When Dr. Frank Stewart Reynolds and Mr. A.H. Sroufe decided to start the B.C. Mining Journal in 1895, and base it out of Ashcroft, they had very solid reasons for both choices.
The gold mining that had put the colony (and later province) of British Columbia on the map in 1858, and opened up the area to an influx of newcomers, had tailed off, but new mining ventures had taken their place, and more were coming at a rapid pace. The Mining Journal would give “weekly news regarding the rich placer and quartz mining industries of British Columbia,” and the second issue of the paper noted that “Mining and agriculture are the foundation of all prosperity. These items British Columbia has in an exceedingly large degree, and a thousand industries we have not should be woven around these stable bases. The people should commence with the small industries and later the big industries would fall into line.”
The location for the paper’s base had been chosen after much consideration. “After carefully viewing the situation, the publishers decided that no other point in the province could offer the facilities for the gathering of mining news from the various districts that Ashcroft could, and while the Mining Journal will endeavour to give the Ashcroft region a good and reliable gist of weekly news, it will be principally devoted … to gathering and publishing happenings in Cariboo, Yale, Lillooet, and Kootenay mining districts, and will endeavour to fill a long-felt want in the province, i.e. to be distinctly a mining journal.”
Neither the Journal office nor the Ashcroft Museum possesses a copy of that first issue from May 9, 1895. In 2018, bundles of the Journal going back to 1895 were retrieved from the second storey of the building, but the large folder containing the May 1895 to April 1896 issues starts with the May 16, 1895 edition. A pencilled notation at the top of the front page of that issue records that the May 9 issue had been framed, but a subsequent handwritten note from L.W. Cumming (grandson of R.D. Cumming, who had purchased the paper in 1912 and was its long-time editor) indicates that the paper had crumbled to pieces and been destroyed.
The issues of May 16 and May 23 record some of the reaction to Reynolds and Sroufe’s new venture. The Nelson Tribune noted that “The British Columbia Mining Journal, published at Ashcroft, is the latest newspaper venture in the province. As its name indicates, it will devote its attention to the mining industry, more particularly to the section of which Ashcroft is the shipping point. The first number contains much news that is interesting, and if the editors can only keep up their ‘lick’, the journal will be a fixture.”
The Vernon News said that the first issue was a credit to its proprietors, and “promises to be of much use in assisting the development of the mining region lying north of the C.P.R.” (Ashcroft was the northernmost depot and station for the Canadian Pacific Railway in the Interior, and the closest one to the mining areas of the central and northern areas of B.C.).
A paper called the World (location unidentified) said that the initial issue of the paper was “a creditable production, especially so when the size of Ashcroft and the opportunities for receiving advertising patronage are considered” (showing that even in 1895, the necessity of advertising to support a newspaper was a major consideration).
The Inland Sentinel of Kamloops—the Journal’s closest rival—noted that Ashcroft was growing rapidly, with a number of new businesses and branches of industry starting up there, and while commending the new paper could not resist a slight dig at it. “The latest [business] is [Ashcroft’s] newspaper … I am sure that we all sincerely hope that the ‘British Columbia Mining Journal’ will have the greatest of success but we cannot suppress our doubts on the subject.” (The Sentinel merged with the Kamloops Standard in 1916 to become the Standard-Sentinel, which folded in 1924.)
The first existing issue, from May 16, 1895, contains mining news from Quesnelle [sic], Soda Creek, Washington State, Horse Fly, the Slocan Valley, Lytton, North Bend, Rossland, Yale, Lillooet, Barkerville, and more. However, as promised, the paper also contained local, non-mining, news. An unnamed correspondent from Clinton wrote to say that the May 9 issue had been received, and that “judging by the comments, everyone was satisfied with the first issue. Several acknowledged that it was ahead of their expectations. All wish the Journal every success.” The piece then went on to say that “crops are sprouting and growing, in spite of the cold weather” and recounted some recent events in the Clinton area, including the search for jurymen to sit on the Court of Assize that was scheduled for May 27.
The coming and goings of various people to and from Ashcroft were noted, as was an upcoming picnic at Hat Creek to celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday. Flooding was, then as now, a concern; the paper noted that “The weather has grown warmer throughout the Cariboo. Fraser River began raising Tuesday morning, for the next two months it will be an object of great interest.” The “growth and prosperity” of Ashcroft was demonstrated by the need for more room at the school (located at the Community Hall on Bancroft Street), and bids had been received for the construction of an 18- by 20-foot addition to the existing building.
While the local news was often relegated to “filler” status on the fourth and final page of each issue, the ads were largely from local businesses in Ashcroft and Clinton: the Ashcroft, Cariboo Exchange, and Cargile Hotels in Ashcroft; the Clinton and Dominion Hotels in Clinton; Harvey Bailey and Co. (“Miners Outfitters and General Merchants”), I. Lehman (“Blacksmith, Wheelwright, and Wagon Builder: Good Work and Low Prices”), J.B. Arthur, Tinsmith; Smith and Mitchell (blacksmiths and carriage builders); Charles Haddock (livery and stables); F. W. Foster (general merchant); and the British Columbia Express Company were among the Ashcroft advertisers.
There were ads from the 20-Mile House, James B. Uren, blacksmith, and D.A. Stoddart, dealer in stoves and steel ranges (plus “A full line of campers outfits”) in Clinton, and other local merchants, suppliers, and outfitters. An agent listed lots for sale in Ashcroft (which was then confined to the area now known as the downtown section) at $50 to $200 each, noting that the town had shown increased growth in every year since 1885, and that continued growth was predicted; the lots would, the ad promised, double in value almost immediately. The Journal also advertised a “first-class Job Printing department” where “all kinds of Miscellaneous Printing will be done in a neat and artistic manner, and at most reasonable rates.”
This balance of mining news taking front and centre, with local news present but in second place, continued from 1895 to early 1899. By that time Sroufe had left the venture (in 1896), and Reynolds was carrying on by himself. By 1898 the conditions in the Journal’s initial “office”—a small shed adjoining Mr. Arthur’s tinsmith shop on Railway Avenue—had obviously grown sufficiently unsatisfactory that a new building was commissioned for the paper on 4th Street, and in 1899 it moved into its new quarters, where it remains to this day.
In May of that year Reynolds took the momentous decision to change the paper’s focus and name. Mining news would be relegated to second place, with local news from the area taking prominence, and as of the May 6, 1899 issue the paper became the Ashcroft Journal; the name (with minor variations over the decades) by which it continues to be known more than 120 years later.