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Off the Beaton path

Envelope from the Beaton Hotel, postmarked 1961. - Greg Nesteroff collection
Envelope from the Beaton Hotel, postmarked 1961.
— image credit: Greg Nesteroff collection

Thirteenth in a (mostly) alphabetical series on West Kootenay-Boundary place names

For such a small place, the town of Beaton, on the northeast arm of Upper Arrow Lake (also known as the Beaton Arm) has a curiously complicated naming history.

It was first known as Thomson’s Landing after its founder, James Wilson Thomson (1851-1934). The earliest reference is in Revelstoke’s Kootenay Star of May 21, 1892. A post office application was filed in 1893 but it didn’t open until July 1, 1895, with Thomson as postmaster.

On September 14 of the latter year, the Kaslo Claim stated “Major Hayward has purchased the townsite of Thompson’s [sic] Landing from Beaton and Thompson. The price agreed upon was $12,000 and the name will be changed to Selkirk.”

That change never really took, although Selkirk was later applied to the townsite at the foot of Trout Lake, subsequently known as Gerrard.

As demonstrated above, Thomson’s Landing was often misspelled. Milton Parent writes in Silent Shores and Sunken Ships: “The family refers to their name as the ‘dry’ Thomson because it was spelled without a ‘p.’ Unfortunately, nearly all the maps and publications show the Thompson version, choosing to accept the more common spelling.”

In April 1901, the Lardeau Eagle commented: “Once the railway reaches this point ... it will no longer be Thomson’s Landing, which is now so familiar, but Trout Lake Landing.”

That name wasn’t adopted either, but Thomson’s Landing initials were apparently being confused with Trout Lake on freight bills, so on December 26 of the same year, the Eagle reported: “The name of Thomson’s Landing has been changed to Beaton, to begin with the New Year. Application has been made to the postmaster general to have the name of the post office changed accordingly. Hats off to Beaton!”

(The application wasn’t actually submitted until the following June and didn’t give any explanation for the change, which didn’t become official until August 1, 1902.)

Elsewhere the same edition of the Eagle said: “Not only did Thomson’s — we mean Beaton — have an exceedingly pleasant and successful Christmas tree … but the citizens also made use of the occasion to christen their town with its new name — Beaton.”

It took a while for Beaton to catch on — the Nelson Daily News was still calling it Thomson’s Landing as of 1903.

Beaton’s namesake is the source of some controversy. Although it is well established that it was after local entrepreneur Malcolm Beaton (1860-1916), some sources mistakenly refer to him as the editor of the Nelson Miner. This was in fact Donald J. Beaton (1841?-1901). Their relationship, if any, is unknown.

The Beaton post office closed on October 30, 1969 but the community remains inhabited.

Beaton is sometimes confused with Evansport, a nearby townsite we’ll get to later in this series.

One other oddity: in their book British Columbia Place Names, G.P.V. and Helen Akrigg claimed the fledgling town of Thompson, named for founder Ross Thompson, changed its name to Rossland “because the post office department found the name Thompson caused confusion with a Thompson [sic] Landing on the Arrow Lakes.”

However, this appears unlikely as there was never a post office application for Thompson and correspondence concerning Rossland’s application in 1894 didn’t mention Thompson or Thomson’s Landing. The latter had been named by then, but didn’t yet have a post office.

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

Bannock City, Basin City, and Bear Lake City

Beasley

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