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Reminiscences of Anyox, British Columbia

by Morley Shier

Anyox, British Columbia

    This article was originally published in the December 1958 edition of "Western Miner and Oil Review."

    In my week-long visits to the Granby Company at Anyox I always spent one full day with John Swanson, mine superintendent. Yes, it was always a full day from after breakfast at 7:30 A.M., lunch, dinner and evening - and sometimes it was very late evening. As for instance one day (it was not my regular day with John) when prohibition was on us the rumor went around that Mr. Swanson had had a keg delivered to his house that morning off the freight boat. Mr. Jacobs, Hal Roscoe, Ed Gillingham and I called on him that evening. Had a pleasant couple of hours with John, Mrs. Swanson, and the three lovely daughters. Mrs. Swanson and the girls finally went off to bed. We stayed on and talked with John. He finally said, "You fellows have stayed on and on. I know you don't mind keeping me up late though I'm going to see you in the morning. Alright, sit still for a few minutes, I'll see that your visit is not wasted." Next we could hear tap, tap, tap in the basement and he came upstairs with a huge pitcher. It didn't take long. We four went home to the mine club linked arm-in-arm tightly. It turned out that our host's keg was Swedish Aqua-Vit brought in on a freighter.

    Always on my day with John we had lunch in their kitchen with our digging clothes still on, and always it started with a huge bowl of clam chowder. John would enquire, "How do you like that chowder?"

    "Just fine, don't think I ever tasted better," I would reply.

    "Well," John would say, "It's alright, but I can never get mother to make it as well as they do down at the Blue Bird Cafe. Somehow theirs has a better flavour."

    And while he was saying this, Mrs. Swanson would stand in the pantry where I could see her and John would not, holding up a big gallon jar with the label "Blue Bird Cafe. Clam Chowder."

    We had one very silent lunch at his place aftear we had visited the big glory hole before noon. We went in through a short tunnel above the 530. Just as we came out into the glory hole the big bull-doze and plug-hole shots went off and threw boulders as big as your head at us and all around us and bashed into the tunnel right alongside of us. We ran back but it was useless, as it was all over then. Hence, the very silent lunch. We had no conversation to make that day.

    When we would be sitting in John's office in the late afternoon, Cariboo George would sometimes come in. He would sit in a far corner with his ears on our conversation and his nose in the newspaper. We would look over and notice the paper would sometimes be up-side-down. Cariboo George couldn't read. He was an old miner, who at that time held the job of night man at the Dry. His job was to wash down with the hose, sweep up, keep the fires up for the grave-yard and morning shifts. He was a character, an old man, and was given a lot of freedom; he had been with Granby company many years.

    If you talked on any subject, whatever it was, Cariboo George had been there. He was at the shooting of "Soapy" Smith and Reid, the city engineer, when they shot and killed each other on the wharf at Skagway, when the tough element in the town was having its troubles with the Vigilantes over the effort to clean up the place.

    He was one of the 169 saved when the S.S. Islander sank in the Stephens Passage, fifteen miles out of Juneau, on her way south from Alaska with a huge treasure aboard. Some say there was $3,000,000 worth of gold on board, mostly in suit-cases and dunnage-bags, though some of it was in the purser's safe. She sank in fifteen minutes after hitting a submerged iceberg from the Taku Glacier. Several attempts and hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent since in trying to salvage her, but no treasure has been found though the last effort did get the broken and twisted hull ashore.

    This story is of Anyox, but as these are reminiscences I'm allowed to ramble on and take in some of the story of the "Islander" as it was one of the many interesting stories Cariboo George told me. One that sticks in my memory is when Cariboo George's life-boat got to the beach - it was a very calm sea and none were lost once they got into a boat or on a life-raft - they got a huge beach-fire going. It was bitterly cold and many of them were blue with having been in the water. There was a very young pantry boy from the ship dressed only in his underwear and a pair of light cotton pants. He was shivering and his teeth were chattering. Cariboo George gave him a coat and got him up close to the fire. The boy told him his story. He was awakened at five past two by the bump, looked at his big silver watch which hung at the head of his bunk. His room-mates told him to get up and go on deck and find out what had happened. He went up, met the deck officer who told him, "Go back to bed, you'll catch cold just in your underwear, and there is nothing wrong." By the time he got back to his cabin the engine bells were signaling franitically. He grabbed a life-belt and struggling to put it on he reached the deck. The ship was already tilting nose down. He went through the lounge and an officer there was standing by an old lady. He turned to the lad and said, "Do you mind giving your belt to this lady? She is lame." The officer and the boy put the life-belt on her, got her on deck in time to get her a place in a boat.

    By that time there was no place for the boy. The ship was beginning to upend faster. There was one full life-boat hanging in the davits with one end stuck fast. The rope slings would not release. He climbed in and that did it - the extra weight of his jump. The boat was safely lowered. It was overcrowded and one man took charge. It turned out afterward that he was not a seaman at all but was a man of authority. He ordered them to row fast for the beach. There were two reasons for this - one was to get away from the suction of the sinking ship, the other was the danger from those in the water trying to climb aboard an already overloaded boat.

    Cariboo George talked with the Chinaman, a big 230 lb. chief cook, who told him that he swam to a raft, caught the rope encircling it, but when a man on it kicked him in the face, he lost his hold. Fortunately he was picked up by another raft. He told Cariboo George, "I saw the face of the man who kicked me and I'll never forget it. It may be better for him and for me if I never see him again in my lifetime."

    Cariboo George was also at the murder trial of Mrs. Maybrick in the Old Bailey in London. It was a famous trial and books have been written on it since. It happened that Cariboo George was in the money at the time having sold a mining claim for cash. He outfitted a pal and himself with new clothes, shoes, and all new travelling bags and went to England to hear the trial.

    The case was a long one and was being talked of and written up in England and United States. As Cariboo George had at one time lived in the same town as Florence Maybrick he took a personal interest in it.

    I think maybe the reason I remember George's story is because his recounting how he and his pal entertained the factory girls in the pubs on Saturday night, The girls would get tight and if not tight would act as if they were and be arrested on the way home. They would spend a quiet Sunday in jail, free meals, and their last week’s wages still hidden in their clothes as George did all the spending. On Monday morning the girls would be released early so as to get to their work and each given a shilling by the Government to buy breakfast. A very jolly and profitable week-end.

    It is said that "All is Fair in Love and War" and Billy X. McDonald, the "Machine Doctor," told me his story along these lines. He was going with a girl in Phoenix and was sent to Anyox when the company opened the mine there. He loved the girl and called on her most every night, but he had a competitor. Another chap was eager to marry the girl. Billy X. proposed and she said, "Billy, you know I love you better than any one else, and I would accept you gladly except for your drinking. If you would give me your promise that you would never, never, never take another drink I would be happy to marry you." Billy gave his sincere promise.

    It happened at that time in Phoenix many of the side-walks were built high on posts crossing low swampy areas. Billy X.'s opponent saw the girl and her mother approaching one of these long bridge-like spans and what did he do, the skunk, but get under the bridge and in a loud voice while the women were passing overhead, but shout, "Come on now, Billy, get on your feet, you are not so drunk as all that. Billy X. do you hear me? I'll take you home. Come on now Billy X. you drunken old bum."

    That night Billy was unfortunately a bit late but, after coming off shift, cleaned up, and with a box of candy under his arm called on the girl. No answer to his knock. The blinds were down. He knocked and waited, again he knocked and waited - no reply. Billy remained a bachelor the rest of his life, but the other fellow didn't get the girl either.

    The story of E. E. Paton. Mr. Paton was a young mine engineer at Phoenix and received a letter from Mr. Jay P. Graves, general manager, instructing him to go to Anyox for a temporary two-weeks job.

    After 35 years he wrote Mr. Graves, when Anyox was closing down, and said, "Dear Mr. Graves - the two-weeks job you sent me up here for has finally been completed. Have you got another two-weeks job for me?"

    This story is overly long now, but I would like to tell of John Swanson and the mine maps. When Fred McNicholas, assistant superintendent, would come in John's office and put some sectional maps on the table, John would study them while he was there and immediately he left he would put them aside and with a smiling grimace say to me, "Mine maps hunh!" (John and his brother, Steve, thought they had no need for maps. They knew where the ore was and how to get it out.)

    Ralph Healy later became general manager of the Wright-Hargreaves; W. J. Coulter became vice-president and general manager and Fred McNicholas the mine superintendent of the Climax Molybdenum; J. B. Haffner, general manager, later held the same office for the Bunker Hill and Sullivan. Henry Doelle, who ran the Bonanza mine for Granby, became the manager of the Sheep Creek Mines; W. B. Maxwell was later vice-president of Ventures Ltd.; Victor Bengston, the jolly Swede foreman, took a State of Washington course in poultry, and became very successful with his poultry ranch.

    A. S. Baillie revived the company by reopening the Copper Mountain mine and as president managed it for several years until L. T. Postle the present president and manager took over. A. H. Quist, the purchasing agent in Vancouver, did well by taking up land in the Whalley district where he makes his home. There are many more that come to mind as Sylvester, Quinn, Plommer, Bocking, E. Campbell, O. B. Smith, et al, but I feel sure the editor will be cutting me off by now.

    The picture herewith is of the 44 million pounds of blister copper stored on the beach at Anyox awaiting a better price for copper. The company profited by holding it though they had quite a scare before shipping when it was feared the ground was beginning to move with such a concentrated weight on the sloping hill-side.

Editor's Note: The name "Anyox," selected by The Granby Consolidated Mining, Smelting & Power Co., Ltd., for the community established on Observatory Inlet, is the Native Indian word for "Hidden Creek"; the name of the big copper mine at Goose Bay, B.C.

Morley Shier visited Anyox and many other mines as the representative of the Giant Powder Company.