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