Opening New Caledonia - Opening New Caledonia - Timeline 1911
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1911

On April 20, the steamer that plied the upper Fraser between the Georges and Quesnel met its end when it was caught between two ice jams. The ┐Chilco┐ was smashed apart and the crew only had time to scramble to safety. Disaster befell the small boat in the Cottonwood Canyon. Her compact size meant she was capable of making the trip earlier and later in the season than could boats like the ┐Chilcotin┐ or the ┐B.X.┐ .

In May, the construction firm of Bronger and Flynn began building a 30-room boarding house to meet the demand for accommodation. Situated at the corner of Third Street and Thapage in South Fort George, the two-storey building featured a large main-floor sitting room. At the same time, A. G. Hamilton and Associates started building a two-storey commercial building at the corner of La Salle Avenue and Third Street. That lot (66 x 124 feet) represented the highest price paid for real estate ever paid in the region to that date. It became the location of the Fort George Hardware Co. Ltd.

Another hardware store opened in June on Second Street in South Fort George. The Northern Lumber Co. opened its large premises to the public one evening with an invitation to a dance. One hundred people attended and were entertained by vocal soloists during breaks in the dancing. At midnight, the guests were treated to a catered dinner. Dancing resumed after that and, in the early hours, the remaining guests listened to harp music. The actual store opening was held on Monday June 12.

Dominion Day marked the opening of the Fort George Theatre in South Fort George. Contractors Bronger and Flynn erected a 30 x 70 foot building with twenty-foot ceilings to accommodate a 500-seat capacity. This exceeded the population of the town. The theatre incorporated a screen to show silent films and a stage for live concert performances, and had sloping floors to improve view of the screen and stage. The projector was the latest Thomas Edison model. The bulb produced so much heat that it was necessary to house the projector in a fire-proof compartment.

Also on Dominion Day, there was drama when fire erupted at the Hotel Northern. Opened in October of the previous year, the 40-room three-storey hotel had been the first to be built in the province┐s north. Despite the best efforts of a bucket brigade, within hours the hotel was reduced to ashes. The financial loss to the owners was estimated at $30,000. Dominion Day celebrations still carried on. A local printer had produced the event┐s schedule on pieces of silk as a memento of the day. The 300 residents participated enthusiastically by flying the British flag and Canadian ensign over homes and businesses. Cowboy races were held in the streets, and field games featured shot put, tug-of-war, high jump, sack race and running races. A baseball game saw competition from teams fielded by all three townsites. South Fort George won the baseball event. The crowd moved to the banks of the Fraser to watch the main evening outdoor event ┐ the canoe race ┐ featuring two men in each cottonwood dugout canoe. The race involved poling upstream, rounding a buoy, and paddling back. The crowd moved on to the newly-built theatre for the opening cinema and then to a dance in one of the downtown stores.

The most crucial issue for South Fort George during the summer of 1911 was the need for a hospital. The remoteness of the location was accentuated when Dr. Lazier had several cases which he deemed to be beyond his ability to treat without surgical assistance and an operating room. The nearest hospital was at Quesnel. One patient┐s life was threatened by a serious abscess near a major artery. His condition was deteriorating and there was no time to await the arrival of the steam boat, so he was taken to Quesnel by canoe. In the opinion of the Fort George Herald┐s editor, ┐The pressing need of a hospital in South Fort George, where sick or wounded people could receive proper attention whilst under medical care, is being felt to a greater extent every day. This is a matter within the jurisdiction of the board of trade, we believe, and should be acted upon by that body, or organized at a public meeting.┐

Al Young, working for the B.C. Express Company, established a weekly stage service between Quesnel and South Fort George in October. While providing winter transportation, he also carried the mail. Within a year, the service changed to bi-weekly and was extended to include the Central Fort George district. Over the winter, parcels and newspapers were considered second class mail and were held back until the first boat arrived after spring ice breakup.

The first government land offices were built as offices for Thomas Herne, the government agent. He served as magistrate, government representative and registrar for births, deaths and marriages. The population at the time was 600.



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