Slocan City History

Bustling, Boisterous Boomtown

The Village of Slocan is a small, peaceful community at the south end of Slocan Lake where the Slocan River begins. It wasn’t always so peaceful. During the 1890’s, it was a bustling, boisterous, boom-town filled with hotels, saloons, pack teams, and rail cars filled with ore and miners in pursuit of the ever elusive “mother-lode”.

The name “Slocan” (/slˈkæn/ sloh-KAN) is from Ktunaxa sⱡuqan, IPA: [sɬuqan]),[4] or the related (/slhuˈkin/ (Sinixt slogan). The meaning is “to pierce, strike on the head,” in the context of spearing salmon. It likely derived from the Okanagan-Colville term. At one time, this area had an abundance of salmon.

The town site was staked at the lower end of the Slocan Lake in 1892 following massive silver strikes nearby; the site was conveniently close to three principal ore-producing areas. By the 1900, there were 12 hotels in Slocan; by 1920 there were only 3 hotels left. Slocan became a city in June 1901 and incorporated as a Village in 1958.

It is said that the first men to arrive in Slocan were Billy Clements and his partner Tom Mulvey, who came up the river in a boat in the summer of 1892. They built a log hotel on the site where the Arlington Hotel was later built. Billy Clements died in 1954. Nels Nelson came next, prospecting up and down the Valley and visiting often at the camp of Clements and Mulvey. In 1893, Neil Gething and G. Henderson visited this camp on their way to New Denver, there to build a hotel. It was during this year that Springer Creek was named. Billy Springer found and staked the Dayton claim; the first of its kind up this creek, and since it lacked a name, he gave it his in order to give his claim a definite location.

More history on Slocan can be found here:
Slocan Valley Historical Society

Some facts about Slocan:

1890’s – Mining Rush
1892 – Land Grant to Frank Dick
1892 – Mike Grady, Miner
1895 – S.S. Hunter (first propeller-driven
vessel on Slocan Lake)
1895 – Slocan Railway Constructed
1892 – Lake View Hotel was built
1893 – Walter Clough came to Slocan
1893 – Springer Creek named by Billy Springer
1896 – The Arlington Hotel opens
1897 – C.P.R. Slipway
1897 – First Train came into Slocan
1898 – Slocan’s First Newspapers
1898 – First Bridge Across the Slocan River
1900 – The first Orange Lodge
1900 – First School House
1901 – Slocan becomes a City – Official Letters Patent
1901 – First Mayor – Archibald York
1903 – Slocan-Ontario Lumber Co.
1904 – Waterworks system put in
1906 – Crown Seizes City for Debts
1910 – Merry’s Mill at Springer
1919 – Sawmill at Goat Creek
1921 – First High School Started
1927 – 1928 – Tunnel and Road to Silverton

1928 – Slocan Lake froze over.
1942 – Japanese Internees Arrive to Slocan
1942-1945 – Japanese Internees reside at the Arlington
Hotel, including David Suzuki

1947 – 1949 – First Woman Mayor elected in BC –
Mrs. Emilie Popoff
1955 – SS Rosebery sailed last trip from Slocan to Rosebery
1956 – Iris G christened on Slocan Lake
1958 – Slocan Re-Incorporated as a Village
1964 – Pacific Logging Co built in present mill location
1971 – Triangle Pacific Sawmill built in present location
1985 – Valhalla Park dedicated
1988 – The last Slocan Lake Rail Car Ferry closed
1989 – New #6 Highway completed
1990 – Tipi Camp established on Sandy Beach
1998 – Slocan Rail line removed
2000 – Springer Creek RV Park opens
2005 – Rails to Trails Gazebo built
2006 – New Boat Ramp & Breakwater installed
2006 – Slocan Wellness Center Opened
2007 – Springer Creek Fire Threatens Slocan
2009 – Slocan Village Office Renovated

First Doctors: Dr.’s Cade, Bentley, and Gibbs
First Drugstore: Mr. H.L.White
First Gardener (noted for his vineyards): Mr. Tom Caparello
First Store-keepers: Mr. E. Parris, Mr. D. Arnot, and Mr. W.E. Shatford.
First Man Buried in the Cemetery: Mr. E. Parris
First Drayman: Mr. W.E. Warden
First Policeman before incorporation: Mr. H.P. Christie
First Policeman after incorporation: Mr. Clark
First Milk delivered to Slocan By: Mr. Malcolm Cameron

Historic Slocan Hotels:


Notable People from Slocan:

Anderson, John Alexander worked as a druggist for J.L. White Drugs and lived in rooms over the building. When he married, his wife and daughter continued to live in those same rooms. he was city treasurer in 1903 and an alderman before being elected mayor in 1913 by a vote of 18-12 over Anthony Madden.

Arnot, David ran one of the first grocery stores in Slocan. He ran unsuccessfully for alderman in 1901; he tried again in 1903 and was elected. The following year he lost the mayoralty race 30-24 to Thomas McNeish and was also an unsuccessful school trustee candidate. He was acclaimed mayor in 1905 but did not finish his term. 

Bradshaw, Robert Alexander served as an alderman on the first council, and by the second meeting was already at odds with Mayor York. On January 16, 1902 he defeated York 45-44 for the mayor’s seat. York protested, claiming Bradshaw was not eligible to run because he “did not meet the necessary assessable property limit on the government assessment roll”. However, city clerk John Foley had accepted his nomination. Bradshaw resigned on February 10, the Slocan Drill said, because “as being postmaster, it was not the wish of authorities that he should continue as mayor. . .His worship said he had taken advice before being elected and there was nothing to interfere with his position. It was perfectly legal, but. . .influence had been used and the matter brought to the notice of the department and the situation forced upon him”. (If this was indeed the reason for Bradshaw’s resignation, perhaps York’s supporters had something to do with it. Several other Kootenay postmasters were also mayors). The next day, court papers were served on Bradshaw protesting his election. The petitioner, barber Elijah B. Dunlop, said Bradshaw was not qualified to run and further was in a conflict as co-owner with Alderman Winslow Worden of the Music Hall block, in which the city rented council chambers. However, as it was by then a moot point, the case seems to have been dropped. The Drill made only one mention of it. Bradshaw also ran as the Liberal candidate in the Slocan riding in the 1904 election. He married in December 1900 and apparently had family in Toronto.

Carpenter, Eli slightly inebriated, decided to celebrate the occasion of the first train into Slocan City. Wanting to make it a memorable occasion, he strung a rope from the Arlington Hotel to the Lake View Hotel. Announced, he walked across the rope with only a long piece of gas pipe (or some say it was a broom handle) to balance himself. With another drink as fortification, he proceeded to return walking backwards after reaching the other side. There was no prize set for this performance, but the management had guaranteed Eli $25. A collection taken up in the crown soon totaled $45.

Clough, WalterWalter Clough came to Slocan in 1893. He had come west to the prairies the year before, where they picked buffalo bone to earn some money. He heard about the silver strikes in BC and came. There was no railroad but there were a few logging camps in the Valley; he would stop and work a while usually in the cook house for a pack of grub and would move on to the next. When he came in to Slocan there was one log shack on the lake shore, Clements and Mulvey. On the way in, he met up with a gentleman whom they called Jackson. They built a log cabin and prospected. The next year William Clough and Uncle John Guthrie came.

Curtis, H.D H.D. Curtis was the accountant for the Arlington mines. When it ceased to operate, he remained there and attended to the shipping of the “dump” which evidently did contain some very good ore. Later he acted as caretaker of the mine and buildings. He also acted as auditor for the City of Slocan and did other clerical work. he taught his children at home until they were ready to enter high school. Mr. Curtis and his family lived in “the Curtis house” (now corner of Hume and Park), which was built in 1897 near the middle of town; later it was moved to  a location beside Springer Creek.

Czelenski, Bernard was born in 1927 in Watson, Saskatchewan. He was the seventh of nine children in a farming family and learned carpentry and mechanics from his father, a blacksmith. When he was six, they moved to an area just north of Prince Albert and he attended the local one-room school; which in his 20’s he served as a trustee on his its board. In 1955, Czelenski moved to Alberta and managed a garage in Kinuso, then later came to Nelson and worked as a mechanic and welder. In 1972 he came to Slocan with his son to establish a garage. In 1984 he filled a vacancy on council and a few months later was elected mayor. Mr. Czelenski was re-elected in 1986, defeated in 1988, elected again in 1990 and 1993, and then lost in 1996, 1999, and 2002. In all, he was mayoral candidate in nine straight elections. During his time in office, the Village completed major upgrades; most of them implemented by Bernie. In February 2013, Bernie Czelenski was nominated and awarded with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal for his life-long achievements and dedication.

Foley, JohnCity Clerk and Policeman,was made chief of the Capilano Tribe by Chief Joe Mathias when he was 102 years old. He was then called “Chief Grandfather” by his Indian friends. He died at the age of 103. Vic Foley, his son, became a World Champion Lightweight Boxer.

Hird, Donald Woodhall – was born in 1909 and died in 1995. Hird was acclaimed Village Chair for two years in December 1964 and again in December 1966. He was elected Mayor in December 1978.  He also served as a school trustee. He is buried in the Slocan Cemetery.

McNeish, Thomas– was born in 1862 and died December 23, 1949. McNeish was born in New Brunswick and married Bessie Olivia Tipping in Phoenix, BC on April 28, 1903. He managed a store at Ten Mile for a Mr. Paris until Paris’ death. He then came to Slocan and bought half interest in the store there from Mrs. Paris. He later bought out the other partner, and in May 1900 took over Paris & Co., renaming it McNeish & Co. In this capacity, he also had the post office in later years and the mining-recording office. He sold the store in 1937 or 1938 to Ed Graham, who had been his clerk for many years. McNeish was first elected to council as an alderman in 1903. He then beat David Arnot for the mayor’s chair 30-24 in 1904. McNeish was mayor when the city was seized for debt in 1906. A fanciful story in the Vancouver Province suggested that as a result he and council attempted to resign en masse, something that the Municipal Act did not allow. During the crisis, McNeish went to Vancouver in an unsuccessful effort to raise money from holders of the city’s debentures. He was also an alderman under J.A. Anderson in 1913 and a school trustee in 1901 and 1904. After selling his store, McNeish retired to Victoria, where he died at age 87 or 88. He was buried in the Royal Oak Cemetery. He was survived by his wife, a daughter (Mrs. E.J. Leveque of Kaslo), and a son (Thomas Murray McNeish, who died July 15, 1958 in Victoria at age 44). McNeish belonged to a number of lodges in the West Kootenays, as well as the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

Mills, H. RoyIn 1970, Mills defeated Agda Winje 48-34 for the mayor’s seat. He was secretary-treasurer of the Slocan School District and also regional director for a time. When the district amalgamated with District 7 (Nelson) and 10 (Arrow Lakes), he went to Lillooet to take the same job there. On June 15, 1974 he and his fiance were travelling in solo planes between Lillooet and Chilliwack. The weather turned rough and they decided to turn back but Mills did not make it. He has two sons, Alan and Michael, and a daughter Carol.

Popoff, EmilieIn December 1946 Emilie Popoff was acclaimed as the first female Mayor of Slocan and the Kootenays. Please
click here for more information on Mrs. Popoff.

Smith, Alfred C. was acting mayor for eight months in 1903 and was from Nova Scotia. He was a tobacconist who, according to an ad, dealt in “cigars, tobacco, and fruits”. He also served on council as an alderman at least 1901 to 1905.

Winje, Agda Louise was born October 23, 1917 and died April 2, 1984. Mrs. Winje was born in Rodding, Denmark, to Meta and Ludvig Feddersen, and came to Canada in 1929 with her father and four brothers after the death of her mother. They settled in Estevan, Saskatchewan then moved to Kelvington. In 1937 she married Albert Winje, with whom she had five children. She spent 20 years on the school board in Saskatchewan and with the Farmingdale Ladies Aid Organization. In October 1960, they moved to Slocan where she served on the Woman’s Institute for many years, as well as on the school board, regional district, centennial committee and community club. She also helped organize the Lions Club in Slocan. Mrs. Winje served as an alderman for two years in the 1960’s, then ran for mayor in 1970 but lost to Roy Mills 48-34. In December 1971, Winje was elected Mayor to finish Roy Mills’ term. She served as Mayor until December 1978 and did not seek re-election.

York, Archibald – Came to Slocan about 1896 and ran A. York & Co. meat market with Lorne York, probably his brother. He also owned an interest in the ‘Two Friends Mine’. He won the city’s first election on June 22, 1901 over D.D. Robertson 46-36 and was sworn in a week later. He lost the election of 1902 to Robert Bradshaw 45-44 under protest. York claimed his opponent was not eligible to run. Bradshaw resigned soon after, and in the by-election of April 28, 1902, York regained the mayor’s chair by defeating John Bull. York was acclaimed in January 1903, but tendered his resignation on April 21 of that year to the city clerk, Dr. R.I. Bentley. In a small story on the front page, the Slocan Drill stated York was quitting for “business reasons” – namely to go prospecting in Edmonton the following month. However, council was reluctant to let him go, apparently because of the cost of an election and because there was already a vacant seat – Ald. John McCallum had resigned in the spring, but no candidates stepped forward to replace him. Instead, they granted York a month’s leave of absence. He served until the end of April, and then in May, Alderman Alfred C. Smith was appointed acting chair. In July, York, increasingly frustrated, sent another letter of resignation to council. The Drill wrote: “Argument followed, the aldermen casting about for an avenue of escape so as to avoid the expense of another election.” Action on the letter was indefinitely postponed. The city’s solicitor, however, strongly advised council to accept the resignation and fill the position. On July 27, 1903 they agreed to accept the resignation, but refused to hold an election, again citing the unnecessary expense. Alfred Smith was appointed acting mayor for the rest of the year. York died in Vancouver at the age of 70. He had a son, Jack, and a daughter who was born in Slocan on January 14, 1901.


Historical facts were sited from several sources:
(including but not limited to)

Innes Cooper Archives
“The Mayors of Slocan” by Greg Nestoroff
“The Life & Times of the Arlington Hotel” by Greg Nesteroff
The B.C. Provincial Archives
Irv Anderson
Ann Barkley
Greg Nesteroff
The Slocan History Project,
SEDAI Japanese-Canadian Legacy Project,
Newspaper sources such as The Valley Voice, Nelson Star, The Slocan Drill
Some photos on this page are courtesy of Clara Cartmell, who donated them to the Village of Slocan.