A series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
For the past few weeks we’ve been looking at unique place names in our area, including Indigenous names, Chinook jargon names, and Doukhobor names.
Then there are the sheer oddballs, places that enjoy strange appellations for a variety of reasons.
• Only 11 official place names in BC start with X — including several that were adopted in 2000 as part of the Nisga’a Treaty.
The Boundary is home to two others: Xenia Lake, west of the north end of Christina Lake, and Xenia Creek, which flows into Xenia Lake. The lake name was formally adopted in 1955 as labelled on a 1923 map.
A 1996 letter from the Boundary Historical Society to the BC Geographical Names office explained that it was often written Xina by old trappers. The society’s Rose Gobeil also relayed something Eugene McDougall told her circa 1980: “Because of the view from the bluff above this small lake, in the early days it was referred to as Little Christina Lake.”
No contemporary uses of Little Christina Lake have yet turned up, but it does seem the most likely origin of Xenia.
Alternatively, in British Columbia Place Names, G.P.V. and Helen Akrigg wrote: “Somebody who knew classical Greek could have applied this name in the sense of ‘pertaining to hospitality.’ Xenia is also a botanical term.” It’s also a place in Ohio.
• X-Ray Lake, on the East Shore of Kootenay Lake, near Crawford Bay, is an unofficial name, but it’s been around a long time. It’s after the X-Ray mineral claim that it lies within, for which H.M. Rumball received a Crown grant in 1901.
The lake is first mentioned in the 1932 report of the lands and survey branches of the Department of Lands, which noted that the “Silver Hill trail starts at Rainville, about 9½ miles from Crawford Bay wharf and ends at X-ray Lake, about four miles up Canyon Creek from Rainville.”
Speaking of which …
• Rainville, an unofficial name, did not reflect local climactic conditions but rather honoured Achille Joseph Rainville (1865-1907), who was connected with the Silver Hill mine and hotel. The area at the confluence of Crawford and Canyon creeks subsequently became known as Rainville.
The first known use of the place name is in the Nelson Daily News of Aug. 12, 1913: “M. Johnson’s gang are now clearing out the various trails to the summit and also repairing two bridges on the road up to Rainville …”
A.J. Rainville suffered a horrifying death at the Eureka mine west of Nelson after being accidentally immersed in boiling water in a mine shaft.
• We’ve previously looked in this series at Octopus Creek, south of Fauquier. While it might refer to the creek having eight tentacle-like forks, a perhaps apocryphal story tells of an inebriated sternwheeler passenger who mistook an overturned stump near the creek’s mouth for an octopus.
The earliest mention of the creek is in the Nelson Daily News of May 30, 1907, in a land application notice by T.M. Foote.
• Damfino Creek flows into the Kettle River above Rendell Creek, in a remote part of the Boundary. The name has been around since at least 1 and was officially adopted in 1955.
It has been credited to William Fleet Robertson, provincial mineralogist from 1897-1925, who crossed this creek with his pack train when someone asked what its name was. “Damned if I know,” he replied, and that’s what ended up on the map.
The story was first told in 1948. Damfino, as a word, has been around since at least the 1860s. It’s also the name of Buster Keaton’s boat in a 1921 short film.
Flowing into Damfino Creek is Nevertouch Creek (or Nevertouched Creek), so named by 1901. There’s also a nearby Nevertouch Lake.
• Printer Creek flows south into Enterprise Creek on the east side of Slocan Lake and was first mentioned in The Ledge of Aug. 29, 1895 as the location of the Alexander mining claim, staked by journalist J.J. Langstaff.
Slocan Pioneer correspondent Weston Coyney reported on his visit to the mines on Enterprise Creek (formerly Ten Mile Creek) in the newspaper’s June 26, 1897 edition: “One of the brightest conversationalists and best informed men I met on my trip was C.E. Smitheringale, who whiled away my evening at the Enterprise mine. He is a journalist well known in this part of the Kootenays and with another journalist named Langstaff helped to immortalize the craft by naming one of the tributaries of Ten Mile ‘Printers’ Creek.’”