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

South Slocan woman killed in Friday crash

Police continue to investigate cause of fatal crash

Castlegar’s Stanley Humphries School’s got talent

Talent show to be held Feb. 21 at Brilliant Cultural Centre

What’s Up: Things to see and do on Family Day

There’s plenty of fun to be had across the West Kootenay this coming long weekend!

Province announces $23 million for upgrades at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital

West Kootenay-Boundary Regional Hospital District Board has yet to review the provincial proposal

Selkirk College Saints score pair of crucial wins

Stellar goaltending and timely goals lead to victory over the Vancouver Island University Mariners.

Trudeau’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts, resigns amid SNC-Lavalin furor

Butts categorically denies the accusation that he or anyone else in the PMO improperly pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould

Ammonia leak shuts down curling club in Nelson

It’s not yet clear when the leak was detected

Lost a ring? This B.C. man will find it for you

Chris Turner founded The Ring Finders, an international directory of metal detector hobbyists

Poverty coalition has high hopes for B.C. poverty reduction strategy

Funding allocation expected to be released with 2019 budget

East Kootenay mine deaths prompt safety initiatives

Teck produces educational video, introduces new procedures after contractor drowns at Fording River

‘How did we get here?’: B.C. mom of transplant recipient worries about measles outbreaks

Addison, 7, cannot get a live vaccine because she has a heart transplant

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calls for public inquiry over SNC-Lavalin questions

Vancouver member of Parliament Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet last week

Canadian airlines waiting for guidance from Ottawa over X gender option

Major U.S. airlines said they will change their process so passengers can identify themselves along non-binary lines

Moose Hide campaign takes message to Canadian schools

Campaign launches new K-12 education platform

Most Read