Place Names: A series on West Kootenay/Boundary places names
By Greg Nesteroff
Special to Black Press
The Slocan Valley community of Winlaw was named after John Brown Winlaw (1855-1939), who built a sawmill there around 1900.
Winlaw was born in Markham, Ont. and was apparently “interested in lumbering even as a boy.” He married Mary Jannet Neilson and they had two sons and a daughter before Mary’s death in 1884. Winlaw then married Mary’s younger sister Catherine and had two more sons.
The family came west and Winlaw established a portable sawmill at Lemon Creek. The earliest mention of the family in the West Kootenay was an ad in the Nelson Tribune of July 14, 1899 in which John’s son Andrew sought work as a bookkeeper.
The Tribune of Oct. 20, 1899 noted “J. Winlaw, Lemon Creek” staying at the Waverly Hotel while the 1900-01 Henderson’s directory listed “John B. Winlow” at Lemon Creek.
The earliest mention of Winlaw, the place, was in the Tribune of Nov. 24, 1900 which referred to wholesale grocers John Cholditch and Co. sending a consignment to “Winlaw’s Siding.”
The 1901 Henderson’s directory listed the community both as “Winlaws” and “Winlaw’s Siding” and had “John B. Winslaw” running a sawmill.
According to a much later account, “All there was of Winlaw at that time was a box car for the section men working in the vicinity.”
The first birth at “Winlaw’s Siding” occurred on June 21, 1901. The first newspaper mention of the place, in the Nelson Daily Miner of Dec. 27, 1901, noted the hotel arrival of “J.B. Winlaw, Winlaw Siding.”
However, this predated Winlaw’s actual addition to the CPR timetable on June 15, 1902. The Winlaw post office opened on April 1, 1903 with John B. Winlaw as postmaster.
By 1910, 29 names were listed in the civic directory under Winlaw, a combination of ranchers, farmers, and sawmill labourers. Oddly, it wasn’t until that year that the Winlaw family obtained a Crown grant for Lot 3464, encompassing their sawmill and timber limits — and essentially the entire present community on the east side of the Slocan River. The grant was to John’s son Andrew.
The following year, a Doukhobor village was established just north of Winlaw along with a short-lived brick factory. The settlement was called Kirpichnoye, Russian for “brickworks,” and known in English as Claybrick.
An example of the latter appeared in the Slocan Enterprise on Oct. 5, 1927: “The same train suffered a mishap Friday morning on its way to Nelson, when three cars were derailed on a curve at Claybrick.”
The name survives in Claybrick Road.
The creek that runs through Winlaw is officially called Winlaw Creek, but universally known as Cedar Creek. There’s a Cedar Creek Road and used to be a Cedar Creek Cafe.
It was labelled Cedar Creek on the Crown grant issued to Andrew Winlaw in 1910 as well as on a 1915 map. A 1926 map called it “Winlaw (Cedar) Creek.” The 1930 BC Gazetteer insisted it was “Winlaw Creek (not Cedar Creek nor Ceder Creek),” a decision further confirmed in 1956.
According to West Arm Echoes, Charles W. West, who came to Nelson in 1893, moved to this spot on the north side of Kootenay Lake’s west arm in 1901. He named it Willow Point “after the willows growing on the sand bar, in preference to it being named West’s Landing, after himself.” (There was already a West’s Landing on the opposite side of the lake, named for Walter W. West. Today it’s known as Harrop.)
Willow Point was first mentioned in the Nelson Daily News in October 1902 (quoted in the same paper on Oct. 17, 2002): “A teacher is expected to arrive this morning at Willow Point for the new school, which is to be opened on Monday.”
West donated land for the school and also ran the store and post office. The latter operated from 1905 to 1915.
Willow Point’s name was perpetuated in whole or in part by Willow Bay Motel, Willow Point Lodge, and Willowhaven private hospital, which closed in the early 2000s.
However, while it’s still recognized by the BC Geographic Names Office as both a community and a point, Willow Point’s name is no longer frequently used. The late historian Ted Affleck noted the original wharf “was flanked by a general store and a packing house, so there was a sort of centre to the community, stretched out as it was along the West Arm shoreline … The disappearance of the Willow Point wharf I think caused the name to go out of common parlance.”
The school’s closure in 1986 didn’t help either.
The willows that originally gave Willow Point its name were reportedly torn out by boats landing during high water around 1916.