Mount Stockdale, Stockdale Creek (tributary of Horsethief Creek), Stockdale Glacier
“When it is said Frank Stockdale is the most popular young man in this vicinity it is only repeating what many have said during the past week.”25
Arrival in the Windermere Valley
Francis (Frank) Clarence Stockdale was born 19 November 1868,1 and grew up with his cousin James (Jim) Stewart Johnston in Mooretown in Lambton County, Ontario (south of Sarnia).2 Jim was just over a year older than Frank,3 and in 1898 the cousins travelled west together to join the Klondike gold rush.
They chose to take the route north through Edmonton, and got as far as Athabasca Landing (modern day Athabasca) before they “found the going too hard” and gave it up.4 It was probably a wise decision: the route from Edmonton to the Yukon was notoriously long and difficult, with travel hampered by distance, muskeg and mud.5
Frank and Jim did not return home to Ontario, but instead journeyed south to Golden, from where they walked down into the Windermere Valley (they had missed that week’s steamer). They arrived at the Salmon Beds (Athalmer) on 7 May 1898.6 Their decision wasn’t random: Jim’s cousin, Edmund T Johnston, had been living in the area since April 1883,7 so upon their arrival they had a place to stay.
Once in the valley, Frank and Jim lived on a ranch they staked in December 1898, just west of Ed Johnston’s “Copper City Ranch”, located at present day Invermere.8 The ranch, known as Terrace Ranch, was staked under Jim’s name, and was located along the south bank of the Toby Creek.
Sources describe their having a “snug cabin” on the banks of the Toby near to where the Toby Creek Bridge crossed to Wilmer.9 Note that this is a about a kilometer upstream of where the bridge is today: I was unaware that the bridge used to cross up there, so I found this tidbit rather interesting. Here’s a map of the lot (I also marked the bridge location on the map at the top of the page):
In addition to selling horses,10 Frank and Jim staked several mineral claims,11 did rawhiding, packed supplies in for mines, and helped to build mine trails.12
Frank, in particular, became strongly involved in the Valley’s mining industry. Among the properties he was interested in were the Iron King/Iron Queen on Law Creek,13 and the Sitting Bull Group on Bruce Creek (in which he was sold an interest by E.T. Johnston).14
Stockdale also found work at several different mines, including as foreman at the Red Line/Ptarmigan mine at some point before 1902, again in 1905,15 and once more in 1906.16 In 1903 Stockdale was working at the Paradise, where he is noted as having to be sent down to Wilmer after being “leaded.”17
Stockdale’s involvement in mining continued for years. He was appointed superintendent at the Lead Queen Mine in 1915,18 and he remained one of the owners of the Sitting Bull Group for years.19 In 1916 he was appointed manager of the Sitting Bull when the group was bonded by a Seattle company.20
There and Back Again
Frank did not stay exclusively in the Windermere Valley. In the autumn of 1902, a gathering was held to say “good-bye” to Stockdale,21 with him travelling to the Coast through the West Kootenay and into the Boundary District. He returned just a few months later, at the end of January 1903, prompting the editorial comment that, “Strange, but true, nearly all who leave here drift back to the beautiful “Valley of Gardens” in a few months time.”22
Stockdale left again, at the end of 1905, to be foreman at a mine owned by Harold E. Forster near Burton City.23 He returned again after just over six months.24
Stockdale was deeply involved in social and community groups in the Valley. At the party for his departure in October 1902, the editor of the newspaper mentions that, “Mr Stockdale has for several years been one of the chief instigators in all social functions and his name has appeared as floor manager at nearly all the dances given in this district. In fact, when it is said Frank Stockdale is the most popular young man in this vicinity it is only repeating what many have said during the past week.”25 Stockdale was certainly well liked: as a player in the local baseball league, in 1905, he is described as a “genial, good-natured, big giant.”26
Stockdale’s engagement in community functions only continued. To give just an idea, Stockdale was a Mason,27 and was on the executive or part the committee for the Windermere District Mining Association (formed 1903),28 the Wilmer Curling Club (formed 1911),29 the Invermere Golf and Country Club (formed 1915),30 and the Windermere District Race Association (re-organized 1923).31
Most of these commitments were long term: Stockdale was a skip for the first curling rinks organized in the valley following the First World War, and was still with the Windermere District Curling Club in 1928, when he was elected president for the ensuing year.32 He also continues to be mentioned as one of the directors for the Invermere Golf and Country Club when it changed its name to the Invermere Golf Club, in 1924.33
It wasn’t just sports. In 1919 Stockdale was on the council for the District Board of Trade,34 and the Board of Directors for the Windermere District Hospital Board.35 He was appointed the government representative for the hospital in 1923,36 and his name continues to be noted as a director for the Hospital as late as 1937, the year that the Lady Elizabeth Bruce Memorial Hospital (at Pynelogs) was opened.37
Meanwhile, Frank continued in his various professional interests. In about 1909 he became foreman with the Columbia Valley Irrigated Fruit Lands Company, overseeing construction on the irrigation system up on the Toby Benches.38
Stockdale stayed in this position until early 1913, when he and his co-worker, engineer George Allan Bennett, left the company: Bennett to become manager of the Invermere Construction Company Ltd, and Stockdale as his partner in establishing the company’s hardware store (Invermere Construction and Supplies).39 Stockdale, along with Alex Ritchie, later bought out Bennett’s interest in the business and changed the name to the Invermere Hardware.
Stockdale bought out Ritchie as well, c.1920, and continued to operate the hardware until 1945, when he sold it to Joy Bond and her husband, William (Joy was Jim’s daughter – Frank’s first cousin once removed).40 Stockdale’s original store still stands: this is the Village Arts building at the corner of 7th Ave and 12th Street.
For many years Stockdale lived at the Invermere Hotel, until the hotel was sold and he lived with Joy and William Bond instead.41
Stockdale continued to have other, more official responsibilities as well. In 1917 he was appointed to the military tribunal for the Windermere District to oversee the draft.42 As a somewhat less serious duty, in 1926 he was appointed as a fence-viewer by the B.C. Department of Agriculture: a very real job that involved, presumably, looking at fences.43
As a long time resident of the valley, some decent stories about Frank can be found in local newspapers. In a 1900 story that was re-printed across the province, Frank reports having found a hot water lake on the summit of the mountains between Horsethief and No 2 (Forster) Creeks. The lake was “so hot that he could not bathe in it,” and was one of three in close proximity, with the other two being cold.44
In 1904, Stockdale made a bet of a box of cigars with the Editor of the Fort Steele newspaper The Prospector that the construction on the Kootenay Central Railway (KCR) would not begin within 90 days.45 Stockdale easily won that bet, and offered to bet another box of cigars with the editor the following year.46 Actual construction on the KCR, albeit on a small scale, was not begun until July 1905,47 with a rails being laid about twelve miles south of Golden the following year (1906).48
Frank got into a bit of trouble, in 1904, when he paused his breakfast after noticing a deer outside his cabin door. He snuck outside, took aim, and killed it, and was very pleased with himself until, when telling his friends the story, he was informed that he had shot a tame deer that was popular at the Athalmer school.49
Flash forward to 1921, and The Province writer, Lukin Johnson, was being driven by Frank on a tour of the ranches on the west side of Lake Windermere. Johnson describes his experience: “Incidentally, when you travel by automobile in the Windermere Valley, you travel fast. There are hair-raising corkscrew turns, as the road winds up and down the steep hills. There are turns which, to the uninitiated, look dangerous in the extreme. … But to those who know, I suppose the road is safe enough. “Just here is the spot where a Captain Williams and three ladies in a car toppled over the cliff,” said the genial Stockdale, as he rounded a right angle curve at twenty-five miles an hour.”50
But perhaps the most charming story about Stockdale also involves his cousin, Jim. In the 1940s, a story made its way into The Province about Stockdale and Johnston spending every Christmas Day together for over seventy years save two. They had always shared a family Christmas growing up in Ontario, and had only missed Christmas dinner once when Stockdale was over in the West Kootenay (1902), and once when Jim got married (1915).51
Stockdale passed away after a long illness on 3 July 1947 at the Lady Elizabeth Bruce Memorial Hospital.52 He is buried at the Windermere Cemetery.
Both Mount Stockdale and Stockdale Creek (north fork of Horsethief creek) were officially named as part of the Geographic Board of Canada’s April-June 1915 decisions.53 It is unclear why the decision was made to name these particular features after Stockdale, although his long standing interest in mining in general, and at the nearby Ptarmigan Mine in particular, may have prompted the recommendation.
Red Line/Ptarmigan Mine
Lead Queen Mine
I am a member of Village Arts in Invermere so enjoyed the Frank Stockdale history. We love to hike at Ritchie’s Point just north of Wilmer and have asked many locals about the name. Could this be Alex Ritchie as mentioned in today’s piece and if so what can you tell me about him. Really enjoy your work and am grateful for the chance to learn local history.
Short answer yes, Ritchie’s Point seems to have been named after Alex Ritchie. Ritchie drove the stage coach for a time in the late 1890s between Fort Steele and Golden, and was then manager at Firlands Ranch for several years. In 1904 he purchased a ranch (formerly George Starke’s) located north of Wilmer. He intended to go into stock (heavy horses) and in 1905 he had a new barn built there. I assume that this property became known as Ritchie’s Point. By the end of the decade Ritchie had moved to Invermere where he had a livery stable. Ritchie was married in Cranbrook in 1926 to Elizabeth Woodley, and the couple moved to Cranbrook in 1951. Ritchie passed away there in 1968 at age 96.
Thanks for the rapid response. I will feel like an old timer now when I slip this nugget into conversation.
Jim Johnston was my Great Grandfather. It was my understanding the Mt Johnston and Mt Stockdale were named this because of the friendship between the cousins. The two mountains face each other. I believe Ralph Johnston (Jim’s son) was involved with getting the two mountains named.
I was wondering which Johnston Mt Johnston was named after – that makes a lot of sense. Thanks Dale!
Early Valley history is always captivating. Love it !