The 200 block of Railway Avenue in Ashcroft, Jan. 1, 1898, showing (from l) the tinsmith shop, Gibson’s Meat Market (small building), Mark Dumond’s hardware store (white false-fronted building), and the Cargile Hotel on the corner of 2nd and Railway. The first Journal office was in a shed adjacent to the tinsmith shop. (Photo credit: Ashcroft Museum and Archives)

In 1895 a newcomer to Ashcroft decided to start a newspaper

‘We came to Ashcroft to publish a Mining Journal and mind our own business’

Countless people live where they do because they visited a place and decided to stay. In doing so, relatively few people create a legacy which is still going strong more than a century later.

Dr. Frank Stewart Reynolds was one of those few people.

He almost certainly did not set out to create something which would live on for 125 years, when he visited Ashcroft in the spring of 1895, but create one he did, as the newspaper he founded in the B.C. Interior prepares to celebrate its 125th anniversary.

In 1894 Reynolds, a native of Wisconsin who had moved to Loomis, Washington, became intrigued by a proposed hydraulic project 13 miles north of what was then called Quesnelle, in the Cariboo region of neighbouring British Columbia. He and his family made the 500 mile journey and spent the summer at Quesnelle, but in due course he became more interested in the prospects afforded by Ashcroft, some 200 miles south.

During a visit to the town he saw the possibility of establishing a newspaper in Ashcroft, which was the gateway to the goldfields and mines of central and northern B.C. The Canadian Pacific Railway had established a station and depot in the town a decade earlier, and the British Columbia Express Company had moved its headquarters to Ashcroft from Yale. Almost everything that flowed into and out of the towns and mining camps of much of the province came through Ashcroft, and the bustling town boasted hotels, restaurants, saloons, churches, blacksmiths, livery stables, general stores, a thriving Chinatown, and much more.

One thing it — and the region — lacked was a newspaper. The province’s first newspaper, the British Colonist, had started in Victoria in 1858, where it was joined by the Victoria Daily Times in 1884. The Kamloops Inland Sentinel started in 1880, in 1891 the Chilliwack Progress and Vernon News began publication, and a newspaper started in Kaslo in 1893.

However, there was no newspaper serving the vast area of the Cariboo and Southern Interior. The Cariboo Sentinel had operated in Barkerville starting in 1865, but had folded 10 years later. Furthermore, the only newspaper in B.C. dedicated to the province’s mining industry was The Ledge, which had started in tiny Greenwood (northwest of Grand Forks) in 1893, and Reynolds saw a need to be filled.

He was clearly a man for whom the phrase “to think is to act” was a guiding principle, not an abstract concept. Almost as soon as the idea came to him, he arranged for the printing plant of a small weekly newspaper which he owned in Loomis to be shipped to Ashcroft.

Reynolds enlisted as a partner Mr. A.H. Sroufe, about whom little is known other than that in 1895 he was a member of the Ashcroft School Board. However, he and Reynolds obviously shared an interest in news and newspapers, and by mid-spring of 1895 the pair had moved into a shed adjoining a tinsmith shop on Railway Avenue, two doors down from the Cargile Hotel (now the site of Interior Savings) and adjacent to Mark Dumond’s hardware store Gibson’s Meat Market (the site now occupied by Community Futures Sun Country). The printing press was installed, advertisers were sought, news was gathered, and on May 9, 1895 the first issue of the B.C. Mining Journal appeared, billing itself as “A weekly dissertation of news of the various Mining Districts of British Columbia, with a gist of happenings throughout the Province.” A one-year subscription cost $2.

Reynolds and Sroufe also set out their qualifications for operating such a venture: “The Mining Journal owners are fairly well advanced in life, have had some experience in journalism, and have always made a living.

“We came to Ashcroft to publish a Mining Journal and mind our own business. Whether we make a success or not time will tell. Let the people judge.”

To be continued

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The first Journal office was down the street from the Cargile Hotel, which was an early advertiser in the paper. (Photo credit: Journal files)

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