Wycliffe, as told by Winnifred Aikens
Wycliffe was formerly the homestead of Harry Bradford. It was a small community between Cranbrook and Kimberley and situated on the banks of the St. Marys River just below St. Marys Prairie where one can get a fine view of the Rocky Mountains.
Otis Staples was born in New Brunswick and went to Minnesota and operated a sawmill there. He met the President of the C.P.R. who was influential in Mr. Staples' decision to locate near the North Star Railroad line out of Wycliffe, renamed from Bernadette by Bradford.
Otis Staples operated a lumber mill from the early 1900's to 1930 or so. He built about fifty miles of railway tracks, including a trestle over Cherry Creek, one hundred feet long and seventy feet high. He was the first man to introduce railways for logging purposes in this area. By 1903 he was operating three Shay Locomotives called One Spot, Two Spot and Three Spot. Steam was used for power and Mr. Staples was also ahead of his time by using ground-up bark, chips, mill ends and sawdust for fuel.
Wycliffe grew to a population of about a thousand, and a good sized townsite, as well as numerous logging camps in the area. In a letter dated December of 1914 to the District Forester in Cranbrook, from the Secretary-Treasurer of the Otis Staples Lumber Company, it stated that three hundred and five men were employed with an average of two hundred and ten for the year, with a payroll of 8150,000.00.
A community hall was built on land donated by Mr. Staples and with lumber provided by him, where dances were held. It also had a stage for plays, pool table and card tables. Teas and bridge parties provided a pleasant diversion for the ladies. All the children were well remembered at Christmas from a well-laden tree following a concert.
A fine blue clay tennis court provided summer fun and made a skating rink in the winter.
The train would arrive from Kimberley at 10:30 a.m. and leave for Cranbrook at 11:45. It had to make three trips with ore up the Wanklyn hill. On Saturday's the ladies and children would make the trip by train into Cranbrook to shop, have lunch and attend the matinee at the Star Theatre and return at 6:00 p.m.
There was a two-room school where Mrs. Eleanor Curley was principal and Winnifred Aikens taught grades one to four from 1926 to 1928. There was a total of 88 pupils.
Wycliffe had one of the best baseball teams in the Kootenays, boasting such players as Steve Clark, Larry Piper, Ingie Jahren, Grennie Musser, Walter and Everett Staples, Mickey Argue, Frank Bemford, Gordon McTeer and Jack Rogers. They travelled to other points to play, such as Cranbrook, Kimberley, Wardner, Jaffrey, Fernie, Coleman and even Libby Montana.
Hockey was also enjoyed with Lloyd Crowe, Jimmy Jones, J. Pennington and Scotty Mitchell being prominent.
St. Marys Prairie, about 10,000 acres of "little Alberta", lies above the townsite and in earlier years was farmed by several families: The McClure brothers, (Herbert and Norman), Lyman Taylor, Fred Clark, Ira Foster, Harry Hughes and others. Wheat, potatoes, cattle, milk and eggs were produced.
In the early 1930's the mill was closed down and both families and houses were moved away.
With the exception of Marysville, Wycliffe was the nearest settlement to Kimberley from 1900 to 1930, so we are including a little of it's history.
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