Updated: Aug 21
It was the end of the work day at the Abbott mine on Jan. 8, 1896.
The property was at the head of Healy Creek, near Trout Lake, on the west side of Abbott Peak at an elevation of 2,075 meters. It belonged to the Lillooet, Fraser River, and Cariboo Gold Fields Co., who drove a 100-meter long crosscut into a limestone bluff in hopes of tapping a half-meter wide streak of galena.
The retiring workers headed back to camp, about a mile and a quarter below the mine, but two colleagues, Jacob Bond (Jake) Hoar and William Breckenridge, stayed behind to finish up.
When they failed to return, concern swiftly turned to alarm. A search party soon made a grim discovery: an avalanche had swallowed the pair. There was no sign of them and no hope of their survival.
Both men were 41 and had been employed at the mine for several months.
Breckenridge was from Illinois, but nothing else is known about him. Hoar was the son of Capt. Philip Henry Hoar and Elizabeth Bond Allen. He was born in Middletown, Connecticut but raised in Houghton County, Michigan. His younger brother Orville was the Abbott mine’s superintendent.
“The sad occurrence has cast a deep gloom over the whole camp,” the Kootenay Mail reported.
Work at the mine was suspended for a few weeks, then resumed under Orville’s management.
It took until July for Breckenridge’s body to finally be discovered. In August, Jake Hoar’s snowshoes turned up, and a week later his body was found under four feet of snow. A dog named Tuck spotted fingers sticking out of a black mitt. Tuck stopped and howled until his human companions came to investigate.
Breckenridge and Hoar were buried side-by-side on the hill.
Four years later, Spokane mining man Cutler T. Porter toured the area with a reporter for the Lardeau Eagle. They followed what passed for a government trail up Healy Creek to a cabin at the Abbott camp. The reporter wrote:
Probably the first thing to command attention from the visitor, after peering through the clouds to see the big lime dyke above, is the lonesome graves of Wm. Brecinridge [sic] and Jake Hoar, who were killed in ’96 by a snowslide while coming down from their day’s work, within sight of their long resting place.
This was the last contemporary mention of the gravesite. But I was amazed a few years ago when Linda Wall of Trout Lake pointed out the BC Archives has a picture of the site, apparently taken soon after the burials occurred.
Image I-55005 courtesy of the Royal BC Museum and Archives
The caption reads: “General view of the Abbott group of claims at the head of Healey [sic] Creek, altitude 5,800 ft., also showing the graves of two men killed by a snowslide.”
In 1897, Orville Hoar married Catherine Laughton, whose brothers were well-known hoteliers in Revelstoke and Ferguson. One of those brothers, Jack, was the grandfather of Mike Laughton, the first Nelson-born player to make the NHL.
Like his brother, Orville died young and in terrible circumstances. In 1914, he accidentally shot himself at Klekane Inlet, about 100 km south of Kitimat.
Vancouver Province, May 2, 1914
Orville was only 44. He was buried in Seattle.
Orville and Catherine had six children, all born between 1898 and 1909 in Revelstoke and Golden. Catherine later remarried and had two more daughters, both of whom only died in 2009. They somehow ended up in Louisiana.
The Abbott mine was poked at intermittently for the next century. As recently as 1999, a company planned to process a stockpile of ore that included silver, gold, lead, and zinc by taking it to an old mill at Ainsworth. But I don’t know if any of that happened.
UPDATE: I received an email from Shawn Handley of Kaslo, who explained he and some friends went looking for the graves in 2022, but didn’t find them, as all they had to go on was the lone BC Archives photo.
However, using Google Earth, they spotted a switchback from an old trail and on Aug. 12, 2023 they set out again in search of the graves. Within 45 minutes, they found a promising flat spot and compared it to the photo.
We walked towards the edge of the flat spot and found two depressions six feet long, spaced four feet apart. We first thought the one depression was the old trail, then we found the second beside it. My buddy said “This is it!” The hair was standing up on the back of his neck!
They found the exact spot where the old photo was taken and looked for any bits of wood that might have survived from the grave markers or the fence, but there was nothing. They cleared some small trees and installed two white pickets Handley brought along. He flagged the area and the way back to the road and left a laminated copy of this blog post in a waterproof container.
The Abbott mine graves rediscovered and marked. (Shawn Handley photos)
“When I first read about these guys I knew I should look for the site,” Handley says. “They were placed in a very nice location looking over the valley. They should be remembered.”
Terry Turner, who has hiked the mountains in that area extensively, also shared these spectacular photos of the general vicinity.
Looking north at the access to the Abbott mine, at the head of Abbott Creek, a tributary of Healy Creek. (Terry Turner photo)
The lake just below Mount Aldridge, with the limestone wall (or “lime dyke” as the Lardeau Eagle called it) seen in the background. (Terry Turner photo)
With thanks to Linda Wall, Shawn Handley, and Terry Turner
• Death registration for William Breckinbridge [sic], BC Archives Reg. No. 1896-09-162635 and Jacob Hoar, Reg. no. 1896-09-162657, both on microfilm B13104
• “Buried by an avalanche,” and “Trout Lake notes,” Revelstoke Kootenay Mail, 18 Jan 1896
• Kootenay Mail, 1 Feb 1896
• The Miner (Nelson), 1 Feb 1896
• The Ledge (New Denver), 6 Feb 1896
• Kootenay Mail, 18 Jul, 8 Aug, and 15 Aug 1896
• “The Wagner Group,” Lardeau Eagle, 22 Aug 1900
• Ancestry.com profile for Jacob Bond Hoar: https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/26125011/person/13913077977/facts
• Ancestry.com profile for Orville Dewitte Hoar Sr.: https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/26125011/person/1828683219/facts
• Ancestry.com profile for Catherine Rich Laughton Hoar: https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/26125011/person/1828685152
Updated on Aug. 20, 2023 to report on the rediscovery of the graves!