Island Bound Traveller Writer, Storyteller
Gary Grieco is a freelance writer, photographer, avid reader, sailor, and motorcycle enthusiast based on Texada Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Gold, Glory and Ghosts of the Past Photos and story by Gary Grieco
Published Powell River Living Magazine July 2014
GOLD, glory and ghosts of the past
TEXADA MUSEUM brings mining to life
It was as if Mother Nature flicked a switch in the Strait of Georgia when fisherman Harry Trim sailed into Welcome Bay and saw iron ore stains on the cliff face. This singular event propelled a calm and quiet evergreen island named Texada into an unparalleld era of prosperity.
Texada Heritage Museum has a new exhibit which brings Texada's 1896 gold and copper boom vividly to life. A black-
smith shop with glowing forge; assay office stacked with ore samples; a mine entrance with ore wagon on steel rails from the Little Billie mine, all create the illusion of stepping back in time over one hundred years.
Displays of old photos help conjure up images of yester-year in Texada and Van Anda, while indirect lighting causes flickering shadows to come alive on the boardwalk, and ghosts from the past seem to lurk behind dimly lit storefront windows. The once-rich mines of Van Anda are covered and hidden, now, all but a faded memory. But, if you concentrate as you stroll through the exhibit, scenes may appear in the corner of your mind's eye-hazy visions of the Opera House,
DESIGNER AND BUILDER LORRIE PIRART -Entrance to Little Billie Mine
a white pretty church, or husky bearded miners standing about on the boardwalk in front of the old store. A horse drawn wagon loaded heavily with equipment creaks down the dusty main street, while a lone policeman pauses to to chat with one of the boys. Lurid posters on the side of a building announce the coming of a new dancer from Vancouver, along with a special boat sailing for the event. The images grow dim, and then fade, like the boom days of Texada City and Van Anda City.
TEXADA TREASURE: Pioneer Pete Stiles strikes a pose in the Texada Museum Blacksmith shop.
Texada has a mother lode of rich history, and mining has alwas been king. By the turn of the century, the small historic Van Anda district was a red hot, lively mining town. It bustled with miners from the Copper Queen, Little Billie, Marble Bay, and Cornell Mines; all chasing their gold and copper fortunes. What had started as two prospectors' camps was now a community of 450 people. It would grow to a town of 3,000, with three hotels complete with saloons, an opera house and hospital, all crammed into a small area measuring only five blocks long and two blocks wide,but second only to San Francisco. It was the envy of Powell Riverites on the mainland who chugged across in gas boats to partake of the high life. The future looks rosy for the Texada Heritage Society according to President, Ken Barton. "Ten years ago the Museum consisted off two filing cabinets, and now we have something to be proud of." Curator, Doug Paton's goal is to make sure the rest of British Columbia knows how involved Texada was in helping build the wealth of the province. "The Klondike got the glory, while Texada had its own gold rush that few know about." Heritage Society members are enthusiastic and have the momentum to fufill Clarence's dream. Lorrie Pirart's fervor, fascination, and devotion to this project are evident. Plans for expansion include opening the wall behind the mine entrance facade and constructing a replica working drift gold mine along the lines of the Little Billie. Visitors will get a sense of miners' gloomy, underground, working conditions, lit by carbide, kerosene, and electric lighting, along with old mining equipment-some of which is still being used in the industry today to drill and blast new tunnels andd drifts for copper or gold. I can imagine the presence of Clarence Wood late in the evening strolling quietly through his room heading to his favourite chair, smiling with approval, and nodding with pleasure at the great honour bestowed upon him by his fellow Texada 'museum men.'