A series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
Over the last couple of weeks we’ve seen that Slocan is an Interior Salish word that referred to the Sinixt practice of harpooning salmon, and started looking at the many geographic features and communities it’s been applied to.
Slocan Park was originally known as Park Siding, a stop on the Slocan branch of the CPR’s Columbia and Kootenay Railway, first mentioned in the Nelson Tribune on Dec. 25, 1897. In 1901 or 1902, Park Siding was renamed Gutelius after Frederick Gutelius (1864-1935), superintendent of the Columbia and Western. It’s first mentioned in the Tribune on Oct. 4, 1902, and the Gutelius post office opened on April 1, 1903. (We’ve already covered some of this in an earlier installment about Passmore.)
The first mention of Slocan Park is a real estate ad for Wolverton &Co. that appeared in the Nelson Daily News on Oct. 2, 1907. Using the name “Park” in communities or subdivisions was a well-established practice — Wolverton &Co. also applied it to Columbia Park, just north of Trail, now known as Rivervale. (There’s also Deer Park and Arrow Park on the Arrow Lakes). It’s probably just a coincidence that Slocan Park was originally Park Siding.
Surveyor A.H. Green created Slocan Park by subdividing Lot 7065 on Dec. 20, 1907 but didn’t deposit it with the land registry until Sept. 14, 1908.
On June 4, 1910, the Daily News announced: “To prevent confusion, the siding on the Slocan branch of the CPR, heretofore known as Whiteley &Murray’s siding, will hereafter be known as Slocan Park.”
No other contemporary references to Whiteley &Murray’s siding have been discovered, but we do know who it was named after. In an unpublished history of South Slocan, held by the Shawn Lamb Archives at Touchstones Nelson, Violet Greyson wrote: “John Murray and his partner Bill Whiteley came to South Slocan just after the turn of the century and worked the Rover Creek mines. Later they went up the Slocan Valley and were engaged in cutting cordwood for [Cominco] until the First [World] War. Murray went to England and came back … with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.”
The Daily News of Feb. 10, 1912 noted: “A petition is being circulated to have the post office name here changed from Gutelius to Slocan Park.” The change took effect on May 1.
The Gutelius railway siding, however, was renamed Passmore.
Meanwhile, Koch Siding, the flat below the Slocan Park cemetery, was once a distinct place but today most people would consider it part of Slocan Park.
The Slocan West (or West Slocan) townsite was directly across the Slocan River from Slocan City and was first mentioned in The Ledge of April 22, 1897: “Tom Mulvey has turned his ranch at the foot of Slocan lake into a townsite and it will now be known as West Slocan City.”
The plan was surveyed by Alfred Driscoll and deposited with the land registry on Jan. 17, 1898. Mulvey was listed at owner along with Billy Clement, with whom he started the first hotel in Slocan City.
The streets were named River, View, Pine, First, Second, Third, and Fourth. None of these survive today, although River Street is now Slocan West Road. It’s hard to imagine how most of the other streets could have existed given that they would have cut through rock bluffs.
West Slocan remains a distinct neighbourhood, which has expanded beyond the original townsite.
There is no East Slocan, although North Slocan is the area from Enterprise Creek to Summit Lake, and we’ll look at South Slocan next week.
“Ask ten different people where the Slocan Valley starts and stops,” Katherine Gordon writes in The Slocan: Portrait of a Valley, “and ten different answers will be given.”
Despite its ubiquity, Slocan Valley isn’t recognized by the BC Geographic Names office as an official name. The earliest use was in the Nelson Miner of Dec. 12, 1891: “They report no snow in Slocan valley …” but it didn’t enter common parlance until much later. The first example with valley capitalized is in the Miner of June 19, 1897: “McLean Brothers … who will build 16 miles of the Slocan Valley railway, will start work next week …”
Gordon was correct that the exact geographic boundaries of the Slocan Valley are ill-defined. It appears to be both more and less than the drainages of Slocan Lake and the Slocan River.
It definitely includes the area from Crescent Valley north to Hills, but what’s about the fringes? South Slocan? Krestova? Pass Creek? Summit Lake? (Shoreacres, formerly known as Slocan Crossing, isn’t generally considered to be in the Slocan, even though the Slocan River enters the Kootenay there.)
The Slocan also extends east from New Denver as far as Retallack. Highway 31A between New Denver and Kaslo has been dubbed the Valley of the Ghosts, due to its high number of ghost towns, but only the western half is in the Slocan.
Kaslo isn’t in the Slocan, but during the Silvery Slocan mining rush, it tried to get in on the action by association. It had short-lived newspapers named the Kaslo-Slocan Examiner and Slocan Sun.
One interesting phenomenon is that when a local says they live in “The Valley,” they’re invariably talking about the Slocan, even though the area has many other valleys (the Lardeau, the Salmo, the Beaver, etc.).
Previous installments in this series