This amazing old building is still standing at Vevey, although its original purpose is unknown. (Greg Nesteroff photo)

PLACE NAMES: Vevey

A famous fumnambulist of the 1860s picked the name of a Slocan Lake phantom townsite.

A series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names

Vevey, or Vevey Landing, on the east shore of Slocan Lake between Slocan and Silverton, was originally known as Twelve Mile, owing to its approximate distance from New Denver.

The 1897-98 Williams directory of BC explained that “It is known by the CPR as Ashburn Flag Station” but it’s not known who they were honouring.

The Manitoba Morning Free Press of May 22, 1897 reported: “The new steamer Slocan has been launched on Slocan Lake and a freight tariff to the following ports of call has been issued: Ashburn, Enterprise, Gold Creek, New Denver, Silverton, and Slocan City.” (It’s also unclear where Gold Creek was; the name is no longer in use.)

John Henry Cory obtained a Crown grant for Lot 1024 on March 17, 1897, and thereupon started a hotel and townsite to capitalize on travellers headed for mines up Ten and Twelve Mile Creeks.

As Cory reminisced in a 1950s Nelson Daily News story: “I had a ranch at Twelve Mile, also a townsite … I called the townsite Bivey [sic]. I had a mining man stop in at the hotel. He was taken up with the view from the verandah, said it was so much like Bivey. He said it was either in Switzerland or Austria.”

Vevey is actually in Switzerland, on the north shore of Lake Geneva, near Lausanne. In addition to its breathtaking views, it was home to comedian Charlie Chaplin from 1952-77 (he’s buried there) and it’s the world headquarters of Nestlé. Milk chocolate was reportedly invented there in 1875.

The mining man Cory referred to was William Leonard Hunt, better known as The Great Farini — a circus performer and tightrope walker who crossed Niagara Falls several times in the early 1860s.

By the time he arrived in the Slocan, however, Farini had reinvented himself as a mining promoter. The Slocan Pioneer of May 29, 1897 explained: “Professor Farini, who is developing the Bachelor group [of mines], is the father of Vevey, which he christened in grateful memory of the agreeable hours he has dreamed away at the famous Swiss resort, in the atmosphere of vineyards, the shadows of picturesque Territet and the sombre shades of Chillon …”

Thirteen days later the Slocan City News said of Farini: “That he means business is evident, for he has built ore houses, bunk houses, blacksmith shop and stables, as well as a new trail to the Hotel Vevey on the lake …”

According to The Ledge of June 3, 1897: “The best lots are selling at from $100 to $125; while lots farther from the lakeshore are quoted at $50.”

However, surveyor J. Herrick McGregor didn’t finish laying out the townsite until June 17. The streets were named Main, Front, Cory, and Farini. (Farini was soon out of the picture; the following year he ran the Golden Wedge mine up Lemon Creek. A street in the phantom townsite of Oro was also named after him.)

J.W. Horn and R. Kurzhals established the evocatively named Cosmos store at Vevey, and said they were willing to run a post office, but the application filed that summer was rejected as unnecessary.

The Hotel Vevey, which Cory ran in partnership with A.C. Allen, advertised from July 1897 to October 1898, and appears to have been in business at least through mid-1899. It closed for a while, but reopened in May 1901. Oddly, when Allen applied to renew the liquor license that fall, he gave the address as “Vevey Hotel, Ashburn,” even though the latter name never gained much currency.

By 1903, Allen was described as “the only inhabitant of Vevey” who had “been alone for weeks with no companion but Billy, his horse.”

Vevey appeared on a 1924 Department of Interior map and was still on the CPR sternwheeler schedule as of 1931. The last known newspaper reference from the Slocan Enterprise of June 1, 1927 stated: “George Henderson and Leonard Candy left Monday morning for Vevey’s Landing.”

Vevey survived into the 21st century as a name known mainly to those who owned property there, but a recently-erected real estate sign for “Vevey on Slocan Lake” has brought it back into vogue.

The name also survives in Vevey Creek, which flows into Aylwin Creek. It was officially adopted on April 6, 1926 based on a 1915 map. The 1930 BC Gazetteer declared it was “not Eight Mile, nor North Fork of Eight Mile, nor L.H.”

An old two-storey wooden building survives at Vevey, but its original purpose and date of construction are unknown.

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