Like most of of early resource based communities they were victims of the “Boom or Bust” economies. Anyox was no different, it had over 2500 people living and working there by 1915 but by 1935 it was on its way to being a Ghost Town. The Anyox smelter owned by Granby Consolidated Mining, Smelting and Power Co produced blister copper (~99% purity) and smelted 321 546 tonnes between 1914 and 1935.
“Excerpt from Great Mining Camps of Canada 2. article”
Outside Observatory Inlet, the world was being strangled by the Great Depression. The bottom fell out of the copper price and Anyox, being a single economy town, was bereft of a buffer. Forces beyond Granby governed the future of the town. The company kept the operation going but finally succumbed to the influences of the depressed global economy. By early 1935, close to 50 million kilograms of unsold copper, the equivalent of three year’s worth of production, sat in a huge, coffin shaped stack near the harbour. Mining operations ceased on July 31, 1935. One thousand people were laid off and 2500 people became virtually homeless overnight in one of the most desperate periods of modern history.
1938 Granby dismantled and shipped out most of the machinery from the mine, mill, machine shop, powerhouses, and town, including kilometres of rails and the steam and electric locomotives that for years had trundled back and forth to feed the mines. A skeleton crew of about 15 men and a few family members stayed behind, while everyone else departed with what furniture and keepsakes they could carry. For the children who knew only the security and safety of Anyox, it must have been terrifying – even more so for their parents as they set forth into a future that would remain bleak, harsh and desperate until the economy began to recover with the onset of World War II.
After arriving at Anyox and gazing up on the ridge and seeing the stacks rising high above the old historic town a rumored story unfolded. It was said that a snowmobile lies in the bottom of the stack and and nobody knows if this is true and if so how would it have gotten there. The group was intrigued and determined to find out if this was true. The first technique we used to solve this mystery was launching a drone with a camera to fly up and over the stack and record the view looking down into it. This deployment of the drone was successful but the video footage was inconclusive. Half of the group then decided to hike up to the stack and check for ourselves. Five of us made it up to the stack including both a 83 and 75 year old participants. To our amazement there was an old mangled snowmachine lying in the base of the stack. We next wondered how it could have possibly made it there. It seemed to brushy to snowmachine up there and part of the legend was that a helicopter dropped in in through the top of the stack and that is why it was so mangled. Maybe one day we will find out the real truth to the “Anyox Snowmachine”!!!
The Anyox Dam transported water from the dam to the powerhouse. They used wooden stave pipes to transport the water water and used a stack midway to buffer the pressure between the two. We are able to hike up to one of the stacks and view the remains of the water lines.
We will be lucky enough to to visit the site of the old Dolly Varden mine this year on our Ghost Towns of Northwest BC trip. From Alice Arm, the road up the Kitsualt River Valley has been repaired to within a km of the mine. We will take a leisurely stroll the remainder of the way and tour the site. If you are interested in the history of the area then Daryl Muralt’s book on the Dolly Varden mine is must read.
Steel Rails & Silver Dreams by Daryl Muralt
Beautifully done history of the Dolly Varden silver mines in British Columbia, one of Canada’s richest silver mines, and the Dolly Varden Mines Railway that served it. Details the physical and economic struggles that eventually led to its demise: the rugged territory, the pitched battle between between the mine owners and the railway construction company, Taylor Engineering Co., and the ensuing financial embarrassments, and the logging operations that used the railway after the silver mine failed. Packed with black and white photos, detailed information and diagrams of the varied locomotives (including the Climax) and rolling stock, and maps (including end paper maps of the entire region).
As Anyox is one of the highlights of our Ghost Towns of Northwest BC I thought I would a interesting fact about the town.
During the development of Anyox, Lady Luck did not just smile on the company, she beamed. Everything the company touched seemed to have a hidden bonus and in one case, literally turned into a pot of gold. During the removal of a small island to widen and deepen the harbour, blasting exposed a quartz vein that contained enough gold to yield a profit of $3 million, enough to pay for the entire cost of building the town and processing facilities. This vein and several similar quartz veins nearby proved to be perfect flux, an essential ingredient in the smelting process. Later, a layer of bluish clay, encountered while digging sewers for the town, was recognized as the rare type suitable for lining retorts and furnaces in the smelter. Until that moment, Granby had been forced to import this clay from the eastern United States at great expense.
From Great Mining Camps of Canada 2.
The History and Geology of the Anyox Copper Camp, British Columbia
On our Ghost Towns of Northwest BC tour we are privileged enough to be one of the only groups allowed in to tour this historic Ghost Town. Another added benefit is being able to stay over night in the town. Staying overnight onsite allows for the guest to explore on their own after dinner or before breakfeast if they desire. You might ask where would you stay in this 1920–30’s abandoned town? The owner has brought in a camp style accommodations that are relatively quite nice for being in such a remote location. The lodging is on the 2nd floor and overlooks Granby Bay. We will have power for everyone to charge their batteries and showers for everyone to freshen up.
Have you come upon a Boneyard! Don’t miss a chance to see this amazing site on the UNBC Ghost Towns tour. This site still holds hundreds of skulls and bones from over 100 years ago when the local Butcher George Frizzell would bring in live cows to butcher in his shop which was situated on a wharf over the Skeena River. The remnants of his work still remain to this day!
If you have a passion for visiting cemteries and especially remote, overgrown, seldom visited then our ghost towns trip is for you. We will be visiting the Port Essington and Anyox Cemeteries. Both of these are so remote and seldom visited that it is a bit of a challenge to even find the sites and when we do the moss and plants are taking over. Here are a few photos.
The last and final day we visited the old Salmon Cannery town of Port Essington and then finished it off with a soothing soak in a remote hotspring. We also do this same day on our Ghost Towns of Northwest BC tour. The highlight was a bushwack to the Port Essington Cemetery. I would also like to thank tour guest Pat Suter for the use of many of her photos in the blog over the past 5 days.