Twenty-eighth in a series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
Trail may be the Home of Champions, but Champion Creek was home to a now-abandoned Doukhobor community.
According to G.P.V. and Helen Akrigg in British Columbia Place Names, the Champion Lakes (and by extension the creek) are named after James W. Champion, listed in the 1910 BC directory as a Fruitvale rancher.
That may well be the case, but he’s a bit of a phantom, for he’s not in any other local directory nor does he appear in this area on the 1901 or 1911 census.
The creek’s earliest mention was in the Rossland Miner of April 6, 1895: “Ore of a similar character to that of the Trail Creek mines is known to exist on the headwaters of Champion creek …”
That spring saw a stampede up the creek and about 40 claims staked.
By 1897, Champion was also the name of a railway siding opposite the mouth of Marsh Creek on the Nelson and Fort Sheppard line. It appeared on maps as of 1900.
On the other side of the mountain, the Doukhobors bought 920 acres at the confluence of Champion Creek and the Columbia River in 1912 and established five villages, according to Jon Kalmakoff’s online Doukhobor Gazetteer. They named the area Blagodatnoye, Russian for blessed or abundant.
The community flourished for decades but was abandoned in the 1960s. All that’s left today is some stone foundations and a cemetery, which was restored in 2000.
This area is also sometimes referred to as Poupore, a railway siding on the opposite side of the river that we’ll get to it later in this series.
This curiously-named community, about 10 km southeast of Trail on a flat above the Columbia River, has two possible etymologies.
The more likely, cited on the BC geographical names website, says it was named for Casino Creek, which in turn was “Named in association with Big Casino mine (and attendant mining camp) operating here ca. 1910.”
The Big Casino claim was crown granted to John Weir on December 21, 1903.
According to Trail of Memories, in 1929, D.B. Merry built a sawmill at the foot of the hill and logged timber in the Casino Creek drainage, part of which became the Casino townsite. He sold land at $25 per acre to the settlement’s original homesteaders, who organized as the Security Cooperative Society.
The first ten families arrived in spring 1938. The Nelson Daily News of January 28, 1939 confirmed: “Water is obtained from Casino creek after which the place was named.”
However, in Trail of Memories, the entry for Casino pioneers Walter and Charlotte Thomsen states: “The neighbors took turns playing cards in each others homes on the many evenings when they were snowed in and couldn’t get out to work. This is why they decided to call their village Casino.”
The old Casino school still stands as a community hall.
Next week: Solving the mystery of Castlegar
Previous installments in this series