George Rex Boyer Kinney
1872 - 1961
George Kinney was born on October 14, 1872, at Victoria Corner in New Brunswick and was the second of nine children of Reverend Aaron and Elizabeth Kinney. When George was one year old his father, a Free Baptist minister, moved the family to Grand Manan, an island between the Bay of Fundy and the Gulf of Maine, where they lived for five years. Later they were posted in Moncton until he was ten, and then to Nova Scotia living in Halifax, Port Maitland, Baddeck and Shubenacadie.
In 1895, Kinney enrolled at the Methodist Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky, graduating in 1898 with a Bachelor of Arts in Theology. The following year (1899) he was accepted on trial to the British Columbia Conference of the Methodist ministry where he moved around a lot spending short periods in the following communities:
1900 - Golden,
Although Kinney was a conscientious objector, in 1916 he enlisted in the Army Medical Services for the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force, serving as stretcher bearer in the 4th Field Ambulance Corps. While on leave in London he addressed the Royal Geographical Society and was made a fellow of the Society (FRGS).
While filling temporary positions in Banff and Field he investigated the fossil beds on Mount Stephen: "With hammer and chisel, I opened Nature's book, and there, page after page, were trilobites of rarest form." In October, 1904, he made a solo ascent of Mount Stephen. In 1906 he was one of the original members of the Alpine Club of Canada although he wasn't at the founding meeting in Winnepeg.
Kinney attended the ACC's first mountaineering camp in the Yoho Valley in 1906, where he assisted in guiding nine club members the top of Mount Vice-President, the club's first official climb. Kinney also attended the 1907 camp in Paradise Valley, where he was one of the "gentlemen placed in responsible positions as guides to various ascents and expeditions." In addition to ascents of Mount Stephen and Mount Vice-President, the 1907 membership list credits Kinney with a number of climbs between 8,000 and 10,000 feet in vicinity of Crowsnest Pass. Kinney later wrote that he had also climbed Mounts Aberdeen, Temple, Pinnacle, and Fay. He missed the camps at Rogers Pass in 1908 and Lake O'Hara in 1909 but attended the Consolation Valley camp in 1910, where he was again an assistant guide.
While presiding over a congregation at James Bay in Victoria in 1907 Kinney was asked to join Arthur Coleman, also a founding member of the ACC, and his brother Lucius, a rancher at Morley, Alberta, in an attempt on Mount Robson, the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies. Coleman, a professor of geology at the University of Toronto who had been exploring the Canadian Rockies since 1884, was being pressed by Arthur Wheeler to conquer Mount Robson in the name the Alpine Club of Canada before a foreign team claimed the prize. It was September when they first sighted Mount Robson. "Oh what a glorious sight he was that day we first saw him," Kinney wrote. "There, buttressed across the whole valley and more, with his high flung crest manteled with a thousand ages of snow, Mount Robson shouldered his way into the eternal solitudes thousands of feet higher than the surrounding mountains." The next day Kinney and Lucius set out separately to seek a climbing route. Kinney discovered the lake named after him, and the Valley of a Thousand Falls, which he named. The group attempted a climb above Kinney Lake, but "in the morning more than a foot of snow had fallen. Our last glimpse of Robson showed clouds driving past a vast cone of white, broken in the lower parts by bands of nearly horizontal cliff; and then we turned up the Fraser valley and saw no more of the fascinating peak that had cost us so much toil."
Kinney and the Coleman's returned again in 1908 and their two attempts were abandoned due to bad weather. Kinney's first effort was a solo attempt on September 9 where he reached an elevation of 3,200m before avalanches drove him off the mountain. The following day, with the Coleman's, the trio reached 3,500m before retreating.
Kinney continued his obsession with Mount Robson and made a number of attempts with Curly Phillips in 1909. Curly Phillips had no prior mountaineering experience and did not even have an ice axe, using instead a stout pole from the forest below. Finally, with their provisions nearly depleted, a clear day dawned. This would be George Kinney's twelfth attempt. After over-nighting again on the mountain, he and Phillips may have reached the summit ridge, now known as the Emperor Ridge, on August 13 in dense clouds, cold, and high winds. Kinney claimed to have reached the summit, however, many read his account (especially the leaders in the ACC at the time) and refuted his ascent outright. Bruce Fairley, a B.C. lawyer and climber, has examined the evidence and wrote: "Did the Reverand George Kinney climb Mount Robson in 1909 or not? With one exception, every author who has commented on the controversy has concluded that he did not. Yet as a lawyer, I want to contend that anyone who begins to look at all closely the story must realize that the commentators who deny Kinney the ascent did not examine the evidence thoroughly enough. None of them subjected the know facts to the kind of scrutiny that a lawyer would use when issues of conflicting evidence arise." Whatever the outcome, it is undeniable that Kinney's effort deserves to be remembered as a great modern climb of Canadian mountaineering.
A year after the Mount Robson ascent a school-girl in Keremeos had suffered severe burns, and a skin graft was necessary. Kinney volunteered " to donate the needed cuticle. I sat on the table so that my left leg above the knee would be handy as the little girl was given an anesthetic. She suffered severely in having her wounds dressed and I helped to hold her. When her wounds were ready the Dr. sliced off a few inches of my hide and then grafted it with her wound, repeating this process till he had taken some twenty four square inches off my leg. As I had taken no anesthetic it hurt some while the Dr. was carving me."
In 1920 Kinney married Alice Loree, secretary of the Vancouver Normal School and they had three children: Bliss, Betty and Don. It was difficult to eke out a living on the meager church wages, but the Kinney's would keep a large garden wherever they went and worked it diligently.
In June 1920 Kinney moved to Cumberland on Vancouver Island and was welcomed as the pastor of the Grace Methodist Church. While in Cumberland, Kinney joined a party led by Harold Banks that made the first ascent of the Comox Glacier, which presided above the Comox Valley, to Buttle Lake and eventually on to Campbell River. Kinney stayed in Cumberland until 1923 and was then assigned a station in the remote coastal community of Ocean Falls. During the Depression he worked with the men on relief and from 1925 to 1934 was in Proctor, British Columbia, where he developed the Kootenay Waterways Mission. From 1937 to 1942 he worked with the Koksilah Indian Mission in Duncan.
In 1942 at
the age of seventy, Kinney retired to Victoria where he continued to serve
as a replacement preacher. Kinney's daughter, Betty McFarlane, wrote of
her father: "He was a man of God, who never pushed religion down
people's throats - he would just slip it into the conversation. He could
converse with anyone - he found people most interesting and he was interested
in just about everything. He preferred to be a 'backwoods' preacher to
preaching in a city church. He loved the outdoors - God's Cathedral."
As an innovator, Kinney would show Mickey Mouse films in isolated communities
as a way of attracting people to hear his message. He also took many early
motion pictures that are now preserved in the Canadian Archives in Ottawa.
died in Victoria on November 14, 1961, at the age of eighty-nine. As a
reminder of his Mount Robson days, Kinney had an ice axe and a pair of
nailed boots hanging in his house and as a fitting memorial a lake beneath
the South Face of Mount Robson is named in his honour.
http://www.spiralroad.com/sr/kinney/index.html Swanson, James L. "George Kinney and the first ascent of Mount Robson." Banff, Alberta. 1999.
Kinney, George. "Mount Stephens." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 1. No. 1. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1907. p. 118-122.
Bridgland, M. P. "Report of the Chief Mountaineer." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 1. No. 1. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1907. p. 171-175.
Bridgland, M. P. "Report of the Chief Mountaineer." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 1. No. 2. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1908. p. 329-332.
Kinney, George. "Mount Robson." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 2. No. 1. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1909. p. 1-9.
Kinney, George and Donald Phillips. "To the top of Mount Robson." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 2. No. 2. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. p. 21-44.
Kinney, George. "The ascent of Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies." Bull. American Geographic Society. 1910. p. 496-511.
Fairley, Bruce. "Defending Mt. Robson." Mountain Heritage Magazine. [Canmore, Alberta.] (Summer 2000) p.34-40.
Robson Climbed." Crag and Canyon. [Banff, Alberta] (September
11, 1909) p. 13.
"Formal Welcome To New Pastor." The Cumberland Islander. [Cumberland, B.C.] (June 26, 1920) p. 1.
"Mountaineering in the Canadian Rockies." The Cumberland Islander. [Cumberland, B.C.] (December 2, 1921) p. 1.
Mortimore, G. E. "The preacher who climbed Mount Robson Peak." Daily Colonist. [Victoria, B.C.] (April 9, 1950) p.
Kinney, Alice Laurie. "Former Lake Area resident dies at Coast." Nelson Daily News. [Nelson, B.C.] (January 9, 1971) p. 3.
Arthur P. The Canadian Rockies: new and old trails. T. Fisher Unwin.
London, England. 1911.
Scott, Chic. Pushing the Limits. Rocky Mountain Books. Canmore, Alberta. 2000.