A series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
The Trail neighbourhood of Tadanac has a simple but unusual name origin: T for Trail plus Canada backwards. It’s also the only local place name that began as a brand name.
Tadanac was originally known as Smelter, Trail Smelter, or Smelter Junction. The latter name appeared for the first time in the Nelson Tribune of March 20, 1899 in a list of distances on the Columbia and Western Railway.
The Consolidated Mining and Smelting Co. applied to trademark the name Tadanac for its metals products on March 23, 1916 and was approved on April 10. But it took another year for the first ads for “Tadanac brand pig lead, bluestone, copper, and spelter [zinc]” to appear in local newspapers.
On June 29, 1917, the Trail News reported: “On the latest timetables of the CPR there is no longer such a station as Smelter or Trail Smelter. The name was changed last Sunday with the placing in effect of the summer timetable and now and hereafter it will be known as Tadanac — which is merely Canada spelled backward with the T added or prefixed. Passengers travelling to Trail and Rossland this week were surprised to hear the brakemen shout ‘Tadanac’ when the trains neared Smelter. It was new to them, but they are getting used to it now.
“In the past, the confusion of Trail and Trail Smelter stations has been the source of not a little annoyance to those who use the telegraph wires, as well as freight and express. They were constantly being mixed up in way bills and many other ways — all of which mix-ups made more or less trouble all the time for the local railway officials as well as the consignees of goods, etc.
“Accordingly, the change has now been made, and there is no longer any question of the distinction in the names. Tadanac is the trademark of the Consolidated company, which appears on the bars and ingots of pure metal that are constantly being turned out at the several Trail refineries and which are sent to all points of the world — smelter, copper, lead, gold and silver.”
As for who coined Tadanac, there are a couple of theories. A.G. Harvey, in his place name file held by the BC Archives, cited R.H. Stewart as telling him that it was “Named by Wilmot Deloni Matthews (1850-1919), Toronto financier, president of CM&S in the 1910s.”
But Pearl Murdoch wrote in Trail of Memories: “The Murdoch family arrived in Trail in the fall of 1912. I recall arriving at Smelter Junction. Through a contest in the schools some years later, the name Tadanac was chosen to replace Smelter Junction.” She didn’t say who suggested it, but as we’ve seen, the brand name came first.
Tadanac became an exclusive neighbourhood for smelter brass and certain professionals and on Dec. 21, 1922, a Cominco-owned district municipality as well. Its incorporation was controversial from the get-go, opposed by the provincial Labour party, which claimed the company was trying to avoid paying its municipal taxes. This allegation would resurface many times in the ensuing decades.
As part of the arrangement, no businesses were allowed in Tadanac, and Cominco agreed to partner with Trail in several areas, resulting in the Trail-Tadanac hospital, Trail-Tadanac parks commission, Trail-Tadanac cemetery, and Trail-Tadanac school district. (The only surviving legacy of this arrangement is a sign for the Trail-Tadanac tennis club.)
The name might have been extended to one other area too. On Feb. 17, 1934, an anonymous letter appeared in the Trail Daily Times suggesting the Trail Smoke Eaters be renamed the Trail Tadanacs.
“Smoke Eaters as a name for our hockey team is most disgusting for a team like Trail possesses [sic]. The name is not a credit to the City of Trail or the Trail smelter, it is a most insignificant, ineffective, inappropriate, inapplicable and insensate name for such a fine team of hockey players …
“Tadanac as a word is 100 per cent Canadian in its make-up. As a place it is known locally as a most wealthy municipality and the home of the Trail smelter. It is known in almost every world port as the place that ships thousands of tons of lead and zinc annually. The trade name Tadanac is known internationally from Copenhagen to Calcutta and wherever metals are used, as a brand of first class metal …”
Nothing came of the suggestion, which sounded like it came from the Cominco public relations department.
Tadanac had a reeve and council, usually made up of company lawyers, plus its own police and fire departments, community hall, parks, school, and swimming pool.
The arrangement finally ended when, amid threats of litigation, Trail and Tadanac signed an amalgamation agreement that took effect Jan. 1, 1969.
Although the community hall and school are now gone, Tadanac remains one of Trail’s nicest neighborhoods. Teck still owns the Tadanac trademark, renewed in 1987 and 2002.
There is no Tadanac Street in Trail, but there is a Tadanac Boulevard in Kimberley, another Cominco town. There are also two communities named Adanac in Ontario, another in Saskatchewan, plus an Adanac Street and Adanac Park in Vancouver. Coquitlam’s lacrosse team is called the Adanacs.