An ore car for the Nickel Plate Mine. Mr. Pollock’s claim was close to the Nickel Plate Mine. (submitted)

An ore car for the Nickel Plate Mine. Mr. Pollock’s claim was close to the Nickel Plate Mine. (submitted)

T.W. Paterson column: For some miners it was never say die

For 12 years, single-handed, A.L. Marsh bored his way to bedrock.

For 12 years, single-handed, A.L. Marsh bored his way to bedrock.

A miner’s lot, like that of a policeman, wasn’t an easy one in the so-called good old days.

In an industry that’s known a thousand busts for every boom, countless dreams have been shattered in the quest for riches.

A prime example is that provided by A.L. Marsh, who invested 25 years of back-breaking work to prove his claim in the Okanagan’s Cherry Creek district. Gold Commissioner L. Norris, writing his annual report for 1913, described Marsh’s lonely battle against the odds. In so doing, he wrote an encapsulated history of the B.C. mining industry.

“Over the hill and east from the Monashee [Mine] mill-house lies the placer ground where A.L. Marsh drove, single-handed, 2,500 feet of tunnel in a vain attempt to reach bedrock in the bottom of the gulch. (To put this in context for the metrically corrupted, 2,500 feet is just short of half a mile! —TW.)

“A practical miner, and a man much above the average, mentally and physically,” Marsh came to B.C. in 1883 from San Francisco, where he’d lost a fortune previously acquired in mining in Nevada.

Convinced that a second fortune awaited him in the Okanagan if he could reach bed-rock, but having no funds and being unable to interest capital in the project, he set out to work his Okanagan claims himself. Commencing in 1889, he carried on unassisted for 12 years.

Then he found that the timbers he’d first put in to shore up his tunnel were beginning to rot and fall in and he had to abandon his tunnel, by this time almost half a mile long.

“His actual achievement,” Norris continued, “if encountered in the pages of a novel, would be deemed incredible, and had he been successful, many would have heard of it, but as it is, the story of his pluck will probably never be told. Mr. Marsh is now 70 years of age and still has unbounded faith in the ground…”

At last report, this, again, thanks to Commissioner Norris, Marsh was hard at work on a new shaft…

Another Nevada veteran who courted Dame Fortune was H.C. Pollock. He’d tired of the heat and dust of the Nevada silver rush and had worked his way northward through the stampedes of Oregon and Washington. In 1898, rather than follow the will-o’-wisp to the Klondike, Pollock opted for B.C.

After trying his luck in the Arrow Lakes and West Kootenay districts, he moved to the Similkameen, camped on the future site of Hedley, and explored Nickel Plate Mountain, soon to become one of the province’s richest gold producers.

His investigation led him to believe that the pay-streak extended across the Similkameen River and, two miles upstream, near the mouth of Sterling Creek, he found evidences of gold and silver-bearing ore.

He had to suspend operations for the winter but, come spring and summer, he staked the Maple Leaf, Martin, Daisy, Pine Knot and Minnehaha claims, and set to work to expose the veins. Upon finding promising signs of ore throughout, Pollock began the age-old miner’s quest for capital. Like thousands before and since, he found financiers to be extremely reluctant to gamble; they insisted that he prove his claim first.

Because, to quote an old record, Pollock’s own capital consisted of nothing more than a strong back and a strong heart, he continued to seek funding. Finally, he interested C.H. Oliver in funding his operation.

A shaft was sunk on the Martin and Maple Leaf leads. Immediate results were encouraging and further work exposed more ore, ranging in value from $15-$59 to the ton. This was sufficient to warrant serious development and Pollock Mines Ltd. was organized and promoted shares on the open market.

Throughout, Pollock had refused to sell his own interest. After years of unremitting work and unbounded faith in himself and in his claims, he’d brought them to the production stage. In 1905 it was reported that prominent mining engineers had praised his mine’s potential: “With careful and economical management, ample funds for development and the installation of the necessary machinery, the Pollock Mine…gives good promise of a successful career.”

W.C. Pollock, it would seem, finally had the world by the tail.

It was not to be. Three years later, the Department of Mines’ Annual Report lists him as supervisor of the Kingston properties for the Kingston Gold Copper Mining Co. Typically, he worked hard, Gold Commissioner James Brown commenting on the amount of work accomplished under Pollock’s direction.

Assay reports as high as $35 to the ton attracted renewed interest in the old Pollock group in 1927, and sporadic attempts were made until the late ’30s to make the Maple Leaf and adjoining claims a paying proposition.

It no longer mattered to H.C. Pollock. He’d finally become discouraged and let these properties pass from his ownership.


An ore car for the Nickel Plate Mine. Mr. Pollock’s claim was close to the Nickel Plate Mine. (submitted)

An ore car for the Nickel Plate Mine. Mr. Pollock’s claim was close to the Nickel Plate Mine. (submitted)