Castlegar Community Album: People From the Past

Castlegar Community Album: Waterloo

The paddlewheel landing which eventually became known as Waterloo Landing was situated about 6 km. downstream from the confluence of the Kootenay ay Columbia Rivers. The area is now known as Ootischenia.

Waterloo sprang up as a mining town almost overnight on a piece of flat land across the Columbia River from Kionnaird (now part of Castlegar). Gold, silver and copper had been discovered in the hills behind the Castlegar airport in 1895 and miners swarmed into the area. By the end of that year there were forty houses in Waterloo. Telephone service linked Waterloo with Trail, Rossland and Nelson. By April 1896 the Vernon and Nelson Telephone Company had put through a long distance telephone-telegraph line to Waterloo. The May 23, 1896 issue of the Trail Creek News declared:

“Fifteen miles up the Columbia, on the east bank, is Waterloo Landing, a place that has recently sprung into prominence through the success of R.B. Sproul in his prospect work. Messrs. Fotheringham and Sproul have a number of good prospects in that neighbourhood…”

Fotheringham and Sproul quickly gave a six week option on the Waterloo claim to the Horne-Payne Company. By July there was great activity in the Waterloo camp from both prospectors and merchants. The July 17, 1896 issue of the same paper stated:

“The camp is attracting more attention now than all the others. Many claims have been bonded, a few at handsome figures, which for the primitiveness of the region is most remarkable progress…. At present there is no supply point nearer than Trail. All the supplies must be carried in from the landing on the back and for shelter the prospector, the investor and the sightseer must wrap himself in his blanket, using his boots for a pillow…. This will change soon.”

By the end of August of 1896the whole townsite had been staked out as a mineral claim called the ‘Columbia River’. The locators were J.C. Cain and Dave Cromie. Every remaining citizen proceeded to stake out for himself or herself a lot or lots. The claims at Waterloo were eventually abandoned as worthless, and the property became part of the lands purchased and occupied by the Doukhobor people when they began to immigrate to B.C. in 1908.

Indian Alex or Alex Christian continued to use Waterloo as a living spot and smoking station even after the ferry was discontinued. He had a smokehouse at Waterloo Eddy, across the river from Kinnaird’s Dumont Subdivision. According to W.O. ‘Bill’ Devitt the Waterloo smokehouse was about four feet square by five feet high. A trench several inches deep was dug first, then salvaged boards and other usable driftwood were stood up in the trench, making the walls. The sand was replaced around the boards and stomped down to hold the walls in place. The roof was generally made of strips of cedar bark. A door that was easily removed finished off the structure. A pit of about eighteen inches in depth was dug in the centre of the smokehouse to hold the fire. If the fire was burning fiercely Alex would throw cedar bark on top, creating the necessary smoke. The smaller fish were hung on a wire near the roof and the larger ones were hung individually, on hooks.

Waterloo Ferry on the Columbia River
The Waterloo Ferry in August 1917, on the Columbia River just below Castlegar. A touring car is loaded on the…