Prince George Citizen

June 9, 2000

Town reduced to boxes of documents

by Bernice Trick, Citizen staff

Cassiar reduced to 3,000 boxes of documents

Cassiar reduced to 3,000 boxes of documents

Three thousand cardboard boxes of documents and photos piled high in a warehouse is all that's left of the once thriving community of Cassiar, says UNBC archivist Michael Taft. "Right now it's chaos and our job is to make it orderly," said Taft, who sees a kind of link between Pompeii and Cassiar. "When you think about it, they dug up Pompeii and the little they found gives us enough information to learn what life was like in ancient Rome. By the same token, this is the archeological remains of Cassiar, and 100 years from now it will tell us what life was like there. "It's important in terms of the history of Northern B.C." UNBC Co-op student Candace Gladu, has quite a job this summer to begin cataloguing the materials for information and research. "I've gone through 200 boxes in the past five weeks," said Gladu who's already learned the community (population between 1,200 and 1,500) was "very close knit." "I'm surprised the dynamics of that community was so strong. Everybody knew everybody," said Gladu, who's perused the community newspaper, old photos, Cassiar Asbestos Corporation (which ran the whole town) documents and administration material, engineering information, research documents on mining the mineral, and class action suits by workers from B.C. to the U.S. of asbestos and its health effects.

The town started in mid-1950s and closed in 1992. The asbestos mined was the "highest quality" and used for NASA space suits because the fibres were particularly long which made it stronger and safer, Taft said. According to Citizen files, the town died when the asbestos company was forced to declare bankruptcy, and items, including buildings, were auctioned to highest bidders to help defray the debt. "The company changed from open-pit to underground mining in 1988, and it proved to be uneconomical," Taft said. Taft expects it will take three years to catalogue the information, but people are welcome to peruse the catalogued portion. "We've made a data base, and are numbering and labeling each box with the contents. so people will be able to find specific information quickly," said Taft.

Contributed by Suzanne LeBlanc

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