Mount Slade (at the headwaters between Bruce and Law Creeks)
Slade Creek (historical, now Bruce Creek)
Now some seventy-three years old, Slade continued to work … “tossing boulders out of icy, knee-deep water” and preferring to “wrestle with fifty pound boulders” compared to some of the easier tasks of working a [mining] claim.16
I wasn’t able to find much information about the early life of William C Slade. He was reportedly born in England, but I first found reference to him in writing in 1888 as, “The genial Charlie Slade, a Calgary boy… running the stage between Sam’s Landing [near Fairmont] and Fort Steele.”1
In later summations of his life, it is reported that Bill Slade came from Winnipeg and was working as a teamster at Calgary in 1885 when he volunteered to serve in the Riel Rebellion.2 Following the Rebellion, Slade returned to Calgary and did quite well for himself buying and selling horses. As he accumulated more horses, he considered taking a 160 acre homestead in Calgary for pasture. The land had a lovely spring, but Slade considered the ground too rocky and decided against the purchase. That land was just southwest of the parcel later belonging to the CPR station in Calgary (later Palliser Square), possibly part of First Street West, and “would have been worth millions later.”3
Arrival in the Valley
Attracted by rumours of gold, Slade came over the mountains to Golden in about 1886. Bringing about 60 ponies with him, he trekked to Spilimacheen, but didn’t find the riches he was searching for. Instead, he ended up selling all but two of his horses and stayed on in Spillimacheen for a time, working as a teamster and beginning to dabble as a prospector.4
Slade continued to work in the Valley until about 1897. Although often referred to as a prospector, much of the work he did at that time was packing in a partnership with N.S. Arnold Wallinger. Together, Slade & Wallinger were involved in packing out ore from Vermont Creek in 1892: one of the earliest ore shipments in the area.5 The two were also responsible for bringing machinery from Golden to Fort Steele for the North Star Mine near Kimberley.6 Slade was involved in at least one mining claim: a gold prospect in the McMurdo Basin.7 I have been unable to find any evidence that Slade was involved in any way up the creek that later briefly carried his name.
Slade’s attention eventually drifted further afield from the Windermere Valley. With the outbreak of the Yukon Gold Rush, in 1898 Slade joined a party led by Captain Francis Armstrong to travel up the Stickine River to Teslin Lake.8 Slade wrote a letter in March 1898, published in the Golden newspaper, so “that our Golden friends could have some account of our doings.”9
It seems that Slade caught the gold bug up in the Klondike. Slade was already in Nome, Alaska in 1899 when gold was discovered in the beach sand along the coast. The resulting stampede brought thousands to the region, and Slade recalled living in tents that first winter. He expressed “confidence in the district” and stayed in Nome until as late as 1909.10
In 1910, Slade had moved down the coast to the slightly warmer climes of Haida Gwai (then Queen Charlotte Islands). Over the next year, Slade filed a number of notices with the government informing of his intention to prospect for coal and petroleum, both on land and under water on the northern end of Moresby Island.11 He remained for at least two years.12
From the islands, Slade made his way to the Cariboo, again in search of gold. He stayed there for the next thirty years, not striking much of anything until about 1928 when he dug out what he called “big development ground” on Mosquito Creek, some 45 miles west of Barkerville.13
Then about sixty-eight years old, Slade continued for the next five years, “each year, single handed, his painstaking efforts to reach bed-rock.”14 Finally, in 1932, Slade’s work attracted the attention of a Seattle based company, and Slade-Cariboo Gold Placers Ltd was formed to work the claim on a larger scale with more extensive equipment.15
Now some seventy-three years old, Slade continued to work the claim, “tossing boulders out of icy, knee-deep water” and preferring to “wrestle with fifty pound boulders” compared to some of the easier tasks of working a claim. Slade was then considered, “one of the hardest working and most highly regarded prospectors in the whole Cariboo country,” and looked forward to living comfortably in his old age, “which to his way of thinking is any time after eighty-five.”16
Unfortunately Slade didn’t quite make eight-five. He passed away from influenza while on a trip to Seattle at the age of eight-three, and is buried at the Quesnel Pioneer Cemetery. At the time of his death, Slade was taking a break from his mining interests to travel over the winter: he still had a property midway between Cottonwood and Wingdam (between Quesnel and Barkerville), which had reportedly paid handsome dividends for a couple of years.17
Mount Slade was officially adopted as a name for the mountain between the headwaters of Bruce and Law Creeks by the Geographical Board of Canada in March 1924, however it was being used in 1919.18 At the same time as Mount Slade was officially adopted, the name “Slade Creek” was dropped in favour of “Bruce Creek” after letters of protest from Invermere residents (the name Slade Creek had been adopted in June 1914).19 It seems likely that the Geographic Board of Canada adopted Mount Slade as a means to both placate the locals and to keep the name of Slade attached to some geographic feature in the area.
As I stated earlier, I was unable to find any evidence of Slade being directly associated with the creek. It would be strange if he were not, however the name of Slade Creek also seems to have come out of nowhere years after Slade’s association with the valley ended. Slade left the Valley in 1898, and the name Slade Creek wasn’t officially adopted until 1914. Before 1914, the name Boulder Creek was widely used, and the name Bruce Creek seems to have been common even before it was officially adopted. Interestingly enough, there is another creek in the province named after the same William C Slade: Slade Creek near Quesnel, where W.C. Slade was engaged for many years in mining operations.20
Who knew… very interesting information.