Seventeenth in a (primarily) alphabetical series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
Birchbank, north of Trail, was originally known as Sullivan or Sullivan Siding, after Sullivan Creek, which in turn was likely named after John Godfrey Sullivan (1863-1938), chief assistant engineer of the Columbia and Western railway, who went on to become the CPR’s chief engineer of western lines.
He designed the Connaught Tunnel through the Rockies and was assistant engineer on construction of the Panama Canal. He later served on Winnipeg city council and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Manitoba.
Sullivan first appears as a Columbia and Western Railway stop on a schedule dated November 21, 1897 and printed in the Slocan Pioneer of December 11, 1897.
In 1912 the name was changed to Birchbank, after the Anderson ranch on the bluff above the railway line. According to a 1969 issue of Cominco Magazine, the name was chosen when residents failed to get post office approval for the name Sullivan — although why is hazy. Possibly an application had already been filed for Sullivan Station around New Westminster, but it didn’t open until mid-1913.
The ranch and railway siding were also variously known as Birchfield and Birchbrook. The earliest known mention of Birchbrook is in the Nelson Daily News of October 15, 1910, while an item in the Rossland Miner of January 8, 1913 said: “Harry Anderson, of Birchbrook Orchards, has left for Pullman …”
Further confusing matters, a 1912 map showed Birchfield and Sullivan Station as separate places, while a billhead in the Cominco papers at the BC Provincial Archives dated August 15, 1917 reads: “Birchbrook Orchards. Shipping point, Sullivan, BC. Birchbank post office. J.D. Anderson, owner; Harry Anderson, manager, Birchbank, BC.”
The Birchbank post office opened on May 1, 1912 and closed June 30, 1929.
An early mention is in The Kootenaian of January 8, 1914, concerning a resolution by the Kaslo Conservatives Association that “an additional light be placed on the headland immediately south of McIntyre’s Landing.”
The earliest use of Birchdale is in The Kootenaian of June 17, 1926: “McIntyres Landing will in future be known as Birchdale. In order to avoid misunderstandings for the present I should be obliged if business houses would bill shipments Birchdale (late McIntyres) until August 1 after which date McIntyres Landing in brackets can be omitted. – Noel Bacchus”
While the name hasn’t disappeared entirely, it’s not in widespread use.
Previous installments in this series