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Last of the Phoenicians

Updated: May 6, 2021

Betty Ridge, who died in Nelson on Dec. 23 at age 98, was probably the last surviving person born in the mining town of Phoenix, BC. She was already believed to be the last person born there (on April 14, 1920) before the city disincorporated.

Phoenix, ca. 1900s. (Greg Nesteroff collection)

Her parents, Russell and Maggie Macdonald, married in Greenwood in 1909. Her father was a crusher boss at the mines in Phoenix, where two of her brothers were also born: Roy, who died in 1950, and Dave, who died in 2012.

The Macdonalds were among the last to leave Phoenix, departing the year Betty was born for Grand Forks, where Russell helped dismantle the Granby smelter. They then followed the Granby company’s operations to Cassidy and Copper Mountain, near Princeton.

They had hardly arrived at Copper Mountain when the operation shut down. West Kootenay Power was rebuilding its No. 1 plant at South Slocan in 1924, where Russell was hired as master mechanic. He died in 1938 at age 53, after which the family moved to Nelson. Betty married Jess Ridge in 1942 and moved to Bonnington. They had two children.

Her obituary in the Nelson Star this week notes: “Betty was an avid walker, an excellent bowler and badminton player, as well as an active volunteer in her community. She was proud to be one of the founding members of the South Slocan Hospital Auxiliary, and continued to support the hospital through her life.”

I have been tracking the last of the Phoenicians since 1997. In that time, at least 92 have passed away.

Betty was the last one I knew of still alive. There may be others — I was unaware of many of them until their obituaries appeared — but they would have to be close to 100.

Betty was not the oldest Phoenician. That distinction belongs to Rev. John M. Tappero, who was born in Phoenix on Sept. 15, 1915 and died in Renton, Wash., on Nov. 6, 2014, age 99.

Dr. Kendall R. Sawrey, who passed away in 2001, holds an interesting distinction: as far as I can tell, he is the only person born in Phoenix, BC who died in Phoenix, Arizona. He was a cardiologist there.

They were among at least 554 people born in Phoenix between 1899 and 1920, when the Granby mines shut down and the city rapidly became a ghost town. Today a cenotaph, a cemetery, and an open pit (from later mining operations) mark its location.

Below is a list of the last 91 Phoenicians in alphabetical order, along with where each lived at the time of their death.

Anita Andersen (New Westminster)

Lorna A. Bachman (Spokane)

Edmund J. Black (Yakima, Wash.)

Jessie Allise Borrow (Nelson)

Barbara Bowen (Portland)

Katie Brooker (Princeton)

Winifred Brower-Berkhoven (Vancouver)

Mary Yolanda Buchignani (Vancouver)

Ruth Taimi Caley (Vernon)

Charles McKinnon Campbell (Saturna Island)

James McGeer (Jim) Campbell (Saturna Island)

Evert Carlson (Nelson)

Myrtle Carter (Maple Ridge)

Donald Oliver Clarke (Victoria)

Mabel Cliffe (Nanaimo)

Florence Christina Cooper (Nanaimo)

Doris May Crouch (Burnaby)

Helen Coyle (Princeton)

Catherine Delich (Rossland)

Nellie Ingram Dunlop (Quesnel)

Margaret Fenner (Barrie, Ont.)

George Thomas Fife (Florida)

Elsie Josephine Fitch (Yakima, Wash.)

Robert Park (Bob) Forshaw (Grand Forks)

Hugh John (Pat) Fuller (Vancouver)

Anne Mary Gallo (Castlegar)

Pauline Dorthea Gardiner

Edna May Gohn (Fruitvale)

Glen Goodwin (Arizona)

Margaret Greig (Richmond)

Ermelina (Lena) Gri (Nelson)

Kermit R. (Gus) Gustafson (Edmonds, Wash.)

Rose Ann Hopkins (Vallejo, Calif.)

Alice Haddock (Victoria)

John Arthur (Jack) Hale (Kaslo)

Rose Heckenkemper (Burlingame, Calif.)

William Bernard Jackson (Albert Lea, Minn.)

Steve J. Jankola (Castlegar)

Bernard Theodore Johnson (Ladysmith)

David Nels Johnson (Portland)

Gilbert Marshall Kay (Trail)

Minnie Domenica Regis Lang (Colville)

Herbert (Herb) Larson (Trail)

William Lindsay (Vancouver)

Jean Lundeen (Kimberley)

William David (Dave) Macdonald (Nelson)

Margaret Ellen McDougall (Burnaby)

Constance Eleanor Markle (Abbotsford)

Freda Evelyn Mawer (Coquitlam)

Thelma Matilda Meilleur (Kennewick, Wash.)

Francis Archibald McDougall (South Slocan)

Ella McIntosh (Edmonton)

Mary McKinnon (Courtenay)

Ethel Pilkington McNutt (Sechelt)

Joe V. Miskulin (Seattle)

Catherine Eleanor (Cherie) Moore (Spokane)

Marion Morrison (Spokane)

Aldo Pete Musa (Vancouver)

John Niemi (Cochrane, Alta.)

Helen Nordman (Courtenay)

Alice Isabell Olguin (Murphysboro, Ill.)

David Oxley (Edmonton)

Lil Parkinson (Princeton)

Edith Viola Peterson (Spokane)

Frederick Stewart Pipe

Anne Plecash (Summerland)

Nick Plecash (Princeton)

Tony Poscente (Victoria)

Mildred Adeline Price (Victoria)

Emerson Reid (Grand Forks)

Marion Elizabeth (Betty) Ridge (Nelson)

Annie Ethelwynn Rogers (Fountain Hills, Ariz.)

Sarah Gertrude Ryan (Victoria)

Dr. Kendall Roy Sawrey (Phoenix, Ariz.)

Annie Stelliga (St. Catharines, Ont.)

Carl Stenvold (Princeton)

J. Leonard Sortome (Calgary)

Elgood Edward Stevens

John Massimo Tappero (Kent, Wash.)

Beryl Tracy (Terrace)

Joseph Trombley (Penticton)

John Tuomi (Cape Coral, Fla.)

Ida Christina Turner (Trail)

Florence Victoria Turner (Nelson)

Victoria Louise Tuttle (Colville)

Christine Mary Helen Van Der Lee (Lethbridge)

Virginia M. Venturini (Trail)

John Archibald (Archie) Walters (White Rock)

Dorothy Marian Warne (Ballard, Wash.)

Gladys Elizabeth Weldon (Manhattan Beach, Calif.)

Helen Muriel Willey (Nanaimo)

Myrtle Irene Wolf (Port Hueneme, Calif.)

Courtesy Darren Nordman

— Updated Jan. 29, 2021 to add Helen (Bakke) Nordman to the list.

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Dano Bear
Dano Bear

My Dad, Mark Barach was born in Phoenix in 1911. Was a butcher by trade. Served in WW2. Worked at Max Meat Market in Trail. Worked at Cominco for over 30 years. Raised 6 kids with his wife Edna, of which I was the baby. Edna, born 1922, died 1980. Mark died 1984.


Thanks for this. My grandfather, Charles McKinnon Campbell, lived in Phoenix from 1904 until the mine closed, and ran the mine for a decade. He commissioned the cenotaph. He went to Grand Forks and then Cassidy, like Betty's family, so he certainly would have known them. His three kids (the two Campbells and Mary "Mim" McKinnon) are on this list. Thanks for your work recording this town's fascinating history.


theresa kishkan
theresa kishkan

My grandfather worked in Phoenix in 1911. I took that drive over the mountain from Greenwood to Grand Forks, hoping to see something of what he would have known, an Ukrainian immigrant who'd come to North America to work at Franklin Furnace and then Phoenix and eventually Drumheller. That country is very beautiful but it seems that almost everything of its human history has disappeared, apart from the graveyard, the cenotaph, the tailing ponds.

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