Oct 102013
 
Moyie BC church

Located in a gorgeous setting on the shores of Moyie Lake, the town of Moyie BC was once famous for the huge St. Eugene Mine, the remains of which can still be seen today. Gone is the hustle and bustle of days past and all that’s left is a sleepy little village. Only the mining scars, easily seen from the highway, and some old buildings remain, to remind one of the town’s glorious past.

The town owes its existence to the mine. Period. It was once one of the most important producers in the entire province.

In the 1890s a valuable deposit of Lead and Silver ore was discovered on the slopes above the south end of the lake. Soon a mine and not long after a town was established at this location. The ore was discovered by a native fellow, who was encouraged to search for this type of material by a local Catholic Priest (from the St. Eugene Mission – hence the mine’s name). The claims here were staked by and were owned by the church for a short time before the property was sold to a mining syndicate under the name St. Eugene Consolidated Mining Company Limited. Later the giant Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company (Cominco – now called Teck) bought the property.

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Once the mine was established a town needed to be laid out. Located on a narrow bench above the lake, just north of the mine, houses and business were built. At the time the town could boast all the amenities needed – a hotel, churches, numerous stores and the like. At the peak, there were over a thousand residents, with hundreds of them being employed at the mine.

The CPR Crowsnest Line came through Moyie in the late 1890s, which allowed the mine easy access to markets. Most of the ore travelled west to the giant smelter in Trail BC.

As the mine declined so did the town and by the time it closed in the late 1920s Moyie was a sleepy little place. There was talk of reopening to the mine at various times, but that never happened. Most of the ore was played out I am told.

Today, the village is home to perhaps several dozen souls. The highway passes right through town, although few people stop. The railway is also a busy place.

Parking near the store, one of the town’s few businesses (another is a pub) we set out on foot. The first thing we notice is a phone booth, partially smashed, perhaps hit by a car. These once common sights are becoming rare. Even rarer now as this one is unlikely to be replaced.

Making our way north, we arrive at St. Peter’s Catholic Church. Built in 1904, it was renovated in the 1990s and today the occasional services are held here. It’s a beautiful building, simple and elegant, in a gorgeous setting of trees. We have a fun time shooting this wonderful structure.

We next checked out the closed Moyie Museum, housed in a cute little building. Behind, a sign marks the Dewdney Trail, a long distance route built in the 1860s, travelling from the west coast to the nearby Wildhorse goldfields. Sections of it can still be found all over southern BC.

Just down from the church we find a boarded up building. It’s clearly maintained and has a sign saying “Glencairn”. This may be in reference to Glencairn Campbell who helped establish the town in the 1890s. Just a guess.

Heading down to the lake, we pass Moyie’s most photographed building, the quaint little fire hall built in 1907. Situated right on the highway, it’s hard if not downright dangerous, to get a good shot of it if traffic is busy. In the 1980s I lived in Cranbrook and at that time, the building was abandoned, with equipment still inside. At some point after that, it was restored to the condition we see today.

Making our way to the lake, we cross over the CPR line (watch for trains). The water was so still this day, acting like a mirror. Heading back, we cross paths with a cat, who sits still long enough for us to snap a good photo of him.

On to the mine site, we walk along a tailings dump just above the highway and train tracks, past a number of foundations, before making our way up to a higher level via an old road. This was only a quick visit and we hope to explore the entire site in the future, which means a bit of a climb (no problem). There are many levels to this mine extending far above us.

Established in the late 1890s the mine operated on an off over the next thirty years. The highest production was in the early days, 1900-1911 and again 1926-1929. In between it was worked sporadically with only small amount of material extracted. During it’s entire life the output was around 1.5 million tons! It was a large operation and at times was the biggest of it’s type in all BC or even Canada.

In addition to Silver and Lead, the ore also contained considerable Zinc. In early years it was uneconomical to process that component and that material was simply tossed aside, some of it into the lake! You can see the tailings extending down into the deep waters. In the 1920s a new process allowed the Zinc to be economically extracted and so some of the dumped material was reclaimed. At that time the mine itself was also reactivated temporarily, but most output was from the processing of that former waste material.

In the last few years it was worked, the mine also produced a small amount of gold.

Like most mines, this one operated on several levels and every 50-100 vertical metres up the slope a new entry would be driven. This allowed the company to economically exploit as much of the ore body as possible. These adits (mine openings) as I understand have all been blasted shut. Each opening would have it’s own mine dump, and these cascade down the slope, looking much like a rock waterfall. The workings are so extensive that they extend almost to the top of the ridge above, all the way down and into the lake. Paying ore would have been brought down by a tramway system to the processing plant below.

It’s our intention to explore the upper workings and we hope to return next year to tackle that. Old mine roads make their way up the hills beside the dumps.

At the site we also found a sealed shaft (vertical entry). It was capped with concrete and some faint lettering scratched onto it reads: “840 deep – Foster and Fisher – St. Eugene Mine shaft”. It’s assumed that means it was 840 feet deep – if so wowzers, that’s a long way down! I heard they did actually mine under the lake and perhaps this was the entry for that section of the mine.

In support of the operation there would be a number of buildings here, like a concentrator, a power house and the like. We find a number of foundations to the south of the mine dump, but it’s hard to tell the exact purpose of each and when they exactly date from. One has a “My little Pony” symbol painted in it. Odd! At one time, a siding came in from the nearby by CPR line. The current highway sits almost in front of the buildings and some can even been seen by those driving by.

While exploring near the buildings, we find a number of old railway ties. These would have been for the captive mine train that would transport the ore to the processing plants or waste material to the dumps.

Almost directly across the lake form the St. Eugene mine is the Aurora workings. This mine, a much smaller, shorter lived operation, worked what must have been a continuation of the same ore body or vein system as St. Eugene Mine. We visited that operation and will do a report on it soon.

Not visited on this trip was the Moyie cemetery – we have plans view it at a later date however.

To see the Aurora Mine across the lake, follow this link…
Aurora Mine Moyie BC.

We’ve had some other adventures in the area, and to read those reports, click any of the links below.
Mining under Moyie Falls.
Lumberton ghost town.
The Payroll Mine.

If you’d like to know more about what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!

Date: October, 2013.
Location: Moyie BC.

Moyie BC phone booth

The phone booth is already on the endangered list and being hit doesn’t help.

Moyie BC church

St. Peter’s Catholic church in Moyie.

Moyie St Peter's Church

What a gorgeous setting.

St Peter's Church Moyie

This structure dates from 1904.

Church Moyie BC

A simple yet beautiful building.

Moyie BC old building

This boarded up house is still well maintained.

Moyie BC Glencairn

This sign is perhaps a reference to Glencairn Campbell, who helped establish the town.

Moyie BC shed and picket fence

An old shed, a picket fence and an ancient tree.

Moyie BC fire hall

The old Moyie Fire Hall right along the highway.

Moyie Lake

Gorgeous Moyie Lake. Note the mine tailings on the opposite shore.

Fire hall Moyie BC

This cute little building dates from 1907.

Moyie BC museum

The tiny Moyie museum.

Dewdney Trail Moyie BC

The Dewdney Trail once lead to the Wildhorse gold fields.

Moyie BC cat

Here kitty kitty!

St Eugene Mine tailings

On the south end of town are the remains of the St. Eugene Mine. This is the tailings pile.

Moyie Lake tailings

Some waste material was dumped into the lake.

Aurora Mine Moyie

The Aurora Mine across the lake.

Mine shaft cap Moyie BC

Some faint lettering on this shaft cap reads “840 deep – Foster and Fisher – St. Eugene Mine shaft”.

St Eugene mine train tracks

Some old railway ties.

St Eugene Mine foundations

A foundation comes into view.

My Little Pony

My Little Pony?

St Eugene Mine remains

Other foundations nearby.

Foundations St Eugene Mine

Yet more building remains.

St Eugene Mine site

“Please do not deface this historic site”.

Old foundations St Eugene Mine

The mine opened in the late 1890s and finally closed some thirty years later.

Tailings St Eugene Mine

An old trail takes us higher up on the tailings.

Mine dump St Eugene Mine

There would have been many adits (mine openings) in this area. As I understand they have all been blasted shut.

Tailings dump St Eugene Mine

The tailings extend up the slope for hundreds of metres. It was a big operation.

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13 Comments on "Moyie BC and the St Eugene Mine"

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Molly Manx
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Molly Manx

I love your church shots. The one form Dorothy and now these. Amazing.

Chris Dillon
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Chris Dillon

My stomping grounds!!! My friends and I played on the waste dump as a kid. If only my mom knew, she’d kill us. We climbed to the very top of the workings once. Quite a view up there.

bobbyffbob
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bobbyffbob

Great photos!

Jeff Banman
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As a history teaching in Creston, B.C. I enjoy reading about your experiences with the local historical spots. FYI, the phone booth was dismantled and taken away today.

Peter J. Dooling
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Peter J. Dooling
I was raised in Cranbrook from the age of 5 years and graduated from Mount Baker in 1955. Anyway I know a little about Moyie but wonder if you know anything about this. While an alter boy at St. Mary’s Catholic Church I once asked our then parish priest Monsignor Rev. McIntyre how he had lost a finger on one of his hands ( can’t remember whether it was the right of left}. His reply was to the effect that he was trapped in a mine shaft collapse of the St. Eugene Mine and that it was filling with water from the lake above. He did not know how he ever got out of that mine…how he ever came to the surface… but prayed to God that if he were to be saved he would devout the rest of his life as a Catholic priest. You know the rest of… Read more »
David Humphrey
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David Humphrey
I volunteer in the Cranbrook History Centre Archives so stories such as the loss of a finger fascinate me and I try to find any documentation that would confirm such a story. I looked up the obituary of father Mcintyre (Adolphus Laughlin) to see if any report of his misadventure in the Moyie mine was mentioned. The Obit in The Courier didn’t mention anything about an accident but it did say that it was in Feb 1913 while in a restaurant in Vancouver was the time when he decided to join the ministry. I’ll check his obit in our other paper, The Townsman, to see if anything else turns up. I’m also in a position to be able to search, and check, papers prior to this date to see if there are reports of tunnels flooding at Moyie. Father Mcintyre’s obit did mention that at one time prior to 1913… Read more »
Daryl
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Daryl

My father and I hiked the old mine sites there at Moyie back when I was just a small boy. I remember looking down into the pits with timber that surrounded shafts into the hill.
At that time these openings were wide open.

My father was a miner at Kimberley’s Cominco back in the day as well as some great great uncles.

Dad used to know where to hike and explore and even when we moved from the Cranbrook area, we would come back and hunt in the area.

There are so many hidden gems in the Cranbrook and region that are best left untarnished.

Keep exploring ya’ll

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