In 1900 the Molson Company bought a block of land, laid out a townsite in anticipation of its becoming the focus of mining claims in the surrounding hills. Before long a number of businesses were established, a large hotel, the Tonasket, built, and the town was on its way. But when a farmer claimed that all the town was built on his homestead most business moved half a mile north to a new location during the legal squabble. Except for the Molson State Bank building and two small dwellings Molson was left to tumble down.
The mines, like those in our Fairview camp, never lived up to the promise made by the first newspaper published in Oro—it is Oroville now. On Aug. 12, 1892, the paper had this to say: “The camp (Fairview) is in the same gold belt as we are and proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that this is the most extensive mineral belt in the world.”
Although rich gold pockets were found and placer mining stretched along Mary Ann Creek, a tributary of the Kettle, it would appear that the district did not lie on the Bonanza extending from Hedley, B.C., through Camp McKinney and the Boundary to the Kootenays and Slocan.
The country around Molson is similar to the rolling open hills of Richter Pass and Bridesville. Similarly it seems to be drier than it was during the early days of the 20th century. Wheat is no longer a glamour crop.
Molson is about 15 miles east and nearly 3,000 feet higher than the Okanogan Valley at Oroville. It is only a long mile south of the international border. From the old town the top of our Mount Baldy is in plain sight. Until recently, the Great Northern Railway tracks running just south of the border dodged into Canada at several points in Idaho and Washington. From 1906, well into the 1930’s, one could travel by train from Penticton, B.C., to Spokane by way of Oroville, Wash.; Sidley, B.C., on Anarchist Mountain, to Molson. From Molson the rails turned into Canada again for 20 miles, missing Bridesville, B.C., by half a mile, thence to Myncaster, B.C.; Ferry, Wash , across the river from Midway, and on to Grand Forks. But the trains do not run any more through Molson where the depot, rearing skyward to 3,700 feet, was the highest the the state.
Weeds now grow where trains used to run and the rails have been taken away and except for the large school which serves the surrounding country there is little left to suggest that Molson once supported two stores, a hotel, two saloons, a meat market, creamery, drug store, harness shop, blacksmith, a community hall, a doctor, veterinarian, an attorney, and, of all things, a millinery shop together with several dwellings. The Molson State Bank building which later became the post office until 1967, is one of the three original structures to remain.
From Penticton it is a comfortable 90-minute drive south along B.C. No. 97 to Oroville, Washington, thence east another 15 miles to the ghost town, Molson, high In-the rolling hills. The Okanogan County (U.S.A.) society has done a remarkable job in saving available buildings, establishing the location of streets, collecting, assembling and identifying memorabilia of another age. Among pieces worthy of special mention is a traction engine coupled to an old thrasher by a long crossed leather belt. It looks as if only a large straw pile was needed to start the fire before steam could be raised in the boiler and the ammonia compressor of a refrigerating plant appears to need little work before being ready to run.
There are mine cars, too, filled with ore, buggies, cutters, farm implements and farm machinery of every kind together with old time tools. Recognize, if you can, a pickaroon, billhook, froe, whip-saw, adze and jointer, hames, breechings, snaffle, crupper and whlffle-free and the difference between single and double-jack hammers. All are displayed at the Molson Museum.
The assay office office Poland-China and Molson -Gold Mines, dated 1896 and the 1898 Fontaine cabin where Chairman Harry Sherling lived for a while when he was a little boy are original buildings. The Molson State Bank building demands special attention but hardly special description since a phony replica may be seen almost any lime on western TV programs. The one at Molson is real. An ornate metal grid separated the old-time teller in his morning coat from pistol bolted customers after free money.
There are literally hundreds of photographs, newspaper clippings, bottles and insulators which have turned deep amethyst under the blaze of the high altltude sun.