Ninety-seventh in a series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
Last week, we saw that David Kane who, with his brother George, christened the Kaslo townsite around 1891, believed the river of the same name honoured a placer miner named John Kaslo or Jean Kasleau, who was part of a Hudson’s Bay Co. party. Other repeated this.
John C. Goodfellow wrote in 1939 to Dr. Robie L. Reid, in a letter now held by UBC special collections: “The late David Whitely (better known here as ‘Red Paddy’) used to speak of ‘Old Johnny Kasleau’ as if he were a living tradition in the Kootenays of the early ‘90s … But I must confess that about Kaslo himself I know very little.”
The August 1944 edition of Cominco Magazine stated: “Frank Casleau, a French Canadian trapper, had a cabin at the mouth of the creek.”
A.L. MacPhee wrote to A.G. Harvey around 1949 in a letter held by the BC Archives: “Yes, John Casleau. This is correct. He left here in 1895, never heard of him since.”
Kate Johnson wrote in The Kootenaian of July 6, 1967: “The stream was named for John Kasleaw who arrived in the Kootenays in the ‘80s with a Hudson Bay party to secure lead for bullets from the outcrop of the present Bluebell mine. His name spelled Kasleaw was later shortened to Kaslo.”
David Scott observed in the February 1980 edition of BC Outdoors: “There is scant evidence that the gentleman ever existed, but that has never mattered; in the mirage of a sparkling winter night, Kasloites can still see smoke rising from his lonely cabin; they are sure that his name Casleau was simply changed to Kaslo.”
The 1881 Canadian census finds a John Caslow in Ontario, a William Caslo in Nova Scotia, but no one named Kaslo or Kasleau. No one by all of those spellings appears on the 1891 census. However, one of the petitioners for a post office at Bear Lake City in 1892 appears to have been a John C. Creslo.
While it’s probably unrelated, there’s a Kaslokan Point in Alaska and a Kaslow Prairie State Reserve in Iowa. In the US, there are 100 phone listings for the surname Kaslow, 15 for Kaslo (including a fellow who lives on Kootenai St. in Boise), seven for Caslo, and zero for Kasleau. In Canada, there are no listings under any of those spellings. A Google search turns up 358,000 hits for Kaslow, 92,000 for Caslo, and about 1,000 for Casleau, but fewer than 100 for Kasleau.
William Bambury offered another theory in an annotated copy of Tales of the Kootenays: “I was credibly informed that Kaslo Creek was named through a slurred pronunciation of the name of an Irish prospector named Paddy Costello.”
However, the better bet is that Kaslo’s name has a different origin entirely.
Next: The blackberry theory
Previous installments in this series