Chasing history in the Kootenays

I’m writing this post from Nelson, an isolated city in the Kootenay region of southeast B.C.

I get mesmerized by the changing mountainous landscapes, vast lakes, and unending rivers dotted with dams.

I’m in love with the lore.

Building Canada's railroad through the Kootenays.
Building Canada’s railroad through the Kootenays.

Before the turn of the 20th Century, B.C. was a raw and dangerous place. Home to First Nations and trappers. And bears — One of which I encountered this week near Red Mountain in Rossland. But that’s another story.

In the 1800s, the lure of the province’s mountains, rich with ore, brought many people who had dreams of their own stake. Some found a claim to fame, others to infamy.

Industry began to churn.

West Kootenay Power and Light began work on Lower Bonnington dam to power the mines of Rossland.

In 1898, the switch was flicked and 20,000 volts were instantly in Rossland, 41 kilometres away, along the longest and highest voltage transmission line in North America.Bluebell mine

One of the tales I read today while visiting this permanent exhibit at the Nelson Museum involves a mining claim dispute  that led to one man’s murder and another man’s hanging for the crime.

One writer has put together a good version of the story here.

In 1881, when prospector Bob Sproule first looked over the edge of the galena cliff that rose above the eastern shore of Kootenay Lake, little did he know that he was about to fall – not into the deep blue waters of the lake below, but into a state of murderous insanity, caused by greed, injustice, unfairness and a crushing twist of fate.

I hope to write a short story about that sensational tale.

I’ve been collecting old books on the history of the Kootenays; building the first dams; the great railway connecting East to West; and the fascinating people who built B.C.

I had the chance to visit three eclectic used bookstores in Nelson and bought one book:

 A hunter of peace : Mary T. S. Schaffer's Old Indian trails of the Canadian Rockies...with photographs by the author
A hunter of peace : Mary T. S. Schaffer’s Old Indian trails of the Canadian Rockies…with photographs by the author

What do you collect? Tweet at me.

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