Arthur Lakes: Geologist, Artist, Minister and Teacher

From the permanent collection of Touchstones Nelson comes an exhibit of watercolour paintings by the multi-talented Arthur Lakes (1844-1917), a notable geologist, artist, writer, teacher and minister. Originally from England, he moved to the West Kootenays in 1912 from Colorado to be with his two sons who were working as mining engineers. Lakes produced a…

2010 Jan 30 – 2010 Apr 04

Curated by Rod Taylor

Arthur Lakes was a geologist, artist, minister and teacher who emigrated from England to the western United States in 1865. His interest in geology lead him out into the western landscape in search of fossils and in uncovering what at the time were some of the first dinosaur bones to be discovered. Along with the arduous work of excavating the fossils, Lakes spend hours recording his findings in his journals through his writing, drawing and painting. Lakes also shared his discoveries and interest in palaeontology through his teaching at the Colorado School of Mines. After retiring, Lakes moved from Colorado to Ymir, British Columbia in 1910 to be with his two sons who were involved in the mining business. Lakes continued to document his experiences and the regional mining activities through his paintings and articles for the Nelson Daily News until his death in 1917.

From the permanent collection of Touchstones Nelson comes an exhibit of watercolour paintings and sketches, done between 1912 and 1917. As historical documents, this material holds a place in the recording of settlement in the region and an era in mining history. In Lakes’ time some of his writing and art work was used by the industry to announce to the outside world some of the mineral resources yet undeveloped of the Kootenays, which contributed to the growth of mining in the region. Lakes’ art work and writing conveys more than an economic reality at the turn of the century they speak of his curiosity and love the natural world that was the thread of his life’s work – the discovery of nesting Kingfishers along the river, the alpine flowers, geological processes and the investigation of what lies below our feet and above our heads. Arthur Lakes’ life and work serve as an example of an inquiring mind that was able to share its discoveries with the world in a myriad of ways.

Arthur Lakes (1844 – 1917)

Arthur Lakes immigrated to the United States from England in 1865. His interest in geology and a teaching job at Jarvis College in Golden, Colorado soon lead him out into the western landscape where he began his passion for studying geology and collecting fossils. Teaching provided Lakes with little money but some extra time. In order to supplement his income he worked in remote mining camps as an itinerant minister, for which he had been ordained an Episcopal deacon in 1874.

In 1877, while surveying near Morrison Colorado, Lakes came across some enormous fossils that which he realized must be of importance. He brought his discovery to the attention of Othniel Charles Marsh, one of the West’s leading palaeontologists who hired Lakes on to help in the surveying crew. Lakes soon became involved in what was to become a fossil rush of vertebrate palaeontology, which was just emerging in the late 1870’s as a new field of science. Lakes is most noted for his work at the research site of Como Bluff, Wyoming – famous for its Jurassic area quarries. In 1880, Lakes returned to teach at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado. There, Lakes taught geology and studied the economy of hard rock mining.

When his wife Edith Slater passed away in 1912, Arthur moved to Ymir, British Columbia to join his sons, Arthur and Harold who were involved in the Wilcox Mine. Lakes continued to document his experiences through paintings and sketches of the mining activities in the region and through his writing articles about local geology and natural history for the Nelson Daily News.

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