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One hundred fifty-ninth in an alphabetical series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
Remac, a mining camp near the confluence of the Pend d’Oreille and Salmo rivers, is a compound name taken from the principal locators of the Reeves MacDonald mining properties.
John Hugh (Black Jack) MacDonald (1864-1942) co-located the Drumlummon claims between 1910 and 1912 and around the same time or a bit later, Robert Mills Reeves (1869-1931) staked the International Lead group. Over 11 years, MacDonald dug a tunnel 1,000 feet by hand.
The Victoria Syndicate Ltd. of London took an option on both sets of claims in 1925 and began development work. According to the Nelson Daily News of June 28, 1960, MacDonald received $100,000 for his property and Reeves, his silent partner, received $15,000.
The Reeves MacDonald Mines Ltd. was incorporated in 1928, but major construction on the zinc-lead-silver-cadmium mine didn’t begin until 1947.
Except for a closure from 1953 to 1955 due to depressed prices, the mine operated continuously until 1971 when ore reserves were depleted. Salvage mining continued for a few years after that.
Rossland’s Black Jack Mountain also takes its name from MacDonald, and according to the Black Jack Ski Club’s website: “He was not a skier, but rather a prospector and hunter who travelled by snowshoe. Using his size to his advantage, this rotund man smuggled pieces of gold across the border by attaching them to a special belt that couldn’t be seen underneath his excess girth. Legend has it that he had two chests full of gold that he once showed his neighbour.”
Legend had it that the gold remained hidden in MacDonald’s house following his death, but according to the late Alfie Albo, MacDonald left everything to his sister in Boston: $20,000 in bonds, $100 in gold coins, plus the house, which still stands at 2407 LeRoi Ave.
Less is known about Reeves, who was born in Wilberforce, Ont. and married Martha Griffin in Nelson in 1902. They had a daughter, Villia, and a son, Robert Jr.
Reeves died in Ione, Wash and was buried in Salmo.
No mention of Remac has been found before the post office opened on Feb. 8, 1950. It closed in 1975 as the town was dismantled.
This community on Lower Arrow Lake was first called Dog Creek, a stream that appears on Perry’s Mining Map of 1893. It was mentioned occasionally during construction of the Columbia and Western Railway in 1898 and was a destination for boating excursions.
In 1907, the Western Land Company of Winnipeg sent Frank F. Siemens of Altona, Man. to buy all available land in the Dog Creek area from Frederick W. Nash. The property was then subdivided for orchards to sell to Mennonite families on the Prairies.
F.C. Green’s survey plan was dated Sept. 11, 1907 and deposited with the land registry on June 3, 1908, although the plan didn’t use the name Renata or Dog Creek, just “Subdivision Lot 8069 and Part Lot 5347.” Siemens, Nash, and George B. White were shown as joint owners.
According to the Nelson Daily News of June 16, 1952, “residents got to thinking about the name of their little village and decided it was none too attractive. So a contest was sponsored by Western Land Company, and the winning entry came from a Mr. Hanson of Altona, Man., who appropriately suggested Renata meaning rebirth [in Latin]. Hanson got a free trip to BC for his brain-wave.”
This must have been around June 1908; the settlement’s first birth was reported in the Daily News on May 31, 1908: “Born at Dog Creek on May 29, to the wife of F.F. Siemens, a daughter.” According to The Story of Renata, “The parents named her Judith, but before they had registered the baby’s birth, [Fred] Nash and others asked that she be named after the village.”
Renata Siemens became a medical missionary and spent 35 years in northern Manitoba, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. She retired to White Rock and died there in 2005, age 96.
The earliest known mention of Renata is in an ad F.F. Siemens took out in the Daily News of June 29, 1908: “Mineral Water Spring For Sale at Renata, Arrow Lakes (known as Dog Creek) …”
The Renata post office opened two days later. It closed in 1966 ahead of the construction of the Hugh Keenleyside dam, which flooded the community out. There are still some summer homes and a retreat in Renata, but they’re only accessible by boat.
— With thanks to Bruce Rohn
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