Two-hundred fortieth in a series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
In 1895 or earlier, George Edwards built an hotel a few kilometers west of Christina Lake, on the trail between Grand Forks and Marcus, Wash., near present-day Billings.
It was first mentioned in the Midway Advance of Nov. 11, 1895: “Mr. Geo. Edwards, who keeps the stopping place and runs the ferry over the Kettle river on the road to Marcus and just below the customs house at Gilpin’s, is about to apply for a license to retail liquor.”
Edwards’ Halfway House was first advertised in the Advance of Feb. 24, 1896. On May 25, the same newspaper carried a legal ad for a timber claim “Commencing at a post about one half mile in a north-easterly direction from Edwards’ ferry, Kettle river …”
The ferry’s northern landing was presumably somewhere along Lot 719, for which Edward obtained a 343-acre Crown grant on Jan. 31, 1898. But there is no record of what the vessel looked like or how much a fare cost.
A ferry might have previously operated at this point; Marjorie Reynolds wrote in the Boundary Historical Society’s first report that Robert Duncan Kerr arrived in the area in 1889 and “In 1891, he put in a ferry on the river west of Cascade Falls to replace a bridge washed out by the high water.” However, Kerr left the area the following year.
In addition to being a hotelier, Edwards was a prospector and miner who owned several nearby claims. According to the Grand Forks Miner of Feb. 6, 1897: “A new camp that promises to be one of the richest camps tributary to Grand Forks is what is now known as Edward’s Camp. It is situated about a quarter of a mile down from Edward’s Ferry, on the Marcus stage road, and is named after the first locator in that section, Mr. George Edwards.”
On May 8, the Miner reported the hotel — now known by a different name — had a new proprietor: “Mr. and Mrs. William Graham, whom until recently conducted the Star house at Colville, Wash., have assumed the management of the Wayside house at Edwards ferry, where they will be pleased to have all their old friends and patrons call and see them as they ‘pass by.’”
The same issue carried news that Graham planned to build a bridge to replace the ferry. It was reported “nearly completed” by mid-September, and Graham was soon rewarded for his enterprise with increased patronage.
With the ferry no longer needed, however, a name change was in the offing. Edwards’ Ferry became Graham’s Bridge, first mentioned in the Miner on Nov. 20: “Wm. Graham of Graham’s bridge was in the city this week transacting business.” The name didn’t gain much traction and soon reverted to Edwards’ Ferry.
In February 1898, George Edwards sold his ranch to the Cascade Water and Light Co. Expecting big things, Graham leased the hotel for another year and made expansion plans. That fall, he put a 30-by-50 foot addition on the building and found a new partner in Grand Forks hotelier Charles Van Ness. Graham also bought an interest in the Grand Forks brewery.
At year’s end, Edwards, who still held the liquor license, applied to transfer it to Graham and Van Ness. The legal ad gave the establishment’s name as the “Edwards’ Ferry Hotel at Edwards Ferry.” When the license came up for renewal six months later, the hotel’s name was given as the Ferry House of Edwards Ferry.
All was quiet for the next year and a half, with no further mentions of the hotel. Then, on July 26, 1901, the Spokane Spokesman Review announced: “Lloyd A. Manly, Fred Wollaston and Colin Campbell of Grand Forks are erecting a hotel building about two miles west of [Cascade City], near the old Edwards’ ferry.”
This new hotel, called the Riverside, was built by Ed H. Willett and opened in August under the management of Wollaston and Hugh Cannon.
Meanwhile, according to the Grand Forks Gazette, Duncan McFarland “rented the Wayside Inn at Graham’s Ferry” and had it overhauled and refurnished for a grand reopening. William Graham, meanwhile, re-established a ferry across the Kettle River. (What happened to his bridge? It’s not clear.)
All this activity was prompted by grading for a new line by the Vancouver, Victoria, and Eastern Railway and Navigation Co., which employed 300 to 400 men. Once the work was finished, so was Edwards’ Ferry.
The final mention in the Phoenix Pioneer of Dec. 21, 1901 indicated an hotel license was issued at Edwards’ Ferry, although it didn’t indicate who received it. The ultimate fate of the hotels is not known, nor is their precise location.
The exact location of the ferry isn’t known either, although Boundary Museum Society archivist Sue Adrain has a pretty good idea. She believes it was either on her property at Billings or very close to it.
“Norm Bundschuh, our old neighbor, used to find all kinds of things down on his lower field — lots of iron, horseshoes, bottles, etc.,” she says.
The late Art Twells also told Bundschuh that when he was digging up land to plant an orchard, he came across bullet casings, buckles, and bottles.
“He said you could also see the footprint of the hotel and that cables were still there for the ferry,” Adrain says. “Art said the hotel burned down around 1918 or so.”
George Edwards was involved in the Grand Forks brewery through 1904, but his whereabouts after that are unknown. The Grahams went on to farm up the North Fork at a spot initially named after them, but renamed Caesar in the 1920s — as described in this space last week.