Ferguson founder named town for himself
Fifty-seventh in a more-or-less alphabetical series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
The Lardeau ghost town of Ferguson was named for David Ferguson (1861-1903), a miner, prospector, and hotelier.
One of six brothers born at Grand Bend, Ontario who came to West Kootenay, he was first mentioned in the Nelson Miner of February 7, 1891: “Dave Ferguson and W.C. Phillips are the first arrivals of the year from the main line of the Canadian Pacific; the former from Revelstoke …”
By late 1893, Ferguson was in the Lardeau and on March 24, 1894, the Miner noted: “Dave Ferguson is now at his cabin at the Forks getting lots ready for the new building he proposes to erect in the spring.”
The forks referred to was the confluence of Lardeau Creek and what became Ferguson Creek. Ferguson pre-empted a flap of land there that he named after himself.
The earliest reference from Revelstoke’s Kootenay Mail of April 14, 1894 said: “Messrs. C. Holden of the Silver Cup and D. Ferguson, a land boomer from Ferguson City, arrived at Thomson’s Landing this evening …”
The name soon changed, but continued to honour its founder. On August 25 of that year, the Mail wrote: “While Mr. Ferguson was digging potatoes on his ranch at St. David’s he found three small nuggets in his pan. The gold at St. David’s must be up to the grass roots.”
The newspaper added on September 8: “St. David’s is prettily situated at the forks of the Lardeau, about four miles from Trout Lake City, and promises to become a mining centre, being situated within a short distance of several notable mines … [T]aken altogether, things look quite promising for the fortunate owner of the townsite, Mr. Dave Ferguson.”
But it was slow going and ultimately Ferguson decided the town would be better off with his surname. From the Miner of August 8, 1896: “A new town known by the name of Ferguson has been started at the forks of the Lardeau, about 15 miles from Thomsons Landing.”
Walter Henderson began surveying the townsite that November but didn’t complete the plan until October 24, 1898. It’s unclear why it took so long. Ferguson had two avenues, Victoria and Lorne, eight streets, Ferguson, Clark, Johnson, Dufferin, Pool, Graham, Knowles, Vickers, and one road, Lansdowne.
Curiously, the 1897 Henderson’s directory referred to the town as Lardeau Forks.
Ferguson prospered for a short time on the strength of the Nettie L and other mines. A post office application was filed in late 1896, but it didn’t open for another two years. It moved to Trout Lake in 1969, but retained the name Ferguson until it closed five years later.
David Ferguson moved to Saanich, where on December 19, 1903, he vanished. The Victoria Daily Colonist said the “extraordinary disappearance … caused somewhat of a sensation.”
His family offered a $1,000 reward but later withdrew it. The following March, a body discovered in a bush was confirmed as Ferguson. A coroner’s jury ruled it “suicide in a fit of despondency.”
Ferguson’s namesake town went into a long decline although at least one pioneer building, the Lardeau Hotel, stood into the 1970s. In the last decade or so, the town’s main street has come back to life as original lots have been sold off to recreational users who have built cabins.
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