Boom Days in the Slocan

For a few years after the discovery of silver-lead ore in the summer of 1891, the Slocan was the North American focus of speculative hard rock mining. Before the end of 1897, as Klondike excitement grew, the boom was over, but its brief energy had transformed the Slocan. J.C. Harris, who in 1944 wrote the account in this booklet, arrived in New Denver in 1896, participated in the last two years of the rush and remained in the Slocan for the rest of his life. His memory was sharp, his eye for detail and odd characters keen, his writing vivid. His is the fullest first-hand account of the Slocan’s turbulent modern beginnings from which, some would say, it has yet to recover.


Beginnings of the Bosun Ranch

J.C. Harris, a young Englishman who had been living in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, came to the Slocan in 1896 to look for farmland. He planned to supply the mines with fresh fruit and vegetables. As no one else was interested in farming, he had his choice of land. This account, which he wrote in 1944, treats his arrival in New Denver, his search for land, his encounters with some of the valley’s most colourful characters, and his purchase of land—the Bosun Ranch—on a terrace between New Denver and Silverton. He then describes his first two years of pioneering, and the discovery, development, and decline of the Bosun Mine.


Mist & Green Leaves – Japanese Canadians on Harris Ranch

This is a tale about the Harris family’s and the New Denver community’s connection with people of Japanese origin relocated from the west coast during World War II. It is focused primarily on the Harris or Bosun Ranch, which for several years became an internment camp, but also, more briefly, on another internment camp, this one in Yangchow, China, where Harris cousins spent the same years. It offers what can be said, from the perspective of the Harris family, about the camps in and around New Denver and, much more briefly, about the camp in Yangchow. A final section reflects on the interactions of prior residents and Japanese Canadians during their years together in and around New Denver.


Industry and the Good Life Around Idaho Peak


A well-developed industrial mining complex, worked out in the hard-rock mining camps of the American West, poured into the Slocan Valley in the 1890s. With it came a mixture of peoples, technologies of mining and transportation adapted to mountainous terrain, services, and the institutions of class conflict in industrial societies. This booklet, based on an article in theCanadian Historical Review in 1985, describes how these peoples, technologies, services, and institutions arranged themselves around Idaho Peak. It also describes the societies left behind when the boom was over, and what is now known of the Sinixt people in the Slocan during the century before the miners arrived.


Newspapers & the Slocan in the 1890s


Speculative energy drove a mining rush and also founded newspapers. Including Kaslo in the east and Nakusp in the west, seventeen newspapers were published in and around the Slocan just during the decade after the first silver finds in September, 1891. Just over a year later, there was a newspaper,  The Kaslo-Slocan Examiner, in Kaslo, and before the end of 1893 other newspapers in Nakusp and Three Forks. To establish a townsite and erect a few buildings was, in effect, to attract a newspaper. In 1894, the townsite of Lardo (Lardeau), on Kootenay Lake north of Kaslo, briefly included four houses, two tents, and a newspaper.

Early New Denver


New Denver; on the delta of Carpenter Creek and a portal to the mines behind, was one of the few townsites that survived the early days of the Slocan mining rush. Its promoters had anticipated another Denver, Colorado; instead, after its ten first years only 343 people lived there. New Denver had become a small Kootenay village. But the rough early townsite, a place of boulders and stumps, had been mellowed by human use. There were several good-sized hotels, also houses and gardens. New Denver was largely composed of families, the great majority of them from Eastern Canada or Britain. Yet in a new place, transplanted lives were being recontextualized; a distinctive local society was beginning to emerge.

Martin Fry, Frontiersman


45 page booklet. Martin Fry grew up in the Willamette Valley, Oregon, and spent much of his life in the vast, thinly populated watershed of the Columbia River. In the fall of 1891-92 he participated in the rush to the Slocan, and early the following spring staked a claim that became the Slocan’s fist shipping mine. He was interviewed in 1927 by J.C. Harris, who wrote an account of his life. Now, almost a century later, this account offeres a glimpse of a vanished frontier where Indigenous people were still the prinicpal population, the regulatory apparatus of modern societies was weakly in place, and ingenious individuals like Martin Fry created livelihoods out of an astonishing variety of practical occupations. It is also the most detailed surviving eyewitness account of the early days of the Slocan mining rush.

Sinixt in the Slocan,

The Last 3,000 Years

48 page booklet. Although unknown until recently by the settler society that displaced them in the 19th century, the Sinixt have lived in the Slocan Valley for the last 3,000 years, perhaps much longer.

The booklet is divided into three sections written by four authors. In Part 1, archaeologists Nathan Goodale and Alissa Nauman of Hamilton College, report on the results of their on-site investigations at Slocan Narrows. Cole Harris, retired historical geographer (UBC), provides an engaging historical portrait in Part 2.  In Part 3, anthropologist Lori Barkley takes the reader from 1900 to the present, writing of the return of the Sinixt to the valley and the difficulties and opportunities this has created for them. The booklet was designed and produced by Sean Arthur Joyce, with full-colour illustrations throughout. This makes the archaeological maps and rock paintings spring to life from the page.

Farming in the Slocan,

Past & Present

Authors: Cole Harris, Norbert Duerichen, Mick Wilson & Abra Brynne

48 page booklet. Although not obviously farming country, the Slocan has attracted farmers for well over a century. When farming began in the valley, local markets were declining, and distant ones almost impossible to reach. Nor could the valley’s small farms compete with far larger, more mechanized farms elsewhere. But times have changed. The local market has expanded. The ecological and social effects of industrial monocultures are widely criticized, the reliability of globalized marketing doubted. This booklet assesses the opportunities, past and present, for farming in the Slocan.

The Slocan History Series booklets are available in local stores:

These booklets, intended primarily for residents of and visitors to the Slocan Valley in southeastern British Columbia, Canada, seek to provide accessible, well-written and well-illustrated accounts of various aspects of the valley’s past. Manuscripts are encouraged. Anyone considering a submission should be in touch with Cole Harris, the series editor. ( Booklets can be found in these locations:
• Touchstones Museum of Art and History • Otter Books • Chamber of Commerce
• Raven's Nest Gifts • New Denver Pharmacy • Silverton Building Supplies • New Denver Visitor Centre/Chamber of Commerce
• Kaslo Pharmacy • Eurythmy Bookstore
• Meritxzell Books • Nakusp Visitor Centre/Chamber of Commerce