Politics in Revelstoke 100 years ago

There seemed to be a lot of talk this year about the need for change in the city government, but our mayor won by acclamation, and the four incumbent councillors who were running all won their seats. There is definitely a precedent for this. One hundred years ago, municipal elections were held annually in January. In 1911, there was a lot of criticism of the city council, to the point that the mayor, Dr. J.H. Hamilton, felt compelled to write a letter to the editor of the Mail-Herald newspaper:

“Mayor’s Message: Think It Over – Statement by Mayor Hamilton: Revelstoke is on the eve of prosperity. The city is in a most enviable position. Let us forget petty differences and all boost for the city. Don’t knock those who are doing the best they can for the city, but help them along. This city has been so mixed up with petty strife that any man offering himself for public office might as well get out of the city. We all have our homes here and should pull together to make the city second to none in the Dominion.”

Whether the Mayor’s letter had the desired effect, or whether the rest of the citizens were afraid to put their names forward, the entire council that year was elected by acclamation, for the first time since Revelstoke was incorporated in 1899. One of the aldermen, Ed Trimble, resigned, because he had not formally accepted the nomination, and it was well into February before his seat was filled.

Alderman Hector McKinnon was determined that the city would find ways to cut expenditures and even suggested that the city could save $96 each year by cutting private phones to the City Cleark’s home and the Fire Chief’s home. Alderman McKinnon’s methods were popular with the public, because he was voted in as alderman each year until 1914, when he successfully ran for Mayor. McKinnon ran for Mayor 11 times; he was acclaimed five times; won five times and was defeated only once. Hector McKinnon was a popular and eloquent Mayor who presided over many important events, including the visits of the Prince of Wales in 1919 and 1927. Hector McKinnon ran a pool hall and cigar store in the building that now houses the Nickelodeon Museum and also ran Standard Dairy on land below where Downie Sawmills now stands. McKinnon tragically lost his life in a barn fire in 1929.

There was concern this year that less than 35% of the voters bothered to come out to the polls. Our forebears were definitely better in this regard, as most elections saw over 90% voter turnout. In one election in the 1920s only six eligible voters failed to cast their vote.

Posted on November 24, 2011 .