The Mines at Fairview
(from The Ditch, by Julie Cancela, 1986)
Camp Fairview, BC Archives Collection
Fairview began as a small claim staked by Fred Gwatkins and George Sheenan in 1887 about two miles west of the valley bottom where Oliver is now located. This initial claim was the Stemwinder mine. Two years later T. Woodland, Steve Mangott and Danny McEarchern staked the Morning Star claim. From there interest in the area snowballed and a great many other claims were staked. The population increased steadily until 1897, when a proper townsite was laid out. Once this occurred it wasn’t long before the amenities of town life arrived at the settlement - a livery, businesses and offices, a drug store, a butcher shop, a Government Building, and of course, hotels with liquor parlours! At its peak, the population of Fairview reached 5,000 and boasted of five operating mines. By the time the Big Tepee Hotel was destroyed by fire in November, 1902, the settlement was beginning to decline. The mines gradually ceased to produce the great amounts of ore that they had in the early days, and the population began to shift from the hills down into the valley where Oliver was beginning to grow into a town. By the 1920s most of the population had left.
The old stamp mill from the mines can still be seen on a portion of the 10km hike that begins at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards. The hike meanders through the hills southwest of Oliver, passing near by the old site of Fairview.
"Big Teepee" Hotel, Fairview, BC Archives Collection
A Name as Fair as the View
(by Hester E. White, Okanagan Historical Report #12, 1948, p. 59)
For nearly twenty years the camp at Fairview flourished. In 1883, when a great amount of ore was produced at Fairview, there was a considerable settlement. Starting up the gulch in that year, one would be welcomed at its mouth by Mr. F. R. Kline, owner of the “Golden Gate” Hotel, a well-built log house of two stories. Miners’ and prospectors’ cabins would be found at intervals as one proceeded up the gulch. On the left side was “Miner’s Rest”, owned and operated by Mr. and Mrs. Evan Morris. It was here that many of the “cousin Jacks”, Cornish miners, would gather to have a ‘rip-roaring’ time. Ahead, and situated at the sharp turn in the road, where it left the course of Blue Creek to wind around the hill was the stamp-mill.
“Blue House”, the residence of the Stratheyre Mining Company’s representatives, Messrs. Atwood and Reynolds, was on the eminence overlooking the quartz mill, and commanded a beautiful panoramic view of the Okanagan Valley to the south. It was the view here that caused the name ‘Fairview’ to be chosen. From this point one could overlook Okanagan Valley, hemmed in by hills and mountains, with the river meandering through the low land, through Haynes Meadows and losing itself in the glistening waters of Osoyoos Lake. At this time cattle were grazing here and there amidst sagebrush and grease-wood.
W.T. Shatford's General Store, Fairview, BC Archives Collection
Work in the Mines
(by Philip Rossiter, Okanagan Historical Report #49, 1985, p. 54)
Once a worker at the Fairview Morning Star Mine, Philip recalls:
“I started at the Morning Star in December of 1933 as a ‘mucker’ at $3.75 per day. The operation at that time consisted of ‘development’ work and piling of the ore outside – the ‘high grade’ was sorted out and shipped to Trail, quite successfully at times…
“After the mine was dewatered we started to explore the stopes and drifts of the old mine. The stopes were awesome: in some places there was 40 feet or so between the foot wall and the hanging wall; we could see great slabs hanging, so it seemed, above our heads. After a while we got used to them and didn’t bother about them. As I remember, there were two main stopes, above the first level and the second level. The stope above the bottom level was much smaller. The floors of the stopes were planked, with pockets leading down to the drift below, with chutes dropping the ore into the mine cars. Cars were pushed to the shaft and dumped into the bucket and hoisted to the surface and fed into the 48-stamp mill.”
(by Robert Iverson, Okanagan Historical Report #48, 1984, p. 88)
Another old miner recalls:
“Total production from both the Morning Star and Fairview amounted to 114,517 tons of ore milled containing 14,949 ounces of gold plus 152,130 ounces of silver. Base metals, copper, lead and zinc were included in the concentrate returns.”
Fairview began as a small claim staked by Fred Gwatkins and George Sheenan in 1887 about two miles west of the valley bottom where Oliver is now located.
Camp McKinney, like Camp Fairview, began as a single claim, in this case staked by Al McKinney and Fred Rice in 1888. This claim grew into the Cariboo Mine for which McKinney was renowned. At first known as Rock Creek Quartz Camp, McKinney was the first lode mining camp in B.C. to pay dividend.
One of the least known facts about the history of Osoyoos is that not too long ago a flourishing gold mine operation existed here. A 24-hour-a-day mining operation was carried on between 1937 and 1940. Its operation was located where today stands the Osoyoos Golf & Country clubhouse.