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Entering Argenta: Are you lost or crazy?
Seventh in a series on West Kootenay-Boundary place names
The earliest known reference to the Kootenay Lake community of Argenta appeared in the Nelson Miner of December 10, 1892: “The Nelson boys who went up to Kaslo on Saturday last seem to have had a pretty good time. What with excursions to Lardo City, Argenta and Duncan City, and afterwards a careful and elaborate examination of the ins and outs of Kaslo, they must have enjoyed themselves.”
The same edition carried the first real estate ad for the townsite, whose agent was C.E. Perry & Co. of Nelson and Kaslo.
Argenta is either a modified form of argentum, the Latin noun for silver, or argentea, the feminine adjective. Argenta Creek probably takes its name from the town, not vice versa.
Argenta’s days as a mining outpost were short lived. It instead became a quiet agricultural community before being revitalized by the arrival of American Quakers in the 1950s.
The welcome sign once read: “You are entering Argenta. Are you lost or crazy?” Today it simply says “Argenta Unincorporated.”
Arrowhead, a drowned town on Upper Arrow Lake, was originally called Columbia City.
Revelstoke’s Kootenay Mail reported on October 26, 1895: “The CPR townsite at the Arrow Lakes terminus has been surveyed but the lots have not yet been placed on the market. It is said that the location of the place will be known as Columbia City.”
However, on November 9 the same newspaper said: “The CPR has definitely decided upon ‘Arrowhead’ as the name of the new townsite at the terminus of the Arrow Lakes branch.”
There are two theories behind the name: an article in the Arrow Lakes News of January 31, 1930 claimed a battle occurred at the site and many arrowheads were later found there.
Alternately, the name refers to the place as head of steamboat navigation on the Arrow Lakes, where it was moved from Revelstoke and Wigwam because of difficulty navigating the Columbia River.
A Sinixt name, kwespits’a7, has been recorded for Arrowhead, which means “buffalo robe.” Although buffalo aren’t known to have been in the area, Randy Bouchard and Dorothy Kennedy wrote in First Nations Ethnography & Ethnohistory in BC’s Lower Kootenay/Columbia Hydropower Region that it may suggest the name “dates only to 1838 when the HBC post was built here, and that naming this place ‘buffalo robe’ was derived from a practice of obtaining buffalo robes here as a trading item — of course, this is only speculation.”
Streets in the Arrowhead townsite, surveyed in 1895, included Kilpatrick, Front, Lonsdale, Ford, Beatty, Cook, and Foley. The post office opened July 1, 1896 and closed September 28, 1968.
All that remains following construction of the Hugh Keenleyside dam is the cemetery, although at low water you can still make out where the main street once stood. The townsite, beneath Mount Sproat, is visible from aboard the Galena Bay to Shelter Bay ferry.
Next week: Aylwin
Previous installments in this series