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Kimberley Families

The Whitehead Family
as told by Jessie

Mrs. Jessie Whitehead recalls spending two years holidays visiting her stepmother and stepfather, Mr. and Mrs. Jim McNeil, at the North Star mine in 1902 and 1903. She was a young girl attending the Catholic Convent boarding school in Nelson at the time.

She was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, and came out west to Everett, Washington, and then to Nakusp, B.C., where Mr. McNeil ran the Grand Hotel. It was in Nakusp that she was adopted by the McNeils. When he came to work at the North Star Mine, she was sent to boarding school. It was on one of her visits that she met Jim Whitehead. He was one of the teamsters that hauled ore to North Star Landing on the Kootenay River.

The McNeils moved to Moyie where Mr. McNeil got work as a hoistman at the St. Eugene mine, along with Freddie Caire.

Although Jessie Whitehead never lived in Kimberley, she remembers her many visits when it consisted of very few buildings. She knew Pat Doyle the postmaster, Mr. Dudley the station agent, that lived upstairs in the station. She remembers the Handleys and the Mellors, and Mr. Harry Drew at the North Star Hotel, as well as Mrs. Kilcline and her brother that ran the Ontario Hotel.

Jessie married Jim Whitehead in Moyie in 1905. Father Choinel performed the ceremony, the second wedding held in St. Peters Catholic church in Moyie that had only been built the year before. The marriage took place on Labour Day at six o'clock in the morning so everyone could catch the train to Cranbrook to attend the holiday celebrations.

Jessie and Jim lived in Moyie for thirty-five years and had ten children, three died very young and she raised two nieces when their mother died. These two girls live in Kimberley, one is Alice McGowen and the other Gloria Almack.

Their eldest son George started working for the Company in Kimberley in 1940. He had previously worked with a Government crew, building bridges in the area. He had worked on the St. Eugene Mission, Cherry Creek, Fort Steele and several other projects before coming here. His first job with the Company was on the back-fill operations for seven years. When Roy Langlands started up the Kimberley City Bus Service in 1947, George became part owner and quit the Company to go driving. Roy moved away and George continued the first and only city bus service until 1958.He had to give up due to lack of public interest.

That same year, he and Ron Archer opened up an Auto Body repair shop in the bus garage. He remained here until he retired in 1977.

George married Mary Andrews of Moyie in 1940. They have two children, Caroline and Jimmy. Caroline studied to be a teacher and teaches at Chapman Camp school. She married Frank Aikens who owned the Blarchmont Hardware for many years and they have two children. Jimmy lives in Montrose with three children.

Frances, one of Jessie's daughters, married Bob JOhnson, who works for the Company. He has worked at both the Concentrator and the Fertilizer plant. They live in Meadowbrook and have two sons, Guy and Robbie. Guy works at the mine and Robbie is at Elkford, another Company property.

George has always been interested in prospecting and owns a claim on Slade mountain at Law Creek. The mine is at an elevation of over 9000feet and can only be worked for a few weeks in summer.

George was able to answer a question often asked. "How did they move the houses from Moyie to Kimberley without actually tearing them down?" They were sawn into eight foot sections, even the two story ones, and loaded on railway flat cars and reassembled on various sites in Kimberley. If one looks closely at several of these houses, the joins can still be seen on some of them. George also lives in a house that came from Moyie. It was once the home of Fred Smythe, author of the book, "Tales of the Kootenays". It was completely torn down and rebuilt on Archibald street where Mary and George still reside.

Mrs. Whitehead remembers when Father Coccola and Indian Pete visited their home in Moyie and stopped for a meal on many occasions. She is now a sprightly little lady of eighty-eight and lives in Vancouver. She comes back to visit with the members of her family when she can.

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