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Kimberley Families

The Thomas Miller Family

as told by daughter, Nell Duncan

Mr. Miller was another miner that first worked at Moyie. He came to Kimberley to work at the Top Mine in 1910 when they were drilling the first tunnel in that area of the mountain.

Mr. Miller came from Glasgow, Scotland and Mrs. Miller from Ayrshire Scotland and she became nurse-maid for the Blaylock family in Moyie and this is where Mr. Miller met her.

At the Top Mine they lived in a log cabin that Tom built himself. Some of their neighbours were the Kavanaghs and Harrisons who lived in a tent, Petersons, who lost a baby with pneumonia, and McEacherns who also lost a baby girl when their two sons set fire to the dwelling while playing with matches.

Besides helping to drive the tunnel, Mr. Miller was in charge of looking after the pigs that were raised as pork for the cookhouse.

The Millers were friends with the Flemings and when Mr. Fleming purchased property at Meadowbrook, Mr. Miller helped him clear his land by blasting stumps.

During the 1916 flood, Nell remembers the family driving down to the top of the hill overlooking Mark Creek and watching the men trying desperately to save the power house, but to no avail. The rushing water undermined the foundation and tipped it so that the compressor fell into the creek. Mr. Wells was the engineer at the time and he had to crawl a narrow steam line to get out. The creek dug a new channel and it wasn't until the second flood of 1948 that it went back to its original bed.

Nell (Miller) Duncan.

Another incident comes to mind of the old peddler that use to come up from Cranbrook on the train, walk up to the Top Mine with his huge pack on his back, then go from door to door selling notions such as needles, pins, shoelaces, buttons and even some materials.

Jack Kavanagh, teamster, had a flat decked sleigh in winter and flat decked truck in summer. He brought supplies up from town to the cookhouse. Two other mine teamsters were Shaky Newman and George Amos.

In those days large orders for groceries and clothing were ordered from T. Eaton Company in the fall by everyone in the neighborhood. A railway boxcar load would come into the station in town, two and a half miles down the long hill. This was all hauled up before snowfall. No running to a corner store in those days. You had it or you did without until spring.

Folks made a night light of sorts, called a Bug, by turning a lard pail on its side, fastening the handle so it could be carried that way, holes were punched in the bottom. When lighted, it shone ahead and as the candle burned down it could be shoved up a bit at a time.

In 1917 they moved from the Top Mine to the Taylor Mill site to a larger house. There were five children, three girls and two boys. Here they were able to own three cows, a team of horses and some chickens. When one of the cows went missing for two days, they all searched the area. It was found up in the bushes with a new born calf, on the spot where the Pioneer Lodge now stands.

One recollection Nell has of the old days was the spring cleaning of stove pipes. They must all be taken down and the soot emptied out so they could be stored for the summer. The heater was also stored until fall. In the fall they were all put up again, the pipes from the heater, across the ceiling and into the chimney. Winter clothes consisted of long underwear for both boys and girls, overstockings that were permanently fastened to rubbers, muffs as well as mittens and toques.

In summer, church services were held in Warren Hall, the miners hall at the Top Mine. Rev. Harrison would come up from Cranbrook.

July the first was always celebrated, with log sawing contests. For ladies they had nail driving contests, the big event of the day was the catching of a well greased pig. Kept as the last event, as all who entered ended up rolling in the dirt.

The year of 1919 was a bad year for the young community. Influenza the winter before took some lives, then in August the big forest fire that threatened the town, a few sheds at the Top Mine burned, but these saved the cookhouse and bunkhouses, but sad to say, not the pigs. During the worst of the fire, the Millers were evacuated to their grandmother, Mrs. Watson, in Cranbrook, in Burleigh Willis' Ford car. Nell remembers how everyone was so worried about Mr. Jim Davis Sr. who was reported missing and trapped in the fire. Fortunately he was alright and came home several days later. Then came the strike. Mr. Miller was a shift boss, but his sympathies were with the miners. He was one of the men that spoke in their favor, and as a result, he was blacklisted. He moved his family to Cranbrook and after a year of poverty, obtained work with the C.P.R. after much persuasion. His two sons passed away rather young but Elizabeth the eldest, worked in Leigh's Jewelry Store in Cranbrook for some years. Nell went to Normal School and became a teacher for a few years. Robena trained as a nurse. She worked in the Kimberley hospital from 1937 to 1943, then First Nurse in the Clinic for several years. Nell taught in Cranbrook, then decided to also train as a nurse. She worked in both the Kimberley and Trail Hospitals.

In 1955, Nel married Charles Duncan. She had been friends of Mr. and Mrs. Duncan for years. Mrs. Duncan had passed away suddenly on a trip to Scotland. They still reside on Richie Townsite. Although they had no children of their own, they helped to raise two neices and two nephews of Charlie's.

Robena lives in Creston and continued to work as a surgical nurse until her retirement. Nell still works as a substitute teacher and has helped out in the hospital when extra nurses were needed on Maternity cases.

From 1958 to 1961, Mr. and Mrs. Miller spent their last years with Nell in Kimberley.

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