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Kimberley - History of a Mining Town Part 1

by Betty Oliver

Originally known as Mark Creek Crossing and then, for a short period as Clark City, the settlement that sprang up along Mark Creek as a result of the mining development in the area was given its third and final name; we believe it was named in June of 1896, although the first mention of Kimberley in any records is May 8th, 1897.

Col. William Ridpath, President and General Manager of the Sullivan Group Mining Company, christened it Kimberley after South Africa's rich diamond mine. If he hoped the name would bring luck to the area, he was right!

The discovery of mines in the Mark Creek hillsides resulted in an influx of workers and by January of 1899 nearly 200 claims surrounded Kimberley. The township had been surveyed and subdivided in 1898, boundaries being Boundary St. to Leadenhall and Jennings Ave. to North Star Ave.

First settler was rancher Robert Q. Jennings, whose farm was situated below today's Bank of Montreal along the creek. Hotels such as the North Star, the original building today housing Welland's Electric, and the Ontario Hotel, where the Pioneer Block is today, were in operation. The Kimberley Hotel had opened its doors in 1897, according to The Prospector.

By February of 1899 the same newspaper said; "Since the branch railway to Kimberley is practically assured, the camp is experiencing considerable activity both in real estate and mining deals. In the town of Kimberley considerable building activity is evident. Mr. Estmere's office and residence on the corner of Spokane St. and Deer Park Ave. are completed. J. M. Carroll has started his new store, to open April 1. Mr. A. Beale is erecting a house and North Star Mine Manager N. W. Curran and Supt. Kellogg have purchased three lots. H. W. Drew has finished putting up 200 tons of ice."

Racial discrimination was already evident as the Aug. 18, 1899 edition of the Prospector carried this ad: "Wanted White laundry. Support of citizens guaranteed. Object being to get rid of Chinese. For information contact the Secretary of the Kimberley Citizens Committee."

1909 and 1910 were tough years with both the North Star and Sullivan Mines closed down. However, with the purchase of the Sullivan in 1910 by the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company, now Cominco, things got better and Kimberley again became the operational centre of a world-famous mine.

During the difficult years, Government Agent Wallinger refused to allow people to go hungry, writing official chits for what were probably the first welfare payments on record. Wallinger Avenue bears his name.

In the early days the mining activities of the Company were centred on Sullivan Hill, generally referred to as the Top Mine, and until 1921 most of Kimberley's residents lived there. A recreation hall, ball diamond, tennis court, soccer field and open air rink provided for the settlement's recreational needs. A school built in 1922 provided elementary education, until the people were moved out in the early 1930's. Today the scars of open pit mining mark this once busy residential area.

Jack Kavanagh's father was in charge of hauling supplies up to this settlement. Many Kimberley people have fond memories of coming down "to town" in winter on a Swede sleigh!

Spokane Street, being the main road from the North Star Mine and the start of the McGinty Trail, was Kimberley's first "street". The first store, operated by a Mr. and Mrs. Estmere, was where Field's is today. A board sidewalk running from the North Star Hotel to Mellor's (now the Bavarian News) had a six foot drop off into swampy land towards Mark Creek.

Building Townsite Road

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