The many wives of Henry P. Toronto

Place Names: The man for whom Toronto Creek was named was married five times in 30 years.

Jennie Heller was Henry P. Toronto’s fifth and final wife.

A series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names

Last week we started looking at the Boundary ghost town of Eagle City, also known as Volcanic City, also known as Toronto.

The latter name was after prospector Henry Peter Toronto (1853?-1924), who first shows up in the area around 1895 and ran the Toronto House hotel. In 1902, he received a Crown grant for Lot 1727. He also obtained a water license for what was originally called Boulder Creek, but came to be known as Toronto Creek. The name was officially adopted in 1956.

Although little is known about Toronto’s life before arriving in the Boundary, what’s striking is the frequency of his weddings. The first occurred in Missoula, Mont. on Nov. 17, 1890. The bride was Sarah Rose, who at 19 was little more than half her husband’s age.

At least two children were born to them in Montana: Mary in 1891 and Jennette in 1894. A year later, however, the marriage ended and Sarah wed William J. Thornburgh, with whom she had three more kids. The Thornburghs lived with Sarah’s mother in Florence, Montana. It’s unknown if Henry had any further relationship with his children.

Nothing is known about the second Mrs. Toronto except her initials. An August 1899 post office application for Volcanic City was signed by Mrs. L.L. Toronto. Where and when they wed is unknown. She apparently died in the next year, but the date, place, and circumstances are also unknown.

Henry’s next wife was Antonetta (Nettie) Chance Kangley, who had already been married twice when she accepted Henry’s proposal. The marriage took place on Christina Lake, aboard the Myrtle B — an obscure, yet fascinating steamboat that operated on the Slocan River, Arrow Lakes, and Christina Lake before it finally sank. (It was named by its original captain, Charles Benjafield, after his daughter.)

The Cascade Record of June 30, 1900 reported: “Tomorrow, at 1 p.m, the steamer Myrtle B will leave Lavalley’s landing with a happy couple whose hearts will be made to beat as one while the boat steams up Christina lake, Mr. Henry Toronto and Mrs. Nettie Kingsley [sic] being the hero and heroine of Cupid’s plot on this romantic occasion — they will be married. Accompanying the wedding party will be many excursionists who propose to enjoy the pleasures of the outing thus planned. The steamer will return to the landing at 4 o’clock, where a supper and dance will be prominent features and participated in by many. Good music. Fine supper. Nice sail. Lots of sports.”

On the marriage registration, both Henry and Nettie listed themselves as widowed. In fact, Nettie was still married to William A. Walker, whom she wed at Libby, Montana in 1896. Her marriage to Henry didn’t last long either; on the 1901 census, he’s listed as single. Nettie married Eholt miner Michael Bellefontaine at Republic, Wash., in late 1903. The following year, William Walker finally filed for divorce. Nettie died on Jan. 15, 1906 at age 46, although the circumstances are unknown. She was buried in Greenwood. Two weeks later, her son Willford Kangley died in a train crash in Montana.

Henry, meanwhile, took wife No. 4: Celia Barnett. She was from Missouri and had also been married before. It’s unknown where they married, but it happened around 1902. They moved to Spokane, where Henry worked as a saw filer and machinist. Celia died on Jan. 18, 1912 at age 52, but the cause is unknown.

The next Mrs. Toronto was Nancy (Jennie) Haller Hampton of Ohio. They married in Spokane on Aug. 30, 1919. It was Jennie’s third trip to the altar.

Henry died on Dec. 26, 1924 at Medical Lake, Wash. He might have been 66, but gave a different age on just about every census or marriage document. He’d been married five times that we know of, while his wives had at least seven other husbands combined.

— With thanks to Valerie Patanella

SYACKAN, REVISITED

Historian Jan Jonker has another idea about the name of this place on the Vancouver, Victoria, and Eastern Railway between Bridesville and Myncaster. We previously saw that it was named by 1907.

Could Syackan be an alternate spelling of Siackan or Siachen? Siackan (or Siakan) is in Hubei province, western China, north of Hankou. Many Chinese placer miners worked in the Rock Creek district. Might one have named Syackan after his home town?

Alternatively, Siachen Glacier is in the eastern Karakoram range of the Himalayas. Sia in the Balti language means “rose” and chun means “abundance” — so land of abundant roses. The name is attributed to English explorer Tom Longstaff, but the earliest known reference is from 1909.

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