2015 marked the 100th anniversary of the Morrissey Internment Camp which housed prisoners of war during WWI.
Now a ghost town, Morrissey was once a First World War internment camp located just eight miles from Fernie. Canada, as part of the British Empire, became part of the Allied First World War effort in August 1914.
There had been no plans to establish a camp in Fernie. In early June 1915, however, Fernie saw miners turn against their colleagues of non-British origin and demand that single miners and married miners with families still back in Eastern Europe be interned. The miners’ threat of a major uprising and further closure of the mine forced civic, provincial and federal governments to react quickly. By June 9, a makeshift detention camp was created at the Fernie arena by the local government and supported by the Premier of BC.
The population of the camp grew quickly and the need for a larger and more secure camp forced the move to Morrissey. The economic downturn had left most of the town’s buildings, which were owned by the Crow’s Nest Pass Coal Company, empty and able to be repurposed. Prisoners were housed in the Windsor and Alexandria Hotels. By October 1915, Morrissey became an established internment camp able to house from 250 to 300 prisoners.
The exhibit Fernie at War: The Morrissey Internment Camp explores this painful period in Canada’s history and illustrates the impact of an international war had on the home front in the Elk Valley region of British Columbia and is now available as a touring exhibit from the Fernie Museum.