How Fernie got its name, its curse, and the lifting of the curse

William Fernie, (1837-1921) founder of the city, met a tribe of Indians during one of his prospecting trips (1887). He noticed one of the Indian Chief's daughters was wearing a necklace of shining, black stones. Knowing that these stones were coal, William Fernie asked about their source. The Indian Chief agreed to show Fernie where the stones had been found, with the condition that the prospector marry the princess. But, after leaving the location of the coal deposits, William Fernie refused to marry the princess. The Indian Chief was angered by this and put a curse on the valley. The valley would suffer, he said, from fire, flood and famine. As a reminder of the curse, the ghost rider of Mount Hosmer can be seen each sunny, summer evening on a rock-face high above the city. The "ghost" is a spectacular shadow in the form of an Indian Princess sitting on a horse with her father, the Chief, walking beside her, leading the horse. The first fire, which occurred in 1904, destroyed a large portion of the wooden business section of the city. The worst disaster, however, came on August 1st 1908 when a forest fire practically destroyed the whole city, leaving only 32 buildings standing. In 1916 more damage was done when the Elk River overflowed its banks and flooded sections of West Fernie. The near-famine conditions of the great depression made Fernie believe the curse would never end. On August 15th 1964 members of the Kootenai tribe, led by Chief Ambrose Gravelle, known as Chief Red Eagle, assembled in Fernie for the ceremonial lifting of the Fernie Curse. Mayor James White made amends for the wrong done to the Kootenai People by William Fernie, by smoking the "pipe of peace" with Chief Red Eagle.