Place Names by Greg Nesteroff.

Laurier, Washington, population 1

Place Names: Laurier, a US border town was named after a Canadian prime minister

A series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names

How many Canadians are honoured with American place names? Sir Wilfred Laurier is one. Canada’s seventh prime minister (1896-1911) was the namesake of Laurier, Wash. (Pop. 1), the US side of the Cascade border crossing.

It was originally called Russell’s and first mentioned in the Cascade Record of Feb. 4, 1899: “E.C. Blanchard of Spokane, who owns the general store at Russell, just across the line, was in town on Wednesday.” The namesake, according to Ruth Lakin’s Kettle River Country, was a man who came “gandy-dancing” into Cascade with a CPR construction gang and established a store. (Gandy dancer was American railway slang for a section hand.)

W.L. Russell headed the Russell Mining Co., which owned claims — including the Russell — on Huckleberry mountain (later Owl mountain). But there was also a G. Devon Russell, granted a liquor license in 1902. It’s not clear who was namesake.

The same year, a petition circulated to establish a post office at Russell.

Nannie Kidwell, who moved to the area with her family from Kendrick, Idaho, recalled: “And then something was revealed that really didn’t surprise us too much. Mr. Russell turned out to be an escaped convict. Naturally we couldn’t have the town named after a shady character so we had to change its name.”

There was probably a more prosaic explanation, but in any event, the Great Northern Railway chose the name Boawell — a combination of the names of two settlers, Mr. Boath and Nannie’s husband Charles Kidwell. But Charles preferred Laurier, as he admired the prime minister. (No word whether Sir Wilfred ever knew.)

Correspondence from the US postal department dated Sept. 3, 1902 has Boawell scratched out and Laurier in its place. The letter was addressed to Charles Kidwell, the new postmaster, in care of the post office at Cascade. Laurier post office opened a few days later. It’s still in business, even though the town is gone. The US border inspection station at Laurier was built in 1933 and remains in use. It’s on the US National Register of Historic Places, along with the Metaline border station, built using the same plan.

Curiously, the 1910 BC civic directory listed Laurier as though it was in Canada, incorrectly noting the closest post office as Grand Forks. No residents were given, but the town was described as “A farming settlement in Laurier Pass.” Laurier Pass is actually northwest of Fort St. John.

Another Canadian with an American place name — sort of — is Arthur Samuel Goodeve (1860-1920), mayor of Rossland from 1899-1901. Goodeve Creek flows across the international border between Rossland and Grand Forks and into Roosevelt Lake. The name was officially adopted in 1967.

PITTSBURG

The Greenwood Ledge of Aug. 29, 1912 announced: “Pittsburg is the name of a new townsite near Midway.” Eight days later, The Vancouver Sun added that it was about two miles from Midway (although it’s unclear in which direction) and “Its future will depend upon the amount of coal in the vicinity.” The coal reserves must have been disappointing, because Pittsburg was never mentioned again. However, later that year, another Pittsburg townsite was started. Today we call it Port Coquitlam.

SOUTH SLOCAN

A new earliest reference to South Slocan has been located, pushing its first known use back a grand total of two days. Whereas previously the earliest mention was in the Nelson Daily News of Oct. 23, 1912, an item in The Vancouver Sun of Oct. 21 was datelined South Slocan.

South Slocan was originally known as Slocan Junction and both names were used interchangeably for many years, sometimes within the same sentence. But what prompted the name change remains a mystery.

TROUP

Our recent round-up of commonly misspelled place names missed Troup Junction on Kootenay Lake, which is often misspelled Troupe or Troop. But it wasn’t named after a theatre company or a military unit; the namesake is steamship captain and CPR administrator James William Troup (1855-1931).

TOWN AT THE FALLS

The Nelson Miner of July 12, 1890 reported on the establishment of as yet unnamed townsite: “Already there is a nucleus of a town at the falls of the Kootenay, 5 miles below Nelson. A store has been started, a boarding-house is established, buildings are in course of erection or contemplated, and boom expected as soon as town lots can be surveyed. It will be a center for a considerable amount of railroad work, both grading and bridge building.”

Possibly this was Davenport, an obscure landing just below the Taghum beach rapids on the south side of the Kootenay River, previously covered in this series. It was named for Abraham Lincoln (Linc) Davenport (1864-?) who managed the Poorman mine mill there.

 

The Laurier border crossing station, built in 1933, is on the US National Register of Historic Places. The same plan was used for the Metaline crossing. (Wikipedia photo)

The Laurier border crossing station, seen here in 1936, is on the US National Register of Historic Places. The same plan was used for the Metaline crossing. (Wikipedia photo)

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