Kimberley’s History

The story of Kimberley’s beginnings starts 1892 with the discovery of high grade ores, rich in silver and lead. The results were the small towns throughout the Kootenays when traveling between towns was very rugged.

In 1896 William Ridpath, a Spokane lawyer invested heavily in several Kootenay mining ventures and was among one of the first backers of the prosperous LeRoi Mine at Rossland.

It is said that Ridpath renamed a huddle of tents at Mark Creek Crossing because he hoped the camp would have the same luck as the South African centre “Kimberley.” Ridpath was to have said to have paid $24,000.00 for the Sullivan. Hotels built around this time were: The Spokane which went up in smoke as did the Forsythe Hotel, The Jones and Finch went for a ride to Marysville and back to be known as the Falls View.

The Ontario hotel was built by Jim Carroll and went for taxes in 1914 as did The Kimberley as well.

The Townsite of Marysville was staked out in 1894 by Bill Meacham who was one of the first trapper prospectors to settle around Mark Creek. Until 1903 the total settlement in the new townsite consisted of three or four shacks. The smelter was built for the treatment of ore being mined at the Sullivan and North Star, a short distance north. With the start of the smelter, Marysville was booming. Stores were built and the “Marysville News” started and hotels were constructed.

Prospectors Ed Smith, John Cleaver, Pat Sullivan and Walter Burchett who are now peacefully resting at the St. Mary’s Mission, were gathering supplies after a very rugged overland trip from Kootenay Lake and decided to stop and see the finds at the North Star. They couldn’t – believe what lay betore them – rich ore lay in cuts on the surtace. With great enthusiasm and excitement the men then set out to explore the slope on the other side of the creek. Pat and Ed went along the creek while Walter picked up a piece of “float” and to his amazement noticed a great rust stain “ORE?’ And this was the discovery that built Kimberley into a town. Unfortunately only in Walter Burchett’s later years did he learn the tremendous extent of the discovery. The others died without really knowing their find was to become “the big one.”

The first log cabin school was built in 1900 where the Elks hall is today and the second built at the North Star mine and in 1904. The third school in Kimberley was built and was a small white structure where the Cominco General office is today. A tramway was eventually built at the Sullivan to carry the ore from the Top Mine 1 1/2 miles down the mountain side to the creek bottom.

Kimberley became a small mining town and for the most part the activity was high on the top of Sullivan Hill and across Mark Creek at the North Star. An aerial tramway was built to carry the ore on the North Star, earlier on the ore was raw-hided down the mountain by horses. There were no fancy buildings at this time as that was a huge expense in those days.

Some said that Moyie and St. Eugene were very rich and the gold found in the Wildhorse and Perry Creek had great tales to tell. The greatest talk at this time was the find at the North Star. This was the jewel that brought the many prospectors and miners to a small valley that was to be known as “Mark Creek Crossing.”

A branch of the CPR rail line was brought to Kimberley from Cranbrook over the St. Mary’s River near the mouth of Perry Creek. With the railway moving in, The McGinty trail that ran down the North Star and through the middle of town was terminated. At the time The Sullivan Mine employed only 35 men.

Hotels – The Marysville Hotel (1900-1903) was lost to fire and not rebuilt at this time. The central hotel (1903) later owned by the Bird Brothers which was used as a hall and Centre for village activity. The Royal Hotel (1904) burned in 1908 and was rebuilt and then burned once again. The Falls View Hotel (1900’s-1906) first was in Kimberley then moved to Marysville and then back to Kimberley became a furniture store in the location of Howard Street. Saloon’s never closed, they were wide open barring slot machines, poker tables and at the time the smallest coins were nickels and strange enough at the time it was illegal to sit down.