The Erie townsite

An Erie tale

Erie is today a bedroom community of Salmo but it once was a mining town in its own right.



Fifty-second in an alphabetical series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names

Erie is today a bedroom community of Salmo but it was once a mining town in its own right, originally called North Fork for its location on the Salmo River.

It’s first mentioned in the Nelson Miner of September 5, 1896: “The camp is easily reached from Nelson, there being daily trains on the Nelson & Fort Sheppard Railway, which reach the North Fork in about an hour …”

The fledgling town was also called Gilliam’s on a ca. 1897 Salmo townsite map and the 1900-01 directory of BC mining companies listed the Monterey Gold Mining Co., incorporated in 1897, as having its registered office at Gilliam.

That was after miner and hotelkeeper Marcus Heath Gilliam (1868-1948), whom author Clara Graham credits in Kootenay Mosaic with renaming the town Erie. She gave pioneer druggist and postmaster James R. Hunnex as her source, but when Hunnex answered an inquiry from the Geographic Survey of Canada in 1905 about Erie’s name, he didn’t mention Gilliam. However, he explained the change was to avoid confusion with the north fork of the Kettle River:

“Accordingly, one of the then-residents who had at one time lived at Erie, Penn. suggested the name of the settlement be changed to Erie, and as the American element has always been numerically strong here, the matter was so decided.”

While it’s unclear if Marc Gilliam ever lived in Erie, Penn., his mother was born in Erie County, N.Y. Both those places as well as Lake Erie honour the Erie tribe, an Iroquoian group whose name was a shortened form of Erielhonan, meaning “long tail.”

Coincidentally, Salmo’s Desirae Clark was recruited to play hockey for Mercyhurst College of Erie, Penn. In a 2004 Vancouver Sun story, she admitted “it was a case of rushing to the atlas after the call to find out where exactly Erie was located.”

It’s also possible Erie, BC was named for the Erie Mining and Milling Co. or Erie Consolidated Mining Co., both founded in 1897. The former owned a claim in the Slocan called the Erie.

In any case, the Erie townsite was surveyed on May 27, 1897 by Henry B. Smith. Its streets included Garnet, Crystal, Coral, Agate, Topaz, Ruby, Opal, and Pearl. Only the latter three survive today.

The first newspaper reference was in the Victoria Daily Colonist of June 13, 1897: “The towns of Ymir, Salmo, and Erie are all reported to be thriving finely …” (All three were laid out for railway magnate D.C. Corbin.)

However, it took a little while for the new name to catch on, for when journalist R.W. Northey asked a Rossland railway ticket agent for a ticket to Erie, he received a blank stare: “‘North Fork,’ I continued, rather amused at his mystification. ‘Oh, ah! North Fork. Here you are. Three dollars and ten cents.’”

The Erie post office operated from 1898 to 1948. The body of water near the townsite was originally called Trout Lake but became known as Erie Lake.

Marc Gilliam moved back to the US, dreaming of California, but was immortalized at Erie by Gilliam Creek, so named by 1901. Gilliam County, Oregon is named for his great grandfather Cornelius Gilliam. Marc’s granddaughter Holly Michelle Gilliam is better known as Michelle Phillips of the 1960s folk rock group The Mamas and the Papas.

Previous installments in this series

Introduction

Ainsworth

Alamo

Anaconda

Annable, Apex, and Arrow Park

Annable, revisited

Appledale

Applegrove, Appleby, and Appledale revisited

Argenta and Arrowhead

Aylwin

Bakers, Birds, and Bosun Landing

Balfour

Bannock City, Basin City, and Bear Lake City

Beasley

Beaton

Bealby Point

Bealby Point (aka Florence Park) revisited

Belford and Blewett

Beaverdell and Billings

Birchbank and Birchdale

Blueberry and Bonnington

Boswell, Bosworth, Boulder Mill, and Broadwater

Brandon

Brilliant

Brooklyn, Brouse, and Burnt Flat

Burton

Camborne, Cariboo City, and Carrolls Landing

Carmi, Cedar Point, Circle City, and Clark’s Camp

Carson, Carstens, and Cascade City

Casino and Champion Creek

Castlegar, Part 1

Castlegar, Part 2

Castlegar, Part 3

Christina Lake

Christina City and Christian Valley

Clubb Landing and Coltern

Cody and Champion Creek revisited

Champion Creek revisited, again

Columbia

Columbia City, Columbia Gardens, and Columbia Park

Comaplix

Cooper Creek and Corra Linn

Crawford Bay and Comaplix revisited

Crescent Valley and Craigtown

Davenport

Dawson, Deadwood, and Deanshaven

Deer Park

East Arrow Park and Edgewood

Eholt

English Cove and English Point

Enterprise

Just Posted

Selkirk College students protest proposed tuition increases

Sudents’ union says this year’s 2 per cent increase puts education out of reach for some

Nelson project funds rural schools in Nepal

Mountain trekker David Swain runs the Altitude Project

Trail area homicide investigation continues

Jan. 14 marked one year since Jordan Workman was discovered in the trunk of a burnt car

Leafs, Nitehawks settle for 4-4 tie

Nelson is now unbeaten in nine straight games

Former ski champ and MLA’s son hope to open Castlegar cannabis store next month

Felix Belczyk and Ben Conroy are in the approval process for local Spiritleaf outlet

UPDATE: B.C. legislature managers accused of excessive travel, personal expense claims

Clerk Craig James, security chief Gary Lenz call allegations ‘completely false’

B.C. man fined $10,000 after leaving moose to suffer before death

Surrey man was convicted last week on three Wildlife Act charges

‘Blue Monday’ isn’t real, but depression can be

CMHA encourages people to prioritize their mental health

Anti-pipeline group wants NEB to consider impact of emissions, climate change

Stand.earth filed NEB motion asking to apply same standard to the project as it did with Energy East pipeline

B.C. man charged in 2014 snake venom death of toddler

Henry Thomas was taking care of the North Vancouver girl the day before she died

Parole granted for drunk driver who killed B.C. RCMP officer

Kenneth Jacob Fenton will be able to attend alcohol abuse treatment, nearly three years after crash that killed Const. Sarah Beckett

B.C.’s largest public-sector union wants inquiry into money laundering, drugs

Union officials say Premier John Horgan and Attorney General David Eby have not ruled out the possibility of a public inquiry

Teen in confrontation with Native American: I didn’t provoke

Nick Sandmann of Covington Catholic High School said he was trying to defuse the situation

New military armoury opens in Cranbrook

Military presence in the Key City a part of the 44th Engineer Squadron

Most Read