One-hundred sixty-fifth in an alphabetical series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
Rosebery, on Slocan Lake, was originally known as Wilson Creek, the body of water that flows through it. The creek was first mentioned in the Nelson Miner of June 25, 1892: “The Hill brothers came down from the head of Slocan lake on Thursday 16th … It is their intention to start a sawmill at Wilson creek, four miles above Eldorado city [New Denver] …”
In a letter of March 16, 1906 to James White of the Canadian Geographic Survey, postmaster William E. Marshall suggested the creek honoured “an Englishman named John Wilson. Mr. Wilson left here about 1902 and now residents in the neighborhood of Greenwood. Was about 55.”
The 1898 voters list has five John Wilsons in West Kootenay alone: two in Nelson, two in Rossland, and one in Robson, plus another in Revelstoke. There are ten on the 1901 census in this area. Which one was the creek’s namesake?
There’s no listing for a John Wilson in Greenwood in the 1905 or 1910 civic directories, although there are a handful of other Wilsons.
In any case, the first mention of a town at that spot was in the Nakusp Ledge of Dec. 21, 1893: “Wilson creek townsite is the topic of conversation here now. It is to be put on the market for sale early next year.”
The Nelson Tribune of Jan. 27, 1894 added: “The survey of the Wilson creek townsite will be completed within a day or two and the surveyors will move on to lay out Three Forks.”
The Tribune revealed the name on April 21: “The townsite at the mouth of Wilson creek, on Slocan Lake, has been named Rosebery, in honor of the prime minister of Great Britain. Nearly all our great politicians and statesmen have been so honored in West Kootenay.”
Archibald Philip Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery (1847-1929) (pictured at left) was prime minister in 1894-95. Some sources claim he was a Canadian Pacific Railway director, and according to the Valley Voice of Feb. 22, 1996: “During building of the CPR trans-continental line, Rosebery was promised a station would be named after him because of his support in building the line. (One can only wonder if he ever knew just where that station named after him actually was!)”
Alexander Eric MacKay surveyed the townsite, depositing it with the land registry on June 12, 1894. From the get-go, Rosebery was misspelled Roseberry. An early example is in the Nakusp Ledge of May 3, 1894: “A free site and other inducements are held out to the Grant-Omaha Smelting Co. to locate their proposed sampling works at Roseberry.” A townsite ad in the Slocan Pioneer of Jan. 15, 1898 spelled it both ways. And for a little while at least, ca. 1908, the postmark actually read Roseberry.
The post office also set some sort of local record for most closings and re-openings. It opened on Sept. 1, 1895, closed in late 1898, reopened a month later, closed in 1905, reopened in 1906, closed in 1909, reopened in 1910, closed in 1951, reopened in 1952, and finally closed for good in 1967, when the postmaster resigned and mail was forwarded to New Denver.
This spot on the Great Northern Railway near Meadows Junction was also known as Benton Siding, although there may have been a distinction between the two.
The Benton Siding post office opened on Oct. 1, 1915, closed in 1920, and reopened in 1921. There’s a good chance it ought to have been Benson Siding — at least that’s what Clara Graham calls it in Kootenay Yesterdays: “In time a flag-stop, Benson Siding, was established on the railway near our ranch …” Elsewhere, she mentions John A. Benson, “a bachelor and avid prospector from North Dakota” who was proprietor of the Northern Hotel in Salmo. There’s no sign of anyone named Benton in the area.
The post office changed its name to Ross Spur on June 1, 1924, a few months after Sidney Niven Ross (1877-1955) became postmaster.
According to How Did Your Street Get Its Name? Place Names of the Beaver & Pend d’Oreille Valleys, “Sid Ross, who along with his partner Barney Archibald, formed a logging company about the turn of the century at what is known now as Ross Spur. Mr. Ross continued logging in the area until 1923, when he built a shingle mill, which unfortunately burnt down before a single shingle was produced. In 1901, Mr. Ross ran the general store in Salmo with John Benson.”
There’s John Benson again, further suggesting he was the Benson/Benton Siding namesake.
Edna Colligan added in Beaver Valley & Pend d’Oreille: “[Ross Spur] was named by Ross who had a camp there. The spur was where the train stopped to get lumber.”
The Ross Spur post office closed in 1951 but the name is perpetuated in Erie-Ross Spur Rd. While Benton Siding has vanished, there is still a Benton Creek, named by the Geographic Board of Canada in 1932.