Special to Black Press
A series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
On July 8, 1910, the Nelson Daily News carried the first in a series of ads placed by the Salmon River Valley Land Co. for the “First sale of lots in the Salmon Rapids townsite.”
The ad explained that the townsite was “at the junction of the South Fork with the Salmon river, eight miles south of Salmo, and five miles north of the Pend O’Reille [sic] river at the International boundary.”
The ad claimed Salmon Rapids was at the centre of what would become the “largest and most remunerative” fruit raising district in the province, that over 1.5 million feet of timber in the immediate vicinity would have to be cut at Salmon Rapids, and that the Idaho and Washington Northern railway would be extended there from Metaline.
“The townsite is level as a billiard table and the streets are all cleared,” the ad continued. “Here is a town in the making which will shortly rival Creston where lots have recently sold at ten times their original price.” Lots were being offered starting at $75, but naturally “this opportunity will not last long.”
Two weeks later, it was announced that J.A. Nowell of St. Paul, Minn., who was “prominently interested” in the Salmon River Valley Land company, planned to build a sawmill at Salmon Rapids. This time its location was described as “on Nine Mile creek in the Pend Oreille valley, 10 miles below the town of Salmo.”
The mill began cutting in September with a capacity of 12,000 board feet per day, employing 12 men. It had a contract to supply 200,000 feet of planking for a new $10,000 government bridge at Salmo, expected to be “probably the longest bridge in the interior” at more than a half mile in length.
“Indications point to an influx of settlers into the Salmon river valley this fall,” said townsite agent Percy J. Gleazer. “Interest is being expressed in various quarters that is likely to mean settlement, and our campaign has not yet begun.”
Gleazer explained the townsite was carved from the land grant of the Nelson and Fort Sheppard Railway. The company owned 3,400 acres which it proposed to sell to orchardists.
“Our portion covers the whole valley of the Salmon river from a point two miles from the junction of the Salmon and Pend Oreille to a point about a mile north of the South Fork and there is a certain amount of good timber on it,” Gleazer said.
But after that, Salmon Rapids was never heard of again. It didn’t live long enough to earn its own entry in a civic directory, and no survey plan is known to exist.
Given the contradictory locations indicated above, might it have actually been at the confluence of the Salmon and Pend d’Oreille rivers?
In November 1910, J.D. Anderson surveyed this spot as Pend d’Oreille Orchards for the Pacific Exploration Company Ltd., and the following year laid out a notorious townsite at the same spot called Falls City.
In any case, according to The Associated History of Salmo and Ymir, after a few months, J.A. Nowell moved the sawmill onto 700 acres at Annie Rooney Creek, a tributary of Sheep Creek.
(Annie Rooney was “the female bandit of the Black Hills” of South Dakota, who “offered a refuge for the noted desperadoes” of the 1870s. There was also a popular 1889 song called Little Annie Rooney that inspired a 1925 silent movie starring Mary Pickford and a comic strip that ran from 1927 to 1966 about a plucky orphan. The creek was so named by 1933.)
Percy Gleazer, formerly a newspaperman at Ymir, served on Nelson city council in 1912. He ran for re-election the following year, but died on the eve of the election of diabetes, age 40. He was survived by a wife and son.