One-hundred fifty-first in an alphabetical series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
Pingston Creek, and the locality of Pingston, on the west side of Upper Arrow Lake, were named for Alfred Thomas Pingston (1840-86), a mate and later captain of the steamer Forty-Nine, which began service on the Columbia River and Arrow Lakes in 1866 to supply the Big Bend gold rush.
Pingston, whose name was also spelled Pingstone and erroneously as Pinkston, was born in Bristol, England and was orphaned at 13. It’s not known how he came to America or became a mariner.
According to the Revelstoke Kootenay Mail of May 26, 1894, the company that owned the Forty-Nine outfitted four miners working on Carne’s Creek in 1867, about 30 miles north of Revelstoke. (This creek was named “for a miner named Carne, a Cornishman, who is reported to have taken out a lot of money.”)
Pingston “spent considerable money developing the claim in Carne’s Creek after the steamboat company had withdrawn their interest.”
A shaft was sunk and a nugget worth $28 (something like $480 today) was discovered, but little else was found and the claim was abandoned. In 1888, a company formed in Revelstoke to work the claim, which they named the Rip Van Winkle.
Pingston also played a small but interesting role in Kootenay Lake’s Bluebell mine saga.
In the 1870s, a prospector sent a promising sample from the future Bluebell to California mining capitalist George Hearst — the father of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. The elder Hearst wanted to see the site for himself, so he hired Pingston to row him there, along with the prospector and an assay kit.
“On the trip up the river the prospector proposed to Pingston to lose the assay outfit whilst making one of their portages so that Mr. Hearst could make no assays on the trip. Pingston refused and after the party arrived safely at the location Mr. Hearst soon found out that he had been brought on a wild goose chase from San Francisco … There was no such ore in sight like the sample sent to him.
“He at once prepared to return and refused to allow the prospector in the boat he had hired and would have allowed him to remain alone on the shore but Pingston would not consent to this and remarked to Mr. Hearst ‘You can go and thrash him if you like but you cannot leave him there to starve.’” Hearst relented.
In 1885, Pingston captained the maiden voyage of the SS Kootenai up the Columbia River from Little Dalles, Wash. to the present site of Revelstoke, carrying supplies for the Canadian Pacific Railway. It was a difficult journey: to clear rapids, Pingston tied the boat to a rock or tree on the riverbank and cranked the steamer upstream.
Pingston died in bizarre circumstances on April 27, 1886. According to the Victoria Daily Colonist: “Saturday morning last, while in a house near Little Dalles a deer came close to the house. One of the men ran to get a Springfield rifle, and in the hurry of loading, the weapon was discharged, the ball striking Pingstone in the knee, severing an artery. He only lived a few moments. The man who did the shooting is almost crazy. The body was taken to Pingstone’s home at Marcus for burial …
“He was one of the oldest and most skillful pilots in northwest coast waters, and his survey of the upper Columbia for several hundred miles in a skiff some years ago connects his name firmly with the navigation records as his work at the wheel has done.”
Pingston was survived by his wife Martina Manuel, a member of the Colville Tribes, with whom he had six children. Some of his grandchildren are still alive.
The creek named in his honour appears on George M. Dawson’s 1890 Reconnaissance Map of a Portion of the West Kootanie [sic] District, and was first mentioned in the Revelstoke Kootenay Star on Aug. 2, 1890: “A. McCleary … located a mining claim on Pinkston [sic] creek …”
Various companies owned timber limits around Pingston and ran sawmills there.
In Silent Shores and Sunken Ships, Milt Parent writes: “Charlie Lindmark [of the Revelstoke Lumber Co.] made several applications … for a post office and delivery to Pingston, pointing out that the St. Leon post [office] had closed, necessitating a trip to Halcyon or Arrowhead to pick up deliveries.”
If Pingston Creek’s name is familiar today it’s because TransAlta developed a 45 megawatt run-of-the-river hydro project there in 2003.
Alfred Pingston is also remembered in Pingston Lake, at the head of Pingston Creek, and in a second Pingston Creek that flows into the Columbia River south of Marcus, Wash., where Pingston planted an orchard in 1864. Pingston Creek Rd. is a back road between Marcus and Colville.
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