Retallack was a little mining town that came and went in the blink of an eye, with little fanfare. Retallack was also known as Bell Camp in the British Columbia’s Valley of the Ghosts. The town grew to a population of about 300 before the turn of the 20th century.
Relallack was also known as Whitewater when the K & S Railway came through in 1895. It later changed to Retallack in 1928, named after J.L. Retallack, a prominent businessman in the district and one of the original locators and owners of the Whitewater mine.
Retallack was the shipping center for several mines in the area and also had a saw and planning mill, which burnt down in 1910 and was never rebuilt. The town once boasted three hotels, several stores, a barber shop, post office and school.
The Whitewater claim was located by J.C. Eaton in 1892 and the early development work was done by Messrs. Eaton, Retallack, Montgomery and Pierce. In 1898 Whitewater Mines Ltd., an English company, was formed to acquire the Whitewater group. The company built a mill and it operated until the mine closed in One of the original owners, J.L. Retallack, along with Messrs. Fowler and Koch, leased the Whitewater group in 1904 and began small scale mining operations.
No record has been found of the original owners of the Whitewater Deep group, however it was purchased by the Whitewater Deep Company in 1898. Small scale operations were carried out each year until 1905 when J.L. Retallack and associates obtained a lease on the property. The Whitewater and Whitewater Deep workings were connected at this time and the combined properties were worked more or less continuously until a forest fire wiped out the concentrator, compressor, and mine buildings in July 1910.
Purchase of the combined property was apparently completed by J.L. Retallack and Company in 1911. Operations were continued on a reduced scale until 1922 when Whitewater Mines Ltd. was organized to acquire the 9 Crown-granted claims of the Whitewater mine and the 15 Crown-granted claims of the Whitewater Deep mine. A new mill was put into operation in 1928 and operated until July 1929 when it closed. From about 1932 to 1935 the Ross Mining Syndicate operated the mine. In 1925 the Metals Recovery Co. erected a small concentrator on Kaslo Creek to treat the tailings from the old Whitewater mill.
Retallack Mines Ltd. was formed by Whitewater Mines Ltd. (40%) and Kootenay Belle Gold Mines Ltd. (60%) in 1943. The mill capacity was increased from 125 to 300 tons and milling began in March 1944. Operations continued until December 1952. During this period considerable ore from the old Whitewater dumps was treated.
In 1953 the assets of Kootenay Bell Gold Mines Ltd. were taken over by the Canada Trust Co. The mill was sold in 1956 and a clean up lease given to P. McGrory. The mineral rights to the property were acquired by the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Co. of Canada. The property was developed by 11 adits and 14 levels over a distance of about 1,800 feet down the dip of the vein.
From 1892 to 1956, inclusive, 501,188 tons of ore were mined. From this ore 1,752 ounces of gold, 3,488,693 ounces of silver, 30,703,221 pounds of lead, 50,924,208 pounds of zinc, and 87,829 pounds of cadmium were recovered.
At least one person, J.C. Eaton, did well here, reputedly taking almost one million dollars of ore from the area.