One hundred seventy-fourth in an alphabetical series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
Seaton might be the most obscure townsite in the Slocan. You won’t find it mentioned in any history book, although we have a good idea where it was and who it was named after.
John L. (Jack) Seaton (1858-93) was a prospector from Tennessee who, in partnership with Eli Carpenter, staked the Payne mine in 1891, sparking the Silvery Slocan mining rush. Seaton and Carpenter had a famous falling-out, although the exact circumstances depend on who’s telling the story. Seaton claimed Carpenter double crossed him on the Payne’s assay results, after which he partnered with Bill and Jack Hennessey, John McGuigan and Frank Flint to return and stake more claims.
In the Spokane Review of Nov. 4, 1891, Seaton discussed how he was present when the Bonanza King and 21 other claims were located.
“This vein runs right across the mountain, dividing Kaslo from Slocan, only one claim being on the Kaslo side, while all of the others are on the Slocan side,” he said. “I took up 160 acres of land, the prettiest little valley you ever saw, just half way between the two camps and intend to make a townsite of it.”
While Seaton wasn’t otherwise known to have been involved in any real estate scheme, the Hot Springs News of July 27, 1892 reported: “A.S. Farwell is now surveying a townsite at McGuigan Lake, close to the Washington [mine].”
The townsite was first mentioned by name, and described in detail, in the Spokane Daily Chronicle on March 24, 1893: “The first new townsite to make its appearance this spring is Seaton, announcements regarding it having been received yesterday. The site is in the ‘Alpine basin,’ in the heart of the mining country, and embraces Summit lake at the headwaters of Seaton creek. The Washington mine is just northwest of the townsite, the Slocan Boy is due west, the R.E. Lee is nearly south of it and the Noble Five group is a short distance southeast. The townsite is about three miles from the Kaslo wagon road, nine mines from New Denver and 21 miles from Kaslo.
“The spot selected for the new town has been a well known camping ground ever since that country was first explored. It gives timber, water and pasture, and is well sheltered from the wind. The men who have platted this land are John and William Hennessy, John McQuiggan [sic], Mr. Bailey, the owner of the Paine [sic] group, and a surveyor.”
The Nelson Tribune of April 6 added: “The townsite of Seaton, located in the McGuigan basin near the Washington, Payne, and other noted Slocan mines, will be the next candidate for public favor offered to a real estate hungry world. General ‘Steve’ Bailey, the first man who had the nerve to invest capital in Slocan, it is understood, is the father of the enterprise. Tommy Roadley brought back a beautiful map of the townsite from Spokane and he will probably have the handling of the property.”
Sadly, no copy of the townsite map is known to survive.
Two days later, the Coeur d’Alene Miner of Wallace, Idaho stated: “A private letter from Robert Neill, dated Kaslo, BC, April 3, states that he and J.R. Marks, formerly of the Coeur d’Alenes, have just put on the market the townsite of Seaton, a ‘title crown grant to the owners,’ and the lots are finding many ready purchasers …”
On April 29, the Victoria Daily Colonist said “Sales of town lots at Lardeau, New Denver, and Seaton were reported to be brisk.”
An ad for J.R. Marks and Co. (pictured above), noting the firm was agent for the “Town of Seaton” continued to appear in the Nelson Tribune through August, but the townsite failed to gain much momentum and was forgotten. A final, delightful mention was in The Tribune, of Sept. 29, 1894: “Washington hill shuts out the view of Seaton, in McGuigan basin, the city of snow in fall, winter, and spring, and chipmunks in summer.”
Was this the town Jack Seaton envisioned back in 1891 or was it merely named after nearby Seaton Creek (first mentioned on Oct. 5, 1891 in describing the location of mining claims) and Seaton Lake?
Jack Seaton died in Spokane of alcoholism, only a few weeks after returning to Tennessee with the body of his younger brother Moses (1871-93), who died in Kaslo of pneumonia. In fact, the Vancouver Daily World of April 28, 1893 stated that Moses “had a part ownership in the Seaton townsite,” so he might have been the namesake more than Jack. Moses also co-owned the R.E. Lee mine, said to be contiguous to the Seaton townsite.
Two peculiar footnotes. According to the Kootenay Star of June 25, 1892, “Mr. Jowett … has charge of the sale of townsite lots at Eldorado, which will hereafter be known as Seaton, Eldorado being altogether too common.” However, Eldorado was actually renamed New Denver.
And in 1906, a report in the Victoria Week claimed Jack Seaton had been killed in a dance hall in Idaho — even though he’d already been reposing in the family plot in Farragut, Tennessee for 13 years. The origin of this story is unknown, but it was repeated in Gene Petersen’s book Window in the Rock, with a different date: “Oct. 6, 1893: Seaton reported killed in a dance hall brawl in a mining boomtown of the Coeur d’Alenes.”
— With thanks to Peter Smith
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