Kwinitsa- Feb 12,1943 Slide

On Feb 12, 1943 at McLean Point, at the base of Mount McLean, a snowslide wiped out a Road Building Contractor's bunkhouses,
located on what became the Skeena River Highway which is now Highway 16, near Kwinitsa.

Tomlinson Construction Company Ltd. were working on 12 miles of building the highway between Terrace and Prince Rupert

The Coroner's jury reported they should not have built the camp in that dangerous place.
The Company was warned by many people not to build the camp at this location
After the slide they moved the camp 1 mile to the west to Telegraph Point
This is one of many instances of building a camp to save time in moving men from the job site to a sleeping/eating camp.
Time is money and a working persons safety is sometimes compromised in favour of the money.

There were 3 slides (5 in another newspaper report) that occurred the first at 7:30 am
They dispatched a special hospital train from Prince Rupert after hearing of a report of the slide from the Kwinitsa telegraph operator.
3 doctors, 6 nurses, and 2 first aid men, were sent on the train. CN shut down the whole railine to get the train to the site as quickly as possible.

First slide wiped out 2 small bunkhouses and a first aid shed.
Second slide wiped out the 2 remaining bunkhouses,
Third one destroyed the office
The 6 buildings were all swept into the Skeena River

Around 200 men were working at this site
The camp was built on the side of a steep hill

This slide sadly killed 3 men, and wounded 11 more

3 Deceased

Robert Reginald McClellan
b- Sept 13, 1911 in Kilronan District, SK
d- Feb 12, 1943 on a special hospital train heading back to Prince Rupert, age 30
Buried in Glenbogie Cemetery, St. Walburg, SK
Father- Hector McClellan, b- 1881, Kingston, Scott Tsp, ON
Mother- Eva Maud McClellan, nee Blanchard, b- 1883, Sutherland, Brock ON
daughter of Henry Blanchard and Martha Jane Hill
1916 family in North Battleford

Walter M. McClellan
Florence Y. McClellan
Chester McClellan
Alfred McClellan
Mable McClellan

Grandfather- Samuel McClellan
Grandmother- Agnes McKinnon

Robert Reginald McClellan was married to Bessie Mae Craig with 3 children
(alt wrong spellings in newspaper articles etc.- McLellan in death reg, McClellon?, McLellon?))

Andrew “Andy” Kirkup
b- ?
d- Feb 12, 1943
buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Saskatoon, SK

Both men above were from St. Walburg, SK
Andrew Kirkup was missing for many days until they found his body
He was standing next to a 14 ton Locomotive at the time of the 1st slide, and both were swept away.
He married Phylliss Lorrene Gendron Apr 8, 1935
Her parents were from Makwa SK
Nov 1937 when her dad died she lived at Loon Lake SK, not far from St Walburg.
He is shown as son of John Kirkup from Billings Montana.
1935 Andy Kirkup is shown as a Farm Manager, Loon Lake SK

George Balderchak
b- ?
d- Feb 12, 1943, age 44 of Edgerton AB (Edmonton in one report) was also missing, per one newspaper report
His body was never found and was assumed it ended up swept down the river
He worked in the kitchen at the camp, and was preparing to leave the camp, and hasn't been seen since

Injured and in Hospital in Prince Rupert

Alex Ananoarora- Yorkton SK
Alex Newton- Winnipeg MB
Joseph “Joe” Long- Edmonton AB (caught in one of 2 smaller bunkhouses caught in 1st slide)
Morden Westley- Carrot Creek AB (alt- Wesley Marden)
Alex Houston- Almonte ON
Charles Dormouth- North Battleford SK (45 years old at the time, hit by 2nd slide)
Roland Dormouth- North Battleford SK (son of Charles, hit by 2nd slide)

Slight injured and in hospital in Port Edward

J. Croaker- Port Arthur
William Polley- Winnipeg MB
Gilbert Gustafson- Stratton ON
R. Gilbert- Sault Ste Marie, ON

Other injured mens names in newspapers at the time are not the same as above
Mike Handutura- of Edmonton
G. Huscen- of Edmonton
Bert Cox

Heros of the Day:

2 military doctors happened to be on a train coming from Terrace at the time of the slide. They climbed over the slide and helped with the injured.
Major Everett Raynor (alt Rayner in newspaper articles) of Vancouver, who was stationed at Terrace at the time,
and Capt. Bruce Young, a physician from ON, also staioned in Northern BC, no exact location shown.

Dr Everett Freeman Raynor
b- Nov 3, 1909 in Clayoquot BC
d- Feb 4, 1977 in Vancouver BC, age 67
Eye Specialist
Father- Melbourne Raynor
b- Rose Hall, ON
Mother- Leona Humphries
b- Pomeroy Ohio, USA
Everett married twice I know of:
(1) Edith Jane Hunt, a nurse, Sept 24, 1938 in Victoria BC
b- Neville SK
daughter of Joseph Elmer Hunt and Bertha Almer Churchill, both parents born at Bedford Missouri, USA
(2) Dorothy Audry Welsh

Dr Bruce Smith
b- ?, Ontario
d- ?
I wished I could find this fellow to give him the proper respect he deserves.

My List of those that could have prevented this disaster:

Even though weather caused the slide, the wrong placement of the camp was done on purpose by the Tomlinson Company.
Executives involved listed below

W. S. Tomlinson
William Sherwood Tomlinson
b- Apr 10, 1882 at Ely, Linn, Iowa, USA
d- Apr 10, 1947 in a hotel in Winnipeg MB, age 64
buried in Rogers Grove Cemetery, Ely
son of Joseph Tomlinson and Jean Tomlinson, nee Russell
Married Charlotte Mae Spry of Mt Vernon Iowa, Oct 10, 1908
b- Feb 4, 1881 Clinton Co., Iowa
d- Aug 5, 1968 At her home “Glenlea”, Lake Shore Rd., East Oakville, Halton RM, Ontario, age 87
buried in St. Judes Cemetery Oakville ON
daughter of Johnathan Tamblyn Spry and Ann Marie Taggart

They had 2 sons and 2 daughters:
Joseph Tomlinson
William Sherwood Tomlinson (Jr)
Anna Jean Tomlinson (Greenfield)
Dorothy Frances Tomlinson (MacArthur)
All 4 children above are deceased

William became a naturalized British subject in 1909
Moved to Winnipeg from Toronto, then returned to Toronto in 1936, His home was in Toronto ON when he died
Summer home at “Bexhill” Clarkson ON
started his company in 1910. 1910-1920 extensive railroad and general const (Dams and Reservoirs)
Spring of 1928 he had 2,000 men building the Railroad to Flin Flon MB
1930 turned to Highway Construction
Before his death they turned to Airport Construction, building 40 Airports in Canada during WWII

He was a member of the Shrine and Masonic Lodges
Manitoba Club, Saskatoon Club, and the Granite Club, in Toronto

President of Tomlinson Construction Company Ltd.
Tomlinson Construction (Maritimes) Ltd.
Tomlinson and Brodricks Ltd., all of Toronto
and the Northwest Gravel and Coal Company Ltd, in Winnipeg

G. C. S. Johnstone
b- ?
d- ?
He is hiding from me in the records.
He was Superintendent of the project
This guy at the Coroner's hearing agreed it was built in a dangerous place.
He was in charge and should have known better.

Robert Graff
b- ?
d- ?
Another guy that is hiding in the records
He was General Manager of the Tomlinson Construction Company on this Project, Lived in Vancouver at the time.
Another person to share the blame!
1945 he was General Manager for W.C. Arnott & Co. working on the Hope-Princeton Highway
1945-1946 he lived at 1040 W. Georgia St, Vancouver, but not in 1947 directory.

This company should have been liable for a lot of damages, but probably pain next to nothing to the families.
Would be interesting to find out if they paid one cent.

More Skeena Highway News Articles

The Skeena highway was to be built in 8 sections for a total of 112 miles

7 contracts let by June 1942:
Ryan Construction Company- Vancouver BC
General Construction Company- Vancouver BC
Rayner Construction Company- Toronto
McNamara Construction Company- Toronto
Standard Paving Company- Toronto
Dufferin Construction Company- Toronto
and then Tomlinson Construction Company

One contract was waiting to be let June 1942

Some sections cost $275,000 per mile

It was built for the Army to move supplies from the coast inland.
Dominion Government paid the whole cost because it was a war measures project.

Contracts covered 78 miles from an exisiting road, 11 miles from Prince Rupert to Prudhomme Lake.
and 33 miles from Cedarvale, to connect to a 25 mile existing East of Terrace.

Feb 19, 1943 1 more Tomlinson man was killed and another seriously wounded, when they were hit by a train about 35 miles east of Prince Rupert.
Hendrickus “Henrick” Vangendt age 47, of Vancouver was killed
John Papio was seriously injured.
They were both employees working on this project.
not a great safety record for this Company on this job!

Labor Day, Monday, Sept 4, 1944 the highway was officially opened.
Cost $11,000,000.00 (cost $12,000,000,00 in another report)

Sept 4, 1944 Highway 16 Opening
Sept 4, 1944 opening Skeena River Highway
Postcard courtesy Darren Rieberger
MP Olof Hanson cut the red/white/blue ribbon
Mayor Harry Mark Daggett of Pr. Rupert attended.
Emanuel G “Emil” Haugland was head of the Village of Terrace Commissioners, and presented a key to the village to Mayor Daggett

G. D. Archibald was the Chief Engineer for the project working for the Dominion Government
Graduate of Windsor NS Academy
King's University
Draftsman with the Dominion Iron and Steel Corporation at Sydney NS
He was the City of Saskatoon Engineer from 1914-1947
Arena and park named after him in Saskatoon.
1921 boarding with John Mckay, superintendent of CN Railway in Saskatoon SK
Worked out of Winnipeg for the Grand Trunk Pacific as a private contractor
George Dewolfe Archibald
b- Aug 28, 1884 Truro, Colchester, NS
d- Mar 22, 1947 in Saskatoon SK, age 63
buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Saskatoon, SK
son of John Samuel Archibald and Rachel DeWolfe
married Jane Lucinda MacKenzie, Aug 10, 1911 in Winnipeg MB, she was from Wolfville NS
they had 2 sons

1947 a 1000 ft rock fill diversion into the Skeena River was built to avoid further snow slides in this area.


  • Last modified: 2019/10/30 09:52
  • by dlgent