One hundred fifty-sixth in an alphabetical series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
Is it Procter or Proctor? The answer is simple but the explanation is complicated.
The correct spelling is Procter, after entrepreneur Thomas Gregg Procter (1862-1913), the first settler of the Kootenay Lake community. He was born in England to Gilbert Procter and Mary Gorton and had nine siblings including twin brother John. According to Ted Affleck in Kootenay Outlet Reflections, Procter joined the British Navy at 14 and served five years. He immigrated to the United States in 1881 and became a cattle dealer, which “proved to be profitable and congenial for the husky, gregarious Procter.”
Procter returned to England in 1888 to marry Beatrice Arrowsmith, and then came to the Kootenay in 1891, where “with his typical boundless energy Procter became involved in a variety of real estate, mining, and industrial promotions,” including the Balfour brickyard and an attempt to commercialize the Ainsworth Hot Springs.
Below: This poster was attached to a telephone pole near the Procter store in 2001. (Greg Nesteroff photo)
He bought land at the outlet of Kootenay Lake and built a home which he expanded into a hunting and fishing lodge — the beginnings of the Outlet Hotel. The Nelson Miner of Sept. 5, 1891 noted: “The Canadian Pacific has sold several small tracts of land lying on the outlet below Balfour. Among the purchasers are T.G. Proctor [sic] and G. Laird … Mr. Procter will try general farming.” (George Laird had a creek named after him.)
The community that would eventually bear Procter’s name was originally known as Kootenay City and first mentioned in the Rossland Miner on June 9, 1897: “A company of English capitalists has secured possession of that portion of land at the junction of Kootenay Lake and the west arm of the lake and the town of Kootenay City has been born.”
The townsite was platted in anticipation of construction of the BC Southern Railway from the Crowsnest Past to Nelson. However, the line didn’t go ahead as planned and there were only a few more mentions of Kootenay City.
The name then became Procter’s Landing, first mentioned in the provincial voters list published in the Nelson Economist of June 8, 1898. (Some sources say it was called Procter’s Landing before it was Kootenay City, but the available evidence doesn’t bear this out; it’s not labelled on Perry’s Mining Map of 1893 nor the CPR’s 1897 map of the Kootenay.)
When the CPR decided in 1899 to build a spur line along the south shore of the West Arm from Five Mile Point to Procter’s Landing, townsite promotion began anew. The townsite was advertised in the Nelson Tribune of Nov. 11, 1899 but wasn’t named by the Tribune until March 19, 1900: “J. Lonsdale Doupe, townsite agent of the CPR, is laying out a townsite at Procter’s Landing opposite Balfour. The new town is to be called Procter in honor of T.G. Procter, the original owner, who is interested in the undertaking.”
Doupe’s survey was dated Sept. 1, 1900 and deposited with the land registry on Oct. 24. The original streets were First, Second, Third, and Fourth running north and south and Lakeside, Woodside, and Railway avenues running east and west.
Thomas and Beatrice Procter moved to Nelson around 1899 but continued to summer at the outlet of Kootenay Lake in a magnificent houseboat. They later moved to Oak Bay where Procter became a prominent real estate developer.
In 1913, Procter’s body was discovered near his home: he had been struck and killed by a car, reputedly the first person to die in an automobile accident in BC. Clifford Seymour Macdonald was charged with manslaughter but acquitted.
While there is no doubt that Thomas Procter is the community’s namesake, it was misspelled Proctor almost from the get go. Next week we’ll look a closer look at that controversy.
Below: T.G. Procter mailed this postal card in 1905, advising of a meeting of the Tourists Association committee. (Greg Nesteroff collection)
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