Updated: Oct 9
The remarkable postcard seen below sold in 2020 on eBay for $168 Cdn. It’s a previously unknown image of the Patrick Lumber Camp No. 1 near Slocan City and was mailed from Slocan to a Miss Nellie Moore of Truro, Nova Scotia on Jan. 26, 1909.
The message reads, verbatim: “what do you think of a lumber jacks home in BC in a ceader swamp.”
While I can’t say for certain, the fellow in the light-coloured shirt in the first row could be hockey legend Lester Patrick, whose father Joseph owned the company. Lester and his brother Frank were both employees. Proceeds from the sale of this company and its large sawmill at Crescent Valley bankrolled the creation of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association in 1912.
The writing on the back matches the caption on the front. It also strongly resembles the writing on a postcard in the Slocan Valley Historical Society’s collection with the caption: “Slocan BC hockey team 1906.”
Slocan Valley Historical Society 2013-01-893
But it might have been taken a few years later — because the man in black looks like Lester!
Lester came out with his father from Quebec to BC on a timber cruise in 1906 but didn’t move to the West Kootenay until September 1907. He stayed until March 1911, save a couple of excursions to Edmonton and Renfrew to play for the Stanley Cup.
Previously I’ve written about how one of Joseph Patrick’s favourite anecdotes was how lumberman Carl Lindow invited Lester to play for the Slocan team despite having no idea who he was talking to: “If you’re going to stay around here and show any promise you might make my team.”
At Joe’s suggestion, Lester handed his pocket watch to Lindow. On the back it read: “Presented to Lester Patrick, captain of the Montreal Wanderers, World Champions.”
Until now, the only sign that Lester actually played for Slocan was an item in New Denver’s Slocan Mining Review of Feb. 13, 1908:
Slocan City has challenged the local hockey club to a game, and it will be pulled off here on Wednesday next before the Masquerade Ball starts. The Slocan team hope to bring along to play for them Lester Patrick, who was for several years captain of the famous Wanderers of Montreal.
The next issue is missing. But the postcard suggests Lester was indeed involved with the team — perhaps as a coach, judging from his outfit.
A few other postcards exist showing the Patrick Lumber Co. operations, all extremely rare. This one is in Simon Fraser University’s BC Postcards Collection.
Image MSC130-5442-01 courtesy of the British Columbia Postcards Collection, a digital initiative of Simon Fraser University Library
The reverse reveals that the card was written by Lester and Frank’s younger brother Guy and mailed to their mother at Nelson from Slocan on Jan. 5, 1909. The message reads: “This is the tote team that goes up to #2 camp with me behind it. Your loving son Guy.”
This card, which sold on eBay in 2014, shows the Patrick Lumber Co. mill at Crescent Valley.
The reverse has a Crescent Valley postmark, although the date is obscured. It was mailed to Charlie Burrell (or Burnell) of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The message reads: “Hello, Charlie. Got your card. Your Daddy is allright. I’ll look after him for you. McGregor.”
Next, this knockout card sold on eBay in August 2020 for $305 Cdn. It shows the Patrick Lumber bunkhouse on the left and the Crescent Valley store under construction on the right in 1910.
The present store is in the same location, but it’s not clear if any of the original store is still with us; the store was rebuilt after being bombed in 1931 by would-be safecrackers. BC Assessment, curiously, gives a construction date of 1916 for the present store. I don’t know how long the bunkhouse stood; other photos show it was soon painted white.
I would never have recognized the picture above as Crescent Valley but for the helpful message on the back. It was mailed to Vankleek Hill, Ont. in 1910 by Allan J. Edwards.
The next card, which sold on eBay in 2004 for $52 US and 2021 for $22.50 Cdn, shows Crescent Valley with the sawmill blazing away in the background. Virtually every building in sight was part of the operation, including three that still stand: two of those employee bungalows and the manager’s house on the right.
The reverse of one of the cards bore a July 1912 Crescent Valley postmark (by which time Patrick Lumber had been sold to the British Canadian Lumber Co.). It was mailed to Alma Herrick of Carson (a Grand Forks suburb) and bore the message: “Hello. How would you like to live in a house like one of these. Regards, T.”
The other card, curiously, was mailed from Chase to W.B. McCuish of Coquitlam. The upside-down message read:
Chase, Aug. 8th
Just a card to say we are leaving to-night for Vancouver, and will try to make a point to see you people. We are taking in the fair. You want to be sure and go too. I will tell you all the news when we get there. That won’t be very much.
Back on the hockey front, Lester and Frank helped Nelson’s senior men’s club win the 1909 BC championship. Photographer B.S. McGregor, recently arrived in town, took portraits of the players for a postcard published by the Canada Drug and Book Co.
One example sold at auction in 2003 for $707 US. Once the buyer’s premium was added, the price came to $813. The same card was resold online in 2014 for $430 US.
The card shows individual portraits of the team’s members, all wearing their team sweaters bearing the club crest: an N with wings. In addition to the Patricks, they were brothers Harry and Archie Bishop, Gilbert Bellrose, Joe Thompson, Les Steele, Tim Dunne, and Al Horswill, plus three trophies they claimed: the Daily News Cup, British Columbia Cup, and International Cup.
Making this card all the more interesting, it bears a scarce Willow Point postmark, dated June 3, 1909, and was mailed to a Mrs. Thompson of Acton, Ont. (probably Joe Thompson’s mother). The message reads: “Dear Mother, We hope you are well. We are at our cottage by the lake. It is lovely. We wish you would come and visit us. With love from all.”
Selkirk College and the Nelson Museum each have a copy of this card. The Nelson Museum also has large photos of the team which include the executives in addition to the player portraits.
The card below, taken at the Japanese tea garden in Gorge Park in Esquimalt, depicts Lester Patrick, his future wife Grace Linn, and Grace’s sister Christina (Teenie) Hall.
We only know who we’re looking at because the card was included in a photo album Lester assembled beginning in 1915, a photocopy of which is held by the Nelson archives. The caption in the album says “Teenie, Grace, and Lester, Sept. 1910.” Did they just happen to be there at the same time as the photographer? No idea.
This card made a surprise appearance in a couple of online CBC stories in recent years, but not because of who was featured in them. The teahouse pictured was destroyed by looters and vandals in 1942 after its proprietors, the Takata family, were interned along with all other Japanese Canadians. (Among the places Kensuke Takta lived was Sandon.) In 2022, a new cultural facility known as the Esquimalt Gorge Park Pavilion opened in its place.
The same album has a few other postcards, including the Nelson team photo seen above; one of the Montreal Wanderers of 1907 taken at Winnipeg, in which Lester appears; and one of the Renfrew Millionaires of 1910, for whom Lester and Frank were hired guns.
Another picture in the album that may or may not be a postcard shows the managers of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association teams of 1915-16, including Lester and Frank, who ran Victoria and Vancouver respectively.
City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-623
The album also has two portraits of Guy Patrick in his military uniform during World War I that appear to be postcards. And it has another photo of Patrick Lumber No. 1 camp that was reproduced in Eric Whitehead’s book The Patricks: Hockey’s Royal Family, in which Frank is seen wearing his Montreal Victorias sweater.
Finally, there’s this amazing card of Frank, which sold on eBay in 2015 for $589 US.
The incident that resulted in this gruesome photo took place on March 1, 1912 in a match between Vancouver and Victoria when Frank was struck under the eye by Si Griffis’ stick. He had already scored two goals in that game and insisted on returning to play.
“In the last period Frank Patrick appeared with his eyes covered by a bandage,” the Victoria Daily Times wrote. “His usefulness was materially affected.”
In the same game Lester received several stitches to his nose after being checked by Newsy Lalonde and the brothers collided at mid-ice.
Five days later, despite having trouble seeing, Frank had the greatest game of his or any other defenceman’s career: he scored six goals in Vancouver’s 10-6 victory over New Westminster.
Although you might wonder why someone would produce a postcard of a battered player, a similar photo came in handy later that year when Lester refuted allegations that the PCHA was fixing the outcomes of its games. From the Ottawa Citizen, Oct. 24, 1912:
Additional Patrick-related postcards exist, including two reproduced in Craig Bowlsby’s book Empire of Ice, a history of the PCHA: one of the 1912-13 Victoria hockey team, of which Lester was playing coach, and one of the 1925 Stanley Cup champion Victoria Cougars, also coached by Lester.
Surprisingly, there don’t appear to have been postcards of the rinks the Patricks built in Vancouver and Victoria to host their respective PCHA franchises. Nor for that matter is there one of the Hall Mines Rink in Nelson, which the Patricks helped finance.
Not a postcard, but another bit of Patrick-related postal ephemera: this envelope, postmarked Dec. 17, 1907, sold for a song on eBay in October 2023. It was mailed from Nelson to Frank Patrick in Montreal. It probably contained a Christmas card.
Frank had not yet moved to Nelson, so the writing almost certainly belongs to another family member, although I can’t say which. I’ve looked at Lester’s signature and while it’s similar, there is plenty of room for doubt. Crescent Street is downtown Montreal, but that specific address does not appear to exist any longer.
— With thanks to Eric Zweig
Updated on Aug. 30, 2020 to add the 1910 postcard of the bunkhouse and store; on Nov. 7, 2021 to add the second Crescent Valley postcard mailed from Chase to Coquitlam; on Oct. 2, 2022 to add details about the Esquimalt teahouse; and on Oct. 9, 2023 to add the envelope above.