TURNBULL, Elsie Grant




Author Tags: Disaster, Local History, Mitchell Press

The 'Chronicler of the Kootenays', Turnbull was born in St. Mary's, a town in south-west Ontario. She graduated from University of Toronto with a B.A. in English and History. She moved to B.C. upon her marriage to Douglas Turnbull, a metallurgical engineer working for Cominco at Trail, where she lived for four decades. She wrote for her local newspaper, B.C. Outdoors, Western Living, Canada West, Pacific Northwesterner, Westworld and the Beaver. After organizing the West Kootenay Historical Society (later the Trail Historical Society) in 1952, she served on the Council of the B.C. Historical Association, becoming its president in 1955. She retired in 1966 and spent several years on the executive of the Victoria branch of the BCHA. In 1983 she received a Regional Certificate of Merit from the Canadian Historical Association.

Turnball's various accounts of the history of Trail recall the life and times of 'Colonel' Eugene Sayre Topping, an Indian scout and prospector who promoted the region. Turnball also contributed the section in Tragedies of the Crowsnest Pass that concerns the disaster-prone town of Fernie in the B.C. section of the Crowsnest Pass. Founded in 1898, it's named after prospector and wheeler-dealer William Fernie who supposedly brought an Indian curse upon the area after he jilted an Indian princess he had courted in the 1880s in order to learn the location of some Elk River Valley coal deposits. Her mother called forth a curse on the white settlers "who will suffer from fire, flood, strife and discord; all will finally die from fire and water." One of several mine explosions killed 128 men and a fire in 1908 left 6,000 people homeless, although only ten residents died.

BOOKS:

Trail, 1901-1961: 60 Years of Progress. Production editing by Craig Weir. Trail Diamond Jubilee Committee, 1961.
Topping's Trail: The First Years of a Now Famous Smelter City. Mitchell Press, 1964.
Trail Between Two Wars: The Story of a Smelter City. Turnbull, 1980.
Trail, A Smelter City. Sunfire Publications, 1985.
Church in the Kootenays: Story of the United Church in Kootenay Presbytery
Tragedies of the Crowsnest Pass. Co-authored with Frank Anderson. Heritage House, 1983, 1988, 1989.
Ghost Towns and Drowned Towns of West Kootenay. Heritage House, 1988, 1989.

[BCBW 2004]