Agnew & Co.

Alistair B. Fraser

March 2018

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Agnew & Co. (1879 - 1939)

In the decades following the Confederation of Canada, settlers flowed into the newly established western provinces. Some were from other lands, but many were from Ontario seeking new opportunities in agriculture, mining, and forestry. And where such industries prospered, merchants arrived to offer produce and services. This is the story of one merchant from Ontario who sought opportunities first in Dominion City, Manitoba, and then in Rossland, British Columbia.

by Alistair B. Fraser

A deep cut to his leg from a scythe prompted the teenaged George Agnew to abandon farming and become a merchant. The business he established lasted sixty years (1879-1939) and spanned two generations. This is the story of the 
business and the families behind it.

In the decades following the Confederation of Canada, settlers flowed into the newly established western provinces. Some were from other lands, but many were from Ontario seeking new opportunities in agriculture, mining, and forestry. And where such industries prospered, merchants arrived to offer produce and services. This is the story of one merchant from Ontario who sought opportunities first in Dominion City, Manitoba, and then in Rossland, British Columbia.

Smith’s Falls, Ontario

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George’s accident with the scythe happened on his family’s farm in Montague Township (Lot 8, Con 8), about 15 km northeast of Smith’s Falls (now styled Smiths Falls), Canada West, where his parents, Henry and Elizabeth (Kerr) Agnew, had settled around 1840 after emigrating from Ballyeaston, County Antrim, Ireland, in 1829, long before the Great Famine. (Henry grew up in Ballycor and Elizabeth in Ballyclare. They met at the Presbyterian Church at Ballyeaston about 2 km from each home.)

George was born in Montague (8 Oct 1847), the seventh of Henry and Elizabeth’s ten children. It seems that the first place he acquired work after his scythe accident was with Phineas B. Webster, a Brockville shopkeeper who was to become George’s father-in-law. This is almost certainly how George Agnew met his future wife, Mary Ann Webster.

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At the age of twenty (1867), he got a job as a clerk with Morgan and Washburn, who were boot, shoe, and general merchants in Smith's Falls. He lived at home in Montague during the six years spent learning their business, When he left on 1 March 1873, he carried a letter of recommendation. The letter wasn’t needed, since by July he and his brother, James, were in a partnership selling shoes in Fenelon Falls (about 300 km to the west) under the name of Agnew, J. & G.

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George came back from Fenelon Falls to marry Mary Ann Webster on 13 Aug 1874. The marriage took place in Jasper, (10 km southeast of Smith’s Falls) where Phineas Webster had recently established a shop. In the marriage record, George is described as a merchant of Montague and Fenelon Falls, and it is to the latter the new couple went. However, the partnership with James dissolved by February 1875. The market was probably just too small to support two families. George and Mary Ann returned to Smith’s Falls where their first child, Charlotte (5 Feb. 1876), was born, and for that event, George’s occupation was listed as clerk.

Tax Collector Rolls for Smith’s Falls, and the record of the birth of their second child, Georgina (26 Oct 1878), continue to place George in Smith’s Falls as a merchant from 1877 until 1879 when he moved to Dominion City, Manitoba. (Georgina’s nickname was Ena, but it was always pronounced, E-Nee.)

Between the time of the accident with the scythe and establishing a business in Dominion City, George was developing his skills and contacts for his next venture. However, there is no evidence that he used the business name, Agnew & Co., earlier than Dominion City.

Dominion City, Manitoba

Upon moving to Dominion City, Manitoba, George established three enterprises: Agnew & Co., Dominion Store, and Agnew’s (grain) Elevator. To accomplish this, he required financing, a good knowledge of the businesses, and the necessary supply lines. The knowledge gained during his Ontario years would now pay off.

In 1879, George Agnew joined the great migration from Ontario to Manitoba. He wrote about his exploratory trip in the Emerson Intercolonial. This immigration issue claimed to be filled with matters of the utmost interest to intending settlers. George described his train trip across many American states to the “great lone land” in great detail (there was as yet no train route through Canada), beginning with: “In company with a large number of emigrants to that country [Manitoba], I left Smith’s Falls on the 24th of March at one o’clock p m.” The purpose of his trip was to establish a store in this rapidly developing new province.

A small portion of the present Manitoba had become a Canadian province in 1870 following the suppression of the (first) Riel Rebellion. (The second Riel Rebellion (1884) in Saskatchewan was still five years away.)

When in 1899, George left Dominion City for Rossland, B.C., he recalled his earlier arrival in Manitoba:

I do not know whether my coming to Dominion City was providential or not. I sought and prayed for divine guidance before coming to Manitoba, when I arrived in Emerson in 1879 my whole thought was to go west, but difficulties seemed to be in the way. Floating ice in the Red River, bad roads etc., I was advised by a friend to look over the ground at Dominion City, then [called] Roseau Crossing. So on the 2nd of April 1879, I started out from Emerson and walked down to Dominion City on the railroad track, a damp snow was falling, which made the trip anything but cheering, when miles down the track I knelt down and asked God to lead me and open up the way and direct me. I hope my twenty years stay here has in some measure been of benefit to the place and the people.

We can make deductions about George’s businesses from the names he chose, and from the range of his produce, as revealed in his 1882 advertisement.

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The name, Agnew & Co., is a name that implies that it is a company owned by more than one person. Question: How did George Agnew manage to pay for the establishment of two stores, selling a wide range of merchandise, along with an elevator in Dominion City after his previous years in Ontario? Answer: he seems to have had silent investors. During the time he worked in Smith’s Falls, he would have established contacts with other merchants and suppliers. It is likely that some of them saw an investment opportunity in this energetic shopkeeper and decided to support George’s move to Manitoba.

However, Dominion Store and Agnew’s Elevator are names that explain little. It might have been that the buildings existed before he arrived and he purchased them, or more likely he had them built. Nevertheless, they were probably owned solely by George.

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The range of merchandise mentioned in his advertisement suggests knowledge picked up both during his earlier time as a clerk in Smith’s Falls, and subsequent time with James in Fenelon Falls.

It is difficult at this remove to assess the success of George’s various businesses in Dominion City. Certainly, his early hope that Dominion City would one day rival Winnipeg as a commercial centre did not materialize. The fact that he moved on to the next great opportunity of Rossland in 1899 suggests that successes in Manitoba were tempered. It is likely that his first decade (1880s) was more successful than his second one (1890s). Indeed, in 1895 his elevator and grain warehouses were put up for a chattel mortgage sale. Insights are gained by continuing his message upon departure:

As you know, during these twenty years that I have been here, I have had my ups and downs. It is very easy to be a Christian and feel that God is leading when everything is prospering, but let dark days come and friends desert you. It is not so easy then to trust God and believe that he still leads you. For some time I have felt that my work was not in Dominion City and I have prayed that my way would be opened up out of it. And I believe tonight that it is God’s hand that is leading, I have asked Him, that He will direct us to the place where we can do most work for His cause. Money is not the first consideration with us in this case. I have made many mistakes in Dominion City, many mean things have been said about me to which I plead not guilty, I here say and I want it to be known abroad, that I leave Dominion City without a bitter feeling against anyone.

This would not be the last time that George’s moral certitude erupted in irascibility.

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Religion played a big role in George’s life. His father, Henry, was a member of the Ballyeaston 1st Presbyterian Church in Ireland before emigrating. Early census records for Montague (1851, 1861), list Henry’s family as Presbyterians, but later ones say they were Anglicans. Indeed, family records say George was converted from Anglicanism to Methodism as a young man when travelling on a train with a minister of that denomination.

Despite George’s religious commitment, it was often an uneasy relationship. While he would serve as a Sunday-school superintendent and even a choir leader, he also attempted to sue his pastor in Rossland when he objected to a critical sermon, and now and then he and his family would bolt to other churches (Baptist, Gospel Hall) when he took umbrage with something his minister said. It seems that he held his own piety in a higher regard than that of his church’s pulpit.

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Russell Bisson, one of his grandchildren remembered George as “a bad tempered old man”, but explained that “this was what comes of trying to lead such an exemplary life”. Granted, this was a child’s view of a respected, aged, and possibly disillusioned elder, yet this view is not totally inconsistent with other things we know. In the end it seems that George felt he knew the TRUTH, and wasn’t above insisting that others adhere to his vision. Russell’s assessment might have been influenced by Carl Jung (Psychology and Religion, 92) who noted: “It is highly moral people, unaware of their other side, who develop the peculiar irritability and hellish moods which make them insupportable to their relatives.”

If this assessment is partially applicable, George Agnew is certainly not the first businessman (or politician) to be guided by an overwhelming confidence in his own rectitude. Indeed, this probably provided a focus for his considerable business successes.

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At very least, it seems that George Agnew’s businesses in Dominion City experienced vicissitudes. Indeed, the fact that he stayed in this community for twenty years seems to be in part because about 1894, Mary Ann’s parents, Phineas and Charlotte (Turkington) Webster, moved in with the Agnews. George and Mary Ann Agnew were now like many other couples who were simultaneously looking after their children and parents. However, by December 1898, both Websters had died and had been buried in the Dominion City cemetery. Relieved of the responsibility of supporting parents, George sought new opportunities in the rapidly developing gold-mining community of Rossland. He moved his family and business there in 1899, only a few months later.

Rossland, British Columbia

A letter addressed to the Epworth League in Rossland influenced the path taken by Agnew & Co. for the next forty years. Founded in 1889, the Epworth League was an association supporting Methodists between the ages of 18 and 35. The older Agnew children qualified, as did Oswald Bisson, who would soon be a player in the life of Agnew & Co.

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It seems that George Agnew had made an initial train trip to Rossland in late 1898 or early 1899. This was a fairly straightforward train journey by this time. In Rossland, he purchased land and arranged for the building of a residence, a modest starter shop, and an adjoining final store, to open two years later. He chose a location on Washington Street between Second Ave. and Third Ave. because it placed his store strategically between the two railways serving the city: the Canadian Pacific Railway (with its link to Trail and beyond), just across Washington Ave., and the Great Northern (with its link to Spokane and beyond), which ran along Third Ave.

George then returned to Dominion City to close out his business interests. On 22 May 1899, he sent his family ahead to Rossland by train. George wrote to the Epworth League and asked if someone might be willing to meet his wife and daughters upon their arrival at the C.P.R. station so as to escort then to their accommodation. The twenty-one-year-old Oswald Bisson volunteered.

Oswald (27 Jun 1878) was from Jersey, a U.K. island off the coast of France. He was the fifth of six children, and having two older brothers, had no likelihood of inheriting the family farm, Les Fougères, St. Jean, Jersey. So, at the age of 16 (1894), he was sent to live with an uncle and aunt, Philip and Eleanor DeCarteret, to become their clerk. The DeCarterets had moved from Jersey to Guelph, Ontario, where they established a fancy goods store at 39 Lower Wyndham Street. The plan was that Oswald would learn to become a merchant. Apparently, business in Guelph wasn’t everything the DeCarterets wished and in Feb. 1897, they moved to Rossland just as did other merchants who wished to capitalize on the gold rush. There they established a boarding house for miners at 1692 Thompson Ave. The eighteen-year-old Oswald Bisson moved with them.

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In Rossland, Oswald became a clerk in Lalonde’s Shoe and Boot shop at 2116 Columbia Avenue. (Lalonde subsequently became a mayor of Rossland.) Oswald fell for Ena after he escorted her from the Rossland Railway Station. She had been born the same year as he had (1878). From George’s and Mary Ann Agnew’s point of view, this shoe-store clerk (a job George had had in his early years in both Smith’s Falls and Fenelon Falls) was probably a better option for their daughter than was a miner. Besides, he was a Methodist.

Smitten with Ena, Oswald decided that he needed “to improve himself” (to use the parlance of the day). So the following spring (1900) he headed east and attended the Philadelphia College of Horology to become a jeweller. He did not graduate. As he said later, his eyes were not good enough for the fine work involved in making and repairing watches. However, during his engraving classes, we can see what was on his mind as he crafted monograms of EMA (Ena May Agnew) linked to himself, OB.

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Oswald Bisson and Georgina May Agnew were married at the Agnew residence on 1 Aug. 1903. Their marriage produced three children, ten grandchildren, and lasted sixty-four years (Ena died in 1968). Oswald became George’s clerk, and in 1913 took over the business.

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What happened to Herbert, George’s heir apparent? The answer is unclear. It is likely that Herbert was George’s clerk for the first few years in Rossland (see the store picture in 1901). Yet, Herbert moved to Victoria soon after the marriage of Oswald and Ena. This left Oswald to be the solution of a problem that is faced by everyone with a family business: succession. When he moved to Rossland, George was 52 and might have expected to manage Agnew & Co. for another decade. His son, Herbert, was 18 at that time and the likely successor. For whatever reason, that didn’t happen. Herbert’s nephew much later described him as a dreamer with many wild schemes, but ones that always went broke. His methodical and driven father apparently saw the problem.

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George seems to have given Oswald the clerk’s job soon after his wedding. However, Oswald was not a shoo-in for succession.

The Bissons lived in a rented house on Cook Avenue and proceeded to have three children: Marion (20 Dec1904), Russell (24 Jan 1907), and Dorothy (10 Jun 1908), her birth being a consequence of the failure of the lactation theory of contraception.

At this time, George was paying pittance to his own son-in-law and clerk. Consequently, Oswald approached him and said that now that he had three children, it was increasingly difficulty to support his family — would George consider increasing his salary?

George said no.

So Oswald answered an advertisement and interviewed for a store-clerk’s job in the recent mining community of Camp McKinney (on the present road between Rock Creek and Oliver). He was offered the position at a substantially greater salary than George was paying.


Oswald then told George that he was resigning and taking his family to Camp McKinney. Defeated, George reluctantly matched Oswald’s new offer and the Bissons remained in Rossland. All in all, this worked out rather well for the Bissons as Camp McKinney soon became a ghost town, and this positioned Oswald and Ena Bisson to be the successors to Agnew & Co. Indeed, in 1913, fewer than seven years later, when George was 66, he retired to Victoria and the Bissons took over the store. The Bissons completed paying for the property and the business in 1919, a year after George had died (1 May 1918). Oswald Bisson then ran Agnew & Co. until 1939 when he merely closed it. He was 60.

As with George, before him, Oswald learned the business well and the store seems to have prospered. One measure is that each of the Bisson children went on to university (becoming a teacher, surgeon, and hospital dietician). Further, during the economic depression of the 1930s, the Bissons would prepare food packages. People who come to the store begging were sent around to the kitchen door of the residence where Ena gave them the food.

The last words about Oswald’s management of Agnew & Co. are left to Billy Thompson. Mr. Thompson worked for Oswald Bisson as his final clerk between1936 and when Oswald closed the store in 1939. These comments were recorded in August, 1981, and Billy died the following May. Many of Billy’s descriptions also would be applicable to George’s years running Agnew & Co. Occasional annotations are added between brackets […].

The store handled mostly groceries. We handled a lot of feed for animals: oats, wheat. Mr. Bisson supplied a lot of the farmers around. He used to get his feed by the carload from the C.P.R. just across the street. There used to be flour, oats, wheat, sugar – I don't think the sugar came in the feed cars. You know where his buildings are now [on Washington street between Second and Third Avenues]. Well, from where the alley is right up to the end [Third Avenue], was buildings. The house was the first part; then the store; then the next part was a little warehouse (like where he kept sugar); and then there were steps going upstairs to a couple of apartments where he had some old miners. And then, up the road farther, there was another little section where he used to keep Kerosene for coal-oil lamps. And then, behind the store was the barn for the horse. It was up the alley and behind the house [off a little courtyard that joined the alley]. He had another little place right around the corner [on Third Avenue?] where another prospector lived. At the back of the store, upstairs, was where he kept all his flour [the shed adjoined to the house and stairs from the second story of the house; the courtyard was right behind this]. His house was – well, he lived right beside the store, and then he had a big basement there [under the house and store and accessible from both]. The canned goods would keep better in the basement.

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He did a good business there. He was busy all the time. His major competition was Hunter Brothers, and then there were little stores on the next street: T. P. Rogers' Store, and the Handy Store on the corner [southwest corner of Washington and Second]. The Handy Store was small. The biggest store was Hunter Brothers, next in size was Bisson's — we used to call it Agnew's then — and then came Rogers'. The other stores were all very small.

All the deliveries were made with horse and wagon. Twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays I believe it was, I used to leave the store right after it opened, and I used to walk to the lower end of town where he had about eight or ten customers that I visited. I would take their orders, write it down, and then come back to the store, fill out those orders, and then I would deliver them in the afternoon. We did this for just these customers down at the lower end of town; everyone was expected to come in. He had customers all over town. I don't know why it was [that we gave the special service to those in the lower town — probably because otherwise they would have stopped at Hunter Brothers, which was in between them and Agnew & Co.] When I started working for him – the guys that had been there before, they used to do it – we just kept on the tradition; I'd walk around twice a week.

Mrs. J. D. McDonald used to phone up for one package of yeast. She used to always phone. Mr. Bisson ate his lunch between twelve and one, and I went home between one and two. This Mrs. J. D. McDonald used to always phone about a quarter to one for one yeast cake — a four-cent yeast cake — and on my way home I used to have to walk up and deliver this one yeast cake. [J.D. (Jack) McDonald and his wife lived at 1810 Fifth Avenue in a house beside the Power Substation, so Billy Thompson did walk up the hill. McDonald worked for West Kootenay Power and Light.]

The store was open from 8:30 to 5:30 — it was either 8:00 or 8:30 to 5:30. I used to sweep the floors and keep the shelves; I would fill all the shelves up, and wait on customers that came in the store. It wasn't like today; you used to have your counter top and you would write down everything they wanted. They would stand there and you would have to run around the store and pick everything up for them. Everything was behind counters. There were counters down both sides of the store. On the south side there was a counter and on the north side there was another counter, and down the center there were show bins. He had his office in the very back.


He used to have a great, big, wood heater that he used in the wintertime for keeping the place warm; there were no furnaces then [in the 1940s when I was a child, there was a furnace in the basement for the house and store]. I can remember in the wintertime when the thing was going, and we would get chestnuts in for Christmas. We used to get a big handful of these; there were always chestnuts sitting on top of the stove roasting. When you went by, you would just take one off and eat it. I think that there were always chestnuts sitting on the stove in the wintertime. Mr. Bisson used to put them on, and he always told us that, once you were working for him, anything in the store you want, just help yourself; he was smart. When I first started there – candy and that, you know, well, I was only a kid — wasn't very long before I wouldn't look at the stuff. The policy did not include stocking enough food to feed your family — just things to snack, so you weren't sneaking, he told you to help yourself. Like cookies, if you wanted cookies to eat, you could go and take a cookie (of course they were always in bins, they weren't in boxes like they are now), bananas, and then any fruit in season (when it came in he used to put it in the windows). It's surprising, when you've got it there and you can eat it any time you want it, it is not very long before you don't even look at the stuff.

I worked for $30 a month, and that was for six days a week. The stores were closed Wednesday afternoons and Sundays. As a boss, he was real good. The only trouble I ever had with him was through your cousin, Denis. Any trouble I ever had, Denis was in it. There were times that I felt like taking him out in the back and booting his hell right out of him. You couldn't say anything against that kid. That kid, you couldn't tell him anything or your got heck for it. If Denis said [that] you said it, you got hell. But, there was one thing about Mr. Bisson, he would give you hell, and that was the end of it; you never heard anything more about it.

If you were sick, there were never any problems; you got time off. Just the two of us ran the store. He was there every day and I used to do all the delivering and would help in the store. When he got a carload in — it used to be about twice a year, in the spring and in the fall — I used to unload it myself. And then, it always seemed as though there was somebody riding with me. For before I started working for him – the guy that was working there before – I used to go down to the store in my spare time just so that I could ride around with him on the rig. And I used to help in the store; I never got any pay for it. When I started working there steadily, it seemed that I always had somebody with me. So, a lot of times when there was a carload of feed out there, the kid, whoever he was, if he wasn't doing anything, would come down and help me unload. I used to hang around the store because it was interesting and it seemed like there was somebody who wanted to ride on the rig.

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Not everything came in by train. For the fruit, there used to be trucks that came around; they had the fruit right with them. They would come around to all the stores and if you wanted a case of this, or a case of that, they would bring it right in. I can't even remember a big truck driving up to the store and unloading [the whole truck at one store] like they do nowadays. Even Hunter Brothers, well they used to get their carload of stuff in the same time that Mr. Bisson would get his. And then there was what they called Brackman-Ker [This was a milling and feed company]. There was a feed building right along the railroad tracks there, and if we ran out of feed or anything and we didn't have it in then, I would just go to the Brackman-Ker and pick it up there.

He handled dry goods; yard goods, cloth, elastics, ribbons — anything like that you wanted, but nothing ready made.

There was a pendulum clock, that told the date, on one of the pillars [It was given to me in 1954].

Another thing, where now you go into a store to buy bananas, they are all done up and cut and everything, he used to get his in right on the stock and we would hang them up on a rope and they would just hang there. If anyone came in and wanted bananas, he would go and cut off what they wanted. It's something you never see anymore is bananas hanging up on the stock. Bananas would come in crates, and you would open them up and there was always a piece of rope tied on. He had a chunk of rope hanging down with a big knot tied on the end, and you would take the bananas, and hang them on the knot, and the knot would hold them.

I can't remember any sales. Once in a while coffee would come in and it would be a few cents cheaper than the rest of it so we used to always have it sitting out in the front. The prices were essentially the same as other shops. There was not that much to choose between going to one store or another, but he had all his customers. He handled a good line of stuff – not cheap stuff.

When we first came to Rossland — I was four years old — we lived on the upper end of town so his was the most convenient place. It was a bigger store than T. P. Rogers, and Rogers — I don't know just what was wrong with his store. When one was going in [Rogers], it was dark; it was always dark. But it and Mr. Bisson's were not that far apart, so we started dealing there, and we dealt there until he closed up.

He [Bisson] had cheese. We would always get the cheese in the big round blocks and we would cut whatever we wanted. Bread, we had bread. The bake shop used to be right next door to him. Where the alley went up, there was bake shop sitting right there [on the corner of the alley and Washington, directly across the alley from the residence; it is now a yard]. I think he owned it [yes, he did] and he used to rent it out to whoever wanted it. He would take all the produce from the bake shop.

This ends Billy Thompson’s recollections of working for Oswald Bisson at Agnew & Co. And it ends this story of Agnew & Co., itself.


Family information: The author is the Agnew’s great-grandson, and the Bisson’s grandson. This history is based primarily on family notebooks, photo albums, scrapbooks, and artifacts in his possession. Supplementing these sources is a detailed genealogy, his own memories, those of siblings, cousins, and the recorded memories of the store’s final clerk, Billy Thompson. Much of this information probably will have survived nowhere else. Consider the short quotation from the 1879 issue of the Emerson Intercolonial. The collection contains an original newsprint page. Yet, an internet search has revealed no references to the publication.

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External information: Extensive searches were made of city directories, voter’s lists, and records of births, marriages, deaths and taxes. Newspapers and books were consulted. The primary result of this effort was merely to confirm things already known from family sources. Sometimes an interesting wrinkle did emerge, such as George’s spat with his pastor in Rossland (found as a story in BC Historical Newspapers, a UBC archive). But, even here, the family already had other examples of his religious combativeness.

Billy Thompson: A important contribution to the story of how the business operated is the description given by its final clerk. The author recorded Billy’s recollections in August 1981, but until February 2018, was unable learn anything more about him. Unexpectedly, when Ron Shearer, a Rossland historian, read the document, he realized that my Billy Thompson was a member of his own extended family. This was confirmed by Robert Smith of Rossland, Billy’s nephew. William Robert Thompson (14 June 1920 - 18 May 1982), was born in Calgary, the son of Samuel and Alice Thompson. The family moved to Rossland in 1924 and lived on Sixth Avenue, a few blocks up the hill from Agnew & Co. After the store closed in 1939, Billy worked at the Cominco smelter and variously as a clerk and janitor around Rossland and Trail. In later years, he lived across the street from my childhood home. Through my father, I learned of the role he played in Agnew & Co., and promptly interviewed him.

Store closed: From 1939 until about 1950, the store portion of the building remained empty. The Bissons continued living in the adjoining residence. About 1940, the exterior was stuccoed, a furnace was installed, as was a modern washing machine for clothes.

Victory garden: During the Second World War, Oswald maintained a victory garden between the building and Third Ave.

Rossland Fuel & Supply: Located where the Rossland Secondary School now sits, Barrie Lumber (Robert Barrie’s Lumber and Supplies) used to operate. The Bisson’s son-in-law, Charles Daly, purchased it from Barrie sometime in the 1940s. However, the land was soon expropriated for the new high school, which opened in 1951. Charlie persuaded the Bissons to sell him the store and outbuildings so he could relocate. Consequently, his business, Rossland Fuel and Supply, opened there about 1950 and the outbuildings and (former stable) were now used for lumber. However, this use of the store was fairly short-lived because a significant portion of Charlie’s business was fuel, that is, the coal and wood that fed the stoves and winter furnaces of Rossland. A natural gas line was being built though the provincial interior and Charlie saw doom for his business as he correctly surmised that most people in the town would switch to a cleaner, easier fuel. He sold the business in 1956. The Dalys and the Bissons promptly moved to Vancouver.

Vancouver: The Bissons lived comfortably in Vancouver on their investments for a long time in retirement after moving there in 1956. They were surrounded by family until they died (Ena, 3 May 1968 at the age of 89, Oswald, 31 Dec. 1970 at the age of 92).

Burial: George and Mary Ann Agnew are buried in the Ross Bay Cemetery, Victoria, BC. Oswald and Georgina Bisson are buried in the Mountain View Cemetery, Vancouver, BC.

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Rossland Inn: Since 2000, the Agnew & Co. building (2253 Washington St., Rossland) has been renovated and the residence and store have been transformed into the Rossland Inn.

Plaque: The Rossland Heritage Commission placed an historical plaque on the building in 2011, and included the text in the brochure for the Rossland Heritage Walking Tour.

Author: Alistair Fraser can be reached at