Kimberley Community Album
The 'Rossland of East Kootenay' Kimberly was advertised as in The Prospector (Fort Steele) of June 5, 1897. It went on to say that an unlimited number of mines were being developed on Mark Creek, that choice lots were for sale and that a large hotel was under construction. Two weeks later Mr. C.F. Sears of Kimberly was quoted as follows:
"If surface indications count for anything there will soon be a pay roll in the mines adjacent, that will support one of the largest towns in East Kootenay. Hotel Kimberly will be open for business to-day, so anyone wishing to visit there can find accommodation. 'Keep your eyes on Kimberly!'."
By 1900 the same paper was advertising Kimberley (now with an "e") as 'The Leadville of East Kootenay'. And it was surrounded by "the LARGEST SILVER-LEAD MINES IN THE WORLD." And that was largely true as, by 1901 the North Star mine was shipping 60 tons of ore a day and the survey of the North Star Railway was to begin.
We all know that those claims were largely born out in fact. By 1890 Bill Meachem had homesteaded in the Marysville area, followed by the discovery of both the North Star and Sullivan mines in 1892. Development work, the construction of the McGinty Trail to the Kootenay River and the inception of riverboat traffic down to U.S. smelters let everyone know that there was reason to believe in Kimberley. The Sullivan Mine was sold in 1896 to a Spokane syndicate for $24,000. By 1898 the Town of Kimberley had been surveyed and lots were being sold. Both the Kimberley and North Star Hotels were up. With the coming of the CPR North Star spur line from Cranbrook in 1900, development was assured.
Mark Creek Crossing evolved into Kimberley, named by Colonel William Ridpath, president and general manager of the Sullivan Group Mining Company. Like so many Canadian towns, with the Boer War in everyone's mind, the name was chosen to reflect the Kimberley diamond mine in South Africa. And the town was, and is, a veritable jewel. And, as was prophesied, the town did evolve to be the largest community in East Kootenay for a short time.
In 1909 the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada leased the Sullivan Mine, and then purchased it in 1910 thereby initiating a relationship that still has repercussions within the town. During the 1920s the town expanded with the Townsite cleared for building, Blarchmont building up and Chapman Camp developing. The town never looked back (although everyone will admit there were hard times). The Kimberley Brass Band started up and then in 1927 the Kimberley Pipe band was formed. By 1936 the Kimberley Dynamiters had won the Allan Cup and followed that by winning the World Hockey title the following year. Indeed a proud town and a town to be proud of.
Kimberley has always been an outdoors town, with skiing, ski jumping, mountain climbing and other outdoor pursuits providing the release from the trials and stress of the mine. An the town has experienced the tribulations that form a strong community. First there was the 1916 flood, and then there was the panic of the flood of '48. Larry Musser, City of Kimberley works superintendent, said that Wallinger Avenue looked like 'a First World War explosion'. More than 27,000 sand bags were used during that crisis. In the end damage to infrastructure was valued at $135,000 and overall damage was estimated at $500,00 (in 1948 dollars). Twenty homes were lost, fifty were damaged and over one hundred were vacated.
The next huge crisis was the closing of the Sullivan Mine and the loss of the Cominco payroll. There are a large number of single resource towns that should borrow pages from Kimberley's playbook. The City got out in front of the impending financial disaster and changed to a resort base with ski hill and world class golf courses. Quality of life has, if anything, improved and Kimberley is now a destination resort and a preferred retirement place. Like the namesake diamonds, Kimberley keeps revealing new facets and sparkling more brightly.
The Columbia Basin Institute of Regional History would like to recognize its partner in this undertaking, the Kimberley and District Heritage Society. Without their support this work would not have been possible. Please use the Kimberley Community Album as a starting point to explore the vast holding of Kimberley photographs in the Columbia Basin Image Bank.