Riding the Sandon pack train

Another in an ongoing series about local collectibles.

A particularly evocative postcard entitled “Pack Train, Sandon, BC” sold this month on eBay for $112.50 US.

This lithographed card shows a man and several horses passing through town, burdened with blankets, chairs, and other furniture.

It was produced by New Denver druggist Charles F. Nelson and dates to about 1910. Three other copies have sold in the last decade, for $114 in 2005, $107 in 2006, and $52 in 2008.

The card is featured in British Columbia 100 Years Ago: Portraits of a Province by Fred Thirkell and Bob Scullion, published in 2002.

They write: “One cannot help but wonder about the man and his pack train. He appears to be leaving Sandon as he passes under a flume and alongside some pioneers cabin. But where is he going, and what about his freight?”

A seller of one of the other copies of this card suggested it was household effects bound for the Slocan Star mine, a major producer between 1893 and 1917.

“No one knows the real story the picture is telling,” Thirkel and Scullion wrote, “but it does seem to say something of toil, of discomfort, and of dreams yet to be fulfilled.”

Last weeks column brought a phone call from Robin Lowe-Irwin, operations manager with the Princeton Museum and Archives. Last year they received a large collection of very old mining records from the son of a former government agent, who had been hanging on to them since 1972.

Lowe-Irwin stresses that people dont need to explain their reasons when presenting artifacts to the museum.

“In collection of historical items, I think that there are instances of questionable integrity, but I would hesitate in vilifying any individual for their motives, as long as the items do eventually make it home,” she says. “Many people hang onto things for different reasons, but we need to be very careful that we aren't creating a fear of being questioned about why they have kept these things.”

She says she wants to create an environment that welcomes donations and celebrates donors “for allowing history to be conserved in a professional manner.”

Other noteworthy recent auctions:

• A slide of the Castlegar train station in 1974 — the building was then white, not red — went for $45 US. Today the building is a museum.

• An envelope with a 1908 postmark from Waneta went for $39 Cdn. The post office was in business from 1893 to 1950.

• A 1943 postmark from Ross Spur, between Fruitvale and Salmo, sold for $15 Cdn. The post office existed there from 1915 to 1951 with a brief closure in 1920-21.


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