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Kiwanis border monuments

Updated: Feb 3, 2021

The Paterson and Nelway border crossings both have peace monuments erected by Kiwanis clubs on both sides of the border amid much fanfare, but which probably don’t get much up-close inspection anymore.

Kiwanis peace monument at Paterson


These were among a series of peace plaques erected at border crossings by Kiwanis International beginning in 1935. The first went up on Ambassador Bridge which connects Detroit and Windsor.


According to a very comprehensive list compiled by Edward W. Lollis, there were at least 45 of them, the most recent erected in 2003 between Skagway and Whitehorse, but only about 20 survive.


Each monument had the same inscription: “This unfortified boundary line between the Dominion of Canada and the United States of America should quicken the remembrance of the more than a century old friendship between these countries — a lesson of peace to all nations.”

The one at Paterson was supposedly the 15th such monument, but Lollis’ list suggests it was more like the 18th. It was dedicated on June 3, 1939. The Spokane Spokesman Review estimated 6,000 people attended the ceremony while the Vancouver Province pegged the number at 8,000 — which is hard to fathom either way.

Excerpt from the Vancouver Province, June 5, 1939


The bronze tablet was said to commemorate 125 years of peaceful relations between the two countries (following the spot of difficulty that was the War of 1812, which lasted 2½ years).


It was erected by 12 Kiwanis clubs of Division No. 6, Pacific Northwest, who are named on the granite marker itself: Cheney, Coeur d’Alene, Colfax, Colville, Kellogg, Moscow, Newport, Pullman, Sandpoint, Spokane, Spokane Valley, and Tekoa.

Mrs. Emerson presented the plaque, which was accepted by Maj. A.C. Sutton of Rossland and Judge James P. Dillard of Spokane on behalf of their respective countries. A Trail girl guide and American campfire girl unveiled the plaque. Shirley Wylie, 14, was the campfire girl, but I don’t know who the girl guide was.


In addition, two American elms and two silver maples were planted on either side of the monument by Trail MLA R.R. Burns and Trail mayor E.L. Groutage and Kiwanis International past trustee A.H. Syverson of Spokane and district governor J.N. Emerson of Pullman.

The location of this photo from the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis collection is not identified, but it’s probably Paterson. At least the marker is identical. The caption reads: “Kiwanis officials stand by a U.S.-Canada Peace Marker erected by various clubs of the Pacific Northwest District. Pictured (left to right) are: Pacific Northwest District Governor J. N. Emerson, International trustee R. George McCuish, tablet committee chairman Dr. E. N. Dayton, table committee member Dan Droz, Div. 6 Lt.-Gov. Oscar W. Nelson, and past International trustee A.H. Synison [sic, Syverson].”


Others in attendance included the mayors of Rossland, Spokane, and Colville.

Seven bands played and E Company of the 14th U.S. Infantry marched into Canadian territory while the 109th and 111th Field Batteries RCA crossed into the U.S.


Afterward a huge picnic was held at King George Park just north of Paterson (which still exists, but has long since been returned to wilderness).


In 1989, Kiwanian Tom Dodson added a stone at the monument’s base to increase the number of sponsoring Kiwanis clubs from 12 to 17 by adding Chewelah, Nelson, Castlegar, Trail, and Republic.

Dodson’s wife was the campfire girl who unveiled the original plaque.


Although it’s bronze, the plaque appears to be gold. Dodson told Edward Lollis in 2016 that “to my knowledge it has never been painted since the dedication in 1939… The monument has been moved twice as the road was changed.” (I am not sure about the fate of the trees that once flanked it.)


There’s another interesting monument at Paterson as well. It’s an old-timey sign that says “Canada Immigration – Customs Stop” with a crown on top. A small plaque reads: “Canada Customs/Paterson BC/1898 to 1998/Protecting Canadians for 100 Years/Dedicated June 29, 1998.”

The unveiling of the Nelway monument on June 4, 1950 was a modest affair compared to the Paterson one — merely 1,500 people came. It was sponsored by the 18 clubs of divisions No. 6 and 8 of the Pacific Northwest district of Kiwanis International.


It was said to be the sixth marker erected by those divisions and that Div. 8 had placed more markers along the border than any other Kiwanis division in the country. In addition to Paterson, others were erected at Blaine, Wash. (1935), Porthill, Idaho (1947), Eastport, Idaho/Kingsgate, BC (1948), and Oroville, Wash. (1949).


Another report said it was the 28th Kiwanis peace marker overall.

Spokane Spokesman-Review, June 6, 1950


High school bands from Newport, Chewelah, Sandpoint and Nelson played a half-hour concert along with the Kootenay and Trail Kiltie bands, followed by a parade by Canadian and American units.


Gilbert O. Rolstad of Tacoma, the governor of the Pacific Northwest district, made the tablet presentation. Uncle Sam (Elmer E. Jones of Newport) and Johnny Canuck (Andrew Anderson of Creston) were assisted by an unidentified Canadian boy scout and girl guide and American boy scout and campfire girl in unveiling the marker.

J.V. Rogers of Olympia, the director of the department of conservation and development, accepted the tablet on behalf of the US, and Nelson-Creston MLA Walter Hendricks did the same for Canada.


The clubs named on the monument are Bonners Ferry, Castlegar, Chewelah, Coeur d’Alene, Colville, Cranbrook, Creston, Grand Forks, Kellogg, Mullan, Nelson, Newport, Post Falls, Priest River, Sandpoint, St. Maries, Trail, and Wallace, as well as the Pacific Northwest District.


In addition to this monument, a concrete obelisk nearby, pictured at right, says “Canada/International Boundary.”


One postscript: there was another mass gathering at the border when the highway between Nelson and Spokane opened in 1923. (Nelway took its name from a compound of “Nelson and Spokane highway.”)


About 400 cars and 1,500 people took part in the opening celebration. After public works minister William Sutherland declared the highway open, the cars drove through red, white, and blue streamers strung across an arch on the boundary line.


But this is my favourite part, as reported by the Calgary Herald of Aug. 30, 1923: “A tug-of-war over the boundary line between teams from Canada and the United States ended in a win for the Canadians after a pull which was exceedingly easy.”

Opening of the Nelson-Spokane highway, August 1923

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Greg Nesteroff
Greg Nesteroff
Jan 20, 2020
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Don Moore
Don Moore
Jan 20, 2020

I was looking through some photos from the Rossland Museum and Discovery centre that were digitized by the Columbia Basin Institute of Regional history and found some pics of the unveiling of the monument at Paterson in 1939.

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