Updated: Jan 13, 2020
The New York Times bills itself as the newspaper of record in the United States but has an international reputation. It’s one of the few American newspapers with a Canadian bureau and it regularly publishes news about Canada.
Long before it reached its present status, it was reporting on events in the West Kootenay. In fact, our area has showed up on its pages regularly beginning in 1891. “Kootenay” or “Kootenai” has appeared 756 times since the paper was founded in 1858, although not all of them were about our area and many of those mentions were scores from Kootenay Ice WHL games.
But there have also been 133 mentions of Rossland, 45 mentions of Nelson, 42 mentions of Slocan (many or most of them Slocan Forest Products earnings reports); 41 of Kaslo, 36 of Trail, 21 of Castlegar, and four of Nakusp.
Most were more frequently mentioned between 1891 and 1901, often on the front page, roughly mirroring the initial mining rush to the area. There were many decades where little happened in our area that made the Times’ radar, but we’re once again firmly back in their sights.
The full run of the Times has been digitized and is available online — some for free, some with a subscription. Here’s a look at some of the ways in which our region has turned up in its pages.
Date: Sept. 4, 1860
Headline: Oregon and Washington
Synopsis: First mention of the Boundary — I think. The geography is pretty loose, but “Considerable excitement prevails around Puget Sound, on account of favorable mining reports from Rock Creek, near the headwaters of the Similkameen. This district lies southeast of Fort Hope, and is mostly north of the British line. It was the opinion of many old miners that the main diggings of the British Columbia and Washington Territories would be found in this region …” Several other dispatches that fall also mentioned Rock Creek.
Date: July 10, 1878
Headline: Election frauds in British Columbia
Synopsis: The first use of the word Kootenay in the Times, although it was not about West Kootenay. A story datelined San Francisco quoted a dispatch from Victoria that says “evidence taken before the Royal Commission now sitting here has disclosed an astonishing state of corruption at Kootenay. Witnesses swore that they have seen votes bought openly at the polls; that American citizens cross the border into Kootenay, take some sort of an oath before a magistrate and control the election. Kootenay is situated on the southern boundary line and has 45 registered voters, who return two members, one-twelfth of the whole representation in Parliament.”
Date: June 7, 1885
Headline: A mining superintendent shot
Synopsis: The first mention of West Kootenay (and second mention of Kootenay overall) is a front page item about the Bluebell murder.
Date: Oct. 29, 1886
Headline: Sproule hangdd [sic]
Synopsis: This story records the aftermath of the previous one.
Date: Oct. 26, 1891
Headline: The Kootenay mining field
Synopsis: The first of many stories extolling the region for its mines, quoting geologist George Dawson at length.
Date: March 16, 1896
Headline: Four killed by giant powder
Synopsis: Recounted an explosion at Rossland’s Centre Star mine that killed two and injured two others.
Date: Oct. 27, 1896
Headline: Miners who want wives
Synopsis: I’ve previously written about this one — J.G. Devin’s call for women to move to Rossland to marry lonely miners appeared prominently in many newspapers, including the Times.
Date: Sept. 29, 1897
Headline: Leroi gold mine to be sold
Synopsis: Rossland’s Leroi mine is sold to an English syndicate for a reputed $5 million.
Date: Sept. 20, 1898
Headline: Tolstoi and the Doukhobortsi
Synopsis: This was the first mention of Doukhobors in the Times. An anonymous letter from someone in Bridgeport, Conn. quoted a letter from Leo Tolstoy: “It having now become clear how much money is yet wanting for the emigration of the Doukhobortsi, this is what I think of doing: I have two or three unpublished stories, one of which I have been lately working at, and I would like to sell them on the most advantageous terms to publishers … and use the proceeds for the emigration of the Doukhobortsi.” That story was actually the full-length novel Resurrection, initially published as a magazine serial 1899. It outsold Anna Karenina and War and Peace.
Date: Nov. 7, 1898
Headline: Wild beasts invade towns
Synopsis: Apparently four bears “entered White Water City, in Kootenai” and “attacked the meat safe of the principal hotel, demolished it and got away in safety with its contents. The entire male population turned out the next night, armed with rifles and shotguns, and awaited the advent of the bears.” It didn’t end well for the bears — two of the four were killed. Whitewater is today’s Retallack. The story was based on something that appeared in the Nelson Miner six days earlier.
Date: Dec. 1, 1898
Headline: Steamer and nine lives lost
Synopsis: A front-page squib related Kootenay Lake’s deadliest disaster: “Revelstoke, BC, Nov. 30 – The steamer Ainsworth, plying between Kaslo and Nelson and other Kootenay points, was wrecked last night about five miles south of Balfour. Nine men were drowned, including three passengers.”
Date: May 5, 1900
Headline: Sandon destroyed by fire
Synopsis: A mining town laid to waste.
Date: June 17, 1900
Headline: Strike likely in Kootenai
Synopsis: The story noted about 2,000 muckers at the local mines were prepared to walk off the job in support of a $3 day salary. Most were paid $2.50 to $2.60 per day.
Date: Oct. 14, 1900
Headline: Yuengling under arrest
Synopsis: Here’s one I wasn’t familiar with: Fred Yuengling was charged with embezzling $387 from the Lion Brewing Company at Rossland, where he was the manager. He was arrested as he came out of a cafe in New York. He was ordered extradited to BC, but the US State Department intervened and he was released after 14 days in prison. The money he stole was paid back by his father, brewing king David Yuengling. The younger Yuengling continued to have trouble with money and the law. In 1908, he was arrested for writing bad cheques. Taken to the prison ward of Bellevue hospital, he died of acute alcoholism.
Date: Dec. 28, 1902
Headline: Snowslide carries death
Synopsis: This story reported on the avalanche that hit the bunkhouse of the Mollie Gibson mine above Kootenay Lake on Christmas Day, carrying nine men to their deaths.
Date: April 2, 1913
Headline: Strike may tie up town
Synopsis: All members of the Federal Labor Union in Nelson were poised to go on strike, including painters, pipe layers, quarry men, mortar mixers, bricklayers, carpenters’ helpers, hod carriers (a job related to bricklaying), plasterers, machinists and electricians. They sought higher wages and shorter hours.
Date: March 6, 1954
Headline: Sternwheeler Minto ends 55 years of service
Synopsis: The CPR made it official that the Minto would end its service on the Arrow Lakes after 56 years and 2.5 million miles. They also expressed their hope that it would be tied up and converted into a museum. Instead it would be towed into the lake and burned 14 years later, despite the efforts of John Nelson to save it.
(Greg Nesteroff collection)
Date: May 6, 1956
Headline: Last of colorful old paddle-wheelers nearing end of line in British Columbia
Synopsis: It was the Moyie’s turn to be retired on Kootenay Lake (although it wouldn’t happen until the following year).
Date: Jan. 16, 1960
Headline: Harwood is first in downhill race
Synopsis: First mention by the Times of Rossland’s Nancy Greene, who finished third in a race at Sun Valley, Idaho. There would be many more mentions to come, including the edition of Feb. 16, 1968, seen below.
Date: July 9, 1978
Headline: Japanese-Canadians honored in Ottawa
Synopsis: Seisho Kuwabura becomes one of the first three Japanese-Canadians named to the Order of Canada. The longtime activist for better understanding between the Japanese and other ethnic groups in Canada ran the Kado Takeya School of Ikebana in Montreal. In an interview, she recalled her family being sent from Vancouver to Sandon in 1942 at the start of the Japanese-Canadian internment, a place she likened to “the end of the world.”
Date: Aug. 28, 1980
Headline: Her outing is brief but historic
Synopsis: Kelly Craig became the first female starting pitcher in a Little League World Series game when she faced three batters in Trail’s 8-3 win over Matamoros, Mexico.
Date: Nov. 24, 1980
Headline: After 22 years, the Weavers are reunited
Synopsis: The band’s getting back together! Pete Seeger, Fred Hellerman, Lee Hays, and Ronnie Gilbert reunited for the first time in 22 years with a pair of concerts at Carnegie Hall. As the story noted: “Miss Gilbert now lives in an old mining community, Slocan Valley, in the mountains of British Columbia, about 450 miles from Vancouver.” Gilbert arrived in New Denver on Halloween 1975 and moved to Hills the following year. She was a founding member of Theatre Energy. She discussed it all in her autobiography, A Radical Life in Song.
Date: July 3, 1987
Headline: A nose is a nose
Synposis: A story not about Steve Martin or the filming of Roxanne in Nelson per se, but about the noses Martin wore in the movie and the makeup artist who created them.
Date: Oct. 19, 1992
Headline: Sect that fled Czarist looks homeward
Synopsis: The notion that Canadian Doukhobors would one day return to Russia to live and preserve their culture fascinated generations of reporters. It never happened, but this story is nevertheless noteworthy — not least of all because it quotes my aunt and first cousin. It also mentions another of my cousins who did move to Russia — to work as a pro hockey scout.
Date: July 2, 1999
Synopsis: Obituary for the Hollywood director who was born in Grand Forks in 1908 and as one of the Hollywood Ten was jailed in the 1950s for refusing to tell a Congressional committee whether he was a communist.
Date: Nov. 21, 2004
Headline: Greetings from Resisterville
Synopsis: This is probably the most noteworthy story about our area to appear in the Times — at least the most influential. It profiled war resisters in our area and a proposed statue honouring them. (Fox News’ coverage of the statue led to a boycott of Nelson by Americans who never intended to visit it in the first place.) The headline entered the vernacular. CNN also used the term in a 2007 profile of the city as an anti-war refuge, and was sometimes erroneously credited with coining it. It also appeared in the title of Kathleen Rodgers’ book, Welcome to Resisterville: American Dissidents in British Columbia (which cited the Times story).
Date: July 15, 2008
Synopsis: In the 2000s, Nelson became home to no less than five US soldiers who quit the Iraq war and sought asylum in Canada. This story was about Robin Long, the first to be deported back to America. He was subsequently sentenced to 15 months in a military prison.
Date: Feb. 23, 2010
Headline: Meet a Met who can curl
Synopsis: This story had a terrific lead: “Jason Bay may not be the best hitter the Mets have ever acquired, but he may be the best curler.” It added that while Bay grew up in Trail, the high school didn’t have a baseball team but did have a curling rink.
Date: Dec. 11, 2016
Headline: “With flood of urbanites, a Canadian hippie haven tries to keep its mellow” (online) and “Mellow Canada town faces urbanite flood” (print)
Synopsis: The most recent major feature about our area was a profile of Nelson, which hit the usual notes: marijuana, draft dodgers, artists, tree huggers, and bohemian soul. And that was just in the first sentence.