Ninety-fifth in a series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
Kaslo is either a corruption of a French name or a First Nations word, with the odds favouring the latter theory. However, it’s so complicated that we’ll devote several installments to it.
The community took its name from the river, first mentioned with a different spelling in George W. Dawson’s 1889 Report on a Portion of the West Kootanie [sic] District, British Columbia: “Fry River, seven miles and a half from the north end of the lake on its east side, and Caslo River, 18 miles from the same point on the opposite side, are the only other important affulents in the northern half of the lake.” (Fry River, named for Richard Fry, would be demoted to Fry Creek by 1891.)
The earliest mention using the present spelling was a legal ad placed by a W. Jensen in the Victoria Daily Colonist of Dec. 13, 1889: “Notice is hereby given that, 60 days after date, I intend to apply to the Hon. Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works to purchase 1920 acres of timber land, more or less, situated on Kaslo Creek, West Kootenay …”
The Kaslo townsite was first mentioned by Randall H. Kemp in the Spokane Review of Sept. 4, 1891: “The Kaslo creek excitement has in a measure subsided … As usual the townsite operator is early on the ground [at] the mouth of Kaslo, eight miles beyond [Ainsworth].”
On the 26th of that month, the Nelson Miner carried a story with the headline “Sale of town lots of Kaslo City.” It read: “The owners of the pre-emption at the mouth of Kaslo Creek … have decided that there is more money in selling town lots than in raising farm produce. To that end, a townsite has been laid out, and lots are now on the market …”
Kaslo City was surveyed by Samuel Parker Tuck and the plan deposited in the land registry on Nov. 5, 1891. It was referred to as Kaslo City occasionally thereafter, but when the post office opened on Aug. 1, 1892, it was simply called Kaslo. It was incorporated as a city in 1893 but reverted to a village in 1959.
“It is interesting to note that mostly every new western town has to have the affix ‘city’ to start with,” wrote the British Columbia News on Feb. 25, 1898. “As soon as it is old enough to go it alone, it drops the crutch.”
The Daily Nor’Wester of Winnipeg of March 27, 1897 noted: “There is by the way a little ambiguity in the mind of the general public as to the name of the city of Kaslo. It is called Kaslo and Kaslo City but the name of the town is the City of Kaslo, by which it will be understood that it is in fact not a city, but a town bearing the name of the City of Kaslo.”
Next: Where did Kaslo come from?
Previous installments in this series