A cabin built by a prosperous Sandon pioneer a century ago was destroyed by fire last week.
The Wilson cabin burned to the ground after a fire started in its chimney early morning on Jan. 11.
The lone occupant of the cabin managed to escape unharmed.
The landmark was a well-built frame cabin that was built by pioneer teamster, Jack Wilson who arrived in the Slocan in 1891 with the very first wave of settlers.
Wilson was an experienced horseman and he proved his skills in the construction of some of the earliest trails and then as a freighter for many different mines. At the apex of his career he had a contract with a four-horse team and a heavy freight wagon in which he transported sacks of high-grade ore from the famous Slocan Star (Silversmith) mine up Sandon Creek to the railroads in Sandon. He was still working his contract in his senior years when he lost control of the horses and wagon. All four horses were killed and the wagon was destroyed. He lost his nerve and it was the end of his career as a teamster.
Wilson’s original home in Sandon was a crude log structure on the same location as the site of the recent fire. Following 1910 Wilson leased a portion of the then-defunct Payne Mine. His prowess as a prospector was proven when he discovered a rich lens of silver ore that the Payne company had missed.
He amassed a sizeable fortune of about $50,000 around the time of World War I. He was too old to fight in the war, so he remained in Sandon and continued to mine. He invested much of his money in Vancouver real estate.
Wilson decided to upgrade his Sandon cabin and he tore down the original log structure, replacing it just around the end of the war with a neat and tidy frame building 12’ wide x 16’ long.
It was a one-room cabin, but must have seemed like a palace compared to his first shack. Wilson’s thriftiness was notably apparent because the two most visible sides of the cabin were clad in milled siding but the two less visible sides had only shiplap. The cabin was painted dark green with white trim and stood as a landmark in the area known as Star Gulch for the past century.
Wilson continued to live in the cabin following his mining years. The Great Depression destroyed his land investments and steadily eroded his small fortune until he was forced to go to work on a labour gang road-building crew. It was here that he met his sudden death in 1937. A falling rock from a bluff on the old Sandon highway struck him in the head and killed him instantly.
Wilson was a single man with no children, but he befriended Eugene Petersen after she arrived in Sandon as a child in 1923. Eugene’s real father abandoned his family and Wilson effectively became Eugene’s father and mentor.
The cabin was left to Eugene upon Wilson’s death. Eugene gifted the cabin to Hal Wright in 1970 and Hal recalls many good memories in the cabin. Many other people have enjoyed using it as a residence over the past 50 years. Steve Klapecki of New Denver resided in the cabin for at least 20 years.
Many references of Jack (John) Wilson can be read in Eugene Petersen’s book “Window in the Rock”.
Hal Wright and Vida Turok have started a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to rebuild a replica of the cabin. Anyone who would like to see more photos and history of the Sandon area can visit the community’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/sandonbc.