COPPER MEANT “WORK AND WAGES”
For many years the prosperity of our valley was reflected in the rise and fall of copper prices on the stock market. The period of copper mining in Similkameen came to an end in 1957. There is still abundance of copper in the earth. How long it will be before copper mining is resumed depends on many factors, including supply and demand, and a return of conditions which make production profitable. Copper mining has employed as many men in the valley as gold mining. Copper and Kennedy mountains, Hope Trail, etc. – but only at Copper Mountain did large-scale production take place.
Allison had noted copper on the Hope Trail in 1859 and later located claims in the vicinity. Kennedy Mountain was named for a prospector who died in 1933. Hugh Kennedy belonged to the Robert Dick and Thomas Edward type made famous by Samuel Smiles a generation ago. Kennedy’s shack was little more than a place to keep fossils and curios of every kind. Kennedy and McDiarmid located in 1897, E.E. Burr and L.H. Jones in 1898, and George Allison staked the Red Buck in 1899.
Copper Mountain is ten miles south of Princeton, and is reached by a twelve-mile road. There was a KVR branch line running south along the Similkameen to the primary crushing plant. The railway passed through the Allenby mill-site at 5.5 miles south of Princeton, and continued 7.7 miles to base of Copper Mountain, which lies between the Similkameen River to the west and Wolfe Creek to the east.
The valleys of the Similkameen River and its tributaries are separated from each other by founded mountains covered with fir and pine. There is an absence of peaks in this part of the interior plateau which rises from the depression (2000 ft) around Princeton to 4,000 ft. at Copper Mountain, and to 6000 ft. where it merges with the rugged Cascades.
Various dates have been given for the discovery of rich ore at Copper Mountain, but in “Geology and Mineral Deposits of the Princeton map-area, British Columbia” (Geological Survey memoir 243, Ottawa, 1947), H.M.A. Rice states (p. 82) that the “first discovery of copper ore was made by a trapper in 1884, but it was not until 1892 that the showing was staked by R.A. Brown. In 1900 the Sunset Copper Company was formed to explore the claims, and in 1905 the property was optioned by F. Keffer, who formed the South Yale Copper Company.”
LIKE FATHER LIKE SON
The trapper referred to in the above quotation was James Joseph Jameson, senior, who was born in Kentucky of English and Swedish parents in 1828. Coming to Canada, he settled first in the North Thompson country then in Similkameen, where he died on 18 June, 1891 in his 64th year. He is remembered as farmer, prospector, trapper, packer and hunter. Of the ten children born to Mr. and Mrs. Jameson (senior) there is (so far as we know) only one survivor; Amanda (Mrs. Duncan McIntyre) known as “Mandy.” For many years the McIntyres lived at East Princeton, where the sawmill is now. Walter Jameson who was blind, died in 1946. Bob (Robert Edward Lee Jameson) died on 3 May, 1951, and his elder brother, James Joseph (junior) died at the coast, on 29 July, 1951 and was buried in the Jameson cemetery off the old Hedley road just east of the Art Shenton Ranch.
James Joseph, junior, was born north of Kamloops on 27 August, 1864. The family moved to Similkameen in 1882 and settled on the site now occupied by Atkinson’s dairy. In his prime, James stood six feet, two inches and weighed 220 lbs. Like his father before him, the son learned the ways of the hills, and was often employed as a packer. He learned to know of hidden wealth in the hills and claimed to have discovered gold at Granite Creek ten years before the big rush was started by John Chance in 1885. He used to maintain that he was 18 years old when he and his father discovered ore at Copper Mountain. This would make the date of discovery 1882, two years earlier than the date given by Mr. Rice.
The two Jamesons (James Joseph – father and son) went hunting one day. They had new rifles and were anxious to test them. According to the story told by the son, both the hunters spotted a deer at the same time: both fired, both hit, and the deer went down. Then they proceeded without haste to where the deer lay. Just as they neared it, the deer jumped to its feet, and bounded into the woods. They never saw it again, but at the spot where the deer had fallen the father recognized a greenish tinge in the rock, and was wise enough to know that it suggested copper. Such is the story, as told to the writer by the younger of the co-discoverers of copper at Copper Mountain.
In 1917, when living in Hedley the son was married to Miss Elsie Bryant, who survived him. Miss Bryant’s father William Bryant, had the old Similkameen hotel at Hedley. It was built in 1904 and destroyed by fire in February, 1916. When the writer came to Princeton in 1927, the Jamesons were living in the big house (formerly a hotel) on the Ashnola townsite. After it was burned down in November, 1946, the Jamesons moved to East Princeton.
If there be some doubt regarding date of discovery, there need be no doubt as to date of recording, for we have documentary evidence of this. We have field notes of “Lot 1077, being Sunset mineral claim…surveyed by Chas. De Blois Green for R.A. Brown,” often referred to as “Sunset Brown.” The record appears under “Lands & Works Department, Victoria, 26 August, 1898.”
“The length of the claim is 1500 feet. The claim was located on the 28th day of Oct., 1892. Recorded this 30th day of October, 1892.” The survey was begun on 13th and completed on 14th May, 1898. A number of claims were recorded by James Jameson and R.A. Brown. Brown was interested in furs and visited Jameson periodically. It was in this way that he learned of Jameson’s copper discoveries, and became interested in mineral claims in the vicinity. The Sunset was the first claim located on Copper Mountain. The names of other claims soon became familiar: Helen H. Gardiner (Charles Saunders and partners, owners), Oriol (French, Day, Almond, owners), Jennie Silkman (French and Day), King Solomon (Snowden and Burr), Holdfast, Vancouver, Sunrise, Copper Farm, Princess May, Red Eagle, Triangle, A a P. (Charlie Willarson, Johnson, Cramer and Morrison).
The South Yale Copper Company for a time concentrated on the Voigt Camp, and in 1911 renewed their option on the Copper Mountain properties. In the 1910 Report of the Minister of Mines for B.C., p. 224 we read that “Copper Mountain has been extensively prospected by the B.C. Copper Company,” and that the camp has progressed little since it was reported on by Mr. Robertson in 1901. At the Mountain and at Voigt’s Camp development work continued by means of diamond drilling, open cuts, trenching, tunnelling and shallow shafts.
At various times a number of companies took options on Emil Voigt’s properties, but no purchase was effected. It is common report that Voigt was offered large sums for his claims, but offers never equalled demands. Their dreams were never realized, for Mr. and Mrs. Voigt both died before property sales were effected. A few yards from the southern summit of Wolfe Creek hill is a fenced plot enclosing three graves: “Emil F. Voigt, Age 70 years, died April 5, 1927,” and “Mary A. Voigt, died Sept. 14, 1925, age 55 years.” In between these two graves was the grave of their son, Victor.
Meanwhile ore treatment difficulties had been solved, and in 1914 Pardoe Wilson surveyed a railway branch line from Princeton to Copper Mountain. In 1916 a power contract was arranged with the West Kootenay Power Company. Expenses entailed necessitated the formation of a new company, the Canada Copper Corporation, which controlled and financed the older organization. Progress was retarded through labour troubles, and the shipping of ore to the mill did not begin till 18 October, 1920. Then the war price of copper dropped to thirteen cents, and the mill was closed on 9 December, 1920. The concentration plant at Allenby was completed by the end of 1919, and electric power was supplied by Kootenay beginning 19 October, 1920.
GRANBY LOOKS AHEAD
The mine and mill remained inactive during 1921 and 1922, but the exhaustion of ore bodies at Greenwood made the Granby Mining, Smelting & Power Co. Ltd. anxious to secure new properties. A letter from this company (1922) advised its share-holders that the Canada Copper Corporation was being reorganized, and in 1923 it was absorbed by the Allenby Copper Co. in the Granby interests. Development of the property under supervision of L.R. Clapp was begun (1923) but acquisition of the Allenby Copper Co. Ltd. was not completed till October, 1926. Decline in price of copper in 1924 caused further delay, and work at Allenby and Copper Mountain was suspended.
Early 1925, under the managership of Charles Bocking, with H.C. Smith as resident manager, operations were resumed. This time there was an air of optimism, a feeling that the trade winds were about to blow. The war years (1914 – 18) had been difficult years yet work done had indicated faith in the future. Oscar Lachmund was general manager of the B.C. Copper Co. when war broke out. From 1912 – 1918 F.R. Norcross, Jr. was superintendent of work at Copper Mountain. Store, offices, bunkhouses, power-line, pumping plant, tunnelling were among projects completed. In 1918 Mr. Norcross resigned to take a commission in the American Engineers, and Mr. Lachmund was succeeded by H. van Wagenen as general manager, with P. Crane mine superintendent and Van Smith mill superintendent.
The mill was brought to capacity in 1926. The tailings contaminated the Similkameen River so the Company purchased Hitchings Flat between Allenby and Princeton, and constructed a flume to the tailings pond near the cemetery. This pond was greatly extended during the summer and fall of 1941 and was constructed by the Interior Contracting Co. (A.S. Hatfield, manager), and extended from the Copper Mountain Road to the golf course with, the retaining wall running parallel to the Hedley highway.
Reports (1926) tell of the Allenby houses, 54 in number, being painted. There were 138 employees. Store and mess house were rented to Al Almstrom.
During the summer months (1926) half the ore mined at the Mountain was taken from three major glory holes. There were 44 dwelling houses and bunk-house accomodation for 218 men. The Mountain store was rented to W.A. Wagenhauser of Princeton, who appointed William Lindsay in charge. During the year 665,508 tons of ore were mined and shipped to Allenby by two ore trains a day.
The most serious disaster to visit Copper Mountain was the bunkhouse fire on 18 March, 1928. At that time, Jack McLaughlin was superintendent at the Mountain, with Steve Swanson mine foreman. Nine men were burned to death, and many more were injured. With the exception of H.W. Towl, whose remains were shipped to Penticton, all were buried in Princeton cemetery on 23 March. Ministers of Anglican and United churches conducted funeral service in the Orange Hall, which was then opposite the Star office. A year later a service was held when the memorial cairn was dedicated in Princeton cemetery. The plaque bears this inscription:
“In memory of Ralph P. Bassett, 1888; Patrick J. Dermody, 1863; James McKay, 1875; Daniel A. McPherson, 1875; Alex Matheson, 1882; Nils Solid, 1898; Martin Swanson, 1871; H. William Towl, 1885; William H. Upjohn, 1900. These men lost their lives in the fire at Copper Mountain, B.C. March Eighteenth, 1928. Erected by Copper Mountain Athletic Association.” During the year a new bunkhouse was built to replace the one destroyed by fire.
Friday 11 April, 1930 was a redletter day in Copper Mountain for on this date the community hall was officially opened. This was one of the finest halls in the interior of the province. Outside measurements were 102 ft. by 42 ft. with auditorium 72 ft. by 42 ft. By this time Canada was already suffering from the world-wide depression, and the people of Copper Mountain felt quite sure that the new hall was a token of continued prosperity. It did not seem logical to them that such a splendid building should be opened if the Company were about to close down. They were to continue in this happy frame of mind for some months yet.
At the beginning of May, 1930 H.C. Smith was appointed assistant general manager, and R.L. Healy of Vancouver succeeded Mr. Smith at Allenby. V.G. Anderson became mine superintendent at the Mountain when John A. McLaughlin left to fill an important assignment in Russia. At the farewell banquet Ned Nelson expressed the regrets of many friends at the departure of Mr. and Mrs. McLaughlin.
It was not long after this that failing copper prices forced Granby to close its operation at Allenby and the Mountain. The Lieutenant-Governor, R.R. Bruce, visited Copper Mountain early in November, 1930, just before the shut down; also Blakeburn where the disastrous explosion had occurred in August of that year. On his first official visit (May 1929) he was accompanied by his niece, Miss Helen Mackenzie. On Saturday, 11 May, 1929, the vice-regal party motored from Penticton to Keremeos, and on to Hedley and Princeton. Here he was greeted by the skirl of the pipes, and the whole town turned out to do him honour. At every community in Similkameen and Tulameen valleys they received a royal welcome.
So it was again in 1930, but this time there was a very different atmosphere. His honour spoke of the impending closing of Granby operations and at the reception in the Mountain community hall he spoke brave words of encouragement, and voiced the hope that before long the trade winds would blow again. Work at the mine and the mill stopped on 15 November, and was not resumed till the late fall of 1936, when preparations to reopen mine and mill were begun.
The long years of the Depression are described elsewhere in this story. Some left Copper Mountain, but many stayed on. Very few could find work elsewhere, and essential services were maintained by the Company. But they were weary years, during which people learned how to wait.
WHISTLE BLOWS AGAIN
Although preparations were begun late in 1936 to reopen the mine and mill, it was not until 12 June, 1937 that the mine was reopened and ore shipments resumed to the Allenby concentrator. This date we have from A.S. Baillie in his Preface to “A Half Century of Mining in British Columbia,” a souvenir brochure issued by the Granby Company to mark the fiftieth anniversary of its activities. Mr. Baillie quotes the first specific date in the Company’s history in the 1899 report by A.B.W. Hodges, then superintendent: “About the latter end of June, 1891, returned to Grand Forks and commenced the clearing of the land and grading of the smelter site and also the grading of the flume.” Company operations in and around Grand Forks continued till 20 June, 1919. Granby acquired the interest of the Hidden Creek Copper Company at Anyox in 1910. The smelter there was blown in during March 1914, and continued in operation till July, 1935. Operations at Anyox came to an end during the Depression. In December, 1935 the shareholders decided to liquidate the company and N.L. Amster and A.S. Baillie were appointed liquidators. After disposing of the assets they recommended that the Granby should re-open the mine at Copper Mountain and the concentrator at Allenby.
Mr. Baillie was the moving spirit in this transfer of company activities, and to him Similkameen was indebted for much of the prosperity that continued for twenty years. The power plant site at Princeton was acquired in December, 1936, and excavation commenced on 2 January, 1937. The foundry at Allenby was constructed in March and April, 1937. The provincial mining report for that year lists Mr. Baillie as president and general manager of the company, with W.R. Lindsay general superintendent, George Buckle mine manager, Walter I. Nelson, general manager; A.W. Seaton, treasurer (1939 Report). By the end of 1937 there were 509 men employed, and 3000 tons of ore per day were being mined. The power plant was built under the supervision of A.C.R. Yuill, with the assistance of J.W. Southin, who remained in charge until he was succeeded by A.R. Eastcott, who remained till operations closed in 1957.
R.S. Douglas was appointed mine superintendent. A photograph in the Granby anniversary souvenir (p. 27) shows members of the Company operating staff in 1940: L.H. McKay mill superintendent, K.C. Fahrni, chief geologist, J.A.C. Ross, assistant mine superintendent and J.C. Dumbrille assistant to the president.
A serious accident occurred at the Mountain on Wednesday, 4 August, 1937, when seventeen men were injured (many of them seriously) following a break in the hoisting apparatus which resulted in the man-cage crashing to the bottom. Dr. R.J. Wride and Dr. Paul Phillips were on the scene in record time. The relief train reached Princeton that evening, and trucks and ambulances were waiting to take the injured to the hospital. During the next twenty years there were no more such serious accidents at Copper Mountain or at Allenby, and the Granby held an enviable record for “Safety First.”
WAR AND POLITICS
For some time after World War II broke out in September, 1939 Copper Mountain continued to ship copper to Japan. This aroused a protest from Church ladies of Princeton and elsewhere. “The Case for Copper Export” was stated in a Princeton Star editorial on 18 July, 1940. The situation was far more complicated than many realized. The export of Granby concentrates was made with the knowledge and approval of the Canadian and British governments. The following paragraph from the editorial noted gives some idea of what Granby operation meant to Similkameen: “Since the Granby began reopening and reconditioning its properties at Copper Mountain and Allenby in 1937 it has expended the following sums: Plant additions and improvements $1,660,000; for wages, $3,900,000; for supplies $2,750.00; Income taxes (including an estimate for the first half of 1940) $475,000; and for dividends $405,000.” At that time Canada was not at war with Japan; the whole situation was changed after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbour, and there was no longer any question as to stopping copper exports to Japan.
Early in 1944 the Similkameen Industrial Welfare Association was formed. Its first meeting was held in the Princeton Oddfellows hall on 9 January, 1944, to appoint delegates to interview Premier John Hart and members of his cabinet in the hope of preventing a threatened shut-down of copper operations. The lean years of the Depression were still fresh in people’s memories and it was determined to do what might be possible to prevent an economic blackout in Similkameen. The delegates elected to represent the Association were George Anderson, key man of the Copper Mountain Miners’ Union; J.L. Jenkins of Bretts (Princeton) Garage; and Rev. J.C. Goodfellow of the United Church, Princeton, Mr. Jenkins represented the Board of Trade.
The delegation conferred with Mr. Baillie who stated that the Company was determined to carry on without benefit of subsidy if that were possible, but would like to know the Government’s attitude if Company finances were exhausted trying to maintain a going concern. The delegation received a warm welcome from the Premier and his cabinet; and from the leader and members of the Opposition. Bernard G. Webber, member for Similkameen (CCF) arranged the meeting with the cabinet at which were present: John Hart (Premier), R.L. Maitland, K.C. McDonald, E.C. Carson, George Pearson, H. Anscomb, and H.G.T. Perry.
It is difficult to know just how far this meeting contributed to continued operations at the Mountain, but the fact remains that whatever difficulties there may have been were overcome, and work went on.
The provincial mining report for 1945 (p.A.90) notes that diamond-drill system of mining at Copper Mountain has displaced the former percussion-drill method, the new method being called the Horadiam, a word derived from horizontal, radial and diamond. There is noted also a marked decrease in the labour turnover. Company operations were adversely affected by the nationwide railway strike in 1950, Allenby and the Mountain reporting layoff of 250 men. Had the railway strike continued longer than it did, it is quite possible that operations at the Mountain would not have been resumed.
A.S. BAILLIE RETIRES
The following letter, dated Copper Mountain, 28 February, 1951, signed by Julian B. Beaty, Chairman of the Board of Directors, was addressed to all the employees:
“Effective March 1st, 1951, Mr. Lawrence T. Postle will assume the duties of Vice-President and General Manager of this Company in complete charge of all the Company’s operations.
“Although Mr. Baillie will be retiring from active management he will remain with the Company as Vice-President in charge of Finances.
“We are confident that Mr. Postle will receive from all of you the same cooperation and friendship that Mr. Baillie has enjoyed during the many successful years of his administration.” In February, 1948, Mr. Baillie had been re-elected president of the Mining Association of British Columbia at its 27th annual meeting with Dale L. Pitt and T.H. Wilson vice-presidents.
Mr. Baillie had presided over the destinies of Copper Mountain and Allenby for nearly fifteen years. It was due to his vision and courage that it was decided in 1936 to resume operations. There were endless problems to be solved before the mine could be running smoothly. Then came the difficult war years with the inevitable shortage of man-power, but under the inspiring leadership of Mr. Baillie all obstacles were overcome and one of the largest copper mines in the world was placed on a sure footing for many years. Both Mr. and Mrs. Baillie took a keen and active interest in the welfare of all the employees, so that the communities at Copper Mountain and Allenby were really like one large family.
During the decade ending in June, 1949 when Granby celebrated the 50th anniversary of its operations in this province, wages had risen from $4 to $10 per day. Mining costs of ore shipped increased from 53 to 75 cents; and the mine capacity increased from 3400 to 5300 daily shipping tonnage.
The organization of the Labour union in connection with the Mine, Mill & Smelter Union was completed during the Second World War with George Anderson as business secretary. The result of demands made by organized Labour were awaited with interest by all, and with anxiety by some. The Union was fortunate in having some men of insight and character who were a steadying influence in the ranks. Foremost among these was Angus Campbell, who died on Tuesday, 18 November, 1947. In his passing, many felt that “a prince and a great man had fallen in Israel.” He was great in simplicity and sincerity, in honesty and uprightness of purpose, and in capacity for friendship and service.
The son of Mr. and Mrs. John Campbell, Angus came of good, Scottish, Presbyterian stock. He was born at Embro, in the township of West Zorra, Ontario, and brought up on the farm. He was educated at Maple Grove High School, and at Woodstock Baptist College. In 1907 he went to Montana, where he worked as a carpenter; and in 1912 came to British Columbia, working first at Athabaca Landing, then, in 1913, for the Granby Company. From 1915 – 1929 he was with the CPR as trainman and conductor. Then he went to Hedley, and returned to Copper Mountain after operations were resumed there in 1936. He had given deep thought to education, labour and politics, and did not hesitate to support advanced views even to his own hurt.
George Walker Anderson, who became the Union business agent, was born in Peterhead, Scotland, and as a young man, came to Canada, had long been active in the Labour movement. He had a good command of language, and was not without ability to sway his audience. In his time he had suffered for his convictions. He was fortunate in having at his side a man like Angus Campbell.
In 1946 Labour demanded more than the Company was willing to concede, and this led to a strike which lasted some months. This was the last time that the Union voted for such action, and thereafter steady progress was made, and Labour-Management relations remained on a high level. Each learned to understand and to respect the other.
ANOTHER VICE-REGAL VISIT
Soon after Mr. Postle took charge in 1951, His Honour, Clarence Wallace, Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia, visited Similkameen on the invitation of the Princeton Board of Trade. He and his party were greatly impressed by their visit to Allenby and Copper Mountain.
During 1952 the Mountain crew averaged 560, and 431 underground. At the end of the year, between the Mountain, Allenby and the Power Plant, there were 853 men on the payroll; and the average daily production was 4895 tons. Open pit mining began and increased each year. The new order was “More machinery and fewer men.” During 1953 there were 96 men hired: 260 quit or were laid off, reducing the working force to 164.
In April, 1957, J.A.C. Ross (General Manager) indicated that copper prices made continued operation of the mine impossible and the mine closed at the end of April. Employees had been given ample warning as to what was about to happen. The end did not come as a surprise. There had already been many farewell parties for those who left before the mine closed.
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Hale left in June, 1954, though members of their family continued till 1957. Both the Hales came from Nova Scotia. Mrs. Hale should have had a medal for services rendered to the community. The work she did for many years conducting a large Sunday School at the Mountain was beyond praise. The Anglican Church at the Mountain was dedicated on 17 June, 1953, during the ministry of Rev. Grant Dale. A Roman Catholic Church had also been built, also a Pentecostal Church. United Church services were held in the school before the Anglican Church was built.
Every community service and organization was established at Allenby and Copper Mountain – schools, churches, PTA, Canadian Legion, First Aid, Mine Rescue, Library, Community League, restaurant, pool room, store, picture shows. Now all are memories. Boy Scouts and Girl Guides added a picturesque touch at the annual services sponsored by the Legion on the Sunday nearest the 11 November. The Christmas Trees, strung with coloured lights, and clearly seen at night by travellers on the road to Hope, made an unforgettable picture. “1957” marked the end of another chapter in the long history of Similkameen.