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

Just Posted

RDCK to purchase lands around Cottonwood Lake

21.6 hectares will be purchased for $450,000

COLUMN: Helping my father keep his dignity as he was dying

Nelson teacher Robyn Sheppard reflects on the life and death of her father

Nelson presents proposed 2019 budget with undecided tax increase

Further details will be available after a council meeting in April.

Nelson to get legal opinion on right-to-life street banner

Does the Nelson Right to Life banner violate the Charter of Rights?

Celebrate World Water Day in Crescent Valley

The event is organized by the Perry Ridge Watershed Association

VIDEO: Restaurant robots are already in Canada

Robo Sushi in Toronto has waist-high robots that guide patrons to empty seats

Permit rejected to bring two cheetahs to B.C.

Earl Pfeifer owns two cheetahs, one of which escaped in December 2015

Real-life tsunami threat in Port Alberni prompts evacuation updates

UBC study says some people didn’t recognize the emergency signal

Care providers call for B.C. seniors’ watchdog to step down

The association also asks the province to conduct an audit and review of the mandate of her office

Nitro Cold Brew Coffee from B.C. roaster recalled due to botulism scare

“If you purchased N7 Nitro Cold Brew Coffee from Cherry Hill … do not drink it.”

B.C. man gets award for thwarting theft, sexual assault – all in 10 minutes

Karl Dey helped the VPD take down a violent sex offender

Baby left alone in vehicle in B.C. Walmart parking lot

Williams Lake RCMP issue warning after attending complaint at Walmart Wednesday

College of the Rockies to add 96 beds for student housing in Cranbrook

$17.7 million project featuring six cottege-style buildings to be completed by 2020

Nowhere to grieve: How homeless people deal with loss during the opioid crisis

Abbotsford homeless advocate says grief has distinct challenges for those living on the streets

Most Read