New book recounts early New Denver

When Henning and Judy von Krogh bought their heritage house on 5th Ave. in New Denver in 1978, they made a few discoveries.

Henning von Krogh will launch his new book late this month

When Henning and Judy von Krogh bought their heritage house on 5th Ave. in New Denver in 1978, they made a few discoveries: a few carbon filament light bulbs; a portion of the Toronto Globe of April 23, 1895 on a piece of wood removed from one wall; two receipts made out in St. John, New Brunswick in 1889 to Capt. George Estabrooks, the home’s first resident, and one of his business cards. They also noticed charring around the chimney in the attic, evidence of a long-ago fire.

Fast forward to two years ago, when Henning’s interest was piqued by a photo in the Silvery Slocan Historical Society’s collection showing McIntyre’s pack train leaving the Slocan Hotel. He didn’t recognize the unusual triangular building and was filled with curiosity.

“It looked so weird and I wondered where was it, who built it, when, and what happened to it,” he says. “And who was McIntyre?”

To find the answers, he plunged into the University of BC’s historical newspapers website, which in recent years has digitized many 1890s titles from West Kootenay, including The Ledge, published weekly in New Denver from 1894 to 1904. But once satisfied at learning the hotel’s particulars, “then I was interested in the schools, because I’m a teacher. And then ‘here’s another neat thing …’”

Eventually he read The Ledge’s full run and pasted hundreds of items on the village’s buildings and pioneers into a Word document. By the end, he had enough material to write a book which is exactly what he’s done.

Early New Denver 1891-1904: A Selection of Data on People, Places and Things will be launched on Thursday, June 30 at Knox Hall in New Denver from 7 to 9 p.m.

Von Krogh’s 168-page book is filled with histories of early hotels, schools, churches, and stores, plus boats and prominent personalities. In addition to the newspapers, he relied on fire insurance maps, photographs, and other sources to draw a picture of New Denver’s pioneer days.

The book has 173 photos, maps, and period advertisements, plus over 1,100 footnotes. It further features a list of early Crown grants and a series of the earliest town views, some rarely seen. The cover features a painting of New Denver in 1898 by an anonymous artist, donated to the museum in 2004 by former local teacher Hallvard Dahlie, who bought it at an auction.

New Denver, formerly known as Eldorado and Slocan City, was born during the silver rush that began in the fall of 1891 and boomed for a few years. Von Krogh’s histories mostly stop at 1904, when The Ledge departed for Nelson, although he tried to explain the ultimate fate of each building. He solved many mysteries, but others are still outstanding.

In the course of his research, he also discovered more about the family whose house he bought and the house itself. A note in the Nelson Tribune of May 12, 1894 announced that “Capt. Estabrooks has begun work on his residence on Fifth street. Wallace and McLean have the contract.”

He also pinpointed the date of the fire whose scorch marks he discovered in the attic. The Ledge of Feb. 14, 1895 reported: “An over-heated stovepipe was the cause of a slight blaze at the residence of Capt. Estabrooks on Sunday afternoon. No serious damage resulted.”

Curiously, Estabrooks and his wife didn’t own title to the property until after they left the community in the late 1890s. The Estabrooks name was well known in BC steamboating circles: George and his son Otto served on the Arrow, Slocan, Kootenay, and Okanagan lakes for a combined 56 years.

The Columbia Basin Trust and Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance contributed toward the cost of printing von Krogh’s book. The Silvery Slocan Historical Society will receive a portion of the proceeds from the copies it sells.

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