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Stewart, British Columbia, in 1919


An Explorer's Guide to Stewart, British Columbia



The Vancouver Daily World, Saturday, December 27, 1919

Stewart, BC, in 1919

(The following interesting description of Stewart, one of the greatest mining camps in the province, was written for The World by Mr. G. O. Buchanan, who has just returned from a trip there.)

    If one is at the base of a big mountain rising precipitously to the east, if the month is December, and the latitude 54, he does not wait for daylight, if he is going to get in an 8-hour day. So we stepped off on the creaking wharf, and began explorations by starlight.

    As we came off the boat, to the right was Stewart in Canada to the left Hyder in Alaska.

    Stewart was to be reached by a wooden trestle structure a mile long; Hyder over a road a mile long, which road has been, at a cost of $40,000 to the province of British Columbia, cut out of the solid rock bluff.

    Stewart is at the mouth of Bear River; Hyder at the mouth of Salmon River. Both streams rise in Canada, but the last twelve miles of the Salmon is in Alaska. A narrow but very high mountain ridge separates the two valleys. The boulder wash of each of these rivers offers an ample area for a townsite, but a border of mud flats a mile wide intervenes to part these desirable sites from deep water.

Hyder Built on Piles.

    Stewart is not built on the mud flats, but will grow in that direction when the boom comes. Hyder has its principal business and residential district, like the lake dwellings of the Neolithic age, on piles in the water.

    The international survey drove a pile in mid-stream just off Hyder, and turned southward at a right angle, running to the top of the ridge.

    The "line," in disregard of geometric definition, is 120 feet wide, and in this "No Man's Land" none may buy or build, and the bootlegger is open to attack from either side.

    All day the motorman stood at the levers of the "John" hoist, and mountains of freight grew for a hundred feet each way along the wharf. Long before daylight a sling full of mail sacks went ashore, and four or five hours later on lay where they fell, because, as was said, there was no one whose special business it was to haul them to the postoffice.

    There was on the ground at Stewart about a foot of snow, the temperature probably sank at night to near zero, but during the day was 20 above. The mines in which work is going on are at no great height above the sea. The season of perfect snow roads generally lasts four months, so that conditions for winter work are ideal.

    Spending a day at Stewart-Hyder, one meets practically the whole population. Mr. Moberly, M.P.P. for the district (Atlin) was there. Mr. Bush, first of pioneers, who sold the Premier to its present owners, and who has half a dozen other mines just as good, was there. Mr. W. G. Harris, M.E., who has examined nearly all the showings in the camp, and who now is superintendent of the Premier mines; Charles F. Caldwell, who is an owner of the Alaska and the 49, and the Sure Money, who has a waterpower staked on Cascade Creek, and authority from the Forestry Commission of Alaska to construct a railway up Salmon River; Mr. Harry Howson, partner with Mr. Caldwell; and Mr. Ericson, their foreman; Messrs. Pat Daly, Gibson, Maxwell, Comer, Ewin, Jamieson, Tanner, Mosely, Mahood, Senator Rounan and the government agent, Mr. Jack.

    At noon the unorganized Chamber of Commerce held a meeting which was addressed by many of the citizens, by Mr. Moberly, Mr. Caldwell and the writer.

New Wharf Promised.

    Mr. Moberly explained that the wharf had been assumed by the Dominion government, and the needed repairs of the present structure and the extension to deep water are in the hands of the Public Works Department.

    The road up the Salmon for another ten miles, at a cost of $35,000, he would urge upon the Provincial Government.

    The steamboat and mail service were freely discussed. Notice has been given by the management of the G. T. P. that the weekly service hitherto afforded would be reduced to a boat in two weeks, the reason being first, lack of business, and secondly, the necessity of the Princes Albert and John lying up for repairs.

    A resolution was passed by the meeting protesting against this action, and asking that the weekly service be at once restored.

    As to the mail, it appeared that the Grand Trunk Pacific has not any contract to carry the mail. As a matter of fact their boats carry mail regularly, but on the gratuitous basis.

    The lowest tenderer for the mail, Prince Rupert to Stewart, was Capt. McCroskey, but it was stated that he had never agreed to the terms proposed, and the contract was unsigned.

    Captain McCroskey runs a gasoline launch, a boat capable of carrying a dozen passengers in summer weather, but totally unfit to face the rough water at the mouth of the Naas, which is frequently to be expected in winter.

Better Service at Hyder.

    Boats reach Hyder at least weekly from Ketchikan, and the service might be almost doubled in frequency by the dispatch of mail via Seattle.

    For delivery from the boats to the Stewart postoffice there is said to be no contract. A public-spirited expressman hauls the sacks, but he does it at his convenience, and after he has delivered passengers. When the boat stays only a few hours letters arriving cannot be answered.

    Mr. Harris informed the writer that the Premier mine no longer depended upon the Stewart office, but had its mail addressed to Prince Rupert.

    As to steamboat business, it was pointed out that the John was well-loaded on her present trip. Mr. Comer had two automobiles at Prince Rupert that were left behind for want of room.

    Another citizen had a sawmill at Rupert awaiting shipment. The ore shipments for the winter will, it is expected, amount to 2000 to 3000 tons.

    The present wharf is in a state of decay, needs new planking and new joists. The rail has been torn off in places and the material used to patch holes.

    The landing stage is unsafe and does not reach deep water. The writer has it on the highest authority that the big Princes will not run to Stewart until a safe landing place is provided. There is a storehouse on the wharf large cnough for one-quarter of the freight generally carried at a trip, and no one to exercise any supervision. A hundred tons of freight may be unloaded in a snowstorm or heavy rain, left unsheltered and unwatched.

    On the Alaskan side, we were told, any citizen could select a lot of 120 x 60 feet, and acquire the right of perpetual occupation (not the fee simple) by payment of $5.00.

Lots Held by Speculators.

    In Stewart the conveniently situated lots were still held by the speculators who bid them in at the boom sale ten or twelve years ago, and boom prices are asked for them.

    The government of British Columbia could relieve the situation by a tax sale, or by throwing on the market at nominal prices its portion of the townsite.

    The opportunity for a first-class hotel is inviting. The Empress hotel of boom days is empty and dismantled, and is said to contain a hundred rooms.

    Ecclesiastically, Stewart is a mission of the Anglican church and has a resident clergyman.

    Miss Thompson teaches eighteen pupils in a rented room, the schoolhouse being too big, and too distant for present needs.

    Through the enterprise of Sir Donald Mann and associates a railway was built up Bear River ten years ago, but tonnage in the tributary mines did not develop.

    One of the mining engineers best qualified to express an opinion, said: "The Bear River Valley never had a fair chance. The mines were stocked, and the stock prematurely thrown on the market. The money paid for stock was not spent on the ground. Development was slight and misdirected. The propertes are good and will be made producers."

Tunnel is Talked Of.

    Talk is heard of the extension of this road into the Upper Salmon by a tunnel, but even a tunnel would have to respect the international boundary, and this consideration would make the factors of distance and grade most formidable.

    When in early days an excursion from Slocan visited the coal mines at Fernie, one of the party asked a miner the width of the coal seam. He was astonished to be told, "About 22 miles." So in the Alice Arm and Stewart camps, those familiar with descriptions of other British Columbia camps find the miners talking of acreage of ore.

    As samples of winter tales we append a few of the marvels we were told:

    "They are sacking 6000-oz. ore in the Dolly Varden." We met the superintendent of the mine, and he said: "No, I would not say 6000, but fully 4000."

    "I have just bonded a couple of groups, extensions of the Dolly Varden, staked last September. We have another group, which I would bond; no work done on them; my partner is holding out for $350,000. You might see him at Anyox."

    "Say," said a lady, "do you see that guy? He has a wildcat over in the Groundhog. He wanted me to give him $25,000 for it. What do you know about that? Some gall!"

    "Mister," said a serious gentleman, "do you see that draw coming down over there? That's the Marmot. There's a mineral belt up that valley extending right through to Maple Bay. There are some of the finest showings in the country in there."

    "The Big Missouri is the biggest mine in the world, 21 claims and a fraction, mineral on every one of them. A surface showing 1500 feet square. It's bigger than the whole Rossland camp, and has a hundred times more ore."

    "The Premier is worth 150 millions. The Guggenheims wanted to buy it, and all they got was 20 per cent. The Guggenheims 20 per cent and the American Smelting and Refining Company 20 per cent."

    "Six four-horse teams are hauling down ore. They will ship 3000 tons this winter - $300 rock, if it's a dollar."

    "Machinery for a hundred-ton concentrator on the road."

The Actual Situation.

    The ascertainable facts in regard to the Portland Canal mines have been frequently printed, and were the subjects of animated discussion at the recent meeting of the Mining Institute.

    On good authority we were told that a mineralized belt 800 feet wide extends through the Big Missouri, in which a large proportion of the rock is high-grade in gold and silver. Also an entirely separate zone carrying copper, silver and gold in paying quantities. The Big Missouri is the property of Sir Donald Mann and his associates.

    The Premier is a group of claims on the Salmon River, about a mile from the international boundary, on the Canadian side. Mr. O. B. Bush, of Vancouver, bought the group in 1910 and found ore in a few small streaks on the surface. The first assay showed, per ton, silver 671 oz., gold $42. From a later assay he found silver 3820 oz., gold $166. The few streaks have since developed into an ore body 110 feet wide which has been traced 1500 feet, but which Mr. Bush believes extends 6000 feet.

    Mr. Bush sold the Premier to the Premier Gold Mining Co., consisting of Messrs. Neale, Trites, Wood and Wilson, and it is understood, as noted in the gossip above, that large blocks of the most prominent of the mining men of America. The camp is indebted to this company for almost all the development it has so far received.

    The government of Alaska surveyed the road up the Valley of the Salmon but it was constructed by the Premier Company at a cost of $40,000. The road is passable for wagons in summer, but as a snow road in winter it is superb. Four-horse teams, making a round trip in two days, are hauling five to six tons at a load.

    A snow tractor is on the ground. For a few days it sulked at Hyder, but one day this week the monster was propitiated and ran a long way up the road.

    Last winter's shipments amounted to about 550 tons, which went to the Tacoma smelter and ran about $300 to the ton. This winter from 2000 to 3000 tons will be shipped. The ore is piled on a barge which lies on the Canadian mud flats, and in lots of 250 tons is sent to Tacoma.

    The Premier has 1400 feet of tunnel besides some stopes aud raises. Not only is it a wonderful producer of high-grade ore, but it is stated that all the workings are in ore, that what at one stage was considered country rock is now recognized as milling ore.

    The machinery for a concentrator of 100 tons per day capacity is to be hauled up to the mine this winter. All of the ores in the district are said to give good recoveries by either the cyanide or flotation methods.

    The Little Joker lies in Canada, the property of Foley, Welsh and Stewart, and has the Big Missouri ore bodies. A small gang is at work and 150 feet in depth has been attained. Samples go to $500, and sorted ore to $150. Ore on surface over an area of 150 feet wide and 800 feet long.

Mr. Bush is Well Fixed.

    Mr. Bush (who, by the way, wears a medal indicating that at one time he was the fastest skater in the world), has groups of claims all around the Premier: the Salmon River Mines, Ltd., partly in Alaska and partly in British Columbia, a property which will operate this summer; the B. C. Silver Mines, Ltd., 250 acres, with the ore zone outcropping all the way across it; the Bush Mines, Ltd., Vancouver and New York, 16 claims, work going on, three tunnels with ore in all of them, depth of 150 feet, samples to $1000 in gold and silver; the Unicorn Group, bonded by Mr. Bush, and by him bonded to Mr. McDonald, of New York, adjoining the Big Missouri, and believed to have the same ore body; bond $100,000.

    The Hercules Group belongs to Mr. F. M. McLeod and associates of Vancouver, adjoins the Big Missouri and has large showings of ore. No work done for eight years.

    The 49 Mining Company has seven full claims, about 200 acres of surface showing. No vein and no walls. Bush sold to Charles F. Caldwell, of Kaslo, who, with the co-operation of Samuel J. Silverman, of New York, organized the company. The stock (1,500,000 shares) is listed on the New York curb, and is held at $2.50 per share. Eight to twenty men have been working since July and work will continue; $60,000 has been spent. Practically three mines have been opened up. Assays go to $1000 with shipping values to $150.

    Another flotation of Mr. Caldwell's is the Alaska Group, on the United States side of the line, twelve claims. The creek has exposed a face of 300 feet. There are apparently immense quantities of ore running from $3 to $30 in value. Mr. Caldwell says it is the easiest property in the camp to develop. Mr. Caldwell's son and his foreman met him in Stewart with the news that they had a cross-cut 24 feet long entirely in ore.

Millions in Sight.

    Mr. W. G. Harris examined the 49 and the Alaska last summer and recommended them as properties of great promise. Speaking of the camp as a whole, Mr. Harris said: "It is the best watered camp I ever saw. I am conservative but I see no room to doubt that there are millions in sight."

    Trifles of $100,000 to $200,000 as funds for development will, Mr. Harris thinks, be no good in those camps.

    Mr. Caldwell has a concession from the Forestry Commission of Alaska, duly approved by the secretary of the interlor and the secretary of war at Washington, for the construction through the grounds of the Forest Reserve on Salmon River of a railway. Mr. Moberly informed us that a track could be laid up the broad and open valley of the Salmon with very little grading. The auspices under which this railway shall be built and the connections which it shall make, are matters of the greatest moment. The question of the location of smelters and refineries for the treatment of the immense tonnages talked of is a most important matter.

Great Chance for Development.

    Everyone can see now how the development of the Slocan and Rossland and Sudbury and Cobalt camps might have been facilitated, how tragedies of waste and delay and disappointment might have been averted by ordinary foresight and co-ordinated effort. The benevolent despot would, if he controlled the Portland Canal, immediately repair the old wharf and construct the new landing, would establish at least a weekly service of dependable steamers, would straighten out the mail service and prepare for a daily mail in the spring; would build the railway up Salmon River to a point beyond the Premier mine and carry the wagon road as much further as the developments of next summer may warrant; would develop some of the abundant water power of the country and supply electricity; would establish ore treatment at the termini of our railways at Vancouver and Prince Rupert; and would release the available ground at Stewart for the use on easy terms to those desiring to live or do business upon it.

            G. O. BUCHANAN.