Kevin Allen of Fernie helped research and untangle the relationship between West Fernie and the City of Fernie, and is now writing a book on West Fernie. (Phil McLachlan / The Free Press)

Local historian writing book on West Fernie

Kevin Allen of Fernie is compiling his research on West Fernie into a book thanks to a grant from the RDEK

The colourful and storied history of West Fernie is being immortalized by local historian Kevin Allen.

Allen, who helped untangle the backstory of West Fernie to help with its eventual amalgamation with the City of Fernie, is compiling his research and discoveries into a book on the history of the community which first began to form in the early years of the 20th Century.

The book is being written thanks to a grant from the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK), and while it’s a ways off from being completed, there was already a lot to tell.

In delving into the history of the area, Allen had even discovered that a settler had a ranch in what became West Fernie before Fernie itself existed.

“So in a way West Fernie might predate the settlement that eventually became the City of Fernie,” he said.

Previously, Allen has done a lot of research to help understand the legal relationship between West Fernie, the City of Fernie and the RDEK – and that work was all too good to not be compiled and the story told.

Despite only becoming part of the City of Fernie in recent years, West Fernie’s history is intertwined with Fernie.

“(West Fernie) started off as a working class residential district and industrial district, that supported the city.

“It was famous for a sawmill there. There was a giant fire in Fernie in 1908, and it hit West Fernie first and hit the sawmill, and made a huge conflagration that eventually burned the town to the ground.”

Allen said that even a hundred years ago Fernie was a relatively expensive place to live, so West Fernie developed as a cheaper alternative to trying to make do in the boom-town that was Fernie.

Going over historical records kept by the Fernie Museum, the City of Fernie, armchair historians and historical newspapers, Allen said he was learning a lot about the fabric that made up West Fernie both past and present.

While there’s no commemorative cenotaph or memorial, many of the street names in West Fernie are named after miners killed in the 1902 mine explosion, which remains one of Canada’s worst mining disasters, with 128 lives lost.

Allen said he was delving into a lot of bits and pieces about the area – a nordic ski club, a landslide that took out part of the town, and gangs in the 50s and 60s.

“It’s interesting how even smaller places have even more regional senses of identity – between the Annex, West Fernie and elsewhere.”

In uncovering the stories of West Fernie, Allen also discovered the story (and tragic end) of a real ‘pandemic heroine’ – Aagot “Agnes” Anderson of West Fernie, who volunteered to be a nurse during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918.

Agnes, who came to Fernie from Norway via the United States in 1907, died after falling ill treating those who were sick in the community, and is buried in the Fernie cemetery.

READ MORE: West Fernie Stories: A Pandemic Heroine



scott.tibballs@thefreepress.ca
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

history

Just Posted

The ‘official’ opening of 2nd Edition Coworking in downtown Fernie, a project five years in the making by the Fernie Chamber of Commerce. Left to right: Executive Director of the Fernie Chamber Brad Parsell, incoming President of the Fernie Chamber Norm Fraser, outgoing President of the Fernie Chamber Anita Palmer, and Mayor of Fernie Ange Qualizza. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Fernie Chamber cuts the ribbon on 2nd Edition

The new coworking space in Fernie is now ‘officially’ open, but has been operating since early 2021

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

Sparwood Mayor David Wilks with the new AED SaveStation installed at the Sparwood Leisure Centre. (Contributed by District of Sparwood)
Sparwood installs public AED

The SaveStation was installed thanks to a grant from CP Rail

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Thursday, June 10, mentioned Grand Forks among two other COVID “hot spots” in B.C. Photo: Screenshot - YouTube COVID-19 BC Update, June 10, 2021
PHO Henry says West Kootenay city is a COVID ‘hot spot’ in B.C.

There are 11 cases of COVID-19 in the Grand Forks local health area, according the BC CDC

(File)
“Gift card scam,” and “grandparent scam” are on the rise, Cranbrook RCMP say

Folks are falling for these scams: “No Government agency or reputable company will ever ask anyone to pay with gift cards in lieu of their fines”

t
How to tell if a call from ‘CRA’ is legitimate or a scam

Expert says it’s important to verify you really are dealing with the CRA before you give out any info

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets campers while visiting McDougall, Ont. on Thursday, July 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
71% of B.C. men say they’d prefer to go camping with Trudeau: survey

Most British Columbians with plans to go camping outdoors say they’d prefer to go with Trudeau or Shania Twain

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

Chilliwack cocaine trafficker Clayton Eheler seen with a tiger somewhere in Asia in 2014. Eheler was sentenced to nine years jail in 2018, but was released on bail in October 2020 pending his appeal of conviction.(Facebook)
Director of civil forfeiture seeks $140,000 from Fraser Valley drug dealer’s father-in-law

Clayton Eheler’s father-in-law Ray Morrissey caught with money in Fort St. John by B.C.’s gang unit

A Comox Valley shellfish operator pleaded guilty and was fined $10,000 in provincial court in Courtenay earlier this year. Record file photo
B.C. clam harvester fined $10,000 for Fisheries Act violations

Charges against three others were stayed in Courtenay Provincial Court

Frank Phillips receives a visit from his wife Rena at Nanaimo Seniors Village on their 61st wedding anniversary, March 31, 2020. Social visits have been allowed since COVID-19 vaccination has been offered in all care homes. (Nanaimo News Bulletin)
B.C. prepares mandatory vaccination for senior care homes

180 more cases of COVID-19 in B.C. Friday, one more death

Lorraine Gibson, 90, received a COVID-19 immunization at the South Surrey Park and Ride vaccination clinic. (File photo: Aaron Hinks)
Surrey has had 25% of B.C.’s total COVID-19 cases

Surrey recorded 4,012 cases in May

Most Read