This rare photo of Kuskonook in 1898 was only identified last year.

Kuskonook’s name full of intrigue

The naming of Kuskonook (or Kuskanook) is intriguing on so many levels that we’ll devote a few installments to it.

One-hundred and seventh in a semi-alphabetical series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names

The naming of Kuskonook (or Kuskanook) is intriguing on so many levels that we’ll devote a few installments to it.

The town near the south end of Kootenay Lake came to life during railway construction in 1898. It was previously — and for a while, simultaneously — known as Goat River Landing, Armstrong’s Landing, and Kalama.

It’s hard to know which name came first. The earliest mention of Armstrong’s Landing was in the Nelson Miner of Jan. 8, 1898: “The CPR is opening a route to Fort Steele by the new wagon road from Armstrong’s landing on Kootenay river.”

Goat River Landing and Kalama were both first mentioned four days later in The Kootenaian.

Armstrong’s Landing was named for Vancouver railway contractor William Henry Armstrong (1857-1922), as it was his headquarters during construction of the CPR’s Crowsnest Pass line.

The name was only used through mid-February 1898, although a few subsequent references explained it as Kuskonook’s former name. (It survives in Armstrong Road a few kilometers to the north.)

Although the name Kalama was short-lived, it nevertheless had a presumably apocryphal story attached to its origin, related in the Nelson Economist of Feb. 2, 1898 by fictional correspondent Larry Finn:

“I had a letter from Tom Carey the other day, Tim. He has a job on the railway that they’re building up [by] Goat River, an’ he tells me that there’s a big town springing up at the landing. They calls it Kalama. That’s a quare name, but Carey tells me it was an Italian what gave it to it. A few ov the boys he says, got a bottle ov whiskey into the camp, an’ it was so bad that they were all giving it the worst name they could think ov … An Italian dropt in, an’ Carey axed him to have a drop of calamity water. The Italian went back to his camp an’ towld all his friends about the drink ov — he couldn’t think ov calamity-water an’ called it Kalama-water. They went looking for the Kalama-water, an’ when they found it at the landing they called the place Kalama, an’ the name stuck to it.”

The British Columbia News of Jan. 28, 1898 complained: “Goat River Landing, Armstrong’s Landing, Kalama, and perhaps more to follow! Will the new town be named to death? That is what the people of the bustling burg at the south end of Kootenay Lake want to know. They do not like the name of Kalama that some non-original person fasted upon it, probably in memory of the old town across the line … and are willing to take almost any other old thing rather than that.”

That “old town across the line” was Kalama, Wash., in the southwestern part of the state, which has three possible etymologies. The first says it was named after the Kalama River which in turn took its name from a native Hawaiian named John Kalama (fl. 1837-70).

Alternatively, Gen. J.W. Sprague of the Northern Pacific Railroad named the town in 1871 for a Native American word calama, meaning “pretty maiden.” And in 1811, Gabriel Franchere wrote of a village at the mouth of the Kalama River called Thlakamah.

Kalama also resembles Kalamaka, a lake and railway point south of Vernon, apparently named after an Okanagan chief named Tanamalka. The Kalamalka Hotel opened in Vernon in the early 1890s but the lake didn’t share the name until the 1910s.

Kalama, BC was last mentioned in February 1898. Goat River Landing held on a little while longer; there are references until November of that year and the name later applied to a different spot.

Why so much fuss over the name? Competing railways. The Great Northern’s Kaslo and Slocan Railway, which owned the townsite property, planned to use it as the terminus of their Bedlington and Nelson line, and certainly wouldn’t accept the name of a rival company’s contractor.

They weren’t big on Kalama either, though a post office application had apparently been filed under that name. When president Daniel J. Munn and chief engineer John Hamilton Gray moved in to lay out the townsite, they chose yet another name.

Next: Kuskonook vs. Kuskanook

Previous installments in this series





Annable, Apex, and Arrow Park

Annable, revisited


Applegrove, Appleby, and Appledale revisited

Argenta and Arrowhead


Bakers, Birds, and Bosun Landing


Bannock City, Basin City, and Bear Lake City



Bealby Point

Bealby Point (aka Florence Park) revisited

Belford and Blewett

Beaverdell and Billings

Birchbank and Birchdale

Blueberry and Bonnington

Boswell, Bosworth, Boulder Mill, and Broadwater



Brooklyn, Brouse, and Burnt Flat


Camborne, Cariboo City, and Carrolls Landing

Carmi, Cedar Point, Circle City, and Clark’s Camp

Carson, Carstens, and Cascade City

Casino and Champion Creek

Castlegar, Part 1

Castlegar, Part 2

Castlegar, Part 3

Christina Lake

Christina City and Christian Valley

Clubb Landing and Coltern

Cody and Champion Creek revisited

Champion Creek revisited, again


Columbia City, Columbia Gardens, and Columbia Park


Cooper Creek and Corra Linn

Crawford Bay and Comaplix revisited

Crescent Valley and Craigtown


Dawson, Deadwood, and Deanshaven

Deer Park

East Arrow Park and Edgewood


English Cove and English Point



Evans Creek and Evansport

Falls City




Ferguson, revisited


Forslund, Fosthall, and Fairview

Fort Shepherd vs. Fort Sheppard, Part 1

Fort Shepherd vs. Fort Sheppard, Part 2

Fort Sheppard, revisited

Fraser’s Landing and Franklin


Fruitvale and Fraine

Galena Bay



Gilpin and Glade

Gladstone and Gerrard, revisited

Glendevon and Graham Landing

Gloster City

Goldfields and Gold Hill

Grand Forks, Part 1

Grand Forks, Part 2

Granite Siding and Granite City

Gray Creek, Part 1

Gray Creek, Part 2

Gray Creek, revisited

Green City


Halcyon Hot Springs

Hall Siding and Healy’s Landing


Hartford Junction


Howser, Part 1

Howser, Part 2

Howser, Part 3

Howser, Part 4

Hudu Valley, Huntingtdon, and Healy’s Landing revisited

Inonoaklin Valley (aka Fire Valley)

Jersey, Johnsons Landing, and Jubilee Point

Kaslo, Part 1

Kaslo, Part 2

Kaslo, Part 3

Kaslo, Part 4

Kettle River, Part 1

Kettle River, Part 2

Kinnaird, Part 1

Kinnaird, Part 2

Kitto Landing

Kokanee and Keen

Kootenay Bay, Kraft, and Krestova

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