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How did Woodbury get its name?

The man who lent his name to Woodbury Creek wrote and lectured about Ralph Waldo Emerson
Woodbury Creek, also spelled Woodberry Creek, was named for Charles J. Woodbury, a member of the Ainsworth party who staked mining claims on Kootenay Lake in the early 1880s. (Greg Nesteroff photo)

A series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names

By Greg Nesteroff

Special to Black Press

Woodbury — the creek, glacier, point, mountain, and village, are all named for either or both of brothers Charles Johnson Woodbury (1844-1927) and Arthur Kimball Woodbury (1860-1931).

Randall Kemp wrote in the Spokane Spokesman Review of May 17, 1897: “As far as known, the writer was the second scribe to visit this great country [i.e. Kootenay Lake]. The first was a Mr. Woodberry [sic], writing for a San Francisco paper. The old-timers, principally trappers, named Woodberry creek and point in his honor.”

William Fernie concurred in a 1909 letter reprinted in the November 1958 edition of Cominco Magazine: “Early in the fall of 1880 or ‘81, I was requested by a Mr. Woodbury, a journalist from New York and at that time connected with the Ainsworth syndicate … to come down from Wild Horse Creek to Kootenay Lake to confer with him in regard to developing the mineral resources of the lake region. I accompanied Messrs. Woodbury and Hammill down the lake to the Bluebell mine … Woodbury creek on the west side of the lake is named after this gentleman …”

Charles and Arthur Woodbury were both journalists who spent time in California, but Charles is the one who belonged to the Ainsworth syndicate. The first sign of his presence was as co-locator of the Comfort and Lulu claims, recorded on Oct. 1 and 4, 1883. The latter, near Woodbury Creek, was presumably named after his wife Lucia, who was nicknamed Lulu.

Charles’ name also appeared in legal ads in the Victoria Daily Colonist and in relation to litigation around claims adjacent to the Bluebell, but he didn’t stay in the area beyond the mid-1880s.

According to the booklet Ramblings of a Stope Rat, “Time seems to have a way of obscuring historical facts, and so it is in regard to the name of Woodberry Creek. Maps and references from before the turn of the century all spell it Woodberry, while in later years it has become Woodbury.”

That’s not quite so — both spellings were used from the get-go, although Woodberry appeared first.

Gilbert Malcolm Sproat wrote in the Daily Colonist of Aug. 30, 1888: “The Hot Springs camp embraces an area of about five miles by three, lying between Coffee and Woodberry Creeks, on the west side of Kootenay Lake …”

It was also spelled Woodberry in George W. Dawson’s Report on a Portion of the West Kootanie [sic] District in 1889. The first mention of the creek as Woodbury was a legal ad in the Daily Colonist on Dec. 27, 1888.

Through 1924, the BC civic directory listed the landing as Woodberry, with a notation “Woodbury – See Woodberry.” Afterward, the spelling Woodberry continued to be used in the directories at least through 1953.

Today the BC Geographic Names Information System lists the landing as “Woodberry (rescinded)” but the glacier, mountain, and creek as Woodbury.

Randall Kemp wrote in the Spokane Falls Review of April 17, 1890: “A new townsite has been laid out at the mouth of Woodbury creek, on the west shore of the lake, about three miles north of this place [Hot Springs]. Many valuable discoveries have been made on each side of Woodbury, and it is thought quite a village will spring up there.”

The townsite was apparently surveyed into lots in 1899, but the plan doesn’t survive. Very little was heard of it, although it was home to a series of mining companies (previously discussed in this series in the installment on Wampsha). It’s now the site of Woodbury Resort and Marina.

It’s unclear whether Arthur Woodbury ever visited Kootenay Lake. Historian Ted Affleck suggested he did in Kootenay Lake Chronicles, but he was probably getting mixed up with Charles.

Arthur, formerly of the Cincinnati Commercial Gazette, was editor/publisher of the Spokane Falls Chronicle for a few months in 1882. The Spokane Falls Review of May 19, 1883 noted his “rotund clothing and thoughtful corrugated brow.” He moved to California and then in 1885 became editor of the Nashville American.

John Norris, in Historic Nelson: The Early Years refers to “C.J. Woodbury, reporter for a Spokane newspaper,” but Charles is not known to have worked in Spokane.

Charles did work on the St. Louis Journal of Commerce, the Cleveland Herald and Leader, and the New York Evening Post before coming to Kootenay Lake. Afterward he was “a well known contributor to the Century and to leading eastern papers” while living in Oakland.

In 1888 he became president of the Woodbury Oil Company, another venture with the Ainsworths, incorporated in San Francisco. However, he was twice arrested and accused of opening mail not addressed to him. He was also sued by a shareholder who claimed Woodbury made false and malicious statements about him.

This unsavouriness was set against the backdrop of Woodbury presenting lectures on the literary giants of Concord. He wrote a book called Talks With Ralph Waldo Emerson, based on his discussions with the noted writer in the 1860s.

Lulu Woodbury was also an author – she published a booklet of children’s stories titled The Potato Child and Others in 1910.

Today part of the community is known as Woodbury Village (there’s a sign to that effect, although it’s not actually an incorporated village). The name is also perpetuated by Woodbury Village Road, Woodbury By the Lake cottage, and a sign imploring you to “Hurry back to Woodbury.” The former Woodberry Mining Museum kept the alternate spelling alive.

— With thanks to Valerie Patanella

Charles J. Woodbury placed this legal ad dated July 15, 1884 in the Victoria Daily Colonist in relation to the Comfort mining claim on Kootenay Lake. Thomas Hammill, who acted as his agent, was murdered the following year in a dispute over the Bluebell claim.