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PLACES OF BC: Slocan Postcards

March 17, 2016

Slocan Postcards

Former BC Studies editor and now UBC Professor Emeritus Cole Harris is busy in his “retirement” sending fascinating “postcards” from the beautiful Slocan Valley in British Columbia’s West Kootenay mountains. These come in the form of attractive, well-produced, and splendidly-illustrated booklets, and have both personal meaning and wider significance. Cole, one of the leading historical scholars of his generation in Canada, has deep roots in this beautiful corner of the province. His grandfather Joseph C Harris the well-educated son of a somewhat privileged English family bought land that became the Bosun Ranch on a bench between New Denver and Silverton late in the 1890s, and remained there the rest of his life. To this day, Cole and Muriel maintain the (restored and storied) place as a summer home. JC Harris was a literate, astute, politically-engaged observer of his surroundings and set down his reminiscences in the 1940s. Transferred with other materials to the provincial archives about 1970, these records later caught the attention of Cole’s son, current BC Studies Associate Editor Doug Harris. Realizing their value ‰ÛÒ according to Cole, his grandfather’s “memory was sound and he was fond of wry and amusing incidents” ‰ÛÒ Cole is now using these documents, and other materials, to provide fascinating snapshots of the Slocan past. Four booklets are currently available, and more are promised.

Cole Harris’s Slocan History Series:

Booklet 1, Boom Days in the Slocan (by J C Harris with a Preface by Cole Harris). JC Harris participated in the last two years of the late nineteenth century speculative hard rock mining boom in the Slocan. “His memory was sharp, his eye for detail and odd characters keen, his writing vivid. His is the fullest first-hand account of the Slocan’s turbulent modern beginnings…”

Booklet 2, Beginnings of the Bosun Ranch, reveals more of the memoirs of Cole’s grandfather, J C Harris. This booklet offers fascinating first hand glimpses of the characters who settled New Denver and worked the surrounding mines.

Booklet 3, Industry and the Good Life Around Idaho Peak, is based on an article Cole published in the Canadian Historical Review in 1985. It provides an arresting account of miners’ lives in the early Slocan, and corrects the misconception that there were no Sinixt who lived in the vicinity of Idaho Peak when miners arrived in Sandon.

Booklet 4, Mists and Green Leaves: Japanese Canadians on Harris Ranch, is a tale of the Harris family’s and the New Denver community’s connection with people of Japanese origin relocated from the west coast during World War II. It deals primarily with the Bosun Ranch where several relocated Japanese were interned in the early 1940s, but also considers, briefly, the parallel history of Harris cousins interned in Yangchow, China.

The series is designed and produced by Art Joyce of Chameleon Fire Editions and copy edited by Anne Champagne of Green Words Writing and Editing.

Booklets are available at Raven’s Nest Gifts, in New Denver; 1896 Books & Jewelry in Kaslo; Meritxzell Books in Nakusp; Booksmyth and Otter Books in Nelson.

Keep an eye out for Duff Sutherland’s review of the first four booklets in the Slocan History Series in a future issue of BC Studies.

– Graeme Wynn

For more:

Patricia Roy, “If the Cedars Could Speak; Japanese and Caucasians Meet at New Denver,” BC Studies 131 (Autumn 2001), 81-92

“Nugget of Slocan history unearthed,” https://chameleonfire1.wordpress.com/2014/08/04/nugget-of-slocan-history-unearthed/

“Unearthing BC History,” http://bcbooklook.com/2014/09/18/boom-days-in-slocan-2/

Katherine Gordon, The Slocan: Portrait of a Valley (Winlaw, BC: Sononis Press, 2004). Pp. 320. $24.95 and a review by Cole Harris in Canadian Historical Review, 87, 2 (June 2006) 356-8

Kirsten Emiko McAllister, Terrain of Memory: A Japanese Canadian Memorial Project (Vancouver: UBCPress, 2010) and a review by Cole Harris in BC Studies 171 (Autumn 2011)