Community

Procter or Proctor? Even Canada Post didn’t know

Part of an ongoing look at items of local historical interest.

Practically from the day the Kootenay Lake community was born, there’s been a debate about the spelling of Procter vs. Proctor.

It is, in fact, Procter — after founder Thomas G. Procter, who came to the area in 1891 and lived at what became known as Procter’s Landing. In 1897, he had a townsite surveyed there called Kootenay City, but it didn’t take off, and three years later a new town was laid out simply called Procter. Yet even his own real estate ads sometimes contained the misspelling Proctor.

The Canadian Pacific Railway and post office both added to the confusion. This month an extraordinary envelope attesting to this fact sold on eBay for $25.50 Cdn. Mailed in 1981, the front was hand-postmarked ProctER, while on the back, the machine-generated postmark read ProctOR. (This despite the fact the sign on the post office used to proclaim Procter with a capital E.)

Procter school custodian Grant McKean would have been appalled. According to Kootenay Outlet Reflections, his “usual unruffled demeanor was considerably ruffled when the CPR put up a sign at the railway station spelling the name of the station as Proctor.”

McKean never missed an opportunity to tell school children of the proper spelling. Hilda Ogden received of one of his lectures, which she never forgot — though she never had the courage to correct her teacher.

Eventually the railway relented and changed the spelling. Yet in 1985 Paul Munch received a letter from the CPR public relations department that read: “Procter has always been spelled with an E. If the station doesn’t agree, someone made an error.”

Historian Ted Affleck noted: “So much for the integrity of decades of CPR signs and publications.”

How did the confusion first come about? Affleck speculated in an unpublished article held by the Touchstones Nelson archives that a CPR construction engineer named A.F. Proctor — “a man with a flair for public relations” — was to blame.

Affleck noted that when a spur line was built on the south side of Kootenay Lake from Five Mile Point to the outlet opposite Balfour, references became more frequent to “the barge slip at Proctor,” and the name began to show up on official CPR timetables.

“A.F. Proctor has long passed from the scene,” Affleck wrote, “but perhaps we should afford him some long delayed and grudging recognition for his deft exercise in public relations which seems to have resulted in the name Proctor being applied erroneously for so many years.”

We’ll add one more wrinkle: there was also a CPR ticket agent in Nelson named John Eber Proctor.

This story will appear in the West Kootenay Advertiser on January 17.

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