10 Facts – Fernie, B.C.

On the 28th of July, 1904 the southeastern town of Fernie was incorporated into the province of British Columbia.  Continuing on with this blog’s tradition for incorporation birthdays; here are 10, predominantly, historical facts about the city:

Fernie Location Map

  1. It is the only city in British Columbia that is completely surrounded by the Canadian Rockies.
  2. Prior to its development as a mining camp, the area was inhabited seasonally by First Nations groups.
  3. While the city was incorporated in 1904, it was founded six years earlier in 1898.
  4. Fernie is the largest and longest-established community between Cranbrook and Lethbridge.
  5. The city’s history is centered around coal mining which began with the founding of the Crows Nest Pass Coal Company in 1897.
  6. The following year, the year of Fernie’s founding, the CPR arrived in the area which allowed the town to begin emerging from the temporary camps that had been existing in the area.
  7. A fire swept through the town in 1904 destroying much of the downtown area.

    After the fire. Image from fernie.bclibrary.ca

    After the fire. Image from fernie.bclibrary.ca

  8. The most noticeable result of this fire was that, in the aftermath, it was ordered by the municipal government that all buildings be constructed out of fire-proof materials such as brick and stone which produced a city with a far more refined appearance then that which is seen in most mining towns.
  9. The city has some really cool legends such as the Legend of the Griz (about a baby born in a grizzly bear cave) or the Legend of the Ghostrider (claims that every evening a shadow of a horse and rider appears on the side of Mt. Hosmer).  Learn more about those here.
  10. Today the city, while still majorly dependent on the mining industry, is also prospering in the tourism industry due to the numerous ski hills in the area.
Downtown Fernie

Downtown Fernie

For more information check out the City of Fernie website or the Fernie Tourism site.

A 15 Minute Trip Around the World via the Internet

 

Statuette of Mictlantecuhtli. Image from Pinterest.

Statuette of Mictlantecuhtli. Image from Pinterest.

Weekly Web Links:

  • The origins of werewolf legends.  In the 17th Century, a German town was reputed to be troubled by a werewolf who was actually their deceased mayor (apparently they had rather disliked the man).
  • A beautiful look at the hope that can come from the darkest moments of human history. *note that the video is only available until August 24th*
  • I tweeted about this several days ago but, guys, it’s looking like Tyrannosaurus rex probably hunted in packs and that is both awesome and crazy scary.  No one is allowed to create a Jurassic Park style island, agreed?
  • On a genuinely lovely note, there is evidence that a child who suffered from a traumatic brain injury roughly 100,000 years ago was able to live for a number of years afterwards due to the care of the people around him.
  • Can you imagine being someone who looked at a giant balloon attached to a tiny basket and went ‘let’s see if we can make it go up in the air while holding our weight’?

Historical Book Review for the Week:

The Golden Ratio by Mario Livio

The Golden Ratio

Ugh…this book. This is one, I’m sorry to say, that was a bit of a struggle to get through.  The concept of phi, or the Golden Ratio, is an idea that I have been intrigued by for several years before finding and reading this particular book (and I still am after, the book’s not that bad).  The idea that this strange and unusual number is found in so many aspects of the world from architecture, to art, to music and nature is a fascinating concept that really encourages an alternative look at the world.  However, the wonder of this phenomenon is bogged down in this particular narrative by a tone that, to me, alternated between pretentious and condescending, and then was further reduced by the inclusion of far too many mathematical formulas which only served to confuse the topic and disjoint the reading experience.  If I’m being totally fair (it does occasionally happen…), I was reading this book on an e reader and the formatting didn’t come through well.  Most of the equations appeared in a very faint grey font which was appeared at an almost unread-ably small size not matter what adjustments I made to my device so this could absolutely have played a part in my frustration with that particular aspect of the book.

 

I do understand that telling the history of this number is a struggle; it has been suggested that the Golden Ratio was involved in the building of the Parthenon of Athens, the pyramids of Egypt, and was a symbolic factor in numerous works of art.  However, these claims are almost impossible for modern mathematicians to verify based on two central difficulties:

  1. Where and how do you decide the points to begin and end the measurement – numbers are incredibly easy to fudge or skew and how do you take erosion and other forms of damage into consideration?
  2. How do you prove that the presence of this number is intentional – can you be sure that knowledge of this Golden Ratio was available and that it was used on purpose; or is its presence an accidental occurrence?

However, reading a book that presents the potential of this number in a variety of environments (the number having already been described by the author as a remarkable occurrence in the world) only to have all evidence of it destroyed in the subsequent paragraphs in nine out of ten scenarios makes for a very disappointing (although probably accurate) reading experience.

 

 

10 Facts – New Westminster, B.C.

On July 16th, 1860; the city of New Westminster was officially incorporated into British Columbia.  While the city is now known predominantly as a municipality of Greater Vancouver rather than its by its own identity it was, in the past, a city which was incredibly significant in its own right.  While this post would have made more sense last week (when I had initially intended to upload it), life got in the way and so it’s going up now! And so, without further delay, here are ten cool facts about New Westminster:

The View of New Westminster from the Fraser River, 1865.

The View of New Westminster from the Fraser River, 1865.

  1. Prior to European arrival, First Nations groups in the area used the site where New Westminster would appear for both seasonal and permanent settlements.
  2. The site of New Westminster was chosen in 1895 predominantly for military reasons as it was located on a steep hill on the northern side of a wide river and, therefore, easily defended.
  3. The name ‘New Westminster’ was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1859 after her favorite part of London; Westminster.
  4. Due to its connection with Queen Victoria, New Westminster holds the nickname of ‘The Royal City’.
  5. New Westminster is British Columbia’s first capital and the oldest city in western Canada, it was selected as the first capitol of British Columbia in 1859. However, in 1866 the colonies of British Columbia and Vancouver Island united as “British Columbia” and the capital of the Colony of Vancouver Island, Victoria, was made the capital of the newly amalgamated colony at that time.
  6. The main feature of the New Westminster Museum and Archives is the 1865 Irving House which is thought to be the oldest intact house in the Lower Mainland.
  7. During the Cariboo Gold Rush New Westminster was a major outfitting point for prospectors as all travel to the goldfield ports of Yale and Port Douglas was completed by steamboat or canoe up the Fraser River.
  8. A massive fire in 1898 destroyed the majority of the downtown area of the city.

    A Shot of the City Taken After the Fire of 1898.

    A Shot of the City Taken After the Fire of 1898.

  9. The railroad bridge just upstream from the Pattullo Bridge was opened in 1904 and when first opened, it was a double-decker bridge with rail on the bottom and road on the top.
  10. The Fraser Cemetery and St Peter’s Cemetery have historical roots that link the histories of the city, the region and the Province.
Shots of Columbia Street in 1932 and 2008.

Shots of Columbia Street in 1932 and 2008.

For more information, please check out the City of New Westminster’s website or the Tourism New Westminster site.

Alexander Mackenzie Reaches the Pacific Ocean

One of Canada’s most historically significant explorers, the Scottish born Sir Alexander Mackenzie, reached the Pacific Ocean (and the end of his groundbreaking trip across the country) on July 20, 1793 although he himself commemorated it two days later, on the 22nd.

Alexander Mackenzie

Alexander Mackenzie

His travels across the country were actually divided into two separate expeditions; the first one, in 1789, was a river expedition to the Arctic Ocean although this wasn’t the direction he had actually meant to travel (sounds a bit like my sense of direction…).  From a colleague in Montreal, he had learned that the First Nations people understood how the local rivers flowed to the northwest and, acting on this information, he set out on what was then known as the Dehcho (now the Mackenzie) River by canoe in the hope of finding the northwest passage to the Pacific Ocean.  Instead, he ended up traveling in the opposite direction and ended up at the Atlantic Ocean on July 14, 1789.

In Mackenzie’s mind this was a massive disappointment (he even initially named the river that would become the Mackenzie, ‘Disappointment River’) and, as a result of this set back, he returned to Great Britain in 1791 to study up on the new advances in longitude before returning to Canada in 1792.

1792-1793 marked the years of his second, more successful, expedition and the one which played a significant role in the history of British Columbia.  Accompanied by two native guides, his cousin, six Canadian voyagers, and a dog, Mackenzie set out from Fort Chipewyan on the 10th of October 1792 and set out along the Pine River the flow of which eventually lead to the Peace River.  After building and wintering at what is now known as Fort Fork, the company set out to continue along the length of the Peace River on March 9, 1793 before finally reaching the upper region of the Fraser River.

The Route of Alexander Mackenzie and company.

The Route of Alexander Mackenzie and company.

Having been told by the first nations people in the area, that the Fraser Canyon was un-navigational and populated by tribes who had a history of being unfriendly to outsiders, Mackenzie and his companions elected instead to ascend the West Road River, cross over the Coast Mountains, and descend the Bella Coola River towards the sea.  On July 20, 1793; he reached Bella Coola and became the first recorded person to complete a transcontinental crossing of North America north of Mexico and, by only a matter of 48 days, missed meeting George Vancouver there.  His initial plan had been to continue westward with the intent to reach the open ocean of the Pacific but was stopped from obtaining this goal by the Heiltsuk peoples and, so, had to be content with writing a message on a rock near the water’s edge of the Dean Channel instead.

Alexander Mackenzie's Message

Alexander Mackenzie’s Message

At a later point in time, these words were permanently inscribed by surveyors and the rock itself, as well as the area around it, are now part of the Sir Alexander Mackenzie Provincial Park. Even though Mackenzie did not achieve his goal of reaching the open waters of the ocean, he still became the first individual to traverse the span of the country over land as well as the first to navigate so many of the inland waterways which cover the face of Canada.  Possibly, the part of his journey that had the most long-term impact though, was that it showed the European explorers who had crossed the Atlantic Ocean and landed on the eastern coast of the new world that  it was possible to cross the expanse of this country and played a huge role in opening up the western regions of Canada to these colonizing forces.

The Legacy of Sir Alexander Mackenzie.

The Legacy of Sir Alexander Mackenzie.

 

A 15 Minute Trip Around the World via the Internet

 

Image via Pinterest

Weekly Web Links:

Historical Book Review for the Week:

The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum

The Poisoner's Handbook

In the period prior to the 1920’s, neither medical examiners nor the police forces they were aiding, had any idea how to identify the effects of poisons in the bodies of their murder victims and, even more alarmingly, most of these people (including their boss, the mayor) didn’t see this as a problem.  In no one was this more clear than the city’s coroner during the year of 1915.  This man, Patrick Riordan had developed a reputation for showing up at crime scenes drunk to the point of being completely useless which would have been unprofessional and unfortunate if he was at least competent at his job.  But, at this period in time, the city had no requirement of a medical background or, really, any sort of training, for their coroners.  This, was despite the fact that a key part of their job was to  determine the cause of death.

It took the appointment, in 1918, of a man named Charles Norris to the position of medical examiner to break this pattern of untrained individuals which resulted in a trickle-down effect as he insured that everyone working under him was, in fact, qualified for their position.  This was most notable in his hiring of Alexander Gettler as the city’s first toxicologist as this was the man who developed the posthumous tests needed to determine if someone had died under the natural or accidental conditions indicated by the crime scene or if it was, in fact, a scenario of murder by poison.

This book is a quick but fascinating look at the changes brought to the study of poisons between the years of 1915 and the mid-1930’s and how the development of scientific investigation into previously unidentifiable causes of death lead to the modern day medical examiners and coroners that exist within police forces today.