Memories of Beavermouth, BC

Beavermouth, BC with the train station in the background.

The following the memories are from Clark Peters. He sent them to the Golden Museum by e-mail and is pleased for us to share them with the community. He is referring to articles he read in Golden Memories a history book about Golden and area.

I found your stories of Beavermouth very enjoyable and I am sending you some of my recollections of Beavermouth as I am probably one of few people left that can recall some of the history from those times. I make no claims to being an author but thought you might find some of my recollections of interest.

My dad, Orville B. Peters, was transferred to Beavermouth in the spring of 1948. He was working at revel stoke as a machinist and was sent to Beavermouth as the charge hand later to be known as the locomotive foreman.

Beavermouth was known as a pusher point. The pusher engines were coupled up to the trains that were traveling west. When the trains, either passenger or freight, reached Beavermouth, the pushers gave the trains the extra power to get them up the hill to either Stoney Creek or Glacier. There were usually four steam engines working out of Beavermouth. They were the 5900’s and 5800’s. The shops could hold up to three engine’s and it was here that mostly smaller jobs such as replacing brake shoes and greasing and oiling took place. Any major work was done either at Revelstoke or Calgary.

The power plant that Nina Hope refers to was known as the dynamo. The dynamo was a large generator that was turned by piped in water. It was turned on by opening a valve and closing the valve to shut it down. It was turned on during the night and was turned off during the day so as to reduce wear and tear. If anyone such as a fireman or engineer needed power during the day to use an electric razor for instance, they had only to go over to the shops and turn the Dynamo on. They were expected to turn it off when they were finished.

The schoolhouse was still there when we moved to Beavermouth but as we were the only school kids in town (my sisters age 13 and 9 Ann myself 12 years old) there was no teacher. We packed a couple of school desks over to our house and set them up in a bedroom and we did our correspondence there. Our correspondence came from Victoria and each of us was assigned to one correspondence teacher. Needless to say, making time to do schoolwork wasn’t all that easy for a boy; what with the wipers who took care of the steam engine’s requiring his assistance, plus plenty of grouse and gophers to be hunted.

Pete Bergenham was officially game warden, or so we were told, so the young wipers (the fellows that provided the steam engines with grease and oil as well as keeping them filled with water) as well as myself didn’t generally shoot anything out of season except for the odd gross. Pete told me that he had shot many grizzly bears and that he had had to shoot 14 in self defence as they appeared to be about to attack him. Pete would have been in his 60s at the time and he could still put most of us to shame as far as walking is concerned. He loped along effortlessly and some said that when he headed out he probably walked at least 20 miles on his rounds. One day a black bear showed up in the Meadow across the tracks from Pete Bergen Ham’s house. We ran over to his place and informed him and asked him if he could come and shoot it. Pete got his Mauser rifle and settled himself down about 75 yards from the bear and fired a single shot. He missed it completely I sure was disappointed in Pete as he was known to be a great hunter and trapper and I couldn’t figure out how he could have missed later on in life I figured it out. Pete missed the bear on purpose so that it could continue living its life. He didn’t say a word but just stood up and walked back to his place.

Kid price lived in his shack on the east side of Quartz Creek and on the south side of the main line of the CPR. The shack was about 20 feet by 12 feet in size. When one entered you felt somewhat off kilter because of the walls being on an angle. There was a pot-bellied stove, a table and a couple of chairs and a bed at the far end, opposite the door. He had a number of cats that were his only companions. The foulness of his cabin defiles description and the smell was about as sour as one could possibly imagine. There were piles of magazines and papers everywhere. The “Newsies” on the passenger trains made it their job to see that kid was supplied with discarded papers and magazines. He was probably one of the best-read men in Canada and would have been right up on the news of the day as his papers were never more than a day or two old. Kid made numerous trips back to the states according to Percy Landsberg. Apparently, his trips were to get people to invest in his mine and he used this money to support himself while trying to strike it rich. His mind was up the mountain behind Beaver mouth and not far from Quartz Creek. An old friend of mine found the old mine the tailings in recent years. There is now a logging road that passes it.

Train derailment at Beavermouth, BC

During the early 1950s the engineers and firemen in Beavermouth decided that Kid should have a better place to live. There was a vacant cabin across the tracks from Kids shack and they decided to move him in there. The Kid probably hadn’t had a shower in 50 years and it was decided that he needed one before moving. It was almost too much for him. He caught a bad case of flu and almost died. Not long after the government took kid to Victoria and settled him into an old folk’s home. I was given this information about Kid by Jack McIntyre (Mac the trapper) when I went hunting at Beavermouth in 1956. Mac moved on to Enderby in the late 50s and died there sometime in the 1960s.

One day Kid invited my dad and I to come over for a shot of whiskey. I went to the shops and told dad of the invitation and so we went over when dad finished work. Kid handed me a cup and offered one to dad but he declined stating that he would prefer to drink straight from the bottle. Kid poured me a shot into the unwashed cup and dad took the bottle and had a good slug. I drank mine (I was 12 years old) and suffered no ill effects considering the state of the cup never mind the drinking of hard whiskey at such a young age. Kid told us that he had been a bodyguard for president McKinley when McKinley was assassinated. That happened in 1901 I believe, so if the story is true, Kid would have gone back to the states for awhile at that time. He also claimed, in 1948 to be almost 100 years old.  Well, I guess he exaggerated a little. As you report in your story of Kid, he also told us that he had known to the James boys.

In 1962 I happened by chance to meet a man who had worked for the CPR at Beaver mouth shortly after the turn of the century. He knew Kid Price and he claimed that one could believe what Kid’s said as he was an honest man. I have attempted to get information concerning the claim that he had worked for president McKinley but Washington wasn’t able to come up with his name.

I was in the habit of gopher hunting on a fairly regular basis and when I headshot one or more I would deliver them to kids place. He would skin and clean them and boiled them up on the top of the stove for himself and his cats.

Wong Fong who operated the restaurant in Beaver mouth was a very fine man. He cooked all the meals for the railroaders as well As for people who might be traveling through and had stopped to visit between trains. He had a garden in back of the CPR owned building and how he managed to care for the garden as well as cook was amazing to say the least. When we first arrived in Beavermouth our whole family went over to Wong’s for our first meal and he opened up a case where he kept candy for sale and offered each of us children a chocolate bar at no charge. Wong also cooked Christmas dinner at no charge for all who came on Christmas Day. He eventually had to leave Beavermouth when the diesels were introduced in the early 50s and Beavemouth was no longer needed as a pusher point Wong opened a restaurant in Vancouver and spent the remainder of his days there.

Beavermouth, BC 1969

Percy Landsberg worked as a hostler moving steam engines and railroad cars when required as well as keeping up the supply of dry sand in the sand house. Mrs. Martha Landsberg was the post mistress. Percy told me about the earlier days through the 20s when they went down the Columbia River to hunt moose for the year. They used large flat bottom boats to drift down the river and then loaded the moose in the boats to bring the meat home. They had built nests in the trees in previous years along the trails and they sat in these nests waiting for a moose to happen by. This was apparently how they hunted every year and it enabled them to knock down their moose as near to the boats as possible.

Percy lived in Beavermouth until he retired and then moved on to a more populated area. I can’t recall what town but in BC.