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The Aylwin City story

Updated: Aug 3, 2022

In the summer of 2017, Dian Aylwin made a remarkable discovery in her father’s garage in New Denver: tacked to the wall was the townsite plan of Aylwin, a phantom city in the Slocan that her grandfather and his brother started in the 1890s. Although the town is mentioned in a few history books, the map was not thought to have survived. It provides new insight into a pioneer family and the vagaries of real estate development associated with the Silvery Slocan mining rush.


This story originally appeared in the Winter 2018 edition of The Silver Standard, the newsletter of the Silvery Slocan Historical Society.

The Aylwin townsite plan, discovered in a New Denver garage.


Before we look at the townsite in detail, a bit about the Aylwin family, which originated in Quyon, Que., a village on the Ottawa River. Their name is sometimes misspelled Alywin, Alwyn, or Alwin.


Dr. George Connolly Aylwin (1824-1904), the son of a wine merchant, married Clarissa Louisa Sisson (1830-87) in 1855. They had eight children, who began moving west in the 1870s and 1880s.


The first to arrive in the West Kootenay was the third eldest, Charles William Cushing Connolly Aylwin, who appears on the 1891 voters list in the Nelson polling district. His

profession was listed as innkeeper. [1]


It’s not known which establishment he worked at but an ad signed by George A. Bigelow and the firm of Wilson and Perdue suggested it may have been the Tecumseh House before a falling out: “Warning notice! All parties are hereby warned against purchasing any furniture or other goods from Charles Aylwin or his agents, the said furniture and goods were formerly in the Tecumseh house on Josephine street …” [2]


Following major silver discoveries that fall in the Slocan, Aylwin turned his attention to the future site of New Denver. In March 1892, he and youngest brother Thomas John (Jack) jointly applied for a license for a hotel to be known as the Pioneer House. [3] It was on Eldorado Avenue and was probably a glorified log cabin. Charles also built a home on Bellevue Avenue [4] and staked a mining claim, the Aylwin. [5]


In early 1893, Charles announced plans to build a new hotel, or enlarge his existing one, which became known as the Denver House. There was also a suggestion he was building a log hotel at the mouth of Sandon Creek, although Sandon as a settlement didn’t really exist yet. [6]

George Aylwin

In the spring, another brother, Henry (Harry) arrived in town and worked as a clerk and cook at Charley’s hotel. [7]


The brothers became firmly entrenched in the community. Charley was elected president of the fire brigade and Jack was a charter member of the community band, which formed in “Aylwin’s hall” — presumably a large room in the hotel. [8]


Another brother, George Sisson Aylwin, arrived from Vancouver sometime in 1897. [9]


Much excitement followed the shipment of the first ore from the Enterprise mine on Ten Mile Creek (now called Enterprise Creek), which became a major producer, second only to the Ottawa in the Slocan City mining camp for quantity and total value of ore extracted.


To capitalize on this activity, Charley applied for a Crown grant for Lot 1256, six miles east of the steamer landing at the creek’s mouth. The lot overlapped portions of the Boisevan and Neepawa mining claims, while the trail to the Bondhonder mine passed through it.


Alfred Driscoll surveyed the lot in September and October 1896. It was gazetted in March 1897 and the Crown grant was issued May 28, 1897.


At the north end of the lot, the Aylwins created a townsite that bore their name. It was first mentioned in the Sandon Paystreak of Sept. 26, 1896: “A townsite called Aylwin City has been staked about a mile from the Enterprise [mine] on Ten Mile. A building to be used as a store has already been erected. Thos. Reed & Co. will have an hotel in operation sometime in October.”

Charley Aylwin received a Grown grant for Lot 1256, six miles up Ten Mile Creek, in May 1897. It was here that Alywin City was born.


It actually took until January for the hotel to open. [10] Reed operated it in partnership with George Aylwin and it was known both as the Aylwin Hotel and Enterprise Hotel. [11] E. Parris & Co. also built a store to provide miners’ supplies. Thomas McNeish, who went on to serve many terms as mayor of Slocan, was the resident manager. [12]


Despite this, the townsite had not yet been surveyed and there seemed to be some doubt about the name. The Paystreak reported on May 22, 1897: “A new townsite is being formed on Ten Mile Creek, near the Enterprise group by J. Lukov of Trail and J. Fleischman, Vancouver. The name of the town is not yet settled on.” [13]


Later references confirm the townsite referred to above was in fact Aylwin and not a rival city — although there were at least two of those. One was established by Robert Covington, foreman of the Enterprise mine, about a mile above the hotel, and called Enterprise. [14]


The other was Enterprise Landing, down at the creek’s mouth, owned by Robert I. Kirkwood, co-discoverer of the Enterprise mine. Here C.E. Taylor ran a hotel. [15] Joe Law and J.T. Tipping were also reported as bound for the head of Ten Mile Creek to survey a townsite, but nothing more was heard of their activities. [16] (No plans are known to exist of any of these places.)


In June 1897, C.E. Wood surveyed the Aylwin townsite. [17]

From the newly rediscovered map, we learn the streets were named Mary, Ella, Nellie, Hannah, and Enterprise while the avenues were Slocan, Graham, and Sisson.


Mary Ella (Nellie) Aylwin, a sister to Charles and George, apparently had three streets named for her. (She married George Aylard, manager of the Enterprise mine, in 1898.) Sisson was George’s middle name and their mother’s maiden name. However, the significance of Hannah and Graham aren’t known; the names don’t appear among the Aylwin family, so may have been suggested by another townsite partner.

Mary Ella (Nellie) Aylwin had three streets named for her in Aylwin City. (Courtesy Dian Aylwin)


Ten Mile Creek was the town’s northern border, and the streets and lots appeared to reflect the topography, rather than simply following a grid pattern. At the time of the townsite’s survey, Tom Reed (or Reid) sold his interest in it, possibly to G.J. Mighton. [18]


Reed then teamed up with Covington on the Enterprise townsite, where two or three buildings were being erected and Gorman West planned to open a store. Patrick Stratford started an hotel, where William J. Maize apparently worked. [19]


An anonymous correspondent for the Slocan Pioneer described the high hopes held for Aylwin City on June 26, 1897:

On the road I met a party of surveyors who had just finished platting a townsite around the Alwin [sic] home, about a mile and a half from the Enterprise mine. The owners and projectors of this scheme are Mr. Aylwin of New Denver, Fleishmann of Vancouver and G.J. Mighton of Hamilton. There is already a good hotel, a large store run by E. Parris & Co. of Slocan City, and a blacksmith shop and George Aylwin, who is keeping the hotel, in his leisure moments looks on the ground that is being cleared and dreams of red school houses and churches with steeples and stock exchanges and railroad depots.

While none of that materialized, W.C.E. (Billy) Koch did put in a portable sawmill to support the Enterprise mine. [20]


The Ledge of July 22, 1897 reported a post office at Aylwin was “likely to be established here in a few days,” but the application, filed a month earlier with Alex DesBrisay as the suggested postmaster, wasn’t taken up by postal inspector E.H. Fletcher until Aug. 24. His report said the office would serve two families plus 100 to 150 miners in the area.


“A private bag is now made up for the place which is taken charge of by the hotel keeper at the landing and sent to the mines by freight wagons almost daily,” he wrote. “The permanency of the place will depend on the success of the mines, which so far look promising.” [21]

Aylwin townsite as seen relative to Slocan Lake. Enterprise Landing and the wagon road are also visible at centre left.


MP Hewitt Bostock wrote to the postmaster general in February 1898 asking that the office be opened, but it never did.


The 1897 civic directory included an entry for Ten Mile, which included the Aylwin brothers, Koch, C.B. Taylor, the E. Parris and Co. store, a hotelkeeper named Neil McDonald, the freighting firm of James Sheran and Daniel Oray, plus the Enterprise, Bondholder, and Neepawa mines.


The 1898 directory included a listing for “Alwyn [sic] City” with a notation “See Enterprise. A new townsite near the Enterprise mine, 5 miles east of Slocan Lake.” It listed “Fleshmann, Lukov & Mighton, townsite owners.” A separate listing for Enterprise was similar to the previous year, but without Sheran, and Oray. Instead of Neil McDonald, the listing read “McDonald, C.F., hotel and blacksmith.”


The 1898 provincial voters list included 13 names at Aylwin or Ten Mile:


Aylwin, George Sisson, Hotel-keeper
Barney, James, Miner
Ferguson, Alexander, Sawyer
Gillis, John Harris, Woods foreman
Hurlburt, Norman D., Laborer
Lambert, Ulrich, Miner
Maize, William J., Hotel-keeper
McAulay, James H., Saw-mill man
McGregor, Edward, Miner
McPhail, James, Ten-Mile, Miner
O’Brien, Joseph, Enterprise Mine, Miner
Perry, George Henry, Ten-Mile Creek, Miner
Stratford, Patrick, Hotel-keeper

However, Aylwin was not a polling station, which The Silvertonian felt would disenfranchise about 40 people. But the Kaslo Morning News considered that ridiculous, noting nowhere near that many names were on the voters list: “It will be no hardship for these 11 voters to go to Silverton or Slocan City to cast their votes.” [22]


(The News mistakenly called Aylwin an “almost unknown landing on Slocan lake,” which prompted the Silvertonian to fire back: “[The News] must surely be thinking of air ships as Aylwin is six miles up the Enterprise wagon road.”) [23]


Nevertheless, the government relented and made Ten Mile Creek a polling station, though it’s not known what building was used.


Later that year, Charley Aylwin married Mary Elizabeth (Lillie) Gathercole at New Denver. [24]


Things evidently slowed down on Ten Mile and the hotels at Enterprise Landing and Aylwin both closed, but C.B. Taylor re-opened the former in the spring of 1899 and George Aylwin followed suit in July. [25] George also worked as a watchman at the Enterprise mine. [26]

Enterprise Landing, date unknown, from the John Ashworth album. (Slocan Valley Archives)


Also in 1899, Robert Kirkwood filed a new post office application, this time to be known as Enterprise. The accompanying petition had 35 names, some with a vested interest, including Billy Koch and C.B. Taylor, while others were more suspect: photographer R.H. Trueman signed it and listed his profession as “miner.” None of the Aylwins were among the signatories. [27]


Acting postal inspector W.H. Dornan wrote that the mail was still being delivered to the wharf by steamer, given to the hotelkeeper, and then sent up to the mines by pack teams.


However, “Owing to the closing down of the mines very few men are now employed in the vicinity of Enterprise and there is no necessity at present for the establishment of a post office at that place … As no person has been named as postmaster the exact location of proposed post office cannot be ascertained.” [28]


The Ledge provided an updated description of the area on July 13, 1899, which indicated not much had changed: 

There are two townsites on the creek, that of Enterprise, at the lake shore, owned by R.I. Kirkwood of New Denver; and Aylwin, commanding the Enterprise basin and owned principally by C.W. Aylwin also of New Denver. C.B. Taylor has a hotel at Enterprise and W.C.E. Koch feed stables and blacksmith shop. At Aylwin is a hotel owned by Geo. Aylwin; a sawmill, by W. Koch and a store by A. Parrish [sic] & Co. of Slocan City. Just below the Enterprise mine is a third hotel, owned by P. Stratford, and a number of dwellings.

The hotel at Enterprise Landing closed in August, by which time an M. Lavelle was running it. C.B. Taylor reopened it again late in the year following renovations but put it up for sale in May 1900. There didn’t appear to be any takers; the hotel closed again in October as Taylor and his wife headed to Illinois for the winter. [29]


Aylwin, however, was described as a “busy little burg” owing to the Koch sawmill, with “more activity on Ten Mile … than there has been noticed for many moons … Additional bunk house room is being erected for early occupancy. Around Aylwin there are more men employed, and generally speaking, that section is experiencing a gradual revival.” [30]

Ad from the New Denver Ledge of June 7, 1900

A violent incident occurred at the Aylwin Hotel in November 1899 between rival packers Samuel Long and James Kelly. The pair had already been feuding for some time when they met at the hotel and Kelly, who had “an unenviable reputation as a quarreler,” pulled out a long-bladed jack knife. Long was stabbed in the chest, but got in a few blows of his own. Long was taken to Slocan City, where Dr. Elliott dressed and stitched his wound, while Kelly disappeared into the woods. [31]


The following May, Kelly gave himself up to authorities in Slocan. He appeared before two justices of the peace and was fined $50 plus costs. [32]


Around this time the E. Parris & Co. store reopened its branch at Aylwin, although it’s not known how long it had been closed. [33] Billy Koch, meanwhile, moved his sawmill from Aylwin to a camp about two miles down. [34]


George Aylwin applied for a license renewal on the Aylwin Hotel in late 1900 while working mining claims near the townsite with brother Jack. [35]


A new mill was erected at the Enterprise mine, necessitating a new sleigh road from Aylwin, while a petition circulated asking the government to continue the Ten Mile wagon road from Aylwin to the summit of Kokanee Creek. [36]


Charley Aylwin offered his half of the Aylwin townsite for sale in July 1901. His ad read:

For sale – A half interest in Aylwin. The townsite consists of 142 acres and is Crown granted. It is on Ten Mile, in the Slocan, and is surrounded by mines. There is a map for anyone who wishes to make a real estate investment. One hotel and store are already doing a good business. Easy terms. Apply to C.W. Aylwin, New Denver. [37]

But it doesn’t appear that he found any buyers.


The Enterprise Hotel at Aylwin hosted a dance in March 1902, with “a number of ladies” from New Denver. [38] The following month George Aylwin wed Sarah Gathercole in New Denver, listing his residence as “Aylwin, Ten Mile Creek, Slocan Lake” on the marriage registration and his profession as hotelkeeper. [39] Sarah was a sister to Lillie, who married Charley Aylwin.


C.B. Taylor’s hotel at Enterprise Landing closed again in the summer of 1901, but reopened for a few months in 1902 under the management of Frank Wells. It was “dismantled” in May 1903 and the furniture put into storage at Slocan City. But enough of the building must have been left standing for George Aylwin rented it that August, apparently forsaking the Enterprise Hotel. [40]


Charley Aylwin returned to Aylwin near the end of the year, resulting in this confusing situation: George Aylwin ran Taylor’s Hotel at Enterprise Landing, while Charley Aylwin intended to run the Enterprise Hotel at Aylwin. (More confusing still, some ads placed the Enterprise Hotel at Enterprise.) [41]


However, for some reason Charley’s application for a license was opposed and he withdrew it. [42] The following year, George Aylwin secured a hotel license renewal at Enterprise Landing. [43]


By 1904, the Parris & Co. store at Aylwin had long since closed and the building’s lumber was salvaged by the lessees of the Edison mining claim for their camp. [44]


In June, family patriarch Dr. George Connolly Aylwin died at Enterprise Landing. His obituary stated his passing occurred at his son George’s home, which we might guess was the hotel. Dr. Aylwin moved to New Denver after retiring from his medical practice. [45]


In September, Lot 1256, to which the Aylwin townsite belonged, was scheduled to be sold for delinquent taxes. Charley Aylwin was in arrears by $59 (something like $1,870 in today’s figures). [46]

Ad for a tax sale from the Slocan Drill, Sept. 30, 1904, that included the Alywin City townsite.


This suggests the townsite plan, despite being drafted, was never deposited with the land registry, or else no lots ever changed hands — otherwise an order-in-council would have been required to cancel the plan before the entire lot could be sold. No such order has been discovered, nor have any other notices of delinquent lots within the Aylwin townsite.


The outcome of the tax sale is unknown, but the property likely reverted to the Crown.


The final mention of the Aylwins on Ten Mile Creek was a note in late 1904 that George had closed the hotel at Enterprise Landing and moved to New Denver. [47]


The fate of the other buildings within the Aylwin, Enterprise, and Enterprise Landing townsites is unknown, but the Enterprise mine continued to be worked off and on for decades. Billy Koch continued to operate on Ten Mile for a few more years as well, even completing a large extension to the Enterprise Landing wharf. [48]


No photos are known to exist of the Aylwin townsite, which makes the map all the more valuable. Curiously, it doesn’t look finished. There is no plan number or date of deposit, nor is it signed by the surveyor. It does, however, contain a list of local mines off to one side.


George Aylwin died of pneumonia in New Denver in 1912, age 55. Charles Aylwin — grandfather to Dian, who discovered the plan — died in New Denver in 1932, age 72. Harry Aylwin died in New Denver in 1944, age 75. Jack Aylwin died in Kamloops in 1959, age 86. Mary Ella Aylard, nee Aylwin, died in Victoria in 1925, age 59.


Although their townsite did not take off, a local creek and mountain were named after the Aylwins, both officially adopted in 1924.

The Aylwin family home in New Denver, seen in 2014.


NOTES

1. The Miner (Nelson), Nov. 7, 1891


2. The Miner, Oct. 24, 1891


3. The Miner, March 19, 1892


4. The Tribune (Nelson), Jan. 12, 1893


5. The Miner, May 21, 1892


6. The Tribune, Jan. 12, 1893


7. The Tribune, May 4, 1893


8. The Tribune, March 8, 1894 and The Ledge (New Denver), March 7, 1895


9. The earliest mention of George is in the Slocan Pioneer, June 26, 1897.


10. The Ledge, Jan. 7, 1897


11. Slocan City News, Feb. 13, 1897


12. The Ledge, Jan. 7, 189


13. Lukov and Fleischman (or Fleishmann) were brothers-in-law, and among West Kootenay’s pioneer Jews. Lukov had dry goods stores in Trail, Sandon, Greenwood, and Phoenix, while Fleischman was a Vancouver jeweller. Their involvement with the townsite appears to have been short-lived, although it’s not known when or how they disposed of their interest.


14. Slocan Pioneer, June 5, 1897


15. Slocan Pioneer, June 26, 1897


16. Slocan Pioneer, Aug. 21, 1897


17. Sandon Mining Review, June 19, 1897


18. Slocan Pioneer, June 17, 1897


19. The Ledge, July 22 and 29, and Aug. 5, 1897. Earlier that year, Maize ran the Toronto House at Waterloo, near Castlegar.


20. The Paystreak, Oct. 9, 1897


21. “Application for the establishment of a post office at Aylwin,” Library and Archives Canada microfilm reel C7233, File 1897-42, viewable at https://tinyurl.com/y9ebxs6


22. The Silvertonian, June 25, 1898 and Kaslo Morning News, June 28, 1898


23. Kaslo Morning News, June 29, 1898


24. BC Archives marriage registration for Charles W. Aylwin and Mary E. Gathercole, Reg. No. 1898-09-178018, Microfilm B11388


25. The Tribune, May 9, 1899 and The Ledge, May 11, June 1, and July 6, 1899


26. The Ledge, June 22, 1899


27. “Petition for the establishment of a post office at Enterprise,” Library and Archives Canada microfilm reel C7327, File 1899-228, viewable at https://tinyurl.com/ycjnulty


28. Ibid.


29. The Ledge, Aug. 31, 1899, The Tribune, Nov. 28, 1899, Slocan Drill, May 18, Oct. 19, and Nov. 16, 1900


30. The Ledge, Nov. 2, 1899 and The Paystreak, Nov. 11, 1899


31. The Silvertonian, Nov. 25, 1899, The Tribune, Nov. 28, 1899, and The Ledge, Nov. 30, 1899


32. Slocan Drill, May 11, 1900


33. Slocan Drill, May 18, 1900


34. Slocan Drill, Aug. 3, 1900


35. Slocan Drill, Dec. 7 and 14, 1900


36. Slocan Drill, Feb. 1 and 15, March 8, 1901


37. The Ledge, July 11, 1901


38. Slocan Drill, March 28, 1902


39. BC Archives marriage registration for George S. Aylwin and Sarah Gathercole, Reg. No. 1902-09-178023, Microfilm B11388


40. Slocan Drill, Aug. 30, 1901, Jan. 10 and April 25, 1902, May 1 and Aug. 28, 1903


41. Slocan Drill, Nov. 13 and 23, 1903


42. Slocan Drill, Nov. 27 and Dec 18, 1903


43. Slocan Drill, June 17, 1904


44. Slocan Drill, July 22, 1904


45. Slocan Drill, June 24, 1904


46. Slocan Drill, Sept. 30, 1904


47. Slocan Drill, Dec. 2, 1904


48. Slocan Drill, Jan. 6, 1905


Updated on Aug. 2, 2022 to add the full text of the story as it appeared in the newsletter.

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