Law

Law Creek, flowing into Bruce Creek
Mount Law, South of Horsethief Creek

The area of Law Creek (and now Mount Law) is interesting in that it is named after a man who, by all accounts, had left the Kootenays by 1892 never to return. It is also unique as the name “Law Creek” is the best evidence I’ve been able to find for Charles Frederick Law ever having done prospecting work in that area.


Charles Frederick Law

Charles Frederick Law was born in Oshawa, Ontario on 31 January 1859. He went west in 1886 at the age of 27, going by train to “the end of steel” (then Canmore), before making his way over to Golden City (then a construction camp) for a couple of days. He then joined a party travelling south to the Columbia Lakes.

Near present day Athalmer, Law reports having taken out three pre-emptions (land claims) in the names of himself and three others, which together encompassed the later townsites of Invermere and Athalmer. The following year (1887), the men sold their land titles to one of the group, a man named Reuben Hamlin, who then went into partnership with Edmund Thomas Johnston. Johnston is often sited as the first settler who owned the Invermere townsite.1

C.F. Law made a living in the valley as a prospector and mining man. In 1887, he recorded two mining claims on Jubilee Mountain (near Spillimacheen), which he bonded out to a Toronto based company the following year.2 Two years later, at the end of 1890, Law reportedly took out a carload of copper ore from John McRae’s claim on the same mountain and shipped it over to Swansea, Wales (it’s unknown if this was from the same claim that Law held in 1887).

Law was busy in those years from 1887 to 1890. He had also undertaken work up Toby Creek on the Jumbo claim, and done some development on a property up Horsethief Creek.3 This mention of the Horsethief Creek property is the only one I could find of Law having done prospecting work in the vicinity of the creek that would later bear his name.

Annual Report to the Minister of Mines for the Year Ending 31 Dec 1915, p K 88.

The year 1890 was something of a turning point for Law, as in that year he put his name forward in the Provincial Election against the incumbent, Colonel James Baker. The election was hotly contested, but it was generally agreed by the newspapers that Law, although young, was suitably energetic and might win the contest.

When the preliminary results came back, C.F. Law was in the lead, although Baker assured reporters that not all the ballots were in and he was confident that he would pull ahead. The official result ended up giving Baker a majority of just three votes, and there were unsubstantiated murmurings that this result was due to some sort of influence or tampering on Baker’s part.4

Law continued various mining projects in the Golden and Windermere area into 1891. While recovering from some unspecified ailment in the hospital in Victoria, Law summarized the mining in the East Kootenay as being promising, but in great need of more capable men. “The great drawback to the development of East Kootenay,” he told the reporter, “has been the scarcity of first class mining prospectors, the vast majority of the prospectors having been men with little or no experience and less ready cash, who when they found what they thought was a claim, put a small piece of rock in their pocket, came to the nearest trading town and tried to sell the place, before they had even spent a cent or given an hour’s work to prove its value.”5 This frank assessment of prospecting in the East Kootenay, although hinted at in other sources, is rarely stated so bluntly.

The Chicago World’s Exhibition/Fair in 1892 presented a new opportunity for Law. Initially appointed to take charge of exhibiting British Columbia’s mineral exhibitions at the fair,6 Law ended up acting as commissioner for British Columbia’s entries into the exhibition and was present in Chicago for the event itself.7 The position likely helped Law to make contacts and advance his career in the mining field. Around the same time he moved to Vancouver, and in 1896 he travelled back to his hometown of Oshawa and married Louisa Hyland.8

Advertisement, Vancouver Daily World, 26 August 1892, p 1.

A Career Away from Windermere

Law continued a mining career in British Columbia, including some gold prospecting up in the Cassiar region in 1896/97. Following that experience, Law later told the story of a man who found a three pound nugget of gold worth $20,000. The man tragically died in a fire, and the nugget was handed over to the gold commissioner. Law purchased the nugget and brought it to Ottawa, where he sold it to be melted into $20 gold coin pieces. This was, Law reports, the first gold ever coined in Canada.9

At the turn of the century, Law had diversified his interests into coal mining in the Nicola Valley, where he advocated for the completion of the new railway to the region to ship material out.10 A few years later, he was the secretary and investment broker for the Similkameen Mining and Smelting Co Limited (inc 1906).11 Then, just before the start of the First World War, Law became the Canadian representative for a wealthy British investor named D.A. Thomas, also apparently called the Welsh Coal Magnate, who would go on to become Baron then Viscount Rhondda. (An interesting character in his own right: Thomas survived the sinking of the Lusitania, and was in charge of food rationing in Britain during the First World War)

Together with Thomas, Law became involved in coal mining in the Skeena Ranges, oil drilling in the Peace, copper mining near Great Bear Lake, and potash drilling near Fort Smith.12 Law also may have made an application to build a pipe line from the Mackenzie over to the Pacific Coast in the years following the war.13 Through all of this, Law became a close associate to many men overseas, and at one point in late 1914 dined with David Lloyd George, later Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.14

Charles Law died in June 1942 at the age of 83.15 One published memorial included a story reportedly told by Law himself, and as this particular story gave me a chuckle, I figured I should share it. According the Charles Law, “People, even in the Cariboo gold country, were dignified in those days. There was a big grocery store at Quesnel, a fine store, and there was a large barrel of whiskey in the centre of the floor. A tin can stood on a table close to the barrel and the customers were entitled to drink as much as they wished. But they were too nice to drink too much. They wiped the tin can, took one drink and then went across the street to a saloon.”16

The Naming of Law Creek

The area of Law Creek (and now Mount Law) is interesting in that it is named after a man who, by all accounts, had left the Kootenays by 1892 never to return. It is also unique as the name “Law Creek” is the best evidence I’ve been able to find for C.F. Law having ever done prospecting work in that area. Most reports of Law’s mining in the valley are focused on Jubilee Mountain: there is only brief mention found of his being up Horsethief Creek, and only the name of Law Creek itself to suggest where exactly Law had been.

Nonetheless, as early as 1898 the creek is referred to in mining reports as “Law’s Creek”, quickly shortened to Law Creek.17 A great deal of attention was given to the headwaters of Law Creek in 1898/1899 with the Pretty Girl claim, which extended over into the Law Creek valley from the head of Boulder Creek (Bruce Creek). The Silver Thread claim also gained attention, and was notable for its high altitude and location far back in the basin through miles of heavy timber.18 A rawhide trail (a graded track used for hauling out ore in hides pulled by horses) was put in up the creek in 1899 to give better access to various claims.19 As far as I know, there isn’t any trail leading up into the area anymore, although if anyone wants to go exploring please take photos to share!

Footnote

1. “Charles Frederick Law,” Valley History and the Windermere Valley Museum, (May 2015), p 3. https://windermeredistricthistoricalsociety.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/2015_05.pdf
2. British Columbia, Legislative Assembly. Annual Report of the Minister of Mines for the Year Ending 31st December 1888, Being an Account of Mining Operations for Gold, Coal, Etc in the Province of British Columbia (Victoria: Government Printer, 1889), p 309. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0062582
3. “Report on Mining in East Kootenay,” The Kootenay Star, 8 November 1890, p 1.
https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0310103
4. “Election Echoes,” The Victoria Daily Times, 16 June 1890, p 1.
https://www.newspapers.com/image/505082431
“East Kootenay,” The Victoria Daily Times, 14 June 1890, p 8.
https://www.newspapers.com/image/505082425
“East Kootenay,” The Victoria Daily Times, 28 June 1890, p 8.
https://www.newspapers.com/image/505083037
“Election Returns,” The Victoria Daily Times, 31 December 1890, p 11.
https://www.newspapers.com/image/505084939
5. “East Kootenay,” The Victoria Daily Times, 8 November 1890, p 4.
https://www.newspapers.com/image/505094750
6. “British Columbia at the Fair,” Vancouver Daily World, 18 August 1892, p 5.
https://www.newspapers.com/image/62031179
7. “News of the Province,” Vancouver Daily World, 26 October 1892, p 4.
https://www.newspapers.com/image/62031578
8. “Victoria Gossip,” Vancouver Daily World, 2 March 1896, p 6.
https://www.newspapers.com/image/62766968
“Ontario Marriages, 1869-1927,” Charles F Law and Louisa Maria Hyland, 18 Feb 1896. Oshawa, Ontario. Archives of Ontario.
https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KSZS-9Z3
9. “Gold in Cassiar,” The Province, 10 January 1925, p 22.
https://www.newspapers.com/image/500845559
“Explore McDame,” The Vancouver Sun, 19 May 1937, p 20.
https://www.newspapers.com/image/490258486
10. “News from Nicola,” The Province, 13 October 1899, p 1.
https://www.newspapers.com/image/499419416
“Men and Women,” The Province, 17 December 1901, p 3.
https://www.newspapers.com/image/498323254
11. “The Similkameen Mining and Smelting Co Ltd.” (Advertisement), The Province, 14 February 1906, p 16. https://www.newspapers.com/image/497943578
12. “Locating Groundhog Coal Railway,” Vancouver Daily World, 11 May 1914, p 20. https://www.newspapers.com/image/64554787
“Northern B.C. Oil & Coal Development,” National Post, 15 May 1915, p 15. https://www.newspapers.com/image/511864786
“Copper Near Great Bear,” Vancouver Daily World, 4 November 1916, p 10. https://www.newspapers.com/image/63314491
“Potash Drilling in Northern Salt Beds this Summer,” Edmonton Journal, 22 March 1917, p 1. https://www.newspapers.com/image/470933963
13. “Pipe Line from North Country Only Vissionary,” Edmonton Journal, 15 December 1920, p 1. https://www.newspapers.com/image/470110388
14. “Chas F Law States that German Women May Join Fighting,” The Vancouver Sun, 29 January 1915, p 1. https://www.newspapers.com/image/490252454
15. “Charles F Law Rites Thursday,” The Province, 3 June 1942, p 5.
https://www.newspapers.com/image/499708538
16. “Chas F Law Made Many Trips Abroad,” The Vancouver Sun, 4 June 1942, p 9.
https://www.newspapers.com/image/491338223
17. “The New Golden British Columbia Limited,” The Golden Era, 30 September 1898, p 1. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0227322
18. British Columbia, Legislative Assembly. Annual Report of the Minister of Mines for the Year Ending 31st December 1898, Being an Account of Mining Operations for Gold, Coal, Etc in the Province of British Columbia (Victoria: Government Printer, 1899), p 1042. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0383371
British Columbia, Legislative Assembly. Annual Report of the Minister of Mines for the Year Ending 31st December 1899, Being an Account of Mining Operations for Gold, Coal, Etc in the Province of British Columbia (Victoria: Government Printer, 1900), p 667. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0383371
19. “Mining News,” Nelson Daily Miner, 3 October 1899, p 4.
https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0083532

References

BC Geographical Names, “Law Creek,” Accessed 20 February 2020. http://apps.gov.bc.ca/pub/bcgnws/names/13113.html
BC Geographical Names, “Mount Law,” Accessed 20 February 2020. http://apps.gov.bc.ca/pub/bcgnws/names/13115.html

 

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