A series on West Kootenay Boundary place names by Greg Nesteroff.

British peer was a walking soap opera

Lord Sholto Douglas was a walking soap opera, regularly providing scandal for newspapers

A series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names

A recent installment in this series looked into an obscure sternwheeler landing on Lower Arrow Lake called Sholtz or Sholto, which we speculated might have been named after Lord Sholto Douglas (1872-1942), brother to the Marquis of Queensbury, although his relationship to the area, if any, was unknown.

Further digging has revealed several things.

1) The place was definitely known as Sholto.

2) Sholto was the name of a group of mines, first mentioned in the Revelstoke Herald of June 16, 1897 under its “Notes from Robson” column: “The Sholto mines are bonded to an English syndicate and are to be worked for all they are worth in the near future. The amount is $100,000.”

However, the mines were a bust. The Nelson Miner’s June 30, 1898 edition recorded that one of the claims was restaked and renamed: “Columbia — H. Lawson, on w. side of Lower Arrow Lake, 9 mi above Robson, formerly Sholto.”

3) Lord Sholto and his brother were involved in mining properties in Michipicoten, Ont. and Phoenix, Ariz. While it’s entirely possible they were also behind the Arrow Lakes mine, no proof has turned up. That said, Lord Sholto did have Kootenay connections, as we’ll soon see.

4) Lord Sholto’s entire life was a soap opera — a constant parade of marriage, infidelity, break-up, reconciliation, divorce, imposters, assaults, shootings, arrests, and threatened horse whippings. Maybe the Hope Diamond was to blame, for he once owned it. A premium cable series could be based on Lord Sholto’s life, yet he doesn’t have his own Wikipedia entry. But here are some highlights and lowlights.

Lord Sholto moved to California in the 1890s to look after a fruit ranch and fell in love with teenaged actress Margaret Mooney, alias Loretta Addis, whom he quickly proposed to. An appalled friend swore a warrant for Lord Sholto’s arrest on the grounds of insanity, but he was soon released to marry Loretta, who became Lady Douglas. Loretta’s sisters Helena and Margie were around that time performing at the notorious Comique in Kaslo, a sort of burlesque theatre that offended Victorian sensibilities.

Lord Sholto then became the impresario of a touring troupe his wife starred in. To the press, he was a comic figure, whose frequent antics — such as getting arrested for fighting with an orchestra leader whose music he hated — made good copy.

The couple moved to New Westminster in 1897 so their son Bruce could be born on British soil. Lord Sholto took out a BC miner’s license and began “flitting from camp to camp with a dingy blanket and kit on his aristocratic shoulders.”

In 1902, he opened a saloon in Spokane that quickly failed — and gave away the last of its booze in an an alcoholic orgy. Around that time he also started squatting near Creston where he proposed to go into cattle ranching. He built a home and left it in care of Edward Mallandaine while he and his wife moved to England for a few years.

In the interim, however, someone posing as Lord Sholto married at least ten women. In 1906, police arrested a suspect in Maine — only to discover they’d nabbed the genuine article, who was traveling under an alias.

By the time the family returned to Creston the following year, another son had been born, Sholto Jr. But here things took a turn for the worse. On Oct. 24, 1908, Lord Sholto returned from a duck hunting trip to find his wife with a neighbour, a former English soldier named John James Baxter Rowland.

The circumstances are in dispute and were no doubt sanitized for public consumption. One or both may have been drunk. They may have been in bed together. Lord Sholto may have asked Rowland repeatedly to leave, an order he ignored.

What is not in doubt is that Lord Sholto shot Rowland in the neck and was arrested for attempted murder. The justice of the peace who conducted the preliminarily inquiry was Lord Sholto’s old friend, Edward Mallandaine. He was committed for trial and released on bail while Rowland recovered from his wounds.

Lord Sholto’s case came up the following May in Nelson, on the day the new (present) courthouse opened. After hearing various depositions, and commentary from the judge, the grand jury retired to deliberate. An hour later they returned, refusing to approve an indictment.

“The decision was very popular in Nelson; and in Creston, when the news came over the wires many favorable comments were heard as to the good judgement of the grand jury,” wrote the Creston Review on May 6, 1909.

However, the relationship between Lord and Lady Sholto was never the same. In 1910, Lord Sholto declared he had spent his fortune on his wife and joined a CPR crew for $2 a day. Lady Sholto went to cook in a lumber camp, attempted suicide, and was finally arrested in Spokane for vagrancy. Lord Sholto arrived to bail her out and they reconciled.

They separated again in 1914 and finally divorced a few years later, with Lady Sholto eventually renouncing her title. Lord Sholto married twice more. Their son Bruce, who spent his early school years in Creston, was killed during World War I while a member of the 4th Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment.

Whether Sholto on Lower Arrow Lake was named for Lord Sholto remains unclear, but he did leave two place names that have both since fallen out of use. His home about two miles from Creston was known as Douglas Point or Loretta Villa, after his first wife, and the property as Loretta Ranch. Douglas Point was used as a place name through at least 1928.

 

This caricature in the Winnipeg Tribune of March 17, 1902 suggested Lord Sholto Douglas would drop his title, but it didn’t happen. Lord Sholto lived near Creston in 1902-03 and 1907-09.

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