AGRARIAN PIONEER CHRONICLES FROM THE EARLY DAYS OF BEAVER MINES
Farley Wuth, Curator
Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village
Copyright, The Pincher Creek and District Historical Society
The chronicles of Beaver Mines’ early history has been known primarily for its coal exploitations. The two mines owned and operated by the Western Coal and Coke Company were renowned during the pre-First World War era for their production potential, a feature enhanced by the transportation and marketing links offered by the Kootenay and Alberta Railway. Yet there was more to Beaver Mines’ economic well-being than the coal mining industry. Agriculture has been a significant local contributor for well over a century. This article provides a look back at some of those early non-coal miners, those agrarian frontiersmen.
FARMS NEAR THE SOUTH FORK
One farmer, Christopher Stevins, filed a homestead located in Section 26, Township 6, Range 2, West of the Fifth which was crisscrossed by the South Fork of the Oldman River some two and one half miles north east of Beaver Mines. Born in England in May 1888, the seventeen-year-old immigrated to Canada in 1905. He worshiped with the Church of England, and the 1911 Dominion of Canada Census enumerated him as a farmer.
Located nearby on Section 24, which was within walking distance to the east of the Christopher Stevins’ property, was the homestead of Arthur and Constance Stevins. It is believed that the two fellows were brothers. Arthur was older by nearly nine years, being born in August 1879. He too was born and raised overseas in England and immigrated here to Canada as early as 1895. He too was Anglican and listed in the 1911 Census as being a farmer. Arthur’s wife was Constance who was born in September 1887. Her birthplace was listed as Ontario, and she too attended the Anglican Church.
Also farming on Section 14, Township 6, Range 2, West of the Fifth was a little known pioneer by the name of H. Diskins. This agricultural operation was located immediately to the north of the Coalfields School established in 1909. He was born in March 1866 back in England but it is unclear as to when he immigrated to Canada. His religious affiliation too was with the Church of England. His neighbour was Alfred Linnell who was born a generation later in December 1890, also in England. Linnell also was listed as a farmer in 1911.
One Beaver Mines pioneer was Coby Nelson whose farm on Section 21, Township 6, Range 2, West of the Fifth was situated just over one mile northwest of Beaver Mines. His birthplace was listed as the United States of America where he was born in October 1887. Also farming on one of Section 21’s quarters was Charles Nelson who too was born south of the international boundary. In the United States he was born in May 1887. Immigration years for either Nelson were listed in the 1911 Census. It is possible that these two fellows were brothers. Nearby was the farm of Hebert Frank who hailed from Manitoba, a province also known for its agricultural pursuits. There he was born in November 1889. In church affairs, he was an Anglican.
Homesteading on Section 16 was a Beaver Mines frontiersman named Frank Lucy. His agricultural spread was located south of Section 21 where his Nelson and Frank colleagues farmed. It also was situated immediately northwest of the settlement of Beaver Mines. A little older than some of the other area farmers, Lucy was born in November 1864. His birthplace was that of Quebec and he was of French-Canadian heritage. He worshiped with the Roman Catholic Church; St. Anthony’s Mission was located in the heart of Beaver Mines itself.
MOUNTAIN MILL CONNECTIONS
Far off in the distance was the homesteading spread of Jervis Fillmore which was located on Section 28, T6, R2, W5. This farming operation straddled the South Fork and measured a lengthy distance of 2.5 miles almost directly north of Beaver Mines. Local folklore indicates that in spite of the arduous travel necessitated by frontier conditions, Fillmore nevertheless did most of his business in this rustic settlement adjacent to Beaver Mines Creek. Also American in origin, he was born in the United States in April 1881; however, it is not known when he immigrated north to Canada. He was associated with the Presbyterian Church and may have attended services at Mountain Mill.
Alexander White also was a lesser known Beaver Mines area pioneer. His farm was located in Section 12 which was located immediately west of Mountain Mill. Nearby were the traverses of the Kootenay and Alberta Railway which provided Beaver Mines’ economic link with the outside world. White also did most of his trade in this coal mining settlement. He was born in December 1871 and also hailed from the United States.
Also farming on Section 14, to the north of Coalfields School, was Donald McKafinie. He hailed from Ontario where he was born in August 1874. He was one amoung the many early farmers who gave Beaver Mines a definite agricultural flavour. Coal mining may have grabbed the early local headlines but it was agrarian pursuits which provided this community with its long term economic backbone.