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The name “The Flying Steamshovel” can be seen when traveling through the streets of downtown Rossland, but have you ever thought, what does it mean? What is its story? And how has the name survived the test of time?

Today, 114 years after the flight of the Flying Steamshovel, and 71 years since the written accounts by Father Freney, the Flying Steamshovel makes its way back home to the Golden City and has landed at the Rossland Museum & Discovery Center’s newest display!!

There has been, and still is, considerable controversy surrounding this peculiar story. Just keep in mind that the famous Wright Brothers’ first powered, sustained, and controlled airplane flight took place in 1903, in North Carolina. Paul Cornu is credited with the first free vertical ascent in a helicopter in France in 1907. Meanwhile, the Flying Steamshovel is reported to have flown in 1901, at the height of 200ft in little, old Rossland, BC! SO, should The Golden City be acknowledged as the true birthplace of man’s gravity-conquering abilities?

This new display will capture the interest of locals and new comers alike. Rossland is well known for its place in the Mining and Skiing domain, but this display will highlight Rossland’s due place in the Aviation world. The display showcases the research and persistence against adversity that Father Freney had to face to get the story recognized by top aviation magazines. It showcases the only information found on the inventor – Lou Gagnon and his life before and after his explosive crash and his smashed dreams of flying in the wintery month of February.

Have you ever wondered what the Steamshovel may have looked like? Well, this display hosts the only (known) three dimensional model created based on sketched images of eye witness accounts! Why is it called a Flying Steamshovel? Our new display holds all the answers.

The museum is open Wednesdays to Sundays 10am to 6pm through to the end of June. We are open 7 days a week 10am to 6pm starting July 1st until the end of the summer.

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

 

 

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Hometown: Stangvik, Norway / Rossland, BC / Spokane, WA
Date of Birth: 1857
Date of Death: 1935
Inducted to the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame: 1988
From http://www.skimuseum.ca/bios/Jeldness_Olaus.pdf

Olaus Jeldness pioneered the establishment of competitive skiing in western Canada. Born in Stangvik, Norway, in 1857, he caused a stir there when, at the age of 15, he ski jumped a distance of 92 feet heralded as a world record at the time. He emigrated to the United States at the age of 16 to pursue a successful career in mining. He returned to Norway in 1882 to develop a mining operation in the north until 1896 when he left to come to Canada and the mining community of Rossland, British Columbia.

Shortly after arriving, he began to foster skiing. Jeldness brought his skis, his love of the sport, and a single long steering pole. It was reported that he would frequently delight his gallery “…by flashing down the hill holding the pole high above his head, in exultation, to the delight of the throngs of spectators that flocked to witness his daring exploits on skis.” (Rolf Lund, Nordic World, March 1978)

The first recorded Canadian ski competition took place at Rossland in 1897, an event which he organized and promoted. He won this first downhill on Red Mountain on March 6, 1897. Early racing might be considered a free-for-all and clearly dangerous by today’s strict safety standards as the racers all started together at the summit, hurling themselves down the mountain to the finish line on the main street of town. The racers controlled their speed by using their single long pole as both a rudder and brake, choosing their own route down the mountain.

In addition to being a great competitor, Olaus Jeldness was also a teacher of skiing, sharing his skills and his joy of skiing with others in his community. He was instrumental in creating the Rossland Winter Carnival which began in 1898. Included in the carnival were competitive events which included a race called the Canadian Champion Ski Race which descended 2,000 vertical feet over a 1.5 mile course. He won this event as well as another, the first Canadian Championship Ski Jumping contest. He would repeat his successes, now called the Dominion Ski Championships, winning both Downhill and Jumping events in 1899 and 1900, his last year of competition. When he retired from active competition he also retired the MacIntosh Trophy which he had won for the third time. He was 44 years of age.

In the autumn of 1898, he organized the clearing of three separate downhill runs and organized and formed what was, arguably, the first ski club in Canada.

He also donated two historic trophies, the first in 1900 which would become the permanent possession of a skier who could win it three consecutive times. (This was achieved by Torgal Noren who won the ski jumping championship in 1904, 1905 and 1906.) The conditions accompanying the second Jeldness trophy, donated in 1908, stipulated that it would be a perpetual trophy awarded from year to year. This important trophy was given eventually to the Rossland Historical Museum where it remains.

As successful in his mining ventures as he was in skiing, he was able to retire to a comfortable life in Spokane, Washington in 1909. Even in retirement, he remained active in the development of the sport and he is reputed to be the originator of skiing competition in the western United States when he organized a ski jumping event in Spokane.

It would seem appropriate that for his considerable contribution to competitive skiing that he should be known as the “Father of Competitive Skiing in Canada”.

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Booty Griffith (born 1916) arrived in Rossland in 1937. By 1946 he was busy selling the first X-country skis and promoting the sport in this area. In 1973 Booty and friends ( The X-C Runners) began exploring the Ben Shaw trail and newly opened Seal Creek road. In 1974 they built the Ben Shaw shelter. This plastic covered A frame became the prototype for some 16 more shelters built across the upland area. Later in 1976 they located, SE of Ben Shaw, the Sunshine cabin and Adventure trail.

The Cabin Builder

From RosslandNews.com – http://www.rosslandnews.com/community/131281034.html

“Years and years ago, Booty Griffiths ran a ski shop in Rossland,” Les Carter says. “He was a great ski racer and worked as a ski boot company rep. He was a general hell raiser. Booty built years ago a little pole and tarp shack. It wasn’t far out of town, but at the time there wasn’t much beyond the Red Mountain base.”

It was called Booty’s cabin. The community used to ski out to Booty’s cabin for lunch.

The Forest Service considered the hut illegal because it didn’t have a permit of any kind and was on Crown land and so were going to burn it down. But the whole community got incensed and a some people went down and picketed in front of the Forest Service’s office.

The Forest Service agreed to let it stand under the conditions that it was public and couldn’t be called Booty’s cabin.

Griffiths didn’t like that, so he and his buddies went out and built another 10 cabins.

“That’s how the cabins developed in the past,” Carter said. “A bit of an outlaw feeling to them. Over the years they have kind of become part of the community scene. They’re scattered, about a dozen of them, around the Nancy Greene Pass area.”

He said one of the great games in the winter is to see how many of the huts you can visit in a day. The huts are just for day use and are designed to be temporary.

“They’re not permanent, they’re not on foundations, they’re not built out of great stuff,” he added. “Over the years we’ve developed a bit of a practice of putting a decent roof on. They are mostly A-frames and a lot of the roofs are getting converted over to recycled aluminum.”

The huts have become popular, with tourists coming from out-of-country to experience them.

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.