Ghost Town: Rock Creek And The Rebellian
It all started in 1858 when two American soldiers stationed at Fort Colville were sent to Seattle on a mission. Instead of going straight to Seattle through Indian country they went north and then west to avoid any conflict with the Indians. At that time the American-Canadian border was not clearly marked. The two Americans came across a creek near the Kettle River, tried their hand at panning and discovered coarse gold. After a few days of panning they headed to Seattle. On their way they met a Canadian prospector named Adam Beame (Beaur) who was on his way to the Fraser River gold rush. The Americans told Beame about their find on what they called York Creek (one of the American's surname) and drew Beame a map to what they called Soldiers Crossing. In 1859 Beame found this creek and was panning up to an ounce of gold per day. He also changed the name to Soldiers Bar and called the creek Rock Creek (the banks of the creek were all rock).
British Columbia was only one year old at the time of the gold discovery and American miners tried to claim this area as part of the United States. This prompted the construction of the Dewdney Trail to separate the new colony from the United States.
In May of 1860 Beame was back at Rock Creek, and, according to records, he recovered almost one thousand dollars worth of gold in just six weeks. Within weeks there were hundreds of miners with their tents in the Rock Creek area. At the same time many of the gold diggers were heading to the Fraser River Rush. They had no idea that gold had been discovered in another part of the country. But that all changed when the Victoria Colonist reported that the miners were recovering up to $100.00 a day from the new diggings. By August of the same year more than five hundred men were working the creek and the river. At the peak of the gold rush there were as many as 5,000 prospectors along the creek.
Governor James Douglas soon got word that the miners of Rock Creek were causing trouble. He knew that lawlessness was part of normal daily life in American camps, but that type of behavior would not be tolerated on British soil. Since the camp consisted of mostly Americans and Chinese, the Governor decided to take a trip to Rock Creek. In September of 1860 Douglas made his way to Fort Hope, and then the long journey to Rock Creek. When Douglas arrived in Rock Creek all of the miners refused to meet him, so he arranged a meeting to listen to the miners complaints. When the time came some 300 miners packed into a small partially constructed saloon. After listening to their complaints the Governor promised to look into all of their complaints and also build a wagon road from Fort Hope to Rock Creek. Douglas then addressed why he had come, and told the miners that they would all be treated fairly, but they had to have respect for British authority. If they didn't behave themselves he threatened to bring in 500 soldiers into the area. He then introduced William Cox, a gold commissioner, and outlined his authority. John Haynes was also appointed as Cox's deputy. Most of the miners were not licensed under the Gold Fields Act of British Columbia, and the majority had not paid any import duties on their animals. The office that Cox and Haynes set up in Rock Creek was the first Customs Service Office outside the colonial capital of New Westminster.
Rock Creek became a peaceful mining camp after Douglas left. Cox watched Adam Beame wash out $65 worth of gold in a day and then loose it all at the gambling tables at night. Cox then gave the professional gamblers 10 days to leave town. By now the town of Rock Creek consisted of 25 houses and businesses. June and July of 1860 saw hundreds more prospectors arrive. At this point there were two salons, a hotel, butcher shop and five stores. During the 16 months that Cox was in charge of the camp, only one crime was committed. A man was guilty of theft and was run out of town. A murder was committed about 6 miles from Rock Creek (an Indian had stabbed a Frenchman and threw the corpse into the creek). At that time there was no judge or jury to deal with the case, so when the Indian confessed to others of the murder he was turned over to the chief in Osoyoos. He was then turned over to the American vigilantes who gave him their own brand of justice (the nearest pine tree). Around the same time Edgar Dewdney was building the Dewdney Trail from Fort Hope through Rock Creek and onto Fort Steele. By the time Edger and his crew made their way to Rock Creek in August of 1861 the Boom was a bust and most of the buildings were abandoned.
Rock Creek managed to survive, not only because of the placer activity, but because of the increase in travelers using the Dewdney Trail. Outposts were then set up by Cox and Haynes on the Similkameen to tax the cattle herds that were moving into the district. In March 1862 Cox was assigned to the Caribou district and Haynes was left to close down the Rock Creek Office. In 1866 fire almost wiped out the whole town. Most of the businesses and residences were rebuilt. In 1886 the Laura Hydraulic Company of Vancouver decided to use high pressure pumps to wash the gravel bars. Four years later they found enough gold to go broke. In April of 1897 the Times announced that a 160-acre parcel of land had been reserved as a government town site. The Madge family built a hotel in 1898 and in 1905 the VV&E build their railroad through Myers Creek and left a shed for Rock Creek about two miles from the town. During the building of Jim Hill's Great Northern Railway a bad weed was brought in with the feed for the horses. It was called the tumbling mustard, the locals called it "Jim Hill Mustard".
In 1899 Rock Creek was in the news when a stagecoach was robbed. The Snodgrass Stage, driven by Joe Snodgrass on route to Penticton was robbed at gunpoint near Kennedy Creek. In 1901 another incident occurred at the Riverside Hotel when two masked men robbed it of $450 in bills and a number of cheques. The cheques were no good to the robbers so they told the proprietors that they would leave the cheques a few hundred yards from the Hotel and they could pick them up in the morning. Well the cheques were there but the robbers got away. The description of the robbers was the same as that of the stagecoach robbery.
The Kettle River Railroad laid its tracks through Rock Creek on February 8, 1911. Although the railroad was on the opposite side of the river a bridge soon connected the community with the new station. Rock Creek never experienced the boom and bust cycle like many other towns ( with the exception of 1860) in the Boundary. Some towns of 10 times the population of Rock Creek died and others are hanging by a thread. Rock Creek seems to venture forward as it has always done. There was no great inflow of residence, no major business activity, but just a steady flow of people and businesses.
In September of 1958 a memorial cairn, part of BC Centennial, was dedicated on the banks of Rock Creek to the miners that made the Creek famous. It contains a time capsule which will be opened in 2058.
Remains of an old sawmill
Taken from Rock Creek Historic Park
Rock Creek Hotel The Second Oldest in the Province
Trans Canada Trail
The small community of Riverside was located about one mile down river from Rock Creek. There was a hotel owned by Sam Larsen, a hall, blacksmith shop owned and operated by Bill O'Donnel and later the Edelweiss Motel. Since Rock Creek had a railway station that's where the action was, so it wasn't long before Riverside only had the blacksmith shop until Mr. O'Donnel retired.
Ghost Town: Riverside
Kettle Valley is located about 3 miles east of Rock Creek. Mostly British Army Veterans lived here in the early years. A flume was built from Rock Creek to Kettle Valley, and many fruit trees were planted in hopes producing large fruit crops, but the winters were too cold for the trees to survive and the project was abandoned.
Early School House in the Kettle Valley
Modern School in Kettle Valley
Kettle Valley Golf Club, the oldest in BC
During the railway boom Myncaster had a customs office, a railway station (complete with a section crew), a hotel, school, store, and several residences. The post office was opened in 1907 and was closed in 1931. It is said that the town got its name from the McMynn family who owned land and a store in Midway.
The little town of Myncaster was situated near the international border about five miles south of Rock Creek and was the result of the Great Northern Railway. GN built a station and a spur line to Chesaw, just a few miles across the border. Besides farming there was a lot of mining in the Chesaw area so a lot of ore was shipped from Myncaster to a stamp mill at Camp McKenney. In 1935 GN stopped operating and a gate was locked on the border. The gate would be open once a year for the rodeo in Chesaw. In its heyday GN had two trains coming through Myncaster, one in the morning and one in the evening.
Ghost Town: Myncaster
Taken from Rock Creek Historic Park
The Britannia Mine
The Britannia Mining and Smelting Company commenced mining in the early 1900s, and owned the site for the next sixty years. The first ore was shipped to the Crofton Smelter on Vancouver Island in 1904, and the mine achieved full production in 1905. On January 1st 1907 the first Post Office was opened, and the mining town grew. On March 21, an avalanche destroyed the Jane Camp. Sixty men, women and children were killed. The town was rebuilt on a safer site at the 2000 foot level above the Britannia Beach site. The new community became known as the "Town Site" or "Mount Sheer". By 1916 the mill processed 2000 tons of ore per day. In March of 1921 mill #2 burnt to the ground.
After a full day of rain on October 28, 1921 a massive flood destroyed most of the community and mining operations on the lower beach area. Thirty-seven men, women and children lost their lives along with fifty homes. The flood was caused by a dam that burst on a creek that was built during the construction of the railway. The community was rebuilt with a new mill #3 which still stands today.
Britannia Beach and Mount Sheer could only be accessed by boat. Facilities in both towns included, libraries, club rooms, billiard & bowling rooms, swimming pools, theater and community halls. The mine boomed in the 1920's and 1930's. In 1929 the mine was the largest producer in the British Commonwealth. In 1956 a railway was built from Vancouver which made it easier to transport the copper and 2 years later a highway was built. In 1963 the Montana based Anaconda Mining Co. bought the property, but high operating costs and taxes forced the mine to close in November of 1974. Soon after the mine shut down the towns people left and the rail station also closed. During the 70-year history of the mine, 60,000 people have called Britannia their home.
Since environmental laws were not enforced the company did not attempt to clean up the mine and chemical wastes. Run-off that flowed through the tunnels combined with oxygen and high sulfide content created a condition called "acid rock drainage". The polluted run off was being deposited directly into Howe Sound via Jane Creek and Britannia Creek. Over one thousand pounds of copper was entering Howe Sound per day. Over a mile of costal waters was polluted affecting over 4.5 million fish.
In the summer of 2001 the Province of British Columbia announced a large scale treatment plant to neutralize the run-off coming from the mine, but did not become fully operational until 2006. The University of British Columbia also installed a concrete plug in the 2,200 foot level adit to stop the pollution from entering Jane Creek. Pink salmon and other species of fish returned to Britannia Creek for the first time in 2011.
The area around Britannia Beach was known as the "worst point source of mineral contamination in North America" by the Federal Environment Ministry.
Here is where # 2 Mill once stood
1981 Suzuki LJ80
In 1965 Suzuki built it's first 4x4 truck with another Japanese Company called The Hope Motor Company. The Hope Star had no doors and was powered by a 21 hp air cooled Mitsubishi two-stroke engine. In 1968 Suzuki purchased the production rights for the Hope Star and built the LJ10. The LJ10 was powered by a 25hp two-stroke two cylinder engine. Top speed was 45 mph. In 1974 the LJ50 was born (Jimmy 550 and SJ10). The LJ50 had a three cylinder two-stroke water cooled engine that produced 33hp. The LJ50 had a top speed of 60 mph but was still under powered by American standards. The LJ80 was built in 1977 and was the last of the LJ series. A new engine for the LJ80 was a four cylinder, four stroke water cooled which produced 41 hp (800cc). LJ80 stood for Lite Jeep 800cc.
Building new fenders
Click to watch a video on the Suzuki LJ80
Here is a video on the Britannia Mine
Mrs. Gillespie and her husband operated a road house in 1890. A resting place for travelers with a stable and a salon.
In 1905 the VV&E (Victoria, Vancouver and Eastern) were looking for a path to build their railway past the Anarchist and into the Okanagan. They looped their-right-of-way up the west side of Baker Creek. On the highest of the loop the town of Maud sprang up. In 1906 David McBride built a hotel and Joe Frank opened a general store. A water tank and water supply was built by the GNR to supply their engines. Since McBride owned the water rights on the creek it was agreed that water would be supplied to the hotel and other buildings. In 1908 the Post Office Maud was changed to Bridesville. The first school in Bridesville was built around 1900.
McBride brought the bar for his hotel from the "Bucket of Blood' hotel in Camp McKenney. The bar was built of local Tamarac. The front was whipsawed lumber and the top was hand hewn which had been planed down and polished. The 'Bucket of Blood' hotel in Camp McKenney got its name from the fact that there was a fight in the hotel every night.
The settlers in the Bridesville area, being close to the international border, had many friends and worked together with farmers in Molson, Washington. Molson was a larger center which catered to a much larger farming community, which drew many customers from the Canadian side. Many times farmers from either side would help each other when they needed help especially at threshing time. You had to get permission to take animals or machinery across the border. If they weren't allowed to take their separators across to help their neighbor, they would park the thresher parallel to the border, and the Canadians would feed the bundles from the Canadian side and the blower would blow the straw back to the Canadian side.
With the railroad passing near Bridesville it was a lot easier shipping cattle, hay, grain and other goods to market. In 1921 a sawmill was built near the town to provide the railroad with ties and timber. Due to the high cost of maintaining the railroad from Orville to Molson GN suspended service in 1927. By 1935 they abandoned the line west of Curlew leaving Bridesville with nothing but a dusty gravel road, the forerunner of the Crowsnest Highway. In 1953 fire destroyed the hotel and the nearby dancehall. In 1972 the general store burned to the ground, leaving Bridesville with only a few residences.
Taken from The Rock Creek Historic Park
Taken from Rock Creek Historic Park
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