Opinion

COLUMN: What happened to Toad Mountain’s native son?

Elizabeth, Fred, and David Morice are seen in a photo taken sometime in the 1890s. They lived on Toad Mountain, where David ran an hotel and Fred was born.  - Courtesy Linda Morice
Elizabeth, Fred, and David Morice are seen in a photo taken sometime in the 1890s. They lived on Toad Mountain, where David ran an hotel and Fred was born.
— image credit: Courtesy Linda Morice

First of two parts

I’ve long wondered what became of two children with intimate ties to the Silver King mine, Nelson’s original reason for being. One was born there. The other was named after it.

I was reminded of the pair recently while looking into how Fredericton, the mine’s townsite, got its name. Thanks to online genealogy and digitized newspaper sites, I was finally able to learn their fates, although neither story has a happy ending.

John William Frederick (Fred) Morice was born November 23, 1892 at Fredericton to Elizabeth and David Morice — the only birth I’m aware of there, although other children grew up at the mine. David ran the Toad Mountain Hotel, also called the Grand View and Morice House.

The following March, David “took a run down” to Nelson and according to The Miner, reported “the only native born inhabitant of Toad Mountain as thriving.” On that visit, David registered his son’s birth, erroneously giving the year as 1893. He listed the “accoucher” — a fancy word for midwife — as Mrs. Foster.

This was Alice (Mother) Foster, also known as the Midnight Nurse. She came to Nelson in 1888 from Revelstoke and ran a laundry near the corner of Baker and Josephine. Her newspaper ads claimed “None but white help employed” which was typical of the day — yet incredible, for Mother Foster herself was black. She died in Nelson on July 28, 1894 having, as her death registration put it, “suffered the alcoholism.” She was about 60.

David Morice returned to Nelson from Fredericton in October — one gets the impression such visits were infrequent — where he was “looking around for a house in which to keep his family during the winter.” It’s unknown if he found one.

In June 1895, David staked a northwest extension of the Grand View mining claim, which he named the Freddie Morice after his son. At some point he transferred a half interest to J.M. Carroll of Kimberley, and then received it back in 1900.

In the fall of 1899, perhaps fed up with living on Toad Mountain, Elizabeth Morice hired the local architectural firm of Ewart and Carrie to design her a home in Nelson on Lake Street, between Cedar and Park. John Toye and William Gardiner were awarded the $2,000 construction contract.

It’s unclear whether David also lived in this house — he continued to run the hotel at Fredericton, despite the best efforts of Silver King officials to have his license stripped. Their exact nature of the dispute wasn’t well explained in the newspapers.

On June 2, 1902, David died of tuberculosis, age 45, survived by his wife and seven-year-old son. (My jaw dropped this week when I checked findagrave.com to see if David was buried in Nelson — he was — and discovered the family photo that appears with this column.)

Elizabeth then began renting out rooms in her home, advertising them at $5 to $7.50 per month. Young Fred’s name appeared in the Nelson Tribune once in late 1903, when he was promoted to Grade 2.

We lose track of mother and son for the next few years, but around 1910, they moved to Oak Bay, where they lived at 1665 Fell Street. Elizabeth ran a grocery store at the same address, while Fred was a carpenter with William Dunford & Son and later a chauffeur.

Unfortunately, he contracted pneumonia, and following a two-week fight, died on March 11, 1920.

He was 27, although his obituary, death registration, and tombstone all said 26 — perhaps the result of the error his father made registering his birth. Fred was buried at Victoria’s Ross Bay cemetery.

His epitaph reads: “Think of him still as the same/I say he is not dead — he is just away/Mother.”

His mother only outlived him by three years.

Next: A boy named Silver King.

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