Early entrepreneurs were the first to seize opportunities as the mining industry opened up the Slocan area. Ore needed to get to market, but supplies also need to get to the mines. In key places along the shores of the Slocan Lake, dry goods stores and grocery stores were popping up in budding communities to supply the miners for all their needs. These stores supplied not only mining equipment, but also clothing and food. Along with the stores also came services such as banking, assaying, packtrains and post offices. Ads in the early papers show how quickly a town can grow – some people didn’t wait for a building but simply put up a tent on the beach to do business!
May 22, 1897 – Slocan Pioneer – J. Main & Co. of Vancouver, have had a taste of pioneer life which they made the best of, but did not at all relish. They brought a stock of hardware into the town about two weeks ago thinking that they could secure lumber immediately and begin building. They were disappointed, of course, but did not let that fact interfere with business. They secured four tents, placed their stock within, hung out a muslin sign and proceeded to supply customers with any thing desired in their line.
Along with all of the essentials came the need for places to stay and play. Restaurants and hotels numbered plenty and provided much sought after relief from the mines. Some miners might have enjoyed a shave, bath and meal, but more likely headed for the saloon for a drink. Slocan did have a ‘red light’ district where ladies of “ill repute” resided – further north on Main Street across from the Livery Stables.
Entertainment came in many forms – the newspapers of the day reported on horse racing, wrestling, boat racing and dances as well as sporting events like boxing, soccer, hockey and baseball, which were all a part of life in the Slocan. On May 29, 1897, the Slocan Pioneer newspaper reported this well known event. Eli Carpenter, the sixty year old co-discoverer of the Slocan Mining Camp, astounded spectators with his antics during Slocan’s epic Victoria Day Festivities as he walked a high-wire high above Main St. “He walked across from side to side of the street, forward and backward, and then gave an additional performance on a trapeze suspended from the rope“. This story has been often embellished; its various forms becoming staples of Kootenay folklore and legend.
1897, May 15 & 22 – The Slocan Pioneer gives us an update on the building boom in Slocan:
Many new buildings are rapidly nearing the point of completion.
There is still a strong demand for lumber in the market and the scarcity is causing considerable inconvenience to business men who have stocks of goods on the road and have no immediate prospect of being able to provide shelter for them when they arrive. There is relief in sight, however, in the fact that the new boat will make its first trip on the 18th, which will more than double the facilities for transportation.
Mr. White, of the firm White & Sibbalds, will shortly begin the erection of a three-story building, 30×60 feet, on the corner of Delaney avenue and Hume street. The plans are not yet perfected but Mr White’s intentions are to have a cafe on the ground floor, club rooms on the second and furnished rooms on the third. It is the intention to have the house completed and furnished by the first of June.
Mr. A. Beattie is erecting a three-story building on the east side of Main street that will have 28 rooms, and will be leased to experienced hotel men from Sandon. It is expected that the building will be completed and furnished in about three weeks.
The best front in the city is that on (a) building about completed by Linton Bros. and W. Meldrum & Co. The building is 30 feet wide and 40 feet deep. Two large windows are on either side of the door and will be used for the display of goods. Linton Bros. will occupy the south side of the store with a stock of stationery and wallpaper, while Meldrum & Co. have furnished the north side with a stock of clothing, boots and shoes and men’s furnishings. … The second floor of this building will be partitioned off for offices, the front rooms being already occupied by Dr. Bentley, C.M. Woodworth and John Riplinger, agent for the Campbell-McCrae Development company.
Just north of the church on Main street, James Brass is awaiting the arrival of lumber to complete work on a building 30×30 feet which will be for rent.
W.J. Adcock and H. Bunting have about completed a two-story building 30×30 feet, on Lake street near Main. Mr. Adcock, who is a recent arrival from Red Deer, N.W.T., will occupy the each side as a boot and shoe store, while the west side and second floor will be fore rent, and will be furnished to suit the tenant.
H.M. McKay of Morden, Manitoba, is erecting a two-story building, 30×30, just north of the Hicks house. Part of the ground floor with an addition at the rear, 12×16, will be used as a restaurant, and Mr. Charles Hunley, of Deloraine, Manitoba, will occupy the remainder with a stock of cigars and tobacco. These will be seven rooms on the second floor. The building will be completed in about two weeks.
Between the Hicks hotel and the Slocan house F.S. Andrews and W.H. Udall, of Tacoma, Washington, are erecting a two-story building, 30×40. One half of the ground floor will be occupied by Mr. Udall, who will open a stock of fruit, tobacco and stationery, and the other part has been rented to Slitt & Nills of Vancouver, who will open a general store. The second floor will be divided into 10 rooms which will be rented unfurnished.
Tolton, Carmode & McCaig have the sills laid for a three-story building 28×50 on Arthur street near Delaney, which will be used as a hotel when completed. The building will cost $2,500 and will be pushed to completion as soon as lumber can be secured. … The construction of the building is now in the hands of G.T. Warbis who was for a number of years a contractor on the Northern Pacific railroad. Mr. Warbis will locate permanently in Slocan City.
Mowat & Co., of Regina, N. W. T., have just completed a new two-story building on Main street just south of the Arlington. The firm occupies all of the ground floor as a general store with the exception of an office room which has been rented to Messrs. Hugh B. Lyall and A.E. Whitmore, mining brokers and real estate dealers. The rooms on the second floor have been furnished by Mr. Yates.
Messrs. Darlington and Bellinger, mining engineers and assayers, have completed a building on Delaney avenue, 14×30, which will be used as an office. Mr. Bellinger is superintendent of the British Columbia Smelting and Refining Co. at Trail and of the Montana Ore Purchasing Co. at Butte, Mont. Mr. Darlington was formerly assayer for F. August Heinze at Butte.
W.T. Shatford & Co. have just completed a two-story building, 30×60, on South Main Street which is stocked with a complete line of groceries on one side and on the other the shelves are filled with a line of general goods including gents’ furnishings, boots and shoes, etc. The Shatford & Co. head house is at Vernon, with branches also at Fairview and Camp McKinney. The local house is under the management of Mr. Shatford.
Messrs. Cullom & Millspaugh of Trail started the erection of a building just north of White & Sibbald’s office on Main street this week. The delay in getting lumber became so annoying that the gentlemen of the firm went in person to Roseberry and worked for six hours unloading lumber in order to reach their own. It is now on the ground and it is expected that the new building will be under cover by Monday. Messrs. Cullom & Millspaugh will open a stock of hardware and will also carry a line of doors and windows, a stock of the latter being now on hand.
Messrs. Tripp & Watson, contractors, commenced work this week on a two-story building, 30×60, for J.A. Foley. It is located on the west side of Main street and will be occupied by Mr. Foley. The lower floor will be used as a feed and commission house and the second story as a residence.
Messrs. Tripp & Watson also laid the sills for an office building, 18×26, for Judge Graville in the Hoffman addition on the east side.
Messrs Cousins & Cavanah of Medicine Hat, N.W.T., commenced the erection this week of a two-story building, 30×60, on the south-east corner of Lake and Main streets. The corner room will be occupied as a drug store by Dr. J. G. Calder, also of Medicine Hat, and formerly surgeon at the hospital at that point. Cousins & Cavanah will occupy the other room on the ground floor with a stock of general merchandise and the second floor will be partitioned off into office rooms. The building will be completed early this week. (This building was opposite the Arlington Hotel and can be seen in many of the early pictures taken of Main Street).
There were three newspapers operating in Slocan in the early years – the Slocan Pioneer, the Slocan City News and the Slocan Drill. Publishers of the day enjoyed reporting and give us a real feel for life at that time. Here are a few tidbits from the Drill:
3 August 1900 – Sunday evening Officer Christie was called upon to arrest one of the red curtain brigade, a recent importation. She was suffering from the effect of drink, morphine, and cigarettes and imagined a gang of stranglers was after her to kill her. This is the second fallen angel to be accommodated in the Bastille.
24 August 1900 – Officer Browning has been rounding up the hobos this week.
31 August 1900 – One drunk and incapable was towed to the Bastille Wed by the local dray. And in the same issue… Some sneak thief marauded Ed Haley’s cabin the other day and stole all the Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes in the place.
20 Feb 1903 – Sneak thieves have been much in evidence of late, their attention being paid principally to the purloining of provisions from hotels and private residences.
14 August 1903 – There have been a number of suspicious characters hanging around the city of late, causing alarm to many housekeepers. In couple of instances this week, attempts were made to get into residences, the occupants of one taking two shots at the intruder. The chief of police is keeping a sharp outlook and has orders to run all undesirable gentry out of town.
11 December 1903 – Several complaints have been made lately of the depredations of chicken thieves. If apprehended they will be severely punished.
9 September 1904 – If there is an individual more despicable than a chicken thief, it is the fellow that will swipe garden stuff. One of these gentry has been doing a land office business lately in town, several householders having suffered. The chief attraction is cucumber, though tomatoes, cabbages, etc, also disappear. If you have a garden, watch it.
13 January 1905 – A suspicious looking individual undertook to make an examination of the bedrooms at the Hicks House on Tues morning, but he suddenly ran up against an ugly appearing shooting iron, and he got out in a hurry. Search failed to find the gent in town.
21 April 1905 – One of the well known characters of the burg got blue papers on Monday as an inducement to move on. He moved.
During Clarence Tipping reminiscences, he talked about the first jail in Slocan being a hollow cedar stump behind Graham’s. It was later located at a couple of different locations in town, the last location was a log building on Hume Street, which has since been taken down.
This location currently known as the Kiddie Park, was where the Fife Hotel once stood. It was one of many hotels that served the community. Right beside it stood the Hicks House and at one point the community boasted more than 8 hotels that were licensed to serve alcohol.
The Slocan Drill reported in September of 1900 that the Slocan City’s Miners Union #62 Western Federation of Miners incorporated as a purely social and fraternal organization under the scope of the Benevolent Societies Act and that fall had a membership of 210.
Looking west, directly across Main street from here is where the Miner’s Hall was built in 1901. It was christened with a Ball which is described in the news article below:
Slocan Drill – 29 Nov 1901 The Miners Union opened their new hall on Saturday evening by a smoking concert and the place was crowded. There were card games at first, then an impromptu programme of songs and recitations, next refreshments and cigars, and then songs again. More talent was discovered than could be located even at Rosebery, and the fun waxed fast and furious, approaching midnight in a regular hurricane.
In the spring of 1901, the Miners Union purchased a building on Main Street (then known as the Gill’s Building) which they converted for use as a hospital. This building was later re-purposed to provide a hospital for the Japanese internment years. The hospital was located a block and a half south of here on the east side of the street.
Japanese Canadian Internment
4764 Interned In Slocan Area
“The Japanese Canadians had committed no crime other than sharing genes with an enemy. Within the internment camps people survived the hardships of being uprooted, of having their property sold off, their bank accounts frozen and every right of citizenship suspended.” David Suzuki, 1987
“Later we’d climb the bluffs
Overhanging the ghost town
And pick the small white lilies
And fling them like bombers
Over Slocan” Joy Kogawa 1974
Japanese Canadian Diaspora
Winter 1941 – All 23,202 Japanese Canadians become “enemies” in coastal British Columbia and must register.
Spring to Summer 1942 – War Measures Act allows government to evacuate JSs from the coast. The first of 12114 are shipped and detained in the BC Interior.
Winter 1942 / 1943 – Carpenters rush to complete shelter before winter. Some internees are still in tents when heavy snows arrive.
1943 – Confiscated properties, businesses, and possessions are sold at bargain prices.
1944 & 1945 – As ghost town life “normalizes”, internees are told to move again, to work in Eastern Canada. Those unwilling to go east must chose another option, exile or “repatriation” to Japan.
1946 – 3964 persons sent to Japan; half are Canadian born; many are children. Slocan camps (except New Denver) close.
1949 – All War Measures Act restrictions are cancelled and JCs receive franchise.
New Canadian newspaper says that 600 lived in the old buildings of Slocan, while other sources say that JC population occasionally reached near 1000. Certainly Slocan and region had never been so busy.
Temporary tents above and the first of 658 three room shacks built between Slocan and Lemon Creek. By the end of 1942 … “residents had adapted themselves to lamps and candles, outside taps, double decker beds, green fuel, damp walls, community baths and winter snows. New Canadian 1943
“We could have pitched some second-hand tents, fixed up old cabins and barns, slapped up more rough lumber and tarpaper shacks and even put in a bath-house… It wouldn’t have been the first time after all.” Grayce Yamamoto 1974 tongue-in-cheek re: a Slocan Reunion.
In 1943 over 1000 of the 4764 Japanese Canadians in the Slocan were working; many in the bush on firewood or rail tie projects or as carpenters, social workers, clerks, teachers or farmers.
Camps Closed in 1946
While outlying camps were evacuated and the shacks bulldozed, moved or taken apart, man families moved into Slocan as “self-supporting”. Many remained here, becoming an essential part of both heritage and community.
“The action of the Canadian Government of the day… was a black mark against Canada’s traditional fairness and devotion to the principles of human rights. We have no reason to be proud of this episode, nor are we…” Lester B. Pearson, 1964
“we are to rise to sunlight from our many springtime storms and wars with wings grown strong” Joy Kogawa, 1981
Bay Farm was only a kilometer south of Slocan, Popoff was 3K out and Lemon Creek (the largest Valley Camp) near 8K distant. Some services and activities were shared between these centres.
Repatriation or Exile?
With changing government policy in 1945, Slocan becomes a “muster station”, where those “returning” to Japan await their shipment out.
“They are given two choices; to sign a paper and renounce their Canadian citizenship and return to Japan, or to remain here and be relocated East. There are terrible quarrels. Those who have signed to return to Japan are called ‘fools’ and the ones who have chose to stay are called ‘dogs’…” Shizuye Takashima, 1971
Credits – Research, design and interpretation by Ian Fraser & Associates.
Images not otherwise credited courtesy Slocan Valley Archives.