Power on the Kootenay: The Fred Elwell Collection

Fred Elwell Biography

Don Ohs Collection : Bonnington Falls power house construction 1906 three women one man sitting on a railway cart
Don Ohs Collection

Frederic Elwell was born on Valentine`s Day 1874 in Horsham, Sussex, England. He served an apprenticeship as an electrical engineer in London then emigrated to Canada in 1898. He arrived in the Fort Steele area to take up work at a mine. The mine folded soon after his arrival. Fred joined West Kootenay Power and Light Company (WKP&L) shortly afterward. He would be involved in the construction of the Upper Bonnington Dam and would be in charge of running the two WKP&L Bonnington plants for 13 years.

He would then join BC Electric in 1911. BC Electric was the major electricity supplier in the lower mainland. It would form the core of BC Hydro when it was formed in 1962 by then BC premier WAC Bennett. Elwell was put in charge of the Lake Buntzen plant ( No. 1) and then the second plant when it was built in 1914. He would oversee these plants until 1925 when Elwell was made superintendent of all BC Electric`s hydro-electric plants. These would number five plants by the time of his retirement in 1938 – Lake Buntzen No. 1 and No. 2, Stave Falls, Alouette and Ruskin.

Fred and his wife Mabel (nee Lines) had four daughters. Fred Elwell passed away from stomach cancer in March 1952 in Mission, BC.