Ainsworth was named for Portland capitalists

Through the Walls of Time: Second in a series on local place names

Naming of this popular local attraction

By Greg Nesteroff

West Kootenay Advertiser


The first printed reference to Ainsworth Hot Springs, the oldest mining camp on Kootenay Lake, appeared in a legal ad in the Victoria Daily Colonist of September 8, 1882, in which George J. Ainsworth (1852-95) applied to buy 160 acres of land, “Commencing at a stake on the West shore of Kootenay Lake, about eight miles north of the Hot Springs …”

Ainsworth’s father John (1822-93), of Portland, was a successful steamboat operator on the Columbia River. The area’s mining potential attracted the pair, not the hot springs themselves.

They received a charter to build a railway from the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia rivers to present day Balfour, but John later wrote bitterly of this failed enterprise, blaming both the provincial government and their agent, Gustav B. Wright.

It’s unclear if either Ainsworth ever saw their namesake town — author Ted Affleck suggested in High Grade and Hot Springs that George visited in 1890, but didn’t cite his source.

Ainsworth was first known as Hot Springs Camp or Warm Springs Camp. The earliest use of the former was in the Spokane Falls Review of November 7, 1888: “The Hot Springs camp is 145 miles from Bonner (or Bonner’s landing) …” and the first use of the latter in the Spokane Morning Review on January 1, 1889: “From Mr. Sweet it was learned that the Warm Springs Mining Camp referred to in the above is comparatively new, it having been discovered some two years ago.”

The townsite, however, was called Ainsworth, and was referred to as such by Randall H. Kemp in the Spokane Falls Review of June 2, 1889. But the old name was more common, for as Fred Herb wrote in the same newspaper on August 4 of that year: “Some people call the place Ainsworth, but Warm Springs is certainly more appropriate and more symphonistic.”

The names were first combined as Ainsworth Hot Springs in Nelson Daily News headline on March 23, 1911, when an attempt was being made to develop the springs as a resort, but it didn’t catch on until decades later.

The post office opened on December 1, 1890 as Ainsworth and was renamed Ainsworth Hot Springs on January 11, 1964 to promote tourism at the suggestion of resort proprietor Sam Homen, with the support of the Kaslo Board of Trade. (A similar proposal a few years ago to change Nakusp to Nakusp Hot Springs was soundly defeated in a referendum.)

A Ktunaxa name for Ainsworth, a’k1nuxleétna’na, was recorded by Alexander F. Chamberlain in 1891 and mentioned in a collection of myths he and anthropologist Franz Boas compiled in 1918.

Next week: Remember the Alamo.


Caption: Ainsworth Hot Springs, home to the popular resort of the same name, is named for John and George Ainsworth, who staked a claim to the area in 1882.

Just Posted

Grand Forks woman assaulted in home invasion

The incident took place Wednesday morning

Bilingual child care spaces coming to Castlegar

New daycare opening this summer will teach kids French and English

Parachutes for the Planet made in Castlegar visit B.C. Legislature

The student-led event featured over 30 parachutes from across southeastern B.C.

Woman raising funds to save historic Rossland piano

Rare Steinway piano was in Miners Hall for a century, but was headed to the dump

West Kootenay opinion sought on health care issues

Rural Evidence Review getting strong response to survey call-out

Trudeau touts economic record at Liberal fundraiser in Vancouver

The Prime Minister was in B.C. for much of this week

Kootenay youth substance use trending downward: survey

A bi-annual survey distributed to regional schools shows that youth substance use is decreasing

Thunderstorms to bring heavy rain, risk of flash floods in the Okanagan

Ten to 30 millimetres of rain to fall over the early weekend

Unbe-leaf-able: Agassiz man finds more than 200 four-leaf clovers in a month

Walt Hardinge has found more than 219 four-or-more leaf clovers this spring alone

Crews fight fire with fire to keep blaze from northern Alberta town

The wildfire now covers some 920 square kilometres

Man in B.C. charged with murder and arson in 2016 New Brunswick death

He is charged in the death of 71-year-old Lucille Maltais, who was found inside a burned down home

Improve your life and theirs, adopt a cat from the BC SPCA

The BC SPCA holds an adult cat adoption promotion

RCMP probe if teen was intentionally hit with ski pole by mystery skier on B.C. mountain

The incident happened on March 20 on Grouse Mountain. Police are urging witnesses to come forward

Support growing for orphaned Okanagan child after father dies in highway crash

Family thanks emergency crews for assistance in traumatic incident

Most Read