Kuskonook in 1898. Alfred Manson may be standing in front of his hotel

COLUMN: Kuskonook and the Alfred Manson family

I am now even more convinced a mystery photo in Kaslo’s Kootenay Lake Archives shows the railway boomtown of Kuskonook in 1898.

I am now even more convinced a mystery photo in Kaslo’s Kootenay Lake Archives shows the railway boomtown of Kuskonook in 1898.

To recap: the photo was originally labelled “Three Forks, 1892” then relabelled Ainsworth, then Three Forks again. Victoria researcher Peter Smith asked my opinion; I concluded it was most likely Kuskonook, based largely on a sign that read “Klondyke Hotel, A. Manson, Prop.” On the 1898 BC voters list, Alfred Manson is named as an hotelkeeper there, and the civic directory confirms it was called the Klondyke.

Two noteworthy things happened after the picture appeared in the Star last month. First, Howard Boyle took a photo at Kuskanook (it’s spelled both ways) looking southeast on Highway 3A and compared it with the mystery photo, which shows at least 20 men lined up in front of a series of false-fronted buildings.

“The mountain profiles sure match well,” he notes. Once overlaid, the highway appears to cut directly in front of the buildings. “It’s kind of creepy the way it worked out. Looks like the men are waiting for the bus.”

Boyle tried the same exercise with the only other early photo of Kuskonook known to exist with equally impressive results.

Secondly, I heard from Brian Nicholson of North Vancouver, the great grandson of Alfred Manson, proprietor of the Klondyke Hotel. Nicholson said it was well known in his family that Manson ran an hotel at Kuskonook. What’s more, he believes Manson is actually in the photo.

“I’m 90 per cent sure that’s him right in front of the hotel with the white shirt and vest,” he said. “He wasn’t tall and if you look at the eyes, they’re quite distinctive.”

He wishes his late father, Bill (Nick), was around to see it — he was the family historian and taught genealogy at Kwantlen University.

Nicholson sent me an excerpt from his father’s memoirs which paint a picture of Nels Alfred (Poppa) Manson. Born in Sweden in 1860 or ‘61, the youngest of seven sons, he came to America when he was 20 and shows up the 1880 census as a farm labourer in Nebraska. However, the next decade is of his life is a blur.

“We understand that he was a drifter, willing to go wherever there was work, leaving little or no trail,” Nick Nicholson wrote. At various times he was an hotelier, free miner, and logger.

Manson married Anna Christina Olson, a fellow Swedish immigrant, although when and where is unknown. Their first daughter, Lily Elvera, was born in Vernon in 1894, followed by Hazel Alfreda, in Bossburg, Wash. in 1896.

The family must have moved to Nelson soon after, for Alfred appears in the 1897 city directory as a bartender at the Grand Hotel. As noted above, they’re in Kuskonook running the Klondyke Hotel in 1898 — possibly so named because Alfred was in the Yukon before the gold rush.

By early 1899 they’re back in Nelson and Alfred is running the Grove Hotel in Fairview in partnership with Fred Harmon before buying him out. (The Klondyke Hotel burned down in early 1900 with the rest of Kuskonook, but it’s unclear if the Mansons still owned it at that point.)

Two sons, Albert Earl and Carl Leonard, were born in Nelson in 1898 and 1901 respectively.

In 1901, Alfred transferred his license for the Grove to Stephen Bridcott, and moved his family to Frontier, Wash., just south of the Paterson border crossing. He built a house behind the present US customs building that stood until a few years ago.

Alfred supplied poles, timbers, and mine props to the Rossland mines, loading them on flat cars on the Red Mountain Railway siding at their place.

Lily, who began school in Nelson at a Catholic convent kindergarten, attended classes in Rossland, boarding with the Elley family during the week, and going home on the train on weekends. Her other siblings went to school in Paterson. A fifth and final child, Thelma Christina (Tiny), was born in Rossland in 1906.

The family left for Vancouver in 1912, where Alfred ran the Crown Hotel on West Cordova. They later moved to Seattle before returning to Vancouver.

Nick Nicholson — Lily’s son — recalled his grandfather “was very quiet and had little to say. He smoked cigars and used a toothpick to hold the very short last of it, so as to smoke it as far as he could without getting burned!”

He also remembered Alfred had a mining claim in the Bralorne area in the early 1930s named the Amazon but lost it for taxes.

Alfred Manson died in Vancouver in 1933.

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