“Lying in the shadows, a legend waits for the afternoon sun. On a summer evening, out of Mt. Hosmer’s face, comes the Ghostrider – the shadow of a distinctive horse and rider, the ghost some say of an angry Indian Chief and his jilted daughter pursuing William Fernie. (http://bit.ly/1YxCUxo – Illustration)
As legend tells it, William Fernie was courting an Indian Princess to learn the source of her sacred black stone necklace. It is said that after learning the secret location of the Morrissey Coal Seams, Fernie stopped seeing the Princess and the tribe’s medicine woman placed a curse on the Elk Valley.
Residents of Fernie feared the curse was real after several tragedies struck the town. Fire reduced the town to smoldering rubble in 1904 and again in 1908. In 1916, the Elk River flooded and in 1917 there was a mining disaster. A public ceremony in 1964 officially lifted the curse. Members of the Kootenay Tribes assembled in Fernie and Chief Red Eagle (Ambrose Gravelle) and Fernie Mayor James White smoked a pipe of peace.
Although the curse was lifted over 35 years ago, on summer evenings, the ghost of an angry Indian chief and his jilted daughter still rides above Fernie and their legend lives on in the shadows of the mountain.” – Fernie.com
I am excited about the outcome of the latest collaborative art piece with Ellis Bartkiewicz. Ellis photographed the bear on a day tour to Prince Rupert, I photographed Mount Hosmer, Fernie and created the design in Adobe Illustrator.
THE FERNIE GHOSTRIDER
Do you believe in curses? It is said that William Fernie, on one of his prospecting trips, noticed an Indian Chief’s daughter wearing a necklace of shining black stones. Knowing that these stones were coal, he asked about their source. The Chief agreed to show Fernie the location of the coal on the condition that he marries his daughter. After learning the location of the coal deposits, Fernie backed out of the deal.
Angered by this the Chief cast a curse on the valley—it would suffer from fire, flood and famine. Though the city did suffer from horrific fires and flooding there is no evidence of the story’s veracity. But many look to Mount Hosmer on summer evenings where a shadow of the daughter standing beside the chief on his horse as evidence of some mystic curse.
The roots of the Ghost Rider story may be found in the Ktunaxa tradition of avoiding the Elk Valley and considering it a “bad place”. Early Ktunaxa legends told of a Squirrel and his wife who controlled the entrances to the Elk Valley, letting trails become overgrown and impassable. Another source for the legend may be gleaned from a 1908 newspaper article; “We have been requested to say that William Fernie denies the little after dinner stunt about him and the Indian maiden. We are glad Mr. Fernie does deny it for the future safety of our city.” Did the story develop from a joke among the city fathers?
No matter the source the curse seemed real enough that on August 15, 1964, at the City’s request, members of the Ktunaxa Nation, headed by Chief Ambrose Gravelle, assembled in Fernie for a ceremonial lifting of the Fernie Curse. Whether the curse raising was successful remains to be seen.
Fernie is now a prosperous and vibrant community that has a unique mountain shadow to keep the legend alive. The Ghostrider Shadow can be seen on the face of Mt Hosmer at sunset in Summer and Fall. Look for the striking striated rock face to the North-East of downtown Fernie. Many of Fernie’s businesses, clubs and even streets are named after the ghostly shadow.
Read about more Fernie Legends through Tourism Fernie.