One-hundred seventy-third in an alphabetical series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
Born in Maine, Sayward worked as a house carpenter and contractor before being lured west by the California Gold Rush. Rather than seek his fortune in gold, however, he continued to ply his trade as a builder and later as a baker.
When the Fraser Gold Rush began in the late 1850s, he moved to Victoria and opened the city’s first lumber yard. Later he established several sawmills, including one at Pilot Bay on Kootenay Lake, in partnership with Joshua Philip Davies.
Sayward and Davies were two of the five principals of the West Kootenay Land Co., which tried to make a buck on townsites along D.C. Corbin’s Nelson and Fort Sheppard Railway, during and after its construction.
It’s unclear when Sayward bought property on the Columbia River near the mouth of Beaver Creek, but the first mention of the townsite that bore his name was in the Spokane Review of April 12, 1893: “The West Kootena[y] Land Co. … [has] acquired the lands of the Davies-Sayward company … extending about a quarter of a mile above Beaver creek … It is the purpose to lay out here at once the town of Sayward, which would likely be the principal supply point for the construction of the Nelson & Fort Sheppard railroad … There are surveying parties now at … Sayward.”
Ten days later the Nelson Miner elaborated: “The Town of Sayward, located opposite Fort Sheppard [sic] on the Columbia River, about two miles north of the Pend d’Oreille river is the latest candidate for favor with real estate speculation. It … presents a most inviting appearance. The owners contemplate putting in an esplanade along the riverfront 100 to 150 feet wide and the townsite is to be surveyed so as to make the avenues 100 and 150 feet wide, streets 80 feet wide, alleys 20 feet, and the building lots 30 x 110. A.E. Hodgins, of this city, will leave on Monday to carry out the survey. This point will be the supply station of the southern end of the Nelson and Fort Sheppard Railway during construction.”
Other stories suggested J.F. Ritchie did the survey. The townsite plan appears lost, but we know Sayward had a Victoria St., a restaurant, and two hotels. The latter weren’t very successful because of federal restrictions that prevented them from serving alcohol so long as railway construction was within two miles of them.
A post office at Sayward was authorized in August 1893, but never opened. In October, postal inspector E.H. Fletcher noted the “place is almost deserted and will be entirely so within a month or less.”
At the end of the year, the Northport News enumerated an exodus of Sayward residents and invoked Shakespeare in its requiem: “Alas poor Sayward! After life’s fitful fever you sleep well, and, ‘like a bright exhalation in the evening,’ have disappeared and no man shall see thee more.”
Sayward came back to life in 1896-97, in part due to the suggestion a smelter might be built there. (It went to Northport instead.) A second application for a Sayward post office was submitted in 1897, but Fletcher drily reported: “The population will hardly warrant the establishment of a post office at present.”
In the ensuing years, E. Crow Baker, another principal in the West Kootenay Land Co. acquired the property, and in turn sold a large portion to Hunter brothers of Rossland. They, in partnership, with C.S. Slawson of Northport, created a model orchard called Columbia Gardens — apparently named to demonstrate that smoke from the Trail smelter wouldn’t damage fruit trees. We’ve covered it previously in this series.
Sayward was only a small piece within Columbia Gardens, but efforts to cancel the townsite plan in favour of the new development were delayed because the only other property owner remained elusive.
The Phoenix Pioneer of April 7, 1906 reported: “A hunt has been going on for three years for the purchaser of the one lot, and he was located last month in California, and was willing to sell his lot back to the company at a price six times that which he paid for it in the first instance.” The deal was made, “the only man making any money out of the transaction being the one-time sucker from the states.”
Surveyor J.D. Anderson deposited his Columbia Gardens plan with the land registry on Sept. 14, 1907.
The Columbia Gardens post office operated from 1908-50, but the name Sayward persisted a little longer. A letter postmarked July 7, 1910 was addressed to “Mrs. Pipkin, Columbia Gardens, Old Sayward, BC (near Waneta).”
And according to the Nelson Daily News of Jan. 20, 1913, it took the influence of the local Farmers Institute and a petition by residents to convince the Great Northern to finally change the name of the railway station from Sayward to Columbia Gardens: “The change was put into effect on Tuesday, Jan. 11, and express as well as mail will henceforth be addressed to Columbia Gardens.”
Since the 1920s, the old Sayward townsite has been the site of the Bouma dairy.
In addition to the town and district on Vancouver Island named after him, W.P. Sayward is remembered in Sayward Ave. in Salmo — another of the West Kootenay Land Co.’s ventures.
Below: This ad on a rock bluff along the railway track a little north of the Bouma dairy has been retouched over the years, but the original was painted in the 1890s. It says “Hotel Sayward, Meals 35, Beds 25 & 30.” (Greg Nesteroff photo)
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