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Cities that weren’t: Bannock, Basin, and Bear Lake

ABOVE: The Bear Lake of today was the Fish Lake of yesteryear and vice versa. BELOW: Ad for the Bear Lake City townsite from the Nelson Miner of November 12, 1892. “I am going to the coast soon with my townsite wallet,” owner Gilbert Malcolm Sproat warned.   - ABOVE: Greg Nesteroff photo BELOW: UBC Historical Newspapers Project
ABOVE: The Bear Lake of today was the Fish Lake of yesteryear and vice versa. BELOW: Ad for the Bear Lake City townsite from the Nelson Miner of November 12, 1892. “I am going to the coast soon with my townsite wallet,” owner Gilbert Malcolm Sproat warned.
— image credit: ABOVE: Greg Nesteroff photo BELOW: UBC Historical Newspapers Project

Eleventh in an alphabetical series on West Kootenay-Boundary place names

Today we’ll look at three cities that had no business calling themselves that.

Bannock was a staple food of early prospectors and also a short-lived settlement on the North Fork of the Kettle River, first mentioned in the Cascade Record of December 3, 1898: “A new village called Bannock City has sprung up at the foot of Pathfinder Mountain, near some promising claims and several cabins have already been built.”

The Minister of Mines report for 1899 described Bannock City as “merely a collection of a few cabins … but boasting a hotel and bar.”

Robert Lindholm built the hotel at Hornet Creek and ran it with the help of brother-in-law Nils Berquist. As R.M. Simbrec wrote in Kettle River Journal, it was an apt name, “for lots of his customers were prospectors, used to eating their own bannock.”

Bannock City never amounted to much, but remained a polling station and received occasional newspaper mentions through 1915. The Grand Forks Gazette of August 8, 1935 called mine owner and railway section foreman Tim Townsend “the Mayor of Bannock City.” (Townsend was also namesake of Timville, another place we’ll eventually get to in this series.)

Even more obscure was Basin City, whose entire existence rated a single newspaper mention. According to Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of the Boundary Country, in 1898 the Peterson brothers, owners of a hotel in the Arrow Lakes boom town of Brooklyn, were “building a road house at Basin City, six miles beyond Gladstone, where they have also applied for permission to purchase a townsite. The location is where the trail strikes off into the Burnt Basin, and ought to be a good one.” (Author Garnet Basque didn’t say where he found this.)

Comparatively speaking, Bear Lake City, between Kaslo and New Denver, was famous. The townsite was first advertised in the Nelson Miner of October 22, 1892. Gilbert Malcolm Sproat, sometimes called the father of Nelson, took creative license in declaring: “Bear Lake City glitters in the reflection of innumerable surrounding silver lodes ... It will not surprise me if a Bear Lake City lot is worth $5,000 within a few years.”

It would be many decades before that was true. The Nelson Tribune on December 22 of the same year declared: “Bear Lake City … is a townsite, not a town and perhaps never will be.”

Bear Lake was, however, home to a modest hotel founded by Gorman West and run later by the legendary Scotty Mitchell, who caught fish, tended fruit trees, grew vegetables, and raised chickens — but only served boiled eggs, bread, and jam in his dining room.

Bear Lake was a stop along the Kaslo and Slocan Railway in 1895, but by 1914 the name was changed to Giegerich in honour of pioneering merchant Henry Giegerich. The names of Bear Lake and nearby Fish Lake were also somehow transposed — so the Bear Lake hotel and townsite were actually on the south shore of what’s now Fish Lake.

A post office application for Bear Lake was submitted in 1892 but denied. A Giegerich post office was slated to open in 1914, according to Don Blake in Valley of the Ghosts, but for some reason it never did and instead the Zincton post office opened a few months later — in Scotty’s hotel at Giegerich. It closed in 1932 due to “limited usefulness.”

Previous installments in this series

Introduction

Ainsworth

Alamo

Anaconda

Appledale

Applegrove, Appleby, and Appledale revisited

Argenta and Arrowhead

Aylwin

Annable, Apex, and Arrow Park

Balfour

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