In November, 1885, a group of men gather in a forest clearing just west of Revelstoke, British Columbia to witness the hammering in of the last spike of a young country’s coast-to-coast railway. To know more about this story, visit the exhibit Getting Here from There, produced by the Revelstoke Museum and Archives and virtualmuseum.ca. Leave us your comments below, and tell us why this History Matters to you.
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What event, more than 125 years ago, symbolized the birth of Canada as a modern nation?
It’s November 7th, 1885. In a forest clearing just west of Revelstoke, British Columbia, a group of men gather. They are here to witness Canadian Pacific Railway director, Donald Smith, hammer in the last spike of a young country’s coast-to-coast railway.
Smith clumsily bends the spike, rendering it useless. And it isn’t even the right spike. The official last spike, made out of silver, was to be hand delivered by the Governor General. But he was called back to Ottawa.
Smith awkwardly whacks away at a second spike. This time he’s successful.
East and west are connected—ending fears of British Columbia abandoning Canada and the prairies joining the United States.
After all Smith’s efforts, the spike is removed and replaced because of concerns that souvenir hunters might steal it. Where this last spike ended up remains a mystery.
Some say it was given to the patent office president whose son made it into a carving knife. There are even rumours that it was made into jewelry. Others contend it’s on display in a national museum. Wherever it might be, it did successfully join together two ribbons of steel—that bound a nation.
To know more about the last spike, go to History Matters at virtualmusem.ca.
And tell us why this history matters to you?