Fife’s origin remains a mystery
Fifty-eighth in a series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
The community of Fife, east of Christina Lake, was originally called Sutherland Siding, although the origins of both names are uncertain. The latter was after Sutherland Creek, so called by March 1898.
According to G.P.V. and Helen Akrigg in British Columbia Place Names (3rd Ed.), the creek was in turn named “After J. Sutherland, a cowboy-prospector who spent years prospecting the upper watershed of the creek and died in a cabin at its mouth.”
A death registration exists for one J. Sutherland who died March 17, 1900 in Grand Forks, age 26. However, in Christina Lake: An Illustrated History, Lincoln Sandner stated the creek was named after George Sutherland, a pioneer prospector. Are they the same man?
In any case, the earliest reference to Sutherland Siding is in the Cascade Record of March 24, 1900. But a post office application submitted that year suggested using the name Christina or Fife instead. An inspector’s report of May 15 stated:
“There is no regular station as yet on the Columbia & Western Railway where the proposed office is intended to be located. The place is known on the Canadian Pacific Railway time tables as ‘Sutherland Siding’ but I am informed that it is intended to change the name of the place at once to ‘Fife’ and in the event of the establishment of the proposed office being authorized, I respectfully beg to recommend that it be known as ‘Fife.’ There is a locality in this province known as Christiania where an office has been applied for, and in the event of this office being established and known as Christina, mis-sending of mail is likely to result.”
The Fife post office opened on August 1, 1900 and the railway siding also adopted the new name. But where did it come from? One source suggests it honoured the Duke of Fife, Alexander Duff (1849-1912) who married Princess Louise, daughter of King Edward VII. (Fife is a Scottish county.)
Another possibility, pointed out by Boundary historian Alice Glanville, is William H. Fife (1833-1905), who had mining interests in Rossland in the 1890s and spent time in Grand Forks. The city of Fife, Wash., near Tacoma, is named for him.
A group of claims known as the Fife property also straddled the railway between Fife and Christina Lake. But did the place take its name from the claims or vice versa?
In 1899, a huge limestone vein was discovered in the area and Cominco operated the resulting quarry into the 1950s. The post office closed in 1966.
At least 62 people were born in Fife between 1904 and 1931, although not many are left. One of them, Rose Hallstrom, died in Grand Forks on March 17 at 90. A minimum of 18 more people were born in the adjacent community of Hilltop, further up the mountainside.
A small number of people still live in Fife today.
Previous installments in this series