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British Columbia, Canada
History of Kimberley


A Salute to Kimberley

And so it was in the beginning...

Since there isn’t anyone alive to account for all of the facts and discoveries that occurred in the late 1800’s and there wasn’t a local newspaper being printed a local writer, and the Kimberley museum has summarized for us the important facts that has lead to where we are today.

The story began in 1892 with the discovery of high grade ores, rich in silver and lead. The results were the making of small towns and smelters throughout the Kootenays when traveling between towns was very rugged.

1896

A gentleman by the name of William Ridpath. a spokane lawyer invested heavily in several Kootenay mining ventures and was among one of the first backers of the fabulous LeRoi Mine at Rossland. Ridpath was said to have renamed a huddle of tents at Mark Creek Crossing because he hoped the camp would have the same luck as the South African centre "Kimberley." Ridpath was to have said to have paid $24,000 for the Sullivan. There was also a tale of a Mr McArthur who grubstaked with Mr. Pat Sullivan who apparently was said to have died three years earlier. Being one of the four men who discovered the Sullivan Mine he stated that he woke up and counted a dozen tents back in 1892. They had made an important discovery then and there was where he picked up a piece of a wooden box and wrote "Kimberley Camp" on it and nailed in on a tree beside the fire.

1898-1899

The original townsite of Kimberley was surveyed by Thomas T and A.S. McVittie of Fort Steele and subdivided into lots. The boundary of Townsite at this time was Leadenhall (South), to Jennings Ave (East) to North Star (west).

The St.Mary’s Wagon road to Matthew creek was put in.

The North Star Hotel was built and the owner was Harry Drew. Drew owned the hotel from 1898 to 1910, and was quite a character. People said he was the most colorful man to move into the area at the time. In his hotel the saloon section never closed its doors and it ran 24 hours a day with three shifts of barkeeps. Harry Webster Drew studied law and self defense back in Boston where he grew up. He worked out as a sparring partner for such men as James J Jeifries who became the world’s heavyweight champion and Tom Sharkley. When he had to handle roughnecks, a class that seemed to patronize saloons in that era his fists could tell a story. At the saloon you could play slot machines, both mills big six and the dime jackpot type, plus poker, blackjack and dice games ran full blast. Harry Drew stood 6 foot tall and weighed about 190 lbs. wore a large mustache, drove a Cadillac and was well respected. Legend has it that when he moved from Boston he was friends with a Mr. Stoper who owned a hotel in High River. Alberta. They moved the hotel from High River to Cranbrook when the railway came through and rebuilt on Baker Street in Cranbrook to be known as "The Manitoba." In the meantime with the discovery of the Northstar and the Sullivan properties Drew and Stoper moved to Kimberley and built the Northstar Hotel. Harry Drew lived a life of riley until prohibition came in. Leaving him with a stake to the value of $5000.00 and his doors closed to the public. This broke his heart. Drew then moved to the coast where in a few short years he died of just that.

Hotels built around this time were The Spokane which went up in smoke as did the Forsythe Hotel, The Jones and Finch went for a ride to Marysville and back to be known as the Falls View. The Ontario hotel was built by Jim Carroll and went for taxes in 1914 as did The Kimberley as well.

The townsite of Marysville was staked out in 1894 by Bill Meacham who was one of the first trapper prospectors to settle around Mark Creek. Until 1903 the total settlement in the new townsite consisted of three or four shacks. The smelter was built for the treatment of ore being mined at the Sullivan and North Star, a short distance north. With the start of the smelter, Marysville was booming. Stores were built and the "Marysville News" started and hotels were constructed.

1900 to 1910

Prospectors Ed Smith, John Cleaver, Pat Sullivan and Walter Burchett who are now peacefully resting at the St. Mary’s Mission, were gathering supplies after a very rugged overland trip from Kootenay Lake and decided to stop and see the finds at the North Star. They couldn’t - believe what lay betore them - rich ore lay in cuts on the surtace. With great enthusiasm and excitement the men then set out to explore the slope on the other side of the creek. Pat and Ed went along the creek while Walter picked up a piece of "float" and to his amazement noticed a great rust stain "ORE?’ And this was the discovery that built Kimberley into a town. Unfortunately only in Walter Burchett’s later years did he learn the tremendous extent of the discovery. The others died without really knowing their find was to become "the big one."

The first log cabin school was built in 1900 where the Elks hall is today and the second built at the North Star mine and in 1904. The third school in Kimberley was built and was a small white structure where the Cominco General office is today. A tramway was eventually built at the Sullivan to carry the ore from the Top Mine 1 1/2 miles down the mountain side to the creek bottom.

From 1900 to 1910

Kimberley became a small mining town and for the most part the activity was high on the top of Sullivan Hill and across Mark Creek at the North Star. An aerial tramway was built to carry the ore on the North Star, earlier on the ore was raw-hided down the mountain by horses. There were no fancy buildings at this time as that was a huge expense in those days.

Some said that Moyie and St. Eugene were very rich and the gold found in the Wildhorse and Perry Creek had great tales to tell. The greatest talk at this time was the find at the North Star. This was the jewel that brought the many prospectors and miners to a small valley that was to be known as "Mark Creek Crossing."

A branch of the CPR rail line was brought to Kimberley from Cranbrook over the St. Mary’s River near the mouth of Perry Creek. With the railway moving in, The McGinty trail that ran down the North Star and through the middle of town was terminated. At the time The Sullivan Mine employed only 35 men.

Hotels - The Marysville Hotel (1900-1903) was lost to fire and not rebuilt at this time. The central hotel (1903) later owned by the Bird Brothers which was used as a hall and Centre for village activity. The Royal Hotel (1904) burned in 1908 and was rebuilt and then burned once again. The Falls View Hotel (1900’s-1906) first was in Kimberley then moved to Marysville and then back to Kimberley became a furniture store in the location of Howard Street. Saloon’s never closed, they were wide open barring slot machines, poker tables and at the time the smallest coins were nickels and strange enough at the time it was illegal to sit down.

By 1901, Kimberley housed 41 people and hotels, the post office and buildings were being constructed. Down in Marysville the excitement of the start of a mining smelter was in the works. The Sullivan Mine workings were just below the surface and they were so irregular as to defy any written descriptions. While at The North Star it was getting thin and clean up had begun.

In 1905 the North Star was almost abandoned and the Stemwinder came into the picture. With the ore at the Sullivan, low grade iron and some zinc the total tonnage was thought to be around 25,000 tons of reserves. There didn’t seem to be a future! The ore was weak and hard to handle at the Smelter in Marysville and the chances of it being a big producer was very small.

Between 1906 and 1907 Charlie Gaskill logged The Stemwinder and only took the cream of the crop. Earlier he logged the North Star. In 1909 the Taylor Lumber Company who saw some valuable timber left, moved in. They logged Blarchmont Park, adjacent to Morrison Sub as far south as Chapman Camp and Cherry Creek. They employed about 40 men at the time. There was more activity at the Taylor’s Mill because the Sullivan Mine was shut down in 1908. Prices were good. The mill was where the old trestles were at the now city works yard.

In 1907 the smelter shut down and was closed by 1908.

In 1909 the consolidated (CM&S Company) took option on the Sullivan mine property, no ore was shipped and the North Star and Sullivan Mine were shut down. Prices for lead and silver were low. Time had stopped.

In 1910 there was no ore shipped and the CM&S Company purchased The Sullivan Mine for $200,000 dollars.

As we watch The City of Kimberley grow in the year 2000 certain areas around the mining town have historical values. Around the turn of the century (1900-1925) the town started to unfold.

Wallinger Avenue

Wallinger Avenue was named after Mr. N.A. Wallinger, gold commissioner, Government Agent and MLA of Cranbrook. In 1915, times were tough in the East Kootenays and employment was slim with many worked for board alone. Wallinger said, "No one is going to go hungry as long as he was a government agent." He even wrote out cheques for citizens to cover groceries. Wallinger Avenue which runs from the now Centennial Hall to the top of Blarchmont hill was just an old rutted road and not used very much. At the time there was only one building as it came to an abrupt end at Spokane St. From there to the creek was nothing but swamp and when the avenue was extended into upper Blarchmont in 1922 it was nothing but mud and water.

In 1909 the Taylor Lumber Company logged the upper Blarchmont area.

A few interesting tidbits of historical value:

  • the first church in Kimberley was the Methodist church which burned in 1911.

  • the first settler was rancher Robert Jennings

  • the first street was Spokane Street

  • the first store was Mr. & Mr.’s Estmere’s (Mark Creek Mall)

  • the first picture show was at Handley’s Hall

  • the first post office was beside the Black Forest Haus of Gifts on Spokane St. (1903)

  • the first hospital was opposite The Company General office

  • another hospital was at the tunnel on 3900 level/bunkhouse (1917)

  • the first Bank was "Bank of Montreal" (1919)

  • the first car was owned by Mr. Handley a Model T Ford

  • the second car was owned by Harry Drew, a cadillac the proprietor of North Star Hote

  • the third car was owned by Alex Taylor a ford

  • the first real ice surface was at the top of the mine tennis court(1917)

In 1911 the Mark Creek dam was built and the 1st of July celebrations were started on Spokane Street.

The Handley’s old home was at the rear of The Canadian Hotel and was thought to be Kimberley’s oldest building. The Handley’s lived there at the turn of the century and had two teams hauling ore from The North Star.

July 1913 the festivities started in Kimberley with various events being held for the community with prizes of $3.00 for 1st, $2.00 for 2nd and $1.00 for 3rd. Events such as standing long jump, running long jump and married ladies race, singles, egg and spoon races, sack races, shoveling, chopping, sawing, ball games, dances, and the fat man’s race.

By 1912 Tommy Evans doused the coal-oil lamps and brought Kimberley its first spark of electricity.

In 1912 the Marysville bridge was the only crossing over Mark Creek with the exception of the bridge to the North Star Mine and the road for Black Bear to Marysville was opened and in later years ski jumping was big at Blarchmont.

Meadowbrook was named in 1914

The name Meadowbrook came from a Mrs. Clarence Connover who named the Connover homestead "Meadowbrook Ranch" the name applies to the whole area now. It was logged off by the Otis Staples Lumber Company of Wycliffe in 1906, 1907 by camp #4.

The first settlers in the area were the Connovers, Flemings, Houles, John Louis and Paul, with Douglass, Carl Quick and Jack Dobson. Most houses were log at the time and the first school was built and the teachers name was Miss I.S. MacKenzie.

Mr. Eimer a recent arrival in 1914 took over 160 acres with a lake on the bench. His homestead was back towards the hill on the present site of Higgins Street. It was known as "Frenchtown" because of all the french people living there. There was protection there from strong winds and the crops were abundant.

In 1916 the first flood of Mark Creek occurred flooding most of the downtown area.

On Marsden avenue Ed London owned a ranch with 2 1/2 to 3 acres of fertile land. When the creek changed course in 1916, Londons land was sold to the North Star. Cominco fenced it in around 1922 and used it as a hog pen for about 45 to 50 hogs at a time. The pork was used in the meals for the construction men in camp.

In 1917 there were four or five stores in Kimberley proper and a bunkhouse and cookhouse were built by the 3900 level of the Sullivan Mine and was used as a temporary hospital during the Spanish flu epidemic which was disastrous. The flu killed 25 to 30 million people throughout the world. It was the most deadly epidemic of the 20th century. Even the Stanley Cup finals were cancelled. Joe Hall of The Montreal Canadians died of the deadly flu. More than 3,000 people in BC also died.

By 1918 400 people were residing in Kimberley and the metallurgy of the Sullivan Mine ore was being solved. The superintendent of The Sullivan at the time was EG Montgomery.

Harry Gamble was the underground manager at The Sullivan Mine and his daughter Lois died of the flu epidemic. The Lois Creek Lake and subdivision were named after her.

1919 brought a serious forest fire which was in full force on Sullivan Hill and the north Star. A train was sent to Cranbrook and the town was evacuated. This was not a good year for Kimberley, the forest tire, the flu and The Sullivan Mine was on strike.

The OBU was formed in 1919 (one big union) and the "The Bank of Montreal" was the first bank to open.

The 1st ordained minister in Kimberley was Rev. Stanley Redman and the first Sunday school started in 1919.

The hospital was in the present home of Mr. C. Crisford operated by Dr. Hanningtion opposite the Company General office.

Spokane Street

Was the heart of the business section of Kimberley and still is to this day. Spokane Street was the main road used by the North Star Mine using horses and wagons via The McGinty road built in 1895. The only buildings on Spokane St. south were the North Star Hotel, The Mark Creek Store, The Forteith Cafe and the lock-up near the McGinty road. An old sidewalk went down the North Star Hotel now the Golden Inn Chinese restaurant with the Miners hail at the end.

1920

Down in Kimberley proper the new Mark Creek store opened. The name Blarchmont was introduced after Blaylock, Archibald and Montgomery. A curling rink was built in Townsite where the vacant lot is across from the townsite grocery and a public school was built across from the St. Andrew’s Presbyterian church.

By 1920, the Cominco chemists had solved the Sullivan ore problem.

Organized hockey was formed with seven man teams who played the entire game with 60 minutes of playing time and leagues had begun with rivalries from Wycliffe, Cranbrook and Lumberton.

Up on McDougall 2nd and 3rd avenues were cleared and homes were started to be built.

1921

Blarchmont up until 1921 was a logged off area when construction for homes began.

It was told that the first person to grow up in Kimberley was Nel Tofett. The first power line was strung to McDougall Townsite & wiring commenced. East Kootenay Power turned on November 5, 1922 with 18 customers.

In 1922 the 1st Catholic church was built at the corner of Wallinger and Howard street, the now site of the Kimberley hotel parking lot, it was destroyed by fire. This was succeeded by the Presbyterian church on the same site. The present Catholic church was built in 1927-28.

Chapman Camp was named when construction started in 1922 on the concentrator and began when Bill Lindsay sent ED Houle and his gang started to clear the site. Paul Louis was the blaster, A.A. Watkins and A. Spinks, Jack Dobson, George Frieake, Ira Foster, Jack Kavanagh, Gus Soderholm. John Pighan and Wilfred Houle formed the group.. In 1922, F. Chapman was superintendent at the mine at the time. A cow-trail was put in from the concentrator to Taylor’s Mill. A cookhouse and dining room were run with Sid Johnston and Mark Beduz as cooks accompanied by 10 assistants. 450 men were then hired, 56 bunkhouses accommodating 5 men each, and a rampasture was built to make room for 100 more men. A hall was built, to house the McKay’s Commanders orchestra with Albert Hild on the violin, Vic Hild on the banjo, Marg McKay on the piano, Doug Dunlop on the sax, Fred Webber on the trombone and Jack Evans on Percussion.

Tommy Ellison was the postmaster at the time.

The field at Chapman camp was built and the trestle at Taylor’s Mill was constructed.

In 1923 six homes were built on 2nd avenue at town-site and the Kimberley Hospital was built. Lights and power became a reality in Kimberley & Blarchmont.

The government liquor store opened with a vendor by the name of Mr. Gougeon who passed away in 1928 and Grennie Musser took his place.

The Sullivan concentrator was completed in 1923 and this was the big break for Kimberley and the entire east Kootenay.

Baseball was at the village green and in 1924 football was introduced in Kimberley.

Around 1924 there was the beginning of a football league in Chapman camp and The Orpheum theatre was built on Spokane Street at the old Reddy’ s furniture store.

Shacks and tents sprung up all over. The company built six houses in 1923 on 2nd avenue. The camp was surveyed and built into avenues and streets. Mel O’Brien who was assistant superintendent built an outdoor rink at the right of the tracks going up the concentrator hill. The first shacks were occupied by Joe Harris (master pipefitter for the water works in camp), Mark Brooks, Dunc Robertson, Nick McKenzie, Harold Andrews and Ross Doran.

Sis Young was the first girl born there and Dunc Robertson Jr. was the first boy. The first baby to live in camp was Mrs. Ross Doran. Early settlers in 1922-23 were Laughie McKay, Howard Douglas, LE Herchenier, Jack Hargreaves, Joe Thompson, Tom Crossley, Bill Angrove and George James.

At the time Oughtred hall (1925-1952) had badminton, basketball, bowling, billiards meeting rooms and confectionery. There was a curling rink, ball diamond, football field, skating rink, swimming pool and ski jump.

The school was built in Chapman camp and a new bridge over Mark creek at Wallinger, the Elks lodge began as well as the opening of the Kimberley Golf club with N.W. Burdett as president.

At the time a lot in Chapman camp was $1.00 each ( 95’ x 75’)

New homes were being built in Townsite with boulevards and trees.

Rotary Drive was a long and desolate road, no lights or bushes on either side. The only piece of the old road is between the city works yard and the sully hotel, it crossed the tracks at the city works. The Lois Creek was flumed down and emptied into the Taylor’s Mill pond.

I have scanned in the rest of this publication in images for you to read here


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