This unique exhibit has been developed with the assistance of community groups, local businesses, and individuals who give voice to artifacts from the Museum’s permanent collection as well as items belonging to local collectors and groups.
The artifacts in this display help tell the story of Rossland, evolving from its early years as a flourishing mining town, to a vibrant arts and sports community of today.
As you experience the exhibit, we invite you to ask your own questions about what from the past is important. How a story – be it a biography or historical perspective – can be told from a different point of view.
Four main themes emerged in the development of this exhibit: mining and industry; sports; community history; and culture. However, each theme is not independent of the others, for the story of Rossland is as layered as diverse as its miners.
The Centre Star Gulch Trestle was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway to reach the Centre Star Ore Bins in Rossland. Shortly after completion, they started a 20 year project of filling in the trestle with waste rock from the mines.
The present day connecting roads of Plewman Way, McLeod Ave, and Kirkup Ave to Highway 3b are built over the trestle. The timbers of the trestle remain buried under the roadway.
The legacy of almost 40 years of mining is a vast honeycomb beneath the City of Rossland consisting of a total of 128km (80 miles) of tunnels and drifts on 22 levels to a depth of 730 m (2200 ft) – or practically down to the Columbia River. In their heyday, the mines employed a work force of approximately 1200 men; with the value of ore produced during this period worth approximately $3.3 billion at 2010 prices.
The mines in Rossland operated from 1890 to 1929 and consisted of the Le Roi Mine, Josie Mine, War Eagle Mine, Centre Star Mine and the Black Bear Mine to name a few.
The Rossland Historical Museum is at the site of the former Black Bear Mine.
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.
Of the five claims staked on Red Mountain in July 1890 by Moris and Bourgeois, the Le Roi was destined to become the most famous. In return for putting up the $12.50 recording fee for the group, “Colonel” Topping, the gold recorder at Nelson, was offered his choice of the claims. Topping chose the Le Roi. He then sold the Le Roi to a Spokane syndicate for $30,000. When the mine was developed, the American owners sold it to Whittaker Wright’s British-America Corp. of London for three million dollars. The Le Roi ultimately produced 30 million dollars of wealth.
The sale of the Le Roi to the British-America Corp. triggered an exciting litigation case that culminated in the signing of the “million dollar cheque” at Rossland.
In 1897 the Le Roi mining company built a smelter at Northport. Washington, but this was closed down a few years after the sale of the mine to the B-A Corp.
Heavy trading in Le Roi stock through the distant London exchange prompted the establishment of the Toronto Stock Exchange.
The fortunes of the Le Roi suffered a setback in 1901 with the collapse of Whittaker Wright’s infamous financial empire, but the mine continued to produce until 1910 when the affairs of the company were wound up in London. In 1911, the assets of the Le Roi were acquired by Cominco and the Le Roi was operated as part of the consolidated mine workings until the Rossland properties were closed down in 1929.