One-hundred fifty-seventh in an alphabetical series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
Last week we saw that Procter was named for entrepreneur Thomas Gregg Procter (1862-1913), who settled there in 1891. But his name was often misspelled Proctor, and so was the community.
The late Ted Affleck had a theory about this, which he explained in an unpublished manuscript held by the Touchstones Nelson archives. When the CPR built a spur line along the West Arm from Five Mile Point, the engineer in charge was Alexander Forbes Proctor (1865-1960).
“Throughout the summer and fall of 1900 the Nelson Tribune published a series of news releases about progress on the railway construction which might more fittingly have described a project of the magnitude of the Trans-Siberian railroad,” Affleck wrote.
He believes Proctor cheekily used the spelling of his name, and “in short order, Proctor began to appear on timetables and maps … A.F. Proctor has long passed from the scene but perhaps we should afford him some long delayed and grudging recognition for his deft exercise in public relations which seems to have resulted in the name Proctor being applied erroneously for so many years.”
A tugboat named after the community was erroneously called the Proctor, the railway station bore the sign Proctor, and from about 1913 to 1919 the Nelson Daily News consistently spelled it -OR — much to the dismay of residents who preferred -ER.
Noelle Thompson wrote in Kootenay Outlet Reflections that during Hilda Ogden’s childhood, school custodian Grant McKean “lectured her long and hard on the proper spelling of ‘Procter.’ At that time it was being spelled ‘Proctor’ and Hilda has never forgotten the incident, though she never had the courage to correct the teacher.”
Elsewhere in the book Affleck confirmed McKean’s “usual unruffled demeanor was considerably ruffled when the CPR put up a sign at the railway station spelling the name of the station as PROCTOR. McKean never lost an opportunity of exhorting school children to use the proper spelling of PROCTER. After a considerable lapse of time, the CPR gave in on the spelling.”
In 1949, A.G. Harvey asked the CPR about the name, stating that it was either after T.G. Procter “or the wife of G.M. Bosworth, CPR freight traffic manager in the late 1890s, whose maiden name was Proctor … This station has given me a good deal of trouble and I am having to pass a little of it on to you before I can decide whom it is named after.”
The CPR replied that it couldn’t find any record of an employee named Proctor or Procter, which is baffling given that we know about A.F. Proctor as well John Eber Proctor (1878-1949), a Nelson ticket agent from 1902-06.
Denise Renard wrote in the Summer 1977 edition of Canada West that “In recent years efforts have been made to restore the original spelling, and the sign on the post office proclaims it with a capitalized E, but controversy over the correct spelling still rages heatedly at times.”
When Kootenay Outlet Reflections was written in 1985, the argument flared up again, so Paul Munch sent another letter to the CPR inquiring about the discrepancy. They replied: “Procter has always been spelled with an E. If the station doesn’t agree, someone made an error.”
Affleck lamented: “So much for the integrity of decades of CPR signs and publications!”
Like the CPR, the Procter post office — which opened in 1906 with Thomas Procter as founding postmaster — used both spellings.
The confusion persists in some modern sources. In the third edition of British Columbia Place Names, G.P.V. and Helen Akrigg say Procter was “Originally Proctor, after T. Proctor, who had a ranch here. It became Procter later due to confusion with T.G. Procter, a Nelson real estate man.” In fact, they were one and the same. The Encyclopedia of British Columbia repeats the error.
Thomas Procter is also remembered in Procter Creek, while elsewhere in BC there’s a Procter Lake, Mount Procter, Proctor Creek, and Proctor Lake.
Previous installments in this series