Rossland founder Ross Thompson said he could die a happy man after visiting his namesake town in 1946, according to an interview with Warren Crowe included in a new book.
Crowe, a longtime customs agent, is one of two Rosslanders featured in Robert Budd’s Echoes of British Columbia: Voices From the Frontier. His interview is drawn from nearly 1,000 conducted across the province by CBC Radio journalist Imbert Orchard in the 1950s and ‘60s. The 2,700 hours of Orchard’s tapes are held by the BC Archives, where Budd was hired to digitize them.
Crowe came to Rossland in 1899 from Nova Scotia at age five after his father got a job in the gold mines. He recalls that during the miners’ strike of 1901, “a good many evenings we went to bed with just a piece of bread.”
Crowe also remembers the 1905 explosion of the Centre Star mine’s powder magazine, which killed one man and shattered nearly every window in town. But the bulk of the excerpt, recorded in 1964, is devoted to how he brought the city’s founder back for a visit.
Prospector-miner Ross Thompson arrived at the mining camp on Red Mountain in 1891, bought 160 acres, and formed a townsite company. After watching the camp flourish into West Kootenay’s largest city, he sold his remaining holdings and moved to Nevada in 1904.
Crowe was introduced to Thompson in Vancouver and returned home “with one intention in mind, to have that old fellow up as our guest.”
Crowe took up a collection to pay for Thompson’s visit, and went to meet him in Castlegar, where he had presumably flown in. “Goodness, isn’t it good to be able to travel by automobile where I walked to record to my homestead in Rossland?” Thompson asked.
After being banqueted, Thompson was sent on a tour of his old West Kootenay haunts, including the not-quite-ghost town of Sandon, where he renewed acquaintances with its founder, Johnny Harris. (A photo of this summit of elderly mining titans survives.)
Crowe recalled: “This big car drove up, a brand new car with a driver, with a full bottle of Scotch right alongside of the driver. That was for his personal use. He was gone four days. The full cost of the trip was borne by CM&S and every morning he got up there was a brand new bottle of Scotch there, which the old fellow liked very much.”
“I don’t know how to thank the people of Rossland,” Thompson said at the conclusion of his visit. “I’ve enjoyed this. I can go to my grave a contented man.”
Thompson made good on his statement in 1951 at age 85.
Not only can you read Crowe’s story, but you can hear him tell it, as it’s part of a CD set included with the book, a sequel to 2010’s bestselling Voices of British Columbia. The latter didn’t have much Kootenay content, but this time in addition to Irwin, Rossland’s Minnie Irvin describes how she came to Arrowhead in 1911 to visit her brother and father. She met hotelier Sam Irvin “on Sunday at noon, was engaged to him on Wednesday, and 19 days later I married him. And made a very fine choice.”
The couple move to Rossland in 1915, where they bought the Central Hotel and renamed it the Irvin. They operated it until 1958 and then retired to Chilliwack. The hotel burned down in 1975, by then known as the White Wolf Inn.
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