William Fernie Passes Away at the age of 84 - The Free Press Turns 115 years Old
May 20 1921
Free Press Files
William Fernie, of Victoria, the founder of Fernie and one of the real pioneers of Kootenay, has passed away, death calling him on Sunday last, after a lingering illness of several weeks.
The deceased, who was in his 84th year, was the original discoverer of coal in this district and put the first stake in at Morrissey long before the Crow railway was thought of.
He was born in Kimbolton, Huntingdonshire, England, and when 14 years of age went to sea on the ship “Salesman”. He left the boat at an Australian port and went to work in the mines at Bendigo and Perdue, staying at it for four years, when his thirst for adventure led him to other fields and he took to sea again. Later he became quartermaster on the United States mail steamer playing to South America. Finally he came to British Columbia in 1860, locating in the Cariboo country, where for many years he was engaged in mining. In 1873 he was appointed to a government office, which he held for four years, resigning to join C. Baker in an attempt to secure a charter for the British Columbia Southern Railway in the eastern part of the province.
In 1887, after successfully securing the right to build the railway, Mr. Fernie located the coal fields of the Crow’s Nest and in his honor Fernie, which was established shortly afterwards, was named after him.
For many years Mr. Fernie struggled along with a small company, but finally succeeded in interesting Toronto capitalists, who used their influence to have the Crow’s Nest Pass branch built through the mountains, and after that it was more or less easy sailing. For a number of years he was a director of the company, but later on disposed of nearly all his stock and retired to Victoria, where he resided since.
For many years he has given large gifts to charity and soldier institutions and his death is a distinct loss to the province.
He was a brother of Peter Fernie, famous British campaigner, who died last year.
Citizens of Fernie unite in expressing deep regret for the death of Mr. Fernie.
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