A Glorious Day for the North Star

From Fort Steele to Wasa; A picnic on the river, 1902

The sternwheeler North Star on the Columbia River  ca. 1902. – Wikimedia Commons

The sternwheeler North Star on the Columbia River ca. 1902. – Wikimedia Commons

Jim Cameron

With your permission, an extract from the Cranbrook Herald newspaper of May 29, 1902, with some words of explanation to follow:

* * *

“Last Sunday about 75 people of Cranbrook left by vehicles for Fort Steele to take the steamer North Star for Wasa. It was a bright, beautiful day and the ride of 12 miles was a glorious outing alone, but the trip up the river to those who seldom have an opportunity of a ride on the water was a glorious diversion.

“Captain Armstrong came over to Cranbrook Saturday … to personally supervise all arrangements so that each one would be comfortably fixed for the journey to Fort Steele. Geary and Doyle had charge of the land transportation and Al Doyle of Fort Steele and Harry Fairfield of the Cranbrook stables saw that every arrangement was perfect. In consequence there was a total lack of confusion or trouble in transporting so large a number of people.

“The steamer left the Fort Steele landing at ten o’clock with 120 passengers, quite a contingent from Fort Steele joining the crowd, and for two hours those on board were treated to a grand panorama of beautiful scenes. The river winds in and out through woodlands and prairie, while on either side are high mountain peaks capped with snow that enhance the beauty of the scenes presented. It was a grand and glorious trip and those on board enjoyed to the fullest extent nature’s handiwork as illustrated by the rugged scenery of the Valley of Southeast Kootenay.

“A few minutes after noontime Governor Hanson’s place was sighted and the whistle sounded for the draw to be opened in the new bridge built by the governor last year. It is a raised draw and looks like the draw bridge at the castle of some old country nobleman. Passing through the bridge the boat was tied up at the Hanson landing and then came the grand rush for the hotel, located about half a mile distant.

“And it was hungry crowd, ready and willing to do ample justice to a table loaded with substantial food. Although the number was far in excess of that expected by Mr. Hanson, no one left the table hungry. Then followed several hours of unalloyed enjoyment. Nature and man have combined to make the Hanson homestead one of the prettiest places in all South East Kootenay. Thousands of dollars have been expended in the way of improvements and the location is an ideal one in every respect: beautiful lawns, magnificent orchards with apple trees in bloom, the grounds flanked on either side by a beautiful lake, an avenue with rows of shade trees and running water wherever water can be used. An electric light plant is being installed and power is secured from a mountain stream that dashes over the rocks in a ravine near the house … Fourteen years ago, N. Hanson walked down the valley and concluded to locate there. He had no money, but he had energy and shrewdness; he built a sawmill, brought in goods, opened a trading store, and five years ago his was the only place in the district where a man could buy on a wholesale basis. Today he is well fixed, entertains like a prince and makes everyone feel at home.

“During the afternoon a game of ball was played between two picked nines, headed by Messrs. Fink and Smith. At 5:30, the excursionists left for the boat and at six o’clock the boat started downstream, arriving at Fort Steele about 7:30, where the Cranbrook people took their vehicles for home. Captain Armstrong, during the entire trip, was untiring in his efforts to please his passengers, and before leaving the boat they all joined in giving three rousing cheers for the captain and his boat.”

* * *

And there it is, an enticing commentary of an excursion 114 years ago that would no doubt attract a large crowd today. By way of explanation: the “vehicles” were wagons supplied by Geary and Doyle. In the days of the rise of Cranbrook and the decline of Fort Steele, George Geary and Al Doyle, pioneer proprietors of a Fort Steele livery stable and coach line, hedged their bets by also opening a livery in Cranbrook, managed by Harry Fairfield. It stood on Hanson Avenue across from the present day Sam Steele Inn.

Nils Hanson, often affectionately referred to as the “Governor” of Wasa, plied his entrepreneurial skills at both Cranbrook and Wasa. The Cosmopolitan Hotel (Shenanigan’s on Baker Street) is the remaining half of what was once the first Hanson Block. The second, standing prominently on the corner of Baker and Norbury and eventually known as the Norbury Hotel, fell to flames in 1959. The Hanson Garage across from Rotary Park was demolished in the 1960s to make way for the Associate Medical Clinic. Hanson Avenue is named for him. Little remains of his endeavours at Wasa. His is among the largest tombstones in the Cranbrook Old General Cemetery.

And so it was a glorious day for the North Star and those aboard her; a day in 1902 when the citizens of Fort Steele and Cranbrook set aside their differences (and there were certainly differences) to ride a sternwheeler along the Kootenay River, enjoy “the fullest extent of nature’s handiwork,” feast heartily and play a little baseball to boot. If the description of Nils Hanson’s Wasa seems somewhat overstated, consider the effect that a hotel (the replica of which stands today as the Fort Steele Museum), a store, a lumber mill and an orchard might have had upon the traveller during a trip through what was then the wilds of British Columbia.

As for the steamer “North Star,” she was a much celebrated boat in her day, one of a number of steam-powered riverboats built by Captain Frank Armstrong for use on the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers. This particular excursion occurred during the final days of the Kootenay River steam travel.

We are therefore at the end without having truly investigated the beginning. We shall do so next week.

Just Posted

Prince Charles Secondary School
School District 8 votes in favour of name change for Secondary School in Creston

In an act of reconciliation, a new name will be chosen for Prince Charles Secondary School

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison. Photo courtesy Conservative Party of Canada.
MP Morrison appointed to parliamentary national security committee

Kootenay-Columbia parliamentarian one of five candidates appointed to national security committee

Repaving of Victoria Ave (3rd St. S. to 11th St. S.) began on Monday, June 12. Drivers are asked to please avoid the area for the remainder of the day, if possible. Please watch for and obey directions from flaggers and signage, as the detours will be moving regularly. Photo courtesy City of Cranbrook.
Road construction, repaving programs well underway

Local road construction and repaving work continue apace, as summer programs get… Continue reading

Vendors and customers at one of the Cranbrook markets in 2020. (Corey Bullock/Cranbrook Townsman file)
Cranbrook Farmers Market updates operating hours for the summer

Markets will continue to run from 10a.m. to 1p.m. until October 30th

City council passed first reading of a text amendment to a downtown zoning bylaw that would permit the land use for a craft brewery. Photo courtesy City of Cranbrook.
Downtown zoning amendment allowing craft brewery passes first reading

An application is moving forward that will tweak a downtown zoning bylaw… Continue reading

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Most Read