A series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
What do Thrums and Peter Pan have in common? The answer is author J.M. Barrie.
Before earning everlasting fame by creating a flying boy who never grows up, Barrie wrote a series of novels set in the fictional Scottish village of Thrums, based on his own birthplace of Kirriemuir. The novels Auld Licht Idylls, A Window in Thrums, and The Little Minister were published between 1888 and 1891. (Thrums is also a weaving term, meaning cast-off pieces of yarn.)
The April 1963 edition of Cominco Magazine suggested the second book in the trilogy gave Thrums, BC its name and further noted that “a small store in the Kootenay Valley settlement was known as The Window.”
The late Joe Irving, the first baby born in Thrums, elaborated in his autobiography, Red Iron over the Canyon: “From Castlegar … it so happened that a lot of little flag stations had not yet been named, although in some cases the sidings were in place for the trains to pass each other. Well, in this case, the train had stopped when someone asked what the name of the place was. It had not been given a name yet. Now there was a lady on the train reading a book called A Window in Thrums … When she heard this she said why not call this place Thrums? She eventually got the approval of the railway people and the place became known as Thrums.”
However, Irving didn’t know who the woman was.
The CPR added Thrums to its timetable on June 10, 1900. Eleven days later, the Nelson Tribune remarked: “The switch where the steam shovel is working on the CPR line between Slocan Junction and Robson has been named Thrums. Local wholesalers will now have a new shipping point.”
A few days after that, A. McPhail of Thrums was shown in the Tribune as staying at the Queens Hotel. Also staying there was a Miss R. Chalmers of Grand Forks — which may or may not be significant, for the prime suspects for choosing the name were a farming couple, Robert Wilfrid (1881-1965) and Janie Alice Scott Chalmers (1878-1962).
Irving adds in his book: “The family that settled on the west side of the railway track opposite the station and siding was a family that had recently come from Scotland, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Chalmers. Years later they built a small store and had a tea room there that they called The Window. After that people talked about going to the window for tea.”
(The precise dates of The Window’s existence are unclear, but we know from classified ads that it was in business from at least 1942-44.)
Although they embraced the name, the Chalmers don’t appear to have arrived in the area until a few years after Thrums was christened. They‘re not on the 1901 census nor in the civic directories before 1910. In any case, Chalmers Road was named in their honour.
An ad for J.A. Irving &Co. in the Nelson Tribune of June 27, 1903 promised strawberries from “Thrum’s Ranch,” but didn’t indicate who the farmer was.
A recent installment in this series remarked that the boundary between Tarrys and Thrums is fuzzy, and it’s no wonder: the family Tarrys was named after was originally considered to live in Thrums. From the Nelson Daily Miner of Oct. 8, 1901: “Work is progressing on clearing the Tarry ranch at Thrums, eight miles beyond Slocan Junction. Quite a number have purchased land in that settlement.”
Although it’s debatable, the dividing line today is somewhere south of Irving Road (named after Joe Irving’s family).
The Thrums post office opened in 1906. It burned down in 1978 and did not reopen.
This phantom town on the east side of the Granby River was first mentioned in the Grand Forks Miner of Nov. 12, 1898: “Timville is the name of a little burg that has sprung up the North Fork at the foot of Pathfinder mountain. The location is a natural one for a trading point and already several buildings have been erected there. The place derives its name from Tim Townsend who has erected a log house there and expects to open a way side hotel there about the first of the year.”
Timothy Townsend (also spelled Townend) was born in England and came to Canada in 1881, although it’s not clear where he went first. On the 1891 census, he turns up in Revelstoke, working at Thomas Righton’s brewery. Later he was in Rossland, and by early 1897, he’d moved to the Boundary and with a partner established the Grand Forks Brewing Co. He apparently also worked in the Granby smelter, but preferred prospecting. He built a cabin on a flat where he envisioned his namesake town and worked his many mining claims.
Although the town didn’t pan out, Townsend stayed in the area. After a railway was built to Lynch Creek, he worked as a section foreman. When Townsend died in 1935 at age 80, the Grand Forks Gazette’s obituary referred to him as “the Mayor of Bannock City,” another vanished town in the area.
R.M. Simbrec’s profile of Townsend in Kettle River Journal provides directions to Tim’s imaginary town: “Look for the bright, neat yellow mailbox alongside the river at Hornet Creek. Glance up at what was Bannock City, but go two trails past the driveway. Walk up the trail to Tim’s dream. His cabin is still there, about a quarter of a mile up.”
— With thanks to Sue Adrain