Help sought to solve a history mystery

A reader writes to ask for help providing the background for an abandoned property near the old McAbee site.

Dear Editor,

A man and a boy brought me four photos of an old house near the McAbee gravel pit. They wanted to know the history of the place they had discovered close to the CN rail track, just below the former Jack Christian place, southwest of Walhachin.

Intrigued, I made calls, and wracked my brains to recall old-timers in the district who might solve the mystery. Those who might have been able to, have long since passed on.

The house has a portico, quite different from any I have seen on old houses in the area. The portico is pillared by wood and cement, and is high and tent-roofed. The entire building is sided with cedar shakes, which were imported. The building is quite lengthy, with additions added on over the years. The building has darkened with wind and weather.

I think the house, barn, and outbuildings were built before the railroad. The CN went through here about 1910. There is a mine less than half-a-kilometre from the site, and is at a higher elevation on what locals call Rattlesnake Mountain. There is an adit, a rail track, and even a small ore carrier deep inside a tunnel. A geologist friend thinks they were mining for gold there.

We have been able to discover that the CN bought the property and leased it to ranchers, who probably grazed cattle there. A series of families may have occupied the property over the years. Water may have been obtained from a creek that ran down through a gorge near the mine site. The creek has long since dried up.

I think the mining venture might be linked to the building of this unusual house. If anyone knows anything about this property that sits isolated and desolate, with few indications of use around it, we would be grateful to hear about it. You can contact me by telephone at (250) 453-9095, or by e-mail at

Esther Darlington