A rare example of the Kootenay post office cancel from 1884 recently sold at auction for $375 Cdn.

PLACE NAMES: Kootenay, the post offices and ships

A CPR sternwheeler and two navy destroyers took the name Kootenay

Three hundred twenty-third in a series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names

We’ve devoted the last several installments in this series to the name Kootenay: where it came from and how it was pluralized, corrupted, and used to sell various products.

One other attribute we haven’t explored is its use in the mail system. The Kootenay post office opened in 1866 on Wildhorse Creek, 12 miles northeast of present-day Cranbrook. It was renamed Wildhorse in 1895 and closed in 1900.

A rare cancellation from this post office, dated August 1884, sold recently at auction for $375 Cdn. The envelope was mailed to “Mrs. O’Reilly, Point Ellice, Victoria.”

It was probably mailed by Peter O’Reilly, a government official who served in many different roles, to his wife Carry at their Victoria home, which is now a museum.

Wikipedia says: “O’Reilly was criticized in his time and by latter-day academics for largely shirking his duties and avoiding meetings with First Nations leaders, but the basis of the Indian Reserve system as it remains in British Columbia today is the outcome of his assignment.”

Carry O’Reilly was a sister to Joseph Trutch, BC’s first post-Confederation lieutenant governor.

The only other post office to use Kootenay in its name was the one at Kootenay Bay, which opened in 1908 and closed in 1990, although its legacy lives on in Post Office Road.


Kootenay has also been the name of a few different vessels. The SS Kootenay was a CPR sternwheeler that served the Arrow Lakes from 1897 to 1919. It was the largest such ship on the Columbia River system until the Bonnington was launched in 1911.

The Kootenay’s hull was badly damaged after being stranded in ice in 1916, limiting its usefulness. It was retired in 1919, sold the following year, and left to rot south of Nakusp.

Two ships known as the HMCS Kootenay also existed. The first was the former HMS Decoy, launched in 1932 and renamed the Kootenay in 1943. It was used on convoy escort duties on the mid-Atlantic and after World War II served as a troop transport. It was broken up in 1946.

The second HMCS Kootenay was a destroyer in the Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Forces from 1959 to 1996. In 1969, a gearbox explosion during an exercise in UK waters killed nine crew members and injured 53 — the deadliest peacetime accident in the navy’s history. To remember the incident, the navy named a damage control training facility DCTF Kootenay.

In 2000, the ship was sunk off of Puerto Vallarta as an artificial reef. The CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum holds its bell.


A few more earliest references to various places we’ve previously covered have turned up thanks to UBC’s digitized newspaper website.

Park Siding (also known as Parks Siding and Park’s Siding), near Fruitvale, is first mentioned on May 13, 1908 in a Nelson Daily News ad by the real estate firm of Procter and Blackwood for “104 acres, situate at Park’s Siding, on the Spokane Falls and Northern railway.”

• Before it was a community, Taghum was a mining claim staked by F.T. Morrison on behalf of M.C. Monaghan and mentioned in the Nelson Daily Canadian of June 26, 1906. The first mention of the community was in the Daily News hotel arrivals of June 28, 1908, where N.J. Murphy gave it as his address.

Shoreacres first shows up in the hotel arrivals as well, in the Daily News of June 9, 1908. Walter S. Riblet gave it as his address when he checked in at the Strathcona. This was a year before the CPR adopted the name (as Shore Acres) and 10 months before the post office opened.

Riblet was the local agent for the Riblet Tramway Co. and also the local US consular agent.

Sherbiko Hill in Castlegar was named for Nicholas Sherbiko (or Scherbekov) (1872-1945), a Doukhobor whose farm was at the top of the hill. Its earliest mention so far discovered is in the Nelson Daily News of May 20, 1935: “The case arose out of an accident on the Trail-Castlegar highway near Sherbiko hill …”


A previous installment in this series noted that Nickawa, a railway siding and beach west of Camp Koolaree on Kootenay Lake, was probably named after Frances Nickawa (1898-1928), the Cree performer and recitalist. She is also remembered, under a different spelling, in Nichawa Road at Six Mile.

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The SS Kootenay is seen at Arrowhead, ca. 1905-10. It was one of at least three ships to be named Kootenay. Greg Nesteroff collection

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