reconstruct his life,
so far as the nature of the evidence allows. •
Identified as Fielding William Spotts and dated 1935
this photo originally accompanied two articles about
F.W., Fielding's second son, in The Province, for 29
May 1935 and for 2 Feb. 1937. In part because of the
similarity of names, some confusion has arisen
between these photographs,and between Fielding
the pioneer and Fielding William his son. Hence, for
example, the pioneer is incorrectly called Fielding
William in the files in the Saanich Archives and in
the BCArchives Newspaper Index.
BC Archives A-02475
BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORY - Vol. 38 No. 2 Victoria's Birdman:
The Forgotten Story of William Wallace Gibson
Tristin Hooper
At the time of
submission Tristan
Hopper was a grade
twelve student
residing in Victoria.
He hopes to pursue a
career in journalism.
To that end he has
been writing a
column for the Oak
Bay News. Tristan
has an interest in
Victoria history.
William Wallace Gibson of
Victoria in an undated
newspaper photograph.
Victoria is a city ripe with history. A Victoria
team won the Stanley Cup in 1924,
Rudyard Kipling had Victoria as his
favourite vacation spot while writing some
of his most famous novels, and Victoria even lays
claim to the worst streetcar accident in North
American history. Still, amid this rich heritage,
Victoria's history books seem to consistently forget
the story of one of the city's most remarkable
William Wallace Gibson is known to obscure
trivia questions and aviation encyclopedias as the first
man to build and fly a completely Canadian designed
aircraft. It may seem a relatively unimpressive feat at
first glance, but to truly delve into the life and
ambitions of Gibson is to discover a
fascinating tale of discovery, innovation
and perseverance. He was definitely a
man ahead of his time, and a true
Canadian pioneer of aviation.
Born in Dalmellington, Scotland in
1878, young Gibson was the fourth of six
children, and was given the name
William Wallace in honour of the great
Scottish hero. Gibson's time in Scotland
would be very brief, however, as before
his tenth birthday, the Gibson family
would set sail for Canada.
In 1883, the Gibson family landed
in Canada and moved westwards, finally
settling in the village of Moffat, in the
District of Assiniboia, Northwest
Territories (now a part of Saskatchewan).
In the case of the Gibson family, the so-
called "Last Best West" of Canada was truly a dream
come true. The Gibson family patriarch, William
Wallace Gibson Sr., often told young Billy that in
Scotland the Gibson family were peasants, but in
Canada they were free. He truly believed that Canada
was a land where his children could reach their true
Gibson's childhood in Moffat was to be a very
rebellious one. He only received a third grade
education, and he spent most of his time slipping
away to find adventure. Gibson Jr. soon developed a
love for the wide open skies of the Canadian prairies.
And it was to be Gibson's early enthusiasm for flying
kites in these skies which would kindle his lifelong
dream to one day soar through them himself.
Wishing to fly was a very common thought
for boys his age, there was even a local Moffat boy
who broke his leg by jumping off a barn with homemade wings strapped to his arms. But Gibson truly
took the notion of flight seriously, and worked hard
to unlock its secrets.
As a result, kite flying for young Billy Gibson
was full of experimentation. He was constantly toying
with different kite designs and as he flew and tested
each new design, Gibson began to build his own
understanding of the principles of flight.
On windless days, Gibson would trail his kite
behind his galloping pony to keep it aloft. One day,
as he peered at the speeding kite from the back of his
pony, it occurred to him that if his pony could give
the kite the power to stay aloft, then it would also be
possible to keep a kite aloft with its own on-board
source of power. Quickly, Gibson's imagination
envisioned an enormous self propelled kite that could
one day carry him speeding through the skies.
As he became a young man, Gibson's childhood
fantasies would temporarily drift away when he
moved north to Balgonie to seek his fortune. It soon
seemed that his mind for business was as ripe as his
mind for aviation, and in only a few years, Gibson had
established himself as a prosperous farmer and a
successful Balgonie hardware dealer with branch stores
in the neighbouring towns of Craven and Cupar.
Never the one to simply settle down, in 1901
William Gibson was the first man in the Northwest
Territories to buy an automobile. It was even rumoured
that when a second automobile came to the Northwest
Territories, William challenged its owner to a race.
In any case, whatever aviation dreams
remained in the back of William's imagination, they
were suddenly rekindled in the winter of 1903. Will
Gibson, like others, heard with amazement the story
of the Wright Brothers historic first flight. To history,
the Wright Brothers achievement would symbolize a
new era of possibility, and it was this possibility that
seemed no greater an invitation to William Gibson.
With proof that flight was possible, Gibson himself
soon set out to build his own flying machine.
True, in the "aero-mania" that surfaced after the
success of the Wright Flyer, there were many others
who hatched similar plans to William Gibson's. Still,
while people the world over sought to build their own
Wright Flyer, Gibson's aeroplane would be built from
scratch. In the Northwest Territories there were no
aviation publications or manuals, and it would be
years before Gibson would even see a picture of the
Wright brother's machine. Either by choice or by
necessity, William Gibson's plane would be
BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORY - Vol. 38 No. 2 completely a product of his own design.
Immediately, Gibson began testing small
aircraft models powered by the spring from a roller
blind, and launched from the roof of his Balgonie
hardware store. Gibson would take great pains to keep
his experiments a secret from the rest of the town. He
feared that if the Balgonie towns folk were to learn of
his bizarre endeavours, they would think he was
crazy, forcing the bank to recall his loan. As well, in
the Northwest Territories in the early 1900s, the North
West Mounted Police had the authority to send any
suspicious characters to Regina.
Consequently, all of Gibson's flight tests were
done in the early hours of the morning. On Gibson's
first such test, the model leapt into the air before even
reaching the end of the ramp and sped across the street
in level flight before smashing into a boxcar. The
model was damaged, but Gibson knew that what he'd
seen was a success. He now had visual proof that his
designs could fly.
Gibson would continue to build and test many
more models in the next few months. Yet, soon he
would find that he wasn't the only early riser in the
town of Balgonie. A neighbour, Jimmy Hicks, was
overheard telling another man that he had seen a
strange bird take off from the roof of Gibson's store.
Balgonie's Doctor Kaulbfleisch confronted Gibson
with similar news after returning home early in the
morning from tending a patient," Say, Billy, what kind
of a funny looking bird was that you were trying to
catch on your roof this morning?"
In spite of these near discoveries, Gibson
continued his experiments mostly unnoticed, and by
the end, he was building his models so stable that he
could start them upside down and they would right
themselves in flight. Encouraged by these successes,
Gibson decided he was ready to start work on a full
size, self propelled, man carrying aircraft. He began
work on a four cylinder engine to power the craft,
but he soon realized that the expense of an aeroplane
was quite beyond his resources at the time.
A man named Currie frequently came into
Gibson's hardware store to rave about the money that
was to be made by taking contracts out to build the
Grand Trunk Railway. In the view of financing his
aircraft, Gibson quickly took out a contract to build
twenty miles of track, and soon another to build an
additional twenty-two miles.
Gibson may have been a successful farmer,
hardware store owner and soon to be a successful
aviator, but he soon discovered that he knew nothing
about building a railroad. He lost $40,000 in eighteen
months, the equivalent of $900,000 today. "When I had
the banks cleaned up, or rather they had cleaned me, I
had no stores and no farm, so with what capital I had
left, I decided to go to the coast, and start anew," it was
with these words that Gibson arrived in Victoria in the
autumn of 1906 with his partially completed engine.
Victoria was closer to home for the twenty-seven
year old Gibson, as he now lived in the same city as
his parents and many of his siblings. He managed to
quickly find a job driving a De Winton automobile for
a friend of his from Regina. Soon, Gibson would have
a reputation for reckless driving in the De Winton. On
one occasion he lost control and slammed into a
Douglas St. street car, sending it clean off the tracks
and wounding several people. Local newspapers
reported that Gibson arose from the wreck with his
head bloody but unbowed. While fixing the damaged
De Winton, it was also around this time that Gibson
completed the engine he had begun building in
Balgonie. Unfortunately, upon testing it, Gibson would
find that the unstable engine "jumped around like a
chicken with its head cut off."
He realized another engine would be needed,
but once again, Gibson's capital had begun to run low.
Luckily, another scheme came to Gibson in the form of
a gold prospector named Locky Grant. Locky told of a
claim that he owned at Elk River on the Northwest
coast of Vancouver Island. As he was without means
to work the claim, Grant said he was prepared to offer
it to Gibson for $500.
In the spring of 1907, Gibson plotted out a
William Wallace Gibson's
house in Victoria
Photo: Tristin Hooper
BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORY - Vol. 38 No. 2 Lansdowne Middle School,
once the site of Victoria's
airport and where
Gibson's Twin Plane flew
for the first and only
Photo: Tristin Hooper
course on a map and bought a launch to sail to Locky's
claim. Having absolutely no nautical experience, the
voyage took him eight days, during which he lost
twenty-five pounds. Later in life Gibson was to
proclaim that his survival of the trip could only have
been an act of God. Fortunately, Gibson's near death
experience would pay off. After a quick inspection of
the mine, he bought it from Locky Grant for his
launch, a camera, binoculars, a rifle and $100.
Hurriedly, Gibson returned to Victoria ( this
time aboard a passenger ship) and procured a stamp
mill and water wheel to run his new claim.
Locky would stay with Gibson until they had
mined enough gold to procure a brick worth $1,200.
With proof of the mine's value, Gibson immediately
sold it off for $10,000 and returned to work on his
On returning to Victoria, Gibson drafted plans
for a new engine and presented them to Hutchinson
Brothers machinists. Amid complaints that Gibson's
six cylinder two stroke design was impractical, the
firm nevertheless set to work on its construction,
unaware that upon its successful completion in March
1910, the aircraft engine would be the first of its kind
produced in Canada. While the Hutchinson brothers
on an
began work on the aircraft's structure in the backyard
of his Victoria home. The project would take months
of Gibson working seven days a week, and sometimes
eighteen hours a day. But the more the aircraft took
shape, the more Gibson could envision its completion.
Unlike the secrecy he had kept in Balgonie, the
citizens of Victoria were quite aware of Gibson's
aeronautical obsessions, which quickly earned him
the name "Birdman". In public, Gibson constantly
faced ridicule and scorn. There was one man who
would flap his arms whenever he saw Gibson in the
street, another would point at the sky and cover his
face. Even Gibson's priest, on several occasions tried
to persuade him to stop his work.
Victoria's newspapers, on the other hand, saw
the Birdman as an immediate sensation. In an article
in the Daily Colonist, McVittie, a neighbour of
Gibson's, claimed that the Gibson flying machine
would be able to fly from Victoria to Vancouver in
twenty minutes. Still another article claimed that the
Victoria flying man's ship would reach speeds of one
hundred miles per hour, be resistant to gale, and
would be able to carry fifty men.
While Gibson himself would never claim such
things, he must have envisioned great things for the
aeroplane that was taking shape in his yard. All told,
the completed aircraft, soon to be dubbed the Gibson
Twin Plane, would be constructed with spruce, cedar
and fifty yards of blue silk. The craft's name would
come from the craft's unorthodox design of having
twin sets of overhead v-shaped wings.
When Gibson received the completed 210
pound, 60 HP engine from Hutchinson Brothers,
Gibson worked to bore every one of the one hundred
engine bolts hollow, so as to lighten them. As well,
on the engine Gibson installed a revolutionary new
idea to reduce engine torque. Engine torque would
have caused the craft to veer to one side, or even to
rip the engine loose from its housing. Gibson
overcame this by installing a propeller on either side
of the engine so as to counteract the effects.
Many other innovations would appear for the
first time in aviation history on the Twin Plane. Every
wooden component of the plane was given an airfoil
shape, an unheard of concept at the time. As well, the
streamlined fuel tanks on the plane would have baffles
to stop fuel from surging back and forth, a technique
still used on modern fuel tanks.
To control the aircraft while in flight, Gibson
used shoulder harnesses to control the side to side
motion of the plane, and a lever in front of him to
control the pitch.
When the plane was finally completed in
September of 1910, Gibson enlisted the help of his old
friend Locky Grant and a man known only as "Dave"
to dismantle the craft and secretly transport it to a
grassy meadow on Dean's Farm, near Mount Tolmie.
Coincidentally the area chosen by Gibson on which
to make his historic flight would later become the
Victoria Airport - the area is now the site of
Lansdowne Middle School. The proposed flight was
kept in relative secrecy, and few spectators would
show up. However, the first flight of the twin plane
would be but a short hop whose rough landing would
seriously damage the plane's undercarriage.
Gibson never considered the first hop of the
BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORY - Vol. 38 No. 2 Twin Plane as an actual flight, and he laboured hard
for the next two weeks to repair the undercarriage
and give it another go. On September 24th at 5am,
Locky Grant and "Dave" once again rolled Gibson's
plane into position on the field. The plane's blue silk
glistened in the morning sun as a thirty-four year old
William Wallace Gibson took his place in the pilot's
seat. His craft had half the weight and twice the power
of the Wright Flyer, and unlike the Wright Flyer,
Gibson's Twin Plane would be taking off without the
aid of a catapult.
William started the engine, and when it had
sufficiently warmed up, he signalled his helpers to
let go. The plane sped off down the field and took off
after running only fifty feet. Once in the air, a light
crosswind started blowing the craft sideways. History
soon proved that inventors may be born, but aviators
must be made as Gibson's unfamiliarity with the
plane's shoulder harnesses caused him to lean the
wrong way to correct for the wind. Suddenly, the
plane had swung further sideways as a result of his
error and was now headed for a patch of Garry Oak
Trees. Cooly, Gibson cut the engine and managed to
make a level landing on the grass. However, in the
final moments of the Gibson Twin Plane, William
Gibson would reflect on his oversight in not installing
brakes on the landing wheels of the plane. Carried
on by the momentum of the landing, the Twin Plane
surged forward and smashed into a sturdy oak tree.
Gibson was flung from the wreck and would suffer
two broken fingers and a cut above his eye. The
Gibson Twin Plane would never fly again. All told,
Gibson had flown 200 feet on his first flight, 80 feet
further than the Wright Flyer's initial hop, and a few
feet further than the first flight of the internationally
acclaimed Santos Dumont, the first man to fly in
Europe. Forgetting the significance of a mere 200 feet,
many may look back and see the distance travelled
by what is now deemed a primitive aircraft as a mere
point of interest, rather than the accomplishment it
William Wallace Gibson had worked towards
a goal, alone and unaided, and amid the scorn of
almost everyone he knew. He had built and flown a
plane without any knowledge of the principles of
flight, or even any idea of how an aeroplane should
look. Gibson's concepts were entirely his own and
completely isolated from outside influence.
Gibson would, in 1910, acquire a copy of
Artificial and Natural Flight by Sir Hiram Maxim. It
would be the first aviation manual he ever laid eyes
on, and in 1911, based on the concepts of Sir Hiram's
book, Gibson would complete his redesigned version
of the Twin Plane; the Gibson Multiplane.
After taking the multiplane to Calgary for
several tests, Gibson would once again find himself
low on funds. Ever since his initial experiments at
Balgonie, the aeroplane business had cost him $40,000.
By this time, Gibson knew that he had a family to
raise and money to make. In the end, Gibson would
turn his attention back to mining, becoming a
successful inventor and supplier of Gibson mining
products. With almost one hundred mining patents
to his name, William Wallace Gibson would become
a millionaire in the 1930s. William Gibson would
always talk about building another plane, and there
were many times he came close.
Gibson would even manufacture aeroplane
parts, but he never assembled them. He died in San
Francisco, California in 1965 at the age of eighty-seven
Orville Wright had once said that the Wright
Flyer would not have been possible if it weren't for
the partnership of his brother for, as he said, "the
problem [of flight ] is too great for one man alone and
unaided to solve." William Gibson had fixed an idea
in his head that many people at the time still thought
was impossible, and carried it out with only a third
grade education. In essence, a boy from the Canadian
prairies had succeeded where so many, including
telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell, had
failed. He was doing it not to make a profit, or even
to gain national or international recognition. William
Wallace Gibson accomplished the impossible and
achieved the unthinkable simply because of a
boyhood dream to fly. •
The Gibson Twin Plane
ready for flight, 1910.
(above right)
11 The Great Le Roi Hoax
Buying Back a Canadian Mine
By Bill Laux
Bill Laux passed
away last year at the
age of seventy-nine.
A resident of
Fauquier for forty-
two years, Bill wrote
a number of articles
on B.C. history and
submitted this piece
last year for
It is a rollicking
adventure, typical of
the best of his
The Editor
The purchase of the Le Roi gold and copper
mine, high on the slopes of Red
Mountain above Rossland, B.C., from its
American owners in 1898 was hailed in B.C.
as a victory for Britain and the Empire. Nevertheless,
the murky and scandalous circumstances of the sale
gave the Rossland mines an unsavoury reputation with
British investors which lasted, according to one US
authority, until as late as 1936.
The Le Roi Mine was reputed in the mining
press of 1898 to be the "richest in the world." Perhaps,
for a time, it was. The boast was based on the estimate
that the Le Roi, in that year, was bringing up $84,000
of gold silver and copper ore every twenty-four
hours.1 Certainly it was paying dividends of $25,000
per month. The Le Roi and its associated smelter at
Northport, Washington were owned by the Spokane
Colonels, a group of American mining speculators
who had bought it in 1891 from Col. Eugene Topping
in Trail. The Spokane Colonels included Col. W W
Turner, Judge (later Senator) George Turner, Col. Isaac
N. Peyton, Col. William Ridpath, Major Armstrong,
George Forster, Frank Graves and Billy Harris.
As a producing gold mine paying monthly
dividends and well reported in the world mining
press, the Le Roi got the attention of Whittaker Wright
in London. Whittaker Wright, with his London and
Globe Finance Company, was a flamboyant mining
promoter. His speciality was organizing companies
to buy reputedly rich mines all around the world, to
capitalize them far beyond their actual worth and then
offer stock in them to the British public. Dividends in
each mine would be paid out of stock sales. Any
shortfall would be made up by organizing another
mine and selling stock in it. This scam could be
maintained as long as there was a supply of new and
spectacularly rich mines coming on the market.
Wright's London and Globe controlled mines in
Australia, South Africa, and the United States and
Wright himself lived in a conspicuously opulent style.
When the London mining papers began to
speak of the Le Roi as supposedly "the richest in the
world," Wright had to have it. He organised the
British America Corporation (B.A.C) to purchase
mines in Alaska and British Columbia. The B.A.C. was
capitalized at an astonishing £1,500,000 ($7,500,000)
and Wright offered its stock at an unprecedented
£5.00 ($25) per share to a fascinated and gullible British
public. To decorate its letterhead he chose the
Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, a former Governor
General of Canada. For its resident Canadian Director,
he picked an old school chum the Hon. Charles
Mcintosh, former lieutenant-governor of the
Northwest Territories. Neither of these men knew
anything about mining. The Marquess was there to
inspire investor confidence in Britain; the ex
lieutenant-governor to ensure that the B.A.C would
be treated favourably by Anglophile politicians in
British Columbia.
The company's prospectus stated that it was
buying the Le Roi Mine as well as the Alaska
Commercial Company plus other unnamed mines in
British Columbia and the Yukon. This was irresistible
to the gold-mad British public, investors fell over
themselves to buy up £ 1 million ($5 million) of B.A.C.
stock in a few weeks.
With a million pounds in the treasury,
Whittaker Wright sent Mcintosh to British Columbia
to buy its best producing mines for the B.A.C. He
arrived in the Fall of 1897 in a private railway car
rented from the CPR. At Rossland, Mcintosh bought
the Great Western, the Josie, Columbia and Kootenay
and Nickel Plate mines. He then pompously
telegraphed to London:
The British America Corporation has secured and holds the
key to the majority of the golden treasure houses in British
Columbia. We will practically control the mineral resources
of this Province.2
This was pure moonshine. Mcintosh was
acknowledged as an able politician but he was wholly
without mining experience.
The unexpected news in 1897 that their Le Roi
mine was to be bought by a London company fell
upon the Spokane Colonels like a golden thunderbolt,
Col. Peyton observed:
To my mind it looks much as if the people who drew up
that prospectus used the name of the Le Roi Mine to attract
the attention of the English investing public.3
The Spokane Colonels were mining speculators.
They knew that their mine was to be used to bait the
British investing public. The Colonels were perfectly
willing to sell. And it seemed that they could now
ask their own price since the B.A.C. had publicly
committed itself to the purchase. But they also, as
shrewd men, would want to remove and smelt what
high grade gold ore there was in sight in their mine
before consummating the sale. It was a simple case of
milking your cow before selling her.
As Mcintosh was leaving for Canada in the Fall
of 1897, Col. Peyton and Judge Turner went to London
BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORY - Vol. 38 No. 2 ::^35ftj
to see what their mine might be worth. Col. Peyton
went to the B.A.C. and was offered $3,000,000. He
accepted pending ratification by the other directors
in Spokane. Judge Turner, however, knew that the
B.A.C. was capitalized at five million and taking that
this represented the value of the Le Roi on the London
market, he endeavoured to find a buyer at that price.
In January, 1898, with Col. Peyton and Judge
Turner back from London, a directors' meeting of the
Le Roi Mining Company was called in Spokane to
discuss a sale of their mine. Lt. Gov. Mcintosh came
down in his private car to negotiate the purchase. At
the directors meeting Col. Peyton presented a B.A.C.
cheque for $500,000 to the directors as a down
payment on the mine. But Judge Turner rose to claim
he had been offered $5,000,000 for the mine in London,
though he declined to say by whom. He insisted he
would not, therefore, sell his shares at the offered
price. The directors spilt, with Col. Ridpath, Major
Armstrong, Bill Harris and Frank Graves siding with
Judge Turner. They were determined to block any sale
at $6.00 per share. Meanwhile, as both groups knew,
Bill Harris, the mine manager, was "milking the cow."
Harris had his miners abandon all development and
exploration work and instead set them to stripping
the mine of its high grade ore. While the Judge Turner
group played for time their mine was paying both
groups their usual monthly dividends.
These men, it must be remembered, were a
group of minor western mining speculators dealing
with what the New York and London Mining
Exchanges believed was one of the world's richest
1 Estimate of the Rossland Miner,
March 12,1898.
2 British Columbia Review,
January 15,1898, p 171
3 British Columbia Review,
February 12,1898, p 224
4 See Clark Spence, British
Investments and the American
Mining Frontier, I860 -1901,
(Ithaca, NY: Cornell University
Press, 1958) for an account of
the outrageous swindles
perpetrated on British Mining
investors by American
5 The law prohibiting non
citizens from holding property
was enacted in the Territorial
Period when miners and ranchers
feared foreigners getting hold of
their enterprises. These laws
were repealed in all of the states
affected some years later.
6 Figured from 350 tons of $40
ore shipped daily as the Rossland
Miner was reporting
7 For similar hoax see Spence,
British Investments, pp.139 -190
8 McDonald's ant-union activities
can be found in Richard
Lingenfelter, The Hardrock
Miners: A history of the Mining
Labor Movement in the American
West, 1863 -1893, (University of
California Press 1974), pp. 137-
139 & 147.
13 The Hon. Charles
Mcintosh, as Lieutenant
Governor of the
Northwest Territories. An
affable and socially gifted
man, by all reports, but
no mining expert.
Courtesy, Rossland Mining
mines. It was an
opportunity for
posturing. And
posturing had been a
characteristic of
western mining since
the days of 1849. The
Colonels were keenly
aware that they had
the British at their
mercy. They were
going to make the
most of the
opportunity and play
their parts in the best
theatrical manner.4
At a second
meeting of the
deadlocked directors
in Spokane Colonel
Peyton announced
that he had already tendered the 284,000 shares of his
group to the B.A.C. at six dollars per share. Since this
constituted a majority of the shares, Charles Mcintosh
declared that under British law the B.A.C. as majority
stockholder now controlled the company. However,
Judge Turner got to his feet and reminded the
directors that the Le Roi Mining Company was a
Washington company and was governed by the laws
of the state of Washington. State law, he explained,
held that no alien could hold property in Washington
State.5 Since the Le Roi's Northport smelter was in
Washington State, the B.A.C. could not own or control
it although under Canadian law they could own the
mine in Canada. The meeting broke up in a complete
Judge Turner then got a court injunction
restraining Col. Peyton from transferring any of his
group's shares to the B.A.C. To enforce this injunction,
deputy sheriffs were hired to station themselves at
the Spokane city limits to stop all trains bound for
Canada and make sure they were not carrying any
of the directors or corporate papers of the Le Roi
Mining Company.
The Peyton group felt their only recourse was
to somehow get the entire matter to Canada and out
of US jurisdiction. With great secrecy, L.F. Williams,
the company secretary and a member of the Peyton
group, gathered up all of the company papers and
the Le Roi Company seal from its hook above his desk.
Col. Peyton, avoiding the downtown railroad station,
which was being watched, drove Williams out of
Spokane in his buggy to the to the tiny station at Mead
to catch the train which had already been inspected
at the City Limits by the deputies. Six hours later
Williams and the Le Roi Mining Company were safely
in Canada free of Judge Turner's American injunction.
Williams, however, in setting up a new B. A. C
office in Rossland, discovered to his chagrin that the
company seal he had brought with him was not that
of the Le Roi Company at all. Bill Harris, in Spokane,
had suspected the Peyton group would attempt
precisely this and had slipped into the company office
to remove the Le Roi seal from its accustomed hook
and substituted another company's seal in its place.
In Rossland without a company seal, the majority
Peyton group could transact no company business
until a duplicate seal could be obtained.
By this time Lt. Governor Mcintosh had enough
of these American legal obstructions. He invited the
rest of the directors and trustees holding Le Roi shares
to board his private railway car at the Spokane station
for a trip to Rossland. The directors and trustees
holding a block of pooled shares, joined him and he
signalled his private train to depart. At that point,
deputy sheriff A. Bunce climbed onto Mcintosh's car,
entered and displayed a copy of the County Court's
injunction, telling Mcintosh he could not proceed.
Armed deputies, he told Mcintosh, were stationed at
the city limits with legal authority to stop all trains
for Canada. Mcintosh, firmly but politely, made a
small speech to the deputy. As an officer of the court,
he told Bunce, he must realize that according to the
common law of both Britain and the United States, a
man's home is his castle and cannot be entered
without a warrant. And as this railway car was in fact
his present home Deputy Bunce, unless he had a
warrant to enter, was committing a trespass. The
overawed Bunce, who was by occupation, merely a
crier in Judge Edward's Court, backed out of the car
and its door was locked against him.
Bunce then went to the locomotive crew and
ordered them not to proceed. The engineer came
down, went into the station and put the matter before
Austin Corbin, the president of the line and a
stockholder in the Le Roi. Corbin came down, looked
at the injunction and told Bunce that it applied against
foreigners, the B.A.C. Company of London, England
and not against the railroad. Bunce could forbid the
directors in the private car from leaving the US. but
BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORY - Vol. 38 No. 2 the Spokane Falls and Northern Railroad was not
named in the injunction and he could not prevent it
from running its trains wherever it chose.
Deputy Bunce, who must have felt that the
gentlemen were making a mockery of his office, had
just enough time to swing up onto the locomotive as
as the engineer opened the throttle and got under way.
At the city limits, Bunce drew his revolver, pointed it
at the engineer and ordered him to stop the train. The
engineer laughed instead and opened the throttle
wide. The assembled deputies on the track scattered
for their lives and the little one car train roared out
onto the open prairie. The grinning train crew invited
deputy Bunce to consider how he could stop a
speeding train if its engine crew were shot dead This
was not a show of heroics. The US. had just passed
through a bitter and violent railway strike. The Rail
Brotherhoods were still defiant and full of hatred of
the hired minions of the law whom they had learned
were cowardly in a fair fight. Deputy Bunce realized
he was up against militant union men and holstered
his useless revolver.
Scorned by the men in the cab, deputy Bunce
climbed back over the tender to the open platform of
Mcintosh's private car. He knocked. Mcintosh would
not admit him. Inside the gentlemen were sitting in
wicker chairs smoking the Lt. Governor's cigars and
sipping his best Scotch whisky. They had the windows
open. It was a hot June day and they were enjoying
the breeze. Out on the platform, his coat tails flapping
in the wind and showered with cinders from the
smokestack, Bunce clung grimly to the hand holds of
the swaying car. He clung there for the 140 non-stop
miles to Northport, Washington where a water stop
had to be made for the steep climb to Rossland and
During the stop. Lt. Gov. Mcintosh descended
from his car, offered the deputy a cigar and a bit of
advice. The Canadian border was but eight miles
ahead, he told the deputy. If the deputy persisted he
would be arrested at the border for bringing a deadly
weapon into Canada, an offence the Canadian law
took quite seriously. The Governor gave him a friendly
pat on the shoulder re -entered his car and locked it.
As the train got under way again, deputy Bunce
remained on the station platform. He had done all he
could, he believed. Judge Turner could ask no more
of him.
At Rossland, with the Le Roi directors now in
Canada, Mcintosh believed he could have the sale of
the shares completed under Canadian law. A meeting
of all directors was
called for Rossland on
July 3. Judge Turner
and his minority
group came up by
special train. At the
meeting Judge Turner
again dominated the
proceeding. He
managed to have the
B.A.C. cheque for
$500,000 returned on
the grounds that it
was premature since
the directors had not
had an opportunity to
consider other offers
for their mine. Then
the minority directors
got into their one car
train and went back
down the track to
A second directors' meeting was called for
Spokane. The majority group came down in the
railroad's single parlour car. It was wasted effort; the
two groups were firmly deadlocked. Meanwhile Bill
Harris was stripping the mine of its best ore, sending
it to the smelter and having it converted into bullion
on which the monthly dividends continued to be paid
to both quarrelling groups. Since every day of delay
was putting more money into the owners' pockets, it
is clear that Mcintosh and the B.A.C. were being
victimized by a deliberate charade.
Finally, Mcintosh was informed what the
Colonels were doing. The mine he was buying was
being depleted of its most valuable ore. This was
intolerable. Still lacking a company seal, and unable
to perform official acts, Mcintosh and Col. Peyton
applied to Judge Spinks of the Kootenay County
Court to have the Le Roi Company placed in
receivership so they could get rid of Bill Harris and
stop the stripping of the mine. The Judge agreed and
appointed W. A, Carlyle receiver. This was irregular.
Carlyle was already on The B.A.C. payroll as Manager
of Mines. As an officer of the company, he should not
have been appointed as its receiver. But the imposing
and pompous Mcintosh had somehow convinced
Judge Spinks.
Carlyle dismissed Bill Harris, appointed a new
mine manager and instructed him to resume efforts
Col. I.N. Peyton one of
the original purchasers of
the mine from Col.
Topping of Trail, Peyton
managed it through its
early search for high
grade ore. When the
bonanza appeared to
becoming to an end, he
was the first to accept the
B.A.C. offer.
BC Archives 0-06328
15 The Le Roi mine at the
time of sale
BC Archives 1-55662
to locate new pockets of ore. At the same time he was
to reduce shipments to the Northport smelter to an
absolute minimum to starve it of ore and end the flow
of dividends to the Colonels.
Harris had been shipping three hundred fifty
tons of the mine's best ore every day. Now it was
reduced to one or two cars, sixty tons at most. The
minority directors expressed great anger at this and
when Judge Turner found himself occupying the same
hotel, The Allen, in Rossland as his rival, Col. Peyton,
a scuffle ensured with Judge Turner attempting to eject
the Colonel from the hotel. Others intervened, the
adversaries (or play actors) were separated and peace
was restored.
Now the minority group decided they too, could
use Canadian law. They sent their lawyers to Victoria
to institute a suit against Col. Peyton, the B.A.C,
Mcintosh and Whittaker Wright to recover $750,000
for an alleged conspiracy to buy Le Roi shares for less
than their actual value. While this suit was slowly
winding its way through the courts, the minority group
was able to get the irregular Le Roi receivership
overturned. Bill Harris was re-instituted as manager
and resumed stripping the mine of its best ore.
This was wholly intolerable to the B.A.C. They
were desperate to conceal from the investing public
the fact that their best ore was being removed from
Canadian jurisdiction, smelted at Northport and the
recovered bullion held in the US. The
Colonels were making roughly $6,500
every day the sale was delayed.6 The B.A.C.
now made an attempt to reinstate the
receivership under Washington law by
sending a squad of lawyers to Spokane to
put the matter before the courts there.
This time, however, on meeting the
lawyers, the minority members completely
reversed their previously hostile manner.
They met their Canadian colleagues with
profuse apologies for past incivility and
demonstrated a solicitous concern for their
comfort and well being. All this with a
continuous round of toasts to international
amity and co-operation. So alcoholic was
the fellowship and so long continued that
the B.A.C. lawyers, in a boozy haze,
completely lost track of the time and
missed their appointment at court. With
their non-appearance the case was dropped
from the docket and put over to the next
year's session. The rivals were again
plunged into teeth-gnashing rage, real or feigned.
These scandalous proceedings were gleefully
reported in the US mining press and reached London
where the effect was to depress the value of B.A.C.
shares below par. Whittaker Wright could not afford
this. His whole stock jobbing swindle depended on
his mines being seen as premier investments. He
would have to buy off the stubborn minority directors
and complete the sale, cost him what it would. Judge
Turner was reporting he had received an offer from
Wright himself of $8.12 for his shares. The B.A.C.
denied this absolutely. The Judge responded that an
un-named British consortium had offered him $8.50.
This was moonshine, of course, but these claims were
reprinted in the papers and were seriously
embarrassing Whittaker Wright.
Finally, on November 22,1898, all the shares in
what may have once been the world's richest gold
mine changed hands at $7.40 plus payment for ore
then en-route to the Northport smelter and copper
matte stockpiled for shipment. The very last of the
Minority hold outs, Bill Harris had to come down to
Spokane to sign the agreements. He came, of course,
by special train.
The Northport smelter, although included in the
deal, had to be hastily reorganized as the Northport
Refining and Smelting Co. with nominally American
ownership to comply with the Washington Alien
BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORY - Vol. 38 No. 2 Property Law.
For the one hundred thirty days
while the sale was delayed, Bill Harris had
removed $845,000 worth of ore from the
mine, had it smelted, the bullion sold and
monthly dividends paid. This amounted
to $1.69 per share realized from the high-
grading while the compromise with
Whittaker Wright in the end added only
an additional $1.40 per share. These
figures powerfully suggest that the whole,
protracted dispute, played out in the
courts of two countries, on special trains
and in hotel lobby scuffles, was another
one of the many hoaxes perpetrated in
those years on the gullible British by
unscrupulous American mine owners.7
To celebrate the return of the mine
to British ownership the Canadians in
Rossland mounted an extravagant
banquet at the Allen Hotel at which Lt.
Governor Mcintosh was guest of honour.
Menus with his portrait engraved upon
them sold for $2.50 and the partying went on until
nine in the morning. Coming out into the crisp
November dawn two of the tipsy merrymakers
challenged each other to a horse race. Two milk
wagons were commandeered and raced madly down
the length of Columbia Avenue, milk cans scattering
to the gutters. Those celebrants still able to stand,
passed the hat to reimburse the dairies for the lost
With that final agreement and sale, the B.A.C.
got full control of the mine and the Northport smelter,
but the scandalous look of the affair generated hostile
comment in London. Whittaker Wright's companies
now began to look dubious to investors. Wright,
however, countered this with a further manipulation.
Having bought the Le Roi and the smelter for
$4,000,000 he set up a new company, the Le Roi
Mining Company and had the B.A.C. sell the mine
and smelter to it for $4,750,000. Thus he made a quick
profit for the B.A.C, which restored the value of its
falling shares and the confidence of nervous investors.
He then issued 200,000 shares in the new Le Roi
Mining Company. London investors, still mesmerized
by the Le Roi name, bought up all 200,000 shares at
$25 each in just three days. With the $4.5 million thus
raised, the Le Roi Mining Company paid the B.A. C
for the mine and smelter. This left the new company
with but $250,000 in its treasury with which to deepen
the mine and search for new pockets of ore.
Experienced mining men thought that was
insufficient to undertake a substantial exploration
program and to make needed improvements at the
smelter. With a shortage of working capital and its
London investors demanding dividends at once, there
was but one way operations could proceed: labour
costs would have to be cut.
For that unwelcome task Wright picked a new
and tough manager for the Le Roi. This was the former
anti-union thug, Bernard McDonald, who had worked
with Wright twenty years before in Wright's New
Mexico mines.8 Once in Rossland, McDonald was
obliged to report the shattering news to Whittaker
Wright that the Le Roi was actually operating at a loss.
In 1899 the ore coming out of the Le Roi was netting
$12.50 per ton, but mining costs were running $15.00
per ton. With this loss the mine could pay no
dividends at all.
At the same time similar discoveries were
coming to light in Wright's West Australian mines. A
bear attack on his stocks began in London. Furious
investors finding themselves to have been duped by
Whittaker Wright's mines, lobbied the British
parliament for redress. An official investigation of
Wrights' mining empire began.
In Spokane, the Colonels congratulated
themselves on having sold their mine just when it
Le Roi mine at the time of
sale. The power house and
the hoist house are
BC Archives 1-55860
17 was going barren. All of them built mansions for
themselves and invested the money from the sale of
their stock in Spokane real estate. Col. Peyton built
the Peyton Block, George Turner built the Columbia
Building, Major Armstrong and L.F. Williams bought
the Hyde block.
Some of them invested their proceeds in other
B.C. mines, notably the St Eugene at Moyie Lake.
Perhaps the game could be played again. Col. Ridpath
and Judge Turner bought the Sullivan Mine at
Kimberley and planned a smelter there.
On the other side of the world Whittaker Wright
went on trial in London for frauds unrelated to the
Le Roi affair. He was found guilty and sentenced to
seven years imprisonment. He did not, however, go
to jail. Immediately after the sentence was read he
spoke to his lawyers, then stepped into a side room
and swallowed a capsule of cyanide. Returning, he
collapsed on the floor and died; a loaded revolver
was found in his pocket. The Rossland paper
mourned his passing; he may have been a charlatan
but he had been instrumental in the Canadianization
of Rossland.
Lt. Governor Mcintosh remained in Rossland
for some years in a mansion the B.A.C. built for him
in its locked and fenced compound above the Nickel
Plate mine, though the fiercely anti-union Bernard
McDonald seems to have made policy for the local
operations. On retirement, Mcintosh and his wife
bought Halcyon Hot Springs on Upper Arrow Lake
and built a spa and hotel there. From Halcyon they
shipped its bottled lithia water back to Britain. It was
presumed to have a calming effect on the nerves of
investors who had lost heavily in B.C. mines. •
Le Roi Mine Tour
The Rossland Museum has a tour of a restored
section of the Le Roi gold minewhich last operated
in 1929.
The men that worked the Rossland area mines
laboriously drilled, blasted and hand mucked the
eighty miles (128 km) of underground workings in
search for ore that averaged 0.5 ounces per ton in gold,
1% copper and 0.6 ounces per ton of silver.
The mine tour follows the spacious main
haulage way eight hundred feet into Red Mountain
to its intersection with the Le Roi shaft three hundred
feet below the surface. At this point the shaft extends
down fifteen levels below you. The tour then moves
on into an underground hoist room and follows the
twists and turns of the narrow exploration drifts.
Participants will see the overhead and
underhand stopes where the ore bodies have been
mined out. There are veins and dykes and a fault
plane where in prehistoric time the rock has slipped
- the movement which causes earthquakes. On
display throughout the mine are displays of drills and
other mining tools and a display depicting how blast
hole patterns were drilled to advance the face of a
Next time you're in Rossland check out this
infamous mine. •
Map of the mine site courtesy
of Rossland Mining Museum
The First Fort George
Peter Trower & Yvonne Klan
Yvonne Klan passed away in 2004
her partner Peter Trower has
kindly contributed this
rememberance of her for British
Columbia History.
From Peter Trower:
I am trying to catalogue Yvonne's
voluminous research papers
which Simon Fraser University is
interested in acquiring. It is a
formidable task but I undertake
it gladly. The papers will be of
great help to teachers and
students of B.C. history.
The enclosed story and poem
resulted from the last [British
Columbia Historical Federation]
conference we were able to
attend, at Prince George in 2003.
It is a companion piece to the
article on James Murray Yale,
published in BCHN a few years
Yvonne had always intended to
write a full-length biography
ofYale but sadly that project will
never see the light of day now.
I should mention that I have
submitted a manuscript to New
Star Books who published
Yvonne's book of pioneer poems
The Old Red Shirt last year. It
was very well received and gave
Yvonne a much-needed morale
boost in her final months.
The new book is entitled Beating
the Bushes of History and
consists of Yvonne's uncollected
work plus several stories we
either co-wrote or worked on
together. With any luck this book
should be out in the fall.
■ ames Murray Yale's career as a fur trader got off
to a shaky start. In 1815, Yale, then
seventeen,became an apprentice with the
I Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) It was a time
tr when that Company was embarking on its
Athabaska Campaign - an aggressive attempt to wrest
a share of the lucrative Athabasca -Peace River- New
Caledonia trade from the powerful North West
Company (NWC). Brother fought against brother;
former colleagues were pitted against each other. In
the brutal winter of 1815-16,16 HBC men succumbed
to the NWC's starvation system. Yale narrowly
escaped the same fate and later survived a NWC plot
to have him murdered. Hostilities ceased in 1821
when the two companies, realizing that the
competition was ruinous in terms of money and men's
lives, amalgamated under the banner of the HBC.
In the summer of 1821, an HBC brigade of six
canoes, sixteen men and four officers including Yale,
entered New Caledonia peacefully. With the
amalgamation John Stuart, formerly a NWC partner,
was made Chief Factor and assigned to take charge
of this territory. No one was better qualified. Stuart
had been trading along the Peace River as early as
1802, had been Simon Fraser's staunch lieutenant
during the establishment of New Caledonia and had
managed the territory's affairs for many years. Stuart
had ruthlessly opposed the HBC during the
Athabasca Campaign and had been complicit in the
plot to have Yale murdered. Now Yale was obliged to
work under his former enemy.
Yale's first assignment in New Caledonia was
to take charge of Chala-oo-chick. The Norwesters had
built this post in 1820, when Stuart ordered Clerk
George McDougall to "establish at the Forks of
Fraser's River, the natives of that place having been
promised a Fort these several years past". For
unknown reasons, McDougall did not build at the
Forks as instructed but at a site some distance west of
there known to the natives as Chala-oo-chick. (It
should be noted that the post built by Simon Fraser
at the confluence of the Nechako and Fraser Rivers
"was temporarily established in 1807 for the
convenience of building rafts to explore Fraser's
River.... It was abandoned in 1808..." Dr. W.K. Lamb,
who edited Fraser's letters and journals, uses the
expediency of calling the location "Fort George" as it
later became known.)
Chala-oo-chick prospered until Stuart sent
McDougall downriver in 1821 to establish Fort
Alexandria. He assigned a man named Thomas
Hodgson to take McDougall's place. Hodgson was
evidently unfitted for the job and the post's fortunes
rapidly declined. Stuart was compelled to recall him
and, with some misgivings, sent Yale to manage
Stuarts's misgivings arose not from his former
clashes with Yale but from his appearance. Yale was
short and slightly built with a boyish face that made
him appear much younger than his twenty-three
years. Could he command the respect of the Natives
with whom he had to dea? Stuart hit on an ingenious
solution. When reassigning Hodgson, he ordered him
to introduce Yale as "my son".
Yale arrived at Chala-oo-chick November 7,
1821 and wrote Stuart: "On the interpreter telling the
Indians I was your son, they appeared much pleased
and declared that I resembled you very much."
It didn't take long for Yale to discover that the
post's decline was due to Hodgson's fondness for
liquor. He wrote in part:
.. .giving it to the men and Indians and getting intoxicated
a number of times himself. In one of his frolliks he lost
the key of the Store Door, got out of patience and broke
open the door in the presence of all the Indians. On those
rejoicing days he was very extravagant with the
ammunition, giving it away gratis to the Indians merely to
make them fire at nothing...
By the end of 1821 the post at Chala-oo-chick
had been renamed Fort George. No reason for the
change has come to light; possibly Stuart chose the
name to honour Governor George Simpson.
Yale's trade during the winter 1821-1822 was
disappointing. By spring, however, it picked up a bit
and Yale was able to report that the Natives had, at
long last, begun to work. Stuart replied that:
the Indians are more to be pitied than blamed, for
disease has been prevelant among that much exertion could
not be expected from them ... you may assure those of
Fort George that if they do not work so as to deserve a
post, theirs will be abandoned. I am fully determined to
have no Establishment that either cannot or will not
maintain itself...
In the spring of 1822 Stuart led a brigade to the
Columbia to fetch supplies for New Caledonia.
Enroute he stopped at Chala-oo-chick/Fort George
and instructed Yale to move the present post to the
forks of the Nechako/Fraser Rivers - the site of
present- day Prince George. Yale's progress was slow
and by late August he could report only:
/ am really sorry to say it was impossible, situated as I
have been, to build at the Forks. I have, however, got the
19 wood for a house squared and a spot for a Fort partly
Stuart received Yale's reports as he journeyed
up the Fraser from the Columbia. His responses
indicate that his confidence in Yale was eroding.
... / did not imagine much could be done in the way of
building, but I am sorry that means could not have been
found to remove to the point of the Forks, as many
advantages would be derived from it, and I am still more
sorry any difference should exist between you and the
Indians... We will breakfast tomorrow at the point of the
Forks, where if convenient, I would be happy to see you so
as to determine whether the outfit or brought to the
present establishment...
Yale's correspondence with Stuart reveals he
was, indeed, having trouble with the Natives. Stuart's
letters are full of advice. In September 1822 he
reminded Yale that "affability to all, added to a little
kindness and attention to the most deserving, will go
a great way to gaining good will..." In October Stuart
reminded Yale that " was an advantage to be
known among the Indians as my Son and if on some
occasions you have lost ground, it is not yet too late
to retrieve it..." If Yale passed a winter with an
experienced trader Stuart opined, he would find that
"to form a Trader there is a certain Jen e sai qua (sic)
that goes further towards gaining the confidence of
Indians than either goods or words."
Yale acknowledged his shortcomings, "a
number of which I have not experience enough to be
aware of" and asked Stuart to "accept of my sincere
thanks for the good examples you have been pleased
to point out to me."
To add to Yale's troubles, relocating his fort to
the junction of the Nechako Rivers was proceeding
woefully slowly. Not until January, 1823 was he able
to tell Stuart that his men had "erected a store at the
Forks 23 ft by 17 in breadth, and the work appears to
be well done."
Stuart urged him on:
It is... to your credit to have got a store built at the at the
point of the Forks, you can remove at any time you think
proper and when once the property is secured, a lodging is
soon provided.
However by April, Yale had still not relocated.
Stuart was unable to hide his impatience and he
The first thing that will occupy your attention will be to
get the whole of the property remaining at the present
establishment removed to the point of the Forks when a
store is built and then erect the necessary buildings
required. •
In loving memory of Yvonne Klan
Ont that last sun-stmng morning we drive west
through colourless unpeopled country
time traveling happily once again
in search of another historic milestone
Chala-oo-chick, forgotten fur-trading post
that predated Fort George by two years
Yvonne, ever the insatiable researcher
had learned of the place from obscure untapped journals
Veering north, we reach the private land we have to cross -
Fernie, the owner welcomes us with coffee -
knocking ninety still active and clear-headed
regaling us with tales from his wild Prince George youth
Then he leads us past his barn hung with deer skulls
across an unmowed field to the trail mouth
down the rough path to the railroad tracks -
"Don't miss the raven's nest!" he urges
Sure enough, halfway over the trestle
we hear impatient cheeping sounds -
through the cross-beams we spot the nest
and three wide-open red mouths squalling lustily
The parents circle the nearby treetops worriedly -
we continue on our way - -
scramble down a steep bank from the tracks
and stumble off through the underbrush towards the site
Here at the confluence of the Nechako and Chilako Rivers
long-vanished Chala-oo-chick once sat -
not a trace remains of it now
only two weed-choked native food-pits from some later time
The entire area is a tangled gnaw-mill
of beaver-toppled logging slash
those buck-toothed industrious once-endangered rodents
have gladly reclaimed their ancestral territory.
Peter Trower October 19, 2004.
BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORY - Vol. 38 No. 2 Smith's Iron Chink
One Hundred Years of the Mechanical Fish Butcher
Jo Scott B
Between the floorboards, water glistens far
below; air flows freely through the high,
vented ceilings. It's a naturally refrigerated
building, cold even on the hottest summer
day. The machines stand silent as footsteps echo
through the empty site. There are fish scales on the
ceiling and on the walls but absent, is the stinking
odour of fish. This is the Gulf of Georgia Cannery, built
in 1894, the last vestige of Steveston's once active
cannery row.
Across town, on Vancouver's Burrard Inlet, the
Gold Seal Cannery, this one noisy and active where
fish and cans fly past too fast for the eye to see.
Both of these canneries still have a unique
machine, invented over one hundred years ago by
Canadian, Edmund Augustine Smith.
In the entrance to the Gulf of Georgia Cannery,
there is a machine on loan from the Glenbow Museum
in Calgary Alberta. The attached brass plate clearly
shows the name:
The Iron Chink - Model G.
Patented Feb 7 1905 April 3 1906 Nov 6 1906
Dec 10 1907 May 18 1909 Oct 2 1917 July 14 1925
May 8 1929 Mar 20 1937
Smith Cannery Machines Co
Victoria BC
This is a "Do Not Touch" museum piece. While
on the canning line they exhibit another Iron Chink,
this one pieced together from a variety of machines.
At the Gold Seal Cannery, three carefully maintained
Iron Chinks or Smith Butcher Machines are still hard
at work, essentially the same as the Gulf and Georgia's
they do have some modifications such as, extra safety
guards and additional computer controls.
E.A. Smith, born in 1878 in London, Ontario,
was a large, intelligent, inventive man who loved
practical jokes. His parents were farmers and moved
to British Columbia when Smith was young. He
started working life as a teen-age cook, at one time
running a cookhouse in Cascade, B.C. Moving around
in search of work was common in those economic
times and he moved to the Puget Sound area in 1898,
where he joined with several businessmen in starting
the Harper Brick and Tile Company at Harper in
Kitsap County, Washington. Besides bricklaying and
terracotta pressing, Smith toyed with the idea of
making reinforced concrete pilings to replace the
wooden ones rotting in salt water but eventually
abandoned this idea.
Selling his shares in the brick company in 1900,
he invested in the Alaska Fishermen's Union, which
had a cannery at Chilcat, Alaska. Despite the salmon
runs being very good, he was disconcerted to discover
his investment did not pay off due to labour
problems. He was told the butcher crews could not
clean the fish fast enough to earn a profit.
The problem was increased mechization of the
canning line. Automation first came to the canneries
in the form of more efficient can making systems at
the end of the 1800s. Machines took over the canning
process incrementally with steam closing machines,
can fillers, steam cookers (retorts) and conveyors
which sped up the whole process of putting fish into
tins, though no one believed a machine could ever
work as efficiently or economically as the Chinese
butcher crews. But as the speed of the line increased
these human butchers could not keep up. Gangs of
thirty men had to process 1500 to 2000 fish in time
spans of ten hours and more. Quality slipped, as the
men grew weary.
The mechanization of fish butchering, using
limited numbers of men to run and supply the
machines with fish, was a challenge many at that time
were trying to solve. Butcher machines were patented
in Sweden, Britain and North America and between
1856 and 1905, twenty-one patents were granted in
North America alone. However, early machines were
bulky and very long requiring large areas of floor
space. Plus speed seemed to equate with waste.
Smith now lived in Seattle, where he had a 10 x
12 workshop on a back lane and a company called
Smith Manufacturing. He took up the challenge to
Side view of the Iron
Chink in a Richmond, BC
BC Archives E-05035
Jo Scott B has been
researching and
compiling information
on cannery machines
for an upcoming book.
She was inspired by
the builder's plates
found at the Gulf and
Georgia Cannery in
Richmond BC.
She is an artist whose
subject matter
frequently involves
the history and
heritage of BC.
If you have
information you'd like
to share please
contact her at
21 invent a butcher machine. He worked unsuccessfully
for eight months, finally, $60,000 in debt, he admitted
defeat to his wife and decided to get a job to repay all
the money. That night he awoke with a flash of
inspiration. His daughter recalls that at 3:00 a.m. there
was no transportation available and he ran all the way
to his workshop where he remained for ten days and
nights emerging at last, wreathed in smiles.
Borrowing more money, he headed to
Washington DC to register the patent for his "Iron
Chink" machine. This name is written in the first
patent and it stuck. In later years, the patented name
changed to "Smith Butcher Machine" but "Iron
Chink" was used on the manufacturer's plates on all
machines for many, many years.
At a cannery in Fairhaven, Washington, Smith
persuaded friends to test the new machine. His
invention was in need of constant repair so Smith
moved into the plant with the machine, sleeping in a
canvas chair, keeping it operational and learning
hands on about necessary modifications.
The ingenious feature of Smith's design was
that the process of fish butchering was compact and
circular, freeing up valuable floor space for storage.
Two men were needed to work with the machine: one
with a band saw to remove the heads, the other with
a rotary knife to remove the tails, then to feed the
bodies into the machine. This did mean more labour
than required by other early butchering machines but
it avoided the wastage the others generated.
Smith persevered, tackling wastage and
maintenance. Reliable machines were essential to
canneries, which could not afford down time during
peak processing. His small workshop expanded into
a manufacturing plant at First Avenue and Stacy. (This
plant was demolished in the 1960s to make way for
parking expansion for Sears Roebuck.)In 1904, he
developed a new, smaller, more efficient model and
this version was patented on August 8,1905.
The Smith Butchering machine was suited for
the salmon canning industry in British Columbia and
Washington State since it was originally designed to
fit sockeye and pink salmon, which were found in
abundance in this area, but the early models could
not clean the larger Chinook salmon.
An article in a 1906 Pacific Fisherman quotes
Smith as saying:" If you want an exemplary instance
of the success of the machine I have but to cite the
work done by them at the Pacific American Fisheries
cannery at Bellingham. This is the largest salmon
canning plant in the world and they operated in the
past season seven lines of machinery. The two [Iron
Chinks] they had in use there supplied the seven lines
of machinery which packed an average of 9,000 cans
of sockeye salmon a day and two or three days ran
over the 10,000 mark."
Not only speed but waste was cut: an average
of one to one and a half fish per case. This went a
long way towards payment for a cannery's
In August 1906, the Smith Cannery Machines
Company moved to its modern, well-equipped
factory on the Seattle tide flats at 2416 Utah Street;
built in anticipation of the company's growth. As soon
as they were settled, they proceeded to remodel and
improve the 1906 machine despite cannery men
believing this machine to be ultra efficient. At great
cost, patterns, jigs and templates were discarded. It
meant constant study, continual endeavour and an
added investment of over $65,000.
It was a fixed policy of the company to turn out
the best and most perfect machine possible,
irrespective of cost. To the cannerymen's benefit, a
portion of proceeds from all sales was reinvested in
development and research.
Smith, a personable man listened carefully to
everyone in the fish industry, paying close attention
to suggestions and criticisms. Thanks to this design
input newer models continued to evolve and by 1907
the Smith machine cleaned the whole fish
automatically, making it superior to any other
The 1908 Iron Chink was described in the 1907
edition of the Pacific Fisherman as "The Perfect Fish
Cleaning Machine." It continued to have the same
method of operation but was of different construction
with several innovations. The automatic heading and
tailing was now placed on the machine, taking the
fish as it arrived from the water and putting it through
an entire cleaning operation, meaning both the
'sliming' and butcher gangs were eliminated. Plus,
the machine was reduced in size but not production,
it could provide fish for two or even three canning lines.
The Model G manual foreword reads as
The Model G Iron Chink is rapidly replacing the older models
and since there are radical differences in design and
consequently differences in adjustment it is felt that some
simple instructions would be of value.
While there are many points in the instructions that are
familiar to the large number of experienced Iron Chink
operators it has been found that in many cases the machine
BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORY - Vol. 38 No. 2 has not been producing its best work through lack of
familiarity with the changes in design. Again where the
machine has produced work as good as the older models
the operators have felt that the machine was doing all
that could be expected of it and consequently made no
effort to improve its operation. The Model G when carefully
adjusted and kept in perfect condition is capable of
producing work far in advance of the older models."
In setting up the machine, choose a location preferably
over a cap or as near to one as possible.... It is advisable to
place header between joists to aid in reducing vibration
to a minimum.
Avoid a location in the center of a bent. The machine is
invariably set up in advance of the canning season when
no fish are on the floor or in the bins. A machine lined up
at this time will be found to be out of line considerably
when the fish house is full.
Instances have been noted where the vertical shaft has
been found out of line two inches due to subsequent
settling of the fish house floor. This misalignment is, of
course, the cause of burnt out bearings, excessive wear on
the gear teeth, and a hard running machine generally."
Another short quote illustrates the dangers of
the job:
The automatic feed has been designed with two main points
in view: Safety to the operator
A more positive cut and consequent reduction of waste...
Many feeders accomplish excellent results ...but they are
men of experience; they must keep their eyes at all times
upon the knife and they are constantly subject to the
danger of accident to hands and arms from the knife.
In January,1902 Smith entered into an
agreement with three partners, which proves his
interest in developing an automatic weighing
machine was long standing. (A document at the
Museum of History and Industry -Seattle, WA.)
The agreement reads as follows:
"Between E.A. Smith of Seattle, Washington, to be
hereafter known as the party of the first part, and F.E
Barlow, B.R. Brierly and John Wallace, to be hereafter
known as the party of the second part.
Iron Chink beheading
BC Archives E-050536
23 The party of the first part hereby agrees to spend his time
in the perfection of a certain automatic weighing machine;
a machine for removing fins from fish; and a machine for
the gutting offish; when so perfected is to secure a patent
on same, if possible, both in the United States and Canada.
The parties of the second part hereby agree to furnish all
necessary money for the expense connected therewith,
together with the sum of Ten ($10.00) Dollars per week
for the services of the said party of the first part.
In consideration of the above, and the sum of One Hundred
and Fifty ($150.00) Dollars, receipt whereof is hereby
acknowledged. The said party of the first part hereby
agrees to assign to the said party of the second part, after
the patents have been obtained, as above set forth, a three
quarter (3/4) interest in said weighing machine, and a one
half (1/2) interest in each of the other two machines.
When patent on each has been secured and the proper
assignments made by the party of the first part to the
parties of the second part, this agreement shall be
considered at an end.
WITNESS our hands this 9th day of January, A.D. 1902
(The four signatures are here affixed)
Brit is
Smith continued to invent machines for fish
canning. He did develop an automatic weighing
machine, which proved more complicated than he
anticipated and took time to perfect, finally being
produced after his death with the help of E.H. Waugh.
It proved its worth and was used extensively for
salmon, meat, fruit and vegetable canning.
By 1909, Smith had money and his butcher
machines were in canneries all along the coast. To his
delight, the Iron Chink was to be shown at the Yukon
Alaska Seattle Fair. Determined not to miss any part
of this exhibit, Smith took his sister with him for the
opening on June 1,1909. They spent two happy days
there. Driving home, his car hit a rock and burst into
flames. In saving his sister, Smith was badly burned
and died two days later.
An extensive collection of Smith's original
drawings is stored at the Seattle Museum of History
and Industry.
The company Smith started continues to make
marine hardware and salmon processing equipment,
doing business as Smith Berger Marine Inc. at 7915
10th Avenue South, Seattle WA. •
BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORY - Vol. 38 No. 2 Token History
Fernridge Lumber Company, Limited of New Westminster, B.C.      Ronald Greene
The Fernridge Lumber Company, Limited
was formed in July 1909 to take over the
operations of Charles William Tait and
Clarence Hunter DeBeck who were carrying
on business as the Dominion Shingle & Lumber
Manufacturing Company. Dominion had a shingle
mill in Surrey, buildings at Brownsville, a sawmill at
Fern Ridge, and a shingle mill at Aldergrove.1 There
was also a new mill planned for Langley. In addition
to Tait and DeBeck, there were
several other subscribers in
Fernridge; Edward A. Grant, J.
Stilwell Cute, George Martin,
Thomas S. Annandale,2 and one
name which was undecipherable.
All were reported as "of New
Westminster." Tait remained the
majority shareholder, but later T F.
and W.T. Paterson became large
shareholders, holding about one
third of the shares between them.3
E.K. "Ned" DeBeck, who was Clerk
of the Legislature for many years, was a
nephew of CH. DeBeck.4 He said that
C.W. Tait was a son-in-law of CH.
DeBeck. Clarence DeBeck was one of
twelve children, eight of whom had
come to British Columbia with their
parents, c. 1866-1867.
The Fern Ridge mill together
with several million feet of lumber in
the yard of the Fernridge Lumber
Company, Limited was destroyed by
fire in early August 1914. Had
economic conditions been better the
company might have overcome the loss and
continued on after the fire, but construction had been
cut back significantly during the depression that
struck British Columbia in 1912 and the start of World
War I had further complicated the situation. The
financial statement of November 30th, 1914 showed
a deficit of $113,155.92.5 On December 29,1914, the
company made an assignment for creditors. The
assignee reported to the Registrar that all his "efforts
had been centred in getting the various mills free from
the creditors, and this is being accomplished by
leasing the properties, and paying the rentals to the
preferred creditors. We also have the Aldergrove mill
free, and trust to have the Rosedale one free within
the next few months."6
An itinerant traveller who ran ads in small
towns buying old gold, jewellery and coins, Nick
Lammle, acquired a match box full of the time checks,
some twenty or so, about 1968 from an former logger
whose name he did not disclose. The logger also had
a $1.00 token. Mr. Lammle later interviewed J.L.
Vaughan, son of an original homesteader in the Fern
Ridge area.7 Mr. Vaughan told him that their original
homestead was contracted out to the lumber company
to take the timber and the mill was built on a creek
behind their home, on what later
became 24th Avenue. The company
records include a number of loans
from the Bank of Montreal to pay for
contracts in which the company
purchased all the marketable timber
on specific properties.
Mr. Vaughan recalled
the immense heat from the fire. The
family lost their home and barn in
the fire. He said that there had been
other denominations of tokens, but
all that was found after the fire had
destroyed the mill was a ball
of molten aluminum. The
brass time checks that we have
seen show evidence of having
been through a fire. No tokens
of other denominations have
turned up in the intervening
thirty-six years. The obverse of
the $1.00 token illustrated has
been countermarked with a
letter "N" for reasons unknown
to the writer.
The company time
checks are labeled "Jap," "Hindu," and the repugnant
"Chink". The time check for the white employees was
not identified as such. The open racial discrimination
shown by the time checks does not meet current
sensitivities, but was the prevailing situation a century
ago. There were many biases against Asian workers.
Another company, the Fraser River Lumber Company
(Fraser Mills) brought out French Canadians to work
at their mill. The French Canadians were reported as
"active, steady and of good habits. ... The manager
of this company said recently, 'Our experience with
Asiatic labor has been far from satisfactory. As
individuals, men of those races can not perform their
work as efficiently as a white man. Recently we hired
twenty-six Greeks at $2 a day. This is double the wage
paid Hindus,8 but they do twice as much work'"9 The
1 Registrar of Companies,
GR1438, QE2529 (1897) microfilm
B4430, Archives of British
Columbia. The file includes the
agreement between the
company, Fernridge Lumber
Company, Limited, and Tait and
DeBeck to take over the
Dominion Shingle 6 Lumber
Manufacturing Company. The
Surrey mill was located on
Section 22, block 5, North Range
2 Together with shingles, bolts,
logs, lumber machinery, tools,
timber lease and agreements,
etc., buildings at Brownsville, a
sawmill at Fernridge [sic] also
with shingles, bolts, logs, lumber,
machinery, tools, etc., and an
agreement with Wm J. Malcolm
for a new mill to be erected on
the North West quarter of section
14 in the Township of Langley.
According to the 1910 British
Columbia Directory, Fern Ridge
was a post office and station on
the Great Northern Railway in the
municipality of Langley, 2 miles
from Hazelmere, and eight miles
from White Rock. Brownsville
had been renamed "South
Westminster" and was in Surrey
across the Fraser River from New
Westminster. Aldergrove was 23
miles east of New Westminster
and eight miles west of
3 Annandale was a prominent
grocer in New Westminster and
mayor from 1923 to 1926. (per
Dr. Patricia Roy)
4 QE2529, folio 85, dated 1916
Interview with E.K. DeBeck,
April 7,1969.
5 QE2529, folio 86
6 QE2529, folio 92
7 Mr. Lammle wrote a long
letter to Roger Newberry, to
whom he provided a couple of
sets of the employee or time
checks. Roger passed the letter
to me.
8 The people from India were
generally called Hindus (or
Hindoos) at the time, although
they were most likely to be Sikhs
25 9 Moyie Leader, May 15,1909,
10 The Chinese originally were
brought into the country to build
the railway because they would
work for lower wages. Discarded
when the railway was completed
they were willing and had to
work at a lower wage than
whites in order to survive. They
and other Asians were in a Catch
22 position. The whites
complained about their inability
to speak English, but wouldn't
let them or their children attend
school to learn the language.
The white unions complained
about them working for lower
wages but wouldn't let them into
the unions.
companies that provided housing to their workmen
always kept the racial groups housed separately.
According to Lammle's source (who was not
specified, it could have been either Vaughan or the
unnamed logger) the time checks were handed to the
workers in the morning. The checks were pierced so
that they could be worn on a string around the neck.
Each night they were turned in and the worker was
credited with his day's wages. The source stated 75
cents was the day's wage, which presumably was for
the Asian labourers. Also, if a time check did not get
turned in the company assumed that the workman
had met with an accident or had a problem and they
would search for the him. The Asians (Chinese,
Japanese or "Hindus", i.e. East Indians) were not
allowed to work around the machinery in the mill.10
The loggers were mostly Swedes and Finns and they
would not work with the Asians. Thus the Asians
were restricted to piling lumber, building roads and
railway lines, working on the log boom or feeding
the mill with logs. They were also paid in the
aluminum tokens which would be only good in trade
at the company store. This was a practice common in
the United States, but rare in British Columbia as it
was prone to abuse, workmen being charged higher
prices and kept in debt to the company.
These time checks are unif ace, incuse and very
dark from the effects of fire. Consequently they do
not scan or photograph very well. Rubbings (as above)
provide the best images. The $1.00 token is aluminum,
39 mm in diameter. •
BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORY - Vol. 38 No. 2 The Moti Prize
Local History Writng Competion for Elementary Students
The winner of this year's Moti prize is
Samantha Hansen of Philip Sheffield, in
Abbotsford. Thanks to Mr D.J. Langton the Grade
5/6 teacher for submitting Samantha's story.
The Candy Bar Protest of 1947
On May 1st, 1947, a protest was held in
Abbotsford, British Columbia because chocolate bar
prices were raised from five cents to eight cents. Two
girls in grade seven protested because of the three
cent difference in the price. It may not seem like a lot
of money, but if it happened today it would be like
raising a chocolate bar price to a dollar. Children were
very angry because most of them only received five
cents for an allowance, and now chocolate bars were
eight cents a bar.
The protest wasn't large at first, there was only
two girls involved. They wanted more people to join
the protest, so they walked past Philip Sheffield to
Abby Elementary and tried to get more children to
join in. Children still didn't join in, so the grade seven
girls bribed the younger children by telling them that
the people would give them free candy if they
protested. All the younger children got excited about
that and joined the protest.
As they were protesting, a news reporter told
them that he was going to write about their protest in
the newspaper. The protesters smiled proudly and
held up their signs high. The news reporter took their
picture for the newspaper.
Later, police arrived and made all the children
go home. Most of them got in trouble. They did not
achieve what they were protesting for. Six days after
the protest the reporter wrote a very negative report.
The Reporter's Views
The protest seemed productive to some people,
but others thought that it was a waste of time. These
cynics believed children should not be able to protest.
Thaf s what a news reporter who wrote for the Sumas,
Mission and Abbotsford newspaper thought. He
covered only the negative things that the protesters
did. The reporter stated:
The protest was very disrespectful because the children
wrote on theatre walls about not buying eight cent bars,
protester put posters on a house and went into a store
with signs that said WE WANT5 CENT CHOCOLATE or DON'T
The reporter went on to say the store owner
kept telling the children to leave over and over again.
They refused and stood their ground. The store owner
called the police. They told the protester to leave,
eventually everyone left. The two high school students
were accused of setting a terrible example for the
younger children.
My Views
Lots of adults said the protest was good, others
thought it was bad. The news reporter said negative
things about the protest and added a couple of lies! I
believe that some girls were bored so that they started
a protest and lied to convince others to join the protest.
(That wasn't the right thing to do.) A couple of girls,
(The girls who started the protest) wrote messages
on theatre walls about not buying eight cent chocolate
bars. The same girls made a poster for their protest
and put it on a house. After a while, all the children
went into a corner store and started protesting.
Next, a news reporter came and told them that
they were going to be in the newspaper! All the
children got really excited. They smiled and held their
signs high in the air when the photo for the newspaper
was taken!
The store owner didn't want protesters in his
store, so he told the children protesting to leave. The
children stood their ground, so the store owner called
the police. The police found out about other things they
did (the poster on the house and writing on theatre
walls) and they got in trouble for that. The first time
the police told them to leave, a couple of children did,
but most of the protesters stayed. Eventually though
everyone left. They all got in trouble.
I think they should have been given the three
cent decrease, they only didn't because they were
children. They have rights too, correct?
This history was to inform you of a chocolate
bar protest which happened in Abbotsford, BC.
Students from Philip Sheffield and Abbotsford
Elementary joined forces in 1947 to protest a three cent
rise in the price of chocolate bars. I examined the true
story of the protest, covered the reporter's views, and
ended with what I thought really happened. It was
pretty neat that in 1947 there was a chocolate bar
protest that children created (not adults).
It is my opinion that the children have a right
to have any type of protest they want. They may have
gone too far on what they did, but the reporter
criticized them too much. •
Moti our mascot c. 1920s
Editor's collection
This is the first of
our new annual
competition for
elementary students
writing on local
The rules are simple:
the competition is
open to elementary
school students in BC;
the submissions must
be on local history;
the editor of this
journal is the judge;
entries must be
submitted by May 1st
of each year; and the
winner may be
published in British
Columbia History.
The prize will be small
- $50 to the winner
and a subscription to
BC History for the
school library.
27 Book Reviews
Deadly Innocent; Tragedy on the Trail to Gold.
Bill Gallaher, Victoria, TouchWood Editions, 2004. 231 p.
$18.95 paperback.
In a further exploration of his
increasingly effective 'creative non-fiction'
technique, Bill Gallaher transports us once
again back to 1862, the year that was such a
nexus in British Columbia's history.
From contemporary newspaper
accounts and other historic sources Gallaher
has drawn one of the grimmest and most
bizarre occurrences of the great goldrush
trek to the Cariboo. Deadly Innocent
recounts the fate of the Rennie brothers,
three optimistic young Ontario city dwellers
who set out, with little wilderness
experience, to find the B.C. goldfields and
seek their fortunes there.
From the opening pages, the
characters spring quickly and vividly to life:
the Rennies themselves, three likeable
innocents, the more mature but quite
ambivalent John Helstone and the
irrepressible priest Father Albert Lacombe.
During the beginning phase of the brothers'
expedition we are given a fascinating look
at the personality and style of Lacombe, a
major player in the history of the Canadian
west. When Lacombe's route diverges from
theirs, however, the Rennies begin
repeatedly to encounter the consequences
of their own lack of wilderness experience.
As in the author's previous books,
we gain an almost virtual-reality view (and
sound and smell) of the rough little pockets
of 'civilization' in which travellers found
infrequent shelter during the long gruelling
haul across the emptiness of mid-
nineteenth-century North America.
Especially interesting is the crucial incident
that takes place at Fort George, the Hudson's
Bay Company post that was managed, in
the winter of 1862-63, by Thomas Charles.
Arriving there, starved, exhausted and
frostbitten, two of the Rennie brothers meet
with a less than hospitable welcome in the
tautly-run, meagrely stocked fort. Gallaher
derives his harsh depiction of this post from
an 1863 Victoria British Colonist article that
described Thomas Charles' treatment of the
Rennie survivors as "a gross case of
Books for review and book reviews should be sent to:
Anne Yandle, Book Review Editor BC Historical News,
3450 West 20th Avenue, Vancouver BC V6S 1E4
The mounting toll of hardships that
befall the adventurers is grim enough. But,
as early as on page 2, Gallaher quotes a
foreshadowing voice - at first we are not sure
of this character's identity - that alerts us to
expect a climax far stranger and more grisly
than mere privation or mishap. Faced with
disastrously severe winter conditions in the
B.C. mountains, the expedition's morale
plummets and dangerous weaknesses of
character begin to reveal themselves. At
critical moments during his narrative of
these events, Gallaher shifts again briefly to
the foreshadowing voice, someone speaking
at the very end of the tale, who seems to be
bracing us for something really dreadful at
the end.
When I first acquired a copy of Deadly
Innocent late one evening I decided to read
just a page or two, before sleeping. At 2.00
a.m. I was still sitting bolt upright, biting my
fingernails as the book drew me inexorably
toward its shocking twist-ending. And unlike
a thriller by, say, Ruth Rendell, this story is
factual. Its startling conclusion, Gallaher,
informs us, is a matter of record in the Victoria
newspapers of the day.
Gallaher's approach to the
rediscovery of British Columbia's past is
wonderfully helpful. I find myself asking:
why did teachers in my high school and
college years fail to make B.C. history as
compelling as this?
Philip Teece, a librarian retired from the Greater Victoria
Public Library, is an eclectic reader when he is not idling
Gold Rush Orphan.
Sandy Frances Duncan. Vancouver: Ronsdale Press, 2004.
278p. $10.95paperback.
Canadians have a fascinating history
full of captivating rogues and heroes, and
their tales need telling. Sandy Frances
Duncan does just that in her novel, Gold
Rush Orphan. Using her grandfather's
journal as its basis, Duncan relates the
ordeal of an orphan boy's 1898 trek to the
Klondike. Her grandfather chronicled such
information as dates, supplies, weather
conditions,   modes   of   travel,   and
misfortunes. Duncan creatively weaves that
information into a fictionalized tale that
vividly conveys the hardships and
sufferings endured by those making their
way to the goldfields. In the same way, she
incorporates people and situations of the era
into the novel. For example, the brutality
and lawlessness of Skagway come to life
through Duncan's portrayals of real-life
characters such as Soapy Smith, whose
thugs ran the town. (A small "Notes" section
at the end of the book provides further facts
and explanations pertinent to the story.)
Told through the eyes of fourteen-
year-old Jeremy Britain, Duncan presents a
unique view of this historic quest for bullion,
especially the sufferings of the sled dogs and
pack horses. This story also includes an often
overlooked aspect of early life in Canada,
the plight of homeless children. Raised in a
Victoria orphanage until age eleven, Jeremy
then apprentices with a farmer who often
beats him. After three years of abuse, he runs
away to Vancouver. There he begs for money
and often sleeps, cold and hungry, on Carrall
Street. Like other down and outers, Jeremy
dreams that going to the Klondike will make
him rich. While he does bring back some
gold, Jeremy's real wealth is in the
friendships he makes, in the maturity,
confidence and self-esteem that he acquires,
and in the realization of a career: he plans
to study new mining technologies such as
Young readers will close this
engrossing novel having learned much
about the day-to-day rigours of the gold
rush and Canadian life in the late 1800s.
Sheryl Salloum, a Vancouver writer, is a member of the
Vancouver Historical Society.
Healing in the Wilderness; a history of the
United Church Mission Hospitals.
Bob Burroughs. Madeira Park, Harbour Publishing, 2004.
240p., illus. $26.95paperback.
This is a well researched factual
history of the mission hospitals of the United
Church of Canada, its forerunner churches
and of the doctors and nurses who staffed
the hospitals. People from many walks of
28 BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORY - Vol. 38 No. 2 life and from other religious denominations
should welcome this objective record of
medical practice from frontier days to the
present. The emphasis is on the western
missions. The author brings under-standing
and knowledge to this account. For years he
was captain and minister of a BC coastal
mission boat and has served urban and rural
congregations. He has a doctorate from
University of Toronto's Victoria College.
Generous use of photographs
effectively complements the text. Gender
balance is fair, with nursing and nurses well
With considerable justification in
recent years, media coverage has emphasized
child abuse and hypocrisy in the missions,
but it was prevalent in society too. The media
should also tell the record of dedication and
compassion. My own associations with the
church missions from childhood into
adulthood are peripheral and desultory. After
my reading I wondered if the media and the
general public of today would respond to the
book and understand the nature of the
frontier or "wilderness" environment. Bob
Burroughs records with fine objectivity cases
of compassion and gentleness of mission
staff; I could add many more. There was
understanding of the "sub-culture" of
cannery workers, the native women, the
Chinese labour, the Japanese fishers, railway
men and pioneering farmers. There was not
just the immediacy of medical treatment, but
trained doctors and nurses who adapted
astonishingly well to new circumstances -
learning to single sail Columbia River type
fishing boats, visiting salmon canneries,
making rounds of the sometime squalid
housing rows, learning to throw diamond
and squaw hitches on pack horses.
I recall how well doctors and nurses
told us children, mixed native and Caucasian,
homilies and stories in mixtures of the
Chinook trade language, sign language,
native and English words - not just biblical
stories but stories about our immediate
I know Bob Burroughs' book will not
be on the NewYork Times best seller list, but
I can wish that many will read and appreciate
the important role played by church missions
and staffs in the history of Canada and British
DrV.C. Brink, Professor Emeritus, UBC's Plant Science
Deparemt, spent two summers many years ago,working
with Dr Darby of Bella Bella.
Maria Mahoi of the Islands. Jean Barman.
Vancouver, New Star BookslTransmontanus 13, 2004. 104
p., illus. $16 paperback.
In her opening scene, the author
stands in an orchard and munches an apple
- an ordinary sort of British Columbia scene.
But the orchard was planted nearly a
century ago by Maria Mahoi, the subject of
Barman's book and the culmination of a
meandering trail of research.
Maria's islands were Hawaii, where
her father was born; Vancouver Island,
where he came to work in the fur trade, and
where Maria was born, the daughter of this
man and an Aboriginal woman; Pasley
Island, where she went with her first
husband, Abel Douglas, a Scots seaman and
whaler; Saltspring Island, where she settled
first with Douglas, and then with her second
partner George Fisher; and Russell Island,
which was her inheritance and her legacy
to her thirteen children.
A question from Maria's great-
grandson, Mel Couvelier, a provincial cabinet
minister, sent Barman into the story of Maria
and her circle, an ordinary story with an
ordinary number of romances, murders,
disappearances and endeavours. Barman
often uses the words "ordinary" and
"everyday" to describe Maria, but by the time
she finishes the story, we know there is no
such being as an "ordinary woman." While
Barman is a masterly story teller and painter
of vignettes (such as Maria manoeuvring her
little sailboat), she is also a social historian
adept at drawing out the tangled threads of
our past. And she underscores the irony that,
in order to be "respectable", Maria hid the
Aboriginal roots which her great-grandson
would set out to retrieve.
Phyllis Reeve lives on the shore of the Bay named for
John Silva, who jumped ship with Portuguese Joe Silvey,
who was in partnership with Maria and Abel Douglas in
the whaling business, and who is the subject of another
recent book by Jean Barman.
No Ordinary Mike; Michael Smith, Nobel
Eric Darner and Caroline Astell. Vancouver, Ronsdale
Press, 2004. 264p., illus. $24.95paperback.
Michael Smith was awarded the 1993
Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his
fundamental contributions to the establishment of oligonucleotide-based site-directed
mutagenesis and its development for
protein studies - or, in the words of UBC
President Martha C Piper, "for his research
into the mysteries of the gene".
The University of British Columbia
boasts several Nobel laureates among its
alumni - Mundell in Economics, Brockhouse
in Physics - but these left Vancouver after
graduation and went elsewhere to do their
research. Smith's own mentor, Har Gobind
Khorana, moved to Wisconsin in 1961 and
won the Nobel in Medicine in 1968. Smith
seems to be the first to have based his career
at UBC, not considered an "elite institution"
in the rarefied atmosphere of the Nobel
community. This book is not "The Double
Helix"; neither an adrenalin-charged
account of the race for the Prize, nor a
penetrating personal biography, although it
does include as much as we need to know
about Smith's private life. It is the story of
how a poor but charming young genius
came from northern England to western
Canada, where he made himself into a
world-class scientist, and swept or dragged,
his university along with him.
Smith dedicated himself to "pure"
science, driven by the curiosity of the
scientist and limited only by the ultimately
possible, not by the lesser constraints of the
practical, the affordable or even the ethical.
From the Fisheries Research Board
laboratory to the Medical Research Council,
from university to government and industry,
he fought for the resources he required. He
had to compete for funding with the needs
of clinical health care, and while he always
hoped his findings might facilitate cancer
studies and other applied research, and was
more than generous in sharing with and
contributing to such inquiry, his basic
motivation derived from his own questions.
He had necessarily to confront the
BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORY - Vol. 38 No. 2        29 dilemmas of our time. When his longtime
colleague David Suzuki warned about the
spectre of human genotype manipulation
and the abuse of biotechnology for private
profit, Smith "recognised these concerns but
was committed to the research and
application of the new science".
Historian Eric Darner is interested in
the ways in which university research and
education influence the community, and
from this perspective explores Smith's
manipulation of academic politics and the
directions in which he turned his attention
after the Nobel award. His interactions with
students and colleagues, are represented by
co-author, Caroline Astell, who worked with
Michael Smith for thirty-five years, as a
doctoral student and then as a research
colleague, and after her retirement from
UBC joined the Genomic Sciences Centre at
the B.C. Cancer Agency. The centre was co-
founded in 1999 by Smith and Victor Ling
as a tool for cancer research.
The keyword is "tool". Mchael Smith's
achievement, for which he received the
highest recognition, is a tool, a methodology,
a way for scientists to do things which they
could not do before. Astell feels that Smith,
who died in 2000 at the age of 68, would have
been proud to know that in 2003 "his"centre
was "the first to report the complete DNA
sequence of the SARS coronavirus, allowing
scientists around the world to begin devising
diagnostic tests, methods to control the virus,
and even a vaccine."
Phyllis Reeve worries a lot about biotechnology.
Old Langford; An Illustrated History, 1850 to 1950.
Maureen Duff us. Victoria, Town and Gown, 2003. 191 p.,
illus., maps. $29.95paperback. (Available from M aureen
Duff us, 139 Atkins Road, Victoria, BC V9B 4W9)
Few would argue that local histories
are important and useful, and that this is
especially true in those instances where the
author has a long and personal association
with their subject. In that circumstance, a
local history can both impart information
and create interest, but can also, and this is
significant, leave the reader with a feeling
that they both know and understand the
subject in a way that is almost 'comfortable
and familiar': that is rarer than one might
think. Maureen Duffus, an experienced
researcher and writer/editor of three
Victoria area histories, has accomplished this
in Old Langford
Stories of individual families provide
a solid base for a community history and
the obvious starting point in this case is that
of the Edward Edwards Langford family
which arrived in the colony a mere eight
years after the building of Fort Victoria.
Langford travelled to the farthest point in
the 'empire' to assume his duties as bailiff,
or manager, of the Puget Sound Agricultural
Company farm - a Hudson's Bay Company
The first section of the book includes
an account of Langford's time at the farm
he called "Colwood", and incorporates a
description of what would today be termed
life style' over the succeeding decade while
the family was in residence. Other families
- including the author's who were early
residents - are part of the record.
Important events are included, such
as the only local gold discovery at a spot,
optimistically termed Goldstream; although
quantities found were not significant.
Nearby Skirt Mountain later promised hope
of other mining activity, but it too didn't
quite 'pan' out. As is the case today
Goldstream was popular and there was
enough business to justify the construction
of a hotel. Day-trippers from Victoria
dramatically increased the number of
visitors with the completion of the E & N -
Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway.
The story of the region's roads
provides a thread that effectively connects
Langford proper to other locations within
that area: Happy Valley, Florence Lake and
Langford Lake. Langford was and is a key
feature of the regional transportation picture
of Southern Vancouver Island. One example
is the transportation corridor over the
Malahat. Extending a road and later, the
highway, north, wasn't an easy task due to
topography. The history of the Malahat
drive is interesting, especially so because,
at one point, the preferred route north was
west of the mountains from Sooke to
Shawnigan. Most surveyors felt that the
present path of the Island highway would
be impossible and one, A.R. House, in 1877,
suggested that "no suitable line" upon
which to build a wagon road could be found.
He, like others proved to be incorrect.
All too often, the effect of two World
Wars and the Great Depression on residents
may not be included in a local history. In
this case, in 'Langford', they are. Updating
the story to the present in New Langford,
150 years later is also a good feature, and
really serves to highlight the changes.
Maps, photos, material from
interviews and well-chosen excerpts from
primary sources such as diaries and journals
give the narrative life and immediacy.
Dave Parker is Municipal Archivist of Esquimalt
The Old Red Shirt; Pioneer Poets of British
Yvonne Mearns Klan. Vancouver: New Star Books, 2004.
109 p; illus. $16.00 paperback.
Reading The Old Red Shirt: Pioneer
Poets of British Columbia is like sitting on the
back stoop listening to an old timer recount
his most memorable experiences. Humour,
hardship, pathos, awe, and frustration are
some of the emotions conveyed in writings
that portray life in the early days of this
province. Selected from previously
published and long forgotten creators, these
poems come from those who toiled to earn
a living in a rugged land: fur traders,
loggers, miners, sealers, fishers, and farmers,
to name a few. As one writer noted, they
were "just home-folks, / Canadian pioneers!
/ They didn't know about Freud. / When
they had a complex, they got rid/of it. /
They didn't swing on the tail of a / theory".
Yvonne Mearns Klan does swing on
the theory that these poems are a rich
historical resource. While doing research
over the years, Klan began to take note of
these gems. Starting with traditional
aboriginal and voyageur songs, she has
strung them together with detailed
background information and references. The
30 BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORY - Vol. 38 No. 2 result is a spirited and insightful glimpse
into the ordinary lives and concerns of the
early inhabitants of BC. A number of
pertinent photographs and illustrations
accompany the writings.
Klan herself is also a 'pioneer': not
only has she salvaged these forgotten works
and their personal and revealing reflections
on BC history, but she has reminded us that
poetry was once an important aspect of
everyday life. Doggerel or not, anyone could
and did write poetry to amuse, comment on,
or survive difficult days. This book revives
those lost voices and allows the reader to
share their "memories / Of dreaming
moments". This unique book has a place on
every home and school bookshelf in BC.
Sheryl Salloum
Sadly, Yvonne Klan died last October, a few months after
her book was published: AY. (See page 19 for further
information on Yvonne)
The Remarkable World of Frances Barkley. Beth
Hill and Cathy Converse. Victoria, TouchWood Editions!
Heritage Group, 2003, 224 p., illus., map. $18.95
In 1836 Frances Barkley decided to
write her memoirs in a small notebook. While
not yet twenty she had circum-navigated the
world and she remembered magical names:
Mauritius, Kamchatka, Sooloo Islands,
Wickaninnish Sound. As the wife of Captain
Charles William Barkley, master of a large
trading ship bound for the Northwest Coast
of North America, she had occupied the best
quarters on board and had been treated with
great respect at all ports of call. She
remembered the tragedies, too: the death of
her baby girl at sea, her husband defrauded
of part of his interest in the trading venture
and his charts and maps claimed by the
unscrupulous Captain John Meares. Overall
the tenor of her story was happy and thankful
for a life well lived with a beloved husband
and children. Women especially will identify
with the feisty seventeen - year old bride who
preferred life at sea to a lengthy vigil on shore.
Beth Hill developed these memoirs
into the Remarkable World of Frances Barkley
and it was published in 1978 just as BC
women's history began to flourish.
Commencing with Frances' notebook,
discovered by accident at the British
Columbia Archives, she pieced together the
history of the two voyages made by the
Barkleys to North America between 1786
and 1794. Subsequent research took Beth
and her husband to England where she
interviewed relatives and sorted out family
trees, always hoping that the original diary
on which Frances based her memoirs would
turn up. Unfortunately, it has remained
elusive to this day.
Twenty-five years after the first
publication, TouchWood Editions has
reissued the book with editing and additional
material on marine history by Cathy
Converse. Cathy made her contribution to
B.C. women's history in 1980 by co-editing
In Her Own Right: Selected Essays on Women's
History. And so we have two pioneers in BC
women's history presenting the story of the
first white woman to set foot on British
Columbia's shores.
Beth Hill faced life with the same
bravery and curiosity as Frances Barkley
and her cheerful encouragement for novice
BC historians will always be remembered
This reprint, with added material by Cathy
Converse, is a wonderful reminder of
another remarkable woman.
Marie Elliott has edited the journal of another woman ■
Winifred Grey; a gentlewoman's remembrances of life in
England and the Gulf Islands of B.C., 1871-1910.
Rivers of Change; Trailing the waterways of
Lewis and Clark.
Tom Mullen, Malibu, Calif., Roundwood Press, 2004. 348
p., illus. $25.95 US hardcover. (Available from Roundwood
Press, PO Box 6533, Malibu, Calif. 90264)
If you're looking for a book about
Lewis and Clark or an elegantly-written
travel journal, keep looking. If you want a
well-rounded account of river management,
check out this book.
After working for several years as an
international water resources consultant, the
author eased back into North American life
by travelling along the Missouri,
Yellowstone, and Columbia rivers, chatting
up locals about their experiences living and
working along these water systems.
Although he roughly covers the route
travelled by Lewis and Clark, the explorers
have a very small role in Mullen's narrative,
raising the suspicion that the author invoked
their names to sell books during the
bicentennial celebration of their trip.
Nevertheless, once Mullen settles
down to his task, he leads readers on a
thought-provoking search for the answers
to three questions: 1) how changing a river's
course affects the lives of people who live
along it, 2) how these changes affect wildlife,
and 3) what stories best portray how rivers
and attitudes change each other.
Most of the book deals with the
Missouri and how river hazards and the
meandering nature of the river led engineers
to force it into one swift and narrow channel.
This solution freed up farmland and made
river traffic safer, but destroyed woodland,
meadows, and wetlands and the wildlife that
used these habitats. Mullen includes accounts
of how various interest groups have worked
to remedy the environmental and political
consequences of controlling the river.
One major theme is how river
management priorities reflect a nation's
worldview at a particular time. The U.S.
Pick-Sloan Flood Protection Project of 1946,
for example, mirrored the public perception
that "wild rivers were inherently
destructive, foes to be attacked with the
same steel resolve that pushed enemy
leaders to sit and sign documents of
Most of the book is about the United
States policy, however. There are only twelve
pages of Canadian content. The photos
aren't very good, and the book would have
greatly benefited from a professional edit.
All that aside, this is a book that will
provide readers with an insider's view of
river history and management - and perhaps
even inspire you to investigate the life and
times of a river system near you.
Susan Stacey is a Richmond writer, co-author of
Salmonopolis, 1994.
BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORY - Vol. 38 No. 2        31 Sobering Dilemma; a History of Prohibition in
British Columbia.
Vancouver, Ronsdale Press, 2004. 190p., illus. $21.95
Douglas Hamilton's intriguingly yet
perfectly entitled, Sobering Dilemma is about
the fight to introduce the prohibition of
alcohol into the Province of British
Columbia in the early twentieth century. A
strange but understandable fight it was, that
winning of prohibition in the election 1916,
but by election time in 1920 voters had
realised that the fight had really been lost.
The government solution was to start over
again with "never ending plebiscites and
Well-organized, the book has ten
chapters, the last one explaining the setting
up in 1925 of a "New Kind of Bar", three short
appendices, ten pages of footnotes, a few
photographs, some statistics, a bibliography
and an index plus a half-page note about the
author who has knitted his story together
with such dexterity that readers might almost
feel the book to be too simple.
By placing two extremely important
topics shoulder to shoulder in his first two
chapters, he subtly indicates the basis of his
title. The first, about the social and religious
roots of the Prohibition movement crossing
the whole of North America, tells how and
why various branches of the movement
quickly though not always easily took root
in frontier British Columbia. Because of its
early fur trade history and its later goldrush
history, that frontier was presumed to be a
place where saloons and brothels were still
the centres of social action, and as such were
important in disseminating all social and
political thinking - pro and con. The second
questions why in 1854 the governing group
prohibited native Indians from drinking
alcohol. Were, in fact, the Aboriginals
genetically unable to handle liquor? Were
there other reasons? Can 1854 really be seen
as "a dress rehearsal" to which people paid
little or no attention?
Since about the 1880s the population
of the province had been doubling every ten
years, people being lured there by the great
flow of English investment money making
boom towns of both Victoria and Vancouver.
Mostly from "civilised" English and Scottish
cities, these people did not appreciate being
surrounded by brothels, saloons and
growing factories; women in particular
wanted a more moderate society, one more
regulated by law than by frontier custom.
The coming of war in 1914 further
increased social differences, but the next
attempt at creating a government control of
alcohol would not come until the election
of 1916. By then the major difference in
society was that an overwhelming number
of Anglicans and Scottish Presbyterians
opposed the absolute prohibition of liquor,
as promoted by the Social Gospellers. The
election of 1916 carried two referenda, one
on votes for women, one on prohibition.
Both passed. Here too, Hamilton covers his
subject matter speedily and gracefully. Just
as he had elsewhere pointed out that all
voters were male, British subjects, and over
the age of twenty-one.
But had the Government honestly
forgotten about some votes yet to be
counted, absentee votes from soldiers
overseas who had also become used to
another way of life, a brutal one perhaps, but
one accepting that drinking could also be a
life-saver and was, therefore, not necessarily
a "demonic rite"? Many of those same
soldiers had comrades who, in spite of being
Indians, were no more genetically incapable
of handling booze than were their white
sidekicks. Hamilton sees this forgetting as an
overturning of democracy, but this
overturning was itself overturned when in a
few years secret files of the British Columbia
Police came to light and the daily bar gossip
concerned scandal and corruption.
In an October 20, 1920 plebiscite,
only 55,448 voters supported Prohibition,
92,095 did not - as a surprise to all, the newly
enfranchised women had gone "wet". The
same electorate in December of that same
year gave Premier John Oliver the mandate
to clean up the mess. He created the Liquor
Control Board, perhaps the longest-lasting
of any BC government creation. But other
problems quickly developed, problems
about  liquor  stores,  imported  beer,
smugglers and coastal rum runners.
However, in 1925 a new kind of bar
appeared - The Beer Parlour - but it too was
soon seen as being over-regulated.
As problem after problem arose and
seemed to be solved, or at least faced, still
more arose over the next ten, twenty or
thirty years - closer to forty. But to Hamilton,
"Prohibition" is dangerous, and he warns
his readers to think carefully about possible
future implications whenever anyone
suggests "the prohibition" of anything. Even
of drugs.
Gordon Elliott is Professor Emeritus, Simon Fraser
University English Department
The Tofino Kid; from India to this Wild West
Anthony Guppy. Nanaimo, The Author, 2000. 208 p., illus.,
map. $17.95paperback. (Available from A.W. Guppy, 11-
2465 Oriole Dr., Nanaimo, BC V9T 3P2
Although not quite a community
history, this engaging anecdotal memoir
provides a revealing glance back at Tofino
in the 1920s and 30s. When the Guppy
family arrived in 1921 aboard the old coastal
steamer 'Maquinna', they found a settlement
extremely different from the bustling, upscale
tourist destination that is the Tofino of the
twenty-first century. Expecting an inn or hotel
of some sort, and finding "little sign of
settlement to be seen..." but only "land,
roughly cleared in places", the family
sheltered in the derelict house abandoned by
a previous settler.
Describing the life into which his
pioneer family settled in Tofino, Anthony
Guppy takes us back to an era of upcoast
characters such as the local builder 'Haywire
Bill', and community pioneer Virgil Evans
who was said to be the first white child born
on Vancouver Island's west coast - at Sooke
in 1881. We meet also the several Japanese
families who were a large part of the tiny
coastal settlement in the 1920s. The author
described an isolated life, utterly dependent
upon boats, including the Guppy family's
own troller, 'The Tofino Kid'. In the author's
own fishing years, in the era before sockeye
seining had begun, 'The Tofino Kid' was
32 BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORY - Vol. 38 No. 2 sometimes theonly boat in sight, where today
commercial fishing boats carpet the sea.
In Guppy's telling of the stories of
Tofino's early families we encounter much
good humour and some tragedy as well.
One forgotten episode in that isolated
community's past is worth remembering as
a cautionary tale nowadays when the
'problem' of street people is being
increasingly debated. The author reminds
us that "Tofino was the site of a harsh
depression-era social experiment, a B.C.
Government 'relief camp' that was in reality
a sort of dumping ground for the homeless
Sixteen historic photographs and the
author's evocative pen sketches provide an
inntriguing glimpse of the embryonic
Tofino's appearance early in the last century,
while that coastal village was still accessible
only by sea. The book's hauntingly nostalgic
reminiscences comprise a valuable record.
Philip Teece, for several years after his retirement as
librarian at the Greater Victoria Public Library, Philip
lived in an isolated upcoast community.
Wires in the Wilderness. The Story of the
Yukon Telegraph.
Bill Miller, Surrey, Heritage House, 2004. 336 p., illus.,
maps. $19.95 paperback.
The Yukon Telegraph, built "to
connect the gold fields of the Yukon with
southern Canada" and "to provide an
essential public service for the police and
other government officials, and for the
people of the Yukon" has survived in the
public memory of Northern British
Columbia and the Yukon. It has acquired,
as the author of Wires... points out, "an
identity, a mythology, and a romantic
image." That memory of the telegraph has,
in large part been kept alive by the remnants
of the telegraph trail which residents and
visitors to B.C.'s north occasionally chance
upon, and possibly more because the
portion of the line between Quesnel and
Atlin traversed a region lacking in a north-
south transportation link. Miller notes that
his own interest and "the genesis of this
book dates to my finding remnants of the
old Yukon Telegraph near my home in
In Wires in the Wilderness, Miller (and
Heritage House) have provided a welcome
general history of the construction and the
operation of the line and, since its
abandonment in the 1930s and '40s, of the
trail which accompanied the telegraph wire.
The trail, of course, is now taking on its own
life as a recreational venue.
Miller laments, justifiably, the lack of
what he calls a "people's history" of the
construction of the line: "Of the hundreds
of men who worked on the (construction)
project, from the axemen and wire stringers
to the wranglers and foremen, not a single
voice has been located to relate their
experiences". For the story of the maintenance and operation of the line, we are
more fortunate - possibly the linemen had
more time, and inclination, to record their
experiences. In particular, Guy Lawrence's
book, Forty Years on the Yukon Telegraph,
reviewed in the British Columbia Historical
News, Spring, 1991, is a vivid personal
account of life on the telegraph, and this
history and Lawrence's complement
each other.
The bibliography in Wires... will be of
great value to anyone interested in searching
out more about the telegraph. I suggest
Imbert Orchard's CBC interview of Guy
Lawrence, on tape, held in the Provincial
Archives, might profitably have been
included. There are numerous photographs
and a very adequate index.
George Newell has spent several summers in Northern
British Columbia.
Wish You Were Here; Life on Vancouver Island
in Historical Postcards.
Peter Grant, Victoria, TouchWood Editions, 2002. 179 p.,
illus. $24.95paperback.
What a book for a lazy or rainy
afternoon here on the west coast. Short on
text and long on images, the photographic
postcards in Peter Grant's Wish You Were
Here are rich and thought provoking;
potentially of interest to both the local buff
and the academic scholar. Some examples: a
1902 photo of the recently completed
Bamfield Cable Station which linked western
North America, via 4,000 miles of underwater
telegraph cable, to Fiji, New Zealand and
Australia; a crew hard at work flensing a
humpback whale at Page's (now Piper's)
Lagoon at Nanaimo in 1908; the construction
of Hatley Castle for James Dunsmuir at
Colwood in 1909; armed militia marching in
formation past the United Mine Workers of
America office at Ladysmith in 1913; a ladies'
egg-and-spoon race during the Victoria Day
celebrations at Ucluelet in 1911; a panoramic
picture of the Anglican Mission, the sawmill
and the cannery at Alert Bay, taken by the
local constable in 1914; a particularly
haunting - perhaps fittingly undated - photo
of a displaced First Nations man, alone and
weary, on a bench in Victoria's Gorge park.
What else could one call these photos but
windows into the social history of Vancouver
Island from 1900 to about 1914?
The critical reader will have questions
regarding provenance. Who took these
pictures and why? As postcards, what
message did they carry and to whom? Were
they, individually, components within larger
sets of pictures? How did they come into the
possession of those who now hold them?
Why have they been preserved?
That said, these postcards are far more
than mere historical trivia. Their very
existence invokes many themes that
historians confront daily. Indeed, Grant
points out that, "the picture postcard
emerged from the convergence of several
social trends: mass travel; a cultural
preoccupation with written communication;
popular photography; cheap printing; public
postal systems and steam powered
transportation. For a time the postcard was
as fresh and exciting a medium as digital
imagery was in the 1990s".
The most effective history, academic or
popular, compels readers to look further
because they want to, not because they need
to. In this Grant is successful; Wish You Were
Here is the sort of book that stimulates an extra
trip to the library for contextual information.
Whether on the coffee table or in a university
library this book is a welcome addition to the
written history of Vancouver Island.
Tim Percival is a Graduate Student at the University of
BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORY - Vol. 38 No. 2        33 Paddling to Where I Stand; Agnes Alfred,
Qwiqwasutinuxw Noblewoman, as told to
Martine J. Reid and Daisy Sewid-Smith.
Edited and annotated with an introduction by Martine J.
Reid; translated by Daisy Sewid-Smith. Vancouver, UBC
Press, 2004. 284 p. $85 hard cover; $29.95 paperback.
Three remarkable women created this
book. Agnes Alfred (c.1890-1992), a
matriarch of the people the rest of us have
referred to as Kwakiutl, is the primary
author. Her voice, personality and memories
shape the text. Daisy Sewid-Smith, Agnes's
granddaughter is a cultural historian and
instructor in her mother tongue at the
University of Victoria, She has written and
lectured on a wide range of related topics.
As she assists in the telling of her
grandmother's story, she also tells her own.
Martine J. Reid is widely known as the
wife of the artist Bill Reid, and, since his
death, as Honorary Chair of the Bill Reid
Foundation and promoter par excellence of
West Coast Aboriginal art. It is time that we
knew her also as a scholar and
anthropologist, a student of Claude Levi-
Strauss. This book marks the resumption of
the work she engaged in upon her arrival
from France as a graduate student in 1975,
and set aside a few years later, as she says,
"for personal and familial reasons." Like her
co-authors, she began with a first language
other than English. And like Daisy, while
setting out the context for the conversations
with Agnes, she reveals much about herself.
Reid and Sewid-Smith allow the
chemistry of friendship and trust to show
through the narrative. Reid writes, "The
reader should know that, throughout these
recordings, like a bright path through a
dense woodland, there was always
laughter." Sometimes the speaking stops
because Agnes is laughing, often at herself
or at perceived trans-cultural incongruities
and improprieties.
Sometimes she falls silent with
remembrance of past griefs. Agnes spoke
almost no English and did not read or write.
Her interlocutors have struggled to
reproduce the conventional or ceremonial
phrases and repetitions, and to preserve the
flavour of her storytelling "as it moved back
and forth from tribal history, to myths, and
to personal reminiscences." Chapters "Myth
Time" and "War, Conflict and Slavery" are
followed by autobiography: "Childhood",
"Becoming a Woman", "Marrying Moses
Alfred", "Ceremonies and Rituals" and
"Fragments of Recollections", giving way to
eulogy and epilogue.
Throughout her long life, Agnes had
many reasons to be angry. She has much to
say about the potlatch and its suppression:
"We were always having a bad time on
account of our traditional doings." But even
at the time she seems to have been too busy
dealing with things to give way to anger or
bitterness. At least once, she literally
grabbed her husband Moses and dragged
him from the Indian Agent's office before
he could be interrogated. She could not
always rescue him. At one wedding feast he
was arrested "simply because he was getting
apples out of the box and giving them to the
guests. On that account he was taken to
prison. He was kept in prison for two
months." The term "heartbroken" occurs
more than once in this section. She tells of
informants who made lists of guests at
feasts, and of people who avoided arrest by
surrendering their masks to the federal
authorities. And she remembers that her
sister "really suffered" at Oakalla Prison
because of the strip searches on arrival: "we
don't do such things; we never, ever
examine each other's bodies."
The White lawmakers and enforcers
she found guilty mostly of massive
ignorance, and she lived long enough to
witness signs of improvement, for instance
Ottawa's return of the confiscated masks
and other paraphernalia, and the revision
of the Indian Act to remove the prohibition
of the potlatch. In 1978 she guided
proceedings and danced at the potlatch
celebrating Daisy's wedding; a transcription
of that ceremony is given in an Appendix.
Besides this Appendix, we are aided
by ample background documentation,
including a section on orthography, which I
make no attempt to apply in this review. In
the preface, Reid and Sewid-Smith see the
book as a contribution to "the fields of First
Nations studies, women's studies, oral
history and tradition, the anthropology of
memory and cultural change and the
sociology of aging" and as a chance to come
to know Agnes Alfred and her culture "from
This is a very human scholarly work.
Phyllis Reeve
Surveying Northern British Columbia; a
Photojoumal of Frank Swannell.
Jay Sherwood. Prince George, Caitlin Press, 2004. 166 p.,
illus., maps. $29.95paperback.
The operative terms in the title of this
book are "Surveying" and " Photojoumal"
and they are succinctly exacting in their
scope. Add in the term "Exploratory" and
the list of such qualified professional
surveyors shrinks from a cast of hundreds
down to a mere two. Frank Swannell and G
B. Milligan were the only BC Government
employed surveyors that had experience in
triangulation surveys and were assigned to
the Cassiar and Peace River Districts,
respectively, to conduct "exploratory
surveys" in large blocks of wilderness.
Frank Swannell with his attributes of
photojournalism, physical stamina and
companionable personality, was able to earn
the respect and admiration of his crew and
of the native peoples that he encountered
during his seasonal fieldwork The results of
his work must have impressed his superiors
in Victoria, as well; given their eagerness to
continue employing his superlative talents to
inventory the large blank areas in Provincial
mapping coverage.
David C. Bazett, CLS, BCLS; in his
fitting tribute on the back cover of this book:
"This book is a tribute to a gifted land
surveyor, Frank Swannell, who possessed a
combination of the right skills and
knowledge and was in the right place at the
right time. He also had the foresight to record
his exploits in journals and photographs.
These photographs are not just snapshots, but
were masterfully composed and technically
excellent. They are all the more remarkable
given the extreme conditions under which
they were taken." The "right place at the right
time"  is especially insightful as the
34 BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORY - Vol. 38 No. 2 Government in 1912, decided to return to
triangulation surveys in northern BC after
twelve years of block surveys in potentially
agricultural flatlands of southern B.C. The
remaining mountainous terrain lent itself to
triangulation surveys from peak to peak and
tying in lakes and rivers in the immediate
The author Jay Sherwood, himself a
former surveyor and outdoorsman, has
done a masterful job of faithfully
incorporating the archival journals into a
spellbinding narrative. Travel adventures
involved getting into the survey area in the
spring with crew and supplies for six
months; and getting the crew out again
before freeze-up each fall. He has also added
flesh and sinew to the bare bones of the daily
work journal of the crew and the routine
problems they encountered climbing
mountains and traversing lake and river
shorelines to tie in with other surveys. Many
of the experiences were life threatening and
many are treated with humor and
camaraderie, but all serve to show that
morale was usually high on Swannell's
field crews.
The author is to be congratulated on
a fine effort to bring archival journals and
superlative photographs out of the misty
past and into the light of modern day
readership. The 1914 chapter on traversing
the upper Finlay River ranks right beside
R.M. Patterson's Finlay's River and Black's
Rocky Mountain Journal as classics of dogged
determination and perseverance on the
headwaters of this remote wilderness
stream. The finest compliment I can offer to
Jay Sherwood is to beseech him to also do a
companion volume on G.B. Milligan as well.
W. Grant Hazelwood, former Canada Land Inventory
biologist, utilized journals in fieldwork for same areas.
Lives in Terrace, B.C.
First Invaders; the literary origins of British
Alan Twigg. Vancouver, BC, Ronsdale Press, 2004. 229p.,
illus., maps. $21.95paperback.
A 1978 stamp commemorating the
bicentennial of Captain James Cook"s
arrival in Nootka Sound (Yuquot) was the
first reference I recall hearing to the
exploration of the British Columbia coast. It
was also one of the last until I reached
university and began studying Canadian
literature.A similar experience prompted
B.C. Bookworld publisher Alan Twigg to
prepare First Invaders: The Literary Origins of
British Columbia, a survey of the earliest
visitors to British Columbia whose accounts
of their experiences serve as literary
antecedents to those who write about the
province today.
Most of the material Twigg covers is
familiar to scholars of early British
Columbia. Rather than offer a formal study
of early literature about BC, First Invaders
introduces the general reader to the authors
and their writing. Packed with references to
the original documents and other sources,
the book is a comprehensive overview of the
writing that announced British Columbia to
the world.
Twigg organizes First Invaders into
seven sections with a chapter given to each
of the sixty-five figures (all but one of them
men) profiled. The first section presents the
earliest accounts, fictional and otherwise, by
Russian, Asian and European figures such
as Vitus Bering, Hui Shen and Jonathan
Swift. Subsequent sections survey
contributions to the literature about BC by
Spanish, French, English and US
adventurers as well as mapmakers and
The range of sources documented
makes First Invaders a valuable resource by
any measure, and Twigg"s style is readable.
Don"t go looking for a single narrative,
however; this is a book of biographies.
This said, the text could have
benefitted from editing that would have
streamlined and focused the several entries.
Twigg trumpets such a weltering array of
firsts and greatests that the actual
significance of individual authors and their
works is lost. By detailing how the various
works contributed to a coherent
understanding of what lay along North
America"s Pacific Coast, Twigg would have
given readers a better sense of the influence
authors had on each other and the
developing knowledge of the region. There
are some notable exceptions in the first
section, however, including the vignette of
the use Cook made of Purchas, His Pilgrimage
(1613). One could also take issue with the
seven pages assigned to the fifth-century
Chinese monk Hui Shen, who may not have
even visited the BC coast. Yet the space
accorded Hui Shen is testimony to Twigg"s
passion for his subject and evidence of First
Invaders" comprehensive scope.
Peter Mitham is a Vancouver writer.
Common & Contested Ground; a Human
and Environmental History of the
Northwestern Plains.
Theodore Binnema. University of Toronto Press,
2004. $27.95
Denny's Trek; A Mountie's Memoir of
the March West.
Sir Cecil Denny. Surrey, Heritage House, 2004.
Mopsters & Rumrunners of Canada;
Crossing the Line.
Gord Steinke. Edmonton, Folk Lore Publishing,
2004. $14.95
The Wild Edge; Clayoquot, Long Beach
& Barkley Sound. Jacqueline Windh. Madeira
Park, Harbour Publishing, 2004. $34.95
BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORY - Vol. 38 No. 2        35 Website Forays
All Aboard!
Christoper Garrish
As we all know, to promote
settlement of the Canadian
West in the late 1800s, the CPR
encouraged settlers from
Europe, Great Britain and Eastern Canada
through the offer of free land. A less common
aspect of this story is the logistical challenge
of actually moving so many people across
our vast country.
The railways found they needed an
economic way to transport these migrants
and devised what came to be known as the
"Colonist" car: a sleeper car that essentially
comprised a former first class wooden car
that was re-built at minimum cost for the
sole purpose of people moving. These cars
were characterised by their interior walls
panelled in faux grained woods, oiled wood
floor planks, wood slat seats, with gas
lanterns providing the lighting and heated
by coal stoves.
These cars did yeoman service for
many years across the Prairies and British
Columbia, even doubling as troop carriers
during the World Wars before finally being
taken out of service in the early 1950s.
Only two of the older wooden
Colonist cars survive, with one can being
found at the West Coast Railway Heritage
Park in Squamish - and in cyberspace at, the site of the West Coast
Railway Association (WCRA). Interestingly,
this Colonist car was moved to Vancouver
Island for use on the Esquimalt and
Nanaimo Railway in the late 1950s working
on all the wrecks on the E & N until finding
its way to Squamish.
According to their site, the origins of
the WCRA go back as early as 1958 "when
the steam engine was in its last days", with
the Association being founded in 1961 as a
registered non profit charity dedicated to the
collection and preservation of British
Columbia's Railway Heritage. The purpose
of the WCRA is to preserve British
Columbia's railway history through the
collection, preservation and restoration of
railway cars and related artefacts with the
result being that they have now acquired the
second largest collection of railway rolling
stock and artefacts in Canada. Since 1994 the
Royal Hudson 2860
Photo: www.wcra.ors/royalhudson.htmt
WRCA has also
operated the
Heritage Park in
Squamish, and a
web site devoted to
their activities since
The Association's collection
consists of approximately sixty-five
pieces of heritage
railway rolling
stock including the
business car British
Columbia (1890) and
the aforementioned
rare Canadian Pacific Colonist sleeping car (1905), and
is representative of
the major railways
which have served
British Columbia such as the Canadian Pacific, Canadian National, Pacific Great Eastern, BC Electric and Great Northern.
The Association's Archive includes
over 600 books and 2500 magazines, 3000
artefacts, and paper records, newspaper
clipping files, and photographs that number
near 6000 images - a number that is certain
to almost double following the addition of
the Peter Cox Archive of 6,745 photographs
taken between 1920-1970. At present, there
are no plans to make this collection available
on the web site, however, there is other
useful material available on-line.
One of the more interesting of these
sections is the "Feature Articles" page,
which may best be described as both a
current events board as well as an oral
history repository with Plowing Snow in the
Coquihalla being an example of the latter:
"At 6 am we got two whistles, which meant it
was time to start work so we started to move
off the trestle. When just the plough, the
locomotive and the first car were off the bridge,
a snow slide came down on top of us. That was
it. We couldn't move. The leftside of the engine
(the Fireman's side) was on the mountain side
and with the window open I got buried in heavy
snow. With my left arm stuck out of the window
and my righ t hand on the Firing valve, I was stuck
there and couldn't move. Gordon, the engineer,
had to get the small sand scoop and use it to dig
at the snow and get me out. With the help of
the extra gang employees, the plough and
locomotive also had to be shovelled out by hand
- this took until about noon Tuesday."
Other interesting site features include
an excellent Newsletter (although
somewhat on the large size - I think the
smallest one posted is about 4mb with a high
of lOmb); and a number of interesting pieces
on the Royal Hudson. It is also probably
worth noting that the WCRA are the
operators and custodians of the Royal
Hudson #2860 (the only remaining operable
Hudson) and are currently in the process of
repairing the boiler and re-bricking the
firebox of this engine.
So for all you train nuts out there,
switch on over to to see what
is new and exciting in the field of heritage
railways. •
BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORY - Vol. 38 No. 2 Archives and Archivists
Doreen Stephens, Anglican Archives
Edited by Sylvia Stopforth,
Librarian and Archivist, Norma Marian Attoway Library,
Trinity Western University
Two Singles and a Double - -Archives in the Bedroom!
How did a nice church archives
end up in the bedroom? This
shocking turn of events came
about as a result of the long
awaited renovation of the Vancouver School
of Theology's Iona Building, our home for
the last fourteen years. The entire building
had to be vacated and we joined many VST
staff and faculty in what had formerly been
one of their student residences, now to be
our home until the renovations
are complete.
The Archives of the Anglican
Provincial Synod of B. C. & Yukon, which
includes the records of the former Diocese
of Cariboo, along with the Archives of the
Anglican Diocese of New Westminster have
been located somewhere within VST, or its
predecessor colleges, since 1980 for the
Diocese and 1956 for the Provincial Synod
Archives. The archives have gone from
building to building and from the basement
to the top floor over the years. Along with
the Archives of the United Church, B. C
Conference and VST itself, the big move of
2003 brought us back to VST's Chancellor
Building, from which we had moved in
1989. However, this was the first time we
had been assigned to bedrooms!
New and improved space for these
archival repositories has been tantalizingly
close on several previous occasions - only
to end in dashed hopes. However, by June
2003, plans were definitely a go and we had
to vacate our inadequate but familiar space.
Those of you who have been involved in
such a move will anticipate our pain!
Moving is never fun, but we had a
few special challenges - - the archives' exit
door was too narrow to allow most of our
shelving to pass through it without
unscrewing every little screw, only to have
to screw many of them back together again
in our bedrooms! There was no way to move
our records or equipment that didn't involve
going up or down at least one flight of stairs
- and the elevator was only large enough to
hold four (4) people - so an equally limited
amount of non-human cargo .
All our document cases had to be
loaded into big blue totes - - and each Archive
had several destinations for different
groupings of boxes and shelving! Our
bedrooms were on the third floor and there
was NO elevator at all, this time. But we
and the moving company persevered and
emerged relatively unscathed, but vowing
never to be quite so "hands on" again!
Prior to the big move I had spent
much time with little cut-outs of desks,
shelving units, computers, tables and
printers plus for anything else I felt I MUST
have access to for the "duration". Each item
to be moved, from document case to file
cabinet, had to be labelled with its specific
destination. Those items to be moved to the
bedrooms had to have room numbers and
floor plans in place, as well. It was with
much relief that everything fit into its
assigned space at the end of the last
moving day!
All this is to explain our present
situation and what you can expect if you
want to access our records. While we are still
open, it is particularly important that you
phone first to ensure that the records you
want are available. Our holdings include the
official records of the Synod, its officers,
committees and boards as well as records
from individual parishes. Parish records
contain registers of baptisms, confirmations,
marriages and burials, as well as official
records and historical material. Our
reference library is not available but our
many photographs and audio cassettes are.
Parish registers are accessible via 35mm
microfilm and our Canon reader-printer.
The Anglican Archives in Vancouver
has one, part-time archivist and four
excellent volunteers. Because of the faithful
service of these volunteers archives
researchers are able to get speedy, cheerful
service in most cases. Currently, on-site
researchers have to be prepared for a "cozy"
work space close to the Archivist and the
volunteers. We compensate by offering free
coffee, cookies and interesting discussion
during the morning coffee break!
Sometime in the late summer or Fall
of this year we will be moving from the
bedrooms into VST's by then vacated "old"
Library space. The longer range plan is to
have a new archives built behind the
renovated Iona Building. In the meantime,
I hope many of you will visit us this Fall
when we will have our entire holdings in
place. No more bedrooms!
For more information:
Anglican Archives,
6000 Iona Drive, Vancouver, B. C, V6TIL4
Archivist: Doreen Stephens
Phone: 604-822-9583 FAX: 604-822-9212
Email: anglican-archives@vst. edu
BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORY - Vol. 38 No. 2        37 22nd Annual BCHF Book Competition
Books Submitted List
First Prize
Nancy J. Turner
Second Prize
Daniel Francis
Third Prize
Michael Dawson
Honourable Mention
Katherine Gordon
Honourable Mention
Martine J. Reid
Roger Stonebanks
Danda Humphrys
F. Thirkell, B. Scullion
Frank Oberle
Valerie Green
Bill Gallaher
Sam McKinney
R.G. Harvey
Jaon Rollins
Sir Cecil Denny
Betty O'Keefe/I. MacDonald
Bill Miller
Doug Cox
Chris Weicht
Robert Hunter
Alan C Elder, et al
Grant Keddie
Ken M. Campbell
Betty G. Funke
Cyril E. Leonoff
Edythe Hanen, et al
Jack Schofield
Jay Sherwood
Museum of Anthropology, UBC
Roy Miki
Rex Weyler
Eric Enno Tamm
Umeek(Richard Atleo)
Denis Marshall
Plants of Haida Gwaii
Mayor Louis Taylor & the Rise of Vancouver
Selling British Columbia
The Slocan
Paddling to Where I Stand
Fighting for Dignity: The Ginger Goodwin Story
Building Victoria- Men, Myths & Mortar
Breaking News- Images of G.A. Barrowclough
Finding Home- A War Child's Journey to Peace
If More Walls Could Talk- Vane. Is. Houses
Deadly Innocent- Tragedy on the Trail to Gold
Sailing with Vancouver
Head On
Caves of the Cdn Rockies & Columbia Mountains
Denny's Trek- A Mounties Memoir
Dr. Fred & the Spanish Lady
Wires in the Wilderness- Story of Yukon Telegraph
Ranching Now, Then and Way Back When
North by Northwest, An Aviation History of B.C.
The Greenpeace to Amchitka
A Modern Life- Art & Design in B.C., 1945-60
Songhees Pictorial
Cannery Village: Company Town
Tweed Curtain Pioneers
The Hebrew Ladies of Victoria, Van. Island
Bowen Island - Reflections
No Numbered Runways
Surveying Northern B.C.
Bill Reid and Beyond
Beyond the Outer Shores
Tsawalk: A Nuu-chah-nulth Worldview
Sawdust Cedars
Sono Nis
Arsenal Pulp Press
UBC Press
Sono Nis
UBC Press
Canadian Committee On Labour History
Heritage House
Heritage House
Heritage House
Heritage House
Heritage House
Heritage House
Heritage House
Heritage House
Heritage House
Heritage House
Heritage House
Skookum Publication
Creekside Publication
Arsenal Pulp Press
Arsenal Pulp Press
Royal B.C. Museum
Trafford Publishing
Trafford Publishing
Jewish Historical Society of BC
Friesens, Altona, Manitoba
Sono Nis
Caitlin Press
Douglas & Mclntrye
Raincoast Books
Raincoast Books
Raincoast Books
UBC Press
Salmon Arm Branch, OHS
BRITISH COLUMBIA HISTORY - Vol. 38 No. 2 Miscellany
23rd Annual BCHF Book Writing
Deadline:  December 31, 2005
Books (non-fiction) representing any
facet of BC history, published in 2005, are
eligible for the 23rd annual Book
Competition. This may be a community
history, biography, record of a project or an
organization, or personal recollections
giving a glimpse of the past. Names, dates
and places, with relevant maps or pictures,
turn a story into "history".
The judges are looking for quality
presentations and fresh material, with
appropriate illustrations, careful proof
reading, an adequate index, table of contents
and bibliography. Note that reprints or
revisions of books are not eligible.
Lieutenant-Governor's Medal/Awards
The BC Lieutenant-Governor's Medal
for Historical Writing will be awarded
together with $300 to a writer/ author whose
book contributes significantly to the history
of British Columbia. The 2nd and 3rd place
winners will receive $200 and $100
respectively. Additional Honourable
Mention Certificates may be awarded as
recommendedby the judges.
All winners will receive publicity and
an invitation to the BCHF Awards Banquet
at the Federation's annual conference which
will be in Kimberley, BC, in May, 2006
Submission Requirements
By submitting books for this
competition, the authors agree that the
British Columbia Historical Federation may
use their name(s) in press releases and BCHF
publications regarding the book
competition. Books entered become
property of the BCHF.
Authors and/or Publishers will be
required to send/mail one copy of their
book to the Chair as well as one copy to each
of the three Judges.
For mailing instructions please contact:
Bob Mukai, Chair of the BCHF Book Competition
4100 Lancelot Drive, Richmond, BC, V7C4S3 Tel/Fax 604-274-6449
BCHF's Ron Hyde Honoured
On 25 February during Heritage Week
celebrations, Mayor Malcolm Brodie
presented our secretary and newsletter co-
editor, Ron Hyde and his wife, Maureen
with 2005 Richmond Heritage Awards. The
citation read in part:
Both Ron and Maureen Hyde have
enriched Richmond's heritage resources by
their volunteer work. They give constantly
of their time to projects at London Farm,
Tourism Richmond, the Richmond
Museum, Steveston Museum, Britannia
Shipyard, and the Gulf of Georgia Cannery.
Both Ron and Maureen regularly
assist with Heritage Week displays in the
mall. Maureen has edited the BC
Genealogical Society quarterly for seventeen
years. As secretary and membership chair
for the British Columbia Historical
Federation, Ron has built federation
membership from forty societies in the
southern part of the province to 103 societies
across the province. As co-editor of the BC
Historical Federation Newsletter, Ron has
promoted Richmond Heritage and brought
interesting ideas from other communities to
Together, Ron and Maureen Hyde
have worked to get the historical and
genealogical societies to lobby for access to
the post 1900 federal censuses and the
provincial Land Titles records.
We are proud of Ron and Maureen
and grateful for their work. We extend our
congratulations to them. •
Ajust Your Address Book
Wanda Mizner is the new Acting
Curator / Administrator of the Boundary
Museum. Contact her at:
Boundary Museum Society
7370 Fifth Street, PO Box 817
Grand Forks, BC, V0H 1H0
Tel/Fax (250) 442-3737
The BC Museum of Mining
Receives Funding
The BC Museum of Mining will receive
$2 million in funding from the Canada-BC
Infrastructure Grant, which the Museum
Society has been able to match with donations
from private industry and individuals.
From the press release: Plans to turn
Britannia Beach into a world-class innovative
and interpretive attraction, dedicated to
history, regeneration and sustainability is a
giant step closer to realization with today's
announcement of $3 million in funding.
The private sector, together with the
federal and provincial governments, have
contributed funds earmarked for the physical
restoration of the mill building, designated a
National Historic Site by the Historic Sites
and Monuments Board of Canada in 1989.
These funds will be used to preserve the
cultural and historic significance of the
According to Kirstin Clausen,
Executive Director of the Britannia Beach
Historical Society, this funding means
immediate execution to restore the exterior
of this already important historic site from
its current dilapidated state into a building
that will reflect the significant contribution
that mining has made to both provincial and
federal economies.
"The funds for the mill building will
create nine full-time positions and attract
40,000 more visitors to the BC Museum of
Mining each year," says Clausen. "The
economic spin-offs for the community will
be significant as we prepare for the influx of
visitors to the museum this summer."
The funding was provided through the
Canada-BC Infrastructure Program - with the
federal and provincial governments jointly
providing $2 million, and several unnamed
private sector donors contributing a total of
$1 million.
"This is an exciting day where many
committed stakeholders have come together
to honour Canada's mining heritage," says
Michael McPhie, Interim Managing Director
of the Britannia Development Corporation
and President and CEO of the Mining
Association of BC. •
200 Years 1806-2006
"Western Canada's Historic Capital"
In 1805 Simon Fraser of the North
West Company led an expedition over the
Rocky Mountains to investigate the fur trade
potential of the Pacific Slope and to find a
navigable route to the Pacific Ocean. In the
winter of 1805/1806 Simon Fraser and his
men wintered at McLeod Lake. Early in the
spring of 1806 Simon Fraser sent a
subordinate, James McDougall, to explore
the surrounding country. During his
explorations McDougall visited a Carrier
village called Nak'azdli on a large lake that
was later named Stuart Lake. On July 26,
1806 James McDougall returned to the large
lake with Simon Fraser, John Stuart, and
crew. Stuart Lake Post was established in
1806 - later renamed Fort St. James. Simon
Fraser named the large trading area
surrounding the post, New Caledonia. Soon
the post would become the administrative
center for the entire trading area of New
Caledonia and was very significant in the
quest for furs. The role of the Carrier nation
in supplying the fort with furs and food
cannot be understated.
Fort St. James was also the center of
the Omineca Gold Rush in the 1860s.
Manson Creek and Germansen Landing are
just two of several gold rush towns within a
relative short distance of Fort St. James that
still exist today.
Modern day Fort St. James continues
to celebrate its history and heritage, and in
2006 Fort St. James will be celebrating the
200th anniversary of Simon Fraser's arrival.
The fur fort has been established as a national
historic site and has been restored to 1896.
In Fort St. James and the Carrier
communities in the area a number of other
historically significant sites still exist such
as Simon Fraser's signature rock, Chief
Kwah's grave site, pictographs, fur trader
burial ground, traditional first nation trails
connecting communities in the Nechako
region, and the second oldest church in
British Columbia.
While Fort St. James is not on today's
beaten path, over 12,000 visitors annually
venture into Fort St. James to experience the
heritage and history it has to offer. With the
community's bi-centennial in 2006 we will be
celebrating 200 years of heritage and history
and invite everyone to join us in the fun.
You're invited to celebrate 200 years
of history & heritage in 2006! Call the Bicentennial Office (250) 996-8233 •
Colbourne House Opens
The Marpole Museum and Historical
Society celebrated the official opening of the
newly restored Colbourne House on May
28, 2005. Numerous dignitaries, including
former Marpole MLA Val Anderson; City of
Vancouver Councillor Sam Sullivan and
Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation
Commissioner Suzanne Anton, attended.
The Society and its members are
thrilled to achieve the milestone in bringing
a "living heritage" to the community of
Marpole. The restoration of the Colbourne
House was achieved through the efforts of
volunteers, grants and donations from
members of the community and various
levels of government over a period of ten
years. Situated at West 71st Avenue and
Marine Drive in Vancouver, the Colbourne
House is a splendid visual sight. The
William Mackie Park directly to the north
of the house lends itself well to the overall
impression of a time when Marpole was a
rural neighborhood of woodland and dairy
farms. The home, originally built in 1912,
was fashioned in the Dutch Colonial style
by Mr. T Thomas, but derives its name from
its longest residents, the Colbourne family.
Visit or call
Jim Bulteel at 604-261-0131 for more
information. •
Best Article Award
A Certificate of Merit and cash prize
will be awarded to the author of an article
published in British Columbia History "that
best enhances knowledge of British
Columbia's history and provides reading
enjoyment." Judging is based on subject
development, writing skill, freshness of
material, and appeal to a general readership
interested in all aspects of British Columbia
This year we're pleased to announce that
for the best article of 2004 the winner is R.G.
Harvey, for "The Crows Nest Railway," which
appeared in BC Historical News, Vol. 36:4.
Editor's Note: A big thank you to Pixie McGeachie
who served along with Jack Roff as the judges
for the Best Article Award. Jack passed away in
December 2004 and Pixie was the "panel of
judge" for this year's choice. With Jack's passing,
Pixie has decided to hand the judging duties to
new volunteers and she noted "I'm sure there
will be no difficulty finding BCHF members who
would enjoy the job just as I have." And
Jacqueline Gresko has been recruiting a new
panel for 2005. •
Railway Heritage
submitted by Naomi Miller
The Canadian Museum of Rail Travel
in Cranbrook hosted a gathering on January
28, 2005 in their beautiful Royal Alexandra
Hall. The purpose of the meeting was to create
recognition of nationally significant collections
of railway artifacts, and possibly to open the
door for federal funding. Bev Oda,
Conservative Heritage Critic, intended to be
present but weather cancelled her flight. Jim
Abbott, MP for Columbia-Revelstoke,
promised to take recommendations to the
Heritage Committee in Ottawa.
Lyle Burge of the Canadian Council
for Rail Heritage based in Calgary spoke of
the twenty-seven volunteer groups who
have saved railway heritage items in
collections across the country. These very
large artifacts are gradually deteriorating
because they stand outdoors exposed to the
changes in weather. To attempt a centralized
railway museum in Ottawa would be
impractical but surely federal funds could
be channelled to assist with the high cost of
maintaining conservation standards. One
speaker noted that there is a Federal Arts
Endowment which assists groups by matching
funds raised locally to a maximum of $1 or $2
million. Perhaps it would be possible for the
Federal Heritage Committee to set aside a pot
of money similarly assist preservation of
Canada's Railway Heritage? •


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