One-hundred forty-sixth in an alphabetical series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
The border crossing southwest of Rossland was named for Archibald Neil Paterson (1865-1935), who became customs agent there in January 1898 and postmaster on Sept. 1, 1899.
However, when the initial application for a post office was filed on Jan. 1, 1896, the accompanying petition suggested the name Barney, after rancher Bartholomew O’Brien (1834-1911): “We the undersigned free miners and prospectors, all residents near the aforesaid place of Barney, do petition and pray that a post office will be established at Barney O’Brien’s place … Barney is situated on the mail route between Rossland and Northport … near the international line.”
The Northport News of March 5, 1896 reported: “Barney O’Brien was in from Barney, BC, Saturday, and informed us that it had now become an assured fact that a post office would be established at his place and that he would be installed as postmaster. This should have been done a year ago, as Barney is a convenient location, the hills around there being full of prospectors ….”
Postal authorities had already concluded otherwise. In a report dated Feb. 27, the inspector wrote: “There is little correspondence for or from the proposed office. Mr. O’Brien has a private bag to and from Rossland which the courier calls for and delivers on his trip to and from Northport. This arrangement seems to give all necessary convenience.”
O’Brien filed a second application on Dec. 14, 1897, suggesting the post office be called Barney or Frontier, and signed his letter “Frontier, BC.”
The postal inspector wrote: “The name of Frontier would be most suitable for the proposed office although the Customs Department have a post established about 1½ miles south of the proposed office known as Sheep Creek.”
But it never opened. Instead, Frontier was the name given to a Washington post office that operated from 1901-12. It’s still the name of the Washington side of the border crossing.
Having failed to perpetuate himself in local toponymy, O’Brien went to live in the old men’s home in Kamloops in 1904. The Vancouver Daily World revealed he was an attorney in San Francisco before homesteading in the Sheep Creek valley, and in Rossland’s boom days, he “received an offer of $15,000 cash for his ranch from parties who desired to utilize it as a racetrack. He did not think the offer good enough, and never had another chance to dispose of his property.”
A third application for a post office was referred to the inspector on June 8, 1899, this time successfully. The Rossland Evening Record of Sept. 2, 1899 reported: “A new post office is about to be opened at the boundary line at Sheep Creek which is to be called Paterson, after the genial Archie Paterson, collector of customs at that point and who will be the postmaster.”
In a 1906 letter to James White of the Canadian Geographic Survey, Archie wrote that the Red Mountain Railway named its station at the border Sheep Creek, the same name given to the customs house until it was changed to Paterson on July 18, 1900 by order-in-council. The railway station was renamed Paterson on April 1, 1905.
Archie wasn’t sure he was Paterson’s only namesake, for he wrote that the post office was named “for Hon. William Paterson or myself, or both.”
William Paterson (1839-1914) was minister of customs at the time. Custom Services in Western Canada (1962) suggests he and Archie were brothers — which might imply Archie’s job was the result of nepotism — but if there was any relation, they definitely weren’t siblings. Archie was 26 years younger than William, whose parents died of cholera when he was ten.
Archie resigned as postmaster in 1906 and went to the Omineca district. The Paterson post office closed in 1930.
Railway Mileposts, Vol. II (1984) and the Encyclopedia of British Columbia both claim Paterson was named in honour of Thomas Wilson Paterson (1851-1921), BC’s ninth lieutenant governor. However, when the name was adopted in 1899, Thomas was still general manager of the Victoria and Sidney Railway. He didn’t become lieutenant governor until 1909.
In addition to Barney and Sheep Creek, another possible former name for Paterson is Clark’s Camp.
Fred Vipond wrote in Kootenay Pathfinders that his family arrived in Northport in 1896, and from there “we hit the tote road, and ten miles later arrived at our new home, Clark’s Camp, right on the boundary line between Washington and BC. Many years later it became the village of Patterson [sic], customs border crossing. Clark’s camp was the halfway stop between Northport and Rossland and most of the teamsters were here at night and called it home.”
Its namesake is uncertain, but when a deadly avalanche struck a railway construction camp one mile north of the border on April 20, 1897, two of the injured were John and Frank Clark. Other sources suggest Clark’s Camp was actually in Washington state.
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