Culture

During the annual Golden City Days weekend, on Rossland’s 75th year, a group of friends wanted to contribute in an extra special way. They proposed to run an old time saloon – a fitting tribute to early Rossland’s history! Their saloon was to be called the Golden Nugget, and it would be the birth place of the Can-Can dancers known as the Dancing Waiters.
 
But why?
The morning of the saloon’s opening, they were informed the scheduled can-can dancers out of Spokane had to cancel. With little time left until the start of the event, they took charge and dressed in their matching bartender outfits, practiced a few moves, and put on an unforgettable show. They were such a success that they performed at every Golden City Day festival for 25 years!
 
Visit their display at the Rossland Public Library until November 1st, 2017 to learn more about their many charitable acts, group members, and see their creative outfits.
Library Hours: Tue Wed Thu 10am–8pm Fri Sat 10am–5pm Closed Sun Mon
 
 

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Rosslanders, past and present have always indulged being in the great outdoors. Escaping into nature, soaking up the sun, and sharing the beautiful weather and adventures with family and friends. Together Rossland grew into a community that celebrates nature, encourages active living, and embraces the surrounding landscape. Outdoor activities in the 1900s were not much different from those of present day. Fishing, hiking, and swimming were among some of the most popular summer activities. Visit the museum’s new display located at the Rossland Public Library to learn about some of Rossland’s popular summer activities, such as…

When the Rossland community came together in the Summer of 1932, to support the construction and opening of the Rossland Pool. Coming together to play, competing in competitions, and enjoying a refreshing dip on a hot summer’s day. Generations of citizens have created lasting memories at this heritage site.
Come take a closer look at a 1944 swimming trophy won by children.

Gifted with a remarkable backyard, Rossland is surrounded by an extensive network of high quality trails and paths winding through forests and ending with breathtaking views. Hiking has always been popular in Rossland. One of the most popular and an annual tradition is the hike up Mount Roberts to celebrate Canada Day. Want to know what hikers wore in the early 1900s? It’s all revealed in our new display. Join the museum for the hike this year and be part of this long lasting tradition! Carpooling 8am from the museum parking lot.

Some of the most popular fishing spots from the 1900s are still popular among Rosslanders today. Fishing spots such as Trail Creek, Big Sheep Creek, and Nancy Greene Lake. Come take a look at a handcrafted bamboo fishing rod made circa. 1920s.

Are you more of a behind-the-scene picture taker during the summer? Have you ever heard of a Brownie Camera? Ever wondered why it’s called a Brownie? Come see this artifact in its original 1920s leather case with lens and read all about it.
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Want to learn more about other popular summer sports? Stay tuned for the Museum’s next display on golf and tennis at Mountain Town Properties – downtown location.

The following essays have been researched and written by Ronald A. Shearer, Professor Emeritus (Economics), The University of British Columbia.

Yes, there was skiing in Rossland before we built the chair lift.

The Chinese and Chinatown of Rossland – Fragments From Their Early History

Mid-Winter Mardi Gras: Rossland’s Original Winter Carnival

Olaus Jeldness, Pioneer Mining Man and Father of Skiing

Ross Thompson (2016)

 

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Chinese workers in front of Kee Chinese Variety Store in Rossland, BC

In studying the articles from the earliest newspapers of the Boundary and West Kootenay mining camps and towns of B.C., one can say that the Chinese were living in many of those mining towns almost from their inception. (The exception seems to be the Slocan and Lardeau areas where they were not welcome.)

The Chinese were considered good workers and generally worked for less money than a white person. The Chinese were strongly discouraged from working underground by local Trade and Labour Councils and in fact, in many communities, these Councils led the opposition to any kind of work employment of the Chinese.

The Chinese seemed to be willing to do any kind of work and most were employed as cooks, domestic help, woodcutters and labourers. They operated Chinese laundries in all mining communities and owned and operated a few stores (starting with the first stores in Rock Creek).

Chinese gardens were developed in any community in which the Chinese stayed – Rock Creek, Kaslo, Nelson, Greenwood, Trail, and Rossland – they met a need in the booming mining camps where the cost of importing food was high and provided a source of income for the Chinese.

Almost all the newspaper articles spoke negatively about having Chinese in the community. Trade and Labour Councils didn’t want the Chinese because they were cheap labour and took jobs away from the white men.

The Chinese did not assimilate. The Chinese sent their money back to China. The Chinese lived where they worked and conditions were crowded. Unclean conditions in laundries caused municipal restrictions and bylaws specific to Chinese laundries. The Chinese were associated with vice – gambling and prostitution in large cities and they were infidels. Feelings against the Chinese were strong and when government task forces came into the communities seeking input they heard from many. (The Head Tax was raised to $100 from $50 in 1901).

 

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The Chinese made their first appearance in this district in 1865 – 22 years before the first claim in Rossland was staked. They were the bulk of the labour force on the construction of the Dewdney Trail. They deserted Dewdney when they reached the Columbia River, to try their luck at gold panning. Their camp was set up at the mouth of what is now called China Creek. They probably drifted back to the coast from the China Creek camps.

It is quite likely the Chinese filtered back to Rossland with the first rush of the miners, shortly after the camp sprang into existence in 1890. An issue of the “Rossland Miner” – September 23, 1897 reports that there were 200 male and one female Chinese residing here at that time. They were employed as cooks or house boys, several ran wash houses, cultivated truck gardens or raised pigs. A few were merchants and at least one was a fan tan expert. Another issue of the local “Rossland Miner” of 1897 reported the arrest of a Chinese man for the selling of opium without a license – the fee for such a license being $250.00.

Though the Chinese did drink, partake of opium and gamble, they contributed much to Rossland’s history particularly with their agricultural efforts known as the” Chinese Gardens”.

These truck gardens supplied Rosslander’s with fresh produce for over 50 years. This area has now mostly given way to the Rossland – Trail County Club.

They were kind to their non-Chinese friends at Christmas and their New Year, bringing gifts of handkerchiefs and other articles made of China silk, lily bulbs, candied ginger, lychee nuts, and firecrackers.

On October 12, 1903 the Chinese Masonic lodge, with a membership of 100 was opened with great ceremony, and celebrations which lasted for two days.

Chinatown in Rossland occupied a distinct area most of which was destroyed by fire in the early 1920’s. The buildings that survived the fire gradually fell into disuse and eventually disappeared. The last landmark was the Chinese Masonic Temple which was torn down about 1950. All traces of Chinatown have now disappeared and the site is now a residential area.

Written by: James Heidt

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In 1896, the boom town of Rossland needed a hospital.

“Energetic, young strangers jostling and pushing to make a dollar, suffered misunderstandings, especially when liquor was added to the mix. Luckily for back alley combatants, for those careless or unlucky at their jobs, and for those that just took sick, Father LeMay, founder of Sacred Heart Church, had convinced nursing Sister M. Stanislaus and Mother Teresa Moran to leave the convent of St. Joseph of Peace in Jersey City and travel to Rossland to establish a hospital. Arrived in April of 1896, the pair soon set up an infirmary in rented premises. The need was great and their services appreciated, and Sister Superior Teresa Kiernan and Sisters Ursula, Carmelita and Joseph Marie were summoned to help. A property was acquired towards the eastern end of Columbia Avenue, construction commenced on April 16th, 1897, and on that June 4th of that year the Mater Misericordiae hospital opened its doors.”

The Sisters of St. Joseph operated the hospital for 72 years until 1969 when it was turned over to a local board. Over the years, the original hospital was replaced by a modern structure.

This display commemorates the Sisters’ Chapel in the now demolished original wing of the hospital.

The organ is from the First Catholic Church in Rossland.

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The Miners’ Union

Initially the Rossland miners were unorganized but the Western Federation of Miners with headquarters in Denver, Colorado was active in mining camps on the U.S. side of the border.

Then in 1895 local 38 of the Western Federation of Miners was organized in Rossland – the first local in Western Canada.

In 1898 local 38 built the Miners’ Union Hall which still stands as one of the historic buildings in Rossland today.

Miners normally worked a ten hour day but this ended in 1898 when the Eight Hour Day law was passed by the British Columbia Legislature as a result of the efforts of Jim Martin, the member elected from Rossland.

In 1900 the Workman’s Compensation Act was introduced into the British Columbia Legislature by Curtis Smith, the succeeding member from Rossland.

In 1901 the Miners’ Union called a strike in the Rossland mines. It was bitter but cool heads prevented the violence that had characterized previous miners’ strikes in the north western U.S.A. The strike was settled nine months later.

In 1917 the Western Federation of Miners became the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, and in 1939 Local 480 became the bargaining union for the Cominco operations at Trail.

In 1967 the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers were merged with the United Steel Workers of America.

Chinese Gardens in Rossland

The following are short excerpts, presented in their original form, from the Rossland Miner (a newspaper that published from 1895 – 1973).

Date: Sept. 23, 1897 – Rossland Miner
Title: A Lone Chinese Woman

Although there are over 200 male Mongolians in Rossland, there is only one Chinese woman, Chin Fung by name. When asked why there are no more females of his own race here, one Chinaman replied, “One woman too muchee. Have hundled woman, make too much fussee, allee time. Woman alee same no good.” The 200 Chinese in Rossland are employed as cooks ar house boys. Several run wash houses, cultivate truck gardens or raise pigs. There are a few merchants viz. Li Mong, Mah Hong, Fo King, Mah Wing and Mah Sho, a pigtailed fantan expert.

Date: April 10, 1897 – Rossland Miner
Title: Opium Joint

Lee Wah Lung was brought up on the charge of keeping an opium joint on Sour Dough Alley and selling opium without a license. The cost of license being $250.00, the justice of the peace fined Lee Wah Lung $250.00 and IO costs or, in default, 6 months in prison.

Date: September 21, 1891 – Rossland Miner
Title: Funeral of a Chinese

The funeral of Lee Foy, a Chinese aged 21, took place yesterday afternoon at 3 o’clock from Li Yuen, in the alley near the Rossland Opera House. It was attended by a dozen of his countrymen, who, on the way to the cemetery, scattered oblong slips of paper along the route for the purpose of scaring away the evil spirits. All of his personal effects were buried with him. A 25¢ piece was placed in his mouth in order that he may pay his way into the other world. In order that his departed spirit not want for something good to eat during the first few days of his residence in the other world, four roasted chickens, a bottle of Chinese whiskey, a bowl of cooked rice and a pot of tea were provided for him. Lighted tapers and incense sticks were stuck into the newly made mound. There were 50 Caucasians at the cemetery curiously watching the proceedings. The body of Lee Foy will be allowed to remain in its present resting place for a period of three years and then it will be disinterred and the bones sent back to China.

Date: May 2, 1903 – Rossland Miner
Title: Chinese Gardens Now a Scene of Pastoral Fairness

A visit to the southeastern section of the city, where the Chinese gardens are located, is a revelation to the citizen who has paid no attention to the possibilities of this country from the agricultural standpoint. It is genuinely surprising to note the remarkable results attained by the sons of the Flowery Kingdom in what was regarded as a district of little promise.

…The Chinamen have cleared and cultivated an area of 50 or 75 acres and, with all their faults from other standpoints, the Celestials must be given credit for unswerving perseverance and energy. These lands are clear of brush of every description, and innumerable cairns indicate the patience with which the cultivators have gone over every inch of the soil and removed the impediments to vegetation. The fields are comparatively tiny plots, but the richness of the soil makes large holdings unnecessary. Irrigation is arranged for, and the Chinamen appear to have regulated the use and drainage of water without the clashes and appeals to the courts that have cropped up where irrigation has been instituted elsewhere.

Date: April 7, 1904 – Rossland Miner
Title: Chinese Plant Fruit Trees

Last summer and fall, several Chinamen leased a parcel of land south of the slaughter house and cleared the ground. This spring they will set out a quantity of fruit trees, principally apples of the earlier varieties. The industrious purpose to raise roots among the fruit trees for 3 or 4 seasons, until the trees come to bearing. At the end of 5 years, they estimate the trees will come into full fruition.

Date: January 6, 1946 – Rossland Miner
Title: Old Timers Among Chinese Residents

The old Chinese Mason Hall which has been a sort of club for the Chinese residents since the early days, where throughout the week Chinese residents gathered to hear one of their number read the Chinese papers in order that they may keep well informed on the war, came to life Sunday, December 23 when the annual Chinese Christmas dinner was given. An occasion which for the past ten years has been provided by Mr. W.K. Esling.

The hall has a kitchen with all equipment and the dinner consisting of chicken with rice, roast turkey, roast pork, and desserts, was prepared by Leung Youe who for many years has been a restaurant cook. Some of the sixteen present have been residents of the City for nearly half a century. Heading the list is Mow Fong, who is over eighty years of age. The order of the rest is not taken in respect of age; Leung Youe, Loui Pow, Loui How, Lin Koo, Wai Gun, Loui Joe, Loui Tong, Leung Hook, Wai Dow, Chung Kee, L. Jim, Hop Chonge, Chow Moon, Chong Bing Shoue and Gar Poo.