Brady Creek (flowing into Windermere Lake)
James Brady’s skill at attracting investment for mining properties far outweighed his ability to assess those properties for their mineral wealth.
James Brady (sometimes seen as Frederick James Brady) was the enigmatic promoter of various mining ventures in the Windermere Valley, particularly near Canal Flats, but with debatable success.
Before British Columbia
There is not much known about James Brady’s early life. He was born 24 November 1840 in either Québec,1 or Ontario,2 and at an unknown date he married Emily (or Emilie) Louise (or Louisa) Kurczyn, who was born in Montréal, Québec.3
Brady is later noted as being, “a mining engineer of long experience in California, Central America [Guatamala], and other noted mining centres.”4 He is also, in a slightly later report, noted as being “Col Jas Brady” although, as the military title is not used consistently, it’s unclear if he did military service.5 Brady is referred to consistently with the title “CE” (Civil Engineer) or “ME” (Mining Engineer), but it is unknown where or when he was educated.
What can be said with confidence is that the Brady family moved around a lot. Of the Brady children, the eldest, Eliza “Bessie” Brady was born in December 1868 in New Jersey,6 followed by Kathleen, born December 1872 in Swansea, California.7 Sara was also born in California, in 1875,8 while one further child, James Campbell, was born in 1882 in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.9
Between the births of their last two children, the Brady family appears on the United States Census, in June 1880, living in the town of Stockton in San Joaquin County, California.10 About a year later they are listed on the Canadian Census, living in Montréal, Québec,11 before being in Dartmouth in October 1882 for the birth of their son.
Through all of this, it is unclear what exactly James Brady was doing. He is listed as early as the 1880 California census as a mining engineer,12 and seems to have gained at least some reputation in the profession, being noted in late 1886 in glowing terms as, “a mining engineer of very high attainments.”13 As we’ll see, this may have been an exaggeration of his talents, and I have been unable to find his name in association with any actual mining projects in these early years.
In October 1882 (the same month as the youngest Brady was born), a mining engineer by the name of James Brady is listed as an applicant to form “The Mining Investment Company of Canada (Limited).”14 It’s unknown if this is the correct James Brady but, if it is, he was living in Winnipeg. The C.P.R. was then being constructed, and Winnipeg was a good staging ground in 1882/1883 for heading further west. James Brady was then in his mid forties, and the family had four children.
According to the obituary of Mrs Brady, the family, “came into the East Kootenay on one of the first trains of the C.P.R. to enter the mountains,”15 sometime in 1884. That date of 1884 is substantiated in an 1891 report, when Brady is noted as discovering the Thunder Hill Mine in 1884,16 as well as in articles upon his death.17 Brady is noted by settler Edmund T Johnston as being “the first mining engineer in the Valley.”18
Brady’s name soon appears in official records as well, having been paid $300 by the Geological Survey in the fiscal year from July 1885 until June 1886 for a “Report on Mineral Resources of Kootenay.”19 He also filed, on 8 September 1885, a pre-emption for the first settler-staked property on the west side of Windermere Lake, later known as the Brady Ranch or the Brady Creek Ranch.20
The Findlay Creek Project
Brady gained early notoriety in the Windermere Valley as, in January 1886, “Brady & Co” are reported as prospecting for gold near Findlay Creek.21 This was not your average small-scale panning operation. A bill was then being proposed to the B.C. Legislative Assembly in order to create the Findlay Creek Hydraulic Mining Company, and to ask that “certain privileges” be given to owners Thomas B. H. Cochrane and James Brady along Findlay Creek.22 These privileges included a twenty-five year lease on 500 feet of land on either side of eight miles (thirteen kilometers) of the creek, on which the company proposed establishing “an extensive hydraulic system” for gold mining.23
Findlay Creek had long posed a problem for gold seekers. It was agreed that there was gold to be had, but individual miners and small companies had failed to strike it rich. The failure was blamed on their inability to both process enough gravel, and to get down to the bedrock where gold was known to settle.
Hydraulic mining used high pressure water to strip away rocks and gravel, creating a slurry that was directed into sluice boxes, allowing for large scale gold extraction. The venture required a lot more equipment than a gold pan, and the formation of a company was deemed necessary to raise the required capital to cover the up-front costs.24 The privileges given to the Company by the Province would give the project stability and all but eliminate the threat of competition, thereby hopefully attracting investors.
The Findlay Creek Hydraulic Company was awarded their special privileges by the Legislature in the spring session,25 and the company immediately began development. They erected “substantial houses on their ground, and ma[de] other preparations for the establishment of hydraulic works on a large scale.”26 Hydraulic pipes and other equipment were purchased in San Francisco and shipped to the property that autumn, being transported on the last trip of the steamboat Duchess that season.27 A reported fifty men were employed to work on the project that winter, “to whom he [Brady] is paying $2.00 per day with board,”28 (a rather respectable amount of money at the time).
Among this development activity, a five (or six) mile (eight to nine kilometer) ditch/sluice was dug, a sawmill constructed,29 and pipes laid so that everything was “in running order.”30 Expectations were high, but following the report announcing that the property was ready to being operations, in late 1887, very little more is reported about the Company’s activities.
It doesn’t seem to be for lack of trying. Brady is reported to have been on his way to Findlay Creek to resume operations in March 1888,31 and a large party of those financially interested in the Company were expected to arrive that summer (these included a Lord Norbury, Lieutenant and Lady Adele Cochrane, Lord and Lady St Maur, Dr Minor and party from Seattle, Captain Cookson and party from England).32
But the hoped-for heaps of gold never materialized, and the lack of reported success from the Findlay Creek property suggests that the venture wasn’t anywhere near as lucrative as had been hoped. In the summer of 1889 Cochrane and Brady, “sold all their interests on Findlay creek to an English Company.”33
Other (Non-Mining) Ventures
Even as Brady worked to develop the Findlay Creek claim, he pursued other interests in the Windermere Valley as well. He was the first postmaster at Windermere, with an office established there on 1 October 1887,34 and in 1888 is noted to co-own, with George Goldie, the first general store in Windermere.35 Brady was bought out by Rufus Kimpton in 1890.36
As an early arrival to the Kootenays, Brady also established himself as an authority on mining in the area. He often wrote articles on the subject,37 and in 1891 co-published a handbook compiling information about British Columbia Mining Laws.38
On a more personal note, Brady unfortunately had a run of bad luck when it came to wheeled vehicles. In September 1888, while in Banff Park, he was badly injured (in one account, “crippled for life”) when the carriage he was in was upset by a telephone wire left lying across the road.39 Brady sued the Dominion Government for damages and was awarded $25,000 and costs.40
There was another incident a decade later, in the spring of 1898, when Brady was again badly injured after being thrown from his seat when the stage coach tipped over on bad roads just south of Spillimacheen.41 He didn’t bring up any charges this time, but he was laid up for a time.
Take Two: Thunder Hill
With the Findlay Creek gold project abandoned, in summer 1890 Brady turned his attention to another nearby mining prospect, the Thunder Hill Mine.42 This gold and galena property was, in summer 1891, reported to have been worked by Brady for “years,”43 having been discovered by him back in 1884.44
There is already a post on the history of Thunder Hill, including much greater detail, but enough to say here that expectations for the property were high. Brady managed to attract a group of investors, forming the Thunder Hill Mining Company in the summer of 1891. Large amounts of machinery were brought in, an ore concentrator was constructed, a tramway was built connecting it with the mine, and altogether a massive amount of money was spent developing the property. The entire venture then collapsed, dramatically, with only one small test shipment of ore having ever been shipped.45 Even the most up-to-date mining operation can’t operate without ore to dig up.
Brady was a central figure in the Thunder Hill scheme, having enthusiastically promoted the property, including in providing a glowing progress report to investors at the end of 1891.46 He also remained on the ground as superintendent to oversee work on the property through the following year, and into 1893.47
Even after the Thunder Hill company had collapsed into liquidation, in the autumn of 1893, Brady maintained an interest in developing the mine. In 1895 he is reported as bringing in an expert to examine the property, presumably in hopes of resuming operations.48 But although, as we will see, he maintained an interest in the Windermere Valley, the Brady family also moved on.
Of Many Places
Although the Brady family arrived in British Columbia in 1884, once again they seemed reluctant to settle in one place, and the living arrangements of the Brady family are remarkably unclear. In November 1886, as development on the Findlay Creek project continued in earnest, Brady was appointed as a Commissioner of the Peace for Kootenay, but his residence on this appointment is listed as being in Victoria.49
Brady continues to be listed as a Victoria resident on a voting list in April 1890,50 as well as in December 1893, (both living at the Oriental Hotel),51 and the entire Brady family is listed on the 1891 Canadian Census as residents in Victoria City.52
But there is evidence of the Brady family living in Windermere as well. As development on the Thunder Hill project continued in earnest, a summer 1893 newspaper mentions that the family was living in the valley, possibly on the Brady Ranch.53 Later that year, after the project had collapsed, the Brady family is reported as leaving Thunder Hill for Victoria.54 It could be that the Windermere Valley served as a summer home, or that the family lived in the area only sporadically, as they were frequently found in Victoria. James Brady is just as likely to be noted as being “of Victoria”,55 as he is “of Thunder Hill.”56
There and Back Again
Following the Thunder Hill disaster, James Brady continued to hustle. In 1897 the British Columbia Directory lists him as living at the Hotel Allan in Rossland as part of the engineering consulting firm, Moynahan & Brady.57 It’s unclear how long this company lasted: in August 1899 he is noted as being “formerly of the firm.”58 Even as Brady was doing work out of Rossland, he also seems to have spent winters, at least, with his family in Victoria.59
Brady also continued to dabble in the Windermere Valley. In the summer of 1897 he located further mining properties up Findlay Creek,60 and, in spring 1898, following his second unfortunate wagon accident, Brady returned to Canal Flats, which he intended to make, “his headquarters this season.”61 His name even appears on the voting list in May 1898 as living at Thunder Hill,62 although he had returned “west” at the end of that June.63
In 1899 Brady had returned to the Windermere area again, and he is listed as a new Justice of the Peace for North East Kootenay, based out of Thunder Hill, in May 1899.64
Once again Brady’s living situation is incredibly unclear, and it gets even more so. In the 1899-1900 British Columbia Directory his name appears both as a mining engineer and surveyor out of Golden, as well as a mining engineer with offices in Victoria.65 In the subsequent edition, 1900-1901, Brady’s name appears in three locations, in Golden, Victoria, as well as at Thunder Hill.66 On the 1901 Canadian Census James, his wife and son are all listed as living as lodgers (likely at a hotel) in Victoria City.67
As the new century began, however, the Brady family (by this time wife Emily and son Cam) more or less began a permanent residence in Golden. Once again the exact time frame for their move is incredibly uncertain. In the 1902 Directory Brady is listed as a mining engineer at Thunder Hill and a civil engineer in Victoria,68 while in 1903 he is just a mining engineer at Thunder Hill.69
But in early 1903 Mrs Brady is noted in the Golden newspapers as arriving “from Toronto” with an intention of, “remaining [here] for some time.”70 By 1904 Brady was both living in Golden and the president of the North East Kootenay Mining Association.71 On the 1911 Canadian census James and Emily, as well as youngest son Cam, eldest daughter Eliza, and Eliza’s two daughters (along with five lodgers), were all living at Golden.72
This move to Golden was helped by Brady’s willingness and ability to diversify as, at some point, in addition to using the title of mining engineer, Brady became a land surveyor. He is noted as having been commissioned as a Dominion and Provincial Land Surveyor to survey the Railway Belt between 1891 and 1910,73 although the exact time frame and extent of his involvement in this work is unclear. There were qualifications required to use the title PLS (Provincial Land Surveyor) and DLS (Dominion Land Surveyor), but it is unknown when Brady attained these.
But there was quite a bit of surveying work to be had, including regular business down in the Windermere Valley. In the summer of 1901 Brady resurveyed the Athalmer townsite,74 and is regularly mentioned as being employed to survey mines, ranches, and timber limits in the area.75
Brady’s son, James Campbell Brady (Cam) followed in the survey business, and the two undertook surveys together in 1908,76 and 1909,77 before Cam was officially commissioned as a Provincial Land Surveyor in 1912.78 In 1913 the father-son team began a survey of the Kootenay Valley in preparation for settlement,79 and, in 1914, possibly due to an injury James suffered earlier that year falling off a cliff,80 Cam alone completed that Kootenay survey.81
Died on His Feet
James Brady was nothing if not hard-working. At age 78 he was still in the field, conducting a survey in (or near to) Wilmer, when he suddenly passed away on 3 August 1916.82 According to newspaper reports, Brady “dropped dead in a field.”83 He was interned at the Golden cemetery.
His widow, Emily, continued to live in Golden, where her daughter Eliza (Mrs George Shaw) was also residing. Emily passed away in April 1927 at the age of 83.84
The ranch on Brady Creek remained an active one for many years. Although it’s unclear how much time the Brady family actually spent living on the Ranch, it stayed in Brady’s hands until mid 1904 when he sold it to Joseph Lake of Athalmer.85 The Lake family became long-time owners of the property before selling the south side of the property to the Ruault family in 1930, and the remaining north portion to Glenn Denning following the Second World War. The north side was bought from Frank Anderson in the 1970s by Carlton Frank Jones.86
I’ve never been quite sure what to make of James Brady and, even after all of this research, I’m still not so certain. Although he seems to have been widely heralded as a mining engineer, for example, his skills at attracting investment far outweighed his ability to assess properties for their mineral wealth. As noted in 1899 in reference to the Thunder Hill property, “The name “James Brady” will mark the failure, and Mud Lake and the owls will have the concentrator as a keepsake.”87 The hydraulic scheme on Findlay Creek was equally unsuccessful. In both ventures a very large amount of money had been invested with no results.
But somehow it’s hard to find too much fault with Brady: he seems to be earnest and, as there was no standard qualification for mining engineers in Canada at the time, it’s unclear what education he had before taking up the title. It could be a case of a small amount of knowledge being very dangerous. Brady also appears to have been trusted by those he dealt with, particularly in his career as a land surveyor.
In some ways, James Brady remains an enigma. We don’t really know what he did before arriving in British Columbia, or even a lot of detail about his time in B.C. itself. Did the family move around so much out of choice or necessity? I’ve also come across very little about Brady’s personality, only his widely scattered professional activities, and so it seems we’re forced to leave it at that.
Edmund T Johnston
Thunder Hill Mine