McINTOSH, JAMES, prospector, contractor, entrepreneur, and civic leader; b. 19 Aug. 1842 in Bytown (Ottawa), son of Alexander McIntosh, a contractor; m. January 1881 Hermanse Magee in Ottawa, and a son and a daughter survived him; d. 23 June 1901 in Kamloops, B.C., and was buried in the Pleasant Street Cemetery.
James McIntosh left his native town in 1862 for the gold-fields of British Columbia’s Cariboo district. At Victoria in April he joined a party bound for Williams Creek, the centre of the gold-rush, where he stayed until December 1863. He subsequently engaged in other mining ventures on Vancouver Island. In January 1866 he was a member of a Hudson’s Bay Company work party that set out from Victoria for the interior of British Columbia. At Shuswap Lake McIntosh helped build the first sternwheeler on the Thompson waterways. The vessel, owned by the HBC, was used to transport men and supplies en route to a short-lived gold-rush at the Big Bend of the Columbia River [see William Henry Ladner].
After this venture McIntosh gave up his involvement with mining. In 1868 he pre-empted land at Tranquille River, on Kamloops Lake a few miles west of the HBC fort, and became a partner in the area’s first flour- and sawmill. Three years later, with the start of survey work for a transcontinental railway, McIntosh acquired 100 acres on the south side of the Thompson River just east of the fort. The community of Kamloops would grow up on this land. During the 1870s he was active in building roads in the New Westminster and Yale districts. Over the winter of 1873 he put up a new store and manager’s house for the HBC. By 1876 he was running a small hotel in Kamloops. In 1878 he joined in forming the Shuswap Milling Company, of which he became the manager. The mill developed into a mainstay of the local economy, and its destruction by fire in March 1901 would be a blow to the community as well as to McIntosh.
Construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway reached Kamloops in 1884. McIntosh expressed his annoyance about the right of way through his land. “Railroad has cut Kamloops all up in fact it will ruin present town. . . . in fact it ruins near all the property along the road,” he complained. Just the same he continued to sell property adjoining it. He also worked on fencing off the right of way, and the Shuswap Mill sold foodstuffs to the construction camps.
After the completion of the railway McIntosh went more extensively into building construction. He also began installation of a waterworks, a direct-pressure system completed in the summer of 1887 which supplied the town-site. Surplus water was stored in a reservoir on a location that acquired the name of McIntosh Heights. With Jean-Ernest Saucier he established the Kamloops Electric Light Company in 1890.
Kamloops became a city in July 1893. McIntosh, who had at first opposed incorporation, was made the first police magistrate and held office for two years. He sold his waterworks to the city in 1894 and the electric-power plant in 1896. Increasingly active in community affairs, he served as president of the Kamloops Board of Trade and chairman of the board of directors of the Kamloops Hospital (predecessor to the Royal Inland Hospital), which had been opened in 1885. A founder and president of the Mainland Pioneer and Benevolent Society and chief of the St Andrew’s and Caledonian societies, he was also a member of the board of trustees of the Kamloops Club, a young men’s social organization. From 1898 to 1900 he served as an alderman.
McIntosh suffered a series of strokes and died at the age of 58. A fire in 1893 had destroyed much of the old west end of the town, but even today vestiges remain in a few of the older houses in the residential area that covers his original town-site. A memorial to “the King” of Kamloops was erected by the local Rotary Club in 1932.
BCARS, E/C/M181.9. City of Vancouver Arch., Add. mss 104 (James McIntosh papers). Daily Colonist (Victoria), 28 June 1901: 6. Inland Sentinel (Yale, B.C.), 13 Jan. 1881; (Kamloops, B.C.), 19 Jan. 1894. Kamloops News, 26 June 1981. Kamloops Sentinel, 13 June, 16 Sept. 1932; 3 Feb. 1939: 1; 16 April 1966: 3. Kamloops Standard, 28 June 1901. Mary Balf, Kamloops: a history of the district up to 1914 (Kamloops, 1969). “City of Kamloops history, 1893–1964,” comp. J. J. Clark (copy in Kamloops Museum and Arch.) [an unpublished history compiled from City of Kamloops records]. “Prominent men of Kamloops,” British Columbia Mining Record (Victoria), 2 (1896), no.9.