A series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
Only a few West Kootenay place names are truly unique – mostly First Nations and Doukhobor names, plus some with uncertain origins.
No other places outside our region are called Slocan, Kaslo, Nakusp, Comaplix, Kuskonook, Lardeau, Ootischenia, or Krestova. But most other communities have at least one counterpart. In some cases that’s because they were named after another place, while in others it’s a coincidence. But the commonality has led to a few unofficial sister city relationships.
Quite a few people from Nelson, BC have visited Nelson, New Zealand and vice versa. The latter is on the eastern shores of Tasman Bay, which is the country’s second-oldest city. It has a population of about 50,000. This Nelson was named for Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson – an origin sometimes mistakenly ascribed to our Nelson, which was actually named after Lt.-Gov. Hugh Nelson.
Nelson is also a town and civil parish in Lancashire, England, population 29,000. It was named after an inn, which may or may not have been named after Lord Nelson. (Our Nelson used to have a Lord Nelson Hotel.) In 2007, Tony and Margaret Lloyd of Nelson, England made a point of visiting Nelson, BC, just because of the shared name. (They had relatives in Okanagan Falls.)
In 1964, the Rotary Clubs of the three Nelsons teamed up to supply a water system to the village of Byadarahalli, India. A plaque was installed, but it’s not clear whether it’s still there.
There’s also a Nelson in Georgia (the US state, not the country), population 1,300, named for John Nelson, an early landowner, farmer, and rifle maker. Its claim to fame — or shame depending on your view — is that in 2013 it passed a law making gun ownership mandatory. However, the law was soon relaxed in response to a lawsuit.
There’s a Nelson Island in Antarctica named for Lord Nelson, Cape Nelson State Park in Australia, probably also after Lord Nelson, and a Nelson River in Manitoba, named for Robert Nelson, a ship’s master who died exploring it in the 1600s.
There are or were four other Rosslands besides ours. One, appropriately, is a village in Norway. (Although Ross Thompson, namesake of Rossland, BC wasn’t Norwegian, another prominent early figure, Olaus Jeldness, was.) Rossland, Norway is in Hordaland county, on the northern part of the island of Holsnøy, but the origin of its name is unclear. It has a population of about 350,
Rossland, Pennsylvania is a village in Ross Township (Ross Common is another), which takes its name from the Ross family, including father-and-son congressmen John Ross (1770-1834) and Thomas Ross (1806-65). The township’s population in 2016 was estimated at 5,700.
Rossland, Renfrewshire, Scotland was a tower house that appeared on a late 16th century map as Roslad, on a mid-17th century map as Rosland, and on an 1800 map as Roslin Castle. Afterward the spelling seemed to settle on Rossland.
Rossland, Ontario was a CPR station by 1883, but its name origin is unknown. A post office application filed in 1892 indicated it was nine miles east of Rat Portage (now Kenora). The population was described in the inspector’s report as “Ten families and about 25 single men” who were CPR employees and miners. The report added: “This is a mining country and the settlers who would be benefitted by a post office at Rossland are nearly all miners. There are six dwellings, the proposed postmaster informs me, at Rossland, one mill already built and in course of construction.”
The post office only operated from March 1 to Nov. 1, 1893 and the last reference to the Ontario Rossland is from 1901. It’s no longer on the map.
Silverton and New Denver were both named after Colorado cities, although it’s unclear why it was necessary to distinguish the latter as “New” but not the former. Any hopes New Denver would rival old Denver in population were soon dashed. In the early 1890s, Denver, Col. already had over 100,000 people. Today it’s close to 700,000 — about 1,400 times the present population of New Denver.
Silverton, Col., on the other hand, bears a stronger resemblance to its BC namesake. It’s an historic mining town with a population of about 630.
There’s only one Fruitvale in Canada, but there are or were eight in the US, including four in California (one of which is an oil field, another a ghost town), plus others in Colorado, Idaho, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington. The largest of these is a neighborhood in Oakland, population 50,000. The 2013 movie Fruitvale Station referred to the latter.
Next week we’ll look at a few more of these international namesakes.