Castlegar

Castlegar named for founder’s Irish family estate

For decades Castlegar ranked as one of West Kootenay’s most perplexing place name mysteries, but turns out the answer was there all along.

Twenty-ninth in an almost alphabetical series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names

For decades Castlegar ranked as one of West Kootenay’s most perplexing place name mysteries, right up there with Howser, Passmore, and Waneta.

But unlike those others, which remain unsolved, its origin has been definitively established. Turns out the answer was there all along — just obscured.

The story of how Castlegar got its name, and how it was lost for a century, is so remarkable that we’ll devote a few installments to it. The short answer is that it comes from the Irish ancestral home of the townsite’s founder.

Castlegar, Ahascragh, County Galway was erected around 1815 by Sir Ross Mahon, and was the third home by that name on the property, where the Mahons settled in the late 17th century. The name, which is also found in several other places in Ireland, is derived from the Gaelic caisleán gearr, meaning “short castle.”

Sir Ross’ grandson Edward Mahon (1862-1937) came to BC from England to make his fortune in real estate and mining. With brothers John and Gilbert, he owned several claims in the Nelson and Slocan mining divisions.

In 1891, Mahon bought the ranch that would become north Castlegar from Albert McCleary, who pre-empted the site three years earlier and operated a ferry across the Columbia River. In 1897, with construction of a railway between Trail and Robson West imminent, Mahon decided to create a townsite.

On May 22 of that year the Nelson Miner reported: “A new town is to be established at the terminus of the northern extension of the Columbia and Western railway, on the west bank of the Columbia river and opposite Robson. The site is better known as the McCleary ranch, a tract of land admirably situated for the building of a town. The new burg has not yet been named.”

Provincial land surveyor Henry B. Smith laid out Castlegar on November 15 and deposited the plan at the land registry in Rossland early the next year. The avenues originally followed a mining theme: Silver, Nickel, Copper, Granite, Quartz, Iron, Steel, Galena, Cobalt, and Platinum, plus Broadway and Park. The streets were Cedar, Pine, Maple, Elm, and Main.

As Castlegar was coming to life on paper, Mahon and his brothers were negotiating with Augustus Heinze, who was building the railway to serve his Trail smelter. On October 12, 1897, Edward wrote in a letter: “We closed with Heinze re: Castlegar Townsite.”

The agreement would see Heinze and the Mahons jointly develop the town — or so Edward hoped. But bitter disappointment lay ahead. More on that next week.

For the full story of the Castlegar townsite and its founder, see Walter Volovsek’s The Green Necklace: The Vision Quest of Edward Mahon, published last year.

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

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

Carson, Carstens, and Cascade City

Casino and Champion Creek

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Totem pole considered cultural appropriation removed from Nelson’s Hume School

The pole had also become rotted and was seen as dangerous to students

Kootenay mom turns COVID lockdown into positive action

Take a Hike runs from the Kootenay Columbia Learning Centre in East Trail

BUSINESS BUZZ: Rising from the ashes, city eyes up to $200M in projects

Darren Davidson’s monthly column about business in Nelson

NDP acclaims Brittny Anderson as Nelson-Creston candidate

The provincial election will be held on Oct. 24

B.C. reports 91 new cases as officials remain worried over ‘clusters of COVID-19

There have now been a total of 8,395 cases in B.C. since the pandemic began

Four more cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

There are 31 active cases in isolation in the health region

Canada’s active COVID-19 cases top 10,000 as daily new cases triple over the past month

Dr. Tam repeated her warning to young people, who have made up the majority of recent cases

First 8 months of fatal overdoses in B.C. have now exceeded 2019 death toll

Nine people died every two days in August, BC Coroners Service data shows

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Liberal effort to reset policy agenda panned by rivals as too much talk, not action

Trudeau said it’s ‘all too likely’ families won’t be able to gather for Thanksgiving next month

‘Show us the money’ for cannabis, local governments tell B.C.

Municipal tax, transit revenues falling as costs rise

‘It’s a boy’: Southern Resident killer whale calf born to J Pod is healthy, researchers say

J35 had previously done a ‘Tour of Grief,’ carrying her dead calf for 17 days

Most Read