Tuesday, July 13, 2010  
   Volume 80 - Issue 28 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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Quote of the Week
“I find this a little bit ridiculous. But thats the game we’re playing here.”
- Gordon Lundy, CAO  
- on the need to borrow   
$2.6 million   

 

 
Looking Back - John KinnearThe Teck Coal Mountain Mine, 14 miles south of the CPR McGillivray Loop junction, was originally known as the Corbin Mine. The old townsite and mine were named after Spokane Railroad entrepreneur Daniel Corbin who, in 1905 at the age of 73 years, visited the monster coal pod at Coal Mountain. Old timers and early explorers of the Flathead area referred to the coal deposits in that mountain as “The Big Show”.
So impressed was he by what he saw that three years later he formed the Corbin Coal and Coke Company and established a townsite for the miners who came there to work the big seam. The Corbin story is one of a short and bitter existence, rife with numerous disturbances including the infamous strike and riot of 1935. It is also a classic boom and bust mining town scenario. Corbin was not your average coal town. In was in fact an isolated mine camp with no roads or power. It literally shut down from November to March each year due to lack of equipment and supplies. It was those infamous Flathead winters that made access impossible at times and forced the miners to stockpile coal until the railway could be reopened in the spring. Another little known fact about Corbin that I turned up was that it operated on Pacific Standard Time.
I came to know a man by the name of Bill Eckersley years ago who was the definitive source of information on all things Corbin. According to Bill the only street in Corbin that bore a name was appropriately known as Snowshoe Avenue. Bill Eckersley was born in Corbin and has spent many years documenting it’s people, scanning hundreds of photos and searching newspapers for any item making reference to Corbin and its wonderful history.
In July of 2002 I got a call from a group known at the Corbin Wildlife Society, a collection of shall we say naturalists whose mandate is that of maintaining and enhancing the natural beauty and history of all Elk River watersheds and the Corbin/Flathead area in particular. The reason for the call was to invite me to participate in a major cleanup of the badly neglected Corbin Cemetery.
Realizing my knowledge of this area was limited I immediately invited Bill Eckersley along. He brought with him his expertise and documents including a carefully compiled directory of the names of every individual that had lived and or died in Corbin. It has no less than 1800 entries.
Corbin’s cemetery was not a large burial place but it received its share of those taken by the myriad of life’s tragedies that happened back then. Mine explosions, diphtheria, typhoid, Spanish flu, pneumonia and even old age.
 
The cemetery sits perched on a steep hillside just south of the Coal Mountain Mine loadout. Early pictures in Bill’s collection reveal that it was built in terraces with neat descending rows of picket fence outlines. What that intrepid cleanup crew armed with chain saws and axes found that day was an almost hopeless snarl of alder and toppled jackpine that had all but wiped out any evidence of its location.
Undaunted they attacked this unrecognizable cemetery and after a day of steady hacking and sawing transformed it back into the clean respectful place it should be. It is a sad but common thing that these wonderful abandoned resting places of early pioneers of this country are allowed to be swallowed back up by nature.
A final survey of the terraces revealed approximately 25 depressions in the ground with only the occasional one having the remains of its original wire fencing. Only 3 stone markers were located, the most dramatic of which was that of the Lancaster baby. It has two lambs perched atop an ornate stone that reads:
BABY
DIED NOV. 10, 1915
AGED 2 DAYS
BELOVED CHILD OF
JAMES & MARY G.
LANCASTER
 
Verifying the names of who else is there besides those identified on the three markers will take some detective work for sure. Was Ciddo Giovanni who was the first miner to be killed there on July 4, 1910 buried somewhere on that hillside? Is Daniel Waddington who died of typhoid at the age of fourteen, Nov. 25, 1934, up there somewhere? Is that tiny fenced site with the round carved wooden cross the last resting-place of John Edward Crossfied who, at 11 months of age, died of pneumonia in 1930?
At the end of the day that determined cleanup crew walked away from the site feeling a sense of accomplishment and with the knowledge that their efforts has restored the dignity and respect every final resting place should be accorded. Knowing we had done a good job and a good thing made the whisky taste all the sweeter at Popeye’s cabin.
For Jim Lant and Robert France from Coleman, Jim Nowasad from Calgary, Carse Howe, Jackie DeLuca and Louis (Popeye) Fontana from Sparwood, Bill Eckersley, Ron (Hank) Bath, Mike Pennock and Buzz Busato from Fernie, Freddy Brown from Kimberley and Roger Brunelle from Cranbrook it was a labor of love.  A love of history and a love of the Flathead country, a place that needs no more protection that it already has. 
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   Volume 80 - Issue 28 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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