Mining Book Offers Hidden Gems

Posted by Daniel on Dec 9, 2009 - 4 comments

Chuck Davis writes:

I’ve just finished reading a little book published in 1968 and titled Mining in Focus by the late Bruce Ramsey. It’s subtitled An Illustrated History of Mining in British Columbia. It’s inexpensively produced, has no page numbers and no index, but what it does have in its approximately 150 pages is hundreds of photographs of BC mining camps, townsites, prospectors, geologists, investors and the like, spanning the years from 1835 to 1967.

You could read the entire text of the book in less than half an hour, but the value I found in it was its mention of people and places that I could then research in more detail on the Internet. For example, Ramsey makes a brief reference to a Slocan prospector named Eli Carpenter who had once been a circus tightrope walker. That piqued my curiosity and led me to a web site where I found this: “In later years, Eli Carpenter ran a pack train between the mines and area towns, and also built a hotel in the neighboring community of Three Forks. On May 24, 1897, he astonished the entire Slocan district when, in order to win a bar bet, he walked blindfolded across a tightrope strung across Slocan City's main street, then doubled his winnings by stopping to cook bacon and eggs on a stove halfway across! By September of that year, Carpenter had departed for the goldfields of the Klondike, where he reportedly died a year later.”

And a reference to the Dewdney Trail being extended to Wild Horse Creek led to this Internet discovery: “In the early days of the Wild Horse goldrush the majority of trade at Kootenay was handled by the merchants of Walla Walla, Washington. Supply centres in the northwestern United States could provide goods quicker and more easily than their Canadian competitors. Geography often hampered trade from Vancouver and Victoria, since crossing many mountain ranges between the coast and interior of British Columbia proved quite difficult and costly.

“Under government contract, construction of the Dewdney Trail was undertaken in 1865 in order to provide coastal British Columbia merchants with access to the lucrative Kootenay market. The trail cut through the wilderness from Hope to Fisherville providing a route to Wild Horse Creek solely on Canadian soil. With the work of four section crews, Dewdney pushed the trail-building through rough and often inhospitable terrain. For the section from Fort Shepherd to Christina Lake Dewdney hired a crew comprised completely of Chinese labourers. He made sure, however, that this crew was kept separate from his three white crews in order to avoid any racial disturbance . . .

“Completed by Edgar Dewdney at a cost of $74,000, the trail came into service in September of 1865.”