Fifty-fifth in a semi-alphabetical series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
Falls City was a classic — and notorious — real estate promotion that took in victims and then went nowhere.
The townsite, at the confluence of the Salmo and Pend d’Oreille rivers, was first mentioned in the Nelson Daily News on May 13, 1911: “J.D. Anderson has two parties of surveyors up at Falls City laying off additional town lots. It is reported that there has been a brisk sale of the lots in this new townsite.”
The streets were Main, Eureka, Bonanza, Summit, Emerald, Nugget, Queen, and Motherlode, after local mines. While the name might suggest the town was near a cascade, in fact it was after Ontario-born John Wesley (Jack) Falls (1876-1952), the first white settler to take up land on the Colville Indian reservation. The 1911 census finds Falls at 714 Carbonate Street in Nelson with wife Katherine and infant daughter Gertrude.
In an interview with historian Elsie Turnbull in 1962, A.M. Adie said: “Jack Falls was a notorious character who lived along the Pend d’Oreille. He was really a swindler and laid out a townsite on the Salmon River on a mountainside. He was representative for the Waneta Power Co. — an outfit which milked the public, selling land they didn’t own along the Pend d’Oreille.”
Art Buckley, in a 1979 interview published in Beaver Valley and Pend d’Oreille, added that his father worked for Falls and his partner, the appropriately-named Mr. Caper: “They were going to build a dam and a power plant on the Salmo River. It was a stock-selling scheme; he was quite a promoter and he could tell you black was white and you’d believe it … He got farmers in the States by the dozens and they just handed money out. They would invest a few thousand dollars and then have nothing to live on during the winter, so they would come up here and work, but draw no wages.”
One victim of the Falls City scheme was Bill Guillaume. According to Turnbull in Ghost Towns and Drowned Towns of West Kootenay, word spread to England, and in 1913, “Guillaume left with his wife and young daughter to be postmaster in the new town. He soon discovered that Falls City existed only on paper. After spending the winter in a cabin behind the depot at Waneta, he moved to Trail where in the next 60 years he and his wife became valued and loved citizens.”
Jack Falls, meanwhile, died in Trail and is buried in an unmarked grave. Of his various schemes, all that was accomplished was a sawmill and suspension bridge across the Pend d’Oreille. A steamshovel he used in a placer mining promotion ended up buried in the sand across from Waneta Plaza.
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