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Sandon centenarians

An obituary appears in the Vancouver Sun this weekend for Norma Evelyn Schiller of Mission, who died Aug. 9 at age 100. She was born in Sandon.

Sandon, early 1900s. (Greg Nesteroff collection)

In 2008, Schiller wrote a tribute to her father, Joseph Birling Johnson, that also appeared in the Sun. Johnson immigrated to Oregon from Sweden in 1892 and to Canada in 1907, arriving at Silverton. He became renowned for his mining prowess.

When he arrived in Silverton in 1907, he was noticed for his wonderful six-foot two-inch stature as well as his great strength. In the early years of the century, the sport of rock drilling became popular among the miners. Dad teamed up with another Swede, Algot (Erik) Erickson, to practice long and hard to become proficient and winners in mining camps in Rossland, Spokane and Ontario, where they showed easterners in Cobalt the great miners’ sport as it should be performed. They were beaten once in Butte, Mont., but later went on to win the world championship.

Johnson moved to Sandon in 1913 and the following year in Nelson married Nova Scotia native Elizabeth Ann Isenor. Their children were Frances, born in December 1914, Norma (pictured at right), born on April 15, 1918 — while Sandon was still an incorporated city — and Rose, born in March 1920. (I’m not certain whether Frances and Rose were also born in Sandon, but they probably were.)

A boulder that Johnson and Erickson drilled full of holes now sits in front of the Sandon museum. The family moved to Silverton in 1924. Norma’s entire account is well worth reading.

She was not the only Sandon native to live a century. Edith Rosina Huston was born there on Aug. 23, 1903 to George and Rosina (Mayhaver) Huston. She was delivered by the city’s longtime physician and sometimes mayor, Dr. William E. Gomm. The family moved to Mullan, Idaho when she was still a child.

Edith graduated from the University of Idaho in 1928 and did postgraduate work at the University of Washington and University of California, then taught until her marriage to Miro Mihelich.

They moved to Alaska with their two children when Miro got a job with the Federal Bureau of Mines. She later worked for the Alaska Department of Labor.

She died in Seattle on Sept. 21, 2003 at age 100.

Overall, how many people had Sandon on their birth certificate? It’s unclear, but there were 45 births registered there between 1896 and 1903. (Due to a silly and arbitrary rule, birth registrations from 1904 won’t be made public until 2025.), which includes birthplace data extracted from BC death registrations and Victoria Times birth notices, has enumerated 152 Sandon births, although there might be some duplication within that list. A few are still alive, including Fruitvale’s Rudy Boates.

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