Re-built Pioneer-era McBride Hardware Store featured in the Fort Steele Heritage Town near Cranbrook, B.C.

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I had not been to the Fort Steele Heritage Town near Cranbrook, B.C. for many years. On a visit earlier this month to Cranbrook I was very pleased to see the McBride Hardware Store (as in the year 1900) had been added to the re-created pioneer heritage park since I was last there.

Fun to see the store, as the store owners James D. McBride (1866-1941) and his brother Frank A. McBride (1856-1910) were definitely relatives of ours. My great-great-grandfather Samuel McBride (1819-1905) and Jim and Frank’s father Alexander McBride (1833-1912) were brothers who had a tinsmithing and wood stove business in London, Ontario. In the mid-1880s Alex moved west and established Calgary’s first hardware store on Stephen Avenue in Calgary. Known as A. McBride and Company, the store did a roaring business.

In the 1890s Alex McBride expanded with hardware stores in Edmonton and Red Deer in Alberta, as well as Rossland, Fort Steele and Cranbrook in British Columnia. All of the stores were manned by Alex’s sons, except for Rossland where Samuel’s son G. Walter McBride managed the store and soon bought it from Uncle Alex in about 1897. While all this business expansion was happening Alex served as Mayor of Calgary in 1896. The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) decision in 1898 to bypass the well-established town of Fort Steele in its new Crowsnest Railway route resulted in Fort Steele becoming a ghost town, and the small community of Cranbrook housing a key station for the new railway. For a time, the McBride brothers had stores in both Fort Steele and Cranbrook, but soon shut the Fort Steele store down and moved its stock to the Cranbrook store.

My second cousin Bruce McBride Jennejohn (left) and I outside the McBride Hardware Store at Fort Steele in September 2022. He and I are both first cousins, three times removed of Jim and Frank McBride who had the pioneer store.

Frank moved on to another store business in Red Deer, but Jim became a fixture of Cranbrook’s retail scene until moving to the U.S. in 1920. In 1935 he returned to Cranbrook, bought back his store, and ran it until his death in a car crash near Spokane in 1941.  According to the book “Tales of the Kootenays”, James Duncan “Jim” McBride had the distinction in 1905 of owning Cranbrook’s first automobile.

The B.C. government established the heritage town of Fort Steele as a tourist attraction and educational park in the 1960s. Some buildings were moved from the original site of Fort Steele, across the highway to the current location, but the McBride Hardware Store is one of many structures there to be completely re-built on site.

Display and sign in McBride Hardware Store in Fort Steele, B.C.

My grandfather R.L. McBride (1881-1959) had worked for three years as a CPR ticket agent in London, Ontario when he decided in 1900 to leave London (where several McBride families had settled after emmigrating from County Down in Northern Ireland in 1831) in 1900 to get experience in the hardware store business in great-uncle Alex’s Calgary store and then at the Rossland store owned and manager by his uncle Walter and then during the winter of 1903-04 at the Byers Hardware store at Sandon in the Silvery Slocan region. In April 1904 he moved to Nelson to be part of the new Wood Vallance Hardware Company, where he worked for the next 46 years before retiring as President and Manager. Wood Vallance in Nelson would grow to have a huge service and distribution area, an annual printed catalogue, and more than 40 employees until fading out of business in the 1980s.  Our family’s hardware store bent ended with R.L. McBride because son Kenneth Gilbert McBride died in action in World War Two, and the other son, my dad Leigh Morgan McBride, knew from an early age that he wanted to be a lawyer rather than in retail business.

Advertisement in Cranbrook newspaper for J.D. McBride Hardware

Gala Dinner on Nov. 5th in Support of New Kaslo Library

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A century after the vibrant 1920s, the exciting spirit of that era will return with a Roaring 20s Gala of great food and entertainment at the Kaslo Legion on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022 beginning at 6 pm.

Participants are encouraged to dress as fancy as they want, joining in the spirit of the night in 1920s style or 2020s style.

There will be enchanting background harp music by Diemm as delectable appetizers are served and guests check out a silent auction of imaginative items. Other entertainment includes a short set by humourist and multi-talented performer Lucas Myers as well as a special dessert feature with violinist Natasha Hall, pianist Yoomi Kim and Aureilean Sudan of Nelson’s Chocofellar. The evening will be emceed by Kaslo’s own Lynn van Deursen.

The multi-course dinner will be a festive seasonal feast with meat, vegetarian and gluten free options.

Tickets at $125 per person are on sale at the library or by email at info@kaslo.bclibrary.ca or phoning 250 353-2942. All proceeds go to the new Kaslo and District Library. More information on the library project, including architectural design illustrations, is on the library website (kaslo.bc.libraries.coop) and at the billboard in the future site of the library at Front and Fifth streets in Kaslo.