How Beaverdell and Billings got their names
Sixteeth in a quasi-alphabetical series on West Kootenay-Boundary place names
Beaverdell has an odd origin: the name and townsite are combined from Beaverton and Rendell, twin cities first mentioned in the Boundary Creek Times of March 18, 1899: “Beaverton is already on the market and another townsite is to be surveyed at the junction of Beaver Creek and the West Fork [of the Kettle River].”
The newspaper identified the latter townsite by name on May 3: “R. Smailes, manager of the firm of Rendell and Co., has become associated with Mr. Bell in the ownership of this property ... The town is to be known as Rendell in honor of G. Arthur Rendell, senior member of the firm of Rendell and Co.”
However, George Arthur Rendell (1861-1935), a Greenwood and Boundary Falls merchant, didn’t seem to have much to do with his namesake town, as he was more concerned with promoting the fledgling railway point of Eholt, where he was also postmaster.
For two years, Beaverton and Rendell were bitter rivals (and warring factions within Beaverton disputed pre-emption rights) until they finally gave up and teamed up.
The Phoenix Pioneer of August 10, 1901 announced: “The owners of the two townsites of Beaverton and Rendell, adjoining each other on the west fork of the Kettle River, have decided wisely to combine their interests, the amalgamated place to be hereafter known as Beaverdell — a combination of both the former names.”
There are two candidates for namesake of Billings, a Boundary whistle-stop just west of Cascade.
The more likely is John Gordon Billings (1877-1963), secretary of the Yale Columbia Lumber Co., which established a sawmill there about 1903. Billings came to BC from Ontario and worked with the Genelle family, West Kootenay’s leading lumber barons (we’ll get to the place named for them later in this series).
It’s unclear when the area actually became known as Billings, but the earliest mention yet discovered in the Grand Forks Gazette of October 21, 1909 referred to “the huge Yale-Columbia sawmill at Billings.” The mill operated until 1924.
A less likely namesake, suggested by Grand Forks pioneer Ernest Spraggett, is Frederic Billings (1868-1915), a partner in the Vernon law firm of Billings and Cochrane and solicitor for the Kettle Valley Railway.
On an episode of Gold Trails & Ghost Towns about the Columbia and Western Railway, host Bill Barlee suggested the area was named for Billings, Montana — in turn named after Northern Pacific Railway president Frederick H. Billings (1823-90) — but this seems less likely still.
The name survives in Billings Road. There’s also a Billings Road at Brouse, south of Nakusp, where the Yale Columbia Co. had another mill.
Previous installments in this series