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The final Fifers

Updated: Jun 16, 2021

I was surprised to see an obituary this week in the Trail Times for Emma Zahn (1929-2021).


Surprised because she was born in Fife, a community up the mountainside from Christina Lake where Cominco once operated a lime quarry. It was a going concern from the early 20th century into the 1950s.

Tipple at Fife, from a ca. 1940s edition of Cominco Magazine. The tipple stood until 2015, when it was demolished by Teck, although the Grand Forks ATV Club has proposed building a smaller replica.


For years, I’ve maintained a list of people born there, but Emma Zahn was not on my radar at all (although I did know about her three siblings). In fact, I thought no native Fifers were left, at least from the first wave of settlement. Since 2001, at least 32 of them have died. They were among at least 88 Fife births (52 boys, 34 girls, and two unknown), many of whom were part of large families of Italian ancestry.


The earliest known was Leonard Tedesco on Jan. 15, 1904. The last known were stillborn Clarkston twins in 1931, who were among nine Clarkston births at Fife. Other family names with multiple births there included Agostinelli, Anselmo, Decembrini, Ferraro, Fornelli, Fresu, Lavia (which was Emma Zahn’s maiden name), Maida, Mazzocchi, Melatini, Poli, Talarico, Tambellini, and Tedesco.


That’s not counting another 18 births further up the mountain at Hilltop and three more at nearby Baker Creek. (Who knows what was actually written on their birth certificates, if there were any.)


The two people I erroneously presumed to be the last of the Fifers died within a day of each other in 2017: Nelson’s Mel Ferraro and Greenwood’s Nellie Lucente (nee Talarico).


I will hesitate to say Emma Zahn was the very last Fifer, as there may well be others out there. Furthermore, I understand other children were born at home in the 1970s and perhaps 1980s to back-to-the-landers who settled there. But I don’t have any names. Were you born in Fife? Let me know!


— With thanks to Emily Swetland

Shed along the Columbia and Western Railway trail at Fife.

Four members of the Ferraro family, including three siblings, were born at Fife.

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Reginald Garnett
Reginald Garnett
May 13, 2021

Hi Greg, many families of of Italian descent in Trail had names that were listed in your article on Fife and many of the men worked for CM&S (Cominco.) In fact I knew Tralites with every one of those names.

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Remembering my favourite Shakespeare play, MacDuff who kills MacBeth was Thane of Fife.

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