It happened this week in Cranbrook: 1907-1908

It happened this week in Cranbrook: 1907-1908

Week of August 13-19

Dave Humphrey

Items compiled from the archived newspapers held at the Cranbrook History Centre and Archives


THREE LEFT DEAD … Last Monday morning the town of Cranbrook was shocked by the news that the eastbound Soo-Spokane train had been wrecked at Macleod and three good men had been killed: Benjamin J. Murgatroyd, the engineer, A. B. Perney, the fireman, and J. J. Keeler, the coal passer. A pall was cast over the town, and during the forenoon little groups of men could be seen at different places discussing the horrible casualty. Engineer Murgatroyd had lived in Cranbrook for years and was a great favorite with all who knew him, while Fireman Perney, although having come here only a short time ago, had won a host of admiring friends. Mr. Keeler was not so well known, as he was a comparatively new man. When the news arrived Superintendent Erickson was notified and arranged at once to rush to the scene of the disaster on a special, and was accompanied by Acting Trainmaster Corey. The details of the accident are presented as follows by the Macleod Gazette in an extra issued on the day it occurred: At about 5.30 this morning the Soo-Spokane Flyer, going east had just passed the Haneyville switch at the junction northeast of town the engine jumped the track, and in a few seconds a scene of terrible confusion, with hissing steam, crashing timbers and flying dirt was on, and in just those few seconds three brave men had lost their lives and dozens more narrowly escaped death. The baggageman, S. Ross, of Winnipeg, came as near death as a man could and escape unhurt. To the memory of brave Ben Murgatroyd, of Cranbrook, the engineer of the Flyer, may all honor be given. He did not regain consciousness and could not tell his story himself, but the fact that the emergency brake was set, and the steam shut off, told the story in more eloquent words than can be depicted with the pen. He undoubtedly could have saved his own life by leaving his post and jumping, but duty was paramount, and in consequence the lives of probably dozens of people were saved and brave Ben has gone to His Maker, leaving a wife and family of five children, and a host of friends to mourn his untimely taking off. Just, what caused the accident can hardly be determined but it is presumed it was caused by a defective frog, as nothing apparently was wrong with the engine.

FAKE NEWS … There has been a report going the rounds of the town that the Ideal Amusement company that has pitched its tents west of the C. P. R. tracks, was the same show that had trouble in Lethbridge. This is not the case and the management regrets that his company should have been subjected to such an injustice. Chief Despatcher Scott verifies this statement as he says that this company came from Calgary and did not visit Lethbridge. In this case the report has evidently done an injury to the Ideal Amusement company, and the Herald willingly prints this for the benefit of the people, and to place the show management on the right side.

OPERA HOUSE OPEN … Cranbrook’s beautiful new opera house was opened last Tuesday evening by the Juvenile Bostonians to a record breaking house. It has been the hope and dream of the people of this town to have an opera house in keeping with the growth of the place, and at last this1 hope has been more than fulfilled. Messrs. R. E. Beattie, J. G. McCallum, Joseph Brault and S. J. Mighton are the men who displayed the necessary public spirit to give Cranbrook one of the best opera houses that can he found in the interior of the province, and the Herald trusts that they will be amply rewarded on their investment. There are few men who would make such an investment in a town of this size, and very few who would go to the expense that this company has in seeing that what was done in construction and equipment was the best. As a result Cranbrook has an opera house that will afford pleasure to the people, and also give a magnificent assembly room for large meetings of all kinds, as well as balls and parties on a large scale. The lack of space in the Herald this week prevents a detailed description of the house, which will be reserved until the work is all complete, which will not be until next week.

RETURNED TO CRANBROOK … The bodies of Perney and Keeler were brought in yesterday on number five in the baggage car and the body of Murgatroyd was brought in Superintendent Erickson’s car, accompanied by the sorrowing wife and children. The funeral of Benjamin J. Murgatroyd and J. J. Keeler was held this afternoon at 2 o’clock. The funeral was held from the English church, Rev. Flewelling officiating, assisted by J. F. Armstrong, and was one of the largest ever held in this city, if not the largest, all of the business houses in the city being closed at the time. After the services, headed by the two hearses, the great procession of sympathizing friends wound their way to the English church cemetery, east of the city, where the remains were laid to rest. There was a wealth of floral tributes that covered the caskets, and they came from brotherhoods and individuals.

LABOR DAY LOOKS GOOD … Everything is getting in good shape for a successful celebration on Labor Day. The committee is doing hard work and they propose to leave nothing undone to give Cranbrook one of the best days that it ever had. Arrangements have been perfected for special trains from east and west and on the Kimberley branch. The booth on the grounds will be let to the highest bidder. Sealed bids will be received by Secretary White up to 5 p.m. next Saturday. The Labor Day committee will meet regular every Saturday evening at 8 o’clock in Mighton’s hall. A full attendance is requested next Saturday evening.

HOW EMBARRASSING … The staff rubberneck observed a party marching along the street a few days ago with a package in his grab hooks. It contained merchandise of some kind or other and on one side bore the cheap John Tim label. The carrier endeavored to hide that from the eagle gaze of the rubberneck. He was ashamed of it evidently.

WEALTHY MOYIE … Moyie has a payroll of $46,500 a month, or a little over $1,500 a day. Not many mining camps in British Columbia can boast of such a payroll. Nor are there many camps more prosperous. There is not a vacant house in the place, and the hotels are turning people away every day. If the town is to grow, more houses must be built.

HOW’S THAT AGAIN? … The Elko baseball team went to Fernie August 5th, to compete for the $150.00 hung up by the Fernie Athletic association, which should disband and reorganize quicker than a spring lamb can jump a thistle. If they ever expect people from other towns to patronize their sports, they want to cut that grabber element out altogether. Take and put them in the river—even if it does spoil the fishing. When Fernie came to Elko July 28, they were treated to the best the town could give. When Elko went to Fernie they were treated worse than yellow dogs. But what can you expect from a lot of grabbers who are always looking and ready to divide what don’t belong to them.

ELKO VISITORS … Messrs. Butterfield and Sweet, of a big Chicago firm of photographers, have been in Elko several days this week taking views of the alps around Elko. In conversation with these gentlemen we found they had been induced to come to South East Kootenay through the glowing accounts they had read in copies of the Cranbrook Herald, they had read in Chicago, throughout the middle-west States, Kalispell and Spokane. Would Simpson please inform us of some place where the Herald can’t be bought, borrowed or stolen?


MR. FERNIE’S OPINION … We had a very interesting and timely interview with Mr. William Fernie, the founder of the little city which has just been overwhelmed by disaster. Mr. Fernie points out one thing most im­portant to be remembered by all interested in the building of the town. This is the necessity of clearing away much of the timber and underbrush close to the place. In his opinion it is because Fernie was situated in the heart of a thickly timbered area that the disaster fell upon it with such crushing fury. To many other points throughout the province Fernie will contain a lesson in this respect.

OUTPOURING OF SUPPORT … God is good. Notwithstanding the fact that Fernie and adjoining territory was devastated by flames, and thousands of people left homeless, this great misfortune awakened in the hearts of the people that love of humanity that offtimes lies dormant in times of peace and fortune. With the first Macedonian cry of distress that was flashed forth on the wires from Fernie, when the homes of the people were being consumed by fire and the business blocks of the town were crumbling beneath the flames, at once the activity of the people was pronounced, and from the east, from the west, from the Northwestern States there came back words of sympathy and good cheer, with the promise of supplies of every kind and money as well. Carloads of food and thousands of dollars in money were started for the stricken district while the smoke was still rising from the embers of the ruined city. The imaginary line that divides Canada from the United States was absolutely eliminated in Fernie’s great time of trouble. The Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes were folded together and the subjects of Canada and the United States had only one thought in view, and that was to give assistance to the afflicted. Spokane was among the first to send supplies, accompanied by a commissioner representing their Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Findley, who looked after the proper distribution of the same. Cranbrook was early in the field, sending a carload of supplies on the evening of the disastrous day, and when the first relief train arrived in Cranbrook at 4 o’clock in the morning every home in the city was open for the refugees, and every man was present acting as a member of the great committee of reception to show the homeless ones places where they could be properly cared for. Moyie, Nelson, Creston, Fort Steele, Elko, Marysville, Kimberley, Wycliffe, Wardner, Wasa, in fact every community in this part of the country opened their homes and their hearts to the people of Fernie. It was the grandest outpouring of human sympathy that this part of Canada has ever witnessed, an evidence of the fact that Western people have Western hearts, and that in time of trial and sorrow there is no discrimination between creed and sect. The modern idea of Christianity is lost sight of and all seem to be possessed of one idea, and that is to follow the example set by the lowly Nazarine, love your fellow man.

SAFE … Fred Atkinson, who works at the St. Eugene, got a wire from Fernie Friday saying that his brother was caught in the explosion at the Fernie mine and was killed. When Fred reached Fernie his brother was about the first man he met. He was only knocked out by the gas and had recovered. However, he was in the fire the next day, and was shipped as one of the refugees back to Cranbrook. He is again in Moyie.

PANDEMONIUM …Owing to troubles on the C.P.R. that enforced a lack of equipment, three cabooses and a coach were all that were possible to supply to get the refugees back to Fernie. As a result, the rush for accommodation when the train arrived at the station was in some instances brutal and inhuman. There were men who forgot that they were men, there were women who forgot that they were women who suffered from the inhumanity of man. The wild desire of all created a chaotic condition, and notwithstanding the earnest efforts of the City police and the C.P.R. officials, confusion confused confusion. But notwithstanding all the difficulties presented, all of those who were ready to go were given comfortable quarters. The women and children were given seats in the coaches and the men were comfortably located in the box cars with the baggage. The C.P.R. did all that they could under the circumstances to carry the people back to Fernie in the best possible condition.

CRANBROOK HELPS FEED … There is no question but that the commissariat department was well run, and those in charge of the rink and the arrangements made there for feeding the city’s guests, have every reason to congratulate themselves on the excellence of their work. L. B. VanDecar, who acted as chief steward, K, F. Oxley, of the Trites-Wood Co., Fernie, as first assistant; J. W. Joynette, the chief cook, G. Goode, as first assistant cook, Mrs. Carlyle, Mrs. Jackson, Mrs. Carbary and Miss Cameron, in charge of the waiters, have each to be congratulated on the smooth, machinelike manner in which everything ran. As for the provisions, they were ample, thanks to the carloads of food sent in from outside points. Mr. Oxley kindly gave the Herald a list of the provisions used and consumed by the 1,200 to 2000 people three times a day. The list is as follows: Fifty bushels of potatoes. Fifteen cases of eggs. Eight hundred pounds beef. Seven hundred pounds of sugar. Three hundred pounds butter. Four boxes plums. Thirty crates fresh plums. Five cases canned tomatoes. Five cases canned fruit. Two thousand loaves bread. Three hundred pounds ham. One hundred and fifty pounds cooked ham. One hundred and fifty pounds soda biscuits. One hundred and fifty pounds rolled oats. Three hundred dozen cans jam. Forty pounds lard. Two hundred pounds cheese. Ten cases condensed cream milk. One hundred pounds beans. Seven hundred pounds mixed vegetables, One barrel sweet biscuits. Two hundred pounds onions. Fifty pounds salt pork. One hundred and fifty pounds coffee. One hundred and fifty pounds tea. Four cases canned beef. One case lemons. No estimate could be formed of milk used. Everything was cleaned completed up by Wednesday and the work of returning the table utensils to the merchants who loaned them was set about. All supplies left, and there is a large quantity, together with cooking utensils, have been shipped to Fernie. All blankets have been fumigated and dispatched to the Coal City for use by the relief committee there.

FOOLISH THOUGHTS … This is the time of year when a city man dreams of the agricultural life and has a nightmare every time he thinks of having to mow the lawn.

STILL FIRES … W. H. Bradford, of the Wycliffe hotel, was doing business in Cranbrook on Tuesday. Harry says that the fires are very bad along the road, and that the wind has blown trees across the road so that it is almost impossible for the travelling public to navigate. The government should look into this, and have the road cleared at once.

LAW-ABIDING … A point that stands out in flaming italics in favor of Cranbrook is the fact that in spite of our population being doubled, practically in 48 hours, during the whole ten days that the Fernie people were here there was not one single police court case during that time. This proves two things, first, that the city was admirably policed, and second, that the people were most law-abiding.

NEW ENGINE … The new 160 horse power engine for the Cranbrook Electric Light company, arrived on Monday and will be placed in position at the power house as soon as possible.

CLOSE CALL … Fires have been raging about this vicinity for the last week and Kimberley had a close call on Sunday.

OUCH … A hobo whose name is said to be Hughes, fell from the brake beam rods of the west bound local train on Tuesday and received injuries to the head, he was brought to the St. Eugene hospital and is progressing favorably.

AT THE MOVIES … The proprietors of the Edison theatre showed considerable enterprise by having pictures of the Fernie fire. A feature that was well received was the exhibition of the American and Canadian flags, the former as a compliment to Spokane and the other American cities that helped. Next week, Shakespeare’s Macbeth in colored moving pictures will be the principle attraction.


It happened this week in Cranbrook: 1907-1908

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